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Oxford Bible Atlas Contextualizes the stories and lands of the Bible through user-friendly maps and illustrations.

Ptolemaic and Seleucid Conflicts

After the death of Seleucus I (312/311–281) a long series of wars began between the Ptolemies and the Seleucids. Eventually, Antiochus III, known as ‘the Great’ (223–187) became the Seleucid ruler and gradually succeeded in establishing Seleucid control over. the region of Palestine. He sought to foster good relations with the Jews, supplying aid for the maintenance of the Temple and its sacrificial cult, and defending the status of Jerusalem and the Jewish religion. But Antiochus was defeated by Rome in the battle of Magnesia (190), as a result of which he lost Asia Minor and was placed under a heavy financial burden by the Romans. To raise money he followed the example of other Seleucid rulers in plundering wealthy sanctuaries, and it was apparently whilst attempting to take treasures from one such sanctuary that he died. His son Seleucus IV (187–175) was succeeded by Antiochus IV, known as ‘Epiphanes’ (175–164), who became the arch‐persecutor of the Jews and their faith. He had formerly lived in Rome, but he usurped the throne with the assistance of the king of Pergamum. (This episode may be alluded to in Daniel 11: 21 , and the chapter as a whole may reflect the rivalries between the Ptolemaic and Seleucid rulers.)

Matters came to a head in 169, when Antiochus Epiphanes, forced by the Romans to cease interest in Egypt, sought to promote unity throughout his large kingdom by imposing Hellenistic culture, including Greek religion. In Palestine this meant that the practice of Judaism was proscribed and the Jews were compelled to accept Hellenization. The crowning insult was the setting up of a statue of Zeus in the Jerusalem Temple, and the sacrificing of a pig, in December 167 (1 Macc. 1: 54 ).

It was under Simon, one of the brothers and successors of Judas Maccabeus, and his successor, John Hyrcanus, that the Jews achieved relative freedom from Seleucid domination.

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