I & II Maccabees
These are not divinely inspired scripture, but do give us an account of God’s dealing with His people during this time.
This was a time of hard-one victory over a despised enemy, only to be followed by such bitter internal division that the Jews eventually gave away their freedom in trying to defeat one another.
Revolt against evil rulers…
In 166 B.C., within a year of offering a pig on the Temple alter, Antiochus IV sent a contingent to force local villagers to sacrifice pigs to Zeus. Still, many in Israel chose to die rather than to break the holy covenant. When Antiochus’ men came to the small town of Modein, about 12 miles northwest of Jerusalem, and a young man stepped forward to perform the required sacrifice to Zeus the priest Mattathias stabbed him to death, then turned on the Greek commander and killed him as well. Mattathias quickly grabbed his five sons and headed to the hills to hide, as did many of the townspeople, fearing reprisals. Thus a rebellion was started by the priest Mattathias and his five sons.
Over the next few months more people from the countryside, including many of the Hasidim, joined them in the hills of Judea and they began a campaign of guerrilla warfare. Casualties were heavy against the much larger and better equipped Greek army. Mattathias and two of his five sons had been killed before the first substantial victory was won.
Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to him, “How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled—the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, the surrender of the sanctuary and the trampling underfoot of the Lord’s people?”
He said to me, “It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated.” Daniel 8:13-14 NIV
Despite heavy losses, Mattathias’s third son, Judas (called Maccabeus), managed to recapture Jerusalem. The name “Maccabee” or “Maccabeus” is composed of the initial letters of a verse the Jewish people sang after God split the sea (Exodus 15:11): “Mi kamocha ba’eilim Hashem (מי כמוך באילים י׳), “Who is like You among the mighty, O G‑d.” It is said that this phrase was the battle cry of Maccabees, written upon their banners and shields.
On Kislev 25, 165 BC, three years to the day after the first abominable sacrifice had been offered, the temple was cleansed, new altar was rededicated and the daily sacrifices to Yahweh once again offered in the Jerusalem temple. From the time Antiochus IV had plundered the temple in 170 BC until Judas Maccabeus recaptured Jerusalem and led the people in shattering the statue of Zeus and cleansing the temple on 25th Kislev 164 BC was six years and 110 days (2,300 evenings and mornings without their proper sacrifices). (1)
Temple cleansed and miracle lights…
They shattered the statue of Zeus and cleansed the Temple. The legend is that they could only find one small flask of uncontaminated oil with the seal of the High Priest for lighting the Menorah (seven-branched golden lampstand) and re-dedicating the temple to Yahweh. This was only enough to last one day, and it would take eight days to produce a new batch of pure oil. Miraculously it burned for the full eight days. This re-dedication of the temple has been celebrated by the Jews every year since 164 B.C. for eight days.
Eight days is also the length of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles), the holiday some say the Jewish people celebrated upon rededicating the Temple (as they had been unable to celebrate it at the proper time due to the ongoing battle). Solomon himself had chosen that very same Feast of Tabernacles to dedicate the first Temple when it was newly built. So, the eight-day festival of joy and thanksgiving would have been an especially appropriate way to commemorate this rededication of the Temple. Thus, the festival established to commemorate this victorious dedication, Hanakkah / Chanuka (Feast of Dedication, often now referred to as the Festival of Lights), lasts for eight nights (2) (3).
Judas Maccabeus ruled as leader of the army after his father’s death in 167 BCE. When Judas died of the Battle of Elasa (161/160 BCE), the youngest brother, Jonathan, was chosen as the new leader. He attacked enemy armies and Jewish Hellenists alike. Through military victories and strategic alliances Jonathan achieved peace and was appointment as High Priest by the new ruler of the Seleucid Empire, Alexander Balas. The High Priesthood was no longer primarily a religious office focused on the temple and determined by descent through the line of Levi, Aaron and Zadok (Lev. 21:1, 1 Chr. 29:22, 2 Chr. 31:10) but had degenerated into a political office appointed by a foreign power to rule the Jewish people. Thus there was no thought to send to Egypt to request someone from the high priest’s line return to Jerusalem and take up their rightful place again. Indeed, much of the purpose of the writing of I & II Maccabees was to justify the Maccabees’ holding these positions due to their bravery in battle to restoring Temple worship.
On Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles) of 153 BC, Jonathan put on the High Priest’s garments and officiated in the temple for the first time. Ten years later Jonathan was tricked and captured by Diodotus Trypho. After the capture of Jonathan, his brother Simon became leader of the people. He paid the ransom asked for his brother but Trypho killed Jonathan instead. Simon had ongoing battles with Trypho until he sided with Demetrius II and received freedom from taxation and recognition of Judah’s political independence in return (142 BC).
The Hasmonean Period (142 – 40 BC)…
The period from 142 BC (the date of independence) to 40 BC (the beginning of the reign of ‘Herod the Great’ under the Romans) is called the Hasmonean period, because the ruling family – the family of the priest Mattathias and his sons Judas, Jonathan, and Simon – was the house of Hasmon. Under the Hasmoneans the Sanhedrin continued to hold an important place in Jewish life, but the autocratic tendencies developed by some of these princes led to a curtailment of its authority at times. (4)
Simon declared himself both High Priest and king (even though he was neither from the line of Zadok nor that of David, he was from the priestly Aaronic line).
Zugos – fathers of pharisaic Judaism…
Another shift had taken place in the development of the Pharisees. With the death of Antigonus the authority over the Torah school that he represented was transmitted to two of his disciples, Yose ben Yoezer and Yose ben Yochanan. With them began the period of the Zugos [Pairs], five pairs of renown pharisaic sages who shared the leadership of the developing pharisaic movement. Designated Nassi (prince/president); and Av Beis Din (chief/vice president of the court), they were responsible for transmitting the Oral Law and heading the judgments on such. Each of these pharisaic sages established Torah schools in their own generation to teach their disciples their wisdom and interpretation of the Torah and Oral Law. It was from their disciples that the next Zugos would be chosen on their passing. During times of pharisaic political ascendancy they also held the two top positions in the Sanhedrin.
With the purge of Hellenists from Jerusalem, many leading Pharisees took advantage of the opportunity to gain political power and influence as members of the Sanhedrin. They operated as a balance to Simon’s spiritual and political power and there was respect shown between the two. The people were now freely worshipping God and had been unburdened of foreign taxes and so started to prosper. (5) (6) (7)
Each of the pharisaic sages, during this period, had a saying that epitomised their wisdom and teaching. These are recorded and discussed in the first chapter of Pirkei Avot, and give us further insight into the development of Jewish thought and prioritisation in their religious practice.
Pirkei Avot (sometimes just referred to as Avot) is among the most well known of all writings in Rabbinic Judaism. Pirkei (sayings) Avot (fathers) is one of the sixty-three tractates found in the Mishnah, the code of Jewish law compiled in the early third century C.E. from the Oral Law that was being developed throughout the time of occupation. Pirkei Avot is considered supremely important to Judaism because it justifies the authority of the rabbis, something the Bible does not do. The statements attributed to the rabbis in Pirkei Avot express the basic concerns and central ideas that occupied the rabbis.
Yose b. Yoezer’s saying was: “Let your house be a meeting place for the wise; sit in the dust of their feet; and drink in their words for thirst” (Avot 1:4).
