The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The Second Book of Machabees
Antiochus himself, at this time, had a sorry home-coming from Persia.
He had made his way into the city they call Persepolis, thinking to plunder its temple and of itself have the mastery; but the common folk ran to arms and routed him. So he was a man defeated and disgraced
when he reached Ecbatana, and there news came to him of how Nicanor had fared, and Timotheus.
And now, in a great taking of rage, he would make the Jews suffer for the ignominy of his own defeat; on, on his chariot must be driven, and never a halt in the journey, with the divine vengeance ever at his heels. Had he not boasted, Jerusalem was his goal, and he would bury the Jewish race under the ruins of it?
The Lord, Israel’s God, how should aught escape his scrutiny? The words were barely uttered, when he smote Antiochus with such a hurt, there was neither remedying nor discovering it. A deadly griping it was that took him, with cruel torment of the bowels;
fitting reward for one that had often tortured his fellows, and to the marrow, in unexampled fashion. Even so, he would not leave his wicked purpose;
with pride undiminished, still breathing out fiery threats against the Jewish folk, he pressed forward on his errand, till of a sudden, in full career, down fell he from his chariot, and never a limb but was racked grievously by the fall.
What a living proof was this of God’s power, when he was struck to earth, and must finish his journey by litter, one that boasted, till now, he could rise beyond man’s measure, the sea’s waves govern, and weigh mountains in the balance!
Bred worms at last in that sinful body, and he lived yet, though miserably enough, to see his own flesh rot away, till his own men could not bear the foul stench of him;
it was but yesterday the very stars seemed within his reach, and never a man now would carry so foul a burden.
What marvel, if the swelling pride of him ebbed away, and heaven’s judgements brought him to himself? With every moment his anguish grew,
and the foul breath of his disease was past his own bearing. Alas, said he, to God all must bow; mortals we are, and god ourselves we may not.
Nay, he made suit to the Lord, vile wretch though he were, hoping all in vain to win mercy.
Forgotten, his haste to lay Jerusalem in ruins, and make a cemetery of it; a free city it should be thenceforward.
Grudge the Jewish folk burial, give their carrion to bird and beast, make an end of them, children and all? Nay, such high privileges they should have as the townsfolk of Athens itself.
And for that sacred temple he had stripped bare, with choice gifts he would enrich it, furnishing it as never before, and defraying, from his own purse, all the cost of its sacrifices.
Stay, he would become a Jew himself, would go the rounds of earth, proclaiming everywhere the divine power!
But all to no avail; the vengeance of God, well earned, had overtaken him, and find relief he might not. So now, despairing of that, he wrote to the Jews in very humble fashion, as here follows.✻
To his loyal Jewish subjects Antiochus, their king and general, sends greeting, health, and happiness!
Thrive you and yours, and fare prosperously, I am well content.
For myself, I am in ill case, yet think ever kindly of you. On my way home from Persia, so grievous a distemper has fallen upon me, needs must I should take order for the public safety.
Despair I will not; there is good hope yet of my recovery.
But this thought weighs with me; when he went a-campaigning in the high countries, my father gave out who was to succeed him;
should aught go amiss, and ill tidings come, every governor in his own province must know his duty without fear of confusion.
And here be princes all about, I know it well, waiting upon events and ready to go with the times. Heir to the throne, then, I needs must designate. Again and again, when I set out for the high countries, I entrusted my son Antiochus to the general care. And now this written commission I have sent him …
As you love me, then, bethink you of those benefits you have received, both publicly and in private; keep faith, each and all of you, with me and with my son.
I doubt not he will shew himself his father’s true heir, ever courteous, and kindly, and easy of approach.
So died he, wretchedly enough, the murderer, the blasphemer, out in the hill-country far away from home. Cruel the blow that struck him down, as he had ever been cruel in his dealings.
His body was brought home again; Philip, his foster-brother, came back with it, and then took refuge in Egypt with Ptolemy Philometor, so little he trusted the young prince Antiochus.
The Holy Bible