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to his capital, where he found Philip master of the city. Although he recovered his capital, it was only for a short time, since Demetrius, son of Seleucus, who had been sojourning at Rome, returned to the palace of his ancestors, and slaying both Lysias and the young king, reigned in their stead.
With this king the Jews were soon involved in war. Evil-minded men, hostile to Judas (for in such unsettled times treachery was everywhere), went to Antioch with their complaints, headed by Alcimus, who wished to be high - priest, and inflamed the anger of King Demetrius. The new monarch sent one of his ablest generals, called Bacchides, with an army to chastise the Jews and reinstate Alcimus, who had been ejected from his high office. This wicked high-priest overran the country with the forces of Bacchides, who had returned to Antioch, but did not prevail ; so the king sent Nicanor, already experienced in this Jewish war, with a still larger army against Judas. The gallant Maccabæus, however, gained a great victory, and slew Nicanor himself. This battle gave another rest for a time to the afflicted land of Judah.
Meanwhile Judas, fearing that the Syrian forces would ultimately overpower him, sent an embassy to Rome to invoke protection. It was a long journey in those times. A century and a half later it took Saint Paul six months to make it. The conquests of the Romans were known throughout the East, and better known than the policy they pursued of devouring the countries that sought their protection when it suited their convenience. At this time, 162 B.C., Italy was subdued, Spain had been added to the empire, Macedonia was conquered, Syria was threatened, and Carthage was soon to fall. The Senate was then the ruling power at Rome, and was in the height of its dignity, not controlled by either generals or demagogues. The Senate received with favor the Jewish ambassadors, and promised their protection. Had Judas known what that protection meant, he would have been the last man to seek it.
Nor did the treaty of alliance with Rome save Judæa from the continued hostilities of Syria. Demetrius sent Bacchides with another army, which encamped against Jerusalem, where Judas had only eight hundred men to resist an army of twenty thousand foot and two thousand horse. We infer that his forces had dwindled away by perpetual contests. His heart of hope was now well-nigh broken, but his lion courage remained. Against the solicitation of his companions in war he resolved to fight; gallantly and stubbornly contested the field from morning to night, and at last, hemmed in between two wings of the Syrian foe, fell in the battle.
The heroic career of Judas Maccabæus was ended. He had done marvellous things. He had for six years resisted and often defeated overwhelming forces; he had fought more battles than David ; he had kept the enemy at bay while his prostrate country arose from the dust; he had put to flight and slain tens of thousands of the heathen; he had recovered and fortified Jerusalem, and restored the Temple worship; he had trained his people to be warlike and heroic. At last he was slain only when his followers were scattered by successive calamities. He bore the brunt of six years' successful war against the most powerful monarchy in Asia, bent on the extermination of his countrymen. And amid all his labors he had kept the Law, being revered for his virtues as much as for his heroism. Not a single crime sullied his glorious name. And when he fell at last, exhausted, the nation lamented him as David mourned for Jonathan, saying, “How is the valiant fallen!” A greater hero than he never adorned an age of heroism. Judas was not only a mighty captain, but a wise statesman, — so revered, that, according to Josephus, in his closing years he was made high-priest also, thus uniting in his person both spiritual and temporal authority. It was a very small country that he ruled, but it is in small countries that genius is often most fully developed, either for war or for peace. We know but little of his private life. He had no time for what the world calls pleasures; his life was rough, full of dangers and embarrassments. His only aim seems to have been to shake off the Syrian yoke that oppressed his native land, to redeem the holy places of the nation from the pollutions of the obscene rites of heathenism, and to restore the worship of Jehovah according to the consecrated ritual established in the Mosaic Law.
The death of Judas was of course followed by great disorders and universal despondency. His mantle fell on his brother Jonathan, who became the leader of the scattered forces of the Jews. He also prevailed over Bacchides in several engagements, so that the Syrian leader returned to Antioch, and the Jews had rest for two years. Jonathan was now clothed with honor and dignity, wore a purple garment and other emblems of high rank, and was almost an acknowledged sovereign. He improved his opportunities and fortified Jerusalem. But his prosperous career was cut short by treachery. He was enticed by the Syrian general, even when he had an army of forty thousand men, — so largely had the forces of Judæa increased, — into Ptolemais with a few followers, under blandishing promises, and slain.
Simon was now the only remaining son of Mattathias ; and on him devolved the high-priesthood, as well as the executive duties of supreme ruler. He wisely
devoted himself to the internal affairs of the State which he ruled. He fortified Joppa, the only port of Judaea, reduced hostile cities, and made himself master of the famous fortress of Mount Zion, so long held in threatening vicinity by the Syrians, which he not only levelled with the ground, but also razed the summit of the hill on which it stood, so that it should no longer overlook the Temple area. The Temple became not only the Sanctuary, but also one of the strongest fortresses in the world. At a later period it held out for some time against the army of Titus, even after Jerusalem itself had fallen.
Simon executed the laws with rigorous impartiality, repaired the Temple, restored the sacred vessels, and secured general peace, order, and security. Even the lands desolated by the wasting wars with several successive Syrian monarchs again rejoiced in fertility. Every man sat under his own vine and fig-tree in safety. The friendly alliance with Rome was renewed by a present to that greedy republic of a golden shield, weighing one thousand pounds, and worth fifty talents, thus showing how much wealth had increased under Judas and his brothers. Even the ambassadors of the Syrian monarch were astonished at the splendor of Simon's palace, and at the riches of the Temple, again restored, not in the glory of Solomon, but in a magnifience of which few temples could boast, –