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Thursday, 8 October 2015

Judas Maccabeus

Judas Maccabeus re-established a regular order of priests at the Jerusalem Temple on December 14, 164 BC.

The Seleucids, descendants of one of Alexander the Great's generals, had been ruling Palestine for over 30 years when in 167 BC the Seleucid ruler Antiochus Epiphanes instituted laws that forbade the Jewish religion under pain of death. Those who held fast to God's commandments were brutally murdered.

The brutal ruler plundered Jerusalem, stopped the Jew's daily sacrifices and as predicted by the prophet Daniel, desecrated the temple by erecting a massive statue of the pagan god Zeus in it and offering swine on the altar. To sacrifice an unclean animal such as a pig was the worst kind of insult an enemy could level at the Jews.

In 164 BC a revolt led by the Jewish priest Judas Maccabeus re-established Jewish independence and drove Antiochus Epiphanes from Jerusalem. Judas Maccabeus set up his headquarters there, cleansed the Temple of pagan abominations, rededicated it to the one God and on December 14, 164 BC re-established a regular order of priests.

The Triumph of Judas Maccabeus by Peter Paul Rubens
After re-capturing Jerusalem, Judas Maccabeus sent two emissaries, Eupolemus son of John son of Accos and Jason son of Eleazar, to establish a treaty of friendship with the Roman Senate. This proposal was accepted and the Roman–Jewish Treaty was signed in 161 BC. It was the first recorded contact between the Jewish people and the Romans.

The treaty had little effect and The Battle of Elasa was fought between Jewish and Seleucid armies in 160 BC. Seleucid forces of 20,000 men were numerically so superior that most of Judah's men left the field of battle. However, Judah decided to stand his ground and he was killed. His body was taken by his brothers (Jonathan and Simon) from the battlefield and buried in the family sepulchre at Modiin.

The death of Judah Maccabeus stirred the Jews to renewed resistance. After several additional years of war under the leadership of Jonathan and Simon, the Jews finally achieved independence and the liberty to worship freely.

The Jewish feast of Hanukkah ("Dedication") commemorates the restoration of Jewish worship at the temple in Jerusalem in 164 BC.

As warrior hero and national liberator, Judah Maccabeus has inspired many writers, including Shakespeare who enacted him in Love's Labour's Lost, along with the other Nine Worthies, but heckled for sharing a name with Judas Iscariot.

In 1746, the composer George Frideric Handel composed his oratorio Judas Maccabeus putting the biblical story in the context of the Jacobite rising of 1745. The tune of the oratorio's most famous chorus "See, the conqu'ring hero comes" was later adopted as the Easter hymn tune “Thine Be The Glory, Risen Conquering Son.”

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