With Maccabees as their leaders, jews regained religious liberty

After Antiochus IV died on an expedition against the Parthians in 164 B.C., Judas Maccabaeus became governor of Palestine and restored the Jews' religious life.

The Maccabees reclaimed the temple after three years of fighting. After cleansing the temple of idols, the Maccabees prepared to rededicate the temple. They found only one cruse of oil remained to light the temple lamp. But when the oil was lit, miraculously the lights burned for eight days. Judas Maccabaeus proclaimed that the event be commemorated as a festival, and through the centuries, the eight candles of a menorah have burned beginning on the 25th day of the Hebrew month Kislev. (This year that festival, Hanukkah, began on Nov. 27, with the lighting of one candle at sundown. On the second night, two candles were lit, and so on.)When Judas was killed by the Syrians in battle, he was succeeded by a brother, Jonathan, who was murdered a short time afterward. The command fell to another brother, Simon, who appealed to the Romans and was placed in a position of authority.

Rome had a crucial role in helping the Jews under the Maccabees become virtually independent of Seleucid and Syrian kings. In 63 B.C., Rome came into possession of Palestine when the Roman general Pompey seized Jerusalem. Hycranus, a descendant of Simon Maccabaeus, was made governor of Palestine. This appointment marked the beginning of the spread of Rome's rule throughout the area that had once been the Maccabaean realm.

With the Maccabees as their leaders, the Jews were granted full religious rights and political liberty, but they were required to pay a yearly tribute to Rome.

Antipater, son of Jason (who Antiochus IV made high priest after opposing Onias) was appointed procurator of Judah (Judea) by Julius Caesar. In 47 B.C., Caesar appointed Antipater's son, Herod, governor of Galilee.

Herod married Mariamne, the granddaughter of John Hycranus of the Maccabaeus family, and was made king by Mark Antony, one of Caesar's lieutenants and devoted friends. Upon the division of the empire after Caesar's death in 44 B.C., Herod received Syria and Asia Minor. This was the Herod who was king when Jesus was born.

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