King of Egypt from 182 to 146 B.C.; eldest son of Ptolemy V. With him the power over Egypt passes into unworthy hands. Philometor was still a child when he came to the throne, the Jewish philosopher Aristobulus of Paneas being mentioned as his teacher (II Macc. i. 10; Schürer, "Gesch." 3d ed., iii. 384). The proclamation of his independent rule, usually called ἀνακλητήρια but in II Macc. iv. 21 πρωτοκλισία, was a call to Antiochus IV., the oppressor of the Jews, to look to his own welfare; for, according to Dan. xi. 24 (where is to be read instead of ), he always had the conquest of Egypt in mind. Indeed, it was a regular part of the Egyptian policy to attempt the conquest of Syria; and Antiochus had to take account of that fact, as Jerome (on Dan. xi. 22) relates. Antiochus wished to anticipate the Egyptians, and hence attacked and defeated them (170 B.C.) in a sanguinary battle which is described in I Macc. i. 18-20. Philometor was forced to flee; and the Alexandrians raised to the throne his younger brother, who was known afterward as Euergetes II. Antiochus now carried on operations in favor of Philometor. He besieged Alexandria, and even assumed the crown of Egypt, so that he had two kingdoms (I Macc. i. 16); but he had to withdraw on account of pressure from the Romans. It was probably in this war that Ptolemy Macron, governor of Cyprus, deserted Philometor and went over to Antiochus (II Macc. x. 13).Honors Jonathan Maccabeus.
The two neighboring kingdoms, which were mortal enemies of each other, disagreed materially in their treatment of the Jews: in Syria the latter were persecuted; in Egypt they were favored. In the ensuing disputes about the succession to the throne in Syria, Philometor always took a part, reckoning on the Jews who were at war with the Syrians. In 150 B.C., when he gave his daughter Cleopatra to Alexander Balas to wife, at Ptolemais, the Maccabean Jonathan was present and was treated with great honor by both kings (I Macc. x. 57-60). This marriage, however, did not prevent Philometor from warring with Alexander, or from giving his daughter to Alexander's rival Demetrius. On the march Jonathan was accused before Philometor; but the latter would not listen to the charges, and instead met Jonathan kindly in Joppa (ib. xi. 5-6). It is noteworthy that the First Book of Maccabees represents this expedition of the Egyptian king as treacherous and faithless, whereas Josephus ("Ant." xviii. 4, § 8) sets the Egyptians in the right. The former is from the Syrian standpoint; the latter from the Egyptian, as Mahaffy (l.c. p. 371) rightly observes. From this it follows that at that time there must have been a party in Jerusalem which saw in the Egyptian king the salvation of the Jews, and justly so; for Philometor was well disposed toward them.Entrusted His Kingdom to Jews.
With some exaggeration Josephus says of Philometor ("Contra Ap." ii., § 5) that he and his wife Cleopatra entrusted their entire kingdom to Jews and that the commanders-in-chief of their army were the Jews Onias and Dositheus. The Onias temple was built under him, and the work of Aristobulus on the explanation of the Mosaic laws was intended primarily for him.The Greek postscript to the Book of Esther shows that that book was brought to Egypt in the fourth year of his reign, for the passage therein concerning Ptolemy and his wife Cleopatra without doubt refers to him. The synagogal inscription of Athribis also probably refers to him.
Ptolemy Philometor died from a wound received in the battle on the River Oenoparus in Syria (I Macc. xi. 14-19; "Ant." xviii. 4, § 8). The friendly attitude of this king toward the Jews caused Grätz ("Gesch." 4th ed., iii. 577) to assign the Septuagint to his reign, but that work, as Freudenthal especially has demonstrated, is much older. On the other hand, to the reign of Philometor may be assigned the origin of another class of literature, and that is the polemic hostile to the Jews, which proceeded from Alexandria and which arose from the fact that the Jews filled public offices, seized the leadership of the army, and built a central sanctuary.G. S. Kr.