Yose b. Yochanan’s saying was: “Let your house be so wide open that the poor may enter it as were they intimates there; and do not hold too much discourse with women” (Avot 1:5). The sage’s discussion on this one counselled even against engaging in much conversation with one’s wife.
Yose b. Yoezer was killed in 140 BC and Yehoshua ben Perachya became Nassi.
Yehoshua’s admonition was: “Provide yourself with a teacher, acquire for yourself a friend, and judge all people favourably.” (Avot 1:6)
Yehoshua’s pair was Nithai the Arbelite, who was accustomed to say: “Keep aloof from a wicked neighbour, associate not with a sinner, and never consider yourself exempt from God’s chastisement.” (Avot 1:7)
Many Romans turn to Judaism…
The Jewish diaspora had spread far and wide, taking their religion with them and influencing people everywhere they went to leave their pagan ways and worship the one true God as He desires to be worshipped. As Rome gained territory many were now under Roman rule. In 139 BC the Romans ruled that Jews could worship freely in all Roman territories. That same year, however, all Jews were expelled from the city of Rome because the government became fearful of the Jewish influence as many Romans began believing and practising the Jewish teachings.
Politics and power mired in strife, division and murder…
Simon reigned for seven years until he and his two oldest sons were slain at a banquet by his son-in-law Ptolemeus, the governor of Jericho, in 135 BCE. (8)
Jonathan Hyrcanus, the only son of Simon not slain at the banquet, immediately rushed to Jerusalem and installed himself in his father’s place as both High Priest and King. Then he rallied the Sanhedrin and the people to his side, rescued his mother who had been held to ransom and forced Ptolemeus to flee. His tenure then faced a year-long Syrian siege that forced him agree to tear down Jerusalem’s fortifications and renew tribute to the Greek emperor in 133 BCE. Within a few years, however, he took advantage of political turmoil in Syria following the death of Antiochus VII (129 BCE) to rebuild his forces, reclaim independence and extend Judean control over Palestine and Jordan. He also took the seaport of Jaffe and Jews became partners with the Phoenicians in shipping and trade all the way to North Africa, Italy and Rome. Jonathan strengthened the Torah education system, observed it closely himself, put great expense into improving the temple edifice and insisted on higher standards for the temple service. Under his reign the nation reached new heights of prosperity and greatness.
Some of Jonathan’s efforts, however, had unintended consequences. To ensure ongoing peace and stability, he forcibly brought all his new territories under the Torah. On the southern front he forced Judah’s neighbours in Idumea (the Edomites) to convert to Judaism. From these converted Edomites, Herod the Great later emerged.
On the northern front he destroyed the rival temple at Shechem in Samaria.
Like many of the wealthy aristocrats, Jonathan developed an appreciation for Greek culture and learning, seeing this as perfectly compatible with his Jewish faith and essential for engaging on the world stage. This put him at odds with the Pharisaic religious leaders who forbade attendance at Greek theatres or gymnasiums or engaging with Greek learning or other forms of Greek culture as they laboured to put a fence around the Torah to keep the Jewish population from being polluted by this most insidious outside influence.
The Hasidim (“pious ones”) had been warning about the dangers of Hellenism since this foreign culture first presented itself to the Jews, and knew that their hatred of these strange ways had been proven justified by all that led up to the Maccabean Revolt and the bloody battles that followed. To them there was no difference between reading Greek literature and polluting the temple by offering a pig as sacrifice to Zeus on its alter; all of it was detestable and led down that same slippery slope to destruction. It was from the Hasidim that the Pharisees had developed. Jonathan now found himself rejected by the Pharisees in the Sanhedrin, who challenged his right to be High Priest.
He responded by dismissing all the Pharisees from the Sanhedrin and forming an exclusively Sadducean Sanhedrin. By removing from power all those with whom he disagreed, Jonathan removed the checks and balances which had been part of the strength of his early reign. The Pharisees and Sadducees were devolving into fiercely opposing political powers who saw no value in the other. Jonathan died in 104 B.C. (9) (10) (11) (12) (13)
Vehement differences of opinion were evident between different Torah scholars and priests during this time. One of the big issues of debate was Hellenism which was on the rise once again. Many of the scholars shared the views of the Hasidim that every aspect of Greek culture was an abomination to God and the Jews needed to keep themselves totally separate from it. Others, particularly among those who had the wealth and connections to benefit from the changes, were more open minded and argued for integrating those aspects that would bring such godly blessings as increased knowledge, reasoning, sophistication and wealth.
Another area of increasingly bitter dispute was the Oral Law. Proponents claimed that it provided the necessary fence around the Torah, safeguarding their law, customs and traditions from the pollutions of Greek culture and other heathen ways, and so had to be fully obeyed, yet were divided among themselves as to what the correct laws were. Detractors argued that it had no legitimacy and they were only bound to obedience to the written Torah.
While all agreed on the spiritual authority of the Torah, there were differing interpretations of what it meant to obey Torah. The spiritual authority of the rest of the scriptures in the Tanakh was also hotly disputed with some exalting the other scriptures to the same level of inspired authority as the Torah, and others refusing to accept the divine inspiration of the Nev’im (Prophets) and/or the K’tuvim (Writings).
There were also arguments over the correct way of performing many of the temple duties, correct timing and method for celebrating each feast, and regulations for marriage and divorce. Almost anything that could have a doctrine or practice formed around it, had bitterly opposing doctrines and differing practices formed around it. Judaism had become polarised around extremes. The three most significant parties to come out of this time and continue until after the destruction of the second temple were the Pharisees and Essenes who came from the Hasidim tradition and the Sadducees whose roots were generally in the priesthood and who were open to the benefits of Hellenization.
Jewish Sects of the Hasmonean Period
Pharisees means “separated ones”. Originally this sanctification referred to their separation from Hellenism in all its forms, but by the beginning of the first Century had broadened to being separated from the “people of the land”, who were seen as incapable of being pious because they were unrefined and unskilled in the Pharisees’ interpretations of Torah and Oral Law. Pharisees were not, however, separated from the power structures of the land, but rather saw their role as leading and defining those power structures in order to corral the uneducated masses into their view of what it meant to be the sanctified nation of God’s people. Judea could not be a holy nation unless their leaders were holy, so the Pharisees became entwined in the political process in order to occupy the positions of power necessary to enforce obedience to Torah on the leaders of their nation as well as the masses. Pharisees were strong proponents of the Oral Law, although they had many disputes within their ranks about what its’ true rendering and interpretation was. Some of them were priests but many were not and gained their position through the strength of their Torah study under one of the respected sages (latter called rabbis). Pharisees had a strong role in the Sanhedrin through most of its existence after the Maccabean revolt and saw their input as essential to keeping the nation in God’s blessings and averting further judgments like the Babylonian captivity. In the end it was the Pharisees who proved to be the most enduring force within Judaism, apart from the followers of Yeshua, after the Second Temple was destroyed in 70 AD, and they shaped what became the rabbinical Judaism of today. Thus, most of Jewish history is written from their perspective. (14) (15) (16)
Essenes were very strict in their religious practice and shunned both the priesthood and the political class for their corruption. Thus they had no involvement in the Sanhedrin or any of the power structures of their day. They largely withdrew from the rest of society to live in their own closely knit communities where they shared all things. Some would have nothing to do with the currencies of the time because of the images on the coins. They believed in the immortality of the soul and in angels, but generally not in the Pharisees’ Oral Law. Some of their communities isolated themselves and developed unique doctrines and practices. Much of what we know about the Essenes comes from the Dead Sea Scrolls which had been kept by one of their communities and detailed some of their communal life and beliefs.
