Alexander the Great
1Alexander was Philip’s son, a Macedonian, one of the western peoples known as the Kittim. After Alexander became king of Greece, he defeated King Darius, who ruled the Persians and the Medes. By doing so, Alexander greatly enlarged his realm. 2He successfully fought many battles, conquered fortresses, and put to death many kings. 3He advanced to the very ends of the known earth, plundering nation after nation. Finally, his battles reached an end, and he was widely recognized as supreme king, which made him proud. 4He built a very strong army and ruled countries, nations, and princes; and they all owed allegiance to him.
5But eventually Alexander fell sick and was confined to bed. He knew that he was dying. 6He therefore called for his most esteemed officers, those who had been raised with him; and he divided his kingdom among them while he was still alive. 7Then Alexander died, having ruled for twelve years.#323 BCE
8Subsequently, his officers began to rule, each in his own territory. 9They ruled as kings, and after them their descendants ruled for many years. Together they caused much suffering across the earth.
Antiochus Epiphanes and renegade Jews
10From these descendants sprouted a sinful root—Antiochus Epiphanes. He was a son of King Antiochus, and he had been brought up in Rome as a hostage. Antiochus Epiphanes began to rule in the year 137#175 BCE according to the calendar of the Greek kingdom.
11At that time, some renegade Israelites emerged. These people went against their ancestral laws and encouraged many other Jews to join them. They spoke up, saying, "Let’s make an agreement with the Gentiles around us, because many horrible things have happened to us since we separated ourselves from them." 12The proposal pleased their fellow Jews. 13Some of them eagerly went to King Antiochus, who gave them permission to start living by the laws of the Gentiles. 14Consequently, they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem, following Gentile custom. 15They even took steps to remove the marks of circumcision, utterly abandoning the holy covenant. They joined with Gentiles and gave themselves over to an evil course.
Antiochus in Egypt
16When Antiochus felt that his own kingdom was fully established, he determined also to take control of the land of Egypt so that he could rule over both kingdoms. 17He invaded Egypt with a very strong force, including soldiers in chariots and on elephants, as well as cavalry and a large fleet. 18When Antiochus met the Egyptian king Ptolemy in battle, Ptolemy and his forces hastily retreated. Many were wounded and killed. 19Antiochus and his forces were able to capture the fortified cities in Egypt and plunder the land.
Oppression of the Jews
20After he conquered Egypt, Antiochus returned in the year 143.#169 BCE He went up to Israel and entered Jerusalem with a strong force. 21With arrogance he went into the sanctuary. He took the gold altar, the lampstand for the light, and all its equipment. 22He also took the table that was used for the sacred bread, drink-offering cups, bowls, gold censers, a curtain, crowns, and the gold decoration on the front of the temple. He stripped it all. 23He took silver, gold, and costly equipment. He took every hidden treasure he could find. 24Taking it all, he went back to his own land. He committed murder and spoke very arrogantly.
25Every community in Israel
grieved deeply.
26Rulers and elders groaned;
young women and men became faint.
The women’s beauty faded.
27Every bridegroom was saddened,
and intended brides sat
mourning in their chambers.
28Even the land shook for its people,
and all of Jacob’s house
was clothed with shame.
Occupation of Jerusalem
29Two years later,#167 BCE to collect tribute from the Judean cities, King Antiochus sent his chief officer, who came to Jerusalem with a large army. 30The agent spoke peaceably and the Jews believed him, but he was deceitful. Without warning, he attacked the city, dealt it a brutal blow, and killed many Israelites. 31He plundered the city. He set fires within it, destroyed its houses, and tore down its protective walls. 32His forces took women and children as prisoners and seized livestock. 33After all of this, the agent’s forces fortified David’s City with a very strong wall and powerful towers, and it became their fortress. 34They stationed sinful, immoral people there, and these soldiers held down their position. 35They stocked up with weapons and food, collected the spoils of Jerusalem, and stored them there. They were a great menace.
36They#Or It ambushed the sanctuary.
They were an evil opponent of Israel
at all times.
37Its inhabitants shed innocent blood
all around the sanctuary,
and they even polluted
the sanctuary itself.
38Because of them,
those who lived in Jerusalem fled.
The city became
a dwelling place for strangers.
She was like a stranger to her offspring,
and her children abandoned her.
39Her sanctuary was as barren as a desert.
Her feasts turned into mourning,
her sabbaths into shame,
her honor into contempt.
40Her dishonor became as great
as her glory had been.
Her joy turned into sadness.
Installation of Gentile worship
41Then King Antiochus sent word throughout his entire kingdom that everyone should act like one people, 42giving up their local customs. The Gentile nations all readily accepted the king’s command. 43Many Jews also willingly adopted the king’s religion. They sacrificed to idols and violated the Sabbath. 44The king sent messengers carrying letters to Jerusalem and the surrounding towns of Judah. He directed Jews to follow customs that had been unknown in the land. 45He banned the regular practices of entirely burned offerings, sacrifices, and drink offerings in the sanctuary. He banned the observance of sabbaths and feast days. 46The sanctuary and its priests were to be defiled. 47They should build new altars, together with sacred precincts and shrines for idols. They should sacrifice pigs and other ritually impure animals. 48Jews were no longer to circumcise their sons. They were supposed to make themselves repulsive to God by doing unclean and improper acts. 49All of this was intended to make them forget the Law and change its regulations. 50Whoever didn’t obey the king would die.
51In this way, Antiochus wrote to his whole kingdom. He appointed inspectors over all the people, and commanded the Jewish communities to offer pagan sacrifices, town by town. 52Many Jewish people, those who abandoned the Law, followed suit and did evil in the land. 53The king’s inspectors#Or They drove Israel into hiding in every place of refuge they had available.
54Now on the fifteenth day of Kislev,#November–December in the year 145, they set up a disgusting and destructive thing on the altar for entirely burned offerings in the sanctuary. The inspectors#Or They built other altars in the surrounding Judean towns. 55They burned incense at the doors of houses and in the streets. 56When they found the Law scrolls, they tore them to pieces and burned them. 57If anyone was caught in possession of a copy of the covenant scroll or if anyone kept to the Law, that person was condemned to death by royal decree. 58They were unrelenting in attacking Israelites, all those who were identified as law-observant month after month throughout the towns. 59On the twenty-fifth day of the month they offered sacrifice on the altar built over the altar for entirely burned offerings. 60In keeping with the decree, they killed women who had circumcised their sons. 61They hanged the infant boys from their mothers’ necks. The king’s agents also killed the families of the women as well as those who had performed the circumcisions.
62But many in Israel stood strong, and they resolved in their hearts not to eat impure food. 63They chose to die rather than to be defiled by the food or to dishonor the holy covenant. And they did die. 64A great anger came against Israel.