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

“After consulting privately with the elders, he determined to march out and decide the matter by the help of God before the king’s army could enter Judea and get possession of the city. So, committing the decision to the Creator of the world, he exhorted his troops to fight nobly to the death for the laws, the temple, the city, the country, and the commonwealth. He pitched his camp near Modein. He gave his troops the watchword.

‘God’s victory.’

He picked a force of the bravest young men. He attacked the king’s pavilion at night. He killed as many as two thousand men in the camp. He stabbed the leading elephant and its rider. In the end they filled the camp with terror and confusion as they withdrew in triumph. This happened, just as day was dawning, because the Lord’s help protected him.”

Clearly the success of Judas Maccabeus came because of divine intervention on his side. Everything was done with the help of God. He first consulted with the elders, which seems to be a common practice. He committed his decision to the Creator, not the God of Israel. He wanted his troops to defend the laws, the Temple, the city, and the country. This took place near Modein, where his father was from, although there is no mention of his father Mattathias in 2 Maccabees. The key word was ‘God’s victory.’ He picked a few brave young men to lead the attack on the king’s pavilion at night. He killed 2,000 that night as well as the lead elephant. This led to confusion in the camp, another common biblical theme.

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

“The thrice-accursed Nicanor had brought one thousand merchants to buy the Jews. He was now humbled with the help of the Lord by opponents whom he regarded as of the least account. He took off his splendid uniform. He made his way alone like a runaway slave across the country until he reached Antioch. He had succeeded chiefly in the destruction of his own army! Thus he who had undertaken to secure tribute for the Romans by the capture of the people of Jerusalem proclaimed that the Jews had a Defender. Therefore the Jews were invulnerable, because they followed the laws ordained by him.”

Nicanor comes in for a heavy dismissal since he was cursed 3 times. He was the one who brought 1,000 merchants to buy the Jews for slavery. He was humbled by his opponents with the help of the Lord. However, he took off his wonderful uniform, and fled across the countryside like a runaway slave until he reached Antioch. His only success was that he had destroyed his own army. He now claimed that the Jews were invulnerable as long as they followed the laws of their almighty defender. Nicanor will appear again later in this book.

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

“Harsh and utterly grievous was the onslaught of evil. The temple was filled with debauchery and reveling by the gentiles. They dallied with prostitutes. They had intercourse with women within the sacred precincts. Besides they brought in things for sacrifice that were unfit. The altar was covered with abominable offerings which were forbidden by the laws. People could neither keep the Sabbath, nor observe the festivals of their ancestors, nor so much as confess themselves to be Jews.”

The gentiles took over the Temple. This was mentioned in 1 Maccabees, chapter 1, but here it is more specific, especially about prostitutes as part of a fertility cult. They would have intercourse in the sacred places to help have children. They also offered unfit sacrifices. The altars were full of all kinds of Jewish forbidden abominable offerings. The Israelites could not keep the Sabbath, nor observe their festival days. In fact, they could not even confess that they were Jews.

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

“Not long after this, King Antiochus sent an Athenian senator to compel the Jews to forsake the laws of their ancestors. He wanted them to no longer live by the laws of God. He was also to pollute the temple in Jerusalem. He was to call it the temple of the Olympian Zeus. He also was to call the temple in Gerizim the temple of Zeus, the Friend of Strangers, as did the people who lived in that place.”

King Antiochus IV sent an Athenian elder senator to compel the Jews to give up the laws of their ancestors and their God. He wanted to pollute the Temple in Jerusalem by calling it the Temple of the Olympian Zeus. He was putting in an altar and statue of Zeus in the Temple. This was a strong enforcement procedure. In 1 Maccabeus, it was more like a unification of worship in the Seleucid Empire, while here it is specific to Samaria and Jerusalem. The temple at Mount Gerizim of the Samaritans had the added title Zeus, Friend of Strangers.

