Jonathan and the battle at Hazor (1 Macc 11:67-11:74)

“Jonathan and his army encamped by the waters of Gennesaret. Early in the morning they marched to the plain of Hazor. There in the plain, the army of the foreigners met him. They had set an ambush against him in the mountains, but they themselves met him face to face. Then the men in ambush emerged from their places and joined battle. All the men with Jonathan fled. Not one of them was left except Mattathias son of Absalom and Judas son of Chalphi, commanders of the forces of the army. Jonathan tore his clothes. He put dust on his head, and prayed. Then he turned back to the battle against the enemy and routed them. They fled. When his men who were fleeing saw this, they returned to him. They joined him in the pursuit as far as Kadesh, to their camp. There they encamped. As many as three thousand of the foreigners fell that day. Jonathan returned to Jerusalem.”

Jonathan and his army rested at the Sea of Galilee, Gennesaret. They went out into the plains of Hazor where they met the foreign troops who were the followers of the deposed King Demetrius II. Another set of these troops ambushed them from the hills. However, Jonathan’s troops all fled. Only two officers were left, Mattathias and Judas, not his dead father or dead brother, but people with the same name. Then Jonathan went into mourning by ripping his clothes, putting ashes on his head, and praying. Suddenly he returned to battle and defeated the foreign troops as they fled. When his own army saw the others fleeing, they rejoined the battle. They chased them as far as Kadesh as they killed 3,000 foreigners that day. Then Jonathan returned to Jerusalem.

Judas Maccabeus sees the desolation in Jerusalem (1 Macc 4:36-4:40)

“Then Judas and his brothers said.

‘Behold, our enemies are crushed.

Let us go up to cleanse the sanctuary

Let us go up to dedicate the sanctuary.’

All the army assembled and went up to Mount Zion. There they saw the sanctuary desolate. The altar was profaned. The gates were burned. In the courts they saw bushes springing up as in a thicket, or as on one of the mountains. They saw also the chambers of the priests in ruins. Then they tore their clothes. They mourned with great lamentation. They sprinkled themselves with ashes. They fell face down on the ground. When the signal was given with the trumpets, they cried out to heaven.”

Judas Maccabeus with his brothers decided that since they had defeated their enemies, they would cleanse the Jerusalem sanctuary. Thus the whole army when to Mount Zion, Jerusalem. There they saw the sorry state of affairs. The altar was profaned. The gates were burned. The courtyards were full of thick bushes. The priestly chambers were ruined. Therefore, they did what any good man would do. They tore their clothes as a sign of mourning and upset. To get the mood right, they sprinkled ashes on themselves and fell to the ground. When the trumpets sounded they prayed to God in heaven.

The penitential assembly at Mizpah (1 Macc 3:46-49)

“Then they gathered together. They went to Mizpah, opposite Jerusalem, because Israel formerly had a place of prayer in Mizpah. They fasted that day. They put on sackcloth and sprinkled ashes on their heads. They tore their clothes. They opened the book of the law to inquire into those matters about which the gentiles were consulting the images of their gods. They also brought the vestments of the priesthood, the first fruits, and the tithes. They stirred up the Nazirites who had completed their days.”

The troops of Judas Maccabeus assembled at Mizpah, where Samuel had gathered the Israelites for repentance in 1 Samuel, chapter 7. Mizpah was close to Jerusalem. Like at the time of Samuel, they fasted, put on sackcloth, and tore their clothes in repentance. The Jewish people consulted their book of the law rather than the images of the divine oracles of the Greek gentiles. They had a cultic experience by bringing the vestments of the priests, even though there was no mention of any Levite priests here. They also brought first fruits and tithes. It is difficult to see what they did with these things since the Temple at Jerusalem had been destroyed. They also stirred up the Nazirites who had finished their obligations. Obviously this revolutionary group was inspired by the Nazirite movement as outlined in Numbers, chapter 6.

The lament over Jerusalem of Mattathias (1 Macc 2:7-2:14)

“Mattathias said.

‘Alas!

Why was I born to see this?

