The authorship of these letters is uncertain. The first is addressed to the large Jewish community that had lived in Egypt
for centuries (see Jer 44.1
Greek letters usually began with the word greetings, and Jewish ones with peace (Rom 1.7
Gen 15.18; 26.3; 35.12; Lev 26.27–45
Time of evil, perhaps a persecution of Jews by Ptolemy VIII.
The previous letter was in the reign of Demetrius II, who was the son of Demetrius I, and whose reign was marked by conflicts
over the kingship; he ruled 145‐141 BCE and again 129‐125. The critical distress was the capture and murder of the high priest Jonathan (1 Macc 12.48; 13.23
). Jason and his company,
. The kingdom, rule of the legitimate high priests.
Burned the gate, 1 Macc 4.38
. Shed innocent blood, 1 Macc 1.60–61
. We … were heard, i.e., by God, when Simon made Judea independent (1 Macc 13.1–42
The festival of booths would properly be kept in September (Lev 23.33–43
). This refers to Hanukkah, celebrated on the 25th of Chislev (November/December), commemorating Judas Maccabeus's restoration of the Temple (
10.1–8; 1 Macc 4.59
). Palestinian Jews now wished the Egyptian Jews to observe the feast in 124 BCE, when they wrote.
The purpose of the letter is to show why the new eight‐day festival should be kept, though it had not been prescribed by the
law of Moses. Keeping the festival implied accepting that Judas, like Nehemiah, was doing God's will. Nehemiah's rededication
of the Temple was a precedent (
The senate, literally, “council of elders” (see 1 Macc 12.6
). A commentary on the Torah by Aristobulus is referred to in other ancient sources, but it has not survived. The anointed priests, descendants of Zadok (2 Chr 31.10
), from whom high priests were chosen. One branch of these came to Egypt with Ptolemy I. The King, Ptolemy VI Philometer (180‐145 BCE).
Grave dangers, in the time of king Antiochus IV (
The leader, Antiochus IV, died later; his forces were cut to pieces (
9.1–4; 1 Macc 6.1–4
). Nanea, a Syrian goddess (originally Mesopotamian Nana) equated with the Greek goddess Artemis or Aphrodite.
Marry her, the goddess, so as to obtain a large dowry from the treasures at her temple (cf. 9.2; 1 Macc 6.1–4
). The ritual of sacred marriage between a king and the representative of a goddess is well attested in the ancient Near East.
Friends, a special group in the king's court.
The festival of booths, cf. 1 Macc 10.21; 1 Kings 8.2; Neh 8.13–18
. The festival of the fire, vv. 19–36
. Fire and light are associated with Hanukkah; the candles on an eight‐branched candlestick (menorah) are lighted successively
during the eight‐day celebration. A Talmudic tradition tells of a small amount of oil that burned miraculously for a long
time until new oil could be consecrated.
The legend of the fire is not found elsewhere.
Persia, actually Babylonia (2 Kings 24.14
), later part of the Persian empire.
Many years, from the early sixth to the mid‐fifth centuries BCE. Nehemiah …commissioned, Neh 2.7–8
. Thick liquid, naphtha or petroleum (v. 36
1 Kings 18.33–38
You chose, Gen 18.19; Deut 4.37; Neh 9.7
Your portion, Israel (Deut 32.9
). Holy, Lev 19.2
Gather together, Ps 147.2; Jer 23.8; Sir 36.3; Bar 5.6
Punish … insolent, 1 Sam 2.3–4
As Moses promised, Deut 30.5
Localities where miracles occurred were enclosed as sacred. The Persians considered fire holy.
Nephthar is an otherwise unknown word.
Although in Jer 40–43
the prophet remains in Judah after the destruction of Jerusalem, early Jewish traditions tell of his going with the exiles
and hiding the ark in the earth (Letter of Jeremiah; 2 Bar 6–10; 4 Bar 3.8–20
; Lives of the Prophets 2).
Solomon brought the tent to Jerusalem with the ark (1 Kings 8.4
); there is no further record of it in the Hebrew Bible. According to Alexander Polyhistor (first century BCE), perhaps from the historian Eupolemus, Jeremiah concealed the ark after the Temple was destroyed in 586 BCE. The mountain, Nebo (Deut 32.49
The glory and the cloud indicate God's direct presence (Ex 16.10
). Solomon, 1 Kings 8.11
Solomon's wisdom, 1 Kings 3.3–28; 4.29–34
. Offered sacrifice, 1 Kings 8.62–64
Moses prayed, Lev 9.24
. Solomon, 2 Chr 7.1
The meaning is obscure, but see Lev 10.16–19
Eight days, 1 Kings 8.65; 2 Chr 7.9
The memoirs of Nehemiah, the biblical book of Nehemiah does not contain these references. See Ezra 3.14; 1 Esd 5.46–50
. There is no record that he founded a library, but the Pentateuch perhaps achieved canonical status in his time, and he may have collected the books of Kings, as well
as other writings. Votive offerings, made to the Temple (Ezra 7.15–20
Judas Maccabeus may have collected all the books remaining after the destruction in the time of Antiochus IV (1 Macc 1.56–57
The kingship, independence; the Hasmoneans were not yet called kings.
1.27; Deut 30.3
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