The arrival of the envoys with the manuscript of the precious book and gifts. Preparations for a royal banquet. The host immediately upon being seated at table entertains his guests with questions and answers. Some sage comments on sociology.
AND Eleazar, after offering the sacrifice, and selecting the envoys, and preparing many gifts for the king, despatched us on our journey in great security.
2 And when we reached Alexandria, the king was at once informed of our arrival.
3 On our admission to the palace, Andreas and I warmly greeted the king and handed over to him the letter written by Eleazar.
4 The king was very anxious to meet the envoys, and gave orders that all the other officials should be dismissed and the envoys summoned to his presence at once.
5 Now this excited general surprise, for it is customary for those who come to seek an audience with the king on matters of importance to be admitted to his presence on the fifth day, while envoys from kings or very important cities with difficulty secure admission to the Court in thirty days--but these men he counted worthy of greater honour, since he held their master in such high esteem, and so he immediately dismissed those whose presence he regarded as superfluous and continued walking about until they came in and he was able to welcome them.
6 When they entered with the gifts which had been sent with them and the valuable parchments, on which the law was inscribed in gold in Jewish characters, for the parchment was wonderfully prepared and the connexion between the pages had been so effected as to be invisible, the king as soon as he saw them began to ask them about the books.
7 And when they had taken the rolls out of their coverings and unfolded the pages, the king stood still for a long time and then making obeisance about seven times, he said:
8 'I thank you, my friends, and I thank him that sent you still more, and most of all God, whose oracles these are.'
9 And when all, the envoys and the others who were present as well, shouted out at one time and with one voice: 'God save the King!' he burst into tears of joy.
10 For his exaltation of soul and the sense of the overwhelming honour which had been paid him compelled him to weep over his good fortune.
11 He commanded them to put the rolls back in their places and then after saluting the men, said: 'It was right, men of God, that I should first of all pay my reverence to the books for the sake of which I summoned you here and then when I had done that, to extend the right-hand of friendship to you.
12 It was for this reason that I did this first.
13 I have enacted that this day, on which you arrived, shall be kept as a great day and it will be celebrated annually throughout my life time.
14 It happens also that it is the anniversary of my naval victory over Antigonus. Therefore I shall be glad to feast with you to-day.
15 Everything that you may have occasion to use,' he said, 'shall be prepared for you in a befitting manner and for me also with you.'
16 After they had expressed their delight, he gave orders that the best quarters near the citadel should be assigned to them, and that preparations should be made for the banquet.
17 And Nicanor summoned the lord high steward, Dorotheus, who was the special officer appointed to look after the Jews, and commanded him to make the necessary preparation for each one.
18 For this arrangement had been made by the king and it is an arrangement which you see maintained to-day.
19 For as many cities as have special customs in the matter of drinking, eating, and reclining, have special officers appointed to look after their requirements.
20 And whenever they come to visit the kings, preparations are made in accordance with their own customs, in order that there may be no discomfort to disturb the enjoyment of their visit.
21 The. same precaution was taken in the case of the Jewish envoys.
22 Now Dorotheus who was the patron appointed to look
after Jewish guests was a very conscientious man.
23 All the stores which were under his control and set apart for the reception of such guests, he brought out for the feast.
24 He arranged the seats in two rows in accordance with the king's instructions.
25 For he had ordered him to make half the men sit at his right hand and the rest behind him, in order that he might not withhold from them the highest possible honour.
26 When they had taken their seats he instructed Dorotheus to carry out everything in accordance with the customs which were in use amongst his Jewish guests.
27 Therefore he dispensed with the services of the sacred heralds and the sacrificing priests and the others who were accustomed to offer the prayers, and called upon one of our number, Eleazar, the oldest of the Jewish priests, to offer prayer instead.
28 And he rose up and made a remarkable prayer. 'May Almighty God enrich you, O king, with all the good things which He has made and may He grant you and your wife and your children and your comrades the continual possession of them as long as you live!'
29 At these words a loud and joyous applause broke out which lasted for a considerable time, and then they turned to the enjoyment of the banquet which had been prepared.