Sadducees came mostly from the priestly aristocracy and upper classes. They were open to Hellenism and closed to the Oral Law. They generally did not accept the doctrine of the resurrection or the immortality of the soul. Some attribute this to their interpretation of the Jewish sage Antigonus of Soko’s maxim “Be not like servants who serve their master for the sake of wages, but be rather like those who serve without thought of receiving wages.” Others attributed it to more Hellenistic influences, and others to their rejection of the divine inspiration of the Nev’im (Prophets) and K’tuvim (Writings) in the Tanakh (Old Testament). Sadducees generally centred their interests in political life, of which they were the chief rulers before the destruction of the Second Temple, where their power had resided. Instead of sharing the Pharisees’ messianic hopes they took the people’s destiny onto their own hands, fighting or negotiating with the heathen nations as they thought best, while seeking their own temporal welfare and worldly success. Most of the High Priests were Sadducees and they also had a strong role in the Sanhedrin through most of its existence (16) (15) (17).
Hasidim means “pious ones”. This movement began in response to Antiochus IV’s defilement of the temple and forced Hellenization of the Jewish people. It continued developing as a reforming and revival movement within Judaism throughout the Hasmonean period. Both Pharisees and Essenes could trace their roots to the rural Hasidim, but both took very different paths. Unlike the Essenes, the Hasidim did not withdraw from society but remained vitally involved in the broader community. Unlike the Pharisees, the Hasidim were not part of the political power structures nor did they have a seat on the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, nor consider study the highest virtue. All references to Hasidim in the Second Temple period relate to Galilee and several renowned Hasid sages came from this area. Theirs was a practical spirituality that focused on intimate and privileged relationship with God as their heavenly Father and regarded obeying “Torah” as more important than just studying it. In many instances the Hasidim had halachic (Jewish law) traditions that were not in keeping with the accepted Halakha decreed by the Sanhedrin, and in some cases even opposed to it. They also had some customs and modes of behaviour which differed from that of the dominant Pharisaic sages. They believed in God doing miracles in response to the faith of those who were intimate with Him. Most of the ancient passages pertaining to Hasidim refer to their causing rain to fall, healing the sick or exorcising demons. Even in the case of rain there is a difference between the Hasidim and the Pharisaic sages. The sage prayed for rain as part of a public prayer ritual – sometimes his prayers were answered and sometimes not. The Hasid prayed privately and as a son beseeching his Father and their prayers were always answered. Unlike the Pharisees, the Hasidim saw virtue in poverty and in giving away all one’s possessions “the Holy One, blessed is He, examined every good quality and found none better for Israel than poverty.” A midrash (ancient rabbinic commentary) states: “A person becomes a Hasid to suffer all things. He is given an angel who treats him in the manner of the Hasidim…and says, “You save the afflicted (/poor) but Your eyes are on the haughty (/rich) to humble them.” 2 Samuel 22:28.” Characteristics of a Hasid were described as: “he is humble… a fearer of sin, judges a man according to his deeds, and says, ‘I have no need of anything found in this world.” They generally did manual labour and menial jobs to support the most basic needs for themselves and their family. (18) (19)
Interactions between religious and political leaders…
Jonathan had directed that after his death his oldest son Aristobulus would become High Priest and his wife become leader of the nation. Although women leaders were not a part of Jewish culture or tradition, they were well accepted in several of the surrounding Hellenised nations so the idea was gaining credence among the Jews involved in international trade and relations. All welcomed the separation of powers between High Priest and civic leader, that is, all except Aristobulus. Aristobulus was not convinced that his power should in any way be limited and so seized the crown with the support of his brother Antigonus, had his step-mother put in prison where she starved to death and placed his other three half-brothers in prison. The Pharisees were infuriated and began working on stirring up a massive rebellion, but Aristobulus died in pain and with internal bleeding from an unknown disease before any attempt to depose him could come to fruition. As his health faded during the single year that he reigned, much of the governing was done by his wife, Queen Alexandra Salome, and brother Antigonus. Just days before Aristobulus died Salome used trickery to have Antigonus killed by his guards.
When Aristobulus died in 103 BC Queen Salome released the half-brothers from prison and, in line with Jewish law as she was childless, married the oldest of them, Alexander Jannaeus, to whom the throne and High Priesthood went. Initially Aristobulus’ enemies were Alexander’s friends so he removed the Sadducee members from the Sanhedrin and reorganised it to be composed exclusively of Pharisees. This also met with his new wife’s approval, as she was sister to the leader of the Pharisees, Simin ben Shetah. (15)
Alexander had only one aim in life; to continue the great Maccabean tradition of conquest and increase the extent of his kingdom to its natural boundaries – the Mediterranean Sea and the eastern desert. Unfortunately, he lacked the military prowess of his ancestors and his early campaigns were quite disastrous. Were it not for the large and wealthy Jewish diaspora in Egypt putting political pressure on Cleopatra to send her army to his rescue, Alexander would have likely lost his crown and Judea its independence. While Alexander was away at war, he allowed his queen a major role in the nation’s internal affairs and she was instrumental in encouraging the introduction of synagogue schools in many towns to teach young children the Torah.
The Pharisee Zugos (pairs) during this time were Simeon ben Shetach (Queen Salom’s brother) and Judah ben Tabbai.
Simeon’s noted saying was: “Interrogate the witness very closely, and be careful with thy words, lest they be put by them on the track of falsehood”.
That of Judah was: “Make thyself not as those that predispose the judges, and while the litigants stand before thee let them be in thine eyes as guilty; and when dismissed from before thee let them be in thine eyes as righteous, because that they have received the verdict upon them.” (20)
Conflicts between Pharisees and Sadducees…
The Pharisees had become rather disillusioned with this line of leaders who claimed to be both king and High Priest, and their pragmatism could see no good purpose in picking fights with other nations only to lose the battles, have the kingdom’s freedom threatened and tens of thousands killed in the fighting. Even though the Sanhedrin was now totally comprised of Pharisees with their Nassi (prince/leader), Simeon ben Shetach, being a brother of Queen Salome and frequent guest at the palace, Alexander would not listen to their pleas to abandon this policy of conquest and conform to their view of Judaism. The more the Pharisees felt that their influence over the king was waning, the more critical they became of him and his right to the offices of High Priest and king. So the more Alexander sought the support of their political rivals, the Sadducees, who included many of the aristocratic leaders of the priesthood over which he presided as High Priest.
As mentioned earlier, the Pharisees and Sadducees were opposing political parties in Judah who disagreed on almost everything, including on how each of the festivals should be performed and how each of the functions of the priests and High Priest was to be carried out. Although most of the aristocracy of the priesthood were Sadducees, they would generally bow to performing their functions as the Pharisees prescribed out of fear of the political backlash if they performed them strictly as was written in the Torah, with nothing added. One of the Pharisaic innovations was adding an elaborate Water Libation Ceremony (Nissuch Ha-Mayim) following the daily sacrifices during Sukoot (the Feast of Tabernacles). They taught this as fulfilling Isa. 12:3: “Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation“. This became a very jovial time and one of the most popular parts of the celebration of this festival. With much joy, music, singing, dancing and sometimes even acrobatics and rabbis juggling flaming touches, water was drawn from the pool of Siloam and the High Priest poured that water out on the alter, which to Jewish people of the Second Temple era was symbolic of the Spirit of God being poured out during the days of the Messiah and so stirred the expectation and hopes of the people, particularly when they were feeling oppressed. Such expectations and hopes were not shared by the Sadducees and especially not by the man who saw himself as the only leader the Jews needed, the High Priest Alexander.
