Containing The Interval Of A Hundred And Seventy Years.
From The Death Of Judas Maccabeus To The Death Of Queen Alexandra.
How Jonathan Took The Government After His Brother Judas; And How He, Together With His Brother Simon, Waged War Against Bacchides.
1. BY what means the nation of the Jews recovered their freedom when they had been brought into slavery by the Macedonians, and what struggles, and how great battles, Judas, the general of their army, ran through, till he was slain as he was fighting for them, hath been related in the foregoing book; but after he was dead, all the wicked, and those that transgressed the laws of their forefathers, sprang up again in Judea, and grew upon them, and distressed them on every side. A famine also assisted their wickedness, and afflicted the country, till not a few, who by reason of their want of necessaries, and because they were not able to bear up against the miseries that both the famine and their enemies brought upon them, deserted their country, and went to the Macedonians.
And now Bacchides gathered those Jews together who had apostatized from the accustomed way of living of their forefathers, and chose to live like their neighbors, and committed the care of the country to them, who also caught the friends of Judas, and those of his party, and delivered them up to Bacchides, who when he had, in the first place, tortured and tormented them at his pleasure, he, by that means, at length killed them. And when this calamity of the Jews was become so great, as they had never had experience of the like since their return out of Babylon, those that remained of the companions of Judas, seeing that the nation was ready to be destroyed after a miserable manner, came to his brother Jonathan, and desired him that he would imitate his brother, and that care which he took of his countrymen, for whose liberty in general he died also; and that he would not permit the nation to be without a governor, especially in those destructive circumstances wherein it now was. And where Jonathan said that he was ready to die for them, and esteemed no inferior to his brother, he was appointed to be the general of the Jewish army.
2. When Bacchides heard this, and was afraid that Jonathan might be very troublesome to the king and the Macedonians, as Judas had been before him, he sought how he might slay him by treachery. But this intention of his was not unknown to Jonathan, nor to his brother Simon; but when these two were apprized of it, they took all their companions, and presently fled into that wilderness which was nearest to the city; and when they were come to a lake called Asphar, they abode there. But when Bacchides was sensible that they were in a low state, and were in that place, he hasted to fall upon them with all his forces, and pitching his camp beyond Jordan, he recruited his army. But when Jonathan knew that Bacchides Was coming upon him, he sent his brother John, who was also called Gaddis, to the Nabatean Arabs, that he might lodge his baggage with them until the battle with Bacchides should be over, for they were the Jews' friends. And the sons of Ambri laid an ambush for John from the city Medaba, and seized upon him, and upon those that were with him, and plundered all that they had with them. They also slew John, and all his companions. However, they were sufficiently punished for what they now did by John's brethren, as we shall relate presently.
3. But when Bacchides knew that Jonathan had pitched his camp among the lakes of Jordan, he observed when their sabbath day came, and then assaulted him, [as supposing that he would not fight because of the law for resting on that day]: but he exhorted his companions [to fight]; and told them that their lives were at stake, since they were encompassed by the river, and by their enemies, and had no way to escape, for that their enemies pressed upon them from before, and the river was behind them.
So after he had prayed to God to give them the victory, he joined battle with the enemy, of whom he overthrew many; and as he saw Bacchides coming up boldly to him, he stretched out his right hand to smite him; but the other foreseeing and avoiding the stroke, Jonathan with his companions leaped into the river, and swam over it, and by that means escaped beyond Jordan while the enemies did not pass over that river; but Bacchides returned presently to the citadel at Jerusalem, having lost about two thousand of his army. He also fortified many cities of Judea, whose walls had been demolished; Jericho, and Emmaus, and Betboron, and Bethel, and Tinma, and Pharatho, and Tecoa, and Gazara, and built towers in every one of these cities, and encompassed them with strong walls, that were very large also, and put garrisons into them, that they might issue out of them, and do mischief to the Jews. He also fortified the citadel at Jerusalem more than all the rest. Moreover, he took the sons of the principal Jews as pledges, and hut them up in the citadel, and in that manner guarded it.
4. About the same time one came to Jonathan, and to his brother Simon, and told them that the sons of Ambri were celebrating a marriage, and bringing the bride from the city Gabatha, who was the daughter of one of the illustrious men among the Arabians, and that the damsel was to be conducted with pomp, and splendor, and much riches: so Jonathan and Simon thinking this appeared to be the fittest time for them to avenge the death of their brother, and that they had forces sufficient for receiving satisfaction from them for his death, they made haste to Medaba, and lay in wait among the mountains for the coming of their enemies; and as soon as they saw them conducting the virgin, and her bridegroom, and such a great company of their friends with them as was to be expected at this wedding, they sallied out of their ambush, and slew them all, and took their ornaments, and all the prey that then followed them, and so returned, and received this satisfaction for their brother John from the sons of Ambri; for as well those sons themselves, as their friends, and wives, and children that followed them, perished, being in number about four hundred.
5. However, Simon and Jonathan returned to the lakes of the river, and abode there. But Bacchides, when he had secured all Judea with his garrisons, returned to the king; and then it was that the affairs of Judea were quiet for two years. But when the deserters and the wicked saw that Jonathan and those that were with him lived in the country very quietly, by reason of the peace, they sent to king Demetrius, and excited him to send Bacchides to seize upon Jonathan, which they said was to be done without any trouble, and in one night's time; and that if they fell upon them before they were aware, they might slay them all. So the king sent Bacchides, who, when he was come into Judea, wrote to all his friends, both Jews and auxiliaries, that they should seize upon Jonathan, and bring him to him; and when, upon all their endeavors, they were not able to seize upon Jonathan, for he was sensible of the snares they laid for him, and very carefully guarded against them, Bacchides was angry at these deserters, as having imposed upon him, and upon the king, and slew fifty of their leaders: whereupon Jonathan, with his brother, and those that were with him, retired to Bethagla, a village that lay in the wilderness, out of his fear of Bacchides.
He also built towers in it, and encompassed it with walls, and took care that it should be safely guarded. Upon the hearing of which Bacchides led his own army along with him, and besides took his Jewish auxiliaries, and came against Jonathan, and made an assault upon his fortifications, and besieged him many days; but Jonathan did not abate of his courage at the zeal Bacchides used in the siege, but courageously opposed him. And while he left his brother Simon in the city to fight with Bacchides, he went privately out himself into the country, and got a great body of men together of his own party, and fell upon Bacchides's camp in the night time, and destroyed a great many of them. His brother Simon knew also of this his falling upon them, because he perceived that the enemies were slain by him; so he sallied out upon them, and burnt the engines which the Macedonians used, and made a great slaughter of them. And when Bacchides saw himself encompassed with enemies, and some of them before and some behind him, he fell into despair and trouble of mind, as confounded at the unexpected ill success of this siege. However, he vented his displeasure at these misfortunes upon those deserters who sent for him from the king, as having deluded him. So he had a mind to finish this siege after a decent manner, if it were possible for him so to do, and then to return home.
6. When Jonathan understood these his intentions, he sent ambassadors to him about a league of friendship and mutual assistance, and that they might restore those they had taken captive on both sides. So Bacchides thought this a pretty decent way of retiring home, and made a league of friendship with Jonathan, when they sware that they would not any more make war one against another. Accordingly, he restored the captives, and took his own men with him, and returned to the king at Antioch; and after this his departure, he never came into Judea again. Then did Jonathan take the opportunity of this quiet state of things, and went and lived in the city Michmash; and there governed the multitude, and punished the wicked and ungodly, and by that means purged the nation of them.