In the year 149 Judas Maccabeus and his followers found out that Antiochus Eupator was marching against Judea with a large army
and that Lysias, the young king's guardian and the head of his government, was with him. They had a force of Greek troops consisting of 110,000 infantry, 5,300 cavalry, 22 elephants, and 300 chariots with sharp blades attached to their wheels.
Menelaus, trying to take advantage of the situation, went over to their side and urged them on, not because he was concerned for the country, but because he hoped to be confirmed as High Priest.
But God, the King of kings, made Antiochus furious with Menelaus. Lysias proved to Antiochus that this criminal had been the source of all his troubles, so Antiochus ordered him to be taken to the city of Berea and put to death in the way that it was done there.
In that city there is a tower about 75 feet high. It is filled with ashes, and all around the inside of the tower is a platform sloping down into the ashes.
People accused of crimes against the gods or of any other serious crime are taken there and thrown down to their death.
Menelaus was put to death in that way, without even having the privilege of a burial,
and that was just what he deserved. He had often profaned the sacred ashes of the altar fire in the Temple, and now he met his death in ashes.
King Antiochus arrogantly continued his barbaric invasion of Judah, intending to deal with the Jews more harshly than his father had ever done.
When Judas learned of this, he told the people to pray to the Lord day and night, because they were in danger of losing their Law, their country, and their holy Temple. As never before, they needed his help and protection
to keep their newly restored country from falling into the hands of godless Gentiles.
For three days the people did nothing but lie face down on the ground, fasting and crying, begging the merciful Lord for his help. Then Judas spoke words of encouragement to the people, urging them to get ready for action.
Afterward, Judas met privately with the Jewish leaders and decided to march out with God's help to battle against the king, rather than to wait for Antiochus to invade Judea and besiege Jerusalem.
Then, leaving the outcome of the battle to the Creator of the world, Judas encouraged his men to fight bravely and to be willing to die for their laws, the Temple, Jerusalem, their country, and their whole way of life. They set up camp near the city of Modein.
Judas gave his men the battle cry, "Victory comes from God," and that night, with a picked force of his bravest young men, he attacked the area near the king's tent and killed as many as 2,000 men. They also stabbed to death the lead elephant and its keeper.
Everyone in camp was terrified and in panic when Judas and his men finally left victoriously
just before dawn. The help and protection of the Lord had made all this possible.
This taste of Jewish daring was enough to convince King Antiochus that he had to find some better way of capturing the Jewish positions.
He attacked the strong Jewish fort of Bethzur, but was repeatedly beaten back and finally defeated.
Judas sent supplies to the men who were defending the fort,
but a Jewish soldier by the name of Rhodocus gave some secret information to the enemy. He was found out, however, caught, and put to death.
The king made a second attempt to come to terms with the people of Bethzur, and when he had reached an agreement with them, he withdrew his forces. Then he went to attack Judas, but again he was defeated.
Meanwhile, Philip had been left at Antioch in charge of the government, but King Antiochus learned that he had revolted. The king did not know what to do, so he initiated peace talks with the Jews, agreed to their terms, and promised to be just in his treatment of them. To put the treaty into effect, he offered a sacrifice, gave a generous gift to show his respect for the Temple,
and graciously received Judas Maccabeus. After that, the king appointed Hegemonides to be governor of the territory between the cities of Ptolemais and Gerar,
and then he himself went on to Ptolemais. The people there were angry because of the treaty he had made with the Jews - so angry, in fact, that they wanted the treaty canceled.
But Lysias made a public speech, defending the treaty as well as he could. After he had calmed the people down and convinced them that he was right, he returned to Antioch. In this way King Antiochus' invasion was turned into a retreat.