Free Online Bible Library | Aristobulus

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ARISTOBULUS (ă-rĭstŏ-bū'lŭs, the best counselor). A Christian in Rome, whose household Paul greeted. There is a tradition that he was one of the seventy disciples and that he preached in Britain (Rom.16.10).

ARISTOBULUS ăr’ ĭs tŏb’ yə ləs, ə rĭs’ tə bu’ ləs (̓Αριστόβουλος, G755, best advising).

1. A Jewish priest and teacher of Ptolemy, the king to whom Judas the Maccabee sent letters (2 Macc 1:10). He is sometimes identified with Aristobulus the Peripatetic philosopher, tutor of Ptolemy VI (Philometer, 180-146 b.c.) and head of the Jerusalem community in Alexandria (Euseb. Praep. Ev. VIII. 10; XIII. 12). He wrote a book for heathen readers explaining the laws of Moses and showing that the Peripatetic philosophy was dependent upon the Mosaic law.


E. Schürer, A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ, Div. II, Vol. III (1894), 237-243; R. H. Pfeiffer, History of New Testament Times (1949), 214, 215.

2. Aristobulus I, the eldest son of John Hyrcanus I; the first of the Maccabees to assume the title of king. When Hyrcanus died, he passed the government to his wife and the high priesthood to Aristobulus. Aristobulus starved his mother to death, killed his brother Antigonus, and imprisoned three other brothers. He compelled the Itureans to adopt Judaism as their religion. He reigned only one year (105-104 b.c.) and died of a painful disease.


Jos. Antiq. XIII. ix. 1-3; War I. iii. 1-6; E. Schürer, A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ, Div. II, Vol. II (1894), 291-294; R. H. Pfeiffer, History of New Testament Times (1949), 21.

3. Aristobulus II, the younger son of Alexander Janneus. When his father died (78 b.c.), he willed the throne to his wife Alexandra, who ruled until 69 b.c. Just before she died, Aristobulus raised a revolt against her to secure the throne for himself. After her death he fought with his brother, Hyrcanus II, the legitimate successor of Alexandra. The Idumean king, Antipater, the father of Herod the Great, favored Hyrcanus, as did also Aretas the Arabian king. The brothers tried by gifts of money to get the support of the Rom. general Scaurus, who was then in Syria. When Pompey the Great appeared in Syria, they sought his support. Many Jews told Pompey they wanted neither of them. Because Aristobulus was unwilling to await Pompey’s decision, Pompey seized him, captured Jerusalem, and made the country a tributary to Rome, thus ending Jewish independence. Hyrcanus II was recognized as high priest, without the title of king. Aristobulus and his children were taken to Rome as a part of Pompey’s triumph. The Maccabean dynasty was at an end, after almost eighty years (142-63 b.c.). In 57 b.c. Aristobulus escaped from Rome and tried to recover his former kingdom, but he was defeated and returned as a prisoner to Rome. After the civil war broke out, Julius Caesar freed Aristobulus to send him to Syria against the forces of Pompey, but when Pompey’s friends heard of this plan, they poisoned Aristobulus (49 b.c.)


Jos. Antiq. XIV. i. 1-vii. 4; War I. vi-ix; E. Schürer, A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ, Div. II, Vol. II (1894), 313-325, 376.

4. A grandson of Aristobulus II and a brother of Mariamne, wife of Herod the Great. When Aristobulus was only seventeen years of age, Herod had him replace the high priest, but because Aristobulus was popular with the Jews, about a year later Herod had him “accidentally” drowned while he was bathing (c. 35 b.c.).


Jos. Antiq. XV. ii. 5-iii. 3.

5. The younger of two sons born to Herod the Great by Mariamne. After the execution of Mariamne in 29 b.c., Herod sent the boys to Rome for their education. When they returned, he was afraid that they would avenge the death of their mother. Herod’s own sister and brother plotted against them, so that Herod brought back to his court a son named Antipater by his first wife Doris. Herod’s fears were so roused by these enemies that he had his sons strangled. Aristobulus had four children. One, named Herod, became king of Chalcis; another, Herod Agrippa I, became king of all Pal. (a.d. 41-44); a third was Herodias, the wife of the tetrarch Herod Antipas; the fourth was Aristobulus (see 6 below).


Jos. Antiq. XVI. i.; ii.; iv. 1-6; xi. 1-7; War I. xxiii. 1-5.

6. Son of 5 above. Little is known about him. He plotted against his brother Herod Agrippa I (Jos. Antiq. XVIII. vi. 3) and tried to dissuade the governor of Syria from putting up a statue of Caligula in the Temple in Jerusalem (Jos. Antiq. XVIII. viii. 4).

7. A man whose family is greeted by Paul in Romans 16:10. Nothing more is known about him.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(Aristoboulos, "best counselor"):

(1) Son of the Maccabean, John Hyrcanus, who assumed the power and also the title of king after his father’s death (105 BC) and associated with him, as co-regent, his brother Antigonus (Ant., XIII, xi), though by the will of his father the government was entrusted to his mother. Three other brothers and his mother he cast into prison, where they died of starvation. He murdered Antigonus, and died conscience-stricken himself in 104 BC. See Maccabees.

(2) Aristobulus, nephew of the former, dethroned his mother, Alexandra (69 BC), and forced his brother Hyrcanus to renounce the crown and mitre in his favor. In 64 Pompey came to Palestine and supported the cause of Hyrcanus. See Hyrcanus. Aristobulus was defeated and taken prisoner, and Hyrcanus was appointed ethnarch in 63 BC. Aristobulus and his two daughters were taken to Rome, where he graced the triumph of Pompey. The father escaped later (56 BC) and appeared in Palestine again as a claimant to the throne. Many followers flocked to his standard, but he was finally defeated, severely wounded and taken prisoner a second time and with his son, Antigonus, again taken to Rome. Julius Caesar not only restored him to freedom (49 BC), but also gave him two legions to recover Judea, and to work in his interest against Pompey. But Quintus Metellus Scipio, who had just received Syria as a province, had Aristobulus poisoned as he was on his way to Palestine.CR

(3) Grandson of the preceding, and the last of the Maccabean family. See Asmoneans.

(4) The Jewish teacher of Ptol. VII (2 Macc 1:10).

(5) An inhabitant of Rome, certain of whose household are saluted by Paul (Ro 16:10). He was probably a grandson of Herod and brother of Herod Agrippa, a man of great wealth, and intimate with the emperor Claudius. Lightfoot (Philippians, 172) suggests that "the household of Aristobulus" were his slaves, and that upon his death they had kept together and had become the property of the emperor either by purchase or as a legacy, in which event, however, they might, still retain the name of their former master. Among these were Christians to whom Paul sends greeting.

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