The Lord Punishes Antiochus
(1 Maccabees 6.1-72 Maccabees 1.11-17)
1 About this time Antiochus was retreating in disorder from Persia, 2 where he had entered the city of Persepolis and had attempted to rob a temple and take control of the city. The people took up arms and attacked Antiochus, forcing his army to retreat in disgrace. 3 When he reached Ecbatana, he was told what had happened to the forces of Nicanor and Timothy. 4 He became furious and decided to make the Jews pay for the defeat he had suffered. So he ordered his chariot driver not to stop until they reached Jerusalem. With great arrogance he said, “I will turn Jerusalem into a graveyard full of Jews.”
But he did not know that he was heading straight for God's judgment. 5 In fact, as soon as he had said these words, the all-seeing Lord, the God of Israel, struck him down with an invisible but fatal blow. He was seized with sharp intestinal pains for which there was no relief— 6 a fitting punishment for the man who had tortured others in so many terrible ways! 7 But this in no way caused him to give up his pride. Instead he became more arrogant than ever, and breathing out fiery threats against the Jews, he gave orders to drive even faster. As a result he fell out of his chariot with such a thud that it made every bone in his body ache. 8 His arrogant pride made him think he had the superhuman strength to make ocean waves obey him and to weigh high mountains on a pair of scales. But suddenly he fell flat on the ground and had to be carried off on a stretcher, a clear sign to everyone of God's power. 9 Even the eyes of this godless man were crawling with worms and he lived in terrible pain and agony. The stink was so bad that his entire army was sickened, 10 and no one was able to come close enough to carry him around. Yet only a short while before, he thought he could take hold of the stars.
Antiochus Makes a Promise to God
(1 Maccabees 6.8-17)
11 Antiochus was deeply depressed and suffered constant pain because of the punishment that God had brought on him, so he finally came to his senses and gave up his arrogant pride. 12 Then, when he could no longer endure his own stink, he said, “It is right that all mortals should be subject to God and not think that they are his equal.” 13 The time of the Lord's mercy had come to an end for Antiochus, but this worthless man made the Lord a promise: 14 “I once intended to level Jerusalem to the ground and make that holy city a graveyard full of Jews,” he said, “but now I declare it a free city. 15 I had planned to throw out the dead bodies of the Jews and their children for the wild animals and the birds to eat, for I did not consider them worth burying. But now I intend to grant them the same privileges as the citizens of Athens enjoy. 16 I once looted the Temple and took its sacred utensils, but I will fill it with splendid gifts and with better utensils than before, and I will pay the cost of the sacrifices from my own resources. 17 Besides all this, I will become a Jew myself and go wherever people live, telling them of God's power.”
Antiochus' Letter to the Jews
18 Antiochus was in despair and could find no relief from his pain, because God was punishing him as he deserved, so he wrote the following letter to the Jews:
19 “King Antiochus to the Jews, my most distinguished subjects. Warm greetings and best wishes for your health and prosperity.
20 “I hope that you and your families are in good health and that all goes well with you. My hope is in God, 21 and I remember with a deep sense of joy the respect and kindness that you have shown me.
“On my way home from Persia I fell violently ill, and so I thought it best to begin making plans for the general welfare of the people. 22 I have not given up hopes of getting well; in fact I am fully confident that I will recover. 23 But I recall that my father used to appoint a successor whenever he went on a military campaign east of the Euphrates. 24 He did this so that if something unexpected happened, or if some bad news came back, then his subjects would not be afraid, for they knew who had been left in command. 25 Also, I know how the rulers along the frontiers of my kingdom are constantly on the lookout for any opportunity that may come along. That is why I have appointed my son Antiochus to succeed me as king. I have frequently entrusted him to your care and recommended him to you when I went on my regular visits to the provinces east of the Euphrates. (He is receiving a copy of the letter which follows.) 26 Now I strongly urge each of you to keep in mind the good things that I have done for you, both individually and as a nation, and to continue in your good will toward me and my son. 27 I am confident that he will treat you with fairness and kindness, just as I have always done.”
28 And so, this murderer, who had cursed God, suffered the same terrible agonies he had brought on others, and then died a miserable death in the mountains of a foreign land. 29 One of his close friends, Philip, took his body home; but, because he was afraid of Antiochus' son, he went on to King Ptolemy Philometor of Egypt.