MACCABEES (măk'a-bēs, Gr. Makkabaioi). The name given to a Jewish family of Modin in the Shephelah. They initiated the Jewish revolt against, the Seleucid Syrian king who was forcing his Hellenizing policies on Palestine.
The story is told in the two books of the Maccabees in the Apocrypha. The uprising began in 168 b.c., when Mattathias, an aged priest, struck down a royal commissioner and an apostate Jew who were about to offer pagan sacrifice in the town. Mattathias leveled the altar and fled to the hills with his sons. To his standard rallied the Chasidim (“the Pious,” Gr. Hasidaioi). The old priest died after a few months of guerrilla warfare, and the same early fighting claimed two of his sons, Eleazar and John. The remaining three sons—Judas, Jonathan, and Simon—each in turn led the insurrection; and all left a deep mark on Jewish history.
Judas won the name of Maccabee, or “the Hammerer,” and he was the only member of the family to whom the term was applied in the Apocrypha. It was later history that used it as a surname for all three brothers. Judas was a fine soldier and patriot, with a clear policy of Jewish independence and religious reconstruction. Raising and organizing a fighting force of Galileans, Judas defeated major military expeditions sent against him in 166 and 165 b.c. In December of the latter year, Judas formally cleansed the temple of Syrian pollution and celebrated the occasion with a great festival. This festival became a permanent fixture, falling on December 25 and lasting eight days (
For the next eighteen months, Judas campaigned east of Jordan, while his brother Simon collected the Jews who were scattered through Galilee into the comparative safety of Judea. Judas at this point lost some of the support of the Chasidim, whose ambitions were largely fulfilled by the reestablishment of the temple service. Religious division, the perennial problem of all the Jewish struggles for independence, was thus responsible for a weakening of Judas’s position. Lysias, the Syrian general whom Judas had signally defeated at Beth Zur in the autumn of 165 b.c., gained his revenge at . Judas was routed, and the Syrian garrison still holding out in the citadel of Jerusalem was relieved. Lysias was in control of Syria during the brief reign of the minor, Antiochus Eupator, who succeeded Epiphanes in 163, and he was sensible enough to abandon Epiphanes’ attack on the religion of the Jews for the much more effective political policy of patronage. He set up a puppet high priest, Alcimus, who was accepted by the Chasidim. Judas was thus isolated but on Lysias’s withdrawal, marched against Alcimus. Demetrius I, the able and decisive ruler who succeeded Eupator in 162, sent a force under Nicanor to put down this new rebellion. Defeated by Judas, Nicanor retired to Jerusalem, but foolishly drove “the Pious” into renewed support of Judas by threatening reprisals against the temple. With the country again behind him, Judas defeated the Syrians at Adasa. Judas was now in control of the land and negotiated a treaty with Rome, in the terms of which Rome ordered Demetrius I to withdraw from Palestine. Judas’s move was a shrewd one, for since the Peace of Apamea (188) Syria had existed by Rome’s sufferance, and Demetrius had spent his youth as a hostage in Rome. Time was against Judas, for before the Senate’s prohibition was delivered to the king, Judas was defeated and killed by the general Bacchides at Elasa (
Jonathan succeeded his brother in 161 b.c., and the Maccabean revolt reverted to the guerrilla warfare with which it had begun. Dynastic troubles in Syria, however, played into Jonathan’s hands. , supported by Pergamum and Egypt, aspired to the Syrian throne; and both Demetrius and Alexander thought it expedient to secure the support of so determined a fighter as the second Maccabee. Demetrius offered the control of all military forces in Palestine and the governorship of Jerusalem. Alexander added an offer of the high priesthood. Jonathan chose Alexander and thus became the founder of the Hasmonean priesthood. By skillful support of Demetrius II, who dethroned Alexander, Jonathan maintained and strengthened his position. The difficulties of the later Seleucid Empire served his purposes well. Jonathan was even able to extend his power over the maritime plain, to fortify Jerusalem and other strong points in Judea, and to enter into treaty relationships with Rome. An army revolt in 143 unseated Demetrius II, and the young son of Alexander was enthroned as . Power was in the hands of the generals, one of whom, Tryphon, laid hold of Jonathan by treachery and executed him (
