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The Oxford Study Bible Study Bible supplemented with commentary from scholars of various religions.

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Commentary on The First Book of the Maccabees

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1.1–64 : Background to the Maccabean revolt.

The author notes the spread of Greek power from Alexander the Great (356–323 B.C.E.) through his successors, down to Antiochus IV Epiphanes. This Seleucid king's harsh treatment of the Jews and brutal imposition of Hellenic culture upon them led Mattathias to revolt.

1 :

Kittim: Macedonians.

3 :

Alexander's army reached the remotest bounds of the author's Mediterranean world, the Beas river of the Punjab in northern India. In his pride, Alexander accepted divine honors.

7–9 :

Alexander died at Babylon in June, 323 B.C.E., at the age of thirty-two. After his death, Alexander's generals fought over his empire. Three powers emerged, the Antigonids of Macedonia, the Ptolemies of Egypt, and the Seleucids of Syria.

10 :

Antiochus IV, surnamed Epiphanes, i.e. “[God] manifest” but nicknamed “madman” (Gk. epimanes), was the son of Antiochus III, “the Great.” On the father's defeat by the Romans at the battle of Magnesia (190 B.C.E.), the son was sent as a hostage to Rome to insure fidelity to the treaty of Apamea (188 B.C.E.). See 8.6–8 .

11 :

The renegade Jews were led by Jason (Joshua), the brother of the Jewish high priest Onias III; see 2 Macc. 4.7–20 .

18 :

Ptolemy VI Philometor (180–145 B.C.E.).

20–24 :

Antiochus robbed the temple to replenish the royal treasury depleted by war.

29–32 :

Antiochus invaded Egypt again in 168 B.C.E. Forced to retire by the Roman emissary Popilius Laenas, who threatened war with Rome, Antiochus vented his wrath on Judea, which he thought to be in revolt. See 2 Macc. 5.1–14 . Two years later than Antiochus' first Egyptian campaign, i.e. in 167 B.C.E., Apollonius, chief of the Mysian mercenaries, was sent to put down the unruly city again; see 2 Macc. 5.23b–26 .

33–34 :

Impious foreigners (Seleucid troops) and renegades (Hellenizing Jews) now fortified the westernmost hill of Jerusalem. This citadel remained in their hands until 141 B.C.E., when Simon drove them out (1 Macc. 13.49–50 ).

37–40 :

A lament similar to that of Ps. 79 .

41–50 :

Hoping to weld into a political unity the many ethnic and linguistic groupings over which he ruled, Antiochus IV decreed a common culture (Hellenism) and religion (the worship of Zeus Olympios) for all of his subjects. For Jews, conformity to the decree meant abandonment of the Mosaic Law and apostasy from the God of Israel.

54 :

On December 7, 167 B.C.E., Antiochus built an altar to Zeus Olympios on the temple's altar of holocausts (see v. 59 ). This abomination replaced the Holy of Holies as the center of worship in the temple, and the worship of Zeus replaced that of Israel's God.

55 :

Apparently, Jews adopted Grecian shrines for their streets and houses.

57 :

Book of the Covenant: the Law of Moses.

59 :

December 17, 167 B.C.E.

62–63 :

See 2 Macc. 6.18–7.42 for examples.

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