Simon and Onias (2 Macc 4:1-4:6)

“The previously mentioned Simon, who had informed about the money against his own country, slandered Onias. Simon said that it was Onias who had incited Heliodorus. Onias had been the real cause of the misfortune. Simon dared to designate as a plotter against the government the man who was the benefactor of the city, the protector of his fellow countrymen, and a zealot for the laws. His hatred progressed to such a degree that even murders were committed by one of Simon’s approved agents. Onias recognized that the rivalry was serious. Apollonius son of Menestheus, and governor of Coele-syria and Phoenicia, was intensifying the malice of Simon. So he appealed to the king, not accusing his compatriots but having in view the welfare, both public and private, of all the people. He saw that without the king’s attention public affairs could not again reach a peaceful settlement. Simon would not stop his folly.”

Simon, the one who complained about the money in the Temple treasury, then slandered Onias. He said the Onias was the cause of the problem when he incited Heliodorus to look for the money. Simon was calling the kettle black. He was the one who started the investigation, but he was saying the Onias was the one who started the problem. Some of Simon’s men committed murder. Onias realized that Apollonius, the governor of the area, was siding with Simon. He decided that he would go directly to the king. Otherwise, there was no way to stop Simon. By this time Onias and Heliodorus were good friends, which bothered Simon also.

The good old days (2 Macc 3:1-3:3)

“While the holy city was inhabited in unbroken peace, the laws were strictly observed. This was due to the piety of the high priest Onias and his hatred of wickedness. It came about that the kings themselves honored the place and glorified the temple with the finest presents. Even King Seleucus of Asia defrayed from his own revenues all the expenses connected with the service of the sacrifices.”

This author reminds us of the good old days when things were peaceful in Jerusalem. The Mosaic laws were strictly observed because the good pious high priest, Onias III was in charge from 199-175 BCE. He hated wickedness. In fact, the Seleucid dynasty of kings honored this Second Jerusalem Temple with many presents, especially the Asian King Seleucus IV (186-175 BCE). Everything was wonderful because this king sent money to defray the expenses of the Temple in Jerusalem. 175 BCE seems to be the turning point here. Before that, everyone was happy.

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

“This is the story of Judas Maccabeus and his brothers. This is about the purification of the great temple and the dedication of the altar. Further there is an explanation of the wars against Antiochus Epiphanes and his son Eupator. There were appearances that came from heaven to those who fought bravely for Judaism. Although few in number, they seized the whole land and pursued the barbarian hordes. They regained possession of the temple famous throughout the world. They freed the city. They re-established the laws that were about to be abolished. The Lord with great kindness became gracious to them.”

For the first time, we have a biblical author tell us what he is going to do. This style is based on the custom of Greek historians. He summarized what he was going to do. This is the story of Judas Maccabeus and his brothers. They purified the Temple and dedicated the altar. They fought wars with King Antiochus IV and his son, King Antiochus V. There was heavenly help for the Jews. Although small in number, they chased the barbarian hordes. They took possession of the Temple and freed the holy city of Jerusalem. They reestablished the laws because God was kind to them. This so-called historical work has a clear Theo-centric basis. God was on their side.

The money problems of King Antiochus IV (1 Macc 3:27-3:31)

“When King Antiochus heard these reports, he was greatly angered.  He sent for and gathered all the forces of his kingdom, a very strong army.  He opened his coffers and gave a year’s pay to his forces.  He ordered them to be ready for any need.  Then he saw that the money in the treasury was exhausted.  The revenues from the country were small because of the dissension and disaster that he had caused in the land by abolishing the laws that had existed from the earliest days.  He feared that he might not have such funds as he had before for his expenses and for the gifts which he used to give more lavishly than preceding kings.  He was greatly perplexed in mind.  He determined to go to Persia.  There he could collect the revenues from those regions and thus raise a large fund.”

The Seleucid Syrian King Antiochus IV got angry when he heard these reports about Judas Maccabeus.  He wanted a strong army.  Thus he paid all the people in the army for a full year so that they would be ready at any moment.  However, he soon realized that he did not have as much money as he expected.  The revenues were diminishing after he set in motion the new laws of unification that did away with all the local laws.  There was a lot of dissension that led to this disaster.  He decided that he would go to Persia and get some money from that region there.