Chapter 15 (II. Maccabees)

Nicanor heard that Judas and his men were in the neighbourhood of Samaria, so he decided to attack them, at no risk to himself, on the day of rest. 2 Those Jews who had been compelled to follow him, said, 'Do not massacre them in such a savage, barbarous way. Respect the day on which the All-seeing has conferred a special holiness.' 3 At this the triple-dyed scoundrel asked if there were in heaven a sovereign who had ordered the keeping of the Sabbath day. 4 When they answered, 'The living Lord himself, the Heavenly Sovereign, has ordered the observance of the seventh day,' 5 he retorted, 'And I, as sovereign on earth, order you to take up arms and do the king's business.' For all that, he did not manage to carry out his wicked plan.

6 While Nicanor, in his unlimited boastfulness and pride, was planning to erect a general trophy with the spoils taken from Judas and his men, 7 Maccabaeus remained firm in his confident conviction that the Lord would stand by him. 8 He urged his men not to be dismayed by the foreigners' attacks but, keeping in mind the help that had come to them from Heaven in the past, to be confident that this time too victory would be theirs with the help of the Almighty. 9 He put fresh heart into them by citing the Law and the Prophets and, by stirring up memories of the battles they had already won, he filled them with new enthusiasm. 10 Having thus aroused their courage, he ended his exhortation by demonstrating the treachery of the foreigners and how they had violated their oaths.

11 Having armed each one of them not so much with the safety given by shield and lance as with that confidence which springs from noble language, he encouraged them all by describing to them a convincing dream -- a vision, as it were. 12 What he had seen was this: Onias, the former high priest, that paragon of men, modest of bearing and gentle of manners, suitably eloquent and trained from boyhood in the practice of every virtue -- Onias was stretching out his hands and praying for the whole Jewish community. 13 Next, there appeared a man equally remarkable for his great age and dignity and invested with a marvellous and impressive air of majesty. 14 Onias began to speak: 'This is a man', he said, 'who loves his brothers and prays much for the people and the holy city-Jeremiah, the prophet of God.' 15 Jeremiah then stretched out his right hand and presented Judas with a golden sword, saying as he gave it,

16 'Take this holy sword as a gift from God; with it you will shatter the enemy.' 17 Encouraged by the noble words of Judas, which had the power to inspire valour and give the young the spirit of mature men, they decided not to entrench themselves in a camp, but bravely to take the offensive and, in hand-to-hand fighting, to commit the result to the fortune of war, since the city, their holy religion and the Temple were in danger. 18 Their concern for their wives and children, their brothers and relatives, had shrunk to minute importance; their chief and greatest fear was for the consecrated Temple. 19 Those left behind in the city felt a similar anxiety, alarmed as they were about the forthcoming encounter in the open country. 20 Everyone now awaited the coming issue. The enemy had already concentrated their forces and stood formed up in order of battle, with the elephants drawn up in a strategic position and the cavalry disposed on the wings.

21 Maccabaeus took note of these masses confronting him, the glittering array of armour and the fierce aspect of the elephants; then, raising his hands to heaven, he called on the Lord who works miracles, in the knowledge that it is not by force of arms but as he sees fit to decide, that victory is granted by him to such as deserve it. 22 His prayer was worded thus: 'You, Master, sent your angel in the days of Hezekiah king of Judaea, and he destroyed no less than one hundred and eighty-five thousand of Sennacherib's army; 23 now, once again, Sovereign of heaven, send a good angel before us to spread terror and dismay. 24 May these men be struck down by the might of your arm, since they have come with blasphemy on their lips to attack your holy people.' And on these words he finished. 25 Nicanor and his men advanced to the sound of trumpets and war songs,

26 but the men of Judas closed with the enemy uttering invocations and prayers. 27 Fighting with their hands and praying to God in their hearts, they cut down at least thirty-five thousand men and were greatly cheered by this manifestation of God. 28 When the engagement was over and they were withdrawing in triumph, they recognised Nicanor, lying dead in full armour. 29 With shouting and confusion all around, they blessed the sovereign Master in their ancestral tongue. 30 He who, as protagonist, had devoted himself, body and soul, to his fellow-citizens, and had preserved the love he felt even in youth for those of his own race, gave orders for Nicanor's head to be cut off, with his arm up to the shoulder, and taken to Jerusalem.

31 When he arrived there himself, he called his countrymen together, stationed the priests in front of the altar and then sent for the people from the Citadel. 32 He showed them the head of the abominable Nicanor, and the hand which this infamous man had stretched out so insolently against the holy House of the Almighty. 33 Then, cutting out godless Nicanor's tongue, he gave orders for it to be fed piecemeal to the birds, and for the salary of his folly to be hung up in front of the Temple. 34 At this, everyone sent blessings heavenwards to the glorious Lord, saying, 'Blessed be he who has preserved his holy place from pollution!' 35 He hung Nicanor's head from the Citadel, a clear and evident sign to all of the help of the Lord.

36 They all decreed by public vote never to let that day go by unobserved, but to celebrate the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, called Adar in Aramaic, the eve of what is called the Day of Mordecai. 37 So ends the episode of Nicanor, and as, since then, the city has remained in the possession of the Hebrews, I shall bring my own work to an end here too. 38 If it is well composed and to the point, that is just what I wanted. If it is worthless and mediocre, that is all I could manage. 39 Just as it is injurious to drink wine by itself, or again water alone, whereas wine mixed with water is pleasant and produces a delightful sense of well-being, so skill in presenting the incidents is what delights the understanding of those who read the book. And her i close.

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