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Chapter VI 

1.                  Now at this time there was one whose name was Mattathias, who dwelt at Modin, the son of John, the son of Simeon, the son of Asamoneus, a priest of the order of Joarib, and a citizen of Jerusalem.  He had five sons; John, who was called Gaddis, and Simeon, who was called Matthes, and Judas, who was called Maccabeus, [his banner read: "Mi Kamoka Be Elim, Jehovah?" ("Who is like unto thee among the gods, O Jehovah?" Exod. Xv. 11,)] and Eleazar, who was called Auran, and Jonathan, who was called Apphus.  Now this Mattathias lamented to his children the sad state of their affairs, and the ravage made in the city, and the plundering of the temple, and the calamities the multitude were under; and he told them that it was better for them to die for the laws of their country, than live so ingloriously as they then did."

This Mattathias and his sons were really something, one courageous bunch of guys, as you'll read here.  Like father, like son, they were.

2.                  "But when those that were appointed by the king were come to Modin, that they might compel the Jews to do what they were commanded, and to enjoin those that were there to offer sacrifice, as the king had commanded, they desired that Mattathias, a person of the greatest character among them, both on other accounts, and particularly on account of such numerous and so deserving a family of children, would begin the sacrifice, because his fellow-citizens would follow his example, and because such a procedure would make him honoured by the king.  But Mattathias said that he would not do it; and that if all the other nations would obey the commands of Antiochus, either out of fear, or to please him, yet would not he nor his sons leave the religious worship of their country; but as soon as he had ended his speech, there came one of the Jews into the midst of them, and sacrificed as Antiochus commanded [probably swine].  At which Mattathias had great indignation, and ran upon him violently with his sons, who had swords with them, and slew both the man himself that sacrificed, and Appelles the king's general, who compelled them to sacrifice, with a few of his soldiers.  He also overthrew the idol altar, and cried out, "If," said he, "any one be zealous for the laws of his country, and for the worship of God, let him follow me;"  and when he had said this, he made haste into the desert with his sons, and left all his substance in the village.  Many others did the same also, and fled with their children and wives into the desert and dwelt in caves; but when the king's generals heard this, they took all the forces they then had in the citadel of Jerusalem, and pursued the Jews into the desert; and when they had overtaken them, they in the first place endeavoured to persuade them to repent, and to chose what was most for their advantage, and not put them to the necessity of using them according to the law of war; but when they would not comply with their persuasions, but continued to be of a different mind, they fought against them on the Sabbath-day, and they burnt them as they were in the caves, without resistance, and without so much as stopping up the entrances of the caves.  And they avoided to defend themselves on that day, because they were not willing to break in upon the honour they owed the Sabbath, even in such distresses; for our law requires that we rest upon that day.  There were about a thousand, with their wives and children, who were smothered and died in these caves: but many of those that escaped joined themselves to Mattathias, and appointed him to be their ruler, who taught them to fight even on the Sabbath-day; and told them that unless they would do so, they would become their own enemies, by observing the law [so rigorously,] while their adversaries would still assault them on this day, and they would not then defend themselves; and that nothing could then hinder but they must all perish without fighting.  This speech persuaded them; and this rule continues among us to this day, that if there be a necessity, we may fight on Sabbath-days.  [And Orthodox Israeli soldiers could be seen fighting alongside their non-Orthodox brothers-in-arms during the Israeli war of independence in 1948, observing this same rule laid down by Mattathias.]  So Mattathias got a great army about him, and overthrew their idol altars, and slew those that broke the laws, even all that he could get under his power; for many of them were dispersed among the nations round about them for fear of him.  He also commanded that those boys who were not yet circumcised should be circumcised now; and he drove those away that were appointed to hinder such their circumcision.

