Judas Maccabeus’ Wars Against Judaea’s Neighbours in 1 Maccabees 5: A Reassessment of the Evidence

Katell Berthelot


The fifth chapter of the First Book of Maccabees recounts a whole range of wars waged by Judas Maccabeus against Judaea’s neighbours, who are depicted as threatening the lives of the Jews living in their midst. The account of these punitive expeditions contains the only explicit reference found in the book to an anathema (ḥerem) against a foreign people, a reference which has led some scholars to see Judas as re-enacting the biblical prescription of the ḥerem against the Canaanites. In contrast with this interpretation, the present article argues that the description in 1 Maccabees 5 is highly literary and rhetorical, and that it is part of a strategy which aims at presenting Judas as the heir of the first kings of Israel. In particular, a careful literary analysis shows that nearly all the differences between the accounts in 1 and 2 Maccabees can be explained by taking into consideration the project of the author to present Judas’s military expeditions in the light of Saul’s campaigns, following 1 Samuel 10–15 (especially 14:47–48). Given the indebtedness of 1 Maccabees 5 toward such biblical traditions, the historicity of Judas’s wars against Judaea’s neighbours should be re-assessed.

Słowa kluczowe

history of Second Temple Judaism, 1 Maccabees 5, Judas Maccabeus, wars, biblical models, Saul


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