Sunday, February 12, 2017

Living Lives Of Purpose: Lessons From The Book Of Daniel, Day 36. Daniel's Revelation, Part Seven

Living Lives Of Purpose:
Lessons From The Book Of Daniel
Day 36
Daniel's Revelation
Part Seven

Yesterday we learned that Antiochus IV defeated Egypt in several battles and declared himself the guardian of the young Ptolemy VI Philopater of Egypt. Ptolemy VI was actually the nephew of Antiochus; as we recall his father sent Cleopatra I Syra to Egypt to be wife to Ptolemy V. Antiochus IV at this time held control over all Egypt with the exception of Alexandria, the city that now appealed to Ptolemy VIII Euergetes (the brother of the young king) and to Cleopatra II (the young king's sister) to rebel and form a rival government. Antiochus IV was needed back at home but he left a large army garrison at Pelusium in Egypt. He supported the true king, Ptolemy VI, over whom he held influence, but pretended privately to each of the brothers that he was on their side. The prophecy in verse 23 may be a bit obscure but could relate to his dealings with one of these brothers, "After coming to an agreement with him, he will act deceitfully, and with only a few people he will rise to power." (Daniel 11:23) 

"When the richest provinces feel secure, he will invade them and will achieve what neither his fathers nor his forefathers did. He will distribute plunder, loot and wealth among his followers. He will plot the overthrow of fortresses---but only for a time." (Daniel 11:24) Antiochus was in the process of nation-building and he attacked and annexed everything around him worth taking. Unlike the kings before him, he distributed this wealth to the cities under his control to ensure their support, even sharing his booty with the Jews to court their favor. But his goodwill toward these subjects will only continue "for a time" as the angel said.

The people of Egypt evidently blamed Ptolemy VI for their defeat. When Antiochus won a victory there and claimed Ptolemy VI as his ward, the people dethroned their king and placed his brother in charge. They did not want this puppet king to rule over them but wanted his brother to reign in his place. "With a large army he will stir up his strength and courage against the king of the South. The king of the South will wage war with a large and very powerful army, but he will not be able to stand because of the plots devised against him. Those who eat from the king's provisions will try to destroy him; his army will be swept away, and many will fall in battle. The two kings, with their hearts bent on evil, will sit at the same table and lie to each other, but to no avail, because an end will still come at the appointed time." (Daniel 11:25-27) Antiochus sat at the table with Ptolemy VI and promised his help and professed his loyalty. He claimed he was going to avenge him against those who had dethroned him and place him back in charge of the nation, but Ptolemy VI knew he would never be anything but a pawn in Antiochus' game. Antiochus wanted to rule over all Egypt and over every nation around him. He was playing a game of politics. Nothing that came out of his mouth could be trusted. He went to Ptolemy VIII and made the same promises he made to his brother, I suppose to establish a bond with whichever brother eventually came out on top. The two Egyptian brothers finally ended up, without Antiochus' help, making a truce with each other and deciding to co-reign together. None of Antiochus' lies to these men will end up profiting him. Egypt is about to appeal to a nation that has become much stronger than Greece, and that nation will put the fortunes of Greece on the downswing. 

Antiochus returns to Syria only to learn that a rumor had been spreading throughout Judea that he was killed in battle. You will recall from yesterday's study that Jason, the brother of the now-dead high priest Onias, had been offered the priesthood by Antiochus for the sum of 440 talents. However, Jason's official Menelaus went to secure the deal for him and instead betrayed him, offering Antiochus 740 talents and gaining the priesthood for himself. The Jewish people were prepared to accept Jason as high priest, because although he wanted the Jews to submit to the Greek culture he was still one of their own and of the tribe of Aaron, but Menelaus was not of the priestly tribe. Menelaus had robbed the temple of some gold vessels to pay his price to Antiochus, plus another priest he appointed robbed the temple of even more vessels. This caused the Jews to hate their Greek-appointed high priest. So as soon as the people of Judea heard the rumor that Antiochus was dead, Jason gathered 1,000 men and attacked Jerusalem in an attempt to take the temple back, causing Menelaus to flee. Antiochus, very much still alive, believed the Jews were in full revolt. He was enraged and slaughtered about 40,000 men, women, and children of Jerusalem, selling another 40,000 into slavery. He then re-installed Menelaus as high priest. This fulfills verse 28, "The king of the North will return to his own country with great wealth, but his heart will be set against the holy covenant. He will take action against it and then return to his own country." 

Antiochus returns to Syria but learns Egypt has appealed to Rome for help against him. Rome was sympathetic to Egypt, not Greece, and so, "At the appointed time he will invade the South again, but this time the outcome will be different than it was before. Ships of the western coastlands will oppose him, and he will lose heart." (Daniel 11:29-30a) The Roman navy defeated Antiochus' navy. A Roman ambassador, Gaius Popillius Laenas, came to where Antiochus was camped with his troops and ordered him to evacuate Egypt immediately. If he did not cease his occupation of the country, he could consider himself at war with Rome. Antiochus wanted to buy himself time and replied he needed to discuss the matter with his council first. The elderly ambassador then took his walking stick and drew a circle in the sand around Antiochus and insisted he give his answer to Rome before stepping across that line. If he chose to step across the line without surrendering and agreeing to pay tribute with Rome, Rome would immediately declare war against Greece. Antiochus surrendered in humiliation and was allowed to return home to Syria under Roman domination. This incident is where we get the expression "drawing a line in the sand". 

Tomorrow we will spend one more day studying the fulfilled prophecies of Daniel's revelation. We will learn exactly why Antiochus IV is the "little Antichrist" of the Old Testament. Up til now he has only done the type of things many ancient kings did in their process of nation-building. He has been cruel and violent, but not in ways unlike that of any other pagan king we find in the Bible or in history. He has not yet formed a very personal and racially discriminatory hatred for the Jews. He did put down what he believed was a full-scale rebellion, but it was not racially motivated. Tomorrow we will study the atrocities this madman perpetrated against the Jews and then in the days to follow we will move on into Daniel's prophecies which remain unfulfilled. One worse than Antiochus IV Epiphanes is coming. He will hate the Jews more than anyone before him, more than any "little Antichrist" of the Bible, more than any "little Antichrist" of history such as Adolf Hitler. From verse 36 of Chapter 11 through the end of Chapter 12 (the end of the book) everything that remains of Daniel's revelation is for the future.

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