The proclamation about Simon and Jonathan (1 Macc 14:29-14:34)

“Since wars often occurred in the country,

Simon son of Mattathias,

A priest of the sons of Joarib,

And his brothers

Exposed themselves to danger.

They resisted the enemies of their nation,

In order that their sanctuary

And the law might be preserved.

They brought great glory to their nation.

Jonathan rallied the nation.

He became their high priest.

He was gathered to his people.

When their enemies

Decided to invade their country

And lay hands on their sanctuary,

Then Simon rose up and fought for his nation.

He spent great sums of his own money.

He armed the soldiers of his nation.

He paid them wages.

He fortified the towns of Judea,

And Beth-zur on the borders of Judea,

There formerly the arms of the enemy had been stored.

He placed there a garrison of Jews.

He also fortified Joppa, which is by the sea

He fortified Gazara, which is on the borders of Azotus.

There the enemy formerly dwelt.

He settled Jews there.

He provided in those towns

Whatever was necessary for their restoration.”

Ever since there were wars in Judah, Simon and his brothers risked danger to fight the enemies of their nation. They wanted to protect the sanctuary and the law. They brought great glory to their nation. Jonathan was the high priest who rallied the people when the invasions took place. Simon, on the other hand, spent his own money to build up the military. There is no indication where he got this money. He also fortified the towns of Beth-zur and the borders of Judea. He set up Jewish garrisons to protect the arms that they had. He also fortified the sea ports of Joppa and Gaza, where he put Jewish settlers there. Interesting, there is no mention of Judas Maccabeus in this decree.

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The fortifications of Bacchides (1 Macc 9:50-9:53)

“Then Bacchides returned to Jerusalem. He built strong cities in Judea. He built the fortress in Jericho, Emmaus, Beth-horon, Bethel, Timnath, Pharathon, and Tephon, with high walls, gates, and bars. He placed garrisons in them to harass Israel. He also fortified the city of Beth-zur, Gazara, and the citadel. He put troops and stores of food in them. He took the sons of the leading men of the land as hostages. He put them under guard in the citadel at Jerusalem.”

General Bacchides returned to Jerusalem. Then he built strong cities around Jerusalem with high walls and gates in Jericho, Emmaus, Beth-horon, Bethel, Timnath, Pharathon, and Tephon. He also put garrisons in them to harass and keep the Jewish guerrillas from attacking. He put troops and food storage in Beth-zur, Gazara, and the Jerusalem citadel. Then he took the sons of the leading men as hostages as he guarded them in Jerusalem.

The conquest of the seacoast (Jdt 3:6-3:9)

“Then Holofernes went down to the seacoast with his army. He stationed garrisons in the fortified towns. He took picked men from them as his auxiliaries. These people and all in the countryside welcomed him with garlands, dances, and tambourines. Yet he demolished all their shrines. He cut down their sacred groves. He had been commanded to destroy all the gods of the land. All the nations should worship King Nebuchadnezzar alone. All their dialects and tribes should call upon him as a god. Then he came toward Esdraelon, near Dothan, fronting the great ridge of Judea. He camped between Geba and Scythopolis. He remained for a whole month in order to collect all the supplies for his army.”

General Holofernes went down along the seacoast and set up garrisons of his troops in the fortified cities. He even picked some men from the local area to serve in his auxiliary army. They all welcomed him with garlands, dances, and tambourines as a conquering hero. Everything seemed great until he decided to tear down their shrines and sacred groves. He wanted all the local gods destroyed. The only god would be King Nebuchadnezzar. However, this is a misplaced historical event since the idea of king or ruler as a god only came with the Greeks and the Romans, not the Assyrians or Persians who were very tolerant of various religions. Besides, the unity of religious beliefs was not part of the original assignment of Holofernes. Finally, he rested a month at Esdraelon, on the border of Judah, to get more supplies for his troops. Esdraelon was on the plains of Jezreel between the coast and the Jordan River in the old Ephraim territory. Geba was actually in the Benjamin territory. So Holofernes was already in Israel, when he camped with his troops for a month.