"The revelation of Your words sheds light, giving understanding to the simple." Psalms 119:130
God's word is intended for all people. For thousands of years God has communicated to millions of simple people through His word. In fact, many things are hidden from the learned and clever but revealed to the merest children (Lk 10:21). Of course, God's word is sometimes so difficult to interpret that we need the Church to teach us. Therefore, highly academic Bible study has its place, but it is not the principal approach to God's word. The word is not primarily for an educated elite but for everyday people praying and reading by the power of the Spirit.
Nevertheless, not many books about the Bible are written to help the average person. What most people need is something short, simple, and practical that encourages, motivates and guides. We need something that will help us read the Biblical texts and not just about the text. This is the purpose of this simple Bible reading guide. "We have aimed to please those who prefer simple reading, as well as to make it easy for the studious who wish to commit things to memory, and to be helpful to all (2 Mc 2:25).
Note: The breakdown of the Bible into chapters (although not always adequate) has served God's people for centuries. So in general we will use a chapter-by-chapter structure for our comments.
Be sure to read each chapter of the Bible along with the introductory comments.
P.S. We have prayed before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament about our choice
of the verses in this reading guide. We hope the Scriptures will have a
prophetic, life-changing power for you.
"Some from among the people promptly went to the king, and he authorized them to introduce the way of living of the Gentiles. Thereupon they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem according to the Gentile custom. They covered over the mark of their circumcision and abandoned the holy covenant; they allied themselves with the Gentiles and sold themselves to wrongdoing." 1 Maccabees 1:13-15
Secular humanism, or Hellenism, is traced back to Alexander the Great. Antiochus IV Epiphanes, introduced it to the Jews by building a gymnasium. This was the same approach as is used today, as we are secularized through our pleasure-seeking life-style and the influence of sports and entertainment. Then this subtle secularization becomes militant. It attacks the church and imposes unjust laws on Christians.
Prayer: Father, give me discernment to recognize the subtle conspiracies of the evil one.
Promise: "They preferred to die rather than to be defiled with unclean food or to profane the holy covenant; and they did die. Terrible affliction was upon Israel." 1:63
"Why was I born to see the ruin of my people and the ruin of the holy city, and to sit idle while it is given into the hands of enemies, and the sanctuary into the hands of strangers?" 1 Maccabees 2:7
"The officers of the king in charge of enforcing the apostasy came to the city of Modein to organize the sacrifices. Many of Israel joined them, but Mattathias and his sons gathered in a group apart" (2:15-16). "Mattathias went through the city shouting, 'Let everyone who is zealous for the law and who stands by the covenant follow after me!' " Thereupon he fled to the mountains with his sons, leaving behind in the city all their possessions. Many who sought to live according to righteousness and religious custom went out into the desert to settle there" (2:27-29). "They gathered an army and struck down sinners in their anger and lawbreakers in their wrath" (2:44). "They put to flight the arrogant, and the work prospered in their hands. They saved the law from the hands of the Gentiles and of the kings and did not let the sinner triumph" (2:47-48).
Prayer: Father, give me the courage to resist sin to the point of shedding my own blood (Heb 12:4).
Promise: "Children! be courageous and strong in keeping the law, for by it you shall be glorified." 2:64
"Judas said: "It is easy for many to be overcome by a few; in the sight of Heaven there is no difference between deliverance by many or few, for victory in war does not depend upon the size of the army, but on strength that comes from Heaven." 1 Maccabees 3:18-19
Judas, son of Mattathias, was victorious in a series of battles because he knew how to engage in spiritual warfare. His army "fasted and wore sackcloth; they sprinkled ashes on their heads and tore their clothes. Thy unrolled the scroll of the law, to learn about the things for which the Gentiles consulted the images of their idols" (3:47-48).
Prayer: Father, may I use Your spiritual weapons to bring down the strongholds of the evil one (2 Cor 10:4).
Promise: "Let us restore our people from their ruined estate, and fight for our people and our sanctuary!" 3:43
"Judas and his brothers and the entire congregation of Israel decreed that the days of dedication of the altar should be observed with joy and gladness on the anniversary every year for eight days." 1 Maccabees 4:59
After defeating Antiochus' generals, Gorgias and Lysias, Judas and his brothers were able to "go up to purify the sanctuary and rededicate it" (4:36). "On the anniversary of the day on which the Gentiles had defiled it, on that very day it was reconsecrated with songs, harps, flutes, and cymbals. All the people prostrated themselves, and adored and praised Heaven, Who had given them success" (4:54-55).
