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2 Maccabees 8:21–23:21

Judas Defeats Nicanor

21 With these words he filled them with courage and made them ready to die for their laws and their country; then he divided his army into four parts. 22He appointed his brothers also, Simon and Joseph and Jonathan, each to command a division, putting fifteen hundred men under each. 23Besides, he appointed Eleazar to read aloud* from the holy book, and gave the watchword, ‘The help of God’; then, leading the first division himself, he joined battle with Nicanor.

24 With the Almighty as their ally, they killed more than nine thousand of the enemy, and wounded and disabled most of Nicanor’s army, and forced them all to flee. 25They captured the money of those who had come to buy them as slaves. After pursuing them for some distance, they were obliged to return because the hour was late. 26It was the day before the sabbath, and for that reason they did not continue their pursuit. 27When they had collected the arms of the enemy and stripped them of their spoils, they kept the sabbath, giving great praise and thanks to the Lord, who had preserved them for that day and allotted it to them as the beginning of mercy. 28After the sabbath they gave some of the spoils to those who had been tortured and to the widows and orphans, and distributed the rest among themselves and their children. 29When they had done this, they made common supplication and implored the merciful Lord to be wholly reconciled with his servants.*

Judas Defeats Timothy and Bacchides

30 In encounters with the forces of Timothy and Bacchides they killed more than twenty thousand of them and got possession of some exceedingly high strongholds, and they divided a very large amount of plunder, giving to those who had been tortured and to the orphans and widows, and also to the aged, shares equal to their own. 31They collected the arms of the enemy,* and carefully stored all of them in strategic places; the rest of the spoils they carried to Jerusalem. 32They killed the commander of Timothy’s forces, a most wicked man, and one who had greatly troubled the Jews. 33While they were celebrating the victory in the city of their ancestors, they burned those who had set fire to the sacred gates, Callisthenes and some others, who had fled into one little house; so these received the proper reward for their impiety.*

34 The thrice-accursed Nicanor, who had brought the thousand merchants to buy the Jews, 35having been humbled with the help of the Lord by opponents whom he regarded as of the least account, took off his splendid uniform and made his way alone like a runaway slave across the country until he reached Antioch, having succeeded chiefly in the destruction of his own army! 36So he who had undertaken to secure tribute for the Romans by the capture of the people of Jerusalem proclaimed that the Jews had a Defender, and that therefore the Jews were invulnerable, because they followed the laws ordained by him.

The Last Campaign of Antiochus Epiphanes

9About that time, as it happened, Antiochus had retreated in disorder from the region of Persia. 2He had entered the city called Persepolis and attempted to rob the temples and control the city. Therefore the people rushed to the rescue with arms, and Antiochus and his army were defeated,* with the result that Antiochus was put to flight by the inhabitants and beat a shameful retreat. 3While he was in Ecbatana, news came to him of what had happened to Nicanor and the forces of Timothy. 4Transported with rage, he conceived the idea of turning upon the Jews the injury done by those who had put him to flight; so he ordered his charioteer to drive without stopping until he completed the journey. But the judgement of heaven rode with him! For in his arrogance he said, ‘When I get there I will make Jerusalem a cemetery of Jews.’

5 But the all-seeing Lord, the God of Israel, struck him with an incurable and invisible blow. As soon as he stopped speaking he was seized with a pain in his bowels, for which there was no relief, and with sharp internal tortures— 6and that very justly, for he had tortured the bowels of others with many and strange inflictions. 7Yet he did not in any way stop his insolence, but was even more filled with arrogance, breathing fire in his rage against the Jews, and giving orders to drive even faster. And so it came about that he fell out of his chariot as it was rushing along, and the fall was so hard as to torture every limb of his body. 8Thus he who only a little while before had thought in his superhuman arrogance that he could command the waves of the sea, and had imagined that he could weigh the high mountains in a balance, was brought down to earth and carried in a litter, making the power of God manifest to all. 9And so the ungodly man’s body swarmed with worms, and while he was still living in anguish and pain, his flesh rotted away, and because of the stench the whole army felt revulsion at his decay. 10Because of his intolerable stench no one was able to carry the man who a little while before had thought that he could touch the stars of heaven. 11Then it was that, broken in spirit, he began to lose much of his arrogance and to come to his senses under the scourge of God, for he was tortured with pain at every moment. 12And when he could not endure his own stench, he uttered these words, ‘It is right to be subject to God; mortals should not think that they are equal to God.’*

