FROM BRAD SCOTT WILDBRANCH MINISTRY
The Tabernacle: 9 The Menorah : Part 2 by Brad Scott
It has been the agreement of most Talmudic authorities that the menorah’s light specifically illuminated the table of shewbread. This fits typologically with the instruments of the light of YHVH, as well. That would be us folks! The menorah in the Holy Place was to illuminate the mind with the word of God. Then that same light was to be expressed in good works so that our Abba would be glorified. This is the way that our wonderful Creator has designed us. First, our hearts must receive His testimony, then our minds are changed through the study of His words, and finally our bodies are to respond to the commands of the mind. ’Elohiym created us, so He knew in advance that this is how we work. If the word of God is not in your heart, then instructions and communication have to come from somewhere else. This is precisely where most of us were at when we received the word of YHVH. Our minds were taught from sources outside of the word of God. Our view of the world and those around us were formed and shaped by the world and people we were struggling to learn about. In other words, we learned about the conclusion from the premise and we learned about the premise from the conclusion. The truth is that only an outside objective source can be trusted.
In the 16th and 17th centuries there was birthed the so-called “Age of Enlightenment”, also called the “Age of Reason”. Following on the heels of the Inquisitions, these men turned the western culture to a new kind of light, the light of reason. The religious culture of the post-dark ages continued to produce clergy-over-laity thinking. Church leaders were to be relied on for truth. This led to heavy persecution and death of untold millions, particularly Jews. In response to this, a group of very famous “philosophers of reason” came into being: Marquis de Condorcet, Rene Descartes, Denis Diderot, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and Voltaire are but a few. During this age, to receive light was to receive truth. God had given man a mind and man was able to reason his existence whether it agreed with the Scriptures or not. Not only was the scriptural teaching of light reinvented, but the use of allegory became popular, once again. God could not be counted on to get any of the fields of science correct, or morality, for that matter. The book of Genesis was spiritualized away, and the rest of the Tanakh was considered ancient stories of a long forgotten people. The Old Testament was considered a lesson for the “church” to heed. The “church” was, of course, the whole intention of God’s plan in the first place. The Jews were a picture of how NOT to respond to God. Much of modern Christian teaching today is a direct result of this age and the “romantic” age that followed.
There have been a myriad of “ages” that man has seen come and go, all of which have rejected the light of God and accepted another “light”. Many world religions today teach that man can receive light if he is willing. Many “new age” religions teach that man must reach out for the light. Many people today have had near death experiences where they have seen “light”. To most of these religions, light is an intellectual concept. Light is indeed knowledge. Light is the process of learning about something, or perhaps leaping into another existence. But this is not what the “Jewish” followers of Yeshua‘ would have been thinking when Yeshua‘ taught on this subject. It was the menorah in the Temple that came to mind. It was the eternally lit words of God that would come to mind. The menorah was called the “Light of the World”. When Yeshua‘ used this of Himself, He was saying that He was the true bearer of God’s light. Simeon recognised this truth in Luke when he said:
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the majesty of thy people Israel. (Luke 2:30-32)
Yeshua‘ calls Himself the “Light of the World” during the Chanukah season in Yochanan chapters 8 through 10.
According to Shemot (Exodus) 25:33-38, the single beaten work of the menorah had bowls made like unto almonds at the top of each branch to contain the oil for the light. The bowls were made like unto almonds. The word almonds shares a very interesting root with another word. The word for almonds is shaqad (שקר) which shares the exact same spelling as its verbal root. The word shaqad everywhere else is translated as watch, alert, or to be sleepless. These almond-shaped bearers of the oil for the light teach us something about the nature of being a light bearer. They, or we, are to be watchful and alert as “sons of the light”. Again I quote from 1 Thessalonians:
For yourselves know perfectly that the day of Yahweh so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. (1 Thessalonians 5:2-6)
Hmmm. Remember the parable of the ten virgins, five which took oil in their lamps and five which did not? Do you remember the last thing Yeshua‘ says in that parable? “Watch therefore;…“ The “sons of light” know the word of God, obey his commandments, and keep his feasts and sabbaths. The very nature of what they are doing during the courses of YHVH’s cycles of righteousness makes them alert and watching. In the Hebrew culture the “sons of darkness”, or “sons of the night”, are those who do not know Torah and have not the light of YHVH.
