The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The Second Book of Machabees
Chapter 15
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When Nicanor was told, Judas was in the Samaritan country, he would have pressed home the attack against him, there and then, on the sabbath day.
But the Jews gainsaid him; for there were Jews that fought, unwillingly enough, under his orders. What, said they, wouldst thou fight beast-fashion, without mercy? This holy day respect thou needs must, in his honour that is God all-seeing.
Why, where is he then, said the impious wretch, this God who would have sabbath kept? In the heavens?
In heaven he is, sure enough, they answered, the living Lord our master, that gave orders the seventh day should be observed.
So be it, said he, and I am your master on earth, and my orders are, To arms, and despatch the king’s business! Yet carry out his design they would not.

Such an empty braggart was this Nicanor, he thought to make a single victory of it, over all the Jews at once;
Machabaeus on his side kept ever his confidence, yet with the sure hope, God would bring him aid.
And for his men he had the same encouragement; let them never be daunted by the onslaught of the heathen, but rather bethink them of heaven’s mercies in time past, and look to God Omnipotent for victory.
Of the law and the prophets he spoke to them, and reminded them of their old battles, till all were eager for the fight;
nor was it enough to arouse their ardour; he shewed them, too, how treacherous the heathen had proved, and how forsworn.
Thus it was his care to arm them, not with shield or spear for their defence, but with excellent words of good cheer.

A dream of his he told them, most worthy of credence, that brought comfort to one and all.
And what saw he? Onias, that had once been high priest, appeared to him; an excellent good man this, modest of mien, courteous, well-spoken, and from his boyhood schooled in all the virtues. With hands outstretched, he stood there praying for the Jewish folk.
Then he was ware of another, a man of great age and reverence, nothing about him but was most worshipful;
who this might be, Onias told him forthwith: Here is one that loves our brethren, the people of Israel, well; one that for Israel and for every stone of the holy city prays much; God’s prophet Jeremias.
And with that, Jeremias reached forward to Judas, and gave him a golden sword;
This holy sword take thou, he said, God’s gift; this wielding, all the enemies of my people Israel thou shalt lay low.

A most noble harangue, and one very apt to rouse the emulation of his followers, and to stiffen their courage. No wonder if they resolved they would put it to the touch, and manfully engage the enemy; valour should decide all. Was not the holy city, was not the temple itself in jeopardy?
For wives and children, for brethren and kindred, their concern was less; of the perils they dreaded, profanation of the temple was first and foremost.
And what of those who were left in the city? No common anxiety they felt for these others that were going into battle.
Now was the hour of decision; the enemy was at the gates, drawn up in full array; here were the elephants, here was the cavalry, posted at points of vantage.
Judas, when he saw the number of his assailants, how manifold were their appointments, how fierce the temper of the beasts, was fain to lift hands heavenward, and to the Lord make his appeal; the Lord, that is wondrous in his doings, and at his own pleasure crowns right, not might, with victory.
And this was the manner of his praying: Lord, in the days of Ezechias thou didst send thy angel, and take toll of a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the camp of Sennacherib!
Ruler of heaven, some friendly angel of thine this day escort us; dread and dismay let thy outstretched hand inspire,
to the confusion of yonder blasphemers that levy war on thy holy people! And so he brought his prayer to an end.

By this, Nicanor’s army was coming forward to the attack, with blowing of trumpets and with songs of battle.
But Judas and his company went to meet them calling still upon God for his succour;
and ever while hand fought, heart prayed. Such joy had they of God’s present assistance, they cut down a full thirty-five thousand of the enemy;
when they let be, and returned in triumph from the pursuit, news greeted them Nicanor himself had armed for the fight, and lay there dead.
What a cry was then raised, what a stir, what hymns they sang, in the speech of their own country, to God Omnipotent!

And Judas? Not for nothing had he devoted body and soul, this long while, to the service of his fellow countrymen! Nicanor’s head, and one of his arms cut off from the shoulder downwards, he bade them carry to Jerusalem;
and there he called the tribesmen together, ranged the priests about the altar, and sent his summons to the heathen that garrisoned the citadel.
Head and hand he shewed them of the godless Nicanor, the hand that was stretched out so boastfully against the holy temple of the Almighty,
bidding them cut the blaspheming tongue in pieces and cast it to the birds, nail the rash hand to the temple’s face.
None but praised the Lord of heaven at the sight; Blessed be the Lord, they cried, that has kept his house undefiled still!
As for Nicanor’s head, Judas hung it at the top of the citadel, to be a clear and evident token, how God gives aid.
And all with one consent made a decree, never should that day pass unobserved;
they would keep holiday on the thirteenth of the Syrian month Adar, which is the eve of Mardochaeus’ feast.

Such was the history of Nicanor; and since that time the city has been in Jewish possession. Here, then, I will make an end of writing;
if it has been done workmanly, and in historian’s fashion, none better pleased than I; if it is of little merit, I must be humoured none the less.
Nothing but wine to take, nothing but water, thy health forbids; vary thy drinking, and thou shalt find content. So it is with reading; if the book be too nicely polished at every point, it grows wearisome. So here we will have done with it.