As King Antiochus the Fourth was passing through Mesopotamia, he heard of a city in Persia, named Elymais, which was famous for its riches in silver and gold.
The temple was very rich, containing gold shields, armor, and weapons left there by Alexander, son of King Philip of Macedonia, who was the first to rule the Greek Empire.
Antiochus came and tried to take the city and loot it, but he didn't succeed, because the citizens had learned what he was planning to do,
and they drew up their troops to resist him. In great frustration he withdrew to return to Babylonia.
In Persia a messenger reached him with the news that the armies he had sent into Judea had been defeated.
Lysias and his strong army had been forced to flee from the Jews, who were now reinforced by the additional weapons, supplies, and loot they had taken from the defeated armies.
The Jews had pulled down the thing they called "The Awful Horror" that Antiochus had built on the altar in Jerusalem. They had also surrounded the Temple with high walls, as it had been before, and had taken and fortified the town of Bethzur, one of the king's own towns. 1
When the king heard this report, he was so dumbfounded and terribly shaken that he went to bed in a fit of deep depression because things had not turned out as he had hoped.
He remained ill for a long time, as waves of despair swept over him, until he finally realized that he was going to die.
He called together all those to whom he had given the title "Friends of the King" and said to them, "I cannot sleep, and my heart is broken with grief and worry.
At first I asked myself why these great waves of trouble were sweeping over me, since I have been kind and well-liked during my reign.
But then I remembered the wrongs I did in Jerusalem when I took all the silver and gold objects from the Temple and tried without any good reason to destroy the inhabitants of Judea.
I know this is why all these terrible things have happened to me and I am about to die in deep despair here in this foreign land."
Then he called Philip, one of his most trusted advisers, and put him in charge of his whole empire.
He gave him his crown, robe, and official ring, and authorized him to educate his son Antiochus the Fifth and bring him up to be king.
King Antiochus died there in the year 149.
When Lysias learned that the king had died, he made the young Antiochus king in place of his father. He had brought up Antiochus from childhood and now gave him the name Eupator.
Meanwhile, the enemies in the fort at Jerusalem had been blockading the people of Israel in the area around the Temple, constantly causing them trouble and giving support to the Gentiles.
So Judas decided to get rid of them and called all the people together to besiege the fort.
The people assembled and laid siege to the fort in the year 150. They built siege platforms and battering rams.
But some of the men under siege escaped, and together with some of the renegade Jews, they went to the king and said,
"How long are you going to wait before you take revenge for what was done to our countrymen?
We were willing to serve your father, follow his orders, and obey his decrees.
But what good did it do us? Now our own countrymen have become our enemies. In fact, they have killed as many of us as they could find and have stolen our possessions.
But we are not the only ones they have harmed; they have attacked all their neighbors.
And now they have laid siege to the fort in Jerusalem and are planning to take it. They have also fortified the Temple and Bethzur.
Unless you act immediately, they will do even more, and you will not be able to stop them."
When the king heard this, he was furious. He brought together all the army commanders, the cavalry officers, and his most trusted advisers.
He also hired mercenary soldiers from other countries and from the Greek islands.
His forces numbered 100,000 infantry, 20,000 cavalry, and 32 elephants trained for war.
The king and his army passed through Idumea and laid siege to Bethzur, where they fought for a long time. They built battering rams and siege platforms, but the defenders fought bravely and came out of the town and burned down the platforms.
Then Judas withdrew his troops from the fort in Jerusalem and set up his camp at Beth Zechariah, blocking the advance of the king's army.
Early the next morning, the king rapidly moved his army along the road to Beth Zechariah, where his troops took up battle positions and blew trumpets.
They got the elephants ready for battle by showing them grape juice and mulberry juice.
The huge animals were distributed among the infantry units. A thousand men, protected by chain armor and bronze helmets, were stationed with each elephant. Each animal was also accompanied by a special force of 500 cavalry,
which always remained with the elephant.
A strong, protected wooden platform was securely fastened by a special harness to the back of each elephant. Three soldiers rode on each animal, in addition to the elephant driver.
Lysias placed the rest of the cavalry on the two flanks of the army where they could be protected by the infantry while harassing the enemy.
The sunlight, reflected off the bronze and gold shields, shone on the mountains and flashed like burning torches.
Part of the king's army was spread out over the higher ground of the mountain slopes and part over the lower land, but they all moved forward steadily and in good order.
All the people were terrified when they heard the noise made by the clashing of weapons and the marching of that great and powerful army.
Judas and his army advanced into battle, and immediately killed 600 of the king's army.
When Eleazar Avaran saw that one of the elephants was larger than the others and that it was covered with royal armor, he thought that the king was riding on it.
Eleazar sacrificed his life to save his people and to gain eternal fame.
He ran boldly toward the elephant, which was in the middle of a battalion of infantry. He rushed forward killing men to the right and left, so that the enemy soldiers fell back before him on both sides.
He slipped in under the elephant and stabbed it to death, and it fell on him and killed him.
But when the Jews realized how strong the royal army was and how determined it was to fight, they retreated.
The king and his army advanced to fight the Jews at Jerusalem and laid siege to the whole of Judea and Jerusalem.
He made peace with the Jews of Bethzur, who then left the town. There had not been enough food in the town for them to withstand the siege because it was the sabbatical year, when no crops were planted.
The king occupied Bethzur and stationed a body of troops there to guard it.
Then he surrounded the Temple and besieged it for a long time. He set up siege platforms, battering rams, catapults for throwing fire and stones, and other weapons to throw spears and rocks.
The defenders also made war machines to oppose those of the enemy, and so the battle went on for a long time.
But there was no food left in the Temple storage bins because it was the sabbatical year, and the people who had fled from the Gentiles and taken refuge in Judea had eaten all the food that had been stored there.
The shortage of food had been so severe that many people had scattered to their homes, and only a few men were left in the Temple.
Meanwhile, Philip, who had been appointed by King Antiochus before his death to educate his son to be king,
returned from Persia and Media. He had come back with the royal army and planned to take control of the government. When Lysias heard this news,
he made rapid preparations to depart. He said to the young king, to his officers, and to his men, "We are growing weaker each day; we are short of provisions, and this place we are besieging is strong. Besides, there are pressing government affairs which need our attention.
So now let's arrange a truce and make a peace treaty with the Jews and their whole nation.
We will allow them to follow their own laws and customs as they did before. All this trouble started when we provoked them by abolishing their laws and customs."
This recommendation was well received by the king and the officers, so Lysias proposed peace terms to the Jews, and they accepted them.
When the king and his officers solemnly agreed to abide by these terms, the Jews came out of their fortress.
But when the king entered the Temple area on Mount Zion and saw the strong fortifications, he broke his word and ordered the walls surrounding the Temple to be torn down.
Then he hurriedly left and returned to Antioch, where he found Philip in control of the city. The king attacked the city and took it by force.