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NOW it came to pass, after that Alexander the son of Philip the Macedonian, who first reigned in Greece, coming out of the land of Cethim, had overthrown Darius king of the Persians and Medes:

Ver. 1.  Now.  Lit. "And."  H.

 

--- Thus many Heb. books commence, as Ex. Jos. Bar. &c.  C.

 

--- Greece, over the whole.  He was chosen generalissimo.  H.

 

--- He conquered many of the Greeks, and overthrew Darius Condomanus, A. 3674.  C.

 

--- His dominion in Syria may be meant.  Grot.

 

--- Alexander was the first who reigned in that great monarchy, which he founded.  W.


THE FIRST BOOK OF MACHABEES.

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

These Books are so called, because they contain the history of the people of God under the command of Judas Machabeus and his brethren; and he, as some will have it, was surnamed Machabeus from carrying on his ensigns, or standards, those words of Exodus xv. 11. "Who is like to thee among the strong, O Lord;" in which the initial letters, in the Hebrew, are M. C. B. E. I.  It is not known who was the author of these books.  But as to their authority, though they are not received by the Jews, saith S. Augustine, (l. xviii. de civ. Dei. c. xxxvi.) they are received by the Church; who, in settling her canon of the Scriptures, chose rather to be directed by the tradition she had received from the apostles of Christ, than by that of the Scribes and Pharisees.  And as the Church has declared these two books canonical, even in two general councils, viz. Florence and Trent, there can be no doubt of their authenticity.  Ch.

 

--- The most ancient Father, Clem. (Strom. i.) S. Cyprian, (1 ep. iii. ad. Cornel.) S. Ambrose, (Off. i. 41. &c.) quote them as divine; and the third Council of Carthage, Trent, &c. have inserted them in the canon.  Though (W.) S. Jerom did not translate (C.) or urge them against the Jews, he had a great regard for them.  In Dan. i. and xi. &c.  The texts to which Protestants object, will be explained.  They are not more difficult than many which occur in the Books of Kings and Paralipomenon.  Other books have been formerly contested, which they now admit.  The author of the second books seems to have designed at first only to insert two supplements.  He then resolved to abridge the work of Jason, and hence added a preface, (C. ii. 20.) which may be first perused.  He then gives an account of some who had suffered death for the truth; and in the eighth and following chapters, the victories of the Machabees, which had been partly recorded in the first book, are specified, with some fresh circumstances.  Judas was styled the Machabee for his strength and valour, (W.) being "the scourge" of God, (H.) or because he was an exterminator.  M.

 

--- Yet the etymology is not well ascertained.  That given  above, (Zac. xii. 5.  H.) or M. C. B. I. (Buxt. Prideaux, &c.) seems to be overthrown, by the Syriac having always k instead of c, which is the case in two Chaldee MSS.  These may not contain a truer history, but they rectify several mistakes in the printed copies.  Kennicott.

 

--- S. Jerom found the first of these books in Heb. the second in Greek.  Ep. 106.  We have a third also in Greek, in the Comp. Bible; as well as a fourth, mentioned by Sixtus, (Bib. i.  W.) "on the administration of Hircan," (C.) to which reference seems to be made 1 Mac. xv. 24. (W.) though what is extant be a work of no authority.  "The empire of reason," falsely attributed to Josephus, and printed among his works, is more probably the fourth book, known to the ancients.  Neither of these latter were ever deemed canonical by any authentic decree.  W.

 

--- Many have indeed ranked the with the other contested works: but now it is generally agreed that they belong not to the sacred Scriptures, as the two former do.  On these (C.) indeed, as almost on all the sacred books, (H.) authors have varied: but he most respectable and the most numerous declare in their favour.  To arrange the four books in chronological order, we must make the first and third exchange places.  This last can obtain its title only inasmuch as the Jews of Alexandria, who were persecuted by Philopator, and miraculously delivered, were animated with the same sentiments of piety and heroism as the rest of the Machabees.  C.  See Ecclesiasticus l. 1. 21. 23.  H.

