The Gentiles want to exterminate Judah. Judas Maccabees plans a daring rescue of Galilee and Gilead. But Jews who act alone are defeated.
THE GENTILES WANT TO EXTERMINATE THE TRIBE OF JUDAH
Verse 1. And it came to pass, when the Gentiles round about heard that the altar was built, and the sanctuary dedicated as aforetime, they were exceedingly angry.
they were exceedingly angry. Many Gentiles get very angry whenever Jewish people succeed. It is probably out of jealousy. However, such Gentiles allow their jealousy to motivate them to do sinister deeds.
Verse 2. And they took counsel to destroy the race of Jacob that was in the midst of them, and they began to kill and destroy among the people.
to destroy the race of Jacob. These Gentiles, motivated by jealousy, agree to exterminate the tribe of Jacob from the face of the earth.
Verse 3. And Judas fought against the children of Esau in Idumaea at Akrabattine, because they besieged Israel: and he struck them with a great slaughter, and brought down their pride, and took their spoils.
Verse 4. And he remembered the wickedness of the children of Baean, who were to the people a snare and a stumbling block, lying in wait for them in the ways.
Verse 5. And they were shut up by him in the towers; and he encamped against them, and destroyed them utterly, and burned with fire the towers of the place, with all that were therein.
Verse 6. And he passed over to the children of Ammon, and found a mighty band, and much people, with Timotheus for their leader.
Verse 7. And he fought many battles with them, and they were discomfited before his face; and he struck them,
Verse 8. and got possession of Jazer, and the villages thereof, and returned again into Judea.
JUDAS MACCABEES PLANS A RESCUE
Verse 9. And the Gentiles that were in Gilead gathered themselves together against the Israelites that were on their borders, to destroy them. And they fled to the stronghold of Dathema,
Verse 10. and sent letters to Judas and his kindred, saying, The Gentiles that are round about us are gathered together against us to destroy us:
Verse 11. and they are preparing to come and get possession of the stronghold whereunto we are fled for refuge, and Timotheus is the leader of their army.
Verse 12. Now therefore come and deliver us from their hand, for many of us are fallen.
Verse 13. And all our kindred that were in the land of Tubias have been put to death; and they have carried into captivity their wives and their children and their stuff; and they destroyed there about a thousand men.
Verse 14. While the letters were yet reading, behold, there came other messengers from Galilee with their clothes tore, bringing a report after this wise,
Verse 15. saying, That there were gathered together against them those of Ptolemais, and of Tyre, and of Sidon, and all Galilee of the Gentiles to consume them.
Verse 16. Now when Judas and the people heard these words, there assembled together a great congregation, to consult what they should do for their kindred, that were in tribulation, and were assaulted of them.
Verse 17. And Judas said to Simon his brother, Choose you out men, and go and deliver your kindred that are in Galilee, but I and Jonathan my brother will go into the land of Gilead.
Verse 18. And he left Joseph the son of Zacharias, and Azarias, as leaders of the people, with the remnant of the army, in Judea, for to keep it.
Verse 19. And he gave commandment to them, saying, Take you the charge of this people, and fight no battle with the Gentiles until that we come again.
Verse 20. And to Simon were divided three thousand men to go into Galilee, but to Judas eight thousand men to go into the land of Gilead.
THEY RESCUE GALILEE
Verse 21. And Simon went into Galilee, and fought many battles with the Gentiles, and the Gentiles were discomfited before him.
Verse 22. And he pursued them to the gate of Ptolemais; and there fell of the Gentiles about three thousand men, and he took their spoils.
Verse 23. And they took to them those that were in Galilee, and in Arbatta, with their wives and their children, and all that they had, and brought them into Judea with great gladness.
THEY RESCUE GILEAD
Verse 24. And Judas Maccabaeus and his brother Jonathan passed over Jordan, and went three days’ journey in the wilderness;
Verse 25. and they met with the Nabathaeans, and these met them in a peaceful manner, and told them all things that had befallen their kindred in the land of Gilead:
Verse 26. and how that many of them were shut up in Bosora, and Bosor, and Alema, Casphor, Maked, and Carnaim; all these cities are strong and great:
Verse 27. and how that they were shut up in the rest of the cities of the land of Gilead, and that tomorrow they have appointed to encamp against the strongholds, and to take them, and to destroy all these men in one day.
