John Hyrcanus I's destruction of the gerizim temple and Judaean-Samaritan relations

  • Seth Schwartz


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  1. 1.
    Cf. Marc Bloch,The Historian's Craft, (New York, 1964), 14–18.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See most recently Joseph Sievers,The Hasmoneans and Their Supporters from Mattathias to John Hyrcanus I (Atlanta, 1990), 142–3; Sievers himself qualifies, not to say contradicts, this view on pp.144–5. Cf. B. Hall,The Samaritans, ed. A. Crown (Tübingen, 1989), 34 — a more cautious view.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    I provisionally retain the traditional dating of this event. Coins discovered in the recent excavations on Gerizim suggest that the city was destroyed at a later date: see I. Magen, “Har Gerizim-cIr Mikdash,”Kadmoniot 1990, 87 and 90. However, the latest coins of a hoard found amid evidence of destruction in the vicinity of what Magen believes to be the temple precinct date to the reign of Alexander Zebinas (128-123 BCE) — which is more or less consistent with the traditional dating. Finds at other sites include not only Seleucid coins from the 110s, but also coins of “Yehohanan the High Priest” (clearly John Hyrcanus I) and Alexander Jannaeus, which suggests that they were left behind by occupying troops, or Judaean colonists, or the like (see Magen, 90). Magen's judgement (87) that the coins “prove unambiguously that John did not attack the Samaritans immediately after the death of Sidetes” is premature.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    On the other hand, we are also never told of Samaritans serving as courtiers or administrators under the Hasmoneans. However, Josephus provides so little information about such matters that his silence in this case proves nothing. The only Hasmonean courtiers Josephus identifies as members of one of the Judaized nations are the Idumaean ancestors of Herod, and if it had not been for the abnormal ruthlessness of Antipater, father of Herod, we would never have heard of him or his father, Antipas, either. However, Josephusdoes mention some apparent Samaritans associated with the Herodian family: Antipater son of Herod had a steward (perhaps a slave: Herod extracted testimony from him under torture; but this is not decisive: cf.Jewish War 1.584) named Antipater who was a Σαμαρεiτης, which probably means “Samaritan” (War 1.592/Antiquities 17.69). Herod had a wife, mother of Antipas and Archelaus, “of the nation of the Samarians” (Antiquities 17.20; thus presumably “Samaritan”: an inhabitant of the city of Samaria was not a member of the “Samarian nation”). The future Agrippa I, while at Rome, was bailed out of debt to Antonia Minor by an imperial freedman who wasSamareus genos, i.e., a “Samarian by birth” or “by race” (and therefore, it is implied, especially inclined to do Agrippa a favor). In this case it is impossible to tell whether the freedman was a Samaritan or a former inhabitant of the city of Samaria.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    “The Samaritans at Shechem,”HTR 55 (1962), 357–66, andShechem: The Biography of a Biblical City (New York, 1965), especially 170–84.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Only six coins, the latest of which from 112/3, from among the unspecified “many” (Wright,HTR 55 [1962], 358) found at Tel Balatah post-date 128. This suggests that the city was indeed mostly destroyed in 128, but perhaps a few people remained (Hasmonean troops?) until shortly after 112. Magen found at a site which yielded more than 100 coins 10 minted after 128 (Magen, 87).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    In fact, Wright,HTR 55, 359, admits that the defenses were not destroyed but covered over with dirt. He suggests that this was to be sure that they would never be used again. (Perhaps resistance in 128 had been fierce). But this dirt moving operation, which seems to be the only evidence for the “second destruction,” is not evidence for destruction at all (in any case, it seems to have been standard Hasmonean practice: the battlements of Samaria were buried, too; see M.C. Halpern-Zylberstein inCambridge History of Judaism 2, p. 5); it may have been undertaken over the course of several years after the actual destruction of the city in 128; in the dirt, a coin dated 121/20 was found, so that this, not 112/11, is theterminus post quem for the completion of the operation. (This site has apparently not yet been reexamined by Magen.) Wright does not say where the other post-128 coins were found.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    See note 3 above.