1. Then he called Hermon, who had charge of the elephants. Full of rage, altogether fixed in his furious design,2. he commanded him, with a quantity of unmixed wine and handfuls of incense [infused] to drug the elephants early on the following day. These five hundred elephants were, when infuriated by the copious draughts of frankincense, to be led up to the execution of death upon the Jews.3. The king, after issuing these orders, went to his feasting, and gathered together all those of his friends and of the army who hated the Jews the most.4. The master of the elephants, Hermon, fulfilled his commission punctually.5. The underlings appointed for the purpose went out about eventide and bound the hands of the miserable victims, and took other precautions for their security at night, thinking that the whole race would perish together.6. The heathen believed the Jews to be destitute of all protection; for chains fettered them about.7. they invoked the Almighty Lord, and ceaselessly besought with tears their merciful God and Father, Ruler of all, Lord of every power,8. to overthrow the evil purpose which was gone out against them, and to deliver them by extraordinary manifestation from that death which was in store for them.9. Their litany so earnest went up to heaven.10. Then Hermon, who had filled his merciless elephants with copious draughts of mingled wine and frankincense, came early to the palace to certify the kind thereof.11. He, however, who has sent his good creature sleep from all time by night or by day thus gratifying whom he wills, diffused a portion thereof now upon the king.12. By this sweet and profound influence of the Lord he was held fast, and thus his unjust purpose was quite frustrated, and his unflinching resolve greatly falsified.13. But the Jews, having escaped the hour which had been fixed, praised their holy God, and again prayed him who is easily reconciled to display the power of his powerful hand to the overweening Gentiles.14. The middle of the tenth hour had well nigh arrived, when the master- bidder, seeing the guests who were bidden collected, came and shook the king.15. He gained his attention with difficulty, and hinting that the mealtime was getting past, talked the matter over with him.16. The kind listened to this, and then turning aside to his potations, commanded the guests to sit down before him.17. This done, he asked them to enjoy themselves, and to indulge in mirth at this somewhat late hour of the banquet.18. Conversation grew on, and the king sent for Hermon, and enquired of him, with fierce denunciations, why the Jews had been allowed to outlive that day.19. Hermon explained that he had done his bidding over night; and in this he was confirmed by his friends.20. The king, then, with a barbarity exceeding that of Phalaris, said, That they might thank his sleep of that day. Lose no time, and get ready the elephants against tomorrow, as you did before, for the destruction of these accursed Jews.21. When the king said this, the company present were glad, and approved; and then each man went to his own home.22. Nor did they employ the night in sleep, so much as in contriving cruel mockeries for those deemed miserable.23. The morning cock had just crowed, and Hermon, having harnessed the brutes, was stimulating them in the great colonnade.24. The city crowds were collected together to see the hideous spectacle, and waited impatiently for the dawn.25. The Jews, breathless with momentary suspense, stretched forth their hands, and prayed the Greatest God, in mournful strains, again to help them speedily.
26. The sun's rays were not yet shed abroad, and the king was waiting for his friends, when Hermon came to him, calling him out, and saying, That his desires could now be realized.27. The king, receiving him, was astonished at his unwonted exit; and, overwhelmed with a spirit of oblivion about everything, enquired the object of this earnest preparation.
28. But this was the working of that Almighty God who had made him forget all his purpose.
29. Hermon, and all his friends, pointed out the preparation of the animals. They are ready, O king, according to your own strict injunction.30. The king was filled with fierce anger at these words; for, by the Providence of God regarding these things, his mind had become entirely confused. He looked hard at Hermon, and threatened him as follows:31. Your parents, or your children, were they here, to these wild beasts a large repast they should have furnished; not these innocent Jews, who me and my forefathers loyally have served.32. Had it not been for familiar friendship, and the claims of your office, your life should have gone for theirs.33. Hermon, being threatened in this unexpected and alarming manner, was troubled in visage, and depressed in countenance.34. The friends, too, stole out one by one, and dismissed the assembled multitudes to their respective occupations.35. The Jews, having heard of these events, praised the glorious God and King of kings, because they had obtained this help, too, from him.36. Now the king arranged another banquet after the same manner, and proclaimed an invitation to mirth.37. And he summoned Hermon to his presence, and said, with threats, How often, O wretch, must I repeat my orders to thee about these same persons?38. Once more, arm the elephants against the morrow for the extermination of the Jews.39. His kinsmen, who were reclining with him, wondered at his instability, and thus expressed themselves:40. O king, how long dost thou make trial of us, as of men bereft of reason? This is the third time that thou hast ordered their destruction. When the thing is to be done, thou changest thy mind, and recallest thine instructions.41. For this cause the feeling of expectation causes tumult in the city: it swarms with factions; and is continually on the point of being plundered.42. The king, just like another Phalaris, a prey to thoughtlessness, made no account of the changes which his own mind had undergone, issuing in the deliverance of the Jews. He swore a fruitless oath, and determined forthwith to send them to hades, crushed by the knees and feet of the elephants.43. He would also invade Judea, and level its towns with fire and the sword; and destroy that temple which the heathen might not enter, and prevent sacrifices ever after being offered up there.44. Joyfully his friends broke up, together with his kinsmen; and, trusting in his determination, arranged their forces in guard at the most convenient places of the city.45. And the master of the elephants urged the beasts into an almost maniacal state, drenched them with incense and wine, and decked them with frightful instruments.46. About early morning, when the city was now filled with an immense number of people at the hippodrome, he entered the palace, and called the king to the business in hand.47. The king's heart teemed with impious rage; and he rushed forth with the mass, along with the elephants. With feelings unsoftened, and eyes pitiless, he longed to gaze at the hard and wretched doom of the abovementioned [Jews].48. But the [Jews], when the elephants went out at the gate, followed by the armed force; and when they saw the dust raised by the throng, and heard the loud cries of the crowd,49. thought that they had come to the last moment of their lives, to the end of what they had tremblingly expected. They gave way, therefore, to lamentations and moans: they kissed each other: those nearest of kin to each other hung about one another's necks: fathers about their sons, mother their daughters: other women held their infants to their breasts, which drew what seemed their last milk.50. Nevertheless, when they reflected upon the succour before granted them from heaven, they prostrated themselves with one accord; removed even the sucking children from the breasts, and51. sent up an exceeding great cry entreating the Lord of all power to reveal himself, and have mercy upon those who now lay at the gates of hades.
Footnotes by Verse:
3. The king ... Ptolemy IV Philopator (r. 221 – 204 BC) king of Egypt.
20. with a barbarity exceeding that of Phalaris, ... Phalaris (r. 570 – 554 BC), was a tyrant of Acragas (modern Agrigento), Sicily, notorious for his cruelty. He is alleged to have roasted his victims alive in a bronze bull, their shrieks representing the animal’s bellowing.