Violent Revolt or Faithful Living and Teaching Wisdom?

A Maccabean warrior and a Wisdom Prophet disciple: A dialogue

The situation: 

169-164 BCE was the time of the great Seleucid persecution, :  Impure sacrifices, Books of the Law destroyed, Jews killed, enslaved, Jews forced to eat pork.  Mattathias, a priest, kills a royal official, a Hellenistic Jew who was about to make an impure sacrifice.  Then, some of the “Holy Ones”, allies of Mattathias, who had taken refuge in a cave rather than fight on the Sabbath, were massacred by the Seleucids. There may have been a thousand including women and children. (According to the book of the Maccabees)

Aziel is a disciple of the wisdom prophet, (my name for the author and editor of the book of Daniel, –based on Daniel 11:33, 12:1-4).  He is recalling the Babylonian stories and the visions of Daniel to encourage the Hebrews to seek the way of peace and teach wisdom. 

Gidon is a follower of Mattathias and his sons. He is calling the Hebrews to join the revolt against the forces of Antiochus Epiphanes who has been oppressing the people of Judah

Gidon:  “We must follow the example of Mattathias who defied the demands of the Seleucid Greek official to offer a sacrifice to their gods. He showed no fear in killing the Greek-loving Jew who offered to perform the sacrifice.  Don’t you know that thousands of Jews were killed by Syrians and that thousands of men and women were sold into slavery? We must follow Judah, the hammer, in the fight to drive the Syrians out of our land.” (It is estimated that twenty to forty thousand Jews were sold into slavery to raise funds to support Antiochus Epiphanes’ wars. (2 Maccabees 5:11–14)

Aziel:  Thousands of Daniel’s people were killed when Jerusalem was destroyed and many died on the way to Babylon.  Leaders of Israel were killed or taken to Babylon. Many more of our ancestors were killed or died during the fifteen years of the siege of Jerusalem. ” (2 Kings 25:1–72 Chronicles 36:12

Aziel:   Daniel was probably made a eunuch, since most of those close to the king where treated this way.”(  https://www.gotquestions.org/Daniel-eunuch.html accessed 3-22-21)

Gidon:  “They are trying to destroy our faith and way of life. Jews are being forced to eat pork!  Mother’s forced to wear slain circumcised baby boys around their necks” (2 Maccabees 6:10)

Aziel:  Daniel persuaded Babylonians to get him and his friends “kosher” food that would make him wise. The hyper king (and his dream interpreters) by contrast, who ate all the rich food, couldn’t remember the dream (the king) or interpret (the astrologers, etc.) the dream.1

Gidon:   “We must stop the pagan worship that is being conducted in temple and purify the temple.” (I Maccabees 1:47)

Aziel:  The Jerusalem temple was destroyed and Daniel’s people were to Babylon, had no temple available for worship. ” (2 Kings 25)

Gidon:  “We should follow the example of Phineas, our ancestor, who ran a spear through the sinning Zimri and the Moabite woman he was consorting with. Only by killing the pagans and the Hebrews who cooperate with them will our people be pure. (I Maccabees 1:26)  Joshua, David and others have been strong in defending our land. (Numbers 25)

Aziel:  Daniel was faithful to God without violence. Remember that our people triumphed over the Egyptians at the Red Sea without our effort.  God did it all.  His command in Exodus was “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.” (Exodus 14:3)  Even though our ancestors believed that the possession of our land came due to the power of their arms, Exodus 23:28 and Deuteronomy 7:20 tells us that the Lord could have used hornets to drive out our enemies.  King Asa called for help from the Lord and the Ethiopian army was put to flight.***  Later King Asa made an alliance with  Under King Jehoshaphat.  The Lord defeated our enemies without the need for human help. (2 Chron. 20)

Gidon:  “Egyptians and Antiochus, the Syrian ruler, have stolen temple vessels.”(I Maccabees 1:21)

Aziel:  Babylonians also stole and used temple vessels in a banquet for their leaders. (Daniel 5)

Gidon:  “We cannot just to do nothing when Antiochus claims to be god in the land of the Lord.”2

Aziel:  But we can laugh at Antiochus as Daniel laughed at the dumb ox ruler of Babylon. (Dan. 5)

Gidon:  “Antiochus has banned traditional worship and begun burning of Torah scrolls.”(1 Maccabees 1:57)

