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Bible Time Period: Maccabean Revolt
Mattathias and his sons stood up against the threats of Hellenization: Help me resist worldliness in the culture and follow only you.
Once again – as you continue through the battles and alliances recounted in 1 Maccabees, don’t feel you need to get all the details; just read to get the overall outline of the story.
“The year one hundred and fifty-two,” where chapter 9 begins, is 160 BC. Judas Maccabeus is killed in battle and leadership passes to his brother Jonathan. Jonathan is not a king but a judge like those in the book of Judges. In chapter 10, Jonathan will be backed by the Roman King Alexander (son of Antiochus Epiphanes) and appointed high priest. At the time, there had been no high priest in Jerusalem for seven years.
In general, how does Judah fare under Jonathan?
Join the discussion below!
Jonathan was an amazing negotiator. The land of Israel is at the axis of the battles between various kingdoms. All the Kings are trying to increase their dominance over land and peoples, whereas the people of Israel have been given their land by God: their aim is to defend the promised land and the survival of his people. (The time to confer a worldwide blessing from their Kingdom will come later: we know that to be Christ’s kingdom: the Kingdom of God). Jonathan is able to form alliances and protect Israel from being overwhelmed by these dominant forces. It seems to me he is canny and astute but the tightrope he walks is eventually too dangerous and he dies. These chapters are a great illustration of the perilous existence of this people of God. We have to thank God for their tenacity and bravery that allowed their survival and allowed the King of all of us, for all time, to be born for us.
Not to mention sneaky and dishonest rulers
Jonathan was as savvy as Judas was on the battlefield, either using guerrilla style fighting or formal military style engagement on a battlefield. Jonathan also had a keen mind and was able to maneuver himself in the political arena so that Judah would receive proper representation. Unfortunately, some of the leaders at that time reneged on the promises that they bestowed upon the Jews. Jonathan dealt with those setbacks admirably and Judah continued to be seen as a prospering and important nation.
The stage is being set for what will come. May I learn from this reading and open my heart and soul to His Word. Our Savior, Jesus Christ will soon be crucified. I must get my house in order to receive Him with open arms and unrequited love.
Judah fares as well as can be expected considering the siege from factions within it’s own borders by the Jewish people, and the volatile and confusing politics of trying to secure peaceful relations with other nations. I think Jonathan’s leadership was steadfast and firmly rooted in covenant with God. As Liza points out, it was a tightrope and Jonathan was a little too trusting of the foreign alliance in the end. This First Book of the Maccabees is a little sanitary/cut and dry with the historical aspects of the time, in my opinion. The Second Book of Maccabees gives more in-depth coverage of the theological aspects of this time/these events and the roles played by the leadership. Hopefully, we will dig into this in the next few days.
That’s interesting, I will try and have look at Maccabees ll, all of this is new to me and incredibly interesting and enlightening about the plight of the Jewish people in the period just before Christ.
I really get a lot out of the two books of Maccabees. Seems like a lot of people mistakenly feel this was a period of silence (the last 490 years or so before the messianic fulfillment). What we read here disputes that, though. The misunderstanding could come from the fact the Protestants took out these two books (along with 5 others). Sad, considering the valuable theological insights these Scriptures present on intercessory prayer, purgatory, communion with the saints, etc.
Liza, PnkyB4brain and Fisher have covered the topic really well. The only thing in the readings that jarred a bit was Chap 10 v20 in which the Greek King Alexander says “We have therefore appointed you today to be high priest of your nation; …” and then in v21 it says “Jonathan put on the sacred vestments …”. I am confused, a Greek king makes Jonathan a High Priest? I don’t know if Jonathan was a Levite and could be a priest or indeed whether a priest could be a soldier. Given his success, I can only assume that God didn’t have a problem with it. Can anyone throw light on this?
The following is from the Haydock commentary. I hope this helps.
Ver. 20. Make. The king could not make him high priest, as he was that already: but he acknowledges the title. (Worthington) —Crown: both the badges of kings, or granted by them, ver. 62., and Daniel v. 29.
Thanks for the answer.
Thank you. Sorry I didn’t reply earlier, I was at the last session of the 8 week Great Adventure.
Thanks for sharing this. I wondered the same thing.
Reading these chapters I was totally confused as to who was friends with whom. Although Jonathan is high priest and a very good one. The writer of this book does not seem to mention many specific prayers of Jonathan. I did note that in making alliances neither Judas or Jonathan took wives to seal the alliances. Jonathan’s rule over Israel is filled with betrayal and intregue. Much of the trouble comes from the Jews who do not follow the law.
It seems as if the continuing story of God and His Chosen Ones took a bit of a hiatus and the bible devoted some time to the politics of that day. This period of time was consumed with war and which ruler would be the top dog, if you will, having won the possessions of land after the fighting ceased. Jonathan was in the middle and was quite the savvy politician. Although in Chapter 11 he was given the honor of high priest, I don’t think it had anything to do with the Jewish faith. (I am still trying to find an answer.)
Interesting how the blood line remained in the leadership roles, as one leader died the son or brother took the lead. Jonathan cared about his people as his brother Judas had and he went into battle as necessary until he was deceived and killed by Trypho. So much deceit and lies by the enemies especially Trypho, all for the sake of power and taking over the land. Jonathan wanted to see the good in everyone and also hoped to join alliance with Rome to save his people from starving. However, his trust cost him is life. He was deeply mourned by his brothers and all of Israel bewailed him with great lamentations for many days. (Ch.13:26)
Judah has never been in the position of land grabs or nation building except for within the bounds of the Land which were given them by God. So Judah at this time finds itself defending the land as well as the faith of their fathers. Jonathan seems to see the powers around him all wanting his alliance and he takes advantage of this. he negotiates very well to expiate their taxes, tributes and levies. But the alliances shift like the winds and the seas so it couldn’t be said they were ever at ‘Peace’. But nothing remained to be accomplished, save the prophecy of Jacob to his son Judah (Gen 47-50). This last sign was not delayed. The Jewish people, as we will see, torn and weakened by continual dissensions among themselves, called in their allies the Romans to decide their quarrels, and the Romans, a great and powerful nation, settled the dispute’s by taking possession of all Judea, and placing on its throne Herod, a stranger, a satellite of the Roman emperor. Thus was the scepter departed from Judah, and that event ushered in the Redeemer of the world.
The world as a whole is in tremendous turmoil with kings taking land and enslaving inhabitants; promises and alliances are made and broken – a truly dangerous world. Jonathan showed himself to be not only a mighty warrior but also an accomplished politician but most of all he followed the Law as set by the Lord. Jonathan and his brothers were first and foremost Jews following the Messianic Laws as their fathers passed down; it was because of this unwavering faith that he was able to accomplish so much; the Lord was on his side at all times.
Judah faired quite well, as a whole, under Jonathan. The Jews again heard the Law, practiced the faith of their fathers (most of them did) and placed the Lord as the center in their lives. The Lord did not let them down nor leave them stranded when danger approached; additionally, they recognized Jonathan as their leader and had great confidence in his decisions and works. While wars were raging around them, the Jewish people had direction and faith.