Antiochus Makes a Promise to God

13 Then the abominable fellow made a vow to the Lord, who would no longer have mercy on him, stating 14that the holy city, which he was hurrying to level to the ground and to make a cemetery, he was now declaring to be free; 15and the Jews, whom he had not considered worth burying but had planned to throw out with their children for the wild animals and for the birds to eat, he would make, all of them, equal to citizens of Athens; 16and the holy sanctuary, which he had formerly plundered, he would adorn with the finest offerings; and all the holy vessels he would give back, many times over; and the expenses incurred for the sacrifices he would provide from his own revenues; 17and in addition to all this he also would become a Jew and would visit every inhabited place to proclaim the power of God. 18But when his sufferings did not in any way abate, for the judgement of God had justly come upon him, he gave up all hope for himself and wrote to the Jews the following letter, in the form of a supplication. This was its content:

Antiochus’s Letter and Death

19 ‘To his worthy Jewish citizens, Antiochus their king and general sends hearty greetings and good wishes for their health and prosperity. 20If you and your children are well and your affairs are as you wish, I am glad. As my hope is in heaven, 21I remember with affection your esteem and goodwill. On my way back from the region of Persia I suffered an annoying illness, and I have deemed it necessary to take thought for the general security of all. 22I do not despair of my condition, for I have good hope of recovering from my illness, 23but I observed that my father, on the occasions when he made expeditions into the upper country, appointed his successor, 24so that, if anything unexpected happened or any unwelcome news came, the people throughout the realm would not be troubled, for they would know to whom the government was left. 25Moreover, I understand how the princes along the borders and the neighbours of my kingdom keep watching for opportunities and waiting to see what will happen. So I have appointed my son Antiochus to be king, whom I have often entrusted and commended to most of you when I hurried off to the upper provinces; and I have written to him what is written here. 26I therefore urge and beg you to remember the public and private services rendered to you and to maintain your present goodwill, each of you, towards me and my son. 27For I am sure that he will follow my policy and will treat you with moderation and kindness.’

28 So the murderer and blasphemer, having endured the more intense suffering, such as he had inflicted on others, came to the end of his life by a most pitiable fate, among the mountains in a strange land. 29And Philip, one of his courtiers, took his body home; then, fearing the son of Antiochus, he withdrew to Ptolemy Philometor in Egypt.

Purification of the Temple

10Now Maccabeus and his followers, the Lord leading them on, recovered the temple and the city; 2they tore down the altars that had been built in the public square by the foreigners, and also destroyed the sacred precincts. 3They purified the sanctuary, and made another altar of sacrifice; then, striking fire out of flint, they offered sacrifices, after a lapse of two years, and they offered incense and lighted lamps and set out the bread of the Presence. 4When they had done this, they fell prostrate and implored the Lord that they might never again fall into such misfortunes, but that, if they should ever sin, they might be disciplined by him with forbearance and not be handed over to blasphemous and barbarous nations. 5It happened that on the same day on which the sanctuary had been profaned by the foreigners, the purification of the sanctuary took place, that is, on the twenty-fifth day of the same month, which was Chislev. 6They celebrated it for eight days with rejoicing, in the manner of the festival of booths, remembering how not long before, during the festival of booths, they had been wandering in the mountains and caves like wild animals. 7Therefore, carrying ivy-wreathed wands and beautiful branches and also fronds of palm, they offered hymns of thanksgiving to him who had given success to the purifying of his own holy place. 8They decreed by public edict, ratified by vote, that the whole nation of the Jews should observe these days every year.

9 Such then was the end of Antiochus, who was called Epiphanes.

Accession of Antiochus Eupator

10 Now we will tell what took place under Antiochus Eupator, who was the son of that ungodly man, and will give a brief summary of the principal calamities of the wars. 11This man, when he succeeded to the kingdom, appointed one Lysias to have charge of the government and to be chief governor of Coelesyria and Phoenicia. 12Ptolemy, who was called Macron, took the lead in showing justice to the Jews because of the wrong that had been done to them, and attempted to maintain peaceful relations with them. 13As a result he was accused before Eupator by the king’s Friends. He heard himself called a traitor at every turn, because he had abandoned Cyprus, which Philometor had entrusted to him, and had gone over to Antiochus Epiphanes. Unable to command the respect due to his office,* he took poison and ended his life.

Campaign in Idumea

14 When Gorgias became governor of the region, he maintained a force of mercenaries, and at every turn kept attacking the Jews. 15Besides this, the Idumeans, who had control of important strongholds, were harassing the Jews; they received those who were banished from Jerusalem, and endeavoured to keep up the war. 16But Maccabeus and his forces, after making solemn supplication and imploring God to fight on their side, rushed to the strongholds of the Idumeans. 17Attacking them vigorously, they gained possession of the places, and beat off all who fought upon the wall, and slaughtered those whom they encountered, killing no fewer than twenty thousand.

