Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary, 1859 edition.

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2 MACHABEES - Chapter 6

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2 Machabees vi.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 1. After, the year [of the world] 3837. --- Old, or senator. Greek, "Atheneus," or "an Athenian senator."

Ver. 2. Olympius. They thought this idol agreed best with the idea of the God of heaven, changing the names of the deities, where they had dominion. Other nations made no resistance: but the Jews knew better. (Calmet) --- Garizim; viz., the temple of the Samaritans. And as they were originally strangers, the name of Hospitalis (which signifies of or belonging to strangers) was applicable to the idol set up in their temple. (Challoner) --- The Samaritans in time of danger, denied that they had any thing to do with the Jews, pretending to be of Sidonian extraction. They even requested that their temple might be dedicated to the Greek Jupiter. (Josephus, Antiquities xii. 7.) --- Yet Epiphanes chose "the Hospitaller." (Calmet) --- Sannaballat procured this temple to be erected in the days of Alexander; and Ananias built another in Egypt, under Philometor. Both were schismatical. (Josephus, Antiquities xi. 8., and xv. 6. (Worthington)

Ver. 4. Lewd. Priests on duty were not even allowed to approach to their wives, and the most pure women had no right to go into the interior of the temple. (Calmet) And. Greek, "in the courts, and also bringing in improper things." (Haydock)

Ver. 6. Jew. None did this except he were legally questioned. It would have unnecessarily brought on a persecution. (Haydock) --- The very name was become criminal, as that of Christian was afterwards. (Calmet)

Ver. 7. Sacrifices. Greek, "each month, to the sacrifice (and feast) of entrails," (Haydock) which were given back to him who presented the victim. (Grotius) --- The eastern kings celebrated their birth-days; Epiphanes did it every month, 1 Machabees i. 61., and Matthew xiv. 6. --- About. Greek, "to follow the march;" pompeuein. (Calmet) --- Protestants, "to go in procession to Bacchus, carrying ivy." Ward (Err. p. 114) reads pompaduein, and refers the reader to the lexicon to see if there be any thing in it like the Catholic processions, or whether it signify so much as "to go about," as other Protestant Bibles translate it. These interpreters frequently use Catholic terms, where they might render them odious. (Id.[Ward, Err. p. 114.?]) (Haydock)

Ver. 8. Ptolemeans, who resided at Ptolemais. (Calmet) --- Most Greek copies have Ptolemee, chap. iv. 45. (Haydock) --- We find that many of the neighbouring nations invaded the Jews, but were repressed by Judas, 1 Machabees v. 15.

Ver. 10. Women. See 1 Machabees i. 64., &c. (Calmet) --- Besides the former massacres, (chap. v.) four great martyrdoms are here recorded: first, of two women, with their children; second, of others keeping the sabbath; third, of Eleazar, ninety years old; and fourthly, of the seven brethren, with their mother, chap. vii. (Worthington)

Ver. 11. Philip, the governor of Jerusalem. (Challoner) --- Chap. v. 22. (Haydock) --- See 1 Machabees ii. 31. (Calmet)

Ver. 12. Now. A necessary caution for the weak in times of persecution. (Worthington) --- See chap. vii. 32., and Judith viii. 22., and 1 Machabees ii. 52.

Ver. 13. Punished, lest they should become incorrigible. When God neglects to do this, his anger is most terrible, Ezechiel xvi. 42. (Calmet)

Ver. 14. Sins. God seems at present to take no notice of the crimes of the Gentiles, or he exterminates them at once, as he did the Chanaanites, Sodom, &c. But the Jews he corrects for their amendment and trial. The sages of paganism never inculcated such excellent maxims.

Ver. 18. Scribes; a priest. (St. Ambrose) --- He suffered at Antioch, before the king, chap. vii. 1. (Josephus, [Antiquities?] l. 2.) --- The Fathers highly extol his fortitude and virtue, styling him the father of the seven brothers, and the protomartyr of the old law. (Calmet) --- Yet we find others unnamed suffering before him, ver. 10. (Haydock) --- Eleazar was learned in the Scriptures, and in all divine and human knowledge. (Worthington)

Ver. 19. Hateful. Greek, "criminal life, and went first of his own accord to be bastinaded;" tumpanizesthai. (Haydock) --- St. Paul probably alluded to this torment, Hebrews xi. 35. It was used among the Jews. (Calmet, Diss.)

Ver. 20. Life. He would not eat swine's flesh to save it. Greek, "But spitting it out, (as those ought to come forward who expect to be tortured; or avenged. amunesthai) of which things it is not lawful to taste through love of life." (Haydock)

Ver. 21. Wicked pity. Their pity was wicked, in as much as it suggested that wicked proposal of saving his life by dissimulation. (Challoner) --- To feign or make outward shew of consenting to a false religion, is never lawful. (Worthington) --- Greek, "They were set over that wicked feast or sacrifice," splagchnismo, (Haydock) in which the entrails were eaten. (Calmet) --- In this sense the term is used [in] ver. 7 and 8 by the Vulgate. Here Pity is preferred, as the man seemed to be actuated by it. (Haydock) --- This generous martyr would not scandalize the weak, by doing a thing in itself lawful, which would have been deemed a prevarication. He was guided by those excellent maxims which Christ, St. Paul, and St. Saba (Mart. Ap. xii.) have inculcated and practised, Matthew xviii. 7., and Romans xiv. 14., and 1 Corinthians viii. 4, 10. (Calmet)

Ver. 23. The other. Literally, "hell," or the grave. (Haydock) --- Under the old law the saints could not enter heaven, but at their departure were detained in limbo. (Worthington) --- Some holy doctors have declared that they would rather go to hell than commit a sin. (St. Anselm) --- They understand by hell the torments of that place, but not the opposition to God's will, which is found in the damned, and constitutes one of the greatest of their pains. (Haydock)

Ver. 24. Age. "Old age ought to be the haven, not the shipwreck, of a former life." (St. Ambrose, de Jacob.) (Worthington)

Ver. 26. Dead. Nothing could be more express for the torments after death. As the time of the Messias drew near, these truths were more developed, chap. vii. 9., and Wisdom v. 16., and Psalm i. 6. (Calmet) (Grotius) (Matthew xii. 32.)

