The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The First Book of Machabees
And now his son Judas, that was called Machabaeus, came forward to succeed him;
nor any of Judas’ clan, nor any that had taken his father’s part, but lent him their aid still; right merrily they fought Israel’s battle.
Here was one that brought his race renown; as great a warrior as ever donned breastplate, or armed himself for the fight, or drew sword to save his camp from peril;
lion-hearted his deeds, not lion itself more relentless in pursuit.
Traitors he ever sought out and hunted down, ever with fire-brand the oppressors of his people dislodged,
till enemy was none but was daunted by the fear of him, traitor was none but fled in confusion, so well sped he the work of deliverance.
Great deeds, that kings rued bitterly, Jacob with exultation heard, posterity holds blessed evermore!
From city to city he went, ridding Juda of its law-breakers, averting the vengeance guilt of theirs had deserved;
no corner of earth but he was renowned there, for one that had been able to rally a doomed people.
How sped Apollonius, that mustered a great force, of Gentiles and Samaritans both, to fight against Israel?
No sooner Judas heard of it, than he met and routed and slew him; fell many and fled more,
leaving their spoils behind them. The sword of Apollonius Judas himself carried away; and this it was he evermore used in battle.
And next it was Seron, captain of the armies in Syria, heard what a great retinue and faithful following Judas had;
and nothing would serve, but he must win renown and high favour at court by crushing Judas, and all other his companions that defied the king’s edict.
So he made all ready, and marched in with a strong muster of the ungodly at his heels, to be even with the men of Israel.
As far as Bethoron pass they reached, and there Judas met them with his company, no better than a handful.
These, when they saw such a host facing them, were for counsels of prudence; What, they said to Judas, should we offer battle to foes so many and so strong, faint as we be from a day of hungry marching?
Nay, said Judas, nothing forbids great numbers should be at the mercy of small; what matter makes it to the God of heaven, few be his soldiers or many when he grants deliverance?
Armed might avails not to win the day; victory is from above.
What though they come to meet us in the proud confidence of superior strength, and think it an easy matter to slay us, slay our wives and children, plunder our goods?
Life and loyalty at stake, we will offer battle none the less;
and he, the Lord, will crush them to earth at our coming; never be afraid.
And with that, all unawares, he fell upon Seron and his army, that were crushed, sure enough, by his onslaught;
all down the pass of Bethoron he gave them chase, down into the plain, and eight hundred of them had fallen before ever they took refuge in the country of the Philistines.
By this, the neighbouring peoples had begun to take alarm, so formidable did Judas and his brethren appear to them,
and the renown of him reached the king’s court; all the world was talking of Judas and his victories.
An angry man was king Antiochus when the news came to him; he sent word round, and had all his army summoned together, a brave array, be sure of it.
The treasury must be opened, to provide the troops with a whole year’s pay, and keep them in readiness for every need.
Why, what was this? So heavily had Juda suffered, so great the discord he had aroused by the abolishing of its ancient usages, that scant revenue had come in from it, and the treasury was in default!
Whence, now, to defray the cost of that largesse he had made so often, and with so lavish a hand? Never was king before him could rival his munificence.
Here was the king in great confusion of mind; and his thought was, to march into Persia and take toll of those countries; great store of money he might there amass.
He left Lysias behind, that was a man of high rank and royal blood; he was to administer all the business of the kingdom, from Euphrates down to the Brook of Egypt,
and have charge of the young prince Antiochus, until the king’s return.
Half his army he entrusted to Lysias, and the elephants besides; and he signified all that he would have done, concerning Juda and Jerusalem particularly.
A force must be sent to overpower all that fought for Israel, or were yet left in Jerusalem, and make a clean riddance of them; no trace of these must be left;
all through the country settlers must be brought in from abroad, and the lands allotted between them.
With that, the king left his capital of Antioch, taking the remainder of his army with him; it was the hundred and forty-seventh year of the empire. Soon he was across Euphrates river, and on the march through the high countries.
Three generals Lysias appointed for the task; Ptolemy son of Dorymenes, Nicanor and Gorgias, nobles all that were high in the royal favour;
with forty thousand foot and seven thousand horse they were to march on Juda and make an end of it, as the king had ordered.
So out they went, with all this army at their back, marched in, and pitched their tents near Emmaus, down in the valley.
Be sure the traders all about were apprised of their coming, and made their way into the camp with great sums of silver and gold, and a retinue of servants besides, thinking to buy Israelite slaves; levies, too, from Syria and Philistia made common cause with the invader.
Judas, then, and his brethren found that matters had gone from bad to worse; here were the enemy encamped within their frontiers; they heard, besides, what orders the king had given for the destruction and taking away of their people.
And the word went round among them, Now to restore the lost fortunes of our race; now to do battle for people of ours, sanctuary of ours!
So a general assembly was called; they must make ready for the fight, and pray besides, to win mercy and pardon.
Not at Jerusalem; Jerusalem lay there, no city but a desert waste, nor any of her sons came and went; her sanctuary defiled, her citadel garrisoned by the alien, she was but a haunt of the Gentiles. Sad days for the men of Jacob; pipe nor harp sounded there now.
At Maspha, then, they gathered, looking across towards Jerusalem; time was when Maspha, too, had its place of prayer.
All that day they fasted, and wore sackcloth, and covered their heads with ashes, and tore their garments about them.
What sights were these? Here, lying open, was a copy of the law, such as the heathen were ever making search for, … the counterpart of their own images.✻
Here they had brought priestly vestments, and offering of first-fruits and tithes; here Nazirites were gathered, ripe and ready for the payment of their vows.
And a loud cry rose to heaven, What shall we do for these, thy votaries? Whither escort them now?
Sanctuary of thine is all profanation and defilement, priesthood of thine all misery and despair.
And now, see where the heathen muster their armies to destroy us! Needs not we should tell thee, how murderous their intent.
Lord, but for thy aid, how shall we resist their onslaught?
Loudly their voices, and loud the trumpets rang.
Thereupon Judas chose out who should be their leaders, one with a thousand, one with a hundred, one with fifty, one with ten men to follow him;
he sent home, too, all such as the law holds exempt; all that had but just built house, or married wife, or planted vineyard, and whoever had no stomach to the fight.✻
Then they moved camp, and pitched their tents southward of Emmaus.
Now for girded loins, cried Judas, and brave hearts! By to-morrow’s light, you must engage yonder heathen, sworn enemies to us, and to the ground we hold sacred.
Better die in battle, than live to see our race and our sanctuary overpowered.
Be it what it may, heaven’s will be done!
The Holy Bible