It took a year to read the Bible, then almost 9 months to read the Apocrypha. Now, I'm going to try to offer reflections on the Narrative Lectionary. But, I won't be posting daily--at least, for a while.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Ask God's help and do something yourself, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 11:54-74

Support  of the aspirant, Antiochus VI, includes soldiers that had been discharged by Demetrius. After routing Demetrius, Antiochus makes Jonathan one of the king's Friends and the courtesies accompanying. He further appointed Jonathan's brother Simon a governorship.

The army of Syria gathered to Jonathan as allies. OTOH, when the people of Gaza resisted, he besieged the city, burned its suburbs and plundered them. The people of Gaza then agreed to make peace. He accepted the offer but also took the sons of their rulers as hostages sending them to Jerusalem.

Another battle does not go well. Almost all of his army deserts. Only two remain. Jonathan prayed. Turning back to the battle, he routs the enemy. When his fleeing soldiers see this, they return and join in the pursuit. As many as 3,000 foreigners fell that day, and Jonathan returned to Jerusalem.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Trying to benefit from someone else's problem, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 11:38-53

King Demetrius didn't have peace for very long. Insurrection among his troops aided the attempt to replace him with Antiochus, the young son of Alexander. Adding to the bad situation was that Jonathan was not satisfied with the agreement that Demetrius had offered Judea. Jonathan wanted the troops out of the citadel and strongholds because they were not peaceful. Bargaining with Jonathan, Demetrius asked for and got troops to aid his defense. When the king was attacked, the Jews did rally to his defense, accomplishing a major victory.

Although he was very grateful for a while, Demetrius eventually turned against Jonathan and the promises he had made to him.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Favorable changes, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 11:20-37

Jonathan publicly made a threat against the king's authority over Jerusalem by laying siege against the citadel. When some dissidents reported to King Demetrius, Jonathan agreed to meet with him but would not give up the siege.

Although some of his own people kept making complaints against him Jonathan won the favor of the king who issued a proclamation that Judea, with the addition of three other districts would be released from paying some taxes.

Note that Judea was given property from Samaria and the distinction between who pays royal taxes and where they worship.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Giving up to get, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 11:1-19

The conflict between Egypt and the eastern provinces (Seleucids) continues. The king of Egypt, Ptolemy, set out for Syria feigning peacefulness but as he entered the towns but stationed forces as a garrison in each town. In Azotos, he was shown the destruction caused by Jonathan's forces. Ptolemy continued on his travels being met by Jonathan at Joppa who then accompanied him for a while.

Ptolemy gained control of several coastal cities. To aid in his conflict with Alexander, he elicited the support of King Demetrius. Ptolemy told him that he was sorry that he had given his daughter to Alexander.. He said, "I'll take back my daughter who I gave to Alexander and give her to you instead." And he did.

Ptolemy entered Antioch and put on two crowns--that of Egypt and that of Asia. When Alexander heard about this, he left the battle he was engaged in at Cilicia (Turkey, I think) and headed toward Ptolemy. When he saw how formidable Ptolemy's forces were, Alexander fled into Arabia. He was killed there and so was Ptolemy three days later. Demetrius became king.

Powerful kingdoms are battling over territory within which the Jews resides. What options are there for the Jews? How disturbing to think of using a family member as a hostage in bargaining

Friday, June 26, 2015

Success in battle, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 10:67-89

About five years later, Demetrius, son of the defeated Demetrius, assembled an army to avenge his father's losses. He challenged Jonathan to meet him in battle. Jonathan was successful.

After routing the enemy, Jonathan burned the city and the surrounding towns and the temple of their god, Dagon. The number of those killed by sword or by fire was 8,000. He returned with his army to Jerusalem with a large amount of booty. King Alexander sent him a golden buckle, a visible acknowledgement of being one of the King's Kinsmen.

In order to resist the aggressors, Jonathan had to leave the hill country, suitable to the tactics of his army, and instead, in response to taunts from the enemy general, to go down to the plain. What motivates us to try something different that is also something difficult?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

So far, not so bad, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 10:46-66

Jonathan was more convinced by history than by promises. Good choice because his new ally Alexander defeated his old enemy Demetrius.

After crushing the army of Demetrius, Alexander next sought alliance with Egypt.

