The Maccabean Revolt

The Maccabean revolt in particular and the Pharisaic party in general are to be explained as measures of resistance against the Hellenization of the Jewish people. This was the Jew's memorable struggle for freedom under the leadership of the Hasmonaean Judas Maccabaeus and his brothers. He gave back to Israel for the last time its political independence for a century. Jewish history and poetry have amply glorified the heroism, the courage to confess, the readiness to die of the Maccabean soldiers of the faith.

In a little town outside Jerusalem, a Greek official attempted to force an aged Jewish Levite priest to sacrifice to Greek gods. The name of the priest was Mattathias, of the Hasmonean house and after he had killed the official, other Jews joined in the fight. They became know as the Maccabees, the Hebrew word for hammer - because in battle after battle they dealt 'hammer blows' to the Seleucid armies. Mattathias died 166 BC and his mantle fell on his son Judas, a warrior of amazing military genius. Led by the 5 sons of Mattathias, the rebellion mushroomed from a spontaneous guerrilla operation into full-scale warfare. They won battle after battle against unbelievable and impossible odds. In 164 or 165 BC, the Jews shattered the armies and recaptured Jerusalem. They were able to cleanse and purify the Temple and throw out the heathen alter with which Antiochus had most horribly defiled the Temple three years previously. The temple was purged of all idols and rededicated to Jehovah, giving birth to the feast of Hanukkah, which commemorates the victory. This was the origin of the Feast of Dedication. Judea again became a theocracy, under the Hasmonean dynasty of priest kings.

Simon, the son of Mattathias was never anointed king but he nevertheless is regarded as the first of the Hasmonean dynasty. Officially he was the High Priest of Jerusalem and governor of Judah. Judas united the priestly and civil authority in himself, and thus established the line of Asmonean priest-rulers and for 100 years governed an independent Judea.

The fate of the Maccabaen epoch was sealed when the Roman general Pompey appeared in Syria in 63 BC.
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