An Excerpt from Flavius Josephus, War 1. 107-112 – (First Century CE)

(107) Now Alexander left the kingdom to Alexandra his wife, and depended upon it that the Jews would now very readily submit to her; because she had been very averse to such cruelty as he had treated them with, and had opposed his violation of their laws, and had thereby got the good will of the people. (108) Nor was he mistaken as to his expectations; for this woman kept the dominion, by the opinion that the people had of her piety; for she chiefly studied the ancient customs of her country, and cast those men out of the government that offended against their holy laws. (109) And as she had two sons by Alexander, she made Hyrcanus, the elder, high priest, on account of his age; as also, besides that, on account of his inactive temper no way disposing him to disturb the public. But she retained the younger, Aristobulus, with her as a private person, by reason of the warmth of his temper. (110) And now the Pharisees joined themselves to her, to assist her in the government. These are a certain sect of the Jews that appear more religious than others, and seem to interpret the laws more accurately. (111)

Now, Alexandra hearkened to them to an extraordinary degree, as being herself a woman of great piety towards God. But these Pharisees artfully insinuated themselves into her favor by little and little, and became themselves the real administrators of the public affairs; they banished and reduced whom they pleased; they bound and loosed [men] at their pleasure; and, to say all at once, they had the enjoyment of the royal authority, whilst the expenses and the difficulties of it belonged to Alexandra. (112) She was a sagacious woman in the management of great affairs, and intent always upon gathering soldiers together; so that she increased the army the one half, and procured a great body of foreign troops, till her own nation became not only very powerful at home, but terrible also to foreign potentates, while she governed other people, and the Pharisees governed her. (Flavius Josephus, War 1. 107-112 – First Century CE)



  1. Yeah, she was one of only two Queens of Israel (and the only good one). We hear all the time "the Kings of Israel (and Judah) but never that there were two Queens. Yes, Athaliah was not a great role model but either were any of the Kings of Israel and only a few of the Kings of Judah.
  2. Shalom! This is contemporary with the time of the Essenes, isn’t it? Another clue to the relocation of the Leader of Light, The leader of Righteousness, the high priest who seceded due to contempt of the impiety of the Pharisees?
  3. I have Josephus' "complete works" in my library to read, but I am nervous as to how best to read him given the account of bias and bought revisions from the household of Augustus to be favorable towards their lineage.

    Do you have any hints or rebuffs against the academic murmurings against Josephus' accuracy? I understand he has the most credible accounts from the periods he wrote in, but I like to know all sides for as balanced an opinion as possible (especially in context of preaching/teaching others myself)!

    As an aside, it is always a good reminder to observe the important role the Pharasaical order played in Jewish history beyond the "antagonists" and hypocrites portrayed in western interpretations of scripture. Not to mention vital anecdotal humour from those without belief in resurrection from the dead; no wonder they're so "Sad you see" ?
    • Whiston's translation of Josephus is OK, but not great. At times it is done the Good News Bible style, a loose paraphrase. It is best to read a newer translation if you can and with critical commentary if possible. But Josephus is like any writer, ancient or modern. He has an agenda and biases of his own, yet he volunteers a lot of valuable info which we otherwise would not know. He is accurate in many things considering how much he wrote, though he downplays much war-related content, obviously. He wrote for the Roman audience, not Jewish.


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