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2 Maccabees 1 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

A Letter to the Jews in Egypt

The Jews in Jerusalem and those in the land of Judea,

To their Jewish kindred in Egypt,

Greetings and true peace.

May God do good to you, and may he remember his covenant with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, his faithful servants. May he give you all a heart to worship him and to do his will with a strong heart and a willing spirit. May he open your heart to his law and his commandments, and may he bring peace. May he hear your prayers and be reconciled to you, and may he not forsake you in time of evil. We are now praying for you here.

In the reign of Demetrius, in the one hundred sixty-ninth year,[a] we Jews wrote to you, in the critical distress that came upon us in those years after Jason and his company revolted from the holy land and the kingdom and burned the gate and shed innocent blood. We prayed to the Lord and were heard, and we offered sacrifice and grain offering, and we lit the lamps and set out the loaves. And now see that you keep the festival of booths in the month of Chislev, in the one hundred eighty-eighth year.[b]

A Letter to Aristobulus

10 The people of Jerusalem and of Judea and the senate and Judas,

To Aristobulus, who is of the family of the anointed priests, teacher of King Ptolemy, and to the Jews in Egypt,

Greetings and good health.

11 Having been saved by God out of grave dangers we thank him greatly for taking our side against the king,[c] 12 for he drove out those who fought against the holy city. 13 When the leader reached Persia with a force that seemed irresistible, they were cut to pieces in the temple of Nanea by a deception employed by the priests of the goddess[d] Nanea. 14 On the pretext of intending to marry her, Antiochus came to the place together with his Friends, to secure most of its treasures as a dowry. 15 When the priests of the temple of Nanea had set out the treasures and Antiochus had come with a few men inside the wall of the sacred precinct, they closed the temple as soon as he entered it. 16 Opening a secret door in the ceiling, they threw stones and struck down the leader and his men; they dismembered them and cut off their heads and threw them to the people outside. 17 Blessed in every way be our God, who has brought judgment on those who have behaved impiously.

Fire Consumes Nehemiah’s Sacrifice

18 Since on the twenty-fifth day of Chislev we shall celebrate the purification of the temple, we thought it necessary to notify you, in order that you also may celebrate the festival of booths and the festival of the fire given when Nehemiah, who built the temple and the altar, offered sacrifices.

19 For when our ancestors were being led captive to Persia, the pious priests of that time took some of the fire of the altar and secretly hid it in the hollow of a dry cistern, where they took such precautions that the place was unknown to anyone. 20 But after many years had passed, when it pleased God, Nehemiah, having been commissioned by the king of Persia, sent the descendants of the priests who had hidden the fire to get it. And when they reported to us that they had not found fire but only a thick liquid, he ordered them to dip it out and bring it. 21 When the materials for the sacrifices were presented, Nehemiah ordered the priests to sprinkle the liquid on the wood and on the things laid upon it. 22 When this had been done and some time had passed, and when the sun, which had been clouded over, shone out, a great fire blazed up, so that all marveled. 23 And while the sacrifice was being consumed, the priests offered prayer—the priests and everyone. Jonathan led, and the rest responded, as did Nehemiah. 24 The prayer was to this effect:

“O Lord, Lord God, Creator of all things, you are awe-inspiring and strong and just and merciful, you alone are king and are kind, 25 you alone are bountiful, you alone are just and almighty and eternal. You rescue Israel from every evil; you chose the ancestors and consecrated them. 26 Accept this sacrifice on behalf of all your people Israel and preserve your portion and make it holy. 27 Gather together our scattered people, set free those who are slaves among the Gentiles, look on those who are rejected and despised, and let the Gentiles know that you are our God. 28 Punish those who oppress and are insolent with pride. 29 Plant your people in your holy place, as Moses promised.”

30 Then the priests sang the hymns. 31 After the materials of the sacrifice had been consumed, Nehemiah ordered that the liquid that was left should be poured on large stones. 32 When this was done, a flame blazed up; but when the light from the altar shone back, it went out. 33 When this matter became known, and it was reported to the king of the Persians that, in the place where the exiled priests had hidden the fire, the liquid had appeared with which Nehemiah and his associates had burned the materials of the sacrifice, 34 the king investigated the matter, and enclosed the place and made it sacred. 35 And with those persons whom the king favored he exchanged many excellent gifts. 36 Nehemiah and his associates called this “nephthar,” which means purification, but by most people it is called naphtha.[e]

Footnotes:

  1. 2 Maccabees 1:7 143 b.c.
  2. 2 Maccabees 1:9 124 b.c.
  3. 2 Maccabees 1:11 Cn: Gk as those who array themselves against a king
  4. 2 Maccabees 1:13 Gk lacks the goddess
  5. 2 Maccabees 1:36 Gk nephthai
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

2 Maccabees 1 Common English Bible (CEB)

The first letter

To our Jewish brothers and sisters in Egypt.

