Ptolemy takes charge (1 Macc 16:18-16:22)

“Then Ptolemy wrote a report about these things that he sent to King Antiochus. He wanted the king to send him troops in order to turn over to him the cities and the country. He sent other men to Gazara to do away with John. He sent letters to the captains asking them to come to him so that he might give them silver, gold, and gifts. He sent other troops to take possession of Jerusalem and the temple hill. But someone ran ahead and reported to John at Gazara that his father and brothers had perished. He told him.

‘He has sent men to kill you also.’

When John heard this, he was greatly shocked. He seized the men who came to destroy him. Then he killed them. He had found out that they were seeking to destroy him.”

Ptolemy wrote a report to King Antiochus VII telling him what had happened. He wanted some help from the king. Ptolemy then sent men to kill his brother-in-law John. He told the captains that he had gold, silver, and gifts for them. He sent other troops to take over Jerusalem. However, the plot to kill John failed as someone told him what was happening. Instead, he killed the men coming to get him. The story ends here without any resolution. However, it seems that John won out, but it is not clear what happened to Ptolemy.

Cendebeus, commander of the coastal country (1 Macc 15:37-15:41)

“Meanwhile King Trypho embarked on a ship as he escaped to Orthosia. Then King Antiochus made Cendebeus the commander-in-chief of the coastal country. He gave him troops of infantry and cavalry. He commanded him to encamp against Judea. He commanded him to build up Kedron and fortify its gates. He was to make war on the people. However, the king was going to pursue Trypho. So Cendebeus came to Jamnia. He began to provoke the people and invade Judea. He took the people captive and killed them. He built up Kedron. Then he stationed horsemen and troops there, so that they might go out and make raids along the highways of Judea, as the king had ordered him.”

The siege at Dor did not work that well. King Trypho escaped from King Antiochus VII as he got on a boat and went to Orthosia, which was north of Tripolis. At the same time, King Antiochus VII was concerned about Simon and Judea. He made Cendebeus the commander of the coastal country with cavalry troops and infantry. His orders were to harass Judea, while the king went after King Trypho, so that he could claim the throne. Cendebeus built up the town of Kedron, probably southwest of Ekron, where he stationed horses and troops so that they could go out and make raids on the Judea highways, as he had been ordered to do.

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!

Simon takes Gazara (1 Macc 13:43-13:48)

“In those days Simon encamped against Gazara. He surrounded it with troops. He made a siege engine. He brought it up to the city so that he battered and captured one tower. The men in the siege engine leaped out into the city as a great tumult arose in the city. The men in the city, with their wives and children, went up on the wall with their clothes torn. They cried out with a loud voice, asking Simon to make peace with them. They said.

‘Do not treat us according to our wicked acts

But according to your mercy.’

So Simon reached an agreement with them. He stopped fighting against them. However, he expelled them from the city. He cleansed the houses in which the idols were located. He then entered it with hymns and praise. He removed all the wickedness from it. He settled in it men who observed the law. He also strengthened its fortifications. He then built in it a house for himself.”

Apparently this Gazara was Gaza. Simon surrounded it with his troops.   The siege war engine was like a tower on wheels with catapults and battering rams that could break fortifications. As the people in Gaza saw this, they tore their clothes and asked for mercy. Simon decided not to kill them, but to expel them from the Gaza strip. He then put law abiding Jewish people there and built a house for himself. Does that sound familiar? Before he entered the city of Gaza, he cleansed the houses that had idols so that all the wicked things were gone when he entered the town singing hymns.

The letter of King Alexander to Jonathan (1 Macc 10:17-10:21)

King Alexander wrote a letter and sent it to Jonathan, in the following words.

‘King Alexander to his brother Jonathan,

Greetings!

We have heard about you.

You are a mighty warrior.

You are worthy to be our friend.

So we have appointed you today

To be the high priest of your nation.

You are to be called the king’s friend.

You are to take our side.

You are to keep friendship with us.’

He sent him a purple robe and a golden crown. So Jonathan put on the sacred vestments in the seventh month of the one hundred sixtieth year, at the festival of booths. He recruited troops and equipped them with arms in abundance.”

King Alexander at Ptolemais wrote a letter to Jonathan. He went ever further than King Demetrius I at Antioch. He appointed Jonathan the high priest. I am not sure how or why he had this authority. However, the position of high priest might have been vacant since the death of Alcimus in 159 BCE. Obviously King Alexander had the power to appoint anyone he wanted to be the king’s friend, a special status. In fact, he sent a purple robe and crown, which Jonathan accepted in 152 BCE, during the festival of booths. Then Jonathan went to recruit and arm troops.

Jonathan releases the men at the citadel in Jerusalem (1 Macc 10:7-10:9)

“Then Jonathan came to Jerusalem. He read the letter in the hearing of all the people, including the men in the citadel. They were greatly alarmed when they heard that the king had given Jonathan authority to recruit troops. However, the men in the citadel released the hostages to Jonathan as he returned them to their parents.”

