Notes on Daniel
Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 10 July 2010; Revised 30 October 2015
Scripture: Unless otherwise indicated Scripture quotations are taken from the NASB Updated Edition (1995). The text for this chapter may be found here. Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. Most versions can be accessed on the Internet.
Sources: Bibliographic data for sources cited may be found at the end of the article. The Septuagint (LXX) is the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, which was in use by Jews by the mid-2nd century BC. The LXX with English translation may be found here. Citations for Talmud tractates are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); found at Halakhah.com.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Hebraic and Jewish nature of Scripture I use the terms Tanakh (Old Testament) and Besekh (New Testament), as well as the terms Yeshua (Jesus) and Messiah (Christ).
Vocabulary: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB."
Please see the Introduction for background information on the book of Daniel, interpretative approaches and historical context.
Introduction― This entire chapter sets forth hundreds of years of history before it happened. After a brief introduction in verses 2-4, the rest of the chapter covers the period of the Hellenistic empire from 303 B.C. to 164 B.C. and the continued strife between its principal divisions during that time. Throughout the chapter the King of the North refers to the Syrian Seleucid king and the King of the South refers to the Egyptian Ptolemy king. Each line continued through many successors, only the more important of which are enumerated in the prophecy. Thus, a number of generations are ignored, but the major developments and trends are clearly outlined (Morris). The directions "north" and "south" are given in relation to the land of Israel, which saw much affliction from armies passing through or clashing within its boundaries and being subject to political control shifting between the major powers.
The specific identity of these kings can be generally established by a comparison of the prophetic details in this chapter with the available extra-biblical histories.
Non-Jewish works: The Histories by the Greek historian Polybius (203–120 B.C.), Library of History by the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus (1st cent. B.C.), The History of Rome by the Roman historian Titus Livy (59 B.C. to 17 A.D.), and The History of Rome by Appian of Alexandria (c. 95-165 A.D.).
Jewish works: First Maccabees and Second Maccabees, which provide Jewish history in the second century B.C., and Antiquities of the Jews and Against Apion by the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (37 B.C.-100 A.D.).
The reader may find much of this history to be of little interest, unless one just happens to like ancient history with its political intrigues and wars. For the serious student of the end times, this chapter should be thoughtfully read. What has happened before will happen again. That is not a fatalistic sentiment, but a realistic assessment of the continuing war against God and His people, Israel. These prophecies foreshadow the ominous events that precede the beginning of the next age.
Such knowledge is not a cause of fear in the disciple of Yeshua. The book of Daniel, and this chapter in particular, provides amazing detail of Israel's future. Verse after verse has been verified. Nothing takes place in the world apart from God's sovereign knowledge or will. What other power can declare the end from the beginning (Isa 46:10)? Detailed prophecy can provide comfort to the believer. As Sevener says, "If God orders the events of nations in such detail, He can certainly order the events of our lives. With such a wonderful, Sovereign Lord ruling in our lives, why should believers be anxious?" (198).
Persian Empire to the Death of Alexander, 550 - 330 B.C. (11:1-4)
1― In the first year of Darius the Mede: This date is not intended to backdate the revelation of chapter eleven but point to the fact that the spiritual warfare concerning Israel heightened during that year, no doubt due to the decree of Cyrus (Darius) to permit the Jews to return to their Land. Satan tried to prevent the return from exile, but the angels assisted in orchestrating God's plan. I arose to be an encouragement and a protection for him: This powerful angelic messenger, who is most likely Gabriel (see note on 10:6) says that at that time he helped Michael, just as Michael had helped him.
2― I will tell you the truth: Gabriel continues the prophetic summary of future history that began in chapter eight, insisting on the reliability of the information. He had it straight from God who does not lie. Those who discount the veracity of this chapter are impugning the nature of God. Three more kings are going to arise in Persia: This verse summarizes in succinct fashion the royal succession in Persia before the invasion of Greece. The three kings who succeeded after the death of Cyrus were (1) Cambyses (529-523 B.C.), elder son of Cyrus who succeeded in conquering Egypt; (2) then for a year or two an imposter named Gaumata or Bardiya (523-522), who passed himself off as Smerdis, a younger son of Cyrus (even though the true Smerdis had been secretly murdered by his brother's agents); and (3) Darius the Persian (522-485), the son of Hystaspes, who in 522 assassinated the imposter and was elevated to the kingship in his place. Darius himself was of royal blood, since he was a cousin of Cyrus through his father, Hystaspes (Archer).
Then a fourth: a reference to Xerxes (485-465), known as Xerxes the Great, the fourth Zoroastrian king of the Achamenid Empire. He will arouse the whole empire against the realm of Greece: At the height of his career he thought his empire to be invincible and so invaded Greece. His predecessor, Darius, had made an attempt to conquer Athens in 490 B.C. to punish it for aiding the Ionian Greek cities in their revolt against Persian rule. But Darius' naval expedition was defeated at the Battle of Marathon and the survivors had to withdraw from the offensive of the Athenian army.
Xerxes considered that he had an inherited obligation to exact revenge on Athens. Xerxes may also have sought to continue the Persian empire building, not to mention winning personal glory for defeating his father's adversary. However, after a successful land campaign in which he conquered Greece all the way to Corinth, including the burning of Athens, he suffered a crushing naval defeat at the Battle of Salamis in 480. Bested again on water he made a hasty retreat back to Asia. The one-hundred-thousand-man land army he left behind under the command of Mardonius was completely crushed in the following year by the allied forces of the Greeks at the battle of Plataea (Archer). Xerxes' reign came to an abrupt end when he was assassinated by the commander of his royal bodyguard.
Xerxes is known as Ahasuerus in the Book of Esther and there we see him at the beginning of the book as a decadent ruler who thought nothing of deposing his queen when she disobeyed him. Worst of all was his ambivalence in signing an order authorizing the eradication of all Jews living in his empire. The story of Esther reveals that when confronted with killing the Jews or retaining his own owner, he chose to retain his honor (Sevener 187). One likes to think that perhaps his encounter with the godly man, Mordecai and his loving, loyal and godly Queen had a positive impact on his character and possible acceptance of the Hebrew God. The fact that he continued to protect the Jews in his kingdom speaks well of him.
3― The mighty king is no doubt Alexander the Great. See the notes at 8:6-7 on Alexander's campaign against the Persians. Alexander's great authority extended from Macedonia in Europe and Egypt in Africa, all of Mesopotamia and even to parts of India. Alexander indeed did all he pleased in terms of amassing wealth and power.
4― Gabriel passes over the details of Alexander's exploits and rule, and points out that no sooner does Alexander rise but he falls and his kingdom will be broken up and parceled out: After Alexander's death, Philip, his half-brother; Alexander II, his legitimate son; and Hercules, his illegitimate son, maintained leadership of the kingdom for a time but all three were eventually murdered. toward the four points of the compass: lit. "four winds of the heavens," an expression that occurs in Jeremiah 49:36; Ezekiel 37:9; Daniel 7:2; 8:8; Zechariah 2:6; Matthew 24:31; Mark 13:27; and Revelation 7:1. Only here is it translated "four points of the compass." See the note at 7:2. As directions they would be in relation to the land of Israel. Indeed the sovereignty of his family was uprooted. Years of civil war ensued between Alexander's generals, called the Wars of Diadochi ("successors"). By 305 B.C. four generals had carved up the empire. Cassander had control of Macedonia and Greece, Lysimachus ruled Asia Minor and Thrace; Seleucus ruled over Syria, Babylon and Persia; and Ptolemy ruled over Egypt, Libya, Ethiopia and Israel. These divisions did not remain static due to continued strife between the generals and their heirs and descendants.
Wars Between the Ptolemies and the Seleucids (11:5-45)
Egypt: Ptolemy I Soter — Syria: Seleucus I Nicator (11:5)
5― King of the South: Heb. negev, lit. "dry or parched" (BDB 616), refers to the Ptolemy king who ruled in Egypt. The direction "South" is given in relation to the land of Israel. The Ptolemaic Dynasty lasted for fifteen generations and saw several queens exercise regal power, the most infamous being Cleopatra VII (51-30 B.C.). The king referred to here was Ptolemy I Soter ("savior") who reigned 323-285 B.C. He had been a highly capable general under Alexander (Miller). One of his princes: Seleucus I Nicator ("conqueror"), who had been a lesser general under Alexander, ruled 312/311-280 B.C. He had been appointed satrap of Babylonia in 321, but when another general, Antigonus, seized Babylonia in 316, Seleucus fled to Egypt to serve Ptolemy Soter. Antigonus was defeated in 312 at Gaza, and Seleucus returned to his former satrapy. There he greatly increased in power, eventually creating a great dominion indeed, more territory than ruled over by Ptolemy, his former master (Miller).
Egypt: Ptolemy II Philadelphus — Syria: Antiochus II Theos (11:6)
6― After some years: i.e., at the end of the prophesied period when the predicted time shall be consummated. From the beginning of the division of Alexander's empire, there was constant strife and two major wars up to this point between the two kingdoms. The First Syrian War (also known as the Carian War) is divided by historians into two parts: (1) 280-279 B.C. and (2) 274-272 B.C. The Second Syrian War was in 260-253 B.C. (See the links for more information.) They will form an alliance: Heb. chavar, unite, be joined, tie a magic knot or spell, charm (BDB 287). The primary meaning of chavar is to unite as allies (e.g., Gen 14:3; 2 Chron 20:35). However, the meaning here would be to join together in one purpose to stop the fighting. This peace treaty occurred in 253 B.C. by a strange circumstance.
Daughter of the king of the south: Berenice, daughter of Ptolemy Philadelphus (285-246 B.C.) of Egypt. King of the North: Heb. tsaphōn, lit. "hidden or dark" (BDB 860), Antiochus II Theos, grandson of Seleucus (261-246 B.C.). Ptolemy gave Berenice to Antiochus, who thereupon divorced his former wife, Laodice, and disinherited her son, Seleucus Callinicus. But she shall not retain her position of power: she would not be able to effect the purpose of the alliance or peace treaty, namely, that she should be the mainstay of peace.
the one who sired her: i.e., her father (so CJB, ESV, HCSB, KJV, NIV, NKJV, and NLT) is a disputed translation. The Hebrew verb yalad means to bear, bring forth or beget (BDB 408). Some Bible versions have taken the verb to mean "one sired of her," i.e., her child (so MSG, NCV, NET Bible, NRSV, RSV, and TEV). In the LXX the clause is "she shall be delivered up, and the ones bringing her, and the young woman [Berenice herself], and the one strengthening her in the times" (ABP). The LXX, then, supports neither the translation of a parent or child.
In any event, when Ptolemy died, Antiochus took back Laodice, who then poisoned him, and caused Berenice and her son to be put to death, and raised her own son, to the throne, Seleucus II Nicator (246-226 B.C.). Laodice ruled as Queen Regent during his minority.
Egypt: Ptolemy III Euergetes — Syria: Seleucus II Callinicus (11:7-9)
7― But one of the descendants of her line: Ptolemy III Euergetes (246-221 B.C.), brother of Berenice, succeeding Philadelphus. He will deal with them and display great strength: In retaliation for his sister's murder Ptolemy III attacked Syria with a great army, overrunning Syria, even to the Euphrates. This is the Third Syrian War (also known as the Laodicean War) that occurred in 246-241 B.C. Ptolemy succeeded in his war all the way to Babylon, in the course of which he captured and looted the Seleucid capitol of Antioch and put the evil Laodice to death.
