The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The Second Book of Machabees
It was but a short respite they had; Lysias, a kinsman of Antiochus that was regent and managed his affairs for him, was not a little concerned over these happenings,
and he marched on Judaea at the head of eighty thousand men, with all the cavalry he could muster. Here was a city worth the capture, for Gentile folk to dwell in;
here was a temple that would yield a fine spoil, as temples did everywhere; a priesthood, too, that might be put up for sale year after year.
Of all this he bethought him, never of God’s avenging power; blindly he trusted in his foot-soldiers by the ten thousand, his horsemen by the thousand, in his elephants that numbered four score.
Upon marching into Judaea he first reached Bethsura,✻ that stood in a narrow pass five furlongs away from Jerusalem, and laid siege to the citadel of it.
What did Machabaeus and his fellows, when they learned that the siege of the fortress was already begun? Most piteously they besought the Lord, amid the tears of a whole populace, a gracious angel he would send out for Israel’s deliverance.
Then they armed for battle, Machabaeus himself the first of all, as he summoned the rest to share with him the hour of danger, for the relief of their brethren.
So, in good heart, they set out together, and before they left Jerusalem a vision came to them; of a rider that went before them in white array, with armour of gold, brandishing his spear.
How they blessed God’s mercy, all of them, at the sight! How their courage rose, a match for all it should encounter, men or wild beast or walls of iron!
They marched on, ready for battle, sure now of a heavenly champion, and of the Lord’s favour;
and when they charged the enemy, they were very lions for valour. At their onslaught, fell eleven thousand of the foot, fell a thousand and six hundred of the horse;
and the whole army took to its heels, for the most part wounded and disarmed; Lysias himself, ingloriously enough, turned and fled.
Yet good sense he lacked not; great loss he had sustained, and, let the Hebrews continue to rely for aid upon divine Omnipotence, he saw there was no conquering them. So he wrote,
offering to conclude honourable terms with them, and secure them the king’s friendship.
As for Machabaeus, he consented to what Lysias asked, having no thought but for the common good; and the written terms he proposed to Lysias in the Jewish people’s name received the royal assent.
The letter sent to the Jews by Lysias was after this manner: Lysias, to the people of the Jews, all health!
Your envoys, John and Abesalom, handed me a written petition, and desired that I would give effect to the terms of it.
All that needed to be known, I have made clear to the king’s grace, and he has granted what grant he could.
Doubt not I will be a good suitor in your cause hereafter, so you abide loyal to the king’s interest.
Meanwhile I have given a verbal message to your envoys and mine, which they will impart to you.
Farewell. Given on this twenty-fourth day of Dioscorus, in the hundred and forty-eighth year.
And of the king’s own letter, the tenour was this: King Antiochus, to his good cousin Lysias, all health!
Now that our father has found his place among the gods, it is for us to see that our subjects live at peace, and go quietly about their business.
But of one nation, the Jews, we hear that they resisted our father’s will, who would have had them conform to the Greek way of living; to their own tradition they hold fast, and their plea is, we should grant them the enjoyment of their rights in the matter.
And whereas we would have this nation live peaceably like the rest, we enact and decree that their temple should be restored to them, and that they should follow the custom of their forefathers.
Do us the kindness, then, to send word and give them assurance of this; our will made known, let them take heart, and order their own affairs contentedly.
To the Jews themselves the king wrote as follows: King Antiochus, to the elders and people of the Jews, all health!
Thrive you as well as ourselves, we are well content.
Menelaus has brought us word, you would fain have free intercourse with the men of your race who dwell in these parts;✻
and we hereby grant safe conduct to all of you that would travel here, up to the thirtieth day of Xanthicus …
That the Jewish folk may eat what food they will, use what laws they will, according to their ancient custom; and if aught has been done amiss through inadvertence, none of them, for that cause, shall be molested.
We are sending Menelaus besides, to give a charge to you.
Farewell. Given on the fifteenth day of Xanthicus, in the hundred and forty-eighth year.
The Romans, too, wrote to them after the manner following; Quintus Memmius and Titus Manlius, envoys of Rome, to the Jewish people, all health!
The privileges Lysias has granted you in the name of his royal cousin, we hereby ratify.
Other matters he has remitted to the king’s decision; take counsel among yourselves, and let us know at once what your mind is, if you would have us order all to your liking. Even now we are on the road to Antioch;
write speedily, to let us know how you are minded.
Farewell. Given on the twenty-fifth day of Xanthicus, in the hundred and forty-eighth year.
The Holy Bible