Biblical Period 10
Lesson # 23


Heavenly Father,

You returned Your people to the Promise Land after 70 years of exile and restored their independence through the courage of the sons of Mattathias'the Maccabees'who hammered Judah's foes and reclaimed the Temple for the Covenant people.  Help us to remember Father, that we are also a Covenant people and that we also have a kingdom'it is the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, the Holy Roman Catholic Church and we are called to serve her just as the Maccabees were called to serve Judah.  Judah Maccabeus cleansed Your earthly Temple but we are continually called to cleanse our souls which are now the Temples of the Holy Spirit through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Grant us O Lord, a pure heart to serve You, and a joyful heart that is appreciative of Your many blessing.  We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, Amen.


 "Judas and his brothers then said, 'Now that our enemies have been defeated, let us go up to purify the sanctuary and dedicate it.'  So they marshaled the whole army and went up to Mount Zion...They restored the Holy Place and the interior of the Dwelling, and purified the courts....Judas, with his brothers and the whole assembly of Israel, made it a law that the days of the dedication of the altar should be celebrated yearly at the proper season, for eight days beginning on the twenty-fifth of the month Chislev, with rejoicing and gladness."  -1 Maccabees 4:36-37, 48, 59




The Rule of the Greek Seleucid Kings

Daniel 8:1-27; 1 Maccabees 1:10-24

Mattathias Unleashes the Holy War

1 Maccabees 2:1-7, 15-28

Judah "The Hammer"

1 Maccabees 2:49-50, 65-70; 3:1

Purification of the Temple

1 Maccabees 4:36-61

The Alliance with Rome

1 Maccabees 8:1-32

The Death of Judah "The Hammer"

1 Maccabees 9:14-22

Jonathan Takes Command

1 Maccabees 9:28-31, 37-66

Judah caught between Egyptian and

Syrian Empires

1 Maccabees 11:1-19

The Death of Jonathan

1 Maccabees 12:39-53; 13: 25-30

Simon, High Priest and Ethnarch

1 Maccabees 13:31-42

John Hycanus - Independence

1 Maccabees 16:1-24



-356BC Birth of Alexander son of Philip of Macedonia

-336BC Alexander the Great begins world conquest

-333BC conquers Syria

-332BC conquest includes Judah, Tyre, and Gaza'entry into Egypt

-331BC ends Persian empire by his victory at Arbela

-330-326 BC conquest of Eastern satrapies and India

-323BC Alexander dies and his kingdom is divided into 4 parts among his top generals.  Judah will be ruled and fought over by 2 Greek dynasties:

-Ptolemy I Soter becomes Pharaoh of Egypt & founds the Ptolemy dynasty

-Seleucus I Nicator founds the Seleucus dynasty which stretched from modern Syria to the Indus River in India

-250BC translation of Sacred Scriptures into the Greek language known as the Septuagint

-175BC Seleucuid king Antiochus IV (175-163) decides to impose Greek culture on the Jews and to destroy the Jewish religion and culture.

-175-170BC Onias III last legitimate high priest of the line of Zadok is assassinated.  Qumran community [Dead Sea Scrolls] established in opposition to illegitimate priesthood in Jerusalem

168BC Antiochus IV has a pig sacrificed on the altar at the Temple and erects an altar & statue of the Greek god Zeus = the "abomination of desolation" in the Temple prophesized by Daniel.

-166 Maccabean Revolt begins

-165 Purification and rededication of the Temple

-134-67 Hasmonean dynasty = established by John Hyrcanus descendant of the priest Mattathias.  Hasmons were Priest-Kings of Judah

-100BC birth of Julius Caesar

-67-63 Civil war between sons of Alexander Jannaeus

-63 Roman consul, Pompey, attacked and took possession of Jerusalem. He ended the Hasmonean monarchy made Judea a part of the Roman province of Syria. Hasmonean king Hyrcanus II is made high priest with the title of ethnarch and an Idumean named Antipater is appointed procurator by the Romans.

-46 Cleopatra of Egypt gives birth of Caesar's only son.

-44BC Julius Caesar murdered.  Marc Antony and Caesar's great-nephew Octavian share power

-43 Antony and Cleopatra VII of Egypt become lovers

-42 birth of Tiberius [future emperor, step son of Octavian/Augustus Caesar]

-40BC Herod, son of the Idumean Antipater and Cypris, an Arabian princess, becomes the Roman appointed King of Judea with the help of his friend Marc Antony.  (Idumea is Edom the land of Jacob's brother Esau)

-37 Herod, King of Judea.  After 3 years of fighting, Herod defeats the last Hasmonean heir and installs himself as king, marrying the Hasmonean princess Mariamme.  He will murder 2 brothers-in-law, his wife, his mother-in-law, his brother and 3 of his sons before his death (and those are only family members'untold others also) in ? 4BC or 1BC.  Since Herod observed Jewish dietary restrictions Augustus Caesar was quoted as saying "it is better to be Herod's pig than Herod's son.

-31BC Antony and Cleopatera are defeated at Battle of Actium. Octavian is the victor.

-30BC Octavian [great-nephew of Julius Caesar] becomes Caesar Augustus (title given in 27), Emperor of the Romans.  It is the end of the Roman Republic and the birth of the Roman Empire

-Birth of Jesus 3/2BC not 6BC (3BC corresponds to 15th year of Tiberius and Jesus beginning His ministry at that time when He is 30 yrs. old; see Luke 3:1).  Most scholars now accept this date.

-death of Herod 1BC? (4BC not as likely'does not correlate with Jesus birth at 3/2BC and Luke's testimony of the beginning of Jesus' ministry at age 30 in the 15th year of Tiberius).

-14AD death of Augustus Caesar, Tiberius becomes emperor

-28AD  = 15th  yr. of Tiberius' reign and beginning of the ministry of John the Baptist.  Luke 3:1. This is the only chronological datum for the life of Jesus given in Scripture.