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Wright himself suggested (Shechem, 262 note 25) that the later destruction occurred in the war between Alexander Jannaeus and Demetrius III, which was fought in the area of Shechem (Josephus,Antiquities 13.377–8). Menahem Mòr inThe Samaritans, 15–8 (see above, note 2), claims that John Hyrcanus treated the Samaritans like “Greeks” (i.e., destroyed them [? their city?]) rather than like Edomites: he did not Judaize them, and presumably reduced their survivors to subjection. However, the evidence for the existence of separate “Greek” and “Semitic” policies is ambiguous: John occasionally destroyed non-Greek cities (Idumaean Marisa! [at least partially], see M. Avi-Yonah inEncyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, III (Englewood Cliffs, 1978), 782–90, and A. Kasher,Canaan, Philistia, Greece and Israel [in Hebrew] (Jerusalem, 1988), 118; his treatment of other non-Greek cities — Medaba, Samoga, Adora — cannot be determined: Josephus' accounts are vague and archaeological evidence unavailable) and of the two Greek cities he acquired, he destroyed Samaria (after a long siege —Antiquities 13.281), but apparently not Scythopolis (13.280). It might be more accurate to speak of separate, if not rigorously applied, urban and rural policies. Accordingly, though Shechem was indeed destroyed, there is no evidence of destruction in the Samarian countryside. At least none is reported by S. Dar and S. Applebaum (Landscape and Pattern: An Archaeological Survey of Samaria, 800 BCE-636 CE, vol.1 [BAR International Series 308], Oxford, 1986). As for John's treatment of the Samaritans after 128, see below.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    What became of the region of Shechem after Pompey's conquest is unknown. The city of Samaria was allegedly returned to (descendants of) its original inhabitants (Josephus,War 1.155–7;Antiquities 14.74–6) but Shechem is not said to have been. Was it annexed to the territory of Samaria? If not, was it returned to Hyrcanus II in 47 BCE when Julius Caesar overturned Aulus Gabinius' administrative reforms (Antiquities 14.190–5)? Avi-Yonah,Geografiyah Historit shel Eretz. Yisrael (Jerusalem, 1963), 49, rejects A.H.M. Jones' assertion that it remained connected to Judaea and asserts instead that it enjoyed autonomy under Pompey, Gabinius and Caesar; see also Z. Safrai, “Shechem Bitequfat Hamishnah Vehatalmud, 63 lifnei hasefirah-637 lasefirah,”Mehqerei Shomron, ed. Z. Safrai and S. Dar (Tel Aviv, 1986), 83.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Archelaus ruled Idumaea, Judaea and Samaria, but not Galilee and Peraea, and his official title was “ethnarch,” literally, ruler of a nation. Does this imply that the inhabitants of his districts were still thought, at least by Augustus, to constitute one nation? Or does “ethnarch” simply denote a member of a particular class of Roman client administrators? E. Schürer,The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, rev. and ed. G. Vermes and F. Millar, vol. 1 (Edinburgh, 1973), 333–34 note 12, following Josephus,War 2.93, implies the latter, but it is uncertain because the title is rare: it was held by John Hyrcanus I, Hyrcanus II and perhaps the head of the Jewish community of Alexandria (Strabo quoted by Josephus,Antiquities 14.117; cf. Philo,Against Flaccus 74 andAntiquities 19.283). Another, somewhat later (2nd century?), example is found on the tombstone of a Hauranite ruler, “Hadrianos, also called Soaidos son of Malechos,ethnarch, commander of the Nomads” (R. Cagnat and G. Lafaye,Inscriptiones Graecae ad Res Romanas Pertinentes, vol. 3 [Paris, 1906], 1247; cf. 1254, a dedication to the Roman governor by “those from thenation of the Nomads”).Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Josephus (Antiquities 18.29–30) briefly reports an incident which allegedly occurred under Coponius (6–9 CE). The report — some Samaritans snuck into Jerusalem and scattered human bones in the temple — sounds like malicious gossip. Whether it accurately reflects the condition of Judaean-Samaritan relations under Coponius, or the attitude of Josephus' informants much later (perhaps he heard the story when he was growing up, around the time of the hostilities of the early 50s), or his own hostility to the Samaritans c.90, when he wrote the story, or all three, cannot be determined. At any rate, immediately before Coponius' administration, Judaean and Samaritan aristocrats had cooperated in requesting Archelaus' deposition.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    And even Josephus is not unambiguously hostile: there is little polemic inWar (3.307–15 evinces no special hostility to the Samaritan rebelsqua Samaritans; they are described with no more hostility than the Judaean rebels), and inAntiquities he generally represents the Samaritans as more or less Jewish, but sinful: see S. Schwartz, “The ‘Judaism’ of Samaria and Galilee in Josephus's Version of the Letter of Demetrius I to Jonathan,”HTR 82 (1989) 377–91; contrast, however,Antiquities 11.341.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    See R. Pummer, “The Book of Jubilees and the Samaritans,”Église et Théologie 10 (1979), 167ff., essentially repeated in “Antisamaritanische Polemik in jüdischen Schriften aus der intertestamentarische Zeit,”BZ 26 (1982), 226–29.