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The New Oxford Annotated Bible New Revised Standard Study Bible that provides essential scholarship and guidance for Bible readers.

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Commentary on 1 Maccabees

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2.1–48 : Revolt of Mattathias.

1 :

The family of Mattathias is known as Hasmoneans from a traditional ancestor Hashmonia, not mentioned in 1 Maccabees but named in Josephus (Ant. 12.6.1). The name may be a rendering of Simeon, the grandfather of Mattathias. Joarib was first in the list of divisions of priests (1 Chr 24.7; Neh 11.10 ). Modein, in the hills on the road from Beth‐horon, about 30 km (18 mi) northwest of Jerusalem.

2–5 :

Simon, third of the family to rule (chs 13–16 ). Maccabeus, probably from a Hebrew word meaning “hammer.” The other surnames are of uncertain derivation. Jonathan, successor of Judas (chs 9–12 ).

7–13 :

Poetic lament (cf. 1.36–40 ); for the portrait of Jerusalem as a beautiful woman dishonored, see Lam 1.1 .

14 :

Tore their clothes, put on sackcloth, signs of mourning (Gen 37.34 ).

18 :

The Friends of the king were a special class of courtiers who wore distinctive purple dress and insignia (1 Macc 10.65; 11.27 ).

23 :

Elsewhere in chs 1–13 , “Israelite” is used instead of the term Jew, which here perhaps means “Judean.”

24 :

His heart, literally “his kidneys,” which were considered the seat of emotion.

25 :

He tore down the altar, see Judg 6.25 .

26 :

As Phinehas did, the whole episode is written to echo Num 25.6–15 . Phineas is praised in Sir 45.23–24 .

28 :

2 Macc 5.27 .

29–31 :

In the wilderness of Judea they found hiding places (Isa 32.16 ).

37 :

1.63 .

41 :

The earliest statement of the principle that one may profane one sabbath in order to keep all the others.

42 :

Hasideans, “the pious,” a group not concerned for Jewish nationalism but only for the religious law. At first they resisted passively ( 1.62–63; 2.37 ), but now turned to violent action (but see 1 Macc 7.12–13 ).

1.1–10 : Introduction.

A summary of history from Alexander to Antiochus IV, setting the stage for the story that follows. For a fuller version, see Dan 11.1–28 .

1 :

Alexander the Great (356–323 BCE), son of Philip of Macedon, who had conquered Kittim (Greece), swept through Asia Minor and defeated King Darius III at Issus (333 BCE) and at Gaugamela (331).

3 :

After taking Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Persia he advanced to the ends of the earth (to Bactria and India). He was exalted, i.e., he was deified; such pride in rulers is castigated in Isa 2.5–22 ; and his heart was lifted up is a biblical idiom for pride (2 Chr 26.16, Ezek 28.2 ).

4 :

He planned a universal empire dominated by Greek culture.

5 :

He fell sick in Babylon.

6 :

A complex history of power struggles lies behind this statement.

8–9 :

By 275 three dynasties were established the Antigonids of Macedonia, the Ptolemies of Egypt, and the Seleucids of Syria.

9 :

Crowns, lit. “diadems”; these were strips of white cloth decorated on the edges.

10 :

Sinful root, cf. Isa 11.10; Dan 11.7 . Antiochus IV, who took the name Epiphanes (“god manifest”), reigned 175–164; he was son of King Antiochus III the Great (223–187), who had wrested Palestine from Egypt at the battle of Paneas in 198 but lost most of Asia Minor to Rome at Magnesia in 190. Because of this defeat the son had been a hostage in Rome. One hundred thirty — seventh year of the Seleucid era; reckoning of this era varied in different places; dates given in the notes (b, c, etc.) are approximate.

1.11–15 : Conflicts over Hellenization.

Greek culture had become a part of life in Judea, but now enthusiasts introduced customs that compromised Jewish religious observance (2 Macc 4.11–17 ).

