Reading 145/341, 1 Maccabees 1-2.41

[A] Today we begin 1 Maccabees, a late historical book. It is about the time 100 years or so before Jesus.

1 Maccabees...

And it happened, after Alexander, son of Philip the Macedonian, who came out of the land of Kittim, had crushed Darius king of the Persians and Medes, that he reigned in his stead, having first reigned over Greece. He made many wars and won many strongholds and slayed the kings of the earth and went to the ends of the earth and took plunder from many nations, until the earth was quiet before him, at which point he was exalted and his heart was proud. He gathered a mighty and powerful army and ruled over countries, nations, and kings, who paid him tribute. After these things he fell sick and perceived that he would die. Therefore he called his officers, such as were noble and had been brought up with him from his youth, and divided his kingdom among them, while he was still alive. So Alexander reigned twelve years and then died. Then his officers ruled, each one in his place. After his death they all put diadems upon themselves, and so did their sons after them for many years. Evils were multiplied on the earth. There came out of them a wicked shoot: Antiochus Epiphanes, son of Antiochus the king, who had been a hostage at Rome. He reigned in the 137th year of the kingdom of the Greeks.

In those days, there appeared in Israel, wicked men who persuaded many, saying, “Let us go and make a covenant with the heathens that are round about us, for since we departed from them we have had much sorrow.” So this device pleased them well. Then certain of the people were so forward herein, that they went to the king, who gave them license to act according to the ordinances of the heathen. So they built a gymnasium at Jerusalem according to the customs of the heathen, and made themselves uncircumcised, and forsook the holy covenant, and joined themselves to the heathen, and were sold themselves to wrongdoing.

Now when the kingdom was established before Antiochus, he thought to reign over Egypt that he might have the dominion of two realms. Therefore he entered into Egypt with a great multitude, with chariots, and elephants, and horsemen, and a great navy, and made war against Ptolemy king of Egypt, but Ptolemy was afraid of him, and fled, and many were wounded to death. Thus they got the strong cities in the land of Egypt and he took plunder from them. And after that Antiochus had crushed Egypt, he returned again in the 143rd year, and went up against Israel and Jerusalem with a great multitude, And entered proudly into the sanctuary, and took away the golden altar, and the candlestick of light, and all the vessels thereof, And the table of the showbread, and the pouring vessels, and the vials, and the censers of gold, and the veil, and the crown, and the golden ornaments that were before the temple, all which he pulled off. He also took the silver and the gold, and the precious vessels, and he took the hidden treasures which he found. And when he had taken all away, he went into his own land, having made a great massacre, and spoken very proudly. Therefore there was a great mourning in Israel, in every place where they were; so that the princes and elders mourned, the virgins and young men were made feeble, and the beauty of women was changed. Every bridegroom took up lamentation, and she that sat in the marriage chamber was in mourning. The land also was moved for the inhabitants thereof, and all the house of Jacob was covered with confusion. And after two years fully expired the king sent his chief collector of tribute unto the cities of Judah, who came unto Jerusalem with a great multitude, and spoke peaceable words unto them, but all was deceit, for when they had given him credence, he fell suddenly upon the city, and smote it very seriously, and destroyed many people of Israel. And when he had taken the spoils of the city, he set it on fire, and pulled down the houses and walls thereof on every side. But the women and children they took captive, and possessed the cattle. Then they built the city of David with a great and strong wall, and with mighty towers, and made it a strong hold for them. And they put therein a sinful nation, wicked men, and fortified themselves therein. They stored it also with armor and victuals, and when they had gathered together the spoils of Jerusalem, they laid them up there, and so they became a sore snare, For it was a place to lie in wait against the sanctuary, and an evil adversary to Israel. Thus they shed innocent blood on every side of the sanctuary, and defiled it, Insomuch that the inhabitants of Jerusalem fled because of them, whereupon the city was made an habitation of strangers, and became strange to those that were born in her, and her own children left her. Her sanctuary was laid waste like a desert, her feasts were turned into mourning, her sabbaths into reproach her honour into contempt. As had been her glory, so was her dishonour increased, and her excellency was turned into mourning. Moreover king Antiochus wrote to his whole kingdom, that all should be one people, And every one should leave his laws, so all the heathen agreed according to the commandment of the king. Yea, many also of the Israelites consented to his religion, and sacrificed unto idols, and profaned the sabbath. For the king had sent letters by messengers unto Jerusalem and the cities of Juda that they should follow the strange laws of the land, And forbid burnt offerings, and sacrifice, and drink offerings, in the temple, and that they should profane the sabbaths and festival days, And pollute the sanctuary and holy people, Set up altars, and groves, and chapels of idols, and sacrifice swine's flesh, and unclean beasts, That they should also leave their children uncircumcised, and make their souls abominable with all manner of uncleanness and profanation, To the end they might forget the law, and change all the ordinances. And whosoever would not do according to the commandment of the king, he said, he should die. In the selfsame manner wrote he to his whole kingdom, and appointed overseers over all the people, commanding the cities of Juda to sacrifice, city by city. Then many of the people were gathered unto them, to wit every one that forsook the law, and so they committed evils in the land; And drove the Israelites into secret places, wheresoever they could flee for succour. Now the fifteenth day of the month Casleu, in the hundred forty and fifth year, they set up the abomination of desolation upon the altar, and builded idol altars throughout the cities of Juda on every side; And burnt incense at the doors of their houses, and in the streets. And when they had rent in pieces the books of the law which they found, they burnt them with fire. And whosoever was found with any the book of the testament, or if any committed to the law, the king's commandment was, that they should put him to death. Thus did they by their authority unto the Israelites every month, to as many as were found in the cities. Now the five and twentieth day of the month they did sacrifice upon the idol altar, which was upon the altar of God. At which time according to the commandment they put to death certain women, that had caused their children to be circumcised. And they hanged the infants about their necks, and rifled their houses, and slew them that had circumcised them. Howbeit many in Israel were fully resolved and confirmed in themselves not to eat any unclean thing. Wherefore the rather to die, that they might not be defiled with meats, and that they might not profane the holy covenant, so then they died. And there was very great wrath upon Israel.

