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.

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Reading into Maccabees, Part 3

Chapter 9

Finally, some strategy! Bacchides returns to beseige Jerusalem, but Judah’s overconfidence does him no good this time: he’s killed, and Bacchides conquers Judea. Judah’s brothers form a government in exile in the Negev. The eldest, John, is killed by local tribesmen, who are slaughtered in revenge at a wedding. They clash with Bacchides, who fortifies the Jewish cities now under his control. Alcimus, meanwhile, decides to desecrate the Temple once more, but then dies, possibly of a stroke.

Bacchides decides this is the perfect time to destroy the Maccabees, now led by Simon and Jonathan. But once more, numbers and superior firepower are no match for local guerillas. Jonathan’s men destroy Bacchides’ war machines, then force him to release his prisoners of war and make him promise never to return to Judea.

Chapter 10

A random Greek named Alexander claims to be the son of Antiochus IV, and gets both Rome and Egypt to recognize his claim. Recognizing that civil war is iminent, both he and Demetrius reach out to Jonathan hoping for an alliance. Each side promises the Jews more and more: cash, territory, money, freedom. But Jonathan is no fool, and sides with Alexander (they’re both allied with the Romans anyway). Demetrius is killed, Alexander becomes King, and he marries Princess Cleopatra of Egypt (not that Cleopatra).

But the feud continues: Demetrius’ son (also named Demetrius), joins with General Apollonius to reconquer Seleucia. Jonathan hears of this and sends his armies to stop them. King Alexander is so impressed that he grants the Jews more territory. Hooray!

Chapter 11

Shit. Ptolemy of Egypt ignores his marital alliance with Alexander and decides to ally with Demetrius, promising that Demetrius can marry Cleopatra once she’s a widow. Ptolemy marches right into Antioch and seizes power. Alexander flees into Arabia, where he’s beheaded by tribesmen loyal to Egypt. Ptolemy dies shortly after, and Demetrius II becomes king.

In response, Jonathan besieges the Seleucid castle in Jerusalem. In the meantime, Demetrius invites Jonathan to negotiate. He praises Jonathan, recognizes him as high priest, and begs him to stop fighting. Jonathan agrees on the condition that Judea receive full independence with new, expanded borders.

Suddenly, the Seleucid army revolts against Demetrius. Demetrius calls the Jews for help, and they send an army to save him, but Demetrius is not the least bit grateful. His general Tryphon returns with Alexander’s young son, Antiochus. Demetrius flees, and Antiochus becomes King Antiochus VI. The book claims that the new King assures the Jews that their freedom will continue, but I’m not sure I buy it because he’s only three years old.

Chapter 12

Jonathan seeks to renew his alliances with Rome and Sparta. He should have made allies closer to home. After putting down another Demetrian rebellion, he goes to Egypt and is killed. General Tryphon kills King Antiochus, makes himself King, and marches on Judea.

They have no prince, nor any to help them: now therefore let us make war upon them, and take away the memory of them from amongst men.

In other words…