8― Also…take into captivity to Egypt: Ptolemy, on hearing of a sedition in Egypt, returned from Syria with forty thousand talents of silver, precious vessels, and twenty-four hundred images, including Egyptian idols, which Cambyses had carried from Egypt into Persia in 524 B.C. (Archer). The idolatrous Egyptians were so gratified, that they named him Euergetes, or "benefactor" (Faussett). Some years: Ptolemy made a peace treaty with Seleucus II in 240 B.C. in order to pursue his Aegean conquests and survived Seleucus II four years, reigning in all forty-six years.
9― Then the latter: for both grammatical and historical reasons, it is best to take the "latter" to refer to the King of the North as the subject of this verse rather than the king of the South as in the KJV (Miller). The CJB clarifies the matter, "Afterwards, the king of the north will invade the kingdom of the king of the south, but he will retire to his own land." Faussett says that this verse refers to an invasion into Egypt that was accomplished not only with impunity, but with great spoil. However, Archer points out that there is no record of Seleucus II attempting an invasion of Egypt proper.
The prophecy only says that King of the North, Seleucus II, will enter the realm, lit. "kingdom," of Ptolemy, which in this context not only included the Sinai peninsula, the land of Israel, Phoenicia, and a portion of Syria, but the eastern lands that Ptolemy had initially secured in the war. In 245 B.C. Seleucus crossed the Taurus to the south, forced Ptolemy to retreat and reconquered Babylon. The phrase will return to his own land tells us nothing of success, but simply states that the foray was aborted. This probably refers to the offensive in 243 B.C. when Seleucus proceeded south, but was stopped by a superior force.
Syria: Antiochus III (The Great) — Egypt: Ptolemy IV Philopator to Ptolemy V Epiphanes (11:10-19)
10― Verses 10-12 depict the Fourth Syrian War, 219-217 B.C. His sons: the two sons of the king of the north, Seleucus Callinicus, upon his death in 226 B.C. by a fall from his horse, namely, Seleucus Ceraunus (226-223 B.C.) and Antiochus III (the Great, 223-187 B.C.) (Miller). One will keep on coming: Ceraunus having been murdered after a brief reign, Antiochus alone prosecuted the war with Ptolemy Philopater, Euergetes' son, until he had recovered all the parts of Syria subjugated by Euergetes. Overflow and pass through: like an "overflowing" torrent. Antiochus penetrated to Dura (near Caesarea), where he gave Ptolemy a four months' truce. He may again wage war: Antiochus III next launched an expedition against Phoenicia and Judea (219-218) at the expiration of the truce. Up to his very fortress: Raphia, a border-fortress of Egypt built by Ptolemy against incursions by way of Edom and Arabia-Petrea, near Gaza. Verses 11-12 tell the story.
11― The king of the south will be enraged and go forth and fight with the king of the North: this verse continues the narrative of the Battle of Raphia. Antiochus was soundly beaten by the smaller army of Ptolemy IV (Archer). Enraged describes Ptolemy's attitude at the great losses he had received, Syria having been wrested from him, and his own kingdom imperiled, though otherwise an indolent man, to which his disasters were owing, as also to the odium of his subjects against him for having murdered his father, mother, and brother, whence in irony they called him Philopater, "father-lover" (Faussett). Then the latter will raise a great multitude: both armies were quite large. According to the Greek historian Polybius (ca. 203–120 BC). Antiochus had 62,000 infantry, 6,000 cavalry, and 102 elephants. Ptolemy had 70,000 infantry, 5,000 cavalry and 73 elephants (Miller). but that multitude will be given into the hand of the former: into Ptolemy's hands.
12― when the multitude is carried away: lit. "carried off," probably referring to the 4,000 captives taken of Antiochus' army. His heart, i.e., Ptolemy, will be lifted up: instead of following up his victory by making himself master of the whole of Syria, as he might, he made peace with Antiochus, and gave himself up to licentiousness. Tens of thousands: pl. of Heb. ribbō, ten thousand or myriad, (BDB 914). Ten thousand of Antiochus' army were reportedly slain (Faussett). yet he will not prevail: he would lose the power gained by his victory through his luxurious indolence. In the peace that followed. Antiochus III was compelled to cede all Phoenicia and Judea back to Ptolemy IV and leave him in undisturbed possession of them till some more convenient time (Archer).
13― Verses 13-20 fall within the time period of the Fifth Syrian War, 202-195 B.C. For the king of the North will again raise a greater multitude than the former: During the following years, Antiochus attained his most brilliant successes in subduing the rebellious provinces in the Middle East all the way to the Caspian Sea in the north and the Indus River on the east. These invasions absorbed all his energies from 212 to 204. After an interval of some years he will press on with a great army and much equipment: But finally in 203, fourteen years after his defeat at Raphia, Antiochus saw his opportunity to strike at Egypt again, since Ptolemy IV had just died and had been succeeded by Ptolemy V Epiphanes (203-181 B.C.), who was a mere boy between four and six. By 201 B.C. the fortress at Gaza had fallen to the Syrians (Miller).
14― many will rise up against the king of the south: Ptolemy faced opposition not only from Antiochus but also from Philip, king of Macedon, and the violent ones: lit. "sons of violence." Heb. parits means violent one, robber, murderer (BDB 829) and Heb. ben, son(s), is sometimes used idiomatically to indicate that someone is characterized by a certain quality. So the expression “sons of violence” means that these individuals will be characterized by violent deeds (NET).
among your people: the Jewish people. That is, factious men of the Jews shall exalt themselves, so as to revolt from Ptolemy, and join themselves to Antiochus (Faussett). The Jews helped Antiochus' army with provisions, when on his return from Egypt he besieged the Egyptian garrison left in Jerusalem (Josephus, Antiquities, XII, 3:3). This term seems to be a reference to those who were later called "zealots" (Sevener 194). The "violent ones" in this instance should not be understood as murderers, but rather as religious Jews who believed that they needed to fight in order to assure the survival of the nation. The term is used in contrast to the "pious" Jews who remained pacifists regardless of what their rulers did. Sevener points out that were it not for modern day "zealots," many more Jewish people would have perished in the concentration camps of Europe. The modern Israeli is likewise a "zealot," who has to fight to keep the nation of Israel a reality when they are surrounded by Islamic terrorists and radical governments seeking their destruction, as well as ambivalent if not hostile Western powers who give aid and comfort to Israel's enemies.
to fulfill the vision: Faussett suggests that the rebel Jews unconsciously help to fulfill the purpose of God, but it's also possible that knowing the prophecy of Daniel they seized this opportunity, but refused to accept the truth of the prophecy that they would fail. They will fall down: The counteroffensive launched by the powerful General Scopas of the Egyptian forces was able to punish all the leaders in Jerusalem and Judea who favored the claims of Antiochus and were disaffected with the Ptolemaic government. Daniel was told that the land of Israel would continue to be a battleground during the period of the struggle between empires and that while Jews would seize opportunities to secure their independence, all such attempts would end in failure. While Israel now exists through the sovereign intervention of God they will again face the threat of destruction at the hands of the Antichrist.
Soon the war swept down from the north, and Scopas met with a severe loss at the Battle of Panium (near the Besekh Caesarea Philippi, now called Banias) in 200 B.C. From there he retreated to Sidon on the Phoenician coast (Archer).
15― Then the king of the north: Antiochus the Great; will come: he engaged the Egyptian forces at Battle of Panium (near the Besekh Caesarea Philippi, now called Banias) in 200 B.C. forces of the South will not stand their ground: The army of Scopas, the Egyptian general, was decisively defeated, and fled to Sidon, a well-fortified city where he was forced to surrender. Choicest troops: Egypt's best army was sent under Eropus, Menocles, and Damoxenus, to deliver Scopas, but in vain (Faussett).
16― he who comes against him: Antiochus the Great coming against Ptolemy V Epiphanes. The Seleucid forces will be unstoppable. Beautiful: Heb. tsebi, gazelle, fig. of grace and beauty (BDB 840); Land: Heb. erets, earth, land, ground or people of the land (BDB 75). Here the land of Israel. The designation "Beautiful Land" also occurs at Daniel 8:9 (see note there) and 11:41. Daniel 11:45 has "Beautiful Holy Mountain" (cf. Ezek 20:6, 15). People may regard their own countries beyond compare of other regions of the world, but God considers Israel the most beautiful land of the nations (Jer 3:19). Israel is the "apple of his eye" (Zech 2:8).
Once Antiochus defeated the Egyptians he returned to Israel. with destruction in his hand: a misleading translation. The Heb. word kalah rendered "destruction" means completion, consumption or annihilation (BDB 478). Josephus (Antiquities, XII. 3, §3] shows that the meaning is not that the Jews should be utterly destroyed, but completely brought under his sway. The LXX translates kalah with teleō, to finish or complete something (GEL 818). The CJB and NIV translates better: "he will have the power to destroy it." Faussett says that the intent is that their land should be subjected to Antiochus.
Certainly the land had suffered by being the arena of military operations between the combatants, Syria and Egypt, but Antiochus was not attempting to destroy the Jewish people as his successor would attempt twenty-three years later. Once Antiochus had secured full possession of the land of Israel; he simply exacted reprisals from the pro-Egyptian party leaders he was able to capture. On his entrance into Jerusalem in 198 B.C., he was welcomed as a deliverer and benefactor (Archer). He allowed the Jews who had helped him to worship at the temple and gave them relief from the heavy taxes he had imposed (Sevener 195).
17― set his face: i.e., purpose steadfastly. Antiochus purpose was, however, turned from open assault to subterfuge in his endeavor to extend his kingdom to the limits it had under Seleucus Nicator (Faussett). bringing with him a proposal of peace: the basic meaning of yesharim, "proposal of peace," pl. of yashar, is "straightforward, just or upright" (BDB 449), and so the KJV translates the plural adjective as "upright ones." Kohlenberger's interlinear translates the adjective as "alliances," whereas HIB translates as "equitable settlements." Archer translates as "equitable conditions." Instead of at once invading Ptolemy's country with his whole strength, Antiochus prepares his way by devising a clever plan to create a peace through marriage.
daughter of women: The first Cleopatra, then a child and still under the care of her mother and a nurse. She was the daughter of Antiochus, and he espoused her to the young Ptolemy Epiphanes, son of the Egyptian king, who had enlisted the Romans to help him in opposing Antiochus (Morris). Antiochus even promised a portion of Syria and Judea as a dowry (Faussett). She will not take a stand for him or be on his side: Antiochus had hoped through his daughter to obtain Syria, Cilicia, and Lycia, and even Egypt itself at last, thinking that her daughter would influence her husband toward a strong pro-Seleucid policy in Egypt. Then, of course, if Cleopatra should give birth to a son, that boy would become legal heir to both crowns. This in turn might create a situation favorable to intervention or strong control in Egypt on the part of Antiochus himself, as the maternal grandfather.
