The First Book of Maccabees (15:28–36) records a diplomatic exchange over disputed cities and territories between Simon, Judas Maccabeus's brother, and the Seleucid king Antiochus VII. In vv. 33–34, Simon argues that the Jews/Judeans have not seized foreign lands that belonged to others but have simply taken back “the heritage of our fathers.” Many scholars have interpreted Simon's reply as a self-evident indication that the Hasmonean dynasty saw itself as reconquering the promised land. However, a closer analysis of the text shows that this claim is exaggerated. Moreover, scholars refer to this passage alone in support of such a theory. Through the analysis of the literary construction of the passage and of its connections with biblical traditions, with Seleucid rhetoric as presented in 1 Maccabees itself, and with Hellenistic arguments used in cases of territorial strife, I argue that “the heritage of our fathers” refers to Judea alone, and that Simon's discourse cannot be interpreted solely through the lens of biblical intertextuality but rather needs to be compared with the ways of arguing about one's legitimate right to possess a territory in the Hellenistic world at large.

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