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Our Young Folk's Josephus by  William Shepard
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JUDAS MACCABEUS

[274] JUDAS MACCABEUS was, therefore, chosen general of the Jewish army in the desert. He soon showed that the choice was a wise one, for he won two great vicoties, first against an army of Samaritans, under a general named Appolonius, and next against an army of Syrians, led by the general Seron. In both these battles a great many of the enemy were slain, and, among others, the generals themselves fell.

A third army, under a general named Ptolemy, was sent against Judas by the Syrians. This army consisted of forty thousand foot-soldiers and seven thousand horsemen, and it was also joined by many of the wicked and cowardly Jews who had been afraid to follow their brethren into the desert. Judas heard that this great army was coming, and he called together his own men and exhorted them to be bold and fear not, and to put their trust in God. But if any among them were afraid, he told them they should leave the ranks, for only brave men were wanted. After counting all that were left, he found he had only three thousand men, most of whom were poorly armed.

When Ptolemy had reached a city called Emmaus, which was close to the desert inhabited by the Jews, he made his camp there. He determined that he would surprise the rebels, so he sent a general named Gorgias with six thousand soldiers to fall upon the Jews by night. Some wicked Jews, who had deserted from the army of Judas, acted as guides to show Gorgias the way. Judas learned the plan of the [275] enemy, and he determined that he would secretly leave his camp and march against the Syrian army at Emmaus and surprise them. So at night he stole out of his camp, leaving the fires burning, and when Gorgias arrived on the spot, he was much disappointed at finding no one there. Meanwhile, Judas about daybreak reached Emmaus with his three thousand men. The Syrian soldiers had not yet awakened from sleep. Judas ordered the trumpets to be sounded, and rushed down upon the foe. They awoke in great confusion and disorder, and though a few tried to fight, the rest ran away and were pursued by the Jews. More than three thousand were slain, and the Jews returned rejoicing to the enemy's camp to seize upon the weapons and the silver and gold that had been left behind. And when Gorgias and his soldiers returned and saw from a distance that the camp was in the hands of the Jews, they also were afraid, and retreated from the country of Judea.

Still another army was sent against Judas, under a general named Lysias. This army consisted of sixty thousand men. The army of the Jews had now increased to ten thousand. When Judas saw the great number of his enemies, he prayed to God to assist him. Then he joined battle with the first of the enemy that appeared, and beat them, and slew about five thousand of them, so that the rest of the army was greatly terrified. Lysias himself was alarmed at the brave and desperate way in which the Jews fought, and he called off his troops and retreated out of the country, determined to gather together a still greater army and to return in a little while.

Then Judas called all his people together, and told them that after these many victories which God had given them they ought to go up to Jerusalem and purify the temple and offer sacrifices there.

The people agreed, and Judas led them to Jerusalem. There were a number of Syrian soldiers in the city, who retreated [276] to the citadel and entrenched themselves there. Judas ordered some of his soldiers to lay siege to the citadel. He himself with the rest of his men, after purifying the temple, celebrated a great feast which lasted for eight days. Now the nations around Jerusalem were alarmed to see that the Jews were regaining their liberty and power, and they rose in arms against them. But Judas and his brethren marched out and defeated them and laid waste their countries.

While he was gaining these victories outside of Jerusalem, Judas found it difficult to overcome the enemies that were in the city. The Syrians still held possession of the citadel, and, as this overlooked the temple, they would frequently rush out and destroy the Jews when they were engaged in the sacrifices. Therefore Judas pressed the siege of the citadel with great vigor. When it seemed as if the Syrians could hardly hold out much longer, some of them escaped by night and went to their own country to ask for assistance. Now, Antiochus Epiphanes had died a short time before, and had been succeeded by his son, who was called Antiochus Eupator. This Antiochus was little more than a boy. He was angry when he heard of all the great successes of the Jews under Judas, and he determined to subdue them. So an army was collected of about a hundred footmen and twenty thousand horsemen and thirty-two elephants.

With this army Antiochus marched into Judea. Judas, at the head of his forces, went out to meet him. Just before the battle commenced, a brother of Judas, named Eleazar, seeing a man among the enemy who was mounted upon a richly-adorned elephant, thought that this must be King Antiochus. Running swiftly forward, far in advance of the Jewish army, he fought his way all alone to where the elephant was. He could not reach up to the man that rode upon it, and he therefore plunged his dagger into the breast [277] of the animal. It fell dead, crushing Eleazar under its weight.

Now, although this was a very brave action, it was also a very foolish one. For the man on the elephant was not the king, but a private soldier, and even if he had been the king, Eleazar was not able to do him any harm, but, on the contrary, he escaped unhurt, while Eleazar himself was killed. The Jews, moreover, were disheartened by the ill success of Eleazar's attempt, and looked upon it as an ill omen. And in fact, in the battle that followed, they were not successful, though Judas was enabled to withdraw in good order to the temple of Jerusalem. Antiochus followed, and relieved the garrison in the citadel, and laid siege to the temple. But the Jews held out bravely; the Syrian army began to suffer from want of provisions, and word was brought to Antiochus that a rebellion had broken out against him in his absence. Anxious to return to his own country, Antiochus sent to Judas and those that were besieged with him, and promised to give them peace and permit them to live according to the laws of their forefathers. They gladly received his proposals, and, having made Antiochus swear that he would keep his promises, they allowed him to come into the temple. But when Antiochus saw how strong the place was, he broke his oaths, and ordered his soldiers to pull the walls down. Then he returned to Syria, taking with thim the high-priest Menelaus, for he believed him to be the cause of all the evils that had happened to the Syrians; for it was Menelaus who had wickedly advised Antiochus Epiphanes to compel the Jews to leave the religion of their fathers. So he put him to death at a place called Berea, and in his place he made one Alcimus high-priest of the Jews. Now, the rightful heir to the priesthood was Onias, the son of Onias (brother of Menelaus) whom Menelaus had succeeded. When this Onias saw that the priesthood had been transferred from his family to another, and that his uncle had been slain, he fled to [278] Egypt. Here he was kindly received by King Ptolemy, and in course of time he built a new temple at a town called Heliopolis, where the Jews of Alexandria used to come to worship.


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