18 When at least nine thousand took refuge in two very strong towers well equipped to withstand a siege, 19Maccabeus left Simon and Joseph, and also Zacchaeus and his troops, a force sufficient to besiege them; and he himself set off for places where he was more urgently needed. 20But those with Simon, who were money-hungry, were bribed by some of those who were in the towers, and on receiving seventy thousand drachmas let some of them slip away. 21When word of what had happened came to Maccabeus, he gathered the leaders of the people, and accused these men of having sold their kindred for money by setting their enemies free to fight against them. 22Then he killed these men who had turned traitor, and immediately captured the two towers. 23Having success at arms in everything he undertook, he destroyed more than twenty thousand in the two strongholds.

Judas Defeats Timothy

24 Now Timothy, who had been defeated by the Jews before, gathered a tremendous force of mercenaries and collected the cavalry from Asia in no small number. He came on, intending to take Judea by storm. 25As he drew near, Maccabeus and his men sprinkled dust on their heads and girded their loins with sackcloth, in supplication to God. 26Falling upon the steps before the altar, they implored him to be gracious to them and to be an enemy to their enemies and an adversary to their adversaries, as the law declares. 27And rising from their prayer they took up their arms and advanced a considerable distance from the city; and when they came near the enemy they halted. 28Just as dawn was breaking, the two armies joined battle, one having as pledge of success and victory not only their valour but also their reliance on the Lord, while the other made rage their leader in the fight.

29 When the battle became fierce, there appeared to the enemy from heaven five resplendent men on horses with golden bridles, and they were leading the Jews. 30Two of them took Maccabeus between them, and shielding him with their own armour and weapons, they kept him from being wounded. They showered arrows and thunderbolts on the enemy, so that, confused and blinded, they were thrown into disorder and cut to pieces. 31Twenty thousand five hundred were slaughtered, besides six hundred cavalry.

32 Timothy himself fled to a stronghold called Gazara, especially well garrisoned, where Chaereas was commander. 33Then Maccabeus and his men were glad, and they besieged the fort for four days. 34The men within, relying on the strength of the place, kept blaspheming terribly and uttering wicked words. 35But at dawn on the fifth day, twenty young men in the army of Maccabeus, fired with anger because of the blasphemies, bravely stormed the wall and with savage fury cut down everyone they met. 36Others who came up in the same way wheeled around against the defenders and set fire to the towers; they kindled fires and burned the blasphemers alive. Others broke open the gates and let in the rest of the force, and they occupied the city. 37They killed Timothy, who was hiding in a cistern, and his brother Chaereas, and Apollophanes. 38When they had accomplished these things, with hymns and thanksgivings they blessed the Lord who shows great kindness to Israel and gives them the victory.

Lysias Besieges Beth-zur

11Very soon after this, Lysias, the king’s guardian and kinsman, who was in charge of the government, being vexed at what had happened, 2gathered about eighty thousand infantry and all his cavalry and came against the Jews. He intended to make the city a home for Greeks, 3and to levy tribute on the temple as he did on the sacred places of the other nations, and to put the high-priesthood up for sale every year. 4He took no account whatever of the power of God, but was elated with his tens of thousands of infantry, and his thousands of cavalry, and his eighty elephants. 5Invading Judea, he approached Beth-zur, which was a fortified place about five stadia* from Jerusalem, and pressed it hard.

6 When Maccabeus and his men got word that Lysias* was besieging the strongholds, they and all the people, with lamentations and tears, prayed the Lord to send a good angel to save Israel. 7Maccabeus himself was the first to take up arms, and he urged the others to risk their lives with him to aid their kindred. Then they eagerly rushed off together. 8And there, while they were still near Jerusalem, a horseman appeared at their head, clothed in white and brandishing weapons of gold. 9And together they all praised the merciful God, and were strengthened in heart, ready to assail not only humans but the wildest animals or walls of iron. 10They advanced in battle order, having their heavenly ally, for the Lord had mercy on them. 11They hurled themselves like lions against the enemy, and laid low eleven thousand of them and sixteen hundred cavalry, and forced all the rest to flee. 12Most of them got away stripped and wounded, and Lysias himself escaped by disgraceful flight.

Lysias Makes Peace with the Jews

13 As he was not without intelligence, he pondered over the defeat that had befallen him, and realized that the Hebrews were invincible because the mighty God fought on their side. So he sent to them 14and persuaded them to settle everything on just terms, promising that he would persuade the king, constraining him to be their friend.* 15Maccabeus, having regard for the common good, agreed to all that Lysias urged. For the king granted every request in behalf of the Jews which Maccabeus delivered to Lysias in writing.

