The end of the story (2 Macc 15:37-15:37)

“This, then, is how matters turned out with Nicanor. From that time on the city has been in the possession of the Hebrews. So I too will here end my story.”

This is a very personal remark by the biblical author. This is the end of the story of Nicanor, therefore the end of this story. This was the turning point. As far as this author knows, this was the day of independence, the defeat of Nicanor in 161 BCE. Jerusalem was then a Hebrew city from that time forward, at least until the writing of this author. This then seems like a story of Jewish or Jerusalem independence. What happened after this was not a concern of this author.

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The death of Nicanor (2 Macc 15:25-15:28)

“Nicanor and his troops advanced with trumpets and battle songs. Judas Maccabeus and his troops met the enemy in battle with invocations to God and prayers. So, fighting with their hands and praying to God in their hearts, they laid low no less than thirty-five thousand men. They were greatly gladdened by God’s manifestation. When the action was over, they were returning with joy. They recognized Nicanor, lying dead, in full armor.”

Nicanor and his army advanced with trumpets and battle songs. On the other hand, Judas Maccabeus and his troops went to fight with prayers in their hearts to God. Thus they fought and prayed at the same time. This seemed to have worked quite well. They killed 35,000 troops of Nicanor. They were glad because God had manifested his gladness with their actions. After the action was all over, they too were happy. Then they recognized Nicanor in full armor dead. There is something similar to this in 1 Maccabees, chapter 7, where Nicanor was defeated.

The people prepare (2 Macc 15:17-15:19)

“The people were encouraged by the words of Judas Maccabeus. They were so noble and so effective in arousing the valor and awaking the courage in the souls of the young. Thus, they determined not to remain in camp, but to attack bravely. They would decide the matter, by fighting hand to hand with all courage, because the city, the sanctuary, and the temple were in danger. Their concern for their wives and children, and also for their brothers, sisters, and relatives, lay upon them less heavily. Their greatest and first fear was for the consecrated sanctuary. Those who had to remain in the city were in no little distress, being anxious over the encounter in the open country.”

Judas Maccabeus had encouraged the people to have courage, especially the young. Instead of staying in camp, they were willing to attack bravely. They wanted to fight hand to hand with courage. They were more worried about the city, the Temple, and sanctuary rather than their wives, children, brothers, sisters, or other relatives. Their greatest fear was for the consecrated sanctuary. The people who remained in the city were anxious about the battle encounter in the open country.

The dream about Onias the high priest (2 Macc 15:12-15:16)

“What Judas Maccabeus saw was this. Onias, who had been high priest, was a noble and good man of modest bearing and gentle manner. He spoke fittingly. He had been trained from childhood in all that belongs to excellence. He was praying with outstretched hands for the whole body of the Jews. Then in the same fashion another appeared, distinguished by his gray hair and dignity. He had a marvelous majesty and authority. Onias spoke, saying.

‘This is a man who loves the family of Israel.

He prays much for the people and the holy city.

He is Jeremiah, the prophet of God.’

Jeremiah stretched out his right hand. He gave to Judas Maccabeus a golden sword. As he gave it he addressed him thus.

‘Take this holy sword,

As a gift from God,

With which you will strike down your adversaries.’”

Judas Maccabeus revealed his dream about the noble and good Onias who had been the Jerusalem high priest in the 3rd century BCE. In fact, there were other high priests with the same name related to him. This high priest Onias was a modest and a gentle person, who had been trained since childhood in excellence. He prayed with outstretched hands for the Jews. However, right beside Onias was a distinguished dignified gray haired man. In fact, Onias introduced him as Jeremiah the great prophet of God who loved Israel and prayed for its people and its holy city. Then Jeremiah, this great prophet, extended his hand to Judas Maccabeus to give him a holy golden sword so that he could strike down his adversaries. This was taken as a sign that Judas would be successful.

Alcimus claims that Nicanor is disloyal (2 Macc 14:26-14:27)

“When Alcimus noticed their good will for one another, he took the covenant that had been made and went to King Demetrius. He told him that Nicanor was disloyal to the government. He had appointed that conspirator against the kingdom, Judas Maccabeus, to be his successor. The king became excited. Provoked by the false accusations of that depraved man, he wrote to Nicanor. He stated that he was displeased with the covenant. He commanded him to send Judas Maccabeus to Antioch as a prisoner without delay.”

Alcimus, the high priest in Jerusalem, was not pleased at the turn of events. He took the treaty that Nicanor and Judas Maccabeus had agreed on to King Demetrius I. He pointed out that Nicanor had been disloyal to king since his instructions were to kill Judas Maccabeus. Instead, Judas Maccabeus was to become the new high priest as the successor to Alcimus. King Demetrius I was very upset by these accusations. He wrote to Nicanor that he did not like the treaty. He commanded him to send Judas Maccabeus in chains as a prisoner to Antioch without any delay. None of this was in 1 Maccabees.

Nicanor sends friendly emissaries (2 Macc 14:18-14:19)

“Nevertheless Nicanor heard about the valor of Judas Maccabeus and his troops as well as their courage in battle for their country. He shrank from deciding the issue by bloodshed. Therefore he sent Posidonius, Theodotus, and Mattathias to give and receive pledges of friendship.”

Nicanor realized that Judas Maccabeus and his troops were courageous. He decided not to solve the issue by war. In 1 Maccabees, chapter 7, it clearly said that Nicanor was trying to deceive Judas Maccabeus. Here that is not said as 3 Seleucid military leaders, who were not mentioned in 1 Maccabees, were sent as friendly emissaries to Judas Maccabeus. One of them even has the name of Judas’ father, Mattathias.

Nicanor as the governor of Judea (2 Macc 14:11-14:14)

“When Alcimus had said this, the rest of the king’s friends, who were hostile to Judas Maccabeus, quickly inflamed King Demetrius still more. He immediately chose Nicanor, who had been in command of the elephants. He appointed him governor of Judea. He sent him off with orders to kill Judas Maccabeus and scatter his troops. He was to install Alcimus as high priest of the great temple. The gentiles throughout Judea, who had fled before Judas Maccabeus, flocked to join Nicanor. They thought that the misfortunes and calamities of the Jews would mean prosperity for themselves.”

Once again, this is similar but not quite the same as 1 Maccabees, chapter 7. There is no mention of Bacchides here. Instead the leader of the troops and the governor of Judea was Nicanor. Apparently, Nicanor had been in charge of the elephants that seem to have been a big deal in the Syrian army. He may also have been with King Demetrius I when he was in jail in Rome. Now this meant that there was a separate governor for Judea whose sole purpose was to kill Judas Maccabees and disperse his troops. Alcimus was officially made the high priest. The gentiles in the area were happy so that they eagerly joined with Nicanor. The assumption of the gentiles was a zero sum game that if the Jews were in trouble, it would be better for them.