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2 Maccabees 8
The eighth chapter of 2
Maccabees is offered here in the Revised Standard version; the first
chapter can be found here.
Judas launches a rebellionBut Judas, who was also called Maccabeus, and his companions secretly entered the villages and summoned their kinsmen and enlisted those who had continued in the Jewish faith, and so they gathered about six thousand men. They besought the Lord to look upon the people who were oppressed by all, and to have pity on the temple which had been profaned by ungodly men, and to have mercy on the city which was being destroyed and about to be leveled to the ground, and to hearken to the blood that cried out to Him, and to remember also the lawless destruction of the innocent babies and the blasphemies committed against his name, and to show his hatred of evil.
soon as Maccabeus got his army organized, the Gentiles could not withstand
him, for the wrath of the Lord had turned to mercy. Coming
without warning, he would set fire to towns and villages. He captured strategic
positions and put to flight not a few of the enemy. He
found the nights most advantageous for such attacks. And talk of his valor
Defeat of NicanorWhen Philip saw that the man was gaining ground little by little, and that he was pushing ahead with more frequent successes, he wrote to Ptolemy, the governor of Coelesyria and Phoenicia, for aid to the king's government. And Ptolemy promptly appointed Nicanor the son of Patroclus, one of the king's chief friends, and sent him, in command of no fewer than twenty thousand Gentiles of all nations, to wipe out the whole race of Judea. He associated with him Gorgias, a general and a man of experience in military service.
Nicanor determined to make up for the king the tribute due to the Romans, two thousand talents, by selling the captured Jews into slavery. And he immediately sent to the cities on the seacoast, inviting them to buy Jewish slaves and promising to hand over ninety slaves for a talent, not expecting the judgment from the Almighty that was about to overtake him.
Word came to Judas concerning Nicanor's invasion; and when he told his companions of the arrival of the army, those who were cowardly and distrustful of God's justice ran off and got away. Others sold all their remaining property, and at the same time besought the Lord to rescue those who had been sold by the ungodly Nicanor before he ever met them, if not for their own sake, yet for the sake of the covenants made with their fathers, and because he had called them by his holy and glorious name.
But Maccabeus gathered his men together, to the number six thousand, and exhorted them not to be frightened by the enemy and not to fear the great multitude of Gentiles who were wickedly coming against them, but to fight nobly, keeping before their eyes the lawless outrage which the Gentiles had committed against the holy place, and the torture of the derided city, and besides, the overthrow of their ancestral way of life. "For they trust to arms and acts of daring," he said, "but we trust in the Almighty God, Who is able with a single nod to strike down those who are coming against us and even the whole world."
Moreover, he told them of the times when help came to their ancestors; both the time of Sennacherib, when one hundred and eighty-five thousand perished, and the time of the battle with the Galatians that took place in Babylonia, when eight thousand in all went into the affair, with four thousand Macedonians; and when the Macedonians were hard pressed, the eight thousand, by the help that came to them from heaven, destroyed one hundred and twenty thousand and took much booty.
With these words he filled them with good courage and made them ready to die for their laws and their country; then he divided his army into four parts. He appointed his brothers also, Simon and Joseph and Jonathan, each to command a division, putting fifteen hundred men under each. Besides, he appointed Eleazar to read aloud from the holy book, and gave the watchword, "God's help"; then, leading the first division himself, he joined battle with Nicanor.
With the Almighty as their ally, they slew more than nine thousand of the enemy, and wounded and disabled most of Nicanor's army, and forced them all to flee. They captured the money of those who had come to buy them as slaves. After pursuing them for some distance, they were obliged to return because the hour was late. For it was the day before the sabbath, and for that reason they did not continue their pursuit. And when they had collected the arms of the enemy and stripped them of their spoils, they kept the sabbath, giving great praise and thanks to the Lord, who had preserved them for that day and allotted it to them as the beginning of mercy.
After the sabbath they gave some of the spoils to those who had been tortured and to the widows and orphans, and distributed the rest among themselves and their children. When they had done this, they made common supplication and besought the merciful Lord to be wholly reconciled with his servants.
In encounters with the forces of Timothy and Bacchides they killed more than twenty thousand of them and got possession of some exceedingly high strongholds, and they divided very much plunder, giving to those who had been tortured and to the orphans and widows, and also to the aged, shares equal to their own. Collecting the arms of the enemy, they stored them all carefully in strategic places, and carried the rest of the spoils to Jerusalem. They killed the commander of Timothy's forces, a most unholy man, and one who had greatly troubled the Jews.
While they were celebrating the victory in the city of their fathers, they burned those who had set fire to the sacred gates, Callisthenes and some others, who had fled into one little house; so these received the proper recompense for their impiety. The thrice-accursed Nicanor, who had brought the thousand merchants to buy the Jews, having been humbled with the help of the Lord by opponents whom he regarded as of the least account, took off his splendid uniform and made his way alone like a runaway slave across the country till he reached Antioch, having succeeded chiefly in the destruction of his own army!
Thus he who had undertaken to secure tribute for the Romans by the capture of the people of Jerusalem proclaimed that the Jews had a Defender, and that therefore the Jews were invulnerable, because they followed the laws ordained by Him.
The Assyrian king Sennacherib had laid siege to Jerusalem but had been forced to retreat (2 Kings 19). The other incident is the repression of the revolt of Molon in Media and Persis in 220 by the Seleucid king Antiochus III the Great.
Latest revision: 7 December 2006