Day 283: Mattathias Attacks
1 Maccabees 2:1-14 The priest Mattathias and his sons, mourning the sacrileges and persecutions, decided to defend their right to freedom of worship. Under the circumstances, the Jews had no choice but to throw off their oppressors in order to live their faith in peace. It is clear that this constituted a just war under the criteria established by the Church, which includes a just cause and a proportionate exercise of self-defense with a reasonable chance of success. Lastly, the objective was to secure liberation from injustice without incurring greater evils. (CCC 2308-2309)
Ch 2:15-28 When he was offered a bribe to make a pagan sacrifice, Mattathias loudly proclaimed his rejection of the king’s command. Making an example of a fellow Jew who approached the pagan altar, he destroyed it, and then led his sons to the hills to rally those who wished to fight against the oppressors of their religion.
Ch 2:29-48 The Sabbath rest was obligatory, but not in an absolute sense. The Pharisees in the time of Christ had interpreted the Law so stringently that it had lost its original spirit, so much so that a good deed performed on behalf of someone in need was seen as a violation of the Sabbath. Christ made it clear that it was quite laudatory to serve the needs of others even on the Sabbath. The Maccabeans viewed self-defense as permissible on the Sabbath and permitted the “good” of self-defense of the Jews whenever they are attacked on the Sabbath.
Hasidaeans: This conservative sect of Jews followed the Law very strictly. They formed an alliance with the Maccabees to secure religious freedom; however, as they were largely uninterested in political affairs, they would later prove to be a hindrance to the Maccabees. Scholars are not in agreement as to what eventually happened to the Hasidaeans, and some have suggested that from this group emerged the Pharisees or the Essenes. (CCC 582)
Ch 2:49-70 In his dying days, Mattathias urged his sons and followers to continue the fight in defense of the Law. He called for vengeance against the Gentiles and named his son Judas Maccabeus, which means “hammer,” to continue the struggle for their liberation from their enemies.
Gathered to his fathers: This euphemism for death is employed frequently in Scripture.
Sirach 4:1-10 These proverbs have a paternal tone, addressing the reader as “son.” Humility and compassion lead the individual to become likened to a child of God. At this stage in Israel’s history, to be a “son of God” meant to have a particularly intimate relationship with the Father; this term and others like it often applied to Israel’s kings or to the people of Israel as a whole. The passage also details some basic principles for social living that represent the natural corollary to loving God and neighbor. (CCC 441, 2419, 2421)
Ch 4:11-31 In a Christian context, to seek and embrace wisdom is to seek and embrace Christ, who is the begotten Wisdom of the Father. The counsels outlined here describe the kind of sound discretion, humility, and courage that should exemplify faith in Christ. Wisdom is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. (CCC 2690)
Ch 4:21 Depending on the reason for it, shame can be either good or bad. A negative form of shame is a kind of discouragement brought about by spiritual laziness in prayer life (acedia); apathy toward repentance and holiness are symptoms of a lackluster spiritual life. A positive form of shame consists in recognizing one’s sins and resolving to overcome occasions of sin and temptation through a renewed struggle and greater recourse to God. As the Catechism teaches, “The humble are not surprised by their distress; it leads them to trust more, to hold fast in constancy” (CCC 2733). (CCC 2091)
Ch 5:1-15 Another danger rooted in the lack of effort in struggling to live a virtuous life is the sin of presumption. A presumptuous person counts on God’s forgiveness and reward without the good deeds necessary to conform to God’s will. Another form of presumption is the reliance on one’s personal actions for salvation. Presumption and acedia constitute offenses against the First Commandment and against the theological virtue of hope. (CCC 2092)
Ch 5:2 Self-mastery is a consequence of the virtue of temperance. Habitual acts of self-control give a person dominion over the passions and appetites, ordering them toward the service of good acts. Without temperate dispositions and habits, the passions and appetites enslave a person. Along with fortitude, justice, and prudence, temperance is one of the Cardinal Virtues that animate all other moral virtues. (CCC 1809)
Ch 5:8 The Ninth and Tenth Commandments respectively prohibit the lustful desire for someone else’s spouse and the greedy craving for the goods of another. In a broader sense, these Commandments require effort to control thoughts and desires of both lust and avarice. Everyone will give an accounting of his or her assistance to the needs of the poor (cf. Mt 24). (CCC 2536)
Ch 6:1-17 The author offers advice on friendship throughout this book. Not only is wisdom and discretion important in choosing our friends but also we must also know how to be friends to others. (CCC 1829, 1939, 2347)
Ch 6:18-37 Those who seek after wisdom must seek above all the will of God and learn from the wisdom of others. Humility and docility in accepting and living the Commandments leads invariably to deep wisdom. (CCC 299, 2216)
(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)
The Jewish Response
The Jewish response to this terror was divided. Many cooperated—willingly or under compulsion—with the demands of Antiochus IV and, in so doing, compromised the very Jewish ethos established under the reforms of Ezra and Nehemiah.
