Wednesday, February 11, 2015

2 Maccabees, Chapters 11-15: Goodbye to all that

Chapter 11

Lysias decides to take over the temple and sells the high priest's office to the highest bidder every year. Judas Maccabeus hears about it and raises an army. While they pray, someone appears on horseback dressed in white and gold armour, which does not seem smart, because even though I quit chemistry at the end of high school, I still remember that it's a pretty soft metal and anyone with something harder would just pierce it. In other words, this armour is the equivalent of vanity muscles.

We get the death tolls, and also the information that some of Lysias' forces escape naked. Lysias himself flees and then offers to make peace with the king. Then there's a bunch of letter writing restoring the peace and the ability of the Jews to eat their preferred meats.

Chapter 12

When peace is restored, the city of Joppe convinces its Jews to get on a boat, promising them a pleasure cruise, but really the boat sinks and takes 200 people with it. Judas hears and burns the harbour down at night. He plans to go back and raze the city, but before he can, he hears the Jamnites are planning to pull the same trick on their Jews, which, like, fool me twice, idiots.  But really, Judas has just developed a new fetish for burning down harbours. I mean, he's kind of burnt every other structure at this point.

For a bit, Judas can't find any matches, so instead he goes around doing infrastructure projects. But only for a bit. One of them is to build a bridge to the walled city of Caspis. But the people are so confident of their walls that they're rude to Judas and he hears them shouting and blaspheming from outside. So they kill everyone so hard a lake 14 miles away turns red with the blood. This whets his appetite for killing again, so he goes and does that for awhile, supposedly in search of the general Timotheus, but really because he's a mass murderer. He does eventually catch up with Timotheus, and exchanges him for several of his men's parents, but the number of deaths in this chapter is staggering.

At some point they have to stop fighting so they can bury the dead, and as they go to loot their bodies, they discover they were all carrying false idols, so they also get to act smug about the enemies whose gods have failed to protect them.

Chapter 13

This chapter starts with a lovely description of a tower in a town called Berea where they kill all the sinners by throwing them off the top into a giant fire. King Antiochus arrives in Berea intending to do far worse, for some damned reason. Judas hears about the plan and goes to the king's camp one night and kills 4000 of his men and the biggest elephants. Apparently this makes the king think the Jews are manly.

Chapter 14

Now Demetrius is back and he killed king Antiochus and Lysias. He comes to the high priest Alcimus, who has sinned by mixing with gentiles, and gives him some tat for his temple. Demetrius meets with him and asks what the Jews actually want. Alcimus tells him Judas Maccabeus is a bloodthirsty warmonger who doesn't actually want peace and the people are miserable. Seems pretty accurate. So the king appoints someone to kill Judas, but they make peace and the guy buys a nice house in Jerusalem, where Judas frequently comes to tea and he urges him to get married and start a family. Judas does and he does calm down some, but Alcimus the priest is jealous and tells the king his general has appointed Judas the crown prince. This causes a rift between Judas and the general, and the general goes to the temple to make up, but Judas won't see him and the priests won't tell him where he is. So he threatens to pull down the temple and build a pagan one instead. One of the priests is an old man named Razis, speaks out, and the general sends 500 men to take him, but instead he conducts a long, elaborate suicide that ends with him throwing his disemboweled intestines at a crowd. It's worse than torture porn.

Chapter 15

The general pursues Judas into Samaria during the sabbath. He happens to have some Jews in his army who don't want to attack anyone on the day of rest. But the general tells them to fight anyway. And they refuse.

Judas, for his part, is confident nothing will happen and sets about praying. While he's doing that, a man with grey hair appears and gives him a useless gold sword, which he uses to kill the general. Then he desecrates the body. The writer of the book encourages us to read it with a big glass of wine.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

2 Maccabees, Chapters 6-10: A treatise on pooping

Chapter 6

During a lull in the fighting, the king sends an old man from Athens to convince the Jews to stop being Jews. His method for doing this is to rename the temple after Jupiter and to let the gentiles hold wild sex parties inside. He also outlaws the sabbath and public declarations of Judaism and forces them to celebrate Bacchus. Anyone who refuses will be put to death, starting with two women who have circumcised their sons, who get thrown off the wall. Other people are found worshiping in caves and burnt to death. The book urges us to see these as punishments befitting a wayward people.