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Most follow J. Vander Kam,Textual and Historical Studies in the Book of Jubilees (Missoula, 1977), 207–288, in dating the book to the 160s. But many of his arguments are forced and the issue requires a new treatment. D. Mendels,The Land of Israel as a Political Concept in Hasmonean Literature (Tübingen, 1987), 57–88, revives Charles' dating to the reign of Hyrcanus I. However, most of his arguments are as forced as Vander Kam's. Chapters 36–8 constitute the strongest evidence for a late dating. See, however, R. Doran, “The Non-dating of Jubilees: Jub 34–8, 23.14–32 in Narrative Context,”JSJ 20 (1989), 5–7.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    See below and Pummer, “Antisamaritanische Polemik,” 238–41; Doran, “2 Maccabees 6.2 and the Samaritan Question,”HTR 76 (1983) 481–85.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    See E. Schuller, “4Q 372:1, A Text about Joseph,”Revue de Qumran 14 (1990), 349–76; Schuller's arguments are extended by H. Eshel, “The Prayer of Joseph, A Papyrus from Masada and the Samaritan Temple on APΓAPIZIN”(sic),Zion 56 (1991), 125–36.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Rather than directed against Shechemite reformers (see below), or Greek colonists at Samaria, or no actual contemporary group at all.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    4Q 371 is written in a “Hasmonean” hand (Eshel, 126) which gives, at best, anextremely roughterminus ante quem for the composition of the work.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    For bibliography on this question, see C.R. Holladay,Fragments from Hellenistic-Jewish Authors, volume 1 (Chico, 1983), 99 notes 5 and 6.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Judith's hometown Bethulia is situated just south of the Great Valley (Judith 4.6); for bibliography and discussion of the date and some of the political background of the book, see D. Mendels,The Land of Israel as a Political Concept in Hasmonean Literature (Tübingen, 1987), 51–56.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    The question of2 Maccabees' political sympathies is controversial and this is not the place for a complete discussion, but some general observations are in order:2 Maccabees admittedly does not propagandize for the Hasmonean dynasty, as1 Maccabees does. However, its consistent defense of the purity of the Hasmonean temple, the legitimacy of the Hasmonean high priesthood, and the propriety of the two temple-related Hasmonean festivals (viz., Hanukkah and Yom Nikanor; on2 Maccabees' apologetic see J. Goldstein,2 Maccabees [Garden City, 1983], esp. 16–17, and R. Doran,Temple Propaganda: The Purpose and Character of 2 Maccabees [Washington, 1981]) does make it overwhelmingly likely that the author of2 Maccabees was in a general way pro-Hasmonean. The Hasmoneans themselves may have been northern Israelites devoted to Jerusalem; Modein, their hometown, may have been in Samaritis. See Sievers, 27 note 1. The argument of J. Schwartz,Lod (Lydda), Israel: From its Origins through the Byzantine Period, 5600 B.C.E.-640 C.E. (Oxford, 1991), 49–51, that Modein was not only “Jewish” but formally Judaean, is based entirely on a generalization from the Hasmonean family to the population of the village as a whole, and from demography to legal status. The matter is unlikely to have been so simple.Google Scholar
  23. 24.
    See H. Eshel,Zion 56 (1991), 131–2.Google Scholar
  24. 25.
    See Curtius Rufus 4.8; Eusebius,Chronicle (=Die Chronik des Hieronymus, ed. R. Helm [reprinted Berlin, 1984]), p.123.Google Scholar
  25. 26.
    Cf. Eshel, 133.Google Scholar
  26. 27.
    See discussion in Eshel, 130–32. I find his suggestion that there was a temple in Samaria in the 4th century BCE entirely plausible. Admittedly, the only real evidence Eshel provides for this is a type of coin with the inscription ShMRYN on one side and the image of a temple on the other; it is not clear whether these coins are provincial, like the “Yehud” coins of Persian Judaea, or city coins, and so whether the temple depicted, if it is an actual temple, is Samarian or the main provincial temple; furthermore, the image on the coin is apparently not as certain to be that of a temple as Eshel indicates (I thank Menahem Mor for these observations, which he will publish in an article discussing the new discoveries on Gerizim and the studies of Magen, Rappaport and Eshel; on the interpretation of this coin type see now Y. Meshorer and S. Kedar,The Coinage of Samaria in the Fourth Century BCE [Jerusalem, 1991], pp.26–27). But it is obvious that whatever the character of the coins, even a central provincial temple would have been located in the provincial capital, Samaria. Even without the admittedly dubious evidence of the coins, it is entirely reasonable to posit the existence of a temple at Samaria; why should it have lacked one?Google Scholar
  27. 28.
