After Ezra and Nehemiah, the Judean province, at the extreme end of the Persian empire, lived on the fringes of history for three centuries. Those with greater initiative dedicated themselves to trading and left their country to settle in all the urban centers around the Mediterranean. Yet, one hundred years after Nehemiah, in 333 B.C., Alexander the Great began to chart the Middle East countries, defeating all the enemy armies and overthrowing the kings. Although he died when he was thirty years old, his triumphs opened the way for the spread of Greek culture with its longing for growth, its confidence in human potential and its open spirit which surpassed national individualism.
Alexander’s generals parceled out his huge empire among themselves. The Ptolemies, who dominated Egypt and Palestine, were understanding and did not disturb the Jews for the sake of their religion and customs. But when the Antiochians of Syria defeated the Egyptians in 197 and took Palestine away from them, they began to impose their pagan religion on the Jews.
This fierce persecution caused the uprising of the Jews headed by the Maccabean family. The first book of Maccabees—acknowledged as one of the most perfect books of ancient history—relates the events in the war and the deeds of the five Maccabean brothers, from the year 170 to 130 B.C.
Holy War, Liberation War
The book of Maccabees shows us a people who desire to live but for whom faith is more valuable than even life itself. When all have become accustomed to living without conflicts, persecution begins. Many are convinced they can do nothing against such a great power and that the risks are too great to overcome. Then the Spirit of God engenders new heroes through whom people recover their sense of dignity, fighting for those rights that make them fully human and true believers.
The Jewish people found themselves alone against their oppressors, and their Roman allies were not much help. They relied on their own strength and God helped them in their efforts.
The Maccabean wars are models of holy wars. They also proved that holy wars do not solve everything. Caught up in military problems and in political games, the Maccabees’ descendants soon became materialistic and were despised or opposed by true believers.
•1Everything began with the conquests of Alexander the first, son of Philip, the Macedonian. Setting out from Greece, he killed Darius, king of the Persians and the Medes. Being already king of Greece, he took the throne of Darius. 2After fighting many battles, conquering strongholds and putting to death the kings of those nations, 3he reached the ends of the earth and plundered several nations. And when the world became quiet and subject to his power, he became proud. 4He gathered a strong army, ruled over provinces and nations, and rulers paid him taxes. 5But he fell sick, and knowing he was going to die, 6he summoned his generals and the noblemen who had been brought up with him from his youth; and while still alive, he divided his kingdom among them. 7Alexander had reigned for twelve years when he died.
8His generals assumed power, each one in the region assigned to him. 9And immediately after Alexander’s death, they made themselves kings and their sons after them, filling the earth with evil for many years. 10From their descendants there came a godless offshoot, Antiochus Epiphanes, son of king Antiochus, who had been held as hostage in Rome. He became king in the one hundred and thirty-seventh year of the Greek era (175 B.C.).
11It was then that some rebels emerged from Israel, who succeeded in winning over many people. They said, “Let us renew contact with the peoples around us for we had endured many misfortunes since we separated from them.”
12This proposal was well-received 13and some eagerly went to the king. The king authorized them to adopt the customs of the pagan nations. 14With his permission, they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem in the pagan style. 15And as they wanted to be like the pagans in everything, they made artificial foreskins for themselves and abandoned the Holy Covenant, sinning as they pleased.
Antiochus despoils the Temple
16When Antiochus felt confident of his power, he decided to seize Egypt and rule over the two nations. 17He entered Egypt with a strong army, with chariots of war, elephants, horses and a great fleet 18and attacked Ptolemy, king of Egypt. Ptolemy had to retreat and was defeated, and many of his men died. 19The victors seized the fortified cities of Egypt and plundered the land. 20In the year one hundred and forty-three (169 B.C.), when Antiochus returned after defeating Egypt, he passed through Israel and went up to Jerusalem with a strong army.
21He arrogantly broke into the Sanctuary and removed the golden altar, the lampstand for the light with all its accessories, 22the table for the bread of offering, the libation vessels, the cups, the golden censers, the curtains and the crowns, and stripped away all the decorations, the golden moldings that used to cover the Temple entrance. 23He also took possession of the silver, gold, valuable objects and all the hidden treasures he could find. 24He took everything with him and left for his country, after shedding much blood and making arrogant statements.
25There was great mourning throughout the land of Israel: 26The leaders and the elders groaned, young men and maidens lost courage, and women grew pale; 27bridegrooms sang lamentations, and the young bride wept in her marriage-bed. 28The earth quaked, in sorrow for its inhabitants, and all the people of Jacob were humiliated.
29After two years, the king sent to the cities of Judah the chief tax collector and he came to Jerusalem with a strong army. 30He spoke to the people with words of peace in order to deceive them. But when he had gained their confidence, he suddenly fell on the city and dealt it a terrible blow, killing many Israelites. 31He plundered the city, burning and destroying the palaces and the surrounding walls.
32He took women and children captive and seized the livestock. 33Then they rebuilt the city of David with a high and solid wall protected by strong towers, and this became their fortress. 34There they set evil men and apostates who defended it. 35They stored up weapons and provisions, and everything they looted in the city, posing a constant threat. 36It became an ambush for the Sanctuary, a grave and constant threat to Israel. 37They shed innocent blood around the Sanctuary and defiled the Sanctuary itself.
38The inhabitants of Jerusalem fled because of them. She became a colony of strangers, and was a stranger to her children who abandoned her. 39Her Sanctuary became empty as the desert, her feasts became days of mourning, her Sabbaths were ridiculed, and her fame became an object of contempt. 40As her glory had been great, so now was her dishonor, for her greatness was turned into grief.
•41Antiochus issued a decree to his whole kingdom. 42All the peoples of his empire had to renounce their particular customs and become one people. 43All the pagan nations obeyed and respected the king’s decree, and even in Israel many accepted the imposed cult. They offered sacrifices to idols and no longer respected the Sabbath. 44The king sent messengers to Jerusalem and the cities of Judea to carry the decree which imposed strange customs. 45In accordance with it, burnt offerings, sacrifices and other offerings in the Sanctuary were suppressed. It also ordered that Sabbaths and sacred feasts be like ordinary days. 46The Sanctuary and its ministers were no longer to be regarded sacred, 47instead, altars, sacred enclosures and temples were to be dedicated to idols. They were to offer pigs and unclean animals in sacrifice, 48and not perform on their sons the rite of circumcision. To sum up, they were to defile themselves by all kinds of impurity and profanity 49in order to forget the Law and change all their customs. 50The decree finally declared: “Anyone who does not fulfill the king’s order shall die.”
51The king published this obligation throughout the province and inspectors appointed by him went around the land of Judea. They saw to it that sacrifices were offered in all cities. 52Many Israelites joined them, abandoned the Law and committed countless evils 53obliging the true Israelites to find places of refuge to hide themselves.
54On the fifteenth day of the month of Chislev, in the year one hundred and forty-five (167 B.C.), Antiochus erected the “abominable idol of the invaders” on the altar of the temple. Pagan altars were built throughout the whole land of Judea; 55incense was offered at the doors of their houses and in the squares. 56There wicked men tore up the books of the Law they found and burned them. 57They killed anyone they caught in possession of the book of the Covenant and who fulfilled the precepts of the Law, as the royal decree had ordered. 58And being men in power, they pursued the Israelite rebels they found month after month in the cities. 59On the twenty-fifth day of every month, they offered their sacrifices on the new altar they had built upon the altar of the Temple.
60The women who, in defiance of the decree, had the rite of circumcision performed on their children, were put to death with their babies hung around their necks. 61Their families and all who had taken part in the circumcision were also put to death.
62But in spite of all this, many Israelites still remained firm and determined not to eat unclean food. 63They preferred to die rather than to make themselves unclean with those foods (prohibited by the Law) that violated the Holy Covenant. 64And Israel suffered a very great trial.
Mattathias unleashes the Holy War
•1In those days Mattathias, son of Simon, a priest of the family of Yoarib, left Jerusalem and went to settle in Modein. 2He had five sons: John, known as Gaddi, 3Simon called Thassi, 4Judas called Maccabeus, 5Eleazar called Avaran, and Jonathan called Apphus.
6Mattathias saw the blasphemies committed in Judah and Jerusalem, 7so he said: “Alas! Was I born just to witness the ruin of my people and the destruction of the holy city? Shall I sit by while she is in the hands of her enemies and her Sanctuary in the power of foreigners?
8Her temple has become like a dishonored man, 9the precious objects that were her glory have been carried off as booty, her babies have been murdered in the squares, and her young men killed by the sword of the enemy. 10What nation has not received part of her treasures and taken possession of her spoils? 11She has been stripped of all her adornments and from the freedom that was hers, she has gone into slavery. 12Our beautiful Sanctuary that was our pride has been laid waste and profaned by pagans. 13What is there to live for?”
14Mattathias and his sons tore their clothes, put on sackcloth and went into deep mourning. 15In the meantime, the king’s representatives, who were forcing the Jews to give up their religion came to Modein to organize a sacred gathering.
16While many Israelites went to them, Mattathias and his sons drew apart.
17The representatives of the king addressed Mattathias, and said to him: “You are one of the leaders of this city, an important and well-known man, and your many children and relatives follow you. 18Come now and be the first to fulfill the king’s order, as the men of Judah have already done, and the survivors in Jerusalem as well. You and your sons will be named friends of the king and the king will send you gold, silver and many other gifts.”
19But Mattathias answered in a loud voice: “Even if all the nations included in the kingdom should abandon the religion of their ancestors and submit to the order of king Antiochus, 20I, my sons and my family will remain faithful to the Covenant of our ancestors. 21May God preserve us from abandoning the Law and its precepts. 22We will not obey the orders of the king nor turn aside from our religion either to the right or to the left.”
23When he finished speaking these words, a Jew came forward in the sight of everyone to offer incense on the altar that was built in Modein according to the king’s decree. 24When Mattathias saw him, he was fired with zeal, his heart was stirred, and giving vent to his righteous anger, he threw himself on the Jew and cut the man’s throat on the altar. 25At the same time, he killed the king’s representative who was forcing the people to offer sacrifice, and then tore down the altar. 26In doing this he showed his zeal for the Law, as Phinehas had done with Zimri, son of Salu.
27Mattathias then began to proclaim loudly in the city: “Everyone who is zealous for the Law and supports the Covenant, come out and follow me!” 28Immediately he and his sons fled to the mountains and left behind all they had in the city.
•29Many Jews who looked for justice and wanted to be faithful to the Law went into the desert; 30they took with them their children, wives and livestock because life had become unbearable for them.
31Then the king’s representatives and the authority in the city of David, in Jerusalem, were informed that some men had disobeyed the king’s order and had gone to hide in the caves in the desert.
32A strong force of the king pursued and overtook them. They surrounded them and prepared themselves for an attack. It was the day of the Sabbath. 33And they said to the Jews: “Enough of this! Come out and obey the king’s order if you wish to save your lives.” 34But they answered: “We will neither come out nor obey the king’s order to violate the day of the Sabbath.”
35So they attacked them at once, 36but the Jews did not defend them-selves, nor did they try to close the entrance of their place of refuge. 37They said: “We shall die with a clear conscience but heaven and earth will remember that we were murdered.” 38The king’s men attacked them on that Sabbath, and they all died—men, women and children—a total of more than a thousand, not counting the livestock.
39When Mattathias and his friends came to know what happened, they went into deep mourning. 40They said to one another: “We cannot do as our brothers and sisters have done; we shall fight against the pagans to defend our life and our customs; otherwise, they will quickly destroy us.” 41On that day, they resolved to defend themselves against anyone who attacked them on the day of the Sabbath, and not let themselves be killed, as had happened with their people in the hiding place.
42At that time, a group of Hasideans (the Devout), valiant Israelites who devoted themselves sincerely to the Law, joined them. 43All those who wanted to escape from oppression joined them, and in this way they grew strong. 44They succeeded in forming an army; then they began to pour their anger and indignation onto the sinners and renegades. These men had to flee to other lands for safety. 45Mattathias and his friends made expeditions during which they destroyed the altars, 46imposed by force the rite of circumcision on the children they found uncircumcised, 47and pursued all the arrogant. The undertaking prospered in their hands. 48They defended the Law against foreigners and their kings, and subdued the renegades.
49When Mattathias neared his death, he said to his sons: “Now the insolent and the violent are in power; it is a time of upheaval in which God releases his anger. 50So, my sons, be zealous for the Law and risk your lives defending the Covenant of our ancestors. 51Remember the deeds our ancestors fulfilled in their time, that you too may have fame and glory.
52Remember Abraham who proved himself faithful in the hour of trial, and how God held him to be a righteous man. 53Joseph, at the time of his misfortune observed the commandment of God and so became the lord of Egypt. 54Phinehas, our ancestors, because of his great zeal received the priesthood for himself and for his sons forever. 55Joshua became head of Israel because he carried out God’s command. 56Caleb received his inheritance in this land because he had proclaimed the truth before the assembly. 57And David was given a lasting kingdom because of his devotion. 58Elijah because of his zeal for the Law was taken up into heaven. 59Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael were saved from the flames because of their faith. 60Daniel was rescued from the lion’s mouth because of his righteousness. 61Consider, then, that in any generation those who trust in God are never defeated.
62Do not fear the threats of an impious man, for his glory shall end in dung and worms. 63Today he is exalted, but tomorrow he shall perish; he shall return to dust from where he came, and nothing shall remain of his plans. 64Have courage, my sons, and remain steadfast in the Law for in this you will receive glory.
