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Chapter 4


The Simon mentioned above as the informer about the funds against his own country, made false accusation that it was Onias who threatened Heliodorus and instigated the whole miserable affair.


He dared to brand as a plotter against the government the man who was a benefactor of the city, a protector of his compatriots, and a zealous defender of the laws.


When Simon's hostility reached such a point that murders were being committed by one of his henchmen,


Onias saw that the opposition was serious and that Apollonius, son of Menestheus, the governor of Coelesyria and Phoenicia, was abetting Simon's wickedness.


So he had recourse to the king, not as an accuser of his countrymen, but as a man looking to the general and particular good of all the people.


He saw that, unless the king intervened, it would be impossible to have a peaceful government, and that Simon would not desist from his folly.


1 But Seleucus died, and when Antiochus surnamed Epiphanes succeeded him on the throne, Onias' brother Jason obtained the high priesthood by corrupt means:


in an interview, he promised the king three hundred and sixty talents of silver, as well as eighty talents from another source of income.


2 Besides this he agreed to pay a hundred and fifty more, if he were given authority to establish a gymnasium and a youth club for it and to enroll men in Jerusalem as Antiochians.


When Jason received the king's approval and came into office, he immediately initiated his countrymen into the Greek way of life.


3 He set aside the royal concessions granted to the Jews through the mediation of John, father of Eupolemus (that Eupolemus who would later go on an embassy to the Romans to establish a treaty of friendship with them); he abrogated the lawful institutions and introduced customs contrary to the law.


4 He quickly established a gymnasium at the very foot of the acropolis, where he induced the noblest young men to wear the Greek hat.


The craze for Hellenism and foreign customs reached such a pitch, through the outrageous wickedness of the ungodly pseudo-high-priest Jason,


that the priests no longer cared about the service of the altar. Disdaining the temple and neglecting the sacrifices, they hastened, at the signal for the discus-throwing, to take part in the unlawful exercises on the athletic field.


They despised what their ancestors had regarded as honors, while they highly prized what the Greeks esteemed as glory.


Precisely because of this, they found themselves in serious trouble: the very people whose manner of life they emulated, and whom they desired to imitate in everything, became their enemies and oppressors.


It is no light matter to flout the laws of God, as the following period will show.


When the quinquennial games were held at Tyre in the presence of the king,


the vile Jason sent envoys as representatives of the Antiochians of Jerusalem, to bring there three hundred silver drachmas for the sacrifice to Hercules. But the bearers themselves decided that the money should not be spent on a sacrifice, as that was not right, but should be used for some other purpose.


5 So the contribution destined by the sender for the sacrifice to Hercules was in fact applied, by those who brought it, to the construction of triremes.


6 When Apollonius, son of Menestheus, was sent to Egypt for the coronation of King Philometor, Antiochus learned that the king was opposed to his policies; so he took measures for his own security.


After going to Joppa, he proceeded to Jerusalem. There he was received with great pomp by Jason and the people of the city, who escorted him with torchlights and acclamations; following this, he led his army into Phoenicia.


7 Three years later Jason sent Menelaus, brother of the aforementioned Simon, to deliver the money to the king, and to obtain decisions on some important matters.


When he had been introduced to the king, he flattered him with such an air of authority that he secured the high priesthood for himself, outbidding Jason by three hundred talents of silver.


He returned with the royal commission, but with nothing that made him worthy of the high priesthood; he had the temper of a cruel tyrant and the rage of a wild beast.


Then Jason, who had cheated his own brother and now saw himself cheated by another man, was driven out as a fugitive to the country of the Ammonites.


Although Menelaus had obtained the office, he did not make any payments of the money he had promised to the king,


in spite of the demand of Sostratus, the commandant of the citadel, whose duty it was to collect the taxes. For this reason, both were summoned before the king.


Menelaus left his brother Lysimachus as his substitute in the high priesthood, while Sostratus left Crates, commander of the Cypriots, as his substitute.


8 While these things were taking place, the people of Tarsus and Mallus rose in revolt, because their cities had been given as a gift to Antiochis, the king's mistress.


The king, therefore, went off in haste to settle the affair, leaving Andronicus, one of his nobles, as his deputy.


Then Menelaus, thinking this a good opportunity, stole some gold vessels from the temple and presented them to Andronicus; he had already sold some other vessels in Tyre and in the neighboring cities.


