Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary, 1859 edition.

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1 MACHABEES - Chapter 6

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1 Machabees vi.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 1. Higher, beyond the Euphrates [River], chap. iii. 30, 37. (Calmet) --- The city. Greek Alexandrian, &c., "a city in Elymais," &c. The Roman copy, Syriac, Josephus, style the place Elymais, where the temple was. (Calmet) --- Profane authors agree that this temple was very rich, and that Epiphanes attempted to plunder it. (St. Jerome, in Daniel xi.) --- Nanea. Venus or Diana was the deity there adored, whom the king pretended he would marry, 2 Machabees i. 13., and ix. 2. (Calmet) --- The account of the death of Epiphanes is given to ver. 16., and 2 Machabees ix. (Worthington)

Ver. 4. Battle. It is not known whether Elymais belonged to the king. Strabo (16) observes it was very jealous of its liberty, which it maintained against the Persians and the successors of Alexander [the Great]. (Calmet) --- Babylonia. At last he returned towards the country of Babylon. But before he arrived, the news of his generals' bad success in Judea filled him with vexation, and brought on desperate diseases, ver. 8., and 2 Machabees ix. 5. (Worthington) --- He intended to pass by the country or city of Babylon, but was prevented by illness on the mountains which divide it from Persia.

Ver. 5. Persia, at Ecbatana. He expired at Tabis, having fallen from his chariot, &c., 2 Machabees ix. (Calmet)

Ver. 12. Evils. All this repentance was fictitious, 2 Machabees ix. (Worthington)

Ver. 14. Friends, educated with him. He appointed him regent instead of Lysias. (Calmet) --- His son Eupator was only nine years old. (Appian.) --- He made him appear and be recognized by the army. Eupator means one "born of a good father." (Calmet)

Ver. 16. Nine. He began his persecution the year [of the kingdom of the Greeks?] 143, so that it lasted six years and almost four months, or 2300 days, (Daniel viii. 14.) during which time Judas purified the temple, some months before the death of Epiphanes. (Worthington)

Ver. 20. Fifty. How then was peace made in [the year of the kingdom of the Greeks?] 148, as we read [in] 2 Machabees xi. 21.? Usher ([the year of the world] 3841) supposes the era was reckoned according to the Chaldean custom, which defers it six months. Basnage (ii. 1.) rather thins that the letter is placed out of its proper order, and should occur at the beginning of Eupator's reign. See 2 Machabees x. --- Slings, or to thrown stones, &c., ballistas. (Haydock) --- The Greek and Josephus rather indicate terraces, or towers where the machines were placed.

Ver. 30. Hundred. The 2 Machabees xi. 2., specifies 80,000. But it speaks of a subsequent action.

Ver. 31. Idumea. The passes on the north were probably occupied. --- Bethsura lay to the south of Jerusalem. (Calmet)

Ver. 32. Bethzacharam, a defile (Josephus) between the city and Bethsura. Judas abandoned the siege of the castle on Sion. (Calmet)

Ver. 34. Blood of grapes, or wine, (Deuteronomy xxxii. 14.) and the juice of mulberries incite elephants to fight, as the smell of some sorts of blood causes dogs to hunt. (Vales. Phil. lxxxii.) (Worthington) --- This might be done to accustom the elephants to the sight of blood. (Calmet) --- White colours irritate them most, as red do bulls. (Plutarch, de Fort. Alex.) --- Sometimes wine and spirits were given them to drink, when they were to trample on criminals: but it was only shewn them when going to battle, as by drinking they lose their strength. (Elian, Hist. ii. 40., and xiii. 8., and 3 Machabees v. 30.)

Ver. 37. Thirty-two. Bochart looks upon this and other such accounts as fabulous. He does not determine how many might fight in these towers; but allows that there must have been above two or three, as some would correct the Greek text, "two or three strong men fighting with darts upon them." An elephant has been known to carry above 5000 pounds, and thirty-two men would weigh no more than 4800. Pliny ([Natural History?] viii. 7.) observes that sixty people have been seen upon an elephant. Eupator probably had his from India, where they are larger than in Africa. A person of that country was deemed fittest to manage them.

