Chapter 11 (II. Maccabees)

Almost immediately afterwards, Lysias, the king's tutor and cousin, chief minister of the realm, much disturbed at the turn of events, 2 mustered about eighty thousand foot soldiers and his entire cavalry and advanced against the Jews, intending to make the city a place for Greeks to live in, 3 to levy a tax on the Temple as on other national shrines, and to put the office of high priest up for sale every year; 4 he took no account at all of the power of God, being sublimely confident in his tens of thousands of infantrymen, his thousands of cavalry, and his eighty elephants. 5 Invading Judaea, he approached Beth-Zur, a fortified position about twenty miles from Jerusalem, and began to subject it to strong pressure.

6 When Maccabaeus and his men learned that Lysias was besieging the fortresses, they and the populace with them begged the Lord with lamentation and tears to send a good angel to save Israel. 7 Maccabaeus himself was the first to take up his weapons, and he urged the rest to risk their lives with him in support of their brothers; so they sallied out resolutely, as one man. 8 They were still near Jerusalem when a rider attired in white appeared at their head, brandishing golden weapons. 9 With one accord they all blessed the God of mercy, and found themselves filled with such courage that they were ready to lay low not men only but the fiercest beasts and walls of iron. 10 They advanced in battle order with the aid of their celestial ally, the Lord having had mercy on them.

11 Charging like lions on the enemy, they laid low eleven thousand of the infantry and sixteen hundred horsemen, and routed all the rest. 12 Of those, the majority got away, wounded and weaponless. Lysias himself escaped only by ignominious flight. 13 Now Lysias was not lacking in intelligence and, as he reflected on the reverse he had just suffered, he realised that the Hebrews were invincible because the mighty God fought for them. He therefore sent them a delegation 14 to persuade them to accept reasonable terms all round, and promised to compel the king to become their friend. 15 Maccabaeus, thinking only of the common good, agreed to all that Lysias proposed, and whatever Maccabaeus submitted to Lysias in writing concerning the Jews was granted by the king.

16 Here is the text of the letter Lysias wrote to the Jews: 'Lysias to the Jewish people, greetings. 17 'John and Absalom, your envoys, have delivered to me the communication transcribed below, requesting me to approve its provisions. 18 Anything requiring the king's attention I have put before him; whatever was possible, I have granted. 19 Provided you maintain your goodwill towards the interests of the State, I shall do my best in the future to promote your well-being. 20 As regards the details, I have given orders for your envoys and my own officials to discuss these with you.

21 May you prosper. 'The twenty-fourth day of Dioscorus, in the year one hundred and forty-eight.' 22 The king's letter ran as follows: 'King Antiochus to his brother Lysias, greetings. 23 'Now that our father has taken his place among the gods, our will is that the subjects of the realm be left undisturbed to attend to their own affairs. 24 We understand that the Jews do not approve our father's policy, the adoption of Greek customs, but prefer their own way of life and ask to be allowed to observe their own laws. 25 Accordingly, since we intend this people to be free from vexation like any other, our ruling is that the Temple be restored to them and that they conduct their affairs according to the customs of their ancestors.

26 'It will therefore be your concern to send them a mission of friendship, so that on learning our policy they may have confidence and happily go about their business.' 27 The king's letter to the Jewish nation was in these terms: 'King Antiochus to the Jewish Senate and the rest of the Jews, greetings. 28 'If you are well, that is as we would wish; we ourselves are in good health. 29 'Menelaus informs us that you wish to return home and attend to your own affairs. 30 Accordingly, all those who return before the thirtieth day of Xanthicus may rest assured that they have nothing to fear.

31 The Jews may make use of their own kind of food and their own laws as formerly, and none of them is to be molested in any way for any unwitting offences. 32 I am in fact sending Menelaus to set your minds at rest. 33 Farewell. 'The fifteenth day of Xanthicus in the year one hundred and forty-eight.' 34 The Romans also sent the Jews a letter, which read as follows: 'Quintus Memmius, Titus Manilius, Manius Sergius, legates of the Romans, to the people of the Jews, greetings. 35 'Whatever Lysias, the king's Cousin, has granted you we also approve.

36 As for the matters he decided to refer to the king, consider them carefully and send someone without delay, if we are to interpret them to your advantage, because we are leaving for Antioch. 37 Lose no time, therefore, in sending us those who can tell us what your intentions are. 38 Farewell. 'The fifteenth day of Dioscorus in the year one hundred and forty-eight.'

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