Next Eleazar, a scribe, is forced to eat pork, but spits it out, preferring death to bacon. Some of his friends have succumbed, and they urge him to just bring his own meat to the feast so as to avoid the death penalty, but he'd rather die with his principles intact, so he gets killed.

Chapter 7

The Greeks aren't done trying to force the Jews to eat pork, and now they want to force seven brothers and their mother to try it. But they say they're prepared to die, which enrages the king, who tortures them quite graphically. He starts killing them, and as each is led up to die, he insults the king and tells him he's going to hell. Antiochus starts to believe it a bit, and exhorts the last brother with the promise of riches to convert to Greek paganism. He even gets the mother in on the act. But the mother leans in to whisper in his ear that not even roast suckling pig is worth it (wrong). When the son speaks aloud, he also insults the king, who kills him and his mother.

Chapter 8

Judas Maccabeus goes around looking for the remaining Jews and finds about 6000 of them. They pray to god to remember them, then start attacking the heathen by night. The king puts a man named Nicanor in charge, who attempts to defray the costs of the war by selling Jewish captives as slaves. But Judas reminds them of all the times god helped their forefathers. They defeat the Greeks handily and have a sabbath, then distribute all their war booty to poor women and children.

Chapter 9

Antiochus, who is a king, let's remember, goes on a little temple-robbing tour. While he's looting, he gets word of the defeats in Israel, which makes him angry because he'd bragged that he was going to murder all the Jews.

As he's hopping around and screaming, god suddenly strikes him with irritable bowel syndrome, which is fitting because disemboweling is one of his favourite forms of torture. Still he keeps bragging about how he's going to slay all the Jews, so god makes him fall of his chariot, which hurts a lot. Then he gets worms and starts to smell, and eventually he realises it's god doing all this and becomes a Jew.

God isn't satisfied and says he won't give him mercy until he sets Jerusalem free and makes the Jews citizens of Athens and restores the temple at his own expense and goes around proselytising. Even after he agrees, though, he's still stinky and in pain, so he writes a letter to the Jews asking for forgiveness. But even that isn't enough and so he dies in the mountains.

Chapter 10

The Maccabees clean the temple up and pray to god that nothing like that ever happens again. And of course it does the very same day, but they clean up again. Then they hold an 8-day feast. Next we get a recap of 1 Maccabees again, except that this time in one of the battles, 5 handsome horsemen arrive from the sky and lift Judas up with them and kill all his enemies. Other than that, it's even less interesting than the first version.

Monday, February 9, 2015

2 Maccabees, Chapters 1-5: More of the same

Chapter 1

The Jews in Jerusalem write a letter to the Jews in Egypt reminding them of what happened in 1 Maccabees, but embellishing it so they caught Antiochus in a temple and stoned him to death through a skylight and announcing a new holiday because they recently rediscovered a fire that some priests kept in a pit in Persia that turned into thick water (v. 20) when they went to get it.

Chapter 2

This chapter elaborates on the fire story from the last. Now we find out that Jeremy the prophet got hold of the fire and took it up Moses' mountain along with the tabernacle and the ark. When he gets up there, he finds a cave with a door, where he hides the treasure. He hides it so well his followers can't find it. When they ask him about it, he scolds them that they won't see it again until god forgives his people.

Another prophet, Neemias, made the world's most boring library and filled it with bible scrolls. Judas Maccabeus reclaimed a bunch of temple junk from his enemies, repurified the temple, and fought a bunch of wards. We know all of this thanks to Jason of Cyrene, who wrote five volumes, but mercifully the author here agrees to condense them into one

Chapter 3

For awhile, there is peace, but then a tribal leader, Simon, is put in charge of the temple and falls out with the priest. So he tells the governor of a neighbouring territory that the Israelite treasury is full of gold and silver. The governor reports the story to the king, Apollonius, who sends his accountant to Jerusalem to collect the money. The accountant gets to Jerusalem and just outright asks if the story is true, and the priest confirms it is, but also explains that the money is for widows and orphans. But the accountant has his marching orders, and he takes the money despite the sad faces the priests are making in his direction.

