11This history begins when Alexander the Great, son of Philip of Macedonia, marched from Macedonia and attacked Darius, king of Persia and Media. Alexander enlarged the Greek Empire by defeating Darius and seizing his throne. 2He fought many battles, captured fortified cities, and put the kings of the region to death. 3As he advanced to the ends of the earth, he plundered many nations; and when he had conquered the world, he became proud and arrogant. 4By building up a strong army, he dominated whole nations and their rulers, and forced everyone to pay him taxes.
5-7When Alexander had been emperor for twelve years, he fell ill and realized that he was about to die. He called together his generals, noblemen who had been brought up with him since his early childhood, and divided his empire, giving a part to each of them. 8After his death, the generals took control, 9and each had himself crowned king of his own territory. The descendants of these kings ruled for many generations and brought a great deal of misery on the world.
The wicked ruler Antiochus Epiphanes, son of King Antiochus the Third of Syria, was a descendant of one of Alexander's generals. Antiochus Epiphanes had been a hostage in Rome before he became king of Syria in the year 137.1.10 the year 137: The dates in this book are counted from the beginning of the Syrian Kingdom in 312 bc. The year 137 corresponds to 175 bc.
11At that time there appeared in the land of Israel a group of traitorous Jews who had no regard for the Law and who had a bad influence on many of our people. They said, “Let's come to terms with the Gentiles, for our refusal to associate with them has brought us nothing but trouble.” 12This proposal appealed to many people, 13and some of them became so enthusiastic about it that they went to the king and received from him permission to follow Gentile customs. 14They built in Jerusalem a stadium like those in the Greek cities. 15
They had an operation performed to hide their circumcision, abandoned the holy covenant, started associating with1.15 started associating with; or married. Gentiles, and did all sorts of other evil things.
16When Antiochus had firmly established himself as king, he decided to conquer Egypt and rule that country as well as Syria. 17He invaded Egypt with a large fleet of ships and a powerful army, including chariots, elephants, and cavalry. 18When the attack came, King Ptolemy of Egypt turned and fled, and many of his soldiers were killed. 19Antiochus was able to capture the fortified cities of Egypt and plunder the whole land.
20In the year 143,1.20 the year 143: This corresponds to 169 bc. after the conquest of Egypt, Antiochus marched with a great army against the land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem. 21In his arrogance, he entered the Temple and took away the gold altar, the lampstand with all its equipment, 22the table for the bread offered to the Lord, the cups and bowls, the gold firepans, the curtain, and the crowns. He also stripped all the gold from the front of the Temple 23and carried off the silver and gold and everything else of value, including all the treasures that he could find stored there. 24Then he took it all to his own country. He also murdered many people and boasted arrogantly about it. 25There was great mourning everywhere in the land of Israel.
26Rulers and leaders groaned in sorrow.
Young men and young women grew weak.
The beauty of our women faded.
27Every bridegroom sang a funeral song,
and every bride sat mourning in her room.
28All our people were clothed with shame,
and our land trembled for them.
29Two years later Antiochus sent a large army from Mysia1.29 Probable text a large army from Mysia; Greek a tax collector with a large army. against the towns of Judea. When the soldiers entered Jerusalem, 30their commander spoke to the people, offering them terms of peace, and completely deceiving them. Then he suddenly launched a fierce attack on the city, dealing it a major blow and killing many of the people. 31He plundered the city, set it on fire, and tore down its buildings and walls. 32He and his army took the women and children as prisoners and seized the cattle.
33Then Antiochus and his forces built high walls and strong towers in the area north of the Temple, turning it into a fort. 34They brought in a group of traitorous Jews and installed them there. 35They also brought in arms and supplies and stored in the fort all the loot that they had taken in Jerusalem. This fort became a great threat to the city.
36The fort was a threat to the Temple,
a constant, evil menace for Israel.
37Innocent people were murdered round the altar;
the Holy Place was defiled by murderers.
38The people of Jerusalem fled in fear,
and the city became a colony of foreigners.
