BOOK ENDS. Seraphim, April 2009.
JB 2 MACCABEES Chapter 1
- LETTERS TO THE JEWS OF EGYPT
1:1 Greetings to their brothers, the Jews in Egypt, from their brothers, the Jews in Jerusalem and in the country of Judaea, and prosperity and peace.
1:2 May God prosper you, remembering his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, his faithful servants.
1:3 May he give you all a heart to worship him and to do his will with a generous mind and a willing spirit.
1:4 May he open your hearts to his Law and his precepts, and give you peace.
1:5 May he hear your prayers and be reconciled with you, and not abandon you in time of evil.
1:6 Here we are now praying for you.
1:7 When Demetrius was king, in the year one hundred and sixty-nine, we Jews wrote to you as follows, ‘in the desperate affliction that has come on us in these years since Jason and his associates betrayed the Holy Land and the kingdom,
1:8 they burned the Temple gateway and shed innocent blood. Then we prayed to the Lord and were heard; we offered a sacrifice with wheat-flour, kindled the lamps and set out the loaves’.
1:9 And we now recommend you to keep the feast of Tabernacles of the month of Chislev. In the year one hundred and eighty-eight[*a].
1:10 The people of Jerusalem and of Judaea, the senate and Judas[*c], to Aristobulus, tutor to King Ptolemy and one of the family of the anointed priests, and to the Jews in Egypt, greetings and good health.
Thanksgiving for the punishment of Antiochus
1:11 Since we have been rescued by God from great dangers, we give him great thanks for championing our cause against the king,
1:12 for it was He who drove out those who had taken up arms against the Holy City.
1:13 For when their leader reached Persia with his seemingly irresistible army, he was cut to pieces in the temple of Nanaea[*d], as the result of a ruse employed by the priests who served that goddess.
1:14 On the pretext of making a marriage with Nanaea, Antiochus came to the place with his friends, intending to take its many treasures as a dowry.
1:15 The priests of Nanaea had put these on display, and he entered the sacred is precincts with a small retinue. As soon as Antiochus was inside they closed the temple,
1:16 opened the secret door in the ceiling and struck down the leader and his party by hurling stones like thunderbolts. They then dismembered them, cut off their heads and flung them to those outside.
1:17 Blessed in all things be our God, who has given the godless their deserts!
The miraculous preservation of the sacred fire
1:18 As we shall be celebrating the purification of the Temple on the twenty-fifth of Chislev, we consider it proper to notify you, so that you may celebrate the feast of Tabernacles and of the fire that appeared when Nehemiah, the builder of the Temple and the altar, offered sacrifice.
1:19 For when our ancestors were being deported to Persia the devout priests of the time took some of the fire from the altar and hid it secretly in the hollow of a dry well, where they concealed it in such a way that the place was unknown to anyone.
1:20 When some years had elapsed, in God’s good time, Nehemiah, commissioned by the king of Persia, sent the descendants of the priests who had hidden the fire to recover it; but they notified us that they had found not fire but a thick liquid. Nehemiah ordered them to draw some out and bring it back.
1:21 When the materials for the sacrifice had been set out, Nehemiah ordered the priests to pour the liquid over the wood and what lay on it.
1:22 When this had been done, and when in due course the sun, which had previously been clouded over, shone out, a great fire flared up, to the astonishment of all.
1:23 While the sacrifice was being burned, the priests and all those present with the priests offered prayer, Jonathan intoning and the rest responding with Nehemiah.
1:24 The prayer took this form: ‘Lord, Lord God, creator of all things, dreadful, strong, just, merciful, the only king and benefactor,
1:25 the only provider, who alone are just, almighty and everlasting, the deliverer of Israel from every evil, who made our fathers your chosen ones and sanctified them,
1:26 accept this sacrifice on behalf of all your people Israel, and protect your heritage and consecrate it.
1:27 Bring together those of us who are dispersed, set free those in slavery among the heathen, look favourably on those held in contempt or abhorrence, and let the heathen know that you are our God.
1:28 Punish those who oppress us and affront us by their insolence,
1:29 and plant your people firmly in your Holy Place, as Moses promised.’
1:30 The priests then chanted hymns.
1:31 When the sacrifice was all burned, Nehemiah ordered the remaining liquid to be poured over large stones,
1:32 and when this was done a flame flared up, to be absorbed in the corresponding blaze of light from the altar.
1:33 When the matter became known and the king of the Persians heard that in the place where the exiled priests had hidden the fire a liquid had appeared, with which Nehemiah and his people had purified the materials of the sacrifice,
1:34 the king after verifying the facts, had the place enclosed and pronounced sacred.
1:35 The king exchanged many valuable presents with those who enjoyed his favour.
1:36 Nehemiah and his people termed this stuff ‘nephtar’, which means ‘purification’, but it is generally called ‘naphtha’.
JB 2 MACCABEES Chapter 2
Jeremiah conceals the tabernacle, ark and altar
2:1 We find in the archives that the prophet Jeremiah[*a], when he had given the deportees the order to take the fire, as we have described,
2:2 in giving them the Law warned the deportees never to forget the Lord’s precepts, nor to let their thoughts be tempted by the sight of gold and silver statues or the finery adorning them.
2:3 Among other similar admonitions he urged them not to let the Law depart from their hearts.
2:4 The document also described how the prophet, warned by an oracle, gave orders for the tabernacle and the ark to go with him when he set out for the mountain which Moses had climbed to survey God’s heritage.
2:5 On his arrival Jeremiah found a cave-dwelling, into which he brought the tabernacle, the ark and the altar of incense, afterwards blocking up the entrance.
2:6 Some of his companions came up to mark out the way, but were unable to find it.
2:7 When Jeremiah learned this, he reproached them: ‘The place is to remain unknown’ he said ‘until God gathers his people together again and shows them his mercy.
2:8 Then the Lord will bring these things once more to light, and the glory of the Lord will be seen, and so will the cloud, as it was revealed in the time of Moses and when Solomon prayed that the Holy Place might be gloriously hallowed.’
2:9 It was also recorded how Solomon in his wisdom offered the sacrifice of the dedication and completion of the sanctuary.
2:10 As Moses had prayed to the Lord and fire had come down from heaven and burned up the sacrifice, so Solomon also prayed, and the fire from above burned up the holocausts.
2:11 Moses had said, ‘It is because it had not been eaten that the sin-offering was burned up’.
2:12 Solomon kept the feast in the same way for eight days.
2:13 In addition to the above, it was also recorded, both in the archives and in the Memoirs of Nehemiah[*b] how he founded a library and made a collection of the books dealing with the kings and the prophets, the writings of David and the letters of the kings on the subject of offerings.
2:14 In the same way Judas made a complete collection of the books dispersed in the late war, and these we still have.
2:15 If you need any of them, send someone to fetch copies for you.
An invitation to the dedication
2:16 To conclude, since we are now about to celebrate the purification of the Temple, we are writing to you requesting you to observe the same days.
2:17 God, who has saved his whole people, conferring on all the heritage, kingdom, priesthood and sanctification
2:18 as he promised through the Law, will surely, as our hope is in him, be swift to show us mercy and gather us together from everywhere under heaven to the Holy Place, since he has rescued us from great evils and has purified the Temple.
- COMPILER’S PREFACE
2:19 The story of Judas Maccabaeus and his brothers, the purification of the great Temple, the dedication of the altar,
2:20 together with the wars against Antiochus Epiphanes and his son Eupator,
2:21 and the manifestations from heaven that came to hearten the brave champions of Judaism, so that, few though they were, they despoiled the whole country, routed the barbarian hordes,
2:22 recovered the sanctuary renowned the whole world over, liberated the city and re-established the laws which were all but abolished, the Lord showing his favour by all his gracious help to them-
2:23 all this, already related in five books by Jason of Cyrene, we shall attempt to condense into a single digest.
2:24 Considering the spate of figures and the difficulty encountered, because of the mass of material, by those who wish to immerse themselves in historical records,
2:25 we have aimed at providing diversion for those who merely want something to read, a saving of labour for those who enjoy committing things to memory, and profit for each and all.
2:26 For us who have undertaken the drudgery of this abridgement, this has been no easy task but a matter of sweat and midnight oil,
2:27 comparable to the exacting task of a man organising a banquet, whose aim is to satisfy a variety of tastes; nevertheless, for the sake of rendering a general service we remain glad to endure this drudgery,
2:28 leaving accuracy of detail to the historian and concentrating our effort on tracing the outlines in this condensed version.
2:29 Just as the architect of a new house is responsible for the construction as a whole, while the man undertaking the ceramic painting is responsible for estimating the decorative requirements, so, I think, it is with us.
2:30 To make the subject his own, to explore its by-ways, to be meticulous about details, is the business of the original historian,
2:31 but the man making the adaptation must be allowed to aim at conciseness of expression and to forgo any exhaustive treatment of his subject.
2:32 So now let us begin our narrative, without adding any more to what has been said above; there would be no sense in expanding the preface to the history and curtailing the history itself.
JB 2 MACCABEES Chapter 3
III. THE STORY OF HELIODORUS
The arrival of Heliodorus in Jerusalem
3:1 While the Holy City was inhabited in all peace and the laws were observed as perfectly as possible, through the piety of Onias the high priest and his hatred of wickedness,
3:2 it came about that the kings themselves honoured the Holy Place and enhanced the glory of the Temple with the most splendid offerings,
3:3 even to the extent that Seleucus[*a] king of Asia defrayed from his own revenues all the expenses arising out of the sacrificial services.
3:4 But a certain Simon, of the tribe of Bilgah, on being appointed administrator of the Temple, came into conflict with the high priest over the regulation of the city markets.
3:5 Unable to get the better of Onias, he went off to Apollonius of Tarsus, who at that time was military commissioner for Coele-Syria and Phoenicia,
3:6 and made out to him that the Treasury in Jerusalem was groaning with untold wealth, that the amount contributed was incalculable and out of all proportion to expenditure on the sacrifice, but that it could all be brought under the control of the king.
3:7 Apollonius met the king and told him about the wealth that had been disclosed to him; whereupon the king selected Heliodorus, his chancellor, and sent him with instructions to effect the removal of the reported wealth.
