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But the kingdom of Syria itself was torn by the strife of factions. In the year 153, Alexander Bala, a son of Antiochus Epiphanes, laid claim to the throne, and his pretensions were favoured by the Romans. His uncle Demetrius, actively preparing against the dangerous revolt, sent messengers to Jonathan, reminded him of their treaty of peace, and demanded that the Jewish hostages who were kept prisoners on Mount Zion should be delivered up to him. But Jonathan, remembering the faithlessness and cruelty of Demetrius, restored the hostages to their parents and relations, fortified many cities, and expelled the heathens from the old strongholds, ercept from Beth-zur, where a large number of Syrians resisted with success. The pretender Alexander, hearing with admiration of the exploits of Jonathan, was anxious to secure such an ally, and sent him friendly greetings and overtures of peace, declared him High-priest, and presented him, in token of his respect, with a magnificent purple robe and a golden crown. Jonathan accepted the proposal, and on the Feast of Tabernacles appeared for the first time in his splendid pontifical vestments. Demetrius, alarmed by this alliance, and desirous to outbid his rival, sent again messengers to Jonathan, and, in order to tempt the Jews, made them the most alluring promises, offered them public grants for the service of the Temple, and immunity from all tribute, taxes, and tithes. But the Jews felt that these fair words were not to be relied upon; they declined to listen to Demetrius, and remained faithful to Alexander. Both Syrian kings now prepared for battle, in which Demetrius, though fighting bravely, was utterly routed and himself slain. Alexander was then firmly established on the throne of Syria, and in order to strengthen his position, he married Cleopatra, the daughter of the Egyptian king Ptolemy Physcon (151), and solemnised the wedding at Ptolemais with the greatest splendour.
Jonathan arrived with rich presents at Ptolemais to offer his good wishes. He was treated by Alexander with distinction, and thus obtained a signal triumph over those treacherous Jews who had tried by calumny to rouse the new king's anger against him.
But Syria was not long allowed to enjoy undisturbed tranquillity. A few years later (148), Demetrius, the son of the slain monarch of the same name, tried to regain the crown of his father. When he had arrived from Crete and landed in Syria, Alexander proceeded in haste and alarm to Antiochia. Demetrius appointed Apollonius his general, who, collecting a large force, especially of horsemen, insolently gave Jonathan the choice between war and unconditional submission, and without delay encamped before Jamnia. Jonathan, provoked by this audacity, marched with 10,000 chosen men to Joppa, which was garrisoned by the troops of Apollonius, besieged the town, and took it.
Apollonius, desirous to fight in a plain, where his well-trained cavalry would be available, proceeded to Ashdod, whither he was followed by Jonathan. He had concealed in ambush 1,000 borsemen, who incessantly shot their arrows upon Jonathan's men ; but these sustained the attack bravely, till Simon and his troops came to the rescue, and then they put the enemy to flight, many of whom sought refuge in the temple of Dagon in Ashdod. Jonathan pursued them, burnt the temple, and killed 8,000 Syrians. The town of Ashdod also and other neighbouring cities were destroyed by fire. The inhabitants of Ashkelon surrendered of their own accord. Jonathan now returned to Jerusalem laden with spoil. King Alexander, in a transport of joy and gratitude, overwhelmed Jonathan with marks of honour and respect, sent him splendid garments, and a golden buckle, such as was only worn by blood relations of the king, and gave him the town Ekron with its surrounding
lands as his hereditary property. Soon afterwards, Ptolemy Physcon, basely conspiring against his son-in-law, marched out to conquer Syria. The towns of Palestine allowed him free passage by command of his unsuspecting son-in-law, who was just then absent, trying to enforce his authority in Cilicia. He visited the site of the burnt temple of Dagon in Ashdod; but he reservedly withheld all unfavourable remarks against the Jews. In Joppa he received the friendly greetings of Jonathan, and dismissed him with expressions of goodwill ; but then, in the absence of Alexander, he easily conquered all the towns on the coast up to Seleucia. He sent messages to Demetrius requesting his alliance, and offering him in marriage his daughter Cleopatra, whom he had taken by force from the royal palace. When Demetrius assented, Ptolemy declared open war against his son-in-law. He entered the capital Antiochia, and placed upon his head the two crowns of Egypt and of Syria. Alexander, informed of these events, returned hastily and engaged in battle with Ptolemy. He was defeated, and escaped into Arabia, where he was killed by the chief Zabdiel, who sent his head to the usurper. But Ptolemy died a few days after the battle, and now the young Demetrius was proclaimed king of Syria (146).
