Archive for the ‘Nicanor’ Tag

The Death of Judas Maccabeus   Leave a comment

Above:  The Death of Judas Maccabeus

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART XXIV

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1 Maccabees 9:1-22

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Demetrius I Soter (Reigned 162-150 B.C.E.)

Alcimus, High Priest (In Office Before 162-159 B.C.E.)

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Back in 1 Maccabees 7 and 2 Maccabees 15, Nicanor (one of the Nicanors, anyway) died in combat against Hasmonean forces under the command of Judas Maccabeus.  Nicanor’s severed head hung from the citadel of Jeusalem, and his severed tongue became food for birds.

Seleucid King Demetrius I Soter reacted to that news about as well as you, O reader, may have guessed.  He sent governor Bacchides and High Priest Alcimus into action again in the Seleucid/Hellenistic year 152 (160 B.C.E.)  The war between the Hasmoneans and the Seleucid Empire continued.  The overwhelming numbers of the Seleucid army inspired fear in Hasmonean ranks.  Judas Maccabeus’s relatively small army became smaller via desertion.

Judas Maccabeus remembered what you, O reader, may also recall:  the effectiveness of guerrilla warfare earlier in the narrative.  That was then.  Judas Maccabeus died in combat.

The Hasmonean Rebellion continued, however.

1 Maccabees 9:21 reads:

How is our champion fallen,

the saviour of Israel.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

This draws from two other verses.  One is 2 Samuel 1:25a, part of David’s lament for the Jonathan and King Saul:

How are the warriors fallen on the field of battle!

The Revised English Bible (1989)

The other verse is Judges 3:9:

Then the Israelites cried to the LORD for help, and to deliver them he raised up Othniel son of Caleb’s younger brother Kenaz, and he set them free.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

Robert Doran, writing in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume IV (1996), asked a germane question:

What had Judas actually accomplished?

-111

Seleucid forces controlled Jerusalem.  Furthermore, Judas Maccabeus had died as a guerrilla seeking to avoid capture.  He died a failure.  So did King Saul (1 Samuel 31:1-13; 1 Chronicles 10:1-10), who perished while fighting to liberate the Hebrews from Philistine oppression.

Doran proposed that Judas Maccabeus became a hero postmortem because his family eventually won the struggle and founded a dynasty:

Judas’s was a movement that could not fail, for it depended not on him alone but on the vision that his father had sparked in many minds.

–Robert Doran, in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume IV (1996), 111

Jonathan, brother of Judas Maccabeus, took on the mantle of leadership and continued the struggle.  In contrast, David, rival of King Saul, eventually won freedom for his people from Philistine oppression.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 14, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE LAST SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABRAHAM OF CARRHAE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF CHRISTOPH CARL LUDWIG VON PFEIL, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS CYRIL AND METHODIUS, APOSTLES TO THE SLAVS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN MICHAEL ALTENBURG, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR, COMPOSER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF VICTOR OLOF PETERSEN, SWEDISH-AMERICAN LUTHERAN HYMN TRANSLATOR

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The Defeat and Death of Nicanor, with the Death of Razis   Leave a comment

Above:  Judas Maccabaeus Before the Army of Nicanor, by Gustave Doré

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART XXII

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1 Maccabees 7:26-50

2 Maccabees 14:14-15:37

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Demetrius I Soter (Reigned 162-150 B.C.E.)

Alcimus, High Priest (In Office Before 162-159 B.C.E.)

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I confess to you, O reader, that I am confused.  I do not know if the Nicanor of 1 Maccabees 3:38–a general and a Friend of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes–is the same man as the Nicanor 14:11-15:37.  Commentaries and study Bibles disagree with each other.  They agree, however, that “Nicanor” was a common name.

Anyway, the Nicanor of these readings was formerly in charge of the royal elephants.  Yet King Demetrius I Soter appointed him the governor of Judea.  Nicanor’s mission was, in the words of 1 Maccabees 7:26, to wipe out the people of Israel.  The depiction of Nicanor in 1 Maccabees 7:26-50 was consistently negative.  In 2 Maccabees, however, Nicanor developed good will for Judas Maccabeus, for a time, at least.

Furthermore, according to 2 Maccabees, Alcimus, hoping to prevent Judas Maccabeus from becoming the High Priest, meddled.  Alcimus wrote to King Demetrius I Soter.  Then King Demetrius I Soter wrote to Nicanor.  The friendship with Judas Maccabeus ended.

Nevertheless, the portrayal of Nicanor in 2 Maccabees was still negative.  The story of the death of Razis, a devout Jewish elder (2 Maccabees 14:37-46) painted Nicanor in an especially unflattering light.

