If you have ever wanted to know more about the Maccabees, this is a fascinating read. This story occurred during the silent years between Malachi and Matthew. In the narrative of I, after Antiochus IV issued his decrees forbidding Jewish religious practice, a rural Jewish priest from Modiin, sparked the revolt with rebel Jewish warriors against the Seleucid Empire by refusing to worship the Greek gods.
I remember the first time I heard this story and I can see now that it was quite slanted. AS I read the story and studied the history, some things had been omitted and some details had been added. For instance, I had no idea how brutal these Jewish warriors were. They were beheading people and slaughtering people who oppressed Jewish worshippers. I had no idea how many battles this revolt entailed and how gruesome they were. The small Jewish army defeated large opposing forces with superior weapons repeatedly.
The Jewish festival of Hanukkah celebrates the re-dedication of the Temple following Judah Maccabee's victory over the Seleucids. According to Rabbinic tradition, the victorious Maccabees could only find a small jug of oil that had remained uncontaminated by virtue of a seal, and although it only contained enough oil to sustain the Menorah for one day, it miraculously lasted for eight days, by which time further oil could be procured. According to our author, there is no historical evidence for this and may have been added for drama at a later date.
Reading about the how harsh Antiochus IV (remember him from Daniel?) was made me praise God all the more for religious freedom. He was having everyone who practiced Jewish law killed. If you circumcised your son, you were all killed. Jews were turning on Jews for fear of being killed by the government. Some of those in the priesthood were also corrupt. It is always disparaging to see the people who are supposed to be shepherding God's children killing them.
I thought the book was fascinating. Of course, there are added portions to make it a work of fiction, but all of the battles and events are true. I highly recommend it. It made the story remarkably real to my mind's eye.
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