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 # 5

ANTIOCHUS EPIPHANES

175 B.C.-164 B.C.

The prophecies of Daniel forecast Antiochus IV, surnamed Epiphanes, first, in Daniel 8:9-14, interpreted by 8:23-26; second, Daniel 11:2-20. The book of Daniel covers fairly nearly all the inter-biblical period. We stop Daniel’s account of Antiochus at 11:20, and do not go on to the end of that chapter, as all radical critic commentaries do, because we are unable to apply that part of the book of Daniel to the wars of the Seleucid and the Ptolemies. There is certainly no historical verification of it in the life of Antiochus Epiphanes.

My theory of interpreting Daniel 11:21 to the end of the chapter (12:2) is:

First, like many other prophecies, there is in this part of Daniel reference to some things near at hand and some things far distant—as when David’s prophecy of Solomon’s kingdom glides into the far remote Messiah’s kingdom in P8alms 45 and 72.

This blending of things near and remote arises from the perspective in prophecy. It may be illustrated by the appearance of a far distant mountain range. Far-off, it seems to be one mountain, but as we approach nearer, the one mountain becomes a range, and what seemed its high point is a succession of elevations, far apart if they are viewed laterally, but blended into one peak if they are in one line of vision from the observer’s viewpoint

Second, so here, seen from only one angle of prophetic vision, Antioch, the antichrist of his day, enemy of the Jews, is blended with a far more remote antichrist, an enemy of the Jews, who shall try to destroy them after their final restoration to their own land, and whose own destruction results in the salvation of all the Jewish nation, which we have presented in Revelation 19:11-21, collated with Isaiah 63:1-6; Ezekiel 36-37; Zechariah 12:8 to 14:11. Now, I am showing how to study this chapter. First, study it in the light of the interpretation of that passage in Daniel.

A certain part of the books of the Maccabees touches the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes, viz.: 1 Maccabees: 1-6; 2 Maccabees:4-9. There is nowhere a better statement of this discussion than in those chapters from the books of Maccabees. However, 1 Maccabees is much more trustworthy as history than 2 Maccabees, which was written much later.

Certain parts of Josephus should be read also to understand the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes, viz: Antiquity of the Jews, Book XII, chapters 5-9. But 1 Maccabees is more reliable as history than Josephus.

We now take up the most notable matters in connection with the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes. First, we will consider the man himself. His father, Antiochus the Great, died leaving him as hostage in Rome, after the great battle of Magnesia. While in Rome, where he grew up, he became carried away with the Roman fashion of admiring the Greek cult. The second fact about the man himself is that he was not entitled to the throne. His older brother, Seleucus, indeed had died, but Seleucus had a son, Demetrius, a little fellow, also a hostage in Rome, and that boy was the rightful king of Antioch. Daniel tells how by flattery and treachery this Antiochus usurped the place of his young nephew.

The next thing about him is to consider his character. Daniel says he was a "vile person." He is the little horn of Daniel 2. He had a very brilliant mind, but he was more impressed by the way things seemed than the way things were. He had no conscience about sacred things at all—indeed, he defied himself. In the "Cambridge Bible" are photographic copies of some of the coins he issued, and on those coins were these inscriptions: Antiochus Basilanos ("king") Theos Epiphanes ("God manifest"), Nicephorus ("victory bearer"). The last is the title of Jupiter, "Victory bearer," and he had the artist who drew the plans for these coins to make his face on the coins resemble the face of Jupiter, as presented in his statues. It needed some change to make it look like that, but he did not mind it.

So much for the man. We will now consider the events. At the close d his brother’s reign, Onias III, the good high priest, had gone to Antioch to remove the impression about the temple treasury that had been made by Simon, and Onias is in Antioch when Antiochus Epiphanes comes to the throne. A brother of Onias, named Joshua, who had become an infidel Jew and changed his name to Jason, then went to see Antiochus, and convinced him that he would make a good deal more money if he would depose Onias and make him, Jason, the high priest; that be was already Hellenized and believed in the Greek religion, and it would be a great help if Antiochus would make him high priest. So Antiochus kept Onias there until he died. He never saw his home any more, and this renegade Jew, Jason, was made high priest.

