In armies of the powerful Greek leader Heliphornus, driven by his cruel and evil ambition, conquered city after city, plundering and looting. In addition, Heliphornus demanded that his captives accept the Greek gods as their own. The nations found no particular objection to this, since they were polytheistic anyhow, and hence worshiped a multitude of idols in any event.
The Jews, however, rejected the abominable statues that the Greeks ordered them to place in the Temple.
Heliphornus was beside himself with rage and frustration and gathered a mighty army in preparation for the march on Jerusalem – nearly 120,000 infantry men and 92,000 bow men.
Before setting off for the capital city of Judea, Heliphornus addressed some of his officers and various distinguished guests.
“As you know, the miserable race of people that I am going to destroy differs from all the others. They have brazenly refused to obey the orders of the King to bow down before the Greek gods. I have therefore determined that there is no solution for this problem than the complete destruction of the group.”
Among those listening to Heliphornus speak, was the king of a small nation who rose and declared: “l pray the King’s indulgence. I have heard his words with much misgivings, for I know of the danger involved in waging a battle against the God of the Jews. This God is mighty. He has great powers, and seems to see and know everything. Look, I pray you, at the history of those kings that attempted to struggle against Him and the Jews.
Pharoh, the mighty king of Egypt defied them and we know how his empire was humbled, humiliated, and almost destroyed. Sancherib led a mighty army against the very city that you wish to conquer today. Yet a mysterious plague felled his army. I say, that if you attack the Jews and their God, you are destined to be defeated.
Heliphornus was livid with anger at the words of this captive king.
“Who is the person to dare declare that my powerful army and force of my mighty army will be unable to destroy a weak and insignificant people? Take him and cast him into the cell. We will then chain him and deliver him to the Jews whom he seems to admire so much.”
The king was seized, chained, and led to the camp of the Jews. As he was cast into it, the Greeks shouted: “This is what is done to the man who speaks well of the Jews. Take him, so that he may suffer your fate when we have conquered and destroyed your city.
The unfortunate king, was taken in chains before the two leaders of the Jewish army, Uzziah and Carmi who were greatly surprised to see him. He told them what had transpired and of the mighty army gathered to destroy the city. When the two Jewish leaders heard this they rushed to the Bais HaMikdash, prostrated themselves and prayed: “O Lord, the God of Israel, look down from the Heaven and see what the evil Greek intends doing to your people Israel. Pour out your wrath upon this nation that knows you not and Sanctify your Name.”
Awaiting The Greeks
Having finished praying, the two soldiers returned to the room, where the captive king awaited them. Taking him to his home, Uzziah made him welcome and treated him as an honored guest.
He then left for a conference with the army as to the best ways to defend the city.
Many long hours were spent carefully planning for the Greek attack. Finally, all that could be done was done and the city waited tensely for the Greek hordes to come.
The following morning, the Greek army was sighted in the distance, approaching Jerusalem. The defenders of the city knew that they had one advantage in the fact that city was built on a hill. All paths and roads leading up the mountain were immediately placed under heavy guard to keep the Greeks from entering them.
When Heliphornus analyzed the situation, he saw that to attempt to dislodge the Jews from their well-fortified positions on the heights would be a very costly operation.
“My lord,” suddenly spoke up one of the officers “I think that perhaps I may have an idea that will result in a bloodless victory for us.”
“Speak up,” commanded the king.
“The supply of food,” stated the officer, “is undoubtedly good. But they must get their water from outside of the city. Let us find the pipes that carry this water and cut them.”
The Greeks quickly fanned out in search of the water pipes and before long had discovered them. Cutting them, they sat back and waited for the inevitable thirst and surrender of the Jews.
It took twenty days for the wells and cisterns to dry up, and a terrible thirst gripped the inhabitants of the city. As their thirst grew so did their desperation.
One evening a great crowd of men, women and youths marched upon the house Of Uzziah.
“May G-d judge between you and us,” they cried, “because of your actions we shall either die of thirst or a horrible death at the hand of Heliphornus whom you have angered. Far better that we live as slaves under the Greeks than that we die. We have decided that you must surrender the city immediately to the Greeks.”
(Continued next week)Rabbi Sholom Klass