First Machabees was written in the latter part of the second century BCE. It is considered sacred scripture to more than a billion Christians, members of the Catholic, Orthodox, and Coptic churches. Another billion or so Christians (the Protestants) consider it apocryphal. It's one of the many things that divides the followers of Jesus, contrary to Jesus' prayer in John 17:21.
That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
From which we can conclude two things:
- Nothing fails like prayer (even when Jesus does the praying), and
- God didn't send Jesus.
But back to the story.
The first chapter of 1 Machabees tells about the trials and tribulations of the Jews after Alexander the Great conquered Judea. His successor in the region (a century and a half later), Antiochus, desecrated the temple in Jerusalem and forced the Jews to abandon their religious traditions.
That's when Mathathias shows up.
He and his sons were so upset by the whole thing that they did what all good biblical characters do in similar situations. They...
...rent their garments, and they covered themselves with haircloth, and made great lamentation. 1 Machabees 2:14
Then Mathathias got down to business -- God's business, that is.
Mathathias saw a Jew sacrificing to idols and it grieved him -- so much in fact that his kidneys ("reins" in the Douay-Rheims Bible) began to tremble.
There came a certain Jew in the sight of all to sacrifice to the idols upon the altar in the city of Modin, according to the king's commandment. Mathathias saw and was grieved, and his reins trembled. 2:23-24a
Which kindled his wrath, whereupon he ran up and murdered the Jew on the altar while he was offering sacrifice to his idols..
and his wrath was kindled according to the judgment of the law, and running upon him he slew him upon the altar: 2:24bAlong with one of Antiochus' officials.
Moreover the man whom king Antiochus had sent, who compelled them to sacrifice, he slew at the same time, and pulled down the altar. 2:25That these murders were approved by God is made clear by the following verse.
And shewed zeal for the law, as Phinees did. 2:26Mathathias was showing his zeal for the law, just like Phineas ("Phinees" in the Douay-Reims) did in Numbers 25:7-8.
In Numbers 25, Phineas threw a spear through an interfaith couple while they were having sex, and the double murder pleased God so much that God stopped killing the Israelites with a plague (after killing 24,000). For being so "zealous for his God," Phineas was given God's "covenant of peace" and the "covenant of an everlasting priesthood."
Mathathias' double murder was as pleasing to God as Phineas'.
You just can't please God more than that.