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Bible Study Feature Focus: Between Malachi and Matthew
Part Two - 1 and 2 Maccabees

Produced by TheMediaDesk, ©2023
Posted on CCPC's website 2023

The Minor Prophets Study Index page.

1 Maccabees, review and commentary:

"In those days went there out of Israel wicked men, who persuaded many, saying, Let us go and make a covenant with the heathen that are round about us: for since we departed from them we have had much sorrow."
1 Macabees 1 : 11
      The period of the Maccabees begins AFTER Alexander the Great has conquered everything from Greece south into Egypt and then east into India in only about a dozen years. But then, in 323, at only 32 years of age, "Alexandros" died without a designated heir, or at least without one that could claim the throne and make it stick, and the Great Empire was divided into three large sections and a few smaller territories.
      The Seleucid kingdom encompassed most of Asia Minor and east into India. The Ptolemaic kingdom was based in Egypt and claimed several of the Mediterranean islands as well as the coastal area which included Judea and parts of what is today Lebanon. And for the next hundred years or so, the two rival Greek-based kingdoms fought over the area.
      Eventually, the Seleucid's won, and brought a more Hellenistic (Grecian style) of rule to Israel. Which included, beginning at 1 Maccabees 1 : 44
"For the king had sent letters by messengers unto Jerusalem and the cities of Judah that they should follow the strange laws of the land...."
      It is well worth the time to read through into the mid fifties... just past the part where they say anybody that doesn't comply will die.
      Then in chapter two we meet a hard-headed priest named Mattathias and his sons, and we find where the Jews in the first round of the Hasmonean revolt. Which begins after Mattathias murders a collaborator and a representative of the king, then he rallies the Jews against the new laws. Except they refused to fight on the Sabbath, climaxing at verse 38... the Greek army had no problem fighting on the Sabbath.
      After that, the Jews took up arms on the Sabbath.
      Chapter three opens with the middle of the five sons, Judas, rising up to lead the revolt, verse 21: "But we fight for our lives and our laws."
      And as king had gotten word of all this, he sends an army to deal with it, Judas gets to fight. Which is what the following chapters are about as the altar is rebuilt and Temple Worship resumes.

      The tone changes a bit in Chapter 7. The key point being verse seven and eight. The new High Priest is appointed by the king with no obvious qualification for the job. Which didn't sit well with another party, see verse 21.
      And there is treachery under a flag of truce.
      Things take an unexpected turn in chapter 8, with Judas kissing up to the Romans.
      Chapter 9 : 21 and 22 are an amazing eulogy for the famous rebel leader.
      In chapter 10 there's a change of fortunes, and ruling foreign powers, and various kings try to win over Jonathan and his forces. See verses 20 and 27 - 29. Incidentally, Jonathan ends up being the High Priest, but he gives a new meaning to the term "warrior priest".
      Chapters 11 and 12 recount some travel, and a battle or two, and a letter.... and Jonathan comes to a bad end. And we meet a priest whose name is recycled several times.
      Thirteen begins with Simon's speech after he finds out that he's the last of the brothers. And, as with his brother, he's now the High Priest. And the governor. And the war leader of the Jews. As stated in verse 42 and again in 47.
      Verses 11 through 15 sound like a partial fulfillment of some of the Minor Prophets. But then in 24 and following, Simon is still kissing up to Rome. And in verse 38, there is confirmation of who is putting the high priest in place.
      Chapter 15 tells us just how big the 'great shield' was that went to Rome, in verse 18. But the good times won't last, see from verse 38 to the end of the chapter.
      The book ends with chapter 16, and "great treachery" verse 17, and then then Simon's son is High Priest.

2 Macabees

      Chapter one opens with something of a song or poem that tells the story about how things were going in the period of the brothers.
      Two is somewhat strange in that it opens with a prophet named Jeremy, who 'hides the ark', then it contains a history lesson, and talks about Judas Maccabeus and his brothers.
      And then the writer of Book 2 explains what's going on beginning with verse 23:

"All these things, I say, being declared by Jason of Cyrene in five books, we will assay to abridge in one volume."
      And then through to the end of the chapter, including saying "it is a foolish thing to make a long prologue, and to be short in the story itself." But even with that, it MUST BE NOTED that 2 Maccabees is mostly a retelling, and EMBELISHMENT of the events of 1 Maccabees. As we'll see as we go.

