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 trust worthy Roman Senate (1 Macc 8:12-8:16)

“The Romans kept their friendship with their friends and those who relied on them. They subdued kings far and near. As many as have heard of their fame, they have feared them. Those whom they wish to help and to make kings, they make kings. Those whom they wish, they depose. They have been greatly exalted. However, even with all this power, not one of them has put on a crown or worn purple as a mark of pride. They built for themselves a senate chamber. Every day, three hundred twenty senators constantly deliberate concerning the people, to govern them well. They trust one man each year to rule over them and to control all their land. They all heed the one man. There is no envy or jealousy among them.”

This biblical author explains that the Romans were a republic and not an empire. They were good friends to those who are friends and relied on them. They had the power to make or break kings. However, not one of them put on a crown or wore purple. This biblical author stated that they had a senate chamber, where 320 senators deliberated to govern their land and people every day. In fact, they met 3 times a month. They let one man rule for a year so that there was no jealously among them. Obviously, there was some jealously as Roman history seems to indicate. This biblical author had a very favorable view of the Romans.