5 Maccabees Chapter 54 (from The Five Books of Maccabees)


Cotton H.Sir : 

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P. 407 – 412 Book 5 B.C. 37 [PDF: 457/462 of p.524]

CHAPTER 54.1)Foot note p.407 a. Compare Joseph. Antiq. XV. 1,2, 9.

(i) The history of Hyrcanus the son of Alexander, the uncle of Antigonus, and of his return into Jerusalem at the request of Herod, and of the death to which he put him.

1 Hyrcanus, after that the king of the Persians had set him at liberty2)Foot note p.407 b. See the preceding part of this narrative above, at ch. xlix. 17, 18., remained in Herakin3)Foot note p.407 c. Josephus in loco reads Babylon. In fact Yerak, or Irak, the Arahian name for the district or country of Babylonia, is retained to the present day. See above, ch. xlix. 17, 18. 1. 7., in p. 407 a most respectable condition and great honour: wherefore Herod was afraid lest any thing might 2 induce the king of the Persians to appoint him king4)Foot note p.408 d. Although the loss of his ear disqualified Hyrcanus from the office of high priest, yet the crafty Herod knew that this was no obstacle to his reappearing among his countrymen in the capacity of their monarch., and send him into the land of Judah. Wherefore wishing to set his mind at rest, he laid 3 plots for this business ; and sent to the king of the Persians a very great present, and a letter ; in which he made mention of Hyrcanus’ deserts 4 and kind deeds towards him ; and how he had gone to Rome on account of what Antigonus his brother’s son had done to him ; and that having 5 now attained the throne, and his affairs being in order, he wished to reward him in a proper manner for the benefits which he had conferred.

So the king of the Persians sent a messenger to 6 Hyrcanus, saying ; “If you wish to return into the land of Judah, return : but I warn you to 7 beware of Herod ; and I distinctly inform you, that he does not seek for you to do you any good, but his design is to render himself secure, as there is none remaining whom he fears, except you : wherefore take heed of him most diligently, and be not led into a snare.” The Jews 8 of Babylon also came to him, and said to him the like words. Again they say to him, “You now 9 are an old man, and not fit to discharge the office of high priest, because of the stain which your nephew5)Foot note p.408 e. See the account of this transaction at ch. xlix. 16, p. 409 of this book, and read the note there. inflicted on you : but Herod is a 10 bad man, and a shedder of blood ; and he recalls you only because he fears you ; and you do not want for any thing among us, and you are with us in that station in which you ought 11 to be. And your family there is in the best condition ; wherefore remain with us, and do not aid your enemy against yourself.”

12 But Hyrcanus acceded not to their words ; nor listened to the advice of one who advised him 13 well. And he set out and journeyed till lie came into the Holy City, for the very great longing which he had towards the house of God, his family, and his country.

14 And when he had come near to the city, Herod met him, shewing such honour and magnificence, that Hyrcanus was deceived, and trusted in him. 15 And Herod in the public assembly, and before his own friends, used to call him ” Father :” but nevertheless he ceased not to devise plots in his heart, only so that they should not be imputed to 16 him. Wherefore Alexandra and Mariamne her daughter go to Hyrcanus, putting him in fear of Herod, and counselling him to take care of 17 himself; but neither to them did he attend, although they repeated this to him again and again, advising him to flee to some one of the kings of the 18 Arabians : yet he attended not to all these things, until they drove him to it by repeated warnings and alarmings. 

19 Then therefore he wrote to that king6)Foot note p.409 f. Namely, Malchus. See above, ch. xlix. 20, and the corresponding part in Josephus. It is to be observed, that Josephus places the present transaction somewhat later in the history, viz. after Herod had heard of the p. 410 defeat of Antony at Actium, and had become apprehensive of the reception which he might meet with from Augstus ; i.e. in the year B.C. 30, which indeed appears nearly to agree with the statement made in the last verse of this chapter, that Hyrcanus had reigned forty years. of p. 410 Arabia; and having sent for a certain man, (whose brother7)Foot note p.410 g. Josephns names him Dositheus, and his brother Josephus. Herod had slain, and had confiscated his goods, and had visited him with many evils,) he told him that he wished to impart to him a certain secret, adjuring him not to tell it to any one; and giving him money and the letter to the king 20 of the Arabians, communicated to him what he requested in the letter. So the messenger, having 21 received the letter, thought that he should obtain a high post with Herod, and should remove from himself the evil which he was continually fearing at his hands, if he communicated the matter to Herod ; and that this would be more profitable to 22 him than the keeping of Hyrcanus’ secret : since in the other case he was not safe, and sure that the thing would not be told to Herod at some time or other, and thus would be the cause of his destruction. He therefore carried the letter to 23 Herod, and unfolded to him the whole business: who said to him, Carry the letter, as it is, to the king of the Arabians, and bring me back his answer, that I may know it : tell me also the place 24 where the men will be, whom the king of the Arabians will send, that Hyrcanus may go back with them.

So the messenger went, and carried Hyrcanus’ 25 letter to the king of the Arabians ; who rejoiced, and sent some of his men ; ordering them to go 26 p. 411 to a certain place near to the Holy City, and there to wait nntil Hyrcanus should come to them ; and then to attend Hyrcanus till they brought him to 27 his presence. He wrote likewise to Hyrcanus an answer to his letter, and sent it by the messenger. 28 So the men proceeded with the messenger to the appointed place, and there waited : but the messenger carried the letter to Herod, who learned its contents : he told him also the place of the men, to whom Herod sent persons to take them.

