02 January 2013

1 Machabees 6-7: Elephants, sleeping soldiers, and a hanging head and hand

The killings in the first part of this story can't be blamed on God. Still, I have to tell you about them. Because of the elephants.

There was this battle, you see, between the Greeks and the Israelites. The Greek army had 100,000 footmen and 20,000 horsemen and 32 elephants.
The number of his army was an hundred thousand footmen, and twenty thousand horsemen, and thirty-two elephants, trained to battle. 6:30
To get the elephants ready for battle they showed them "the blood of grapes, and mulberries." (Nothing gets an elephant riled up more than seeing grape and mulberry blood.)
And they shewed the elephants the blood of grapes, and mulberries to provoke them to fight. 6:34
Each elephant had 1000 men and 500 horsemen, with a tower on top of each elephant and an engine on top of the tower, with 32 valiant fighting men on top of each tower, and an Indian to rule the elephant.
There stood by every elephant a thousand men ... and five hundred horsemen set in order were chosen for every beast. 6:35
Wheresoever the beast was, the were there: and withersoever it went, they went. 6:36
And upon the beast, there were strong wooden towers ... and engines upon them: and upon every one thirty-two valiant men, who fought from above; and an Indian to rule the beast. 6:37
Luckily for the Israelites, Eleazar (one of the Maccabees brothers) was with them. When the battle began, he saw an elephant that was bigger than all the others. Since it was so big, he figured the king ought to be on it. So he ran up to the elephant, killing soldiers left and right, going between the feet of the big elephant and killing it. Whereupon the elephant fell on him and killed him too. But at least he got himself an everlasting name.
Eleazar ... saw one of the beasts ... and it was higher than the other beasts: and it seemed to him that the king was on it. 6:43
And he exposed himself to deliver his people and to get himself an everlasting name. 6:44
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. 6:45
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. 6:46
It probably looked a lot like this:

As far as I can see, God's not really involved in any of this. So I left it out of God's killings. But in the  next chapter, God is there.

It all begins with the Israelite priests weeping and praying to God in the temple, asking God to let Nicanor and his army fall by the sword for their blasphemies.
The priests went in, and stood before the face of the altar and the temple: and weeping, they said ... Be avenged of this man, and his army, and let them fall by the sword: remember their blasphemies.  7:36-38
Judas asked God to kill the Nicanor's soldiers the way he killed 185,000 in Sennacherib's army. (Sennacherib supposedly blasphemed God, so God killed 185,000 of his soldiers while they were sleeping. Very resourceful!)
Judas prayed, and said: O Lord, when they that were sent by king Sennacherib blasphemed thee, an angel went out, and slew of them a hundred and eighty-five thousand. 7:40-41
Destroy this army in our sight today. 7:42
So God helped Judas kill Nicanor and his army. First they killed Nicanor and the rest was easy. All of Nicanor's soldiers threw down their weapons and ran away. The Israelites slaughtered them all as they ran.
And the armies joined battle ... and the army of Nicanor was defeated, and he himself was first slain in the battle. 7:43
And when his army saw that Nicanor was slain, they threw away their weapons, and fled. 7:44
And they were all slain with the sword, and there was not left of them so much as one. 7:46
Then they cut off Nicanor's head and hand and hung them up over Jerusalem. "And the people rejoiced exceedingly, and they spent that day with great joy."
And they took the spoils of them for a booty, and they cut off Nicanor's head, and his right hand ... and they brought it, and hung it up over against Jerusalem. 7:47
And the people rejoiced exceedingly, and they spent that day with great joy. 7:48
Nothing can cheer God's people up more than a hanging head and hand.

So how many did God help kill in this exciting episode?

The story in 1 Machabees doesn't provide a number, but 2 Maccabees does.
So fighting with their hands, but praying to the Lord with their hearts, they slew no less than five and thirty thousand, being greatly cheered with the presence of God. 2 Machabees 15:27
So we can add another 35,000 to God's body count.

The 2 Machabees account also provides some gory details that are missing in 1 Machabees. Here we find that not only was Nicanor's head and hand cut off, but his shoulder was as well.
Judas ... commanded that Nicanor's head, and his hand with the shoulder should be cut off, and carried to Jerusalem. 2 Machabees 15:30
And Judas not only showed everyone Nicanor's head and "wicked hand," but he had his tongue cut out and fed, piece by piece, to the birds. Then he hung the hand and head over the temple and castle, respectively, as "an evident and manifest sign of the help of God."
And shewing them the head of Nicanor, and the wicked hand ... he commanded also, that the tongue of the wicked Nicanor, should be cut out and given by pieces to birds, and the hand of the furious man to be hanged up over against the temple. ...
And he hung up Nicanor's head in the top of the castle, that it might be an evident and manifest sign of the help of God. 2 Machabees 15:32-35

1 comment:

TWF said...

Well, the Bible does like to tell a good story twice, or more often. :-) Thanks for the review!