Glory to God (Lk 2:14-2:14)

“The angels

Were saying.

‘Glory to God

In the highest heaven!

On earth,

Peace among those

Whom he favors!’”

 

καὶ λεγόντων

Δόξα ἐν ὑψίστοις Θεῷ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς εἰρήνη ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκίας.

 

This is where the famous Latin song sung at Roman Catholic masses during the Liturgy of the Word “Gloria in excelsis Deo” comes from.  Luke indicated that these angels were saying (καὶ λεγόντων) or singing “Glory to God in the highest (Δόξα ἐν ὑψίστοις Θεῷ)!  On earth (καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς), peace be among the men (εἰρήνη ἐν ἀνθρώποις) whom he favors (εὐδοκίας), those of good will.”

 

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The tragic suicide death of Razis (2 Macc 14:37-14:46)

“A certain Razis, one of the elders of Jerusalem, was denounced to Nicanor as a man who loved his compatriots. He was very well thought of. For his good will, he was called father of the Jews. In former times, when there was no mingling with the gentiles, he had been accused of Judaism. He had most zealously risked body and life for Judaism. Nicanor, wishing to exhibit the enmity which he had for the Jews, sent more than five hundred soldiers to arrest him. He thought that by arresting him, he would do them an injury. When the troops were about to capture the tower, they forced the door of the courtyard. They ordered that fire be brought and the doors burned. Being surrounded, Razis fell upon his own sword. He preferred to die nobly rather than to fall into the hands of sinners and suffer outrages unworthy of his noble birth. But in the heat of the struggle he did not hit exactly. The crowd was now rushing in through the doors. He courageously ran up on the wall. He bravely threw himself down into the crowd. But as they quickly drew back, a space opened and he fell in the middle of the empty space. Still alive and aflame with anger, he rose up. Although his blood gushed forth and his wounds were severe, he ran through the crowd. Standing upon a steep rock, with his blood now completely drained from him, he tore out his entrails. He took them with both hands and hurled them at the crowd, calling upon the Lord of life and spirit to give them back to him again. This was the manner of his death.”

Wow, what a gruesome description of the death of Razis! Razis was a well respected Jewish elder, sometimes referred to as the father of the Jews. He was accused of Judaism because he would not mingle with the gentiles. Nicanor wanted to make an example of him so he sent 500 troops to arrest him. So far this does not sound outlandish. Then when they got to his house, they decided to set fire to his door to get in. Then Razis was surrounded and decided to kill himself with a sword, a common Roman practice, rather than die in disgrace. However, in the heat of the excitement with the 500 troops running at him, he somehow missed killing himself but merely cut himself. So Razis ran to the top of the wall. He wanted to hurl himself into the crowd, but they stepped back and he fell into an empty space. Now as he was angry and still alive, he ran through the crowd of troops until he got to a sharp rock. The blood was gushing out all over the place. Somehow he tore out his own intestines and threw them at the crowd. This was some weird scene. Here then is the main point. He cried to the Lord of life to give them back to him. Of course, he died. Somehow this father of Judaism believed that his intestines would be restored in some kind of afterlife, a resurrection. This is one of the few times that we have a Jewish attempted suicide.

Alcimus claims that Nicanor is disloyal (2 Macc 14:26-14:27)

“When Alcimus noticed their good will for one another, he took the covenant that had been made and went to King Demetrius. He told him that Nicanor was disloyal to the government. He had appointed that conspirator against the kingdom, Judas Maccabeus, to be his successor. The king became excited. Provoked by the false accusations of that depraved man, he wrote to Nicanor. He stated that he was displeased with the covenant. He commanded him to send Judas Maccabeus to Antioch as a prisoner without delay.”

Alcimus, the high priest in Jerusalem, was not pleased at the turn of events. He took the treaty that Nicanor and Judas Maccabeus had agreed on to King Demetrius I. He pointed out that Nicanor had been disloyal to king since his instructions were to kill Judas Maccabeus. Instead, Judas Maccabeus was to become the new high priest as the successor to Alcimus. King Demetrius I was very upset by these accusations. He wrote to Nicanor that he did not like the treaty. He commanded him to send Judas Maccabeus in chains as a prisoner to Antioch without any delay. None of this was in 1 Maccabees.

