When the priest Mattityahu of the Hasmonean family died in 167 B.C.E., he named his son Judah to be the leader of the rebellion. Guerilla warfare was used successfully against the strong Greek-Syrian army. In 165 B.C.E., the Greek-Syrians withdrew to Antioch, the prohibition against the practice of Judaism was annulled, and the Jews regained control of their Temple in Jerusalem. Judah and his followers cleansed and purified the Temple which had been desecrated by the foreigners, and they rededicated it to their One God.
Maccabeus is related to the Aramaic word for hammer, and it is believed Judah was given this name because of his valor as a soldier.
However, the war between the Jews and the Greek-Syrians continued. In 160 B.C.E., Judah died in battle and was buried in Hasmonean family grave in Modiin.
1 Not long after this the king sent an old man of Athens to compel the Jews to depart from the laws of their fathers, and not to live after the laws of God:
2 And to pollute also the temple in Jerusalem, and to call it the temple of Jupiter Olympius; and that in Garizim, of Jupiter the Defender of strangers, as they did desire that dwelt in the place.
3 The coming in of this mischief was sore and grievous to the people:
4 For the temple was filled with riot and revelling by the Gentiles, who dallied with harlots, and had to do with women within the circuit of the holy places, and besides that brought in things that were not lawful.
5 The altar also was filled with profane things, which the law forbiddeth.
6 Neither was it lawful for a man to keep sabbath days or ancient fasts, or to profess himself at all to be a Jew.
7 And in the day of the king's birth every month they were brought by bitter constraint to eat of the sacrifices; and when the fast of Bacchus was kept, the Jews were compelled to go in procession to Bacchus, carrying ivy.
8 Moreover there went out a decree to the neighbour cities of the heathen, by the suggestion of Ptolemee, against the Jews, that they should observe the same fashions, and be partakers of their sacrifices:
9 And whoso would not conform themselves to the manners of the Gentiles should be put to death. Then might a man have seen the present misery.
10 For there were two women brought, who had circumcised their children; whom when they had openly led round about the city, the babes handing at their breasts, they cast them down headlong from the wall.
11 And others, that had run together into caves near by, to keep the sabbath day secretly, being discovered by Philip, were all burnt together, because they made a conscience to help themselves for the honour of the most sacred day.
12 Now I beseech those that read this book, that they be not discouraged for these calamities, but that they judge those punishments not to be for destruction, but for a chastening of our nation.
13 For it is a token of his great goodness, when wicked doers are not suffered any long time, but forthwith punished.
14 For not as with other nations, whom the Lord patiently forbeareth to punish, till they be come to the fulness of their sins, so dealeth he with us,
15 Lest that, being come to the height of sin, afterwards he should take vengeance of us.
16 And therefore he never withdraweth his mercy from us: and though he punish with adversity, yet doth he never forsake his people.
17 But let this that we at spoken be for a warning unto us. And now will we come to the declaring of the matter in a few words.
18 Eleazar, one of the principal scribes, an aged man, and of a well favoured countenance, was constrained to open his mouth, and to eat swine's flesh.
19 But he, choosing rather to die gloriously, than to live stained with such an abomination, spit it forth, and came of his own accord to the torment,
20 As it behoved them to come, that are resolute to stand out against such things, as are not lawful for love of life to be tasted.
21 But they that had the charge of that wicked feast, for the old acquaintance they had with the man, taking him aside, besought him to bring flesh of his own provision, such as was lawful for him to use, and make as if he did eat of the flesh taken from the sacrifice commanded by the king;
22 That in so doing he might be delivered from death, and for the old friendship with them find favour.
23 But he began to consider discreetly, and as became his age, and the excellency of his ancient years, and the honour of his gray head, whereon was come, and his most honest education from a child, or rather the holy law made and given by God: therefore he answered accordingly, and willed them straightways to send him to the grave.
24 For it becometh not our age, said he, in any wise to dissemble, whereby many young persons might think that Eleazar, being fourscore years old and ten, were now gone to a strange religion;
25 And so they through mine hypocrisy, and desire to live a little time and a moment longer, should be deceived by me, and I get a stain to mine old age, and make it abominable.
26 For though for the present time I should be delivered from the punishment of men: yet should I not escape the hand of the Almighty, neither alive, nor dead.
27 Wherefore now, manfully changing this life, I will shew myself such an one as mine age requireth,
28 And leave a notable example to such as be young to die willingly and courageously for the honourable and holy laws. And when he had said these words, immediately he went to the torment:
29 They that led him changing the good will they bare him a little before into hatred, because the foresaid speeches proceeded, as they thought, from a desperate mind.
30 But when he was ready to die with stripes, he groaned, and said, It is manifest unto the Lord, that hath the holy knowledge, that whereas I might have been delivered from death, I now endure sore pains in body by being beaten: but in soul am well content to suffer these things, because I fear him.
31 And thus this man died, leaving his death for an example of a noble courage, and a memorial of virtue, not only unto young men, but unto all his nation.