Although this book, like the preceding one, receives its title from its protagonist, Judas Maccabee (or Maccabeus), it is not a sequel to 1 Maccabees. The two differ in many respects. Whereas the first covers the period from the beginning of the reign of Antiochus IV (175 B.C.) to the accession of John Hyrcanus I (134 B.C.), this book treats of the events in Jewish history from the time of the high priest Onias III and King Seleucus IV (ca. 180 B.C.) to the defeat of Nicanor’s army (161 B.C.).
The author of 2 Maccabees states (2:23) that this one-volume work is an abridgment of a five-volume work by Jason of Cyrene; but since this latter has not survived, it is difficult to determine its relationship to the present epitome. One does not know how freely the anonymous epitomizer may have rewritten the original composition or how closely the abridgment follows the wording of the original. Some parts of the text here clearly not derived from Jason’s work are the preface (2:19–32), the epilogue (15:37–39), and probably also certain moralizing reflections (e.g., 5:17–20; 6:12–17). It is certain, however, that both works were written in Greek, which explains in part why 2 Maccabees was not included in the canon of the Hebrew Bible.
The book is not without genuine historical value in supplementing 1 Maccabees, and it contains some apparently authentic official documents (11:16–38). Its purpose, whether intended by Jason himself or read into it by the compiler, is to give a theological interpretation to the history of the period. The major concern is the Jerusalem Temple, whose defender is the God of Israel. There is less interest, therefore, in the military exploits of Judas Maccabeus and more in God’s marvelous interventions on behalf of the Jews and their Temple. These divine actions direct the course of events, both to punish the sacrilegious and blasphemous pagans and to purify and restore the Temple. The author sometimes effects this purpose by transferring events from their proper chronological order, by giving exaggerated figures for the size of armies and the numbers killed in battle, by placing long, edifying discourses and prayers in the mouths of heroes, and by describing elaborate celestial apparitions (3:24–34; 5:2–4; 10:29–30; 15:11–16). The book is the earliest known source of stories that glorify God’s holy martyrs (6:18–7:42; 14:37–46).
Of theological importance are the author’s teachings on Israel’s sufferings (5:17–20; 6:12–17), the resurrection of the just on the last day (7:9, 11, 14, 23; 14:46), the intercession of the saints in heaven for people living on earth (15:11–16), and the power of the living to offer prayers and sacrifices for the dead (12:39–46).
The beginning of 2 Maccabees consists of two letters sent by the Jews of Jerusalem to their coreligionists in Egypt. They deal with the observance of the feast commemorating the central event of the book, the purification of the Temple (Hanukkah). It is uncertain whether the author or a later scribe prefixed these letters to the narrative proper. If the author is responsible for their insertion, the book must have been written some time after 124 B.C., the date of the more recent of the two letters. A date of composition in the late second century B.C. is likely.
The main divisions of 2 Maccabees are:
Letter 1: 124 B.C. 1The Jews in Jerusalem and in the land of Judea send greetings to their kindred, the Jews in Egypt, and wish them true peace! 2May God do good to you and remember his covenant with his faithful servants, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, 3give to all of you a heart to worship him and to do his will wholeheartedly and with a willing spirit, 4open your heart to his law and commandments and grant you peace, 5hear your prayers, and be reconciled to you, and never forsake you in time of adversity. 6Even now we are praying for you here.
7In the reign of Demetrius,* the one hundred and sixty-ninth year, we Jews wrote to you during the height of the distress that overtook us in those years after Jason and his followers revolted against the holy land and the kingdom,a 8set fire to the gatehouse and shed innocent blood. But we prayed to the Lord, and our prayer was heard;* we offered sacrifices and fine flour; we lighted the lamps and set out the loaves of bread.b 9We are now reminding you to celebrate the feast of Booths in the month of Kislev.* 10Dated in the one hundred and eighty-eighth year.*
Letter 2: 164 B.C. The people of Jerusalem and Judea, the senate, and Judas send greetings and good wishes to Aristobulus, teacher of King Ptolemy and member of the family of the anointed priests, and to the Jews in Egypt. 11Since we have been saved by God from grave dangers, we give him great thanks as befits those who fought against the king;* 12c for it was God who drove out those who fought against the holy city. 13When their leader arrived in Persia with his seemingly irresistible army, they were cut to pieces in the temple of the goddess Nanea* through a deceitful stratagem employed by Nanea’s priests. 14* On the pretext of marrying the goddess, Antiochus with his Friends had come to the place to get its great treasures as a dowry. 15When the priests of Nanea’s temple had displayed the treasures and Antiochus with a few attendants had come inside the wall of the temple precincts, the priests locked the temple as soon as he entered. 16Then they opened a hidden trapdoor in the ceiling, and hurling stones at the leader and his companions, struck them down. They dismembered the bodies, cut off their heads and tossed them to the people outside. 17Forever blessed be our God, who has thus punished the impious!
18* Since we shall be celebrating the purification of the temple on the twenty-fifth day of the month Kislev,d we thought it right to inform you, that you too may celebrate the feast of Booths and of the fire that appeared when Nehemiah, the rebuilder of the temple* and the altar, offered sacrifices. 19For when our ancestors were being led into captivity in Persia,* devout priests at the time took some of the fire from the altar and hid it secretly in the hollow of a dry cistern, making sure that the place would be unknown to anyone. 20Many years later, when it so pleased God, Nehemiah, commissioned by the king of Persia, sent the descendants of the priests who had hidden the fire to look for it. 21When they informed us that they could not find any fire, but only a thick liquid, he ordered them to scoop some out and bring it. After the material for the sacrifices had been prepared, Nehemiah ordered the priests to sprinkle the wood and what lay on it with the liquid. 22This was done, and when at length the sun, which had been clouded over, began to shine, a great fire blazed up, so that everyone marveled. 23While the sacrifice was being burned, the priests recited a prayer, and all present joined in with them. Jonathan led and the rest responded with Nehemiah.
24The prayer was as follows: “Lord, Lord God, creator of all things, awesome and strong, just and merciful, the only king and benefactor, 25who alone are gracious, just, almighty, and eternal, Israel’s savior from all evil, who chose our ancestors and sanctified them: 26accept this sacrifice on behalf of all your people Israel and guard and sanctify your portion. 27Gather together our scattered people, free those who are slaves among the Gentiles, look kindly on those who are despised and detested, and let the Gentiles know that you are our God. 28Punish those who lord it over us and in their arrogance oppress us. 29Plant your people in your holy place, as Moses said.”e
30Then the priests sang hymns. 31After the sacrifice was consumed, Nehemiah ordered the rest of the liquid to be poured upon large stones. 32As soon as this was done, a flame blazed up, but its light was lost in the brilliance coming from the altar. 33When the event became known and the king of the Persians was told that, in the very place where the exiled priests had hidden the fire, a liquid was found with which Nehemiah and his people had burned the sacrifices, 34the king, after verifying the fact, fenced the place off and declared it sacred. 35To those whom the king favored, he distributed many benefits he received. 36Nehemiah and his companions called the liquid nephthar, meaning purification, but most people named it naphtha.* f
* [1:7] Demetrius: Demetrius II, king of Syria (145–139, 129–125 B.C.). The one hundred and sixty-ninth year: i.e., of the Seleucid era, 143 B.C. Regarding the dates in 1 and 2 Maccabees, see note on 1 Mc 1:10. On the troubles caused by Jason and his revolt against the kingdom, i.e., the rule of the legitimate high priest, see 2 Mc 4:7–22.
* [1:8] Our prayer was heard: in the victory of the Maccabees.
* [1:9] Feast of Booths in the month of Kislev: really the feast of the Dedication of the Temple, Hanukkah (2 Mc 10:1–8), celebrated on the twenty-fifth of Kislev (Nov.–Dec.). Its solemnity resembles that of the actual feast of Booths (Lv 23:33–43), celebrated on the fifteenth of Tishri (Sept.–Oct.); cf. 2 Mc 1:18.
* [1:10] The one hundred and eighty-eighth year: 124 B.C. The date pertains to the preceding, not the following letter. Senate: the council of Jewish elders of Jerusalem; cf. 1 Mc 12:6. King Ptolemy: Ptolemy VI Philometor, ruler of Egypt from 180 to 145 B.C.; he is mentioned also in 1 Mc 1:18; 10:51–59.
* [1:11–12] The king: Antiochus IV of Syria, the bitter persecutor of the Jews, who, as leader of the Syrian army that invaded Persia, perished there in 164 B.C.
* [1:13] Nanea: an oriental goddess comparable to Artemis of the Greeks.
* [1:14–17] Differing accounts of the death of Antiochus IV are found in 2 Mc 9:1–29 and in 1 Mc 6:1–16 (see also Dn 11:40–45). The writer of this letter had probably heard a distorted rumor of the king’s death. This and other indications suggest that the letter was written very soon after Antiochus IV died, perhaps in 164 B.C.
* [1:18–36] This legendary account of Nehemiah’s miraculous fire is incorporated in the letter because of its connection with the Temple and its rededication. Booths: see note on v. 9.
* [1:18] Nehemiah, the rebuilder of the temple: he rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem, but the Temple had been rebuilt by Zerubbabel almost a century before.
* [1:19] Persia: actually Babylonia, which later became part of the Persian empire.
* [1:36] By a play on words, the Greek term naphtha (petroleum) is assimilated to some Semitic word, perhaps nephthar, meaning “loosened.”
a. [1:7] 2 Mc 4:7–20.
b. [1:8] 1 Mc 4:50–51.
c. [1:12–17] 2 Mc 9:1–29; 1 Mc 6:1–13; Dn 11:40–45.
d. [1:18] 2 Mc 6:7; 10:5; 1 Mc 1:59; 4:59.
e. [1:29] 2 Mc 2:18; Ex 15:17; Dt 30:3–5.
f. [1:36] 2 Mc 2:18; 10:3; 14:36.
1In the records it will be found that Jeremiah the prophet ordered the deportees to take some of the fire with them as indicated, 2and that the prophet, in giving them the law, directed the deportees not to forget the commandments of the Lord or be led astray in their thoughts, when seeing the gold and silver idols and their adornments.a 3With other similar words he exhorted them that the law should not depart from their hearts.
4* The same document also tells how the prophet, in virtue of an oracle, ordered that the tent and the ark should accompany him, and how he went to the very mountain that Moses climbed to behold God’s inheritance.b 5When Jeremiah arrived there, he found a chamber in a cave in which he put the tent, the ark, and the altar of incense; then he sealed the entrance. 6Some of those who followed him came up intending to mark the path, but they could not find it. 7When Jeremiah heard of this, he reproved them: “The place is to remain unknown until God gathers his people together again and shows them mercy. 8Then the Lord will disclose these things, and the glory of the Lord and the cloud will be seen, just as they appeared in the time of Moses and of Solomon when he prayed that the place* might be greatly sanctified.”c
9It is also related how Solomon in his wisdom offered a sacrifice for the dedication and the completion of the temple. 10Just as Moses prayed to the Lord and fire descended from the sky and consumed the sacrifices, so also Solomon prayed and fire came down and consumed the burnt offerings.d 11* Moses had said, “Because it had not been eaten, the purification offering was consumed.”e 12Solomon also celebrated the feast in the same way for eight days.
13These same things are also told in the records and in Nehemiah’s memoirs,* as well as how he founded a library and collected the books about the kings and the prophets, the books of David, and the royal letters about votive offerings. 14In like manner Judas also collected for us all the books that had been scattered because of the war, and we now have them in our possession.f 15If you need them, send messengers to get them for you.
16As we are about to celebrate the purification, we are writing: you should celebrate the feast days. 17It is God who has saved all his people and has restored to all of them their inheritance, the kingdom, the priesthood, and the sacred rites, 18as he promised through the law. For we hope in God, that he will soon have mercy on us and gather us together from everywhere under the heavens to his holy place, for he has rescued us from great perils and has purified the place.g
19This is the story of Judas Maccabeus and his brothers, of the purification of the great temple, the dedication of the altar, 20the campaigns against Antiochus Epiphanes and his son Eupator,* 21and of the heavenly manifestations accorded to the heroes who fought bravely for the Jewish people. Few as they were, they plundered the whole land, put to flight the barbarian hordes, 22regained possession of the temple renowned throughout the world, and liberated the city. They re-established the laws that were in danger of being abolished, while the Lord favored them with every kindness. 23All this, detailed by Jason of Cyrene in five volumes, we will try to condense into a single book.
