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were destroyed except Cassander, Lysimachus, Ptolemy, and Seleucus, and they divided the whole empire among them.
In this division, PTOLEMY, whom the Greeks call SOTER, having taken possession of Egypt, resolved to make himself master also of Colo-Syria, Phoenicia, and Palestine. CŒLO-SYRIA was a part of Syria; PALESTINE that country which was formerly the inheritance of the children of Israel; and PHOENICIA the maritime parts of both. Ptolemy succeeded in his enterprizes against these provinces, but the Jews for some time refused to yield to him, on account of the oath they had taken to the governor whom Ptolemy deposed; upon which he marched his forces into Judea, and, having got possession of most of the country, laid siege to Jerusalem. This city was strong enough, both by nature and art, to have made a long resistance; but Ptolemy came upon them on the Sabbath-day, when he knew they would not defend themselves, and took the place by storm. At first he treated the inhabitants with great rigour; but afterwards, considering how faithful they had been to their former governor, he employed them in his army and garrison, and granted them great privileges, upon which the whole nation of the Jews became subject to the king of Egypt.
THE HISTORY OF THE JEWS UNDER THE KINGS OF EGYPT.
THREE years after the death of Alexander the Great, died Jaddua the high-priest of the Jews, who was succeeded by his son Onias. Onias died in the fifth year of the reign of Ptolemy Soter, king of Egypt; and his son Simon, who, on account of the sanctity of his life,
was called Simon the Just, succeeded him. Simon continued in his office nine years, during which time he did many beneficial acts, both for church and state, but particularly in collecting together the books of the Old Testament. Those of Ezra, Esther, and the prophet Malachi, are supposed to have been added by him to those before published by Ezra. Simon was the last of the Great Synagogue, which consisted of a succession of men who attended to the preservation of the accuracy of the Scriptures, that they might not be cor rupted; and it is by means of such persons as Simon that we have had them transmitted to us.
Simon was succeeded by his brother Eleazar, for his son Onias was a minor when his father died. After the death of Simon, the Jews did not rigorously confine themselves to the doctrine of Scripture, but tradition
began to preval; y
on is meant, the sayings I the ancients, delivered down by word of mouth. Antigonus Socho, an eminent scribe in the law of GOD, president of the Sanhedrim, or senate of the elders at Jerusalem, was the first teacher of this secondary law of tradition. Afterward (as we find in the New Testament) all the teachers or doctors of the Jewish law, were sometimes called scribes, and sometimes lawyers, or those who sat in Moses' seat.
Ptolemy Soter established a museum. This was a large edifice in the city of Alexandria, designed for the habitation of such learned men as made it their study to improve philosophy and all useful knowledge. This college produced a number of persons eminent for literature, and occasioned Alexandria to be regarded for many ages together, in all parts of the world, as the school of learning,
In this museum was a library, said to have consisted of four hundred thousand volumes; and there was ano
ther in a temple, which increased in time to three hundred thousand, amounting in the whole to seven hundred thousand volumes. The greatest part of this famous library was accidentally burnt by one of the Roman emperors; and the rest, which had received a considerable addition, was at length, many years afterwards, destroyed by the Saracens.
Ptolemy Soter was succeeded in the throne by his son Ptolemy Philadelphus : this prince pursued his father's plan in respect to the museum; and hearing that the Jews had a famous book (what we now call the Old Testament) which well deserved a place in the collection, he sent to Eleazar, the high-priest, to desire an authentic copy of it; and because it was written in a language he did not understand, he requested that Eleazar would send a competent number of learned men, well versed both in Greek and Hebrew, to translate it for him. Eleazar complied; and it is said that seventy or seventy-two translators were employed to turn the Old Testament into Greek; but whether so great a number were actually engaged in this work or not, is a question of dispute with the learned; however, their version of the law of Moses, with the translation of the prophets, which was afterwards made and added, is called from this circumstance the translation of the seventy. You have been told in what manner the law was explained in Chaldee by Ezra after the return of the Jews from Babylon; when, by their residence at Alexandria, the Greek was become most familiar to them, the Scriptures were explained in that language; and from thence those Jews were called Hellenists, or Greekizing Jews, because they used the Greek language in their synagogues.
After the death of Ptolemy Philadelphus, Evergetes
came to the crown of Egypt, and Onias succeeded his uncle Eleazar as high-priest.
Onias was the son of Simon the Just, but in many respects the very reverse of his father; at the best he was a very weak and inconsiderate man.
When Ptolemy Evergetes died, his son Philopater succeeded to the throne. Antiochus the Great, king of Syria (who descended from Seleucus), dispossessed the Egyptian king of several of his provinces, amongst which was Judea; but Philopater afterwards defeated the army of Antiochus, and recovered Cœlo-Syria and Palestine.
Ptolemy visited the cities which he had regained by this victory, amongst which was Jerusalem. Here he took a view of the temple, and presented costly gifts, and offered sacrifices to the GoD of Israel; but not being content with an outward view, he was desirous of entering into the SANCTUARY, nay, even into the MOST HOLY PLACE, which none but the priest (and that only on the great day of expiation) was allowed to enter. This occasioned great confusion; the priests and Levites assembled to prevent the king's entrance, but all to no purpose. Philopater resolved to gratify his curiosity, and accordingly pressed on to go into the innercourt; but as he was passing farther to go into the Temple, he was seized with a sudden terror and consternation of mind, and carried out half dead. In a short time, he departed from the place, highly incensed with the whole nation of the Jews, and uttering many bitter threatenings, against them.
Simon (the second of that name) the son of Onias, was high-priest at this time; his father dying towards the end of the former year, he succeeded him in the office. Onias had been extremely negligent during his administration, which the Samaritans taking advantage
of, had been very vexatious to the Jews, by plundering and ravaging their country, carrying many of the inhabitants into captivity, and selling them for slaves.
No sooner was Ptolemy arrived at Alexandria, than he published a decree, excluding every one who did not sacrifice to his idol from having any access to him; degrading the Jews from the rights and privileges they had in the city, and ordering them all to be marked with the impression of an ivy-leaf with a red-hot iron, and as many as refused, to be put to death.
Nor did his rage end here, for he sent out orders, requiring his officers to bring all the Jews, who lived any where in Egypt, in chains to Alexandria; and having shut them up in a large place without the city, called the Hipprodome, where the people used to assemble to see horse races and other shews, he proposed the next day to make a spectacle of them, by having them destroyed by elephants; and to make these beasts more furious, they were intoxicated with wine mingled with frankincense; but the king the night before, having sat up late at a feast, overslept himself, which obliged the show to be put off. He did so the next day; all this while the poor Jews continued shut up in the Hippodrome, where they ceased not with the most earnest supplications to implore the mercy of GoD, who graciously heard their prayer, and afforded them a wonderful deliverance. For on the third day, when the king was present, and the elephants let loose, instead of falling upon the Jews, they turned all their rage upon those who came to see the show, and killed numbers of them. This wonderful event so terrified the king, that he ordered all the Jews to be set at liberty, restored them to their former privileges, and, among other favours, indulged them with the power of putting those to death who had apostatized from their religion; but of the many