The flowers, or perach (פרח), extended downward from the bowls. This word means to blossom, grow, or produce. They added fruitful beauty to the menorah. The true believers of YHVH are spoken of in these terms in many places. The Messiah tells us that we are to be known by our fruit in Mattityahu (Matthew) 7:20. In the Septuagint and Vulgate versions of the Scriptures, the flowers of the menorah are called lilies. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that Messiah compares His true followers to the lilies of the field in Mattityahu 6:28-30. The true rod of God produced almonds and buds in Aarons hand in Bemidebar (Numbers) 17. The flowers were to adorn the lamp with beauty and loveliness. A watchful, ready, and waiting bride captures the attention of all that even glance in her direction. The knops or knobs, kaphtor (כפתר) in Hebrew, were also designed to decorate the shaft, as this word always accompanies the flowers. They were also understood to provide strength to the extended shafts or branches.
The tongs or melqach (מלקח) and snuff dishes or machtah (מחתה) are almost an after thought in the design of the menorah, but these were very important items in connection with the maintenance of the light. It is generally agreed by authorities on the tabernacle structure that the tongs were used by the priests to trim or dress the lamp. We must keep in mind that the candlestick translation is not to be seen through western eyes. This was a lamp in which oil sustained a wick in each of the decorative bowls. According to Shemot 30:7-8, the lamps were dressed in the morning and lit in the evening. The trimming and lighting was performed every day. This is the meaning behind the term perpetually. It is also one of the sources for the scriptural background of the morning and evening prayer times. Each time the priests entered to trim or light the menorah, they burned incense on the altar, which are the prayers of the saints (Hitgalut (Revelation) 5:8). We will discuss this further when we get to the golden altar. Perpetually does not mean twenty-four hours a day but daily and always. This is what Sha’ul is referring to when he tells the saints that he is praying for them always. The tongs were used to raise the wicks that the light may shine brighter. Wicks are seen typologically as people in Jewish thought in the same way that trees are also seen as people. If there was little or no oil in the lamp the wick could burn on its own for a short time, but would soon go out if there was no oil in the body of the wick. This is true of the word of God in His people, as well. Many times I have seen people respond to an altar call, or an emotional religious moment, and quickly come ablaze. But in a short time they quickly go out. This seems to be the background of the ten virgins of Mattityahu 25. A lamp can produce light for a short time by a burning wick, but soon goes dark if there is no oil, (Ruach haQodesh, God’s word) to feed the wick so that it may shine. According to Jewish tradition, the center shaft, or the yarek (ירך), burned continuously and it was the other six branches that needed to be relit in the evening. The tongs were an important item associated with this lamp. The tongs were also used to take coals from the altar of incense as we see in Yesha’yahu’s (Isaiah) vision in chapter six of his book. The snuff dishes were also used in the Holy Place to contain the ashes and the incense at the table of shewbread to be tossed on the golden altar. As we read from Shemot chapter 30, all the instruments of the Holy Place are involved in the daily service of the priests and all have a purpose, physically and spiritually.
