2 Maccabees 14
Contemporary English Version

Alcimus Causes Trouble for Judas

1Three years later, Judas and his army learned that Demetrius, the son of King Seleucus, had sailed into the port city of Tripolis with a powerful army and navy. 2They also found out that Demetrius had put to death both King Antiochus and Lysias his guardian and was now ruling the country.

3A man named Alcimus had earlier been appointed high priest, but when our nation was at war, he eagerly adopted the Greek way of life. Because of this, Alcimus knew he was in danger from our people and would never be high priest again.

4So in about the year 151 of the Syrian Kingdom, Alcimus went to King Demetrius and presented him with a gold crown and a palm branch. He also handed him some olive branches from the temple area, as was the custom. However, Alcimus did not mention his desire to be high priest.

5Some time later, Demetrius invited Alcimus to a meeting of the royal council and asked him to explain what the Jewish people were planning. Alcimus immediately took this chance to express his own crazy ideas, and he said:

6King Demetrius, there is a devout group of Jews, who are led by Judas Maccabeus. They are nothing but rebels, and they will never stop causing trouble in your kingdom. 7And so, I have given up the honorable position of high priest that has always been in my family.

I have come here, 8not only because I am truly concerned about your interests as ruler, but because I am eager to help my people. That foolish group of Jews has brought terrible suffering on our nation.

9Now you know the truth, so please be kind and generous, just as you always are, and help our oppressed people. 10As long as Judas is alive, your kingdom will never have any peace.

11After Alcimus had finished talking, the other advisors told how much they hated Judas. Then Demetrius became so furious 12that he immediately appointed Nicanor to be the new governor of Judea. This was the same Nicanor who had been the commander of his war elephants. Then Demetrius sent him to Judea 13with orders to kill Judas and scatter his army and afterwards to make Alcimus high priest of the glorious temple.

14Many foreigners in Judea had been attacked by Judas at one time or another, and so they rushed to join Nicanor's army, hoping to profit from any trouble they could cause our people.

Nicanor Treats the Jews with Kindness

15 When our people found out that Nicanor was coming to attack with all of these Gentiles, they smeared dirt on their heads to show their sorrow. Then they prayed to God, who had chosen them to be his people forever and had always used his power to rescue them.

16Judas ordered his troops to march at once to the village of Dessau, where they attacked Nicanor. 17Judas' brother Simon also ordered his troops into the battle, but for the moment they were retreating because of a surprise move on the part of Nicanor's army.

18Meanwhile, someone told Nicanor just how fearless Judas and his soldiers were, and how fiercely they defended their nation. So Nicanor changed his mind about trying to defeat them in battle, 19and instead he sent Posidonius, Theodotus, and Mattathias to make peace with them.

20After the details of a peace treaty had been decided, Nicanor informed his troops, and they made an agreement. 21Then Judas and Nicanor chose a day to meet privately. And when that day arrived, a chariot came out of each camp, and fancy chairs were set up. 22Judas had placed armed guards at key positions around the meeting place, just in case the enemy had set a trap. But the meeting was very friendly.

23Nicanor stayed in Jerusalem for a time, but he did not cause any trouble, and he sent home many people who had sided with him. 24He and Judas became close friends and spent a lot of time together. 25Judas even followed Nicanor's advice to get married and start a family like everyone else.

Nicanor and Judas Become Enemies Again

26When Alcimus the high priest discovered that Nicanor and Judas were friends, he took a copy of their agreement to King Demetrius and said, "Nicanor has betrayed your government. He's going to let that rebel Judas take his place as governor."

27Demetrius became so irritated and angry as he listened to that worthless Alcimus make these charges that he wrote and told Nicanor, "I do not like the agreement that you made with Judas, and I order you to arrest him and send him to Antioch at once!"

28Nicanor was upset and saddened by the orders to cancel an agreement with this innocent man. 29Still, he could not disobey the king, so he started looking for an opportunity to take Judas by surprise. 30Judas noticed that Nicanor was no longer treating him like a friend, and he guessed that trouble was on the way. So he and a number of his followers went into hiding.

31 When Nicanor found out that he had been outsmarted, he went to the famous and holy Jerusalem temple at the time of sacrifice and demanded that the priests hand Judas over to him. 32But the priests swore that they did not know where to find Judas.

33Nicanor shook his right fist at the temple and said, "Find Judas, or else I swear that I'll destroy this temple and the altar of your God! Then I'll build a glorious temple for the god Dionysus on this very spot." 34After this, he left.

The priests immediately stretched their arms toward heaven and prayed to God, the Defender of our nation. They said, 35 "Our holy Lord God, you have everything, and yet you were pleased to let us build a temple, so that you could live here with us. 36We have only recently dedicated this temple again. Please keep it holy forever and ever."

Razis Gives His Life for the Nation

37-38Razis was one of the most highly respected leaders in Jerusalem, and during the war for freedom, he had risked his life for his faith. In fact, he was so generous that he was known as the father of our country.

Someone brought charges against him to Nicanor, 39-40who took this as an opportunity to show his hatred for our people by doing us some real harm. So he sent more than 500 troops to arrest Razis, 41who was in a tower surrounded by a walled-in courtyard. But the soldiers started beating down the gate to the courtyard, while shouting orders to set the doors of the tower on fire. Razis knew he was trapped, and he threw himself on his sword, 42because he was from an important family and wanted to die with honor, rather than at the hands of godless men.

43In all the confusion, Razis only wounded himself with the sword. Meanwhile, crowds of people were forcing their way into the tower. And so, with great courage, Razis climbed to the top of the tower and jumped. 44Everyone on the ground quickly moved back, making room for him to land on the ground.

45Alive but angry, Razis stood up and ran through the crowd to the top of a steep rock, with blood gushing from his terrible wounds. 46He had lost most of his blood, when he tore out his insides with both hands and threw them down at the people, while praying aloud, "Lord of life and breath, I trust you to give these back to me." Then he died.

Contemporary English Version, Second Edition (CEV®)

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