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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 Second Book of the Maccabees

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1.1–10a : The first letter.

The Judeans urge those in Egypt to observe the feast (v. 9 ) which celebrates the rededication of the temple. This letter, written in 124 B.C.E. (= 188 in the Seleucid calendar) refers to an earlier letter of 143 B.C.E. (= 169 in the Seleucid calendar), which described the events from Jason's apostasy ( 4.7–5.10 ) to the temple's dedication ( 10.1–8; 1 Macc. 4.36–61 ) and probably informed the Egyptian Jews of Jonathan's death (1 Macc. 12.39–53; 13.23 ).

1–2 :

The two-fold salutation includes the Hellenistic greeting and the Hebraic peace.

7–8a :

Jason slaughtered his own people ( 5.5–7 ) in the holy land (Zech. 2.12 ), thus also revolting against the Seleucid kingdom.

8b :

After purifying the temple, Judas and his followers brought a sacrifice there ( 10.3; 1 Macc. 4.50–51 ).

9 :

A feast is now to take place in Kislev (December); it came to be called Hanukkah. The biblical feast of Tabernacles, which Hanukkah resembles at least in length (eight days), was in Tishri (September–October).

1.10b–2.18 : The second letter.

Written earlier, in 164 B.C.E., this letter urges Egyptian Jews to celebrate the dedication of the newly purified temple ( 10.1–8; 1 Macc. 4.36–59 ) even though not prescribed in the Pentateuch, since Judas' victory was God's salvation for all Jews ( 2.17 ).

10 :

Aristobulus was a Jewish “philosopher” of Alexandria, who “taught” Ptolemy VI Philometor (180–145 B.C.E.) by dedicating a book to him which “proved” that the Greeks derived their wisdom and philosophy from the Law and the Prophets.

11 :

The king is Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175–164 B.C.E.).

13 :

The Elamite goddess Nanaea (Anaitis) was identified with the Greek goddess Artemis in Hellenistic times.

16–17 :

Actually, Antiochus was driven off, not killed ( 9.2 ). The letter writer's sources may have confused the king's representative with the king himself.

18 :

Lighting candles, fire, is a special feature of the present feast of Hanukkah. The temple was rebuilt long before Nehemiah's time; see Ezra 3.1–2; 6.6–16 . The fire at the time of Nehemiah's sacrifices is not found in the Book of Nehemiah but apparently comes from the apocryphal memoirs of Nehemiah ( 2.13 ), now lost. The purpose of the allusion is to emphasize the privileges of the temple and the continuity and orthodoxy of its worship. The many difficulties in the story that follows show its fictional character.

19 :

The Exile (587 B.C.E.; see 2 Kgs. 25.11–12 ) was to Babylon, which later became part of the Persian Empire.

20 :

The king who sent Nehemiah back to govern was Artaxerxes I Longimanus (464–424 B.C.E.). The thick liquid was naphtha, or petroleum (v. 36 ).

36 :

The Persian word for the liquid is neft. Nephthar involves a play on this word and on the Heb. root ṭhr, “purify.”

2.4–8 :

This story is improbable, too; see Jer. 3.16 . Moses' mountain was Nebo (Deut. 32.49 ).

9–10 :

On the theme of fire … from heaven, see Lev. 9.24; Judg. 6.21; 1 Kgs. 18.38; 2 Chr. 7.1 .

11 :

The meaning of this verse is not clear but see Lev. 10.16–20 .

13 :

The inclusion of the royal letters of Persian kings shows this collection was not limited to sacred books. For Nehemiah's memoirs see 1.18 n.

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