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  • 2 Maccabees 9

    Antiochus retreats and dies

    About this time Antiochus retreated in confusion out of the region of Persia. When he had come into Persepolis, he attempted to loot the temple and take over the city. However, he was decisively beaten when the populace took up arms. Antiochus fled from the inhabitants and had to make a shameful retreat. News reached him at Ecbatana of what happened to Nicanor and to Timothy’s forces. Swelling with rage, he planned to make the Jews pay for his own calamity when he was recently forced to flee. So he ordered his chariot driver to keep driving without stopping in order to complete the journey, but the judgment of heaven was already on him. He had said in his arrogance, “When I get to Jerusalem, I will turn it into a mass grave for the Jews.”

    But the all-seeing Lord God of Israel struck him with a deadly and invisible blow. As soon as he had uttered this statement, he developed a pain in his stomach and a cruel torment in his internal organs from which he could find no relief. This was altogether just, since he had tortured the inner organs of others with many extraordinary torments. By no means, however, did it put a stop to his arrogance. In his contempt, a fiery anger against the Jews still filled him, and he issued a command to increase the speed of the journey. Then he fell from the chariot as it rushed along, and he suffered a severe accident that caused him pain all over his body. Only a short time earlier, he had thought in his superhuman arrogance to command the waves of the sea and to be able to place the mountain peaks in a pair of scales. Now he was thrown down to the ground and was carried in a stretcher for the remainder of his journey, demonstrating God’s power to all. Worms issued from the eyes of this ungodly man. While he was living in pain and in agony, his flesh was rotting away, and the whole camp stank of rottenness from his smell. 10 The one who had formerly thought that he could touch the stars of heaven couldn’t be transported by anyone because of the intense, unbearable stench.

    11 From this point on, he began to lose arrogance. He felt devastated and became aware of the divine punishment, suffering intense pain every moment. 12 Unable to put up with his own odor, he said, “It is fair to submit to God and for humans to stop thinking that they are God’s equals.” 13 This repulsive individual solemnly promised to the Lord (although God no longer had mercy on him), declaring that 14 the holy city, to which he was rushing to knock down to the ground and turn into a mass cemetery, was now free. 15 And he would make all Jews equal to the Athenians, even though previously he had considered them unworthy of burial but fit only for bird food, and their infants fit for animals to prey upon. 16 He would adorn the holy temple, which he had formerly looted, with the most beautiful offerings. He would restore the temple equipment many times over and would give liberally from his own revenues to the expenses for the sacrifices. 17 In addition, he would become a Jew and would visit every inhabited place, announcing publicly God’s power. 18 When his pains didn’t diminish in any way—for God’s judgment had come upon him justly—and he had given up hope, he wrote to the Jews a letter of appeal. This was the content:

    19 To the worthy Jewish citizens, from the king and governor Antiochus. Greetings and health and prosperity.

    20 If you are in good health and your children and affairs are prospering, I give thanks to God with great joy, having hope in heaven, 21 remembering with affection your honor and goodwill. After returning from Persia and falling ill, which created a serious situation, I regarded it as necessary to think of the common safety of all the people. 22 I haven’t abandoned my situation as hopeless but rather hold on to hope that I might recover from the illness. 23 I have also considered, however, that my father (on the occasions when he fought in the upper regions) used to appoint a successor to rule. 24 He did this so that if anything should happen contrary to expectation or even if there should be some unwelcome news, people throughout the country would know that someone was left behind to govern and wouldn’t be deprived of their peace of mind. 25 Moreover, observing how neighboring dynasties and kingdoms wait for the right moment and look forward with anticipation to what might happen next, I appoint my son Antiochus as king. Many times when I had to hurry to the upper provinces, I entrusted and commended him to most of you. I have written these orders to him as well. 26 I call on you then, and request each one of you—remembering my benefits both public and private—to be faithful toward me and my son. 27 I firmly believe he will follow my example closely, acting with kindness and generosity, with the intention of accommodating himself to you.

    28 Then the murderer, who also showed God the greatest disrespect, suffered the worst things, just as he had treated others. His life ended pitifully in a foreign area in the mountains. 29 Philip, who was his close friend, transported his body home. But he was suspicious of the king’s son Antiochus, so he fled to Ptolemy Philometor in Egypt.