3 Maccabees 6, 7
1 Now there was a certain man, Eleazar, famous among the priests of the land, who reached the prime of his life in old age and adorned his life with every virtue. He directed the elders around him to call on the holy God, and he prayed as follows:
2 “O King, mighty in power, O Most High, the Almighty God, who governs all creation in mercy, 3 look upon the seed of Abraham and the descendants of the saintly man Jacob, because a dedicated portion of Your people, O Father, are being unjustly destroyed as strangers in a foreign land. 4 Pharaoh abounded in chariots and was the master of this Egypt when he arose with unlawful boldness, a boasting tongue, and an arrogant army. But You destroyed him by drowning him in the sea and appeared as a light of mercy to the nation Israel. 5 Sennacherib also boasted in his countless forces, because this oppressive king of the Assyrians had already taken the whole world under his authority by the spear. Then he was lifted up against Your holy city and spoke grievously with pride and insults. But You shattered him, O Master, and made Your power visible to many nations. 6 Then when the three companions in Babylon willingly gave their lives to fire—for they would not bow to vain things—You sent dew upon the fiery furnace and saved them to their last hair. You sent them back unharmed and turned the flames against their adversaries. 7 Daniel was thrown to the lions below ground as food for lions because of jealous slander. But You brought him unharmed back up to daylight. 8 Jonah was decomposing in the belly of the deep-sea monster. But You, O Father, watched over him and returned him unharmed to all his kin. 9 So now, O hater of insolence, O merciful Defender of all, appear speedily to those of the family of Israel, under outrageous abuse by abominable and lawless Gentiles.
10 “Even if our life has become enmeshed in unrighteousness during our captivity, save us from the hand of our adversaries, O Master, and destroy us by whatever death You choose. 11 Only do not allow these vain-minded men to praise their useless things as they destroy those You love, saying, ‘Not even their God could rescue them.’ 12 But You, who have all strength and authority, O Eternal One, look down on us now. Have mercy on us, who are being deprived of life like traitors by the thoughtless insults of lawless men. 13 Let the Gentiles cower at Your unconquerable power this day, O Honorable One who has the power to save the race of Jacob. 14 This entire multitude of babes and their parents beseech You with tears. 15 Let it be revealed to all the Gentiles, O Lord, that You are with us, and that You did not turn Your face from us. For as You said, ‘Not even in the land of their enemies did I neglect them.’ Do this for us, O Lord.”
The Jews Are Delivered
16 When Eleazar finished his prayer, the king arrived at the hippodrome with the beasts and with all the haughtiness of his army. 17 Then the Jews who saw him cried out in a loud voice to heaven, so much so that the valleys nearby echoed and brought unrestrained fear on the whole army. 18 Then the Almighty God, most glorious and full of truth, manifested His holy face and thrust open the doors of heaven, from which two glorious angels descended, terrible in form, and visible to all except the Jews. 19 They attacked the enemy forces, filled them with confusion and fright, and bound them with immovable fetters. 20 The king’s body was seized with a tremor, and he even forgot his contemptible vocabulary. 21 Then the beasts turned against the armed forces who were behind them, and they trampled and killed them.
Ptolemy’s Change of Heart
22 The king’s wrath was turned to compassion and tears because of the plot he devised earlier, 23 for he heard the wailing and saw all the people who fell to destruction. So, weeping with anger, he threatened his friends, shouting, 24 “You act as if you were the king yourselves, and you exceed tyrants in your savagery and attack even me, your benefactor. You scheme to deprive me of my reign and my life itself with secret plots which are unprofitable to the kingdom. 25 Who drove these people from their houses—who faithfully kept our strongholds—and stupidly gathered all of them here? 26 Who so unlawfully entangled in terrible dangers these, who from the beginning differed from all other nations in their goodwill toward us and repeatedly accepted the worst pitfalls known to man? 27 Release them! Undo their unjust bonds. Send them back home in peace and beg forgiveness for what you did to them. 28 Set free the sons of the heavenly and living Almighty God, who has provided uninterrupted tranquility for our affairs from the time of our fathers until now.” 29 Thus he said these things. So the Jews, who were released immediately, kept praising their holy God and Savior, for they had at last escaped death.
30 Then the king returned to the city and summoned the man in charge of the treasury. He commanded that he provide wine and everything else necessary so the Jews could feast for seven days. For the king thought it fitting that they celebrate their deliverance and rejoice in the very place they expected to meet their doom. 31 Then those who had been treated disgracefully and were close to death, or rather stood at death’s door, were given a special invitation. They organized a feast of deliverance from the bitter and mournful fate of death. Filled with joy, their celebration took the place of desolation and grave clothes. 32 They ceased their chanting of lamentations and took up an ode of their fathers, praising their wonderworking God and Savior. They halted all wailing and lamenting and formed choirs as a symbol of joy and peace. 33 Similarly, the king called a great feast to celebrate these things, and ceaselessly and magnificently gave thanks to heaven for his unplanned experience of personal salvation. 34 Those who believed previously that the Jews were going to be made food for the birds unto destruction, and thus registered them with glee, sighed as they were covered with shame, for their fire-breathing aggression was shamefully extinguished.
35 But the Jews, as we said before, formed the aforementioned choir and spent their time feasting with psalms of a joyful thanksgiving. 36 They established a public ritual to commemorate these things within their entire community for the generations to come. They structured this observance as a festival, not for drunkenness and gluttony, but because of the salvation which they received from God. 37 They then requested that the king dismiss them to return back home.
