Antiochus IV Epiphanes (Daniel 11)

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Illustration: Antiochus IV Epiphanes 

Antiochus IV Epiphanes ruled the Seleucid (Syrian) kingdom from 175 to 164 B.C. Epiphanes means “manifest”, and the name indicates that he claimed to be the earthly manifestation of Zeus. Antiochus attempted to unify his empire by imposing Hellenistic culture upon all it inhabitants. This policy brought him into sharp conflict with the Jews of the region later known as Palestine. Most Biblical scholars believe Antiochus IV to have been the “small” horn of Daniel 8:9 and the “contemptible person” of 11:21. His relations with the Jews are recorded in 1 and 2 Maccabees (Apocryphal books) and are prophetically depicted in Daniel 8:9-12, 23-25 and 11:21-34. He was infamous for establishing pagan worship in the Jerusalem temple.

In about 174 B.C. Jason, the leader of a pro-Greek faction in the Jerusalem priesthood, bribed Antiochus to install him as high priest, after which Jason set about turning Jerusalem into a Greek city (2 Maccabees 4:7-22). In 171 B.C., however, another man, Menelaus, ib turn bought the priesthood from Antiochus. Jason, believing that Antiochus had died, seized Jerusalem by force. But Antiochus returned in 169 and Carrie out a massacre of the city. He then moved upon Egypt but was humiliated by the Roman legate C. Popilius Laenas and forced to make an undignified withdrawal to the north. Thereafter, this tyrant vigorously sought to Hellenize Jerusalem.

In 167 B.C. Antiochus dispatched his tax collector Apollonius against Jerusalem with 22,000 men. They attacked on the Sabbath, killing most of the male population and enslaving the women and children. Jerusalem’s walls were demolished and a Seleucid military garrison stationed immediately south of the temple. All Jewish rites were outlawed, resulting in the cessation of the daily sacrifice. An altar to Zeus was erected over the Jewish altar of burnt offerings, and worship of Zeus was instituted in the temple. On December 25, 167 B.C., a pig was sacrificed on the Zeus altar; this was the “abomination that causes desolation” in Daniel 9:27, 11:31 and 12:11.

Enraged, the Jews rebelled against their Greek overlords and, under Judas Maccabeus, defeated the armies that Antiochus had sent against them. After a three-year struggle Jewish forces gained major concessions from the Greeks, and the Maccabees became the de facto rulers of Judea. Most notably, they purified the temple and reinstated the daily sacrifice, an event commemorated in the feast of Hanukkah. Antiochus himself, who had moved off to the east to campaign in Elam, died in Persia in 164 B.C.


 

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