2 Maccabees chapter 4

Simon accuses Onias of treason. Jason leads the nation into apostasy. Menelaus buys the high priesthood. Menelaus murders Onias. Menelaus remains in power.





VERSE 1. The previously mentioned Simon, who had given information about the money against his country, slandered Onias, saying that it was he who had incited Heliodorus and had been the real cause of these evils.

The previously mentioned Simon. He was mentioned in the previous chapter:

2 Maccabees 3:4. 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.

Onias. This is Onias III. He was the high priest from 196 to 175 BC.

slandered Onias. Simon attacks Onias the high priest.


VERSE 2. He dared to call him a conspirator against the state who was actually the benefactor of the city, the guardian of his fellow countrymen, and a zealot for the laws.

call him a conspirator against the state. Simon accuses Onias of treason.


VERSE 3. When his hatred grew so great that even murders were perpetrated through one of Simon’s approved agents,

murders were perpetrated. This is a low point in Jewish spirituality. Simon of the tribe of Benjamin orders murders.

one of Simon’s approved agents. The NAB translation says “one of his henchmen.” in other words, Simon had his own assassins.

It reminds us of the Medieval era. Some Catholic bishops had their own assassins. One of the Ecumenical Councils had to make such things illegal for a bishop to do.

In our day, corrupt political leaders often have “hit men” on their staff, men uninhibited by morality who can do cruel things to protect the leader and the institution.

Also in our day, clergy sex abuse victims in every nation testify from their firsthand experience that bishops staff their chanceries with such henchmen.

Bishops and their key staff seem unimpeded by notions such as Christian morality or human decency or honesty.


VERSE 4. Onias, seeing the danger of the contention, and that Apollonius the son of Menestheus, the governor of Coelesyria and Phoenicia, was increasing Simon’s malice,

Apollonius the son of Menestheus, the governor. The Greek as commonly read means “Apollonius, as being the governor.”

He was Simon’s collaborator in the previous chapter:

2 Maccabees 3:7. 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.

increasing Simon’s malice. The Greek as commonly read means “Phoenicia, did rage, and increase.”

2 Maccabees 3:5. When he couldn’t overcome Onias, he went to Apollonius of Tarsus, who at that time was governor of Coelesyria and Phoenicia.

2 Maccabees 4:21. Now when Apollonius the son of Menestheus was sent into Egypt for the enthronement of Philometor as king, Antiochus, learning that Philometor had shown himself hostile toward the government, took precautions for the security of his realm. Therefore, going to Joppa, he travelled on to Jerusalem.


VERSE 5. appealed to the king, not to be an accuser of his fellow-citizens, but looking to the good of all the people, both public and private;

an accuser. Satan is the accuser of the brethren:

Revelation 12:10. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. (KJV translation)

all the people. In Greek, “multitude.”


VERSE 6. for he saw that without the king’s involvement it was impossible for the state to obtain peace any more, and that Simon would not cease from his madness.

Simon would not cease from his madness. Troublemakers never cease. They are single-minded in their goal of destruction.




VERSE 7. When Seleucus was deceased, and Antiochus, who was called Epiphanes, succeeded to the kingdom, Jason the brother of Onias supplanted his brother in the high priesthood,

Antiochus, who was called Epiphanes. This is Antiochus IV Epiphanes. He was a Hellenistic king of the Seleucid Empire from 175 BC until his death in 164 BC.

Jason the brother of Onias. He becomes the new high priest.


VERSE 8. having promised to the king at an audience three hundred sixty talents of silver, and out of another fund eighty talents.


VERSE 9. In addition to this, he undertook to assign one hundred fifty more, if it might be allowed him through the king’s authority to set him up a gymnasium and a body of youths to be trained in it, and to register the inhabitants of Jerusalem as citizens of Antioch.

through the king’s. In Greek, “through his.” See verse 19 below.

set him up a gymnasium. This was a Greek institution. It was concerned not only with physical exercise but also with education and general culture.


VERSE 10. When the king had assented, and Jason had taken possession of the office, he immediately shifted those of his own race to the Greek way of life.

he immediately shifted those of his own race to the Greek way of life. The biblical narrative sees the Greek way of life as contrary to Judaism.


VERSE 11. Setting aside the royal ordinances of special favor to the Jews, granted by the means of John the father of Eupolemus, who went on the mission to the Romans to establish friendship and alliance, and seeking to overthrow the lawful ways of living, he brought in new customs forbidden by the law.


