Good News Translation (GNB)

The High Priest Alcimus and the Campaign of Nicanor

(2 Macc 14.1–36; 15.1–36)

71In the year 151,7.1 the year 151: This corresponds to 161 bc. Demetrius son of Seleucus left Rome and with a few men landed at a town on the Mediterranean coast, where he proclaimed himself king. 2As he was making his way to the royal palace of his ancestors, the soldiers arrested Antiochus the Fifth and Lysias, planning to take them to Demetrius. 3When Demetrius heard about it, he said, “I don't want to see them.” 4So the soldiers killed them, and Demetrius took the throne.

5Then all the godless traitorous Jews led by Alcimus, who wanted to be High Priest, went to Demetrius. 6They brought accusations against the other Jews and said, “Judas and his brothers have killed everybody who supported you, and they have driven us out of our country. 7We advise you to send someone whom you can trust to go and inspect all the damage done to our property and the king's territory and to punish Judas, his brothers, and all who support them.”

8King Demetrius chose one of his advisers, a man by the name of Bacchides, who was the governor of Greater Syria. He was an important man in the empire and loyal to the king. 9He was sent along with the godless Alcimus, whom the king had appointed High Priest; Alcimus had orders to take revenge on the Jews. 10They left Antioch and arrived in Judea with a large army. Bacchides tried to trick Judas and his brothers by sending to them messengers with offers of peace. 11But when Judas and his brothers saw what a large army they had brought, they did not believe what the messengers said.

12A group of teachers of the Law came to Alcimus and Bacchides, asking for justice. 13These devout and patriotic men were the first of the Jews to try to make peace with Alcimus and Bacchides. 14They trusted Alcimus, who was a priest descended from Aaron, and they thought he would not cause them any harm. 15Alcimus assured them of his peaceful intentions and solemnly promised that no harm would come to them or their friends. 16But as soon as they began to trust him, he arrested sixty of them and put them all to death on the same day. As the scripture says,


Ps 79.2–3
“The blood of your faithful people was poured out,

their bodies were scattered round Jerusalem,

and there was no one left to bury the dead.”

18When this happened, all the people were afraid of Alcimus and Bacchides, and they said, “They don't know what truth or justice means. They gave their solemn word and then broke it!” 19Bacchides left Jerusalem and set up his headquarters at Beth Zaith. He ordered the arrest of some of the faithful Jews and even many of the renegades who had willingly joined him; he had them killed and thrown into a deep pit. 20Bacchides put the country under the control of Alcimus, left troops there to help him, and returned to the king.

21Alcimus then began his struggle to establish himself as High Priest. 22Every troublemaker in the country joined him. They gained control of the land of Judea and caused great difficulties for the Jews. 23Judas saw that the trouble Alcimus and his men had caused was even worse than the damage done by the Gentiles. 24So he went round the whole country of Judea, taking revenge on all the men who had willingly joined Alcimus and preventing them from leaving the towns and going into the country. 25When Alcimus saw that Judas and his men were growing more powerful and when he realized that he would not be able to stand against them, he returned to the king and accused them of great crimes.

26Then the king sent Nicanor, one of his most honoured officers, who hated the Jews, with orders to exterminate them. 27Nicanor came to Jerusalem with a big army. He tried to trick Judas and his brothers by sending peace offers. He said, 28“There need not be any quarrel between you and me. I will come to you with a small escort for a friendly private conversation.” 29When he came to Judas, they exchanged polite greetings, but Judas' enemies were ready to kidnap him. 30When Judas learnt that Nicanor's visit was part of a plot against him, he was afraid and decided not to meet him again. 31Nicanor realized that his plan had been discovered, so he left Jerusalem to meet Judas in battle near Capharsalama. 32About 500 of Nicanor's men were killed, and the rest of the army escaped to the fort in Jerusalem.

33Some time later Nicanor went to Mount Zion. Some of the priests left the Temple and, along with some of the leaders of the people, went to welcome him with words of peace and to show him the burnt offering that was being sacrificed on behalf of the king. 34But he ridiculed them and made them ceremonially unclean by spitting on them. He spoke proudly 35and angrily threatened them with an oath, “Unless Judas and his army are surrendered to me immediately, I will burn this Temple down as soon as I return after my victory.” And he left in a rage.

36The priests went into the courtyard and stood facing the altar and the Temple. They started weeping and prayed, 37“Lord, you chose this Temple to bear your name and to be a place of prayer and intercession for your people. 38Now, take vengeance on this man and his army; let them die in battle. Remember how they spoke evil of you, and let none of them survive.”

