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The Battle of Raphia

When Philopator learned from those who returned that the regions that he had controlled had been seized by Antiochus, he gave orders to all his forces, both infantry and cavalry, took with him his sister Arsinoë, and marched out to the region near Raphia, where the army of Antiochus was encamped.(A) But a certain Theodotus, determined to carry out the plot he had devised, took with him the best of the Ptolemaic arms that had been previously issued to him[a] and crossed over by night to the tent of Ptolemy, intending single-handedly to kill him and thereby end the war. But Dositheus, known as the son of Drimylus, a Jew by birth who later changed his customs and abandoned the ancestral traditions, had led the king away and arranged that a certain insignificant man should sleep in the tent, and so it turned out that this man incurred the punishment meant for the king.[b] A fierce battle ensued, and when matters were turning out rather in favor of Antiochus, Arsinoë went to the troops with wailing and tears, her locks all disheveled, and exhorted them to defend themselves and their children and wives bravely, promising to give them each two minas of gold if they won the battle. And so it came about that the enemy was routed in the action, and many captives also were taken. Now that he had foiled the plot, Ptolemy[c] decided to visit the neighboring cities and encourage them. By doing this and by endowing their sacred enclosures with gifts, he strengthened the morale of his subjects.(B)

Philopator Attempts to Enter the Temple

Since the Jews had sent some of their council and elders to greet him, to bring him gifts of welcome, and to congratulate him on what had happened, he was all the more eager to visit them as soon as possible.(C) After he had arrived in Jerusalem, he offered sacrifice to the supreme God and made thank offerings and did what was fitting for the place. Then, upon entering the place and being impressed by its excellence and its beauty,(D) 10 he marveled at the good order of the temple and conceived a desire to enter the sanctuary. 11 When they said that this was not permitted because not even members of their own nation were allowed to enter, not even all of the priests, but only the high priest who was preeminent over all—and he only once a year—the king was by no means persuaded. 12 Even after the law had been read to him, he did not cease to maintain that he ought to enter, saying, “Even if those men are deprived of this honor, I ought not to be.”(E) 13 And he inquired why, when he entered every other temple,[d] no one there had stopped him. 14 And someone answered thoughtlessly that it was wrong to place any significance in that.[e] 15 “But since this has happened,” the king[f] said, “why should not I at least enter, whether they wish it or not?”

Jewish Resistance to Ptolemy

16 Then the priests in all their vestments prostrated themselves and entreated the supreme God to aid in the present situation and to avert the violence of this evil design, and they filled the temple with cries and tears;(F) 17 those who remained behind in the city were agitated and hurried out, supposing that something mysterious was occurring.(G) 18 Young women who had been secluded in their chambers rushed out with their mothers, sprinkled their hair with dust,[g] and filled the streets with groans and lamentations.(H) 19 Those women who had recently been arrayed for marriage abandoned the bridal chambers[h] prepared for wedded union and, neglecting proper modesty, in a disorderly rush flocked together in the city.(I) 20 Mothers and nurses abandoned even newborn children here and there, some in houses and some in the streets, and without a backward look they crowded together at the most high temple. 21 Various were the supplications of those gathered there because of what the king was profanely plotting.(J) 22 In addition, the bolder of the citizens would not tolerate the completion of his plans or the fulfillment of his intended purpose. 23 They shouted to their compatriots to take arms and die courageously for the ancestral law and created a considerable disturbance in the place, and, being barely restrained by the old men and the elders,[i] they resorted to the same posture of supplication as the others.(K) 24 Meanwhile, the crowd, as before, was engaged in prayer, 25 while the elders near the king tried in various ways to change his arrogant mind from the plan that he had conceived.(L) 26 But he, in his arrogance, took heed of nothing and began now to approach, determined to bring the aforesaid plan to a conclusion. 27 When those who were around him observed this, they turned, together with our people, to call upon him who has all power to defend them in the present trouble and not to overlook this unlawful and haughty deed. 28 The continuous, vehement, and concerted cry of the crowds[j] resulted in an immense uproar, 29 for it seemed that not only the people but also the walls and the whole earth around echoed, because indeed all at that time[k] preferred death to the profanation of the place.(M)


  1. 1.2 Or the best of the Ptolemaic soldiers previously put under his command
  2. 1.3 Gk that one
  3. 1.6 Gk he
  4. 1.13 Or entered the temple precincts
  5. 1.14 Gk take that as a portent
  6. 1.15 Gk he
  7. 1.18 Other ancient authorities add and ashes
  8. 1.19 Or the canopies
  9. 1.23 Other ancient authorities read priests
  10. 1.28 Other ancient authorities read vehement cry of the assembled crowds
  11. 1.29 Other ancient authorities lack at that time