Simon, the third brother, inherited this critical situation. Simon was an able diplomat, who carried on his brother’s policy of profiting with some success by Syria’s internal troubles. In 143 and 142 b.c. he succeeded in establishing the virtual political independence of Judea. In 141, at a great assembly of princes, priests, and elders of the land, Simon was elected to be high priest, military commander, and civil governor of the Jews, “for ever until there should arise a faithful prophet.” The high priesthood was thus rendered hereditary in the family of Simon. Simon reestablished the treaty with Rome, which had proved a useful diplomatic advantage over Syria, whom Rome watched with some care and was not sorry to see embarrassed by her petty imperialism. Simon was murdered by his son-in-law at a banquet (
The story as above outlined is told in two independent narratives written by authors of different emphases and abilities, the First and Second Books of the Maccabees. The first book is an honest piece of historical writing, detailing without adornment the events of a stirring struggle for freedom. The second book covers much of the same material but slants the account in the direction of religious instruction and admonition. “By way of briefly characterizing the two authors of 1 and 2 Maccabees,” writes Bruce M. Metzger, “it may be said that the former was a sober historian who wished to glorify Israel and its heroic Maccabaean leaders and that the latter was a moralizing theologian who wished to emphasize the immeasurable superiority of Judaism over heathenism” (An Introduction to the Apocrypha, p. 130).——EMB
Only a brief historical background will be given in order to give a proper setting for the Maccabean revolt.
Israel under the Ptolemies (323-198 B.C.).
Israel under the Seleucids (198-63 B.C.).
Next year in 170 b.c. the amateur regents Eulaeus and Lenueus advised their minor king Ptolemy VI Philometor (see Ptolemy) to avenge Panias and recover Coele-Syria. Antiochus got wind of their plans and with a large army invaded Egypt in 170/169 b.c., defeating Ptolemy VI. He proclaimed himself as king of Egypt and allowed a rivalry to exist in Egypt by making Ptolemy VI Philometor king of Memphis and his brother Ptolemy VIII Euergetes king in Alexandria (
Antiochus’ vengeance (168-166 B.C.).
The next contact Jerusalem had with Antiochus IV was after his second campaign in Egypt in 168 b.c. The rival brothers had agreed to unite against their uncle Antiochus IV. Antiochus went to Egypt in the spring of 168 b.c. He subdued Memphis and when he was at Eleusis, a suburb of Alexandria, the Rom. representative Popillius Laenas (whom Antiochus knew at Rome) handed him an ultimatum from the senate to evacuate Egypt at once (cf. Polybius xxix. 2. 1-4; 27. 1-8; Livy xlv. 12. 1-6; Diodorus xxxi. 2; Velleius Paterculus i. 10. 1, 2; Appian, The Syrian Wars, 66; Justinus, Epitome xxxiv. 3;
Mattathias (166 B.C.).
Every village in Pal. was required to set up its heathen altar and imperial legates were present to see that citizens offered the heathen sacrifices. In the village of Modein (seventeen m. NW of Jerusalem) there lived an aged priest named Mattathias who lived with his five sons—John, Simon, Judas, Eleazar, and Jonathan. Antiochus’ agent came to Modein compelling the people to renounce God and to offer unclean sacrifices. Mattathias, as an acknowledged leader of the village, was asked to be an example by being the first to make an offering, but he refused. When another Jew stepped out to offer the sacrifice Mattathias slew him and the king’s legate. He then tore down the altar and proclaimed, “Let every one who is zealous for the law and supports the covenant come out with me” (
Judas Maccabeus (166-160 B.C.)
Rededication of the Temple (166-164 B.C.).