As it turned out, however, after the marriage finally took place in 195, Cleopatra became completely sympathetic to her husband, Ptolemy V, and the Ptolemaic cause. Therefore when she gave birth to a royal heir, who became Ptolemy VI, this gave no particular advantage or political leverage to her father. When Ptolemy V died in 181, Cleopatra was appointed queen regent by the Egyptian government, because they all loved and appreciated her loyalty to their cause. But she herself died not long after, and this meant the end of all possible Seleucid influence on Egyptian affairs. Yet by that time Antiochus himself, who died in 187 B.C., was gone (Archer).
18― Then he will turn his face to the coastlands: pl. of Heb. iy, coast, region or island (BDB 15-16). The "coastlands" included all areas contiguous to the seacoast, whether or not they were islands. It was used from earliest times as a term for the Mediterranean, with its large islands like Cyprus and Crete and its numerous smaller islands in the Aegean and the West (Archer). Having vanquished the Egyptians in 197 B.C., Antiochus turned his attention to the powerful principality of Pergamum and the Aegean island of Rhodes. That he would capture many of the islands in the Aegean describes his initial success. In 196 after capturing several cities in Aeolis and Ionia, he crossed the Hellespont and the Aegean with his powerful navy and conquered considerable territory in Thrace. As Antiochus' forces closed in on them the Rhodians sent urgent appeals for Rome to come to their aid.
About this time the west-central Greek confederacy of the Aetolian League sent a delegation to Antiochus, asking for his assistance against Macedon and the Peloponnesians. He therefore sent a modest naval force in 192 to land on the coast of central Greece and cooperate with the Aetolians. But the latter proved to be militarily ineffective, and the Macedonians joined forces with the Achaean League to oppose Antiochus both from the north and from the south.
But a commander will put a stop to his scorn against him: The "commander" (Heb. qasin) was none other than the Roman General Lucius Cornelius Scipio Asiaticus, the brother of the Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus, who had brilliantly defeated Hannibal at the Battle of Zama back in 202 B.C. The Romans joined their Greek allies to overwhelm the Seleucid command post at Thermopylae: the historic battle site of the Persian War in 480 B.C. As a result of this setback, Antiochus had to withdraw to Asia Minor in 191, especially since his navy was beaten in several engagements with the Roman fleet. During the winter of 190-189, the Roman troops followed him across to Asia and finally met him in a pitched battle at Magnesia, west of Sardis. Although Antiochus had an army of seventy thousand at his disposal to confront the Roman force of thirty thousand, he was badly defeated. Thus his scorn, Heb. herpah, reproach or taunt (BDB 357), of the Romans met with disaster.
moreover, he will repay him for his scorn: After the Roman commander compelled Antiochus to surrender, the commander dictated severe peace terms, which were included in the Treaty of Apamea, signed in 188. Antiochus was compelled to surrender not only all claims to Europe but also the greater part of Asia Minor as well; his boundary was to be the Taurus Range. Furthermore, he had to surrender his entire elephant brigade, all his navy, and twenty selected hostages. Finally he was obliged to pay an indemnity of fifteen thousand or twenty thousand talents over a period of several years. Antiochus' second son, who was named after him, was among the twenty hostages taken to Rome, where he spent the formative years of his life. He later became the dreaded persecutor of the Jews, Antiochus Epiphanes (Archer).
19― Then he will turn…toward…his own land: Compelled by Rome to relinquish all his territory west of the Taurus, and defray the expenses of the war, he garrisoned the cities left to him (Faussett). Stumble and fall and be found no more: In 187 while attempting to plunder the temple of Bel (Jupiter) at Elymais by night, whether through avarice, or the want of money to pay the tribute imposed by Rome (a thousand talents), he was slain with his soldiers in a valiant defense by the inhabitants (Faussett).
Syria: Seleucus IV Philopator (11:20)
20― in his place: the son and successor of Antiochus, Seleucus IV Philopater (187-175 B.C.). An oppressor: Heb. noges, "press, drive, oppress, exact" (BDB 620), in the sense of wielding harsh political power and in this passage refers to exacting tribute. Kohlenberger renders the word as "one-collecting-tax." in the jewel of his kingdom: that is, Israel. The story of this tax collector sent by Seleucus is told in 2 Maccabees, Chapter Three.
One day a man named Simon, of the tribe of Benjamin, captain of the temple guard had a dispute with Onias III, the high priest. When he could not prevail over Onias he went to Apollonius, one of Seleucus' governors and reported to him that the treasury in Jerusalem was full of untold sums of money unconnected with the sacrifices, and it was possible for them to fall under the control of the king.
Apollonius told Seleucus of the money and the king chose Heliodorus, his special fund-raiser to remove the money. When Heliodorus arrived at Jerusalem he met with the high priest and sought to clarify the financial state of the temple. The high priest denied the claim of "untold sums" and asserted that what was on hand was obligated, especially for charitable purposes. But Heliodorus said that this money must be confiscated for the king's treasury and set a day to accomplish the deed.
The priests and the people in large numbers sought God in prayer to safeguard the funds in the temple. When Heliodorus arrived at the treasury with his bodyguard, the Lord God caused so great a manifestation that he and his men became faint with terror. A rider of frightening expression, bearing armor and weapons of gold, appeared on a magnificent horse, who rushed furiously at Heliodorus and struck at him with its front hoofs. Then, two young men, very strong, gloriously beautiful and splendidly dressed, also appeared and stood on each side of him and scourged him continuously, inflicting many blows on him.
When Heliodorus fell to the ground and passed out, his men put him on a stretcher and carried him away. The Jews praised the Lord for his deliverance. Heliodorus' friends asked Onias to call upon the Most High and to grant life to one who was lying at death's door. The high priest, fearing the king's wrath, offered sacrifice for the man's recovery. The Lord spared Heliodorus' life and he returned to Syria after having made vows to the Savior of his life. The Maccabees story says that he bore testimony to all men of the deeds of the supreme God, which he had seen with his own eyes.
Within a few days he will be shattered, though not in anger nor in battle: This sentence sums up the uneventful twelve-year reign of Seleucus IV Philopator (Archer). No other details are given his reign, except that he did not die in battle or in a mob action as had his father, Antiochus. Yet Seleucus IV met an untimely end through poison administered by Heliodorus, who sought the crown while Seleucus' only son and heir, Demetrius, was kept in Rome. But, Antiochus Epiphanes, Seleucus' brother, by the help of Eumenes, king of Pergamos, succeeded to the throne in 175 B.C.
Syria: Antiochus IV Epiphanes (11:21-45)
Verses 21 to 45 depict the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164 B.C.). This section may be outlined as follows:
I. The rise of Antiochus Epiphanes: his political and military actions and successes (21–29);
II. The oppression of Antiochus Epiphanes: his targeted enmity against the Jewish nation and religion (30–39); and
III. The fall of Antiochus Epiphanes: his ignominious death while still pursuing a campaign of terror (40–45).
Antiochus IV Epiphanes ("the Illustrious") was born c. 215 B.C. and died in 164 B.C. (although some scholarly works list the date as 163 B.C.). He was a son of King Antiochus III ("the Great") and the brother of Seleucus IV Philopator. His original name was Mithridates, but he took the name Antiochus after he assumed the throne. His mother was Laodice III and he married his sister, Laodice IV, after she had been widowed. She reportedly bore him two sons and a daughter. Antiochus also had a concubine with the name Antiochis (Livius).
Antiochus became a political hostage of Rome following the Peace of Apamea in 188 B.C. (see note on 11:18). His older brother, Seleucus IV Philopator acceded to the throne in 187 B.C. Finally, in 178 B.C. Antiochus was exchanged for his nephew Demetrius I Soter, the son and heir of Seleucus (Livius).
Antiochus was an Athenian citizen and a passionate admirer of all things Greek. He adorned Athens and many other cities with gifts of temples and buildings, added to Antioch, refounded many towns as Greek cities, and brought in new settlers. "Magnificent and munificent, ready to play the democrat or the jester, but popular and a king, some called him mad; but he raised his kingdom to a high pitch of efficiency, and the reorganization he attempted later was no unworthy one." (Tarn & Griffith 3)
There is much disagreement between commentators over the interpretation of verses 36-45. Some scholars contend that much of the prophetic material in these verses cannot be harmonized with the historical evidence of Antiochus and therefore the prophecy is of the last days Beast of Revelation, immediately prior to the coming of the Lord (so Archer, Miller, Morris and Sevener). Other commentators consider the whole section of verses 21-45 as belonging first to Antiochus and second as an antitype of the last days Antichrist (so Faussett, Henry, Keil, and Wesley).
The narrative continues from verse 35 in telling the story without a significant leap in years. While there are obvious leaps forward in this chapter, they would be measured in decades or scores of years, not thousands of years. Verse 40 speaks of both the king of the south and the king of the north, the same royal references that began in verse 5 of the chapter. These verses must, then, be a part of the whole story of chapter eleven. All attempts by historicist and dispensational scholars to find a modern correlation to the king of the south and the king of the north in this section are frankly unconvincing. Certainly we may find parallels to the end times Man of Lawlessness, but that comparison does not negate the reality of the historical personage behind the comparison. That would be like asserting Adam as a type of Yeshua (Rom 5:14) while denying that Adam was a real person.
The Rise of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (11:21-29)
21― despicable person: Heb. baza, "one despised or contemptible" (BDB 102). The verb lit. means "to raise the head loftily and disdainfully." This description seems chosen deliberately to rebut the title of Epiphanes, "the Illustrious" that Antiochus bore. 1 Maccabees 1:10 describes him as a "sinful root." Rabbinic writings referred to Antiochus as ha-rasha, the wicked one (Ginzberg). It is interesting that the Roman historian Livy summarized Antiochus' reign by saying, "He turned out to be a very bad king" (Periochae 41.5). on whom the honor of kingship has not been conferred: Antiochus IV was not in the line of succession. With Seleucus Philopator dead the throne belonged to his son Seleucus IV Demetrius I, who was a "guest" of Roman hospitality at the time.
a time of tranquility: Heb. shalvah, "quietness, ease, careless security" (BDB 1017). The Seleucid kingdom was not engaged in any war during this period. As long as the Syrians paid the tribute demanded by Rome, then there was peace. The KJV translation that he will "come in peaceably" is misleading. The context of the word is the country, not the man. The point is that the focus of national security was external, not internal, and a sudden change in the government was unanticipated. seize the kingdom by intrigue: Antiochus with the familiar tactic of a crafty politician curried favor with those who could assist him and, by promises of promotion and large favors in return for their support, managed to secure approval for succession to the throne and turn his regency into royalty (Archer). He particularly had the help of the leaders of Pergamos as reported by Appian: "Eumenes II Soter of Pergamon and Attalus installed Antiochus therein in order to secure his good-will; for, by reason of certain bickerings, they had already grown suspicious of the Romans…By cementing the friendship and alliance of Eumenes he governed Syria and the neighboring nations with a firm hand" (XI. 45).
