Maccabees war

Then came the war of the Maccabees. An aged priest, Mattathias, not from Jerusalem itself but from one of the lesser Judean towns, headed a furious revolt, which gathered numbers as it continued. Soon all Judea was in arms. Mattathias died in the early days of the struggle, but bequeathed his leadership to his sons. Of these, the chief was Judas, called for his fighting powers Maccabeus, which means the "hammerer." The name was later applied to the entire family who became "the Maccabees."

Judas repeatedly defeated the armies sent against him, and within a year had driven the Syrians out of Judea, except the garrison which held the castle or citadel within Jerusalem. The main part of the city, however, was in the hands of Judas, and he restored the worship of Jehovah in the temple.

The king Antiochus IV. was slain in a war with Persia, and Judas continued master of Judea for five years. Then the new Syrian king sent such a powerful army that Judas and his people were compelled to give way before it, and after withstanding a long siege in Jerusalem, they came to terms with the king, who allowed them to continue to worship according to their own religion. The peace lasted only a year. Then religious persecution recommenced, and the Maccabees were again in arms. Judas defeated another large army under the king's general Nicanor, the battle remaining long celebrated in Jewish annals as "the day of Nicanor." Then came the downfall of the great Hebrew champion. He was surrounded by another armed host while he himself had but eight hundred men. Scorning flight, he attacked the foe, and after a desperate fight was surrounded and slain with almost all his band.

Two of the heroic Maccabee brothers still survived, the eldest, Simon, and the youngest, Jonathan. Simon had ever been the counsellor of his brothers rather than a fighter, and now the active leadership fell to Jonathan. With their few remaining followers the brothers fell back into the wilderness, whence repeated forces of their enemies failed to dislodge them. Then civil war broke out between rival aspirants to the Syrian crown; and Judea being left almost wholly to itself, Jonathan regained control of the country. By adroitly lending aid now to one, now to another of the warring generals, he finally secured recognition as the legitimate high priest and ruler of Judea. His policy of changing alliances finally brought him to death at the hands of his foes. But Simon, the last remaining brother, drove back the invaders, who would have seized the land on Jonathan's death; and from the king who now succeeded to the weakened Syrian throne, Simon forced the recognition of Judea's complete liberation. The final battle of the great Jewish "war of independence" was fought in 139 B.C., at Ashdod, where Simon's son John overthrew the last Syrian army ever sent against the Maccabees.

After Ashdod, kings of the Maccabean line ruled over Judea for nearly eighty years, engaging in no wars except those of their own choosing. Those who followed John upon the throne proved anything but religious rulers. Family quarrels and every form of family murder disgraced their reigns and horrified their people. Civil wars or wars of conquest were almost incessant, until at length when the Romans entered the land, their general, the celebrated Pompey, needed scarcely more than to reach out his hand to Jerusalem, and it surrendered. There was a siege, but it was as nothing compared to the savage sieges of earlier days. The struggle was neither long nor sanguinary, and Judea became a submissive and by no means dissatisfied Roman province (63 B.C.).

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Read about Maccabees war in the The Story of the Greatest Nations and the Worlds Famous Events Vol 1

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