The Third Book of the Maccabees

chapter 1


verse #1

Now Philopater, on learning from those who came back that Antiochus had made himself master of the places which belonged to himself, sent orders to all his infantry and cavalry, took with him his sister Arsinoe, and marched out as far as the parts of Raphia, where Antiochus and his forces encamped.

verse #2

And one Theodotus, intending to carry out his design, took with him the bravest of the armed men who had been before committed to his trust by Ptolemy, and got through at night to the tent of Ptolemy, to kill him on his own responsibility, and so to end the war.

verse #3

But Dositheus, called the son of Drimulus, by birth a Jew, afterward a renegade from the laws and observances of his country, conveyed Ptolemy away, and made an obscure person lie down in his stead in the tent. It turned out that this man received the fate which was meant for the other.

verse #4

A fierce battle then took place. The men of Antiochus were prevailing. Arsinoe continually went up and down the ranks, and with dishevelled hair, with tears and entreaties, begged the soldiers to fight bravely for themselves, their children, and wives, and promised that if they proved conquerors, she would give them each two minas of gold.

verse #5

It thus fell out that their enemies were defeated in hand-to-hand encounter, and that many of them were taken prisoners.

verse #6

Having vanquished this attempt, the king then decided to proceed to the neighboring cities, and encourage them.

verse #7

By doing this, and by making donations to their temples, he inspired his subjects with confidence.

verse #8

The Jews sent some of their council and of their elders to him. The greetings, welcoming gifts, and congratulations of the past, given by them, filled him with the greater eagerness to visit their city.

verse #9

Having arrived at Jerusalem, sacrificed, and offered thank-offerings to the Greatest God, and done whatever else was suitable to the sanctity of the place, and entered the inner court,

verse #10

he was so impressed with the magnificence of the place, and so wondered at the orderly arrangements of the temple, that he considered entering the sanctuary itself.

verse #11

When they told him that this was not permissible, none of the nation, not even the priests in general, but only the supreme high priest of all, and he only once in a year, was allowed to go in, he would by no means give way.

verse #12

Then they read the law to him, but he persisted in intruding, exclaiming that he ought to be allowed. He said, “Even if they were deprived of this honor, I shouldn’t be.”

verse #13

He asked why, when he entered all the other temples, did none of the priests who were present forbid him.

verse #14

He was thoroughly answered by someone, that he did wrong to boast of this.

verse #15

“Well, since I have done this,” said he, “be the cause what it may, shall I not enter with or without your consent?”

verse #16

When the priests fell down in their sacred vestments imploring the Greatest God to come and help in time of need, and to avert the violence of the fierce aggressor, and when they filled the temple with lamentations and tears,

verse #17

then those who had been left behind in the city were scared, and rushed out, uncertain of the event.

verse #18

Virgins, who had been shut up within their chambers, came out with their mothers, scattering dust and ashes on their heads, and filling the streets with outcries.

verse #19

Women who had recently been arrayed for marriage left their bridal chambers, left the reserve that befitted them, and ran around the city in a disorderly manner.

verse #20

New-born babes were deserted by the mothers or nurses who waited upon them—some here, some there, in houses, or in fields; these now, with an ardor which could not be checked, swarmed into the Most High temple.

verse #21

Various prayers were offered up by those who assembled in this place because of the unholy attempt of the king.

verse #22

Along with these there were some of the citizens who took courage and would not submit to his obstinacy and his intention of carrying out his purpose.

verse #23

Calling out to arms, and to die bravely in defense of the law of their fathers, they created a great uproar in the place, and were with difficulty brought back by the aged and the elders to the station of prayer which they had occupied before.

verse #24

During this time, the multitude kept on praying.

verse #25

The elders who surrounded the king tried in many ways to divert his arrogant mind from the design which he had formed.

verse #26

He, in his hardened mood, insensible to all persuasion, was going onward with the view of carrying out this design.

verse #27

Yet even his own officers, when they saw this, joined the Jews in an appeal to Him who has all power to aid in the present crisis, and not wink at such haughty lawlessness.

verse #28

Such was the frequency and the vehemence of the cry of the assembled crowd, that an indescribable noise ensued.

verse #29

Not the men only, but the very walls and floor seemed to sound out, all things preferring death rather than to see the place defiled.