“Three years later, word came to Judas Maccabeus and his men that Demetrius, the son of Seleucus, had sailed into the harbor of Tripolis with a strong army and a fleet. He had taken possession of the country, having made away with Antiochus and his guardian Lysias.”
This is similar to 1 Maccabees, chapter 7. About 161 BCE, King Demetrius I, who ruled the Seleucid Empire from 162-150 BCE, came with a strong army and navy fleet into the sea town of Tripolis. He was the son of King Seleucus IV and brother to King Antiochus IV. He had killed King Antiochus V, his nephew, and his guardian Lysias, who had run the government.
“Menelaus also joined King Antiochus and Lysias. With utter hypocrisy he urged King Antiochus on, not for the sake of his country’s welfare, but because he thought that he would be established in office. But the king of kings aroused the anger of King Antiochus against the scoundrel. When Lysias informed him that this man was to blame for all the trouble, he ordered them to take him to Beroea. He was to be put to death by the method which is customary in that place. There is a tower there, fifty cubits high, full of ashes. It has a rim running around it on all sides that inclines precipitously into the ashes. There they all push to destruction anyone guilty of sacrilege or notorious for other crimes. By such a fate it came about that Menelaus the lawbreaker died, without even burial in the earth. This was eminently just. He had committed many sins against the altar whose fire and ashes were holy. Thus he met his death in ashes.”
Menelaus was not mentioned in 1 Maccabees, but was the high priest in Jerusalem here during the time of Judas Maccabeus from 171-161 BCE. He had purchased the high priest by outbidding Jason under King Antiochus IV. Now, he was urging on King Antiochus V, his son, to make sure he stayed in office. Somehow, the king of kings, a reference to God, aroused the anger of the young King Antiochus V, after Lysias, his guardian, informed the king that Menelaus was the cause of all the problems in Jerusalem. They sent him to Beroea, which was in northern Syria. There they had a Persian execution plan with a tower about 75 foot high filled with ashes that had a rim around the top of it that leaned into the ashes. They would push people into the ashes, like a farm silo that would suffocate them to death. Thus Menelaus, the lawbreaker, justly died in ashes without a burial because he had committed many sins against the holy altar.
“In the one hundred and forty-ninth year, word came to Judas Maccabeus and his men that King Antiochus Eupator was coming with a great army against Judea. With him was Lysias, his guardian, who had charge of the government. Each of them had a Greek force of one hundred ten thousand infantry, five thousand three hundred cavalry, twenty-two elephants, and three hundred chariots armed with scythes.”
This is much the same as I Maccabees, chapter 6. In 162 BCE, King Antiochus V with his guardian Lysias was going to attack Judea. Clearly, the indication that the king is young is here since Lysias is called his guardian in charge of the government, not just a general. Here it says that each of them, the king and Lysias, had 110,000 infantry, 5,300 cavalry, and 22 elephants. While in 1 Maccabees, there were only 100,000 foot soldiers, but 20,000 cavalry, and 32 elephants. Obviously, these 2 different authors were using slightly different sources. Here there is the addition of the 300 chariots that had big blades like scythes that had been used since Persian times to cut down the foot soldiers. This was a bigger more dangerous force here.
“After the rout at Carnaim and the destruction of these, he marched also against Ephron, a fortified town where Lysias lived with multitudes of people of all nationalities. Stalwart young men took their stand before the walls. They made a vigorous defense. Great stores of war engines and missiles were there. However, the Jews called upon the sovereign who with power shatters the might of his enemies. They got the town into their hands. They killed as many as twenty-five thousand of those who were within it.”
After killing 25,000 at Carnaim, they went and killed another 25,000 at Ephron, 8 miles east of the Jordan River. Ephron was the home town of Lysias, who lived there with many different nationalities. Although they had stalwart young men defending it, with war engines and many missiles, the Jews called upon their powerful sovereign God who shattered their enemies. They took the town and killed another 25,000 people here. That seems to be a favorite number.
“When this agreement had been reached, Lysias returned to the king. The Jews went about their farming. But some of the governors in various places, Timothy and Apollonius son of Gennaeus, as well as Hieronymus and Demophon, and in addition to these Nicanor the governor of Cyprus, would not let them live quietly and in peace.”
Everything was settled with Antioch and the Seleucid Empire. However, there were others who would not leave the Jewish people live in peace. Timothy had already arrived on the scene, and had already been killed off earlier in chapter 10 of this book. This appears to be a different Apollonius, who was the brother of Timothy. Nicanor had already fought with the Jews. Here he was called the governor of Cyprus. The others are even more difficult to identify.
“Invading Judea, Lysias approached Beth-zur, which was a fortified place about five stadia from Jerusalem. He pressed it hard. When Judas Maccabeus and his men got word that Lysias was besieging the strongholds, they and all the people, with lamentations and tears, prayed the Lord to send a good angel to save Israel. Judas Maccabeus himself was the first to take up arms. He urged the others to risk their lives with him to aid their kindred. Then they eagerly rushed off together. There, while they were still near Jerusalem, a horseman appeared at their head, clothed in white and brandishing weapons of gold. Together they all praised the merciful God. They were strengthened in heart, ready to assail not only humans, but the wildest animals or walls of iron. They advanced in battle order, having their heavenly ally, for the Lord had mercy on them. They hurled themselves like lions against the enemy. They laid low eleven thousand of them and sixteen hundred cavalry. They forced all the rest to flee. Most of them got away stripped and wounded. Lysias himself escaped by disgraceful flight.”
Beth-zur was about 20 miles south of Jerusalem, on the way to Hebron. Here, like 1 Maccabees, chapter 4, Judas Maccabeus prayed for a heavenly angel to help him. Although he had prayed in 1 Maccabees, there was no divine intervention. Here a heavenly horseman with a gold weapon led them to victory as they were lions in battle. Here they killed 11,000 infantry instead of 5,000 as in 1 Maccabees. In both versions of the story, Lysias escaped, either as here in “disgraceful flight” or simply withdrawing to Antioch as in 1 Maccabees.
“Now we will tell what took place under Antiochus Eupator, who was the son of that ungodly man. We will give a brief summary of the principal calamities of the wars. This man, when he succeeded to the kingdom, appointed one Lysias to have charge of the government and to be the chief governor of Coele-syria and Phoenicia.”
This biblical author clearly states that he is going to talk about King Antiochus V, Eupator. He used the first person plural “we” here. He really disliked King Antiochus IV, his father Epiphanes, whom he called ungodly, even after his deathbed conversion. He did not mention that the new king was only 9 years old. King Antiochus V ruled for only 2 years until he was 11, when he was killed. He had been brought up by Lysias who gave him the name of Eupator, so the fact that Lysias was in charge did not seem that unusual. In fact, Philip was aware of this situation and had fled to Egypt.