22― Verses 22-30 depict the Sixth Syrian War, 170-168 B.C. Overflowing: Heb. shataph, "overflow, rinse or wash off" (BDB 1009). Shataph is used figuratively of a rushing horse in Jeremiah 8:6. Here is signifies being swept away in complete defeat. forces: Heb. zeroa, "arm, shoulder, strength" (BDB 283). While normally a feminine noun, the three instances it occurs in masculine form, all in Daniel, indicates a political or military force. flooded: Heb. sheteph, "flood," both literal and figurative of judgment or calamity (BDB 1009). The military forces are those of Egypt and the flooding word picture is drawn from the annual flooding of the Nile. The flood season begins in August every year. The flood cycle was so predictable that the Egyptians even based their ancient calendar on it. Were it not for the Nile River, Egyptian civilization could not have developed, as it is the only significant source of water in this desert region. The flood was actually vital to Egyptian agriculture, since it brought in silt-laden waters. When the waters receded the silt would stay behind, fertilizing the land. A small flood or no flood at all would mean famine. A flood must be of just the right intensity for a good season.
Before him: Antiochus Epiphanes. Shattered: Heb. shavar, "break, break in pieces" (BDB 990). The intensity of the Egyptian military flood was not sufficient to the cause. The verb depicts a crushing defeat at the hands of the Syrians. The Maccabean history confirms Daniel's prophecy.
"When Antiochus saw that his kingdom was established, he determined to become king of the land of Egypt, that he might reign over both kingdoms. So he invaded Egypt with a strong force, with chariots and elephants and cavalry and with a large fleet. He engaged Ptolemy king of Egypt in battle, and Ptolemy turned and fled before him, and many were wounded and fell. And they captured the fortified cities in the land of Egypt, and he plundered the land of Egypt." (1Macc 1:16-19 RSV)
Prince: Heb. nagid, "leader, ruler or prince," lit. "one in front" (BDB 617). See note on 9:25. Covenant: Heb. b'rit, "pact, compact, covenant" (BDB 136). See note on 9:4. Four interpretations have been offered to identify this person.
Adam Clarke and John Wesley identified "the prince of the covenant" as the high priest Onias III who was assassinated in 170 B.C. The NASB implies a similar view, but a more literal translation would be "a prince of a covenant" (Miller). The murder of Onias does not relate to the prophecy here, not only because the Jewish high priest never bore the full title of “prince of the covenant,” but also because the murder was perpetrated without the previous knowledge of Antiochus, and when the matter was reported to him, the murderer was put to death by his command (2Macc 4:36-38) (Keil). It should be noted that while the high priest is called nagid in Nehemiah 11:11, the title is also given to several Israelite kings (1Sam 13:14; 25:30; 1Kgs 1:35; 14:7; 16:2; 2Kgs 20:5; 2Chr 11:22) and military leaders (1Chr 13:1; 27:1), as well as to non-Jewish rulers (Dan 9:26; Ezek 28:2). In this context it is best to take b'rit as referring to a treaty or agreement between political powers (cf. the usage of b'rit in Gen 14:13; Obad 1:7).
The second interpretation, offered by Matthew Henry, is that the prince of the covenant is Demetrius, the rightful heir, whom Antiochus pretended to covenant with that he would resign to him whenever he should return. This option might make sense if the clause were connected with the next verse. Thus, instead of verse 23 describing a Syrian foray into Egypt, which cannot be verified, the verse is in reality summarizing Antiochus' assumption of power. However, there is no external evidence of any such agreement between Antiochus and Demetrius.
The third interpretation offered by Keil is that the "prince" is a general reference and cannot be identified with certainty with any known leader of the time. Keil insists that history knows nothing of a covenant entered into between Philometor and Antiochus Epiphanes.
The fourth interpretation is that the prince of the covenant is Ptolemy Philometor, a viewpoint favored by Archer, Henry, Miller, and Sevener. This is a reasonable option if we translate b'rit as "pact," instead of covenant. The pact referred to could be the agreement between Antiochus the Great and Ptolemy IV Philopator whereby Ptolemy Epiphanes would receive Coele-Syria as a dowry when he married Cleopatra, the mother of the present king (Polybius XXVI. 4, §20; Josephus, Ant. XII, 6:1). (Coele-Syria was a region in southern Syria disputed between the Seleucid dynasty and the Ptolemaic dynasty.) Ptolemy Philometor would have inherited the unfulfilled dowry. However, Antiochus Epiphanes denied that any such agreement had ever been made and war arose between them.
23― Alliance: Heb. chavar, "unite, be joined, tie a magic knot or spell, charm" (BDB 287). Interpretation of this verse is difficult, since it may refer back to the succession narrative in verse 21 or it may relate the war narrative begun in verse 22. The Message takes the latter view and translates the word as "negotiating a cease fire." Another possibility, considering the range of meaning of chavar, is that it refers to Antiochus seeking the guidance or assistance of a pagan priest. Given that the primary meaning of chavar is to unite or join as allies (e.g., Gen 14:3; 2 Chron 20:35), the question is, what allies of Antiochus does this mean? Antiochus did have an alliance with Eumenes II and Attalus II, (co-rulers for a time of Pergamos) to assist him in gaining the throne. However, as seen in 11:6 chavar can also have the sense of joining in a peace treaty. Him: the "prince of the covenant," Ptolemy Philometor. He: Antiochus Epiphanes.
practice deception: Antiochus was not a man to be trusted under any circumstances. He feigned friendship to the elder Ptolemy (Philometor) as if he wished to secure Philometor's rightful inheritance on his behalf to negate any claim by Philometor's brother Physcon. "This was by no means true; on the contrary, he conceived that by presiding over a dispute between the youths and so making an investment in goodwill he should conquer Egypt without a blow. But when Fortune put his professions to the test and deprived him of the pretext he had alleged, he stood revealed as one of the many princes who count no point of honor more important than gain" (Diodorus 31:1).
Go up: Heb. alah, "to go up, ascend or climb" (BDB 748). The verb often occurs in literal sense in reference to approaching a place of higher elevation in reference to some other point of geography (e.g., Gen 35:1; Ex 20:26). With a figurative use the verb may simply indicate meeting with someone (e.g., Gen 46:31). The verb can also have a particular militaristic meaning of attacking an adversary (Isa 36:10; Jer 46:9; 49:28, 31; 50:21; Ezek 38:9, 11; Hos 1:11).
Gain power: Heb. atsam, "to be vast, numerous, mighty, or strong" (BDB 782). Antiochus went from no prominence to take the most powerful political position in the Seleucid empire. He was mighty in the wealth and people he commanded. By defeating Egypt and turning Philometor into a puppet-king, Antiochus was able to achieve a long-held dream of his father.
Small force of people: Heb. b'me'at goy, lit. "few people" (HIB; Kohlenberger). Goy means nation or people and often refers to Gentiles (BDB 156). Some versions treat this reference as the number of supporters or followers Antiochus had to enable his succession (so CJB, NCV, NIV, NLT, YLT). Other versions treat the phrase as the size of the Seleucid Empire whose area at this time had been greatly reduced by the Treaty of Apamea (so HCSB, KJV and TEV). The third possibility is that this phrase somehow relates to Antiochus' war with Egypt (so the MSG and NASB). There is no evidence from ancient historians that Antiochus took a small expeditionary force into Egypt as suggested by Archer and the NASB translation. The "few people" probably refer to demands that Ptolemy VI received other advisers (Comanus and Cineas) to negotiate an armistice. Unfortunately, these Greek embassies were unacceptable to the Egyptians and sent back.
24― In a time of tranquility: see note on v. 21. richest parts of the realm: apparently refers not only to Egypt itself, but also to the eastern provinces all the way to Bactria, where successful campaigns were conducted by Antiochus' army. To distribute money and spoil he effectively injured the prosperous provinces (Archer). The Maccabean history may pertain to this situation:
"And he opened his coffers and gave a year's pay to his forces, and ordered them to be ready for any need. Then he saw that the money in the treasury was exhausted, and that the revenues from the country were small because of the dissension and disaster which he had caused in the land by abolishing the laws that had existed from the earliest days. He feared that he might not have such funds as he had before for his expenses and for the gifts which he used to give more lavishly than preceding kings. He was greatly perplexed in mind, and determined to go to Persia and collect the revenues from those regions and raise a large fund." (1Macc 3:28-31)
he will accomplish what his fathers never did: things which none one of his predecessors ever did. There are several acts of Antiochus Epiphanes that could be said to be new. He defeated Egypt and for a time relegated the Ptolemaic dynasty to a protectorate. He pursued a vigorous program of Hellenization, perhaps not seen since Alexander the Great. He founded new cities and he built a temple to the Roman Jupiter Capitolinus in Antioch.
His largesse was unpredictable. Livy comments that "he would give childish presents, as of food or toys; others, who expected nothing, he would make rich...in two great and important respects his soul was truly royal —in his benefactions to cities and in the honors paid to the gods" (XLI. 20, §3, 5). Polybius (26, §8-9) reported that "he used to give some people gazelles' knucklebones, to others dates, and to others money. Occasionally he used to address people he had never seen before when he met them, and make them the most unexpected kind of presents."
In a complete departure from his forefathers he persecuted the Jews and attempted to expunge the Jewish religion. Previous empires and kings had generally followed a policy of toleration of local religion.
He will distribute: Heb. bazar, "to scatter" (used only here); plunder: Heb. shalal, "to plunder or spoil" (BDB 1021); booty: Heb. bitsah, "booty or spoil" (BDB 103); and possessions: rekush, "property or goods," a general term for movable possessions of all kinds (often specifically including cattle) (BDB 940). 1 Maccabees 1:19 says that Antiochus "plundered the land of Egypt." So, the distribution spoken of here could refer to the spoils of war from Egypt transferred to other parts of his kingdom. "Antiochus was richer than any Seleucid king before him, but even so the Seleucids, speaking generally, never acquired such wealth as the Ptolemies drew from Egypt, and, as they never amassed a treasure, they must have spent much more…Antiochus IV used his wealth, as Seleucus I had done, to found or Hellenize a new and considerable number of cities" (Tarn 143-144).
he will devise his schemes against strongholds: He formed a scheme for making himself master of the Egyptian fortresses. He gained them all except Alexandria, which successfully resisted him. Retaining to himself Pelusium, he retired to Judea, where, in revenge for the joy shown by the Jews at the report of his death, which led them to a revolt, he subdued Jerusalem by storm or stratagem (Faussett). for a time: His scheming and deception would not be for ever, but for a time limited by God.
25― Verses 25 and 26 contain fuller detail of what was summarily stated in verses 22-24 above. He will stir up his strength: Heb. koach, "strength," is not warlike power, but the power which consists in the bringing of a great army under his command; the mental energy for the carrying out of his plans (Keil). king of the south: Ptolemy Philometor. Subsequently, Ptolemy Euergetes II, nicknamed Physcon (the "Gross"), was made king by the Egyptians, when Philometor was in Antiochus' hands. large army: Antiochus "entered Egypt with an overwhelming multitude, with chariots, elephants, and cavalry" (1Macc 1:17). mobilize: lit. "stir up," by the necessity of organizing the national resources to fend off attack. Extremely large: lit. "very large," i.e., a larger army than led by Antiochus.