65I know that among you, Simon is a man of sound judgment; listen to him and he shall take your father’s place. 66Judas Maccabeus has been valiant from his youth: let him be your general and conduct the war against foreigners.
67Now, call all those who fulfill the Law to join you and defend our people. 68Retaliate against the pagans and fulfill the ordinance of the Law.”
69Mattathias blessed them and then went to join his fathers. 70He died in the year one hundred and forty-six (166 B.C.) and they buried him in the tomb of his fathers at Modein; and all Israel mourned him deeply.
•1Mattathias’ son, Judas Maccabeus, succeeded him. 2His brothers and all who had followed his father gave him their support and they continued the war with determination.
3Judas made the name of his people more famous. He put on his breastplate and girded himself with the armor of war like a giant; he fought many battles and protected his camp with his sword.
4He was like a lion when he attacked, like a lion’s whelp roaring over its prey.
5He pursued the renegades in their secret places and consigned to the flames those who troubled his people.
6All the renegades feared him, all evildoers were confounded, and liberation was accomplished through him.
7Many kings feared him, while the people of Israel rejoiced in his deeds.
His memory shall be blessed forever. 8He went through the cities of Judah utterly destroying the impious and saved Israel in their trial.
9His fame resounded to the ends of the earth for having gathered those about to perish.
•10Apollonius also gathered together men from the pagans and a good number of Samaritans to fight Israel. 11When Judas learned of this, he went out to meet him in battle; he defeated and killed him. Many of the enemy fell and the rest fled. 12They seized the plunder and Judas took the sword of Apollonius, and from then on he always used it in battle.
13Seron, the commander of the Syrian army, learned that Judas had gathered many men and that the whole community of believers was at his side. 14He thought: “This is now the opportunity for me to make myself famous and become an important man in the kingdom. I will go to fight Judas and his men who do not obey the king’s order.” 15So he did, and a strong army of pagans went up with him to help him take vengeance on the children of Israel.
16As Seron approached the slope of Beth-horon, Judas went out to confront him with a small company of warriors. 17But on seeing the enemy advancing against them, Judas’ men said to him, “How can we, few as we are, fight against so many? And besides, we feel weak for we have not eaten anything today.”
18But Judas declared: “A multitude shall easily fall into the hands of a few, for Heaven can win over equally well with the help of many or of few. 19Victory does not depend on the number of those who fight, but on Heaven which gives us strength. 20They come against us, moved by their pride and lawlessness, to seize us and take possession of our wives and children and to take everything away from us. 21But we are fighting for our lives and our laws. 22God will crush them before us; so do not be afraid.”
23As soon as he finished speaking, he suddenly rushed against the enemies. Seron and his army were defeated. 24They pursued them down the slope of Beth-horon to the plain. And about eight hundred of Seron’s men fell and the rest escaped to the land of the Philistines.
25With this, fright and fear of Judas and his brothers seized the pagans who lived around them. 26The fame of his name reached the king, and the pagan nations recounted his battles.
Antiochus prepares for war
27When this news reached king Antiochus, he was furious, so he ordered all the forces of his kingdom to assemble, for he had a powerful army. 28He opened his treasury and paid the troops a year’s salary, ordering them to be prepared for any eventuality. 29But he found that the money in the treasury had run short, for the taxes of the provinces had decreased due to dissension and disaster, which he himself had caused in the land by changing the laws that were in force from the earliest days. 30He feared that, as before, he would not have enough funds for his expenses and for the gifts he used to give more lavishly than preceding kings. 31So great was his need that he decided to go to Persia to collect the taxes from those provinces and raise considerable funds.
32Then he left Lysias, a nobleman from the royal family, in charge of the affairs of government, from the river Euphrates to the Egyptian frontier, 33and with the responsibility of educating the king’s son, Antiochus, until his return. 34And he turned over to Lysias half of his troops with the elephants and gave him instructions about his policies. On matters dealing with the inhabitants of Judea and Jerusalem, 35Lysias was to send an army to destroy and crush the defenders of Israel and all who remained in Jerusalem and to wipe out even the memory of them. 36Then he was to have foreigners settle throughout the Jewish territory and distribute the land to them by lot.
37The king took with him the remaining half of the army and set out from Antioch, the capital of the kingdom, in the year one hundred and forty-seven (165 B.C.). He crossed the river Euphrates and went through the upper provinces.
38Lysias chose from among the friends of the King, Ptolemy the son of Dorymenes, Nicanor and Gorgias—all influential men. 39With them, he dispatched forty thousand infantry and seven thousand cavalry to the Judean province to destroy it as the king had ordered. 40They marched out with their troops and encamped on the plain near Emmaus. 41The merchants of the region heard of their arrival, so they went to the camp with large amounts of silver, gold and fetters, proposing to buy the Israelites as slaves. The Syrian army and those from the province of the Philistines also joined the troops.
42Judas and his brothers understood that the situation was becoming worse, because the enemy had encamped in their territory. So when they learned of the king’s order to destroy and crush the people, 43they said, “Let us uplift our people from their miserable situation and fight for them and for the Holy Place!”
44The whole community assembled to prepare for war, and they prayed and asked God for mercy and compassion.
45Like a desert, Jerusalem was left without inhabitants. None of her children went in or out. The temple was profaned, and foreigners lived in the city which had become a dwelling place for the pagans. There was no more rejoicing for Jacob, no flute or zither was heard.
The Jews gather at Mizpah
46So they gathered and went to Mizpah opposite Jerusalem because Mizpah had been a place of prayer for Israel. 47They fasted that day, put on sackcloth, sprinkled ashes on their heads and tore their garments. 48They opened the Book of the Law to look for an answer to their questions, just as the pagans consulted the images of their idols. 49They brought the vestments of the priests, the first fruits and the tithes, and they brought in the Nazirites who had completed the days of their consecration; 50they cried aloud to Heaven and said: “What shall we do with this people, and where shall we take them? 51For your Sanctuary has been trampled on and profaned, your priests are in mourning and are humiliated. 52And now the pagans have gathered together to destroy us. You know what they are plotting against us. 53How can we resist them, if you do not come to help us?” 54Then they sounded the trumpets and made a great outcry.
55After this, Judas appointed officials to lead his people: leaders of a thousand men, leaders of a hundred, of fifty, and of ten. 56Then he told those who were building houses, those about to marry, those who were planting vineyards, and those who were afraid, to return to their homes, as the Law allowed. 57Next the army marched out and encamped to the south of Emmaus. 58Judas told them: “Prepare your weapons; be valiant and be ready to fight in the morning against those foreigners who have joined forces to crush us and remove our Holy Place from this land. 59It is better to die fighting than to live and see the misery of our nation and of the Holy Place. 60May Heaven’s will be done in everything.”
Battle of Emmaus
•1Gorgias took with him five thousand infantry and a thousand picked cavalry, and moved out by night 2to fall upon the Jews and take them by surprise. He had asked men from the Citadel to guide his troops. 3But Judas learned of this, so he went out with his men to attack the king’s army in Emmaus 4while the enemy troops were still dispersed outside the camp. 5Gorgias arrived at the camp of the Jews by night but found no one there. He then began to search for them in the mountains, for he thought: “They are running away from us.”
6But at daybreak, Judas appeared in the plain with three thousand men who had not the armor or swords they would have liked. 7They saw the camp of the pagans with its strong fortifications and the calvary surrounding it—all trained men in war. 8Judas said to his men: “Do not fear the number of the enemy or be afraid of their attack. 9Remember how our ancestors were saved at the Red Sea when Pharaoh’s army pursued them. 10Cry out to God, for if he so wishes he will remember his Covenant and destroy that army before us this very day. 11And all the nations will know that Someone saves and liberates Israel.”
12The pagans looked up and saw the Jews coming down against them, 13so they came out of their camp to face them in battle. Judas had the trumpets sounded 14and his men attacked. The pagans were defeated and fled to the plain, 15but all the rear guard fell by the sword. They pursued them to Gazara, to the plains of Idumea, of Azot and Jamnia and killed about three thousand of the enemy.
16When Judas and his army stopped chasing them, 17he said to the men with him: “Do not think of the booty now, for another battle awaits us. 18Gorgias with his army is in the hills close by. Remain ready to fight them, and afterwards you can gather the plunder with nothing to worry about.” 19He had barely finished speaking when an army detachment appeared on the hillside. 20These men saw that their own troops had fled and their camp had been destroyed, for the smoke that rose up from the camp was enough to tell them this. 21So they were terrified. And when they saw the army of Judas drawn up on the plain ready for battle, 22they fled to the land of the Philistines.
23So Judas and his men returned to plunder the camp. They carried off valuable booty. 24And on their return, they sang and praised heaven: For he is good, and his mercy is eternal.
25That day was a great victory for Israel. 26The pagans who had escaped went to Lysias and told him what had happened. 27When he heard this, he was dismayed and depressed because things in Israel had not gone as expected, and he had not carried out the king’s command.
28The following year, he organized an army of sixty thousand men and five thousand cavalry to confront the Jews. 29They advanced into Idumea and encamped at Bethzur. Judas came out with ten thousand men to meet them in battle. 30When he saw their military strength, he prayed, “Blessed are you, Savior of Israel, who broke the warrior’s strength by the hand of your servant David, and handed over the camp of the Philistines to the power of Jonathan, son of Saul, and to his armor-bearer.
31In the same way, give this army into the hands of your people Israel, and let the confidence they place in their power and in their horses be destroyed. 32Fill them with fear; shatter their confidence in their own strength. May they be defeated and recover no more. 33Deliver them to the sword of your faithful people so that all who know you may praise your name.”
34Both sides attacked, and five thousand men from the army of Lysias fell dead. 35Lysias saw that his army was disheartened, while Judas and his men grew bolder and were ready to live or to die nobly. So he retreated to Antioch, where he recruited mercenaries to strengthen his army, for he planned to return to Judea.
Judas purifies the temple
•36Then Judas and his brothers said: “Our enemies are defeated, so let us go up and purify the Holy Place and consecrate it again.” 37And all the army assembled and went up to Mount Zion. 38There they found the Sanctuary abandoned, the altar profaned, the gates burned, bushes growing in the courtyard as in a forest or on a mountain, and the rooms destroyed. 39They tore their garments and wept bitterly. Some sprinkled ashes on their heads, 40while others prostrated themselves on the ground. They sounded the trumpets and cried aloud to Heaven.
41Then Judas chose men to fight against the defenders of the Citadel until he had purified the temple. 42He chose blameless priests who showed great zeal for the Law 43and had them purify the temple and bring the stones of the abominable altar of the pagans to an unclean place.
44They held a council to decide on what should be done with the altar of the holocausts which had been defiled. 45And they decided to destroy it, so that shame brought about by the pagans might not remain with it. 46They deposited the stones of the said altar in a convenient place on the temple hill until a prophet should appear to settle the matter.
47Then they took uncut stones as the Law prescribed, and built a new altar like the former one. 48They repaired the Sanctuary, and the interior of the house, and consecrated the courts.
49They made new sacred vessels and brought in the lampstand, the altar of incense and the table. 50They burned incense on the altar, and lit the lamps on the lampstand, and these began to shine in the temple. 51They placed the bread on the table and hung up the curtains—bringing to completion all that had been decided.
52On the twenty-fifth day of the month of Chislev, in the year one hundred and forty-eight (164 B.C.) 53they arose at dawn and offered the sacrifice prescribed by the Law on the new altar of holocausts which they had built. 54It was precisely at that same time and date that the pagans had profaned it before; but now they consecrated it with songs accompanied by zithers, harps and cymbals. 55All the people fell prostrate and blessed Heaven that had given them happiness and success.
56They celebrated the consecration of the altar for eight days, joyfully offering holocausts and celebrating sacrifices of thanksgiving and praise. 57The front of the temple was adorned with crowns of gold and shields; the gates and the rooms had been restored and fitted with doors.
58There was no end to the celebration among the people, and so the profanation of the temple by the pagans was forgotten. 59Finally, Judas, his brothers and the whole assembly of Israel agreed to celebrate the anniversary of the consecration of the altar annually for eight days, from the twenty-fifth of the month of Chislev, in high festivity.
60At that time, they built around Mount Zion high walls and strong towers to prevent the pagans from coming in to occupy it as they had done before. 61Judas stationed a garrison there to defend it. He also fortified Bethzur so that the people might have a fortress against Idumea.
Judas goes to rescue the scattered Jews
•1When the pagans who lived around them learned that the altar had been rebuilt and the temple restored as before, they became very angry. 2They determined to destroy the descendants of Jacob who lived among them; so they began killing and driving away the Jews.
3That is why Judas declared war against the sons of Esau in Idumea and in the province of Akrabattene, for they surrounded Israel. He dealt them a mortal blow—he humbled them and looted them. 4Then he remembered the wickedness of the gangs of Baean who were a plague and a permanent source of trouble for the Jews with their ambushes on the roads. 5So Judas, after blockading and besieging them in their towers, took an oath to exterminate them; he then burned the towers with all who were inside.
6From there he crossed over to the land of the Ammonites where he encountered a large and well-organized army under the command of Timotheus. 7He engaged them in many encounters, defeated them and crushed them. 8He attacked and captured the city of Yazer with its neighboring villages and then returned to Judea.
