31When Onias3.1 onias: This is Onias the Third, son of Simon the Second (see 4.4–6; Sir 50.1–21). was High Priest in Jerusalem, the holy city enjoyed peace and prosperity, and its laws were strictly obeyed, because he was devout and hated evil. 2The kings of Syria and Egypt honoured the Temple and presented it with expensive gifts, 3and King Seleucus,3.3 seleucus: This is Seleucus the Fourth, known as Philopator, son of Antiochus the Third, 187–175 bc. ruler of all Asia, even used to pay the costs of the Temple sacrifices from the revenues he collected.
4But a man by the name of Simon, of the tribe of Bilgah,3.4 Some ancient translations Bilgah (see Neh 12.5, 18); Greek Benjamin. the chief administrative official of the Temple, lost an argument he had with Onias over the regulations governing the city market. 5At this time Apollonius son of Thraseus was the governor of Greater Syria. Simon went to him 6and said that there was so much money in the Temple treasury that it could not be counted, and since the money was not needed for sacrifices, it might as well be placed under the king's control.
7When Apollonius met the king, he told him about the money, and the king ordered Heliodorus, his chief minister, to get it for him. 8Heliodorus set out at once on his mission, but he claimed that he was only making a tour of inspection of the cities of Greater Syria. 9After he had arrived in Jerusalem and had been warmly received by the High Priest, he explained the real reason for his visit and asked if what he had been told was true. 10-11The High Priest then stated that Simon, that devil of a man, had not been telling the truth. There was indeed some money in the Temple treasury, but part of it was set aside for widows and orphans and part of it belonged to Hyrcanus son of Tobias, a very important man. He also pointed out that the total amount was only thirteen tonnes of silver and 6.5 tonnes of gold. 12He added that it was absolutely impossible that anyone should be permitted to take the money of those people who had put their trust in the sanctity and safety of this world-famous Temple.
13But Heliodorus insisted that the money should be taken for the royal treasury, as the king had ordered. 14So he fixed a day and went into the Temple to supervise the counting of the money. This caused an uproar throughout the entire city. 15Priests, wearing the priestly robes, threw themselves face downwards before the altar and begged God to keep the money safe, since he had given the laws designed to protect the money that people deposited in the Temple. 16It was heartbreaking to see the High Priest. His face turned pale, revealing the agony of his soul, 17and his body was trembling with fear, reflecting the pain in his heart. 18People ran from their houses to join together in prayer that the Temple might not be defiled. 19Women, wearing nothing but skirts of sackcloth, crowded the streets. Young girls whose parents had never allowed them to be seen in public ran to the gates or to the walls of the city, or just stared out of their windows. 20But wherever they went, they lifted their hands to God in prayer. 21What a pitiful sight it was to see the High Priest in such great agony and frustration and to see everyone in the city confused and lying face downwards on the ground.
22While everyone was begging the Lord Almighty to protect the money that had been entrusted to his care, 23Heliodorus went on with his plan. 24But at the very moment that he and his bodyguard arrived at the treasury, the Lord of all supernatural powers caused such a vision to appear that everyone who had dared to enter with Heliodorus was panic-stricken and weak with fear at this display of the Lord's power. 25In the vision they saw a horse and a rider. The horse had a richly decorated bridle, and its rider, dressed in gold armour, was frightening. Suddenly the horse rushed at Heliodorus, then reared up and struck at him with its hoofs. 26Heliodorus also saw two unusually strong and handsome young men, wearing very fine clothes. They stood on either side of him and beat him unmercifully. 27He immediately fell to the ground unconscious, and his men put him on a stretcher 28and carried him out. Only a moment earlier this man had entered the treasury with a large group of men, including all his bodyguard, but now he was being carried away helpless. So they all3.28 they all; some manuscripts have he. openly acknowledged the mighty power of God.