The ruin of my people,

The ruin of the holy city,

I had to live there when it was given over to the enemy.

The sanctuary was given over to aliens.

Her temple has become like a person without honor.

Her glorious vessels have been carried into exile.

Her infants have been killed in her streets.

Her youth have been killed by the sword of the foe.

What nation has not inherited her palaces?

What nation has not seized her spoils?

All her adornment has been taken away.

She is no longer free.

She has become a slave.

See!

Our holy place,

Our beauty,

Our glory have been laid waste.

The gentiles have profaned it.

Why should we live any longer?’

Mattathias and his sons tore their clothes. They put on sackcloth. They mourned greatly.”

Once again we have poetic fragment. This one is ascribed to Mattathias as he laments the state of Jerusalem. He wanted to know why he was born and why should he live. The situation in Jerusalem was so bad with the ruin of his people and the holy city as it was given over to the alien enemy. Her sanctuary and vessels were defamed and all gone. There was no honor, as infants were killed in the streets. Young people were killed. Every nation has seized some part of her palaces. Jerusalem was not free, but a slave. The holy, beautiful places of glory lay wasted. He and his sons tore their clothes and put on sackcloth. They mourned greatly over Jerusalem with the traditional signs of mourning, ashes and sackcloth. They left their wonderful Jerusalem in shambles.

Mordecai finds out about the decree (Esth 4:1-4:3)

“When Mordecai learned all that had been done, he tore his clothes. He put on sackcloth and sprinkled himself with ashes. Then he rushed through the streets of the city, shouting loudly.

‘An innocent nation is being destroyed.’

He got as far as the king’s gate. There he stopped. No one was allowed to enter the royal courtyard clothed in sackcloth and ashes. In every province, where the king’s proclamation had been posted, there was a loud cry of mourning and lamentation, as well as fasting and weeping among the Jews. Most of them put on sackcloth and ashes.”

When Mordecai heard about the decree to eliminate the Jews, he was very upset. The typical way to express this discontent was to wear the cloth of what people carried things in, sacks. Thus we get the name of sack cloth. Secondly, they would put ashes on their head. Then he went through the streets crying out that an innocent nation was going to be destroyed. He did not go into the royal courtyard because no one was allowed in there with sackcloth on. They had to be better dressed. At the same time, the reaction in the various provinces was not much different. The Jewish people in the various exiled areas went into fasting, weeping, lamenting, wearing sack cloth and ashes on their head.

The Assyrians discover the death of General Holofernes (Jdt 14:14-14:19)

“Bagoas went in as he knocked at the entry of the tent. He assumed that General Holofernes was sleeping with Judith. But when no one answered, he opened it. Then he went into the bedchamber. There he found General Holofernes sprawled on the floor dead, with his head missing. He cried out with a loud voice. He wept, groaned and shouted. He tore his clothes. Then he went to the tent where Judith had stayed. When he did not find her, he rushed out to the people and shouted.

‘The slaves have tricked us!

One Hebrew woman has brought disgrace

On the house of King Nebuchadnezzar!

Look!

General Holofernes is lying on the ground!

His head is missing!’

When the leaders of the Assyrian army heard this, they tore their tunics. They were greatly dismayed. Their loud cries and shouts rose up throughout the camp.”

Bagoas was the chief personal steward of General Holofernes. He politely knocked at the entry way to the general’s tent. He thought that the general was sleeping with Judith and did not want to disturb him. However, when no one answered, he entered the bedchamber.   There he found the general sprawled out on the floor beheaded. He was really upset. He wept, groaned, and shouted as he tore his clothes. When people were upset they would tear their clothes. Then he went to the tent of Judith to see how she was. However, she was gone. Then he realized what had happened. He ran out of the tent shouting that they had been tricked by the slaves. This Hebrew woman had brought disgrace to the house of King Nebuchadnezzar. The general was dead with his head missing. When the Assyrian army leaders heard this, they tore their clothes as they too were dismayed. Thus there were loud shouts throughout the camp. Strangely enough, there was no second in command to take over things.