Meanwhile, back in Jerusalem, Herod realized that he had been tricked or outwitted by the magi (Τότε Ἡρῴδης ἰδὼν ὅτι ἐνεπαίχθη ὑπὸ τῶν μάγων), those tricky magicians. He was very angry (ἐθυμώθη λίαν), so he sent out people (ἀποστείλας). He ordered them to kill all the little infant boys (ἀνεῖλεν πάντας τοὺς παῖδας) under the age of 2 in the Bethlehem area and vicinity (τοὺς ἐν Βηθλέεμ καὶ ἐν πᾶσι τοῖς ὁρίοις αὐτῆς). He picked the age of 2 and under (ἀπὸ διετοῦς καὶ κατωτέρω) based on the information about the time frame (κατὰ τὸν χρόνον ὃν ἠκρίβωσεν) about the birth of this child that he had understood from the magi (παρὰ τῶν μάγων). However, since the Bethlehem area was sparsely populated, this might have meant that he only killed about 20 children at most. Thus, there would not have been wide spread panic, except in Bethlehem itself. This story of the killing of the infant male children is like that of the Israelite male children in Exodus, chapter 1:15-22, where Moses was saved, just like Jesus here. There, the Egyptian king told the midwives to kill every male Israelite baby. Finally, he had all the Israelite male babies thrown into the Nile River.
“When this message came to Nicanor, he was troubled and grieved that he had to annul their agreement when the man had done no wrong. Since it was not possible to oppose the king, he watched for an opportunity to accomplish this by a stratagem. However, Maccabeus noticed that Nicanor was more austere in his dealings with him. He was meeting with him more rudely than had been his custom. Judas Maccabeus concluded that this austerity did not spring from the best motives. So he gathered not a few of his men, and went into hiding from Nicanor. When the latter became aware that he had been cleverly outwitted by the man, he went to the great and holy temple while the priests were offering the customary sacrifices. He commanded them to hand the man over. They declared on oath that they did not know where the man was whom he wanted. Then Nicanor stretched out his right hand toward the sanctuary. He swore this oath.
‘If you do not hand Judas Maccabeus over to me as a prisoner,
I will level this shrine of God to the ground.
I will tear down the altar.
I will build here a splendid temple to Dionysus.’”
Nicanor was troubled by the message that he got from King Demetrius I. He knew that Judas Maccabeus had not done anything wrong. At the same time, he realized that he could not oppose the direct order of the king. He was trying to figure out what to do. Judas Maccabeus noticed that Nicanor was not as friendly as before and even downright rude. He suspected Nicanor of bad motives, so he and some of his men went into hiding. When Nicanor found out about this, he went to the Temple where the priests were officiating at the sacrifices. He commanded the priests to turn over Judas Maccabeus to him. When they declared under oath that they did not know where he was, Nicanor stretched out his right hand and said that if they did not turn him over to him, he would level the Temple and the altar. In its place he would build a temple to the god Dionysus. Now this could be problem.