Day 210 – July 29, 2022

3 Maccabees 3, 4; Psalm 29; Proverbs 6:1–6; Acts 28

3 Maccabees 3, 4

1 When the ungodly king heard this, he reached such a point of rage that he was angry not only at the Jews of Alexandria, but even more so against those in the countryside. So he commanded that they all be brought together in one place and put to death by the worst possible means. 2 While these things were being organized, an antagonistic rumor was circulated against the Jewish nation by men who conspired to harm them. This was on the pretext the Jews hindered others from the observance of their customs.
3 The Jews, though, maintained their goodwill and unswerving faith toward the throne. 4 But because they worshiped God and lived by His precepts, they kept themselves separate from others with regard to food, and therefore appeared hateful to some. 5 But they adorned their way of life with the good deeds of righteous people, and thus established themselves as honorable to all men. 6 Yet those of other nations took no account of the good works the Jews offered the nation, which was the common talk of all men. 7 Instead they droned on about the differences in worship and foods, saying the Jews were not committed to the king or the authorities, but were hostile and in great opposition to his leadership. Therefore they attached no ordinary blame to them.
8 Now there were Greeks in the city who had not been harmed in any way by the Jews, yet they observed the growing crowds and unprecedented tumult surrounding these people. But they could not help them because they lived in weakness under tyranny. But they attempted to comfort them and, being grieved, hoped for a change in the situation. 9 For it was incomprehensible to ignore such a large group which had done no wrong. 10 But already certain neighbors and business associates drew them aside, gave them pledges of protection, and offered more serious efforts toward their defense.
Ptolemy’s Decree
11 Then the king, who exalted himself in his current prosperity and did not consider the power of the Almighty God, assumed he could persist continually in the same purpose. So he wrote this letter against them:
12 “King Ptolemy Philopator, to the commanders and soldiers in Egypt and the surrounding region, greetings and health. 13 I myself and my government are well. 14 When our expedition to Asia took place, as you know, and was brought to completion according to expectation by the help of the gods not lightly given, 15 we thought it fit not by force of the spear, but by equity and great benevolence, to foster the peoples inhabiting Coelesyria and Phoenicia and to willingly treat them well. 16 We distributed large revenues to the priests around the cities, and also went to Jerusalem to honor the temple of those guilty people, who never cease from their folly. 17 They accepted our presence in word, yet were insincere in their deeds. For when we were eager to enter their inner shrine and honor it with extraordinary and most beautiful votive offerings, 18 we were carried away by arrogant old men who prevented us from entering. But they were spared the exercise of our strength because of the benevolence we have toward all men. 19 Yet as they kept up their obvious hostility toward us, they became unique among the nations, because they lifted their heads against kings and benefactors and did not want to consider any deed as sincere.
20 “But we adapted ourselves to their foolishness and crossed into Egypt with victory. We met all nations with kindness and did what was proper. 21 Yet in this matter we proclaimed forgiveness to all of their kinsmen in Jerusalem. Then because of our confederacy with them and the many things we entrusted to them in sincerity from of old, we dared to make a change and grant them the honor of Alexandrian citizenship. So in this way they would be partakers of the things that are always sacred.
22 “They, however, took it in a different spirit. With their innate malice, they rejected it and turned aside to evil. 23 Not only did they reject the priceless citizenship, but they even showed loathing in word and silence toward the few among them who were sincerely disposed toward us. So quite in keeping with their infamous way of life, they suspected that we would quickly reverse our policy. 24 Therefore we placed great trust in the signs that these men were ill-disposed toward us in every way. Thus we took precautions against the possibility that a sudden disturbance might rise up against us later, for we considered these impious men to be betrayers behind our backs and barbarian enemies. 25 So we have ordered that as soon as this letter arrives, those who live there with their wives and children should be sent to us immediately by force in iron shackles, bound securely on all sides, for a fatal and shameful massacre as is fitting to traitors. 26 When they have been punished, we are certain that our government will be established afterward in tranquility and security.
  27 “But whoever conceals any of the Jews, from old man to infant or even sucklings, will be killed with the cruelest tortures, along with his entire household. 28 Whoever is willing to give information will receive the estate of the one who is punished, as well as two thousand drachmas of royal silver, and will be crowned with freedom. 29 Every place without exception where a Jew is found concealed will become desolate and burned with fire, and will become useless for all time for every mortal creature.”
30 This is the manner in which the letter was written.
Deportation to Alexandria
1 Wherever this decree arrived, a feast at public expense was arranged for the Gentiles with shouting and rejoicing, as the hatred they had harbored against the Jews before now appeared openly. 2 But for the Jews, there was unceasing sorrow and lamentable crying with tears; everywhere their hearts burned, and with groans they bewailed the unexpected destruction that was suddenly inflicted on them. 3 But was there any district or city, or any inhabited place whatsoever, or any streets, that were not filled with their mourning and wailing? 4 For they were being sent off by the commanders of the city in such a bitter and ruthless spirit that even when some of their enemies saw them receive such unusual punishments before their eyes, they considered them a common object of pity, and wept for their miserable expulsion and the uncertainty of their lives. 5 A large group of old men, covered with gray hair, was forced to march swiftly, despite the sluggishness of their old age. With shameless violence they were driven on a harsh journey. 6 Young women who had just stepped into their bridal chamber to enter married life exchanged delight for wailing. With their perfumed hair sprinkled with dust, they openly raised a lamentation instead of wedding hymns, as they were carried away together by the violence of the Gentiles. 7 In shackles and in view of the public, they were dragged along violently to the boat of embarkation. 8 Their husbands, in their vigorous youthful prime and with nooses encircling their necks instead of flowers, passed the remaining days of their wedding feast in lamentations rather than feasting and youthful celebration, as they saw the grave already before their feet. 9 But they were brought on board like wild animals in iron-bound restraints, some fastened by their necks to the benches of the ships, others with their feet secured in unbreakable fetters. 10 In addition they had the thick deck above them; thus, darkness covered their eyes on all sides, and they were treated like betrayers during the entire voyage.
Death Threat
11 When they were brought to the place called Schedia and their voyage was completed according to the king’s decree, he directed that they be confined outside the city in the hippodrome, which had an immense outside perimeter. He also commanded that at the appointed time, they be made a public example for those returning to the city and those going from the city to the country. Thus they could not communicate with the king’s forces, or in any way claim to be within the boundaries of the city. 12 But as this took place, the king heard that their Jewish compatriots from the city often went out secretly to lament the shameful suffering of their brothers. 13 Growing furious, he commanded that these visitors be treated in precisely the same way as the others, so they would not be spared any of their punishment. 14 He further commanded that every tribe be registered by name, not for the toilsome servitude just mentioned, but so they would suffer the prescribed tortures and be put to death in a single day. 15 Their registration took place, then, with bitter haste and zealous diligence. It took forty days from sunrise to sunset, yet still remained incomplete.
16 The king was filled with great and constant joy as he established banquets to extol all his idols, with a mind that wandered far away from the truth. With a profane mouth, he praised mute things that were unable to speak or offer help, and spoke improper things against the Almighty God. 17 But after the aforementioned interval of time, the scribes suggested to him that he would no longer be able to accomplish the registration of the Jews because their number was so large. 18 They said that although there were still many of them in the country, some of whom were gathered in their houses and others elsewhere in the region, it was impossible for all the commanders in Egypt to register them. 19 But the king threatened the scribes more harshly, claiming they were bribed to provide the Jews a mechanism of escape. But he was clearly convinced 20 when they proved what they said, for they showed him that the paper and writing pens they used were depleted. 21 This was the activity of God’s invincible providence helping the Jews from heaven.
Psalm 29