Others resisted and soon that resistance found a center of gravity in the village of Modein, roughly seventeen miles northwest of Jerusalem, which was to become the fountainhead of fierce Jewish opposition to the policies of Antiochus IV.
In Modein, an aged priest named Mattathias and his five sons—John, Simon, Judas, Eleazar, and Jonathan—countered the king’s officers who had been sent there to force the inhabitants into apostasy.
When the village was summoned to a public assembly and commanded to offer the pagan sacrifice, Mattathias declared: “Even if all the nations that live under the rule of the king obey him, and have chosen to do his commandments, departing each one from the religion of his fathers, yet I and my sons and my brothers will live by the covenant of our fathers. Far be it from us to desert the law and the ordinances. We will not obey the king’s words by turning aside from our religion to the right hand or to the left.” (1 Mc 2:19-22).
When a Jewish man came forward to perform the requisite pagan sacrifice, Mattathias, spurred by a zeal for the Torah, killed both this Jewish man and the king’s enforcer, reminiscent of Phinehas (Nm 25:6-15) and Elijah (1 Kgs 18:40).
Rallying all those who would join them in resistance, Mattathias and his sons fled to the Gophna Hills.
Among those who followed were a group of Jews who sought to live in deep fidelity to the Torah and saw compromise with Greek culture as a betrayal of the faith of their fathers.
These were called the Hasidim (“Hasidaeans” in some translations), meaning “pious ones.”
It is from these Hasidim that the later groups known as the Pharisees and the Essenes descend. Before his death, Mattathias encouraged his sons to “remember the deeds of the fathers” (1 Mc 2:51).
He continued by recalling the deeds of great men throughout salvation history who, when faced with trial and testing, proved faithful to God and his covenant (1 Mc 2:51-64).
Mattathias raised up the lives of these holy men before the eyes of his sons, stirring their hearts and rousing their courage.
Mattathias knew well the stories of Israel’s great heroes and forefathers, and had taught them to his sons so that they could recall them often to strengthen their resolve to be faithful to God’s truth.
(*Walking With God: A Journey Through The Bible by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins)
So here we are in 1 Maccabees Ch 2, which is a long chapter, but we know a lot of the story
A lot of stuff is going on
Mattathias, the son of John, son of Simeon, priest of the sons of Joarib goes to Modein and what happens?
He has five sons
Mattathias, as he’s seeing this realizes, “This is a crisis moment, Lord.”
When the people of Israel came back to Jerusalem and Judah, they came back with this desire to be FAITHFUL
“We are not going to turn away from worshiping the one true God anymore.”
Here under Greek rule and Greek occupation, THEY ARE DOING JUST THAT
So Mattathias leads this revolt basically saying, “We will not do this.”
The Greeks point him out and say, “Mattathias, you are a leader. You are respected. Come up here and show people that they can offer this sacrifice. That they can do this small thing. They can be friends of the king and you would be honored, you and your sons will be honored with silver and gold, many gifts.”
What was Mattathias’s answer?
