VII. Antiochus’s Policy toward the Jews. The measures which Antiochus employed to crush the faith of Judaism were relentlessly thorough. He began with the seizure of Jerusalem, the tearing down of its walls, the fortifying and garrisoning of its citadel with Syrian soldiers and apostate Jews, and the slaughter of all who refused to accede to his demands. Not only was the temple service stopped, but the altar was torn down and desecrated and a heathen altar to Zeus—the abominable desolation of the book of Daniel—was reared in its place. On this swine’s flesh was sacrificed, and the presence of harlots in the sacred precincts completed its ceremonial and moral pollution. All the surviving inhabitants of Jerusalem were compelled to sacrifice and pay homage to the heathen gods. Those who retained copies of their laws or persisted in maintaining the customs of their fathers were slain. When many fled to the outlying towns, emissaries of Antiochus pursued them, demanding of each citizen public recognition of the Greek gods. A majority of the Jews apparently yielded to these drastic measures and joined the ranks of the apostates. Of the many crises through which Israel passed this was in many ways the most severe; but then it gave to the world some of the noblest martyrs. The early Christians who perished for their faith were inspired by the example of their Master and by the hope of blessed, individual immortality. To the Jews of the Greek period, however, the great calamity that overtook them came as a sudden and unexpected blow. No clear hope of immortality at first inspired them, for, like Ben Sira and the earlier teachers of the race, the majority of them probably regarded the life beyond death as a passionless existence in the land of darkness. Even the expectation of family or racial immortality seemed denied by the dark outlook. They died as did Eleazar, the aged scribe, simply because of their devotion to the God and laws of their fathers, and because that loyalty meant more to them than life.
[Sidenote: I Macc. 2:1-4] At that time arose Mattathias the son of John the son of Simeon, a priest of the sons of Joarib, from Jerusalem; and he dwelt in Modein. And he had five sons, John, who was surnamed Gaddis, Simon, who was called Thassi, Judas, who was called Maccabeus, Eleazar, who was called Avaran, Jonathan, who was called Apphus.
[Sidenote: I Macc. 2:5-14] When he saw the sacrilegious acts that were being committed in Judah and in Jerusalem, he said,
Woe to me! Why was I born
To see the ruin of my people,
And the ruin of the holy city,
And to dwell there while it was being given into the hands of the foe,
The sanctuary into the hands of foreigners?
The temple has become as though it had no glory,
Its splendid vessels have been carried into captivity.