“If the lord comes
During the middle
Of the night,
Or near dawn,
And finds them so,
Blessed are those slaves!
κἂν ἐν τῇ δευτέρᾳ κἂν ἐν τῇ τρίτῃ φυλακῇ ἔλθῃ καὶ εὕρῃ οὕτως, μακάριοί εἰσιν ἐκεῖνοι.
Luke uniquely indicated that Jesus stated that these slaves had to be alert at night also, not just during the day. Jesus said that if the lord came (ἔλθῃ) during the middle of the night, during the 2nd watch (κἂν ἐν τῇ δευτέρᾳ), or near dawn, during the 3rd watch (κἂν ἐν τῇ τρίτῃ φυλακῇ), and found them alert (καὶ εὕρῃ οὕτως), they would be blessed slaves (μακάριοί εἰσιν ἐκεῖνοι). If the Lord found them alert at night, they would be happy, fortunate, or blessed. Mark, chapter 13:35, said that Jesus warned his disciples to be vigilant. They were to stay awake (γρηγορεῖτε οὖν) because they did not know (οὐκ οἴδατε) when the lord or the master of the house would come back (γὰρ πότε ὁ κύριος τῆς οἰκίας ἔρχεται). It could be at some unexpected time, late in the evening (ἢ ὀψὲ), midnight (ἢ μεσονύκτιον), cockcrow (ἢ ἀλεκτοροφωνίας), or at morning dawn (ἢ πρωΐ). Staying awake at night was a good idea. Do you stay up late, waiting for people?
“By the tender mercy
Of our God,
From on high
διὰ σπλάγχνα ἐλέους Θεοῦ ἡμῶν, ἐν οἷς ἐπισκέψεται ἡμᾶς ἀνατολὴ ἐξ ὕψους,
Luke continued Zechariah’s canticle with an insistence on the mercy of their God. Zechariah said that by the heart felt tender mercy and compassion of their God (διὰ σπλάγχνα ἐλέους Θεοῦ ἡμῶν), a new day or a sunrise (ἀνατολὴ) from on high (ἐξ ὕψους) would break out upon them or visit them (ἐν οἷς ἐπισκέψεται ἡμᾶς). As many of the prophets had pointed out already. the messiah or savior would come like a sunrise to break into their lives. So too, John, his son, would be part of this process that would culminate in Jesus.
“There are sixty queens.
There are eighty concubines.
There are maidens without number.
My perfect one is the only one.
She is the darling of her mother.
She is flawless to her that bore her.
The maidens saw her.
They called her happy.
The queens saw her.
The concubines also saw her.
They praised her.
‘Who is this that looks forth like the dawn?
Who is as fair as the moon?
Who is as bright as the sun?
Who is as awesome as an army with banners?’”
Now this male lover or prince compares his lover to 60 queens, 80 concubines, and numerous maidens. Is this the king speaking about his various female companions or the prince speaking about them? His lover is considered better than all of them, since she is the perfect one. She was the flawless darling of her mother. Everyone, the queens, the concubines, and the maidens, seems to praise her. They are all looking forward to her as if she was like the dawn of a new day. She was like the moon and the sun combined. She was going to come with an awesome army of banners.
“The path of the righteous is
Like the light of dawn.
It shines brighter and brighter until full day.
The way of the wicked is
Like deep darkness.
They do not know what they stumble over.”
There are classic two ways that you can go. One is the path of righteousness and the other is the way of the wicked. The righteous path is like the light of dawn that grows brighter until it reaches its height at noon. The way of the wicked is like stark darkness so that you do not know what you are stumbling over. The choice is yours.
“With my whole heart
I will keep your statutes.
I cry to you.
Thus I may observe your decrees.
I rise before dawn.
I cry for help.
I put my hope in your words.
My eyes are awake before each watch of the night.
Thus I may meditate on your promise.
In your steadfast love,
Hear my voice!
In your justice,
Preserve my life!
Those who persecute me with evil purpose,
They are far from your law.
You are near.
All your commandments are true.
I learned from your decrees.
You have established them forever.”
This psalmist cried for help to Yahweh from his heart. He wanted to be saved because he kept the statutes of Yahweh. He rose before dawn with his crying prayer to Yahweh. In the middle of the night, he would get up and meditate on the promises of Yahweh. He wanted the steadfast love of Yahweh in his justice to preserve his life. He was being persecuted with an evil purpose by those who were far from Yahweh’s law. He wanted Yahweh near him because his commandments were true. He had long ago learned from Yahweh’s decrees that had been established forever. So ends this section on the nineteenth consonant letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Qoph.
“After consulting privately with the elders, he determined to march out and decide the matter by the help of God before the king’s army could enter Judea and get possession of the city. So, committing the decision to the Creator of the world, he exhorted his troops to fight nobly to the death for the laws, the temple, the city, the country, and the commonwealth. He pitched his camp near Modein. He gave his troops the watchword.
He picked a force of the bravest young men. He attacked the king’s pavilion at night. He killed as many as two thousand men in the camp. He stabbed the leading elephant and its rider. In the end they filled the camp with terror and confusion as they withdrew in triumph. This happened, just as day was dawning, because the Lord’s help protected him.”
Clearly the success of Judas Maccabeus came because of divine intervention on his side. Everything was done with the help of God. He first consulted with the elders, which seems to be a common practice. He committed his decision to the Creator, not the God of Israel. He wanted his troops to defend the laws, the Temple, the city, and the country. This took place near Modein, where his father was from, although there is no mention of his father Mattathias in 2 Maccabees. The key word was ‘God’s victory.’ He picked a few brave young men to lead the attack on the king’s pavilion at night. He killed 2,000 that night as well as the lead elephant. This led to confusion in the camp, another common biblical theme.
“Timothy himself fled to a stronghold called Gazara, especially well garrisoned, where Chaereas was the commander. Then Judas Maccabeus and his men were glad. They besieged the fort for four days. The men within the town, relying on the strength of the place, kept blaspheming terribly. They uttered wicked words. But at dawn on the fifth day, twenty young men in the army of Judas Maccabeus, filled with anger because of the blasphemies, bravely stormed the wall. With savage fury, they cut down every one they met. Others who came up in the same way wheeled around against the defenders. They set fire to the towers. They kindled fires and burned the blasphemers alive. Others broke open the gates. They let in the rest of the force as they occupied the city. They killed Timothy, who was hiding in a cistern, and his brother Chaereas and Apollophanes. When they had accomplished these things, with hymns and thanksgivings they blessed the Lord who shows great kindness to Israel. He gave them the victory.”
In 1 Maccabees, chapter 13, the attack on Gazara was led by Simon, much later after the death of Judas Maccabeus. Here it takes place under the leadership of Judas Maccabeus. There Simon just deported the citizens, not killed them as here. Chaereas, the brother of Timothy, was the commander at Gazara, where Timothy had fled. They besieged the fort for 4 days. During that time, the men inside blasphemed against the Jewish God. On the fifth day, 20 young men from the army of Judas Maccabeus stormed the wall, killing everyone they men. They set fire to the towers and opened the gates. After they occupied the city, then they killed Timothy and his 2 brothers, Chaereas and Apollophanes. Finally they blessed the Lord with hymns and thanksgivings for the victory. So ends the story of Timothy, the enemy of the Jews. Notice that they praise God before and after they kill their enemy.
“Rising from their prayer, they took up their arms. They advanced a considerable distance from the city. When they came near the enemy they halted. Just as dawn was breaking, the two armies joined battle. The one army had a pledge of success and victory, based not only on their valor but their reliance upon the Lord. However, the other army made their rage their leader in the fight.”
Having finished praying, the men of Judas Maccabeus took up their arms and marched into battle. The battle began at dawn. The army of Judas had a pledge of success and victory because they relied on the Lord. The other army was fighting out of rage and anger.
“They went all the way to the stronghold of Dathema. At dawn, they looked out and saw a large company that could not be counted, carrying ladders and engines of war to capture the stronghold. They were attacking the Jews within it. Judas saw that the battle had begun. The cry of the town went up to heaven with trumpets and loud shouts. Judas said to the men of his forces.
‘Fight today for your kindred’
Then he came up behind them in three companies. They sounded their trumpets. They cried aloud in prayer. When the army of Timothy realized that it was Maccabeus, they fled before him. He had dealt them a heavy blow. As many as eight thousand of them fell that day.”
Next Judas Maccabeus and his men went back to the stronghold of Dathema, where many of the Jews were at as was indicated earlier in this chapter. It must not have been that far from Bozrah since it only took one night to get there. However, when they arrived, the place was under attack by that wicked Timothy and his army. Judas Maccabeus called his troops to fight for their relatives. When Timothy and his group realized that Judas Maccabeus was attacking them, they fled with a loss of about 8,000 men.