2 Maccabees Chapter 7

Martyrdom of the seven brothers

1 It happened also that seven brothers were arrested with their mother. The king had them scourged and flogged to force them to eat the flesh of a pig which was prohibited by the Law.

2 One of them, speaking in behalf of all, said, ¡°What do you want to find out from us? We are prepared to die right now rather than break the law of our ancestors.¡±

3 The king became furious and ordered that pans and caldrons be heated over a fire.

4 When these were red-hot, he commanded that the tongue of their spokesman be cut out, his head scalped, and his hands and feet cut off while his brothers and mother looked on.

5 When he had been thoroughly mutilated, the king ordered that while still breathing, he be brought to the fire and roasted alive. While the smoke from the pan spread widely, the other brothers and their mother encouraged one another to die bravely. And they said,

6 ¡°The Lord God sees all, and in reality, has compassion on us, as Moses declared in his song, and clearly said: The Lord will have pity on his servants.¡±

7 When the first had left the world in this way, they brought the second for execution. After stripping the skin with the hair from his head, they asked him: ¡°Which do you prefer: to eat the flesh of a pig or to be tortured limb by limb?¡±

8 He answered them in the language of his ancestors, ¡°I will not eat.¡± And so he, too, was tortured.

9 At the moment of his last breath, he said, ¡°Murderer, you now dismiss us from life, but the King of the world will raise us up. He will give us eternal life since we die for his laws.¡±

10 After this, they punished the third. He stuck his tongue out when asked to, bravely stretched forth his hands,

11 and even had the courage to say: ¡°I have received these limbs from God, but for love of his laws I now consider them as nothing. For I hope to recover them from God.¡±

12 The king and his court were touched by the courage of this young man, so un concerned about his own sufferings.

13 When this one was dead, they subjected the fourth to the same torture.

14 At the point of death, he cried out, ¡°I would rather die at the hands of mortals, and wait for the promises of God who will raise us up; you, however, shall have no part in the resurrection of life.¡±

15 They took the fifth at once and tortured him. But with his eyes fixed on the king,

16 he said to him, ¡°Though you are mortal, you have authority over people and are able to do what you will. But do not think that our race has been abandoned by God.

17 Wait, and you shall see his great power when he torments you and your descendants.¡±

18 After this, they took the sixth who, at the point of death, said, ¡°Don¡¯t be mistaken. We suffer all this because of ourselves for we have sinned against our own God; so these astonishing things have come upon us.

19 But do not think that you are going to remain unpunished, after having made war with God.¡±

20 More than all of them, their mother ought to be admired and remembered. She saw her seven sons die in a single day. But she endured it even with joy for she had put her hope in the Lord.

21 Full of a noble sense of honor, she encouraged each one of them in the language of their ancestors. Her woman¡¯s heart was moved by manly courage, so she told them:

22 ¡°I wonder how you were born of me; it was not I who gave you breath and life, nor I who ordered the matter of your body.

23 The Creator of the world who formed man in the beginning and ordered the unfolding of all creation shall in his mercy, give you back breath and life, since you now despise them for love of his laws.¡±

24 Antiochus thought that she was making fun of him and suspected that she had insulted him. As the youngest was still alive, the king tried to win him over not only with his words, but even promised to make him rich and happy, if he would abandon the traditions of his ancestors. He would make him his Friend and appoint him to a high position in the kingdom.

25 But as the young man did not pay him any attention, the king ordered the mother to be brought in. He urged her to ad vise her son in order to save his life.

26 After being asked twice by the king, she agreed to persuade her son.

27 She bent over him and fooled the cruel tyrant by saying in her ancestral language: ¡°My son, have pity on me. For nine months I carried you in my womb and suckled you for three years; I raised you up and educated you until this day.

28 I ask you now, my son, that when you see the heavens, the earth and all that is in it, you know that God made all this from nothing, and the human race as well.

29 Do not fear these exec utioners, but make yourself worthy of your brothers ¨C accept death that you may again meet your brothers in the time of mercy.¡±

30 When she finished speaking, the young man said, ¡°What are you waiting for? I do not obey the king¡¯s order but the precepts of the Law given by Moses to our ancestors.

31 And you who have devised such tortures against the Hebrews, shall not escape the hands of God.

32 Know that we perish because of our sins.

33 Our living Lord punishes and corrects us for a short time because he is angry with us, but he shall again be reconciled with his servants.

34 And you, the most wretched and impious man, do not be proud or be carried away by your vain hopes. Do not raise your hand against the children of Heaven,

35 for you have not yet escaped the judgment of the almighty God, who sees everything.

36 Our brothers suffered a short time for the sake of eternal life and have already entered into the friendship of God. But you, for your part, shall suffer the punishment you deserve for your arrogance.

37 With my brothers, I give up my body and my soul for the laws of my fathers, calling on God that he may at once have pity on our race, and that by trials and afflictions, you may come to confess that he is the only God.

38 Through me and my bro thers, may the wrath of the Almighty which has justly fallen on the whole of our race come to an end.¡±

39 The king was even more infuriated at him than at the others be cause of his mockery and he dealt more cruelly with him.

40 So the youngest also died undefiled, putting his whole trust in God.

41 After all her sons, the mother also died.

42 This is enough to make known what happened regarding the pagan sacrifices and the tortures beyond all imagination.


Comments 2 Maccabees, Chapter 7

• 7.1 In relating the martyrdom of these seven brothers, whose names are unknown, the author places on their lips a declaration of their faith in immortality. This is the most valuable message of the book.

In the previous centuries, God¡¯s promises were for the people as a whole. The believer only hoped for the life and prosperity of his race.

Here, we have a giant step in the faith: the resurrection of individuals. It is not only the hope for survival of the spirit, or the soul: the believer thinks he will be raised as a person to meet God. In Ezekiel 37, in the vision of the dry bones, God was promising to raise his people who had died. Here, every person hopes to rise, body and soul, to share the happiness that God promised and will give on the final day.

If martyrs are not raised, how would God achieve justice?