 

--- The authors of the first and second books relate many of the same events; yet seem not to have seen each other's works.  The latter follows the Greek chronology, dating from Tisri, Sept. and October, (C.) A. 3828 to 3843, (H.) while the former dates from Nisan, (C.) our March or April, A. 3829 to 3869.  The third book gives an account of Philopator's persecution in Egypt, A. 3787.  The fourth, A. 3869 to 3698, (H.) is little known among the Latins.  Calmet gives two copies, the one regarding Hircan and the other "the government of reason," or the martyrdom of the Machabees, A. 3837; (H.) the author of which last seems to have been a Stoic.  C.

 

--- We shall pass them over, with Protestants, as they are not received by the Catholic Church.  H.



Cethim

Cethim; Cyrus, or rather Macedonia. --- Cethim; Macedon. It here denotes the western nations, as Cedar does those of the east.

2 He fought many battles, and took the strong holds of all, and slew the kings of the earth:

Ver. 2.  Holds.  He was never defeated.  Just. xii.


3 And he went through even to the ends of the earth, and took the spoils of many nations: and the earth was quiet before him.

Ver. 3.  Earth, even to India, beyond which the ancients knew of nothing.

 

--- Quiet, or silent; depopulated, (Is. xiv. 7.) and obedient.  Hab. ii. 20.


4 And he gathered a power, and a very strong army: and his heart was exalted and lifted up.

Ver. 4.  Up.  He was spoiled by prosperity, (C.) and would pass for a god, and be styled "king of the world."  Just. xii.


5 And he subdued countries of nations, and princes: and they became tributaries to him. 6 And after these things, he fell down upon his bed, and knew that he should die.

Ver. 6.  Bed.  Some suppose through poison, (Diod. xvii.  S. Jer. ad Lætam.) or excess of wine.  Athen. x. 11.

 

--- This was enough.  H.

 

--- So perished the man who would claim divine honours!  C.


7 And he called his servants the nobles that were brought up with him from his youth: and he divided his kingdom among them, while he was yet alive.

Ver. 7.  Servants.  On the ninth day of sickness which preceded his death, he admitted all his soldiers to kiss his hand.  Then he asked his friends, if they thought they should find such another king?  As they were silent, he predicted what bloodshed would ensue, and told them to bury him in the temple of Ammon.  When they asked to whom he left the throne, he said, "to the most worthy."  He gave his ring to Perdiccas; whence all inferred, that he should be regent till the proper heirs came of age.  Perdiccas desired to know when he would have divine honours: to which Alexander replied with these his last words, "when you are happy:" (Just. xii.  Diod. xvii.) as much as to say, never.  H.

 

--- This seems contrary to the sacred historian.  But his authority is far superior.  C.

 

--- Kingdom.  This is otherwise by Q. Curtius; though he acknowledges that divers were of that opinion, and that it had been delivered by some authors.  l. x.  But here we find from the sacred text that he was in error.  Ch.

 

--- By delivering his ring to Perdiccas, Alexander gave him authority to make this division.  W.

 

--- Many assert, that he gave him directions in his last will.  This was observed for some time.  v. 10.


8 And Alexander reigned twelve years, and he died.

Ver. 8.  Twelve.  Jos. &c.  Some add, a few months.  He was about thirty-three years old.


9 And his servants made themselves kings every one in his place: 10 And they all put crowns upon themselves after his death, and their sons after them many years, and evils were multiplied in the earth.

Ver. 10.  Death, twelve years being expired, when all the posterity of Alexander were dead.  His generals gradually destroyed each other, and four took the diadem at the same time: Ptolemy, in Egypt; Seleucus, in Syria; Cassander, in Macedonia; and Lysimachus, in Thrace.  Just. xiii. and xv.  C.

