International Fellowship of Christians and Jews
Bookmark and Share

History of IsraelHasmonean Dynasty

The Hasmonean Dynasty begins with the famous story of Hanukkah. Following Alexander the Great's conquest of much of the ancient world, the Holy Land was placed under control of the Seleucid Greek rulers, a Hellenstic empire. The Seleucids restricted Torah study and desecrated the Holy Temple, in an attempt to eradicate "backward" Jewish religion and culture; the Greeks wanted the Jews to dress, eat, and think like they did, and rooted out Jews still practicing their beliefs.

However, the Jewish people rebelled in 166 BCE. Led by the heroic Judah the Maccabee, of the Hasmonean family, the Jews were successful in militarily repelling Greek rule. They entered the Temple and purified it, and found the miraculous jug of oil, which, legend tells, though it had only enough oil to light the Menorah (candelabra) for one night, lasted for eight nights.

After this triumphant return to Jerusalem, the period of Hasmonean rule began. More Hasmonean victories, combined with a weakening of Seleucid authority, led the Seleucids to return autonomy of Israel to the Jewish people. The Hasmoneans ruled in the Holy Land for close to a century. The Hasmonean leaders believed they were continuing the reign of the Shoftim (Judges) and Kings of early Israel, and they consolidated legal, religious, political and military power. They also expanded the physical boundaries of the land, returning to almost Solomonic-era borders. Jewish life flourished under the Hasmonean leaders.

Eventually, though, the Hasmonean era came to an end, brought to submission under the Roman emperor Herod the Great in 37 BCE. The legacy of the powerful Hasmonean dynasty was so great, however, that Herod married a Hasmonean princess in order to strengthen his legitimacy as a ruler and shore up support for his reign.