24For in view of the flood of data, and the difficulties encountered, given such abundant material, by those who wish to plunge into accounts of the history, 25we have aimed to please those who prefer simply to read, to make it easy for the studious who wish to commit things to memory, and to be helpful to all. 26For us who have undertaken the labor of making this digest, the task, far from being easy, is one of sweat and of sleepless nights. 27Just so, the preparation of a festive banquet is no light matter for one who seeks to give enjoyment to others. Similarly, to win the gratitude of many we will gladly endure this labor, 28leaving the responsibility for exact details to the historian, and confining our efforts to presenting only a summary outline. 29As the architect of a new house must pay attention to the whole structure, while the one who undertakes the decoration and the frescoes has to be concerned only with what is needed for ornamentation, so I think it is with us.h 30To enter into questions and examine them from all sides and to be busy about details is the task of the historian; 31but one who is making an adaptation should be allowed to aim at brevity of expression and to forgo complete treatment of the matter. 32Here, then, let us begin our account without adding to what has already been said; it would be silly to lengthen the preface to the history and then cut short the history itself.
* [2:4–5] This legendary account is given for the purpose of explaining why the postexilic Temple was the legitimate place of worship even without these sacred objects. The very mountain: Nebo; cf. Dt 32:49; 34:1.
* [2:8] The place: the Temple of Jerusalem.
* [2:11] The statement attributed here to Moses seems to be based on Lv 10:16–20.
* [2:13] Nehemiah’s memoirs: a lost apocryphal work, or perhaps Neh 1–7, 11–13.
* [2:20] For the account of the campaigns against Antiochus IV Epiphanes, see 4:7–10:9; and for the account of those against his son Antiochus V Eupator, see 10:10–13:26.
a. [2:2] Bar 6:1–72.
b. [2:4] Dt 32:49; 34:1; Rev 11:19.
c. [2:8] Ex 40:34–35; 1 Kgs 8:11.
d. [2:10] Lv 9:23–24; 2 Chr 7:1.
e. [2:11] Lv 10:16–20.
f. [2:14] 1 Mc 1:57.
g. [2:18] Dt 30:3–5.
h. [2:29] 2 Mc 15:38–39.
Heliodorus’ Arrival in Jerusalem. 1While the holy city lived in perfect peace and the laws were strictly observed because of the piety of the high priest Onias* and his hatred of evil,a 2the kings themselves honored the place and glorified the temple with the most magnificent gifts. 3Thus Seleucus,* king of Asia, defrayed from his own revenues all the expenses necessary for the liturgy of sacrifice.
4But a certain Simon, of the priestly clan of Bilgah,* who had been appointed superintendent of the temple, had a quarrel with the high priest about the administration of the city market.b 5Since he could not prevail against Onias, he went to Apollonius of Tarsus, who at that time was governor of Coelesyria and Phoenicia, 6and reported to him that the treasury in Jerusalem was full of such untold riches that the sum total of the assets was past counting and that since they did not belong to the account of the sacrifices, it would be possible for them to fall under the authority of the king.
7When Apollonius had an audience with the king, he informed him about the riches that had been reported to him. The king chose his chief minister Heliodorus and sent him with instructions to seize those riches. 8So Heliodorus immediately set out on his journey, ostensibly to visit the cities of Coelesyria and Phoenicia, but in reality to carry out the king’s purpose.
9When he arrived in Jerusalem and had been graciously received by the high priest of the city, he told him about the information that had been given, and explained the reason for his presence, and he inquired if these things were really true. 10The high priest explained that there were deposits for widows and orphans,c 11and some was the property of Hyrcanus, son of Tobias,* a man who occupied a very high position. Contrary to the misrepresentations of the impious Simon, the total amounted only to four hundred talents of silver and two hundred of gold. 12It was utterly unthinkable to defraud those who had placed their trust in the sanctity of the place and in the sacred inviolability of a temple venerated all over the world.
Heliodorus’ Plan To Rob the Temple. 13But Heliodorus, because of the orders he had from the king, said that in any case this money must be confiscated for the royal treasury. 14So on the day he had set he went in to take an inventory of the funds. There was no little anguish throughout the city. 15Priests prostrated themselves before the altar in their priestly robes, and called toward heaven for the one who had given the law about deposits to keep the deposits safe for those who had made them.d 16Whoever saw the appearance of the high priest was pierced to the heart, for the changed complexion of his face revealed his mental anguish. 17The terror and bodily trembling that had come over the man clearly showed those who saw him the pain that lodged in his heart. 18People rushed out of their houses and crowded together making common supplication, because the place was in danger of being profaned. 19Women, girded with sackcloth below their breasts, filled the streets. Young women secluded indoors all ran, some to the gates, some to the walls, others peered through the windows— 20all of them with hands raised toward heaven, making supplication. 21It was pitiful to see the populace prostrate everywhere and the high priest full of dread and anguish. 22While they were imploring the almighty Lord to keep the deposits safe and secure for those who had placed them in trust, 23Heliodorus went on with his plan.
God Protects the Temple. 24But just as Heliodorus was arriving at the treasury with his bodyguards, the Lord of spirits and all authority produced an apparition so great that those who had been bold enough to accompany Heliodorus were panic-stricken at God’s power and fainted away in terror. 25There appeared to them a richly caparisoned horse, mounted by a fearsome rider. Charging furiously, the horse attacked Heliodorus with its front hooves. The rider was seen wearing golden armor. 26Then two other young men, remarkably strong, strikingly handsome, and splendidly attired, appeared before him. Standing on each side of him, they flogged him unceasingly, inflicting innumerable blows. 27Suddenly he fell to the ground, enveloped in great darkness. His men picked him up and laid him on a stretcher. 28They carried away helpless the man who a moment before had entered that treasury under arms with a great retinue and his whole bodyguard. They clearly recognized the sovereign power of God.
The Restoration and Testimony of Heliodorus. 29As Heliodorus lay speechless because of God’s action and deprived of any hope of recovery, 30the people praised the Lord who had marvelously glorified his own place; and the temple, charged so shortly before with fear and commotion, was filled with joy and gladness, now that the almighty Lord had appeared. 31Quickly some of the companions of Heliodorus begged Onias to call upon the Most High to spare the life of one who was about to breathe his last. 32The high priest, suspecting that the king might think that Heliodorus had suffered some foul play at the hands of the Jews, offered a sacrifice for the man’s recovery. 33While the high priest was offering the sacrifice of atonement, the same young men dressed in the same clothing again appeared and stood before Heliodorus. “Be very grateful to the high priest Onias,” they told him. “It is for his sake that the Lord has spared your life. 34Since you have been scourged by Heaven, proclaim to all God’s great power.” When they had said this, they disappeared.
35After Heliodorus had offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made most solemn vows to the one who had spared his life, he bade Onias farewell, and returned with his soldiers to the king. 36Before all he gave witness to the deeds of the most high God that he had seen with his own eyes. 37When the king asked Heliodorus what sort of person would be suitable to be sent to Jerusalem next, he answered: 38“If you have an enemy or one who is plotting against the government, send him there, and you will get him back with a flogging, if indeed he survives at all; for there is certainly some divine power about the place. 39The one whose dwelling is in heaven watches over that place and protects it, and strikes down and destroys those who come to harm it.” 40This was how the matter concerning Heliodorus and the preservation of the treasury turned out.
* [3:1–40] This legendary episode about Heliodorus is recounted here for the purpose of stressing the inviolability of the Temple of Jerusalem; its later profanation was interpreted as owing to the sins of the people; cf. 5:17–18.
* [3:1] Onias: Onias III was high priest from 196 to 175 B.C. and died in 171 B.C. He was the son of Simon, whose praises are sung in Sir 50:1–21.
* [3:3] Seleucus: Seleucus IV Philopator, who reigned from 187 to 175 B.C.
* [3:4] Bilgah: a priestly family mentioned in 1 Chr 24:14; Neh 12:5, 18.
* [3:11] Hyrcanus, son of Tobias: a member of the Tobiad family of Transjordan (Neh 2:10; 6:17–19; 13:4–8). Hyrcanus’ father was Joseph, whose mother was the sister of the high priest Onias II.
a. [3:1] 2 Mc 5:19–20; 15:12.
b. [3:4] 2 Mc 4:23.
c. [3:10] Dt 14:29; 26:12.
d. [3:15] Ex 22:6–14.
Simon Accuses Onias. 1The Simon mentioned above as the informer about the funds against his own country slandered Onias as the one who incited Heliodorus and instigated the whole miserable affair. 2He dared to brand as a schemer against the government the man who was the benefactor of the city, the protector of his compatriots, and a zealous defender of the laws. 3When Simon’s hostility reached such a pitch that murders were being committed by one of his henchmen, 4Onias saw that the opposition was serious and that Apollonius, son of Menestheus, the governor of Coelesyria and Phoenicia, was abetting Simon’s wickedness. 5So he had recourse to the king, not as an accuser of his compatriots, but as one looking to the general and particular good of all the people. 6He saw that without royal attention it would be impossible to have a peaceful government, and that Simon would not desist from his folly.
Jason as High Priest. 7But Seleucus died,* and when Antiochus surnamed Epiphanes succeeded him on the throne, Onias’ brother Jason obtained the high priesthood by corrupt means:a 8in an interview, he promised the king three hundred and sixty talents of silver, as well as eighty talents from another source of income. 9Besides this he would undertake to pay a hundred and fifty more, if he was given authority to establish a gymnasium and a youth center* for it and to enroll Jerusalemites as citizens of Antioch.
10When Jason received the king’s approval and came into office, he immediately initiated his compatriots into the Greek way of life. 11He set aside the royal concessions granted to the Jews through the mediation of John, father of Eupolemus* (that Eupolemus who would later go on an embassy to the Romans to establish friendship and alliance with them); he set aside the lawful practices and introduced customs contrary to the law.b 12c With perverse delight he established a gymnasium* at the very foot of the citadel, where he induced the noblest young men to wear the Greek hat. 13The craze for Hellenism and the adoption of foreign customs reached such a pitch, through the outrageous wickedness of Jason, the renegade and would-be high priest, 14that the priests no longer cared about the service of the altar. Disdaining the temple and neglecting the sacrifices, they hastened, at the signal for the games, to take part in the unlawful exercises at the arena. 15What their ancestors had regarded as honors they despised; what the Greeks esteemed as glory they prized highly. 16For this reason they found themselves in serious trouble: the very people whose manner of life they emulated, and whom they desired to imitate in everything, became their enemies and oppressors. 17It is no light matter to flout the laws of God, as subsequent events will show.
18When the quinquennial games were held at Tyre in the presence of the king, 19the vile Jason sent representatives of the Antiochians of Jerusalem, to bring three hundred silver drachmas for the sacrifice to Hercules. But the bearers themselves decided that the money should not be spent on a sacrifice, as that was not right, but should be used for some other purpose. 20So the contribution meant for the sacrifice to Hercules by the sender, was in fact applied to the construction of triremes* by those who brought it.
21When Apollonius, son of Menestheus, was sent to Egypt for the coronation of King Philometor,* Antiochus learned from him that the king was opposed to his policies. He took measures for his own security; so after going to Joppa, he proceeded to Jerusalem. 22There he was received with great pomp by Jason and the people of the city, who escorted him with torchlights and acclamations; following this, he led his army into Phoenicia.
