03.05.08 104 – 102 B.C. Rule of Aristobulus I
The accounts of the various Jewish rulers are difficult for the modern mind to comprehend. Most of them certainly had no desires to follow the ways of the Torah. As to the rule of Aristobulus I, Josephus recorded his shameful life account.
Now when their father Hyrcanus was dead, the eldest son Aristobulus, intending to change the government into a kingdom, for so he resolved to do, first of all put a diadem (crown) on his head, four hundred and eighty-one years and three months after the people had been delivered from the Babylonian slavery, and were returned to their own country again. This Aristobulus loved his next brother Antonius, and treated him as his equal, but the others he held in bonds (prison). He also cast his mother into prison, because she disputed the government with him; for Hyrcanus had left her to be mistress of all. He also proceeded to that degree of barbarity, as to kill her in prison with hunger, he was alienated from his brother Antigonus by calumnies, and added him to the rest whom he slew.
Josephus, Antiquities 13.11.1 (301-303)
It is difficult to imagine that any Jewish leader was so barbaric. It appears that society had regressed to the horrific times of the judges more than a thousand years earlier. The reign of Aristobulus did not give the Jewish people any peace or comfort, and they struggled under his leadership almost as badly as they did under some pagan rulers.
Six centuries had passed since the ten northern tribes were exiled by the Assyrians, and now the Hasmonean King Aristobulus I incorporated Galilee under Jewish rule. The Hasmoneans were the Jews who won victory over the Greeks in the Maccabean Revolt, and eventually became known as the Sadducees. Josephus recorded that Aristobulus, like his father, required Gentiles to convert to Judaism as evidenced by ordering circumcision and observation of all Jewish laws. When the news of this decree reached Babylon and Persia, thousands of Jews responded by returning to Galilee.
The long-awaited freedom the Jews desired was quickly became a nightmare, as their leaders proved to be as corrupt as foreign dictators were. Aristobulus I declared himself “King of the Jews” of Jerusalem, and fortunately, his reign was short lived. He left no lasting impression upon Israel other than murder and family jealousies that would haunt future generations. His corruption of government planted the seed of a future civil war and intensified the expectations of a messiah who would be of the character of King David. In later years, during the ministry of Jesus, the Jews were repulsed by the idea of the title, “King of the Jews,” not only because of Aristobulus I, but King Herod as well.
. It has been suggest that apparently Hyrcanus permitted or ordered his wife to be a sexual servant for friends and others in government.
. Josephus, Antiquities 13.11.3.