Jerusalem was foreign to its own people,
who had been forced to abandon the city.
39Her Temple was as empty as a wilderness;
her festivals were turned into days of mourning,
her Sabbath joy into shame.
Her honour became an object of ridicule.
40Her shame was as great as her former glory,
and her pride was turned into deepest mourning.
41-43Antiochus now issued a decree that all nations in his empire should abandon their own customs and become one people. All the Gentiles and even many of the Israelites submitted to this decree. They adopted the official pagan religion, offered sacrifices to idols, and no longer observed the Sabbath.
44The king also sent messengers with a decree to Jerusalem and all the towns of Judea, ordering the people to follow customs that were foreign to the country. 45He ordered them not to offer burnt offerings, grain offerings, or wine offerings in the Temple, and commanded them to treat Sabbaths and festivals as ordinary work days. 46They were even ordered to defile the Temple and the holy things in it.1.46 the holy things in it; or the priests. 47They were commanded to build pagan altars, temples, and shrines, and to sacrifice pigs and other unclean animals there. 48They were forbidden to circumcise their sons and were required to make themselves ritually unclean in every way they could, 49so that they would forget the Law which the Lord had given through Moses and would disobey all its commands. 50The penalty for disobeying the king's decree was death.
51The king not only issued the same decree throughout his whole empire, but he also appointed officials to supervise the people and commanded each town in Judea to offer pagan sacrifices. 52Many of the Jews were ready to forsake the Law and to obey these officials. They defiled the land with their evil, 53and their conduct forced all true Israelites to hide wherever they could.
On the fifteenth day of the month of Kislev in the year 145,1.54 the year 145: This corresponds to 167 bc. King Antiochus set up “The Awful Horror” on the altar of the Temple, and pagan altars were built in the towns throughout Judea. 55Pagan sacrifices were offered in front of houses and in the streets. 56Any books of the Law which were found were torn up and burnt, 57and anyone who was caught with a copy of the sacred books or who obeyed the Law was put to death by order of the king. 58Month after month these wicked people used their power against the Israelites caught in the towns.
59On the 25th of the month, these same evil people offered sacrifices on the pagan altar erected on top of the altar in the Temple. 60
Mothers who had allowed their babies to be circumcised were put to death in accordance with the king's decree. 61Their babies were hung round their necks, and their families and those who had circumcised them were put to death. 62But many people in Israel firmly resisted the king's decree and refused to eat food that was ritually unclean. 63They preferred to die rather than break the holy covenant and eat unclean food — and many did die. 64In his anger God made Israel suffer terribly.
21During that time, a priest of the Jehoiarib family named Mattathias, who was the son of John and the grandson of Simeon, moved from Jerusalem and settled in Modein. 2Mattathias had five sons: John (also called Gaddi), 3Simon (also called Thassi), 4Judas (also called Maccabaeus), 5Eleazar (also called Avaran), and Jonathan (also called Apphus).
6When Mattathias saw all the sins that were being committed in Judea and Jerusalem, 7he said:
“Why was I born to see these terrible things,
the ruin of my people and of the holy city?
Must I sit here helpless
while the city is surrendered to enemies
and the Temple falls into the hands of foreigners?
8The Temple is like someone without honour.
9Its splendid furnishings
have been carried away as loot.
Our children have been killed in the streets,
and our young men by the sword of the enemy.
10Every nation in the world has occupied the city
and robbed her of her possessions.
11All her ornaments have been stripped away;
she is now a slave, no longer free.
12Look at our Temple, profaned by the Gentiles,
emptied of all its splendour.
13Why should we go on living?”
14In their grief, Mattathias and his sons tore their clothes, put on sackcloth, and continued in deep mourning.
15Then the king's officials, who were forcing the people to turn from God, came to the town of Modein to force the people there to offer pagan sacrifices. 16Many of the Israelites came to meet them, including Mattathias and his sons. 17The king's officials said to Mattathias, “You are a respected leader in this town, and you have the support of your sons and relatives. 18Why not be the first one here to do what the king has commanded? All the Gentiles, the people of Judea, and all the people left in Jerusalem have already done so. If you do, you and your sons will be honoured with the title of ‘Friends of the King,’ and you will be rewarded with silver and gold and many gifts.”
