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2 Maccabees - Chapter 1

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2 Maccabees Chapters

1 'To their brothers, the Jews living in Egypt, from their brothers, the Jews in Jerusalem and Judaea, greetings and untroubled peace.

2 'May God prosper you, remembering his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, his faithful servants.

3 May he give you all a heart to worship him and to do his will with a generous mind and a willing spirit.

4 May he open your hearts to his Law and his precepts, and give you peace.

5 May he hear your prayers and be reconciled with you, and not abandon you in time of evil.

6 Such is our prayer for you.

7 'During the reign of Demetrius, in the year 169, we Jews wrote to you as follows, "In the extremity of trouble that befell us in the years after Jason and his associates had betrayed the Holy Land and the kingdom,

8 burning down the Temple gateway and shedding innocent blood, we prayed to the Lord and were then heard. And we then offered a sacrifice, with wheat-flour, we lit the lamps and we set out the loaves."

9 'And we now recommend you too to keep the feast of Shelters in the month of Chislev, in the year one hundred and eighty-eight.'

10 'The people of Jerusalem and of Judaea, the senate and Judas, to Aristobulus, tutor to King Ptolemy and one of the family of the anointed priests, and to the Jews in Egypt, greetings and good health.

11 'Since we have been rescued by God from great danger, we give him great thanks for championing our cause against the king,

12 for he it was who carried off those who had taken up arms against the Holy City.

13 For when their leader reached Persia with his seemingly irresistible army, he was cut to pieces in the temple of Nanaea, as the result of a ruse employed by the priests who served that goddess.

14 On the pretext of marrying Nanaea, Antiochus came to the place with his friends, intending to take its many treasures as a dowry.

15 The priests of Nanaea had put these on display, and he for his part had entered the temple precincts with only a small retinue. As soon as Antiochus had gone inside the temple, the priests shut him in,

16 opened a trap-door hidden in the ceiling and struck the leader down by hurling stones like thunderbolts. They then cut him into pieces and threw his head to those who were waiting outside.

17 Blessed in all things be our God, who has delivered the sacrilegious over to death!

18 'As we shall be celebrating the purification of the Temple on the twenty-fifth of Chislev, we consider it proper to notify you, so that you too may celebrate it, as you do the feast of Shelters and the fire that appeared when Nehemiah, the builder of the Temple and the altar, offered sacrifice.

19 For when our ancestors were being deported to Persia, the devout priests of the time took some of the fire from the altar and hid it secretly in a hole like a dry well, where they concealed it in such a way that the place was unknown to anyone.

20 When some years had elapsed, in God's good time, Nehemiah, commissioned by the king of Persia, sent the descendants of the priests who had hidden the fire to look for it. When they reported that in fact they had found not fire but a thick liquid, Nehemiah ordered them to draw some out and bring it back.

21 When they had done this, Nehemiah ordered the priests to pour this liquid over the sacrificial materials, that is, the wood and what lay on it.

22 When this had been done, and when in due course the sun, which had previously been clouded over, shone out, a great fire flared up, to the astonishment of all.

23 While the sacrifice was being burned, the priests offered prayer, Jonathan intoning with all the priests, and the rest responding with Nehemiah.

24 The prayer took this form, "Lord, Lord God, Creator of all things, awesome, strong, just, merciful, the only king and benefactor,

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25 the only provider, who alone are just, almighty and everlasting, the deliverer of Israel from every evil, who made our fathers your chosen ones and sanctified them,

26 accept this sacrifice on behalf of all your people Israel, and protect your heritage and consecrate it.

27 Bring together those of us who are dispersed, set free those in slavery among the heathen, look favourably on those held in contempt or abhorrence, and let the heathen know that you are our God.

28 Punish those who oppress us and affront us by their insolence,

29 and plant your people firmly in your Holy Place, as Moses promised."

30 'The priests then chanted hymns accompanied by the harp.

31 When the sacrifice had been burnt, Nehemiah ordered the remaining liquid to be poured over large stones,

32 and when this was done a flame flared up, to be absorbed in a corresponding blaze of light from the altar.

33 When the matter became known and the king of the Persians heard that, in the place where the exiled priests had hidden the fire, a liquid had appeared, with which Nehemiah and his people had purified the sacrificial offerings,

34 the king, after verifying the facts, had the place enclosed and pronounced sacred.

35 To the people on whom the king bestowed it, he granted a part of the considerable revenue he derived from it.

36 Nehemiah and his people termed this stuff "nephtar", which means "purification", but it is commonly called "naphta".

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