9The pagans of Gilead gathered together to destroy the Israelites who lived in their territory. But the Israelites took refuge in the fortress of Dathema, 10and sent a letter to Judas and his brothers which said, “The pagans around us have joined forces to crush us 11and are now preparing to storm the fortress where we have taken refuge. Timothy is their leader. 12Come at once and rescue us from their hands since many among us have already died; 13all our brothers living in the land of Tobias have been murdered, their women and children taken captives; about a thousand men have been killed.”
14They were reading this letter when other messengers arrived from Galilee tearing their garments as they gave this message: 15“The people of Ptolemais, Tyre, Sidon and the whole of heathen Galilee have united to destroy us!”
16When Judas and his men heard this news, they summoned a great assembly to determine what could be done for their brothers and sisters in distress who were fighting for their lives. 17Judas said to his brother Simon: “Choose your men; go and free our brothers in Galilee; I and my brother Jonathan will go to Gilead.”
18He left the rest of the troops under the command of Joseph the son of Zechariah, and Azariah, a leader of the people, to defend the land of Judea, 19and gave them this order: “Remain at the head of the people, but do not attack the pagans until we return.”
20Three thousand men were assigned to Simon for the campaign in Galilee, and eight thousand men to Judas for Gilead. 21Simon left for Galilee and defeated the pagans in many encounters, 22and pursued them to the gates of Ptolemais. About three thousand of the pagans fell, and Simon seized their spoils. 23Then he took away with him the Jews who were in Galilee and Arbatta as well as their women and children, and all they had, and brought them into Judea with great rejoicing.
24Meanwhile, Judas Maccabeus and his brother Jonathan crossed the Jordan and journeyed through the desert for three days. 25There they encountered the Nabateans who received them in a friendly way and told them all that had happened to their brothers in the region of Gilead. 26They gave them the news that many Jews were imprisoned in Alema, Chaspho, Maked and Carnaim, all large and fortified towns in the vicinity of Bozrah and Bosor. 27They also related that Jews were also blockaded in other cities of Gilead, and that the pagans had decided to attack their strongholds on the following day intending to destroy all of them in one day.
28Judas quickly turned off with his army by the desert road to Bozrah; he occupied the city, put all the men to the sword, seized the booty and then burned the city. 29He left the place at night and advanced until they reached the fortress. 30At dawn, the Jews looked up and saw an innumerable army carrying ladders and engines of war to attack and capture the fortress.
31Judas saw that the attack had begun; from the city an uproar rose up to heaven with shouts and trumpet blast. 32He said to his men: “Let us now fight for our brothers.” 33Then he divided his troops into three groups, and attacked the enemy from behind, sounding the trumpets and praying out loud. 34When the army of Timothy recognized that it was Maccabeus, they began to escape, but Judas dealt them a heavy blow, and about five thousand of the enemy fell that day.
35From there, Judas went to Alema; he attacked and occupied the city, killed all the men and seized the booty, and then he burned the city. 36From there, he captured Chaspho, Maked and Bosor and the remaining towns of Gilead.
37After these events, Timothy gathered a new army and encamped opposite Raphon, at the other side of the stream. 38Judas sent men to explore the camp and they brought back the following information: “All the pagans of this region have joined forces under Timothy, forming a powerful army. 39They have also hired Arab mercenaries as auxiliaries, and they are now encamped at the other side of the stream, ready to attack you.” So Judas set out to confront them in battle.
40Timothy saw that Judas was approaching the stream with his army, so he said to the captains of his troops, “If he crosses first and advances against us, he shall attack us with such great force that we will not be able to withstand him. 41But if he hesitates and encamps at the other side of the river, then we shall cross over to attack and defeat him.”
42When Judas reached the banks of the stream, he assigned the officials of his men along the stream and ordered them: “Do not let anyone pitch his tent; all are to fight.” 43Judas was the first to cross to the enemy, and all his men followed. They defeated all the pagans who threw down their weapons and took refuge in the sacred enclosure of Carnaim. 44But the Jews captured the city and burned the sacred enclosure with everyone inside. So Carnaim was crushed, and no one was able to withstand Judas.
45Judas gathered together all the Israelites from the region of Gilead, small and great, their women and children and their belongings, an immense multitude, to take them into the land of Judea. 46They reached Ephron, a strong and important town, situated by the road. It was impossible to go around it either to the right or to the left, so they were forced to go through it, 47but the inhabitants entrenched themselves inside and blocked the entrance with stones. 48Judas sent them a message of peace saying: “Allow us to go through your land as we go back to ours; we will simply walk through and none of us will do you any harm.” But they refused to open the gates to him.
49So Judas gave orders to his army for everyone to take up his position where he was. 50The men of war took up their positions, and Judas attacked the city all day and night until it fell into his hands. 51He put all the male inhabitants to the sword, razed the city and took its plunder. 52Then they passed through the city over the bodies of the dead and came to the great plain after crossing the Jordan opposite Bethshan.
53Throughout the journey Judas kept on encouraging his people and rallying those who fell behind, until they reached the land of Judah. 54They went up to Mount Zion joyfully and well contented, and they offered holocausts because they had returned safe and sound, without losing a single man.
Joseph and Azariah are defeated
•55While Judas and Jonathan were in the land of Gilead, and their brother Simon was encamped in Galilee opposite Ptolemais, 56Zechariah’s son Joseph and Azariah were in command of the army. When they heard of their exploits and how well they had done in battle, 57they said, “We also have to win renown, so let us go and fight the pagans who live around us.”
58So they gave orders to their army to march against Jamnia. 59But Gorgias came out of the city with his men and attacked them. 60Joseph and Azariah were defeated and pursued as far as the borders of Judea, and about two thousand Israelites fell that day. 61The people suffered this great defeat because the Jewish commanders did not listen to Judas and his brothers, thinking they themselves were capable of great deeds. 62They did not belong to those to whom the deliverance of Israel had been entrusted.
63The valiant Judas and his brothers were greatly honored in Israel and became famous among the foreigners who heard of them, 64and many came to congratulate them.
65Judas with his brothers went to the Negeb to fight the Edomites. He seized Hebron and its villages, demolished its walls and burned its defending towers. 66Then he left for the land of the Philistines, passing through Marisa. 67That day some priests who wanted to be valiant fell because they imprudently attacked the enemy. 68From there Judas turned towards Azotus in the land of the Philistines. He destroyed their altars, burned the statues of their gods, plundered the city and then returned to Judah.
Last days of Antiochus Epiphanes
•1When king Antiochus was making his way through the upper regions of Persia, he received news about Elymais, a city renowned for its wealth in silver and gold. 2They kept in the wealthy temple of their city golden armor, breastplates and weapons left there by the Macedonian king, Alexander the son of Philip, the first sovereign of the Greeks. 3So Antiochus went there but the inhabitants came out armed against him when they learned of his intention, so his attempt to take the city failed. 4He had to turn back, and he returned much embittered to Babylon.
5While he was still in Persia, it was reported to him that the armies sent to Judea had been defeated. They told him 6that although Lysias had gone with a strong army, he had to flee before the Jews who had been strengthened with the weapons and the abundant booty taken from the neighboring armies. 7He heard too that the Jews had destroyed the abominable idol he had erected on the altar in Jerusalem, and had rebuilt the temple walls to the same height as before, and had also fortified the city of Beth-zur.
8When he received this news, he was terrified and deeply upset. He fell sick and became greatly depressed because things had not turned out the way he had planned. 9So he remained overcome by this terrible anguish for many days. He felt that he was dying, 10so he called his friends and said to them, “Sleep has fled from my eyes and I am greatly crushed by my anxieties. 11And I keep on asking why such grief has come upon me—I who was generous and well-loved when in power—and now I am so discouraged.
12Now I remember the evils I did in Jerusalem, the vessels of gold and silver that I stole, the inhabitants of Judea I ordered to be killed for no reason at all. 13I now know that because of this, these misfortunes have come upon me, and I am dying of grief in a strange land.” 14The king then summoned Philip, one of his friends, and appointed him administrator of his whole kingdom. 15When he had entrusted him with the crown, robe and signet ring, with the charge of educating his son Antiochus and preparing him for the throne, 16Antiochus died there in the year one hundred and forty-nine (163 B.C.). 17As soon as Lysias learned of the king’s death, he proclaimed his son Antiochus as his successor, for he himself had trained him from childhood and had named him Eupator.
Expedition of Antiochus V
18The men from the Citadel were blockading the Israelites around the temple and did not let an opportunity pass of harming them on behalf of the pagans. 19Judas decided to wipe them out, 20so he gathered together all the people to besiege them. The troops assembled and laid siege to the Citadel in the year one hundred and fifty (162 B.C.), building firing platforms and siege engines. 21But some of the besieged broke through the blockade and together with renegade Israelites 22went to tell the king, “How much longer will you wait to do us justice and avenge our brothers? 23We took the side of your father, we obeyed his orders and observed his laws. 24The result is that the Citadel is now besieged by our own people and we are treated as foreigners. All of us who were caught have been killed and they have seized our property. 25And they are fighting not only against us but in the neighboring lands as well.
26Right now, they are encamped against the Citadel in Jerusalem to capture it, and they have fortified the temple and the city of Beth-zur. 27If you do not take the lead now, they will do greater things and then you will not be able to control them.”
28The king was enraged when he heard this news, and he summoned all his friends, the generals of the army and the commanders of the cavalry. 29From other kingdoms and islands of the sea, he recruited mercenary troops. 30His forces numbered a hundred thousand infantry, twenty thousand horsemen and thirty-two elephants trained for battle. 31They came through Idumea, besieged Beth-zur and attacked for days, using engines of war. But the besieged made a sortie and burned their engines and bravely kept up the resistance.
Battle of Beth-zechariah
•32Then Judas ceased fighting at the Citadel and encamped at Beth-zechariah opposite the camp of the king. 33Early in the morning the king rose and his army boldly advanced along the road to Beth-zechariah. The troops prepared for battle and sounded the trumpets.
34They showed juice of grapes and mulberries to the elephants to arouse them for battle, 35and distributed them among the battalions: one thousand men in coat of mail and bronze helmet lined up at the side of each elephant. 36A cavalry of five hundred picked horsemen went before each elephant and accompanied it with the order not to separate from it. 37A strong wooden tower was fixed to each elephant by means of leather straps, and four warriors including the driver were on the tower.
38The rest of the cavalry were stationed on the right and left flanks of the army to harass the enemy and protect the battalions. 39When the sun shone on the shields of gold and bronze, the mountains glittered and gleamed like flames of fire. 40One part of the king’s army was deployed up in the mountains and the other on the plain. All advanced confidently and in good order. 41The Jews trembled when they heard the great noise of this vast multitude, the marching of that mass and the clanking of their weapons. It was indeed an army extremely numerous and powerful.
42Nevertheless Judas and his army advanced to give battle; and about six hundred men of the king’s army fell. 43Eleazar, called Avaran, saw one of the beasts protected with armor which excelled all the others, so he supposed that it must be the king’s. 44He then sacrificed himself to save his people and win eternal renown for himself. 45He boldly charged towards the animal right into the midst of the battalion, killing men right and left, scattering the enemy before him on both sides. 46He reached the elephant, darted in under it, and stabbed it in the belly. The elephant collapsed on top of him and he died on the spot.
47The Jews, however, aware of the tremendous force of the king’s army and their bravery, retreated before them. 48The king’s troops went up to Jerusalem to overtake them, and the king encamped in Judea and around Mount Zion. 49He made peace with the people of Beth-zur who evacuated the city since they had no food to continue the resistance, for that year was a year of rest for the land. 50The king seized Beth-zur and stationed a garrison there to guard it.
51He encamped before the temple for a long time and set up firing platforms, crossbows, engines, fire-throwers, catapults, scorpions to discharge arrows, and slingers. 52The defenders also constructed engines as their attackers had done and they fought for a long time. 53But they had no food in storage, as it was the seventh year and because the Israelites who came to Judea from the pagan lands had consumed the last of their reserves. 54So, few men were left in the temple because of the famine; the others had dispersed.
The king grants religious freedom
•55Meanwhile Philip, to whom king Antiochus during his life had entrusted the education of his son Antiochus to prepare him for the throne, 56had returned from Persia and Media with the army that had accompanied the king to those regions, and was planning to seize power. 57This is why Lysias hastily gave orders to depart, saying to the king, the generals of the army and the soldiers, “We are losing strength every day, we are short of food and the place we are besieging is well fortified; we are moreover diverting our attention from the affairs of the kingdom. 58Let us, then, offer the hand of friendship to these people, and make peace with them and with their nation. 59Let us permit them to live according to their customs as before, since all this came to be because we suppressed their laws, and they have risen in defense of them.”
60These words pleased the king and the generals, 61so the king sent messengers to make peace with the Jews, and the Jews accepted it.
When the king and the generals had committed themselves with an oath, the Jews came out of the fortress. 62The king went up to Mount Zion and when he saw the defenses, he broke his oath and ordered the surrounding wall to be demolished. 63Then he hurriedly left and returned to Antioch where he found Philip already in control of the city. So he fought him and took the city by force.
1In the year one hundred and fifty-one (161 B.C.), Demetrius the son of Seleucus escaped from Rome. He sailed with a few men to a port of the kingdom where he arrived and proclaimed himself king. 2As soon as he entered the kingdom of his fathers, the army arrested Antiochus and Lysias to hand them over to him. 3When Demetrius heard this, he said: “I do not want to see their faces.” 4So the army executed them and Demetrius took the throne.