In the meantime Jonathan, profiting by the confusion in Syria, had besieged the citadel of Zion with great vigour, and had every hope of gaining this most important stronghold. But some of those traitors who were never wanting in Judea to damage the national cause, informed Demetrius of the impending danger, and accused Jonathan of arbitrary rule. The king, therefore, ordered the Jewish leader to desist from the siege, and to come without delay to Ptolemais for an interview. Jonathan, while giving directions for the active continuance of the siege, went to Ptolemais with rich presents of silver and gold
and raiments. By prudence and discretion he succeeded in gaining the king's entire confidence and favour; he was confirmed in the High-priesthood and in all his other honours, and treated with the utmost regard. Thus encouraged, he requested Demetrius to release Judea and Samaria from the obligation of the tribute, in return for which he promised three hundred talents. Demetrius granted the request, and ratified the privileges by a decree, which he sent to the governor Lasthenes, to be made known by public proclamation.
Demetrius deemed it proper to dismiss all native soldiers, and to retain only the foreign hirelings. This step caused the greatest discontent among the Syrians. Alexander Bala had left a son Antiochus, who was educated under the care of the Arabian Imalkua. Tryphon, an old friend of Alexander, hoping to turn the murmurs of the Syrian army to the advantage of his son, requested Imalkua to entrust him with the young Antiochus, as he desired to declare him king. The public indignation against Demetrius had now reached a most dangerous pitch, and when Jonathan sent messengers to him with the request to withdraw the Syrian garrison from the citadel of Zion, Demetrius promised this and many other advantages, on condition that Jonathan would send troops to Antiochia to afford him personal protection. The High-priest at once despatched 3,000 Jewish soldiers to the Syrian capital. Here, at the instigation of Tryphon, a furious revolt had broken out. The Jews fought with marvellous courage against the rebels, of whom they killed an enormous number — it is stated 100,000 – and regardless of their own peril, they saved the life of Demetrius. They were sent back to Jerusalem highly honoured and laden with costly spoil. But when Demetrius saw himself again safely established on the throne, he refused to keep the promises he had given to Jonathan ;
he even assumed a position of hostility, and bitterly oppressed him.
Unsupported by the Jews, Demetrius could not long maintain his position. Tryphon returned with the prince Antiochus, boldly raised the standard of revolt, and by the aid of the dismissed Syrian soldiers, he defeated Demetrius, compelled him to flee, and took possession of Antiochia (138). The young king Antiochus VI. solicited the friendship of Jonathan, confirmed him in the High-priesthood and in all his other rights, presented him with purple robes and precious ornaments, gave him permission to drink out of golden vessels, and appointed his brother Simon governor over the whole coast-land, from Tyre down to the river of Egypt. Jonathan, reinforced by Syrian soldiers, who joined his army in large numbers, traversed the whole land from Ashkelon to Damascus. He was received everywhere with enthusiasm; a few towns only, such as Gaza, opposed him, but were forced into subjection. Simon in the meantime besieged and took Beth-zur, which he garrisoned with Jewish troops ; but the generals of Demetrius encamped at Kadesh, in Galilee, with a large host, intending to cut off the return of Jonathan. The latter, on his way home, passed the sea of Gennezareth, and thence marched into the plain of Asor. Here his enemies laid an ambush for him; the Jewish soldiers, perceiving the danger, fled in alarm; a few captains only remained. With these Jonathan bravely attacked the Syrians, and put them to flight. Now the scattered troops returned to their leader, 3,000 of the enemy were killed, and Jonathan re-entered Jerusalem in safety.
He then sent messengers to Rome and Sparta to renew the old treaties which had been concluded by Judas and the High-priest Onias.
However, the expelled Demetrius did not give up the