Judas Maccabeus prepares for battle (2 Macc 15:20-15:21)

“When all were now looking forward to the coming issue, the enemy was already close at hand with their army drawn up for battle. The elephants were strategically stationed. The cavalry were deployed on the flanks. Judas Maccabeus, observed the masses that were in front of him. He saw the varied supply of arms and the savagery of the elephants. He then stretched out his hands toward heaven. He called upon the Lord who works wonders. He knew that it is not by arms, but as the Lord decides, that he would gain the victory for those who deserve it.”

Judas Maccabeus knew that the enemy was close at hand. They were ready for the battle with elephants, cavalry, and all the infantry in front of him. Then he stretched out his hands to heaven. He knew that he would not win this battle with superior weapons that he did not have. He knew that the victory would come from the Lord, who would work wonders to give victory to the ones who deserved it.

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King Antiochus V and Lysias and their army (2 Macc 13:1-13:2)

“In the one hundred and forty-ninth year, word came to Judas Maccabeus and his men that King Antiochus Eupator was coming with a great army against Judea. With him was Lysias, his guardian, who had charge of the government. Each of them had a Greek force of one hundred ten thousand infantry, five thousand three hundred cavalry, twenty-two elephants, and three hundred chariots armed with scythes.”

This is much the same as I Maccabees, chapter 6. In 162 BCE, King Antiochus V with his guardian Lysias was going to attack Judea. Clearly, the indication that the king is young is here since Lysias is called his guardian in charge of the government, not just a general. Here it says that each of them, the king and Lysias, had 110,000 infantry, 5,300 cavalry, and 22 elephants. While in 1 Maccabees, there were only 100,000 foot soldiers, but 20,000 cavalry, and 32 elephants. Obviously, these 2 different authors were using slightly different sources. Here there is the addition of the 300 chariots that had big blades like scythes that had been used since Persian times to cut down the foot soldiers. This was a bigger more dangerous force here.

The first campaign of Lysias (2 Macc 11:1-11:4)

“Very soon after this, Lysias, the king’s guardian and kinsman, who was in charge of the government, being vexed at what had happened, gathered about eighty thousand infantry and all his cavalry. He came against the Jews. He intended to make the city a home for Greeks. He intended to levy tribute on the temple as he did on the sacred places of the other nations. He intended to put up the high priesthood for sale every year. He took no account whatever of the power of God, but was elated with his ten thousands of infantry, his thousands of cavalry, and his eighty elephants.”

Once again, this is similar to 1 Maccabees, chapter 4. However, there are some minor discrepancies. The chronology seems to be different here since this probably occurred before the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem. This was a good description of Lysias, since he had been the guardian of the young King Antiochus V. He was, in fact, in charge of the government. He did not like that the Jews had been successful in the battle of Emmaus against Gorgias, as in 1 Maccabees, chapter 4. Here he has 80,000 infantry instead of 70,000. There is no number given to the cavalry here, but there in the other description it was 5,000. Here there is a mention of 80 elephants that was not mentioned there. Here there is the explicit mention that he wanted Jerusalem to be a Greek city that was not said in 1 Maccabees. Here there is a greater emphasis on the Hellenization of Jerusalem. He hoped that more money would come from the annual selling of the position of high priest as in the other pagan temples throughout the kingdom. Lysias was relying on his troops, cavalry, and elephants, and not the power of God that the Jews were relying on.

The importance of the Romans (1 Macc 8:1-8:11)

“Judas heard of the fame of the Romans since they were very strong. They were well-disposed toward all who made an alliance with them. They pledged friendship to those who came to them since they were very strong. He had been told of their wars and of the brave deeds which they were doing among the Gauls. They had defeated them and forced them to pay tribute. He learned what they had done in the land of Spain to get control of the silver and gold mines there. They had gained control of the whole region by their planning and patience, even though the place was far distant from them. They also subdued the kings who came against them from the ends of the earth, until they crushed them. They inflicted great disaster upon them. The rest paid them tribute every year. They had crushed in battle and conquered Philip, King Perseus of the Macedonians, and the others who rose up against them. They also had defeated King Antiochus the Great, king of Asia, who went to fight against them with one hundred twenty elephants, cavalry, chariots, and a very large army. He was crushed by them. They took him alive. They decreed that he and those who should rule after him should pay a heavy tribute, give hostages, and surrender some of their best provinces, the countries of India, Media, and Lydia. These they took from him and gave to King Eumenes. The Greeks planned to come and destroy them. However, this became known to them. Then they sent a general against the Greeks who attacked them. Many of them were wounded and fell. The Romans took captive their wives and children. They plundered them, conquered the land, tore down their strongholds, and enslaved them to this day. The remaining kingdoms and islands, as many as ever opposed them, they destroyed and enslaved.”

