2nd Maccabees – Chapters 5-8

Maccabees picChapter 5

Visions of a Battle

About this time Antiochus the Fourth made a second attack against Mitsrayim.
2 For nearly forty days people all over Yerushalayim saw visions of cavalry troops in gold armor charging across the sky. The riders were armed with spears and their swords were drawn.
They were lined up in battle against one another, attacking and counterattacking. Shields were clashing, there was a rain of spears, and arrows flew through the air. All the different kinds of armor and the gold bridles on the horses flashed in the sunlight.
4 Everyone in the city prayed that these visions might be a tov (good) sign.

Jason Attacks Yerushalayim

5 When a false report began to spread that Antiochus had died, Jason took more than a thousand men and suddenly attacked Yerushalayim. They drove back those stationed on the city walls and finally captured the city. Menelaus fled for safety to the fort, near the Temple mount,
6 while Jason and his men went on slaughtering their fellow Yehudim without ceasing. Jason did not realize that success against one’s own people is the worst kind of failure. He even considered his success a victory over enemies, rather than a defeat of his own people.
7 But Jason did not take over the government. Instead he was forced to flee once again to the territory of the Ammonites, and in the end his evil plot brought him nothing but shame and disgrace, and he died in misery.
8  Aretas I, the ruler of the Arabs, imprisoned him; he was looked upon as a criminal and despised because he had betrayed his own people; everyone was hunting for him, and he had to run from town to town.
9 He fled to Mitsrayim for safety, then to Greece, hoping to find refuge among the Spartidai, who were related to the Yehudim. Finally, this man, who had forced so many others to flee from their own country, died as a fugitive in a foreign land.
10 Jason had killed many people and left their bodies unburied, but now his own death was not mourned. He was not given a funeral or even buried with his ancestors.

Antiochus Attacks Yerushalayim

11 When the news of what had happened in Yerushalayim reached Antiochus, he thought the whole country of Yehudah was in revolt, and he became as furious as a wild animal.
12 So he left Mitsrayim and took Yerushalayim by storm, giving his men orders to cut down without discrimination everyone they met and to slaughter anyone they found hiding in the houses.
13 They murdered everyone—men and women, boys and girls; even babies were butchered.
14 Three days later Yerushalayim had lost 80,000 people: 40,000 killed in the attack and at least that many taken away to be sold as slaves.
15 But Antiochus was still not satisfied. He even dared to enter the most set-apart Temple in all the world, guided by Menelaus, who had become a traitor both to his faith and to his people.
16 With his filthy and unrighteous hands, Antiochus swept away the set-apart objects of worship and the gifts which other kings had given to increase the esteem and honor of the Temple.
17 He was so thrilled with his conquest that he did not realize that Elohim had let his set-apart Temple be defiled because the sin of the people of Yerushalayim had made him angry for a while.
18 If the people of Yerushalayim had not been involved in so many sins, Antiochus would have been punished immediately and prevented from taking such a foolish action. He would have suffered the same fate as Heliodorus, who was sent by King Seleucus IV to inspect the treasury.
19 But Yahweh did not choose his people for the sake of his Temple; he established his Temple for the sake of his people.
20 So the Temple shared in the people’s suffering but also later shared in their prosperity. Elohim abandoned it when he became angry, but restored it when his anger had cooled down.

