Around the time of Herod the Great (70 BCE) a civil war broke out between the Saducees
and Pharisees. Prior to this, King Jannaeus, a Hasmonian who sided with the Saducees, had
crucified thousands of Pharisees causing great long term hatred. The Hasmonian family were
Saducees and in succession to the position of High Priest. Jannaaeus died and his wife
Alexandra brought peace to the land for about 15 years when the Pharisees seeking revenge,
restarted the war then went to general Pompeii of the Romans to "bring peace" to
the land. The Pharisees attacked the Saducees on Shabbat killing 12,000 priests who
refused to fight. The Pharisees then quickly allied themselves with the Romans to
Rome sent in a procurator named Antipater, an Edomite descendant and the father of
Herod the Great. (This is the Herod who slaughtered the innocents as recorded in the
Gospels). Antipater sent Herod to Galillee to bring down a revolt lead by the priest
Zacharias. Herod put to death thousands, including innocent victims. He also appointed a
gentile to the position of High Priest and had the entire Sanhedrin killed with the
exception of two men Hillel and Shammai. They were recognized as
popular leaders and Herod spared to prevent a full revolt. (Shammai accomodated the
Romans, Hillel opposed them.) Herod appointed political cronies to fill the Sanhedrin.
Herod then married the last Hasmonian princess, Alexandra Salome, giving him political
legitimacy for ruling in Judea. Herod killed off the rest of the Hasmonians, and took
total control. Herod had two sons with Alexandra. His older son put on the High
Priests garments at the age of thirteen. When the people saw this there is a time of
national mourning and repentance as he is the first legitimate High Priest in many years.
Herod saw this and was threatened so he had this son drowned in a pool. When his wife got
upset Herod put her into exile with the younger son. Herod took on another wife, had five
children by her, and had them all killed.
A populist movement began around the younger son of Alexander Salome. Herod brought a
false accusation of adultery to her and had her killed. Herod then went temporarily insane
as he truly loved her. Herod then had Alexandra Salomes younger son put to death.
However the younger son had children who continued. At the end of Herods life, a son
from the second wife tried to take control. Herod had him killed and his brothers
Herod in his final will, ordered that any person remotely related to the Hasmonian
family, including his own sons, were to be killed, except for one grandson who was to
live. This was carried out. Herod died a horrific death, rotting from within. This
surviving grandson is the Herod on the throne when Yeshua is brought to trial. This Herod
is married to his niece (also named Salome). The Qumran community in their literature
writes a commentary critical of an uncle being married to his niece probably
written in reaction to the Herodians, who were considered an abomination to the Jews. This
is interesting as the Torah allowed such marriages.
By the time of Yeshua the Temple had been corrupted by the Herodians for some time
(i.e., people had bought their way into important positions. In response to this
corruption, a number of Saducees split off and departed into the wilderness (and other
places) and formed what became the Essenes, setting up their own "temple" and
system of sacrifices and offerings, done in the wilderness.
Many of the Wilderness Essenes did not marry in order to keep "pure" and draw
closer to G-d. It is this group that did most of the writing found in Qumran (the Dead Sea
Scrolls). Much of their terminology can be seen in Yeshuas teachings (i.e., the
poor, the meek, "the Way"). Shauls teachings on marriage may also