Religious conflict becomes bloody civil war…
In around 98 BCE Alexander, while officiating as the High Priest at the Temple in Jerusalem during Sukkot, poured the water onto his own feet instead of onto the alter. The Pharisees and their followers were enraged, saw this as blasphemous, ‘stoned him’ with the citrons (large, thick skinned citrus fruit) they were carrying in accordance with another of the customs of the festival, while shouting derogatory cries about his unfitness for the priesthood. Alexander summoned his troops to attack those who attacked him and about 6,000 Jews were slain in the temple courts that day.
Not all of Alexander’s attempts at conquest were fruitless, he did win some battles and take some new land, but his attack against Obedias, the king of the Arabs, was poorly executed, the Jews suffered heavy losses and Alexander returned defeated to find the people in Jerusalem, incited by the Pharisees, armed and arrayed against their High Priest and king. What followed was a six year long bloody civil war that cost the lives of 50,000 Jews.
The Pharisees went so far as to request the Syrian king Demetrius III join them in fighting against their monarch and High Priest in exchange for reigning over them. However, after defeating their brothers in a few battles, many deserted Demetrius’ army and helped Alexander defeat him and retain the kingdom’s independence. According to Pharisaic tradition Alexander took the advice of a Sadducee to punish their treason by crucifying 800 captured Pharisees after executing their wives and children before their eyes while he and feasting courtiers enjoyed the bloody spectacle. Animosity and distrust between the two parties, Pharisees and Sadducees had reached its zenith and 8,000 Pharisees fled to seek asylum in neighbouring lands.
Hatred driven underground…
Alexander suffered terribly with ill health for the last three years of his life and died of his ailments from an unknown disease while at the siege of the fortified town of Ragaba in 76 BCE. His wife Salome was with him at his death and reported that he repented of his treatment of the Pharisees on his death bed. (21) (22) (23) (24) (25) (26)
After her husband’s death, Queen Salome reigned over Judah and her eldest son, Hyrcanus II, was appointed High Priest. Salome called the Pharisees to return to Jerusalem and brought them into her government, gradually pushing the Sadducees out of every important office and position. She appointed her brother, Shimon ben Shetah, leader of the Pharisees, and Yehudah ben Tabbai as joint heads over the new Sanhedrin (Great Bet Din), now comprised exclusively of Pharisees. Salome allowed the Pharisees’ Oral Law to be adopted as the law of the royal court. Education was also placed in the hands of Pharisaic teachers and the care of the many thousands of widows and orphans left from Alexander’s wars placed in the hands of Pharisaic leaders. Salome’s was generally a peaceful reign, without the civil war of her husband’s rule and only one brief foreign battle. The trade routes were re-opened and the nation began to prosper again.
The strong ideological differences and hatreds between Jews did not lessen during Salome’s reign, however, they were just driven underground and nowhere was this more obvious than in her own family. Salome’s two sons are reported to have hated one another with the eldest, Hyrcanus II, firmly siding with the Pharisees and the younger, Aristobulus II, continuing his father’s alliance with the Sadducees. The Pharisees started exacting retribution against the Sadducees with the execution of one of their leaders. Fearing mass exterminations, the Sadducees petitioned the queen for protection against the now ruling party. Salome responded by removing the Sadducees, many of whom had been leaders of the temple priesthood, from Jerusalem and assigning them to several fortified towns for their residence.
Civil war between brothers…
After a nine year reign Salome died in 67 BCE and bequeathed the throne to her eldest son, Hyrcanus II, who had been High Priest since the beginning of her reign. (27) (15) (28) (29) (30) (31) (32)
Hyrcanus II had scarcely reigned three months when his brother, Aristobulus II, rallied an army from the Sadducean party to rise in rebellion. Near Jericho the brothers met in battle. As Aristobulus gained the upper hand, Hyrcanus fled back to Jerusalem to take refuge in the citadel, but the capture of the temple by Aristobulus eventually compelled Hyrcanus to seek a peace agreement. According to the terms of the peace Hyrcanus was to renounce both the throne and the office of High Priest but would continue to enjoy the revenues of the latter office (some sources say he retained the high priesthood).
The agreement lasted about six weeks. Aristrobulus was more capable as a military leader but Hyrcanus was endowed with skill in negotiating and forging alliances to accomplish his goals. Hyrcanus sought counsel from the talented and ambitious administrator, Antipater, satrap of Idumaea (a neighbouring province conquered and forcibly converted by Hyrcanus II’s grandfather, Jonathan Hyrcanus I). Antipater offered to support him in waging war on Aristobulus and the Sadducees to regain his crown. Their joint army of Pharisees and Idumeans routed the forces of Aristobulus and forced the remnants to retreat to the Temple area fortress. The rest of Jerusalem and the entire country now came under the domain of Hyrcanus and the Pharisees, with the High Priesthood and temple all that was left for Aristobulus.
The lengths that people will go to in trying to exercise power over others…
Despite their animosity toward each other, both sides firmly believed in the necessity of the temple sacrifices, so the two made an agreement to ensure that the twice-daily sacrifice was offered. Every day the army on the outside would send up the necessary sheep to be slaughtered. The priests inside the Temple continued their daily service and worship after the manner of the Sadducees. The siege lasted months and showed no sign of ending. One day Hyrcanus sent up a pig instead of a sheep for the temple sacrifice. The Hasmoneans had initiated their rebellion after the Greeks desecrated the temple by sacrificing a pig on the alter, and now their descendants were killing each other and sending up a pig for the temple sacrifice! This caused many devout Jews to turn from supporting Hyrcanus and the focus of the conflict shifted from Pharisee against Sadducee to power-hungry brother against power-hungry brother. (33) (34) (35) (36) (37) (38) (39) (40) (2)
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9. Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. John Hyrcanus I. Encyclopaedia Britannica. [Online] [Cited: 28th Aug. 2016.] https://www.britannica.com/biography/John-Hyrcanus-I.
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27. New World Encyclopedia. Salome Alexandra. New World Encyclopedia. [Online] [Cited: 1st Sept. 2016.] http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Salome_Alexandra.
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29. Mindel, Nissan. Queen Salome Alexandra. Chabad.org. [Online] [Cited: 1st Sept. 2016.] http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/112049/jewish/Queen-Salome-Alexandra.htm.
30. Weiner, James. The Forgotten Ancient Queen: Salome Alexandra of Judea. Ancient History et Cetera. [Online] 22nd Jan. 2013. [Cited: 1st Sept. 2016.] http://etc.ancient.eu/2013/01/22/the-forgotten-ancient-queen-salome-alexandra-of-judea/.
31. Silver, Carly. The Peace of Zion. Archaeology Archive. [Online] 2010. [Cited: 1st Sept. 2016.] http://archive.archaeology.org/online/features/iron_ladies/salome_alexandra.html.
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33. Hyrcanus II. Jordan Expert. [Online] [Cited: 1st Sept 2016.] http://www.jordanexpert.com/html/hyrcanus_ii.htm.
