The death of the high priest Menelaus (2 Macc 13:3-13:8)

“Menelaus also joined King Antiochus and Lysias. With utter hypocrisy he urged King Antiochus on, not for the sake of his country’s welfare, but because he thought that he would be established in office. But the king of kings aroused the anger of King Antiochus against the scoundrel. When Lysias informed him that this man was to blame for all the trouble, he ordered them to take him to Beroea. He was to be put to death by the method which is customary in that place. There is a tower there, fifty cubits high, full of ashes. It has a rim running around it on all sides that inclines precipitously into the ashes. There they all push to destruction anyone guilty of sacrilege or notorious for other crimes. By such a fate it came about that Menelaus the lawbreaker died, without even burial in the earth. This was eminently just. He had committed many sins against the altar whose fire and ashes were holy. Thus he met his death in ashes.”

Menelaus was not mentioned in 1 Maccabees, but was the high priest in Jerusalem here during the time of Judas Maccabeus from 171-161 BCE. He had purchased the high priest by outbidding Jason under King Antiochus IV. Now, he was urging on King Antiochus V, his son, to make sure he stayed in office. Somehow, the king of kings, a reference to God, aroused the anger of the young King Antiochus V, after Lysias, his guardian, informed the king that Menelaus was the cause of all the problems in Jerusalem. They sent him to Beroea, which was in northern Syria. There they had a Persian execution plan with a tower about 75 foot high filled with ashes that had a rim around the top of it that leaned into the ashes. They would push people into the ashes, like a farm silo that would suffocate them to death. Thus Menelaus, the lawbreaker, justly died in ashes without a burial because he had committed many sins against the holy altar.

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