God notices the hubbub and sends an horse with a terrible rider upon him, and adorned with a very fair covering, and he rain fiercely, and smote at Heliodorus with his forefeet, and it seemed that he that sat upon the horse had complete harness of gold. / Moreover two other young men appeared before him, notable in strength, excellent in beauty and comely in apparel, who stood by him on either side, and scourged him continually, and gave him many stripes (v. 25-6) This all causes Heliodorus to faint, and his guards to acknowledge god's power. They convert right there and ask the priest to ask god to restore Heliodorus' health. The priest, fearing he'll get blamed if he sends the accountant back broken, makes a sacrifice and the two young men from the vision reappear and tell Heliodorus to thank the priest for giving him back his health.

Heliodorus does, then goes back to the king and tells him how amazing god is. The king isn't quite ready to give up on the treasure, so he asks who he should send, and Heliodorus says only someone he hates, because no one can penetrate Jerusalem as long as god protects it.

Chapter 4

Simon from the last chapter isn't done spreading rumours about the high priest. This time he says everything that happened to Heliodorus was smoke and mirrors. But then things get out of hand and his men start wantonly murdering people. The priest, Onias, turns to king Apollonius, not to tattle, but for the public good.

Meanwhile, Onias' brother Jason also wants to be high priest, and he's attempting to bribe the king with temple silver so he can get planning permission for a gym, which apparently is a heathen practice. The king, seeing the value of Greek-style exercise, has agreed and some Jews have joined and even started wearing hats, which conservative Jews see as profane.

Furthermore, the priests are leaving because they've fallen in love with the discus, of all things and want to spend all their time practicing. Next, there are some Olympic-style games in Tyrus, and rather like Sochi, Jason sends silver to pay for sacrifices to Hercules, which the messengers disapprove of, so it gets spent on gallies instead.

Jason gets even worse when he welcomes Apollonius to Jerusalem and then takes a trip with him to Phenice. Three years later, Jason sends Simon's brother Menelaus to the king to pay tribute and ask for favours. But instead he wrangles a commission as high priest, even though he's a cruel tyrant with a vicious temper. Jason flees and of course Menelaus doesn't pay the promised tribute.

The king calls him and the local governor to his palace to explain the missing money, and Menelaus puts his brother Lysimachus in charge, which causes rebellion in a territory that has been granted to the king's concubine Antiochis. The king leaves to settle the rebellion down, leaving his deputy Andronicus in charge. Menelaus, left alone with the temple, steals a bunch of gold and gives some to Andronicus and sells the rest on the black market.

The original priest, Onias, tries to retreat into a monastery, but Menelaus persuades him to leave and promptly kills him. When the king gets back, the people bitch about the random killing of priests. The king defrocks Andronicus and kills him. Then the city rebels against Lysimachus and kills him next to the treasury. The whole thing gets blamed on Menelaus, who turns to yet another king Ptolemee and promises to make peace if he'll give him money. He manages to stay in charge even as he's widely hated.

Chapter 5

Antiochus is preparing to go to Egypt, but suddenly a group of horseman appears in the sky dressed in gold and armed with lances and starts having a battle that goes on for 40 days. The people pray this is a good omen, but instead a false rumour spreads that Antiochus is dead. Jason immediately starts assaulting the city and randomly murdering civilians. Eventually he meets resistance and has to go on the lam into Egypt.