    For similar suggestions, see U. Rappaport, “The Samaritan Sect in the Hellenistic Period,”Zion 55 (1990), 377 (in Hebrew).Google Scholar
  28. 30.
    This, and the reconstitution of the Samaritan nation, still very recent events when he wrote, help explain Ben Sira's denunciation (50.25–6) of “the foolish people (laos, goy) who dwells in Shechem,” who is “not (even really) a nation (ethnos, 'am)”.Google Scholar
  29. 31.
    See P. Bruneau, “Les Israélites de Délos et la juiverie délienne,”BCH 106 (1982), 470 and 484.Google Scholar
  30. 32.
    See Josephus,Antiquities 13.70–79, reign of Ptolemy VI (180-145 BCE); the new chronology of the Gerizim temple explains why such a debate had not taken place previously; see Rappaport, “Samaritan Sect,” 379.Google Scholar
  31. 33.
    The statement that Antiochus was so arrogant he thought he could sail the land and walk the sea is a rhetorical commonplace (cf. Lucian,Rhetoron didaskalos 18) but one which would have evoked for every educated reader Herodotus' account of the arch-barbarian Xerxes; the hint is spelled out in v.22.Google Scholar
  32. 34.
    For discussions of the verse, see the commentaries of Abel and Goldstein. Translation #2 is adopted by H. G. Kippenberg,Garizim und Synagoge [Berlin-New York, 1971], 76 note 79. #3 was once the most common understanding of the clause and has more recently been revived by R. Pummer, “Antisamaritanische Polemik,” 238, and R. Doran, “2 Macc 6.2 and the Samaritan Question,”HTR 76 (1983), 481–5. In favor of translations 2 and 3 is the fact that2 Maccabees 6.1 and 3 (not to mention 5.22–3) make it very unlikely that 6.2 could be hostile to the Samaritans, as it would be if #1 were correct. (Nevertheless, Goldstein argues, in his comments on 6.1–3, that2 Maccabees was hostile to the Samaritans.)Google Scholar
  33. 35.
    See bibliography in Rappaport, “Samaritan Sect,” 386–87 note 47. Rappaport himself argues strongly against the authenticity of the letter (386–93). His main argument is that, as it stands, the letter of the “Sidonians in Sikima” is illogical. If the Samaritans wanted to avoid persecution, they need only have renounced the observance of the law; there was no reason also to deny that they were Israelites. In this superfluous denial, Rappaport detects the hand of a Judaean polemicist-forger operating during the Judaean-Samaritan quarrel in Alexandria under Ptolemy VI Philometor, around the time of the Maccabean Revolt. He further rejects E. J. Bickerman's claim (“Un document relatif à la persécution d'Antiochos IV Épiphane,”Studies in Jewish and Christian History, volume 2 [Leiden, 1980], 105–36) that some Samaritans had thought of themselves as Canaanites (“Sidonians”) even before 167 (a claim for which admittedly little evidence exists — but then there is little evidence for anything before 167 — in the Samaritans' case just two Delian inscriptions refering to “Israelites” and some coins of dubious significance — hardly sufficient to warrant Rappaport's conclusion [“Samaritan Sect” 374–81] that all Samaritans always considered themselves Israelites), and suggests that formally speaking, the Samaritan letter is more consistent with Ptolemaic than with Seleucid practice. Though I am not certain, I believe Rappaport has misinterpreted the letter. The Samaritans needed to claim Canaanite origins for themselves precisely because they were trying to retain as much of their traditional law as possible — as I suggest in the text. If so, their argument to the king was rigorous, not illogical, their claim of Canaanite origins could reflect the traditional view of some Samaritans but could also have been inventedad hoc, and the conformity of the style of the letter to Ptolemaic norms may be only apparent (there is far more Ptolemaic than Seleucid evidence) or may be real but reflect the fact that a Greek scribe working at Shechem in 167 may have done his apprenticeship (and at any rate certainly learned his trade from people who had worked) when the area was under Ptolemaic rule. There are admittedly peculiarities about the letter, most disturbingly its disagreement with2 Maccabees about the name of the Gerizim temple. The lesser peculiarities may be explained by faulty transmission, but this larger one is somewhat harder to explain. (It is interesting to note that from the Greek perspective, “Hellenios” and “Xenios” can be understood as practically antonyms. What this might imply I cannot say.)Google Scholar
  34. 36.
