Expedition of Bacchides and Alcimus. 1a In the one hundred and fifty-first year,* Demetrius, son of Seleucus, set out from Rome, arrived with a few men at a coastal city, and began to rule there. 2As he was entering the royal palace of his ancestors, the soldiers seized Antiochus and Lysias to bring them to him. 3When he was informed of this, he said, “Do not show me their faces.” 4So the soldiers killed them, and Demetrius assumed the royal throne.
5Then all the lawless men and renegades of Israel came to him. They were led by Alcimus,* who desired to be high priest. 6They made this accusation to the king against the people: “Judas and his brothers have destroyed all your friends and have driven us out of our land. 7So now, send a man whom you trust to go and see all the destruction Judas has wrought on us and on the king’s territory, and let him punish them and all their supporters.”
8So the king chose Bacchides, one of the King’s Friends, who ruled the province of West-of-Euphrates, a great man in the kingdom, and faithful to the king. 9He sent him and the renegade Alcimus, to whom he granted the high priesthood, with orders to take revenge on the Israelites. 10They set out and, on arriving in the land of Judah with a great army, sent messengers who spoke deceitfully to Judas and his brothers in peaceful terms. 11But these paid no attention to their words, seeing that they had come with a great army.
12A group of scribes, however, gathered about Alcimus and Bacchides to ask for a just agreement. 13b The Hasideans were the first among the Israelites to seek peace with them, 14for they said, “A priest of the line of Aaron has come with the army, and he will not do us any wrong.” 15He spoke with them peacefully and swore to them, “We will not seek to injure you or your friends.” 16So they trusted him. But he arrested sixty of them and killed them in one day, according to the words that he wrote:*
17“The flesh of your faithful,
and their blood they have spilled all around about Jerusalem,
and no one was left to bury them.”c
18Then fear and dread of them came upon all the people, who said: “There is no truth or justice among them; they violated the agreement and the oath that they swore.”
19Bacchides withdrew from Jerusalem and camped in Beth-zaith.* He had many of the men who deserted to him arrested and some of the people. He killed them and threw them into a great cistern. 20He handed the province over to Alcimus, leaving troops to help him, while he himself returned to the king.
21Alcimus struggled to maintain his high priesthood, 22and all those who were troubling the people gathered about him. They took possession of the land of Judah and caused great distress in Israel. 23When Judas saw all the evils that Alcimus and those with him were bringing upon the Israelites, even more than the Gentiles had, 24he went about all the borders of Judea and took revenge on the men who had deserted, preventing them from going out into the country. 25But when Alcimus saw that Judas and his followers were gaining strength and realized that he could not resist them, he returned to the king and accused them of grave crimes.
Defeat of Nicanor. 26d Then the king sent Nicanor, one of his honored officers, who was a bitter enemy of Israel, with orders to destroy the people. 27Nicanor came to Jerusalem with a large force and deceitfully sent to Judas* and his brothers this peaceable message: 28“Let there be no fight between me and you. I will come with a few men to meet you face to face in peace.”
29So he came to Judas, and they greeted one another peaceably. But Judas’ enemies were prepared to seize him. 30When he became aware that Nicanor had come to him with deceit in mind, Judas was afraid of him and would not meet him again.e 31When Nicanor saw that his plan had been discovered, he went out to fight Judas near Capharsalama.* 32About five hundred men of Nicanor’s army fell; the rest fled to the City of David.*
33f After this, Nicanor went up to Mount Zion. Some of the priests from the sanctuary and some of the elders of the people came out to greet him peaceably and to show him the burnt offering that was being sacrificed for the king. 34But he mocked and ridiculed them, defiled them,* and spoke arrogantly. 35In a rage he swore: “If Judas and his army are not delivered to me at once, when I return victorious I will burn this temple down.” He went away in great anger. 36g The priests, however, went in and stood before the altar and the sanctuary. They wept and said: 37“You have chosen this house to bear your name, to be a house of prayer and supplication for your people. 38Take revenge on this man and his army, and let them fall by the sword. Remember their blasphemies, and do not let them continue.”
