Containing The Interval Of A Hundred And Seventy Years.
From The Death Of Alexander The Great To The Death Of Judas Maccabeus.
How Judas Subdued The Nations Round About; And How Simon Beat The People Of Tyre And Ptolemais; And How Judas Overcame Timotheus, And Forced Him To Fly Away, And Did Many Other Things After Joseph And Azarias Had Been Beaten.
1. WHEN these things were over, the nations round about the Jews were very uneasy at the revival of their power, and rose up together, and destroyed many of them, as gaining advantage over them by laying snares for them, and making secret conspiracies against them. Judas made perpetual expeditions against these men, and endeavored to restrain them from those incursions, and to prevent the mischiefs they did to the Jews. So he fell upon the Idumeans, the posterity of Esau, at Acrabattene, and slew a great many of them, and took their spoils. He also shut up the sons of Bean, that laid wait for the Jews; and he sat down about them, and besieged them, and burnt their towers, and destroyed the men [that were in them].
After this he went thence in haste against the Ammonites, who had a great and a numerous army, of which Timotheus was the commander. And when he had subdued them, he seized on the city Jazer, and took their wives and their children captives, and burnt the city, and then returned into Judea. But when the neighboring nations understood that he was returned, they got together in great numbers in the land of Gilead, and came against those Jews that were at their borders, who then fled to the garrison of Dathema; and sent to Judas, to inform him that Timotheus was endeavoring to take the place whither they were fled. And as these epistles were reading, there came other messengers out of Galilee, who informed him that the inhabitants of Ptolemais, and of Tyre and Sidon, and strangers of Galilee, were gotten together.
2. Accordingly Judas, upon considering what was fit to be done, with relation to the necessity both these cases required, gave order that Simon his brother should take three thousand chosen men, and go to the assistance of the Jews in Galilee, while he and another of his brothers, Jonathan, made haste into the land of Gilead, with eight thousand soldiers. And he left Joseph, the son of Zacharias, and Azarias, to be over the rest of the forces; and charged them to keep Judea very carefully, and to fight no battles with any persons whomsoever until his return. Accordingly, Simon-went into Galilee, and fought the enemy, and put them to flight, and pursued them to the very gates of Ptolemais, and slew about three thousand of them, and took the spoils of those that were slain, and those Jews whom they had made captives, with their baggage, and then returned home.
3. Now as for Judas Maccabeus, and his brother Jonathan, they passed over the river Jordan; and when they had gone three days journey, they lighted upon the Nabateans, who came to meet them peaceably, and who told them how the affairs of those in the land of Gilead stood; and how many of them were in distress, and driven into garrisons, and into the cities of Galilee; and exhorted him to make haste to go against the foreigners, and to endeavor to save his own countrymen out of their hands. To this exhortation Judas hearkened, and returned to the wilderness; and in the first place fell upon the inhabitants of Bosor, and took the city, and beat the inhabitants, and destroyed all the males, and all that were able to fight, and burnt the city. Nor did he stop even when night came on, but he journeyed in it to the garrison where the Jews happened to be then shut up, and where Timotheus lay round the place with his army.
And Judas came upon the city in the morning; and when he found that the enemy were making an assault upon the walls, and that some of them brought ladders, on which they might get upon those walls, and that others brought engines [to batter them], he bid the trumpeter to sound his trumpet, and he encouraged his soldiers cheerfully to undergo dangers for the sake of their brethren and kindred; he also parted his army into three bodies, and fell upon the backs of their enemies. But when Timotheus's men perceived that it was Maccabeus that was upon them, of both whose courage and good success in war they had formerly had sufficient experience, they were put to flight; but Judas followed them with his army, and slew about eight thousand of them. He then turned aside to a city of the foreigners called Malle, and took it, and slew all the males, and burnt the city itself. He then removed from thence, and overthrew Casphom and Bosor, and many other cities of the land of Gilead.
