The Tobiads were a Jewish faction in Ammon at the beginning of the Hasmonean period. They were philhellene, supporters of Hellenistic Judaism, in the early years of the 2nd century BCE.
What is known about the Tobiads is a combination of statements of Josephus ( Antiquities of the Jews xii. 160-236) and of 2 Maccabees 3:11 . There are two accounts, both legendary, the hero of the one being Joseph, and of the other, Hyrcanus.
During the reign of the Egyptian king Ptolemy and his wife Cleopatra, the high priest Onias, who was feeble-minded and extremely miserly, refused to pay the Jewish tribute of twenty talents which his father, Simon the Just, had always given from his own means. In his anger the king sent Athenion as a special envoy to Jerusalem, threatening to seize the land of the Jews and to hold it by force of arms if the money was not forthcoming. Although the high priest disregarded this threat, the people were greatly excited, whereupon Onias' nephew Joseph, a son of Tobias and a man greatly beloved and respected for his wisdom and piety, reproached his uncle for bringing disaster upon the people, declaring, moreover, that Onias ruled the Jews and held the high priestly office solely for the sake of gain. He told him, furthermore, that he ought at all events to go to the king and petition him to remit the tribute-money, or at least a part of it. Onias, on the other hand, replied that he did not wish to rule, and expressed himself as willing to resign the high-priesthood, although he refused to petition the king. He permitted Joseph, however, to go to Ptolemy, and also to speak to the people. Joseph quieted the Jews, and received the envoy hospitably in his own house, besides giving him costly presents, so that, when Athenion returned to Alexandria, he informed the king of the coming of Joseph, whom he styled the ruler (προστάτης) [prostatis] of the people. Shortly afterward Joseph started on his journey, having first raised a loan of about 20,000 drachmae in Samaria, although he was obliged to submit to the jeers of prominent men of Syria and Phoenicia, who were visiting Alexandria in order to farm the taxes, and who derided him on account of his insignificant appearance.
Not finding Ptolemy at Alexandria, Joseph went to meet him at Memphis, where the king graciously granted him a seat in his own chariot, together with the queen and Athenion. His cleverness won for him the monarch's friendship; and by his offer of 16,000 talents against the 8,000 bid by his opponents he secured the contract for farming the taxes, the king and queen becoming his sureties, since he did not have sufficient ready money. He left Alexandria with 500 talents and 2,000 soldiers, and by punishing all who opposed him in Ashkelon and Scythopolis and confiscating their estates, he made himself feared through all the cities of Syria and Phoenicia, while the great fortune which his extortions won was held secure by his continual presents to the king, queen, and courtiers, so that he retained his office of tax-farmer until his death, twenty-two years later. By his first wife Joseph had seven sons. At Alexandria he became infatuated with a dancer, for whom his brother Solymius, who lived in the city, substituted his own daughter, the child of this union being Hyrcanus, who was his father's favorite son and consequently the object of his brothers' enmity.
Josephus describes Joseph as "a good man, and of great magnanimity" who "brought the Jews out of a state of poverty and meanness to one that was more splendid. He retained the farming of the taxes of Syria, and Phenicia, and Samaria twenty-two years."
On the birth of a prince, Joseph feeling too old to visit Alexandria and his other sons likewise declining to go, sent Hyrcanus to bear his congratulations to the court. Arion, Joseph's representative in Alexandria, however, refused to allow Hyrcanus money, and the latter accordingly put him in chains, not only escaping punishment from the king, but even winning both his favor and that of the courtiers, whose aid his brothers had secretly invoked against him. The king sent letters recommending him warmly to his father. When Hyrcanus returned to Judaea, his older brothers met him with armed resistance. Hyrcanus won the battle and killed two of his half-brothers but as the city of Jerusalem refused to admit him, he settled beyond the Jordan.
