“Jesus called them.
He said to them.
That among the gentiles
As their rulers,
Lord it over them.
Their great ones
καὶ προσκαλεσάμενος αὐτοὺς ὁ Ἰησοῦς λέγει αὐτοῖς Οἴδατε ὅτι οἱ δοκοῦντες ἄρχειν τῶν ἐθνῶν κατακυριεύουσιν αὐτῶν καὶ οἱ μεγάλοι αὐτῶν κατεξουσιάζουσιν αὐτῶν.
There is something similar to this in Matthew, chapter 20:25, almost word for word, and Luke 22:25, but slightly different. Mark said that Jesus called his 12 apostolic leaders to himself (καὶ προσκαλεσάμενος αὐτοὺς ὁ Ἰησοῦς) because of this dispute among them. He said to them (λέγει αὐτοῖς) that they knew that among the recognized gentile rulers (Οἴδατε ὅτι οἱ δοκοῦντες ἄρχειν τῶν ἐθνῶν), the Romans and the Greeks, they lorded it over their people (κατακυριεύουσιν αὐτῶν). Their great men acted like tyrants, exercising authority (καὶ οἱ μεγάλοι αὐτῶν κατεξουσιάζουσιν αὐτῶν). Jesus explained that this autocratic power system, sometimes dictatorial, within the Roman Empire system was the way of the world.
Polytheism is opposed to monotheism, since there is not one God, but many Gods. In other words, there is not one transcendent ultimate God, but a series of many Gods. Thus, many ancient religions, like the Greeks and Romans, had a variety of Gods for all occasions. The Israelites were continually fighting against the variety of Baal Gods in Canaan. Many ancient native religions also had a variety of Gods to answer their many questions.
“You have taken
You have carried
My rich treasures
Into your temples.
You have sold
The people of Judah,
The people of Jerusalem,
To the Greeks.
You have removed them far
From their own border.”
Next Yahweh, via Joel, accused the Mediterranean coastal cities of stealing the silver and gold from the treasury of the Yahweh Temple in Jerusalem. They had sold the people of Judah and Jerusalem as slaves to the Greeks. Thus, they were removed far from their own border. This also assumes the Babylonian captivity.
“Very soon after this, Lysias, the king’s guardian and kinsman, who was in charge of the government, being vexed at what had happened, gathered about eighty thousand infantry and all his cavalry. He came against the Jews. He intended to make the city a home for Greeks. He intended to levy tribute on the temple as he did on the sacred places of the other nations. He intended to put up the high priesthood for sale every year. He took no account whatever of the power of God, but was elated with his ten thousands of infantry, his thousands of cavalry, and his eighty elephants.”
Once again, this is similar to 1 Maccabees, chapter 4. However, there are some minor discrepancies. The chronology seems to be different here since this probably occurred before the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem. This was a good description of Lysias, since he had been the guardian of the young King Antiochus V. He was, in fact, in charge of the government. He did not like that the Jews had been successful in the battle of Emmaus against Gorgias, as in 1 Maccabees, chapter 4. Here he has 80,000 infantry instead of 70,000. There is no number given to the cavalry here, but there in the other description it was 5,000. Here there is a mention of 80 elephants that was not mentioned there. Here there is the explicit mention that he wanted Jerusalem to be a Greek city that was not said in 1 Maccabees. Here there is a greater emphasis on the Hellenization of Jerusalem. He hoped that more money would come from the annual selling of the position of high priest as in the other pagan temples throughout the kingdom. Lysias was relying on his troops, cavalry, and elephants, and not the power of God that the Jews were relying on.
“For this reason, not only Jews, but many also of other nations, were grieved and displeased at the unjust murder of Onias. When the king returned from the region of Cilicia, the Jews in the city appealed to him with regard to the unreasonable murder of Onias. The Greeks shared their hatred of the crime. Therefore King Antiochus was grieved at heart and filled with pity. He wept because of the moderation and good conduct of the deceased. Inflamed with anger, he immediately stripped off the purple robe from Andronicus. He tore off his garments. He led him around the whole city to that very place where he had committed the outrage against Onias. There he dispatched the bloodthirsty fellow. The Lord thus repaid him with the punishment he deserved.”
The killing of the deposed high priest Onias was a semi-official act of the king. The Jews and many other nations were upset about this murder of Onias. After all, Andronicus had tricked Onias into coming out of a pagan sanctuary Temple. When King Antiochus IV returned from Cilicia, the southern coastal region of Asia Minor, he was upset and angry. He too wept for the good man. He immediately stripped Andronicus of his purple robes, the robes of authority. He tore his garments and brought him to the place where the outrage had taken place. Then he killed him so that he was given the punishment that the Lord said that he deserved. Here the king of Syria implements the will of God and brings justice to the death of the former Jerusalem high priest.
“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.
“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.
“King Antiochus was going through the upper provinces when he heard that Elymais in Persia was a city famed for its wealth in silver and gold. Its temple was very rich, containing golden shields, breastplates, and weapons left there by Alexander son of Philip, the Macedonian king who first reigned over the Greeks. So he came and tried to take the city and plunder it. However he could not because his plan became known to the citizens. They withstood him in battle. So he fled. In great disappointment, he left there to return to Babylon.”
King Antiochus IV Epiphanes of the Seleucid Syria dynasty tried to take some treasures from the town of Elymais in Persia, which was near Susa. This had been a favorite of Alexander the Great. However, the citizens of the town found out that he was coming. They withstood his attack so that he had to flee back to Babylon.