    However, some believe that the “Sidonians” are an actual colony of Sidonians: A. Alt,Kleine Schriften (Munich, 1953), 2.398 note 2; M. Delcor, “Von Sichem der hellenistischen Epoche zum Sychar des Neuen Testaments,”ZDPV 78 (1962), 37ff.; Kippenberg,Garizim und Synagoge, 79 and 85; and see now B. Isaac, “A Seleucid Inscription from Jamnia-on-the-Sea: Antiochus V Eupator and the Sidonians,”IEJ 41 (1991), 143, especially n.45. But Isaac's argument that the presence at Yavneh-Yam of a group which called itself Sidonian demonstrates that the “Sidonians in Sikima” were what they said they were is simply anon sequitur. Google Scholar
  35. 37.
    This was noted by Bickerman, “Un document,” 129.Google Scholar
  36. 38.
    That the king's approval of the adoption ofHellenika ethe (“Hellenic customs”) implies extreme reform is not absolutely certain, since it may refer only to the renaming of the temple and the reinterpretation of parts of the traditional law; more likely, though,Hellenika ethe implies something more serious (if not necessarily more Greek), as in Judaea — a likelihood strengthened by the wording of2 Maccabees 6.1 — Geron (Athenaeus) was to compel theIoudaioi (including Samaritans) “not to conduct their lives in accordance with the laws of the God.”Google Scholar
  37. 39.
    I follow here the translation of Goldstein,II Maccabees. This contradicts Josephus' propagandistic claim that “the Samaritans” renounced their kinship with the Judaeans and their worship of the Judaeans' God.Google Scholar
  38. 40.
    Cf. J. Purvis,CHJ 2.604–6; Rappaport, “Samaritan Sect,” 386.Google Scholar
  39. 41.
    So Rappaport, “Samaritan Sect,” 395.Google Scholar
  40. 42.
    Even this cannot be pressed; perhaps their restoration came after Judas' victory over Nicanor, which concludes the book. Anyway,2 Maccabees was sympathetic to the Samaritans, but they were not his main concern. His theme was why God had allowed theJerusalem temple to be defiled, and how he later indicated his care for it and its devotees. Furthermore, he may have intended the “profanation” of the Gerizim temple to serve not only as the political justification, but also as the theologicalaition for its destruction. Its purification sometime between 167 and 128 would then have been theologically inconvenient and so passed over in silence.Google Scholar
  41. 43.
    I Maccabees 9.50–2, with commentary of Abel. On southern Samaria and the revolt see J. Schwartz and J. Spanier, “On Mattathias and the Desert of Samaria,”RB 98 (1991), 252–71.Google Scholar
  42. 44.
    Sievers, 75. The area is often thought to have been the Hasmoneans' earliest stronghold; see Goldstein's comments onI Maccabees 2.28.Google Scholar
  43. 45.
    Or it may be anachronism — possibly these towns were in the Samarian nomes attached to Judaea in the 140s (I Maccabees 11.34). On this possibility, see S. Schwartz, “Israelites and Judaeans in the Two Books of Maccabees,” forthcoming.Google Scholar
  44. 48.
    Sievers, 94, implies something similar. See also J. Schwartz,Lod, 50–1. His contention that Diodotus-Tryphon removed the three nomes from the territory of Judaea and made them Jonathan's personal estate is based on a misinterpretation of1 Maccabees 11.57.Google Scholar
  45. 49.
    War 1.63: Thackeray's translation (“besides defeating the Cutheans”) is misleading;Antiquities 13.255. On Medaba and Samoga, see Kasher,Edom, Arabia, 48.Google Scholar
  46. 50.
    Megillat Ta'anit, with its celebration of Yom Har Gerizim (21 Kislev) — i.e., the destruction of the Gerizim temple (the medieval scholion is obviously best ignored) — is presumably an artifact of this later revival of Judaean-Samaritan hostility, for the work, which refers to events of the Roman period (e.g., 3 Kislev, 17 Elul, 25 Sivan), was compiled in the later 1st century CE at earliest. It is not impossible that there was a genuine Hasmonean festival celebrating this event, as there apparently were festivals celebrating the reduction of other centers of Hellenizing, e.g., Samaria (Meg.Taan. 25 Marheshvan), the Akra (23 Iyar — such a festival is implied also inI Maccabees) and perhaps Gezer (on the last two, see S. Schwartz, “Israel and the Nations Roundabout,”JJS 52 (1991), 31–33; for Megillat Ta'anit, the edition and discussion of H. Lichtenstein, “Die Fastenrolle,”HUCA 8–9 (1931-1), 257–352, has still not been superceded). Such a festival would not necessarily imply anything about the Hasmonean attitude to the Samaritans.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Haifa University Press 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Seth Schwartz
    • 1
  1. 1.King's CollegeCambridge University of Rhode IslandUSA

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