19Mattathias answered in a loud voice, “I don't care if every Gentile in this empire has obeyed the king and yielded to the command to abandon the religion of his ancestors. 20My children, my relatives, and I will continue to keep the covenant that God made with our ancestors. 21With God's help we will never abandon his Law or disobey his commands. 22We will not obey the king's decree, and we will not change our way of worship in the least.”
23Just as he finished speaking, one of the men from Modein decided to obey the king's decree and stepped out in front of everyone to offer a pagan sacrifice on the altar that stood there. 24When Mattathias saw him, he became angry enough to do what had to be done. Shaking with rage, he ran forward and killed the man right there on the altar. 25He also killed the royal official who was forcing the people to sacrifice, and then he tore down the altar. 26
In this way Mattathias showed his deep devotion for the Law, just as Phinehas had done when he killed Zimri son of Salu.
27Then Mattathias went through the town shouting, “Everyone who is faithful to God's covenant and obeys his Law, follow me!” 28With this, he and his sons fled to the mountains, leaving behind all they owned.
29-30At that time also many of the Israelites who were seeking to be right with God through obedience to the Law went out to live in the wilderness, taking their children, their wives, and their livestock with them, because of the terrible oppression they were suffering. 31The report soon reached the king's officials and the soldiers in the fort at Jerusalem that some men who had defied the king's command had gone into hiding in the wilderness. 32
A large force of soldiers pursued them, caught up with them, set up camp opposite them, and prepared to attack them on the Sabbath. 33“There is still time,” they shouted out to the Jews. “Come out and obey the king's command, and we will spare your lives.”
34“We will not come out,” they answered. “We will not obey the king's command, and we will not profane the Sabbath.”
35The soldiers attacked them immediately, 36but the Jews did nothing to resist; they did not even throw stones or block the entrances to the caves where they were hiding. 37They said, “We will all die with a clear conscience. Let heaven and earth bear witness that you are slaughtering us unjustly.” 38So the enemy attacked them on the Sabbath and killed the men, their wives, their children, and their livestock. A thousand people died.
39When Mattathias and his friends heard about this, they were greatly saddened 40and said to one another, “If all of us do as these other Jews have done and refuse to fight the Gentiles to defend our lives and our religion, we will soon be wiped off the face of the earth.” 41On that day they decided that if anyone attacked them on the Sabbath, they would defend themselves, so that they would not all die as other Jews had died in the caves.
42Then Mattathias and his friends were joined by a group of devout and patriotic Jews, the strongest and bravest men in Israel, who had all volunteered to defend the Law. 43In addition, everyone who was fleeing from the persecution joined them and strengthened their forces. 44Now that they had an army, they gave vent to their anger by attacking the renegade Jews. Those who escaped were forced to flee to the Gentiles for safety. 45Mattathias and his friends went everywhere tearing down pagan altars 46and circumcising by force every uncircumcised boy they found within the borders of Israel. 47They were also successful in hunting down the arrogant Gentile officials. 48They rescued the Law of Moses from the Gentiles and their kings and broke the power of the wicked King Antiochus.
