The Holy See
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New American Bible

2002 11 11
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Chapter 15


When Nicanor learned that Judas and his companions were in the territory of Samaria, he decided to attack them in all safety on the day of rest.


The Jews who were forced to follow him pleaded, "Do not massacre them in that way, like a savage barbarian, but show respect for the day which the All-seeing has exalted with holiness above all other days."


At this the thrice-sinful wretch asked if there was a ruler in heaven who prescribed the keeping of the sabbath day.


When they replied that there was indeed such a ruler in heaven, the living LORD himself, who commanded the observance of the sabbath day,


he said, "I, on my part, am ruler on earth, and my orders are that you take up arms and carry out the king's business." Nevertheless he did not succeed in carrying out his cruel plan.


1 In his utter boastfulness and arrogance Nicanor had determined to erect a public monument of victory over Judas and his men.


But Maccabeus remained confident, fully convinced that he would receive help from the LORD.


He urged his men not to fear the enemy, but mindful of the help they had received from Heaven in the past, to expect that now, too, victory would be given them by the Almighty.


2 By encouraging them with words from the law and the prophets, and by reminding them of the battles they had already won, he filled them with fresh enthusiasm.


Having stirred up their courage, he gave his orders and pointed out at the same time the perfidy of the Gentiles and their violation of oaths.


When he had armed each of them, not so much with the safety of shield and spear as with the encouragement of noble words, he cheered them all by relating a dream, a kind of vision, worthy of belief.


3 What he saw was this: Onias, the former high priest, a good and virtuous man, modest in appearance, gentle in manners, distinguished in speech, and trained from childhood in every virtuous practice, was praying with outstretched arms for the whole Jewish community.


Then in the same way another man appeared, distinguished by his white hair and dignity, and with an air about him of extraordinary, majestic authority.


4 Onias then said of him, "This is God's prophet Jeremiah, who loves his brethren and fervently prays for his people and their holy city."


Stretching out his right hand, Jeremiah presented a gold sword to Judas. As he gave it to him he said,


"Accept this holy sword as a gift from God; with it you shall crush your adversaries."


Encouraged by Judas' noble words, which had power to instill valor and stir young hearts to courage, the Jews determined not to delay, but to charge gallantly and decide the issue by hand-to-hand combat with the utmost courage, since their city and its temple with the sacred vessels were in danger.


They were not so much concerned about their wives and children or their brothers and kinsmen; their first and foremost fear was for the consecrated sanctuary.


Those who remained in the city suffered a like agony, anxious as they were about the battle in the open country.


Everyone now awaited the decisive moment. The enemy were already drawing near with their troops drawn up in battle line, their elephants placed in strategic positions, and their cavalry stationed on the flanks.


Maccabeus, contemplating the hosts before him, their elaborate equipment, and the fierceness of their elephants, stretched out his hands toward heaven and called upon the LORD who works miracles; for he knew that it is not through arms but through the LORD'S decision that victory is won by those who deserve it.


He prayed to him thus: "You, O LORD, sent your angel in the days of King Hezekiah of Judea, and he slew a hundred and eighty-five thousand men of Sennacherib's army.


Sovereign of the heavens, send a good angel now to spread fear and dread before us.


By the might of your arm may those be struck down who have blasphemously come against your holy people!" With this he ended his prayer.


Nicanor and his men advanced to the sound of trumpets and battle songs.


But Judas and his men met the army with supplication and prayers.


Fighting with their hands and praying to God with their hearts, they laid low at least thirty-five thousand, and rejoiced greatly over this manifestation of God's power.


When the battle was over and they were joyfully departing, they discovered Nicanor lying there in all his armor;


so they raised tumultuous shouts in their native tongue in praise of the divine Sovereign.


Then Judas, who was ever in body and soul the chief defender of his fellow citizens, and had maintained from youth his affection for his countrymen, ordered Nicanor's head and whole right arm to be cut off and taken to Jerusalem.


5 When he arrived there, he assembled his countrymen, stationed the priests before the altar, and sent for those in the citadel.


He showed them the vile Nicanor's head and the wretched blasphemer's arm that had been boastfully stretched out against the holy dwelling of the Almighty.


He cut out the tongue of the godless Nicanor, saying he would feed it piecemeal to the birds and would hang up the other wages of his folly opposite the temple.


At this, everyone looked toward heaven and praised the Lord who manifests his divine power, saying, "Blessed be he who has kept his own Place undefiled!"


Judas hung up Nicanor's head on the wall of the citadel, a clear and evident proof to all of the Lord's help.


6 By public vote it was unanimously decreed never to let this day pass unobserved, but to celebrate it on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, called Adar in Aramaic, the eve of Mordecai's Day.


Since Nicanor's doings ended in this way, with the city remaining in possession of the Hebrews from that time on, I will bring my own story to an end here too.


If it is well written and to the point, that is what I wanted; if it is poorly done and mediocre, that is the best I could do.


Just as it is harmful to drink wine alone or water alone, whereas mixing wine with water makes a more pleasant drink that increases delight, so a skillfully composed story delights the ears of those who read the work. Let this, then, be the end.

1 [6] Public monument of victory: a heap of stones covered with the arms and armor of the fallen enemy.

2 [9] The law and the prophets: the first of the three parts of the Hebrew Scriptures, called the sacred books ( 1 Macc 12:9).

3 [12] Onias, the former high priest: Onias III ( 2 Macc 3:1-40). Evidently the author believed that the departed just were in some way alive even before the resurrection.

4 [14] Jeremiah: regarded by the postexilic Jews as one of the greatest figures in their history; cf 2 Macc 2:1; Matthew 16:14. Who . . . prays for his people: a clear belief in the intercession of the saints.

5 [31] Those in the citadel: presumably Jewish soldiers; actually, the citadel was still in the possession of the Syrians.

6 [36] Mordecai's Day: the feast of Purim, celebrated on the fourteenth and fifteenth days of Adar ( Esther 9:17-22).

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