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3 Maccabees 5

5Then he called Hermon who was in charge of the elephants, and filled with bitter anger and wrath, and altogether inflexible, ordered him for the next day to drug all the elephants—in number five hundred—with copious handfuls of frankincense, and abundance of unmixed wine, and then when they were maddened by the plentiful supply of drink to bring them in to compass the fate of the Jews. And giving this order he turned to his feasting, having gathered together those of his friends and army who were most hostile to the Jews, while [Hermon] the ruler of the elephants attended to the injunction with all care. And the servants who were in charge of the Jews went out in the evening and bound the hands of the hapless wretches, taking all other precautions to keep them safe through the night, imagining that the nation would at one blow meet its final destruction. But the Jews who seemed to the heathen to be destitute of all protection, on account of the constraint and bonds which encompassed them on every side, with crying that would not be silenced, all called with tears on the almighty Lord and ruler of all power, their merciful God and father, beseeching him to frustrate the wicked design against them and to deliver them by a glorious manifestation from the fate yawning ready before them. So their prayer ascended fervently to heaven; but Hermon, 10 having given the pitiless elephants drink till they were filled with the plenteous supply of wine and sated with frankincense, came early in the morning to the palace to report to the king about this. 11 But the good creature, bestowed night and day from the beginning of time by him who gives the portion of sleep to all, 12 even to whomsoever he will, this he sent upon the king; and he was overborne by a sweet and heavy slumber by the operation of the Lord, thus being greatly foiled in his lawless purpose, and utterly disappointed in his unchangeable design. 13 But the Jews having escaped the appointed hour praised their holy God, and again besought him who is ready to forgive to manifest the might of his all-powerful hand before the proud eyes of the heathen. 14 But when the middle of the tenth hour had nearly come he who was in charge of the invitations, seeing the guests assembled, went to the king and shook him. 15 And having woken him up with difficulty, he pointed out that the hour for the banquet was already passing, reminding him of the circumstances. 16 And the king considering these, betook himself to his cups and ordered those who had come for the banquet to take their places over against him. 17 And when this had been done he called on them to give themselves up to revelry, and counting themselves highly honoured to reckon as a joy the feast, late as it was. 18 And when the entertainment had gone on for some time, the king called Hermon and asked with fierce threats why the Jews had been allowed to survive that day. 19 But when he pointed out that he had completely carried out the order overnight, 20 and his friends confirmed him, the king with a rage more fierce than Phalaris, said that the Jews might thank his sleep for the respite of the day; but, he added, make ready the elephants in the same manner without further delay for the following day to destroy utterly the accursed Jews. 21 When the king had spoken, all who were present readily assented with joy with one accord, and each one departed to his own house. 22 But they did not spend the night season in sleep, so much as in devising all manner of cruel insults for those whom they thought to be in such wretched plight.

23 So as soon as the cock had crowed in the morning, Hermon harnessed the beasts and began to put them in motion in the great colonnade. 24 And the multitudes in the city assembled for the piteous spectacle, eagerly looking for the break of day. 25 But the Jews drawing their last breath for but a brief moment more, with tearful supplications and strains of woe, raising their hands to heaven, besought the most high God again to help them speedily. 26 The rays of the sun were not yet scattered abroad, and the king was receiving his friends, when Hermon came to his side and invited him to go forth, explaining that the desire of the king was ready to be fulfilled. 27 When the king understood him, he was astonished at the unusual summons to go forth, having been overwhelmed with complete ignorance, 28 and asked what was the matter on account of which this had been so zealously completed. But this was the operation of God the ruler of all, who had put in his mind forgetfulness of his former devices. 29 But Hermon and all his friends pointed to the beasts and the army; It is prepared, O king, according to thine eager purpose. 30 But he was filled with fierce anger at the words, because by the providence of God he had entirely lost his wits on this matter, and looking on him said threateningly, 31 If thy parents or offspring were here, I would have furnished them as this rich banquet for the fierce beasts in place of the Jews against whom I have no charge and who have shown in a pre eminent degree a full and unshaken loyalty to my ancestors. 32 And indeed, if it were not for the affection kindled by our life together and thy service, thou shouldst have died instead of these. 33 So Hermon met with an unexpected and dangerous threat, and his eyes and countenance fell. 34 And the king’s friends, slinking away sullenly one by one, sent away the assembled crowds, each to his own business. 35 And the Jews hearing the words of the king, praised the Lord God who had manifested his glory, the king of kings, having obtained this help also from him.

36 But the king, having arranged the banquet once more in the same way, ordered them to turn to their pleasures. 37 And calling Hermon he said threateningly, How often, thou wretched creature, must I give thee orders about these very things? 38 Even now make ready the elephants for the morrow to destroy the Jews. 39 But his kinsmen who sat at table with him wondered at his shifting purpose, 40 and remonstrated, How long, O King, dost thou make trial of us as though we were fools, now for the third time giving orders for their destruction, and once more when the matter is in hand changing and cancelling thy decree? 41 Wherefore the city is in a tumult through its expectation, and being crowded with throngs of people has now been several times in danger of being put to plunder. 42 On this the king, a Phalaris in all things, was filled with madness, and, reckoning nothing of the changes of mind which had been wrought in him for the protection of the Jews, swore strongly a fruitless oath that he would without delay send to the grave the Jews mangled by the knees and feet of the beasts, 43 and would march against Judaea and quickly level it to the ground with fire and sword, and burning to the earth their temple which we might not enter would quickly make it empty for all time of those who sacrificed therein. 44 Then his friends and kinsmen went away joyfully with good confidence, and ordered the army to the most convenient places of the city to keep guard. 45 And the ruler of the elephants, having driven the beasts into a state almost, one might say, of madness by fragrant draughts of wine mingled with frankincense, and having fitted them in a fearful guise with implements, 46 at dawn, the city being now filled with countless multitudes thronging towards the hippodrome, entered the palace and urged on the king to the business that lay before him. 47 And he, his impious heart filled with fierce anger, started forth with all his force with the beasts, determined with an unfeeling heart and his own eyes to gaze on the grievous and piteous destruction of the afore-mentioned Jews. 48 And when they saw the dust raised by the elephants going out at the gate, and the armed force accompanying them, and the movement of the crowd, 49 and heard the far-sounding tumult, thinking that the last crisis of their life had come and the end of their miserable suspense, they betook themselves to lamentation and groans, and kissed one another, embracing their relatives and falling on their necks, parents and children, mothers and daughters; and others with new-born babes at their breast drawing their last milk. 50 But none the less, reflecting on their former deliverances sent from heaven, with one accord they threw them-selves on their faces, 51 and took the babes from their breasts, and cried out with an exceeding loud voice, beseeching the ruler of all power by a manifestation to show pity upon them now that they were come to the gates of death.

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