On discovering this, so incensed was the wicked king, that he no longer confined his rage to the Jews in Alexandria. Laying his hand more heavily upon those who lived in the country, he gave orders that they should be quickly collected into one place, and most cruelly deprived of their lives.
While this was going on, an invidious rumour was uttered abroad by men who had banded together to injure the Jewish race. The purport of their charge was, that the Jews kept them away from the ordinances of the law.
Now, while the Jews always maintained a feeling of un-swerving loyalty towards the kings,
yet, as they worshipped God, and observed his law, they made certain distinctions, and avoided certain things. Hence some persons held them in odium;
although, as they adorned their conversation with works of righteousness, they had established themselves in the good opinion of the world.
What all the rest of mankind said, was, however, made of no account by the foreigners;
who said much of the exclusiveness of the Jews with regard to their worship and meats; they alleged that they were men unsociable, hostile to the king's interests, refusing to associate with him or his troops. By this way of speaking, they brought much odium upon them.
Nor was this unexpected uproar and sudden conflux of people unobserved by the Greeks who lived in the city, concerning men who had never harmed them: yet to aid them was not in their power, since all was oppression around; but they encouraged them in their troubles, and expected a favourable turn of affairs:
He who knoweth all things, will not, disregard so great a people.
Some of the neighbors, friends, and fellow dealers of the Jews, even called them secretly to an interview, pledged them their assistance, and promised to do their very utmost for them.
Now the king, elated with his prosperous fortune, and not regarding the superior power of God, but thinking to persevere in his present purpose, wrote the following letter to the prejudice of the Jews.
King Ptolemy Philopater, to the commanders and soldiers in Egypt, and in all places, health and happiness!
I am right well; and so, too, are my affairs.
Since our Asiatic campaign, the particulars of which ye know, and which by the aid of the gods, not lightly given, and by our own vigour, has been brought to a successful issue according to our expectation,
we resolved, not with strength of spear, but with gentleness and much humanity, as it were to nurse the inhabitants of Coele-Syria and Phoenicia, and to be their willing benefactors.
So, having bestowed considerable sums of money upon the temples of the several cities, we proceeded even as far as Jerusalem; and went up to honour the temple of these wretched beings who never cease from their folly.
To outward appearance they received us willingly; but belied that appearance by their deeds. When we were eager to enter their temple, and to honour it with the most beautiful and exquisite gifts,
they were so carried away by their old arrogance, as to forbid us the entrance; while we, out of our forbearance toward all men, refrained from exercising our power upon them.
And thus, exhibiting their enmity against us, they alone among the nations lift up their heads against kings and benefactors, as men unwilling to submit to any thing reasonable.
We then, having endeavoured to make allowance for the madness of these persons, and on our victorious return treating all people in Egypt courteously, acted in a manner which was befitting.
Accordingly, bearing no ill-will against their kinsmen but rather remembering our connection with them, and the numerous matters with sincere heart from a remote period entrusted to them, we wished to venture a total alteration of their state, by bestowing upon them the rights of citizens of Alexandria, and to admit them to the everlasting rites of our solemnities.
All this, however, they have taken in a very different spirit. With their innate malignity, they have spurned the fair offer; and constantly inclining to evil,
have rejected the inestimable rights. Not only so, but by using speech, and by refraining from speech, they abhor the few among them who are heartily disposed towards us; ever deeming that their ignoble course of procedure will force us to do away with our reform.
Having then, received certain proofs that these bear us every sort of ill-will, we must look forward to the possibility of some sudden tumult among ourselves, when these impious men may turn traitors and barbarous enemies.
As soon, therefore, as the contents of this letter become known to you, in that same hour we order those who dwell among you, with wives and children, to be sent to us, vilified and abused, in chains of iron, to undergo a death, cruel and ignominious, suitable to men disaffected.
For by the punishment of them in one body we perceive that we have found the only means of establishing our affairs for the future on a firm and satisfactory basis.
Whosoever shall shield a Jew, whether it be old man, child, or suckling, shall with his whole house be tortured to death.
Whoever shall inform against the besides receiving the property of the person charged, shall be presented with two thousand drachmae from the royal treasury, shall be made free, and shall be crowned.
Whatever place shall shelter a Jew, shall, when he is hunted forth, be put under the ban of fire, and be for ever rendered useless to every living being for all time to come.
Such was the purport of the king's letter.