Modi’in: Where the Maccabees Lived

Have excavations uncovered the hometown of the Maccabees, heroes of Hanukkah’s Maccabean revolt?

Where is Modi’in, hometown of the Maccabees? Excavations conducted at Umm el-‘Umdan within the modern Israeli city of Modi’in have uncovered evidence of an ancient Jewish village. Pictured is a Herodian-period synagogue, beneath which lies a structure dated to the time of the Maccabean revolt—when the Maccabees led a rebellion against the Seleucid king. Photo: Skyview.

Modi’in was the hometown of the Maccabees, the heroes of the Maccabean revolt against the Seleucid king who ruled over Judea. Have excavations conducted within the modern Israeli city of Modi’in—20 miles northwest of Jerusalem—finally exposed the Jewish village that the Maccabees called home? The finds discovered at the site of Umm el-‘Umdan in modern Modi’in are described in “Modi’in: Hometown of the Maccabees” by Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah and Alexander Onn in the March/April 2014 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

When King Antiochus IV Epiphanes desecrated the Temple and forbade circumcision and Sabbath observance, the Maccabees led a successful rebellion in the 160s B.C.E.—the Maccabean revolt—that is still celebrated in the festival of Hanukkah. In the November/December 2008 issue of BAR, Andrea M. Berlin and Geoffrey B. Waywell describe the Maccabean revolt:

The [Maccabean revolt was] led by Mattathias’s eldest son, Judas, known as the Hammer because of his military prowess. When he was killed, he was succeeded by his brother Jonathan, who assumed the office of high priest as well as the political leadership, but he was soon captured and murdered. Jonathan was succeeded by his brother Simon, who likewise assumed the office of high priest, although the Maccabees were not of a high priestly family.


 
Read Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah and Alexander Onn’s coauthored article on excavations near the Western Wall in Jerusalem and explore the latest finds in the Biblical world’s most vibrant city in the free eBook Jerusalem Archaeology: Exposing the Biblical City.
 

 
Excavations conducted in the past decade at Umm el-‘Umdan (Arabic for “Mother of Columns”) by authors Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah and Alexander Onn (recently deceased) revealed a previously unknown synagogue—featuring eight imposing columns—likely built during the reign of King Herod. But what about earlier? What was at Umm el-‘Umdan during the time of the Maccabees and the Maccabean revolt?

Directly beneath the Herodian synagogue lies a smaller synagogue constructed during the Hasmonean period, and beneath this was a structure securely dated to the end of the third or beginning of the second century B.C.E. According to the excavators, this structure must have been contemporaneous to the time of the Maccabees and the Maccabean revolt. While this Early Hellenistic building influenced the location and shape of the two synagogues built atop it in subsequent centuries, the excavators believe that there is not enough information at the time to conclude that the Early Hellenistic building was also a synagogue.

For more evidence confirming Umm el-‘Umdan’s Jewish identity in antiquity as well as a discussion of the linguistic relationship between the Hebrew name Modi’in and the Arabic name Umm el-‘Umdan, see “Modi’in: Hometown of the Maccabees” by Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah and Alexander Onn in the March/April 2014 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

BAS Library Members: Read the full article “Modi’in: Hometown of the Maccabees” by Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah and Alexander Onn as it appeared in the March/April 2014 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Not a BAS Library member yet? Join the BAS Library today.
 


 
As the point where three of the world’s major religions converge, Israel’s history is one of the richest and most complex in the world. Sift through the archaeology and history of this ancient land in the free eBook Israel: An Archaeological Journey, and get a view of these significant Biblical sites through an archaeologist’s lens.
 

 

Learn more about the Maccabees in the BAS Library:

Andrea M. Berlin and Geoffrey B. Waywell, “Monumental Tombs from Maussollos to the Maccabees,” Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 2007.

Hershel Shanks, “Inscription Reveals Roots of Maccabean Revolt,” Biblical Archaeology Review, November/December 2008.

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7 Responses

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  1. tad says

    you can also find out more about them in the bible:

    http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/r/rsv/rsv-idx?type=DIV1&byte=4219672

  2. STACY QUINN says

    “The Maccabees were not of a high priestly family.” -???
    The author seems to not know that God appointed the Levites as High-Priests and the usurpation by the Maccabees is why their religious zealot takeover of the priesthood ultimately failed to please God. Their religious failure brought about the circumstances for the appearance of the Messiah who was rejected by the unclean high-priest. God does not accept strange fire.

  3. Elli says

    The newly discovered synagogue is not where the Maccabees prayed. Rather, this is the synagogue in which they would not set foot. They were zealots, after all.

  4. BHD says

    After reading the responses of Stacy Quinn and Elli, it appears that Ringling Brothers does not have the only clowns to be found today. Yea, it appears that they walk among us.

  5. that says

    . They are allotted to students to create them view the vicious implications of this activity as well as the circumstances that gave the birth for this fact.
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  6. Bob says

    Why must people always want to “prove the other guy wrong and maintain they are right”? Just read and enjoy and draw you own conclusions. After all no one can ever PROVE the truth….we were not there and to say more is just hopeful speculation. Calling people names or clowns is disrespectful …. And unworthy of a truly educated person. I just read and enjoy and think for myself.

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