16 The letter written to the Jews by Lysias was to this effect:

‘Lysias to the people of the Jews, greetings. 17John and Absalom, who were sent by you, have delivered your signed communication and have asked about the matters indicated in it. 18I have informed the king of everything that needed to be brought before him, and he has agreed to what was possible. 19If you will maintain your goodwill towards the government, I will endeavour in the future to help promote your welfare. 20And concerning such matters and their details, I have ordered these men and my representatives to confer with you. 21Farewell. The one hundred and forty-eighth year,* the twenty-fourth of Dioscorinthius.’

22 The king’s letter ran thus:

‘King Antiochus to his brother Lysias, greetings. 23Now that our father has gone on to the gods, we desire that the subjects of the kingdom be undisturbed in caring for their own affairs. 24We have heard that the Jews do not consent to our father’s change to Greek customs, but prefer their own way of living and ask that their own customs be allowed them. 25Accordingly, since we choose that this nation also should be free from disturbance, our decision is that their temple be restored to them and that they shall live according to the customs of their ancestors. 26You will do well, therefore, to send word to them and give them pledges of friendship, so that they may know our policy and be of good cheer and go on happily in the conduct of their own affairs.’

27 To the nation the king’s letter was as follows:

‘King Antiochus to the senate of the Jews and to the other Jews, greetings. 28If you are well, it is as we desire. We also are in good health. 29Menelaus has informed us that you wish to return home and look after your own affairs. 30Therefore those who go home by the thirtieth of Xanthicus will have our pledge of friendship and full permission 31for the Jews to enjoy their own food and laws, just as formerly, and none of them shall be molested in any way for what may have been done in ignorance. 32And I have also sent Menelaus to encourage you. 33Farewell. The one hundred and forty-eighth year,* the fifteenth of Xanthicus.’

34 The Romans also sent them a letter, which read thus:

‘Quintus Memmius and Titus Manius, envoys of the Romans, to the people of the Jews, greetings. 35With regard to what Lysias the kinsman of the king has granted you, we also give consent. 36But as to the matters that he decided are to be referred to the king, as soon as you have considered them, send someone promptly so that we may make proposals appropriate for you. For we are on our way to Antioch. 37Therefore make haste and send messengers so that we may have your judgement. 38Farewell. The one hundred and forty-eighth year,* the fifteenth of Xanthicus.’

Incidents at Joppa and Jamnia

12When this agreement had been reached, Lysias returned to the king, and the Jews went about their farming.

2 But some of the governors in various places, Timothy and Apollonius son of Gennaeus, as well as Hieronymus and Demophon, and in addition to these Nicanor the governor of Cyprus, would not let them live quietly and in peace. 3And the people of Joppa did so ungodly a deed as this: they invited the Jews who lived among them to embark, with their wives and children, on boats that they had provided, as though there were no ill will to the Jews;* 4and this was done by public vote of the city. When they accepted, because they wished to live peaceably and suspected nothing, the people of Joppa* took them out to sea and drowned them, at least two hundred. 5When Judas heard of the cruelty visited on his compatriots, he gave orders to his men 6and, calling upon God, the righteous judge, attacked the murderers of his kindred. He set fire to the harbour by night, burned the boats, and massacred those who had taken refuge there. 7Then, because the city’s gates were closed, he withdrew, intending to come again and root out the whole community of Joppa. 8But learning that the people in Jamnia meant in the same way to wipe out the Jews who were living among them, 9he attacked the Jamnites by night and set fire to the harbour and the fleet, so that the glow of the light was seen in Jerusalem, thirty miles* distant.

The Campaign in Gilead

10 When they had gone more than a mile* from there, on their march against Timothy, at least five thousand Arabs with five hundred cavalry attacked them. 11After a hard fight, Judas and his companions, with God’s help, were victorious. The defeated nomads begged Judas to grant them pledges of friendship, promising to give him livestock and to help his people* in all other ways. 12Judas, realizing that they might indeed be useful in many ways, agreed to make peace with them; and after receiving his pledges they went back to their tents.

13 He also attacked a certain town that was strongly fortified with earthworks* and walls, and inhabited by all sorts of Gentiles. Its name was Caspin. 14Those who were within, relying on the strength of the walls and on their supply of provisions, behaved most insolently towards Judas and his men, railing at them and even blaspheming and saying unholy things. 15But Judas and his men, calling upon the great Sovereign of the world, who without battering-rams or engines of war overthrew Jericho in the days of Joshua, rushed furiously upon the walls. 16They took the town by the will of God, and slaughtered untold numbers, so that the adjoining lake, a quarter of a mile* wide, appeared to be running over with blood.

