The decision to wipe out the Jews (2 Macc 8:8-8:11)

“Philip saw that the Judas was gaining ground little by little. He saw that he was pushing ahead with more frequent successes. Thus he wrote to Ptolemy, the governor of Coele-syria and Phoenicia, to come to the aid of the king’s government. Ptolemy promptly appointed Nicanor son of Patroclus, one of the king’s chief friends. He sent Nicanor in command of no fewer than twenty thousand gentiles of all nations to wipe out the whole race of Judea. He associated with him Gorgias, a general and a man of experience in military service. Nicanor determined to make up for the king the tribute due to the Romans, two thousand talents, by selling the captured Jews into slavery. He immediately sent to the towns on the seacoast, inviting them to buy Jewish slaves. He promised to hand over ninety slaves for a talent, not expecting the judgment from the Almighty that was about to overtake him.”

This Philip was in charge of Jerusalem. He wrote to Ptolemy, who was the governor of Coele-syria, along the Phoenician coast, for aid. Ptolemy sent him Nicanor and Gorgias, a general. This is slightly different from 1 Maccabees, chapter 3. There it was Lysias, the governor from Antioch who sent Ptolemy with Nicanor and Gorgias to Judea with 40,000 troops, not 20,000 as here. There was no mention of taking Jewish slaves and selling them in 1 Maccabees. Here Nicanor believes that he can get 1 talent for 90 Jewish slaves, so that they can pay the Roman tribute. It is not clear if this is a gold or silver talent. Obviously, he was not expecting divine revenge.

The letter to the Spartans about the present (1 Macc 12:9-12:18)

“Therefore, though we have no need of these things,

Since we have as encouragement

The holy books that are in our hands.

We have undertaken to send

To renew our family ties and friendship with you,

So that we may not become estranged from you.

Considerable time has passed

Since you sent your letter to us.

We therefore remember you constantly on every occasion,

Both in our festivals and on other appropriate days,

At the sacrifices which we offer

And in our prayers,

As it is right and proper to remember brothers.

We rejoice in your glory.

But as for ourselves,

Many trials and many wars have encircled us.

The kings around us have waged war against us.

We were unwilling to annoy you

And our other allies and friends with these wars.

We have the help that comes from Heaven for our aid.

We were delivered from our enemies.

Our enemies were humbled.

We therefore have chosen Numenius son of Antiochus

And Antipater son of Jason,

We have sent them to Rome to renew our former friendship

And alliance with them.

We have commanded them to go also to you,

To greet you

To deliver to you this letter from us

Concerning the renewal of our family ties.

Now please send us a reply to this.”

Jonathan’s letter continued to remind them that they relied on their holy books, which would have been the law, Torah, and the prophets. Nevertheless, Jonathan thought that it was time to renew their alliance and friendship. Almost a century and a half had passed without any renewal. During this time, they had remembered the Spartans in their prayers and festivals. Funny, this is the first mention of the Spartans. The Jews have had some problems, but their aid from heaven has helped them to defeat their enemies on every side. He was sending Numenius and Antipater to Rome to renew their friendship. However, he also wanted to renew the family ties with the Spartans. Jonathan also wanted a reply from them.

The revolt in Antioch (1 Macc 11:45-11:51)

“Then the people of the city assembled within the city, to the number of one hundred twenty thousand. They wanted to kill the king. But the king fled into the palace. Then the people of the city seized the main streets of the city and began to fight. So the king called the Jews to his aid. They all rallied about him. Then they spread out through the city. They killed on that day about one hundred thousand men. They set fire to the city. They seized a large amount of spoil on that day. They saved the king. When the people of the city saw that the Jews had gained control of the city as they pleased, their courage failed. They cried out to the king with this entreaty.

‘Grant us peace!

Make the Jews stop fighting against us and our city.’

They threw down their arms and made peace. So the Jews gained glory in the eyes of the king and of all the people in his kingdom. They returned to Jerusalem with a large amount of spoil.”

There were about 120,000 people in revolt against King Demetrius II as this mob wanted to kill him. The king ran into his palace, but they seized the main streets of Antioch. Then the king asked the Jews for help. Supposedly, there were about 3,000 Jews in Antioch sent by Jonathan. Somehow, these 3,000 Jews spread out and killed 100,000 inhabitants of Antioch. It does not explain how this happened. They must have been great fighters. They even set fire to the city and took its spoils. Apparently, those remaining people of Antioch wanted peace. They wanted the Jews to stop fighting. The king was happy with the Jews as they returned to Jerusalem with their spoil. That was a great feat of the Jewish fighters but it was for a foreign king and made others mad.