      Chapter 3 begins 'the story itself'. It mentions a High Priest named Onias. This is likely to be Onias the Second, the first one is mentioned in book 1 chapter 12. But don't worry, there is a number three on the way. In any case, this Onias doesn't like those trying to turn Jews into Greeks.
      There's also a really strange section in chapter three that begins at around verse 23 and continues into chapter four. Were these 'handsome young men' angels? The text does not specify, so we don't know. But stay with that idea, we'll come back to it in chapter five.
      It is in chapter four where we get to the betrayal of one brother of another for the office of High Priest by bribing the king which we saw in the introduction. This is also the section where we see the Greek Gym open, verses 12 to 15, and the priests leave the temple to go play.
      Then the old idea of karma comes to call, see verse 24. Which leads to: "Then Jason, who had undermined his own brother, being undermined by another, was compelled to flee..."
      And then there is some more murder, and a discussion of "many sacrileges" before the end of the chapter.

      Remember toward the end of the introduction we asked "how bad did it get?"
            Welcome to ... How Bad Did It Get!
end note

      Chapter Five. Verses Two and Three. (go read them!)

and you thought all the Biblical UFO sightings were in Ezekiel.

      The people hoped that the UFOs were a good omen. Well... no.
      This Jason turns out to be a really bad guy to the people, verses 6 - 14, and then
15 "Yet was he not content with this, but presumed to go into the most holy temple of all the world ..."
      ... where he proceeds to do bad things.

      And yet verse 19 of chapter 5 is one of those Biblical Truths that stands out even in the midst of all this nastiness.
      The end of the chapter explains why Judas Maccabeus raised a militia.

      Chapters 6 and 7 recount much of the abuse of the population, including the throwing nursing mothers and their circumcised babies off the city walls and the burning of people alive that is mentioned in Hebrews 11. And, in the middle verses of 7, some obviously embellished retelling of courage unto death by those so abused.

      Eight brings us a recounting of the early days of Judas Maccabeus and his revolt.

      Chapter Nine is one of the strangest accounts in all of ancient literature. It tells of one Antiochus of Persia who had some sort of disease that made him stink. Really stink. But even with that, it talks about his pride and misdeeds. Then the worms show up. He's called a "murderer and blasphemer" and doesn't leave the scene pleasantly. We'll leave it at that.

      Ten. The Temple is restored and worship in it begins again, and we have the festival, and so on.

      Eleven. Remember in John 11 : 51 where it says that Caiaphas was the high priest "that year"? Read 2 Maccabees 11 : 3.
      There you go. Another reason to study these. The letter that begins at 22 and closes the chapter is interesting as well.

      Chapter twelve picks up the doings of Judas again, and he gets around.

      Thirteen has an account of a death that is interesting as well, mostly because of the commentary that is in with it. See verse 4 to 9. One thing that is interesting through most of this, is that the Ptomemais of Egypt are ALMOST cast as the good guys. Although it is probably a case of "the enemy of my enemy, is my friend".
      Chapter fourteen has the line "Howbeit having gotten opportunity to further his foolish enterprize..." see verse 5, that simply confirms that: first, nothing has changed in the halls of power in the last 2400 years. And second, there's a LOT of editorial content in 2 Maccabees.
      The prayer of the remaining faithful priest at 14 : 34 -36 is interesting. And then the death recorded in the last few verses of the chapter is another instance somebody's idea of poetic justice.

      And the story picks up Judas one more time in chapter 15.
      And here, in verse 15, we see something poetical, but NOT practical. There's a link to a Media Desk article below that goes into depth about why a 'golden sword' is the last thing a warrior would want. UNLESS it was 'magical', or, in this case, perhaps The Word Of God. The text does not say which it was. But then you get the idea beginning at verse 22.
      Verse 39: "...And here shall be an end."

      The next time there's any serious reports from this area... It involves John the Baptist!

      One of the questions about the battles of The Maccabees is the numbers. In the second book chapter 16, verse 22, in Judas's prayer, we see where 145,000 of the army of Sennacherib, king of Assyria, were slain in a battle. How reasonable is that?
      All we can really judge it by is other sources from the times. This is from Josephus's "Wars" book 1 chapter 1
"5. So this Antiochus got together fifty thousand footmen, and five thousand horsemen, and fourscore elephants, and marched through Judea..."
      So, we can only read it and basically take it to be "a lot of soldiers". Remember, even Alexander the Great "recruited" locals to fight for him during his campaigns. So while they may have had untold thousands in the formation, it is most likely that a good percentage of them had never held a weapon of war before in their lives. Which means, they probably were among the dead when it was over.

Selected Sources:

The Maccabees One and Two:


The Vulgate

in Greek!

"Antiquities of the Jews" Book XII

"War of the Jews"

Sennacherib and Jerusalem

The Media Desk article mentioned: A "golden sword"? Well...

Sources used throughout entire study:

the Geneva Bible downloadable

the 1611 KJV

The Minor Prophets Study Index page.

NOTE: The Bible Study Lesson presented above is posted as a reference document to begin a conversation of the topic. And that's it. Please accept it at such.

With the assistance and cooperation of The Media Desk.