“But they had no children.
Both were advanced
καὶ οὐκ ἦν αὐτοῖς τέκνον, καθότι ἦν ἡ Ἐλεισάβετ στεῖρα, καὶ ἀμφότεροι προβεβηκότες ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις αὐτῶν ἦσαν.
Next Luke presents this unique portrait of Zechariah and Elizabeth, much like that of Abraham and Sarah in Genesis, chapters 18:1-15 and 21:1-7. They had no children (καὶ οὐκ ἦν αὐτοῖς τέκνον). Elizabeth was barren or sterile (καθότι ἦν ἡ Ἐλεισάβετ στεῖρα), often times a sign of God’s displeasure. They were both advanced (καὶ ἀμφότεροι προβεβηκότες) in their years (ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις αὐτῶν ἦσαν). In other words, they were old folks, beyond child bearing years. Thus, only a miraculous birth would give them children.
“The sons of the northern king
Shall wage war.
They shall assemble
Of great forces.
They shall advance
Like a flood.
They shall pass through.
They shall again carry the war
As far as his fortress.”
The sons of the northern King Seleucus II were King Seleucus III (225-223 BCE) and King Antiochus III (222-187 BCE) both of whom ruled after him. They decided to attack the southern king of Egypt. They assembled a great army and advanced like a flood to the fortress of Egypt.
“Who is this?
Who is rising like the Nile?
Who is like rivers
Whose waters surge?
Like the Nile.
Whose waters surge.
Let me rise!
Let me cover the earth!
Let me destroy cities!
Let me destroy their inhabitants!
Let the warriors go forth!
Men of Ethiopia!
Men of Put
Who carry the shield!
Men of Lud,
Who draw the bow!”
The Egyptians had originally thought that they would have the waters of the Nile River, or their power, take over the Babylonians, but the reverse was true. They wanted to be like rivers surging forth. They wanted to destroy other cities and their inhabitants. They had horses and chariots to carry out their mission as they advanced. They had the people from Ethiopia and Somalia. They had the people of Put, the Libyans, and Lud, the Lydians, who had shields and were good at bows and arrows. However, all this great might was turned back by the Babylonians.
“Prepare the buckler!
Prepare the shield!
Advance for battle!
Harness the horses!
Mount the steeds!
Take your stations!
Put on your helmets!
Polish your spears!
Put on your coats of mail!”
Jeremiah has a very vivid description of how these ancient warriors prepared to do battle. They had their small forearm buckler shields with their larger shield, as they advanced on foot to do battle. The cavalry horsemen had to harness their horses and then mount them. They all would take their appointed stations. They had their helmets and spears with their protective armor coats. They were now ready to do battle.
“Nicanor and his troops advanced with trumpets and battle songs. Judas Maccabeus and his troops met the enemy in battle with invocations to God and prayers. So, fighting with their hands and praying to God in their hearts, they laid low no less than thirty-five thousand men. They were greatly gladdened by God’s manifestation. When the action was over, they were returning with joy. They recognized Nicanor, lying dead, in full armor.”
Nicanor and his army advanced with trumpets and battle songs. On the other hand, Judas Maccabeus and his troops went to fight with prayers in their hearts to God. Thus they fought and prayed at the same time. This seemed to have worked quite well. They killed 35,000 troops of Nicanor. They were glad because God had manifested his gladness with their actions. After the action was all over, they too were happy. Then they recognized Nicanor in full armor dead. There is something similar to this in 1 Maccabees, chapter 7, where Nicanor was defeated.
“Rising from their prayer, they took up their arms. They advanced a considerable distance from the city. When they came near the enemy they halted. Just as dawn was breaking, the two armies joined battle. The one army had a pledge of success and victory, based not only on their valor but their reliance upon the Lord. However, the other army made their rage their leader in the fight.”
Having finished praying, the men of Judas Maccabeus took up their arms and marched into battle. The battle began at dawn. The army of Judas had a pledge of success and victory because they relied on the Lord. The other army was fighting out of rage and anger.
