Home History The Military History of Hanukkah

The Military History of Hanukkah

by Enochadmin

When a Christian encounters the identify “Judas,” she or he instinctively thinks of Judas Iskariot, the apostle who betrayed Jesus Christ to his persecutors within the new Testomony. When a Jew encounters the identify, she or he is simply as possible to think about the hero behind the vacation of Hanukkah, Judas Maccabeus.

Judah the Hammer

As with Jesus, the heroic Judas’ most familiarly recognized moniker relies on Greek, the language of his Hellenistic adversaries. The third of 5 sons born to Mattathias of the Hasmonean household, priest (cohen) of Modein—the others being Eleazar, Simon, John and Jonathan—his Hebrew identify was Yehuda HaMakab, or Judah the Hammer.

Judah was initially a cohen in his personal proper and the circumstances that thrust him into the army limelight have been tragically avoidable. After the dying of King Alexander III (the Nice) of Macedon in 323 BCE, his huge empire was partitioned into three areas, Macedonia below his direct successors, Egypt below the dynasty of his Normal Ptolemy and the Seleucid kingdom, primarily based in what’s now Syria, administering western Asia, together with Judea.

For nearly two centuries the Seleucids, just like the Persians whose energy they’d displaced, have been content material to let the various cultures below their aegis follow their customs and religions with out interference, simply so long as they swore fealty to the Seleucid king. Throughout that point, nevertheless, the artwork, science and philosophy of Hellenic civilization that Alexander’s heirs introduced with them was embraced to differing levels by topics both genuinely attracted by them or hoping that doing so can be to their political or social benefit.

That included an excellent many Jews, who started to combine elements of their conventional faith with that of their polytheistic rulers. Stricter advocates of the Ten Commandments, together with Mattathias, discovered such theological compromises insupportable and made no secret of it.

Coaching An Military

Nonetheless, the Seleucids—together with Antiochus IV Epiphanes (“God Manifest”) when he ascended to the throne on September 9, 175 BCE—continued a coverage of laissez-faire, till a collection of intrigues, bribery and corruption among the many Judean governors and an unsuccessful coup try in opposition to him led Antiochus to impose Hellenism on all his topics in 168 BCE, as a measure towards attaining cultural unity.

In regard to Judea, that included forcing the Jews to desert their dietary legal guidelines, work on the Sabbath, and stop circumcising their sons. He additionally ordered the syncretic Jews to put in graven photos of Hellenic gods and goddesses within the Second Temple of Jerusalem and had a citadel for a garrison to implement the brand new coverage.

If Antiochus thought his assimilationist acts would ultimately result in higher homogeneity and thereby extra loyalty amongst his topics, he would quickly find out how unsuitable he was. In 167 BCE, when a Jewish Hellenist arrived to switch Mattathias as priest of Modein, Mattathias killed him and the Greek soldier accompanying him, destroyed the Greek altar they’d introduced after which took to the close by hills together with his sons. There they started enlisting and coaching fellow pietists to kind a military to oppose the Seleucid forces.

Once they have been in cities engaged of their clandestine efforts to assemble forces on the town, they devised a canopy for his or her subversive actions by enjoying a sport with a spinning prime at any time when a Greek or recognized Jewish Hellenist handed by. That prime, or dreidel, has been part of the Hanukkah custom ever since.

As insurgent forces grew, they started what the Seleucids undoubtedly would have labeled a terrorist marketing campaign, hanging out from city to city destroying Hellenistic altars, forcing Jewish boys to be circumcised and killing Hellenized Jews.

As Seleucid forces have been dispatched to seek out the rebels and resecure their management over Judea, Judas appears to have come to the fore as a army chief, organizing his followers right into a small however rising and disciplined military. Someday between the springs of 166 and 165 BCE Mattathius died, however his sons carried on for him with a collection of dramatic occasions that raised the Hasmonean revolt to a better degree.

Hit And Run Techniques

On the Battle of the Ascent of Lebanon Judas led an evening assault that scattered a column of Samaritan warriors marching to hitch a Syrian military and personally defeated and killed their commander, Apollonius. Quickly afterward, at Beth Horon, Judas and his fighters ambushed the Syrian pressure in a move, sending it and its commander, Seron, fleeing.

Then, in September 165, whereas one other, bigger Seleucid military commanded by Gorgias was scouring the area for the rebels, Judas and a big detachment slipped into the principle camp at Emmaus, overwhelmed its defenders and helped themselves to sufficient a lot wanted arms, armor and provides to equip a viable military. By now Judas was being referred to as Makebet (the Hammer), a sobriquet that was later utilized to his brothers and in the end to all of his army followers.

At this level the Hellenized Jews and Judas’ pietists made an try to revive peaceable coexistence, however negotiations broke down and Antiochus despatched extra troops, led by his regent, Lysias into Judea. On the similar time, he led an expedition in opposition to one other, higher risk to his kingdom, the Parthians.

