Prayer of Eleazar
1Now a certain Eleazar was a distinguished person among the priests from the country. He had attained an advanced age, and throughout his life he had displayed every virtue. He restrained the elders around him from calling on the holy God, while he prayed as follows:
2Dear King, mighty in power, almighty God Most High, you govern the whole creation with mercy. 3Look upon the descendants of Abraham, upon the children of sacred Jacob, father, a people set apart as your inheritance, who are strangers perishing in a strange land. 4Pharaoh, the former ruler of this land of Egypt, with his multitude of chariots, showed great presumption with his arrogant actions and proud boasts. But you destroyed him along with his arrogant army. You drowned them in the sea and showed forth the light of your mercy to your people Israel. 5Sennacherib, the cruel king of the Assyrians, prided himself in his innumerable forces and had already subdued the entire earth by the spear. He rose up against your holy city, speaking fierce words with arrogant boasting, and you, Lord, shattered him, displaying your power openly to many nations. 6Daniel’s three friends in Babylon voluntarily gave their lives to the fire in order not to serve worthless things. You rescued them, sprinkling the fiery furnace with dew, such that not a hair on their heads was harmed, while you sent the flames forth upon all their enemies. 7Because Daniel was envied and slandered, he was thrown down into the earth to lions as food for the beasts. But you led him back up into the light unhurt. 8And you, Father, looked upon Jonah, when he was wasting away in the belly of a sea monster from the depths, and you restored him unharmed to all his family.
9So you who hate arrogance, most merciful defender of all things, reveal yourself quickly to those of the people of Israel who are being spitefully mistreated by vile and lawless Gentiles. 10If we’ve gotten tangled up in sins during our exile, rescue us from the hand of our enemies, Lord, and destroy us by whatever fate you choose. 11Don’t let these empty-headed people praise their empty gods for the destruction of your dearly loved people, saying, "Not even their God rescued them!" 12But you, who have all might and all power, eternal one, look upon us now. Have mercy on us who, by the senseless arrogance of lawless people, are being deprived of life as if we were traitors. 13Let the Gentiles tremble in fear today at your matchless power, honored one, you who possess the power to rescue the people of Jacob. 14The entire multitude of infants and their parents is begging you with tears. 15Let it be shown to all the Gentiles that you are with us, Lord, and you haven’t turned your face away from us. But just as you have said, "Not even when they were in the land of their enemies did I neglect them,"#Lev 26:44 so bring it to pass, Lord.
God delivers the Jews
16Now as Eleazar was concluding his prayer, the king arrived at the racecourse with the beasts and all the arrogance of his power. 17When the Jews saw this, they cried out to heaven so loudly that even the nearby valleys echoed, putting the army into a panic. 18Then the most glorious, almighty, and true God showed forth his holy face and opened the heavenly gates. Two glorified angels of frightful appearance descended, visible to all except the Jews. 19They opposed the power of the enemies, filled them with confusion and dread, and made them freeze in their tracks as with shackles. 20Even the body of the king gave a slight shudder, and he forgot his sullen arrogance. 21The elephants turned back on the armed forces that were following them, and they began to trample and destroy them.
22The king’s anger was changed into pity and tears because of the schemes that he had previously devised. 23When he heard the loud cry and saw the Jews all lying on the ground awaiting destruction, he wept and violently threatened his friends, saying, 24"You have used your power badly and acted more savagely than tyrants. You are now attempting to rob even me, your benefactor, of my rule and my life. Secretly you devise things that are of no advantage to the kingdom. 25Who has driven from their homes those who have faithfully commanded the fortresses of our country? Who has senselessly gathered them all in this place? 26Who has so unjustly rewarded those who from the beginning differed from all the nations in their goodwill toward us in every way, and who often have taken upon themselves the worst human dangers by mistreating them on every side? 27Release them from those undeserved chains! Send them in peace back to their homes, and seek forgiveness for the deeds that have been done. 28Free the children of the almighty, living God of heaven, who from the days of our ancestors until now has given our kingdom constant and notable stability." 29So the king said these things, and the Jews, who were released immediately, praised their holy God and savior, since they had just now escaped death.
Celebration of deliverance
30Then the king went back into the city and called for the official in charge of the treasury. He ordered him to supply the Jews with wines and everything else needed for a seven-day festival. The king decided that the Jews should celebrate their rescue with all joy in the same place where they thought they would meet destruction. 31So the people who previously had been disgraced and stood near death—at its very brink!—prepared for a festival of deliverance instead of a bitter and most mournful fate. The place that had been prepared for their ruin and burial was joyfully divided up among people in celebration. 32They stopped singing their sad songs of lament and took up an ancient hymn in praise of their rescuer, the wonder-working God.#Some manuscripts read praising Israel and the wonder-working God. They threw aside all weeping and wailing and instead sang songs in organized groups as a sign of peaceful joy. 33The king also assembled a huge banquet because of these events. He kept giving generous praise to heaven for the remarkable rescue that he#Some manuscripts read they had experienced. had experienced. 34Those who had previously believed that the Jews would be destroyed and would become food for the birds, and who had drawn up the lists of their names and goods with delight, now groaned. For they were clothed with shame, and the fire of their boldness had been thoroughly doused.
35The Jews, as we said before, organized singing groups and spent their time in celebration with cheerful thanksgiving psalms. 36They decided that this would be a holiday to be observed for generations to come by the Jewish community living in exile there. The festival would be kept in a spirit of celebration, not as an excuse for overeating and getting drunk but because of the rescue that God had accomplished for them. 37They appealed to the king, asking for his permission to return to their homes.
38The drawing up of the lists of names was conducted from the twenty-fifth of Pachon#Possibly May, Egyptian calendar to the fourth of Epiphi,#Possibly June, Egyptian calendar over a period of forty days; and their destruction was planned for the fifth of Epiphi until the seventh, a period of three days. 39But also during those days the Lord of all gloriously displayed his mercy and brought them through without harm, each and every one. 40So being well supplied by the king, they feasted until the fourteenth day, on which day they made the petition concerning their return.
Ptolemy Philopator’s letter
41The king granted it to them and wrote the following letter on their behalf to the generals in every city, generously stating his deep concern: