The Hammer of God, Part V. In Search of the Maccabee TombsJanuary 15, 2011
“Is not My word like fire?” declares the LORD, “and like a hammer which shatters a rock?”
– Jeremiah 23:29
The Hammer of God
‘Maccabee’ is the word for Hammer in Hebrew
Part V. In Search of the Maccabee Tombs
Most Probable Site of the Maccabee Tombs
Jerusalem of the Second Temple period was surrounded by cemeteries and grave fields. Due to the sanctity of the city and the ritual impurity of the dead, burial was permitted only at reasonable distance from the city walls.
-Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Baba Bathra 2, 9
In general, the exact location of the original Maccabee tombs continues to remain a matter of dispute. A growing number of experts are becoming more confident that they are located just outside of the hometown of the Maccabees, called Modein. Even so, several sites that can be classified as Hasmonean tombs, including Jason’s Tomb, have been identified and can be seen as follows:
Jason’s Tomb, Rehavia, Jerusalem
Historically, the Maccabees are considered the founders of the Hasmonean dynasty which ruled ruled Judea and Israel until the days of Herod, an Edomite, who managed to murder all the remaining Hasmoneans directly related to the original five sons of Mattathias the Hasmonean, namely John Gaddis, Simon Thassi, Judas Maccabaeus, Eleazar Avaran, and Jonathan Apphus. Here is the original timeline of the beginning of the Hasmonean royal dynasty:
Leader(s) of the Maccabees Timeline
167 BC: Mattathias, the Hasmonean
166 – 161 BC: Judas Maccabaeus, the Hammer of the LORD
161 – 143 BC: Jonathan Apphus, the Wary
143 – 135 BC: Simon Thassi, the Zealous Guide
Although the Maccabees, and later their descendants, the Hasmoneans, managed to keep Israel free from foreign oppression for almost 150 years, this abruptly ended with King Herod who was not a Hasmonean at all. Wikipedia states the following:
The Hasmonean dynasty, which leaped onto the stage of history with such dramatic heroism, disappeared from that same stage with cruel suddenness. The despot Herod, whose régime was forced upon the unwilling Jewish populace by his Romans overlords, was fully aware that the aura of Hasmonean charisma would constitute a continual threat to his power, and hence he undertook to ruthlessly murder all the remaining descendants of that family, including his beloved wife Mariamne, granddaughter of the Hasmonean ruler Hyrcanus II. Herod executed her on trumped-up charges of disloyalty, as he did afterwards to the two sons she had borne him, Alexander and Aristobulus.
Thus, while many of the later Hasmonean tombs have been correctly identified, the Maccabee Tombs themselves have yet to completely verified and agreed upon by the various experts in history and archaeology. In general it is believed that the Tombs of the Maccabees are located west of Jerusalem in the Ben-Shemen Forest region right nearby the modern Israeli city of Modi’in, Israel. Historically, this is very close to where the original Maccabee rebellion first began against the Greek occupation. One source describes the site in the following manner:
Ancient cave-tombs riddle the area, but the Maccabee-country location of this cluster of limestone tombs, which appears to be that of one family, and their old Arabic name – “tombs of the Jews”- persuade many that the Maccabees were buried here. Hanukkah ceremonies honoring the ancient warriors have been held here for the past century.
Here are just a few pictures of the vicinity where the original Maccabees are believed to have been buried. Further research and scientific digs will most probably reveal additional information in the future. For the most part, the vast majority of professionals agree that this is the most probable location of the remains of Mattathias the Hasmonean along with his five sons, the Maccabee Brothers:
Site of the Maccabee Tombs
May the LORD GOd bless you in the name of St. Judas Maccabaeus.