The taking of Bethzur and siege of Jerusalem (1 Macc 6:48-6:54)

“The soldiers of the king’s army went up to Jerusalem against them. The king encamped in Judea and at Mount Zion. He made peace with the men of Beth-zur. They evacuated the town because they had no provisions there to withstand a siege, since it was a sabbatical year for the land. So the king took Beth-zur. He stationed a guard there to hold it. Then he encamped before the sanctuary for many days. He set up siege towers, engines of war to throw fire and stones, machines to shoot arrows, and catapults. The Jews also made engines of war to match theirs. They fought for many days. But they had no food in storage, because it was the seventh year. Those who found safety in Judea from the gentiles had consumed the last of the stores. Only a few men were left in the sanctuary. The rest of the men had scattered to their own homes. The famine proved too much for them.”

The king’s soldiers moved on to Jerusalem. They camped near Mount Zion. They had already made peace with the people of Beth-zur because they had no provisions due to the fact that it was a sabbatical year. No one worked the fields. The king set up a guard there. Then he camped near the sanctuary in Jerusalem. Then the king’s men set up towers to create engines of war. These engines of war were like battering rams or catapults to shot fire, stones, and arrows. The Jews tried to match these engines of war as the war dragged on. However, the men in Jerusalem, like the people in Beth-zur had little supplies since this was sabbatical jubilee year when no work was done. Eventually, a lot of the Jews left for their own homes as the famine continued.

The siege of the citadel in Jerusalem (1 Macc 6:18-6:27)

“Meanwhile, the garrison in the citadel kept hemming Israel in around the sanctuary. They were trying in every way to harm the Israelites and strengthen the gentiles. Judas, therefore, resolved to destroy them. He assembled all the people to besiege them. They gathered together and besieged the citadel in the one hundred fiftieth year. Judas built siege towers and other engines of war. But some of the garrison escaped from the siege. Even some of the ungodly Israelites joined them. They went to the king and said.

‘How long will you fail to do justice?

How long will you fail to avenge our kindred?

We were happy to serve your father.

We were happy to live by what he said.

We were happy to follow his commands.

For this reason the sons of our people besieged the citadel.

They became hostile to us.

Moreover, they have put to death

As many of us as they have caught.

They have seized our inheritances.

It is not against us alone that they have stretched out their hands.

They have also attacked all the lands on their borders.

See, today they have encamped

Against the citadel in Jerusalem to take it.

They have fortified both the sanctuary and Beth-zur.

Unless you quickly prevent them,

They will do still greater things.

You will not be able to stop them.’”

The citadel was the high point in Jerusalem. The small garrison of Syrian soldiers there kept the Jews hemmed in around the Temple. This took place 1 year after the death of King Antiochus IV, in 162 so that the new young King Antiochus V was only 10 years old. Judas Maccabeus gathered the people together and set up siege towers against the citadel. However, the gentiles and even some of the ungodly Israelites went to the young king to complain. They were willing to follow his father’s commands, which is why they took the citadel. Now these Jews have seized their inheritance. They have attacked the people on their borders. Now they are attacking the citadel in the city itself. Unless something was done quickly, they would not be able to stop these people.