The Maccabees

The Maccabees (166-129 BCE) by Mitchell Bard. The death of Alexander the Great of Greece in 323 BCE led to the breakup of the Greek empire as three of his generals fought for supremacy and divided the Middle East among themselves... Ptolemy secured control of Egypt and the Land of Israel. Seleucus grabbed Syria and Asia Minor, and Antigonus took Greece. Israel was sandwiched between the two rivals and for the next 125 years Seleucids and Ptolemies battled for the prize. The former finally won in 198 B.C. when Antiochus III defeated the Egyptians and incorporated Judea into his empire. Initially, he continued to allow the Jews autonomy, but after a stinging defeat at the hands of the Romans he began a program of Hellenization that threatened to force the Jews to abandon their monotheism for the Greeks' paganism... Antiochus backed down in the face of Jewish opposition to his effort to introduce idols in their temples, but his son, Antiochus IV, who inherited the throne in 176 B.C. resumed his father's original policy without excepting the Jews. A brief Jewish rebellion only hardened his views and led him to outlaw central tenets of Judaism such as the Sabbath and circumcision, and defile the holy Temple by erecting an altar to the god Zeus, allowing the sacrifice of pigs, and opening the shrine to non-Jews.

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