81Judas Maccabaeus and his friends went secretly from village to village until they had gathered a force of about 6,000 Jewish men who had remained faithful to their religion. 2They begged the Lord to help his people, now trampled under foot by all nations, to take pity on the Temple, now defiled by pagans, 3and to have mercy on Jerusalem, now destroyed and almost levelled to the ground. 4They also asked the Lord to show his hatred of evil by taking revenge on those who were murdering his people, mercilessly slaughtering innocent children, and saying evil things against the Lord.
5When Judas had finally organized his forces, the Gentiles were unable to stand against him, because the Lord's anger against Israel had now turned to mercy. 6-7Judas would make sudden attacks on towns and villages and burn them. He captured strategic positions and routed many enemy troops, finding that he was most successful at night. People everywhere spoke of his bravery.
8When Philip, governor of Jerusalem, realized that Judas was gaining ground little by little and that his victories were becoming more and more frequent, he wrote a letter to Ptolemy, governor of Greater Syria, requesting his help in defending the royal interests. 9Ptolemy immediately appointed Nicanor son of Patroclus, who was also in the closest circle of the King's Friends, and sent him with more than 20,000 troops of various nationalities to wipe out the entire Jewish race. Ptolemy also appointed Gorgias, a general of wide military experience, to go with him. 10King Antiochus owed the Romans 68 tonnes of silver; Nicanor planned to pay off the debt by selling Jewish prisoners of war as slaves. 11So he at once sent word to the towns along the coast, informing them that he would be selling Jews for less than a kilogramme of silver each. But he did not know of the judgement that Almighty God had in store for him.
12Judas learnt that Nicanor was advancing with his army towards Judea, so he informed his men. 13Some were cowardly and did not believe in the justice of God, and they ran away as fast as they could. 14But others sold all their remaining possessions so that the Lord would consider them worthy to be saved from the godless Nicanor, who had sold them as slaves even before the battle had taken place. 15They prayed that if God was not willing to do this for their sake alone, he might be willing to rescue them because of the covenants he had made with their ancestors, and because he, the great and wonderful God, had called them to be his people. 16Judas brought together all 6,000 of his men and encouraged them not to be frightened or to flee in panic at the sight of the large number of Gentile troops who were marching against them without cause. Instead they should fight bravely, 17never forgetting the crimes the Gentiles had committed against the Temple, and how they had made Jerusalem suffer terribly and had done away with Jewish traditions. 18“They rely on their weapons and their daring,” Judas said, “but we trust in Almighty God, who is able to destroy not only these troops, but, if necessary, the entire world, with a mere nod of his head.”
19Then Judas went on to remind them of the ways God had helped their ancestors: during the time of Sennacherib 185,000 of the enemy had been destroyed; 20and once in Babylonia 8,000 Jews came to the aid of 4,000 Macedonians, defeating 120,000 Galatians and taking a great deal of loot, all because of God's help.
21Judas' words encouraged his men and made them willing to die for their religion and their country. He then divided his army into four divisions 22of about 1,500 men each, with himself and his brothers Simon, Joseph, and Jonathan each in charge of a division. 23
After ordering Eleazar to read aloud8.23 Probable text After… aloud; Greek unclear. from the holy book, he gave his men the battle-cry: “God will help us,” and personally led the attack against Nicanor.
24Almighty God fought on their side, and they killed more than 9,000 of the enemy. They wounded many others and put the entire army to flight. 25They seized the money from the people who had come to buy them as slaves. Then they pursued the enemy a long way, until they had to return, 26because it was almost time for the Sabbath to begin. 27When they had collected the enemy's weapons and looted the dead, they celebrated the Sabbath, praising the Lord and giving thanks to him, because he had brought them safely to that day and had given them the first sign of his mercy. 28When the Sabbath was over, they gave some of the loot to the victims of persecution and to the widows and orphans; then they divided the rest among their own families. 29Afterwards they joined together in prayer to the merciful Lord, asking him to look favourably upon his servants.
30The Jews later fought against the forces of Timothy and Bacchides and killed more than 20,000 of them. They captured some very high fortresses and took a lot of loot, which they divided equally among themselves and the widows, orphans, old men, and the victims of persecution. 31They carefully collected all the enemy's weapons and stored them in strategic places, but the rest of the loot was taken to Jerusalem. 32They executed the commanding officer of Timothy's forces, a godless man who had caused the Jews much suffering. 33While celebrating their victory in the city of their ancestors, they burnt alive those men who had set fire to the Temple gates. The dead included Callisthenes, who had hidden in a small house; and so he received the punishment he deserved for his evil deeds.