VERSE 12. For he eagerly established a gymnasium under the citadel itself, and caused the noblest of the young men to wear the Greek hat.

the citadel itself. It was a fort overlooking the temple area.

wear the Greek hat. This was a wide-brimmed hat worn by Hermes, god of athletic skill.


VERSE 13. Thus there was an extreme of hellenization, and an advance of a foreign religion, by reason of the exceeding profaneness of Jason, who was an ungodly man and not a high priest;

an extreme of hellenization. The people have been adapting a Greek way of life. This is seen a defection from faith in the One God.

an advance of a foreign religion. The people have been adapting Greek religious elements. This too is seen a defection from faith in the One God.

an ungodly man and not a high priest. The high priest is ungodly.

The NAB translation puts it this way:

the outrageous wickedness of the ungodly pseudo-high-priest Jason.


VERSE 14. so that the priests had no more any zeal for the services of the altar; but despising the sanctuary and neglecting the sacrifices, they hastened to enjoy that which was unlawfully provided in the wrestling arena, after the summons to the discus-throwing.

the priests had no more any zeal for the services of the altar. Jason the high priest is infecting the entire priesthood with his own defection from the faith.


VERSE 15. They despised the honors of their fathers, and valued the prestige of the Greeks best of all.


VERSE 16. For this reason reason, severe calamity overtook them. The men whose ways of living they earnestly followed, and to whom they desired to be made like in all things, these became their enemies and punished them.

severe calamity overtook them. Because the Jewish people were defecting from the faith, evils befell them.


VERSE 17. For it is not a light thing to show irreverence to God’s laws, but later events will make this clear.

it is not a light thing to show irreverence to God’s laws. It is no light matter to flout the laws of the Most High God.


VERSE 18. Now when certain games that came every fifth year were kept at Tyre, and the king was present,


VERSE 19. the vile Jason sent sacred envoys, as being Antiochians of Jerusalem, bearing three hundred drachmas of silver to the sacrifice of Hercules, which even the bearers thereof thought not right to use for any sacrifice, because it was not fit, but to spend it for another purpose.

See verse 9 above.

the vile Jason. The text does not mince words.


VERSE 20. Although the intended purpose of the sender this money was for the sacrifice of Hercules, yet on account of present circumstances it went to the construction of trireme warships.

present circumstances. Some authorities read the bearers.

trireme warships. These were Greek ships with three rows of oars on each side.


VERSE 21. Now when Apollonius the son of Menestheus was sent into Egypt for the enthronement of Philometor as king, Antiochus, learning that Philometor had shown himself hostile toward the government, took precautions for the security of his realm. Therefore, going to Joppa, he travelled on to Jerusalem.

the enthronement. The exact meaning of the Greek word is uncertain.


VERSE 22. Being magnificently received by Jason and the city, he was brought in with torches and shouting. Then he led his army down into Phoenicia.




VERSE 23. Now after a space of three years, Jason sent Menelaus, the previously mentioned Simon’s brother, to carry the money to the king, and to make reports concerning some necessary matters.


VERSE 24. But he being commended to the king, and having been glorified by the display of his authority, secured the high priesthood for himself, outbidding Jason by three hundred talents of silver.

secured the high priesthood for himself. Menelaus becomes the high priest.

outbidding Jason by three hundred talents of silver. Menelaus “buys” the high priesthood. Buying a position of religious leadership is a crime called simony.

In the Medieval era of the Catholic Church, simony was widespread among the corrupt church leaders.


VERSE 25. After receiving the royal mandates, he returned bringing nothing worthy of the high priesthood, but having the passion of a cruel tyrant and the rage of a savage animal.

passion of a cruel tyrant. Menelaus had the temper of a cruel tyrant. He reminds us of modern-dat politicians.

the rage of a savage animal. Menelaus has the rage of wild beast.


VERSE 26. So Jason, who had supplanted his own brother, was supplanted by another and driven as a fugitive into the country of the Ammonites,


VERSE 27. Menelaus had possession of the office; but of the money that had been promised to the king nothing was regularly paid, even though Sostratus the governor of the citadel demanded it—


VERSE 28. for his job was the gathering of the revenues—so they were both called by the king to his presence.


