It took a year to read the Bible, then almost 9 months to read the Apocrypha. Now, I'm going to try to offer reflections on the Narrative Lectionary. But, I won't be posting daily--at least, for a while.

Friday, July 31, 2015

unf a reflection on 2 Maccabees 14:26-45

When Alcimus (the former high priest who after being ousted of his role sought and got support from  Demetrius by attacking the reputation of Judas Maccabeus) noticed that Judas now was valued highly be Nicanor (govenor and general), he went to Demetrius to attack Nicanor as disloyal for supporting Judas (who Alcimus had convinced Demetrius was a traitor). The king responded by commanding that Judas be sent immediately to Antioch as prisoner.

Nicanor was troubled and grieved. He neither wanted to follow this order or to harm his friend. Noticing that Nicanor wasn't treating him as warmly as before, Judas Maccabeus gathered several of his men and went into hiding. As a result, Nicanor went to the temple to demand them to turn Maccabeus over to him and if they didn't, he would completely destroy the temple.

After he left, the priests prayed to the Lord to protect the temple.

Wishing to exhibit the enmity he held for the Jews, Nicanor sent five hundred soldiers to arrest Razis, a man who was known for having risked his life for Judaism when it was under attack. Rather than submit to the arrest, Razis committed suicide in a prolonged, dramatic, and public way.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Verbal attack, a reflection on 2 Maccabees 14:1-25

Demetrius with a strong army and fleet overcame Antiochus and Lysias and claimed the throne. The former high priest Alcimus realizing he had no hope of regaining his role sought support from Demetrius. After giving gifts to the King, he was invited to a meeting of the council and was asked about the attitude and intentions of the Jews.

He asserted that the Jews who supported Judas, who were called Hasideans, were stirring up dissent. The king's Friends, already hostile to Judas, added to the inflammatory talk. Demetrius appointed the army commander Nicanor as governor of Judea and sent him off with orders to kill Judas and scatter his troops. The gentiles of Judea joined Nicanor thinking that misfortune of the Jews would mean prosperity for themselves.

However, Nicanor, hearing of the strength and courage of Judas and his troops made peace with them. He kept Judas close to him; he was warmly attached to him. At his urging, Judas married and settled down.

(See 1 Maccabees 7).

According to the Oxford Bible Commentary, edited by Martin Goodman, Hasideans were clearly demarcated from Judas in 1 Maccabees 2:42; 7:13, but in this chapter are lumped together with him. The term, "Hasideans", means pious, faithful ones, is used here as a derogatory term much as people today use the term "fundamentalists.

Do we make important decisions based on the alliances that someone has?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Battle and Treaty, a reflection on 2 Maccabees 13

Judas gets word that coming toward his army is a Greek force, led by Antiochus along with his guardian, Lysias, of 110,00 infantry, 5,300 infantry, 22 elephants, and 300 chariots armed with scythes. The Greek-appointed high priest of Jerusalem, Menelaus, supported the invasion. (See 2 Maccabees 4:23-29). When Antiochus was told that Menelaus was to blame for all their trouble, he had him put to death by being pushed off a 75 foot tall tower.

When Judas heard that the large army was approaching, he ordered the people to pray day and night to help them retain the law, the country, and the temple. After weeping and fasting and lying prostrate for three days, they were exhorted to stand ready.

Committing the outcome to God, Judas lead an elite force to attack the Greek king's pavilion, killing as many as 2,000 men as well as the leading elephant and its rider. Having filled the camp with terror and confusion, they withdrew in triumph.

The king tried to attack a fortress held by the Jews but was turned back. When he attacked again, he was defeated. One of the Jews gave secret information to the Greeks but was found out and imprisoned. After the Greeks won a battle against Judas, they learned that Philip, who had been left in charge of the government, had granted rights to the Jews and honored their holy places.

Lysias tried to appease those disagreeing with this outcome.

(Compare with 1 Maccabees 6:55-63).

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Consequences of war, a reflection on 2 Maccabees 12:26-45

More victories, some leniency, another battle. A couple of things stand out in the description of these military advances: 1) the role of the Lord in a victory is acknowledged; 2) a reason for defeat is given--the Jews had violated a religious requirement.

