The birthday of Herod (Mk 6:21-6:21)

“But an opportunity came

When Herod,

On his birthday,

Gave a banquet

For his noble courtiers,

His military officers,

And the prominent leaders

Of Galilee.”

 

Καὶ γενομένης ἡμέρας εὐκαίρου ὅτε Ἡρῴδης τοῖς γενεσίοις αὐτοῦ δεῖπνον ἐποίησεν τοῖς μεγιστᾶσιν αὐτοῦ καὶ τοῖς χιλιάρχοις καὶ τοῖς πρώτοις τῆς Γαλιλαίας,

 

Mark has a long descriptive story about this birthday party of Herod.  Matthew, chapter 14:6-12, has a more summary statement about this party, while Luke made no mention of it.  Mark explained about the guests at this birthday party.  He said that an opportunity arose for a festival day (Καὶ γενομένης ἡμέρας εὐκαίρου) on the celebration of King Herod’s birthday (ὅτε Ἡρῴδης τοῖς γενεσίοις αὐτοῦ).  King Herod gave a banquet dinner (δεῖπνον ἐποίησεν) for his courtiers or noblemen (τοῖς μεγιστᾶσιν αὐτοῦ), his military officers or captains (καὶ τοῖς χιλιάρχοις), and the other prominent leaders of Galilee (καὶ τοῖς πρώτοις τῆς Γαλιλαίας).  Anybody who was of any importance in Galilee would have been there, since Herod was the tetrarch or so-called king of Galilee, under Roman rule.

The battle at Carnaim with Timothy (2 Macc 12:17-12:23)

“When they had gone ninety-five miles from there, they came to Charax, to the Jews who are called Toubiani. They did not find Timothy in that region, for he had by then left there without accomplishing anything. Although in one place, he had left a very strong garrison. Dositheus and Sosipater, who were the captains under Judas Maccabeus, marched out. They destroyed those whom Timothy had left in the stronghold, more than ten thousand men. However, Judas Maccabeus arranged his army in divisions as he set men in command of these divisions. He hastened after Timothy, who had with him one hundred twenty thousand infantry and two thousand five hundred cavalry. When Timothy learned of the approach of Judas Maccabeus, he sent off the women and the children with the baggage to a place called Carnaim that was hard to besiege. It was difficult to access because of the narrowness of all its approaches. But when Judas Maccabeus’ first division appeared, terror and fear came over the enemy at the manifestation to them of him, who sees all things. They rushed headlong in every direction, so that often they were injured by their own men and pierced by the points of their own swords. Judas Maccabeus pressed the pursuit with the utmost vigor. He put the sinners to the sword. He destroyed as many as thirty thousand men.”

Once again, this is similar to the battles in Gilead in 1 Maccabees, chapter 5. Charax might be present day Kuwait. Apparently they were looking for the elusive Timothy, who had already died in chapter 10 of this book. Dositheus and Sosipater were the captains of Judas Maccabeus on the east side of the Jordan River. They had already destroyed 10,000 of Timothy’s men. However, he had an enormous amount of troops, 125,000 infantry and 2,500 cavalry. Yet he was afraid of Judas Maccabeus. He sent all the women and children with the baggage to Carnaim, because it would be difficult to besiege that place due to its narrow approaches. As usual, the men of Judas Maccabeus pressed after the men of Timothy. Those men were so afraid of the God of Judas Maccabeus and his men that they ran in every which way so that they injured their own troops with their own swords. Nevertheless, Judas Maccabeus and his troops killed 30,000 men. These numbers are enormous here.

Ptolemy takes charge (1 Macc 16:18-16:22)

“Then Ptolemy wrote a report about these things that he sent to King Antiochus. He wanted the king to send him troops in order to turn over to him the cities and the country. He sent other men to Gazara to do away with John. He sent letters to the captains asking them to come to him so that he might give them silver, gold, and gifts. He sent other troops to take possession of Jerusalem and the temple hill. But someone ran ahead and reported to John at Gazara that his father and brothers had perished. He told him.

‘He has sent men to kill you also.’

When John heard this, he was greatly shocked. He seized the men who came to destroy him. Then he killed them. He had found out that they were seeking to destroy him.”

Ptolemy wrote a report to King Antiochus VII telling him what had happened. He wanted some help from the king. Ptolemy then sent men to kill his brother-in-law John. He told the captains that he had gold, silver, and gifts for them. He sent other troops to take over Jerusalem. However, the plot to kill John failed as someone told him what was happening. Instead, he killed the men coming to get him. The story ends here without any resolution. However, it seems that John won out, but it is not clear what happened to Ptolemy.