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.
61Not long after that, the king sent an elderly Athenian6.1 elderly Athenian; or an elder of Athens, or Athenaios the elder, or Geron an Athenian; some manuscripts have an elderly Antiochean, or an elder of Antioch. to force the Jews to abandon their religion and the customs of their ancestors. 2He was also to defile their Temple by dedicating it to the Olympian god Zeus.6.2 zeus: The supreme god of the Greeks; Mount Olympus was thought to be his home. The temple on Mount Gerizim was to be officially named “Temple of Zeus the God of Hospitality,” as the people who lived there had requested.
3The oppression was harsh and almost intolerable. 4Gentiles filled the Temple with drinking parties and all sorts of immorality. They even had intercourse with prostitutes there. Forbidden objects were brought into the Temple, 5and the altar was covered with detestable sacrifices prohibited by our Law. 6It was impossible to observe the Sabbath, to celebrate any of the traditional festivals, or even so much as to admit to being a Jew. 7Each month when the king's birthday was celebrated, the Jews were compelled by brute force to eat the intestines of sacrificial animals. Then, during the festival in honour of the wine god Dionysus, they were required to wear ivy wreaths on their heads and march in procession. 8On the advice of Ptolemy,6.8 Ptolemy (see 4.45); some manuscripts have the people of Ptolemais. the neighbouring Greek cities were also instructed to require Jews to eat the sacrifices; 9they were told to put to death every Jew who refused to adopt the Greek way of life. It was easy to see that hard times were ahead. 10
For example, two women were arrested for having their babies circumcised. They were paraded round the city with their babies hung from their breasts; then they were thrown down from the city wall. 11
On another occasion, Philip was told that some Jews had gathered in a nearby cave to observe the Sabbath in secret. Philip attacked and burnt them all alive. They had such respect for the Sabbath that they would not fight to defend themselves.
12I beg you not to become discouraged as you read about the terrible things that happened. Consider that this was the Lord's way of punishing his people, not of destroying them. 13In fact, it is a sign of kindness to punish a person immediately for his sins, rather than to wait a long time. 14The Lord does not treat us as he does other nations; he waits patiently until they have become deeply involved in sin before he punishes them, 15but he punishes us before we have sinned too much. 16So the Lord is always merciful to us, his own people. Although he punishes us with disasters, he never abandons us. 17I have made these few observations by way of reminder. We will now get on with the story.
There was an elderly and highly respected teacher of the Law by the name of Eleazar, whose mouth was being forced open to make him eat pork. 19-20But he preferred an honourable death rather than a life of disgrace. So he spat out the meat and went willingly to the place of torture, showing how people should have courage to refuse unclean food, even if it costs them their lives. 21-22Those in charge of the sacrifice had been friends of Eleazar for a long time, and because of this friendship they told him privately to bring meat that was lawful for him to eat. He need only pretend to eat the pork, they said, and in this way he would not be put to death.
23But Eleazar made a decision worthy of his grey hair and advanced age. All his life he had lived in perfect obedience to God's holy laws, so he replied, “Kill me, here and now. 24Such deception is not worthy of a man of my years. Many young people would think that I had denied my faith after I was ninety years old. 25If I pretended to eat this meat, just to live a little while longer, it would bring shame and disgrace on me and lead many young people astray. 26For the present I might be able to escape what you could do to me, but whether I live or die, I cannot escape Almighty God. 27If I die bravely now, it will show that I deserved my long life. 28It will also show a good example of the way young people should be willing and glad to die for our sacred and respected laws.”
As soon as he said these things, he went6.28 went; some manuscripts have was dragged. off to be tortured, 29and the very people who had treated him kindly a few minutes before, now turned against him, because they thought he had spoken like a madman. 30When they had beaten him almost to the point of death, he groaned and said, “The Lord possesses all holy knowledge. He knows I could have escaped these terrible sufferings and death, yet he also knows that I gladly suffer these things, because I fear him.”
31So Eleazar died. But his courageous death was remembered as a glorious example, not only by young people, but by the entire nation as well.