1 Maccabees chapter 4

Judas Maccabees defeats the enemy armies. They purify the temple and celebrate for eight days. They establish Hanukkah. They fortify their boundaries.






Verse 1. And Gorgias took five thousand footmen, and a thousand chosen horse, and the army removed by night,


Verse 2. that it might fall upon the army of the Jews and strike them suddenly: and the men of the citadel were his guides.


Verse 3. And Judas heard thereof, and removed, he and the valiant men, that he might strike the king’s army which was at Emmaus,


Verse 4. while as yet the forces were dispersed from the camp.


Verse 5. And Gorgias came into the camp of Judas by night, and found no man; and he sought them in the mountains; for he said, These men flee from us.


Verse 6. And as soon as it was day, Judas appeared in the plain with three thousand men: howbeit they had not armor nor swords to their minds.


Verse 7. And they saw the camp of the Gentiles strong and fortified, and horsemen compassing it round about; and these were expert in war.


Verse 8. And Judas said to the men that were with him, Fear you not their multitude, neither be you afraid of their onset.

Fear you not. Judas Maccabees calls his army to not be afraid or dread.


Verse 9. Remember how our fathers were saved in the Red sea, when Pharaoh pursued them with an army.

Remember how our fathers were saved. Judas Maccabees calls to mind the great victories God has given them in the past.


Verse 10. And now let’s cry to heaven, if he will have us, and will remember the covenant of our fathers, and destroy this army before our face today:

let’s cry to heaven. Judas Maccabees calls his army to pray.


Verse 11. and all the Gentiles shall know that there is one who redeems and saves Israel.

all the Gentiles shall know. Judas Maccabees speaks with confidence about the future.


Verse 12. And the strangers lifted up their eyes, and saw them coming near them:


Verse 13. and they went out of the camp to battle. And those who were with Judas sounded their trumpets,


Verse 14. and joined battle, and the Gentiles were discomfited, and fled into the plain.


Verse 15. But all the hindmost fell by the sword: and they pursued them to Gazara, and to the plains of Idumaea and Azotus and Jamnia, and there fell of them about three thousand men.


Verse 16. And Judas and his army returned from pursuing after them,


Verse 17. and he said to the people, Be not greedy of the spoils, inasmuch as there is a battle before us;


Verse 18. and Gorgias and his army are near to us in the mountain. But stand you now against our enemies, and fight against them, and afterwards take the spoils with boldness.

stand you now against our enemies. There is a time when God’s people must fight the enemy without mercy.


Verse 19. While Judas was yet making an end of these words, there appeared a part of them looking out from the mountain:


Verse 20. and they saw that their army had been put to flight, and that the Jews were burning the camp; for the smoke that was seen declared what was done.


Verse 21. But when they perceived these things, they were sore afraid; and perceiving also the army of Judas in the plain ready for battle,


Verse 22. they fled all of them into the land of the † Philistines.


Verse 23. And Judas returned to plunder the camp, and they got much gold, and silver, and blue, and sea purple, and great riches.

plunder the camp. They collect the spoils of war.


Verse 24. And they returned home, and sang a song of thanksgiving, and gave praise to heaven; because his mercy is good, because his mercy endures forever.

sang a song of thanksgiving. Even in combat, they are singing the praises of the LORD.


Verse 25. And Israel had a great deliverance that day.


Verse 26. But the strangers, as many as had escaped, came and told Lysias all the things that had happened:




Verse 27. but when he heard thereof, he was confounded and discouraged, because neither had such things as he would been done to Israel, nor had such things as the king commanded him come to pass.


Verse 28. And in the next year he gathered together threescore thousand chosen footmen, and five thousand horse, that he might subdue them.

threescore thousand chosen footmen. That is, sixty thousand. This is a huge army!


Verse 29. And they came into Idumaea, and encamped at Bethsura; and Judas met them with ten thousand men.


Verse 30. And he saw that the army was strong, and he prayed and said, Blessed are you, O Saviour of Israel, who did quell the onset of the mighty man by the hand of your servant David, and did deliver the army of the Philistines into the hands of Jonathan the son of Saul, and of his armor bearer:


Verse 31. shut up this army in the hand of your people Israel, and let them be ashamed for their army and their horsemen:


Verse 32. give them faintness of heart, and cause the boldness of their strength to melt away, and let them quake at their destruction:


Verse 33. cast them down with the sword of those who love you, and let all that know your name praise you with thanksgiving.


Verse 34. And they joined battle; and there fell of the army of Lysias about five thousand men, and they fell down near them.


Verse 35. But when Lysias saw that his array was put to flight, and the boldness that had come upon those who were with Judas, and how they were ready either to live or to die nobly, he removed to Antioch, and gathered together hired soldiers, that he might come again into Judea with even a greater company.




Verse 36. But Judas and his kindred said, Behold, our enemies are discomfited: let’s go up to cleanse the holy place, and to dedicate it afresh.

the holy place. This is also referred to as the sanctuary.


Verse 37. And all the army was gathered together, and they went up to mount Sion.


Verse 38. And they saw the sanctuary laid desolate, and the altar profaned, and the gates burned up, and shrubs growing in the courts as in a forest or as on one of the mountains, and the priests’ chambers pulled down;


Verse 39. and they tore their clothes, and made great lamentation, and put ashes upon their heads,


Verse 40. and fell on their faces to the ground, and blew with the solemn trumpets, and cried toward heaven.


