2 Maccabees 3:1-4:29
1 When the holy city was inhabited in complete peace, because the laws were very well observed on account of the godliness of the high priest Onias and his hatred of wickedness, 2 it happened that the kings themselves honored the place and glorified the temple with very magnificent gifts. 3 Even Seleucus, the king of Asia, provided revenue at his own expense for all the services of the sacrifices.
4 But a certain Simon, from the tribe of Benjamin, who had been made protector of the temple, was at variance with the high priest about the administration of the city market. 5 Thus when he could not prevail over Onias, he went to Apollonius, son of Tarsus, who at that time was governor of Coelesyria and Phoenicia. 6 He reported to him the untold wealth in the temple treasury at Jerusalem, so much that the funds could not be counted. Furthermore they did not belong to the account of the sacrifices, and it was possible they could fall under the authority of the king.
Heliodorus Dispatched to Jerusalem
7 When Apollonius met the king, he informed him about the money that was disclosed to him. So the king chose Heliodorus, who was over his affairs, and sent him with orders to remove the aforesaid money. 8 Thus Heliodorus immediately set out on his journey, seemingly to make an inspection of the cities of Coelesyria and Phoenicia, but actually to carry out the king’s purpose.
9 When he arrived in Jerusalem and was kindly received by the high priest of the city, he told about the disclosure and why he had come, and inquired whether this was truly the case. 10 The high priest informed him of the deposits belonging to widows and orphans, 11 and also some money of Hyrcanus, son of Tobias, a man held in very high regard—the value of which totaled four hundred talents of silver and two hundred of gold. All this was contrary to the report of the ungodly Simon. 12 He also told Heliodorus that it was altogether impossible to wrong those who trusted in the holiness of the place and in the dignity and inviolability of the temple honored throughout all the world. 13 But because of the king’s orders, Heliodorus said the money must by all means be taken to the king’s treasury. 14 So he set a day to go in and direct the inspection of these funds.
There was no little anguish throughout the whole city. 15 The priests prostrated themselves before the altar in their priestly garments and appealed to heaven, to Him who gave the law concerning deposits, to keep them safe for those who deposited them. 16 To see the appearance of the high priest was to be wounded at heart, for his face and the change of his color revealed the anguish in his soul. 17 For alarm and a trembling of body had come upon the man, through which the pain in his heart became evident to those who saw him. 18 People also rushed out of their houses in crowds to make a public supplication, because the place was about to be brought into contempt. 19 Women, girded with sackcloth beneath their breasts, amassed in the streets. Some of the virgins who were kept inside ran together to the gates, some to the walls, and others peeked out the windows. 20 All stretched out their hands to heaven and made entreaty. 21 There was something pitiable in the prostrations of the entire populace and in the anxiety and great anguish of the high priest.
The Lord Stops Heliodorus
22 So they called upon the Almighty Lord to keep safe and secure what had been entrusted for those who had placed them in trust; 23 but Heliodorus continued with what had been decided. 24 So when he arrived at the treasury with his bodyguard, the Lord of spirits and all authority was already present. He caused such a great manifestation that all who dared to accompany him were panic-stricken at God’s power. They turned about and fled in feebleness and terror. 25 For a certain horse appeared to them, having a fearful rider. It was arrayed with a very beautiful pack-saddle, and it rushed furiously at Heliodorus and struck at him with its front hooves. He who sat thereon was seen wearing a full armor of gold. 26 Two other young men also appeared to him, remarkable in bodily strength, very beautiful in grandeur, and illustrious in dress. They stood on each side of him and pummeled him continually, inflicting him with many wounds.
27 Suddenly Heliodorus fell to the ground, and a deep darkness overcame him. His men then picked him up and put him on a stretcher, 28 and carried him away—this man who had just entered the treasury with a great retinue and all his bodyguard, but now was not able to help himself. So they came to know, and it was clearly proven to be the power of Almighty God. 29 He was speechless because of the divine visitation, being thrown on the ground, deprived of all hope of recovery. 30 The people blessed the Lord, who acted marvelously for His own place. The temple, which a little while earlier had been full of fear and trouble, was now filled with joy and gladness, because the Almighty Lord had appeared.
