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  • 1 Maccabees 2

    Mattathias and his sons

    In those days a priest from Joarib’s family named Mattathias, the son of John and grandson of Simeon, moved from Jerusalem and settled in Modein. He had five sons: John, who had the surname Gaddi; Simon, called Thassi; Judas, called Maccabeus; Eleazar, called Avaran; and Jonathan, called Apphus.

    Mattathias saw the offensive actions against God that were taking place in Judah and Jerusalem. He said:

    “Horrible! Why was I born to see this—
        the ruin of my people,
        the ruin of the holy city?
            Why was I born to live there when it was given over to the enemy,
                and when the sanctuary
                was given over to strangers?
    Her temple has become
    like a person stripped of honor.
        Her glorious equipment
        has been taken away into exile.
            Her babies have been killed
            in her streets,
            her young people
            by the enemy’s sword.
    10 Is there a nation that hasn’t
    taken away some part of her majesty
        and seized upon her loot?
    11 All her adornment has been taken away.
        She is no longer free,
        but is instead a slave.
    12 Look! Our holy place, our beauty,
        and our glory have all been destroyed.
        The Gentiles have trampled them.
    13         Why should we live any longer?”

    14 Then Mattathias and his sons tore their clothes and put on mourning clothes, and they lamented.

    Pagan worship refused

    15 At that time, the king’s officers were enforcing the decrees to give up Jewish practice. They came to the town of Modein to make its people offer pagan sacrifice. 16 Many from Israel came out to them, including Mattathias and his sons. 17 Then the king’s officers spoke to Mattathias: “You’re a leader, honored and important in this town, and supported by sons and brothers. 18 Be the first to come and do what the king has commanded, as have all the Gentiles, the people of Judah, and those who are left in Jerusalem. Then you and your sons will be counted among the king’s closest political advisors; you and your sons will be honored with silver, gold, and many gifts.”

    19 But Mattathias answered loudly, “Even if all the nations that live under the king’s rule obey him and have chosen to follow his orders, departing from their ancestral religion, 20 My sons and brothers and I will continue to live according to our ancestors’ covenant. 21 We will never abandon the Law and its commands! 22 We won’t obey the king’s orders by turning aside from our religion to either the right or the left.”

    23 When he finished speaking, a Jew came forward in plain sight to offer sacrifice on the altar in Modein, in keeping with the king’s command. 24 When Mattathias saw this action, he burned with zeal, and his spirit was stirred up. He gave way to his righteous anger, and he ran over and killed the man on the altar. 25 He also killed the king’s officer who was overseeing the sacrifice at that time, and he tore down the altar. 26 He burned with zeal for the Law, just like Phinehas did against Zimri, Salu’s son.

    27 Then Mattathias shouted loudly in the town, “Everyone who is zealous for the Law and supports the covenant should come with me!” 28 So he and his sons fled to the hills and left behind all that they had in the town.

    29 At that time, many who sought righteousness and justice went to live in the desert. 30 They were there with their sons, their wives, and their livestock because troubles pressed heavily on them. 31 The king’s officers and the troops in Jerusalem, David’s City, learned that those who had rejected the king’s command had gone down to hiding places in the wilderness. 32 Many pursued and overtook them. The king’s military forces camped opposite them and prepared for battle against them on the Sabbath. 33 They said to them: “Enough of this! Come out and do what the king commands, and you will live.”

    34 But the Israelites replied: “We won’t come out, and we won’t do what the king commands and so violate the Sabbath.” 35 So the enemy immediately attacked them. 36 Still they didn’t answer or throw a rock at them or even block up their hiding places. 37 They said, “Let’s all die in our innocence. Heaven and earth testify on our behalf that you are killing us unjustly.” 38 So the troops attacked them on the Sabbath. They died, with their wives and children and livestock, as many as one thousand people.

    39 When Mattathias and his friends learned about this, they deeply mourned for the dead. 40 They said to each other: “If we all do as our people have done and refuse to fight against the Gentiles for our lives and our commandments, they will soon eliminate us from the earth.” 41 So they decided that day: “We will fight against anyone who comes to attack us on the Sabbath. Let’s not all die as our people did in their hiding places.”


    42 At that time a company of Hasideans, mighty warriors of Israel, united with them. They offered their lives willingly for the Law. 43 Others who became fugitives to escape their troubles joined them as well and reinforced them. 44 Together they organized an army. In their fury, they struck down sinners and renegades. Survivors fled to the Gentiles for safety.

    45 Mattathias and his friends went around tearing down the altars to other gods. 46 They forcibly circumcised boys whom they found uncircumcised within the borders of Israel. 47 They hunted down arrogant people, and their missions were successful. 48 They rescued the Law from the power of the Gentiles and kings, and they never let the sinner regain power.

    Last words of Mattathias

    49 Now the days drew near for Mattathias to die, and he spoke to his sons: “Arrogance and contempt are present everywhere. It is a time of ruin and raging anger. 50 Now, my children, demonstrate zeal for the Law, and give your lives for our ancestors’ covenant.

    51 “Remember the deeds of the ancestors, which they did in their day, and you will inherit great honor and everlasting remembrance.

    52 Wasn’t Abraham found faithful when he was tested, and it was considered righteousness?

    53 Joseph kept the commandment in the time of his distress, and he became ruler of Egypt.

    54 Our ancestor Phinehas received the covenant of everlasting priesthood because he was deeply zealous.

    55 Joshua became a judge in Israel because he fulfilled the command.

    56 Caleb received an inheritance in the land because he testified in the assembly.

    57 David inherited the throne of the kingdom forever because he was merciful.

    58 Elijah was taken up into heaven because he had great zeal for the Law.

    59 Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael believed, and were rescued from the flame.

    60 Daniel was delivered from the lions’ mouths because of his innocence.

    61 “So you see that from generation to generation, no one who continues to trust God will lack strength. 62 Don’t fear the words of sinners, for their glory will turn into dung and worms. 63 Today they may be exalted, but tomorrow they can’t be found, because they will have returned to the dust and their plans will have vanished. 64 My children, show courage and grow strong in the Law, because this will bring you honor.

    65 “Look, here is your brother Simon, who I know is a man with purpose. Always listen to him. He will be your father. 66 Judas Maccabeus has been a powerful fighter since he was a boy. He will command the army for you and lead the battle against the peoples. 67 Rally around yourselves all who observe the Law, and avenge wrong done to your people. 68 Pay the Gentiles back in full, and obey what the Law commands.”

    69 Then he blessed them and joined his ancestors. 70 He died in the year 146 and was buried in an ancestral tomb at Modein. All Israel mourned for him with sorrow.