To reward Jonathan for his support, Alexander elevated his status from the group called Friends to a higher stage. He gave him special clothes, seated him next to him, and told his officials to proclaim that was to annoy him for any reason.

How much confidence should Jonathan put in his current favor from the current king?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Offer from Demetrius, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 10:24-45

King Demetrius wrote to Jonathan reminding him of their past friendship and offering to reward him for continued support. Taxes would be reduced significantly. Significantly. Control of the citadel would be turned over to the Judeans. He would release all Jews that he had incarcerated. Jews could be in the army. Samaria would be annexed to Judah. The king would help pay for upkeep of the sanctuary. Anyone who had taken refuge in the temple because of debts to the king would be released of that obligation. Moreover, the king would pay for fortification and rebuilding of the temple,

BTW, scholars doubt the authenticity of this letter

Jonathan is being courted by two powerful forces. How can he keep faithful with his people and their God and still keep them safe?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Jonathan Becomes High Priest, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 10:1-23

Dissension between the Seluecid overloads. King Alexander offered the position of high priest to Jonathan. He accepted, so becoming one of the group close to the king known as Friends of the King. Putting on the purple robe and golden crown of his office, Jonathan recruited troops and equipped them with a lot of weapons.

When he heard about this, King Demetrius was distressed that Alexander had formed an alliance with the Jews before he had.

Jonathan's status is affected by rivalry between foreign powers. How do we make our decisions about leadership roles in our communities?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Fortification, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 9:50-73

After the setback, the Syrian general Bacchides returned. He built fortresses in several cities in Judea and placed garrisons in them. He fortified cities with high wall, gates, and bars. He took sons of the leading men as hostages, putting them in the citadel at Jerusalem.

After giving order to tear down the inner court of the sanctuary (an act that would have destroyed the separation between sacred and profane space), the high priest Alcimus had a stroke and died in great agony (or, as some commentators assert, was poisoned).

Bacchides went back to the king leaving Judah without foreign occupation for two years. Not all the Judeans liked this. Some conspired to overthrow Jonathan, but he prevailed.

In an attempt to prevent further insurrection, Jonathan rebuilt and fortified areas that had been demolished.  In response, Bacchides sent an army into Judea. It was crushed. Bacchides was so angry with the renegade Judeans who had asked him to invade that he had many of them executed.

Jonathan sent ambassadors to Bacchides seeking peace and release of captives. He agreed and swore that he would not fight against him again. He sent back the captives and returned to his own land. Peace from the foreign nation, but not necessarily total peace. Jonathan had those he considered godless to be destroyed.

What was the reason that the high priest wanted to tear down the wall in the sanctuary? In our modern churches, how do we mark a distinction between the holy and the accessible? (Do we see a distinction?)

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Down but not Out, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 9:23-49

The small force that had remained with Judas was able to stand off the army of Baccchides for a day, but could prevail. Judas was killed, and the rest of his army fled.

After the death of Judas, renegades and wrongdoers rose up among them. A great famine occurred. The country responded to all these bad things by going over to Bacchides. Those who had been supporters of Judas were sought out and punished.

We are told that the distress in Israel was greater than it had been since the time that prophets ceased to appear among them. Does this mean that they were expecting a prophet or that they had given up hope of hearing the words of one?

The friends of Judas assembled and chose Jonathan, a brother of Judas, to succeed him. When Bacchides learned of this, he sent a force to kill Jonathan. Jonathan sent his brother John to seek help from the Nabateans, who he thought were his friends. Instead they killed John and took all the goods he had brought with him. Jonathan and his brother Simon responded by attacking a wedding party. Many were killed, and the rest fled to the mountains. The Jews took all their goods.

In response, Bacchides came with a large force on the sabbath day. Jonathan called on his army to fight for their lives. They were able to drive back the enemy that day.

When it is acceptable to do something on the sabbath?

Saturday, June 20, 2015

When to Fight, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 9:1-22

After the interjection of the praise of Rome, we return to the story of the assault on the Judeans. Demetrius sent a army of 20,000 foot soldiers and 2,000 calvary to take Jerusalem. In contrast, the army  led by Judah numbered 3,000. When they saw the large army, many deserted leaving no more than 800.

