2 Maccabees , CHAPTER 14
Three years later, Judas and his companions learned that Demetrius, son of Seleucus, had sailed into the port of Tripolis with a powerful army and a fleet,
and that he had occupied the country, after doing away with Antiochus and his guardian Lysias.
A certain Alcimus, a former high priest, who had willfully incurred defilement before the time of the revolt, realized that there was no way for him to be safe and regain access to the holy altar.
So he went to King Demetrius around the one hundred and fifty-first year and presented him with a gold crown and a palm branch, as well as some of the customary olive branches from the temple. On that day he kept quiet.
But he found an opportunity to further his mad scheme when he was invited to the council by Demetrius and questioned about the dispositions and intentions of the Jews. He replied:
“Those Jews called Hasideans, led by Judas Maccabeus, are warmongers, who stir up sedition and keep the kingdom from enjoying peace.
For this reason, now that I am deprived of my ancestral dignity, that is to say, the high priesthood, I have come here,
first, out of my genuine concern for the king’s interests, and second, out of consideration for my own compatriots, since our entire nation is suffering no little affliction from the rash conduct of the people just mentioned.
When you have informed yourself in detail on these matters, O king, provide for our country and its hard-pressed people with the same gracious consideration that you show toward all.
As long as Judas is around, it is impossible for the government to enjoy peace.”
When he had said this, the other Friends who were hostile to Judas quickly added fuel to Demetrius’ indignation.
The king immediately chose Nicanor, who had been in command of the elephants, and appointed him governor of Judea. He sent him off
with orders to put Judas to death, to disperse his followers, and to set up Alcimus as high priest of the great temple.
The Gentiles from Judea, who had fled before Judas, flocked to Nicanor, thinking that the misfortunes and calamities of the Jews would mean prosperity for themselves.
When the Jews heard of Nicanor’s coming, and that the Gentiles were rallying to him, they sprinkled themselves with earth and prayed to him who established his people forever, and who always comes to the aid of his heritage by manifesting himself.
At their leader’s command, they set out at once from there and came upon the enemy at the village of Adasa.
Judas’ brother Simon had engaged Nicanor, but he suffered a slight setback because of the sudden appearance of the enemy.
However, when Nicanor heard of the valor of Judas and his companions, and the great courage with which they fought for their country, he shrank from deciding the issue by bloodshed.
So he sent Posidonius, Theodotus and Mattathias to exchange pledges of friendship.
After a long discussion of the terms, each leader communicated them to his troops; and when general agreement was expressed, they assented to the treaty.
A day was set on which the leaders would meet by themselves. From each side a chariot came forward, and thrones were set in place.
Judas had posted armed men in readiness at strategic points for fear that the enemy might suddenly commit some treachery. But the conference was held in the proper way.
Nicanor stayed on in Jerusalem, where he did nothing out of place. He disbanded the throngs of people who gathered around him;
and he always kept Judas in his company, for he felt affection for the man.
He urged him to marry and have children; so Judas married and settled into an ordinary life.
When Alcimus saw their mutual goodwill, he took the treaty that had been made, went to Demetrius, and said that Nicanor was plotting against the government, for he had appointed Judas, that conspirator against the kingdom, as his successor.
Stirred up by the villain’s slander, the king became enraged. He wrote to Nicanor, stating that he was displeased with the treaty, and ordering him to send Maccabeus at once as a prisoner to Antioch.
When this message reached Nicanor he was dismayed and troubled at the thought of annulling his agreement with a man who had done no wrong.
However, there was no way of opposing the king, so he watched for an opportunity to carry out this order by a stratagem.
But Maccabeus, noticing that Nicanor was more harsh in his dealings with him, and acting with unaccustomed rudeness when they met, concluded that this harshness was not a good sign. So he gathered together not a few of his men, and went into hiding from Nicanor.
When Nicanor realized that he had been cleverly outwitted by the man, he went to the great and holy temple, at a time when the priests were offering the customary sacrifices, and ordered them to surrender Judas.
As they declared under oath that they did not know where the man they sought was,
he stretched out his right arm toward the temple and swore this oath: “If you do not hand Judas over to me as prisoner, I will level this shrine of God to the ground; I will tear down the altar, and erect here a splendid temple to Dionysus.”
With these words he went away. The priests stretched out their hands toward heaven, calling upon the unfailing defender of our nation in these words:
“Lord of all, though you are in need of nothing, you were pleased to have a temple for your dwelling place among us.
Therefore, Holy One, Lord of all holiness, preserve forever undefiled this house, which has been so recently purified.”
A certain Razis, one of the elders of Jerusalem, was denounced to Nicanor as a patriot. A man highly regarded, he was called a father of the Jews because of his goodwill toward them.
In the days before the revolt, he had been convicted of being a Jew, and had risked body and soul in his ardent zeal for Judaism.
Nicanor, to show his disdain for the Jews, sent more than five hundred soldiers to arrest him.
He thought that by arresting that man he would deal the Jews a hard blow.
But when the troops, on the point of capturing the tower, were forcing the outer gate and calling for fire to set the door ablaze, Razis, now caught on all sides, turned his sword against himself,
preferring to die nobly rather than fall into the hands of vile men and suffer outrages unworthy of his noble birth.
In the excitement of the struggle he failed to strike exactly. So while the troops rushed in through the doors, he gallantly ran up to the top of the wall and courageously threw himself down into the crowd.
But as they quickly drew back and left an opening, he fell into the middle of the empty space.
Still breathing, and inflamed with anger, he got up and ran through the crowd, with blood gushing from his frightful wounds. Then, standing on a steep rock,
as he lost the last of his blood, he tore out his entrails and flung them with both hands into the crowd, calling upon the Lord of life and of spirit to give these back to him again. Such was the manner of his death.