The importance of fire (2 Macc 1:19-1:23)

“When our ancestors were being led captive to Persia,

The pious priests of that time took

Some of the fire of the altar.

They secretly hid it in the hollow of a dry cistern.

They took such precautions

That the place was unknown to anyone.

But after many years had passed,

When it pleased God,

Nehemiah, having been commissioned by the king of Persia,

Sent the descendants of the priests

Who had hidden the fire to get it.

When they reported to us

That they had not found fire

But only a thick liquid,

He ordered them to dip it out and bring it.

When the materials for the sacrifices were presented,

Nehemiah ordered the priests

To sprinkle the liquid on the wood

And on the things laid upon it.

When this was done,

Some time had passed.

The sun, which had been clouded over,

Shone out,

A great fire blazed up,

So that all marveled.

While the sacrifice was being consumed,

The priests offered prayer.

The priests and everyone,

Jonathan led.

The rest responded,

As did Nehemiah.”

There is nothing in the book of Nehemiah about this fire incident. If anything it is a reference to the cult of fire among the Persians. Somehow the captured Israelite priests hid a fire that had been on an altar in a dry cistern that no one knew about. How could a fire keep going it no feeds it? When Nehemiah asked the descendents of these priests to get the fire, they told him that they only had a thick liquid that could have been naphtha or petro-chemical oil, which of course, was found in the Persian area. They put wood on it. When the sun shone it, it burst into flames so that it consumed the sacrifice. Obviously, the priests and everyone offered sacrifices. A certain Jonathan seemed to be the priest leader of this ceremony.

The festival of fire (2 Macc 1:18-1:18)

“On the twenty-fifth day of Chislev

We shall celebrate the purification of the temple.

We thought it necessary to notify you.

Thus you also may celebrate the feast of booths.

You may celebrate the feast of the fire

That was given when Nehemiah offered sacrifices

When he built the temple and the altar.”

Judas Maccabeus had celebrated the festival of booths in 1 Maccabees, chapter 4, in 164 BCE. They wanted to celebrate the purification of the temple. At the same time, they wanted them to know that the festival of fire was like at the time of Nehemiah, chapter 8. That writing explained what was to take place at the festival of Booths. There they gathered branches to make tents and live around the fire. It could also refer to the reestablishment of the Temple at that time.

Thanksgiving for the punishment to King Antiochus IV (2 Macc 1:11-1:17)

‘Having been saved by God,

Out of grave dangers.

We thank him greatly

For taking our side against the king.

God drove out those who fought against the holy city.

When the leader reached Persia

With a force that seemed irresistible,

They were cut to pieces in the temple of Nanea

By a deception employed by the priests of Nanea.

On the pretext of intending to marry her,

Antiochus came to the place together with his friends,

To secure most of its treasures as a dowry.

When the priests of the temple of Nanea

Had set out the treasures,

Antiochus had come with a few men

Inside the wall of the sacred precinct,

They closed the temple as soon as he entered it.

Opening the secret door in the ceiling,

They threw stones.

They struck down the leader and his men,

They dismembered them.

They cut off their heads.

They threw them to the people outside.

Blessed in every way be our God,

Who has brought judgment

Upon those who have behaved impiously.”

They were thankful that God had taken King Antiochus IV in 164 BCE. He had brought great dangers to Jerusalem by his attack as in 1 Maccabees, chapter 1. He died about the same time of the writing of this letter, according to 1 Maccabees, chapter 5. However, there was no indication there on how he died, but this story in 2 Maccabees is very explicit. Here the king died at the hands of the Nanea priests, since Nanea was some kind of Syrian goddess. Perhaps King Antiochus IV was trying to take money from the temple. This story shows how the king suffered a brutal death with stones dropped on him and his men. Then they dismembered him, cutting off his head, and throwing him outside the temple.   All this they did because he had acted impiously. However, in 1 Maccabees, chapter 6, King Antiochus IV had repentance for what he had done. However, there is no mention of that here. Remember that this same King Antiochus IV had invaded Egypt also. He had received his just reward.

The address of the second letter (2 Macc 1:10-1:10)

“The people of Jerusalem

And of Judea

And the senate

And Judas,

To Aristobulus,

Who is of the family of the anointed priests,

Teacher of King Ptolemy,

And to the Jews in Egypt,


Good health!”

