The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The First Book of Machabees
That night, a detachment of five thousand foot and a thousand picked horsemen left their lines, under the command of Gorgias,
thinking to reach the Jewish camp and strike a sudden blow at it; for guides, they had men of the Jerusalem garrison.
But Judas had word of it; out he went, and all his valiant company with him, to attack the main body of the king’s army at Emmaus,
while the defences of the camp were yet scattered.
So Gorgias, making his night attack on the camp of Judas, and finding it empty, made no doubt they had given him the slip, and fell to scouring the hill-country for them;
meanwhile, came day-break, and there was Judas down in the valley. True, there were but three thousand at his back, for defence and attack very ill arrayed;
and here was this army of heathen folk, both strong and well protected, with cavalry circling about them, men bred to war!
But Judas cried to his fellows, What, would you be daunted by the numbers of them? Would you give ground before their attack?
Bethink you, what a host it was Pharao sent in pursuit of our fathers, there by the Red Sea, and they escaped none the less.
Now, as then, besiege we heaven with our cries; will not the Lord have mercy? Will he not remember the covenant he had with our fathers, and rout, this day, yonder army at our coming?
No doubt shall the world have thenceforward, but there is one claims Israel for his own, and grants her deliverance.
And now the heathen folk caught sight of them as they advanced to the attack,
and left their lines to give battle. Thereupon Judas’ men sounded with the trumpet,
and the two armies met. Routed the Gentiles were, sure enough, and took to their heels across the open country,
sword of the pursuer ever catching the hindmost. All the way to Gezeron they were chased, and on into the plains by Idumaea,✻ Azotus and Jamnia, with a loss of three thousand men.
When Judas and his army came back from the pursuit,
Not yours, he told them, to run greedily after the spoils of the camp; there is battle still awaiting us over yonder.
Not far away, in the hill-country, lie Gorgias and his army; first meet you and beat you the enemy, and then you shall fall to your pillaging unafraid.
Even as he spoke, they were ware of a company that watched them from the hill-side.
But by now the camp was on fire, and it needed no more than the smoke of it to warn Gorgias of his defeat;
that sight took the heart out of Syria, the more so when it proved that Judas and his army were in the valley, all appointed for battle,
and they fled for their lives, down into the plain of Philistia.
So to the pillaging of the camp Judas returned; what gold and silver they found there, what garments of blue and sea-purple, what rich treasures!
Be sure there was singing of songs on their homeward journey, as they praised God in heaven, God who is gracious, whose mercy endures for ever.
Here was a day of signal deliverance for Israel.
And what of Lysias? News reached him, through the survivors, of what had befallen,
and he was both sick and sorry at the hearing; his own will crossed, and his master’s command ill carried out!
So, in the following year, he made a muster of sixty thousand picked men, with five thousand horse, to crush the rebellion;
into Judaea they marched, and encamped at Bethoron, where Judas met them with ten thousand.✻
At the sight of their great numbers, this was Judas’ prayer: Blessed art thou, Saviour of Israel, who didst make use of thy servant David, a giant’s onset to overthrow! Victory thou didst give, over an invading army, to Saul’s son Jonathan and the squire that bore him company!
So may yonder host, left at Israel’s mercy, unlearn its confidence in strength and in speed;
strike terror into them, let their manhood melt away, as they tremble at the approach of doom;
sword of thy true lovers be their undoing, triumph-song of thy worshippers their dirge!
With that, battle was joined, and of Lysias’ men, five thousand were left dead on the field.
What should he do? Here were his troops fled in disorder, here was Judas in command of brave men, that would as soon have an honourable death as life itself. Back he went to Antioch, and there levied soldiers for a greater expedition yet against Judaea.
And now Judas and his brethren had but one thought; the enemy vanquished, they would betake themselves to Jerusalem, to cleanse and restore the sanctuary.
So the whole army fell into rank, and they climbed the hill of Sion together.
What saw they? The holy place desolate, the altar profaned, charred gates, courts overgrown with brushwood, like forest clearing or mountain glen, the priests’ lodging in ruins.
Upon this, there was rending of garments, and loud lament; dust they cast on their heads,
and fell face to earth; then, as the trumpet’s note gave the summons, raised their cries to heaven.
And what did Judas? First, he sent a force to engage the citadel’s garrison, while the holy place was a-cleansing;
then he chose priests, without blot or blemish, and true lovers of the law besides,
who thereupon cleansed the sanctuary, nor any stone that was polluted with idolatry but they had it away into a place unclean.
And next, he must concern himself with the altar of burnt-sacrifice, that was now all defiled.
And it was good counsel they took; the altar must be destroyed, else the day when the Gentiles polluted it should be remembered to their shame. So destroy it they did,
and laid up the stones in a place apt for their purpose, there on the temple hill. Here they must remain, until the coming of a prophet that should give sentence, what was to be done with them.
Then they raised a new altar in place of the old, using stones that had never felt the pick, as the law bade;✻
repaired shrine and inner walls, and rid both temple and temple courts of their defilement.
New appurtenances, too, the temple must have, lamp-stand, incense-altar and table be restored to it;
incense be put on the altar, lamps kindled to light the holy place,
loaves set out on the table, and veils hung up; then at length their task was accomplished.
On the twenty-fifth of Casleu, the ninth month, in the hundred and forty-eighth year, they rose before daybreak,
and offered sacrifice, as the law bade, on the new altar they had set up.
This was the very month, the very day, when it had been polluted by the Gentiles; now, on the same day of the same month, it was dedicated anew, with singing of hymns, and music of harp, zither and cymbals.
Thereupon all the people fell down face to earth, to adore and praise, high as heaven, the author of their felicity;
and for eight days together they celebrated the altar’s renewal, burned victim and brought welcome-offering with glad and grateful hearts.
They decked the front wall of the temple, at this time, with gold crowns and escutcheons, consecrated the gates and the priest’s lodging anew, and furnished it with doors;
and all the while there was great rejoicing among the people; as for the taunts of the heathen, they were heard no more.
No wonder if Judas and his brethren, with the whole assembly of Israel, made a decree that this feast should be kept year by year for eight days together, the feast-day of the altar’s dedication.✻ Came that season, from the twenty-fifth day of Casleu onwards, all was to be rejoicing and holiday.
At this time, too, they fortified the hill of Sion, with walls and strong towers all about; never more should Gentile feet profane it.
Judas put a garrison there, and would have it strong enough to command Bethsura; a bulwark Israel must have against attack from the frontiers of Edom.
The Holy Bible