The story of the Jewish feast of Hanukkah – Friday, 33rd week in ordinary time – 1 Maccabees 4:36-37, 52-59
The kingdom of the Greek king Antiochus the IV is threatened on every side. Faced with a need to defend his kingdom he decides to unify them through aggressive Hellenization and for money he resorted to the pillage and plunder of Jerusalem. For the Jews their problem was compounded by a struggle for power within the community and these included the high priestly office. All the parties in the struggle sought to win the favour of the king and Antiochus promised to support the one who acted most according to his will and to provide the money he so desperately needed for his military campaigns. So, he begins to meddle in Jewish religious affairs in a way that no other Greek ruler before him had done.
One reason for Antiochus’ aggression on Jerusalem was his chronic shortage of funds. But the rivalries among the Jews for power provided him with another reason. Rumour had reached Palestine that Antiochus had lost his life in his second campaign against the Egyptians. Relying on this rumour, Jason who had been dispossessed of his high priestly office came out of his exile and with a force of a thousand men invaded Jerusalem. He took the city and forced the high priest Menelaus to take refuge in a citadel. But he did not gain control of the government and of the city, probably because he massacred his own people and thus was alienated by them. He had to flee once more to the Transjordan. He was hunted, like a fugitive, till his death.
Interpreting these events as a rebellion against his rule, Antiochus ravaged Jerusalem and placed a royal commission there to keep the people in line. To enforce his rule Antiochus sent his commander, Appollonius to Jerusalem in early 167; he continued the reign of terror. Initially he presented himself to the Jews as a man of peace but then he showed his true colours and massacred many of the people and took others as slaves. He looted the city and partially destroyed it. He erected in Jerusalem a citadel called Acra (1 Mac 1:33-40). It was a Greek city within the larger city of Jerusalem. Acra remained a hated symbol of foreign domination for some twenty-five years. Antiochus was set to unleash a thorough Hellenization for the Jewish people; Yahweh was displaced in favour of Zeus or identified with Zeus. In 167 Antiochus issued an edict which cancelled the concessions made by his father. He prohibited the religious customs of the Jews and imposed Greek religious customs.