“When Jeremiah reached
The Benjamin Gate,
A sentinel named Irijah
The son of Shelemiah,
The son of Hananiah,
Arrested the prophet Jeremiah.
‘You are deserting
To the Chaldeans.’
‘That is a lie.
I am not deserting
To the Chaldeans.’
But Irijah would not listen
He arrested Jeremiah.
He brought him
To the officials.
The officials were enraged
They beat him.
They imprisoned him
In the house
Of the secretary Jonathan.
It had been made a prison.
Thus Jeremiah was put
In the vaulted dungeon,
In a cistern cell.
He remained there many days.”
This is not a personal account but a 3rd person description of Jeremiah leaving by the north gate of Jerusalem, the Benjamin Gate. As Jeremiah was leaving the city, a sentinel by the name of Irijah stopped him at the gate. This guard had the same father as Jehucal, the representative of King Zedekiah earlier in this chapter, Shelemiah. This Irijah would have been the brother of Jehucal. Irijah thought that Jeremiah might be going to get the Chaldeans to return to besiege the city. He said that Jeremiah was attempting to desert to the enemy camp of the Babylonians. Jeremiah maintained that this was a lie. However, Irijah ignored Jeremiah’s explanation and still arrested him. He brought him to the city officials who were angry at Jeremiah already for his dire predictions about their defeat. Thus they beat him up and put him in a make shift prison in the house of the secretary Jonathan that had a vaulted dungeon like cell, where he remained there for many but unspecified days.
“With these words Judas Maccabeus filled them with good courage. He made them ready to die for their laws and their country. Then he divided his army into four parts. He appointed his brothers also, Simon, Joseph, and Jonathan, each to command a division, putting fifteen hundred men under each. Besides, he appointed Eleazar to read aloud from the holy book. He gave the watchword.
Then, leading the first division himself, he joined battle with Nicanor.”
Judas Maccabeus had filled his 6,000 troops with courage as they were ready to die for their laws and their country. He divided his army into 4 parts among his brothers. There was Simon, who will become the high priest from 142-134 BCE. Then there was Joseph or as he was called in 1 Maccabees, chapter 2, John. This John died in 1 Maccabees, chapter 9, at the hands of the Nabateans. Jonathan is perhaps the next most famous as he succeeded Judas and was the high priest from 160-142 BCE. Eleazar here is asked to read the holy book of scripture. There might have been an attempt to put this Eleazar with the Eleazar of chapter 6 of this book. However, in 1 Maccabees, chapter 6, Eleazar died at the battle of Beth-zechariah, killing an elephant. Interesting enough, the cry “God’s Help!” was found in one of the 1st century Qumran War Scrolls for those returning from war. There might be a connection here.
“When it was heard in Rome, and as far away as Sparta, that Jonathan had died, they were deeply grieved. Then they heard that his brother Simon had become high priest in his place, and was ruling over the country and the towns in it. Thus they wrote to him on bronze tablets to renew with him the friendship and alliance which they had established with his brothers Judas and Jonathan. These were read before the assembly in Jerusalem.”
The people or leaders in Rome and Sparta were upset when they heard that Jonathan had died since they had an alliance with him. However, when they found out that his brother Simon had taken his place, they were relieved. Simon had become the high priest and the ruler of the country and the towns. The Romans and Spartans wrote on bronze tablets to renew their friendship and alliance. Remember that important documents at this time were usually inscribed in bronze. Rome had a good relationship with Jonathan, but it was not clear that Judas had good relations with the Romans. Nevertheless, these new bronze tablets were read before the assembly in Jerusalem.
“After this, Trypho came to invade the country. He wanted to destroy it. He circled around by the way to Adora. But Simon and his army kept marching along opposite him to every place he went. Now the men in the citadel kept sending envoys to Trypho urging him to come to them by way of the wilderness and to send them food. So Trypho got all his cavalry ready to go, but that night a very heavy snow fell. He did not go because of the snow. He marched off and went into the land of Gilead. When he approached Baskama, he killed Jonathan. He was buried there. Then Trypho turned back. He went back to his own land.”
Trypho came to invade and destroy Judah by way of Adora, about 5 miles southwest of Hebron. However, Simon and his army were marching opposite him. This seems strange. Who was following who? The Syrian men in the Jerusalem citadel sent messengers to Trypho to go through the wilderness. They needed food. This plan was cancelled when a strange snow storm hit. This is the first mention of snow, since it obviously was not that common. Trypho decided to head north to Gilead where he killed and buried Jonathan at Baskama, which is northeast of the Sea of Galilee. Then he went home without fighting any battle.
“Simon knew that they were speaking deceitfully to him. However, he sent to get the money and the sons, so that he would not arouse great hostility among the people. They might say.
‘It was because
Simon did not send him the money and the sons,
So he sent the sons and the hundred talents. However, Trypho broke his word. He did not release Jonathan.”
Simon was skeptical but he sent the money and the Jonathan’s sons anyhow. Simon was afraid that the people would not understand if he did not pay the ransom. The result was as how he had expected, Trypho took the money and hostages, but did not release Jonathan.
“The spirit of the people was rekindled when they heard these words. They answered in a loud voice.
‘You are our leader
In place of Judas
And Jonathan your brother.
Fight our battles.
All that you say to us we will do.’
So he assembled all the warriors. He hurried to complete the walls of Jerusalem. He fortified it on every side. He sent Jonathan son of Absalom to Joppa. He had a considerable army. He drove out its occupants and remained there.”
The people were excited to hear the voice of Simon. Their spirits were rekindled. They proclaimed that Simon was their leader in the place of his brother Judas and Jonathan. He was going to fight their battles. They were willing to do whatever he asked them to do. Simon sent Jonathan, who may have been his uncle, to take over the seacoast town of Joppa, which he did.