The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The Second Book of Machabees
At this time Antiochus was preparing once more for a campaign against Egypt.
And all about the city of Jerusalem, by the space of forty days together, there were strange sights appearing. High up in air, horsemen were seen riding this way and that, in vesture of gold, and spears they carried as if they went to battle;
now riding in ordered ranks, now engaged in close combat. In long array they moved past, shields and helmeted heads and drawn swords; flew javelin and flashed golden harness, a whole armoury of shining mail.
No wonder if the prayer was on all men’s lips, good not ill such high visions might portend.
And now a false rumour went abroad, Antiochus had come by his death. Jason’s ears it reached, and all at once, with full a thousand men at his back, he delivered an assault upon the city. Let the townsfolk man the walls as they would, at last it fell, and Menelaus must take refuge within the citadel.
As for Jason, he fell upon his own fellow-countrymen, and that without mercy. His own flesh and blood to vanquish, what was this but shameful defeat? Ay, but to him friend was foe, were there spoil for the winning!
Yet high priesthood he got none; disappointed of his scheming, back he must go to the Ammonite country,
and there, marked down for death by king Aretas of the Arabians, fled from city to city. An outlaw, hated and shunned by his kind, of a whole land, of a whole race, the common foe, he was driven out into Egypt;
and so making his way to Lacedaemon, as if to find refuge there by right of kinship, died miserably. In exile he died, that had brought exile on so many;
cast away without dole or tomb, that left so many tombless; in a strange land unburied, that might have rested in his fathers’ grave.
Here was news to make the king doubt whether the Jews were loyal to him, and back he came from Egypt in a great taking of rage. He occupied the city, and that by force of arms;
then he bade his troops go about killing, with no quarter for any they met; let a man but shew his face on the house-top, he must be slaughtered with the rest.
Fell young and old alike; children with their mothers must die, nor maidenhood was spared, nor helpless infancy.
By the end of three days, eighty thousand had been massacred, forty thousand held as prisoners, and as many more sold into slavery.
Nor might all this content him; with Menelaus for his guide, that was traitor to faith and folk, what must he do but make his way into God’s temple, holier in all the world is none?
What, should those sacred ornaments, dedicated by kings and peoples for the more splendour and worthiness of it, be caught up in his impious hands, pawed and defiled by his touch?
Surely he had taken leave of his wits, this Antiochus; how should he know that this sanctuary, for once, would lack the divine protection? And only because, for a little, God’s anger was provoked by sins of the men that dwelt there!
Free had they been from the meshes of such guilt, Antiochus, too, should have been greeted with a drubbing, as Heliodorus was, the man king Seleucus sent to rob the treasury, and should have learned to leave his rash purpose.
But what would you? People it was God chose, and city for people’s sake;
chastisement that fell on the people, city must rue, and anon share its good fortune. He, the omnipotent, the ruler of all, would leave Jerusalem forlorn in his anger, would raise her to heights of glory, his anger once appeased.
Antiochus, then, came away from the temple a thousand and eight hundred talents the richer; and back he went to Antioch, all at reckless speed; he had a mind to sail his fleet over the plain, march his troops across the sea, his heart so swelled with pride in his doings.
As for the Jewish folk, he left viceroys of his own to harry them; in Jerusalem Philip, that was a Phrygian born, and outdid his own master in cruelty;
at Garizim Andronicus and Menelaus, heaviest burden of all for the folk to bear.
But he would do worse by the Jews yet; or why did he send out Apollonius, the arch-enemy, and a force of twenty-two thousand, to cut off manhood in its flower, women and children to sell for slaves?
This Apollonius, when he reached Jerusalem, was all professions of friendship, and nothing did until the sabbath came round, when the Jews kept holiday. Then he put his men under arms,
and butchered all that went out to keep festival; to and fro he went about the streets, with armed fellows at his heels, and made a great massacre.
Meanwhile Judas Machabaeus, and nine others with him, went out into the desert, where they lived like wild beasts on the mountain-side; better lodge there with herbs for food, than be party to the general defilement.
The Holy Bible