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The Victor's Return






Source: Hebrew Heroes

Is there a more glorious, a more soul-stirring sight than that of a
brave nation bursting from foreign bondage, casting from her the chains
that bound and the sackcloth that covered her, rising victorious and
free--free to worship the one God in purity and truth? Even so, when
the shadow of the eclipse is over, the moon bursts forth into
brightness, to shine again in beauty in the firmament of heaven.

It was thus with Jerusalem when Maccabeus and his followers went up to
the holy city which they had delivered, through God's blessing on their
arms. The town was in a delirium of joy, which there was now no need
to conceal. The voice of thanksgiving and rejoicing was heard in every
street; women wept for very happiness; and while the younger
inhabitants made the walls ring with their shouts, the old men blessed
God that they had been spared to see such a day. The advanced season
forbade any profusion of flowers; but on every side palm branches were
waving, doors and windows were decked with evergreens, and goodly
boughs were strewed in the way. Every trace of heathenism was eagerly
destroyed in the streets, and the very children fiercely trampled under
foot the fragments of idol or altar.

Again was the song of Miriam heard, "Sing ye unto the Lord, for He hath
triumphed gloriously;" and women went forth with timbrels to welcome
the warriors of Judah. Though it was the month of Casleu,[1] the sun
shone with cheerful radiance and warmth, as if Nature herself shared in
the general rejoicing.

Up Mount Zion they come, the brave, the true, the devout; they who
through much tribulation have kept the faith; they who have never bowed
the knee to idol, nor forsaken the covenant of God. Maccabeus is
foremost now in glory as once in danger. Press ye to see him, children
of Judah! shout to welcome him, sons of the free!

A group of matrons and maidens surrounded the entrance to the Temple.
Zarah and Rachel were amongst them.

"You should stand foremost, my daughter, to greet the conquerors,"
cried Rachel to her fair young companion, who was rather inclined to
shrink back. "The Asmonean blood flows in your veins; you are
kinswoman to our prince; and you have yourself nobly suffered
persecution for the faith. What! tears in your eyes, maiden, on such a
morning as this!"

"Oh, that my beloved mother, Hadassah, had lived to behold it!" thought
Zarah. "She would have deemed this glorious day a type and forerunner
of that even more blessed time when _the ransomed of the Lord shall
return to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they
shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away_"
(Isa. xxxv. 10).

Yes; as that bright, warm day in winter, soon to be succeeded by frosts
and storms, was in regard to the long, glorious summer, so was the
happiness of Judaea under the sway of her first Asmonean princes,
compared to the glory which will be hers when her many ages of
tribulation shall be ended. In the time of Maccabeus and his
successors, the "discrowned queen" had arisen from the dust; but she
has not yet, even at this late period, mounted her throne. More
fearful judgments, more terrible desolation, were to succeed an
interval of prosperity and freedom in the history of Zion. The Romans,
more formidable even than the Syrians, were to give Jerusalem's sons to
the sword and her Temple to the flames; and God's ancient people were
to be scattered throughout all nations, to be a by-word and a hissing
amongst them. But the glory is not departed for ever. We may--or our
descendants must--see the Vine brought out of Egypt, budding into new
beauty and life at the breath of the promised Spring.

"He comes, he comes! Maccabeus, our hero!" Such were the shouts which
burst from every side as the war-worn victors appeared, with palm
branches in their hands. Was not exultation in the heart of Maccabeus
at that moment? Perhaps not. Perhaps he would gladly have exchanged
the shouts of all the people for a loving welcome from one dear voice.
Judas caught a glimpse of Zarah. Hers were the only eyes in all the
crowd that were not fixed upon himself. She was eagerly looking at the
form of one a little way in the rear of the chief---the form of her
betrothed husband, the Gentile proselyte whom she loved.

The conquerors entered the Temple of Zion. They came, not only to
worship, but to purify. No sacrifice could be offered in the sanctuary
till what the heathen had denied the Hebrew should cleanse. With
indignant horror Maccabeus and his followers beheld the image of
Jupiter, which for years had desecrated the Temple. Since the
departure of Antiochus, no worshipper indeed had bowed down before the
idolatrous shrine: the edifice had been deserted and left to neglect.
The place had now an appearance of wildness and desolation, as if the
curse of God were upon it, and presented such a contrast to what it had
been in former days as struck sadness into the hearts of Maccabeus and
his warriors. In the words of the historian: "When they saw the
sanctuary desolate, and the altar profaned, and the gates burned up,
and shrubs growing in the courts as in a forest or in one of the
mountains, yea, and the priests' chambers pulled down, they rent their
clothes and made great lamentations, and cast ashes upon their heads,
and fell down to the ground upon their faces, and blew an alarm with
the trumpets, and cried towards heaven."

But no long time was given to lamentations. With all the energy of his
nature, Maccabeus at once set about the work of restoration. He chose
out the most zealous and virtuous of the priests to cleanse the
sanctuary, destroy every vestige of idolatry, carry away even the
stones that had been defiled, and pull down the altar which had been
profaned. New vessels were made, shew-bread and incense were prepared,
all in the renovated sanctuary was made ready, for the joyful Feast of
Dedication, This festival was appointed by Judas Maccabeus to be
annually held; and it was from thenceforth celebrated from year to year
for more than two centuries--till her darkest, most lengthened trial
came upon Jerusalem. Who shall now keep the Feast of the Dedication of
the Temple when that glorious Temple has itself become a thing of the
past?



[1] Answering to December. Of this time of the year, Dr. Kitto tells
us: "Gumpenberg in Jerusalem, on the 6th, 10th, 11th, and 16th,
experienced weather which he describes as almost equal to that of May
in our latitudes."





Next: The Feast Of Dedication

Previous: After The Battle



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