Maccabees, The

Smith's Bible Dictionary


Mac'cabees, The. (a hammer). This title, which was originally the surname of Judas, one of the sons of Mattathias, was afterward, extended to the heroic family of which he was one of the noblest representatives. Asmonaeans or Hasmonaeans is the proper name of the family, which is derived from Cashmon, great grandfather of Mattathias.

The Maccabees were a family of Jews who resisted the authority of Antiochus Epiphanes, king of Syria, and his successors who had usurped authority over the Jews, conquered Jerusalem, and strove to introduce idolatrous worship. The standard of independence was first raised by Mattathias, a priest of the course of Joiarih. He seems, however, to have been already advanced in years when the rising was made, and he did not long survive the fatigues of active service. He died B.C. 166, having named Judas -- apparently his third son -- as his successor, in directing the war of independence.

After gaining several victories over the other generals of Antiochus, Judas was able to occupy all of Jerusalem except the "tower," and purified the Temple exactly three years after its profanation. Nicanor was defeated, first at Capharsalama, and again in a decisive battle at Adasa B.C. 161, where he was slain. This victory was the greatest of Judas' successes, and practically decided the question of Jewish independence; but shortly after, Judas fell at Eleasa, fighting at desperate odds against the invaders.

After the death of Judas, Jonathan, his brother, succeeded to the command, and later, assumed the high-priestly office. He died B.C. 144, and was succeeded by Simon, the last remaining brother of the Maccabaean family, who died B.C. 135. The efforts of both brothers were crowned with success.

On the death of Simon, Johannes Hyrcanus, one of his sons, at once assumed the government, B.C. 135, and met with a peaceful death, B.C. 105. His eldest son, Aristobulus I, who succeeded him, B.C. 105-101, was the first who assumed the kingly title, though Simon had enjoyed the fullness of the kingly power.

Alexander Jannaeus was the next successor, B.C. 104-78. Aristobulus II and Hyrcanus III engaged in a civil war on the death of their mother, Alexandra, B.C. 78-69, resulting in the dethronement of Aristobulus II, B.C. 69-69, and the succession of Hyrcanus under Roman rule, but without his kingly title, B.C. 63-40. From B.C. 40 to B.C. 37, Antigonus, a son of Aristobulus II, ruled, and with his two grandchildren, Aristobulus and Mariurnne, the Asmonaean dynasty ended.

Taken from: Smith's Bible Dictionary by Dr. William Smith (1884)