While the holy city was inhabited in unbroken peace and the laws were strictly observed because of the piety of the high priest Onias and his hatred of wickedness,
it came about that the kings themselves honored the place and glorified the temple with the finest presents,
even to the extent that King Seleucus of Asia defrayed from his own revenues all the expenses connected with the service of the sacrifices.
But a man named Simon, of the tribe of Benjamin, who had been made captain of the temple, had a disagreement with the high priest about the administration of the city market.
Since he could not prevail over Onias, he went to Apollonius of Tarsus, who at that time was governor of Coelesyria and Phoenicia,
and reported to him that the treasury in Jerusalem was full of untold sums of money, so that the amount of the funds could not be reckoned, and that they did not belong to the account of the sacrifices, but that it was possible for them to fall under the control of the king.
When Apollonius met the king, he told him of the money about which he had been informed. The king chose Heliodorus, who was in charge of his affairs, and sent him with commands to effect the removal of the reported wealth.
Heliodorus at once set out on his journey, ostensibly to make a tour of inspection of the cities of Coelesyria and Phoenicia, but in fact to carry out the king's purpose.
When he had arrived at Jerusalem and had been kindly welcomed by the high priest of the city, he told about the disclosure that had been made and stated why he had come, and he inquired whether this really was the situation.
The high priest explained that there were some deposits belonging to widows and orphans,
and also some money of Hyrcanus son of Tobias, a man of very prominent position, and that it totaled in all four hundred talents of silver and two hundred of gold. To such an extent the impious Simon had misrepresented the facts.
And he said that it was utterly impossible that wrong should be done to those people who had trusted in the holiness of the place and in the sanctity and inviolability of the temple that is honored throughout the whole world.
But Heliodorus, because of the orders he had from the king, said that this money must in any case be confiscated for the king's treasury.
So he set a day and went in to direct the inspection of these funds. There was no little distress throughout the whole city.
The priests prostrated themselves before the altar in their priestly vestments and called toward heaven upon him who had given the law about deposits, that he should keep them safe for those who had deposited them.
To see the appearance of the high priest was to be wounded at heart, for his face and the change in his color disclosed the anguish of his soul.
For terror and bodily trembling had come over the man, which plainly showed to those who looked at him the pain lodged in his heart.
People also hurried out of their houses in crowds to make a general supplication because the holy place was about to be brought into dishonor.
Women, girded with sackcloth under their breasts, thronged the streets. Some of the young women who were kept indoors ran together to the gates, and some to the walls, while others peered out of the windows.
And holding up their hands to heaven, they all made supplication.
There was something pitiable in the prostration of the whole populace and the anxiety of the high priest in his great anguish.
While they were calling upon the Almighty Lord that he would keep what had been entrusted safe and secure for those who had entrusted it,
Heliodorus went on with what had been decided.
But when he arrived at the treasury with his bodyguard, then and there the Sovereign of spirits and of all authority caused so great a manifestation that all who had been so bold as to accompany him were astounded by the power of God, and became faint with terror.
For there appeared to them a magnificently caparisoned horse, with a rider of frightening mien; it rushed furiously at Heliodorus and struck at him with its front hoofs. Its rider was seen to have armor and weapons of gold.
Two young men also appeared to him, remarkably strong, gloriously beautiful and splendidly dressed, who stood on either side of him and flogged him continuously, inflicting many blows on him.
When he suddenly fell to the ground and deep darkness came over him, his men took him up, put him on a stretcher,
and carried him away—this man who had just entered the aforesaid treasury with a great retinue and all his bodyguard but was now unable to help himself. They recognized clearly the sovereign power of God.
While he lay prostrate, speechless because of the divine intervention and deprived of any hope of recovery,
they praised the Lord who had acted marvelously for his own place. And the temple, which a little while before was full of fear and disturbance, was filled with joy and gladness, now that the Almighty Lord had appeared.
Some of Heliodorus's friends quickly begged Onias to call upon the Most High to grant life to one who was lying quite at his last breath.
So the high priest, fearing that the king might get the notion that some foul play had been perpetrated by the Jews with regard to Heliodorus, offered sacrifice for the man's recovery.
While the high priest was making an atonement, the same young men appeared again to Heliodorus dressed in the same clothing, and they stood and said, "Be very grateful to the high priest Onias, since for his sake the Lord has granted you your life.
And see that you, who have been flogged by heaven, report to all people the majestic power of God." Having said this they vanished.
Then Heliodorus offered sacrifice to the Lord and made very great vows to the Savior of his life, and having bidden Onias farewell, he marched off with his forces to the king.
He bore testimony to all concerning the deeds of the supreme God, which he had seen with his own eyes.
When the king asked Heliodorus what sort of person would be suitable to send on another mission to Jerusalem, he replied,
"If you have any enemy or plotter against your government, send him there, for you will get him back thoroughly flogged, if he survives at all; for there is certainly some power of God about the place.
For he who has his dwelling in heaven watches over that place himself and brings it aid, and he strikes and destroys those who come to do it injury."
This was the outcome of the episode of Heliodorus and the protection of the treasury.