5At once all the Israelites without law or religion came to him. They were led by Alcimus, a man who sought the office of chief priest for himself. 6And they began accusing their own people before the king, “Judas and his brothers have murdered all your friends and have driven us away from our land. 7Send one of your trustworthy friends, to see the havoc they have caused us and our province which belongs to the king. Let him punish all who support them.”
Expedition of Bacchides and Nicanor
8The king chose Bacchides, one of his friends and a distinguished man of the kingdom, the governor of the western province of the Euphrates. 9He also sent with him Alcimus whom he had appointed chief priest, and ordered them to punish the Israelites.
10They set out with a large army. On reaching Judea, they sent messengers to Judas and his brothers with treacherous proposals of peace. 11But the Jews who knew that they came with a powerful army, did not trust them.
12However, a commission of teachers of the Law met with Alcimus and Bacchides to seek a satisfactory solution. 13These men from the group of the Hasideans, the first to seek peace in Israel, 14reasoned like this: “A man in the line of Aaron has come with the army, he will surely deal with us in fairness.” 15Bacchides, moreover, sent them a friendly message and assured them under oath: “We do not wish any harm to you and your friends.” 16They believed him. But he arrested sixty of them and executed them the same day, according to the word of the Scripture: 17Around Jerusalem, they have scattered the dead bodies of your saints; they have shed their blood, and there was no one to bury them.
18All the people were terrified and feared them. They said, “There is no justice or truth in these people who have violated the agreement they made with an oath.”
19Bacchides left Jerusalem and encamped at Beth-zur. From there, he ordered the arrest of many prominent men who had deserted him as well as some of the people. And he had them thrown into a deep pit.
20Then he placed the province in the hands of Alcimus, leaving him with an army to help him and he returned to the king. 21Alcimus struggled to have the Israelites recognize him as chief priest, 22and all who disturbed the peace of the people joined him. They became masters of the land of Judea and did great harm to the Israelites.
23Judas saw that Alcimus and his men were an even greater menace to Israel than the pagans had been. 24So he went throughout the territory of Judea to do justice to those traitors and to prevent them from going about the country.
25Alcimus realized that Judas and his men were of greater strength and that he could not resist them, so he returned to the king and accused them of serious crimes. 26The king then sent Nicanor, one of his more illustrious generals and a known enemy of Israel, with the mission to utterly destroy this people.
27Nicanor reached Jerusalem with a large army; he sent Judas and his brothers false messages of friendship saying to them, 28“Let us not begin as enemies once more; I will come with a few men to meet you face to face in friendship.”
29He indeed came to Judas and they greeted each other peaceably, but the enemy was prepared to seize him. 30Judas was told that Nicanor had come to him treacherously, so he withdrew from Nicanor, and would not see him again. 31When Nicanor saw that his plans had been discovered, he went out to look for Judas, and this time to fight him. He found him near Capharsalama. 32About five hundred of Nicanor’s men fell and the rest fled to the city of David.
Nicanor is defeated
33After these events, Nicanor went up to Mount Zion and some of the priests and elders came out of the temple to greet him peacefully and show him the sacrifice they offered for the king. 34But he mocked them, he scorned and insulted them 35and angrily swore this oath: “If you do not deliver Judas into my hands immediately, as soon as I have destroyed him, I will return and burn this temple.” And he went away furious.
36The priests entered the temple, and they stood weeping before the altar and the Sanctuary. They said, 37“You, Lord, chose this House that your name may be invoked in it, that it may be a house of prayer and petition for your people. 38Take vengeance on this man and on his army; let them die by the sword. Remember their insults and do not delay in punishing them.”
39Nicanor left Jerusalem and encamped in Beth-horon where the Syrian army joined him. 40Meanwhile, Judas encamped in Adasa with three thousand men and prayed: 41“Lord, when the messengers of the king of Assyria insulted you, your angel came and killed one hundred and eighty-five thousand of his men. 42So now, crush this army before us, so that all the rest may know that this Nicanor has blasphemed against your temple. Judge him according to his wickedness.”
43The two armies met in battle on the thirteenth day of the month Adar. Nicanor’s army was defeated and he himself was one of the first to fall in the battle. 44When his troops saw that he was dead, they threw down their weapons and fled. 45The Jews pursued them a day’s journey from Adasa to the entrance of Gazara, sounding the trumpets as they followed them. 46The people came out from all the neighboring villages of Judea and surrounded the fugitives, forcing them to return to defend their lives. So all fell by the sword, not even one of them was left.
47Then the Jews seized the plunder and booty; they cut off Nicanor’s head and the right hand he had so arrogantly stretched out, and they displayed them at the entrance of Jerusalem within sight of all. 48The people were elated and 49celebrated their victory annually on the thirteenth day of the month Adar.
50The land of Judah enjoyed peace for a short time.
Alliance with the Romans
•1In the meantime, Judas was informed about the Romans. He was told that the Romans were valiant in war and that they showed goodwill towards all who sided with them; that they offered friendship to all who approached them, 2and were a strong ally in war.
He was told of their wars and of their exploits among the Gauls whom they conquered and forced to pay taxes, 3and of all they had done in Spain to gain possession of the silver and gold mines, 4and how they had conquered that land by dint of intelligence and perseverance, despite its great distance from their own land. He also learned how they had defeated the kings who came from the ends of the earth to attack them, how they managed to conquer and crush them. There were others who paid them an annual tax.
5They had defeated and subjected Philip and Perseus, the kings of Macedonia and others who opposed them. 6They had vanquished Antiochus the Great, king of Asia, who went to fight the Romans with one hundred and twenty elephants, cavalry, chariots and a very strong army. But he was defeated 7and fell into their hands. He and his successors were forced to pay an enormous amount in tax, to surrender hostages, and to cede some of their best provinces 8like India, Media and Lydia which afterwards the Romans gave to king Eumenes. 9The Greeks had planned to come and destroy the Romans, 10but hearing of it, the Romans sent a single general against them. They killed a great number of Greeks, took their women and children, destroyed their fortresses and enslaved them to this day.
11In the same way, they also destroyed and subdued other countries and islands, as well as others who opposed them. 12But they have usually remained faithful to their allies and to those who relied on them.
The Romans were really powerful. They conquered kingdoms far and near, and all who heard their name feared them. 13They appointed as kings those who were to their liking and deposed those who were not.
14But in spite of all this, not one of them had himself crowned or dressed as a king in order to be exalted. 15They had created a senate and three hundred and twenty men deliberated on daily matters relating to the good of the people and the maintenance of order. 16Every year they would choose one man to rule over them and govern the empire, and all obeyed him without envy or jealousy.
17So Judas sent Eupolemus the son of John, and Jason the son of Eleazar to Rome, entrusting them with the mission to make a covenant of friendship with the Romans. 18Since the Greeks treated the Israelites as slaves, Judas hoped to liberate them from oppression in this way.
19The envoys from Judas went to Rome, where they arrived after a long journey. When they entered the Senate they addressed the assembly: 20“Judas Maccabeus, his brothers and the people of Israel have sent us to you to conclude a covenant of peace with you and to be numbered among your allies and friends.” 21The Romans approved this proposal, 22and this is the copy of the letter they wrote on bronze tablets which they sent to Jerusalem as a memorial of peace and alliance:
23“May all go well with the Romans and the Jewish people at sea and on land forever, may both sword and enemy be far from them! 24If war comes first to the Romans, or to any of their allies in any part of its empire, 25the Jewish nation shall enter the war wholeheartedly, as circumstances permit. 26The Jewish nation will not receive from them wheat or weapons, or money, or ships as Rome has decided. They shall fulfill their obligations without recompense.
27In the same way, if the Jewish nation is attacked, the Romans shall fight at her side with all zeal as circumstances may allow. 28The Roman allies will not receive wheat or weapons, or money, or ships as Rome has decided, but the Romans shall fulfill their obligations without deception. 29On these terms the Romans conclude their alliance with the Jewish nation.
30If after these terms have taken effect, either party should wish to add or delete anything, the said party shall do so in common agreement with the other party, then what has been added or deleted shall be binding.
31And concerning the harm king Demetrius does to the Jews, we have written to him as follows, ‘Why do you lay such a heavy yoke upon the Jews, our friends and allies? 32If they complain about you again, we shall defend their rights and attack you by sea and land.’”
Death of Judas Maccabeus
•1When Demetrius was informed of the death of Nicanor and the defeat of his army, he sent Bacchides and Alcimus back to Judea with the best troops of his army. 2They took the road to Galilee and besieged the city of Mesaloth in the Arbela region. They captured it and killed many. 3In the first month of the year one hundred and fifty-two (160 B.C.), they encamped before Jerusalem. 4From there twenty thousand infantry and two thousand cavalry set out for Berea. 5Judas had his camp in Elasa with three thousand picked men. 6When they saw the huge number of enemies, they were terrified. Many slipped out of the camp, and only eight hundred men were left. 7Judas saw the dispersal of his army and this crushed his spirit. The battle was imminent but he had no time to group them together. 8Yet in spite of being dismayed, he did his best to encourage those who remained with him: “Let us fight our enemies. We may yet be able to defeat them.”
9They tried to dissuade him, “We cannot do anything now but save ourselves. We can come back later with our brothers and fight. But now we are too few.” 10But Judas answered them, “God forbid that I should run away from them. If our time has come, then let us die as valiant men for our brothers, without tarnishing our glory.”
11The army of Bacchides marched out of their camp while the Jews remained in their place to engage them in battle. The cavalry was divided into two wings. In the first line, the veterans in war advanced, and the archers and slingers followed. 12Bacchides was on the right wing. At the sound of the trumpets, they advanced on both sides. The Jews also sounded the trumpets. 13And the earth trembled with the noise of the armies, and a battle began which lasted the whole day.
14Judas saw that Bacchides and the main strength of his army was on the right. The most courageous of the Israelites went with him, 15and they defeated the right wing of the enemy, pursuing them up to the hills. 16But when those on the left wing saw the right wing being defeated, they attacked Judas and his men from the rear. 17They fought bitterly and many fell on both sides. 18Judas also fell, and the rest fled.
19Jonathan and Simon took their brother and buried him in the tomb of their fathers at Modein. 20All the people of Israel mourned and wept for him for many days, repeating this lamentation: 21“How the hero has fallen, he who saved Israel.”
22The other deeds of Judas, his battles, exploits and heroism were not written for they were many.
Jonathan succeeds Judas
•23After the death of Judas, the renegades reappeared throughout the territory of Israel and the evildoers took courage. 24At the same time, there was a severe famine, and the country went over to their side. 25Bacchides chose renegade men and made them masters of the land. 26These men traced and searched out all the friends and supporters of Judas and brought them before Bacchides who punished and humiliated them in a thousand ways. 27It was a terrible trial for Israel such as had never been experienced since the disappearance of the prophets.
28So the friends of Judas came together and said to Jonathan, 29“Since your brother Judas died, we haven’t found anyone like him to head the resistance against the enemy, against Bacchides and all the enemies of our nation. 30So we now choose you to take his place, to be our head and lead us in our wars.” So from that day on, 31Jonathan accepted the leadership and succeeded his brother Judas.
32When Bacchides heard of this, he planned to kill Jonathan. 33But Jonathan was informed of the plot and fled to the desert of Tekoa, together with his brother Simon and his followers. They encamped by the lake Asphar. 34Bacchides found this out on the sabbath day, and with all his army he crossed the Jordan.
35Jonathan had sent his brother John, representative of the people, to ask their friends the Nabatean to store for them their large amount of baggage. 36But the tribe of Yambri and the people of Medeba captured John and took all he had with him, then departed with the booty. 37After this had happened, Jonathan and his brother Simon were told that the Yambrites were celebrating a solemn wedding and were escorting the bride, a daughter of one of the magnates, from Nadabath with great pomp.
38Both remembered the murder of their brother John, so they went up and hid under cover of the mountain. 39At a certain moment they heard a confusion of sounds; then they saw a great deal of baggage. The bride groom, his friends and brothers came straight to them with tambourines, musical instruments and many weapons. 40Then the Jews rushed down on them from their ambush and killed them. There were many casualties and others fled to the mountain. Finally the Jews seized all the plunder. 41So the wedding turned to mourning and the music to lamentation. 42Having avenged the death of their brother, the Israelites went back to the marshes of the Jordan.
Let us return to Bacchides. 43He arrived with a strong army on the sabbath day at the banks of the Jordan. 44So Jonathan said to his men, “Courage! Let us fight for our lives, for today things are going to be serious. 45Dangers surround us—we have the waters of the Jordan on this side, the marshes and the thickets on the other side—there is no place to turn. 46So cry out to Heaven for deliverance from our enemies.”
47And the battle began. Jonathan stretched out his arm to strike Bacchides, but he eluded him and withdrew. 48So Jonathan and his men leapt into the Jordan, swimming to the other side; but their enemies did not follow them. 49On that day, about a thousand of Bacchides’ men fell.
50Bacchides returned to Jerusalem. Then he began to build fortified cities in Judea—the strongholds of Jericho, Emmaus, Beth-horon, Bethel, Timnath, Pharathon and Tephon—with high walls and barred gates, 51and a garrison stationed in each of them to harass the Israelites. 52He also fortified the cities of Beth-zur, Gazara and the Citadel, and placed troops in each of them with supplies of provisions. 53He took the sons of the leaders of the land as hostages and imprisoned them in the Citadel of Jerusalem.
