Maccabees 2, John 10:22-30 (16:32-33)
John 10:22-30 (16:32-33 22. It was the time
of the feast of Dedication in Jerusalem.
It was winter, 23. and Yahshua was in
the Temple walking up and down in the Portico of Solomon. 24. The Jews
gathered round him and said, "How much longer are you going to keep us in
suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us openly." 25. Yahshua replied: I have
told you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father's name are my
witness; 26. but you do not believe, because you are no sheep of mine.
27. The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice; I know them and they
follow me. 28. I give them eternal life; they will never be lost and no
one will ever steal them from my hand. 29. The Father, for what he has given
me, is greater than anyone, and no one can steal anything from the Father's
hand. 30. The Father and I are one.
1 Maccabees 2:1. Mattathias son of John, son of Simeon, a priest of the line
of Joarib, left Jerusalem
and settled in Modein. 2. He had five sons, John
known as Gaddi, 3. Simon called Thassi,
4. Judas called Maccabaeus, 5. Eleazar,
called Avaran, and Jonathan called Apphus. 6. When he saw the blasphemies being committed in Judah and Jerusalem,
7. he said, "Alas that I should have been born to
witness the ruin of my people and the ruin of the set-apart City,
and to sit by while she is delivered over to her enemies, and the sanctuary
into the hand of foreigners. 8. 'Her Temple
has become like someone of no repute, 9. the vessels
that were her glory have been carried off as booty, her babies have been
slaughtered in her streets, her young men by the enemy's sword. 10. Is there a nation that has not claimed a
share of her royal prerogatives, that has not taken
some of her spoils? 11. All her
ornaments have been snatched from her, her former freedom has become
slavery. 12. See how the set-apart Place, our
beauty, our glory, is now laid waste, see how the
gentiles have profaned it! 13. What have
we left to live for?" 14. Mattathias and his sons tore their garments, put on
sackcloth, and observed deep mourning.
15. The king's
commissioners who were enforcing the apostasy came to the town of Modein
for the sacrifices. 16. Many Israelites gathered round them, but Mattathias and his sons drew apart. 17. 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. 18. 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." 19. 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, 20. I, my sons and my brothers will still follow the
covenant of our ancestors. 21. May Heaven preserve us from forsaking the Law
and its observances. 22. 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." 23. As he finished speaking, a Jew came forward in the sight
of all to offer sacrifice on the altar in Modein as
the royal edict required. 24. When Mattathias saw
this, he was fired with zeal; stirred to the depth of his being, he gave vent
to his legitimate anger, threw himself on the man and slaughtered him on the
altar. 25. At the same time he killed the king's commissioner who was there to
enforce the sacrifice, and tore down the altar. 26. In his zeal for the Law he
acted as Phinehas had against Zimri
son of Salu.
27. Then Mattathias went through the town,
shouting at the top of his voice, "Let everyone who has any zeal for the
Law and takes his stand on the covenant come out and follow me." 28. Then
he fled with his sons into the hills, leaving all their possessions behind in
29. Many people who
were concerned for virtue and justice went down to the desert and stayed there,
30. taking with them their sons, their wives and their
cattle, so oppressive had their sufferings become. 31. Word was brought to the
royal officials and forces stationed in Jerusalem,
in the City of David,
that those who had repudiated the king's edict had gone down to the hiding
places in the desert. 32. A strong detachment went after them, and when it came
up with them ranged itself against them in battle formation, preparing to
attack them on the Sabbath day, 33. and said,
"Enough of this! Come out and do as the king orders and you will be
spared." 34. The others, however, replied, "We refuse to come out,
and we will not obey the king's orders and profane the Sabbath
day." 35. The royal forces at once went into action, 36. but the others offered no opposition; not a stone was
thrown, there was no barricading of the hiding places. 37. They only said,
"Let us all die innocent; let heaven and earth bear witness that you are
massacring us with no pretence of justice." 38. The attack was pressed
home on the Sabbath itself, and they were slaughtered, with their wives and
children and cattle, to the number of one thousand persons.
39. When the news
reached Mattathias and his friends, they mourned them
bitterly 40. and said to one another, "If we all
do as our brothers have done, and refuse to fight the gentiles for our lives
and institutions, they will only destroy us the sooner from the earth."
41. So then and there they came to this decision, "If anyone attacks us on
the Sabbath day, whoever he may be, we shall resist him; we must not all be killed,
as our brothers were in the hiding places." 42. Soon they were joined by the Hasidaean party, stout fighting men of Israel, each
one a volunteer on the side of the Law. 43. All the refugees from the
persecution rallied to them, giving them added support. 44. They organised themselves into an armed force, striking down the
sinners in their anger, and the renegades in their fury, and those who escaped
them fled to the gentiles for safety.
45. Mattathias and his friends made a tour,
overthrowing the altars 46. and forcibly circumcising
all the boys they found uncircumcised in the territories of Israel. 47.
They hunted down the upstarts and managed their campaign to good effect. 48.
They wrested the Law out of the control of the gentiles and the kings and
reduced the sinners to impotence.
49. As the days of Mattathias were drawing to a close, he said to his sons,
"Arrogance and outrage are now in the ascendant; it is a period of turmoil
and bitter hatred. 50. This is the time, my children, for you to have a burning
zeal for the Law and to give your lives for the covenant of our ancestors. 51.
Remember the deeds performed by our ancestors, each in his generation, and you
will win great honour and everlasting renown. 52. Was not Abraham tested and found
faithful, was that not considered as justifying him? 53. Joseph in the time of his distress
maintained the Law, and so became lord of Egypt. 54. Phinehas, our
father, in return for his burning zeal, received the covenant of everlasting
priesthood. 55. Joshua, for carrying out
his task, became judge of Israel. 56. Caleb, for his testimony before the
assembled people, received an inheritance in the land. 57. David for his
generous heart inherited the throne of an everlasting kingdom. 58. Elijah for his consuming fervour for the Law was caught up to heaven itself. 59. Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael, for their
fidelity, were saved from the flame. 60.
Daniel for his singleness of heart was rescued from the lion's jaws. 61. Know then that, generation after
generation, no one who hopes in him will be overcome. 62. Do not fear the threats of the sinner,
all his brave show must come to the dunghill and the worms. 63. Exalted today,
tomorrow he is nowhere to be found, for he has returned to the dust he came
from and his scheming is brought to nothing.
64. My children, be resolute and courageous for
the Law, for it will bring you glory.
65. 'Here is your brother Simeon, I know he is a man of sound judgement. Listen to him all your lives; let him take your
father's place. 66. Judas Maccabaeus, strong and brave from his youth, let him be
your general and conduct the war against the gentiles. 67. The rest of you are
to enroll in your ranks all those who keep the Law, and to assure the vengeance
of your people. 68. Pay back the gentiles to the full, and hold fast to the
ordinance of the Law." 69. Then he blessed them and was joined to his
ancestors. 70. He died in the year 146 and was buried in his ancestral tomb at Modein, and all Israel mourned him deeply.
the Great and his Philosophy of Conquest
In 356 B.C. there was born to Philip II,
King of the tiny nation-state of Macedonia, a prince named Alexander
is located in Eastern Europe north of Greece;
at that time was the cultural center of the world and the home of
democracy. Alexander gained his
education as the protégé of the famous Aristotle, who himself had been educated
by Plato, who had been educated by Socrates.
Though few know the actual philosophies of these teachers, their names
are still familiar. By the age of 18,
Alexander was determined to conquer the world for Greece. At 19, he set out. What followed was fourteen years of constant
warfare in which Alexander, soon to be known as “the Great,” conquered Europe,
Egypt, Africa, the Middle East, and as far east as India, where, still in his
twenties, he wept bitterly because he perceived there were no more worlds to
conquer. Alexander died at the age of
thirty-three, but not in battle. He may
have been the victim of tainted pork.
And though that was the end of Alexander the Great, his impact is still
This is why his reign was and is so
influential: When Alexander took a
kingdom, he would force the people to adopt Greek customs, religion and
language or they would die. It was his
intention to remake the world in his image.
It was a very successful strategy, used later by Mohammed and by the
Jihad strategists today.
The New Testament was written 400 years
after Alexander’s conquest. You can see
Alexander’s great influence even then by considering New Testament
names. Take for instance the seven
deacons of Acts 6: All have Greek, not Hebrew, names, like Philip (horselover), Stephen (crown), Nicanor (overcomer), Prochorus (songleader) and
the rest. This indicates that in New
Testament times, the Greek or Hellenistic culture (same thing) was deeply
rooted among the people in Israel
– many had by that time abandoned the Bible and gone over to myths. Many generations had come and gone, so,
especially in Galilee, culture was primarily
of a secular nature tainted with Greek philosophy, institutions like the
gymnasium, and pagan worship. Greek was
spoken and understood all over the world just as English is today. Even the New Testament manuscripts are in
Greek. It’s all Alexander’s doing.
This also explains why there was so much
religious unrest all over the world.
Alexander and his successors forced the conquered people to desist from
their own religions and make animal sacrifice to the Emperor and the Greek gods
of mythology like Zeus and Diana. Again,
the key to controlling so many dissimilar groups was to successfully assimilate
them into the Greek / Hellenist culture, keeping their puppet kings
financially prosperous enough to continue the program.