-30AD Jesus of Nazareth is crucified, resurrected, and ascends to the Father

-66AD Jewish revolt against Rome begins

-70AD Temple in Jerusalem is destroyed by the Romans



Please read Daniel 8:1-27; Daniel's prophecy of the conquest of Alexander the Great from chapter 8 [New Jerusalem translation]:

"This is what I observed: a he-goat from the west, encroaching over the entire surface of the world though never touching the ground, and between its eyes the goat had one majestic horn.  It advanced on the two-horned ram, which I had seen standing in front of the gate, and charged at it in the full force of its fury.  I saw it reach the ram; it was enraged with the ram and struck it in the full force of its fury.  I saw it reach the ram; it was enraged with the ram and struck it. Breaking both its horns, so that the ram was not strong enough to hold its ground; it threw it to the ground and trampled it underfoot; no one was there to rescue the ram.  The he-goat then grew more powerful than ever; but at the height of its strength the great horn snapped, and in its place sprouted four majestic horns, pointing to the four winds of heaven.  From one of these, the small one, sprang a horn which grew to great size towards south and east and towards the Land of Splendour.  It grew right up to the armies of heaven and flung armies and stars to the ground, trampled them underfoot.  It even challenged the power of the Prince of the army; it abolished the perpetual sacrifice and overthrew the foundations of the sanctuary, and the army too; over the sacrifice it installed iniquity and flung truth to the ground; the horn was active and successful." Daniel 8:5-12


Question: Who is the "he-goat from the west"?

Answer: Alexander the Great of Greece conqueror of the Persian Empire which had stretched from the Persian Gulf, to Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, Syria and from the Holy Land reached across the Sinai peninsula to included Egypt.

Question: Can you identify the "Land of Splendour"?

Answer: The Holy Land of Israel [at this time the former Persian province of Judah].

Question: What is the "perpetual sacrifice" that is abolished?

Answer: The Tamid Sacrifice; "This is what you must offer on the altar: two yearling male lambs each day in perpetuity." Exodus 29:38


Question: Compare this vision with Daniel's vision in 7:1-8 and in chapter 2:31-45.  Which of the visions of chapter 7 compare with the vision of the conquest of Alexander the Great and why?

Answer: The vision in chapters 2 and 7 reveals the 4 successive world powers [although chapter 2 reveals a mysterious 5th kingdom that will rule forever]. The chapter 7 vision of the beast "like a leopard with 4 wings and 4 heads" represents the empire of the Greeks under Alexander the Great.  In chapter 2 the Greek empire of Alexander is represented by the statue with belly and thighs of bronze.  Chapter 7 prophesies the same 4 successive world powers as chapter 2.  In chapter 7 the vision represents the empires of Babylon [the lion with eagle's wings], Medo-Persians [beast like a bear with 3 ribs in its mouth [3 main conquests = Lydia, Babylon and Egypt], Greeks = the leopard with 4 wings and heads [4 generals of Alexander's army], and the 4th unnamed beast with iron teeth and 10 horns = the Roman Empire with the horns representing either her 10 kings from Augustus Caesar to Christ or the 10 Roman provinces.



The Prophet Daniel received these prophecies from the late 7th century to the mid 6th century BC.  The Visions concern 4 historical empires that succeeded each other.

Vision of Daniel chapter 2: the Statue: "to take place in the final days" [2:28] circa 604BC

1. Head of fine gold

Babylon [vs. 38 Daniel to Babylonian king "you are the golden head"] Babylon destroyed by Persians 539BC

2. Chest and arms of silver

Persian Empire.  Alexander the Great begins the conquest of the Medo-Persian Empire in 335BC. Persians defeated by Alexander the Great in 333 at the Battle of Issus

3. Belly and thighs of bronze

Greeks of Alexander the Great.  Greeks split into 4 different kingdoms.  Two of those kingdoms: Greek Egypt and Greek Syria fought for control of Judah.  The 4 Greek kingdoms were conquered by Rome in campaigns from 197-63BC

4. Legs of iron, feet part iron , part clay

Rome and her province of Judea.  In the 4th century Rome split into the Western Empire centered in Rome and the Eastern Empire centered in Constantinople [2 legs].  Rome will be conquered by a 5th kingdom

5. The stone that struck the statue - Jesus "the cornerstone"

"..the God of heaven will set up a kingdom it will shatter and absorb all the previous kingdoms and itself last forever" [2:44-45]. The Kingdom of Heaven on earth = the New Covenant Church


Visions of Daniel chapter 7: the 4 Beasts: [circa 555BC]

1. Lion with wings

Babylon [Lion with wings was the royal symbol of Babylon]

2. Bear with 3 ribs in its mouth

Persians conquer the 3 provinces of Babylon: Lydia in 546BC; Babylon in 539BC; and Egypt in 525BC.

3. Leopard with 4 wings and 4 heads

Alexander the Great and his 4 generals who won his victories and who will divide his empire

4. 4th beast with 10 horns

Rome with her 10 client kings who rule her 10 provinces [or 10 Caesars from Augustus Caesar and the birth of Christ to Vespasian and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the end of the Old Covenant]


Daniel chapter 8: The Ram and the He-Goat: [circa 553BC]

Ram with 2 horns

The Persian empire was formed from the Medes and the Persians

He-goat with one horn

Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire

He-goat's one horn becomes 4

Alexander the Great's empire is divided among his 4 generals

The little horn that grows toward the "Land of Splendour"

The Seleucid Greeks expanded the empire from Syria to Asia Minor to the Indus River and became the largest of the 4 Greek empires dominating even the Promised Land of the Jews.


In 335BC Alexander of Macedonia crossed the Aegean Sea to take on the Empire of the Medes and Persians, the world super-power.  He successful destroyed the Medo-Persian army and went on to conquer the world spreading Greek culture from Egypt to the Indus River in India.  The world had never seen anyone to equal this amazing Greek warrior.  But, in 12 short years it was all over.  The 32 year old king died in Babylon in 323 BC.