Verse 28. And Judas and his army turned suddenly by the way of the wilderness to Bosora; and he took the city, and killed all the males with the edge of the sword, and took all their spoils, and burned the city with fire.
Judas and his army turned suddenly. The army of Judas Maccabees is very agile. It can quickly change direction and make adjustments whenever needed.
Verse 29. And he removed from thence by night, and went till he came to the stronghold.
Verse 30. And the morning came, and they lifted up their eyes, and, behold, much people which could not be counted, bearing ladders and engines of war, to take the stronghold; and they were fighting against them.
Verse 31. And Judas saw that the battle was begun, and that the cry of the city went up to heaven, with trumpets and a great sound,
Verse 32. and he said to the men of his army, Fight this day for your kindred.
Verse 33. And he went forth behind them in three companies, and they sounded with their trumpets, and cried out in prayer.
they sounded with their trumpets, and cried out. They have so much zeal for God that they blow trumpets and shout in prayer!
Verse 34. And the army of Timotheus perceived that it was Maccabaeus, and they fled from before him: and he struck them with a great slaughter; and there fell of them on that day about eight thousand men.
Verse 35. And he turned away to Mizpeh and fought against it, and took it, and killed all the males thereof, and took the spoils thereof, and burned it with fire.
Verse 36. From thence he removed, and took Casphor, Maked, Bosor, and the other cities of the land of Gilead.
Verse 37. Now after these things Timotheus gathered another army, and encamped near Raphon beyond the brook.
Verse 38. And Judas sent men to espy the army; and they brought him word, saying, All the Gentiles that be round about us are gathered together to them, an exceedingly great army.
Verse 39. And they have hired Arabians to help them, and are encamping beyond the brook, ready to come against you to battle. And Judas went to meet them.
Verse 40. And Timotheus said to the captains of his army, when Judas and his army drew near to the brook of water, If he pass over first to us, we shall not be able to withstand him; for he will mightily prevail against us:
Timotheus said to the captains. Timotheus realizes they will be annihilated if Judas Maccabees crosses the stream first.
Verse 41. but if he be afraid, and encamp beyond the river, we will cross over to him, and prevail against him.
Verse 42. Now when Judas came near to the brook of water, he caused the scribes of the people to remain by the brook, and gave commandment to them, saying, Suffer no man to encamp, but let all come to the battle.
Suffer no man to encamp. Nobody can set up camp. Instead, everyone is going to attack the enemy.
Verse 43. And he crossed over the first against them, and all the people after him: and all the Gentiles were discomfited before his face, and cast away their arms, and fled to the temple at Carnaim.
he crossed over the first. Judas Maccabees attacks his enemies before his enemies can attack him.
the Gentiles were discomfited. That is, the Gentiles were crushed.
cast away their arms. As they were fleeing for their lives, running away from Judas Maccabees, the Gentiles toss away their weapons.
Verse 44. And they took the city, and burned the temple with fire, together with all that were therein. And Carnaim was subdued, neither could they stand any longer before the face of Judas.
Verse 45. And Judas gathered together all Israel, those who were in the land of Gilead, from the least to the greatest, and their wives, and their children, and their stuff, an exceedingly great army, that they might come into the land of Judah.
THEY CONQUER EPHRON
Verse 46. And they came as far as Ephron, and this same city was great, and it was in the way as they should go, exceedingly strong: they could not turn away from it on the right hand or on the left, but must needs pass through the midst of it.
could not turn away from it on the right hand or on the left. The city of Ephron was so huge that they could not walk around it.
Verse 47. And they of the city shut them out, and stopped up the gates with stones.
Verse 48. And Judas sent to them with words of peace, saying, We will pass through your land to go into our own land, and none shall do you any hurt, we will only pass by on our feet. And they would not open to him.
Judas sent to them with words of peace. Judas Maccabees tries to negotiate terms for them to pass through the city.