Verse 41. Then Judas appointed certain men to fight against those that were in the citadel, until he should have cleansed the holy place.


Verse 42. And he chose blameless priests, such as had pleasure in the law:

blameless priests. Not all priests were holy.

such as had pleasure in the law. Not all priests were interested in the Bible.


Verse 43. and they cleansed the holy place, and bare out the stones of defilement into an unclean place.


Verse 44. And they took counsel concerning the altar of burnt offerings, which had been profaned, what they should do with it:


Verse 45. and there came into their mind a good counsel, that they should pull it down, lest it should be a reproach to them, because the Gentiles had defiled it: and they pulled down the altar,

the Gentiles had defiled it. The people knew the altar was desecrated. Their memory of this had been on their minds for a while. But now was the time to do something about it. What to do about it wasn’t clear to them. It took time for them to sort it out. They had to figure out what to do.

there came into their mind a good counsel. That is, a “happy thought came to them” (NAB translation).

they pulled down the altar. To tear down what had once been holy was a happy thing. This was not a sad thing, at all. By destroying the past, they could build an even brighter future. But first, they had to destroy the past. Destruction was the path to overcoming defilement. Destruction was the path to happiness and wholeness.


Verse 46. and laid up the stones in the mountain of the house in a convenient place, until there should come a prophet to give an answer concerning them.

until there should come a prophet. They didn’t know where this course of action would take them. They began a sequence of events without knowing the conclusion. They just stepped out by faith. They did what they understood to be right, at that moment. They took the first step in a journey, without a map. By faith, they waited for God to give them further direction when the time was right. They awaited God’s clarification and refinement of the vision.


Verse 47. And they took whole stones according to the law, and built a new altar after the fashion of the former;


Verse 48. and they built the holy place, and the inner parts of the house; and they hallowed the courts.

they built the holy place. They established for themselves a new system of sacrifice and worship. It was patterned on the old system, but it was new. They kept some parts of the old system. But they embarked on a whole new thing. The defiling things need to be excised.

Isaiah 43:19a. Behold, I will do a new thing. It springs out now. Don’t you know it?


Verse 49. And they made the holy vessels new, and they brought the candlestick, and the altar of burnt offerings and of incense, and the table, into the temple.


Verse 50. And they burned incense upon the altar, and they lighted the lamps that were upon the candlestick, and they gave light in the temple.


Verse 51. And they set loaves upon the table, and spread out the veils, and finished all the works which they made.


Verse 52. And they rose up early in the morning, on the five and twentieth day of the ninth month, which is the month Chislev, in the hundred and forty and eighth year,

the five and twentieth day of the ninth month. That is, December 14, 164 BC.


Verse 53. and offered sacrifice according to the law upon the new altar of burned offerings which they had made.

offered sacrifice according to the law upon the new altar. They resumed their life of holiness, but in this new way.


Verse 54. At what time and on what day the Gentiles had profaned it, even on that day was it dedicated afresh, with songs and harps and lutes, and with cymbals.

dedicated afresh. They re-consecrated the temple. It was a time of great joy! This totally revived their faith. It took them to a whole new level, a place they could not have foreseen, a much better place than they had ever known.


Verse 55. And all the people fell upon their faces, and worshiped, and gave praise to heaven, which had given them good success.


Verse 56. And they kept the dedication of the altar eight days, and offered burned offerings with gladness, and sacrificed a sacrifice of deliverance and praise.

they kept the dedication of the altar eight days. They celebrated for eight days. It wasn’t just for an hour on Sunday morning and then back to work. They made merry for eight days!

Leviticus 23:40b. You shall make merry before the LORD, your God (NAB translation)


Verse 57. And they decked the forefront of the temple with crowns of gold and small shields, and dedicated afresh the gates and the priests’ chambers, and made doors for them.


Verse 58. And there was exceedingly great gladness among the people, and the reproach of the Gentiles was turned away.

exceedingly great gladness among the people. They celebrate and make merry!

the reproach of the Gentiles was turned away. This destruction of the past gave them much more spiritual joy. If you feel a lack of spiritual joy, is there anything in your past that you need to destroy?


Verse 59. And Judas and his kindred and the whole congregation of Israel ordained, that the days of the dedication of the altar should be kept in their seasons from year to year by the space of eight days, from the five and twentieth day of the month Chislev, with gladness and joy.

the dedication of the altar should be kept. This is the origin of Hanukkah.


Verse 60. And at that season they built up the mount Sion with high walls and strong towers round about, lest haply the Gentiles should come and tread them down, as they had done aforetime.

they built up the mount Sion with high walls. To protect themselves from future desecration, they strengthen their boundaries. They fortify their safety. They no longer live in denial of real-world dangers.

lest haply the Gentiles should come and tread them down. They had learned their lesson that they couldn’t trust the Gentiles. They see themselves and their heritage as worth standing up for. Now, they will go into battle rather than have their rights violated.


Verse 61. And he set there a force to keep it, and they fortified Bethsura to keep it; that the people might have a stronghold near Idumaea.


« chapter 3   THE FIRST BOOK OF MACCABEES   chapter 5 »

Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.


Author: todd

At Explore the Faith, I share insights into the Bible and theological writings. If you like what I write, become my partner by donating. Help me reach the world for the Lord Jesus Christ.