11 :

Certain renegades, led by Jason, whom Antiochus appointed high priest in place of his brother Onias III (2 Macc 4.7 ). Renegades, lit. “lawless ones,” those who compromised the law of Moses. The term is used throughout 1 Maccabees to describe Jews who did not support the Hasmoneans. Making a covenant with the Gentiles was expressly forbidden (Ex 34.11–16; Deut 7.1–6 ) because of the danger of being led into idolatry. Disasters, loss of business and prestige because relations with Syria had deteriorated, cf. Jer 44.15–23 .

14 :

A gymnasium, the center of political and cultural education, as well as sports (2 Macc 4.9–10 ).

15 :

Removed the marks of circumcision by a surgical procedure (epispasm), since Greek athletics were performed in the nude.

1.16–40 : Antiochus invades Egypt and Palestine.

Invasion of Egypt is followed by plundering of the Temple in Jerusalem (2 Macc 5.1,11–26; Dan 11.25–28 ).

17 :

The Syrian army had elephants, though the treaty of Apamea with Rome (188 BCE) had forbidden this.

18 :

Ptolemy VI Philometor reigned 180–145 .

20 :

Antiochus returned because the Roman envoy, Popilius Laenas, threatened him with war if he annexed Egypt; also, news of internal strife in Jerusalem had reached him, and he feared a revolt (2 Macc 5 ).

20–23 :

Although plundering temples was a sacrilegious act, cash‐strapped kings often resorted to it. Antiochus may have justified his act because the high priest Menelaus had not paid him promised funds (2 Macc 5.15 ).

22 :

The bread of the Presence, twelve loaves of unleavened bread set in the Temple sanctuary by the priests every sabbath, symbolizing the covenant between God and Israel (Ex 30.25; Lev 24.5–9 ).

24–28 :

Fragment of a contemporary poem.

28 :

The house of Jacob, Israel, the Jewish people.

29 :

Chief collector of tribute may be a mistranslation of “chief of the Mysians,” mercenary troops from Asia Minor (2 Macc 5.22–26 ).

33 :

City of David, a term with several different meanings in the Bible (cf. Isa 22.9 and 1 Kings 11.27 with 2 Sam 5.7,9 ); the precise location of this fortification within Jerusalem is unknown. The term highlights the author's point that Antiochus is not the true king. The citadel remained in Seleucid control until 141 when it was captured by Simon (1 Macc 13.49–52 ).

34 :

Sinful people, like “lawless ones,” a biblical term used primarily for Israelites who were not faithful to the covenant (Isa 1.4 ); here it connotes Jews who supported the Seleucids.

36–40 :

Lament for Jerusalem; cf. Ps 74; 79 ; Lamentations.

1.41–64 : Desecration of the Temple.

The first religious persecution of Jews, also recounted in Dan 11.29–39 (cf. 2 Macc 6.1–11 ).

41–42 :

His whole kingdom, Syria, Palestine, Mesopotamia, Persia, and parts of Asia Minor. Parallel accounts in 2 Macc 6 and Josephus (Ant. 12.5.5) report that the decree was aimed solely at Palestinian Jews and Samaritans.

45 :

Burnt offerings and sacrifices and drink offerings were offerings of meat, grain, and drink made in the Temple daily to the Lord, commanded in Ex 29.38–42; Num 28.3–8 .

47 :

Swine and other unclean animals were not dirty but ritually impure and unacceptable for sacrifice (Lev 11.1–8; 22.17–30 ).

54 :

Chislev, November/December. The precise meaning of desolating sacrilege is unknown; it included an altar to Zeus Olympios (the Greek equivalent of the Syrian god Baal Shamem) and perhaps a stone statue (Dan 11.31; 12.11; 2 Macc 6.2 ). Built altars, thereby violating the commandment in Deut 12.5–28 .

59 :

Offered sacrifice, probably of swine (2 Macc 6.4–5 ).

60–64 :

2 Macc 6–7 and 4 Maccabees contain stories of martyrdoms. Chose to die rather than to be defiled by food, cf. Dan 3.8–18 . Wrath came upon Israel is a formula signifying God's justice when the covenant is broken (Num 25.1–4; Neh 13.15–18; Zech 7.8–14; 2 Macc 6.12–16 ).

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