After the turmoil in the Seleucid government settles down, focus is again returned to Judea. The new emperor, Demetrius I, who lied and cheated his way out of a Roman prison to kill his cousin, Antiochus V, and claim the throne, takes a new tactic to beating the Jews. He sends Bacchides, a friend of Antiochus IV to lure Judah Maccabeus into a trap he has set in the countryside north of Jerusalem. This location, Beit Zait, was probably chosen because it was familiar to Judah because it was on the edge of the hill country where the first battle was fought. Bacchides holds out an olive branch to Judah offering to “discourse with him about a league of Friendship and Peace”.
Some of those faithful to Judah went to Beit Zeit. Judah, however, had his suspicions because Bacchides brought with him a large army. This wariness turned out to be justified as at the “peace talks” the Greek army slew 60 of Judah’s supporters.
Demetrius then sends Nicanor, a Greek general (maybe even the same one from the Battle of Emmaus), to conquer and destroy Judah and those who refused to become Hellenized. The battle took place in Capharsalma, whose location is not specifically deducible from the text. Most researchers today place it near Gibeon. Suggestions are that one of Nicanor’s main motivations was to secure the road between Jerusalem and the coastal plain – the Beit Horon Ascent so placing Capharsalma near Gibeon is logical. Also, the name is preserved in the Arabic name for a ruin near Gibeon called Khirbet Selma.
Nicanor was routed by Judah Maccabeus and forced back to the citadel – the Hakra – in the city of David.
This battle takes up only a few verses in the sources, most of the narrative describing the increasingly complicated political situation in the Seleucid empire and in Judea as factions continue to move farther apart. What had started as a desire to lure Judah Maccabeus into a trap and kill him, ended with a defeat and retreat.
“Knowing where the trap is – that’s the first step in evading it.” Frank Herbert, Dune