U. Rappaport

Haifa University

It is common knowledge that 1 Maccabees follows the model of Biblical historiography, especially that of the First Prophets (Neviim Rishonim). The similarities between 1 Maccabees and these books show that the author of 1 Maccabees intentionally imitated them and indeed their impact on his writing is strong and clear. This can be seen from various aspects.

1. Citations from the Bible and familiarity with its contents, which are not limited to Neviim Rishonim (e.g. VII, 17 and Ps. LXXIX, 2-3).

2. Indirect references to Biblical passages or verses (e.g. Mattathias' testament, in II, 49 ff or II, 26).

3. Biblical idioms and phrases (XVI, 23-24; II 69), including an anachronistic geographical onomasticon. 4. Imitation of Biblical prototypes 2

But in addition to the stylistic and verbal relations between 1 Maccabees and especially the First Prophets there are other uses of the Biblical materials. One important aspect, which will concern us here, is the historiographical approach and the theological understanding of history of the author of 1 Maccabees. We will try to show that the differences between his approach and the Biblical one are more important than the similarities, and that he did not inherit Biblical historiography unchanged.

The common feature of both Biblical historiography and 1 Maccabees is that they relate history as being Human. Human-beings are playing on the historical scene. Surely God is "the Director of the play", who executes his plans through men. Their courage or cowardice, wisdom or stupidity, confidence in God or arrogance are the results of some Divine programme or intention. But it is through men that God achieves his targets not by miracles or angels or any metaphysical power.3

Now, let us look more closely at God's role in Neviim Rishonim on the one hand, and in 1 Maccabees on the other hand. In 1 Maccabees God's plan is usually seen as consumated, from a human perspective, post factum. That is to say, that after all was done and understood in human terms, then there is a referrence to an act of God 4, whereas in Neviim Rishonim, God's intentions precede the historical event, which runs its way accordingly, though in a human way.5

This difference becomes clear when we look more closely, for example, at what is told about the election of Mattathias' family to save Israel in 1 Macc. V:62: "They (Joseph and Azaria, see below) did not belong to the family of those men, through whom deliverance was given to Israel".

This phrase is a very important one in 1Macc. It is the cornerstone of our understanding of it as a "dynastic book" written by a "court writer", an understanding about which, in general terms, there is a consensus among scholars. Yet 1Macc's outlook is different from the way and the conception of God's election of Saul or David in 1 Sam 6.

There are various differences in these respective elections. Not only the presence of a prophet in those of Saul and David and his absence in that of the Maccabees points to a significant difference 7, but even more so the order of events.

Both Saul and David were first chosen and anointed, and only afterwards became kings and performed their exploits. On the contrary neither Mattathias nor Judas were ever personally chosen. Their election is mentioned only by the way, and only after it became evident, because of the defeat of Joseph and Azariah (below). This might have been a result of political motivation, to leave open the road to the throne for Simon and his descendants, and also of the fact that there was no prophet in Israel anymore. But from the historiographical point of view it is interesting to note that in 1 Maccabees the mention of the Divine election of the Hasmonean family is told only after there was a factual evidence about this election. Mattathias, and esp. Judas, vindicated abundantly their ability to deliver Israel. Only at this stage, and after the defeat of the two generals, Joseph and Azariah, who "did not belong to the family ..." (ibid.), the Divine election of the Hasmoneans is announced. God's election is a post factum act at least historiographically, though one can argue theologically, that it was premeditated. God is not even mentioned explicitly in this sentence, though he is evidently the one who have chosen the Hasmoneans to deliver Israel.

As for Simon's appointment, which was constitutional, not divine, it should be remembered that this event is included in a document (1Macc, XIV, 27-49), not in the text of 1 Maccabees itself, and so it does not necessarly reflect his own views.

The diminution of the Divine role in history is also evident when 1 Maccabees is compared to the book of Judges. It might have well served the author of 1 Maccabees 8, with its motive of h(w#y, yet we are not told, neither about Mattathias nor about his sons, that they were chosen to deliver Israel, before they have actually done it 9.

Additional examples of the diminution, or even disappeareance of God from the historical scene or from 1Macc's author's mind can be cited. For example, when Simon repudiates Antiochus VII's territorial demands he leans back on historical rights, not on divine promise (XV, 33-34); When Tryphon fails to invade Judea because of an unexpected snow, nothing hints that God delivered Judea from the invader (XIII, 22); And Antiochus IV's death is not explicitely refered to as a divine retribution, though it is recognized to be a punishment for his crimes against the Jews (VI, 12-13).

No wonder then that in battle too God's intervention is not a pre-condition for victory. God is either not mentioned at all (The battle of Judas against Apollonius, 1Macc, III, 10-12), or is only supposed to instill courage in the hearts of Judas' soldiers (III, 18-22), or cowardice in the heart of the enemy, or is expected to decide the result of a forthcoming battle and to respond to prayer (VII, 37-38), but his decision is unknown (III, 60; IV, 8-11), and his help is recognized post factum (IV, 24-25).

