Reading 156/341, 2 Maccabees 3.19-4.50

[A] We see what role money played in politics in those days. Each man promises a certain amount of money in order to be the leader, and then, to get the money he taxes the poor and steals from the temple.

...2 Maccabees...

Women, girded with sackcloth under their breasts, filled the streets, and the virgins who were kept inside ran out, some to the gates, and some to the walls, and others looked out of the windows. And all, holding their hands toward heaven, made supplication. Then it would have made anyone have pity to see the falling down of the varied crowd, and the high priest being in such fear and agony. They then called upon the Almighty Lord to keep the things committed in trust safe and secure for those that had committed them. Nevertheless, Heliodorus did what was decreed. Now as he himself arrived with his guard near the treasury, the Lord of spirits, and the Prince of all power, caused a great apparition, so that all that presumed to come in with him were astonished at the power of God, and fainted, and were very afraid. For there appeared to them a horse with a terrible rider upon it, and adorned with a very fair covering, and he ran fiercely and attacked Heliodorus with his forehooves, and it seemed that he who sat upon the horse wore armor of gold. Moreover, two other young men appeared before him, notable in strength, excellent in beauty, and beautifully clothed, who stood by him on either side, and scourged him continually, and gave him many sore stripes. And Heliodorus fell suddenly to the ground, and was compassed with great darkness, but those who were with him took him up, and put him on a stretcher. Thus he who had just come with a great company and with all his guard into the treasury, they carried out, being unable to help himself with his weapons, and manifestly they acknowledged the power of God. For he by the hand of God was cast down, and lay speechless without any hope of life.

But they praised the Lord who had miraculously honored his own place, for the temple, which a shortly before had been full of fear and trouble, when the Almighty Lord appeared, was filled with joy and gladness. Then quickly some of Heliodorus' friends begged Onias, that he would call upon the most High to grant him his life, who lay ready to give up breathing. So the high priest, concerned that the king should misunderstand that some treachery had been done to Heliodorus by the Jews, offered a sacrifice for the health of the man. Now as the high priest was making an atonement, the same young men in the same clothing appeared and stood beside Heliodorus, saying, “Give Onias the high priest great thanks, insomuch as for his sake the Lord has granted you life, seeing that you have been scourged from heaven, declare unto all men the mighty power of God.” And when they had spoken these words, they appeared no more. So Heliodorus, after he had offered sacrifice unto the Lord, and made great vows to him who had saved his life, and saluted Onias, returned with his host to the king. Then he testified to all men the works of the great God, which he had seen with his eyes. And when the king asked Heliodorus who might be a fit man to send once again to Jerusalem, he said, “If you have any enemy or traitor, send him there, and you shall receive him well scourged, if he escapes with his life, for in that place, let there be no doubt, there is a special power of God. For he that dwells in heaven has his eye on that place, and defends it, and he beats and destroys those who come to hurt it. And the things concerning Heliodorus, and the keeping of the treasury, happened in that way.

This Simon now, of whom we spoke before, having been the informer about the money against his country, slandered Onias, as if he had terrified Heliodorus and been the worker of these evils. Thus he was bold enough to call him a traitor, who had benefited the city, and protected his own nation, and was so zealous of the laws. But when their hatred went so far, that murders were committed by one of Simon's faction, Onias seeing the danger of this contention, and that Apollonius, son of Menestheus, governor of Coelesyria and Phoenicia, increased Simon's malice, went to the king, not to be an accuser of his countrymen, but seeking the good of all, both public and private, for he saw that it was impossible that the state should continue quiet, and Simon leave his folly, unless the king noticed. But after the death of Seleucus, Antiochus, called Epiphanes, took the kingdom. Jason, the brother of Onias, labored underhandedly to be high priest, promising the king in a meeting, 360 talents of silver and from other revenue 80 talents. Beside this, he promised to send 150 more, if he might have permission to set up a gymnasium for the training of youth in the fashions of the heathens, and to enroll the people of Jerusalem as belonging to Antioch. When the king had granted this, and he had received the approval in his own hand, he brought his own nation into the Greek fashion. And the royal privileges granted by special favor to the Jews by means of John the father of Eupolemus, who went to Rome as an ambassador for amity and aid, he took away, and putting down the governments which were according to the law, he brought up new customs against the law, for he gladly built a gymnasium under the tower itself, and brought the chief young men under his subjection, and made them wear a hat. Now such was the height of Greek fashion and increase of heathenish manners, through the exceeding profaneness of Jason, that ungodly wretch, and no high priest, that the priests had no courage to serve at the altar any longer, but, despising the temple, and neglecting the sacrifices, hastened to be partakers of the unlawful activities in the gymnasium, after the signal for the games called them. Not considering what were honors to their fathers, they like the glory of the Greeks best of all. For this reason, serious calamity came upon them, for they had as their enemies and oppressors, those whose custom they followed so earnestly, and to whom they desired to be like in all things, for it is not a light thing to do wickedly against the laws of God, but the following events shall demonstrate this.

