With Hanukkah just a few days away, I couldn’t help but notice some striking similarities between the Maccabees of yesteryear and what we see happening today. The world was shocked a mere three weeks ago with the attacks in Paris where members of ISIS went on a rampage murdering more than 130 innocent people. Even more recently, Americans were again attacked in San Bernardino where 14 people were murdered by Muslim terrorists who had ties to ISIS. What’s even more sad and frustrating is that the attack in San Bernardino could have been prevented.
A neighbor of the terrorists is now coming forward saying that for the past several months he had noticed strange activity at the house but didn’t come forward for fear of retaliation and being accused of racial profiling. He observed packages being delivered in the middle of the night, people coming and going from the house, and several Middle Eastern men moving into the house.
This neighbor was more afraid of offending people and of being politically correct than of stopping evil and saving the lives of 14 murdered people. All it would have taken to possibly avert these terrorists would have been for people to step up and not be afraid to call evil, evil.
But instead, we’re all too afraid of being politically incorrect and offending people that we don’t know right from wrong anymore!
The Maccabees faced a similar situation when the Greeks invaded the Judean region and told the Jews they could no longer worship YHVH.
A Hanukkah History: Antiochus IV Epiphanes
In 200 BC, Antiochus III the Great of Syria defeated the Egyptian Ptolemaic Kingdom and gained the region of Judea as part of its kingdom. Antiochus III wanted to make peace within his new kingdom so he allowed the Jews to continue worshiping as they pleased and to live a life according to Torah.
But in 175 BC, after killing his two nephews who were the legitimate successors of the throne, Antiochus IV Epiphanes took the throne. Antiochus IV Epiphanes’s original name was Mithradates. This is important because if you’ve read my post about the pagan origins of Christmas, you know the name Mithra was another name for Tammuz/Nimrod. Some other names used for him — depending on what region of the world you were from — were Saturn, Krishna (Vishnu), Osiris, Horus, Hercules, Indra, Budda, and Iesus (which later developed into the name “Jesus”). Essentially, Antiochus IV Epiphanes was named after the pagan sun god who was born on December 25, died at the winter solstice (Dec 21) and rose again at the spring equinox.
After assuming the throne, he caught wind of rumors saying he had been killed and a subsequent revolt that was taking place in Jerusalem. He then stormed Jerusalem, quelled the revolt, and subsequently killed 40,000 Jews and sold another 40,000 into slavery as recorded in 2 Maccabees and Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews: Book XII.
In order to strengthen his hold over this region, Antiochus outlawed Jewish traditions and practices and, instead, ordered the worship of Zeus as the supreme god. He then sent his army to enforce this decree. His army profaned YHVH’s Holy Temple by dedicating it to Zeus, bringing obelisks and other abominable objects into the Temple, and pouring the blood of slaughtered pigs in the Temple and the Holy of Holies. According to Josephus, public worship of YHVH, including sacrifices, were shut down for 3½ years because of Antiochus IV’s proclamation.
Given what you just read about Antiochus IV, I hope you recognize him as a type and shadow of the anti-Messiah spoken about in Revelation.
After Antiochus Epiphanes’ decree spread, a Jewish priest named Mattathias and his five sons Jochanan, Simeon, Eleazar, Jonathan, and Judah led a rebellion against Antiochus. This rebel group became known as the Maccabees or “hammer” in Hebrew.
The Maccabean revolt began when Antiochus’ army ordered that Mattathias sacrifice a pig on the altar of YHVH. When he refused, a fellow priest stepped forward to sacrifice the pig in hopes that the army would then leave them alone. Mattathias, rather than see YHVH’s altar profaned and a priest commit blasphemy, killed the priest and afterwards fled into the wilderness with his sons.
There are conflicting dates given for how long the Maccabean revolt actually lasted. Some believe the revolt lasted 20 years, ending only when the entire Judean region had been reconquered and the Hasmonean Dynasty was established. Others, however, believe the revolt lasted 7 years – the first 3½ years being when the sacrifices were stopped and ending when the city of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple were reclaimed. Hopefully the 7 year timeline is ringing some bells for you.
Rededication of the Temple of YHVH
After several years of living in the wilderness, hiding in caves, and engaging in rebel warfare, the Maccabees emerged victorious. They entered Jerusalem with their hearts full of joy, only to find the Temple of YHVH completely and utterly desecrated.
Pigs had been slaughtered on the altar of YHVH. Pagan asherah poles, obelisks, and a drove of statues had been placed in the Temple. There was fornication and orgies, hundreds of pagan gods being worshiped, and many more blasphemies that had taken place. So in order to restore that ways of YHVH and Temple workings, the Maccabees began the cleansing of the Temple.
Part of Temple protocol is that the light from the menorah must burn continually. Thus, lighting the menorah was one of the first actions the Maccabees took. According to Rabbinic tradition, the Maccabees could only find enough oil to keep the menorah burning for one day, but miraculously the oil lasted for eight days and they were able to cleanse and rededicate the Temple.
A Line in the Sand
I’d like to point out that the miracle of the oil lasting for eight days is part of Rabbinic tradition and not necessarily historical fact. Personally, I think Rabbinic tradition has downplayed the Maccabean revolts and focused on the oil in order to downplay their roots in mixing pagan and holy traditions.
An interesting fact about the Maccabean Revolt: it began as a campaign against other Jews. It began as a reaction to and means of stopping the Hellenization of the Jews that was taking place.
Remember the priest killed by Mattathias which essentially started the entire revolt? He was the embodiment of what was happening at the time — and is still going on today. The vast majority of Jews were content to accept the mixing of the Greek (i.e. pagan or Hellenistic) system with the ways of YHVH as prescribed in the Torah. They didn’t want to offend anyone and they wanted to appease these foreigners in order to keep the peace. That priest was willing to sacrifice a pig, something completely forbidden by YHVH, in order to have “peace” with the nations of the world and to save himself.
Today, things are not much different.
We live in a world where people are afraid to call wrong, wrong. We live in a world where people are afraid to do the right thing because of the vocal few. We are afraid to have beliefs that differ from someone else for fear of offending. We’re afraid to stand for what we believe in for fear of criticism. We are faced with the decision to do what is right or to do what is popular. We can stand for truth or we can stay silent for evil.
I believe that the lives of people like the Maccabees aren’t meant to be simply stories for us. They are meant to be warnings and signals for us. The Word of God tells us that there is nothing new under the sun. The battle for truth and holiness has been fought before, is being fought today, and will be fought in the future. I believe YHVH is drawing a line in the sand between His ways and our ways. The decision each of us has to make for ourselves is on which side of the line we will stand.
We each have a choice to make. Will we stand for His ways? Or will we continue to hold onto our own ways?
The king’s commissioners who were enforcing the apostasy came to the town of Modein for the sacrifices. Many Israelites gathered round them, but Mattathias and his sons drew apart.
The king’s commissioners then addressed Mattathias as follows, ‘You are a respected leader, a great man in this town; you have sons and brothers to support you. Be the first to step forward and conform to the king’s decree, as all the nations have done, and the leaders of Judah and the survivors in Jerusalem; you and your sons shall be reckoned among the Friends of the King, you and your sons will be honoured with gold and silver and many presents.’
Raising his voice, Mattathias retorted, ‘Even if every nation living in the king’s dominions obeys him, each forsaking its ancestral religion to conform to his decrees, I, my sons and my brothers will still follow the covenant of our ancestors. May Heaven preserve us from forsaking the Law and its observances.
As for the king’s orders, we will not follow them: we shall not swerve from our own religion either to right or to left.’ — 1 Maccabees 2:15-22