Who is Mattathias?
Luke 3: 25 “the son of Mattathias”
Matthan meant ‘gift’ as we have already seen. Whereas Mattathias means ‘gift of Yawheh’.
It sounds like Matthew and there are several derivatives of that name in the genealogy. One of the most famous is Mattathias. When Antiochus Epiphanes (a wicked Syrian king) invaded Israel in 168-165 BC, Mattathias was one of the priests serving just outside Jerusalem but who became a cult-hero at that time. The actions of this evil king knew no end:
- He ordered a pig to be sacrificed on the altar in the Jerusalem temple.
- Pig broth was poured over the Scriptures and then burned.
- A statue of Zeus with the face of Epiphanes was erected in the grounds.
- He ordered the killing of Jewish male babies.
- Slaughter was everywhere.
Epiphanes sent soldiers to the village of Mattathias and again erected a Zeus altar. Mattathias was ordered to sacrifice a pig in honour of Epiphanes, but he refused. Another priest stepped forward to do the act which was an abomination to the Jew. Mattathias grabbed the sword from the soldier and killed him and then killed the apostate priest before fleeing with his sons into the desert. They formed a band of brothers and became known as the Maccabees who would fight against the Syrian occupation for years to come.
It is difficult to be accurately suggesting that the Mattathias mentioned in this genealogy is this one told in the story. However, it would seem that this popular name with various derivatives was used by families to commemorate the heroism of this individual. Carrying such a name would definitely mean you and your family knew the heroic story.
Anyone of us can be a Mattathias.
There are many who are a ‘gift from Yahweh’ today, who become heroes to others. They are often unknown but who give themselves to fundraising, helping with food, clothes and all kinds of need. They passionately live to help others. They campaign, raise awareness of things we wouldn’t think about, they find solutions and become the solution to someone. They hold the hands of the dying, they risk their own lives for the rescue, they speak to those who are ignored and speak for the voiceless. They cross the road and nations, leaving comfort for chaos and realise they have been put here in this world to change it for someone. They stand against injustice and will not let evil win. Love is their motivation and fairness their scale. The poor, the widow, the sick and the marginalised become the central focus. It is their face we see not the face of the hero. They have become a gift from God.
May we live our lives in this way.