2nd Maccabees – Chapters 1-4

Maccabees picChapter 1

A Letter to the Yehudim in Mitsrayim

1 From the Yehudim of Yerushalayim and Yehudah to those in Mitsrayim (Egypt), Shalom.
2 May Yahweh bless you and keep the covenant he made with Avraham, Yitschaq, and Ya’akov, his faithful servants. 
3 May he fill each of you with the desire to worship him and to do his will eagerly with all your heart and soul.
4 May he enable you to understand his Torah and his mitsvot.
5 May he give you shalom, answer your prayers, forgive your sins, and never abandon you in times of trouble.
6 Here in Yehudah we are now praying for you.
7 In the hundredth three score and ninth year, when Demetrius the Second was king of Assyria, we wrote to tell you about the persecution and the hard times that came upon us in the years after Jason revolted against authority in the Set-Apart Land.
8 Jason and his men set fire to the Temple gates and slaughtered innocent people. Then we prayed to Elohim and he answered our prayers. So we sacrificed animals, gave offerings of grain, lit the lamps in the Temple, and set out the sacred loaves.
9 This is why we urge you to celebrate in the month of Kislev¹ a feast similar to the Feast of Booths². Written in the hundredth, four score and eighth year .
*1) the Feast celebrated was cHannukah – 25 Kislev to 2 Tevet     2) Feast of Booths is also known as Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot, celebrate Tishrei 15 – 23.

A Letter To Aristobulus – The Death of King Antiochus

10 From the Yehudim of Yerushalayim and Yehudah, Memshelet Yisra’el, and Yehudah(Judas Maccabeus), to Aristobulus, a descendant of Kohenim (Priests) and the teacher of King Ptolemy, and to the Yehudim in Mitsrayim (Egypt), greetings and good health.
11 We thank Elohim because he saved us from great danger. We were like men ready to fight against a king,
12 but Elohim drove the enemy from our Kodesh city.
13  When King Antiochus arrived in Persia, his army seemed impossible to defeat, but they were cut to pieces in the temple of Nanea by an act of treachery on the part of her priests.
14 King Antiochus had gone to the temple with some of his most trusted advisers, so that he might marry the g-ddess and then take away most of the temple treasures as a wedding gift.
15  After the priests had laid out the treasure, he and a few of his men went into the temple to collect it. But the priests closed the doors behind him
16 and stoned him and his men from trap doors hidden in the ceiling. Then they cut up the bodies and threw the heads to the people outside.
17 Praise Elohim for punishing those evil men! Praise him for everything!

Fire Consumes Nehemiah’s Sacrifice

18 On the twenty-fifth day of the month of Kislev we will celebrate the Feast of Rededication just as we celebrate the Feast of Booths. We thought it important to remind you of this, so that you too may celebrate this feast. In this way you will remember how fire appeared when Nechemyah offered sacrifices after he had rebuilt the Temple and the altar.
19 At the time when our ancestors were being taken to exile in Persia, a few devout priests took some fire from the altar and secretly hid it in the bottom of a dry cistern. They hid the fire so well that no one ever discovered it.
20 Years later, when it pleased Elohim, the Persian emperor Artaxerxes sent Nechemyahu back to Yerushalayim¹, and Nechemyahu told the descendants of those kohenim to find the fire. They reported to us that they had found no fire but only some oily liquid. Nechemyahu then told them to scoop some up and bring it to him.
21 When everything for the sacrifice had been placed on the altar, he told the kohenim to pour the liquid over both the wood and the sacrifice.
22 After this was done and some time had passed, the sun appeared from behind the clouds, and suddenly everything on the altar burst into flames. Everyone looked on in amazement.
23 Then, while the fire was consuming the sacrifice, Elyashiv² the Kohen HaGadol (High Priest) led the people in prayer, and Nechemyahu and all the people responded.
*1) Found in Nechemyahu (Nehemiah) 2:1-7     *2) Many manuscripts have Yehonathan (Jonathan) as high priest, and yet the Books of Nehemiah and Ezra claim Elyashiv (Eliashib) – Neh 3:1

