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2 Maccabees 15

15Now, learning that Judas and his men were in the region of Samaria, Nicanor determined to attack them without any risk upon the day of rest. And when the Jews who were forced to accompany him said, Destroy them not so savagely and barbarously, but show honour to the day which He who beholdeth all things hath hallowed in his holiness, the thrice-accursed wretch asked them if there was a Sovereign in heaven who had ordered the observance of the sabbath day. And when they declared, There is the living Lord, himself a Sovereign in heaven, who bade us observe the seventh day, he replied, I too am a sovereign on earth, and my orders are to take arms and execute the king’s business. Nevertheless he did not succeed in executing his shocking purpose.

Now Nicanor, in the height of his overweening pride, had determined to erect a public trophy of victory over Judas and his men; but Maccabaeus still ceased not to trust with absolute confidence that he would obtain help from the Lord, and exhorted his company not to dread the onset of the heathen, but to keep in mind all the help they had formerly received from heaven and to expect at the present hour the victory which would be theirs from the Almighty; and comforting them out of the law and the prophets, as well as recalling the struggles they had endured, he made them more eager (for the fray). 10 Then, after rousing their spirits, he issued his orders, and at the same time pointed out the heathen’s perfidy and breach of their oaths. 11 He armed each man, not so much with confidence in shields and spears as with the heartening which comes from apt words, and also cheered them all by recounting a reliable dream, a sort of vision. 12 This was what he had seen: Onias, the former high priest, a good and great man, of stately bearing yet gracious in manner, well-spoken and trained from childhood in all points of virtue—Onias with outstretched hands invoking blessings on the whole body of the Jews; 13 then another man in the same attitude, conspicuous by his grey hairs and splendour, and invested with marvellous, majestic dignity. 14 This, Onias explained to him, is the lover of the brethren, who prayeth fervently for the people and the holy city, Jeremiah the prophet of God. 15 And Jeremiah held out his right hand to present Judas with a golden sword, and as he gave it he addressed him thus: 16 Take this holy sword as a gift from God, and with it thou shalt crush the foe.

17 So, encouraged by these truly heroic words of Judas, which had the power of rousing young souls to valour and stirring them to manliness, they determined not to pitch camp but manfully to set upon the foe and, by engaging them right valiantly hand to hand, to decide the issue, since the city and the sanctuary and the temple were in danger. 18 For their anxiety about wives and children, as well as about brethren and kinsfolk, weighed less with them than their supreme and chief anxiety about the consecrated sanctuary. 19 Whereas those left behind in the city were uneasy about the encounter in the open country, and suffered no slight anguish. 20 All were now waiting for the critical moment, the enemy had now united their forces and drawn up their line of battle, the elephants were arranged for easy action, 21 and the cavalry stationed on the wings, when Maccabaeus, surveying the hordes in front of him, with their varied weapons and fierce elephants, held up his hands to heaven and called upon the Lord, the worker of wonders, for he knew that victory is not decided by weapons but won by the Lord for such as He judgeth to deserve it. 22 And his prayer was in these terms: Thou, Sovereign Lord, didst send thine angel in the days of Hezekiah king of Judaea, and he slew as many as a hundred and eighty-five thousand of Sennacherib’s host; 23 so now, O heavenly Sovereign, 24 send a good angel before us to scare and terrify the foe; by the great strength of thine arm may those who have blasphemously assailed thy holy sanctuary be utterly dismayed. 25 And as he ended with these words, Nicanor and his men advanced with trumpets and paeans. 26 But Judas and his men joined battle with the enemy, 27 calling upon God and praying; and so fighting with their hands, while they prayed to God with their hearts, they slew no fewer than thirty-five thousand men, mightily cheered by the manifest help of God. 28 The battle over, they were returning with joy, when they recognized Nicanor lying dead in full armour; 29 a shout of excitement arose, they blessed the Sovereign Lord in the language of their fathers, 30 and he who was ever in body and soul the protagonist of his fellow-citizens, he who retained through life his youthful patriotism, ordered Nicanor’s head and arm to be cut off and carried to Jerusalem. 31 When he arrived there, and had called his country-men together and set the priests before the altar, 32 he sent for the garrison of the citadel, showed them the vile Nicanor’s head and the impious creature’s hand which he had stretched out vauntingly against the holy house of the Almighty; 33 then, cutting out the impious Nicanor’s tongue, he said he would throw it piecemeal to the birds and hang up the rewards of his insensate folly opposite the sanctuary. 34 And they all lifted to heaven their cry of blessing to the Lord who had manifested himself, saying, Blessed be He who hath preserved his own Place undefiled. 35 And he hung Nicanor’s head from the citadel, a clear and conspicuous token to all of the Lord’s help. 36 And all decided, by public decree, never to let this day pass uncelebrated, but to celebrate the thirteenth day of the twelfth month—called Adar in Syriac—the day before the day of Mordecai.

15:37–39. Epilogue of the epitomist.

37 Such was the history of Nicanor; and as the city was held from that period by the Hebrews, I will make this the end of my story. 38 If it has been well told, if it has been skilfully arranged, such was my desire; but if it is poor and indifferent, that was all I could manage. 39 For just as it is bad to drink wine alone or again to drink water alone, whereas wine mixed with water proves at once wholesome and delightful, so the skill with which a book is composed is a delight to the taste of readers.

And here shall be the end.

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