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36. Astor, Berel Wein adapted by Yaakov. The End of the Hasmoneans, The Rise of Rome. Jewish History.org. [Online] [Cited: 1st Sept. 2016.] http://www.jewishhistory.org/end-of-hasmoneans-rise-of-rome-4/.
37. Hyrcanus II. Jewish Virtual Library. [Online] [Cited: 1st Sept. 2016.] http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/hyrcanus2.html.
38. Richard Gottheil, Isaac Broydé. Hyrcanus II. Jewish Encyclopedia. [Online] [Cited: 1st Sept. 2016.] http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7973-hyrcanus-ii.
39. —. Hyrcanus II. Jewish Encyclopedia. [Online] [Cited: 1st Sept. 2016.] http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7973-hyrcanus-ii.
40. Britannica, Editors of Encyclopedia. John Hyrcanus II King of Judea. Encyclopaedia Britanica. [Online] [Cited: 1st Sept. 2016.] https://www.britannica.com/biography/John-Hyrcanus-II.
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…
* The priest Mattathias and his sons fought and killed to regain their religious freedom. What are your thoughts on this?
* They eventually won the battle but lost a lot of lives in the process. Was it worth it?
* Has your community ever faced such battles?
* How do you lead your community through times of conflict?
* What effect did pride have on the leaders and the nation?
* Do you think Judaism was developing in healthy or unhealthy ways? If you were trying to reform Judaism during this time what issues would you tackle?
* Who were the Pharisees?
* Who were the Sadducees?
* Who were the Essenes?
* Who were the Hasidim?
* Did the arguments over faith and practice between the Pharisees and Sadducees strengthen or weaken Judaism?
* Was God honoured by the ways the different groups fought over who had the right doctrines and the right way of worshipping Him?
* When we disagree with a fellow believer over doctrine, how can we be constructive instead of destructive in our disagreement?
* Who wins when we fight with one another?
4 thoughts on “The Maccabean Revolt & Hasmonean Period (166 – 40 BC)”
1. The Priest Mattathias and his sons fought and killed to regain their religious freedom on the standard of their high religious faith in the law and their relationship with God or Yaweh. They considered to remain faithful to God under fire and resisted the decrees issued by Syrian king Antiochus IV attempted to force the Jews to abandon the true God and accept the false religion of idolatry. They refused to give in to the king decree and not allowing any outside defilement of God’s law. They were ripe for rebellion, since their worship of God was totally suppressed. They wanted to restore the purity of the Jewish religion and continue to perform the rite of circumcision, offering sacrifices to God, keeping the Sabbath, and observing their food laws and feasts. Thinking of the Priest Mattathias and his sons struggles against their oppressors brings to mind of what apostle Paul said, “fight the good fight of faith”. Again, in God’s own plan, He allowed this to happen to fulfill His plan. Christians must learn a lesson from Mattathias and his sons to remain faithful to God even when it is difficult to do so…even when we are persecuted. Many Christians chose to die rather than to renounce Christ as Mattathias and his sons fought the good fight.
2. They eventually won the battle but lost a lot of lives in the process worth it because it end up to bring the purity of the Jewish religion. In history, any war or battle, we see lost of many lives, whether it is political or chieftaincy or tribal or religious battle. Even, many lives were lost why God wanted His people – Israelites to take the land He promised to give it to them. The Maccabees won the battle for the Jews, first for religious freedom. Although, many lives were lost in the process of the battle, but as a result, the Jews had the opportunity to worship God the way the Law directed and so to become the kind of people God wanted them to be. An observer might have rejoiced at the Maccabees victory, looking forward to an era of righteousness under rulers who primary motive was to do the will of God. To restore the truth will cost lives because of opposition.
3. According to the history, my country has experienced many battles. Some were political, some were chieftaincy, some were tribal, and e.c.t. For example, our forefathers fought to obtain political independence, lives were lost. Since 1981 the region around Oti river in Ghana, has been the scene t five ethnic conflicts – the bloodiest clashed in Ghana since it’s founding. These conflicts can be seen as a series. Although, up to 1994, they each occurred in a different places with different opponents, they all involved members of one ethnic groups in particular, the konkomba.
4. In times of conflict in my community, I would lead my community not in the way of guns and ammunition. The best way to lead my community through such conflict is to arrange for the use of a dialogue. This may not bring any lost of lives. As Christians leaders, we are to be peaceful people, striving to “be at peace with all men”. Our master Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers….” With this, I will apply godly principles to lead my people. First, I would speak to my people that, we are strive to live at peace with everyone. We are to be peacemakers and peacekeepers. In the process of dialogue, I would make them to understand that, when we talk about fighting, we are not talking about trying to trying to defeat one another by using weapons. Jesus asked Peter to put down y weapon. Such approach would cease fire.
5. Pride may be one of the most widely known of all leadership faults, and one of the least often addressed. Pride is considered on almost every list as one of the seven deadly sins, even being labelled as the father of all sins. The ancient Greeks identified pride as “dangerously foolish absence of humility and corrupt selfishness, the putting of one’s own desires, urges, wants, and whims before the welfare of people.” St. Augustine captured the heart of pride in a single phrase, “the love of one’s own excellence”. Pride is the deadly sin of superiority that reeks of conceit and arrogance. Pride leads to every evil. If your pride pushes you toward performing with excellence, doing your best, and finding joy in the accomplishments of others, it is probably helping you because a better leader. But if there is even a strike of competition or self-promotion in it, it is probably having y negative effect on your relationship. That can hurt both your in life, your leadership, and the nation. Prideful leaders always look for someone to blame instead of taking responsibility. They forget God and His ways to lead and choose their own ways. Prideful leaders are generally defensive and opposed to new ideas. Pride destroy heart and Ministry. Pride goes before destruction.
6. I think Judaism was developing in unhealthy ways. The vehement differences of opinion were evident between different Torah scholars and Priests during this time. There was no peace at all, because there was a lot of debate and misunderstanding and these did not help Judaism to develop in healthy. Oral laws brought tension and bitter dispute among them. Various religious sects that grew under the Judaism at that time brought a lot of chaos. Although, all agreed on the spiritual authority of the Torah, but there were differing interpretation of what it meant to obey Torah. Even the correct way of performing many of the temple duties was a problem. If I were trying to return Judaism during this time, the issue I would tackle first was the religious confusion that rose within the Judaism scholars. I will also tackle the issue of corruption.
7. The Pharisees were an ancient Jewish group who laid the foundation for what would become rabbinic Judaism.
The name Pharisees likely comes from Hebrew word prushim, meaning “separated ones”. Originally this sanctification referred to their separation from Hellenism in all its forms, but by the beginning of the first Century had broadened to being separated from the “people of the land”, who were seen as incapable of being pious because they were unrefined and unskilled in the Pharisees’ interpretations of Torah and Oral Law. Pharisees were not, however, separated from the power structures of the land, but rather saw their role as leading and defining those power structures in order to corral the uneducated masses into their view of what it meant to be the sanctified nation of God’s people. The Pharisees believe God gave the oral laws or tradition to Moses along with the Torah. Pharisees believed life after death, resurrection, angel and spirit. Some of them were priests but many were not and gained their position through the strength of their Torah study under one of the respected sages (latter called rabbis). Pharisees had a strong role in the Sanhedrin. In the end it was the Pharisees who proved to be the most enduring force within Judaism, apart from the followers of Yeshua, after the Second Temple was destroyed in 70 AD, and they shaped what became the rabbinical Judaism of today.