Once again, it is the people of Jerusalem and Judea who are sending this letter. However, here there is a mention of a Jewish senate, perhaps modeled after the Roman Senate that was also mentioned by Jonathan in chapter 12 of 1 Maccabees. Judas, mentioned here in this letter, is Judas Maccabeus. Thus this letter actually preceded the first letter since it about 40 years earlier, around 164 BCE. Once again we are not sure of the author. The recipient, however, is Aristobulus, who was an Alexandrian Jew, who somehow was a teacher to King Ptolemy VII in Egypt who died in 144 BCE. This may be Aristobulus of Paneas, a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher who attempted to combine Hebrew Scripture with Greek philosophical thought who lived in the 2nd century BCE. He argued that the essentials of Greek philosophy and metaphysics were derived from Jewish sources. He may have been the author of the Book or Sirach. Somehow he was related to a family of anointed priests that came with King Ptolemy I (367-283 BCE) to Egypt. This greeting is for all the Jews in Egypt. So this is a Greek letter to the Greek speaking Jews in Egypt from the Jews in Judea and Jerusalem who were against the Greek influence in their life.

The situation of this letter (2 Macc 1:7-1:9)

“In the reign of King Demetrius,

In the one hundred and sixty-ninth year,

We Jews wrote to you.

In the critical distress that came upon us,

In those years

After Jason and his company

Revolted from the holy land and the kingdom.

He burned the gate and shed innocent blood.

We prayed to the Lord.

We were heard.

We offered sacrifice and cereal offering.

We lighted the lamps.

We set out the loaves.

Now see that you keep the festival of booths

In the month of Chislev,

In the one hundred and eighty-eighth year.”

Here is the reason for the letter. They want the Jews in Egypt to celebrate the festival of Booths in 124 BCE in the month of Chislev, the 188th year. Apparently this is not the first letter since there is a reference to an earlier letter around 143 BCE, the 169th year mentioned here, when King Demetrius II was the Seleucid leader. All these calendar dates are from the beginning of this Seleucid Empire in 312 BCE. The distress was the capture and murder of Jonathan Apphus, the son of Mattathias in 143 BCE. Jason was the brother of the high priest Onias, who turned on the Maccabees. The destruction and shedding of innocent blood can be found in 1 Maccabees, chapter 1. However, under Simon, they were able to recover and rebuild the Temple. Thus they were asking the Jews in Egypt to celebrate with them the feast of Booths in Chislev. However, the normal time of festival of Tents or Booths, according to Leviticus, chapter 23, was in the 7th month, 1 week after the Day of Atonement. Clearly this work must have been written after 124 BCE.

The blessings for the Jews in Egypt (2 Macc 1:2-1:6)

“May God be good to you.

May God remember his covenant

With Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,

His faithful servants.

May God give you all a heart to worship him.

May you do his will with a strong heart and a willing spirit.

May God open your heart to his law and his commandments.

May God bring peace.

May God hear your prayers.

May God be reconciled to you.

May God not forsake you in time of evil.

We are now praying for you here.”

There is an obvious reference to the God of our common ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as outlined in Genesis. They have this common bond with their faithful ancestors. This biblical author wants to make sure that God blesses his kindred in Egypt. He wants God to be good to them. However, he also expects that they are worshiping God with a strong heart and willing spirit. He hopes that they are listening to the law and the commandments. Thus they will have peace as God will hear their prayers, be reconciled to them, and not abandon them in bad times. That is the simple prayer of the people of Jerusalem and Judea.

The salutation of the first letter (2 Macc 1:1-1:1)

“The Jews in Jerusalem

And those in the land of Judea,

To their Jewish kindred in Egypt,

Greetings and true peace!”

The unknown author of this letter implies that there were Jews in Egypt. Beginning at the time of Alexander the Great, Jews began to live in Egypt in the new city of Alexandria in 332 BCE. Somehow during the 2nd century BCE many more Jews went to Egypt. The son of a high priest, Onias IV apparently built a temple at Leontopolis based on the Jerusalem Temple. The beginnings of Greek letters usually used the word “greetings” as in 1 Maccabees. However, the Jewish letters usually began with “peace” so that both are here in this salutation. Those Jews in Egypt were related to the Jews in Jerusalem and Judea. Notice that there is a distinction between Jerusalem and Judea. This letter may have come after the 2nd letter since it seems to have been written before this letter.

