Dec 16, 2006

The History of Hanukkah II

(Start with part one first.)

(Enter Hellenized Jews.)

Over time, some Jews did become hellenized, moving farther and farther away from Jewish customs and laws. For some this happened because they moved to farms or cities outside of Judea, but even in the land of the Jews, changes took place. More Jews wore the Greek-style tunic. Some took Greek names for social or business reasons. Synagogues were built that resembled Grecian temples.

Religious beliefs began to change. The attitude among some Jews was this: Why should we cling to our different ways? Why not be like all others? In Judea, this attitude was felt especially by those Jews who came into daily contact with people living the Greek way. Most of these Jews lived in the city of Jerusalem and were from the wealthier families. They generally were merchants who had a great deal of contact with people other than Jews. These Jews claimed they did not really want to give up Judaism, but they wanted to make Jews more like Greeks so that people who lived in cities neighboring Judea would look upon Jews as people just like themselves.

While some Jews felt this way, others were horrified by these changes in attitude. “It’s not possible to live in two worlds. Hellenization is a threat to the future of the Jewish people.” An undercurrent of unrest developed between those Jews who feared and resisted hellenization and those who felt it was backward and unrealistic, as well as undesirable, to resist Greek life.

Along with this growing struggle among the Jews, another struggle was developing between the Ptolemies (who ruled Egypt and Judea), and the Seleucids (who ruled Syria and Asia Minor). Though Seleucus had been content to concede the control of Judea to Ptolemy, his descendants wanted to rule that territory. About 125 years after Alexander had died, a Seleucid king finally did force the Ptolemic rulers to give up control of Judea. This Syrian king was name Antiochus III.

Antiochus III made energetic attempts to hellenize people, requiring that everyone put statues of himself and the Greek gods in prominent places. To erect such statues, especially in the Temple in Jerusalem and in synagogues throughout Judea, was unthinkable to the Jews. They claimed that paying taxes was enough proof of being good citizens. Antiochus III did not insist. Neither did his successor, his son Seleucus IV.

Daniel: Each of the Ptolemies and Seleucids were prophesied about in detail in the vision which is recorded in my book. But we want to focus tonight on the next king: “And out of one of the four notable horns came a little horn which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Glorious Land.” I was then told that “there would arise a vile person, to whom they will not give the honor of royalty; but he shall come in peaceably, and seize the kingdom by intrigue.”

(Enter Antiochus Epiphanes.)

The next leader was Antiochus IV, a man who called himself Antiochus Epiphanes, which meant “the visible god.” Behind his back, the Jews called him Antiochus Epimanes, which means “a crazy man.” He wanted to extend his power and capture all of Egypt. In order to do that, he needed the full support of all the people under his rule. To him, that meant that the people had to become, once and for all, totally hellenized: They must speak Greek, follow Greek customs, worship Greek gods, and even think like Greeks. The Jews were especially important to him since Judea bordered on Egypt.

Daniel: Those who do wickedly against the covenant, he shall corrupt with flattery.

Those Jews who were willing to be hellenized thought it would be to their advantage to help Antiochus hellenize the rest of the Jews. "Let us go and make a covenant with the Gentiles around us, for since we separated from them many disasters have come upon us." They abandoned the holy covenant, joined with the Gentiles and sold themselves to do evil. Some of them convinced Antiochus to appoint a High Priest who would help. They recommended a man who had already adopted man Greek ways. He’d even changed his name from Joshua to Jason. As High Priest, he was not only to govern the Jews; he was to make sure they were becoming hellenized as well.

Daniel: He even exalted himself as high as the Prince of the host; and by him the daily sacrifices were taken away, and the place of His sanctuary was cast down. Because of transgression, an army was given over to the horn to oppose the daily sacrifices; and he cast truth down to the ground. He did all this and prospered.

Under Jason’s rule, statues of Greek gods were put up in the Temple in Jerusalem, with a statue of Zeus, representing Antiochus Epiphanes being put up on God’s once-holy altar, Jewish priests officiated at Greek rites, and Greek athletic games were held in the temple courtyards.

(To be continued tomorrow.)

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