34In this way, the evil Nicanor, who had brought a thousand merchants to buy the Jews, 35was defeated with the help of the Lord by the very people he despised so much. He threw off his splendid uniform and fled all alone like a runaway slave, until he reached Antioch. He had succeeded only in destroying his entire army. 36This man, who had tried to pay a debt to Rome by selling the people of Jerusalem, showed that the Jews could not be defeated. God was their mighty defender, because they obeyed the laws he had given them.
91About this time Antiochus was retreating in disorder from Persia, 2where he had entered the city of Persepolis and had attempted to rob a temple and take control of the city. The people took up arms and attacked Antiochus, forcing his army to retreat in disgrace. 3When he reached Ecbatana, he was told what had happened to the forces of Nicanor and Timothy. 4He was furious and decided to make the Jews pay for the defeat he had suffered. So he ordered his chariot driver not to stop until they reached Jerusalem. With great arrogance he said, “I will turn Jerusalem into a graveyard full of Jews.”
But he did not know that he was heading straight for God's judgement. 5In fact, as soon as he had said these words, the all-seeing Lord, the God of Israel, struck him down with an invisible but fatal blow. He was seized with sharp intestinal pains for which there was no relief — 6a fitting punishment for the man who had tortured others in so many terrible ways! 7But this in no way caused him to give up his pride. Instead he became more arrogant than ever, and breathing out fiery threats against the Jews, he gave orders to drive even faster. As a result he fell out of his chariot with such a thud that it made every bone in his body ache. 8His arrogant pride made him think he had the superhuman strength to make ocean waves obey him and to weigh high mountains on a pair of scales. But suddenly he fell flat on the ground and had to be carried off on a stretcher, a clear sign to everyone of God's power. 9Even the eyes of this godless man were crawling with worms and he lived in terrible pain and agony. The stink was so bad that his entire army was sickened, 10and no one was able to come close enough to carry him about. Yet only a short while before, he thought he could take hold of the stars.
11Antiochus was deeply depressed and suffered constant pain because of the punishment that God had brought on him, so he finally came to his senses and gave up his arrogant pride. 12Then, when he could no longer endure his own stench, he said, “It is right that all mortals should be subject to God and not think that they are his equal.” 13The time of the Lord's mercy had come to an end for Antiochus, but this worthless man made the Lord a promise: 14“I once intended to level Jerusalem to the ground and make that holy city a graveyard full of Jews,” he said, “but now I declare it a free city. 15I had planned to throw out the dead bodies of the Jews and their children for the wild animals and the birds to eat, for I did not consider them worth burying. But now I intend to grant them the same privileges as the citizens of Athens enjoy. 16I once looted the Temple and took its sacred utensils, but I will fill it with splendid gifts and with better utensils than before, and I will pay the cost of the sacrifices from my own resources. 17Besides all this, I will become a Jew myself and go wherever people live, telling them of God's power.”
18Antiochus was in despair and could find no relief from his pain, because God was punishing him as he deserved, so he wrote the following letter to the Jews:
19“King Antiochus to the Jews, my most distinguished subjects. Warm greetings and best wishes for your health and prosperity.
20“I hope that you and your families are in good health and that all goes well with you. My hope is in God, 21and I remember with a deep sense of joy the respect and kindness that you have shown me.
“On my way home from Persia I fell violently ill, and so I thought it best to begin making plans for the general welfare of the people. 22I have not given up hopes of getting well; in fact I am fully confident that I will recover. 23But I recall that my father used to appoint a successor whenever he went on a military campaign east of the Euphrates. 24He did this so that if something unexpected happened, or if some bad news came back, then his subjects would not be afraid, for they knew who had been left in command. 25Also, I know how the rulers along the frontiers of my kingdom are constantly on the lookout for any opportunity that may come along. That is why I have appointed my son Antiochus to succeed me as king. I have frequently entrusted him to your care and recommended him to you when I went on my regular visits to the provinces east of the Euphrates. (He is receiving a copy of the letter which follows.) 26Now I strongly urge each of you to keep in mind the good things that I have done for you, both individually and as a nation, and to continue in your goodwill towards me and my son. 27I am confident that he will treat you with fairness and kindness, just as I have always done.”
28And so, this murderer, who had cursed God, suffered the same terrible agonies he had brought on others, and then died a miserable death in the mountains of a foreign land. 29One of his close friends, Philip, took his body home; but, because he was afraid of Antiochus' son, he went on to King Ptolemy Philometor of Egypt.
