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The Martyrdom of Seven Brothers

It happened also that seven brothers and their mother were arrested and were being compelled by the king, under torture with whips and thongs, to partake of unlawful swine’s flesh. One of them, acting as their spokesman, said, “What do you intend to ask and learn from us? For we are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our ancestors.”

The king fell into a rage, and gave orders to have pans and caldrons heated. These were heated immediately, and he commanded that the tongue of their spokesman be cut out and that they scalp him and cut off his hands and feet, while the rest of the brothers and the mother looked on. When he was utterly helpless, the king[a] ordered them to take him to the fire, still breathing, and to fry him in a pan. The smoke from the pan spread widely, but the brothers[b] and their mother encouraged one another to die nobly, saying, “The Lord God is watching over us and in truth has compassion on us, as Moses declared in his song that bore witness against the people to their faces, when he said, ‘And he will have compassion on his servants.’”[c]

After the first brother had died in this way, they brought forward the second for their sport. They tore off the skin of his head with the hair, and asked him, “Will you eat rather than have your body punished limb by limb?” He replied in the language of his ancestors and said to them, “No.” Therefore he in turn underwent tortures as the first brother had done. And when he was at his last breath, he said, “You accursed wretch, you dismiss us from this present life, but the King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life, because we have died for his laws.”

10 After him, the third was the victim of their sport. When it was demanded, he quickly put out his tongue and courageously stretched forth his hands, 11 and said nobly, “I got these from Heaven, and because of his laws I disdain them, and from him I hope to get them back again.” 12 As a result the king himself and those with him were astonished at the young man’s spirit, for he regarded his sufferings as nothing.

13 After he too had died, they maltreated and tortured the fourth in the same way. 14 When he was near death, he said, “One cannot but choose to die at the hands of mortals and to cherish the hope God gives of being raised again by him. But for you there will be no resurrection to life!”

15 Next they brought forward the fifth and maltreated him. 16 But he looked at the king,[d] and said, “Because you have authority among mortals, though you also are mortal, you do what you please. But do not think that God has forsaken our people. 17 Keep on, and see how his mighty power will torture you and your descendants!”

18 After him they brought forward the sixth. And when he was about to die, he said, “Do not deceive yourself in vain. For we are suffering these things on our own account, because of our sins against our own God. Therefore[e] astounding things have happened. 19 But do not think that you will go unpunished for having tried to fight against God!”

20 The mother was especially admirable and worthy of honorable memory. Although she saw her seven sons perish within a single day, she bore it with good courage because of her hope in the Lord. 21 She encouraged each of them in the language of their ancestors. Filled with a noble spirit, she reinforced her woman’s reasoning with a man’s courage, and said to them, 22 “I do not know how you came into being in my womb. It was not I who gave you life and breath, nor I who set in order the elements within each of you. 23 Therefore the Creator of the world, who shaped the beginning of humankind and devised the origin of all things, will in his mercy give life and breath back to you again, since you now forget yourselves for the sake of his laws.”

24 Antiochus felt that he was being treated with contempt, and he was suspicious of her reproachful tone. The youngest brother being still alive, Antiochus[f] not only appealed to him in words, but promised with oaths that he would make him rich and enviable if he would turn from the ways of his ancestors, and that he would take him for his Friend and entrust him with public affairs. 25 Since the young man would not listen to him at all, the king called the mother to him and urged her to advise the youth to save himself. 26 After much urging on his part, she undertook to persuade her son. 27 But, leaning close to him, she spoke in their native language as follows, deriding the cruel tyrant: “My son, have pity on me. I carried you nine months in my womb, and nursed you for three years, and have reared you and brought you up to this point in your life, and have taken care of you.[g] 28 I beg you, my child, to look at the heaven and the earth and see everything that is in them, and recognize that God did not make them out of things that existed.[h] And in the same way the human race came into being. 29 Do not fear this butcher, but prove worthy of your brothers. Accept death, so that in God’s mercy I may get you back again along with your brothers.”

30 While she was still speaking, the young man said, “What are you[i] waiting for? I will not obey the king’s command, but I obey the command of the law that was given to our ancestors through Moses. 31 But you,[j] who have contrived all sorts of evil against the Hebrews, will certainly not escape the hands of God. 32 For we are suffering because of our own sins. 33 And if our living Lord is angry for a little while, to rebuke and discipline us, he will again be reconciled with his own servants.[k] 34 But you, unholy wretch, you most defiled of all mortals, do not be elated in vain and puffed up by uncertain hopes, when you raise your hand against the children of heaven. 35 You have not yet escaped the judgment of the almighty, all-seeing God. 36 For our brothers after enduring a brief suffering have drunk[l] of ever-flowing life, under God’s covenant; but you, by the judgment of God, will receive just punishment for your arrogance. 37 I, like my brothers, give up body and life for the laws of our ancestors, appealing to God to show mercy soon to our nation and by trials and plagues to make you confess that he alone is God, 38 and through me and my brothers to bring to an end the wrath of the Almighty that has justly fallen on our whole nation.”

39 The king fell into a rage, and handled him worse than the others, being exasperated at his scorn. 40 So he died in his integrity, putting his whole trust in the Lord.

