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  • 1 Maccabees 6

    Last days of Antiochus Epiphanes

    King Antiochus was traveling through the upper provinces when he heard that Elymais, a city in Persia, was famous for its great quantities of silver and gold. Its temple was very rich and contained gold shields, breastplates, and weapons that Alexander (the son of Philip, the first Macedonian king to rule over the Greeks) left there. So he went and tried to take the city by force and plunder it. But he was unsuccessful because the city’s inhabitants knew about his plan. They resisted him in battle, and he fled. With great disappointment, he planned to return to Babylon.

    While King Antiochus was in Persia, someone came to him and reported that the armies that had gone into the land of Judah had been thoroughly defeated. Lysias, who had gone first with a strong force, had turned and run from the Jews. The Jews then grew stronger when they took weapons, supplies, and abundant spoils from the armies they defeated. They had taken down the disgusting thing that he had set up on the altar in Jerusalem. Furthermore, they had surrounded the sanctuary and also Lysias’ town Beth-zur with high walls like before.

    When the king heard this news, he was stunned and badly shaken. He took to his bed, sick from grief. Things hadn’t turned out for him as he had planned. He lay there for many days because he was deeply depressed. He realized that he was dying. 10 He called his closest political advisors and said to them, “Sleep has left my eyes. I’m depressed from worrying. 11 I say to myself, What distress I’ve come to! What a great flood I’ve now been plunged into! Once I was kind and was loved in my power. 12 But now I recall the wrongs I did in Jerusalem. I seized all its silver and gold equipment. I ordered the destruction of the inhabitants of Judah without good reason. 13 I know it’s because of all this that these misfortunes have come on me. I’m here, dying of bitter disappointment, in a foreign land.”

    14 Then he called for one of his advisors named Philip and made him ruler over all of his kingdom. 15 He gave him the crown, his robe, and the seal so that he might guide his son Antiochus and prepare him to be king. 16 Then King Antiochus died there in the year 149. 17 When Lysias found out that the king had died, he arranged for the king’s son Antiochus, whom he had brought up from childhood, to rule. Lysias named him Eupator.

    Renewed attacks from Syria

    18 Meanwhile, the inhabitants of the elevated fortress kept surrounding the Israelites in the sanctuary. They were trying every way they could to harm them and strengthen the Gentiles. 19 Judas decided to destroy them. He brought all the people together to besiege them. 20 They assembled together, built siege towers and other war engines, and attacked the Gentiles in the year 150. 21 However, some of the enemy forces escaped from the blockade, joined by a number of sinful Israelites. 22 They went to the king and said: “How long will you hold back from acting justly to avenge our people? 23 We happily served your father. We did what he said, obeying his commands. 24 Because of this, some of our people have laid siege to the citadel and are hostile to us. Furthermore, they’ve killed as many of us as they could catch. Now they’ve taken our wealth. 25 Judas and his forces haven’t lifted their hands against us alone. They’ve also attacked all the neighboring lands. 26 Look, today they’ve camped against the elevated fortress in Jerusalem to capture it. They’ve fortified both the sanctuary and Beth-zur. 27 Unless you do something soon to prevent them, they’ll do even worse things. Then you won’t be able to stop them.”

    28 The king was enraged when he heard this. He gathered all his chief political advisors, the commanders of his troops, and those with authority. 29 Mercenary forces from other kingdoms and the Mediterranean islands also joined him. 30 The total number of his forces was one hundred thousand army troops and twenty thousand cavalry, with thirty-two elephants trained for war. 31 They came through Idumea and camped against Beth-zur. For many days, they fought and constructed war engines. But the Jews would go out and burn the war engines with fire and continued to fight bravely.

    Battle at Beth-zechariah

    32 Then Judas marched away from the elevated fortress and camped at Beth-zechariah, opposite the king’s camp. 33 Early in the morning the king marched out, taking his army on a forced march along the road to Beth-zechariah. His troops readied themselves for battle, and they sounded their trumpets. 34 They aroused the elephants using grape and mulberry juices, to get them ready for battle. 35 They distributed the animals among groups of soldiers. With each elephant, they stationed one thousand infantry wearing armor and brass helmets. Five hundred select cavalry were also assigned to each animal. 36 The troops positioned themselves wherever the animal was. Wherever it went, they went; and they never left it. 37 Strong covered wooden towers were set on top of the elephants. Special harnesses were fastened on each animal. On each were four armed men who fought from there, and an Indian driver also. 38 The remaining cavalry were stationed on either side of the elephants, to harass the enemy while being protected inside the two flanks of the army. 39 When the sun shone on the gold and brass shields, the hills looked like they were on fire from their reflection and glowed like burning torches.

    40 Part of the king’s army was spread out on the high hills, and some troops were on the plain. They held their ranks and steadily moved forward. 41 Everyone who heard the noise of marching feet and clanking arms trembled because the army was very large and powerful. 42 Nevertheless, Judas and his army went forth to do battle. Six hundred of the king’s soldiers died. 43 Eleazar, called Avaran, saw that one of the animals was taller than all the others and was equipped with royal armor. He figured that the king must be on it. 44 So he gave his life to save his people and to secure an everlasting name for himself. 45 He ran courageously into the midst of a group of soldiers to reach it, killing men right and left so that they had to give way to him on both sides. 46 He got under the elephant and stabbed it from underneath. He killed it, but it fell to the ground on top of him, and he died there. 47 As the Jews experienced the might and the fierce attack of the king’s forces, they turned away and fled.

    Siege of the temple

    48 The king’s army went up to Jerusalem against them. The king camped in Judea and at Mount Zion. 49 He made peace with the people of Beth-zur. They evacuated the town because they lacked sufficient resources there to withstand a siege (it was a sabbatical year for the land). 50 So the king took Beth-zur and positioned a guard unit there to hold it. 51 Then he camped in front of the sanctuary for many days. He set up siege towers, war engines that threw fire and rocks, machines to shoot darts, and catapults. 52 The Jews made war engines to match theirs, and they battled for many days. 53 But they had no food in storage since it was the seventh year. Those people who had found safe haven in Judea from the Gentiles had eaten the last of the food. 54 Only a few people remained in the sanctuary. The famine was so intense that the others had scattered to their own homes.

    Syria offers terms

    55 Then Lysias heard that King Antiochus, before he died, had appointed Philip to bring up Antiochus his son to be king. 56 Philip had returned from Persia and Media with the forces that had gone with the king, and he was trying to seize control of the government. 57 So Lysias quickly gave orders to withdraw and told the king, the commanders of the forces, and the troops, “We’re growing weaker every day because our food supply is scarce. The place we’re fighting against is strong, and the affairs of the kingdom are pressing urgently on us. 58 Let’s come to terms now with these people and make peace with them and their nation. 59 Let’s agree to let them live by their laws like they used to do. It was because of their laws, which we abolished, that they got angry and did all these things.”

    60 This speech pleased the king and the commanders, so he sent the Jews an offer of peace, which they accepted. 61 The king and his commanders gave their word, so the Jews left the fortress. 62 However, when the king went into Mount Zion and saw how securely the place was built, he went back on his word and ordered that the wall be torn down all around. 63 Then he set off in a hurry to return to Antioch. He found that Philip was in control of the city, so he fought against him and took the city by force.