“‘They shall bring all your kindred
From all the nations
As an offering to Yahweh.
They will come on horses.
They will come in chariots.
They will come in litters.
They will come on mules.
They will come on dromedaries.
They will come
To my holy mountain Jerusalem.’
‘Just as the Israelites
Bring a grain offering
In a clean vessel
To the house of Yahweh,
I will also take some of them
Yahweh proclaims how they would get to Jerusalem. They would come on horses, chariots, litter couches on poles, mules, and the one humped camel dromedaries. They would all come to Jerusalem. In fact, some of these kindred people might become priests or Levites of Yahweh.
“On the next day, as had now become necessary, Judas Maccabeus and his men went to take up the bodies of the fallen. He wanted to bring them back to lie with their kindred in the sepulchres of their ancestors. Then under the tunic of every one of the dead they found sacred tokens of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. It became clear to all that this was the reason that these men had fallen. So they all blessed the ways of the Lord, the righteous judge, who reveals the things that are hidden. They turned to supplication, praying that the sin that had been committed might be wholly blotted out. The noble Judas Maccabeus exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin. They had seen with their own eyes what had happened as the result of the sin of those who had fallen.”
This is one of the few passages where there seems to be respect for the fallen soldiers, other than the leaders. They went out to pick up the bodies of the dead Jewish fighters so that they could be put in the tomb of their ancestors. To their surprise, they found that all the dead Jewish fighters were wearing the sacred tokens of the idols from Jamnia. How and why they had these tokens was not clear. Of course, this was forbidden to all Jewish people. They then prayed that the sins of these fallen men might be blotted out. Judas Maccabeus reminded them to keep themselves from sin. They had seen with their own eyes what happened to sinners.
“Timothy himself fell into the hands of Dositheus and Sosipater and their men. With great guile he begged them to let him go in safety, because he held the parents of most of them and the brothers of some of them, who were about to be executed. When with many words he had confirmed his solemn promise to restore them unharmed. They let him go for the sake of saving their kindred.”
Timothy the great enemy of Judas Maccabeus on the east side of the Jordan fell into the hands of Judas’ 2 captains, Dositheus and Sosipater, who might have lived in this area. The 2 of them listened as Timothy explained that he had captured their parents, brothers, and sisters. If they were to let him go he would be able to help them with their relatives. He solemnly swore to do this, so they let him go. This is the same Timothy, who was killed in chapter 10 of this book at Gazara.
“When Judas Maccabeus heard of the cruelty visited on his compatriots, he gave orders to his men, calling upon God the righteous judge, to attack the murderers of his kindred. He set fire to the harbor by night. He burned the boats. He massacred those who had taken refuge there. Then, because the city’s gates were closed, he withdrew, intending to come again and root out the whole community of Joppa. But learning that the people in Jamnia meant in the same way to wipe out the Jews who were living among them, he attacked the people of Jamnia by night. He also set fire to the harbor and the fleet, so that the glow of the light was seen in Jerusalem, thirty miles distant.”
Judas Maccabeus gave orders to his men to attack the murders of his compatriots and relatives. This was after he called upon the righteous God to help him. He burned the harbor and the boats there with the people in them. He was not able to get into the city because the city gates were locked. However, he heard that the people of Jamnia were about to drown the people there. Jamnia was about 12 miles south of Joppa on the Mediterranean coast. Thus he went there where he once again set fire to the boats in the harbor. The fire was so great that you could see it in Jerusalem some 30 miles away. The motto of this story was “do not try to drown Jews.”
“Meanwhile Judas, who was also called Maccabeus, and his companions secretly entered the villages. They summoned their kindred. They enlisted those who had continued in the Jewish faith. They gathered about six thousand men. They implored the Lord to look upon the people who were oppressed by all. They wanted the Lord to have pity on the temple which had been profaned by ungodly men. They wanted him to have mercy on the city that was being destroyed, and about to be leveled to the ground. They wanted the Lord to hearken to the blood that cried out to him. They wanted him to remember also the lawless destruction of the innocent babies. They wanted him to remember the blasphemies committed against his name. They wanted him to show his hatred of evil.”
Judas Maccabeus and his companions, and not just his brothers, entered the villages. There is no mention of Mattathias, the father of Judas, as if nothing happened until Judas came on the scene. This is the first mention of Judas in chapter 8, outside of the author’s preface in chapter 2 of this book. In 1 Maccabees, Judas came on the scene in chapter 3, after the death of his father, who had started the uprising. Judas gathered about 6,000 men. The first thing they did was pray to the Lord. They wanted God to look on their oppression and have pity on the Temple and its profanation. They wanted mercy for their city Jerusalem that was being leveled to the ground. They wanted God to listen to the innocent blood crying out to him from innocent babies. They wanted him to remember the blasphemies against his name and all the other evils that was going on.
“When a false rumor arose that King Antiochus was dead, Jason took no fewer than a thousand men. He suddenly made an assault on the city. When the troops upon the wall had been forced back, at last the city was taken. Menelaus took refuge in the citadel. Jason kept relentlessly slaughtering his compatriots, not realizing that success at the cost of one’s kindred is the greatest misfortune. He imagined that he was setting up trophies of victory over enemies and not over compatriots. He did not, however, gain control of the government. In the end he got only disgrace from his conspiracy. He fled again into the country of the Ammonites. Finally he met a miserable end. He was accused before Aretas the ruler of the Arabs. He had to flee from city to city, pursued by everyone, hated as a rebel against the laws, and abhorred as the executioner of his country and his compatriots. He was cast ashore in Egypt. There he who had driven many from their own country into exile died in exile. He embarked to go to the Lacedaemonians in hope of finding protection because of their kinship. He who had cast out many to lie unburied had no one to mourn for him. He had no funeral of any sort and no place in the tomb of his ancestors.”
Jason, the former high priest, thought that the Syrian King Antiochus IV had died. Since Jason was pro-Egypt, he wanted to take back Jerusalem for them. He attacked Jerusalem with 1,000 troops. He was initially successful as he forced the high priest Menelaus to flee to the Seleucid citadel in Jerusalem. However, like the late 18th century French revolutionaries, he started killing his fellow Israelites in Jerusalem. He thought that he was killing the enemy but it was his own Jewish compatriots. He was not successful. He was once again driven into the land of Ammonites, east of the Jordan River. However, the Arabs pursued him from country to country. He finally made his way to Egypt but he was not accepted there either. Finally, he died in Sparta where no one mourned for him since he had no funeral or ancestral tomb.
“The Jews in Jerusalem
And those in the land of Judea,
To their Jewish kindred in Egypt,
Greetings and true peace!”
The unknown author of this letter implies that there were Jews in Egypt. Beginning at the time of Alexander the Great, Jews began to live in Egypt in the new city of Alexandria in 332 BCE. Somehow during the 2nd century BCE many more Jews went to Egypt. The son of a high priest, Onias IV apparently built a temple at Leontopolis based on the Jerusalem Temple. The beginnings of Greek letters usually used the word “greetings” as in 1 Maccabees. However, the Jewish letters usually began with “peace” so that both are here in this salutation. Those Jews in Egypt were related to the Jews in Jerusalem and Judea. Notice that there is a distinction between Jerusalem and Judea. This letter may have come after the 2nd letter since it seems to have been written before this letter.