162 BC

- ס י ט -

Elazar Is Crushed to Death by an Elephant Near Beth Zechariah

162 BC

1 Maccabees 6:30

Following Judas’ first brilliant victories, a new commander by the name of Lysias arrives in Judea. Though the battle of Beth Zur (164 BC) ends in a stalemate, Jewish independence is not compromised. In the wake of this outcome, the Seleucids recruit a much larger enemy, including many horses and a unit of elephants. The fields surrounding Beth Zechariah become the stage of the next clash (162 BC). Elazar, one of Judas’ brothers, stabs an elephant on which he thinks Lysias is sitting – causing the massive animal to fall and crush Elazar to death. Though Judas’ army is defeated, the enemy fails to seize momentum. As they prepare to lay siege to Jerusalem, the Seleucid troops are summoned back in order to suppress a revolt, led by Philip, against Antiochus V. Lysias reaches an agreement with Judas: Jerusalem will remain in Jewish hands and their religious liberties will not be infringed.

Judas’ army fights against a tremendous opponent in Beit Zechariah. They are forced to retreat and return to Jerusalem, but their spirit does not fall; neither Judas nor his soldiers give up. When the enemy begins to besiege their city, a miracle occurs and the battle is abandoned before a decisive victory is declared. Every person has the power to create miracles. Personal effort and sacrifice are what enable miracles to occur. Judas takes responsibility for the losses. Understanding that his enemy has the upper hand, he begins fortifying Jerusalem in preparation for the upcoming confrontation. 

“The number of his forces was one hundred thousand foot soldiers, twenty thousand horsemen, and thirty-two elephants accustomed to war. 31 They came through Idumea and encamped against Beth-zur, and for many days they fought and built engines of war, but the Jews sallied out and burned these with fire and fought courageously. Then Judas marched away from the citadel and encamped at Beth-zechariah, opposite the camp of the king. 33 Early in the morning the king set out and took his army by a forced march along the road to Beth-zechariah, and his troops made ready for battle and sounded their trumpets. 34 They offered the elephants the juice of grapes and mulberries, to arouse them for battle” (1 Maccabees 6 30-34)

Responsibility is knowing that we are the cause of our circumstances; irresponsibility is blaming others for our situation.