“Jason set aside the existing royal concessions to the Jews, secured through John the father of Eupolemus, who went on the mission to establish friendship and alliance with the Romans. Jason destroyed the lawful ways of living. He introduced new customs contrary to the law. He took delight in establishing a gymnasium right under the citadel. He induced the noblest of the young men to wear the Greek hat. There was such an extreme Hellenization. There was an increase in the adoption of foreign ways because of the surpassing wickedness of Jason. He was ungodly and no true high priest. The priests were no longer intent upon their service at the altar. Despising the sanctuary and neglecting the sacrifices, they hurried to take part in the unlawful proceedings in the wrestling arena after the signal for the discus-throwing. They disdained the honors prized by their ancestors. They put the highest value upon Greek forms of prestige. For this reason heavy disaster overtook them. Those whose ways of living they admired and wished to imitate completely became their enemies and punished them. It is no light thing to show irreverence to the divine laws, a fact that later events will make clear.”
Jason set aside the royal concessions of the former King Seleucus IV. This had been part of the mission of John the father of Eupolemu who went to Rome. Jason introduced new customs, always a dangerous thing to do. He was delighted with the new Greek gymnasium. He had the young men wear the Greek hat, which would be a symbol of the Greek god Hermes, somewhat like a loyalty gang symbol. This Hellenization was bringing in Greek religion and customs. Besides, Jason was not a worthy true high priest. He had a bad influence on the other priests, as they were more interested in sports than their priestly sacrificial duties. They too preferred the Greek ways. However, this biblical author reminds them that things can change quickly. Your friends could become your enemies. Disaster was on the way for those who showed irreverence to the divine laws.
“When King Seleucus died, King Antiochus, who was called Epiphanes, succeeded to the kingdom. Then Jason, the brother of Onias, obtained the high priesthood by corruption. He promised the king at an interview three hundred sixty talents of silver and, from another source of revenue, eighty talents. In addition to this, he promised to pay one hundred fifty more if permission were given to establish by his authority a gymnasium and a body of youth for it. He wanted to enroll the men of Jerusalem as citizens of Antioch. When the king assented, Jason came to office. He at once shifted his countrymen over to the Greek way of life.”
By the time that Onias arrived in Antioch, Heliodorus had already assassinated King Seleucus IV (187-175 BCE). Now King Antiochus IV (175-164 BCE), the son of King Antiochus III who had ruled from 222-187 BCE, became king. He was the brother of King Seleucus IV. Jason was the brother of the high priest Onias, so that he was a Levite. He obtained the high priesthood by corruption. I still think that it is strange that the Syrian king had the right to name the Jewish high priest. Jason has promised the new king about 440 talents of silver, the equivalent of a quarter million $USA. He wanted a Greek gymnasium in Jerusalem that would become the center of political and cultural education. He also wanted all the men of Jerusalem to be citizens of Antioch. The new King Antiochus IV said fine. Thus Jason took over as the new high priest of Jerusalem. He wanted to shift his countrymen to the new Greek way of life. Unlike in 1 Maccabees, chapter 1, where the movement to the Greek way was led by the generic renegades, here it is explicitly assigned to Jason, the new high priest. Despite his protestations of not getting into details, this biblical author explained the role of the high priest Onias and his brother Jason in great detail.
“In those days, certain renegades came out from Israel. They misled many, saying.
‘Let us go and make a covenant with the gentiles around us.
Since we separated from them,
Many disasters have come upon us.’
This proposal pleased them. Some of the people eagerly went to the king. He authorized them to observe the ordinances of the gentiles. Thus they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem, according to gentile custom. They removed the marks of circumcision. They abandoned the holy covenant. They joined with the gentiles and sold themselves to do evil.”
During this time, around 175 BCE, there was a movement in Jerusalem to assimilate into the Hellenistic Greek culture that was all around them. This movement was led by the so-called Jewish renegades, the lawless ones, or non-followers or compromisers of the Law of Moses. This will be the Jewish group that opposes the Maccabees. These renegades began to follow the Greek, gentile or pagan practices. They built a Greek gymnasium in Jerusalem which was a center for politics, culture, and sports. They tried to cover up their circumcision. They abandoned the Mosaic covenant, as they made a new covenant with the Greek gentiles to increase business with the Syrians.