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2 Maccabees 8

8But Judas, who is also called Maccabaeus, together with his companions, went round the villages by stealth, summoning their kinsfolk and mustering those who had adhered to Judaism, till they collected as many as six thousand. And they invoked the Lord to look upon the people whom all men oppressed, to have compassion on the sanctuary which the godless had profaned, and also to pity the ruined city which was on the point of being levelled with the ground, to hearken to the blood that cried to him, to remember the impious massacre of the innocent babes and the blasphemies committed against his name, and to manifest his hatred of evil. Now as soon as Maccabaeus had got his company together, the heathen found him irresistible, for the Lord’s anger was now turned into mercy. He would surprise and burn both towns and villages, gaining possession of strategic positions and routing large numbers of the enemy. He took special advantage of the night for such attacks. And the whole country echoed with the fame of his valour.

So when Philip saw that the man was gaining ground inch by inch and adding daily to his successes, he wrote to Ptolemy, the governor of Coelesyria and Phoenicia, for support in maintaining the king’s cause. The latter lost no time in selecting Nicanor, the son of Patroclus, one of the foremost among the king’s Friends, whom he dispatched at the head of no fewer than twenty thousand troops of all nationalities to exterminate the entire population of Judaea; and with him there was associated Gorgias, a military commander who had considerable experience of active service. 10 Nicanor, however, determined to sell the Jews into slavery, and so to make up the sum of two thousand talents which the king owed by way of tribute to the Romans. 11 He therefore sent at once to the maritime towns, inviting them to purchase Jewish slaves, whom he promised to sell at the rate of ninety a talent—little imagining the judgement that was to overtake him from the Almighty.

12 Now when Judas was informed of Nicanor’s inroad, and when he told his followers about the arrival of the host, 13 up>those who were cowardly and sceptical about God’s judgement ran off and decamped, 14 while others sold all their remaining possessions and withal besought the Lord to deliver those whom the impious Nicanor had already sold before the battle; and this, 15 if not for their own sakes, at least for the sake of the covenants made with their fathers and for the sake of His reverend and glorious name, by which they were called. 16 But when Maccabaeus had got his men together, six thousand in number, he bade them have no fear of chains and slavery and no dread of the vast number of the heathen who had attacked them wrongfully; 17 let them fight nobly, keeping before their eyes the wanton and lawless outrage of the heathen upon the holy place, the shocking and despiteful violence done to the city, and further the overthrow of their ancestral polity. 18 They trust to arms and daring deeds, he said, but we rely upon the Almighty God, who by a nod can lay low our enemies, aye and the whole world. 19 Then he rehearsed to them the aid repeatedly vouchsafed in the days of their ancestors, as in the days of Sennacherib, when a hundred and eighty-five thousand perished, 20 and as at the battle fought against the Galatians in Babylonia, where only eight thousand men, together with four thousand Macedonians, took the field, and where, after the Macedonians were hard pressed, the eight thousand slew the hundred and twenty thousand, owing to the aid vouchsafed them from heaven, and won rich booty. 21 With these words he inspirited them and got them ready to die for the laws and for their country. 22 He then divided his army into four, and put his brothers at the head of the various divisions, Simon, Joseph, and Jonathan each being in command of fifteen hundred men; 23 he also made Eleazar read aloud the holy Book, and taking ‘God’s Help’ as a watchword put himself at the head of the first division, and engaged Nicanor. 24 And, since the Almighty fought on their side, they slew over nine thousand of the enemy, wounded and disabled the greater part of Nicanor’s army, and forced them all to flee. 25 They also secured the very money of those who had arrived for the purpose of buying them. 26 Then, after pursuing them for some distance, they were obliged to turn back on account of time; it was the day before the sabbath, and therefore they made no effort to follow them up. 27 So, after collecting the arms of the enemy, and stripping them of their spoils, they attended to the duties of the sabbath, loudly blessing and praising the Lord who had preserved them unto this day and thus begun to show them mercy; 28 after the sabbath, when they had apportioned part of the spoils to their own wounded and to the widows and orphans, they shared the remainder among themselves and their children. 29 This done, they united in supplication, beseeching the Lord of mercy to be fully reconciled to his servants.

30 In an encounter with the forces of Timotheus and Bacchides, they also killed over twenty thousand and got possession of some extremely high strongholds, securing a large quantity of plunder which they distributed equally with themselves not only among the wounded, the orphans, and the widows, but also among the older people. 31 Then, after collecting the arms of the enemy, they stored them all carefully in the most important forts, conveying the rest of the spoils to Jerusalem. 32 They also slew Phylarches, who belonged to Timotheus’ forces, a most impious scoundrel who had inflicted serious injuries on the Jews. 33 And while they were celebrating the victory in the city of their fathers, they burned Callisthenes and some others, who had set fire to the sacred gates, and who had taken refuge in a small house; thus did these men receive the due reward of their impiety. 34 As for the thrice-accursed Nicanor, 35 who had brought the thousand merchants to buy the Jews for slaves, those whom he reckoned of no account humbled him by the help of the Lord; doffing his splendid uniform, he had to make his way alone, like a runaway slave, straight across country to Antioch, having fared disastrously in his expedition and having left his army annihilated. 36 So the man who undertook to secure tribute for the Romans by selling the Jerusalemites into captivity, proved the means of showing that the Jews had a Champion and that they were invulnerable since they followed the laws which He enacted.

9:1–29. The miserable death of Antiochus Epiphanes.

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