Outline of 2 Maccabees

Outline of 2 Maccabees

 I. Letters to the Jews in Egypt

 1. First letter

The salutation of the first letter (2 Macc 1:1-1:1)

The blessings for the Jews in Egypt (2 Macc 1:2-1:6)

 The situation of this letter (2 Macc 1:7-1:9)


 2. Second Letter

The address of the second letter (2 Macc 1:10-1:10)

Thanksgiving for the punishment to King Antiochus IV (2 Macc 1:11-1:17)

The festival of fire (2 Macc 1:18-1:18)

The importance of fire (2 Macc 1:19-1:23)

The prayer to God over the fire (2 Macc 1:24-1:29)

The sacredness of naphtha (2 Macc 1:30-1:36)

The admonition of the prophet Jeremiah (2 Macc 2:1-2:3)

Jeremiah hides the cult material (2 Macc 2:4-2:8)

The importance of fire to Moses and Solomon (2 Macc 2:9-2:12)

The library of Nehemiah (2 Macc 2:13-2:15)

The invitation to the dedication festival (2 Macc 2:16-2:18)


  II. Preface of the author

The story of Judas Maccabeus (2 Macc 2:19-2:22)

The condensed story (2 Macc 2:23-2:28)

The role of a historian (2 Macc 2:29-2:31)

Time to get to the story (2 Macc 2:32-2:32)


 III. History of the Hellenistic movement

The good old days (2 Macc 3:1-3:3)

Simon and Apollonius of Tarsus (2 Macc 3:4-3:8)

Heliodorus comes to Jerusalem (2 Macc 3:9-3:12)

Setting a day to review the Temple funds (2 Macc 3:13-3:14)

The distress of the priests in Jerusalem (2 Macc 3:14-3:17)

The distress of the women of Jerusalem (2 Macc 3:18-3:23)

The punishment of Heliodorus (2 Macc 3:24-3:28)

The prayer of thanksgiving (2 Macc 3:29-3:30)

The high priest Onias prays for the life of Heliodorus (2 Macc 3:31-3:34)

The conversion of Heliodorus (2 Macc 3:35-3:40)


  IV. Hellenistic Propaganda

Simon and Onias (2 Macc 4:1-4:6)

Jason, the high priest tales over (2 Macc 4:7-4:10)

The actions of Jason, the high priest (2 Macc 4:11-4:17)

The Olympics at Tyre (2 Macc 4:18-4:20)

King Antiochus IV is welcomed at Jerusalem (2 Macc 4:21-4:22)

Menelaus become the high priest (2 Macc 4:23-4:29)

The murder of the high priest Onias (2 Macc 4:30-4:34)

The death of Andronicus (2 Macc 4:35-4:38)

The activities of Lysimachus (2 Macc 4:39-4:42)

Menelaus is acquitted (2 Macc 4:43-4:50)

The apparition in Jerusalem (2 Macc 5:1-5:4)

The deposed high priest Jason leads an unsuccessful uprising (2 Macc 5:5-5:10)

King Antiochus IV despoils the Temple (2 Macc 5:11-5:16)

The happiness of King Antiochus IV (2 Macc 5:17-5:20)

The governors of King Antiochus IV (2 Macc 5:21-5:23)

The second attack on Jerusalem (2 Macc 5:24-5:26)

The escape of Judas Maccabeus (2 Macc 5:27-5:27)

The introduction of the Greek god Zeus in the Temple (2 Macc 6:1-6:2)

The gentiles take over the Temple (2 Macc 6:3-6:6)

The installation of the pagan cults (2 Macc 6:7-6:9)

The punishment for circumcision (2 Macc 6:10-6:10)

The punishment for keeping the Sabbath (2 Macc 6:11-6:11)

The providential meaning of the persecution (2 Macc 6:12-6:17)

Eleazar refuses to eat the swine food (2 Macc 6:18-6:20)

Eleazar is urged to eat (2 Macc 6:21-6:23)

The speech of Eleazar (2 Macc 6:24-6:28)

The last words of Eleazar (2 Macc 6:28-6:30)

The death of Eleazar (2 Macc 6:31-6:31)

The arrest of the seven brothers with their mother (2 Macc 7:1-7:2)

The mutilation and killing of the spokesman for the sons (2 Macc 7:3-7:6)

The second son is brought forward to be mutilated (2 Macc 7:7-7:9)

The third son is willing to suffer (2 Macc 7:10-7:12)

The fourth son is also tortured (2 Macc 7:13-7:14)

The mutilation of the fifth son (2 Macc 7:15-7:17)

The sixth son dies (2 Macc 7:18-7:19)

The mother of the seven sons exhorts her sons (2 Macc 7:20-7:23)

The mother appeals to her youngest son (2 Macc 7:24-7:29)

The seventh son speaks out (2 Macc 7:30-7:38)

The mother and the last son are killed (2 Macc 7:39-7:42)


 V. Victory of Judaism

The prayer of Judas Maccabeus and his men (2 Macc 8:1-8:4)

The army of Judas Maccabeus (2 Macc 8:5-8:7)

The decision to wipe out the Jews (2 Macc 8:8-8:11)

