Modi’in: Where the Maccabees Lived

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

This Bible History Daily feature was originally published in 2014.—Ed.


 

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.

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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.
 


 
This Bible History Daily feature was originally published on March 22, 2014.
 

 

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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11 Responses

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  • Jim says

    So were the Maccabees of the Levite family and eligible for “priestly family?”
    No one responded to the first comment, except in flippancy.

  • Kurt says

    Evidences of inspiration in the Bible

    It is filled with prophecies reflecting detailed knowledge of the future—something impossible for humans.
    Prophecy: Jer. 49:17, 18: “‘Edom must become an object of astonishment. Everyone passing along by her will stare in astonishment and whistle on account of all her plagues. Just as in the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah and her neighbor towns,’ Jehovah has said, ‘no man will dwell there.’” (Jeremiah’s recording of prophecies was completed by 580 B.C.E.)
    □ Fulfillment: “They [the Edomites] were driven from Palestine in the 2nd century B.C. by Judas Maccabæus, and in 109 B.C. John Hyrcanus, Maccabæan leader, extended the kingdom of Judah to include the w. part of Edomitic lands. In the 1st century B.C. Roman expansion swept away the last vestige of Edomitic independence . . . After the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D. . . . the name Idumæa [Edom] disappeared from history.” (The New Funk & Wagnalls Encyclopedia, 1952, Vol. 11, p. 4114) Notice that the fulfillment extends down to our day. In no way can it be argued that this prophecy was written after the events had taken place.
    http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/s/r1/lp-e?q=maccabaeus

  • 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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