Table of Contents
Alexander the Great 3
Ptolemaic Dominion. 4
Antiochus IV.. 5
The Maccabees. 5
Herod the Great 6
Importance of Maccabees and Christ Jesus. 7
Reference List 10
The period of time in history when man’s struggle in the world was at one of its highest was the time known as The Second Temple Period, when the Jewish temple was being rebuilt. It also marks the rise of Alexander the Great, and continues up until the time of King Herod and his sons, as they ruled Jerusalem and the surrounding areas. One of the groups of people who made their mark on history were the Maccabees, who began a revolt against the Greeks in the First Century, and were included in New Testamental writings, such as those in 1st and 2nd Maccabees. The Jews who fought valiantly for their religion went down in history as one of the greatest nations of their time, whose legacy remains complete until the time of Christ, and beyond.
Alexander the Great
King of Greece – Alexander the Great, led the conquest for the largest empire on Earth during his lifetime. This included the taking of Israelite terriotory after their surrender, including Jerusalem, until the Revolt of the Macabees. While Israel was under Alexander the Great’s rule, it was known as the Hellinistic Period, a time when Jews and Greeks merged cultures and adopted each other’s practices and traditions. Although Alexander the Great began his regin at an early age, the furious defeat of all his enemies by his armies seemed to take the world by storm.
Many of his conquests were strategically fought, giving impetus to his dominion and rule. After successively conquering Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt, he spared Jerusalem after they surrendered willingly, as aforementioned, in approximately 330 B.C. According to Josepheus, one of the Jewish scholars and commentators of the time, Alexander the Great moved onwards from Jerusalem after being shown the prophecy in the Book of Daniel. After the conquering of Assyria, Babylon, Persia and the East, Alexander the Great began to experience many setbacks within his own army and battle strategies, including several mutinies and misdemeanors by both officers, and Alexander the Great’s embracing of the Persian culture.
Shortly thereafter, Alexander the Great died by drinking a large bowl of unmixed wine, and was ultimately succeeded by a series of power brokers; Perdiccas his bodyguard, Alexander IV, a son born after his death, and Philip III. Because of the confusion between who would ultimately be heir to Alexander the Great’s throne, a 40-year long war between both sides was fought, with the kingdom of the Greeks and Macedonians ultimately splitting into two, and Alexander IV and Philip III being murdered in the process. This took place in approximately 334 B.C., and lasted until approximately 166 B.C.
The Ptolemaic Dominon started after the death of Alexander the Great, and was founded by Ptolemy Soter, who became Pharaoh in Egypt, and ruled Israel until the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. By allying himself with the Babylonians, he was able to take control of many nations, and Ptolemy Soter engaged in battle with Perdiccas, whom he defeated. Eventually, Ptolemy Soter named his son, Ptolemy II Philadelphus, his co-regent and ultimate successor in approximately 198 B.C. Much of the Hellinistic influence that Ptolemy Soter espoused was mixed with Jewish culture, especially the language of the Greeks.
Antiochus IV Epiphanes took the throne of King Antiochus III the Great, and dominated Israel until his death in approximately 163 B.C. It is this particular period in history that led to Jewish domination, as Israelite soldiers revolted against Antiochus IV Epiphanes imposing grip on the nation of Israel, during which they believed a rumour that he had died. Upon his return from battle, Antiochus IV Epiphanes slaughtered many of the people, and siding with the Hellinistic Jews, tried to force the Israelites to worship the Greek gods, thereby outlawing Jewish religion and the practicing of it.
The Revolt of the Maccabees in approximately 166 B.C. sparked a civil war between the Hellinistic Jews and those who followed Judaism. Although heavily outnumbered, the Jews defeat the Greeks, who return home after agreeing to terms of peace. This important period marks the return of Jewish dominance and the restoration of Judaism across the nation of Israel, as highlighted by the loyalty of the Maccabees, who were a band of five brothers and ultimately gathered a force of thousands of fighting men to overthrow the Greeks. The land of Israel was said to have been ruled by and for the Jews until approximately 63 B.C., until Pompey and the Romans came and overtook Israel. Herod the Great, who pledged allegiance to the Roman empire, ruled Israel until the time of Jesus Christ in approximately 4 B.C.
