350 BC to 330 BC, Psalm 30: Alexander.

This site was first built in French (see www.147thgeneration.net). The English translation was mainly done using “google translation”. We have tried to correct the result of this translation to avoid interpretation errors. However, it is likely that there are unsatisfactory translations, do not hesitate to communicate them to us for correction.
(for that click on this paragraph)

    Summary

This generation is from the years 350 BC to 330 BC

According to our count, this generation is the 30th generation associated with Psalm 30. It is in this Psalm 30 that we therefore find an illustration of the facts of this generation.

These tumultuous relations of Jerusalem with Persia, its former protector, are deteriorating. The time of Cyrus, compared to the Messiah, is now very far. The decline of the Persian empire is announced. At the same time, Alexander the Great, the successor of Philip of Macedonia inflicts a first defeat to the Persians.

Alexander the Great cumulates the conquests. Those who resist it pay a heavy price, like Tire: the city is razed, the populations are massacred or reduced to slavery.

Jerusalem, since the time of Darius, could be considered an ally of the Persians. As the Persians are enemies of the Greeks, Jerusalem expects the worst when Alexander’s troops are close to the city. For the Jews only prayer remains. These prayers are not in vain, for the predicted disaster does not take place.

According to a legend narrated by Flavius Josephus: Alexander saw, before his coming to Jerusalem, in a dream, God addressing him to promise him victory in the same habit as that of the priests of the Temple. As a result, Alexander would have had sacrifices offered at the Temple.

These accounts of Flavius Josephus concerning the “miraculous” coming of Alexander to Jerusalem are questioned by some historians. However, the miraculous nature of the preservation of Jerusalem, under the Persian fold, vis-à-vis the Greek threat, is very real: Jerusalem did not follow the fate of Tire and Gaza.

Talk

Dedication

Before dwelling on the psalm proper, we must first look at its introduction:

(extract of the psalm 30 associated to this generation, verse 1  )

  • A psalm. A song. For the dedication of the Temple. Of David.

Indeed, since Ezra, we can consider that the Temple of Jerusalem is functioning normally again. Why then speak of dedication or inauguration for the generation that interests us?

For this, we must be interested in the major events that occur for this generation. Indeed this generation sees the confrontation between the Jews of Jerusalem and Alexander the Great, representative of the Western world which has not yet been confronted by the Jewish people.

Western world often assimilated to Esau that will be fatal to the nascent kingdom of Israel, since the Roman successors of the Greeks will destroy the second Temple and will lead to a new exile of the Jewish people that will last this time well over seventy years.

Regarding our generation, the confrontation with Alexander finally takes place better than expected in any case without the dreaded destruction.

The Desecrated Temple

A first event is told by Flavius Josephus. He places it at the same time as the death[1] of Philip of Macedonia (Philip of Macedonia is assassinated in 336 BC):

  • After[2] the death of Eliasib, high priest, Judas, his son succeeded him. And when Judas was dead, John his son succeeded him, and caused the people of Bagose, the general of the army of Artaxerxes, to profane the temple. He imposed upon the Jews a tribute of fifty drachmas payable at the public’s expense for each lamb they sacrificed; what happened by the cause that I (it is Flavius Josephus who expresses himself) will say. Bagose was very fond of Jesus, John’s brother, and had promised to make him a high priest. One day when the two brothers were in the Temple, they entered on this subject in such a contest that John, transported with anger, killed his brother in this holy place, and thus committed a crime so abominable that there is no for example, of a similar impiety, neither among the Greeks nor among the most barbarous peoples. God did not let this sacrilege go unpunished; it was the cause that the Jews lost their liberty, and that the Temple was profaned by the Persians; for as soon as Bagose heard of it, he came, shouting furiously, “What! Miserable as you are, you have not feared to commit in your own Temple such a dreadful crime. He then wished to enter it, and on what was being done to prevent him from doing so, he said in a still stronger voice: “Do you think me more impure than this dead body, which I see here extended? ? As he finished these words, he entered the Temple, and used this opportunity to persecute the Jews for seven years.

Eliasib[3] probably corresponds to Eliashib found in the book of Ezra [3]. On the other hand, the son Johanan is more likely to correspond to John (Jean is Johanan’s true Greek correspondence) Eliasib’s grandson than to Judas his son. Twenty to forty years separate the generation of Ezra from the one we are interested in. The probability that Elyachib is Johanan’s father to whom he is the grandfather is equal but does not change the event that interests us.

