This history begins when Alexander the Great, son of Philip of Macedonia, marched from Macedonia and attacked Darius, king of Persia and Media. Alexander enlarged the Greek Empire by defeating Darius and seizing his throne.
He fought many battles, captured fortified cities, and put the kings of the region to death.
As he advanced to the ends of the earth, he plundered many nations; and when he had conquered the world, he became proud and arrogant.
By building up a strong army, he dominated whole nations and their rulers, and forced everyone to pay him taxes.
When Alexander had been emperor for twelve years, he fell ill and realized that he was about to die. He called together his generals, noblemen who had been brought up with him since his early childhood, and he divided his empire, giving a part to each of them.
After his death, the generals took control,
and each had himself crowned king of his own territory. The descendants of these kings ruled for many generations and brought a great deal of misery on the world.
The wicked ruler Antiochus Epiphanes, son of King Antiochus the Third of Syria, was a descendant of one of Alexander's generals. Antiochus Epiphanes had been a hostage in Rome before he became king of Syria in the year 137. 1
At that time there appeared in the land of Israel a group of traitorous Jews who had no regard for the Law and who had a bad influence on many of our people. They said, "Let's come to terms with the Gentiles, for our refusal to associate with them has brought us nothing but trouble."
This proposal appealed to many people,
and some of them became so enthusiastic about it that they went to the king and received from him permission to follow Gentile customs.
They built in Jerusalem a stadium like those in the Greek cities.
They had surgery performed to hide their circumcision, abandoned the holy covenant, started associating with Gentiles, and did all sorts of other evil things. 2
When Antiochus had firmly established himself as king, he decided to conquer Egypt and rule that country as well as Syria.
He invaded Egypt with a large fleet of ships and a powerful army, including chariots, elephants, and cavalry.
When the attack came, King Ptolemy of Egypt turned and fled, and many of his soldiers were killed.
Antiochus was able to capture the fortified cities of Egypt and plunder the whole land.
In the year 143, after the conquest of Egypt, Antiochus marched with a great army against the land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem.
In his arrogance, he entered the Temple and took away the gold altar, the lampstand with all its equipment,
the table for the bread offered to the Lord, the cups and bowls, the gold fire pans, the curtain, and the crowns. He also stripped all the gold from the front of the Temple
and carried off the silver and gold and everything else of value, including all the treasures that he could find stored there.
Then he took it all to his own country. He had also murdered many people and boasted arrogantly about it.
There was great mourning everywhere in the land of Israel.
Rulers and leaders groaned in sorrow. Young men and young women grew weak. The beauty of our women faded.
Every bridegroom sang a funeral song, and every bride sat mourning in her room.
All our people were clothed with shame, and our land trembled for them.
Two years later Antiochus sent a large army from Mysia against the towns of Judea. When the soldiers entered Jerusalem,
their commander spoke to the people, offering them terms of peace and completely deceiving them. Then he suddenly launched a fierce attack on the city, dealing it a major blow and killing many of the people.
He plundered the city, set it on fire, and tore down its buildings and walls.
He and his army took the women and children as prisoners and seized the cattle.
Then Antiochus and his forces built high walls and strong towers in the area north of the Temple, turning it into a fort.
They brought in a group of traitorous Jews and installed them there.
They also brought in arms and supplies and stored in the fort all the loot that they had taken in Jerusalem. This fort became a great threat to the city.
The fort was a threat to the Temple, a constant, evil menace for Israel.
Innocent people were murdered around the altar; the Holy Place was defiled by murderers.
The people of Jerusalem fled in fear, and the city became a colony of foreigners. Jerusalem was foreign to its own people, who had been forced to abandon the city.
Her Temple was as empty as a wilderness; her festivals were turned into days of mourning, her Sabbath joy into shame. Her honor became an object of ridicule.
Her shame was as great as her former glory, and her pride was turned into deepest mourning.
Antiochus now issued a decree that all nations in his empire should abandon their own customs and become one people. All the Gentiles and even many of the Israelites submitted to this decree. They adopted the official pagan religion, offered sacrifices to idols, and no longer observed the Sabbath.
The king also sent messengers with a decree to Jerusalem and all the towns of Judea, ordering the people to follow customs that were foreign to the country.
He ordered them not to offer burnt offerings, grain offerings, or wine offerings in the Temple, and commanded them to treat Sabbaths and festivals as ordinary work days.
They were even ordered to defile the Temple and the holy things in it.
They were commanded to build pagan altars, temples, and shrines, and to sacrifice pigs and other unclean animals there.
They were forbidden to circumcise their sons and were required to make themselves ritually unclean in every way they could,
so that they would forget the Law which the Lord had given through Moses and would disobey all its commands.
The penalty for disobeying the king's decree was death.
The king not only issued the same decree throughout his whole empire, but he also appointed officials to supervise the people and commanded each town in Judea to offer pagan sacrifices.
Many of the Jews were ready to forsake the Law and to obey these officials. They defiled the land with their evil,
and their conduct forced all true Israelites to hide wherever they could.
On the fifteenth day of the month of Kislev in the year 145, King Antiochus set up "The Awful Horror" on the altar of the Temple, and pagan altars were built in the towns throughout Judea. 3
Pagan sacrifices were offered in front of houses and in the streets.
Any books of the Law which were found were torn up and burned,
and anyone who was caught with a copy of the sacred books or who obeyed the Law was put to death by order of the king.
Month after month these wicked people used their power against the Israelites caught in the towns.
On the twenty-fifth of the month, these same evil people offered sacrifices on the pagan altar erected on top of the altar in the Temple.
Mothers who had allowed their babies to be circumcised were put to death in accordance with the king's decree. 4
Their babies were hung around their necks, and their families and those who had circumcised them were put to death.
But many people in Israel firmly resisted the king's decree and refused to eat food that was ritually unclean.
They preferred to die rather than break the holy covenant and eat unclean food - and many did die.
In his anger God made Israel suffer terribly.