What Is the Third Book of Maccabees?

March 6 2017

While the first and second books of Maccabees are not part of the Hebrew Bible, they have been read by Jews as well as Christians over the ages, and have been the main source of the Jewish understanding of the Hanukkah story. Third Maccabees, by contrast, has been forgotten by both Jews and most Christians, although it is included in the Orthodox Christian canon. Written after 1 and 2 Maccabees, it tells the story of the prior persecution of the Jews by the 3rd-century-BCE Greek-Egyptian ruler Ptolemy IV Philopator, a few decades before the Maccabean revolt. Philip Long describes the book’s undeniably Jewish message:

Third Maccabees may have been written as a defense of Diaspora Jews for a Palestinian Jewish audience. Since these Jews live outside the land, they are considered to be “still in exile” and are therefore still under God’s [negative] judgment. The book demonstrates that God hears the prayers of the Diaspora Jewish community and preserves them in persecution, as he did for Palestinian Jewry during the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. It is possible the Jews in Jerusalem looked down on the Jews living outside the land. [The book’s message is that the] Jew of the Diaspora has as close of a connection to God as do the Jews living in the land.

The book [also] addresses the problem of apostasy in the Diaspora since those Jews in the book who renounce their faith are judged harshly. A major theme of the book is the boundary between the Jew and the Gentile. When Gentiles appear in the story, they are prejudiced, lawless, and abominable. Even in Egypt Jews are warned to keep their distance from Gentiles and to avoid apostasy at all cost.

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More about: ancient Judaism, Apocrypha, Diaspora, Egypt, History & Ideas

How Israel Can Best Benefit from Its Newfound Friendship with Brazil

Jan. 21 2019

Earlier this month, Benjamin Netanyahu was in Brazil—the first Israeli prime minister to visit the country—for the inauguration of its controversial new president Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro has made clear his eagerness to break with his predecessors’ hostility toward the Jewish state, and Netanyahu has responded positively. To Emanuele Ottolenghi, the improved relations offer an opportunity for joint cooperation against Hizballah, which gets much of its revenue through cooperation with Brazilian drug cartels. In this cooperative effort, Ottolenghi cautions against repeating mistakes made in an earlier outreach to Paraguay:

Hizballah relies heavily on the proceeds of transnational crime networks, especially in the Tri-Border Area [where] Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay [meet], but until recently, Brazilian officials were loath to acknowledge its presence in their country or its involvement in organized crime. [But] Bolsonaro’s top priority is fighting organized crime. Combating Hizballah’s terror finance is a vital Israeli interest. Making the case that Israel’s and Brazil’s interests dovetail perfectly should be easy. . . .

But Israel should be careful not to prioritize symbols over substance, a mistake already made once in Latin America. During 2013-2018, Netanyahu invested heavily in his relationship with Horacio Cartes, then president of Paraguay. Cartes, . . . too, had a genuine warmth for Israel, which culminated in his decision in May 2018 to move Paraguay’s embassy to Jerusalem. Most importantly, from Israel’s point of view, Paraguay began voting with Israel against the Arab bloc at the UN.

However, the Paraguayan side of the Tri-Border Area remained ground zero for Hizballah’s money laundering in Latin America. The Cartes administration hardly lifted a finger to act against the terror funding networks. . . . Worse—when critics raised Hizballah’s [local] terror-financing activities, Paraguayan ministers confronted their Israeli counterparts, threatening to change Paraguay’s friendly international posture toward Israel. [And] as soon as Cartes left office, his successor, Mario Abdo Benítez, moved Paraguay’s embassy back to Tel Aviv. . . . Israel’s five-year investment ultimately yielded no embassy move and no progress on combating Hizballah’s terror network. . . .

Israel should make the battle against Hizballah’s terror-finance networks in Latin America its top regional priority.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Brazil, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, Latin America