1And not long after this the king sent forth an old man of Athens to compel the Jews to depart from the laws of their fathers, and not to live after the laws of God;
2and also to pollute the sanctuary in Jerusalem, and to call it by the name of Jupiter Olympius, and to call the sanctuary in Gerizim by the name of Jupiter the Protector of strangers, even as they were that dwelt in the place.
3But sore and utterly grievous was the visitation of this evil.
4For the temple was filled with riot and revellings by the heathen, who dallied with harlots, and had to do with women within the sacred precincts, and moreover brought inside things that were not befitting;
5and the place of sacrifice was filled with those abominable things which had been prohibited by the laws.
6And a man could neither keep the sabbath, nor observe the feasts of the fathers, nor so much as confess himself to be a Jew.
7And on the day of the king’s birth every month they were led along with bitter constraint to eat of the sacrifices; and when the feast of Bacchus came, they were compelled to go in procession in honour of Bacchus, wearing wreaths of ivy.
8And there went out a decree to the neighbouring Greek cities, by the suggestion of Ptolemy, that they should observe the same conduct against the Jews, and should make them eat of the sacrifices;
9and that they should slay such as did not choose to go over to the Greek rites. So the present misery was for all to see:
10for two women were brought up for having circumcised their children; and these, when they had led them publicly round about the city, with the babes hung from their breasts, they cast down headlong from the wall.
11And others, that had run together into the caves near by to keep the seventh day secretly, being betrayed to Philip were all burnt together, because they scrupled to defend themselves, from regard to the honour of that most solemn day.
12I beseech therefore those that read this book, that they be not discouraged because of the calamities, but account that these punishments were not for the destruction, but for the chastening of our race.
13For indeed that those who act impiously be not let alone any long time, but straightway meet with retribution, is a sign of great beneficence.
14For in the case of the other nations the Sovereign Lord doth with longsuffering forbear, until that he punish them when they have attained unto the full measure of their sins; but not so judged he as touching us,
15that he may not take vengeance on us afterward, when we be come unto the height of our sins.
16Wherefore he never withdraweth his mercy from us; but though he chasteneth with calamity, yet doth he not forsake his own people.
17Howbeit let this that we have spoken suffice to put you in remembrance; but after these few words we must come to the narrative.
18Eleazar, one of the principal scribes, a man already well stricken in years, and of a noble countenance, was compelled to open his mouth to eat swine’s flesh.
19But he, welcoming death with renown rather than life with pollution, advanced of his own accord to the instrument of torture, but first spat forth the flesh,
20coming forward as men ought to come that are resolute to repel such things as not even for the natural love of life is it lawful to taste.
21But they that had the charge of that forbidden sacrificial feast took the man aside, for the acquaintance which of old times they had with him, and privately besought him to bring flesh of his own providing, such as was befitting for him to use, and to make as if he did eat of the flesh from the sacrifice, as had been commanded by the king;
22that by so doing he might be delivered from death, and for his ancient friendship with them might be treated kindly.
23But he, having formed a high resolve, and one that became his years, and the dignity of old age, and the gray hairs which he had reached with honour, and his excellent education from a child, or rather that became the holy laws of God’s ordaining, declared his mind accordingly, bidding them quickly send him unto Hades.
24For it becometh not our years to dissemble, said he, that through this many of the young should suppose that Eleazar, the man of fourscore years and ten, had gone over unto an alien religion;
25and so they, by reason of my dissimulation, and for the sake of this brief and momentary life, should be led astray because of me, and thus I get to myself a pollution and a stain of mine old age.
26For even if for the present time I shall remove from me the punishment of men, yet shall I not escape the hands of the Almighty, either living or dead.
27Wherefore, by manfully parting with my life now, I will shew myself worthy of mine old age,
28and leave behind a noble ensample to the young to die willingly and nobly a glorious death for the reverend and holy laws. And when he had said these words, he went straightway to the instrument of torture.
29And when they changed the good will they bare him a little before into ill will, because these words of his were, as they thought, sheer madness,
30and when he was at the point to die with the stripes, he groaned aloud and said, To the Lord, that hath the holy knowledge, it is manifest that, whereas I might have been delivered from death, I endure sore pains in my body by being scourged; but in soul I gladly suffer these things for my fear of him.
31So this man also died after this manner, leaving his death for an ensample of nobleness and a memorial of virtue, not only to the young but also to the great body of his nation.