3:8 Heliodorus lost no time in setting out, ostensibly to inspect the towns of Coele-Syria and Phoenicia, but in fact to accomplish the king’s purpose.
3:9 On his arrival in Jerusalem, and after a hospitable reception from the high priest and the city, he announced what had been disclosed, thus revealing the reason for his presence, and asked if this was indeed the true situation.
3:10 The high priest explained that there were funds set aside for widows and orphans,
3:11 with some belonging to Hyrcanus son of Tobias, a man occupying a very exalted position, and that the whole sum, in contrast to what the evil Simon had alleged, amounted to four hundred talents of silver and two hundred of gold.
3:12 He also added that it was entirely out of the question that an injustice should be done to those who had put their trust in the sanctity of the place and the inviolable majesty of a Temple venerated throughout the entire world.
Consternation in Jerusalem
3:13 But Heliodorus, because of his instructions from the king, peremptorily insisted that the funds must be confiscated for the royal exchequer.
3:14 Fixing a day for the purpose, he went in to draw up an inventory of the funds. There was consternation throughout the city;
3:15 the priests in their sacred vestments prostrated themselves before the altar and called upon heaven, the author of the law governing deposits, to preserve these funds intact for the depositors.
3:16 The appearance of the high priest was enough to pierce the heart of the beholder, his expression and his altered colour betraying the anguish of his soul;
3:17 the man was so overwhelmed by fear and bodily trembling that those who saw him could not possibly mistake the distress he was suffering.
3:18 People rushed headlong from the houses intent on making public supplication because of the indignity threatening the Holy Place.
3:19 Women thronged the streets swathed in sackcloth below their breasts; girls secluded indoors ran together, some to the doorways, some to the city walls, while others leaned out of the windows,
3:20 all stretching out their hands to heaven in entreaty.
3:21 It was pitiful to see the people crowding together to prostrate themselves and the foreboding of the high priest in his deep anguish.
3:22 While they were calling on the all-powerful Lord to preserve the deposits intact for the depositors, in full security,
3:23 Heliodorus carried on with his appointed task.
The punishment of Heliodorus
3:24 He had already arrived with his bodyguard near the Treasury, when the Sovereign of spirits and of every power caused so great an apparition that all who had dared to accompany Heliodorus were dumbfounded at the power of God, and were reduced to abject terror.
3:25 Before their eyes appeared a horse richly caparisoned and carrying a fearsome rider. Rearing violently, it struck at Heliodorus with its forefeet. The rider was seen to be accoutred entirely in gold.
3:26 Two other young men of outstanding strength and radiant beauty, magnificently apparelled, appeared to him at the same time, and taking their stand on either side of him flogged him unremittingly, inflicting stroke after stroke.
3:27 Suddenly Heliodorus fell to the ground, enveloped in thick darkness. His men came to his rescue and placed him in a litter,
3:28 this man who but a moment before had made his way into the Treasury, as we said above, with a great retinue and his whole bodyguard; and as they carried him away, powerless to help himself, they openly acknowledged the sovereign power of God.
3:29 While Heliodorus lay prostrate under the divine visitation, speechless and bereft of all hope of deliverance,
3:30 the Jews blessed the Lord who had miraculously glorified his own Holy Place. And the Temple, which a little while before had been filled with terror and commotion, now overflowed with joy and gladness at the manifestation of the almighty Lord.
3:31 Some of Heliodorus’ companions quickly begged Onias to call upon the Most High, to bestow life on a man lying at the very point of death.
3:32 The high priest, afraid that the king might suspect the Jews of some foul play concerning Heliodorus, did indeed offer a sacrifice for the man’s recovery.
3:33 And while the high priest was performing the rite of atonement, the same young men again appeared to Heliodorus wearing the same apparel, and standing beside him said, ‘Be very grateful to Onias the high priest, since it is for his sake that the Lord has granted you your life.
3:34 As for you, who have been scourged from heaven, you must proclaim to all men the grandeur of God’s power.’ So saying, they vanished.
The conversion of Heliodorus
3:35 Heliodorus offered sacrifice to the Lord and made most solemn vows to the preserver of his life, and then took courteous leave of Onias and marched his forces back to the king.
3:36 He openly testified to all men of the works of the supreme God which he had seen with his own eyes.
3:37 When the king asked Heliodorus what sort of man would be the right person to send to Jerusalem on a second occasion, he replied,
3:38 ‘If you have some enemy or a rebel against the government, send him there, and you will get him back well flogged, if he survives at all, for there is certainly some peculiar power of God about that place.
3:39 He who has his dwelling in heaven watches over the place and defends it, and he strikes down and destroys those who come to harm it.’
3:40 This was the outcome of the affair of Heliodorus and the preservation of the Treasury.
JB 2 MACCABEES Chapter 4
- HELLENISTIC PROPAGANDA AND PERSECUTION UNDER ANTIOCHUS EPIPHANES
The misdeeds of Simon, administrator of the Temple
4:1 The Simon mentioned above as the informer against the funds and his own country began to slander Onias, insinuating that it was the high priest who had treated Heliodorus so harshly and had himself contrived these startling events.
4:2 Simon now had the effrontery to name this benefactor of the city, this protector of his compatriots, this zealot for the laws, as an enemy of the public good.
4:3 This hostility reached such proportions that murders were actually committed by some of Simon’s agents,
4:4 and at this point Onias, recognising how mischievous this rivalry was, and aware that Apollonius son of Menestheus, military commissioner for Coele-Syria and Phoenicia, was encouraging Simon in his malice,
4:5 went to see the king, not to play the accuser of his fellow citizens, but having the public and private welfare of the entire people at heart.
4:6 He saw that without some intervention by the king an orderly administration would no longer be possible, nor would Simon be forced to put a stop to his folly.
Jason, the high priest, introduces hellenism
4:7 When Seleucus had departed this life and Antiochus styled Epiphanes had succeeded to the kingdom, Jason, brother of Onias[*a], usurped the high-priesthood by underhand methods;
4:8 he approached the king with a promise of three hundred and sixty talents of silver, with eighty talents to come from some other source of revenue.
4:9 He further committed himself to guarantee another hundred and fifty if he was allowed to use his authority to establish a gymnasium and a youth centre, and to enrol men in Jerusalem as Antiochists.
4:10 When the king gave his assent, Jason set about introducing his fellow countrymen to the Greek way of life as soon as he was in power.
4:11 He suppressed the existing royal concessions to the Jews, granted at the instance of John, father of that Eupolemus who was later to be sent on the embassy of friendship and alliance with the Romans, and, overthrowing the lawful institutions, introduced new usages contrary to the Law.
4:12 He went so far as to plant a gymnasium at the very foot of the Citadel, and to fit out the noblest of his cadets in the petasos.[*b]
4:13 Godless wretch that he was and no true high priest, Jason set no bounds to his impiety; indeed the hellenising process reached such a pitch
4:14 that the priests ceased to show any interest in the services of the altar; scorning the Temple and neglecting the sacrifices, they would hurry to take part in the unlawful exercises on the training ground as soon as the signal was given for the discus.
4:15 They disdained all that their ancestors had esteemed, and set the highest value on hellenic honours.
4:16 But all this brought its own retribution; the very people whose way of life they envied, whom they sought to resemble in everything, proved to be their enemies and executioners.
4:17 It is no small thing to violate the divine laws, as the period that followed will demonstrate.
4:18 On the occasion of the quinquennial games at Tyre in the presence of the king,
4:19 the vile Jason sent some Antiochists from Jerusalem as official spectators; these brought with them three hundred silver drachmae for the sacrifice to Hercules. But even those who brought the money thought it should not be spent on the sacrifice-this would not be right-and decided to reserve it for some other item of expenditure;
4:20 and so what the sender had intended for the sacrifice to Hercules was in fact applied, at the suggestion of those who brought it, to the construction of triremes.
Antiochus Epiphanes is acclaimed in Jerusalem
4:21 Apollonius son of Menestheus had been sent to Egypt to attend the enthronement of King Philometor. Learning that the king had become hostile to his policies, Antiochus began to think of his own safety; and so he left Joppa and moved to Jerusalem.
4:22 He was given a magnificent welcome by Jason and the city, and was received with torches and acclamations; following this, he withdrew his army to Phoenicia.
Menelaus becomes high priest
4:23 When three years had passed, Jason sent Menelaus, brother of the Simon mentioned above, to convey the money to the king and get his decisions on various essential matters made effective.
4:24 But Menelaus, on being presented to the king, flattered him by his own appearance of authority, and so secured the high-priesthood for himself, outbidding Jason by three hundred talents of silver.
4:25 He returned with the royal mandate, bringing nothing worthy of the high-priesthood and supported only by the fury of a cruel tyrant and the rage of a savage beast.
4:26 Thus Jason, who had supplanted his own brother, was in turn supplanted by a third, and obliged to take refuge in Ammonite territory.
4:27 As for Menelaus, he retained his high office, but he defaulted altogether on the sums promised to the king,
4:28 although Sostratus, the commandant of the Citadel, whose business it was to collect the revenue, kept demanding payment. The pair of them in consequence were summoned before the king,
4:29 Menelaus leaving his brother Lysimachus as deputy high priest, while Sostratus left Crates, the commander of the Cypriots, to act for him.
The murder of Onias
4:30 While all this was going on, it happened that the people of Tarsus and Mallus revolted, because their towns had been given as a present to Antiochis, the king’s concubine.
4:31 The king therefore hurried off to settle the affair, leaving Andronicus, one of his dignitaries, to act as his deputy.
4:32 Thinking he had found a favourable opportunity, Menelaus abstracted a number of golden vessels from the Temple and presented them to Andronicus, and managed to sell others to Tyre and the surrounding cities.
4:33 On receiving clear evidence to this effect, Onias retired to a place of sanctuary at Daphne near Antioch and then taxed him with it.
4:34 Thereupon Menelaus, taking Andronicus aside, urged him to murder Onias. Andronicus sought out Onias and, after deceitfully reassuring him by offering him his right hand on oath, succeeded in persuading him, in spite of his lingering suspicions, to leave the sanctuary; whereupon he immediately put him to death, in defiance of all justice.
