166 BC

- ר ה ע -

Mattathias Appoints Judas to Lead the Revolt Against the Seleucid Empire

166 BC

1 Maccabees 3:10

In 166 BC, Mattathias appoints his son, Judas Maccabeus, to take over as commander of the rebellion that Mattathias himself had initiated. Though Judas is not Mattathias’ firstborn, he is nevertheless chosen for this task because of his exceptional courage and leadership skills. Judas devises guerilla warfare tactics to target the Seleucids in areas that are less accessible for their formations. The surprise ambushes and night attacks are brilliantly executed by Judas’ small yet effective group.

The first battle takes place in Samaria. The rebels assault Apolonius, governor of the region, and his entourage near Ma’ale Levona as they march from Shechem to Jerusalem. Judas kills the Seleucid officer and takes his sword. Following Apolonius’ embarrassing defeat, Antiochus sends Seron with twice as many troops to Judea. This time, they decide to approach Jerusalem from the nearby foothills. Judas reassures his soldiers that their faith and devotion are more powerful than their enemies’ military strength. Once Seron’s contingent ascends to Beth Horon, the Jewish rebels take them by surprise and rout them out.

Judas Maccabeus does not shy away from the powerful Greek forces. Instead, he finds every possible opportunity to break through and shine, thus turning the Jews’ plight into a positive and blessed opportunity. The Hasmonean family mobilizes against the enemy – who is certainly superior in terms of strength, weapons, and numbers – and makes use of the central weapon at their disposal; a weapon that proves to be even more powerful and decisive – their fearlessness. The Hasmoneans’ unwavering belief in the victory of spirit enables them a significant edge on the battlefield. 

“When Seron, the commander of the Syrian army, heard that Judas had gathered a large company, including a body of faithful soldiers who stayed with him and went out to battle, 14 he said, “I will make a name for myself and win honor in the kingdom. I will make war on Judas and his companions, who scorn the king’s command.” 15 Once again a strong army of godless men joined him and went up with him to help him, to take vengeance on the Israelites. When he approached the ascent of Beth-horon, Judas went out to meet him with a small company. 17 But when they saw the army coming to meet them, they said to Judas, “How can we, few as we are, fight against so great and so strong a multitude? And we are faint, for we have eaten nothing today.” 18 Judas replied, “It is easy for many to be hemmed in by few, for in the sight of heaven there is no difference between saving by many or by few. 19 It is not on the size of the army that victory in battle depends, but strength comes from heaven” 1 Maccabees 3: 13-25

Fearlessness is not needing to “find the courage”, because we already have it; certainty in the Creator’s love enables us to be fearless.