54In the year one hundred and fifty-three (159 B.C.), in the second month, Alcimus ordered the demolition of the wall of the inner court of the temple. This meant no less than destroying the work of the prophets. 55Alcimus did in fact begin the demolition but soon after suffered a stroke, so the work was suspended. Alcimus was no longer able to speak, not even to rule over his household. 56After a while, he died in great agony. 57Because of his death, Bacchides returned to the king and the land had peace for two years.
The siege of Beth-basi
58Then all the renegades agreed on a plan: “Jonathan and his people now live in peace without any fear at all. Let us bring Bacchides back; he can arrest them all in one night.” 59They went to Bacchides, and when they had convinced him, 60he set out with a large contingent. He secretly sent letters to his supporters in Judea instructing them to seize Jonathan and his men. But their plot was found out and their plan foiled. 61Instead the supporters of Jonathan arrested fifty Jewish leaders of this conspiracy and had them executed.
62Jonathan and Simon then withdrew with their men to Beth-basi in the desert; they rebuilt the ruins and fortified it. 63When Bacchides heard this, he assembled all his men and notified his adherents in Judea. 64He went to attack Bethbasi, besieged it for many days and built engines of war. 65Then Jonathan left his brother Simon in the city and went out into the countryside with a handful of men. 66He defeated Odomera and his brothers and the people of Phasiron in their camp. 67Then they turned back and began to attack the troops who had laid siege to the city. Meanwhile, Simon and his men went out of the city and burned the engines. 68They attacked Bacchides who was defeated and dismayed by the failure of his expedition. 69He was greatly enraged against the renegades who had advised him to return to the Jewish country; he executed many of them, and decided to return to his own land. 70When Jonathan learned this, he sent messengers to him to make a treaty of peace and to exchange prisoners.
71Bacchides accepted his terms. For Bacchides’ part, he fulfilled his promises and swore that henceforth and until the day of his death, he would never harm him in any way. 72He turned over to Jonathan the prisoners taken earlier in Judea. Then he returned to his own country and never came back again to the territory of Judea. 73So there was peace in Israel, and Jonathan resided in Michmash where he began to govern the land, and the renegades disappeared from Israel.
War between Alexander Balas and Demetrius
1In the year one hundred and sixty (152 B.C.), Alexander Epiphanes, son of Antiochus, sailed for Ptolemais and occupied it. He was well received and he began to reign. 2When Demetrius heard this, he assembled a very large army and marched out to fight him. 3At the same time, he sent a letter of friendship to Jonathan and offered him vast power, 4for Demetrius thought: “Let us make the first move in making peace with him before he makes peace with Alexander against us, 5remembering all the wrongs we have done to him, his brothers and his nation.”
6So Demetrius authorized Jonathan to organize an army and manufacture arms; he named him his ally and ordered the release of the hostages who were in the Citadel of Jerusalem. 7Jonathan went at once to Jerusalem and read the letter before all the people and those in the Citadel. 8They were afraid when they heard that the king had authorized Jonathan to organize a great army, 9and they released the hostages to Jonathan who handed them back to their families. 10Jonathan resided in Jerusalem and began rebuilding and restoring the city. 11He commanded the builders to build the walls and the defenses of Mount Zion with hewn stones. And they did so.
12Then all the foreigners who stayed in the fortresses built by Bacchides began to flee, 13each of them abandoning his post and returning to his own land. 14Only at Beth-zur did some who had abandoned the Law and the precepts remain, since this was like a place of refuge.
•15King Alexander was informed of the promises Demetrius had made to Jonathan; he was also given an account of the battles and exploits of Jonathan and his brothers and the trials they had endured. 16So Alexander declared: “Shall we ever find another man like him? Let us make him our ally and friend.” 17And he wrote him a letter: 18“King Alexander to our brother Jonathan, peace. 19We have heard of you, that you are a valiant man and most worthy of our friendship. 20Therefore, we now appoint you High Priest of your nation and bestow on you the title Friend of the king (he also sent him a purple robe and a golden crown). So we invite you to watch over our interests and maintain friendly relations with us.”
21This is why in the seventh month of the year one hundred and sixty (152 B.C.), on the occasion of the feast of Tabernacles, Jonathan put on the sacred vestments. He also recruited troops and manufactured a great quantity of arms.
22When Demetrius heard what had happened, he was greatly displeased and said, 23“What have we done that Alexander is ahead of us in gaining the friendship of the Jews? 24I will also write them kind words and promise them honor and gifts to win them to my side.” 25So he wrote to the Jews:
“King Demetrius greets the Jewish nation. 26You have kept your agreement with us and have remained our friends, and have not joined our enemies. We have heard of it and so we rejoice. 27Therefore, continue to be faithful and we will grant you privileges in return for all you do on our behalf. 28I will free the Jews from many taxes and grant them royal privileges and exemptions. 29From now on and forever, I now free all Jews from payment of tribute, salt dues and crown levies. 30I give up from this day and henceforth the third of the harvest and half of the fruit of the trees which I have the right to exact from the region of Judea and the three districts annexed to it from Samaria and Galilee. 31From this day on and for all time, Jerusalem shall be a Holy City and be free with all its territory, with the right to collect tithes and tributes. 32I also give up control of the Citadel of Jerusalem and turn it over to the High Priest that he may choose the men he wants to defend it. 33I grant freedom without ransom to all the captives taken from Judea into any part of my kingdom. I free everyone from the taxes they owe me for their livestock.
34All feasts, sabbaths, new moons, special days and the three holy days before and after a feast shall be days of exemption for all the Jews in my kingdom. 35No one shall have the right to pursue or molest them for any motive whatsoever. 36I also decree that they be accepted into the king’s army to the number of thirty thousand Jews who shall receive the same salary as the rest of the king’s forces. 37Some of them shall be stationed at the king’s fortresses, and positions of trust shall be given to some of them; their officers shall be chosen from among themselves and they will live according to their laws as the king has prescribed in the land of Judea.
38The three districts of Samaria annexed to Judea shall be considered part of Jewish territory; to avoid any conflict of power, these shall be subject to no authority other than that of the High Priest. 39I give the city of Ptolemais and its territory as a gift to the temple of Jerusalem to cover the expenses of public worship. 40Henceforth, I will give fifteen thousand pieces of silver annually for the maintenance of the temple which shall be taken from the royal revenues from appropriate places. 41Moreover, I give all that should have been paid to me by the administrators in previous years.
42In addition, I also remit the five thousand pieces of silver levied every year from the tributes to the temple, and give them to the priests in charge of public worship. 43Anyone who takes refuge in the temple of Jerusalem or in any of its enclosures because of his debt on royal taxes or because of any other debt, shall not be disturbed and his possessions anywhere in my kingdom shall be duly protected.
44Finally, the cost of rebuilding or restoring the Sanctuary shall be passed on to the king’s account, 45as well as the expenses of reconstructing the walls of Jerusalem, the fortification of its defenses and the construction of the walls in the cities of Judea.”
46When Jonathan and the people heard such proposals, they did not believe or accept them, for they remembered the great wrongs Demetrius had done to Israel and the ill-treatment to which he had subjected them. 47They decided in favor of Alexander, for he was the first to propose peace, and they became his faithful allies. 48King Alexander assembled a great army and encamped opposite Demetrius. 49The two kings met in battle and the army of Demetrius was routed. Alexander pursued him until Demetrius was defeated. 50The battle lasted until sunset, and on that day Demetrius died.
51Then Alexander sent messengers to Ptolemy the king of Egypt with the following message: 52“I am now again in my kingdom and have assumed power after defeating Demetrius and all his army. 53Now I occupy the throne of my ancestors as master of all the land. Let us be friends. 54Give me your daughter in marriage, and I will become your son-in-law, and I will give you, and her, gifts worthy of you.”
55King Ptolemy replied as follows: “Blessed be the day when you returned to the land of your ancestors and ascended to their throne! 56I will without delay do for you as you have proposed. But meet me in Ptolemais. There we shall see one another and I will receive you as my son-in-law as you have requested.”
57Ptolemy left Egypt with his daughter Cleopatra in the year one hundred and sixty-two (150 B.C.), and arrived at Ptolemais. 58Alexander went to meet him, and Ptolemy gave him his daughter Cleopatra, and celebrated her wedding with great splendor as kings do.
Political liability of Jonathan
•59King Alexander also wrote to Jonathan to come and meet him. 60So Jonathan went to Ptolemais with great pomp and met the two kings. Then he gave them and their friends much silver and gold and many other gifts. 61The renegades, the pest of Israel, gathered together to accuse Jonathan, but the king paid no attention to them. 62The king even gave orders that Jonathan remove his garment and be clothed in purple and it was done. 63The king also seated him by his side, and said to his captains: “Go with him into the center of the city and proclaim that no one is to accuse Jonathan under any pretext, and no one is to molest him for any reason.” 64When his accusers saw the public honor given to Jonathan and that he was clothed in purple, they all fled. 65The king did him great honor and enrolled him among his first friends, and appointed him general and governor. 66So Jonathan returned to Jerusalem happy and secure.
67In the year one hundred and sixty-five (147 B.C.), Demetrius the son of Demetrius, returned from Crete to the land of his ancestors. 68When king Alexander heard of it, he was so greatly disturbed that he returned to Antioch. 69Demetrius took his general Apollonius, the governor of Coele-Syria, who assembled a large force. He encamped at Jamnia and sent the following message to Jonathan, the high priest:
70“Are you the only one who resists our authority? And am I to be ridiculed because of you? Why do you stand against our authority in your mountains? 71If you have confidence in your forces, come down to the plain and let us measure each other’s strength there, for I have with me the army of the cities.
72Inquire and find out who I am and who are those who support me. Men will tell you that you cannot resist us, for your fathers were twice defeated on their own land. 73Nor will you be able to withstand the cavalry and so great an army on the plain, where there are no stones or rocks offering a refuge.”
74When Jonathan heard Apollonius’ message, he was greatly aroused. So he left Jerusalem with ten thousand picked men, and his brother Simon came to his help. 75They encamped near Joppa, but the inhabitants of the city closed the gates to them, as Apollonius had a garrison there. 76So Jonathan gave the order to attack. The people in the city were so afraid that they opened the gates to him, and Jonathan occupied Joppa. 77When Apollonius learned of it, he mobilized three thousand cavalry and a large army. Then he set out towards Azotus, pretending to march through the land, but in fact his troops were spreading out in the direction of the plain, since he had a great number of cavalry on which he relied. 78Jonathan pursued him towards Azotus and they began to fight. 79Apollonius had left a thousand picked horsemen hidden behind Jonathan, 80but Jonathan was informed of the ambush.
The horsemen surrounded Jonathan’s men and shot their arrows from morning till evening. 81But the Israelites faced them as Jonathan had commanded until the horses of the enemy tired. Once the cavalry were exhausted, 82Simon and his men advanced and attacked the infantry. The enemy was defeated and fled.
83The cavalry scattered over the plain and those who fled went to Azotus, where they entered the temple of Dagon, their idol, to save their lives. 84But Jonathan set fire to Azotus and the surrounding towns, and plundered them. He also burned down the temple of Dagon with all who had taken refuge in it. 85There were about eight thousand men who either fell by the sword or were burned to death. 86Jonathan then left for Askalon where the inhabitants received him with great honor. 87From there, Jonathan and his men returned to Jerusalem laden with booty.
88When king Alexander heard what had happened, he bestowed new honors on Jonathan. 89He sent him a golden brooch which is usually given to the kinsmen of kings. He also gave him Ekron and all its territory as his possession.
1But the king of Egypt assembled an army as numerous as the sands of the seashore, with many ships, for he intended to trick Alexander, take his kingdom and add it to his own. 2He went to Syria with words of peace, and the inhabitants of the cities opened their gates to him. They came out to meet him, as Alexander had ordered, 3because Ptolemy was his father-in-law. But as soon as Ptolemy entered the cities, he stationed garrisons in them. 4When he reached Azotus, he was shown the burnt temple of Dagon, Azotus and its surroundings in ruins, the scattered corpses that had been abandoned, and the charred remains of those whom Jonathan burned to death in the battle, piled in heaps along the king’s way.
5They recounted to king Ptolemy everything Jonathan had done. They were hoping that the king would disapprove, but he said nothing. 6Jonathan went with great pomp to Joppa to meet the king. They greeted each other and spent the night there. 7On the following day, Jonathan accompanied the king as far as the Eleutherus river, and then returned to Jerusalem. 8King Ptolemy for his part seized the coastal cities as far as Deleucia by the sea, for he had made plans against king Alexander. 9He sent this message to Demetrius: “Come and let us forge an alliance. I will give you my daughter who was married to Alexander, and you will reign on the throne of your fathers. 10The fact is I now regret having given him my daughter, for he has tried to kill me.” 11He accused Alexander because he wanted to take his kingdom. 12Ptolemy took his daughter away and gave her to Demetrius. In this way, his enmity towards Alexander became public. 13Ptolemy then entered Antioch and took for himself the crown of Asia. So he held two kingdoms: the kingdom of Egypt and the kingdom of Asia.
14At that time, Alexander was in Cilicia trying to quell a rebellion. 15When he heard what had happened, he returned to fight Ptolemy. Ptolemy went out to meet him in battle with a strong army, and Alexander was defeated. 16As he fled to Arabia and sought refuge there, 17Zabdiel the Arab cut his head off and sent it to Ptolemy. 18But after three days, Ptolemy died, and immediately the Egyptian soldiers who guarded the fortified cities were killed by the local inhabitants. 19In this way, Demetrius became king in the year one hundred and sixty-seven (145 B.C.).