These cases are different from similar events in Biblical historiography, be it in the battle of Israel against the Philistines in Even HaEzer (1Sam, VII, 10), or the defeat of Sennacherib before the walls of Jerusalem. It is also diametrically opposed to the expectations of the author of Daniel, VIII, 25 or IX, 45, for the destruction of Antiochus IV.10

There is no time to discuss additional examples of such departures from biblical historiography in 1Macc. But the more serious question is: In what way can we understand these differences as an expression of the Zeitgeist of the Hasmonean period in general and of the cultural atmosphere in the Hasmonean court in particular?11

I prefer to refrain from conclusions, and only to suggest possible directions, which may be productively pursued.

1. Evidently the Bible served as the primary classical model for almost every literary creative work in Judea,12 and even fiercely opposing trends (e.g. Hasmoneans versus Qumranites, 1Macc versus Apocalypticism) draw on the Bible for inspiration and guidance.

2. God's role is depicted in contradictory ways by two opposed trends in Jewish society. It is minimized among the ruling circles and maximized by the sectarian/apocalyptic opposition. This looks somehow as a symmetric contradiction, when both parties are distancing diametrically from their Biblical models.

3. How much of it is the impact of external influence, and how much an internal development?

4. How is it related to other major trends in Second Temple's Judaism?

5. How much does it help us in comprehending the Hasmonean world view, especially because 1 Maccabees is the only complete and unreserved pro-Hasmonean document?

All the above is only one aspect, among many, which may help us in checking the pulse of Judean society. 1Macc's attitude towards Rome and towards military and political violence in general, in comparison to the DSS's sect, is another one.13 Examination of the impact of Hellenism on 1Macc, and on some other phenomena in the Hasmonean state14, may contribute as well to the same end.

To sum up, without using evaluative terminology, it seems clear that the gap within Jewish society was broadening and becoming more distinct at the period under discussion.


1 This short paper was written when I was fellow in the Institute for Advanced Studies in Jerusalem, in the year 1995/6. I would like to thank the Institute for the excellent conditions of research I enjoyed, and my colleagues professors T. Rajak and D. Schwartz, for discussing with me this paper, the faults of which are my responsibility alone. [Back to text]

2 See J. A. Goldstein, 1 Maccabees, 1976, passim. and D. Dimant and T. Rajak (141-142), cited below in note 11. [Back to text]

3 Surely there are miracles and direct Divine intervention here and there in Neviim Rishonim, more in Joshua and Judges, less in Samuel and Kings, but they disappear completely in 1 Maccabees. [Back to text]

4 Even this is not always so, and, surprisingly, Antiochus IV's death, though said to be a retaliation for his crimes against the Jews (VI, 12-13), is not defined explicitly as a divine punishment (Cf. to IX, 54-56, but also to VII, 38). Another example is XIII, 22, mentioned below. [Back to text]

5 See Seligman, "The Might of Man and the Deliverance of God--Dual Causality on Biblical Historical Thought," Studies in Biblical Literature 1992, 62-81, and what he calls hlwpk twytbys Seligman refers to D. Flusser (p. 73), who noted the similarity between Judges and Samuel and 1 Maccabees, whereas we are more interested with 1 Maccabees departure from them. [Back to text]

6 For Saul's election see: VIII, 22; IX, 15 17; X, 1 (first version). X, 20 24 (second version). For David's election see: XV, 10 XVI, 13. [Back to text]

7 Since 1Macc's author (see IV, 46; IX, 27; XIV, 41) and others (see Ps, LXXIV, 9) recognized that at that time prophecy came to an end, it may be somewhat hazarduous to ascertain 1Macc's mentalite through it. Nevertheless it might have served well his dynastic predilection for the Hasmoneans and their dynastic interest. [Back to text]

8 Who was well acquainted with the book of Judges. See 1Macc, IX, 73. [Back to text]

9 Cf. 1 Macc. II, 1 ("In those days Mattathias ... moved from Jerusalem and settled in Modein"), as well as III, 1, to various verses in Judges: "The Lord raised up to them a deliverer". [Back to text]

10 Of course, it should be mentioned that the point of departure of many Apocalypses was not the Biblical historiography, but prophecy. See M. E. Stone, "Apocalyptic Literature", in Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period, Assen, 1984, 384-388. [Back to text]

11 It could have been interesting to compare 1Macc's attitude towards the divinity to the book of Esther, where God is not at all mentioned. Yet there are various differences between the two books. Their literary genre is different and in contrast from Esther 1Macc mentions God very frequently. So it is too risky to draw conclusions from this interesting comparison. [Back to text]

12 See D. Dimant, "Use and Interpretation of Mikra in the Apocrypha and Pseudoepigrapha", in Mikra (ed. J. Moulder), Assen, 1988, 379-419; T. Rajak, "The Sense of History in Jewish Intertestamental Writing", Oudt. St., esp. 132-142, which deals also with the Jewish diaspora's writings. [Back to text]

13 See D. Flusser, "The Kingdom of Rome in the Eyes of the Hasmoneans and as seen by the Essenes", ZION 48 (1983), 149-176, in Hebrew. [Back to text]

14 See U. Rappaport, "On the Hellenization of the Hasmoneans", Tarbiz 60 (1991) 477-503 (a shorter version in English in Jewish Assimilation, Acculturation and Accomodation [ed. M. Mor], Lanham, 1991, 1-13). [Back to text]

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