4:35 The result was that not only the Jews but many of the other nations were appalled and indignant at this impious murder.
4:36 On the kings return from the region of Cilicia the Jews of the capital, and those Greeks who shared their hatred of the crime, appealed to him about the insensate murder of Onias.
4:37 Antiochus was profoundly grieved and filled with pity, and he wept for the prudence and great moderation of the dead man.
4:38 His indignation was roused, and he immediately stripped Andronicus of the purple, tore his garments off him, and, parading him through the length of the city, rid the world of the assassin on the very spot where he had laid impious hands on Onias, the Lord dealing out to him the punishment he deserved.
Lysimachus killed in an insurrection
4:39 Now Lysimachus, with the connivance of Menelaus, had committed many sacrilegious thefts in the city, and when the facts had become widely known, the populace rose against Lysimachus, who had already disposed of many pieces of gold plate.
4:40 The infuriated mob was becoming menacing, and Lysimachus armed nearly three thousand men and took aggressive action; the troops were led by a certain Auranus, a man advanced in years and no less in folly.
4:41 Recognising this act of aggression as the work of Lysimachus, some snatched up stones, others cudgels, while others scooped up handfuls of ashes lying at hand, and all hurled everything indiscriminately at Lysimachus’ men,
4:42 to such effect that they wounded many of them, even killing a few, and routed them all; the Temple robber himself they killed outside the treasury.
Menelaus buys his acquittal
4:43 As a result of this, legal proceedings were taken against Menelaus.
4:44 When the King came down to Tyre, the three men sent by the elders maintained the justice of their case in his presence.
4:45 Menelaus, seeing he was already defeated, promised a substantial sum to Ptolemy son of Dorymenes if he would influence the king in his favour.
4:46 Ptolemy then took the king aside into a colonnade for some fresh air, and persuaded him to change his mind;
4:47 the king actually dismissed the charges against Menelaus, the cause of all this evil, while he condemned to death the other poor wretches who, had they pleaded before even Scythians, would have been let off scot-free.
4:48 No time was lost in carrying out this unjust punishment on those who had championed the cause of the city, the rural communities and the sacred vessels.
4:49 Some Tyrians even were so outraged so by the crime that they provided sumptuously for their funeral,
4:50 while as a result of the greed of those in high places Menelaus retained his high office, growing in wickedness and establishing himself as the chief enemy of his fellow citizens.
JB 2 MACCABEES Chapter 5
Menelaus buys his acquittal
5:1 About this time Antiochus undertook his second expedition[*a] against Egypt.
5:2 It then happened that all over the city for nearly forty days there were apparitions of horsemen galloping through the air, in cloth of gold, troops of lancers fully armed,
5:3 squadrons of cavalry in order of battle, attacks and charges this way and that, a flourish of shields, a forest of pikes, brandishing of swords, hurling of missiles, a glitter of golden accoutrements and armour of all kinds.
5:4 So everyone prayed that this manifestation might prove a good omen.
5:5 Then on the strength of a false report that Antiochus was dead, Jason took at least a thousand men and launched an unexpected attack on the city. The troops manning the wall were forced back, and Menelaus, with the city all but captured, took refuge in the Citadel.
5:6 Jason, however, was still making a pitiless slaughter of his own fellow citizens, not stopping to consider that success against his own countrymen was the greatest of disasters, but rather picturing himself as setting up trophies won from some enemy, not from his own flesh and blood.
5:7 Even so, he did not succeed in seizing power; in the end his conspiracy brought him nothing but disgrace, and once again he took refuge in Ammonite territory.
5:8 His career of wickedness was thus brought to a halt. Kept under restraint by Aretas the Arab despot, fleeing from town to town, the quarry of all men, hated as a rebel against the laws, abhorred as the butcher of his country and his countrymen, he drifted to Egypt,
5:9 and at last this man, who had exiled so many from their fatherland, himself perished on foreign soil, having travelled to Sparta in the hope that for kinship’s sake they might harbour him.
5:10 So many carcasses he had thrust out to lie unburied; now he himself had none to mourn him, no funeral rites, no place in the tomb of his ancestors.
Antiochus Epiphanes plunders the Temple
5:11 When the king came to hear of what had happened, he concluded that Judaea was in revolt. He therefore marched from Egypt, raging like a wild beast, and began by storming the city.
5:12 He then ordered his soldiers to cut down without mercy everyone they encountered, and to butcher all who took refuge in their houses.
5:13 It was a massacre of young and old, a slaughter of women and children, a butchery of virgins and infants.
5:14 There were eighty thousand victims in the course of those three days, forty thousand dying by violence and as many again being sold into slavery.
5:15 Not satisfied with this, he had the audacity to enter the holiest Temple in the entire world, Menelaus, that traitor to the laws and to his country as his guide;
5:16 with his unclean hands he seized the sacred vessels, and his impious hands swept away what other kings had presented for the advancement, the glory and the honour of the place.
5:17 Antiochus, so much above himself, did not realise that the Lord was angry for the moment at the sins of the inhabitants of the city, hence his unconcern for the Holy Place.
5:18 Had it not happened that they were entangled in many sins, Antiochus too, like Heliodorus when King Seleucus sent him to inspect the Treasury, would have been flogged the moment he arrived and checked in his presumption.
5:19 However, the Lord had not chosen the people for the sake of the place, but the place for the sake of the people;
5:20 and so the place itself, having shared the disasters that befell the people, in due course also shared their good fortune; forsaken by the Almighty in the time of his anger, it was reinstated in all its glory, once the great Sovereign had been reconciled.
High commissioners in Judaea
5:21 Antiochus went off with eighteen hundred talents he had stolen from the Temple, and hurried back to Antioch; in his arrogance he would have undertaken to make the dry land navigable and the sea passable on foot, so high his ambition soared.
5:22 But he left high commissioners to plague the nation: in Jerusalem, Philip, a Phrygian by race[*b], and by nature more barbarous than the man who appointed him; on Mount Gerizim, Andronicus;
5:23 and besides these Menelaus, who lorded it over his countrymen worse than all the others. In his rooted hostility to the Jews,
5:24 the king also sent the mysarch Apollonius at the head of an army twenty-two thousand strong, with orders to put to death all men in their prime and to sell the women and children.
5:25 Arriving in Jerusalem and posing as a man of peace, this man waited until the holy day of the sabbath and then, taking advantage of the Jews as they rested from work, ordered his men to parade fully armed;
5:26 all those who came out to watch he put to the sword; then, running through the city with his armed troops, he cut down an immense number of people.
5:27 Judas called Maccabaeus, however, with about nine others, withdrew into the wilderness, and lived like wild animals in the hills with his companions, eating nothing but wild plants to avoid contracting defilement.
JB 2 MACCABEES Chapter 6
Pagan cults imposed
6:1 Shortly afterwards, the king sent an old man from Athens to compel the Jews to abandon their ancestral customs and live no longer by the laws of God;
6:2 and to profane the Temple in Jerusalem and dedicate it to Olympian Zeus, and that on Mount Gerizim to Zeus, patron of strangers, as the inhabitants had requested[*a].
6:3 The imposition of this evil was oppressive and altogether intolerable.
6:4 The Temple was filed with revelling and debauchery by the pagans, who took their pleasure with prostitutes and had intercourse with women in the sacred precincts, introducing other indecencies besides.
6:5 The altar of sacrifice was loaded with victims proscribed by the laws as unclean.
6:6 A man might neither keep the sabbath nor observe the traditional feasts, nor so much as admit to being a Jew.
6:7 People were driven by harsh compulsion to eat the sacrificial entrails at the monthly celebration of the king’s birthday; and when a feast of Dionysus occurred they were forced to wear ivy wreaths and walk in the Dionysiac procession.
6:8 A decree was issued at the instance of the people of Ptolemais for the neighbouring Greek cities, enforcing the same conduct on the Jews there, obliging them to share in the sacrificial meals,
6:9 and ordering the execution of those who would not voluntarily conform to Greek customs. So it became clear that disaster was imminent.
6:10 For example, there were two women charged with having circumcised their children. They were paraded publicly round the town, with their babies hung at their breasts, and then hurled over the city wall.
6:11 Other people who had assembled in the caves to keep the seventh day without attracting attention were denounced to Philip and all burned together, since their consciences would not allow them to defend themselves, out of respect for the holiness of the day.
Providential interpretation of the persecution
6:12 Now I urge anyone who may read this book not to be dismayed at these calamities, but to reflect that such visitations are not intended to destroy our race but to discipline it.
6:13 Indeed when evil-doers are not left for long to their own devices but incur swift retribution, it is a sign of great benevolence.
6:14 In the case of the other nations the Master waits patiently for them to attain the full measure of their sins before he punishes them, but with us he has decided to deal differently,
6:15 rather than have to punish us later, when our sins come to a head.
6:16 And so he never entirely withdraws his mercy from us; he may discipline us by some disaster, but he does not desert his own people.
6:17 Let this be said simply by way of reminder; we must return to our story without more ado.
The martyrdom of Eleazar
6:18 Eleazar, one of the foremost teachers of the Law, a man already advanced in years and of most noble appearance, was being forced to open his mouth wide to swallow pig’s flesh.
6:19 But he, resolving to die with honour rather than to live disgraced, went to the block of his own accord,
6:20 spitting the stuff out, the plain duty of anyone with the courage to reject what it is not lawful to taste, even from a natural tenderness for his own life.
6:21 Those in charge of the impious banquet, because of their long-standing friendship with him, took him aside and privately urged him to have meat brought of a kind he could properly use, prepared by himself, and only pretend to eat the portions of sacrificial meat as prescribed by the king;
6:22 this action would enable him to escape death, by availing himself of an act of kindness prompted by their long friendship.
6:23 But having taken a noble decision worthy of his years and the dignity of his great age and the well earned distinction of his grey hairs, worthy too of his impeccable conduct from boyhood, and above all of the holy legislation established by God himself, he publicly stated his convictions, telling them to send him at once to Hades.
6:24 ‘Such pretence’ he said ‘does not square with our time of life; many young people would suppose that Eleazar at the age of ninety had conformed to the foreigners’ way of life,
6:25 and because I had played this part for the sake of a paltry brief spell of life might themselves be led astray on my account; I should only bring defilement and disgrace on my old age.