Shortly afterwards, Seleucus IV Philopator (187-175 BC) became king of the Seleucid kingdom. Hyrcanus's father Joseph and his uncle, Onias II, also died. The high-priesthood passed to Simon II (219–199 BC). Hyrcanus continued his warfare against the Arabs beyond the Jordan and, in the vicinity of Heshbon, built the castle of Tyre,and ruling the district east of the Jordan for seven years during the reign of Seuleucus IV. Ptolemy V Epiphanes (205-182) also died, leaving two young sons. When Antiochus Epiphanes became king of Syria (175-164 BC), Hyrcanus realized that he would be unable to vindicate himself for his murderous attacks upon the Arabs, he committed suicide, and his property was seized by Antiochus.
The most serious difficulty, however, is the chronology. An old interpolator of Josephus advanced the opinion that the king mentioned in the story was Ptolemy III Euergetes (246-222 BC). However, this monarch was not the consort of a Cleopatra, nor was his immediate successor Seleucus IV. The only ruler to whom the narrative can properly refer is Ptolemy V Epiphanes (205-182), who in 193 BCE married Cleopatra, the daughter of Antiochus III. In that case, however, Joseph could not have farmed the Egyptian taxes, since Cœle-Syria was then under Syrian, and not under Egyptian, suzerainty, while the assertion that the two powers had divided the revenues of the country is merely an attempt on the part of Josephus to evade the difficulty.Nor was the period between Ptolemy V's marriage (193) and his death (182) sufficiently long to agree with the statement concerning the length of time during which Joseph farmed the taxes (twenty-two years), and still less could Hyrcanus have reached manhood in so short a space.
Büchler, therefore, finds himself compelled to place Joseph's term of office between 219 and 199, although this stultifies the statement of Josephus regarding a division of the taxes.
Adolf Büchler's research established the probable historicity of the account of the Tobiads. 1 Maccabees makes no mention of these events. The quarrels were factional ones, the issue being whether the old and popular government of the Ptolemies should continue, or whether the Jews should deliver themselves over to the Syrian kings and their Hellenization.
When Jason and Menelaus struggled for the dominant power in Jerusalem, which was, according to Büchler, political office (the προστασία [prostasia] mentioned in the account of the Tobiads), and no longer the high priesthood, the sons of Tobias (Τωβίου παῖδες) [Tobiou paides] took sides with Menelaus
Wellhausen denied both the historicity and the value of the narrative, although he thinks that the portion dealing with the period of Seleucus IV and Antiochus IV may be trustworthy, and he regards the suicide of Hyrcanus as probable, since the latter supported the Ptolemies against the new régime of the Syrians, and might consequently fear the revenge of Antiochus IV. II Macc. iii. 11 mentions money deposited by Hyrcanus, the son of Tobias, "a man of great dignity", taking it for granted that a friendship existed between Onias II and Hyrcanus, a supposition which is very reasonable, since only the other Tobiads, the brothers of Hyrcanus, were involved in quarrels with the legitimate high priest. That Hyrcanus is called the son of Tobias, and not of Joseph, is due, Wellhausen holds, to mere abbreviation, and does not imply any divergency in the two accounts.
Willreich distinguishes a threefold tradition concerning the Tobiads, the first being that of the Pseudo-Hecataeus (according to Willreich's interpretation), which represents Onias as a worthy man, and attributes to the Tobiads all the misfortunes which befell the Jews. The account of Josephus, on the other hand, which represents Onias as a weakling and the Tobiads as the promoters of Israel's welfare, is drawn from Samaritan sources. With this theory Büchler also agrees, thus explaining why Joseph sought aid in Samaria, and why the account fails to express disapproval of the non-Jewish conduct of Joseph, who ate at the court of an Egyptian king and had dealings with Gentiles. Willreich likewise brings the Tobiads into association both with Tobiah, the servant mentioned by Nehemiah as an Ammonite (ii. 19), who consequently came from the east-Jordanic district, and with the Tubieni,who were the enemies of the Jews. Although Willreich does not absolutely deny the historicity of the narrative, since the castle of Hyrcanus has been discovered in modern times, he regards Joseph and Hyrcanus as mere names, representing in part Jason and Menelaus. The third form of the tradition is that of Jason of Cyrene, on which the second Book of the Maccabees is based; and Schlatter is even of the opinion that Josephus himself drew his account of the Tobiads from this same source.
