The Rise of Antiochus IV
This verse begins the reign of Antiochus IV. He is called “a contemptible person” . He received much attention, for he was a devastating enemy of the Jews. This section of Daniel 11 is a re-telling of 8:9-14 with greater detail.
“Royal majesty” was not given to him. He was the brother of Seleucus and, thus, not in line for the throne when Seleucus died. Seleucus had a son who should have been king. But Antiochus, who probably had Seleucus murdered, had a plan. He would obtain the kingdom without warning and with flatteries, according to Scripture. History records that he flattered the Romans by sending ambassadors and paying tribute that his brother owed. He worked to get the agreement of the Syrians to his rule. The flattery would turn out to be only a veneer over a cruel and ambitious nature.
Successful in War
Like his ancestors, Antiochus IV went to war to expand his power and glory. He was successful. This verse says he swept away armies and broke them. In his arrogance, he added the word “Epiphanes” to his title, meaning “god manifest”. The Jews sometimes referred to him as “Epimanes”, meaning mad man. He broke “the prince of the covenant” also. This is likely a reference to the assassination of Onias III, the high priest, by supporters of Antiochus in Jerusalem.
Invading Egypt and Israel
Early in the reign of Antiochus, Ptolemy VI, the king of the south, attacked Syria. Antiochus defeated him and captured him. Then, in 169 B.C., Antiochus led an attack on Egypt by land and an attack on Cyprus by sea. Cyprus is an island in the Mediterranean. It was under the control of the Ptolemies. It was also a place where ships stopped on the way to the Roman Empire.
The Romans opposed this move. They sent an ambassador to intercept Antiochus. He delivered a message from the Roman senate demanding his withdrawal from Egypt and Cyprus on pain of war with Rome. The famous story is that the ambassador drew a circle around Antiochus in the sand and demanded an answer before Antiochus stepped out of the circle. Antiochus decided to withdraw.
While this was going on, a high priest named Jason, who had been deposed by Antiochus, led an attack on Jerusalem with 1,000 soldiers. The was because rumors had circulated in Judah that Antiochus had died in the war with Egypt. The high priest appointed by Antiochus had to flee the city. Antiochus was already angry at his humiliation in Egypt, so he attacked Jerusalem with great vengeance. He defeated the rebellion and re-installed his high priest, Menelaus. He also executed many Jews. He killed about 40,000 people and took that many as slaves back to Syria.
Oppressing the Jews
In order to subdue the Jews, Antiochus decided to wipe out their religion and customs and force them to adopt Greek culture. He tried to Hellenize them. He made their religion illegal and ordered the worship of Zeus as supreme god. When the Jews refused, he attacked again, virtually destroying Jerusalem and killing many Jews. He built a citadel there.
He desecrated the temple in 168 B.C., setting up a statue of Zeus and requiring it to be worshipped. This is the “abomination that makes desolate”. So, when Jesus told the Jews “your house is left to you desolate”, they had this history in mind and knew Jesus was talking about an awful judgment. (Matthew 23:38) When Jesus said there would be an abomination that causes desolation in Matthew 24:15, the Jews were reminded of the idol set up by Antiochus for the worship of Zeus. He sacrificed a pig on the altar. These actions defiled the temple so that it could not be used. It was desolate. This remained the case until 164 B.C. when the Jews revolted successfully under the Maccabees. The temple was cleansed and rededicated. Hanukkuh is the celebration of this. You can read about this also in the 2 books of Maccabees.
Some Jews sided with Antiochus and some sided with the traditional Jews. Even some of the wise will stumble, but that is so that may be purified until the time of the end. All of these things will continue until the appointed time according to verse 35. The question here is “the end of what”. The story so far would indicate the end of Antiochus’s reign, but the vision seems to be about more than that, leading us to think it is about the end of time.
The End Times Antiochus
The last section of Chapter 11, from verse 36 on, presents difficulties in interpretation. The facts of this section do not fit the facts of the end of the reign of Antiochus. However, there is not specific mention of a great advance of time in verse 35. Some believe this section is about the end time antichrist. Some believe it is still basically about Antiochus, but is not about him only.
