I was reading 2 Maccabees chapter 7,

7 After the first brother died in this manner, they led forward the second one with mockery. They ripped off the skin of his head along with the hair and demanded, “Will you eat before every part of your body is punished limb by limb?”

8 But he answered in his native language, “Not at all.” Therefore, this brother also received in turn the same punishment as the first.

9 With his last breath he said, “You, who are marked out for vengeance, may take our present life, but the king of the universe for whose laws we die will resurrect us again to eternal life.”


I am wondering if the refusal to speak Greek in this case was simply a way of rejecting every form of Hellenization (even linguistic) or if there is/was any halachic requirement that only Hebrew be spoken, at least in religious matters.


1 Answer 1


Avraham Kahanah in his Hebrew translation of the Apocrypha (source, bottom of pg. 201-202), wrote on this verse in Maccabees:

"בלשון אבות. אפשר לפרשו גם בלשון-האם, והוא בניגוד ללשונו של העריץ, שיוונית הייתה."

Translation: "In [his] fathers' tongue. It's possible to understand it also as in the mother's tongue, and it is in contrast to the tongue of the tyrant, which was Greek."

Therefore, it seems that the reason was out of want to reject Hellenism.

Similarly, later in the story it says:

"After a great deal of urging, she agreed to try to persuade her son. By leaning toward her son and mocking the savage tyrant, she spoke in their native language: “Son, pity me who carried you in the womb nine months, nursed you for three years, nurtured you, and brought you into this stage of life with care..." (ibid. 26-27)

Here the mother uses speaking in Hebrew to mock the king and tell her son to continue to stand in defiance. Presumably, her other son was echoing what he was taught by his mother prior to his tragic death, that preserving Hebrew is important and defies the whole of Hellenism.

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