20In those days, Jonathan assembled the Jewish army to attack the Citadel in Jerusalem which was occupied by the Syrians, and he prepared many siege engines. 21But some wicked men who were traitors to their country, informed the king. 22When the king heard of it, he became angry and immediately set out for Ptolemias. From there he wrote to Jonathan telling him to stop the siege and to come to see him as soon as possible. 23Jonathan received the message, but he ordered the siege to continue. Then he decided to risk himself, and went to see the king with the elders and priests of Israel. 24Bringing gold, silver, fine garments and other presents, they went before the king in Ptolemias and won him over. 25Some traitors accused them. 26But the king in the presence of all his friends treated Jonathan as kings before had treated him. 27He confirmed Jonathan’s office as high priest with all the privileges he already had. And he numbered him among his first friends.
28Jonathan asked the king to exempt Judea and the three districts of Samaria from taxes, and promised him three hundred talents in return. 29The king agreed and wrote to Jonathan regarding the matter in these terms: 30“King Demetrius to Jonathan, to his brothers and to the whole Jewish nation, peace. 31We are sending you a copy of the letter we have written to our kinsman Lasthenes that you may know: 32King Demetrius greets his kinsman Lasthenes. 33Because of their fidelity to us, we have decided to grant favors to the Jewish nation, who are our friends and who fulfill their obligations to us. We wish to reward their fidelity. 34We confirm the possession of the territory of Judea and the three regions of Aphairema, Kydda and Ramathaim which have been annexed to Judea from Samaria, with all their dependencies. And to all who go up to Jerusalem to offer sacrifice, we grant exemption from the tax the king formerly received from them annually until now, from the produce of the soil and from the fruit of the trees.
35In the same way, they shall also be exempt from the other taxes due to us, especially from the taxes on the produce of the salt mines, and the gold crowns they formerly offered us. 36None of these privileges shall ever be annulled. 37Have a copy of this decree made and delivered to Jonathan to be displayed on the Holy Mountain in a conspicuous place.”
38King Demetrius was able to place the kingdom under his rule and no one dared oppose him, so he dismissed his army, sent all the men back to their homes, except the foreign troops he had recruited from the islands of the pagans. And this drew the hatred of all the troops who had served his fathers. 39Then Trypho, one of Alexander’s former supporters, took advantage of the army’s discontent with Demetrius. He went to Iamleku the Arab who was in charge of the education of Antiochus, the son of Alexander. 40Trypho persuaded him to hand the boy over to him in order to restore Antiochus to the throne of his father. He told him of all the decisions of Demetrius and the resentment of his soldiers towards him. And Trypho spent a long time there.
41Meanwhile, Jonathan asked king Demetrius to withdraw the troops from the Citadel in Jerusalem and to call back the garrisons from the fortresses, since they were always fighting Israel. 42Demetrius answered him, “Not only will I do this for you and your people, but I will confer great honor on you and your nation, if I find an opportunity. 43For the present, you would do well to send me reinforcements, for all my soldiers have deserted me.”
44Jonathan sent off three thousand valiant men to Antioch; they presented themselves before the king, and this made him very happy. 45About a hundred and twenty thousand rebel inhabitants gathered at the center of the city intending to do away with the king. 46Demetrius took refuge in the palace while the residents occupied the streets of the city and began to attack. 47The king then called on the Jews to help him, and the Jews rallied round him. Then they spread out through the city and killed a hundred thousand men on that day. 48They burned the city, seized a great deal of plunder, and saved the king. 49The Jews took control of the city. And the inhabitants were so discouraged that they begged the king, 50“Forgive us and stop the Jews from maltreating us and the city.”
51They threw down their arms and made peace. With this, the Jews merited the admiration of the king and they became famous throughout the kingdom. Then they returned to Jerusalem laden with booty. 52But when Demetrius felt secure on his throne and the land was in peace, 53he forgot his promises and changed his attitude towards Jonathan. He did not treat him with the same kindness as he had done before, but began to treat him very harshly.
54After this Trypho came back with Antiochus who was still a boy. He was proclaimed and crowned king, 55and the troops discharged by Demetrius rallied to him and fought against Demetrius who had to flee. 56Trypho seized the elephants and occupied Antioch.
57Then the young Antiochus sent Jonathan this letter: “I confirm your office as High Priest and make you governor of four districts, and I include you among the friends of the king.” 58He sent him a service of gold plate, and granted him the right to drink from gold vessels and to be clothed in purple and wear the golden brooch. 59He also appointed Jonathan’s brother Simon as general from the Ladder of Tyre to the frontiers of Egypt.
60Jonathan then began to make rounds of the region and the cities on the western side of the Euphrates. The whole Syrian army came to his aid. He came to Askalon and the inhabitants of that city went out to receive him with full honors. 61From there he went to Gaza, but the people there closed their gates on him. So Jonathan laid siege to it and burned the suburbs of the city, plundering everything. 62Then the people of Gaza sought peace, and he made peace with them. But he took the sons of their elders as hostages and sent them away to Jerusalem. Then he traveled through the province until he reached Damascus. 63Jonathan then received news that the generals of Demetrius were in Kadesh of Galilee with a great army and planned to capture him. 64Leaving his brother Simon in Judea, he went out to meet them in battle. 65Simon encamped against Beth-zur and laid siege to it for many days. 66The inhabitants sued for peace, which he granted them. But he expelled them from the city and occupied it, and stationed a garrison there.
67Meanwhile, Jonathan encamped with his army by the waters of Gennesaret; then early in the morning, they went to the plain of Hazor. 68The army of the pagans went out to confront them on the plain, after laying an ambush for him in the mountains. 69As they advanced directly towards the Jews, the men in ambush broke cover and began to attack. 70The men of Jonathan’s side fled. And only Mattathias, the son of Absalom, and Judas, the son of Chalphi, the leaders of his army remained with him. 71At this, Jonathan tore his garments, put dust on his head, and prayed. 72Then he faced his attackers, defeated them and put them to flight.
73So the troops who had abandoned him came back to his side, and together they pursued the enemies as far as Kadesh where the enemy camp was, and there they, too, pitched camp. 74About three thousand pagans perished that day. Then Jonathan returned to Jerusalem.
Jonathan renews the alliances with the Spartans and Romans
1Jonathan saw that circumstances were to his advantage. So he chose men and sent them to Rome to confirm and renew the alliance of friendship with the Romans. 2He also sent letters to the Spartans and to other places for this same purpose. 3Those who went to Rome entered the Senate and delivered this message: “The High Priest Jonathan and the Jewish nation have sent us to renew with you the friendship and alliance that formerly united us.” 4The Senate gave them letters of recommendation to the authorities of each region, enabling them to journey safely back to the land of Judah.
5This is a copy of the letter Jonathan wrote to the Spartans: 6“Jonathan, High Priest, the senate of the nation, the priests and the whole country of the Jews, to the people of Sparta, their brothers: peace. 7In the past, our high priest Onias received from Areios, your king, a letter stating that you are indeed our brothers, as the enclosed copy attests. 8Onias received the envoy with great honor and accepted the letter which clearly spoke of friendship and alliance.
9Though we are not in need, for we have our consolation in our Sacred Books, 10we have decided to send ambassadors to you to renew our fraternal bonds and friendship in order not to become strangers to you, for it has been a long time since you wrote us.
11For our part, we constantly remember you in all circumstances, on special days, in the sacrifices we offer, as well as in our prayers; for it is but right and proper to remember our brothers 12and greatly rejoice at your prosperity and fame. 13For our part, we have been involved in many trials, in misery and wars, for neighboring kings have attacked us. 14However, we did not want to be a burden to you or to the rest of our allies and friends during these wars, 15for our help comes from Heaven. Finally we have been freed from our enemies who have been humbled.
16So we have chosen Numenius, son of Antiochus, and Antipater, son of Jason, and sent them to the Romans to renew our former friendship and alliance with them. 17We have also ordered them to go to you, greet you and deliver this letter to you on our behalf, with which we wish to renew our alliance. 18We shall be glad to receive a favorable response.”
19This is a copy of the letter which Onias had received: 20“Areios, king of the Spartans, to Onias the High Priest. 21We have found in one of our documents that the Spartans and the Jews are brothers, for both are of the race of Abraham. 22Now that we have come to know this, we shall be grateful if you send us news of your welfare. 23And we say this to you: our livestock and our possessions are yours, and similarly all that are yours are ours. This is what we have instructed our envoys to say to you.”
24Jonathan learned that the generals of Demetrius had come to attack him with a larger army than before. 25So he left Jerusalem at once and went to face them in the country of Hamath, so as not to give them time to invade his own land. 26He sent spies to their camp, and on their return, they told him that the enemy planned to attack them during the night.
27So, at sunset, Jonathan ordered his men to keep watch throughout the night with their weapons at hand, ready to fight. And he posted guards around the camp. 28When the enemies learned that Jonathan was keeping watch with his troops and ready for battle, they were afraid and discouraged; for this reason, they kindled fires in their camp and fled. 29But neither Jonathan nor his army knew of their withdrawal until morning, for they saw the fires burning the whole night. 30Jonathan pursued them but was not able to catch up with them, for they had crossed the Eleutherus river.
31So Jonathan went back against the Arabs called Zabadeans, defeated them and plundered them. 32After breaking camp, he went to Damascus and traveled throughout the region. Meanwhile, 33Simon had also set out and gone as far as Askalon and the neighboring fortresses. He then proceeded to Joppa and occupied it, 34for he had heard that the inhabitants of that city planned to hand the Citadel over to the supporters of Demetrius. And he stationed a garrison there to hold it.
35On returning, Jonathan summoned the elders of the people. The assembly decided to build fortresses in Judea, 36to make the walls of Jerusalem still higher, and to erect a barrier between the Citadel and the city, to separate it from the city and to isolate it and prevent its defenders from going out to buy or sell. 37They also held an assembly to rebuild the city. Part of the wall over a rushing stream had fallen and they built up a new wall they called Chapthenatha. 38Simon rebuilt Adida in the Shephelah, fortified it and erected barred gates in it.
39Trypho wanted to reign in Asia, and to do away with king Antiochus in order to be king himself. 40But he feared that Jonathan might not allow him to do so, and might even come to attack him. He set out and came to Bethshan. 41At once Jonathan went out to meet him with forty thousand men, and he, too, came to Bethshan.
Jonathan is taken by deceit
•42When Trypho saw that Jonathan had come with a large army, he was afraid to begin the assault. 43So he received Jonathan with honor, presented him to all his friends, gave him gifts, and instructed his friends and his troops to obey Jonathan as they obeyed him. 44Then he asked Jonathan, “Why have you bothered to come with so many men? Are we perhaps enemies? 45Send them back to their homes and remain here with some of them. Then you will come with me to the city of Ptolemais because I wish to hand it over to you, as well as the other fortresses and to place the rest of the troops and their officers at your disposal. Then, I will return home, for I have come only for this.”
46Jonathan believed him and did as Trypho had asked him. He dismissed his men who then returned to the land of Judea, 47and three thousand men remained with him. Of these, he left two thousand in Galilee and only a thousand accompanied him. 48But as soon as they had entered Ptolemais, the inhabitants closed the gates. They seized him and killed all who had come with him.
49Trypho sent troops and cavalry to Galilee and to the Great Plain to wipe out all of Jonathan’s men. 50On receiving the news that Jonathan and his companions had been seized and killed, his soldiers encouraged one another and prepared to face their pursuers. 51When their enemy saw them ready to fight for their lives, they turned back. 52So the men of Jonathan reached the land of Judea safe and sound. They wept for Jonathan and his companions and they were discouraged. And all Israel was in mourning. 53Then all the neighboring nations planned to destroy them on seeing that they were now without leader or ally. And the pagans said: “This is now the opportunity to wipe out the remembrance of them from humankind.”
Simon succeeds Jonathan
1Simon heard that Trypho had assembled a great army to invade Judea and devastate it. 2As the people were frightened and apprehensive, he went up to Jerusalem. 3There he called the people together and encouraged them with this exhortation:
“All of you know what I, my brothers, and the family of my father have done for the laws and for the Holy Place. You also know the wars and the hardships we endured. 4All my brothers died for Israel and now I alone am left. 5God forbid that I should seek my own safety when things go wrong! For my life is not of more worth than the lives of my brothers. Now that all the nations have united in their hatred in order to destroy us, 6I will defend my nation and the Holy Place, your wives and your children.”
7All were encouraged with these words 8and they exclaimed in a loud voice: “Be our leader in place of Judas and your brother Jonathan. 9Lead us in the war and we will obey your commands.”
10So Simon assembled all the men able to fight and hastened to finish building the walls of Jerusalem, which was fortified on all sides. 11Then he sent Jonathan, son of Absalom, with a strong army to Joppa. They drove out those who occupied it and remained there.
12Meanwhile, Trypho left Ptolemais with a large army to invade Judea, taking Jonathan with him as prisoner. 13Simon encamped in Adida facing the plain. 14But when Trypho learned that Simon had taken command in place of his brother Jonathan and was prepared to fight him, he sent some envoys to him with this message: 15“We have in our custody your brother Jonathan because of the money he owes to the royal treasury for the offices he held. 16So, send a hundred talents of silver and two of his sons as hostages lest he slip away when we release him, and come back against us. Then we shall let him go.”
17Simon knew that Trypho was deceiving him, but he still sent for the money and the boys so as not to draw upon himself the anger of the people of Israel who might say: 18“They killed Jonathan because Simon refused to send Trypho the money and the boys.” 19He therefore sent the boys and the hundred talents, but Trypho broke his word and did not set Jonathan free.
