The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The First Book of Machabees
King Antiochus was still on his journey through the high countries, when he heard tell of a city in Persia called Elymais, renowned for its treasures of silver and gold;
here was a temple of great magnificence, that had golden armour in it, breastplate and shield left there by Philip’s son, Alexander of Macedon, the first overlord of Greece.
Thither he marched, intent on seizing the city and plundering it; but seize it he might not, because the townsfolk had news of his purpose,
and came out to offer battle. So he was put to the rout, and must take himself back to Babylon, grievously disappointed.
And here, in the Persian country, a messenger reached him with tidings from Juda. Fled were his armies,
and Lysias, that erstwhile marched out with so brave a retinue, had left the Jews masters of the field. Now they were strong and well-armed, such spoil they had taken from the armies they overthrew;
gone was that defiling image he had set up over the altar at Jerusalem; high walls, as of old, protected the sanctuary; nay, they had made shift to fortify his own stronghold of Bethsura.
What news was this! The king was all bewilderment and consternation; he took to his bed, fallen into a decline for very sadness that his hopes had failed him.
Long time he languished under the double burden of his grief, and knew at last he was a-dying.
So he called his friends about him, and bade them farewell; Here is sleep quite gone from me, said he; so dazed is this heart of mine with doubt unresolved.
Thus runs my thought: How comes it that I have fallen upon such evil times, such a flood of calamity as now engulfs me; I, that in the days of my greatness loved men well, and was well beloved?
And now returns the memory of all the havoc I made in Jerusalem, spoil of gold and silver I robbed from it, doom of mine against the townsfolk, and for no fault.
Past all doubt, here is the source of all those miseries that have come upon me; look you, how I die consumed of grief, in a strange land!
Then he sent for Philip, one of his trusted friends, and gave all the kingdom into his charge;
crown and robe and ring he delivered to him, bidding him seek out prince Antiochus, and bring him up as heir to the throne.
Then and there died king Antiochus, in the hundred and forty-ninth year of the Grecian empire.
And Lysias, hearing of his death, crowned this same prince Antiochus, that he had brought up from boyhood, giving him the name of Eupator.
Meanwhile, what of the Jews that dwelt about the holy place? Here was the garrison of the citadel hemming them in, seeking ever to do them injury, and to sustain the Gentile cause.
So Judas was fain to make an end of it, and summoned the whole people to rally for the siege.
Rally they did, and began the siege in the hundred and fiftieth year, with much contriving of catapults and engines.
But some of the defenders slipped out; and these, with traitors of Israelite stock to support them,
went off to gain the king’s audience. Wilt thou never bring redress, they asked, and do our brethren right?
Jews are we, that resolved we would be loyal to thy father, his policy furthering, his will obeying.
What came of it? Our own fellow Israelites would have no more of our company, slew all they could lay hands on, robbed us of our possessions.
Not us only, but all the country about them, their violence threatens;
even now they stand arrayed against the citadel of Jerusalem, ready to take it by storm, and have fortified Bethsura.
Forestall their plans thou must, and speedily, or they will go further yet, and there will be no holding them.
Angered by these tidings, the king sent for all his trusted friends, for his army captains and his commanders of horse;
mercenaries, too, were hired from foreign countries, and from the islands out at sea,
till he could put a hundred thousand foot and twenty thousand horse into the field, besides thirty-two elephants, inured to war.
Through Edom they marched, and invested Bethsura; long they held it besieged, and built engines to attack it, but these, by a brave sally, the defenders burned to ashes.
Meanwhile, Judas drew away from the citadel, and encamped at Bethzacharam, close to the king’s army.
Ere dawn broke, the king was astir, and his men marching hot-foot towards Bethzacharam, where the armies made ready for battle, with a great blowing of trumpets.
As for the elephants, they were blooded to battle with juice of grape and mulberry,
and so divided here and there among the troops. A thousand foot-soldiers were assigned to each, in coat of mail and helmet of bronze; with each went five hundred picked horsemen;
these were waiting ready for every beast at its station, and must go wherever it went, never leaving its side.
On the back of every beast was a strong protecting tower of wood, cunningly fitted; and thirty-two valiant men were appointed to do battle from this height, over and above the Indian that was the beast’s driver.✻
The remainder of the cavalry were stationed on either wing, to daunt the oncoming host with a clamour of trumpets,✻ and harass them as they stood tight packed in their ranks.
Brightly the sun shone down on shield of gold, shield of bronze, till all the mountain-side gave back the glancing rays of them, and dazzled like points of fire.
Part of the king’s army was drawn up on the heights, part on the level plain; warily they came on and in good order;
and ever, as they went, murmur of voices, tramp of feet, and clash of arms daunted the country-side around them, so great yonder army was, and so valiant.
But Judas and his men closed with them, and gave battle; and of the king’s soldiers, there were six hundred that fell.
What did Eleazar that day, the son of Sauran?✻ Here was one of the beasts that went decked in royal trappings, and towered high above the rest; There rides the king, thought he,
and with that, he gave his life, to win deliverance for his country, and for himself imperishable renown.
Bravely he ran up to it, there in the heart of the press, slaying to right and left of him, men falling on either side,
till he could creep in between the very feet of the elephant; crouched there, and dispatched it, and so, crushed by its fall to earth, died where he lay.
But now, finding the royal forces so strong, and so determined in their attack, the Jews withdrew from the encounter.
To Jerusalem the king’s men followed them, and now here was the king entrenched against Judaea and mount Sion itself.
With the defenders of Bethsura he had made terms; yield up the city they must, so ill were they victualled for a siege, in a year when the land lay fallow;✻
thus Bethsura was in the king’s hands, and he put a garrison there.
But it was against the holy place itself that he turned his arms, and long he beleaguered it; what catapults he brought to bear on it, what engines! Flew fiery darts, flew stone and javelin and arrow from mangonel and arbalest, and the slings took their turn.
As for the Jews, they met engine with engine, and fought on day after day;
but the seventh year had come round, and what store was left in the city had been eaten up by the new citizens rescued from Gentile countries, so food was none to be had.
Only a few defenders were left in the holy place now; the rest, overtaken by famine, had dispersed to their homes.
But Lysias could not wait; he had news from Antioch. That same Philip, whom king Antiochus, on his death-bed, had appointed to bring up the young prince as heir to the throne,
was now returned at the head of his army from the land of the Medes and Persians, and would fain take charge of the realm.
So Lysias must betake himself to the king and his generals, with such words as these: Our plight grows daily worse; scant food is left us, and here is a fortress well defended; all the business of the realm claims our care.
What remains, but to make friendly advances, offer terms to the besieged and to all their countrymen?
Give we leave they should follow their own customs as of old, which customs neglecting, we have brought all this ill-will and all this trouble upon us.
King and chieftain fell in with his design; offer peace they did, and the offer was accepted.
So, upon terms with the king and his generals, the Jews gave up their stronghold;
and what must the king do, once he had set foot on mount Sion and discovered the strength of its defences, but break his oath, and have all the walls of it pulled down!
Then, with all haste, he took leave of it, and returned to Antioch, where he found Philip in possession, and levied war on him, taking the city by storm.
The Holy Bible