49When the time came for Mattathias to die, he said to his people, “These are times of violence and distress. Arrogant men are in control and have made us an object of ridicule. 50But you, my sons, must be devoted to the Law and ready to die to defend God's covenant with our ancestors. 51Remember what our ancestors did and how much they accomplished in their day. Follow their example, and you will be rewarded with great glory and undying fame. 52
Remember how Abraham put his trust in the Lord when he was tested and how the Lord was pleased with him and accepted him. 53
Joseph, in his time of trouble, obeyed God's commands and became ruler over the land of Egypt. 54Phinehas, our ancestor, because of his burning devotion, was given the promise that his descendants would always be priests. 55
Joshua was made a judge in Israel because he obeyed the command of Moses. 56Caleb brought back a good report to the community and was given a part of the land as a reward. 57
David was made king and was given the promise that his descendants would always be kings because of his steadfast loyalty to God. 58
Elijah, because of his great devotion to the Law, was taken up into heaven. 59
Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael were saved from the flames because they had faith. 60
Daniel was a man of integrity, and the Lord rescued him from the mouth of the lions. 61Take each of these ancestors of ours as an example, and you will realize that no one who puts his trust in the Lord will ever lack strength. 62Don't be afraid of the threats of a wicked man. Remember that he will die and all his splendour will end with worms feeding on his decaying body. 63Today he may be highly honoured, but tomorrow he will disappear; his body will return to the earth and his scheming will come to an end. 64But you, my sons, be strong and courageous in defending the Law, because it is through the Law that you will earn great glory.
65“Your brother Simon is wise, so always listen to him as you would to me. 66Judas Maccabaeus has been strong all his life; he will be your commander and will lead you in battle against the enemy. 67Call everyone who obeys God's Law to rally round you; then avenge the wrongs done to your people. 68Pay the Gentiles back for what they have done, and always obey the Law and its commands.”
69Then Mattathias gave them his blessing and died. 70He was buried in the family tomb at Modein, and all the people of Israel went into deep mourning for him. This happened in the year 146.2.70 the year 146: This corresponds to 166 bc.
31Judas Maccabaeus took the place of his father Mattathias. 2All his brothers and all the loyal followers of his father gave him their support, and they were happy to carry on Israel's war.
3Judas brought greater glory to his people.
In his armour, he was like a giant.
He took up his weapons and went to war;
with his own sword he defended his camp.
4He was like a ferocious lion roaring as it attacks.
5Judas hunted down those who broke the Law
and set fire to all who oppressed his people.
6In fear of him, lawless men huddled together in terror,
not knowing which way to turn.
He advanced the cause of freedom by what he did.
7He made life miserable for many kings,
but brought joy to the people of Israel.
We will praise him for ever for what he did.
8He went through the towns of Judea
and destroyed all the godless men.
He relieved Israel of its terrible suffering.3.8 relieved Israel of its terrible suffering; or saved Israel from God's anger.
9His fame spread to the ends of the earth,
as he gathered together those who were threatened with death.
10Then Apollonius assembled a Gentile army, including a large force from Samaria, to attack the people of Israel. 11When Judas learnt of this, he marched out to battle, defeated the army, and killed Apollonius. Many Gentiles lost their lives, and the rest fled. 12When the spoils of war were collected, Judas took the sword of Apollonius and used it in battle until the day he died.
13Seron, the general of the Syrian forces, learnt that Judas had gathered together an army, consisting of a band of loyal men who were ready to fight under his command. 14Seron said to himself, “I will make a reputation for myself throughout the empire by defeating Judas and his men, who have no respect for the king's command.” 15Then he began a new campaign against Judas and was joined by a strong force of godless men who were eager to help him take vengeance on Israel. 16When he approached the pass at Beth Horon, Judas went out to meet him with a small group of men. 17When Judas' men saw the army coming against them, they asked, “How can our little group of men fight an army as big as that? Besides, we have not eaten all day, and we are tired!”
18“It is not difficult,” Judas answered, “for a small group to overpower a large one. It makes no difference to the Lord whether we are rescued by many people or by just a few. 19Victory in battle does not depend on who has the largest army; it is the Lord's power that determines the outcome. 20Our enemies are coming against us with great violence, intending to plunder our possessions and kill our wives and children. 21But we are fighting for our lives and for our religion. 22When we attack, the Lord will crush our enemies, so don't be afraid of them.”
23As soon as Judas had finished speaking, he and his men made a sudden attack against Seron and his army and crushed them. 24They pursued them down the pass at Beth Horon to the plain and killed about 800 men. Those who escaped fled to Philistia. 25After that, Gentiles everywhere began to be afraid of Judas and his brothers. 26His fame reached the ears of King Antiochus, and people in every nation talked about Judas and his victories.
