The tyrant Antiochus was sitting in a high place surrounded by his advisors and armed guards.
He ordered his soldiers to bring the Hebrews forward one by one and to force them to eat pork and meat from animals sacrificed to idols.
If anyone refused to eat the forbidden meat, they were supposed to be tortured to death by being stretched on a wheel.
When they rounded up many people, the guards dragged Eleazar forward as the first from the herd to stand in front of the king. He was a man from a priestly family, a legal expert, and quite old. He was known to many in the tyrant's court because he had been around for so long.
Antiochus looked at him and said,
"Old man, before I begin to have you tortured, I would advise you to eat the pork and save yourself.
I respect your old age. Even though you have had gray hair for a long time, you don't seem to have a mature understanding of things, since you observe the Jewish religion.
Why are you disgusted by eating this animal's delicious meat? It's a gift that nature has given to us.
It's stupid not to enjoy pleasant things that aren't shameful, and it's wrong to refuse nature's gifts.
I will think that you are even more stupid if you continue to disobey me to your own disadvantage for the sake of your brainless ideas about the truth.
Come on! Wake up from your silly philosophy, and get rid of your brainless thinking! Adopt an attitude that is more appropriate for a mature person, and adopt a philosophy that is to your advantage!
Take pity on your old age, and respect my generous advice.
Think about this: if there is some power watching over you and your religion, it will excuse you for any action against the Law if you are compelled to do it."
When the tyrant had finished pressuring Eleazar to eat forbidden food, Eleazar asked to say something.
Antiochus gave him permission, and Eleazar began to give the following speech:
“Antiochus, we are persuaded to live our lives in line with the divine Law! We think that nothing is more compelling than our obedience to the Law.
That's why we don't think it's right to disobey the Law under any circumstances.
“Even if, as you assume, our Law were not truly divine and we were wrong to think it is divine, even then it would be wrong for us to ruin our reputation for our godly way of life.
So don't think it's a minor sin for us to eat forbidden foods.
Whether we disobey the Law in a small matter or a big one, it is equally important,
because we are showing equal contempt for the Law itself.
“You look down on our way of life as though living this way were unreasonable.
However, our way of life teaches us self-control, so that we can have control over any pleasure or desire. It trains us to be brave, so that we willingly bear any suffering.
It educates us about justice, so that it is always our custom to treat everyone fairly. It educates us in the godly way of life, so that we worship with due respect the only God who really exists.
"So we don't eat forbidden foods. We believe that God gave us the Law. The creator of the cosmic order has shown us compassion by giving us the Law in accordance with nature.
He has allowed us to eat what is most appropriate for our lives, but he has forbidden us to eat meat that would interfere with our welfare.
You are acting like a tyrant, trying not only to force us to break our Law but you are trying also to make us eat forbidden food that we hate just so you can make fun of us.
You won't have a chance to laugh at me.
I'm not going to break the sacred promises my ancestors made to keep the Law,
not even if you dig out my eyes and set my guts on fire.
I'm not so old and cowardly that I can't exhibit youthful strength in my mind out of respect for God.
Get your torture devices ready, and build up the fires to make them burn hotter.
I don't pity my old age so much that I will tear down the Law of my ancestors by my actions.
I won't prove disloyal to the Law that made me who I am today. I won't renounce the virtue of self-control that I value so dearly.
I won't put my own philosophical principle to shame, nor renounce the honor of my priestly office or my knowledge of the Law.
But as for you, King, you won't pollute my mouth that I have kept pure all of my life nor my long life of living under the Law.
My ancestors will welcome me as pure: as a person who isn't afraid of your violence, even to the point of death.
You may intimidate a person who has no sense of God, but you won't dominate my religious principles with either your words or your actions!"