When the Jewish rebels needed a new leader after the death of Judas, Jonathan was chosen. He would have to go against Bacchides and make decisions that would further the efforts of the Jewish revolt. In this article, you will learn about the power struggle that helped place Jonathan in just the right position.
Bacchides made plans to entrap Jonathan, but he caught on and retired with his brother Simeon and his followers to the desert region in the country. They set up came east of the Jordan River, but Bacchides followed behind and overtook them during a Sabbath. Jonathan sent his brother and a small force towards friendlier territory. They had a plan to carry baggage with them to a secure location, but John and his companions were killed and the cargo was looted. Jonathan would later get revenge for the death of his brother.
At the same time that John faced his troubles on that Sabbath, Jonathan and his companions were forced to fight with Bacchides. As soon as Jonathan was about to kill Bacchides, he was able to escape death. The Jews were defeated and swam through the Jordan River to the western bank to escape. Bacchides lost 1,000 men that day.
As high priest, Jonathan took advantage of peaceful periods that the rebels encountered. His power increased and with the help of an important event in history , the Maccabeans came closer to realizing the plans they had set forth for their people. The relationships between their enemies started to fail. Demetrius I Soter was no longer in good favor with Attalus II Philadelphus of Pergamon (reigned 159 – 138 BCE), Ptolemy VI of Egypt (reigned 163 – 145 BCE) and his co-ruler Cleopatra II of Egypt. They started to show their support for another , a rival to Demetrius’ throne , Alexander Balas, who claimed to be the son of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. He was also the first cousin of Demetrius.
Demetrius was forced to make decisions off of this change in events. He recalled the garrisons of Judea, but left the men who guarded the Akra fortress in Jerusalem. He also tried to form a bond with Jonathan, who he let recruit an army and to take the hostesses that were kept in the Akra fortress. Jonathan was more than happy to accept these terms, and he soon made Jerusalem his residence in 153 BCE. This is when he started to fortify the city.
However, Alexander Balas also made a move to contact Jonathan and offered a much better arrangement that included an official appointment as High Priest in Jerusalem. This caused Jonathan to withdraw his support for Demetrius and publicly declared his allegiance to Alexander.
In the next article, you will learn the outcome of this decision and whether or not Jonathan chose the right side for his cause.