Chapter 2 (III. Maccabees)

Then the high priest Simon knelt in front of the temple, extended his hands, and offered this prayer in a dignified manner: 2 “Lord, Lord, king of the heavens and master of all creation, holy among the holy ones, only ruler, almighty: Pay attention to us. We are being crushed by an evil and impure man, caught up in his own arrogance and power. 3 You are the creator of all things and the just master who rules over all. You judge those who act with violence and arrogance. 4 You destroyed those who did evil in the past, even giants. The giants trusted in their bodily strength and boldness, but you destroyed them in a great flood. 5 The people of Sodom acted arrogantly and were notorious for their wicked deeds. You destroyed them with fire and sulfur, making them an example to others for all time.

6 When the arrogant ruler of Egypt enslaved your holy people Israel, you tested him with many, varied punishments. You made your power known; indeed, you made known your great strength. 7 When the ruler of Egypt pursued Israel with chariots and a multitude of people, you overwhelmed him with the depth of the sea. But those who trusted in you, the one who holds power over all creation—these people you brought safely through the sea. 8 And when they saw your powerful work, they praised you, the almighty. 9 “Although you, King, created the whole wide earth, you chose this city and set this place apart for your name, though you don't need anything. You made it wonderful, giving it a splendid appearance, and established its order for the reputation of your great and honored name. 10 Because you love the house of Israel, you promised that you would hear our prayer if we came to this holy place and prayed whenever we experienced a setback or were overwhelmed with distress.

11 Indeed, you are faithful and true. 12 Whenever our ancestors were hard-pressed or humiliated, you helped them and rescued them from great hardships. 13 See now, Holy King, how we are being afflicted and have been subjected to our enemies and are weakened to the point of helplessness because of our many and great sins. 14 But in the midst of our calamity this arrogant and unholy man is determined to insult the holy place dedicated on earth to your glorious name. 15 For human beings can't enter your dwelling place, the heaven of heavens.

16 But since you were pleased for your glory to rest among your people Israel, you set this place apart. 17 Don't take vengeance on us because of the impurity of these people. Don't call us to account because of their pollution, so that the lawless don't boast in their hearts or rejoice in the arrogance of their tongues, saying, 18 "We trampled the house of holiness just as the houses of idols are trampled." 19 Wipe away our sins and scatter our faults to the winds, and reveal your compassion in this hour. 20 Let your mercies quickly overtake us. Put praises in the mouths of those who are downcast and crushed in their spirits, granting us peace.

21 Then the God who watches over all things, the first father of all, holy among the holy ones, heard this lawful prayer and scourged the one who had claimed too much for himself in his violence and arrogance. 22 God shook him this way and that as a reed is shaken by the wind, with the result that he lay helpless on the ground. His limbs were paralyzed, and he was unable to speak, since he was struck by a just judgment. 23 His friends and bodyguards saw that the punishment that had seized him was severe. Fearing that even his life might fail, they quickly dragged him out, since they were terror-stricken. 24 After a while, the king recovered, and even though he had been punished, he didn't change his heart and mind at all, but went away issuing bitter threats. 25 When he had returned to Egypt, he added to his evil deeds with the assistance of his drinking companions and friends, who were strangers to everything just.

26 He wasn't satisfied with his innumerable indecent acts, but he also advanced to such a degree of impudence that he circulated false reports in the various districts. Many of his friends took note of the king's purpose and followed his lead. 27 He proposed to spread blame publicly against the Jewish nation. He set up a stone near the tower in the courtyard with the following inscription carved upon it: 28 None who refuse to sacrifice are to enter into their sanctuaries. In addition all the Jews are to be registered and their property cataloged. Those who object are to be taken by force and put to death. 29 Those who are registered are to be branded on the body by fire with the ivy leaf sign of Dionysus and are also to be assigned to their former, limited civic status. 30 But so as not to seem hateful to all, he added: But if any of them should prefer to join those who have been initiated into the mysteries, these are to enjoy political rights equal to the Alexandrians.

31 Now some Jews, while pretending to detest the steps to be undertaken for the city's religion, readily surrendered themselves to share in great fame through the association they would have with the king. 32 But the honorable majority were strong and didn't depart from their religion. They bravely tried to save themselves from being registered by resorting to bribes in exchange for their lives. 33 They remained hopeful of obtaining help, and they looked with contempt on those Jews who had deserted them. They considered those who gave in to be enemies of the Jewish nation, and no longer associated with them or offered them assistance.

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