The king hears about all this and he thinks Judea is revolting, so he attacks and kills a bunch more people, eventually killing 80 000 people in three days. He also destroys the temple. He leaves bad governors in charge. The only hope is Judas Maccabeus, who hides out in the wilderness, biding his time.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

1 Maccabees, Chapters 14-16: There, the murderers, / steep'd in the colours of their trade, their daggers / unmannerly breech'd with gore

Chapter 14

More alliance-forming. This time Demetrius is trying to head off Tryphon, but gets kidnapped by the king of Persia. By contrast, Simon is enjoying a period of peace and sets up a welfare state. He renews the peace treaty with Rome and their pen pal relationship. To celebrate, the people make a plaque listing all his deeds, including his love of purple robes, and mount it on a temple pillar on Mount Sion. They also nominate him general for life and make it illegal to question his wisdom or wear your own purple robes. Even Demetrius is somehow able to make peace from him, though the book seems to forget that he's still in prison.

Chapter 15

Antiochus is in exile on an island, but he manages to get a letter to Simon in which he lays out his plans for revenge. In addition, he grants Simon the power to mint his own money and forgives his back taxes.

He manages to get free and goes back to reclaim his crown from Tryphon. Most of the people join his side, so Tryphon flees to a place called Dora. Antiochus besieges him and while he's waiting him out, he receives ambassadors from all of his old ally-enemies, including a gold shield that weighs a thousand pounds, which seems both stupid and impractical.

As the siege goes on, Simon tries to send reinforcements and money, but Antiochus refuses them, then sends an envoy to complain that the Jews have taken over two cities that he considers rightfully his. He wants them back along with their property taxes. Simon basically tells him to fuck off, but does offer him a small tribute. The envoy returns and repeats the conversation in a rage.

While this not so intriguing intrigue is going on outside the walls, Tryphon manages to flee by ship. Antiochus sends a raiding party to Judea while he chases after Tryphon.

Chapter 16

Simon's son John reports on the coastal raids. Simon sets his two sons, Judas and John in charge of the armed forces and sends them down the coast to fight the invaders. They go and find the invading army is in a field with a stream running through it. Their army is afraid to go across the stream until they themselves do it and show them it's safe. Judas is wounded in the ensuing fight, but John chases the raiders off and burns the survivors.

In Jericho, Ptolemeus, who I think is a new character, but there have been so many names starting with Ptole- that I have no idea, is fomenting his own rebellion. He's the high priest's son in law, if that is supposed to help, but I'm pretty sure the only marriage we've heard anything about was Cleopatra's, and she was Egyptian. Best not overthink this, I suspect, because clearly the authors haven't.

Anyway, Simon comes to visit with Judas and another of his sons, Mattathias, and Ptolemeus invites them for dinner, and when everybody's good and drunk, he kills them all, à la Macbeth. Ptolemee writes to the king for more men, and sends some of his forces to hunt for John. They manage to surprise him, but he still kills them all. His adventures will be in the next, blessedly last, book.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

1 Maccabees, Chapters 12 & 13: Nepotism

 Chapter 12

Jonathan has spent his time since we last saw him composing his Christmas letter to the Romans. He tells the Romans how much he loves them and about how troublesome the neighbours have been. Not that he needs their help! Nope, he has god to help him. Also, he's defeated Numenius, son of Antiochus, and someone named Antipater and he's sending them to the Romans. The Romans' Christmas letter is equally pleasant, like all Christmas letters. A sort of early Facebook, in which everyone's life is hunky-dory and better than yours.

Pretty soon after sending his letter off, Demetrius tries to invade again. He camps nearby, and the army is so intimidated it flees across a river before he can smite them, so he smites the Arabs instead. Simon is having his own adventures, but eventually the two meet again and decide to set up forts. Meanwhile someone else called Tryphon tries to conquer Antiochus, but is afraid Jonathan won't make peace with him, so rather than send envoys he takes the logical step of trying to assassinate Jonathan, which sparks another visit by Jonathan's army. Luckily, he's in a good mood today, so he just wants to exchange gifts. Tryphon manages to lure Jonathan to Ptolemais, where he captures him, then goes to Judea in triumph, which causes the neighbours to invade once again.

