A lady who had been at Mass Tuesday said she didn’t want to hear any more about the Maccabees. Please, let me bring them up one more time.
In 177 B.C. Antiochus the Syrian king who ruled over Jerusalem owed a huge sum of money to Rome where his sons were held as hostages. With no other way of saving his sons, he raided the temple of Jerusalem where people had banked their savings.
Then, Antiochus, to justify violating the sacred temple, asserted that he merely wanted to replace the useless religion of he Jews with the true religion of the Greeks. His first step had him erecting a great statue of Zeus on the temple’s altar. Next, he dispatched units of soldiers to force every Jew to eat pork that had been sacrificed to the Greek gods.
His soldiers came to the city of Modein where the principal citizen was a Jewish priest named Mattathias. The soldiers offered Mattathas a fortune if he and his five sons would eat a bite each of the sacrificed swine.
Mattathias refused. Then, when he saw a fellow Jew taking a bite of the pork at the altar, he lunged forward, killing that Jew; going on then to ordering his sons to kill the soldiers.
Judas. the third son of Mattathias, became the leader of a widespread revolt against the Syrians. For his fierceness in battle, Judas was nicknamed the Hammer, which in Hebrew was Maccabeus. It was from Judas that the whole family came to be called the Maccabees.
In 174 B.C, three years of defeating the ever-stronger Syrian forces, the Maccabees won out, forcing the Syrian army to retreat from Jerusalem. The Maccabbes then saw to a complete cleaning out of the temple. Their ceremony for re-consecrating their temple was known as Hanukah. It is celebrate each year at Christmas time.