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The Access Bible New Revised Standard Bible, written and edited with first-time Bible readers in mind.

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Commentary on 1 Maccabees

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1.1–10 :

Alexander the Great.

1 :

Alexander set out from Macedonia in 334 BCE. The land of Kittim can refer to any western land. The name comes from Citium in Cyprus. Here the land is Greece. In Dan 11.30 and in the Dead Sea Scrolls the Kittim are the Romans.

8 :

His officers began to rule: Different generals ruled over Greece, Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt. Palestine was ruled by the Ptolemies * of Egypt from 301 to 198 BCE. Then it passed into the control of the Seleucid dynasty * of Syria. At first Antiochus III (“the Great”) was benevolent to the Jews, but when the Seleucids * were defeated by Rome at Magnesia in 190 BCE, they had to pay a heavy tribute and were subsequently in constant need of funds.

10 :

Antiochus Epiphanes: Antiochus IV. Epiphanes * means “god made manifest.” He had been a hostage in Rome after the battle of Magnesia. He came to the throne in 175 BCE (= year 137 of the Seleucid era, which began in 312 BCE) after the deaths of Seleucus IV (187–175) and his infant son.

1.11–19 :

The Hellenistic * reform.

11 :

Renegades: this episode is described in much greater detail in 2 Macc 4.7–22 .

14 :

The gymnasium was a distinctive symbol of Greek culture. It was primarily a place for physical exercise, but it was also often a center of education.

15 :

The marks of circumcision * became an embarrassment because it was the Greek custom to exercise nude.

16 :

Epiphanes * invaded Egypt twice. The first invasion, in 169 BCE, was successful. First Maccabees omits the second invasion (168 BCE), which ended in humiliation at the hands of a Roman official.

1.20–64 :

The persecution.

20 :

After his successful invasion of Egypt, Epiphanes * plundered the Temple * of Jerusalem, simply to replenish his funds. (This is also reported by Josephus, Against Apion 2.83–84 . Second Maccabees 5.11–21 confuses this incident with an attack on Jerusalem after the second campaign.)

24–28 :

1 Maccabees interjects a poetic lament * here and on several other occasions throughout the narrative. *

29 :

The sequence of events is unclear, because 1 Maccabees fails to mention Epiphanes' second invasion of Egypt. Second Maccabees 5 makes clear that the expedition of the “collector of tribute” was a punitive expedition, after the second invasion. Fighting had broken out between two Jewish factions in Jerusalem, and the king thought that Judea was in revolt.

33 :

The fortified City of David became known as the Akra. It became the stronghold of a colony of Syrian soldiers in the heart of Jerusalem.

42 :

The claim of 1 Maccabees that the king tried to make all peoples give up their particular customs is not supported by any other source, and it is contradicted by other evidence about his policies. The edict was only directed against Jews, and may even have been restricted to the land of Israel. Religious persecution of this sort was highly unusual in the ancient world, and the reason for Epiphanes' edict is far from clear. It is clear from 2 Maccabees, however, that there was a violent dispute between Jewish factions, and some scholars suspect that the suppression of traditional worship was encouraged by some of the “renegades” (such as the High Priest Menelaus) who wanted to adopt gentile * ways.

54 :

The desolating sacrilege (“the abomination of desolation”) was probably a “horned” Syrian altar, superimposed on the altar of sacrifice in the Temple, but some scholars think it was an idol.

60 :

Further vivid examples of persecution can be found in 2 Maccabees.

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