3.                  But when he had ruled one year, and was fallen into a distemper, he called for his sons, and set them round about him, and said, "O my sons, I am going the way of all the earth; and I recommend to you my resolution, and beseech you not to be negligent in keeping it, but to be mindful of the desires of him who begat you, and brought you up, and to preserve the customs of your country, and to recover your ancient form of government, which is in danger of being overturned, and not to be carried away with those that, either by their own inclination, or out of necessity, betray it, but to become such sons as are worthy of me; to be above all force and necessity, and so to dispose your souls, as to be ready, when it shall be necessary, to die for your laws; as sensible of this, by just reasoning, that if God see that your are so disposed he will  not overlook you, but will have a great value for your virtue, and will restore to you again what you have lost, and will return to you that freedom in which you shall live quietly, and enjoy your own customs.  Your bodies are mortal, and subject to fate; but they receive a sort of immortality, by the remembrance of what actions they have done; and I would have you so in love with this immortality, that you may pursue after glory, and that, when you have undergone the greatest difficulties, you may not scruple, for such things, to lose your lives.  I exhort you especially to agree one with another; and in what excellency any one of your exceeds another, to yield to him so far, and by that means to reap the advantage of every one's own virtues.  Do you then esteem Simon as your father, because he is a man of extraordinary prudence, and be governed by him in what counsels he gives you.  Take Maccabeus for the general of your army, because of his courage and strength, for he will avenge your nation, and will bring vengeance on your enemies.  Admit among you the righteous and religious, and augment their power."

4.               When Mattathias had thus discoursed to his sons, and had prayed to God to be their assistant,and to recover to the people their former constitution, he died a little afterward, and was buried at Modin; all the people making great lamentation for him.  Whereupon his son Judas took upon him the administration of public affairs, in the hundred and forty-sixth year; and thus, buy the ready assistance of his brethren and of others, Judas cast their enemies out of the country, and put those of their own country to death who had transgressed its laws, and purified the land of all the pollutions that were in it.






1.                  When Apollonius, the general of the Samaritan forces, heard this, he took his army, and made haste to go against Judas, who met him, and joined battle with him, and beat him, and slew many of his men, and among them Apollonius himself, their general, whose sword, being that which he happened then to wear, he seized upon and kept for himself; but he wounded more than he slew, and took a great deal of prey from the enemy's camp, and went his way; but when Seron, who was general of the army of Caelesyria, heard that many had joined themselves to Judas, and that he had about him an army sufficient for fighting and for making war, he determined to make an expedition against him, as thinking it became him to endeavor to punish those that transgressed the king's [Antiochus's] injunctions.  He then got together an army, as large as he was able, and joined to it the runagate and wicked Jews, and came against Judas.  He then came as far as Bethoron, a village of Judea, and there pitched his camp; upon which Judas met him, and when he intended to give him battle, he saw that his [own] soldiers were backward to fight, because their number was small, and because they wanted food, for they were fasting, he encouraged them, and said to them, that victory and conquest of enemies are not derived from the multitude in armies, but in the exercise of piety towards God; and that they had the plainest instances in their forefathers, who, by their righteousness, and exerting themselves on behalf of their own laws, and their own children, had frequently conquered many ten thousands,--for innocence is the strongest army.  By this speech he induced his men to contemn the multitude of the enemy, and to fall upon Seron; and upon joining the battle with him, he beat the Syrians; and when their general fell among the rest, they all ran away with speed, as thinking that to be their best way of escaping.  So he pursued them unto the plain, and slew about eight hundred of the enemy; but the rest escaped to the region which lay near to the sea.

2.                  When king Antiochus heard of these things, he was very angry at what had happened; so he got together all his own army, with many mercenaries, whom he had hired from the islands, and took them with him, and prepared to break into Judea about the beginning of the spring; but when, upon his mustering his soldiers, he perceived that his treasures were deficient, and there was want of money in them, for all the taxes were not paid, by reason of the seditions there had been among the nations, he having been so magnanimous and so liberal that what he had was not sufficient for him, he therefore resolved first to go into Persia, and collect the taxes of that country.  Hereupon he left one whose name was Lysias, who was in great repute with him, governor of the kingdom, as far as the bounds of Egypt, and of the Lower Asia, and reaching from the river Euphrates, and committed to him a certain part of his forces, and of his elephants, and charged him to bring up his son Antiochus with all possible care, until he came back; and that he should conquer Judea, and take its inhabitants for slaves, and utterly destroy Jerusalem, and abolish the whole nation; and when king Antiochus had given these things in charge of Lysias, he went into Persia; and in the hundred and forty-seventh year, he passed over Euphrates, and went to the superior provinces.

