5 Maccabees Chapter 56 (from The Five Books of Maccabees)


Cotton H.Sir : 

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P. 419 – 425 Book 5 B.C. 34 [PDF: 469/475 of p.524]

CHAPTER 56.1)Foot note p. 419 a. Compare Joseph. Antiq. XV. 6, 7, 8. Bell. I. 14.

(i) The history of Antony, and of his expedition, against Augustus, and of the aid which he asked from Herod. And an account of the earthquake which occurred in the land of Judah, and of the battle which took place between them and the Arabians.

1 Cleopatra, the queen of Egypt, was the wife of Antony: [B.C. 34.] and she discovered such methods of adorning and painting herself, by which women are wont to allure men, as no other woman 2 in the world had found out : so that, while she was a woman advanced in age, she seemed as a little unmarried girl, and even more delicate and 3 more fair. Antony also found in her those methods of beauty, and those means of creating pleasure, which he had never found in the vast number of women whom he had enjoyed. Wherefore she so completely gained possession of Antony’s heart, that no room was left in it for 4 affection to any other person. She therefore persuaded him to discomfit certain kings who were subject to the Romans, from her own private considerations; and he obeyed her in this, putting to death certain kings2)Foot note p. 419 b. As Lysanias, and Artabazes &c. ; the account of which proceedings may he seen in Josephus. at her instance; and some he left alive by her orders, making them servants and slaves to her. 5 And this was told to Augustus ; who wrote to him, abominating such conduct, and desiring him 6 not to be guilty of the like again. And Antony told Cleopatra what Augustus had written to p. 419 to him ; and she advised him to revolt from Augustus, and shewed him that the thing was very easy.

To whose opinion he assenting, openly played 7 false with Augustus [B.C. 33.] ; and gathered an army and supplies, that he might go by sea to Antioch, and thence might march by land to meet Augustus wheresoever he might chance to find him. He sent also for Herod, that he 8 might accompany him. And Herod went to him with a most powerful army and most complete  supplies. [B.C. 32.] And when he had come to him, 9 Antony said to him ; Right reason advises us to make an expedition against the Arabians, and to engage with them : for we are by no means secure that they may not make an incursion upon the Jews and the land of Egypt, so soon as we shall have turned our backs.

And Antony departed by sea : but Herod 10 made an inroad upon the Arabians : and Cleopatra sent a general named Athenio with a great army, to assist Herod in subduing the Arabians: and she commanded him to place Herod and his 11 men in the first rank3)Foot note p. 420 c. Even thus, at an earlier period of Jewish history, had the same iniquitous command been given : ” Set ye Uriah in the forefront of the test battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten and die !”, and to make agreement with the king of the Arabians, that they together should enclose Herod and cut his men to pieces. To this she was led by a desire of obtaining 12 possession of all which Herod was worth : 13 Alexandra also some time previously had requested her to induce Antony to put Herod to death p. 421 which indeed she had done, but Antony refused 14 to commit this act. To this was added the circumstance, that Cleopatra had formerly longed for Herod, and had at some time desired intercourse with him ; but he restrained himself, for he was chaste. And these were the causes which 15 had induced her to this line of conduct. So Athenio coming to Herod, according to the command of Cleopatra, sent to make agreement with the king of the Arabians, that he might surround 16 him. And when Herod and his Arabians met and encountered, Athenio and his men attacked Herod, who was intercepted between the two armies, and the battle grew fierce against him 17 both before and behind. But Herod seeing what had happened, collected his men, and fought most vigorously until they were beyond the reach of both armies, after the greatest exertion ; and he returned into the Holy House.

18 And there happened a great earthquake in the land of Judah, such as had not occurred since the time of king Harbah4)Foot note p. 421 d. Probably by this name is meant Uzziah king of Judah, in whose days we learn from Scripture that a violent earthquake took place. See Amos, i. 1. and Zechariah, xiv. 5., in which a great number 19 of men and of animals was destroyed. And this alarmed Herod much, and caused him great fear, and broke down his spirit. He therefore took counsel with the elders of Judah about making an agreement with all nations round about them; designing peace, and tranquillity, and the removal 20 of wars and bloodshed. He sent also ambassadors on these matters to the surrounding nations, all of whom embraced the peace to which he had p. 422 invited them, except the king of the Arabians ; who ordered the ambassadors whom Herod had 21 sent to him to be put to death ; for he supposed that Herod had done this because his men had been destroyed in the earthquake, and therefore, being weakened, he had turned himself to making peace. Wherefore he resolved to go to war with 22 Herod; and having collected a large and well provided army, he marched against him.

And this was told to Herod ; and he was much 23 vexed, for two reasons : one, on account of the slaughter of his ambassadors, an act which none of the kings had hitherto committed ; another, because he had dared to attack him, imagining in his mind his weakness and want of troops. But 24 he wished to shew him that the matter was otherwise : that all, to whom he had sent ambassadors, to treat of peace, might know that he had not done this through any fear or weakness, but from a wish of that which was kind and good ; that no one might dare make attempts against the Jews, or imagine in his mind that they were weak. Besides, he wished to take vengeance on 25 the king of the Arabians for his ambassadors : on these accounts he determined in all haste to march against him.