Menelaus as High Priest. 23Three years later Jason sent Menelaus,* brother of the aforementioned Simon, to deliver the money to the king, and to complete negotiations on urgent matters. 24But after his introduction to the king, he flattered him with such an air of authority that he secured the high priesthood for himself, outbidding Jason by three hundred talents of silver. 25He returned with the royal commission, but with nothing that made him worthy of the high priesthood; he had the temper of a cruel tyrant and the rage of a wild beast. 26So Jason, who had cheated his own brother and now saw himself cheated by another man, was driven out as a fugitive to the country of the Ammonites. 27But Menelaus, who obtained the office, paid nothing of the money he had promised to the king, 28in spite of the demand of Sostratus, the commandant of the citadel, whose duty it was to collect the taxes. For this reason, both were summoned before the king. 29Menelaus left his brother Lysimachus as his deputy in the high priesthood, while Sostratus left Crates, commander of the Cypriots.d
Murder of Onias. 30While these things were taking place, the people of Tarsus and Mallus* rose in revolt, because their cities had been given as a gift to Antiochis, the king’s concubine. 31So the king hastened off to settle the affair, leaving Andronicus, one of his nobles, as his deputy. 32Menelaus, for his part, thinking this a good opportunity, stole some gold vessels from the temple and presented them to Andronicus; he had already sold other vessels in Tyre and in the neighboring cities. 33When Onias had clear evidence, he accused Menelaus publicly, after withdrawing to the inviolable sanctuary at Daphne, near Antioch. 34Thereupon Menelaus approached Andronicus privately and urged him to seize Onias. So Andronicus went to Onias, treacherously reassuring him by offering his right hand in oath, and persuaded him, in spite of his suspicions, to leave the sanctuary. Then, with no regard for justice, he immediately put him to death.
35As a result, not only the Jews, but many people of other nations as well, were indignant and angry over the unjust murder of the man. 36When the king returned from the region of Cilicia, the Jews of the city,* together with the Greeks who detested the crime, went to see him about the murder of Onias. 37Antiochus was deeply grieved and full of pity; he wept as he recalled the prudence and noble conduct of the deceased. 38Inflamed with anger, he immediately stripped Andronicus of his purple robe, tore off his garments, and had him led through the whole city to the very place where he had committed the outrage against Onias; and there he put the murderer to death. Thus the Lord rendered him the punishment he deserved.
More Outrages. 39Many acts of sacrilege had been committed by Lysimachus in the city* with the connivance of Menelaus. When word spread, the people assembled in protest against Lysimachus, because a large number of gold vessels had been stolen. 40As the crowds, now thoroughly enraged, began to riot, Lysimachus launched an unjustified attack against them with about three thousand armed men under the leadership of a certain Auranus, a man as advanced in folly as he was in years. 41Seeing Lysimachus’ attack, people picked up stones, pieces of wood or handfuls of the ashes lying there and threw them in wild confusion at Lysimachus and his men. 42As a result, they wounded many of them and even killed a few, while they put all to flight. The temple robber himself they killed near the treasury.
43Charges about this affair were brought against Menelaus. 44When the king came to Tyre, three men sent by the senate pleaded the case before him. 45But Menelaus, seeing himself on the losing side, promised Ptolemy, son of Dorymenes, a substantial sum of money if he would win the king over.e 46So Ptolemy took the king aside into a colonnade, as if to get some fresh air, and persuaded him to change his mind. 47Menelaus, who was the cause of all the trouble, the king acquitted of the charges, while he condemned to death those poor men who would have been declared innocent even if they had pleaded their case before Scythians. 48Thus, those who had prosecuted the case on behalf of the city, the people, and the sacred vessels, quickly suffered unjust punishment. 49For this reason, even Tyrians, detesting the crime, provided sumptuously for their burial. 50But Menelaus, thanks to the greed of those in power, remained in office, where he grew in wickedness, scheming greatly against his fellow citizens.
* [4:7] Seleucus died: he was murdered by Heliodorus. Antiochus Epiphanes was his younger brother. Onias’ brother showed his enthusiasm for the Greek way of life (v. 10) by changing his Hebrew name Joshua, or Jesus, to the Greek name Jason.
* [4:9] Youth center: an educational institution in which young men were trained both in Greek intellectual culture and in physical fitness. Citizens of Antioch: honorary citizens of Antioch, a Hellenistic city of the Seleucid Kingdom that had a corporation of such Antiochians, who enjoyed certain political and commercial privileges.
* [4:11] Eupolemus: one of the two envoys sent to Rome by Judas Maccabeus (1 Mc 8:17).
* [4:12] Since the gymnasium, where the youth exercised naked (Greek gymnos), lay in the Tyropoeon Valley to the east of the citadel, it was directly next to the Temple on its eastern side. The Greek hat: a wide-brimmed hat, traditional headgear of Hermes, the patron god of athletic contests; it formed part of the distinctive costume of the members of the “youth center.”
* [4:20] Triremes: war vessels with three banks of oars.
* [4:21] Philometor: Ptolemy VI, king of Egypt, ca. 172 to ca. 145 B.C.
* [4:23] Menelaus: Jewish high priest from ca. 172 to his execution in 162 B.C. (13:3–8).
* [4:30] Mallus: a city of Cilicia (v. 36) in southeastern Asia Minor, about thirty miles east of Tarsus.
* [4:36] The city: Antioch. But some understand the Greek to mean “each city.”
* [4:39] The city: Jerusalem. Menelaus was still in Syria.
a. [4:7] 2 Mc 1:7; 1 Mc 1:10.
b. [4:11] 1 Mc 8:17.
c. [4:12–17] 1 Mc 1:11–15.
d. [4:29] 2 Mc 4:39–42.
e. [4:45] 2 Mc 8:8; 1 Mc 3:38.
Jason’s Revolt. 1About this time Antiochus sent his second expedition* into Egypt.a 2b It then happened that all over the city, for nearly forty days, there appeared horsemen, clothed in garments of a golden weave, charging in midair—companies fully armed with lances and drawn swords; 3squadrons of cavalry in battle array, charges and countercharges on this side and that, with brandished shields and bristling spears, flights of arrows and flashes of gold ornaments, together with armor of every sort. 4Therefore all prayed that this vision might be a good omen.
5But when a false rumor circulated that Antiochus was dead, Jason* gathered at least a thousand men and suddenly attacked the city. As the defenders on the walls were forced back and the city was finally being taken, Menelaus took refuge in the citadel. 6For his part, Jason continued the merciless slaughter of his fellow citizens, not realizing that triumph over one’s own kindred is the greatest calamity; he thought he was winning a victory over his enemies, not over his own people. 7Even so, he did not gain control of the government, but in the end received only disgrace for his treachery, and once again took refuge in the country of the Ammonites. 8At length he met a miserable end. Called to account before Aretas,* ruler of the Arabians, he fled from city to city, hunted by all, hated as an apostate from the laws, abhorred as the executioner of his country and his compatriots. Driven into Egypt, 9he set out by sea for the Lacedaemonians, among whom he hoped to find protection because of his relations with them. He who had exiled so many from their country perished in exile; 10and he who had cast out so many to lie unburied went unmourned and without a funeral of any kind, nor any place in the tomb of his ancestors.
Revenge by Antiochus. 11c When these happenings were reported to the king, he thought that Judea was in revolt. Raging like a wild animal, he set out from Egypt and took Jerusalem by storm. 12He ordered his soldiers to cut down without mercy those whom they met and to slay those who took refuge in their houses. 13There was a massacre of young and old, a killing of women and children, a slaughter of young women and infants. 14In the space of three days, eighty thousand were lost, forty thousand meeting a violent death, and the same number being sold into slavery.
15Not satisfied with this, the king dared to enter the holiest temple in the world; Menelaus, that traitor both to the laws and to his country, served as guide. 16He laid his impure hands on the sacred vessels and swept up with profane hands the votive offerings made by other kings for the advancement, the glory, and the honor of the place. 17Antiochus became puffed up in spirit, not realizing that it was because of the sins of the city’s inhabitants that the Sovereign Lord was angry for a little while: hence the disregard of the place.d 18If they had not become entangled in so many sins, this man, like that Heliodorus sent by King Seleucus to inspect the treasury, would have been flogged and turned back from his presumptuous act as soon as he approached. 19The Lord, however, had not chosen the nation for the sake of the place, but the place for the sake of the nation. 20Therefore, the place itself, having shared in the nation’s misfortunes, afterward participated in their good fortune; and what the Almighty had forsaken in wrath was restored in all its glory, once the great Sovereign Lord became reconciled.
21e Antiochus carried off eighteen hundred talents from the temple and hurried back to Antioch, thinking in his arrogance that he could make the land navigable and the sea passable on foot, so carried away was he with pride. 22He left governors to harass the nation: at Jerusalem, Philip, a Phrygian by birth,* and in character more barbarous than the man who appointed him;f 23at Mount Gerizim,* Andronicus; and besides these, Menelaus, who lorded it over his fellow citizens more than the others. Out of hatred for the Jewish citizens, 24g the king sent Apollonius,* commander of the Mysians, at the head of an army of twenty-two thousand, with orders to kill all the grown men and sell the women and children into slavery. 25When this man arrived in Jerusalem, he pretended to be peacefully disposed and waited until the holy day of the sabbath; then, finding the Jews refraining from work, he ordered his men to parade fully armed. 26All those who came out to watch, he massacred, and running through the city with armed men, he cut down a large number of people.
27But Judas Maccabeus and about nine others withdrew to the wilderness to avoid sharing in defilement; there he and his companions lived like the animals in the hills, eating what grew wild.h
* [5:1] Second expedition: the first invasion of Egypt by Antiochus IV in 169 B.C. (1 Mc 1:16–20) is not mentioned in 2 Maccabees, unless the coming of the Syrian army to Palestine (2 Mc 4:21–22) is regarded as the first invasion. The author of 2 Maccabees apparently combines the first pillage of Jerusalem in 169 B.C. after Antiochus’ first invasion of Egypt (1 Mc 1:20–28; cf. 2 Mc 5:5–7) with the second pillage of the city two years later (167 B.C.), following the king’s second invasion of Egypt in 168 B.C. (1 Mc 1:29–35; cf. 2 Mc 5:24–26).
* [5:5] Jason: brother of Onias III, claimant of the high priesthood (4:7–10). Later he was supplanted by Menelaus, who drove him into Transjordan (4:26).
* [5:8] Aretas: King Aretas I of the Nabateans; cf. 1 Mc 5:25.
* [5:22] Philip, a Phrygian by birth: the Philip of 2 Mc 6:11 and 8:8, but probably not the same as Philip the regent of 2 Mc 9:29 and 1 Mc 6:14.
* [5:23] Mount Gerizim: the sacred mountain of the Samaritans at Shechem; cf. 2 Mc 6:2.
* [5:24] Apollonius: the Mysian commander of 1 Mc 1:29; mentioned also in 2 Mc 3:5; 4:4.
a. [5:1–10] 1 Mc 1:16–19; Dn 11:25–30.
b. [5:2–3] 2 Mc 3:24–26; 10:29–30; 11:8.
c. [5:11–21] 1 Mc 1:20–24.
d. [5:17] 2 Mc 6:12–16; 7:16–19, 32–38.
e. [5:21] 1 Mc 1:23–24.
f. [5:22] 2 Mc 6:11; 8:8.
g. [5:24–26] 1 Mc 1:29–40.
h. [5:27] 2 Mc 8:1; 1 Mc 2:28.
Abolition of Judaism. 1a Not long after this the king sent an Athenian senator* to force the Jews to abandon the laws of their ancestors and live no longer by the laws of God, 2also to profane the temple in Jerusalem and dedicate it to Olympian Zeus,* and the one on Mount Gerizim to Zeus the Host to Strangers, as the local inhabitants were wont to be.b 3This was a harsh and utterly intolerable evil. 4The Gentiles filled the temple with debauchery and revelry; they amused themselves with prostitutes and had intercourse with women even in the sacred courts. They also brought forbidden things into the temple,c 5so that the altar was covered with abominable offerings prohibited by the laws.