YHVH concludes many of these instructions by stating that they were to be made “after the pattern that was given to thee on the mount.” This, I believe, is eternally God’s cry to His people. Our Creator, from the beginning, has given us His ways and blessed those ways only. It is a very serious matter to change or otherwise cast aside His instructions by allegorizing or spirituallizing them. We know from much revelation in the New Testament that Yeshua‘ is our ultimate temple or tabernacle, and that we, His body, are the earthy representation of this structure (Yochanan (John) 2:21, 1Corinthians 3:16, 1Corinthians 6:19, 2Corinthians 6:16). We must bring His light to a dark world and not our own light, much less the light of church tradition. Only YHVH’s light has been blessed, in much the same way that only the seventh day is blessed. Clearly Yeshua‘ was pointing to the menorah, when He said that we were to let our light shine so that men may see our good works and glorify our Father. This is exactly what the menorah did in the Holy Place. It shone directly on the table of shewbread, the life sustaining word of God, that shows us the difference between good works and works of iniquity, or dead works. YHVH’s light must not remain in the Holy Place, but is to be brought out into the courts to point to the brazen altar of sacrifice and the one and only door by which man can be saved.
I wish to close this section on the menorah with a few sidebar items. The menorah is a seven-branched lamp as opposed to the Chanukah lamp which is a nine-branched lamp. The two extra branches were added to commemorate the rededication of the temple in 165 B.M. (before Messiah). Technically, the Chanukah lamp is not the menorah, however it is a menorah since it does produce light. The seven-branched menorah was also the pattern used to express YHVH’s light or word in the Torah and haftarah readings in the Temple during Yeshua‘’s time. In Luke 4:15-20 we have this image presented to us in Yeshua‘’s reading of Yesha’yahu, which would have been the haftarah reading for that day. As He stood up to read He would be standing on a raised platform called a bimah (βημα) in Greek. There would have been three ministers to His left and three ministers to His right, with the bimah platform in the middle, slightly raised. This viewed from the congregation would appear precisely as the menorah was designed. The minister proclaiming the Torah readings was called a shamash (שמש) or serving minister. This is who Yeshua‘ handed the Torah scroll to in Luke 4:20. The word or light given to the other ministers (remember the seven messengers of the churches in Hitgalut 1:20?) and the congregation was supplied by the shamash or serving minister.
But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. (Matthew 23:11)
During the Chanukah season, the lamps are lit each night beginning with one candle and lighting an additional candle each successive night until all nine lamps are shining in full brightness. All the lamps are lit each night from the center lamp call theshamash. You see, none of us can produce our own light. The light we shine must come from the Master lamp. The Messiah, our light, was brought forth in Bere’shiyt (Genesis) 1:3-4. He gave light to the very first man of ’Elohiym’s creation, and will not be finished until the entire lamp is illuminated.
Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of Elohim, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of the Messiah: (Ephesians 4:13)
From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:16)
So, fill your bowls with the word of God through the power of the Ruach haQodesh and let your light shine!
FROM BRAD SCOTT WILDBRANCH MINISTRY
I was emailing back and forth with a friend who told me there was a difference between the 9 and 7 branch menorah’s…. I further researched it and one source I looked at said that the 9-branch was invented in the 20th century. Hmmm… I then found this article by Brad Scott at Wild Branch Ministry who had much to say on the candlestick or menorah that was in the Temple. I love the symbolism of the menorah and it’s relation to Yeshua!
FROM BRAD SCOTT WILD BRANCH MINISTRY
The Tabernacle: 8 The Menorah : Part 1 by Brad Scott
And thou shalt make a candlestick of pure gold: of beaten work shall the candlestick be made: his shaft, and his branches, his bowls, his knobs, and his flowers, shall be of the same. (Exodus 25:31)
The word candlestick in the King James English is from the Hebrew word menorah (מנרה). This word is taken from the word nur(נור) or light. The nur or light forms the middle of the word menorah. With the addition of the mem prefix and feminine singular suffix the light now becomes the apparatus from which the light shines, illuminates, or exposes. If you read the text casually you would conclude that this lampstand is formed with six branches, however a closer study reveals a middle shaft called a yarek(ירך). The six branches actually extend from this shaft and all seven branches form the menorah that is one beaten work. This is the meaning behind the supplied phrase “of the same”. The word “it” in verse 32 refers back to the shaft. The word yarek is generally translated as thigh, loins, or body (Bere’shiyt (Genesis) 24:2, Shofetiym (Judges) 8:30). The six branches extend out from the shaft and are yet one with the shaft. Is it just a coincidence that believers of the Messiah, whether Jew or Gentile are referred to as branches in Romans 11? Is it just mere happenstance that these branches are all one with the central shaft or tree, and called the body of the Messiah? Even further, is it just the luck of the draw that Yeshua‘ uses this lampstand to refer to Hiskehillot (assembly, “church”) in Hitgalut (Revelation) 1:20?