6:26 Even though for the moment I avoid execution by man, I can never, living or dead, elude the grasp of the Almighty.
6:27 Therefore if I am man enough to quit this life here and now I shall prove myself worthy of my old age,
6:28 and I shall have left the young a noble example of how to make a good death, eagerly and generously, for the venerable and holy laws.’ With these words he went straight to the block.
6:29 His escorts, so recently well disposed towards him, turned against him after this declaration, which they regarded as sheer madness.
6:30 Just before he died under the blows, he groaned aloud and said, ‘The Lord whose knowledge is holy sees clearly that, though I might have escaped death, whatever agonies of body I now endure under this bludgeoning, in my soul I am glad to suffer, because of the awe which he inspires in me’.
6:31 This was how he died, leaving his death as an example of nobility and a record of virtue not only for the young but for the great majority of the nation.
JB 2 MACCABEES Chapter 7
The martyrdom of the seven brothers
7:1 There were also seven brothers who were arrested with their mother. The king tried to force them to taste pig’s flesh, which the Law forbids, by torturing them with whips and scourges.
7:2 One of them, acting as spokesman for the others, said, ‘What are you trying to find out from us? We are prepared to die rather than break the laws of our ancestors.’
7:3 The king, in a fury, ordered pans and cauldrons to be heated over a fire.
7:4 As soon as they were red-hot he commanded that this spokesman of theirs should have his tongue cut out, his head scalped and his extremities cut off, while the other brothers and his mother looked on.
7:5 When he had been rendered completely helpless, the king gave orders for him to be brought, still breathing, to the fire and fried alive in a pan. As the smoke from the pan drifted about, his mother and the rest encouraged one another to die nobly, with such words as these,
7:6 ‘The Lord God is watching, and surely he takes pity on us, as in the song in which Moses bore witness against the people to their face, proclaiming that “he will certainly take pity on his servants”‘.
7:7 When the first had left the world in this way, they led on the second for their brutal amusement. After stripping the skin from his head, hair and all, they asked him, ‘Will you eat, before your body is tortured limb by limb?’
7:8 But he retorted in the language of his ancestors, ‘Never!’ And so he too was put to the torture in his turn.
7:9 With his last breath he exclaimed, ‘Inhuman fiend, you may discharge us from this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up, since it is for his laws that we die, to live again for ever’.
7:10 After him, they amused themselves with the third, who on being asked for his tongue promptly thrust it out and boldly held out his hands,
7:11 with these honourable words, ‘it was heaven that gave me these limbs; for the sake of his laws I disdain them; from him I hope to receive them again’.
7:12 The king and his attendants were astounded at the young man’s courage and his utter indifference to suffering.
7:13 When this one was dead they subjected the fourth to the same savage torture.
7:14 When he neared his end he cried, ‘Ours is the better choice, to meet death at men’s hands, yet relying on God’s promise that we shall be raised up by him; whereas for you there can be no resurrection, no new life’.
7:15 Next they brought forward the fifth and began torturing him.
7:16 But he looked at the king and said, ‘You have power over men, mortal as you are, and can act as you please. But do not think that our race has been deserted by God. Only wait, and you shall see in your turn how his mighty power will torment you and your race.’
7:18 After him they led out the sixth, and his dying words were these, ‘Do not delude yourself: we are suffering like this through our own fault, having sinned against our own God; the result has been terrible,
7:19 but do not think you yourself will go unpunished for attempting to make war on God’.
7:20 But the mother was especially admirable and worthy of honourable remembrance, for she watched the death of seven sons in the course of a single day, and endured it resolutely because of her hopes in the Lord.
7:21 Indeed she encouraged each of them in the language of their ancestors; filled with noble conviction, she reinforced her womanly argument with manly courage, saying to them,
7:22 ‘I do not know how you appeared in my womb; it was not I who endowed you with breath and life, I had not the shaping of your every part.
7:23 It is the creator of the world, ordaining the process of man’s birth and presiding over the origin of all things, who in his mercy will most surely give you back both breath and life, seeing that you now despise your own existence for the sake of his laws.’
7:24 Antiochus thought he was being ridiculed, suspecting insult in the tone of her voice[*a], and as the youngest was still alive he appealed to him not with mere words but with promises on oath to make him both rich and happy if he would abandon the traditions of his ancestors; he would make him his Friend and entrust him with public office.
7:25 The young man took no notice at all, and so the king then appealed to the mother, urging her to advise the youth to save his life.
7:26 After a great deal of urging on his part she agreed to try persuasion on her son.
7:27 Bending over him, she fooled the cruel tyrant with these words, uttered in the language of their ancestors, ‘My son, have pity on me; I carried you nine months in my womb and suckled you three years, fed you and reared you to the age you are now (and cherished you).
7:28 I implore you, my child, observe heaven and earth, consider all that is in them, and acknowledge that God made them out of what did not exist, and that mankind comes into being in the same way.
7:29 Do not fear this executioner, but prove yourself worthy of your brothers, and make death welcome, so that in the day of mercy I may receive you back in your brothers’ company.’
7:30 She had scarcely ended when the young man said, ‘What are you all waiting for? I will not comply with the king’s ordinance; I obey the ordinance of the Law given to our ancestors through Moses.
7:31 As for you, sir, who have contrived every kind of evil against the Hebrews, you will certainly not escape the hands of God.
7:32 We are suffering for our own sins;
7:33 and if, to punish and discipline us, our living Lord vents his wrath upon us, he will yet be reconciled with his own servants.
7:34 But you, unholy wretch, bloodiest villain of all mankind, do not be carried away with senseless elation, crowing with false confidence as you raise your hand against his servants,
7:35 for you have not yet escaped the judgement of God the almighty, the all-seeing.
7:36 Our brothers already, after enduring their brief pain, now drink of ever-flowing life, by virtue of God’s covenant, while you, by God’s judgement, will have to pay the just penalty for your arrogance.
7:37 I too, like my brothers, surrender my body and life for the laws of my ancestors, calling on God to show his kindness to our nation and that soon, and by trials and afflictions to bring you to confess that he alone is God,
7:38 so that with my brothers and myself there may be an end to the wrath of the Almighty, rightly let loose on our whole nation.’
7:39 The king fell into a rage and treated this one more cruelly than the others, for he was himself smarting from the young man’s scorn.
7:40 And so the last brother met his end undefiled and with perfect trust in the Lord.
7:41 The mother was the last to die, after her sons.
7:42 But let this be sufficient account of the ritual meals and excessive torments.
JB 2 MACCABEES Chapter 8
- THE VICTORY OF JUDAISM
THE DEATH OF THE PERSECUTOR AND THE PURIFICATION OF THE TEMPLE
Judas Maccabaeus and the resistance
8:1 Judas Maccabaeus and his companions made their way secretly among the villages, rallying their kinsfolk; they recruited those who remained loyal to Judaism, and assembled about six thousand.
8:2 They called upon the Lord to have regard for the people oppressed on all sides, to take pity on the Temple profaned by the godless,
8:3 to have mercy on the city falling into ruin and nearly levelled to the ground, to hear the blood of the victims that cried aloud to him,
8:4 to remember the criminal slaughter of innocent babies and to avenge the blasphemies perpetrated against his name.
8:5 As soon as Maccabaeus had an organised force he at once proved invincible to the pagans, the Lord’s anger having turned into compassion.
8:6 Making surprise attacks on towns and villages, he fired them; he captured favourable positions and inflicted a number of reverses on the enemy,
8:7 generally availing himself of the cover of night for such enterprises. The fame of his valour spread far and wide.
8:8 When Philip saw Judas was making steady progress and winning more and more frequent successes, he wrote to Ptolemy, the military commissioner for Coele-Syria and Phoenicia, asking for reinforcements in the royal interest.
8:9 Ptolemy appointed Nicanor son of Patroclus, one of the king’s First Friends, and sent him without delay at the head of an international force of at least twenty thousand men, to exterminate the entire Jewish race. As his associate he appointed Gorgias, a professional general of wide military experience.
8:10 Nicanor determined to raise the two thousand talents of tribute money owed by the king to the Romans, by the sale of Jewish prisoners of war.
8:11 He lost no time in sending the seaboard towns an invitation to come and buy Jewish manpower, promising delivery of ninety head for one talent; but he did not reckon on the judgement from the Almighty that was soon to overtake him.
8:12 When news reached Judas of Nicanor’s advance, he warned his men of the enemy’s approach,
8:13 whereupon the fainthearted and those who lacked confidence in the justice of God took to their heels and ran away.
8:14 The rest sold all their remaining possessions, at the same time praying the Lord to deliver them from the godless Nicanor, who had sold them even in advance of any encounter –
8:15 if not for their own sakes, then at least out of consideration for the covenants made with their ancestors, and because they themselves bore his sacred and majestic name.
8:16 Maccabaeus marshalled his men, who numbered about six thousand, and exhorted them not to be dismayed at the enemy or discouraged at the vast horde of pagans wickedly advancing against them, but to fight bravely,
8:17 keeping before their eyes the criminal outrage inflicted by these men on the Holy Place, and the agony of the humiliated city, not to mention the destruction of their traditional way of life.
8:18 ‘They may put their trust in their weapons and their exploits,’ he said ‘but our confidence is in almighty God, who is able with a nod to overthrow both those marching on us and the whole world with them.’
8:19 He reminded them of the occasions on which their forbears had received help: that time when, under Sennacherib, a hundred and eighty-five thousand men had perished;
8:20 that time in Babylonia when in the battle with the Galatians the Jewish combatants numbered only eight thousand and four thousand Macedonians, yet when the Macedonians were hard pressed, the eight thousand wiped out a hundred and twenty thousand because of the help they received from heaven, and won incalculable gains.
8:21 Having so roused their courage by these words that they were ready to die for the laws and their country, he then divided his army roughly into four,
8:22 putting his brothers, Simon, Joseph and Jonathan in command of one division each, and assigning them fifteen hundred men apiece.
8:23 Next, he ordered Esdrias[*a], to read the sacred book aloud, and gave them their watchword ‘Help from God’; then he put himself at the head of the first division and joined battle with Nicanor.
