2nd Maccabees – Chapter 13-15

Chapter 13

Menelaus Is Put to Death

In the hundredth two-score and ninth year, Yehudah Maccabeus and his followers found out that Antiochus Eupator was marching against Yehudah (Judea) with a large army and that Lysias, the young king’s guardian and the head of his government, was with him.
2 They had a force of Greek troops consisting of 110,000 infantry, 5,300 cavalry, 22 elephants, and 300 chariots with sharp blades attached to their wheels.
3 Menelaus, trying to take advantage of the situation, went over to their side and urged them on, not because he was concerned for the country, but because he hoped to be confirmed as Kohen HaGadol (High Priest).
4 But Yahweh, the King of kings, made Antiochus furious with Menelaus. Lysias proved to Antiochus that this criminal had been the source of all his troubles, so Antiochus ordered him to be taken to the city of Berea and put to death in the way that it was done there.
5 In that city there is a tower about 75 feet high. It is filled with ashes, and all around the inside of the tower is a platform sloping down into the ashes.
6 People accused of crimes against their deities or of any other serious crime are taken there and thrown down to their death.
7 Menelaus was put to death in that way, without even having the privilege of a burial,  and that was just what he deserved.
8 He had often profaned the set-apart ashes of the altar fire in the Temple, and now he met his death in ashes.

A Battle Near the City of Modin

9 King Antiochus arrogantly continued his barbaric invasion of Yehudah, intending to deal with the Yehudim more harshly than his father had ever done.
10 When Yehudah learned of this, he told the people to pray to Elohim day and night, because they were in danger of losing their Torah, their country, and their set-apart Temple.
11 As never before, they needed his help and protection to keep their newly restored country from falling into the hands of heathen Gentiles.
12 For three days the people did nothing but lie face down on the ground, fasting and crying, begging their merciful Elohim for his help. Then Yehudah spoke words of encouragement to the people, urging them to get ready for action.
13 Afterward, Yehudah met privately with the Yehudite leaders and decided to march out with Yahweh’s help to battle against the king, rather than to wait for Antiochus to invade Yehudah and besiege Yerushalayim.
14 Then, leaving the outcome of the battle to the Creator of the world, Yehudah encouraged his men to fight bravely and to be willing to die for their Torah, the Temple, Yerushalayim, their country, and their whole way of life. They set up camp near the city of Modin.
15 Yehudah gave his men the battle cry, Victory comes from Yahweh, and that night, with a picked force of his bravest young men, he attacked the area near the king’s tent and killed as many as 2,000 men. They also stabbed to death the lead elephant and its keeper.
16 Everyone in camp was terrified and in panic when Yehudah and his men finally left victoriously just before dawn. 
17 The help and protection of Elohim had made all this possible.

Antiochus the Fifth Makes a Treaty with the Yehudim

18 This taste of Yehudite daring was enough to convince King Antiochus that he had to find some better way of capturing the Yehudim’s positions.
19 He attacked the strong Yehudite fort of Beyth Tzur, but was repeatedly beaten back and finally defeated.
20 Yehudah sent supplies to the men who were defending the fort,  but a Yehudite soldier by the name of Rhodocus gave some secret information to the enemy.
21 He was found out, however, caught, and put to death.
22 The king made a second attempt to come to terms with the people of Beyth Tzur, and when he had reached an agreement with them, he withdrew his forces. Then he went to attack Yehudah, but again he was defeated.
23 Meanwhile, Philip had been left at Antioch in charge of the government, but King Antiochus learned that he had revolted. The king did not know what to do, so he initiated peace talks with the Yehudim, agreed to their terms, and promised to be just in his treatment of them.
24 To put the treaty into effect, he offered a sacrifice, gave a generous gift to show his respect for the Temple,  and graciously received Yehudah Maccabeus. After that, the king appointed Hegemonides to be governor of the territory between the cities of Ptolemais and Gerar, and then he himself went on to Ptolemais.
25 The people there were angry because of the treaty he had made with the Yehudim—so angry, in fact, that they wanted the treaty canceled.
26 But Lysias made a public speech, defending the treaty as well as he could. After he had calmed the people down and convinced them that he was right, he returned to Antioch. In this way King Antiochus’ invasion was turned into a retreat.