Aziel:  Remember that when the Babylonian “god for a month” banned prayer to any god but him? Daniel defied the ban and openly prayed as before (even though he knew he would be sent to the lions’ den. (Dan. 6)   Daniel’s three friends refused to worship the pagan image, acknowledging death might be the result. The wisdom prophet made fun of Babylonian religion and its elaborate festival and image. But, the straightforward deliverance of the three Hebrews by their God was gives us confidence. (Dan. 3)

Gidon:  “If all of us do as some Jews have done and refuse to fight the Gentiles to defend our lives and our religion, we will soon be wiped off the face of the earth.” (1 Maccabees 2:39)

Aziel:  We can find confidence in the words of the wisdom prophet who recounts Daniel’s visions of kingdoms rising and falling from the time of Nebuchadnezzar to the Roman Empire (depending on your interpretation).  According to the wisdom prophet, God will be the one who brings down the empires. And, remember, Michael, God’s warrior, fights for Israel.  Remember God’s promise to Abraham. (Daniel 10:13-21; Daniel 12:1)

Gidon:  “But you are doing nothing, while your brothers are fighting, laying down their lives to preserve our faith, protecting our families and our land.”

Aziel:  But you have allied yourselves with the pagans, the Romans.3 

Gidon:  “Death of fighters on battlefield will provide atonement for others.”4

Aziel:  We will follow the guidance of the Wisdom Teacher.  We are doing what God commanded.  We have cared for the widows and children of  those who died at the hands of the foreigners. We continue to teach the wisdom, practice covenant ways faithfully, trust God.  Those who teach the wisdom (above) may die, but will “shine as stars”. (Dan. 11:33, 12:1-4)

The Aftermath:  History of Palestine
Maccabees through guerilla warfare, then open warfare defeated Seleucids with the help of threats from Romans.  An independent Jewish state was established under the Hasmonian dynasty (the family name for the Maccabee army leaders).  The temple was purified and Torah-guided worship re-established.  The Hasmonians intermarried with family of Cleopatra to maintain security between Egypt and Judah against Syria. Herod (of New Testament note) marries last Hasmonian princess. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hasmonean_dynasty  accessed 3-22-21

The wisdom teacher and followers may have retreated to desert (the Qumran settlement?) and establish what became the Essenes, avoiding the political intrigues in which the Pharisees and Sadducees participated.  Jesus was probably influenced by rural or city Essenes and their non-violent approach.5

Notes

*** (and Asa’s army slaughtered many of them)

1Valeta, David M. “Court or Jester Tales:  Resistance and Social Reality in Daniel 1-6.”  Perspectives in Religious Studies, 32 no. 3, Fall 2005, p 309-324. All of the references to humor in Daniel come from Valeta.

2 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antiochus_IV_Epiphanes

3https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman%E2%80%93Jewish_Treaty#:~:text=The%20Roman%E2%80%93Jewish%20Treaty%20was,Jewish%20people%20and%20the%20Romans. Accessed 3/20/2021

Portier-Young, Anathea. Apocalypse against empire : theologies of resistance in early Judaism. William B. Eerdmans Pub., 2011. Portier-Young provides a scholarly basis for some of the ideas I developed in an earlier essay part of which was published in The Mennonite Vol. 6, No. 7, April 1, 2003., p.12-14.

4Ripley, Jason. “Atonement and Martyrdom in the Gospel of John”, Horizons in Biblical Theology, 30 Apr 2020, Volume 42:  Issue 1 Pages 58-89 [abstract only] https://doi.org/10.1163/18712207-12341403    accessed 3/20/2021.

5Trever, John C. “The Qumran Teacher- another candidate?”  Early Jewish and Christian Exegesis,  edited by Craig A. Evans and William Stinespring, Scholars Press, 1987, pp 101-121.  Note p. 105

General background:

Daniel Smith-Christopher, “Daniel”  New Interpreters Bible Commentary (Reference Shelves, EMU Library). The development of my understanding of Daniel has been aided significantly by this article. [I was unable to get the page numbers due to the closing of the library to those without EMU ID.]

deSilva, Daniel.  Day of Atonement.  Kregel Press, 2015 (novel about the background to beginning of Maccabees’ revolt.  Personal copy)

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