 

--- Those who choose to read in order, may, after the preface 2 B. ii. 20. read the above, then 2 B. iii. 1.  W.


11 And there came out of them a wicked root, Antiochus the Illustrious, the son of king Antiochus, who had been a hostage at Rome: and he reigned in the hundred and thirty-seventh year of the kingdom of the Greeks.

Ver. 11.  Antiochus the illustrious; Epiphanes, the younger son of Antiochus the great, who usurped the kingdom, to the prejudice of his nephew Demetrius, son of his elder brother, Seleucus Philopater.  Ch.

 

--- Epiphanes means "renowed."  W.

 

--- He took this title, particularly after the Samaritans had offered it to him.  Jos. xii.  Vaillant. A. 145.

 

--- His medals have always God prefixed, "the god appearing;" as he came opportunity, like a god, to defend the kingdom against the Egyptians, after he had been fourteen years a hostage at Rome.  C.

 

--- Nothing could be more abject than his character.  S. Jer. in Dan. viii. and ix.  Athen. v. 4. and x. 12.

 

--- Greeks, counting not from the beginning of the reign of Alexander, but from the first year of Seleucus Nicator.  Ch.

 

--- The era of the Seleucides began in spring or autumn, A. 3692, B.C. 312, though the Chaldees and Ptolemy date from the following spring.  C.

 

--- The Grecian monarchy had then stood twenty years.  Eus.  W.




12 In those days there went out of Israel wicked men, and they persuaded many, saying: Let us go, and make a covenant with the heathens that are round about us: for since we departed from them, many evils have befallen us.

Ver. 12.  Men.  Jason attempted to supplant Onias III. and introduced pagan customs, when he was dead.  Menelaus treated him in like manner.  Being cited to pay what he had promised, he left Lysimachus in his place, who was slain in the temple, which he was robbing.  2 Mac. iv.

 

--- Us.  Thus the Jews complained in the days of Jeremias, (xliv. 18.) and the Christian religion was blamed for all the miseries which fell upon the Roman empire.  C. 

 

--- S. Aug. proves in his City of God, that this accusation was false.  H.


13 And the word seemed good in their eyes. 14 And some of the people determined to do this, and went to the king: and he gave them license to do after the ordinances of the heathens. 15 And they built a place of exercise in Jerusalem, according to the laws of the nations:

Ver. 15.  Exercise, to wrestle (C.) and teach.  Lyran.



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16 And they made themselves prepuces, and departed from the holy covenant, and joined themselves to the heathens, and were sold to do evil.

Ver. 16.  Made.  S. Jerom thinks the attempt useless.  But the Jews discovered the art.  S. Epip.  Pond. xvi.  Bartol.  1 Cor. vii. 18.

 

--- Sold to the devil, becoming his instruments.  3 K. xxi. 25.  Rom. vii. 14.  C.

 

--- Go to 2 Mac. iv. 7.


17 And the kingdom was established before Antiochus, and he had a mind to reign over the land of Egypt, that he might reign over two kingdoms.

Ver. 17.  Egypt.  He coveted this kingdom, having Syria already.  W.

 

--- He was not very fit for war: but Egypt was not under Philometor a child, and Ephphanes made an easy conquest.  This was his second visit to that country.  While he besieged Alexandria, a report of his death was spread; and as he was informed that the Jews rejoiced at it, he fell upon them.  v. 21.  C.

 

--- After v. 20, read 2 B. iv. 21.  W.




18 And he entered into Egypt with a great multitude, with chariots and elephants, and horsemen, and a great number of ships:


19 And he made war against Ptolemee king of Egypt, but Ptolemee was afraid at his presence, and fled, and many were wounded unto death.


