Judas Maccabeus and his friends went secretly from village to village until they had gathered a force of about 6,000 Jewish men who had remained faithful to their religion.
They begged the Lord to help his people, now trampled under foot by all nations, to take pity on the Temple, now defiled by pagans,
and to have mercy on Jerusalem, now destroyed and almost leveled to the ground.
They also asked the Lord to show his hatred of evil by taking revenge on those who were murdering his people, mercilessly slaughtering innocent children, and saying evil things against the Lord.
When Judas had finally organized his forces, the Gentiles were unable to stand against him, because the Lord's anger against Israel had now turned to mercy.
Judas would make sudden attacks on towns and villages and burn them. He captured strategic positions and routed many enemy troops, finding that he was most successful at night. People everywhere spoke of his bravery.
When Philip, governor of Jerusalem, realized that Judas was gaining ground little by little and that his victories were becoming more and more frequent, he wrote a letter to Ptolemy, governor of Greater Syria, requesting his help in defending the royal interests.
Ptolemy immediately appointed Nicanor son of Patroclus, who was also in the closest circle of the King's Friends, and sent him with more than 20,000 troops of various nationalities to wipe out the entire Jewish race. Ptolemy also appointed Gorgias, a general of wide military experience, to go with him.
King Antiochus owed the Romans 150,000 pounds of silver; Nicanor planned to pay off the debt by selling Jewish prisoners of war as slaves.
So he at once sent word to the towns along the coast, informing them that he would be selling Jews for less than a pound of silver each. But he did not know of the judgment that Almighty God had in store for him.
Judas learned that Nicanor was advancing with his army toward Judea, so he informed his men.
Some were cowardly and did not believe in the justice of God, and they ran away as fast as they could.
But others sold all their remaining possessions so that the Lord would consider them worthy to be saved from the godless Nicanor, who had sold them as slaves even before the battle had taken place.
They prayed that if God was not willing to do this for their sake alone, he might be willing to rescue them because of the covenants he had made with their ancestors, and because he, the great and wonderful God, had called them to be his people.
Judas brought together all 6,000 of his men and encouraged them not to be frightened or to flee in panic at the sight of the large number of Gentile troops who were marching against them without cause. Instead they should fight bravely,
never forgetting the crimes the Gentiles had committed against the Temple and how they had made Jerusalem suffer terribly and had done away with Jewish traditions.
"They rely on their weapons and their daring," Judas said, "but we trust in Almighty God, who is able to destroy not only these troops, but, if necessary, the entire world, with a mere nod of his head."
Then Judas went on to remind them of the ways God had helped their ancestors: during the time of Sennacherib 185,000 of the enemy had been destroyed;
and once in Babylonia 8,000 Jews came to the aid of 4,000 Macedonians, defeating 120,000 Galatians and taking a great deal of loot, all because of God's help.
Judas' words encouraged his men and made them willing to die for their religion and their country. He then divided his army into four divisions
of about 1,500 men each, with himself and his brothers Simon, Joseph, and Jonathan each in charge of a division.
After ordering Eleazar to read aloud from the holy book, he gave his men the battle cry: "God will help us," and personally led the attack against Nicanor. 1
Almighty God fought on their side, and they killed more than 9,000 of the enemy. They wounded many others and put the entire enemy army to flight.
They seized the money from the people who had come to buy them as slaves. Then they pursued the enemy a long way, until they had to return,
because it was almost time for the Sabbath to begin.
When they had collected the enemy's weapons and looted the dead, they celebrated the Sabbath, praising the Lord and giving thanks to him, because he had brought them safely to that day and had given them the first sign of his mercy.
When the Sabbath was over, they gave some of the loot to the victims of persecution and to the widows and orphans; then they divided the rest among their own families.
Afterward they joined together in prayer to the merciful Lord, asking him to look favorably upon his servants.
The Jews later fought against the forces of Timothy and Bacchides and killed more than 20,000 of them. They captured some very high fortresses and took a lot of loot, which they divided equally among themselves and the widows, orphans, old men, and the victims of persecution.
They carefully collected all the enemy's weapons and stored them in strategic places, but the rest of the loot was taken to Jerusalem.
They executed the commanding officer of Timothy's forces, a godless man who had caused the Jews much suffering.
While celebrating their victory in the city of their ancestors, they burned alive those men who had set fire to the Temple gates. The dead included Callisthenes, who had hidden in a small house; and so he received the punishment he deserved for his evil deeds.
In this way, the evil Nicanor, who had brought a thousand merchants to buy the Jews,
was defeated with the help of the Lord by the very people he despised so much. He threw off his splendid uniform and fled all alone like a runaway slave, until he reached Antioch. He had succeeded only in destroying his entire army.
This man, who had tried to pay a debt to Rome by selling the people of Jerusalem, showed that the Jews could not be defeated. God was their mighty Defender, because they obeyed the laws he had given them.