Ma'oz Tzur - The Song of Chanukah

Ma'oz Tzur is thought to have been written in the 13th century. The first letters of the first five stanzas form an acrostic of the composer's name, Mordechai (the five Hebrew letters מרדכי). We don't know who that was.

The hymn retells Jewish history in poetic form and celebrates deliverance from four ancient enemies, Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Haman, and Antiochus. Thus, malchut eglah denotes Egypt (Jeremiah 46:2); noges is Nebuchadnezzar; yemini is Mordechai (Esther 2:5); yevanim is Antiochus; shoshanim is the Jewish people (Shir HaShirim 2:2); b’nei vinah are the rabbinic sages; and shir refers to the Hallel psalms.

A second acrostic is found in the first letters of the opening words of the final stanza, the acrostic contains the word chazak (meaning "be strong").

The poem recalls the many times when Jewish communities were saved from the people around them. The second stanza tells of the exodus from Egypt. The third stanza tells of the end of the Babylonian captivity. The fourth retells the miracle of the holiday of Purim. Only the fifth tells of the Hasmonean victory that is commemorated by Hanukkah.

The first and last stanzas are written in the present tense. The first expresses hope for the rebuilding of the Temple and for the defeat of enemies, who are metaphorically referred to as barking (menabe'ach). The final stanza once again calls for divine retribution against the enemies of the Jewish people.

מָעוֹז צוּר יְשׁוּעָתִי, לְךָ נָאֶה לְשַׁבֵּחַ
תִּכּוֹן בֵּית תְּפִלָּתִי, וְשָׁם תּוֹדָה נְזַבֵּחַ.
לְעֵת תָּכִין מַטְבֵּחַ מִצָּר הַמְנַבֵּחַ.
אָז אֶגְמוֹר בְּשִׁיר מִזְמוֹר חֲנֻכַּת הַמִּזְבֵּחַ.
My refuge, my rock of salvation! It is pleasant to sing your praises.
Let our house of prayer be restored, and there we will offer you our thanks.
When You will have slaughtered the noisy foe.
We will celebrate with song and psalm the altar's dedication.
רָעוֹת שָׂבְעָה נַפְשִׁי, בְּיָגוֹן כֹּחִי כָּלָה
חַיַּי מֵרְרוּ בְקֹשִׁי, בְּשִׁעְבּוּד מַלְכוּת עֶגְלָה
וּבְיָדוֹ הַגְּדוֹלָה הוֹצִיא אֶת הַסְּגֻלָּה
חֵיל פַּרְעֹה וְכָל זַרְעוֹ יָרְדוּ כְּאֶבֶן בִּמְצוּלָה
My soul was filled with misery, My strength was spent with grief.
When enslaved under the rule of Egypt, They embittered my life with hardship,
But God, with his mighty power, brought out His treasured people;
While Pharaoh's army and followers sank like a stone into the deep.
דְּבִיר קָדְשׁוֹ הֱבִיאַנִי, וְגַם שָׁם לֹא שָׁקַטְתִּי
וּבָא נוֹגֵשׂ וְהִגְלַנִי, כִּי זָרִים עָבַדְתִּי
וְיֵין רַעַל מָסַכְתִּי, כִּמְעַט שֶׁעָבַרְתִּיe
קֵץ בָּבֶל זְרֻבָּבֶל, לְקֵץ שִׁבְעִים נוֹשַׁעְתִּי
He brought me to His holy abode; Even there, I found no rest.
The oppressor came and exiled me because I served strange gods,
and drank poisonous wine. Yet, scarcely had I gone into exile,
When Babylon fell and Zerubbalbel took charge; Within seventy years I was saved.
כְּרוֹת קוֹמַת בְּרוֹשׁ בִּקֵּשׁ, אֲגָגִי בֶּן הַמְּדָתָא
וְנִהְיָתָה לוֹ לְפַח וּלְמוֹקֵשׁ, וְגַאֲוָתוֹ נִשְׁבָּתָה
רֹאשׁ יְמִינִי נִשֵּׂאתָ, וְאוֹיֵב שְׁמוֹ מָחִיתָ
רֹב בָּנָיו וְקִנְיָנָיו עַל הָעֵץ תָּלִיתָ
The Agagit, son of Hammedatha, plotted to cut down the lofty fir;
but it proved a snare to him, and his insolence was silenced.
You raised the head of the Benjamite, but the enemy's name You blotted out.
His numerous sons and his household You hanged upon the gallows.
כְּרוֹת קוֹמַת בְּרוֹשׁ בִּקֵּשׁ, אֲגָגִי בֶּן הַמְּדָתָא
וְנִהְיָתָה לוֹ לְפַח וּלְמוֹקֵשׁ, וְגַאֲוָתוֹ נִשְׁבָּתָה
רֹאשׁ יְמִינִי נִשֵּׂאתָ, וְאוֹיֵב שְׁמוֹ מָחִיתָ
רֹב בָּנָיו וְקִנְיָנָיו עַל הָעֵץ תָּלִיתָ.
The Greeks gathered against me, in days of the Hamoneans.
They broke down the walls of my towers, and defiled all the oils.

But from the last remaining flask a miracle was wrought for the Jews.
Therefore the sages of the day ordained these eight for songs of praise.

חֲשׂוֹף זְרוֹעַ קָדְשֶׁךָ וְקָרֵב קֵץ הַיְשׁוּעָה
נְקֹם נִקְמַת עֲבָדֶיךָ מֵאֻמָּה הָרְשָׁעָה
כִּי אָרְכָה הַשָּׁעָה וְאֵין קֵץ לִימֵי הָרָעָה
דְּחֵה אַדְמוֹן בְּצֵל צַלְמוֹן הָקֵם לָנוּ רוֹעִים שִׁבְעָה

O bare Your holy arm and hasten the time of salvation.
Wreak vengeance upon the wicked nation, On behalf of your faithful servants.
For deliverance has too long been delayed; And the evil days are endless.
O thrust the enemy into the shadows of death, and set up for us the seven shepherds.

Text and Words of song taken from Wikipedia.