In those days arose Mattathias the son of John, the son of Simeon, a priest of the sons of Joarib, from Jerusalem, and dwelt in Modin. And he had five sons, Joannan, called Caddis, Simon; called Thassi, Judas, who was called Maccabeus, Eleazar, called Avaran, and Jonathan, whose surname was Apphus. And when he saw the blasphemies that were committed in Juda and Jerusalem, He said, Woe is me! wherefore was I born to see this misery of my people, and of the holy city, and to dwell there, when it was delivered into the hand of the enemy, and the sanctuary into the hand of strangers? Her temple is become as a man without glory. Her glorious vessels are carried away into captivity, her infants are slain in the streets, her young men with the sword of the enemy. What nation hath not had a part in her kingdom and gotten of her spoils? All her ornaments are taken away; of a free woman she is become a bondslave. And, behold, our sanctuary, our beauty and our glory, is laid waste, and the Gentiles have profaned it. To what end therefore shall we live any longer? Then Mattathias and his sons rent their clothes, and put on sackcloth, and mourned very sore. In the mean while the king's officers, such as compelled the people to revolt, came into the city Modin, to make them sacrifice. And when many of Israel came unto them, Mattathias also and his sons came together. Then answered the king's officers, and said to Mattathias on this wise, Thou art a ruler, and an honourable and great man in this city, and strengthened with sons and brethren, Now therefore come thou first, and fulfil the king's commandment, like all the heathen have done, indeed, and even the men of Judah, and such as remain at Jerusalem, so you and your house shall be in the number of the king's friends, and you and your children shall be honoured with silver and gold, and many rewards. Then Mattathias answered and spoke with a loud voice, “Though all the nations that are under the king's dominion obey him, and fall away, each one from the religion of their fathers, and give consent to his commandments, Yet will I and my sons and my brethren walk in the covenant of our fathers. God forbid that we should forsake the law and the ordinances. We will not hearken to the king's words, to go from our religion, either on the right hand, or the left. Now when he had left speaking these words, there came one of the Jews in the sight of all to sacrifice on the altar which was at Modin, according to the king's commandment. Which thing when Mattathias saw, he was inflamed with zeal, and his reins trembled, nor could he forbear to shew his anger according to judgment, wherefore he ran, and slew him upon the altar. Also the king's commissioner, who compelled men to sacrifice, he killed at that time, and the altar he pulled down. Thus dealt he zealously for the law of God like as Phinees did unto Zambri the son of Salom. And Mattathias cried throughout the city with a loud voice, saying, Whosoever is zealous of the law, and maintaineth the covenant, let him follow me. So he and his sons fled into the mountains, and left all that ever they had in the city. Then many that sought after justice and judgment went down into the desert, to dwell there, Both they, and their children, and their wives, and their cattle; because afflictions increased sore upon them. Now when it was told the king's servants, and the host that was at Jerusalem, in the city of David, that certain men, who had broken the king's commandment, were gone down into the secret places in the desert, They pursued after them a great number, and having overtaken them, they camped against them, and made war against them on the sabbath day. And they said unto them, Let what you have done hitherto suffice; come forth, and do according to the commandment of the king, and you shall live. But they said, We will not come forth, nor will we do the king's commandment, to profane the sabbath day. So then they gave them the battle with all speed. Howbeit they answered them not, nor cast they a stone at them, nor stopped the places where they lay hid; But said, Let us die all in our innocency, heaven and earth will testify for us, that you put us to death wrongfully. So they rose up against them in battle on the sabbath, and they slew them, with their wives and children and their cattle, to the number of a thousand people. Now when Mattathias and his friends understood hereof, they mourned for them right sore. And one of them said to another, If we all do as our brethren have done, and fight not for our lives and laws against the heathen, they will now quickly root us out of the earth. At that time therefore they decreed, saying, Whosoever shall come to make battle with us on the sabbath day, we will fight against him; nor will we die all, as our brethren that were murdered in the secret places.

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