“Every friend says.
‘I too am a friend.’
But some friends
Are friends only in name.
Is it not a sorrow
Like death itself?
A dear friend
Turns into an enmity.
O inclination to evil!
Why were you formed?
Why do you cover the land
Some companions rejoice
In the happiness of a friend.
But in times of trouble,
They are against him.
Some companions help a friend
For their stomach’s sake.
Yet in battle
They will carry his shield.
Do not forget a friend
In your heart
During the battle.
Do not be unmindful of him
When you distribute your spoils.”
Sirach reminds us about false friends. Some friends are such in name only. Sometimes a friend turns into an enemy. Sirach wondered why there was this inclination to evil. Why was the land covered with deceit? Some companions are happy when you are happy. However, in troubled times, they may be against you. Some people help for the sake of a good meal, while others will go to battle with you. You should not forget the friends who went out to battle with you, especially when you distribute the rewards or spoils of victory.
“He who loves his son
Will whip him often.
Thus he may rejoice
At the way he turns out.
He who disciplines his son,
Will profit by him.
He will boast of him
He who teaches his son
Will make his enemies envious.
He will glory in him
In the presence of friends.”
Sirach says that if you love your son, you will whip him often. This is the spare the rod spoils the son idea, since there is no rejection of corporal punishment. Then you will rejoice when you see how your son has turned out. You will have a great reward, if you discipline your son. You will be able to boast about him among your acquaintances. If you teach your son, your enemies will be envious. You will also be able to glorify your son in the presence of your friends. There is this constant problem of friends and enemies.
If sinners entice you,
Do not consent!
If they say.
‘Come with us!
Let us lie in wait for blood!
Let us wantonly ambush the innocent!
Let us swallow them alive and whole!
Like those who go down to the Pit,
We shall find all kinds of costly things.
We shall fill our houses with booty.
Throw in your lot among us!
We will all have one purse.’
Do not walk in their way!
Keep your foot from their paths!
Their feet run to evil.
They hurry to shed blood.
For in vain is a net baited,
While the bird is looking on.
Yet they lie in wait,
To kill themselves.
They set an ambush
For their own lives.
Such is the end
Of all who are greedy for gain.
It takes away the life of its possessors.”
The main parental advice of these proverbs is to stay away from evil people. Do not let sinners entice you! Stay away from those who want to ambush innocent people in order to spill their blood. They seem to think that they can swallow people up like Sheol or the pit, the grave, does. This part appears to not sound enticing, but the kicker enticement was filling up your house with spoils and booty. They would all share together with one purse. Parents should warn their children not to walk in their paths or let their feet walk in their ways. These wicked ones hurry to shed blood. However, they set a net while the birds are watching so that their own ambush will kill them. This is the end for those who are greedy and want to kill others so that they would have their goods.
“Glorious are you!
You are more majestic
Than the everlasting mountains!
The stouthearted were stripped
Of their spoil.
They sank into sleep.
None of the troops
Were able to life a hand.
At your rebuke!
O God of Jacob!
Both rider and horse lay stunned.”
This great victory is probably a reference to the defeat of the Assyrians under King Sennacherib when he tried to attack Jerusalem under King Hezekiah in 2 Kings, chapter 19. This was the time that the angel of Yahweh struck down 185,000 Assyrians in one night. Obviously this made a big impression upon the Israelites. God was glorious and more majestic than the so-called everlasting mountains. The enemy was stripped of their spoils as they sank into a sleep that they never recovered from. Both riders and horses were unable to do battle. Perhaps, the extremely high number of causalities made it difficult to repeat. Clearly the God of Jacob had brought them victory.
“Yet you have rejected us.
You have abased us.
You have not gone out with our armies.
You make us turn back from the foe.
Our enemies have gotten spoils.
You have made us like sheep for slaughter.
You have scattered us among the nations.
You have sold your people for a trifle.
You demanded no high price for them.”
This is one of the few times that the psalmist talks about a defeat. They have been rejected by God since God has not gone out with their armies. Thus they were defeated. They were not able to turn back their enemies. In fact, the foes have taken spoils from them. They were like sheep brought to slaughter. They were scattered among the nations, a clear allusion to the captivity. They were sold for a trifle, since there was no high price placed on them.
“With the Almighty as their ally, Judas Maccabeus killed more than nine thousand of the enemy. They wounded and disabled most of Nicanor’s army. They forced them all to flee. They captured the money of those who had come to buy them as slaves. After pursuing them for some distance, they were obliged to return because the hour was late. It was the day before the Sabbath. For that reason they did not continue their pursuit. When they had collected the arms of the enemy and stripped them of their spoils, they kept the Sabbath. They gave great praise and thanks to the Lord, who had preserved them for that day. He allotted it to them as the beginning of mercy. After the Sabbath, they gave some of the spoils to those who had been tortured, the widows, and the orphans. They distributed the rest among themselves and their children. When they had done this, they made common supplication. They implored the merciful Lord to be wholly reconciled with his servants.”
This section is a little like the battles in 1 Maccabees, chapter 4, but not quite the same. The leader of the army is Nicanor and Gorgias. As God Almighty was on their side, Judas and his men killed more than 9,000 of the 20,000 enemy soldiers. They also wounded and disabled most of Nicanor’s army, as those who were able, fled the scene. They even got the money that was going to be used to buy Jewish slaves. They had to stop pursuing them since it was the eve of the Sabbath. They then celebrated the Sabbath with great praise and thanksgiving for the Lord’s mercy to them. Then on the day after the Sabbath, they gave some, but not all, of the spoils to those who had been tortured, as well as the widows and orphans. The rest of the money they distributed it among themselves and their children. They once again prayed to the Lord so that he might be reconciled with his servants. There is no longer any mention of religious sacrifices of any kind.
“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.
“Then someone came to King Antiochus in Persia. He reported that the armies which had gone into the land of Judah had been routed. Lysias had gone out with a strong force, but had been turned away. He fled before the Jews. The Jews had grown strong from the arms, supplies, and abundant spoils which they had taken from the armies they had cut down. They had torn down the abomination that he had erected upon the altar in Jerusalem. They had surrounded the sanctuary with high walls as before, and also Beth-zur, his town.”
King Antiochus IV was in Persia, probably Ecbatana the former capital when he got word about the failure of Lysias in Judah. The Jews had taken the spoils from his army and grew stronger. They had taken down his statue of a god in Jerusalem. The biblical author calls it an abomination. They had taken back the town of Jerusalem.
“Then Judas and his army quickly turned back through the wilderness road to Bozrah. He took the town. He killed every male by the edge of the sword. Then he seized all its spoils. He burned it with fire. He left the place at night.”
Judas Maccabeus and his army attacked Bozrah, an ancient Edomite town. Judas and his army killed every male. Then they took all the things of the people in that town and burned it. Finally, they left at night. This was an easy success.