31 Certain friends of Heliodorus quickly entreated Onias the high priest to call upon the Most High to grant life to him who was lying there, about at his last breath. 32 So the high priest, suspecting the king might think some foul play was perpetrated by the Jews regarding Heliodorus, offered sacrifice for his recovery. 33 While the high priest was making the offering of atonement, the same young men again appeared to Heliodorus, dressed in the same apparel. They stood and said, “Be very grateful to Onias the high priest, for on his account the Lord has granted you your life. 34 Now since you were punished by heaven, report to all men the majestic power of God.” Then having said this, they became invisible.
Heliodorus Gives Thanks to God
35 Then Heliodorus offered sacrifice to the Lord and made very great vows to Him who had spared his life. So after he gladly received Onias, he returned with his forces to the king. 36 Then he bore testimony to all men about the deeds of the great God which he had seen with his own eyes. 37 When the king asked Heliodorus what kind of man would be suitable to send on another journey to Jerusalem, he replied, 38 “If you have any enemy or plotter against you, send him there, for you will receive him back thoroughly punished, if he should escape at all. For truly there is some power of God about that place. 39 For He who has His dwelling in heaven watches over that place and aids it, and destroys those who come to do it harm.”
40 So this was how things turned out concerning Heliodorus and the preservation of the treasury.
1 The previously mentioned Simon, who informed about the money and his homeland, spoke evil things against Onias, claiming it was Onias himself who terrified Heliodorus and created the calamity. 2 Simon dared to say that Onias, the man who was the benefactor of the city, the protector of his fellow countrymen, and a zealot for the laws, plotted the whole matter. 3 But when Simon’s hatred progressed to the point that even murders were committed by those he approved, 4 Onias realized the danger of Simon’s love of strife, and that Apollonius, son of Menestheus and governor of Coelesyria and Phoenicia, was even intensifying Simon’s malice. 5 So he went to the king, not to accuse his fellow citizens, but to look out for the common good, both public and private. 6 For he saw that without the king’s attention, matters could not reach a peaceful settlement, and that Simon would not cease from his fury.
Jason Makes the Jews Learn Greek Customs
7 When Seleucus died and Antiochus, also called Epiphanes, succeeded to the kingdom, Jason the brother of Onias obtained the high priesthood by corruption. 8 For through a petition, he promised the king three hundred and sixty talents of silver, and from another source of revenue, eighty talents. 9 In addition to this, he promised to pay one hundred and fifty more if the king gave him permission to establish a gymnasium as a place for training young men, and for enrolling the men of Jerusalem as citizens of Antioch. 10 When the king assented and Jason seized the high priesthood, he at once changed his countrymen over to the Greek way of life. 11 He set aside the royal benefits to the Jews brought about through John, the father of Eupolemus, the ambassador who established friendship and alliance with the Romans. He also renounced and destroyed conformity to the laws, and created a new civic life contrary to the customs. 12 For he eagerly founded a gymnasium under the citadel itself, and persuaded the most noble of the young men to wear the Greek cap.
13 So there was the fullest expression of Hellenization and the adoption of foreign customs because of the surpassing wickedness of Jason, who was ungodly and not a true high priest. 14 Therefore the priests were no longer eager to serve at the altar, but they despised the temple and neglected the sacrifices. Instead, they hastened to take part in the unlawful proceedings in the wrestling-school after the invitation to the discus. 15 They counted the honors of their fathers as nothing, but regarded Greek honors as the best. 16 For this reason, difficult circumstances overtook them, and those whose way of life they admired and wished altogether to assimilate became their enemies and punished them. 17 For to act in an ungodly way against the divine laws is no light thing; but the following events will make this clear.
18 When the quadrennial games were being held at Tyre and the king was present, 19 the vile Jason sent ambassadors, since they were Antiochian citizens from Jerusalem, to carry three hundred silver drachmas for a sacrifice to Hercules. Those who carried the money, however, considered it inappropriate and best not to use the money for sacrifice, but to expend it for another purpose. 20 So this money, intended by the sender for the sacrifice to Hercules, was by the decision of those who carried it applied to the construction of battleships.
21 When Apollonius the son of Menestheus was sent to Egypt to share in the festal proclamation of King Philometor, Antiochus learned that Philometor had become hostile to his government. So he was concerned for his own safety. Therefore, after he reached Joppa, he went on to Jerusalem. 22 He was magnificently received by Jason and the city, being ushered in with torches and shouts. Then he encamped in Phoenicia.
