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William Shepard

The Temple in Egypt Is Closed

A little while after the conquest of Judea it happened that a number of Sikars who had escaped from that country tried to incite a revolt among the Jews in Alexandria in Egypt. They went around among the Jews in that city, and said to them, "You should assert your freedom, and not be ruled by the Romans, for they are no better than you, and you should regard God alone as your master."

Some of the leading men among the Jews in Alexandria opposed the Sikars, whereupon they were murdered by the Assassins, who then tried to persuade the rest of the Jews to revolt.

Then a number of the council of elders among the Jews called together all their people, and exposed to them the madness of the Sikars. "These men," they said, "because they know that they will be put to death by the Romans whenever they are recognized as Sikars, wish to make us all sharers in their danger, who have not been sharers in their crimes." And they exhorted the people to give up these Sikars to the Romans, and thus save themselves from punishment.

The people agreed to this, and, rushing upon the Sikars, they captured six hundred of them. All the rest who escaped from the city were pursued and brought back. They were given up to the Roman governor, Lupus, in Alexandria, and astonished every one by their firmness and strength of purpose. For they were put under every kind of torture to try and force them to acknowledge Cæsar as their lord and master. But, in spite of all the torments they were forced to suffer, no one of them would do so. And so they all perished upon the rack or were burned to death. Even the little children among them preferred to die rather than to say that Cæsar was their lord.

Lupus sent word to Vespasian about this commotion. The emperor then ordered Lupus to destroy the temple of Onias, in order that the Jews might not collect there and raise another revolt.

This temple stood in Heliopolis, a city of Egypt, and had been built in former times by Onias, one of the chief priests of the temple at Jerusalem. This Onias had fled to Alexandria at the time that Antiochus, king of Syria, was at war with the Jews. Onias was well received by Ptolemy, the king of Egypt, who hated Antiochus.

One day Onias said to Ptolemy,—

"If you will grant me one favor I will make the Jews your allies."

"I will do all in my power to grant the favor," said the king.

"Then," said Onias, "give me permission to build a temple in some part of Egypt, and to worship God according to the ways of my country, for Antiochus has laid waste the temple of Jerusalem. The Jews will then love you, and many will gather around your standard, if you allow them to worship as they please."

Ptolemy then gave Onias a tract of country called the prefecture of Heliopolis. And here Onias built a temple. The king also gave him a large tract of land, that the priests might have plenty of necessaries for the service of God.

When Lupus received Cæsar's order he went to this temple, and, taking away some of the offerings, he shut up the building. Lupus soon afterwards died, and was succeeded as governor by Paulinus.

Paulinus took away all the offerings from the temple, forbade any one from worshipping in it, and blocked up the entrance. The temple had been open for three hundred and forty-three years.