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When they arrived at Alexandria, they were informed, the king was then at Memphis. Joseph immediately set out for that place, and had the good fortune to meet him and the queen on the road, in company with his good friend Athenion, who had impressed the king with so favourable an idea of Joseph, that as soon as he saw him he invited him into his chariot. Joseph executed his commission with inexpressible address; and the king, as an extraordinary mark of his regard, ordered him an apartment in his royal palace, and allowed him a place at his table.
The great men of Syria, who had treated Joseph with such contempt on the journey, were much surprised to see him seated near the king and queen. When the day came for farming the revenues of the provinces of Cælosyria, Phænicia, Judea, and Samaria, they offered no more than eight thousand talents. Joseph having discovered by their conversation in the way, that the purchase was worth double that sum, bid sixteen thousand talents, at the same time reproaching them for depreciating the king's revenue.
The king was well pleased to have his revenue increased; but asked Joseph what security he could give for the performance of the agreement. The Jewish deputy calmly replied, that he had such persons to offer as he was certain his majesty could not object to. Being ordered to mention them, he named the king and queen themselves, adding, that they would be securities to each other. The king was so pleased with this little pleasantry, that he allowed him to farm the revenues, with only his verbal promise for payment.
Joseph continued many years in this important station, conducting himself to the mutual satisfaction of the court and provinces. In his days the Jews enjoyed peace and prosperity. May you, my dear boy, in your lower sphere, endeavour to imitate the virtues of Joseph: I shall then esteem it an honour to subscribe myself.
Your affectionate aunt.
MY DEAR GEORGE,
I SHOULD be happy, were it in my power, to present you with as pleasing a prospect of the affairs of the Jews in this letter, as in my last: but the historian, like the traveller, must pursue his course with the same assiduity and steadiness, when his path is rough and unpleasant, as when it wears the most agreeable aspect.
Judea began to be involved in fresh troubles by Antiochus the Great, who reigned at this time in Syria. He attempted to recover Colosyria from Ptolemy Philopater, who succeeded his father Euergetes, and got possession of the strongest cities in it; so that Judea became subject to him. But after a short truce, the war broke out again between him and Ptolemy; and, at the battle of Raphia, Antio chus was defeated, and retreated to Antioch. Cæla
syria and Palestine submitted with great cheerfulness to Ptolemy. Having long been accustomed to the yoke of the Egyptians, they were more inclined to them than to Antiochus. The conqueror's court was soon crowded with ambassadors from all the cities, including those of Judea, to pay their homage, and offer him presents. They were all graciously received.
Ptolemy, after this, made a progress through the conquered provinces, and, among other cities, visited Jerusalem, where he was the World well received, saw the temple, and offered sacrifices to the God of Israel, for the victories he had obtained over Antiochus. But, not content with being adınitted into the outward court (beyond which, no gentile was allowed to go), he signified his intention of seeing the whole, even the Holy of Holies. Simon the second, son of Onias the second, being high-priest at that time, strongly expostulated with him, but to no purpose; he forced his way into the second court. The people, in the utmost consternation, implored the Almighty to interpose, and not suffer their holy sanctuary to be defiled. Their prayers were heard; for, as Ptolemy was preparing to enter the Holy of Holies, he was suddenly stopped by Him, who says to the raging sea, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no farther; being struck by the Almighty with such horror, that he was carried out half dead. But instead of being humbled under the mighty hand of God, he was exasperated on account of the disgrace he experienced, and vowed vengeance on the Jewish
nation. He accordingly raised a cruel persecution against the Jews, endeavouring to force them to worship false gods. A few of them forsook their religion on this occasion, but the greater part stood firm, refusing to violate their conscience, by attending to idolatrous rites. This so incensed the king, that he resolved to destroy the whole nation, beginning with those who resided in Egypt, whom he ordered to be brought in chains to Alexandria, to be slain by his elephants. As this was to be done publicly, a vast concourse of people were collected together, to behold the horrid exhibition, when, to their great surprise, the elephants having been made drunk with wine and frankincense, turned all their rage upon the spectators, and destroyed great numbers of them, while the Jews remained in perfect safety.
This striking interposition of Providence had such an effect on the mind of Ptolemy, that he immediately ceased the persecution, and restored the Jews to their former privileges. But he lived not
long after this, being cut off in the prime the World of his days. He was succeeded by his son
Ptolemy Epiphanes, who was only five
Antiochus took advantage of the king's minority, and endeavoured to regain Judea; but being afterwards employed in Asia Minor, the ministers of the young king sent Scopas into Palestine, who retook Judea, threw a garrison into the citadel at Jerusalem, and returned to Alexandria, with the riches they had taken from the conquered countries.
When Antiochus was apprised of this event, he immediately marched to retake the places he had lost. Upon his near approach to Jerusalem, the Jews, being dissatisfied with the Egyptians, went out to ineet him, delivered the keys of the city to him, and assisted him in driving out the soldiers which Scopas had left in the castle. Antiochus, in return, granted the Jews many privileges.
Onias the third, son of Simon the second, being high priest, caused the laws of God to be strictly observed; and even princes, in his days, honoured the holy place with rich gifts.
Antiochus, in his expedition against the east, had received so many services from the Jews of Babylonia and Mesopotamia, and conceived so high an opinion of their faithfulness, that, when a sedition broke out in Phrygia and Lydia, he sent two thousand Jewish families to quell it, who succeeded, and kept the country in peace; for which they were liberally rewarded by Antiochus. From them sprang a great part of the Jews that were found in that country in the time of the apostles.
Having thus subjected all Cælosyria and Palestine, Antiochus resolved, if possible, to make the like conquests in Asia Minor; but, in order to succeed in this design, it was necessary to adopt some plan to prevent the Egyptians from taking the advantage of his absence, to deprive him of his newly acquired conquests. He therefore sent to Alexandria, to offer his daughter Cleopatra in marriage to king Ptolemy, promising, that on the day of inarriage, he would give half the revenues of Cælosyria and Palestine for his daughter's dowry. These