20 And he took the strong cities in the land of Egypt: and he took the spoils of the land of Egypt.


21 And after Antiochus had ravaged Egypt in the hundred and forty-third year, he returned and went up against Israel.


22 And he went up to Jerusalem with a great multitude.


23 And he proudly entered into the sanctuary, and took away the golden altar, and the candlestick of light, and all the vessels thereof, and the table of proposition, and the pouring vessels, and the vials, and the little mortars of gold, and the veil, and the crowns, and the golden ornament that was before the temple: and he broke them all in pieces.

Ver. 23.  Sanctuary.  Josephus (xii. 6.) writes that Antiochus slew such as opposed his entrance into the city, and afterwards those who opened the gates, but would have prevented his plundering the temple.  W.

 

--- Menelaus conducted the king.  2 Mac. v. 15.  Profane authors condemn this conduct of the king towards a city subject to him.  Jos. c. App. 2.

 

--- Diodorus relates several fables on this occasion.  C.




24 And he took the silver and gold, and the precious vessels: and he took the hidden treasures which he found: and when he had taken all away he departed into his own country.
25 And he made a great slaughter of men, and spoke very proudly. 26 And there was great mourning in Israel, and in every place where they were. 27 And the princes, and the ancients mourned, and the virgins and the young men were made feeble, and the beauty of the women was changed. 28 Every bridegroom took up lamentation: and the bride that set in the marriage bed, mourned: 29 And the land was moved for the inhabitants thereof, and all the house of Jacob was covered with confusion. 30 And after two full years the king sent the chief collector of his tributes to the cities of Juda, and he came to Jerusalem with a great multitude.

Ver. 30.  The chief collector, &c.  Apollonius.  Ch.  2 Mac. v. 24.  W.

 

--- He basely fell upon the unsuspecting citizens on a sabbath day.  H.




31 And he spoke to them peaceable words in deceit: and they believed him. 32 And he fell upon the city suddenly, and struck it with a great slaughter, and destroyed much people in Israel. 33 And he took the spoils of the city, and burnt it with fire, and threw down the houses thereof, and the walls thereof round about:

Ver. 33.  Fire, thus destroying a great part.  Jos. Ant. xii. 7.


34 And they took the women captive, and the children, and the cattle they possessed. 35 And they built the city of David with a great and strong wall, and with strong towers, and made it a fortress for them:

Ver. 35.  The city of David.  That is, the castle of Sion.  Ch.

 

--- In it was placed a garrison of Macedonians.  W.

 

--- This castle had been occupied by Syrians before.  It was now enlarged.  2 Mac. iv. 27. and v. 5.


36 And they placed there a sinful nation, wicked men, and they fortified themselves therein: and they stored up armour, and victuals, and gathered together the spoils of Jerusalem;


37 And laid them up there: and they became a great snare. 38 And this was a place to lie in wait against the sanctuary, and an evil devil in Israel.

Ver. 38.  Sanctuary, to pillage all who came to the temple.  C.

 

--- An evil devil.  Literally, an adversary, watching constantly to do harm, as the evil spirit is always watching and seeking whom he could devour.  Ch.




39 And they shed innocent blood round about the sanctuary, and defiled the holy place.


40 And the inhabitants of Jerusalem fled away by reason of them, and the city was made the habitation to strangers, and she became a stranger to her own seed, and her children forsook her.

Ver. 40.  Fled with Judas, &c.  2 Mac. v.  Josephus (xii. 7.) assures us that the Samaritans flattered Epiphanes, and begged their temple might be consecrated to Jupiter, &c.  The pretended that they were of Sidonian extraction.




41 Her sanctuary was desolate like a wilderness, her festival days were turned into mourning, her sabbaths into reproach, her honours were brought to nothing.

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42 Her dishonour was increased according to her glory, and her excellency was turned into mourning. 43 And king Antiochus wrote to all his kingdom, that all the people should be one: and every one should leave his own law.

Ver. 43.  Be one.  This reason herself teaches.  But the king wished to establish a false religion, or rather he desired to root out all religion, and to shew his authority.  H.

 

--- Demere superstitionem & mores Græcorum dare adnixus.  Tacit. v.

