Chapter 3 (I. Maccabees)

His son, Judas, known as Maccabaeus, then took his place. 2 All his brothers, and all who had attached themselves to his father, supported him, and they fought for Israel with a will. 3 He extended the fame of his people. Like a giant, he put on the breastplate and buckled on his war harness; he engaged in battle after battle, protecting the ranks with his sword. 4 He was like a lion in his exploits, like a young lion roaring over its prey. 5 He pursued and tracked down the renegades, he consigned those who troubled his people to the flames.

6 The renegades quailed with the terror he inspired, all evil-doers were utterly confounded, and deliverance went forward under his leadership. 7 He brought bitterness to many a king and rejoicing to Jacob by his deeds, his memory is blessed for ever and ever. 8 He went through the towns of Judah eliminating the irreligious from them, and diverted the Retribution from Israel. 9 His name resounded to the ends of the earth, he rallied those who were on the point of perishing. 10 Next, Apollonius mustered the gentiles and a large force from Samaria to make war on Israel.

11 When Judas learned of it, he went out to meet him and routed and killed him. Many fell wounded, and the survivors took to flight. 12 Their spoils were seized and the sword of Apollonius was taken by Judas, who used it to fight with throughout his life. 13 On hearing that Judas had raised a mixed force of believers and seasoned fighters, 14 Seron, commander of the Syrian troops, said, 'I shall make a name for myself and gain honour in the kingdom if I fight Judas and those supporters of his who are so contemptuous of the king's orders.' 15 He therefore launched another expedition, with a strong army of unbelievers to support him in taking revenge on the Israelites.

16 He had nearly reached the descent of Beth-Horon when Judas went out to confront him with a handful of men. 17 But as soon as these saw the force advancing to meet them, they said to Judas, 'How can we, few as we are, engage such overwhelming numbers? We are exhausted as it is, not having had anything to eat today.' 18 'It is easy', Judas answered, 'for a great number to be defeated by a few; indeed, in the sight of Heaven, deliverance, whether by many or by few, is all one; 19 for victory in war does not depend on the size of the fighting force: Heaven accords the strength. 20 They are coming against us in full-blown insolence and lawlessness to destroy us, our wives and our children, and to plunder us;

21 but we are fighting for our lives and our laws, 22 and he will crush them before our eyes; do not be afraid of them.' 23 When he had finished speaking, he made a sudden sally against Seron and his force and overwhelmed them. 24 Judas pursued them down from Beth-Horon as far as the plain. About eight hundred of their men fell, and the rest took refuge in the country of the Philistines. 25 Judas and his brothers began to be feared, and alarm seized the surrounding peoples.

26 His name even reached the king's ears, and among the nations there was talk of Judas and his battles. 27 The news of these events infuriated Antiochus, and he ordered mobilisation of all the forces in his kingdom, a very powerful army. 28 Opening his treasury, he distributed a year's pay to his troops, telling them to be prepared for any eventuality. 29 He then found that the money in his coffers had run short and that the tribute of the province had decreased, as a result of the dissension and disaster brought on the country by his own abrogation of laws that had been in force from antiquity. 30 He began to fear that, as had happened more than once, he would not have enough to cover the expenses and the lavish bounties he had previously been accustomed to make on a larger scale than his predecessors on the throne.

31 In this grave quandary he resolved to invade Persia, there to levy tribute on the provinces and so accumulate substantial funds. 32 He therefore left Lysias, a nobleman and member of the royal family, to manage the royal affairs between the River Euphrates and the Egyptian frontier, 33 making him responsible for the education of his son Antiochus, until he should come back. 34 To him Antiochus made over half his forces, with the elephants, giving him instructions about what he wanted done, particularly with regard to the inhabitants of Judaea and Jerusalem, 35 against whom he was to send a force, to crush and destroy the power of Israel and the remnant of Jerusalem, to wipe out their very memory from the place,

36 to settle foreigners in all parts of their territory and to distribute their land into lots. 37 The king took the remaining half of his troops with him and set out from Antioch, the capital of his kingdom, in the year 147; he crossed the River Euphrates and made his way through the Upper Provinces. 38 Lysias chose Ptolemy son of Dorymenes, with Nicanor and Gorgias, influential men from among the Friends of the King, 39 and, under their command, despatched forty thousand foot and seven thousand horse to invade the land of Judah and devastate it, as the king had ordered. 40 The entire force set out and reached the neighbourhood of Emmaus in the lowlands, where they pitched camp.

41 The local merchants, hearing the news of this, arrived at the camp, bringing with them a large amount of gold and silver, and fetters as well, proposing to buy the Israelites as slaves; they were accompanied by a company from Idumaea and the Philistine country. 42 Judas and his brothers saw that the situation was going from bad to worse and that armies were camping in their territory; they were also well aware that the king had ordered the people's total destruction. 43 So they said to each other, 'Let us restore the ruins of our people and fight for our people and our sanctuary.' 44 The Assembly was summoned, to prepare for war, to offer prayer and to implore compassion and mercy. 45 Jerusalem was as empty as a desert, none of her children to go in and out. The sanctuary was trodden underfoot, men of an alien race held the Citadel, which had become a lodging for gentiles. There was no more rejoicing for Jacob, the flute and lyre were mute.

46 After mustering, they made their way to Mizpah, opposite Jerusalem, since Mizpah was traditionally a place of prayer for Israel. 47 That day they fasted and put on sackcloth, covering their heads with ashes and tearing their garments. 48 For the guidance that the gentiles would have sought from the images of their false gods, they opened the Book of the Law. 49 They also brought out the priestly vestments, with first-fruits and tithes, and marshalled the Nazirites who had completed the period of their vow. 50 Then, raising their voices to Heaven, they cried, 'What shall we do with these people, and where are we to take them?

51 Your holy place has been trampled underfoot and defiled, your priests mourn in their humiliation, 52 and now the gentiles are in alliance to destroy us: you know what they have in mind for us. 53 How can we stand up and face them if you do not come to our aid?' 54 Then they sounded the trumpets and raised a great shout. 55 Next, Judas appointed leaders for the people, to command a thousand, a hundred, fifty or ten men.

56 Those who were in the middle of building a house, or were about to be married, or were planting a vineyard, or were afraid, he told to go home again, as the Law allowed. 57 The column then marched off and took up a position south of Emmaus. 58 'Stand to your arms,' Judas told them, 'acquit yourselves bravely, in the morning be ready to fight these gentiles massed against us to destroy us and our sanctuary. 59 Better for us to die in battle than to watch the ruin of our nation and our Holy Place. 60 Whatever be the will of Heaven, he will perform it.'

Show All Chapters
List All Apocryphal Books

More forecasts: