In the village of Modin, the king’s enforcers order people to commit apostasy. Mattathias the priest refuses. He triggers a civil war. Godly people flee.
Verse 1. In those days rose up Mattathias the son of John, the son of Simeon, a priest of the sons of Joarib, from Jerusalem; and he lived at Modin.
Modin. This was a village twenty miles northwest of Jerusalem.
Verse 2. And he had five sons, John, who was surnamed Gaddis;
Verse 3. Simon, who was called Thassi;
Verse 4. Judas, who was called Maccabaeus;
Verse 5. Eleazar, who was called Avaran; Jonathan, who was called Apphus.
Verse 6. And he saw the blasphemies that were committed in Judah and in Jerusalem,
Verse 7. and he said, Woe is me! wherefore was I born to see the destruction of my people, and the destruction of the holy city, and to dwell there, when it was given into the hand of the enemy, the sanctuary into the hand of aliens?
Woe is me! Mattathias feels deeply for his people and for the ways of godliness.
Verse 8. Her temple is become as a man † that was glorious:
Verse 9. her vessels of glory are carried away into captivity, her infants are slain in her streets, her young men with the sword of the enemy.
Verse 10. What nation has not inherited her palaces, and gotten possession of her spoils?
Verse 11. her adorning is all taken away; instead of a free woman she is become a bond woman:
instead of a free woman she is become a bond woman. The apparent path of “liberty” often leads to slavery, while the apparent path of slavery (to God) leads to freedom.
Verse 12. and, behold, our holy things and our beauty and our glory are laid waste, and the Gentiles have profaned them.
Verse 13. Wherefore should we live any longer?
live any longer? They are not wishing to die. Rather, they are stating how desperate things have become.
Verse 14. And Mattathias and his sons tore their clothes, and put on sackcloth, and mourned exceedingly.
THEY REFUSE TO COMMIT APOSTASY
Verse 15. And the king’s officers, that were enforcing the apostasy, came into the city Modin to sacrifice.
enforcing the apostasy. This is how severe the situation was. There were Gestapo-like officers who enforced the apostasy.
Verse 16. And many of Israel came to them, and Mattathias and his sons were gathered together.
Verse 17. And the king’s officers answered and spoke to Mattathias, saying, You are a ruler and an honorable and great man in this city, and strengthened with sons and kindred:
Verse 18. now therefore come you first and do the commandment of the king, as all the nations have done, and the men of Judah, and those who remain in Jerusalem: and you and your house shall be in the number of the king’s Friends, and you and your sons shall be honored with silver and gold and many gifts.
Verse 19. And Mattathias answered and said with a loud voice, If all the nations that are in the house of the king’s dominion listen to him, to fall away each one from the worship of his fathers, and have made choice to follow his commandments,
Mattathias answered and said with a loud voice. By answering with a loud voice, everyone in the village would have heard.
Verse 20. yet I and my sons and my kindred will walk in the covenant of our fathers.
Verse 21. Heaven forbid that we should forsake the law and the ordinances.
Verse 22. We will not listen to the king’s words, to go aside from our worship, on the right hand, or on the left.
We will not listen to the king’s words. Mattathias, in a loud voice, affirms that he will walk with the One God, no matter what.
on the right hand, or on the left. That is, “in the slightest degree” (NAB translation)
This reminds us of what Peter said to the authorities when they commanded him to stop speaking in the name of Jesus:
Acts 5:29b. We must obey God rather than men. (NIV 1984)
Verse 23. And when he had left speaking these words, there came a Jew in the sight of all to sacrifice on the altar which was at Modin, according to the king’s commandment.
Verse 24. And Mattathias saw it, and his zeal was kindled, and his reins trembled, and he showed forth his wrath according to judgement, and ran, and killed him upon the altar.
killed him upon the altar. With this single act of murder by Mattathias, a violent civil war has begun.
Verse 25. And the king’s officer, who compelled men to sacrifice, he killed at that time, and pulled down the altar.
he killed at that time. Mattathias murders another human.
Verse 26. And he was zealous for the law, even as Phinehas did to Zimri the son of Salu.
Verse 28. And he and his sons fled into the mountains, and forsook all that they had in the city.
forsook all that they had. Our material possessions are of trivial value compared with the value of walking with God.
This reminds us of a teaching of Jesus Christ:
Luke 14:33. So therefore whoever of you who doesn’t renounce all that he has, he can’t be my disciple.
Verse 29. Then many that sought after justice and judgement went down into the wilderness, to dwell there,
went down into the wilderness. The situation had become so bad that a godly Jew could only practice by moving away from the sheer madness of the city. In our own lives, in order to follow our daily practices such as Bible reading and prayer, we might sometimes need to move away from the sheer noisiness of everyday living. A trip to a coffee shop, going to the basement, sitting in the car, putting on headphones: these are but a few ways to get some quiet.
Verse 30. they, and their sons, and their wives, and their cattle; because evils were multiplied upon them.
Verse 31. And it was told the king’s officers, and the forces that were in Jerusalem, the city of David, that certain men, who had broken the king’s commandment, were gone down into the secret places in the wilderness;
Verse 32. and many pursued after them, and having overtaken them, they encamped against them, and set the battle in array against them on the Sabbath day.
on the Sabbath day. The enemy knows these godly Jews will observe the Sabbath.
