“On their return,
All that they had done.
He took them
As he withdrew privately
To a city
Καὶ ὑποστρέψαντες οἱ ἀπόστολοι διηγήσαντο αὐτῷ ὅσα ἐποίησαν. Καὶ παραλαβὼν αὐτοὺς ὑπεχώρησεν κατ’ ἰδίαν εἰς πόλιν καλουμένην Βηθσαϊδά.
Luke said that on the return of the apostles (Καὶ ὑποστρέψαντες οἱ ἀπόστολοι), they told Jesus all that they had done (διηγήσαντο αὐτῷ ὅσα ἐποίησαν). He then took them with him (Καὶ παραλαβὼν αὐτοὺς) as he withdrew privately to a city (ὑπεχώρησεν κατ’ ἰδίαν εἰς πόλιν) called Bethsaida (καλουμένην Βηθσαϊδά). This opening to the multiplication of the loaves story can be found in all four gospels, Matthew, chapter 14:13, Mark, chapter 6:30-33, John, chapter 6:1-2, and here. Luke was the only one to mention the town of Bethsaida, while the others talked about Jesus in a boat. This gathering of the apostles around Jesus after their mission can only be found in Mark and in Luke. Mark said that they told Jesus everything that they had done and taught. Thus, Jesus had a debriefing session with his apostles where he found out what had happened to them on their missionary adventures. Then Mark said that Jesus wanted to get away to a deserted place in a boat, but somehow the crowds followed him along the bank of the sea, so that Jesus and his apostles could not get away by themselves. Mark wanted his disciples and apostles to rest for a while, to take it easy. Many people were coming and going, so that they did not have any leisure time to eat. Thus, they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Jesus was concerned about the apostles’ mental state. He wanted them to have some down time. Matthew had pretty much the same story about Jesus and the boat with a slightly different twist. Jesus left in a boat to be in a deserted or secluded place alone. However, the crowds heard about it, so that they followed him on foot from the various towns. Jesus could not get away by himself. Do you ever want to get away by yourself?
“Now when Jesus heard this,
He withdrew from there
In a boat
To a deserted place
When the crowds heard it,
They followed him
From the towns.”
Ἀκούσας δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἀνεχώρησεν ἐκεῖθεν ἐν πλοίῳ εἰς ἔρημον τόπον κατ’ ἰδίαν· καὶ ἀκούσαντες οἱ ὄχλοι ἠκολούθησαν αὐτῷ πεζῇ ἀπὸ τῶν πόλεων.
This opening to the multiplication of the loaves story can be found in all four gospels, Mark, chapter 6:32-33, Luke, chapter 9:10-11, and John, chapter 6:1-2, plus here, with a slightly different twist. Jesus wanted to get away by himself in a boat, but somehow the crowds followed him. It is not clear if they were looking for his reaction to the death of John the Baptist, or just following him as an itinerant preacher and healer. When Jesus heard the news about John the Baptist (Ἀκούσας δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς), he seemed worried. He left that place in a boat to be in a deserted or secluded place alone (ἀνεχώρησεν ἐκεῖθεν ἐν πλοίῳ εἰς ἔρημον τόπον). However, the crowds heard about it (καὶ ἀκούσαντες), so that they followed him on foot from the various towns (οἱ ὄχλοι ἠκολούθησαν αὐτῷ πεζῇ ἀπὸ τῶν πόλεων). They seemed to follow along the bank of the sea. Jesus could not get away by himself.
“He has cut down,
In fierce anger,
All the might
He has withdrawn
His right hand
In the face
Of the enemy.
He has burned
Like a flaming fire
Consuming all around.”
Yahweh was so angry that he cut down the might of Israel. He withdrew his supporting hand so that the enemy was able to succeed. He destroyed everything that belonged to Jacob by burning it up. This verse starts with the Hebrew consonant letter Gimel. Each verse after this will use the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet in this acrostic poem.
“Judas Maccabeus sent in to the garrison whatever was necessary. However, Rhodocus, a man from the ranks of the Jews, gave secret information to the enemy. He was sought for, caught, and put in prison. The king negotiated a second time with the people in Beth-zur. He gave pledges and received theirs. Then he withdrew. He then attacked Judas Maccabeus and his men. However, he was defeated. He got word that Philip, who had been left in charge of the government, had revolted in Antioch. He was dismayed. Thus he called in the Jews. He yielded. He swore to observe all their rights as he settled with them. He offered a sacrifice, honored the sanctuary, and showed generosity to the holy place.”
This is similar to 1 Maccabees, chapter 6. Here, however, there is a Jewish traitor named Rhodocus who was imprisoned for revealing secrets to the army of Lysias and King Antiochus V. Meanwhile the king was defeated at Beth-zur. Nevertheless, the real turning point was the news that Philip in Antioch was revolting against his rule and that of Lysias. Thus he and Lysias decided to set up a peace treaty with the Jews. He let them observe all their rights, with their sanctuary and Temple.
“After consulting privately with the elders, he determined to march out and decide the matter by the help of God before the king’s army could enter Judea and get possession of the city. So, committing the decision to the Creator of the world, he exhorted his troops to fight nobly to the death for the laws, the temple, the city, the country, and the commonwealth. He pitched his camp near Modein. He gave his troops the watchword.
