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victories which he had obtained over the king of Syria, apparently feeling that to him alone, and not to his own Egyptian idols, he was indebted for his success.*
During the pontificate of Onias, he had, through parsimony or negligence, omitted to pay the usual tribute to Ptolemy Euergetes, who thereupon threatened to levy the same by force of arms; but the threatened danger was averted by the adroitness of Joseph, nephew to the high priest, and who, proceeding on an embassy to Ptolemy, not only pacified his wrath, but procured himself to be appointed deputy or receiver general for the whole province.t
During the war between Antiochus the Great and Ptolemy Philopater, the former marched into Galilee, and took Philoteria, on the north end of the sea of Tiberias, and Scythopolis, or Bethsan, at the south end, and afterwards Attabyrium, seated on mount Tabor. Crossing the river Jordan, he took possession of Gilead and all the territories on that side of the river, which had been the inheritance of the tribes of Reuben and Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh. He then took Rabbah of Ammon, or Philadelphia, but not till after a vigorous resistance.
It was during these continued wars between the kings of Egypt and Syria, and under the indolent pontificate of Onias,
Prid. i. 108. + Prid. ij. 115–120. Such is the statement given from Josephus, Antiq. xii. 6. ; but the whole bas much the air of a romance, and no part of it more than that Joseph borrowed £700. of the bankers of Samaria, to enable him to undertake the embassy. There were, surely, as likely to be rich bankers at Jerusalem as at Sumaria ; besides which, the relation is mixed up with a great deal of other matter, even more improbable.
| Polybius calls it Rabbatamina, or Rabboth-Ammon; when Prolemy Philadelphus rebuilt this city, he called it Philadelphia. Prid. ii. 133.
$ Prid. ii. 133.
that the Samaritans took advantage of his imbecile government; and probably under cloak of the authority with which the lieutenants of Antiochus were invested over Samaria, shewed their ancient enmity to the Jews, by plundering and ravaging their country, and carrying many of the inhabitants into captivity, and selling them for slaves.
On the death of Onias, he was succeeded by his son, Simon, a person of a very different character from that of his father. I
The following year, however, Ptolemy recovered the possession of these countries; and coming to Jerusalem, and admiring the beauty of the temple, offered up sacrifices to the God of Israel, made many oblations to the temple, and gave several valuable donatives to it. Not satisfied with this, he attempted to pass into the sanctuary itself, and into the holy of holies, where none but the high priest could enter, and that once a year. $ Simon, the high priest, informed him of the sacredness of the place, and the priests and Levites, and populace having assembled, and with great lamentations and loud cries opposed his purpose; but the monarch's inclination being excited, rather than allayed, by this opposition, he pressed into the inner court, notwithstanding all opposition; and as he was proceeding into the temple itself, he was smitten from God with such a terror and confusion of mind, that he was carried out of the place half dead. Filled with wrath and mortification, instead of being humbled under such a divine visitation, the Egyptian quitted Jerusalem, vowing vengeance against the whole nation for the insult he had received.ll
* Prid. ii. 133. + Prid. ii. 136. I Prid. ii. 163.
Lev. xiv. 2. 34. || Prid. ij. 135, 136. Who quotes 3 Macc. i., respecting which book
see also Prid, ii, 141, 142.
Nor was the tyrant long before he put his threats into execution ; for on his return to Alexandria, he published a decree, prohibiting all persons from entering his palace who did not sacrifice to the gods of Egypt; and that this might effectually reach the Jews, he, by a second decree, degraded them from the privileges of Macedonians, the original founders of that city, and with which they had been invested by Alexander the Great and Ptolemy Soter. In order to ensure their degradation, he ordered them all to be marked with an ivy leaf, the badge of his god, Bacchus, and that those who refused should be made slaves or put to death. Those, however, who would embrace paganism were to be restored to their privileges; but to the honour of the nation, out of many thousands, only three hundred could be found who would consent to apostatize from the God of Israel. The nonconforming Jews having very properly refused all intercourse with their apostate brethren, Ptolemy resolved to massacre the remnant of this unhappy nation throughout his dominions ; in order to which, he ordered all the Jews in Egypt to be brought in chains to Alexandria, when he shut them up in the Hippodrone,* with the intention of their being exposed to wild beasts, as a public show. On two successive days, the Egyptian courtiers and fashionables, like the modern Spaniards and Portuguese, were assembled to enjoy the sport, but were disappointed on account of their beastly monarch being saturated with liquor and fast asleep. During all this time, the poor Jews spent their time, like Daniel,t in lifting up their hands and voices, and praying to God for their deliverance; nor did they pray in vain: for he who delivered his prophet from the jaws of the devouring lions, was equally
* A large place without the city, where the people used to assemble to see the horse races and other shows. Prid. ii. 140.
