This word does not occur in Scripture. It was the name given to the leaders of the national party among the Jews who suffered in the persecution under Antiochus Epiphanes, who succeeded to the Syrian throne B.C. 175. It is supposed to have been derived from the Hebrew word (makkabah) meaning "hammer," as suggestive of the heroism and power of this Jewish family, who are, however, more properly called Asmoneans or Hasmonaeans, the origin of which is much disputed.
After the expulsion of Antiochus Epiphanes from Egypt by the Romans, he gave vent to his indignation on the Jews, great numbers of whom he mercilessly put to death in Jerusalem. He oppressed them in every way, and tried to abolish altogether the Jewish worship. Mattathias, an aged priest, then residing at Modin, a city to the west of Jerusalem, became now the courageous leader of the national party; and having fled to the mountains, rallied round him a large band of men prepared to fight and die for their country and for their religion, which was now violently suppressed. In 1Macc 2:60 is recorded his dying counsels to his sons with reference to the war they were now to carry on. His son Judas, "the Maccabee," succeeded him (B.C. 166) as the leader in directing the war of independence, which was carried on with great heroism on the part of the Jews, and was terminated in the defeat of the Syrians.
(a hammer ), The. This title, which was originally the surname of Judas, one of the sons of Mattathias, was afterward extended to the heroic family of which he was one of the noblest representatives. Asmonaeans or Hasmonaeans is the Proper name of the family, which is derived from Cashmon, great grandfather of Mattathias. The Maccabees were a family of Jews who resisted the authority of Antiochus Epiphanes king of Syria and his successors who had usurped authority over the Jews, conquered Jerusalem, and strove to introduce idolatrous worship. The standard of independence was first raised by Mattathias, a priest of the course of Joiarih. He seems, however, to have been already advanced in years when the rising was made, and he did not long survive the fatigues of active service. He died B.C. 166, having named Judas --apparently his third son--as his successor in directing the war of independence. After gaining several victories over the other generals of Antiochus, Judas was able to occupy Jerusalem except the "tower," and purified the temple exactly three years after its profanation. Nicanor was defeated, first at Capharsalama, and again in a decisive battle at Adasa B.C. 161, where he was slain. This victory was the greatest of Judas successes, and practically decided the question of Jewish independence; but shortly after Judas fell at Eleasa, fighting at desperate odds against the invaders. After the death of Judas, Jonathan his brother succeeded to the command, and later assumed the high-priestly office. He died B.C. 144, and was succeeded by Simon the last remaining brother of the Maccabaean family, who died B.C. 135. The efforts of both brothers were crowned with success. On the death of Simon, Johannes Hyrcanus, one of his sons, at once assumed the government, B.C. 135, and met with a peaceful death B.C. 105. His eldest son, Aristobulus I., who succeeded him B.C. 105-101, was the first who assumed the kingly title, though Simon had enjoyed the fullness of the kingly power. Alexander Jannaeus was the next successor B.C. 104-78. Aristobulus II. and Hyrcanus III. engaged in a civil war On the death of their mother, Alexandra, B.C. 78-69, resulting in the dethronement of Aristobulus II., B.C. 69-69, and the succession of Hyrcanus under Roman rule but without his kingly title, B.C. 63-40. From B.C. 40 to B.C. 37 Antigonus, a son of Aristobulus II., ruled, and with his two grandchildren, Aristobulus and Mariurnne, the Asmonaean dynasty ended. [E] indicates this entry was also found in Easton's Bible Dictionary