The Two Camps

: Hebrew Heroes

While the scenes lately described had been occurring in the

neighbourhood of Jerusalem, Maccabeus, in the mountains, had been

preparing for the deadliest shock of war. Like wave upon wave, each

swelling higher than the one before it, successive armies hurled their

strength against the devoted band that held aloft the banner of the

truth, as a beacon-light gleaming on high amidst the fiercest fury of

the tempest. The
ighty Nicanor, son of Patroclus, a man honoured with

the king's peculiar favour, had gathered together a powerful force "to

root out the whole generation of the Jews," and with him was joined in

command Georgias, a general of great experience in war.

A large camp was formed by the Syrians at Emmaus, about a Sabbath-day's

journey from Jerusalem. The hills were darkened with their goats'-hair

tents, the roads thronged with soldiers, and with a multitude of

merchants who brought much silver and gold to purchase Hebrew captives

as slaves for their markets. For so confident of victory was Nicanor,

that he had beforehand proclaimed a sale of the prisoners whom he would

reserve from slaughter; nay, had fixed the very price which he would

demand for his vanquished foes! Ninety of the Hebrew warriors should

be sold for a talent, so ran Nicanor's proclamation.

"These bold outlaws," said the haughty Syrian, "shall spend their

superfluous strength, as did their Samson of old, in grinding corn for

their victors, or in tilling the fields which they once called their

own, with the taskmaster's lash to quicken their labours. Ha! ha! it

were good subject for mirth to see the lordly Maccabeus himself, with

blinded eyes, turning the wheel at the well, and bending his proud back

to serve as my footstool when I mount my Arab steed! This were sweeter

vengeance, a richer triumph, than to hew him to pieces with the sword

which he took from the dead Apollonius. Let the Asmonean fall into my

hands, and he shall taste what it is to endure a living death!"

Maccabeus, on his part, had led his forces to Mizpeh, where they had

encamped. Here a day of solemn humiliation was appointed by the

Asmonean chief; he and his warriors fasted, put on sackcloth, and

united in prayer to the God of Hosts.

The leader then more perfectly organized his little army, dividing it

into bands, and appointing captains over the divisions. While Divine

aid was implored, human means were not neglected.

Early in the morning of the succeeding day, Maccabeus and Simon, his

elder brother, held grave consultation together. The scene around them

was historic; the very heap of stones upon which the chiefs were seated

marked the spot where the last leave of Laban had been taken by Jacob

their forefather, when returning to his aged parent.

But few months have elapsed since Judas stood, as the reader first saw

him, by the grave of the martyrs, but these eventful months have

wrought a marked change upon the Asmonean leader. Fatigue, hardship,

the burden of care, the weight of responsibility, added to the sorrow

of bereavement, have left their stamps on his expressive features.

Maccabeus looks a worn and a weary man; but there is increased majesty

in his demeanour, that dignity which has nothing to do with pride; for

pride has its origin in self-consciousness, true dignity in

forgetfulness of self.

"This will be our sharpest conflict; the enemy is strong," observed

Simon, glancing in the direction of the Syrian hosts, which lay between

them and Jerusalem.

"With the God of Heaven it is all one to deliver with a great multitude

or with a few," said Maccabeus.

"What is the number of our forces?" asked Simon.

"Six thousand, as given by yesterday's returns," was the reply; "but

to-day I will make proclamation that they who are planting vineyards or

building houses, or who have lately married wives, have full leave to

retire if they will it, and then--ha! Eleazar returned already!" cried

the leader, interrupting himself, as a young Hebrew, dressed as a

Syrian merchant, with rapid step ascended the little eminence on which

the Asmonean brothers were seated.

"I have been in the midst of them!" exclaimed Eleazar; "ay, I have

stood in their tents, heard their songs, listened to their proud

boastings, been present when the sons of Mammon bartered for the limbs

and lives of the free-born sons of Abraham! They may have our bodies

as corpses," added the young Asmonean, with a proud smile, "but never

as slaves; and even as corpses, they shall purchase us dearly."

"Know you the numbers of the Syrians?" inquired Simon, whose quiet,

sedate manner formed a strong contrast to that of the fiery young


"Nicanor has forty thousand footmen and seven thousand horse," was the

reply; "to say nothing of those who hang round his camp, as vultures

who scent the carnage from afar."

"More than seven to one," observed Simon, slightly shaking his head.

"Hebrews have encountered worse odds than that," cried the young man.

"Ay, when all were stanch," his elder brother rejoined.

"Do you then doubt our men!" exclaimed Eleazar.

"Many of them will be faithful unto death; but I know that in some

quarters there are misgivings--I may call them fears," was the grave

reply of Simon. "Not all our troops are tried warriors; some in the

camp have spoken of submission."

"Submission!" cried Eleazar, clenching his hand; "I would lash the

slaves up to the conflict as I would lash dogs that hung back in the


"On the contrary," said Maccabeus, who had hitherto listened to the

conversation in silence, "I shall proclaim that whoso is fearful, has

my free permission to depart from us in peace."

"Were that well?" asked Simon, doubtfully, "we are already so greatly

outnumbered by the foe."

"It is according to the law," replied Judas, calmly; "it is what Gideon

did before encountering Midian. We can have no man with us who is

half-hearted; no one who will count his life dear in the struggle which

is before us."

"If we are to fall in the struggle," observed Simon, "half our number

will indeed suffice for the sacrifice." He spoke without fear, but in

the tone of one who felt the full extent of the threatening danger.

"See you yon stone, my brother?" asked Maccabeus, pointing to a pillar

on the way to Shen, which was clearly visible against the background of

the deep blue sky. "Yonder is Ebenezer, _the stone of help_, which

Samuel set up in remembrance of victory over the Philistines, when God

thundered from heaven, and discomfited the foes of Israel."

"Ay, I see it," replied Simon; "and I see the power and faithfulness of

the Lord of Hosts written on that stone. We are in His hand, not in

that of Nicanor."

"Let God arise, and let His enemies be scattered!" exclaimed Eleazar.

"My brother, give order that the trumpets be sounded," said Maccabeus,

"and let our proclamation be known through the camp--that all who fear

may retire at once, nor remain to shame us by turning their backs in

the day of battle."

The commands of the leader were at once obeyed; the proclamation was

issued, and its alarming effects were speedily seen. The small force

of Maccabeus began to melt like a snow-wreath under the beams of the

sun. One man remembered the tears of his newly-wedded bride, another

the helpless state of a widowed mother; the hearts of not a few were

set on their flocks and herds, while many of their comrades found in

the state of crops needing the sickle, an excuse to cover the fear

which they would have blushed to own as their motive for deserting the

cause of their country. Long before the evening had closed in, the

forces under Maccabeus had been reduced to one-half their number.

"They have judged themselves unworthy to share the glory that awaits

their brave brethren," cried the indignant Eleazar, as, leaning on his

unstrung bow, he watched a long line of fugitives wending their way

towards the west.

Undismayed, though perhaps somewhat discouraged by the defection of

half his troops, Maccabeus made before sunset a brief address to those

who remained. "Arm yourselves," he said, "and be valiant men; and see

that ye be in readiness before the morning, that ye may fight with

these nations that are assembled together to destroy us and our

sanctuary. For it is better for us to die in battle than to behold the

calamity of our people and our sanctuary. Nevertheless, as the will of

God is in heaven, so let Him do."

So, with stern resolution to conquer or die, the Hebrews retired to

their appointed places in the small camp till morning light should

arouse them to the desperate conflict.