Prayer: Father, give me the will to fight to cleanse my body and keep it pure. Give me victory and purity.
Promise: "As they returned, they were singing hymns and glorifying Heaven, 'for He is good, for His mercy endures forever.' Thus Israel had a great deliverance that day." 4:24-25
"Judas said to his brother Simon: 'Choose men for yourself, and go, rescue your kinsmen in Galilee; I and my brother Jonathan will go to Gilead.' " 1 Maccabees 5:17
Judas, and his brothers, Jonathan, and Simon won a fantastic series of victories. When the Israelite generals Joseph and Azariah, and some priests tried to get in on the action, they were badly defeated. "They did not belong to the family of those men to whom it was granted to achieve Israel's salvation" (5:62). Victory depends not on our strength but on the Lord's anointing (see Zec 4:6).
Prayer: Father, anoint me for victory.
Promise: "They ascended Mount Zion in joy and gladness and offered holocausts, because not one of them had fallen; they returned in safety." 5:54
"Therefore let us now come to terms with these men and make peace with them and all their nation. Let us grant them freedom to live according to their own laws as formerly; it was on account of their laws, which we abolished, that they became angry and did all these things." 1 Maccabees 6:58:59
All events were ordered to the benefit of the Jews (see 2 Cor 4:15). After Antiochus IV was defeated in Persia, he became depressed and died. Judas and his men besieged the citadel. Eleazar even gave up his life to kill single-handedly an elephant of the enemy. When the Jews were about to starve, Lysias had to quickly make a peace treaty because his rival Philip was seeking to take over the government.
Prayer: Father, may local and world events further Your Kingdom.
Promise: "So he gave up his life to save his people and win an everlasting name for himself."6:44
"When they who were sent by the king blasphemed, Your angel went out and killed a hundred and eighty-five thousand of them." 1 Maccabees 7:41
Alcimus blasphemed against the priesthood when he got King Demetrius to declare him high priest. Nicanor, the Greek general blasphemed against the Temple. In punishment, Nicanor was the first to be killed in the next battle. Alcimus was given a little longer time before he would receive the wages of his sin of blasphemy (Rm 6:23).
Prayer: Father, give me the fear of You which is the beginning of wisdom (Ps 111:10).
Promise: "The people rejoiced greatly, and observed that day as a great festival." 7:48
"Judas, called Maccabeus, and his brothers, with the Jewish people, have sent us to you to make a peaceful alliance with you, and to enroll ourselves among your allies and friends. The proposal pleased the Romans." 1 Maccabees 8:20-21
Judas made a treaty with the Romans. This is the first of several diplomatic negotiations mentioned in this book. These negotiations did not help the Jews. For example, as part of the treaty, Rome wrote to King Demetrius to stop him from warring to fight against the Jews. Either Demetrius didn't get the letter or ignored it. He sent Bacchides to fight against Judas. Bacchides defeated Judas and killed him (9:18).
Prayer: Father, may I say "yes" when I mean "yes" and "no" when I mean "no." Anything beyond that is from the evil one (Mt 5:37).
Promise: "May it be well with the Romans and the Jewish nation at sea and on land forever; may sword and enemy be far from them." 8:23
"The other acts of Judas, his battles, the brave deeds he performed, and his greatness have not been recorded; but they were very many." 1 Maccabees 9:22
Judas was killed in a battle where he courageously fought 22,000 men with 800. Jonathan became the new leader of the revolt.
When Alcimus began to tear down the wall of the inner court of the sanctuary, he suffered a stroke. "His mouth was closed and he was paralyzed, so that he could no longer utter a word to give orders concerning his house. Finally he died in great agony. Seeing that Alcimus was dead, Bacchides returned to the king" (9:55-57).
Eventually, Jonathan was able to make peace with Bacchides, who put to death some of his own advisors. Despite Judas' death, God was obviously on the Jews' side.
Prayer: Father move in sovereign power against the enemies of Your kingdom.
Promise: "Far be it from me to do such a thing as to flee from them! If our time has come, let us die bravely for our kinsmen and not leave a stain upon our glory!" 9:10
"They therefore decided in favor of Alexander, for he had been the first to address them peaceably, and they remained his allies for the rest of his life." 1 Maccabees 10:47
Demetrius and Alexander, rival kings, were making grandiose promises to get Jonathan to join them. Jonathan made the right choice in Alexander, who soon defeated and killed Demetrius. When Demetrius' son attempted to recapture the kingship, Jonathan won a remarkable victory over Apollonius, the governor appointed by Demetrius. "When King Alexander heard of these events, he accorded new honors to Jonathan" (10:88). The Lord exalts His people.
