Good News Translation (GNB)

A Letter to the Jews in Egypt

11“From the Jews of Jerusalem and Judea to those in Egypt, warm greetings.

2“May God be good to you and keep the covenant he made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, his faithful servants. 3May he fill each of you with the desire to worship him and to do his will eagerly with all your heart and soul. 4May he enable you to understand his Law and his commands. May he give you peace, 5answer your prayers, forgive your sins, and never abandon you in times of trouble. 6Here in Judea we are now praying for you.

7“In the year 169,1.7 the year 169: This corresponds to 143 bc. when Demetrius the Second was king of Syria, we wrote to tell you about the persecution and the hard times that came upon us in the years after Jason revolted against authority in the Holy Land. 8Jason and his men set fire to the Temple gates and slaughtered innocent people. Then we prayed to the Lord and he answered our prayers. So we sacrificed animals, gave offerings of grain, lit the lamps in the Temple, and set out the sacred loaves. 9This is why we urge you to celebrate in the month of Kislev a festival similar to the Festival of Shelters. Written in the year 188.”1.9 the year 188: This corresponds to 124 bc.

A letter to Aristobulus

The Death of King Antiochus

10“From the Jews of Jerusalem and Judea, the Jewish Senate, and Judas, to Aristobulus, a descendant of priests and the teacher of King Ptolemy, and to the Jews in Egypt, greetings and good health.

11“We thank God because he saved us from great danger. We were like men ready to fight against a king, 12but God drove the enemy from our holy city. 13

1 Macc 6.1–4
2 Macc 9.1–10
When King Antiochus arrived in Persia, his army seemed impossible to defeat, but they were cut to pieces in the temple of the goddess Nanea by an act of treachery on the part of her priests. 14King Antiochus had gone to the temple with some of his most trusted advisers, so that he might marry the goddess and then take away most of the temple treasures as a wedding gift. 15After the priests had laid out the treasure, he and a few of his men went into the temple to collect it. But the priests closed the doors behind him 16and stoned him and his men from trapdoors hidden in the ceiling. Then they cut up the bodies and threw the heads to the people outside. 17Praise God for punishing those evil men! Praise him for everything!

Fire Consumes Nehemiah's Sacrifice

18“On the 25th day of the month of Kislev we will celebrate the Festival of Rededication just as we celebrate the Festival of Shelters. We thought it important to remind you of this, so that you too may celebrate this festival. In this way you will remember how fire appeared when Nehemiah offered sacrifices after he had rebuilt the Temple and the altar. 19At the time when our ancestors were being taken to exile in Persia, a few devout priests took some fire from the altar and secretly hid it in the bottom of a dry cistern. They hid the fire so well that no one ever discovered it. 20Years later, when it pleased God, the Persian emperor sent Nehemiah back to Jerusalem, and Nehemiah told the descendants of those priests to find the fire. They reported to us that they had found no fire but only some oily liquid. Nehemiah then told them to scoop some up and bring it to him. 21When everything for the sacrifice had been placed on the altar, he told the priests to pour the liquid over both the wood and the sacrifice. 22After this was done and some time had passed, the sun appeared from behind the clouds, and suddenly everything on the altar burst into flames. Everyone looked on in amazement. 23Then, while the fire was consuming the sacrifice, Jonathan the High Priest led the people in prayer, and Nehemiah and all the people responded.

Nehemiah's Prayer

24“Nehemiah's prayer went something like this: ‘Lord God, Creator of all things, you are awesome and strong, yet merciful and just. You alone are king. No one but you is kind; 25no one but you is gracious and just. You are almighty and eternal, for ever ready to rescue Israel from trouble. You chose our ancestors to be your own special people. 26Accept this sacrifice which we offer on behalf of all Israel; protect your chosen people and make us holy. 27Free those who are slaves in foreign lands and gather together our scattered people. Have mercy on our people, who are ill-treated and despised, so that all other nations will know that you are our God. 28Punish the brutal and arrogant people who have oppressed us, 29and then establish your people in your holy land, as Moses said you would.’

The Persian Emperor Hears about the Fire

30“Then the priests sang hymns. 31After the sacrifices had been consumed, Nehemiah gave orders for the rest of the liquid to be poured over some large stones. 32Immediately a fire blazed up, but it was extinguished by a flame from the fire on the altar.

