2 Maccabees, CHAPTER 4
Simon Accuses Onias.
The Simon mentioned above as the informer about the funds against his own country slandered Onias as the one who incited Heliodorus and instigated the whole miserable affair.
He dared to brand as a schemer against the government the man who was the benefactor of the city, the protector of his compatriots, and a zealous defender of the laws.
When Simon’s hostility reached such a pitch that murders were being committed by one of his henchmen,
Onias saw that the opposition was serious and that Apollonius, son of Menestheus, the governor of Coelesyria and Phoenicia, was abetting Simon’s wickedness.
So he had recourse to the king, not as an accuser of his compatriots, but as one looking to the general and particular good of all the people.
He saw that without royal attention it would be impossible to have a peaceful government, and that Simon would not desist from his folly.
Jason as High Priest.
But Seleucus died, and when Antiochus surnamed Epiphanes succeeded him on the throne, Onias’ brother Jason obtained the high priesthood by corrupt means:
in an interview, he promised the king three hundred and sixty talents of silver, as well as eighty talents from another source of income.
Besides this he would undertake to pay a hundred and fifty more, if he was given authority to establish a gymnasium and a youth center for it and to enroll Jerusalemites as citizens of Antioch.
When Jason received the king’s approval and came into office, he immediately initiated his compatriots into the Greek way of life.
He set aside the royal concessions granted to the Jews through the mediation of John, father of Eupolemus (that Eupolemus who would later go on an embassy to the Romans to establish friendship and alliance with them); he set aside the lawful practices and introduced customs contrary to the law.
With perverse delight he established a gymnasium at the very foot of the citadel, where he induced the noblest young men to wear the Greek hat.
The craze for Hellenism and the adoption of foreign customs reached such a pitch, through the outrageous wickedness of Jason, the renegade and would-be high priest,
that the priests no longer cared about the service of the altar. Disdaining the temple and neglecting the sacrifices, they hastened, at the signal for the games, to take part in the unlawful exercises at the arena.
What their ancestors had regarded as honors they despised; what the Greeks esteemed as glory they prized highly.
For this reason they found themselves in serious trouble: the very people whose manner of life they emulated, and whom they desired to imitate in everything, became their enemies and oppressors.
It is no light matter to flout the laws of God, as subsequent events will show.
When the quinquennial games were held at Tyre in the presence of the king,
the vile Jason sent representatives of the Antiochians of Jerusalem, to bring three hundred silver drachmas for the sacrifice to Hercules. But the bearers themselves decided that the money should not be spent on a sacrifice, as that was not right, but should be used for some other purpose.
So the contribution meant for the sacrifice to Hercules by the sender, was in fact applied to the construction of triremes by those who brought it.
When Apollonius, son of Menestheus, was sent to Egypt for the coronation of King Philometor, Antiochus learned from him that the king was opposed to his policies. He took measures for his own security; so after going to Joppa, he proceeded to Jerusalem.
There he was received with great pomp by Jason and the people of the city, who escorted him with torchlights and acclamations; following this, he led his army into Phoenicia.
Menelaus as High Priest.
Three years later Jason sent Menelaus, brother of the aforementioned Simon, to deliver the money to the king, and to complete negotiations on urgent matters.
But after his introduction to the king, he flattered him with such an air of authority that he secured the high priesthood for himself, outbidding Jason by three hundred talents of silver.
He returned with the royal commission, but with nothing that made him worthy of the high priesthood; he had the temper of a cruel tyrant and the rage of a wild beast.
So Jason, who had cheated his own brother and now saw himself cheated by another man, was driven out as a fugitive to the country of the Ammonites.
But Menelaus, who obtained the office, paid nothing of the money he had promised to the king,
in spite of the demand of Sostratus, the commandant of the citadel, whose duty it was to collect the taxes. For this reason, both were summoned before the king.
Menelaus left his brother Lysimachus as his deputy in the high priesthood, while Sostratus left Crates, commander of the Cypriots.
Murder of Onias.
While these things were taking place, the people of Tarsus and Mallus rose in revolt, because their cities had been given as a gift to Antiochis, the king’s concubine.
So the king hastened off to settle the affair, leaving Andronicus, one of his nobles, as his deputy.
Menelaus, for his part, thinking this a good opportunity, stole some gold vessels from the temple and presented them to Andronicus; he had already sold other vessels in Tyre and in the neighboring cities.
When Onias had clear evidence, he accused Menelaus publicly, after withdrawing to the inviolable sanctuary at Daphne, near Antioch.
Thereupon Menelaus approached Andronicus privately and urged him to seize Onias. So Andronicus went to Onias, treacherously reassuring him by offering his right hand in oath, and persuaded him, in spite of his suspicions, to leave the sanctuary. Then, with no regard for justice, he immediately put him to death.
As a result, not only the Jews, but many people of other nations as well, were indignant and angry over the unjust murder of the man.
When the king returned from the region of Cilicia, the Jews of the city, together with the Greeks who detested the crime, went to see him about the murder of Onias.
Antiochus was deeply grieved and full of pity; he wept as he recalled the prudence and noble conduct of the deceased.
Inflamed with anger, he immediately stripped Andronicus of his purple robe, tore off his garments, and had him led through the whole city to the very place where he had committed the outrage against Onias; and there he put the murderer to death. Thus the Lord rendered him the punishment he deserved.
Many acts of sacrilege had been committed by Lysimachus in the city with the connivance of Menelaus. When word spread, the people assembled in protest against Lysimachus, because a large number of gold vessels had been stolen.
As the crowds, now thoroughly enraged, began to riot, Lysimachus launched an unjustified attack against them with about three thousand armed men under the leadership of a certain Auranus, a man as advanced in folly as he was in years.
Seeing Lysimachus’ attack, people picked up stones, pieces of wood or handfuls of the ashes lying there and threw them in wild confusion at Lysimachus and his men.
As a result, they wounded many of them and even killed a few, while they put all to flight. The temple robber himself they killed near the treasury.
Charges about this affair were brought against Menelaus.
When the king came to Tyre, three men sent by the senate pleaded the case before him.
But Menelaus, seeing himself on the losing side, promised Ptolemy, son of Dorymenes, a substantial sum of money if he would win the king over.
So Ptolemy took the king aside into a colonnade, as if to get some fresh air, and persuaded him to change his mind.
Menelaus, who was the cause of all the trouble, the king acquitted of the charges, while he condemned to death those poor men who would have been declared innocent even if they had pleaded their case before Scythians.
Thus, those who had prosecuted the case on behalf of the city, the people, and the sacred vessels, quickly suffered unjust punishment.
For this reason, even Tyrians, detesting the crime, provided sumptuously for their burial.
But Menelaus, thanks to the greed of those in power, remained in office, where he grew in wickedness, scheming greatly against his fellow citizens.