LIGHT OUT OF DARKNESS
 FOR a time the prospects of the patriots seemed dark
indeed. Beth-zur had fallen, and the only hope of the
cause was in the Temple fortress. This was fiercely
assailed by the garrison of the Greek stronghold of
Zion on the one side, and, on the other, by the army
which had been victorious at Beth-Zachariah, and which
occupied the Lower City. The Temple fortress was
strong; it was fairly well supplied with munitions of
the garrison was large—indeed, almost too large
for the accommodation of the place. The fatal weakness
position was the scanty supply of provisions. Only
water was abundant, for the unsparing toil of former
generations had provided for this want; had it not been
for this the resistance of the garrison must very soon
have come to an end, for food was scarce—so
scarce, indeed, that the strength of the fighting men
be maintained by the
in-  sufficient rations which were doled out to them,
while the few non-combatants received barely enough to
body and soul together.
The condition of the Jewish population of the city was
not as bad as might have been expected. The cruelties
the days of Apollonius and Philip were not repeated;
for Lysias, who, as guardian of the boy-King, was
practically supreme, favoured a policy of conciliation,
and did his best to repress outrage. Indeed he
sanctioned the establishment of what may be called a
municipal guard or militia, which, while under
to give no assistance to the garrison of the Temple,
was permitted to protect the peaceful inhabitants of
city. This guard was under the command of Seraiah.
There was much, of course, that it was difficult for
those to bear who looked to Judas and his brothers as
hope of Israel. MenelaŘs had returned, and with him a
whole troop of renegade Jews, whose insolence and
sorely tried the patience of the faithful population.
And the scarcity of food was only less severe in the
than it was in the fortress.
For some time Seraiah's own household continued to
receive mysterious supplies from some unknown source,
made them far more comfortable than their neighbours.
Once a week, or even oftener, they would find a bag of
corn or flour, a basket of dried grapes or other
fruits, a bundle of salt fish, a string
 of doves or wood-pigeons, put in an outhouse, nor could
they guess who their benefactor could be. But when this
had gone on for nearly two months, the secret came out.
Seraiah, returning from his military duties at an early
hour in the morning, and entering by a little postern
gate in order to avoid disturbing the household, saw a
man drop from the garden wall. He seized him by the
arm, and the stranger, turning sharply round, revealed
well-known features of Benjamin.
"What do you here?" he asked.
"I am come on an errand of my own," answered the
"But in my house?"
"Ask no more questions," said the man; "but take my
word—and I would not lie to you for all the
Antiochus—that I mean no harm to you or yours."
A thought flashed across Seraiah's mind.
"It is you, then, who have been bringing us, week after
week, these supplies of food?"
Benjamin said nothing.
"I adjure you by God that you answer me," said Seraiah.
"Well, if you will know it, it is I who have done it.
Why should not God use a man's hands to feed His
servants, as well as a raven's beak?"
"Tell me—how did you come by these things?"
"In various ways."
"Well, I can hardly say; you and I might not agree
about the matter."
"Tell me—did you buy them with your money?"
"Nay; that is not my way. I do not buy or sell."
"Then you stole them."
"I told you that we should not agree. But this I know,
that they to whom they belonged could do without them
better than you and your children."
"Benjamin," said Seraiah, "you mean well, and I thank
you. But after this bring no more of these gifts, for I
cannot receive them. I would not have my Judge say to
me, 'When thou sawest a thief, thou consentedst unto
him.' I had sooner die of hunger—aye, and what is
far worse, see my children die—than take that
which has not
been lawfully acquired."
"As you will have it," said Benjamin; "if there were
more like you, mayhap I should have been a better man.
meanwhile, the world being what it is, you and yours
will have a hard time of it;" and he turned to go away.
"And the captain," he went on—"how does he fare?
I hear that things are not going well with him. 'Tis a
thousand pities, for a braver man never handled sword."
Seraiah told him briefly the story of recent events,
and described the present condition of affairs, the
listening with an eager attention, and breaking
 in now and then with an exclamation of wonder and
"Come, Benjamin," he said, when he had finished, "why
will you not throw in your lot with us? Things look
just now; but they will brighten. He who has helped us
so far will not desert us now."
"Sir," said the man, "I would gladly follow the
captain, whether he led me to life or to death. No man
ask a better lot than to be his soldier. But I like not
all that are with him. They are overstrict, and make
no allowance for such as have not their zeal. Once they
beat me; another time they had stoned me to death but
that I slipped out of their hands; and both for some
miserable trifles which no man of sense would care
No, sir; Judas I honour and love, but these bigots who
give a man no peace I cannot away with. And now the day
is beginning to break, and I must go. I am sorry that
you will not take my poor gifts."
The next moment he had disappeared.
