90 BC At 70 BC JC, Psalm 43: Return to the altar.

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    Summary

This generation is from the years 90 BC to 70 BC

According to our count, this generation is the 43rd generation associated with Psalm 43. It is in this Psalm 43 that we therefore find an illustration of the facts of this generation.

In this generation the reign of Alexander Janneus continues. It ends with the period of regency of Queen Alexandra.

Ptolemy’s misdeeds against the people of Judea are stopped thanks to the intervention of Cleopatra, his mother and Queen of Egypt. This causes a change of situation rather to the advantage of the Jews of Judea.

Alexander Janneus continued his military operations by showing himself pitiless to the vanquished. Having to flee, he takes refuge in Jerusalem. This is followed by a war his subjects wage against him for six years. He kills no less than fifty thousand. The decision of the people of Jerusalem to call for help Demetrius Eucerus pushes Alexander Jannée to flee.

In his flight, Alexander is joined by six thousand Jews, which allowed him to resume the situation to his advantage after the withdrawal of Demetrius. Fratricidal struggles continued. The rest of Alexander’s reign would be peaceful.

Thanks to the advice of Alexander Janneus, the regent Alexandra, who succeeded him after his death, was able to reunify the country: She offered the remains of Alexander to the Pharisees, who hated him during his lifetime. As Alexander predicted, the latter instead of taking revenge on this body, honor him.

Talk

Goodwill of Cleopatra

The previous generation had been largely marked by the beginning of reign of Alexander Janneus (103 BC / 76 BC), this generation sees the end of this long reign.

It is in this context, as indicated in the previous psalm, that the psalm of this generation has no title because it marks a certain historical continuity with the previous one.

In this logic, the present psalm must therefore be attributed again to the sons of Korah. This generation ends with the regency period of Queen Alexandra.

The misdeeds of Ptolemy to the people of Judea stop thanks to the intervention of Cleopatra, his mother and queen of Egypt, thus causing a change of situation rather favorable to the Jews of Judea.

  • When[1] Cleopatra saw that her son was grown great, and laid Judea waste, without disturbance, and had gotten the city of Gaza under his power, she resolved no longer to overlook what he did, when he was almost at her gates; and she concluded, that now he was so much stronger than before, he would be very desirous of the dominion over the Egyptians;
  • but she immediately marched against him, with a fleet at sea and an army of foot on land, and made Chelcias and Ananias the Jews generals of her whole army, while she sent the greatest part of her riches, her grandchildren, and her testament, to the people of Cos (34)
  • Cleopatra also ordered her son Alexander to sail with a great fleet to Phoenicia; and when that country had revolted, she came to Ptolemais; and because the people of Ptolemais did not receive her, she besieged the city; but Ptolemy went out of Syria, and made haste unto Egypt, supposing that he should find it destitute of an army, and soon take it, though he failed of his hopes.
  • At this time Chelcias, one of Cleopatra’s generals, happened to die in Celesyria, as he was in pursuit of Ptolemy.
  • When Cleopatra heard of her son’s attempt, and that his Egyptian expedition did not succeed according to his expectations, she sent thither part of her army, and drove him out of that country;
  • so when he was returned out of Egypt again, he abode during the winter at Gaza, in which time Cleopatra took the garrison that was in Ptolemais by siege, as well as the city; and when Alexander came to her, he gave her presents,
  • and such marks of respect as were but proper, since under the miseries he endured by Ptolemy he had no other refuge but her. Now there were some of her friends who persuaded her to seize Alexander, and to overrun and take possession of the country, and not to sit still and see such a multitude of brave Jews subject to one man.
  • But Ananias’s counsel was contrary to theirs, who said that she would do an unjust action if she deprived a man that was her ally of that authority which belonged to him, and this a man who is related to us; « for (said he) I would not have thee ignorant of this, that what in justice thou dost to him will make all us that are Jews to be thy enemies.
  • This desire of Ananias Cleopatra complied with, and did no injury to Alexander, but made a league of mutual assistance with him at Scythopolis, a city of Celesyria.

The unpopularity of Alexander Janneus

Alexander Janneus was not content with this favorable setback and continued his military operations by showing himself pitiless to the vanquished and in particular to the inhabitants of Gaza with whom he had promised peace.

