“Then they went up to Jerusalem, as the festival of weeks was close at hand. After the festival called Pentecost, they hurried against Gorgias, the governor of Idumea. He came out with three thousand infantry and four hundred cavalry. When they joined battle, it happened that a few of the Jews fell.”
They went on to Jerusalem because the festival of the weeks or Pentecost was coming up. After the festival of Pentecost that was 7 weeks after Passover, they want out to war against Gorgias. Idumea was southeast of the Dead Sea, the old Edom or Esau territory. Gorgias had only 3,000 infantry and 400 cavalry. In this battle, some Jews actually died.
“When they had gone ninety-five miles from there, they came to Charax, to the Jews who are called Toubiani. They did not find Timothy in that region, for he had by then left there without accomplishing anything. Although in one place, he had left a very strong garrison. Dositheus and Sosipater, who were the captains under Judas Maccabeus, marched out. They destroyed those whom Timothy had left in the stronghold, more than ten thousand men. However, Judas Maccabeus arranged his army in divisions as he set men in command of these divisions. He hastened after Timothy, who had with him one hundred twenty thousand infantry and two thousand five hundred cavalry. When Timothy learned of the approach of Judas Maccabeus, he sent off the women and the children with the baggage to a place called Carnaim that was hard to besiege. It was difficult to access because of the narrowness of all its approaches. But when Judas Maccabeus’ first division appeared, terror and fear came over the enemy at the manifestation to them of him, who sees all things. They rushed headlong in every direction, so that often they were injured by their own men and pierced by the points of their own swords. Judas Maccabeus pressed the pursuit with the utmost vigor. He put the sinners to the sword. He destroyed as many as thirty thousand men.”
Once again, this is similar to the battles in Gilead in 1 Maccabees, chapter 5. Charax might be present day Kuwait. Apparently they were looking for the elusive Timothy, who had already died in chapter 10 of this book. Dositheus and Sosipater were the captains of Judas Maccabeus on the east side of the Jordan River. They had already destroyed 10,000 of Timothy’s men. However, he had an enormous amount of troops, 125,000 infantry and 2,500 cavalry. Yet he was afraid of Judas Maccabeus. He sent all the women and children with the baggage to Carnaim, because it would be difficult to besiege that place due to its narrow approaches. As usual, the men of Judas Maccabeus pressed after the men of Timothy. Those men were so afraid of the God of Judas Maccabeus and his men that they ran in every which way so that they injured their own troops with their own swords. Nevertheless, Judas Maccabeus and his troops killed 30,000 men. These numbers are enormous here.
“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.
“John chose out of the country twenty thousand warriors and cavalry. They marched against Cendebeus. They camped for the night in Modein. Early in the morning they started out and marched into the plain. There a large force of infantry and cavalry was coming to meet them. A stream lay between them. Then he and his army lined up against them. He saw that the soldiers were afraid to cross the stream, so he crossed over first. When his troops saw him, they crossed over after him. Then he divided the army. He placed the cavalry in the center of the infantry. The cavalry of the enemy were very numerous. They sounded the trumpets. Cendebeus and his army were put to flight. Many of them were falling wounded. The rest fled into the stronghold. At that time Judas the brother of John was wounded. However, John pursued them until Cendebeus reached Kedron that he had built. They also fled into the towers that were in the fields of Azotus. John burned it with fire. About two thousand of them fell. He then returned to Judea safely.”
John, the son of Simon, had 20,000 warriors and cavalry. This is the first mention of cavalry on the Israelite side. They stopped at Modein one night on their march to meet Cendebeus. The next day on the plain they saw a large army coming at them. There was a stream between the 2 armies. John led his troops across the stream because they seemed afraid. He put the cavalry in the middle of his foot soldiers. They sounded the trumpets. Suddenly the army of Cendebeus fled. Judas, the brother of John, was wounded. John took after the fleeing army chasing them to the fields of Azotus where he burned the fields. About 2,000 of the enemy fell. Then John returned to Judea.
