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  • 2 Maccabees 14

    Alcimus and Nicanor

    14 Three years later it was reported to Judas’ followers that Demetrius, Seleucus’ son, had sailed into the harbor at Tripolis with a strong army and a fleet. It was also reported that he had taken possession of the country, killing Antiochus and his guardian Lysias. A certain Alcimus, who had become high priest earlier but had willingly defiled himself during the revolt, became aware that he was no longer safe and that he would no longer have access to the holy altar. He approached King Demetrius in the year 151, bringing him a gold crown, a palm tree, and some customary gifts of olive branches from the temple. He kept quiet that day but waited for the right opportunity to accomplish his folly. Finally, Demetrius called him into the council to ask him about the condition of the Jews and their frame of mind. He replied, “The Jews called Hasideans, whose leader is Judas the Maccabee, maintain a warlike policy and rebel frequently, not permitting the kingdom to have peace. Deprived of my ancestral glory—I speak of course of the high priesthood—I have now come here, first out of a sincere concern for the king’s interests and second out of regard for my fellow citizens. Through the recklessness of those mentioned earlier, the entire nation is in a state of misfortune. But, King, since you have knowledge of these things, take thought for both the country and our oppressed nation with the same generosity you have had for all. 10 As long as Judas lives, the government is powerless to establish peace.”

    11 Alcimus had no sooner finished speaking when the rest of the political advisors, who strongly disliked Judas, further enraged Demetrius. 12 Immediately choosing Nicanor the commander of the elephants and appointing him governor of Judea, the king sent him out 13 with written orders to kill Judas and scatter those with him, and to install Alcimus as high priest of the greatest temple. 14 The Judean Gentiles who had fled from Judas joined Nicanor in large numbers, thinking that they would benefit from the misfortunes and calamities of the Jews.

    15 When they heard about Nicanor’s advance and the support he had from the Gentiles, the Jews sprinkled themselves with earth. They prayed to the one who had established his own people forever and who always helped them by intervening on their behalf. 16 At the command of their leader Judas, they immediately broke camp, marched from there, and met the enemy at the village of Dessau. 17 Simon, Judas’ brother, met Nicanor in battle but was slowly losing ground because of the unexpected confusion caused by their enemies. 18 Nevertheless, when Nicanor heard that Judas’ troops were fighting bravely and courageously as they struggled for their homeland, he was somewhat afraid to decide the matter through bloodshed. 19 So he sent Posidonius, Theodotus, and Mattathias to develop a peace agreement. 20 When the Jews had carefully inspected the proposal, and their leader Judas had informed the community, who appeared to give unanimous consent, they accepted the terms of the agreement. 21 They set a day on which the leaders from each side would come to the same place in private, a chariot coming from each side, with chairs set out for the meeting. 22 Judas placed armed men in appropriate places, in order to prevent unexpected treachery from the enemies. So they held successful negotiations.

    23 Nicanor lived for a time in Jerusalem and did nothing improper. He dismissed the crowds of ordinary people who gathered there. 24 He kept Judas continually in his presence since he became strongly attached to the man. 25 He encouraged him to marry and to have children. So Judas married, enjoyed tranquillity, and began to live a normal life.

    26 When Alcimus noted the goodwill that Nicanor and Judas had toward each other, he obtained the documents of agreement drawn up between them and went to Demetrius. He claimed that Nicanor was disloyal to the government because he had appointed Judas, who plotted against the king, as his successor. 27 The king was furious and, provoked by the accusations of the thoroughly depraved Alcimus, wrote to Nicanor. He forcefully asserted that he was displeased with the terms of agreement and ordered him to send the Maccabee as a prisoner to Antioch immediately. 28 When this order reached Nicanor, he was upset and found it difficult to revoke the agreements, seeing how the man had done no wrong. 29 But he couldn’t defy the king, so he watched for an opportune time to set a trap. 30 But the Maccabee noticed that Nicanor was becoming more reserved toward him, conducting customary meetings in a less courteous manner. Sensing that this new rudeness wasn’t for the best, he gathered a large number of men and hid from Nicanor. 31 When Nicanor realized that Judas had completely outwitted him, he went to the great and holy temple where priests were offering up the appropriate sacrifices and ordered them to hand over the man. 32 When they asserted with solemn pledges that they didn’t know where he was, 33 he stretched out his strong hand against the temple and made the following pronouncement: “If you don’t turn Judas over to me as a prisoner, I will level the sacred area of God, tear down the altar to the ground, and build here a great temple to Dionysus.” 34 With these words, he left. But the priests, stretching out their hands to heaven, called on the one who always fights in defense of our nation, saying, 35 “You, Lord, who need nothing, made the temple your dwelling among us. 36 Now, holy one, Lord of all holiness, keep your newly purified house free from all defilement forever.”

    37 A Jerusalem elder named Razis was denounced to Nicanor as someone who loved the citizens, was well spoken of, and was called “Father of the Jews” because of his kindness. 38 Early on in the revolt, he had been put on trial for Judaism and risked body and soul for its cause. 39 Wanting to make public the hatred he had toward the Jews, Nicanor sent a group of more than five hundred soldiers to take him, 40 because he thought that by arresting him, he would create a problem for the Jewish people. 41 When the mob was about to take the tower, forcing open the door of the courtyard, they commanded that the door be set on fire. Razis was surrounded on every side, so he fell on his own sword. 42 He wanted to die bravely rather than fall into the hands of sinners and suffer outrages unworthy of his own high birth. 43 But the blow didn’t strike its mark because of the haste of the struggle and the surge of the mob through the doors. Running with honor out onto the wall, he courageously threw himself down into the mob. 44 When they suddenly drew back, a space opened up, and he landed in the middle of it. 45 While still breathing and burning with anger, he rose up, ignoring the gushing blood and the terrible injuries, and made his way through the crowd to stand on a pile of rubble. 46 Entirely drained of blood, he tore out his intestines, took them in both hands, and threw them at the mob. As he did this, he called out to the one with authority over life and spirit to return his insides to him, and in this manner he died.