MAKKABIYM REVIY’IY (4 Maccabees) 9-13


WHY delay you, O tyrant? for we are readier to die than to transgress the injunctions of our fathers. 2 And we should be disgracing our fathers if we did not obey the Torah, and take knowledge for our guide. 3 O tyrant, counsellor of Torah breaking, do not, hating us as you do, pity us more than we pity ourselves. 4 or we account escape to be worse than death. 5 And you think to scare us, by threatening us with death by tortures, as though you had learned nothing by the death of El`azar. 6 But if aged men of the Ivriym have died in the cause of the faith after enduring torture, more rightly should we younger men die, scorning your cruel tortures, which our aged instructor overcame. 7 Make the attempt, then, O tyrant; and if you put us to death for our faith, think not that you harm us by torturing us. 8 For we through this ill treatment and endurance shall bear off the rewards of virtue. 9 But you, for the wicked and despotic slaughter of us, shall, from the divine vengeance, endure eternal torture by fire. 10 When they had thus spoken, the tyrant was not only exasperated against them as being refractory, but enraged with them as being ungrateful. 11 So that, at his bidding, the torturers brought forth the eldest of them, and tearing through his tunic, bound his hands and arms on each side with thongs. 12 And when they had laboured hard without effect in scourging him, they hurled him upon the wheel. 13 And the noble youth, extended upon this, became dislocated. 14 And with every member disjointed, he exclaimed in expostulation, 15 O most accursed tyrant, and enemy of heavenly justice, and cruel hearted, I am no murderer, nor sacrilegious man, whom you thus ill use; but a defender of the divine Torah. 16 And when the spearmen said, Consent to eat, that you may be released from your tortures, 17 he answered, Not so powerful, O accursed ministers, is your wheel, as to stifle my reasoning; cut my limbs, and burn my flesh, and twist my joints. 18 For through all my torments I will convince you that the children of the Ivriym are alone unconquered in behalf of virtue. 19 While he was saying this, they heaped up fuel, and setting fire to it, strained him upon the wheel still more. 20 And the wheel was defiled all over with blood, and the hot ashes were quenched by the droppings of gore, and pieces of flesh were scattered about the axles of the machine. 21 And although the framework of his bones was now destroyed the high minded and Avrahamic[i] youth did not groan. 22 But, as though transformed by fire into immortality, he nobly endured the rackings, saying. 23 Imitate me, O brethren, nor ever desert your station, nor abjure my brotherhood in courage: fight the holy and honourable fight of the faith; 24 by which means our just and paternal providence, becoming merciful to the nation, will punish the pestilent tyrant. 25 And saying this, the revered youth abruptly closed his life. 26 And when all admired his courageous soul, the spearmen brought forward him who was second in point of age, and having put on iron hands, bound him with pointed hooks to the catapult. 27 And when, on inquiring whether he would eat before he was tortured, they heard his noble sentiment, 28 after they with the iron hands had violently dragged all the flesh from the neck to the chin, the panther like beasts tore off the very skin of his head: but he, bearing with firmness this misery, said, 29 How sweet is every form of death for the faith of our fathers! and he said to the tyrant, 30 Think you not, most cruel of all tyrants, that you are now tortured more than I, finding your overweening conception of tyranny conquered by our patience in behalf of our faith? 31 For I lighten my suffering by the pleasures which are connected with virtue. 32 But you are tortured with threatenings for impiety; and you shall not escape, most corrupt tyrant, the vengeance of divine wrath.