With the death of Alexander the Great the territory conquered by Alexander was divided among his 4 strongest generals, known as the Diadochoi, the "successors".  In a conference held in 320BC at Triparadisus in Syria, General Seleucus Nicantor was allotted Babylonia as his portion of Alexander's conquests. Seleucus Nicantor expanded the territory originally allotted to him and founded a kingdom that stretched from Northern Syria, Armenia, Cappadocia and Asia Minor to the Indus River.  The Greek Selecuid Empire of Seleucus Nicantor and the Egyptian Empire of the Greek General Ptolomy constantly fought over the territories of the Levant [Judah and Lebanon], and these territories passed back and forth several times between these empires. 


In the prophecies of the Prophet Daniel, Alexander was represented by the he-goat with one great horn while the Medo-Persian Empire was represented by the ram with two horns [Medes and Persains].  The four horns that sprouted from the he-goat after the great horn broke were the "Diadochoi", 4 the successors of Alexander.  The littlest of the 4 horns that grew was the territory of the Seleucids, which was greatly expanded by Seleucid Nicantor to reach from Syria to Asia Minor to the Indus River of India.


Please read 1 Maccabees 1:10-24: The Rule of the Greek Seleucid Kings


The name of the 2 books of the Maccabees, Makkabaios from the Greek, Makkebet [Maqqebet], in Hebrew, comes from the title "the hammer", which was given to Judas, the third son of the priest Mattathias son of Hasmon.  The title, or nickname, is extended to his brothers, who succeeded him in the leadership of the Jews, and it used to designate the entire period of Jewish history from approximately 166 BC to the Roman conquest of 63 BC.  Although both books are included in the Greek translation of the Old Testament used during the first century AD when Jesus taught [know as the Septuagint] they were dropped from the Jewish canon in the Middle Ages and are longer included in the modern Jewish Tanach [Old Testament] of the west.  They are, however, are accepted as sacred texts in both the Ethiopian and Egyptian Jewish canons.  The Protestants dropped these books from their canon in the 16th century AD.


The entire story of 1 & 2 Maccabees recounts the successful struggle of the Jews to survive against the cultural and military forces brought against them.  In the opening chapters of both books the enemy is identified as the (Syrian) Seleucid era Greeks (rule began 312BC) and the Hellenizing Jews who are in conflict with righteous Jews led by the family of the priest Mattathias and his sons who become the heart of the resistance.  Of Mattathias' five sons Judas (#3) is the hero of battles, Jonathan (youngest) is the master diplomat, and Simon (#2) becomes the man who combines both gifts of his brothers and achieves the final liberation, driving out the Greek Syrians and reestablishing independence for Judah.


The second Book of Maccabees is not the continuation of the first.  It is in part parallel to it: its starting-point is a little earlier but it ends with the defeat of the Seleucids by Judas Maccabeus.  It therefore covers only about 15 years and corresponds to the first seven chapters of 1st Maccabees. 1 Maccabees covers a 40-year period.



Unlike 2 Maccabees, which was composed in Greek and which is, as the author tells us, a summary of a lost five volume history of the Maccabees composed by Jason of Cyrene [2 Mac 2:19-31], 1 Maccabees was originally composed in Hebrew.  St. Jerome, writing the Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible while using the great library at Caesarea Maritima, states that he saw a copy of the Hebrew text of 1 Maccabees. In addition to Jerome's testimony the language of the book itself bears the traces of having being translated from a Semitic language original.  1 Maccabees was probably written some time after Simon Maccabee's death [brother of Judas Maccabee].  It was most likely composed during the reign of Simon's third son, John Hyrcanus who ruled as ethnarch and then as priest/king of Judah from [134-104BC] and who was succeeded by his son Aristobulus I who governed Judah as priest/king from 105-104BC.


In 175 BC Seleucus Nicantor's descendant Antiochus IV Epiphanes seized the throne of Syria when his brother was assassinated. Ancient historians describe him as unbalanced, eccentric and horribly cruel, even by the standards of his own age. During his reign while Judah was under the control of the Seleucids, the last legitimate descendant of the Zadok line of High Priests, Onias, was murdered in 170BC.   Onias' brother, Jason, secured the high priesthood by bribing King Antiochus [see 2 Maccabees 4:7].  Like many Jews of the period who favored Greek culture he altered his name from the Hebrew "Joshua" to a similar Greek name, Jason.  After Jason's appointment he led a contingent of the wealthy and priestly aristocracy of Jerusalem who were in favor of the advancement of Greek culture in Judah in approaching the Syrian king asking permission to build a gymnasium in Jerusalem to promote Greek culture.  Antiochus gave his wholehearted support.  The majority of the Jews however, was conservative and resisted this movement to introduce Greek culture.  Strained relations were stretched to the breaking point when Menelaus, the brother of high priest Jason, expelled his brother from the priesthood by force.  Antiochus reacted with bloody thoroughness by violently suppressing the disorder and plundering the Temple treasury [it helped pay for his unsuccessful expedition against Egypt].  Despite the resistance of the majority of Jews Antiochus became determined to impose Hellenistic religion and culture by force.  His officials were ordered to suppress Jewish worship, to destroy their sacred books, and to institute the celebration of Greek festivals and sacrifice to Greek gods in the Temple of Yahweh in Jerusalem.  An altar of Zeus Olympios was erected in the Temple and the perpetual Tamyid Sacrifice was abolished.  This order fulfilled the prophecy of the "abomination of desolation" prophesied by the Prophet Daniel in Daniel 8:13.  These practices and other outrages contributed to the Revolt of the Maccabees, led by the priest Mattathias, son of Hasmon, and his 5 sons.


Leadership of the sons of the priest Mattathias, known as the Maccabees is recorded in the Books of 1 and 2 Maccabees:









JUDAS "the hammer"

















Reded-ication of the Temple

Alliance with Rome/


of Judah

Appoin-ted high priest; oppres-sion resumes

Alliance with Rome & Sparta

Deceit of Trypho

& murder

Contin-ued struggle against oppres-sion

Renewed alliance with Rome

Treach-ery & murder; succe-eded by son, John





Mattathias and his sons unleash the Holy War

Jonathan becomes political and religious leader

Simon serves as high priest/ruler of Judah

Hellenists attempt to destroy Judaism by enforcing Greek culture

Jews continues struggle to maintain their religion and culture

Judah reestablished as a theocracy (full independence only from 129-63 BC)











c. 40 YEARS [174 - 134 BC]




Please read 1 Maccabees 2:1-7, 15-28: Mattathias Unleashes the Holy War

Question: Who is the Phinehas mentioned in 2:26 and what is the significance of the reference?  Hint: see Numbers 25:6-15

Answer: He was a priest and the grandson of Aaron who killed the Israelite Zimri, a leader of the tribe of Simeon, who was committing a sacrilege against the Law of God.  Phinehas' judgment of Zimri was considered a righteous act just as Mattathias' action is considered an act of righteousness in defense of the Law.