6No one could keep the sabbath or celebrate the traditional feasts, nor even admit to being a Jew. 7Moreover, at the monthly celebration of the king’s birthday the Jews, from bitter necessity, had to partake of the sacrifices, and when the festival of Dionysus* was celebrated, they were compelled to march in his procession, wearing wreaths of ivy.d
8Following upon a vote of the citizens of Ptolemais, a decree was issued ordering the neighboring Greek cities to adopt the same measures, obliging the Jews to partake of the sacrifices 9and putting to death those who would not consent to adopt the customs of the Greeks. It was obvious, therefore, that disaster had come upon them. 10Thus, two women who were arrested for having circumcised their children were publicly paraded about the city with their babies hanging at their breasts and then thrown down from the top of the city wall.e 11Others, who had assembled in nearby caves to observe the seventh day in secret, were betrayed to Philip and all burned to death. In their respect for the holiness of that day, they refrained from defending themselves.f
God’s Purpose. 12g Now I urge those who read this book not to be disheartened by these misfortunes, but to consider that these punishments were meant not for the ruin but for the correction of our nation. 13It is, in fact, a sign of great kindness to punish the impious promptly instead of letting them go for long. 14h Thus, in dealing with other nations, the Sovereign Lord patiently waits until they reach the full measure of their sins before punishing them; but with us he has decided to deal differently, 15in order that he may not have to punish us later, when our sins have reached their fullness. 16Therefore he never withdraws his mercy from us. Although he disciplines us with misfortunes, he does not abandon his own people. 17Let these words suffice for recalling this truth. Without further ado we must go on with our story.
Martyrdom of Eleazar. 18* Eleazar, one of the foremost scribes, a man advanced in age and of noble appearance, was being forced to open his mouth to eat pork.i 19But preferring a glorious death to a life of defilement, he went forward of his own accord to the instrument of torture, 20spitting out the meat as they should do who have the courage to reject food unlawful to taste even for love of life.
21Those in charge of that unlawful sacrifice took the man aside, because of their long acquaintance with him, and privately urged him to bring his own provisions that he could legitimately eat, and only to pretend to eat the sacrificial meat prescribed by the king. 22Thus he would escape death, and be treated kindly because of his old friendship with them. 23But he made up his mind in a noble manner, worthy of his years, the dignity of his advanced age, the merited distinction of his gray hair, and of the admirable life he had lived from childhood. Above all loyal to the holy laws given by God, he swiftly declared, “Send me to Hades!”
24“At our age it would be unbecoming to make such a pretense; many of the young would think the ninety-year-old Eleazar had gone over to an alien religion. 25If I dissemble to gain a brief moment of life, they would be led astray by me, while I would bring defilement and dishonor on my old age. 26Even if, for the time being, I avoid human punishment, I shall never, whether alive or dead, escape the hand of the Almighty. 27Therefore, by bravely giving up life now, I will prove myself worthy of my old age, 28and I will leave to the young a noble example of how to die willingly and nobly for the revered and holy laws.”
He spoke thus, and went immediately to the instrument of torture. 29Those who shortly before had been kindly disposed, now became hostile toward him because what he had said seemed to them utter madness.j 30When he was about to die under the blows, he groaned, saying: “The Lord in his holy knowledge knows full well that, although I could have escaped death, I am not only enduring terrible pain in my body from this scourging, but also suffering it with joy in my soul because of my devotion to him.” 31This is how he died, leaving in his death a model of nobility and an unforgettable example of virtue not only for the young but for the whole nation.
* [6:1] Athenian senator: or, Geron the Athenian, since geron can also be a proper name.
* [6:2] Olympian Zeus: equated with the Syrian Baal Shamen (“the lord of the heavens”), a term which the Jews mockingly rendered as shiqqus shomem, “desolating abomination” (Dn 9:27; 11:31; 12:11; 1 Mc 1:54).
* [6:7] Dionysus: also called Bacchus, the god of the grape harvest and of wine; ivy was one of his symbols.
* [6:18–7:42] The stories of Eleazar and of the mother and her seven sons, among the earliest models of “martyrology,” were understandably popular. Written to encourage God’s people in times of persecution, they add gruesome details to the record of tortures, and place long speeches in the mouths of the martyrs.
a. [6:1] 1 Mc 1:41–63.
b. [6:2] 1 Mc 1:46, 54; Dn 9:27; 11:31; 12:11.
c. [6:4] Ez 23:36–49; Dn 11:31; Am 2:7.
d. [6:7] 1 Mc 1:58–59.
e. [6:10] 1 Mc 1:60–61.
f. [6:11] 1 Mc 2:32–38.
g. [6:12–16] 2 Mc 5:17; 7:16–19, 32–38.
h. [6:14] Wis 11:9–10; 12:2, 22.
i. [6:18] Lv 11:6–8.
j. [6:29] Wis 3:1–4; 5:4.
Martyrdom of a Mother and Her Seven Sons. 1It also happened that seven brothers with their mother were arrested and tortured with whips and scourges by the king to force them to eat pork in violation of God’s law.a 2One of the brothers, speaking for the others, said: “What do you expect to learn by questioning us? We are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our ancestors.”
3At that the king, in a fury, gave orders to have pans and caldrons heated. 4These were quickly heated, and he gave the order to cut out the tongue of the one who had spoken for the others, to scalp him and cut off his hands and feet, while the rest of his brothers and his mother looked on. 5When he was completely maimed but still breathing, the king ordered them to carry him to the fire and fry him. As a cloud of smoke spread from the pan, the brothers and their mother encouraged one another to die nobly, with these words: 6“The Lord God is looking on and truly has compassion on us, as Moses declared in his song, when he openly bore witness, saying, ‘And God will have compassion on his servants.’”b
7After the first brother had died in this manner, they brought the second to be made sport of. After tearing off the skin and hair of his head, they asked him, “Will you eat the pork rather than have your body tortured limb by limb?” 8Answering in the language of his ancestors, he said, “Never!” So he in turn suffered the same tortures as the first. 9With his last breath he said: “You accursed fiend, you are depriving us of this present life, but the King of the universe will raise us up* to live again forever, because we are dying for his laws.”c
10After him the third suffered their cruel sport. He put forth his tongue at once when told to do so, and bravely stretched out his hands, 11as he spoke these noble words: “It was from Heaven that I received these; for the sake of his laws I disregard them; from him I hope to receive them again.” 12Even the king and his attendants marveled at the young man’s spirit, because he regarded his sufferings as nothing.
13After he had died, they tortured and maltreated the fourth brother in the same way. 14When he was near death, he said, “It is my choice to die at the hands of mortals with the hope that God will restore me to life; but for you, there will be no resurrection to life.”
15They next brought forward the fifth brother and maltreated him. 16Looking at the king, he said:d “Mortal though you are, you have power over human beings, so you do what you please. But do not think that our nation is forsaken by God. 17Only wait, and you will see how his great power will torment you and your descendants.”
18After him they brought the sixth brother. When he was about to die, he said: “Have no vain illusions. We suffer these things on our own account, because we have sinned against our God; that is why such shocking things have happened. 19Do not think, then, that you will go unpunished for having dared to fight against God.”
20Most admirable and worthy of everlasting remembrance was the mother who, seeing her seven sons perish in a single day, bore it courageously because of her hope in the Lord. 21Filled with a noble spirit that stirred her womanly reason with manly emotion, she exhorted each of them in the language of their ancestors with these words: 22e “I do not know how you came to be in my womb; it was not I who gave you breath and life, nor was it I who arranged the elements you are made of. 23Therefore, since it is the Creator of the universe who shaped the beginning of humankind and brought about the origin of everything, he, in his mercy, will give you back both breath and life, because you now disregard yourselves for the sake of his law.”
24Antiochus, suspecting insult in her words, thought he was being ridiculed. As the youngest brother was still alive, the king appealed to him, not with mere words, but with promises on oath, to make him rich and happy if he would abandon his ancestral customs: he would make him his Friend and entrust him with high office. 25When the youth paid no attention to him at all, the king appealed to the mother, urging her to advise her boy to save his life. 26After he had urged her for a long time, she agreed to persuade her son. 27She leaned over close to him and, in derision of the cruel tyrant, said in their native language: “Son, have pity on me, who carried you in my womb for nine months, nursed you for three years, brought you up, educated and supported you to your present age. 28I beg you, child, to look at the heavens and the earth and see all that is in them; then you will know that God did not make them out of existing things.* In the same way humankind came into existence. 29Do not be afraid of this executioner, but be worthy of your brothers and accept death, so that in the time of mercy I may receive you again with your brothers.”
30She had scarcely finished speaking when the youth said: “What is the delay? I will not obey the king’s command. I obey the command of the law given to our ancestors through Moses. 31But you, who have contrived every kind of evil for the Hebrews, will not escape the hands of God. 32We, indeed, are suffering because of our sins.f 33Though for a little while our living Lord has been angry, correcting and chastising us, he will again be reconciled with his servants. 34But you, wretch, most vile of mortals, do not, in your insolence, buoy yourself up with unfounded hopes, as you raise your hand against the children of heaven. 35You have not yet escaped the judgment of the almighty and all-seeing God. 36Our brothers, after enduring brief pain, have drunk of never-failing life, under God’s covenant. But you, by the judgment of God, shall receive just punishments for your arrogance. 37Like my brothers, I offer up my body and my life for our ancestral laws, imploring God to show mercy soon to our nation, and by afflictions and blows to make you confess that he alone is God. 38Through me and my brothers, may there be an end to the wrath of the Almighty that has justly fallen on our whole nation.”
39At that, the king became enraged and treated him even worse than the others, since he bitterly resented the boy’s contempt. 40Thus he too died undefiled, putting all his trust in the Lord. 41Last of all, after her sons, the mother was put to death. 42Enough has been said about the sacrificial meals and the excessive cruelties.
* [7:9] The King of the universe will raise us up: here, and in vv. 11, 14, 23, 29, 36, belief in the future resurrection of the body, at least for the just, is clearly stated; cf. also 12:44; 14:46; Dn 12:2.
* [7:28] God did not make them out of existing things: that is, all things were made solely by God’s omnipotent will and creative word; cf. Heb 11:3. This statement has often been taken as a basis for “creation out of nothing” (Latin creatio ex nihilo).
a. [7:1] Jer 15:9.
b. [7:6] Dt 32:36–38.
c. [7:9] 2 Mc 12:44; 14:46; Dn 12:1–3.
d. [7:16–19] 2 Mc 5:17; 6:12–16; 7:32.
e. [7:22–23] 2 Mc 7:11, 28; Jb 1:10–12; Ps 139:13–16; Eccl 11:5.
f. [7:32] 2 Mc 5:17; 6:12–16; 7:16–19.
Resistance from Judas Maccabeus. 1a Judas Maccabeus and his companions entered the villages secretly, summoned their kindred, and enlisted others who had remained faithful to Judaism. Thus they assembled about six thousand men. 2They implored the Lord to look kindly upon this people, who were being oppressed by all; to have pity on the sanctuary, which was profaned by renegades; 3to have mercy on the city, which was being destroyed and was about to be leveled to the ground; to listen to the blood that cried out to him; 4to remember the criminal slaughter of innocent children and the blasphemies uttered against his name; and to manifest his hatred of evil.
5b Once Maccabeus got his men organized, the Gentiles could not withstand him, for the Lord’s wrath had now changed to mercy. 6Coming by surprise upon towns and villages, he set them on fire. He captured strategic positions, and put to flight not a few of the enemy. 7He preferred the nights as being especially favorable for such attacks. Soon talk of his valor spread everywhere.
First Victory over Nicanor.* 8When Philip saw that Judas was gaining ground little by little and that his successful advances were becoming more frequent, he wrote to Ptolemy, governor of Coelesyria and Phoenicia, to come to the aid of the king’s interests.c 9d Ptolemy promptly selected Nicanor, son of Patroclus, one of the Chief Friends, and sent him at the head of at least twenty thousand armed men of various nations to wipe out the entire Jewish nation. With him he associated Gorgias, a general, experienced in the art of war.e 10Nicanor planned to raise the two thousand talents of tribute owed by the king to the Romans* by selling captured Jews into slavery. 11So he immediately sent word to the coastal cities, inviting them to buy Jewish slaves and promising to deliver ninety slaves for a talent*—little anticipating the punishment that was to fall upon him from the Almighty.
