1 Everything began with the conquests of Alexander the first, son of Philip, the Macedonian. Setting out from Greece, he killed Darius, king of the Persians and the Medes. Being already King of Greece, he took the throne of Darius. 2 After fighting many battles, conquering strongholds and put ting to death the kings of those nations, 3 he reached the ends of the earth and plundered several nations. And when the world became quiet and subject to his power, he be came proud. 4 He gathered a strong army, ruled over provinces and nations, and rulers paid him taxes. 5 But he fell sick, and knowing he was going to die, 6 he summoned his generals and the noblemen who had been brought up with him from his youth; and while still alive, he divided his kingdom among them. 7 Alexander had reigned for twelve years when he died.
8 His generals assumed power, each one in the region assigned to him. 9 And immediately after Alexander’s death, they made themselves kings and their sons after them, filling the earth with evil for many years. 10 From their descendants there came a godless offshoot, Antiochus Epiphanes, son of King Antio chus, who had been held as hostage in Rome. He became king in the one hundred and thirty-seventh year of the Greek era (175 B.C.).
11 It was then that some rebels emerged from Israel, who succeeded in winning over many people. They said, “Let us renew contact with the peoples around us for we had endured many misfortunes since we separated from them.”
12 This proposal was well-received 13 and some eagerly went to the king. The king authorized them to adopt the customs of the pagan nations. 14 With his permission, they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem in the pagan style. 15 And as they wanted to be like the pagans in everything, they made artificial foreskins for themselves and abandoned the Holy Covenant, sinning as they pleased.
Antiochus despoils the Temple
16 When Antiochus felt confident of his power, he decided to seize Egypt and rule over the two nations. 17 He entered Egypt with a strong army, with chariots of war, elephants, horses and a great fleet 18 and attacked Ptolemy, king of Egypt. Ptolemy had to retreat and was defeated, and many of his men died. 19 The victors seized the fortified cities of Egypt and plundered the land. 20 In the year one hundred and forty-three (169 B.C.), when Antiochus returned after defeating Egypt, he passed through Israel and went up to Jerusalem with a strong army.
21 He arrogantly broke into the sanctuary and removed the golden altar, the lampstand for the light with all its accessories, 22 the table for the bread of offering, the libation vessels, the cups, the gol den censers, the curtains and the crowns, and stripped away all the decorations, the golden moldings that used to cover the Tem ple entrance. 23 He also took possession of the silver, gold, valuable objects and all the hidden treasures he could find. 24 He took everyt hing with him and left for his country, after shedding much blood and making arrogant statements.
25 There was great mourning through out the land of Israel: 26 The leaders and the elders groaned, young men and maidens lost courage, and women grew pale; 27 bridegrooms sang lamentations, and the young bride wept in her marriage-bed. 28 The earth quaked, in sorrow for its inhabitants, and all the people of Jacob were humiliated.
29 After two years, the king sent to the cities of Judah the chief tax collector and he came to Jerusalem with a strong army. 30 He spoke to the people with words of peace in order to de ceive them. But when he had gained their confidence, he suddenly fell on the city and dealt it a terrible blow, killing many Israelites. 31 He plundered the city, burning and destroying the palaces and the surrounding walls.
32 He took women and children captive and seized the livestock. 33 Then they rebuilt the city of David with a high and solid wall protected by strong towers, and this became their fortress. 34 There they set evil men and apostates who defended it. 35 They stored up weapons and provisions, and everything they looted in the city, posing a constant threat. 36 It be came an ambush for the sanctuary, a grave and constant threat to Israel. 37 They shed innocent blood around the sanctuary and defiled the sanctuary itself.
38 The inhabitants of Jerusalem fled because of them. She became a colony of strangers, and was a stranger to her children who abandoned her. 39 Her sanctuary became empty as the desert, her feasts became days of mourning, her Sabbaths were ridiculed, and her fame be came an object of contempt. 40 As her glory had been great, so now was her dis honor, for her greatness was turned into grief.
41 Antiochus issued a decree to his whole kingdom. 42 All the peoples of his empire had to renounce their particular customs and become one peo ple. 43 All the pagan nations obeyed and respected the king’s decree, and even in Israel many accepted the imposed cult. They offered sacrifices to idols and no longer respected the Sabbath. 44 The King sent messengers to Jerusalem and the cities of Judea to carry the de cree which imposed strange customs. 45 In accordance with it, burnt offerings, sacrifices and other offerings in the sanc tuary were suppressed. It also ordered that Sabbaths and sacred feasts be like ordinary days. 46 The sanc tuary and its ministers were no longer to be regarded sacred, 47 instead, altars, sacred enclosures and temples were to be dedicated to idols. They were to offer pigs and unclean animals in sacrifice, 48 and not perform on their sons the rite of circumcision. To sum up, they were to defile themselves by all kinds of impurity and profanity 49 in order to forget the Law and change all their customs. 50 The decree finally declared: “Anyone who does not fulfill the king’s order shall die.”
51 The king published this obligation throughout the province and inspectors appointed by him went around the land of Judea. They saw to it that sacrifices were offered in all cities. 52 Many Israelites joined them, abandoned the Law and com mitted countless evils 53 obliging the true Israelites to find places of refuge to hide themselves.
54 On the fifteenth day of the month of Chislev, in the year one hundred and forty-five, Antiochus erected the “abom inable idol of the invaders” on the altar of the temple. Pagan altars were built throughout the whole land of Judea; 55 incense was offered at the doors of their houses and in the squares. 56 There wicked men tore up the books of the Law they found and burned them. 57 They killed anyone they caught in possession of the book of the Cove nant and who fulfilled the precepts of the Law, as the royal de cree had ordered. 58 And being men in power, they pursued the Israelite rebels they found month after month in the cities. 59 On the twenty-fifth day of every month, they offered their sacrifices on the new altar they had built upon the altar of the Temple.
60 The women who, in defiance of the decree, had the rite of circumcision performed on their children, were put to death with their babies hung around their necks. 61 Their families and all who had taken part in the circumcision were also put to death.
62 But in spite of all this, many Is ra elites still remained firm and determined not to eat unclean food. 63 They preferred to die rather than to make themselves unclean with those foods (prohibited by the Law) that violated the Holy Covenant. 64 And Israel suffered a very great trial.