Athens desecrates the temple. Athens makes Judaism illegal. Why do these bad things happen? Eleazar is martyred.
VERSE 1. Not long after this, the king sent out an old man of Athens to compel the Jews to depart from the laws of their fathers and not to live by the laws of God,
NAB translation. Not long after this the king sent an Athenian senator to force the Jews to abandon the customs of their ancestors and live no longer by the laws of God;
an old man of Athens. That is, “an Athenian senator.” Or “Geron an Athenian.”
to compel. They will use force.
live no longer by the laws of God. The Athenians will force Jewish people to forsake the Law of the Most High God.
VERSE 2. and also to pollute the sanctuary in Jerusalem and to call it by the name of Olympian Zeus, and to call the sanctuary in Gerizim by the name of Zeus the Protector of foreigners, even as the people who lived in that place did.
NAB translation. also to profane the temple in Jerusalem and dedicate it to Olympian Zeus, and that on Mount Gerizim to Zeus the Hospitable.
to profane the temple. This is a grave violation. They will desecrate the temple.
the name of Zeus. They will name the temple for the Greek god Zeus.
VERSE 3. The visitation of this evil was harsh and utterly grievous.
VERSE 4. For the temple was filled with debauchery and reveling by the heathen, who dallied with prostitutes, and had intercourse with women within the sacred precincts, and moreover brought inside things that were not appropriate.
VERSE 5. The altar was filled with those abominable things which had been prohibited by the laws.
VERSE 6. A man could neither keep the Sabbath, nor observe the feasts of their ancestors, nor so much as confess himself to be a Jew.
could neither keep the Sabbath. Athens has made this basic requirement of the Law to be illegal.
nor so much as confess himself to be a Jew. Simply to identify oneself as Jewish was illegal.
VERSE 7. On the day of the king’s birth every month, they were led along with bitter constraint to eat of the sacrifices. When the feast of Dionysia came, they were compelled to go in procession in honor of Dionysus, wearing wreaths of ivy.
with bitter constraint. Jewish people were forced to eat food that had been sacrificed to Greek gods.
compelled to go in procession. Jewish people will be forced to march in a procession in honor of the Greek god Dionysus.
VERSE 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,
VERSE 9. and that they should kill those who didn’t choose to go over to the Greek rites. So the present misery was for all to see.
kill those who didn’t. For a Jewish person to not cooperate is now a capital offense.
VERSE 10. For example, two women were brought in for having circumcised their children. These, when they had led them publicly around the city with the babes hung from their breasts, they threw down headlong from the wall.
two women. These two Jewish women are the first martyrs for the faith.
VERSE 11. Others who had run together into the caves nearby to keep the seventh day secretly, were betrayed to Philip and were all burned together, because their piety kept them from defending themselves, in view of the honor of that most solemn day.
keep the seventh day secretly. These Jewish people are martyred for keeping Sabbath.
VERSE 12. I urge those who read this book to not be discouraged because of the calamities, but recognize that these punishments were not for the destruction, but for the chastening of our race.
NAB translation. Now I beg those who read this book not to be disheartened by these misfortunes, but to consider that these chastisements were meant not for the ruin but for the correction of our nation.”
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VERSE 13. For indeed it is a sign of great kindness that those who act impiously are not let alone for a long time, but immediately meet with retribution.
VERSE 14. For in the case of the other nations, the Sovereign Lord waits patiently to punish them until they have attained to the full measure of their sins; but not with us,
VERSE 15. that he may not take vengeance on us afterward, when we be come to the height of our sins.
on us afterward. Or “when our sins be come to their height.”
the height. In Greek, “end.”
VERSE 16. Therefore he never withdraws his mercy from us; but though he chastens with calamity, he doesn’t forsake his own people.
NAB translation. He never withdraws his mercy from us. Although he disciplines us with misfortunes, he does not abandon his own people.
He never withdraws his mercy from us. What stands out to the author is the MERCY of God!
VERSE 17. However let this that we have spoken suffice to remind you; but after a few words, we must come to the narrative.
VERSE 18. Eleazar, one of the principal scribes, a man already well advanced in years, and of a noble countenance, was compelled to open his mouth to eat swine’s flesh.
one of the principal scribes. Eleazar is one of the greatest scribes alive.
compelled to open his mouth to eat swine’s flesh. Eleazar is compelled to eat pork.
VERSE 19. But he, welcoming death with honor rather than life with defilement, advanced of his own accord to the instrument of torture, but first spat out the flesh,
spat out the flesh. Eleazar is making a choice. He is choosing to die for the faith, rather than live.
VERSE 20. as men ought to come who are resolute to repel such things as not even for the natural love of life is it lawful to taste.
VERSE 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 proper 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;
VERSE 22. that by so doing he might be delivered from death, and so his ancient friendship with them might be treated kindly.
VERSE 23. But he, having formed a high resolve, and one that became his years, the dignity of old age, and the gray hairs which he had reached with honor, and his excellent education from a child, or rather the holy laws of God’s ordaining, declared his mind accordingly, bidding them to quickly send him to Hades.
the gray hairs. The Greek text appears to be corrupt.
excellent education. Some authorities read “manner of life.”
the holy laws. In Greek, “legislation.”
VERSE 24. “For it doesn’t become our years to dissemble,” he said, “that many of the young should suppose that Eleazar, the man of ninety years, had gone over to an alien religion;
gone over to an alien religion. Eleazar will not forsake the faith.
VERSE 25. and so they, by reason of my deception, and for the sake of this brief and momentary life, would be led astray because of me, and I defile and disgrace myself in my old age.
VERSE 26. For even if for the present time I would remove from me the punishment of men, yet whether I live or die, I wouldn’t escape the hands of the Almighty.
whether I live or die. Eleazar is willing to die for the faith.
I wouldn’t escape the hands of the Almighty. Even after he dies, Eleazar knows he will be in the hand of the Most High God.
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VERSE 27. Therefore, by bravely parting with my life now, I will show myself worthy of my old age,
VERSE 28. and leave behind a noble example to the young to die willingly and nobly a glorious death for the revered and holy laws.” When he had said these words, he went immediately to the instrument of torture.
leave behind. In Greek, “one that has left behind.”
a noble example to the young. Eleazar chooses to be a great hero of the faith.
die willingly and nobly. The death of Eleazar will be a noble act.
for the revered and holy laws. Eleazar will die for the faith.
VERSE 29. 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,
The Greek text of this verse is uncertain.
VERSE 30. and when he was at the point to die with the blows, he groaned aloud and said, “To the Lord, who has the holy knowledge, it is manifest that, while I might have been delivered from death, I endure severe pains in my body by being scourged; but in soul I gladly suffer these things because of my fear of him.”
NAB translation. When [Eleazar] was about to die under the blows, he groaned and said: “The Lord in his holy knowledge knows full well that, although I could have escaped death, I am not only enduring terrible pain in my body from this scourging, but also suffering it with joy in my soul because of my devotion to him.””
the blows. Or “blows.” They are beating this elderly man to death.
joy in my soul. The 90 year-old Eleazar is a wise man of God. As he is being tortured to death, he says his devotion to God gives him joy in his soul!
May our devotion to God bring us inner joy as well.
VERSE 31. So this man also died like this, 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.
Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.