12When Judas learned of Nicanor’s advance and informed his companions about the approach of the army, 13those who were fearful and those who lacked faith in God’s justice deserted and got away. 14But the others sold everything they had left, and at the same time entreated the Lord to deliver those whom the ungodly Nicanor had sold before even capturing them. 15They entreated the Lord to do this, if not for their sake, at least for the sake of the covenants made with their ancestors, and because they themselves invoked his holy and glorious name. 16Maccabeus assembled his forces, six thousand strong, and exhorted them not to be panic-stricken before the enemy, nor to fear the very large number of Gentiles unjustly attacking them, but to fight nobly. 17They were to keep before their eyes the lawless outrage perpetrated by the Gentiles against the holy place and the affliction of the humiliated city, as well as the subversion of their ancestral way of life. 18He said, “They trust in weapons and acts of daring, but we trust in almighty God, who can by a mere nod destroy not only those who attack us but even the whole world.” 19He went on to tell them of the times when help had been given their ancestors: both the time of Sennacherib, when a hundred and eighty-five thousand of his men perished,f 20and the time of the battle in Babylonia against the Galatians,* when only eight thousand Jews fought along with four thousand Macedonians; yet when the Macedonians were hard pressed, the eight thousand, by the help they received from Heaven, destroyed one hundred and twenty thousand and took a great quantity of spoils. 21g With these words he encouraged them and made them ready to die for their laws and their country.
Then Judas divided his army into four, 22placing his brothers, Simon, Joseph,* and Jonathan, each over a division, assigning them fifteen hundred men apiece.h 23There was also Eleazar.* After reading to them from the holy book and giving them the watchword, “The help of God,” Judas himself took charge of the first division and joined in battle with Nicanor.i 24With the Almighty as their ally, they killed more than nine thousand of the enemy, wounded and disabled the greater part of Nicanor’s army, and put all of them to flight. 25They also seized the money of those who had come to buy them as slaves. When they had pursued the enemy for some time, they were obliged to return by reason of the late hour. 26It was the day before the sabbath, and for that reason they could not continue the pursuit. 27They collected the enemy’s weapons and stripped them of their spoils, and then observed the sabbath with fervent praise and thanks to the Lord who kept them safe for that day on which he allotted them the beginning of his mercy. 28After the sabbath, they gave a share of the spoils to those who were tortured and to widows and orphans; the rest they divided among themselves and their children.j 29When this was done, they made supplication in common, imploring the merciful Lord to be completely reconciled with his servants.
Other Victories. 30They also challenged the forces of Timothy and Bacchides, killed more than twenty thousand of them, and captured some very high fortresses. They divided the considerable plunder, allotting half to themselves and the rest to victims of torture, orphans, widows, and the aged. 31They collected the enemies’ weapons and carefully stored them in strategic places; the rest of the spoils they carried to Jerusalem. 32They also killed the commander of Timothy’s forces, a most wicked man, who had done great harm to the Jews. 33While celebrating the victory in their ancestral city, they burned both those who had set fire to the sacred gates and Callisthenes, who had taken refuge in a little house; so he received the reward his wicked deeds deserved.
34k The thrice-accursed Nicanor, who had brought the thousand slave dealers to buy the Jews, 35after being humbled through the Lord’s help by those whom he had thought of no account, laid aside his fine clothes and fled alone across country like a runaway slave, until he reached Antioch. He was eminently successful in destroying his own army. 36So he who had promised to provide tribute for the Romans by the capture of the people of Jerusalem proclaimed that the Jews had a champion, and that because they followed the laws laid down by him, they were unharmed.
* [8:8–29, 34–35] This account of the campaign of Nicanor and Gorgias against Judas is paralleled, with certain differences, in 1 Mc 3:38–4:24.
* [8:10] Tribute owed by the king to the Romans: the payment imposed on Antiochus III in 188 B.C. by the treaty of Apamea.
* [8:11] Ninety slaves for a talent: a low price for so many slaves, thus expressing the opponents’ contempt for the Jews.
* [8:20] Galatians: a mercenary force, defeated by Jews and Macedonians in Babylon. Nothing else is known about this battle.
* [8:22] Joseph: called John in 1 Mc 2:2; 9:36, 38. This paragraph interrupts the story of Nicanor’s defeat, which is resumed in v. 34. The purpose of the author apparently is to group together the defeats suffered by the Syrians on various occasions. Battles against Timothy are recounted in 1 Mc 5:37–44 and 2 Mc 12:10–25; against Bacchides, in 1 Mc 7:8–20.
* [8:23] Eleazar: this parenthetical reference notes the existence of a fifth brother; cf. 1 Mc 2:5.
a. [8:1–7] 2 Mc 5:27; 1 Mc 3:10–26.
b. [8:5–7] 1 Mc 3:3–9.
c. [8:8] 2 Mc 4:45; 1 Mc 3:38.
d. [8:9–23] 1 Mc 3:38–59.
e. [8:9] 1 Mc 7:26.
f. [8:19] 2 Mc 15:22; 2 Kgs 19:35–36; 1 Mc 7:41–42; Is 37:36–37.
g. [8:21–29] 1 Mc 4:1–25.
h. [8:22] 1 Mc 2:2–5; 5:18, 55–62.
i. [8:23] 1 Mc 3:48.
j. [8:28] Nm 31:25–47; Dt 26:12–13; 1 Sm 30:21–25.
k. [8:34–35] 2 Mc 8:23–24; 1 Mc 7:26.
Punishment and Death of Antiochus IV.* 1a About that time Antiochus retreated in disgrace from the region of Persia. 2He had entered the city called Persepolis and attempted to rob the temples and gain control of the city. Thereupon the people had swift recourse to arms, and Antiochus’ forces were routed, so that in the end Antiochus was put to flight by the people of that region and forced to beat a shameful retreat. 3On his arrival in Ecbatana, he learned what had happened to Nicanor and to Timothy’s forces. 4Overcome with anger, he planned to make the Jews suffer for the injury done by those who had put him to flight. Therefore he ordered his charioteer to drive without stopping until he finished the journey. Yet the condemnation of Heaven rode with him, because he said in his arrogance, “I will make Jerusalem the common graveyard of Jews as soon as I arrive there.”
5So the all-seeing Lord, the God of Israel, struck him down with an incurable and invisible blow; for scarcely had he uttered those words when he was seized with excruciating pains in his bowels and sharp internal torment,b 6a fit punishment for him who had tortured the bowels of others with many barbarous torments. 7Far from giving up his insolence, he was all the more filled with arrogance. Breathing fire in his rage against the Jews, he gave orders to drive even faster. As a result he hurtled from the speeding chariot, and every part of his body was racked by the violent fall. 8Thus he who previously, in his superhuman presumption, thought he could command the waves of the sea, and imagined he could weigh the mountaintops in his scales, was now thrown to the ground and had to be carried on a litter, clearly manifesting to all the power of God.c 9The body of this impious man swarmed with worms, and while he was still alive in hideous torments, his flesh rotted off, so that the entire army was sickened by the stench of his corruption.d 10Shortly before, he had thought that he could reach the stars of heaven, and now, no one could endure to transport the man because of this intolerable stench.
11At last, broken in spirit, he began to give up his excessive arrogance, and to gain some understanding, under the scourge of God, for he was racked with pain unceasingly. 12When he could no longer bear his own stench, he said, “It is right to be subject to God, and not to think one’s mortal self equal to God.”e 13Then this vile man vowed to him who would never again show him mercy, the Sovereign Lord, 14that the holy city, toward which he had been hurrying with the intention of leveling it to the ground and making it a common graveyard, he would now set free; 15that the Jews, whom he had judged not even worthy of burial, but fit only to be thrown out with their children to be eaten by vultures and wild animals—all of them he would make equal to the Athenians; 16that he would adorn with the finest offerings the holy temple which he had previously despoiled, restore all the sacred vessels many times over, and provide from his own revenues the expenses required for the sacrifices. 17Besides all this, he would become a Jew himself and visit every inhabited place to proclaim there the power of God. 18But since his sufferings were not lessened, for God’s just judgment had come upon him, he lost hope for himself and wrote the following letter to the Jews in the form of a supplication. It read thus:
19* “To the worthy Jewish citizens, Antiochus, king and general, sends hearty greetings and best wishes for their health and prosperity. 20If you and your children are well and your affairs are going as you wish, I thank God very much, for my hopes are in heaven. 21Now that I am ill, I recall with affection your esteem and goodwill. On returning from the regions of Persia, I fell victim to a troublesome illness; so I thought it necessary to form plans for the general security of all. 22I do not despair about my health, since I have much hope of recovering from my illness. 23Nevertheless, I know that my father, whenever he went on campaigns in the hinterland, would name his successor, 24so that, if anything unexpected happened or any unwelcome news came, the people throughout the realm would know to whom the government had been entrusted, and so not be disturbed. 25I am also bearing in mind that the neighboring rulers, especially those on the borders of our kingdom, are on the watch for opportunities and waiting to see what will happen. I have therefore appointed as king my son Antiochus, whom I have often before entrusted and commended to most of you, when I made hurried visits to the outlying provinces. I have written to him what is written here. 26Therefore I beg and entreat each of you to remember the general and individual benefits you have received, and to continue to show goodwill toward me and my son. 27I am confident that, following my policy, he will treat you with equity and kindness in his relations with you.”
28So this murderer and blasphemer, after extreme sufferings, such as he had inflicted on others, died a miserable death in the mountains of a foreign land. 29His foster brother* Philip brought the body home; but fearing Antiochus’ son, he later withdrew into Egypt, to Ptolemy Philometor.f
* [9:1–29] In order to keep together the various accounts of God’s punishment of the persecutors of his people, the author places here the stories of Antiochus’ illness and death (in actuality the king died about the same time as the purification of the Temple, i.e., 164 B.C.; cf. 1 Mc 4:36–59; 6:1–16; 2 Mc 10:1–8); of Judas’ campaigns in Idumea and Transjordan; cf. 1 Mc 5:1–51; 2 Mc 10:14–38; and of the first expedition of Lysias (1 Mc 4:26–35; 2 Mc 11:1–15).
* [9:19–27] Despite the statement in v. 18 this letter is not really a supplication. It is rather a notification to all the king’s subjects of the appointment of his son as his successor and a request that they be loyal to the new king. Apparently the same letter, which has every appearance of being authentic, was sent to the various peoples throughout the kingdom, with only a few words of address changed for each group.
* [9:29] Foster brother: an honorary title conferred by the king on prominent courtiers, whether or not they had been raised with him. Philip tried to seize control of Antioch from the young Antiochus V (1 Mc 6:55–56, 63) and fled to Egypt when he failed.
a. [9:1–29] 2 Mc 1:12–17; 1 Mc 6:1–13; Dn 11:40–45.
b. [9:5] Acts 12:20–23.
c. [9:8] Jb 38:8–11; Ps 65:6–7; Is 40:12.
d. [9:9] Jdt 16:17; Sir 7:17; Is 14:11; 66:24; Acts 12:23.
e. [9:12] Dn 4:31–34.
f. [9:29] 1 Mc 6:55–56, 63.
Purification of the Temple. 1a When Maccabeus and his companions, under the Lord’s leadership, had recovered the temple and the city, 2they destroyed the altars erected by the foreigners in the marketplace and the sacred shrines. 3After purifying the temple, they made another altar. Then, with fire struck from flint, they offered sacrifice for the first time in two years,* burned incense, and lighted lamps. They also set out the showbread. 4When they had done this, they prostrated themselves and begged the Lord that they might never again fall into such misfortunes, and that if they should sin at any time, he might chastise them with moderation and not hand them over to blasphemous and barbarous Gentiles. 5On the anniversary of the day on which the temple had been profaned by the foreigners, that is, the twenty-fifth of the same month Kislev, the purification of the temple took place. 6The Jews celebrated joyfully for eight days as on the feast of Booths, remembering how, a little while before, they had spent the feast of Booths living like wild animals in the mountains and in caves. 7Carrying rods entwined with leaves,* beautiful branches and palms, they sang hymns of grateful praise to him who had successfully brought about the purification of his own place. 8By public decree and vote they prescribed that the whole Jewish nation should celebrate these days every year. 9Such was the end of Antiochus surnamed Epiphanes.
Accession of Antiochus V. 10Now we shall relate what happened under Antiochus Eupator, the son of that godless man, and shall give a summary of the chief evils caused by the wars. 11When Eupator succeeded to the kingdom, he put a certain Lysias in charge of the government as commander-in-chief of Coelesyria and Phoenicia. 12Ptolemy, called Macron,* had taken the lead in treating the Jews fairly because of the previous injustice that had been done them, and he endeavored to have peaceful relations with them. 13As a result, he was accused before Eupator by the King’s Friends. In fact, on all sides he heard himself called a traitor for having abandoned Cyprus, which Philometor had entrusted to him, and for having gone over to Antiochus Epiphanes. Since he could not command the respect due to his high office, he ended his life by taking poison.