Religious freedom gained (163 B.C.).
The victories of Judas had resulted in making Judah reasonably secure. There were two things Judas still needed to accomplish. First, although Judah was reasonably secure, Judas and his brothers Jonathan and Simon determined to gain independence for all of Pal. All the Jews in all of Pal. must be brought under their rule. Therefore Judas carried out several campaigns against the Idumeans in the S, the Baeanites in Trans-Jordan, and the Ammonites NE of the Dead Sea (
Having accomplished his first goal he now started on his second one, viz., to get rid of the Syrian control of the Acra in Jerusalem. Their domination was a constant reminder that Antiochus’ decree forbidding the practice of the Jewish religion had not been withdrawn. In the spring or summer of 163 b.c. Judas laid siege to it. There were some Syrian soldiers and Hel. Jews who escaped and went to Antioch for help (
Political freedom desired (162-160 B.C.).
Having achieved the goal of the Maccabean revolt, Judas now wanted political independence for the nation. The Syrian government did not want this, so they had to strengthen the Hel. element among the Jews. Although the reports are conflicting, it seems that Lysias appointed Alcimus (Heb., Jakim, Jehoiakim) as high priest. He was of the Aaronic descent, but ideologically a Hellenist (cf.
At this stage Judas sent ambassadors to Rome to ask for protection against Syria. This move by Judas reveals his political aspirations. A treaty was concluded and Rome warned Demetrius that any interference with Judas would mean war with Rome. However, before Rome could have done anything, Demetrius had already taken steps to avenge Nicanor’s defeat. Only weeks after the defeat Demetrius sent an army under Bacchides who was accompanied by Alcimus. Because of the might of the Syrian army many men deserted Judas and in a battle at Eleasa (c. ten to twelve m. N of Jerusalem) Judas was slain. His brothers Jonathan and Simon took his body to be buried at Modein (
Jonathan (160-143 B.C.).
Judas’ death was a great blow to morale. His youngest brother Jonathan was selected to succeed him. The Hellenists were in control temporarily while Jonathan and his followers were in the wilderness of Tekoa, only able to carry on guerrilla warfare. Bacchides fortified Jerusalem and other Judean cities against a possible Maccabean attack. In May of 159 Alcimus died and soon after that Bacchides left his command in Judah and returned to Antioch. After two years of peace the Hellenizers requested Bacchides to return to Judah where he suffered defeat at Beth-basi (six m. S of Jerusalem). Bacchides made a peace treaty with Jonathan.
This peace treaty greatly weakened the Hellenizers, for they no longer enjoyed the undivided support of the Syrian government. Moreover, since Demetrius I did not appoint a high priest after Alcimus’ death they had no real leadership, and certainly with this new peace treaty Jonathan would oppose an appointment of a high priest since he would have authority over Jonathan. After the treaty was signed Bacchides returned to Antioch and Jonathan made his headquarters at Michmash (nine m. N of Jerusalem) where he judged the people, punishing the Hellenizers (
In 147 b.c. Alexander Balas was challenged by Demetrius’ son, Demetrius II Nicator, and was finally defeated and assassinated two years later. Demetrius II ascending the throne in 145 b.c. was only sixteen years of age. Jonathan took advantage of his inexperience and his insecure position on the throne by attacking the Acra where the Hellenizing Jews were still in control. Demetrius demanded that he withdraw the siege and report to him at Ptolemais. Jonathan boldly ordered his men to continue the siege while he went to Ptolemais with many gifts for Demetrius. Demetrius impressed by his audacity made him “Friend of the King,” confirmed his high priesthood, and granted Jonathan’s request of annexation of three districts of Samaria to Judah and exemption from tribute. Demetrius being weakened by the concessions and having trouble with his own army, Diodotus Tryphon (a general of Alexander Balas), claimed the Syrian throne for Alexander Balas’ son, . Jonathan took advantage of the situation and sided with Tryphon who in turn made Jonathan head of the civil and religious aspects and his brother Simon head of the military.
