Antiochus the Madman

An in depth view of the king in the story of Hanukkah.

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Expansion in the Middle East

Meanwhile, after a decisive battle in 169-8 BCE, Antiochus was on the brink of annexing Egypt to Syria. The Roman army, however, was moving victoriously eastward. With its own sights set upon Egypt, Rome warned Antiochus not to expand his kingdom in that direction. Antiochus was not powerful enough to defy the mighty Roman Empire; and finding his ambitions for conquest thwarted, he would become even more aggressive toward the people he already ruled.

While Antiochus was away, Jason had managed to retake Jerusalem from Menelaus--a victory based on the rumor that Antiochus was dead. But he was not able to seize control of the government and was forced to flee. Antiochus, furious with the rebellion, returned to Jerusalem, slaughtered thousands of people, and reinstalled Menelaus. Once Antiochus departed and heard that a second rebellion had broken out, he outlawed Judaism. Among the now-forbidden practices were the rite of circumcision, the study of Torah, and the keeping of kashrut (Jewish dietary laws).

In the Jews's Holy Temple, he placed a statue of Zeus--the god he believed was manifest in his own royal being--and sacrificed swine on the altar. He stripped the Temple of its sacred vessels, including the seven-branched golden menorah, and stole the silver and gold coin.

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Rabbi Paul Steinberg

Paul Steinberg is a rabbi at Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, California and is the Head of the Etz Chaim Hebrew School. He previously served as the Rabbi and Director of Jewish Studies and Hebrew at Levine Academy: A Solomon Schechter School in Dallas, Texas.