2 Maccabees - 3

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1While the holy city was inhabited in al peace and the laws were observed as perfectly as possible,owing to the piety of Onias the high priest and his hatred of wickedness, 2it came about that the kings themselves honoured the holy place and enhanced the glory of the Templewith the most splendid offerings, 3even to the extent that Seleucus king of Asia defrayed from his own revenues al the expenses arisingout of the sacrificial liturgy. 4But a certain Simon, of the tribe of Bilgah, on being appointed administrator of the Temple, came intoconflict with the high priest over the regulation of the city markets. 5Unable to get the better of Onias, he went off to Apol onius, son of Thraseos, who was at that timecommander-in-chief of Coele-Syria and Phoenicia, 6and made out to him that the Treasury in Jerusalem was groaning with untold wealth, that the amountcontributed was incalculable and out of all proportion to expenditure on the sacrifice, but that it could al bebrought under the control of the king. 7Apol onius met the king and told him about the wealth that had been disclosed to him; whereupon theking selected Heliodorus, his chancel or, and sent him with instructions to effect the removal of the reportedwealth. 8Heliodorus lost no time in setting out, ostensibly to inspect the towns of Coele-Syria and Phoenicia, butin fact to accomplish the king's purpose. 9On his arrival in Jerusalem, and after a hospitable reception from the high priest and the city, heannounced what had been disclosed, thus revealing the reason for his presence, and asked if this was indeedthe true situation. 10The high priest explained that there were funds set aside for widows and orphans, 11with some belonging to Hyrcanus son of Tobias, a man occupying a very exalted position, and thatthe whole sum, in contrast to what the evil Simon had al eged, amounted to four hundred talents of silver andtwo hundred of gold. 12He also added that it was entirely out of the question that an injustice should be done to those whohad put their trust in the sanctity of the place and in the inviolable majesty of a Temple venerated throughout theentire world. 13But Heliodorus, because of his instructions from the king, peremptorily insisted that the funds must beconfiscated for the royal exchequer. 14Fixing a day for the purpose, he went in to draw up an inventory of the funds. There was no littleconsternation throughout the city; 15the priests in their sacred vestments prostrated themselves before the altar and prayed to Heaven, tothe Author of the law governing deposits, to preserve these funds intact for the depositors. 16The appearance of the high priest was enough to pierce the heart of the beholder, his expression andhis altered colour betraying the anguish of his soul; 17the man was so overwhelmed by fear and bodily trembling that those who saw him could not possiblymistake the distress he was suffering. 18People rushed headlong from the houses, intent on making public supplication because of theindignity threatening the holy place. 19Women thronged the streets swathed in sackcloth below their breasts; girls secluded indoors camerunning, some to the doorways, some to the city walls, while others leaned out of the windows, 20al stretching out their hands to Heaven in entreaty. 21It was pitiful to see the people crowding together to prostrate themselves, and the foreboding of thehigh priest in his deep anguish. 22While they were cal ing on the al -powerful Lord to preserve the deposits intact for the depositors, inful security, 23Heliodorus set about his appointed task. 24He had already arrived with his bodyguard near the Treasury, when the Sovereign of spirits and ofevery power caused so great an apparition that all who had dared to accompany Heliodorus were dumbfoundedat the power of God and reduced to abject terror. 25Before their eyes appeared a horse richly caparisoned and carrying a fearsome rider. Rearingviolently, it struck at Heliodorus with its forefeet. The rider was seen to be accoutred entirely in gold. 26Two other young men of outstanding strength and radiant beauty, magnificently apparel ed, appearedto him at the same time and, taking their stand on each side of him, flogged him unremittingly, inflicting strokeafter stroke. 27Suddenly Heliodorus fel to the ground, enveloped in thick darkness. His men came to his rescue andplaced him in a litter, 28this man who but a moment before had made his way into the Treasury, as we said above, with agreat retinue and his whole bodyguard; and as they carried him away, powerless to help himself, they openlyacknowledged the sovereign power of God. 29While Heliodorus lay prostrate under the divine visitation, speechless and bereft of al hope ofdeliverance, 30the Jews blessed the Lord who had miraculously glorified his own holy place. And the Temple, whicha little while before had been fil ed with terror and commotion, now overflowed with joy and gladness at themanifestation of the almighty Lord. 31Some of Heliodorus' companions quickly begged Onias to entreat the Most High to grant the man hislife, lying as he did at the very point of death. 32The high priest, afraid that the king might suspect the Jews of some foul play concerning Heliodorus,did indeed offer a sacrifice for the man's recovery. 33And while the high priest was performing the rite of expiation, the same young men again appeared toHeliodorus, wearing the same apparel and, standing beside him, said, 'Be very grateful to Onias the high priest,since it is for his sake that the Lord has granted you your life. 34As for you, who have been scourged by Heaven, you must proclaim to everyone the grandeur ofGod's power.' So saying, they vanished. 35Heliodorus offered sacrifice to the Lord and made most solemn vows to the preserver of his life, andthen took courteous leave of Onias and marched his forces back to the king. 36He openly testified to everyone about the works of the supreme God which he had seen with his owneyes. 37When the king asked Heliodorus what sort of man would be the right person to send to Jerusalem ona second occasion, he replied, 38'If you have some enemy or anyone disloyal to the state, send him there, and you wil get him backwel flogged, if he survives at al , since some peculiarly divine power attaches to the holy place. 39He who has his dwel ing in heaven watches over the place and defends it, and he strikes down anddestroys those who come to harm it.' 40This was the outcome of the affair of Heliodorus and the preservation of the Treasury.
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