“Many acts of sacrilege had been committed in the city by Lysimachus with the connivance of Menelaus. When the report of them had spread abroad, the populace gathered against Lysimachus because many of the gold vessels had already been stolen. The crowds were becoming aroused and filled with anger. Lysimachus armed about three thousand men. He launched an unjust attack, under the leadership of a certain Auranus, a man advanced in years and no less advanced in folly. But when the Jews became aware that Lysimachus was attacking them, some picked up stones, some blocks of wood, and others took handfuls of the ashes that were lying around. They threw them in wild confusion at Lysimachus and his men. As a result, they wounded many of them. They killed some. They put all the rest of them to flight. The temple robber himself they killed close by the treasury.”
Lysimachus was the brother of Menelaus who was the second in command to the high priesthood of Menelaus. He had stolen the golden vessels from the Temple and committed other acts of sacrilege. The Jerusalem crowds became aroused and filled with anger. Lysimachus decided to get about 3,000 people led by a foolish old man named Auranus to attack the crowds. The crowds fought back by heaving, stones, wood, and ashes. I am not so sure about the value of throwing ashes. Anyway, they wounded many and killed some of these 3,000 men including Lysimachus. The rest fled. Finally, they were rid of the Temple robbers.
“Then the army of Bacchides marched out from the camp. They took their stand for the encounter. The cavalry was divided into two companies. The slingers and the archers went ahead of the army, as well as all the chief warriors. Bacchides was on the right wing. Flanked by the two companies, the phalanx advanced to the sound of the trumpets. The men with Judas also blew their trumpets. The earth was shaken by the noise of the armies. The battle raged from morning until evening.”
The large army of Bacchides and the Syrians marched out from camp ready to engage the battle. There were 2 companies of cavalry. The slingers, the archers, and the chief warriors were ahead of the army. Both sides sounded their trumpets as the earth shook from the noise of the armies. The battle raged from morning until evening.
“Now a part of the king’s army was spread out on the high hills. Some troops were on the plain. They advanced steadily and in good order. All heard the noise made by their multitude. All heard the marching of the multitude and the clanking of their arms. Everyone trembled for the army was very large and strong. But Judas and his army advanced to the battle. Six hundred of the king’s army fell. Eleazar, called Avaran, saw that one of the beasts was equipped with royal armor. It was taller than all the others. He supposed that the king was on it. So he gave his life to save his people and win for himself an everlasting name. He courageously ran into the midst of the phalanx to reach it. He killed men right and left. They parted before him on both sides. He got under the elephant. He stabbed it from beneath and killed it. However, it fell to the ground upon him and he died. When the Jews saw the royal might and the fierce attack of the forces, they turned away in flight.”
The king’s army was in the hills and on the plains. They marched in a steady good order. They made a great noise by marching with their clanking arms. Everyone was afraid of this large and strong army. However, Judas and his men attacked the king’s men and killed 600 of them. Then Eleazar, the brothr of Judas, decided to attack the elephant who he thought was carrying the king because of the royal armor. He set out to kill people as they got out of his way. He went under the elephant and then stabbed it. However, the elephant fell on him as it died and crushed him to death. Now when the Jews saw this and the fierce attack of the king’s men, they fled.
“Haman went out that day from the king happy and in good spirits. But when he saw Mordecai the Jew in the courtyard, and observed that he neither rose nor trembled before him, he was infuriated with Mordecai. Nevertheless Haman restrained himself. He went home. Then he sent and called for his friends and his wife Zeresh. Haman recounted to them the splendor of his riches and the number of his sons. He told them about all the promotions with which the king had honored him. He explained how he had advanced above the officials and ministers of the king. Haman added.
‘Even Queen Esther let no one but me
Come with the king to the banquet that she prepared.
Tomorrow also I am invited by her,
Together with the king.
Yet all this does me no good,
As long as I see the Jew Mordecai sitting at the king’s gate.’”
Haman was very happy as he left the king and Queen Esther. However, when he saw Mordecai in the courtyard, he was angry. Mordecai would not recognize his authority, but Haman remained calm and went home. Once at home, he called his friends and wife and told them how wonderful things were going. Haman was a rich man with many sons. He had been promoted and honored by the king. He was the second in command in the kingdom. In fact, he had been the only one invited to a dinner with the king and his wife that day and once again he was invited tomorrow. There was only one thing that really bothered him, the Jew Mordecai sitting at the king’s gate.