Jonathan turned to the diplomatic field by sending an embassy to Rome to reconfirm their alliance with Rome. Jonathan’s successful campaigns from Gaza to Damascus and his fortification of cities throughout Judah made Tryphon apprehensive. By deceit Tryphon was able to convince Jonathan to come with him to Ptolemais with only a few men. After Jonathan arrived Tryphon arrested him. At Adida (near Modein) Tryphon bargained with Jonathan’s brother Simon to release Jonathan for a hundred talents and two of Jonathan’s sons as hostages. Simon complied but Tryphon did not free Jonathan. Tryphon killed Jonathan at Bascam (NE shore of the b.c. He was buried at Modein (
The only remaining son of Mattathias, viz., Simon, became Jonathan’s successor. For his reign and the succeeding Hasmoneans, see Hasmoneans.
E. Schürer, HJP, I, i, 186-254; E. R. Bevan, The House of Seleucus, 2 vols. (1902), passim; E. Bevan, Jerusalem under the High-Priests (1904), 69-108; E. R. Bevan, “Syria and the Jews,” CAH, VIII (1930), 495-533; E. Bickerman, From Ezra to the Last of the Maccabees (1947), 93-145; S. Tedesche and S. Zeitlin, The First Book of Maccabees, Eng. tr., introd., and comm. (1950), passim; J. C. Dancy, A Commentary on I Maccabees (1954), passim; W. R. Farmer, Maccabees, Zealots, and Josephus (1956), 47-158, passim; R. A. Parker and W. H. Dubberstein, Babylonian Chronology 626 B.C.-A.D. 75, 2nd ed. (1956), 40, 41; V. Tcherikover, Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews (1959), 117-239; S. K. Eddy, The King Is Dead (1961), 183-238; S. Zeitlin, The Rise and Fall of the Judaean State, I (1962), 37-140; D. S. Russell, The Jews from Alexander to Herod, Vol. V of The New Clarendon Bible (1967), 1-57; B. Reicke,Era (1968), 42-62; Y. Aharoni and M. Avi-Yonah, The Macmillan Bible Atlas (1968), 110-128.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
(Makkabaios), mak’-a-bez (hoi Makkabaioi):
I. PALESTINE UNDER KINGS OF SYRIA
1. Rivalry of Syria and Egypt
2. Palestine Seized by Antiochus the Great
3. Accession of
II. PALESTINE UNDER THE MACCABEES
5. John Hyrcanus
6. John and Eleazar
The name Maccabeus was first applied to Judas, one of the sons of Mattathias generally called in English the Maccabees, a celebrated family who defended Jewish rights and customs in the 2nd century BC (1 Macc 2:1-3). The word has been variously derived (e.g. as the initial letters of Mi Khamokha, Ba-’elim Yahweh! "Who is like unto thee among the mighty, O Yahweh ?"), but it is probably best associated with maqqabhah "hammer," and as applied to Judas may be compared with the malleus Scotorum and malleus haereticorum of the(see next article). To understand the work of the Maccabees, it is necessary to take note of the relation in which the Jews and Palestine stood at the time to the immediately neighboring nations.
I. Palestine under Kings of Syria.
1. Rivalry of Syria and Egypt:
On the division of Alexander’s empire at his death in the year 323 BC, Palestine became a sort of buffer state between Egypt under the Ptolemies on the South, and Syria, under the house of Seleucus, the last survivor of Alexander’s generals, on the North. The kings of Syria, as the Seleucid kings are generally called, though their dominion extended practically from theto India, had not all the same name, like the Ptolemies of Egypt, though most of them were called either Seleucus or Antiochus. For a hundred years after the death of Alexander, the struggle went on as to which of the two powers was to govern Palestine, until in the year 223 came the northern prince under whom Palestine was destined to fall to the Seleucids for good.
