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ALCIMUS (called also Jakim):

Alcimus and the Maccabees.

Leader of the antinational Hellenists in Jerusalem, under Demetrius I. Soter of Syria (Josephus, "Ant." xi. 9, § 7); born about 200 B.C.; died at Jerusalem 160. He was of priestly family (I Macc. vii. 14). In consequence of the national movement under the Hasmoneans, and of the martial successes of Judas Maccabeus (164-163), the party lost influence and was partially expelled from Jerusalem. Immediately after Demetrius ascended the throne, Alcimus presented himself as a supporter of the imperiled authority of Syria in Judea, and requested the punishment of Judas Maccabeus. Demetrius entrusted Bacchides, the governor of Cœle-syria, with this task, and sent him to install Alcimus in the office of high priest, the object of his ambition. In Judea, because of his priestly rank, Alcimus obtained the confidence of the scribes and the rigidly pious (Assideans), who objected to the conflict on general principles, and, therefore, asked him to bring about peace. Yet, in spite of pledges of safety, he put many of them to death in order to intimidate the rest. Bacchides himself massacred all the followers of Judas Maccabeus who fell into his hands; and committing Judea, with a force sufficient for garrison duty, to the care of Alcimus, he returned to Syria. Alcimus, united now with his Jewish partizans, took up arms against the Maccabees to fight for the supremacy in Judea and for the post of ἀρχιερωσίυη (high-priesthood). He could not maintain his position, however, and repaired to the king for assistance (I Macc. vii. 5-25; "Ant." xii. 10, §§ 1, 3; II Macc. xiv. 1-10). In order to restore him to the office of high priest (II Macc. xiv. 13), Demetrius, in the same year (162), despatched his general Nicanor, who was defeated and killed in an encounter with Judas; and the anniversary, Adar 13, was celebrated in Jerusalem as the Nikanor Day (I Macc. vii. 26-50; "Ant." xii. 10, § 4; II Macc. xiv. 12-xv. 36). Soon after, Alcimus appeared before Jerusalem with Bacchides, who attacked Judas at Eleasa in such superior numbers that Judas was defeated and slain.

Alcimus and the Hellenists now assumed control in Judea and reveled in the persecution and slaughter of nationalist Jews. Herein Bacchides assisted effectively by continued war on the Hasmoneans Jonathan and Simon, and by the erection of a number of fortifications in Judea (I Macc. ix. 1-53; "Ant." xii. 11, § 1; xiii. 1, § 5). Alcimus does not appear in the account of these struggles; only his death (160) is reported in connection with his attempt to tear down the wall of the court of the inner Temple (I Macc. ix. 54; "Ant." xii. 10, § 6). He held office for three years ("Ant." xii. 10, § 6; xx. 10, § 3), and, as early as 163 under Antiochus V., was appointed successor to Menelaus ("Ant." xii. 9, § 7; xx. 10, § 3; II Macc. xiv. 3). It is possible that what is related in I Maccabees (vii. 5-25) occurred in the time of Antiochus V. (Schlatter, "Jason von Kyrene," p. 40).

As High Priest.

Without doubt Alcimus held some office, as appears from I Macc. vii. 9; "Ant." xii. 9, § 7; xx.10, § 3. The position which he strove for was expressed by the terms ἱερατύειυ (I Macc. vii. 5) and ἀρχιερωσύυη (I Macc. vii. 21, II Macc. xiv. 13); and as Josephus always refers to him as high priest, Alcimus is recognized as such by all authorities. A fact conflicting with this is that he mentions his ἀρχιερωσύυη to the king as being inherited from his ancestors (II Macc. xiv. 7); yet, without question, the members of another family up to this time had had uninterrupted possession of the high-priesthood. He could have meant only a higher priestly office, hereditary in his family for some generations. From the fact that the scribes and Assideans gave him their confidence only because he was priest of Aaron's family, it follows that his official position is to be sought elsewhere than in the high-priesthood.The older view as to Alcimus' high-priesthood is, however, still held by scholars to-day. See, e.g., Reinach, Rev. Ét. Juives, xl. 99; Schürer, Theologische Literatur Zeitung, 1900, No. 12, cols. 364, 635.—R. G.

As Civil Governor.

There are no facts bearing on the relations of Alcimus as high priest to the Temple at Jerusalem, unless the destruction of the wall of the court of the inner Temple be regarded as evidence thereof. It may be noted that the wall was not destroyed, as is generally accepted, in order to give the pagans entrance to the sanctuary hitherto closed to them; but to deprive the nationalist Jews of their last refuge—the fortress-like Temple. On the other hand, much is said about his rule in Judea that is not at all in accord with the position of high priest. These data seem to point to the fact that Alcimus was not high priest of the Temple at Jerusalem, but the civil ruler of the province of Judea, appointed by the king of Syria, and that ἱερεύς or ἀρχιερεύς was the official Syrian designation for his position. His expulsion from Jerusalem involved, therefore, resistance to the king, and the governor of the entire province of Cœle-syria was sent to reinstate and protect him. The governor, as his superior, led him to Judea twice, and remained there till his death. The circumstance that Alcimus was the immediate successor to Menelaus, who was not of priestly stock, confirms this view. Alcimus' rule differed from that of Menelaus in that no opportunity was afforded him to make inroads upon the Temple treasury (since it was empty), nor to wound the religious susceptibilities of the Jews; for the terms of peace concluded between the Jews and Antiochus V. (162), to whom Alcimus probably owed his first appointment, had assured them religious liberty; and from that time on the struggle turned only on the supremacy of the Nationalists or of the Hellenists. The misleading title ἀρχιερεύς occurred in the sources drawn upon by Josephus; in I Maccabees, which evinces thorough knowledge of what happened in Judea, without any keen political insight; and in II Maccabees, which describes with accuracy occurrences at the Syrian court and camp, but in regard to Judean affairs gives free play to fancy. The ambiguity involved in Alcimus' title gave rise to the error that Alcimus was high priest, and this carried other errors in its train. Mention must be made of the legendary account in the Midrash (Gen. R. lxv. 22, and in Midrash Teh. to xi. 7) of Jakim of Ẓerorot (Ẓeredah), nephew of Jose, son of Joezer of Ẓeredah. He is probably identical with Jakim-Alcimus, and is represented as being present when his uncle, who may have been one of the scribes put to death by Alcimus, was led to execution. When he threatened his nephew with the tortures of hell for his faithlessness, Jakim killed himself.

Bibliography:
  • Commentaries on the Books of the Maccabees, by Grimm, Keil, and Wace, and the histories of Jost, Ewald, Grätz, Hitzig, Stade, and Wellhausen.
  • Also Herzfeld, Gesch. d. Volkes Israel, i. 287-299, 343-348;
  • Schürer, Gesch. i. 167-176;
  • Schlatter, Jason von Kyrene, pp. 39-43;
  • Büchler, Tobiaden und Oniaden, pp. 8-43, 367-377.
A. Bü.
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