+ Dan. vi. 11. x. 2.
able to preserve his faithful servants from the trunks and fury of the Egyptian elephants, to whom, on the third day, they were actually exposed. For these animals, in order to incense their fury, having had wine and frankincense given to them in immense quantities, they lost all guidance, and turned their rage upon the spectators, and destroyed great numbers of them. There were also some supernatural appearances in the air, which so alarmed the vicious monarch and his courtiers, that he ordered all the Jews to be released, and rescinded his decrees against them; and, to make them some amends, granted them many favours and privileges, and, amongst others, liberty to put to death their apostate brethren, which they accordingly did without a single exception.*
* Prid. ii. 138. 141. who takes this relation from Macc. and Jos. At first sight this procedure may appear harsh and severe, and it has not unfrequently been so arraigned by the advocates of a cold and infidel philosophy, of a morbid and insalutary philanthropy. But such persons either forget that the law of Jehovah was positive upon that subject, or else they must consider the commandments of Jehovah entitled to but little respect. Deut. xiij. 6—18. xvii. 2—7.
The three hundred apostates, therefore, had rendered themselves, in every way, liable to the punishment of death. They had violated the command of their Divine Legislator, and their brethren were bound to put them to death, or subject themselves, their wives, and children, to the wrath of God if they did not: and they had committed the greatest possible political offence against their fellow countrymen; for Jehovah had repeatedly shewn to them, that when his law was broken, he visited the crime upon the nation at large, until the innocent had purged themselves from the offence, by putting to death the offenders. The distinctive peculiarity of the Jews was, that they were the immediate subjects of Jehovah himself; and, therefore, every act of idolatry was an act of rebellion and high treason, against their sovereign Lord and God. And whatever may be thought now, there can be no question that, until the advent of the Messiah, the whole Jewish law and polity was indispensably obligalory upen every descendant of Abraham.
Such, however, were the tyranny and cruelties of Philopater, that at length his own subjects rebelled against him; and it is assumed that the Jews took side with the insurgents, for in the result no less than forty thousand of them were slain.*
The Roman empire, or the fourth or iron kingdom prefigured by the image in Nebuchadnezzar's dream, approximated towards Jewish politics, during the minority of Ptolemy Epiphanes, who was an infant when his father, Ptolemy Philopater, died. # Philip, king of Macedon, having formed an alliance with Antiochus the Great, for the purpose of despoiling the youthful monarch of his dominions, the friends of that prince, attracted by the martial fame which the Romans had already acquired,ll applied to the senate to take their ward under their care, and become his guardians. Having complied with this request, the republic sent M. Æmilius Lepidus and others, as ambassadors to the confederated monarchs, threatening them with war if they attempted to injure their protégé.**
Not regarding this menace, Antiochus persisted in his purpose, but was anticipated by the Egyptian general, who possessed himself of Syria, and planted a garrison in the castle at Jerusalem.tt
Antiochus, however, having at length collected his troops, soon repossessed himself of the greatest part of Palestine, and coming to Jerusalem, was readily received by the Jews, the
* Prid. ji. 141. quoting Euseb. † Dan. ii. 40.
| Prid. ii. 148. $ Philip V. son of Demetrius II. He was defeated by the Romans, who reduced Macedon to a Roman province. Prid. ji. 157. Guthrie, jij. 353. Lempriere. | Scipio Africanus had just beaten Hannibal, the Carthaginian
general, at Zama, in Africa. B. C. 201. A. U. C. 552. € Prid, ji. 15). ** Prid. ii. 152. ++ Prid. ii. 153.