The treason of Simon. Heliodorus will confiscate the temple’s money. The people are in anguish. The Almighty Lord intervenes. Testimony of Heliodorus.
VERSE 1. When the holy city was inhabited with unbroken peace and the laws were kept very well because of the godliness of Onias the high priest and his hatred of wickedness,
the holy city. That is, Jerusalem.
unbroken peace. That is, “perfect peace.”
Onias the high priest. This is Onias III. He was the high priest from 196 to 175 BC.
his hatred of wickedness. Originally the priests were to conduct sacrifices and teach the Law. But now they are seen as law enforcers.
VERSE 2. it came to pass that even the kings themselves honored the place and glorified the temple with the noblest presents,
VERSE 3. so that even King Seleucus of Asia bore all the costs belonging to the services of the sacrifices out of his own revenues.
King Seleucus. He is Seleucus IV Philopater. He reigned from 187 to 175 BC.
VERSE 4. But a man named Simon of the tribe of Benjamin, having been made guardian of the temple, disagreed with the high priest about the ruling of the market in the city.
VERSE 5. When he couldn’t overcome Onias, he went to Apollonius of Tarsus, who at that time was governor of Coelesyria and Phoenicia.
Tarsus. In Greek, Thraseas.
VERSE 6. He brought him word how that the treasury in Jerusalem was full of untold sums of money, so that the multitude of the funds was innumerable, and that they didn’t pertain to the account of the sacrifices, but that it was possible that these should fall under the king’s power.
NAB translation. and reported to him that the treasury in Jerusalem was so full of untold riches that the total sum of money was incalculable and out of all proportion to the cost of the sacrifices, and that it would be possible to bring it all under the control of the king.
untold riches. If you look at a religious building, it is easy to imagine they have great wealth. The buildings are usually excellent. The maintenance is usually excellent. Their full-time staff are usually smiling. And many people give them money.
VERSE 7. When Apollonius met the king, he informed him of the money about which he had been told. So the king appointed Heliodorus, who was his chancellor, and sent him with a command to accomplish the removal of the reported money.
When Apollonius met the king. That is, “When Apollonius had an audience with the king.”
the king appointed Heliodorus. In Greek, his name is Ἡλιόδωρος.
accomplish the removal of the reported money. Heliodorus is to confiscate the temple’s money.
VERSE 8. So Heliodorus set out on his journey at once, ostensibly to visit the cities of Coelesyria and Phoenicia, but in fact to execute the king’s purpose.
VERSE 9. When he had come to Jerusalem and had been courteously received by the high priest of the city, he told him about the information which had been given, and declared why he had come; and he inquired if in truth these things were so.
of the city. Some authorities read “and of the city.”
VERSE 10. The high priest explained to him that there were in the treasury deposits of widows and orphans,
widows and orphans. This phrase originated from this verse.
VERSE 11. and moreover some money belonging to Hyrcanus the son of Tobias, a man in very high place, not as that impious Simon falsely alleged; and that in all there were four hundred talents of silver and two hundred of gold,
that impious Simon falsely alleged. The NAB translation puts it this way:
Contrary to the calumnies of the impious Simon.
VERSE 12. and that it was altogether impossible that wrong should be done to those who had put trust in the holiness of the place, and in the majesty and inviolable sanctity of the temple, honored over all the world.
VERSE 13. But Heliodorus, because of the king’s command given him, said that in any case this money must be confiscated for the king’s treasury.
this money must be confiscated. Heliodorus is resolute in his mission to confiscate the temple’s money.
VERSE 14. So having appointed a day, he entered in to direct the inquiry concerning these matters; and there was no small distress throughout the whole city.
no small distress throughout the whole city. The plan of Heliodorus has been made known throughout Jerusalem. Everybody is alarmed.
VERSE 15. The priests, prostrating themselves before the altar in their priestly garments, and called toward heaven upon him who gave the law concerning deposits, that he should preserve these treasures safe for those who had deposited them.
The priests. The priests implore the Most High God to prevent the temple’s money from being confiscated.
VERSE 16. Whoever saw the appearance of the high priest was wounded in mind; for his countenance and the change of his color betrayed the distress of his soul.
wounded in mind. That is, “was pierced to the heart.”
the distress of his soul. That is, “the anguish of his soul.”
his soul. The Bible rarely uses this word. It is from a Platonic worldview, where people are divided into body and soul.
VERSE 17. For a terror and a shuddering of the body had come over the man, by which the pain that was in his heart was plainly shown to those who looked at him.
VERSE 18. Those who were in the houses rushed out in crowds to make a universal supplication, because the place was about to come into dishonor.
NAB translation. People rushed out of their houses in crowds to make public supplication, because the Place was in danger of being profaned.”
The vitality of their faith is strong. Their devotion to the Most High God is strong.
