1 Maccabees , CHAPTER 6
As King Antiochus passed through the eastern provinces, he heard that in Persia there was a city, Elam,* famous for its wealth in silver and gold,
and that its temple was very rich, containing gold helmets, breastplates, and weapons left there by the first king of the Greeks, Alexander, son of Philip, king of Macedon.
He went therefore and tried to capture and loot the city. But he could not do so, because his plan became known to the people of the city
who rose up in battle against him. So he fled and in great dismay withdrew from there to return to Babylon.
While he was in Persia, a messenger brought him news that the armies that had gone into the land of Judah had been routed;
that Lysias had gone at first with a strong army and been driven back; that the people of Judah had grown strong by reason of the arms, wealth, and abundant spoils taken from the armies they had cut down;
that they had pulled down the abomination which he had built upon the altar in Jerusalem; and that they had surrounded with high walls both the sanctuary, as it had been before, and his city of Beth-zur.
When the king heard this news, he was astonished and very much shaken. Sick with grief because his designs had failed, he took to his bed.
There he remained many days, assailed by waves of grief, for he thought he was going to die.
So he called in all his Friends and said to them: “Sleep has departed from my eyes, and my heart sinks from anxiety.
I said to myself: ‘Into what tribulation have I come, and in what floods of sorrow am I now! Yet I was kindly and beloved in my rule.’
But I now recall the evils I did in Jerusalem, when I carried away all the vessels of silver and gold that were in it, and for no cause gave orders that the inhabitants of Judah be destroyed.
I know that this is why these evils have overtaken me; and now I am dying, in bitter grief, in a foreign land.”
Then he summoned Philip, one of his Friends, and put him in charge of his whole kingdom.
He gave him his diadem, his robe, and his signet ring, so that he might guide the king’s son Antiochus and bring him up to be king.
So King Antiochus died there in the one hundred and forty-ninth year.
When Lysias learned that the king was dead, he set up the king’s son Antiochus,* whom he had reared as a child, to be king in his place; and he gave him the title Eupator.
Those in the citadel were hemming Israel in around the sanctuary, continually trying to harm them and to strengthen the Gentiles.
And so Judas planned to destroy them, and assembled the people to besiege them.
So in the one hundred and fiftieth year* they assembled and besieged the citadel, for which purpose he constructed platforms and siege engines.
But some of the besieged escaped, and some renegade Israelites joined them.
They went to the king and said: “How long will you fail to do justice and to avenge our kindred?
We agreed to serve your father and to follow his orders and obey his edicts.
And for this our own people have become our enemies; they have put to death as many of us as they could find and have seized our inheritances.
They have acted aggressively not only against us, but throughout their whole territory.
Look! Today they have besieged the citadel in Jerusalem in order to capture it, and they have fortified the sanctuary and Beth-zur.
Unless you act quickly to prevent them, they will do even worse things than these, and you will not be able to stop them.”
When the king heard this he was enraged, and he called together all his Friends, the officers of his army, and the commanders of the cavalry.
Mercenary forces also came to him from other kingdoms and from the islands of the seas.
His army numbered a hundred thousand footsoldiers, twenty thousand cavalry, and thirty-two elephants trained for war.
They passed through Idumea and camped before Beth-zur. For many days they attacked it; they constructed siege engines, but the besieged made a sortie and burned these, and they fought bravely.
Then Judas marched away from the citadel and moved his camp to Beth-zechariah, opposite the king’s camp.
The king, rising before dawn, moved his force hastily along the road to Beth-zechariah; and the troops prepared for battle and sounded the trumpet.
They made the elephants drunk on the juice of grapes and mulberries to get them ready to fight.
The beasts were distributed along the phalanxes, each elephant having assigned to it a thousand men in coats of mail, with bronze helmets on their heads, and five hundred picked cavalry.
These accompanied the beast wherever it was; wherever it moved, they moved too and never left it.
Each elephant was outfitted with a strong wooden tower, fastened to it by a harness; each tower held three soldiers who fought from it, besides the Indian driver.
The remaining cavalry were stationed on one or the other of the two flanks of the army, to harass the enemy and to be protected by the phalanxes.
When the sun shone on the gold and bronze shields, the mountains gleamed with their brightness and blazed like flaming torches.
Part of the king’s army spread out along the heights, while some were on low ground, and they marched forward steadily in good order.
All who heard the noise of their numbers, the tramp of their marching, and the clanging of the arms, trembled; for the army was very great and strong.
Judas with his army advanced to fight, and six hundred men of the king’s army fell.
Eleazar, called Avaran, saw one of the beasts bigger than any of the others and covered with royal armor, and he thought the king must be on it.
He gave up his life to save his people and win an everlasting name for himself.
He dashed courageously up to it in the middle of the phalanx, killing men right and left, so that they parted before him.
He ran under the elephant, stabbed it and killed it. The beast fell to the ground on top of him, and he died there.
But when Judas’ troops saw the strength of the royal army and the ardor of its forces, they retreated from them.
Some of the king’s army went up to Jerusalem to attack them, and the king established camps in Judea and at Mount Zion.
He made peace with the people of Beth-zur, and they evacuated the city, because they had no food there to enable them to withstand a siege, for that was a sabbath year in the land.
The king took Beth-zur and stationed a garrison there to hold it.
For many days he besieged the sanctuary, setting up platforms and siege engines, fire-throwers, catapults and mechanical bows for shooting arrows and projectiles.
The defenders countered by setting up siege engines of their own, and kept up the fight a long time.
But there were no provisions in the storerooms, because it was the seventh year, and the reserves had been eaten up by those who had been rescued from the Gentiles and brought to Judea.
Few men remained in the sanctuary because the famine was too much for them; the rest scattered, each to his own home.
Lysias heard that Philip, whom King Antiochus, before his death, had appointed to train his son Antiochus to be king,
had returned from Persia and Media with the army that accompanied the king, and that he was seeking to take over the government.
So he hastily decided to withdraw. He said to the king, the leaders of the army, and the soldiers: “We are growing weaker every day, our provisions are scanty, the place we are besieging is strong, and it is our duty to take care of the affairs of the kingdom.
Therefore let us now come to terms with these people and make peace with them and all their nation.
Let us grant them freedom to live according to their own laws as formerly; it was on account of their laws, which we abolished, that they became enraged and did all these things.”
The proposal pleased the king and the leaders; he sent peace terms to the Jews, and they accepted.
So the king and the leaders swore an oath to them, and on these terms the Jews evacuated the fortification.
But when the king entered Mount Zion and saw how the place was fortified, he broke the oath he had sworn and gave orders to tear down the encircling wall.
Then he departed in haste and returned to Antioch, where he found Philip in control of the city. He fought against him and took the city by force.