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Mattathias ben Johanan (Hebrew: מַתִּתְיָהוּ בֶּן יוֹחָנָן הַכֹּהֵן, Matityahu ben Yoḥanan HaKohen) (died 165 BC) was a Jewish priest whose role in the Jewish revolt against the Syrian Greeks 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 I Maccabees.
After the Seleucid persecutions began, Mattathias returned to Modi'in. In 167 BC, 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 attacked the government official that required the act.
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).
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c. 167 BC – 166 BC