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1 Maccabees 12 Common English Bible (CEB)

Alliances with Rome and Sparta

12 When Jonathan felt that the time was favorable, he chose envoys and sent them to Rome in order to confirm and renew friendship with them. He also sent letters in the same vein to the Spartans and to others. The envoys went to Rome and entered the senate chamber. They said, “Jonathan the high priest and the Jewish nation have sent us to renew our former friendship and alliance.” The Romans provided letters for them to give to various people to ask them to assure the envoys safe passage back to Judah. This is a copy of the letter that Jonathan wrote to the Spartans:

The high priest Jonathan, the senate of the nation, the priests, and the rest of the Jewish people. To their brothers the Spartans. Greetings!

In the past, your king Arius sent a letter to the high priest Onias, stating that you are our relatives as the appended copy shows. Onias welcomed the envoy with honor and received the letter, which contained a clear declaration of alliance and friendship. Generally, we have no need of these things, since we have the holy scrolls as encouragement. 10 Yet we have desired to renew our family ties and friendship with you so that we may not become estranged from you, because considerable time has passed since you sent your letter to us. 11 We remember you constantly on every occasion—at our festivals and on other appropriate days, at the sacrifices that we offer, and in our prayers—as it is right and proper to remember relatives. 12 Furthermore, we rejoice at your success.

13 As for us, we have experienced many trials and many wars. The kings around us have waged war against us. 14 We have not wanted to bother you and our other allies and friends about these wars 15 because we have the help that comes from heaven. So we have been delivered from our enemies, and they have been humbled. 16 Therefore, we chose Numenius, Antiochus’ son, and Antipater, Jason’s son, and sent them to Rome to renew our former friendship and alliance with them. 17 We have told them to go to you as well and greet you and deliver to you this letter from us concerning the renewal of our family ties. 18 So please send us a reply.

19 This is a copy of the letter that they sent to Onias:

20 King Arius of the Spartans.

To the high priest Onias. Greetings!

21 It has been discovered in a written record that the Spartans and the Jews are relatives and are both of the family of Abraham. 22 Since we have learned this, please let us know how you are. 23 On our part, we write to let you know that what is yours—your livestock and property—belongs to us, and ours belongs to you. We therefore command that our envoys report to you in keeping with this.

Further campaigns of Jonathan and Simon

24 Jonathan heard that Demetrius’ commanders had returned with a larger force than before to wage war against him. 25 So he marched away from Jerusalem and met them in the region of Hamath. He didn’t allow them any opportunity to invade his country. 26 He sent spies to their camp. They returned and reported to him that the enemy was lining up in battle formation to attack the Jews at night. 27 When the sun had set, Jonathan commanded his troops to be on alert. They were to keep their weapons at hand so they could be ready through the night for battle. He also stationed guard posts around the camp. 28 When the enemy heard that Jonathan and his troops were prepared for battle, they were extremely terrified. So they lit fires in their camp and retreated. 29 Jonathan and his troops didn’t know about this until morning because they saw the fires burning. 30 Then Jonathan tried to pursue them, but he couldn’t catch them since they had already crossed the Eleutherus River. 31 So Jonathan turned aside against the Arabs, who are called Zabadeans, and he crushed and plundered them. 32 Then he broke camp and went to Damascus and marched throughout that region.

33 Simon also marched through the country as far as Ashkelon and the fortresses in the area. He turned aside to Joppa and took it by surprise, 34 because he had heard that they were ready to hand over the fortress to people that Demetrius had sent. So he stationed a force there to occupy and guard it.

35 When Jonathan returned to Jerusalem, he assembled the elders of the people and planned with them how to build fortresses in Judea. 36 They also discussed how to build the walls of Jerusalem still higher, and to erect a high barrier between the elevated fortress and the city to separate them. This was to isolate the elevated fortress so that its troops couldn’t buy or sell things. 37 So they gathered together to rebuild the city. Part of the wall toward the valley to the east had fallen, and he repaired the section called Chaphenatha. 38 Simon also built Adida in the western foothills. He secured it and installed gates with bolts.

Trypho captures Jonathan

39 At that time, Trypho attempted to rise up against King Antiochus, put on the crown, and become king in Asia. 40 He feared that Jonathan might not permit him to do this, making war on him. So he kept trying to capture and kill him. He marched out and came to Beth-shan. 41 Jonathan went out to meet him with forty thousand select warriors. He also came to Beth-shan. 42 When Trypho saw that he had come with a large army, he was afraid to lift a hand against him. 43 So he received Jonathan with honor and commended him to all his chief political advisors.[a] He gave him gifts and told his advisors and troops to obey him as they would himself. 44 Then he said to Jonathan, “Why have you put all these people to so much trouble when we’re not at war? 45 Tell them to go back to their homes. Pick for yourself a few men to stay with you, and come with me to Ptolemais. I’ll hand it over to you as well as the other fortresses and the remaining troops and officials. Then I’ll turn around and go home. That’s why I’m here.”

46 Jonathan trusted him and did what he said. He sent away his troops, and they returned to Judah. 47 He kept with himself three thousand troops—two thousand of whom he left in Galilee, while one thousand accompanied him. 48 But when Jonathan entered Ptolemais, the people there closed the gates and captured him, and killed with their swords all those who had entered with him.

49 Trypho then sent infantry and cavalry into Galilee and the great plain to destroy Jonathan’s soldiers. 50 But Jonathan’s forces believed that Jonathan had been seized and had died along with his troops. They encouraged each other and kept marching in tight formation, ready for fighting. 51 When their pursuers saw that they would fight for their lives, they turned back. 52 So they all reached the land of Judah safely. They mourned for Jonathan and his companions, and they were very anxious. All Israel mourned deeply. 53 All the nations around them tried to destroy them, saying, “They have no leader or helper now. Let’s make war against them and blot out their memory from humanity.”


  1. 1 Maccabees 12:43 Or Friends
Common English Bible (CEB)

Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible

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