As Lysias moved on Jerusalem he was intercepted by Judas’ still-smaller military at Beth Zur, north of Hebron. What little is thought from the biblical accounts counsel that Judas reverted to hit and run ways, hanging at Seleucid items and disengaging earlier than reinforcements may attain them.

The Hammer’s well-practiced abilities at guerrilla combating wore down his opponents whereas denying Lysias the prospect at a decisive blow.

For their very own half, the Jews chalked up the Battle of Beth Zur because the decisive victory that immediately preceded their retaking of Jerusalem and the cleaning of the Temple, nevertheless it was solely one in all two coinciding elements behind the Maccabean triumph. The opposite was the arrival within the Seleucid camp that November information that Antiochus had died of illness whereas campaigning in Armenia, leaving a nine-year-old son, Antiochus V Eupator, as his successor. As regent to the dominion, Lysias wanted to disengage and march his troops again to the royal capital of Antioch to safe the succession. The Hasmonean revolt may—and would—have to attend.

The Hanukkah Miracle

So it was that on the twenty fifth day within the Hebrew month of Kislev (roughly December) of 164 BCE, Judas Maccabeus led his makeshift military into Jerusalem, leaving the Seleucid-built fortified citadel referred to as the Akra and its garrison of Greeks and Hellenized Jews unmolested however remoted throughout the metropolis. He centered as an alternative on cleaning the Temple, eradicating the Hellenistic idols and relighting the candles.

It’s right here that the only real divine miracle of Hanukkah (“dedication”) seems within the story. With solely sufficient oil to mild the Temple for a single day, the Maccabees made do with what they’d, however the flames burned by way of eight nights till extra oil was discovered to maintain it lit.

As essential because the Temple’s rededication was, Judas’ labors have been certainly not ended. He confronted the obligations of administering the lands below his management whereas anticipating an inevitable backlash from the Seleucids, beginning with an extended—and unsuccessful—siege of the Akra. Certainly, as soon as Antiochus V was firmly on the throne, Lysias returned to Judea with a military estimated at numbering 50,000 infantry, 5,000 cavalry and 30 struggle elephants.

Political Troubles

After briefly besieging and taking Beth Zur, he met Judas in open battle at Beth Zechariah. The Jews had not more than 20,000 fighters at hand, however the fourth of Mattiathus’ sons, Eleazar Avaran, thought he acknowledged Lysias’ struggle elephant and, hoping he may win the battle by killing the enemy commander as brother Judas had finished on the Ascent of Lebanon, he charged into the enemy line and mortally speared the elephant—solely to perish when the beast toppled on him. Beth Zechariah resulted in victory for Lysias and a private tragedy for Judas, although he was capable of recuperate from the defeat with most of his military intact.

Lysias subsequent laid siege to Jerusalem, however 163 had been a fallow 12 months and meals was a restricted commodity for each side. As well as, political troubles have been once more brewing in Antioch. Due to this fact Lysias and Judas negotiated a deal: Lysias signed an settlement to raise Antiochus IV’s anti-Jewish legal guidelines, restoring freedom of worship to Judean Hellenist and pietist alike. The corrupt Excessive Priest Menalaus was executed and a extra acceptable successor sought out. The Jews in flip lifted their siege of the Akra however retained their arms as Lysias returned to Antioch.

What adopted confirmed that Judea’s woes weren’t over. Quickly after Lysias’ homecoming, the 11-year-old Antiochus V was overthrown and put to dying, alongside together with his regent, by his cousin, Demitrius I Soter. Amongst his first acts in a kingdom surrounded by enemies was to ship one other military, led by Bacchides, Governor of the Western Areas, to reinstate political management over Judea and set up a brand new excessive priest, Alcimus, who appealed not less than to the average pro-Seleucid Jews. Bacchides was then recalled and one other commander, Nicanor, took cost as army governor of Judea.

Nicanor and Judas agreed to a truce, with Nicanor even providing Judas a deputy’s place within the authorities nevertheless it didn’t final lengthy. Mobilizing their forces, the 2 leaders skirmished at Caphar-salama, a Jewish victory that killed 500 Seleucid troops and compelled Nicanor to withdraw behind the partitions of Jerusalem.

Whereas he was there, rumors broke out of Nicanor blaspheming within the Temple and threatened to burn it if Alcimus didn’t assist him to seek out and arrest Judas. This solely raised native rancor and enlistments within the Maccabees’ ranks.

Forging An Impartial Kingdom

In late winter (most likely March) of 161 BCE Nicanor took to the sector once more and engaged Judas at Adasa, close to Beth-Horon. As soon as once more the lack of a commander determined the battle, on this case the dying of Nicanor early within the combating, after which the Seleucid soldier broke and fled.

