The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The Second Book of Machabees
Three years later, came tidings to Judas and his company that Demetrius, son of Seleucus, was on the throne. This Demetrius, with a body of resolute followers and with ships to support him, had landed at Tripolis, in a part of the country well suited to his purpose,
and had wrested the whole kingdom from Antiochus, and from Lysias his general.
Now turn we to one Alcimus, that had been high priest formerly, but had wilfully incurred defilement in the days when folk began consorting with the Gentiles.✻ Little hope was left him, he should live to present himself at the altar again;
and now he had recourse to king Demetrius, in the hundred and fiftieth year. He came with gifts, a gold crown and a palm branch, and wreaths that had been better employed in the service of the temple.✻ No word said he on the first day of his arriving;
but ere long opportunity was given him of carrying out his impious design. He was called into counsel by Demetrius himself, and asked what resources the Jews had, or what purposes in view, that gave them such confidence.
And this was his answer: It is the faction of the Assideans, with Judas Machabaeus at their head, that will ever be fanning the flames of war, and moving revolt, and destroying the peace of the realm.
Thou seest here a man robbed of the high priesthood, his rightful inheritance. And the cause of my coming is,
first, the loyalty I have to the king’s own interest, but not less, the love of my own fellow-countrymen; by the false aims of a faction the whole of our race is brought into utter misery.
Do but satisfy thyself, my lord king, that all is as I have said, and then, with that kindliness the world knows so well, take order concerning the country and its inhabitants.
No peace the commonwealth may have, while Judas lives.
Such was the opinion he gave, and the courtiers, that had little love for Judas, fell to egging Demetrius on;
he, with all haste, despatched one of his generals to Judaea, Nicanor, that was in command of the elephants.
His orders were, to take Judas alive, to disperse his company, and of our glorious temple to make Alcimus high priest.
The Gentiles whom Judas had chased out of the country flocked, now, to Nicanor’s side, confident that the miserable ruin of the Jews would be the foundation of their own prosperity.
As for the Jews, when they heard Nicanor was on the march, with all this rabble of alien folk, they cast earth on their heads and betook themselves to prayer. Was it not God’s appointment, his people he should evermore preserve? Was he not wont to protect them with signal marks of his favour?
And now orders came to them from their leader; they must be on the march. Their mustering-place was a fortress called Dessau,
to which Simon, Judas’ brother, had withdrawn after a brush with the enemy, who daunted him by the suddenness of their advance.✻
But Nicanor had heard much about the valour of Judas’ men, and how nobly they fought in their country’s quarrel; no wonder if he shrank from the arbitrament of the sword,
and sent envoys to meet them, Posidonius, Theodotius and Matthias, with an offer of terms.
After a deal of negotiation, Judas referred the matter to the general voice, and all were agreed upon accepting the offer of friendship.
So the day was fixed for a secret conference to be held between them; thrones of honour were brought out and set ready,
and you may be sure Judas had armed men posted in waiting, to forestall any sudden treachery on the enemy’s part; but their parleys ended happily enough.
Nicanor was now lodged in Jerusalem, and did there no manner of hurt; all the rabble he had brought with him were dispersed to their homes.
Towards Judas he shewed unaffected friendship, such a liking he had taken for the man;
ay, and encouraged him to take a wife and beget children; so Judas married, and took his ease, and ever he lived on close terms with Nicanor.
And what of Alcimus? Little it liked him to see all this good-will between the two of them, and their treaty-making; to Demetrius he betook him, and charged Nicanor with disaffection; was he not purposing to hand over his command to Judas, a traitor against the realm?
Vile accusations, that threw Demetrius into a great taking of fury; he wrote to Nicanor, he was very ill content with the peace made, and would have Machabaeus sent to Antioch in chains without more ado.
Here was Nicanor left in great confusion of mind; it went against the grain with him to cancel the treaty with Judas, that had nothing wronged him,
yet run counter to the king’s will he might not. So he began looking for an opportunity of carrying out his orders;
and Machabaeus, remarking that a coolness had sprung up, and their meetings were less courteous than hitherto, made sure this behaviour of his boded no good. Whereupon he gathered some of his company, and went into concealment.
So Nicanor found himself quite outwitted; and he must needs make his way into the high and holy precincts of the temple, where even then the priests were offering their accustomed sacrifice. Judas, he said, must be handed over to him;
and when they, upon oath, denied all knowledge of his hiding-place, what did Nicanor? He pointed to the temple,
and swore that if Judas were not handed over to him in chains he would raze yonder sanctuary to the ground, demolish the altar, and consecrate its precincts anew to Bacchus.
With that, he left them; and the priests, lifting up their hands to heaven, called upon the God that was ever the champion of their race, with such prayer as this:
Lord of all, that need of thy creatures hast none, thy will it was to have thy dwelling-place among us!
Holy thou art, and of all holy things the master; this house, that was so lately cleansed of its defilement, keep thou for ever undefiled.
It was this Nicanor that received information against one of the elders at Jerusalem, named Razias, a true patriot and a man of good repute; for the love he bore it, men called him the father of the Jewish people.
Long time this man had held to his resolve of keeping aloof from the Gentiles, ready to put life and limb in jeopardy, so he might persevere.
And now, as if to give public proof of hatred towards the Jews, Nicanor sent five hundred men to take him alive;
shrewder blow was none he could deal them, than to beguile such a man as this.
And when this great company set about to force an entry into his dwelling, breaking down the door and calling out for firebrands, cut off from all escape, what did Razias? He thrust a sword into his own body,
counting it better to die honourably than to fall into the hands of sinners, and suffer outrage unworthy of a free-born man.✻
The hasty blow missed its aim; and now, with a rabble of men pouring in through the doors he made gallantly for the outer wall, and never hesitated to cast himself down, there in the heart of the crowd.
You may be sure they made room for his coming, and he fell on the very joints of his neck;✻
yet, breathing still, he rose to his feet undaunted; blood streaming from his mortal wounds, he made his way through the press of men,
till he stood on a sheer rock above them. And there, for now he had no blood left in him, he laid hold of his own entrails, and with both hands cast them into the crowd beneath, calling upon the Lord, giver of life and breath, to restore these same to his body; and so died.
The Holy Bible