A Great Miracle Happened (W)here? – Beit Horon Ascent

MAKE ME FAMOUS

The second battle of Judah Maccabeus which occurred less than a year after the first battle is spearheaded by an ambitious fellow – Seron. He sees the ragtag group of Jewish fighters and has a thought. It is interesting when reading texts to see the motivation behind people’s actions. We sometimes encounter lists of reasons for people’s actions – people are complicated and often have more than one reason for their actions. According to I Maccabees, Seron decides to attack Judah and his troops in order to: 1. Become famous – make for myself a name, 2. Be awarded with a “kingdom”, 3. Fight against Judah Maccabeus.

The language used “making a name for oneself” is the same language which is associated with the building of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:4) and it foreshadows the destruction of Seron. Just as the Tower of Babel project will end in disaster, so too, Seron’s desire to make a name for himself is almost doomed from the start.

How does the battle play out? Seron does not want to meet Judah in the hill country as did Appolonius but instead decided to do battle on the main road from the coastal plain to Jerusalem – the Beit Horon Ascent. Interestingly, this road passes nearby the town of Modiin – Judah’s hometown. Apparently, Judah’s supporters are numbered and not all the Jews of Modiin agree with him – Hellenized Jews join forces with Seron as he passes through the hill country alongside the road.

We can imagine Judah Maccabeus and his faithful sitting in Upper Beit Horon (Beit Ur al-Fauqa of today) staring down Route 443 and seeing not only Greek soldiers, but also their neighbors coming up.

beit horon lookout

Maale Beit Horon lookout towards the coastal plain

How frightening that must have been. Judah’s troops turn to him and ask him, “How are we going to win against this force? We are few and they are many?” Judah gives them a pep talk stating that God is the one to determine the outcomes of wars, and it matters little how many soldiers there are.

Judah Maccabeus surprises the army of Seron and defeats them, forcing their retreat to the coastal plain. Seron’s memory passes, and we do not even know his fate after the battle. It is assumed that he died since we never hear of him again. It is ironic that the fame that Seron craved, didn’t come with a kingdom or a defeat of his enemy but rather with his own disappearance into anonymity. As Napoleon Bonaparte so succinctly said, “Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever.”

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