2. Palestine Seized by Antiochus the Great:
This was, commonly known as Antiochus the Great. He waged two campaigns against Egypt for the possession of Palestine, finally gaining the upper hand in the year 198 BC by his victory at Panium, so called from its proximity to a sanctuary of the god Pan, a spot close to the sources of the Jordan and still called Banias. The Jews helped Antiochus to gain the victory and, according to Josephus, his rule was accepted by the Jews with good will. It is with him and his successors that the Jews have now to deal. Antiochus, it should be noticed, came in contact with the Romans after their conquest of Macedonia in 197, and was defeated by Scipio Asiaticus at Magnesia in 190. He came under heavy tribute which he found it difficult to pay, and met his end in 187, while plundering a Greek temple in order to secure its contents. His son and successor Seleucus IV was murdered by his prime minister Heliodorus in 176-175 BC, who reaped no benefit from his crime.
3. Accession of Antiochus Epiphanes:
The brother of the murdered king succeeded to the throne as Between the Testaments). Pious Jews meanwhile, men faithful to the Jewish tradition, Chasidim (see Hasidaeans), as they were called, resisted this tendency, and in the end were driven to armed resistance against the severe oppression practiced by Antiochus in advancing his Hellenizing views., generally known as Antiochus Epiphanes ("the Illustrious"), a typical eastern ruler of considerable practical ability, but whose early training while a hostage at Rome had made him an adept in dissimulation. Educated in the fashionable Hellenism of the day, he made it his aim during his reign (175-164 BC) to enforce it upon his empire a policy which brought him into conflict with the Jews. Even before his reign many Jews had yielded to the attraction of Greek thought and custom, and the accession of a ruler like Antiochus Epiphanes greatly increased the drift in that direction, as will be found described in the article dealing with the period between the Old and the New Testaments (see
II. Palestine under the Maccabees.
Mattathias, a priest of the first 24 courses and therefore of the noblest who dwelt at Modin, a city of Judah, was the first to strike a blow. With his own hand he slew a Jew at Modin who was willing to offer the idolatrous sacrifices ordered by the king, and also Apelles, the leader of the king’s messengers (1 Macc 2:15-28). He fled with his sons to the mountains (168 BC), where he organized a successful resistance; but being of advanced age and unfit for the fatigue of active service, he died in 166 BC and was buried "in the sepulchres of his fathers" at Modin (1 Macc 2:70; Josephus, Ant, XII, vi, 3). He apparently named as his successor his 3rd son, Judas, though it was with real insight that on his deathbed he recommended the four brothers to take Simon as their counselor (1 Macc 2:65).
Judas, commonly called Judas Maccabeus--often called in 2 Maccabees "Judas the Maccabee"--held strongly the opinions of his father and proved at least a very capable leader in guerrilla warfare. He defeated several of the generals of Antiochus--Apollonius at Beth-horon, part of the army of Lysias at Emmaus (166 BC), and Lysias himself at Bethsura the following year. He took possession of Jerusalem, except the "Tower," where he was subsequently besieged and hard pressed by Lysias and the young king Antiochus Eupator in 163 BC; but quarrels among the Syrian generals secured relief and liberty of religion to the Jews which, however, proved of short duration. The Hellenizing Jews, with ALCIMUS (which see) at their head, secured the favor of the king, who sent Nicanor against Judas. The victory over Nicanor first at Capharsalama and later (161 BC) at Adasa near Beth-horon, in which engagement Nicanor was slain, was the greatest of Judas’ successes and practically secured the independence of the Jews. The attempt of Judas to negotiate an alliance with the Romans, who had now serious interests in these regions, caused much dissatisfaction among his followers; and their defection at Elasa (161 BC), during the invasion under Bacchides, which was undertaken before the answer of the Roman Senate arrived, was the cause of the defeat and death of Judas in battle. His body was buried "in the sepulchres of his fathers" at Modin. There is no proof that Judas held the office of high priest like his father Mattathias. (An interesting and not altogether favorable estimate of Judas and of the spiritual import of the revolt will be found in Jerusalem under the High Priests, 97-99, by E.R. Bevan, London, 1904.)
