This word does not occur in Scripture. It was the name given to
the leaders of the national party among the Jews who suffered in
the persecution under Antiochus Epiphanes, who succeeded to the
Syrian throne B.C. 175. It is supposed to have been derived from
the Hebrew word (makkabah) meaning "hammer," as suggestive of
the heroism and power of this Jewish family, who are, however,
more properly called Asmoneans or Hasmonaeans, the origin of
which is much disputed.

After the expulsion of Antiochus Epiphanes from Egypt by the
Romans, he gave vent to his indignation on the Jews, great
numbers of whom he mercilessly put to death in Jerusalem. He
oppressed them in every way, and tried to abolish altogether the
Jewish worship. Mattathias, an aged priest, then residing at
Modin, a city to the west of Jerusalem, became now the
courageous leader of the national party; and having fled to the
mountains, rallied round him a large band of men prepared to
fight and die for their country and for their religion, which
was now violently suppressed. In 1 Macc. 2:60 is recorded his
dying counsels to his sons with reference to the war they were
now to carry on. His son Judas, "the Maccabee," succeeded him
(B.C. 166) as the leader in directing the war of independence,
which was carried on with great heroism on the part of the Jews,
and was terminated in the defeat of the Syrians.