Judas Maccabeus hears about the invasion (2 Macc 8:12-8:15)

Judas Maccabeus rallies his troops (2 Macc 8:16-8:18)

Judas Maccabeus recalls the past aid to their ancestors (2 Macc 8:19-8:20)

Judas Maccabeus gives his brothers assignments (2 Macc 8:21-8:23)

The defeat of the army of Nicanor (2 Macc 8:24-8:29)

Timothy and Bacchides are defeated (2 Macc 8:30-8:33)

The flight of Nicanor (2 Macc 8:34-8:36)

The anger of King Antiochus IV (2 Macc 9:1-9:4)

The cruel painful illness of King Antiochus IV (2 Macc 9:5-9:10)

King Antiochus IV accepts God (2 Macc 9:11-9:12)

King Antiochus IV reverses himself about the Jews (2 Macc 9:13-9:18)

The letter of King Antiochus IV to the Jews (2 Macc 9:18-9:22)

King Antiochus IV appoints a successor (2 Macc 9:23-9:27)

King Antiochus IV dies (2 Macc 9:28-9:29)

Purification of the Temple (2 Macc 10:1-10:4)

The celebration (2 Macc 10:5-10:9)


 VI. The struggles of Judas Maccabeus

King Antiochus V, Eupator (2 Macc 10:10-10:11)

The disgrace of Ptolemy (2 Macc 10:12-10:13)

Gorgias succeeds Ptolemy (2 Macc 10:14-10:14)

The war with the Idumeans (2 Macc 10:15-10:17)

The problem of bribery (2 Macc 10:18-10:23)

Judas Maccabeus prays for success against Timothy (2 Macc 10:24-10:26)

Judas Maccabeus relies on the Lord (2 Macc 10:27-10:28)

The heavenly horsemen (2 Macc 10:29-10:31)

The death of Timothy (2 Macc 10:32-10:38)

The first campaign of Lysias (2 Macc 11:1-11:4)

The divine intervention at Beth-zur (2 Macc 11:5-11:12)

The peace treaty with Lysias (2 Macc 11:13-11:15)

The letter of Lysias to the Jews (2 Macc 11:16-11:21)

The letter of King Antiochus V to Lysias (2 Macc 11:22-11:26)

The letter of King Antiochus V to the Jewish senate (2 Macc 11:27-11:33)

The letter of the Romans to the Jews (2 Macc 11:34-11:38)

Other problems for the Jews (2 Macc 12:1-12:2)

The drowning of Jews at Joppa (2 Macc 12:3-12:4)

Judas Maccabeus attacks Joppa and Jamnia (2 Macc 12:5-12:9)

Judas Maccabeus and the nomads (2 Macc 12:10-12:12)

The attack of Judas Maccabeus on Caspin (2 Macc 12:13-12:16)

The battle at Carnaim with Timothy (2 Macc 12:17-12:23)

The guile of Timothy (2 Macc 12:24-12:25)

The taking of the temple at Carnaim (2 Macc 12:26-12:26)

The battle of Ephron (2 Macc 12:27-12:28)

The happy visit to Scythopolis (2 Macc 12:29-12:31)

The campaign against Gorgias (2 Macc 12:31-12:34)

The defeat of Gorgias (2 Macc 12:35-12:37)

The Sabbath at Adullam (2 Macc 12:38-12:38)

The dead Jewish soldiers were idolaters (2 Macc 12:39-12:42)

The sacrifice for the dead in hope of the resurrection (2 Macc 12:43-12:46)

King Antiochus V and Lysias and their army (2 Macc 13:1-13:2)

The death of the high priest Menelaus (2 Macc 13:3-13:8)

Judas Maccabeus asks for prayers (2 Macc 13:9-13:12)

God’s victory at Modein (2 Macc 13:13-13:17)

King Antiochus V attacks the Jews (2 Macc 13:18-13:19)

The strange peace treaty (2 Macc 13:20-13:23)

Lysias defends the peace treaty in Ptolemais (2 Macc 13:24-13:26



 VII. The struggle against General Nicanor

King Demetrius I (2 Macc 14:1-14:2)

The intervention of the high priest Alcimus (2 Macc 14:3-14:5)

The speech of Alcimus before King Demetrius I (2 Macc 14:6-14:10)

Nicanor as the governor of Judea (2 Macc 14:11-14:14)

The battle with Nicanor (2 Macc 14:15-14:17)

Nicanor sends friendly emissaries (2 Macc 14:18-14:19)

The consultation of Judas Maccabeus and Nicanor (2 Macc 14:20-14:22)

Judas Maccabeus and Nicanor become friends (2 Macc 14:23-14:25)

