Simon takes the citadel in Jerusalem (1 Macc 13:49-13:53)

“The men who were in the citadel at Jerusalem were prevented from going in and out to the country to buy and sell things. So they were very hungry. Many of them perished from famine. Then they cried to Simon to make peace with them. So he did. He expelled them from there. He cleansed the citadel from its pollutions. On the twenty-third day of the second month, in the one hundred seventy-first year, the Jews entered it with praise and palm branches. They had harps, cymbals, and stringed instruments. They sang hymns and songs because a great enemy had been crushed and removed from Israel. Simon decreed that every year they should celebrate this day with rejoicing. He strengthened the fortifications of the temple hill alongside the citadel. He and his men lived there. Simon saw that his son John had reached manhood, so he made him commander of all the forces. He lived at Gazara.”

The Syrian men who were in the Jerusalem citadel could not go in or out to buy or sell anything. Thus they became hungry like a famine. Finally, they wanted to make peace with Simon. He decided to expel them from the citadel. There was a big celebration with praise and palm branches as the Jews entered the citadel in 141 BCE, about a year after their independence. Before they went in with harps, cymbals, and stringed instruments singing hymns and songs, they had the citadel cleansed from the foreign pollutions. They were going to celebrate this every year on the 23rd day of the 2nd month, that is sometime in May. Simon and his men decided to live in the citadel. He sent his son John to be the commander of the armed forces and live in Gaza. This apparently was his son John Hyrcanus who was the high priest from 134-104 BCE.

Simon takes Gazara (1 Macc 13:43-13:48)

“In those days Simon encamped against Gazara. He surrounded it with troops. He made a siege engine. He brought it up to the city so that he battered and captured one tower. The men in the siege engine leaped out into the city as a great tumult arose in the city. The men in the city, with their wives and children, went up on the wall with their clothes torn. They cried out with a loud voice, asking Simon to make peace with them. They said.

‘Do not treat us according to our wicked acts

But according to your mercy.’

So Simon reached an agreement with them. He stopped fighting against them. However, he expelled them from the city. He cleansed the houses in which the idols were located. He then entered it with hymns and praise. He removed all the wickedness from it. He settled in it men who observed the law. He also strengthened its fortifications. He then built in it a house for himself.”

Apparently this Gazara was Gaza. Simon surrounded it with his troops.   The siege war engine was like a tower on wheels with catapults and battering rams that could break fortifications. As the people in Gaza saw this, they tore their clothes and asked for mercy. Simon decided not to kill them, but to expel them from the Gaza strip. He then put law abiding Jewish people there and built a house for himself. Does that sound familiar? Before he entered the city of Gaza, he cleansed the houses that had idols so that all the wicked things were gone when he entered the town singing hymns.