29 Afterwards, having sent for seventy old men of the elders of the Jews, and having sent also for Hyrcanus ; when he came, he said to him, Is there any interchange of letters between you and 30 the king of the Arabians ? and Hyrcanus said, No. Then he said to him, Did you send that you 31 might flee to him ? and he said, No. And Herod ordered his messenger to come forward, and the Arabians, and the horses ; he also brought out 32 the answer to his letter, and it was read. Then he commanded Hyrcanus’ head to be stricken off8)Foot note p.411 h. Josephus, agreeing in these particulars, informs us that he took his account from the “Commentaries, or Acts, of Herod himself,” other authors relating them in a different manner. There is reason to believe that these Acts were written by a personal friend of Herod, Nicolaus Damascenus who is mentioned by Josephus, Ant. XIV. 2; XVI. 15, 16, 17; XVII. 7. From the accounts of him which remain to us, it appears that Nicolaus was intimate with Augustus ; and in fact that it was he who succeeded in procuring for Herod a favourable reception by the Roman court, at a most critical juncture. He wrote several works ; as, ” A History of Augustus :” A History of the World:” a large volume of “Assyrian History:” A Collection of strange Customs, &c. See Photii Bibliothec. cod. CLXXXIX. Montacutii Apparatum 5 ad Origines Ecclesiast. p. 169. (ed. 1635), Valesii Excerpta Peirese. 4to. 1634, where are considerable fragments of his writings : Fabricii Biblioth. Graec. edit. Harles. III. p. 500 : and especially, Grotii Epistol. ad Gallos, p. 240-320. edit. 1648. 12mo. ; and his head was stricken off, and no one dared to utter a word for him.

p. 412 Now Hyreanus had delivered Herod9)Foot note p.411 i. See Joseph. Ant. XIV. 0. from the 33 death which was justly awarded him in the assembly of judgment, commanding the assembly to be deferred till the morrow, and sending away Herod that same night. Whence he was destined 34 to become his murderer, regardless of his services to him and to his father. Hyreanus was put to 35 death when he was eighty years old, and he reigned forty years : nor was there any one of the kings of the Asmonaean race of a more praiseworthy conduct10)Foot note p.411 k. Josephus, although in general a favourer of Herod, cannot here refrain from bearing testimony to the respectable character of Ilyrcanus, and to the shameful usage which he met with at the hands of Herod, whose very best friend and benefactor he in truth had been., or more honourable way of life.


Original Source: Transcribed from PDF copy of Book "The Five Books of Maccabees in English. With Notes and Illustrations", by HENRY COTTON, D.C.L.(Sir) Archdeacon of Cashel, and Late Student of Christ Church, Oxford. Publication date 1832 | PDF


References   [ + ]

1. Foot note p.407 a. Compare Joseph. Antiq. XV. 1,2, 9.
2. Foot note p.407 b. See the preceding part of this narrative above, at ch. xlix. 17, 18.
3. Foot note p.407 c. Josephus in loco reads Babylon. In fact Yerak, or Irak, the Arahian name for the district or country of Babylonia, is retained to the present day. See above, ch. xlix. 17, 18. 1. 7.
4. Foot note p.408 d. Although the loss of his ear disqualified Hyrcanus from the office of high priest, yet the crafty Herod knew that this was no obstacle to his reappearing among his countrymen in the capacity of their monarch.
5. Foot note p.408 e. See the account of this transaction at ch. xlix. 16, p. 409 of this book, and read the note there.
6. Foot note p.409 f. Namely, Malchus. See above, ch. xlix. 20, and the corresponding part in Josephus. It is to be observed, that Josephus places the present transaction somewhat later in the history, viz. after Herod had heard of the p. 410 defeat of Antony at Actium, and had become apprehensive of the reception which he might meet with from Augstus ; i.e. in the year B.C. 30, which indeed appears nearly to agree with the statement made in the last verse of this chapter, that Hyrcanus had reigned forty years.
7. Foot note p.410 g. Josephns names him Dositheus, and his brother Josephus.
8. Foot note p.411 h. Josephus, agreeing in these particulars, informs us that he took his account from the “Commentaries, or Acts, of Herod himself,” other authors relating them in a different manner. There is reason to believe that these Acts were written by a personal friend of Herod, Nicolaus Damascenus who is mentioned by Josephus, Ant. XIV. 2; XVI. 15, 16, 17; XVII. 7. From the accounts of him which remain to us, it appears that Nicolaus was intimate with Augustus ; and in fact that it was he who succeeded in procuring for Herod a favourable reception by the Roman court, at a most critical juncture. He wrote several works ; as, ” A History of Augustus :” A History of the World:” a large volume of “Assyrian History:” A Collection of strange Customs, &c. See Photii Bibliothec. cod. CLXXXIX. Montacutii Apparatum 5 ad Origines Ecclesiast. p. 169. (ed. 1635), Valesii Excerpta Peirese. 4to. 1634, where are considerable fragments of his writings : Fabricii Biblioth. Graec. edit. Harles. III. p. 500 : and especially, Grotii Epistol. ad Gallos, p. 240-320. edit. 1648. 12mo.
9. Foot note p.411 i. See Joseph. Ant. XIV. 0.
10. Foot note p.411 k. Josephus, although in general a favourer of Herod, cannot here refrain from bearing testimony to the respectable character of Ilyrcanus, and to the shameful usage which he met with at the hands of Herod, whose very best friend and benefactor he in truth had been.

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