Judas Defeats Timothy’s Army

17 When they had gone ninety-five miles* from there, they came to Charax, to the Jews who are called Toubiani. 18They did not find Timothy in that region, for he had by then left there without accomplishing anything, though in one place he had left a very strong garrison. 19Dositheus and Sosipater, who were captains under Maccabeus, marched out and destroyed those whom Timothy had left in the stronghold, more than ten thousand men. 20But Maccabeus arranged his army in divisions, set men* in command of the divisions, and hurried after Timothy, who had with him one hundred and twenty thousand infantry and two thousand five hundred cavalry. 21When Timothy learned of the approach of Judas, he sent off the women and the children and also the baggage to a place called Carnaim; for that place was hard to besiege and difficult of access because of the narrowness of all the approaches. 22But when Judas’s first division appeared, terror and fear came over the enemy at the manifestation to them of him who sees all things. In their flight they rushed headlong in every direction, so that often they were injured by their own men and pierced by the points of their own swords. 23Judas pressed the pursuit with the utmost vigour, putting the sinners to the sword, and destroyed as many as thirty thousand.

24 Timothy himself fell into the hands of Dositheus and Sosipater and their men. With great guile he begged them to let him go in safety, because he held the parents of most of them, and the brothers of some, to whom no consideration would be shown. 25And when with many words he had confirmed his solemn promise to restore them unharmed, they let him go, for the sake of saving their kindred.

Judas Wins Other Victories

26 Then Judas* marched against Carnaim and the temple of Atargatis, and slaughtered twenty-five thousand people. 27After the rout and destruction of these, he marched also against Ephron, a fortified town where Lysias lived with multitudes of people of all nationalities.* Stalwart young men took their stand before the walls and made a vigorous defence; and great stores of war engines and missiles were there. 28But the Jews* called upon the Sovereign who with power shatters the might of his enemies, and they got the town into their hands, and killed as many as twenty-five thousand of those who were in it.

29 Setting out from there, they hastened to Scythopolis, which is seventy-five miles* from Jerusalem. 30But when the Jews who lived there bore witness to the goodwill that the people of Scythopolis had shown them and their kind treatment of them in times of misfortune, 31they thanked them and exhorted them to be well disposed to their race in the future also. Then they went up to Jerusalem, as the festival of weeks was close at hand.

Judas Defeats Gorgias

32 After the festival called Pentecost, they hurried against Gorgias, the governor of Idumea, 33who came out with three thousand infantry and four hundred cavalry. 34When they joined battle, it happened that a few of the Jews fell. 35But a certain Dositheus, one of Bacenor’s men, who was on horseback and was a strong man, caught hold of Gorgias, and grasping his cloak was dragging him off by main strength, wishing to take the accursed man alive, when one of the Thracian cavalry bore down on him and cut off his arm; so Gorgias escaped and reached Marisa.

36 As Esdris and his men had been fighting for a long time and were weary, Judas called upon the Lord to show himself their ally and leader in the battle. 37In the language of their ancestors he raised the battle-cry, with hymns; then he charged against Gorgias’s troops when they were not expecting it, and put them to flight.

Prayers for Those Killed in Battle

38 Then Judas assembled his army and went to the city of Adullam. As the seventh day was coming on, they purified themselves according to the custom, and kept the sabbath there.

39 On the next day, as had now become necessary, Judas and his men went to take up the bodies of the fallen and to bring them back to lie with their kindred in the sepulchres of their ancestors. 40Then under the tunic of each one of the dead they found sacred tokens of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. And it became clear to all that this was the reason these men had fallen. 41So they all blessed the ways of the Lord, the righteous judge, who reveals the things that are hidden; 42and they turned to supplication, praying that the sin that had been committed might be wholly blotted out. The noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened as the result of the sin of those who had fallen. 43He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin-offering. In doing this he acted very well and honourably, taking account of the resurrection. 44For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. 45But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, so that they might be delivered from their sin.

Menelaus Is Put to Death

13In the one hundred and forty-ninth year* word came to Judas and his men that Antiochus Eupator was coming with a great army against Judea, 2and with him Lysias, his guardian, who had charge of the government. Each of them had a Greek force of one hundred and ten thousand infantry, five thousand three hundred cavalry, twenty-two elephants, and three hundred chariots armed with scythes.

3 Menelaus also joined them and with utter hypocrisy urged Antiochus on, not for the sake of his country’s welfare, but because he thought that he would be established in office. 4But the King of kings aroused the anger of Antiochus against the scoundrel; and when Lysias informed him that this man was to blame for all the trouble, he ordered them to take him to Beroea and to put him to death by the method that is customary in that place. 5For there is a tower there, fifty cubits high, full of ashes, and it has a rim running round it that on all sides inclines precipitously into the ashes. 6There they all push to destruction anyone guilty of sacrilege or notorious for other crimes. 7By such a fate it came about that Menelaus the lawbreaker died, without even burial in the earth. 8And this was eminently just; because he had committed many sins against the altar whose fire and ashes were holy, he met his death in ashes.