8. Sadducees came mostly from the priestly nobility and upper classes. They were open to Hellenism and closed to the Oral Law. The Sadducees generally denied the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead life after dead, saying the soul ceased to exist after dead. They did not believe in angels or demons. They were opposed to the Pharisees. Although they were few in number, they educated and usually wealthy. Some attribute this to their interpretation of the Jewish sage Antigonus of Soko’s maxim “Be not like servants who serve their master for the sake of wages, but be rather like those who serve without thought of receiving wages.” Others attributed it to more Hellenistic influences, and others to their rejection of the divine inspiration of the Nev’im (Prophets) and K’tuvim (Writings) in the Tanakh (Old Testament). Sadducees generally centred their interests in political life, of which they were the chief rulers before the destruction of the Second Temple, where their power had resided. Instead of sharing the Pharisees’ messianic hopes they took the people’s destiny onto their own hands, fighting or negotiating with the heathen nations as they thought best, while seeking their own temporal welfare and worldly success. Most of the High Priests were Sadducees and they also had a strong role in the Sanhedrin through most of its existence.
9. Essenes were very strict in their religious practice and rejected both the priesthood and the political class for their corruption. The Essenes were never mentioned in the Bible unlike the Pharisees and Sadducees. They had no involvement in the Sanhedrin or any of the power structures of their day. They largely withdrew from the rest of society to live in their own closely knit communities where they shared all things. They believed in the immortality of the soul and in angels, but generally not in the Pharisees’ Oral Law. Some of their communities isolated themselves and developed unique doctrines and practices. Much of what we know about the Essenes comes from the Dead Sea Scrolls which had been kept by one of their communities and detailed some of their communal life and beliefs.
10. Hasidim means “pious ones”. This movement began in response to Antiochus IV’s defilement of the temple and forced Hellenization of the Jewish people. It continued developing as a reforming and revival movement within Judaism throughout the Hasmonean period. Both Pharisees and Essenes could trace their roots to the rural Hasidim, but both took very different paths. Unlike the Essenes, the Hasidim did not withdraw from society but remained vitally involved in the broader community. Unlike the Pharisees, the Hasidim were not part of the political power structures nor did they have a seat on the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, nor consider study the highest virtue. All references to Hasidim in the Second Temple period relate to Galilee and several renowned Hasid sages came from this area. Theirs was a practical spirituality that focused on intimate and privileged relationship with God as their heavenly Father and regarded obeying “Torah” as more important than just studying it. In many instances the Hasidim had Jewish law traditions that were not in keeping with the accepted Halakha decreed by the Sanhedrin, and in some cases even opposed to it. They also had some customs and modes of behaviour which differed from that of the dominant Pharisaic sages. They believed in God doing miracles in response to the faith of those who were intimate with Him. Most of the ancient passages pertaining to Hasidim refer to their causing rain to fall, healing the sick or exorcising demons. Even in the case of rain there is a difference between the Hasidim and the Pharisaic sages. The sage prayed for rain as part of a public prayer ritual – sometimes his prayers were answered and sometimes not. The Hasid prayed privately and as a son beseeching his Father and their prayers were always answered. Unlike the Pharisees, the Hasidim saw virtue in poverty and in giving away all one’s possessions “the Holy One, blessed is He, examined every good quality and found none better for Israel than poverty.” Characteristics of a Hasid were described as: “he is humble… a fearer of sin, judges a man according to his deeds, and says, ‘I have no need of anything found in this world.” They generally did manual labour and menial jobs to support the most basic needs for themselves and their family.
11. The arguments over faith and practice between the Pharisees and Sadducees did not strengthen Judaism rather it’s weaken Judaism. Looking at these two strong party, there was disunity among them. And this division among them contributed to the Jews downfall. This reminds me to quote what Jesus said, “A kingdom divided against itself will collapse” ( Mark 3:24). Even if Judaism was physically active, spiritually it was unhealthy because of division and conflict.
12. We must acknowledge that different groups fighting over who had the right doctrines and the right way of worshipping God exists and has always existed. But we should not conclude from its existence that God approves it. We need to understand that it is contrary to God’s will. With this, I can say, God was not honoured by some of them. These different groups fighting happens because of the “deeds of the flesh” and apostle Paul made it clear that, “those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21). Apostle Paul again encourage all different groups to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance, love, and a desire for peace. By practicing such honour God.
13. As I stated in my previous comment, disagreement and disunity among believers exists and has always existed. It will not come by every believer agreeing on every issues. We must keep in mind that, it is not God who approve of disagreement. One of the ways to handle disagreement over doctrines is to bring views and analysis them in constructive manner with good attitudes toward one another. We must agree on essential principles and practice of the Christian faith. We must remain faithful to the teaching of Christ. We must pray to God for the same “mind” and “attitude” that Christ demonstrated. Christ “emptied Himself” of the glory of heaven. With this mind and attitude, we can develop the spirit y humility to tolerate everyone views and measure by the God’s Word.
14. In fact I can boldly say that when we fight with one another, NO ONE wins. We even fails. To me, serving God is the Word of God, putting them into practice. It is not about competition. We must fight the good fight of faith to win heaven crown. No one can fight for God.
The Maccabean Revolt and Hasmonean Period (166–40 BC)
The high priest Mattathias and his sons fought and killed to regain their religious freedom on the basis of their faith in the Torah. They considered God’s law as sacred and did not want any outside defilement of God’s law. They wanted to be right before God and therefore would not allow an allien to drug the image of the God of Israel into mud. They wanted religious imancipation whereby no one would dictate any form of worship to them in the name of any other god apart from Yahweh. Their faith in God enable them to fight the good fight of faith. In the manner of Mattathias and his sons, christians must learn that we shuold not compromise God’s truth. Good christians must do well to fight and prevent those bad nuts from destroying the faith which has once and for all delivered to the saints. Mattathias and his sons represents pure and truthful servants of God who stood to guide against force religions and also to preserve the truth of God to be handed down to the up and coming generations
They won the battle but lost al ot of lives the process worth it because in any war or battle in human beings,there would always be lost of lives. When God wanted the Israelites to occupy the land He gave them ,He ordered the Israelites to kill the cannanites in order to possess the land. God wanted them to preserve His laws and commandments in order for the Israelites not to engage in the idol worship of the cannanites. They cuold not have possessed the land if they had not killed the cannanites. To achieve greater things , it will cost one before you achieve what you want, so there was the need to shed blood because there were disagreement in the process . God taught them abominable things so if any one dares to come in with abomination the faithful ones will rise up against that.
The only battle i have ever read of is about when our forefathers fought to free my country from the British Apart from that my community has never faced such battles before.
In times of conflicts in the community, my approach to such conflict will not be in the form of war with weapons. The best way i wouold approach such a conflict is to enage the parties involved in a dialogue so that there would be no blood shed in the community. As leaders, we should be peace makers and I must use my Godly talents to get my people to understand situations that demand talking in order to arrive at a decision that will bring peace and understanding to one other in the community.
Pride made them arrogant, they denied God, they forgot the laws of the Lord. They made their own laws and propounded their own traditions . They saw themselves that they know everything in the Torah . They lifted themselves high to the positions of honour by themselves. Due to the pride within them, God caused others to rule over them and God’s subsequent destruction on them as well.