8:24 With the Almighty for their ally, they slaughtered over nine thousand of the enemy, wounded and crippled the greater part of Nicanor’s army and put them all to flight.
8:25 The money of their prospective purchasers fell into their hands. After pursuing them for a good while, they turned back, since time was pressing:
8:26 it was the eve of the sabbath, and for that reason they did not prolong their pursuit.
8:27 They collected the enemy’s weapons and stripped them of their spoils, and then celebrated the sabbath with heartfelt praise and thanks to the Lord, who had reserved that day for distilling on them the first dew of his mercy.
8:28 when the sabbath was over they distributed some of the booty among the victims of the persecution and the widows and orphans; the rest they divided among themselves and their children.
8:29 They then joined in public supplication, imploring the merciful Lord to be fully reconciled with his servants.
The defeat of Timotheus and Bacchides
8:30 They also challenged the forces of Timotheus and Bacchides and wiped out over twenty thousand of them, gaining possession of several high fortresses. They divided their enormous booty into two equal shares, one for themselves, the other for the victims of the persecution and the orphans and widows, not forgetting the aged.
8:31 They carefully collected the enemy’s weapons and stored them in convenient places. The rest of the spoils they took to Jerusalem.
8:32 They killed the officer commanding Timotheus’ bodyguard, an extremely wicked man who had done great harm to the Jews.
8:33 In the course of their victory celebrations in Jerusalem they burned the men that had fired the holy gates, who with Callisthenes had taken refuge in one small house; so these received a fitting reward for the sacrilege.
The flight and testimony of Nicanor
8:34 The triple-dyed scoundrel Nicanor, who had brought the thousand merchants to buy the Jews,
8:35 finding himself humbled, with the Lord’s help, by men he had himself reckoned as of very little account, stripped off his robes of state, and made his way across country unaccompanied, like a runaway slave, reaching Antioch by a singular stroke of fortune, considering that his army was destroyed.
8:36 Thus the man who had promised the Romans to make good their tribute money by selling the prisoners from Jerusalem testified that the Jews had a defender, and that on this account the Jews were invulnerable, because they followed the laws which that defender had ordained.
JB 2 MACCABEES Chapter 9
The last days of Antiochus Epiphanes
9:1 About that time, as it happened, Antiochus had retreated in disorder from the country of Persia.
9:2 He had entered the city called Persepolis, planning to rob the temple and occupy the city; but the population at once sprang to arms to defend themselves, with the result that Antiochus was routed by the inhabitants and forced to beat a humiliating retreat.
9:3 On his arrival in Ecbatana he learned what had happened to Nicanor and to Timotheus’ forces.
9:4 Flying into a passion, he resolved to make the Jews pay for the disgrace inflicted by those who had routed him, and with this in mind he ordered his charioteer to drive without stopping and get the journey over. But the condemnation of heaven travelled with him. He had said in his pride, ‘When I reach Jerusalem I will turn it into a mass grave for the Jews’.
9:5 But the all-seeing Lord, the God of Israel, struck him with an incurable and unseen complaint. The words were hardly out of his mouth when he was seized with an incurable pain in his bowels and with excruciating internal torture;
9:6 and this was only right, since he had inflicted many barbaric tortures on the bowels of others.
9:7 Even so he in no way diminished his arrogance; still bursting with pride, breathing fire in his wrath against the Jews, he was in the act of ordering an even keener pace when he suddenly hurtled from his chariot, and the violence of his headlong fall racked every bone in his body.
9:8 He who only a little while before had thought in his superhuman boastfulness to command the waves of the sea, he who imagined he could weigh mountain peaks in a balance, found himself flat on the ground, borne in a litter, a visible demonstration to all of the power of God,
9:9 in that the very eyes of this godless man teemed with worms and his flesh rotted away while he lingered on in agonising pain, and the stench of his decay sickened the whole army.
9:10 A short while beforehand he had thought to grasp the stars of heaven; now no one could bring himself to act as his bearer, for the stench was unbearable.
9:11 In consequence he began there and then, in his shattered state, to shed his excessive pride and to come to his senses under the divine lash, for he was tormented with pain all the time.
9:12 His stench became unendurable even to himself, and he exclaimed, ‘It is right to submit to God; no mortal should aspire to equality with the godhead’.
9:13 The wretch began to pray to the Master, who would never take pity on him now, declaring
9:14 that the Holy City, towards which he had been speeding to raze it to the ground and turn it into a mass grave, should be declared free;
9:15 as for the Jews, whom he had considered as not even worth burying, so much carrion to be thrown out with their children for birds and beasts to prey on, he would make them all the equals of the citizens of Athens;
9:16 the holy Temple which he had once plundered he would now adorn with the finest offerings; he would restore all the sacred vessels many times over; he would defray from his personal revenue the expenses incurred for the sacrifices;
9:17 and to crown it all he would himself turn Jew and visit every place where men lived, proclaiming the power of God.
Antiochus writes to the Jews
9:18 Finding no respite at all from his suffering, because God had punished him with his righteous sentence, he abandoned all hope for himself and wrote the Jews the letter transcribed below, which takes the form of an appeal in these terms:
9:19 ‘To the excellent Jews his citizens, Antiochus, king and commander-in-chief, sends hearty greetings, wishing them all health and prosperity.
9:20 If you and your children are well and your affairs are as you would wish, then I am profoundly thankful.
9:21 For my part, though prostrate with sickness, I cherish tender memories of you. On my return from the country of Persia I fell seriously ill, and thought it necessary to make provision for the common security of all.
9:22 Not that I despair of my condition, for I have great hope of shaking off the malady,
9:23 but considering how my father, whenever he was making an expedition into the uplands, would designate his successor,
9:24 so that in case of any unforeseen event or disquieting rumour the people of the provinces might know to whom he had left the conduct of affairs and thus remain undisturbed:
9:25 furthermore, being well aware that the princes on our frontiers and neighbours of our realm are watching for opportunities and waiting to see what will happen, I have designated as king my son Antiochus, whom I have more than once entrusted and commended to most of you when I was setting out for the upland satrapies; a transcript of my letter to him is appended hereto.
9:26 I therefore urge and require you to remember past favours both public and personal, and to persist, each one of you, in your existing goodwill towards myself and my son.
9:27 I am confident that he will pursue my own policy with benevolence and humanity, and will prove accommodating to your interests.’
9:28 And so this murderer and blasphemer, having endured the same terrible suffering as he had made others endure, met his pitiable fate, and ended his life among the remote and inhospitable mountains.
9:29 His comrade Philip brought back his body, and then, fearing Antiochus’s son, withdrew to Egypt, to the court of Ptolemy Philometor.
JB 2 MACCABEES Chapter 10
The purification of the Temple[*a]
10:1 Maccabaeus and his companions, under the Lord’s guidance, restored the Temple and the city,
10:2 and pulled down the altars erected by the foreigners in the market place, as well as the sacred enclosures.
10:3 They purified the sanctuary and built another altar; then striking fire from flints and using this fire, they offered the first sacrifice for two years, burning incense, lighting the lamps and setting out the loaves.
10:4 When they had done this they threw themselves flat on the ground, and implored the Lord never again to let them fall into such adversity, but if they should ever sin, to correct them with moderation and not to deliver them over to blasphemous and barbarous nations.
10:5 This day of the purification of the Temple fell on the very day on which the Temple had been profaned by the foreigners, the twenty-fifth of the same month, Chislev.
10:6 They kept eight festal days with rejoicing, in the manner of the feast of Tabernacles, remembering how, not long before at the time of the feast of Tabernacles, they had been living in the mountains and caverns like wild beasts.
10:7 Then, carrying branches, leafy boughs and palms, they offered hymns to him who had brought the cleansing of his own Holy Place to a happy outcome.
10:8 They also decreed by public edict, ratified by vote, that the whole Jewish nation should celebrate those same days every year.
- THE STRUGGLE OF JUDAS AGAINST THE NEIGHBOURING PEOPLES, AND AGAINST LYSIAS, EUPATOR`S HIGH COMMISSIONER
The disgrace of Ptolemy Macron
10:9 Such were the circumstances attending the death of Antiochus styled Epiphanes.
10:10 Our task now is to unfold the history of Antiochus Eupator, son of that godless man, and relate briefly the evil effects of the wars.
10:11 On coming to the throne, this prince put at the head of affairs a certain Lysias, high commissioner for Coele-Syria and Phoenicia.
10:12 Now Ptolemy, Macron as he was styled, the first governor to treat the Jews with any justice, had done his best to govern them peacefully to make up for the wrongs inflicted on them in the past.
10:13 Denounced to Eupator by the Friends of the King, he heard himself called traitor at every turn for having abandoned Cyprus, which had been entrusted to him by Philometor, and for going over to Antiochus Epiphanes; having shed no lustre on his illustrious office, he committed suicide by poisoning himself.
Gorgias and the Idumaean fortresses
10:14 Gorgias now became military commissioner for that region; he maintained a force of mercenaries and a continual state of war with the Jews.
10:15 At the same time the Idumaeans, who controlled important fortresses, were exerting pressure on the Jews, welcoming outlaws from Jerusalem and endeavouring to maintain a state of war.
10:16 Maccabaeus and his men, after making public supplication to God, entreating him to support them, hurled themselves against the Idumaean fortresses.
10:17 Vigorously pressing home their attack, they seized possession of these vantage points, beating off all who fought on the ramparts; they slaughtered all who fell into their hands, accounting for not less than twenty thousand.
10:18 Nine thousand at least took refuge in two exceptionally strong castles with everything they needed to withstand a siege,
10:19 whereupon Maccabaeus left Simon and Joseph, with Zacchaeus and his forces, in sufficient numbers to besiege them, and himself went off to other places demanding his attention.
10:20 But Simon’s men were greedy for money and allowed themselves to be bribed by some of the men in the castles; accepting seventy thousand drachmae, they let a number of them escape.
10:21 When Maccabaeus was told what had happened, he summoned the people’s commanders and accused the offenders of having sold their brothers for money by setting free men who were at war with them.
10:22 Having executed them as traitors, he at once proceeded to capture both castles.
