4 Maccabees Chapter 06 (from The Five Books of Maccabees)


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P. 237 – 241 Book 4 B.C. 167 [PDF: 287/291 of p.524]

CHAPTER 6

(i) Eleazar’s sufferings ; and death. Reflections on it.

1 When Eleazar had in this manner eloquently answered1)P. 237 Foot Note a. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge]. the tyrant’s exhortations, the guards surrounded him, and drew him with violence to 2 the instruments of torture. And first of all they p. 238 stripped2)P. 238 Foot Note b. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge]. the old man, arrayed as he was in the becoming garb of piety. Then, having bound his 3 arms to each side of his body, they disfigured him with scourges : a herald on each side crying out aloud, ” Obey the commands of the king.” But 4 Eleazar, truly noble and high-minded, regarded it not in the least, as though he were tortured only in a dream. But lifting up his eyes on high to 5 heaven, the old man was stript of his flesh by the whips, and streamed down with blood, and his flanks were laid open by wounds. And though 6 he fell to the ground, because his body could not support the pains, he still retained his strength of principle upright and unbending.

7 Then one of the savage guards leaping upon his belly kicked3)P. 238 Foot Note c. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge]. it, to make him rise up after he had fallen. But he supported the pain, and regarded 8 not the violence, and patiently endured the ill usage. And, like a fine spirited champion4)P. 238 Foot Note d. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge]. at the 9 Grecian games, the old man enduring stripes conquered his tormentors. And though his face was 10 wet with perspiration, and he sorely gasped for breath; yet he was admired, even by those who tortured him, for his hardihood.

11 Wherefore, partly in pity for his age ; partly feeling sympathy for their former acquaintance with him, and partly in admiration of his constancy ; some of the king’s attendants came up to him and said: Why, Eleazar, will you destroy5)P. 238 Foot Note e. There is a variety of reading in the Greek :  Gr. [ click on image to enlarge]. 12 yourself by all these evils ? we will bring you p. 239 some dressed meat6)P. 239 Foot Note f. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge] so that by the outward appearance it could not be distinguished., and do you save yourself by pretending to have tasted some of the swine’s flesh.

13 But Eleazar, as if tortured7)P. 239 Foot Note g. We have here exhibited by Eleazar a portion of that spirit which animated St. Paul, when his friends, alarmed for his safety, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem : ” What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart ? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Acts xxi. 13. still more cruelly 14 by this advice, cried out: ” Let not us, who are children of Abraham, be so foolish as through weakness of mind to play a part which is 15 discreditable to us. Absurd indeed it would be, if having lived to old age in conformity with the truth, and preserving a good character agreeably to the law8)P. 239 Foot Note h. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge]., we now should change our course: 16 and ourselves should become a pattern of impiety to the young, by being an example of eating 17 unclean meats. It would be disgraceful, if we should still live on for some short time ; and this, being derided by all men for our cowardice. 18 While by the tyrant we shall be despised as spiritless, and shall not have defended our 19 divine law unto the death. Wherefore, do you, O ye children of Abraham, die nobly in defence of your religion. But you, ye guards of the tyrant, why do you make delay9)P. 239 Foot Note i. Thus, in 3 Mace. vii. 30, the youngest of the seven sons, when led out to punishment and warmed by the pious address of his mother, exclaimed, ” Whom wait ye for? I will not obey the king’s commandment : but I will obey the commandment of the law that was given unto our fathers by Moses.” ?”

20 When they beheld him thus high-spirited in p. 240 the midst of his troubles ; and that he did not change at all through their compassion of him, they carried him to the fire. Then with their 21 horrid instruments they threw him on the pile of fire to burn him, and poured stinking liquids into his nostrils. But he, being now completely burnt 22 to the bones, and about to expire, lifted up his eyes to God, and said : ” Thou knowest, O God, 23 that whereas I might have saved myself, I am dying by fiery torments for the law’s sake. Therefore be merciful to thy people, being satisfied with the punishment suffered by me for them. Make my blood10)P. 240 Foot Note k. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge] So, at 3 Mace. vii. 37, ” I, as my brethren, offer up my body and life for the laws of our fathers, beseeching God that he would speedily be merciful unto our nation : and that in me and my brethren the wrath of the Almighty, which is justly brought upon all our nation, may cease.”—For the use and meaning of the word Gr. [ click on image to enlarge] see Ælian. Var. Hist. XIV. 7: and compare the Oration of Æschines against Timarchus, sect. 23. a purification for them, 24 and accept my life an offering instead of theirs.”

25 And having uttered these words, the holy man died nobly in his torments ; and, even to the tortures of death, stood fast in his principle for the sake of the law.

26 Confessedly therefore religious Principle is lord over the passions. For if the passions had 27 overpowered principle, I would have given to them the testimony of such mastery. But now, since principle has overcome the passions, to it we give, as is becoming, the rank and power of sovereignty. And it is just that we should own that the 28 mastery belongs to principle, since it prevails over pains inflicted from without11)P. 240 Foot Note l. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge].. Nay, to say 29 otherwise p. 241 would be ridiculous : and I demonstrate, that Principle not only conquers pains, but likewise that it is master over pleasures, and does not give way to these.


Original Source: Transcribed from PDF copy of Book "The Five Books of Maccabees in English. With Notes and Illustrations", by HENRY COTTON, D.C.L.(Sir) Archdeacon of Cashel, and Late Student of Christ Church, Oxford. Publication date 1832 | PDF


References   [ + ]

1. P. 237 Foot Note a. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge]
2. P. 238 Foot Note b. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge].
3. P. 238 Foot Note c. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge].
4. P. 238 Foot Note d. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge].
5. P. 238 Foot Note e. There is a variety of reading in the Greek :  Gr. [ click on image to enlarge].
6. P. 239 Foot Note f. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge] so that by the outward appearance it could not be distinguished.
7. P. 239 Foot Note g. We have here exhibited by Eleazar a portion of that spirit which animated St. Paul, when his friends, alarmed for his safety, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem : ” What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart ? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Acts xxi. 13.
8. P. 239 Foot Note h. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge].
9. P. 239 Foot Note i. Thus, in 3 Mace. vii. 30, the youngest of the seven sons, when led out to punishment and warmed by the pious address of his mother, exclaimed, ” Whom wait ye for? I will not obey the king’s commandment : but I will obey the commandment of the law that was given unto our fathers by Moses.”
10. P. 240 Foot Note k. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge] So, at 3 Mace. vii. 37, ” I, as my brethren, offer up my body and life for the laws of our fathers, beseeching God that he would speedily be merciful unto our nation : and that in me and my brethren the wrath of the Almighty, which is justly brought upon all our nation, may cease.”—For the use and meaning of the word Gr. [ click on image to enlarge] see Ælian. Var. Hist. XIV. 7: and compare the Oration of Æschines against Timarchus, sect. 23.
11. P. 240 Foot Note l. Gr. [ click on image to enlarge].

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