Now when the quinquennial games were kept at Tyre, the king being present, this ungracious Jason sent special messengers from Jerusalem, who were Antiochians, to carry three hundred drachmas of silver to the sacrifice of Hercules. The bearers of it decided not to bestow it upon the sacrifice, because it was not right, but saved it for other things. This money then, intended by the sender to be appointed to Hercules' sacrifice, because of the bearers, was used to make ships. Now when Apollonius the son of Menestheus was sent into Egypt for the coronation of king Ptolemy Philometor, Antiochus, understanding him to be opposed to his affairs, provided for his own safety: after he came to Joppa, he went then to Jerusalem, where he was honorably received by Jason, and by the city, and was brought in with torch alight, and with great shouts, and so afterward went with his host to Phoenicia. Three years later Jason sent Menelaus, the aforementioned Simon's brother, to bear money to the king, and to put him in mind of certain necessary matters. But he, being brought to the presence of the king, when he had magnified him for the glorious appearance of his power, got the priesthood for himself, offering 300 more talents of silver than Jason. So he came with the king's mandate, bringing nothing worthy of the high priesthood, but having the fury of a cruel tyrant, and the rage of a savage beast. Then Jason, who had undermined his own brother, being undermined by another, was compelled to flee into the country of the Ammonites. So Menelaus got the office, but as for the money that he had promised to the king, he was not good for it, although Sostratus the ruler of the tower required it, for it was his responsibility to collect taxes. Therefore, they were both called before the king. Now Menelaus left his brother Lysimachus in his stead in the priesthood, and Sostratus left Crates, who was governor of the Cyprians.

While those things were happening, the people of Tarsus and Mallus started a rebellion, because they were given as a gift to the king's concubine, called Antiochis. Then the king came in all haste to appease matters, leaving Andronicus, a man in authority, as his deputy. Now Menelaus, supposing that he had gotten a convenient time, stole certain vessels of gold out of the temple, and gave some of them to Andronicus, and some he sold in Tyre and the cities round about. When Onias knew this for certain, he reproved him, and withdrew himself into a sanctuary at Daphne, that lies near Antioch. Therefore Menelaus, taking Andronicus apart, begged him to get Onias into his hands. He was persuaded to do it, and coming to Onias in deceit, gave him his right hand with oaths, and though he was suspected by him, yet persuaded him to come forth from the sanctuary, and then killed him without regard for justice. Therefore, not only the Jews, but many also of other nations, took great indignation, and were very grieved for the unjust murder of the man. And when the king had come again from the places around Cilicia, the Jews that were in the city, and certain of the Greeks that abhorred the crime also, complained because Onias was slain without cause. Therefore Antiochus was heartily sorry, and moved to pity, and wept, because of the sober and modest behavior of him who was dead. And being kindled with anger, he took away his purple from Andronicus, and tore off his clothes, and led him through the whole city unto that very place, where he had committed the outrage against Onias, and there slew the cursed murderer. Thus the Lord rewarded him his punishment, as he had deserved.

Now when many sacrileges had been committed in the city by Lysimachus with the consent of Menelaus, and the talk of it had spread abroad, the crowds gathered themselves together against Lysimachus, many vessels of gold being already carried away. At the rising of the common people, and being filled with rage, Lysimachus armed about three thousand men, and began first to offer violence, one Auranus being the leader, a man far gone in years, and no less in folly. Then, seeing the attempt of Lysimachus, some of them got stones, some clubs, others taking handfuls of dust, whatever was at hand, and they cast them all together upon Lysimachus, and those that attacked them. Thus many of them they wounded, and some they struck to the ground, and all of them they forced to flee, but as for the temple-robber himself, they killed him beside the treasury. Of these matters there was an accusation laid against Menelaus. Now when the king came to Tyre, three men who were sent from the senate pleaded the cause before him, but Menelaus, having been convicted, promised Ptolemy the son of Dorymenes, a lot of money, if he would pacify the king toward him. Whereupon Ptolemy, taking the king aside into a certain colonnade, as if to get some air, brought him to be of another mind, so much so that he discharged Menelaus from the accusation though he was cause of all the mischief, and those poor men, who, if they had pled their case, even before the Scythians, should have been judged innocent, he condemned to death. Thus those who prosecuted the matter for the city, and for the people, and for the holy vessels, soon suffered unjust punishment. But the people of Tyre, moved with hatred of that wicked deed, caused them to be honorably buried. And so through the covetousness of those who were in power, Menelaus remained in authority, increasing in malice, and being a great traitor to the citizens.

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