Date Written: c.100 BC
Date of Narrative: 323-104 BC
1 Maccabees is one of the deuterocanonical books of the Bible. 2 Macc is not a sequel to 1 Macc. In fact, 2 Macc tells many of the same stories from a slightly different perspective than 1 Macc. 1 Macc narrates the struggle of the Jewish people against the political and cultural influence of the Greeks. At the time of 1 Macc, the
1 Macc begins with the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and ends with the reign of John Hyrcanus as high priest (134-104 BC). The book can be very confusing because of the political disarray of the period. Alexander conquered all the lands from
Mattathias, a zealous Jewish priest, refuses to partake of the pagan sacrifice which is being forced on him. Then he and his five sons hide out in the country and launch a rebellion against Antiochus' reign. Mattathias soon dies, but appoints his son, Judas Maccabeus, to take command of the military forces they have gathered (2:66). Judas leads the Jewish people in a series of astounding victories against Antiochus' forces. In the space of three years, the Jews recapture
Jonathan not only leads military campaigns, but takes for himself the office of high priest (10:21). Jonathan was from a priestly family, but not from the high priestly family of Zadok so some saw this as a usurpation of legitimate religious authority. Jonathan skillfully plays diplomatic games with the surrounding powers, but eventually he is captured and assassinated by Trypho who had taken the Seleucid throne.
Simon succeeds Jonathan as
1 Macc is an intentionally historical book. It includes several poems and a dozen historical letters and treaties. Throughout 1 Macc
The Hasmonean kingdom lasted only about a hundred years, but it represented the great aspirations of the Jewish people and displayed the power of God even though the dynasty was tarnished by ambition and human weakness. The Maccabees' incredible accomplishments set the stage for the messianic expectations of the Jews at the time of Jesus.
By Mark Giszczak