Heroic mother and sons stopped an evil King — the story of the Maccabees

August 4, 2014

MaccabeesIn the Sacred Scriptures we read of a mother who had seven sons whom she brought up from childhood to serve and love God. It happened that the tyrant Antiochus, who hated God and His holy religion, and who wished to root out of the Jewish nation the worship of the one true God, came to know of this family. He thought that as the children were as yet young, and had only their mother to watch over them, they would easily be brought to yield to his impious desires. But he forgot that that mother had brought up her little ones in the fear of God. It was this education that procured for them the victory in the day of trial.

When Antiochus asked the eldest son to obey his wicked command, this was the answer he received: “We are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of God received from our fathers.”

The Courage of a Mother by Gustave Doré

The Courage of a Mother by Gustave Doré

And when he asked the next in age, whom already he had caused to be inhumanly tortured, if he would renounce the practices of his religion, he answered: “I will not do it.” And when he was at the point of death, he said to the King: “Thou, indeed, O most wicked man, destroyest us out of the present life; but the King of the world will raise us up who die for His laws in the resurrection of eternal life.”

“After him,” says the Holy Scripture, “the third was made a mocking-stock, and when he was required he quickly put forth his tongue and courageously stretched out his hands, and said with confidence: ‘These I have from Heaven, but for the laws of God I now despise them, because I hope to receive them again from Him.’ So that the King and they that were with him wondered at the young man’s courage, because he esteemed the torments as nothing.

“And after he was thus dead, they tormented the fourth in the like manner. And when he was now ready to die, he spoke thus: ‘It is better, being put to death by men, to look for hope from God, to be raised up again by Him; for as to thee, thou shalt have no resurrection unto life.’

The Martyrdom of the Seven Maccabees.

The Martyrdom of the Seven Maccabees.

“And when they had brought the fifth they tormented him ; but he, looking upon the King, said: ‘Whereas thou hast power among men, though thou art corruptible, thou dost what thou wilt; but think not that our nation is forsaken by God, but stay patiently a while, and thou shalt see His great power, in what manner He will torment thee and thy seed.’

“After him they brought the sixth, and he, being ready to die, spoke thus: ‘Be not deceived without cause, for we suffer these things for ourselves, having sinned against our God, and things worthy of admiration are done to us. But do not think that thou shalt escape unpunished, for that thou hast attempted to fight against God.’

“Now Antiochus, thinking himself despised…when the youngest was yet alive, did not only exhort him by words, but also assured him with an oath that he would make him a rich and a happy man, and if he would turn from the laws of his father, would take him for a friend, and furnish him with all things necessary. But when the young man was not moved with these things, the King called the mother, and counseled her to deal with the young man to save his life. And when he had exhorted her with many words, she promised that she would counsel her son.

Photo of the Maccabees Shrine by Hans Peter Schaefer. The Relics of the Maccabees is at St. Andrew Church, in Cologne, Germany.

Photo of the Maccabees Shrine by Hans Peter Schaefer. The Relics of the Maccabees is at St. Andrew Church, in Cologne, Germany.

“So, bending herself towards him, she said in her own language: ‘My son, have pity upon me that bore thee nine months in my womb, and gave thee suck three years, and nourished thee and brought thee up unto this age. I beseech thee, my son, look upon Heaven and earth and all that is in them, and consider that God made them out of nothing, and mankind also. So thou shalt not fear this tormentor, but, being made a worthy partner with thy brethren, receive death, that in that mercy I may receive thee again with thy brethren.’

“And while she was yet speaking the young man said to the King: ‘For whom do you stay? I will not obey the commandment of the King, but the commandment of the law which was given us by Moses. But thou that hast been the author of all mischief against the Hebrews shalt not escape the hand of God. For we suffer for our sins, and though the Lord is angry with us a little while for our chastisement and correction, yet He will be reconciled to His servants….’


“Then the King, being incensed with anger, raged against him more cruelly than all the rest, taking it grievously that he was mocked. So this man also died undefiled, wholly trusting in the Lord. And last of all, after the sons, the mother also was consumed.”

2 Machabees vii.


Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 408

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