Death of Alexander the Great
to Death of Judas Maccabeus
How Ptolemy took Jerusalem
and Judea by deceit
1. NOW when Alexander, King of Macedon, had put an end to the dominion of the Persians, and had settled the affairs in Judea after the aforementioned manner, he ended his life. And as his government fell among many, Antigonus obtained Asia, Seleucus Babylon; and of the other nations which were there, Lysimachus governed the Hellespont, and Cassander possessed Macedonia; as did Ptolemy the son of Lagus seize upon Egypt. And while these princes ambitiously strove one against another, every one for his own principality, it came to pass that there were continual wars, and those lasting wars too; and the cities were sufferers, and lost a great many of their inhabitants in these times of distress, insomuch that all Syria, by the means of Ptolemy the son of Lagus, underwent the reverse of that denomination of Savior, which he then had.
He also seized upon Jerusalem, and for that end made use of deceit and treachery; for as he came into the city on a sabbath day, as if he would offer sacrifices (1) he, without any trouble, gained the city, while the Jews did not oppose him, for they did not suspect him to be their enemy; and he gained it thus, because they were free from suspicion of him, and because on that day they were at rest and quietness; and when he had gained it, he ruled over it in a cruel manner. Nay, Agatharchides of Cnidus, who wrote the acts of Alexander's successors, reproaches us with superstition, as if we, by it, had lost our liberty; where he says thus:
"There is a nation called the nation of the Jews, who inhabit a city strong and great, named Jerusalem. These men took no care, but let it come into the hands of Ptolemy, as not willing to take arms, and thereby they submitted to be under a hard master, by reason of their unseasonable superstition."
This is what Agatharchides relates of our nation. But when Ptolemy had taken a great many captives, both from the mountainous parts of Judea, and from the places about Jerusalem and Samaria, and the places near Mount Gerizzim, he led them all into Egypt, (2) and settled them there. And as he knew that the people of Jerusalem were most faithful in the observation of oaths and covenants; and this from the answer they made to Alexander, when he sent an ambassador to them, after he had beaten Darius in battle; so he distributed many of them into garrisons, and at Alexandria gave them equal privileges of citizens with the Macedonians themselves; and required of them to take their oaths, that they would keep their fidelity to the posterity of those who committed these places to their care. Nay, there were not a few other Jews who, of their own accord, went into Egypt, as invited by the goodness of the soil, and by the liberality of Ptolemy. However, there were disorders among their posterity, with relation to the Samaritans, on account of their resolution to preserve that conduct of life which was delivered to them by their forefathers, and they thereupon contended one with another, while those of Jerusalem said that their temple was holy, and resolved to send their sacrifices thither; but the Samaritans were resolved that they should be sent to Mount Gerizzim.
(1) Here Josephus uses the very word koinopltagia, "eating things common," for "eating things unclean;" as does our New Testament , Acts 10:14, 15, 28; 11:8, 9; Romans 14:14,
(2) The great number of these Jews and Samaritans that were formerly carried into Egypt by Alexander, and now by Ptolemy the son of Lagus, appear afterwards in the vast multitude who as we shall see presently, were soon ransomed by Philadelphus, and by him made free, before he sent for the seventy-two interpreters; in the many garrisons and other soldiers of that nation in Egypt; in the famous settlement of Jews, and the number of their synagogues at Alexandria, long afterward; and in the vehement contention between the Jews and Samaritans under Philometer, about the place appointed for public worship in the law of Moses, whether at the Jewish temple of Jerusalem, or at the Samaritan temple of Gerizzim; of all which our author treats hereafter. And as to the Samaritans carried into Egypt under the same princes, Scaliger supposes that those who have a great synagogue at Cairo, as also those whom the Arabic geographer speaks of as having seized on an island in the Red Sea, are remains of them at this very day, as the notes here inform us.