The Maccabean Rebellion

Written on September 8, 2022 – 12:35 pm | by dave |

Important to understanding the people of Qumran, is to understand the historical context into which they would have entered. All of the events leading to this group happened after the period of the Kingdom of Israel (both the single and dual monarchy) and after the Alexandrian empire. For years, the people had been allowed to practice Jewish customs in Hellenistic Judah but that all changed during the reign of Antiochus IV.

Decree by Antiochus IV

  • Forbade Jewish modes of worship
  • Forbade the observance of Sabbath and the festivals
  • Outlawed circumcision
  • Forced the Jews to sacrifice pigs to Greek gods, with idols set up in the Jerusalem Temple.

All of these items together lead to the Maccabean Rebellion.

The Maccabean Revolt

The family responsible were from the priestly lineage of Israel and could not stand for these injustices wrought by Antiochus IV’s decree and decided to fight back. Amazingly, they actually WON the war and were able to take control of Israel.

  • This was the first war fought for religious freedom in recorded history.
  • The first event after the victory was the purification of the temple which led to the creation of the holiday “Hanukkah” or “Dedication”
  • Members of the Maccabee family established the Hasmonean Dynasty which lasted until 63 BCE

The Hasmonean Dynasty

  • Jonathan Maccabee declared himself as High Priest in 152 BCE which may be the one in the Dead Sea Scrolls known as “The Wicked Priest”
  • The Essenes did not appear to approve of the way in which the high priest was selected since Jonathon was not a “Son of Zadok”
  • When John Hyrcanus became king of Israel, he was responsible for recapturing many of the lands around Jerusalem including Edom. He forced the Edomites to become Jewish which is the only time Jewish religion was forced on a people group.
  • John’s son, Aristobulous I was the first one to call himself “king” which was a direct violation of the decree that “A king of Israel must come from the tribe of Judah and descend from King David.
  • The next king, Alexander Janneus had a close relationship with the Essenes and this is found in 4Q448 and his Hebrew name was “Jonathan”. Not to be confused with the “Wicked Priest”. He was married to Salome Alexandra who actually was a queen of Judah for a while.
  • The sons of these two invited Pompey to meet with the family and Pompey promptly took over.
  • The word ‘kittim’ was a code word for Romans (Cyprus).

The Time of Herod the Great

  • Herod was from Edom (Idoumea) during the forced Jewish conversion.
  • He later married Mariamme, a Hasmonean princess to give himself some claim to the Hasmonian dynasty.
  • He convinced Rome to declare him King of Judea which they agreed to.
  • Once he was in power, Herod had the final members of the Hasmonean family killed so there would be no opposition to the throne.
  • Eventually, Rome destroyed the temple in Jerusalem in 70 C.E. and it has not yet been rebuilt which led to post-Temple Judaism.
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