Reading 158/341, 2 Maccabees 7.20-9.18a

[A] The Jewish martyrs are distinct from the Christian martyrs a few centuries later in that there is no sense of forgiveness. It took Jesus and his forgiveness from the Cross to make that possible.
[B] The title Friend is used here as it often is in the Old Testament to signify a cabinet level position in the government. This title appears in the New Testament when the Jews accuse Pilate of not being a "Friend of Caesar" which was his highest career goal, and when Jesus calls the Apostles "Friends", thereby signifying that he was placing them in charge of his Church.

...2 Maccabees...

But the mother was marvelous above all, and worthy of honorable memory, for when she saw her seven sons slain within the space of one day, she bore it with good courage, because of the hope that she had in the Lord. Indeed, she exhorted each of them in her own language, filled with courageous spirits, and stirring up her feminine thoughts with a manly stomach, she said to them, “I cannot tell how you came into my womb, for I neither gave you breath nor life, nor was it I who formed the limbs of each of you, but, without a doubt, the Creator of the world, who formed human reproduction, and found out the beginning of all things, will also of his own mercy give you breath and life again, as you do not now regard your own selves for his laws' sake.” Now Antiochus, thinking himself despised, and suspecting it to be a reproachful speech, while the youngest was yet alive, did not only exhort him by words, but also assured him with oaths, that he would make him both a rich and a happy man, if only he would turn from the laws of his fathers, and that also he would take him for his Friend, and trust him with his affairs. But when the young man would in no way hearken to him, the king called his mother, and exhorted her to counsel the young man to save his life, and when he had exhorted her with many words, she promised him that she would counsel her son. But she, bowing herself toward him, laughing the cruel tyrant to scorn, spoke in her native language in this manner: “O my son, have pity upon me who bore you nine months in my womb, and nursed you for three years, and nourished you, and brought you up to this age, and endured the troubles of education. I beseech you, my son, look at heaven and the earth, and all that is therein, and consider that God made them of things that were not, and so was mankind made likewise. Fear not this tormentor, but, being worthy of your brothers, accept your death that I may receive you again in mercy with your brothers.” While she was yet speaking these words, the young man said, “Whom are you waiting for? I will not obey the king's commandment, but I will obey the commandment of the law that was given unto our fathers by Moses. And you, who have been the author of all mischief against the Hebrews, shall not escape the hands of God. For we suffer because of our sins. And though the living Lord is angry with us for a little while toward our chastening and correction, yet he shall be at one again with his servants. But you, O godless man, and of all other most wicked, be not lifted up without a cause, nor puffed up with uncertain hopes, lifting up your hand against the servants of God, for you have not yet escaped the judgment of Almighty God, who sees all things. For our brothers, who now have suffered a short pain, are dead under God's covenant of everlasting life, but you, through the judgment of God, shall receive just punishment for your pride. But I, like my brothers, offer up my body and life for the laws of our fathers, beseeching God that he would speedily be merciful unto our nation, and that you by torments and diseases may confess that he alone is God, and that with me and my brothers the wrath of the Almighty, which is justly brought upon our nation, may cease.” Than the king, being in a rage, handed him over to worse than all the rest, and took it grievously that he was mocked. So this man died undefiled, and put his whole trust in the Lord. Last of all after the sons the mother died. Let this be enough now to have spoken concerning the idolatrous feasts, and the extreme tortures.

Then Judas Maccabeus, and those who were with him, went secretly into the towns, and called their kinsfolk together, and took with them all those who continued in the Jewish religion, and assembled about 6000 men. And they called upon the Lord, that he would look upon the people who were trodden down by all, and also pity the temple profaned by ungodly men, that he would have compassion upon the city, badly defaced, and ready to be razed to the ground, and hear the blood that cried out to him, and remember the wicked slaughter of harmless infants, and the blasphemies committed against his name, and that he would show his hatred for evil. Now when Maccabeus had his company with him, he could not be withstood by the heathen, for the wrath of the Lord was turned to mercy. Therefore he came at them unaware, and burnt up towns and cities, and put into his hands the best places, and overcame and put to flight no small number of his enemies. He especially took advantage of the night for such secret attempts, so much so that the rumor of his virtue was spread everywhere.

