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3 Maccabees 6

6But a certain Eleazar, a man of note among the priests of the country, whose years had already reached old age, and who was adorned with every virtue of life, made the elders who were round him cease from calling on the holy God, and prayed thus: King of great power, most high, almighty God, who governest all creation with loving-kindness, look upon the seed of Abraham, the children of Jacob thy sanctified one, the people of thy sanctified inheritance, who are unjustly perishing, strangers in a strange land. O Father, thou didst destroy Pharaoh, the former ruler of this Egypt, with his multitude of chariots, when he was lifted high in his lawless insolence and a tongue speaking great things, drowning him together with his proud host, and didst cause the light of thy mercy to shine upon the race of Israel. Thou, when Sennacherib, the cruel king of the Assyrians, was puffed up by his countless hosts, after he had taken the whole earth captive by his sword, and was lifted up against thy holy city speaking grievous words of boasting and insolence, thou, Lord, didst break him in pieces, making manifest thy power to many nations. Thou, when the three friends in Babylonia freely gave their life to the flames that they should not serve vain things, didst make as dew the fiery furnace, and deliver them unharmed even to the hair of their head, turning the flame upon all their adversaries. Thou, when Daniel was cast through the slanders of envy to the lions beneath the ground as food for wild beasts, didst bring him up to the light unhurt. And when Jonah was languishing unpitied in the belly of the sea-born monster, thou didst restore him, O Father, uninjured to all his household. And now thou hater of insolence, rich in mercy, protector of all, quickly manifest thyself to the saints of Israel’s line, in their insolent oppression by the abominable and lawless heathen. 10 And if our life has been ensnared in impious deeds during our sojourning, save us from the hand of the enemy, and destroy us, O Lord, by whatever fate thou choosest. 11 Let not the men whose thoughts are vanity bless their vain gods for the destruction of thy beloved, saying, Neither has their God delivered them. 12 Thou who hast all might and all power, the Eternal, look now upon us; pity us who by the mad insolence of lawless men are being sent to death as traitors; and let the heathen to-day fear thy invincible might, 13 thou glorious one, who hast mighty works for the salvation of the race of Israel. 14 The whole multitude of babes with their parents beseecheth thee with tears. 15 Let it be shown to all heathen that thou art with us, O Lord, and hast not turned thy face away from us; but as thou hast said, Not even when they were in the land of their enemies have I forgotten them, even so bring it to pass, O Lord.

16 And when Eleazar was even now ending his prayer, the king with the beasts and the whole insolent array of his army came to the hippodrome. 17 And the Jews beholding it raised a great cry to heaven, so that now the surrounding valleys re-echoed it, and caused in all the hosts an incon-trollable trembling. 18 Then the greatly glorious, almighty, and true God, making manifest his holy face, opened the gates of heaven, from which two glorious angels of terrible aspect descended, visible to all but the Jews, 19 and withstood them and filled the army of the adversaries with confusion and terror, and bound them with immovable fetters. 20 And a great horror seized on the body of the king as well, and his fierce insolence was forgotten. 21 And the beasts turned round against the armed hosts that followed them and began to tread them under foot and destroy them.

22 And the king’s wrath was turned to pity and tears on account of that which he had devised before. 23 For hearing the outcry and seeing them all prostrate to meet their death, he wept and angrily threatened his friends, saying, 24 Ye usurp the kingly power, surpassing even tyrants in your cruelty; and me myself, who am your benefactor, ye plot to deprive of my dominion and my life, devising secretly things that are unprofitable to the kingdom. 25 Who hath driven each one from his home the men who have faithfully held the fortresses of our country, and gathered them here without reason? 26 Who hath thus lawlessly overwhelmed with indignities those who from the beginning have been in all things conspicuous beyond all nations in their goodwill towards us, and have ofttimes encountered the worst dangers man can undergo? 27 Loose, yea loose, their unjust bonds; send them to their homes in peace, asking pardon for what has been already done. 28 Set free the sons of the almighty living God of Heaven, who from the days of our ancestors until now hath granted an unimpaired stability and glory to our estate. 29 Thus he spake; and they, having been set free in a moment, praised the holy God their saviour, having but now escaped death.

30 Then the king returning to the city called the officer who was over the revenues, and ordered him to supply to the Jews for a space of seven days wines and all else necessary for a feast, decreeing that they should keep a festival of deliverance with all manner of rejoicing in the very place in which they had thought to meet their fate. 31 Then those who before were reviled and nigh to the grave, or rather had already one foot therein, instead of a bitter and most lamentable death, held a banquet to celebrate their deliverance, and full of joy they portioned between their companies the place which had been prepared for their destruction and grave. 32 And ceasing the piteous strain of dirges, they took up the song of their fathers, praising God the saviour of Israel and doer of wonders; and laying aside all wailing and lamentation they formed dances in token of joy for their safe deliverance. 33 And likewise the king too convening a great banquet in celebration of this, unceasingly gave thanks in exalted terms to heaven for their unexpected deliverance. 34 And those who before supposed that they (the Jews) were doomed to destruction and to be food for birds, and had joyfully carried out the registration, groaned at finding themselves covered with confusion and their fiery blast of insolence quenched ingloriously. 35 And the Jews, as we have already said, formed the dance which we have before described, and spent their time in feasting with joyful thanksgiving and psalms. 36 And establishing a public ordinance about this, to be observed for all their sojourning from generation to generation, they appointed the days mentioned to be kept as a festival, not for the sake of drinking or gluttony, but in memory of the salvation granted them by God. 37 And they petitioned the king, desiring to depart to their home.

38 Now they were registering them from the twenty-fifth day of Pachon to the fourth of Epiphi, for forty days; and they were appointing their destruction from the fifth of Epiphis to the seventh, three days. 39 And on these did the ruler of all with great glory manifest his mercy and deliver them one and all unhurt. 40 And they feasted, provided with all things by the king, till the fourteenth day on which they also made petition for their return.

41 And the king granting their request wrote for them the following letter to the generals in the cities, generously declaring his purpose.

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