“Wickedness is a cowardly thing.
It is condemned
By its own testimony.
Distressed by conscience,
It has always exaggerated the difficulties.
Fear is nothing but a giving up of the helps
That come from reason.
Fear gives up hope.
It is defeated
By this inward weakness.
It prefers ignorance of what causes the torment.
Throughout the night,
That was really powerless,
Which came upon them
From the recesses of powerless Hades.
They all slept the same sleep.”
Wickedness (πονηρία) is cowardly. Its own witness (μαρτυρεῖ) condemns it. Wickedness always exaggerates difficulties so that it fears (φόβος) everything that comes from reason (λογισμοῦ). The wicked give up hope. They are defeated by their own inner weakness. They prefer ignorance of what causes problems. They are powerless throughout the night, like a powerless hell or Hades (ἀδυνάτου ᾅδου). However, everyone sleeps the same sleep, no matter what.
“Word came to Judas Maccabeus concerning Nicanor’s invasion. When he told his companions of the arrival of the army, those who were cowardly and distrustful of God’s justice ran off and got away. Others sold all their remaining property. At the same time, they implored the Lord to rescue those who had been sold by the ungodly Nicanor before he ever met them. If not for their own sake, then for the sake of the covenants made with their ancestors, because he had called them by his holy and glorious name.”
This incident can be found in 1 Maccabees, chapter 3. Here, however, there is more fear among the men of Judas Maccabeus than in 1 Maccabees, where they begin to pray. Some just run away. Others sold their goods so that they would not be sold into slavery. They wanted the Lord to rescue them, not for their own sakes, but for the sake of their ancestors. They had called the Lord by his holy and glorious name.
“When Judas saw that their army was strong, he prayed, saying.
‘Blessed are you!
O Savior of Israel,
You crushed the attack of the mighty warrior
By the hand of your servant David.
You gave the camp of the Philistines
Into the hands of Jonathan, the son of King Saul,
To the man who carried his armor.
Hem in this army
By the hand of your people Israel!
Let them be ashamed of their troops and their cavalry!
Fill them with cowardice!
Melt the boldness of their strength!
Let them tremble in their destruction!
Strike them down with the sword of those who love you!
Let all who know your name praise you with hymns!’”
Judas Maccabeus saw that they had a strong army, so he prayed to the Savior of Israel, God. He reminded God of how he had saved David against the Philistines in 1 Samuel, chapter 14. Now he was asking God to hem in the army of his enemy. He wanted them to become ashamed and cowardly so that their strength would melt. He hoped that they would be destroyed by the sword. He wanted the name of the Lord known and praised. He was praying for God’s help by reminding God what he had done in the past. He was comparing himself to the men at the time of King Saul.