Büchler regards the struggle between the Tobiads and the Oniads as a contest between Ptolemean and Seleucid supremacy in Jerusalem. According to the same scholar, moreover, Menelaus and Jason themselves were Tobiads, although this is denied by Schürer.
Many points of the Tobiad problem still await solution.
This article concerns the period 169 BC – 160 BC.
This article concerns the period 179 BC – 170 BC.
Antiochus V Eupator, whose epithet means "of a good father" was a ruler of the Greek Seleucid Empire who reigned from late 164 to 161 BC.
Antiochus III the Great was a Greek Hellenistic king and the 6th ruler of the Seleucid Empire, reigning from 223 to 187 BC. He ruled over the region of Syria and large parts of the rest of western Asia towards the end of the 3rd century BC. Rising to the throne at the age of eighteen in April/June 223 BC, his early campaigns against the Ptolemaic Kingdom were unsuccessful, but in the following years Antiochus gained several military victories and substantially expanded the empire's territory. His traditional designation, the Great, reflects an epithet he assumed. He also assumed the title Basileus Megas, the traditional title of the Persian kings. A militarily active ruler, Antiochus restored much of the territory of the Seleucid Empire, before suffering a serious setback, towards the end of his reign, in his war against Rome.
Antiochus IV Epiphanes was a Greek Hellenistic king who ruled the Seleucid Empire from 175 BC until his death in 164 BC. He was a son of King Antiochus III the Great. Originally named Mithradates, he assumed the name Antiochus after he ascended the throne. Notable events during Antiochus's reign include his near-conquest of Ptolemaic Egypt, his persecution of the Jews of Judea and Samaria, and the rebellion of the Jewish Maccabees.
The Maccabees, also spelled Machabees, were a group of Jewish rebel warriors who took control of Judea, which at the time was part of the Seleucid Empire. They founded the Hasmonean dynasty, which ruled from 167 BCE to 37 BCE, being a fully independent kingdom from about 110 to 63 BCE. They reasserted the Jewish religion, expanded the boundaries of Judea by conquest, and reduced the influence of Hellenism and Hellenistic Judaism.
The Hasmonean dynasty was a ruling dynasty of Judea and surrounding regions during the Hellenistic times of the Second Temple period, from c. 140 BCE to 37 BCE. Between c. 140 and c. 116 BCE the dynasty ruled Judea semi-autonomously in the Seleucid Empire, and from roughly 110 BCE, with the empire disintegrating, Judea gained further autonomy and expanded into the neighboring regions of Perea, Samaria, Idumea, Galilee, and Iturea. The Hasmonean rulers took the Greek title basileus ("king") as the kingdom became a regional power for several decades. Forces of the Roman Republic intervened in the Hasmonean Civil War in 63 BCE and made it into a client state, marking the decline of Hasmonean dynasty; Herod the Great displaced the last reigning Hasmonean client-ruler in 37 BCE.
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Gorgias was a Syrian-Seleucid General of the 2nd century BC, in the service of Antiochus Epiphanes.
Nicanor was a Syrian-Seleucid General under the kings Antiochus Epiphanes and Demetrius Soter.
Onias IV was the son of Onias III and the heir of the Zadokite line of High Priests of Israel. He built a new Jewish temple at Leontopolis in Ptolemaic Egypt where he reigned as a rival High Priest to the hierarchy in Jerusalem. While he never gained leadership in Judea, he still held influence in Egypt; the territory most heavily populated by Jews was called the Land of Onias in reference to his influence.
Jason was the High Priest of Israel from around 175 BCE to 171 BCE during the Second Temple period of Judaism. He was of the Oniad family and was brother to Onias III, his predecessor as High Priest. Josephus records that his name was originally Jesus or Joshua before he changed it.
