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2 Maccabees 3

3When the holy city was inhabited in unbroken peace, and the laws were kept right strictly, owing to the godliness of Onias the high-priest and his hatred of wickedness, it came to pass that even kings themselves did honour the Place and glorify the temple with the noblest presents; so much so that Seleucus the king of Asia actually defrayed, out of his own revenues, all the expenses connected with the ritual of the sacrifices. But a certain Benjamite, Simon, who had been appointed warden of the temple, fell out with the high-priest over the management of the city-market. Unable to get the better of Onias, he betook himself to Apollonius of Tarsus, then governor of Coelesyria and Phoenicia, and informed him that the treasury in Jerusalem was full of such untold sums of money that the wealth of the funds was past counting; they did not belong, he said, to the accounts of the sacrifices, and they could be got into the hands of the king. So when Apollonius met the king, he informed him of the money which had been mentioned to him, and the king chose his chancellor, Heliodorus, and dispatched him with orders to carry out the removal of the aforesaid money. Heliodorus at once started on his journey, giving out that he intended to visit the cities of Coelesyria and Phoenicia, though his real object was to execute the king’s design. On reaching Jerusalem, where he was courteously welcomed by the high-priest and the city, he submitted the information which had been given him, and explained why he had come, inquiring further if this information was really true. 10 The high-priest pointed out to him that there were deposits belonging to widows and orphans, 11 besides monies belonging to Hyrcanus, the son of Tobias, a man of extremely high position (by no means what that impious Simon had alleged), and that in all there were four hundred talents of silver and two hundred of gold; 12 it was utterly impossible, he added, that injury should be inflicted on those who had put their trust in the sacredness of the Place and in the majesty and inviolable sanctity of the temple, honoured over all the world. 13 Heliodorus had his orders from the king, however, and he replied that in any case these monies must be confiscated for the king’s treasury.

14 So, having appointed a day, he went in to superintend the investigation of the treasure. And there was no small distress throughout the whole city. 15 The priests, arrayed in their priestly robes, flung themselves before the altar, and called to heaven on him who had appointed the law regarding deposits, beseeching him to preserve these treasures safe for the depositors. 16 And no one could look at the mien of the high-priest without feeling a pang of heart. His countenance and changed colour betrayed the anguish of his soul. 17 For terror and a shuddering of the body had come over the man, which plainly showed to the onlookers the grief that was at his heart. 18 As for the people in the houses, they flocked out with a rush to join in common supplication that the Place should not be dishonoured. 19 The married women, girt under their breasts with sackcloth, thronged the streets, while the maidens who were kept in ward ran together, some to the porticoes, others to the walls, and others to look out at the windows; 20 but all, stretching forth their hands toward heaven, made their solemn supplication. 21 One could not but pity the populace all prostrate with one accord, and the anxiety of the high-priest in his sore distress.

22 Meantime, however, as they were invoking the all-powerful Lord to keep the deposits safe and sure for the depositors, 23 Heliodorus proceeded to execute his orders. 24 But when he and his guards had got as far as the front of the treasury, the Sovereign of spirits and of all authority prepared a great apparition, so that all who had presumed to enter were stricken with dismay at the power of God and fainted with sheer terror. 25 For there appeared to them a horse with a terrible rider, and it was decked in magnificent trappings, and rushing fiercely forward it struck at Heliodorus with its forefeet. 26 And the rider seemed to be armed with a golden panoply. Two youths also appeared before Heliodorus, remarkable for their strength, gloriously handsome, and splendidly arrayed, who stood by him on either side, and scourged him unceasingly, inflicting on him many sore stripes. 27 He dropped suddenly to the ground, and thick darkness wrapped him round, but (his guards) caught him up and put him into a litter, 28 and carried him away—carried him who had just entered the aforesaid treasury with a large retinue and all his guard, but who was now absolutely helpless—recognizing clearly the sovereign might of God. 29 And so he had been laid prostrate, deprived of speech owing to God’s strong hand, bereft of all hope and succour. 30 But the Jews blessed the Lord who had done marvellous honour to his own place; and the temple, which a little before had been full of terror and alarm, was filled with joy and gladness, thanks to the manifestation of the all-powerful Lord.

31 Now some of Heliodorus’ intimate friends at once besought Onias to call upon the Most High, and so grant life to him, as he lay quite at the last gasp. 32 The high-priest suspected that the king might imagine the Jews had perpetrated some foul play against Heliodorus, and he offered a sacrifice for the recovery of the man. 33 But as the high-priest was offering the sacrifice of propitiation, the same young men appeared again to Heliodorus, arrayed in the same robes; and they stood and said, Give Onias the high-priest hearty thanks, since it is for his sake that the Lord has granted thee thy life; and do thou, 34 since thou hast been scourged from heaven, publish abroad to all men the sovereign majesty of God. 35 And when they had spoken these words, they vanished out of sight. So Heliodorus offered sacrifice to the Lord and vowed very great vows to him who had preserved his life, and, after taking a friendly farewell of Onias, 36 he returned with his army to the king, testifying to all men the deeds of the supreme God which he had witnessed with his own eyes. 37 And when the king asked Heliodorus what sort of person would be suitable for another mission to Jerusalem, he said, If thou hast any enemy or conspirator against the state, 38 send him thither, and thou shalt get him back well scourged—supposing he escapes with his life; for the Place is really haunted by some power of God. 39 He who dwells in heaven above has his eye upon that Place and defends it, smiting and destroying those who approach it for ill ends.

3:40–4:22. Intrigues of Simon and Jason over the high-priesthood.

40 Such was the history of Heliodorus and the preservation of the treasury.

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