The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The Second Book of Machabees
And now, what must Simon do, the same that had drawn men’s eyes to his country with stories of treasure, but fall to slandering Onias? Onias it was, by his way of it, had egged Heliodorus on,✻ and been the author of the mischief.
So true a patriot, that well loved his race, well guarded the divine law, and he must be branded with the name of traitor!
The feud grew worse, till at last there were murders done, and Simon’s faction answerable for it.
Here was the public peace much endangered; here was Apollonius, the governor of Coelesyria and Phoenice, adding fuel to the flame of Simon’s malice;✻ what marvel if Onias had recourse to the king?
Little enough it liked him to bring an ill name on his fellow-citizens; yet common good of the Jewish folk he must needs have in mind;
how should quiet times return, or Simon’s madness be cooled, unless the king took order in the matter?
But king Seleucus was done with life now, and the throne passed to Antiochus, called the Illustrious. And here was a brother Onias had, called Jason, that coveted the office of high priest.
This Jason went to the new king, and made him an offer of three hundred and sixty talents of silver out of its revenue, besides eighty from other incomings.
Let leave be granted him to set up a game-place for the training of youth, and enrol the men of Jerusalem as citizens of Antioch, he would give his bond for a hundred and fifty more.
To this the king assented; high priest he became, and straightway set about perverting his fellow-countrymen to the Gentile way of living.
Till now, the Jews had followed their own customs, by grace of a royal privilege; it was John that won it for them, father of that Eupolemus, who afterwards went in embassage to Rome, to make a treaty of alliance. But Jason would abrogate these customs; common right should be none, and great wrong should find acceptance instead.
This game-place of his he did not scruple to set up in the very shadow of the Citadel, and debauch✻ all that was noblest of Judaea’s youth.
Mischief in the bud, think you, when such alien Gentile ways came in? Nay, here was flower and fruit of it; and all through the unexampled villainy of one man, this Jason, that high priest was none, but rather an arch-traitor.
Why, the priests themselves had no more stomach for serving the altar; temple scorned, and sacrifice unheeded, off they went to the wrestling-ground, there to enter their names and win unhallowed prizes, soon as ever the first quoit was thrown!
What glory their fathers had handed down to them! And fame such as the Greeks covet was all their ambition now.
Alas, here was a perilous contest awaiting them; Greek fashions they would follow, and Greeks would be, that ere long should have Greeks for their enemies, ay, and conquerors.
There is no breaking God’s laws without paying the price; time will show that.
When the quinquennial games were being held at Tyre, in the king’s presence,
this vile Jason it was sent some of his wretches✻ with a gift of three hundred silver pieces to do honour to Hercules. True it is, the bearers of them asked they should not be spent on sacrifice, but on some other need that was more befitting;
yet Jason’s meaning was, Hercules should have them, and if they went to the building of the fleet, it was thanks to Jason’s envoys.
Afterwards, Apollonius the son of Menestheus was despatched to Egypt, for the enthroning of king Ptolemy Philometor. Well Antiochus knew that he was disaffected towards the royal policy, and there was his own safety to be considered … He passed on to Joppe, and so to Jerusalem,✻
where Jason and the whole city welcomed him in state, with carrying of torches and great huzza’ing. And so he led his army back to Phoenice.
Three years later, Jason would send to the king certain moneys, together with a report on affairs of moment; and for this errand he chose Menelaus, brother to that Simon we have before mentioned.
Access thus gained to the king’s person, Menelaus was careful to flatter his self-conceit; then, outbidding Jason by three hundred talents of silver, diverted the high-priestly succession to himself.
Back he came to Jerusalem, with the royal warrant to maintain him, yet all unworthy, with a tyrant’s cruel heart, more wild beast than high priest.
Thus was Jason supplanted, that had supplanted his own brother, and was driven to take refuge in the Ammonite country;
as for Menelaus, he got the office he coveted, but never a penny paid the king of all he had promised, however urgent Sostratus might be, that was in command of the citadel.
For all exaction of tribute this fellow was answerable; and so it fell out that both of them were summoned to court,
Menelaus leaving his high priesthood to his own brother, Lysimachus, and for Sostratus … he became governor of Cyprus.✻
It befell at this very time that the men of Tharsus and Mallus made an insurrection; so little it liked them that a gift should be made of their cities to Antiochis, the king’s paramour.
Post-haste the king went off to appease them, leaving one of his courtiers, Andronicus, to be viceroy.
Here was Menelaus’ opportunity; he had gold ornaments with him, that he had stolen out of the temple, and now, giving some of these as a present to Andronicus, he sold the rest at Tyre and other cities in the neighbourhood.
Of these doings, one man had clear proof, and thereupon denounced him: Onias, that had now taken refuge in Daphne sanctuary, close by Antioch.
What did Menelaus? He gained the ear of Andronicus and demanded that Onias should pay for it with his life. So the viceroy himself paid Onias a visit, swore friendship and overcame his suspicions; then, when he had left sanctuary, without scruple of conscience put him to death.
Here was great matter of indignation, and not among the Jews only; the very heathen took it amiss, so great a man should meet so unworthy an end.
No sooner was the king back from Cilicia than the citizens of Antioch, Jew and Gentile both, assailed him with complaints about the murder of an innocent man;
whereat Antiochus himself was heartily grieved, ay, and moved to tears of pity, such memories he had of Onias’ well-ordered, honourable life.
Anon he fell into a rage, stripped Andronicus of his purple, and would have him led away all through the streets, till he reached the very spot where he had lifted his impious hand against Onias. There the sacrilegious wretch perished, by the divine vengeance worthily requited.
Meanwhile, word had gone abroad at Jerusalem, how Lysimachus was ever robbing the temple, by Menelaus’ contrivance. Great store of gold was lost already; but now there was a rising of the common folk against Lysimachus,
whose numbers and their rage increasing, he was fain to put some three thousand men under arms, with one Tyrannus at their head, that was far gone in years, and no less in folly. Lysimachus it was that first resorted to violence;
but the rabble, when they saw what he would be at, caught up stones or stout clubs for the attack, and some of them pelted him with cinders.
When they had wounded some of his retinue, and felled others to earth, the rest took to their heels; and there, close beside the treasury, this robber of the temple was done to death.
And next, they must implead Menelaus himself on the same charge.
Three envoys from the council of elders brought the whole matter before the king, when he visited Tyre,
and Menelaus was as good as lost. What did he? With the promise of a great bribe he secured the good word of Ptolemy, son of Dorymenes;✻
Ptolemy it was waylaid the king, as he rested from the heat in a covered walk of his, and put him from his purpose.
So now Menelaus, that was at the root of all the mischief, must go scot free, and his unhappy accusers, that might have cleared themselves easily enough before a court of bloodthirsty Scythians,✻ with their lives must pay for it.
Here were men come to plead for their own city, their own people, their own temple treasures, and must they be hurried off to undeserved punishment?
Even the Tyrians thought shame of it, and in princely fashion gave them burial.
So, through the avarice of the great, throve Menelaus still, and his wickedness went from bad to worse, to his countrymen’s undoing.
The Holy Bible