Son of Mattathias; leader of the Jews in the Maccabean wars from 161 to 143
On that Sabbath Jonathan and his companions were forced to engage in battle with Bacchides. Jonathan had encountered and had raised his hand to slay Bacchides, when the latter evaded the blow; the Jews, defeated, sought refuge by swimming through the Jordan to the western bank. In this first encounter Bacchides lost about 1,000 men. Soon after this event, informed that one of the sons of Jambri was leading home a noble bride in great pomp, the Maccabean brothers proceeded to Medaba, ambushed the bridal procession, killed the entire party, to the number of 300, and seized all the treasure (I Macc. ix. 37-49; Josephus, l.c. xiii. 1, §§ 3-4). They remained, however, in the swamp in the country east of the Jordan, and Bacchides thought them so insignificant that, after the death of the high priest Alcimus, his creature, he left the country. Two years afterwards the Hellenistic Jews in the Acra, whom Jonathan had certainly endeavored to injure, went, as in the time of Judah, to King Demetrius and asked to have Bacchides sent back, thinking that Jonathan and his followers could be destroyed in a night. But this proved impossible, as Jonathan was on his guard, and Bacchides in his anger killed fifty of the leaders of the Hellenists. Jonathan and Simeon thought it well to retreat farther, and accordingly fortified in the desert a place called Beth-hogla ("Bet Ḥoglah" for Βηϑαλαγά in Josephus; I Macc. has Βαιδβασὶ, perhaps = Bet Bosem or Bet Bassim ["spice-house"], near Jericho); there they were besieged several days by Bacchides. Jonathan left his brother Simeon in charge of the defense, while he himself made inroads into the neighboring country, fought with a certain Odares and his brothers, and with the sons of Phasiron, and attacked the rear of the army of Bacchides, who, compelled to retire, again punished the Hellenists at Jerusalem.
When Jonathan perceived that Bacchides regretted having set out, he asked for peace and an exchange of prisoners. Bacchides readily consented, swore that he would nevermore make war upon Jonathan, and then returned home. Jonathan now took up his residence in the old city of Michmash, and cleared the land of the godless and the apostate (I Macc. ix. 55-73; Josephus, l.c. xiii. 1, §§ 5-6). The chief source, the First Book of the Maccabees, says that with this "the sword ceased in Israel"; and in fact nothing is reported for the five following years (158-153).Jonathan High Priest.
But Jonathan must have used this period to good advantage, for he was soon in possession of great power. An important event brought the design of the Maccabeans to fruition. Demetrius I., Soter, lost the friendship of the kings of Pergamus and Egypt, who set up against him an adventurer, Alexander Balas, as rival king. Demetrius was now forced to recall the garrisons of Judea, except those in the Acra and at Beth-zur; he also made a bid for the loyalty of Jonathan, whom he permitted to recruit an army and to take the hostages kept in the Acra. Jonathan gladly accepted these terms, and took up his residence at Jerusalem, which he began tofortify (153). Balas, however, offered Jonathan still more favorable terms, even appointing him high priest; Jonathan thereby became the official leader of his people, and the Hellenistic party could no longer attack him. On the Feast of Tabernacles in 153 Jonathan put on the high priest's garments and officiated for the first time. He had determined to side with Balas, not trusting Demetrius, who in a second letter made promises that he could hardly have kept and conceded prerogatives that were almost impossible (I Macc. x. 1-46; Josephus, "Ant." xiii. 2, §§ 1-4). The events justified Jonathan's action; Demetrius lost his throne and life, and Balas became King of Syria. The Egyptian king, Ptolemy Philometor, gave Balas his daughter Cleopatra to wife, taking her as far as Ptolemais to meet him. After the wedding, Jonathan was invited to that city. He appeared with presents for both kings, and was permitted to sit between them as their equal; Balas even clothed him with his own royal garment and otherwise accorded him high honor. He would not listen to the Hellenistic party that still accused Jonathan, but appointed Jonathan as strategus and "meridarch" (i.e., civil governor of a province; details not found in Josephus), and sent him back with honors to Jerusalem (I Macc. x. 51-66; Josephus, "Ant." xiii. 4, § 1).Victory over Apollonius.
