But Simon (mentioned earlier as the one who informed Apollonius about the money and brought trouble on the nation) also lied about Onias, claiming that he was responsible for the attack on Heliodorus and for the difficulties that followed.
He dared to accuse Onias of plotting against the government - Onias who not only had made donations to Jerusalem and had protected the Temple, but who was eager to see that all our laws were obeyed.
Apollonius son of Menestheus, the governor of Greater Syria, encouraged Simon in every evil thing he did, and Simon's opposition finally grew so strong that one of his trusted followers committed several murders. Onias realized how dangerous the situation had become,
so he went to the king, not for the purpose of making accusations against his own people, but for the common good of all Jews, both in their private and public lives.
He realized that without the king's cooperation there was no hope for peace, and Simon would keep on with his foolishness.
Later, when King Seleucus died and Antiochus (known as Epiphanes) became king, Jason the brother of Onias became High Priest by corrupt means. 1
He went to see the king and offered him 27,000 pounds of silver with 6,000 more pounds to be paid later.
Jason also offered him an additional 11,250 pounds of silver for the authority to establish a stadium where young men could train and to enroll the people of Jerusalem as citizens of Antioch.
The king gave his approval, and just as soon as Jason took over the office of High Priest, he made the people of Jerusalem change to the Greek way of life.
He began by abolishing the favors that John had secured for the Jews from previous Syrian kings. (John was the father of the Eupolemus who later went to Rome to make an alliance and to establish ties of friendship.) Jason also did away with our Jewish customs and introduced new customs that were contrary to our Law. 2
With great enthusiasm he built a stadium near the Temple hill and led our finest young men to adopt the Greek custom of participating in athletic events.
Because of the unrivaled wickedness of Jason, that ungodly and illegitimate High Priest, the craze for the Greek way of life and for foreign customs reached such a point
that even the priests lost all interest in their sacred duties. They lost interest in the Temple services and neglected the sacrifices. Just as soon as the signal was given, they would rush off to take part in the games that were forbidden by our Law.
They did not care about anything their ancestors had valued; they prized only Greek honors.
And this turned out to be the source of all their troubles, for the very people whose ways they admired and whose customs they tried to imitate became their enemies and oppressed them.
It is a serious thing to disregard God's Law, as you will see from the following events.
Once when the king was present for the athletic games that were held every five years in the city of Tyre,
that worthless Jason sent some men there from Jerusalem, who were also enrolled as citizens of Antioch, to take 22,500 pounds of silver to pay for a sacrifice to the god Hercules. But even these men did not think it was fitting to use such a large sum of money for a sacrifice, and
so the money originally intended as a sacrifice to Hercules was used for the construction of warships.
When Apollonius son of Menestheus was sent to Egypt to attend the crowning of Philometor as king, Antiochus learned that Philometor was opposed to his policies. Antiochus became concerned about the security of his own kingdom, so he went to Joppa and then on to Jerusalem.
There he was welcomed with great splendor by Jason and the people of the city who went out to greet him, shouting and carrying torches. From Jerusalem Antiochus led his army to Phoenicia.
Three years later, Jason sent Menelaus (brother of the Simon mentioned earlier) to take some money to the king and to get his decision on several important matters.
But when he stood before the king, Menelaus impressed him with his show of authority and offered 22,500 pounds of silver more than Jason had offered for his appointment to the office of High Priest.
As a result Menelaus returned to Jerusalem with papers from the king, confirming him as High Priest. But he possessed no other qualifications; he had the temper of a cruel tyrant and could be as fierce as a wild animal.
So Jason, who had cheated his own brother out of the office of High Priest, was now forced to flee to the land of Ammon.
Menelaus continued to be High Priest, but he never paid any of the money he had promised the king.
However, Sostratus, the captain of the fort in Jerusalem, kept demanding the money, since it was his responsibility to collect it. So finally, the two men were summoned to appear before the king concerning the matter.
Menelaus left his brother Lysimachus as acting High Priest, while Sostratus left the fort under the command of Crates, the commander of the mercenary troops from Cyprus.
Meanwhile, there was a revolt in the Cilician cities of Tarsus and Mallus, because the king had given those cities to Antiochis, his mistress.
So the king left Andronicus, one of his high officials, in command, while he hurried off to Cilicia to restore order.
Menelaus took advantage of this opportunity and presented Andronicus with some of the gold objects he had removed from the Temple in Jerusalem. He had already sold some of them to the city of Tyre and to other nearby cities.
When Onias heard about this, he fled for safety to a temple at Daphne near the city of Antioch and openly accused Menelaus.
Then Menelaus secretly persuaded Andronicus to kill Onias. So Andronicus went to Onias and deceived him with a friendly greeting and with promises of safety. Although Onias was suspicious, Andronicus finally lured him away from the safety of the temple and immediately murdered him in cold blood. 3
The Jews and Gentiles were very angry because Onias had been murdered.
So when the king returned from the territory of Cilicia, the Jews of Antioch went to him and protested against this senseless killing. Many Gentiles felt the same way about the crime.
King Antiochus was deeply grieved and was so filled with sorrow that he was moved to tears when he recalled the wisdom and self-control that Onias had shown throughout his life.
Antiochus became so angry that he tore off Andronicus' royal robe, stripped him naked, and marched him around the city to the very spot where Onias had been murdered. Then Antiochus had this bloodthirsty murderer put to death. This was how the Lord gave him the punishment he deserved.
Meanwhile, with the support of his brother Menelaus, Lysimachus had on numerous occasions robbed the Jerusalem Temple and had taken many of its gold objects. When word of this spread around, crowds began to gather in protest against Lysimachus.
Finally, the crowds were becoming dangerous and were beginning to get out of control, so Lysimachus sent 3,000 armed men to attack them. They were led by Auranus, a man as stupid as he was old.
When the Jews in the Temple courtyard realized what was happening, they picked up rocks, pieces of wood, or simply handfuls of ashes from the altar and threw them at Lysimachus and his men in the confusion.
They killed a few of Lysimachus' men, wounded many of them, and all the rest ran for their lives. Lysimachus himself, that temple robber, was killed near the Temple treasury.
Because of this incident Menelaus was brought to trial.
When the king came to the city of Tyre, the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem sent three men to bring charges against Menelaus.
When Menelaus saw that he was losing the case, he offered Ptolemy son of Dorymenes a large bribe to persuade the king to decide in his favor.
Ptolemy then asked the king to go outside the courtroom with him, as though to get some fresh air, and there he persuaded him to change his mind
and declare Menelaus innocent of the charges against him. So Menelaus was set free, although he had caused the trouble; but the three men, whom even the cruel Scythians would have declared innocent, were sentenced to death.
The three men had spoken in defense of Jerusalem, its people, and the sacred objects stolen from the Temple, but they were quickly and unjustly executed.
Some of the people of Tyre, however, showed their disgust with this crime and their respect for these men by giving them a splendid funeral.
Menelaus stayed on in his position because of the greed of those in power. He grew more evil every day and became the worst enemy of his own people.