Chapter 13

Simon is not dead, and he hears about the troubles in Judea. He vows to avenge his brothers and the people elect him new head of the army. He sends a new Jonathan, son of Absalom, possibly the one in Kings, or possibly someone else, to Joppe. 

Tryphon has been dawdling in Ptolemais this whole time, but then leaves with Jonathan, intending to invade Judea and finds Simon in charge. He sends word that he'll release Jonathan in exchange for back taxes and two of his children. Simon senses it's a trap but still sends the kids because he worries the people will revolt if they knew he could get Jonathan back but didn't. And of course, he doesn't get Jonathan, so now he's down one brother, two nephews and a hundred silver talents. And Tryphon invades.

His advance guard sends word from the wilderness that they've run out of food, and he tries to send more, but it snows. So he kills Jonathan and goes home to kill the new Antiochus and declare himself king of Asia.

Simon reburies his bones and builds seven pyramids and there's lamentation. Then he keeps going with his infrastructure project, which the bible explains to us in great detail. Then he makes peace with Demetrius in the form of red robes and gold crowns. They win Demetrius over and he forgives them their tax bill and asks them to send some courtiers.

Now there is finally peace, so Simon is declared high priest and the people set about making contracts with each other so they can sue later. But they get bored pretty quickly and invade Gaza. They ask for peace, so rather than murder them horribly, he just banishes them and throws away all their idols. Not dissimilar to modern-day Israel, really. Simon does the same for another group in a tower in Jerusalem. His final act in this chapter is to notice how amazing his son John is and make him an army general. Funny how that works.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

1 Maccabees, Chapter 11: War, huh, yeah, what is it good for?

The Egyptian king joins territories with Greece. He then sets up garrisons in all the towns. When he gets to Azotus, he's shown the burn temple and the rotting and burnt bodies and explain it's Jonathan's fault. He holds his tongue until he meets Jonathan in a city called Joppe. We are not privy to the contents of said meeting.

Once Ptolomee has dotted the landscape with soldiers, he starts plotting against Alexander by sending an ambassador to Demetrius and promising to give poor Cleopatra to him in exchange. Then he just goes and takes his daughter back and hands her over to her new husband, which I didn't even know you could do. Anyway, Alexander is smart enough to realise this is an act of hostility.

Ptolomee next travels to Antioch and crowns himself king of Asia and Egypt. Alexander is away dealing with a revolt, but when he hears about Ptolotmee's act, he declares war on him, but gets defeated and flees to Arabia, where the king cuts off his head and sends it to Ptolomee.

Ptolomee doesn't get to savour his victory for very long, though, because three days later he's also dead, clearing the way for Demetrius, whose life is not restful, as Jonathan has started to foment rebellion for some damned reason. He writes to Jonathan to meet him in Ptolemais. He goes, but with a full stock of gold and silver and clothing, which he uses to butter up the king. Dude, you're a king. If you want purple robes for yourself, isn't the point that you have access to the treasury so you can buy them? Anyway, Ptolemee is flattered and renews his position as high priest. Jonathan also asks to be made free from tributes to Demetrius. Demetrius agrees and writes a letter confirming.

For awhile, Demetrius has peace, so he disbands all of his armies except some foreign mercenaries, which pisses off his father's soldiers, who plot to make his kid the king. Meantime, Jonathan is also agitating to get rid of the garrison in Jerusalem. Demetrius agrees, but mentions how he needs soldiers, so Jonathan sends them 3000 men. Unfortunately, 120 000 soldiers are marching on him, but he gets wind of it and flees after sending for more help. They handily defeat 100 000 men, and then the rest surrender. Things go back to being peaceful.

The king's mental state starts deteriorating. He isn't coherent and he won't talk to Jonathan and won't reward him for his service. He leaves for Tryphon with Alexander's son Antioch, whem he crowns, and is immediately attacked. 

