Image result for Matthias Maccabeus1 Maccabees is clearly in favor of the revolution against the Seleucid and the Hasmonean dynasty.  It is “a thoroughgoing pro-Hasmonean” (Fischer, 4:441). For the author of 1 Maccabees, the revolt was God’s will since the Hasmoneans liberated Judean from foreign rule.

For example, in 5:62 the early Hasmoneans are described as “those men into whose hands salvation of Israel was given.” Later Christian readers are accustom to hear salvation (σωτηρία) as “salvation from sin,” the noun regularly refers to liberation from enemies in the Septuagint. For example, in LXX 1 Sam 2:1, Hannah can “I rejoice in your salvation” because her “mouth derides my enemies.” LXX 1 Samuel 11:9, Saul tells the people of Jabesh-Gilead they will “have their salvation” by noon the next day. He is referring to a military campaign to rescue them from the Ammonites.

More significant, 1 Macc 6:62 uses a divine passive, ἐδόθη, salvation “was given.” Daniel 7 uses this passive form of the verb “to give” a number of times to indicate the sovereign God has granted something to another. For example, in 7:14 the son of man is given authority to rule. God grants to the son of man that authority. The writer of 1 Maccabees is therefore not attributing the rescue of Israel from their enemies to the military might of Judas, but rather to God.

Judas’s father Matthias provides the spark for the Maccabean revolt. Matthias was a priest in Jerusalem who left the city because of the ruin of Zion. The noun (σύντριμμα) refers to destruction of Jerusalem, as in Lamentations 4:10. The temple itself has lost its glory (ἄδοξος), recalling the loss of the Ark of the Covenant in 1 Sam 4:22(Ἀπῴκισται δόξα Ισραηλ).

Later, Matthias is described as “burning with the zeal of Phinehas” (1 Macc 2:26) when he first rallies people to rebel against the Seleucids. Phinehas was the priest who killed a man and prostitute who dared to flaunt their sin before the tabernacle in Numbers 25:11. This violent response to a flagrant sin is the immediate model for the Maccabean revolt: the sons of Matthias are willing to kill other Jews who have willfully broken the covenant.

Even his last words to his sons, Matthias urges his sons to emulate Phinehas, David, Caleb, Joshua, Elijah and other great heroes of the Hebrew Bible.

1 Maccabees 2:51 (NRSV) “Remember the deeds of the ancestors, which they did in their generations; and you will receive great honor and an everlasting name.

Most of the heroes of the Hebrew Bible Matthias urges his sons to emulate expressed their zeal for the Lord with violence, but some passively resisted the empire and were willing to die. He mentions Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael who “believed and were saved from the flame” (2:59). Although they were saved, these three men were willing to die rather than bow to the image of the Empire (Dan 3:18). According to Matthias, Daniel was rescued from the mouth of the lions “because of his innocence” (1 Macc 2:60).

The Hasmoneans were therefore the next generation of great hero from the Hebrew Bible. The book consciously places them in the line of Phineas, Joshua, and David.

But Matthias’s speech says there are other ways to resist the Seleucids than armed rebellion. Some Jews did passively resist and were will to die. This last point may have some traction in discussions of how Christians used 1 Maccabees in the early church when they were being persecuted. No one “burned with zeal” and attacked the Roman pagans, but many went to their deaths like Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael, willing to be executed rather than give up their faith in Jesus.