1st Century BC Jewish History

In 331 BCE, Alexander the Great conquered Judah. By this time, Alexander the Great had conquered most of the lands surrounding Israel. He is also a very tolerant leader who respected the Jews and their way of life. But Alexander the Great did not rule for a long period of time for he died at a very young age, 33. Having no heir to his throne, the lands he conquered were divided to his three generals: Ptolemy, Lysimachus and Seleucus.

Ptolemy got Judeah (Greek name of Judah) together with the land of Egypt. This time, the Jews were given more freedom. Many of them even migrated to Egypt where they were given jobs (agricultural laborers, metalworkers, weavers, merchants, some even served the army). The Jews became known to be efficient workers; consequently, making them earn more jobs.

Moreover, those who settled along the Mediterranean maintained their contact with their fellow Jews, and although they have started adopting to the Greek culture, they still kept loyal to their religion (Jews worship one God while Greeks believed in many Gods). It is in this time that they came up with the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible.

In 200 BCE, Seleucus conquered Judeah. His successor, Antiochus, was persuaded by his high priest, Jason, to make Jerusalem more Greek, though he still respects the place of worship of the Jews and their religion. Another priest, Menelaus, desired to obtain the position of Jason, by bribing him. Later on, the people of Jerusalem learned that Menelaus took the money he used to bribe Jason from the temple treasury. This ignited Jewish rebellion. Antiochus got annoyed with these events, so he resorted to violent solutions. He ordered the killing and selling of the protesting Jews. He disregarded the religious beliefs of the Jews, including the Torah. He showed his power by placing a statue of Zeus near the altar in the Temple of the Jews.

In 164 BCE, Judah, the son of Matthatias who was a Jewish priest, led a guerilla style war against the Seleucian. Having more knowledge about Judeah, the Maccabees, the name of the guerilla Jews, soon were able to capture Jerusalem. They were able to retrieve their Temple which led to a celebration which is now known as a holiday named Hanukkah. The Jews were able to redeem their rights and freedom.

The mid-first century started yet more challenging years for the Jews when Pompey, a Roman general, conquered Jerusalem. At first, the Jews did not feel the hardships of being under the Roman Empire because they were not curtailed of their freedom, but soon the Romans imposed excessive oppressive rules especially on taxation. This led to resistance from the Jews. They were forced to steal to be able to pay their taxes. The Jews who have maintained unity in the past years amidst the dispersions and exiles that they had experienced now fought among themselves. They were divided into factions: Zealots, Pharisees, Sadducees and the Essenes.

Riots here and there resulted to the Great Revolt or the First Jewish-Roman War. The Romans took advantage of the divided forces of the Jews and executed 60, 000 Jews. But the Jews were able to regain their force and still fought back against the Romans who brought in reinforcement from the Syrian troops. But with the help of General Vespasian and his son Titus, the Romans were able to regain control of Jerusalem, destroying the second Temple of the Jews. The war ended in 73 CE.