On 16th November, 1870, Mr. Shchapoff, a Russian squire, the narrator, came home from a visit to a country town, Iletski, and found his family in some disarray. There lived with him his mother and his wife's mother, ladies of about sixty-nine,... Read more of The Dancing Devil at Scary Stories.caInformational Site Network Informational

Death Of Mattathias

Source: Hebrew Heroes

Wild was the life led by Mattathias and his followers in the
mountains--a life of danger and hardship; danger met manfully, hardship
endured cheerfully. Amongst wild rocks, heaped together like the
fragments of an elder world torn asunder by some fearful convulsion of
Nature, the band of heroes found their home. Where the hyaena has its
den, and the leopard its lair; where the timid wabber or coney hides in
the stony clefts, there the Hebrews lurked in caves, and manned the
gigantic fastnesses which no human hands had reared, and from which it
would be no easy task for any enemy to dislodge them.

The small band that had rallied round Mattathias when he withdrew from
Modin, had been soon joined by other bold and zealous sons of Abraham,
and the mountains became a place of refuge to many who fled from
persecution. As numbers increased, so did the difficulty of procuring
means of subsistence. The Asmoneans and their followers chiefly lived
upon roots. The less hardy of the band suffered severely from the
chill of the frosts, the keenness of the sharp mountain air, the sharp
winds that blew over snow-clad heights. But no voice of complaint was
heard. Frequent forays were made into the plains; idol-altars were
thrown down, forts were burnt, detachments of Syrians cut off. None of
the enemy within many miles of the rocky haunts of the Asmoneans lay
down to rest at night feeling secure from sudden attack during the
hours of darkness; and oft-times the early morning light showed a heap
of smouldering ruins where, on the evening before, the banners of Syria
had waved on the walls of some well-manned fortress.

To the bold spirit of Maccabeus there was something congenial in the
adventurous kind of existence which he led, and yet he was not one who
would have adopted a guerrilla life from choice. As even in a hard and
rocky waste there are spots where rich vegetation betrays some source
of hidden nourishment below, and they who dig deep enough under the
surface find a spring of bright pure living waters,--so deep within the
Asmonean's heart lay a hidden source of tenderness which prevented his
nature from becoming hardened by the stern necessities of warfare.
This secret affection made the warrior more chivalrous to women, more
indulgent to the weak, more compassionate to all who suffered. In the
moment of triumph, "Will not Zarah rejoice?" was the thought which made
victory more sweet; in preservation from imminent danger, the thought,
"Zarah has been praying for me," made deliverance doubly welcome. When
the evening star gleamed in the sky, its pure soft guiding orb seemed
to Judas an emblem of Zarah; as he gazed on it, the warrior would
indulge in delicious musings. This desperate warfare might not last
for ever. If the Lord of Sabaoth should bless the arms of His
servants; might not the time come when swords should be beaten into
ploughshares, when children should play fearlessly in pastures which no
oppressor's foot should tread, and the sound of bridal rejoicings be
heard in the land of the free? Hopes so intensely delightful would
then steal over the Asmonean's soul, that he would suddenly start like
a sentinel who finds himself dropping asleep on his post. How dared
the leader of Israel's forlorn hope indulge in reveries which made him
feel how precious a thing life might be to himself, when he had freely
devoted that life to the service of God and his country? When David
was engaged in rescuing his flock from the lion and the bear, did he
stop to gather the lilies of the field? "It is well," thought Judas
Maccabeus, "that I have never told Zarah what is in my heart; if I
fall, as I shall probably fall, on the field of conflict, I would not
leave her to the grief of a widow."

An event was at hand which was felt as a heavy blow by all to whom the
cause of Israel was dear, but more especially so by the Asmonean
brethren, who from their childhood had regarded their father with
reverence and affection.

Mattathias was an aged man, and though his spirit never sank under toil
and hardship, his constitution soon gave way under their effects. The
patriarch felt that his days, nay, that his hours, were numbered, and
summoned his sons around him to hear his last wishes, and to receive
his parting blessing.

In a cave near the foot of a mountain, stretched upon a soft couch of
skins of animals slain in the chase, lay the venerable man. The pallor
of death was already on his face, but its expression was tranquil and
calm. The aged pilgrim looked like one who feels indeed that he has
God's rod and staff to lean on while he is passing through the valley
of the shadow of death. The full glare of noonday was glowing on the
world without, but softened and subdued was the light which struggled
into the cave, and fell on the form of the dying man, and the stalwart
figures of the Asmonean brothers bending in mute sorrow around their
honoured parent.

Mattathias bade his sons raise him a little, that he might speak to
them with more ease. Jonathan and Eleazar, kneeling, supported him in
their arms; while their three brothers, in the same attitude of
respect, listened silently at his side to the patriarch's farewell

I shall not dare to add words of my own to those which the historian
has preserved as the dying utterances of this noble old man--a hero,
and the father of heroes. I give them as they fell upon the ears of
Judas Maccabeus and his brothers, who received them as Joseph received
the parting blessing of Israel.

"Now hath pride and rebuke gotten strength, and the time of
destruction, and the wrath of indignation. Now, therefore, my sons, be
ye zealous for the law, and give your lives for the covenant of your
fathers. Call to remembrance what acts our fathers did in their time,
so shall ye receive great honour and an everlasting name.

"Was not Abraham found faithful in temptation, and it was imputed unto
him for righteousness. Elias, for being zealous and fervent for the
law, was taken up into heaven. Ananias, Azarias, and Misael, by
believing, were saved out of the flame. Daniel, for his innocence, was
delivered from the mouth of the lion. And thus, consider ye,
throughout all ages, that none that put their trust in Him shall be
overcome. Wherefore, ye my sons, be valiant, and show yourselves men
in behalf of the law; for by it ye shall obtain glory."

The old man paused, as if to gather strength, and then stretching forth
his wasted hand towards Simon, his second son, he went on:

"Behold, I know that your brother Simon is a man of counsel; give ear
unto him alway; he shall be a father unto you."

Then the hand was again extended, and this time laid on the bowed head
of Maccabeus:

"As for Judas Maccabeus," said the dying man, in firmer accents, as if
the very name inspired him with vigour, "he hath been mighty and
strong, even from his youth up; let him be your captain, and fight the
battle of the people."

There was no murmur of dissent, not even a glance of jealousy from the
eye of the generous Johannan, when his younger brothers were thus
preferred before him, as superior in those qualities with which leaders
should be endowed. Johannan knew, and was content to acknowledge, that
the wisdom of Simon and the military talents of Judas far exceeded his
own; he would serve with them, and serve under them, cheerfully
submissive to the will of God and the counsels of his father. We find
not the slightest trace of jealous rivalry amongst that glorious band
of brethren, who all shared the privilege of suffering--three of
dying--for their country.

Then, after solemnly blessing his five sons, Mattathias departed in
peace, as one who has fought a good fight, and kept the faith to the
end. Great lamentation was made throughout Judaea for him in whom the
nation had lost a parent. The sons of Mattathias carried his body to
Modin, and buried it in the sepulchre of his fathers.

In after-times of prosperity and peace Simon raised a fair monument of
marble, in the form of seven lofty pillars, which could be seen from
afar by those sailing over the blue waters of the Mediterranean. The
Asmonean prince placed this memorial there in honour of his parents and
their five sons, after Jonathan, Eleazar, and Judas Maccabeus had
sealed with their brave blood the testimony of their devotion to the
cause of faith and of freedom.

Next: Concealment

Previous: Hadassah's Guest

Add to Informational Site Network

Viewed 2559