“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.
“Then Jonathan, with his men and Simon, withdrew to Bethbasi in the wilderness. He rebuilt the parts of it that had been demolished. Then they fortified it. When General Bacchides learned of this, he assembled all his forces. He sent orders to the men of Judea. Then he came and encamped against Bethbasi. He fought against it for many days as he made machines of war.”
Jonathan and his men went southeast of Bethlehem to Bethbasi in the wilderness marshes along the Jordan River, near Tekoa. They rebuilt their stronghold and fortified it. When General Bacchides heard of this, he assembled his forces and camped out against the forces of Jonathan for many days. He kept building his war machines.
“The congregation assembled to be ready for battle. They assembled to pray and ask for mercy and compassion.
‘Jerusalem was uninhabited like a wilderness.
Not one of her children went in or out.
The sanctuary was trampled down.
The sons of aliens held the citadel.
It was a lodging place for the gentiles.
Joy was taken from Jacob,
The flute and the harp ceased to play.’”
The Israelites gathered to pray. As they readied for the battle, they prayed for mercy and compassion. They lamented the situation in Jerusalem which had become a wilderness. No one went in or out as the sanctuary was trampled. The sons of aliens were in the citadel in Jerusalem. There no longer was joy from the land of Jacob as the flute and the harp ceased to play, just like the day the music stopped.
“The king’s officers who were enforcing the apostasy came to the city of Modein to make them offer sacrifice. Many from Israel came to them. Mattathias and his sons were assembled. Then the king’s officers spoke to Mattathias as follows.
‘You are a leader,
Honored and great in this city,
Supported by sons and brothers.
Now be the first to come.
Do what the king commands,
As all the gentiles
And the men of Judah
And those that are left in Jerusalem have done.
Then you and your sons
Will be numbered among the friends of the king.
You and your sons will be honored with silver, gold, and many gifts.’”
These inspectors of the king were zealous. They came to Modein to make sure that the Israelites there were offering the correct sacrifices. Mattathias and his sons were assembled there. These inspectors spoke specifically to Mattathias and his sons. They said that he and his sons were honored and great. They should be the first to follow the king’s command to sacrifice to the idols since everyone elsewhere had done the same. If they were to be first in Modein, they would become friends of the king, a special title that the Persian kings often used. They would be honored with silver, gold, and other gifts.