Here Josephus uses the very word koinopltagia, |eating things common,| for |eating things unclean;| as does our New Testament, Acts 10:14, 15, 28; 11:8, 9; Romans 14:14.
The great number of these Jews and Samaritans that were formerly carried into Egypt by Alexander, and now by Ptolemy the son of Lagus, appear afterwards in the vast multitude who as we shall see presently, were soon ransomed by Philadelphus, and by him made free, before he sent for the seventy-two interpreters; in the many garrisons and other soldiers of that nation in Egypt; in the famous settlement of Jews, and the number of their synagogues at Alexandria, long afterward; and in the vehement contention between the Jews and Samatitans under Philometer, about the place appointed for public worship in the law of Moses, whether at the Jewish temple of Jerusalem, or at the Samaritan temple of Gerizzim; of all which our author treats hereafter. And as to the Samaritans carried into Egypt under the same princes, Scaliger supposes that those who have a great synagogue at Cairo, as also those whom the Arabic geographer speaks of as having seized on an island in the Red Sea, are remains of them at this very day, as the notes here inform us.
Of the translation of the other parts of the Old Testament by seventy Egyptian Jews, in the reigns of Ptolemy the son of Lagus, and Philadelphus; as also of the translation of the Pentateuch by seventy-two Jerusalem Jews, in the seventh year of Philadelphus at Alexandria, as given us an account of by Aristeus, and thence by Philo and Josephus, with a vindication of Aristeus's history; see the Appendix to Lit. Accorap. of Proph. at large, p.117 -- 152.
Although this number one hundred and twenty drachmee [of Alexandria, or sixty Jewish shekels] be here three times repeated, and that in all Josephus's copies, Greek and Latin; yet since all the copies of Aristeus, whence Josephus took his relation, have this sum several times, and still as no more than twenty drachmae, or ten Jewish shekels; and since the sum of the talents, to be set down presently, which is little above four hundred and sixty, for somewhat more than one hundred thousand slaves, and is nearly the same in Josephus and Aristeus, does better agree to twenty than to one hundred and twenty drachmae; and since the value of a slave of old was at the utmost but thirty shekels, or sixty drachmae; see Exodus 21:32; while in the present circumstances of these Jewish slaves, and those so very numerous, Philadelphus would rather redeem them at a cheaper than at a dearer rate; -- there is great reason to prefer here Aristeus's copies before Josephus's.
We have a very great encomium of this Simon the Just, the son of Onias, in the fiftieth chapter of the Ecclesiasticus, through the whole chapter. Nor is it improper to consult that chapter itself upon this occasion.
When we have here and presently mention made of Philadelphus's queen and sister Arsinoe, we are to remember, with Spanheim, that Arsinoe was both his sister and his wife, according to the old custom of Persia, and of Egypt at this very time; nay, of the Assyrians long afterwards. See Antiq. B. XX. ch.2. sect.1. Whence we have, upon the coins of Philadelphus, this known inscription, |The divine brother and sister.|
The Talmudists say, that it is not lawful to write the law in letters of gold, contrary to this certain and very ancient example. See Hudson's and Reland's notes here.
This is the most ancient example I have met with of a grace, or short prayer, or thanksgiving before meat; which, as it is used to be said by a heathen priest, was now said by Eleazar, a Jewish priest, who was one of these seventy-two interpreters. The next example I have met with, is that of the Essenes, [Of the War, B. II. ch.8. sect.5,] both before and after it; those of our Savior before it, Mark 8:6; John 6:11, 23; and St. Paul, Acts 27:35; and a form of such a grace or prayer for Christians, at the end of the fifth book of the Apostolical Constitutions, which seems to have been intended for both times, both before and after meat.
They were rather political questions and answers, tending to the good and religious government of mankind.
This purification of the interpreters, by washing in the sea, before they prayed to God every morning, and before they set about translating, may be compared with the like practice of Peter the apostle, in the Recognitions of Clement, B. IV. ch.3., and B. V. ch.36., and with the places of the Proseuchre, or of prayer, which were sometimes built near the sea or rivers also; of which matter see Antiq. B. XIV. ch.10. sect.9,3; Acts 16:13.16.
