The first reading is a fictional story that God inspired four hundred year after the events it described.

Tuesday, 2/10/15

Let’s look at the First Reading, finding out about that Azariah who was, pleading with God?

Azariah, although you would not expect to find such a one in the Bible, was a fictitious character. He was invented four hundred years after the events described in the Bible passage. How he came to be invented is a long story. Hang on!

In 200 b.c. Jerusalem was ruled by king Antiochus III whose capitol was Antioch, ninety miles to the north of Jerusalem. Antiochus, an ambitious king, led his troops west across Turkey with the goal of subjugating Greece. However, Greece had a defense pact with Rome; and that brought on the Roman Legions, surrounding the whole of Antiochus’s force midway across Turkey.

When Antiochus III begged for mercy, the Roman general said he would let him live if he agreed to yearly send Rome a small fortune in gold. Further, to make sure Antiochus came across with the yearly tribute, the Romans took the king’s sons off to Rome as hostages.

From then on, to yearly amass the tribute gold, Antiochus began robbing temples everywhere, however he spared Jerusalem’s temple, which all the Middle East regarded as sacred.

Antiochus III died robbing a temple in Persia, and he was followed by his son, Antiochus IV, who had been a hostage in Rome. He, in turn, took to robbing temples to keep alive his sons whom the Romans had taken off as hostages.

With nowhere else to go for the gold, in 168 b.c., Antiochus IV disgraced himself by plundering the temple in Jerusalem. Afterwards, to justify his sacrilege, Antiochus IV claimed he was doing away with the backward Jewish Religion by substituting the noble Greek Religion. For that he did two things. He place an idol of Zeus on the temple altar, and he built a gymnasium where Jewish boys could  compete naked in Greek sports while lunching on pork.

To distract the Jewish youth from such allurements, God inspired a Jew to compose the semi-fictional account of three young men who refused to bow to an idol and who refused to eat unclean foods. A modern song’s version of the story had the three boys named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abendigo.  

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