Victory over the Idumeans.* 14b When Gorgias became governor of the region, he employed foreign troops and used every opportunity to attack the Jews. 15At the same time the Idumeans, who held some strategic strongholds, were harassing the Jews; they welcomed fugitives from Jerusalem and endeavored to continue the war. 16Maccabeus and his companions, after public prayers asking God to be their ally, moved quickly against the strongholds of the Idumeans. 17Attacking vigorously, they gained control of the places, drove back all who were fighting on the walls, and cut down those who opposed them, killing no fewer than twenty thousand. 18When at least nine thousand took refuge in two very strong towers, well equipped to sustain a siege, 19Maccabeus left Simon and Joseph, along with Zacchaeus and his forces, in sufficient numbers to besiege them, while he himself went off to places where he was more urgently needed. 20But some of those in Simon’s force who were lovers of money let themselves be bribed by some of those in the towers; on receiving seventy thousand drachmas, they allowed a number of them to escape. 21When Maccabeus was told what had happened, he assembled the rulers of the people and accused those men of having sold their kindred for money by setting their enemies free to fight against them. 22So he put them to death as traitors, and without delay captured the two towers. 23As he was successful at arms in all his undertakings, he destroyed more than twenty thousand in the two strongholds.
Victory over Timothy. 24Timothy, who had previously been defeated by the Jews,* gathered a tremendous force of foreign troops and collected a large number of cavalry from Asia; then he appeared in Judea, ready to conquer it by force. 25At his approach, Maccabeus and his companions made supplication to God, sprinkling earth upon their heads and girding their loins in sackcloth. 26Lying prostrate at the foot of the altar, they begged him to be gracious to them, and to be an enemy to their enemies, and a foe to their foes, as the law declares.c 27After the prayer, they took up their weapons and advanced a considerable distance from the city, halting when they were close to the enemy. 28As soon as dawn broke,* the armies joined battle, the one having as pledge of success and victory not only their valor but also their reliance on the Lord, and the other taking fury as their leader in the fight.
29d In the midst of the fierce battle, there appeared to the enemy five majestic men from the heavens riding on golden-bridled horses, leading the Jews. 30They surrounded Maccabeus, and shielding him with their own armor, kept him from being wounded. They shot arrows and hurled thunderbolts at the enemy, who were bewildered and blinded, routed in utter confusion. 31Twenty thousand five hundred of their foot soldiers and six hundred cavalry were slain.
32Timothy, however, fled to a well-fortified stronghold called Gazara, where Chaereas was in command.e 33For four days Maccabeus and his forces eagerly besieged the fortress. 34Those inside, relying on the strength of the place, kept repeating outrageous blasphemies and uttering abominable words. 35When the fifth day dawned, twenty young men in the army of Maccabeus, angered over such blasphemies, bravely stormed the wall and with savage fury cut down everyone they encountered. 36Similarly, others climbed up and swung around on the defenders; they put the towers to the torch, spread the fire and burned the blasphemers alive. Still others broke down the gates and let in the rest of the troops, who took possession of the city. 37Timothy had hidden in a cistern, but they killed* him, along with his brother Chaereas, and Apollophanes. 38On completing these exploits, they blessed, with hymns of grateful praise, the Lord who shows great kindness to Israel and grants them victory.
* [10:3] Two years: three years according to 1 Mc 1:54 and 4:52.
* [10:7] Rods entwined with leaves: the wreathed wands (thyrsoi) carried in processions honoring Dionysus (6:7) were apparently not regarded as distinctively pagan.
* [10:12] Ptolemy, called Macron: son of Dorymenes (4:45); he supported Antiochus IV in 168 B.C. during his invasion of Cyprus.
* [10:14–23] Probably the same campaign of Judas against the Idumeans that is mentioned in 1 Mc 5:1–3.
* [10:24] Timothy, who had previously been defeated by the Jews: as recounted in 8:30–33.
* [10:28] As soon as dawn broke: the same battle at dawn as in 1 Mc 5:30–34.
* [10:37] Timothy…they killed: apparently Timothy is still alive in 12:2, 18–25. Perhaps there was more than one Timothy. Or the present passage is not in chronological order. Gazara, v. 32 (Gezer), was not captured by the Jews until much later (cf. 1 Mc 9:50–52; 13:53). See 1 Mc 5:8 for the capture of Jazer.
a. [10:1–8] 1 Mc 4:36–61.
b. [10:14] 1 Mc 5:3–5.
c. [10:26] Ex 23:22.
d. [10:29–30] 2 Mc 3:24–26; 5:2–3; 11:8.
e. [10:32] 1 Mc 13:43–48.
Defeat of Lysias.* 1a Very soon afterward, Lysias, guardian and kinsman of the king and head of the government, being greatly displeased at what had happened, 2mustered about eighty thousand infantry and all his cavalry and marched against the Jews. His plan was to make their city a Greek settlement; 3to levy tribute on the temple, as he did on the shrines of the other nations; and to put the high priesthood up for sale every year.b 4He did not take God’s power into account at all, but felt exultant confidence in his myriads of foot soldiers, his thousands of cavalry, and his eighty elephants.c 5So he invaded Judea, and when he reached Beth-zur, a fortified place about five stadia* from Jerusalem, launched a strong attack against it.
6When Maccabeus and his companions learned that Lysias was besieging the strongholds, they and all the people begged the Lord with lamentations and tears to send a good angel to save Israel.d 7Maccabeus himself was the first to take up arms, and he exhorted the others to join him in risking their lives to help their kindred. Then they resolutely set out together. 8Suddenly, while they were still near Jerusalem, a horseman appeared at their head, clothed in white garments and brandishing gold weapons.e 9Then all of them together thanked the merciful God, and their hearts were filled with such courage that they were ready to assault not only human beings but even the most savage beasts, or even walls of iron. 10Now that the Lord had shown mercy toward them, they advanced in battle order with the aid of their heavenly ally. 11Hurling themselves upon the enemy like lions, they laid low eleven thousand foot soldiers and sixteen hundred cavalry, and put all the rest to flight. 12Most of those who survived were wounded and disarmed, while Lysias himself escaped only by shameful flight.
Peace Negotiations. 13f But Lysias was not a stupid man. He reflected on the defeat he had suffered, and came to realize that the Hebrews were invincible because the mighty God was their ally. He therefore sent a message 14persuading them to settle everything on just terms, and promising to persuade the king also, and to induce him to become their friend. 15Maccabeus, solicitous for the common good, agreed to all that Lysias proposed; and the king granted on behalf of the Jews all the written requests of Maccabeus to Lysias.
16These are the terms of the letter which Lysias wrote to the Jews: “Lysias sends greetings to the Jewish people. 17John and Absalom, your envoys, have presented your signed communication and asked about the matters contained in it. 18Whatever had to be referred to the king I called to his attention, and the things that were acceptable he has granted. 19If you maintain your loyalty to the government, I will endeavor to further your interests in the future. 20On the details of these matters I have authorized my representatives, as well as your envoys, to confer with you. 21Farewell.” The one hundred and forty-eighth year,* the twenty-fourth of Dioscorinthius.
22The king’s letter read thus: “King Antiochus sends greetings to his brother Lysias. 23Now that our father has taken his place among the gods, we wish the subjects of our kingdom to be undisturbed in conducting their own affairs. 24We have heard that the Jews do not agree with our father’s change to Greek customs but prefer their own way of life. They are petitioning us to let them retain their own customs. 25Since we desire that this people too should be undisturbed, our decision is that their temple be restored to them and that they live in keeping with the customs of their ancestors. 26Accordingly, please send them messengers to give them our assurances of friendship, so that, when they learn of our decision, they may have nothing to worry about but may contentedly go about their own business.”
27The king’s letter to the people was as follows: “King Antiochus sends greetings to the Jewish senate and to the rest of the Jews. 28If you are well, it is what we desire. We too are in good health. 29Menelaus has told us of your wish to return home and attend to your own affairs. 30Therefore, those who return by the thirtieth of Xanthicus will have our assurance of full permission 31to observe their dietary and other laws, just as before, and none of the Jews shall be molested in any way for faults committed through ignorance. 32I have also sent Menelaus to reassure you. 33Farewell.” In the one hundred and forty-eighth year, the fifteenth of Xanthicus.*
34The Romans also sent them a letter as follows: “Quintus Memmius and Titus Manius, legates of the Romans, send greetings to the Jewish people. 35What Lysias, kinsman of the king, has granted you, we also approve. 36But for the matters that he decided should be submitted to the king, send someone to us immediately with your decisions so that we may present them to your advantage, for we are on our way to Antioch. 37Make haste, then, to send us those who can inform us of your preference. 38Farewell.” In the one hundred and forty-eighth year, the fifteenth of Xanthicus.*
* [11:1–12] The defeat of Lysias at Beth-zur probably occurred before the purification of the Temple; cf. 1 Mc 4:26–35.
* [11:5] Five stadia: one stadium is equal to about six hundred six feet. The actual distance to Beth-zur is about twenty miles.
* [11:21] The one hundred and forty-eighth year: 164 B.C. The reading of the name of the month and its position in the calendar are uncertain. The most likely chronological sequence of the four letters is vv. 16–21; vv. 34–38; vv. 27–33; vv. 22–26.
* [11:33] The date, which is the same as the date of the Romans’ letter (v. 38), cannot be correct. The king’s letter must be connected with the peace treaty of the one hundred forty-ninth year of the Seleucid era, i.e., 163 B.C. Perhaps the mention of the month of Xanthicus in the body of the letter (v. 30) caused the date of the Romans’ letter to be transferred to this one.
* [11:38] The date is March 12, 164 B.C.
a. [11:1–15] 1 Mc 4:26–35.
b. [11:3] 2 Mc 4:7–8, 23–24.
c. [11:4] 1 Mc 3:34.
d. [11:6] Ex 23:20.
e. [11:8] 2 Mc 3:24–26; 5:2–3; 10:29–30.
f. [11:13–33] 1 Mc 6:57–61.
Incidents at Joppa and Jamnia. 1After these agreements were made, Lysias returned to the king, and the Jews went about their farming. 2But some of the local governors, Timothy and Apollonius, son of Gennaeus,* as also Hieronymus and Demophon, to say nothing of Nicanor, the commander of the Cyprians, would not allow them to live in peace and quiet.
3Some people of Joppa also committed this outrage: they invited the Jews who lived among them, together with their wives and children, to embark on boats which they had provided. There was no hint of enmity toward them. 4This was done by public vote of the city. When the Jews, wishing to live on friendly terms and not suspecting anything, accepted the invitation, the people of Joppa took them out to sea and drowned at least two hundred of them.
5As soon as Judas heard of the barbarous deed perpetrated against his compatriots, he summoned his men; 6and after calling upon God, the just judge, he marched against the murderers of his kindred. In a night attack he set the harbor on fire, burned the boats, and put to the sword those who had taken refuge there. 7Because the gates of the town were shut, he withdrew, intending to come back later and wipe out the entire population of Joppa.
8On hearing that the people of Jamnia planned in the same way to wipe out the Jews who lived among them, 9he attacked the Jamnians by night, setting fire to the harbor and the fleet, so that the glow of the flames was visible as far as Jerusalem, thirty miles away.
More Victories by Judas. 10a When the Jews had gone about a mile from there* in the march against Timothy, they were attacked by Arabians numbering at least five thousand foot soldiers and five hundred cavalry. 11After a hard fight, Judas and his companions, with God’s help, were victorious. The defeated nomads begged Judas to give pledges of friendship, and they promised to supply the Jews with livestock and to be of service to them in any other way. 12Realizing that they could indeed be useful in many respects, Judas agreed to make peace with them. After the pledges of friendship had been exchanged, the Arabians withdrew to their tents.
