King Antiochus IV reverses himself about the Jews (2 Macc 9:13-9:18)

“Then the abominable fellow made a vow to the Lord, who would no longer have mercy on him. He stated that the holy city, which he was hastening to level to the ground in order to make it a cemetery, was now declared to be free. He had not considered the Jews worth burying. He had planned to throw them out with their children for the wild animals and for the birds to pick on. However, now he would make all of them equal to citizens of Athens. The holy sanctuary, which he had formerly plundered, he would adorn with the finest offerings. All the holy vessels he would give back many times over. The expenses, incurred for the sacrifices, he would provide from his own revenues. In addition to all this he also would become a Jew. He would visit every inhabited place to proclaim the power of God. However, when his sufferings did not in any way abate, for the judgment of God had justly come upon him, he gave up all hope for himself.”

This deathbed reversal of King Antiochus IV goes into greater detail here than in 1 Maccabees, chapter 6. For Jerusalem, the city that he was going to make into a cemetery, now he was declaring it a free city. For the Jews themselves, instead of letting their bodies lay in the open for the wild animals and birds, he was making them citizens like the people in Athens. He was going to give fine offerings for the sanctuary he had plundered. He was going to return all the holy vessels that he took and more. He would pay for the expenses of the sacrifices out of his own revenue. He also was willing to become a Jew. He was going to go every place to proclaim God. However, his own just sufferings did not stop. He gave up all hope for himself. Thus this born again conversion of the king included the idea of becoming a Jew, which was extraordinary.

King Antiochus IV despoils the Temple (2 Macc 5:11-5:16)

“When news of what had happened reached the king, he took it to mean that Judea was in revolt. So, raging inwardly, he left Egypt. He took the city by storm. He commanded his soldiers to cut down relentlessly every one they met. They were to kill those who went into the houses. Then there was a massacre of young and old, destruction of boys, women, and children, with the slaughter of young girls and infants. Within the total of three days eighty thousand were destroyed, forty thousand in hand-to-hand fighting. Almost as many were sold into slavery as were killed. Not content with this, King Antiochus dared to enter the most holy temple in the whole world, guided by Menelaus, who had become a traitor both to the laws and to his country. He took the holy vessels with his polluted hands. He swept away with profane hands the votive offerings that other kings had made to enhance the glory and honor of the place.”

Up until now this author has spent a lot of time explaining what was happening with the high priests in Jerusalem. Now he picks up the part of the story that can be found in 1 Maccabees, chapter 1. King Antiochus IV heard about the uprising of the former high priest Jason against the present high priest Menelaus. He believed that this was a revolt against him. He left Egypt because the Romans told him to do so. There was no mention of the massive slaughter of the people in Jerusalem in 1 Maccabees. Here 80,000 people were killed, 40,000 in hand to hand fighting. Nearly 40,000 were sold into slavery. The emphasis in 1 Maccabees was on the despoiling of the Temple, not the destruction of the people since they simply said that he shed blood and spoke with arrogance in 169 BCE. Here the king pollutes the Temple with his profane hands also. There is no mention of the specifics of what he took as in 1 Maccabees.

Menelaus is acquitted (2 Macc 4:43-4:50)

“Charges were brought against Menelaus about this incident in Jerusalem. When the king came to Tyre, three men sent by the senate presented the case before him. But Menelaus, already as good as beaten, promised a substantial bribe to Ptolemy son of Dorymenes to win over the king. Therefore Ptolemy, taking the king aside into a colonnade as if for refreshment, induced the king to change his mind. He acquitted Menelaus, the cause of all the trouble, of the charges against him. Meanwhile, the king sentenced to death those unfortunate men, who would have been freed un-condemned if they had pleaded even before the Scythians. So those who had spoken for the city, the villages, and the holy vessels quickly suffered the unjust penalty. Therefore even the Tyrians, showing their hatred of the crime, provided magnificently for their funeral. But Menelaus, because of the greed of those in power, remained in office. He grew in wickedness. He had become the chief plotter against his fellow citizens.”

There were charges brought against Menelaus concerning this whole affair of Lysimachus in Jerusalem. King Antiochus IV came to Tyre to hear the case. 3 men from the Jewish Senate presented the case before the king. Menelaus bribed Ptolemy, the king’s friend, who had been the governor of Cyprus. Thus he put in the fix with the king so that the 3 accusers were condemned and killed, while Menelaus was acquitted. Those who spoke for the city, the villages, and the villages lost their lives, while Menelaus remained in office and grew in wickedness. He continued to plot against his fellow citizens. This was worse justice than that of the barbarian Scythians in southern Russia. Apparently these Scythians were considered the worst kind of people at that time. The locals in Tyre were also upset so they provided a wonderful funeral for the 3 men from Jerusalem, although the 3 men had been condemned to death by the king.

Refurnishing the Temple (1 Macc 4:48-4:51)

“They also rebuilt the sanctuary and the interior of the temple. They consecrated the courts. They made new holy vessels. They brought the lamp stand, the altar of incense, and the table into the temple. Then they offered incense on the altar. They lit the lamps on the lamp stand so that they gave light in the temple. They placed the bread on the table. They hung up the curtains. Thus they finished all the work they had undertaken.”

Then they rebuilt the sanctuary and the interior of the Temple. They consecrated the courts, and make new vessels. They brought in the lamp stand, the incense table, and the table for the bread. They also hung the curtains. With the lamp stands burning, they had light in the Temple. They finished refurnishing the Temple.