St. Eleazar ― An Old Testament Martyr “Advanced in Age”

St. Eleazar shares a feast day with the Holy Mother and her Seven Martyred Sons — Aug. 1

Gustave Doré, “The Martyrdom of Eleazar the Scribe,” 1866
Gustave Doré, “The Martyrdom of Eleazar the Scribe,” 1866 (photo: Public Domain)

Eleazar, one of the foremost scribes, a man advanced in age and of noble appearance, was being forced to open his mouth to eat pork. But preferring a glorious death to a life of defilement, he went forward of his own accord to the instrument of torture, spitting out the meat. ―2 Maccabees 6:18–20a

During the second century BC, King Antiochus IV of Syria (of the ancient Seleucid Dynasty) desired to have the Jews in Judea abandon the religious beliefs and customs of their ancestors and to conform to pagan traditions instead. Forces were sent to Jerusalem to desecrate the Temple and to prohibit Jews from honoring their religious practices.

Some of Antiochus’s troops were stunned, however, when they tried to break down the faith of an elderly scribe named Eleazar. His mouth had been forced open, and he was given some pork―a meat completely forbidden by Mosaic Law. Eleazar promptly spat out the pork, preferring death over spiritual abandonment.

Some of the king’s representatives had earlier come to know and admire Eleazar and wanted to spare his life. They pulled him aside and secretly told him that he could instead slip in some acceptable meat; that he could simply pretend to eat pork in order to convince those looking on.

Eleazar knew this trick would save his life; however, at the same time, the good man knew that such a ploy would confuse his fellow Jews, especially the young adults. He imagined that such an action would make it appear as though he had given in to the pressure to abandon his devotion to God, perhaps adversely influencing many. He feared others might consequently begin to forsake their loyalty to the Lord, as Eleazar himself would seem to have done.

The elderly Eleazar felt confident that facing martyrdom would be the best for his people, so he continued to refuse to eat or even pretend to eat the pork, forcing himself into martyrdom. During his torturous death, he spoke of his trust in God, that although he was in great pain, he also felt great joy because his heart had clung to the Lord.


5 Days of Bible Journaling with St. Eleazar

St. Eleazar shares a feast day with the Holy Mother and her Seven Martyred Sons — Aug. 1.  People who struggle with a sincere loyalty to God might want to turn to St. Eleazar for inspiration and prayers, for his example of holy faithfulness is most admirable! Consider getting to know St. Eleazar better by studying the five biblical passages below. Imagine yourself near St. Eleazar, watching his drama unfold. Compare his circumstances to yours today. Can he inspire you to bolster your trust in God, and to make any sacrifice needed to please God?

  • Day 1) 2 Maccabees 6:1–2
  • Day 2) 2 Maccabees 6:6, 9
  • Day 3) 2 Maccabees 6:18–23
  • Day 4) 2 Maccabees 6:24–31
  • Day 5) Leviticus 11:6–8