Information of the catastrophe at Adasa was accompanied by reviews that Judas, a talented diplomat in addition to warrior, had been feeling out the probabilities of alliance with a brand new energy that had been showing within the Center East: the Roman Republic. In 160 BCE, whereas Demetrius led a military east in opposition to a rebellious satrap, Timarchus, tyrant of Miletus, he ordered Bacchides again to reassert Seleucid rule over Judea with 20,000 infantry and a pair of,000 cavalry.

As he marched towards Jerusalem, Bacchides rounded up and massacred pietist Jews in Galilee, most likely to set an instance for the rebels and as a method of committing Judas to defend his land and other people by assembly him in open battle. If that was his stratagem, it labored. As he approached Jerusalem in Nisan (April) of 160 BCE, Bacchides discovered himself confronted on the flat however uneven terrain of a plateau between Elassa and Berea, close to present-day Ramallah, by a comparable pressure of Maccabees.

Bacchides deployed his forces in traditional Seleucid type, with a phalanx of spearmen flanked on each side by cavalry and a skirmish line of archers and slingers up entrance. The governor-general himself commanded from the right-flank cavalry, a customized with which Judas was nicely conscious.

The biblical accounts describe the Battle of Elasa as being fought from “morning till night,” suggesting that each the commanders and their troopers have been evenly matched. On the later stage of the combating, nevertheless, Judas despatched all of his cavalry in opposition to the horse on the Seleucid proper, in man try and settle the difficulty as soon as extra by slaying his counterpart.

Bacchides, nevertheless, appears to have anticipated such a transfer and was ready to take advantage of it. As Judas’ smaller cavalry unit attacked, the Seleucids gave method in what gave the impression to be dysfunction. Because the Jews plunged deeper into the Seleucid proper, nevertheless, Bacchides’ horsemen wheeled about, regrouped and countercharged.

At that vital second Judas’ cavalrymen discovered the cavalry from the Seleucid left chopping off their escape route, having galloped behind the infantry line to finish the entice. Though flanked and disintegrating, a large number of Maccabean warriors went down combating—together with their commander. Not like Eleazar’s, Judas’ stays have been by some means recovered and given a correct burial ending with a citation from King David’s lament to King Saul: “How the mighty have fallen!”

Regrouping from this defeat, Jonathan withdrew throughout the Jordan River whereas Bacchides tried to consolidate Seleucid rule. The latter ventured after Jonathan, however their subsequent conflict, fought on a Sabbath day, price him a couple of thousand casualties. He then set about fortifying the Akra, Jericho, Emmaus, Beth-horon, Beth-el, Thamnata, Parathon, Tephon, Beth-zur and Gazara, however the countryside round these cities and cities remained unsafe for any Greeks or Hellenists and when the overall returned to Antioch he discovered himself being summoned a 3rd time, this time by the Jewish Hellenists. After a number of additional defeats at Simon’s arms Bacchides contacted Jonathan and the 2 labored out a renewed treaty, with pledges of enforcement, then withdrew for residence for the final time.

The story was not fairly over and each Jonathan and Simon can be killed within the course of, leaving John the final Hasmonean brother standing, however between 160 and 142 BCE Judea was an autonomous component of the Seleucid kingdom and in 141 it grew to become an unbiased kingdom that in 139 BCE solid an alliance with the Roman Republic…however the penalties of that fateful resolution represent one other story.

Remembering a Nice army chief

The final nice army chief of native-born Jews till the resurrection of the state of Israel in 1947, Judas Maccabeus is credited with preserving conventional Jewish monotheism in opposition to each the seductive energy of assimilation and the may of an empire…particularly when Hanukah rolls round.

Traditionally, he has discovered comparability with rebels taking over the percentages worldwide all through the centuries that adopted, from Christian Armenian Vardan Marmikonian to Scotland’s William Wallace and Wales’ Owain Glyndwr, to American basic George Washington and Haitian revolutionary Toussaint l’Ouverture.

Centuries’ price of literary, musical and visible art work has been hammered out in reminiscence of Judas and his brothers. That stated, one of many higher metaphoric stretches when it got here to drawing historic parallels was Thomas Morell’s libretto to George Frederick Handel’s oratorio, Judas Maccabeus, when it was first publicly carried out on April 1, 1747. There, it’s the Jacobite Scots Highlanders below Charles Edward Stuart, aka “Bonnie Prince Charlie,” who’re solid because the villainous Seleucids and the metaphoric “Conqu’ring Hero” is William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, whose victory at Culloden on April 16,1746 is praised for “saving” Hanoverian Britain…however whose draconian follow-up indelibly stamped him in Scottish reminiscence as “the Butcher.”

Belief William Shakespeare, nevertheless, to catch the irony that others both failed to note or selected to disregard. In Love’s Labour Misplaced, Judas is listed among the many “9 Worthies,” however nonetheless will get heckled only for having the identical first identify of that different Judas.

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