“In the eleventh year,
On the first day
Of the month,
The word of Yahweh
Came to me.
‘Son of man!
Of the people.
It has swung open
I shall be replenished,
Now that is wasted.’”
The time for this oracle to Ezekiel, the son of man, was the 11th year of King Zedekiah, which would have been 587 BCE. The Greek translation has a mention of a month that would put it into 586 BCE. Tyre was a Phoenician costal island city that still exists in southern Lebanon, well known for its maritime trade. Actually, it would have been part of the old Israelite territory of Asher. Here, the people of Tyre seemed to have laughed at Jerusalem when the gates of that city fell. Instead of being an ally of Jerusalem, they turned against them. They took advantage of the bad situation in Jerusalem. Isaiah, also, had a long diatribe against both Tyre and Sidon in chapter 23.
“With the Almighty as their ally, Judas Maccabeus killed more than nine thousand of the enemy. They wounded and disabled most of Nicanor’s army. They forced them all to flee. They captured the money of those who had come to buy them as slaves. After pursuing them for some distance, they were obliged to return because the hour was late. It was the day before the Sabbath. For that reason they did not continue their pursuit. When they had collected the arms of the enemy and stripped them of their spoils, they kept the Sabbath. They gave great praise and thanks to the Lord, who had preserved them for that day. He allotted it to them as the beginning of mercy. After the Sabbath, they gave some of the spoils to those who had been tortured, the widows, and the orphans. They distributed the rest among themselves and their children. When they had done this, they made common supplication. They implored the merciful Lord to be wholly reconciled with his servants.”
This section is a little like the battles in 1 Maccabees, chapter 4, but not quite the same. The leader of the army is Nicanor and Gorgias. As God Almighty was on their side, Judas and his men killed more than 9,000 of the 20,000 enemy soldiers. They also wounded and disabled most of Nicanor’s army, as those who were able, fled the scene. They even got the money that was going to be used to buy Jewish slaves. They had to stop pursuing them since it was the eve of the Sabbath. They then celebrated the Sabbath with great praise and thanksgiving for the Lord’s mercy to them. Then on the day after the Sabbath, they gave some, but not all, of the spoils to those who had been tortured, as well as the widows and orphans. The rest of the money they distributed it among themselves and their children. They once again prayed to the Lord so that he might be reconciled with his servants. There is no longer any mention of religious sacrifices of any kind.
“In view of these things King Demetrius
Confirmed him in the high priesthood.
He made him one of the king’s friends.
He paid him high honors.
He had heard that the Jews
Were addressed by the Romans as friends,
Allies and brothers.
The Romans had received the envoys of Simon with honor.”
This decree also mentioned that King Demetrius II confirmed Simon in the high priesthood. It is still not clear where this authority came from. He, of course, made him one of the king’s friends. Thus he paid him high honors. He knew that Simon had sent envoys to Rome, who had addressed him as a friend, ally, and brother. The Seleucid King Demetrius II wanted to be on the right side of this relationship.
“Now King Alexander heard of all the promises that King Demetrius had sent to Jonathan. He had heard of the battles that Jonathan and his brothers had fought. He heard of the brave deeds that they had done and of the troubles that they had endured. So he said.
‘Shall we find another such man?
We will make him our friend and ally.’
King Alexander in Ptolemais heard that King Demetrius in Antioch was trying to get Jonathan as his ally against him. They were both cousins vying for the throne of the Seleucid Empire. However, he also had heard of the great brave deeds of Jonathan and his brothers in battle. How they had suffered so much. He said, that it would be hard to find a man like him, so why not make him our friend and ally?
“In the one hundred and sixtieth year Alexander Epiphanes, son of Antiochus, landed and occupied Ptolemais. They welcomed him. He then began to reign there. When King Demetrius heard of it, he assembled a very large army. He marched out to meet him in battle. King Demetrius sent Jonathan a letter in peaceable words to honor him. He said to himself.
‘Let us act first to make peace with him
Before he makes peace with Alexander against us.
He will remember all the wrongs which we did to him
And to his brothers and his nation.’
So Demetrius gave Jonathan authority to recruit troops, to equip them with arms, and to become his ally. He commanded that the hostages in the citadel should be released to him.”
About 7 years later, in 152 BCE, we see the struggle of the son of King Antiochus IV, Alexander versus Demetrius I, the son of King Seleucus IV. Alexander was also the brother of King Antiochus V, who died in battle at a young age. Alexander occupied Ptolemais, which is the modern day 5,000 year old city of Acre, near Haifa, in northern Israel on the Mediterranean Sea. When King Demetrius I heard about this, he wanted to get Jonathan on his side against Alexander. He knew that he had done wrong to his family and nation. He gave Jonathan the authority to recruit troops and arm them as his ally. Somehow there was still some captives in the Jerusalem citadel that he released.