The Ptolemies (Daniel 7)

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Illustration: Temple of Kom Ombo, Nagoa Ash Shatb, Egypt

Daniel 7:6 describes a vision in which a kingdom is represented by a leopard with four wings and four heads. The wings represent great speed, but the heads signify that the kingdom was split into several domains. The leopard symbolizes the Greek kingdom of Alexander the Great, a kingdom that was established with lightening speed but that broke into several pats, ruled by various Greek dynasties, after his death.

The Ptolemies were a dynasty of Greek kings who ruled Egypt from just after the death of Alexander the Great to the time of the annexation of Egypt by Rome. Their history is closely connected to that of the region later known as Palestine in the third century B.C. (the Ptolemies ruled Palestine and thus also Jerusalem from 323-200 B.C.). Important Ptolemaic rulers were as follows:

  • Ptolemy I Sater (323/305-282 B.C.): Immediately after the death of Alexander in 323, his general Ptolemy headed to Egypt and seized control of the administration, assuming the title “king” in 305. Ptolemy was highly intelligent and, after having taken control of a wealthy and relatively isolated domain (Egypt), was able to begin a dynasty that would last for over two centuries. His capital, Alexandria, was a Greek city in Egypt. Ptolemy was the “king of the South” in 11:5.
  • Ptolemy II Philadelphus (283-246 B.C.): The reign of this king was prosperous and marked by impressive building projects, such as the completion of the lighthouse of Pharos and the library of Alexandria. He was also engaged in wars with the Seleucids over control of Palestine ans Anatolia. Ptolemy II did much to establish Greek culture and education in Egypt and elsewhere but offended his Greek subjects by marrying his full sister, Arsinoë.
  • Ptolemy III Euregetes (246-222 B.C.): The reign of this king was marked by further wars with the Seleucids, brought about by the fact that the Seleucid king, Seleucus II, murdered Ptolemy’s sister Berenice and her son. Berenice was the daughter of the king of the South in 11:6.
  • Ptolemy IV Philoatar (222-205 B.C.): This king is often described as a weak ruler, although he did defeat Antiochus III of Syria at Raphia in 217 B.C. He deployed Egyptian troops in his army (instead of using exclusively Greek soldiers), ans some believe that this sowed the seed for future native revolts by the Egyptians. He is the “king of the South” of 11:11.
  • Ptolemy V Theos Epiphanes (204-180 B.C.): During the administration of this regent Palestine was lost to the Seleucid kingdom (200 B.C.). The Rosetta Stone commemorates his coronation.
  • Ptolemy VI Philometor (180-145 B.C.): During his reign Ptolemaic control of Egypt nearly collapsed. Antiochus IV fought his way to Memphis in Egypt in around 168 B.C. and no doubt would have taken control of the country had he not been forced out by a delegation from Rome
  • Thereafter, Ptolemaic power declined as members of the royal family struggled for control and as Rome began to take an increasingly important role in the affairs of Egypt. The last Ptolemy to rule Egypt was the famous Cleopatra VII (51-30 B.C.) Intelligent and resourceful (she was the only Ptolemy who gained the loyalty of Egyptians by learning to speak Egyptian, but she also murdered her brother, Ptolemy XIV, in order to secure the throne for herself), she used sexual relations with Julius Caesar and later with Mark Anthony to better her political position in dealing with Rome. Her alliance with Anthony proved her undoing, however. He was defeated by Octavian (Augustus) at Actium in 31 B.C., and she realized that Octavian was implacable (relentless) toward her.


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