Not long after this, the king sent an old man of Athens to compel the Jews to depart from the laws of their fathers, and not to live according to the laws of God,
and to pollute also the temple in Jerusalem and to call it the temple of Jupiter Olympius, and that in Gerizim, of Jupiter the Defender of Strangers, as they desired who dwelt in the place.
The coming in of this evil was sore and grievous to the people.
For the temple was filled with riot and reveling by the Gentiles, who dallied with harlots, and had to do with women within the circuit of the holy places and, besides that, brought in things that were not lawful.
The altar also was filled with profane things, which the law forbiddeth.
Neither was it lawful for a man to keep Sabbath days or ancient feasts, or to profess himself at all to be a Jew.
And on the day of the king's birth, every month they were brought under bitter constraint to eat of the sacrifices; and when the feast of Bacchus was kept, the Jews were compelled to go in procession to Bacchus, carrying ivy.
Moreover, by the suggestion of Ptolemy, there went out a decree to the neighboring cities of the heathen against the Jews: that they should observe the same customs and be partakers of their sacrifices;
and whoso would not conform themselves to the manners of the Gentiles should be put to death. Then might a man have seen the present misery.
For there were two women brought who had circumcised their children; and when they had been openly led round about the city with the babes hanging at their breasts, they cast them down headlong from the wall.
And others who had run together into caves near by to keep the Sabbath day secretly, being discovered by Philip, were all burned together, because they had a conscience against helping themselves because of the honor of the most sacred day.
Now I beseech those who read this book that they be not discouraged by these calamities, but that they judge those punishments not to be for destruction, but as a chastening of our nation.
For it is a token of His great goodness when wicked doers are not suffered any long time, but forthwith punished.
For as with other nations, whom the Lord patiently forbeareth to punish till they have come to the fullness of their sins, so He dealeth not with us,
lest that, having come to the height of sin, afterwards He should take vengeance on us.
And therefore He never withdraweth His mercy from us; and though He punish with adversity, yet doth He never forsake His people.
But let this that we have spoken be as a warning unto us. And now will we come to the declaring of the matter in a few words.
Eleazar, one of the principal scribes, an aged man and of a well-favored countenance, was constrained to open his mouth and to eat swine's flesh.
But he, choosing rather to die gloriously than to live stained with such an abomination, spat it forth and came of his own accord to the torment,
as it behooved those to come who are resolute to stand up against such things that are not lawful, for love of life, to be tasted.
But those who had the charge of that wicked feast, because of the old acquaintance they had with the man, taking him aside, besought him to bring flesh from his own provision, such as was lawful for him to use, and make as if he ate of the flesh taken from the sacrifice commanded by the king,
that in so doing he might be delivered from death and, because of the old friendship, find favor with them.
But he began to consider discreetly, and as became his age and the excellency of his ancient years, and the honor of his gray head to which he had come, and his most honest education as a child, or rather, the holy law made and given by God therefore he answered accordingly, and willed them straightway to send him to the grave.
"For it becometh not our age," said he, "in any wise to dissemble, whereby many young persons might think that Eleazar, being fourscore years old and ten, had now gone to a strange religion.
And so they, through mine hypocrisy and desire to live a little time and a moment longer, should be deceived by me, and I get a stain upon mine old age and make it abominable.
For though for the present time I would be delivered from the punishment of men, yet should I not escape the hand of the Almighty, neither alive nor dead.
Therefore now, manfully exchanging this life, I will show myself such a one as mine age requireth,
and leave a notable example to such as are young, to die willingly and courageously for the honorable and holy laws." And when he had said these words, immediately he went to the torment.
And those who led him changed the good will they bore him a little before into hatred, because the aforesaid speeches proceeded, as they thought, from a desperate mind.
But when he was ready to die with stripes, he groaned and said, "It is manifest unto the Lord, who hath the holy knowledge, that whereas I might have been delivered from death, I now endure sore pains in body by being beaten, but in soul am well content to suffer these things, because I fear Him."
And thus this man died, leaving his death as an example of a noble courage and a memorial of virtue not only unto young men, but unto all his nation.