Although there is no Hebrew word for martyrdom, 4th Maccabees interprets certain characters from 2nd Maccabees as being martyrs. They willingly die for their religious beliefs, and set an example for those who come after them. They live noble lives and die noble deaths by practicing self control and putting reason above emotion. Plato believed that the soul consisted of reason, courage, and desire, and that in order to be virtuous, one had to overcome desire through reason and courage. Eleazar and the 7 brothers did just that. Not only did they overcome the desire to eat swine, they overcame their emotions, and volunteered themselves for torture and death. Their mother, especially, had to fight against her emotions. She encouraged each of her sons, one by one, to live by the Law and embrace death. One of the 7 brothers offered up his limbs, declaring that they came from God, and that he would willingly lose them with the hope that God would give them back again.
While the 7 brothers demonstrated living and dying noble deaths, they put a distinctly Jewish spin on things. Before dying, they spoke of the concepts of resurrection and restoration. While dying a noble death in the Greco Roman world simply meant willingly dying for a cause in order to set a positive example, the 7 brothers believed that they would be rewarded for their sacrifice. Their bodies would be restored to them and they would receive everlasting life, while the king would suffer for his actions. It would seem that the author of 4th Maccabees saw their deaths as a turning point for the Jewish people. By dying, they offered themselves up as a sacrifice for the Israel’s sins, and turned God’s anger to mercy. And as a result, the Jewish people won the revolt. The concept of dying to achieve victory is also found in the concept of devotio.