On the other hand, in Nehemiah, the filiation of Eliashib is indicated.

Recall that the book of Nehemiah is probably not limited to the episode of Nehemiah himself, since Ezra is quoted while he probably did not live at the same time as Nehemiah. On the other hand, the parentage that we quote belongs to several generations and is therefore defined much later than the very time of Nehemiah:

  • And[4] the Levites were: Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah, Mattaniah over the huyedoth, he and his brethren.
  • And Bakbukiah and Unni, their brethren, were opposite them in the watches.
  • Now Jeshua begot Joiakim, and Joiakim begot Eliashib, and Eliashib begot Joiada.
  • And Joiada begot Jonathan, and Jonathan begot Jaddua.

Here again if Joïada (the passage from Hebrew to Greek does not guarantee a perfect correspondence) can be associated with the “Judas” of Flavius Josephus’s account, we thus find the character of John.

The desecration of the Temple through the murder and the intrusion of Bagose presumably interrupted the normal service of the Temple. This was probably able to resume after the seven years mentioned by Flavius Josephus under the leadership of Jaddus[5], the son of John, who succeeded him as high priest. We find this same Jaddus in a new confrontation with the Persians again justified by internal tensions in the Jewish people of Jerusalem.

Deterioration of relations with Persia

These tumultuous relations of Jerusalem with Persia, its former protector, are deteriorating.

Alexandre_le_Grand,_vainqueur_de_Darius_à_la_bataille_d'Arbelles

The time of Cyrus, compared to the Messiah, is now very far. The decline of the Persian empire is announced.

At the same time, Alexander the Great, the successor of Philip of Macedon, inflicts a first defeat on the Persians:

  • About[6] this time it was that Philip, king of Macedon, was treacherously assaulted and slain at Egae by Pausanias, the son of Cerastes, who was derived from the family of Oreste, and his son Alexander succeeded him in the kingdom; who, passing over the Hellespont, overcame the generals of Darius’s army (Darius III Codoman) in a battle fought at Granicum. So he marched over Lydia, and subdued Ionia, and overran Caria, and fell upon the places of Pamphylia, as has been related elsewhere.

It was then that Sanabaleth the Perse undertook to establish in Samaria a competing temple in the Temple of Jerusalem. Where Manasseh his son-in-law must become the High Priest in compensation for the loss of the priesthood in Jerusalem:

  • But[7] the elders of Jerusalem being very uneasy that the brother of Jaddua the high priest, though married to a foreigner, should be a partner with him in the high priesthood, quarreled with him; for they esteemed this man’s marriage a step to such as should be desirous of transgressing about the marriage of [strange] wives, and that this would be the beginning of a mutual society with foreigners, although the offense of some about marriages, and their having married wives that were not of their own country, had been an occasion of their former captivity, and of the miseries they then underwent; so they commanded Manasseh to divorce his wife, or not to approach the altar, the high priest himself joining with the people in their indignation against his brother, and driving him away from the altar. Whereupon Manasseh came to his father-in-law, Sanballat, and told him, that although he loved his daughter Nicaso, yet was he not willing to be deprived of his sacerdotal dignity on her account, which was the principal dignity in their nation, and always continued in the same family. And then Sanballat promised him not only to preserve to him the honor of his priesthood, but to procure for him the power and dignity of a high priest, and would make him governor of all the places he himself now ruled, if he would keep his daughter for his wife. He also told him further, that he would build him a temple like that at Jerusalem, upon Mount Gerizzini, which is the highest of all the mountains that are in Samaria; and he promised that he would do this with the approbation of Darius the king. Manasseh was elevated with these promises, and staid with Sanballat, upon a supposal that he should gain a high priesthood, as bestowed on him by Darius, for it happened that Sanballat was then in years. But there was now a great disturbance among the people of Jerusalem, because many of those priests and Levites were entangled in such matches; for they all revolted to Manasseh, and Sanballat afforded them money, and divided among them land for tillage, and habitations also, and all this in order every way to gratify his son-in-law.