Judas exhorted the people to refrain from sin and took up a collection to send to Jerusalem for a sin offering as atonement for the dead so that they might be delivered from sin. The author points out that Judas would not have done this if he didn't believe in resurrection.

When we have made a great achievement, do we acknowledge God's help? Do we ever attribute our losses to our violation of religious requirements? Does a belief in resurrection affect one's disposition to sinning?

Monday, July 27, 2015

Victories, a reflection on 2 Maccabees 12:1-25

After the king sent them a letter promising friendship and permission to enjoy their own food and laws and Rome consented,  some of the governors exhibited their own disagreement. They would not let the Jews live in peace. The people of Joppa pretended to be friendly but instead murdered at least two hundred in a horrendous way. When Judas heard about this and similar plans being made by other cities, he attacked and destroyed.

Continuing the march of retribution, they were met by a large force of Arabs that had come to the aid of the Greeks as mercenaries. They put up a good fight, but Judas and his companions, with God's help, were able to defeat them. They then worked out a deal good for both sides.

Judas also attacked a strongly fortified town whose inhabitants relying on the strength of the walls surrounding their town, had slandered the Jews even blaspheming and saying unholy things.  Judas and his men, calling upon the great Sovereign of the world, rushed the walls, took the town, and slaughtered so many that the adjoining lake appeared to be running over with blood.

They continued their march of destruction.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Help from a heavenly horseman a reflection on 2 Maccabees 11

Another attack on Jerusalem prompts Maccabeus and his men to respond. Accompanied by another vision of a horsemen, clothed in white and brandishing weapons of gold, they defeated the occupiers decisively.

Pondering his defeat, Lysias (Syrian general and governor), realized that the Hebrews were invincible because the mighty God fought on their side. So he sought settlement with the Jews by granting every request they made.

King Antiochus then proclaimed that the Jews would be allowed to follow their own rules about food and laws. The Romans consented.

Difficult to accommodate customs of minority religions. Surely, violence isn't the only way to come to agreement.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Battle Support from the Lord, a reflection on 2 Maccabees 10:24-38

Timothy gathers a tremendous force to attempt to take over Judea. Maccabeus and his army prepare by praying. Two armies--one relying on their valor and the Lord; the other, driven by the rage of their leader.

When the battle became fierce, there appeared to the enemy a vision of five resplendent men on horses with golden bridles leading the Jews. Two of the horsemen shielded Maccabeus. They showered the enemy with arrows and thunderbolts throwing them into disorder.

Timothy fled to a fort, but Maccabeus and his army followed him there. They put the fort under siege but then had to listen to terrible blasphemies. On the fifth day, they couldn't any more put up with the wicked words hurled at them. They attacked, killing many. When they set fires,  broke open the gates, thus were able to occupy the city. They killed Timothy who was hiding in a cistern.

Timothy thought he had found a safe hiding place. He hadn't.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Hannukah, although Victory is incomplete, a reflection on 2 Maccabees 10:1-23

After the defeats of their enemies, Maccabeus and his army, led by the Lord, worked to restore the temple and the city. They tore down the altars that had been built in the public square and purified the sanctuary. They once again were able to worship at the altar. They implored the Lord that they might never again fall into such misfortunes, that, if they did sin, the Lord would not turn them over to blasphemous and barbarous nations.

They celebrated the purification of the sanctuary for eight days of rejoicing, a custom that continues as Hannukah, also known as the Feast of Lights (1 Maccabees 4:52-59). The date they completed the purification was the date of the holiday Chislev, the festival of booths that commemorated their ancestors' escape from slavery in Egypt.

Attacks by the enemy continued, and Maccabeus, imploring the help of God, continued resistance. Some of the enemies were internal.

How much of holiday celebration is based on memory?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Enduring Suffering, a reflection on 2 Maccabees 9:13-29

As he lay dying, Antiochus made to a vow to the Lord that Jerusalem would now be free and Jews would have citizenship status. He would restore the temple that he had sacked; he would provide the finances to cover the costs. In addition, he himself would become a Jew. None of that accomplished an end to his sufferings. He gave up hope and wrote a letter to the Jews, wishing them well and naming his son as successor.