VERSE 19. The women, girded with sackcloth under their breasts, thronged the streets. The virgins who were kept indoors ran together, some to the gates, others to the walls, and some looked out through the windows.
under their breasts. That is, “below their breasts.” They are wearing a skirt made of sackcloth.
the gates. Or “porches.”
VERSE 20. All, stretching out their hands toward heaven, made their solemn supplication.
VERSE 21. Then it was pitiful to see the multitude prostrating themselves all mixed together, and the anxiety of the high priest in his great distress.
VERSE 22. While therefore they called upon the Almighty Lord to keep the things entrusted to them safe and secure for those who had entrusted them,
safe and secure. The Greek is “safe with all security.”
VERSE 23. Heliodorus went on to execute that which had been decreed.
VERSE 24. But when he was already present there with his guards near the treasury, the Sovereign of spirits and of all authority caused a great manifestation, so that all who had presumed to come with him, stricken with dismay at the power of God, fainted in terror.
NAB translation. But just as he was approaching the treasury with his bodyguards, the Lord of spirits who holds all power manifested himself in so striking a way that those who had been bold enough to follow Heliodorus were panic-stricken at God’s power and fainted away in terror.
Compare with Matthew 28:2-4, where an angel rolls back the stone from the tomb of Jesus. His appearance was like lightning. The Roman guards were shaken with fear and fainted in terror.
Matthew 28:2. Behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from the sky, and came and rolled away the stone from the door, and sat on it.
Matthew 28:3. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.
Matthew 28:4. For fear of him, the guards shook, and became like dead men.
VERSE 25. For they saw a horse with a frightening rider, adorned with beautiful trappings, and he rushed fiercely and struck at Heliodorus with his forefeet. It seemed like he who sat on the horse had complete armor of gold.
NAB translation. There appeared to them a richly caparisoned horse, mounted by a dreadful rider. Charging furiously, the horse attacked Heliodorus with its front hoofs. The rider was seen to be wearing golden armor.
Recall the narratives from the Book of Revelation about the Lord Jesus Christ, who rides a white horse and leads the armies of heaven.
If we red this verse in 2 Maccabees light of the Book of Revelation, the rider of the white horse is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.
VERSE 26. Two others also appeared to him, young men notable in their strength, and beautiful in their glory, and splendid in their apparel, who stood by him on either side, and scourged him unceasingly, inflicting on him many sore stripes.
VERSE 27. When he had fallen suddenly to the ground, and great darkness had come over him, his guards picked him up and put him on a stretcher,
he had fallen suddenly to the ground. This is speaking of Heliodorus.
VERSE 28. and carried him—this man who had just now entered with a great retinue and all his guard into the aforesaid treasury, himself now brought to utter helplessness, manifestly made to recognize the sovereignty of God.
manifestly made to recognize the sovereignty of God. The Old Testament foresee Gentiles coming to faith in the One God of Israel and bringing gifts to Jerusalem. Here are the key Bible verses about this »
VERSE 29. So, while he, through the working of God, speechless and bereft of all hope and deliverance, lay prostrate,
VERSE 30. they blessed the Lord who acted marvelously for his own place. The temple, which a little before was full of terror and alarm, was filled with joy and gladness after the Almighty Lord appeared.
VERSE 31. But quickly some of Heliodorus’s familiar friends implored Onias to call upon the Most High to grant life to him who lay quite at the last gasp.
VERSE 32. The high priest, secretly fearing lest the king might come to think that some treachery toward Heliodorus had been perpetrated by the Jews, brought a sacrifice for the recovery of the man.
VERSE 33. But as the high priest was making the atoning sacrifice, the same young men appeared again to Heliodorus, arrayed in the same garments. They stood and said, “Give Onias the high priest great thanks, for for his sake the Lord has granted you life.
the same young men. That is, the three mysterious young men. We had wondered if they were the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity.
VERSE 34. See that you, since you have been scourged from heaven, proclaim to all men the sovereign majesty of God.” When they had spoken these words, they vanished out of sight.
they vanished out of sight. This lends support to the idea that the three young men are the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity.
VERSE 35. So Heliodorus, having offered a sacrifice to the Lord and vowed great vows to him who had saved his life, and having bidden Onias farewell, returned with his army to the king.
vowed great vows. The Greek is “vowed greatest vows.”
VERSE 36. He testified to all men the works of the greatest God, which he had seen with his eyes.
VERSE 37. When the king asked Heliodorus what sort of man was fit to be sent yet once again to Jerusalem, he said,
VERSE 38. “If you have any enemy or conspirator against the state, send him there, and you will receive him back well scourged, if he even escapes with his life; because truly there is some power of God in that place.
VERSE 39. For he who has his dwelling in heaven himself has his eyes on that place and helps it. Those who come to hurt it, he strikes and destroys.”
VERSE 40. This was the history of Heliodorus and the keeping of the treasury.
Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.