20After this, Trypho advanced to invade Judea and plunder it. He moved along the way to Adora, but Simon and his army kept confronting him wherever he went. 21Then the men in the Citadel sent messengers to Trypho urging him to come at once to their rescue by way of the desert and to bring them food. 22Trypho prepared his entire cavalry to go, but it snowed so heavily that night that he was not able to go. So he left for Gilead, 23and when he approached Baskama he killed Jonathan and buried him there. 24Then Trypho returned to his own land. 25Simon sent men to look for the remains of Jonathan, his brother, and he buried him in Modein, the city of their fathers. 26All Israel deeply mourned and wept for Jonathan for many days.
27Simon built a monument over the tomb of his fathers and brothers, high enough to be seen even from afar, with the back and front covered with marble. 28He erected seven pyramids facing each other, for his father and mother and his four brothers. 29He surrounded the pyramids with great columns, and he had trophies of arms carved upon the columns as a lasting remembrance; and beside the armor, sculptured ships were to be seen by all who sailed the sea. 30This is the tomb he constructed in Modein and it is still there today.
31Trypho treated the young king Antiochus in bad faith, and put him to death. 32He then made himself king in his place, put on the crown of Asia and caused great havoc in the country.
33Now Simon rebuilt the fortresses of Judea, surrounded them with high towers and great walls with barred gates, and stored food in them.
34Simon chose men whom he sent to king Demetrius in his attempt to obtain tax exemption for the region, on the grounds that all that Trypho did was to plunder. 35King Demetrius responded favorably to his request and wrote to him as follows,
36“King Demetrius greets Simon, High Priest and Friend of the King, the elders and the Jewish nation. 37We have received the golden crowns and the palm you have sent us and we are disposed to make a lasting peace with you, and to write to the officials to grant you remission of your debts. 38All our concessions in your favor are definitive and the fortresses you have built are yours.
39Moreover, we pardon all errors and offenses committed to this day, as well as the crown tax you owe. From now on, any other tax that used to be paid in Jerusalem shall no longer be collected. 40If any of your men are qualified to enlist in our army, they can do so. And let peace reign between us.”
41So, in the year one hundred and seventy (142 B.C.), Israel became free from the yoke of the pagans. 42They began to write in their documents and contracts, “In the first year of Simon, high priest, general and leader of the Jews.”
43In those days, Simon encamped against Gazard and surrounded it with his army. He constructed a mobile tower, brought it up to the city, attacked and occupied one tower. 44Then the men of the mobile tower entered the city, causing great dismay.
45The inhabitants with their wives and children went up on the walls, tore their garments, cried out in a loud voice to Simon and sought peace. 46They said to him, “Treat us not as our wickedness deserves, but according to your mercy.” 47Simon was reconciled with them and did not treat them according to the rigor of war. But he expelled them from the city and purified the houses where idols were kept. He then entered the city singing hymns of thanksgiving.
48After cleansing it from all its impurity, he settled in it men who observed the Law. He fortified it and built a house there for himself.
49The men who occupied the Citadel in Jerusalem could no longer come out or go into Jewish territory to buy or sell. So they were desperately in need of food, many of them dying of hunger. 50They begged Simon for peace, and he granted it to them. But he expelled them from there and cleansed the Citadel from all that reminded them of the presence of the pagans. 51On the twenty-third day of the second month of the year one hundred and seventy-one (141 B.C.), the Jews entered it with songs and palm branches to the accompaniment of zithers, cymbals and harps, and with hymns and songs, for a great plague had been crushed and removed from Israel. 52Simon decreed that this day be celebrated as a day of annual rejoicing. He strengthened the fortifications of the Temple hill by the side of the military Citadel, and dwelt there with his men.
53John, son of Simon, had come to manhood, so his father appointed him general in command of all the troops, and John lived in Gazara.
Simon rules victoriously over Judah
1In the year one hundred and seventy-two (140 B.C.), king Demetrius assembled his army and marched into Media to look for help in order to fight Trypho. 2Arsaces, king of Persia and Media, heard that Demetrius had entered his territory, so he sent one of his generals to capture him alive. 3The general went and defeated the army of Demetrius, seized him and brought him to Arsaces, who put him in prison.
4Judea had peace as long as Simon lived. He worked for the well-being of his country; his rule pleased the people, and he enjoyed much renown as long as he lived. 5To add to his glory, he took Joppa and made it a harbor, opening a way to communicate with the islands of the sea. 6He extended the frontiers of his land and was lord of his nation. 7He brought back many captives, conquered Gazard, Beth-zur and the Citadel and cast out everything pagan that was in it. No one was able to resist him.
8The inhabitants tilled their fields in peace; the land gave its grain and the trees their fruit. 9The elders sat at ease in the squares and talked of their welfare, while the young men wore finery and armor. 10He supplied the cities with food and made them into strongholds, until his fame spread out to the ends of the earth. 11He established peace in the land and Israel knew great joy. 12Each one sat under the shade of his vine and his fig tree, with no one to disturb him. 13There was no one in the land to fight them, for the kings had been defeated. 14He raised up the humble among his people, he observed the Law and cleared out the renegades and the wicked. 15He restored the splendor of the Temple and increased the number of its sacred vessels.
16When the news of Jonathan’s death reached Rome and Sparta, these people, too, were deeply grieved. 17But as soon as they heard that his brother Simon had succeeded him as High Priest and was in command of the country and the cities in it, 18they wrote to him on bronze sheets to renew the alliance and friendship they had made with his brothers Judas and Jonathan.
19The letter was read in Jerusalem before the whole assembly. 20This is a copy of the letter sent by the Spartans,
“The leaders and the people of Sparta to Simon, High Priest, and to the elders, to the priests and to all the Jewish people, their brothers: greetings. 21The envoys you sent to our people informed us of the successes and prosperity of your nation. We rejoiced at their coming. 22We have recorded their declaration in our public acts as follows: ‘Numenius, son of Antiochus, and Antipater, son of Jason, ambassadors of the Jews—have come to renew their relationship with us. 23It has been a pleasure for the people to receive them with honor and deposit a copy of their statement in the public archives as a remembrance for the people of Sparta.’ And they made a copy of all this for the High Priest Simon.”
24After this, Simon sent Numenius to Rome with a large gold shield weighing a thousand minas to confirm their alliance with the Romans.
25When the people came to know these events, they said, “What favor can we do for Simon and his sons? 26It was he and his brothers and the family of their fathers who strengthened the resistance; they have fought the enemies of Israel and restored its freedom.” 27So they engraved an inscription on bronze sheets and set it up on pillars on Mount Zion. This is a copy of the text:
“On the eighteenth day of the month Elul, in the year one hundred and seventy-two (140 B.C.), the third year of Simon, the High Priest, 28in the grand assembly of the priests of Israel, the leaders of the nation and the elders of the people, the following was proclaimed:
29“During the frequent wars for freedom in our land, Simon, the son of Mattathias, a priest from the family of Joarib, and his brothers risked their lives and stood up against the enemies of their nation to preserve the Holy Place and the Law, and brought eternal glory to their nation. 30Jonathan rallied the nation, and became the High Priest, and then rested with his fathers. 31The enemies of the Jews then planned to invade their land in order to destroy their Holy Place. 32So Simon arose to fight for his nation. He spent much of his own wealth to procure arms and to pay the salary of the soldiers of his nation.
33He fortified the cities of Judah and Beth-zur on the frontiers of Judea, where the enemy arsenal had been and he stationed a Jewish garrison there. 34He also fortified Joppa by the sea, and Gazara on the borders of Azotus, which was formerly inhabited by enemies, and established Jewish colonies there, providing them with all they needed. 35The people saw Simon’s faith and the glory he had resolved to win for his nation. They made him their commander and High Priest because of the services he rendered, the justice and faithfulness he showed to his nation, and because he sought in every way to increase the honor of his people.
36In his days, the Jews managed to root out the pagans from their land, especially from the city of David, Jerusalem, where they had built a Citadel from which they went out to profane the surroundings of the temple and to violate its holiness. 37He settled Jewish soldiers in it and fortified it for the security of the region and the city, and built the walls of Jerusalem higher. 38And for this, king Demetrius confirmed him in his office as High Priest, 39made him one of his friends and bestowed high honors on him, 40for he had heard that the Romans had considered the Jews their friends, allies and brothers, and had received Simon’s envoy with honor.
Simon: high priest and dictator
41The king also took into account that the Jews and the priests had agreed that Simon be their leader and High Priest until a prophet worthy of trust appeared.
42They wanted him to be their general and take charge of the Holy Place, and to appoint men to supervise the works, to administer the country, the army and the fortresses.
43They also wanted everyone to obey him, that all documents of the nation bear his name and that he be clothed in purple and wear golden ornaments.
44None of the people or the priests shall be allowed to act contrary to these provisions or contradict his orders, or convene a public assembly without his consent, or be clothed in purple, or wear the golden brooch. 45Whoever opposes these decisions or violates any of these shall be liable to punishment.”
46All the people agreed to grant Simon the right to act in accordance with these provisions. 47And Simon accepted and agreed to assume the office of High Priest and to be the general and leader of the Jews and of the priests, and to preside over all.
48They decided that this decree be engraved on bronze sheets and set up in a conspicuous place in the sacred enclosure, 49and that copies be deposited in the Temple treasury and made available to Simon and his sons.
1Antiochus, son of king Demetrius, sent from the islands of the sea to Simon, the High Priest and leader of the Jews, and to the whole nation, 2the following letter: “King Antiochus to Simon, high priest and leader, and to the Jewish nation: peace!
3Since wicked men have seized the kingdom of our ancestors, I now intend to recover it and to reestablish it as it was before. I have gathered a very large army and have equipped warships 4to make a landing in the country and take revenge on those who devastated our land and laid waste many cities in my kingdom. Now, therefore, 5I confirm in your regard all the tax exemptions and all other privileges granted you by my royal predecessors. 6I authorize you to mint your own coinage for your nation. 7I accept the autonomy of Jerusalem and the Holy Place; all the arms you have manufactured as well as the fortresses you have constructed and those you have occupied are yours. 8From this day on, I cancel all debts to the king and everything you may owe in the future. 9And when I have taken possession of my kingdom, I shall bestow great honors on you, your nation and on the Temple, making you famous throughout all the earth.”
10In the year one hundred and seventy-four (138 B.C.), Antiochus marched out to the land of his ancestors, and all the troops rallied to him, so that only a few remained with Trypho. 11Antiochus pursued him and Trypho took refuge in Dor on the coast. 12Trypho knew how critical the situation had become for him and that his army had deserted him. 13Antiochus encamped before Dor with a hundred and twenty thousand soldiers and eight thousand horsemen. 14And he surrounded the city while the ships attacked from the sea: the city was completely surrounded by land and sea, and no one could go in or come out.
15Then Numenius and his companions arrived from Rome, carrying letters addressed to the kings and to the nations in the following terms: 16“Lucius, consul of the Romans, to king Ptolemy: peace! 17The Jewish people sent by the High Priest Simon and by the Jewish people have come to us as our friends and allies to renew our friendship and alliance of old.
18They have brought us a gold shield weighing a thousand minas. 19It is our desire to write to the kings and the peoples that they should not harm the Israelites nor injure them or their cities or their land, nor ally themselves with their aggressors. 20We have accepted with pleasure the shield that the Jews sent us. 21Now, if some wicked Jews who have fled from their land are in your country, hand them over to the High Priest Simon that he may punish them according to their Law.”
22The same letter was sent to king Demetrius, to Attalus, Ariarathes and Arsaces, 23and to all the nations, to Sampsames, the Spartans, Delos, Myndos, Sicyon, Caria, Samos, Pamphylia, Lycia, Halicarnassus, Rhodes, Phaselis, Cos, Side, Aradus, Gortyna, Cnidus, Cyprus and Cyrene. 24They also sent copies of these letters to the High Priest Simon.
War with the Syrians renewed
25King Antiochus encamped before Dor, in the new district, continually sending his battalions against it and constructing siege engines. He kept Trypho shut in and prevented him from going out or in. 26Simon sent him two thousand picked men to help him in the fight, with silver, gold and plenty of equipment. 27But Antiochus did not accept them; instead, he annulled the concessions he had granted to Simon and declared him his enemy. 28He sent Athenobius, one of his friends, to him in order to meet him and say to him: “You have occupied Joppa, Gazara and the Citadel of Judea which are cities of my kingdom. 29You have laid waste their territory and done great damage in the land, and have seized many towns in my kingdom.
30Restore, then, the cities you have seized and the taxes of the places you now occupy beyond the borders of Judea. 31Or pay me five hundred talents of silver as compensation for the damage you have caused and another five hundred talents for the taxes of the cities. If not, then I shall declare war against you.”
32Athenobius, the friend of the king, arrived in Jerusalem and when he saw the magnificence of Simon, his plates of gold and silver and the pomp that surrounded him, he was amazed. But he delivered the king’s message. 33Simon answered him, “We have not occupied any foreign land nor seized any foreign property: this is the inheritance of our ancestors. It was our enemies who seized this for some time, 34but now that we have a favorable opportunity, we are only recovering the inheritance of our ancestors.
35Joppa and Gazara, which you claim, did great harm to our people and laid waste our land; but we are prepared to give you a hundred talents for them.”