Nehemiah’s Prayer

24 Nehemiah’s prayer went something like this: Yahweh our Elohim, Creator of all things, you are awesome and strong, yet compassionate and just. You alone are king. No one but you is kind;
25 no one but you is gracious and just. You are almighty and eternal, forever ready to rescue Yisra’el from trouble. You chose our ancestors to be your own special people.¹
26 Accept this sacrifice which we offer on behalf of all Yisra’el; protect your chosen people and make us kodesh.
27  Free those who are slaves in foreign lands and gather together our scattered people. Have mercy on our people, who are mistreated and despised, so that all other nations will know that you are our Elohim.
28 Punish the brutal and arrogant people who have oppressed us,
29 and then establish your people in your set-apart land, as Mosheh said you would.
*1) Exo 19:5, Deu 14:2, 26:18, Psa 135:4

The Persian Emperor Hears about the Fire

30 Then the priests sang hymns.
31 After the sacrifices had been consumed, Nechemyahu gave orders for the rest of the liquid to be poured over some large stones.
32 Immediately a fire blazed up, but it was extinguished by a flame from the fire on the altar.
33 News of what had happened spread everywhere. The Persian emperor heard that a liquid had been found in the place where the priests had hidden the altar fire, just before they were taken into exile. He also heard that Nechemyahu and his friends had used this liquid to burn the sacrifice on the altar.
34 When the emperor investigated the matter and found out that this was true, he had the area fenced off and made into a shrine.
35 It became a substantial source of income for him, and he used the money for gifts to anyone who was in his good favor.
36 Nechemyahu and his friends called the liquid nephthar¹ which means “purification,” but most people call it naphtha.
*1) in Hebrew as נֵפְט “nephth” which means “petroleum or burning oil.”


Chapter 2

Jeremiah Hides the Tent of Meeting

1 We know from the records that Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah) the prophet instructed the people who were being taken into exile to hide some of the fire from the altar, as we have just mentioned.
2 We also know that he taught them Elohim’s Torah and warned them not to be deceived by the ornamented gold and silver idols which they would see in the land of their exile.
3 And then he urged them never to abandon the Torah.
 These same records also tell us that Yirmeyahu, acting under divine guidance, commanded the Tent of Meeting and the Ark of the Covenant  to follow him to the mountain where Mosheh had looked down on the land which Elohim had promised our people.
5 When Yirmeyahu got to the mountain, he found a huge cave and there he hid the Tent of Meeting, the Ark of the Covenant, and the altar of incense. Then he sealed up the entrance.
6 Some of Yirmeyahu’s friends tried to follow him and mark the way, but they could not find the cave.
7 When Yirmeyahu learned what they had done, he reprimanded them, saying, no one must know about this place until Elohim gathers his people together again and shows them loving-kindness.
8 At that time he will reveal where these things are hidden, and the dazzling light of his presence will be seen in the cloud, as it was in the time of Mosheh and on the occasion when Shelomoh (Solomon) prayed that the Temple might be dedicated in set-apart splendor.

How Shelomoh Celebrated the Festival

9 We are also told how the wise King Shelomoh offered a sacrifice of dedication at the completion of the Temple,
10 and that when he prayed, fire came down from heaven and consumed the sacrifices¹, just as it had done earlier when Mosheh prayed.
11 Moses had explained that the sin offering was consumed by fire because it was not eaten.
12 Shelomoh celebrated the festival for eight days.
*1) Divrei HaYamin Beyt (2 Chronicles) 7:1-11    2)Dedication of the completed temple coincided with the Feast of Booths, resulting in a complete 8 day feast unto Yahweh

Nehemiah’s Library

13 These same facts are found in the royal records and in the memoirs of Nechemyahu, who established a library and collected the writings of David, letters of the kings concerning offerings, and books about the kings and prophets.
14 Yehudah Maccabeus also collected the books that had been scattered because of the war, and we still have them.
15 If you ever need any of these books, let us know, and we will send them.

An Invitation to Celebrate the Feast

16 Since we are about to celebrate the Festival of Rededication, we are writing to you, advising you to celebrate it as well.
17 Elohim has saved all his people and has restored to all of us our set-apart land, the kingship, the priesthood, and the Temple services,
18 just as he promised in his Torah. He has rescued us from terrible evils and has purified the Temple, and we are confident that in his loving-kindness he will soon gather us to his kodesh Temple from every nation under the shamayim (heavens).