Another Attack against Yerushalayim

21 Antiochus took 135,000 pounds of silver from the Temple and hurried off to Antioch. Such was his arrogance that he felt he could make ships sail across dry land or troops march across the sea.
22 He appointed governors to cause trouble for the people. In Yerushalayim he placed Philip, a man from Phrygia who was more evil than Antiochus himself.
23 At Mount Gerizim he placed Andronicus. In addition to these, there was Menelaus, who mistreated his fellow Yehudim far worse than the governors did.
24 Antiochus hated the Yehudim so much that he sent an army of 22,000 mercenary troops from Mysia to Yerushalayim under the command of a man named Apollonius, with orders to kill every man in the city and to sell the women and boys as slaves.
25 Apollonius arrived in Yerushalayim, pretending to be on a peace mission. Then on Shabbat¹, when all the Yehudim were observing the day of rest, he led his troops, who were fully armed, in a parade outside the city.
26 Suddenly he commanded his men to kill everyone who had come out to see them. They rushed into the city and murdered a great many people.
27 But Yehudah (Judas) Maccabeus and about nine others escaped into the barren mountains, where they lived like wild animals. In order not to defile themselves, they ate only plants which they found growing there.
*1) Exo 20:8-11, 31:14-16, 35:2; Lev 23:3; Deu 5:12-15; Neh 9:14; Isa 56:12, 58:13; Jer 17:21-27; Mar 2:27-28

 

Chapter 6

The Yehudim Are Persecuted Because of Their Faith

Not long after that, the king sent an elderly Athenian to force the Yehudim to abandon their religion and the customs of their ancestors.
2 He was also to defile the Temple by dedicating it to the Olympian chief deity Zeus. The temple on Mount Gerizim was to be officially named Temple of Zeus the Elohim of Hospitality, as the people who lived there had requested.
3 The oppression was harsh and almost intolerable.
4 Gentiles filled the Temple with drinking parties and all sorts of immorality. They even had intercourse with prostitutes there.¹
5 Forbidden objects were brought into the Temple,  and the altar was covered with detestable sacrifices prohibited by the Torah.
6 It was impossible to observe the Shabbat, to celebrate any of the traditional feasts, or even so much as to admit to being a Yehudite.
Each month when the king’s birthday was celebrated, the Yehudim were compelled by brute force to eat the intestines of sacrificial animals. Then, during the festival in honor of the Greek deity of wine Dionysus, they were required to wear ivy wreaths on their heads and march in procession.
8 On the advice of Ptolemy, the neighboring Greek cities were also instructed to require Yehudim to eat the sacrifices;
9 they were told to put to death every Yehudite who refused to adopt the Greek way of life. It was easy to see that hard times were ahead.
10 For example, two women were arrested for having their babies circumcised. They were paraded around the city with their babies hung from their breasts; then they were thrown down from the city wall.²
11 On another occasion, Philip was told that some Yehudim had gathered in a nearby cave to observe the Shabbat in secret. Philip attacked and burned them all alive. They had such respect for the Shabbat that they would not fight to defend themselves.
*1) Similar to the account given in Num 25:6-9  2) Also found in 1 Maccabees 1:60-61

Eleazar Dies for His Faith

12 There was an elderly and highly respected teacher of the Law by the name of Eleazar, whose mouth was being forced open to make him eat pork.¹
13 But he preferred an honorable death rather than a life of shame/dishonor.
14 So he spit out the meat and went willingly to the place of torture, showing how people should have courage to refuse unclean food, even if it costs them their lives.
15 Those in charge of the sacrifice had been friends of Eleazar for a long time, and because of this friendship they told him privately to bring meat that was lawful for him to eat.
16 He need only pretend to eat the pork, they said, and in this way he would not be put to death.
17 But Eleazar made a decision worthy of his gray hair and advanced age. All his life he had lived in perfect obedience to Yahweh’s set-apart Mitzvot, so he replied, Kill me, here and now. 
18 Such deception is not worthy of a man of my years. Many young people would think that I had denied my faith after I was ninety years old.
19 If I pretended to eat this meat, just to live a little while longer, it would bring shame and dishonor on me and lead many young people astray. 
20 For the present I might be able to escape what you could do to me, but whether I live or die, I cannot escape Almighty Yahweh.² 
21 If I die bravely now, it will show that I deserved my long life. 
22 It will also set a good example of the way young people should be willing and glad to die for our sacred and respected laws.
23 As soon as he said these things, he went off to be tortured,  and the very people who had treated him kindly a few minutes before, now turned against him, because they thought he had spoken like a madman. 
24 When they had beaten him almost to the point of death, he groaned and said, Elohim possesses all set-apart knowledge. He knows I could have escaped these terrible sufferings and death, yet he also knows that I gladly suffer these things, because I fear him.³
25 So Eleazar died. But his righteous death was remembered as a honorable example, not only by young people, but by the entire nation as well.
*1)Lev 11:7; Deu 14:8     2) Mat 16:25-28     3)Psa 19:9, 23:4, 25:14, 31:19, 33:8

