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2002 11 11
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Chapter 8


Judas Maccabeus and his companions entered the villages, secretly, summoned their kinsmen, and by also enlisting others who remained faithful to Judaism, assembled about six thousand men.


They implored the Lord to look kindly upon his people, who were being oppressed on all sides; to have pity on the temple, which was profaned by godless men;


to have mercy on the city, which was being destroyed and about to be leveled to the ground; to hearken to the blood that cried out to him;


to remember the criminal slaughter of innocent children and the blasphemies uttered against his name; and to manifest his hatred of evil.


Once Maccabeus got his men organized, the Gentiles could not withstand him, for the Lord's wrath had now changed to mercy.


Coming unexpectedly upon towns and villages, he would set them on fire. He captured strategic positions, and put to flight a large number of the enemy.


He preferred the nights as being especially helpful for such attacks. Soon the fame of his valor spread everywhere.


1 When Philip saw that Judas was gaining ground little by little and that his successful advances were becoming more frequent, he wrote to Ptolemy, governor of Coelesyria and Phoenicia, to come to the aid of the king's government.


Ptolemy promptly selected Nicanor, son of Patroclus, one of the Chief Friends, and sent him at the head of at least twenty thousand armed men of various nations to wipe out the entire Jewish race. With him he associated Gorgias, a professional military commander, well-versed in the art of war.


Nicanor planned to raise the two thousand talents of tribute owed by the king to the Romans by selling captured Jews into slavery.


So he immediately sent word to the coastal cities, inviting them to buy Jewish slaves and promising to deliver ninety slaves for a talent - little did he dream of the punishment that was to fall upon him from the Almighty.


When Judas learned of Nicanor's advance and informed his companions about the approach of the army,


the cowardly and those who lacked faith in God's justice deserted and got away.


But the others sold everything they had left, and at the same time besought the Lord to deliver those whom the ungodly Nicanor had sold before even meeting them.


They begged the Lord to do this, if not for their sake, at least for the sake of the covenants made with their forefathers, and because they themselves bore his holy, glorious name.


Maccabeus assembled his men, six thousand strong, and exhorted them not to be panic-stricken before the enemy, nor to fear the large number of the Gentiles attacking them unjustly, but to fight courageously,


keeping before their eyes the lawless outrage perpetrated by the Gentiles against the holy Place and the affliction of the humiliated city, as well as the subversion of their ancestral way of life.


"They trust in weapons and acts of daring," he said, "but we trust in almighty God, who can by a mere nod destroy not only those who attack us, but the whole world."


He went on to tell them of the times when help had been given their ancestors: both the time of Sennacherib, when a hundred and eighty-five thousand of his men were destroyed,


and the time of the battle in Babylonia against the Galatians, when only eight thousand Jews fought along with four thousand Macedonians; yet when the Macedonians were hard pressed, the eight thousand routed one hundred and twenty thousand and took a great quantity of booty, because of the help they received from Heaven.


With such words he encouraged them and made them ready to die for their laws and their country. Then Judas divided his army into four,


2 placing his brothers, Simon, Joseph, and Jonathan, each over a division, assigning to each fifteen hundred men.


(There was also Eleazar.) After reading to them from the holy book and giving them the watchword, "The Help of God," he himself took charge of the first division and joined in battle with Nicanor.


With the Almighty as their ally, they killed more than nine thousand of the enemy, wounded and disabled the greater part of Nicanor's army, and put all of them to flight.


They also seized the money of those who had come to buy them as slaves. When they had pursued the enemy for some time,


they were obliged to return by reason of the late hour, it was the day before the sabbath, and for that reason they could not continue the pursuit.


They collected the enemy's arms and stripped them of their spoils, and then observed the sabbath with fervent praise and thanks to the Lord who kept them safe for that day on which he let descend on them the first dew of his mercy.


After the sabbath, they gave a share of the booty to the persecuted and to widows and orphans; the rest they divided among themselves and their children.


When this was done, they made supplication in common, imploring the merciful Lord to be completely reconciled with his servants.


They also challenged the forces of Timothy and Bacchides, killed more than twenty thousand of them, and captured some very high fortresses. They divided the enormous plunder, allotting half to themselves and the rest to the persecuted, to orphans, widows, and the aged.


They collected the enemies' weapons and carefully stored them in suitable places; the rest of the spoils they carried to Jerusalem.


They also killed the commander of Timothy's forces, a most wicked man, who had done great harm to the Jews.


While celebrating the victory in their ancestral city, they burned both those who had set fire to the sacred gates and Callisthenes, who had taken refuge in a little house; so he received the reward his wicked deeds deserved.


The accursed Nicanor, who had brought the thousand slave dealers to buy the Jews,


after being humbled through the Lord's help by those whom he had thought of no account, laid aside his fine clothes and fled alone across country like a runaway slave, until he reached Antioch. He was eminently successful in destroying his own army.


So he who had promised to provide tribute for the Romans by the capture of the people of Jerusalem testified that the Jews had a champion, and that they were invulnerable for the very reason that they followed the laws laid down by him. Death of Antiochus



1 [8-29, 34-35] This account of the campaign of Nicanor and Gorgias against Judas is paralleled, with certain differences, in 1 Macc 3:38- 4:24.

2 [22] Joseph: called John in 1 Macc 2:2; 9:36, 38; this paragraph interrupts the story of Nicanor's defeat, which is resumed in 2 Macc 8:34. The purpose of the author apparently is to group together the defeats suffered by the Syrians on various occasions. Battles against Timothy are recounted in 1 Macc 5:37-44; 2 Macc 12:10-25; against Bacchides, in 1 Macc 7:8-20.

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