Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Over-reaction: Bible Comment on II Maccabees 5 with poem by Simeon ben Isaac, Against the Evil Inclination

Daily Readings
Proverbs 21, Joshua 10, II Maccabees 5, Colossians 3

Daily Text: II Maccabees 5

That Antiochus was already in Egypt when he heard of Jason’s attack on Jerusalem is open to question. We know that Antiochus attacked Jerusalem in 169 and that he attacked Egypt in 168. How the rumor arose that Antiochus IV was dead also is a mystery. That Jason believed it is not in question for if it were so, Menelaus would not automatically be continuing as the High Priest. Goldstein (499:246 ff.) believes that Jason the Cyrene, author of the five volume history that the author of II Maccabees 5 is summarizing, was trying to protect the reputation of the Book of Daniel on these topics, and so used language that was obfuscating rather than being precise. It may be that Antiochus was on his way to Egypt when he heard about Jason’s attack. The fact that Antiochus IV did come in response to Jason’s attack, however, is not in question, and he did come in 168 B.C.E. His over-reaction is inexplicable. There may, probably were, factions within the city that cooperated with Jason’s 1000 man force to aid in gaining entry to the city. But the city was not with Jason, not supporting Jason, and was suffering desperately at his hands as he slew his own compatriots to gain his political end. And then for Antiochus to send Apollonius to kill all the men and to sell as slaves all of the women and boys was uncalled for. Apollonius’ treachery was a reflection on Antiochus’ own tendencies. Such evil can never support its ends, that is, the pacification of a conquered population. It can only engender hatred in the survivors.

Judas Maccabeus’ escape is the first significant reference to him in II Maccabees; obviously, he is not a hero of the author.

Against the Evil Inclination
Simeon ben Isaac

This fool who tricks and provokes and seduces to sin—destroy him,
cast him away, so that he may no more mislead us!
This abomination that defiles and befouls the pure—repulse it,
erase it from heart and mind.
This dupe who deludes and perverts the righteous—punish him,
obliterate him, so that he may not lead us astray.
This fly that lurks in the doorway of the heart—strangle it,
blot it out, and make a new heart blossom forth!

Collect for the Day
We beg you, Lord, to help and defend us. Deliver the oppressed, pity the insignificant, raise the fallen, show yourself to the needy, heal the sick, bring back those of your people who have gone astray, feed the hungry, lift up the weak, take off the prisoners’ chains. May every nation come to know that you alone are God, that Jesus Christ is your Child, that we are your people, the sheep that you pasture. [286:74:212 St. Clement of Rome, c. 100]


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