Young Antioch writes to Jonathan to say he's still the high priest and sends him some gold and purple robes with a gold buckle. He makes Simon the head of the army. Jonathan starts on a tour and people come to supplicate him for help. Except in Gaza, which isn't very welcoming, so he invades it and burns it. Eventually they sue for peace. Then he heads for Cades, where there is another rebellion, but all his soldiers desert. He covers himself in ashes and prays, then goes off to fight alone, which causes the enemy to flee. This convinces his men to come back and kill another 3000 men.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

1 Maccabees, Chapter 10: Some stupid with a flare gun burned the place to the ground

A new Greek king, Alexander, tries to make friends with either a country or a king called Ptolemais. This causes Demetrius to seek peace with Jonathan and ask if they can also write to Ptolemais before he signs his treaty with Alexander. Also, they did some pretty evil shit to Ptolemais and his family and countrymen, and Alexander's pact might make him remember those things.

Jonathan writes back to Demetrius to ask his permission to set up an army. Then he goes to Jerusalem to hold court and collect the prisoners being held in the tower. The people are a little nervous about the whole army thing and immediately release the prisoners. Jonathan decides to settle in Jerusalem and starts rebuilding the city using square bricks in the wall. For some reason this terrifies the Greeks, who leave, along with all the other infidels, except for a few in Bethsura, because it's a refuge city.

Alexdner hears that Demetrius and Jonathan have made up, so he decides his best bet is to also cozy up to Jonathan offering him the high priest's jobs, which comes with a purple robe and a gold crown. Something tells me the Israelites would've loved Disney movies.

Jonathan accepts the clothes, but also raises an army, which makes Demetrius sad and also causes him to up his ante, freeing all the Jews from taxes and slavery, plus half of his land and seeds to plant it with. Furthermore, all Jews will be immune from prosecution for three days before and after their feasts, in addition to being free from all other persecution all the time. He also offers to employ 30 000 Jews in his civil service as well as allowing them self rule. He also forgets that just two letters ago he wanted to make peace with Ptolemais, because now he offers his land to the Israelites. He also offers 20 000 shekels in free money, plus repair expenses for the temple and the city walls.

Jonathan is not fooled and instead goes with Alexander, who then attacks Demetrius and eventually kills him. Then he makes peace with Ptolomee of Egypt, who agrees Alexander can marry his daughter either at Ptolemais the city or in Ptolemais the king's castle. The daughter is called Cleopatra, and we don't get her opinion on this.

Alexander interrupts his honeymoon to go meet Jonathan, who he invites down to meet Ptolemee. Jonathan arrives with gold and silver for the other two kings, but not poor Cleopatra. While he's gone, a rebellion forms against him  in Jerusalem, but the king wins and makes a public announcement that people should stop bothering him, so the rebels leave. The king makes Jonathan a duke.

Another Demetrius takes over Crete and decides to invade. He sends an insulting letter to Jonathan, which ticks him off, so he raises an army and goes to meet him and somehow wears out his horses. The horsemen flee to a place called Azotus, but Jonathan burns the city down and then keeps burning the runaways until he's killed a total of 8000 men. He brings all the loot back to Jerusalem, which causes Alexander to send him a bucket of gold.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

1 Maccabees, Chapters 8 & 9: Wedding Crashers

Chapter 8

Judas hears that the Romans are brave and people love them and are flocking to join their army and they even went to Spain one time. Oh, and they fought Antiochus with a hundred elephants and took him hostage and now he has to pay tribute to them. Also, they took his best country and gave it to another king. And they took a bunch of his army's wives and children away and spoiled them (v. 10) which I'm thinking means 'raped and murdered' as opposed to 'gave them so much ice cream they wouldn't eat anything else.'

However, the Romans are nice to their friends, and they don't have a king who dresses in purple. Instead they have a senate and a president and there is no envy among them. He likes what he hears, so Judas appoints someone named Eupolemus to be his envoy to Rome.

Eupolemus is admitted to the senate and explains his mission. The Romans like him and they send him home with a letter of alliance and promising to write to Demetrius to complain about his treatment of the Jews.

