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2 Maccabees - Chapter 14

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1 Three years after this, Judas and his men learned that Demetrius son of Seleucus had landed at the port of Tripolis with a strong army and a fleet,

2 and that he had occupied the country and had killed Antiochus and his tutor Lysias.

3 A certain Alcimus, a former high priest, had wilfully incurred defilement at the time of the insurrection; realising that whichever way he turned there was no security for him, nor any further access to the holy altar,

4 he went to King Demetrius in about the year one hundred and fifty-one and presented him with a golden crown and a palm, together with the traditional olive branches from the Temple; there, for that day, he let the matter rest.

5 Presently he found an opportunity to further his mad plan. When Demetrius called him into his council and questioned him about the dispositions and intentions of the Jews, he replied,

6 'Those Jews called Hasidaeans, who are led by Judas Maccabaeus, are war-mongers and rebels who are preventing the kingdom from finding stability.

7 That is why, after being deprived of my hereditary dignity -- I mean the high priesthood -- I have come here now,

8 first out of genuine concern for the king's interests, and secondly, out of a regard for our own fellow-citizens, because the irresponsible behaviour of those I have mentioned has brought no slight misery on our entire race.

9 When your majesty has taken note of all these points, may it please you to make provision for the welfare of our country and our oppressed nation, as befits the gracious benevolence you extend to all;

10 for, as long as Judas remains alive, the State will never enjoy peace.'

11 No sooner had he spoken thus than the rest of the King's Friends, who were hostile to Judas' activities, stoked Demetrius' anger.

12 The latter at once selected Nicanor, then commander of the elephants, promoted him to the command of Judaea and despatched him

13 with instructions to dispose of Judas, disperse his followers and instal Alcimus as high priest of the greatest of temples.

14 The foreigners in Judaea, who had fled before Judas, flocked to join Nicanor, thinking that the misfortunes and troubles of the Jews would be to their own advantage.

15 When the Jews heard that Nicanor was coming and that the foreigners were about to attack, they sprinkled dust over themselves and made supplication to him who had established his people for ever and who never failed to support his own heritage by direct manifestations.

16 On their leader's orders, they at once left the place where they were and confronted the enemy at the village of Dessau.

17 Simon, brother of Judas, engaged Nicanor but, owing to the sudden arrival of the enemy, suffered a slight reverse.

18 Nicanor, however, had heard how brave Judas and his men were and how resolutely they always fought for their country, and he did not dare allow bloodshed to decide the issue.

19 And so he sent Posidonius, Theodotus and Mattathias to offer the Jews pledges of friendship and to accept theirs.

20 After careful consideration of his terms, the leader communicated them to his troops, and since they were all clearly of one mind they agreed to the treaty.

21 A day was fixed on which the respective leaders were to meet as individuals. A litter came out from either side and seats were set up.

22 Judas had posted armed men in strategic positions, in case of a sudden treacherous move by the enemy. The leaders held their conference and reached agreement.

23 Nicanor took up residence in Jerusalem and did nothing out of place there; indeed, he sent away the crowds that had flocked to join him.

24 He kept Judas constantly with him, becoming deeply attached to him

25 and encouraged him to marry and have children. Judas married, settled down and led a normal life.

26 When Alcimus saw how friendly the two men had become, he went to Demetrius with a copy of the treaty they had signed and told him that Nicanor was harbouring thoughts against the interests of the State, and was planning that Judas, an enemy of the realm, should fill the next vacancy among the Friends of the King.

27 The king flew into a rage; roused by the slanders of this villain, he wrote to Nicanor, telling him of his strong displeasure at these agreements and ordering him immediately to send Maccabaeus to Antioch in chains.

28 When the letter reached Nicanor, he was very much upset, for he disliked the prospect of breaking an agreement with a man who had done nothing wrong.

29 Since, however, there was no way of opposing the king, he waited for an opportunity to carry out the order by a stratagem.

30 Maccabaeus began to notice that Nicanor was treating him more sharply and that his manner of speaking to him was more abrupt than it had been, and he concluded that such sharpness could have no very good motive. He therefore collected a considerable number of his followers and got away form Nicanor.

31 The latter, realising that the man had well and truly outmanoeuvred him, went to the greatest and holiest of Temples when the priests were offering the customary sacrifices, and ordered them to surrender Judas.

32 When they protested on oath that they did not know where the wanted man could be,

33 he stretched out his right hand towards the Temple and swore this oath, 'If you do not hand Judas over to me as prisoner, I shall rase this dwelling of God to the ground, I shall demolish the altar, and on this very spot I shall erect a splendid temple to Dionysus.'

34 With these words he left them. The priests stretched out their hands to heaven, calling on him who has at all times done battle for our nation; this was their prayer:

35 'O Lord in need of nothing, it has pleased you that the Temple where you dwell should be here with us.

36 Now, therefore, holy Lord of all holiness, preserve for ever from all profanation this House, so newly purified.'

37 Now, a man called Razis, one of the elders of Jerusalem, was denounced to Nicanor. He was a man who loved his countrymen and stood high in their esteem, and he was known as the father of the Jews because of his kindness.

38 In the earlier days of the insurrection he had been convicted of Judaism, and he had risked both life and limb for Judaism with the utmost zeal.

39 Nicanor, by way of demonstrating the enmity he had for the Jews, sent over five hundred soldiers to arrest him,

40 reckoning that if he eliminated this man he would be dealing them a severe blow.

41 When the troops were on the point of capturing the tower and were forcing the outer door and calling for fire to set the doors alight, Razis, finding himself completely surrounded, fell on his own sword,

42 nobly resolving to die rather than fall into the clutches of these villains and suffer outrages unworthy of his noble birth.

43 But in the heat of conflict he missed his thrust, and while the troops swarmed in through the doorways, he ran nimbly upstairs to the parapet and manfully threw himself down among the troops.

44 But, as they immediately drew back, he fell into the middle of the empty space.

45 Still breathing, and blazing with anger, he struggled to his feet, blood spurting in all directions, and despite his terrible wounds ran right through the crowd; then, taking his stand on a steep rock,

46 although he had now lost every drop of blood, he tore out his entrails and taking them in both hands flung them down on the crowd, calling on the Master of his life and spirit to give them back to him one day. Thus he died.

More Bible

Daily Readings

August 22nd, 2019

Reading 1, Judges 11:29-39
Responsorial Psalm, Psalms 40:5, 7-8, 8-9, 10
Gospel, Matthew 22:1-14

More Daily Readings

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