10:23 Successful in all that he undertook by force of arms, in these two fortresses he slaughtered more than twenty thousand men.
Judas defeats Timotheus and captures Gezer
10:24 Timotheus, who had been beaten by the Jews once before, now assembled an enormous force of mercenaries, mustering cavalry from Asia in considerable numbers, and appeared in Judaea, expecting to conquer it by force of arms.
10:25 At his approach Maccabaeus and his men made their supplications to God, sprinkling earth on their heads and putting sackcloth round their waists.
10:26 Prostrating themselves on the terrace before the altar, they begged him to support them and to show himself the enemy of their enemies, the adversary of their adversaries, as the Law clearly states.
10:27 After these prayers they armed themselves and advanced a fair distance from the city, halting when they were close to the enemy.
10:28 As the first light of dawn began to spread, the two sides joined battle, the one having as their pledge of success and victory not only their own valour but their recourse to the Lord, the other making their own ardour their mainstay in the fight.
10:29 When the battle was at its height the enemy saw five magnificent men appear from heaven on horses with golden bridles and put themselves at the head of the Jews;
10:30 surrounding Maccabaeus and screening him with their own armour, they kept him unscathed, while they rained arrows and thunderbolts on the enemy until, blinded and confused, they scattered in complete disorder.
10:31 Twenty thousand five hundred infantry and six hundred cavalry were slaughtered.
10:32 Timotheus himself fled to a strongly guarded citadel called Gezer, where Chaereas was in command.
10:33 For four days Maccabaeus and his men eagerly besieged the fortress,
10:34 while the defenders, confident in the security of the place, hurled fearful blasphemies and godless insults at them.
10:35 At daybreak on the fifth day, twenty young men of Maccabaeus’ forces, fired with indignation at the blasphemies, bravely stormed the wall, and cut down with brutal fury everyone they encountered.
10:36 Others, in a similar scaling operation, took the defenders in the rear, and set fire to the towers, lighting pyres on which they burned the blasphemers alive. Others broke down the gates and let in the rest of the army, and were the first to occupy the town.
10:37 Timotheus had hidden in a cistern, but they killed him, with his brother Chaereas, and Apollophanes.
10:38 When all this was over, they blessed with hymns and thanksgiving the Lord, who had shown such great kindness to Israel and given them the victory.
JB 2 MACCABEES Chapter 11
The first campaign of Lysias
11:1 Almost immediately afterwards, Lysias, the king’s tutor and cousin and his visier, much disturbed at the turn of events,
11:2 mustered about eighty thousand foot soldiers and his entire cavalry and advanced against the Jews, intending to make the Holy City a place for Greeks to live in,
11:3 to levy a tax on the Temple as was done with other national shrines, and to put the office of high priest up for sale every year;
11:4 he took no account at all of the power of God, being sublimely confident in his tens of thousands of infantrymen, his thousands of cavalry, and his eighty elephants.
11:5 Invading Judaea, he approached Bethzur, a fortified position about twenty miles from Jerusalem, and began to subject it to strong pressure.
11:6 When Maccabaeus and his men learned that Lysias was besieging the fortresses, they and the populace with them begged the Lord with lamentation and tears to send a good angel to save Israel.
11:7 Maccabaeus himself was the first to take up his weapons, and he urged the rest to risk their lives with him in support of their brothers; so they sallied out resolutely, as one man.
11:8 They were still near Jerusalem when a rider attired in white appeared at their head brandishing golden accoutrements.
11:9 With one accord they all blessed the God of mercy, and found themselves filled with such courage that they were ready to lay low not men only but the fiercest beasts and walls of iron.
11:10 They advanced in battle order with the aid of their celestial ally, the Lord having had mercy on them.
11:11 Charging like lions on the enemy, they laid low eleven thousand of the infantry and sixteen hundred horsemen, and routed all the rest.
11:12 Of those, the majority got away, wounded and weaponless. Lysias himself escaped only by ignominious flight.
Lysias makes peace with the Jews. Four letters concerning the treaty
11:13 Now Lysias was not lacking in intelligence, and as he reflected on the reverse he had suffered he realised that the Hebrews were invincible because the mighty God fought for them. He therefore sent to them
11:14 suggesting a reconciliation on just terms all round, and promising to induce even the king to become their friend.
11:15 Maccabaeus, thinking only of the common good, agreed to all that Lysias proposed, and whatever Maccabaeus submitted to Lysias in writing concerning the Jews was granted by the king.
11:16 Here is the text of the letter Lysias wrote to the Jews, ‘From Lysias to the Jewish people, greetings.
11:17 John and Absalom, your envoys, have delivered to me the communication transcribed below, requesting me to approve its provisions.
11:18 Anything requiring the king’s attention I have put before him; anything coming within my own competence I have granted.
11:19 Provided you maintain your good will towards the administration I will do my best in the future to promote your advantage.
11:20 As for the details, I have given orders for your envoys and my own officials to discuss these with you.
11:21 May you prosper. The year one hundred and forty-eight, the twenty-fourth day of the month of Dioscoros.’
11:22 The king’s letter was as follows, ‘King Antiochus to his brother Lysias, greetings.
11:23 Now that our father has taken his place among the gods our will is that the subjects of the realm be left undisturbed to attend to their own affairs.
11:24 We understand that the Jews do not approve our father’s policy, the adoption of Greek customs, but prefer their own way of life and ask to be allowed to observe their own laws.
11:25 Accordingly, since we intend this people to be free from vexation like any other, our ruling is that the Temple be restored to them and that they conduct their affairs according to the customs of their ancestors.
11:26 It will therefore be your concern to send them a mission of friendship, so that on learning our policy they may have confidence and proceed happily about their own affairs.’
11:27 The king’s letter to the Jewish nation was in these terms, ‘King Antiochus to the Jewish senate and the rest of the Jews, greetings.
11:28 If you are well, that is as we would wish; we ourselves are in good health.
11:29 Menelaus informs us that you wish to return home and attend to your own affairs.
11:30 Accordingly, all those who return before the thirtieth day of Xanthicus may rest assured that they have nothing to fear.
11:31 The Jews may make use of their own kind of food and their own laws as formerly, and none of them is to be molested in any way for any unwitting offences.
11:32 I am in fact sending Menelaus to set your minds at rest.
11:33 Farewell. In the hundred and forty-eighth year, the fifteenth of Xanthicus.’
11:34 The Romans also sent the Jews a letter, which read as follows, ‘Quintus Memmius, Titus Manius, ambassadors of the Romans, to the people of the Jews, greetings.
11:35 Whatever Lysias, the king’s cousin, has granted you we also approve. As for the matters he decided to refer to the king, consider them carefully and send someone without delay,
11:36 if we are to interpret them to your advantage, because we are leaving for Antioch.
11:37 Lose no time, therefore, in sending us those who can tell us what your intentions are.
11:38 Farewell. In the hundred and forty-eighth year, the fifteenth of Xanthicus.’
JB 2 MACCABEES Chapter 12
Incidents at Joppa and Jamnia
12:1 After these agreements had been concluded Lysias returned to the king while the Jews went back to their farming.
12:2 Among the local military commissioners, Timotheus and Apollonius son of Gennaeus, as also Hieronymus and Demophon, and Nicanor the Cypriarch as well, would not allow the Jews to live in peace and quiet.
12:3 The people of Joppa went so far as to perpetrate the following outrage: they invited the Jews living among them to go aboard some boats they had lying ready, taking their wives and children. There was no hint of any intention to harm them;
12:4 there had been a public vote by the citizens, and the Jews accepted, as well they might, being peaceable people with no reason to suspect anything. But once out in the open sea they were all sent to the bottom, a company of at least two hundred.
12:5 When Judas heard of the cruel fate of his countrymen, he issued his orders to his men
12:6 and after invoking God, the just judge, he attacked his brothers’ murderers. Under cover of dark he set fire to the harbour, burned the boats and put to the sword everyone who had taken refuge there.
12:7 As the town gates were closed, he withdrew, intending to come back and wipe out the whole community of Joppa.
12:8 But hearing that the people of Jamnia were planning to treat their resident Jews in the same way,
12:9 he made a night attack on the Jamnites and fired the harbour with its fleet; the glow of the flames was seen as far off as Jerusalem, thirty miles away.
The expedition in Gilead
12:10 When they had left the town over a mile behind them in their advance on Timotheus, Judas was attacked by an Arab force of at least five thousand foot soldiers, with five hundred cavalry.
12:11 A fierce engagement followed, and with God’s help Judas’ men won the day; the defeated nomads begged Judas to offer them the right hand of friendship, and promised to surrender their herds and make themselves generally useful to him.
12:12 Realising that they might indeed prove valuable in many ways, Judas consented to make peace with them and after an exchange of pledges the Arabs withdrew to their tents.
12:13 Judas also attacked a certain fortified town, enclosed by ramparts and inhabited by a medley of races; its name was Caspin.
12:14 Confident in the strength of their walls and their stock of provisions, the besieged adopted an insolent attitude to Judas and his men, reinforcing their insults with blasphemies and profanity.
12:15 But Judas and his men invoked the great Sovereign of the world who without battering-ram or siege-engine overthrew Jericho in the days of Joshua; they then made a furious assault on the wall.
12:16 Capturing the city by the will of God, they made such indescribable slaughter that the nearby lake, two furlongs across, seemed filled to overflowing with blood.
The battle of Carnaim
12:17 Ninety-five miles further on from there, they reached the Charax, in the country of Jews known as Tubians.
12:18 They did not find Timotheus himself in that neighbourhood; he had already left the district, having achieved nothing apart from leaving a very strong garrison at one point.
12:19 Dositheus and Sosipater, two of the Maccabaean generals, marched out and destroyed the force Timotheus had left behind in the fortress, amounting to more than ten thousand men.
12:20 Maccabaeus himself divided his army into cohorts to which he assigned commanders, and then hurried in pursuit of Timotheus, whose troops numbered one hundred and twenty thousand infantry and two thousand five hundred cavalry.
12:21 Timotheus’s first move on learning of Judas’ advance was to send away the women and children and the rest of the baggage train to the place called Carnaim, since it was an impregnable position, difficult of access owing to the narrowness of all the approaches.
