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"Matityahu" redirects here. For the Israeli settlement, see Matityahu, Mateh Binyamin.
Tomb of Mattathias ben Johanan, Israel
Mattathias from Guillaume Rouillé's Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum
Judea after the start of Maccabean revolt

Mattathias ben Johanan (Hebrew: מַתִּתְיָהוּ בֶּן יוֹחָנָן הַכֹּהֵן, Matityahu ben Yoḥanan HaKohen) (died 165 BCE)[1] was a Jewish Kohen ("priest") whose role in the Jewish revolt against the Seleucids is related in the Books of the Maccabees. Mattathias is accorded a central role in the story of Hanukkah and, as a result, is named in the Al Hanissim prayer Jews add to Grace after meals and the Amidah during the festival's eight days.


The father of Judah and the other Maccabee leaders, Mattathias was from a rural priestly family from Modi'in. Like all fit priests, he served in the Temple in Jerusalem. He was a son of Yohannan, grandson of Simeon, the Hasmonean, and great-grandson of Asmon or Hasmonaeus, a Levite of the lineage of Joarib for being the 5th grandson of Idaiah, son of Joarib and grandson of Jachin, in turn a descendant of Phinehas, 3rd High Priest of Israel, according to Mattathias' own words in 1 Maccabees.[2][3]

After the Seleucid persecutions began, Mattathias returned to Modi'in. In 167 BCE, when asked by a Seleucid Greek government representative under King Antiochus IV to offer sacrifice to the Greek gods, he not only refused to do so, but slew with his own hand the Jew who had stepped forward to do so. He then killed the government official that required the act.[4]

Let everyone who has zeal for the Torah and who stands by the covenant follow me!

— Mattathias, after assassinating the Greek government official, who was forcing him to sacrifice, Septuagint, 1st Maccabees 2:27.

Upon the edict for his arrest, he took refuge in the wilderness of Judea with his five sons—Judah, Eleazar, Simon, John, and Jonathan—and called upon all Jews to follow him. Many eventually responded to his call.


This was the first step in the war of the Maccabees against the Seleucid Greeks, the result of which was Jewish independence, which had not been enjoyed for 400 years. The events of the war of the Maccabees form the basis for the holiday of Hanukkah, which is celebrated by Jews on the 25th of Kislev (on the Hebrew calendar, corresponding to Mid-November to Late-December on the Gregorian Calendar).

In literature and liturgy

The story of the Maccabees can be found in the deuterocanonical books of 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees, in Josephus, and in Talmudic references (Shabbat 21b, Shabbat 23a - related to the candles).

The "Al Hanisim" prayer, added into the Amidah and Grace after meals on Chanukah, refers to the story of the Maccabees and to Mattathias by name.

See also


  1. "Mahlon H. Smith". Retrieved 2014-02-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. T. Stanford Mommaerts (version of 4/11/2005). "Ancient Genealogy chart - Ansbertus". Check date values in: |date= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "2 Maccabees Ch. 2". Retrieved 2014-02-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Weir, William. 50 Battles That Changed the World: The Conflicts That Most Influenced the Course of History. Savage, Md: Barnes and Noble Books. ISBN 0-7607-6609-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Jewish titles
New title Leader of the Maccabees
c. 167 BCE – 166 BCE
Succeeded by
Judas Maccabeus

This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainWood, James, ed. (1907). "article name needed". The Nuttall Encyclopædia. London and New York: Frederick Warne.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>