33“News of what had happened spread everywhere. The Persian emperor heard that a liquid had been found in the place where the priests had hidden the altar fire, just before they were taken into exile. He also heard that Nehemiah and his friends had used this liquid to burn the sacrifice on the altar. 34When the emperor investigated the matter and found out that this was true, he had the area fenced off and made into a shrine. 35It became a substantial source of income for him, and he used the money for gifts to anyone who was in his good favour. 36Nehemiah and his friends called the liquid nephthar, which means ‘purification,’ but most people call it ‘naphtha.’


Jeremiah Hides the Tent of the Lord's Presence

21“We know from the records that Jeremiah the prophet instructed the people who were being taken into exile to hide some of the fire from the altar, as we have just mentioned. 2We also know that he taught them God's Law and warned them not to be deceived by the ornamented gold and silver idols which they would see in the land of their exile. 3And then he urged them never to abandon the Law.

4“These same records also tell us that Jeremiah, acting under divine guidance, commanded the Tent of the Lord's Presence and the Covenant Box to follow him to the mountain where Moses had looked down on the land which God had promised our people. 5When Jeremiah got to the mountain, he found a huge cave and there he hid the Tent of the Lord's Presence, the Covenant Box, and the altar of incense. Then he sealed up the entrance.

6“Some of Jeremiah's friends tried to follow him and mark the way, but they could not find the cave. 7When Jeremiah learnt what they had done, he reprimanded them, saying, ‘No one must know about this place until God gathers his people together again and shows them mercy. 8

Ex 16.10
1 Kgs 8.10–11
At that time he will reveal where these things are hidden, and the dazzling light of his presence will be seen in the cloud, as it was in the time of Moses and on the occasion when Solomon prayed that the Temple might be dedicated in holy splendour.’

How Solomon Celebrated the Festival

9“We are also told how the wise King Solomon offered a sacrifice of dedication at the completion of the Temple, 10and that when he prayed, fire came down from heaven and consumed the sacrifices, just as it had done earlier when Moses prayed. 11Moses had explained that the sin offering was consumed by fire because it was not eaten. 12Solomon celebrated the festival for eight days.

Nehemiah's Library

13“These same facts are found in the royal records and in the memoirs of Nehemiah, who established a library and collected the writings of David, letters of the kings concerning offerings, and books about the kings and prophets. 14Judas also collected the books that had been scattered because of the war, and we still have them. 15If you ever need any of these books, let us know, and we will send them.

An Invitation to Celebrate the Festival


1 Macc 4.59
“Since we are about to celebrate the Festival of Rededication, we are writing to you, advising you to celebrate it as well. 17God has saved all his people and has restored to all of us our holy land, the kingship, the priesthood, and the Temple services, 18just as he promised in his Law. He has rescued us from terrible evils and has purified the Temple, and we are confident that in his mercy he will soon gather us to his holy Temple from every nation under the sun.”

Author's Preface

19Jason of Cyrene has recorded in five volumes the story of Judas Maccabaeus and his brothers, the purification of the great Temple, and the dedication of its altar. 20He has described the battles with Antiochus Epiphanes and with his son Eupator, 21and he has told of the heavenly visions that appeared to those who fought bravely and enthusiastically to defend Judaism. Our forces were few in number, but they plundered the entire country and routed the heathen forces. 22They recaptured the Temple famous throughout the world, liberated Jerusalem, and restored the laws that were in danger of being abolished. They were able to do all these things because the Lord was merciful and kind to them.

23I will now try to summarize in a single book the five volumes written by Jason. 24The number of details and the bulk of material can be overwhelming for anyone who wants to read an account of the events. 25But I have attempted to simplify it for all readers; those who read for sheer pleasure will find enjoyment and those who want to memorize the facts will not find it difficult. 26Writing such a summary is a difficult task, demanding hard work and sleepless nights. 27It is as difficult as preparing a banquet that people of different tastes will enjoy. But I am happy to undergo this hardship in order to please my readers. 28I will leave the matter of detail to the original author and attempt to give only a summary of the events. 29I am not the builder of a new house who is concerned with every detail of the structure, but simply a painter whose only concern is to make the house look attractive. 30The historian must master his subject, examine every detail, and then explain it carefully, 31but whoever is merely writing a summary should be permitted to give a brief account without going into a detailed discussion. 32So then, without any further comment, I will begin my story. It would be foolish to write such a long introduction that the story itself would have to be cut short.