Judaism was developing in an unhealthy manner.The vehement differences of opinions among the different sets of Torah scholars and priests during this time is a clear evidence. One cannot say there is peace whereby there are a lot of disagreements. The various religious sets that developed under Judaism gives clear indication that the religion at that particular time had a lot of confused ideas. Practitioners brought different interpretations into the Torah among the Jews.
If I were trying to reform judaism during this time, the issues I would confront are the divisions that came over the Jewish scholars and the issues of corruption and power which takes one away from God. Doing God’s work should not be compromised,with greed,money and power but to observe all that God has commanded only and that willbring God’s blessings and mercy.
The Pharisees are the largest and the most influential sets of judaism. Their name is derived from the verb parash “to separate”. They were the separatists,or puritans of Judaism who withdrew from all evil associations and sought to give complete obedience to every precept of the oral and written law. They originated as a separate group shortly after the time of the Maccabees and they were well established in judaism.Their theology was founded in the entire canon of the OT which included the law of Moses (Torah), The Prophets and the writings. In interpretation they used the allegorical method in order to allow for clarity in applyimg the principles of the law. They attached great value to the oral law or tradition,which they observed scrupulousy. They believed in the existence of angles and spirits, in the immorality of the soul,and in the resurrection of the body
The Sadducees,according to tradition derived their names from the sons of Zadok, who was high preist in the days of David and Solomon. The sons of Zadok was priesty hierarchy in the time of the captivity (2 Chron 31:10, Ezek 40:46, 44:15, 48:11)and apparently the name preserved as the title of their priestly party in the days of Christ . They generally did not accept the doctrine of the resurrection or the immortality of the soul. As a party in Judaism, the Sadducees adhere to the strictly lateral interpretation of the Torah.
The essence is little known as described by Josephus in his wars of the Jews. The meaning of their name is uncertain. The Essens , unlike the Pharisees and the Sadducees,were a definite ascetic brotherhood that could be entered only by those who were willimg to submit to the regulations of the group and to undergo ceremony of the initiations. They abstain from marriage and recruited their ranks by adoption or by receiving converts.
The Hasidim means “pious ones”. This movement began in response to Antiochus IV’s defilement of the temple and forced helleniztion of the Jewish people. It continued developing as a reforming and revival movement within Judaism throughout the Hasmonian period. Both Pharasees and Essens could trace their root to the rural Hasidim. Theirs was a practical spirituality that focused on intimate and privileged relationship with God as their heavenly Father and regarded obeying the “Torah” as more than just studying it.
In my view God was not honoured by some of the groups. Some were materialistic under the pretence of religion and that,they were not sincere to God in the way they had to worship Him. Others were trying to do as such as they could to follow God’s instructions and do as He had commanded. So in all, some obeyed others diobeyed. Some did it right , others did it wrong and all of them had their reward.
Human beings are unique, we cannot think the same and do things the same way so differences exist in human characters. When we disagree over a doctrine the best way is to state your views and give analysis in a constructive way that would not initiate any conflict. Ones explanations and hypotheses may give understanding to others if others do not understand yoir hypotheses, that does not call for any distructive criticisms. Therefore we must try to tolerate everyone’s views in the matter of doctrinal issues.
I cannot tell who wins because humans as we are, no one can claim to be all perfect. Therefore, let us allow all of them to grow together.When the owner comes He will show us all things and thereby we will all understand all things.we shoukd not fight one another in the name of religion and doctrines because human beings cannot fight for God ,He will fight for Himself.
* The Maccabean rebellion against Seleucid rule in Judea began in earnest in 168 BC. It was originally led by a man named Mattathias and his sons, especially Judas Maccabeus, for whom the rebellion would later be named. This rebellion is often overlooked in the history of the Hellenistic world, but it greatly impacted the geopolitical situation of the Near East at the time and left a legacy that can still be seen today. The rebellion helped establish the first independent Jewish state in Judea in over 400 years and contributed to the end of the already ailing Seleucid Empire. A large part of the Maccabees’ success was the result of Roman aid, which helped to expand the Roman Empire into the region, eventually to the disadvantage of the Maccabean Hasmonean Dynasty. The Maccabean Rebellion left a legacy that can still be seen today in the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. It’s also important to note that there was a great sacrifice involved and loss of many lives.
* In assessing its worth, I understand on a negative side that a lot of lives were lost in the process of the battle. But on a positive, the rebellion gave opportunity for the expansion of the Jewish diaspora far and wide, taking their religion with them and influencing people everywhere they went to leave their pagan ways and worship the one true God as He desires to be worshipped. As Rome gained territory many were now under Roman rule. In 139 BC the Romans ruled that Jews could worship freely in all Roman territories.
Also, the revolt gave opportunity for the feast of Channukah to be born. Antiochus IV invaded Jerusalem in 167BC, and filled the temple with Pagan gods, and tried to force the Jews to worship these idols. The Jews refused to do this, and ultimately defeated Antiochus in 164 BC. For 8 days, Judas Maccabeus and his followers removed the pagan gods, tore down the desecrated altar, built a new altar and re-consecrated the temple. It is said that they only had enough oil for one night, but that the lamp miraculously stayed burning for all 8 nights. And to sum it up, I think the revolt was worth it; though it was costly in terms of loss of lives.
* Yes, as a nation of Uganda, we have had such experiences of guerrilla warfare. The only difference is that our battles were not religious in nature. There were a lot of political interests as each group felt they had the best menu to offer on the political platter. But there was a lot of chaos and political turmoil that brought the smell of death both on the city streets and suburbs and the countryside.
* Times of conflict are always difficult moments for any community, whether they are believers or not. Conflict and arguments bring great pain and heartache. They are normally characterized by anger, hatred, misunderstanding, accusations, divisions, violence, and the like. Over the years, I have seen many conflicts among people. Also I know that I cannot settle these issues myself. That is why I always involve God through fervent prayer, asking God to change the hearts of those engaged in conflict. This prayer also ushers in God’s presence, tears down the walls of resistance that had separated people, and lays the foundation for God to reconcile opposing camps through discussions. This way, I have seen God move mightily. Now I know that this statement about God in Psalms 46:1 is very true: “God is a very present help in the time of trouble.”
God used prayer as a weapon to settle the conflict between Abraham and Abimelech. These two men were in conflict with each other because Abraham, out of fear, misled Abimelech to believe that Sarah, his wife, was his sister. And, because Abimelech thought that Sarah was a free and single woman, he took her. However, taking another man’s wife could bring a curse on Abimelech and the entire land. In addition, the whole situation could cause these men to have a terrible fight when Abimelech learned that Abraham had lied to him. This was a terrible mess that only God could handle. When God intervened, his solution to the problem included Abraham praying for Abimelech: “Now therefore, restore the man’s (Abraham’s) wife; for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you shall live” (Genesis chapter 20:7). The prayer blessed Abimelech, the conflict ended, and a good relationship developed. Abraham ended up staying in the land of the Philistines for many days (Genesis chapter 21:22-34).
I am committed to resolving conflicts in a way that glorifies the Lord, edifies the body of Christ, and reflects the principles found in Scripture. As people reconciled to God by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we believe we are called to respond to conflict in a way that is remarkably different from the way the world deals with conflict. Apostle Paul instructs us that though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. And that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty in God……(2 Corinthians 10:3-4.