Verse 49. And Judas commanded proclamation to be made in the army, that each man should encamp in the place where he was.
each man should encamp in the place where he was. That is, “everyone make an attack from the place where he was” (NAB translation). They did not wait. Instead, they attacked even before they had set up camp.
Verse 50. And the men of the army encamped, and fought against the city all that day and all that night, and the city was delivered into his hands;
fought against the city all that day and all that night. Ephron was a large and strongly fortified city, too large even to go around. Unintimidated, Judas Maccabees orders the assault of this mega-city. It was like a minnow attacking a shark.
the city was delivered into his hands. By the grace of God, the army of Judas Maccabees defeats the huge city. The minnow kills the shark.
1 Maccabees 3:19. for victory in war does not depend upon the size of the army, but on strength that comes from Heaven.
Verse 51. and he destroyed all the males with the edge of the sword, and rased the city, and took the spoils thereof, and passed through the city over those who were slain.
Verse 52. And they went over Jordan into the great plain near Bethshan.
Verse 53. And Judas gathered together those that lagged behind, and encouraged the people all the way through, until he came into the land of Judah.
encouraged the people all the way through. Judas Maccabees is an encourager. In that sense, he reminds us of Barnabas the Apostle when he arrived in Antioch:
Acts 11:23. who, when he had come, and had seen the grace of God, was glad. He exhorted [“encouraged”] them all, that with purpose of heart they should remain near to the Lord.
Verse 54. And they went up to mount Sion with gladness and joy, and offered whole burnt offerings, because not so much as one of them was slain until they returned in peace.
JOSEPH AND AZARIAH ARE DRIVEN BY PRIDE
Verse 55. And in the days when Judas and Jonathan were in the land of Gilead, and Simon his brother in Galilee before Ptolemais,
Verse 56. Joseph the son of Zacharias, and Azarias, rulers of the army, heard of their exploits and of the war, what things they had done;
Verse 57. and they said, Let’s also get us a name, and let’s go fight against the Gentiles that are around us.
Verse 58. And they gave charge to the men of the army that was with them, and went toward Jamnia.
Verse 59. And Gorgias and his men came out of the city to meet them in battle.
Verse 60. And Joseph and Azarias were put to flight, and were pursued to the borders of Judea; and there fell on that day of the people of Israel about two thousand men.
Verse 61. And there was a great overthrow among the people, because they didn’t listen to Judas and his kindred, thinking to do some exploit.
there was a great overthrow among the people. Joseph and Azariah suffer a terrible defeat.
because they didn’t listen to Judas. The reason for their defeat is simple. God had decided to work through Judas Maccabees, and not through them. They had not bothered to recognize this and join forces with Judas Maccabees. It would have been much better for them to have been humble enough to submit to the leadership of Judas Maccabees. Instead, they acted out of ego.
Verse 62. But they were not of the seed of those men, by whose hand deliverance was given to Israel.
by whose hand deliverance was given. God seems to call certain individuals to national or worldwide greatness. They are called, not for their own sake, but rather for the world. Their lofty fame does not mean they are better than other people. Rather, it makes them the servant of all.
Verse 63. And the man Judas and his kindred were glorified exceedingly in the sight of all Israel, and of all the Gentiles, wherever their name was heard of;
Verse 64. and men gathered together to them, acclaiming them.
Verse 65. And Judas and his kindred went forth, and fought against the children of Esau in the land toward the south; and he struck Hebron and the villages thereof, and pulled down the strongholds thereof, and burned the towers thereof round about.
Verse 66. And he removed to go into the land of the Philistines, and he went through Samaria.
Verse 67. In that day certain priests, desiring to do exploits there, were slain in battle, when as he went out to battle unadvisedly.
priests, desiring to do exploits there. Even priests can be motivated by ego.
were slain in battle. These ego-driven priests were slain on the battlefield.
Verse 68. And Judas turned toward Azotus, to the land of the Philistines, and pulled down their altars, and burned the carved images of their gods with fire, and took the plunder of their cities, and returned into the land of Judah.
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