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4 Maccabees 9Common English Bible (CEB)

“What are you waiting for, tyrant? We are ready to die rather than sin against the commandments handed down by our ancestors! We would be a disgrace to our parents if we didn’t maintain our commitment to the Law and to Moses our chief advisor. You, tyrant, advise lawless behavior. In your hatred for us, don’t pity us more than we pity ourselves! We consider your pity, which offers safety at the cost of breaking our Law, to be more bitter than death. You are trying to frighten us with threats of torture and death as if you’ve learned nothing from Eleazar just a short while ago. If the old men among the Hebrews fulfilled their duty toward God by enduring torture for the sake of godly character, it would be even more appropriate for us who are young to die with contempt for the same torture that our aged teacher defeated. So put us to the test, tyrant! Even if you are able to kill us because of our godly character, don’t think that you can truly harm us by these tortures. We will gain the awards of moral character through this suffering, and we will be with God, for whose sake we suffer. You, however, will be tortured forever by divine justice, as your cruel thirst for blood deserves.”

The first brother’s torture and response

10 When they had said these things, the tyrant was not only upset by their disobedience but was also infuriated by their ungratefulness. 11 He gave the word, and the soldiers brought the oldest brother forward. They tore off his clothing and tied his arms and hands on each side with leather straps. 12 The soldiers beat him with whips until they were completely tired out, without accomplishing anything. So they tied him to the wheel. 13 They stretched the honorable young man around this instrument until all his limbs were pulled out of joint. 14 Although every part of his body was broken, he spoke out against the tyrant, saying, 15 “You bloodstained tyrant, you are an enemy of divine justice, and you have the mind of a savage! You don’t abuse me like this because I have murdered someone or acted in a way that wasn’t godly but because I protect God’s Law!”

16 The guards said, “Say that you will eat pork so that you can be set free from these tortures!”

17 But he replied, “You dirty thugs! The wheel is not stretched tight enough to choke off my mind! Keep cutting my limbs, burning my flesh, and twisting my joints. 18 Through all of this suffering, I will persuade you that the Israelites alone can’t be defeated when it comes to moral character!” 19 While he was still saying these words, they spread fiery coals below him. They fanned the flames and tightened the wheel even more. 20 By this point, the wheel was covered in blood, the burning coals were being put out by the gory drippings, and chunks of flesh were falling off parts of the machine. 21 Even with all the ligaments of his bones severed, the dignified son of Abraham didn’t cry out loud. 22 Instead, he endured the torture with honor, as if he were transformed by the fire into a life without end. He said, 23 “Imitate me, brothers. Don’t desert your post in this contest or deny the courage we share as brothers! 24 Fight the holy and dignified battle for our godly way of life. The just providence that watched over our ancestors might become merciful toward our nation and might punish this cursed tyrant through that battle!” 25 After he had said these words, the devout youth died.[a]

The second brother’s torture and response

26 While everyone was still in awe over the oldest son’s strong will, the guards dragged forward the next-oldest son. They put on iron gloves with sharp claws and tied the young man to the torture device. 27 Before they began to torture him, they asked if he would eat pork. When they heard his courageous answer, 28 they acted like wild leopards. They ripped out his muscles with their iron claws, tore his flesh all the way up to his chin, and tore his scalp off. He bore the pain with difficulty and said: 29 “Any kind of death is sweet for the sake of the godly way of life of our ancestors!” Then he said to the tyrant, 30 “You are the most barbaric tyrant of all. Don’t you think that you are being tortured worse than I am, since you are seeing the proud logic of tyranny defeated by our endurance for the sake of our godly way of life? 31 I ease my pain with the pleasure that comes from godly character. 32 But you are tortured by the threats that hang over your head, because you have no respect for God. You bloodstained tyrant, you won’t escape the revenge of divine wrath!”

Footnotes:

  1. 4 Maccabees 9:25 Or snapped the thread of life
Common English Bible (CEB)

Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible

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