Antiochus Epiphanes – Daniel 11:21-45

 
There is no more obvious place in scripture which proves the comment that “prophecy is history pre-written.” The parallel between the two is obvious. In fact the expositor may become torn between emphasizing the scriptures or the history. Last Sunday night we looked at what the angel told Daniel about the early aspects of the coming Kingdom of Grecia. Tonight we finish the Greek’s domination over Israel, looking at one particularly infamous king.

Some Bible scholars want to make a division after verse 35, and some do so at verse 31. They want to say that the first section refers to the Greek Antichrist, and rest of the chapter deals with the Antichrist of the Tribulation. As far as I am concerned those people have a very strong case. And here is the point – Everything from verse 21 to verse 31 has been authenticated by secular history. Following that we have reason to believe that these events took place during the lifetime of Antiochus, but more precisely, other scriptures indicate that they will occur during the Tribulation. For the sake of brevity and since this is another hot Sunday afternoon, I have decided to follow that opinion at least as far as our outline is concerned. We will stop with verse 35.

Verse 21 – “And in his estate shall stand up a vile person, to whom they shall not give the honour of the kingdom: but he shall come in peaceably, and obtain the kingdom by flatteries.” If you will remember Antiochus the Great, in 190 AD, lost a major battle to the up-and-coming Romans. Those Romans had been encouraged by Antiochus’ own daughter – a woman named Cleopatra.

I need to make it clear that this Cleopatra is not that Cleopatra. The name became a type of title, just as “Caesar” became the title of several Roman Emperors. The famous Cleopatra of “Antony and Cleopatra” was actually Cleopatra VII – born in 69 BC. This Cleopatra, the daughter of Antiochus the Great, was born about 150 years earlier. But it is not surprising that they were very similar in nature and power, since they were related. I used the term “Hollywood-esque” last week, and it might be applied to this history of these Cleopatras. There were mothers, sisters and daughters all with that name/title. And they were all powerful, diabolical, Hollywood starlet types of people.

But getting back to our scriptures, the father of Cleopatra I was defeated by the Romans. Then being forced pay huge yearly tribute to the Romans, as he was trying to strip a heathen temple of its wealth, he was killed. His son Seleucus Philopater (the raiser of taxes) succeeded him, but he died some time later after trying to strip the temple of the Lord of whatever wealth he could find there. Seleucus’ brother was named Antiochus, usually called Antiochus Epiphanes.

What is an epiphany? Before it became a part of the Roman Catholic calendar, the word simply meant “an appearance.” It is believed by some that this son of Antiochus, called himself “theos epiphany” – the manifestation of god. That was later shortened to Antiochus Epiphanes. But he was as far removed from God as any human being can possibly be. He is called “vile” “despicable” – because he was immoral to the nth degree – socially, politically, sexually, and in every other way. For some time after the defeat of his father, he was kept in Rome as an hostage, along with others. He was free to move about the city, but was not permitted to leave. And this gave him access to all the vices of the world’s metropolitan city. Interestingly, almost all of the Grecian hostages were exchanged every three years, but this man’s father thought so little of this son that he was left in Rome for twelve years. During this time, he was kept very busy making friends with people in both high and very low places.

As this scripture implies, there was never any thought of making this man king of Seleucia. Not his father, nor his brother, nor any of the people of the land, thought him worthy of the throne. He was so disgusting that his own countrymen called him Antiochus Epimanes (the madman).

“But (eventually) he shall come in peaceably, and obtain the kingdom by flatteries.” History tells us that Antiochus, who by this time was free, proposed to hold the kingdom for his nephew Demetrius, who was then one of the hostages in Rome. But once he had control, he began to make even more friends in high places, through bribes and patronage. Then when the moment was right he used his alliances to declare himself king of Seleucia –which included Syria, Israel and other nations in the area.

At this point I must point out that different scholars apply the next few verses either to what he did in Seleucia or to what he did in Egypt. There is no doubt that either could apply, or perhaps should apply. “And with the arms of a flood shall they be overflown from before him, and shall be broken; yea, also the prince of the covenant.” Two of the alliances that Antiochus created was with the king of Pergamus, and his brother, Attalus. He called in his markers, and Eumenes brought an army into Seleucia, imbedding Antiochus on the throne. It was as though a flood swept across the land and all his enemies were swept away. One of his victims was Onias III, the High Priest in Israel, who was replaced by his brother upon his allegiance to the new king. In other words, the leadership of Israel by this time became Helenistic – it had been Grecianized. Among other places this is recorded in Maccabees one of the books of the Apocrypha.

“And after the league made with him he shall work deceitfully: for he shall come up, and shall become strong with a small people. He shall enter peaceably even upon the fattest places of the province; and he shall do that which his fathers have not done, nor his fathers’ fathers; he shall scatter among them the prey, and spoil, and riches: yea, and he shall forecast his devices against the strong holds, even for a time.” As I say, there are some historians who apply these verses to what Antiochus did in Seleucia. But it’s more probably related to what he accomplished in Egypt. Once he declared himself king, he went to see his sister Cleopatra I, and her son the new Ptolemy Philometer. He came peaceably, taking with him only his personal honor-guards. But these men were essentially highly skilled commandos. In the process he accomplished what his fathers had never done. Under the guise of friendship, he drove deep into Egyptian territory, devouring a great deal of her wealth. Eventually he returned north, but his success in Egypt greatly encouraged him.

