Did Alcimus give away the crown of the High Priest (Exo 28:36)? Or another golden crown?

"Came to king Demetrius in the year one hundred and fifty, presenting unto him a crown of gold, and a palm, and besides these, some boughs which seemed to belong to the temple. And that day indeed he held his peace"

(2 Ma 14:4)

2 Answers 2


The "Official" Headdress
The Greek has three words which can be translated as "crown:"

The word used in Maccabees is στέφανος, stephanos:

3 Now a certain Alcimus, who had formerly been high priest but had willfully defiled himself in the times of separation, realized that there was no way for him to be safe or to have access again to the holy altar 4 and went to King Demetrius in about the one hundred and fifty-first year, presenting to him a crown of gold and a palm, and besides these, some of the customary olive branches from the temple…(2 Maccabees 14:3-4 NETS)

3 Ἄλκιμος δέ τις προγεγονὼς ἀρχιερεύς ἑκουσίως δὲ μεμολυσμένος ἐν τοῖς τῆς ἀμειξίας χρόνοις συννοήσας ὅτι καθ’ ὁντιναοῦν τρόπον οὐκ ἔστιν αὐτῷ σωτηρία οὐδὲ πρὸς τὸ ἅγιον θυσιαστήριον ἔτι πρόσοδος 4 ἧκεν πρὸς τὸν βασιλέα Δημήτριον ὡς πρώτῳ καὶ πεντηκοστῷ καὶ ἑκατοστῷ ἔτει προσάγων αὐτῷ στέφανον χρυσοῦν καὶ φοίνικα πρὸς δὲ τούτοις τῶν νομιζομένων θαλλῶν τοῦ ἱεροῦ καὶ τὴν ἡμέραν ἐκείνην ἡσυχίαν ἔσχεν (CATSS LXX)

The High Priest's headdress was to be made of fine linen on which a gold plate was attached:

36 “You shall make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet, ‘Holy to the LORD.’ 37 And you shall fasten it on the turban by a cord of blue. It shall be on the front of the turban. 38 It shall be on Aaron's forehead, and Aaron shall bear any guilt from the holy things that the people of Israel consecrate as their holy gifts. It shall regularly be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD. 39 “You shall weave the coat in checker work of fine linen, and you shall make a turban of fine linen, and you shall make a sash embroidered with needlework. (Exodus 28) [ESV]

The Pulpit Commentary explains:

Verses 36-38. - THE MITRE. Josephus tells us that the head-dress of the high priest was "not a conical cap, but a sort of crown, made of thick linen swathes" (Ant. Jud. 3:7, § 3). It was thus really a species of turban. The colour was white; and the only ornament on it was the gold plate, with its blue ribbon or fillet. Verse 36. - Thou shalt make a plate of pure gold. The plate, though a mere ornament of the mitre, was, at once, its most conspicuous and its most significant feature. Placed directly in front, right over the forehead, and probably of burnished gold, it would attract universal attention, and catch the eye even more than the breast-plate. Its position made it "the culminating point of the whole priestly attire."

Josephus gives a description of the headdress consistent with the instructions in Exodus:

157 On his head he wears a cap, not of conical shape or concealing it all, but covering a little over half of it. It is called the Masnaefthes, and its structure resembles a crown, being made of a thick band of layers of linen, well compressed and sewed together. 158 A piece of fine linen covers the whole cap from the top down to the forehead, hiding the seams of the swathes, which would otherwise be unsightly, and it fits closely to the head, where it is so firmly held as not to fall off while he is engaged in the liturgy. Such is the vesture of the ordinary priests. (Antiquities of the Jews, Book 3, Chapter 7, §3)

[157] Ὑπὲρ δὲ τῆς κεφαλῆς φορεῖ πῖλον ἄκωνον οὐ διικνούμενον εἰς πᾶσαν αὐτὴν ἀλλ' ἐπ' ὀλίγον ὑπερβεβηκότα μέσης: καλεῖται μὲν μασναεφθῆς, τῇ δὲ κατασκευῇ τοιοῦτός ἐστιν ὡς στεφάνη δοκεῖν ἐξ ὑφάσματος λινέου ταινία πεποιημένη παχεῖα: καὶ γὰρ ἐπιπτυσσόμενον ῥάπτεται πολλάκις. [158] ἔπειτα σινδὼν ἄνωθεν αὐτὸν ἐκπεριέρχεται διήκουσα μέχρι μετώπου τήν τε ῥαφὴν τῆς ταινίας καὶ τὸ ἀπ' αὐτῆς ἀπρεπὲς καλύπτουσα καὶ ὅλη δὲ τῷ κρανίῳ γιγνομένη ἐπίπεδον: ἥρμοσται δὲ ἀκριβῶς, ὡς ἂν μὴ περιρρυείη πονοῦντος περὶ τὴν ἱερουργίαν. καὶ ὁποία μέν ἐστιν ἡ τῶν πολλῶν ἱερέων στολὴ δεδηλώκαμεν.

Based on the instructions how the High Priest is to dress a "crown" of gold would not be be part of the correct "official" dress and Alcimus' gift would not be connected to the priesthood.

