The day Antiochus Epiphanes came to town…
By Hilary White
…And it came to pass that in the last days of the reign of Alexander the Great, he divided his great empire among his most trusted officers, and when he died, they took up crowns and began to rule...
“From them came forth a sinful root, Antiochus Epiphanes, son of Antiochus the king; he had been a hostage in Rome. He began to reign in the one hundred and thirty-seventh year of the kingdom of the Greeks.
“In those days lawless men came forth in Israel, and misled many, saying, ‘Let us go and make a covenant with the Gentiles round about us, for since we separated from them many evils have come upon us.’
“This proposal pleased them, and some of the people eagerly went to the king. He authorized them to observe the ordinances of the Gentiles. So they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem, according to Gentile custom, and removed the marks of circumcision, and abandoned the holy covenant. They joined with the Gentiles and sold themselves to do evil…”
Then, after Antiochus, the wicked Gentile, had gone south with his armies and subdued and humiliated Ptolemy, the king of Egypt, he turned his attention to the Temple and the people of Israel, and their covenant with the Lord…
“He went up against Israel and came to Jerusalem with a strong force. He arrogantly entered the sanctuary and took the golden altar, the lampstand for the light, and all its utensils. He took also the table for the bread of the Presence, the cups for drink offerings, the bowls, the golden censers, the curtain, the crowns, and the gold decoration on the front of the temple; he stripped it all off. He took the silver and the gold, and the costly vessels; he took also the hidden treasures which he found. Taking them all, he departed to his own land.”
Two years later the king sent to the cities of Judah a chief collector of tribute, and he came to Jerusalem with a large force. Deceitfully he spoke peaceable words to them, and they believed him; but he suddenly fell upon the city, dealt it a severe blow, and destroyed many people of Israel. He plundered the city, burned it with fire, and tore down its houses and its surrounding walls. And they took captive the women and children, and seized the cattle…
And they stationed there lawless men. These strengthened their position; they stored up arms and food, and collecting the spoils of Jerusalem they stored them there and became a great snare.
It became an ambush against the sanctuary,
an evil adversary of Israel continually.
On every side of the sanctuary they shed innocent blood;
they even defiled the sanctuary.
Because of them the residence of Jerusalem fled;
she became dwelling of strangers;
she became strange to her offspring,
and her children forsook her.
her sanctuary became desolate as a desert;
her feasts were turned into mourning,
her sabbaths into a reproach,
her honour into contempt.
Her dishonhour now grew as great as her glory;
her exaltation was turned into mourning.
Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people, and that each should give up his customs. All the Gentiles accepted the command of the king. Many even from Israel gladly adopted his religion; they sacrificed to idols and profaned the sabbath.
And the king sent letters by messengers to Jerusalem and the cities of Judah; he directed them to follow the customs strange to the land, to forbid burnt offerings and sacrifices and drink offerings in the sanctuary to profane sabbaths and feasts, to defile the sanctuary and the priests, to build altars and sacred precincts and shines for idols, to sacrifice swine and unclean animals, and to leave their sons uncircumcised.
They were to make themselves abominable by everything unclean and profane, so that they should forget the law and change all the ordinances.
“And whoever does not obey the command of the king shall die.”
Maccabees is my October Lectio.
I think it all rather speak for itself, don’t you?