Thursday, January 29, 2015

1 Maccabees, Chapter 4: They fight, they bite, they bite and fight and bite

Someone named Gorgias sneaks out of camp with 6000 of the best soldiers, intending to attack the Jews under cover of night. Of course Judas hears about it and sneaks away with his army. Gorgias goes looking for them in the mountain, but they aren't there, either. In the morning, Judas shows up with 3000 men. The men are nervous on seeing the heathen camp, but Judas reminds them about the Red Sea and asks them to pray. Then they go to fight and chase the heathens into the field and a bunch of other places, killing 3000 in the process.

Judas returns to the camp with some spoils, but reminds the people not to be greedy and asks them to come with him for the rest. While he's speaking a bunch of Gorgias' men peek around the corner and see the Jews preparing to leave and wastefully burning their tents and realise they aren't afraid to fight. So they flee to a neutral country. Judas robs their tents.

The escaped soldiers go to Lysias and tell him what's happening, and Lysias is distressed at how poorly things are going. So he raises an army of 65 000 men, which Judas meets with his rabble of 10 000. So he prays to god to turn the army into cowards. When they fight, he kills about 5000 enemy soldiers while Lysias looks down.

Lysias is impressed by the manliness (v. 35) of the Israelite soldiers and how they're prepared to die for their cause. He goes to Antiochia and gathers an army of foreign conscripts and returns to Judea. While he's away, Judas proposes cleaning up the cemetery, but when they arrive on top of Mount Sion, the only thing they can do is weep and rend their clothing and throw ashes on their heads. So Judas appoints a company to actually do the cleaning while he goes back with the rest to fight some more.

The priests on top of the mountain get to work burying the defiled artifacts, but aren't sure of the new temple's design, so they put some stones aside until a prophet can come along and tell them what to do. They do manage to build a new altar and sanctuary as well as some new pots and candlesticks. Once they have everything in place, they decorate the building, burn some incense and sacrifice some bread and sing some songs for eight days. They like it so much they make it an annual tradition, which I think is Hanukkah, but I no longer have an annotated bible. They also build a fort in the hills.

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