ספר מקבים Sifrei Maccabim (Maccabees)

By Levi Clancy for לוי on
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ספר מקבים א Sifrei Maccabim Echad (I Maccabees) and ספר מקבים ב Sifrei Maccabim Shnayim (II Maccabees) are the two texts of ספר מקבים Sifrei Maccabim (Maccabees).

The Maccabees books are not preserved in the Jewish or Protestant bible, but rather the Apocrypha of the Catholic and Orthodox bibles. They are split into various sections: I and II Maccabees.

1 Maccabees begins by chronicling who were the Maccabees and their greater context. Then in 1 Maccabees 1:11 a dichotomy is asserted: either be a Jew and follow the Torah; or accept Hellenism and forget even circumcision.

While there was initially a choice, the Seleucid kings eventually forcefully imposed Hellenism (1 Maccabees 1:42) and ratcheted their anti-Jewish sentiment. Then came the Zeal of Mattathias, which set the tone for Maccabean revolt against Antioch.

EventTimeOverview

Maccabean revolt

168 - 165 BC

מַתִּתְיָהוּ Matityahu (Mattathias). Maccabean victories were able to Antiochus rescinded his decree that banned Judaism and imposed Zeus worship.

164 BC

The temple was rededicated, an event celebrated during Hanukah.

Judah and Jonathan

TimeOverview

~ 161 BC

יהודה המכבי Judah Maccabee. Judas was killed.

161 - 143 BC

Jonathan succeeded his brother. However, the revolt was in eclipse. Jonathan and his followers were frequently on the run from the Seleucid army. Seleucid in-fighting allowed Jonathan to court both claimants to the Seleucid throne. He was able to secure the high priesthood and the Seleucid king's friendship. However, one of the king's rivals assassinated Jonathan after he made a political miscalculation.

Hasmonean dynasty

143 - 63 BC

TimeOverview

143 - 135 BC

Jonathan's brother Simon became leader, and the Hasmonean Dynasty is considered as formally beginning on this date. "The yoke of the Gentiles was removed from Israel" 1 Maccabees 13:41-42.

Maccabean revolt (168 - 165 BC)

מַתִּתְיָהוּ Matityahu (Mattathias) galvanized of Jews to rebel against Seleucid repression.

From a Maccabean perspective, it was one thing to be ruled by a foreign empire, but an entirely different thing if the Temple were intruded. A foreign ruler could pacify the Jewish Jerusalemites by keeping the Temple sacrosanct, its exclusivity from gentiles. But the moment the hegemon desecrated the Temple, the Jews would erupt and repulse his yoke. The temple was the nucleus of Jewish identity.

The Zeal of Mattathias I Maccabees 2

Mattathias kills a Jew forced to sacrifice to the foreign god. This was the first action on the part of the Maccabbeees to throw off the Seleucid yoke. He tore down altars like other kingdom deemed righteous in the ore exilic era Hezekiah and Josiah. This places him literarily in history. Then a mention of zimri -- this references Numbers 25, when Phineas commits murder when an Israelite tries to have sex with a non Israelite.

Mattatias actions here set the tone of the Maccabean way, which is to take up arms against the enemy and sometimes against your own to fight a battle to maintain Jewish identity. But what sort of Jewish identity do the maccabeans have in mind is a Further question. They eventually establishes a new natiinn likened to David and Solomon's Israel.

Antiochus rescinded his decree of religious suppression. The Jews once again had their temple and the right to worship as they chose. For many Jews his was sufficient; their religion was safe, and they ceased fighting. Not so the Maccabees. Whatever their initial reasons for fighting, they had now developed a desire to secure independence for Judah as a nation once more. This was a bold dream, for Judah had not been independent for many centuries. For many Jews this was an absurd notion, and support for the Maccabees dropped drastically. Grabbe, p 11

Rededication of Temple (164 BC)

The Maccabees rededicate the temple at Jerusalem. Seleucid rule officially comes to end.

Judah and Jonathan

Under Mattathias and Judas Maccabee, the Israelites wrested control of Jerusalem from the Hellenistic kings, thus returning native control of Jerusalem for the first time in 400 years.

Maccabean rule is short lived in Jerusalem but this ideal of the sanctity of the temple amid foreign occupation or rule will persist into the Roman period. Sons of Mattathias, especially his son Judas, were very successful.

יהודה המכבי Judah Maccabee

Also called Judas Maccabeus. Once Judas defeats Seleucid rulers in Juda and wherever he chooses blameless priests (see 1 Maccabees 4:41-51). These military Jews had only the greatest care and delicate concern for the temple, the Maccabees were almost priestlike. The biblical authors emphasize this as a purification of the temple.

Jonathan (Apphus) Maccabeus

Hasmonean dynasty (143 - 63 BC)

Simon (Thassi) Maccabeus

Collapse

Maccabean rule grew evermore corrupt and incompetent, thus allowing Rome to exert more and more influence.

When infighting erupted in 70 BC among Maccabean endeavorers for the throne, Rome sent a general named Pompey to exert Roman hegemony on the eastern Mediterranean seaboard. Pompey seized Jerusalem in 63 BC, initiating an era of Roman rule.