Judas Maccabeus gives his brothers assignments (2 Macc 8:21-8:23)

“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.

‘God’s help!’

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.

The response of Sparta and Rome (1 Macc 14:16-14:19)

“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.

The death of Jonathan (1 Macc 13:20-13:24)

“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.

Trypho tricks Simon (1 Macc 13:17-13:19)

“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,

He perished.’

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.

Trypho sends a message to Simon (1 Macc 13:12-13:16)

“Then Trypho departed from Ptolemais with a large army to invade the land of Judah. Jonathan was with him under guard. Simon encamped in Adida, facing the plain. Trypho learned that Simon had risen up in place of Jonathan his brother. He learned that he was about to join battle with him. Thus he sent envoys to Simon and said.

It is for the money that Jonathan your brother

Owed the royal treasury,

In connection with the offices he held,

That we are detaining him.

Send now a hundred talents of silver

And two of his sons as hostages,

So that when released

He will not revolt against us.

Then we will release him.’”

Trypho set out from Ptolemais with a large army to invade Judah. He had Jonathan under guard. Simon went out to meet Trypho in battle in Adida. Simon learned that his brother Jonathan was not dead, while Trypho learned that Simon was leading the large army. Trypho sent messengers to Simon. He told him that the dispute was about money since Jonathan had not paid the money to Syria that was owed to Trypho. If Simon brought 100 talents of silver and Jonathan’s 2 sons as hostages, he would release Jonathan as long as Jonathan would not revolt against him again.

Simon takes command (1 Macc 13:7-13:11)

“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.