Athenobius goes to Jerusalem to meet Simon (1 Macc 15:32-15:36)

“Athenobius, the king’s friend, came to Jerusalem. When he saw the splendor of Simon, and the sideboard with its gold and silver plate, and his great magnificence, he was amazed. He reported to him the words of the king, but Simon said to him in reply.

‘We have neither taken foreign land.

We have never seized foreign property.

We have only the inheritance of our ancestors.

This at one time had been unjustly taken by our enemies.

Now that we have the opportunity,

We are firmly holding the inheritance of our ancestors.

As for Joppa and Gazara,

Which you demand,

They were causing great damage among the people

And to our land.

For them,

We will give you a hundred talents.’

Athenobius did not answer him a word. He returned in wrath to the king. He reported to him these words, the splendor of Simon, and all that he had seen. The king was very angry.”

Athenobius, King Antiochus VII’s friend and envoy, was amazed at the splendor in Jerusalem with all the silver and gold. Then he went to Simon and repeated the words of the king in the preceding paragraph. Simon then responded that he had not taken any foreign land or property. All that he took was the inheritance of his ancestors that had been taken unjustly by their enemies. He was going to hold firm to the inheritance of his ancestors. As for Joppa and Gaza, they had caused great hardship on the Jewish people and the land. However, he was willing to pay 100 talents of silver, not the 500 or 1,000 that King Antiochus VII wanted. Athenobius did not say a word. He just returned to the king in an angry mood. When he reported this to the king, he too became very angry. I can see a problem brewing here.

The letter to the Spartans about the past (1 Macc 12:5-12:8)

“This is a copy of the letter that Jonathan wrote to the Spartans.

‘The high priest Jonathan,

The senate of the nation,

The priests,

And the rest of the Jewish people,

To their brothers, the Spartans,

Greetings!

Already in time past

A letter was sent

To the high priest Onias from Arius,

He was king among you,

Stating that you are our brothers,

As the appended copy shows.

Onias welcomed the envoy with honor.

He received the letter

That contained a clear declaration of alliance and friendship.’”

This letter came from Jonathan, the Jewish senate of what later was known as the Sanhedrin, the priests, and all the Jewish people. He was sending it to his brothers in Sparta, which was a Greek city state. This is strange since he was so opposed to any Hellenism coming into Jewish society. Here he calls them brothers. The high priest Onias was high priest from 320-290 BCE, over 100 years before the writing to this letter. Arius was king of Sparta from 309-265 BCE. Onias accepted the Spartan envoy with honor and a clear declaration of alliance and friendship.