13He also attacked a certain city called Caspin, fortified with earthworks and walls and inhabited by a mixed population of Gentiles. 14Relying on the strength of their walls and their supply of provisions, the besieged treated Judas and his men with contempt, insulting them and even uttering blasphemies and profanity. 15But Judas and his men invoked the aid of the great Sovereign of the world, who, in the days of Joshua, overthrew Jericho without battering rams or siege engines; then they furiously stormed the walls.b 16Capturing the city by the will of God, they inflicted such indescribable slaughter on it that the adjacent pool, which was about a quarter of a mile wide, seemed to be filled with the blood that flowed into it.
17c When they had gone on some ninety miles, they reached Charax, where there were certain Jews known as Toubians.* d 18But they did not find Timothy in that region, for he had already departed from there without having done anything except to leave behind in one place a very strong garrison. 19But Dositheus and Sosipater, two of Maccabeus’ captains, marched out and destroyed the force of more than ten thousand men that Timothy had left in the stronghold. 20Meanwhile, Maccabeus divided his army into cohorts, with a commander over each cohort, and went in pursuit of Timothy, who had a force of a hundred and twenty thousand foot soldiers and twenty-five hundred cavalry. 21When Timothy learned of the approach of Judas, he sent on ahead of him the women and children, as well as the baggage, to a place called Karnion, which was hard to besiege and even hard to reach because of the difficult terrain of that region. 22But when Judas’ first cohort appeared, the enemy was overwhelmed with fear and terror at the manifestation of the all-seeing One. Scattering in every direction, they rushed away in such headlong flight that in many cases they wounded one another, pierced by the points of their own swords. 23Judas pressed the pursuit vigorously, putting the sinners to the sword and destroying as many as thirty thousand men.
24Timothy himself fell into the hands of those under Dositheus and Sosipater; but with great cunning, he begged them to spare his life and let him go, because he had in his power the parents and relatives of many of them, and would show them no consideration. 25When he had fully confirmed his solemn pledge to restore them unharmed, they let him go for the sake of saving their relatives.
26e Judas then marched to Karnion and the shrine of Atargatis,* where he killed twenty-five thousand people. 27After the defeat and destruction of these, he moved his army to Ephron, a fortified city inhabited by Lysias and people of many nationalities. Robust young men took up their posts in defense of the walls, from which they fought valiantly; inside were large supplies of war machines and missiles. 28But the Jews, invoking the Sovereign who powerfully shatters the might of enemies, got possession of the city and slaughtered twenty-five thousand of the people in it.
29Then they set out from there and hastened on to Scythopolis,* seventy-five miles from Jerusalem. 30But when the Jews who lived there testified to the goodwill shown by the Scythopolitans and to their kind treatment even in times of adversity, 31Judas and his men thanked them and exhorted them to be well disposed to their nation in the future also. Finally they arrived in Jerusalem, shortly before the feast of Weeks.
32After this feast, also called Pentecost, they lost no time in marching against Gorgias, governor of Idumea, 33who opposed them with three thousand foot soldiers and four hundred cavalry. 34In the ensuing battle, a few of the Jews were slain. 35A man called Dositheus, a powerful horseman and one of Bacenor’s men,* caught hold of Gorgias, grasped his military cloak and dragged him along by brute strength, intending to capture the vile wretch alive, when a Thracian horseman attacked Dositheus and cut off his arm at the shoulder. Then Gorgias fled to Marisa.
36After Esdris and his men had been fighting for a long time and were weary, Judas called upon the Lord to show himself their ally and leader in the battle. 37Then, raising a battle cry in his ancestral language, and with hymns, he charged Gorgias’ men when they were not expecting it and put them to flight.
Expiation for the Dead. 38Judas rallied his army and went to the city of Adullam. As the seventh day was approaching, they purified themselves according to custom and kept the sabbath there. 39On the following day, since the task had now become urgent, Judas and his companions went to gather up the bodies of the fallen and bury them with their kindred in their ancestral tombs. 40But under the tunic of each of the dead they found amulets sacred to the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. So it was clear to all that this was why these men had fallen.f 41They all therefore praised the ways of the Lord, the just judge who brings to light the things that are hidden. 42* Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out. The noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen.g 43He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection in mind; 44for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. 45But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. 46Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be absolved from their sin.
* [12:2] Apollonius, son of Gennaeus: not the Apollonius who was the son of Menestheus (4:21). Nicanor: probably distinct from the Nicanor of 14:2.
* [12:10] From there: not from Jamnia (vv. 8–9) or Joppa (vv. 3–7), but from a place in Transjordan; vv. 10–26 parallel the account given in 1 Mc 5:9–13, 24–54 of Judas’ campaign in northern Transjordan.
* [12:17] Certain Jews known as Toubians: because they lived “in the land of Tob” (1 Mc 5:13).
* [12:26] Atargatis: a Syrian goddess, represented by the body of a fish, who in Hellenistic times was identified with Astarte and Artemis.
* [12:29] Scythopolis: the Greek name of the city of Beth-shan; cf. 1 Mc 5:52.
* [12:35] One of Bacenor’s men: certain ancient witnesses to the text have “one of the Toubians”; cf. v. 17.
* [12:42–45] This is the earliest statement of the doctrine that prayers (v. 42) and sacrifices (v. 43) for the dead are efficacious. Judas probably intended his purification offering to ward off punishment from the living. The author, however, uses the story to demonstrate belief in the resurrection of the just (7:9, 14, 23, 36), and in the possibility of expiation for the sins of otherwise good people who have died. This belief is similar to, but not quite the same as, the Catholic doctrine of purgatory.
a. [12:10–16] 1 Mc 5:24–36.
b. [12:15] Jos 6:1–21.
c. [12:17–26] 1 Mc 5:37–44.
d. [12:17] 1 Mc 5:13.
e. [12:26–31] 1 Mc 5:45–54.
f. [12:40] Dt 7:25–26.
g. [12:42] Jos 7:1–26.
Death of Menelaus. 1a In the one hundred and forty-ninth year,* Judas and his men learned that Antiochus Eupator was invading Judea with a large force, 2and that with him was Lysias, his guardian, who was in charge of the government. They led* a Greek army of one hundred and ten thousand foot soldiers, fifty-three hundred cavalry, twenty-two elephants, and three hundred chariots armed with scythes.
3Menelaus also joined them, and with great duplicity kept urging Antiochus on, not for the welfare of his country, but in the hope of being established in office. 4But the King of kingsb aroused the anger of Antiochus against the scoundrel. When the king was shown by Lysias that Menelaus was to blame for all the trouble, he ordered him to be taken to Beroea* and executed there in the customary local method. 5There is at that place a tower seventy-five feet high, full of ashes,* with a circular rim sloping down steeply on all sides toward the ashes. 6Anyone guilty of sacrilege or notorious for certain other crimes is brought up there and then hurled down to destruction. 7In such a manner was Menelaus, that transgressor of the law, fated to die, deprived even of burial. 8It was altogether just that he who had committed so many sins against the altar with its pure fire and ashes, in ashes should meet his death.
Battle near Modein. 9The king was advancing, his mind full of savage plans for inflicting on the Jews things worse than those they suffered in his father’s time. 10When Judas learned of this, he urged the people to call upon the Lord day and night, now more than ever, to help them when they were about to be deprived of their law, their country, and their holy temple; 11and not to allow this people, which had just begun to revive, to be subjected again to blasphemous Gentiles. 12When they had all joined in doing this, and had implored the merciful Lord continuously with weeping and fasting and prostrations for three days, Judas encouraged them and told them to stand ready.
13After a private meeting with the elders, he decided that, before the king’s army could invade Judea and take possession of the city, the Jews should march out and settle the matter with God’s help. 14Leaving the outcome to the Creator of the world, and exhorting his followers to fight nobly to death for the laws, the temple, the city, the country, and the government, he encamped near Modein. 15Giving his troops the battle cry “God’s Victory,” he made a night attack on the king’s pavilion with a picked force of the bravest young men and killed about two thousand in the camp. He also stabbed the lead elephant and its rider.c 16Finally they withdrew in triumph,* having filled the camp with terror and confusion. 17Day was just breaking when this was accomplished with the help and protection of the Lord.
Treaty with Antiochus V. 18d The king, having had a taste of the Jews’ boldness, tried to take their positions by a stratagem. 19So he marched against Beth-zur, a strong fortress of the Jews; but he was driven back, checked, and defeated. 20Judas sent supplies to the men inside, 21but Rhodocus, of the Jewish army, betrayed military secrets* to the enemy. He was found out, arrested, and imprisoned. 22The king made a second attempt by negotiating with the people of Beth-zur. After giving them his pledge and receiving theirs, he withdrew 23and attacked Judas’ men. But he was defeated. Next he heard that Philip, who was left in charge of the government in Antioch, had rebelled. Dismayed, he negotiated with the Jews, submitted to their terms, and swore to observe all their rights. Having come to this agreement, he offered a sacrifice, and honored the sanctuary and the place with a generous donation. 24He received Maccabeus, and left Hegemonides as governor of the territory from Ptolemais to the region of the Gerrhenes.* 25When he came to Ptolemais, the people of Ptolemais were angered by the peace treaty; in fact they were so indignant that they wanted to annul its provisions. 26But Lysias took the platform, defended the treaty as well as he could and won them over by persuasion. After calming them and gaining their goodwill, he returned to Antioch. That is the story of the king’s attack and withdrawal.
* [13:1] In the one hundred and forty-ninth year: 163/162 B.C.
* [13:2] They led: the Greek means literally “each (of them) led,” but it is unlikely that the author meant the already immense numbers to be doubled; the numbers are similar to those in 1 Mc 6:30.
* [13:4] Beroea: the Greek name of Aleppo in Syria.
* [13:5] Ashes: probably smoldering ashes; the tower resembles the ancient Persian fire towers.
* [13:16] They withdrew in triumph: according to 1 Mc 6:47 they fled.
* [13:21] Military secrets: probably about the lack of provisions in the besieged city; cf. 1 Mc 6:49.
* [13:24] Gerrhenes: probably the inhabitants of Gerar, southeast of Gaza.
a. [13:1–26] 1 Mc 6:28–54.
b. [13:4] 1 Tm 6:15; Rev 17:14; 19:16.
c. [13:15] 1 Mc 6:43–46.
d. [13:18–23] 1 Mc 6:48–53.
1a Three years later,* Judas and his companions learned that Demetrius, son of Seleucus, had sailed into the port of Tripolis with a powerful army and a fleet, 2and that he had occupied the country, after doing away with Antiochus and his guardian Lysias.
3A certain Alcimus, a former high priest,* who had willfully incurred defilement before the time of the revolt, realized that there was no way for him to be safe and regain access to the holy altar. 4So he went to King Demetrius around the one hundred and fifty-first year and presented him with a gold crown and a palm branch, as well as some of the customary olive branches from the temple. On that day he kept quiet.b 5But he found an opportunity to further his mad scheme when he was invited to the council by Demetrius and questioned about the dispositions and intentions of the Jews. He replied: 6“Those Jews called Hasideans, led by Judas Maccabeus,* are warmongers, who stir up sedition and keep the kingdom from enjoying peace.c 7For this reason, now that I am deprived of my ancestral dignity, that is to say, the high priesthood, I have come here, 8first, out of my genuine concern for the king’s interests, and second, out of consideration for my own compatriots, since our entire nation is suffering no little affliction from the rash conduct of the people just mentioned. 9When you have informed yourself in detail on these matters, O king, provide for our country and its hard-pressed people with the same gracious consideration that you show toward all. 10As long as Judas is around, it is impossible for the government to enjoy peace.” 11When he had said this, the other Friends who were hostile to Judas quickly added fuel to Demetrius’ indignation.
Dealings with Nicanor. 12d The king immediately chose Nicanor, who had been in command of the elephants, and appointed him governor of Judea. He sent him off 13with orders to put Judas to death, to disperse his followers, and to set up Alcimus as high priest of the great temple. 14The Gentiles from Judea, who had fled before Judas, flocked to Nicanor, thinking that the misfortunes and calamities of the Jews would mean prosperity for themselves.
