2 Maccabees


Defeat of Lysias.* 1a Very soon afterward, Lysias, guardian and kinsman of the king and head of the government, being greatly displeased at what had happened, 2mustered about eighty thousand infantry and all his cavalry and marched against the Jews. His plan was to make their city a Greek settlement; 3to levy tribute on the temple, as he did on the shrines of the other nations; and to put the high priesthood up for sale every year.b 4He did not take God’s power into account at all, but felt exultant confidence in his myriads of foot soldiers, his thousands of cavalry, and his eighty elephants.c 5So he invaded Judea, and when he reached Beth-zur, a fortified place about five stadia* from Jerusalem, launched a strong attack against it.

6When Maccabeus and his companions learned that Lysias was besieging the strongholds, they and all the people begged the Lord with lamentations and tears to send a good angel to save Israel.d 7Maccabeus himself was the first to take up arms, and he exhorted the others to join him in risking their lives to help their kindred. Then they resolutely set out together. 8Suddenly, while they were still near Jerusalem, a horseman appeared at their head, clothed in white garments and brandishing gold weapons.e 9Then all of them together thanked the merciful God, and their hearts were filled with such courage that they were ready to assault not only human beings but even the most savage beasts, or even walls of iron. 10Now that the Lord had shown mercy toward them, they advanced in battle order with the aid of their heavenly ally. 11Hurling themselves upon the enemy like lions, they laid low eleven thousand foot soldiers and sixteen hundred cavalry, and put all the rest to flight. 12Most of those who survived were wounded and disarmed, while Lysias himself escaped only by shameful flight.

Peace Negotiations. 13f But Lysias was not a stupid man. He reflected on the defeat he had suffered, and came to realize that the Hebrews were invincible because the mighty God was their ally. He therefore sent a message 14persuading them to settle everything on just terms, and promising to persuade the king also, and to induce him to become their friend. 15Maccabeus, solicitous for the common good, agreed to all that Lysias proposed; and the king granted on behalf of the Jews all the written requests of Maccabeus to Lysias.

16These are the terms of the letter which Lysias wrote to the Jews: “Lysias sends greetings to the Jewish people. 17John and Absalom, your envoys, have presented your signed communication and asked about the matters contained in it. 18Whatever had to be referred to the king I called to his attention, and the things that were acceptable he has granted. 19If you maintain your loyalty to the government, I will endeavor to further your interests in the future. 20On the details of these matters I have authorized my representatives, as well as your envoys, to confer with you. 21Farewell.” The one hundred and forty-eighth year,* the twenty-fourth of Dioscorinthius.

22The king’s letter read thus: “King Antiochus sends greetings to his brother Lysias. 23Now that our father has taken his place among the gods, we wish the subjects of our kingdom to be undisturbed in conducting their own affairs. 24We have heard that the Jews do not agree with our father’s change to Greek customs but prefer their own way of life. They are petitioning us to let them retain their own customs. 25Since we desire that this people too should be undisturbed, our decision is that their temple be restored to them and that they live in keeping with the customs of their ancestors. 26Accordingly, please send them messengers to give them our assurances of friendship, so that, when they learn of our decision, they may have nothing to worry about but may contentedly go about their own business.”

27The king’s letter to the people was as follows: “King Antiochus sends greetings to the Jewish senate and to the rest of the Jews. 28If you are well, it is what we desire. We too are in good health. 29Menelaus has told us of your wish to return home and attend to your own affairs. 30Therefore, those who return by the thirtieth of Xanthicus will have our assurance of full permission 31to observe their dietary and other laws, just as before, and none of the Jews shall be molested in any way for faults committed through ignorance. 32I have also sent Menelaus to reassure you. 33Farewell.” In the one hundred and forty-eighth year, the fifteenth of Xanthicus.*

34The Romans also sent them a letter as follows: “Quintus Memmius and Titus Manius, legates of the Romans, send greetings to the Jewish people. 35What Lysias, kinsman of the king, has granted you, we also approve. 36But for the matters that he decided should be submitted to the king, send someone to us immediately with your decisions so that we may present them to your advantage, for we are on our way to Antioch. 37Make haste, then, to send us those who can inform us of your preference. 38Farewell.” In the one hundred and forty-eighth year, the fifteenth of Xanthicus.*

* [11:112] The defeat of Lysias at Beth-zur probably occurred before the purification of the Temple; cf. 1 Mc 4:2635.

* [11:5] Five stadia: one stadium is equal to about six hundred six feet. The actual distance to Beth-zur is about twenty miles.

* [11:21] The one hundred and forty-eighth year: 164 B.C. The reading of the name of the month and its position in the calendar are uncertain. The most likely chronological sequence of the four letters is vv. 1621; vv. 3438; vv. 2733; vv. 2226.

* [11:33] The date, which is the same as the date of the Romans’ letter (v. 38), cannot be correct. The king’s letter must be connected with the peace treaty of the one hundred forty-ninth year of the Seleucid era, i.e., 163 B.C. Perhaps the mention of the month of Xanthicus in the body of the letter (v. 30) caused the date of the Romans’ letter to be transferred to this one.

* [11:38] The date is March 12, 164 B.C.

a. [11:115] 1 Mc 4:2635.

b. [11:3] 2 Mc 4:78, 2324.

c. [11:4] 1 Mc 3:34.

d. [11:6] Ex 23:20.

e. [11:8] 2 Mc 3:2426; 5:23; 10:2930.

f. [11:1333] 1 Mc 6:5761.

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