After the death of his father Mattathias, Judah assumed the position of leadership in regards to the revolt and followed the deathbed disposition given by his father. He would prove to be the right choice for the role. In this article, you will learn about some of the tactics and events that would affect the progress of the Jewish revolt.
In the First Book of Maccabees, Judah receives praise for the bravery and military skill that he possessed. At the time, he had the qualities that were needed for the commander that would take over Mattathias’ role.
Early on in the rebellion, Judah received the surname Maccabee. It is thought that this name came from the Aramaic translation of ‘hammer’ or ‘sledgehammer.’ This would have come from the descriptions of his actions in battle. There are other thoughts regarding the addition of the surname, including a connection to his father’s name and a possible acronym for a verse in the Torah.
Judah was well aware of how superior the forces of the Seleucids were during the first two years of the revolt. He established a strategy to avoid engagement with their regular army forces, but instead, he wanted to embrace guerilla warfare tactics. He hoped that it would place insecurity into the minds of his opponents. It was this plan that allowed Judah to win a wave of victories.
Judah was also at the center of a range of decisive events. For example, he defeated a small Assyrian force that was under the command of Apollonius (who was the governor of Samaria). At the Battle of Nahal-el-Haramiah, he killed Apollonius and took possession of the leader’s sword. Until his death, Judah used the weapon as a symbol of his vengeance. Following this victory, the Jewish cause gained a lot of new recruits.
Judah Maccabee made an agreement with the Roman Republic in what was known as the Roman-Jewish Treaty. This took place in 161 BCE and became the first contact between the Jewish people and the Romans that was on record. When Judah died, the Jews were compelled to renew their resistance.
The third leader of the Maccabees was Jonathan Maccabeus (who ruled until 143 BCE). He was a significant leader because he was the first to hold the title of High Priest. Jonathan was the youngest of the five sons of Mattathias. He served under his brother Judas in the rebellion and actively fought in the battles against the Seleucids. While he wasn’t as fierce as his brother, he was still full of courage. Judas died in the Battle of Elasa. Bacchides had added this battle as a notch on his belt. He was a Seleucid general that served under Demetrius I Soter. Bacchides continued to rage against the Maccabean party. But, another factor played a role in the fighting. Famine broke out across the land.