27When Antiochus heard what had happened, he was furious. He ordered all the armies of his empire to assemble in one huge force. 28From his treasury he paid a full year's wages to his soldiers and ordered them to be prepared for any emergency. 29But then he found that the funds in his treasury were exhausted. Income from taxes had decreased because of the disorder and the troubles he had brought on the world by doing away with the laws which had been in force from the earliest times. 30Antiochus had always given presents more lavishly than earlier kings, but now he was worried that he might not be able to continue this, or even to meet expenses — this had happened once or twice before. 31He was very disturbed; but finally he decided to go to Persia, collect the taxes from the provinces there, and bring together a large sum of ready cash.
32He appointed Lysias, an important man who had been granted the title “Relative of the King,” as governor to take care of the king's affairs in the whole territory between the River Euphrates and the Egyptian border. 33The king also made Lysias the guardian of his son Antiochus the Fifth until his own return. 34He put Lysias in charge of all the elephants and of half his army, and then gave him detailed instructions about what he wanted done, and in particular, what he wanted done with the inhabitants of Judea and Jerusalem. 35Lysias was ordered to send an army against the Jews, especially the Jews in Jerusalem, to break their power and destroy them, so that no trace of them would remain. 36He was ordered to take their land and give it to foreigners, who would settle the whole area. 37Taking the other half of his army, the king set out from Antioch, his capital city, in the year 147.3.37 the year 147: This corresponds to 165 bc. He crossed the Euphrates and marched through Mesopotamia.
38Lysias chose Nicanor, Gorgias, and Ptolemy son of Dorymenes as army commanders; all three were able men who bore the title “Friend of the King.” 39He put them in charge of 40,000 infantry and 7,000 cavalry and ordered them to invade the land of Judea and destroy it as the king had commanded. 40These commanders set out with their entire force, and when they came to the plains near Emmaus, they made camp. 41A force from Idumea3.41 Probable text Idumea; Greek Syria. and Philistia joined them. The merchants of the region heard about the strength of the army, and they came to the camp with chains and a large amount of money, hoping to buy some Jewish slaves.
42Judas and his brothers saw that their situation was getting more and more difficult, with foreign armies camped within their own borders. They also learnt that the king had commanded the complete destruction of the people. 43So they determined to rebuild their ruined nation and fight for their country and the Temple. 44Then the whole community came together to prepare for war and to pray for God's mercy.
45Jerusalem was as empty as a wilderness;
no citizens left or entered the city.
The holy Temple was profaned by foreigners,
and Gentiles camped in the city's fort;
so joy departed from the people of Israel,
and the sound of music was heard no more.
46Then Judas and his men assembled and marched to Mizpah, opposite Jerusalem, because the people of Israel had previously had a place of worship there. 47In deep mourning, they fasted all that day, put on sackcloth, threw ashes on their heads, and tore their clothes. 48The Gentiles would have consulted their idols in such a situation, but the Israelites unrolled the book of the Law to search for God's guidance. 49They brought the priests' robes, the offerings of the first grain, and the tithes, and then they brought in some Nazirites who had completed their vows. 50The whole community prayed, “Lord, what shall we do with these things? Where shall we take them, 51now that your holy Temple has been trampled and profaned by Gentiles, and your priests mourn in disgrace? 52The Gentiles have come to attack and destroy us. You know what they plan to do! 53If you don't help us, how can we stand up against them?” 54Then they blew trumpets and shouted loudly.
55After that, Judas divided his men into groups of ten, fifty, a hundred, and a thousand, placing officers in charge of each group. 56
Then, in obedience to the Law, he sent home everyone who had recently been married, or built a house, or planted a vineyard, as well as anyone who was afraid. 57Finally, the army marched out and took up positions south of Emmaus, 58where Judas said to them: “Prepare yourselves for battle and be courageous! Be ready early tomorrow morning to fight these Gentiles who have joined forces to attack us and destroy us and our Temple. 59It is better for us to die fighting than to stand idly by and watch the destruction of our nation and our Temple. 60But the Lord will do what he pleases.”