1 Maccabees


1a As King Antiochus passed through the eastern provinces, he heard that in Persia there was a city, Elam,* famous for its wealth in silver and gold, 2and that its temple was very rich, containing gold helmets, breastplates, and weapons left there by the first king of the Greeks, Alexander, son of Philip, king of Macedon. 3He went therefore and tried to capture and loot the city. But he could not do so, because his plan became known to the people of the city 4who rose up in battle against him. So he fled and in great dismay withdrew from there to return to Babylon.

5While he was in Persia, a messenger brought him news that the armies that had gone into the land of Judah had been routed; 6that Lysias had gone at first with a strong army and been driven back; that the people of Judah had grown strong by reason of the arms, wealth, and abundant spoils taken from the armies they had cut down; 7that they had pulled down the abomination which he had built upon the altar in Jerusalem; and that they had surrounded with high walls both the sanctuary, as it had been before, and his city of Beth-zur.b

8When the king heard this news, he was astonished and very much shaken. Sick with grief because his designs had failed, he took to his bed. 9There he remained many days, assailed by waves of grief, for he thought he was going to die. 10So he called in all his Friends and said to them: “Sleep has departed from my eyes, and my heart sinks from anxiety. 11I said to myself: ‘Into what tribulation have I come, and in what floods of sorrow am I now! Yet I was kindly and beloved in my rule.’ 12But I now recall the evils I did in Jerusalem, when I carried away all the vessels of silver and gold that were in it, and for no cause gave orders that the inhabitants of Judah be destroyed. 13I know that this is why these evils have overtaken me; and now I am dying, in bitter grief, in a foreign land.”

14Then he summoned Philip, one of his Friends, and put him in charge of his whole kingdom. 15He gave him his diadem, his robe, and his signet ring, so that he might guide the king’s son Antiochus and bring him up to be king. 16So King Antiochus died there in the one hundred and forty-ninth year.* 17When Lysias learned that the king was dead, he set up the king’s son Antiochus,* whom he had reared as a child, to be king in his place; and he gave him the title Eupator.c

Siege of the Citadel. 18Those in the citadel were hemming Israel in around the sanctuary, continually trying to harm them and to strengthen the Gentiles.d 19And so Judas planned to destroy them, and assembled the people to besiege them. 20So in the one hundred and fiftieth year* they assembled and besieged the citadel, for which purpose he constructed platforms and siege engines. 21But some of the besieged escaped, and some renegade Israelites joined them. 22They went to the king and said: “How long will you fail to do justice and to avenge our kindred? 23We agreed to serve your father and to follow his orders and obey his edicts. 24And for this our own people have become our enemies; they have put to death as many of us as they could find and have seized our inheritances. 25They have acted aggressively not only against us, but throughout their whole territory. 26Look! Today they have besieged the citadel in Jerusalem in order to capture it, and they have fortified the sanctuary and Beth-zur. 27Unless you act quickly to prevent them, they will do even worse things than these, and you will not be able to stop them.”

28e When the king heard this he was enraged, and he called together all his Friends, the officers of his army, and the commanders of the cavalry. 29Mercenary forces also came to him from other kingdoms and from the islands of the seas. 30His army numbered a hundred thousand footsoldiers, twenty thousand cavalry, and thirty-two elephants trained for war. 31They passed through Idumea and camped before Beth-zur. For many days they attacked it; they constructed siege engines, but the besieged made a sortie and burned these, and they fought bravely.

Battle of Beth-zechariah. 32Then Judas marched away from the citadel and moved his camp to Beth-zechariah,* opposite the king’s camp. 33The king, rising before dawn, moved his force hastily along the road to Beth-zechariah; and the troops prepared for battle and sounded the trumpet. 34They made the elephants drunk on the juice of grapes and mulberries to get them ready to fight. 35The beasts were distributed along the phalanxes, each elephant having assigned to it a thousand men in coats of mail, with bronze helmets on their heads, and five hundred picked cavalry. 36These accompanied the beast wherever it was; wherever it moved, they moved too and never left it. 37Each elephant was outfitted with a strong wooden tower, fastened to it by a harness; each tower held three soldiers who fought from it, besides the Indian driver. 38The remaining cavalry were stationed on one or the other of the two flanks of the army, to harass the enemy and to be protected by the phalanxes. 39When the sun shone on the gold and bronze shields, the mountains gleamed with their brightness and blazed like flaming torches. 40Part of the king’s army spread out along the heights, while some were on low ground, and they marched forward steadily in good order. 41All who heard the noise of their numbers, the tramp of their marching, and the clanging of the arms, trembled; for the army was very great and strong.

