During the 10 days that Jeremiah waited for Yahweh, there must have been a change of heart in the camp. Some people think that this section should have been in the preceding chapter. This chapter equivalent in the Greek Septuagint is chapter 50, not chapter 43 as here. So once that Jeremiah had finished speaking the words that Yahweh, their God, gave him, both the leaders of this insolent remnant group, Azariah and Johanan, called into question Jeremiah’s veracity. They said that Jeremiah was lying. Yahweh did not say to him that they should not settle in Egypt. It must have been his secretary Baruch who incited Jeremiah against the main group. They said that Baruch wanted them to be captured or killed by the Chaldeans, if they stayed in this Judean territory. They might he sent into captivity in Babylon, if they were caught there. Basically, it was a fight between the interests of Egypt versus the interests of Babylon.
Creation itself helped the righteous Israelites as they complied with the commands of God to help his children (σοὶ παῖδες). There was a cloud (παρεμβολὴν) over the camp. Dry land emerged from the Red Sea (ἐρυθρᾶς θαλάσσης) as in Exodus, chapter 13. Here there is an explicit mention of the Red Sea as they passed through a grassy plain in the middle of the raging waters. God’s hand (χειρί) protected them as they passed through the Red Sea together like horses and lambs. They praised the Lord (Κύριε) for their deliverance.
“Then the army of Bacchides marched out from the camp. They took their stand for the encounter. The cavalry was divided into two companies. The slingers and the archers went ahead of the army, as well as all the chief warriors. Bacchides was on the right wing. Flanked by the two companies, the phalanx advanced to the sound of the trumpets. The men with Judas also blew their trumpets. The earth was shaken by the noise of the armies. The battle raged from morning until evening.”
The large army of Bacchides and the Syrians marched out from camp ready to engage the battle. There were 2 companies of cavalry. The slingers, the archers, and the chief warriors were ahead of the army. Both sides sounded their trumpets as the earth shook from the noise of the armies. The battle raged from morning until evening.
“Judas was encamped in Elasa. With him were three thousand picked men. When they saw the huge number of the enemy forces, they were greatly frightened. Many slipped away from the camp, until no more than eight hundred of them were left.”
Now we see the problem. Judas Maccabeus was at Elasa, which was close to Beth-horon. However, he only had 3,000 men. However, when they saw the 22,000 men coming at them, another 2.200 men deserted Judas until he was left with only 800 men. This does not look good.
“Just as Judas was finishing this speech, a detachment appeared, coming out of the hills. They saw that their army had been put to flight. The Jews were burning the camp. The smoke that was seen showed what had happened. When they perceived this, they were greatly frightened. When they also saw the army of Judas drawn up in the plain for battle, they all fled into the land of the Philistines. Then Judas returned to plunder the camp. They seized a great amount of gold and silver, cloth dyed blue and sea purple, as well as great riches. On their return they sang hymns and praises to heaven.
‘For he is good,
For his mercy endures forever.’
Thus Israel had a great deliverance that day.”
Just as Judas stopped speaking, a detachment of the gentiles appeared out of the hills. They saw that their army had been defeated as the Jews were burning up the camp. When they saw the smoke they were frightened. They then fled to the Philistine territory, always a good place for the enemies of Israel. Then Judas began to plunder the camp. They seized silver and gold, blue and purple cloth, and great wealth. On their return they sang hymns and praises. They had a great day of deliverance for Israel. They said that God was good and that his mercy endures forever.
“Gorgias took five thousand infantry and one thousand picked cavalry. This division moved out by night to fall upon the camp of the Jews. They wanted to attack them suddenly. Men from the citadel were his guides. But Judas heard of it. He and his warriors moved out to attack the king’s force in Emmaus, while the division was still absent from the camp. When Gorgias entered the camp of Judas by night, he found no one there. Thus he looked for them in the hills, because he said.
‘These men are running away from us.’”
Gorgias, who had been picked by Lysias to command the Syrian army, took 5,000 infantry and 1,000 cavalry to attack the Jews in a sudden ambush. They traveled at night led by guides from Jerusalem. However, Judas heard that they were coming. He and all his troops moved out of their camp in Emmaus. When Gorgias entered the camp of Judas at night, there was no one there. Then he began to look for them in the surrounding hills because he believed that they were running away from him.
“Then Judith with her maid went out together, as they were accustomed to do for prayer. They passed through the camp. They circled around the valley. Then they went up the mountain to Bethulia. They came to its gates. From a distance, Judith called out to the sentries at the gates.
‘Open, open the gate!
God, our God,
Is still with us.
He shows his power in Israel.
He shows his strength against our enemies,
As he has done today!’”
After the killing, Judith and her maid walked out together as they had the previous 3 nights. They went through the camp as if to pray. However, then they circled around the valley and went up the mountain to their town of Bethulia. As they approached the gate, she cried out to the sentries so that they would not be attacked. She wanted them to open the gates. She proclaimed that God was still with the people of Israel since he had shown his strength against their enemies that day.