39Nicanor left Jerusalem and set up his headquarters at Beth Horon, where the Syrian army joined him. 40Meanwhile, Judas set up camp at Adasa with 3,000 men. There Judas prayed, 41

2 Kgs 19.35
“Lord, the Scriptures tell us that when a king sent messengers to insult you, your angel went out and killed 185,000 of his soldiers. 42Now, in the same way, crush this army before us today and let everyone know that Nicanor is being punished because he insulted your holy Temple. Punish him as his wickedness deserves.”

43The armies met in battle on the thirteenth day of the month of Adar, and Nicanor's army was defeated. Nicanor himself was the first to be killed in the battle, 44and when his soldiers saw that he was dead, they threw down their weapons and fled. 45The Jews pursued them all day long from Adasa to Gezer. As they followed, they kept sounding the call to battle on the trumpets, 46and from all the surrounding villages of Judea people came out and attacked the fleeing enemy from the sides. This forced them back towards the Jews who were chasing them, and all the enemy were killed in the fight. Not one of them survived.

47The Jews took the loot and then cut off Nicanor's head and his right arm, which he had extended so arrogantly. They brought his head and his arm to be put on display outside Jerusalem. 48There was great rejoicing among the Jews. They set that day aside as a special day of celebration, 49and decreed that the thirteenth day of Adar should be observed as an annual day of celebration. 50There was peace in the land of Judea for a little while.


The Treaty with the Romans

81Judas had heard about the Romans and their reputation as a military power. He knew that they welcomed all those who joined them as allies and that those who came to them could be sure of the friendship of Rome. 2People had told him about the wars the Romans had fought and their heroic acts among the Gauls, whom they had conquered and forced to pay taxes. 3He had been told what they had done in Spain when they captured the silver-mines and the gold-mines there. 4By careful planning and persistence, they had conquered the whole country, even though it was far from Rome. They had overcome the kings from distant lands who had fought against them; they had defeated them so badly that the survivors had to pay annual taxes. 5They had fought and conquered Philip and Perseus, kings of Macedonia, and all who had joined them against Rome. 6They had even defeated Antiochus the Great, king of Syria, who had attacked them with 120 elephants, cavalry, chariots, and a powerful army. 7They had taken him alive and forced him and his successors to pay heavy taxes, to give hostages, and to surrender 8India, Media, Lydia, and some of their best lands. They took these and gave them to King Eumenes.8.8 king eumenes: This is King Eumenes II, king of Pergamum from 197–158 bc.

9When the Greeks made plans to attack and destroy them, 10the Romans learnt of the plans and sent a general to fight against them. The Romans killed many of the Greeks, took their wives and children captive, plundered their possessions, occupied their land, tore down their fortresses, and made them slaves, as they are today. 11They also destroyed or made slaves of other kingdoms, the islands, and everyone who had ever fought against them. 12But they maintained their friendship with their allies and those who relied on them for protection. They conquered kings near and far, and everyone who heard of their reputation was afraid of them. 13They helped some men to become kings, while they deposed others; they had become a world power. 14In spite of all this, no Roman ever tried to advance his own position by wearing a crown or putting on royal robes. 15They created a senate, and each day 320 senators came together to deliberate about the affairs of the people and their well-being. 16Each year they entrusted to one man the responsibility of governing them and controlling their whole territory. Everyone obeyed this one man, and there was no envy or jealousy among them.


2 Macc 4.11
Judas chose Eupolemus, the son of John and grandson of Accos, and Jason son of Eleazar and sent them to Rome to make a treaty of friendship and alliance with the Romans. 18He did this to get rid of Syrian oppression, since the Jews clearly saw that they were being reduced to slavery. 19After a long and difficult journey, Eupolemus and Jason reached Rome and entered the Senate. They addressed the assembly in these terms: 20“Judas Maccabaeus, his brothers, and the Jewish people have sent us here to make a mutual defence treaty with you, so that we may be officially recorded as your friends and allies.”

21The Romans accepted the proposal, 22

1 Macc 14.18
and what follows is a copy of the letter which was engraved on bronze tablets and sent to Jerusalem to remain there as a record of the treaty:

23“May things go well for ever for the Romans and for the Jewish nation on land and sea! May they never have enemies, and may they never go to war! 24But if war is declared first against Rome or any of her allies anywhere, 25the Jewish nation will come to her aid with wholehearted support, as the situation may require. 26And to those at war with her, the Jews shall not give or supply food, arms, money, or ships, as was agreed in Rome. The Jews must carry out their obligations without receiving anything in return.

