“Then the foreigners who were in the strongholds that Bacchides had built fled. All of them left their places and departed to their own lands. Only in Beth-zur did some remain who had forsaken the law and the commandments. It served as a place of refuge.”
With the closing of the Jerusalem prison, many of the Hellenistic foreigners left for their own countries. However, some of the renegades, the lawless and godless Jews, had a place of refuge in Beth-zur.
“When Jonathan learned of this, he sent ambassadors to Bacchides to make peace with him and obtain release of the captives. Bacchides agreed and he did as Jonathan said. He swore to Jonathan that he would not try to harm him as long as he lived. He restored to him the captives whom he had previously taken from the land of Judah. Then he turned and departed to his own land. He never came back into their territory. Thus the sword ceased from Israel. Jonathan settled in Michmash. He began to judge the people. He destroyed the godless out of Israel.”
When Jonathan heard that General Bacchides was leaving, he sent messengers to him to make peace and exchange prisoners. General Bacchides agreed with Jonathan. He swore that he would not harm Jonathan as long as he lived. They then exchanged prisoners or captives. General Bacchides left for his own land and never came back again. Thus there was peace in Israel. For someone unknown reason, Jonathan did not go to Jerusalem. Instead he settled in Michmash, about 8 miles northeast of Jerusalem and about 9 miles south of Bethel, where Saul had his fight with the Philistines. Jonathan was more like the early Israelite judges and Samuel than a king. However, he did destroy the godless renegades.
“However, Jonathan left his brother Simon in the town, while he went out into the country. He went with only a few men. He struck down Odomera and his kindred and the people of Phasiron in their tents. Then he began to attack. He went into battle with his forces. Simon and his men sallied out from the town. They set fire to the machines of war. They fought with Bacchides. He was crushed by them. They pressed him very hard. His plan and his expedition had been in vain. So he was greatly enraged at the renegades who had counseled him to come into the country. He killed many of them. Then he decided to depart to his own land.”
Jonathan split up his forces. He left his brother Simon in the town and he went into the countryside with a few men. He attacked and defeated Odomera and Phasiron. Odomera was either an independent wandering chief or an officer of the army of the Syrian General Bacchides. Phasiron was another independent Arab chief. Simon and his group set fire to the war machines of General Bacchides that were set to attack the Jews people. He was defeated but he did not die. There is no indication of how many people he lost, but he was discouraged because his plan and invasion had not worked. Thus General Bacchides decided to kill some of the men who had encouraged him to invade Judea. Then he left in disgust to go back to his own land.
“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.
“Then all the renegade lawless people plotted and said.
Jonathan and his men are living in quiet and confidence.
Now let us bring Bacchides back.
He will capture them all in one night.’
They went and consulted with him. Bacchides started to come with a large force. He secretly sent letters to all his allies in Judea. He told them to seize Jonathan and his men. However, they were unable to do it, because their plan became known. Jonathan’s men seized about fifty of the men of the country who were leaders in this treachery, and killed them.”
Once again, we see the lawless Hellenistic renegade Jews plotting against Jonathan. Jonathan seemed to have been left alone. They wanted to bring back General Bacchides and capture him in one night. This once again emphasizes the civil war aspect of his uprising. After they consulted with General Bacchides, he started out with a large force. He sent letters to his allies to tell them to seize Jonathan. However, the opposite happened. Jonathan seized about 50 men who were against him and killed them.
“In the one hundred and fifty-third year in the second month, Alcimus gave orders to tear down the wall of the inner court of the sanctuary. He tore down the work of the prophets! But he only began to tear it down, for at that time Alcimus was stricken. His work was hindered. His mouth was stopped. He was paralyzed, so that he could no longer say a word or give commands concerning his house. Alcimus died at that time in great agony. When Bacchides saw that Alcimus was dead, he returned to the king. The land of Judah had rest for two years.”
In 159 BCE the high priest Alcimus, who was chosen by the Syrian King Demetrius I, died. Alcimus had begun to tear down the inner wall that had been built by the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. However, as Alcimus began this project he was stricken and died. He became paralyzed so that he could no longer lead this work. He died in great agony. Then Bacchides returned to King Demetrius I in Syria, so that there was no fighting for 2 years.
“So the battle began. Jonathan stretched out his hand to strike Bacchides, but he eluded him and went to the rear. Then Jonathan and the men with him leaped into the Jordan River. They swam across to the other side. The enemy did not cross the Jordan to attack them. About one thousand of Bacchides’ men fell that day.”
The battle began as Jonathan tried to strike Bacchides, but he was unsuccessful as Bacchides went to the rear of his army. Then Jonathan told his men to jump in the Jordan River and swim to the other side. However, General Bacchides did not follow them since his men had suffered the death of 1,000 men that day.
“When Bacchides heard of this, he came with a large force on the Sabbath day to the banks of the Jordan River. Jonathan said to those with him.
‘Let us rise up now.
Let us fight for our lives.
Today things are not as they were before.
The battle is in front of us and behind us.
The water of the Jordan is on this side and on that,
With marsh and thicket.
There is no place to turn.
Cry out now to Heaven!
Cry that you may be delivered from the hands of our enemies.’”
Once again, Bacchides came on the Sabbath day to the banks of the Jordan River. Jonathan rallied his men to rise up and fight for their lives. The battle was on all sides of them and they were at the water’s edge. He wanted them to cry out to heaven to be delivered from their enemies. His speech was a pep talk and prayer at the same time.
“When Bacchides learned of this, he tried to kill him. But Jonathan and his brother Simon, and all who were with him, heard of it. They fled into the wilderness of Tekoa and camped by the water of the pool of Asphar. Bacchides found this out on the Sabbath day. He with all his army crossed the Jordan.”
The Syrian General Bacchides heard about Jonathan and tried to kill him. Jonathan was joined by his brother Simon as they fled to the wilderness of Tekoa, which was about 16 miles southeast of Jerusalem. The pool of Asphar was about 3 miles further south of Tekoa. General Bacchides found them on the Sabbath as he crossed the Jordan River with his army.
“Then all the friends of Judas assembled. They said to Jonathan.
‘Since the death of your brother Judas
There has been no one like him
To go against our enemies and Bacchides,
To deal with those of our nation who hate us.
Now we have chosen you today
To take his place as our ruler and leader,
To fight our battle.’
Jonathan accepted the leadership at that time. He took the place of his brother Judas.”
The friends of Judas Maccabeus got together. They decided to make his brother Jonathan the new leader. There was no one who was leading the fight against their Hellenizing Jewish enemies and the Syrian General Bacchides. People hated them. They wanted Jonathan to lead them in battle and rule them. Jonathan accepted this title, rather than be self appointed, sometime around the year 160 BCE.