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Beacon Lights of History, Volume 02 eBook

John Lord
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 283 pages of information about Beacon Lights of History, Volume 02.

JUDAS MACCABAEUS.

DIED, 160 B.C.

RESTORATION OF THE JEWISH COMMONWEALTH.

After the heroic ages of Joshua, Gideon, and David, no warriors appeared in Jewish history equal to Judas Maccabaeus and his brothers in bravery, in patriotism, and in noble deeds.  They delivered the Hebrew nation when it had sunk to abject submission under the kings of Syria, and when its glory and strength alike had departed.  The conquests of Judas especially were marvellous, considering the weakness of the Jewish nation and the strength of its enemies.  No hero that chivalry has produced surpassed him in courage and ability; his exploits would be fabulous and incredible if not so well attested.  He is not a familiar character, since the Apocrypha, from which our chief knowledge of his deeds is derived, is now rarely read.  Jewish history resembles that of Europe in the Middle Ages in the sentiments which are born of danger, oppression, and trial.  As a point of mere historical interest, the dark ages that preceded the coming of the Messiah furnish reproachless models of chivalry, courage, and magnanimity, and also the foundation of many of those institutions that cannot be traced to the laws of Moses.

But before I present the wonderful career of Judas Maccabaeus, we must look to the circumstances which made that career remarkable and eventful.

On the return of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity there was among them only the nucleus of a nation:  more remained in Persia and Assyria than returned to Judaea.  We see an infant colony rather than a developed State; it was so feeble as scarcely to attract the notice of the surrounding monarchies.  In all probability the population of Judaea did not number a quarter as many as those whom Moses led out of Egypt; it did not furnish a tenth part as many fighting men as were enrolled in the armies of Saul; it existed only under the protection afforded by the Persian monarchs.  The Temple as rebuilt by Nehemiah bore but a feeble resemblance to that which Nebuchadnezzar destroyed; it had neither costly vessels nor golden ornaments nor precious woods to remind the scattered and impoverished people of the glory of Solomon.  Although the walls of Jerusalem were partially restored, its streets were filled with the debris and ruins of ancient palaces.  The city was indeed fortified, but the strong walls and lofty towers which made it almost impregnable were not again restored as in the times of the old monarchy.  It took no great force to capture the city and demolish the fortifications.  The vast and unnumbered treasures which David, Solomon, and Hezekiah had accumulated in the Temple and the palaces formed no inconsiderable part of the gold and silver that finally enriched Babylonian and Persian kings.  The wealth of one of the richest countries of antiquity had been dispersed and re-collected at Babylon, Susa, Ecbatana, and other cities, to be again

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