The actions of Jason, the high priest (2 Macc 4:11-4:17)

“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.

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.