4 Maccabees

Chapters 16-18

1-5 6-10 11-15 16-18

[1] If, then, a woman, advanced in years and mother of seven sons, endured seeing her children tortured to death, it must be admitted that devout reason is sovereign over the emotions.
[2] Thus I have demonstrated not only that men have ruled over the emotions, but also that a woman has despised the fiercest tortures.
[3] The lions surrounding Daniel were not so savage, nor was the raging fiery furnace of Mishael so intensely hot, as was her innate parental love, inflamed as she saw her seven sons tortured in such varied ways.
[4] But the mother quenched so many and such great emotions by devout reason.
[5] Consider this also. If this woman, though a mother, had been fainthearted, she would have mourned over them and perhaps spoken as follows:
[6] "O how wretched am I and many times unhappy! After bearing seven children, I am now the mother of none!
[7] O seven childbirths all in vain, seven profitless pregnancies, fruitless nurturings and wretched nursings!
[8] In vain, my sons, I endured many birth-pangs for you, and the more grievous anxieties of your upbringing.
[9] Alas for my children, some unmarried, others married and without offspring. I shall not see your children or have the happiness of being called grandmother.
[10] Alas, I who had so many and beautiful children am a widow and alone, with many sorrows.
[11] Nor when I die, shall I have any of my sons to bury me."
[12] Yet the sacred and God-fearing mother did not wail with such a lament for any of them, nor did she dissuade any of them from dying, nor did she grieve as they were dying,
[13] but, as though having a mind like adamant and giving rebirth for immortality to the whole number of her sons, she implored them and urged them on to death for the sake of religion.
[14] O mother, soldier of God in the cause of religion, elder and woman! By steadfastness you have conquered even a tyrant, and in word and deed you have proved more powerful than a man.
[15] For when you and your sons were arrested together, you stood and watched Eleazar being tortured, and said to your sons in the Hebrew language,
[16] "My sons, noble is the contest to which you are called to bear witness for the nation. Fight zealously for our ancestral law.
[17] For it would be shameful if, while an aged man endures such agonies for the sake of religion, you young men were to be terrified by tortures.
[18] Remember that it is through God that you have had a share in the world and have enjoyed life,
[19] and therefore you ought to endure any suffering for the sake of God.
[20] For his sake also our father Abraham was zealous to sacrifice his son Isaac, the ancestor of our nation; and when Isaac saw his father's hand wielding a sword and descending upon him, he did not cower.
[21] And Daniel the righteous was thrown to the lions, and Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael were hurled into the fiery furnace and endured it for the sake of God.
[22] You too must have the same faith in God and not be grieved.
[23] It is unreasonable for people who have religious knowledge not to withstand pain."
[24] By these words the mother of the seven encouraged and persuaded each of her sons to die rather than violate God's commandment.
[25] They knew also that those who die for the sake of God live in God, as do Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the patriarchs.
[1] Some of the guards said that when she also was about to be seized and put to death she threw herself into the flames so that no one might touch her body.
[2] O mother, who with your seven sons nullified the violence of the tyrant, frustrated his evil designs, and showed the courage of your faith!
[3] Nobly set like a roof on the pillars of your sons, you held firm and unswerving against the earthquake of the tortures.
[4] Take courage, therefore, O holy-minded mother, maintaining firm an enduring hope in God.
[5] The moon in heaven, with the stars, does not stand so august as you, who, after lighting the way of your star-like seven sons to piety, stand in honor before God and are firmly set in heaven with them.
[6] For your children were true descendants of father Abraham.
[7] If it were possible for us to paint the history of your piety as an artist might, would not those who first beheld it have shuddered as they saw the mother of the seven children enduring their varied tortures to death for the sake of religion?
[8] Indeed it would be proper to inscribe upon their tomb these words as a reminder to the people of our nation:
[9] "Here lie buried an aged priest and an aged woman and seven sons, because of the violence of the tyrant who wished to destroy the way of life of the Hebrews.
[10] They vindicated their nation, looking to God and enduring torture even to death."
[11] Truly the contest in which they were engaged was divine,
[12] for on that day virtue gave the awards and tested them for their endurance. The prize was immortality in endless life.
[13] Eleazar was the first contestant, the mother of the seven sons entered the competition, and the brothers contended.
[14] The tyrant was the antagonist, and the world and the human race were the spectators.
[15] Reverence for God was victor and gave the crown to its own athletes.
[16] Who did not admire the athletes of the divine legislation? Who were not amazed?
[17] The tyrant himself and all his council marveled at their endurance,
[18] because of which they now stand before the divine throne and live through blessed eternity.
[19] For Moses says, "All who are consecrated are under your hands."
[20] These, then, who have been consecrated for the sake of God, are honored, not only with this honor, but also by the fact that because of them our enemies did not rule over our nation,
[21] the tyrant was punished, and the homeland purified -- they having become, as it were, a ransom for the sin of our nation.
[22] And through the blood of those devout ones and their death as an expiation, divine Providence preserved Israel that previously had been afflicted.
[23] For the tyrant Antiochus, when he saw the courage of their virtue and their endurance under the tortures, proclaimed them to his soldiers as an example for their own endurance,
[24] and this made them brave and courageous for infantry battle and siege, and he ravaged and conquered all his enemies.
[1] O Israelite children, offspring of the seed of Abraham, obey this law and exercise piety in every way,
[2] knowing that devout reason is master of all emotions, not only of sufferings from within, but also of those from without.
[3] Therefore those who gave over their bodies in suffering for the sake of religion were not only admired by men, but also were deemed worthy to share in a divine inheritance.
[4] Because of them the nation gained peace, and by reviving observance of the law in the homeland they ravaged the enemy.
[5] The tyrant Antiochus was both punished on earth and is being chastised after his death. Since in no way whatever was he able to compel the Israelites to become pagans and to abandon their ancestral customs, he left Jerusalem and marched against the Persians.
[6] The mother of seven sons expressed also these principles to her children:
[7] "I was a pure virgin and did not go outside my father's house; but I guarded the rib from which woman was made.
[8] No seducer corrupted me on a desert plain, nor did the destroyer, the deceitful serpent, defile the purity of my virginity.
[9] In the time of my maturity I remained with my husband, and when these sons had grown up their father died. A happy man was he, who lived out his life with good children, and did not have the grief of bereavement.
[10] While he was still with you, he taught you the law and the prophets.
[11] He read to you about Abel slain by Cain, and Isaac who was offered as a burnt offering, and of Joseph in prison.
[12] He told you of the zeal of Phineas, and he taught you about Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael in the fire.
[13] He praised Daniel in the den of the lions and blessed him.
[14] He reminded you of the scripture of Isaiah, which says, `Even though you go through the fire, the flame shall not consume you.'
[15] He sang to you songs of the psalmist David, who said, `Many are the afflictions of the righteous.'
[16] He recounted to you Solomon's proverb, `There is a tree of life for those who do his will.'
[17] He confirmed the saying of Ezekiel, `Shall these dry bones live?'
[18] For he did not forget to teach you the song that Moses taught, which says,
[19] `I kill and I make alive: this is your life and the length of your days.'"
[20] O bitter was that day -- and yet not bitter -- when that bitter tyrant of the Greeks quenched fire with fire in his cruel caldrons, and in his burning rage brought those seven sons of the daughter of Abraham to the catapult and back again to more tortures,
[21] pierced the pupils of their eyes and cut out their tongues, and put them to death with various tortures.
[22] For these crimes divine justice pursued and will pursue the accursed tyrant.
[23] But the sons of Abraham with their victorious mother are gathered together into the chorus of the fathers, and have received pure and immortal souls from God,
[24] to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.