30 All the arrangements for service at table were carried out in accordance with the injunction of Dorotheus.
31 Among the attendants were the royal pages and others who held places of honour at the king's court.
32 Taking an opportunity afforded by a pause in the banquet the king asked the envoy who sat in the seat of honour (for they were arranged according to seniority), how he could keep his kingdom unimpaired to the end?
33 After pondering for a moment he replied, 'You could best establish its security if you were to imitate the unceasing benignity of God. For if you exhibit clemency and inflict mild punishments upon those who deserve them in accordance with their deserts, you will turn them from evil and lead them to repentance.' 1
34 The king praised the answer and then asked the next man, how he could do everything for the best in all his actions?
35 And he replied, 'If a man maintains a just bearing towards all, he will always act rightly on every occasion, remembering that every thought is known to God. If you take the fear of God as your starting-point, you will never miss the goal.'
36 The king complimented this man, too, upon his answer and asked another, how he could have friends like-minded with himself?
37 He replied, 'If they see you studying the interests of the multitudes over whom you rule; you will do well to observe how God bestows his benefits on the human race, providing for them health and food and--all other things in due season.'
38 After expressing his agreement with the reply, the king asked the next guest, how in giving audiences and passing judgments he could gain the praise even of those who failed to win their suit?
39 And he said, 'If you are fair in speech to all alike and
never act insolently nor tyrannically in your treatment of offenders. And you will do this if you watch the method by which God acts. The petitions of the worthy are always fulfilled, while those who fail to obtain an answer to their prayers are informed by means of dreams or events of what was harmful in their requests and that God does not smite them according to their sins or the greatness of His strength, but acts with forbearance towards them.'
40 The king praised the man warmly for his answer and asked the next in order, how he could be invincible in military affairs?
41 And he replied, 'If he did not trust entirely to his multitudes or his warlike forces, but called upon God continually to bring his enterprises to a successful issue, while he himself. discharged all his duties in the spirit of justice.'
42 Welcoming this answer, he asked another how he might become. an object of dread to his enemies.
43 And he replied, 'If while maintaining a vast supply of arms and forces he remembered that these things were powerless to achieve a permanent and conclusive result. For even God instils fear into the minds of men by granting reprieves and making merely a display of the greatness of his power.'
44 This man the king praised and then said to the next, 'What is the highest good in life?'
45 And he answered, 'To know that God is Lord of the Universe, and that in our finest achievements it is not we who attain success but God who by his power brings all things to fulfilment and leads us to the goal.'
46 The king exclaimed that the man had answered well and then asked the next how he could keep all his possessions intact and finally hand them down to his successors in the same condition?
47 And he answered, 'By praying constantly to God that you may be inspired with high motives in all your undertakings and by warning your descendants not to be dazzled by fame or wealth, for it is God who bestows all these gifts and men never by themselves win the supremacy.'
48 The king expressed his agreement with the answer and inquired of the next guest, how he could bear with equanimity whatever befell him?
49 And he said, 'If you have a firm grasp of the thought that all men are appointed by God to share the greatest evil as well as the greatest good, since it is impossible for one who is a man to be exempt from these. But God to whom we ought always to pray, inspires us with courage to endure.'
50 Delighted with the man's reply, the king said that all their answers had been good. 'I will put a question to one other,' he added, 'and then I will stop for the present: that we may turn our attention to the enjoyment of the feast and spend a pleasant time.'
51 Thereupon he asked the man, 'What is the true aim of courage?'
52 And he answered, 'If a right plan is carried out in the hour of danger in accordance with the original intention. For all things are accomplished by God to your advantage, O king, since your purpose is good.'
53 When all had signified by their applause their agreement with the answer, the king said to the philosophers (for not a few of them were present), 'It is my opinion that these men excel in virtue and possess extraordinary knowledge, since on the spur of the moment they
have given fitting answers to these questions which I have put to them, and have all made God the starting-point of their words.'
54 And Menedemus, the philosopher of Eretria, said, 'True, O King--for since the universe is managed by providence and since we rightly perceive that man is the creation of God, it follows that all power and beauty of speech proceed from God.'
55 When the king had nodded his assent to this sentiment, the speaking ceased and they proceeded to enjoy themselves. When evening came on, the banquet ended.
162:1 Compare this attitude toward criminals with that of the so-called modern humanitarian view. Also Bee Chapter VIII. 11.