The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The Second Book of Machabees
Meanwhile, God aiding, Machabaeus and his followers had recovered both temple and city.
Down came the altars Gentile folk had set up in the open streets, down came the shrines,
and the temple was purged of its defilement. They made a fresh altar, struck fire from flint, and offered sacrifice again after two years’ intermission; rose incense, burned lamp, loaves were set out on the sacred table once more.
Then, bowing down to earth, they made petition to the Lord, never again such calamity might overtake them; sin if they did, himself in his great mercy should chastise them, not hand them over into the cruel power of blasphemous enemies.
It so fell out, that the temple was purified on the twenty-fifth day of Casleu, the very time of its profanation by the Gentiles.
Eight days of rejoicing they kept, with such ceremonies as belong to the feast of Tent-dwelling; it was a feast of tent-dwelling indeed they had kept a while back, when they lodged like beasts among the hill-side caverns!
Now that God had made the way clear for his temple’s cleansing, what wonder if they set up in his honour branches, and green boughs, and arbours of palm?
What wonder if a decree was passed, by common consent, all Jewry should keep the festival year by year?
Now the story is told, how Antiochus called the Illustrious came by his end,
turn we to his son, Antiochus Eupator, that was born of a very ill father;✻ record we in brief the history of his reign, and the hazards of war that went with it.
Upon his accession, this king entrusted all the business of the realm to one Lysias, commander of the forces in Phoenice and Coelesyria.
With Ptolemy, that was called Macer, we are concerned no more; fain would he have made amends to the Jews for the wrong done them, and kept their friendship,
but for that very reason he was denounced to Eupator by his courtiers. He was a traitor, they said, twice over, false to his trust, when Philometor left him in charge of Cyprus, and now weary of his new allegiance to Antiochus the Illustrious! Whereupon he put an end to his own life by poison.
When Gorgias was given command of the district, he was for ever making war on the Jews, with mercenaries to aid him;
and there were natives of the country besides,✻ well entrenched in their strongholds, that gave welcome to deserters from Jerusalem, and so fanned the flames of enmity.
And now the followers of Machabaeus, after prayer made for the divine assistance, delivered an attack upon the Edomite strongholds.
These, by a very courageous assault, they occupied, and cut down all they met, putting not less than twenty thousand men to the sword;
but there were two fortresses yet remaining, into which the survivors threw themselves, well provided with means of defence.
Machabaeus himself went off to fight other battles of greater moment, leaving Simon, Joseph and Zacchaeus, with a strong force under their command, to carry on the siege.
And here the avarice of Simon’s men was their undoing; for a bribe of seventy thousand silver pieces, they allowed some of the defenders to escape.
Machabaeus no sooner heard of it, than he summoned the leaders of the people, and arraigned the guilty men in their presence; what, would they sell their brethren’s lives, by letting the enemies of their race go free?
So he put these traitors to death; and for the strongholds, he conquered both of them at a blow,
so carrying all before him by force of arms, that more than twenty thousand of the defenders perished.
But Timotheus could not be content with one defeat at the hands of the Jews; he would bring in hordes of foreign soldiery, and cavalry from Asia, threatening Judaea with slavery.
At his coming, the party of Machabaeus fell to prayer; earth on their heads, sackcloth about their loins,
they lay prostrate at the altar’s foot, entreating the Lord he would espouse their quarrel, and their foes should be his; the law had promised it.
Then, this supplication made, they took up arms and marched out, leaving the city far away in their rear, nor ever halted till they were close to the enemy’s lines.
Soon as the dawn broke, they engaged; on the one side, all trust in the Lord, valour’s best pledge of victory and fairer times; on the other, naught but human eagerness to inspire courage.
Hard went the day, and, so it seemed to the enemy, heaven itself took part. Five horsemen came riding, with splendid trappings of gold, to lead the Jews onward;
and two of these served Machabaeus for escort, covering him with their shields to keep all hurt away from him. With shaft of theirs, lightning of theirs, dazzled and dismayed, the enemy fell to earth;
twenty thousand and five hundred of them perished that day, besides six hundred of the cavalry.
As for Timotheus, he took refuge in Gazara, a strong fortress that was under the command of Chaereas.
Four days together, Machabaeus and his men eagerly pressed on the siege of it;
but the defenders were confident in its strength; loud their defiance was, and very blasphemous the words they uttered.
Stung by these taunts, twenty warriors of Machabaeus’ company made a bold attack on the wall as the fifth day was dawning, and, by the fierceness of their onslaught, made shift to climb it;
others, following at their heels, fell to burning tower and gateway alike, and made a bonfire of the blasphemers.
For two whole days they ransacked the fort, and at last came upon Timotheus✻ in his hiding-place; so they made an end of him, his brother Chaereas and Apollophanes perishing with him.
When all was over, they sang hymns of praise and gave thanks to the Lord, that had done marvellous things for Israel, and granted them victory.
The Holy Bible