The Olympics at Tyre (2 Macc 4:18-4:20)

When the quadrennial games were being held at Tyre, the king was present. The vile Jason sent envoys, chosen as being citizens of Antioch from Jerusalem. They were to carry three hundred silver drachmas for the sacrifice to Hercules. Those who carried the money, however, thought best not to use it for sacrifice, because that was inappropriate. They spent if for another purpose. So this money that was intended by the sender for the sacrifice to Hercules, but by the decision of its carriers it was applied to the construction of triremes.”

Now we have the Olympics in the biblical tradition. The quadrennial Olympics were held in Tyre. The Greek Olympics began in 776 BCE. However, they were eliminated by the Christian Emperor Theodosius in 393 CE as a pagan cult. Although the Olympics were only held in Olympia in Greece, there were other gatherings of athletes in what might be called Pan-Hellenic Games that were held throughout the ancient world in various cities at different times what were also called Olympics. Tyre was an important sea port town north of Palestine. Hercules was the name of god of Tyre. Instead of offering the sacrifice to Hercules, these so-called Antiochian envoys to these games made triremes, war vessels with rowers on each side.

Trypho returns to unseat King Demetrius II (1 Macc 11:54-11:56)

“After this happened, Trypho returned. He had with him the young boy Antiochus who began to reign and put on the crown. All the troops that Demetrius had discharged gathered around him. They fought against Demetrius until he fled and was routed. Trypho captured the elephants. He gained control of Antioch.”

Trypho showed up earlier in this chapter. He was a supporter and friend of King Alexander I, who King Demetrius II had defeated. He had with him the son of King Alexander I, Antiochus, who he then made King Antiochus VI. All the troops that King Demetrius II had let go, now went and fought with Trypho so that King Demetrius II fled. Never leave the troops sit idle. Trypho took his elephants and control of Antioch, the capital of the Syrian empire with the new young king. This King Antiochus VI may have been only 3 or 4 years old.  His mother would have been Cleopatra III, the wife of deposed King Demetrius II also.

Jonathan sends troops to King Demetrius II (1 Macc 11:41-11:44)

“Jonathan sent to King Demetrius the request that he remove the troops from the citadel in Jerusalem. He wanted the troops in the strongholds removed because they kept fighting against Israel. King Demetrius sent this message back to Jonathan.

‘Not only will I do these things for you and your nation,

But I will confer great honor on you and your nation,

If I find an opportunity.

Now then you will do well to send me men who will help me.

All my troops have revolted.’

Jonathan sent three thousand stalwart men to him at Antioch. When they came to the king, the king rejoiced at their arrival.”

Jonathan wanted the Syrian troops removed from the citadel in Jerusalem. There were still some skirmishes among the troops and the Israelites. King Demetrius II was happy to have his troops come home. In fact, he wanted more troops since his regular troops had revolted and left him. He was pleased when Jonathan sent him 3,000 troops to Antioch to be with the king.

King Ptolemy VI defeats King Alexander I (1 Macc 11:13-11:19)

“Then King Ptolemy entered Antioch. He put on the crown of Asia. Thus he put two crowns upon his head, the crown of Egypt and that of Asia. Now King Alexander was in Cilicia at that time, because the people of that region were in revolt. When King Alexander heard of it, he came against him in battle. King Ptolemy marched out and met him with a strong force. He put him to flight. King Alexander fled into Arabia to find protection there. King Ptolemy was exalted. Zabdiel the Arab cut off the head of Alexander and sent it to King Ptolemy. However, King Ptolemy died three days later. His troops in the strongholds were killed by the inhabitants of the strongholds.   Thus Demetrius became king in the one hundred sixty-seventh year.”

The Egyptian King Ptolemy VI entered Antioch and put on the crown as the King of Asia. Thus he had 2 crowns as king of both Asia and Egypt. King Alexander was in Cilicia, which is Turkey or Asia Minor, putting down a revolt when this happened. He returned to battle his father-in-law who had taken his wife and crown away from him. However, King Ptolemy put King Alexander I to flight where he fled to Arabia. There the Arab Zabdiel cut off his head and sent it back to King Ptolemy VI. Everything was going good for the Egyptian king but then he died 3 days later. In a strange twist of fate, King Demetrius II became the king of Asia and Egypt in 145 BCE. He was the son of King Demetrius I, who had been in exile in Crete after the death of his father 5 years earlier. Thus he was a rather young man.

Demetrius II appears on the scene (1 Macc 10:67-10:69)

“In the one hundred sixty-fifth year, Demetrius son of Demetrius came from Crete to the land of his ancestors. When King Alexander heard of it, he was greatly distressed. He returned to Antioch. Demetrius appointed Apollonius the governor of Coele-syria. He assembled a large force and encamped against Jamnia.”