10 

NOW this one, having endured this praiseworthy death, the third was brought along, and exhorted by many to taste and save his life. 2 But he cried out and said, Know ye not, that the father of those who are dead, begat me also; and that the same mother bore me; and that I was brought up in the same tenets? 3 I abjure not the noble relationship of my brethren. 4 Now then, whatsoever instrument of vengeance ye have, apply it to my body, for ye are not able to touch, even if ye wish it, my soul. 5 But they, highly incensed at his boldness of speech, dislocated his hands and feet with racking engines, and wrenching them from their sockets, dismembered him. 6 And they dragged round his fingers, and his arms, and his legs, and his ankles. 7 And not being able by any means to strangle him, they tore off his skin, together with the extreme tips of his fingers, flayed him, and then haled him to the wheel; 8 around which his vertebral joints were loosened, and he saw his own flesh torn to shreds, and streams of blood flowing from his entrails. 9 And when about to die, he said, 10 We, O accursed tyrant, suffer this for the sake of divine education and virtue. 11 But you, for your impiety and blood shedding, shall endure indissoluble torments. 12 And thus having died worthily of his brethren, they dragged forward the fourth, saying, 13 Do not share the madness of your brethren: but give regard to the king, and save yourself. 14 But he said to them, You have not a fire so scorching as to make me play the coward. 15 By the blessed death of my brethren, and the eternal punishment of the tyrant, and the glorious life of the pious, I will not repudiate the noble brotherhood. 16 Invent, O tyrant, tortures; that you may learn, even through them, that I am the brother of those tormented before. 17 When he had said this, the blood thirsty, and murderous, and unhallowed Antiochus ordered his tongue to be cut out. 18 But he said, Even if you take away the organ of speech, yet ELOHIYM hears the silent. 19 Behold, my tongue is extended, cut it off; for not for that shall you extirpate our reasoning. 20 Gladly do we lose our limbs in behalf of ELOHIYM. 21 But ELOHIYM shall speedily find you, since you cut off the tongue, the instrument of divine melody.

11 

AND when he had died, disfigured in his torments, the fifth leaped forward, and said, 2 I intend not, O tyrant, to get excused from the torment which is in behalf of virtue. 3 But I have come of my own accord, that by the death of me, you may owe heavenly vengeance a punishment for more crimes. 4 O hater of virtue and of men, what have we done that you thus revel in our blood? 5 Does it seem evil to you that we worship the founder of all things, and live according to his surpassing Torah? 6 But this is worthy of honours, not torments; 7 had you been capable of the higher feelings of men, and possessed the hope of yeshu`ah from ELOHIYM. 8 Behold now, being alien from ELOHIYM, you make war against those who are observant toward ELOHIYM. 9 As he said this, the spearbearers bound him, and drew him to the catapult: 10 to which binding him at his knees, and fastening them with iron fetters, they bent down his loins upon the wedge of the wheel; and his body was then dismembered, scorpion fashion. 11 With his breath thus confined, and his body strangled, he said, 12 A great favour you bestow upon us, O tyrant, by enabling us to manifest our adherence to the Torah by means of nobler sufferings. 13 He also being dead, the sixth, quite a youth, was brought out; and on the tyrant asking him whether he would eat and be delivered, he said, 14 I am indeed younger than my brothers, but in understanding I am as old; 15 for having been born and reared unto the same end, we are bound to die also in behalf of the same cause. 16 So that if ye think proper to torment us for not eating the unclean; torment! 17 As he said this, they brought him to the wheel. 18 Extended upon which, with limbs racked and dislocated, he was gradually roasted from beneath. 19 And having heated sharp spits, they approached them to his back; and having transfixed his sides, they burned away his entrails. 20 And he, while tormented, said, O period good and holy, in which, for the sake of the faith, we brethren have been called to the contest of pain, and have not been conquered. 21 For observant understand­ing, O tyrant, is uncon­quered. 22 Armed with upright virtue, I also shall depart with my brethren. 23 I, too, bearing with me a great avenger, O deviser of tortures, and enemy of the truly pious. 24 We six youths have destroyed your tyranny. 25 For is not your inability to overrule our reasoning, and to compel us to eat the unclean, your destruction? 26 Your fire is cold to us, your catapults are painless, and your violence harmless. 27 For the guards not of a tyrant but of a divine Torah are our defenders: through this we keep our reasoning uncon­quered.

