Nicanor's Cruel Plan
1Nicanor learnt that Judas and his men were in the region of Samaria, so he decided to attack them on the Sabbath, when he could do so without any danger to himself. 2The Jews who were forced to accompany his army begged him not to do such a cruel and savage thing, but to respect the day that the all-seeing God had honoured and made the most holy of all days. 3Then Nicanor, the lowest creature on earth, asked if there was some sovereign ruler in heaven who had commanded them to honour the Sabbath. 4And the Jews replied, “Yes; the living Lord, who rules in heaven, commanded us to honour the Sabbath.”
5But Nicanor answered, “I am the ruler on earth, and I order you to take up your weapons and to do what the king commands.” However, he did not succeed in carrying out his cruel plan.
Judas Prepares His Troops for Battle
6In his arrogance Nicanor had boasted that he would set up a monument in honour of his victory over Judas. 7But Judas was fully confident that the Lord would help him, 8so he urged his men not to be afraid of the enemy. He encouraged them to remember how the Almighty had helped them in times past and to rest assured that he would give them victory this time also. 9He renewed their hope by reading to them from the Law and the Prophets and by reminding them of the battles they had already won. 10When his men were ready for battle, he gave them their orders and at the same time pointed out how the Gentiles could not be trusted, because they never kept their treaties. 11He armed all his men, not by encouraging them to trust in shields and spears, but by inspiring them with courageous words. He also raised their morale by telling them about his dream, a kind of vision that they could trust in.
12He told them that he had seen a vision of Onias, the former High Priest, that great and wonderful man of humble and gentle disposition, who was an outstanding orator and who had been taught from childhood how to live a virtuous life. With outstretched arms Onias was praying for the entire Jewish nation. 13Judas then saw an impressive white-haired man of great dignity and authority. 14Onias said: “This is God's prophet Jeremiah, who loves his fellow-Jews and offers many prayers for us and for Jerusalem, the holy city.”
15Then Jeremiah stretched out his right-hand and gave Judas a gold sword, saying as he did so, 16“This holy sword is a gift from God. Take it and destroy your enemies.”
17The eloquent words that Judas spoke encouraged everyone to be brave, and inspired boys to fight like men. Their city, their religion, and their Temple were in danger. So the Jews made up their minds not to waste any time, but to make a daring attack against the enemy and bravely decide their fate in hand-to-hand combat. 18They were not so concerned about their own families and relatives as they were about their sacred Temple. 19And the people who had to stay in Jerusalem were deeply concerned about how a battle on open ground would turn out.
The Defeat and Death of Nicanor
20Everyone was waiting to see who would win the battle. The enemy troops were already moving forward, with their cavalry on each side of them, and their elephants placed in strategic positions. 21Judas Maccabaeus looked at the huge enemy force, the variety of their weapons, and their fierce elephants. Then he raised his hands towards heaven and prayed to the Lord, who works miracles, because he knew that the Lord gives victory to those who deserve it, not to those who have a strong army. 22#2 Kgs 19.35Judas said: “Lord, when Hezekiah was king of Judah, you sent your angel, who killed 185,000 of Sennacherib's men. 23Now once again, Lord of heaven, send your good angel to make our enemies shake and tremble with fear. 24By your great power, destroy these people who have slandered you and have come out to attack your chosen people.” So Judas ended his prayer.
25 # 1 Macc 7.43–50 Nicanor and his army moved forward to the sound of trumpets and battle-songs, 26but Judas and his men went into battle calling on God for help. 27So by fighting with their hands and praying to God in their hearts, the Jews killed more than 35,000 of the enemy. How grateful they were for the help they had received from God! 28When the battle was over and they were going home celebrating their victory, they noticed Nicanor in full armour lying dead on the battlefield. 29Then with loud shouts they praised the Lord in their native language.
30Judas Maccabaeus, who had always fought with all his body and soul for his own people, never losing the patriotism of his youth, ordered his men to cut off Nicanor's head and right arm and to take them to Jerusalem. 31When they arrived in the city, he called together all the people, stationed the priests before the altar, and sent for the men in the fort. 32He showed them the head of the evil Nicanor and the arm which that wicked man had arrogantly stretched out against the sacred Temple of the Almighty God. 33Then he cut out the tongue of that godless man, promising to feed it bit by bit to the birds and to hang up his head opposite the Temple, as evidence of what his foolishness did for him. 34Everyone there looked up to heaven and praised the Lord, who had revealed his power and had kept his Temple from being defiled. 35Judas hung Nicanor's head from the wall of the fort, as a clear proof to everyone of the Lord's help. 36#1 Macc 7.49By unanimous vote it was decided that this day would never be forgotten, but would be celebrated each year on the eve of Mordecai's Day,#15.36 mordecai's day: The Festival of Purim (see Esth 9.17–22). which is the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, called Adar in Aramaic.
37That is how things turned out for Nicanor. The city of Jerusalem remained in the possession of the Hebrew people from that time on, so I will end my story here. 38If it is well written and to the point, I am pleased; if it is poorly written and uninteresting, I have still done my best. 39We know it is unhealthy to drink wine or water alone, whereas wine mixed with water makes a delightfully tasty drink. So also a good story skilfully written gives pleasure to those who read it. With this I conclude.