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2002 11 11
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Chapter 2


1 In those days Mattathias, son of John, son of Simeon, a priest of the family of Joarib, left Jerusalem and settled in Modein.


He had five sons: John, who was called Gaddi;


Simon, who was called Thassi;


Judas, who was called Maccabeus;


Eleazar, who was called Avaran; and Jonathan, who was called Apphus.


When he saw the sacrileges that were being committed in Judah and in Jerusalem,


he said: "Woe is me! Why was I born to see the ruin of my people and the ruin of the holy city, and to sit idle while it is given into the hands of enemies, and the sanctuary into the hands of strangers?


"Her temple has become like a man disgraced,


her glorious ornaments have been carried off as spoils, Her infants have been murdered in her streets, her young men by the sword of the enemy.


What nation has not taken its share of her realm, and laid its hand on her possessions?


All her adornment has been taken away. From being free, she has become a slave.


We see our sanctuary and our beauty and our glory laid waste, And the Gentiles have defiled them!


Why are we still alive?"


Then Mattathias and his sons tore their garments, put on sackcloth, and mourned bitterly.


The officers of the king in charge of enforcing the apostasy came to the city of Modein to organize the sacrifices.


Many of Israel joined them, but Mattathias and his sons gathered in a group apart.


Then the officers of the king addressed Mattathias: "You are a leader, an honorable and great man in this city, supported by sons and kinsmen.


2 3 Come now, be the first to obey the king's command, as all the Gentiles and the men of Judah and those who are left in Jerusalem have done. Then you and your sons shall be numbered among the King's Friends, and shall be enriched with silver and gold and many gifts."


But Mattathias answered in a loud voice: "Although all the Gentiles in the king's realm obey him, so that each forsakes the religion of his fathers and consents to the king's orders,


yet I and my sons and my kinsmen will keep to the covenant of our fathers.


God forbid that we should forsake the law and the commandments.


We will not obey the words of the king nor depart from our religion in the slightest degree."


As he finished saying these words, a certain Jew came forward in the sight of all to offer sacrifice on the altar in Modein according to the king's order.


When Mattathias saw him, he was filled with zeal; his heart was moved and his just fury was aroused; he sprang forward and killed him upon the altar.


At the same time, he also killed the messenger of the king who was forcing them to sacrifice, and he tore down the altar.


Thus he showed his zeal for the law, just as Phinehas did with Zimri, son of Salu.


Then Mattathias went through the city shouting, "Let everyone who is zealous for the law and who stands by the covenant follow after me!"


Thereupon he fled to the mountains with his sons, leaving behind in the city all their possessions.


4 Many who sought to live according to righteousness and religious custom went out into the desert to settle there,


they and their sons, their wives and their cattle, because misfortunes pressed so hard on them.


It was reported to the officers and soldiers of the king who were in the City of David, in Jerusalem, that certain men who had flouted the king's order had gone out to the hiding places in the desert.


Many hurried out after them, and having caught up with them, camped opposite and prepared to attack them on the sabbath.


"Enough of this!" the pursuers said to them. "Come out and obey the king's command, and your lives will be spared."


But they replied, "We will not come out, nor will we obey the king's command to profane the sabbath."


Then the enemy attacked them at once;


but they did not retaliate; they neither threw stones, nor blocked up their own hiding places.


They said, "Let us all die without reproach; heaven and earth are our witnesses that you destroy us unjustly."


So the officers and soldiers attacked them on the sabbath, and they died with their wives, their children and their cattle, to the number of a thousand persons.


When Mattathias and his friends heard of it, they mourned deeply for them.


"If we all do as our kinsmen have done," they said to one another, "and do not fight against the Gentiles for our lives and our traditions, they will soon destroy us from the earth."


On that day they came to this decision: "Let us fight against anyone who attacks us on the sabbath, so that we may not all die as our kinsmen died in the hiding places."


5 Then they were joined by a group of Hasideans, valiant Israelites, all of them devout followers of the law.


And all those who were fleeing from the disaster joined them and supported them.


They gathered an army and struck down sinners in their anger and lawbreakers in their wrath, and the survivors fled to the Gentiles for safety.


Mattathias and his friends went about and tore down the pagan altars;


they also enforced circumcision for any uncircumcised boys whom they found in the territory of Israel.


They put to flight the arrogant, and the work prospered in their hands.


They saved the law from the hands of the Gentiles and of the kings and did not let the sinner triumph.


When the time came for Mattathias to die, he said to his sons: "Arrogance and scorn have now grown strong; it is a time of disaster and violent anger.


Therefore, my sons, be zealous for the law and give your lives for the covenant of our fathers.


"Remember the deeds that our fathers did in their times, and you shall win great glory and an everlasting name.


Was not Abraham found faithful in trial, and it was reputed to him as uprightness?


Joseph, when in distress, kept the commandment, and he became master of Egypt.


Phinehas our father, for his burning zeal, received the covenant of an everlasting priesthood.


Joshua, for executing his commission, became a judge in Israel.


Caleb, for bearing witness before the assembly, received an inheritance in the land.


David, for his piety, received as a heritage a throne of everlasting royalty.


Elijah, for his burning zeal for the law, was taken up to heaven.


Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael, for their faith, were saved from the fire.


Daniel, for his innocence, was delivered from the jaws of lions.


And so, consider this from generation to generation, that none who hope in him shall fail in strength.


Do not fear the words of a sinful man, for his glory ends in corruption and worms.


Today he is exalted, and tomorrow he is not to be found, because he has returned to his dust, and his schemes have perished.


Children! be courageous and strong in keeping the law, for by it you shall be glorified.


"Here is your brother Simeon who I know is a wise man; listen to him always, and he will be a father to you.


And Judas Maccabeus, a warrior from his youth, shall be the leader of your army and direct the war against the nations.


You shall also gather about you all who observe the law, and you shall avenge the wrongs of your people.


Pay back the Gentiles what they deserve, and observe the precepts of the law."


Then he blessed them, and he was united with his fathers.


6 He died in the year one hundred and forty-six, and was buried in the tombs of his fathers in Modein, and all Israel mourned him greatly.



1 [1] Modein: a village twenty miles northwest of Jerusalem.

2 [18] The King's Friends: a regular order of nobility at Hellenistic courts. The various grades are frequently mentioned in this book:

3 [18] Friends, Chief Friends, Kinsmen.

4 [29] The desert: the sparsely inhabited mountain country southward from Jerusalem and west of the Dead Sea. It was an arid region with some perennial springs and a fair amount of rain in winter.

5 [42] Hasideans: in Hebrew hasidim, "pious ones," a religious group devoted to the strict observance of the law. They were the forerunners of both the Pharisees and the Essenes. They first supported the Maccabean movement, but subsequently opposed it, regarding it as too political.

6 [70] In the year one hundred and forty-six: 166 B.C.

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