1Then he called Hermon, who had charge of the elephants. Full of rage, altogether fixed in his furious design,
2he commanded him, with a quantity of unmixed wine with handfuls of incense infused, to drug the elephants early on the following day. These five hundred elephants were, when infuriated by the copious drinks of frankincense, to be led up to the execution of death upon the Jews.
3The 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.
4The master of the elephants, Hermon, fulfilled his commission punctually.
5The servants appointed for the purpose went out about evening 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.
6The heathen believed the Jews to be destitute of all protection, for chains bound them.
7They invoked the Almighty Lord, and ceaselessly implored with tears their merciful God and Father, Ruler of all, Lord of every power,
8to overthrow the evil purpose which had gone out against them, and to deliver them by extraordinary manifestation from that death which was in store for them.
9Their earnest entreaty went up to heaven.
10Then Hermon, who had filled his merciless elephants with copious drinks of mixed wine and frankincense, came early to the palace to report on these preparations.
11He, however, who has sent his good creature sleep from all time by night or by day thus gratifying whom he wills, diffused a portion of it now upon the king.
12By 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.
13But 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 arrogant Gentiles.
14The middle of the tenth hour had nearly arrived, when the person who sent invitations, seeing the guests who were invited present, came and shook the king.
15He gained his attention with difficulty, and hinting that the mealtime was getting past, talked the matter over with him.
16The king listened to this, and then turning aside to his drinking, commanded the guests to sit down before him.
17This done, he asked them to enjoy themselves, and to indulge in mirth at this somewhat late hour of the banquet.
18Conversation grew on, and the king sent for Hermon, and inquired of him, with fierce denunciations, why the Jews had been allowed to outlive that day.
19Hermon explained that he had done his bidding over night; and in this he was confirmed by his friends.
20The king, then, with a barbarity exceeding that of Phalaris, said, “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.”
21When the king said this, the company present were glad, and approved. Then each man went to his own home.
22They didn’t employ the night in sleep, but in contriving cruel mockeries for those deemed miserable.
23The morning cock had just crowed, and Hermon, having harnessed the brutes, was stimulating them in the great colonnade.
24The city crowds were collected together to see the hideous spectacle, and waited impatiently for the dawn.
25The Jews, breathless with momentary suspense, stretched out their hands and prayed the Greatest God, in mournful strains, again to help them speedily.
26The sun’s rays were not yet shining 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.
27The king, receiving him, was astonished at his unusual invitation. Overwhelmed with a spirit of oblivion about everything, inquired about the object of this earnest preparation.
28But this was the working of that Almighty God who had made him forget all his purpose.
29Hermon and all his friends pointed out the preparation of the animals. They are ready, O king, according to your own strict injunction.
30The 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, would have given a large meal to these wild animals, not these innocent Jews, who have loyally served me and my forefathers.
32Had it not been for familiar friendship, and the claims of your office, your life should have gone for theirs.”
33Hermon, being threatened in this unexpected and alarming manner, was troubled in his eyes, and his face fell.
34The friends, too, stole out one by one, and dismissed the assembled multitudes to their respective occupations.
35The Jews, having heard of these events, praised the glorious God and King of kings, because they had obtained this help, too, from him.
36Now the king arranged another banquet in the same way, and proclaimed an invitation to mirth.
37He summoned Hermon to his presence, and said, with threats, “How often, O wretch, must I repeat my orders to you about these same persons?
38Once more, arm the elephants for the extermination of the Jews tomorrow!”
39His kinsmen, who were reclining with him, wondered at his instability, and thus expressed themselves:
40“O king, how long do you test us, as of men bereft of reason? This is the third time that you have ordered their destruction. When the thing is to be done, you change your mind, and recall your instructions.
41Because of this, the feeling of expectation causes tumult in the city. It swarms with factions, and is continually on the point of being plundered.”
42The 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 immediately to send them to hades, crushed by the knees and feet of the elephants.
43He would also invade Judea, level its towns with fire and the sword, destroy that temple which the heathen might not enter, and prevent sacrifices ever after being offered up there.
44Joyfully 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.
45The master of the elephants urged the animals into an almost maniacal state, drenched them with incense and wine, and decked them with frightful devices.
46About early morning, when the city was filled with an immense number of people at the hippodrome, he entered the palace and called the king to the business in hand.
47The king’s heart teemed with impious rage; and he rushed forth with the mass, along with the elephants. With unsoftened feelings and pitiless eyes, he longed to gaze at the hard and wretched doom of the previously mentioned Jews.
48But the Jews, when the elephants went out at the gate, followed by the armed force. When they saw the dust raised by the throng, and heard the loud cries of the crowd,
49thought 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 around one another’s necks—fathers hugging their sons and mothers their daughters. Other women held their infants to their breasts, which drew what seemed their last milk.
50Nevertheless, when they reflected upon the help previously granted them from heaven, they prostrated themselves with one accord, removed even the sucking children from the breasts, and
51sent up an exceedingly great cry asking the Lord of all power to reveal himself, and have mercy upon those who now lay at the gates of hades.