Chapter 14

Elyaqum Speaks against Yehudah

Three years later, Yehudah and his men learned that Demetrius son of Seleucus had sailed into the port of Tripolis with a powerful army and a fleet.
2 It was reported that he had killed King Antiochus and his guardian Lysias and had taken over the country.
3 There was a man by the name of Elyaqum¹, who had formerly been High Priest but who had gladly adopted the Greek way of life during the revolt. Realizing that he could never again be High Priest and fearful of what the Yehudim might do to him, he went to see King Demetrius in the year 151. 
4 On this occasion, he presented the king with a gold crown and a palm branch, together with some olive branches traditionally presented to the Temple, but he said nothing about his plans.
Later, however, he got the chance to put his foolish plans into effect when Demetrius summoned him to a meeting of his advisers and asked him what the Jews were intending to do.
6 Elyaqum said, “the followers of Yehudah Maccabeus think of themselves as devout and patriotic; they love war and are constantly inciting the people to rebellion and will never leave the nation in peace.
7 It is their fault that I no longer hold the esteemed position of High Priest, to which I am entitled by birth.
8 And so I have come here, primarily out of a genuine concern for your interests as king, but also out of consideration for my own people, for the foolish policies of Yehudah and his followers have brought terrible suffering on our entire nation.
When Your Majesty has examined all the details of these matters, please act in your usual kind and generous manner to relieve the oppression of our nation and its people.
10 As long as Yehudah is alive, it will be impossible for our nation to enjoy peace.
*1) Elyaqum, also known Yoachim, served as High Priest 162-159 BCE. He changed His named to Alcimus after being Hellenized.

Demetrius Sends Nicanor to Attack Yehudah

11 As soon as Elyaqum had finished his speech, the other advisers quickly seized this opportunity to arouse Demetrius’ anger against Judas, because they also hated him.
12 So King Demetrius immediately appointed Nicanor, who was the commander of his elephant forces, to be governor of Judea, and sent him there
13 with orders to kill Yehudah, scatter his followers, and make Elyaqum High Priest of the greatest Temple in all the world.
14 All the foreigners in Yehudah (Judea), who had fled from Yehudah’s attacks, now rushed to join forces with Nicanor, because they thought that any defeat or trouble that came to the Yehudim would be to their own advantage.
15 The Yehudim heard that Nicanor was attacking and that the foreigners in their country were giving him their support. So they threw dirt on themselves and prayed to their Elohim, who had chosen their nation as his possession forever and had never failed to help them in time of need.
16 Then Yehudah, their leader, gave the orders, and they immediately marched out to engage the enemy in battle near the village of Adasah.
17 Yehudah’s brother Shim’on was fighting Nicanor but was gradually losing the battle because of an unexpected move on the part of the enemy.
18 However, when Nicanor heard how bravely and courageously Yehudah and his men were fighting for their country, he decided not to settle the matter in battle.
19 Instead, he sent Posidonius, Theodotus, and Mattityahu to make a treaty with the Yehudim.
20 After the terms of the treaty had been worked out in detail, Nicanor informed his troops, and they unanimously agreed.
21 Then a day was set on which the leaders would meet in private. Ceremonial chairs were brought out from each camp and set up.
22 Yehudah had taken the precaution of placing battle-ready troops in strategic places, in case of sudden treachery on the part of the enemy. But the two leaders had a friendly meeting.
23 Nicanor stayed on in Yerushalayim for some time after that. He did not mistreat the Yehudim in any way, and even sent away the people who had come over to his side.
24 The two men became the best of friends, and Yehudah was Nicanor’s constant companion.
25 Nicanor urged him to marry and start a family. So Yehudah did this and settled down to a peaceful life.