Prayer: Father, I choose to be always on Your side.
Promise: "We have heard of you, that you are a mighty warrior and worthy to be our friend." 10:19
"Jonathan tore his clothes, threw earth on his head, and prayed. Then he went back to combat and so overwhelmed the enemy that they took to flight." 1 Maccabees 11:71-72
Ptolemy, king of Egypt, and the younger Demetrius both violated their treaties. Trypho planned to take over the government of Demetrius. Jonathan aligned with him and once again won what seemed to be an impossible victory over Demetrius. Again, in a maze of lies and intrigue, Jonathan made the right moves.
Prayer: Father, may I turn right when you say "right" and left when you say "left."
Promise: "The Jews thus gained glory in the eyes of the king and all his subjects, and they became renowned throughout his kingdom." 11:51
"Jonathan believed him and did as he said." 1 Maccabees 12:46
Jonathan continued to play diplomatic games with the Romans, Spartans, and Trypho. He believed Trypho's lies and was captured.
Prayer: Father, may I not put my trust in any human being, including myself (Jer 17:5).
Promise: "The people therefore worked together on building up the city." 12:37
"They shouted in reply: 'You are our leader in place of your brothers Judas and Jonathan. Fight our battles, and we will do everything that you tell us." 1 Maccabees 13:8-9
Simon succeeded Jonathan as leader of the Jews. He was so successful that he took the citadel, which had been a continual threat to the Jews for twenty-six years. "On the twenty-third day of the second month, in the year one hundred and seventy-one, the Jews entered the citadel with shouts of jubilation, waving of palm branches, the music of harps and cymbals and lyres, and the singing of hymns and canticles, because a great enemy of Israel had been destroyed" (13:51).
Prayer: Father, give me victory over the perennial problem in my life.
Promise: "Simon decreed that this day should be celebrated every year with rejoicing. He also strengthened the fortifications of the temple hill alongside the citadel, and he and his companions dwelt there." 13:52
"When the people heard of these things, they said, 'How can we thank Simon and his sons?' " 1 Maccabees 14:25
Rome, Sparta, and the Jewish people lavished honors on Simon.
Prayer: Father, may I honor those I see every day.
Promise: "The Jewish people and their priests have, therefore, made the following decisions. Simon shall be their permanent leader and high priest until a true prophet arises." 14:41
"He broke all the agreements he had previously made with Simon and became hostile toward him." 1 Maccabees 15:27
Simon made the same mistake as his murdered brother Jonathan by believing Antiochus, who was breaking his treaties as fast as he was making them.
Prayer: Father, give me the wisdom to learn from others' mistakes.
Promise: "We will greatly honor you and your nation and the temple, so that your glory will be manifest in all the earth." 15:9
"When Simon and his sons had drunk freely, Ptolemy and his men sprang up, weapons in hand, rushed upon Simon in the banquet hall, and killed him, his two sons, and some of his servants. By this vicious act of treason he repaid good with evil." 1 Maccabees 16:16-17
Simon kept making the same mistake by putting his trust in man. The governor Ptolemy lied to him, and then ambushed and killed him. Simon's son, John, did not repeat his father's mistake. "When the men came to kill him, he had them arrested and put to death, for he knew what they meant to do" (16:22).
This first book of Maccabees ends on a sad note. Despite the military accomplishments and diplomatic efforts, something was wrong. The book of 2 Maccabees sheds light on the problem. Read on.
Prayer: Father, may I end my life in total victory.
Promise: "Take my place and my brother's, and go out and fight for our nation; and may the help of Heaven be with you!" 16:3
When you finish reading this booklet, give it to someone else. Pray for that person to be motivated to read God's word and make a total commitment to the Lord. Use this book as a tool for evangelization. Right now pray to know the person with whom you are to share this book.
Nihil obstat: Reverend Edward J. Gratsch, June 20, 1996
Imprimatur: †Most Reverend Carl K. Moeddel, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, June 26, 1996
The Nihil obstat and Imprimatur are a declaration that a book or pamphlet is considered to be free from doctrinal or moral error. It is not implied that those who have granted the Nihil obstat and Imprimatur agree with the contents, opinions, or statements expressed.
Published by: Presentation Ministries, 3230 McHenry Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45211, (513) 662-5378, www.presentationministries.com