Mattathias, Simon, & Judah


Happy Hanukkah and welcome to Week 2!

Again,  the plans are four weeks long. You may  decide how brief or how in depth you want to teach these lessons. Each week has it’s own topic so you can gain a general idea of what it is about as you decide. This week will focus on Mattathias and his family, namely his two sons Simon and Judah. We will focus on the word motif (a word children and students alike can understand the meaning of) as we look for patterns in 1 Maccabees 2 and 3 that are also present in the TaNaK. I’d like to also give a special shout-out to my friend, Miryam who helped me create all the wonderful printables included in this week’s plans. Thank you!

If you missed Hanukkah Week 1, please visit those lessons first.

Week 2

Day 1 ~ Meet Mattathias

Remember from Week 1 we learned about a great assimilation. While some Israelites decided to adopt Grecian culture, there were others who remained faithful to the Most High. Today, you will read about the family of Mattathias. His family left Jerusalem during Grecian persecution.

Teach students Mattathias full name in Hebrew: מַתִּתְיָהוּ הַכֹּהֵן בֶּן יוֹחָנָן. Matityahu Cohayn Bayn Yohanan. Meaning Gift of Yah, Priest, Son of John.


  • Read I Maccabees 2: 1-28.

Explain that the name “Maccabee” (in Hebrew) means “extinguisher” (verb form) or “hammer” (noun form). “Maccabee” is a personal nickname for Judah and “Maccabees”, though a synonym for the Hasmonean Dynasty, properly refers to Judah and his four brothers.

  • Young Children: Use the Color & Copy activity sheet to learn more about Mattathias. Help them to understand what faithful means. Ask them to recall the name of the forefather who was set-apart in his faithfulness to Yah (like Mattathias was in today’s reading.)
  • Students are already familiar with Mattathias and his five sons from today’s reading. Have them research the full names of each son. (I have already given them Mattathias’ name above.) Use the Mattathias’ Sons activity sheet to name each son. Can you name them in order? Last, sketch a quick image of each son. Use your imagination to illustrate how you think they looked.
  • BONUS activity: If your children already understand which animals are clean (and not) for sacrifice, have them complete the Animal Sacrifice activity. For younger students, use Animal Sacrifice I and for older students, use Animal Sacrifices II. Younger students should cut the animals along the bottom of the page and paste on the correct altar.


Older Students may choose between the following:

  • Explain why Judah would be nicknamed “Maccabee.” You may decide to write or tell/present your explanation. Include the meaning of the nickname and note the Biblical reference in Maccabees to support your response.
  • Faithfulness is a trend or a motif in the Hebrew Scriptures. Find at least one verse that demonstrates Yah’s attitude about faithfulness. Then, choose one person from the Hebrew Scriptures who you would say was set-apart in faithfulness. Compare and contrast the person you chose and Mattathias with respect to their faithful behavior toward Yah and their heritage.

Day 2 ~ The Battle Begins


  • Read I Maccabees 2: 29-48.

In Day 1, you reviewed animal sacrifice. Mattathias refused to sacrifice an unclean animal, but another Israelite man was willing to do it. Mattathias killed that man and destroyed the unclean altar. {You may decide to review the difference between ‘murder’ and ‘kill’.} Fearing for his life, Mattathias fled to the mountains. Fleeing to the mountains or visiting the top of a mountain is another motif in the Hebrew Scriptures.

  • Younger children: Name some other times in Biblical History where someone fled to the mountains/hills.
  • Older children/students: Do you notice a motif with mountains/hills in the TaNaK? Which examples come to mind? Considering the pattern, name other reasons as to why someone would flee to the mountains/hills other than fear of the loss of life.

Discuss what mountains/hills mean in Israelite culture, especially noting high places. Once Mattathias fled, other Israelite families joined his family. This is a great time to converse about unity, togetherness, and the power in numbers. Remind them again that though there were unfaithful Israelites, there was still a remnant who refused to give up their faith or culture in the Most High. Then, have your child{ren}/student{s} draw Mattathias family and/or other Israelite families on the Mattathias Flees page.

  • Research: What is the name of the mountainous region that Mattathias fled to, and where it is located?
  • Research: Who are the Hasideans?

The next major event that occurs in this passage in the Sabbath Massacre. Once word got out about Mattathias’ departure, the king ordered a force of soldiers to the mountains. The soldiers attacked the Israelites after they refused to obey the king’s orders. (Explain that they refused because it was against their custom, not because they were trying to be non-compliant.) Because the attack happened on the Sabbath Day, the Israelites did not fight back. Many lost their lives that day. (Have your child{ren}/student{s} tell you how many people died that day.)

This is a great time to discuss how the preservation of life is more valuable than a day of the week. Once Mattathias learned about the massacre, he ruled that they would fight on the Sabbath in defense of their lives. A battle begins between the unfaithful Israelites and the Gentile against Mattathias, his sons, and other faithful Israelites.

  • Older students may decide to breakdown the meaning of the Shabbat.

Day 3 ~ Mattathias’ Death


  • Read I Maccabees 2:49-70

Mattathias knew he was dying, so he did three things (that were common practices in Israelite culture):

  1. Instructed his children to keep the Commandment of the Most High and reminded them of the heritage in Him.
  2. Set-apart one of his sons, Simon, for his wisdom.
  3. Appointed one of his sons, Judah, as commander of the Israelite army.

Mattathias is not the first or only father/leader to do the things in the list mentioned above. These actions are also motifs in the Hebrew Scriptures. Today’s activity is similar to a scavenger hunt. It is best if your child{ren}/student{s} can recall or recite other Biblical characters who follow the pattern, but if not, please search it out. Have them to name or look for as many Biblical characters as they can who also:

  1. Instructed his/her children to keep the Commandments
  2. Set-apart a son/child for his/her wisdom, council, or knowledege
  3. Appointed a leader (commander, judge, king, etc) over Israel (army, nation, etc)

Compare and contrast their lives, missions, successes, and endings. Also, discuss why it is important to value and preserve the history and culture of your ancestors/own people.

  • Children/Students of all ages can craft/design their own sword to symbolize Judah as the next military commander. They can also write any Scripture, battle cry, mantra, quote, etc on their sword. I found a couple of sword crafts here and here. Also, have children think about the qualities good leaders possess.

Day 4 ~ Judah leads the Israelites


  • Read I Maccabees 3:1-25

Today, your child{ren}/student{s} will learn about two battles that Judah fought. They will also begin a running list to record the Maccabean battles and the result. They can be as creative (or not) as they want to build their list. The goal is for them to understand the outcome of these historic battles and to later notice the motif within them.

Add the following two battles to your list:

  • Judah vs. Apollonius      Victor: Judah      Note: Judah kept Appollonius’ sword                         Reference: I Maccabees 3:10-12
  • Judah vs. Seron               Victor: Judah      Note: Judah reminded his troops of Yah’s power    Reference: I Maccabees 13:13-25


The Most High’s delivering power for the Israelites (especially in battle, or from captivity) is another motif in the Hebrew Scriptures. Name some other instances where the Most High delivered the Israelites even though they were outnumbered or at a disadvantage. {This is a great time to call out the Sh’ma together as a group!}