1 Maccabees Chapter 05 (from Five Books of Maccabees)


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P. 22. – 30 Book 1 B.C. 210. [PDF: 72/80 of p.524]

CHAPTER V.

(i) The Jews ordered to be destroyed by elephants. The kings irresolution.

1 Then calling to him Hermo, who had the care of the elephants, being full of fierce anger, and totally unchangeable through rage ; he commanded 2 that against the next day they should dose all the elephants, in number five hundred1)P. 22. Foot Note a. Bochart suspects some error in this number; as Ptolemy had only seventy-three elephants at the battle of Raphia, and several of these were lost there. (Hierozoicon,, tom, I. p. 260.)., with large handfuls of frankincense2)P. 22. Foot Note b.  The stimulating effects of this drug were early known, and are mentioned by Dioscorides and Pliny. and a great quantity of undiluted wine ; and when they had been maddened by the copious supply of this drink, they should then introduce them to meet and destroy3)P. 22. Foot Note c. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge] ” that the Jews by them might meet their death.” the Jews. He then, having given this command, 3 returned to his banquet, having collected round him those of his friends and of his army who were the greatest enemies to the Jews. But Hermo, 4 the commander of the elephants, performed exactly what had been ordered. And the servants, who 5 were appointed to that business, going out in the evening, bound the hands of the poor wretches, and took all other care necessary to secure them; supposing that the whole tribe would together, that very night4)P. 22. Foot Note d. It may seem strange that the servants should have imagined this, seeing that the elephants were ordered to be ready for the next morning. Grotins therefore would alter the punctuation, and by joining p. 23. [ click on image to enlarge] with [ click on image to enlarge] would render the passage, ” the servants took all other can- necessary to secure them for the night.”, receive their final destruction.

p. 23 6 Now the Jews, who seemed to the heathen to be destitute of all protection, by reason of the confinement in chains which environed them on all 7 sides, did all with an unceasing cry and with tears call upon the Almighty Lord, the supreme Disposer of all power, their merciful God and Father: 8 beseeching him to change the unholy design against them ; and to deliver them, by a glorious manifestation of himself, from that fate which was 9 ready at their feet. So the earnest supplication of these Jews ascended up to heaven.

10 But Hermo, having given to the merciless elephants their potion, and filled them with a plentiful supply of wine and crammed them with frankincense, was early at the palace in the morning to 11 inform the king thereof. But He5)P. 23. Foot Note e. The Greek text of this verse is obscure, and possibly corrupt [ click on image to enlarge] + [ click on image to enlarge] Nor do the various readings resolve the intricacy. Grotius explains the text agreeably to the translation here given., who bestows what He pleases upon all men, had cast upon the king a sleep, a thing which from all eternity has been considered good in the night, but now was 12 sent in the day. And he was detained in a most sweet and deep slumber, through the operation6)P. 23. Foot Note f. Nonne lapsus est in hoe loco Schlensunerus. qui voces niaseulas [ click on image to enlarge] cum v. f’aeminea [ click on image to enlarge] con jungendas censuerit ? Confer Lex, V 6t. 1 est. of the Lord of all things : being greatly disappointed of his unlawful purpose, and mightily deceived in 13 his immutable contrivance. But the Jews, having escaped the appointed hour, praised their holy p. 24 God ; and prayed again to Him who is easy to be reconciled, that He would shew to the proud heathen the strength of his powerful hand.

14 And when it was about half way past the ninth hour, he who was appointed to invite the guests, when he saw them in great numbers about him, came and shook the king. And when he had 15 awaked him with great difficulty, he informed him that the time for the feast was passing by, entering into conversation on these matters7)P. 24. Foot Note g. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge] : which Grotius interprets, ” discoursing about the quality of the guests whom lie had invited.” Whiston rendered it, “adding a few words about the other design.”. Which the king reflecting on, betook himself to 16 his banquet, and commanded that the guests who were come to the feast should sit down in his presence. Which being done, he exhorted them to 17 give up themselves to revelry, and to honour the abundant feast before them, by spending the time in merriment.

