Reading into Maccabees, Part 4

Chapter 13

By now, Simon is the last of the Maccabees. He’s lost his father and all of his brothers. He is pissed off, and delivers a rousing speech in Jerusalem:

You know what great battles I and my brethren, and the house of my father, have fought for the laws, and the sanctuary, and the distresses that we have seen; by reason whereof all my brethren have lost their lives for Israel’s sake, and I am left alone. And now far be it from me to spare my life in any time of trouble: for I am not better than my brethren. I will avenge then my nation and the sanctuary, and our children, and wives: for all the heathens are gathered together to destroy us out of mere malice.

Enraptured by the speech, the Jews declare him to be their new leader, and they prepare for war.

Tryphon claims to be holding Jonathan’s sons hostage. In an interesting bit of political maneuvering, Simon knows his nephews are already dead, but pays ransom anyway so he won’t be blamed when the boys’ fates are revealed. Tryphon’s armies are challenged everywhere they go; they’re even defeated by snow in Gilead.

Simon makes his son John Hyrcanus commander of the army, and declares yet another holiday that I’ve never heard of.

Chapter 14

Demetrius goes to Media to find soldiers to take back Seleucia, but he’s immediately defeated and arrested. Judea is peaceful and prosperous. The courts of Rome and Sparta offer their condolences for the lost Jonathan and congratulations for Simon. Simon is crowned as Prince of Judea. Uh-oh. Judaism has a strict separation of church and state. High priests like Simon are never supposed to be secular leaders.

Chapter 15

In Seleucia, yet another Antiochus, seventh of that name, seizes power from Tryphon. Antiochus asks for the Jews’ help, and the Romans write to him to make sure he means it. The Romans have been steadily building alliances with every country on the Mediterranean, and makes it clear that they are all allies with Judea. But of course Antiochus doesn’t listen, and invades Judea as soon has he finishes with Tryphon.

Chapter 16

While the Jews are busy fighting Antiochus VII, Ptolemy, the Captain of Jericho, plots to usurp the Jewish throne. He kills Simon and two of his sons while they’re drunk, then tries to trick John into joining his brothers in Sheol. John gets word of the plot just in time, catches his would be killers, and has them executed.

And as concerning the rest of the acts of John, and his wars, and the worthy deeds, which he bravely achieved, and the building of the walls, which he made, and the things that he did: Behold these are written in the book of the days of his priesthood…

2 Maccabees is not that book.