Nicanor's Cruel Plan
1Nicanor was told that Judas had led our army to the region of Samaria. So Nicanor planned to attack on the Sabbath, when we would not fight back.#15.1 Sabbath … not fight back: Many Jews refused to fight on the Sabbath (see 6.11).
2Nicanor had forced some of our people to join his army, and they said, “The God who sees everything has appointed the Sabbath to be the most holy day, and it would be vicious and cruel to attack Jews on that day.”
3But that horrible Nicanor replied, “Did some great ruler in heaven really command you Jews to honor the Sabbath?”
4“Yes!” they answered. “And that Ruler is the living Lord and King of Heaven.”
5Then Nicanor remarked, “Well, I'm your ruler here on earth, and I order you to get your weapons and finish the job the king gave you to do.”
But Nicanor was unable to carry out his cruel plan.
Judas Encourages His Troops
6With great pride, Nicanor boasted that he would build a public monument in honor of his victory over Judas and his army. 7But Judas was certain that the Lord would come to their rescue, 8and he encouraged his troops by saying, “Don't be afraid when the enemy attacks. Remember God All-Powerful will send help from heaven today, just as he has done in the past.”
9Judas encouraged his troops by reading to them from their sacred Scriptures and by reminding them of the battles they had already won. 10The troops were now excited and eager to fight. So Judas gave them their orders and pointed out that Gentiles never kept their promises. 11His words offered them more hope and encouragement than their shields and spears.
Judas Has a Dream
Judas gave his troops further encouragement by telling them what he had seen in a dream—one#15.11 seen … one: One possible meaning for the difficult Greek text. that he knew they could trust. He said:
12I saw Onias the high priest.#15.12 Onias the high priest: Menelaus had him murdered around 170 b.c. (see 4.34). He was both gentle and kind, as well as humble and honest. He also had a gift for speaking and had been brought up well. In my dream, Onias was praying for the whole nation, with his arms outstretched.
13Next I saw a dignified and very important looking man with gray hair. 14Onias said to me, “This man is God's prophet Jeremiah. He loves our nation and our holy city of Jerusalem so much that he never stops praying for us.”
15Then with his right hand, Jeremiah handed me a gold sword and said, 16“This sacred sword is a gift from God. Take it and cut your enemies to pieces.”
17Everyone, young and old, was encouraged by what Judas had said. They felt so brave and strong that they decided to rush out of camp#15.17 to rush out of camp: One possible meaning for the difficult Greek text. and fight Nicanor's troops in hand-to-hand combat, in order to protect the city, the holy things, and the temple. 18In fact, they went into battle so concerned about the sacred temple, that they gave no thought to their own families. 19Meanwhile, the people of Jerusalem were anxious and worried about those who had left to fight in the countryside.
Judas Defeats Nicanor's Army
20Everyone was waiting to see who would win the battle. The enemy troops had lined up and were moving forward, protected on both sides by cavalry. They also had elephants stationed in places where they could help the most.
21As Judas watched this huge enemy army advance, he looked carefully at the different kinds of weapons and the savage elephants. Then he stretched his arms toward heaven and prayed to the Lord who works miracles, because he knew that the Lord gives victory to those who deserve it, and not to those who have a lot of swords and armor. 22#2 K 19.35. This is what he prayed:
Lord of Heaven, when Hezekiah was king of Judea, you sent an angel who killed 185,000 troops that belonged to King Sennacherib.
23Now please send a good angel to make our enemies tremble with fear. 24Then use your mighty arm to destroy those who have cursed you and attacked your holy people.
25 # 1 Macc 7.43-50. Nicanor's soldiers blew trumpets and chanted war songs as they attacked. 26But our troops begged God for help and fought back 27with swords in their hands and prayers in their hearts. They killed at least 35,000 enemy troops that day, and they celebrated because God had shown them his power.
28After the battle, Judas and his soldiers were happily on their way home when they found Nicanor lying dead on the ground, but still wearing his armor. 29So they all shouted and jumped about, praising the Lord All-Powerful in their native language.#15.29 native language: See the note at 12.37.
30Judas had always been a faithful defender of his country, and he was just as patriotic now as he was when he was young. So he ordered his troops to chop off Nicanor's head and right arm and take them to Jerusalem.
31When they reached the city, Judas called everyone together. He told the priests to stand in front of the altar, and he sent for the enemy soldiers in the fortress. 32Judas showed them the head of that godless Nicanor. Then he let them see the arm of this arrogant and disgusting man, who had shaken his fist at the holy temple of God All-Powerful.
33Finally, he cut out the tongue of this worthless man and said, “I am going to feed it piece by piece to the birds. Then I am going to nail his head and arm on the wall of the fortress opposite the temple, as proof of his foolishness.”
34Everyone looked toward heaven and prayed, “Our Lord, we praise you for protecting your sacred temple and for showing us your wonderful power.”
35Judas nailed Nicanor's head to the wall of the fortress, as evidence that the Lord had helped his people. 36#1 Macc 7.48,49; 3 Macc 6.36. Then everyone decided to remember this day forever by celebrating a festival on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is called Adar in Aramaic.#15.36 Aramaic: The Greek has “Syriac,” a later form of Aramaic. The Festival of Mordecai#15.36 Festival of Mordecai: This is the Festival of Purim that honors Queen Esther and Mordecai for rescuing Jews living in Persia (see Esther 9.20-32). is celebrated the day before.
37This was how Nicanor died. And now that our people have ruled Jerusalem since his death, it is time to bring my story to an end.
Some Final Thoughts
38I have tried to write a brief, but interesting book. If it is boring and poorly written, I can only say that I have done my best. 39To drink wine by itself can be harmful to your health, and the same can be said of drinking water by itself. But if they are mixed together, they make an enjoyable drink. And so, I have mixed a variety of styles, to make my book interesting both for those who read it aloud and for those who hear it read.