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2 Maccabees - Chapter 9

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1 At about the same time, Antiochus was beating a disorderly retreat from Persia.

2 He had entered the city called Persepolis, planning to rob the temple and occupy the city; but the population at once sprang to arms to defend themselves, with the result that Antiochus was routed by the inhabitants and forced to beat a humiliating retreat.

3 On his arrival in Ecbatana he learned what had happened to Nicanor and to Timotheus' forces.

4 Flying into a passion, he resolved to make the Jews pay for the disgrace inflicted by those who had routed him, and with this in mind he ordered his charioteer to drive without stopping and get the journey over. But the sentence of Heaven was already hanging over him. In his pride, he had said, 'When I reach Jerusalem, I shall turn it into a mass grave for the Jews.'

5 But the all-seeing Lord, the God of Israel, struck him with an incurable and unseen complaint. The words were hardly out of his mouth when he was seized with an incurable pain in his bowels and with excruciating internal torture;

6 and this was only right, since he had inflicted many barbaric tortures on the bowels of others.

7 Even so, he in no way diminished his arrogance; still bursting with pride, breathing fire in his wrath against the Jews, he was in the act of ordering an even keener pace when the chariot gave a sudden lurch and out he fell and, in this serious fall, was dragged along, every joint of his body wrenched out of place.

8 He who only a little while before had thought in his superhuman boastfulness he could command the waves of the sea, he who had imagined he could weigh mountain peaks in a balance, found himself flat on the ground and then being carried in a litter, a visible demonstration to all of the power of God,

9 in that the very eyes of this godless man teemed with worms and his flesh rotted away while he lingered on in agonising pain, and the stench of his decay sickened the whole army.

10 A short while before, he had thought to grasp the stars of heaven; now no one could bring himself to act as his bearer, for the stench was intolerable.

11 Then and there, as a consequence, in his shattered state, he began to shed his excessive pride and come to his senses under the divine lash, spasms of pain overtaking him.

12 His stench being unbearable even to himself, he exclaimed, 'It is right to submit to God; no mortal should aspire to equality with the Godhead.'

13 The wretch began to pray to the Master, who would never take pity on him now, declaring

14 that the holy city, towards which he had been speeding to rase it to the ground and turn it into a mass grave, should be declared free;

15 as for the Jews, whom he had considered as not even worth burying, so much carrion to be thrown out with their children for birds and beasts to prey on, he would give them all equal rights with the Athenians;

16 the holy Temple which he had once plundered he would now adorn with the finest offerings; he would restore all the sacred vessels many times over; he would defray from his personal revenue the expenses incurred for the sacrifices;

17 and, to crown all, he would himself turn Jew and visit every inhabited place, proclaiming the power of God.

18 Finding no respite at all from his suffering, God's just sentence having overtaken him, he abandoned all hope for himself and wrote the Jews the letter transcribed below, which takes the form of an appeal in these terms:

19 'To the excellent Jews, to the citizens, Antiochus, king and commander-in-chief, sends hearty greetings, wishing them all health and prosperity.

20 'If you and your children are well and your affairs as you would wish, we are profoundly thankful.

21 For my part, I cherish affectionate memories of you. 'On my return from the country of Persia I fell seriously ill, and thought it necessary to make provision for the common security of all.

22 Not that I despair of my condition, for I have great hope of shaking off the malady,

23 but considering how my father, whenever he was making an expedition into the uplands, would designate his successor

24 so that, in case of any unforeseen event or disquieting rumour, the people of the provinces might know to whom he had left the conduct of affairs, and thus remain undisturbed;

25 furthermore, being well aware that the sovereigns on our frontiers and the neighbours of our realm are watching for opportunities and waiting to see what will happen, I have designated as king my son Antiochus, whom I have more than once entrusted and commended to most of you when I was setting out for the upland satrapies; a transcript of my letter to him is appended hereto.

26 I therefore urge and require you, being mindful of the benefits both public and personal received from me, that you each persist in those sentiments of goodwill that you harbour towards me.

27 I am confident that he will pursue my own policy with benevolence and humanity, and will prove accommodating to your interests.'

28 And so this murderer and blasphemer, having endured sufferings as terrible as those which he had made others endure, met his pitiable fate, and ended his life in the mountains far from his home.

29 His comrade Philip brought back his body, and then, fearing Antiochus' son, withdrew to Egypt, to the court of Ptolemy Philometor.

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