The defeat of Nicanor (1 Macc 7:43-7:50)

“The armies met in battle on the thirteenth day of the month of Adar. The army of Nicanor was crushed. He himself was the first to fall in the battle. When his army saw that Nicanor had fallen, they threw down their arms and fled. The Jews pursued them a day’s journey, from Adasa as far as Gazara. As they followed, they kept sounding the battle call on the trumpets. People came out of all the surrounding villages of Judea. They outflanked the enemy. They drove them back to their pursuers, so that they all fell by the sword. Not even one of them was left. Then the Jews seized the spoils and the plunder. They cut off Nicanor’s head and the right hand that he had so arrogantly stretched out. They brought them and displayed them just outside Jerusalem. The people rejoiced greatly and celebrated that day as a day of great gladness. They decreed that this day should be celebrated each year on the thirteenth day of Adar. So the land of Judah had rest for a few days.”

The 2 armies met on the 13th day of Adar, the same month and practically the same day as the crushing defeat in the story of Esther, chapter 9, where Purim was instituted as a feast day memorial. Nicanor was like Haman, the Jewish hater. In this case Nicanor was the first to fall. When his army saw this, they fled. This was a common occurrence. When the leader fell, the armies just took off. However, the Jews pursued them as they sounded their trumpets. Then everyone came out from the villages and towns sending the fleeing troops back to their pursuers. In the end, everyone was wiped out. The author did not give a specific number, but the reminders of 2 Kings, chapter 19 are striking. They cut off the head of Nicanor and his right hand. Then they displayed it outside of Jerusalem. This is somewhat reminiscent of Judith, chapter 13, and her beheading of General Holofernes, when she took his head to display. There was great rejoicing over this as they declared the 13th of Adar a day to be celebrated. This was another layer to the Purim festival. The author notes that there was peace in Judah for just a few days, not years.

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Judas prays (1 Macc 7:39-7:42)

“Now Nicanor went out from Jerusalem. He encamped in Beth-horon where the Syrian army joined him. Judas encamped in Adasa with three thousand men. Then Judas prayed and said.

‘When the messengers from the king spoke blasphemy,

Your angel went out.

He struck down one hundred eighty-five thousand of the Assyrians.

So also crush this army before us today.

Let the rest learn

That Nicanor has spoken wickedly against the sanctuary.

Judge him according to this wickedness.’”

Nicanor went to Beth-horon where he met up with his Syrian army. Beth-horon was on the border between the old territories of Benjamin and Ephraim, north of Jerusalem. Judas was camped at Adasa was about 7 miles north of Jerusalem with about 3,000 men. Judas prayed that the angel of God would come down as he had done in 2 Kings, chapter 19, against the Syrian King Sennacherib who had also mocked Yahweh. He explicitly mentioned the amazing 185,000 Assyrians who died that night. Judas made the comparison between that event and what was happening to him.