The desertions crushed Judah's spirit, but he said to the ones who had stayed, "Let us get up and go against our enemies. We may have the strength to fight them." They weren't optimistic about their chances. They argued that they should not fight right them but instead go try to get some of their relatives to fight with them. Judas responded, "Far be it from us to do such a thing as to flee from them. If our time has come, let us die bravely for our kindred, and leave no cause to question our honor,"

After a desperate battle, Judas was killed. The rest of his army fled. His brothers Jonathan and Simon buried him in the tomb of his ancestors and wept for him. All Israel mad great lamentation for him and mourned for many days.

When making decisions, how to weigh necessity versus possibility?

When is it wiser to fight instead of withdrawing? How should a question of honor affect this decision?

Friday, June 19, 2015

Seeking an alliance with Rome, Rome?!, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 8:17-31

How do you rid yourself of a foreign nation that is exercising power over you? Israel chose to affiliate with a more powerful power. Judas Maccabeus sent ambassadors to Rome to seek an alliance.

Rome replied by sending a message on bronze tablets. They acknowledged the pledge to support Rome and any of Rome's allies in time of war and that, in return, Rome was to agree to act as ally to Israel. Neither Israel or Rome would engage in trade with the other's enemies.

Rome, agreeing that King Demetrius had treated Israel wrongly, asked "Why have you made your yoke heavy on our friends and allies the Jews? If now they appeal again for help against you, we will defend their rights and fight you on sea and on land?"

Obviously, the Jews could not see the future.

[interesting point that would not have occurred to me is raised in a note in the New Interpreter's Study Bible: "The author mentions that the ambassadors had to undertake a very long journey to reach Rome, which emphasizes that the relations with Rome did not conflict with Mosaic legislation forbidding alliances with local Gentiles (see Exod 23:31-32; 34:11-12; Deut 7:1-2."

What justification was there for the command not to mix with foreigners? Do we have any justification for it now?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Rome defeats the Greeks, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 8:1-16

Rather positive assessment of Roman takeovers of Gaul and Spain; closer to home, Macedonia, parts of Asia ruled by Antiochus, India, Media (modern Iran, I think).  However, also cites captivity and  plunder, and destruction.

I'm struck by the assessment that not any individual that was given power by Rome exhibited evidence of pride. Rather, they governed well and there was no envy or jealousy among them.

Who was the intended reader of this passage?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Successful resistance, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 7:26-50

The Seleucid (Syrian) king sent Nicanor, one of his honored princes, who hated and detested Israel, to destroy its people. Nicanor sent a message to Jerusalem that he was coming in peace. Since Judas had been informed that Nicanor was really preparing to kidnap him, he refused to meet. Nicanor responded by attacking. Suffering losses, his army fled to the citadel.

Not everyone in Jerusalem was opposed. Some of the priests and elders approached Nicanor seeking accommodation. He reacted negatively and arrogantly, "Either Judas and his army was surrender or I will destroy the temple." Hearing this, the priests went to the altar of the temple and prayed to the Lord to avenge them.

Judas prayed, reminding the Lord, "Your angel struck down 185,000 Assyrians for us one time. Now crush this army that is a threat to us today." The Jews crushed the attacking army. Nicanor was the first to fall. When they saw that their general was dead, they fled. The Jews pursued them and were joined by others from the surrounding villages. The Jews seized the spoils and the plunder, displayed Nicanor's head and his right hand that he had so arrogantly stretched out.

What motivates the oppressed to accommodation? What changes their minds?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Disagreement among the Israelites, a Reflection on 1 Maccabees 7:1-25

More internal dispute within the Seleucid Empire. Demetrius from Rome had Antiochus (the child king) and his guardian Lysias killed. Also dissension within the Israelites. Aleimus, an aspirant for high priest, went to the king to accuse Judas and his brothers of disloyalty. An accusation that would have been true.

The king made Aleimus the high priest and commanded him to take vengeance against the Israelites. He did. Judas saw that the damage being done was greater than what had happened to Judea by the Gentiles before. So Judas led vengeful attacks.

Aleimus reported back to the king.

Questions raised by The Oxford Bible Commentary, The Apocrypha, edited by Martin Goodman:
Did the Hasideans desert Judas? Did the cancellation of religious persecution affect their attitude toward the revolt? Did it change the purpose of the revolt? Why were the Hasideans butchered?

