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  • 2 Maccabees 15

    Nicanor’s defeat

    15 Nicanor learned that Judas’ forces were in the region of Samaria, so he wanted to attack them on the day of rest when there would be no risk. But the Jews who were compelled to follow him said, “No! Don’t destroy with such cruelty and savagery, but respect the day that is honored with holiness above all others by the one who observes all.”

    The repeat offender asked if there was in heaven some mighty one who commanded the keeping of the Sabbath day.

    They declared, “The living Lord himself, the ruler in heaven, commands us to keep the seventh day.”

    Nicanor replied, “And I am the ruler on earth who commands you to take up arms and to carry out the royal orders.” Nevertheless, he didn’t succeed in carrying out his terrible plan.

    Nicanor, holding his head high with all his boasting, decided to build a public monument marking the defeat of Judas’ forces. But the Maccabee was fully confident in his hope of obtaining the Lord’s help. So he encouraged his troops not to fear the Gentiles’ attack but to remember the aid they had previously received from heaven and to look for victory from the almighty now. Reassuring them with words from the Law and the Prophets, and reminding them of the struggles they had overcome, he made them even more eager. 10 Stirring up their spirits, he gave them orders and pointed out at the same time the treachery of the Gentiles and their violation of solemn pledges. 11 He armed each of them not so much with the security of shields and spears as with the encouragement of good words. He also told them about a trustworthy dream—a kind of waking vision—which raised everyone’s morale.

    12 In his vision, Judas saw Onias, who had been high priest and was virtuous, good, modest in all things, gentle of manners, and well-spoken. From childhood he had learned all things that properly belong to a good moral life. This man had his hands extended to pray for the entire nation of the Jews. 13 Then in the same manner, another man, noteworthy for his gray hair and dignity, appeared with astonishing and splendid glory. 14 Onias said, “This man is one who loves his brothers and sisters and prays many prayers for the people and the holy city: God’s prophet Jeremiah.”

    15 Jeremiah extended his strong hand and gave to Judas a gold sword, saying, 16 “Take this holy sword as a gift from God, and with it you will destroy your enemies.”

    17 Judas’ eloquent and powerful words urged them on to courage and made the young men’s spirits brave. They determined not to prepare for a long campaign but to attack honorably and fight hand-to-hand with all courage. In this way the matter would be decided, as danger faced their city, the holy things, and the temple. 18 They weren’t as concerned for their women and children, or their brothers and relatives, as they were for the holy temple. 19 Those trapped in the city were also very anxious, fearful of an attack in the open. 20 Everyone was waiting for the upcoming conflict, with fighting units already formed, soldiers drawn up in battle order, beasts sent to strategic positions, and cavalry arranged on either side. 21 The Maccabee saw the masses that were before him, the diverse sorts of equipped military arms, and the fierceness of the elephants, so he extended his hands to heaven and called on the wonder-working Lord. He knew that it isn’t through arms that God decides to award victory but he gives it to those who deserve it. 22 He prayed like this: “You, my Lord, sent your angel to Hezekiah king of Judah and he killed one hundred eighty-five thousand from Sennacherib’s camp. 23 Now ruler of the heavens, send a good angel in front of us to cause fear and trembling. 24 May your mighty arm terrify those who come with verbal insults against your holy people.” With that he stopped speaking.

    25 Nicanor’s forces advanced with trumpet calls and battle cries. 26 But Judas’ men battled against their enemies with appeals and prayers. 27 Fighting with their hands but praying to God with their hearts and rejoicing in God’s appearance, they killed no fewer than thirty-five thousand soldiers. 28 When they returned from the battle to their camp with joy, they found Nicanor lying dead in full armor. 29 With shouts and excitement, they praised the ruler in their native language. 30 Their leader, who had always fought for the citizens with body and soul and had carefully preserved the goodwill toward his fellow citizens from his youth, commanded that Nicanor’s head and arm be cut off and carried to Jerusalem. 31 After arriving there, Judas called together his fellow citizens, stationed the priests at the altar, and sent for those from the elevated fortress.

    32 He displayed the head of the repulsive Nicanor and the slanderer’s hand, which he had extended against the almighty’s holy house while uttering great boasts. 33 He cut out the tongue of the ungodly Nicanor and ordered that it be given to the birds in pieces, and he hung the rewards of his stupidity in front of the temple. 34 Looking to heaven, everyone praised the Lord, who had made himself known, saying, “Blessed is the one who kept his own holy place pure.” 35 Judas hung Nicanor’s head from the elevated fortress in plain sight of all, as a clear sign of the Lord’s help. 36 The people decided to issue a regulation forbidding anyone to forget this day but reminding all to celebrate the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, called Adar in the Syrian language, the day before Mordecai’s day.

    37 After things turned out this way with Nicanor, the Hebrews controlled the city from that time on. So at this point I will stop. 38 If the story was told effectively, this is what I wanted. But if it was told in a poor and mediocre fashion, this was the best I could do. 39 Just as it is harmful to drink wine or water alone while wine mixed with water is delightful and produces joy, so also may the writing of this story delight the ears of those who encounter this work.

    The end.