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Ptolemy’s Letter on Behalf of the Jews

“King Ptolemy Philopator to the generals in Egypt and all in authority in his government, greetings and good health:

“We ourselves and our children are faring well, the great God guiding our affairs according to our desire. Certain of our friends, frequently urging us with malicious intent, persuaded us to gather together the Jews of the kingdom in a body and to punish them with barbarous penalties as traitors; for they declared that our government would never be firmly established until this was accomplished, because of the ill-will that these people had toward all nations. They also led them out with harsh treatment as slaves, or rather as traitors, and, girding themselves with a cruelty more savage than that of Scythian custom, they tried without any inquiry or examination to put them to death. But we very severely threatened them for these acts, and in accordance with the clemency that we have toward all people we barely spared their lives. Since we have come to realize that the God of heaven surely defends the Jews, always taking their part as a father does for his children, and since we have taken into account the friendly and firm goodwill that they had toward us and our ancestors, we justly have acquitted them of every charge of whatever kind. We also have ordered all people to return to their own homes, with no one in any place[a] doing them harm at all or reproaching them for the irrational things that have happened. For you should know that if we devise any evil against them or cause them any grief at all, we always shall have not a mortal but the Ruler over every power, the Most High God, in everything and inescapably as an antagonist to avenge such acts. Farewell.”

The Jews Return Home with Joy

10 On receiving this letter the Jews[b] did not immediately hurry to make their departure, but they requested of the king that at their own hands those of the Jewish nation who had willfully transgressed against the holy God and the law of God should receive the punishment they deserved. 11 They declared that those who for the belly’s sake had transgressed the divine commandments would never be favorably disposed toward the king’s government. 12 The king[c] then, admitting and approving the truth of what they said, granted them a general license so that freely, and without royal authority or supervision, they might destroy those everywhere in his kingdom who had transgressed the law of God. 13 When they had applauded him in fitting manner, their priests and the whole multitude shouted the Hallelujah and joyfully departed. 14 And so on their way they punished and put to a public and shameful death any whom they met of their compatriots who had become defiled. 15 In that day they put to death more than three hundred men; and they kept the day as a joyful festival, since they had destroyed the profaners. 16 But those who had held fast to God even to death and had received the full enjoyment of deliverance began their departure from the city, crowned with all sorts of very fragrant flowers, joyfully and loudly giving thanks to the one God of their ancestors, the eternal Savior[d] of Israel, in words of praise and all kinds of melodious songs.

17 When they had arrived at Ptolemais, called “rose-bearing” because of a characteristic of the place, the fleet waited for them, in accordance with the common desire, for seven days. 18 There they celebrated their deliverance,[e] for the king had generously provided all things to them for their journey until all of them arrived at their own houses. 19 And when they had all landed in peace with appropriate thanksgiving, there too in like manner they decided to observe these days as a joyous festival during the time of their stay. 20 Then, after inscribing them as holy on a pillar and dedicating a place of prayer at the site of the festival, they departed unharmed, free, and overjoyed, since at the king’s command they had all of them been brought safely by land and sea and river to their own homes. 21 They also possessed greater prestige among their enemies, being held in honor and awe; and they were not subject at all to confiscation of their belongings by anyone. 22 Besides, they all recovered all of their property, in accordance with the registration, so that those who held any of it restored it to them with extreme fear.[f] So the supreme God perfectly performed great deeds for their deliverance. 23 Blessed be the Deliverer of Israel through all times! Amen.


  1. 3 Maccabees 7:8 Other ancient authorities read way
  2. 3 Maccabees 7:10 Gk they
  3. 3 Maccabees 7:12 Gk He
  4. 3 Maccabees 7:16 Other ancient authorities read the holy Savior; others, the holy one
  5. 3 Maccabees 7:18 Gk they made a cup of deliverance
  6. 3 Maccabees 7:22 Other ancient authorities read with a very large supplement

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