 

Chapter 7

A Mother and Her Sons Die for Their Faith

On another occasion a Yehudite mother and her seven sons were arrested. The king was having them beaten to force them to eat pork.
2 Then one of the young men said, What do you hope to gain by doing this? We would rather die than abandon the traditions of our ancestors.
This made the king so furious that he gave orders for huge pans and kettles to be heated red hot,  and it was done immediately.
4 Then he told his men to cut off the tongue of the one who had spoken and to scalp him and chop off his hands and feet, while his mother and six brothers looked on.
5 After the young man had been reduced to a helpless mass of breathing flesh, the king gave orders for him to be carried over and thrown into one of the pans. As a cloud of smoke streamed up from the pan, the brothers and their mother encouraged one another to die bravely, saying,
6 Yahweh our Elohim is looking on and understands our suffering. Mosheh made this clear when he wrote a song condemning those who had abandoned Elohim. He said, Elohim will have mercy on those who serve him.¹
7 After the first brother had died in this way, the soldiers started amusing themselves with the second one by tearing the hair and skin from his head. Then they asked him, now will you eat this pork, or do you want us to chop off your hands and feet one by one?
8 He replied in his native language, “aniy l’olam lo v’akal ét zah!” (translated as “I will never eat it!”) So the soldiers tortured him, just as they had the first one,
9 but with his dying breath he cried out to the king, “You butcher! You may kill us, but the King of the universe will raise us from the dead and give us eternal life, because we have obeyed his laws.
10 The soldiers began entertaining themselves with the third brother. When he was ordered to stick out his tongue, he quickly did so. Then he bravely held out his hands and courageously said,
11 “Elohim gave these to me. But his Torah means more to me than my hands, and I know Elohim will give them back to me again.”
12 The king and those with him were amazed at his courage and at his willingness to suffer.
13 After he had died, the soldiers tortured the fourth one in the same cruel way,
14 but his final words were, “I am glad to die at your hands, because we have the assurance that Elohim will raise us from death. But there will be no resurrection to life for you, Antiochus!”
15 When the soldiers took the fifth boy and began torturing him, he looked the king squarely in the eye and said,
16 “You have the power to do whatever you want with us, even though you also are mortal. But do not think that Elohim has abandoned our people.
17 Just wait. Elohim will use his great power to torture you and your descendants.”
18 Then the soldiers took the sixth boy, and just before he died he said, “Make no mistake. We are suffering what we deserve, because we have sinned against our Elohim. That’s why all these terrible things are happening to us.
19 But don’t think for a minute that you will avoid being punished for fighting against Elohim.”
20 The mother was the most amazing one of them all, and she deserves a special place in our memory. Although she saw her seven sons die in a single day, she endured it with great courage because she trusted in Elohim.
21 She combined womanly emotion with manly courage and spoke words of encouragement to each of her sons in their native language.
22 I do not know how your life began in my womb,” she would say, “I was not the one who gave you life and breath and put together each part of your body.
23 It was Elohim who did it, Elohim who created the universe, mankind, and all that exists. He is compassionate and he will give you back life and breath again, because you love his Torah more than you love yourself.
24 Antiochus was sure that the mother was making fun of him, so he did his best to convince her youngest son to abandon the traditions of his ancestors.
25 He promised not only to make the boy rich and famous, but to place him in a position of authority and to give him the title “Friend of the King.”
26 But the boy paid no attention to him, so Antiochus tried to persuade the boy’s mother to talk him into saving his life,  and after much persuasion she agreed to do so.
27 Leaning over her son, she fooled the cruel tyrant by saying in her native language,yesh l’bein Rachamiym al” (translated as “My son, have pity on me”). “Remember that I carried you in my womb for nine months and nursed you for three years. I have taken care of you and looked after all your needs up to the present day.
28 So I urge you, my child, to look at the heavens and the earth. Consider everything you see there, and realize that Elohim made it all from nothing, just as he made the human race.²
29 Don’t be afraid of this butcher. Give up your life willingly and prove yourself worthy of your brothers, so that by Elohim’s favor I may receive you back with them at the resurrection.”
30 Before she could finish speaking, the boy said, “King Antiochus, what are you waiting for? I refuse to obey your orders. I only obey the commands in the Torah which Mosheh gave to our ancestors.
31 You have thought up all kinds of cruel things to do to our people, but you won’t escape the punishment that Elohim has in store for you.
32 It is true that our living Elohim is angry with us and is making us suffer because of our sins, in order to correct and discipline us.
33 But this will last only a short while, for we are still his servants, and he will forgive us.
34 But you are the cruelest and most disgusting thing that ever lived. So don’t fool yourself with illusions of greatness while you punish Elohim’s people.
35 There is no way for you to escape punishment at the hands of the almighty and all-seeing Elohim.
36 My brothers suffered briefly because of our faithfulness to Elohim’s covenant, but now they have entered eternal life. But you will fall under Elohim’s judgment and be punished as you deserve for your arrogance.
37 I now give up my body and my life for the laws of our ancestors, just as my brothers did. But I also beg Yahweh to show mercy to his people quickly and to torture you until you are forced to acknowledge that he alone is Elohim.³
38 May my brothers and I be the last to suffer the anger of Almighty Yahweh, which he has justly brought upon our entire nation.
39 These words of ridicule made Antiochus so furious that he had the boy tortured even more cruelly than his brothers.
40 And so the boy died, with absolute trust in Elohim, never unfaithful for a minute.
41 Last of all, the mother was put to death.
*1) Devarim (Deuteronomy) 32      2) Beresheit (Genesis) 1 & 2         3)  Devarim (Deuteronomy) 6:4