He picked a force of the bravest young men. He attacked the king’s pavilion at night. He killed as many as two thousand men in the camp. He stabbed the leading elephant and its rider. In the end they filled the camp with terror and confusion as they withdrew in triumph. This happened, just as day was dawning, because the Lord’s help protected him.”
Clearly the success of Judas Maccabeus came because of divine intervention on his side. Everything was done with the help of God. He first consulted with the elders, which seems to be a common practice. He committed his decision to the Creator, not the God of Israel. He wanted his troops to defend the laws, the Temple, the city, and the country. This took place near Modein, where his father was from, although there is no mention of his father Mattathias in 2 Maccabees. The key word was ‘God’s victory.’ He picked a few brave young men to lead the attack on the king’s pavilion at night. He killed 2,000 that night as well as the lead elephant. This led to confusion in the camp, another common biblical theme.
“Thus the murderer and blasphemer, having endured more intense suffering, such as he had inflicted on others, came to the end of his life by a most pitiable fate, among the mountains in a strange land. Philip, one of his courtiers, took his body home. Then, fearing the son of Antiochus, he withdrew to Ptolemy Philometor in Egypt.”
King Antiochus IV, despite his kind words in the preceding letter, was perceived to be a murder and blasphemer. He endured justly the most intense suffering because he had inflicted suffering on others. He even died in a strange mountain land at the age of 51. Philip, according to 1 Maccabees, chapter 6, was to be in charge of his young son, now King Antiochus V. However, Lysias, who was in Antioch was helping the 9 year old king rule, according to the same source. Thus Philip went to the king of Egypt, King Ptolemy VI (180-145 BCE), who had been the young king that King Antiochus IV had defeated earlier in his reign.
“Jonathan heard that the commanders of Demetrius had returned with a larger force than before, to wage war against him. So he marched away from Jerusalem. He met them in the region of Hamath, so that he gave them no opportunity to invade his own country. He sent spies to their camp. They returned and reported to him that the enemy was being drawn up in formation to fall upon the Jews by night. So when the sun set, Jonathan commanded his troops to be alert. He commanded them to keep their arms at hand so as to be ready all night for battle. He stationed outposts around the camp. When the enemy heard that Jonathan and his men were prepared for battle, they were afraid. They were terrified at heart. So they kindled fires in their camp and withdrew. But Jonathan and his troops did not know it until morning, for they saw the fires burning. Then Jonathan pursued them, but he did not overtake them. They had crossed the Eleutherus River. So Jonathan turned aside against the Arabs who are called Zabadeans. He crushed them and plundered them. Then he broke camp and went to Damascus. He marched throughout that region.”
The old commanders of the deposed King Demetrius II returned with a larger force to wage war against Jonathan. However, Jonathan wanted to fight them not in his own country so he went out to Hamath, a city in Syria. Then he sent spies, who returned to tell him that they were going to attack him at night. Jonathan had all his men ready that night. When the commanders of the deposed King Demetrius II saw that Jonathan was waiting for them, they were afraid and left. When morning came, Jonathan realized that they were gone. He tried to overtake them, but it was impossible. Instead, he decided to fight against the Zabadean Arabs. He crushed them and took their spoils. Then he headed out of the region towards Damascus.
“Then Jonathan, with his men and Simon, withdrew to Bethbasi in the wilderness. He rebuilt the parts of it that had been demolished. Then they fortified it. When General Bacchides learned of this, he assembled all his forces. He sent orders to the men of Judea. Then he came and encamped against Bethbasi. He fought against it for many days as he made machines of war.”
Jonathan and his men went southeast of Bethlehem to Bethbasi in the wilderness marshes along the Jordan River, near Tekoa. They rebuilt their stronghold and fortified it. When General Bacchides heard of this, he assembled his forces and camped out against the forces of Jonathan for many days. He kept building his war machines.
“Then both sides attacked as five thousand of the army of Lysias fell in action. Lysias saw the rout of his troops. He observed the boldness which inspired those troops of Judas. He saw how ready they were either to live or to die nobly. Then he withdrew to Antioch. There he enlisted mercenaries in order to invade Judea again with an even larger army.”
Both sides attacked. However, the army of Lysias lost 5,000 men. Lysias, the Syrian general saw how bold the men of Judas were since they were ready to die nobly. Then he withdrew to Antioch to enlist more mercenaries for a larger invasion of Judea.
“When evening came, General Holofernes’ slaves quickly withdrew. Bagoas closed the tent from outside. He shut out the attendants from his master’s presence. They went to bed. They all were weary because the banquet had lasted so long. Judith was left alone in the tent. General Holofernes was stretched out on his bed. He was dead drunk. Now Judith had told her maid to stand outside the bedchamber. She was to wait for her to come out, as she did on the other days. She said that she would be going out for her prayers. She said the same thing to Bagoas. So everyone went out. No one, either small or great, was left in the bedchamber.”
As the evening wore on, everyone was tired. They all began to leave. Bagoas closed the tent from the outside so that no one would disturb Judith and the general who were left alone. The problem was that the good general had over indulged and simply fell asleep on his bed because he was drunk. Judith told her maid to wait outside like she had done every other night. They would be going to say prayers. She told Bagoas the same thing. Everyone was gone. There was no one left there in the bedchamber except for Judith, who was then left alone with him. The plot thickens.