Alcimus claims that Nicanor is disloyal (2 Macc 14:26-14:27)

Nicanor and Judas Maccabeus split (2 Macc 14:28-14:33)

The prayer of the priests in Jerusalem (2 Macc 14:34-14:36)

The tragic suicide death of Razis (2 Macc 14:37-14:46)

Nicanor plans to attack Judas Maccabeus (2 Macc 15:1-15:5)

Judas Maccabeus prepares to attack (2 Macc 15:6-15:11)

The dream about Onias the high priest (2 Macc 15:12-15:16)

The people prepare (2 Macc 15:17-15:19)

Judas Maccabeus prepares for battle (2 Macc 15:20-15:21)

The prayer of Judas Maccabeus (2 Macc 15:22-15:24)

The death of Nicanor (2 Macc 15:25-15:28)

The victory celebration (2 Macc 15:29-15:35)

The celebration of this event (2 Macc 15:36-15:36)

The end of the story (2 Macc 15:37-15:37)

Epilogue (2 Macc 15:38-15:39)



Thank you – 20

May 30, 2015

Thank you – 20


I just finished blogging the book of 1 Maccabees. Every time I finish a book of the Bible, I send a thank you blog. I usually post five blogs a day covering about a chapter or two of one of the biblical books. So far I have posted 2,570 blogs about the individual paragraphs of the first five books of the Torah, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, as well as the so-called historical books of Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel, 1 Kings and 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles and 2 Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah, Tobit, Judith, Esther, and now 1 Maccabees. This makes the first 20 books of the Bible that are now complete with a commentary for each paragraph. It has taken me nearly two years to get this done.


About a couple of hundred people have emailed me that they are following this project in some form or another. I do not think that I know any of you personally. 96 people receive an email subscription every day. About 10-20 people look at this site every day, but it has reached as high as 363 people on January 19, 2015, which was also the best week with 554 people that week. The best month was February, 2015 with 1,364 people. Last month, April 2015, only 248 people visited this site. There have been over 6,351 hits on this blog since its inception. I just want to thank all of you.


I realized that 168 of you have left comments, but I have not responded to them. There have been over 6,138 spam comments. Some of you might want to moderate my comments, which is fine with me. If you want to contact me directly, my email is


Since my last thank you note a few weeks ago, the following people have sent me emails about this blog site. Thank you very much. Here is the list. I would especially like to thank Ben Broenen who sent me more than 20 emails.


Ben Broenen
Sarah Fritsche
Stuart M. Perkins
Fernando Ortiz Jr.
E.I Wong
Meghan Miramontes
Nora Kleinman
Nora Kleinman


Peace –love-joy

Gene Finnegan

My Understanding of 1 Maccabees

What a long book! These guys like to fight. 1 Maccabees is the story of Mattathias and his sons who led a Jewish rebel army from 175 to 134 BCE that eventually took control of Judea. They founded a dynasty that ruled Judea for about a century from 164 BCE to 63 BCE with various degrees of authority. They reasserted the Jewish religious practices and expanded the boundaries of Judea. They also reduced the influence of Hellenism and Hellenistic Judaism.  This book highlights how the salvation of the Jewish people in this crisis came through Mattathias’ family, particularly his sons, Judas Maccabeus, Jonathan Apphus, and Simon Thassi, and at the end, Simon’s son, John.

1 Maccabees is part of the canonical Bible in the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Coptic Christian churches. As it was not part of the Hebrew Bible, the Reformers of the 16th century, the Anglican and the various Protetant denominations, considered it to be an apocryphal book. 1 Maccabees has no official religious status within Judaism, but it some Jewish historical interest. Interesting enough there are three other books titled Maccabees, 2, 3, and 4. For Catholics, 2 Maccabees is also a canonical work of the Bible that centers only on Judas Maccabeus. However, 3 and 4 Maccabees are not held as canonical except for the Orthodox Christian Churches. Thus the books of Maccabees are often considered as deutero-canonical books in most Christian Bibles.

The name Maccabee is often used as a synonym for the entire dynasty, but there was only one Maccabee, Judas Maccabeus. One explanation of the name’s origins is that it derives from the Aramaic word for hammer, in recognition of Judas’s ferocity in battle. The traditional Jewish explanation is that Maccabee is an acronym for the Torah verse that was the battle-cry in Exodus 15:11. ‘Who is like you, O Yahweh, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in splendor, doing wonders?’ This is almost like the Islamic verse. ‘There is no other God except Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.’