Nicanor Turns against Yehudah

26 When Elyaqum noticed how well Nicanor and Yehudah were getting along, he obtained a copy of the treaty and went to see King Demetrius. He told the king that Nicanor was disloyal to the government, because he had appointed the traitor Yehudah to be his successor.
27 These false accusations infuriated the king, and in his anger he wrote to Nicanor, informing him that he was dissatisfied with the treaty and ordering him to arrest Yehudah Maccabeus and send him to Antioch at once.
28 When this message reached Nicanor, he was hurt and didn’t know what to do, because he did not like having to break an agreement with a man who had kept his part of the bargain.
29 Yet it was impossible for him to ignore the king’s command, so he began looking for a way to trap Yehudah.
30 Yehudah, however, noticed that Nicanor was becoming hostile and rude toward him, and he knew that this was a bad sign. So he gathered a large number of his followers and went into hiding.
31 When Nicanor realized that Yehudah had outsmarted him, he went to the great and holy Temple at the time when the priests were offering sacrifice and ordered them to surrender Yehudah to him.
32 But the priests declared under oath that they had no idea where Yehudah was hiding.
33 Then Nicanor raised his right arm in the direction of the Temple and made a solemn threat: If you do not hand Yehudah over to me as a prisoner, I will level Yahweh’s Temple to the ground, demolish this altar, and on this spot build a glorious temple to Dionysus.
34 Then he left, and immediately the priests lifted their arms toward heaven and prayed to Yahweh, the faithful Defender of our nation:
35 Elohim, you are in need of nothing, yet it has pleased you to place your Temple here and to live among us.
36 You alone are Kodesh (holy), and your Temple has only recently been purified, so now protect its set-apartness forever.

Razis Dies for His Country

37 One of the leaders in Yerushalayim, a man by the name of Razis, was denounced to Nicanor. It was said that he had helped his people in many ways and was so highly respected by them that he was known as the “Father of the Yehudim.”
38 During the early days of the revolution he had risked his life for Yehudah-ism (Judaism) and had been brought to trial because of his loyalty.
39 Wanting to show clearly how much he disliked the Yehudim, Nicanor sent more than 500 soldiers to arrest Razis, because he thought his arrest would be a crippling blow to the Yehudim.
40 The soldiers were about to capture the tower where Razis had gone.
41 They were forcing open the gates to the courtyard, and the order had been given to set the door on fire.
42 Razis realized there was no escape, so he tried to commit suicide with his sword,  preferring to die with honor rather than suffer humiliation at the hands of evil men.
43 Under the pressure of the moment, Razis misjudged the thrust of the sword, and it did not kill him. So, while the soldiers were swarming into the room, he rushed to the wall and jumped off like a brave hero into the crowd below.
44 The crowd quickly moved back, and he fell in the space they left.
45 Still alive, and burning with courage, he got up, and with blood gushing from his wounds, he ran through the crowd and finally climbed a steep rock.
46 Now completely drained of blood, he tore out his intestines with both hands and threw them at the crowd, and as he did so, he prayed for the Elohim of life and breath to give them back to him. That was how he died.


Chapter 15

Nicanor’s Cruel Plan

Nicanor learned that Yehuda and his men were in the region of Shomeron (Samaria), and so he decided to attack them on a Shabbat, when he could do so without any danger to himself.
2 The Yehudim who were forced to accompany his army begged him not to do such a cruel and savage thing, but to respect the day that the all-seeing Yahweh had honored and made the most set-apart of all days.
3 Then Nicanor, the lowest creature on earth, asked if there was some sovereign ruler in heaven who had commanded them to honor the Shabbat.
And the Yehudim replied, Yes; the living Elohim, who rules in heaven, commanded us to honor the Shabbat.
5 But Nicanor answered, I am the ruler on earth, and I order you to take up your weapons and to do what the king commands. However, he did not succeed in carrying out his cruel plan.

