The Victor's Return

: 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.

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


[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."