01 July 2013

Nicanor's army: The Almighty being their helper, they slew above nine thousand men

It’s hard to sort out God’s killings in First and Second Machabees. The same stories are often told, but the details are so different that it’s hard to believe they are the same story.

This is the account from 2 Machabees.

King Philip (Demetrius in 1 Machabees 7:4) sent Nicanor and Gorgias with 20,000 soldiers “to root out the whole race of the Jews.”
Philip … sent Nicanor ...giving him no fewer than twenty thousand armed men … to root out the whole race of the Jews, joining also with him Gorgias. 2 Machabees 8:9
When Judas found out about it, he gathered 7000 men “to fight manfully.”
Now when Judas found that Nicanor was coming, he imparted to the Jews that were with him, that the enemy was at hand. 8:12
But Machabeus calling together seven thousand … to fight manfully. 8:16
Telling them to trust in God who “at a beck” can destroy all of Nicanor’s army--along with “the whole world,” if he has a mind to.
Trust in the Almighty Lord, who at a beck can utterly destroy both them that come against us, and the whole world. 8:18
Like he did to Sennacherib’s 185,000 sleeping soldiers.
Moreover he put them in mind also of the helps their fathers had received from God: and how under Sennacherib a hundred and eighty-five thousand had been destroyed. 8:19
(“The angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.” 2 Kings 19.35, Isaiah 37.36)
And when 6,000 Jews and Macedonians slew 120,000 Galatians, “because of the help they had from heaven.”
And of the battle that they had fought against the Galatians in Babylonia, how they, being in all but six thousand, when it came to the point, and the Macedonians their companions were a stand, slew a hundred and twenty thousand, because of the help they had from heaven. 8:20a
For such a great slaughter, “they received many favors.”
And for this they received many favours. 8:20b
The speech had the desired effect, inspiring the troops to die for their country.
With these words they were greatly encouraged, and disposed even to die for the laws and their country. 8:21
After Judas concluded his speech by reading Esdras’s holy book and giving them the watchword “The help of God”, his soldiers went off to fight Nicanor.
And after the holy Book had been read to them by Esdras, and he had given them for a watchword, The help of God: himself leading the first band, he joined battle with Nicanor: 8:23
And with God as their helper, “they slew above nine thousand men” (“almost five thousand” in 1 Machabees 7:32).
The Almighty being their helper, they slew above nine thousand men ... of Nicanor's army. 8:24
Then they asked the “merciful God” to help them kill some more.
When this was done, and they had all made a common supplication, they besought the merciful Lord. 8:29
And with God’s help, they killed more than 20,000 in Timotheus and Bacchides’s army.
Moreover they slew above twenty thousand of them that were with Timotheus and Bacchides. 8:30
They killed Philarches (a wicked man).
They slew also Philarches ... a wicked man. 8:32
And they burned to death Callisthenes, as “a worthy reward for his impieties.”
They burnt Callisthenes, that had set fire to the holy gates, who had taken refuge in a certain house, rendering to him a worthy reward for his impieties: 8:33

Since the Galatian massacre that Judas referred to in 1 Machabees 8:20 isn’t recorded elsewhere in the Bible, I’ll give God credit for it here, and another 120,000 to his total.

And I’ll average the “almost five thousand” and “above nine thousand” in the two accounts and add another 7000 to God’s killings.

Then there was the 20,000 soldiers in 8:30, along with Philarches and Callisthenes.

So the total for this episode is 147,002.

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