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  • 1 Maccabees 1

    Alexander the Great

    Alexander was Philip’s son, a Macedonian, one of the western peoples known as the Kittim. After Alexander became king of Greece, he defeated King Darius, who ruled the Persians and the Medes. By doing so, Alexander greatly enlarged his realm. He successfully fought many battles, conquered fortresses, and put to death many kings. He advanced to the very ends of the known earth, plundering nation after nation. Finally, his battles reached an end, and he was widely recognized as supreme king, which made him proud. He built a very strong army and ruled countries, nations, and princes; and they all owed allegiance to him.

    But eventually Alexander fell sick and was confined to bed. He knew that he was dying. He therefore called for his most esteemed officers, those who had been raised with him; and he divided his kingdom among them while he was still alive. Then Alexander died, having ruled for twelve years.

    Subsequently, his officers began to rule, each in his own territory. They ruled as kings, and after them their descendants ruled for many years. Together they caused much suffering across the earth.

    Antiochus Epiphanes and renegade Jews

    10 From these descendants sprouted a sinful root—Antiochus Epiphanes. He was a son of King Antiochus, and he had been brought up in Rome as a hostage. Antiochus Epiphanes began to rule in the year 137 according to the calendar of the Greek kingdom.

    11 At that time, some renegade Israelites emerged. These people went against their ancestral laws and encouraged many other Jews to join them. They spoke up, saying, “Let’s make an agreement with the Gentiles around us, because many horrible things have happened to us since we separated ourselves from them.” 12 The proposal pleased their fellow Jews. 13 Some of them eagerly went to King Antiochus, who gave them permission to start living by the laws of the Gentiles. 14 Consequently, they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem, following Gentile custom. 15 They even took steps to remove the marks of circumcision, utterly abandoning the holy covenant. They joined with Gentiles and gave themselves over to an evil course.

    Antiochus in Egypt

    16 When Antiochus felt that his own kingdom was fully established, he determined also to take control of the land of Egypt so that he could rule over both kingdoms. 17 He invaded Egypt with a very strong force, including soldiers in chariots and on elephants, as well as cavalry and a large fleet. 18 When Antiochus met the Egyptian king Ptolemy in battle, Ptolemy and his forces hastily retreated. Many were wounded and killed. 19 Antiochus and his forces were able to capture the fortified cities in Egypt and plunder the land.

    Oppression of the Jews

    20 After he conquered Egypt, Antiochus returned in the year 143. He went up to Israel and entered Jerusalem with a strong force. 21 With arrogance he went into the sanctuary. He took the gold altar, the lampstand for the light, and all its equipment. 22 He also took the table that was used for the sacred bread, drink-offering cups, bowls, gold censers, a curtain, crowns, and the gold decoration on the front of the temple. He stripped it all. 23 He took silver, gold, and costly equipment. He took every hidden treasure he could find. 24 Taking it all, he went back to his own land. He committed murder and spoke very arrogantly.

    25 Every community in Israel
    grieved deeply.
    26     Rulers and elders groaned;
        young women and men became faint.
            The women’s beauty faded.
    27     Every bridegroom was saddened,
            and intended brides sat
            mourning in their chambers.
    28 Even the land shook for its people,
        and all of Jacob’s house
        was clothed with shame.

    Occupation of Jerusalem

    29 Two years later, to collect tribute from the Judean cities, King Antiochus sent his chief officer, who came to Jerusalem with a large army. 30 The agent spoke peaceably and the Jews believed him, but he was deceitful. Without warning, he attacked the city, dealt it a brutal blow, and killed many Israelites. 31 He plundered the city. He set fires within it, destroyed its houses, and tore down its protective walls. 32 His forces took women and children as prisoners and seized livestock. 33 After all of this, the agent’s forces fortified David’s City with a very strong wall and powerful towers, and it became their fortress. 34 They stationed sinful, immoral people there, and these soldiers held down their position. 35 They stocked up with weapons and food, collected the spoils of Jerusalem, and stored them there. They were a great menace.

    36 They ambushed the sanctuary.
        They were an evil opponent of Israel
        at all times.
    37 Its inhabitants shed innocent blood
    all around the sanctuary,
        and they even polluted
        the sanctuary itself.
    38 Because of them,
    those who lived in Jerusalem fled.
        The city became
        a dwelling place for strangers.
            She was like a stranger to her offspring,
                and her children abandoned her.
    39 Her sanctuary was as barren as a desert.
        Her feasts turned into mourning,
            her sabbaths into shame,
            her honor into contempt.
    40 Her dishonor became as great
    as her glory had been.
        Her joy turned into sadness.

    Installation of Gentile worship

    41 Then King Antiochus sent word throughout his entire kingdom that everyone should act like one people, 42 giving up their local customs. The Gentile nations all readily accepted the king’s command. 43 Many Jews also willingly adopted the king’s religion. They sacrificed to idols and violated the Sabbath. 44 The king sent messengers carrying letters to Jerusalem and the surrounding towns of Judah. He directed Jews to follow customs that had been unknown in the land. 45 He banned the regular practices of entirely burned offerings, sacrifices, and drink offerings in the sanctuary. He banned the observance of sabbaths and feast days. 46 The sanctuary and its priests were to be defiled. 47 They should build new altars, together with sacred precincts and shrines for idols. They should sacrifice pigs and other ritually impure animals. 48 Jews were no longer to circumcise their sons. They were supposed to make themselves repulsive to God by doing unclean and improper acts. 49 All of this was intended to make them forget the Law and change its regulations. 50 Whoever didn’t obey the king would die.

    51 In this way, Antiochus wrote to his whole kingdom. He appointed inspectors over all the people, and commanded the Jewish communities to offer pagan sacrifices, town by town. 52 Many Jewish people, those who abandoned the Law, followed suit and did evil in the land. 53 The king’s inspectors drove Israel into hiding in every place of refuge they had available.

    54 Now on the fifteenth day of Kislev, in the year 145, they set up a disgusting and destructive thing on the altar for entirely burned offerings in the sanctuary. The inspectors built other altars in the surrounding Judean towns. 55 They burned incense at the doors of houses and in the streets. 56 When they found the Law scrolls, they tore them to pieces and burned them. 57 If anyone was caught in possession of a copy of the covenant scroll or if anyone kept to the Law, that person was condemned to death by royal decree. 58 They were unrelenting in attacking Israelites, all those who were identified as law-observant month after month throughout the towns. 59 On the twenty-fifth day of the month they offered sacrifice on the altar built over the altar for entirely burned offerings. 60 In keeping with the decree, they killed women who had circumcised their sons. 61 They hanged the infant boys from their mothers’ necks. The king’s agents also killed the families of the women as well as those who had performed the circumcisions.

    62 But many in Israel stood strong, and they resolved in their hearts not to eat impure food. 63 They chose to die rather than to be defiled by the food or to dishonor the holy covenant. And they did die. 64 A great anger came against Israel.