From 157 to 160 BC

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Jonathan, Simon Become Leaders of the Revolt, Take Refuge in the Desert

From 157 to 160 BC

1 Maccabees 9:33

Jonathan and Simon take refuge in the desert and swear to continue their late brother’s fight. Bacchides’ failed attempts to crush the revolt are followed by a period of relative calm, during which the Seleucids erect fortifications across the Judean desert and other remote areas of the country. When Bacchides finally decides to disrupt the peace, he is amazed to see the size of the ever-growing Jewish forces. The two armies clash at Beth Zur, where the Seleucids face an appalling defeat. Bacchides retreats to Jerusalem and finally returns to Syria. Jonathan becomes the uncontested leader of the rebellion and establishes his headquarters in Michmas. In 157 BC, Bacchides makes an attempt to trap Jonathan and Simon in Jericho upon their return to the Judean desert, in a battle that later becomes known as the Battle of the Jordan Plains. Despite the many fortresses erected by Bacchides throughout the region, he does not succeed in preventing the Jewish armies from reaching Tekoa, their main garrison in the Judean desert. The fight ends with an inconclusive outcome. The Seleucid general further fortifies Jerusalem and several outposts around it before ultimately returning to Antioch.

Jonathan and Simon keep the fire of the rebellion alive. They retreat to the desert and reorganizeremaining loyal to their mission and the plight of their people. An important lesson can be learned from Jonathan and Simon’s actions. Even when they are forced to retreat, they nevertheless manage to grow and become stronger. Specifically when they are in the barren desert, they become filled with the power of abundance and succeed in repelling their mighty enemy. Jonathan and Simon understand the source of abundance in the world. They act with caution and humilityand deliver a staggering disappointment to their enemy.

“But Jonathan and his brother Simon and all who were with him heard of it, and they fled into the wilderness of Tekoa and camped by the water of the pool of Asphar. 34 Bacchides found this out on the Sabbath day, and he with all his army crossed the Jordan So Jonathan[b] sent his brother as leader of the multitude and begged the Nabateans, who were his friends, for permission to store with them the great amount of baggage that they had. 36 But the family of Jambri from Medeba came out and seized John and all that he had and left with it. After these things it was reported to Jonathan and his brother Simon, “The family of Jambri are celebrating a great wedding and are conducting the bride, a daughter of one of the great nobles of Canaan, from Nadabath with a large escort.” 38 Remembering how their brother John had been killed, they went up and hid under cover of the mountain. 39 They looked out and saw a tumultuous procession with a great amount of baggage, and the bridegroom came out with his friends and his brothers to meet them with tambourines and musicians and many weapons.” (1 Maccabees 9:33-41)

Loyalty requires self-respect and the humility necessary to put others above ourselves.