Yehudah Prepares His Troops for Battle

6 In his arrogance Nicanor had boasted that he would set up a monument in honor of his victory over Yehudah.
But Yehudah was fully confident that Elohim would help him, so he urged his men not to be afraid of the enemy.
8 He encouraged them to remember how the Almighty had helped them in times past and to rest assured that he would give them victory this time also.
He renewed their hope by reading to them from the Torah and the Nevi’im (Prophets) and by reminding them of the battles they had already won.
10 When his men were ready for battle, he gave them their orders and at the same time pointed out how the Gentiles could not be trusted, because they never kept their treaties.
11 He armed all his men, not by encouraging them to trust in shields and spears, but by inspiring them with courageous words. He also lifted their morale by telling them about his dream, a kind of vision that they could trust in.
12 He told them that he had seen a vision of Onias, the former High Priest, that great and wonderful man of humble and gentle disposition, who was an outstanding orator and who had been taught from childhood how to live a virtuous life. With outstretched arms Onias was praying for the entire Jewish nation.
13 Yehudah then saw an impressive white-haired man of great dignity and authority.
14 Onias said: This is Yahweh’s prophet Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah), who loves the Yehudite people and offers many prayers for us and for Yerushalayim, the set-apart city.

15 Then Yirmeyahu stretched out his right hand and gave Yehudah a gold sword, saying as he did so, this set-apart sword is a gift from Yahweh.

16 Take it and destroy your enemies.

17 The eloquent words that Yehudah spoke encouraged everyone to be brave, and inspired boys to fight like men. Their city, their faith, and their Temple were in danger. So the Yehudim made up their minds not to waste any time, but to make a daring attack against the enemy and bravely decide their fate in hand-to-hand combat.
18 They were not so concerned about their own families and relatives as they were about their set-apart Temple.
19 And the people who had to stay in Yerushalayim were deeply concerned about how a battle on open ground would turn out.

The Defeat and Death of Nicanor

20 Everyone was waiting to see who would win the battle. The enemy troops were already moving forward, with their cavalry on each side of them, and their elephants placed in strategic positions.
21 Yehudah Maccabeus looked at the huge enemy force, the variety of their weapons, and their fierce elephants. Then he raised his hands toward heaven and prayed to Elohim, who works miracles, because he knew that Elohim gives victory to those who deserve it, not to those who have a strong army.
22 Yehudah said: Elohim, when Yechizq’yahu (Hezekiah) was king of Yehudah, you sent your messenger, who killed 185,000 of King Sennacherib’s men.
23 Now once again, Yahweh of heaven, send your messenger to make our enemies shake and tremble with fear.
24 With your great power, destroy these people who have slandered you and have come out to attack your chosen people. So Yehudah ended his prayer.
25 Nicanor and his army moved forward to the sound of trumpets and battle songs,  but Yehudah and his men went into battle calling on Yahweh for help. 
26 So by fighting with their hands and praying to Yahweh in their hearts, the Yehudim killed more than 35,000 of the enemy.
27 How grateful they were for the help they had received from Yahweh!
28 When the battle was over and they were going home celebrating their victory, they noticed Nicanor in full armor lying dead on the battlefield.
29 Then with loud shouts they praised Elohim in their native language.
30 Yehudah Maccabeus, who had always fought with all his body and soul for his own people, never losing the patriotism of his youth, ordered his men to cut off Nicanor’s head and right arm and to take them to Yerushalayim.
31 When they arrived in the city, he called together all the people, stationed the priests before the altar, and sent for the men in the fort.
32 He showed them the head of the evil Nicanor and the arm which that wicked man had arrogantly stretched out against the Temple of the Almighty Yahweh.
33 Then he cut out the tongue of that heathen man, promising to feed it bit by bit to the birds and to hang up his head opposite the Temple, as evidence of what his foolishness did for him.
34 Everyone there looked up to heaven and praised Elohim, who had revealed his power and had kept his Temple from being defiled.
35 Yehudah hung Nicanor’s head from the wall of the fort, as a clear proof to everyone of Elohim’s help.
36 By unanimous vote it was decided that this day would never be forgotten, but would be celebrated each year on the eve of Mordechai’s Day¹, which is the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, called Adar in Aramaic.
*1) Referred to here as “Mordechai’s Day” is actually the Feast of Purim found in the Book of cHaddasah (Ester) 9:17-21.