“For this reason, not only Jews, but many also of other nations, were grieved and displeased at the unjust murder of Onias. When the king returned from the region of Cilicia, the Jews in the city appealed to him with regard to the unreasonable murder of Onias. The Greeks shared their hatred of the crime. Therefore King Antiochus was grieved at heart and filled with pity. He wept because of the moderation and good conduct of the deceased. Inflamed with anger, he immediately stripped off the purple robe from Andronicus. He tore off his garments. He led him around the whole city to that very place where he had committed the outrage against Onias. There he dispatched the bloodthirsty fellow. The Lord thus repaid him with the punishment he deserved.”
The killing of the deposed high priest Onias was a semi-official act of the king. The Jews and many other nations were upset about this murder of Onias. After all, Andronicus had tricked Onias into coming out of a pagan sanctuary Temple. When King Antiochus IV returned from Cilicia, the southern coastal region of Asia Minor, he was upset and angry. He too wept for the good man. He immediately stripped Andronicus of his purple robes, the robes of authority. He tore his garments and brought him to the place where the outrage had taken place. Then he killed him so that he was given the punishment that the Lord said that he deserved. Here the king of Syria implements the will of God and brings justice to the death of the former Jerusalem high priest.
“When King Seleucus died, King Antiochus, who was called Epiphanes, succeeded to the kingdom. Then Jason, the brother of Onias, obtained the high priesthood by corruption. He promised the king at an interview three hundred sixty talents of silver and, from another source of revenue, eighty talents. In addition to this, he promised to pay one hundred fifty more if permission were given to establish by his authority a gymnasium and a body of youth for it. He wanted to enroll the men of Jerusalem as citizens of Antioch. When the king assented, Jason came to office. He at once shifted his countrymen over to the Greek way of life.”
By the time that Onias arrived in Antioch, Heliodorus had already assassinated King Seleucus IV (187-175 BCE). Now King Antiochus IV (175-164 BCE), the son of King Antiochus III who had ruled from 222-187 BCE, became king. He was the brother of King Seleucus IV. Jason was the brother of the high priest Onias, so that he was a Levite. He obtained the high priesthood by corruption. I still think that it is strange that the Syrian king had the right to name the Jewish high priest. Jason has promised the new king about 440 talents of silver, the equivalent of a quarter million $USA. He wanted a Greek gymnasium in Jerusalem that would become the center of political and cultural education. He also wanted all the men of Jerusalem to be citizens of Antioch. The new King Antiochus IV said fine. Thus Jason took over as the new high priest of Jerusalem. He wanted to shift his countrymen to the new Greek way of life. Unlike in 1 Maccabees, chapter 1, where the movement to the Greek way was led by the generic renegades, here it is explicitly assigned to Jason, the new high priest. Despite his protestations of not getting into details, this biblical author explained the role of the high priest Onias and his brother Jason in great detail.
“Then Heliodorus offered sacrifice to the Lord. He made very great vows to the savior of his life. Having bidden Onias farewell, he marched off with his forces to the king. He bore testimony to all concerning the deeds of the supreme God, which he had seen with his own eyes. When the king asked Heliodorus what sort of person would be suitable to send on another mission to Jerusalem, he replied.
‘If you have any enemy or plotter against your government,
Send him there!
You will get him back thoroughly flogged,
If he survives at all.
There is certainly some power of God about the place.
He who has his dwelling in heaven
Watches over that place himself.
He brings it aid.
He strikes and destroys those who come to do it injury.’
This was the outcome of the episode of Heliodorus and the protection of the treasury.”
Heliodorus offered a sacrifice to the Lord. It is not clear if he did this in Jerusalem. He does not convert to become a Jew. He seems to be more favorably disposed to the Jews. He bid farewell to the high priest Onias, without a word about the money problem. When the king asked him who he should send there, Heliodorus said to send an enemy or plotter because he would not survive. The powerful God in heaven protected that place. He would destroy anyone who would come to injure the Temple of God in Jerusalem. Thus this brings an end to the story of Heliodorus and those worried about the Temple money.
“A man named Simon, of the tribe of Benjamin, who had been made captain of the temple, had a disagreement with the high priest about the administration of the city market. When he could not prevail over the high priest Onias, he went to Apollonius of Tarsus. He at that time was the governor of Coele-syria and Phoenicia. He reported to him that the treasury in Jerusalem was full of untold sums of money. The amount of the funds could not be reckoned. They did not belong to the account of the sacrifices. It was possible for them to fall under the control of the king. When Apollonius met the king, he told him of the money about which he had been informed. The king chose Heliodorus, who was in charge of his affairs. He sent him with commands to effect the removal of the reported wealth. Heliodorus at once set out on his journey, ostensibly to make a tour and inspection of the cities of Coele-syria and Phoenicia, but in fact to carry out the king’s purpose.”
Simon, a Benjaminite and not a Levite, was a grandson of Tobias, who married a sister of the high priest Onias II. Thus this captain of the Temple position was somehow hereditary. He had a disagreement with the high priest Onias III about how the city market was run. He did not prevail. Instead, he went to the governor of that area of Coele-syria and Phoenicia. The capital of this area was in Tarsus with Apollonius as the governor. Apollonius was the governor of Samaria in 1 Maccabees, chapter 10, when he had a dispute with Jonathan, the brother of Judas Maccabeus. Simon told Apollonius that there were large sums of money unaccounted for in Jerusalem that did not belong to the sacrifices but should have gone to the king. Apollonius then told King Seleucus IV who then sent his man in charge of these affairs, Heliodorus, to look into these charges.
“While the holy city was inhabited in unbroken peace, the laws were strictly observed. This was due to the piety of the high priest Onias and his hatred of wickedness. It came about that the kings themselves honored the place and glorified the temple with the finest presents. Even King Seleucus of Asia defrayed from his own revenues all the expenses connected with the service of the sacrifices.”
This author reminds us of the good old days when things were peaceful in Jerusalem. The Mosaic laws were strictly observed because the good pious high priest, Onias III was in charge from 199-175 BCE. He hated wickedness. In fact, the Seleucid dynasty of kings honored this Second Jerusalem Temple with many presents, especially the Asian King Seleucus IV (186-175 BCE). Everything was wonderful because this king sent money to defray the expenses of the Temple in Jerusalem. 175 BCE seems to be the turning point here. Before that, everyone was happy.
“In the reign of King Demetrius,
In the one hundred and sixty-ninth year,
We Jews wrote to you.
In the critical distress that came upon us,
In those years
After Jason and his company
Revolted from the holy land and the kingdom.
He burned the gate and shed innocent blood.
We prayed to the Lord.
We were heard.
We offered sacrifice and cereal offering.
We lighted the lamps.
We set out the loaves.
Now see that you keep the festival of booths
In the month of Chislev,
In the one hundred and eighty-eighth year.”
Here is the reason for the letter. They want the Jews in Egypt to celebrate the festival of Booths in 124 BCE in the month of Chislev, the 188th year. Apparently this is not the first letter since there is a reference to an earlier letter around 143 BCE, the 169th year mentioned here, when King Demetrius II was the Seleucid leader. All these calendar dates are from the beginning of this Seleucid Empire in 312 BCE. The distress was the capture and murder of Jonathan Apphus, the son of Mattathias in 143 BCE. Jason was the brother of the high priest Onias, who turned on the Maccabees. The destruction and shedding of innocent blood can be found in 1 Maccabees, chapter 1. However, under Simon, they were able to recover and rebuild the Temple. Thus they were asking the Jews in Egypt to celebrate with them the feast of Booths in Chislev. However, the normal time of festival of Tents or Booths, according to Leviticus, chapter 23, was in the 7th month, 1 week after the Day of Atonement. Clearly this work must have been written after 124 BCE.
“This is a copy of the letter that Jonathan wrote to the Spartans.
‘The high priest Jonathan,
The senate of the nation,
And the rest of the Jewish people,
To their brothers, the Spartans,
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.