Though it might have been originally written in Hebrew,  the version of 1 Maccabees that we have today comes down to us via the Greek Septuagint translation.   Some authors date the original Hebrew text even closer to the events covered, while others suggest a later date, closer to 100 BCE, but none before 125 BCE. This unknown Jewish author wrote after the restoration of an independent Jewish kingdom, in the latter part of the 2nd century BCE. He showed intimate and detailed geographical knowledge of Israel. This biblical author interpreted the events not as a miraculous intervention by God, but rather that God was using the instrument of the military genius of the sons of Mattathias to achieve his ends. The prose is sometimes interrupted by poetic sections of laments and hymns of praise, which imitate classical Hebrew poetry.

In the early 2nd century BCE, Judea lay between the Ptolemaic Kingdom based in Egypt and the Seleucid Empire based in Syria.  Both of these kingdoms were formed after the death of Alexander the Great (356–323 BCE). Judea had been under Egyptian Ptolemaic rule, but fell to the Syrian Seleucids around 200 BCE. Judea was affected by the general Hellenism that begun with Alexander the Great. Some Jews, mainly those of the urban upper class, wished to dispense with Jewish law and to adopt a Greek lifestyle for economic and political reasons.

The author of 1 Maccabees regarded the revolt as a rising of pious Jews against the Seleucid king who had tried to eradicate their religion. This holy group was also against the Jews who supported the growing Hellenistic movement. Some modern scholars argue that the king was reacting to a civil war between traditionalist Jews in the countryside and the so-called renegade Hellenized Jews in Jerusalem. This revolt was less an uprising against foreign oppression than a civil war between the Jewish orthodox and reformist parties with religious, political, social, and economic factors in this conflict. What began as a civil war took on the character of an invasion when the king of Syria sided with the Hellenizing Jews against the Jewish traditionalists. As the conflict escalated, the Seleucid king prohibited the practices of the traditionalists. Gradually this civil war transformed into a war of national liberation.

King Antiochus IV Epiphanes (215–163 BCE), became the ruler of the Syrian Seleucid Empire in 175 BCE. Many of the renegade Jews accepted his gentile customs. After a successful attack on Egypt, King Antiochus IV pillaged the Jerusalem Temple and Jerusalem itself. He established a citadel fortress in Jerusalem. He then banned many traditional Jewish religious practices, Sabbath observance, or any public observance of Jewish laws, including ciccumcision and reading from the Mosaic Law. Altars to Greek gods were set up with Jewish prohibited animals sacrificed on them.

King Antiochus IV’s persecution of the religious traditionalists was unusual in antiquity as it was a departure from the usual Seleucid tolerance practice. The Seleucid Empire had rarely banned the religion of an entire people. King Antiochus IV claimed that this zealous Hellenizing policy was an attempt to unify the Seleucid Empire. He further introduced Hellenistic culture with the construction of a Greek gymnasium in Jerusalem.

Israel was then in mourning, lamenting the prison citadel in Jerusalem. Inspectors were sent out to make sure that the new laws were being followed.   As the persecution of the Jews continued, some Jews decided to die rather than follow these Hellenistic practices. However, there were many Jews who sought out or welcomed the introduction of Greek culture.

A rural Jewish priest from Modein, Mattathias sparked the revolt against the empire by refusing to worship the Greek gods. Mattathias and his five sons in Modein called upon people loyal to the traditions of Israel to oppose the invaders and the Jewish Hellenizers. Mattathias then killed a Hellenistic Jewwho stepped forward to offer a sacrifice to an idol. He and his five sons then fled to the wilderness of Judah after this incident. There was a loss of a thousand Jews when these defenders of the Jewish life refused to fight on the Sabbath. The other Jews with Mattathias then reasoned that, when attacked, they would fight even on the holy Sabbath day. A whole rebel army began around Mattathias.

At his death, Mattathias reminded his sons about their ancestors and the importance of the Law. He appointed Judas Maccabeus to be in charge of his army and his son Simon to be the high priest. About one year later after Mattathias’ death, in 166 BCE, his son Judas Maccabeus led an army of Jewish dissidents to victories with guerrilla warfare techniques. This revolt involved many battles, in which the Jewish forces gained notoriety among the Seleucid army. They were also against the Hellenizing Jews so that they destroyed the pagan altars in the villages. Judas Maccabeus became the new military and political leader, almost a legendary hero, as he won victory after victory. He defeated Apollonius and Seron, the commander of the Syrian army, as well as a successful campaign at Beth-horon.

