"At The Last Gasp"

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Last Updated on May 24, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 237

Context: The author of II Maccabees, though unknown, planned his treatise as an epitome of a five-volume history by Jason of Cyrene. In II Maccabees, Jerusalem is captured by Antiochus IV, King of Syria. Antiochus, in his attempt to supplant Judaism with the worship of Greek god, commits many atrocities against the Jewish people, including the martyrdom of seven brothers and their mother because of their refusal to eat pork, which is considered unclean in the Jewish law. The persecutors scalp, cut off the extremities, and finally fry in a tremendous frying pan each of the brothers and the mother. In the narrative, the sorrowful family watches the dreadful death of the oldest brother:

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So when the first was dead after this manner, they brought the next to make him a mocking stock: and when they had pulled off the skin of his head with the hair, they asked him if he would eat, before he were punished throughout the whole body in every limb.
But he answered in his own language, and said: I will not do it. Wherefore he also in the next place, received the torments of the first:
And when he was at the last gasp, he said thus: Thou indeed, O most wicked man, destroyest us out of this present life: but the King of the world will raise us up, who die for his laws, in the resurrection of eternal life.

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