The victory celebration (2 Macc 15:29-15:35)

“Then there was shouting and tumult. They blessed the Sovereign Lord in the language of their ancestors. Then the man, who was in body and soul the defender of his people, the man who maintained his youthful goodwill toward his compatriots, ordered them to cut off Nicanor’s head and his arm. They were to carry them to Jerusalem. When he arrived there, he called his compatriots together. He stationed the priests before the altar. He sent for those who were in the citadel. He showed them the vile Nicanor’s head and that profane man’s arm. This was the arm that had been boastfully stretched out against the holy house of the all powerful one. He cut out the tongue of the ungodly Nicanor. He said that he would give it piecemeal to the birds. He would hang up these rewards of his folly opposite the sanctuary. They all, looking to heaven, blessed the Lord who had manifested himself, saying.

‘Blessed is he who has kept his own place undefiled.’

Judas Maccabeus hung Nicanor’s head from the citadel, a clear and conspicuous sign to every one of the help of the Lord.”

Once again, this is similar to 1 Maccabees, chapter 7. In both 1 and 2 Maccabees, they cut off the head and the arm of Nicanor. Here they also cut out his tongue in the presence of the men from the citadel. As in 1 Maccabees, they hung the head of Nicanor, but here it is more specific from the hated citadel. Here there is more praise for Judas Maccabeus as the defender with good will towards his people. Here they pray in the language of their ancestors that may have been Hebrew, instead of the common language of Aramaic. As usual they were happy that the Temple had remained undefiled.

Menelaus become the high priest (2 Macc 4:23-4:29)

“After a period of three years, Jason sent Menelaus, the brother of the previously mentioned Simon, to carry money to the king. He sent him to complete the records of essential business. But Menelaus, when presented to the king, extolled him with an air of authority. He secured the high priesthood for himself, outbidding Jason by three hundred talents of silver. After receiving the king’s orders he returned. He possessed no qualification for the high priesthood. He had the hot temper of a cruel tyrant and the rage of a savage wild beast. So Jason, who after supplanting his own brother, was supplanted by another man. He was driven as a fugitive into the land of Ammon. Menelaus held the office, but he did not pay regularly any of the money promised to the king. Sostratus, the captain of the citadel kept requesting payment, since the collection of the revenue was his responsibility. Two of them were summoned by the king on account of this issue. Menelaus left his own brother Lysimachus as deputy in the high priesthood, while Sostratus left Crates as the commander of the Cyprian troops.”

In 172 BCE, 3 years later, Jason the high priest and brother of Onias III sent Menelaus, a Benjaminite brother of Simon, the brother-in-law of Onias III, to King Antiochus IV with money on official business. However, this Menelaus decided that he was going to outbid Jason for the position of high priest by offering 300 talents of silver, about $180,000 USA. Although he was not qualified to be a high priest since he was not a Levite, the king gave him orders to become the high priest in Jerusalem. Obviously the position of high priest went to the highest bidder. Menelaus was cruel and full of rage. Jason was then driven into the land of Ammon, east of the Jordan River. Menelaus never kept his financial promise to the king, although he ruled as high priest for 10 years from 172-162 BCE. Meanwhile, Sostratus, the captain of the citadel troops was not getting any money. The king then called Sostratus and Menelaus to settle this money issue. In the meantime, Lysimachus, the brother of Menelaus, was the deputy high priest in Jerusalem, and Crates became the commander of the citadel troops.

The actions of Jason, the high priest (2 Macc 4:11-4:17)

“Jason set aside the existing royal concessions to the Jews, secured through John the father of Eupolemus, who went on the mission to establish friendship and alliance with the Romans. Jason destroyed the lawful ways of living. He introduced new customs contrary to the law. He took delight in establishing a gymnasium right under the citadel. He induced the noblest of the young men to wear the Greek hat. There was such an extreme Hellenization. There was an increase in the adoption of foreign ways because of the surpassing wickedness of Jason. He was ungodly and no true high priest. The priests were no longer intent upon their service at the altar. Despising the sanctuary and neglecting the sacrifices, they hurried to take part in the unlawful proceedings in the wrestling arena after the signal for the discus-throwing. They disdained the honors prized by their ancestors. They put the highest value upon Greek forms of prestige. For this reason heavy disaster overtook them. Those whose ways of living they admired and wished to imitate completely became their enemies and punished them. It is no light thing to show irreverence to the divine laws, a fact that later events will make clear.”

Jason set aside the royal concessions of the former King Seleucus IV. This had been part of the mission of John the father of Eupolemu who went to Rome.  Jason introduced new customs, always a dangerous thing to do. He was delighted with the new Greek gymnasium. He had the young men wear the Greek hat, which would be a symbol of the Greek god Hermes, somewhat like a loyalty gang symbol. This Hellenization was bringing in Greek religion and customs. Besides, Jason was not a worthy true high priest. He had a bad influence on the other priests, as they were more interested in sports than their priestly sacrificial duties. They too preferred the Greek ways. However, this biblical author reminds them that things can change quickly. Your friends could become your enemies. Disaster was on the way for those who showed irreverence to the divine laws.