27“In the same way, if war is declared first against the Jewish nation, the Romans will come to their aid with hearty support, as the situation may require. 28And to their enemies there shall not be given or supplied food, arms, money, or ships, as was agreed in Rome. The Romans must carry out their obligations without deception.

29“These are the terms of the treaty that the Romans have made with the Jewish people. 30But if, in the future, both parties shall agree to add or remove anything, they shall act on their decision, and whatever they add or remove shall be valid.

31“Furthermore, concerning the wrongs which King Demetrius is doing against the Jews, we have written to him as follows, ‘Why have you treated our friends and allies, the Jews, so harshly? 32If they complain to us about you once more, we will support their cause and go to war against you on land and sea.’ ”


The Death of Judas

91When Demetrius heard that Nicanor and his army had been annihilated, he again sent Bacchides and Alcimus to the land of Judea, this time with the Syrian wing of the army. 2They moved along the Gilgal road, laid siege to Mesaloth in Arbela, captured it, and killed many people. 3In the first month of the year 152,9.3 the year 152: This corresponds to 160 bc. they set up camp opposite Jerusalem. 4From there they marched to Berea with 20,000 infantry and 2,000 cavalry.

5Judas had camped at Elasa, with 3,000 experienced soldiers. 6But when they saw the enormous size of the enemy army, they were terrified. So many men deserted that only 800 Jewish soldiers were left. 7When Judas saw that his army was dwindling away and that the battle was about to begin, he was worried because there was not enough time to bring his army together. 8He was discouraged, but he said to those who were still with him, “Let us prepare for the attack; maybe we can still defeat them.”

9His men tried to talk him out of it. “We are not strong enough,” they said. “Let's retreat now and save our lives. Then we can return with reinforcements and fight the enemy. We haven't enough men now.”

10Judas replied, “Never let it be said that I ran from a battle. If our time has come, let's die bravely for our fellow-Jews and not leave any stain on our honour.”

11The Syrian army came out of the camp and took up battle positions against the Jews. The cavalry was divided into two parts. The shock troops were in the front lines, but the archers and those who used slings went ahead of the main formation. 12Bacchides took his position on the right. The infantry advanced, protected on both sides by the cavalry, and the war trumpets were blown. The soldiers of Judas also sounded their trumpets. 13The ground shook from the noise when the two armies met, and they fought from morning until evening.

14When Judas saw that Bacchides and the main force of the Syrian army was on the right, all his bravest men joined him, 15and they crushed the Syrians' right wing. They pursued them as far as the foothills.9.15 Probable text the foothills; Greek Mount Azotus. 16But when the Syrians on the left wing saw that their right wing had been crushed, they turned to attack Judas and his men from the rear. 17The fighting became very fierce, and many on both sides were killed. 18Finally Judas himself was killed. Then all his family fled. 19Jonathan and Simon took their brother's body and buried it in the family tomb at Modein, 20and there at the tomb they wept for him. All Israel mourned for him in great sorrow for many days. They said, 21“It can't be true! The mighty hero and saviour of Israel has been killed!”

22The other deeds of Judas, his battles, his courageous acts, and his great achievements, were too many to write down.

Jonathan Succeeds Judas

23After the death of Judas, the lawless traitors began to reappear everywhere in Judea, and all the wicked people returned. 24Also at that time, there was a severe famine, and the whole country went over to the side of the renegades. 25Bacchides deliberately appointed some renegade Jews as rulers over the country. 26These men hunted down the friends of Judas and brought them all before Bacchides, and he subjected them to torture and humiliation. 27It was a time of great trouble for Israel, worse than anything that had happened to them since the time prophets ceased to appear among them.

28Then all the friends of Judas came together and said to Jonathan, 29“Since your brother Judas died, there has been no one like him to lead us against our enemies, against Bacchides and those of our own nation who oppose us. 30So today we choose you to succeed him as our ruler and commander to carry on our war.” 31Jonathan accepted the leadership that day and took the place of his brother Judas.

