International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
1. Rivalry of Syria and Egypt
2. Palestine Seized by Antiochus the Great
3. Accession of Antiochus Epiphanes
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
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 the Mediterranean Sea to 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 Antiochus III, 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
3. Accession of Antiochus Epiphanes:
The brother of the murdered king succeeded to the throne as Antiochus IV, 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 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. See ASMONEANS .
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 Maccabees 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
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
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
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 23of Ijjar (May), 141, the patriots entered even the
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 King James Version "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 Maccabees 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 Maccabees 6:43-46 ). For the further history of the Hasmonean dynasty, see ASMONEANS;
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.
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Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Maccabaeus; Maccabees'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/isb/m/maccabaeus-maccabees.html. 1915.