תמונות בעמוד

the Jewish hero promised was loftier, - even that of the divine favor.

The aged Mattathias, having thus given his last counsels to his sons, recommended the second one, Simon, or Simeon, as the future head of the family, to whose wisdom the other brothers were to defer, — a man whose counsel would be invaluable. The third brother, Judas, a mighty warrior from his youth, was appointed as the leader of the forces to fight the battles of the people, — the peculiar vocations of Saul and of David, for which they were selected to be kings.

On the death of Mattathias, mourned by all Israel as Samuel was mourned, at the age of one hundred and forty-five, and buried in the sepulchre of his fathers at Modin, Judas, called “The Maccabæus” (“ The Hammer,” as some suppose), rose up in his stead; and all his brothers helped him, and all his father's friends, and he fought with cheerfulness the battles of Israel. He put on armor as a hero, and was like a lion in his acts, and like a lion's whelp roaring for prey. He pursued and punished the Jewish transgressors of the Law, so that they lost courage, and all the workers of inquity were thrown into disorder, and the work of deliverance prospered in his hands. Like Josiah he went through the cities of Judah, destroying the heathen and the ungodly. The fame of his exploits rapidly spread through the

land, and Apollonius, military governor of Samaria, collected an army and marched against a man who with his small forces set at defiance the sovereignty of a mighty monarchy. Judas attacked Apollonius, ölew him, and dispersed his army. Ever afterward he was girded with the sword of the Syrian, - a weapon probably adorned with jewels, and tempered like the famous Damascus blades.

Seron, a general of higher rank, the commanderin-chief of the Syrian forces in Palestine, irritated at the defeat and death of Apollonius, the following year marched with a still larger army against Judas. The latter had with him only a small company, who were despondent in view of the great array of their heathen enemies, and moreover faint from having not eaten anything that day. But the heroic leader encouraged his men, and, undaunted in the midst of overwhelming danger, resolved to fight, trusting for aid from the God of battles; for “victory,” said he, “is not through the multitude of an army, but from heaven cometh the strength.” This resolution to fight against overwhelming odds would be audacity in modern warfare, which is perfected machinery, making one man with reliable weapons as good as another, and success to be chiefly determined by numbers skilfully posted and manoeuvred according to strategic science; but in ancient times personal bravery, directed by military

genius and aided by fortunate circumstances, frequently prevailed over the force of multitudes, especially if the latter were undisciplined or intimidated by superstitious omens, — as evinced by Alexander's victories, and those of Charles Martel and the Black Prince in the Middle Ages. The desperate valor of Judas and his small band was crowned with complete success. Seron was defeated with great loss, his army fled, and the fame of Judas spread far and wide His name became a terror to the nations.

King Antiochus now saw that the subjection of this valiant Jew was no easy matter; and filled with wrath and vengeance he gathered together all the forces of his kingdom, opened his treasury, paid his soldiers a year in advance, and resolved to root out the rebellious nation by a war of extermination. Crippled, however, in resources, and in great need of money, he concluded to go in person to Persia and collect tribute from the various provinces, and seize the treasures which were supposed to be deposited in royal cities beyond the Euphrates. He left behind, as regent or lieutenant, Lysias, a man of royal descent, with orders to prosecute the war against the Jews with the utmost severity, while with half his forces he proceeded in person to Persia. Lysias chose Ptolemy, Nicanor, and Gorgias, experienced generals, to conduct the war, with forty thousand foot and seven thousand horsemen, besides elephants, with orders to exterminate the rebels, take possession of their lands, and settle heathen aliens in their place. So confident were these generals of success that merchants accompanied the army with gold and silver to purchase the Jews from the conquerors, and fetters in which to make them slaves. A large force from the land of the Philistines also joined the attacking army.

Jerusalem at this time was a forsaken city, uninhabited, like a wilderness; the Sanctuary was trodden down, and heathen foreigners occupied the citadel on Mount Zion. It was a time of general mourning and desolation, and the sound of the harp and the pipe ceased throughout the land. But Judas was not discouraged ; and the warriors with him were bent upon redeeming the land from desolation. They however put on sackcloth, and prayed to the God of their fathers, and made every effort to rally their forces, feeling that it was better to die in battle than see the pollution of the Sanctuary and the evils which overspread the land. Judas succeeded in collecting altogether three thousand men, who however were poorly armed, and intrenched himself among the mountains, about twenty miles from Jerusalem. Learning this, Gorgias took five thousand men, one thousand horsemen, under guides from the castle on Mount Zion, and departed from his camp at Emmaus

by night, with a view of surprising and capturing the Jewish force. But Judas was on the alert, and obtained information of the intended attack. So he broke up his own camp, and resolved to attack the main force of the enemy, weakened by the absence of Gorgias and his chosen band. After reminding his soldiers of God's mercies in times of old, he ordered the trumpets to sound, and unexpectedly rushed upon the unsuspecting and unprepared Syrians, totally routed them, pursued them as far as to the plains of Idumea, killed about three thousand men, took immense spoil, – gold and silver, purple garments and military weapons, — and returned in triumph to the forsaken camp, singing songs and blessing Heaven for the great victory.

Many of the Syrians that escaped came and told Lysias all that had happened, and he on hearing it was confounded and discouraged. But in the year following he collected an army of sixty thousand chosen footmen and five thousand horsemen to renew the attack, and marched to the Idumean border. Here Judas met him at Bethsura, near to Jerusalem, with ten thousand men, now inspirited by victory, and again defeated the Syrian forces, with a loss to the enemy of five thousand men. Lysias, who commanded this ariny in person, returned to Antioch and made preparations to raise a still greater force, while the victorious Jews took possession of the capital.

« הקודםהמשך »