Thursday, October 10, 2013

Reasons to Revolt

There are only a few good reasons to rebel, and no good reasons if one is rebelling against God. One rationale for rebellion might be supplied in 1 Maccabees.

The Seleucid ruler, Antiochus, wanted a united empire and decided to unite the empire under worship of his gods and thus required all to sacrifice to his gods. Here is the setting for the revolt:
καὶ ἦλθον οἱ παρὰ τοῦ βασιλέως οἱ καταναγκάζοντες τὴν ἀποστασίαν εἰς μωδεϊν τὴν πόλιν ἵνα θυσιάσωσιν

And those who were compelling the apostasy came from the king to the city of Modein so that they might sacrifice. (1 Maccabees 2:15)
Mattathias, the father of the Maccabees, was approached, as a priest and leader in the community to set the example for everyone else and sacrifice like a good citizen.
καὶ ἀπεκρίθησαν οἱ παρὰ τοῦ βασιλέως καὶ εἶπον τῷ ματταθια λέγοντες ἄρχων καὶ ἔνδοξος καὶ μέγας εἶ ἐν τῇ πόλει ταύτῃ καὶ ἐστηρισμένος υἱοῖς καὶ ἀδελφοῖς
νῦν πρόσελθε πρῶτος καὶ ποίησον τὸ πρόσταγμα τοῦ βασιλέως ὡς ἐποίησαν πάντα τὰ ἔθνη καὶ οἱ ἄνδρες ιουδα καὶ οἱ καταλειφθέντες ἐν ιερουσαλημ καὶ ἔσῃ σὺ καὶ οἱ υἱοί σου τῶν φίλων τοῦ βασιλέως καὶ σὺ καὶ οἱ υἱοί σου δοξασθήσεσθε ἀργυρίῳ καὶ χρυσίῳ καὶ ἀποστολαῖς πολλαῖς

And the messengers from the king said to Mattathias answered, saying, You are a leader, and notable, and great in this city and are supported by sons and brothers. Now go first and do the command of the king as all the nations and the men of Judah and those who have left Jerusalem have done, and you and your sons will be friends of the king and you and your sons will be glorified with silver and gold and many gifts.
This would have been a tempting moment for those who wish to go along and get along. What could be so bad about obeying the direct order of the king?
καὶ ἀπεκρίθη ματταθιας καὶ εἶπεν φωνῇ μεγάλῃ εἰ πάντα τὰ ἔθνη τὰ ἐν οἴκῳ τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ βασιλέως ἀκούουσιν αὐτοῦ ἀποστῆναι ἕκαστος ἀπὸ λατρείας πατέρων αὐτοῦ καὶ ᾑρετίσαντο ἐν ταῖς ἐντολαῖς αὐτοῦ
κἀγὼ καὶ οἱ υἱοί μου καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοί μου πορευσόμεθα ἐν διαθήκῃ πατέρων ἡμῶν
ἵλεως ἡμῖν καταλιπεῖν νόμον καὶ δικαιώματα
τῶν λόγων τοῦ βασιλέως οὐκ ἀκουσόμεθα παρελθεῖν τὴν λατρείαν ἡμῶν δεξιὰν ἢ ἀριστεράν

Mattathias answered and said with a loud voice: Even though all the nations which are in the dominion of the king of kings obey him and each apostatizes from the worship of his fathers and delights in his commandments, I and my sons and my brethren will walk in the covenant of our fathers. Far be it from us to abandon the law and ordinances. We will not obey the word of the king to turn aside from our worship to the right or to the left. (1 Maccabees 2:15–22)
Mattathias's answer is that covenant with God trumps the command of the king. Obeying the law is good, but the law of God takes precedence over the law of man.

Maccabees frames the issue of apostasy, which is rebellion, as rebellion against God rather than rebellion against the king.

So Mattathias started a rebellion that eventually succeeded in liberating Judea from the Persians. But the justification for the rebellion was rooted in covenants with God made and kept.