3.                  Upon this Lysias chose Ptolemy, the son of Dorimenes, and Nicanor, and Gorgas, very potent men among the king's friends, and delivered to them forty thousand foots-soldiers and seven thousand horsemen, and sent them against Judea, who came as far as the city of Emmaus, and pitched their camp in the plain country.  There came also to them auxilaries out of Syria, and the country round about; as also many of the runagate Jews; and besides these came some merchants to buy those that should be carried captives, (having bonds with them to bind those that should be made prisoners,) with that silver and gold which they were to pay for their price; and when Judas saw their camp, and how numerous their enemies were, he persuaded his  own soldiers to be of good courage; and exhorted them to place their hopes of victory in God, and to make supplication to him, according to the custom of their country, clothed in sackcloth; and to shew what was their usual habit of supplication in the greatest dangers, and thereby to prevail with God to grant them the victory over their enemies.  So he set them in their ancient order of battle used by their forefathers, under their captains of thousands, and other officers, and dismissed such as were newly married, as well as those that had newly gained possessions, that they might not fight in cowardly manner, out of an inordinate love of life, in order to enjoy those blessings.  When he had thus disposed his soldiers, he encouraged them to fight by the following speech, which he made to them:--"O my fellow-soldiers, no other time remains more opportune that  the present for courage and contempt of dangers; for if you now fight manfully you may recover your liberty, which, as it is a thing of itself agreeable to all men, so it proves to be to us much more desirable, by its affording us the liberty of worshipping God.  Since, therefore, you are in such circumstances at present, you must either recover that liberty, and so regain a happy and blessed way of living, which is that according to our laws, and the customs of our country, or to submit to the most opprobrious sufferings; nor will any seed of your nation remain if you be beat in this battle [if you doubt the reality of what Judas was saying here, go back and read what Antiochus did at the beginning of this article.].  Fight therefore manfully; and suppose that you must die, though you do not fight; but believe, that besides such glorious rewards as those of the liberty of your country, of your laws, of your religion, you shall then obtain everlasting glory.  Prepare yourselves, therefore, and put yourselves into such an agreeable posture, that you may be ready to fight with the enemy as soon as it is day to-morrow morning."  [Some speech!  General Patton couldn't have said better.]

4.                  And this was the speech which Judas made to encourage them.  But when the enemy sent Gorgias, with five thousand foot and one thousand horse, that he might fall upon Judas by night, and had for that purpose certain of the runagate Jews as guides, the son of Mattathias perceived it, and resolved to fall upon those enemies that were in their camp, now their forces were divided.  When they had therefore supped in good time, and had left many fires in their camp, he marched all night to those enemies that were at Emmaus; so that when Gorgias found no enemy in their camp, but suspected that they were retired and hidden themselves among the mountains, he resolved to go and seek them wheresoever they were.  But, about break of day, Judas appeared to those enemies that were at Emmaus, with only three thousand men, and those ill-armed, by reason of their poverty; and when he saw the enemy very well and skilfully fortified in their camp, he encouraged the Jews, and told them, that they ought to fight, though it were with their naked bodies, for that God had sometimes of old given such men strength, and that against such as were more in number, and were armed also, out of regard to their great courage.  So he commanded the trumpeters to sound for the battle: and by thus falling upon the enemy when they did not expect it, and thereby astonishing and disturbing their minds, he slew many of those that resisted him, and went on pursuing the rest as far as Gadara, and the plains of Idumea, and Ashdod, and Jamnia; and of these there fell about three thousand.  Yet did Judas exhort his soldiers not to be too desirous of the spoils, for that still they must have a contest and battle with Gorgias, and the forces that were with him: but that, when they had once overcome them, then they might securely plunder the camp because they were the only enemies remaining, and they expected no others.  And just as he was speaking to his soldiers, Gorgias's men looked down into that army which they left in their camp, and saw that it was overthrown, and the camp burnt; for the smoke that arose from it shewed them, even when they were a great way off, what had happened.  When, therefore, those that were with Gorgias understood that things were in this posture, and perceived that those that were with Judas were ready to fight them, they also were affrighted, and put to flight; but then Judas, as though he had already beaten Gorgias's soldiers without fighting, returned and seized on the spoils.  He took a great quantity of gold and silver, and purple, and blue, and then returned home with joy, and singing hymns to God for their good success: for this victory greatly contributed to the recovery of their liberty.

5.                  Hereupon Lysias was confounded at the defeat of the army which he had sent, and the next year he got together sixty-thousand chosen men.  He also took five thousand horsemen, and fell upon Judea; and he went up to the hill country of Bethsur, a village of Judea, and pitched his camp there, where Judas met him with ten thousand men; and when he saw the great number of his enemies, he prayed to God that he would assist him, and joined battle with the first of the enemy that appeared, and beat them, and slew about five thousand of them, and thereby the battle became terrible to the rest of them.  Nay, indeed, Lysias observing the great spirit of the Jews, how they were prepared to die rather than lose their liberty, and being afraid of their desperate way of fighting, as if it were real strength, he took the rest of the army back with him, and returned to Antioch, where he enlisted foreigners into the service, and prepared to fall upon Judea with a greater army [boy these stupid pagans just don't learn, do they?]."