Verse 33. And they said to them, Thus far. Come forth, and do according to the word of the king, and you shall live.
Verse 34. And they said, We will not come forth, neither will we do the word of the king, to profane the Sabbath day.
Verse 35. And they hurried to give them battle.
Verse 36. And they answered them not, neither cast they a stone at them, nor stopped up the secret places,
they answered them not. This encampment in the desert is populated by godly Jews, They will not wage war on the Sabbath. They walk with God at the cost of their life. The enemy slaughters a thousand of God’s holy Jews: men, women and even children.
Verse 37. saying, Let us die all in our innocency: heaven and earth witness over us, that you put us to death without trial.
Verse 38. And they rose up against them in battle on the Sabbath, and they died, they and their wives and their children, and their cattle, to the number of a thousand souls.
Verse 39. And Mattathias and his friends knew it, and they mourned over them exceedingly.
Verse 40. And one said to another, If we all do as our kindred have done, and fight not against the Gentiles for our lives and our ordinances, they will now quickly destroy us from off the earth.
Verse 41. And they took counsel on that day, saying, whoever shall come against us to battle on the Sabbath day, let’s fight against him, and we shall in no wise all die, as our kindred died in the secret places.
let’s fight against him. They decide that if they attack, they will violate the Sabbath. This seems practical. Yet it is a violation of a core principle. They are going to violate the Law in order to defend the Law. This reminds us that St. Paul said it is not permitted to do evil that good may result:
Romans 3:8. Why not (as we are slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say), “Let’s do evil, that good may come?” Those who say so are justly condemned.
Verse 42. Then were gathered together to them a company of Hasidaeans, mighty men of Israel, every one that offered himself willingly for the law.
Verse 43. And all those who fled from the evils were added to them, and became a stay to them.
Verse 44. And they mustered an army, and struck sinners in their anger, and lawless men in their wrath: and the rest fled to the Gentiles for safety.
Verse 45. And Mattathias and his friends went round about, and pulled down the altars;
Verse 46. and they circumcised by force the children that were uncircumcised, as many as they found in the coasts of Israel.
they circumcised by force. They have become like the Taliban. They are enforcing their own interpretation of the religion at gunpoint.
Verse 47. And they pursued after the sons of pride, and the work prospered in their hand.
Verse 48. And they rescued the law out of the hand of the Gentiles, and out of the hand of the kings, neither suffered they the sinner to triumph.
MATTATHIAS PASSES AWAY
Verse 49. And the days of Mattathias drew near that he should die, and he said to his sons, Now have pride and rebuke gotten strength, and a season of overthrow, and wrath of indignation.
Verse 50. And now, my children, be you zealous for the law, and give your lives for the covenant of your fathers.
be you zealous for the law. Their zeal is for religious requirements. However, it would be better to be zealous for the LORD.
Verse 51. And call to remembrance the deeds of our fathers which they did in their generations; and receive great glory and an everlasting name.
Verse 52. Was not Abraham found faithful in temptation, and it was reckoned to him for righteousness?
Verse 53. Joseph in the time of his distress kept the commandment, and became lord of Egypt.
Verse 54. Phinehas our father, for that he was zealous exceedingly, obtained the covenant of an everlasting priesthood.
Verse 55. Joshua for fulfilling the word became a judge in Israel.
Verse 56. Caleb for bearing witness in the congregation obtained a heritage in the land.
Verse 57. David for being merciful inherited the throne of a kingdom forever and ever.
Verse 58. Elijah, for that he was exceedingly zealous for the law, was taken up into heaven.
Elijah, for that he was exceedingly zealous for the law. Actually, the zeal of Elijah was for the LORD.
Verse 59. Hananiah, Azariah, Mishael, believed, and were saved out of the flame.
Hananiah, Azariah, Mishael. That is, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who are found in the Book of Daniel.
Verse 60. Daniel for his innocency was delivered from the mouth of lions.
Verse 61. And thus consider you from generation to generation, that none that put their trust in him shall lack for strength.
be not afraid of the words of a sinful man. These are great words!
Verse 63. Today he shall be lifted up, and tomorrow he shall in no wise be found, because he is returned to his dust, and his thought is perished.
Verse 64. And you, my children, be strong, and show yourselves men in behalf of the law; for therein shall you obtain glory.
show yourselves men in behalf of the law. We hardly ever hear parents say anything like this to their children.
Verse 65. And, behold, Simon your brother, I know that he is a man of counsel; give ear to him always: he shall be a father to you.
Verse 66. And Judas Maccabaeus, he has been strong and mighty from his youth: he shall be your captain, and shall fight the battle of the people.
Judas Maccabaeus. From this chapter on, most of the narrative will revolve around this man.
Verse 67. And take you to you all the doers of the law, and avenge the wrong of your people.
Verse 68. Render a recompense to the Gentiles, and take heed to the commandments of the law.
Verse 69. And he blessed them, and was gathered to his fathers.
Verse 70. And he died in the hundred and forty and sixth year, and his sons buried him in the sepulchres of his fathers at Modin, and all Israel made great lamentation for him.
Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.