“In the one hundred seventy-fourth year, Antiochus set out and invaded the land of his ancestors. All the troops rallied to him, so that there were only a few with Trypho. Antiochus pursued him. He came in his flight to Dor, which is by the sea. He knew that troubles had converged upon him, since his troops had deserted him. So Antiochus encamped against Dor, and with him were one hundred twenty thousand warriors and eight thousand cavalry. He surrounded the town since the ships had joined battle from the sea. He pressed the town hard from land and sea. He permitted no one to leave or enter it.”
In 138 BCE, or the 167th year of the Greek Empire, King Antiochus VII invaded the land of his ancestors. That sounds strange to invade your own country. He was trying to take back the throne from King Trypho. King Trypho fled to Dor, a sea port south of Carmel, miles north of Caesarea. Most of the troops of King Trypho had abandoned him. King Antiochus VII followed him to Dor with 120,000 warriors and 8,000 cavalry. Once again, these numbers seem high. He then surrounded the city since he had ships in the port so that no one could leave or enter the city.
“Jonathan and his army encamped by the waters of Gennesaret. Early in the morning they marched to the plain of Hazor. There in the plain, the army of the foreigners met him. They had set an ambush against him in the mountains, but they themselves met him face to face. Then the men in ambush emerged from their places and joined battle. All the men with Jonathan fled. Not one of them was left except Mattathias son of Absalom and Judas son of Chalphi, commanders of the forces of the army. Jonathan tore his clothes. He put dust on his head, and prayed. Then he turned back to the battle against the enemy and routed them. They fled. When his men who were fleeing saw this, they returned to him. They joined him in the pursuit as far as Kadesh, to their camp. There they encamped. As many as three thousand of the foreigners fell that day. Jonathan returned to Jerusalem.”
Jonathan and his army rested at the Sea of Galilee, Gennesaret. They went out into the plains of Hazor where they met the foreign troops who were the followers of the deposed King Demetrius II. Another set of these troops ambushed them from the hills. However, Jonathan’s troops all fled. Only two officers were left, Mattathias and Judas, not his dead father or dead brother, but people with the same name. Then Jonathan went into mourning by ripping his clothes, putting ashes on his head, and praying. Suddenly he returned to battle and defeated the foreign troops as they fled. When his own army saw the others fleeing, they rejoined the battle. They chased them as far as Kadesh as they killed 3,000 foreigners that day. Then Jonathan returned to Jerusalem.
“Then Jonathan heard that the officers of King Demetrius had come to Kadesh in Galilee with a large army, intending to remove him from office. He went to meet them, but he left his brother Simon in the country. Simon encamped before Beth-zur. He fought against the town for many days until he had hemmed it in. Then they asked him to grant them terms of peace. He did so, but he removed them from there. He took possession of the town and set a garrison over it.”
While Jonathan set out to meet the officers of the army of the deposed King Demetrius II at Kedesh in the Galilee area, his brother Simon was left in the country. Simon went to Beth-zur and made the people there settle for a peace treaty when he took possession of the town with a garrison of troops.
“When Jonathan heard the words of Apollonius, his spirit was aroused. He chose ten thousand men and set out from Jerusalem. His brother Simon met him to help him. He encamped before Joppa, but the men of the city closed its gates. Apollonius had a garrison in Joppa. So they fought against it. Then the people of the city became afraid. They opened their gates so that Jonathan gained possession of Joppa.”
When Jonathan heard the words of the message from Apollonius who represented King Demetrius II, he was annoyed. This time Jonathan had a large force of 10,000 men when he also met with his brother Simon. He decided to go to Joppa, one of the ancient Mediterranean seaports, about 35 miles northwest of Jerusalem. Apollonius had a garrison there, but Jonathan fought against them. The people in the city became afraid so that they opened the gates and let Jonathan take over.
“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.
“The soldiers of the king’s army went up to Jerusalem against them. The king encamped in Judea and at Mount Zion. He made peace with the men of Beth-zur. They evacuated the town because they had no provisions there to withstand a siege, since it was a sabbatical year for the land. So the king took Beth-zur. He stationed a guard there to hold it. Then he encamped before the sanctuary for many days. He set up siege towers, engines of war to throw fire and stones, machines to shoot arrows, and catapults. The Jews also made engines of war to match theirs. They fought for many days. But they had no food in storage, because it was the seventh year. Those who found safety in Judea from the gentiles had consumed the last of the stores. Only a few men were left in the sanctuary. The rest of the men had scattered to their own homes. The famine proved too much for them.”
The king’s soldiers moved on to Jerusalem. They camped near Mount Zion. They had already made peace with the people of Beth-zur because they had no provisions due to the fact that it was a sabbatical year. No one worked the fields. The king set up a guard there. Then he camped near the sanctuary in Jerusalem. Then the king’s men set up towers to create engines of war. These engines of war were like battering rams or catapults to shot fire, stones, and arrows. The Jews tried to match these engines of war as the war dragged on. However, the men in Jerusalem, like the people in Beth-zur had little supplies since this was sabbatical jubilee year when no work was done. Eventually, a lot of the Jews left for their own homes as the famine continued.
“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.
“Those of the foreigners who escaped went and reported to Lysias all that had happened. When he heard it, he was perplexed and discouraged. Things had not happened to Israel as he had intended. They had not turned out as the king had commanded him. But the next year he mustered sixty thousand picked infantrymen and five thousand cavalry to subdue them. They came into Idumea and encamped at Beth-zur. Judas met them with ten thousand men.”
When those who had escaped from this battle of Emmaus went to see Lysias, he was upset. He was perplexed and discouraged because things had not turned out the way he wanted them to go. He had not succeeded in following the king’s orders. Thus he waited a year and went out with a force of 60,000 infantry and 5,000 cavalry to subdue the Israelites. He camped in Idumea at Beth-zur, about 18 miles south of Jerusalem near Hebron. This time, Judas has 10,000 men instead of just 3,000 like against Gorgias. There was no indication of whether or not Gorgias had survived the last battle.
“Judas and his brothers saw that misfortunes had increased. They saw that the forces were encamped in their territory. They also learned what the king had commanded to do to the people to cause their final destruction. But they said to one another.
‘Let us restore the ruins of our people.
Let us fight for our people and the sanctuary.’”
Judas Maccabeus and his brothers saw the Syrian forces in the plain. They also learned about King Antiochus IV’s plan to destroy their people. However, they all joined together. They were going to fight for their people and their temple.