Monday, June 15, 2015

Offering of peace, Withdrawal of offer, reflection on 1 Maccabees 6:32-63

Judas marched away from the citadel and set up opposite the camp of the king. The king's army marched toward them. Elephants (aroused for battle by drinking wine) with high towers harnessed on them; army in phalanxes (wearing armor and carrying shields).

Judas and his army advanced. Six hundred of the king's army fell. Judas' brother Eleazar, called Avaran noticed that one of the elephants was equipped with armor and had a higher tower than the others. He concluded that this was the one that the king was riding on. He ran through a phlalanx to attack the animal, clearing a path by killing men right and left. He reached the elephant, stabbed it, and killed it. Unfortunately for Eleazar, when the animal died, it toppled over on him, killing him too.

The Jews seeing the large fierce army retreated.

The king's army went on to Jerusalem and camped in Judea and Mount Zion. The inhabitants left because they didn't have enough supplies to last out a siege. The king encamped before the sanctuary. He set up siege towers and war machines. The Jews also made engines of war and fought for many days. When they ran out of food, most abandoned the siege.

The reason given for their running out of food was that it was a sabbatical year. Some commentators ponder why the Jews had followed the custom of storing up double food in the sixth year (Leviticus 25:16-26).

Then Lysias found out that Philip, who had been appointed by the former king to be guardian of the young Antiochus, had returned from Persia and was trying to seize the control of the government. He determined that that threat was greater than the one posed by the Jews wanting to keep Jerusalem. The Jews accepted peace offer. When the king saw what a strong fortress they had built, he broke his oath of peace and had the wall torn down

Returning to Antioch, he took over the city from Philip.

Is it possible for the weak to trust the strong?

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Attack, a relection on 1 Maccabees 6:18-31

Although the Jews had retaken possession of the sanctuary, they were under threat by the Greek army. So, Judas decided to attack the citadel. Some from the besieged citadel escaped and went to the king to ask for help in the defense against the Israelites. We are told that some of the Israelites went with them. The king was enraged. He assembled an army including some mercenary forces from other kingdoms and from islands of the sea. The number of his forces was 120,000 plus 32 elephants.

The Jews met the attack of the sanctuary with fire and courage.

A sanctuary is not really safe if it is vulnerable to attack. Potential attackers don't feel safe as long as they feel vulnerable. Did the Jews in the sanctuary have alternatives to attack on the citadel? What alternatives did the king have other than sending a really big army to attack the sanctuary?

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Hard times for the king, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 6:1-17

When someone reported to King Antiochus how the Jews had routed his armies, cleaned out their sanctuary, and rebuilt the walls around it, he was astonished and shaken. In his disappointment, he took to his bed realizing that he was dying.

Unable to sleep, downhearted with worry, he confessed that he had been wrong to invade Jerusalem, to destroy its inhabitants, to seize the silver and gold in the temple. He said, "I know that it is because of this that these misfortunes have come upon me; here I am, perishing of bitter disappointment in a strange land."

King Antiochus died.  Lysias appointed  his son, also named Antiochus to succeed his father. Or, is Philip the successor?

Friday, June 12, 2015

Unsuccessful battle, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 5:45-68

After defeating Gilead, Judas led the Israelites on a journey toward the land of Judah. They met and violently overcame obstacles. Not only the enemy slowed them down; Judas had to keep rallying the laggards.

What obstacles (external and internal) do we still face as we move (or think about moving) toward a life with God?

When they heard about the successes of Judas and Jonathan, other Maccabeans decided to win some victories themselves. They lost, according to the author of 1 Maccabees, because they weren't the ones that God had chosen to lead the deliverance of evil.

 The long-ago conflict between Isaac's sons, Jacob and Esau (Genesis 25-33) isn't over. Neither is the conflict with the Philistines (1Samuel 17; 23; 29; 2 Samuel 5:6-25).

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Taking Gilead Back, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 5:24-44

Judas and Jonathan crossed the Jordan, met friendly Arabs who told them that many of their relatives had been imprisoned in several towns in Gilead by the Gentiles and that further attack was imminent.

In response, Judas led his army to Bozrah (one of the cities in Gilead), took the town, killed every male, seized all its spoils, and burned it with fire. He then went to the stronghold of Dathema. When he got there, the battle had already begun. Judas called out to his army, "Fight today for your kindred!" When the army commander, Timothy, realized that they were being attacked by Judas Maccabeus, they fled but didn't escape. Eight thousand of them fell that day. (the same number as the total army being led by Judas that day, 5:20)

Judah then took other cities, killed other men, plundered, and destroyed. He sent spies to the place where Timothy had encamped by a stream of water. When he saw Judas approaching, Timothy told his army, "If he crosses over the stream first, we won't be able to resist him; but, if he shows fear and camps on the other side of the stream, we will cross over and defeat him."