A Battle Near the City of Modein

9 The king with barbarous arrogance was coming to show the Jews things far worse than those that had been done* in his father’s time. 10But when Judas heard of this, he ordered the people to call upon the Lord day and night, now more than ever to help those who were on the point of being deprived of the law and their country and the holy temple, 11and not to let the people who had just begun to revive fall into the hands of the blasphemous Gentiles. 12When they had all joined in the same petition and had implored the merciful Lord with weeping and fasting and lying prostrate for three days without ceasing, Judas exhorted them and ordered them to stand ready.

13 After consulting privately with the elders, he determined to march out and decide the matter by the help of God before the king’s army could enter Judea and get possession of the city. 14So, committing the decision to the Creator of the world and exhorting his troops to fight bravely to the death for the laws, temple, city, country, and commonwealth, he pitched his camp near Modein. 15He gave his troops the watchword, ‘God’s victory’, and with a picked force of the bravest young men, he attacked the king’s pavilion at night and killed as many as two thousand men in the camp. He stabbed* the leading elephant and its rider. 16In the end they filled the camp with terror and confusion and withdrew in triumph. 17This happened, just as day was dawning, because the Lord’s help protected him.

Antiochus Makes a Treaty with the Jews

18 The king, having had a taste of the daring of the Jews, tried strategy in attacking their positions. 19He advanced against Beth-zur, a strong fortress of the Jews, was turned back, attacked again,* and was defeated. 20Judas sent in to the garrison whatever was necessary. 21But Rhodocus, a man from the ranks of the Jews, gave secret information to the enemy; he was sought for, caught, and put in prison. 22The king negotiated a second time with the people in Beth-zur, gave pledges, received theirs, withdrew, attacked Judas and his men, and was defeated; 23he got word that Philip, who had been left in charge of the government, had revolted in Antioch; he was dismayed, called in the Jews, yielded and swore to observe all their rights, settled with them and offered sacrifice, honoured the sanctuary, and showed generosity to the holy place. 24He received Maccabeus, left Hegemonides as governor from Ptolemais to Gerar, 25and went to Ptolemais. The people of Ptolemais were indignant over the treaty; in fact they were so angry that they wanted to annul its terms.* 26Lysias took the public platform, made the best possible defence, convinced them, appeased them, gained their goodwill, and set out for Antioch. This is how the king’s attack and withdrawal turned out.

Alcimus Speaks against Judas

14Three years later, word came to Judas and his men that Demetrius son of Seleucus had sailed into the harbour of Tripolis with a strong army and a fleet, 2and had taken possession of the country, having made away with Antiochus and his guardian Lysias.

3 Now a certain Alcimus, who had formerly been high priest but had wilfully defiled himself in the times of separation,* realized that there was no way for him to be safe or to have access again to the holy altar, 4and went to King Demetrius in about the one hundred and fifty-first year,* presenting to him a crown of gold and a palm, and besides these some of the customary olive branches from the temple. During that day he kept quiet. 5But he found an opportunity that furthered his mad purpose when he was invited by Demetrius to a meeting of the council and was asked about the attitude and intentions of the Jews. He answered:

6 ‘Those of the Jews who are called Hasideans, whose leader is Judas Maccabeus, are keeping up war and stirring up sedition, and will not let the kingdom attain tranquillity. 7Therefore I have laid aside my ancestral glory—I mean the high-priesthood—and have now come here, 8first because I am genuinely concerned for the interests of the king, and second because I have regard also for my compatriots. For through the folly of those whom I have mentioned our whole nation is now in no small misfortune. 9Since you are acquainted, O king, with the details of this matter, may it please you to take thought for our country and our hard-pressed nation with the gracious kindness that you show to all. 10For as long as Judas lives, it is impossible for the government to find peace.’ 11When he had said this, the rest of the king’s Friends,* who were hostile to Judas, quickly inflamed Demetrius still more. 12He immediately chose Nicanor, who had been in command of the elephants, appointed him governor of Judea, and sent him off 13with orders to kill Judas and scatter his troops, and to instal Alcimus as high priest of the great* temple. 14And the Gentiles throughout Judea, who had fled before* Judas, flocked to join Nicanor, thinking that the misfortunes and calamities of the Jews would mean prosperity for themselves.

Nicanor Makes Friends with Judas

15 When the Jews* heard of Nicanor’s coming and the gathering of the Gentiles, they sprinkled dust on their heads and prayed to him who established his own people for ever and always upholds his own heritage by manifesting himself. 16At the command of the leader, they* set out from there immediately and engaged them in battle at a village called Dessau.* 17Simon, the brother of Judas, had encountered Nicanor, but had been temporarily* checked because of the sudden consternation created by the enemy.