39Nicanor left Jerusalem and camped at Beth-horon, where the Syrian army joined him. 40But Judas camped in Adasa* with three thousand men. Here Judas uttered this prayer: 41h “When they who were sent by the king* blasphemed, your angel went out and killed a hundred and eighty-five thousand of them.i 42In the same way, crush this army before us today, and let the rest know that Nicanor spoke wickedly against your sanctuary; judge him according to his wickedness.”
43The armies met in battle on the thirteenth day of the month Adar. Nicanor’s army was crushed, and he himself was the first to fall in the battle.j 44When his army saw that Nicanor had fallen, they threw down their weapons and fled. 45The Jews pursued them a day’s journey from Adasa to near Gazara, blowing the trumpets behind them as signals. 46From all the surrounding villages of Judea people came out and outflanked them. They turned them back, and all the enemies fell by the sword; not a single one escaped.
47Then the Jews collected the spoils and the plunder; they cut off Nicanor’s head and his right arm, which he had lifted up so arrogantly. These they brought and displayed in the sight of Jerusalem. 48The people rejoiced greatly, and observed that day as a day of much joy. 49They decreed that it should be observed every year on the thirteenth of Adar.* 50And so for a few days* the land of Judah was at rest.
* [7:1–3] The one hundred and fifty-first year: the spring of 161 B.C. Demetrius, son of Seleucus, was the lawful heir to the kingdom; but when only nine years old, he was taken as a hostage to Rome in place of his uncle, who ruled as Antiochus IV Epiphanes. At the age of twenty-five Demetrius fled secretly from Rome and, with the support of the Syrians, overcame his rival Antiochus V and put him to death. The royal palace: at Antioch.
* [7:5–6] Alcimus: a Jew hostile to the Maccabees, who became high priest after the death of Menelaus (2 Mc 14:3). He received confirmation in his office from the new king Demetrius (1 Mc 7:9), and brought malicious charges against Judas and his brothers and the people (1 Mc 7:6).
* [7:16] The words that he wrote: based on Ps 79:2–3. But who is “he”—David, Alcimus, Judas, or someone else?
* [7:19] Beth-zaith: about three miles north of Beth-zur and twelve miles south of Jerusalem.
* [7:27] Nicanor…deceitfully sent to Judas: a more favorable picture of Nicanor, as an honest man who became a personal friend of Judas, is given in 2 Mc 14:17–25. Their friendship was broken by the intrigues of Alcimus (2 Mc 14:26–30).
* [7:31] Capharsalama: a village north of Jerusalem whose precise location is disputed.
* [7:32] City of David: the citadel occupied by the Seleucid garrison in Jerusalem.
* [7:34] Defiled them: spitting on the priests caused them to become legally defiled.
* [7:40] Adasa: a village between Jerusalem and Beth-horon.
* [7:41] They who were sent by the king: 2 Kgs 18:19–25, 29–35; 19:10–13 recount in detail the boastful threats made by Sennacherib, the Assyrian king, through his emissaries. Your angel: a reference to 2 Kgs 19:35, which describes the fate of the Assyrian army which besieged Jerusalem in the days of Hezekiah, king of Judah.
* [7:49] The thirteenth of Adar: March 27, 160 B.C. This day in the Jewish calendar was called the “Day of Nicanor” (2 Mc 15:36), but it was not long celebrated by the Jews.
* [7:50] For a few days: about one month following the death of Nicanor. After that began the attack of Bacchides resulting in the death of Judas (9:1–18).
d. [7:26–27] 1 Mc 3:38; 2 Mc 8:9; 14:12–13.
e. [7:30] 2 Mc 14:30.
f. [7:33–38] 2 Mc 14:31–36.
g. [7:36–38] 1 Kgs 8:29–30, 33–34, 43.
h. [7:41–42] 2 Mc 8:19; 15:22–24.
i. [7:41] 2 Kgs 19:35–36; Is 37:36–37.
j. [7:43] 2 Mc 15:25–36.