VERSE 29. Menelaus left his own brother Lysimachus for his deputy in the high priesthood; and Sostratus left Crates, who was over the Cyprians.

his deputy. In Greek, “successor.”




VERSE 30. Now while this was the state of things, it came to pass that the people of Tarsus and Mallus revolted because they were to be given as a present to Antiochis, the king’s concubine.


VERSE 31. The king therefore quickly came to settle matters, leaving for his deputy Andronicus, a man of high rank.

his deputy. In Greek, “successor.”


VERSE 32. Then Menelaus, supposing that he had gotten a favorable opportunity, presented to Andronicus certain vessels of gold belonging to the temple, which he had stolen. He had already sold others into Tyre and the neighboring cities.

Menelaus. He steals the temple vessels.


VERSE 33. When Onias had sure knowledge of this, he sharply reproved him, having withdrawn himself into a sanctuary at Daphne, that lies by Antioch.

Onias. He is the rightful high priest.

a sanctuary at Daphne. It was located five miles from Antioch.


VERSE 34. Therefore Menelaus, taking Andronicus aside, asked him to kill Onias. Coming to Onias, and being persuaded to use treachery, and being received as a friend, Andronicus gave him his right hand with oaths and, though he was suspicious, persuaded him to come out of the sanctuary. Then, with no regard for justice, he immediately put him to death.

asked him to kill Onias. Menelaus has the rightful high priest assassinated.


VERSE 35. For this reason not only Jews, but many also of the other nations, had indignation and displeasure at the unjust murder of the man.


VERSE 36. And when the king had come back from the places in Cilicia, the Jews who were in the city appealed to him against Andronicus (the Greeks also joining with them in hatred of the wickedness), urging that Onias had been wrongfully slain.


VERSE 37. Antiochus therefore was heartily sorry, and was moved to pity, and wept, because of the sober and well ordered life of him who was dead.


VERSE 38. Being inflamed with anger, he immediately stripped off Andronicus’s purple robe, and tore off his under garments, and when he had led him round through the whole city to that very place where he had committed the outrage against Onias, there he put the murderer out of the way, the Lord rendering to him the punishment he had deserved.




VERSE 39. Now when many sacrileges had been committed in the city by Lysimachus with the consent of Menelaus, and when the report of them had spread abroad outside, the people gathered themselves together against Lysimachus, after many vessels of gold had already been stolen.


VERSE 40. When the multitudes were rising against him and were filled with anger, Lysimachus armed about three thousand men, and with unrighteous violence began the attack under the leadership of Hauran, a man far gone in years and no less also in folly.

a man far gone in years and no less also in folly. The NAB translation puts it this way:

a man as advanced in folly as he was in years.


VERSE 41. But when they perceived the assault of Lysimachus, some caught up stones, others logs of wood, and some took handfuls of the ashes that lay near, and they flung them all in wild confusion at Lysimachus and those who were with him.


VERSE 42. As a result, they wounded many of them, they killed some, and they forced the rest of them to flee, but the author of the sacrilege himself they killed beside the treasury.


VERSE 43. But about these matters, there was an accusation laid against Menelaus.


VERSE 44. When the king had come to Tyre, the three men who were sent by the senate pleaded the cause before him.


VERSE 45. But Menelaus, seeing himself now defeated, promised much money to Ptolemy the son of Dorymenes, that he might win over the king.


VERSE 46. Therefore Ptolemy taking the king aside into a cloister, as if to get some fresh air, convinced him to change his mind.


VERSE 47. He who was the cause of all the evil, Menelaus, he discharged from the accusations; but these hapless men, who, if they had pleaded even before Scythians, would have been discharged uncondemned, them he sentenced to death.


VERSE 48. Those who were spokesmen for the city and the families of Israel and the holy vessels soon suffered that unrighteous penalty.


VERSE 49. Therefore even certain Tyrians, moved with hatred of the wickedness, provided magnificently for their burial.


VERSE 50. But Menelaus, through the covetous dealings of those who were in power, remained still in his office, growing in wickedness, established as a great conspirator against his fellow-citizens.


next chapter »

« previous chapter


CHAPTERS: 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15

RESOURCES: Summary, Outline, Memorize

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.


Author: todd

At Explore the Faith, I share insights into the Bible and theological writings. If you like what I write, become my partner by donating. Help me reach the world for the Lord Jesus Christ.