 

--- He was not content with plunder, unless he ruined souls.  W.


44 And all nations consented according to the word of king Antiochus. 45 And many of Israel consented to his service, and they sacrificed to idols, and profaned the sabbath.

Ver. 45.  Service, or worship, (C.) introduced by Epiphanes.  H.


46 And the king sent letters by the hands of messengers to Jerusalem, and to all the cities of Juda: that they should follow the law of the nations of the earth,


47 And should forbid holocausts and sacrifices, and atonements to be made in the temple of God. 48 And should prohibit the sabbath, and the festival days, to be celebrated.
49 And he commanded the holy places to be profaned, and the holy people of Israel.

Ver. 49.  People.  He forced them to eat forbidden meat.


50 And he commanded altars to be built, and temples, and idols, and swine's flesh to be immolated, and unclean beasts. 51 And that they should leave their children uncircumcised, and let their souls be defiled with all uncleannesses, and abominations, to the end that they should forget the law, and should change all the justifications of God. 52 And that whosoever would not do according to the word of king Antiochus should be put to death. 53 According to all these words he wrote to his whole kingdom, and he appointed rulers over the people that should force them to do these things. 54 And they commanded the cities of Juda to sacrifice.


55 Then many of the people were gathered to them that had forsaken the law of the Lord: and they committed evils in the land: 56 And they drove away the people of Israel into lurking holes, and into the secret places of fugitives. 57 On the fifteenth day of the month Casleu, in the hundred and forty-fifth year, king Antiochus set up the abominable idol of desolation upon the altar of God, and they built altars throughout all the cities of Juda round about:

Ver. 57.  Fifteenth.  In all other places the 25th, whence this may be incorrect, (C.) or the altar was now set up, (H.) though sacrifices were not yet offered.  C.

 

--- Idol.  The statue of Jupiter Olympius, (Ch.) as Daniel (ix.) had foretold, as a figure of what antichrist would do, (Mat. xxiv.  W.) as well as the Romans, when they took Jerusalem.




58 And they burnt incense, and sacrificed at the doors of the houses, and in the streets.

Ver. 58.  Doors, to Trivia.  Isai. lvii. 8.  C.


59 And they cut in pieces, and burnt with fire the books of the law of God:

Ver. 59.  Law, and all the sacred writings.  Jos. Sulpit. ii.

 

--- The pious Jews secreted what they could, and Judas took care to collect them.  2 B. i. 14. and iii. 48.  C.


60 And every one with whom the books of the testament of the Lord were found, and whosoever observed the law of the Lord, they put to death, according to the edict of the king.
61 Thus by their power did they deal with the people of Israel, that were found in the cities month after month.

Ver. 61.  After month.  The officers took an account of the slain, (Grot.) or the dedication of the statue was renewed, or rather the king's nativity was kept.  2 B. vi. 7.  C.

 

--- But this would only occur once a-year. People were compelled to sacrifice on the same day of each month on which the statue had been dedicated.  v. 62.


62 And on the five and twentieth day of the month they sacrificed upon the altar of the idol that was over against the altar of God.

Ver. 62.  Over-against, or (H.) "upon," epi.  The Greek altars were of a smaller size.


63 Now the women that circumcised their children, were slain according to the commandment of king Antiochus.

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64 And they hanged the children about their necks in all their houses: and those that had circumcised them, they put to death. 65 And many of the people of Israel determined with themselves, that they would not eat unclean things: and they chose rather to die than to be defiled with unclean meats.

Ver. 65.  Many. Eleazar, and the seven Machabees, &c.  C.


66 And they would not break the holy law of God, and they were put to death: 67 And there was very great wrath upon the people.

Ver. 67.  Wrath.  God seemed displeased, as he was with too many.  The pious were exposed to various trials, and to the fury of persecutors.  H.

 

--- Read 2 B. v. 11.  W.


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