* The name “Pharisee” means “separated one.” The Pharisees separated themselves from society to study and teach the law, but they also separated themselves from the common people because they considered them religiously unclean. Pharisees had a strong role in the Sanhedrin through most of its existence after the Maccabean revolt and saw their input as essential to keeping the nation in God’s blessings and averting further judgments like the Babylonian captivity.
* The Sadducees were a Jewish political party. They were members of the priesthood and made up part of the Jewish council called the Sanhedrin. The high priest was taken from the Sadducees. Although they were few in number, they were educated and usually wealthy. The Sadducees were opposed to the Pharisees. Sadducees generally centered their interests in political life, of which they were the chief rulers before the destruction of the Second Temple, where their power had resided.
* The Essenes were a Jewish religious sect that existed alongside the Pharisees and Sadducees. They were very strict in their religious practice and shunned both the priesthood and the political class for their corruption. They lived lives of separation, piety and celibacy, observed the Sabbath, shunned personal property and did not use money.
* Hasidim means “pious ones.” The term was used by the rabbis to describe those Jews who maintained the highest standard of religious observance and moral action. They were the most rigid adherents of Judaism. Their ritual strictness has caused some to see them as forerunners of the Pharisees. Unlike the Pharisees, the Hasidim were not part of the political power structures nor did they have a seat on the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, nor consider study the highest virtue. Theirs was a practical spirituality that focused on intimate and privileged relationship with God as their heavenly Father and regarded obeying “Torah” as more important than just studying it.
* One of the heartbreaks in my life has been seeing churches, groups, and individuals torn-apart by disagreement. All disunity is tragic but doctrinal disagreement is particularly bad because, instead of Christians turning to the Bible and either coming to agreement or settling for a principled disagreement, matters often deteriorate. In matters of doctrine, there is the obvious danger presented by the teaching itself, and another less noticeable danger is the way in which each one of us may react. We agree that it is our duty to contend earnestly for the faith and so, while seeking to be peaceable, we must not fail to stand for God’s truth. Many believers have had such fierce disagreements over doctrine that if you overheard the disputes going on you would not think that those involved were Christian brothers. In order to be constructive to a fellow believer in a doctrinal disagreement I will apply the three basic principles below:
1. The duty to love: As a basis for our attitude and actions, we owe fellow-Christians love (Romans 13:8) and we should treat them as we wish to be treated (Matthew 7: 12). This includes a duty of prayer for those we are in disagreement with. This practice will have a direct impact to reconcile your heart to him and pity him. If Jesus told us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5: 44-45), how much more should we be praying for those we regard as brothers and sisters who are being led astray. This duty to love means we should seek to understand what the person is saying and so we listen carefully.
2. Setting ourselves to learn from the person who differs from us. Sometimes I may be wrong! There are fixed points in Christian theology, such as the deity of Christ and salvation by grace, on which the gospel depends but this doesn’t apply to everything. We should remember that controversy, in God’s providence, leads to clearer understanding of the truth.
3. We need to cope with the person who differs from us. This involves protecting our own position and constructively explaining it. Our resources in handling doctrinal issues are the bible and logical reasoning. We must use the bible respectfully and carefully. This means that we have a responsibility to interpret God’s Holy Word correctly and that we must seek to rightly understand the texts that seem to disagree with our position.
1. My thoughts on this faithful servant of God and his five sons are that they are really committed in performing their duties to God, by seeing that the right things needs to be done. Mattathias have unbending, unfailing love for the God of Israel. I strongly believe that they read the Word of God and they know the law, as there is nowhere in the Law of Moses which says the a pig should be used as sacrificed to the Most High God. Therefore, Mattathias and sons fighting to kill the these ungodly people are in place as we read that finally, one of his sons reestablished the altar of God. This boldness on the part of this man and his devoted sons finally brought religious freedom. We too need to fight the good fight by teaching and preaching the truth to others so that they will be delivered from the works of Satan.
We need men and women whom are ready to die for the sake of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2. Yes, eventually they won the battle but lost a lot of lives the process, and what worth is that it brought religious freedom to them, and the enemies got to know that God is the only one mankind must served. The temple was cleansed, new altar was rededicated and the daily sacrifices to Yahweh once again offered in the Jerusalem temple.
Jonathan the last son of Mattathias was chosen as the new leader. He attacked enemy armies and the Jewish Hellenists alike. He also achieved peace which is most cardinal weapon for any leader at that matter, and finally he was appointed as High Priest, counting all these make it worth even though they lost lives.
3. My country or community has faced such battle, even though ours was mainly political in nature it has some similarities. In 1990 there was a war between the government troops and the rebels, as the rebels claimed the government was corrupt and abusing of human rights, however, they were able to overthrown the government, eventually they too became more corrupt than the former government, and this lead to another rebels group to fight against them and finally they too were overthrown. This struggle claimed over 350,000 lives and lot of properties been destroyed and forcing hundred of thousands going to foreign countries until now.
4. In times of conflict, as a Christian I need to seek the face of God and ask for wisdom to handle all cases, as many can be control by Satan who always wants to see division and confusion so without the Spirit of God leading you there would be no good results. And in handling the conflict, I will first and foremost will like to know the root cause of the conflict and begin from there, and rendering my decision, I will make them to know that love is the key of everything. I will also seek the opportunity to minister to them about the love of God and how He sent His Son to die to set us free from conflict.
5. Pride has negative effect on all leaders as it makes them to unfaithful, wicked, and such the resources can not be unaccounted for and country becomes poor and the citizens suffer. A leader who has the spirit of pride always wants everything for himself, and the nation whose leaders continue to be proud always bring doom and poverty to its people. Mass killings in some African countries comes from leaders with such attitudes.
6. The issues I would like to tackle if were trying to reform Judaism during that period would be , transmitting the oral law, establishment of the Torah schools, interpretation of the Torah, abolished the unburdened of foreign taxes,and development of the Jewish thoughts and priorisation in the religious practice.
7. The Pharisees were the “Separated ones” they were however, not separated from the power structures of the land. They became entwined in the political process in order to occupy the positions of power necessary to enforce obedience to the Torah on the leaders of their nation as well as the masses.
8. The Sadducees came mostly from the priestly aristocracy and upper class. They were open to Hellenism and closed to the oral law. They generally did not accept the doctrine o the resurrection or the immortality of the soul.
9. Essenes were very strict in the religious practice and shunned both priesthood and the political class for their corruption.
10. Hasidim means ” pious ones”. This movement began in response to Antiochus IV’s defilement of the temple and forced Hellenization of the Jewish people.
11. The arguments over faith and practice between the Pharisees and Sadducees weaken
12. God is not a God of division, as Jesus prayed in the book of John 17 “that they may be one, as He and His Father are” therefore, God can never be honoured by the ways different groups fought over who had right doctrines and the right way of worshipping Him
13. When we disagreed with a fellow believer over doctrine the only way we can be constructive instead of destructive in our disagreement is firstly, prayed for the individual, respect their views and begin to show love to them. If you see they are indeed of something be the first to provide. If they are in trouble visit them talk to them about the Word of God.
14. In the first place the word “fight” is from the fresh Galatians 5:19 hence no child of God or born again Christian will engage in fighting. If one fights he or she needs to repent and confess to God for forgiveness. One one wins for a thing which belongs to the devil.