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reconciled, he resolved to employ his whole force against them, and proceeded to hostilities; but when the Roman ambassadors arrived, he was stopt in his career, and was compelled to put an end to the war.
Antiochus, at his return from Egypt, exasperated to see himself forcibly dispossessed by the Romans of a crown, which he looked upon already as his own, made the Jews, though they had not offended him in any manner, feel the whole weight of his wrath.
In order to effect this barbarous purpose, Antiochus dispatched Apollonius, the collector of his tribute, to Jerusalem with a thousand men, who concealed his designs, and by plausible pretences gained the confidence of the people, who had no suspicion of their hostile intentions; but, as soon as the sabbath-day arrived, Apollonius threw off the mask, and, falling upon the Jews whilst they were engaged in public worship, siew great multitudes; and when he had taken the spoils of the city he set it on fire, and pulled down the houses and walls on every side: but took the women and children captives, and carried away the cattle. The Syrians then built a castle or fortress on a high hill in the city of David, over against the Temple, to overlook and annoy them; and a garrison was placed in it, where they laid up the spoils of Jerusalem. "Thus + they shed innocent blood on every side of the sanctuary, and defiled it, insomuch that the inhabitants of Jerusalem Aed because of them; whereupon the city was made an habitation of strangers, and became strange to those that were born in her, and her own children left her: her sanctuary was laid waste like a wilderness, her feasts were turned into mourning, her sabbaths into reproach, her honour into contempt. As had been her glory, so
1 Macc. i. 29.
+ Ibid 37.
was her dishonour increased, and her excellency was turned into mourning."
Antiochus next issued out a decree that all his dominions should be of one religion, chiefly designing to distress the Jews. He forbad all burnt-offerings and sacrifices in the Temple of the God of Israel; commanded that the sabbaths should be profaned, the sanctuary polluted, unclean things eaten, and every means taken to make the people forget the law, and change the ordinances of the LORD; and whosoever would not conform to the king's command was to be put to death.
In order that this edict might be punctually obeyed, Antiochus sent officers into all the provinces of his kingdom, to see it put in execution, and instruct the people in the ceremonies and customs to which they were to conform.
No people + seemed more eager to comply with the orders of the king than the Samaritans. They presented a petition to him, in which they declared themselves not to be Jews; and desired that the temple, built on mount Gerizim, might be dedicated to the Grecian Jupiter, which was accordingly done. And not only the Samaritans, but many Jews, some through fear, and some through ambition, apostatized, and became persecutors of their brethren.
The officer, whom Antiochus sent into Judea and Samaria to see his decree put in execution, was called Athenæus, a man advanced in years, and well acquainted with the ceremonies of the Grecian idolatry. The holy Temple of the LORD JEHOVAN‡ was by this profane wretch dedicated to Jupiter Olympus, whose image was erected on the altar in the inner court of the Temple; and just before the image they built another altar, on which they sacrificed to him. Thus was the daily
1 Macc. i. 41.
2 Macc. vi. 2. sacrifice
sacrifice taken away, and the ABOMINATION of DESOLATION placed in the SANCTUARY, as the prophet had foretold. It was truly the abomination of desolation, for it was abominable to GOD, and to all his faithful people: and it was the occasion of such desolation as strikes one with horror to read of. The Jews were also compelled to go in procession once a month, and carry branches of ivy in honour of Bacchus, the god of drunkenness; idol altars were erected in every city of Judah, and incense burnt on them. Wherever any books' of the law of Moses were found, they were torn to pieces and burnt; and on the day on which they first sacrificed to Jupiter on the Altar of the LORD, they caused the most horrid cruelties to be exercised on those who adhered to the Jewish religion. Two women in particular, who had circumcised their children, were led about the streets with their strangled babes hanging at their necks, and then thrown headlong from a high wall; others, who had hid themselves in a cave to keep the sabbath-day, were all burnt together.
THE HISTORY OF MATTATHIAS.
WHEN the prophet Daniel foretold the dreadful persecution by Antiochus Epiphanes, he also predicted, that the people who knew their God should be strong to do exploits, and that they should be holpen with little help. And it pleased the LORD to send them deliverance by means of Mattathias, a priest, who dwelt in Modin. This pious person had five sons; Joannan, surnamed Caddis; Simon, called Thassi; Judas, called Maccabeus; Eleazer, called Avaran; and Jonathan, whose surname was Apphus.
"When Mattathias * saw the blasphemies that were
1 Macc. ii. 6.
committed in Judah and Jerusalem, he said, Wo is me, wherefore was I born to see this misery of my people, and of the holy city, and to dwell there, when it was delivered into the hand of the enemy, and the sanctuary into the hand of strangers? Her Temple is become as a man without glory. Her glorious vessels are carried away into captivity, her infants are slain in the streets, What her young men with the sword of the enemy. nation hath not had a part in her kingdom, and gotten of her spoils; and behold, our sanctuary, even our beauty and our glory, is laid waste, and the Gentiles have profaned it. To what end therefore shall we live any longer? Then Mattathias and his sons rent their clothes; and put on sackcloth, and mourned very sore."
How beautiful and pathetic was this lamentation of Mattathias for the miseries of Israel, and the desolation of the Holy City! Life was no longer valuable to him, now that the heathen were come into the LORD's inheritance, and had defiled the holy Temple; and he resolved to die rather than to fall away from the religion of his fathers.
"When the king's officers arrived at Modin, they endeavoured to prevail on Mattathias, by gentle persuasions, and promises of honours and rewards, to comply with the king's commands. But Mattathias answered, and spake with a loud voice, Though all the nations that are under the king's dominion obey him, and fall away every one from the religion of their fathers, and give consent to his commandments; yet will I, and my sons, and my brethren, walk in the covenant of our fathers. GOD forbid that we should forsake the law, and the ordinances: we will not hearken to the king's words, to go from our religion, either on the right hand or on the left."
Just as he had declared this pious resolution, one of
*1 Macc. ii. 15–23.
the Jewish priests advanced to sacrifice on the idol altar, which was erected in that city; on which Mattathias, fired with holy indignation for the honour of the LORD, slew him in the impious act. He killed also the king's commissioner who compelled men to sacrifice, and caused the altar to be pulled down. "Then Mattathias cried throughout the city with a loud voice, saying, Whosoever is zealous of the law, and maintaineth the covenant, let him follow me. So he and his sons left all that they had in the city, and fled into the mountains; and they were followed by a great number of the Jews, who took their families, and their cattle, and hid themselves in the wilderness."
When the king's army were informed of their flight, they resolved to pursue them, and attacked them on the sabbath-day. The Jews made no resistance, upon which a thousand of them were slain. Mattathias and his friends were greatly afflicted for the loss of them, and at first approved their zeal; but when Mattathias reflected, that they had no right to expect the particular interposition of Providence on the sabbath-day any more than on any other day, without an express promise of assistance from the LORD, he concluded, that the law did not require them to be inactive in their own defence; for this reason he decreed, that if the enemy assaulted them on the sabbath, they should in future endeavour to repel them. And this decree was afterwards ratified and confirmed, by the consent of all the priests and leaders, to be a rule in their following wars.
While Mattathias + continued in the mountains, many of the Jews were encouraged to resort to him; amongst the rest came some of the Assideans. These were a sect amongst the Jews who were called Chasidim, or the Pious:
* 1 Macc. ii. 27.
t1 Mace. ii. 42.