101Judas Maccabaeus and his followers, under the leadership of the Lord, recaptured the Temple and the city of Jerusalem. 2They tore down the altars which foreigners had set up in the market-place and destroyed the other places of worship that had been built. 3They purified the Temple and built a new altar. Then, with new fire started by striking flint, they offered sacrifice for the first time in two years, burnt incense, lit the lamps, and set out the sacred loaves. 4After they had done all this, they lay face downwards on the ground and prayed that the Lord would never again let such disasters strike them. They begged him to be merciful when he punished them for future sins and not hand them over any more to barbaric, pagan Gentiles. 5They rededicated the Temple on the 25th day of the month of Kislev, the same day of the same month on which the Temple had been desecrated by the Gentiles. 6The happy celebration lasted eight days, like the Festival of Shelters, and the people remembered how only a short time before, they had spent the Festival of Shelters wandering like wild animals in the mountains and living in caves. 7But now, carrying green palm branches and sticks decorated with ivy, they paraded round, singing grateful praises to him who had brought about the purification of his own Temple. 8Everyone agreed that the entire Jewish nation should celebrate this festival each year.
9The days of Antiochus Epiphanes had come to an end. 10
Now we will tell you about Antiochus Eupator, the son of this godless man, and give a summary of the evil effects of his wars. 11When he became king he appointed a man by the name of Lysias to be in charge of the affairs of state and to be chief governor of Greater Syria, 12replacing Ptolemy Macron, who had been the first governor to treat the Jews fairly. Macron had established peaceful relations with them in an attempt to make up for the wrongs they had suffered. 13As a result, the King's Friends went to Eupator and accused Macron of treachery, because he had abandoned the island of Cyprus, which King Philometor of Egypt had placed under his command, and had gone over to Antiochus Epiphanes. In fact, everyone called Macron a traitor. No longer able to maintain the respect that his office demanded, he committed suicide by taking poison.
14When Gorgias became governor of Idumea, he kept a force of mercenaries and attacked the Jews at every opportunity. 15Not only this, but the Idumeans themselves controlled certain strategic fortresses and were constantly harassing the Jews. They welcomed those who fled from Jerusalem and did everything they could to keep the country in a perpetual state of war. 16So Judas Maccabaeus and his men, after offering prayers for God's help, rushed out and made a vigorous attack against the Idumean fortresses. 17They beat back those who were defending the walls and captured the fortresses, killing everyone they found, a total of about 20,000 people.
18About 9,000 of the enemy, however, managed to take refuge in two easily defended forts, with everything they needed to withstand a siege. 19Judas had to go on to some other places in the country, where he was more urgently needed, but he left behind Simon and Joseph, together with Zacchaeus and his men. This force was large enough to continue the siege, 20but some of Simon's men were greedy, and when they were offered 64 kilogrammes of silver, they let some of the enemy escape from the forts. 21When Judas heard what had happened, he called together the leaders of his troops and accused those men of selling their brothers by setting their enemies free to fight against them. 22Then he executed the traitors and immediately captured the two forts. 23Judas was always successful in battle, and in his assault on those two forts he killed more than 20,000 men.
24Timothy, who had been defeated by the Jews once before, had gathered a large number of cavalry from Asia and a tremendous force of mercenary troops and was now advancing to take Judea by armed attack. 25But as the enemy forces were approaching, Judas and his men prayed to God. They put on sackcloth, threw earth on their heads, 26and lay face downwards on the steps of the altar, begging God to help them by fighting against their enemies, as he had promised in his Law.
27When they had finished praying, they took up their weapons, went out a good distance from Jerusalem, and stopped for the night not far from the enemy. 28At daybreak the two armies joined in battle. The Jewish forces depended upon both their bravery and their trust in the Lord for victory, while the enemy relied only on their ability to fight fiercely. 29When the fighting was at its worst, the enemy saw five handsome men riding on horses with gold bridles and leading the Jewish forces. 30These five men surrounded Judas, protecting him with their own armour and showering the enemy with arrows and thunderbolts. The enemy forces then became so confused and bewildered that they broke ranks, and the Jews cut them to pieces, 31slaughtering 20,500 infantry and 600 cavalry.
32Timothy himself escaped to the strongly defended fort of Gezer, where his brother Chaereas was in command. 33Judas and his men besieged the fort for four days with great enthusiasm, 34but those inside trusted to the security of their positions and shouted all sorts of terrible insults against the Jews and their God. 35At dawn on the fifth day, twenty of Judas' men, burning with anger at these insults, bravely climbed the wall and with savage fury chopped down everyone they met. 36At the same time, others climbed the walls on the other side of the fort and set the towers on fire. Many of the enemy were burnt to death as the flames spread. A third force broke down the gates and let in the rest of Judas' men to capture the city. 37Timothy had hidden in a cistern, but they killed him, as well as his brother Chaereas and Apollophanes.
38When it was over, the Jews celebrated by singing hymns and songs of thanksgiving to the Lord, who had shown them great kindness and had given them victory.