As we continue to study the tabernacle structure it will become clear that the Most Holy and Holy Places are completely covered in various linens and skins. The inner sanctuaries were dark, very dark. There was no natural light to enter this place. Only the light of the menorah was to illuminate the Holy Place or the place of ministry. Ministry is to be driven by the light of God and not by man’s design or desires. The life-sustaining shewbread was to be eaten by God’s priests, but that food was to be shared or given to all that hunger for righteousness. The light of the menorah expresses that commission. Our minds are to be illuminated by God’s light. His light speaks forth of the contents of the ark of His testimony. It is this light that is to be a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path (Mizemor (Psalm) 119:105). Proverbs 6 sums it up:
For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life: (Proverbs 6:23)
Torah teaches Israel that they were to be His light to the nations.
And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth. (Isaiah 49:6)
Historically, we know that Israel failed to do this, so Abba prepared a body, Himself, to be that same light to the gentiles. “I, YHVH, have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the nations…”. Yeshua‘, confirming that calling in Yochanan (John) 8:12, claims to be the light of the world. Yeshua‘ then calls those who follow Him, whether Jew or Gentile, to be the light of the world in Mattitiyahu (Matthew) 5:14. According to the idioms and symbols understood and practiced by the writers of the New Testament, the symbol of light spoke of the menorah in the temple. The menorah, according to their thinking, was the illuminating expression of the edut (עדות) or testimony of the ark. This is known as Torah. Remember, Yeshua‘ is the author of all that is written in the Tanakh. To be a light was not simply a quaint, poetic expression to denote a glowing personality. It had a previous firmly established meaning familiar to Yeshua’‘s brethren. For example, the term “sons of light” used by Sha’ul in 1 Thessalonians 5:5 was speaking of the children or inheritors of Torah, the light of God. This would be a good time to go back to our archives and click on lesson 4 of my discussion on the defining of light. Light was Torah and Torah was light, and every physical activity of God’s people was to be guided by this. Many times I wonder what most modern Christians think Yochanan (John) means when he says that we are to walk in the light. Are we supposed to conjure up an image of strolling around with a piercing glow about us? Is being a light to mean that I put “Jesus” bumper stickers on my car, or buy only “Christian” music? Am I being a light when I enter church on Sunday or go to Wednesday nite Bible study? Am I being a light to the world by just telling people about Jesus or confronting the cults? Or does the word of God teach us that to be a light is: to proclaim God’s ways to a world covered in darkness, and that the answer to all of man’s trials is found in His word? To theologically restrict our commission to proclaiming that Yeshua‘ is the Savior of the world, is to provide a lost world with the apparatus of the light, but not the light.
The menorah was never to go out. In Vayiqera (Leviticus) we read,
Command the children of Israel, that they bring unto thee pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamps to burn continually. (Leviticus 24:2)
Without the vail of the testimony, in the tabernacle of the congregation, shall Aaron order it from the evening unto the morning before Yahweh continually: it shall be a statute for ever in your generations. (Leviticus 24:3)
The priests obeyed this command because they understood the meaning of the light. It was the word of YHVH that sustained their lives, not to mention the universe. The sages of old, before Yeshua‘’s time, taught that the universe was held together by Torah, and Torah was formed by the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. If Torah failed to be spoken, much less observed, the world would melt away with a fervent heat. Sound familiar? Kefa (Peter) uses this same image to describe the end times in 2 Kefa 3:10. He describes this in conjunction with the “day of the Lord”. When you investigate all the verses in the Tanakh concerning the “day of the Lord”, you will see most of them describe a time in which all peoples have rejected Torah. This is why ‘Amos describes it as a time of darkness.
