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3 Maccabees 6:16–19:16

Two Angels Rescue the Jews

16 Just as Eleazar was ending his prayer, the king arrived at the hippodrome with the animals and all the arrogance of his forces. 17And when the Jews observed this they raised great cries to heaven so that even the nearby valleys resounded with them and brought an uncontrollable terror upon the army. 18Then the most glorious, almighty, and true God revealed his holy face and opened the heavenly gates, from which two glorious angels of fearful aspect descended, visible to all but the Jews. 19They opposed the forces of the enemy and filled them with confusion and terror, binding them with immovable shackles. 20Even the king began to shudder bodily, and he forgot his sullen insolence. 21The animals turned back upon the armed forces following them and began trampling and destroying them.

22 Then the king’s anger was turned to pity and tears because of the things that he had devised beforehand. 23For when he heard the shouting and saw them all fallen headlong to destruction, he wept and angrily threatened his Friends, saying, 24‘You are committing treason and surpassing tyrants in cruelty; and even me, your benefactor, you are now attempting to deprive of dominion and life by secretly devising acts of no advantage to the kingdom. 25Who has driven from their homes those who faithfully kept our country’s fortresses, and foolishly gathered every one of them here? 26Who is it that has so lawlessly encompassed with outrageous treatment those who from the beginning differed from* all nations in their goodwill towards us and often have accepted willingly the worst of human dangers? 27Loose and untie their unjust bonds! Send them back to their homes in peace, begging pardon for your former actions!* 28Release the children of the almighty and living God of heaven, who from the time of our ancestors until now has granted an unimpeded and notable stability to our government.’ 29These then were the things he said; and the Jews, immediately released, praised their holy God and Saviour, since they now had escaped death.

The Jews Celebrate Their Deliverance

30 Then the king, when he had returned to the city, summoned the official in charge of the revenues and ordered him to provide to the Jews both wines and everything else needed for a festival of seven days, deciding that they should celebrate their rescue with all joyfulness in that same place in which they had expected to meet their destruction. 31Accordingly those disgracefully treated and near to death,* or rather, who stood at its gates, arranged for a banquet of deliverance instead of a bitter and lamentable death, and full of joy they apportioned to celebrants the place that had been prepared for their destruction and burial. 32They stopped their chanting of dirges and took up the song of their ancestors, praising God, their Saviour and worker of wonders.* Putting an end to all mourning and wailing, they formed choruses* as a sign of peaceful joy. 33Likewise also the king, after convening a great banquet to celebrate these events, gave thanks to heaven unceasingly and lavishly for the unexpected rescue that he* had experienced. 34Those who had previously believed that the Jews would be destroyed and become food for birds, and had joyfully registered them, groaned as they themselves were overcome by disgrace, and their fire-breathing boldness was ignominiously* quenched.

35 The Jews, as we have said before, arranged the aforementioned choral group* and passed the time in feasting to the accompaniment of joyous thanksgiving and psalms. 36And when they had ordained a public rite for these things in their whole community and for their descendants, they instituted the observance of the aforesaid days as a festival, not for drinking and gluttony, but because of the deliverance that had come to them through God. 37Then they petitioned the king, asking for dismissal to their homes. 38So their registration was carried out from the twenty-fifth of Pachon to the fourth of Epeiph,* for forty days; and their destruction was set for the fifth to the seventh of Epeiph,* the three days 39on which the Lord of all most gloriously revealed his mercy and rescued them all together and unharmed. 40Then they feasted, being provided with everything by the king, until the fourteenth day,* on which also they made the petition for their dismissal. 41The king granted their request at once and wrote the following letter for them to the generals in the cities, magnanimously expressing his concern:

Ptolemy’s Letter on Behalf of the Jews

7‘King Ptolemy Philopator to the generals in Egypt and all in authority in his government, greetings and good health:

2 ‘We ourselves and our children are faring well, the great God guiding our affairs according to our desire. 3Certain of our friends, frequently urging us with malicious intent, persuaded us to gather together the Jews of the kingdom in a body and to punish them with barbarous penalties as traitors; 4for they declared that our government would never be firmly established until this was accomplished, because of the ill will that these people had towards all nations. 5They also led them out with harsh treatment as slaves, or rather as traitors, and, girding themselves with a cruelty more savage than that of Scythian custom, they tried without any inquiry or examination to put them to death. 6But we very severely threatened them for these acts, and in accordance with the clemency that we have towards all people we barely spared their lives. Since we have come to realize that the God of heaven surely defends the Jews, always taking their part as a father does for his children, 7and since we have taken into account the friendly and firm goodwill that they had towards us and our ancestors, we justly have acquitted them of every charge of whatever kind. 8We also have ordered all people to return to their own homes, with no one in any place* doing them harm at all or reproaching them for the irrational things that have happened. 9For you should know that if we devise any evil against them or cause them any grief at all, we always shall have not a mortal but the Ruler over every power, the Most High God, in everything and inescapably as an antagonist to avenge such acts. Farewell.’

The Jews Return Home with Joy

10 On receiving this letter the Jews* did not immediately hurry to make their departure, but they requested of the king that at their own hands those of the Jewish nation who had wilfully transgressed against the holy God and the law of God should receive the punishment they deserved. 11They declared that those who for the belly’s sake had transgressed the divine commandments would never be favourably disposed towards the king’s government. 12The king* then, admitting and approving the truth of what they said, granted them a general licence so that freely, and without royal authority or supervision, they might destroy those everywhere in his kingdom who had transgressed the law of God. 13When they had applauded him in fitting manner, their priests and the whole multitude shouted the Hallelujah and joyfully departed. 14And so on their way they punished and put to a public and shameful death any whom they met of their compatriots who had become defiled. 15On that day they put to death more than three hundred men; and they kept the day as a joyful festival, since they had destroyed the profaners. 16But those who had held fast to God even to death and had received the full enjoyment of deliverance began their departure from the city, crowned with all sorts of very fragrant flowers, joyfully and loudly giving thanks to the one God of their ancestors, the eternal Saviour* of Israel, in words of praise and all kinds of melodious songs.

17 When they had arrived at Ptolemais, called ‘rose-bearing’ because of a characteristic of the place, the fleet waited for them, in accordance with the common desire, for seven days. 18There they celebrated their deliverance,* for the king had generously provided all things to them for their journey until all of them arrived at their own houses. 19And when they had all landed in peace with appropriate thanksgiving, there too in like manner they decided to observe these days as a joyous festival during the time of their stay. 20Then, after inscribing them as holy on a pillar and dedicating a place of prayer at the site of the festival, they departed unharmed, free, and overjoyed, since at the king’s command they had all of them been brought safely by land and sea and river to their own homes. 21They also possessed greater prestige among their enemies, being held in honour and awe; and they were not subject at all to confiscation of their belongings by anyone. 22Besides, they all recovered all of their property, in accordance with the registration, so that those who held any of it restored it to them with extreme fear.* So the supreme God perfectly performed great deeds for their deliverance. 23Blessed be the Deliverer of Israel through all times! Amen.

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14 July 2018

From the oremus Bible Browser http://bible.oremus.org v2.2.8 14 July 2018.