18 Nevertheless Nicanor, hearing of the valour of Judas and his troops and their courage in battle for their country, shrank from deciding the issue by bloodshed. 19Therefore he sent Posidonius, Theodotus, and Mattathias to give and receive pledges of friendship. 20When the terms had been fully considered, and the leader had informed the people, and it had appeared that they were of one mind, they agreed to the covenant. 21The leaders* set a day on which to meet by themselves. A chariot came forward from each army; seats of honour were set in place; 22Judas posted armed men in readiness at key places to prevent sudden treachery on the part of the enemy; so they duly held the consultation.

23 Nicanor stayed on in Jerusalem and did nothing out of the way, but dismissed the flocks of people that had gathered. 24And he kept Judas always in his presence; he was warmly attached to the man. 25He urged him to marry and have children; so Judas* married, settled down, and shared the common life.

Nicanor Turns against Judas

26 But when Alcimus noticed their goodwill for one another, he took the covenant that had been made and went to Demetrius. He told him that Nicanor was disloyal to the government, since he had appointed that conspirator against the kingdom, Judas, to be his successor. 27The king became excited and, provoked by the false accusations of that depraved man, wrote to Nicanor, stating that he was displeased with the covenant and commanding him to send Maccabeus to Antioch as a prisoner without delay.

28 When this message came to Nicanor, he was troubled and grieved that he had to annul their agreement when the man had done no wrong. 29Since it was not possible to oppose the king, he watched for an opportunity to accomplish this by a stratagem. 30But Maccabeus, noticing that Nicanor was more austere in his dealings with him and was meeting him more rudely than had been his custom, concluded that this austerity did not spring from the best motives. So he gathered not a few of his men, and went into hiding from Nicanor. 31When the latter became aware that he had been cleverly outwitted by the man, he went to the great* and holy temple while the priests were offering the customary sacrifices, and commanded them to hand the man over. 32When they declared on oath that they did not know where the man was whom he wanted, 33he stretched out his right hand towards the sanctuary, and swore this oath: ‘If you do not hand Judas over to me as a prisoner, I will level this shrine of God to the ground and tear down the altar, and build here a splendid temple to Dionysus.’

34 Having said this, he went away. Then the priests stretched out their hands towards heaven and called upon the constant Defender of our nation, in these words: 35‘O Lord of all, though you have need of nothing, you were pleased that there should be a temple for your habitation among us; 36so now, O holy One, Lord of all holiness, keep undefiled for ever this house that has been so recently purified.’

Razis Dies for His Country

37 A certain Razis, one of the elders of Jerusalem, was denounced to Nicanor as a man who loved his compatriots and was very well thought of and for his goodwill was called father of the Jews. 38In former times, when there was no mingling with the Gentiles, he had been accused of Judaism, and he had most zealously risked body and life for Judaism. 39Nicanor, wishing to exhibit the enmity that he had for the Jews, sent more than five hundred soldiers to arrest him; 40for he thought that by arresting* him he would do them an injury. 41When the troops were about to capture the tower and were forcing the door of the courtyard, they ordered that fire be brought and the doors burned. Being surrounded, Razis* fell upon his own sword, 42preferring to die nobly rather than to fall into the hands of sinners and suffer outrages unworthy of his noble birth. 43But in the heat of the struggle he did not hit exactly, and the crowd was now rushing in through the doors. He courageously ran up on the wall, and bravely threw himself down into the crowd. 44But as they quickly drew back, a space opened and he fell in the middle of the empty space. 45Still alive and aflame with anger, he rose, and though his blood gushed forth and his wounds were severe he ran through the crowd; and standing upon a steep rock, 46with his blood now completely drained from him, he tore out his entrails, took them in both hands, and hurled them at the crowd, calling upon the Lord of life and spirit to give them back to him again. This was the manner of his death.

Nicanor’s Arrogance

15When Nicanor heard that Judas and his troops were in the region of Samaria, he made plans to attack them with complete safety on the day of rest. 2When the Jews who were compelled to follow him said, ‘Do not destroy so savagely and barbarously, but show respect for the day that he who sees all things has honoured and hallowed above other days’, 3the thrice-accursed wretch asked if there were a sovereign in heaven who had commanded the keeping of the sabbath day. 4When they declared, ‘It is the living Lord himself, the Sovereign in heaven, who ordered us to observe the seventh day,’ 5he replied, ‘But I am a sovereign also, on earth, and I command you to take up arms and finish the king’s business.’ Nevertheless, he did not succeed in carrying out his abominable design.