18 And when the interview had lasted long, the king sent for Hermo, and asked him with bitter threatening for what cause the Jews had been suffered to outlive that day. And when he shewed 19 that even over-night he had completely finished that which was enjoined him8)P. 24. Foot Note h. Namely, to bind and secure the Jews., and his friends also testified to this effect : the king, with a 20 barbarity worse than that of Phalaris, said that they might thank his sleep of that day : ” but against the next morning without all excuse do thou prepare the elephants in like manner for the annihilation of the wicked Jews.” And when 21 p. 25 the king had said this, all who were present cheerfully and joyfully commending it with one accord, 22 departed each to his own home. And they did not so much employ the night-time in sleep, as in devising all sorts of indignities9)P. 25. Foot Note i. Similar treatment of the early Christians is described by Tacitus (Annal. lilt. XV.) Compare Juvenal; Sat. 1. 155. against those who seemed to be miserable wretches.

23 Now as soon as the cock had crowed at daybreak, Hermo had armed the elephants, and was exercising them in the great cloistered court10)P. 25. Foot Note k. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge]  literally “an area enclosed or surrounded by columns.” Bochart contends that the place here spoken of must have been some distinct public building ; as scarcely any court or part of a palace could have afforded space for the manoeuvring of five hundred elephants. lie judges it to have been a particular street in the city of Alexandria so called,and adduces the grounds of his opinion from Achilles Tatius, hook V.24 And the multitudes in the city crowded together to this most sad spectacle, earnestly waiting for 25 the morning. But the Jews being in suspense11)P. 25. Foot Note l. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge] or “expecting to live only a moment of time.” for some short time, with weeping supplication in mournful strains, stretching out their hands to heaven, besought the Most High God again to assist them with all speed.

26 The rays of the sun were not yet spread abroad, when, the king waiting to receive his friends, Hermo stood by his side, and called to come forward, shewing that the royal desire was in a way 27 to be speedily fulfilled. But when he received this intelligence, and was astonished at that unusual12)P. 25. Foot Note m. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge]. coming forth so early, being overcome with total ignorance, he asked what that matter p. 26 was for which all this had been so diligently done by him.

28 Now this was the operation of God who disposeth all things, who had planted in his mind an entire forgetfulness of the plans which before he had contrived.

But Hermo and all his friends explained to him 29 that the beasts and the troops are ready, ” according to thine earnest desire, O King.” But he, 30 filled with great wrath at their words, (because that through God’s providence all his sense about these matters was scattered to nought,) looking steadfastly on Hermo with threats, said, ” If your 31 parents13)P. 26. Foot Note n. I do not know that any commentator has noticed this speech of Ptolemy as being in verse : yet it will be seen that the greater portion of it (with the help of some critical emendation) forms tolerable trimeter Iambics : [ click on image to enlarge] +  [ click on image to enlarge]  The last word is probably a Gloss.] [ click on image to enlarge]. or children had been here, they should have furnished a glorious prey for the wild beasts, instead of these blameless Jews ; who have shewn in a remarkable degree, to me and to my ancestors, an entire and unshaken fidelity. And indeed, but for that affection which our 32 education together and your usefulness14)P. 26. Foot Note o. Or, ” office which you hold:” [ click on image to enlarge]. has kept up, you should have been put to death instead of these.”

33 So Hermo underwent an unexpected and dangerous threatening; and was cast down in his eyes and countenance. The king’s friends also 34 p. 27 coming out secretly15)P. 27. Foot Note p. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge] “gradually stealing away.as if ashamed.” Compare – Sam. xix.M, ” The people gat them by stealth into the city, as people being ashamed steal away when they flee in battle.” one by one with a sad countenance, sent away the assembled multitudes each 35 to his own private affairs. And when the Jews had heard what the king had said, they praised the glorious God and King of kings, having obtained from Him this second assistance also.

36 But the king after the very same manner appointed another banquet, and invited his friends 37 to turn their minds to mirth. And calling for Hermo, he said to him with threats, ” How often, O thou wretch, must I give fresh orders to thee 38 about these same people ? Arm the elephants once again for to-morrow, for the annihilation of the Jews.”

