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rapid and irresistible acquisition of power and domi
Judas Maccabeus saw himself continually attacked by the whole force of the Syrians, and that they were so perfidious there was no relying on them in any treaty of peace. He had no aid to expect from the neighbouring nations, and the Romans were generally esteemed for justice and valour, and always ready to assist weak states against oppressive kings; he therefore resolved to seck an alliance with them. But could the Jewish nation, which had hitherto been so wonderfully supported by an ALMIGHTY POWER, be reckoned amongst weak nations? It is true, their army was small in number when compared with their enemies, and they were frequently assaulted, but God had hitherto enabled four of them to chase an hundred, and an hundred to put ten thousand to flight; he had animated their breasts with the courage of lions, and shielded them from the most fu rious attacks of their enemies; they had returned victorious from many battles, without the loss of a single man; and none had fallen but through their own rashness, folly, or disobedience to the Divine Law. What need then had Judas and the chosen people of the LORD to seck protection from an heathen power? It was degrading their HEAVENLY KING in the sight of idol worshippers, to suppose that they stood in need of their assistance; and the honour of the LORD required, that those who thus distrusted him should be taught, by chastisement, to repent for their want of confidence in his Almighty Power. For we must remember, that by the Israelites (as the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) Gon had promised to shew forth his glory, and convey the blessings of Redemption to all nations;
therefore it was not possible for them to be cut off, whilst they kept those laws which were given to distinguish and separate them from heathens, and continued to put their trust in the power of the LORD: neither could they be considered as the peculiar people of Go», er expect miraculous assistance any longer than whilst they fulfilled the conditions of the covenant made with their forefathers. And we may observe, throughout the whole course of the Jewish history, that when this people entered into leagues with heathen powers, they were always unsuccessful.
Eupolemus and Jason, the two ambassadors whom Judas sent to the Roman senate, met with a very gracious reception; and the Jews and Romans entered into a mutual engagement to assist each other both by sea and land; so that Judas and his followers, instead of fighting only for their own lives and their laws, and the recovery of their inheritance, as they had hitherto done, were now bound to assist, if called upon, the ambitious designs of that people who meditated the subjection of the whole earth. Though sometimes one heathen nation, and sometimes another, were (after the apostasy of the Israelites under their king) suffered to prevail, for the punishment of the wickedness of others; yet, it was not lawful for the remnant of God's people (who were preserved for other purposes) to join with them, without an express command from GOD: their only business was, to live quietly under the government which had dominion over them, as long as they were allowed the free exercise of their religion, and the possession of their inheritance; to wait with patience for the Messiah; or in case they were persecuted on account of their faith, and compelled to wor
*1 Macc. viii. 21.
ship idols, and driven from their land, they were to defend themselves by every means in their power, that was consistent with their duty to GoD; and to rely with perfect confidence on the aid of the LORD, who would certainly be unto them a rock of defence against their enemies, and render human alliances unnecessary. Judas therefore took a very improper step in courting the protection of the Romans; and. it was attended with fatal consequences..
Demetrius* having received an account of the defeat and death of Nicanor, sent Bacchides and Alcimus a second time, who encamped before Jerusalem with an army of twenty thousand foot, and two thousand horse: Judas had no more than three thousand men with him to oppose them; and of these, all but eight hundred, terrified with the formidable appearance of the enemy, fled from the host. Personal courage this renowned general possessed to a great degree; but what was his natural force, assisted only by a small number, without the shield and buckler of his salvation, and the sword of his excellency? He was now left to fight his own battle, for the LORD withheld aid from this new ally of the Romans: confidence of victory no longer inspired the breast of Judas; he could not now say to his fearful troops, as on a former occasion, † It is no hard matter for many to be shut up in the hands of a few, and with the God of heaven it is all one to deliver with a great multitude, or a small company: for the victory of battle standeth not in the multitude of an host, but strength cometh from heaven. Danger presented itself to his view in all its horrors, and "he was troubled in mind, and sore dismayed;" but, still solicitous for his country's honour and his own fame, he resolved not to give his
1 Macc. ix. 1.
† 1 Macc. iii. 18--30.
foes cause to triumph in his shameful flight, but exerted the utmost efforts of human skill, and with astonishir bravery supported the combat for some time, "so that the earth shook with the noise of the armies on both sides;" at length, overpowered by numbers, he fell at the feet of his adversaries. Thus died Judas Maccabeus, who, whilst he continued to rely entirely on the LORD, was in himself a host; and whose name struck terror into the minds of mighty warriors. He was, on the whole, a most amiable and worthy character; and though the DIVINE BEING punished his inconsiderate application to the Romans, by deserting him in the hour of danger (as he chastised his faithful servant Moses for striking the rock, by not suffering him to enter the promised land) we cannot doubt but that, after death, GOD exalted him to that state of happiness allotted for the noble army of martyrs: as he had been, in so remarkable a manner, under Providence, the restorer and preserver of the Divine law, and the deliverer and protector of his country.
There was a general lamentation throughout Israel, for the loss of this valiant commander; and he was honourably buried by his brothers, Simon and Jonathan, in the sepulchre of his father, at Modin, having governed Israel six years.
THE HISTORY OF JONATHAN, THE BROTHER AND SUCCESSOR OF JUDAS MACCABEUS.
AFTER the death of Judas, the people were greatly
* 1 Macc. ix. 23.
disheartened. Bacchides prevailed every where: a famine also increased their distress; which we may judge from God's usual dealings with his people, was sent as a chastisement for their distrust in him, and desertion of their general. Many of the friends of Judas were put to death, or cruelly used by Bacchides, so that there was great affliction in Israel, "such as had not been since the times of the prophets;" they therefore resolved to appoint Jonathan, the brother of Judas, to be their prince and captain. Jonathan accordingly took the government, and collected forces together to resist the enemy; which Bacchides hearing, endeavoured to get him into his power; but Jonathan, and Simon his brother fled, with their company, into the wilderness of Tekoa; and, in order to secure their goods and baggage, sent them, under the conduct of John, another of Judas's brothers, to their friends, the Nebatheans; but John was intercepted in his march by the Jambrians, a tribe of Arabs, who slew him, took the rest prisoners and seized upon their effects. Not long after this, Jonathan had an opportunity of revenging his brother's death, and obtained great spoil. He exerted himself, as his brother Judas had done, for the protection of Gon's people, and the blessing of the LORD constantly attended him.
Alcimus +, by the aid of Bacchides, had fully esta blished himself in the high-priest's office, and made se veral alterations for the corruption of the Jewish worship, and bringing it to resemble the superstition of the heathen; at last he gave orders to pull down the wall which separated the Jews from the Gentile converts; but whilst it was doing, he was suddenly struck with
#1 Macc. ix. 35.
+ Ibid. 54.