Ver. 38. Trumpets. It would seem as if the infantry had none. Yet this does not appear probable. The Greek reads in a different manner. Some copies have "to stir up and enclose them in the defiles," which seems useless; or "to keep them together in the phalanxes," (Alexandrian manuscript; Calmet) as the Vulgate has read. (Menochius)

Ver. 39. Gold. The Argyraspides of Alexander [the Great] had "shields of silver." His successors might surpass this magnificence; or the officers might have golden and the soldiers brazen bucklers.

Ver. 42. Six, &c., before the exploit of Eleazer. Others fell afterwards, 2 Machabees xi. 11., specifies 11,000 foot, and 600 horse. Josephus says 1000 of the vanguard.

Ver. 43. Saura. Greek, "Avaron," (Calmet) Alexandrian, "the Sauaran." (Haydock) --- He is styled Abaron, (chap. ii. 5.) the brother of Judas. (Calmet) (Josephus) (Sa) (Menochius) --- Arabic says "his servant." This feat is attributed to Judas, (2 Machabees xiii. 15.) as he was general, and approved of, or "commanded" Eleazar to act thus, according to Ben. Gorion, (iii. 20.) and the Arabic. --- Harness, for greater security. The skin is very hard, except under the belly. (Calmet) --- Elephants in the army of Antiochus the great, or rather "the coward," were richly adorned. (Flor. ii. 8.) --- Porus, king of India, rode on one covered with gold. (Curtius viii.)

Ver. 44. Name. This motive has made some condemn the exploit. But surely a person may seek to acquire fame, even by exposing himself to danger. Eleazar might well hope that the beast would not fall so suddenly. The other motive specified is truly noble and virtuous, and we cannot condemn this hero without stronger proofs. St. Gregory (Mor. xix. 13.) represents him as a figure of the proud: but he might not therefore be one of the number, (Calmet) no more than Esau, who was a type of the reprobate, Malachias i. 3. (Haydock) --- St. Ambrose (Off. i. 40.) highly commends the fortitude of this soldier exposing himself to the danger of death for religion. (Worthington) --- This is the general sentiment. See Serarius; Menochius; Tirinus; and Grotius, jure. iii. 4. a. 18.

Ver. 46. Under it. The rhinoceros attacks the elephant in that most vulnerable part. (Pliny, [Natural History?] viii. 20.)

Ver. 47. Them. Judas thought proper to retire to the temple, which alone was fortified, and in his power. The citadel of Sion held for the king, and the city was defenceless. Only what lay to the north of Bethsura was then called Judea. The Idumeans occupied the rest. Eupator blockaded the temple, and besieged Bethsura, which he took, ver. 41. This siege is related more at length, 2 Machabees xii. 19. It cost the king a great deal. (Calmet)

Ver. 51. Battering slings. Literally, balistas. (Haydock) See ver. 20. --- Fire, or the long javelin, falarica, mentioned by Livy xxi.

Incita sulcatum tremula secat aera flamma. (Silius.)

--- Pieces. Literally, "scorpions," (Haydock) a sort of pointed dart, (Calmet) filled with poison, virus qua figit effundit. (Tertullian, scorp.)

Ver. 55. King. Lysias had thus been displaced, ver. 14. (Calmet) --- Providence permitted that he should seek his own interest, and thus deliver Judas from the most imminent danger.

Ver. 58. Come. Literally, "give our right hands," (Haydock) the sign of the most inviolable engagements among the Persians. (Josephus, Antiquities xvii. ultra.[last chapter.])

Ver. 59. Before, by leave of Cyrus, Alex.[Alexander the Great], &c. --- Despising. Greek, "abolished." They had made the attempt.

