3 Maccabees 1
Common English Bible
Battle of Raphia
1 Now Ptolemy Philopator learned from those who had returned that Antiochus had captured some of Ptolemy’s territory. Ptolemy gave orders to all his forces, foot soldiers and mounted soldiers, to break camp. Along with all his forces, and accompanied by his sister Arsinoë, he set out for the region of Raphia where Antiochus’ troops had set up camp.
2 Now a certain Theodotus made up his mind to carry out a plot to kill Ptolemy. He took the best of the weapons that had been assigned to him from Ptolemy’s own arsenal. He crossed over by night to Ptolemy’s tent, intending to put an end to the war by killing him single-handedly. 3 But Dositheus, known as Drimylus’ son, had led Ptolemy away and arranged for an unimportant person to sleep in the king’s tent. This person then met the fate intended for Ptolemy. (Now this Dositheus was a Jew by birth, but he had changed his mind about their customs and had turned away from the teachings of his ancestors.)
4 When a fierce battle arose, and things were going rather well for Antiochus, Arsinoë went out to Ptolemy’s army with pathetic cries and with her hair all in disarray. She urged them to rescue themselves and their children and wives, and bravely promised to give to each man two manehs of gold if they won the battle. 5 And so it turned out that the enemies were destroyed in hand-to-hand combat, and many were taken prisoner. 6 After overcoming the plot, Ptolemy decided to visit the neighboring cities to encourage them. 7 By doing this and by distributing gifts for their sacred shrines, he reassured his subjects.
Ptolemy Philopator at the temple
8 The Jews had sent elders and members of the council to greet him, to bring gifts of friendship, and to congratulate him on recent events. As a result he was even more eager to come to them as soon as possible. 9 So he traveled to Jerusalem, sacrificed to the supreme God, made thank offerings, and did what was appropriate for the temple. As he entered the temple, he was struck with amazement at its brilliance and beauty. 10 And as he admired the orderly arrangement of the temple, he conceived a notion to enter into the holy place. 11 But they said that it wasn’t right to do this since even those of their own nation weren’t permitted to enter it. Not even all the priests were allowed, but only the chief priest, who was in charge over all, and he could do so only once a year. But Philopator wasn’t at all persuaded. 12 Even after the law was read to him, he continued to claim that it was necessary for him to enter, saying, “Even if those persons are denied this honor, I shouldn’t be.” 13 He asked why, when he was entering every other sacred place, none of those present prevented him. 14 And someone said (without thinking) that he was wrong to speak of this as a sign. 15 “But even if for some reason this were true,” Philopator replied, “why should I, of all people, not enter, whether they are willing or not?”
The Jews’ reaction
16 But the priests fell to the ground, still in their sacred robes. They filled the temple with crying and tears, praying to the supreme God to help them and to change the mind of the one who was wrongly imposing himself. 17 Those who were left in the city were troubled and hurried out, thinking something mysterious was happening. 18 The young girls who had been kept secluded at home rushed out with their mothers. They sprinkled their hair with dust and began to fill the streets with weeping and groaning. 19 Even the young women who had just been adorned for their weddings left the bridal bedrooms that had been prepared for the marriage night. Neglecting all proper modesty, they came together in the city in a wild rush. 20 Mothers and nurses left newborn children here and there, some in houses, some in the streets, and crowded together into the most high temple without looking back. 21 The people who assembled offered all kinds of prayers on account of the evil plot of the king. 22 Some of the bolder citizens weren’t going to put up with his intended plan or fulfill what he had in mind. 23 They rallied each other to attack with weapons and to die courageously for the sake of the law of their ancestors, creating a great uproar in the holy place. The old men and the elders were barely able to restrain them, but turned them at last to the same stance of prayer.
24 Now the crowd in front of the temple was occupied in praying, 25 but the elders standing near the king tried in many ways to turn his arrogant mind from the scheme that he had conceived. 26 But he, being made bold and ignoring all their arguments, began to make his approach, determined to carry out his plan. 27 So when those who were near him saw this, they turned together with the people to appeal to the one who was fully able to come to their aid and not to overlook this insolent transgression. 28 An immense roar went up from the intensity and passion of the crowd’s concerted shouting. 29 Indeed it seemed that not only the people but also the walls and the entire land were echoing, because at that time all were prepared to accept death instead of making the holy place impure.