2 Maccabees 7-9; 2 Corinthians 3
2 Maccabees 7-9:19-27 “To the worthy Jewish citizens, Antiochus, king and general, sends hearty greetings and best wishes for their health and prosperity. If you and your children are well and your affairs are going as you wish, I thank God very much, for my hopes are in heaven. Now that I am ill, I recall with affection your esteem and goodwill. On returning from the regions of Persia, I fell victim to a troublesome illness; so I thought it necessary to form plans for the general security of all. I do not despair about my health, since I have much hope of recovering from my illness. Nevertheless, I know that my father, whenever he went on campaigns in the hinterland, would name his successor, so that, if anything unexpected happened or any unwelcome news came, the people throughout the realm would know to whom the government had been entrusted, and so not be disturbed. I am also bearing in mind that the neighboring rulers, especially those on the borders of our kingdom, are on the watch for opportunities and waiting to see what will happen. I have therefore appointed as king my son Antiochus, whom I have often before entrusted and commended to most of you, when I made hurried visits to the outlying provinces. I have written to him what is written here. Therefore I beg and entreat each of you to remember the general and individual benefits you have received, and to continue to show goodwill toward me and my son. I am confident that, following my policy, he will treat you with equity and kindness in his relations with you.”
Thus is the last letter of Antiochus Epiphanes (Epiphanes “God Manifest”) to his subjects as he was dying a disgusting slow death – the being “eaten by worms” gastrointestinal illness – that seemed to be the fate often reserved for pitiless tyrants (e.g. Herod in Acts). This letter is comedic in view of the the earlier chapters of 2 Maccabees where Antiochus was horrifically oppressive of the Jews; 2 Maccabees 7 the torments of the mother and her seven sons is part of the Advent word practicing Catholics are familiar with. According to his Wikipedia page, Antiochus was called by some of his contemporaries “Epimanes” (“The Mad One”) a wordplay on “Epiphanes” because of his eccentric behavior and capricious actions – the Kim Jong Un of his day, it seems. He was probably mocked in skits – they just called the show “Saturday Night” as everything was live then – with the 2nd century B.C. version of Alec Baldwin doing his Antiochus impressions. Funny stuff, until the guys with the swords and the sandals showed up. I love 1 and 2 Maccabees: you’ll never see dramatizations of the books on the Hallmark Channel!