The author of Maccabees sums up, "So the murderer and blasphemer, having endured the more intense suffering, such as he had inflicted on others, came to the end of his life by a more pitiable fate among the mountains in a strange land" (v. 28).

At what point could Antiochus have changed the outcome?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Recognizing Sovereignty--Finally, a reflection on 2 Maccabees 9:1-12

Meanwhile the Greek king Antiochus had gone to Persepolis (in Persia, today's Iran) to rob the temple and control the city. Instead, the people defeated his army driving him into a shameful retreat. Then he heard what had happened to Nicanor and Timothy. He was so angry that he ordered his charioteer to drive without stopping until he reached the Jews. But the all-seeing Lord, the God of Israel, struck him down by inflicting what sounds to me like Crohn's disease. The consequences of the disease did not deter him or even slow him down. Only when he fell out of his chariot did he stop. As his body rotted away, broken in spirit. he uttered these words, "It is right to be subject to God; mortals should not think that they are equal to God."

We may agree with this enemy's final words. What does it take to be able to recognize the existence of God, the power of God, our relationship to God?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Success with the Help of the Almighty, a reflection on 2 Maccabees 8:21-36

His words filled them with courage. With the Almighty as their ally, they defeated the armies attacking them, killing many, wounding most of the rest, collecting money and arms as spoils, eventually halting attack because it was the day before the sabbath.

After the sabbath, they gave the spoils to those who had been tortured and to widows, orphans, and elderly, sharing the rest.

Nicanor, the Syrian general, who had recruited an army promising them that they would take the Jews as slaves, now,  humiliated in defeat, fled in disguise

Compare this version with that in 1 Maccabees  4,

Monday, July 20, 2015

Fighting Back, a reflection on 2 Maccabees 8:1-20

To confront the Syrian Greeks, Judas Maccabeus and his companions moved through the villages enlisting a Jewish force of about six thousand. They implored the Lord to remember the evils done and to do something about it.

The wrath of God had turned to mercy. When Maccabeus got his army organized, the Gentiles were not able to withstand it. He set fire to towns and villages, captured strategic positions, scared off many of the enemy forces. Talk of his valor spread.

Philip was able to get aid from his allies, totaling at least twenty thousand Gentiles from all nations. He captured Jews and sold them into slavery ( not recognizing whose side the Lord was on). When Judas told his companions about this army, some who were cowardly or distrustful of God's justice deserted. Others prayed to the Lord for rescue of those who had been enslaved.

Maccabeus gathered his six thousand. He exhorted them to trust in the Almighty God who was able with a single nod to strike down all coming against them, even, if necessary, the whole world. He reminded then of how their ancestors had defeated enemies against all odds.

(Compare with 1 Maccabees 2-5).

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Religious Persecution, a reflection on 2 Maccabees 7

The king continued the attempt to compel the Jews to forsake their religion. Seven brothers and their mother were arrested. The king had the one who was spokesman tortured while his family watched. The other brothers and their mother encouraged him to die nobly. One after another, five more brothers were also tortured, also died. Disturbing to us moderns is to read that the mother was especially admirable and worthy of honorable memory.

Antioch had not expected this attitude. He felt that the mother was being contemptuous and reproachful. He offered the last brother, the youngest one, great riches and friendship if he would forsake Judaism. When the young man refused the offer, Antioch called the mother in and urged her to advise the youth to save himself. She complied. But, in their native language, she told her son not to fear the butcher, "Accept death, so that in God's mercy I may get you back again along with your brothers."

While she was still speaking, the young man announced that he would not renounce Judaism and that those who were doing evil to Jews would not escape the hands of God.

The king was angry and had this son tortured even worse than the others. Last of all, the mother died.

