Heliodorus attempts to seize the temple treasures
1 While the Holy City enjoyed complete peace and the laws were observed as perfectly as possible through the piety of Onias the High Priest and his hatred for all wickedness, 2 it came about that kings honored the Holy Place and made the High Priest richer by their magnificent gifts. 3 Even Seleucus, king of Asia, paid from his own account for the expenses of the sacrificial services. 4 But a certain Simon, a priest of the tribe of Bilgah and the Temple administrator, came into conflict with the High Priest regarding the inspection of the city markets. 5 But he could not prevail over Onias. So he went to Apollonius of Tarsus, the governor of Coele-Syria and Phoenicia, 6 and reported to him that the treasury in Jerusalem was full of untold wealth, that there was a great amount of money which had nothing to do with the expenses required by the sacrifices, and that all this could easily be brought under the control of the king.
7 Apollonius met with the king and told him about the wealth that had been disclosed to him. The king then sent Heliodorus, who was in charge of his affairs, with a letter that authorized him to transfer the treasures. 8 Heliodorus at once set out on his journey, pretending that he was going to visit Coele-Syria and Phoe nicia, but with the intention of carrying out the king’s order.
9 On his arrival in Jerusalem, he was hospitably received by the city and the High Priest to whom he related the report that had been made. He revealed the reason for his coming and asked the High Priest if the report was really true. 10 The High Priest explained that there were some deposits belonging to widows and orphans. 11 Some belonged to Hyrcanus, son of To bias, a person of very prominent position, who had also been affected by these slanders. All in all, the treasury had four hundred talents of silver and two hundred of gold. 12 Finally, Onias pointed out that it was utterly impossible to cheat those who had put their confidence in this Holy Place and in the inviolable majesty of that Temple venerated throughout the world.
13 But, following the orders of the king, Heliodorus insisted that all those treasures should be turned over to the king. 14 So, on the day set for Helio dorus to draw up the inventory, there was great disturbance in the city. 15 The priests in their sacred vestments stood before the altar and called upon Heaven: he who had given the law governing deposits should now preserve them for those who had deposited them.
16 None could look at the face of the High Priest without being deeply touched, for his appearance and his paleness revealed the anguish of his soul. 17 A kind of fear overwhelmed him that made him tremble from head to foot, showing to those who saw him the sorrow of his heart. 18 Peo ple rushed out of their houses in great con fusion to pray together because the Holy Place was about to be profaned. 19 The women, girded with sack cloth below their breasts, thronged into the streets. The younger girls who were not yet allowed to go out into the streets ran to the doorways, and some climbed the walls and others looked out from the windows. 20 All raised their hands to heaven and joined in prayer. 21 It was touching to see such a crowd prostrate in disarray on the ground and the High Priest in great anguish.
22 While they were praying to the All-powerful Lord to protect the de po sits of the Temple and keep them safe for those who entrusted them to the High Priest, 23 Heliodo rus began to carry out what had been decided upon.
24 He had already come near the Treasury with his bodyguard, when the Lord of the spirits and of every power caused so great a manifestation that all who had dared accompany Heliodorus were astonished be fore the power of God, and they lost their strength and courage. 25 There ap peared to them a horse with magnificent gear and on it was a fearsome rider. It rushed furiously at Heliodorus and struck at him with its forefeet. The rider appeared to have armor of gold. 26 And two young men, strong and very beautiful and magnificently clothed, also ap peared. They stood on each side of Heliodorus, and flogged him continuously, inflicting stroke after stroke.
27 Heliodorus fell to the ground, enveloped in great darkness; then his men took him up and put him on a stretcher. 28 So he was carried away, powerless even to help himself, he who but a moment before had proudly entered the treasury with a great retinue and all his bodyguard. Everyone clearly recognized the power of God. 29 Because of the divine intervention, Heliodorus be came mute and lost all hope of saving his life. 30 Meanwhile the Jews blessed the Lord who had glorified his Holy Place. The Temple, which a little while before had been filled with terror and fear, now overflowed with joy and gladness because of the extraordinary manifestation of God.
31 Then some of Heliodorus’ companions begged Onias to call upon the Most High to grant the grace of life to him who was at the point of death. 32 The High Priest, on his part, feared that the king might suspect the Jews of some foul play against Helio dorus, so he offered a sacrifice for the man’s recovery.
33 While the High Priest was offering the sacrifice of atonement, the same young men, clothed in the same way, again appeared to Helio dorus, and standing before him, said, “Thank Onias the High Priest, for through him the Lord grants you the grace of life. 34 And as for you, who have been scourged by heaven’s com mand, make known to all how great is the power of God.” Having said this, they vanished.
35 Heliodorus then offered a sacrifice to the Lord and prayed at great length to him who had spared his life. He took leave of Onias and went back with his guards to the king. 36 There he began to bear witness to the works of the Most High God, which he had seen with his own eyes.
37 The king asked Heliodorus who could be sent again to Jerusalem to carry out what he failed to do. Helio dorus answered him, 38 “If you have some enemy whom you wish to eliminate, send him there and you will see him return well flogged; that is, if he ever returns at all, for surely, divine power is in that place. 39 He himself who dwells in heaven watches over the place and defends it, striking to death those who come to profane it.”
40 This was what happened to Heliodorus and how the Treasury was saved.