Ver. 62. Oath. Eupator was not above ten years old, (ver. 14, 20.) so that Lysias must bear the greatest blame. He seems to have prepossessed the king against Philip, the regent. (Haydock)

Ver. 63. City, and slew Philip. (Josephus, Antiquities xii. 15.) (Calmet) --- Read 2 Machabees xiii. 1. (Worthington)


Bible Text & Cross-references:

The fruitless repentance and death of Antiochus. His son comes against Judas with a formidable army. He besieges Sion: but at last makes peace with the Jews.

1 Now *king Antiochus was going through the higher countries, and he heard that the city of Elymais, in Persia, was greatly renowned, and abounding in silver and gold,

2 And that there was in it a temple, exceeding rich; and coverings of gold, and breastplates, and shields, which king Alexander, son of Philip, the Macedonian, that reigned first in Greece, had left there.

3 So he came, and sought to take the city and to pillage it; but he was not able, because the design was known to them that were in the city.

4 And they rose up against him in battle, and he fled away from thence, and departed with great sadness, and returned towards Babylonia.

5 And whilst he was in Persia, there came one that told him, how the armies that were in the land of Juda were put to flight:

6 And that Lysias went with a very great power, and was put to flight before the face of the Jews, and that they were grown strong by the armour, and power, and store of spoils, which they had gotten out of the camps which they had destroyed:

7 And that they had thrown down the abomination which he had set up upon the altar in Jerusalem, and that they had compassed about the sanctuary with high walls as before, and Bethsura also, his city.

8 And it came to pass, when the king heard these words, that he was struck with fear, and exceedingly moved: and he laid himself down upon his bed, and fell sick for grief, because it had not fallen out to him as he imagined.

9 And he remained there many days: for great grief came more and more upon him, and he made account that he should die.

10 And he called for all his friends, and said to them: Sleep is gone from my eyes, and I am fallen away, and my heart is cast down for anxiety:

11 And I said in my heart: Into what tribulation am I come, and into what floods of sorrow, wherein now I am: I that was pleasant and beloved in my power!

12 But now I remember the evils that I did in Jerusalem, from whence also I took away all the spoils of gold, and of silver, that were in it, and I sent to destroy the inhabitants of Judea without cause.

13 I know, therefore, that for this cause these evils have found me: and behold I perish with great grief in a strange land.

14 Then he called Philip, one of his friends, and he made him regent over all his kingdom.

15 And he gave him the crown, and his robe, and his ring, that he should go to Antiochus, his son, and should bring him up for the kingdom.

16 So king Antiochus died there in the year one hundred and forty-nine.*

17 And Lysias understood that the king was dead, and he set up Antiochus, his son, to reign, whom he brought up young: and he called his name Eupator.

18 Now they that were in the castle, had shut up the Israelites round about the holy places: and they were continually seeking their hurt, and to strengthen the Gentiles.

19 And Judas purposed to destroy them: and he called together all the people, to besiege them.

20 *And they came together, and besieged them in the year one hundred and fifty, and they made battering slings and engines.

21 And some of the besieged got out: and some wicked men of Israel joined themselves unto them.

22 And they went to the king, and said: How long dost thou delay to execute the judgment, and to revenge our brethren?

23 We determined to serve thy father, and to do according to his orders, and obey his edicts:

24 And for this they of our nation are alienated from us, and have slain as many of us as they could find, and have spoiled our inheritances.

25 Neither have they put forth their hand against us only, but also against all our borders.

26 And behold they have approached this day to the castle of Jerusalem to take it, and they have fortified the stronghold of Bethsura:

27 And unless thou speedily prevent them, they will do greater things than these, and thou shalt not be able to subdue them.

28 Now when the king heard this, he was angry: and he called together all his friends, and the captains of his army, and them that were over the horsemen.

29 There came also to him from other realms, and from the islands of the sea, hired troops.

30 And the number of his army was an hundred thousand footmen, and twenty thousand horsemen, and thirty-two elephants trained to battle.

31 And they went through Idumea, and approached to Bethsura, and fought many days, and they made engines: but they sallied forth, and burnt them with fire, and fought manfully.