Please note: These people were persecuted because they considered their religion more important than what the king wanted. People in our time may complain about their suffering on behalf of their religion,  need to think about what really they are being asked to give up. Someone who has written on this topic is Rachel Held Evans, who has asked us to drop our persecution complex,

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Suppression of Judaism, a reflection on 2 Maccabees 6:1-31

The government attempted to suppress Judaism. The temple was overtaken and debauched. People weren't allowed to keep the sabbath, observe their religious holidays, or admit out loud that they were Jews. Jews were forced to take part in ceremonies favored by the government. Women who had their babies circumcised were executed. Eleazar, a scribe in high position, was tortured and executed because he would not forsake Jewish laws.

In the middle of this presentation of martyrdom, the author of Maccabees offers an explanation of why the Lord permitted these calamities: In the case of the other nations, the Lord waits patiently to punish them until they have reached the full measure of their sins. He never withdraws his mercy from us. Although he disciplines us with calamities, he does not forsake his own people."

How comforting is this explanation?

Friday, July 17, 2015

Thwarted rebellion, a reflection on 2 Maccabees 5:1-27

About this time Antiochus made a second attempt to invade Egypt. His forces saw a vision in the sky of golden-clad calvary armed with lances and drawn swords, attacks and counterattacks. The apparition continued for forty days. Everyone prayed that the apparition would prove to be a good omen.

When a rumor arose that Antiochus was dead, Jason made an assault on the city. Menelaus took refuge in the citadel. Jason continued the slaughter not realizing that killing one's kindred does not turn out well.

It didn't for him. Instead of gaining control of the country, he had to flee in disgrace. In exile, he fled from city to city, pursued by everyone, hated as a rebel against the law, and abhorred as the executioner of his country, and finally died in Egypt.

Meanwhile, Antiochus invaded the temple and abetted by Menelaus appropriated the holy vessels and a large sum of money. He hurried away to Antioch leaving behind governors to oppress the people of Jerusalem. Apolonius was sent with an army of 22,000 men was commanded to kill all the grown men in Jerusalem and sell the women and boys as slaves. His army did kill many people, but Judas Maccabees was able to escape (see 1 Macc 2:4).

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Sacrilege, Crime, Punishment, a reflection on 2 Maccabees 4:21-50

Jason sent Menelaus, Simon's brother, to carry money to the king and to conduct other business. Menelaus used the opportunity to bribe his way into supplanting Jason as high priest.  So, Jason, who had supplanted his own brother, was himself supplanted by another man and driven out of the country. Menelaus had no qualifications for the position; rather, he was well qualified to be a tyrant. Also, he neglected to pay the taxes due to the king making him unhappy.

Menelaus stole from the temple to get the funds for his bribe. When Onias learned of this and other malfeasances, he publicly exposed them then withdrew into a place of sanctuary. Menelaus sent Andronicus to kill him. Eventually, the angry king had the assassin executed.

Other nations, and not just the Jews, were grieved and displeased by the murder of Onias. Antiochus was so angry that he immediately stripped off Andronicus's purple robe (a sign he belonged to the favored group Friends of the King) and then the rest of his clothes and led him around the whole city to the very place where he had murdered Onias. There Antiochus executed him.

Many acts of sacrilege were committed including theft of gold vessels. Crowds collected. The deputy high priest gathered an army of 3,000 to attack the citizens. During the battle, many were wounded and some were killed; the rest put to flight. The temple robber was among the ones who were killed.

Charges were brought against Menelaus. Recognizing that his chances were not good, he offered a bribe to the king. It worked; Menelaus was acquitted and was able to remain in office, where he became even more wicked.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Risk of Hellenism, a reflection on 2 Maccabees 4:1-20

Simon, the temple captain who argued with the high priest, Onias, whether the funds should be used for the poor or for the king (3:1-12), continued the disagreement by slandering him by saying he was the one who was the cause of the attempted raid of the temple by Heliodot (who after a prayer by Onias had converted).

Simon did not give up. He claimed Onias was the one who had instigated the raid on the temple funds. One his agents committed murders; Apolonius, the govenor of Coelesyria and Phoenicia, joined his cause. In response, Onias appealed to the king to bring peace.

