On another occasion a Jewish mother and her seven sons were arrested. The king was having them beaten to force them to eat pork. 1
Then one of the young men said, "What do you hope to gain by doing this? We would rather die than abandon the traditions of our ancestors."
This made the king so furious that he gave orders for huge pans and kettles to be heated red hot,
and it was done immediately. Then he told his men to cut off the tongue of the one who had spoken and to scalp him and chop off his hands and feet, while his mother and six brothers looked on.
After the young man had been reduced to a helpless mass of breathing flesh, the king gave orders for him to be carried over and thrown into one of the pans. As a cloud of smoke streamed up from the pan, the brothers and their mother encouraged one another to die bravely, saying,
"The Lord God is looking on and understands our suffering. Moses made this clear when he wrote a song condemning those who had abandoned the Lord. He said, "The Lord will have mercy on those who serve him.' " 2
After the first brother had died in this way, the soldiers started amusing themselves with the second one by tearing the hair and skin from his head. Then they asked him, "Now will you eat this pork, or do you want us to chop off your hands and feet one by one?"
He replied in his native language, "I will never eat it!" So the soldiers tortured him, just as they had the first one,
but with his dying breath he cried out to the king, "You butcher! You may kill us, but the King of the universe will raise us from the dead and give us eternal life, because we have obeyed his laws."
The soldiers began entertaining themselves with the third brother. When he was ordered to stick out his tongue, he quickly did so. Then he bravely held out his hands
and courageously said, "God gave these to me. But his laws mean more to me than my hands, and I know God will give them back to me again."
The king and those with him were amazed at his courage and at his willingness to suffer.
After he had died, the soldiers tortured the fourth one in the same cruel way,
but his final words were, "I am glad to die at your hands, because we have the assurance that God will raise us from death. But there will be no resurrection to life for you, Antiochus!"
When the soldiers took the fifth boy and began torturing him,
he looked the king squarely in the eye and said, "You have the power to do whatever you want with us, even though you also are mortal. But do not think that God has abandoned our people.
Just wait. God will use his great power to torture you and your descendants."
Then the soldiers took the sixth boy, and just before he died he said, "Make no mistake. We are suffering what we deserve, because we have sinned against our God. That's why all these terrible things are happening to us.
But don't think for a minute that you will avoid being punished for fighting against God."
The mother was the most amazing one of them all, and she deserves a special place in our memory. Although she saw her seven sons die in a single day, she endured it with great courage because she trusted in the Lord.
She combined womanly emotion with manly courage and spoke words of encouragement to each of her sons in their native language.
"I do not know how your life began in my womb," she would say, "I was not the one who gave you life and breath and put together each part of your body.
It was God who did it, God who created the universe, the human race, and all that exists. He is merciful and he will give you back life and breath again, because you love his laws more than you love yourself."
Antiochus was sure that the mother was making fun of him, so he did his best to convince her youngest son to abandon the traditions of his ancestors. He promised not only to make the boy rich and famous, but to place him in a position of authority and to give him the title "Friend of the King."
But the boy paid no attention to him, so Antiochus tried to persuade the boy's mother to talk him into saving his life,
and after much persuasion she agreed to do so.
Leaning over her son, she fooled the cruel tyrant by saying in her native language, "My son, have pity on me. Remember that I carried you in my womb for nine months and nursed you for three years. I have taken care of you and looked after all your needs up to the present day.
So I urge you, my child, to look at the sky and the earth. Consider everything you see there, and realize that God made it all from nothing, just as he made the human race.
Don't be afraid of this butcher. Give up your life willingly and prove yourself worthy of your brothers, so that by God's mercy I may receive you back with them at the resurrection."
Before she could finish speaking, the boy said, "King Antiochus, what are you waiting for? I refuse to obey your orders. I only obey the commands in the Law which Moses gave to our ancestors.
You have thought up all kinds of cruel things to do to our people, but you won't escape the punishment that God has in store for you.
It is true that our living Lord is angry with us and is making us suffer because of our sins, in order to correct and discipline us. But this will last only a short while, for we are still his servants, and he will forgive us.
But you are the cruelest and most disgusting thing that ever lived. So don't fool yourself with illusions of greatness while you punish God's people.
There is no way for you to escape punishment at the hands of the almighty and all-seeing God.
My brothers suffered briefly because of our faithfulness to God's covenant, but now they have entered eternal life. But you will fall under God's judgment and be punished as you deserve for your arrogance.
I now give up my body and my life for the laws of our ancestors, just as my brothers did. But I also beg God to show mercy to his people quickly and to torture you until you are forced to acknowledge that he alone is God.
May my brothers and I be the last to suffer the anger of Almighty God, which he has justly brought upon our entire nation."
These words of ridicule made Antiochus so furious that he had the boy tortured even more cruelly than his brothers.
And so the boy died, with absolute trust in the Lord, never unfaithful for a minute.
Last of all, the mother was put to death.
But I have said enough about the Jews being tortured and being forced to eat the intestines of sacrificial animals.