12:22 When the first of Judas’ cohorts came into sight, the enemy were seized with fright; panic-stricken at this manifestation of the All-seeing, they fled headlong in all directions, so that they were often wounded by their own men, running on the points of one another’s swords.
12:23 Judas pursued them with a will, cutting the sinners to pieces and killing something like thirty thousand men.
12:24 Timotheus himself, having fallen into the hands of Dositheus and Sosipater and their men, very craftily pleaded with them to let him go with his life, on the grounds that he had the parents of most and the brothers of some in his power, and that these could otherwise expect short shrift.
12:25 When at long last he convinced them that he would honour his promise and return these people safe and sound, they let him go for the sake of saving their brothers.
12:26 Reaching Carnaim and the Atargateion[*a], Judas slaughtered twenty-five thousand men.
The return by way of Ephron and Scythopolis
12:27 After the rout of these enemies he led his army against Ephron, a fortified town, where Lysias was living. Stalwart young men drawn up outside the walls offered vigorous resistance, while inside there were quantities of war-engines and missiles in reserve.
12:28 But the Jews, invoking the Sovereign who by his power shatters enemies’ defences, gained control of the city, and cut down nearly twenty-five thousand of the people inside.
12:29 Moving off from there, they pressed on to Scythopolis[*b], seventy-five miles from Jerusalem.
12:30 But as the Jews who had settled there assured Judas that the people of Scythopolis had always treated them well and had been particularly kind to them when times had been at their worst,
12:31 he and his men thanked them and urged them to extend the same friendship to his race in the future. They reached Jerusalem shortly before the feast of Weeks.
The campaign against Gorgias
12:32 After Pentecost, as it is called, they marched against Gorgias, the military commissioner for Idumaea.
12:33 He came out at the head of three thousand infantry and four hundred cavalry;
12:34 in the course of the ensuing battle a few Jews lost their lives.
12:35 A man called Dositheus, one of the Tubians, who was on horseback and a powerful man, grasped Gorgias, taking him by the cloak, and was forcibly dragging him along, intending to take the accursed man alive, but one of the Thracian cavalry, hurling himself on Dositheus, slashed his shoulder, and Gorgias escaped to Marisa.
12:36 Meanwhile since Esdrias and his men had been fighting for a long time and were exhausted, Judas called on the Lord to show them he was their ally and leader in battle.
12:37 Then, chanting the battle cry and other hymns at the top of his voice in the language of his ancestors, he routed Gorgias’ troops.
The sacrifice for the fallen
12:38 Judas then rallied his army and moved on to the town of Adullam, and since the seventh day of the week had arrived they purified themselves according to custom and kept the sabbath in that place.
12:39 The next day they came to Judas (since the necessity was by now urgent) to have the bodies of the fallen taken up and laid to rest among their relatives in their ancestral tombs.
12:40 But when they found on each of the dead men, under their tunics, amulets of the idols taken from Jamnia, which the Law prohibits to Jews, it became clear to everyone that this was why these men had lost their lives.
12:41 All then blessed the ways of the Lord, the just judge who brings hidden things to light,
12:42 and gave themselves to prayer, begging that the sin committed might be fully blotted out. Next, the valiant Judas urged the people to keep themselves free from all sin, having seen with their own eyes the effects of the sin of those who had fallen;
12:43 after this he took a collection from them individually, amounting to nearly two thousand drachmae, and sent it to Jerusalem to have a sacrifice for sin offered, an altogether fine and noble action, in which he took full account of the resurrection.
12:44 For if he had not expected the fallen to rise again it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead,
12:45 whereas if he had in view the splendid recompense reserved for those who make a pious end, the thought was holy and devout. This was why he had this atonement sacrifice offered for the dead, so that they might be released from their sin.
JB 2 MACCABEES Chapter 13
Antiochus V and Lysias. The fate of Menelaus
13:1 In the year one hundred and forty-nine Judas and his men discovered that Antiochus Eupator was advancing in force against Judaea,
13:2 and with him Lysias his tutor and vizir; he had moreover a Greek force of one hundred and ten thousand infantry, five thousand three hundred cavalry, twenty-two elephants, and three hundred chariots fitted with scythes.
13:3 Menelaus sided with them, and with great duplicity kept encouraging Antiochus, not for the welfare of his own country but in the hope of being confirmed in office.
13:4 But the King of kings stirred up the anger of Antiochus against the guilty wretch, and when Lysias made it clear to the king that Menelaus was the cause of all the troubles, Antiochus gave orders for him to be taken to Beroea and there put to death by the local method of execution.
13:5 In that place there is a tower fifty cubits high, filled with ash, with a circular construction sloping steeply down from all sides towards the ashes.
13:6 If anyone is convicted of sacrilegious theft or notoriously guilty of certain other crimes, they take him up to the top and thrust him down to perish.
13:7 In such a manner was the renegade fated to die; Menelaus had not even the privilege of burial.
13:8 Deserved justice, this; since he had committed many sins against the altar whose fire, whose very ashes were holy, it was in ashes that he met his death.
The prayers and success of the Jews near Modein
13:9 The king, then, was advancing, his mind filled with barbarous designs, to give the Jews a demonstration of far worse things than anything that had happened under his father.
13:10 When Judas heard of this he ordered the people to call day and night upon the Lord, now if ever, for this once at least, to come to the help
13:11 of those who were in peril of being deprived of the Law, their fatherland and the holy Temple, and not to allow the people, just when they were beginning to breathe again, to fall into the power of the blaspheming pagans.
13:12 When they had all, as one man, obeyed his instructions and had made their petitions to the merciful Lord, weeping, fasting and prostrating themselves for three days continuously, Judas spoke words of encouragement and told them to keep close to him.
13:13 After separate consultation with the elders he resolved not to wait for the king’s army to invade Judaea and take possession of the city, but to march out and bring the whole matter to a decision with the help of God.
13:14 Leaving the outcome to the creator of the world, and exhorting his soldiers to fight bravely to the death for the laws, the Temple, the city, their country and their way of life, he halted his army near Modem.
13:15 Leaving his men with is the watchword ‘Victory from God’, he made a night attack on the king’s pavilion with a picked band of the bravest young men. Inside the camp he destroyed about two thousand, and his men cut down the largest of the elephants with its driver;
13:16 in the end they filled the whole camp with terror and confusion before withdrawing in triumph.
13:17 Dawn was just breaking as this was brought to an end, through the protection of the Lord watching over Judas.
Antiochus in treaty with the Jews
13:18 The king, having had a taste of Jewish daring, now tried to attack their is positions strategically.
13:19 He advanced on Bethzur, a strong fortress of the Jews, but was repulsed, and so checked and worsted.
13:20 Judas sent in to the garrison what they needed,
13:21 but Rhodocus, of the Jewish army, supplied the enemy with secret information; the man was identified, arrested, and dealt with.
13:22 For the second time the king parleyed with the garrison of Bethzur; he offered and accepted pledges of amity, retired, then attacked Judas and his men, but came off worst.
13:23 He was then told that Philip, left in charge of affairs at Antioch, had made a desperate move. He was stunned by this, opened negotiations with the Jews, capitulated, and swore to abide by all reasonable conditions. He reached an agreement, offered sacrifice, honoured the Temple, and made generous gifts to the Holy Place.
13:24 He received Maccabaeus kindly, then left Hegemonides behind as military commissioner from Ptolemais to the territory of the Gerrenians,
13:25 and went to Ptolemais. The inhabitants of the place disapproved of the treaty; they voiced their resentment and wanted to annul its articles.
13:26 Lysias mounted the rostrum and made a persuasive defence of the articles which convinced and calmed them, and so won their good will. He then withdrew to Antioch. So much for the episode of the king’s offensive and retreat.
JB 2 MACCABEES Chapter 14
VII. THE CONFLICT WITH NICANOR, GENERAL OF DEMETRIUS I.
THE DAY OF NICANOR
Alcimus the high priest intervenes
14:1 Three years after this, Judas and his men learned that Demetrius son of Seleucus had landed at the port of Tripolis with a strong army and a fleet,
14:2 and that he had occupied the country and had killed Antiochus and his tutor Lysias.
14:3 A certain Alcimus, a former high priest, had wilfully incurred defilement at the time of the insurrection; realising that whichever way he turned there was no security for him, nor any further access to the holy altar,
14:4 he went to King Demetrius in about the year one hundred and fifty-one and presented him with a golden crown and a palm, together with the traditional olive branches from the Temple; there, for that day, he let the matter rest.
14:5 Presently he found an opportunity that suited his perverse purpose. When Demetrius called him into his council and questioned him about the dispositions and intentions of the Jews, he replied,
14:6 ‘Those Jews called Hasidaeans, who are led by Judas Maccabaeus, are warmongers and rebels who are preventing the kingdom from finding stability.
14:7 That is why, after being deprived of my hereditary dignity, I mean the high-priesthood, I have come here now,
14:8 first, out of genuine concern for the king’s interests, and secondly, out of a regard for our own fellow citizens, because the irresponsible behaviour of those I have mentioned has brought great degradation on our entire race.
14:9 When your majesty has taken note of all these points, may it please you to make provision for the welfare of our country and our oppressed nation, as befits the gracious benevolence you extend to all;
14:10 for as long as Judas remains alive the state will never enjoy peace.’
14:11 When Alcimus had finished this speech, the rest of the Friends of the King, who hated Judas, seized the occasion to arouse Demetrius’ anger against him.
14:12 He at once selected Nicanor, who had been commander of the elephants, promoted him military commissioner for Judaea and despatched him
14:13 with instructions to dispose of Judas, disperse his followers and install Alcimus as high priest of the greatest of temples.
14:14 The pagans in Judaea, who had fled before Judas, flocked to join Nicanor, thinking that the misfortunes and troubles of the Jews would be to their own advantage.
Nicanor comes to terms with Judas
14:15 When the Jews heard that Nicanor was coming and that the pagans were about to attack, they sprinkled dust over themselves and made supplication to him who had established his people for ever and had never failed to support his own heritage by his direct intervention.
14:16 On their leader’s orders they at once left the place where they were and came upon the enemy at the village of Dessau[*a].
