The Early Victories of Judas
(2 Maccabees 8.1-7)
1Judas Maccabeus took the place of his father Mattathias. 2All his brothers and all the loyal followers of his father gave him their support, and they were happy to carry on Israel's war.
3Judas brought greater glory to his people.
In his armor, he was like a giant.
He took up his weapons and went to war;
with his own sword he defended his camp.
4He was like a ferocious lion roaring as it attacks.
5Judas hunted down those who broke the Law
and set fire to all who oppressed his people.
6In fear of him, lawless men huddled together in terror,
not knowing which way to turn.
He advanced the cause of freedom by what he did.
7He made life miserable for many kings,
but brought joy to the people of Israel.
We will praise him forever for what he did.
8He went through the towns of Judea
and destroyed all the godless men.
He relieved Israel of its terrible suffering.#2.8: relieved Israel of its terrible suffering; or saved Israel from God's anger.
9His fame spread to the ends of the earth,
as he gathered together those who were threatened with death.
10Then Apollonius assembled a Gentile army, including a large force from Samaria, to attack the people of Israel. 11When Judas learned of this, he marched out to battle, defeated the army, and killed Apollonius. Many Gentiles lost their lives, and the rest fled. 12When the spoils of war were collected, Judas took the sword of Apollonius and used it in battle until the day he died.
13Seron, the general of the Syrian forces, learned that Judas had gathered together an army, consisting of a band of loyal men who were ready to fight under his command. 14Seron said to himself, “I will make a reputation for myself throughout the empire by defeating Judas and his men, who have no respect for the king's command.” 15Then he began a new campaign against Judas and was joined by a strong force of godless men who were eager to help him take vengeance on Israel. 16When he approached the pass at Beth Horon, Judas went out to meet him with a small group of men. 17When Judas' men saw the army coming against them, they asked, “How can our little group of men fight an army as big as that? Besides, we have not eaten all day, and we are tired!”
18“It is not difficult,” Judas answered, “for a small group to overpower a large one. It makes no difference to the Lord whether we are rescued by many people or by just a few. 19Victory in battle does not depend on who has the largest army; it is the Lord's power that determines the outcome. 20Our enemies are coming against us with great violence, intending to plunder our possessions and kill our wives and children. 21But we are fighting for our lives and for our religion. 22When we attack, the Lord will crush our enemies, so don't be afraid of them.”
23As soon as Judas had finished speaking, he and his men made a sudden attack against Seron and his army and crushed them. 24They pursued them down the pass at Beth Horon to the plain and killed about 800 men. Those who escaped fled to Philistia. 25After that, Gentiles everywhere began to be afraid of Judas and his brothers. 26His fame reached the ears of King Antiochus, and people in every nation talked about Judas and his victories.
The King Appoints Lysias as Governor
27When Antiochus heard what had happened, he was furious. He ordered all the armies of his empire to assemble in one huge force. 28From his treasury he paid a full year's wages to his soldiers and ordered them to be prepared for any emergency. 29But then he found that the funds in his treasury were exhausted. Income from taxes had decreased because of the disorder and the troubles he had brought on the world by doing away with the laws which had been in force from the earliest times. 30Antiochus had always given presents more lavishly than earlier kings, but now he was worried that he might not be able to continue this, or even to meet expenses—this had happened once or twice before. 31He was very disturbed; but finally he decided to go to Persia, collect the taxes from the provinces there, and bring together a large sum of ready cash.
32He appointed Lysias, an important man who had been granted the title “Relative of the King,” as governor to take care of the king's affairs in the whole territory between the Euphrates River and the Egyptian border. 33The king also made Lysias the guardian of his son Antiochus the Fifth until his own return. 34He put Lysias in charge of all the elephants and of half his army, and then gave him detailed instructions about what he wanted done, and in particular, what he wanted done with the inhabitants of Judea and Jerusalem. 35Lysias was ordered to send an army against the Jews, especially the Jews in Jerusalem, to break their power and destroy them, so that no trace of them would remain. 36He was ordered to take their land and give it to foreigners, who would settle the whole area. 37Taking the other half of his army, the king set out from Antioch, his capital city, in the year 147.#2.37: the year 147: This corresponds to 165 b.c. He crossed the Euphrates River and marched through Mesopotamia.
The Victories of Judas
(2 Maccabees 8.8-29, 34-36)
38Lysias chose Nicanor, Gorgias, and Ptolemy son of Dorymenes as army commanders; all three were able men who bore the title “Friend of the King.” 39He put them in charge of 40,000 infantry and 7,000 cavalry and ordered them to invade the land of Judea and destroy it as the king had commanded. 40These commanders set out with their entire force, and when they came to the plains near Emmaus, they made camp. 41A force from Idumea#2.41: Probable text Idumea; Greek Syria. and Philistia joined them. The merchants of the region heard about the strength of the army, and they came to the camp with chains and a large amount of money, hoping to buy some Jewish slaves.
42Judas and his brothers saw that their situation was getting more and more difficult, with foreign armies camped within their own borders. They also learned that the king had commanded the complete destruction of the people. 43So they determined to rebuild their ruined nation and fight for their country and the Temple. 44Then the whole community came together to prepare for war and to pray for God's mercy.
45Jerusalem was as empty as a wilderness;
no citizens left or entered the city.
The holy Temple was profaned by foreigners,
and Gentiles camped in the city's fort;
so joy departed from the people of Israel,
and the sound of music was heard no more.
46Then Judas and his men assembled and marched to Mizpah, opposite Jerusalem, because the people of Israel had previously had a place of worship there. 47In deep mourning, they fasted all that day, put on sackcloth, threw ashes on their heads, and tore their clothes. 48The Gentiles would have consulted their idols in such a situation, but the Israelites unrolled the book of the Law to search for God's guidance. 49They brought the priests' robes, the offerings of the first grain, and the tithes, and then they brought in some Nazirites who had completed their vows. 50The whole community prayed, “Lord, what shall we do with these things? Where shall we take them, 51now that your holy Temple has been trampled and profaned by Gentiles, and your priests mourn in disgrace? 52The Gentiles have come to attack and destroy us. You know what they plan to do! 53If you don't help us, how can we stand up against them?” 54Then they blew trumpets and shouted loudly.
55After that, Judas divided his men into groups of ten, fifty, a hundred, and a thousand, placing officers in charge of each group. 56#Dt 20.5-8; Jg 7.3 Then, in obedience to the Law, he sent home everyone who had recently been married, built a house, or planted a vineyard, as well as anyone who was afraid. 57Finally, the army marched out and took up positions south of Emmaus, 58where Judas said to them: “Prepare yourselves for battle and be courageous! Be ready early tomorrow morning to fight these Gentiles who have joined forces to attack us and destroy us and our Temple. 59It is better for us to die fighting than to stand idly by and watch the destruction of our nation and our Temple. 60But the Lord will do what he pleases.”