4. But not long after this, Timotheus prepared a great army, and took many others as auxiliaries; and induced some of the Arabians, by the promise of rewards, to go with him in this expedition, and came with his army beyond the brook, over against the city Raphon; and he encouraged his soldiers, if it came to a battle with the Jews, to fight courageously, and to hinder their passing over the brook; for he said to them beforehand, that
"if they come over it, we shall be beaten."
And when Judas heard that Timotheus prepared himself to fight, he took all his own army, and went in haste against Timotheus his enemy; and when he had passed over the brook, he fell upon his enemies, and some of them met him, whom he slew, and others of them he so terrified, that he compelled them to throw down their arms and fly; and some of them escaped, but some of them fled to what was called the Temple of Camaim, and hoped thereby to preserve themselves; but Judas took the city, and slew them, and burnt the temple, and so used several ways of destroying his enemies.
5. When he had done this, he gathered the Jews together, with their children and wives, and the substance that belonged to them, and was going to bring them back into Judea; but as soon as he was come to a certain city, whose name was Ephron, that lay upon the road, (and it was not possible for him to go any other way, so he was not willing to go back again,) he then sent to the inhabitants, and desired that they would open their gates, and permit them to go on their way through the city; for they had stopped up the gates with stones, and cut off their passage through it. And when the inhabitants of Ephron would not agree to this proposal, he encouraged those that were with him, and encompassed the city round, and besieged it, and, lying round it by day and night, took the city, and slew every male in it, and burnt it all down, and so obtained a way through it; and the multitude of those that were slain was so great, that they went over the dead bodies. So they came over Jordan, and arrived at the great plain, over against which is situate the city Bethshah, which is called by the Greeks Scythopolis. (20) And going away hastily from thence, they came into Judea, singing psalms and hymns as they went, and indulging such tokens of mirth as are usual in triumphs upon victory. They also offered thank-offerings, both for their good success, and for the preservation of their army, for not one of the Jews was slain in these battles.(21)
6. But as to Joseph, the son of Zacharias, and Azarias, whom Judas left generals [of the rest of his forces] at the same time when Simon was in Galilee, fighting against the people of Ptolemais, and Judas himself, and his brother Jonathan, were in the land of Gilead, did these men also affect the glory of being courageous generals in war, in order whereto they took the army that was under their command, and came to Jamnia. There Gorgias, the general of the forces of Jamnia, met them; and upon joining battle with him, they lost two thousand of their army, (22) and fled away, and were pursued to the very borders of Judea. And this misfortune befell them by their disobedience to what injunctions Judas had given them, not to fight with any one before his return. For besides the rest of Judas's sagacious counsels, one may well wonder at this concerning the misfortune that befell the forces commanded by Joseph and Azarias, which he understood would happen, if they broke any of the injunctions he had given them. But Judas and his brethren did not leave off fighting with the Idumeans, but pressed upon them on all sides, and took from them the city of Hebron, and demolished all its fortifications, and set all its towers on fire, and burnt the country of the foreigners, and the city Marissa. They came also to Ashdod, and took it, and laid it waste, and took away a great deal of the spoils and prey that were in it, and returned to Judea.
(20) The reason why Bethshah was called Scythopolis is well known from Herodotus, B. I. p. 105, and Syncellus, p. 214, that the Scythians, when they overran Asia, in the days of Josiah, seized on this city, and kept it as long as they continued in Asia, from which time it retained the name of Scythopolis, or the City of the Scythians.
(21) This most providential preservation of all the religious Jews in this expedition, which was according to the will of God, is observable often among God's people, the Jews; and somewhat very like it in the changes of the four monarchies, which were also providential. See Prideaux at the years 331, 333, and 334.
(22) Here is another great instance of Providence, that when, even at the very time that Simon, and Judas, and Jonathan were so miraculously preserved and blessed, in the just defense of their laws and religion, these other generals of the Jews, who went to fight for honor in a vain-glorious way, and without any commission from God, or the family he had raised up to deliver them, were miserably disappointed and defeated. See 1 Macc. 5:61, 62.