JUDAS [Yehudah =Yahweh's people]

Surnamed "the hammer"; 3rd son

Leader of the rebellion against the Seleucid kingdom of Antiochus Epiphanes. He successfully defeated Seleucid commanders, drove the Greeks out of Jerusalem and was able to purify and rededicate the Temple.  He made a treaty with the Romans [1Mac 8].  Demetrius I Soter, king of Syria defeated Judas' army and killed him in 160 AD

JONATHAN [Yehonatan = Yahweh has given] Surnamed Apphus; 5th son

He accompanied Judas in the campaign to remove the threatened Jews of Gilead to the territory of Judah [1 Mac 5:17, 24].  After the death of his older brother in 160BC he was elected leader of the Jewish forces [1 Mac 9:28-31].  In c. 152 BC Demetrius I of Syria formed an alliance and made him high priest. He renewed his brother's alliance with Rome and also made an alliance with Sparta.  He was captured through treachery by Tryphon [regent of the Syrian boy king Antiochus VI] and ransomed, but after Jonathan's brother Simon paid the ransom Jonathan and his sons were murdered.

SIMON [Simeon = "heard" as in Yahweh heard, see Genesis 29:33]; 2nd son. Surnamed Thassi

In 1 Mac 2:65 he is called "a man of discretion" and is respected as councilor in the Maccabean wars.  He was sent by his brother to defend the Israelites of the Galilee from the Syrians but finally evacuated the population.  After Jonathan was appointed high priest by Antiochus VI he was appointed governor. He was unable to save his brother and his nephews when they were taken captive.  He supported Syrian Greek Demetrius II against the regent Tryphon and in return for his support achieved the goal of the Maccabean wars: remission of tribute and practical independence [1 Mac 13:36 ff].  Simon's administration gave the first period of peace that Judah had known for a generation [1 Mac 14:4ff].  He refused to take the title of "king" because he was not of the house of David and instead adopted the title "prince of the people of God" [1 Mac 14:28], although he did accept the position of high priest for which he, likewise was not eligible since he was not a descendant of the line of Zadok from Aaron.  This was a problem which haunted the Hasmonean line during its entire history.  The excuse was that he held the office "until a true prophet should appear" to decide the question [1 Mac 14:41]. Simon and his sons were treacherously assassinated by his son-in-law Ptolemy Abubus, governor of Jericho. 


Please read 1 Maccabees 4:36-61: Purification of the Temple

The Seleucid Greeks had sacked and profaned the Temple:

"After his conquest of Egypt, in the year 143 [of the Seleucid era = our time 165 BC], Antiochus turned about and advanced on Israel and Jerusalem in massive strength.  Insolently breaking into the sanctuary, he removed the golden altar and the lampstand for the light with all its fittings, together with the table for the loaves of permanent offering, the libation vessels, the cups, the golden censers, the veil, the crowns, and the golden decorations on the front of the Temple, which he stripped of everything.  He made off with the silver and gold precious vessels; he discover4d the secret treasures and seized them and removing all these he went back to his own country, having shed much blood and uttered words of extreme arrogance." 1 Maccabees 1:20-24


"On the fifteenth day of Chislev in the year 145 [December 167 BC], the king built the appalling abomination on top of the altar of burnt offerings; and altars were built in the surrounding towns of Judah." 1 Maccabees 1:54

 The appalling abomination was a statue of Zeus erected on Yahweh great bronze Altar of Sacrifice. 


Question: What were the "stones of pollution" that had to be removed in verse 43?

Answer: Stone idols of Greek gods and goddesses that had been set up in the sanctuary.


On the 15th of December 164 the Altar of Yahweh was rededicated.  Read 2 Maccabees 10:1-8 for another account of the rededication. 

Question: The people decided to declare a feast day to commemorate the rededication.  How did they decide to celebrate this new feast? See 10:6-8

Answer: they decided to celebrate in the same manner as the Feast of Shelters [Tabernacles].  This was one of the 3 pilgrim feasts ordained in the Sinai Covenant [and one of the 7 Annual Sacred Feasts] to be kept as the last feast of the year in the fall and which was to last for 8 days. 


Question: The Feast of Dedication, known as the Feast of Hanukkah [means "dedication"], was not a sacred feast ordained by God but a feast of thanksgiving that the people initiated.   Did Jesus ever keep this feast?  See John 10:22

Answer: Yes He did in December of 29 AD, three months before His Passion.


Judas Maccabeus was like another Joshua leading the Children of Israel against their enemies.  He was a military leader but he did not neglect the spiritual side of warfare. Please read 2 Maccabees 12:38-45.

 Question: What did Judas' men discover on the dead bodies of Jewish soldiers that distressed them?

Answer: They discovered the dead men had amulets or tokens to gentile gods under their tunics as a sort of "good luck" talisman.  This was strictly forbidden under the Law.

