From 134 to 112 BC
Flavius Josephus, The Jewish Wars, Book I, Chapter 2, Section 6
Antiochus VII Sidetes, in an attempt to regain territories that were ceded to the Hasmonean entity, sends a large army into Judea in 134 BC. John Hyrcanus, understanding that he will not win an open-field battle, retreats to Jerusalem. Following a two-year siege, a compromise is reached – the Jews will transfer some areas back to the Seleucids and pay a ransom. The Hasmonean ruler saves his own life at the expense of ceding territories. Much to John Hyrcanus’ fortune, Antiochus VII Sidetes becomes concerned with the situation in Parthia – where he is later killed during a campaign to suppress a revolt. Sidetes’ death in 127 BC effectively marks the Jews’ formal independence from any Seleucid influence. John decrees that local coins be minted. In 112 BC, he sets out to conquer Idumea, Moab, Samaria, the Jezreel Valley, and the Galilee – a mission made possible by the inner conflicts tearing the Seleucid empire apart. The Hasmonean state now comprises most of the western and eastern areas of the Land of Israel. John Hyrcanus forms several treaties – with Rome, Egypt, and other nations in the region – to further solidify Jewish autonomy. However, a rift begins to grow between the Pharisees (a popular Jewish sect led by the scholars of the Oral Law) and John Hyrcanus (who supports the wealthier, more Hellenistic population).
John Hyrcanus continues his forefathers’ mission in fighting for political and spiritual independence. He is not satisfied with anything less, whereas the power-hungry Greeks are exhausted and withdraw. A person whose spiritual consciousness directs him to receive for the purpose of giving ultimately merits blessings. Conversely, a person whose consciousness is one of greed and darkness will eventually be defeated. When the Jews act as a united nation, they succeed in regaining their independence. However, internal conflicts and power struggles threaten to once again tear their unity and strength apart.
“However, at another time, when Antiochus was gone upon an expedition against the Medes, and so gave Hyrcanus an opportunity of being revenged upon him, he immediately made an attack upon the cities of Syria, as thinking, what proved to be the case with them, that he should find them empty of good troops. So he took Medaba and Samea, with the towns in their neighborhood, as also Shechem, and Gerizzim; and besides these, the nation of the Cutheans, who dwelt round about that temple which was built in imitation of the temple at Jerusalem; he also took a great many other cities of Idumea, with Adoreon and Marissa” (Josephus Flavius, The Jewish Wars, Book 1, Chapter 2, paragraph 6)
Oneness is the guiding principle of our existence; unity is the source, as well as the goal.