Maccabees and Jewish Independence

The Maccabean Revolt (166-135 BC)

Pious Israelites realized the actions of Antiochus Epiphanes were threatening their national and religious existence. 1 Maccabees 1:44-50 explains how the customs of Jewish beliefs were being infringed upon, “[Antiochus] directed them to follow customs strange to the land, to forbid burnt offerings and sacrifices and… to build altars and sacred precincts and shrines for idols, to sacrifice swine and other unclean animals, and to leave their sons uncircumcised”.

This led to the revolt which was first started by Judas Maccabee’s father, the old priest Mattathias, when he refused to offer a pagan sacrifice. A different Jew paid the sacrifice for him. Mattathias was outraged and killed the Jew and the Syrian official.

arch_of_titus_menorahImages from Google Images


Mattathias and his five sons gathered an army in the hills to fight the Syrian army. They were allied with the Hasidim who desired no pagan influence in Judaism.

Mattathias died in 166 BC and that is when Judas took over as leader. Judas and the rebel army continually beat the Syrian army and liberated the temple from Jerusalem with a little help from the Hasidim. The victory was celebrated and became the Jewish festival called Hanukkah. (Strauss, Pg 101-102, 2007)


Hasmonean Dynasty (135-63 BC)ensignlp-nfoo1dc8

The Hasmonean dynasty was named after Hasmon when his descendant, Simon, claimed political control over Israel from the Syrians in 135 BC. Although Israel was now freed of Seleucid rule, their future was less than peaceful.

Images from Google Images


Simon and his sons were assassinated by Ptolemy in 135 BC leaving Simon’s son in law, John Hyrcanus, to being an expansionist policy. In true free nation style, John Hyrcanus conquered the Idumeans and the Samaritans then forced Judaism upon them.

In addition to the tension that veils Samaritan and Jewish relations, the burning of
Samaritan temples did not improve such relations. This rivalry is mentioned many times throughout the gospels.

In 103 BC, Alexander Jannaeus continued his father’s expansionist policy by expanding his territory into thekingdoms of David and Solomon. As the priest kings of Israel expanded and leaned towards hellenistic qualities in their new territories the Hasidim decide to separate themselves from the hellenizing Hasmonean priest-kings. This resulted in three people groups; the Pharisees and \the Essenes who viewed the Hasmonean priesthood as illegitimate, and the Sadducees who were supporters of the Hasmonean dynasty. (Strauss, Pg 102-104, 2007)   (Picture from Google Images).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s