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  • 1 Maccabees 3

    Early victories of Judas

    Then his son Judas, known as Maccabeus, took command in his place. Every one of his brothers and all who had joined his father helped him, and they gladly fought for Israel.

    He advanced the honor of his people.
        He put on his breastplate like a giant.
    He strapped on his war armor
    and waged battles,
        protecting the camp with his sword.
    He was like a lion in his actions,
        like a lion’s cub roaring after prey.
    He hunted and pursued
    those who broke the Law.
        He burned up
        those who troubled his people.
    Lawbreakers were afraid of him
    and retreated.
        All evildoers were in turmoil.
            His hand successfully
            brought deliverance.
    He angered many kings,
        but he brought joy to Jacob by his deeds.
            His memory is blessed forever.
    He went through the cities of Judah
        and destroyed the ungodly
        out of the land.
            As a result, he turned wrath
            away from Israel.
    His fame extended
    to the ends of the earth.
        He gathered together
        those who were perishing.

    10 Apollonius gathered Gentiles and a large force from Samaria to fight against Israel. 11 When Judas found out about it, he went out to meet him in battle, then defeated and killed him. Judas wounded and killed many, while the rest fled. 12 Then the Israelites seized their spoils. Judas took Apollonius’ sword and used it in battle for the rest of his life.

    13 At this point, Seron the commander of the Syrian army heard that Judas had gathered a large company, including a group of faithful soldiers who stayed with him and went out to battle. 14 He said, “I will make a name for myself and win honor in the kingdom. I will make war on Judas and his companions who reject the king’s command.” 15 Once more, a strong army of godless men went up with Seron to help him take vengeance on the Israelites.

    16 When he approached the ascent to go up to Beth-horon, Judas went out to meet him with a small group. 17 When they saw Seron’s army that was coming against them, they said to Judas, “How can we, who are so few, fight against so large and strong a multitude? What’s more, we feel faint because we haven’t eaten today.”

    18 Judas answered, “It’s easy for many to be trapped by a few. In the sight of heaven, it makes no difference to win by many or by few. 19 It’s not the size of the army that brings victory in battle, because strength comes from heaven. 20 They’re coming against us with a lot of pride and evil. They want to destroy us, along with our wives and children. They want to ruin us. 21 But we are fighting for our lives and for our laws. 22 The heavenly one himself will crush them before us. Don’t be afraid of them.”

    23 After Judas said these words, his soldiers rushed suddenly against Seron’s army, and they crushed them. 24 Judas’ soldiers pursued Seron’s army down the hill from Beth-horon to the plain below. Eight hundred of them died. The rest fled into the land of the Philistines. 25 After this, Judas and his brothers were feared. Terror fell on all the Gentiles around them. 26 Even the king heard about his reputation, and the Gentiles talked about the battles waged by Judas.

    Policy of Antiochus

    27 When King Antiochus heard about these matters, he became very angry. So he gathered together all the forces of his empire, a mighty army. 28 He opened up his treasury and gave his soldiers a year’s pay in advance, and he ordered them to be ready for anything. 29 Then he realized that the money in his treasury was all used up. The revenues from the country were small because of the turmoil and disaster that he had brought about in the land by abolishing the laws that had existed from early days. 30 He became afraid that he might not have enough funds to provide for his expenses as well as for the gifts that he granted more abundantly than previous kings. 31 He was very troubled by this. Then he decided to go to Persia and collect revenues there and raise a large sum of money.

    32 The king appointed Lysias, a distinguished man from a royal family, to be in charge of his affairs from the Euphrates River to the Egyptian border. 33 He also wanted Lysias to take care of his young son Antiochus until he returned. 34 So he gave Lysias authority over half of his armed forces and war elephants. He gave him orders regarding what he wanted him to do, including the matter of the inhabitants of Judea and Jerusalem. 35 He wanted Lysias to send an army against them to wipe out and destroy Israel’s strength and the few remaining in Jerusalem. He ordered that their memory should be completely erased from the place. 36 Lysias was to settle strangers in all their territory and divide up their lands by lot. 37 Then the king took the other half of his forces and left his capital Antioch in the year 147. He crossed the Euphrates River and went through the upper provinces.

    Preparations for battle

    38 Lysias selected Ptolemy, Dorymenes’ son, as well as Nicanor and Gorgias, two able men who were among the king’s chief political advisors. 39 He sent them with forty thousand infantry and seven thousand cavalry to go into Judah and destroy it, as the king had commanded. 40 So they headed out with their whole force. When they arrived, they set up camp in the plain near Emmaus. 41 When traders in the region heard about their plan, they took a great amount of silver and gold, together with shackles, and went to the camp intending to obtain some Israelites for slaves. A force from Idumea and the land of the Philistines also joined them.

    42 Judas and his brothers saw that the situation was becoming increasingly difficult, as the military forces were encamped in their territory. They learned also that the king had commanded their complete destruction. 43 But they spoke to each other, “Let’s restore our people after all they’ve suffered, and fight for our people and the sanctuary.” 44 So the congregation gathered to prepare for battle, and to pray and ask for mercy and compassion.

    45 Jerusalem was deserted
    like a wilderness.
        None of her children moved around.
    The sanctuary was trampled,
        and strangers held the elevated fortress.
            Gentiles lodged there.
    Joy was taken from Jacob.
        The flute and the harp
        were no longer heard.

    46 Then they assembled and went to Mizpah, across from Jerusalem, because Israelites used to have a place of prayer there. 47 They fasted for a day and put on mourning clothes, sprinkled ashes on their heads, and tore their garments. 48 In addition, they opened up the Law scroll to find answers to the kinds of questions Gentiles would ask of their idols. 49 They also brought out the priestly garments as well as early produce and tenth-part gifts. They stirred up nazirites, who had completed the duration of their solomn promises. 50 Then they cried aloud to heaven:

    “What should we do with these people?
        Where should we take them?
    51 Your sanctuary is trampled and degraded.
        Your priests mourn in humiliation.
    52 The Gentiles are gathered here against us,
            planning to destroy us.
    You know what they are plotting.
    53     How will we be able to withstand them
            if you don’t help us?”

    54 Then they blew the trumpets and gave a loud shout. 55 Judas appointed leaders of the people in charge of thousands and hundreds and fifties and tens. 56 In keeping with the Law, he told all who were building houses or were about to get married or were planting a vineyard or were fainthearted to go home. 57 Then the army went on the march and camped south of Emmaus.

    58 Judas said: “Arm yourselves and be fearless. Be ready early in the morning to fight these Gentiles who have gathered here against us to destroy us and our sanctuary. 59 It would be better for us to die fighting than to see the misfortunes of our nation and the sanctuary. 60 Whatever may be heaven’s will, that’s what the heavenly one will do.”