Question: What did Judas do for the dead men?  Also see 2 Maccabees 12:46

Answer: He took up a collection in order to make a sin sacrifice for the dead as well as having the men offer prayers.  The author points out that this is because Judas and his men believed in the resurrection of the death.   This is the earliest statement of the doctrine that prayers for the dead are beneficial.  The hope was that if these men had lived upright lives except for this one lapse that they could make restitution for this lapse in the grave [Sheol in Hebrew] and that prayers of the faithful could benefit them in making restitution.  It is similar to what St. Paul spoke of in 1Corinthians 3:10 when he wrote that our "bad works" would be burned away so only the good would be left.  The Catholic doctrine of Purgatory compliments Judas' hope that prayers and sacrifice would benefit those men who were in the grave.  Catholics believe that prayers offered on behalf of the faithful who have achieved their hope of salvation but have not yet been admitted into the presence of God because of accountably for some sins which has kept them in Purgatory can be aided by those who pray for them.  Reflecting on this subject St. Gregory the Great wrote: "As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire.  He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come.  From this sentence we understand tht certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come."   [also see Catechism of the Catholic church 1030-32]


Please read 1 Maccabees 8:1-32: The Alliance with Rome

Question: Judas was impressed that the Romans were not ruled by a king [see 8:14]. Why?

Answer: Rome at this time was a republic and was not ruled by a king but by an assembly that represented the people, an unusual form of government in the ancient world.  The idea of freemen ruling themselves [only ruled by God] without a king was of course the way Israel was first established.


The Romans were more than happy to establish relations with rebel groups who were fighting monarchies who were not subject to Roman rule.  However, what seemed a good alliance for Judas was to cause unimagined trouble for Judah in a century.  At this time Rome had already conquered and reduced to the position of vassal states the kingdoms of Philip king of Macedonia at Cynoscephalae in 197BC , and the Selelucid king Antiochus the Great at Magnesia in 189 BC. Rome had also reduced most of Asia Minor to the position of a Roman client kingdom, as well as asserting Rome's power in crushing the rebellion of Philip of Macedonia's son Perseus at Pydna in 168BC.  In 146BC with the defeat of the Achaean League and the destruction of Corinth all the kingdoms of Greece will be reduce to a Roman province.  The vast quantities of wealth from foreign tribute that flowed into Rome's treasuries only made the Romans greedier.  The Roman Republic had developed an insatiable lust for wealth, power, and slaves and was constantly looking for new territory to conquer.


Please read 1 Maccabees 9:14-22: The Death of Judah "The Hammer"

In April/May of 160 the Syrians sent huge force after Judas and his men.  When Judas' army saw the size of the Syrian army many men deserted.  The superior force overwhelmed Judas and the remaining Jews.


Please read 1 Maccabees 9:28-31, 37-66: Jonathan Takes Command

Jonathan, Judas youngest brother is chosen by the people to be their next commander.  On good terms with the Syrian Greek ruler Jonathan is appointed high priest and is given jurisdiction over 3 Samarian provinces.  [see 1 Maccabees 10:21, 38]


Please read 1 Maccabees 11:1-19: Judah caught between Egyptian and Syrian Empires

The Greek Ptolemys of Egypt and the Greek Seleucids of Syria were often at odds over who controlled the Levant.  Jonathan formed an alliance with the Syrian Greeks who recognized him as the high priest and agreed to exempt Judah [Judea in Greek] from tribute taxes.  In return Jonathan supported King Demetrius with Jewish troops during a revolt in his country, but when his throne was secure he became a threat to the Jews causing Jonathan to switch sides and support a rival to the Seleucid throne. 


Question: What was Jonathan promised for switching sides?

Answer: The rival, young king Antiochus VI through his regent Trypho confirmed Jonathan as high priest, appointed him ruler over the four districts [ethnarch], and made his brother Simon governor of the region of Tyre.


Please read 1 Maccabees 12:39-53; 13: 25-30: The Death of Jonathan

Question: How was Jonathan betrayed?

Answer: Trypho decieved Jonathan by inviting him to a conference, convinced him to dismiss most of his armed escort and then took Jonathan captive and killed his bodyguard.  Even though Jonathan's brother Simon paid the ransom, Trypho murdered Jonathan [13:15-22] and his sons.


Please read 1 Maccabees 13:31-42: Simon, High Priest and Ethnarch

Question: What is Simon's response to Trypho's treachery?

Answer: He switches sides again and seeks an alliance with Demetrius with the same understanding about tax relief.  Simon is priest/king of Judah and governor of 3 other provinces, although still a vassal of Syria.  Simon makes his son John the commander of all Jewish forces and continues the alliance with both Rome and Sparta in Greece [14:16-23].  Rome is on the move bringing more and more Mediterranean kingdoms under Roman rule.


Please read 1 Maccabees 16:1-24: John Hycanus - Independence

Question: How was Simon killed?  See 1 Maccabees 16:11-17

Answer: He is betrayed by his own son-in-law the governor of Jericho


In 10:21 Simon's son John or Jonathan Hyrcanus becomes Priest/king.   He will rule as high priest from 134 BC until his death in 104BC.  He begins the line of the Hasmonean monarchy.



The Hasmoneans were the members of the family of the priest Mattathias who ruled Judah from the end of the Maccabean wars to the conquest of the Romans under General Pompey in 63BC.  The name "Maccabees" is given to the warrior sons of the priest Mattathias and the name Hasmonean to their descendants from 135/4 BC to Roman conquest.  The title Hasmonean is derived from the Hebrew name Hasmon, the name of Mattathias' father.


These are the descendants of Simon Maccabee who ruled as priest/kings of Judah:




John Hyrcanus I, son of Simon son of Mattathias the priest

135/4-105 BC

Became independent of foreign Greek rule after the death of Antiochus VII in 128BC.  Extended rule over Edom and forced Idumenas to convert.  Destroyed Samaritan temple on Mt. Gerizim.

Aristobulus I, son of John

105-104 BC

Assumed title of king.  Imprisoned mother and brothers.  Assassinated.

Alexander Jannaeus [Jonathan], brother of Aristobulus I

104-76 BC

Successfully extended the Jewish kingdom almost to the limits of the ancient kingdom of David. Admired Greek culture. Invaded by Seleucid kings Demetrius III & IV.  Deep divisions with the conservative Jewish Pharisees.

Salome, widow of Alexander Jannaeus

75-67 BC

Named as ruler in her husband's will. Appointed Hyrcanus II, the son of Alexander as high priest and kept the ambitions of the younger son, Aristobulus II in check.  After her death civil war between the brothers broke out.  Both sons appealed to Rome to settle the dispute.  In 63 BC Roman general Pompey ended the Hasmonean monarchy, made Judah the Roman province of Judea, and appointed Hyrcanus II as high priest.

