Between the Testaments

By Dr. B. H. Carroll
Late President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminar, Fort Worth, Texas
Edited by Dr. Ronald D. Lesley for Fundamental Baptist Institute

A Class on Biblical History

Lesson # 4


This period is only twenty-three years, that is, from the battle of Paneas, 198 B.C., to the beginning of the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes, 175 B.C. In the preceding chapter we considered the Jews under the Ptolemies of Egypt, a period of 125 years, 323 B.C. to 198 B.C. We limited our discussion to one notable event, only, touching the Jews under each of the five Ptolemies. First, the treacherous enslavement of many of the Jews by Ptolemy I, surnamed Soter. Second, the translation of the Scriptures into Greek, with the attendant generosities, under Ptolemy II, surnamed Philadelphus. Third, the stupidity and greed of the high priest, Onias II, resulting in the farming of the revenue of Coele-Syria committed to Joseph, son of Tobias, under Ptolemy III, surnamed Euergetes. Fourth, the alienation of the Jews from Egyptian rule, caused by Ptolemy IV, surnamed Philopater, after his victory at Raphia over Antiochus III of Antioch, surnamed the Great. Fifth (and in my discussion before I did not sufficiently touch this), the great damage to the Jews done by Scopas, the general of Ptolemy V, surnamed Epiphanes, terminating with the defeat of Scopas at the battle of Paneas.

We are now to consider the fortunes of the Jews under Antiochus the Great, and his son Seleucus IV. Throughout the wars of the Ptolemies with the Seleucids for the province of Coele-Syria, including Judea, the Jews were ground to powder as between the upper and nether millstones. In such a brief discussion of this period our trouble has been to condense from such vast historical material, which enlarges as we go on. We have been compelled to touch lightly the Greek historians, and from this point are embarrassed with the riches of material in the contemporaneous Roman historians—Livy, Tacitus, and others, to say nothing of great modern histories—Rollin, Rawlinson, and Brace, and Mommsen’s great History of Rome, probably one of the greatest contributions to history of modern times. The matter has been complicated by treaties between the two powers, based on intermarriages. The most notable of these, so far, was the marriage of Antiochus II to Bernice, the daughter of Ptolemy Philadelphus, and later to be followed by a marriage between Cleopatra, daughter of Antiochus the Great, and Ptolemy V, surnamed Epiphanes. These political marriages make a great deal of trouble in history.

As I have said before, the prophecies of Daniel constitute the clearest guide to this period. If we want to understand the war between the Seleucids and the Ptolemies, we will find it in the interpretation of the Daniel 11, connecting Daniel 8:9-26 with 11:2-20, as both of these refer to Antiochus Epiphanes. A commentary on Daniel from the Cambridge Bible, by Driver, a pronounced radical critic, has as much poison in much of the book as there ~ meat in an egg. But his exposition of Daniel 11 and that section of chapter 8 that touches this period is very fine, very scholarly, and very clear. Josephus is hard to follow because he makes such a mix-up of his historical matter, particularly in his dates. Sometimes he gives a date a hundred years wrong, accept where he follows the Maccabees. When he sticks to Maccabees be is generally right.


We now consider the fortunes of the Jews under Antiochus the Great. After the battle of Paneas and his welcome into Jerusalem, after his annexation of the province of Coele-Syria, he was as generous to the Jews as Ptolemy Philadelphus. When he got to Jeri~a1em and received the joyful welcome in that city, after he had defeated and captured the generals of the Ptolemies, he vas so impressed with their devotion to him and the valuable service they had rendered, that he gave a signal proof of his gratitude. I do not know just where we may find a more signal testimony of gratitude, manifested in the letters he wrote to the generals of his empire everywhere with reference to the Jews.

First, he set apart a large pension for Temple sacrifice. He used his treasury to furnish them food and supplies for a year, and seeds for planting. Now, to me that is a very pleasant bit of history to read. True, a selfish motive prompted him. He wanted these faithful Jews as a buffer between him and dangerous enemies. But even then this heathen did it more gracefully than the proscriptive Episcopalians of Virginia reluctantly endured the settlement of the Scotch-Irish Presbyterians in the Shenandoah Valley as a buffer against the hostile Indian tribes.

I had not space in the preceding chapter to tell of the movements of Antiochus after his defeat at Raphia. He had turned his mind to the East, waging successful warfare and enriching himself with spoils until he had re-established boundaries of Alexander’s old empire. Hence, with largely increased resources he returned to defeat the Ptolemies at Paneas and to annex Coele-Syria. Now his thought is toward the West. He wants to break or block the rising Roman Empire, and aspires to restore the western boundary of Alexander’s Empire, which had been pushed east by the Romans. He intends also to absorb Egypt, but just now wants peace with the Ptolemies, that he may concentrate against Rome.

To this end he makes alliance with Philip of Macedon and gives his daughter in marriage to Ptolemy, having two ends in view by this marriage—to secure peace behind him while he wars with Rome, and through his daughter to gain a quasi title to Egypt when opportunity serves to enforce it. Daniel foretells that marriage in these words:

And he shall set his face to come with the strength of his whole kingdom, and with him equitable condition: and he shall perform them: and he shall give them the daughter of women to corrupt her [i. e., Egypt], but she shall not stand, neither be for him. After this shall he turn his face into the isles, and shall take many: but a prince shall cause the reproach offered by him to cease; yea, moreover, he shall cause his reproach to turn upon him.—DANIEL 11:17-18.