Greetings! Your Jewish brothers and sisters in Jerusalem and in the country of Judea wish you prosperous peace.

May God do good for you and remember the covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, his faithful servants.

May God give to all of you the passion to worship him and to do his will with a whole heart and a willing spirit.

May God open your heart to his Law and commands, and give you peace.

May God listen to your prayers and be reconciled with you and not abandon you in an evil time. We are praying for you here.

In the year 169[a], during the rule of Demetrius, we Jews wrote to you during a critical period of suffering that happened to us in the years after Jason and his followers revolted from the holy land and the kingdom. They burned down the gate and murdered innocent people. We pleaded to the Lord, and the Lord heard us. We offered sacrifices and fine flour, lit the lamps, and set out the sacred loaves. So now you should keep the Festival of Booths in the month of Kislev, 10 in the year 188.[b]

The second letter

The citizens of Jerusalem and Judea, the council of elders, and Judas send greetings and wishes of good health to Aristobulus, teacher of King Ptolemy and a member of the family of the anointed priests, and to the Jews in Egypt. 11 God saved us from great danger when we were battling against the king. So we greatly praise God 12 because he forced those fighting in the holy city to leave.

13 The ruler and his armed forces that went into Persia seemed invincible. But they were slain in the goddess Nanea’s temple, when Nanea’s priests tricked them. 14 Since Antiochus came in order to marry the goddess, he and his political advisors[c] came into the temple[d] to take the great wealth as payment for her dowry. 15 When the priests of Nanea had set it out, the king entered with a few men into the enclosed space of the shrine. After closing off the temple as Antiochus entered, 16 and opening the hidden door of the ceiling, they threw stones that struck down the ruler like a bolt of lightning. After dismembering and beheading the bodies, they tossed the heads to those outside.

17 May our God who gave up the immoral to death be praised in every way!

18 Since we are about to celebrate the cleansing of the temple on the twenty-fifth of Kislev, we thought it right to notify you so that you yourselves might also celebrate the Festival of Booths and Fire, when Nehemiah offered sacrifices after he had built the temple and the altar. 19 When our ancestors were taken as captives into Persia, the holy priests secretly took the fire of the altar and hid it in a dry pit. They were careful that no one knew the place. 20 Many years later, when it seemed good to God, Nehemiah, who was commissioned by the king of Persia, sent the descendants of the priests who had hidden the fire to retrieve it. After they explained to us that they didn’t find the fire, but rather a thick liquid, he ordered them to bring the liquid. 21 When they brought up the provisions for the sacrifice, Nehemiah commanded the priests to sprinkle the liquid on the wood and on the items lying there. 22 Some time after they did this, as the sun shone brightly from behind the clouds, a great fire flared up and astonished everyone. 23 While the sacrifices were burning, the priests prayed, the priests and all the people. Jonathan took the lead while the others, including Nehemiah, responded. 24 The prayer went like this:

Lord, Lord God, creator of all,
    you are fearsome, mighty,
    just, and merciful.
    You are the only king
    and only generous one.
25 You are the only provider,
    the only just, almighty, and eternal one.
    You save Israel from all evil.
You chose the patriarchs
and made them holy.

26 Receive this sacrifice on behalf of all your people Israel. Guard your portion and make it holy.

27 Gather together our scattered people, free the ones enslaved among the nations, watch over those who are despised and loathed, and let the nations know that you are our God. 28 Punish the oppressors and those who commit arrogant acts of violence. 29 Plant your people in your holy place, just as Moses said.[e]

30 The priests sang the hymns. 31 When the elements of the sacrifice were consumed, Nehemiah commanded them to pour the remaining liquid on larger stones. 32 When this happened, a flame flared up on these stones. But it went out in the presence of the light shining from the altar. 33 When this situation became known, it was reported to the king of the Persians that in the place where the exiled priests hid the fire, a liquid appeared from which Nehemiah’s followers purified the elements of the sacrifice. 34 After fencing off the place and declaring it holy, the king examined the matter. 35 The king showed favor to those involved and presented many excellent gifts to them. 36 Nehemiah’s circle called this liquid nephthar, which means “purification,” but most people call it nephthai.

Footnotes:

  1. 2 Maccabees 1:7 143 BCE
  2. 2 Maccabees 1:10 November–December, 124 BCE
  3. 2 Maccabees 1:14 Or Friends
  4. 2 Maccabees 1:14 Or place
  5. 2 Maccabees 1:29 Cf Exod 15:17
Common English Bible (CEB)

Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible

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