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The Prayer of the High Priest Simon

Then the high priest Simon, facing the sanctuary, bending his knees and extending his hands with calm dignity, prayed as follows:[a] “Lord, Lord, king of the heavens, and sovereign of all creation, holy among the holy ones, the only ruler, almighty, give attention to us who are suffering grievously from an impious and profane man, puffed up in his audacity and power. For you, the creator of all things and the governor of all, are a just Ruler, and you judge those who have done anything in insolence and arrogance. You destroyed those who in the past committed injustice, among whom were even giants who trusted in their strength and boldness, whom you destroyed by bringing on them a boundless flood. You consumed with fire and sulfur the people of Sodom who acted arrogantly, who were notorious for their vices;[b] and you made them an example to those who should come afterward. You made known your mighty power by inflicting many and varied punishments on the audacious Pharaoh who had enslaved your holy people Israel. And when he pursued them with chariots and a mass of troops, you overwhelmed him in the depths of the sea, but carried through safely those who had put their confidence in you, the Ruler over the whole creation. And when they had seen works of your hands, they praised you, the Almighty. You, O King, when you had created the boundless and immeasurable earth, chose this city and sanctified this place for your name, though you have no need of anything; and when you had glorified it by your magnificent manifestation,[c] you made it a firm foundation for the glory of your great and honored name. 10 And because you love the house of Israel, you promised that if we should have reverses and tribulation should overtake us, you would listen to our petition when we come to this place and pray. 11 And indeed you are faithful and true. 12 And because oftentimes when our fathers were oppressed you helped them in their humiliation, and rescued them from great evils, 13 see now, O holy King, that because of our many and great sins we are crushed with suffering, subjected to our enemies, and overtaken by helplessness. 14 In our downfall this audacious and profane man undertakes to violate the holy place on earth dedicated to your glorious name. 15 For your dwelling is the heaven of heavens, unapproachable by human beings. 16 But because you graciously bestowed your glory on your people Israel, you sanctified this place. 17 Do not punish us for the defilement committed by these men, or call us to account for this profanation, otherwise the transgressors will boast in their wrath and exult in the arrogance of their tongue, saying, 18 ‘We have trampled down the house of the sanctuary as the houses of the abominations are trampled down.’ 19 Wipe away our sins and disperse our errors, and reveal your mercy at this hour. 20 Speedily let your mercies overtake us, and put praises in the mouth of those who are downcast and broken in spirit, and give us peace.”

God’s Punishment of Ptolemy

21 Thereupon God, who oversees all things, the first Father of all, holy among the holy ones, having heard the lawful supplication, scourged him who had exalted himself in insolence and audacity. 22 He shook him on this side and that as a reed is shaken by the wind, so that he lay helpless on the ground and, besides being paralyzed in his limbs, was unable even to speak, since he was smitten[d] by a righteous judgment. 23 Then both friends and bodyguards, seeing the severe punishment that had overtaken him, and fearing that he would lose his life, quickly dragged him out, panic-stricken in their exceedingly great fear. 24 After a while he recovered, and though he had been punished, he by no means repented, but went away uttering bitter threats.

Hostile Measures against the Jews

25 When he arrived in Egypt, he increased in his deeds of malice, abetted by the previously mentioned drinking companions and comrades, who were strangers to everything just. 26 He was not content with his uncounted licentious deeds, but even continued with such audacity that he framed evil reports in the various localities; and many of his friends, intently observing the king’s purpose, themselves also followed his will. 27 He proposed to inflict public disgrace on the Jewish community,[e] and he set up a stone[f] on the tower in the courtyard with this inscription: 28 “None of those who do not sacrifice shall enter their sanctuaries, and all Jews shall be subjected to a registration involving poll tax and to the status of slaves. Those who object to this are to be taken by force and put to death; 29 those who are registered are also to be branded on their bodies by fire with the ivy-leaf symbol of Dionysus, and they shall also be reduced to their former limited status.” 30 In order that he might not appear to be an enemy of all, he inscribed below: “But if any of them prefer to join those who have been initiated into the mysteries, they shall have equal citizenship with the Alexandrians.”

31 Now some, however, with an obvious abhorrence of the price to be exacted for maintaining the religion of their city,[g] readily gave themselves up, since they expected to enhance their reputation by their future association with the king. 32 But the majority acted firmly with a courageous spirit and did not abandon their religion; and by paying money in exchange for life they confidently attempted to save themselves from the registration. 33 They remained resolutely hopeful of obtaining help, and they abhorred those who separated themselves from them, considering them to be enemies of the Jewish nation,[h] and depriving them of companionship and mutual help.


  1. 3 Maccabees 2:1 Other ancient authorities lack verse 1
  2. 3 Maccabees 2:5 Other ancient authorities read secret in their vices
  3. 3 Maccabees 2:9 Or epiphany
  4. 3 Maccabees 2:22 Other ancient authorities read pierced
  5. 3 Maccabees 2:27 Gk the nation
  6. 3 Maccabees 2:27 Gk stele
  7. 3 Maccabees 2:31 Meaning of Gk uncertain
  8. 3 Maccabees 2:33 Gk the nation