« הקודםהמשך »
many thousands of the Jewish race who then dwelt at Alexandria, only three hundred of them had forsaken their God to gain the favour of the king.
Upon the death of Ptolemy Philopater, his son Ptolemy Epiphanes (a child of five years old) succeeded to the throne; but Antiochus the Great, king of Syria, taking advantage of the young king's inability to oppose him, marched into Cælo Syria and Palestine, and in a very short time made himself master of them, and was cheerfully received by the Jews; in return for which, he granted them liberty to live according to their own laws and religion.
Shortly after this, Antiochus made peace with Ptolemy, and gave him his daughter Cleopatra to wife; and with her as dower, Colo-Syria and Palestine, upon condition of dividing the revenues of those provinces with him.
THE HISTORY OF THE JEWS UNDER ANTIOCHUS THE
GREAT, AND SELEUCUS KING OF SYRIA. ANTIOCHUS was a prince of great humanity, clemency, and beneficence, and very just in the administration of his government; and till the fiftieth year
of his life managed all his affairs with valour, prudence, and application, which deservedly gained him the title of the great; but afterwards he declined in wisdom and conduct, till at length he was vanquished by the Romans, driven out of the best part of his dominions, forced to submit to very disgraceful terms of peace, and at last died in an inglorious manner: for, having robbed an idol temple, he was slain by the people of the country as he was carrying off the spoil. There is amongst the prophecies of Daniel * a very remarkable prediction re
* Dan. xi. 12 to 14 inclusive. See the application in Rollin's Ancient History, and Prideaux's Connection,
specting specting Antiochus the Great, but this cannot be ex. plained without entering into an historical detail of this reign, too copious for our examination at present.
After the death of Antiochus the Great, his son Şe. leucus Philopater succeeded him in the kingdom of Syria, to which he annexed Coelo-Syria, Palestine, and other adjacent provinces: it is not certain at what time or by what means, he gained possession of them. At first he favoured the Jews, and supplied them with all things necessary for the service of the Temple at his own expence: but being informed by one Simon a Ben.. jamite, who was governor of the Temple, and had dise agreed with the high-priest, that there were great riches in the Temple, he sent his treasurer, Heliodorus, to seize and bring them to Antioch. Heliodorus set out upon his journey; and when he arrived at Jerusalem met with a most gracious reception from the high-priest, but as soon as he had informed him that he came in the king's name to demand the money which they had in the treasury, the high-priest remonstrated with him on the cruelty and injustice of seizing what was deposited in trust for the relief of widows and orphans. But this wicked man was deaf to every plea of humanity and justice, and insisted on obeying the king's command.
Wherefore *, (as the Book of Maccabees informs us:) there was no small distress in the city; and the highpriest and people most earnestly intreated the aid of the LORD),"
Heliodorus resolved to seize the money by violence; on which, we are informed, he had a very extraordi. nary vision ; this terrified him to such a degree + he was cast down and lay speechless, without any
2 Macc. iii. 14-23.
hope of life. But the high-priest fearing lest the king should conceive that some treachery had been used to Heliodorus by the Jews, offered a sacrifice for his health, So Heliodorus, after he had offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made great vows unto him that had saved bis life, saluted Onias, and returned with his host to the king. Then testified he to all men, the works of the great Gon, which he had seen with his eyes." When Heliodorus returned to the king, he informed him of the wonderful transaction, and assured him that the Lord certainly defended the place: then Simon slandered Onias to Seleucus, insinuating, that he had terrified Heliodorus; on which the good high-priest resolved to go to the king to vindicate himself. Not long after this, Heliodorus, aspiring to the crown, poisoned his sovereign - Seleucus, in hopes of succeeding him: but his design was obstructed, and Antiochus Epiphanes, another son of Antiochus the Great was placed on the Syrian throne.
The Romans, by their conquests over Antiochus the Great, had reduced the kingdom of Syria to a very low ebb, and had exacted the heavy tribute of a thousand talents annually. The prophet Daniel foretold, that after Antiochus shall stand * up a raiser of taxes in the glory of the kingdom. Seleucus was literally such, for his chief employment was to collect together, by taxing his subjects, money to pay tribute to the Romans.
THE HISTORY OF THE JEWS UNDER THE REIGN OF
ANTIOCHUS Epiphanes was a cruel
persecutor of the Jews; his character, and the revolutions
* Dan. xi. 20.
of his reign, were particularly predicted by the prophet Daniel *; but we have not room to insert this prophecy here.
After the death of Seleucus, ANTIOCHUS his brother was returning from Rome, where he had lived as a hostage from the time the Romans granted peace to his father Antiochus the Great. Whilst on his journey he heard of the death of Seleucus, and the attempt of Heliodorus to seize the crown, and that there were other parties forming. He applied himself to two neighbouring kings, Eumenes king of Pergamus, and Attalus his brother; and, by flattering speeches, and great promises of friendship, prevailed on them to help him against Heliodorus, and by their means he was quiecly seated on the throne; but they could not give him the honours of the kingdom, that is to say, hereditary descent or free election, as Seleucus left a son behind him who was the lawful heir; neither was he the object of the people's choice.
Antiochus was a very vile person, and committed such inconsistent actions, that he was generally esteemed either a fool or a madman. He was very poor when he came to the crown, for his predecessor had been obligo ed to exhaust the public treasury to pay the tribute to the Romans.
Jason, who was brother to Onias, took advantage of the king's necessities to gratify his own ambitious views, and bribed Antiochus with a large sum of money to dispossess Onias, and make him high-priest in his stead. Jason t, who was an apostate himself, endeavoured to draw as many as he could from the observance of those laws and ceremonies which distin
Dan. xi. 21, &c.
+ 2 Macc. iv.
guished guished the Jews from all other nations in the world. And he obtained leave of the king to erect a place of public exercise for the training up of youth, according to the customs of the Greeks. These exercises naturally drew them from the service of the altar, and even the priests joined in forbidden customs with the heathens. Of course iniquity spread very fast, which provoked the LORD to recall his people to a sense of their duty, by severe chastisements.
There were every fifth year games celebrated in Tyre in honour of Hercules, a heathen deity; and Antiochus being present at them, he sent several of the Jews who were of his party to be spectators of them, and to offer for him a considerable sum; but the bearers being afraid of involving themselves in the guilt of idolatry, gave the money to the Tyrians to be employed in repairing their ships *;
Cleopatra, mother to PTOLEMY PHILOMETER, the young king of Egypt, had taken upon herself the
government of the kingdom, and the tuition of her infant son, which she managed with great care and prudence; but dying about this time, those who succeeded to the guardianship of the young prince, demanded of Antiochus the provinces of Celo-Syria and Palestine, pleading Ptolemy's right to them; but Antiochus insisted on his right, and both parties resolved to decide the matter by war. Before either proceeded to hostilities, Philometer being fourteen years old, was declared of age, and great preparations were made for ascending the throne. On this occasion Apollonius, an ambassador, was sent under pretence of congratulating him in the name of Antiochus, who was his uncle, but in reality to see how the court stood affected. His report occa
* 2 Macc. iv.