42Judas with his army advanced to fight, and six hundred men of the king’s army fell. 43Eleazar, called Avaran, saw one of the beasts covered with royal armor and bigger than any of the others, and so he thought the king was on it.f 44He gave up his life to save his people and win an everlasting name for himself. 45He dashed courageously up to it in the middle of the phalanx, killing men right and left, so that they parted before him. 46He ran under the elephant, stabbed it and killed it. The beast fell to the ground on top of him, and he died there. 47But when Judas’ troops saw the strength of the royal army and the ardor of its forces, they retreated from them.

The Siege of Jerusalem. 48Some of the king’s army went up to Jerusalem to attack them, and the king established camps in Judea and at Mount Zion. 49He made peace with the people of Beth-zur, and they evacuated the city, because they had no food there to enable them to withstand a siege, for that was a sabbath year in the land.* g 50The king took Beth-zur and stationed a garrison there to hold it. 51For many days he besieged the sanctuary, setting up platforms and siege engines, fire-throwers, catapults and mechanical bows for shooting arrows and projectiles. 52The defenders countered by setting up siege engines of their own, and kept up the fight a long time. 53But there were no provisions in the storerooms, because it was the seventh year, and the reserves had been eaten up by those who had been rescued from the Gentiles and brought to Judea. 54Few men remained in the sanctuary because the famine was too much for them; the rest scattered, each to his own home.

Peace Treaty. 55h Lysias heard that Philip, whom King Antiochus, before his death, had appointed to train his son Antiochus to be king, 56had returned from Persia and Media with the army that accompanied the king, and that he was seeking to take over the government. 57So he hastily decided to withdraw. He said to the king, the leaders of the army, and the soldiers: “We are growing weaker every day, our provisions are scanty, the place we are besieging is strong, and it is our duty to take care of the affairs of the kingdom.i 58Therefore let us now come to terms with these people and make peace with them and all their nation. 59Let us grant them freedom to live according to their own laws as formerly; it was on account of their laws, which we abolished, that they became enraged and did all these things.”

60The proposal pleased the king and the leaders; he sent peace terms to the Jews, and they accepted. 61So the king and the leaders swore an oath to them, and on these terms the Jews evacuated the fortification. 62But when the king entered Mount Zion and saw how the place was fortified, he broke the oath he had sworn and gave orders to tear down the encircling wall. 63Then he departed in haste and returned to Antioch, where he found Philip in control of the city. He fought against him and took the city by force.

* [6:1] Elam: in fact, the mountainous region north of the Persian Gulf, rather than a city. The city may have been Persepolis. This section continues the story from 3:37 and pertains to events preceding those in 4:3739.

* [6:16] The one hundred and forty-ninth year: September 22, 164, to October 9, 163 B.C. A Babylonian list of the Seleucid kings indicates that Antiochus died in November or early December of 164, about the same time as the rededication of the Temple.

* [6:17] The king’s son Antiochus: Antiochus V Eupator (“of a good father”), then about nine years old. He was in Antioch, still in the charge of Lysias, who proceeded to govern and wage wars in his name. Both were put to death two years later, when Demetrius, brother of Antiochus IV, arrived to claim the kingship; cf. 7:13.

* [6:20] The one hundred and fiftieth year: October, 163, to September, 162 B.C.

* [6:32] Beth-zechariah: south of Jerusalem, and six miles north of Beth-zur.

* [6:49] A sabbath year in the land: when sowing and reaping were prohibited (Ex 23:1011; Lv 25:27). The year without a harvest (autumn of 164 to autumn of 163) was followed by a food shortage.

a. [6:113] 2 Mc 1:1317; 9:129; Dn 11:4045.

b. [6:7] 1 Mc 1:54; 4:4161.

c. [6:17] 2 Mc 10:1011.

d. [6:18] 1 Mc 1:3336.

e. [6:2854] 2 Mc 13:126.

f. [6:43] 2 Mc 13:15.

g. [6:49] Lv 25:17.

h. [6:5563] 2 Mc 13:2326.

i. [6:57] 2 Mc 11:1315.

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