As King Antiochus IV had money problems, he put Lysias in charge of half the Syrian army that was to wage war on Judah. Judas Maccabeus learned about the Syrian forces coming under the leader Gorgias, so that he and his fellow Israelites prayed at a penitential assembly at Mizpah. Judas Maccabeus then divided the troops. After he gave them a pep talk, they went to battle with Gorgias at Emmaus. He told them not to plunder the camp until the enemy was defeated. With this defeat, Lysias decided to go to battle himself. Once again, Judas Maccabeus prayed before the battle and defeated Lysias. After this victory, they entered Jerusalem in triumph.

When Judas Maccabeus saw the desolation in Jerusalem, he wanted to cleanse the sanctuary, rebuild the altar, and ritually cleanse the Temple. He reestablished traditional Jewish worship in 165 BCE as the Temple was re-consecrated. Then they had a great eight day celebration at the renewed Temple. They fortified the Temple and installed the brother of Judas, Jonathan, as the high priest.

Then a large Seleucid army was sent to quash the revolt, but returned to Syria on the death of Antiochus IV. Lysias, preoccupied with internal Seleucid affairs, agreed to a political compromise that restored religious freedom. Meanwhile their neighbors were angry at the Jews. Judas Maccabeus then fought against Idumea and the Ammonites. He received letters from Gilead about the dire situation in the north. Thus he led a military campaign in Galilee against the gentiles. He met with the Nabateans. Then he led an attack on Bozrah, Dathema, Alema and other cities.

His main opponent seemed to be Timothy and the other gentiles. He then attacked Carnaim. The people in Ephron refused him passage, so that he attacked them. Then he returned to Jerusalem. However, there was a reversal of fortunes at Jamnia as the Jews lost there, but the success of Judas and his brothers continued. Meanwhile King Antiochus IV was defeated at Elymais in Persia as he got the bad news about his army’s lose in Judah. He then had a death bed repentance for all the evil things that he had done.

Next Judas Maccabeus started a siege of the citadel in Jerusalem. In response there was the expedition of King Antiochus V (163-161 BCE), the young son of King Antiochus IV, with a battle at Beth-zechariah. However, the Jews were defeated at Beth-zechariah, Bethzur, and Jerusalem. In the middle of this, there was the dispute between Lysias, the guardian of King Antiochus V, and Philip, who had been with King Antiochus IV when he died. Lysias wanted to get back to Antioch to deal with Philip so he agreed to a peace treaty with the Jews.

However, King Demetrius I (161-150 BCE), the brother of King Antiochus IV, took over. The renegade Jewish folks led by Alcimus brought the mission of Bacchides to wipe out Judas Maccabeus. The Hasideans, an ascetic group who strictly followed the Law of Moses, backed Judas Maccabeus. However, Bacchides was not able to take Jerusalem, but Alcimus did become the high priest in charge in Jerusalem.

Next there was the fight between Nicanor, King Demetrius I’s man, and Judas Maccabeus in Judea. Nicanor threatened the Temple, but Judas prayed for success before he defeated him. This defeat became a big deal in 2 Maccabees.

The importance of the Romans came into play as Judas Maccabeus sent two men to the trustworthy Roman Senate. In fact, there was a copy of the letter of the Romans to the Jews with a postscript about King Demetrius I. Then King Demetrius I sent more troops to Jerusalem. Judas Maccabeus and his small group decided to fight before he died in this battle. After a large funeral for Judas Maccabeus, it looked like the triumph of the pro-Syrian party.

With the death of Judas Maccabeus in 160 BCE, Jonathan Apphus, the younger brother of Judas Maccabeus succeeded him. As the new leader, Jonathan went into the wilderness. When his brother John Gaddi needed help with baggage, he was attacked and killed by the Jambri family. Jonathan rallied the troops and then killed everyone in the Jambri wedding party. He fought at the Jordan River against the fortifications of Bacchides. With the death of the Syrian backed high priest Alcimus, they planned to attack Jonathan. They met at Bethbasi, where Bacchides was defeated and left for home.

Jonathan then made a peace treaty with King Demetrius I. Jonathan released the men at the citadel in Jerusalem. He rebuilt Jerusalem as the renegades fled from there. Then King Alexander I (150-145 BCE), the son of King Antiochus IV appeared on the scene. He sent a letter to Jonathan. King Demetrius I realized what King Alexander I had done. He also sent a letter to Jonathan, but it was addressed to all the Jews. He promised no more taxes. He was going to allow all the Jewish feast days and even have Jews in his army. He was willing to give money to Jerusalem. However, in the end Jonathan favored King Alexander I so that this led to the fall of King Demetrius I.

King Alexander I sent a message to Egypt and King Ptolemy responded favorably. The king of Egypt set up a wedding between his daughter Cleopatra and King Alexander I. Jonathan was then honored by the new king of Syria, King Alexander I.