For some reason, the Romans made a big impression on Judas Maccabeus as they were beginning their ascendancy in the Mediterranean world. He knew that the Romans were strong and faithful in their alliances. Then this biblical author presented the great feats of the Romans. First they had conquered the Gauls and the Spaniards, these western territories around 190 BCE and the Punic wars with Carthage in North Africa from the 3rd century BCE. Prior to this time the only thing west was Egypt and Greece. Now Rome and the west made an impression. These Romans had gone and subdued kings from the ends of the earth. The Romans had defeated the last of the Macedonian kings, King Perseus in 168 BCE, the son of King Philip who had had been defeated in 179 BCE. Obviously this author had some sense of history. As noted, King Antiochus V was not killed, but had to give hostages to Rome, one of which was this King Demetrius I. However, he kept Medes, but did give up Lydia and other parts of Asia Minor. King Eumenes was a Cappadocian ruler. The Romans also defeated the Greeks. Although the Roman Empire did not come to its full height for a few centuries, it was well on its way in the 2nd century BCE.

The king’s army prepares to do battle (1 Macc 6:33-6:39)

“Early in the morning the king set out. He took his army by a forced march along the road to Beth-zechariah. His troops made ready for battle and sounded their trumpets. They offered their elephants the juice of grapes and mulberries to arouse them for battle. They distributed the beasts among the phalanxes. With each elephant they stationed a thousand men armed with coats of mail and with brass helmets on their heads. Five hundred picked cavalry were assigned to each beast. These took their position beforehand wherever the beast was. Wherever it went, they went with it. They never left it. On the elephants were wooden towers, strong and covered. They were fastened on each beast by a special harness. On each were four armed men who fought from there. They also had an Indian driver. The rest of the cavalry were stationed on either side, on the two flanks of the army, to harass the enemy while being themselves protected by the phalanxes. When the sun shone upon the shields of gold and brass, the hills were ablaze with them. They gleamed like flaming torches.”

King Antiochus V, the 10 year old king, or Lysias, his general got ready for the battle with Judas Maccabeus. They had elephants all juiced up and roaring to go. Each elephant had 1,000 men and 500 cavalry with them. On top of the elephants they had wooden towers fastened by a harness with 4 armed men in each tower. Beside these men there was an Indian driver of the elephant. They were an extraordinary sight so that when the sun shone on them, their shields looks like flaming torches.

The expedition of Antiochus V (1 Macc 6:28-6:31)

“King Antiochus was enraged when he heard this. He assembled all his friends, the commanders of his forces and those in authority. Mercenary forces also came to him from other kingdoms and from the islands of the seas. The number of his forces was one hundred thousand foot soldiers, twenty thousand cavalry, and thirty-two elephants accustomed to war. They came through Idumea. They encamped against Beth-zur. For many days they fought and built engines of war. However, the Jews sallied out and burned these with fire. They fought courageously.”

The 10 year old King Antiochus V was mad when he heard this. He called all his friends and the commanders of the army. Probably Lysias was in command of the army since he had fought and lost to Judas Maccabeus. They also had mercenary forces from other kingdoms and islands. The total force for King Antiochus V and Lysias was 100,000 foot soldiers, 20,000 horsemen, and 32 elephants. That is something new. They came from the south via Idumea. They camped at Beth-zur, 18 miles south of Jerusalem, where Judas had defeated Lysias 3 years earlier in 165 BCE in chapter 4 of this book. However, the Jews fought courageously here.

King Antiochus Epiphanes attacks Egypt (1 Macc 1:16-1:19)

“When Antiochus Epiphanes saw that his kingdom was established, he determined to become king of the land of Egypt, so that he might reign over both kingdoms. Thus he invaded Egypt with a strong force of chariots and elephants and a cavalry with a large fleet. He engaged King Ptolemy of Egypt in battle. King Ptolemy turned and fled before him. Many were wounded and fell. They captured the fortified cities in the land of Egypt. He plundered the land of Egypt.”

King Antiochus Epiphanes is known as King Antiochus IV. He decided to invade Egypt and combine it with Syria. He had a huge invasion army. This appears to be the first biblical mention of elephants and a fleet of battle ships. He took on the Egyptian King Ptolemy VI (186-145 BCE), who apparently fled. This Ptolemy VI had a strange history. His mother was called Cleopatra I. He married his sister called Cleopatra II. He had a daughter named Cleopatra III, who would marry a Syrian king. He was 6 when he became king with his mother until she died when he was 10. Thus he would have been 16 when this invasion by King Antiochus IV took place in 170 BCE, while the invading king was 45 years old. Some 25 years later in 145 BCE, this same Egyptian King Ptolemy VI, when he was 41, would invade and capture Syria. Now back to our story, King Antiochus IV has captured and plundered Egypt.