Containing The Interval Of A Hundred And Seventy Years.
From The Death Of Alexander The Great To The Death Of Judas Maccabeus.
Concerning The Death Of Antiochus Epiphane. How Antiochus Eupator Fought Against Juda And Besieged Him In The Temple And Afterwards Made Peace With Him And Departed; Of Alcimus And Onias.
1. ABOUT this time it was that king Antiochus, as he was going over the upper countries, heard that there was a very rich city in Persia, called Elymais; and therein a very rich temple of Diana, and that it was full of all sorts of donations dedicated to it; as also weapons and breastplates, which, upon inquiry, he found had been left there by Alexander, the son of Philip, king of Macedonia. And being incited by these motives, he went in haste to Elymais, and assaulted it, and besieged it. But as those that were in it were not terrified at his assault, nor at his siege, but opposed him very courageously, he was beaten off his hopes; for they drove him away from the city, and went out and pursued after him, insomuch that he fled away as far as Babylon, and lost a great many of his army.
And when he was grieving for this disappointment, some persons told him of the defeat of his commanders whom he had left behind him to fight against Judea, and what strength the Jews had already gotten. When this concern about these affairs was added to the former, he was confounded, and by the anxiety he was in fell into a distemper, which, as it lasted a great while, and as his pains increased upon him, so he at length perceived he should die in a little time; so he called his friends to him, and told them that his distemper was severe upon him; and confessed withal, that this calamity was sent upon him for the miseries he had brought upon the Jewish nation, while he plundered their temple, and contemned their God; and when he had said this, he gave up the ghost. Whence one may wonder at Polybius of Megalopolis, who, though otherwise a good man, yet saith that
"Antiochus died because he had a purpose to plunder the temple of Diana in Persia;"
for the purposing to do a thing, (23) but not actually doing it, is not worthy of punishment. But if Polybius could think that Antiochus thus lost his life on that account, it is much more probable that this king died on account of his sacrilegious plundering of the temple at Jerusalem. But we will not contend about this matter with those who may think that the cause assigned by this Polybius of Megalopolis is nearer the truth than that assigned by us.
2. However, Antiochus, before he died, called for Philip, who was one of his companions, and made him the guardian of his kingdom; and gave him his diadem, and his garment, and his ring, and charged him to carry them, and deliver them to his son Antiochus; and desired him to take care of his education, and to preserve the kingdom for him. (24) This Antiochus died in the hundred forty and ninth year; but it was Lysias that declared his death to the multitude, and appointed his son Antiochus to be king, (of whom at present he had the care,) and called him Eupator.
3. At this time it was that the garrison in the citadel of Jerusalem, with the Jewish runagates, did a great deal of harm to the Jews; for the soldiers that were in that garrison rushed out upon the sudden, and destroyed such as were going up to the temple in order to offer their sacrifices, for this citadel adjoined to and overlooked the temple. When these misfortunes had often happened to them, Judas resolved to destroy that garrison; whereupon he got all the people together, and vigorously besieged those that were in the citadel. This was in the hundred and fiftieth year of the dominion of the Seleucidse. So he made engines of war, and erected bulwarks, and very zealously pressed on to take the citadel.
But there were not a few of the runagates who were in the place that went out by night into the country, and got together some other wicked men like themselves, and went to Antiochus the king, and desired of him that he would not suffer them to be neglected, under the great hardships that lay upon them from those of their own nation; and this because their sufferings were occasioned on his father's account, while they left the religious worship of their fathers, and preferred that which he had commanded them to follow: that there was danger lest the citadel, and those appointed to garrison it by the king, should be taken by Judas, and those that were with him, unless he would send them succors. When Antiochus, who was but a child, heard this, he was angry, and sent for his captains and his friends, and gave order that they should get an army of mercenaries together, with such men also of his own kingdom as were of an age fit for war. Accordingly, an army was collected of about a hundred thousand footmen, and twenty thousand horsemen, and thirty-two elephants.
4. So the king took this army, and marched hastily out of Antioch, with Lysias, who had the command of the whole, and came to Idumea, and thence went up to the city Bethsnra, a city that was strong, and not to be taken without great difficulty. He set about this city, and besieged it. And while the inhabitants of Bethsura courageously opposed him, and sallied out upon him, and burnt his engines of war, a great deal of time was spent in the siege. But when Judas heard of the king's coming, he raised the siege of the citadel, and met the king, and pitched his camp in certain straits, at a place called Bethzachriah, at the distance of seventy furlongs from the enemy; but the king soon drew his forces from Bethsura, and brought them to those straits. And as soon as it was day, he put his men in battle-array, and made his elephants follow one another through the narrow passes, because they could not be set sideways by one another.