He will not stand: Philometor was defeated in spite of his superior numbers. schemes: Heb. machashvah, which means "thought, device, plan, purpose or invention" (BDB 364). will be devised: Heb. chashav, third person plural, "to think, account, devise, plan, invent" (BDB 362). The NASB translation, as some commentators, takes this phrase to mean that a contributing factor to Philometor's defeat was an internal conspiracy against him. However, the conspiracy occurred after his defeat and capture when his brother Ptolemy VIII Euergetes Physcon and Cleopatra II seized power. The phrase could just as easily, if translated as "they will devise clever plans," refer to Antiochus' superior military strategy and battlefield tactics that enabled an inferior force to defeat a much superior force.
26― Those who eat his choice food will destroy him: those from whom Philometor might naturally have looked for help, his intimates and dependents; his ministers and guardians. The clause probably refers to negotiations carried on by the two victors at the banquet table. his army will overflow: Philometor's army would be dissipated as water. The phrase is used of overflowing numbers, usually in a victorious sense, but here in the sense of defeat, the very numbers which ordinarily ensure victory, hastening the defeat through mismanagement. many will fall down slain: as reported in 1 Maccabees 1:18, "many were wounded and fell." "Antiochus, when he might have slain all in the battle near Pelusium, rode around and ordered the enemy to be taken alive, the fruit of which policy was, he soon gained Pelusium and all Egypt" (Faussett).
27― both kings…intent on evil: toward each to the other. speak lies…at the same table: this may refer to a sort of peace summit after Antiochus had partially occupied Egypt. Polybius (XXVIII. 4, §19-21) names about twenty emissaries most from the Greek cities of Athens, Achaia, and Miletus. Several were already in Egypt to discuss the pan-Athenian games. They sailed up the Nile to meet with Antiochus in an effort to resolve the crisis. Antiochus "entertained them splendidly" and then gave them an audience. The envoys attempted to appease Antiochus by shifting the blame for starting the fracas on Eulaeus the Eunuch, who directed the youthful Philometor. Antiochus for his part accepted their explanation but denied their claim on Coele-Syria, as well as the validity of the agreement his father made for a dowry. Thus, both parties did lie to one another. it will not succeed: the summit failed to solve the problem and Antiochus refused to withdraw from Egypt. the end is still to come at the appointed time: "the end" of the contest between them will come in God's time.
28― Return…with much plunder: see verse 24. his heart will be set against: Keil suggests that the prophecy of his returning to his own country and setting his heart against Israel is stated in the form of a divine decree, to denote that he thereby brings about his own destruction. The syntax suggests the same kind of paradoxical description of Pharaoh of Moses' time when the Torah says alternately that Pharaoh hardened his own heart (Ex 8:15; 9:34) and God hardened his heart (Ex 9:12; 10:1, 20, 27; 11:10; 14:8).
the holy covenant: b'rit qodesh, lit. covenant of holiness. The prophecy makes the point that the actions of Antiochus are directed toward the "holy covenant" and not the holy people. Keil comments that b'rit qodesh
"signifies not the holy people in covenant with God, but the divine institution of the Old Covenant, the Jewish Theocracy. The Jews are only members of this covenant. Calvin is right when he says: The holy covenant is named instead of the covenant people to represent the undertaking as an outrage against the kingdom of God, which was founded in Israel."
However, another reason for the distinction is that Israel at the time had a deep divide in philosophy, some supporting Hellenism and others, the pious Jews, committed to maintaining the covenant as made at Sinai through Moses. See comments on 8:10 and 8:12. The "holy covenant" is certainly the kingdom of God, but in context refers to the pious Jews who were endeavoring to preserve the authority of the Torah over their lives. To Antiochus these pious Jews posed a threat to the unity of his empire.
he will take action: Heb. asah, "to do or make" (BDB 793). This verb is a strong understatement of what happened. After his success in Egypt Antiochus decided to deal with the violent conflict that had occurred between the Hellenistic high priest Menelaus and Jason, the leader of the pious Jews, while Antiochus was involved in his campaign in Egypt. This is the first of two invasions of Judea and according to 1 Maccabees occurred six years after his succession (cf. 1 Macc 1:10 and 1:20), which would be 169 B.C.
"After subduing Egypt, Antiochus returned in the one hundred and forty-third year. He went up against Israel and came to Jerusalem with a strong force. He arrogantly entered the sanctuary and took the golden altar, the lampstand for the light, and all its utensils. He took also the table for the bread of the Presence, the cups for drink offerings, the bowls, the golden censers, the curtain, the crowns, and the gold decoration on the front of the temple; he stripped it all off. He took the silver and the gold, and the costly vessels; he took also the hidden treasures which he found. Taking them all, he departed to his own land. He committed deeds of murder, and spoke with great arrogance. Israel mourned deeply in every community, rulers and elders groaned, maidens and young men became faint, the beauty of women faded. Every bridegroom took up the lament; she who sat in the bridal chamber was mourning. Even the land shook for its inhabitants, and all the house of Jacob was clothed with shame." (1Macc 1:20-28)
then return to his own land: having accomplished his mission of punishing the opponents of Menelaus and his Hellenistic policies, Antiochus left assured in his own arrogance that he had solved the problem.
29― At the appointed time: possibly "the time" spoken of in verse 27, the time determined by God. he will return: his second large-scale invasion of Egypt in 168 B.C. (2 Macc 5:1). As reported by Livy (XLI. 45, §11) the alliance between Antiochus and Philometor began to unravel and Philometor decided to make peace with Ptolemy Physcon, his defeated brother, because he felt he needed his help in dislodging Antiochus's troops from the border fortress of Pelusium [Grk. Pelousion], which was situated at the eastern-most mouth of the Nile. Having made Physcon his associate king, Ptolemy Philometor was able to raise a considerable armed force for the expulsion of the Seleucid army. In the interim there had also been intense efforts by Ptolemaic representatives to solicit Rome's assistance. No sooner did Epiphanes learn of the pact between the brothers than he again marched against Egypt, intending to subdue it once and for all.
it will not turn out the way it did before: with ironic humor the prophecy summarizes the different outcome of the second invasion.
The Oppression of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (11:30-39)
30― The opening clause of this verse provides an explanation of why things didn't turn out as Antiochus hoped. Ships of Kittim: The only other verse that refers to "ships of Kittim" is Numbers 24:24 where it first occurs. The name Kittim is first identified in Scripture as a son of Javan (Gen 10:4; 1 Chron 1:7), the son of Japheth (Gen 10:2). Josephus identified Kittim with Cyprus.
"it is now called Cyprus; and from that it is that all islands, and the greatest part of the sea-coasts, are named Cethim by the Hebrews: and one city there is in Cyprus that has been able to preserve its denomination; it has been called Citius by those who use the language of the Greeks, and has not, by the use of that dialect, escaped the name of Cethim." (Antiquities of the Jews, I, 6:1)
Bible versions and dictionaries generally follow Josephus (cf. Jer 2:10; Atlas 55, 133). Ezekiel 27:6 identifies Kittim as a source of trees for shipbuilding and modern Bible versions translate "Kittim" in this verse as Cyprus. Cyprus was geographically positioned at the crossroads of the ancient trade routes and strategically located for seaborne assaults. Cyprus was well-known for its expertise in shipbuilding. It was thickly forested and trees were extensively felled for shipbuilding. Protective bays forming natural harbors were plentiful. The largest and busiest ports were Salamis (between the eleventh and fourth centuries B.C.) Kition (an ancient Phoenician city) Amathus and Paphos. Lapithos on the north coast had shipbuilding yards and a harbor. Marion on the north-west peninsula was the closest port to Greece and Karpassia was closest to Phoenicia.
Other Jewish literature, including the Dead Sea Scrolls, identifies "Chittim" with Rome as a nation and then metaphorically representing the final nations which will come against Israel in the latter days (Sevener 204). Sevener sees a direct parallel between Daniel's prophecy and Balaam's prophecy:
"Alas, who can live except God has ordained it? But ships shall come from the coast of Kittim, And they shall afflict Asshur and will afflict Eber; So they also will come to destruction." (Num 24:23-24) [Eber was the ancestor of the Hebrews.]
While some versions simply translate "Kittim" in this verse as is (CJB, ESV, HCSB, JPS, KJV, LITV, NAB, NASB, NET, RSV, TLV), other versions offer interpretations: (1) the point of origin as Cyprus, NKJV; (2) a fig. reference for the Romans, (DRA, MSG, and TEV); and (3) a fig. reference to the West or western coastlands of the Mediterranean, (CEV, NCV, NIV, and NLT).
against him: Heb. bō, which means come in, come, go in or go. It can also mean to come upon, fall or light on, as in attacking an enemy (BDB 97). Here the verb functions as a preposition (Owens). Relevant to the context is that 1 Maccabees 1:1 and 8:5 treat Kittim as Macedonia, from which some interpreters think the ships mentioned here are a Macedonian fleet (Keil). Other commentators citing the Roman historian Livy say that the Roman embassy, led by the Roman diplomat Popillius, appeared with a Roman fleet in Alexandria.
Caius Popillius Laenas twice served as one of the two consuls of the Roman Republic, in 172 and 158 B.C. A consul was the highest elected office of the Roman Republic, serving as the heads of government. New consuls were elected by the Senate every year. There were two consuls and they ruled together as the highest civil and military magistrates in the Republic. (When the Republic became an Empire the consuls lost their power, supplanted by the Emperor.) While Popillius was not a consul when he met with Antiochus, he was acting on a commission from the Roman Senate with the full authority of the Roman government behind him.
However, the interpretation that "ships of Kittim will come against him" means that Popillius opposed Antiochus with a naval task force, either from Macedonia or Cyprus, is questionable. The historical records of Livy and Polybius indicate that Antiochus made a preemptory move to send his fleet to take control of Cyprus before his invasion of Egypt, which was easily accomplished (Livy XXIX. 45, §11). The historians do not say that Popillius arrived in Egypt with a naval force. He and his fellow commissioners obviously arrived by ship and may have had a security detail for personal protection, but there is no evidence that Popillius came with a force capable of engaging Antiochus' military might. The LXX likewise does not support the interpretation of a naval confrontation. The old version of the LXX reads "and the Romans will come and expel him" (NETS). The LXX translated by the ABP has "And they shall enter in it, even the ones coming forth, the Chittim."
What are the ships of Kittim, then? There are three possible options, all acceptable.
● The "ships of Kittim" is fig. language for the Romans and the phrase simply means that the Romans will come to meet with Antiochus. They are "against him" in the sense that they oppose his invasion and take the side of Ptolemy.
● Taken literally, the ships of Kittim are simply transport vessels bearing the commissioners from the Roman senate. They are not a battle-ready naval fleet. This option is supported by Livy's record.
"When the news of the victory of Rome had spread into Asia, Antenor, who was lying with a fleet of swift ships at Phanae, left that place for Cassandrea. C. Popillius was at Delos to escort the supply ships destined for Macedonia, and when he learnt that the war in Macedonia was at an end and that the enemy vessels had left their station he sent home the ships of the allies which were under his command and set sail for Egypt to carry out the mission with which he was charged." (Livy, XXIX. 45, §10)
● Also, taken literally, the ships of Kittim could be boats transporting Syrian soldiers from Cyprus back to Syria, likewise reported by Livy.
