December 09, 2002 Copyright © by United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
- 1 As King Antiochus was traversing the inland provinces, he heard that in Persia there was a city called Elymais, famous for its wealth in silver and gold,
- and that its temple was very rich, containing gold helmets, breastplates, and weapons left there by Alexander, son of Philip, king of Macedon, the first king of the Greeks.
- He went therefore and tried to capture and pillage the city. But he could not do so, because his plan became known to the people of the city
- who rose up in battle against him. So he retreated and in great dismay withdrew from there to return to Babylon.
- While he was in Persia, a messenger brought him news that the armies sent into the land of Judah had been put to flight;
- that Lysias had gone at first with a strong army and been driven back by the Israelites; that they had grown strong by reason of the arms, men, and abundant possessions taken from the armies they had destroyed;
- that they had pulled down the Abomination which he had built upon the altar in Jerusalem; and that they had surrounded with high walls both the sanctuary, as it had been before, and his city of Beth-zur.
- When the king heard this news, he was struck with fear and very much shaken. Sick with grief because his designs had failed, he took to his bed.
- There he remained many days, overwhelmed with sorrow, for he knew he was going to die.
- So he called in all his Friends and said to them: "Sleep has departed from my eyes, for my heart is sinking with anxiety.
- I said to myself: 'Into what tribulation have I come, and in what floods of sorrow am I now!
- Yet I was kindly and beloved in my rule.' But I now recall the evils I did in Jerusalem, when I carried away all the vessels of gold and silver that were in it, and for no cause gave orders that the inhabitants of Judah be destroyed.
- I know that this is why these evils have overtaken me; and now I am dying, in bitter grief, in a foreign land."
- Then he summoned Philip, one of his Friends, and put him in charge of his whole kingdom.
- He gave him his crown, his robe, and his signet ring, so that he might guide the king's son Antiochus and bring him up to be king.
- 2 King Antiochus died in Persia in the year one hundred and forty-nine.
- 3 When Lysias learned that the king was dead, he set up the king's son Antiochus, whom he had reared as a child, to be king in his place; and he gave him the title Eupator.
- The men in the citadel were hemming in Israel around the sanctuary, continually trying to harm them and to strengthen the Gentiles.
- But Judas planned to destroy them, and called all the people together to besiege them.
- 4 So in the year one hundred and fifty they assembled and stormed the citadel, for which purpose he constructed catapults and other devices.
- Some of the besieged escaped, joined by impious Israelites;
- they went to the king and said: "How long will you fail to do justice and avenge our kinsmen?
- We agreed to serve your father and to follow his orders and obey his edicts.
- And for this the sons of our people have become our enemies; they have put to death as many of us as they could find and have plundered our estates.
- They have acted aggressively not only against us, but throughout their whole territory.
- Look! They have now besieged the citadel in Jerusalem in order to capture it, and they have fortified the sanctuary and Beth-zur.
- Unless you quickly forestall them, they will do even worse things than these, and you will not be able to stop them."
- When the king heard this he was angry, and he called together all his Friends, the officers of his army, and the commanders of the cavalry.
- Mercenary forces also came to him from other kingdoms and from the islands of the seas.
- His army numbered a hundred thousand foot-soldiers, twenty thousand cavalry, and thirty-two elephants trained for war.
- They passed through Idumea and camped before Beth-zur. For many days they attacked it; they constructed siege-devices, but the besieged made a sortie and burned these, and they fought bravely.
- Then Judas marched away from the citadel and moved his camp to Beth-zechariah, on the way to the king's camp.
- The king, rising before dawn, moved his force hastily along the road to Beth-zechariah; and the armies prepared for battle, while the trumpets sounded.
- They showed the elephants the juice of grapes and mulberries to provoke them to fight.
- The beasts were distributed along the phalanxes, each elephant having assigned to it a thousand men in coats of mail, with bronze helmets, and five hundred picked cavalry.
- These anticipated the beast wherever it was; and wherever it moved, they moved too and never left it.