Jonathan (called Apphus, "the wary"), the youngest of the sons of Mattathias, succeeded Judas, whose defeat and death had left the patriotic party in a deplorable condition from which it was rescued by the skill and ability of Jonathan, aided largely by the rivalries among the competitors for the Syrian throne. It was in reality from these rivalries that resulted the 65 years (129-64 BC) of the completely independent rule of the Hasmonean dynasty (see Asmoneans) that elapsed between the Greek supremacy of the Syrian kings and the Roman supremacy established by Pompey. The first step toward the recovery of the patriots was the permission granted them by Demetrius I to return to Judea in 158 BC--the year in which Bacchides ended an unsuccessful campaign against Jonathan and in fact accepted the terms of the latter. After his departure, Jonathan "judged the people at Michmash" (1 Macc 9:73). Jonathan was even authorized to reenter Jerusalem and to maintain a military force, only the "Tower" the Akra, as it was called in Greek, being held by a Syrian garrison.
See further under ASMONEANS; LACEDAEMONIANS; TRYPHON.
Simon, surnamed Thassi ("the zealous"?) was now the only surviving member of the original Maccabean family, and he readily took up the inheritance. Tryphon murdered the boy-king Antiochus Dionysus and seized the throne of Seleucus, although having no connection with the Seleucid family. Simon accordingly broke entirely with Tryphon after making successful overtures to Demetrius, who granted the fullest immunity from all the dues that had marked the Seleucid supremacy. Even the golden crown, which had to be paid on the investiture of a new high priest, was now remitted. On the 23rd of Ijjar (May), 141, the patriots entered even the Akra "with praise and palm branches, and with harps, and with cymbals and with viols, and with hymns, and with songs" (1 Macc 13:51). Simon was declared in a Jewish assembly to be high priest and chief of the people "for ever, until there should arise a prophet worthy of credence" (1 Macc 14:41), a limitation that was felt to be necessary on account of the departure of the people from the Divine appointment of the high priests of the old line and one that practically perpetuated the high-priesthood in the family of Simon. Even a new era was started, of which the high-priesthood of Simon was to be year 1, and this was really the foundation of the Hasmonean dynasty (see Asmoneans).
5. John Hyrcanus:
John Hyrcanus, one of the sons of Simon, escaped from the plot laid by Ptolemy, and succeeded his father, both as prince and high priest. See Asmoneans. He was succeeded (104 BC) by his son Aristobulus I who took the final step of assuming the title of king.
6. John and Eleazar:
Two members of the first generation of the Maccabean family still remain to be mentioned:
(1) John, the eldest, surnamed Gaddis (the"Caddis"), probably meaning "my fortune," was murdered by a marauding tribe, the sons of JAMBRI (which see), near Medeba, on the East of the Jordan, when engaged upon the convoy of some property of the Maccabees to the friendly country of the Nabateans (1 Macc 9:35-42).
(2) Eleazar, surnamed Avaran, met his death (161 BC) in the early stage of the Syrian war, shortly before the death of Judas. In the battle of Bethzacharias (163 BC), in which the Jews for the first time met elephants in war, he stabbed from below the elephants on which he supposed the young king was riding. He killed the elephant but he was himself crushed to death by its fall (1 Macc 6:43-46). For the further history of the Hasmonean dynasty, see Asmoneans; Books of Maccabees.
There is a copious literature on the Maccabees, a family to which history shows few, if any, parallels of such united devotion to a sacred cause. The main authorities are of course the Maccabean Books of the Apocrypha; but special reference may be made to the chapters of Stanley, Lectures on the History of the Jewish Church, dealing with the subject, and to E.R. Bevan. Jerusalem under the High Priests, 1904, or to the 2nd volume of House of Seleucus by the same author, 1902.