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2 Maccabees - Chapter 5

2 Maccabees Chapters

1 At about this time, Antiochus was preparing for his second attack on Egypt.

2 It then happened that all over the city for nearly forty days there were apparitions of horsemen galloping through the air in cloth of gold, troops of lancers fully armed,

3 squadrons of cavalry in order of battle, attacks and charges this way and that, a flourish of shields, a forest of pikes, a brandishing of swords, a hurling of missiles, a glittering of golden accoutrements and armour of all kinds.

4 So everyone prayed that this manifestation might prove a good omen.

5 Then, on the strength of a false report that Antiochus was dead, Jason took at least a thousand men and launched an unexpected attack on the city. When the walls had been breached and the city was finally on the point of being taken, Menelaus took refuge in the Citadel.

6 Jason, however, made a pitiless slaughter of his fellow-citizens, oblivious of the fact that success against his own countrymen was the greatest of disasters, but rather picturing himself as winning trophies from some enemy, and not from his fellow- countrymen.

7 Even so, he did not manage to seize power; and, in the end, his machinations brought him nothing but shame, and he took refuge once more in Ammanitis.

8 His career of wickedness was thus brought to a halt: imprisoned by Aretas, the Arab despot, escaping from his town, hunted by everyone, detested for having overthrown the laws, abhorred as the butcher of his country and his countrymen, he drifted to Egypt.

9 He who had exiled so many from their fatherland, himself perished on foreign soil, having travelled to Sparta, hoping that, for kinship's sake, he might find harbour there.

10 So many carcases he had thrust out to lie unburied; now he himself had none to mourn him, no funeral rites, no place in the tomb of his ancestors.

11 When the king came to hear of what had happened, he concluded that Judaea was in revolt. He therefore marched from Egypt, raging like a wild beast, and began by storming the city.

12 He then ordered his soldiers to cut down without mercy everyone they encountered, and to butcher all who took refuge in their houses.

13 It was a massacre of young and old, a slaughter of women and children, a butchery of young girls and infants.

14 There were eighty thousand victims in the course of those three days, forty thousand dying by violence and as many again being sold into slavery.

15 Not content with this, he had the audacity to enter the holiest Temple in the entire world, with Menelaus, that traitor to the laws and to his country, as his guide;

16 with impure hands he seized the sacred vessels; with impious hands he seized the offerings presented by other kings for the aggrandisement, glory and dignity of the holy place.

17 Holding so high an opinion of himself, Antiochus did not realise that the Lord was temporarily angry at the sins of the inhabitants of the city, hence his unconcern for the holy place.

18 Had they not been entangled in many sins, Antiochus too, like Heliodorus when King Seleucus sent him to inspect the Treasury, would have been flogged the moment he arrived and checked in his presumption.

19 The Lord, however, had not chosen the people for the sake of the holy place, but the holy place for the sake of the people;

20 and so the holy place itself, having shared the disasters that befell the people, in due course also shared their good fortune; having been abandoned by the Almighty in his anger, once the great Sovereign was placated it was reinstated in all its glory.

21 Antiochus, having extracted eighteen hundred talents from the Temple, hurried back to Antioch; in his pride he would have undertaken to make the dry land navigable and the sea passable on foot, so high his arrogance soared.

22 But he left officials behind to plague the nation: in Jerusalem, Philip, a Phrygian by race, and by nature more barbarous than the man who appointed him;

23 on Mount Gerizim, Andronicus; and, besides these, Menelaus, who lorded it over his countrymen worse than all the others. In his rooted hostility to the Jews,

24 the king also sent the Mysarch Apollonius at the head of an army twenty-two thousand strong, with orders to put to death all men in their prime and to sell the women and children.

25 Arriving in Jerusalem and posing as a man of peace, this man waited until the holy day of the Sabbath and then, taking advantage of the Jews as they rested from work, ordered his men to parade fully armed;

26 all those who came out to watch he put to the sword; then, rushing into the city with his armed troops, he cut down an immense number of people.

27 Judas, also known as Maccabaeus, however, with about nine others, withdrew into the desert. He lived like the wild animals in the hills with his companions, eating nothing but wild plants to avoid contracting defilement.

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