The Bible – Old Testament
When Jonathan saw that the times favored him, he sent selected men to Rome to confirm and renew his friendship with the Romans.
He also sent letters to Sparta and other places for the same purpose.
After reaching Rome, the men entered the senate chamber and said, “The high priest Jonathan and the Jewish people have sent us to renew the earlier friendship and alliance between you and them.”
The Romans gave them letters addressed to the authorities in the various places, requesting them to provide the envoys with safe conduct to the land of Judah.
This is a copy of the letter that Jonathan wrote to the Spartans:
“Jonathan the high priest, the senate of the nation, the priests, and the rest of the Jewish people send greetings to their brothers the Spartans.
1 Long ago a letter was sent to the high priest Onias from Arius, who then reigned over you, stating that you are our brothers, as the attached copy shows.
Onias welcomed the envoy with honor and received the letter, which clearly referred to alliance and friendship.
2 Though we have no need of these things, since we have for our encouragement the sacred books that are in our possession,
we have ventured to send word to you for the renewal of brotherhood and friendship, so as not to become strangers to you altogether; a long time has passed since your mission to us.
We, on our part, have never ceased to remember you in the sacrifices and prayers that we offer on our feasts and other appropriate days, as it is right and proper to remember brothers.
We likewise rejoice in your renown.
But many hardships and wars have beset us, and the kings around us have attacked us.
We did not wish to be troublesome to you and to the rest of our allies and friends in these wars;
with the help of Heaven for our support, we have been saved from our enemies, and they have been humbled.
So we have chosen Numenius, son of Antiochus, and Antipater, son of Jason, and we have sent them to the Romans to renew our former friendship and alliance with them.
We have also ordered them to come to you and greet you, and to deliver to you our letter about the renewal of our brotherhood.
Therefore kindly send us an answer on this matter.”
This is a copy of the letter that was sent to Onias:
“Arius, king of the Spartans, sends greetings to Onias the high priest.
A document has been found stating that the Spartans and the Jews are brothers; both nations descended from Abraham.
Now that we have learned this, kindly write to us about your welfare.
We, on our part, are informing you that your cattle and your possessions are ours, and ours are yours. We have, therefore, given orders that you should be told of this.”
Jonathan heard that the generals of Demetrius had returned to attack him with a stronger army than before.
3 He set out from Jerusalem and went into the country of Hamath to meet them, giving them no time to enter his province.
The spies he had sent into their camp came back and reported that the enemy had made ready to attack the Jews that very night.
Therefore, when the sun set, Jonathan ordered his men to be on guard and to remain armed, ready for combat, throughout the night. He also set outposts all around the camp.
When the enemy heard that Jonathan and his men were ready for battle, their hearts sank with fear and dread. They lighted fires and then withdrew.
But because Jonathan and his men were watching the lights burning, they did not know what had happened until morning.
Then Jonathan pursued them, but he could not overtake them, for they had crossed the river Eleutherus.
So Jonathan turned aside against the Arabs who are called Zabadeans, overwhelming and plundering them.
Then he marched on to Damascus and traversed that whole region.
Simon also set out and went as far as Ashkalon and its neighboring strongholds. He then turned to Joppa and occupied it,
for he heard that its men had intended to hand over this stronghold to the supporters of Demetrius. He left a garrison there to guard it.
When Jonathan returned, he assembled the elders of the people, and with them he made plans for building strongholds in Judea,
for making the walls of Jerusalem still higher, and for erecting a high barrier between the citadel and the city, that would isolate the citadel and so prevent its garrison from commerce with the city.
The people therefore worked together on building up the city, for part of the east wall above the ravine had collapsed. The quarter called Chaphenatha was also repaired.
Simon likewise built up Adida in the Shephelah, and strengthened its fortifications by providing them with gates and bars.
Trypho was determined to become king of Asia, assume the crown, and do away with King Antiochus.
But he was afraid that Jonathan would not permit him, but would fight against him. Looking for a way to seize and kill him, he set out and reached Beth-shan.
Jonathan marched out against him with forty thousand picked fighting men and came to Beth-shan.
But when Trypho saw that Jonathan had arrived with a large army he was afraid to offer him violence.
Instead, he received him with honor, introduced him to all his friends, and gave him presents. He also ordered his friends and soldiers to obey him as they would himself.
Then he said to Jonathan: “Why have you put all your soldiers to so much trouble when we are not at war?
Pick out a few men to stay with you, send the rest back home, and then come with me to Ptolemais. I will hand it over to you together with other strongholds and their garrisons, as well as the officials, then I will leave and go home. That is why I came here.”
Jonathan believed him and did as he said. He dismissed his troops, and they returned to the land of Judah.
But he kept with him three thousand men, of whom he sent two thousand to Galilee while one thousand accompanied him.
Then as soon as Jonathan had entered Ptolemais, the men of the city closed the gates and seized him; all who had entered with him, they killed with the sword.
4 Trypho sent soldiers and cavalry to Galilee and the Great Plain to destroy all Jonathan’s men.
These, upon learning that Jonathan had been captured and his companions killed, encouraged one another and went out in compact body ready to fight.
As their pursuers saw that they were ready to fight for their lives, they turned back.
Thus all these men of Jonathan came safely into the land of Judah. They mourned over Jonathan and his men, and were in great fear, and all Israel fell into deep mourning.
All the nations round about sought to destroy them. They said, “Now that they have no leader to help them, let us make war on them and wipe out their memory from among men.”
1  Onias: Onias I, high priest from 323-300 or 290 B.C. Arius: Arius I, king from 309 to 265 B.C. The letter was sent long ago, i.e., a century and a half before.
2  The sacred books . . . in our possession: a reference to “the law, the prophets and other books,” as mentioned in the Prologue to Sirach (⇒ 1 Macc 12:1), after 132 B.C.
3  Country of Hamath: the Seleucid territory of Upper Syria northeast of Coelesyria and separated from it by the Eleutherus River. The latter territory was under the command of Jonathan (⇒ 1 Macc 11:59, ⇒ 60).
4  The Great Plain: of Beth-shan (⇒ 1 Macc 12:41), where Jonathan’s disbanded troops remained.