AA. Nicanor - Philip Z

The name “Nicanor” appears several times in I and II Maccabees.  It is difficult to determine whether there are two or three separate individuals bearing this name.

1.) The governor of Cyprus (II Mac. 12:2).  Because this Nicanor was of relatively low rank, he is not to be confused with the other references to Nicanor.

2.) A different Nicanor attacked the Jews during the Maccabean Revolt (168 - 165 BCE; or 167 -164 BCE). He is important because he was a significant enemy of the Hasmonean family who took control of Judah during the Judaean Maccabean Revolt. The Maccabean Revolt was a response to the oppression of Antiochus Epiphanes IV against the Jews.

Nicanor was first involved in an attack against Judah in 165 BCE in the Battle of Emmaus. He came to battle along with Ptolemey and Gorgias. But they lost against the Maccabees.

Later, according to 1 and 2 Maccabees, Demetrius I (who came to power in 162 BCE) appointed the soldier Nicanor as governor of Judea and commissioned him to destroy Judas Maccabeus and his forces and then to set up Alcimus as high priest, but Nicanor was defeated and killed in the battle of Adasa in about 160 BCE.  

Nicanor was the son of Patrocles and close friend of Demetrius I. Even before Demetrius I gained power, Nicanor had a high position under Antiochus IV. Some distinguish the soldier Nicanor from the Nicanor mentioned in other passages, but there is no great problem in understanding all references to Nicanor (except the one in II Macc 12:2 mentioned above) to him. Consequently, it seems reasonable to assume...that there was only one distinguished person named Nicanor fighting Judas Maccabeus, not two. This whole event is treated in detail and with much embellishment in 2 Maccabees 15. 

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