But the temple was not safe yet. Jason, the brother of Onias, had attained the role of high priest by offering a bribe to the king and promising to build a gymnasium and recruit younth to be part of it. A gym sounds good to us now. Young people exercising sounds good now. But, we're reading about then not now. Then what was happening was that the young were being converted from Judaism into Hellenism; that is, from religion to something that was not.

When the gymnasium was established, the priests neglected their religious duties in order to spend more time wrestling and discus-throwing. Quadrennial games were held at Tyre attended by the king. Money intended for the temple was used to build ships.

When I was a teenager, our MYF (we weren't united, yet) danced but the Baptist youth group certainly did not. What are some current differences of opinion about what is proper at church and what is not?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Conversion, a reflection on 2 Maccabees 3:22-34

Although the king wanted Heliodorus to seize the contents of the temple treasury, the Almighty Lord answered the prayers of the people. When Heliodorus arrived at the treasury with his bodyguard, he was met by an amazing manifestation. Appearing to them was a horse, a frightening-looking rider. The horse knocked Heliodorus man down then two young men appeared who flogged him into unconsciousness. The people who had been full of fear were filleld with joy and gladness now that the Almighty Lord had appeared.

Some of Heliodorus's friends asked the high priest Onias to call on the Most High to grant life to the one lying there near death. Onias, fearing retribution by the king, offered sacrifices for  recovery. At the same time, the two young men who had flogged him appeared to Hellodorus and told him to be grateful to the priest and to tell everyone just who had the power in this kingdom. Heliodorus did.

Depictions of the ousting of Heliodorus works by Delacroix and by Raphael

Monday, July 13, 2015

King or Temple, a reflection on 2 Maccabeus 3:1-21

History: Jerusalem was at peace. The laws were observed because of the piety of the high priest Onias. Then a man named Simon, of the tribe of Benjamin, who had been made captain of the temple, got into a disagreement with Onias over the management of the city market.  Simon reported to Apollonius, the governor, that the temple funds included some tax receipts that should have been designated for the king.

The king sent Heliodorus to investigate. Onias asserted that Simon had misrepresented the facts since the money being held at the temple was a collection for widows and orphans and a deposit made by a certain rich man. He added that it was utterly impossible that wrong should be done to those people who trusted in the holiness, sanctity, and inviolability of the temple that is honored throughout the world.

Heliodorus was not convinced. He ordered that the money be confiscated for the king's treasury. Distress ran through the whole city,  prostration of priests calling to heaven for protection, crowds of resentful, anguished people formed.

How can any society insure protection of people who need it?

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Prologue, a reflection on 2 Maccabees 2:19-32

These verses are a preface to the story of Judas Maccabeus and his brothers, their efforts at protection and defense from foreign intrusion. Whereas another author has published a five-volume work containing a flood of statistics, this document is intended to be easy to read and to memorize. Abbreviating is hard since it involves a lot of choices. The original historian had to include discussion of matters from every side. In this work, the goal is brevity so some details are omitted.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Libraries, a reflection on 2 Maccabees 2:1-18

The letter continues the history lesson, how at the time of exile, Jeremiah insured that the people would not forget the commandments of the Lord or be led astray by temptations of the richer nation.  Saving books is important: Nehemiah founded a library collecting the history of the kings and prophets and writings of David. Judas collected the books that had been lost during the war.

Does every church have a library? Does every library have readers?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Fiery Worsip, a reflection on 2 Maccabees 1:1-36

2 Maccabees repeats much of the history presented in 1 Maccabees supplying some additional details. The book begins with two letters sent to Jews in Egypt. The first reminded them to continue recognizing the festival of the booths (see 1 Maccabees 10). The address of the second letter specifically included Aristobulus, the teacher of King Ptolemy. It begins by describing the death of Antiochus IV (in an interesting manner but one that historians don't agree with).

The letter tells that it's time for the religious observance, Chislev, a celebration of the purification of the temple and suggests that the readers may also want to celebrate. After a description of the history of the Jews when captive to the Persians, the letter relates the history of Nehemiah, including a description of the worship service that included sacrifices, including the accompanying miracle and the prayer that followed the service.