"Antiochus evacuated Egypt at the appointed date, and the commissioners exerted their authority to establish a lasting concord between the brothers, as they had as yet hardly made peace with each other. They [the Roman commissioners] then sailed to Cyprus and sent home the fleet of Antiochus which had defeated the Egyptian ships in a naval engagement. The work of the commissioners won great renown amongst the nations, for it was undoubtedly owing to this that Egypt had been rescued out of the hands of Antiochus and the crown restored to the Ptolemaic dynasty." (Livy, XXIX. 45, §12; also reported in Polybius, XXIX. 27, §10)
disheartened: Heb. ka'ah, be disheartened, cowed (BDB 456). Antiochus knows that Popillius can "go to the mattresses" (as the Italian saying goes) and all his dreams of controlling Egypt have been quashed. The leverage possessed by Popillius was that the Romans had defeated the Macedonians at the Battle of Pydna, which had concluded before Popillius set sail for Egypt. Rome now controlled all of Macedonian Greece and Antiochus knew that Rome had the power to destroy him (Livy XXIX. 45, §10, 12). Antiochus no doubt remembered what had happened to his father at the Battle of Magnesia and recalled also his years as a young hostage in Roman captivity. Popillius essentially made Antiochus an offer he couldn't refuse.
and will return: he agrees to the demand of Popillius and makes plans to return to Antioch, his capitol. Polybius tells the fascinating story of how Popillius frustrated Antiochus' plans.
"At the time when Antiochus approached Ptolemy and meant to occupy Pelusium, Caius Popillius Laenas, the Roman commander, on Antiochus greeting him from a distance and then holding out his hand, handed to the king, as he had it by him, the copy of the senatus-consultum, and told him to read it first, not thinking it proper, as it seems to me, to make the conventional sign of friendship before he knew if the intentions of him who was greeting him were friendly or hostile. 4 But when the king, after reading it, said he would like to communicate with his friends about this intelligence, Popillius acted in a manner which was thought to be offensive and exceedingly arrogant. 5 He was carrying a stick cut from a vine, and with this he drew a circle round Antiochus and told him he must remain inside this circle until he gave his decision about the contents of the letter. 6 The king was astonished at this authoritative proceeding, but, after a few moments' hesitation, said he would do all that the Romans demanded. Upon this Popillius and his suite all grasped him by the hand and greeted him warmly. 7 The letter ordered him to put an end at once to the war with Ptolemy. 8 So, as a fixed number of days were allowed to him, he led his army back to Syria, deeply hurt and complaining indeed, but yielding to circumstances for the present." (Polybius XXIX. 27, §1-8; cf. Livy, XLI. 45, §12)
enraged at the holy covenant: Antiochus was angry first that he had been forced by the Romans to retire from Egypt. Then he learned that a rumor was circulating in Israel that he had been killed (2 Macc 5:5), which had fueled rebellious fervor among Jewish opponents. Fighting had indeed broken out between Hellenist Jews and the pious Jews and Antiochus assumed that a civil war was in progress (2 Macc 5:11).
he will take action: Antiochus quickly moved to bring order. His "police action" was brutal.
"When news of what had happened reached the king, he took it to mean that Judea was in revolt. So, raging inwardly, he left Egypt and took the city by storm. And he commanded his soldiers to cut down relentlessly every one they met and to slay those who went into the houses. Then there was killing of young and old, destruction of boys, women, and children, and slaughter of virgins and infants. Within the total of three days eighty thousand were destroyed, forty thousand in hand-to-hand fighting; and as many were sold into slavery as were slain." (2 Macc 5:11-14)
he will … show regard for those who forsake the holy covenant: Antiochus restored the Hellenistic high priest to power.
31― Forces from him will arise: 2 Maccabees recounts the story,
"So Antiochus carried off eighteen hundred talents from the temple, and hurried away to Antioch…. And he left governors to afflict the people … and besides these Menelaus, who lorded it over his fellow citizens worse than the others did." (2Macc 5:21-23)
Desecrate: Heb. khalal, pollute, profane, defile (BDB 320). the sanctuary: Heb. miqdash, sacred place, sanctuary (BDB 874); a reference to the tabernacle in former days and the temple in later times. fortress: Heb. ma'ots, place or means of safety, protection (BDB 731). While the NASB treats "sanctuary" as a adjective describing "fortress," Owens points out that ma'ots has the definite article and the words should be rendered "sanctuary and fortress." 1 Maccabees 1:29-39 recounts how Apollonius, sent by Antiochus, with an army of twenty-two thousand attacked Jerusalem on a Sabbath. The Syrian army killed thousands, plundered the city, burned it with fire, and tore down its houses and its surrounding walls. They defiled the sanctuary, the Temple, first by shedding the blood of Israelite defenders there and then later turning it into a pagan temple.
"In his malice toward the Jewish citizens, Antiochus sent Apollonius, the captain of the Mysians, with an army of twenty-two thousand, and commanded him to slay all the grown men and to sell the women and boys as slaves. When this man arrived in Jerusalem, he pretended to be peaceably disposed and waited until the holy sabbath day; then, finding the Jews not at work, he ordered his men to parade under arms. He put to the sword all those who came out to see them, then rushed into the city with his armed men and killed great numbers of people." (2 Macc 5:23-26)
"Two years later the king sent to the cities of Judah a chief collector of tribute, and he came to Jerusalem with a large force. Deceitfully he spoke peaceable words to them, and they believed him; but he suddenly fell upon the city, dealt it a severe blow, and destroyed many people of Israel. He plundered the city, burned it with fire, and tore down its houses and its surrounding walls. And they took captive the women and children, and seized the cattle. Then they fortified the city of David with a great strong wall and strong towers, and it became their citadel. And they stationed there a sinful people, lawless men. These strengthened their position; they stored up arms and food, and collecting the spoils of Jerusalem they stored them there, and became a great snare. It became an ambush against the sanctuary, an evil adversary of Israel continually. On every side of the sanctuary they shed innocent blood; they even defiled the sanctuary. Because of them the residents of Jerusalem fled; she became a dwelling of strangers; she became strange to her offspring, and her children forsook her. Her sanctuary became desolate as a desert; her feasts were turned into mourning, her sabbaths into a reproach, her honor into contempt." (1Macc 1:29-39)
do away with the regular sacrifice: see my notes on 8:11 & 14. Maccabees recounts the tragic tale.
"Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people, and that each should give up his customs. All the Gentiles accepted the command of the king. Many even from Israel gladly adopted his religion; they sacrificed to idols and profaned the sabbath. And the king sent letters by messengers to Jerusalem and the cities of Judah; he directed them to follow customs strange to the land, to forbid burnt offerings and sacrifices and drink offerings in the sanctuary, to profane sabbaths and feasts, to defile the sanctuary and the priests, to build altars and sacred precincts and shrines for idols, to sacrifice swine and unclean animals, and to leave their sons uncircumcised. They were to make themselves abominable by everything unclean and profane, so that they should forget the law and change all the ordinances. And whoever does not obey the command of the king shall die." (1Macc 1:41-50)
set up: Heb. natan, to give, put or set (BDB 678). The verb could have the sense of put in place or erect. the abomination: Heb. shiquts, detested thing (BDB 1055). Any thing other than what God prescribed to be placed in the temple would be abhorrent. It could be beautiful of design and still abominable. of desolation: Heb. shamem, a verb meaning to be desolated or appalled. The word was used of Tamar when she was raped by her half-brother (2 Sam 13:20). The clause might also be translated "they will set up an appalling abomination."
The expression of a desolating abomination occurs three times in Daniel (9:27, here and 12:11) and twice in the Besekh (Matt 24:15; Mark 13:14). The abomination mentioned in Daniel 9:27 is eschatological, that is, related to the end times, whereas the one here is to be accomplished by a Greek king of the north. Maccabees records what happened.
"Now on the fifteenth day of Chislev, in the one hundred and forty-fifth year [168 B.C.], they erected a desolating sacrilege upon the altar of burnt offering. They also built altars in the surrounding cities of Judah, and burned incense at the doors of the houses and in the streets." (1Macc 1:54-55)
"The king sent an Athenian senator to compel the Jews to forsake the laws of their fathers and cease to live by the laws of God, and also to pollute the temple in Jerusalem and call it the temple of Olympian Zeus, and to call the one in Gerizim the temple of Zeus the Friend of Strangers, as did the people who dwelt in that place. Harsh and utterly grievous was the onslaught of evil." (2Macc 6:1-3)
It is believed that the appointees of Epiphanes, aided by traitorous Hellenistic Jews, sacrificed a sow on the altar and erected a statue of Zeus in the temple at Jerusalem. The motive behind this act was his ambition to unify the great empire extending all the way to India, left him by his father, by compelling all people in the empire to adopt the Greek system of culture and pantheistic religion (Morris).
This is the first of three verses in this chapter that has a direct reference in the New Testament. When Yeshua repeated the revelation given to Daniel in the Olivet Discourse Yeshua referred to the eschatological abomination and not the one mentioned in this chapter. Obviously the two prophecies are parallel, the one here serving as a type of the one to come.
32― The NASB offers a redundant translation. The opening clause would be lit. "those who violate the covenant he shall seduce with flattery" (Owens). By smooth words: Heb. chalaqqah, smoothness, flattery, fine promises. The preposition occurs only in the plural (BDB 325). Antiochus was well known for the glib tongue of a master politician. Act wickedly: Heb. rasha, adjective meaning wicked or criminal, whether against God or man (BDB 967). In this case their actions are intentional transgressions of God's covenant: see note on verse 28. The opening clause refers to the Hellenistic Jews (Sevener 207). Antiochus corrupted these Jews even more than they were before his persecution. Compromise with the world is a slippery slope. Once you decide that God's laws no longer apply to you, it is but a short step to rebellion and idolatry.
the people who know their God: faithful pious Jews who would rather die than forsake the Torah. During the reign of terror of Antiochus the faithful Jews still did their best to keep faith, observing the Sabbath, circumcising their babies. will display strength: Heb. chazaq, to be or grow firm, strong, strengthen (BDB 304). The word in this context refers to pious Jews strengthening their resolve to live by Torah, no matter the consequences.
and take action: The vile decrees of Antiochus stirred the faithful Jews to revolt. Some revolted simply by refusing to live by pagan religious decrees. Others took up arms against the Syrians. Judas Maccabeus (Heb. Yehudah HaMakabi, Judah the Hammer) was a Cohen (priest) and the third son of the priest Mattathias (1 Macc 2:4) and descendant of Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron (1 Macc 2:54). Judas assembled courageous Jews and his revolt against the Seleucid Empire beginning in 167 B.C., first in guerilla warfare and later in open battle, led them to victory over the Syrians. He is acclaimed as one of the greatest warriors in Jewish history alongside Joshua, Gideon and David.
33― Those who have insight: Heb. sakal. See note on 9:22. These are the pious Jews who know their God (v. 32), and give attention to reading and living by the Torah. You want insight into God's Word? Then obey it (Matt 7:24; 19:17; John 7:17), and you will be among the many who understand the ways of God. "The great multitude of the people who bring themselves forward to view by the judicious appearance of the pious, are moved to hold fast by the law of the Lord" (Keil). They will fall: unfortunately the good will die as martyrs. Maccabees tells of the sacrifice of the pious Jews.