Chapter 3

The Argument between Onias and Shim’on

When Onias¹ was Kohen HaGadol in Yerushalayim, the holy city enjoyed peace and prosperity, and its laws were strictly obeyed, because he was devout and hated evil.
2  The kings of Assyria and Mitsrayim honored the Temple and presented it with expensive gifts,
3 and King Seleucus IV, ruler of all Asia, even used to pay the costs of the Temple sacrifices from the revenues he collected.
But a man by the name of Shim’on, of the tribe of Binyamin (Benjamin), the chief administrative official of the Temple, lost an argument he had with Onias over the regulations governing the city market.
5 At this time Apollonius son of Thraseus was the governor of Greater Assyria. Shim’on went to him
6 and said that there was so much money in the Temple treasury that it could not be counted, and since the money was not needed for sacrifices, it might as well be placed under the king’s control.
*1) refers to Onias III, son of Shim’on (Simon) II who was a contemporary of King Seleucus IV.

Heliodorus Is Sent to Jerusalem

When Apollonius met with the king, he told him about the money, and the king ordered Heliodorus, his chief minister, to get it for him.
Heliodorus set out at once on his mission, but he claimed that he was only making a tour of inspection of the cities of Greater Assyria.
9 After he had arrived in Yerushalayim and had been warmly received by the Kohen Hagadol, he explained the real reason for his visit and asked if what he had been told was true.
1The Kohen HaGadol then stated that Shim’on, that devil of a man, had not been telling the truth. There was indeed some money in the Temple treasury, but part of it was set aside for widows and orphans and part of it belonged to Hyrcanus son of Tobias, a very important man.
11 He also pointed out that the total amount was only 30,000 pounds of silver and 15,000 pounds of gold.
12 He added that it was absolutely impossible that anyone should be permitted to take the money of those people who had placed their trust in the sanctity and safety of this Temple.

Heliodorus Plans to Enter the Temple

13 But Heliodorus insisted that the money should be taken for the royal treasury, as the king had ordered.
14 So he set a day and went into the Temple to supervise the counting of the money. This caused an uproar throughout the entire city.
15 Priests, wearing their priestly robes, threw themselves face downward before the altar and begged Elohim to keep the money safe, since he had given the laws designed to protect the money that people deposited in the Temple.
16 It was heartbreaking to see the Kohen HaGadol. His face turned pale, revealing the agony of his soul,
17 and his body was trembling with fear, reflecting the pain in his heart.
18 People ran from their houses to join together in prayer that the Temple might not be defiled.
19 Women, wearing nothing but skirts of sackcloth, crowded the streets. Young girls whose parents had never allowed them to be seen in public ran to the gates or to the walls of the city, or just stared out of their windows.
20 But wherever they went, they lifted their hands to Elohim in prayer.
21 What a pitiful sight it was to see the High Priest in such great agony and frustration and to see everyone in the city confused and lying face down on the ground.

Elohim Protects His Temple

22 While everyone was begging the Yahweh Tsevaot to protect the money that had been entrusted to his care,
23 Heliodorus went on with his plan.
2But at the very moment that he and his bodyguards arrived at the treasury, Yahweh caused such a vision to appear that everyone who had dared to enter with Heliodorus was panic-stricken and weak with fear at this display of the Elohim’s power.
25 In the vision they saw a horse and a rider. The horse had a richly decorated bridle, and its rider, dressed in gold armor, was frightening. Suddenly the horse rushed at Heliodorus, then reared up and struck at him with its hoofs.
26 Heliodorus also saw two unusually strong and handsome young men, wearing very fine clothes. They stood on either side of him and beat him without compassion.
27 He immediately fell to the ground unconscious, and his men put him on a stretcher and carried him out.
28 Only a moment earlier this man had entered the treasury with a large group of men, including all his bodyguards, but now he was being carried away helpless. So they all openly acknowledged the mighty power of Elohim.

Onias Prays for Heliodorus’ Recovery

29 Heliodorus lay there unable to speak and without hope of recovery from this demonstration of Elohim’s power.
30 But the Yehudim praised Almighty Yahweh because he had miraculously protected his Temple and had brought great happiness where only minutes before there had been fear and confusion.
31 Some of Heliodorus’ friends quickly asked Onias the High Priest to pray that the Most High would spare the life of this man who was at the point of death.
32 So the High Priest offered a sacrifice in the hope that Elohim would save Heliodorus, for he did not want the king to think that the Yehudim had done this to the man he had sent.
33 While Onias was offering the sacrifice, the two young men, wearing the same clothes as before, again appeared to Heliodorus and said, be grateful to the High Priest; Elohim has spared your life because of him.
34 Remember that it was the Elohim of heaven who punished you. Now go and tell everyone of his great power.
When they had said this, they disappeared.