“Meanwhile King Trypho embarked on a ship as he escaped to Orthosia. Then King Antiochus made Cendebeus the commander-in-chief of the coastal country. He gave him troops of infantry and cavalry. He commanded him to encamp against Judea. He commanded him to build up Kedron and fortify its gates. He was to make war on the people. However, the king was going to pursue Trypho. So Cendebeus came to Jamnia. He began to provoke the people and invade Judea. He took the people captive and killed them. He built up Kedron. Then he stationed horsemen and troops there, so that they might go out and make raids along the highways of Judea, as the king had ordered him.”
The siege at Dor did not work that well. King Trypho escaped from King Antiochus VII as he got on a boat and went to Orthosia, which was north of Tripolis. At the same time, King Antiochus VII was concerned about Simon and Judea. He made Cendebeus the commander of the coastal country with cavalry troops and infantry. His orders were to harass Judea, while the king went after King Trypho, so that he could claim the throne. Cendebeus built up the town of Kedron, probably southwest of Ekron, where he stationed horses and troops so that they could go out and make raids on the Judea highways, as he had been ordered to do.
“Gorgias took five thousand infantry and one thousand picked cavalry. This division moved out by night to fall upon the camp of the Jews. They wanted to attack them suddenly. Men from the citadel were his guides. But Judas heard of it. He and his warriors moved out to attack the king’s force in Emmaus, while the division was still absent from the camp. When Gorgias entered the camp of Judas by night, he found no one there. Thus he looked for them in the hills, because he said.
‘These men are running away from us.’”
Gorgias, who had been picked by Lysias to command the Syrian army, took 5,000 infantry and 1,000 cavalry to attack the Jews in a sudden ambush. They traveled at night led by guides from Jerusalem. However, Judas heard that they were coming. He and all his troops moved out of their camp in Emmaus. When Gorgias entered the camp of Judas at night, there was no one there. Then he began to look for them in the surrounding hills because he believed that they were running away from him.
“Lysias chose Ptolemy son of Dorymenes, Nicanor, and Gorgias, able men among the friends of the king, as leaders. He sent them with forty thousand infantry and seven thousand cavalry into the land of Judah to destroy it, as the king had commanded. Thus they set out with their entire force. When they arrived, they encamped near Emmaus in the plain. When the traders of the region heard what was said to them, they took silver and gold in immense amounts. They went to the camp to get the Israelites for slaves. Forces from Syria and the land of the Philistines joined with them.”
Lysias, who was in charge now that the king had left for Persia, named 3 people to lead the charge in Judah, Ptolemy, not the king of Egypt, Nicanor, and Gorgias. These 3 friends of the king had 40,000 infantry and 7,000 cavalry to destroy Judah. They camped near Emmaus, about 25 miles west of Jerusalem. Somehow the traders wanted to get Israelite slaves. This Syrian force had other Syrians and those pesky Philistines with them also.
“The next day General Holofernes ordered his whole army, and all the allies who had joined him, to break camp. They were to move against Bethulia. They were to seize the passes up into the hill country. They were going to make war on the Israelites. All their warriors marched out that day. Their fighting forces numbered one hundred seventy thousand infantry and twelve thousand cavalry, not counting the baggage and the foot soldiers handling it, a very great multitude. They encamped in the valley near Bethulia, beside the spring. They spread out in breadth over Dothan as far as Balbaim, and in length from Bethulia to Cyamon, which faces Esdraelon. When the Israelites saw their vast numbers they were greatly terrified. They said to one another.
‘They will now strip clean the whole land.
Neither the high mountains, the valleys, nor the hills
Will bear their weight.’
Yet they all seized their weapons. When they had kindled fires on their towers, they remained on guard all that night.”
The very day after they got rid of Achior, General Holofernes ordered his army to break camp. They were going to invade Bethulia. They were going to seize the mountain passes and make war on the Israelites. This huge fighting army marched out. They had 170,000 foot soldiers, 12,000 cavalry, plus foot soldiers to take care of their baggage. They camped near Bethulia, close to Dothan with Esdraelon at their back. When the Israelites finally saw how big the army was, they were terrified. However, they lit fires in their towers to stand watch that night.