Now King Demetrius II (145-138 BCE), the son of King Demetrius I, appeared on the scene. Apollonius sent messages to Jonathan. Jonathan went to Joppa and fought at Azotus with his brother Simon, where they were victorious. Once again, King Alexander I honored Jonathan.

Then King Ptolemy VI of Egypt visited Syria and saw the destruction at Azotus. King Ptolemy VI decided to give his daughter Cleopatra to King Demetrius II, taking her away from King Alexander I, after defeating him. King Demetrius II and Jonathan had a disagreement so they came to a meeting. Finally, King Demetrius II then sent a letter to Jonathan approving him.

King Demetrius II had a growing opposition to him in Antioch, so that Jonathan sent troops to him to help put down the revolt there. However, King Demetrius II did not keep his word with Jonathan. In the meantime, Trypho, one of King Alexander’s men, returned to unseat King Demetrius II. Trypho put the young King Antiochus VI (145—140 BCE) on the throne as they favored Jonathan also.

Meanwhile, Jonathan was on the offensive at Gaza as he met the officers of the deposed King Demetrius II at Hazor. He then sent messengers to Rome and Sparta, since the Spartans were somehow related to the Jews via Abraham. He had a copy of the letter sent to Onias, the Jewish high priest, by a Spartan king.

Jonathan then fought against the commanders of the army of the deposed King Demetrius II, while Simeon went to Askalon. They worked on further fortifications in Jerusalem. Meanwhile Trypho wanted to become king himself as he got rid of King Antiochus VI. Then Jonathan and the new King Trypho (140-138 BCE) met. King Trypho told him to send his troops home since he was going to honor him at Ptolemais. When Jonathan got there with only 1,000 troops, Trypho captured him in 140 BCE, since he had planned to defeat the Jewish troops.

Meanwhile, Simon Thassi, thinking that his brother Jonathan was dead, gave a speech in Jerusalem to encourage the Israelites. By proclamation he was declared the new leader. King Trypho then sent a message to Simon to say that he would turn over Jonathan since it was a question of money that was owed to him. If he gave him the two sons of Jonathan as hostages and 100 talents of silver everything would be okay. Simon, afraid that others would say he was not willing to save his brother, agreed. However, King Trypho went back on his work. As he headed north to his home, he killed Jonathan at Baskama. Simon then buried his brother Jonathan in the family tomb in Modein where he built a great monument with seven pyramids for each of the family members.

As King Trypho became king of Asia, Simon wanted to contact the deposed King Demetrius II, who then sent a letter back to Simon. Simon agreed to support King Demetrius II against King Trypho, who had killed his brother. In return King Demetrius II exempted him from paying taxes, but he was still in exile. Simon conquered the port of Joppa and Gaza as he expelled the gentile population there. He also expelled the gentiles from the citadel in Jerusalem. Thus in 140 BCE, he was recognized by an assembly of priests, leaders and elders as the high priest, the military commander and the ruler of Israel. Israel now had gained its independence with a nice poem about Simon, who had brought peace to Israel.

Shortly after this, the Roman Senate renewed its alliance with the Jewish people as they heard from Sparta and Rome. There was a letter from the Spartans as well as a letter from the Romans to the Egyptian king that was sent to the other kings. Simon thus had an alliance with Rome, as the envoys returned from there.

The people then honored Simon and his brothers. A proclamation in bronze tablets was prepared that talked about the exploits of Simon and Jonathan. Simon had brought peace to Judea. King Demetrius II praised Simon also. As Simon took command, he assumed a dictatorial authority, with the title of ethnarch.

However, King Antiochus VII (138-129 BCE), the brother of King Demetrius II, had a dispute with Simon as he sent Athenobius to Jerusalem to meet Simon. Cendebeus became the commander of the coastal country for King Antiochus VII. King Antiochus VII then sent a letter to Simon before he invaded Dor. Simon then sent his sons to fight and defeat Cendebeus.

There was a tragic ending to Simon and two of his sons. He was visiting his son-in-law, at a banquet where they all got drunk. Then his son-in-law Ptolemy and his men killed them while they were drunk. Ptolemy wanted to take over by killing John the son of Simon, but he was unsuccessful.

Although the sons of Mattathias won autonomy, the region remained a province of the Seleucid Empire. Simon was required to provide troops to King Antiochus VII. Simon led the people in peace and prosperity, until he is murdered by Ptolemy, the son of Abubus, his son-in- law in 134 BCE. However, he was succeeded as high priest by Simon’s son John.  This book ended here without indicating anything about what happened between John and Ptolemy.