12 

WHEN he, too, had undergone blessed martyrdom, and died in the caldron into which he had been thrown, the seventh, the youngest of all, came forward: 2 whom the tyrant pitying, though he had been dreadfully reproached by his brethren, 3 seeing him already encompassed with chains, had him brought nearer, and endeavoured to counsel him, saying, 4 You see the end of the madness of your brethren: for they have died to torture through disobedience; and you, if disobedient, having been miserably tormented, will yourself perish prematurely. 5 But if you obey, you shall be my friend, and have a charge over the affairs of the kingdom. 6 And having thus exhorted him, he sent for the mother of the boy; that, by condoling with her for the loss of so many sons, he might incline her, through the hope of safety, to render the survivor obedient. 7 And he, after his mother had urged him on in the Ivriyt tongue, (as we shall soon relate) said, 8 Release me that I may speak to the king and all his friends. 9 And they, rejoicing exceedingly at the promise of the youth, quickly let him go. 10 And he, running up to the pans, said, 11 Impious tyrant, and most blasphemous man, were you not ashamed, having received prosperity and a kingdom from ELOHIYM, to slay His servants, and to rack the doers of holiness? 12 Wherefore the divine vengeance is reserving you for eternal fire and torments, which shall cling to you for all time. 13 Were you not ashamed, man as you are, yet most savage, to cut out the tongues of men of like feeling and origin, and having thus abused to torture them? 14 But they, bravely dying, fulfilled their faith towards ELOHIYM. 15 But you shall groan according to your deserts for having slain without cause the champions of virtue. 16 Wherefore, he continued, I myself, being about to die, 17 will not forsake my brethren. 18 And I call upon the ELOHIYM of my fathers to be merciful to my race. 19 But you, both living and dead, he will punish. 20 Thus having prayed, he hurled himself into the pans; and so expired.

13 

IF then, the seven brethren des­pised troubles even unto death, it is confessed on all sides that righteous reasoning is absolute master over the passions. 2 For just as if, had they as slaves to the passions, eaten of the unholy, we should have said that they had been conquered by them; 3 now it is not so: but by means of the reasoning which is praised by ELOHIYM, they mastered their passions. 4 And it is impossible to overlook the leadership of reflection: for it gained the victory over both passions and troubles. 5 How, then, can we avoid according to these men mastery of passion through right reasoning, since they drew not back from the pains of fire? 6 For just as by means of towers projecting in front of harbours men break the threatening waves, and thus assure a still course to vessels entering port, 7 so that seven towered right reasoning of the young men, securing the harbour of the faith, conquered the intemperance of passions. 8 For having arranged a holy choir of piety, they encouraged one another, saying, 9 Brothers, may we die brotherly for the Torah. Let us imitate the three young men in Ashshur who despised the equally afflicting furnace. 10 Let us not be cowards in the manifestation of piety. 11 And one said, Courage, brother; and another, Nobly endure. 12 And another, Remember of what stock ye are; and by the hand of our father Yitschaq endured to be slain for the sake of piety. 13 And one and all, looking on each other serene and confident, said, Let us sacrifice with all our heart our souls to ELOHIYM who gave them, and employ our bodies for the keeping of the Torah. 14 Let us not fear him who thinks he kills; 15 for great is the trial of soul and danger of eternal torment laid up for those who transgress the commandment of ELOHIYM. 16 Let us arm ourselves, therefore, in the abnegation of the divine reasoning. 17 If we suffer thus, Avraham, and Yitschaq, and Ya`aqov will receive us, and all the fathers will commend us. 18 And as each one of the brethren was haled away, the rest exclaimed, Disgrace us not, O brother, nor falsify those who died before you. 19 Now you are not ignorant of the charm of brotherhood, which the divine and all wise providence has imparted through fathers to children, and has engendered through the mother's womb. 20 In which these brothers having remained an equal time, and having been formed for the same period, and been increased by the same blood, and having been perfected through the same principle of life, 21 and having been brought forth at equal intervals, and having sucked milk from the same fountains, hence their brotherly souls are reared up lovingly together; 22 and increase the more powerfully by reason of this simultaneous rearing, and by daily intercourse, and by other education, and exercise in the Torah of ELOHIYM. 23 Brotherly love being thus sympathetically constituted, the seven brethren had a more sympathetic mutual harmony. 24 For being educated in the same Torah, and practicing the same virtues, and reared up in a just course of life, they increased this harmony with each other. 25 For a like ardour for what is right and honourable increased their fellow feeling towards each other. 26 For it acting along with the faith, made their brotherly feeling more desirable to them. 27 And yet, although nature and intercourse and virtuous morals increased their brotherly love those who were left endured to behold their brethren, who were ill used for their faith, tortured even unto death.


[i] Abrahamic