Day 291: The rise of king alexander
1 Maccabees 10:1-66 Alexander Epiphanes entered into a conflict with Demetrius over control of the empire, and both sought an alliance with Jonathan and Israel. Demetrious offered many generous concessions, but, due to his lack of credibility, Jonathan sided with Alexander. Ultimately, Alexander defeated Demetrious and named Jonathan high priest, general, and governor. Jonathan then had full civil and religious authority in Israel.
Ch 10:67-89 Demetrius II, son of Demetrius, arrived with an army under Apollonius and was determined to recover his father’s throne. He attacked Israel first, but Jonathan and Simon emerged victorious, much to the delight of Alexander.
Sirach 26:1-29 The author praised the good wives who were replete with virtue and, by contrast, severely criticized those wives who lacked virtue as well as women who cast about aimlessly, lacking self-control. Christ restored definitively the rightful and equal dignity of women, which was not sufficiently recognized in the ancient world.
Ch 26:18 Other ancient authorities add verses 19-27: “My son, keep sound the bloom of your youth, and do not give your strength to strangers. Seek a fertile field within the whole plain, and sow it with your own seed, trusting in your fine stock. So your offspring will survive and, having confidence in their good descent, will grow great. A harlot is regarded as spittle, and a married woman as a tower of death to her lovers. A godless wife is given as a portion to a lawless man, but a pious wife is given to the man who fears the Lord. A shameless woman constantly acts disgracefully, but a modest daughter will even be embarrassed before her husband. A headstrong wife is regarded as a dog, but one who has a sense of shame will fear the Lord. A wife honoring her husband will seem wise to all, but if she dishonors him in her pride she will be known to all as ungodly. Happy is the husband of a good wife; for the number of his years will be doubled. A loud-voiced and garrulous wife is regarded as a war trumpet for putting the enemy to flight, and every person like this lives in the anarchy of war. “
Ch 27:1-30 Diligence in judgment and discretion in speech are included among the many practical counsels conveyed in this chapter.
Ch 27:4 A man’s filth remains in his thoughts: Christ identified “evil thoughts” as the source of sinful action that comes from the heart and defiles a person (cf. Mt 15:18-20). The first line of battle in keeping one’s conduct virtuous takes place in the mind and heart. Sparks of passion, whether of anger or lust, must be overcome when they arise initially in the mind and heart. (CCC 2847)
Ch 27:16 The Eighth Commandment calls us to be truthful always. The commitment to speaking truthfully must be compatible with discretion in disclosing information. Some information cannot be revealed for the sake of a person’s good name, interests of privacy, or the common good; when a subject matter is of a sensitive nature, it is unjust to share knowledge of it since in many instances it compromises a person’s reputation or even the respect he or she deserves among family or peers. (CCC 2489)
(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)
In Jonathan’s lifetime, the son of Antiochus IV, a man by the name of Alexander Balas (called “Alexander Epiphanes” in 1 Maccabees 10:1), made his entrance as a throne rival to the reigning Seleucid emperor, Demetrius I.
With great cunning, Jonathan exploited this rivalry, shifting his support between them to his own benefit and that of the Jewish people.
Demetrius I courted Jonathan’s support by giving him power to build an army, rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, and refortify the city against future invasions.
Alexander Balas, in response, appointed Jonathan high priest and bestowed on him the royal emblems of a purple robe and a golden crown.
That Jonathan was not a descendant of the Aaronic line meant that his high priesthood was a departure from the prescriptions of the Torah, which reserved that position for the sons of Aaron alone (Ex 29:29).
Jonathan’s reception of Alexander’s appointment was a stain on the Maccabean movement—a movement that was kindled precisely because of zeal for fidelity to the Torah.
To counter Alexander’s actions, Demetrius I offered to exempt the Jews from all forms of tax, release all Jewish captives, and honor the people’s freedom to practice their faith.
The king also promised to hand certain Samaritan territories back to Judea under the governance of the high priest.
Jonathan and the Jewish people, however, had become wearied by Demetrius’ anti-Jewish policies and rejected them in favor of support for Alexander.
The death of Demetrius I deepened the rivalry for the Seleucid throne, with Jonathan continuing to be entangled in the competition for it.
He was eventually captured by intrigue by Trypho, a rising Seleucid general and usurper of the throne, and was executed soon after.
(*Walking With God: A Journey Through The Bible by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins)
So God does shape our context and our vision
You look at the story of 1 Maccabees Ch 10
The whole thing has just been DRAMA MAMA
Not just like Soap Opera Drama
More like EPIC BATTLE
One king succeeds the next king (Meet the new boss, same as the old boss...🎸😁)
Here is this marriage that tries to shore up the alliance and all this stuff
That is what we have been living in for this time
We have the rise of two kings
Alexander Epiphanes, who claims to be the son of Antiochus Epiphanes
We also have Demetrius
We know Demetrius already because he is no bueno
We don’t like Demetrius
So both these men are trying to reach out to get Jonathan, the Maccabees, and the Jews on their side
So this first letter is from Alexander Epiphanes basically saying, “We have heard you’re amazing, you’re incredible. And I, Alexander, declare you a priest.”
Interestingly, Jonathan accepts it
He might be of the Tribe of Levi, but he is not qualified to be a priest
That is a whole other story
We also see Demetrius writing to Jonathan
Now Alexander’s letter to Jonathan is pretty short, but pretty flattering
If you want to talk about a deal, Demetrius is extending the DEAL OF A LIFETIME to Jonathan and the Jewish people at this point
He basically says, “All of your taxes...cancelled. All of your debts...cancelled. All of your people who are enslaved….freed. Also, if you want anything we will give it to you.”