39 But his kinsmen who were seated with him at the banquet, wondering at his unstable mind, said 40 thus : ” O king, how long wilt thou trifle with us, as though we were irrational brutes ? commanding us now this third time to destroy these men and then, when the business was begun16)P. 27. Foot Note q. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge]. repenting 41 and rescinding thy former orders: by reason of which the city is disturbed through expectation ; and, being filled with assembled groups of people, has been in frequent danger of being pillaged in various ways.”

42 Upon this the king, exactly like another Phalaris, filled with absurdity, and counting for nothing those changes of mind which had been wrought in him respecting the visitation17)P. 27. Foot Note r. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge] which may signify either ” punishment” p. 28 or ” deliverance.” See the word occurring at Luke xix. 44, also in chap. iii. of the Wisdom of Solomon, ver. 20. (where by the way it is very incorrectly translated) and in several other parts of the same book. of the p. 28 Jews; swore vehemently a most impious oath18)P. 28. Foot Note s. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge] an oath which was not likely to be fulfilled., determining that without delay he would send these people into the other world, foully trampled to death by the knees19)P. 28. Foot Note t. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge] Winston takes no notice of the word knees, and Grotius pronounces the phrase a Hebraism. But there is reason to think that each word has an intended and distinct meaning; and that the author was acquainted with the habits of the animals which he is describing. Bochart, (Hierozoic. I. p. 201, &c.) commenting on this passage, mentions that it was customary with elephants trained for war to use both their knees and feet for treading down and crushing their enemies ; and refers to AElian’s History of Animals for confirmation of his remark. AElian observes,  [ click on image to enlarge] which fully bears out Bochart in his assertion. AEI. Hist. Anim. VIII. 10. And Hirtius, de Bello Africano, sect. 72, relating the bravery of a soldier when attacked by an elephant, uses the following words ” Quum elephantus vulnere ictus in lixam inermem impetum fecisset, cumque sub pede subditum, deinde genu innixus pondere suo premeret et enecaret.” and feet of the elephants. And that he would send an army into Judaea and 43 quickly level it with the ground by fire and sword ; and speedily would destroy with fire that ” temple of theirs, which (said he) we are not allowed to enter20)P. 28. Foot Note u. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge].” and would make it destitute of those who offer sacrifice for all time to come.

44 Then his friends and kinsmen departing, overjoyed and with belief in him, disposed the troops in the most proper parts of the city for securing it. But the governor of the elephants, having 45 driven the animals, as I may say, into a state of p. 29 madness by highly-scented potions of wine mixed with frankincense, they being decked out in fearful 46 array21)P. 29. Foot Note x. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge] Thus Dioilorus Sicnlus (lib. XVII.) speaks of elephants [ click on image to enlarge]. :—about daybreak, the city being already filled with countless multitudes about the Hippodrome22)P. 29. Foot Note y. See above, chap. iv. 11., he entered into the court, and called out the king to the business before him. 47 Then he, having his wicked mind filled with fierce anger, rushed forth with all his retinue23)P. 29. Foot Note z. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge] or the word may signify “in all his might, in all the weight of his anger” [ click on image to enlarge]. and with the beasts : resolving to behold, with an untouched heart and with his own eyes, the painful and miserable destruction of the aforementioned Jews.

48 But the Jews, when they saw the dust raised by the elephants going out of the gate, and by the armed force which followed, and by the march of the multitude ; and heard the tumultuous noise : 49 thinking that moment to be the last of their lives, the conclusion of their most woeful expectation, they betook themselves to lamentations and wailing’s ; they kissed one another, embracing their relatives and falling about their necks, fathers on their sons, and mothers upon young girls, and other women who had new-born babes at their breasts drawing their last milk.

50 Nevertheless, having regard to those former assistance’s which they had received from heaven, throwing themselves flat down with one accord, and removing the infants from their breasts, they cried out with an exceeding great cry, beseeching the Lord of all power to shew pity on them, by p. 30 the manifestation of his presence, who were now at the gates of the other world.