The Campaigns of Jonathan

32When Bacchides learnt of this, he made up his mind to kill Jonathan. 33But when this news reached Jonathan, he fled, with his brother Simon and their men, to the wilderness of Tekoa and set up camp at the pool of Asphar. 34(Bacchides learnt about this on the Sabbath and crossed the Jordan with his whole army.)9.34 Verse 34 is probably misplaced and belongs with verse 43. 35Jonathan sent his brother John, who was responsible for the soldiers' families, to ask the Nabateans, with whom he was on friendly terms, for permission to store with them the large amount of baggage they had. 36But the Jambrites from Medeba attacked John, took him captive, and carried off all the baggage. 37Some time later Jonathan and his brother Simon learnt that the Jambrites were about to celebrate an important wedding and that there would be a bridal procession from the town of Nadabath. The bride was the daughter of one of the great princes of Canaan. 38Jonathan and Simon had wanted revenge for the death of their brother John, so they and their men went up one of the mountains and hid. 39They kept watch and saw a noisy crowd loaded down with baggage. The bridegroom, his friends, and his relatives were on their way to meet the bride's party. They were heavily armed and were playing musical instruments and drums. 40The Jews attacked from their ambush and killed many of them; the rest escaped into the mountains, while the Jews carried off all their possessions. 41So the wedding was turned into a time of mourning and their joyful music into funeral songs. 42Jonathan and Simon had taken full revenge for the death of their brother, and they returned to the marshes along the Jordan.

43Bacchides heard about this and arrived on the Sabbath at the banks of the Jordan with a large army. 44Jonathan said to his men, “Now we must fight for our lives. We are in a worse situation than we have ever been in before. 45The enemy is in front of us, the river is behind us, and marshes and thickets are on both sides of us; there is no way out. 46So pray now for the Lord to save us from our enemies.”

47The battle began and Jonathan and his men were just about to kill Bacchides, when he escaped to the rear of the army. 48So Jonathan and his men jumped into the Jordan and swam to the other side to escape, and the Syrian army did not cross the river to follow them. 49That day Bacchides lost about a thousand men.

50After Bacchides returned to Jerusalem, the Syrians built fortifications with high walls and barred gates for a number of towns in Judea: Emmaus, Beth Horon, Bethel, Timnath, Pirathon, Tephon, and the fortress in Jericho. 51In all of these Bacchides placed troops to harass the Jews. 52He also strengthened the fortifications of the towns of Bethzur and Gezer and of the fort in Jerusalem. He placed army units in them and stored up supplies there. 53Then he took the sons of the leading men of the country as hostages and imprisoned them in the fort.

54In the second month of the year 153,9.54 the year 153: This corresponds to 159 bc. the High Priest Alcimus ordered that the wall of the inner court of the Temple must be torn down. This would have destroyed what the prophets had accomplished; but just as the work began, 55he had a stroke, and work was stopped. Paralysed and unable to open his mouth, he could not speak or even make a will for his family. 56He died in great torment. 57When Bacchides learnt that Alcimus was dead, he returned to King Demetrius, and the land of Judea had peace for two years.

58Then all the renegades got together and said, “Look, Jonathan and his men are living in peace and security. If we bring Bacchides here now, he can capture them all in a single night.” 59They went to discuss the matter with Bacchides, 60and he set out with a large army. He sent secret letters to all his allies in Judea, asking them to seize Jonathan and his men. But they were not able to do so, because the plot was discovered. 61Jonathan and his men captured fifty of the traitorous leaders who had been involved in the plot and put them to death. 62Then Jonathan, Simon, and their forces withdrew to Bethbasi in the wilderness. They rebuilt the ruined fortifications and strengthened the defences of the town. 63When Bacchides learnt about all this, he got his whole army together and alerted his supporters in Judea. 64He attacked Bethbasi from all sides and built siege-platforms. After the battle had gone on for a long time, 65Jonathan slipped out into the country with a small body of men and left his brother Simon in charge of the town. 66Jonathan defeated Odomera and his people, and then attacked and destroyed the Phasirite camp. Once defeated, they joined Jonathan and advanced with him in his attack against Bacchides. 67At the same time, Simon and his men rushed from the town and burnt the siege-platforms. 68In the battle Bacchides was pressed so hard that all his plans came to nothing, and he was defeated. 69He was so furious with the traitorous Jews who had urged him to come to Judea that he put many of them to death.

Then Bacchides decided to return to his own country, 70but when Jonathan learnt of this, he sent ambassadors to Bacchides to arrange for peace terms and the return of Jewish prisoners. 71Bacchides agreed to do as Jonathan asked and gave him his solemn promise that he would let him live in peace for the rest of his life. 72Bacchides handed over the prisoners and returned to his own country. Never again did he come into Jewish territory. 73War came to an end in Israel. Jonathan settled in Michmash and began to govern the people and to eliminate the renegade Jews from Israel.