Benjamin of Tiberias

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Benjamin of Tiberias was a man of immense wealth, who enlisted and armed many soldiers during the Jewish revolt against Heraclius in the 7th century Palaestina province of the Byzantine Empire. The Persian force was joined by Benjamin of Tiberias, who enlisted and armed Jewish soldiers from Tiberias, Nazareth and the mountain cities of Galilee and together they marched on Jerusalem. Later, they were joined by the Jews of the southern parts of the country; and supported by a band of Arabs, the united forces took Jerusalem in 614 CE. Benjamin was one of the leaders of the revolt, actively participating in the Persian siege and capture of Jerusalem in 614.[1] It is thought that the second leader Nehemiah ben Hushiel was appointed as ruler of Jerusalem.[2][3]

Final years[edit]

In 628 following the reign of Khosrau II, Kavadh II made peace with Heraclius giving Palaestina Prima and the True Cross back to the Byzantines. The conquered city and the Holy Cross would remain in Sasanian hands until they were returned by Shahrbaraz. Shahrbaraz and his son Niketas, who converted to Christianity, would control Jerusalem until at least the late summer/early autumn of 629.[4] On March 21 630 Heraclius marched in triumph into Jerusalem with the True Cross.[5] Heraclius came as victor into the Land of Israel and the Jews of Tiberias and Nazareth, under the leadership of Benjamin of Tiberias, surrendered and asked for his protection. It is said that Benjamin even accompanied Heraclius on his voyage to Jerusalem and Benjamin was persuaded to convert, Benjamin obtained a general pardon for himself and the Jews.[6] He was baptized in Nablus in the house of Eustathios, an influential Christian. However, once Heraclius reached Jerusalem he was persuaded to go back on his promise to Benjamin of Tiberias.[7] Jews were expelled from Jerusalem and were not allowed to settle within a three-mile radius. A general massacre of the Jewish population ensued.[8] The massacre devastated the Jewish communities of Galilee and Jerusalem.[9] According to Eutychius (887-940), the Christians population and monks of Jerusalem convinced the Emperor to break his word.[10]: 48–49 Some modern scholars ascribe the story of the "Oath of Heraclius" to the realm of legend doubting that Heraclius ever made such a promise,[11]: 38 instead ascribing this as a product of later apologists.[12] In atonement for the violation of the emperor's oath to the Jews, the monks are said to have pledged themselves to a yearly fast, which is still observed by the Copts,[8][13][14] called the Fast of Heraclius.[8][15] The fate of Benjamin is not known for certain.


  1. ^ Th. Nöldeke, Grätz, Gesch (1906). Jewish Encyclopedia CHOSROES (KHOSRU) II. PARWIZ ("The Conqueror"):. Jewish Encyclopedia. Retrieved 20 January 2014.
  2. ^ Haim Hillel Ben-Sasson (1976). A History of the Jewish People. Harvard University Press. p. 362. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
  3. ^ Edward Lipiński (2004). Itineraria Phoenicia. Peeters Publishers. pp. 542–543. Retrieved 11 March 2014.
  4. ^ Walter Emil Kaegi (2003). Heraclius, Emperor of Byzantium. Cambridge University Press. pp. 185, 189. Retrieved 12 March 2014.
  5. ^ Michael H. Dodgeon, Samuel N. C. Lieu, eds. (2002). The Roman Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars Ad 363-628, Part 2. Taylor & Francis. pp. 227–228.
  6. ^ Hagith Sivan (2008). Palestine in Late Antiquity. Oxford University Press. p. 2: Anastasian Landscapes page 8. Retrieved 28 March 2014.
  7. ^ Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. Vol. 3. 2nd ed, eds. (2007). "Encyclopedia Judaica - Benjamin of Tiberias". Gale Virtual Reference Library. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA. p. 362. Retrieved 14 January 2014.
  8. ^ a b c Alfred Joshua Butler (1902). Arab Conquest of Egypt and the Last Thirty Years of the Roman Dominion. Clarendon Press. p. 134. Retrieved 21 March 2014.
  9. ^ David Nicolle (1994). Yarmuk AD 636: The Muslim Conquest of Syria. Osprey Publishing. p. 93. Retrieved 21 March 2014.
  10. ^ Eutychius (1896). Eucherius about certain holy places: The library of the Palestine Pilgrims' Text Society. Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund in London. Retrieved 28 June 2015.
  11. ^ Elli Kohen (2007). History of the Byzantine Jews: A Microcosmos in the Thousand Year Empire. University Press of America. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  12. ^ Lewis, David (2008). God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570–1215. Norton. p. 69. ISBN 9780393064728.
  13. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia BYZANTINE EXPIRE: Heraclius. Jewish Encyclopedia. 1906. Retrieved 28 January 2015. In atonement for the violation of an oath to the Jews, the monks pledged themselves to a fast, which the Copts still observe; while the Syrians and the Melchite Greeks ceased to keep it after the death of Heraclius; Elijah of Nisibis ("Beweis der Wahrheit des Glaubens," translation by Horst, p. 108, Colmar, 1886) mocks at the observance.
  14. ^ Walter Emil Kaegi (2003). Heraclius, Emperor of Byzantium. Cambridge University Press. p. 205. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  15. ^ Abu Salih the Armenian; Abu al-Makarim (1895). Basil Thomas Alfred Evetts, ed. "History of Churches and Monasteries", Abu Salih the Armenian c. 1266 - Part 7 of Anecdota Oxoniensia: Semitic series Anecdota oxoniensia. [Semitic series--pt. VII]. Clarendon Press. pp. 39–. the emperor Heraclius, on his way to Jerusalem, promised his protection to the Jews of Palestine. (Abu Salih the Armenian, Abu al-Makarim, ed. Evetts 1895, p. 39, Part 7 of Anecdota Oxoniensia: Semitic series Anecdota oxoniensia. Semitic series--pt. VII) (Abu Salih the Armenian was just the Book's owner, the author is actually Abu al-Makarim.)