6.                  "When, therefore, the generals of Antiochus's armies had been beaten so often, Judas assembled the people together, and told them, that after these many victories which God had given them, they ought to go up to Jerusalem, and purify the temple, and offer the appointed sacrifices.   But as soon as he, with the whole multitude, was come to Jerusalem, and found the temple deserted, and its gates burnt down, and plants growing in the temple of their own accord, on account of its desertion, he and those that were with him began to lament, and were quite confounded at the sight of the temple; so he chose out some of his soldiers, and gave them order to fight against those guards that were in the citadel, until he should have purified the temple.  When, therefore, he had carefully purged it, and had brought in new vessels, the candlestick [menorah], the table [of shewbread,] and the altar [of incense,] which were made of gold, he hung up the veils at the gates, and added doors to them.  He also took down the altar [of burnt offering,] and built a new one of stones that he gathered together, and not of such as were hewn with iron tools.  So on the five and twentieth day of the month of Casleu, which the Macedonians call Appelleus, they lighted the lamps that were on the candlestick, and offered incense upon the altar [of incense,] and laid the loaves upon the table [of shewbread,] and offered burnt offerings upon the new altar [of burnt offering.]  Now it so fell out, that these things were done on the very same day on which their divine worship had fallen off, and was reduced to profane and common use, after three years' time; for so it was, that the temple was made desolate by Antiochus, and so continued for three years.  This desolation happened to the temple in the hundred forty and fifth year, on the twenty-fifth day of the month Appelleus, and on the hundred and fifty-third olympiad; but it was dedicated anew, on the same day, the twenty-fifth of the month Appelleus, in hundred and forty-eighth year, on the hundred and fifty-fourth olympiad.  And this desolation came to pass according to the prophecy of Daniel, which was given four hundred and eight years before; for he declared that the Macedonians would dissolve that worship [for some] time.  [There was no doubt as to when Daniel 11 was written in Josephus's mind!  I wonder what Amillennialists find so hard about believing a respected historian from the first century (far closer to the event than we are)?]

7.                  Now Judas celebrated the festival of the restoration of the sacrifices of the temple for eight days; and omitted no sort of pleasures thereupon; but he feasted them upon very rich and splendid sacrifices; and he honoured God, and delighted them, by hymns and psalms.  Nay, they were so very glad at the revival of their customs, when after a long time of intermission, they unexpectedly had regained the freedom of their worship, that they made it law for their posterity, that they should keep a festival, on account of the restoration of their temple worship, for eight days.  And from that time to this we celebrate this festival, and call it Lights.  I suppose the reason was, because this liberty beyond our hopes appeared to us; and that thence was the name given to that festival.  Judas also rebuilt the walls round about the city, and reared towers of great height against the incursions of enemies, and set guards therein.  He also fortified the city Bethsura, that it might serve as a citadel against any distresses that might come from our enemies."

That's the background history of the Festival of Lights, which the Jews call Hanukkah, as accurately told by the Jewish historian Josephus.  As brought out before, the Messiah, Yeshua, Jesus, could not have gone through the special dedication ceremonies specified for a Jewish male newborn.  Without following the Mosaic Law of God to the letter, he could not have been sinless, and his sacrifice for the sins of the world would have been in vain. Luke 2:21-24-32, "And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcision of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.  And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) and to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.  And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.  And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ.  And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, [Yeshua, Hebrew for Jesus, means "salvation"] which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;  A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel."  [K'vod Israel = Glory of Israel in Hebrew.]

In spite of the archaic language of Josephus, I think the power of God's divine providence and protection shine through, a power bestowed on Judas Maccabeus so he could fulfill a special mission from God, in preparation for the coming Messiah as Jesus, Yeshua of Nazareth.  No, there could have been no Christmas without Hanukkah.  If you've read about any of the battles of Jonathan or David against their enemies in the Old Testament, you will recognize God's divine hand in the life of Judas Maccabee, and his father Mattathias. 

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content Editor Peter Benson -- no copyright, except where noted.  Please feel free to use this material for instruction and edification
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