The use of oil was much greater, and the donatives of it much more valuable, in Judea, and the neighboring countries, than it is amongst us. It was also, in the days of Josephus, thought unlawful for Jews to make use of any oil that was prepared by heathens, perhaps on account of some superstitions intermixed with its preparation by those heathens. When therefore the heathens were to make them a donative of oil,: they paid them money instead of it. See Of the War, B. II. ch.21. sect.2; the Life of Josephus, sect.13; and Hudson's note on the place before us.
This, and the like great and just characters, of the justice, and equity, and generosity of the old Romans, both to the Jews and other conquered nations, affords us a very good reason why Almighty God, upon the rejection of the Jews for their wickedness, chose them for his people, and first established Christianity in that empire; of which matter see Josephus here, sect.2; as also Antiq. B. XIV. ch.10. sect.22, 23; B. XVI. ch.2. sect.4.
The name of this place, Phicol, is the very same with that of the chief captain of Abimelech's host, in the days of Abraham, Genesis 21:22, and might possibly be the place of that Phicol's nativity or abode, for it seems to have been in the south part of Palestine, as that was.
Whence it comes that these Lacedemonians declare themselves here to be of kin to the Jews, as derived from the same ancestor, Abraham, I cannot tell, unless, as Grotius supposes, they were derived from Dores, that came of the Pelasgi. These are by Herodotus called Barbarians, and perhaps were derived from the Syrians and Arabians, the posterity of Abraham by Keturah. See Antiq. B. XIV. ch.10. sect.22; and Of the War, B. I. ch.26. sect. l; and Grot. on 1 Macc.12:7. We may further observe from the Recognitions of Clement, that Eliezer, of Damascus, the servant of Abraham, Genesis 15:2; 24., was of old by some taken for his son. So that if the Lacedemonians were sprung from him, they might think themselves to be of the posterity of Abraham, as well as the Jews, who were sprung from Isaac. And perhaps this Eliezer of Damascus is that very Damascus whom Trogus Pompeius, as abridged by Justin, makes the founder of the Jewish nation itself, though he afterwards blunders, and makes Azelus, Adores, Abraham, and Israel kings of Judea, and successors to this Damascus. It may not be improper to observe further, that Moses Chorenensis, in his history of the Armenians, informs us, that the nation of the Parthians was also derived from Abraham by Keturah and her children.
This word| Gymnasium| properly denotes a place where the exercises were performed naked, which because it would naturally distinguish circumcised Jews from uncircumcised Gentiles, these Jewish apostates endeavored to appear uncircumcised, by means of a surgical operation, hinted at by St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 7:18, and described by Celsus, B. VII. ch.25., as Dr. Hudson here informs us.
Hereabout Josephus begins to follow the First Book of the Maccabees, a most excellent and most authentic history; and accordingly it is here, with great fidelity and exactness, abridged by him; between whose present copies there seem to be fewer variations than in any other sacred Hebrew book of the Old Testament whatsoever, [for this book also was originally written in Hebrew,] which is very natural, because it was written so much nearer to the times of Josephus than the rest were.
This citadel, of which we have such frequent mention in the following history, both in the Maccabees and Josephus, seems to have been a castle built on a hill, lower than Mount Zion, though upon its skirts, and higher than Mount Moriah, but between them both; which hill the enemies of the Jews now got possession of, and built on it this citadel, and fortified it, till a good while afterwards the Jews regained it, demolished it, and leveled the hill itself with the common ground, that their enemies might no more recover it, and might thence overlook the temple itself, and do them such mischief as they had long undergone from it, Antiq. B. XIII. ch.6. sect.6.
This allegation of the Samaritans is remarkable, that though they were not Jews, yet did they, from ancient times, observe the Sabbath day, and, as they elsewhere pretend, the Sabbatic year also, Antiq. B. XI. ch.8. sect.6.