As I read this letter, I wondered what I would say about the typical Methodist worship service to someone who had never been to one. What needs to be said? What explanations are helpful?

And what happened to fire in the worship service? Is that great fire they had the origin of our bringing candles into the sanctuary and then at the end of the service transporting the flame out into the world?

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Revolt by a son-in-law, a reflection on 1 Macabees 16:1-24

After Simon heard the report from John that the Syrian general Cendebeus was threatening Judea, he  turned over the leadership to his two eldest sons, Judas and John. John led a force of 20,000 warriors and calvary to attack the army led by Cendebeus.

Early one morning, they were confronted by a large force of infantry and calvary coming toward them on the other side of a stream. When John saw that his soldiers were afraid to cross over the stream, he himself went first. When his troops saw this, they followed him. Despite the size of the enemy army, they were able to put them to flight.

Ptolemy, son-of-law of Simon, decided to take over the country. At a banquet given by another rebel, Simon and two of his sons, Mattathias and Judas, got drunk and were attacked and killed by Ptolemy and his men.

Wanting to take over Jerusalem, Ptolemy sent troops to Gaza to get rid of John. John learned of this treachery and killed the men who were planning to assassinate him.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

More on Dor and a look at variation between conquest and reacquisition, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 15:25-41

After defeating Typho, Antiochus no longer needed the support of Simon. He refused gifts that Simon sent and broke agreements he had made.

He sent Athenobius, one of the Friends of the King to Jerusalem to deliver a letter to Simon, claiming that Jappa, Gaza, and the citadel in Jerusalem belonged to the Seleucids and demanded tribute be paid. Otherwise, war.

When the Friend got to Jerusalem, he was stunned by the display of gold and silver. Moreover, Simon asserted that none of their possessions or land belonged to any foreigners. It was originally owned by their ancestors and had been wrongly taken by foreigners. He made an exception for Joppa and Gaza, offering to pay 100 talents to Greece for them. Athenobius didn't bother to answer him. In anger, he reported to the king who also got very angry.

Meanwhile, Typho escaped. The king pursued him but sent a commander to attack Judea.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Amity, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 15:1-24

Antiochus, the son of King Demetrius, announced that he intended to take the throne so as to restore it to what it had been. Needing support, he wrote to Simon, reducing the debts and taxes owed, permitting them to coin their own currency, allowing them to protect the sanctuary.

Antiochus led a successful rout of Trypho.

The Romans affirmed their alliance with the Jews.

Monday, July 6, 2015

No separation of church and state, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 14:25-49

When the people heard how Rome and Sparta had praised Simon, they wanted to thank him, too. An official public decree was issued outlining his achievements--risking his life, contributing great sums of his own money, serving as leader and high priest, maintaining justice and loyalty. King Demetrius made him one of his Friends.

The Jews gave him authority over the sanctuary and  the appointment of all officials. Read verses 44-49 again. No one is allowed to reverse any of his decisions. Anyone that doesn't go along with what he has decided shall be liable to punishment. And he is also the high priest.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Eulogy, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 14:1-24

In a continuing attempt to defeat Trypho, King Demetrius led an army into Media. When the Persian king heard about this, he had Demetrius arrrested.

This war chronicle is interrupted by an eulogy of Simon. He is to be remembered for his effectiveness in war and in peace. 

Not only his people but also the Spartans recognized his achievements.

The Oxford Bible Commentary on the Apocrypha lists the accomplishments cited in the eulogy: broadening of the borders; caring for peace; security and material prosperity; caring for the law and the temple. 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The beginning of independence, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 13:31-53

Simon chooses to affiliate with King Demetrius rather than the treacherous Trypho. After receiving a request for relief, Demetrius promises Simon to make peace and reduce the taxes that had been imposed. Israel was finally free from Gentile rule.

Simon, who was high priest and the commander of the army, and the leader of the people, besieged Gaza. When they were able to break into the city, the residents rushed out to ask Simon for peace and mercy. Simon agreed but first cleansed the houses in which idols were located, He then built a house there for himself. His next accomplishment was to take over the citadel.