Athenobius did not say anything, 36but went back to the king very angry and reported to him Simon’s reply. He also told him of Simon’s magnificence and everything he had seen. So the king became furious.
37Meanwhile, Trypho fled to Orthosia on a ship. 38The king appointed Cendebeus as general and gave him part of the troops and the horsemen. 39He ordered him to encamp against Judea, rebuild Kedron and fortify its gates and make war on the people. The king then went on pursuing Trypho. 40Cendebeus arrived at Jamnia and began to disturb the people. He invaded Judea, imprisoned some people and put them to death. 41He fortified Kedron, stationed horsemen and troops there to make sorties and to patrol the roads to Judea, as the king had commanded him.
Simon is murdered
1At that time, John went up from Gazara to relate to his father what Cendebeus was doing. 2So, Simon called his two elder sons, John and Judas, and said to them: “I and my brothers and the family of my father have fought the enemies of Israel from our youth until today. And many times, we were able to liberate Israel. 3But now I am old, while you—thanks be to Heaven—are already mature men. Take my place and my brother’s, and go out to fight for our country. May Heaven’s help be with you!”
4Then he chose a thousand men and horsemen from the country whom he sent against Cendebeus. And they spent the night in Modein. 5They arose early in the morning and advanced into the plain and saw what a large army, both infantry and cavalry, was coming to meet them.
A stream lay between them, 6and John with his troops drew up against the enemies. His troops were afraid to cross the stream, so he crossed over first. On seeing this, his men crossed after him. 7He divided his army into two groups and set the horsemen in the center for the enemy’s cavalry was very numerous.
8They sounded the trumpets, and Cendebeus and his army were defeated. Many of them fell, and those who remained fled to the fortress. 9Judas, the brother of John, fell wounded, but John pursued the enemies until Cendebeus reached Kedron which he had fortified. 10The enemy fled as far as the towers in the fields of Azotus, but John burned these down. About two thousand of the enemy perished. And after this, John returned safely to Judea.
11Ptolemy, son of Abubos, had become general in command of the plain of Jericho. He had much silver and gold, 12for he was son-in-law of the High Priest. 13He became too ambitious and thought of becoming the leader of his nation. So he looked for ways to do away with Simon and his sons. 14Simon was then making the rounds of the cities of Judea and attending to their administration. In the eleventh month called Shebat, in the year one hundred and seventy-seven (134 B.C.), Simon came to Jericho with his two sons, Mattathias and Judas. 15The son of Abubos received them treacherously into the small fortress called Dock which he had built. He gave them a grand banquet, but had set men in hiding. 16When Simon and his sons were drunk, Ptolemy and his men reached for their weapons and rushed on Simon in the midst of the banquet. They killed him with his two sons and some of his servants. 17With this, Ptolemy committed a great act of treachery, repaying evil for good.
18Ptolemy then made haste to send a letter to the king to inform him of what had happened, asking Antiochus to help him in handing over to him the cities and the country. 19He also sent other men to Gazara in order to kill John, and asked the commanders of the Jewish troops in a letter to defect to him, promising them silver, gold and gifts. 20He then sent others to seize Jerusalem and the Temple hill.
21But a man ran and reached Gazara before them, informing John that his father and brothers had been killed. And he added, “He has also sent some people to kill you.” 22John was shocked by the news. So he arrested the men who had been sent to kill him and put them to death, for he knew that they had come with this purpose.
23The rest of the deeds of John, his battles, his exploits, the walls he built and all his other achievements 24are written in the annals of his pontificate from the day he succeeded his father as High Priest.
• 1.1 This first paragraph summarizes the period of history from Alexander until Antiochus Epiphanes, king of Syria. Note the passage 1:11-15 where the beginning of the moral crisis in Judah is emphasized.
Two things characterize the Greek civilization of the Syrians:
– Art and the multiplicity of statues which, however beautiful they may have been, were used in pagan worship.
– Physical education: stadiums, sports, swimming pools. Sports were practiced in the nude, which scandalized the Jews. This explains why those who were ashamed to be known as Jews had to have their missing foreskins—after circumcision—replaced through a surgical procedure.
• 41. This chapter presents two aspects of the crisis:
1) A moral crisis. The Jews were in contact with a more advanced, though pagan, civilization. Could one adapt to and take advantage of this culture without giving up one’s faith?
At that time the Jews were about to pay for the error they had made in keeping apart from the cultural progress of neighboring nations. For three centuries they emphasized that all the laws and customs of Israel came directly from God and could not be revised. So, when modern currents emerged, the most open among them went through a conscience crisis: could they perhaps change the customs without betraying God? It was very difficult to open up to Greek civilization without being seen as a renegade, that those who wanted to be modern, not only changed their life style, but also abandoned their religion. Think about what happens today when young people, educated in super-conservative schools or parishes, discover revolutionary currents which inspire them.
2) Then came organized persecution. The powerful kings wanted to unite all the groups within their empire. They said that religion was divisive. Freedom of conscience seemed dangerous to them. The kings struggled against those who wanted to serve God and to follow their consciences.
The people were worried: up to what point can one endure the undermining and the making fun of one’s religious practices?
In verse 54, there is mention of the “abominable idol of the invaders,” which is also mentioned in Daniel 9:27. This is the way they refer to a pagan altar built on the site of the ancient altar of the Temple. Jesus will give a new meaning to this expression in Mark 13:14.
• 2.1 The entire book will deal with the war under the leadership of the Maccabean family, namely, Mattathias’ sons. Here we have the story of the rebellion of Mattathias, the priest who suddenly becomes the leader of the persecuted.
I, my sons and my family will remain faithful to the Covenant (v. 20). Their motive is religious and national at the same time: Mattathias risks everything against a totalitarian power. Once again, God shows his kindness toward his people, by making the needed leader emerge, a man who, like Moses, sides totally with the people, when he could have easily obtained the favor of the powerful.
• 29. Two opposite attitudes on the part of believers are seen in this text.
Some decide only on the basis of God’s Law, or rather, the interpretation of the Sabbath law; it was forbidden to fight on that day dedicated to God. They let themselves be killed heroically. Others use their heads and their consciences and choose to defend themselves.
The book does not condemn anyone. However, it becomes obvious that believers cannot act only by looking at books and the past. We always find ourselves in new situations which demand new reflection: “We were not made for the Sabbath” (Mk 2:27). In verse 42, we hear of the Hasideans. This movement for spiritual renewal, from which the Pharisees and the Essenes will later emerge, existed before Mattathias’ rebellion. They joined him, but later they separated when Mattathias’ sons, the Maccabees, got lost in politics.
• 3.1 After the death of Mattathias, his son Judas heads the resistance.
For three centuries the attention of the believers had been exclusively focused on worship activities. Priests and Levites appeared as the only models of faith. Now, because of circumstances, there is a change. Suddenly the Jewish people are looking again at the days of the Judges or of David. For many of them, the model believer becomes the armed fighter who risks his life to liberate his people.
Actually the brutal persecution brought them to the point where refraining from fighting meant renouncing everything which had made the Jewish people different from all others.
Before the unequal struggle, we have Judas’ profession of faith: God can give victory to a few fighting a multitude. This is how David spoke when he faced Goliath (1 S 14:6 and 17:47).
• 10. The books of Maccabees repeatedly stress that the Jews fought, above all, to defend their Holy Place. This Temple was the symbol of the whole Law, that is, of their whole religion.
We must all fight for the things that give meaning to our lives and without which a secure future would be meaningless. For the Jews of those days, to give up their customs and their worship was like renouncing their faith, since they were entrusted with the divine promises. Though the Temple itself was no more than stones and wood, with some precious metal, they could not abandon it without losing their human dignity and their vocation as believers.
The Maccabees were not very different from those who, today, dare to remind us of the rights of the poor, and to demand the participation of all in modern societies oftentimes founded on injustice. They are arrested, tortured and they die to demand political change, but in so doing, they defend their own faith, because if they kept quiet, they would have lost their human dignity and they have renounced the spirit of justice and freedom (Gal 5:11-12).
• 4.1 They sent Apollonius, a colonel, against Judas: Judas killed him. They sent a general, Seron: Judas defeated the general. This time, king Antiochus sends a tremendous army with two generals against the Jews. Judas is victorious at Emmaus.
For three centuries, the Jews had been taught their own history as a series of God’s marvelous interventions (see the books of Chronicles). They insisted so much on God’s help that human courage seemed useless. Judas knows that people must act without waiting for a miracle or a revelation. After the victory, everyone realizes that God is the one who saved them. To ask God for peace, food, justice, without removing oppressive structures, would be hypocrisy.
• 36. Because of Judas’ victories, Antiochus Epiphanes IV signs a treaty by which he grants autonomy to the Jewish province (April 164 B.C.). The Jews are triumphant and their first concern is to purify the Temple which had been profaned by the pagans (December 167).
The Jews are aware of being different from other people. It is God who decides the future. In a given moment, they solve what is most urgent while waiting for a prophet to indicate to them what they must do as we see in verse 46. Yet, the situation is paradoxical. There were prophets at other times when the Israelites refused to listen to them. Now that they want to hear a message, there are no prophets, and there will be no prophet until John the Baptist.
• 5.1 The Syrian generals reluctantly accept the treaty signed by the king. They encourage persecution of the Jews who live in neighboring territories, sometimes in very large groups. Then, Judas begins a campaign to save his threatened people and to bring them back to the province of Judah.
• 55. The war continues with its victories and its defeats. Here, the Bible stresses the reasons for the reversal: many of the leaders are motivated by personal interest.
• 6.1 The end of Antiochus Epiphanes is presented as an example of how the persecutors die. We find another story, different from this, in 2 Maccabees 9.
• 32. Palestine is invaded once again and in the combat at Beth-zechariah, Judas’ army, very inferior to the king’s, must withdraw from the enemy. Two years later, the king makes peace and confirms the religious freedom of the Jews.
• 55. The fighting stops at the least expected moment and the Jews are granted the right to continue practicing their religion (v. 59). The resistance of a handful of heroes has achieved this first result and it changes the history of the Jewish people.
• 8.1 The prophets insisted on the fact that because the Jewish people were God’s people, they had to trust God without seeking any other help. To try to make alliances with the pagan people would have meant to mistrust God. Judas has a different concept and seeks an alliance with the Romans.
The first victories inspired great hope. The Jews never recovered their autonomy since the exile and now, Judas and his companions think that the time to restore the ancient kingdom of Solomon and David has come.
Judas is a great admirer of the organization and the power of the Romans and thinks their protection will lead to the restoration of the kingdom of David.
The prophets were right: those who seek the kingdom of God and justice must not rely on the rich and the powerful. The Romans, whom Judas admires so much, will become enemies. And two centuries later, in Jesus’ day, they will destroy the Jewish nation.
• 9.1 Then comes the moving story of Judas’ death. He dies in the glory of his faith and heroism, like the many who “were hoping for the restoration of Israel” and died in this hope.
We can see God’s grace for him in this pre-mature death. The path that he had begun because of his faith, ends in compromises by his descendants and in the corruption which often accompanies political power.
• 23. Jonathan, chosen to succeed his brother Judas, must flee to the desert with his people. He sends his brother John with the baggage to bring it to a safe place beyond the Jordan. There, they are the victims of an ambush. Then, Jonathan goes to the other side of the Jordan to avenge them. When he comes back, he finds that Bacchides and his army followed behind him and now block their access to the river. They break through enemy lines, however, and swim across.
• 10.15 Jonathan represents the Jews before Alexander, but with what title? The Jews had not had a king since the Exile, and what is more, they would not have accepted any king who was not a descendant of David. Since the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, priests ruled over the Jewish community. So Jonathan must be the High Priest and to be able to represent the Jewish people, he is to receive this charge from Demetrius. This starts a moral crisis for the Jews since no one could proclaim himself high priest, but became one only through family rights (see Lev 8).
Jonathan’s appointment caused division among the most religious Jews. Many opposed him, among whom were the Hasideans (7:13) who would later give rise to the Pharisees.
• 59. Jonathan gets more and more involved in politics and this chapter does not hide how dirty politics can be, the way it is usually practiced. What was said earlier about Judas is confirmed (9:1); the time to restore a kingdom of God which would be a nation among nations has gone.
The mission of Christians is to be involved in politics as yeast among the masses, in spite of the fact that they will find temptations and errors among many unscrupulous people. The Church herself, however, must be careful not to go back to seeking success through a compromise with partisan forces, since her own mission cannot be confused with partisan politics. Moreover, the Church does not divide people into good and bad, friends or enemies, according to their positions in social struggles.
• 12.42 After Judas and two of his brothers, Jonathan dies in the war for liberation. Simon, the last of the brothers replaces him.
The book continues with the story of Simon’s rule and deeds until the year 134 B.C. when he is murdered.
Simon is successful in his wars. He is very clever in taking advantage of the rivalries among the various kings struggling to settle in the kingdom of Persia. His victories and the peace which he achieved will dampen the enthusiasm for the faith which had started the war for liberation. Simon, the liberator, becomes Simon the dictator at the end of a process often repeated in history. To that effect, see 14:41-47; 15:32.
When Jesus comes one hundred and fifty years later, Simon’s descendants will be the chief priests, the most materialistic group among the Jews (the Sadducees); Caiaphas, who condemned Jesus, was one of them.
Note what is briefly mentioned in 13:41-42 and in 15:3. After four centuries of dependence, the Jews become a nation once again. This new and exalting experience explains why, a century and a half later, in Jesus’ day, they could not stand Roman domination.