Containing The Interval Of A Hundred And Seventy Years.
From The Death Of Alexander The Great To The Death Of Judas Maccabeus.
How Bacchides, The General Of Demetrius's Army, Made An Expedition Against Judea, And Returned Without Success; And How Nicanor Was Sent A Little Afterward Against Judas And Perished, Together With His Army; As Also Concerning The Death Of Alcimus And The Succession Of Judas.
1. ABOUT the same time Demetrius, the son of Seleucus, fled away from Rome, and took Tripoli, a city of Syria, and set the diadem on his own head. He also gathered certain mercenary soldiers together, and entered into his kingdom, and was joyfully received by all, who delivered themselves up to him. And when they had taken Autiochus the king, and Lysias, they brought them to him alive; both which were immediately put to death by the command of Demetrius, when Antiochus had reigned two years, as we have already elsewhere related. But there were now many of the wicked Jewish runagates that came together to him, and with them Alcimus the high priest, who accused the whole nation, and particularly Judas and his brethren; and said that they had slain all his friends, and that those in his kingdom that were of his party, and waited for his return, were by them put to death; that these men had ejected them out of their own country, and caused them to be sojourners in a foreign land; and they desired that he would send some one of his own friends, and know from him what mischief Judas's party had done.
2. At this Demetrius was very angry, and sent Bacchides, a friend of Antiochus Epiphanes, (25) a good man, and one that had been intrusted with all Mesopotamia, and gave him an army, and committed Alcimus the high priest to his care; and gave him charge to slay Judas, and those that were with him. So Bacchides made haste, and went out of Antioch with his army; and when he was come into Judea, he sent to Judas and his brethren, to discourse with them about a league of friendship and peace, for he had a mind to take him by treachery. But Judas did not give credit to him, for he saw that he came with so great an army as men do not bring when they come to make peace, but to make war.
However, some of the people acquiesced in what Bacchides caused to be proclaimed; and supposing they should undergo no considerable harm from Alcimus, who was their countryman, they went over to them; and when they had received oaths from both of them, that neither they themselves, nor those of the same sentiments, should come to any harm, they intrusted themselves with them. But Bacchides troubled not himself about the oaths he had taken, but slew threescore of them, although, by not keeping his faith with those that first went over, he deterred all the rest, who had intentions to go over to him, from doing it. But as he was gone out of Jerusalem, and was at the village called Bethzetho, he sent out, and caught many of the deserters, and some of the people also, and slew them all; and enjoined all that lived in the country to submit to Alcimus. So he left him there, with some part of the army, that he might have wherewith to keep the country in obedience and returned to Antioch to king Demetrius.
3. But Alcimus was desirous to have the dominion more firmly assured to him; and understanding that, if he could bring it about that the multitude should be his friends, he should govern with greater security, he spake kind words to them all, and discoursed to each of them after an agreeable and pleasant manner; by which means he quickly had a great body of men and an army about him, although the greater part of them were of the wicked, and the deserters. With these, whom he used as his servants and soldiers, he went all over the country, and slew all that he could find of Judas's party. But when Judas saw that Alcimus was already become great, and had destroyed many of the good and holy men of the country, he also went all over the country, and destroyed those that were of the other party. But when Alcimus saw that he was not able to oppose Judas, nor was equal to him in strength, he resolved to apply himself to king Demetrius for his assistance; so he came to Antioch, and irritated him against Judas, and accused him, alleging that he had undergone a great many miseries by his means, and that he would do more mischief unless he were prevented, and brought to punishment, which must be done by sending a powerful force against him.
4. So Demetrius, being already of opinion that it would be a thing pernicious to his own affairs to overlook Judas, now he was becoming so great, sent against him Nicanor, the most kind and most faithful of all his friends; for he it was who fled away with him from the city of Rome. He also gave him as many forces as he thought sufficient for him to conquer Judas withal, and bid him not to spare the nation at all. When Nicanor was come to Jerusalem, he did not resolve to fight Judas immediately, but judged it better to get him into his power by treachery; so he sent him a message of peace, and said there was no manner of necessity for them to fight and hazard themselves; and that he would give him his oath that he would do him no harm, for that he only came with some friends, in order to let him know what king Demetrius's intentions were, and what opinion he had of their nation.
When Nicanor had delivered this message, Judas and his brethren complied with him, and suspecting no deceit, they gave him assurances of friendship, and received Nicanor and his army; but while he was saluting Judas, and they were talking together, he gave a certain signal to his own soldiers, upon which they were to seize upon Judas; but he perceived the treachery, and ran back to his own soldiers, and fled away with them. So upon this discovery of his purpose, and of the snares laid for Judas, Nicanor determined to make open war with him, and gathered his army together, and prepared for fighting him; and upon joining battle with him at a certain village called Capharsalama, he beat Judas, (26) and forced him to fly to that citadel which was at Jerusalem.