29Heliodorus lay there unable to speak and without hope of recovery from this demonstration of God's power. 30But the Jews praised Almighty God because he had miraculously protected his Temple and had brought great happiness where only minutes before there had been fear and confusion. 31Some of Heliodorus' friends quickly asked Onias the High Priest to pray that the Most High would spare the life of this man who was at the point of death. 32So the High Priest offered a sacrifice in the hope that God would save Heliodorus, for he did not want the king to think that the Jews had done this to the man he had sent. 33While Onias was offering the sacrifice, the two young men, wearing the same clothes as before, again appeared to Heliodorus and said, “Be grateful to the High Priest; the Lord has spared your life because of him. 34Remember that it was the Lord of heaven who punished you. Now go and tell everyone of his great power.” When they had said this, they disappeared.
35So Heliodorus offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made many promises, because the Lord had spared his life. Then he said goodbye to Onias and returned with his army to the king. 36There he told everyone what the Lord, the most powerful of all gods, had done.
37When the king asked Heliodorus who would be the best man to send on the next mission to Jerusalem, Heliodorus replied, 38“If you have an enemy or know of someone plotting against your government, send him. He will come back badly beaten, if he comes back at all, for some strange power from God is at work there. 39The God of Heaven watches over the Temple; he strikes down and destroys anyone who comes to harm it.” 40That is the story of how the Temple treasury was protected from Heliodorus.
41But Simon (mentioned earlier as the one who informed Apollonius about the money and brought trouble on the nation) also lied about Onias, claiming that he was responsible for the attack on Heliodorus and for the difficulties that followed. 2He dared to accuse Onias of plotting against the government — Onias who not only had made donations to Jerusalem and had protected the Temple, but who was eager to see that all our laws were obeyed. 3-4Apollonius son of Menestheus, the governor of Greater Syria, encouraged Simon in every evil thing he did, and Simon's opposition finally grew so strong that one of his trusted followers committed several murders. Onias realized how dangerous the situation had become, 5so he went to the king, not for the purpose of making accusations against his own people, but for the common good of all Jews, both in their private and public lives. 6He realized that without the king's cooperation there was no hope for peace, and Simon would keep on with his foolishness.
Later, when King Seleucus died and Antiochus (known as Epiphanes) became king, Jason the brother of Onias became High Priest by corrupt means. 8He went to see4.8 went to see; or wrote to. the king and offered him twelve tonnes of silver with 2.7 more tonnes to be paid later. 9Jason also offered him an additional five tonnes of silver for the authority to establish a stadium where young men could train and to enrol the people of Jerusalem as citizens of Antioch.4.9 the people… Antioch; or the men of Jerusalem as supporters of King Antiochus.
10The king gave his approval, and just as soon as Jason took over the office of High Priest, he made the people of Jerusalem change to the Greek way of life. 11
He began by abolishing the favours that John had secured for the Jews from previous Syrian kings. (John was the father of the Eupolemus who later went to Rome to make an alliance and to establish ties of friendship.) Jason also did away with our Jewish customs and introduced new customs that were contrary to our Law. 12With great enthusiasm he built a stadium near the Temple hill and led our finest young men to adopt the Greek custom of participating in athletic events. 13Because of the unrivalled wickedness of Jason, that ungodly and illegitimate High Priest, the craze for the Greek way of life and for foreign customs reached such a point 14that even the priests lost all interest in their sacred duties. They lost interest in the Temple services and neglected the sacrifices. Just as soon as the signal was given, they would rush off to take part in the games that were forbidden by our Law. 15They did not care about anything their ancestors had valued; they prized only Greek honours. 16And this turned out to be the source of all their troubles, for the very people whose ways they admired and whose customs they tried to imitate became their enemies and oppressed them. 17It is a serious thing to disregard God's law, as you will see from the following events.
18Once when the king was present for the athletic games that were held every five4.18 five; or four. years in the city of Tyre, 19that worthless Jason sent some men there from Jerusalem, who were also enrolled as citizens of Antioch, to take ten tonnes of silver to pay for a sacrifice to the god Hercules. But even these men did not think it was fitting to use such a large sum of money for a sacrifice, and 20so the money originally intended as a sacrifice to Hercules was used for the construction of warships.
21When Apollonius son of Menestheus was sent to Egypt to attend the crowning of Philometor as king, Antiochus learnt that Philometor was opposed to his policies. Antiochus became concerned about the security of his own kingdom, so he went to Joppa and then on to Jerusalem. 22There he was welcomed with great splendour by Jason and the people of the city who went out to greet him, shouting and carrying torches. From Jerusalem Antiochus led his army to Phoenicia.
