Monday, January 11, 2010 1/11/10 - hanukkah

In today's excerpt - Alexander the Great had
conquered Jerusalem, but had allowed the Jews
to continue their religion. However, when
Alexander died, and his kingdom was divided
among his generals, the kingdom that
inherited Jerusalem in this division, called
the Seleucid kingdom, reversed his policy and
attempted to eradicate Judaism:

"[After Alexander], fashionable Greek influence
became pervasive among the Jews. A gymnasium
in the Greek
style was built in Jerusalem near the temple,
and faithful Jews
began to see their traditions and customs
eroding, sometimes
quite drastically. An example of the former
would be the
behavior of Antiochus IV, king of the
Seleucids, who thought
to eradicate Judaism. Pigs were to be
sacrificed in the temple
to Greek gods. Daniel had warned about this
ruler, calling his
actions the abomination of desolation. ...
The decision of Antiochus to make war on
faithful Jews
was a spark: 'On his return from the conquest
of Egypt, in
the year [169 BC], Antiochus marched with a
strong force
against Israel and Jerusalem. In his
arrogance he entered the
temple and carried off the golden altar, the
lamp-stand with all
its equipment .. and took them all with him
when he left for
his own country' (I Macc. 1:20-24 NEB). Not
content with
insulting their religion, the king then
declared that the Jews
must abandon it. ...

"The penalty for resisting his decree was death.

"The revolt was led by a priestly family, the
beginning with Mattathias. He killed a Jew
who was about to
offer a compromised sacrifice, and then he
killed the officer presiding over the affair.
He and his sons took to the hills and began
to wage a campaign against the Gentiles.
After Mattathias died,
the guerrilla campaign was taken over by his
son Judas Maccabeus.
He fought so ably that he liberated Jerusalem
and cleansed and
rededicated the temple, profaned as it had
been by Antiochus.

"They celebrated the rededication of the
altar for eight
days; there was great rejoicing as they brought
burnt-offerings and sacrificed
peace-offerings and
thank-offerings. ...There was great
merry-making among the
people, and the disgrace brought on them by the
Gentiles was removed. Then Judas, his
brothers, and the
whole congregation of Israel decreed that the
rededication of the altar should be observed
with joy and gladness at the same season each
year, for eight days. (I Macc.
4:56-59 NEB)

"This was the basis for celebrating Hanukkah,
the Feast of Lights.
Although it is not one of the feasts required
by the law of Moses (as with Purim,
established in the book of Esther), the
celebration has taken deep root."

Douglas Wilson, Five Cities That Ruled the
World, Thomas Nelson, Copyright 2009 by
Douglas Wilson, pp. 17-19.


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