Persian rule was overthrown by the invasion of the Macedonian armies of Alexander the Great in 332 B.C. Helen Chapin Metz relates that “Alexander destroyed the Persian Empire but largely ignored Judah. After Alexander’s death, his generals divided– and subsequently fought over– his empire.”
The squabble held as its two chief participants the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt, which was apathetic toward Jewish religious practices and tolerant of them, and the Seleucid dynasty of Syria/Mesopotamia, which desired to impose the Greek polytheism upon the Jewish people, and, more importantly, to rob them of the religion that formed their cultural identity in order to create tributaries less capable of organized resistance.
King Antiochus IV, in the year 175 B.C., invaded Palestine from Syria, overthrew the scattered and inefficient Egyptian administration, and destroyed the Second Temple eight years into the war. This, contrary to the ruler’s expectations of panic, sparked a massive outrage among the Hebrews, who rose in revolt, headed by the nobleman Judas Maccabeus.
To retaliate, Antiochus mandated sacrifices of swine’s flesh in all the standing Jewish shrines, which further sparked the antagonism of the Hebrews. For some twenty years, a guerilla war was waged until Seleucid rule became thoroughly undermined and Jerusalem was regained.
Allegedly, upon rebuilding the Temple and igniting the sacred Menorah, Judas and his followers witnessed an inexplicable occurrence as the oil with which they had supported the lights endured for seven more nights than expected. This evolved into the tradition of Hanukkah, a sacred holiday aimed to celebrate the supposed devotion of God to the plight of the Hebrews.
Maccabeus ascended to power and alongside his brother, Simon, organized the Hasmonean dynasty, which was a theocratic order rather than a monarchy, the ruler possessing a vast majority of his powers in the realm of worship, fulfilling the role of High Priest. The Hasmonean dynasty had as its first ruler a priest by the name of Mattathias, from the settlement of Modin to the northwest of Jerusalem.
Chapin Metz states that “Despite priestly rule, Jewish society became Hellenized except in its generally staunch adherence to monotheism. Although rural life was relatively unchanged, cities such as Jerusalem rapidly adopted the Greek language, sponsored games and sports, and in more subtle ways adopted and absorbed the culture of the Hellenes.”
This in no manner eradicated the Hebrews’ cultural identity but rather acted as a filtration process by which those aspects of Greek culture were diffused into Judea that were not mutually exclusive with the religious doctrines of the Hebrews.
Arkenberg, J.S., ed. “Ancient History Sourcebook: Kurash (Cyrus) the Great: The Decree of Return for the Jews, 539 BCE.” Ezra. The Hebrew Bible. “Book of Ezra 1:1-8” Available: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/539cyrus1.html. February 6, 2002.
Arkenberg, J.S., ed. “Ancient History Sourcebook: Kurash (Cyrus) the Great: The Decree of Return for the Jews, 539 BCE.” The Great, Cyrus. The Kurash Prism. Available: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/539cyrus1.html. February 6, 2002.
CenturyOne. “THE GIFTS OF THE JEWS: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels (Hinges of History Series Volume 2).” (A book review of Thomas Cahill’s work.) Available: http://www.centuryone.com/8249-3.html. February 6, 2002.
Helen Chapin Metz, ed. “EARLY ISRAEL.[Excerpted from Israel: A Country Study.Helen Chapin Metz, ed. Washington, DC: Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress, 1988].” Available: http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/iltoc.html. February 6, 2002.
Kamm, Josephine. The Hebrew People: A History of the Jews. New York: McGraw-Hill: 1967.
Lipman, David E. “Gates to Jewish Heritage. Bar Kochba: The Bar Kochba Revolt.”Available: http://www.jewishgates.org/personalities/bar.stm. February 6, 2002.
Silvestri, Anthony. “Dr. Silvestri’s WWW Ancient World History Resource. III. The Hebrews.” Available: http://www.drhistory.org/main.html. January 27, 2001.
Speake, Graham, ed. The Cultural Atlas of the World: The Bible.Alexandria, Va., Stonehenge Press, 1992.
West, Jim. “Ancient Israelite Marriage Customs.” Available: http://www.theology.edu/marriage.htm. February 6, 2002.