Nicanor as the governor of Judea (2 Macc 14:11-14:14)

“When Alcimus had said this, the rest of the king’s friends, who were hostile to Judas Maccabeus, quickly inflamed King Demetrius still more. He immediately chose Nicanor, who had been in command of the elephants. He appointed him governor of Judea. He sent him off with orders to kill Judas Maccabeus and scatter his troops. He was to install Alcimus as high priest of the great temple. The gentiles throughout Judea, who had fled before Judas Maccabeus, flocked to join Nicanor. They thought that the misfortunes and calamities of the Jews would mean prosperity for themselves.”

Once again, this is similar but not quite the same as 1 Maccabees, chapter 7. There is no mention of Bacchides here. Instead the leader of the troops and the governor of Judea was Nicanor. Apparently, Nicanor had been in charge of the elephants that seem to have been a big deal in the Syrian army. He may also have been with King Demetrius I when he was in jail in Rome. Now this meant that there was a separate governor for Judea whose sole purpose was to kill Judas Maccabees and disperse his troops. Alcimus was officially made the high priest. The gentiles in the area were happy so that they eagerly joined with Nicanor. The assumption of the gentiles was a zero sum game that if the Jews were in trouble, it would be better for them.

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The intervention of the high priest Alcimus (2 Macc 14:3-14:5)

“A certain Alcimus, who had formerly been high priest but had willfully defiled himself in the times of separation, realized that there was no way for him to be safe or to have access again to the holy altar. He then went to King Demetrius in about the one hundred and fifty-first year, presenting to him a crown of gold and a palm. Besides these things he presented some of the customary olive branches from the temple. During that day he kept quiet. However, he found an opportunity that furthered his mad purpose when he was invited by Demetrius to a meeting of the council. He was asked about the attitude and intentions of the Jews.”

Once again, this is similar to 1 Maccabees, chapter 7. There it was King Demetrius I who made Alcimus the high priest from 162-159 BCE. This Alcimus was also the leader of the renegades in 1 Maccabees. Here he already is the high priest since Menelaus had preceded him as the high priest in Jerusalem before his death in 162 BCE. He had presented the new king with gold and palm branches as well as olive branches from the Temple. He had been quiet during the day, but then he was invited to a meeting with King Demetrius I and his council who wanted to know about the attitude and intentions of the Jews.

Similar letters to the other kings (1 Macc 15:22-15:24)

“The Roman Consul wrote the same thing to King Demetrius, King Attalus, King Ariarathes, King Arsaces, and to all the countries. He also wrote the same to Sampsames, the Spartans, Delos, Myndos, Sicyon, Caria, Samos, Pamphylia, Lycia, and Halicarnassus. He also wrote the same to Rhodes, Phaselis, Cos, Side, Aradus, Gortyna, Cnidus, Cyprus and Cyrene. They also sent a copy of these things to the high priest Simon.”

The Roman Consul wrote a similar letter to a whole lot of people and countries. Who are all these people and places? Remember that King Demetrius II is still the king of the Seleucid Empire, but he is a captive in Persia. King Attalus II was the king of Pergammum, an ancient Greek city, from 159-138 BCE. King Ariarathes V was the king of Cappadocia from 162-130 BCE. King Arsaces IV (171-138 BCE) was the ruler of Persia that held King Demetrius II as a prisoner. Outside of the Egyptian kingdom, these were the major kingdoms. Most of the other places were the islands in the Mediterranean Sea (Delos, Samos, Rhodes, and Cyprus) or the Greek city states (Sampsames, Spartans, Myndos, Sicyon, Caria, Pamphylia, Lycia, Halicarnassus, Phaselis, Cos, Side, Aradus, Gortyna, Cnidus, and Cyrene). Obviously, he also sent a copy to Simon.

King Antiochus VII sends a letter to Simon (1 Macc 15:1-15:1)

“Antiochus, the son of King Demetrius, sent a letter from the islands of the sea to Simon, the priest and ethnarch of the Jews, and to the whole nation.”

Now we have a new king of the Seleucid dynasty. King Demetrius II has been taken hostage by the Persians. King Antiochus VII (138-129 BCE) was the brother of King Demetrius II and the son of King Demetrius I. He had married Cleopatra III, the same lady who had married King Demetrius II and King Alexander I. This would be her 3rd husband in this family. When the king lost the throne, his wife went to the new king. He is the one who sent a letter to Simon, the ethnarch of the Jews.

Simeon goes to Askalon (1 Macc 12:33-12:34)

“Simon also went out and marched through the country as far as Askalon and the neighboring strongholds. He turned aside to Joppa and took it by surprise. He had heard that they were ready to hand over the stronghold to those whom King Demetrius had sent. He stationed a garrison there to guard it.”

Simon was also busy. He set out for the old Philistine towns of Askalon and Joppa. He had heard that commanders of the deposed King Demetrius II were coming there. Thus he set up a garrison there.

Jonathan and King Alexander (1 Macc 10:15-10:17)

“Now King Alexander heard of all the promises that King Demetrius had sent to Jonathan. He had heard of the battles that Jonathan and his brothers had fought. He heard of the brave deeds that they had done and of the troubles that they had endured. So he said.

‘Shall we find another such man?

Come now,

We will make him our friend and ally.’

King Alexander in Ptolemais heard that King Demetrius in Antioch was trying to get Jonathan as his ally against him. They were both cousins vying for the throne of the Seleucid Empire. However, he also had heard of the great brave deeds of Jonathan and his brothers in battle. How they had suffered so much. He said, that it would be hard to find a man like him, so why not make him our friend and ally?

Nicanor in Judea (1 Macc 7:26-7:28)

“Then King Demetrius sent Nicanor, one of his honored princes, who hated and detested Israel. He commanded him to destroy the people. So Nicanor came to Jerusalem with a large force. He treacherously sent to Judas and his brothers this peaceable message.

‘Let there be no fighting between you and me.

I shall come with a few men to see you face to face in peace.’”

King Demetrius I sent Nicanor, one of his friendly princes who hated Israel. He had escaped with him from Rome. The king told him to destroy the Israelite people. Thus Nicanor set out for Jerusalem with a large army force. He sent a treacherous note to Judas that he wanted to stop the fighting. He wanted to meet with him face to face to get a peace treaty. We will have to see where this goes.