Dec 18, 2006

The History of Hanukkah III

(Start with part one first.)

And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their fullness, a king shall arise, having fierce features, who understands sinister schemes. His power shall be mighty, but not by his own power; he shall destroy fearfully, and shall prosper and thrive; he shall destroy the mighty, and also the holy people. Through his cunning he shall cause deceit to prosper under his rule; and he shall exalt himself in his heart. He shall destroy many in their prosperity. He shall even rise against the Prince of princes;…Then I heard a holy one speaking, “How long will the vision be, concerning the daily sacrifices and the transgression of desolation, the giving of both the sanctuary and the host to be trampled underfoot?” And he said to me, “For two thousand three hundred days (a little more than 6 years); then the sanctuary shall be cleansed.” “And from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days (3½ years).”

But Jason also allowed Jews who wanted to preserve their own religious ways to do so. This leniency troubled those Jews who were anxious for hellenization and some of them complained to Antiochus. They even offered the king money if he’d appoint a new High Priest, one who would be stricter. And so, although Jason had caused more hellenization in twelve months of lenient rule than had happened in all the years since Alexander’s death, he was removed from office and forced to flee.

(Enter Menelaus.)

Menelaus was appointed. He was a Jew who was not even a Levite, and he cared less for the Jewish way of life than he did for his own power. There wasn’t enough money in the Temple treasure to pay Antiochus the sum that he’d been promised for appointing Menelaus. Menelaus’ solution was merely to sell some of the holy vessels of the Temple to raise the money that was needed!

While the hellenization efforts were being supported by some Jews, unrest from other Jews continued to grow. Some of the anti-hellenizers organized into a group called the Hasideans.

(Enter Hasideans)

This group was deeply troubled and angered about the hellenization, especially at the Jews who had chosen Jason, and then had him replaced by Menelaus. The Hasideans grew in strength, and they planned to revolt as soon as it was possible.

Their time came. Antiochus, feeling secure that the hellenization was progressing well, had gone off to Egypt with his Syrian army to challenge the Romans who were now in control there. News that Antiochus had been killed in battle came back to Jerusalem.

(Enter Syrians.)

When the Hasideans heard this, they attacked Menelaus’ supporters at the Temple. None survived. The Hasideans threw all the Greek statues over the Temple walls. And then they killed every known hellenizer they could find, and took control of the city. Even though Menelaus was away from Jerusalem at the time, it was an effective massacre.

“Not by might…”

Daniel: At the appointed time he shall return and go toward the south; but it shall not be like the former or the latter. For ships from Cyprus shall come against him; therefore he shall be grieved, and return in rage against the holy covenant and do damage.

But there was one big problem. The news of Antiochus’ death had been just a rumor. He was alive. While in Egypt, he had lost his battle against the Romans. The Romans had spared his life, but had shamed and humiliated him, making him promise never to attack again. So Antiochus was very much living when he returned to Jerusalem, sulking from his defeat. When he found out about the Hasidean revolt, he was infuriated. He marched his armies into Jerusalem, where they senselessly killed 10,000 people. Their victims were not only Hasideans and Hasidean supporters, but hellenized Jews and their families were slaughtered as well. The bloody punishment didn’t stop.

Antiochus attacked the Temple. He arrogantly entered the sanctuary and took the golden altar, the lampstand for the light, and all its utensils. He took also the table for the bread of the Presence, the cups for drink offerings, the bowls, the golden censers, the curtain, the crowns, and the gold decoration on the front of the temple; he stripped it all off. He took the silver and the gold, and the costly vessels; he took also the hidden treasures that he found. Taking them all, he went into his own land.

New Greek statues were installed. To the Jews, this was a dreadful sign. Antiochus went further. He decreed that Jews could not observe the Sabbath, study the Torah, or circumcise their sons, under penalty of death. If a circumcised baby was found, he was hung around the mother’s neck and both were thrown over the city walls or they were crucified, along with anyone who had participated in the circumcision. Soldiers broke into homes looking for signs of Jewish life. Legend has it that the children still secretly studied the Torah. A lookout for Syrian soldiers was always present. If a soldier was spotted, they quickly hid the Torah and brought out small wooden tops, spinning them as if playing a game. We now know them as dreidels. If they found any evidence of Jewish life or culture, they would pronounce those people enemies and kill them. It was a nightmare to be a Jew in Jerusalem at that time.

Jews reacted in different ways to this terror. Some felt that the only thing they could do was to go along with the Greek rule. Others, who had been Greek supporters, were so filled with grief and rage that they switched their loyalties to the Hasideans and the cause of religious freedom.

Many families left Jerusalem, fleeing to smaller villages where they hoped to live simpler and more peaceful lives. That didn’t work. Antiochus sent his patrols to villages, calling together the Jews, and demanding they make sacrifices to show allegiance to the Greek way. Refusal meant death. In some villages, Jews went along with the sacrifices, feeling it was more important to live than to die for breaking a Jewish law. In some villages, Jews refused and were tortured and killed.

(To be continued tomorrow.)

No comments: