Biblical Archaeology Review 33:3, May/June 2007

Monumental Tombs from Maussollos to the Maccabees

Heroes of Hanukkah Open Era of Jewish Display Tombs

Modi’in was nothing but a hick town in the second century B.C., about 20 miles northwest of Jerusalem. But it was the ancestral home of the Maccabee family who led the successful revolt against the Seleucid tyrant Antiochus IV Epiphanes after he desecrated the Jerusalem Temple and forbade circumcision and Sabbath observance. Mattathias, the family patriarch, and his five sons have earned an indelible chapter in Jewish history, still remembered annually in the festival of Hanukkah.

The Maccabean forces were led by Mattathias’s eldest son, Judas, known as the Hammer because of his military prowess. When he was killed, he was succeeded by his brother Jonathan, who assumed the office of high priest as well as the political leadership, but he was soon captured and murdered. Jonathan was succeeded by his brother Simon, who likewise assumed the office of high priest, although the Maccabees were not of a high priestly family. Oddly enough, both Jonathan and Simon succumbed to the very Hellenistic culture that their father had rebelled against.

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