15e When the Jews heard of Nicanor’s coming, and that the Gentiles were rallying to him, they sprinkled themselves with earth and prayed to him who established his people forever, and who always comes to the aid of his heritage by manifesting himself. 16At their leader’s command, they set out at once from there and came upon the enemy at the village of Adasa. 17Judas’ brother Simon had engaged Nicanor, but he suffered a slight setback because of the sudden appearance of the enemy.
18However, when Nicanor heard of the valor of Judas and his companions, and the great courage with which they fought for their country, he shrank from deciding the issue by bloodshed. 19So he sent Posidonius, Theodotus and Mattathias to exchange pledges of friendship. 20After a long discussion of the terms, each leader communicated them to his troops; and when general agreement was expressed, they assented to the treaty. 21A day was set on which the leaders would meet by themselves. From each side a chariot came forward, and thrones were set in place. 22Judas had posted armed men in readiness at strategic points for fear that the enemy might suddenly commit some treachery. But the conference was held in the proper way.
23Nicanor stayed on in Jerusalem, where he did nothing out of place. He disbanded the throngs of people who gathered around him; 24and he always kept Judas in his company, for he felt affection* for the man. 25He urged him to marry and have children; so Judas married and settled into an ordinary life.
Nicanor’s Threat Against Judas. 26When Alcimus saw their mutual goodwill, he took the treaty that had been made, went to Demetrius, and said that Nicanor was plotting against the government, for he had appointed Judas, that conspirator against the kingdom, as his successor. 27Stirred up by the villain’s slander, the king became enraged. He wrote to Nicanor, stating that he was displeased with the treaty, and ordering him to send Maccabeus at once as a prisoner to Antioch. 28When this message reached Nicanor he was dismayed and troubled at the thought of annulling his agreement with a man who had done no wrong. 29However, there was no way of opposing the king, so he watched for an opportunity to carry out this order by a stratagem. 30But Maccabeus, noticing that Nicanor was more harsh in his dealings with him, and acting with unaccustomed rudeness when they met, concluded that this harshness was not a good sign. So he gathered together not a few of his men, and went into hiding from Nicanor.
31f When Nicanor realized that he had been cleverly outwitted by the man, he went to the great and holy temple, at a time when the priests were offering the customary sacrifices, and ordered them to surrender Judas. 32As they declared under oath that they did not know where the man they sought was, 33he stretched out his right arm toward the temple and swore this oath: “If you do not hand Judas over to me as prisoner, I will level this shrine of God to the ground; I will tear down the altar, and erect here a splendid temple to Dionysus.”
34With these words he went away. The priests stretched out their hands toward heaven, calling upon the unfailing defender of our nation in these words: 35“Lord of all, though you are in need of nothing, you were pleased to have a temple for your dwelling place among us. 36Therefore, Holy One, Lord of all holiness, preserve forever undefiled this house, which has been so recently purified.”g
Martyrdom of Razis.* 37A certain Razis, one of the elders of Jerusalem, was denounced to Nicanor as a patriot. A man highly regarded, he was called a father of the Jews because of his goodwill toward them. 38In the days before the revolt, he had been convicted of being a Jew, and had risked body and soul in his ardent zeal for Judaism. 39Nicanor, to show his disdain for the Jews, sent more than five hundred soldiers to arrest him. 40He thought that by arresting that man he would deal the Jews a hard blow.
41But when the troops, on the point of capturing the tower, were forcing the outer gate and calling for fire to set the door ablaze, Razis, now caught on all sides, turned his sword against himself, 42preferring to die nobly* rather than fall into the hands of vile men and suffer outrages unworthy of his noble birth. 43In the excitement of the struggle he failed to strike exactly. So while the troops rushed in through the doors, he gallantly ran up to the top of the wall and courageously threw himself down into the crowd. 44But as they quickly drew back and left an opening, he fell into the middle of the empty space. 45Still breathing, and inflamed with anger, he got up and ran through the crowd, with blood gushing from his frightful wounds. Then, standing on a steep rock, 46as he lost the last of his blood, he tore out his entrails and flung them with both hands into the crowd, calling upon the Lord of life and of spirit to give these back to him again. Such was the manner of his death.h
* [14:1] Three years later: actually, Demetrius (I Soter), son of Seleucus (IV), landed at Tripolis in the year 151 of the Seleucid era (1 Mc 14:4), i.e., 162/161 B.C.; cf. 1 Mc 7:1–7.
* [14:3] Alcimus, a former high priest: he was apparently appointed high priest by Antiochus V after Menelaus was executed, and then deposed for collaborating with the Seleucids.
* [14:6] Hasideans, led by Judas Maccabeus: according to 1 Mc 2:42 and 7:12–17, the Hasideans were a party separate from the Maccabees.
* [14:24] Affection: compare 1 Mc 7:26–32, where there is no hint of this cordial relationship between Nicanor and Judas.
* [14:37–46] The story of Razis belongs to the “martyrology” class of literature; it is similar to the stories in 6:18–7:42.
* [14:42] Die nobly: Razis’s willingness to die nobly rather than to fall into enemy hands had a precedent in Saul (1 Sm 31:4). Razis took his life because he was convinced that God would restore his body in the resurrection of the dead (see 7:11, 22–23; 14:46).
a. [14:1–11] 1 Mc 7:1–7.
b. [14:4] 1 Mc 7:5–7, 25.
c. [14:6] 1 Mc 2:42; 7:12–17.
d. [14:12–13] 2 Mc 8:9; 1 Mc 3:38; 7:26–27.
e. [14:15–19] 1 Mc 7:26–32.
f. [14:31–36] 1 Mc 7:30–38.
g. [14:36] 2 Mc 15:34.
h. [14:46] 2 Mc 7:9–11.
Nicanor’s Arrogance. 1When Nicanor learned that Judas and his companions were in the territory of Samaria, he decided he could attack them in complete safety on the day of rest. 2The Jews who were forced to accompany him pleaded, “Do not massacre them so savagely and barbarously, but show respect for the day which the All-seeing has exalted with holiness above all other days.” 3At this the thrice-accursed wretch asked if there was a ruler in heaven who prescribed the keeping of the sabbath day.a 4They replied, “It is the living Lord, the ruler in heaven, who commands the observance of the sabbath day.” 5Then he said, “I, the ruler on earth, command you to take up arms and carry out the king’s business.” Nevertheless he did not succeed in carrying out his cruel plan.
6In his utter boastfulness and arrogance Nicanor had determined to erect a public victory monument* over Judas and his companions. 7But Maccabeus remained confident, fully convinced that he would receive help from the Lord. 8He urged his men not to fear the attack of the Gentiles, but mindful of the help they had received in the past from Heaven, to expect now the victory that would be given them by the Almighty. 9By encouraging them with words from the law and the prophets,* and by reminding them of the battles they had already won, he filled them with fresh enthusiasm. 10Having stirred up their courage, he gave his orders and pointed out at the same time the perfidy of the Gentiles and their violation of oaths. 11When he had armed each of them, not so much with the security of shield and spear as with the encouragement of noble words, he cheered them all by relating a dream, a kind of waking vision, worthy of belief.
12What he saw was this: Onias, the former high priest,* a noble and good man, modest in bearing, gentle in manner, distinguished in speech, and trained from childhood in all that belongs to excellence, was praying with outstretched arms for the whole Jewish community.b 13Then in the same way another man appeared, distinguished by his white hair and dignity, and with an air of wondrous and majestic authority. 14Onias then said of him, “This is a man* who loves his fellow Jews and fervently prays for the people and the holy city—the prophet of God, Jeremiah.” 15Stretching out his right hand, Jeremiah presented a gold sword to Judas. As he gave it to him he said, 16“Accept this holy sword as a gift from God; with it you shall shatter your adversaries.”
17Encouraged by Judas’ words, so noble and capable of instilling valor and stirring young hearts to courage, they determined not merely to march, but to charge gallantly and decide the issue by hand-to-hand combat with the utmost courage, since city, sanctuary and temple were in danger. 18They were not so much concerned about wives and children, or family and relations; their first and foremost fear was for the consecrated sanctuary.c 19Those who were left in the city suffered no less an agony, anxious as they were about the battle in the open country. 20Everyone now awaited the decisive moment. The enemy were already drawing near with their troops drawn up in battle line, their beasts placed in strategic positions, and their cavalry stationed on the flanks.
Defeat of Nicanor. 21Maccabeus, surveying the hosts before him, the variety of weaponry, and the fierceness of their beasts, stretched out his hands toward heaven and called upon the Lord who works wonders; for he knew that it is not weapons but the Lord’s decision that brings victory to those who deserve it. 22Calling upon God, he spoke in this manner: “You, master, sent your angel in the days of King Hezekiah of Judea, and he slew a hundred and eighty-five thousand men of Sennacherib’s camp.d 23And now, Sovereign of the heavens, send a good angel to spread fear and trembling ahead of us. 24By the might of your arm may those be struck down who have blasphemously come against your holy people!” With these words he ended his prayer.
25e Nicanor and his troops advanced to the sound of trumpets and battle songs. 26But Judas and his troops met the enemy with supplication and prayers. 27Fighting with their hands and praying to God with their hearts, they laid low at least thirty-five thousand, and rejoiced greatly over this manifestation of God’s power. 28When the battle was over and they were joyfully departing, they discovered Nicanor fallen there in all his armor; 29so they raised tumultuous shouts in their ancestral language in praise of the divine Sovereign.
30Then Judas, that man who was ever in body and soul the chief defender of his fellow citizens, and had maintained from youth his affection for his compatriots, ordered Nicanor’s head and right arm up to the shoulder to be cut off and taken to Jerusalem. 31When he arrived there, he assembled his compatriots, stationed the priests before the altar, and sent for those in the citadel.* 32He showed them the vile Nicanor’s head and the wretched blasphemer’s arm that had been boastfully stretched out against the holy dwelling of the Almighty. 33He cut out the tongue of the godless Nicanor, saying he would feed it piecemeal to the birds and would hang up the other wages of his folly opposite the temple. 34At this, everyone looked toward heaven and praised the Lord who manifests himself: “Blessed be the one who has preserved undefiled his own place!” 35Judas hung Nicanor’s head and arm on the wall of the citadel, a clear and evident sign to all of the Lord’s help.f 36By public vote it was unanimously decreed never to let this day pass unobserved, but to celebrate the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, called Adar in Aramaic, the eve of Mordecai’s Day.* g
Compiler’s Apology. 37Since Nicanor’s doings ended in this way, with the city remaining in the possession of the Hebrews from that time on, I will bring my story to an end here too. 38h If it is well written and to the point, that is what I wanted; if it is poorly done and mediocre, that is the best I could do. 39Just as it is unpleasant to drink wine by itself or just water, whereas wine mixed with water makes a delightful and pleasing drink, so a skillfully composed story delights the ears of those who read the work. Let this, then, be the end.
* [15:6] Public victory monument: a heap of stones covered with the arms and armor of the fallen enemy.
* [15:9] The law and the prophets: the first of the three parts of the Hebrew Scriptures, called the sacred books (1 Mc 12:9; 2 Mc 2:14).
* [15:12] Onias, the former high priest: Onias III (3:1–40). Evidently the author believed that departed just persons were in some way alive even before their resurrection.
* [15:14] A man: regarded by the postexilic Jews as one of the greatest figures in their history; cf. 2:1; Mt 16:14. Who…prays for the people: Jeremiah’s prayer in heaven has been taken in the Roman Catholic tradition as a biblical witness to the intercession of the saints.
* [15:31] Those in the citadel: presumably Jewish soldiers; actually, the citadel was still in the possession of the Syrians (1 Mc 13:50).
* [15:36] Mordecai’s Day: the feast of Purim, celebrated on the fourteenth and fifteenth days of Adar (Est 3:7; 9:20–23; F:10).
a. [15:3] 1 Mc 7:34.
b. [15:12] 2 Mc 3:1–40.
c. [15:18] 1 Mc 4:36.
d. [15:22–23] 2 Mc 8:19; 2 Kgs 19:35–36; 1 Mc 7:41–42; Is 37:36–37.
e. [15:25–36] 1 Mc 7:43.
f. [15:35] 1 Sm 31:9–10.
g. [15:36] 1 Mc 7:49.
h. [15:38–39] 2 Mc 2:19–32.