He returned to Jerusalem where his return did not attract the sympathy of his people:

  • At[2] the same time, Alexander, King of the Jews, saw disturbing his reign by the hatred that the people had for him. On the day of the Feast of Tabernacles, when palm and lemon branches were being brought, he was preparing to offer sacrifices. Some were not content to throw lemons at his head, but he was outraged by words, saying that being a captive he did not deserve to be honored and unworthy to offer sacrifices to God. 
  • He set himself in such fury that he had six thousand killed, and then repulsed the effort of this multitude irritated by a wooden fence which he had made around the Temple and the altar, and which went up to where the only priests are allowed to enter. He took on his pay Pisidian and cicilian soldiers, because, being enemies of the Syrians, he did not use them. He then defeated the Arabs, then imposed tribute to the Moabites and Galaatids, and ruined Amath without Theodore daring to come to blows with him. He also fought against Obed, king of the Arabs; but having fallen near Gadara in Galilee, in an ambush, and being driven by a great number of camels in a narrow and very difficult strait, he had great difficulty in escaping to Jerusalem. This bad success was followed by a war which his subjects made for six years. He killed not less than fifty thousand; and although he did not forget anything to try to recover well with them, their hatred was so violent that what seemed to be the duty to soften him increased it still more. So, one day asking them what they wanted him to do to satisfy them, they all cried out that he had only to kill himself; and they sent to Demetrius Euerus to ask for help.

Even if the political choices of Alexander Janneus first brought the bloody revenge of Ptolemy on Judea, the recovery in hand of the situation by Queen Cleopatra finally prove him right.

The animosity of the people of Israel is clearly unjust to Alexander Jannée who seeks only the good of his people.

It is this situation, where the people of Jerusalem do not hesitate to profane the solemnity of the feasts to attack their king, which the beginning of the psalm summarizes:

(extract of the psalm 43 associated to this generation, verse 1 and first part of verse 2 )

  • Avenge me, O God, and plead my cause against an unkind nation, from a man of deceit and injustice You shall rescue me.
  • For You are the God of my strength

The flight of Alexander Janneus

The decision of the people of Jerusalem to call for help Demetrius Eucerus pushes Alexander Jannée to flee:

  • Demetrius Eucerus[3], fstrengthened by those who called him to their aid, came with an army of three thousand horses and forty thousand foot soldiers. Alexander marched against him with six thousand two hundred foreign soldiers whom he had taken in his pay, and twenty thousand Jews who had remained faithful to him. These two claws made all their efforts, Demetrius to win those foreigners who were Greek, and Alexander to bring back into his party the Jews who had sided with Demetrius. But neither of them succeeds in his plan. Thus it was necessary to come to a battle. Demetrius was victorious, and those strangers who were on Alexander’s side pointed out their worth and their fidelity, for they were all killed without excepting one. Demetrius, on the other hand, lost many people. Alexander fled to the mountains.

This situation is illustrated by the continuation of the psalm:

(extract of the psalm 43 associated to this generation, end of verse 2 )

  • why have You abandoned me? Why should I walk in gloom under the oppression of the enemy.

In[5] his flight, Alexander is joined by six thousand Jews, which allowed him to resume the situation to his advantage after the withdrawal of Demetrius. Fratricidal struggles continued, ending with savage repression by Alexander in Jerusalem, which provoked reproofs in his own camp, but it had the indirect effect that the rest of Alexander’s reign would be peaceful.

Alexander took advantage of this lull to extend the domination of Judea over the region. In spite of this, the ferocity of fighting between partisans and opponents of Alexander was not conducive to a healthy harmony in Judea and to a serene divine worship.

This situation justifies the prayer that closes the psalm of this generation:

(extract of the psalm 43 associated to this generation, verses 3 to 5 )

  • Send Your light and Your truth, that they may lead me; they shall bring me to Your Holy Mount and to Your dwellings.
  • And I will come to the altar of God, to the God of the joy of my exultation, and I will thank You with a lyre, O God, My God.
  • Why are you downcast, my soul, and why do you stir within me? Hope to God, for I will yet thank Him for the salvations of my countenance and my God.

Posthumous popularity

This prayer is in a way answered at the end of this generation, during the regency of Queen Alexandra. Thanks to the advice of Alexandre Jannée, Alexandra can reunite the country. She offers the remains of Alexander to the Pharisees, who hated him during his lifetime. And, as Alexander predicted, the latter instead of taking revenge on this one, honor her:

  • So[6] Alexandra, when she had taken the fortress, acted as her husband had suggested to her, and spake to the Pharisees, and put all things into their power, both as to the dead body, and as to the affairs of the kingdom,
  • and thereby pacified their anger against Alexander, and made them bear goodwill and friendship to him; who then came among the multitude, and made speeches to them, and laid before them the actions of Alexander, and told them that they had lost a righteous king; and by the commendation they gave him, they brought them to grieve, and to be in heaviness for him, so that he had a funeral more splendid than had any of the kings before him.


[1] Flavius Josephus / Jewish Antiquities / Book thirteenth / chapter 13

[2] Flavius Josephus / Jewish Antiquities / Book thirteenth / chapter 13

[3] Flavius Josephus / Jewish Antiquities / Book thirteenth / chapter 13

[5] Flavius Josephus / Jewish Antiquities / Book thirteenth / chapter 14

[6] Flavius Josephus / Jewish Antiquities / Book thirteenth / chapter 16