Jonathan sends messengers to Rome (1 Macc 12:1-12:4)

“Now when Jonathan saw that the time was favorable for him, he chose men and sent them to Rome to confirm and renew the friendship with them. He also sent letters to the same effect to the Spartans and to other places. So they went to Rome. They entered the senate chamber and said.

‘The high priest Jonathan

And the Jewish nation

Have sent us to renew the former friendship

And alliance with them.’

The Romans gave them letters to the people in every place. They asked them to provide for the envoys safe conduct to the land of Judah.”

Jonathan seemed to think that things were quiet enough in Judah for him to send messengers to the Roman Senate, as well as the Spartans. The Spartans were people from Sparta or Lacedaemonians, who were somehow related to the Jews. The Jewish message to the Roman Senate was that they wanted to renew their former friendship and alliance. The alliance that his dead brother had made with Rome was in chapter 8 of this book. All they needed was safe passage.

Two Jews sent to Rome (1 Macc 8:17-8:21)

“Judas Maccabeus chose Eupolemus son of John, son of Accos, and Jason son of Eleazar. He sent them to Rome to establish a friendship and an alliance. They wanted to free themselves from their yoke. They saw that the kingdom of the Greeks was completely enslaving Israel. They went to Rome, a very long journey. They entered the senate chamber and spoke as follows.

‘Judas, who is also called Maccabeus,

And his brothers and the people of the Jews

Have sent us to you

To establish an alliance and peace with you,

So that we may be enrolled as your allies and friends.’

The proposal pleased them.”

Judas Maccabeus sent 2 people on this important mission to Rome. One was Eupolemus, the son of John and grandson of Accos, who was part of a priestly family. It is not clear whether this Eupolemus is the Greek Jewish writer of the 2nd century BCE. The other was Jason, the son of Eleazar, who was the brother of Judas. Thus Jason, a Hellenistic name, was the nephew of Judas. They wanted to establish friendship and an alliance with Rome, which was far away. The emphasis on distance meant that they could form an alliance, according to Mosaic Law, with a far away country, but not with their close neighbors. This sounds a little weird. They believed that the Greeks were putting a yoke on them. However, it was very clear that the Syrians from Antioch, the Seleucid dynasty, were causing all their problems by asking the Jews to Hellenize their way of life. Apparently, these 2 Jewish envoys were successful since the idea pleased the Romans.

The importance of the Romans (1 Macc 8:1-8:11)

“Judas heard of the fame of the Romans since they were very strong. They were well-disposed toward all who made an alliance with them. They pledged friendship to those who came to them since they were very strong. He had been told of their wars and of the brave deeds which they were doing among the Gauls. They had defeated them and forced them to pay tribute. He learned what they had done in the land of Spain to get control of the silver and gold mines there. They had gained control of the whole region by their planning and patience, even though the place was far distant from them. They also subdued the kings who came against them from the ends of the earth, until they crushed them. They inflicted great disaster upon them. The rest paid them tribute every year. They had crushed in battle and conquered Philip, King Perseus of the Macedonians, and the others who rose up against them. They also had defeated King Antiochus the Great, king of Asia, who went to fight against them with one hundred twenty elephants, cavalry, chariots, and a very large army. He was crushed by them. They took him alive. They decreed that he and those who should rule after him should pay a heavy tribute, give hostages, and surrender some of their best provinces, the countries of India, Media, and Lydia. These they took from him and gave to King Eumenes. The Greeks planned to come and destroy them. However, this became known to them. Then they sent a general against the Greeks who attacked them. Many of them were wounded and fell. The Romans took captive their wives and children. They plundered them, conquered the land, tore down their strongholds, and enslaved them to this day. The remaining kingdoms and islands, as many as ever opposed them, they destroyed and enslaved.”

For some reason, the Romans made a big impression on Judas Maccabeus as they were beginning their ascendancy in the Mediterranean world. He knew that the Romans were strong and faithful in their alliances. Then this biblical author presented the great feats of the Romans. First they had conquered the Gauls and the Spaniards, these western territories around 190 BCE and the Punic wars with Carthage in North Africa from the 3rd century BCE. Prior to this time the only thing west was Egypt and Greece. Now Rome and the west made an impression. These Romans had gone and subdued kings from the ends of the earth. The Romans had defeated the last of the Macedonian kings, King Perseus in 168 BCE, the son of King Philip who had had been defeated in 179 BCE. Obviously this author had some sense of history. As noted, King Antiochus V was not killed, but had to give hostages to Rome, one of which was this King Demetrius I. However, he kept Medes, but did give up Lydia and other parts of Asia Minor. King Eumenes was a Cappadocian ruler. The Romans also defeated the Greeks. Although the Roman Empire did not come to its full height for a few centuries, it was well on its way in the 2nd century BCE.