What Was the Maccabean Revolt?


Quick Answer

The Maccabean Revolt was a rebellion that occurred from 167 to 160 BC when the Judean rebel group the Maccabees took up arms against the Seleucid Empire. According to traditional accounts, it began when Mattathias the Hasmonean refused to obey imperial orders to worship Greek deities and killed a priest who attempted to make an offering to an idol. The revolt ended with the reestablishment of the Temple of Jerusalem.

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The bulk of the fighting occurred after the death of Mattathias in 166 BC when his son, Judah Maccabee, took over leadership of the rebel group. Under his command, the Maccabees fought the Seleucid army with guerrilla tactics, proving to be an indomitable foe. A large Seleucid army was sent to hunt down the rebel group, but when Emperor Antiochus IV died, the leader of the force negotiated a settlement with the Maccabees.

The Jewish holiday Hanukkah celebrates the victory of the Maccabees and the reestablishment of the Temple in Jersualem. According to tradition, the Maccabees wished to begin services immediately but could only find a single day's worth of oil for the menorah. However, this small amount of oil burned for eight days, at which point new supplies of oil were readied and worship continued uninterrupted.

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