Now round about every elephant there were a thousand footmen, and five hundred horsemen. The elephants also had high towers [upon their backs], and archers [in them]. And he also made the rest of his army to go up the mountains, and put his friends before the rest; and gave orders for the army to shout aloud, and so he attacked the enemy. He also exposed to sight their golden and brazen shields, so that a glorious splendor was sent from them; and when they shouted the mountains echoed again. When Judas saw this, he was not terrified, but received the enemy with great courage, and slew about six hundred of the first ranks. But when his brother Eleazar, whom they called Auran, saw the tallest of all the elephants armed with royal breastplates, and supposed that the king was upon him, he attacked him with great quickness and bravery. He also slew many of those that were about the elephant, and scattered the rest, and then went under the belly of the elephant, and smote him, and slew him; so the elephant fell upon Eleazar, and by his weight crushed him to death. And thus did this man come to his end, when he had first courageously destroyed many of his enemies.
5. But Judas, seeing the strength of the enemy, retired to Jerusalem, and prepared to endure a siege. As for Antiochus, he sent part of his army to Bethsura, to besiege it, and with the rest of his army he came against Jerusalem; but the inhabitants of Bethsura were terrified at his strength; and seeing that their provisions grew scarce,. they delivered themselves up on the security of oaths that they should suffer no hard treatment from the king. And when Antiochus had thus taken the city, he did them no other harm than sending them out naked. He also placed a garrison of his own in the city. But as for the temple of Jerusalem, he lay at its siege a long time, while they within bravely defended it; for what engines soever the king set against them, they set other engines again to oppose them. But then their provisions failed them; what fruits of the ground they had laid up were spent and the land being not ploughed that year, continued unsowed, because it was the seventh year, on which, by our laws, we are obliged to let it lay uncultivated. And withal, so many of the besieged ran away for want of necessaries, that but a few only were left in the temple.
6. And these happened to be the circumstances of such as were besieged in the temple. But then, because Lysias, the general of the army, and Antiochus the king, were informed that Philip was coming upon them out of Persia, and was endeavoring to get the management of public affairs to himself, they came into these sentiments, to leave the siege, and to make haste to go against Philip; yet did they resolve not to let this be known to the soldiers or to the officers: but the king commanded Lysias to speak openly to the soldiers and the officers, without saying a word about the business of Philip; and to intimate to them that the siege would be very long; that the place was very strong; that they were already in want of provisions; that many affairs of the kingdom wanted regulation; and that it was much better to make a league with the besieged, and to become friends to their whole nation, by permitting them to observe the laws of their fathers, while they broke out into this war only because they were deprived of them, and so to depart home. When Lysias had discoursed thus to them, both the army and the officers were pleased with this resolution.
7. Accordingly the king sent to Judas, and to those that were besieged with them, and promised to give them peace, and to permit them to make use of, and live according to, the laws of their fathers; and they gladly received his proposals; and when they had gained security upon oath for their performance, they went out of the temple. But when Antiochus came into it, and saw how strong the place was, he broke his oaths, and ordered his army that was there to pluck down the walls to the ground; and when he had so done, he returned to Antioch. He also carried with him Onias the high priest, who was also called Menelaus; for Lysias advised the king to slay Menelaus, if he would have the Jews be quiet, and cause him no further disturbance, for that this man was the origin of all the mischief the Jews had done them, by persuading his father to compel the Jews to leave the religion of their fathers. So the king sent Menelaus to Berea, a city of Syria, and there had him put to death, when he had been high priest ten years.
He had been a wicked and an impious man; and, in order to get the government to himself, had compelled his nation to transgress their own laws. After the death of Menelaus, Alcimus, who was also called Jacimus, was made high priest. But when king Antiochus found that Philip had already possessed himself of the government, he made war against him, and subdued him, and took him, and slew him. Now as to Onias, the son of the high priest, who, as we before informed you, was left a child when his father died, when he saw that the king had slain his uncle Menelaus, and given the high priesthood to Alcimus, who was not of the high priest stock, but was induced by Lysias to translate that dignity from his family to another house, he fled to Ptolemy, king of Egypt; and when he found he was in great esteem with him, and with his wife Cleopatra, he desired and obtained a place in the Nomus of Heliopolis, wherein he built a temple like to that at Jerusalem; of which therefore we shall hereafter give an account, in a place more proper for it.
(23) Since St. Paul, a Pharisee, confesses that he had not known concupiscence, or desires, to be sinful, had not the tenth commandment said,
"Thou shalt not covet, " (Romans 7:7)
the case seems to have been much the same with our Josephus, who was of the same sect, that he had not a deep sense of the greatness of any sins that proceeded no further than the intention. However, since Josephus speaks here properly of the punishment of death, which is not intended by any law, either of God or man, for the bare intention, his words need not to be strained to mean, that sins intended, but not executed, were no sins at all.
(24) No wonder that Josephus here describes Antiochus Eupator as young, and wanting tuition, when he came to the crown, since Appian informs us (Syriac, p. 177) that he was then but nine years old.