Chapter 9

Demetrius hears what happened to his last army and sends another. This time Judas' army is afraid and when the battle starts he only has 800 men. We don't know where the Romans are after their treaty. He tries to rally them, but they just want to go home. There's no real resolution, the next verse just tells us there was a fight and Judas is finally killed. His brothers bury him. Pretty quickly a new crop of evil leaders pops up. Also, and perhaps coincidentally, there's a famine, which causes revolts. The leaders blame Judas and go looking for his followers. Deservedly so, as they have gone to his brother Jonathan to complain about the lack of powerful Jewish leaders and ask him to take over.

Jonathan agrees and immediately the governor of Israel attacks him. So he heads for the wilderness, where the Greeks follow, planning to attack on the sabbath. Jonathan sends his brother John to pray with some friendly clans, but he gets kidnapped by the children of Jambri. They send word to Jonathan that one of their princes has made a great match with a Canaanite girl. So Jonathan and his friends go up into the hills to watch the wedding, then attack just as the dancing is getting going, which seems like a major faux pas, as it ruins the wedding.

Jonathan and his company go back to the wilderness and get attacked by the Greeks on the sabbath. They fight for awhile, then swim across the River Jordan after killing a thousand enemy soldiers. Bacchides, the Greek general, returns to Jerusalem and reinforces his walled cities. He also kidnaps some clan leaders' sons

As this is happening, another prominent Greek named Alcimus has the temple wall torn down. As it's happening, he's struck with a palsy and dies because his mouth is paralysed. Bacchides leaves for Greece. There's peace for two years, so Jonathan's enemies decide they've lulled him into a false sense of security and decide to bring Baccides back in a higher capacity, which leads to Jonathan killing fifty of them and going back to the wilderness.

Bacchides figures out where they are and attacks, but they leave and start smiting a new lot of people. And then they kills some more people and finally they send an ambassador to make peace. This time it's successful and Jonathan settles down to be the king.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

1 Maccabees, Chapter 7: And the wars go on with brainwashed pride

Demetrius is born in Rome, but heads to the sea coast with some men to set himself up as ruler. He enters a palace his ancestors occupied and discovers that his army has brought him Antiochus and Lysias, but he isn't really interested in them, so they are killed. Only then is Demetrius crowned. And then all the wicked people of Israel come out of the woodwork.

First is someone called Alcimus, who wants to be high priest and wants to get there by spreading vicious gossip about his rivals, in this case Judas. He asks Demetrius to send an army to conquer Judas once and for all. He selects his friend Bacchides and sends him to Jerusalem with Alcimus.

This time is a little different, because Alcimus is a priest. People who don't agree with the Maccabees start joining him and he promises not to hurt them, then has seventy of them killed for heresy. Then he just leaves there bodies sitting out and everyone's too afraid to bury them. Then they go to a town called Bezeth with a bunch of prisoners, who they also kill and throw into a pit. At this point Baccides feels like his job is done, so he goes back to Demetrius, leaving Alcimus in charge.

Alcimus is still clinging to his dream of becoming high priest, and of course all the other terrible people start following him, which finally gets Judas' attention. So Judas goes and kills a bunch of the 'traitors.' Still not sure how anyone's a hero here.

Alcimus sees he can't win, so he goes crying to Demetrius again about all the ways Judas is hurting his feelings. This time, Demetrius sends a raging anti-Semite prince named Nicanor back with Alcimus. He sends a friendly letter of peace to Judas, who agrees to meet with him, but really he's planning to kidnap him. Judas hears of the plot and doesn't show. So Nicanor attacks him and loses 5000 men. The rest go to Jerusalem.

Nicanor himself heads up Mount Sion and the priests show him the burnt offerings they've been making in the king's name. He makes fun of them and says he'll burn the place down if no one brings him Judas' head on a platter. This makes the priests cry, and they pray to god to let Judas defeat Nicanor and his army for his blasphemy.

Nicanor sets up camp and so does Judas. Judas prays to god to avenge the blasphemers. Nicanor is killed in the battle and his army flees. The Israelites chase after them for a day, then kill them all. They hang Nicanor's head and right hand on the city walls, which causes the people to rejoice and declare the day a holiday.