When Onias had clear evidence of the facts, he made a public protest, after withdrawing to the inviolable sanctuary at Daphne, near Antioch.


Thereupon Menelaus approached Andronicus privately and asked him to lay hands on Onias. So Andronicus went to Onias, and by treacherously reassuring him through sworn pledges with right hands joined, persuaded him, in spite of his suspicions, to leave the sanctuary. Then, without any regard for justice, he immediately put him to death.


As a result, not only the Jews, but many people of other nations as well, were indignant and angry over the unjust murder of the man.


9 When the king returned from the region of Cilicia, the Jews of the city, together with the Greeks who detested the crime, went to see him about the murder of Onias.


Antiochus was deeply grieved and full of pity; he wept as he recalled the prudence and noble conduct of the deceased.


Inflamed with anger, he immediately stripped Andronicus of his purple robe, tore off his other garments, and had him led through the whole city to the very place where he had committed the outrage against Onias; and there he put the murderer to death. Thus the Lord rendered him the punishment he deserved.


10 Many sacrilegious thefts had been committed by Lysimachus in the city with the connivance of Menelaus. When word was spread that a large number of gold vessels had been stolen, the people assembled in protest against Lysimachus.


As the crowds, now thoroughly enraged, began to riot, Lysimachus launched an unjustified attack against them with about three thousand armed men under the leadership of Auranus, a man as advanced in folly as he was in years.


Reacting against Lysimachus' attack, the people picked up stones or pieces of wood or handfuls of the ashes lying there and threw them in wild confusion at Lysimachus and his men.


As a result, they wounded many of them and even killed a few, while they put all the rest to flight. The sacrilegious thief himself they slew near the treasury.


Charges about this affair were brought against Menelaus.


11 When the king came to Tyre, three men sent by the senate presented to him the justice of their cause.


But Menelaus, seeing himself on the losing side, promised Ptolemy, son of Dorymenes, a substantial sum of money if he would win the king over.


So Ptolemy retired with the king under a colonnade, as if to get some fresh air, and persuaded him to change his mind.


Menelaus, who was the cause of all the trouble, the king acquitted of the charges, while he condemned to death those poor men who would have been declared innocent even if they had pleaded their case before Scythians.


Thus, those who had prosecuted the case for the city, for the people, and for the sacred vessels, quickly suffered unjust punishment.


For this reason, even some Tyrians were indignant over the crime and provided sumptuously for their burial.


But Menelaus, thanks to the covetousness of the men in power, remained in office, where he grew in wickedness and became the chief plotter against his fellow citizens.



1 [7] Seleucus died: he was murdered by Heliodorus. Antiochus Epiphanes was his younger brother. Onias' brother showed his love for the Greek way of life ( 2 Macc 4:10) by changing his Hebrew name Joshua, or Jesus, to the Greek name Jason.

2 [9] Youth club: an educational institution in which young men were trained both in Greek intellectual culture and in physical fitness. Antiochians: honorary citizens of Antioch, a Hellenistic city of the Seleucid Kingdom that had a corporation of such Antiochians, who enjoyed certain political and commerical privileges.

3 [11] Eupolemus: one of the two envoys sent to Rome by Judas Maccabeus ( 1 Macc 8:17).

4 [12] Since the gymnasium, where the youth exercised naked (Greek gymnos), lay in the Tyropoeon Valley to the east of the citadel, it was directly next to the temple on its eastern side. The Greek hat: a wide-brimmed hat, traditional headgear of Hermes, the patron god of athletic contests; it formed part of the distinctive costume of the members of the "youth club."

5 [20] Triremes: war vessels with three banks of oars.

6 [21] Philometor: Ptolemy VI, king of Egypt, c. 172 to c. 145 B.C.

7 [23] Menelaus: Jewish high priest from c. 172 to his execution in 162 B.C. ( 2 Macc 13:3-8).

8 [30] Mallus: a city of Cilicia ( 2 Macc 4:36) in southeastern Asia Minor, about thirty miles east of Tarsus.

9 [36] The city: Antioch. But some understand the Greek to mean "each city."

10 [39] The city: Jerusalem. Menelaus was still in Syria.

11 [44] The senate: the council of Jewish elders at Jerusalem; cf 1 Macc 12:6.

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