23Three years later, Jason sent Menelaus (brother of the Simon4.23 simon: See 3.4. mentioned earlier) to take some money to the king and to get his decision on several important matters. 24But when he stood before the king, Menelaus impressed him with his show of authority and offered ten tonnes of silver more than Jason had offered for his appointment to the office of High Priest. 25As a result Menelaus returned to Jerusalem with papers from the king, confirming him as High Priest. But he possessed no other qualifications; he had the temper of a cruel tyrant and could be as fierce as a wild animal. 26So Jason, who had cheated his own brother out of the office of High Priest, was now forced to flee to the land of Ammon. 27Menelaus continued to be High Priest, but he never paid any of the money he had promised the king. 28However, Sostratus, the captain of the fort in Jerusalem, kept demanding the money, since it was his responsibility to collect it. So finally, the two men were summoned to appear before the king concerning the matter. 29Menelaus left his brother Lysimachus as acting High Priest, while Sostratus left the fort under the command of Crates, the commander of the mercenary troops from Cyprus.
30Meanwhile, there was a revolt in the Cilician cities of Tarsus and Mallus, because the king had given those cities to Antiochis, his mistress. 31So the king left Andronicus, one of his high officials, in command, while he hurried off to Cilicia to restore order. 32Menelaus took advantage of this opportunity and presented Andronicus with some of the gold objects he had removed from the Temple in Jerusalem. He had already sold some of them to the city of Tyre and to other nearby cities. 33When Onias heard about this, he fled for safety to a temple at Daphne near the city of Antioch and openly accused Menelaus. 34
Then Menelaus secretly persuaded Andronicus to kill Onias. So Andronicus went to Onias and deceived him with a friendly greeting and with promises of safety. Although Onias was suspicious, Andronicus finally lured him away from the safety of the temple and immediately murdered him in cold blood.
35The Jews and Gentiles were very angry because Onias had been murdered. 36So when the king returned from the territory of Cilicia, the Jews of Antioch went to him and protested against this senseless killing. Many Gentiles felt the same way about the crime. 37King Antiochus was deeply grieved and was so filled with sorrow that he was moved to tears when he recalled the wisdom and self-control that Onias had shown throughout his life. 38Antiochus became so angry that he tore off Andronicus' royal robe, stripped him naked, and marched him round the city to the very spot where Onias had been murdered. Then Antiochus had this bloodthirsty murderer put to death. This was how the Lord gave him the punishment he deserved.
39Meanwhile, with the support of his brother Menelaus, Lysimachus had on numerous occasions robbed the Jerusalem Temple and had taken many of its gold objects. When word of this spread round, crowds began to gather in protest against Lysimachus. 40Finally, the crowds were becoming dangerous and were beginning to get out of control, so Lysimachus sent 3,000 armed men to attack them. They were led by Auranus, a man as stupid as he was old. 41When the Jews in the Temple courtyard realized what was happening, they picked up stones, pieces of wood, or simply handfuls of ashes from the altar and threw them at Lysimachus and his men in the confusion. 42They killed a few of Lysimachus' men, wounded many of them, and all the rest ran for their lives. Lysimachus himself, that temple robber, was killed near the Temple treasury.
43Because of this incident Menelaus was brought to trial. 44When the king came to the city of Tyre, the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem sent three men to bring charges against Menelaus. 45When Menelaus saw that he was losing the case, he offered Ptolemy son of Dorymenes a large bribe to persuade the king to decide in his favour. 46Ptolemy then asked the king to go outside the courtroom with him, as though to get some fresh air, and there he persuaded him to change his mind 47and declare Menelaus innocent of the charges against him. So Menelaus was set free, although he had caused all the trouble; but the three men, whom even the cruel Scythians would have declared innocent, were sentenced to death. 48The three men had spoken in defence of Jerusalem, its people,4.48 its people: some manuscripts also have the surrounding villages. and the sacred utensils stolen from the Temple, but they were quickly and unjustly executed. 49Some of the people of Tyre, however, showed their disgust with this crime and their respect for these men by giving them a splendid funeral. 50Menelaus stayed on in his position because of the greed of those in power. He grew more evil every day and became the worst enemy of his own people.