Demetrius is making a hard hard play to get Jonathan and the Jews on his side
Demetrius is the one who sent Bacchides to kill Jonathan’s brother and the other Jews as well
So this is not going to go well for Demetrius even though he essentially tried to bribe the Jews to be on his side against Alexander Epiphanes
They were faithful and SAW RIGHT THROUGH THIS
They realized, “You know, Demetrius will promise these things because he did in the past. He will promise these things and he will not deliver on them.”
THERE IS A WISDOM HERE!!
There’s definitely wisdom in Sirach
There is a great amount of wisdom here
Even though Alexander says only a few complementary things
He offers a few kind of sweet deals
Demetrius offers ALL the sweet deals
When you know that the person who is offering all the sweet deals is NOT RELIABLE
When you know that the person who is offering all the sweet deals IS A LIAR
When you know that the person who is offering all the sweet deals HAS BETRAYED IN THE PAST
IT IS NOT WISE TO TRUST THAT PERSON!!
And Jonathan does not trust Demetrius
So Alexander assembles large forces and camps opposite Demetrius
The two kings meet in battle
Demetrius and his troops are killed
Another interesting thing that happens in 1 Maccabees Ch 10 is we meet Cleopatra
So Alexander Epiphanes goes into an alliance with the king of Egypt by marrying Cleopatra
Now Cleopatra will end up marrying two other guys right after Alexander dies (spoiler alert)
We have this alliance being made between EGYPT AND THE GRECO-SELEUCID EMPIRE
Alexander also has the support of the Roman senate at that point
So he’s kind of on top of the world
Alliance with Egypt
At peace with Rome
He has the Jews on his side as well
So we have this other battle in the end of 1 Maccabees Ch 10 where we have Demetrius, the son of Demetrius, who is being aggressive
He does not like the idea that Jonathan and his men killed his father
1 Maccabees 10:70, “You are the only one to rise up against us, and I have become a laughingstock and reproach because of you.”
So he challenges Jonathan to battle on the plain
THIS IS REMARKABLE
He has a TON OF TROOPS
Jonathan DOES NOT HAVE A TON OF TROOPS
Jonathan is scraping the bottom of the barrel (For our international brothers and sisters, “Scraping the bottom of the barrel” means being reduced to using things or people of the poorest quality because nothing else is available 😁)
Jonathan defeats the army
It says that Alexander heard of this victory he honored Jonathan
1 Maccabees 10:88, “When Alexander the king heard of these things, he honored Jonathan still more; and he sent to him a golden buckle, such as it is the custom to give to the kinsmen of kings.”
So Alexander is honoring Jonathan as KIN in many ways
Not just giving him lip service, but this real movement of honor
That happens here in Maccabees Ch 10 (Fr. Mike said Ch 12 but...you know 😉)
So we didn’t talk about Sirach yesterday
Because Fr. Mike is avoiding all the Scripture that says, “A garrulous wife is like this…”
“A wife you want to avoid is like that…”
He doesn’t need to go there, guys! 😉
Just let the Word of God say it
We shall add to THIS PIECE
The warning against someone who is marrying someone whom they ought not to marry, or someone who is immodest, or someone who doesn’t watch their mouth, or someone who doesn’t really treat people with kindness
It goes on to say that on the other hand, a wife who has charm IS A GIFT
A wife who is sensible IS A GIFT
A wife who is disciplined IS A GIFT
A wife who is modest IS A GIFT
A husband who has charm IS A GIFT
A husband who is sensible IS A GIFT
A husband who is modest IS A GIFT
A husband who is chaste IS A GIFT
All these pieces are NOT JUST ABOUT WIVES
In this context, remember this is a FATHER writing to a SON
So he’s going to be talking about wives
There is this other piece talking about any human being, also men
Sirach 27:4, “When a sieve is shaken, the refuse remains; so a man’s filth remains in his thoughts.”
I don’t know if we’ve put a lot of attention on what kind of things we take in
Say you have a sieve or a strainer
When it is shaken, the refuse remains
So the stuff that we put into our minds STICKS THERE
Sirach 27:5, “The kiln tests the potter’s vessels; so the test of just men is in tribulation.”
What a gift it is to know that SUFFERING IS THE TEST
SUFFERING REVEALS THE VALUE OF OUR HEARTS
SUFFERING REVEALS THE WORTH OF OUR HEARTS
Sirach 27:6, “The fruit discloses the cultivation of a tree; so the expression of a thought discloses the cultivation of a man’s mind.”
Sirach 27:7, “Do not praise a man before you hear him speak, for this is the test of men.”
Sirach goes on to talk about WISE WORDS and WISE SPEECH and also UNWISE WORDS and UNWISE SPEECH
It’s a conviction for us to be able to say, “Gosh, Lord. Fill my heart with an abundance of goodness. Fill my mind with an abundance of goodness. So that when I speak, it is not evil words. And when I speak, it is not unwise words. Fill my heart with goodness so that everything that comes out of my mouth is good.”
So we pray for each other like that
FILL YOUR HEART AND FILL YOUR MIND WITH GOODNESS SO THAT EVERYTHING THAT COMES OUT OF YOUR HEART AND YOUR MIND IS GOOD AS WELL!!
KEEP PRAYING FOR EACH OTHER
FR. MIKE IS PRAYING FOR YOU
PRAY FOR FR. MIKE
Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in Heaven we give you praise and thanks. Oh gosh, thank you for this day. Thank you for the Word, your Word, which is planted in our minds and in our heart. Help it to bear fruit. Help us to bear fruit by listening to your Word and seeing the world the way you see the world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”