The Greek threat

As the Persian power interferes dangerously in the affairs of Jerusalem, the Greek threat is confirmed:

  • About[8] this time it was that Darius heard how Alexander had passed over the Hellespont, and had beaten his lieutenants in the battle at Granicum, and was proceeding further; whereupon he gathered together an army of horse and foot, and determined that he would meet the Macedonians before they should assault and conquer all Asia.
  • So he passed over the river Euphrates, and came over Taurus, the Cilician mountain, and at Issus of Cilicia he waited for the enemy, as ready there to give him battle.
  • Upon which Sanballat was glad that Darius was come down; and told Manasseh that he would suddenly perform his promises to him, and this as soon as ever Darius should come back, after he had beaten his enemies; for not he only, but all those that were in Asia also, were persuaded that the Macedonians would not so much as come to a battle with the Persians, on account of their multitude.
  • But the event proved otherwise than they expected; for the king joined battle with the Macedonians, and was beaten, and lost a great part of his army. His mother also, and his wife and children, were taken captives, and he fled into Persia.
  • So Alexander came into Syria, and took Damascus; and when he had obtained Sidon, he besieged Tyre, when he sent all epistle to the Jewish high priest, to send him some auxiliaries, and to supply his army with provisions; and that what presents he formerly sent to Darius, he would now send to him, and choose the friendship of the Macedonians, and that he should never repent of so doing.
  • But the high priest answered the messengers, that he had given his oath to Darius not to bear arms against him; and he said that he would not transgress this while Darius was in th e land of the living. Upon hearing this answer, Alexander was very angry; and though he determined not to leave Tyre, which was just ready to be taken, yet as soon as he had taken it, he threatened that he would make an expedition against the Jewish high priest, and through him teach all men to whom they must keep their oaths.
  • So when he had, with a good deal of pains during the siege, taken Tyre, and had settled its affairs, he came to the city of Gaza, and besieged both the city and him that was governor of the garrison, whose name was Babemeses.
  • But Sanballat thought he had now gotten a proper opportunity to make his attempt, so he renounced Darius, and taking with him seven thousand of his own subjects, he came to Alexander; and finding him beginning the siege of Tyre, he said to him, that he delivered up to him these men, who came out of places under his dominion, and did gladly accept of him for his lord instead of Darius.
  • So when Alexander had received him kindly, Sanballat thereupon took courage, and spake to him about his present affair. He told him that he had a son-in-law, Manasseh, who was brother to the high priest Jaddua; and that there were many others of his own nation, now with him, that were desirous to have a temple in the places subject to him; that it would be for the king’s advantage to have the strength of the Jews divided into two parts, lest when the nation is of one mind, and united, upon any attempt for innovation, it prove troublesome to kings, as it had formerly proved to the kings of Assyria.

The fate of Tire

Dessin_Siège_de_Tyr_(-332)

Thus Alexander defeated Tire (in 332 BC), and of course, in accordance with the promise he had made beforehand, the worst was waiting for the Jews of Jerusalem. As for Thebes, also defeated earlier, and Gaza to be defeated a few months after Tire, Alexander is not lenient with the vanquished of these cities.

  • Before[9] reaching the banks of the Nile, he (Alexander) must seize Tire, deemed impregnable for having resisted Nebuchadnezzar for thirteen years, between 585 and 572 BC. For seven months, the Phoenician city refuses to surrender. When he surrendered, Alexander’s vengeance was terrible: two thousand men were hanged and thirty thousand survivors, according to classical historians, sold as slaves.

The city is razed, the people are massacred or reduced to slavery. This is clearly the fate that Jerusalem can expect. This is why the Jews of Jerusalem rely on God:

  • Now[10] Alexander, when he had taken Gaza, made haste to go up to Jerusalem; and Jaddua the high priest, when he heard that, was in an agony, and under terror, as not knowing how he should meet the Macedonians, since the king was displeased at his foregoing disobedience. He therefore ordained that the people should make supplications, and should join with him in offering sacrifice to God,

Jerusalem spared

1024px-Alexander_the_Great_in_the_Temple_of_Jerusalem

These prayers are not vain, because the announced disaster did not take place:

  • God[11] warned him (Jaddua) in a dream, which came upon him after he had offered sacrifice, that he should take courage, and adorn the city, and open the gates; that the rest should appear in white garments, but that he and the priests should meet the king in the habits proper to their order, without the dread of any ill consequences, which the providence of God would prevent.
  • Upon which, when he rose from his sleep, he greatly rejoiced, and declared to all the warning he had received from God. According to which dream he acted entirely, and so waited for the coming of the king.
  • nd when he understood that he was not far from the city, he went out in procession, with the priests and the multitude of the citizens. The procession was venerable, and the manner of it different from that of other nations. It reached to a place called Sapha, which name, translated into Greek, signifies a prospect, for you have thence a prospect both of Jerusalem and of the temple.
  • And when the Phoenicians and the Chaldeans that followed him thought they should have liberty to plunder the city, and torment the high priest to death, which the king’s displeasure fairly promised them, the very reverse of it happened; for Alexander, when he saw the multitude at a distance, in white garments, while the priests stood clothed with fine linen, and the high priest in purple and scarlet clothing, with his mitre on his head, having the golden plate whereon the name of God was engraved, he approached by himself, and adored that name, and first saluted the high priest.
  • The Jews also did all together, with one voice, salute Alexander, and encompass him about; whereupon the kings of Syria and the rest were surprised at what Alexander had done, and supposed him disordered in his mind.

Afterwards, Flavius Josephus explains that Alexander had seen before in a dream, God address him to promise him victory in the same dress as that of priests. As a result, Alexander offers sacrifices to the Temple. These accounts of Flavius Josephus concerning the “miraculous” coming of Alexander in Jerusalem are questioned by some historians.

Castaigne_Siege_of_Gaza

However, the miraculous character of the preservation of Jerusalem, under Persia, vis-à-vis the Greek threat is very real: Jerusalem did not follow the fate of Tire and Gaza.

Thus, after many vicissitudes due to the fratricidal assassination inside the Temple and to the ambiguous position of the Persian power towards the Jews of Jerusalem, the arrival of Alexander promises a renewal of Jerusalem and Temple worship. As if it were inaugurated again, which justifies the title of the psalm of this generation: “A song. For the dedication of the Temple..

On the other hand, the beginning of the psalm of this generation illustrates the events related to Alexander’s breakthrough:

(extract of the psalm 30 associated to this generation, verses 2 to 8 )

  • I will exalt You, O Lord, for You have raised me up, and You have not allowed my enemies to rejoice over me. 
    • The allies of the Persians did not succeed. Alexander, and especially the different peoples who constituted his armies, did not sack Jerusalem.
  • O Lord, I have cried out to You, and You have healed me.
  • O Lord, You have brought my soul from the grave; You have revived me from my descent into the Pit.
    • Faced with the arrival of Alexander, Jerusalem should have been like Tire or Gaza to be removed from the map and its population would have definitely perished. This would have been the end of David’s descendants comparable to “his descent into the pit“.
  • Sing to the Lord, His pious ones, and give thanks to His holy name.
  • For His wrath lasts but a moment; life results from His favor; in the evening, weeping may tarry, but in the morning there is joyful singing. 
    • The fratricidal crime will have had only limited effects, because at the end of seven years the Persian domination that followed stopped. Seven years compared to the duration of the night it is indeed only a moment. However, David continues to evoke the night that continues the generations of Israel before finally reaching the dawn, the final resurrection marking the end of the curses that must suffer the people of Israel. This is all the more important to this generation where Esau (the Greeks then the West) enters the scene.
  • And I said in my tranquility, « I will never falter. »
  • O Lord, with Your will, You set up my mountain to be might, You hid Your countenance and I became frightened.
    • David’s plea to the Lord recalls the few years under Persian rule during which the Temple was not “inhabited” for lack of legal offerings. A period which at the same time saw the dawning of the danger that Alexander represents in the survival of Israel. David talks about this unfavorable outcome and the consequences it would have on his people who could no longer honor God. This plea is obviously in the spirit of the conclusion of the book of Jonah that we mentioned for the previous generation.

Joel’s book

0_Le_Prophète_Joël_-_P.P._Rubens_-_Louvre_(INV_20230)

Joel’s book is hard to date. However, its content seems to be equally adapted to the generation we are talking about. This book also mentions a fatal fate for Tire and Sidon as well as the districts of the Philistines. Recall that Tire and Sidon together represent the region of Tire and that Gaza was the most important city of the Philistines. Tire and Gaza were razed by Alexander and his inhabitants killed or sold as slaves, as Joel says:

  • And[12] also, what are you to Me, Tyre and Sidon and all the regions of Philistia? Are you paying Me recompense? And if you are recompensing Me, I will swiftly return your recompense upon your head. (…)
  • And I will sell your sons and daughters into the hands of the children of Judah, and they shall sell them to the Shebaites, to a distant nation, for the Lord has spoken.

