24 January 2013

2 Machabees 9: God killed Antiochus with an incurable bowel disease

I'm in the process of adding the Apocrypha (or Deuterocanonical books) to the SAB, highlighting and annotating as I go along. In 2 Machabees 9, I came across the story of Antiochus.

Anitochus was a Seleucid king who, according to 2 Machabees, mistreated the Jews. So God paid him back by giving him "an incurable and invisible plague" that caused "a dreadful pain in his bowels ... and bitter torments of the inner parts."
The Lord the God of Israel ... struck him with an incurable and an invisible plague ... a dreadful pain in his bowels came upon him, and bitter torments of the inner parts. 2 Machabees 9:5
While Antiochus suffered from his God-given bowel disease, worms swarmed out of his body, "his flesh fell off, and the filthiness of his smell was noisome." No one could get near him because of the "intolerable stench." It got so bad, in fact, that Antiochus couldn't even "abide his own stench."
Worms swarmed out of the body of this man, and whilst he lived in sorrow and pain, his flesh fell off, and the filthiness of his smell was noisome. 
The man that thought a little before he could reach to the stars of heaven, no man could endure to carry, for the intolerable stench. 
Being admonished by the scourge of God, his pains increasing every moment.
He himself could not now abide his own stench. 9:9-12
As you can probably imagine, this was getting annoying to Antiochus. So he did what any wicked man would do in his situation: he became a Jew and begged God to stop tormenting him.
Then this wicked man prayed to the Lord ... to obtain mercy.
Yea also, that he would become a Jew himself, and would go through every place of the earth, and declare the power of God. 9:13-17
But God didn't stop. Antiochus "died a miserable death" from his God-given bowel disease
Thus the murderer and blasphemer, being grievously struck ... died a miserable death. 9:28
Or did he?

There's another story about Antiochus's death in the same book. In this one, Antiochus is smashed with stones as he entered the temple in Jerusalem. His head is cut off and his body chopped into pieces -- all with God's help and blessing, of course.
When Antiochus was come in: and opening a secret entrance of the temple, they cast stones and slew the leader, and them that were with him, and hewed them in pieces, and cutting off their heads they threw them forth. Blessed be God in all things, who hath delivered up the wicked. 2 Machabees 1:16-17
Although neither story is true, both give God the credit, so so will I. 

(There's another account of Antiochus's death in 1 Machabees 6:1-16, in which he is scared to death by the Jews, without any clear involvement from God. No mention is made of bowels, worms, stench, dropped stones, decapitation, or dismemberment.)

25 Jan 13 note: Added How did Antiochus die? to the contradictions.


Anonymous said...

Good to see someone doing the apocrypha. I'm not nearly as familiar with those as I am the regular bible. Thanks for your hard work.

Steve Wells said...

Thanks clubschadenfreude.

It's more fun than I thought it'd be. There's some crazy, nasty stuff in the Apocrypha!

Anonymous said...

I respect your work, but you missed some fact cheching. History knows a lot of kings named Antiochus:


Stephen said...

Ccq said...

"I respect your work, but you missed some fact cheching. History knows a lot of kings named Antiochus..."

I respect your comment, but you missed some spell *checking*. ;-)

So... which one of those kings dod god kill? Maybe more than one of them! What fun!
Steve Weeks

Anonymous said...

Now that I tried to figure the kings out, it seems to me that both Maccabees do tell about the same Antiochus! Really amusing. Apparently 2 Maccabees is anyway written some 100 years later than the 1st, and after a 100 years the old story was retold with the "new" details.

Steve Wells said...

Yes, I think you're right about that, Ccq. 2 Machabees repeats many of the same stories that are found in 1 Machabbees, after changing the details -- which means I have some contradictions to add at the SAB.