1 For the End; the psalm of an ode at the consecration of the house; by David.

2 I will exalt You, O Lord, for You lifted me up,

And did not let my enemies rejoice over me.

3 O Lord my God, I cry to You, and You will heal me.

4 O Lord, You brought my soul out of Hades;

You saved me from those who go down to the pit.

5 Sing praises to the Lord, you saints of His,

And give thanks at the remembrance of His holiness;

  6 For there is wrath in His anger,

But life in His will;

Weeping will lodge at evening,

But great joy in the morning.

7 As for me, I said in my prosperity,

“I shall not be shaken forever.”

8 O Lord, in Your will, grant beauty and power;

You turned away Your face, and I was troubled.

9 I shall cry to You, O Lord,

And to God I shall make supplication.

10 What profit is there in my blood,

When I go down into decay?

Will the dust confess You?

Or will it declare Your truth?

11 The Lord heard, and had mercy on me;

The Lord became my helper.

12 You turned my lamentation into dancing for me;

You tore up my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,

13 That my glory may sing praise to You,

And not be pierced with sadness;

O Lord my God, I shall give thanks to You forever.

Proverbs 6:1–6

1 My son, if you assume the debt of your friend,

You will deliver your hand to an enemy;

2 For a man’s own lips become a strong snare to him,

And he is conquered by the utterances of his own mouth.

3 My son, do what I command you, and you will save yourself;

For you came into the hands of evil things through your friend;

4 Do not be faint,

But provoke even your friend, for whom you assumed a debt;

5 Do not give sleep to your eyes

Nor slumber to your eyelids

6 That you may be saved, as a gazelle from the snares,

And as a bird from a trap.

Acts 28

28 Now when they had escaped, they then found out that the island was called Malta. And the natives[a] showed us unusual kindness; for they kindled a fire and made us all welcome, because of the rain that was falling and because of the cold. But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand. So when the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped the sea, yet justice does not allow to live.” But he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. However, they were expecting that he would swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had looked for a long time and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.

In that region there was an estate of the [b]leading citizen of the island, whose name was Publius, who received us and entertained us courteously for three days. And it happened that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and dysentery. Paul went in to him and prayed, and he laid his hands on him and healed him. So when this was done, the rest of those on the island who had diseases also came and were healed. 10 They also honored us in many ways; and when we departed, they provided such things as were necessary.

11 After three months we sailed in an Alexandrian ship whose figurehead was the [c]Twin Brothers, which had wintered at the island. 12 And landing at Syracuse, we stayed three days. 13 From there we circled round and reached Rhegium. And after one day the south wind blew; and the next day we came to Puteoli, 14 where we found brethren, and were invited to stay with them seven days. And so we went toward Rome. 15 And from there, when the brethren heard about us, they came to meet us as far as Appii Forum and Three Inns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.

16 Now when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard; but Paul was permitted to dwell by himself with the soldier who guarded him.

17 And it came to pass after three days that Paul called the leaders of the Jews together. So when they had come together, he said to them: “Men and brethren, though I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans, 18 who, when they had examined me, wanted to let me go, because there was no cause for putting me to death. 19 But when the [d]Jews spoke against it, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar, not that I had anything of which to accuse my nation. 20 For this reason therefore I have called for you, to see you and speak with you, because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.”

21 Then they said to him, “We neither received letters from Judea concerning you, nor have any of the brethren who came reported or spoken any evil of you. 22 But we desire to hear from you what you think; for concerning this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere.”

23 So when they had appointed him a day, many came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening. 24 And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved. 25 So when they did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had said one word: “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to [e]our fathers, 26 saying,

‘Go to this people and say:
“Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand;
And seeing you will see, and not perceive;
27 For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them.” ’

28 “Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!” 29 [f]And when he had said these words, the Jews departed and had a great dispute among themselves.

30 Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, 31 preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.

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