Chapter 3 (II. Maccabees)

While the holy city was inhabited in all peace and the laws were observed as perfectly as possible, owing to the piety of Onias the high priest and his hatred of wickedness, 2 it came about that the kings themselves honoured the holy place and enhanced the glory of the Temple with the most splendid offerings, 3 even to the extent that Seleucus king of Asia defrayed from his own revenues all the expenses arising out of the sacrificial liturgy. 4 But a certain Simon, of the tribe of Bilgah, on being appointed administrator of the Temple, came into conflict with the high priest over the regulation of the city markets. 5 Unable to get the better of Onias, he went off to Apollonius, son of Thraseos, who was at that time commander-in-chief of Coele-Syria and Phoenicia,

6 and made out to him that the Treasury in Jerusalem was groaning with untold wealth, that the amount contributed was incalculable and out of all proportion to expenditure on the sacrifice, but that it could all be brought under the control of the king. 7 Apollonius met the king and told him about the wealth that had been disclosed to him; whereupon the king selected Heliodorus, his chancellor, and sent him with instructions to effect the removal of the reported wealth. 8 Heliodorus lost no time in setting out, ostensibly to inspect the towns of Coele-Syria and Phoenicia, but in fact to accomplish the king's purpose. 9 On his arrival in Jerusalem, and after a hospitable reception from the high priest and the city, he announced what had been disclosed, thus revealing the reason for his presence, and asked if this was indeed the true situation. 10 The high priest explained that there were funds set aside for widows and orphans,

11 with some belonging to Hyrcanus son of Tobias, a man occupying a very exalted position, and that the whole sum, in contrast to what the evil Simon had alleged, amounted to four hundred talents of silver and two hundred of gold. 12 He also added that it was entirely out of the question that an injustice should be done to those who had put their trust in the sanctity of the place and in the inviolable majesty of a Temple venerated throughout the entire world. 13 But Heliodorus, because of his instructions from the king, peremptorily insisted that the funds must be confiscated for the royal exchequer. 14 Fixing a day for the purpose, he went in to draw up an inventory of the funds. There was no little consternation throughout the city; 15 the priests in their sacred vestments prostrated themselves before the altar and prayed to Heaven, to the Author of the law governing deposits, to preserve these funds intact for the depositors.

16 The appearance of the high priest was enough to pierce the heart of the beholder, his expression and his altered colour betraying the anguish of his soul; 17 the man was so overwhelmed by fear and bodily trembling that those who saw him could not possibly mistake the distress he was suffering. 18 People rushed headlong from the houses, intent on making public supplication because of the indignity threatening the holy place. 19 Women thronged the streets swathed in sackcloth below their breasts; girls secluded indoors came running, some to the doorways, some to the city walls, while others leaned out of the windows, 20 all stretching out their hands to Heaven in entreaty.

21 It was pitiful to see the people crowding together to prostrate themselves, and the foreboding of the high priest in his deep anguish. 22 While they were calling on the all-powerful Lord to preserve the deposits intact for the depositors, in full security, 23 Heliodorus set about his appointed task. 24 He had already arrived with his bodyguard near the Treasury, when the Sovereign of spirits and of every power caused so great an apparition that all who had dared to accompany Heliodorus were dumbfounded at the power of God and reduced to abject terror. 25 Before their eyes appeared a horse richly caparisoned and carrying a fearsome rider. Rearing violently, it struck at Heliodorus with its forefeet. The rider was seen to be accoutred entirely in gold.

26 Two other young men of outstanding strength and radiant beauty, magnificently apparelled, appeared to him at the same time and, taking their stand on each side of him, flogged him unremittingly, inflicting stroke after stroke. 27 Suddenly Heliodorus fell to the ground, enveloped in thick darkness. His men came to his rescue and placed him in a litter, 28 this man who but a moment before had made his way into the Treasury, as we said above, with a great retinue and his whole bodyguard; and as they carried him away, powerless to help himself, they openly acknowledged the sovereign power of God. 29 While Heliodorus lay prostrate under the divine visitation, speechless and bereft of all hope of deliverance, 30 the Jews blessed the Lord who had miraculously glorified his own holy place. And the Temple, which a little while before had been filled with terror and commotion, now overflowed with joy and gladness at the manifestation of the almighty Lord.

31 Some of Heliodorus' companions quickly begged Onias to entreat the Most High to grant the man his life, lying as he did at the very point of death. 32 The high priest, afraid that the king might suspect the Jews of some foul play concerning Heliodorus, did indeed offer a sacrifice for the man's recovery. 33 And while the high priest was performing the rite of expiation, the same young men again appeared to Heliodorus, wearing the same apparel and, standing beside him, said, 'Be very grateful to Onias the high priest, since it is for his sake that the Lord has granted you your life. 34 As for you, who have been scourged by Heaven, you must proclaim to everyone the grandeur of God's power.' So saying, they vanished. 35 Heliodorus offered sacrifice to the Lord and made most solemn vows to the preserver of his life, and then took courteous leave of Onias and marched his forces back to the king.

36 He openly testified to everyone about the works of the supreme God which he had seen with his own eyes. 37 When the king asked Heliodorus what sort of man would be the right person to send to Jerusalem on a second occasion, he replied, 38 'If you have some enemy or anyone disloyal to the state, send him there, and you will get him back well flogged, if he survives at all, since some peculiarly divine power attaches to the holy place. 39 He who has his dwelling in heaven watches over the place and defends it, and he strikes down and destroys those who come to harm it.' 40 This was the outcome of the affair of Heliodorus and the preservation of the Treasury.

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