The Greater Antiochus
Antiochus fits some of the descriptions but not all. He has never been called “king” in this passage, yet verse 36 refers to “the king”. He does as he wills, at least in his home territory. However, his power was limited by the Romans. He exalted himself above all gods, portraying himself as the incarnation of Zeus, the most powerful of the Greek gods.((36) He paid no attention to the gods of his fathers. In fact he looted temples. (37) However, the remainder of the description does not fit, nor does he description of the end of this king fit well with the death of Antiochus.
Antiochus died in a minor campaign in Persia in 164 B.C. The king in chapter 11 died at the end of a successful campaign in Egypt. He died between the sea (the Mediterranean supposedly) and the glorious holy mountain, Mount Zion. This may be the Battle of Armageddon in Revelation 16.
We know from the New Testament that one will come who will also exalt himself. Thessalonians 4 speaks of a man of lawlessness. Some translations say man of sin. He is revealed when a great rebellion occurs. He sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God. (2 Thessalonians 2:4) Jesus will kill him with the breath of his mouth and bring him to nothing when he returns. (2 Thessalonians 2:8) This man of lawlessness will operate by the activity of Satan with signs and wonders that are false, but will deceive those who are perishing (as opposed to those who are being saved). Revelation 13 speaks of a beast who has satan’s power, throne and great authority. He leads people to worship satan. He is haughty and blasphemous and persecutes the saints. John concluded his description by saying this calls for the endurance and faith of the saints.
What do we do with this? We see this message given to Daniel, who thought of his people as persecuted. But God showed him a future of greater suffering. In perspective, the state of the Jews in Daniel’s time was not as bad as it could be. As Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed Judah, so would Antiochus. And still, another powerful king would arise at a later time.
At this very moment in America, Christians feel a great sense of unease. With the Supreme Court ruling allowing homosexual marriage, many Christians have been pursued by homosexuals to do things Christians do not believe in doing, This has resulted in fines, lawsuits, ugly behavior, and a court clerk being put in jail for contempt of court.
But put his in perspective. Christians in China have had their churches bulldozed, their pastors taken to jail. Christians in Muslim countries have been killed, physically abused, had their property taken, lost their rights and put in jail. We have seen videos of the Islamic State beheading Coptic Christians and others. What we have in America is insignificant compared to that.
But this also tells us to believe and endure. God did not promise that everything would be wonderful in this world. I hate that some men preach that. Jesus suffered. He did not lead seminars on personal success and keys to getting rich. He commanded us to deny ourselves, pick up a cross and follow him. (Matthew 16:24; Luke 9:23) What did a cross mean? It meant death! Jesus said be willing to die for him. In Matthew 24, Jesus warned his disciples of tribulation. He said “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake”. (Matthew 24:9)
We, as believers, are called upon to believe and persevere. Verse 32 of Daniel says the people who know their God all stand firm and take action. Paul said, when we are up against the schemes of the devil, we must stand. (Ephesians 6:11) Those schemes may come at work, as mine have lately. They may come in society or in government or from those we thought were friends. In all of these, God call us to believe and to stand firm. When the temple was destroyed, some Jews still held to faith in God. As the institutions we valued in our early life are damaged or destroyed in American, we must still hold to faith in God.
We believe God is in control of history. I do not know why God has chosen to allow the church to suffer persecution. Maybe it is too weed out those who do not believe, but he has not revealed all of his purposes. But we trust that God knows what he is doing and is in control. Therefore, even when the world around us is hostile, we will be faithful. Jesus said “do not fear those who who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)
And, in standing firm in faith, we must also share our faith. We must speak the gospel to those around us, friend and foe. Verse 33 says “the wise among the people shall make many understand”. If we live in faith and speak the gospel, others will believe and follow Christ.
Ephesians 6 makes clear to us that standing is done with prayer. We are to pray at all times in the spirit with all prayer and supplication. (Ephesians 6:18) Pray for those in persecution. Pray for yourself. Pray for God to end the conflict in victory.