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2 Maccabees - Chapter 12

2 Maccabees Chapters

1 These agreements once concluded, Lysias returned to the king and the Jews went back to their farming.

2 Among the local generals, Timotheus and Apollonius son of Gennaeus, as also Hieronymus and Demophon, and Nicanor the Cypriarch as well, would not allow the Jews to live in peace and quiet.

3 The people of Joppa committed a particularly wicked crime: they invited the Jews living among them to go aboard some boats they had lying ready, taking their wives and children. There was no hint of any intention to harm them;

4 there had been a public vote by the citizens, and the Jews accepted, as well they might, being peaceable people with no reason to suspect anything. But once out in the open sea they were all sent to the bottom, a company of at least two hundred.

5 When Judas heard of the cruel fate of his countrymen, he issued his orders to his men

6 and after invoking God, the just judge, he attacked his brothers' murderers. Under cover of dark he set fire to the port, burned the boats and put to the sword everyone who had taken refuge there.

7 As the town gates were closed, he withdrew, intending to come back and wipe out the whole community of Joppa.

8 But hearing that the people of Jamnia were planning to treat their resident Jews in the same way,

9 he made a night attack on the Jamnites and fired the port with its fleet; the glow of the flames was seen as far off as Jerusalem, thirty miles away.

10 When they had left the town barely a mile behind them in their advance on Timotheus, Judas was attacked by an Arab force of at least five thousand foot soldiers, with five hundred cavalry.

11 A fierce engagement followed, and with God's help Judas' men won the day; the defeated nomads begged Judas to offer them the right hand of friendship, and promised to surrender their herds and make themselves generally useful to him.

12 Realising that they might indeed prove valuable in many ways, Judas consented to make peace with them and after an exchange of pledges the Arabs withdrew to their tents.

13 Judas also attacked a certain fortified town, closed by ramparts and inhabited by a medley of races; its name was Caspin.

14 Confident in the strength of their walls and their stock of provisions, the besieged adopted an insolent attitude to Judas and his men, reinforcing their insults with blasphemies and profanity.

15 But Judas and his men invoked the great Sovereign of the world who without battering-ram or siege-engine had overthrown Jericho in the days of Joshua; they then made a fierce assault on the wall.

16 By God's will, having captured the town, they made such indescribable slaughter that the nearby lake, a quarter of a mile across, seemed filled to overflowing with blood.

17 Ninety-five miles further on from there, they reached the Charax, in the country of Jews known as Tubians.

18 They did not find Timotheus himself in that neighbourhood; he had already left the district, having achieved nothing apart from leaving a very strong garrison at one point.

19 Dositheus and Sosipater, two of the Maccabaean generals, marched out and destroyed the force Timotheus had left behind in the fortress, amounting to more than ten thousand men.

20 Maccabaeus himself divided his army into cohorts to which he assigned commanders, and then hurried in pursuit of Timotheus, whose troops numbered one hundred and twenty thousand infantry and two thousand five hundred cavalry.

21 Timotheus' first move on learning of Judas' advance was to send away the women and children and the rest of the baggage train to the place called the Carnaim, since it was an impregnable position, difficult of access owing to the narrowness of all the approaches.

22 Judas' cohort came into sight first. The enemy, seized with fright and panic-stricken by the manifestation of the All-seeing, began to flee, one running this way, one running that, often wounding one another in consequence and running on the points of one another's swords.

23 Judas pursued them with a will, cutting the sinners to pieces and killing something like thirty thousand men.

24 Timotheus himself, having fallen into the hands of Dositheus and Sosipater and their men, very craftily pleaded with them to let him go with his life, on the grounds that he had the relatives and even the brothers of many of them in his power, and that these could otherwise expect short shrift.

25 When at long last he convinced them that he would honour his promise and return these people safe and sound, they let him go for the sake of saving their brothers.

26 Reaching the Carnaim and the Atargateion, Judas slaughtered twenty-five thousand men.

27 Having defeated and destroyed them, he led his army against Ephron, a fortified town, where Lysanias was living. Stalwart young men drawn up outside the walls offered vigorous resistance, while inside there were quantities of war-engines and missiles in reserve.

28 But the Jews, having invoked the Sovereign who by his power shatters enemies' defences, gained control of the town and cut down nearly twenty-five thousand of the people inside.

29 Moving off from there, they pressed on to Scythopolis,

30 seventy-five miles from Jerusalem. But as the Jews who had settled there assured Judas that the people of Scythopolis had always treated them well and had been particularly kind to them when times were at their worst,

31 he and his men thanked them and urged them to extend the same friendship to his race in the future. They reached Jerusalem shortly before the feast of Weeks.

32 After Pentecost, as it is called, they marched against Gorgias, the general commanding Idumaea.

33 He came out at the head of three thousand infantry and four hundred cavalry;

34 in the course of the ensuing battle a few Jews lost their lives.

35 A man called Dositheus, a horseman of the Tubian contingent, a valiant man, overpowered Gorgias and, gripping him by the cloak, was forcibly dragging him along, intending to take the accursed man alive, but one of the Thracian cavalry, hurling himself on Dositheus, slashed his shoulder and Gorgias escaped to Marisa.

36 Meanwhile, since Esdrias and his men had been fighting for a long time and were exhausted, Judas called on the Lord to show himself their ally and leader in battle.

37 Then, chanting the battle cry and hymns at the top of his voice in his ancestral tongue, by a surprise attack he routed Gorgias' troops.

38 Judas then rallied his army and moved on to the town of Adullam where, as it was the seventh day of the week, they purified themselves according to custom and kept the Sabbath.

39 Next day, they came to find Judas (since the necessity was by now urgent) to have the bodies of the fallen taken up and laid to rest among their relatives in their ancestral tombs.

40 But when they found on each of the dead men, under their tunics, objects dedicated to the idols of Jamnia, which the Law prohibits to Jews, it became clear to everyone that this was why these men had lost their lives.

41 All then blessed the ways of the Lord, the upright judge who brings hidden things to light,

42 and gave themselves to prayer, begging that the sin committed might be completely forgiven. Next, the valiant Judas urged the soldiers to keep themselves free from all sin, having seen with their own eyes the effects of the sin of those who had fallen;

43 after this he took a collection from them individually, amounting to nearly two thousand drachmas, and sent it to Jerusalem to have a sacrifice for sin offered, an action altogether fine and noble, prompted by his belief in the resurrection.

44 For had he not expected the fallen to rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead,

45 whereas if he had in view the splendid recompense reserved for those who make a pious end, the thought was holy and devout. Hence, he had this expiatory sacrifice offered for the dead, so that they might be released from their sin.


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