- A strong wooden tower covering each elephant, and fastened to it by a harness, held, besides the Indian mahout, three soldiers who fought from it.
- The remaining cavalry were stationed on one or the other of the two flanks of the army, to harass the enemy and to be protected from the phalanxes.
- When the sun shone on the gold and bronze shields, the mountains gleamed with their brightness and blazed like flaming torches.
- Part of the king's army extended over the heights, while some were on low ground, but they marched forward steadily and in good order.
- All who heard the noise of their numbers, the tramp of their marching, and the clashing of the arms, trembled; for the army was very great and strong.
- Judas with his army advanced to fight, and six hundred men of the king's army fell.
- Eleazar, called Avaran, saw one of the beasts bigger than any of the others and covered with royal armor, and he thought the king must be on it.
- So he gave up his life to save his people and win an everlasting name for himself.
- He dashed up to it in the middle of the phalanx, killing men right and left, so that they fell back from him on both sides.
- He ran right under the elephant and stabbed it in the belly, killing it. The beast fell to the ground on top of him, and he died there.
- When the Jews saw the strength of the royal army and the ardor of its forces, they retreated from them.
- A part of the king's army went up to Jerusalem to attack them, and the king established camps in Judea and at Mount Zion.
- 5 He made peace with the men of Beth-zur, and they evacuated the city, because they had no food there to enable them to stand a siege, for that was a sabbath year in the land.
- The king took Beth-zur and stationed a garrison there to hold it.
- For many days he besieged the sanctuary, setting up artillery and machines, fire-throwers, catapults and mechanical bows for shooting arrows and slingstones.
- The Jews countered by setting up machines of their own, and kept up the fight a long time.
- But there were no provisions in the storerooms, because it was the seventh year, and the tide-over provisions had been eaten up by those who had been rescued from the Gentiles and brought to Judea.
- Few men remained in the sanctuary; the rest scattered, each to his own home, for the famine was too much for them.
- Lysias heard that Philip, whom King Antiochus, before his death, had appointed to train his son Antiochus to be king,
- had returned from Persia and Media with the army that accompanied the king, and that he was seeking to take over the government.
- So he hastily resolved to withdraw. He said to the king, the leaders of the army, and the soldiers: "We are grow-ing weaker every day, our provisions are scanty, the place we are besieging is strong, and it is our duty to take care of the affairs of the kingdom.
- Therefore let us now come to terms with these men, and make peace with them and all their nation.
- Let us grant them freedom to live according to their own laws as formerly; it was on account of their laws, which we abolished, that they became angry and did all these things."
- The proposal found favor with the king and the leaders;
- he sent peace terms to the Jews, and they accepted. So the king and the leaders swore an oath to them, and on these terms they evacuated the fortification.
- But when the king entered Mount Zion and saw how the place was fortified, he broke the oath he had sworn and gave orders for the encircling wall to be destroyed.
- Then he departed in haste and returned to Antioch, where he found Philip in possession of the city. He fought against him and took the city by force.
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1  Elymais: the mountainous region of Elam, north of the Persian Gulf. This section continues the story from 1 Macc 3:37 and pertains to events preceding those in 1 Macc 4:37-39.
2  The year one hundred and forty-nine: September 22, 164, to October 9, 163 B.C. A Babylonian list of the Seleucid kings indicates that Antiochus died in November or early December of 164.
3  The king's son Antiochus: Antiochus V Eupator, then about nine years old. He was in Antioch, still in the charge of Lysias, who proceeded to govern and wage wars in his name. Both were put to death two years later, when Demetrius, brother of Antiochus IV, arrived to claim the kingship; cf 1 Macc 7:1-3.
4  The year one hundred and fifty: October, 163, to September, 162 B.C.
5  A sabbath year in the land: when sowing and reaping were prohibited (Exodus 23:10-11; Lev 25:2-7). The year without a harvest (autumn of 164 to autumn of 163) was followed by a food shortage.
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