Ver. 30. Pains. Some of the martyrs seem not to have felt their torments. God made them suffer no more than they could bear. (Haydock)

Bible Text & Cross-references:

Antiochus commands the law to be abolished, sets up an idol in the temple, and persecutes the faithful. The martyrdom of Eleazar.

1 But not long after the king sent *a certain old man of Antioch, to compel the Jews to depart from the laws of their fathers and of God:

2 And to defile the temple that was in Jerusalem, and to call it the temple of Jupiter Olympius: and that in Garizim, of Jupiter Hospitalis, according as they were that inhabited the place.

3 And very bad was this invasion of evils, and grievous to all.

4 For the temple was full of the riot and revellings of the Gentiles: and of men lying with lewd women. And women thrust themselves of their accord into the holy places, and brought in things that were not lawful.

5 The altar also was filled with unlawful things, which were forbidden by the laws.

6 And neither were the sabbaths kept, nor the solemn days of the fathers observed, neither did any man plainly profess himself to be a Jew.

7 But they were led by bitter constraint on the king's birth-day to the sacrifices: and when the feast of Bacchus was kept, they were compelled to go about crowned with ivy in honour of Bacchus.

8 And there went out a decree into the neighbouring cities of the Gentiles, by the suggestion of the Ptolemeans, that they also should act in like manner against the Jews, to oblige them to sacrifice:

9 And whosoever would not conform themselves to the ways of the Gentiles, should be put to death: then was misery to be seen.

10 *For two women were accused to have circumcised their children: whom, when they had openly led about through the city, with the infants hanging at their breasts, they threw down headlong from the walls.

11 And others that had met together in caves that were near, and were keeping the sabbath day privately, being discovered by Philip, were burnt with fire, because they made a conscience to help themselves with their hands, by reason of the religious observance of the day.

12 Now I beseech those that shall read this book, that they be not shocked at these calamities, but that they consider the things that happened, not as being for the destruction, but for the correction of our nation.

13 For it is a token of great goodness, when sinners are not suffered to go on in their ways for a long time, but are presently punished.

14 For, not as with other nations, (whom the Lord patiently expecteth, that when the day of judgment shall come, he may punish them in the fulness of their sins)

15 Doth he also deal with us, so as to suffer our sins to come to their height, and then take vengeance on us.

16 And therefore he never withdraweth his mercy from us: but though he chastise his people with adversity, he forsaketh them not.

17 But let this suffice in a few words for a warning to the readers. And now we must come to the narration.

18 Eleazar, one of the chief of the scribes, a man advanced in years, and of a comely countenance, was pressed to open his mouth to eat swine's flesh.

19 But he, choosing rather a most glorious death than a hateful life, went forward voluntarily to the torment.

20 And considering in what manner he was come to it, patiently bearing, he determined not to do any unlawful things for the love of life.

21 But they that stood by, being moved with wicked pity, for the old friendship they had with the man, taking him aside, desired that flesh might be brought, which it was lawful for him to eat, that he might make as if he had eaten, as the king had commanded, of the flesh of the sacrifice:

22 That by so doing he might be delivered from death; and for the sake of their old friendship with the man, they did him this courtesy.

23 But he began to consider the dignity of his age, and his ancient years, and the inbred honour of his grey head, and his good life and conversation from a child; and he answered without delay, according to the ordinances of the holy law made by God, saying, that he would rather be sent into the other world.

24 For it doth not become our age, said he, to dissemble: whereby many young persons might think that Eleazar, at the age of fourscore and ten years, was gone over to the life of the heathens:

25 And so they, through my dissimulation, and for a little time of a corruptible life, should be deceived, and hereby I should bring a stain and a curse upon my old age.

26 For though, for the present time, I should be delivered from the punishments of men, yet should I not escape the hand of the Almighty neither alive nor dead.

27 Wherefore, by departing manfully out of this life, I shall shew myself worthy of my old age:

28 And I shall leave an example of fortitude to young men, if with a ready mind and constancy I suffer an honourable death, for the most venerable and most holy laws. And having spoken thus, he was forthwith carried to execution.

29 And they that led him, and had been a little before more mild, were changed to wrath for the words he had spoken, which they thought were uttered out of arrogancy.

30 But when he was now ready to die with the stripes, he groaned, and said: O Lord, who hast the holy knowledge, thou knowest manifestly that whereas I might be delivered from death, I suffer grevious pains in body: but in soul am well content to suffer these things, because I fear thee.

31 Thus did this man die, leaving not only to young men, but also to the whole nation, the memory of his death, for an example of virtue and fortitude.



1: Year of the World 3837, Year before Christ 167.

10: 1 Machabees i. 68.