John Hyrcanus II, son of Alexander Jannaeus

63-37 (?)BC

Last of the Hasmons. Appointed high priest and ethnarch by the Romans.  Murdered by Herod



Rome Conquers Judah


In 66BC the Roman Empire's broad arm stretched eastward across the Mediterranean Sea to subdue and reestablish order in the rebellious Roman provinces and client kingdoms of Asia Minor.  The whole system of credit and finance, the very prosperity of Rome, was inextricably bound up with the tribute revenues of these Asiatic provinces.  The Roman statesman-general, Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, more familiarly known to history as Pompey the Great, son-in-law and rival of Julius Caesar, was dispatched to prosecute the war against the rebel Mithridates King of Pontus and to restore to Rome the most valuable revenues of the East.  Pompey was successful in his campaign to defeat the rebellious Mithridates. He proceeded to reestablish Roman authority and to secure the continued flow of tribute from the various provinces and client kingdoms into the coffers of Rome; thereby safeguarding the financial credit as well as the glory of the Empire.  Then flushed with victory, Pompey and his legions swept southward, illegally taking complete control of the old Greek Selecuid Syrian kingdom. The kingdom of Syria, torn apart by various claimants to the throne, resisted with more of a whimper than a howl and fell like an overripe plum into greedy Roman hands. Satisfied with their "feast" of conquest the Romans set up their winter camp and looked forward to the next harvest.  This time, the prize came seeking them.


It was during the winter of 63BC while Pompey was camped with his victorious Roman legions at Damascus, Syria that the princes Hyrancus II and Aristobulus II of Judah, sent emissaries to him pleading for his support.  These brothers, descendants of the heroic Maccabees and the last heirs of the Jewish Hasmonean dynasty, were locked in a deadly war of succession. Each brother in an effort to break the deadlock submitted his claim to the throne of Judah to the Roman general.   When Pompey decided in favor of rule by Hyrancus, under the guidance and protection of Rome, prince Aristobulus defiantly claimed the throne for himself and with his loyal army took possession of Judah's capital, the holy city of Jerusalem.  Now the fist of that long Roman arm, under the command Pompey, reached out to squeeze the holy city of Jerusalem into submission. 


The Roman siege of Jerusalem began in the early spring of 63 BC.  Jerusalem was a naturally fortified city built 2400 feet above sea level on the crest of the central range of the mountains of Judah.  The walled city was constructed on three mountain ridges with the steeply sloped Kidron valley to the East and the equally steep Wadi-er-Rababy, the biblical Ge-Hinnom, on the West.  These steep slopes gave the city an excellent defensive position, which could be stormed only on the North.  The city of Jerusalem also had a guaranteed source of water from the Gihon Spring, which provided a continuous flow of water to the city through an underground tunnel. Despite the natural barriers and other fortifications, intrigue allowed the lower sections of the city to fall to the Romans.  Prince Aristobulus was captured and imprisoned, but his followers refused to submit and fortified themselves in the walled precincts of the sacred Temple where they managed to hold out against the Romans for three months.  Prior to the arrival of the Roman army, the Jews had dug a defensive trench on the Temple's most vulnerable north side.  The trench was a formidable sixty feet deep and two hundred and fifty feet broad.  It was across from this site that General Pompey built his military camp, ordering his soldiers to fill in the ditch and to raise a bank from which his 1st BC century state-of-the-art siege engines would do the most damage.  Three months later when all was prepared, Pompey brought in his mechanical siege engines and battering-rams from the city of Tyre. 


During the siege General Pompey had already perceived that because of their piety in strict obedience to their Law the Jews would not fight or even defend themselves on their most holy day, Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath.  He determined, therefore to direct the force of his assault against the Temple Mount on each of the Jewish Sabbaths.  Placing the siege engines on the bank the Roman engineers had prepared for them, the Roman soldiers began to mercilessly batter the entire Temple Mount area with large stones.  Huge boulders cascaded in a relentless deadly downpour into the Temple precinct and yet, with death and destruction raining all around them the Jewish priests within the Temple walls continued to offer, as prescribed in their Law, the daily sacrifice of two perfect male lambs offered for the salvation of the entire covenant people to the One True God; a sacrifice that was doubled on the Sabbath.  This was the sacrifice to Yahweh known as the "Standing" (as in perpetual) Sacrifice, or in Hebrew as the Tamyid [pronounced tah-meed] Sacrifice.  This daily whole burnt offering was such an important Covenant obligation that the entire 12 hours of the daytime, and the daily ritual of the Temple, including the hours of prayer, revolved around this holy sacrifice.


On the Sabbath of the 23rd of Sivan the Temple ramparts fell and twelve thousand defenders and their families who had sought sanctuary in the Temple were slaughtered.  Since it was the Sabbath most of the Jews refused to defend themselves, many leaped from the Temple walls to their deaths, and none surrendered.  The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus reporting on the events a century later would write that so great was the piety of the Jews that the priests continued without fail to offer the daily Tamyid Sacrifice as prescribed by the Law of the Sinai Covenant even though their brother priests were dying all around them: 


"..and anyone may hence learn how very great piety we exercise towards God, and the observance of his laws, since the priests were not at all hindered from their sacred ministrations by their fear during this siege, but did still twice each day, in the morning and about the ninth hour [3PM], offer their sacrifices on the altar; nor did they omit those sacrifices, if any melancholy accident happened, by the stones that were thrown among them; for although the city was taken on the third month, on the day of the fast, upon the hundred and seventy-ninth Olympiad, when Caius Antonius and Marcus Tullius Cicero were consuls, and the enemy fell upon them, and cut the throats of those that were in the Temple, yet could not those that offered the sacrifices be compelled to run away, neither by the fear they were in of their own lives, nor by the number that were already slain, as thinking it better to suffer whatever came upon them, at their very altars, than to omit anything that their laws required of them; and that this is not a mere brag, or an encomium to manifest a degree of our piety that was false, but is the real truth..."