41 Last of all, the mother died, after her sons.

42 Let this be enough, then, about the eating of sacrifices and the extreme tortures.


  1. 2 Maccabees 7:5 Gk he
  2. 2 Maccabees 7:5 Gk they
  3. 2 Maccabees 7:6 Gk slaves
  4. 2 Maccabees 7:16 Gk at him
  5. 2 Maccabees 7:18 Lat: Other ancient authorities lack Therefore
  6. 2 Maccabees 7:24 Gk he
  7. 2 Maccabees 7:27 Or have borne the burden of your education
  8. 2 Maccabees 7:28 Or God made them out of things that did not exist
  9. 2 Maccabees 7:30 The Gk here for you is plural
  10. 2 Maccabees 7:31 The Gk here for you is singular
  11. 2 Maccabees 7:33 Gk slaves
  12. 2 Maccabees 7:36 Cn: Gk fallen

There were also seven brothers who were arrested along with their mother. The king was trying to compel them to eat the forbidden pork by torturing them with whips and cords. One of them, speaking on behalf of the others, said, “What do you hope to ask and learn from us? We are prepared to die rather than sin against our ancestral laws.” The king became angry and commanded frying pans and cauldrons to be heated. As soon as they were hot, he commanded that the one acting as spokesman have his tongue cut out, be scalped, and have his hands and feet cut off while the rest of his brothers and his mother watched. After the brother was maimed and utterly helpless, the king commanded him to be brought to the fire and fried alive. Although the smoke from the pan had spread widely, the brothers and their mother encouraged each other to die honorably, saying, “The Lord God truly watches over us and will come to our aid. Moses testified to this in his song against them, saying, ‘God will have compassion on his servants.’”[a]

After the first brother died in this manner, they led forward the second one with mockery. They ripped off the skin of his head along with the hair and demanded, “Will you eat before every part of your body is punished limb by limb?”

But he answered in his native language, “Not at all.” Therefore, this brother also received in turn the same punishment as the first. With his last breath he said, “You, who are marked out for vengeance, may take our present life, but the king of the universe for whose laws we die will resurrect us again to eternal life.”

10 After this, the third one was mocked. When it was demanded, he put out his tongue quickly, extended his hands courageously, 11 and stated with dignity, “I have received these limbs from heaven, and I give them up for the sake of God’s laws. But I hope to recover them from God again.” 12 The king and those with him marveled at the young man’s spirit, since he considered his agonies nothing.

13 After this one had died, the tormenters tortured the fourth brother as well. 14 When the end was approaching, he said, “Death at the hands of humans is preferable, since we look forward to the hope that God gives of being raised by him. But for you there will be no resurrection to life.”

15 Immediately afterward, they led the fifth brother forward and began to torture him. 16 While looking at the king he said, “You, though human, have power among human beings and do what you want. But don’t think that God has abandoned our people. 17 Just wait and observe his great strength, when God will torture you and your children.”

18 After him they brought forward the sixth brother. As he was about to die, he said, “Don’t deceive yourself in vain. We suffer these things because of our own sins against our God. Things worthy of wonder have happened. 19 But don’t think you will escape unpunished after trying to fight against God.”

20 The mother was particularly amazing and worthy of an honorable memory. She watched her seven sons die in the course of a single day but accepted it with a stout heart because of her hope in the Lord. 21 She encouraged each of them in their native language. Filled with noble thoughts, she fired up her womanly reasoning with manly courage, saying to them, 22 “I don’t know how you grew in my womb, nor did I grant the breath of life to you or arrange what makes you who you are. 23 For this reason, the creator of the world—who brought about the beginning of humanity and searched out the origin of all things—will again mercifully give you both spirit and life, since you disregard yourselves because of his laws.”

24 Antiochus thought that he was being treated with contempt and was suspicious of the tone of her voice. So he appealed to the youngest son, since he was still alive, not only through words but also through solemn pledges. If the young man turned from his ancestral practices, Antiochus promised him, he would make him both rich and prosperous, he would be considered a political advisor,[b] and he would be entrusted with public affairs. 25 When the young man wouldn’t accept the offer by any means, the king appealed to the mother to counsel the boy to save himself. 26 After a great deal of urging, she agreed to try to persuade her son. 27 By leaning toward her son and mocking the savage tyrant, she spoke in their native language: “Son, pity me who carried you in the womb nine months, nursed you for three years, nurtured you, and brought you into this stage of life with care. 28 I beg you, child, to look at heaven and earth. See everything that is in them and know that God made these things from nothing, and created humankind in the same way. 29 Don’t fear this killer but prove worthy of your brothers. Accept death so that in God’s mercy I should recover you with your brothers.”

30 Just at the moment when she finished speaking,[c] the young man said, “What are you all waiting for? I don’t intend to obey the king’s order, but I hear the command of the Law given to our ancestors through Moses. 31 But you, King, who have invented all sorts of evil against the Hebrews, will by no means escape God’s power. 32 We are suffering because of our own sins. 33 If our living Lord is angry for a short time in order to rebuke and discipline us, he will again be reconciled with his own servants. 34 But you, unholy man, the most bloodstained of all people, don’t be so proud without having cause. Bloated by futile hope, you raise up your hand against the children of heaven. 35 You haven’t at all escaped the judgment of the almighty God, who oversees all. 36 Now our brothers, who endured pain for a short time, have been given eternal life under God’s covenant, but you will suffer the penalty of your arrogance by the righteous judgment of God. 37 Just like my brothers, I give up both body and life for the ancestral laws. I call upon God to be merciful to the nation without delay, and to make you confess, after you suffer trials and diseases, that only he is God. 38 Also I hope through me and my brothers to stop the anger of the almighty, who is justly punishing our entire nation.” 39 Bitterly annoyed at the young boy’s contempt, the king grew angry and treated him worse than the others. 40 And this brother then died with integrity, trusting entirely in the Lord. 41 Last, after her sons, the mother died.

42 So then with regard to the eating of sacrificial meats and the extreme tortures they suffered, let this account be sufficient.


  1. 2 Maccabees 7:6 See Deut 32:36
  2. 2 Maccabees 7:24 Or Friend
  3. 2 Maccabees 7:30 Correction; Gk uncertain