What idols do we need to get out of our houses?

Great celebration that a great enemy had been crushed and removed from Israel. Simon decreed that they should celebrate this every year.

Simon made his son John commander of all the forces.

No leader can stay in power forever, but not every leader makes preparation for his inevitable succession.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Death of Jonathan, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 13:1-30

Simon, the last of the brothers, gathered his fearful people, reminding them of how his brothers had led them through wars and promised vengeance. The people responded, "You are our leader; what you say to us we will do."

In an attempt to get Jonathan back, Simon paid the ransom demanded by Trypho. Instead of returning Jonathan, Trypho killed him.

Is there any way to deal with a treacherous enemy?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Capture of Jonathan, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 12:24-50

Hearing that King Demetrius was returning with an even larger force, Jonathan led his army to meet them in Hamath (Syria?). He sent spies into the camp who reported back that Demetrius' army was going to attack that night. Jonathan's army stayed up all night ready for battle. When the enemy heard that Jonathan's army was prepared to attack them, they fled, leaving fires kindled in the camp so as to make it look like they were still there.

Simon traveled to Joppa, taking it over because he had heard rumors was to be a stronghold protecting Demetrius' army.

Returning to Jerusalem, Jonathan convened with the elders on ways to protect themselves from Demetrius. They increased the height of the walls around Jerusalem, erected a high barrier between the citadel and the city, repaired broken walls. Simon fortified an outpost in the foothills.

The Greek general Typho wanted to become king. Thinking that Jonathan might oppose this effort, he looked for ways to kill him. Jonathan amassed a large army in defense. Typho pretended to be his friend.  Jonathan fell for the ruse, sent much of his army home, then was captured.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Planned attack on the Sabbath, a reflection on 2 Maccabees 15:1-19

When Nicanor learned that Judas's troops were in Samaria, he decided that the best time to attack them was on the Sabbath. The Jews who were with him pleaded for him to show respect for the day who had designated the Sabbath. He responded by saying that he himself was sovereign on earth so he was the one who would tell them what to do and when.

Judas Maccabeus, continuing to trust in the Lord, exhorted his troops not to fear the attack by the Gentiles but to trust in the Lord who had rescued them many times. He related a dream he had had: the high priest Onias had introduced Jeremiah who gave Judas a golden sword, saying that it was a gift from God to use to strike down adversaries.

Encouraged by Judas, they attack the enemy that was threatening the city and the sanctuary and especially the temple.

Do we ever make decisions based on dreams--ours or other people's? Can we imaging thinking that protecting the temple was more essential than protecting the people in the city?

Letters to Rome and Sparta, a reflection on 1 Maccabees 12:1-23

After success in battle even after the desertions, Jonathan decided it was time to reforge the agreements with Rome and Sparta. Or, with the confidence instilled in him because of his recent victory, he decided it was a good time to reforge the agreements with those two more powerful nations. Or, Rome as a nation is steady, but it does change leaders so it would be appropriate to ensure that the current leader agreed with the agreement made by a previous one (I don't know much about Sparta but assume their situation might be similar).

Interesting (a word for "I don't know what to do with this information) is the assertion by the Oxford Bible Commentary, on the Apocrypha, that the letter or the previous one to Sparta may not be authentic.

What do we do with the idea that part of Scripture may have been written to make a point about what to do now rather than to report literally what happened then?

But, the commentary goes on to point out that it is interesting that the Jews want to remind Sparta of their common ancestry.

I'm considering how it can still make a difference in choosing allies if we have a prior connection with them, or if we think they are somehow like us.

Jonathan attempted to confirm alliances with the powerful nations, Rome and Sparta.

In a letter to Sparta, he asserted that the Jews had family ties with them, "We therefore remember you constantly at festivals and on other appropriate days, at our sacrifices we offer and in our prayers."

The letter asserted that the Jews when faced by attack from their enemies had not wanted to bother the Spartans and that their victories had come from help from Heaven.

He appended a letter sent to Onias he reminded the Spartans of their common ancestry from Abraham and concluded that they would share ownership of land and livestock.