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Holiday Central > Chanukah > The Story of Chanukah > The Rise of Antiochus
Chanukah: The Rise of Antiochus
By: Rivka C. Berman, Contributor
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Around 175 BCE Antiochus IV, who gave himself the name Epiphanes – “God made manifest,” rose to power and ruled the Selucids. Seeking to prevent the Ptolmies from annexing Judea, Antiochus Epiphanes invades Judea and attempts to march into Ptolemy territory.

175-172 BCE Antiochus retreats to Judea in defeat. To strengthen his hold on the territory Antiochus attempts to smooth over the stubborn Jewish people. In an effort to do that Antiochus enforces Hellenistic culture in Judea. He builds a gymnasium next to the holy Temple in Jerusalem. He selects the pro-Greek Jew, Jason, for the high priesthood and establishes an ally in the highest Jewish office.

172 BCE some Jews were happy to absorb Greek culture, a ticket to their acceptance by high society. However, it is apparent that many Jews embrace the Greek culture, as Antiochus perceives the need to tackle the situation, invades Jerusalem, demolishes many of the city’s walls, and destroys the holy Temple.

Around this time, Antiochus enforces anti-Jewish laws. His decrees forbid Sabbath observance, Torah study, circumcision, and Rosh Hodesh - the proclamation of the new Jewish month. These acts restrict the observances that shape the Jewish concept of time (Sabbath and Rosh Hodesh), mind (Torah study), and body (circumcision). These harsh proclamations, along with other important details about the Maccabees, are recorded in I Maccabees, a book that is part of the apocrypha or Sefarim HaChitzoniyim, literally “outer books” or accounts that were not included in the biblical canon.

In I Maccabees, Antiochus’s harshness was recorded. Mass Torah scroll burnings are commanded. Those who dared to study Torah and women who circumcised their sons flirted with death. 

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