In ancient times Greece was the world power and was ruled under Alexander the Great up until the year 217 B.C.
Alexander had been a mighty conqueror, but died in a drunken stupor. His four generals divided up the kingdom, but they kept fighting and soon only two kingdoms were left, the north and the south each with its own king. Philopater was the king of the south part of the divided Greek Kingdom.
Philopater continued making war against the king of the north and conquered many provinces. On their return home to Egypt, as the army passed through each area that had been defeated, parades were held with much celebration.
The name Philopater means love father, but this king was a very evil man prone to indulging his depraved appetite, alcohol and lewd parties. His military success made him very proud, thinking he could do whatever he wanted.
One of the places he decided to have a parade and celebration was Jerusalem. In spite of the priests doing their best to stop him, he went into the temple and made blasphemous offerings to God on the altar. He boldly attempted to enter the Most Holy Place in the temple, which was out of bounds to everyone except the High Priest who could only enter there on one day of the year—the Day of Atonement. Though at that time, the Jews were mostly not obeying God as they ought, God still honoured His own name and smote the king.
The historian, Prideaux, describes it this way:
“He was smitten from God with such a terror and confusion of mind that he was carried out of the place in a manner half dead.” Humphrey Prideaux, An Historical Connection of the Old and New Testaments, William Tegg and Co., London, 76, 77.
The king did not learn the lesson that God was trying to teach him and added to his pride and wickedness anger against the Jews. He returned to Egypt and attempted to force all the Jews in his country to worship heathen idols. By force and threats he persuaded 300 of them to give up the God of heaven and perform idol worship, which caused them to be excommunicated by the Jewish leaders, thrown out of the Jewish church for breaking God’s commandments!
This action against his new idol worshiping converts made Philopater twice as angry. He ordered that the Jews be caught, chained and brought to Alexandria, his capital. They were placed in a large arena and it was announced that on a certain day there would be a big show performed for the people of his realm; everyone could come and see it.
Wild elephants were brought in that had been treated badly and were fierce and angry. Their drinking water was spiked with something that made them drunk. The day of the big event came to drive the drunken, mad elephants into the arena to kill the poor Jews that were captive there.
Among the captives were some who still loved and obeyed the God of heaven, and these cried to God praying for protection and help. They prayed continually until the terrible day arrived. The king and all his important officers, including many other people, gathered in the big arena to see the show, as if they were going to watch a circus or a hockey game.
The huge doors of the mad, wild elephants’ pen were opened, and the frantic, drunken and powerful beasts rushed out into the arena like an army tank. But something strange happened. Instead of rushing onto the helpless prisoners and stomping them to death, they turned around and began to destroy the arena and attack the people who had come to see the show! Great numbers were killed that day but not a single Jew was harmed.
At the same time, some scary pictures appeared in the air over the arena that really terrified the wicked king and his soldiers. He knew that God was protecting His people who had cried unto Him. Trembling with fear, he ordered the prisoners to be set free and restored them to all of their rights and privileges. It is not known what happened to the elephants.
Did this wicked king learn his lesson after seeing this mighty work of the God of Heaven? Sad to say, he did not. In 213 B.C., he turned on the Jews again and had 40,000 of them killed. Maybe this time there were not any true believers to cry to God, I don’t know. Throughout the rest of his life, Philopater became more and more disgusting until he died of drunkeness and his evil habits. How different his story might have been had he humbled his heart and worshiped the true God of Heaven!
Compiled by P.G. Temple, Adventure Stories from History, Harvestime Books, Altamont, Tennessee, 2008, 46–49.