That this appellation of Maccabee was not first of all given to Judas Maccabeus, nor was derived from any initial letters of the Hebrew words on his banner, |Mi Kamoka Be Elire, Jehovah?| [|Who is like unto thee among the gods, O Jehovah?|] Exodus 15:11 as the modern Rabbins vainly pretend, see Authent. Rec. Part I. p.205, 206. Only we may note, by the way, that the original name of these Maccabees, and their posterity, was Asamoneans; which was derived from Asamoneus, the great-grandfather of Mattathias, as Josephus here informs us.
The reason why Bethshah was called Scythopolis is well known from Herodotus, B. I. p.105, and Syncellus, p.214, that the Scythians, when they overran Asia, in the days of Josiah, seized on this city, and kept it as long as they continued in Asia, from which time it retained the name of Scythopolis, or the City of the Scythians.
This most providential preservation of all the religious Jews in this expedition, which was according to the will of God, is observable often among God's people, the Jews; and somewhat very like it in the changes of the four monarchies, which were also providential. See Prideaux at the years 331, 333, and 334.
Here is another great instance of Providence, that when, even at the very time that Simon, and Judas, and Jonathan were so miraculously preserved and blessed, in the just defense of their laws and religion, these other generals of the Jews, who went to fight for honor in a vain-glorious way, and without any commission from God, or the family he had raised up to deliver them, were miserably disappointed and defeated. See 1 Macc.5:61, 62. Since St. Paul, a Pharisee, confesses that he had not known concupiscence, or desires, to be sinful, had not the tenth commandment said, |Thou shalt not covet,| Romans 7:7, the case seems to have been much the same with our Josephus, who was of the same sect, that he had not a deep sense of the greatness of any sins that proceeded no further than the intention. However, since Josephus speaks here properly of the punishment of death, which is not intended by any law, either of God or man, for the bare intention, his words need not to be strained to mean, that sins intended, but not executed, were no sins at all.
No wonder that Josephus here describes Antiochus Eupator as young, and wanting tuition, when he came to the crown, since Appian informs us [Syriac. p.177] that he was then but nine years old.
It is no way probable that Josephus would call Bacchidoa, that bitter and bloody enemy of the Jews, as our present copies have it, a man good, or kind, and gentle, What the author of the First Book of Maccabees, whom Josephus here follows, instead of that character, says of him, is, that he was a great man in the kingdom, and faithful to his king; which was very probably Josephus's meaning also.
Josephus's copies must have been corrupted when they here give victory to Nicanor, contrary to the words following, which imply that he who was beaten fled into the citadel, which for certain belonged to the city of David, or to Mount Zion, and was in the possession of Nicanor's garrison, and not of Judas's. As also it is contrary to the express words of Josephus's original author, 1 Macc.7:32, who says that Nicanor lost about five thousand men, and fled to the city of David.
This account of the miserable death of Alcimus, or Jac-mus, the wicked high priest, [the first that was not of the family of the high priests, and made by a vile heathen, Lysias,] before the death of Judas, and of Judas's succession to him as high priest, both here, and at the conclusion of this book, directly contradicts 1 Macc.9:54-57, which places his death after the death of Judas, and says not a syllable of the high priesthood of Judas. How well the Roman histories agree to this account of the conquests and powerful condition of the Romans at this time, see the notes in Havercamp's edition; only that the number of the senators of Rome was then just three hundred and twenty, is, I think, only known from 1 Macc.8:15.
This subscription is wanting 1 Macc.8:17, 29, and must be the words of Josephus, who by mistake thought, as we have just now seen, that Judas was at this time high priest, and accordingly then reckoned his brother Jonathan to be the general of the army, which yet he seems not to have been till after the death of Judas.
That this copy of Josephus, as he wrote it, had here not one thousand, but three thousand, with 1 Macc 9:5, is very plain, because though the main part ran away at first, even in Josephus, as well as in 1 Macc.9:6, yet, as there, so here, eight hundred are said to have remained with Judas, which would be absurd, if the whole number had been no more than one thousand.