51About this time Antiochus the Fourth made a second attack against Egypt. 2For nearly forty days people all over Jerusalem saw visions of cavalry troops in gold armour charging across the sky. The riders were armed with spears and their swords were drawn. 3They were lined up in battle against one another, attacking and counter-attacking. Shields were clashing, there was a rain of spears, and arrows flew through the air. All the different kinds of armour and the gold bridles on the horses flashed in the sunlight. 4Everyone in the city prayed that these visions might be a good sign.
5When a false report began to spread that Antiochus had died, Jason took more than a thousand men and suddenly attacked Jerusalem. They drove back those stationed on the city walls and finally captured the city. Menelaus fled for safety to the fort, near the Temple hill, 6while Jason and his men went on slaughtering their fellow-Jews without mercy. Jason did not realize that success against one's own people is the worst kind of failure. He even considered his success a victory over enemies, rather than a defeat of his own people. 7But Jason did not take over the government. Instead he was forced to flee once again to the territory of the Ammonites, and in the end his evil plot brought him nothing but shame and disgrace, 8and he died in misery. Aretas, the ruler of the Arabs, imprisoned him; he was looked upon as a criminal and despised because he had betrayed his own people; everyone was hunting for him, and he had to run from town to town. He fled to Egypt for safety, 9then to Greece, hoping to find refuge among the Spartans, who were related to the Jews. Finally, this man, who had forced so many others to flee from their own country, died as a fugitive in a foreign land. 10Jason had killed many people and left their bodies unburied, but now his own death was unmourned. He was not given a funeral or even buried with his ancestors.
11When the news of what had happened in Jerusalem reached Antiochus, he thought the whole country of Judea was in revolt, and he became as furious as a wild animal. So he left Egypt and took Jerusalem by storm, 12giving his men orders to cut down without mercy everyone they met and to slaughter anyone they found hiding in the houses. 13They murdered everyone — men and women, boys and girls; even babies were butchered. 14Three days later Jerusalem had lost 80,000 people: 40,000 killed in the attack and at least that many taken away to be sold as slaves.
15But Antiochus was still not satisfied. He even dared to enter the holiest Temple in all the world, guided by Menelaus, who had become a traitor both to his religion and to his people. 16With his filthy and unholy hands, Antiochus swept away the sacred utensils and the gifts which other kings had given to increase the glory and honour of the Temple. 17He was so thrilled with his conquest that he did not realize that the Lord had let his holy Temple be defiled because the sin of the people of Jerusalem had made him angry for a while. 18If the people of Jerusalem had not been involved in so many sins, Antiochus would have been punished immediately and prevented from taking such a foolish action. He would have suffered the same fate as Heliodorus, who was sent by King Seleucus to inspect the treasury. 19But the Lord did not choose his people for the sake of his Temple; he established his Temple for the sake of his people. 20So the Temple shared in the people's suffering but also later shared in their prosperity. The Lord abandoned it when he became angry, but restored it when his anger had cooled down.
21Antiochus took 62 tonnes of silver from the Temple and hurried off to Antioch. Such was his arrogance that he felt he could make ships sail across dry land or troops march across the sea. 22He appointed governors to cause trouble for the people. In Jerusalem he placed Philip, a man from Phrygia who was more evil than Antiochus himself. 23At Mount Gerizim he placed Andronicus. In addition to these, there was Menelaus, who ill-treated his fellow-Jews far worse than the governors did. Antiochus hated the Jews so much 24that he sent an army of 22,000 mercenary troops from Mysia to Jerusalem under the command of a man named Apollonius, with orders to kill every man in the city and to sell the women and boys as slaves. 25Apollonius arrived in Jerusalem, pretending to be on a peace mission. Then on a Sabbath, when all the Jews were observing the day of rest, he led his troops, who were fully armed, in a parade outside the city. 26Suddenly he commanded his men to kill everyone who had come out to see them. They rushed into the city and murdered a great many people.
27But Judas Maccabaeus and about nine others escaped into the barren mountains, where they lived like wild animals. In order not to defile themselves, they ate only the plants which they found growing there.