The first chapter of Maccabees offers a great historical account written as a victimized Jewish man who did not live it but almost like the retelling of one of grandpa’s campfire stories. Alexander the great went of a rampage conquering everything he could see, traveling as far as the end of the known world. When he died, instead of appointing a new ruler for his entire kingdom, Alexander divided up his land and appointed kings to each city. A generation after Alexander sprung Antiochus Epiphanes as the ruler of Rome, the territory he inherited from his father. After he became settled in Rome, he decided to invade Egypt despite the treaty of Apamea. The treaty of Apamea forbade Rome to attack their friends but went ahead and was very successful. Antiochus didn’t stop there as he made his way to Jerusalem where he unleashed terror on the Jewish people and their Religion.
Persecuting the Jewish people was part of Antiochus’ plan to conform with the gentiles and make everyone in his kingdom practice the ways of the gentile which included the worship of pagan idols. As it is now, the culture and political practices of Egypt, Israel, and Rome were so vastly different, crushing religious practices was his best chance of unifying his kingdom. The pagan religion was enforced by the military and destruction of the temple, altars, and Jewish scripture. The threat of death to anyone caught practicing Jewish law was enough for some to turn to the pagans, it was a lot easier, but some refused and were martyred for their sacrifices. The author of Maccabees puts it best when the dust settles as “Her dishonor was as great as her glory had been, and her exaltation was turned into mourning.”
Now that the stage has been set for us, I want you to think about society today and how sometimes to bring peace it wants us to denounce our religious beliefs for the overall blending of people who come from different cultural and ideology mindsets. How important is it for us to be those Jewish men and women who didn’t turn over to paganism.
For Wednesday I will be reading chapter 2 of 1 Maccabees.