After the Maccabean Revolt, Jerusalem Entered an Era of Growth and Prosperity

Dec. 30 2016

The city of Jerusalem, once liberated from Seleucid rule by the triumphant Hasmoneans, experienced rapid population growth and expanded westward, while the rulers of the newly sovereign Jewish state enlarged and renovated the Temple complex. Lawrence Schiffman describes what the city looked like in the 1st and 2nd centuries BCE, setting the stage by relating the little-known epilogue to the Hanukkah story:

Contrary to what many think, the miraculous conquest and purification of the Temple on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev in 164 BCE was not the end of the Hanukkah story. . . . Through clever diplomacy and playing on the inner politics of the Jewish people, which still included some pro-Hellenistic elements, . . . the Seleucids managed to dislodge Judah the Maccabee and his supporters from the Temple. Then they installed Yakim (Alcimus), a Hellenist, as high priest. Judah and his men were left again to fight a war of resistance from fortresses in the Judean Hills.

After Judah’s death on the battlefield, he was succeeded by his brother Jonathan who was the commander of about 10,000 troops. When an internal conflict developed in Syria over who would rule, Jonathan wisely sided with the successful of the two pretenders to the throne and in return was granted official recognition as the ruler of Judea. He was then accepted by the people as ruler and high priest. It is he who effectively established the Hasmonean dynasty that lasted from 152 BCE through the Roman conquest of the land of Israel in 63 BCE. . . .

Soon after the accession of Jonathan, the city of Jerusalem began to grow. Over the course of the Hasmonean period it went from not much more than 5,000 residents to over 30,000. [Even] before the Maccabean revolt, the population had begun to expand westward from the area of the City of David, which had constituted the entire city during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. Tremendous impetus was given to this process by the Hasmoneans when they began to rebuild the city walls that had surrounded the city in the time of the First Temple. . . .

The expansion of the city at this time took place on the Western Hill, more or less today’s Jewish Quarter in the Old City. This area had been settled during the time of the first Temple, but for the most part remained abandoned since [its] destruction.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Ami Magazine

More about: Ancient Israel, History & Ideas, Jerusalem, Maccabees

Will Tensions Rise between the U.S. and Israel?

Unlike his past many predecessors, President Joe Biden does not have a plan for solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, his administration has indicated its skepticism about renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. John Bolton nevertheless believes that there could be a collision between the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government and the Biden White House:

In possibly his last term, Netanyahu’s top national-security priority will be ending, not simply managing, Iran’s threat. This is infinitely distant from Biden’s Iran policy, which venerates Barrack Obama’s inaugural address: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Tehran’s fist is today otherwise occupied, pummeling its own people. Still, it will continue menacing Israel and America unless and until the internal resistance finds ways to fracture the senior levels of Iran’s regular military and the Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu undoubtedly sees Iran’s growing domestic turmoil as an opportunity for regime change, which Israel and others can facilitate. Simultaneously, Jerusalem can be preparing its military and intelligence services to attack Tehran’s nuclear program, something the White House simply refuses to contemplate seriously. Biden’s obsession with reviving the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal utterly blinds the White House to the potential for a more significant victory.

To make matters worse, Biden has just created a Washington-based position at the State Department, a “special representative for Palestinian affairs,” that has already drawn criticism in Israel both for the new position itself and for the person named to fill it. Advocated as one more step toward “upgrading” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, the new position looks nearly certain to become the locus not of advancing American interests regarding the failed Authority, but of advancing the Authority’s interests within the Biden administration.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at 19FortyFive

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship