The anger of King Antiochus IV (2 Macc 9:1-9:4)

“About that time, as it happened, King Antiochus had retreated in disorder from the region of Persia. He had entered the city called Persepolis. He attempted to rob the temples and control the city. Therefore the people rushed to the rescue with arms. King Antiochus and his army were defeated. The result was that he was put to flight by the inhabitants as he beat a shameful retreat. While he was in Ecbatana, news came to him of what had happened to Nicanor and the forces of Timothy. Transported with rage, he conceived the idea of turning upon the Jews the injury done by those who had put him to flight. He ordered his charioteer to drive without stopping until he completed the journey. But the judgment of heaven rode with him! In his arrogance he said.

‘When I get there,

I will make Jerusalem a cemetery of Jews.’”

A similar story can be found in 1 Maccabees, chapter 6, where the beginning of the story is the same. Some of the details are different. The town with the temple was called Elymais in 1 Maccabees, but magnificent former capital Persepolis here. Instead of returning to Babylon in 1 Maccabees, here it is the summer capital of Persia, Ecbatana. In 1 Maccabees, it is Lysias who seemed to be in charge, while here it appears to be Nicanor and Timothy. However, there is a major difference in the reaction of King Antiochus IV. In 1 Maccabees, when King Antiochus IV heard the news about the Jewish victory, he was depressed and fell sick. He then had deathbed repentance for all that he had done to the Jews. Here instead of that, he got angry and wanted to make Jerusalem a Jewish cemetery. However, it is later in this chapter that he has his deathbed repentance. On top of that, there are more details about his illness here.

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The campaign against King Arphaxad (Jdt 1:13-1:16)

“In the seventeenth year, King Nebuchadnezzar led his forces against King Arphaxad. He defeated him in battle. He overthrew the whole army of King Arphaxad, all his cavalry, and all his chariots. Thus he took possession of his towns. He came to Ecbatana. He captured its towers, plundered its markets, and turned its glory into disgrace. He captured King Arphaxad in the mountains of Ragau. He struck him down with his spears. He destroyed him, once and for all. Then he and all his combined forces, a vast body of troops, returned to Nineveh. There he and his forces rested and feasted for one hundred twenty days.”

5 years later, around 588 BCE, King Nebuchadnezzar led his troops against King Arphaxad as he defeated him. He took all their possessions, and destroyed the town of Ecbatana. He captured King Arphaxad in the mountains of Ragau, and killed him. Then he returned to Nineveh and rested for 4 months.

The fortifications of King Arphaxad (Jdt 1:1-1:4)

“It was the twelfth year of the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar, who ruled over the Assyrians in the great city of Nineveh. In those days, King Arphaxad, ruled over the Medes in Ecbatana. He built walls around Ecbatana with hewn stones three cubits thick and six cubits long. He made the walls seventy cubits high and fifty cubits wide. At the gates he built towers one hundred cubits high and sixty cubits wide at the foundations. He made its gates seventy cubits high and forty cubits wide to allow his armies to march out in force and his infantry form their ranks.”

This story has an exact date, the 12th year of the rule of King Nebuchadnezzar. This is a portrayal of a war between Babylonia and Media. King Nebuchadnezzar had actually defeated the Assyrians in Nineveh. Nebuchadnezzar lived from 634-562 BCE. He was a Chaldean, in other words, he ruled Babylonia, 605-562 BCE, from what we call present day Baghdad. It was under his rule that Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 BCE as depicted in 2 Chronicles, chapter 32, and 2 Kings, chapters 24-25. The 12th year of his rule would put this at 593 BCE, a few years before the final destruction of Jerusalem. King Arphaxad was a supposed contemporary Median king during the conquest of the Assyrians. If he was a contemporary of King Nebuchadnezzar, he might be identified with King Cyaxares (625–585 BC) of Media. Anyway these were the two protagonists in this story. Ecbatana was the capital of Media, as we saw in Tobit, chapter 3. This King Arphaxad fortified his city of Ecbatana with stones that were 4 ½ feet thick and 9 feet long that made the walls 105 feet high and 75 feet wide. The towers were 150 feet high and 90 feet wide at their foundation. The gates were very wide, 105 feet high and 60 feet wide, so that his army could get in and out of the gates. Although the name of the book is Judith, she will not make an appearance until chapter 8 of this book.

The meeting with Raguel (Tob 7:1-7:8)

“When they entered Ecbatana, Tobias said to Raphael.

‘Brother Azariah! Take me straight to our brother Raguel.’

So he took him to the house of Raguel. There, they found him sitting beside the courtyard door. They greeted him first.   He replied.

‘Joyous greetings, brothers! Welcome and good health!’

Then he brought them into the house. Raguel said to his wife Edna.

‘How much the young man resembles my kinsman Tobit!’

Then Edna questioned them.

‘Where are you from, brothers?’

They answered.

‘We belong to the descendents of Naphtali, who are exiles in Nineveh.’ She said to them.

‘Do you know our kinsman Tobit?’

They replied.

‘Yes, we know him!’

Then she asked them.

‘Is he in good health?’

They replied.

‘He is alive and in good health.’

Tobias added.

‘He is my father.’