The first thing that Jonathan did was to go to Jerusalem to get the release of all the prisoners from the citadel there, which was still held by the Syrians. The guards were astonished and alarmed that the king had given Jonathan the authority to recruit troops. Nevertheless, the people in the prison were released to Jonathan and their families.

The fortifications of Bacchides (1 Macc 9:50-9:53)

“Then Bacchides returned to Jerusalem. He built strong cities in Judea. He built the fortress in Jericho, Emmaus, Beth-horon, Bethel, Timnath, Pharathon, and Tephon, with high walls, gates, and bars. He placed garrisons in them to harass Israel. He also fortified the city of Beth-zur, Gazara, and the citadel. He put troops and stores of food in them. He took the sons of the leading men of the land as hostages. He put them under guard in the citadel at Jerusalem.”

General Bacchides returned to Jerusalem. Then he built strong cities around Jerusalem with high walls and gates in Jericho, Emmaus, Beth-horon, Bethel, Timnath, Pharathon, and Tephon. He also put garrisons in them to harass and keep the Jewish guerrillas from attacking. He put troops and food storage in Beth-zur, Gazara, and the Jerusalem citadel. Then he took the sons of the leading men as hostages as he guarded them in Jerusalem.

The Jewish defeat at the battle of Beth-zechariah (1 Macc 6:40-6:47)

“Now a part of the king’s army was spread out on the high hills. Some troops were on the plain. They advanced steadily and in good order. All heard the noise made by their multitude. All heard the marching of the multitude and the clanking of their arms. Everyone trembled for the army was very large and strong. But Judas and his army advanced to the battle. Six hundred of the king’s army fell. Eleazar, called Avaran, saw that one of the beasts was equipped with royal armor. It was taller than all the others. He supposed that the king was on it. So he gave his life to save his people and win for himself an everlasting name. He courageously ran into the midst of the phalanx to reach it. He killed men right and left. They parted before him on both sides. He got under the elephant. He stabbed it from beneath and killed it. However, it fell to the ground upon him and he died. When the Jews saw the royal might and the fierce attack of the forces, they turned away in flight.”

The king’s army was in the hills and on the plains. They marched in a steady good order. They made a great noise by marching with their clanking arms. Everyone was afraid of this large and strong army. However, Judas and his men attacked the king’s men and killed 600 of them. Then Eleazar, the brothr of Judas, decided to attack the elephant who he thought was carrying the king because of the royal armor. He set out to kill people as they got out of his way. He went under the elephant and then stabbed it. However, the elephant fell on him as it died and crushed him to death. Now when the Jews saw this and the fierce attack of the king’s men, they fled.

The king’s army prepares to do battle (1 Macc 6:33-6:39)

“Early in the morning the king set out. He took his army by a forced march along the road to Beth-zechariah. His troops made ready for battle and sounded their trumpets. They offered their elephants the juice of grapes and mulberries to arouse them for battle. They distributed the beasts among the phalanxes. With each elephant they stationed a thousand men armed with coats of mail and with brass helmets on their heads. Five hundred picked cavalry were assigned to each beast. These took their position beforehand wherever the beast was. Wherever it went, they went with it. They never left it. On the elephants were wooden towers, strong and covered. They were fastened on each beast by a special harness. On each were four armed men who fought from there. They also had an Indian driver. The rest of the cavalry were stationed on either side, on the two flanks of the army, to harass the enemy while being themselves protected by the phalanxes. When the sun shone upon the shields of gold and brass, the hills were ablaze with them. They gleamed like flaming torches.”

King Antiochus V, the 10 year old king, or Lysias, his general got ready for the battle with Judas Maccabeus. They had elephants all juiced up and roaring to go. Each elephant had 1,000 men and 500 cavalry with them. On top of the elephants they had wooden towers fastened by a harness with 4 armed men in each tower. Beside these men there was an Indian driver of the elephant. They were an extraordinary sight so that when the sun shone on them, their shields looks like flaming torches.

Timothy and the other gentiles (1 Macc 5:37-5:41)

“After these things, Timothy gathered another army and encamped opposite Raphon, on the other side of the stream. Judas sent men to spy out the camp. They reported to him.

‘All the gentiles around us have gathered to him.

It is a very large force.

They also have hired Arabs to help them.

They are encamped across the stream,

They are ready to come and fight against you.’

Judas went to meet them. Now as Judas and his army drew near to the stream of water, Timothy said to the officers of his forces.

‘If he crosses over to us first,

We will not be able to resist him.

He will surely defeat us.

However, if he shows fear,

If he camps on the other side of the river,

We will cross over to him.

We will defeat him.’”

Timothy and his army gathered near a stream of the Yarmouk River, a tributary of the Jordan River called Raphon. Judas Maccabeus sent spies to figure out what he was up to. The spies came back to say that he had a large force. In fact, a number of Arab mercenaries had joined forces with Timothy. Timothy had a plan. If the troops of Judas rested on the other side of the stream in a camp, they would attack him. Otherwise, they might have a bit of a problem.