Jonathan proved grateful. Demetrius II. tried to win back his father's throne (147), and Apollonius Taos, governor of Cœle-Syria, who probably had joined Demetrius, challenged Jonathan to battle, saying that the Jews might for once leave the mountains and venture out into the plain. Thereupon Jonathan and Simeon appeared, with 10,000 men, before Joppa, where the forces of Apollonius lay, and the gates of which were opened to them out of fear. But reenforced from Azotus, Apollonius appeared with 3,000 men in the plain, relying on his cavalry, and forced Jonathan to engage in battle. The missiles of the horsemen rebounded from the shields of Simeon's men, who successfully resisted the enemy's onslaughts. Jonathan in the meantime vanquished the infantry, scattered it in wild flight, and pursued it to Azotus, which city he took by assault, burning it and its villages, including the Temple of Dagon. In reward, Balas gave him the city of Ekron with the outlying territory. The people of Azotus vainly complained to King Ptolemy Philometor, who had come to make war upon his son-in-law Balas, that Jonathan had destroyed their city and temple. Jonathan met Ptolemy at Joppa, accompanied him as far as the River Eleutherus, and then returned to Jerusalem (I Macc. x. 67-89, xi. 1-7; Josephus, l.c. xiii. 4, §§ 3-5).Under Demetrius II.
Balas was vanquished by Ptolemy, and Demetrius II. ascended the throne of the Seleucids (145). Jonathan took this opportunity to conquer the Acra, still garrisoned by a Syrian force and inhabited by the Jewish Hellenists (I Macc. xi. 20; Josephus, l.c. xiii. 4, § 9). The king was greatly incensed; he appeared with an army at Ptolemais and ordered Jonathan to come before him. Without raising the siege Jonathan, accompanied by the elders and priests, went to the king, and pacified him with presents, so that the king not only confirmed him in his office of high priest, but gave to him the three Samaritan toparchies of Ephraim, Lydda, and Ramathaim. In consideration of a present of 300 talents the entire country was exempted from taxes, the exemption being confirmed in writing. Jonathan in return left the Acra in Syrian hands. A new pretender to the throne appeared in the person of the young Antiochus VI., son of Balas, in the care of a certain Trypho, who himself had designs on the throne. In face of this new enemy, Demetrius not only promised to withdraw the garrison from the Acra, but also called Jonathan his ally and requested him to send troops. The 3,000 men of Jonathan protected Demetrius in his capital, Antioch, against his own subjects (I Macc. xi. 21-52; Josephus, l.c. xiii. 4, § 9; 5, §§ 2-3; "R. E. J." xlv. 34).Friendship with Rome and Sparta.
As Demetrius did not keep his promise, Jonathan thought it better to support the new king when Trypho and Antiochus seized the capital, especially as the last-named confirmed all his rights and appointed his brother Simeon strategus of the seacoast, from the "Ladder of Tyre" to the frontier of Egypt. Jonathan and Simeon were now entitled to make conquests; Ashkelon submitted voluntarily, and Gaza was forcibly taken. Jonathan vanquished even the strategi of Demetrius far to the north, in the plain of Hazar, and Simeon at the same time took the strong fortress of Beth-zur on the pretext that it harbored Demetrians (I Macc. xi. 53-74; Josephus, l.c. xiii. 5, §§ 3-7). Like Judah in former years, Jonathan sought alliances with foreign peoples. He renewed the treaty with Rome, and exchanged friendly messages with Sparta and other places. (It should be added that this point and the documents referring to it are open to question.) The followers of Demetrius collected at Hamath, but scattered again at the approach of Jonathan. The latter vanquished an Arabian tribe, the Zabadeans, entered Damascus, and went through the whole country. On his return to Jerusalem he had a conference with the elders, fortified the city, and cut off all intercourse with the Acra (I Macc. xii. 1-22, 24-37; Josephus, l.c. xiii. 5, §§ 8, 10-11). Even before this, Simeon had sent a Jewish garrison to Joppa and fortified the city of Hadid in the west of Judea.Trypho.
This made Trypho suspicious; he went with an army to Judea, invited Jonathan to Scythopolis for a friendly conference, and persuaded him to dismiss his army of 40,000 men, promising to give him Ptolemais and other fortresses. Jonathan fell into the trap; he took with him to Ptolemais 1,000 men, all of whom were slain; he himself was taken prisoner (I Macc. xii. 33-38, 41-53; Josephus, l.c. xiii. 5, § 10; 6, §§ 1-3).
When Trypho was about to enter Judea at Hadid, he was confronted by the new Jewish leader, Simeon, ready for battle. Trypho, avoiding an engagement, demanded one hundred talents and Jonathan's two sons as hostages, in return for which he promised to liberate Jonathan. Although Simeondid not trust Trypho, he complied with the request in order that he might not be accused of the death of his brother. But Trypho did not liberate his prisoner; angry that Simeon blocked his way everywhere and that he could accomplish nothing, he killed Jonathan at Baskama, in the country east of the Jordan (143; I Macc. xiii. 12-30; Josephus, l.c. xiii. 6, § 5). Jonathan was buried by Simeon at Modin. Nothing is known of his two captive sons. One of his daughters was the ancestress of Flavius Josephus (Josephus, "Vita," § 1). See Judas Maccabeus.