Under the leadership of Judas Maccabeus, the rebellion continued successfully, and the Maccabees, were able to capture Jerusalem and rededicate the temple in 164 BC. From there Maccabeus took the war to Galilee in an effort to reclaim all Jewish territory. In 164 BC, Antiochus Epiphanes died, and his son and successor Antiochus Eupator agreed to peace, allowing the resumption of Jewish practices; however, the war resumed shortly after that, and Judas sought and received help from the fledgling power of Rome to finally throw off Seleucid control. Judas died in about 161 BC and was succeeded by his brother Jonathan. Finally, under Jonathan’s leadership, peace was made with Alexander Balas, the Seleucid king, in about 153 BC. After Jonathan, his brother Simon ruled over a semi-independent Jewish nation. With the collapse of the Seleucid Empire in 116 BC, the nation of Israel enjoyed full independence until 63 BC when Rome installed a puppet king in Jerusalem.
The Story of Judah Maccabee is a timeless inspirational story of great faith and courage against seemingly impossible odds. It is also a timely story about the collision of traditional religion and modernity. Hanukkah celebrates the heroic exploits of Judas Maccabeus and his battle for religious freedom. The Seleucid Greeks that ruled over the Jewish people made observing Judaism a capital offense and ordered all copies of the Bible to be collected and burned. In the year 167 Before Christ, Judas Maccabaeus led the Jewish people into battle to preserve the Holy Bible and to establish religious liberty. Judas was called Maccabeus which means “the Hammer” in Aramaic. In “Judas Maccabeus: The Hammer of God”, we learn about the history of the battle for religious freedom, a battle that continues today. As they battled for religious freedom, God was with them just as He is with us today.
In spite of the fact that Judas Maccabeus neither started the rebellion nor saw it to its completion, he is considered to be the central figure in it. The name Maccabeus is derived from the Hebrew word for “hammer,” and he is often referred to as “Judas the Hammer.” After his death, Maccabeus (or Maccabee) became the family name so his brothers and even his father are referred to as “the Maccabees” (also called the Hasmoneans), and the revolt is referred to as “the Maccabean Revolt.”