5. And when Nicanor came down from the citadel unto the temple, some of the priests and elders met him, and saluted him; and showed him the sacrifices which they offered to God for the king: upon which he blasphemed, and threatened them, that unless the people would deliver up Judas to him, upon his return he would pull clown their temple. And when he had thus threatened them, he departed from Jerusalem. But the priests fell into tears out of grief at what he had said, and besought God to deliver them from their enemies But now for Nicanor, when he was gone out of Jerusalem, and was at a certain village called Bethoron, he there pitched his camp, another army out of Syria having joined him. And Judas pitched his camp at Adasa, another village, which was thirty furlongs distant from Bethoron, having no more than one thousand soldiers. And when he had encouraged them not to be dismayed at the multitude of their enemies, nor to regard how many they were against whom they were going to fight, but to consider who they themselves were, and for what great rewards they hazarded themselves, and to attack the enemy courageously, he led them out to fight, and joining battle with Nicanor, which proved to be a severe one, he overcame the enemy, and slew many of them; and at last Nicanor himself, as he was fighting gloriously, fell: - upon whose fall the army did not stay; but when they had lost their general, they were put to flight, and threw down their arms.
Judas also pursued them and slew them, and gave notice by the sound of the trumpets to the neighboring villages that he had conquered the enemy; which, when the inhabitants heard, they put on their armor hastily, and met their enemies in the face as they were running away, and slew them, insomuch that not one of them escaped out of this battle, who were in number nine thousand This victory happened to fall on the thirteenth day of that month which by the Jews is called Adar and by the Macedonians Dystrus; and the Jews thereon celebrate this victory every year, and esteem it as a festival day. After which the Jewish nation were, for a while, free from wars, and enjoyed peace; but afterward they returned into their former state of wars and hazards.
6. But now as the high priest Alcimus, was resolving to pull down the wall of the sanctuary, which had been there of old time, and had been built by the holy prophets, he was smitten suddenly by God, and fell down. (27) This stroke made him fall down speechless upon the ground; and undergoing torments for many days, he at length died, when he had been high priest four years. And when he was dead, the people bestowed the high priesthood on Judas; who hearing of the power of the Romans, and that they had conquered in war Galatia, and Iberia, and Carthage, and Libya; and that, besides these, they had subdued Greece, and their kings, Perseus, and Philip, and Antiochus the Great also; he resolved to enter into a league of friendship with them. He therefore sent to Rome some of his friends, Eupolemus the son of John, and Jason the son of Eleazar, and by them desired the Romans that they would assist them, and be their friends, and would write to Demetrius that he would not fight against the Jews. So the senate received the ambassadors that came from Judas to Rome, and discoursed with them about the errand on which they came, and then granted them a league of assistance. They also made a decree concerning it, and sent a copy of it into Judea. It was also laid up in the capitol, and engraven in brass. The decree itself was this:
"The decree of the senate concerning a league of assistance and friendship with the nation of the Jews. It shall not be lawful for any that are subject to the Romans to make war with the nation of the Jews, nor to assist those that do so, either by sending them corn, or ships, or money; and if any attack be made upon the Jews, the Romans shall assist them, as far as they are able; and again, if any attack be made upon the Romans, the Jews shall assist them. And if the Jews have a mind to add to, or to take away any thing from, this league of assistance, that shall be done with the common consent of the Romans. And whatsoever addition shall thus be made, it shall be of force."
This decree was written by Eupolemus the son of John, and by Jason the son of Eleazar, (28) when Judas was high priest of the nation, and Simon his brother was general of the army. And this was the first league that the Romans made with the Jews, and was managed after this manner.
(25) It is no way probable that Josephus would call Bacchidoa, that bitter and bloody enemy of the Jews, as our present copies have it, a man good, or kind, and gentle, What the author of the First Book of Maccabees, whom Josephus here follows, instead of that character, says of him, is, that he was a great man in the kingdom, and faithful to his king; which was very probably Josephus's meaning also.
(26) Josephus's copies must have been corrupted when they here give victory to Nicanor, contrary to the words following, which imply that he who was beaten fled into the citadel, which for certain belonged to the city of David, or to Mount Zion, and was in the possession of Nicanor's garrison, and not of Judas's. As also it is contrary to the express words of Josephus's original author, 1 Macc. 7:32, who says that Nicanor lost about five thousand men, and fled to the city of David.
(27) This account of the miserable death of Alcimus, or Jac-mus, the wicked high priest, (the first that was not of the family of the high priests, and made by a vile heathen, Lysias,) before the death of Judas, and of Judas's succession to him as high priest, both here, and at the conclusion of this book, directly contradicts 1 Macc. 9:54-57, which places his death after the death of Judas, and says not a syllable of the high priesthood of Judas. How well the Roman histories agree to this account of the conquests and powerful condition of the Romans at this time, see the notes in Havercamp's edition; only that the number of the senators of Rome was then just three hundred and twenty, is, I think, only known from 1 Macc. 8:15.
(28) This subscription is wanting 1 Macc. 8:17, 29, and must be the words of Josephus, who by mistake thought, as we have just now seen, that Judas was at this time high priest, and accordingly then reckoned his brother Jonathan to be the general of the army, which yet he seems not to have been till after the death of Judas.