PTOLEMY I. (surnamed Soter and Lagi):
At first satrap (322-307
It was Ptolemy I. who brought Palestine and the Jews under the dominion of the Ptolemies. After the death of Alexander the Great Cœle-Syria and Judea were apportioned to Laomedon, but Ptolemy I. took them from this weak prince—as Josephus maintains, at least as regards Jerusalem by deception as well as by persuasion. Ptolemy appeared before the city (320
Elsewhere also the kindness of the Ptolemies toward the Jews is highly praised by Josephus ("Contra Ap." ii., §§ 4, 5); and this especially in comparison with the cruel persecutions which the Jews suffered later at the hands of the Seleucidæ in Syria. In fact, the policy of the leading circles in Jerusalem was always to rely on the Ptolemies in opposition to the Seleucidæ. But that manifested itself only in the course of time. As regards the early period the statements of Josephus are very doubtful, since both the early settlement of Jews in Egypt—which, at least in the case of Alexandria, is said to have taken place under Alexander the Great—and their military virtues seem to have been assumed for apologetic reasons when the hatred of the Jews, proceeding from Alexandria, made an apology desirable. According to a later authority, no less than 30,000 Jewish soldiers were placed in Egyptian forts (Aristeas Letter, ed. Wendland, § 13). Something similar must at any rate have happened later; for a "camp of the Jews" is explicitly mentioned, and military achievements of the Jews are certainly spoken of. It is positive that the legal organization of the Egyptian Jews, as in fact the whole legal organization of the Ptolemaic state, was instituted by Ptolemy I. It can hardly be doubted that he gave the Jews at Alexandria equal rights (ἰσοπολιτεία) with the incoming Macedonians.Many Jews Follow Ptolemy to Egypt.
Ptolemy went to Palestine several times on military expeditions, e.g., in the campaign of the year 320, and in that of 312, which ended with the battle of Gaza. Although he was victorious, he found it expedient to evacuate Palestine for the time being; and on his departure he caused the strongholds of Acre (Acco), Joppa, Gaza, Samaria, and Jerusalemto be razed to the ground (see Appian, "Syriaca," § 50). According to the testimony of Hecatæus of Abdera, whom Josephus ("Contra Ap." i., § 22) cites, many Jews felt impelled on this occasion to move to Egypt, and the generally respected high priest Hezekiah also attached himself to Ptolemy. It was, in truth, difficult for Egypt to retain Palestine in opposition to the newly arisen Syrian kingdom, but Ptolemy I. and his successors never relinquished their claim to the cities of Gaza, Joppa, and Jerusalem. The wars which were waged for these places between the Ptolemies and the Seleucidæ, and the sufferings which ensued therefrom for the Jews, are graphically described in Dan. xi.; the "king of the south" in verse 5 of that chapter referring to Ptolemy I. (see Jerome in the name of Porphyrius ad loc.).