"The books of the law which they [prob. Syrians] found they tore to pieces and burned with fire. Where the book of the covenant was found in the possession of any one, or if any one adhered to the law, the decree of the king condemned him to death. They kept using violence against Israel, against those found month after month in the cities. And on the twenty-fifth day of the month they offered sacrifice on the altar which was upon the altar of burnt offering. According to the decree, they put to death the women who had their children circumcised, and their families and those who circumcised them; and they hung the infants from their mothers' necks. But many in Israel stood firm and were resolved in their hearts not to eat unclean food. They chose to die rather than to be defiled by food or to profane the holy covenant; and they did die." (1 Macc 1:56-63)
Many days: Heb. yamim, pl. of yom. The Hebrew word yom is generally used as a specific division of time denoting the daytime portion of a 24-hour day (Gen 1:5) or a complete solar/lunar cycle of 24 hours (Ex 2:13). When used in the plural yom can mean a year (1 Sam 27:7) or the lifespan of an individual (Gen 18:11). The Hebrews did not conceive of time in the abstract, but used yom overwhelmingly in the sense of ordinary measurable time. Antiochus' oppression lasted about three years. See note on 8:14.
The Maccabean history gives the timeline as follows: Antiochus began to reign in the "137th year of the kingdom of the Greeks" [175 B.C.] (1 Macc 1:10) and he went up against Israel in the "one hundred and forty-third year" [170 B.C.] to ensure Jewish submission (1 Macc 1:20). Two years later [145th year] he returned in force to punish the Jews for rebellion (1 Macc 1:29). Then, "on the fifteenth day of Chislev, in the one hundred and forty-fifth year, [168 B.C.] they erected a desolating sacrilege upon the altar of burnt offering" (1 Macc 1:54). Then three years later, "on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month, which is the month of Chislev, in the one hundred and forty-eighth year," [165 B.C.] the Maccabees rededicated the temple (1 Macc 4:52).
The Dispensationalist argument that "many days" reflects a leap forward to the last days bypassing the church age (so Morris) is unconvincing. Indeed, persecution of the Jews has been going on for "many days." The church age brought intense persecution against Jews by those bearing the name of the Jewish Messiah. The Jews experienced sword, flame, imprisonment and plunder from the time of the church fathers, through the Middle Ages, the enlightened centuries, into the modern era with the Holocaust.
Israel must now contend with constant attacks by Islamic terrorists, anti-Israel policies by the United Nations and its leading members, including the United States, and rampant antisemitism around the world. This persistent hatred against the Jews can only be accounted as demonic in origin, because they are God's people. God's Word says plainly, "Blessed is everyone who blesses you [Israel], and cursed is everyone who curses you" (Num 24:9; cf. Gen 12:3).
34― Now when they fall: The Maccabean revolt was a struggle, beginning as a guerrilla war and they did have their defeats. It took time to develop both the strength and the military skill to take on the seasoned troops of Antiochus in pitched battles. they will be granted a little help: The overthrow of Antiochus and the liberation of the Jews was not quick in coming, which would constitute "full help." Keil suggests that the “little help” means that by those with insight rising up the theocracy was preserved, their destruction was prevented, and the purifying of the people of God is brought about. So, the attaining of this end is a “little help” in comparison with the complete victory over the arch-enemy of the time of the end.
many will join with them in hypocrisy: Heb. chalaqlaqqah, smoothness, slipperiness, flattery, or fine promises. The successes of Judas, and the severity with which he and Mattathias treated the apostates (1Macc 2:44; 3:5, 8), had the result of causing many to join them only through hypocrisy (1Macc 7:6; 2Macc 14:6), who again forsook them as soon as opportunity offered (1Macc 6:21-23; 9:23) (Keil).
35― This verse begins by summarizing the opening words of the previous two verses. in order to refine: Heb. tsaraph, to smelt, refine or test (BDB 864). The verb form simply describes the end result of the purging and purifying., purge: Heb. barar, to purify or select, to purge out (BDB 140). The imperfect verb form means to purify oneself. This verb probably refers to removing behaviors or things (like idols) that hinder full obedience to God. and make them pure: Heb. laben, to be white. The imperfect form means to purify oneself in an ethical sense (BDB 526). This verb may either be parallel to barar or emphasize the strengthening of or restoring behaviors pleasing to God.
Gabriel offers a point of view later offered in the Maccabees: "Now I urge those who read this book not to be depressed by such calamities, but to recognize that these punishments were designed not to destroy but to discipline our people." (2Macc 6:12) Perhaps the difficulty that so many Christians have of making sense of persecution is the unwillingness to face the fact that the sovereign loving God allows it, or worse yet, uses it.
end time: Heb. eth [time] qets [end], lit. "time of the end." See the note on 8:17. When the Christian reader sees these words the last days just before the return of Messiah Yeshua come to mind. However, the period must first apply to the time of suffering under Antiochus. The prophecy assures the Jews that Antiochus would meet his end. appointed time: Heb. mo'ed. See note on 8:19.
36― Then the king will do as he pleases: See the notes on 11:6 and 11:16. Antiochus will act as God allows, in one sense functioning as a messenger of judgment on those who have rejected the Torah. God promised in Deuteronomy 28:15 that if his people rejected his covenant he would bring numerous curses on their head, including using foreign powers to conquer and oppress them (Deut 28:49; cf. Jer 22:25; Joel 3:6; Hab 1:6). The pious Jews would remember that "our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases" (Ps 115:3).
He will magnify himself above every god: Miller, as other Dispensationalists, contend that Antiochus did not exalt himself above every god, but worshipped the gods of his fathers (the Greek pantheon). Therefore, verses 36-45 must apply to the “little horn” of Daniel 7 and the anticipated ruler of Daniel 9:26, none other than the Antichrist of the New Testament (cf. Rev. 13:4, 14). He will also “speak monstrous things against the God of gods,” i.e., the God of Israel (cf. 2Th 2:3-4; Rev 13:5-6). However, such an interpretation ignores the evidence of history. The fact that Antiochus installed worship of Zeus in Jerusalem does not obviate the fact that he did exalt himself.
The self-exaltation of Antiochus can be deduced from two complementary programs. The first program of Antiochus was to unite his empire around one cultural norm - Hellenism. The Maccabean history records:
"Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people, and that each should give up his customs. All the Gentiles accepted the command of the king." (1Macc 1:41-43)
The second program was to claim divine honors. He considered himself the visible manifestation of Zeus (Tarn 216). As Keil notes self-exaltation is feature common to both Antiochus and Antichrist. The chief evidence of Antiochus magnifying himself is the practice of king-worship. King-worship was a political religion that gave the king a footing in Greek cities and ensured the continuing validity of his acts after death. It was rendered possible by the general disbelief of the educated classes in the pantheon.
The Olympian religion was no longer of practical use. The gods might be immortal, but some had mortal mothers. Wasn't Alexander, whose spirit still inspired the world, immortal, too? For the Olympian religion one had to take so much on trust. One might believe in the power and splendor of Zeus, but one could see the power and splendor of the king. The local god could not feed you in a famine; but the king did. So, perhaps the king had powers denied to a god. So at least men thought. This is why the common man took to king-worship. In pursuit of this political religion all the Seleucid and Ptolemaic kings took cult names (Tarn 52-53). However, Antiochus went a step further, as Tarn explains:
"There is one cult-name that stood on a different footing that all the rest: "Epiphanes, the god manifest. It was first bestowed on Ptolemy V, probably at his coming of age in 197" [by the Egyptian priests], to whom the boy really was the Sun-god manifest upon earth." … "but it was in the hands of its second wearer that the title became significant. Antiochus IV Epiphanes was perhaps the one monarch who took his divinity seriously; but whether this was in any sense personal, and whether his brilliance really at times overstepped the line which we call insanity, can hardly be said. But certainly his reasons were mainly political; he saw that to withstand Rome, his kingdom must become homogenous in culture and cult, which could both only be Greek. Just as he turned native towns into cities with Greek forms on an extensive scale, so he possibly looked to the worship of himself as Zeus manifest for a means of unification; he was the first Seleucid to use his cult-name and divine title on his coinage." (Tarn 54-55)
The significance of the coins issued by Antiochus, mimicking Ptolemaic coinage, should not be underestimated. The images on the coins illustrate the official metamorphosis of Antiochus IV into a deity. The face of the first [a silver tetradrachma] bears the clean-shaven likeness of the king wearing the royal diadem, like the Syrian kings before him. (See the Seleucid Coin Gallery.) The reverse side portrays an enthroned bearded Zeus with scepter in his left hand and the figure of the goddess Nike (Victory) in his outstretched right hand. The inscription [top at left edge] reads: Basileos Antiochou [continuing to left of throne] Theou Epiphaniou [concluding at bottom] Nikephorou ["of King Antiochus, God Manifest, Victory bearer']. The face of the bronze coin portrays a bearded Antiochus as Zeus laureate himself, wearing the victor's wreath. The reverse side identifies the image: "of King Antiochus, God Manifest." Both coins were minted in Antioch (Smith).
Thus, it is no surprise that a letter from the Samaritans to Antiochus to disavow any allegiance to the Jews addressed him "To king Antiochus the god, Epiphanes, a memorial from the Sidonians, who live at Shechem" (Josephus, XII, 5 §5).
will speak: Heb. dabar; monstrous things: Heb. pala, surpassing, extraordinary (BDB 810); against the God of gods: the superlative title for the God of Israel also occurs at Deuteronomy 10:17; Psalm 136:2, and Daniel 2:47. (The parallel "Lord of lords" occurs in Deut 10:17; Ps 136:3; 1Tim 6:15; Rev 17:14; 19:16.) Commentators generally regard this statement as belonging to the end times antichrist because of the lack of a recorded speech by Antiochus belittling and blaspheming the God of Israel. However, the verb "speak" may refer to a broad range of communication, including decrees and commands of the king. To the pious Jews what Antiochus decreed was nothing short of astonishing, since he sought to replace God's laws with his own. Throughout the "times of the Gentiles" Jews had been allowed to practice their religion, except in the instance of Haman. Unlike Haman, Antiochus did not intend to exterminate the Jewish people, but he did attempt to destroy their identity by replacing worship of the true God with Hellenism and king-worship at the point of a sword.
he will prosper until the indignation is finished: Antiochus will prosper, but only until the anger of God against His people has been accomplished. This anger of God is irrevocably determined that His people may be wholly purified for the consummation of His kingdom in glory (Keil). that which is decreed will be done: that which is irrevocably decreed will be accomplished, is not to be recalled, but must be done (Keil).
37― He will show no regard: Heb. bin, to discern (BDB 106). In usage the form of the verb as it occurs here may mean (1) understand or know or (2) observe, mark, give heed to, distinguish or consider. for the gods: Heb. Eloah, god or God (BDB 43). Eloah is actually singular, but sometimes a singular noun is treated as a collective noun and translated in the plural as here. Eloah occurs 57 times in the Tanakh (NASBEC) and in only six of those verses does Eloah refer to a heathen deity (2Kgs 17:31; 2Chr 32:15) and four of those six occur in verses 37-39 of this chapter.
This statement could easily apply to Antiochus. The intent is to show that Antiochus would not look upon the Olympian religion in the same manner as his ancestors. As Tarn points out, "the Olympians conferred no personal salvation, no hope of immortality, little spirituality; and as guardians of the higher morality they were mostly sad misfits" (53). The Greek pantheon was enormous (see the List of Greek Mythological Figures) and Antiochus had no illusions about the usefulness of pagan religion for everyday living. Instead, he promoted a political religion which his forebears never considered.