-The Antiquities of the Jews, 14.4.3


The Romans appointed the last Hasmonean ruler, John Hyrcanus II, ethnarch and high priest of the Roman province of Judea. John's role was restricted to religious activity, but the Romans gave the real political power to John's able Idumean [Edom] associate Antipater who was appointed Roman procurator [governor] of Judea.  Antipater was a wily politician who strove to win the favor of the great Roman general and statesman Julius Caesar-- and he succeeded. It was Antipater's goal to establish his own family dynasty.  Toward that end he married an Arabian princess names Cypris who gave him 5 children. At his death in 43BC he saw his sons well established as Roman allies.  He was able to appoint his oldest son Herod as strategos of the Galilee in 47BC when Herod was only 25 years old.  Julius Caesar's successor, Marc Antony who inherited the Eastern Roman provinces when the empire was divided after Julius Caesar's death, saw to it that Antipater's son, and Antony's good friend, Herod was appointed King of the Jews in 40BC but does not secure his throne until 37 BC.  Herod murdered the last Hasmonean ruler, John Hyrcanus II and forced his granddaughter, Mariamme, to marry him, giving his claim to the throne some legitimacy since Herod was not a Jew.  He ruled Judea as Rome's puppet king from 37BC - 1BC, establishing the Herodian kings of Judea and a historical legacy as Herod the Great, king of the Jews and enemy of the child Jesus of Nazareth.


Daniel's prophecy of the 4th Beast and the coming of the Messiah in Daniel 7:9-27 was fulfilled in the subjugation and domination of the entire Mediterranean by the Roman armies of the Roman Republic and later, Roman Empire which swallowed up Judah in 63 BC.  This empire was, however defeated by a Kingdom with armies and swords'it was defeated by an army of apostles who carry the Word of God as their only defense.

"Then I asked about the 4th beast, different from all the rest, very terrifying, with iron teeth and bronze claws; it ate its victims, crushed them, and trampled their remains underfoot; and about the 10 horns on its head--and why the other horn sprouted and the 3 original horns fell, and why this horn had eyes and a mouth full of boasting and why it looked more impressive than its fellows.  This was the horn I had watched making war on the holy ones and proving the stronger, until the comin of the One most venerable who gave judgment in favor of the holy ones of the Most High, when the time came for the holy ones to assume kingship.  [...] And kingship and rule and the splendors of all the kingdoms under heaven will be given to the people of the holy ones of the Most High, whose royal power is an eternal power, whom every empire will serve and obey." Daniel 7:19-22, 27.


From the time of Adam Yahweh-Elohim formed 7 Covenants with a selected group of men and with the people He had called to be His holy nation'the Children of Israel.  These Covenants had served to preserve the "promise seed", to guide and govern the Covenant people, and to provide the promise of a future redeemer.  The 6th century BC prophet Daniel had prophesized the coming of the "Anointed One" –the Messiah [Daniel 7: 7:13-14] who would establish everlasting rule through a glorious 5th Kingdom [Daniel 2:44-45;].  For the Jews of Judea the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks and Roman Empire had fulfilled Daniel's prophecy of the 1st - 4th Kingdoms.  The Jews were longing for the coming of another David to rid them of their Roman oppressors and to establish everlasting rule through the promised 5th Kingdom.  It was also significant to them that it was now a thousand years since Yahweh had formed His covenant with King David when he had conquered Jerusalem and made it Yahweh's holy city.  According to Jewish tradition a thousand years before David, Yahweh had established His 3-fold Covenant with father Abraham.  The people of God found the pattern significant-- a thousand years from Abraham to David, and a thousand years from David to...the Messiah!!??? 


The faithful remnant of Israel watched and waited and remembered the promise Yahweh made to another great prophet'Yahweh's faithful Prophet Jeremiah: "Look the days are coming, Yahweh declares, when I shall make a New Covenant with the House of Israel (and the House of Judah), but not like the covenant I made with their ancestors [...].  No, this is the covenant I shall make with the House of Israel when those days have come, Yahweh declares.  Within them I shall plant my Law, writing it on their hearts. Then I shall be their God and they will be my people.  There will be no further need for everyone to teach neighbor or brother, saying 'Learn to know Yahweh!'  No, they will all know me, from the least to the greatest, Yahweh declares, since I shall forgive their guilt and never more call their sin to mind." Jeremiah 31:31-34







1.         Adam


-dominion over the earth


Tree of Life


Genesis 1:28-30

Genesis 2:15-17

2.      Noah and the earth

-never destroyed by flood again




Genesis 8:21-9:1-17


3.      Abraham = 3-fold


-nation (descendants)

-world wide blessing



On the 8th day


Genesis 15:1-18

Genesis 17: 1-27

Genesis 18:18 & 22:18

4.      Moses & Israel

-Sinai Covenant establishing divine liturgy & covenant sacraments


Ark of the Covenant


10 Commandments



Exodus 19 forward


5.  Aaron & Sons

-perpetual ministerial priesthood



Leviticus 2:13

Numbers 18:9

6.  Phinehas                 

-perpetual priesthood in Covenant of Peace

(prefigures Christ)


Seamless robe & miter


Numbers 25:11-15


7.   David        

-dynasty and throne forever secure


Throne/ Temple


2 Samuel 7:11-17

Michal Hunt                                  


Questions for discussion:

Question: In 2 Maccabees 12:38-45 Judas makes a grim discovery.  On the bodies of some Jewish soldiers pagan amulets are discovered.  The soldiers probably carried them as "good luck charms" but these men have broken Yahweh's command against idol worship and there is great concern for the souls of these fallen brothers.  What does Judas do in an attempt to safeguard their salvation?

