312 B.C. - In 323 B.C. Alexander the Great dies. His vast empire is soon split up among his four generals, one of which is Seleucus Nicator. Seleucus begins the Seleucid Empire in 312 B.C. Over time the empire expands to include Judea and Jerusalem.
175 B.C. - An aggressive campaign to force Greek culture (Hellenizing) into the lives of those in Judea is undertaken by Seleucid ruler Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Jewish religious practices are forbidden.
167 B.C. - Mattathias, a Jewish priest, starts a revolt against the Seleucid overlords of Judea by refusing to worship the Greek gods. Mattathias dies about a year later. One of his five sons, Judas, becomes military chief of the rebellion. Judas would later be known as Judas Maccabaeus (or Judah the Maccabee), which translated means "Judah the Hammer." Judas was called "the hammer" as recognition of his ferocity in battle.
164 B.C. - Judas Maccabeus (who will start the Hasmonean dynasty of rule) leads a group of dissidents to victory over Antiochus' military. Judas enters Jerusalem and religiously cleanses the Temple, which had been polluted by the Seleucids. On the twenty-fifth day of Kislev the Temple was re-dedicated. A miracle is believed to have occurred when only one day's supply of oil in the temple's candelabrum lasts for eight days. This event is commemorated each year by the Jews through the holiday known as Hanukkah.
"A line in the sand"
Antiochus IV Epiphanes may have given rise to the common phrase "a line in the sand," meaning a point beyond which a decision and its consequences are permanently decided and irreversible.
In 168 B.C. a Roman Consul named Gaius Popillius Laenas was sent as an envoy to prevent a war between Antiochus and Egypt. Antiochus tries to stall for time after being confronted with Rome's demands that he stop his attack on Alexandria. Gaius, aware of Antiochus' delay tactics, draws a circle in the sand around Antiochus and says:
"Before you cross this circle I want you to give me a reply for the Roman Senate."
Gaius' phrase strongly implies that Rome would declare war if King Antiochus stepped out of the circle without committing to immediately leave Egypt. After weighing his options Antiochus wisely decides not to go to war.
160 B.C. - Judas Maccabeus dies in battle.
147 B.C. - Judea gains its independence.