Woe unto you that desire the day of Yahweh to what end is it for you? the day of Yahweh is darkness, and not light. (Amos 5:18)
The menorah goes out in the tabernacle. Three chapters later ‘Amos will proclaim again,
Behold, the days come, saith the Sovereign Yahweh, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of Yahweh: (Amos 8:11)
The six branches of the menorah are to be of one beaten work with the shaft or seventh branch. This lampstand was to be the symbol of Israel. However, it was designed to be the symbol of all that claimed to be one with the seventh branch. This is why Yeshua‘ uses this same image in describing the condition of seven of His kehillot (churches) at the time that Yochanan wrote, and a symbol of the kehillot since then. Hitgalut chapter two and three are also an accurate prophetic description of the condition of His branches today. In Hitgalut 2:1-7, there is a description of the k(q)ahal (קהל) (church – singular) at Ephesus, and it begins by mentioning one of the aspects of Yeshua‘’s ministry. “…who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands.” Yeshua‘ commends this group first by reminding them of their dedication to forging out imposters, and of their works, and patience. However, He then tells them what He has against them. They have lost their first love, and will not go back to their first works and repent. He says that if they continue He will remove their lampstand from its place. Many times I have been confronted with verses four and five, and asked to defend certain “salvation” doctrines. As it is with much of what the New Testament teaches, this scripture is not teaching whether you can or can not lose your salvation. It is a warning to repent! If you are a child of God then repent! If you are a believer and cleave to a doctrine that states you can do something to remove yourself as a child of God, then Yeshua‘ is telling you to repent. However, if you have been taught that there is nothing you can do to render yourself “unborn again” then God is still telling you to repent!
The light of the menorah pictures the word of God, and the menorah is the bearer of that light. The light of the menorah is to first irradiate the mind with the testimony of God. That tesimony is then to be taken to the nations. Take this symbol of God’s instructions for man and bring it into 1 Yochanan:
This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that Elohim is light, and in him is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5)
If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: (1 John 1:6)
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Yahshua the Messiah his Son cleanseth us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)
Yochanan goes on to relate sin to darkness, and light to keeping His commandments. If walking in the light is vital to our “Christian” walk, then would it not be imperative to know what walking in the light means?
To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. (Isaiah 8:20)
FROM BRAD SCOTT WILD BRANCH MINISTRY
Hanukkah is also called Feast of Dedication and Feast of Lights, referring to the lighting of the candles. Yahshua was in Jerusalem for the feast of Dedication:
And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. And Yahshua walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch.
The historical events behind this holiday are recorded in First and Second Maccabees. It is an amazing story of how a small number of Jews triumphed over a wicked tyrant, Antiochus Epiphanes, and freed Jerusalem and the Temple. In doing this they prepared the way for the Messiah!
Brief history lesson: from Celebrations of the Bible
When the Assyrian-Greek king Antiochus Epiphanes came to power over Israel, he tried to Hellenize the Jews, to make them like Greeks. He made laws that no Jewish practices could be observed, and he put Greek idols in the marketplaces and the Temple. He even commanded that pigs, unkosher animals, be sacrificed in the Temple, sacrificing one himself and pouring its blood over the scrolls and on the altar. This is an abomination to the children of Israel. There is much more gruesome things that I won’t get into at this point but is written in the information from Maccabees itself, below.
In the town of Modin, Mattathias, a man of priestly descent, refused to obey the new laws and led an uprising. Judah, one of his sons, became the leader after his death. He was called Maccabee, which means “hammer”; his follower were called the Maccabees.