Answer: He takes up a collection to be sent to Jerusalem to have a sin sacrifice offered and prayers made on their behalf in the belief that the dead might be released from their sin in Sheol. "Then all blessed the ways of the Lord, the upright judge who brings hidden things to light, and gave themselves to prayer, begging that the sin committed might be completely forgiven. [...]For had he not expected the fallen to rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead, whereas if he had in view the splendid recompense reserved for those who make a pious end, the thought was holy and devout. Hence, he had this expiatory sacrifice offered for the dead, so that they might be released from their sin." 2 Maccabees 12:40c-42a, 44-45


Sheol or Abraham's Bosom was the abode of the dead. There was no hope of heaven in the Old Covenant.  The gates of heaven were closed because no animal sacrifice was perfect enough to remove sin.  In the Old Covenant both the blessings and the punishments were temporal'not eternal, and so both the righteous and the unrighteous awaited the coming of the Savior who would free them from the grave.  The righteous waited in comfort but the unrighteous in penalty for their sins [see Luke 16:22-26] and there was the hope that those who died in their sins could someday be released [see Matthew 18:34-35].  After His death, Jesus from the tomb descended to the abode of the dead, preached to those imprisoned there and saved those who believed in Him "In the spirit he went to preach to the spirits in prison.  They refused to believe long ago while God patiently waited to receive them, in Noah's time when the ark was being built."[1 Peter 3:19]. 


Question: Sheol was emptied of its dead by Christ who died for all humanity for all time.  Sheol was no longer necessary for the righteous dead because through Jesus Christ the gates of heaven have been opened to them but what about those who die in venial sins?  Can a single sin like failing to declare all you income on your income tax keep you from heaven?  Is there a remedy of purification for someone who inadvertently sins and dies before having the opportunity to confess and repent?

Answer: There is a remedy now as there was then.  CCC # 1030 "All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter to joy of heaven.  # 1031 "The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect..."  #1030 "This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: 'Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sins.'...." [see CCC# 633; 1030-1032; 1 Peter 1:7; 3:18-22; 4:6; Matthew 12:31 (Jesus speaks of pardoning the dead in the Age to come); 1 Corinthians 3:15].


Judas Maccabee was a messiah to his people'a messiah with a small "m".  He is best remembered for liberating Jerusalem, cleansing the Temple of Yahweh and establishing the Feast of Dedication, known as Hanukkah.  At that feast the Jews rejoiced "with thanksgiving, and branches of palm trees, and with harps, and cymbals, and with viols, hymns and songs: because there was destroyed a great enemy out of Israel."[1 Maccabees 13:51].  For the Jews of Jesus' time in the 1st century AD Judas and his brothers were the last great Jewish heroes.

Question: When Jesus attended the feast of Hanukkah in John 10:22 and at other times in His 3 year ministry, for example when he rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday [see John 12:12-13], and in the beginning and end of his 3 year mission, how did He imitate Judas Maccabee's actions?  Compare 1 Maccabees 15:5 with Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-46; John 2:13:16; 12:12-13.

Answer: Twice Jesus cleansed the Temple in Jerusalem, at the beginning of His ministry as recorded in John's Gospel chapter 2, and again during His last week in Jerusalem [see Matthew 21:12-13, etc]. 

Question: The cleansing of the Temple in Matthew's Gospel is preceded by Jesus' triumphal ride into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday when the crowds greeted Jesus with palm branches'like the branches used in the Feast of Dedication [Hanukkah] in both books of  Maccabees. But there is a reverse image of this event in Revelation 7:9-17.  What is the significance of these two events?  How are the crowds different in John 12:12-13 and in Revelation 7:9-17.

Answer: Both crowds in John's Gospel and in Revelation greet Jesus the palm branches. In the Revelation passage the multitude is Jesus' new nation'a nation of glorious Saints, bearing fruit filled branches and inheriting the Kingdom of God.  If John is the author of both works, as Church tradition attests, it would seem that he intends us to see a parallel drawn by the fact that the word translated as "palm" = phoenix occurs only two times in the New Testament, in John 12:13 and in Revelation 7:9.  Judas' cleansing of the Temple and the palms of the feast of Hanukkah prefigure Jesus' cleansing of the world as God's earthly Temple, He destroys a great enemy as Judas did but His enemy was sin and death not the Greeks, and Jesus prepares the way for the fruitful New Covenant Israel, the Universal Catholic Church bearing fruit in the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.


"Then the angel showed me the river of life, rising from the throne of God and of the Lamb and flowing crystal clear.  Down the middle of the city street, on either bank of the river was the tree of life, which bears twelve crops of fruit in a year, one in each month, and the leaves of which are the cure for the nations." Revelation 22:1-2.



Readings for Biblical Period #11: JESUS THE MESSIAH

The Announcement of the birth of John the Baptist

Luke 1:1-25


The Annunciation

Luke 1:26-38

The Birth John the Baptist Foretold

Luke 1:1-25

The Annunciation

Luke 1:26-38

The Visitation of Mary and the

Birth of John the Baptist

Luke 1:39-80

The Birth of Jesus in Bethlehem

Luke 2:1-21

The Baptism of Jesus and the Temptation in the Desert

Luke 3:1-18; John 1:19-34; Luke 4:1-13

Jesus' Galilean Ministry

Luke 4:14-9:50

The Bread of Life Discourse    

John 6

The Transfiguration

Luke 9:28-36

The Jesus' Judean Ministry

Luke 9:51- 19:27

The Last Visit to Jerusalem

John 12:1-28; Matthew 23:13-39

The Last Supper

Luke 22:1-23

Jesus Passion and Death

John 18:1-11; Matthew 26:57-66; John 18:28-19:16; Luke 23:24; Mark 15:21-27;

Luke 23: 33-34; John 19:23-27; Mark 15:33-34; Luke 23: 39-44; Matthew 27:45; John 19:28-30; Mark 16:42-47; John 19:31-36; Luke 23:45-56

The Resurrection         

Luke 24:1-49

The Ascension

Luke 24:50-53; Matthew 28:16-20; Acts 1:1-11


Resources and recommended reading:

1.      Anchor Bible Commentaries: 1 Maccabees & 2

2.      Navarre Bible Commentaries

3.      The History of Greece, Will Durant

4.      Our Oriental Heritage, Will Durant

5.      Caesar and Christ, Will Durant

6.      The Works of Josephus: Antiquities of the Jews, The Wars of the Jews

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2008 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.