1 And 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; 2 and 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 lived in the place. 3 But sore and utterly grievous was the visitation of this evil.4 For the temple was filled with riot and revellings by the heathen, who* dallied with prostitutes, and had to do with women within the sacred precincts, and moreover brought inside things that were not befitting; 5 and† the place of sacrifice was filled with those abominable things which had been prohibited by the laws. 6 And a man could neither keep the Sabbath, nor observe the feasts of the fathers, nor so much as confess himself to be a Jew.7 And 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 honor of§ Bacchus, wearing wreaths of ivy. 8 A decree went out to the neighboring 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; 9 and that they should kill such as didn’t choose to go over to the Greek rites. So the present misery was for all to see: 10 for 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.11 And others, that had run together into the caves near by to keep the seventh day secretly, being betrayed to Philip were all burned together, because they scrupled to defend themselves, from regard to the honor of that most solemn day.
12 I 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. 13 For indeed that those who act impiously be not let alone any long time, but immediately meet with retribution, is a sign of great beneficence. 14 For in the case of the other nations the Sovereign Lord does with patience forbear, until that he punish them when they have attained to the full measure of their sins; but not so judged he as touching us, 15 that he may not take vengeance on us afterward,* when we be come to the†height of our sins. 16 Wherefore he never withdraws his mercy from us; but though he chastens with calamity, yet does he not forsake his own people.17 However let this that we have spoken suffice to put you in remembrance; but after these few words we must come to the narrative.
18 Eleazar, 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. 19 But 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, 20 coming 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.21 But those who 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 implored 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; 22 that by so doing he might be delivered from death, and for his ancient friendship with them might be treated kindly. 23 But 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 honor, 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 to Hades. 24 For it becomes 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 to an alien religion; 25 and 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 my old age. 26 For 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.27 Wherefore, by manfully parting with my life now, I will show myself worthy of my old age, 28 and§ leave behind a noble example 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 immediately to the instrument of torture. 29 * And when they changed the good will they bore toward him a little before into ill will, because these words of his were, as they thought, sheer madness, 30 and when he was at the point to die with the† stripes, he groaned aloud and said, “To the Lord, who has 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.” 31 So this man also died after this manner, leaving his death for an example of nobleness and a memorial of virtue, not only to the young but also to the great body of his nation.
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