2 Maccabees 14:46 affirms the physical resurrection of the dead, by the way.  Furthermore, 2 Maccabees 14:15-16 teaches that some deceased pious people, such as the prophet Jeremiah, were alive prior to the general resurrection of the dead.

Also, Nicanor had no respect for the Jewish Sabbath (2 Maccabees 15:15).  Yet Judas Maccabeus had faith in God.

From 161/160 B.C.E. to 70 C.E., on the twelfth or thirteenth day of Adar, Jews celebrated the feast of the death of Nicanor (1 Maccabees 7:49; 2 Maccabees 15:36).

Here ends my journey through 2 Maccabees.  The remainder of 1 Maccabees awaits me, though.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 14, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE LAST SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABRAHAM OF CARRHAE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF CHRISTOPH CARL LUDWIG VON PFEIL, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS CYRIL AND METHODIUS, APOSTLES TO THE SLAVS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN MICHAEL ALTENBURG, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR, COMPOSER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF VICTOR OLOF PETERSEN, SWEDISH-AMERICAN LUTHERAN HYMN TRANSLATOR

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The Death of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes   Leave a comment

Above:  The Punishment of Antiochus, by Gustave Doré

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART XVIII

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1 Maccabees 6:1-17

2 Maccabees 9:1-29

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Retribution is a theme in 2 Maccabees.  Enemies of pious Jews died ignominiously in that book.  Consider:

  1. Andronicus, who had killed High Priest Onias III (4:34), died via execution (4:38).  “The Lord thus repaid him with the punishment he deserved.”–4:39, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)
  2. High Priest Jason “met a miserable end” (5:8, RSV II).  He, shunned, died in exile in Egypt.  Nobody mourned him after he died.  Jason had no funeral (5:9-10).
  3. High Priest Menelaus died via execution.  He, pushed off a tower about 73 feet high, died in a pit full of ashes.  Nobody held a funeral for Menelaus (13:3-8).
  4. Nicanor, who had commanded the siege of Jerusalem, died in combat.  This his severed head hung from the citadel of Jerusalem.  Furthermore, birds ate his severed tongue (15:28-36).

Is this not wonderful mealtime reading?

Then we come to King Antiochus IV Epiphanes, an infamous blasphemer, “a sinful root” (1 Maccabees 1:10), and “a little horn” (Daniel 7:8) who made “war with the saints” (Daniel 7:21).

When we left off in the narrative, King Antiochus IV Epiphanes, short on funds, was traveling in the eastern part of the Seleucid Empire and raising money to finance the struggle against Judas Maccabeus and his forces (1 Maccabees 3:27-37).  At the beginning of 1 Maccabees 6 and 2 Maccabees 9, the blasphemous monarch was in the area of Susa, in the region of Elam.  King Antiochus IV Epiphanes was engaging in one of his favorite fund-raising tactics–trying to plunder a temple full of valuable treasures.  (Read 1 Maccabees 1:54f and 2 Maccabees 5:15f, O reader.)  He failed this time.  News of the developments in Judea reached the king, whose world was collapsing around him.  He died, allegedly penitent, in the year 164/163 B.C.E. (149 on the Seleucid/Hellenistic calendar).

2 Maccabees elaborates on the account in 1 Maccabees.  2 Maccabees describes vividly the pain in the monarch’s bowels (9:5f), the infestation of worms (9:9), his rotting flesh (9:9), and his body’s stench (9:9).

So the murderer and blasphemer, having endured the most intense suffering, such as he had inflicted on others, came to the end of his life by a most pitiable fate, among the mountains of a strange land.

–2 Maccabees 9:28, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

King Antiochus IV Epiphanes had appointed Philip the regent and the guardian of the new king, Antiochus V Eupator (reigned 164/163 B.C.E.).  There were two major problems, however:

  1. King Antiochus IV Epiphanes had previously appointed Lysias to both positions (1 Maccabees 3:32-33), and
  2. Lysias had custody of the young (minor) heir to the throne.

Philip attempted a coup d’état and failed (1 Maccabees 6:55-56).  Meanwhile, Lysias had installed the seven-year-old King Antiochus V Eupator on the Seleucid throne.  Philip, in mortal danger from Regent Lysias, fled to the protection of King Ptolemy VI Philometor (reigned 180-145 B.C.E.) in Egypt.  

1 and 2 Maccabees differ on the timing of the death of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes relative to the Temple in Jerusalem–the first Hanukkah.  1 Maccabees places the king’s death after the purification of the Temple.  2 Maccabees, however, places the death of the blasphemous monarch prior to the first Hanukkah.  Father Daniel J. Harrington, S.J., writing in The New Collegeville Commentary:  Old Testament (2015), 832, favors the relative dating in 2 Maccabees.  Harrington also proposes that news of the death of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes may have reached Jerusalem after the first Hanukkah.  That analysis is feasible and perhaps probable.