I am glad to notice that a great while after that, a still greater renegade Jew, Menelaus, being sent to Antioch by Jason, persuaded Antiochus to depose Jason and make him (Menelaus) the high priest, and he would get a better bargain still. So one thief turns out another, and Menelaus was made high priest. & made no pretensions to the observances of the Jewish religion. Jason, to show how much he was Hellenized, erected in the holy city, a Greek gymnasium. In these athletic days, when t~ schools are all turning almost exclusively to athletics, and the glory of a school is its athletics, we may understand what a baleful influence that gymnasium would have in Jerusalem, for both Jason and Menelaus, who succeeded him, persuaded the Jews that the best thing to do would be to attend that Greek theater and let their Temple alone. No Sunday moving picture show in modern times so nearly breaks up worship as did that Greek theater in Jerusalem.

The next event in connection with the reign of Antiochus was his purpose to bring Egypt into his realm. His satrap, Apollonius, informed him that two men in Egypt had charge of the little king, the nephew of Antiochus. Cleopatra, a sister of Antiochus, was sent over there to become the wife of one of the Ptolemies. I have already shown what a good woman she was. Now, her little son at this time was king of Egypt, but those who had charge of the boy after his mother died were renegades. This satrap persuaded Antiochus that if he would make a demonstration in Egypt, he could easily capture the whole country. Now in order to make everything clear behind him, he made his first visit to Jerusalem, where the renegade high priest received him with open arms, and made great promises about what he was going to do for the Jews. He then led his first expedition into Egypt and captured Pelusium, a port of Egypt, on one of the mouths of the Nile. The young king tried to flee, but his renegade tutor betrayed him to Antiochus, who caught him and pretended to act in his name. He subjugated nearly all Egypt, and issued some of those coins I told about and had himself crowned there.

While he was over there, however, the report reached Jerusalem that he had been killed. Whereupon the superseded Jason, whom I told about, and who had fled over the Jordan, collected a thousand men, returned to Jerusalem and tried to depose Menelaus. Antiochus hears of it, and thinks it to be a revolt of the Jews against his authority. So he comes back by Jerusalem, murders thousands of its people in cold blood, enters the Temple, takes away the sacred vessels, and among them the famous golden candlesticks, and robs the Temple of its treasure, and Menelaus helps him in all of it. He then made a second expedition into Egypt, 169 B.C., and recaptured all of the country except Alexandria, which held out.

He returns again, continuing all this time his oppression of the Jews, and makes a third expedition into Egypt. Cleopatra, that good woman I told about, had left two sons, and these two boys had fled to Rome and appealed for help. Rome sent an embassy to warn Antiochus to let the Egyptians alone.

When Antiochus was within four miles of Alexandria the Roman embassy met him. The leader of it was Popilus. The Roman had nothing but his staff in his hand. He lifted his staff and said:

"In the name of the Senate of Rome I command you to go back to your own country and let Egypt alone."

Antiochus said: "I will call a council of my friends and take it into consideration.?

The Roman stopped and drew a circle around him in the Band and said: "You will answer me before you get out of that circle, yes or no."

Those Romans were stern fellows. Antiochus said: "Yes," and went home, but he went home mad.

The Romans made him abandon all his conquests in Egypt and the Mediterranean islands. Being exceedingly mad, he sent his general, Apollonius, to Jerusalem with instructions to make all Ceole-Syria adopt the Greek religion and particularly required the Jews to abandon their religion.

The general captured Jerusalem, tore down its walls, and erected a fortification that commanded the Temple. He erected a Greek altar to Jupiter right on top of Jehovah’s brazen altar, and sacrificed a sow, the abominable flesh to a Jew, and took the broth and flung it all over the holy place, and had filth cast into the most holy place, and commanded every Jew that had a Bible to bring it to him, and he tore their holy books to pieces and burnt there fragments. He issued an order that no child should be circumcised, and when some of the women disobeye4 he had their babies killed and tied around their necks and then. murdered the women. He then made every one that professed to be a Jew come up and eat swine’s flesh.

There was one old Jew named Eleazer, so devout and venerable that even the Hellenizing Jews loved him. They told him they did not want to see him die, and to bring a piece of other meat with him and eat that so that it would seem that he had eaten the hog’s meat. But he said, "No, this is no time for compromising; if I would even seem to eat the swine’s flesh my name would be disgraced. I am an old man, and a few days more or less matters nothing to me. Kill me. I will not violate my law." And so they murdered him.

