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[62] BUT then the son of Onias the high priest, who was of the same name with his father, and who fled to king Ptolemy, who was called Philometor, lived now at Alexandria, as we have said already. When this Onias saw that Judea was oppressed by the Macedonians and their kings, out of a desire to purchase to himself a memorial and eternal fame he resolved to send to king Ptolemy and queen Cleopatra, to ask leave of them that he might build a temple in Egypt like to that at Jerusalem, and might ordain Levites and priests out of their own stock. The chief reason why he was desirous so to do, was, that he relied upon the prophet Isaiah, who lived above six hundred years before, and foretold that there certainly was to be a temple built to Almighty God in Egypt by a man that was a Jew. Onias was elevated with this prediction, and wrote the following epistle to Ptolemy and Cleopatra: "Having done many and great things for you in the affairs of the war, by the assistance of God, and that in Celesyria and Phoenicia, I came at length with the Jews to Leontopolis, and to other places of your nation, where I found that the greatest part of your people had temples in an improper manner, and that on this account they bare ill-will one against another, which happens to the Egyptians by reason of the multitude of their temples, and the difference of opinions about Divine worship. Now I found a very fit place in a castle that hath its name from the country Diana; this place is full of materials of several sorts, and replenished with sacred animals; I desire therefore that you will grant me leave to purge this holy place, which belongs to no master, and is fallen down, and to build there a temple to Almighty God, after the pattern of that in Jerusalem, and of the same dimensions, that may be for the benefit of thyself, and thy wife and children, that those Jews which dwell in Egypt may have a place whither they may come and meet together in mutual harmony one with another, and he subservient to thy advantages; for the prophet Isaiah foretold that "there should be an altar in Egypt to the Lord God; 1 and many other such things did he prophesy relating to that place."

1 It seems to me contrary to the opinion of Josephus, and of the moderns, both Jews and Christians, that this prophecy of Isaiah, 19:19, etc., "In that day there shall be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt," etc., directly foretold the building of this temple of Onias in Egypt, and was a sufficient warrant to the Jews for building it, and for worshipping the true God. the God of Israel, therein. See Authent. Rec. 11. p. 755. That God seems to have soon better accepted of the sacrifices and prayers here offered him than those at Jerusalem, see the note on ch. 10. sect. 7. And truly the marks of Jewish corruption or interpolation in this text, in order to discourage their people from approving of the Worship of God here, are very strong, and highly deserve our consideration and correction. The foregoing verse in Isaiah runs thus in our common copies, "In that day shall five cities in the land of Egypt speak the language of Canaan," [the Hebrew language; shall be full of Jews, whose sacred books were in Hebrew,] "and swear to the Lord of hosts; one" [or the first] "shall be called, The City of Destruction," Isaiah 19:18. A strange-name, "City of Destruction," upon so joyful occasion, and a name never heard of in the land of Egypt, or perhaps in any other nation. The old reading was evidently the City of the Sun, or Heliopolis; and Unkelos, in effect, and Symmachus, with the Arabic version, entirely confess that to be the true reading. The Septuagint also, though they have the text disguised in the common copies, and call it Asedek, the City of Righteousness; yet in two or three other copies the Hebrew word itself for the Sun, Achares, or Thares, is preserved. And since Onias insists with the king and queen, that Isaiah's prophecy contained many other predictions relating to this place besides the words by him recited, it is highly probable that these were especially meant by him; and that one main reason why he applied this prediction to himself, and to his prefecture of Heliopolis, which Dean Prideaux well proves was in that part of Egypt, and why he chose to build in that prefecture of Heliopolis, though otherwise an improper place, was this, that the same authority that he had for building this temple in Egypt, the very same he had for building it in his own prefecture of Heliopolis also, which he desired to do, and which he did accordingly. Dean Prideaux has much ado to avoid seeing this corruption of the Hebrew; but it being in support of his own opinion about this temple, he durst not see it; and indeed he reasons here in the most injudicious manner possible. See him at the year 149.

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