I agree with the evaluation of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 2 Maccabees.  I agree that his repentance was insincere and self-serving.  The monarch was like a criminal who regretted getting arrested and sentenced, not having committed a crime.

An interesting connection to the New Testament deserves comments here.  I start with the Wisdom of Solomon 4:17-20:

These [wicked] people [who look on, uncomprehending] see the wise man’s ending

without understanding what the Lord has in store for him

or why he has taken him to safety;

they look on and sneer,

but the Lord will laugh at them.

Soon they will be corpses without honour,

objects of scorn among the dead for ever.

The Lord will dash them down headlong, dumb.

He will tear them from their foundations,

they will be utterly laid waste,

anguish will be theirs,

and their memory shall perish.

The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

This is the reference in the Lukan account of the death of Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:15-20).  That account differs from the version in Matthew 27:3-10 (suicide by hanging, without his entrails bursting out), like that of Ahitophel (2 Samuel 17:23), during Absalom’s rebellion against King David.  (Ahitophel had betrayed King David.)  Both Acts 1:15-20 and 2 Maccabees 9:5-29 echo aspects of the Wisdom of Solomon 4:17-20.  The Lukan account of the death of Judas Iscariot purposefully evokes the memory of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

Obviously, one part of the Wisdom of Solomon 4:17-20 does not apply to King Antiochus IV Epiphanes and Judas Iscariot.  We know their names.

The evil that men do lives after them;

the good is oft interred with their bones.

–William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar

(I memorized that in high school, which was more years ago then I like to admit some days.)

In reality, we may know the names of evildoers in greater quantity than those of the righteous.  Think about it, O reader.  How many gangsters, serial killers, Nazis, Nazi collaborators, terrorists, dictators, would-be dictators, and genocidal dictators can you name?  And how many saints, humanitarians, and other kind-hearted people can you name?  Which category–evildoers or good people–has more names in it?

King Antiochus IV Epiphanes had started down his destructive path by seeking to impose cultural uniformity–Hellenism–on his culturally diverse empire.  He was neither the first nor the last ruler to commit some variation of the error of enforced cultural homogenization.  He learned that defining unity as enforced cultural homogeneity increased disunity by inspiring rebellion.

Cultural diversity adds spice to communal life.  The world would be boring if we were all homogenous.  Mutual respect, toleration, acceptance, and tolerance maintains unity in the midst of cultural diversity.  When acceptance is a bridge too far, tolerance may suffice.  However, there are limits, even to cultural diversity.  Tolerance is a generally good idea.  A good idea, carried too far, becomes a bad idea.  Correctly placing the boundaries of tolerance amid cultural diversity is both necessary and wise.  On the left (where I dwell), the temptation is to draw the circle too wide.  On the right, the temptation is to draw the circle too small.

I am a student of history.  My reading tells me that many rulers of culturally-diverse realms have succeed in maintaining unity.  They have done so by practicing respect for diversity in matters of culture and religion, although not absolutely.  But these rulers have not insisted that everyone fellow a monoculture.  Therefore, very different people have peaceably found their places in those societies.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 10, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SCHOLASTICA, ABBESS OF PLOMBARIOLA; AND HER TWIN BROTHER, SAINT BENEDICT OF NURSIA, ABBOT OF MONTE CASSINO AND FATHER OF WESTERN MONASTICISM

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT OF ANIANE, RESTORER OF WESTERN MONASTICISM; AND SAINT ARDO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF JULIA WILLIAMS GARNET, AFRICAN-AMERICAN ABOLITIONIST AND EDUCATOR; HER HUSBAND, HENRY HIGHLAND GARNET, AFRICAN-AMERICAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND ABOLITIONIST; HIS SECOND WIFE, SARAH J. SMITH TOMPKINS GARNET, AFRICAN-AMERICAN SUFFRAGETTE AND EDUCATOR; HER SISTER, SUSAN MARIA SMITH MCKINNEY STEWARD, AFRICAN-AMERICAN PHYSICIAN; AND HER SECOND HUSBAND, THEOPHILUS GOULD STEWARD, U.S. AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL MINISTER, ARMY CHAPLAIN, AND PROFESSOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT NORBERT OF XANTEN, FOUNDER OF THE PREMONSTRATENSIANS; SAINT HUGH OF FOSSES, SECOND FOUNDER OF THE PREMONSTRATENSIANS; AND SAINT EVERMOD, BISHOP OF RATZEBURG

THE FEAST OF PHILIP ARMES, ANGLICAN CHURCH ORGANIST

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