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Judas the Maccabee revolts

Judas, also named the Maccabee, and his companions went secretly into the villages and called together their relatives and those who continued to follow Judaism, enlisting a force of about six thousand soldiers. They called on the Lord to look on the people who were oppressed by all, to take pity on the temple that was degraded by ungodly people, and to have mercy on the city that was being destroyed and about to be leveled. They called on the Lord to listen to the shed blood of those who had appealed to God for help, to remember the needless massacre of innocent infants, and to show his hatred of the evil things said against his name. Once he organized his army, the Maccabee couldn’t be stopped by the Gentiles, because the Lord’s wrath had turned into mercy. He would come suddenly into towns and villages, set them ablaze, capture a number of the strategically important places, and put many of the enemy to flight. He especially found the night advantageous for such attacks. Talk of his good courage spread everywhere.

Philip saw how Judas was progressing little by little and gaining ground with each success, so he wrote to Ptolemy the governor of Coele-Syria and Phoenicia to come to the aid of the royal government. Nicanor, Patroclus’ son, one of the king’s most important political advisors,[a] was immediately chosen and sent with a military unit of no fewer than twenty thousand men of various nationalities to eliminate Judea’s entire population. He also sent with him Gorgias, a general experienced in military affairs. 10 Nicanor agreed to raise the payment that the king owed the Romans—114,000 pounds of silver—by selling the Jewish prisoners of war. 11 Immediately, he sent a message into the coastal cities, summoning them to purchase Jews as slaves, setting the price at fifty-seven pounds of silver for every ninety persons. But he didn’t anticipate the judgment that was coming from the almighty.

12 When news of Nicanor’s plan reached Judas, he told those with him about the imminent appearance of the military force. 13 The cowardly and those who didn’t trust God’s judgment ran away and hid themselves. 14 Some were selling all they possessed while at the same time calling on the Lord to rescue those whom Nicanor had sold even before they met. 15 They asked that God do this, if not for their sake then for the sake of the covenants with their ancestors, and because he had called them by his revered and glorious name.

16 The Maccabee gathered around him approximately six thousand men. He encouraged them not to be terrified by their enemies nor to fear the great number of Gentiles coming at them unjustly. Rather, they were to fight honorably 17 and keep before their eyes the outrage committed unlawfully in the holy place, the torture of the scorned city, and the overthrow of their ancestral way of life. 18 “They rely on weapons and daring,” he said, “but we trust in the almighty God, who is able to strike down with a single nod those coming against us—and even the whole world.” 19 He also gave them examples of when God helped their ancestors, such as when one hundred eighty-five thousand of the enemy died during the time of Sennacherib, 20 or the battle with the Galatians in Babylonia. A total of eight thousand Jewish troops went into action along with four thousand Macedonians, who got into severe difficulty, yet the eight thousand Jewish forces, with the assistance they received from heaven, killed one hundred twenty thousand of the enemy and took the spoils of war.

21 With such words he so encouraged them that they were prepared to die for their laws and homeland. He divided the army into four parts and 22 appointed his brothers as commanders of each unit. Simon, Joseph, and Jonathan each commanded fifteen hundred men, 23 while Eleazar was publicly to read aloud the holy scroll.

Giving the watchword of “God’s help,” Judas took command of the first military unit and attacked Nicanor. 24 With the almighty as their ally, they slaughtered more than nine thousand of the enemy, wounding and disabling many of Nicanor’s army and driving them all to flight. 25 They seized the funds of those who came to buy them. After pursuing them a long way, they returned while there was still time 26 because it was the day before the Sabbath. For that reason they didn’t continue to pursue them. 27 After collecting the arms of the enemy and stripping them of their spoils, they kept the Sabbath, praising and giving thanks to the Lord for saving them that day and for giving them this initial sign of mercy. 28 When the Sabbath had ended, they shared the loot with those who had suffered torture, with the widows, and with the orphans. They divided up the rest with their children. 29 When they had completed these final tasks, they made a common appeal and prayed for the merciful Lord to be reconciled finally with his servants.

30 In close combat with the supporters of Timothy and Bacchides, they killed more than twenty thousand men and easily took control over some high fortresses. The war spoils that they took they divided equally between themselves and those suffering torture: the orphans, the widows, and also the elderly. 31 They carefully placed the captured armor all together in strategic places, but the rest of the spoils they carried into Jerusalem. 32 They killed the commander of Timothy’s troops, a most ungodly man who had caused grief to many Jews. 33 While celebrating victory in their homeland, they burned alive those who had set on fire the sacred gates, including Callisthenes, who had fled into a small house, so that he received the just reward for his sin.[b] 34 But the utterly corrupt Nicanor, who had invited one thousand merchants for the sale of the Jews, 35 was humiliated with the Lord’s help by those he despised the most. He stripped off his stately uniform and traveled into Antioch by the inland road like a lone fugitive, having succeeded only in destroying his own army. 36 The one who accepted the mission to collect the tribute for the Romans from the Jerusalem prisoners of war announced publicly that the Jews had a defender and that, as a result, the Jews couldn’t be defeated because they followed God’s ordained laws.


  1. 2 Maccabees 8:9 Or Friends
  2. 2 Maccabees 8:33 Correction; Gk uncertain