About 3 year later in 147 BCE, the son of Demetrius I called Demetrius II, the grandson of King Seleucus IV, came from the island of Crete. King Alexander I was upset and returned to Antioch in Syria. Demetrius II assembled a large army force in Jamnia.   He named the Philistine Apollonius the governor of this area.   Coele-syria means Hollow Syria, the area around Palestine with the sea coast town of Jamnia.

The letter of King Alexander to Jonathan (1 Macc 10:17-10:21)

King Alexander wrote a letter and sent it to Jonathan, in the following words.

‘King Alexander to his brother Jonathan,

Greetings!

We have heard about you.

You are a mighty warrior.

You are worthy to be our friend.

So we have appointed you today

To be the high priest of your nation.

You are to be called the king’s friend.

You are to take our side.

You are to keep friendship with us.’

He sent him a purple robe and a golden crown. So Jonathan put on the sacred vestments in the seventh month of the one hundred sixtieth year, at the festival of booths. He recruited troops and equipped them with arms in abundance.”

King Alexander at Ptolemais wrote a letter to Jonathan. He went ever further than King Demetrius I at Antioch. He appointed Jonathan the high priest. I am not sure how or why he had this authority. However, the position of high priest might have been vacant since the death of Alcimus in 159 BCE. Obviously King Alexander had the power to appoint anyone he wanted to be the king’s friend, a special status. In fact, he sent a purple robe and crown, which Jonathan accepted in 152 BCE, during the festival of booths. Then Jonathan went to recruit and arm troops.

The king agrees to a peace treaty (1 Macc 6:60-6:63)

The speech of Lysias pleased the king and the commanders. He sent an offer of peace to the Jews. They accepted it. So the king and the commanders gave them their oath. On these conditions, the Jews evacuated the stronghold. But when the king entered Mount Zion, he saw what a strong fortress the place was. He broke the oath he had sworn. He gave orders to tear down the wall all around. Then he departed with haste as he returned to Antioch. There he found Philip in control of the city. However, he fought against him. Then he took the city by force.”

The speech of Lysias pleased the 10 year old king and the commanders. They wanted to give the Jews a peace offer that was accepted. They gave an oath, but when they got into the city, they broke their oath and tore down the walls around the city. Then they departed to Antioch where Philip had control of the city. However, Antiochus V and Lysias fought against Philip and took the city back by force. Obviously Lysias was the main force behind the 10 year old King Antiochus V.

First battle with Lysias (1 Macc 4:34-4:35)

“Then both sides attacked as five thousand of the army of Lysias fell in action. Lysias saw the rout of his troops. He observed the boldness which inspired those troops of Judas. He saw how ready they were either to live or to die nobly. Then he withdrew to Antioch. There he enlisted mercenaries in order to invade Judea again with an even larger army.”

Both sides attacked. However, the army of Lysias lost 5,000 men. Lysias, the Syrian general saw how bold the men of Judas were since they were ready to die nobly. Then he withdrew to Antioch to enlist more mercenaries for a larger invasion of Judea.

Lysias was put in charge of half the Syrian army (1 Macc 3:32-3:37)

“King Antiochus left Lysias, a distinguished man of royal lineage, in charge of the king’s affairs from the Euphrates River to the borders of Egypt.  Lysias was also to take care of his son Antiochus until he returned.  He turned over to Lysias half of his forces and the elephants.  He gave him orders about all that he wanted done.  As for the residents of Judea and Jerusalem, Lysias was to send a force against them to wipe out and destroy the strength of Israel and the remnant of Jerusalem.  He was to banish the memory of them from that place, settle aliens in all their territory, and distribute their land.  Then the king took the remaining half of his troops.  He left from his capital Antioch in the one hundred forty-seventh year.  He crossed the Euphrates River as he went through the upper provinces.”

Lysias was a Syrian nobleman who took over half the Seleucid army, the so-called western district from the Euphrates River to Egypt, what used to be called, the Province Beyond the River.  King Antiochus IV also put Lysias in charge of his son who was to become King Antiochus V.  Lysias’ half of the army was to destroy Judea and Jerusalem.  He was to reestablish that area with other people so that the memory of Judea would be forgotten, much like the Assyrians and Babylonians had done in the 7th and 6th century BCE.  King Antiochus IV would leave the capital of Antioch and take the other half of the army to Persia, the eastern side of the Euphrates River.  This all took place in the 147th year since the beginning of the Greek Seleucid reign, about 165 BCE.