Verse 25 – “And he shall stir up his power and his courage against the king of the south with a great army; and the king of the south shall be stirred up to battle with a very great and mighty army; but he shall not stand: for they shall forecast devices against him.” II Macabeess 5:1 says, “About the same time Antiochus prepared his second voyage into Egypt.” Verse 26 – “Yea, they that feed of the portion of his meat shall destroy him, and his army shall overflow: and many shall fall down slain.” On his first assault Antiochus went into Egypt under a pretense of friendship; but now more openly as an enemy, with a large army. Macabees says, “Wherefore he entered into Egypt with a great multitude, with chariots, and elephants, and horsemen, and a great navy, And made war against Ptolemee king of Egypt: but Ptolemee was afraid of him, and fled; and many were wounded to death.” Antiochus completely routed his nephew this time, taking Memphis where Ptolemy resided. The only city which did not fall to the army of Antiochus was Alexandria. Once again, with a combination of military force and treachery, Antiochus defeated his nephew Ptolemy. But while this was taking place, unbeknown to Antiochus, the people of Alexandria were making another son of Cleopatra their king – Ptolemy Physcon.

With that both Antiochus and Ptolemy pretended to be the best of friends and closest of relatives. “And both these kings’ hearts shall be to do mischief, and they shall speak lies at one table; but it shall not prosper: for yet the end shall be at the time appointed.” Over all these sins, battles and intrigues, the Lord is still upon His throne. No plan of men is going to supercede the will and appointment of God.

“Then shall he return into his land with great riches; and his heart shall be against the holy covenant; and he shall do exploits, and return to his own land.” Remember that the reason that so much detail is given to Daniel is because this will directly affect Israel. Antiochus, with the spoils of Egypt, and the gifts and presents he had received there returned north. He was somewhat miffed that Alexandria held out against him, but he still returned home a rich man. Then Macabees says, “And after that Antiochus had smitten Egypt, he returned again in the hundred forty and third year (of Seleucian history), and went up against Israel and Jerusalem with a great multitude. And entered proudly into the sanctuary, and took away the golden altar, and the candlestick of light, and all the vessels thereof.”

Verse 28 says that “his heart shall be against the holy covenant.” This is not the covenant he had made with Ptolemy, but the holy covenant – between God and Israel. This is the covenant whereby Israel became a distinct and peculiar people, having a religion, laws, and ordinances, different from all others. This is the reason for which they were hated by other nations, and particularly by Antiochus. It became the policy of Antiochus Epiphanes to have all the people under his control to become one people. There were many in Israel who didn’t really care one way or the other, but many did.

Then some bad intel was heard which really brought down the wrath of the king. Based upon the rumor that Antiochus had been killed, the Jews had removed the corrupt High Priest that he had installed. When Antiochus heard of that, he assumed that there was a general rebellion against him. And with that excuse Antiochus ordered his soldiers to slaughter the people of Jerusalem. Within three days time 80,000 were slain and 40,000 Jews more were taken and sold into slavery. Then Antiochus’ men ransacked the temple carrying out everything they deemed of value.

But now it was time for the Lord to step in once again. “At the time appointed he shall return, and come toward the south; but it shall not be as the former, or as the latter.” It really bothered Antiochus Ptolemy’s brother, Physcon was declaring himself the new Ptolemy of Egypt. Under the pretense of reestablishing Ptolemy Philometer as king, Antiochus raced back south. But his real purpose was to once and for all conquer and possess Egypt. But this third venture wasn’t nearly as successful as he had hoped. The two brothers had been reconciled and besought the Romans for protection.

Verse 30 – “For the ships of Chittim shall come against him.” Alexandria is the Mediterranean port city of Egypt. And remember that Egypt at that time was the bread basket of the Mediterranean. Her wheat and other food exports were feeding much of the world. The Ptolemy brothers besought Rome for assistance, and she complied by filling the Alexandian harbor with ships. History says that the commander of the Romans was an old friend from Antiochus’ days as a hostage. As he approached the man he expected a warm greeting, but it didn’t come. The Roman demanded that he immediately comply with the orders of the Roman Senate. He drew a circle in the sand around the Seleucian king and told him to decide what he was going to do before he stepped out of the circle. Antiochus had no choice but to comply or to die, so comply he did. But of course this made him furious.

“Therefore he shall be grieved, and return, and have indignation against the holy covenant: so shall he do; he shall even return, and have intelligence with them that forsake the holy covenant. And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate.” It was on this, another trip across Israel, that Antiochus’ wrath was fully poured out on the Jews. It was at this point that he made sure that the daily sacrifices came to an end and the sanctuary was polluted. Macabees says, “For the temple was filled with riot and revelling by the Gentiles, who dallied with harlots, and had to do with women within the circuit of the holy places, and besides that brought in things that were not lawful. The altar also was filled with profane things, which the law forbiddeth.” The historian Josephus adds that the king then ordered that swine be sacrificed upon the altar.

With this verse 31 until the end of the chapter, we could be talking about either history or prophesy. And since this just about splits the chapter for us, I’ve decided to stop here and pick it up again next week. I believe that Antiochus Epiphanes, “Theos Epiphanes” is a type of the Antichrist of the Tribulation. Whether the remaining verses in this chapter are not speaking about Antiochus or not, I’m not really concerned. Their most important aspects still relate to the future, and perhaps to the future of people who are alive and living in Israel at this very moment. But what we have just read this evening, is now history, despite pointing a finger forward.