Genocide, slander, and neighborly advocates
1When the godless Philopator learned of this, he became so enraged that not only was he angry at those Jews in Alexandria but he also was very bitterly opposed to those living in the countryside. He gave an order that they should all be gathered together at once into one place and killed by the most brutal means possible. 2While these plans were being put into action, some people plotted to injure the Jewish nation by circulating a hostile report against them on the pretext that the Jews were hindering others from practicing their own customs. 3But the Jews were maintaining goodwill and unswerving loyalty toward the royal house. 4While they worshipped God and conducted their lives according to God’s Law, they kept themselves separate in the matter of foods. For this reason they appeared hostile to some people. 5But they had established a good reputation with everyone through their lifestyle of doing the right thing. 6Now even though the Jews’ good deeds on behalf of the nation were commonly talked about by everyone, those of other races didn’t take these into account. 7Instead, they kept harping on the differences in worship and diet, and claimed that the Jewish people were loyal neither to the king nor to the authorities, but were hostile and strongly opposed to the royal administration. And so they placed significant blame on the Jews.
8But the Greeks in the city, who hadn’t been injured in any way, saw the unexpected turmoil surrounding these people and the purposeless mobs that were forming. Although they didn’t have the power to offer assistance, for they lived under tyranny, they tried to encourage the Jews. They were grieved and assumed that these circumstances would change for the better, 9because so great a community shouldn’t be left to its fate in this way, since it had done nothing wrong. 10Already some neighbors and friends and business associates secretly drew them aside and promised that they would fight by their side and make every effort to assist them.
Ptolemy Philopator’s decree
11But the king took pride in his present success and disregarded the authority of the supreme God. Assuming that he would continue in the same plan without hindrance, he wrote this letter against the Jews:
12King Ptolemy Philopator to his generals and soldiers in Egypt and in every place. Greetings and good health.
13Both I myself and our affairs prosper. 14After our campaign against Asia Minor came to a successful conclusion, as you yourselves are aware, with the gods fighting alongside us, 15we thought that we should care for the nations inhabiting Coele-Syria and Phoenicia, not with the violence of the spear but with fairness and much kindness, eagerly treating them well. 16After we had distributed generous funds to the temples in every city, we proceeded also to Jerusalem. We went up to honor the temple of those wretched people who never cease from their folly. 17They spoke as if they welcomed our presence, but in fact they acted in a way that was dishonest. When we wanted to enter their sanctuary and to honor it with the most extraordinary and beautiful gifts, 18they were carried away by their traditional arrogance and prevented us from entering. They were spared a display of our power because of the kindness that we have toward all people. 19But they made clear their ill will toward us, as the only one of the nations showing such stiff-necked defiance to kings and to their own benefactors. They aren’t willing to receive anything as sincere.
20But we showed indulgence toward the folly of these people and returned to Egypt in triumph. We treated all the nations in a kindly way and acted in a manner that was proper. 21Among other things, we made known to everyone our policy of amnesty toward their fellow Jews here because of our alliance with them and the countless matters sincerely entrusted to them from the beginning. We bravely decided to make a change, to consider them worthy of Alexandrian citizenship and to make them partners in the regular religious rites.#Other manuscripts read partners with the regular priests. 22But they received it in a disagreeable manner and rejected what is good in line with their natural, spiteful character. Turning continually to what is worthless, 23they not only rejected the priceless offer of citizenship but also showed their contempt, by what they said and by their silence, for those few Jews among them who favored us with honor. In every case they suspected, in keeping with their most shameful way of life, that we would swiftly reverse the policy. 24We were fully persuaded indeed by such proofs that these people were ill-disposed toward us in every way.
Therefore, we took care so that, if a sudden rebellion should arise against us later, we won’t find that we have these evil people at our backs as traitors and uncivilized enemies. 25We have given an order that as soon as this letter arrives, you are immediately to send to us those Jews who live among you, together with their wives and children, to suffer a certain and shameful death appropriate for enemies. Treat them harshly and abusively, and bind them on all sides in iron chains. 26We are sure that, when these people have all been punished, the affairs of our state will be established more securely and in a more excellent condition for the future. 27But whoever shelters any of the Jews, from an elderly person to a child to nursing infants, will be tortured, household and all, with the most horrible punishments. 28But the one who is willing to give information will receive the property of the person falling under judgment. They will also be given two thousand drachmen#A drachme was equivalent to a typical day’s wage. from the royal treasury, and will be rewarded with their freedom. 29But every place, without exception, where a Jew is discovered to be sheltered, will be laid waste and burned with fire. It will become utterly useless to every living creature for all time.
30And so the form of the letter was committed to writing.