Menelaus Buys the High Priesthood
23 Then after a period of three years, Jason sent Menelaus, son of the previously mentioned Simon, to carry the money to the king and to complete the records of necessary business. 24 But when he was commended to the king, Menelaus honored him with an appearance of authority and obtained the high priesthood for himself, outbidding Jason by three hundred talents of silver. 25 After he received the king’s orders, although in no way worthy of the high priesthood, he returned, carrying the rage and savage cruelty of a tyrant and a wild beast and having the wrath of a barbarian. 26 Thus Jason, after he undermined his own brother, was undermined by another, and was driven as a fugitive into the land of the Ammonites.
27 So Menelaus took hold of the high priesthood, but he did not pay regularly any of the money promised to the king. 28 Thus when Sostratus the commander of the citadel kept demanding payment, since the collection of revenue was his responsibility, the two of them were summoned before the king on this account. 29 Menelaus left his own brother Lysimachus as his court official in the high priesthood, while Sostratus left Crates in charge of his Cyprian troops.
20 But You, O Lord, do not remove Your help from me;
Attend to my aid.
21 Deliver my soul from the sword
And my only-begotten from the hand of the dog;
22 Save me from the lion’s mouth,
My humiliation from the horns of the unicorns.
23 I will declare Your name to my brethren;
In the midst of the church I will sing to You.
24 You who fear the Lord, praise Him.
All you seed of Jacob, glorify Him;
Fear Him, all you seed of Israel.
25 For He has not despised nor scorned the beggar’s supplication,
Nor has He turned away His face from me;
And when I cried out to Him, He heard me.
26 My praise is from You in the great church;
I will pay my vows before those who fear Him.
27 The poor shall eat and be well-filled,
And those who seek Him will praise the Lord;
Their hearts will live unto ages of ages.
28 All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the Lord;
And all families of the Gentiles shall worship before You,
29 For the kingdom is the Lord’s;
And He is the Master of the Gentiles.
30 All the prosperous of the earth ate and worshiped;
All going down into the earth shall bow down before Him,
And my soul lives with Him.
31 And my seed shall serve Him;
The coming generation shall be told of the Lord,
32 And they will declare His righteousness
To a people who will be born, because the Lord made them.
9 Hear me, my son, and receive my words,
And the years of your life shall be increased,
That many ways of life may be yours;
10 For I teach you the ways of wisdom
And set you on upright paths.
11 For if you walk, your steps shall not be confined;
And if you run, you will not grow weary.
12 Lay hold of my instruction; do not let go,
But guard it for yourself as your life.
22 “Brethren and fathers, hear my defense before you now.” 2 And when they heard that he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, they kept all the more silent.
Then he said: 3 “I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers’ law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today. 4 I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women, 5 as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished.
6 “Now it happened, as I journeyed and came near Damascus at about noon, suddenly a great light from heaven shone around me. 7 And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ 8 So I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’
9 “And those who were with me indeed saw the light [a]and were afraid, but they did not hear the voice of Him who spoke to me. 10 So I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Arise and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all things which are appointed for you to do.’ 11 And since I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of those who were with me, I came into Damascus.
12 “Then a certain Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good testimony with all the Jews who dwelt there, 13 came to me; and he stood and said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that same hour I looked up at him. 14 Then he said, ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth. 15 For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’
17 “Now it happened, when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, that I was in a trance 18 and saw Him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, for they will not receive your testimony concerning Me.’ 19 So I said, ‘Lord, they know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believe on You. 20 And when the blood of Your martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by consenting [b]to his death, and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’ 21 Then He said to me, ‘Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.’ ”
22 And they listened to him until this word, and then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!” 23 Then, as they cried out and [c]tore off their clothes and threw dust into the air, 24 the commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks, and said that he should be examined under scourging, so that he might know why they shouted so against him. 25 And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who stood by, “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman, and uncondemned?”
26 When the centurion heard that, he went and told the commander, saying, “Take care what you do, for this man is a Roman.”
27 Then the commander came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman?”
He said, “Yes.”
28 The commander answered, “With a large sum I obtained this citizenship.”
And Paul said, “But I was born a citizen.”
29 Then immediately those who were about to examine him withdrew from him; and the commander was also afraid after he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him.