Joel evokes a famine that deprives the Temple of offerings. It is likely that this was probably also enough for the Persians to abandon Jerusalem after seven years.

  • The word[13] of the Lord, which came to Joel son of Pethuel.
  • Hear this, you elders, and hearken, all you inhabitants of the land. Did this come about in your days or in the days of your forefathers?
  • Tell your children about it, and your children to their children, and their children to another generation.
  • What the shearing locust left over, the increasing locust devoured, and what the increasing locust left over the nibbling locust devoured, and what the nibbling locust left over the finishing locust devoured.

The mourning of the priests is then evoked by the book of Joel, provoked by the lack of offerings but also by the events cited by Flavius Josephus:

  • Gird[14] yourselves and lament, you priests; wail, you ministers of the altar; come, lodge in sackcloth, you ministers of my God, for the meal offering and the libations have been withheld from the house of your God.
  • Proclaim a fast, call an assembly; assemble, you elders, all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord.
  • Woe is to the day, for the day of the Lord is near, and like plunder, it will come from the Almighty.
  • Is not the food cut off from before our eyes? From the house of our God joy and jubilation?

The pleas that God demands, to appease his anger, illustrate the following verses of the psalm:

(extract of the psalm 30 associated to this generation, verses 9 to 11 )

  • To You, O Lord, I would call, and to the Lord I would supplicate.
  • « What gain is there in my blood, in my descent to the grave? Will dust thank You; will it recite Your truth?
  • Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me; O Lord, be my helper. »
    • The divine forgiveness already mentioned in the beginning of the psalm is recalled in the following of Joel. Repentance will not be in vain, because God then redirects his face to his people.

The divine forgiveness already mentioned in the beginning of the psalm is recalled in the continuation of Joel:

  • And[15] even now, says the Lord, return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting and with weeping and with lamentation.
  • And rend your hearts and not your garments, and return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and He repents of the evil.
  • Whoever knows shall repent and regret, and it shall leave after it a blessing, a meal offering and a libation to the Lord your God.

Repentance will not be in vain, for God then turns his face towards his people:

  • And[16] the children of Zion, rejoice and jubilate with the Lord your God, for He gave you the teacher for justification, and He brought down for you rain, the early rain and the late rain in the first month.
  • And the granaries shall be filled with grain, and the vats shall roar with must and oil.
  • And I will repay you for the years that the increasing locust, the nibbling locust, the finishing locust, and the shearing locust have devoured-My great army, which I have sent against you.
  • And you shall eat, eating and being sated, and you shall praise the Name of the Lord your God, Who has performed wonders with you, and My people shall never be ashamed.

The change of mourning announced in thanksgiving for divine clemency illustrates the end of the psalm of this generation:

(extract of the psalm 30 associated to this generation, verses 12 and 13 )

  • You have turned my lament into dancing for me; You loosened my sackcloth and girded me with joy.
  • So that my soul will sing praises to You and not be silent. O Lord, my God, I will thank You forever.


[1] See: Flavius Josephus / Jewish Antiquities / Book Eleventh / Beginning of Chapter 8

[2] Flavius Josephus / Jewish Antiquities / Book Eleventh / Chapter 7

[3] See: EZRA, Chapter 10, verse 6

[4] Nechemiah – Nehemiah – Chapter 12, verses 8 to 11

[5] See the continuation of the previous quote.

[6] Flavius Josephus / Jewish Antiquities / Book Eleventh / Chapter 8

[7] Flavius Josephus / Jewish Antiquities / Book Eleventh / Continued from Chapter 8

[8] Flavius Josephus / Jewish Antiquities / Book Eleventh / Continued from Chapter 8

[9] Extract from “A History of the Hebrews (french title : “« Une histoire des Hébreux » ) by Richard Lebeau, Chapter “Israel in the Face of Hellenism”

[10] Flavius Josephus / Jewish Antiquities / Book Eleventh / Continued from Chapter 8

[11] Flavius Josephus / Jewish Antiquities / Book Eleventh / Continued from Chapter 8

[12] Yoel – Joel – Chapter 4, verses 4 and 8

[13] Yoel – Joel – Chapter 1, verses  to 4

[14] Yoel – Joel – Chapter 1, verses  13 to 16

[15] Yoel – Joel – Chapter 2, verses  12 to 14

[16] Yoel – Joel – Chapter 2, verses  23 to 26