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2 Maccabees 4 Common English Bible (CEB)

This Simon, who had informed about the wealth of the temple and acted as an informer against his native land, slandered Onias. He accused the latter of threatening Heliodorus and becoming a perpetrator of evil. He dared to label the benefactor of the city, the protector of his fellow citizens, and a passionate advocate for the laws, as a traitor against the government. His hatred was so intense that one of Simon’s men had even attempted to commit murders. Seeing the danger of the dispute—including how Menestheus’ son Apollonius, the governor of Coele-Syria and Phoenicia, encouraged Simon’s evil— Onias went to the king not to accuse his fellow citizens but to safeguard the public and private welfare of the people. He recognized that without royal attention pubic affairs would not return to a peaceful state, and Simon would not cease from his madness.

Jason as high priest

After Seleucus died and Antiochus (who was called Epiphanes) received the kingdom, Jason the brother of Onias gained the high priesthood by corruption. He offered the king, in private communication, 20,520 pounds of silver, and an additional 4,560 pounds from another source of revenue. He also promised to pay another 8,550 pounds of silver if he were permitted to set up, under his own authority, a gymnasium and a place for training the young people, and to enroll those living in Jerusalem as citizens of Antioch. 10 When the king had granted this and Jason had taken possession of his office, he immediately made his fellow citizens change to the Greek way of life. 11 He set aside the customs established for the Jews by royal generosity, negotiated through John the father of Eupolemus (the one who had made the official journey to secure friendship and alliance with the Romans). He abolished the lawful government and introduced customs contrary to the law. 12 He eagerly founded a gymnasium right below the elevated fortress[a] and induced the most honorable of the trainees to wear the traditional Greek hat. 13 So the Greek way of life caught on very quickly, and the adoption of foreign customs increased because of Jason—an excessively wicked and ungodly man who was no high priest. 14 Even the priests were no longer devoted to the service of the altar, but they treated the temple with contempt. By neglecting the sacrifices, they hurried to participate in the lawless wrestling spectacles in the arena as soon as the discus-throwing event was announced. 15 They ignored their ancestral honors and sought after Greek status symbols instead. 16 For this reason a dangerous situation engulfed them. Those same people to whom they were devoted and whose way of life they wished to imitate became their enemies and inflicted punishment on them. 17 To be ungodly in the face of the divine laws isn’t a light matter, as the following events would reveal.

18 Once when the king was present at the athletic games they held every five years in Tyre, 19 the evil Jason sent residents of Jerusalem who were now citizens of Antioch as his envoys, carrying three hundred silver drachmen[b] for the sacrifice to Hercules. Because it was inappropriate, the envoys didn’t think it was right to use these funds for sacrifice. Instead, they applied the expense to something else. 20 So although Jason designated this sum for a sacrifice to Hercules, the envoys spent it on equipping warships.

21 After Menestheus’ son Apollonius was sent to Egypt for the coronation of Ptolemy Philometor as king, Antiochus thought about his own security because he had received a report that the Egyptian king was hostile toward his government. So after sailing to Joppa, he came to Jerusalem. 22 Jason received him magnificently, and the people of the city welcomed him with torches and shouts. Then Antiochus took his army to Phoenicia.

Menelaus as high priest

23 Three years later, Jason sent Menelaus (brother of the previously mentioned Simon) to bring funds to the king and settle the accounts of some urgent business matters. 24 When he was introduced to the king, he honored him with an air of authority and bought the high priesthood for himself, outbidding Jason by 17,100 pounds of silver. 25 When he received the king’s assent, he turned up holding no qualifications of the high priesthood but instead displaying the temper of a cruel tyrant and the wrath of a savage beast. 26 So Jason, who had replaced his brother in an unjust manner, was now displaced by another and forced to escape to Ammonitis. 27 Menelaus took authority but didn’t send any of the promised money to the king. 28 Sostratus the commander of the elevated fortress[c] demanded settlement of the debt, for he had the responsibility of collecting payment. Finally, the two were summoned by the king. 29 Menelaus left behind as deputy of the high priesthood his own brother Lysimachus, and Sostratus left Crates, who was commander of the troops from Cyprus.

30 While these things were happening, the people of Tarsus and Mallus rebelled when their cities were given as a gift to Antiochis, the king’s secondary wife. 31 The king swiftly set off to restore order to the situation, leaving Andronicus, one of his high-ranking officials, as his deputy. 32 Menelaus recognized an opportunity, seized some of the temple’s gold equipment, and made them a gift to Andronicus, though he had already sold some of them in Tyre and the surrounding cities. 33 When he became aware of what was happening, Onias made accusations against Menelaus after arriving at a safe and sacred place in Daphne near Antioch. 34 So Menelaus took Andronicus aside and urged him to do away with Onias. Andronicus came to Onias and [d] persuaded him by deception, extending his strong hand with solemn pledges,[e] to come out of safety despite his fear. Then with no regard for justice, he did away with him on the spot. 35 For this reason, not only Jews but also many other people were grieved and angry over the wicked murder of this man. 36 When the king had returned from the region of Cilicia, the Jews in the city and some Greeks, feeling hatred for the senseless killing of Onias, obtained an audience with him. 37 Antiochus was deeply grieved, moved to pity and tears, because of the modest behavior and good conduct of the dead man. 38 Burning with anger, he immediately stripped off Andronicus’ purple robe, tore off his clothes, and dragged him around the whole city to the place where he had wrongfully killed Onias. There he rid the world of the murderer, giving him the punishment he deserved from the Lord.

39 With Menelaus’ approval, Lysimachus committed many sacrilegious acts against the city. There was a report that he smuggled much of the temple’s gold equipment abroad, so the populace gathered together against Lysimachus. 40 Because the crowds were aroused and furious, Lysimachus armed three thousand men and incited cruel force under the leadership of a certain Auranus, a man as senseless as he was old. 41 When the people saw Lysimachus’ assault, they grabbed stones and blocks of wood—some even took handfuls of ashes—and they hurled these at Lysimachus’ men, causing great confusion. 42 In the end, they wounded many, killed some, and forced all of them to flee. They overpowered and killed the temple plunderer Lysimachus near the treasury.

43 The people brought charges against Menelaus regarding these matters. 44 When the king arrived in Tyre, the council of elders sent three men to present the case before him. 45 But Menelaus, without an ally, promised enough money to Ptolemy, Dorymenes’ son, to gain the king’s support. 46 So Ptolemy took the king aside into a royal porch area, as though to get some fresh air. He convinced the king to change his mind. 47 So Menelaus, the cause of all the evil, was allowed to leave court acquitted of all charges, but the wretched envoys, who would have been found innocent even had they pleaded their case before Scythians, were falsely condemned to death. 48 As a result, these men, who had spoken in defense of the city, the people, and the temple equipment, were abruptly subjected to an unjust penalty. 49 For this reason, to show their hatred at such twisted justice, even the Tyrians gave generously so that the men could have an impressive funeral. 50 But, through the greed of those in power, Menelaus remained in office and persisted in evil as a great conspirator against the citizens.


  1. 2 Maccabees 4:12 Gk acropolis
  2. 2 Maccabees 4:19 A drachme is equivalent in value to a typical day’s wage.
  3. 2 Maccabees 4:28 Gk acropolis
  4. 2 Maccabees 4:34 Correction; Gk uncertain
  5. 2 Maccabees 4:34 Correction; Gk uncertain
Common English Bible (CEB)

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