“No, I’m not going to do that.”
And what happens next?
1 Maccabees 2:23, “When he had finished speaking these words, a Jew came forward in the sight of all to offer sacrifice upon the altar in Modein, according to the king’s command. When Mattathias saw it, he burned with zeal and his heart was stirred.”
Just like Phineas-remember that story earlier in the Old Testament (Do you remember this story? Go back and read Day 72: The Plains of Moab in The Bible in a Year Study Guide because honestly, that was over 210 days ago!! 😁)-Mattathias is roused up by this righteous anger and KILLS HIM
And then he kills the king’s ambassador
So Mattathias went from zero to sixty really quickly, eh?
Things went from, “Ok, we’re kind of oppressed” to “OH MY GOSH WE HAVE TO FIGHT NOW!”
So Mattathias says, “Everyone who wants to fight, everyone who wants to live free, come out into the hills with me.” (I imagine the soundtrack to this part is Over the Hills and Far Away by Led Zepplin 🎸😁)
They begin to wage this guerrilla warfare upon not just the Greeks, but also upon their fellow Jews who were NOT FAITHFUL TO THE LAW
We’ve said this many times before, that just because something is in the Bible does not mean that it is a good thing
Just because a hero of a section of the Bible is doing something does not mean that is the right thing for them to be doing
It’s just what they did
For example, Mattathias, his sons, and the band that was with them (I’m guessing the band’s name was The Maccabean Revolvers 🎸🤪) did not just turn and fight the Greeks
They also turned and “forcibly circumcised those boys who were not circumcised…” (OUCH!!! 😳)
So they hunted down the arrogant men and work prospered in their hands
They also rescued out of the Law, out of the hands of the Gentiles and kings, and they never let the sinner gain the upper hand
When war breaks out, there is a lot of UGLINESS that breaks out
Anyone who is listening to this part in the Bible in a Year Community, if you have been in war you know EXACTLY WHAT WE ARE TALKING ABOUT
When you cross that bridge, what happens is oftentimes incredibly deadly and incredibly destructive
Now at the end of Ch 2 Mattathias is going to die
Before he dies, he entrusts a couple different responsibilities and duties to two of his sons
For one he says, “We know Simeon is wise in counsel, so listen to him, he’ll be your father. But then, Judas Maccabeus has been a mighty warrior from his youth.”
The word “maccabeus” means “the hammer”
So he is JUDAS THE HAMMER (Valentine...😉 Ok if you get this inside joke, congratulations 🤣🤣🤣)
He is going to command the army and fight the battle against the people
1 Maccabees 2:67, “You shall rally about you all who observe the law, and avenge the wrong done to your people.”
So that is what happens
They launch this guerrilla warfare led by Judas Maccabeus aka Judas the Hammer (Valentine 🤪...I’m sorry, I just couldn’t resist) against the Greeks and against the Gentiles in order to try to be FREE
They established a sovereign state for a while for around a hundred years or so
They do this through violence
They do this through stuff that we would not want to be part of, BUT FOR LOVE OF THE LAW
FOR THE LOVE OF THE FREEDOM GOD MADE THEM FOR
FOR LOVE OF WORSHIP OF GOD
This is what they are about to do
No onward to Sirach
These are precepts for everyday life
TAKE CARE OF THE POOR
TAKE CARE OF THOSE WHO BEG
I LOVE THIS!!
THIS IS WHAT WE NEED TO HEAR!!
Sirach 4:5, “Do not avert your eye from the needy; nor give a man occasion to curse you…”
GOSH YOU GUYS!!
How many times do we pull up to a stoplight and there is someone begging on the corner and we just look straight ahead or down at your knuckles on the steering wheel, look ANYWHERE EXCEPT FOR INTO THE EYES OF THIS PERSON WHO IS BEGGING
But here is Scripture, “DO NOT AVERT YOUR EYE FROM THE NEEDY…”
WE ARE CONVICTED BY THIS (OR WE OUGHT TO BE!!!)