After 3 years of fighting, the Maccabees finally defeated the enemy and drove them from Jerusalem. Then they cleansed the Temple and built a new altar. They rededicated the Temple to God.
The History book : 1 Maccabees Chapter 1 and 2
After Alexander son of Philip, the Macedonian, who came from the land of Kittim, had defeated King Darius of the Persians and the Medes, he succeeded him as king. (He had previously become king of Greece.) He fought many battles, conquered strongholds, and put to death the kings of the earth. He advanced to the ends of the earth, and plundered many nations. When the earth became quiet before him, he was exalted, and his heart was lifted up. He gathered a very strong army and ruled over countries, nations, and princes, and they became tributary to him.
After this he fell sick and perceived that he was dying. So he summoned his most honored officers, who had been brought up with him from youth, and divided his kingdom among them while he was still alive. And after Alexander had reigned twelve years, he died.
Then his officers began to rule, each in his own place. They all put on crowns after his death, and so did their descendants after them for many years; and they caused many evils on the earth. From them came forth a sinful root, Antiochus Epiphanes, son of King Antiochus; he had been a hostage in Rome. He began to reign in the one hundred thirty-seventh year of the kingdom of the Greeks.
In those days certain renegades came out from Israel and misled many, saying, “Let us go and make a covenant with the Gentiles around us, for since we separated from them many disasters have come upon us.” This proposal pleased them, and some of the people eagerly went to the king, who authorized them to observe the ordinances of the Gentiles. So they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem, according to Gentile custom, and removed the marks of circumcision, and abandoned the holy covenant. They joined with the Gentiles and sold themselves to do evil.
When Antiochus saw that his kingdom was established, he determined to become king of the land of Egypt, in order that he might reign over both kingdoms. So he invaded Egypt with a strong force, with chariots and elephants and cavalry and with a large fleet. He engaged King Ptolemy of Egypt in battle, and Ptolemy turned and fled before him, and many were wounded and fell. They captured the fortified cities in the land of Egypt, and he plundered the land of Egypt. After subduing Egypt, Antiochus returned in the one hundred forty-third year.
He went up against Israel and came to Jerusalem with a strong force. He arrogantly entered the sanctuary and took the golden altar, the lampstand for the light, and all its utensils. He took also the table for the bread of the Presence, the cups for drink offerings, the bowls, the golden censers, the curtain, the crowns, and the gold decoration on the front of the temple; he stripped it all off. He took the silver and the gold, and the costly vessels; he took also the hidden treasures that he found. Taking them all, he went into his own land. He shed much blood, and spoke with great arrogance. Israel mourned deeply in every community, rulers and elders groaned, young women and young men became faint, the beauty of the women faded. Every bridegroom took up the lament; she who sat in the bridal chamber was mourning. Even the land trembled for its inhabitants, and all the house of Jacob was clothed with shame.
Two years later the king sent to the cities of Judah a chief collector of tribute, and he came to Jerusalem with a large force. Deceitfully he spoke peaceable words to them, and they believed him; but he suddenly fell upon the city, dealt it a severe blow, and destroyed many people of Israel. He plundered the city, burned it with fire, and tore down its houses and its surrounding walls. They took captive the women and children, and seized the livestock. Then they fortified the city of David with a great strong wall and strong towers, and it became their citadel. They stationed there a sinful people, men who were renegades. These strengthened their position; they stored up arms and food, and collecting the spoils of Jerusalem they stored them there, and became a great menace, for the citadel became an ambush against the sanctuary, an evil adversary of Israel at all times. On every side of the sanctuary they shed innocent blood; they even defiled the sanctuary. Because of them the residents of Jerusalem fled; she became a dwelling of strangers; she became strange to her offspring, and her children forsook her. Her sanctuary became desolate like a desert; her feasts were turned into mourning, her Sabbaths into a reproach, her honor into contempt. Her dishonor now grew as great as her glory; her exaltation was turned into mourning.
Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people, and that all should give up their particular customs. All the Gentiles accepted the command of the king. Many even from Israel gladly adopted his religion; they sacrificed to idols and profaned the Sabbath. And the king sent letters by messengers to Jerusalem and the towns of Judah; he directed them to follow customs strange to the land, to forbid burnt offerings and sacrifices and drink offerings in the sanctuary, to profane sabbaths and festivals, to defile the sanctuary and the priests, to build altars and sacred precincts and shrines for idols, to sacrifice swine and other unclean animals, and to leave their sons uncircumcised. They were to make themselves abominable by everything unclean and profane, so that they would forget the law and change all the ordinances. He added, “And whoever does not obey the command of the king shall die.” In such words he wrote to his whole kingdom. He appointed inspectors over all the people and commanded the towns of Judah to offer sacrifice, town by town. Many of the people, everyone who forsook the law, joined them, and they did evil in the land; they drove Israel into hiding in every place of refuge they had.
Now on the fifteenth day of Chislev, in the one hundred forty-fifth year, they erected a desolating sacrilege on the altar of burnt offering. They also built altars in the surrounding towns of Judah, and offered incense at the doors of the houses and in the streets. The books of the law that they found they tore to pieces and burned with fire. Anyone found possessing the book of the covenant, or anyone who adhered to the law, was condemned to death by decree of the king. They kept using violence against Israel, against those who were found month after month in the towns.
On the twenty-fifth day of the month they offered sacrifice on the altar that was on top of the altar of burnt offering. According to the decree, they put to death the women who had their children circumcised, and their families and those who circumcised them; and they hung the infants from their mothers’ necks. But many in Israel stood firm and were resolved in their hearts not to eat unclean food. They chose to die rather than to be defiled by food or to profane the holy covenant; and they did die. Very great wrath came upon Israel.
The 5 Maccabees
In those days Mattathias son of John son of Simeon, a priest of the family of Joarib, moved from Jerusalem and settled in Modein. He had five sons, John surnamed Gaddi, Simon called Thassi, Judas called Maccabeus, Eleazar called Avaran, and Jonathan called Apphus.
He saw the blasphemies being committed in Judah and Jerusalem, and said, “Alas! Why was I born to see this, the ruin of my people, the ruin of the holy city, and to live there when it was given over to the enemy, the sanctuary given over to aliens?Her temple has become like a person without honor; her glorious vessels have been carried into exile. Her infants have been killed in her streets, her youths by the sword of the foe. What nation has not inherited her palaces and has not seized her spoils? All her adornment has been taken away; no longer free, she has become a slave. And see, our holy place, our beauty, and our glory have been laid waste; the Gentiles have profaned them. Why should we live any longer?” Then Mattathias and his sons tore their clothes, put on sackcloth, and mourned greatly.
The king’s officers who were enforcing the apostasy came to the town of Modein to make them offer sacrifice. Many from Israel came to them; and Mattathias and his sons were assembled. Then the king’s officers spoke to Mattathias as follows: “You are a leader, honored and great in this town, and supported by sons and brothers. Now be the first to come and do what the king commands, as all the Gentiles and the people of Judah and those that are left in Jerusalem have done. Then you and your sons will be numbered among the Friends of the king, and you and your sons will be honored with silver and gold and many gifts.”19But Mattathias answered and said in a loud voice: “Even if all the nations that live under the rule of the king obey him, and have chosen to obey his commandments, everyone of them abandoning the religion of their ancestors, I and my sons and my brothers will continue to live by the covenant of our ancestors. Far be it from us to desert the law and the ordinances. We will not obey the king’s words by turning aside from our religion to the right hand or to the left.”
