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2 Maccabees 3

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2 Maccabees 3

Arrival of Heliodorus in Jerusalem

1While the holy city was inhabited in unbroken peace and the laws were very well observed because of the piety of the high priest Oni'as and his hatred of wickedness, 2it came about that the kings themselves honored the place and glorified the temple with the finest presents, 3so that even Seleu'cus, the king of Asia, defrayed from his own revenues all the expenses connected with the service of the sacrifices. 4But 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; 5and when he could not prevail over Oni'as he went to Apollo'nius of Tarsus,a who at that time was governor of Coelesyria and Phoenic'ia. 6He reported to him that the treasury in Jerusalem was full of untold sums of money, so that the amount of the funds could not be reckoned, and that they did not belong to the account of the sacrifices, but that it was possible for them to fall under the control of the king. 7When Apollo'nius met the king, he told him of the money about which he had been informed. The kingb chose Heliodor'us, who was in charge of his affairs, and sent him with commands to effect the removal of the aforesaid money. 8Heliodor'us at once set out on his journey, ostensibly to make a tour of inspection of the cities of Coelesyria and Phoenic'ia, but in fact to carry out the king's purpose.

9When he had arrived at Jerusalem and had been kindly welcomed by the high priest ofc the city, he told about the disclosure that had been made and stated why he had come, and he inquired whether this really was the situation. 10The high priest explained that there were some deposits belonging to widows and orphans, 11and also some money of Hyrca'nus, son of Tobi'as, a man of very prominent position, and that it totaled in all four hundred talents of silver and two hundred of gold. To such an extent the impious Simon had misrepresented the facts. 12And he said that it was utterly impossible that wrong should be done to those people who had trusted in the holiness of the place and in the sanctity and inviolability of the temple which is honored throughout the whole world. 13But Heliodor'us, because of the king's commands which he had, said that this money must in any case be confiscated for the king's treasury. 14So he set a day and went in to direct the inspection of these funds.

There was no little distress throughout the whole city. 15The priests prostrated themselves before the altar in their priestly garments and called toward heaven upon him who had given the law about deposits, that he should keep them safe for those who had deposited them. 16To see the appearance of the high priest was to be wounded at heart, for his face and the change in his color disclosed the anguish of his soul. 17For terror and bodily trembling had come over the man, which plainly showed to those who looked at him the pain lodged in his heart. 18People also hurried out of their houses in crowds to make a general supplication because the holy place was about to be brought into contempt. 19Women, girded with sackcloth under their breasts, thronged the streets. Some of the maidens who were kept indoors ran together to the gates, and some to the walls, while others peered out of the windows. 20And holding up their hands to heaven, they all made entreaty. 21There was something pitiable in the prostration of the whole populace and the anxiety of the high priest in his great anguish.

The Lord Protects His Temple

22While they were calling upon the Almighty Lord that he would keep what had been entrusted safe and secure for those who had entrusted it, 23Heliodor'us went on with what had been decided. 24But when he arrived at the treasury with his bodyguard, then and there the Sovereign of spirits and of all authority caused so great a manifestation that all who had been so bold as to accompany him were astounded by the power of God, and became faint with terror. 25For there appeared to them a magnificently caparisoned horse, with a rider of frightening mien, and it rushed furiously at Heliodor'us and struck at him with its front hoofs. Its rider was seen to have armor and weapons of gold. 26Two young men also appeared to him, remarkably strong, gloriously beautiful and splendidly dressed, who stood on each side of him and scourged him continuously, inflicting many blows on him. 27When he suddenly fell to the ground and deep darkness came over him, his men took him up and put him on a stretcher 28and carried him away, this man who had just entered the aforesaid treasury with a great retinue and all his bodyguard but was now unable to help himself; and they recognized clearly the sovereign power of God. 29While he lay prostrate, speechless because of the divine intervention and deprived of any hope of recovery, 30they praised the Lord who had acted marvelously for his own place. And the temple, which a little while before was full of fear and disturbance, was filled with joy and gladness, now that the Almighty Lord had appeared.

Onias Prays for Heliodorus

31Quickly some of Heliodor'us' friends asked Oni'as to call upon the Most High and to grant life to one who was lying quite at his last breath. 32And the high priest, fearing that the king might get the notion that some foul play had been perpetrated by the Jews with regard to Heliodor'us, offered sacrifice for the man's recovery. 33While the high priest was making the offering of atonement, the same young men appeared again to Heliodor'us, dressed in the same clothing, and they stood and said, "Be very grateful to Oni'as the high priest, since for his sake the Lord has granted you your life. 34And see that you, who have been scourged by heaven, report to all men the majestic power of God." Having said this they vanished.

The Conversion of Heliodorus

35Then Heliodor'us offered sacrifice to the Lord and made very great vows to the Savior of his life, and having bidden Oni'as farewell, he marched off with his forces to the king. 36And he bore testimony to all men of the deeds of the supreme God, which he had seen with his own eyes. 37When the king asked Heliodor'us what sort of person would be suitable to send on another mission to Jerusalem, he replied, 38"If you have any enemy or plotter against your government, send him there, for you will get him back thoroughly scourged, if he escapes at all, for there certainly is about the place some power of God. 39For he who has his dwelling in heaven watches over that place himself and brings it aid, and he strikes and destroys those who come to do it injury." 40This was the outcome of the episode of Heliodor'us and the protection of the treasury.