Heliodorus Praises Elohim

35 So Heliodorus offered a sacrifice to Elohim and made many promises, because Elohim had spared his life. Then he said shalom to Onias and returned with his army to the king.
36 There he told everyone what Yahweh, the most powerful of all elohim, had done.
37 When the king asked Heliodorus who would be the best man to send on the next mission to Yerushalayim, Heliodorus replied,
38 If you have an enemy or know of someone plotting against your government, send him. He will come back badly beaten, if he comes back at all, for some strange power from Elohim is at work there.
39 The Elohim of heaven watches over the Temple; he strikes down and destroys anyone who comes to harm it.
40 That is the story of how the Temple treasury was protected from Heliodorus.


Chapter 4

Simon Accuses Onias

1 But Shim’on (mentioned earlier as the one who informed Apollonius about the money and brought trouble on the nation) also lied about Onias, claiming that he was responsible for the attack on Heliodorus and for the difficulties that followed.
2 He dared to accuse Onias of plotting against the government—Onias who not only had made donations to Yerushalayim and had protected the Temple, but who was eager to see that all our laws were obeyed. 3 Apollonius son of Menestheus, the governor of Greater Assyria, encouraged Shim’on in every evil thing he did,
4 and Shim’on’s opposition finally grew so strong that one of his trusted followers committed several murders. Onias realized how dangerous the situation had become,
5 so he went to the king, not for the purpose of making accusations against his own people, but for the common good of all Yehudim, both in their private and public lives.
He realized that without the king’s cooperation there was no hope for shalom, and Shim’on would keep on with his foolishness.

Jason Introduces Greek Customs

7 Later, when King Seleucus died and Antiochus (known as Epiphanes) became king, Jason¹ the brother of Onias became High Priest by corrupt means.
8 He went to see the king and offered him 27,000 pounds of silver with 6,000 more pounds to be paid later.
9 Jason also offered him an additional 11,250 pounds of silver for the authority to establish a stadium where young men could train and to enroll the people of Yerushalayim as citizens of Antioch.
10 The king gave his approval, and just as soon as Jason took over the office of High Priest, he made the people of Yerushalayim change to the Greek way of life.
11 He began by abolishing the favors that Yochanan had secured for the Yehudim from previous Assyrian kings. (Yochanan was the father of the Eupolemus who later went to Roma to make an alliance and to establish ties of friendship.) Jason also did away with the customs of the Yehudim and introduced new customs that were contrary to our Torah.
12 With great enthusiasm he built a stadium near the Temple hill and led our finest young men to adopt the Greek custom of participating in athletic events.
13 Because of the unrivaled wickedness of Jason, that unrighteous and illegitimate High Priest, the craze for the Greek way of life and for foreign customs reached such a point  that even the priests lost all interest in their sacred duties.
14 They lost interest in the Temple services and neglected the sacrifices. Just as soon as the signal was given, they would rush off to take part in the games that were forbidden by our Torah.
15 They did not care about anything their ancestors had valued; they prized only Greek honors.
16 And this turned out to be the source of all their troubles, for the very people whose ways they admired and whose customs they tried to imitate became their enemies and oppressed them.
17 It is a serious thing to disregard Yahweh’s Torah, as you will see from the following events.
*1) Jason was originally named Yeshua, before Hellenizing his name to Jason.

Jerusalem under Syrian Influence

18 Once when the king was present for the athletic games that were held every five years in the city of Tyre,
19 that worthless Jason sent some men there from Yerushalayim, who were also enrolled as citizens of Antioch, to take 22,500 pounds of silver to pay for a sacrifice to Hercules. But even these men did not think it was fitting to use such a large sum of money for a sacrifice, and
20 so the money originally intended as a sacrifice to Hercules was used for the construction of warships.
21 When Apollonius son of Menestheus was sent to Mitsrayim to attend the crowning of Philometor as king, Antiochus learned that Philometor was opposed to his policies. Antiochus became concerned about the security of his own kingdom, so he went to Yapho and then on to Yerushalayim.
22 There he was welcomed with great splendor by Jason and the people of the city who went out to greet him, shouting and carrying torches. From Yerushalayim Antiochus led his army to Phoenicia.

