The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The Second Book of Machabees
Now turn we to Judas Machabaeus and his company. Secretly they made entry into the villages, whence they summoned both kinsman and friend of theirs; ay, and rallied many more, that were yet true to the Jewish faith, till they had mustered an army of six thousand men.
And ever they besought the Lord, he would look with favour on a race down-trodden, have pity on a temple defiled by the heathen.
Their city was like to be razed to the ground; would he watch the ruin of it unmoved? Would he be deaf, while bloodshed cried out for vengeance?
Cruel murders of innocent childhood, his own honour dragged in the dust, would he not mark all this, and be roused to indignation?
By this, the divine anger had given place to clemency; and to all the heathen round about Machabaeus and his company were an infliction past bearing.
On village or town of theirs he would fall suddenly, and burn it to the ground; by seizing some point of vantage, once and again he put their forces to the rout;
going about these forays at night-time for the most part, till the fame of his valour spread far and wide.
What was to be done? Here was a man that grew ever in strength, and still his enterprises throve. At last Philip was fain to send dispatches, calling on Ptolemy, the governor of Coelesyria and Phoenice, to further the king’s business.
And he, without more ado, chose one of his best friends, Nicanor son of Patroclus, and sent him out to exterminate the Jewish race altogether. For which purpose, he armed full twenty thousand men, a rabble of all nations; and Gorgias should be at Nicanor’s side, a soldier that had much experience in the wars.
Nicanor’s purpose it was, to sell the Jewish people for slaves, and thereby reimburse the king for a tribute of two thousand talents he must needs pay to Rome.
So, before aught else was done, he sent word to the towns on the sea-coast, crying a sale of Jewish captives, and offering them at ninety for the talent; so little did he guess what divine vengeance was to overtake him.
No sooner did Judas hear of Nicanor’s coming, than he gave warning of it to the Jews who bore him company.
Some of these, cowardly souls that put no trust in God’s awarding, took refuge in flight;
the rest made shift to sell all the goods they yet had, crying out upon the Lord to deliver them from such an impious wretch as would sell them first, and conquer them after.
Themselves if he nothing regarded, let him remember at least the covenant made with their fathers; the renown, too, of that holy name they bore!
As for Machabaeus, he called together the seven thousand✻ that followed him, and warned them they should make no terms with the enemy, nor be affrighted by a great rabble of men coming against them in so ill a cause. Courage! he said;
bethink you of the sanctuary their insults have outraged, of a city wronged and mocked, of immemorial traditions overthrown!
What gives them confidence? Weapons of war, and their own daring. Ours to trust in his omnipotence, who with a single nod both these our adversaries and the whole world besides can undo.
He put them in mind, moreover, of God’s signal mercy shewed to their forefathers; how Sennacherib’s army perished, a hundred and eighty-five thousand strong;
how they fought the Galatians at Babylon, with Macedonian allies whose heart failed them at the encounter, and six thousand Jews, alone but for heaven’s aid, made havoc of a hundred and twenty thousand men, much to the common advantage.✻
With such words as these he put heart into them, till they were ready to die for law and country’s sake.
And now he put the several commands of his army in charge of his brethren, Simon, Joseph and Jonathan, entrusting one thousand five hundred men to each;
Esdras✻ was bidden read aloud from the sacred writings, and the watchword was given, God’s Aid. And with that, out went Judas at the head of his army, and engaged the enemy.
Such help the Almighty gave them, they cut down more than nine thousand men; and the rest of Nicanor’s disabled forces must needs take to their heels.
All the money that had been paid for their enslaving fell into Jewish hands, and they gave the enemy chase far and wide,
only time hindering them; the sabbath was coming on, and pursue further they might not.
Arms and spoils of the fallen they gathered in, and so fell to keeping the sabbath, blessing the Lord for the deliverance he had sent that day, the first refreshing dew of his mercy.
The sabbath day over, they gave a share of the spoils to crippled folk, orphans and widows; they and theirs should have the rest.
And when this was done, they made public intercession, beseeching the Lord, that was so merciful, to be reconciled with his servants for good and all.
Other invaders they slew, twenty thousand of them and more, under Bacchides and Timotheus; and when they seized their high fortresses, and had spoil to divide in plenty, once more cripples and orphans and widows, and the aged folk too, must have a share to match their own.
Weapons of war they gathered with all care, and bestowed where they were most needed; it was the rest of the spoil they carried back to Jerusalem.
At this time they slew Philarches, that had been of Timotheus’ company, a man stained with crime, and many ways a persecutor of the Jewish people.
There was Callisthenes, too, that had burnt down the gates of the sanctuary; when all Jerusalem was rejoicing over the victory, he took refuge within doors, and they burnt the place down about his ears; he too was served right for his godless doings.
As for Nicanor, that was the arch-villain of all, and would have sold the Jews to a thousand slave-dealers,
the very men whose lives he held so cheap had now, by divine aid, humbled him to the dust. Robe of office he must lay by, and slink by country ways all unattended to Antioch. A fine homecoming, this, with the loss of a whole army!
Where were the Jewish captives that should have paid off the tribute to Rome? He was fain to confess, now, that the Jews had God himself for their protector, and, would they but keep his laws, there was no conquering them!
The Holy Bible