THAT IS SO IMPORTANT!!
So there’s the Book of Sirach and the Book of Wisdom and they are kind of like the Book of Proverbs ON STEROIDS
So when we hear the Book of Sirach and the Book of Wisdom, HAVE YOUR BIBLE WITH YOU IF YOU CAN
BECAUSE THERE IS SOMETHING SO POWERFUL ABOUT BEING ABLE TO FOLLOW ALONG
STRINGING TOGETHER THESE PIECES OF WISDOM IS REALLY REALLY INCREDIBLE!!
For example, in Sirach Ch 6 it talks about FRIENDSHIP
THIS IS INCREDIBLE!!
Sirach 6:6, “Let those that are at peace with you be many, but let your advisers be one in a thousand.”
Let your acquaintances be many
How often are we in a position where we take advice from ANYONE
TAKE ADVICE FROM WHOMEVER!!
“Yeah, I know this person. I’ll trust them and I’ll take their advice.”
Scripture says, “Let your acquaintances be many.”
ANYBODY can be an acquaintance
ANYBODY can be a pal
“Let your advisor be one in a thousand.”
Next we have Sirach 6:7, “When you gain a friend, gain him through testing, and do not trust him hastily.”
THIS IS SO IMPORTANT!!
How many of us wish we could have heard this piece of wisdom when we were in middle school or high school?
Sometimes when we meet someone, we have something in common with them
They seem fun
They seem charming
They seem like we agree on a lot of stuff
And we TRUST them before TESTING them
Scripture says, “When you gain a friend, gain him through testing. Do not trust him hastily…”
Scripture describes THREE TYPES OF FRIENDS
Sirach 6:8-10, “For there is a friend who is such at his own convenience, but he will not stand by you in your day of trouble. And there is a friend who changes into an enemy, and will disclose a quarrel to your disgrace. And there is a friend who is a table companion, but will not stand by you in your day of trouble.”
So what do we have here?
A FRIENDSHIP OF CONVENIENCE
A FAIR WEATHER FRIEND and they might even MISUSE AND ABUSE THE TRUST THAT YOU HAVE GIVEN THEM
And finally a TABLE COMPANION is basically someone you entered into deep friendship with-to seal the covenant there would be a meal
Sirach 6:11, “In prosperity he will make himself your equal, and be bold with your servants…”
This TABLE COMPANION walks into YOUR place like he OWNS THE PLACE
Sirach 6:12, “But if you are brought low he will turn against you, and will hide himself from your presence.”
HERE IS THE POSITIVE…
Sirach 6:14, “A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter: he that has found one has found a treasure. There is nothing so precious as a faithful friend, and no scales can measure his excellence. A faithful friend is an elixir of life; and those who fear the Lord will find him. Whoever fears the Lord directs his friendships aright, for as he is, so is his neighbor also.”
There are so many other pieces of GOLD in the Book of Sirach
It might be a blessing to you for the next 30 days to make a note as we listen to this book
If you can’t just say, “Oh, I need to go back and read some Sirach when I get home.”
If you’re eating
Listening in the car
WHEREVER YOU ARE
THIS WILL BE A REALLY POWERFUL THING TO DO
Fr. Mike is not here to tell you your own business (But then again, do you really NOT want to take his advice? 🤔 He is our shepherd for this Bible in a Year after all 😁)
Fr. Mike is here to proclaim the Word of God and to be part of our lives
We are a part of Fr. Mike’s life
FR. MIKE IS PRAYING FOR YOU EVERY SINGLE DAY
PRAY FOR FR. MIKE
PRAY FOR EACH OTHER
Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in Heaven we give you praise and thank you. Thank you for your instruction. Thank you for your wisdom that you share with us. And thank you for shaping our hearts and shaping our eyes, shaping our minds to be able to see your Will and to be able to desire to do your Will in everything. Help us. Help us, Lord, to be able to do what we desire, to be able to do what you want for us. Without your Grace, we can do nothing. With your Grace, all things are possible. Hear our prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen.”