King Antiochus VII and the dispute with Simon (1 Macc 15:25-15:31)

“King Antiochus besieged Dor for the second time. He continued to throw his forces against it. He was making engines of war. He shut Trypho up and kept him from going out or in. Simon sent to King Antiochus two thousand picked troops, to fight for him, with silver and gold and much military equipment. However, King Antiochus refused to receive them. He broke all the agreements he formerly had made with Simon. He became estranged from him. He sent to him Athenobius, one of his friends, to confer with him, saying.

‘You hold control of Joppa and Gazara

And the citadel in Jerusalem.

They are cities of my kingdom.

You have devastated their territory.

You have done great damage in the land.

You have taken possession of many places in my kingdom.

Now then, hand over the cities which you have seized.

Pay the tribute money of the places

That you have conquered outside the borders of Judea.

Or else pay me five hundred talents of silver,

For the destruction that you have caused.

Pay me five hundred talents more

For the tribute money of the cities.

Otherwise we will come and make war on you.’”

Now we are back to the situation at Dor. When Simon heard about the siege there, he sent 2,000 troops with gold and silver as well as military equipment to help King Antiochus VII. However, King Antiochus VII took offense at this. He broke all his agreements with Simon that he had made in writing earlier in this chapter. He sent his friend Athenobius with a message for Simon. He complained that Simon have taken over Joppa, Gaza, and the citadel in Jerusalem. He contended that they were not in Judea. Simon had done a lot of damage. He either wanted those places back or money since Simon had left the borders of Judea and taken parts of his kingdom. However, King Antiochus VII was still not technically in charge since King Demetrius II was in prison and King Trypho was in Dor. He also wanted the tribute from those 3 places. Otherwise he was going to make war on Simon. What a change of heart!

The peace of Simon (1 Macc 14:35-14:37)

“The people saw Simon’s faithfulness.

They saw the glory

That he had resolved to win for his nation.

They made him their leader and high priest.

Because he had done all these things,

Because he had been justice and loyal toward his nation,

He sought in every way to exalt his people.

In his days things prospered in his hands.

The gentiles were put out of the country.

He put out the men in the city of David in Jerusalem,

Who had built themselves a citadel

from which they used to sally forth.

They defiled the environs of the sanctuary.

They did great damage to its purity.

He settled Jews in it.

He fortified it for the safety of the country and of the city.

He built the walls of Jerusalem higher.”

This proclamation continued. Simon clearly joined his political and religious power as leader and high priest. Simon brought religious and political peace. He was faithful, just, and loyal. He exalted the people as everyone prospered. He got rid of the gentiles and those who had been in the citadel in Jerusalem. He cleaned up the sanctuary and put Jews in it and the citadel. He fortified the city with higher walls. He protected the safety of the country.

The death of Jonathan (1 Macc 13:20-13:24)

“After this, Trypho came to invade the country. He wanted to destroy it. He circled around by the way to Adora. But Simon and his army kept marching along opposite him to every place he went. Now the men in the citadel kept sending envoys to Trypho urging him to come to them by way of the wilderness and to send them food. So Trypho got all his cavalry ready to go, but that night a very heavy snow fell. He did not go because of the snow. He marched off and went into the land of Gilead. When he approached Baskama, he killed Jonathan. He was buried there. Then Trypho turned back. He went back to his own land.”

Trypho came to invade and destroy Judah by way of Adora, about 5 miles southwest of Hebron. However, Simon and his army were marching opposite him. This seems strange. Who was following who? The Syrian men in the Jerusalem citadel sent messengers to Trypho to go through the wilderness. They needed food. This plan was cancelled when a strange snow storm hit. This is the first mention of snow, since it obviously was not that common. Trypho decided to head north to Gilead where he killed and buried Jonathan at Baskama, which is northeast of the Sea of Galilee. Then he went home without fighting any battle.

Fortifications in Jerusalem (1 Macc 12:35-12:38)

“When Jonathan returned, he convened the elders of the people and planned with them to build strongholds in Judea. He wanted to build the walls of Jerusalem still higher. He wanted to erect a high barrier between the citadel and the city to separate it from the city. He wanted to isolate it so that the people in the garrison could neither buy nor sell items. So they gathered together to rebuild the city. Part of the wall on the valley to the east had fallen. He repaired the section called Chaphenatha. Simon also built Adida in the Shephelah. He fortified it and installed gates with bolts.”

When Jonathan returned to Jerusalem, he convened the elders to build strongholds in Judea. He wanted the walls around Jerusalem to be still higher. He also wanted a barrier between the citadel and the city so that the troops in the citadel could not come into the city to buy or sell things. Thus they rebuilt the city since part of the east wall had fallen. Simon also did some work in the Shephelah.