Aretas agreed. He led a large army across the Jordan and marched on Jerusalem. Seeing Hyrcanus at the army’s head, his followers in the capital opened the city gates. Aristobulus and his men were forced to seek refuge behind the walls of the Temple Mount.
The siege that followed was filled with particular hatred between the sides, both of which used the people as pawns in their personal struggle. Upon seeing the manner in which these two brothers treated one another, and their complete disregard for the general welfare of the populace, many abandoned hope of a peaceful resolution and fled to Egypt.
Neither side was able to resolve this fraternal conflict militarily. At that time, the Roman general Pompey appeared in Syria with his legions, having completed an extensive military campaign in Asia. Exhausted, desperate, and concerned about what they perceived to be inevitable Roman intervention, both brothers appealed to Pompey in hope of a favorable decision. With this fateful decision, eighty plus years of hard earned Hasmonean independence would soon end.
Pompey initially ruled in favor of the younger Aristobulus; his larger bribe held sway with the greedy leader. Hyrcanus and Aretas were instructed to lift the siege and leave Jerusalem. If not, they would be viewed as enemies of Rome. Aretas duly returned home. Aristobulus pursued Hyrcanus and his men after they left the city, killing some 6,000 soldiers. Antipater petitioned Pompey to reconsider his verdict. Some years later, both brothers were summoned to appear in Damascus. The Roman general now decided in favor of Hyrcanus, and in appointing him as ethnarch and high priest, fulfilled Shlomtzion’s original desire to be succeeded by her older son. Aristobulus quickly withdrew, surrendering all of his fortresses.
* * * * *
Such was the continued decline of the Hasmoneans. After a brief respite during the reign of the righteous Shlomtzion, this royal family continued to display the morally corrupt behavior that would eventually plunge the people into foreign subjugation and exile. Not again until the Great Rebellion of 66 CE would the Jewish people possess even fleeting political independence. By then it would prove to be too little, too late.
About the Author: Rabbi Naphtali Hoff is president of Impactful Coaching and Consulting (ImpactfulCoaching.com). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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