In the phrase of Daniel "to corrupt her," the pronoun "her" does not refer to his daughter, but to Egypt. The thought is to use his daughter to give him a hold on Egypt. But as Daniel foreshows, the marriage, while it brought temporary peace to the Jews, did not serve the purpose of Antiochus. Like a true wife, Cleopatra stood by her husband, and she bears a glorious name in Egyptian history. She determined that if she was to be married off-hand that way, to suit the political need of her father, she would make a true marriage of it. And she lived and died in Egypt, beloved by a]l the people. It is refreshing to come to the history of a woman of high mind and a high standard of morals. That marriage, he thought, would enable him to get possession of Egypt, and then, as he was going west, to get all the zest of the old empire, but he made a mistake. That marriage did not help him with the Romans, but it did help Ptolemy. As Daniel says: "Then shall he turn his face to the isles, ath shall take many." The islands here mean the islands of the Mediterranean Sea, along the coast of Asia Minor and Greece, following the track of all the conquerors. He did strike out west with a great army and captured all of Asia Minor. Re then crossed the Hellespont, over into Macedonia. Three times he touches the Romans. The last crushes him.

At Lysimalacia the Roman legation met him in warning. He gruffly replied, putting a reproach on them: "You have no more right to inquire into what I do in Asia than I have to inquire what you do in Italy." The Romans never forgot a thing of that kind. Antiochus pursued his march, following the tracks of Xerxes the Great toward lower Greece. But in the pass of Thermopylae he had a battle with the Romans, and they whipped him. That is his second touch with them. He then fled back to Ephesus in proconsular Asia. The Romans, after the Punic wars, that is, after they had captured Carthage, were looking East, and they had already annexed the European part of Alexander’s Empire, and when Antiochus came into Greece interfering with their eastward trend, they determined to carry the war into his own country. He had entered into an alliance with Philip V, king of Macedonia, to fight the Romans. The Romans easily disposed of Philip, and crossed the Hellespont, going after Antiochus. The third contact was when the two armies came together in Phrygia at Magnesia. The book of Maccabees gives a very exaggerated account of the numbers engaged and of the war elephants employed, i. e., if we may trust the more moderate estimates of the Greek historian, Polybius. In this battle, 190 B.C., the Romans entirely broke the power of Antiochus the Great, exacting the following humiliating conditions of peace:

1. The cession of all Asia Minor west of the Taurus Mountains.

2. The surrender of his floats and war elephants.

3. A crushing war indemnity that emptied his treasury and whose annual payments kept it empty. This vast war indemnity was more crushing than that which Germany exacted of France after the war of 1870. This empty treasury brought on all the woes of succeeding Seleucids until the dynasty perished.

4. They required him to give up his children and other kindred as hostages. It became a proverb: "Antiochus the Great was a king." Or, as Virgil describes Troy: Ilium fuit. Mommsen comments: "Never, perhaps, did a great power fall so rapidly, so thoroughly, so ignominiously, as the kingdom of the Seleucidae under the Antiochus the Great.

Daniel’s prophecy concludes the story: "Then he shall turn his face toward the fortresses of his own land; but be shall stumble and fall, and shall not be found"—fulfilled when he was attacked and slain by the inhabitants of Elymais whose temple of Bel he sought to rob of its treasures to meet the war Indemnity exacted by Rome. "He was not found," disappearing as completely as Enoch and Elijah, but it was not a translation upward. Kings have to have money, especially when they keep up armies, and it occurred to him that the best way to get the money was to rob the temples.

In Mark Twain’s Innocents Abroad is one of his quaint sayings: "When I passed over Italy and saw the poverty and squalor of the people, without clothes, without food and without money, and when I saw the wealth of the ages in the churches and in the cathedrals, it was a wonder to me that they never thought to rob the churches." While the Italians never thought of it, yet Antiochus the Great thought of it.

There was a very rich temple over in the East, at Elymais. The temples were the banks of the country. They were the sanctuaries—the one place one could keep money free from ‘the robber. The temple of Diana at Ephesus had all the wealth of the East stored in it. Now, this temple was full of riches, and when the priest who had charge of the temple (a heathen priest) heard of the purpose for which Antiochus was coming, he let him and a few of his men enter the temple, then shut and barred the door, and killed them with rocks—al1 of them.

