Judas Maccabeus liberated Judah in 165 BC, which is where it appears on the Biblical Timeline Poster with World history. The story begins with the Seleucid and Ptolemy Dynasties. Both fought for control of the Middle East. These rival Greek empires wanted to take each other territories and one of the major battlefronts for this ongoing war occurred in Syria. This particular province was situated north of Judah and it was the capitol territory of the Seleucid Empire. Initially, Judah belonged to the Ptolemy Dynasty but in time it became a part of the Seleucid Empire.
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Around 192 B.C. a Seleucid king named Antiochus III was fighting a war against a new emerging empire known as the Romans. The Romans were becoming more aggressive in their expansion policies and taking over the world. Eventually, Antiochus III was defeated by the Romans in Greece. Unfortunately for the Seleucid’s he kept losing to the Romans during his rule. During his reign, he was friendly toward the Jewish people but he eventually changed his policies toward this group of people.
Sources claimed that he deported thousands of Jewish people all over his empire and that King Antiochus III started to treat the Jewish people in a profane manner primarily because of their religion. He noticed that great unrest was developing in Judea, and he changed his policies. He eventually died in 187 B.C. His son Antiochus IV took over the throne after his death. A short time had passed since these events, but the Jewish people didn’t forget what he had done and neither did his son.
Matthias Maccabaeus was a temple priest who was working the temple during the reign of Antiochus III. He had five sons, and one of them was named Judas. When Antiochus IV became king, he was bribed by a Jewish man named Jason. Now Jason wanted to become the high priest of Judah. The current high priest was his brother Onias III and this Jewish man also acted as a governor of Judea for the Seleucid Empire. After Antiochus III had accepted his bribe, he decided to allow Jason to become the next high priest and governor. The problem with this issue is that the people of Judah believed that the high priest position was authorized by God and not man. Antiochus III didn’t care because he just looked at the Jewish priest’s position as if he was just a common official.
After Jason had taken over as the high priest, Antiochus told him to eliminate the Jews way of life and make Jerusalem into a Greek city-state. During these events, statues of Greek gods were placed in the temple, and many of the Jewish priests were being replaced by Hellenistic Jewish clergy. One day one of these priests decided to perform a sacrifice to the Greek gods inside of the temple. This priest was to replace Matthias Maccabaeus. Matthias refused to allow him to perform these actions and killed the man. This act is what started the Jewish people to revolt against the Seleucid Empire, and it led to the Maccabaeus War. Matthias died one year after this incident and his son Judas Maccabaeus took over the revolt against the Seleucids that was started by his father.
Judas was also a priest like his father, and he was a fighter as well. His military feats and battle skills during the war earned him the reputation as a fearless and heroic Jewish warrior. The Maccabees were originally known as the Hasmoneans but earned the title of Maccabees during their revolt. The name means “hammer” and it was given to them because they were known to beat the Seleucid forces in a powerful striking manner. Judas Maccabeus used his troops to fight a guerilla war against the Seleucids. He repeatedly defeated the Seleucids in a string of battles and caused the Seleucids to remove themselves from Judah. Judas Maccabeus had led the Jewish people to freedom from Seleucid power. After he gained victory for his people, he cleansed the temple of pagan idols and founded a new dynasty of Jewish kings. He eventually had to send Jewish forces all throughout the Middle Eastern and Mesopotamian world to help Jewish people that were being harassed by various enemies. The Jewish holiday known as Hannukah was established to honor Judas Maccabeus and the liberation of Judah in 165 B.C. He died in battle in 160 B.C.