Herod the Great
Herod ruled as a tyrant, and although he was known for his expansion of the Second Temple and other important buildings in Judea, he was resented by the people of Israel for defecting to the ‘enemy’ of the Israelites, who were the Romans. He was also responsible for the Massacre of the Innocents, where he ordered the killing of all infants under the age of two in Bethlehem, a town in Judea, in order to wipe out the coming Messiah, who was an apparent threat to his throne. After an excruciating death, Herod’s son, Herod Archelaus, was appointed king by the Romans.
Herod Archelaus reign was short-live, however, and was judged incompetent to rule by the Roman governor Augustus. Herod the Great’s other son, Herod Antipas, took the throne and was named tetrarch of Galilee. Due to the tension between Herod’s sons, their rule was not a pleasant one. In fact, the people resented the rule of Herod’s sons as much as they had resented the rule of Herod the Great himself.
Importance of Maccabees and Christ Jesus
As mentioned earlier, the Revolt, and rule, of the Macabees had a great impact on the first century world, especially in the nation of Israel. This holy warfare that was led by the Macabees against the Greeks established new frontiers and thinking amongst the Israelite people, and was instrumental in shaping the idea of the crusade (Morton 2010). It also gathered the people in unison against their enemies that had ruled them for so long. Under the oppression of foreigners, the Israelites had grown accustomed to their practices and traditions. Due to the influence of the Maccabees on the ideaology of the Israelites, they were able to plan a strategic revolt against the Greeks, and were successful.
Their power came not in numbers, but in thought. The Maccabees were still able to gain a sizeable force against their enemies; however, their ability to persuade their fellow Jews to help them to conquer the Greeks in a combined effort. They appealed to them in a way that no other dynasty could have done – through the morality of kinship (Scolnic 2008). This morality aided them to have one of the most peaceful rules in their own land after they had gained victory over their enemies, and the Maccabees were able to liberate the Jews by this power of thought.
Important to note is the commendation of the Maccabees by many historians and fellow Jews, including Josephus. Their exploits and methods were also outlined in the book of 1st and 2nd Maccabees, which have been included in some editions of the Bible. Their impact in such New Testament times is itself testament to many of the Jews’ support of their ways and the fight for freedom – which was worth it at any costs. Although their were many Jews killed during the infamous Revolt of the Maccabees, they were remembered as martyrs (Remus 2012; Freeman 2006). This shows that the Maccabees, and those who followed them, were champions of change, not just war heroes.
The birth of Jesus Christ, which occurred in approximately 4 B.C., as aforementioned, was fundamental in Jewish history as the coming of the Messiah. Although quite different to the Maccabees, in both character and nature, they both represented the liberation of Israel. The preservation of faith was of utmost importance in Jewish culture, and those who believed that the dynasty of King David would once again be established believed that the Maccabees ways were to be supported (Bethlen 2012). Although Jesus Christ came as a peaceful Messiah, he also came to establish this Davidic rule.
No doubt is held that Jesus Christ would have read, or at least learnt about the Maccabees. They both came to herald a soverign rule of Israel, that was not dominated by any foreign power, but by the God of the Jews alone (Yogev 2010). This was crucial in their overpowering of their enemies, at least for a time, and helped build the courage of the Jews until they were ultimately a free and independent nation, although this was a long time in regards to its fulfillment.
The nation of Israel is one of patriotism, and throughout their diverse history, this trait has remained. Despite the rule by foreign empires and the dominance of other nations, they have ultimately triumphed by faith in themselves and faith in their God. Through the influence of the Maccabees, and the coming of Christ, the Second Temple period has become one of the foundations of their heritage, and one that will not be easily forgotten.
Morton Nicholas, “The defence of the Holy Land and the Memory of the Maccabees”, Journal of Medieval History 36 (January 2010): 131
Benjamin Edidin Scolnic, Thy Brother’s Blood: the Maccabees and Dynastic Morality in the Hellinistic World. (University Press of America, 2008), 203
Freeman Cameron, “Jesus and First Century Jewish Purity Laws”, Journal of the American Academy of Religion 43 (February 2006): 5
Onisor Remus, “Aspects of the Suffering Endured in the Epoch of the Maccabees for the Preservation of Faith”, European Journal of Science and Theology 8 (September 2012): 195
Yogev Esther, “A Crossroads: History Textbooks and Curricula in Israel”, Journal of Peace Education 7 (March 2010): 14