A much more notable event we find in 2 Maccabees, concerning a pious widow and her seven boys. I lift my hat to them every time I think about them. This woman and her seven sons were commanded to violate the laws. She exhorted her boys to be faithful. They scalped the oldest one, and put coals of fire on his head, after taking the skin off, and then killed him, his mother looking on. But she exhorted the other six to be faithful. They killed the second one by horrible torture, and she exhorted the other five to be faithful. And they killed the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth the same way. She .turned to her baby boy, her youngest, the pride and darling of her heart, and told him that his mother was expecting him to be true to his God and his religion, and they tortured him to death, and she kept on praising Jehovah until they put her to death.

I read that when I was ten years old, and it struck, me as being one of the heroic things in history. It is to such events that a certain passage in Hebrews 11 refers. The old proverb is: "When you double the tale of the brick, then comes Moses." So now there arose in Judea an order called Asideans, pious people who preferred religion to everything else, and they entered into a solemn covenant to stand by the faith. When they were attacked on Saturday, their Sabbath, because they would not fight on the holy day, they submitted to death without defense; 1,000 were murdered at one time, as on another occasion their priests had been done in the Temple1 who kept on offering incense and worshipping God until they were slain at the altar.

There was a man named Asmon, from whom we get the name Asmoneans. A descendant of Asmon, an old Jew, a perfect giant, named Mattathias, had five sons, vigorous men, named John, Simon, Judah, Eleazer, and Jonathan, and the history of the old man and his five sons is more memorable than the history of the woman and her five sons. He determined that ho would not be passive if they attacked him on the Sabbath, but that he would fight, and that he would not consent to the destruction of the Jewish religion. When the deputies of Antiochus came to Samaria with the demand to adopt the Greek religion, they submitted at once, and dedicated their temple to Jupiter and joined Antiochus in fighting the Jews, as usual. Finally a deputy reached the little village where Mattathias, lived, and commanded him to obey the law. He said, "I they God’s law." They then called up another Jew who offered to obey the law, and when he started to do it Mattathias killed him, and then killed the deputy, and tore down the heathern altar. He and his sons went all over the country tearing down the heathen altars.

The old man, seeing he was about to die, appointed his son Judas to have charge of the army—Judas, surnamed Maccabeus. "Maccabeus" means hammerer; Judas the Hammerer. Edward II 1 England, was called "the hammerer of the Scots," and ii Westminster Abbey there is the inscription:

"Edward, Hammerer of the Scots." In Jane Porter’s Scottish Chiefs is given the history of William Wallace redeeming Scotland from the bondage to which Edward the Hammerer had subjected it. I used to read it and cry. No hero of history comes nearer king like William Wallace than Judas the Hammerer. His ilk, even as told by his enemies, and particularly the account by the Jewish historians, surpasses anything in history, showing the heroic force of a man fighting for his religion and hi country.

I remember once, when I was a schoolboy, I had to recite Fitz-Green Halleck’s poem, "Marco Boyario"—Greeks fighting Turks (just as they are doing now); that part of it where the Turk awoke to hear his sentry shriek: "To arms! They come! The Greek! The Greek!" when he awoke to hear Bouaris cry:

"Strike till the last armed foe expires!

"Strike for your altars and your fires!

"God and your native land," may be given an original turn by applying it to Judas Maccabeus. The reader should cover the whole period, and even its approaches, by giving some account in order of the following battles:

1. Marathon, Salamis, Thermopylae, Plataea, Cunaxa.

2. Granicus, Issus, Arbela.

3. Ipsus, Raphia, Paneas, Magnesia.

4. Beth-horon, Emmaus, Beth-zur, Beth-Zeeharias, Capharsalama, Adasa, Eleasa.

5. Pharsalia, Philippi, Actium.

These five series of battles give an outline of the period. The fourth series names not all but the most of the great battles fought by Judas Maccabeus. None of these, however, comes within three of his greatest campaigns, to wit, the redemption of Galilee, the conquests east of the Jordan, and the war against Edom.

Judas then brought Esau back to Jacob. He conquered Edom that had helped always in oppressing Judah, and from that time on Esau and Jacob were together. He and his brothers Crossed the Jordan and drove the armies of Antiochus out of that country; they redeemed Galilee, and brought back to Jerusalem the persecuted Jews that were there. Antiochus, in the meantime, had left a general to take charge of his army and continue the war against the Jews, while he went on a temple-robbing expedition, like his father before him, and the same temple at Elymais. When he got there the gates were shut against him and he could not rob that temple. While there he heard the account of the overthrow of his army by Judas Maccabeus.