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. P. 22. Foot Note a. Bochart suspects some error in this number; as Ptolemy had only seventy-three elephants at the battle of Raphia, and several of these were lost there. (Hierozoicon,, tom, I. p. 260.).
2. P. 22. Foot Note b.  The stimulating effects of this drug were early known, and are mentioned by Dioscorides and Pliny.
3. P. 22. Foot Note c. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge] ” that the Jews by them might meet their death.”
4. P. 22. Foot Note d. It may seem strange that the servants should have imagined this, seeing that the elephants were ordered to be ready for the next morning. Grotins therefore would alter the punctuation, and by joining p. 23. [ click on image to enlarge] with [ click on image to enlarge] would render the passage, ” the servants took all other can- necessary to secure them for the night.”
5. P. 23. Foot Note e. The Greek text of this verse is obscure, and possibly corrupt [ click on image to enlarge] + [ click on image to enlarge] Nor do the various readings resolve the intricacy. Grotius explains the text agreeably to the translation here given.
6. P. 23. Foot Note f. Nonne lapsus est in hoe loco Schlensunerus. qui voces niaseulas [ click on image to enlarge] cum v. f’aeminea [ click on image to enlarge] con jungendas censuerit ? Confer Lex, V 6t. 1 est.
7. P. 24. Foot Note g. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge] : which Grotius interprets, ” discoursing about the quality of the guests whom lie had invited.” Whiston rendered it, “adding a few words about the other design.”
8. P. 24. Foot Note h. Namely, to bind and secure the Jews.
9. P. 25. Foot Note i. Similar treatment of the early Christians is described by Tacitus (Annal. lilt. XV.) Compare Juvenal; Sat. 1. 155.
10. P. 25. Foot Note k. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge]  literally “an area enclosed or surrounded by columns.” Bochart contends that the place here spoken of must have been some distinct public building ; as scarcely any court or part of a palace could have afforded space for the manoeuvring of five hundred elephants. lie judges it to have been a particular street in the city of Alexandria so called,and adduces the grounds of his opinion from Achilles Tatius, hook V.
11. P. 25. Foot Note l. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge] or “expecting to live only a moment of time.”
12. P. 25. Foot Note m. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge].
13. P. 26. Foot Note n. I do not know that any commentator has noticed this speech of Ptolemy as being in verse : yet it will be seen that the greater portion of it (with the help of some critical emendation) forms tolerable trimeter Iambics : [ click on image to enlarge] +  [ click on image to enlarge]  The last word is probably a Gloss.] [ click on image to enlarge].
14. P. 26. Foot Note o. Or, ” office which you hold:” [ click on image to enlarge].
15. P. 27. Foot Note p. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge] “gradually stealing away.as if ashamed.” Compare – Sam. xix.M, ” The people gat them by stealth into the city, as people being ashamed steal away when they flee in battle.”
16. P. 27. Foot Note q. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge].
17. P. 27. Foot Note r. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge] which may signify either ” punishment” p. 28 or ” deliverance.” See the word occurring at Luke xix. 44, also in chap. iii. of the Wisdom of Solomon, ver. 20. (where by the way it is very incorrectly translated) and in several other parts of the same book.
18. P. 28. Foot Note s. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge] an oath which was not likely to be fulfilled.
19. P. 28. Foot Note t. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge] Winston takes no notice of the word knees, and Grotius pronounces the phrase a Hebraism. But there is reason to think that each word has an intended and distinct meaning; and that the author was acquainted with the habits of the animals which he is describing. Bochart, (Hierozoic. I. p. 201, &c.) commenting on this passage, mentions that it was customary with elephants trained for war to use both their knees and feet for treading down and crushing their enemies ; and refers to AElian’s History of Animals for confirmation of his remark. AElian observes,  [ click on image to enlarge] which fully bears out Bochart in his assertion. AEI. Hist. Anim. VIII. 10. And Hirtius, de Bello Africano, sect. 72, relating the bravery of a soldier when attacked by an elephant, uses the following words ” Quum elephantus vulnere ictus in lixam inermem impetum fecisset, cumque sub pede subditum, deinde genu innixus pondere suo premeret et enecaret.”
20. P. 28. Foot Note u. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge].
21. P. 29. Foot Note x. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge] Thus Dioilorus Sicnlus (lib. XVII.) speaks of elephants [ click on image to enlarge].
22. P. 29. Foot Note y. See above, chap. iv. 11.
23. P. 29. Foot Note z. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge] or the word may signify “in all his might, in all the weight of his anger” [ click on image to enlarge].

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