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What Happened to the Jews During the Maccabean Revolt?
The Period of Independence also called the Maccabean, or Asmonean, or Hasmonaean, period. Mattathias, a priest, of intense patriotism and unbounded courage, infuriated at the attempt of Antiochus Epiphanes to destroy the Jews and their religion, gathered a band of loyal Jews and raised the standard of revolt. He had five strong sons who were ready for battle; Judas, Jonathan, Simon, John and Eleazar. When Mattathias died (166 B.C.) his mantle fell on his son Judas, a warrior of amazing military genius. He won battle after battle against unbelievable and impossible odds. He re-conquered Jerusalem (165 B.C.); and purified and re-dedicated the Temple. This was the origin of the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah). Judas united the priestly and civil authority by making himself priest and king, and thus established the line of Hasmonaean priest-kings who for the following 100 years governed an independent Judea. They were: Mattathias (167-166 B.C.). Judas (166-161) . Jonathan (161-144) . Simon (144-135) . John Hyrcanus (135-106) , son of Jonathan. Aristobulus and sons (160-63) , unworthy of the Maccabean name.
During this period of independence there arose some very significant and important Jewish sects. The Pharisees were a group that devoted themselves to the upholding of the law, they were a religious party who devoted themselves to the commentaries by the rabbis known as the oral law, which later became known as the Mishnah, an early form of the Talmud. They had a strong core belief that the oral law was the key to the Torah and could answer every need and problem in Israel. They were so fanatic about their devotion that they made themselves the upholders of the law and put themselves above the people. They consider the oral commentary and tradition of the rabbis as equal authority with the written law of Moses. The newest rabbis were springing up out of the sect of the Pharisees. Later when Jesus came to Israel he denounced the Pharisees for using their traditions and making the word of God of no effect.
The Sadducees were actually rivals of the Pharisees, they were smaller in number but they were wealthy, aristocratic, and very influential. The Pharisees considered the Sadducees to be heretics because they put their materialism and secularism above the law of Moses. They were in opposition to the oral laws and had a different interpretation of the law. The Sadducees denied the existence of angels, they denied the resurrection, they denied immortality of the soul, and they did not believe in an afterlife. The Sadducees were priests who had a strong interest in the Temple activities and the sacrifices. They were also very influenced by Hellenism.
The Essenes were a group of mystics who had created a sort of monastery or community separated from society. They were not large in number and the initiation to become part of their group was very severe. They wore white robes as a symbol of purity with a leather girdle around the waist to defend them from any impurity. They had frequent ceremonial washings and would have nothing to do with anything that promoted violence. They strove for moral integrity, obeyed the law of Moses, observed the Sabbath, served one another, and usually did not marry.
Map of the Israel During the Maccabean Period