When Judas got to the stream, he ordered no encampment. Rather, he and his whole army crossed over first and defeated the Gentiles. Again when they took the town, they destroyed it and all its inhabitants.

What is the intended reaction to this passage? Is it to encourage our acceptance of violence? to warn us of the consequences of evil? to remind us the Lord is with us in our tough times?

Tangent: As I read this passage, I kept thinking about the lyric, balm of Gilead. Using, I found over a hundred references to Gilead. Among them, Camels carried balm into Gilead in the days of Laban and Jacob, Gen 31, 37); Jeremiah 8:22 asked, "Is there no balm in Gilead?" Gilead is considered negatively in Hosea 6:8, 12:11, and Amos 1:3, 13. On the other hand, return to Gilead is mentioned in Obadiah 1:19, Micah 7:14, and Zechariah 10:10.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Successful battles, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 5:1-23

The Jews had rebuilt and rededicated the temple. Their neighbors reacted angrily. They resolved to destroy all the Jews that lived among them.

The Gentiles were very upset that adherents of a different religion from theirs had constructed a worship center. War ensued.Violent war, even against people with common ancestry. Opposition arose.   But Judas  and his brothers fought many battles against the Gentiles, crushing them.

Opposition to worship centers not in the mainstream continues to our time; e.g.,

Questions raised by U. Rappaport in the Oxford Bible Commentary/ The Apocrypha, edited by Martin Goodman: Did Simon rescue all the Jews in Galilee? How many Jews were left there?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Restoration to worship, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 4:36-61

Having routed the enemy, Judas and his brothers entered the sanctuary. They were appalled at its condition. They mourned. They lamented. They prayed.

Judas sent some men to fight against those in the citadel that had desecrated the sanctuary and chose priests to cleanse it. They tore down the altar but stored the stones away until a prophet could tell them what should be done with them.

They built a new altar, made new holy vessels, and prepared the sanctuary for worship. They celebrated in worship for eight days the dedication of the restored place of worship. (Echoes of festival of booths, Leviticus 23; 1 Kings 8).

Judas and his brothers and all the assembly determined that they should celebrate the dedication of the altar every year.

They built walls and strong towers, and stationed a garrison to protect the sanctuary.

What allows us, encourages us, to worship the Lord? What impedes our worship? What changes would encourage us to return to the altar?

Monday, June 8, 2015

Prayer, a reminder, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 4:26-35

When General (and Governor) Lysias got reports of the unexpected Jewish victory, he was perplexed and discouraged. The next year he mustered an inantry of 60,000 and a calvary of 5,000. Judas met them with 10,000 men.

Judas prayed to God, including a reminder (or a point of self-reassurance) of how David had won against great odds. In his prayer, he asked, "Fill them with cowardice; melt the boldness of their strength." He then reminded God of which side loved God and sang hymns of praise. I'm struck by what he asked God to do, "Fill them with cowardice; melt the boldness of their strength; let them tremble in their destruction."

After an initial loss of 5,000 of his men and the exhibition of boldness by the troops led by Judas, Lysias withdrew to Antioch and enlisted mercenaries to invade with an even larger army.

Are our prayers typically reminders or requests?

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Facing and Winning, reflection on 1 Maccabees 4:1-25

Outnumbered 2 to 1. Underamed, undertrained, and unhorsed compared to the Gentiles. Yet, Judas called on them not to be afraid, "Remember how our ancestors at the Red Sea were saved from Pharaoh's army. God has made covenant with us. Let's see if that covenant still holds."

It did. They crushed the Gentiles, faced off another force, then plundered their camp, seizing gold, silver, dyed cloth. On their return, they sang hymn and praises to Heaven, Note: they delayed plunder until after they had routed the enemy.

When facing an actual battle or a metaphorical one, how are you affected by the relative strengths, by a reliance on divine help?