When he had finished speaking these words, a Jew came forward in the sight of all to offer sacrifice on the altar in Modein, according to the king’s command. When Mattathias saw it, he burned with zeal and his heart was stirred. He gave vent to righteous anger; he ran and killed him on the altar. At the same time he killed the king’s officer who was forcing them to sacrifice, and he tore down the altar. Thus he burned with zeal for the law, just as Phinehas did against Zimri son of Salu. Then Mattathias cried out in the town with a loud voice, saying: “Let every one who is zealous for the law and supports the covenant come out with me!” Then he and his sons fled to the hills and left all that they had in the town.
At that time many who were seeking righteousness and justice went down to the wilderness to live there,they, their sons, their wives, and their livestock, because troubles pressed heavily upon them. And it was reported to the king’s officers, and to the troops in Jerusalem the city of David, that those who had rejected the king’s command had gone down to the hiding places in the wilderness. Many pursued them, and overtook them; they encamped opposite them and prepared for battle against them on the sabbath day. They said to them, “Enough of this! Come out and do what the king commands, and you will live.” But they said, “We will not come out, nor will we do what the king commands and so profane the sabbath day.” Then the enemy quickly attacked them. But they did not answer them or hurl a stone at them or block up their hiding places, for they said, “Let us all die in our innocence; heaven and earth testify for us that you are killing us unjustly.” So they attacked them on the sabbath, and they died, with their wives and children and livestock, to the number of a thousand persons.
When Mattathias and his friends learned of it, they mourned for them deeply. And all said to their neighbors: “If we all do as our kindred have done and refuse to fight with the Gentiles for our lives and for our ordinances, they will quickly destroy us from the earth.” So they made this decision that day: “Let us fight against anyone who comes to attack us on the sabbath day; let us not all die as our kindred died in their hiding places.” Then there united with them a company of Hasideans, mighty warriors of Israel, all who offered themselves willingly for the law. And all who became fugitives to escape their troubles joined them and reinforced them. They organized an army, and struck down sinners in their anger and renegades in their wrath; the survivors fled to the Gentiles for safety. And Mattathias and his friends went around and tore down the altars; they forcibly circumcised all the uncircumcised boys that they found within the borders of Israel. They hunted down the arrogant, and the work prospered in their hands. They rescued the law out of the hands of the Gentiles and kings, and they never let the sinner gain the upper hand.
Now the days drew near for Mattathias to die, and he said to his sons: “Arrogance and scorn have now become strong; it is a time of ruin and furious anger. Now, my children, show zeal for the law, and give your lives for the covenant of our ancestors. “Remember the deeds of the ancestors, which they did in their generations; and you will receive great honor and an everlasting name. Was not Abraham found faithful when tested, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness? Joseph in the time of his distress kept the commandment, and became lord of Egypt. Phinehas our ancestor, because he was deeply zealous, received the covenant of everlasting priesthood. Joshua, because he fulfilled the command, became a judge in Israel. Caleb, because he testified in the assembly, received an inheritance in the land. David, because he was merciful, inherited the throne of the kingdom forever. Elijah, because of great zeal for the law, was taken up into heaven. Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael believed and were saved from the flame. Daniel, because of his innocence, was delivered from the mouth of the lions. “And so observe, from generation to generation, that none of those who put their trust in him will lack strength. Do not fear the words of sinners, for their splendor will turn into dung and worms. Today they will be exalted, but tomorrow they will not be found, because they will have returned to the dust, and their plans will have perished. My children, be courageous and grow strong in the law, for by it you will gain honor. “Here is your brother Simeon who, I know, is wise in counsel; always listen to him; he shall be your father. Judas Maccabeus has been a mighty warrior from his youth; he shall command the army for you and fight the battle against the peoples. You shall rally around you all who observe the law, and avenge the wrong done to your people. Pay back the Gentiles in full, and obey the commands of the law.” Then he blessed them, and was gathered to his ancestors. He died in the one hundred forty-sixth year and was buried in the tomb of his ancestors at Modein. And all Israel mourned for him with great lamentation.