 

Chapter 8

Yehudah Maccabeus Revolts

Yehudah (Judas) Maccabeus and his friends went secretly from village to village until they had gathered a force of about 6,000 Yehudite men who had remained faithful to their religion.
They begged Elohim to help his people, now trampled under foot by all nations, to take pity on the Temple, now defiled by pagans,
and to have mercy on Yerushalayim, now destroyed and almost leveled to the ground.
4 They also asked Elohim to show his hatred of evil by taking revenge on those who were murdering his people, mercilessly slaughtering innocent children, and saying evil things against Elohim.
When Yehudah had finally organized his forces, the Gentiles were unable to stand against him, because the Elohim’s anger against Yisra’el had now turned to compassion.
6 Yehudah would make sudden attacks on towns and villages and burn them.
7 He captured strategic positions and routed many enemy troops, finding that he was most successful at night. People everywhere spoke of his bravery.

Ptolemy Sends Nicanor to Attack Yehudah

8 When Philip, governor of Yerushalayim, realized that Yehudah was gaining ground little by little and that his victories were becoming more and more frequent, he wrote a letter to Ptolemy, governor of Greater Assyria, requesting his help in defending the royal interests.
9 Ptolemy immediately appointed Nicanor, son of Patroclus, who was also in the closest circle of the King’s Friends, and sent him with more than 20,000 troops of various nationalities to wipe out the entire Yehudite race. Ptolemy also appointed Gorgias, a general of wide military experience, to go with him.
10 King Antiochus owed the Romiyim 150,000 pounds of silver; Nicanor planned to pay off the debt by selling Yehudim prisoners of war as slaves.
11 So he at once sent word to the towns along the coast, informing them that he would be selling Yehudim for less than a pound of silver each. But he did not know of the judgment that Almighty Yahweh had in store for him.