32 And Judas departed from the castle, and removed the camp to Bethzacharam, over-against the king's camp.

33 And the king rose before it was light, and made his troops march on fiercely towards the way of Bethzacharam: and the armies made themselves ready for the battle, and they sounded the trumpets:

34 And they shewed the elephants the blood of grapes, and mulberries, to provoke them to fight.

35 And they distributed the beasts by the legions: and there stood by every elephant a thousand men in coats of mail, and with helmets of brass on their heads: and five hundred horsemen set in order were chosen for every beast.

36 These, before the time wheresoever the beast was, they were there: and withersoever it went, they went, and they departed not from it.

37 And upon the beast, there were strong wooden towers, which covered every one of them: and engines upon them: and upon every one thirty-two valiant men, who fought from above: and an Indian to rule the beast.

38 And the rest of the horsemen he placed on this side and on that side, at the two wings, with trumpets to stir up the army, and to hasten them forward that stood thick together in the legions thereof.

39 Now when the sun shone upon the shields of gold, and of brass, the mountains glittered therewith, and they shone like lamps of fire.

40 And part of the king's army was distinguished by the high mountains, and the other part by the low places: and they marched on warily and orderly.

41 And all the inhabitants of the land were moved at the noise of their multitude, and the marching of the company, and the rattling of the armour, for the army was exceeding great and strong.

42 And Judas and his army drew near for battle: and there fell of the king's army six hundred men.

43 And Eleazar, the son of Saura, saw one of the beasts harnessed with the king's harness: and it was higher than the other beasts; and it seemed to him that the king was on it:

44 And he exposed himself to deliver his people, and to get himself an everlasting name.

45 And he ran up to it boldly in the midst of the legion, killing on the right hand, and on the left, and they fell by him on this side and that side.

46 And he went between the feet of the elephant, and put himself under it: and slew it, and it fell to the ground upon him, and he died there.

47 Then they seeing the strength of the king and the fierceness of his army, turned away from them.

48 But the king's army went up against them to Jerusalem: and the king's army pitched their tents against Judea and Mount Sion.

49 And he made peace with them that were in Bethsura: and they came forth out of the city, because they had no victuals, being shut up there, for it was the year of rest to the land.

50 *And the king took Bethsura: and he placed there a garrison to keep it.

51 And he turned his army against the sanctuary for many days: and he set up there battering slings, and engines, and instruments to cast fire, and engines to cast stones and javelins, and pieces to shoot arrows, and slings.

52 And they also made engines against their engines, and they fought for many days.

53 But there were no victuals in the city, because it was the seventh year: and such as had staid in Judea of them that came from among the nations, had eaten the residue of all that which had been stored up.

54 And there remained in the holy places but a few, for the famine had prevailed over them: and they were dispersed every man to his own place.

55 *Now Lysias heard that Philip, whom king Antiochus while he lived had appointed to bring up his son, Antiochus, and to reign,

56 Was returned from Persia, and Media, with the army that went with him, and that he sought to take upon him the affairs of the kingdom:

57 Wherefore he made haste to go, and say to the king and to the captains of the army: We decay daily, and our provision of victuals is small, and the place that we lay siege to is strong, and it lieth upon us to take order for the affairs of the kingdom.

58 Now, therefore, let us come to an agreement with these men, and make peace with them and with all their nation.

59 And let us covenant with them, that they may live according to their own laws, as before. For because of our despising their laws, they have been provoked, and have done all these things.

60 And the proposal was acceptable in the sight of the king, and of the princes: and he sent to them to make peace: and they accepted of it.

61 And the king and the princes swore to them: and they came out of the strong hold.

62 Then the king entered into Mount Sion, and saw the strength of the place: and he quickly broke the oath that he had taken, and gave commandment to throw down the wall round about.

63 And he departed in haste, and returned to Antioch, where he found Philip master of the city: and he fought against him, and took the city.



1: Year of the World 3840, Year before Christ 164.

16: Year of the World 3841.

20: Year of the World 3841.

50: Year of the World 3841.

55: 1 Machabees vi. 15.