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Hasmonean Opium Kings of Ancient Israel. The Poppy vs The Pomegranate, the origin of the Sadducees a

This is a very difficult post for several reasons. Those of you familiar with the numismatic literature are aware up until recent modern times these coins were regarded as depicting an opium poppy between the two cornucopias on the reverse. Poppies and barley leaves are plentiful images in the Greco-Roman world in which Ancient Israel was a province. Well known and extremely respected numismatic experts have written that the above "fruit" is a pomegranate. I love ancient coin images because the symbols are clearly designed for an illiterate population and are not difficult to understand. So lets take a visual journey to contrast the images of the poppy and the pomegranate.

Opium Poppies

John Hyrcanus I

Opium Poppy vs Pomegranate on the reverse?

Photo Iseum Coins

Pomegranates on a tree

John Hyrcanus I, elongated opium poppy on reverse

Photo Athena Numismatics

Rather than think of all the images on Hasmonean coins as being exclusively poppies or pomegranates, we should acknowledge that both may be used. I believe it is rather hard to deny that an upright bulb with a nodal stem is anything but an opium poppy.

It is ironic opium poppies were some of the first images on the official coins of ancient Israel. The fact that ancient Israel was minting coins is testament to the Hellenistic influence. The below coin is of John Hyrcanus I. The inscription says John Hyrcanus I(Yehonanan), the high priest and council of the Jews. The central poppy continues on all the Hasmonean coins up until when Herod the Great started his opium monopoly. The truth can be seen from the below coin is that the opium poppy and grapes were integrated into Jewish worship. Note this occurred after the desecration of the Second Temple after Antiochus IV. Opium and Hellenism were likely the modalities which split Judaism into the separate branches of the Pharisee and Sadducee movements. Both of these movements likely started in the second century BC. Hyrcanus I started as a Pharisee and became a Sadducee. By trading or using opium one could easily follow the worldly desires of the Sadducees.

John Hyrcanus I

Photo Athena Numismatics

Nero , Aeolis, Opium poppy

Photo Ancient Imports

Faustina Junior, Alexandria, snakes and poppies, a testament to the depravity of the Roman Empire after the destruction of Ancient Israel

Photo Athena Numismatics

Two strong extensions of human willpower are reflected here, money and drugs. Money is the extension of our willpower over others and drugs can be an extension of our willpower over ourselves. The reality is that the coinage of ancient Israel is reflection of the power of the Greco-Roman world over Israel. These images would not have been pleasing to God. We see the opium imagery continue thru the Jewish Revolt coinage with the destruction of the Herodian Second Temple and even on the coins of the Bar Kochba Revolt. Like so many times in the Old Testament the sin of idolatry separated the people of ancient Israel from God. We should not be surprised that these images are obviously present on Israel's coinage.

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