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It is a fascinating and worthwhile study to understand this ancient time period and its high priests. According to the Bible the high priest was the most important man in the world, for he represented the nation before God, and God before the nation. Unfortunately there were times when the priesthood became corrupt and blinded to its original intent. There were no doubt high priests in Israel’s history who sought after God. Every high priest has a story and the history of the intertestamental period is packed with adventures. One interesting story is related in the Talmud concerning Simon the Just:
The Talmud relates that when Alexander the Great and his conquering legions advanced upon Jerusalem, they were met by a delegation of elders, led by the High Priest Shimon Ha Tzaddik (Simon the Righteous). When Alexander saw Shimon approaching, he dismounted and prostrated himself before the Jewish Sage.
To his astonished men, Alexander explained that each time he went into battle, he would see a vision in the likeness of this High Priest leading the Greek troops to victory. In gratitude, and out of profound respect for the spiritual power of the Jews, Alexander was a kind and generous ruler. He canceled the Jewish taxes during Sabbatical years, and even offered animals to be sacrificed on his behalf in the Temple.
Unfortunately, history would prove that Alexander's heirs failed to sustain his benevolence.