And now came a time of grievous trouble for Ruth and
her young charges, for she had naturally taken charge
Azariah's two daughters. She did not question her
husband's refusal to share any longer the illicit gains
Benjamin, but she could not shut her eyes to the fact
that the children were suffering grievously. For
she could endure, as women can; the girls, too, were
old enough to understand
 the cause of their suffering, though they could not
enter into the reasons of what seemed so strange an
observance—the Sabbatical year; but little Daniel
was too young to know much beyond the fact that he was
terribly hungry, and though he was often brave enough
to check his crying when he saw how it distressed his
mother, there were times when the pangs of hunger were
more than he could bear in silence. Poor Ruth denied
herself everything but the few scraps that were
absolutely necessary to keep body and soul together,
physical weakness did not make it easier to keep up her
hope and courage. Her hardest task, perhaps, was to
hide, as far as it was possible, the true state of
things from her husband. His strength must be kept up,
so much depended upon it; but the children, not to
speak of herself, had to have their scanty share
that it might be so. This, of course, he was not
allowed to know, and Ruth was at her wits' end again
to keep it from him.
Within the Temple fortress, meanwhile, things had
become almost desperate. A few shekels' weight of flour
given out to each man daily, for Judas insisted that
all should share alike. That even this scanty allowance
might hold out the longer, numbers of the garrison made
their escape every night under the cover of darkness
that the remainder might prolong their resistance for
yet a few days more.
 Before long came a time when absolutely nothing was
left. "Their vessels were without victuals," and Judas
the few that still remained with him met to hold a
"My friends," said the great captain, "you see the
straits into which we are brought. There is no need to
you of them, or to prove by words what we all know too
well in fact. What, then, shall we do? Shall we stay
here and perish slowly by hunger, or shall we fall upon
our swords, or shall we sally forth from the gates,
and, having slain as many of the heathen as we may, so
perish ourselves? I had hoped that the Lord would give
deliverance to Israel by my hand, and by the hand of my
brothers. But if it be not so, His will be done. For He
is not shut up to do that which it pleaseth Him by one
man or another. He can call whomsoever He will, and
him strength for the work."
He paused for a moment, and Azariah broke in, "It is
well said, O captain of the host. The Lord hath helped
people hitherto, and He will help them to the end. Only
let us trust in Him, for"—and here, with an
gesture, he struck his foot upon the rock—"they
that put their trust in the Lord shall be even as this
mountain, which may not be removed, but standeth fast
Judas was just rising to announce his resolve when the
sound of a trumpet was heard at the gate
 of the fortress. It was a herald bringing a message
from the young King.
"Have you aught to say to me in private?" asked Judas,
when the man was brought in.
"Nay," he answered; "my message is one that all may
He then delivered it, reading the words from a
parchment which he carried in his hand, and which bore
sign-manual (an impression of the seal-ring dipped in
ink) of Antiochus Eupator, as well as that of Lysias.
They ran thus:
"Antiochus, surnamed Eupator, King of Syria and Egypt,
offers to the people of the Jews peace and friendship.
He permits them to worship God after the manners and
customs of their fathers, and he hereby revokes all the
edicts which the King, his father, having been
misinformed by unfaithful advisers, issued against the
nation of the Jews."
Never was there a more surprising, a more unexpected
change in the position of affairs. But it might have
foreseen by those who had watched with a full knowledge
of the truth, the recent course of events.
Despatches had reached Lysias from Antioch which
convinced him that he and his young charge had enemies
reckon with who would be far more formidable than Judas
and his followers. Philip had returned from Persia with
the host of Epiphanes, and had assumed the management
of affairs, and
 Philip was a dangerous rival. Were he to prevail, his
own position as the chief adviser of the King would be
untenable; and the King himself would very probably be
dispossessed by some other claimant to the throne.
He laid the case, or at least so much as it was
necessary to explain, before the boy-King. The lad, who
indeed intelligent beyond his years, at once acquiesced
in the advice, that easy conditions of peace should be
offered to the garrison.
Then an assembly of the soldiers was summoned. All the
officers were invited by name, and, after the usual
fashion of such gatherings, as many of the men as could
crowd into the chambers were also present. To them
Lysias said nothing about the news from Antioch, which
it would be better, he thought, to conceal as long as
possible; but he dwelt on the useless hardships which
they were all enduring.
"Famine and the pestilence are upon us," he said, "and
we decay daily. But the place to which we lay siege is
strong, and we are no nearer to the taking of it than
we were six months since. Now, therefore, let us offer
to these men, who are neither robbers nor murderers,
peace and liberty, that they may worship God after
own fashion, and live by their own laws. For, of a
truth, it is far better, as many of yourselves know,
they should be our friends than our enemies."
 An unanimous shout of approval was the answer; and
hence the message which came so opportunely to Judas
followers in the very crisis of their despair.