ALCIMUS (ăl’sĭ-mŭs, Heb. ’elyāqûm, God will rise; Gr. Alkimos, valiant). A wicked high priest who was opposed by the Maccabees (
ALCIMUS ăl’ sĭ məs (̓Άλκιμος). High priest in Jerusalem from 163 to 161 b.c. Knowledge of him is derived chiefly from three sources: (1)
Although he was a descendant of Aaron, Alcimus was not of the priestly family and was the first such to be so appointed.
At the time Alcimus was ousted by the Jews of Jerusalem who were led by, he led a group of wicked men to join King Demetrius who reigned after Antiochus. Alcimus also accused the followers of Judas Maccabaeus, saying to Demetrius that Judas and his brothers had slain all of Demetrius’s friends.
Demetrius then sent Bacchides with Alcimus to take vengeance on Judas and the children of Israel. At first Bacchides sought to deceive Judas into thinking that he was on a peaceful mission, but Judas did not believe him.
Some who did believe Bacchides, about sixty, were treacherously killed by Bacchides. Alcimus contended for the high priesthood and when some went over to Alcimus’s side, Judas began to punish these traitors. Alcimus retreated to King Demetrius once again.
Nicanor was sent next to destroy Israel. He too sought to deceive Judas who at first trusted him. When Judas learned the true nature of Nicanor’s visit, battle ensued. Five thousand of Nicanor’s army were killed and he himself died in battle.
Demetrius, hearing of Nicanor’s defeat, sent Bacchides and Alcimus again. A huge army accompanied Bacchides and Judas’s forces deserted him. In battle Judas was killed and Jonathan his brother was chosen as his successor.
Jonathan and his forces left Jerusalem and finally Alcimus was established in Jerusalem as high priest. However, it was a short-lived victory. He ordered the wall of the inner court of the sanctuary torn down, and also destroyed the works of the prophets. While doing this he was smitten by a plague and lay paralyzed. He died shortly in great torment. After that, there was peace for two years in the land.
In 2 Maccabees, Nicanor is portrayed as more friendly to Judas than in 1 Maccabees. It should be noted also that Josephus contradicts 1 Maccabees in teaching that Alcimus died before Judas was killed.
Josephus called those who followed Alcimus renegades and said plainly that Alcimus was smitten by God in the plague that took his life.
A. Edersheim, History of the Jewish Nation (1896), 13; Oesterly and Robinson, An Introduction to the Books of the(1958), 423; Margolis and Marx, A History of the Jewish People (1958), 143, 144, 146, 153; E. Young, An Introduction to the Old Testament (1958), 296; F. Bruce, Israel and the Nations (1963), 156-161.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
A high priest for three years, 163-161 BC, the record of whose career may be found in 1 Macc 7:4-50; 9:1-57; 2 Macc 14; see also Ant, XII, 9-11; XX, 10. He was a descendant of Aaron, but not in the high-priestly line (1 Macc 7:14; also Ant, XX, 10); and being ambitious for the office of high priest, he hastened to Antioch to secure the favor and help of the new king, Demetrius, who had just overthrown Antiochus Eupator and made himself king. Alcimus was of the Grecianizing party, and therefore bitterly opposed by the Maccabees. Demetrius sent a strong army under Bacchides to establish him in the high-priesthood at Jerusalem. The favor with which Alcimus was received by the Jews at Jerusalem on account of his Aaronic descent was soon turned to hate by his cruelties. When Bacchides and his army returned to Antioch,attacked and overcame Alcimus, and drove him also to Syria. There he secured from Demetrius another army, led by Nicanor, who, failing to secure Simon by treachery, joined battle with him, but was defeated and killed. A third and greater army, under Bacchides again, was dispatched to save the falling fortunes of Alcimus. Now Simon was overwhelmed and slain, Alcimus established as high priest and a strong force left in Jerusalem to uphold him. But he did not long enjoy his triumph, since he died soon after from a paralytic stroke.