When Alexander died, the world was split up
among three dynasties, each keeping its newly acquired Greek culture with its
gods and trappings. The Alexandrian
dynasty that controlled Israel
was called the Seleucid Empire. Around
174 BC, King Antiochus IV arose over the Seleucids. He called himself “Epiphanes,” which means
“visible [god]” and declared that he must be worshiped right alongside
Zeus. Antiochus Epiphanes actually got
mention in the Book of Daniel (7:8) as the “little horn” with “a mouth full of
boasting.” Much of Daniel’s vision of
chapter 8 is about him. Antiochus faced
the threat of the upstart Romans, so he began a campaign to re-Hellenize all
his territories, including Palestine. Jews in Israel who were willing to give up
their god, ancient law and Hebrew names quickly gained power and
But others considered such acquiescence to
be criminal and a direct challenge to the god of Israel. There was much Jewish resistance against
Antiochus’ policies in Palestine. This infuriated the king – he made all Jewish
practices, including Bible study, the learning of the Hebrew language and the
observation of Yahweh’s feasts and Sabbaths, illegal, and subject to the death
penalty. Antiochus went so far as to rob
the temple of its valuable accoutrements and sacrifice swine on its altar, an
abomination that desecrated that place so set-apart to Israel. In fact, Antiochus’ sacrifice in the temple
is what Daniel calls “The Abomination of Desolation” (11:31). Something had to be done to avenge G-d.
This is where we take up the story in the
Bible book called Maccabees. About 170 years before Yahshua, in the town
of Modein (Moda-een’), just north of Jerusalem, the agents of King Antiochus
Epiphanes set up an altar and call the local priestly families (Levites) to
administrate a pagan sacrifice. Among
the priestly families comes the elder Matthias (Matityahu) and his five sons of the Hasmonian
family. Matthias, as spokesmen for Jews
still loyal to Yahweh, makes a defiant public appeal in these words:
if every nation obeys [the King], 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 2:19-22)
Even as he was finishing his speech, a
Levite steps forward to personally attend to the sacrifice in Matthias’
place. In his “righteous anger”
(Scripture observes), Matthias darts forward and slays this turncoat Levite
with his own sacrificial knife. Then
Matthias goes for the king’s man and kills him, too. He and his sons tear down the stone
altar. Finally, in the midst of shock
and confusion, he cries out, “Let everyone who has any zeal for the Law and
takes his stand on the covenant come out and follow me” (27), and off
into the mountains the band of zealots scamper.
For their willingness to resort to violent overthrow, they became known
as the “hammers” of Israel. Maccabees means “hammers.”
This was the beginning of an uprising in
Israel that, over the course of years and the deaths of all the sons of Matthias,
not only succeeded in expelling the armies of Antiochus Epiphanes, but also put
a righteous one back on the throne of Israel’s high priesthood for the first
time since before the captivity.
Historians tell us that these scattered Israelites somehow succeeded in
overthrowing the greatest power in the world.
G-d must have been on their side; how else can it be explained?
The entire history of the Maccabean revolt is recorded in the Bible books of First
and Second Maccabees, which you can read for yourself if you have a complete
Bible like the New Jerusalem or the Revised Standard.
and Paul Hill
I wonder how we might react to the same kind
of religious pressure. Our faith doesn’t
demand much from us as that of the Maccabees.
How might we react to forced worship of some other god, say, Allah,
under penalty of imprisonment or death?
What would it take for us to sacrifice Yahweh to Allah? I dare say, most
church people would do whatever it takes to avoid trouble, even if it
meant renouncing Yahshua. What do you
think? What would be your last
straw? Might zeal ever consume you to
the point of violent action? Or would
you gladly acquiesce?
When I read Maccabees I think of Paul
Jennings Hill, the Presbyterian minister who gunned down two abortionists at
the “Ladies Center”
July 29, 1994. Hill isn’t a naturally
murderous or violent man – we previously knew him as a man of peace and a
minister of the Gospel -- but his religious sensibilities became so offended by
the fact that Pensacola is purportedly such a “church-goer” city, with so many
churches and religious schools within its boundaries, so much outward show of
faith and religiosity, yet its church-goers tolerate abortion mills running at
full steam right in the center of town.
I think both the Maccabees and Paul Hill were so consumed by zeal and
outrage at the abominable desecration of a set-apart place that Old
Testament-style violence became, for them, the only alternative (review, for
instance, the actions of Phineas in Numbers 25).
Matthias’ violent act served to unite all
the observant in Israel. The cost in personal sacrifice for Matthias
was his own life, the lives of all his sons and the lives of countless
Israelites. In the case of Paul Hill: No
doubt he hoped to mobilize the church-goer community against those who make
millions killing pre-born children. And
he knew full well what the consequences of his action might be. He would leave behind a young wife and three
children to dedicate the remainder of his time on earth to the prison
system. Now, most church-goers who haven’t
forgotten Paul Hill wish to.