Menelaus Becomes High Priest

23 Three years later, Jason sent Menelaus (brother of the Simon mentioned earlier) to take some money to the king and to get his decision on several important matters.
24 But when he stood before the king, Menelaus impressed him with his show of authority and offered 22,500 pounds of silver more than Jason had offered for his appointment to the office of High Priest.
25 As a result Menelaus returned to Jerusalem with papers from the king, confirming him as High Priest. But he possessed no other qualifications; he had the temper of a cruel tyrant and could be as fierce as a wild animal.
26 So Jason, who had cheated his own brother out of the office of High Priest, was now forced to flee to the land of Ammon.
27 Menelaus continued to be High Priest, but he never paid any of the money he had promised the king.
28 However, Sostratus, the captain of the fort in Jerusalem, kept demanding the money, since it was his responsibility to collect it. So finally, the two men were summoned to appear before the king concerning the matter.
29 Menelaus left his brother Lysimachus as acting High Priest, while Sostratus left the fort under the command of Crete, the commander of the mercenary troops from Cyprus.

The Murder of Onias

30 Meanwhile, there was a revolt in the Kilikian (Cilician) cities of Tarsus and Mallus, because the king had given those cities to Antiochis, his mistress.
31 So the king left Andronicus, one of his high officials, in command, while he hurried off to Kilikia to restore order.
32 Menelaus took advantage of this opportunity and presented Andronicus with some of the gold objects he had removed from the Temple in Yerushalayim. He had already sold some of them to the city of Tyre and to other nearby cities.
33 When Onias (Onias the IV) heard about this, he fled for safety to a temple at Daphne near the city of Antioch and openly accused Menelaus.
34 Then Menelaus secretly persuaded Andronicus to kill Onias. So Andronicus went to Onias and deceived him with a friendly greeting and with promises of safety. Although Onias was suspicious, Andronicus finally lured him away from the safety of the temple and immediately murdered him in cold blood.

Andronicus Is Punished

35 The Yehudim and Gentiles were very angry because Onias had been murdered.
36 So when the king returned from the territory of Kilikia, the Yehudim of Antioch went to him and protested against this senseless killing. Many Gentiles felt the same way about the crime.
37 King Antiochus was deeply grieved and was so filled with sorrow that he was moved to tears when he recalled the wisdom and self-control that Onias had shown throughout his life.
38 Antiochus became so angry that he tore off Andronicus’ royal robe, stripped him naked, and marched him around the city to the very spot where Onias had been murdered. Then Antiochus had this bloodthirsty murderer put to death. This was how the Elohim gave him the punishment he deserved.

Lysimachus Is Killed

39 Meanwhile, with the support of his brother Menelaus, Lysimachus had on numerous occasions robbed the Yerushalayim Temple and had taken many of its gold objects. When word of this spread around, crowds began to gather in protest against Lysimachus.
40 Finally, the crowds were becoming dangerous and were beginning to get out of control, so Lysimachus sent 3,000 armed men to attack them. They were led by Auranus, a man as foolish as he was old.
41 When the Yehudim in the Temple courtyard realized what was happening, they picked up rocks, pieces of wood, or simply handfuls of ashes from the altar and threw them at Lysimachus and his men in the confusion.
42 They killed a few of Lysimachus’ men, wounded many of them, and all the rest ran for their lives. Lysimachus himself, that temple robber, was killed near the Temple treasury.

Menelaus Is Brought to Trial

43 Because of this incident Menelaus was brought to trial.
44 When the king came to the city of Tyre, the Yehudim authorities in Yerushalayim sent three men to bring charges against Menelaus.
45 When Menelaus saw that he was losing the case, he offered Ptolemy son of Dorymenes a large bribe to persuade the king to decide in his favor.
46 Ptolemy then asked the king to go outside the courtroom with him, as though to get some fresh air, and there he persuaded him to change his mind  and declare Menelaus innocent of the charges against him.
47 So Menelaus was set free, although he had caused the trouble; but the three men, whom even the cruel Scythians would have declared innocent, were sentenced to death.
48 The three men had spoken in defense of Yerushalayim, its people, and the sacred objects stolen from the Temple, but they were quickly and unjustly executed.
49 Some of the people of Tyre, however, showed their disgust with this crime and their respect for these men by giving them a splendid funeral.
50 Menelaus stayed on in his position because of the greed of those in power. He grew more evil every day and became the worst enemy of his own people.