The past victories (Ps 60:6-60:8)

“God promised in his sanctuary.

‘With exultation

I will divide up Shechem.

I will portion out the Vale of Succoth.

Gilead is mine!

Manasseh is mine!

Ephraim is my helmet!

Judah is my scepter!

Moab is my washbasin!

On Edom I hurl my shoe!

Over Philistia I shout in triumph.’”

The prayer was answered. God directly promised or spoke. This is one of the few times that this phraseology is used. It also assumes the sanctuary of the Temple is completed. This probably was a prophet speaking in the name of God, but there is no specific indication here. He listed off the Israelite victories. Shechem was a former Canaanite city that was now divided up and part of the territory of Manasseh. Succoth was conquered during the time of the Judges. Gilead was on the eastern side of the Jordan River where the tribes of Gad and half tribe of Manasseh lived. Only 3 Israelite tribes are mentions, Manasseh, Ephraim, and Judah. Judah would become the favorite with the split between the north and the south, when the north became known as Israel. Moab was a mere washbasin, the east side of the Dead Sea. Edom was in the north. The phrase “hurl a shoe” seemed obsolete until some Iraqis journalist hurled his shoe at President George W. Bush to show his contempt. Philistines were on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Thus this is a victorious Israel, so why are they complaining?

The peace treaty with Lysias (2 Macc 11:13-11:15)

“Lysias was not without intelligence. He pondered over the defeat that had befallen him. He realized that the Hebrews were invincible because the mighty God fought on their side. Thus he sent to them and persuaded them to settle everything on just terms. He promised that he would persuade the king. He constrained the king to be their friend. Judas Maccabeus, having regard for the common good, agreed to all that Lysias urged. For the king granted every request on behalf of the Jews that Judas Maccabeus had delivered to Lysias in writing.”

The peace treaty with Lysias does not come until 2 chapters later in 1 Maccabees, chapter 6, after many more battles, with King Antiochus V. In 1 Maccabees, chapter 4, Lysias returned to Antioch because King Antiochus IV had died. He feared that Philip might take over. However, the resulting peace treaty was pretty much the same. Lysias realized that he could not defeat the Hebrews because their mighty God was on their side. He promised to persuade the king who was only 10 years old. Judas Maccabees got everything that he wanted. So now we have a peace treaty. Now we will have a series of letters concerning this peace treaty.

The mother appeals to her youngest son (2 Macc 7:24-7:29)

“King Antiochus felt that he was being treated with contempt. He was suspicious of her reproachful tone. The youngest brother being still alive, King Antiochus not only appealed to him in words, but promised with oaths that he would make him rich and enviable if he would turn from the ways of his ancestors. He would take him for his friend and entrust him with public affairs. Since the young man would not listen to him at all, the king called the mother to him. He urged her to advise the youth to save himself. After much urging on his part, she undertook to persuade her son. But, leaning close to him, she spoke in their native language as follows, deriding the cruel tyrant.

‘My son,

Have pity on me.

I carried you nine months in my womb.

I nursed you for three years.

I have reared you.

I have brought you up to this point in your life.

I have taken care of you.

I beg you,

My child,

To look at the heaven and the earth.

See everything that is in them!

Recognize that God did not make them out of things that existed.

In the same way,

The human race came into being.

Do not fear this butcher!

Prove worthy of your brothers!

Accept death!

So that in God’s mercy

I may get you back again with your brothers.’”

King Antiochus IV was upset at the way things were going. As there was only 1 son left, he urged him to give up his traditional ways. He promised to make him rich and powerful in his kingdom. The son would not listen. Then the king urged the mother to try and convince her son to save his life. Instead she urged him on to resist the king. In a moving passage, she spoke about carrying him for 9 months, nursing him for 3 years, and then bringing him up. Now she wanted him to recognize the creator God in heaven who made the human race. She wanted him to be worthy of his brothers. She wanted him to accept death so that God’s mercy would bring him back to his brothers. These seven sons were like suicide bombers willing to die for the laws of their God. The theology of creation and the afterlife predominated in their views of the ancestral laws. Notice that she spoke in their native language.

Jason, the high priest tales over (2 Macc 4:7-4:10)

“When King Seleucus died, King Antiochus, who was called Epiphanes, succeeded to the kingdom. Then Jason, the brother of Onias, obtained the high priesthood by corruption. He promised the king at an interview three hundred sixty talents of silver and, from another source of revenue, eighty talents. In addition to this, he promised to pay one hundred fifty more if permission were given to establish by his authority a gymnasium and a body of youth for it. He wanted to enroll the men of Jerusalem as citizens of Antioch. When the king assented, Jason came to office. He at once shifted his countrymen over to the Greek way of life.”

By the time that Onias arrived in Antioch, Heliodorus had already assassinated King Seleucus IV (187-175 BCE). Now King Antiochus IV (175-164 BCE), the son of King Antiochus III who had ruled from 222-187 BCE, became king. He was the brother of King Seleucus IV. Jason was the brother of the high priest Onias, so that he was a Levite. He obtained the high priesthood by corruption. I still think that it is strange that the Syrian king had the right to name the Jewish high priest. Jason has promised the new king about 440 talents of silver, the equivalent of a quarter million $USA. He wanted a Greek gymnasium in Jerusalem that would become the center of political and cultural education. He also wanted all the men of Jerusalem to be citizens of Antioch. The new King Antiochus IV said fine. Thus Jason took over as the new high priest of Jerusalem. He wanted to shift his countrymen to the new Greek way of life. Unlike in 1 Maccabees, chapter 1, where the movement to the Greek way was led by the generic renegades, here it is explicitly assigned to Jason, the new high priest. Despite his protestations of not getting into details, this biblical author explained the role of the high priest Onias and his brother Jason in great detail.

