holiday celebrations | days & dates | fun & wacky daily holidays | holiday travel | holiday blog | holiday greeting cards | holiday recipes | holiday crafts | email

Who Were The Maccabees?

The tenacious, deeply faithful Judah Maccabee and his band of four brothers are the heroes of the Chanukah story. But who was this fivesome and how do they come to lead the Jewish people to national and religious freedom during the 2nd century BCE?

Their story began when a Greek ruler tried to forces Mattathias, a Jew from the priestly class, to offer a sacrifice to a pagan god. Not only did Mattathias refuse, he murdered the Greek official. The Greek king Antiochus launched a series of reprisals, including desecrating the Holy Temple in Jerusalem by filling it with statues of Greek gods. Mattathias and his five sons rose up against these actions and fought for Jewish liberation of Judea.

Mattathias' sons can to be known as the Maccabees, which comes from the root of the Hebrew word for "hammer" since the band of insurgents were said to strike hammer-like blows against their enemies.

The patriarch Mattathias was killed shortly after the fighting against the Greeks began. His son Judas (also known as Judah) took over as the leader of the rebels as is credited with great tactical ability and unparalleled bravery. By the end of the war against the Greeks, the only brother to have survived was Shimon (Simon).

The heroes of the Chanukah story, the Macccabees, more commonly known as the Hasmoneans, were guided by their fierce and steadfast belief in G-d. In fact, Jewish sources credit the Maccabees' faith for their tenacity in driving out the Greeks from Judea. Immediately upon their victory, the Maccabees rededicated the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, which had been desecrated by the polytheistic Greeks during their rule of the city.

In the longer-term, the Maccabees' victory preserved the right of Jews to practice their monotheistic faith and reestablished the national independence of the Jewish people in Judea for one hundred years, until 63 BCE.

Like this article?

Related Articles:
Did You Know? (Chanukah)
Shop for Chanukah Without Breaking the Bank
The Story of Chanukah
Play the Dreidel Game
The Different Spellings of Chanukah

Add Comment
Iason from New Jersey, US
19:33 06/28/2010
The truth of the matter is that the Greeks represent Reason, Science, Pursuit of Knoweledge. It is boringly unimportant if there is one God or 12. There is no comparison to Hellenistic Culture. We all know this.
Child of GOD from Canada
03:37 03/31/2010
When I read the Chanukah story, the Maccabees did not fight the greeks but the Syrian army and the King Antiochus was a Syrian king. This is a conflicting story. Why is there conflicting stories about this? Was it the Greeks or the Syrians? It must be both because one says it's the Syrians then the other story say's it's the greeks.
John Vincent Liggio from Pennsylvania, US
10:30 01/12/2010
How bad is it ,that in a story about faith in GOD, that it seems to be PC that the story uses this statement "Hasmoneans, were guided by thier fierce and steadfast belief in(G-D)".What in the name of GOD is wrong with this world when we write a story about GOD,that some small minded people can not even spell HIS name. Even when 90% of the world belives in a GOD. So stand up for GOD because if we don`t GOD help US ALL.
poppy from United Kingdom (Great Britain)
12:47 10/20/2009
Is this actually true or not true because im doing some research about the maccabees
14:39 01/16/2009
Where in the book of Maccabee's is the story where the oil burned for 8 days.
DT from Illinois, US
17:33 12/22/2008
A magnificent piece of history! As a Christian I think we have missed much of the richness of the traditions of our Jewish cousins. Jesus is a Jew, and if I am adopted by Him (Eph. 1:5) then I am a Jew (Rom. 2:29 & 9:8) and should be aware of that heritage & history!
Eddiemac from Arizona, US
14:25 12/21/2008
A Christian, I appreciate the Maccabees saving monotheism. Arguably, without their victory there would be no Jesus. I do wish that this fact were known by the Christian populace and believe all Christians should celebrate this day.
Trust Diya from Zimbabwe
17:18 12/20/2008
Sarah the story is not in the standard bible but in the catholic version containing the apocripha.
SARAH KERBIS from Illinois, US
16:06 12/20/2008
where is the story of Chanukkah in the Bible

Visit our other holiday celebrations

Sign up for Free Holiday Newsletters and Text Messages
Email Address:
We'll keep you informed of future Holidays on the Net Celebrations