I will close this chapter by giving an account of Antiochus’ death, from 1 Maccabees, in the one hundred and forty-ninth year (not of his age, but of the Greek Supremacy):

Now, when the king heard these words [about the defeat of his armies by Judas] he was astonished and sore moved; whereupon he laid him down upon his bed, and fell sick for grief, because it had not befallen him as he looked for. And there he continued many days: for his grief was ever more and more, and he made account that he should die. Wherefore, he called for all his friends and said unto them: "The sleep is gone from mine eyes, and my heart faileth for very care. And I thought with myself into what tribulations am I come, and how great a flood of misery it is, wherein now I am! for I was bountiful and beloved in my power. But now I remember the evils that I did at Jerusalem, and that I took all the vessels of gold and silver that were therein, and sent to destroy the inhabitants of Judea without cause. I perceive, therefore, that these troubles have come upon me, and behold I perish through great grief in a strange land." Then called he for Philip, one of his friends, whom he made ruler over all his realm, and gave him the crown, and his robe, and his signet, to the end he should bring up his son Antiochus, and nourish him up for the kingdom.

 

The account of his death in 2 Maccabees, which is not as good history as 1 Maccabees, is varied from the account in the first book and less historical.

QUESTIONS

1. What the subject and period of this chapter?

2. What sections of Daniel refer to this man?

3. Why not apply Daniel 11:20 to 12:1 to the war of the Seleucids and Ptolemies?

4. What parts of the books of the Maccabees refer to Antiochus Epiphanes?

5. What parts of Josephus?

6. How was Antiochus a usurper?

7. Give his character.

8. How does his blasphemy appear on the coins issued by him?

9. Give in order of time, the first relations of Antiochus to the Jews as presented in the history of three high priests, Onias, Jason, and Menelaus.

10. What the effect on Jewish temple worship of Jason’s Greek gymnasium? Illustrate by events of our day.

11. How and through whom was Antiochus persuaded to add Egyot)t to his realm?

12. Tell of his first visit to Jerusalem and his promises.

13. What occurred at Jerusalem while he was in Egypt to inflame his mind against that city, and what the result of his second visit on his return from Egypt?

14. Give the dramatic account of his retirement from Egypt on the third invasion.

15. In his fury against Jerusalem what fearful havoc was wrought there by his general Apollonius?

16. In this case what was the "Abomination of Desolation" spoken of by Daniel the prophet?

17. In that case how do you explain Matthew 24:15?

18. How does Daniel give the time from this desecration of the temple by Antiochus to its cleansing by Judas Maccabeus, and what is the time in years?

19. What general policy looking to uniformity in religion did Antiochus now adopt and its sweeping character toward the Jews?

20. How did Samaria respond to this religious demand?

21. Cite two notable instances of Jewish martyrdom from 2 Maccabees.

22. Who were the Asideans, and what their attitude toward this religious persecution?

23. What massacre of them occurred, and why did they not resist?

24. Tell about Mattathias and his sons, the commencement of their revolt, and their policy of fighting on the Sabbath.

25. Of whom was Mattathias a descendant, and what long line was named after this ancestor, and can you tell now the person of the line and her fate?

26. In view of death to whom did Mattathias commit the military lead, and to whom the high priesthood?

27. What the meaning of "Maccabeus" and what English king bore a similar cognomen?

28. To what Scottish hero may Judas Maccabeus be compared?

29. What great battles did he fight, and in which two was he defeated?

30. Can you name the most distinguished generals of Antiochus against whom he fought?

31. Describe some of his campaigns, particularly in Galilee, east of the Jordan, and against Edom.

32. Up to what point in his conquests did all the pious Jews support him, and for what was he striving beyond that point?

33. Where do we find two variant accounts of the death of Antiochus and which the most historical?

34. Describe his horrible death.

35. What five series of battles give a battle, history of the inter-biblical period and its approaches?

36. At the close of the study of the period be ready to date and analyze these battles, and tell their leaders and the issues decided by them.

37. By the conquest of Edom Judas Maccabeus annexed Esau to Jacob. How can you anticipate subsequent history by showing how this annexation ultimately resulted in placing both Esau and Ishmael on the throne of Jacob in one obnoxious person?

 

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


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