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2 Maccabees 14

14Now after the space of three years Judas and his men learned that Demetrius the son of Seleucus had sailed into the haven of Tripolis with a powerful army and fleet, and had seized the country, after making away with Antiochus and Lysias his guardian. And Alcimus, a former high-priest, who had voluntarily polluted himself in days when there was no trafficking (with the Gentiles), and who therefore judged he was no longer safe and that he was now debarred entirely from the holy altar, came to king Demetrius in the hundred and fifty-first year with the present of a golden crown and palm, and, in addition to these customary gifts, some of the olive-branches from the temple. The first day he said nothing. But when he did get a chance of furthering his infatuated enterprise, on being summoned to confer with Demetrius and being asked about the temper and aims of the Jews, he replied: It is the Jews called Hasidaeans, led by Judas Maccabaeus, who are keeping up the feud and stirring sedition; they will not let the kingdom settle down in peace. Wherefore, deprived of my ancestral glory—I mean, the high-priesthood—I have now come hither, primarily from a sincere concern for the king’s interests, and secondly from anxiety on behalf of my own fellow-citizens; for the recklessness of the aforesaid party has involved our nation in no small misfortune. Acquaint thyself, O king, with the details of this business, and take measures on behalf of our country and our sorely tried nation, according to the gracious kindness which thou showest to all. 10 For as long as Judas is alive, it is impossible for the State to be at peace. 11 When he said this, the rest of the king’s Friends, who cherished ill will against Judas, hastened to inflame Demetrius still further against him, and, 12 after instantly summoning Nicanor, formerly master of the elephants, and appointing him governor of Judaea, 13 he dispatched him with written instructions to make away with Judas and to scatter his troops and to set up Alcimus as high-priest of the great temple. 14 Now all the heathen throughout Judaea, whom Judas had driven to flight, flocked to join Nicanor, anticipating that the misfortunes and calamities of the Jews would mean gain to them. 15 But when the Jews heard of Nicanor’s inroad and the onset of the heathen, they sprinkled earth upon their heads and solemnly invoked Him who had established his own people to all eternity and who ever upholds those who are his Portion with visible aid. 16 Then, by order of their leader, they at once started out and joined battle with them at a village called Lessau. 17 Now Simon, the brother of Judas, had already encountered Nicanor and, thrown suddenly into consternation by the foe, had sustained a temporary check. 18 Nevertheless, Nicanor shrank from deciding the issue at the sword’s point, as he had heard of the manliness and the courage shown by the troops of Judas in fighting for their country. 19 He therefore sent Posidonius and Theodotus and Mattathias to give and receive pledges of friendship. 20 After full consideration, when the proposals were laid by the general before the troops, and it appeared they were all of one mind, 21 the compact was agreed to, and a day was fixed for the two leaders to meet by themselves. 22 A litter was carried forward from each army; chairs of state were placed; Judas stationed armed men ready in suitable positions, lest the enemy should spring any treacherous attack; they carried through the conference duly. 23 Nicanor stayed a while in Jerusalem and did nothing amiss; 24 he even disbanded the hordes who had flocked to join his standard; 25 he kept Judas always beside him; he had become heartily attached to the man, urged him to marry and beget children. He did marry, settled down, and enjoyed life.

26 But when Alcimus saw their mutual goodwill, he got hold of the treaty which had been concluded and went to Demetrius, alleging that Nicanor was ill affected toward the State, since he had appointed that, conspirator Judas to be his successor. 27 At this the king fell into a passion and, exasperated by the calumnies of the scoundrel, wrote to Nicanor that he was displeased at the compact, and ordered him to send Maccabaeus instantly as a prisoner to Antioch. 28 Nicanor was confounded by this news and sadly vexed at the thought of annulling the terms arranged, as the man had done no wrong. 29 However, as the king could not be gainsaid, he bided his time to carry out the business by a stratagem. 30 But Maccabaeus noticed that Nicanor was treating him with less friendliness and behaving more rudely than was his wont; so, reckoning this harshness was of a sinister character, he gathered a considerable number of his men and hid from Nicanor. 31 The latter, conscious that he had been pluckily outwitted by Judas, went to the great and holy temple, while the priests were offering the usual sacrifices, and commanded them to deliver up the man. 32 And when they swore they did not know where the man was whom he sought, 33 he stretched forth his right hand toward the sanctuary, and swore this oath: Unless you hand over Judas as my prisoner, I will raze this shrine of God to the ground, and break down the altar, and erect on this spot a temple of Dionysus for all to see. 34 With these words he went away. But the priests stretched forth their hands to heaven, invoking Him who ever fighteth for our nation, thus: 35 O Lord, who hast no need of aught, as it hath pleased thee to have among us a sanctuary where thou dwellest, 36 so now, O holy Lord, from whom is all hallowing, keep free from defilement for evermore this house so lately cleansed, and shut every impious mouth.

37 Now information was laid before Nicanor against a Jerusalemite elder called Razis, a patriot who was very highly esteemed, and addressed as Father of the Jews on account of his benevolence. For in bygone days, 38 when there was no trafficking (with the Gentiles), he had been accused of Judaism, and had most resolutely risked body and life for Judaism. 39 So Nicanor, with the intention of showing his hostility to the Jews, sent over five hundred soldiers to arrest him. 40 For he meant to strike a blow at the Jews by this arrest. 41 But when the troops were on the point of capturing the tower, forcing the outer door of the courtyard and calling for fire to set light to the doors, he fell upon his sword, 42 seeing he was surrounded on every side; he preferred to die a noble death rather than fall into the scoundrels’ hands and suffer outrages unworthy of his noble character. 43 Owing to the hurry of the struggle, however, he missed his stroke, and, as a crowd of men was now pouring through the door, he pluckily ran up to the wall and threw himself bravely down among the crowds. 44 They drew back at once, so that he fell between them on the open street. 45 Still alive, however, he got up in a fury of anger and ran, with blood pouring from him, sore wounded as he was, right through the crowds; 46 then, standing on a steep rock, his blood now drained from him, he tore out his bowels, taking both his hands to them, and flung them at the crowds. So he died, calling on Him who is lord of life and spirit to restore them to him again.

15:1–36. Attack, defeat, and death of Nicanor.

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