‘Such pretense is not worthy of our time of life.
Many of the young should suppose
That Eleazar in his ninetieth year
Has gone over to an alien religion.
Through my pretense,
For the sake of living a brief moment longer,
They should be led astray because of me.
While I defile and disgrace my old age.
Even if for the present I should avoid the punishment of mortals,
Yet whether I live or die
I will not escape the hands of the Almighty.
Therefore, by bravely giving up my life now,
I will show myself worthy of my old age.
I will leave to the young
A noble example of how
To die a good death willingly and nobly
For the revered and holy laws.’”
Much like Socrates, Eleazar gave a speech talking about an honorable death. He too was old man in his 90s. He did not have to corrupt the youth by giving the impression that he was worshiping an alien god. What was the use of doing this for a few more moments of life? Why should he disgrace his old age? Whether he lived or died, he could not escape the hands of the Almighty one. He wanted to leave a noble example of following the law for the young people. So he was willing to die for the law.
“Now on the fifteenth day of Chislev, in the one hundred forty-fifth year they erected a desolating sacrilege on the altar of burnt offerings. They also built altars in the surrounding towns of Judah. They offered incense at the doors of the houses and in the streets. The books of the law that they found they tore to pieces and burned with fire. Anyone found possessing the book of the covenant, or anyone who adhered to the law, was condemned to death by the decree of the king. They kept using violence against Israel, against those who were found month after month in the towns. On the twenty-fifth day of the month they offered sacrifice on the altar that was on top of the altar of burnt offering. According to the decree, they put to death the women who had their children circumcised. They put to death their families and those who circumcised them. They hung the infants from their mothers’ necks.”
Once again, we have specific days and years. Chislev was December of 167 BCE. The sacrilege mentioned might be the idol of Zeus. There will be more indications of this in the Book of Daniel and 2 Maccabees, which must be from about the same time period. They used the old altars with incense in the house and streets. When they found the book of the law, they tore it apart and burned it. Thus we have an early instance of the burning of books. Anyone who was following the Mosaic covenant was condemned to death. Violence was a way of life. They put to death any women who circumcised their children, plus their whole family. Then they would hang the infants on their mother’s necks. This seems like an especially brutal way to get rid of strange customs.