Therefore he collected troops from the land of 26 Judah, and said to them : “You are aware of the slaughter of our ambassadors perpetrated by that Arab ; an act which no king hitherto has committed : for he thinks that we have been 27 weakened and have become powerless ; and he has dared to provoke us, and thinks that he shall obtain all his desires over us : nor will he p. 423 28 cease from warring on us continually. Wherefore you must struggle against difficulties, that you may shew forth your bravery, and may subdue your enemies, and bear off their spoils : 29 although fortune may at one time shew herself favourable, at another time adverse to us, according to the custom and usual vicissitudes of 30 this world. In truth, you must immediately undertake an expedition, to take vengeance on those oppressors, and to curb the audacity of 31 all who hold you in little esteem. But if you shall say, this earthquake has disheartened us, and has destroyed great numbers of us ; you know full well, that it has destroyed none of 32 the fighting men5)Foot note p. 423 e. Josephus remarks, that about ten (in another place he says thirty) thousand persons perished in this earthquake, principally from the houses having fallen upon them ; but that the soldiers, being abroad and under tents, escaped free from every harm., but certain others. Nor ought we to think it at all unreasonable, that it has destroyed the worst among our nation, but has left the best to survive. It is also undoubted, that this has improved your spirits 33 and your inward feelings. But the duty of him, whom God has saved from destruction, and has preserved from ruin, requires that he should obey Him, and should do what is good and 34 right. And truly no obedience is more honourable or glorious, than to seek redress for the oppressed on the oppressor ; and to subdue the enemies of God and his religion and nation, by aiding those who shew obedience and attention 35 to Him. Nor is it unknown to you, what befell us lately with those Arabs, when they had p. 424 surrounded us with Athenio6)Foot note p. 424 f. See above, verses 10, 15, 16. ; and how the great and good God helped us against them, and delivered us from them. Therefore fear God, 36 following your ancient custom, and the laudable custom of your forefathers ; and prepare yourselves against this enemy before he makes ready against you, and be beforehand with him before he anticipates you : and God will supply you with aid and succour against your enemy.”

So when the men had heard the address of 37 Herod, they replied, that they were ready to undertake the expedition, and would make no delay. And he returned thanks to God and to them for it, 38 and ordered many sacrifices to be offered : he also ordered an army to be raised ; and a great multitude was gathered from the tribe of Judah and Benjamin. And Herod marching against the king of 39 the Arabians, encountered him ; and the battle grew fierce between them, five thousand of the Arabians being slain. There was again a battle, 40 and four thousand of the Arabians were killed : wherefore the Arabians returned to their camp, and remained there ; and Herod could do nothing against them, for the place was fortified ; but he remained with his army, besieging them in the same place, and not allowing them to go out. And they remained five days in this condition ; 41 and a most violent thirst came upon them ; they sent therefore ambassadors to Herod with a most valuable present, asking for a truce, and liberty to draw water to drink : but he did not listen to them, but continued in the same furious hostility p. 425 42 The Arabians then said therefore, Let us go out against this nation ; for it is better for us to 43 conquer or die, than to perish from thirst. And they went out against them ; and Herod’s party overcame them, and slew nine thousand of them ; and Herod with his men pursued the Arabians as they fled, slaying great numbers of them ; and he 44 besieged their cities and took them. Wherefore they sued for their lives, promising obedience ; to which he agreeing, retired from them, and returned into the Holy House.

45 Now the Arabians mentioned in this book are the Arabians who dwelled from the country of Sarah as far as to Hegiaz7)Foot note p. 425 g. This name is still preserved in Arabia ; a large and important district, extending down the shore of the Red sea, and embracing the cities of Mecca and Medina, still bears the appellation of Hedjaz. It is likely that formerly there was a chief town, bearing nearly the same name. and the adjacent parts; and they were of great renown and large numbers.


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. 419 a. Compare Joseph. Antiq. XV. 6, 7, 8. Bell. I. 14.
2. Foot note p. 419 b. As Lysanias, and Artabazes &c. ; the account of which proceedings may he seen in Josephus.
3. Foot note p. 420 c. Even thus, at an earlier period of Jewish history, had the same iniquitous command been given : ” Set ye Uriah in the forefront of the test battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten and die !”
4. Foot note p. 421 d. Probably by this name is meant Uzziah king of Judah, in whose days we learn from Scripture that a violent earthquake took place. See Amos, i. 1. and Zechariah, xiv. 5.
5. Foot note p. 423 e. Josephus remarks, that about ten (in another place he says thirty) thousand persons perished in this earthquake, principally from the houses having fallen upon them ; but that the soldiers, being abroad and under tents, escaped free from every harm.
6. Foot note p. 424 f. See above, verses 10, 15, 16.
7. Foot note p. 425 g. This name is still preserved in Arabia ; a large and important district, extending down the shore of the Red sea, and embracing the cities of Mecca and Medina, still bears the appellation of Hedjaz. It is likely that formerly there was a chief town, bearing nearly the same name.

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