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2 Maccabees - Chapter 8

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1 Judas, otherwise known as Maccabaeus, and his companions made their way secretly among the villages, rallying their fellow-countrymen; they recruited those who remained loyal to Judaism and assembled about six thousand.

2 They called on the Lord to have regard for the people oppressed on all sides, to take pity on the Temple profaned by the godless,

3 to have mercy on the city now being destroyed and levelled to the ground, to hear the blood of the victims that cried aloud to him,

4 to remember too the criminal slaughter of innocent babies and to avenge the blasphemies perpetrated against his name.

5 As soon as Maccabaeus had an organised force, he at once proved invincible to the foreigners, the Lord's anger having turned into compassion.

6 Making surprise attacks on towns and villages, he fired them; he captured favourable positions and inflicted very heavy losses on the enemy,

7 generally availing himself of the cover of night for such enterprises. The fame of his valour spread far and wide.

8 When Philip saw Judas was making steady progress and winning more and more frequent successes, he wrote to Ptolemy, the general officer commanding Coele-Syria and Phoenicia, asking for reinforcements in the royal interest.

9 Ptolemy chose Nicanor son of Patroclus, one of the king's First Friends, and sent him without delay at the head of an international force of at least twenty thousand men to exterminate the entire Jewish race. As his associate he appointed Gorgias, a professional experience.

10 Nicanor for his part proposed, by the sale of Jewish prisoners of war, to raise the two thousand talents of tribute money owed by the king to the Romans.

11 He lost no time in sending the seaboard towns an invitation to come and buy Jewish manpower, promising delivery of ninety head for one talent; but he did not reckon on the judgement from the Almighty that was soon to overtake him.

12 When news reached Judas of Nicanor's advance, he warned his men of the enemy's approach,

13 whereupon the cowardly ones and those who lacked confidence in the justice of God took to their heels and ran away.

14 The rest sold all their remaining possessions, at the same time praying the Lord to deliver them from the godless Nicanor, who had sold them even in advance of any encounter-

15 if not for their own sakes, then at least out of consideration for the covenants made with their ancestors, and because they themselves bore his sacred and majestic name.

16 Maccabaeus marshalled his men, who numbered about six thousand, and exhorted them not to be dismayed at the enemy or discouraged at the vast horde of gentiles wickedly advancing against them, but to fight bravely,

17 keeping before their eyes the outrage committed by them against the holy place and the infamous and scornful treatment inflicted on the city, not to mention the destruction of their traditional way of life.

18 'They may put their trust in their weapons and their exploits,' he said, 'but our confidence is in almighty God, who is able with a single nod to overthrow both those marching on us and the whole world with them.'

19 He reminded them of the occasions on which their ancestors had received help: that time when, under Sennacherib, a hundred and eighty-five thousand men had perished;

20 that time in Babylonia when in the battle with the Galatians the Jewish combatants numbered only eight thousand, with four thousand Macedonians, yet when the Macedonians were hard pressed, the eight thousand had destroyed a hundred and twenty thousand, thanks to the help they had received from Heaven, and had taken great booty as a result.

21 Having so roused their courage by these words that they were ready to die for the laws and their country, he then divided his army into four,

22 putting his brothers, Simon, Joseph and Jonathan in command of one division each, and assigning them fifteen hundred men apiece.

23 Next, he ordered Esdrias to read the Holy Book aloud and gave them their watchword 'Help from God'. Then, putting himself at the head of the first division, he attacked Nicanor.

24 With the Almighty for their ally they slaughtered over nine thousand of the enemy, wounded and crippled the greater part of Nicanor's army and put them all to flight.

25 The money of their prospective purchasers fell into their hands. After pursuing them for a good while, they turned back, since time was pressing:

26 it was the eve of the Sabbath, and for that reason they did not prolong their pursuit.

27 They collected the enemy's weapons and stripped them of their spoils, and because of the Sabbath even more heartily blessed and praised the Lord, who had saved them and who had chosen that day for the first manifestation of his compassion.

28 When the Sabbath was over, they distributed some of the booty among the victims of the persecution and the widows and orphans; the rest they divided among themselves and their children.

29 They then joined in public supplication, imploring the merciful Lord to be fully reconciled with his servants.

30 They also challenged the forces of Timotheus and Bacchides and destroyed over twenty thousand of them, gaining possession of several high fortresses. They divided their enormous booty into two equal shares, one for themselves, the other for the victims of the persecution and the orphans and widows, not forgetting the aged.

31 They carefully collected the enemy's weapons and stored them in suitable places. The rest of the spoils they took to Jerusalem.

32 They killed the tribal chieftain on Timotheus' staff, an extremely wicked man who had done great harm to the Jews.

33 In the course of their victory celebrations in Jerusalem, they burned the men who had fired the Holy Gates; with Callisthenes they had taken refuge in one small house; so these received a fitting reward for their sacrilege.

34 The triple-dyed scoundrel Nicanor, who had brought the thousand merchants to buy the Jews,

35 finding himself with the Lord's help humbled by men he had himself reckoned as of very little account, stripped off his robes of state, and made his way across country unaccompanied, like a runaway slave, reaching Antioch by a singular stroke of fortune, since his army had been destroyed.

36 Thus the man who had promised the Romans to make good their tribute money by selling the prisoners from Jerusalem, bore witness that the Jews had a defender and that they were in consequence invulnerable, since they followed the laws which that defender had ordained.

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Deacon Keith Fournier Hi readers, it seems you use Catholic Online a lot; that's great! It's a little awkward to ask, but we need your help. If you have already donated, we sincerely thank you. We're not salespeople, but we depend on donations averaging $14.76 and fewer than 1% of readers give. If you donate just $5.00, the price of your coffee, Catholic Online School could keep thriving. Thank you. Help Now >

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