Heliodorus

HELIODORUS he lĭ ə dôr’ əs (̔Ηλιόδωρος, gift of Helios [the sun god]). The chief minister of King Seleucus IV, Philopator (187-175 b.c.). He tried unsuccessfully to plunder the treasury of the Temple in Jerusalem (2 Macc 3). A Jew named Simon had a disagreement with the high priest, Onias, and because he could not have his way decided in revenge to tell Apollonius, the governor of Phoenicia and Coele-Syria, that there were vast treasures in the Temple in Jerusalem which could easily come into the possession of Seleucus, the king of Syria, who was then in control of Pal. When Apollonius reported to the king what Simon had told him, the king immediately sent Heliodorus, his chief minister, to take possession of the money. When he arrived, the Jews told him that the money belonged mostly to widows and orphans, who had deposited it there for safekeeping, and that it would be sacrilegious to take it. When Heliodorus entered the treasury with a bodyguard, there appeared to him a great apparition, a rider on a magnificently caparisoned horse, and two young men, strong and splendidly dressed. The horse struck Heliodorus with its hoofs and the young men scourged him mercilessly. His men carried him out on a stretcher sorely wounded and pled with Onias to spare his life. The high priest prayed for him and he recovered. After offering a sacrifice and making grateful vows to God, he returned to Syria.

Fourth Maccabees 4 tells the same story, but with the important difference that Seleucus does not send Heliodorus, but Apollonius, to plunder the Temple.

Although Heliodorus was reared with Seleucus when they were boys, in 175 b.c. he murdered him and attempted to seize the throne, but he was driven out by Eumenes of Pergamus and his brother Attalus; and Antiochus IV (Epiphanes), the brother of Seleucus, ascended the throne. It was this Antiochus whose attempt to Hellenize the Jews led to the Maccabean war, which ended with deliverance from Syrian control.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

Treasurer of the Syrian king Seleucus IV, Philopator (187-175 BC), the immediate predecessor of Antiochus Epiphanes who carried out to its utmost extremity the Hellenizing policy begun by Seleucus and the "sons of Tobias." Greatly in want of money to pay the tribute due to the Romans as one of the results of the victory of Scipio over Antiochus the Great at Magnesia (190 BC), Seleucus learned from Apollonius, governor of Coele-Syria (Pal) and Phoenicia, of the wealth which was reported to be stored up in the Temple at Jerusalem and commissioned Heliodorus. (2 Macc 3) to plunder the temple and to bring its contents to him. On the wealth collected in the Temple at this time, Josephus (Ant., IV, vii, 2) may be consulted. The Temple seems to have served the purposes of a bank in which the private deposits of widows and orphans were kept for greater security, and in 2 Macc 3:15-21 is narrated the panic at Jerusalem which took place when Heliodorus came with an armed guard to seize the contents of the Temple (see Stanley, Lectures on the History of the Jewish Church, III, 287). In spite of the protest of Onias, the high priest, Heliodorus. was proceeding to carry out his commission when, "through the Lord of Spirits and the Prince of all power," a great apparition appeared which caused him to fall down "compassed with great darkness" and speechless. When "quite at the last gasp" he was by the intercession of Onias restored to life and strength and "testified to all men the works of the great God which he had beheld with his eyes." The narrative given in 2 Macc 3 is not mentioned by any other historian, though 4 Macc refers to the plundering of the Temple and assigns the deed to Apollonius. Raffaelle used the incident in depicting, on the walls of the Vatican, the triumph of Pope Julius II over the enemies of the Pontificate.