Nicanor's Cruel Plan
1 Nicanor learned that Judas and his men were in the region of Samaria, and so he decided to attack them on a Sabbath, when he could do so without any danger to himself. 2 The Jews who were forced to accompany his army begged him not to do such a cruel and savage thing, but to respect the day that the all-seeing God had honored and made the most holy of all days. 3 Then Nicanor, the lowest creature on earth, asked if there was some sovereign ruler in heaven who had commanded them to honor the Sabbath. 4 And the Jews replied, “Yes; the living Lord, who rules in heaven, commanded us to honor the Sabbath.”
5 But Nicanor answered, “I am the ruler on earth, and I order you to take up your weapons and to do what the king commands.” However, he did not succeed in carrying out his cruel plan.
Judas Prepares His Troops for Battle
6 In his arrogance Nicanor had boasted that he would set up a monument in honor of his victory over Judas. 7 But Judas was fully confident that the Lord would help him, 8 so he urged his men not to be afraid of the enemy. He encouraged them to remember how the Almighty had helped them in times past and to rest assured that he would give them victory this time also. 9 He renewed their hope by reading to them from the Law and the Prophets and by reminding them of the battles they had already won. 10 When his men were ready for battle, he gave them their orders and at the same time pointed out how the Gentiles could not be trusted, because they never kept their treaties. 11 He armed all his men, not by encouraging them to trust in shields and spears, but by inspiring them with courageous words. He also lifted their morale by telling them about his dream, a kind of vision that they could trust in.
12 He told them that he had seen a vision of Onias, the former High Priest, that great and wonderful man of humble and gentle disposition, who was an outstanding orator and who had been taught from childhood how to live a virtuous life. With outstretched arms Onias was praying for the entire Jewish nation. 13 Judas then saw an impressive white-haired man of great dignity and authority. 14 Onias said: “This is God's prophet Jeremiah, who loves the Jewish people and offers many prayers for us and for Jerusalem, the holy city.”
15 Then Jeremiah stretched out his right hand and gave Judas a gold sword, saying as he did so, 16 “This holy sword is a gift from God. Take it and destroy your enemies.”
17 The eloquent words that Judas spoke encouraged everyone to be brave, and inspired boys to fight like men. Their city, their religion, and their Temple were in danger. So the Jews made up their minds not to waste any time, but to make a daring attack against the enemy and bravely decide their fate in hand-to-hand combat. 18 They were not so concerned about their own families and relatives as they were about their sacred Temple. 19 And the people who had to stay in Jerusalem were deeply concerned about how a battle on open ground would turn out.
The Defeat and Death of Nicanor
20 Everyone was waiting to see who would win the battle. The enemy troops were already moving forward, with their cavalry on each side of them, and their elephants placed in strategic positions. 21 Judas Maccabeus looked at the huge enemy force, the variety of their weapons, and their fierce elephants. Then he raised his hands toward heaven and prayed to the Lord, who works miracles, because he knew that the Lord gives victory to those who deserve it, not to those who have a strong army. 22 Judas said: “Lord, when Hezekiah was king of Judah, you sent your angel, who killed 185,000 of King Sennacherib's men. 23 Now once again, Lord of heaven, send your good angel to make our enemies shake and tremble with fear. 24 With your great power, destroy these people who have slandered you and have come out to attack your chosen people.” So Judas ended his prayer.
25 Nicanor and his army moved forward to the sound of trumpets and battle songs, 26 but Judas and his men went into battle calling on God for help. 27 So by fighting with their hands and praying to God in their hearts, the Jews killed more than 35,000 of the enemy. How grateful they were for the help they had received from God! 28 When the battle was over and they were going home celebrating their victory, they noticed Nicanor in full armor lying dead on the battlefield. 29 Then with loud shouts they praised the Lord in their native language.
30 Judas Maccabeus, who had always fought with all his body and soul for his own people, never losing the patriotism of his youth, ordered his men to cut off Nicanor's head and right arm and to take them to Jerusalem. 31 When they arrived in the city, he called together all the people, stationed the priests before the altar, and sent for the men in the fort. 32 He showed them the head of the evil Nicanor and the arm which that wicked man had arrogantly stretched out against the sacred Temple of the Almighty God. 33 Then he cut out the tongue of that godless man, promising to feed it bit by bit to the birds and to hang up his head opposite the Temple, as evidence of what his foolishness did for him. 34 Everyone there looked up to heaven and praised the Lord, who had revealed his power and had kept his Temple from being defiled. 35 Judas hung Nicanor's head from the wall of the fort, as a clear proof to everyone of the Lord's help. 36 By unanimous vote it was decided that this day would never be forgotten, but would be celebrated each year on the eve of Mordecai's Day, which is the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, called Adar in Aramaic.
Concluding Words
37 That is how things turned out for Nicanor. The city of Jerusalem remained in the possession of the Jewish people from that time on, so I will end my story here. 38 If it is well written and to the point, I am pleased; if it is poorly written and uninteresting, I have still done my best. 39 We know it is unhealthy to drink wine or water alone, whereas wine mixed with water makes a delightfully tasty drink. So also a good story skillfully written gives pleasure to those who read it. With this I conclude.