Some commentators, taking this verse as purely eschatological along with the rest of the chapter, interpret Eloah as referring to the God of Israel and imply that the antichrist will have Jewish ancestry (so Young and Whitcomb as noted by Miller). Brickner, Executive Director of Jews for Jesus, insists that the Hebrew should be translated “gods” (137). Indeed, the context of the two warring kings in Daniel 11 and their destruction and plunder of the Beautiful Land make it unlikely in the extreme that the King of the North represents a Jewish antichrist. The one who imposed the abomination of desolation the first time was not a Jew, so when Yeshua predicted the abomination of desolation to occur again why should we assume this vile ruler would be a Jew? Yeshua intends no such meaning.
Henry Morris, accepting "God of his fathers" (KJV) as the correct translation, believes the antichrist will come from a national heritage that once was Christian. Daniel 8:9 indicated, also, that he would come from one of the four divisions of the Greek empire; and Daniel 9:26, that he would be from one of the nations that developed out of the Roman empire. These nations are all part of “Christendom." (Of course, that begs the question whether any of the Western nations can be considered "Christian.") Taking the biblical context into consideration an argument might be made that the antichrist is Greek or Syrian, since Antiochus was a Syrian-Greek. It would not surprise me if the antichrist were to be a Muslim.
For the desire: Heb. chemdah, to desire, in reference to something that is desirable or precious (BDB 326). of women: pl. of Heb. ishshah, woman, wife or female (BDB 61). This phrase has been variously interpreted.
Some interpret the Hebrew phrase as meaning that the king rejects biblical conventions of sexual behavior (“follow the lust of women” DRA), which was not uncommon among many ancient (and modern) world rulers. This interpretation is possible if we assume he lived by the accepted cultural value reflected by the famous quote from Pseudo-Demosthenes (4th century B.C.), "Mistresses we keep for the sake of pleasure, concubines for the daily care of our persons, but wives to bear us legitimate children and to be faithful guardians of our households."
An interesting suggestion by a couple of commentators is that the “desire” refers to the common dream of Jewish women to be the mother of the Messiah (noted in Miller), and therefore the denial of the Jewish Messiah is consistent with the beast-ruler’s rejection of true religion (cf. 1Jn 2:22; 4:3). Indeed, this longing would pass from generation to generation as every Hebrew woman desired to be the mother of the Messiah. Thus Elizabeth called Mary “blessed above all women” (Luke 1:42), because she was privileged to fulfill the dream and end the travail of birthing the Redeemer.
However, BDB suggests that the phrase is a reference to some object of idolatrous worship. This view is reflected in several Bible versions (CEV, CJB, NCV, NIV, NLT, RSV, TEV). Owens renders the Hebrew as "the one beloved by women." The context of the phrase favors an allusion to goddesses worshipped by women as a contrast to the gods of the fathers (e.g., "Queen of Heaven," Jer 7:18; 44:17-19 and "Tammuz," Ezek 8:14).
he will magnify himself above them all: While Antiochus did not try to eradicate worship of pagan deities as he did among the Jews, his efforts to Hellenize his entire realm and his institution of his cult status as Zeus incarnate relegated these national pantheons of much lesser importance. This is the second verse in the chapter with a direct correlation in the New Testament. Paul gave this description of the coming Man of Lawlessness:
"Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God." (2Th 2:3-4)
38― He will honor a god (Heb. Eloah) of fortresses: Heb. maots, place or means of safety, protection (BDB 731). Early Jewish and Christian commentators regarded "god of fortresses" as the proper name of a god. As to which god is to be understood there is very great diversity of opinion. Some think it's Mars, the god of war; others regard Jupiter Capitolinus, to whom Antiochus purposed to erect a temple in Antioch (Livy, XLI. 20); others, Jupiter Olympius. The god of fortresses may be an allusion to the goddess Nike who name meant victory and imprinted on his idolatrous coin. She and her siblings - Zelos, Kratos, and Bia (which mean, respectively, "rivalry," "strength," and "force") in Greek mythology were constant companions of Zeus.
a god whom his fathers did not know: The difficulty in identification is that this god was not known to his ancestors. That could not be said of Mars, Jupiter, Nike or Zeus. Keil takes the idiom as the personification of war, and says: "he will regard no other god, but only war; the taking of fortresses he will make his god; and he will worship this god above all as the means of his gaining the world-power. Of this god, war as the object of deification, it might be said that his fathers knew nothing, because no other king had made war his religion, his god to whom he offered up in sacrifice all, gold, silver, precious stones, jewels."
This personification reflects Antiochus' greed for power. He spared no expense to build up his military forces to attain invincibility against attack (cf. Rev 13:4). Antiochus not only relied on the strength of his army and navy but also fortified cities to maintain his control of the populations. Antiochus had strongholds established in the land of Israel and Idumaea as mentioned in the history of the Maccabean revolt (2Macc 10:15; 12:13).
39― He will take action: Antiochus will go to war; against the strongest of fortresses: walled cities of his enemies, including Jerusalem. The walled city built on seven hills had a long history of withstanding invaders and could be considered the strongest in the Land. with the help of a foreign god: Zeus, who, of course, is no god at all. He is "foreign," because he is not of the Jews. He: Antiochus will give great honor to those who acknowledge him: Hellenistic Jews who accept the religion of Zeus and his representative Antiochus will cause them to rule over the many: the Jews. parcel out land for a price: many interpreters find a reference to the circumstance that prior to the Maccabean revolt Antiochus occupied the Jewish fortresses with his troops, and rewarded adherents to his demands with places of honor and with possessions of land (cf. 2 Macc. 4:10, 24; 5:15) (Keil). As other ancient rulers Antiochus handsomely rewarded loyalty.
The Fall of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (11:40-45)
40― end time: lit. at the time of the end. "Time" is Heb. eth, which may refer to the time of an event, the usual time of something, or an appointed time (BDB 773). "End" is Heb. qets, which means end, usually of time or at the end of a definite time (BDB 893). In context the meaning would be "at the time of the end of the reign of Antiochus." King of the South: Ptolemaic kingdom in Egypt; king of the North: Seleucid kingdom based in Syria. The problem with limiting interpretation of this verse to the very last days is that in modern times both Egypt and Syria are relatively minor kingdoms and advocates have to invent totally new powers for these titles to represent. Proper exegesis must always consider the context.
41― He: Antiochus; will also enter: Beautiful Land: see note on 8:9 where the name of Israel also occurs in the context of describing the exploits of Antiochus. Many: Heb. rab, much, many, great (BDB 912) countries will fall: Heb. kashal, stumble, stagger, totter (BDB 505). "Countries" is an unfortunate translation since it gives the impression of nations as separate political entities. There is no word "countries" in the text. The prophecy only says that many will fall, which Owens renders as "tens of thousands" (so also the ESV and RSV). HCSB and DRA render the phrase literally as "many will fall" and The Message has "people will fall." Versions that insert "countries" or "nations' apparently have been influenced by the eschatological viewpoint of this section. The expression likely refers to both battlefield casualties and the thousands of Jews who perished rather than compromise their faith
Edom: the name of Esau (Gen 25:30). The territory of Edom lay directly south of Judea and the Dead Sea. In the time of Nebuchadnezzar the Edomites helped plunder Jerusalem and slaughter the Jews (Ps 137:7; Obad 1:11-14). For this reason the Prophets denounced Edom violently (Isa 34:5-8; Jer 49:7-22). During the Maccabean revolt against the Seleucid kingdom, 2 Maccabees refers to a Seleucid general named Gorgias as "Governor of Idumaea" (2 Macc 8:9; 10:14; 12:32-37). Whether he was a Greek or a Hellenized Edomite is unknown. Moab: the firstborn son of Lot by his oldest daughter. The land of Moab lay directly east of the Dead Sea. Ammon: the second son of Lot by his younger daughter. The land of Ammon lay east of the Jordan and north of Moab.
Rescued out of his hand: Due to their territorial placement these nations were not battlegrounds in the Ptolemy-Seleucid wars. The line of march from Syria to Egypt ran through the Plain of Sharon and the Plain of Philistia that lay between the hill country of Israel and the Mediterranean coast. In addition, Antiochus did not put these countries under tribute, because they had joined with him against the Jews.
Taking an eschatological interpretation Morris suggests that Edom, Moab, and Ammon, while no longer existing as nations, may refer to the mountainous desert wilderness that serves as the refuge for the faithful Jews during the time of the great tribulation (Rev 12:6, 14-16). However, this interpretation is problematic since the beast apparently has military supremacy (Rev 13:4) and authority over every nation on the planet (Rev 13:7).
42― Then he: Antiochus; will stretch out his hand against other countries: Heb erets, earth or land (BDB 76). The translation of "other" is interpretative to indicate countries other than the Beautiful Land mentioned in verse 41. Being against other countries is a sweeping statement indicating the lands that Antiochus sought to control to the North (Asia), the East (Persia) and the South (countries bounded by the Jordan and its inland seas). Egypt will not escape: Ptolemy could not hope that with facing recalcitrant rulers in every part of his empire Antiochus would overlook Egypt's efforts to expand its territory.
43― But he will gain control over…the precious things of Egypt: this statement recapitulates verses 24 and 28. Libyans and Ethiopians will follow at his heels: These people were initially allies of Egypt, but switched sides to serve under Antiochus when he conquered Egypt (Faussett).
44― But rumors from the East and from the North will disturb him: In A.D. 167 Armenia in the north and Parthia in the east revolted against Seleucid rule. (See 1 Macc 3:37; Tacitus, Histories, 5.8). Antiochus went on the expedition against them, while leaving his army in Judea under the command of Lysias to deal with the Maccabean revolt. destroy and annihilate many: Antiochus had initial success in the eastern campaign and reoccupied Armenia.
45― He will pitch the tents of his royal pavilion: this refers to Lysias, the commander of the Syrian army in Judea. According to the Maccabean history, "He [Antiochus] left Lysias, a distinguished man of royal lineage, in charge of the king's affairs from the river Euphrates to the borders of Egypt." (1Macc 3:32). between the seas: between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea. beautiful Holy Mountain: Jerusalem or Mount Zion in particular. yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him: For the story of the end of Antiochus see 1 Maccabees 6:5-16; 2 Maccabees 9:1-28. Antiochus learned of the Maccabean success over Lysias while in Persia and set out to deal with the Jewish rebels, but died en route of an affliction to the bowels. The Maccabean history concludes with, "So the murderer and blasphemer, having endured the more intense suffering, such as he had inflicted on others, came to the end of his life by a most pitiable fate, among the mountains in a strange land" (2Macc 9:28).
This is the third verse in the chapter that has a direct correlation to the Besekh (Luke 21:20; Rev 11:1-2; 14:18-20; 16:12-16; 19:19). Before the great Day of Wrath the beast will gather his forces in the holy land and when Jerusalem is surrounded by her enemies her Messiah will invade this world in might and glory (cf. Zech 14:1-3). The beast will come to his end and no one will be able to help him when he is removed to the lake of fire (Rev 19:20).
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