The prayer to God over the fire (2 Macc 1:24-1:29)

“The prayer was to this effect,

‘O Lord, Lord God,

Creator of all things,

You are awe-inspiring.

You are strong.

You are just.

You are merciful.

You alone are king.

You are kind.

You alone are bountiful.

You alone are just.

You are almighty.

You are eternal.

You rescue Israel from every evil.

You chose our ancestors.

You consecrated them.

Accept this sacrifice on behalf of all your people Israel!

Preserve your portion!

Make it holy!

Gather together our scattered people!

Set free those who are slaves among the gentiles!

Look on those who are rejected and despised!

Let the gentiles know that you are our God!

Punish those who oppress!

Punish those who are insolent with pride!

Plant your people in your holy place,

As Moses promised.’”

This is a beautiful prayer that emphasizes a theology of the attributes of God. God is a king, awe-inspiring, strong, just, merciful, kind, bountiful, almighty, and eternal. Then there was the turn to how God had rescued Israel and helped their consecrated ancestors. They want their sacrifice made holy. They wanted their scattered people to return, especially from the gentile slavery. They wanted God to look kindly on the rejected, the despised, and the oppressed. However, God should punish the oppressors and the prideful insolent people. Finally they wanted their people be brought back to the holy place as Moses had promised. Jerusalem was the holy place as they were scattered among the hostile gentiles.

King Demetrius II does not keep his word with Jonathan (1 Macc 11:52-11:53)

“So King Demetrius sat on the throne of his kingdom. The land was quiet before him. But he broke his word about all that he had promised. He became estranged from Jonathan. He did not repay the favors that Jonathan had done him, but treated him very harshly.”

Once the revolt in Antioch was put down, King Demetrius II had peace. However, he did not keep his word with Jonathan. He never repaid him the favors that he had done for him. Instead, he treated Jonathan harshly. This does not bode well.

King Demetrius II’s letter to Jonathan (1 Macc 11:29-11:37)

“The king wrote a letter to Jonathan about all these things. It contents were as follows.

‘King Demetrius to his brother Jonathan

And to the nation of the Jews,

Greetings!

This copy of the letter that we wrote concerning you

To our kinsman Lasthenes,

We have written to you also,

So that you may know what it says.

‘King Demetrius to his father Lasthenes,

Greetings!

We have determined to do good to the nation of the Jews.

They are our friends.

They fulfill their obligations to us.

They have shown us good will.

We have confirmed as their possession

Both the territory of Judea,

And the three districts of Aphairema, Lydda, and Rathamin.

The latter with the region bordering them.

They were added to Judea from Samaria.

To all those who offer sacrifice in Jerusalem,

We have granted release from the royal taxes

That the king formerly received from them each year,

From the crops of the land

And the fruit of the trees.

The other payments henceforth due to us of the tithes,

And the other taxes due to us,

And the salt pits

And the crown taxes due to us.

From all these we shall grant them release.

Not one of these grants shall be canceled

From this time on forever.

Now therefore take care to make a copy of this.

Let it be given to Jonathan.

Let it be put up in a conspicuous place on the holy mountain.’”

King Demetrius II sent a copy of a letter that he had sent to Lasthenes, who was probably the governor of Coele-syria. He granted to Jonathan and the Jewish nation most of things that his father, King Demetrius I had promised them in the fight against King Alexander I in preceding chapter. He was very particular about taxes and the annexation of the 3 territories of Samaria that were within 20 miles of Judea. Everything seemed in good shape.

The prayer of Queen Esther to God (Greek text only)

“Queen Esther prayed to the Lord God of Israel.

‘O my Lord,

You only are our king.

Help me.

I am alone.

I have no helper but you.

My danger is in my hand.

Ever since I was born

I have heard in the tribe of my family

That you, O Lord, took Israel out of all the nations,

You took our ancestors from among all their forebears

For an everlasting inheritance.

You did for them all that you promised.

Now we have sinned before you.

You have handed us over to our enemies,

Because we glorified their gods.

You are righteous, O Lord!

Now they are not satisfied that we are in bitter slavery.

They have covenanted with their idols to abolish

What your mouth has ordained.

They want to destroy your inheritance.

They want to stop the mouths of those who praise you.

They want to quench your altar.

They want to quench your house.

They want to open the mouths of the nations to praise vain idols.

They want to magnify forever a mortal king.’”

In this Greek text, Queen Esther is saying that there only one king, the Lord of Israel. However, she is married to a king, the great king of 127 provinces. She has learned about the God of Israel from her family, which in this case was Mordecai. The Israelites were promised an everlasting inheritance. However, Queen Esther admits that the Israelites have sinned in glorifying foreign gods. Thus they were turned over to their enemies. The reality of the captivity was clear to her. Now, however, they wanted to destroy our mouths, God’s altar and his house. However, they had already been destroyed. In none of this prescription against the Jews was there any mention of a mortal king being magnified. The king has made no pretention of being immortal, only the Romans and Greek kings would do that, not this Persian king.