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Selves-Protection, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 3:27-59

The king was incensed with the successes of the Jewish uprising. When he raised and agreed to pay a large army, he was confronted by an empty treasury. Needing money to keep up his practice of lavish expenditures on himself and for gifts, he decided to go to Persia to collect taxes.

He left Lysias in charge of Jerusalem and Judea, with authority over half the army. Syria and the Philistines joined in the attack.

Judas and his brothers prepared to defend Jerusalem.

What do you think about the draft exemptions they had: those who were building houses, about to be married, planted a vineyard, were faint-hearted?

Friday, June 5, 2015

What Matters, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 3:1-26

After his father died, Judas Maccabeus took command of the Jewish army opposing the Greek armies. His successes mirrored that of his ancestor David.

When faced with a strong army, his small company asked him, "How can we, few as we are, fight against so great and strong a multitude. Besides, we are hungry." Judas assured them, "It is not the size of the army that victory in battle depends, but strength comes from heaven."

They won that battle decisively.

Do you have some examples in your own life when you tried something that seemed impossible?

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Hide or rebel, a reflection on 1 Maccabbees 2:31-70

They were caught in the conflict between what their religion taught and what the king wanted. Some reacted by hiding. That tactic failed. Some reacted by rebelling actively--and violently. However, their violence was directed to their co-religionists who didn't meet their standards.

As he neared death, the revered priest Mattathias proclaimed to his sons that refusal to fight may have been a demonstration of their purity but resulted in their destruction. Not fighting didn't work. It was time to answer arrogance and scorn with violence. He recounted for them the deeds of great men who had shown courage in being faithful to the law.

The army they amassed attacked people they did not agree with, forced people to comply with their religious ordinances. Irony?

As he neared the end of his life, Mattathias gave advice to his children: show zeal for the law; give your lives for it; remember what your ancestors have been through and the bravery they showed.

Before he died, he told them to consider their brother Simeon to be their father and that their brother Judas Maccabeus would be the commander of the army for them to fight the battles to ensure observation of the law.

Their choice was either to hide or to rebel publicly. Are there ways that practicing our religion seem unsafe? How about adherents to those religions that are in minority in our community?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Danger of Safety, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 2:1-30

Jews continued to find life in Jerusalem difficult. Mattahias moved his family from Jerusalem to Modein, but found that being faithful wasn't easy there either. The king's officers tried to get his family to apostasy, making a public sacrifice at the altar, by offering a bribe of silver and gold as well as access to the king.

Mattahias refused, but another Jew complied. Mattahias was incensed. He killed the apostate as well as the king's officer, then tore down the altar.

He shouted out to the crowd, "Let everyone who is zealous for the law and supports the covenant come out with me!" Many came with him and his family to live in the wilderness.

What do we have to give up in order to cooperate with the powerful?

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Holding on to a minority religion, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 1:29-64

Deceitfully speaking words of peace, the Greek occupiers instead plundered then destroyed the city, tearing down its houses and its walls. They took captive women and children and seized the livestock. Then they built their own citadel in Jerusalem and wall with towers around it. More foreigners came to Jerusalem,. As more Jews fled the city, the temple was desolate, largely abandoned, now dishonored instead of exalted.

The king seeking a unified nation imposed laws requiring adherence to the religion that was dominant in the empire. Religious customs that didn't suit the majority faith were forbidden. The religious writings of the minority faith were destroyed. People were punished severely for following their faith. Yet, many stood firm, and many died because of their commitment.

How much protection is due to practice of religion by minority groups?

Monday, June 1, 2015

Onset of Persecution, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 1:1-28

In the Old Testament, we read that Babylon (587 BCE), then Persia (520 BCE) ruled Judah.

There's a gap in history between the Old Testament and the New of about four centuries. Some of that period is discussed in the material we call the Apocrypha. The Greeks conquer Palestine in 332 BCE but are ousted by Egypt (301 BCE).

Although the Jews had been allowed to return from exile, they were not in charge of their land. Some of the Jews were ready to accept that situation as inevitable and suggested that they seek some kind of accommodation with the Gentiles surrounding them.

So, they approached the king who allowed them to construct a gymnasium (a Gentile kind of place, so Gentile, that in order to use it, they uncircumcised themselves).

Meanwhile, the king, Antiochus IV, decided to overtake Egypt. Having that success (198 BCE), he led a strong army into Jerusalem and looted the sanctuary.

How much accommodation to civic life is appropriate?