The Second Temple Headdress
Maccabees takes place during the Second Temple period. It appears the actual headdress worn by the High Priest during this time was different from that described in Exodus, because Josephus later gives a more detailed description and states a golden crown would have been worn:

172 His head-dress was the same as that described earlier and made like that of all the other priests, but above it was another, embroidered in blue and round it a golden crown, in three rows, from which arose a cup of gold like the herb we call Saccharus, but which is called Hyoscyamus by Greeks who are skilled in the cutting of roots....178 Of this the crown was made, from the back of the head to the temples on either side, but this Ephielis, as the calyx may be called, did not cover the forehead, which was covered with a golden plate, inscribed with the name of God in sacred characters....

[172] Πῖλον δὲ ἦν ὁ καὶ πρότερον αὐτῷ παραπλησίως εἰργασμένος τοῖς πᾶσιν ἱερεῦσιν, ὑπ' αὐτὸν δὲ συνερραμμένος ἕτερος ἐξ ὑακίνθου πεποικιλμένος περιέρχεται στέφανος χρύσεος ἐπὶ τριστιχίαν κεχαλκευμένος. θάλλει δ' ἐπ' αὐτῷ κάλυξ χρύσεος τῇ σακχάρῳ βοτάνῃ παρ' ἡμῖν λεγομένῃ ἀπομεμιμημένος, ὑὸς δὲ κύαμον Ἑλλήνων οἱ περὶ τομὰς ῥιζῶν ἐμπείρως ἔχοντες προσαγορεύουσιν...[178] ἐκ τούτου μὲν στέφανος ἐκκεχάλκευται ὅσον ἀπὸ τοῦ ἰνίου πρὸς ἑκάτερον τῶν κροτάφων. τὸ δὲ μέτωπον ἡ μὲν ἐφιελὶς οὐκ ἔπεισι, λεγέσθω γὰρ οὕτως ὁ κάλυξ, τελαμὼν δ' ἐστὶ χρύσεος, ὃς ἱεροῖς γράμμασι τοῦ θεοῦ τὴν προσηγορίαν ἐπιτετμημένος ἐστί. καὶ τοιοῦτος μὲν ὁ τοῦ ἀρχιερέως κόσμος ἐστί. (Antiquities of the Jews, Book 3, Chapter 7, §6)

The High Priest wore an additional crown (stephanos) above the gold plate on the forehead. This additional crown may have been a tradition developed from the rebuilding of the Temple:

And you shall take silver and gold and make crowns and set them on the head of the great priest Iesous the son of Iosedek. (Zechariah 6:11) [NETS]

καὶ λήψῃ ἀργύριον καὶ χρυσίον καὶ ποιήσεις στεφάνους καὶ ἐπιθήσεις ἐπὶ τὴν κεφαλὴν Ἰησοῦ τοῦ Ιωσεδεκ τοῦ ἱερέως τοῦ μεγάλου

This would have been an embellishment not part of the "official" headdress; as such it is possible that an outgoing High Priest was allowed to keep "his crown" and the new High Priest to have one "customized,"2 or Alcimus simply kept "his" crown when he was forced out of office.

It is clear Alcimus had been a High Priest who acted inappropriately by willfully defiling himself. It is also clear he gave King Demetrius a στέφανος, stephanos such as given to Joshua (Zechariah 6:11) and, according to Josephus, worn by the High Priest during the Second Temple period.

The crown he gave may have been something he had made as a gift, but his purpose was to try to regain the position of High Priest by force. It is speculative, but it seems more likely Alcimus would give the one he had worn while serving as High Priest.

1. 2 Samuel 1:10, 1 Chronicles 28:4, 2 Chronicles 23:11, Esther 1:9
2. Similar to crowns worn by Imperial priests which were known to have the imperial image. (see S.R.F. Price, Rituals and Power: The Roman Imperial Cult in Asia Minor, Cambridge University Press, 1984, p. 124.)


2 Maccabees 14:2-3

2 It was reported that he had killed King Antiochus and his guardian Lysias and had taken over the country. 3 There was a man by the name of Alcimus, who had formerly been High Priest but who had gladly adopted the Greek way of life during the revolt. Realizing that he could never again be High Priest and fearful of what the Jews might do to him,


obviously Alcimus trying to stay alive , jews hate him because he turned to greek lifestyle which is betraying judaism and so on and now he wants to buy the hight-priesthood and protection from jews . Same thing happens with other High-Priest in 1 Maccabees 13:36

*> King Demetrius to the High Priest Simon, the friend of kings, to the

Jewish nation, and to their leaders, greetings. 37 I have received the gold crown and the gold palm branch which you sent, and I am prepared to make a peace treaty with you and to instruct our tax officials to grant you exemptions. 38 Our previous agreements with you are confirmed, and the fortresses which you have built are to remain yours. 39 I grant you pardon for treaty violations committed up to the present date, and I release you from payment of the special tax still due and any other taxes that have been collected up to this time in Jerusalem. 40 All Jews who are qualified may enroll in the royal service. Let us have peace. 41 So in the year 170[b] the yoke of the Gentile oppressors was removed from the Jews. 42 People began to date their documents and contracts with these words:

In the first year of Simon, the great High Priest, commander and leader of the Jews.*


another commentary

a gold crown and palm. Simon the Hasmonaean sent a similar pair of gifts to Demetrius II (I 13:36–37). Subjects of the Seleucid empire would present their king with such a crown at the time of his accession (as is probably done here) or after a victory of his or on other suitable occasions. Such crowns were sometimes brought as voluntary gifts, but there were periods during which Seleucid kings viewed them as obligatory for their subjects. See Bickerman, Institutions, pp. 111–12. Goldstein, J. A. (2008). II Maccabees

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