Well might Daniel say: "But he shall stumble and fall, and shall not be found." He left two sons, Seleucus, the rightful heir, and Antiochus IV, called Epiphanes. Seleucus succeeded his father. Daniel describes him: "Then shall stand up in his place one that shall cause an exactor to pass through the glory of the kingdom; but within few days he shall be destroyed, neither in anger nor in battle." That is his history; twelve years he reigned. And in order to meet these annual payments to Rome he had to become a tax collector. He sent into CoeleSyria after taxes, and after gleaning all he could he still needed much money. In the meantime Judea was prosperous from the account of it in 2 Maccabees:

Now when the holy city was inhabited with all peace, and the laws were kept very well, because of the godliness of Onias, the high priest, and his hatred of wickedness, it came to pass that even the kings themselves did honor the place, and magnify the temple with their best gifts: and insomuch that Seleucus, king of Asia, of his own revenue bare all the coats belonging to the service of the sacrifice. [The reference here is to the grant of Antiochus III before the Romans broke his power. But all the treasure cannot remain hidden when the impecunious son of Antiochus is exacting taxes.]

But a certain Jew, Simon, of the tribe of Benjamin, who was made governor of the temple, fell out with the high priest about disorder in the city. And when he could not overcome Onias, he got hun to Apollonius, the son of Thraseas, who then was governor of Coele-Syria and Phenice, and told him that the treasury at Jerusalem was full of infinite sums of money, so that the multitude of their riches which did not pertain to the account of the sacrifices was innumerable, and that it was possible to bring all into the king’s hand. Now when Apollonius came to the king and had showed him of the money whereof he was told, the king chose out Heliodorus, his treasurer [we will have more to say about him later], and sent him with a commandment to bring the aforesaid money. So forthwith Heliodorus took his journey, under color of visiting the cities of Coele-Syria and Phenice, but indeed to fulfill the king’s purpose. And when he was come to Jerusalem, and had been courteously received of the high priest of the city, he told him what intelligence was given of the money [what Simon had said about all that money in the temple] and declared wherefore he came, and asked if these things were so indeed. Then the high priest told him that there was such money laid up for the widows and the fatherless children: that some of it belonged to Hyrcanus, son of Tobias, a man of great dignity, and not as that wicked Simon has misinformed: the sum whereof was in all 400 talents of silver, and 200 of gold; and that it was altogether impossible that such wrong should be done unto them that had committed it to the holiness of the place, and to the majesty and inviolable sanctity of the temple, honored over all the world.

Heliodorus said: "All the same I have to have it." The high priest fell into a trance in which his face was marked; all of the priests commenced praying, the women of the city ran out into the streets, the children and the women, in view of such sacrilege as was contemplated, and while the tears ran down the high priest’s cheeks, he led this prayer: "Oh Lord God Almighty, intervene, and prevent this horrible sacrilege." Whereupon, as Heliodorus entered the temple he met two flaming angels, one of them on a horse, clothed with gold, that struck him with his hoof and knocked him down. The shock nearly took away his life. And lest Seleucus might misunderstand, the high priest then went into the temple and offered sacrifice unto heaven for the sin of Heliodorus, and asked God to forgive him and raise him up, and on the intercession of the high priest he was restored, and returned to report to Seleucus to this effect: "If you have any man in your kingdom against whom you have a grudge—if you have a special enemy —send him to get that money, for he will meet a doom from God when he seeks to violate that Holy Place."

I cited what Daniel said about Seleucus. He died in twelve years by poison, and that brings us down to 175 B.C. When he died his brother, Antiochus Epiphanes, succeeded him.

What a temptation it is to me when I come in touch with all this ancient Jewish history and so many wonderful things related concerning it, by Greek and Roman historians, both ancient and modern, to switch off from the main point! But I am trying to limit the history to its contact with the Jews, and to do this I must condense two or three thousand pages of history to make one chapter.


1. What the scope of this chapter?

2. Who are the ancient and modern historians of Rome covering this period?

3. What complicates the history of the Ptolemies and Seleucids?

4. What prophet forecasts all the wars between these two Greek kingdoms, and what the sections of his book giving them?

5. What commentary on this part of Daniel is commended, notwithstanding the author’s objectionable radical criticism on other parts?

6. What great battle placed Judea under the Seleucide? When and where fought?

7. How did the Jews receive the new master?

8. How did Antiochus evince his gratitude?

9. Compare this heathen with Louis XIV of France and Philip II of Spain.

10. Compare the settlement of the 2,000 Jewish families with the attitude of Episcopal Virginia toward the settlement of the Scotch-Irish Presbyterians in the Shenandoah Valley.

11. What the motives prompting Antiochus to give in marriage his daughter Cleopatra to Ptolemy, and how did the marriage fail of its purpose?

12. Cite the three contacts of Antiochus with the Romans, and Mommsen’s comment on the battle of Magnesia.

13. What terms did the Romans exact of Antiochus after the battle of Magnesia, what parallel in modern times, and their effect on the subsequent fortunes of the Seleucids?

14. To what expedient did Antiochus III and his successors resort for means to pay the Roman war indemnity?

15. Why were temples made to serve as banks of deposit?

16. Give Daniel’s forecast of the fate of Antiochus Ill and a Jewish account of its fulfillment.

17. Give Daniel’s forecast of Seleucus IV, successor of Antiochus III.

18. Give substance of the story in 2 Maccabees of the treasure in the temple, how Seleucus heard of it, and his failure to get it.

Material By Dr. B. H. Carroll
Late President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminar, Fort Worth, Texas
Edited by Dr. Ronald D. Lesley for Fundamental Baptist Institute

Table of Contents | Next