Nicanor plans to attack Judas Maccabeus (2 Macc 15:1-15:5)

“When Nicanor heard that Judas and his troops were in the region of Samaria, he made plans to attack them with complete safety on the day of rest. The Jews who were compelled to follow him said.

‘Do not destroy so savagely and barbarously,

But show respect for the day

That he who sees all things

Has honored and hallowed above other days.’

The thrice-accursed wretch asked if there were a sovereign in heaven who had commanded the keeping of the Sabbath day. They declared.

‘It is the living Lord himself,

The Sovereign in heaven,

Who ordered us to observe the seventh day.’

He replied.

‘I am a sovereign also, on earth,

I command you to take up arms.

I command you to finish the king’s business.’

Nevertheless, he did not succeed in carrying out his abominable design.”

Nicanor found out that Judas Maccabeus and his troops were in Samaria. He wanted to attack them on the Sabbath day, the day of rest. However, his Jewish followers, the renegades, told him that this was not a good idea. It would not be a good idea to kill Judas on the Sabbath because the living God had told them to observe the Sabbath. However, Nicanor responded that he was a sovereign also. He was commanding them to take up arms and finish the king’s business. However, this wretched fellow’s plans were not successful. Now this biblical author has an extremely negative view of Nicanor.

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The meeting of Jonathan and King Demetrius II (1 Macc 11:23-11:28)

“When Jonathan heard this, he gave orders to continue the siege. He chose some of the elders of Israel and some of the priests. He put himself in danger as he went to the king at Ptolemais. However, he took silver, gold, clothing, and numerous other gifts. He won his favor. Although certain renegades of his nation kept making complaints against him, the king treated him as his predecessors had treated him. He exalted him in the presence of all his friends. He confirmed him in the high priesthood. He gave him as many other honors as he had formerly had. He caused him to be reckoned among his chief friends. Then Jonathan asked the king to free Judea and the three districts of Samaria from tribute. He promised him three hundred talents. The king consented.”

Although Jonathan was skeptical about this meeting since he was not bringing an army, only the elders and the priests, it turned out okay. He brought some gifts of gold, silver, and clothing. Thus he won the favor of King Demetrius II, despite the bothersome renegades trying to talk bad about him. The king praised Jonathan in the presence of all. He gave him all the honors that he previously had. He continued to be a friend of the king. Jonathan, however, wanted one thing, to have a free Judea. In order to do this, he was willing to give the king 300 talents, about $300,000.00 USA dollars. King Demetrius II thought that this was a good deal.

King Demetrius II and Jonathan disagree (1 Macc 11:20-11:22)

“In those days, Jonathan assembled the Judeans to attack the citadel in Jerusalem. He built many engines of war to use against it. However, certain renegades, who hated their nation, went to the king. They reported to him that Jonathan was besieging the citadel. When the king heard this, he was angry. As soon as he heard it, he set out and came to Ptolemais. He wrote Jonathan not to continue the siege, but to meet him for a conference at Ptolemais as quickly as possible.”

You may wonder, while was the Syrian citadel still in Jerusalem. King Demetrius I had promised to hand it over in the preceding chapter. Apparently, it never happened. In fact, this was another attempt to get independence for Judea. Jonathan besieged the citadel with war machines, or catapults to hurl at the citadel. However, those nasty Jewish renegades showed up again and ran to the new king to tell him what Jonathan was doing. King Demetrius II then sent a letter to Jonathan that he wanted to talk to him in Ptolemais, the former home of the dead King Alexander I. He wanted this matter solved as quickly as possible.

Bacchides is defeated and leaves (1 Macc 9:65-9:69)

“However, Jonathan left his brother Simon in the town, while he went out into the country. He went with only a few men. He struck down Odomera and his kindred and the people of Phasiron in their tents. Then he began to attack. He went into battle with his forces. Simon and his men sallied out from the town. They set fire to the machines of war. They fought with Bacchides. He was crushed by them. They pressed him very hard. His plan and his expedition had been in vain. So he was greatly enraged at the renegades who had counseled him to come into the country. He killed many of them. Then he decided to depart to his own land.”

Jonathan split up his forces. He left his brother Simon in the town and he went into the countryside with a few men. He attacked and defeated Odomera and Phasiron. Odomera was either an independent wandering chief or an officer of the army of the Syrian General Bacchides. Phasiron was another independent Arab chief. Simon and his group set fire to the war machines of General Bacchides that were set to attack the Jews people. He was defeated but he did not die. There is no indication of how many people he lost, but he was discouraged because his plan and invasion had not worked. Thus General Bacchides decided to kill some of the men who had encouraged him to invade Judea. Then he left in disgust to go back to his own land.

The organization and activity around Mattathias (1 Macc 2:42-2:48)

“Then there united with them a company of Hasideans, the mighty warriors of Israel. All offered themselves willingly for the law. All who became fugitives to escape their troubles joined them and reinforced them.   They organized an army. They struck down sinners in their anger. They struck down renegades in their wrath. The survivors fled to the gentiles for safety. Mattathias and his friends went around and tore down the altars. They forcibly circumcised all the uncircumcised boys that they found within the borders of Israel. They hunted down the arrogant men. This work prospered in their hands. They rescued the law out of the hands of the gentiles and the kings. They never let the sinner gain the upper hand.”

Mattathias was joined by the Hasideans. These were “the pious ones,” the saints, the holy ones, the religious ascetics. They were strict followers of the Mosaic Law. They may have come out of the Nazarene movement of earlier times. These Hasideans may have merged into the Essences of the first century CE. Perhaps the Pharisees with their emphasis on the letter of the law may have developed from these Hasideans also. They were the mighty warriors of Israel, clearly against the creeping Hellenism of the 2nd century BCE. Anyone who had trouble with the law also joined Mattathias just as David had gathered around him those who had trouble with King Saul in 1 Samuel, chapter 22. This rugged group attacked Jewish sinners and renegades, those mentioned in chapter 1 of this book, who did not follow the Mosaic Law. They went around tearing down the pagan gentile altars. They forcibly circumcised any boy they found in Israel. They were like a righteous terrorist bully group that punished those who disagreed with them. However, they seem to have been succeeding.

King Antiochus attacks Jerusalem (1 Macc 1:29-1:35)

“Two years later, the king sent to the cities of Judah a chief collector of tribute. He came to Jerusalem with a large force. Deceitfully, he spoke peaceable words to them so that they believed him. However, he suddenly fell upon the city as he dealt it a severe blow. He destroyed many people of Israel. He plundered the city as he burned it with fire. He tore down its houses and its surrounding walls. They took captive the women and children. They seized the cattle. Then they fortified the city of David with a great strong wall and strong towers as it became their citadel. They stationed there a sinful people, men who were renegades. These strengthened their position. They stored up arms and food. They collected the spoils of Jerusalem and stored them there. They became a great menace.”

Around 167 BCE, King Antiochus IV again attacked Jerusalem. This time he sent mercenaries with a leader who was to collect tribute for the king. Instead of just collecting the tribute, he and his men attacked the city of Jerusalem. They killed people and plundered the city. They destroyed the houses and walls. They took the women, children, and cattle. Somehow, then they rebuilt the wall around the city of David and made it a citadel or fortress.   Here they put those renegades, those terrible Jews who sided with Syria. They collected the spoils of Jerusalem and stored them there. This citadel will become the home of the army garrison for controlling Judea.