Others, a very few, have “deified” him as one of
brave men, heroes who have become political prisoners for defensive acts
protecting unborn children.”
feelings about those such as Paul Hill and other freedom fighters who resort to terror are admittedly ambivalent. We waver as to whether Hill, or Matthias for
that fact, are heroes or just plain murderers. We definitely consider Yahshua’ violent acts in
overthrowing the money changers’ tables in the court of the Gentiles as
something good and decent, yet we would appeal to his compromising nature if we
were ever called on to act with violence.
As yet, zeal for his house has not consumed any church-goers I know. (Except, perhaps, Paul
Back to the Mac
When the Maccabees finally liberated Jerusalem, they went immediately for the Temple, which the Greeks had defiled with
offensive sacrifices and images of their king and gods. The temple had to be re-consecrated for
worship in an eight-day ritual.
These ceremonies required the “mercy drops” of olive oil that had been
consecrated by the former priests for the rekindling of the great menorah, or
lamp stand, in the set-apart place. No other
oil but the consecrated mercy drops would do.
But all the jars of this oil had been contaminated but one, and one jar was only enough for one day’s burning. And it was December, so the first fruits of
the Olive harvest were simply not available for anyone to make more. The priests thought that if this were all the
oil they had, it would simply have to do.
G-d would make a way where there seemed to be none. So the miracle of the rededication of
the temple was that one-day’s supply of oil lasted for all eight days of
the ceremony. The set-apart temple in the
set-apart city once again became the house of prayer for all nations. This rededication and the miracle of the oil has been celebrated ever since as Hanukkah. “Ha Nukkah” means
We find Yahshua attending this eight day
Hanukkah or “Dedication” according to John 10:22-25, 30. It’s in this passage and at this festival
that he actually reveals his identity to the temple authorities. So the story goes:
was the time of the feast of Dedication in Jerusalem. It was winter,
and Yahshua was in the Temple
walking up and down in the Portico of Solomon. The Jews gathered round him and
said, “How much longer are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the
Anointed One, tell us openly.” Yahshua
replied: “I have told you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my
Father’s name are my witness [that] the Father and I are one.”
turn-around of the original Maccabees story, after Yahshua makes this
declaration, the faithful of the temple take up stones to throw at him since,
in their opinion, he was not only blaspheming but
desecrating the temple anew with his outrageous claims. However, Yahshua, even through the violent
symbolic acts of overthrowing the moneychangers, even through his many signs
and words, even through the witness of his willingness to be a “zealot for the
Law,” could not convince these unrighteous priests of his identity. In the name of Matthias the Maccabee, these, his successors, lift rocks against the
light of the world.
Feast of Lights
Hanukkah is also called the Feast of Lights;
a lamp is lit for each of the eight days of the rededication of the
temple. You may now be able to make a
connection between the lights of Hanukkah and the Advent candles. (We use candles simply because they’re more
convenient than oil lamps.) But since
Hanukkah and Advent always happen about the same time, indeed, Hanukkah points
to Advent in so many ways, the Jewish tradition of lights bleeds
over into the modern church-goer tradition of lighting candles one by one,
marking time until the advent of the One Light of the World. We remember that the Maccabean
hope was that the land and temple
of Israel might be
liberated, cleansed and renewed by the coming of a more righteous priesthood,
even if that hope could only be realized through violent overthrow. Likewise, our Messianic hope is that our
Righteous Priest and King will descend and liberate not just Israel, but all
of creation, cleansing the entire earth of the systematic destruction
wrought by Satan and all those who assimilated his evil ways. This too will be through violent acts, as
prophesied. But, when He finally
arrives, the Light of the reign of Yahweh will enlighten the entire world to
the extent that no sun need even shine anymore nor candle burn. He will be all the light the world needs.
We Watch and
In the meantime, as we watch and wait, we do
so in darkness not so unlike the dark days of Antiochus Epiphanes’ rule over Israel. We are bid and commanded that, as we
watchfully wait, we be the origin of light and goodness, the city set
upon the hill, the candle that can’t be smothered by the bushel, the lamp that
the darkness can’t overcome or master.
Friend, can you be that kind of light?
Can you be a zealous advocate for light and goodness? Can you change your evil ways? Dare you be a zealot for the law? Do you have the courage to publicly claim
that you belong to Yahshua’ kingdom? Are
you willing to risk aligning yourself (in this secular, idolatrous culture)
with a counter-cultural movement that’s likely to put you in conflict with the
great and mighty powers of the enemy in upcoming years? This is not only worth thinking about now,
but planning for in the future. What
will you do?