Judas Prepares the Jews for Battle

6 This Nicanor in his utter boastfulness and arrogance had determined to erect a public monument of victory over Judas and his forces. 7But Maccabeus did not cease to trust with all confidence that he would get help from the Lord. 8He exhorted his troops not to fear the attack of the Gentiles, but to keep in mind the former times when help had come to them from heaven, and so to look for the victory that the Almighty would give them. 9Encouraging them from the law and the prophets, and reminding them also of the struggles they had won, he made them the more eager. 10When he had aroused their courage, he issued his orders, at the same time pointing out the perfidy of the Gentiles and their violation of oaths. 11He armed each of them not so much with confidence in shields and spears as with the inspiration of brave words, and he cheered them all by relating a dream, a sort of vision,* which was worthy of belief.

12 What he saw was this: Onias, who had been high priest, a noble and good man, of modest bearing and gentle manner, one who spoke fittingly and had been trained from childhood in all that belongs to excellence, was praying with outstretched hands for the whole body of the Jews. 13Then in the same fashion another appeared, distinguished by his grey hair and dignity, and of marvellous majesty and authority. 14And Onias spoke, saying, ‘This is a man who loves the family of Israel and prays much for the people and the holy city—Jeremiah, the prophet of God.’ 15Jeremiah stretched out his right hand and gave to Judas a golden sword, and as he gave it he addressed him thus: 16‘Take this holy sword, a gift from God, with which you will strike down your adversaries.’

17 Encouraged by the words of Judas, so noble and so effective in arousing valour and awaking courage in the souls of the young, they determined not to carry on a campaign* but to attack bravely, and to decide the matter by fighting hand to hand with all courage, because the city and the sanctuary and the temple were in danger. 18Their concern for wives and children, and also for brothers and sisters* and relatives, lay upon them less heavily; their greatest and first fear was for the consecrated sanctuary. 19And those who had to remain in the city were in no little distress, being anxious over the encounter in the open country.

The Defeat and Death of Nicanor

20 When all were now looking forward to the coming issue, and the enemy was already close at hand with their army drawn up for battle, the elephants* strategically stationed and the cavalry deployed on the flanks, 21Maccabeus, observing the masses that were in front of him and the varied supply of arms and the savagery of the elephants, stretched out his hands towards heaven and called upon the Lord who works wonders; for he knew that it is not by arms, but as the Lord* decides, that he gains the victory for those who deserve it. 22He called upon him in these words: ‘O Lord, you sent your angel in the time of King Hezekiah of Judea, and he killed fully one hundred and eighty-five thousand in the camp of Sennacherib. 23So now, O Sovereign of the heavens, send a good angel to spread terror and trembling before us. 24By the might of your arm may these blasphemers who come against your holy people be struck down.’ With these words he ended his prayer.

25 Nicanor and his troops advanced with trumpets and battle-songs, 26but Judas and his troops met the enemy in battle with invocations to God and prayers. 27So, fighting with their hands and praying to God in their hearts, they laid low at least thirty-five thousand, and were greatly gladdened by God’s manifestation.

28 When the action was over and they were returning with joy, they recognized Nicanor, lying dead, in full armour. 29Then there was shouting and tumult, and they blessed the Sovereign Lord in the language of their ancestors. 30Then the man who was ever in body and soul the defender of his people, the man who maintained his youthful goodwill towards his compatriots, ordered them to cut off Nicanor’s head and arm and carry them to Jerusalem. 31When he arrived there and had called his compatriots together and stationed the priests before the altar, he sent for those who were in the citadel. 32He showed them the vile Nicanor’s head and that profane man’s arm, which had been boastfully stretched out against the holy house of the Almighty. 33He cut out the tongue of the ungodly Nicanor and said that he would feed it piecemeal to the birds and would hang up these rewards of his folly opposite the sanctuary. 34And they all, looking to heaven, blessed the Lord who had manifested himself, saying, ‘Blessed is he who has kept his own place undefiled!’ 35Judas* hung Nicanor’s head from the citadel, a clear and conspicuous sign to everyone of the help of the Lord. 36And they all decreed by public vote never to let this day go unobserved, but to celebrate the thirteenth day of the twelfth month—which is called Adar in the Aramaic language—the day before Mordecai’s day.

37 This, then, is how matters turned out with Nicanor, and from that time the city has been in the possession of the Hebrews. So I will here end my story.

The Compiler’s Epilogue

38 If it is well told and to the point, that is what I myself desired; if it is poorly done and mediocre, that was the best I could do. 39For just as it is harmful to drink wine alone, or, again, to drink water alone, while wine mixed with water is sweet and delicious and enhances one’s enjoyment, so also the style of the story delights the ears of those who read the work. And here will be the end.

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From the oremus Bible Browser http://bible.oremus.org v2.2.8 14 July 2018.