The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The First Book of Machabees
It was now, in the hundred and fifty-first year, that Demetrius, the son of Seleu-cus, escaped from Rome and landed with a small retinue at one of the sea-ports, where he was proclaimed king.
No sooner had he set foot in the palace of his ancestors, than his men laid hold of Antiochus and Lysias, meaning to bring them into his presence.
But he was warned of it, and gave it out, sight of them he would have none;
so they were dispatched by the troops, and Demetrius established himself on the royal throne.
To him came certain Israelites, enemies of the law and of religion, with Alcimus at their head, a man who coveted the high-priestly office.
And thus, in the royal presence, they defamed their own people: Here be Judas and his brethren have made away with all thy friends, and driven us out of our country!
Do but send some trusted agent to survey the scene of it, the havoc this man has wrought upon our own persons and upon the king’s domain; ay, and to punish his partisans, with all who comfort them.
The king’s choice fell on Bacchides, a courtier that was loyal to him, and had charge now of all the realm east of Euphrates.
Of the havoc wrought by Judas he should be judge, and with him went the traitor Alcimus, now confirmed in the high priesthood; thus should the royal vengeance fall on Israel.
So they took the road, and reached the land of Juda with a great army at their heels. Envoys they sent out, to cheat Judas and his brethren with fair promises;
but from these they got no hearing; the sight of such armed strength was enough.
It was a company of scribes that went out to meet Alcimus and Bacchides, asking for honourable terms;
of all Israel, the Assidaeans were foremost in demanding peace;
Here is a priest of Aaron’s line, said they, in yonder company, fear we no treachery from him.
Fair promises he made them, and swore they should take no harm, nor their friends neither;
and they took him at his word. And what did he? A full sixty of them he seized and put to death in one day. Not idly the word was written,
Bleeding corpses of thy true lovers they have strewn about on every side of Jerusalem, and there was none to bury the dead.
After this, all alike dreaded the newcomers and shrank from them; here was neither trust nor troth, when covenant and sworn promise went for nothing.
So Bacchides left Jerusalem and pitched his camp at Bethzecha, where he made search and laid hands on many that had deserted from his own army; some of the Jews he massacred besides, and had their bodies thrown into the Great Cistern;
then he left the whole country in Alcimus’ charge, with troops to maintain him. So off went Bacchides to his master,
and Alcimus remained to make the best of his high priesthood.
Be sure all the malcontents in Judaea rallied to his side, and took possession of the country, to Israel’s great mischief.
Little it liked Judas, to see Alcimus and his crew mishandling the men of Israel as never the Gentiles had;
from end to end of Juda he passed, executing vengeance on such as had left his cause, till they might take the field no longer.
Everywhere Judas and his company had their way, and the sight of it warned Alcimus he was no match for them; so he, too, went back to the king, loud in his complaints.
Thereupon the king sent out an army for the people’s undoing, with Nicanor at the head of it, that was one of his most notable princes, and had a grudge against Israel to satisfy.
This Nicanor, reaching Jerusalem with a great array, made peaceful overtures to Judas and his brethren, but treacherously;
Need is none there should be blows given between us, he said. Let me come with a handful of men, and parley we together under safe conduct.
Come he did, and the greeting between them was friendly enough, but Judas was like to have been seized, then and there, by the enemy;
and when he had proof of Nicanor’s treachery, he went in dread of him and would parley with him no longer.
Nicanor, then, his plot being now manifestly discovered, would take to the field; it was close to Capharsalama that he engaged Judas;
and his army, routed with a loss of five thousand men, must needs take refuge in the Keep of David.✻
It was after this that Nicanor made his way to mount Sion, where some of the priests and elders came out to greet him in friendly fashion, and shew him how burnt-sacrifice was offered there on the king’s behalf.
But nothing could they get from him but mockery and contempt; he did despite to their sacred persons, and sent them away with threats.
In his anger, he swore to them nothing would serve but he should have Judas and Judas’ army at his mercy; if not, he would burn the temple down, as soon as ever he returned in safety. So, in high disdain, he left them;
and the priests must take themselves back within the walls, where they stood before altar and temple, praying very mournfully.
Lord, they said, thou hast chosen this house to be the shrine of thy name; here thy people should offer prayer, and sue for thy favour.
Do thou avenge thyself on chieftain and army both; die they at the sword’s point! Wouldst thou forget their blasphemy; should they escape with their lives?
After this, Nicanor left Jerusalem, and pitched his camp at Bethoron, where he was met by a fresh army from Syria;
Judas, in his camp at Adarsa, had but three thousand men. And this was the prayer Judas prayed:
Time was, Lord, when Sennacherib’s men were loud in their blasphemy, and thy angel must go out to smite them down, a hundred and eighty thousand of them.
This day a new enemy overwhelm with our onslaught, and let all the world know what comes of threatening thy holy place; for his ill-doing, ill requite him!
It was the thirteenth of Adar when the two armies met; sure enough, Nicanor’s army was overwhelmed, and himself the first to fall in the encounter;
whereupon the rest, seeing their leader gone, cast weapons away and took to their heels.
For a whole day the pursuit of them went on, all the way from Adazer to the approaches of Gazara, and ever there were trumpets sounding the hue and cry.
Out came Jewish folk from all the villages round about, to head them off,✻ till at last they turned at bay and fell at the sword’s point all of them, never a man left.
Spoil of them was plundered where they lay; as for Nicanor, the Jews cut off the head from his body, and that right hand he lifted up so defiantly, and took them away, to be hung up in full sight of Jerusalem.
Glad men they were that day, and kept high festival,
decreeing that never thenceforward should the thirteenth day of Adar go unobserved.
And for a little while the land of Juda had peace.
The Holy Bible