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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

The Author's Views.

1.

Jews and non-Jews: the author takes for granted a sharp dichotomy between Jew and Gentile. This may be rooted in a traditional view, similar to the ideology expressed in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah (5th cent. BCE), but strengthened by the religious persecution under Antiochus IV and the Maccabean revolt. However, though stressing repeatedly the hatred of the nations round about, he is proud of the success of the Jews in forging friendly relations and alliances and in being honoured by various nations and rulers. The incongruency in this attitude towards the non-Jewish world is typical of Hasmonean politics in general—a mixture of national separation (related to religious abhorrence of paganism) with a pragmatic approach to politics.

2.

God and the Jews: as in biblical historiography, the author postulates that God directs history according to his will. Yet, though history is directed by God, he does not intervene directly in human affairs, in contrast to some instances in the Bible (cf. e.g. Josh 10:11–14; 2 Kings 19:35 ) and 2 Maccabees, where miracles abound.

God's intervention is through human beings, in whom he instils courage or cowardice, wisdom or arrogance and stupidity. Success and failure are manifestations of God's will and plan, but this does not efface the human values of courage, devotion, wisdom, cunning, etc. It is similar to some elements of the ‘fourth philosophy’ described by Josephus, which postulated that God helps those who take action themselves (Ant. 18 § 5). Some scholars see these and other views, such as the absence of reference to an afterlife (cf. 9:7–10 ), as Sadducean. The present writer refrains from such a label, on the grounds that our knowledge of Sadduceanism is extremely poor and because it is not necessary to assume that the expression of every idea should be defined on sectarian lines.

3.

The role of Mattathias's family: the author's political views may justify his description as a court historian. His book serves Hasmonean propaganda well, especially for John Hyrcanus. He attributes to Mattathias's family a divine role to deliver Israel ( 5:62 ), thus giving legitimacy to the Hasmonean dynasty in face of the traditional right both of the house of David to kingship and of the house of Zadok to the high-priesthood. In addition to this general message in favour of the house of Mattathias, there is a clear preference for Simon, the father of Hyrcanus and founder of the dynasty, among the sons of Mattathias. To him the author allocates the first and major role in Mattathias's testament. ( 2:49–64 ), where it is said that ‘he [Simeon] shall be your father’ (v. 65 ).

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