Lysias defends the peace treaty in Ptolemais (2 Macc 13:24-13:26)

“The king received Judas Maccabeus. He left Hegemonides as the governor from Ptolemais to Gerar. Then the king went to Ptolemais. The people of Ptolemais were indignant over the treaty. In fact, they were so angry that they wanted to annul its terms. Lysias took the public platform, made the best possible defense. He convinced them, appeased them, gained their good will, and then set out for Antioch. This is how the king’s attack and withdrawal turned out.”

Once again, this is similar to 1 Maccabees, chapter 6. There Lysias convinced the king and the commanders that the peace treaty with the Jews was a good idea. Here he must convince the people of Ptolemais, who did not like the Jews. The Syrian Hegemonides remained the governor of the seacoast area. However, the people of Ptolemais were upset about the treaty with the Jews. Only the eloquent speaking of Lysias convinced and appeased them. Thus with good will, they set out for Antioch. This then is the peace treaty that took place when King Antiochus V and Lysias attacked and then withdrew.

The letter of King Antiochus V to the Jewish senate (2 Macc 11:27-11:33)

“To the nation the king’s letter was as follows.

‘King Antiochus,

To the senate of the Jews and to the other Jews,

Greetings!

If you are well,

It is as we desire.

We also are in good health.

Menelaus has informed us

That you wish to return home.

You wish to look after your own affairs.

Therefore those who go home

By the thirtieth day of Xanthicus

Will have our pledge of friendship and full permission.

The Jews will enjoy their own food and laws,

Just as formerly,

None of them shall be molested in any way

For what he may have done in ignorance.

I have also sent Menelaus to encourage you.

Farewell.

The one hundred forty-eighth year,

Xanthicus fifteenth.’”

The king once again, like Lysias, ignored Judas Maccabeus. The letter was addressed to the Jewish Senate and all the Jews. In fact, Menelaus, the high priest, is the real intermediary. The king sent his good will through Menelaus, during the 13th day of the month of Xanthicus, March or April, of 164 BCE. He understood that they wanted to take care of their own affairs. He hoped that they were in good health as he was. They could now enjoy their own food and laws without any bother. They could also return to their own lands in the next 2 weeks. He still held out the possibility of further harassment because they might disobey out of ignorance.

The letter of King Antiochus IV to the Jews (2 Macc 9:18-9:22)

“Instead King Antiochus wrote to the Jews the following letter, in the form of a supplication. This was its content.

‘To his worthy Jewish citizens,

Antiochus their king and general

Sends hearty greetings and good wishes

For their health and prosperity.

If you and your children are well

And your affairs are as you wish,

I am glad.

As my hope is in heaven,

I remember with affection your esteem and good will.

On my way back from the region of Persia

I suffered an annoying illness.

I have deemed it necessary to take thought

For the general security of all.

I do not despair of my condition.

I have good hope of recovering from my illness.’”

The letter of King Antiochus IV has a different friendly tone. He talked about the worthy Jewish citizens. He wished them health and prosperity. He hoped their children and affairs were in good order. He said that his hope was in heaven. He talked about their good will towards him. Then he mentioned that he had suffered an annoying illness on his way back from Persia. He hoped to recover from his illness. This was the new kinder and gentler King Antiochus IV.

The last words of Eleazar (2 Macc 6:28-6:30)

“When he had said this, he went at once to the rack. Those who a little before had acted toward him with good will now changed to ill will.  They believed that the words he had uttered were in their opinion sheer madness. When he was about to die under the blows, he groaned aloud and said.

‘It is clear to the Lord,

In his holy knowledge that,

Though I might have been saved from death,

I am enduring terrible sufferings

In my body

Under this beating,

But in my soul

I am glad to suffer these things because I fear him.’”

At the rack, those who liked him thought that his speech was foolishness. They now changed from being kind to him to being ill willed towards him. They began to wipe him with blows. He finally groaned his last words. He knew that the Lord understood that he could have been saved from death. He knew his body was suffering great blows. However, his soul was glad to suffer because of fear or reverence of the Lord. This was great suffering at death with an explanation of why it was happening.