Menelaus was High Priest in Jerusalem from about 172 BC to about 161 BC. He was high priest at the beginning of the Maccabean revolt (167-160). He was the successor of Jason, the brother of Onias III.
Onias III, son of Simon II, was Jewish High Priest during the Second Temple period. He is described in scriptures as a pious man who opposed the Hellenization of Judea. He was succeeded by his brother Jason in 175 BCE.
The Land of Onias is the name given in Hellenistic Egyptian, Jewish, and Roman sources to an area in ancient Egypt's Nile Delta where a large number of Jews settled. The Land of Onias, which included the city of Leontopolis, was located in the Heliopolite Nome.
Onias I was the son of the Jaddua mentioned in Nehemiah. According to Josephus, this Jaddua is said to have been a contemporary of Alexander the Great. I Maccabees regards Onias as a contemporary of the Spartan king Areus I. "Josephus is ... mistaken in placing it in the time of Onias III instead of Onias I, who was high priest c. 300 B.C. ."
Onias II was the son of Simon I. He was still a minor when his father died, so his uncle Eleazar, and whom after, the latter's uncle Manasseh, officiated as high priests before Onais himself succeeded to that dignity. According to Josephus, he was a covetous man and of limited intelligence, whose refusal to pay the twenty talents of silver which every high priest was required to pay to Ptolemy III Euergetes, the King of Egypt threatened to imperil both the high priest and the people. The impending disaster was averted by Onias’ nephew Joseph, son of Tobias, who, having friendly relations with the Egypt court, managed to conciliate Ptolemy. Onias is said to have died, almost simultaneously with his nephew Joseph, during the reign of Seleucus IV Philopator, hence about 181 BC. His son, Simon II assumed the high priestly office after the demise of his father.
The Maccabean Revolt was a Jewish rebellion led by the Maccabees against the Seleucid Empire and against Hellenistic influence on Jewish life. The main phase of the revolt lasted from 167–160 BCE and ended with the Seleucids in control of Judea, but conflict between the Maccabees, Hellenized Jews, and the Seleucids continued until 134 BCE, with the Maccabees eventually attaining independence.
The book 2 Maccabees contains 15 chapters. It is a deuterocanonical book originally written in Greek that is part of the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox Christian biblical canons. It is still considered an important source on the Maccabean Revolt by Jews, Protestants, and secular historians of the period who do not necessarily hold the book as part of a scriptural canon. The chapters chronicle events in Judea from around 178–161 BCE during the Second Temple Period. Judea was at the time ruled by the Seleucid Empire, one of the Greek successor states that resulted from the conquests of Alexander the Great. 2 Maccabees was written by an unknown Egyptian Jew. The account is distinct from the book 1 Maccabees, which was written by someone in the Hasmonean kingdom that was formed after the success of the revolt. In general, 2 Maccabees has a more directly religious perspective than 1 Maccabees, frequently directly crediting prayers, miraculous interventions, and divine will for events.
Hellenistic Palestine, or Hellenistic Judea, is the term for the history of the region of Palestine or Judea–Samaria during the Hellenistic period, when Achaemenid Syria was conquered by Alexander the Great and subsumed into his growing Macedonian empire. Following his death and the division of his empire among the Diadochi, the region came first under Ptolemaic rule beginning in the late 4th century BCE with Ptolemy I Soter, followed by Seleucid rule beginning in the early 2nd century BCE with Antiochus III the Great. Later the same century, the Maccabean revolt weakened the grip of the Seleucid Empire and paved the way for the emergence of the rule of the local Hasmonean dynasty. Following the 63 BCE Siege of Jerusalem by Pompey the Great, the region was annexed by the Roman Republic, marking the end of Hellenistic Palestine and the beginning of Roman Judea.
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Singer, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). "Tobiads". The Jewish Encyclopedia . New York: Funk & Wagnalls.