At that Raguel jumped up and kissed him and wept. He also spoke to them as follows.

‘Blessings on you, my child, son of a good and noble father!

O most miserable of calamities

That such an upright and beneficent man has become blind!’

He then embraced his kinsman Tobias and wept. His wife Edna also wept for him. Their daughter Sarah likewise wept. Then Raguel slaughtered ram from the flock. He received them warmly.”

When they reached Ecbatana, Tobias wanted to go visit Raguel right away. So Raphael, called Azariah, took him to that house, where Raguel was sitting outside at the courtyard door. They greeted each other. Raguel noticed that Tobias resembled Tobit. His wife Edna questioned who they were and where they were from. They said that they were from Naphtali, but they were exiles in Nineveh. Edna wanted to know if they knew Tobit. Then Tobias said that he was alive and in good health and was his father. With that Raguel became all excited. He jumped up and kissed them and began to weep. He thought it was terrible that such a good man as Tobit was blind. How he knew that Tobit was blind is not clear, since the text does explicitly say that they told him about this blindness. Then Raguel, his wife Edna, and daughter Sarah all wept. Raguel slaughtered a ram and received them warmly. All seems to be going well.

Tobias finds trustworthy Raphael (Tob 5:4-5:8)

“So Tobias went out to look for a man to go with him to Media, someone that was acquainted with the way. He went out and found the angel Raphael standing in front of him. Tobias did not perceive that he was an angel of God. Tobias said to him.

‘Where do you come from, young man?’

‘From your kindred, the Israelites.’

He replied.

‘I have come here to work.’

Then Tobias said to him.

‘Do you know the way to go to Media?’

‘Yes.’

He replied.

‘I have been there many times.

I am acquainted with that region.

I know all the roads.

I have often traveled to Media.

I would stay with our kinsman Gabael who lives in Rages of Media.

It is a journey of two days from Ecbatana to Rages.

It lies in a mountainous area.

Ecbatana, however, is in the middle of the plain.’

Then Tobias said to him.

‘Wait for me, young man, until I go and tell my father.

I need you to travel with me.

I will pay you your wages.’

He replied.

‘I will wait, but do not take too long.’”

Tobias went out to find someone trustworthy to lead him to Media to get the money from Gabael, who lived in Rages. Then suddenly the angel Raphael was standing in front of him. However, Tobias did not realize that Raphael was an angel. This happened in Genesis, chapter 18, where angels appeared to be human men. Tobias asked him where he was from. Raphael replied that he was an Israelite looking for work. When Tobias asked him about Media, he seemed to know a lot about the place, since he even knew Gabael in Rages. He said it would take 2 days to travel from Ecbatana to Rages, but in fact it is about 185 miles, more like a 15 to 20 day journey. Tobias said that he would pay him to go with him to Media, but he had to tell his father first. He asked Raphael to wait. Raphael said that he would wait, but not too long.

The reproach about the seven husbands of Sarah (Tob 3:7-3:9)

“On the same day, at Ecbatana in Media, it also happened that Sarah, the daughter of Raguel, was reproached by her father’s maids. She had been married to seven husbands. The wicked demon Asmodeus had killed each of them before they had been with her as is customary for wives. The maid said to her.

‘You are the one who kills your husbands!

See! You have already been married to seven husbands.

You have not borne the name of a single one of them.

Why do you beat us?

Your husbands are dead.

Go with them!

May we never see a son or daughter of yours!’”

All at once there is a switch from the first person narrative of Tobit, to a third person story teller. This story switches to Ecbatana, the capital of Media, in northwest present day Iran. Ecbatana was the summer home of the Persian kings as we found out in Ezra, chapter 6. In this town of Ecbatana, there was a lady named Sarah, the daughter of a man named Raguel. This Raguel is a name close to that of the father-in-law of Moses. Sarah is, of course, the same name as Abraham’s wife. She was reproached by her father’s maids. They may have been servants or concubines of Raguel, but it is not clear. They are mad at Sarah because she apparently was beating them because all of her husbands were killed on their wedding night. Sarah had 7 marriages and all of 7 the men died on their wedding night. Notice the use of 7 by the wicked demon Asmodeus. Asmodeus was considered to be an evil king of demon spirits, one of the 7 princes of hell from the Greek or Persian times. He was the demon of lust who twisted sexual desires. He apparently killed all the 7 men who were to marry Sarah on their wedding night before the consummation of the wedding. This Asmodeus also appeared in the later 1st to 3rd century CE Testimony of Solomon. The maids said that Sarah was better off dead also. They never expected to see a son or daughter from her.

 

The search and finding of the lost scroll of King Cyrus (Ezra 6:1-6:2)

“Then King Darius made a decree. They searched the archives where the documents were stored in Babylon. However, it was in Ecbatana, the capital which is in the province of Media, that a scroll was found on which this was written.”

King Darius decreed that a search should be made in the archives at Babylon for the scroll of King Cyrus. Guess what? Very conveniently, King Darius found the scroll from King Cyrus in Ecbatana in Media, which was the summer home of the king. Media was on the Caspian Sea and had become part of Persia, after being independent before that. Also King Darius had a residence there. Why it was there is not clear, except that King Cyrus may have issued it from there.