Yehudah Learns of Nicanor’s Plans

12 Yehudah learned that Nicanor was advancing with his army toward Yehudah (Judea), so he informed his men.
13 Some were cowardly and did not believe in the justice of Elohim, and they ran away as fast as they could.
14 But others sold all their remaining possessions so that Elohim would consider them worthy to be saved from the Elohim-less Nicanor, who had sold them as slaves even before the battle had taken place.
15 They prayed that if Yahweh was not willing to do this for their sake alone, he might be willing to rescue them because of the covenants he had made with their ancestors, and because he, the great and wonderful Yahweh, had called them to be his people.¹
16 Yehudah brought together all 6,000 of his men and encouraged them not to be frightened or to flee in panic at the sight of the large number of Gentile troops who were marching against them without cause. 
17 Instead they should fight bravely, never forgetting the crimes the Gentiles had committed against the Temple and how they had made Yerushalayim suffer terribly and had done away with Yehudite traditions.
18 They rely on their weapons and their daring, Yehudah said, but we trust in Almighty Yahweh, who is able to destroy not only these troops, but, if necessary, the entire world, with a mere nod of his head.
19 Then Yehudah went on to remind them of the ways Elohim had helped their ancestors: during the time of Sennacherib 185,000 of the enemy had been destroyed;
20 and once in Bavel 8,000 Yehudim came to the aid of 4,000 Makedonians, defeating 120,000 Galatiyim and taking a great deal of loot, all because of Elohim’s help.
*1) Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah) 24:7

Yehudah Defeats Nicanor

21 Yehudah’s words encouraged his men and made them willing to die for their religion and their country.
22 He then divided his army into four divisions  of about 1,500 men each, with himself and his brothers Shim’on, Yoseph, and Yehonathan each in charge of a division.
23 After ordering Elie’zer to read aloud from the Torah, he gave his men the battle cry: Yahweh will help us, and personally led the attack against Nicanor.
24 Almighty Yahweh fought on their side, and they killed more than 9,000 of the enemy. They wounded many others and put the entire enemy army to flight.
25 They seized the money from the people who had come to buy them as slaves.
26 Then they pursued the enemy a long way, until they had to return, because it was almost time for the Shabbat to begin.
27 When they had collected the enemy’s weapons and looted the dead, they celebrated the Shabbat, praising Elohim and giving thanks to him, because he had brought them safely to that day and had given them the first sign of his loving-kindness.
28 When the Sabbath was over, they gave some of the loot to the victims of persecution and to the widows and orphans; then they divided the rest among their own families.
29 Afterward they joined together in prayer to their compassionate Elohim, asking him to look favorably upon his servants.

Yehudah Defeats Timotiyos and Bacchides

30 The Yehudim later fought against the forces of Timotiyos and Bacchides and killed more than 20,000 of them. They captured some very high fortresses and took a lot of loot, which they divided equally among themselves and the widows, orphans, old men, and the victims of persecution.
31 They carefully collected all the enemy’s weapons and stored them in strategic places, but the rest of the loot was taken to Yerushalayim.
32 They executed the commanding officer of Timotiyos’ forces, a heathen man who had caused the Yehudim much suffering.
33 While celebrating their victory in the city of their ancestors, they burned alive those men who had set fire to the Temple gates. The dead included Callisthenes, who had hidden in a small house; and so he received the punishment he deserved for his evil deeds.
34 In this way, the evil Nicanor, who had brought a thousand merchants to buy the Yehudim,  was defeated with the help of Elohim by the very people he despised so much.
35 He threw off his splendid uniform and fled all alone like a runaway slave, until he reached Antioch. He had succeeded only in destroying his entire army.
36 This man, who had tried to pay a debt to Roma by selling the people of Yerushalayim, showed that the Yehudim could not be defeated. Yahweh was their mighty Defender, because they obeyed the Torah he had given them.