Categories: Men in the Apocrypha
- Simon was the second son of Mattathias.
- He followed Judas (middle son) and Jonathan (youngest son) as leader of the Maccabean revolt.
- He reigned from 142-135 BCE.
- Early on, when Mattathias (Simon’s father) lay dying, he appointed Simon as counselor and told his four brothers to listen to him.
- Yet, his role as counselor did not keep him off the battlefield.
- When Jews were besieged, Judas put Simon in charge of the forces that were sent to Galilee.
- Simon fought many battles against the Gentiles who were “crushed before him.” He followed them to the gate of Ptolemais, which was south of Carmel. Reports indicate that 3,000 Gentiles fell and the Jews were taken to Judea with great rejoicing.
- After Bacchides (a Syrian general) defeated and killed Judas in 160 BCE, he lost a battle with Jonathan. Soon after, Simon defeated him several more times, leading him to make a treaty of peace with Jonathan.
- After this, Simon and Jonathan joined forces and were quite successful in defeating the Syrians.
- This worked well until Trypho tricked Jonathan by inviting him to Ptolemais for treaty talks. Jonathan went with only a few men, who were ambushed, and Jonathan was captured.
- Simon stepped in as leader during his brother’s absence.
- The people chose him by popular acclaim, saying, “You are our leader in place of Judas and your brother Jonathan. Fight our battles, and all that you say to us we will do.” (1Macc. 13:8-9)
- Trypho offered a ransom for Jonathan’s release, which Simon was willing to pay. He wanted the people to know that he had done everything possible to rescue Jonathan. However, a freak snow storm prevented the deal from taking place, at which point, Trypho killed Jonathan.
- Somehow or other, Simon was able to retrieve Jonathan’s body and to give it a proper burial in his father’s tomb.
- Simon was the last of the five brothers.
- Because of Trypho’s treachery, Simon supported his opponent, Demetrius.
- In 143-142 BCE, Simon petitioned Demetrius that Judea should be exempt from taxation. Demetrius accepted this request and forgave all of Judea’s taxes while granting them full independence.
- During these years, which were known as the “era of Simon,” Simon was able to mint his own coins. Some coins have been found inscribed with the Hebrew letters “Holy Jerusalem” that scholars think date to this time.
- Soon thereafter, Demetrius appointed Simon as High Priest.
- Simon was able to fortify the capital and replaced its Gentile inhabitants with Jews.
- For several years Trypho and Demetrius were locked in a power struggle. Simon used this to his advantage and quietly went about reclaiming the cities that had been Hellenized.
- He also removed all the “renegade” and apostate Jews.
- Once Judah was independent, nations started coming to them. WHO IS THEM? Both Sparta and Rome renewed treaties with Simon. (Some scholars doubt the historicity of this claim.)
- The people loved all that he was doing, and the land had peace.
- The people decided that Simon should remain High Priest “forever, until a faithful prophet should arise.” The thought seemed to be that, at some point, the spirit of prophecy would arise again in Judah. They would then know the mind of God through the words of the prophet. Or, this could have been a reference to the Messiah, at which point the house of David would be restored and Simon would no longer be ruler.
- Supposedly, this declaration was inscribed upon tablets and set up in the court of the Temple for all people to see. (Basically, what this meant is that future rulers and priests would come from Simon’s house. Some think this was the founding of the Hasmonean dynasty.)
- Simon accepted their offer and was not only the High Priest but also the commander of the army.
- Demetrius’ son continued the policies of his father and maintained his alliance with Simon and Judea.
- Unfortunately, Demetrius II was captured by the Parthians in 140 BCE and removed from power.
- His younger brother, Antiochus VII, then came to power and his dealings with Judea and Simon were mixed. He seemed to encourage their independence, but at the same time, he believed they were part of his kingdom.
- Simon offered to help him win a battle against Trypho. Antiochus, however, refused his help (although Trypho would later escape) because he didn’t think he needed it.
- As a result, Antiochus retracted the promises made by Demetrius and imposed a huge indemnity against Judea.
- In fact, he sent a special emissary to Simon to deliver the news.
- When this emissary saw the opulence of Jerusalem, he was quick to report back to Antiochus who was reportedly “very angry.”
- He sent a commander to move against Judea. Many Jews were killed.
- Simon’s son, John Hyrcanus, had the unhappy task of informing his father about this dire turn of events.
- At this point, Simon realized it was time to pass the torch on to his sons.
- John was able to march against the commander and break their ranks.
- While this was happening, one of Simon’s sons-in-law (who coveted the office of High Priest) held a banquet in Simon’s honor.
- When they were all drunk, the son-in-law (Ptolemy) killed them.
- Ptolemy appealed to the king for aid, but John Hyrcanus was able to seize him and his men.
- John Hyrcanus was the successor to his father, both as High Priest and political and military commander.
- Simon was killed in 135 BCE.
- He was the last of the Maccabees, thereby bringing the Maccabean revolt to an end.
- Though Simon only reigned for seven years, the Hasmonean Dynasty would last until 63 BCE, when Rome would make Syria and Judea a single Roman province.