So when Philip saw that this man increased by little and little, and that things prospered with him still more and more, he wrote to Ptolemy, the governor of Coelesyria and Phoenicia, to yield more aid to the king's affairs. Then right away he chose Nicanor, the son of Patroclus, one of his Special Friends. He sent him with no fewer than 20,000 from all nations under him, to wipe out the whole nation of the Jews, and with him he joined also Gorgias a captain, who in matters of war had great experience. Nicanor planned to make enough money from the captive Jews to defray the tribute of 2000 talents, which the king had to pay to the Romans. Therefore, he immediately sent messages to the cities on the sea coast, proclaiming a sale of the captive Jews, and promising that they would have 90 bodies for 1 talent, not expecting the vengeance that was to follow upon him from the Almighty God. Now when word was brought to Judas of Nicanor's coming, and he had shared with those who were with him that the army was at hand, those who were fearful, and distrusted the justice of God, fled, and got themselves away. The others sold all that they had left, and sought the Lord to deliver them, sold by the wicked Nicanor before they met together, if not for their own sakes, yet for the covenants he had made with their fathers, and for his holy and glorious name's sake, by which they were called. So Maccabeus called his men together numbering 6000, and exhorted them not to be stricken with terror of the enemy, nor to fear the great multitude of the heathen, who came wrongly against them, but to fight manfully, and to set before their eyes the injury that they had unjustly done to the holy place, and the cruel handling of the city, of which they made a mockery, and also the taking away of the government of their forefathers. “For they”, said he, “trust in their weapons and boldness, but our confidence is in the Almighty who at a finger movement can cast down both those who come against us, and also the whole world.” Moreover, he recounted to them what helps their forefathers had found, and how they were delivered, when under Sennacherib 185,000 perished. And he told them of the battle that they had in Babylon with the Galatians, how they were but 8000 in all at the battle, with 4000 Macedonians, and that the Macedonians being afraid, the 8000 destroyed 120,000 because of the help that they had from heaven, and so received a great booty. Thus when he had made them bold with these words, and ready to die for the law and the country, he divided his army into four parts, and joined with himself his own brothers, leaders of each band, namely Simon, and Joseph, and Jonathan, giving each one 1500 men. Also he appointed Eleazar to read the holy book, and when he had given them this watchword, “The help of God”, with he himself leading the first band, by the help of the Almighty, they slew more than 9000 of their enemies, and wounded and maimed the greater part of Nicanor's army, and so put all to flight, and took the money from those who came to buy them, and pursued them far, but lacking time they returned, for it was the day before the Sabbath, and therefore they would no longer pursue them.

So when they had gathered their armor together, and spoiled their enemies, they occupied themselves about the Sabbath, yielding exceeding praise and thanks to the Lord, who had preserved them that day, which was the beginning of mercy distilling upon them. And after the Sabbath, when they had given part of the spoils to the maimed, and the widows, and orphans, what remained they divided among themselves and their servants. When this was done, and they had made a common supplication, they sought the merciful Lord to be reconciled with his servants forever. Moreover, of those who were with Timotheus and Bacchides, who fought against them, they slew more than 20,000, and very easily got high places and strongholds, and divided among themselves many spoils more, and made the maimed, orphans, widows, and the aged too, equal in spoils with themselves. And when they had gathered their armor together, they laid them up all carefully in convenient places, and the remnant of the spoils they brought to Jerusalem. They slew also Philarches, that wicked person, who was with Timotheus, and had abused the Jews in many ways. Furthermore, at such time as they kept the feast for the victory in their country they burnt Callisthenes, that had set the holy gates on fire, who had fled into a little house, and so he received a reward fitting for his wickedness. As for that most ungracious Nicanor, who had brought a 1000 merchants to buy the Jews, he was, through the help of the Lord, brought down by them of whom he had had little respect, and taking off his glorious apparel, and discharging his company, he came like a fugitive servant through the midland to Antioch having very great dishonor, since his army was destroyed. Thus he, who had planned to make pay to the Romans their tribute by means of captives in Jerusalem, told abroad, that the Jews had God to fight for them, and therefore they could not be hurt, because they followed the laws that he gave them.

About that time, Antiochus came with dishonor out of the country of Persia, for he had entered the city called Persepolis, and went to rob the temple, and to hold the city, at which the multitude ran to defend themselves with their weapons and put them to flight, and so it happened, that Antiochus being put to flight by the inhabitants, returned with shame. Now when he came to Ecbatane, news was brought him what had happened to Nicanor and Timotheus. Then swelling with anger, he intended to take revenge on the Jews for the disgrace done to him by those who made him flee. Therefore, he commanded his chariot driver to drive without ceasing, and to complete the journey, the judgment of God now following him. For he had spoken proudly in this way: that he would come to Jerusalem and make it a common burying place of the Jews. But the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, smote him with an incurable and invisible disease; as soon as he had spoken these words, a pain of the bowels that was remediless came upon him, and awful torments of the inner parts, and that most justly, for he had tormented other men's bowels with many and strange torments. Nevertheless, he did not at all cease from his bragging, but still was filled with pride, breathing out fire in his rage against the Jews, and commanding to hasten the journey, but it came to pass that he fell down from his chariot, falling violently, so that having a serious fall, all the members of his body were in great pain. And thus he who a little before thought he might command the waves of the sea, (so proud was he beyond the condition of man) and weigh the high mountains in a balance, was now cast on the ground, and carried on a horse-stretcher, showing forth to all the manifest power of God. So that the worms rose up out of the body of this wicked man, and while he yet lived in sorrow and pain, his flesh fell away, and the filth of his smell was bothersome to his whole army. And the man, who had thought a little before that he could reach to the stars of heaven, no man could endure to carry for his intolerable stench. Here therefore, being diseased, he began to abandon his great pride, and to come to the knowledge of himself by the scourge of God, his pain increasing every moment. And when he himself could not abide his own smell, he said these words, “It is fitting to be subject to God, and that a man who is mortal should not proudly think of himself if he were God.” This wicked person even vowed to the Lord, who now no longer would have mercy upon him, saying that the holy city, to the which he was going in haste to lay it to the ground, and to make it a common graveyard, he would set at liberty, and as concerned the Jews, whom he had judged not worthy enough to be buried, but to be cast out with their children to be devoured by the fowls and wild beasts, he would make them all equals to the citizens of Athens, and the holy temple, which before he had spoiled, he would garnish with goodly gifts, and restore all the holy vessels with many more, and out of his own revenue defray the charges belonging to the sacrifices, indeed, and that also he would become a Jew himself, and go through all the world that was inhabited, and declare the power of God. But for all this his pains would not cease, for the just judgment of God had come upon him.

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