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in western Asia, they were numerically insignificant ; and they were also despised and undervalued. They seemed to be as sheep among wolves, — easy to be intimidated and even exterminated.
The outrage in the Temple was the consummation of a series of humiliations and crimes; for in addition to the desecration of the Jewish religion, Antiochus had taken Jerusalem with a great army, had entered into the Temple, where the national treasures were deposited (for it was the custom even among Greeks and Romans to deposit the public money in the temples), and had taken away to his capital the golden candlesticks, the altar of incense, the table of shew bread, and the various vessels and censers and crowns which were used in the service of God, — treasures that amounted to one thousand eight hundred talents, spared by Alexander. So that there came great mourning upon Israel throughout the land, both for the desecration of sacred places, the plunder of the Temple, and the massacre of the people. Jerusalem was sacked and burned, women and children were carried away as captives, and a great fortress was erected on an eminence that overlooked the Temple and city, in which was placed a strong garrison. The plundered inhabitants fled from Jerusalem, which became the habitation of strangers, with all its glory gone. “Her sanctuary was laid waste, her feasts were turned into mourning, her Sabbath into a
reproach, and her honor into contempt.” Many even of the Jews became apostate, profaned the Sabbath, and sacrificed to idols, rather than lose their lives; for the persecution was the most unrelenting in the annals of martyrdom, even to the destruction of women and children.
The insulted and decimated Jews now rallied under Mattathias, the founder of the Asmonean dynasty.
The immediate occasion of the Jewish uprising, which was ultimately to end in national independence and in the rule of a line of native princes, was as unpremeditated as the throwing out of the window at the council chamber at Prague those deputies who supported the Emperor of Germany in his persecution of the Protestants, which led to the Thirty Years' War and the establishment of religious liberty in Germany. At this crisis among the Jews, a hero arose in their midst as marvellous as Gustavus Adolphus.
In Modin, or Modein, a town near the sea, but the site of which is now unknown, there lived an old man of a priestly family named Asmon, who was rich and influential. His name was Mattathias, and he had five grown-up sons, each distinguished for bravery, piety, and patriotism. He was so prominent in his little city for fidelity to the faith of his fathers, as well as for social position, that when an officer of Antiochus camo to Modin to enforce the decrees of his reyal masier, he
made splendid offers to Mattathias to induce him to favor the crusade against his countrymen. Mattathias not only contemptuously rejected these overtures, but he openly proclaimed his resolution to adhere to his religion, - a man who could not be bribed, and who could not be intimidated. “Be it far from us,” he said, “to forsake law and ordinances. We will not hearken to the king's words, to turn aside to the right hand or to the left.”
When he had thus given noble attestation of his resolution to adhere to the faith of his fathers, there came forward an apostate Jew to sacrifice on the heathen altar, which it seems was erected by royal command in all the cities and towns of Judæa. This so inflamed the indignation of the brave old man that he ran and slew the Jew upon the altar, together with the king's commissioner, and pulled down the altar.
For this, Mattathias was obliged to flee, and he escaped to the mountains, taking with him his five sons and all who would join his standard of revolt, crying with a loud voice, “Let every one zealous for the Law follow me!” A considerable multitude fled with him to the wilderness of Judæa, on the west of the Dead Sea, taking with them their wives and children and cattle. But this flight from persecution speedily became known to the troops that were quartered on Mount Zion, a strong fortress which controlled the Temple and city, and a detachment was sent in pursuit. The fugitives, zealous for the Law, refused to defend themselves on the Sabbath day, and the result was that they all perished, with their wives and children. Their fate made such a powerful impression on Mattathias, that it was resolved henceforth to fight on the Sabbath day, if attacked. The patriots had to choose between two alternatives, — to be utterly rooted out, or to defend themselves on the Sabbath, and thus violate the letter of the Law. Mattathias was sufficiently enlightened to perceive that fighting on the Sabbath, if attacked, was a supreme necessity, remembering doubtless that Moses recognized the right of necessary work even on the sacred day of rest. The law of selfdefence is an ultimate one, and appeals to the consciousness of universal humanity. Strange as it may seem, the Sabbath has ever been a favorite day with generals to fight grand battles in every Christian country.
Mattathias, although a very old man, now put forth superhuman energies, raised an army, drove the persecuting soldiers out of the country, pulled down the heathen altars, and restored the Law; and when the time came for him to die, at the age of one hundred and forty-five years, — if we may credit the history, for Josephus and the Apocrypha are here our chief authorities, — he collected around him his five sons, all wise and valiant men, and enjoined them to be united among themselves, and to be faithful to the Law, – calling to their minds the noted examples from the Hebrew Scriptures, Abraham, Joseph, Joshua, David, Elijah, who were obedient to the commandments of God. He did not speak of patriotism, although an intense lover of his country. He exhorted his sons to be simply obedient to the Law, – not, probably, in the restricted and literal sense of the word, but in the idea of being faithful to God, even as Abraham was obedient before the Law was given. The glory which he assured them they would thus win was not the éclat of victory, or even of national deliverance, but the imperishable renown which comes from righteousness. He promised a glorious immortality to those who fell in battle in defence of the truth and of their liberties, reminding us of the promises which Mohammed made to his followers. But the great incentive to bravery which he urged was the ultimate reward of virtue, which runs through the Scriptures, even the favor of God. The heroes of chivalry fought for the favor of ladies, the praises of knights, and the friendship of princes; the reward of modern generals is exaltation in popular estimation, the increase of political power, the accumulation of wealth, and sometimes the consciousness of rendering important services to their country, — an exalted patriotism, such as marked Washington and Cromwell. But the reward which