14:17 Simon, brother of Judas, had engaged Nicanor, but because of the unexpected arrival of his adversaries had suffered a slight check.
14:18 However, Nicanor had heard how brave Judas and his men were and how resolutely they always fought for their country, and he did not dare allow bloodshed to decide the issue.
14:19 And so he sent Posidonius, Theodotus and Mattathias to offer the Jews pledges of friendship and to accept theirs.
14:20 After careful consideration of his terms, the leader communicated them to his troops, and since they were all clearly of one mind they agreed to the treaty.
14:21 A day was fixed on which the respective leaders were to meet privately on neutral ground: a litter came out from either side and seats were set up.
14:22 Judas had posted armed men on the alert in advantageous positions in case of a sudden treacherous move by the enemy. The leaders held their conference and reached agreement.
14:23 Nicanor took up residence in Jerusalem and did nothing out of place there; he even sent away the crowds that had flocked to join him.
14:24 He kept Judas constantly with him, becoming deeply attached to him
14:25 and he encouraged him to marry and have children. Judas married, settled down and led a normal life.
Alcimus renews hostilities, and Nicanor threatens the Temple
14:26 When Alcimus saw how friendly the two men had become, he went to Demetrius with a copy of the treaty they had signed and told him that Nicanor was holding ideas against the interests of the state, and was planning that Judas, an enemy of the realm, should fill the next vacancy among the Friends of the King.
14:27 The king flew into a rage; roused by the calumnies of this arch-villain, he wrote to Nicanor, telling him of his strong displeasure at the treaty and ordering him to send Maccabaeus to Antioch in chains immediately.
14:28 When the letter reached Nicanor he was very much upset, for it went against the grain with him to break his agreement with a man who had done nothing wrong.
14:29 However, there was no question of opposing the king, so he waited for an opportunity to carry out the order by a stratagem.
14:30 Maccabaeus began to notice that Nicanor was treating him more sharply and that his manner of speaking to him was more abrupt than it had been, and he concluded that such severity could have no very good motive. He therefore collected a considerable number of his followers and withdrew from Nicanor.
14:31 The latter, realising that the man had well and truly outmanoeuvred him, went to the great and holy Temple at a time when the priests were offering the customary sacrifices, and ordered them to surrender Judas.
14:32 When they protested on oath that they did not know where the wanted man could be,
14:33 he stretched out his right hand towards the Temple and swore this oath, ‘If you do not hand Judas over to me as prisoner, I will raze this sanctuary of God to the ground, I will demolish the altar, and on this very spot I will erect a splendid temple to Dionysus’.
14:34 With these words he left them. The priests stretched out their hands to heaven, calling on him who has at all times done battle for our nation; this was their prayer:
14:35 ‘O Lord, you who stand in need of nothing at all, it has pleased you that there should be in our midst a Temple for your dwelling place.
14:36 Now therefore, holy Lord of all holiness, preserve for ever from all profanation this house, so newly purified.’
The death of Razis
14:37 Now, a certain Razis, one of the elders of Jerusalem, was denounced to Nicanor. He was a man who loved his countrymen and stood high in their esteem, and he was known as the father of the Jews because of his kindness.
14:38 In the earlier days of the insurrection he had been convicted of Judaism, and he had risked both body and life for Judaism with the utmost zeal.
14:39 By way of demonstrating the enmity he had for the Jews, Nicanor sent over five hundred soldiers to arrest him,
14:40 reckoning that if he eliminated this man he would be dealing them a severe blow.
14:41 When the troops were on the point of capturing the tower and were forcing the courtyard gate and calling for fire to set the doors alight, Razis, finding himself completely surrounded, fell on his own sword,
14:42 nobly resolving to die rather than fall into the clutches of these villains and suffer outrages unworthy of his noble birth.
14:43 But in the heat of conflict he missed his thrust, and while the troops swarmed in through the doorways, he ran up with alacrity on to the wall and bravely threw himself down among the troops.
14:44 But as they instantly drew back some distance, he fell into the middle of the empty space.
14:45 Still breathing, and blazing with anger, he struggled to his feet, blood spurting in all directions, and despite his terrible wounds ran right through the crowd; then, taking his stand on a steep rock,
14:46 although he had now lost every drop of blood, he tore out his entrails and taking them in both hands flung them among the troops, calling on the Master of his life and spirit to give them back to him one day. Such was the manner of his passing.
JB 2 MACCABEES Chapter 15
15:1 Nicanor heard that Judas and his men were in the neighbourhood of Samaria, so he decided to attack them, at no risk to himself, on the day of rest.
15:2 Those Jews who had been compelled to follow him said, ‘You must not massacre them in such a savage, barbarous way, but give its proper honour to the day on which the All-seeing has conferred a special holiness’.
15:3 At this the triple-dyed scoundrel asked if there was in heaven a sovereign who had ordered the keeping of the sabbath day.
15:4 When they answered, ‘It is the living Lord himself, the heavenly sovereign, who has ordered the observance of the seventh day’,
15:5 he retorted, ‘And it is I myself as sovereign on earth who order you to take up arms and carry through this business of the king’. For all that, he never managed to carry through his savage plan.
Judas harangues his men. His dream
15:6 While Nicanor, in his unlimited boastfulness and pride, was planning to erect a public trophy with the spoils taken from Judas and his men,
15:7 Maccabaeus remained firm in his confident conviction that the Lord would stand by him.
15:8 He urged his men not to be dismayed by the attacks of the pagans but, keeping in mind the help that had come to them from heaven in the past, to be confident that this time also victory would be theirs with the help of the Almighty.
15:9 He put fresh heart into them, citing the Law and the Prophets, and by stirring up memories of the battles they had already won he filled them with new enthusiasm.
15:10 Having thoroughly roused their courage, he ended his speech by detailing the treachery of the heathen and their violation of their oaths.
15:11 Having armed each one of them not so much with the safety given by shield and lance as with that confidence that springs from noble language, he encouraged them all by describing to them a convincing dream-a vision, as it were.
15:12 What he had seen was this: Onias, the former high priest, that paragon of men, modest of bearing and gentle of manners, suitably eloquent and trained from boyhood in the practice of every virtue – Onias was stretching out his hands and praying for the whole nation of the Jews.
15:13 Next there appeared a man equally remarkable for his great age and dignity and invested with a marvellous and impressive air of majesty.
15:14 Onias began to speak: ‘This is a man’ he said ‘who loves his brothers and prays much for the people and the Holy City-Jeremiah, the prophet of God’.
15:15 Jeremiah then stretched out his right hand and presented Judas with a golden sword, saying as he gave it,
15:16 ‘Take this holy sword as a gift from God; with it you shall strike down enemies’.
The disposition of the combatants
15:17 Encouraged by the noble words of Judas, which had the power to inspire valour and give the young the spirit of grown men, they decided not to pitch camp but to make a spirited attack and settle the matter fighting hand to hand with all their courage, since the city, their holy religion and the Temple were in danger.
15:18 Their concern for their wives and children, their brothers and relatives, had shrunk to minute importance; their chief and greatest fear was for the consecrated Temple.
15:19 Those left behind in the city felt a similar anxiety, alarmed as they were about the forthcoming encounter in the open country.
15:20 Everyone now awaited the coming issue. The enemy had already concentrated their forces and stood formed up in order of battle, with the elephants drawn up in a strategic position and the cavalry disposed on the wings.
15:21 Maccabaeus took note of these masses confronting him, the glittering array of armour and the fierce aspect of the elephants; then, raising his hands to heaven, he called on the Lord who works miracles, in the knowledge that it is not by force of arms, but as he sees fit to decide, that victory is granted by him to such as deserve it.
15:22 His prayer was worded thus: ‘You, Master, sent your angel in the days of Hezekiah king of Judaea, and destroyed no less than one hundred and eighty-five thousand of Sennacherib’s army;
15:23 now once again, Sovereign of heaven, send a good angel before us to spread terror and dismay.
15:24 May these men be struck down by the might of your arm, since they have come with blasphemy on their lips to attack your holy people.’ With this, he brought his prayer to an end.
The defeat and death of Nicanor
15:25 Nicanor and his men advanced to the sound of trumpets and war songs,
15:26 but the men of Judas closed with the enemy uttering invocations and prayers.
15:27 Fighting with their hands and praying to God in their hearts, they cut down at least thirty-five thousand men and were greatly cheered by this divine manifestation.
15:28 When the engagement was ended and they were withdrawing in triumph they recognised Nicanor, lying dead in full armour.
15:29 With shouting and confusion all around, they blessed the sovereign Master in the language of their ancestors.
15:30 The man who had devoted himself entirely, body and soul, to the service of his countrymen, and had always preserved the love he had felt even in youth for those of his own race, gave orders for Nicanor’s head to be cut off, together with his arm and shoulder, and taken to Jerusalem.
15:31 When he arrived there himself, he called together his countrymen and the priests; then standing in front of the altar he sent for the people from the Citadel.
15:32 He showed them the head of the infamous Nicanor, and the hand which the blasphemer had stretched out so insolently against the holy house of the Almighty.
15:33 Then, cutting out the tongue of the godless Nicanor, he gave orders for it to be fed piecemeal to the birds, and for the reward of his folly to be hung up in sight of the Temple.
15:34 At this everyone sent blessings heavenward to the glorious Lord, saying, ‘Blessings on him who has preserved his own dwelling from pollution!’
15:35 He hung Nicanor’s head from the Citadel[*a], a clear and evident sign to all of the help of the Lord.
15:36 They all passed a decree by unanimous vote never to let that day go by unobserved, but to celebrate the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, called Adar in Aramaic, the eve of the day of Mordecai[*b].
15:37 So ends the episode of Nicanor, and as, since then, the city has remained in the possession of the Hebrews, I shall bring my own work to an end here too. If it is well composed and to the point, that is just what I wanted.
15:38 If it is trashy and mediocre, that is all I could manage.
15:39 Just as it is injurious to drink wine by itself, or again water, whereas wine mixed with water is pleasant and produces a delightful sense of well-being, so skill in presenting the incidents is what delights the understanding of those who read the story. On that note I will close.
END OF JB 2 MACCABEES [15 Chapters].