38 Now their registration took place from the twenty-fifth of Pachon until the fourth of Epiphi, that is, forty days. They faced destruction from the fifth of Epiphi until the seventh, that is, three days. 39 During this time the Lord over all things manifested His mercy with great glory and saved them all, together and unharmed. 40 Thus they feasted with everything provided by the king until the fourteenth day, when they also petitioned to be sent away. 41 The king immediately granted their request and wrote for them the letter, copied below, to the commanders in each city, magnanimously stating his concern for them:
A Letter of Support from the King
1 “King Ptolemy Philopator, to the commanders in Egypt and to all those in authority in our government, greetings and health. 2 We ourselves are well, as are our children, with the great God guiding our affairs as we desire. 3 Some of our friends through malignity kept urging us and finally persuaded us to gather the Jews in our kingdom to have them punished in a body with unusual punishments, as if they were rebels. 4 They argued that until this was accomplished, our government would never be stable because of their ill-will toward all nations. 5 They led them out cruelly in fetters as slaves, or rather as traitors, and without making any inquiry or investigation, they attempted to attack them, girding themselves with fierceness more savage than that of the Scythians. 6 But because of the fairness we have toward all men, we threatened them severely for these things. Yet we barely spared their lives, because we recognized that the heavenly God surely protects the Jews, as a father protects his sons and fights on their behalf. 7 We considered the steadfast goodwill they had toward us and toward our brothers, and justly acquitted them from every manner of charge. 8 Then we ordered our people to go about their business, each in his own place, with no one harming them or reproaching them undeservedly about what happened. 9 For you know that if we plot any evil against them or trouble them at all, we will have not man but God the Most High, the Master of all power, unfavorable to us in vengeance for these things and inescapable in everything forever. Farewell.”
The Traitors Are Punished
10 When they received this letter, the Jews did not hasten to depart immediately, but rather petitioned the king that those of the race of Jews who transgressed the law of the Holy God should receive the punishment they deserved. 11 They proclaimed that those who transgressed the divine commands on account of their appetites would never again be favorable toward the king’s government. 12 So he accepted the truth of what they said and deferred to them, giving them permission in all things to destroy those who had transgressed the law of God throughout his kingdom with boldness and without any royal authority or supervision. 13 Then their priests and the whole multitude extolled the king and, as was appropriate, responded with an alleluia, and departed in joy. 14 As they went their way, they punished and killed anyone of their race they encountered who had defiled himself, putting him to public shame. 15 So on that day they killed more than three hundred men, and they held a joyous festival because they had overtaken those who were defiled. 16 Then those who had held firmly to God to the point of death received the pleasure of their deliverance. They left the city wreathed in all sorts of sweet-smelling flowers, with joyful shouts of thanks in praises and melodious hymns to the God of their fathers, the everlasting Savior of Israel.
17 But when they reached Ptolemais, called the Rose-bearing City because of the special character of the place, the fleet had waited there for seven days according to the plan they determined. 18 They held a feast of deliverance there for the king, who liberally supplied them with everything they needed for their journey home. 19 When they reached land in peace with proper giving of thanks, they also decided to again set apart these days for joyful festivity during their stay. 20 They marked these days on a column inscribed and set in the banquet site, consecrating it as a place of prayer. Then they went away safely through land, sea, and river, each to his own home, free and overjoyed by the command of the king. 21 They had more honor than before among their adversaries, were held in esteem and awe, and none of them lost any of their belongings. 22 Instead, they reclaimed all of their own things which had been registered. If anyone held something of theirs, they returned it with the greatest fear, since the Almighty God had done perfectly magnificent works to gain their deliverance.
23 Blessed is the Savior of Israel unto ages of ages! Amen.
15 But as for me, I hope in You, O Lord;
I said, “You are my God.”
16 My times are in Your hands;
Deliver me from the hand of my enemies,
And from those who persecute me.
17 Make Your face shine upon Your servant;
Save me in Your mercy.
18 O Lord, do not let me be ashamed, because I call upon You;
Let the ungodly be ashamed,
And lead them down into Hades.
19 Let deceitful lips become speechless
When they speak lawlessness against the righteous
With arrogance and contempt.
20 How great, O Lord, is the abundance of Your goodness
You hide for those who fear You,
Which You will work for those who hope in You
In the sight of the sons of men.
21 You shall hide them in the secret of Your presence from the disturbance of men;
You will shelter them in Your tabernacle from the contradiction of tongues.
22 Blessed is the Lord,
For He magnified His mercy in a fortified city.
23 But I said in my ecstasy,
“Indeed, I am cast away from the countenance of Your eyes.”
Therefore You heard the voice of my supplication
When I cried to You.
24 Love the Lord, all you His saints,
For the Lord seeks out truth,
And He repays those who act with great arrogance.
25 Be courageous, and let your heart be strengthened,
All who hope in the Lord.
13 How long, O sluggard, will you be idle,
And when will you arise from sleep?
14 You sleep a little; you sit down a little; you doze a short while;
And you fold your hands on your chest a little;
15 Then poverty comes to you as an evil traveler
And neediness as a swift runner.
16 But if you are diligent, your harvest shall come to you as a fountain,
And neediness as an evil runner shall desert you.
2 Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. 2 But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. 3 And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? 5 But in accordance with your hardness and your [a]impenitent heart you are [b]treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: 7 eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; 8 but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, 9 tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the [c]Greek; 10 but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 11 For there is no partiality with God.
12 For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law 13 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; 14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) 16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.
17 [d]Indeed you are called a Jew, and rest[e] on the law, and make your boast in God, 18 and know His will, and approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the law, 19 and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law. 21 You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? 22 You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? 24 For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” as it is written.25 For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26 Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? 27 And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your [f]written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law? 28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose [g]praise is not from men but from God.