Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Living Lives Of Purpose: Lessons From The Book Of Daniel, Day 32. Daniel's Revelation, Part Three

Living Lives Of Purpose:
Lessons From The Book Of Daniel
Day 32
Daniel's Revelation
Part Three

The angel is telling Daniel of things to come in the nations that surround and affect the holy land. Today's section is very heavy on ancient history and it involves a struggle between north and south, between the Seleucid Empire and the Ptolemaic Empire. The holy land lay between these and was affected by their struggle.

"The king of the South will become strong, but one of his commanders will become even stronger than he and will rule his own kingdom with great power." (Daniel 11:5) After the death of Alexander the Great his kingdom was divided into four. His general Ptolemy received Egypt and Arabia and this Ptolemy I Soter is "the king of the South" of verse 5. Alexander's general Seleucus I Nicator was given charge of Syria and Babylon; he is the commander who will become greater than the king of the South. 

"After some years, they will become allies." (Daniel 11:6a) When Seleucus went to lay claim to Babylon there was resistance against his rule and he was temporarily defeated by Antigonus, the oldest and most experienced of the Macedonian generals. He had served under Alexander and under Alexander's father. Antigonus hoped to reunite the four divisions of the kingdom under a single ruler: himself. When faced with this opposition in Babylon, Seleucus fled and allied himself with the other three men with whom Alexander's kingdom was divided: Ptolemy, Cassander, and Lysimachus. Antigonus' son Demetrius led an invasion into Ptolemy's territory but was defeated at the Battle of Gaza, after which Seleucus again went to take charge of Babylon. War ensued over Babylon but the combined forces of Alexander's four divisions were victorious in several battles, culminating in Antigonus' death in the Battle of Ipsus in which he was opposed by Seleucus and Lysimachus, who then divided between them all the territories Antigonus had claimed. Seleucus now had control of the area of Asia Minor all the way to India, fulfilling the angel's prophecy that this king would become more powerful than the king of the South.

Ptolemy's successor, Ptolemy II Philadelphus, thought it prudent to be friendly with the Seleucid Empire, so he arranged a political marriage. "The daughter of the king of the South will go to the king of the North to make an alliance, but she will not retain her power, and he and his power will not last. In those days she will be betrayed, together with her royal escort and her father and the one who supported her." (Daniel 11:6b) Ptolemy II arranged a marriage between his daughter Berenice and the king who was now over the Seleucid Empire, Antiochus II Theos. Antiochus was already married to a woman named Laodice, but he divorced her to marry Berenice. For a short time there was peace between north and south, then Ptolemy II died suddenly and the alliance fell apart. As he angel said, "he and his power will not last". When Ptolemy died Antiochus rejected Berenice and took his first wife back. The angel said that Berenice "will not retain her power" and "she will be betrayed". Laodice ordered Berenice and her infant son killed, because the agreement between her husband and Ptolemy II had been that only a child of Berenice and Antiochus could accede to the throne. Laodice herself had a son with Antiochus before he divorced her, and she felt her own son had sole right to the throne, so she eliminated his rival. She then set about poisoning Antiochus to death and placing her own son, Seleucus II Callinius, on the throne. 

The angel speaks of one coming to avenge the death of Berenice, "One from her family line will arise to take her place. He will attack the forces of the king of the North and enter his fortress; he will fight against them and be victorious. He will also seize their gods, their metal images and their various articles of silver and gold and carry them off to Egypt. For some years he will leave the king of the North alone." (Daniel 11:7-8) Upon the death of Berenice's father, her brother Ptolemy III Euergetes became king of Egypt. He invaded the Seleucid Empire and defeated Seleucus II in battle, annexing the eastern provinces and pushing Seleucus into the interior of the nation, then carrying many of the Syrian idols back with him to Egypt. It was a common ancient custom for the victorious king to carry off the idols of the defeated king. It established his authority over the defeated king and the authority of his gods over the defeated king's gods. For two years there was peace, "for some years he will leave the king of the North alone", until Seleucus II gained back in battle the areas Ptolemy III had annexed from him, defeating the generals Ptolemy had placed in charge of them. Seleucus then marched against Egypt but was not successful. "Then the king of the North will invade the realm of the king of the South but will retreat to his own country." (Daniel 11:9) Not long after that Seleucus died from injuries sustained in a fall from his horse.

The sons of Seleucus II took up the fight after his death. "His sons will prepare for war and will assemble a great army, which will sweep on like an irresistible flood and carry the battle as far as his fortress." (Daniel 11:10) These sons were Seleucus III and Antiochus III. Seleucus inherited the throne but reigned for only three years before being assassinated by members of his own army. Antiochus III, later known as Antiochus The Great, assumed the throne in his brother's place. Antiochus III mounted several campaigns against Egypt and regained for Syria all the territory as far south as Gaza. He now had control over the holy land. 

The angel has only concerned himself with the two divisions of Alexander's empire that would affect the holy land. Daniel has been much in prayer to the Lord regarding the future of his people and the angel, because Daniel is "highly esteemed" for his faith in God, has been sent to answer his questions. In Daniel's day these future kings and kingdoms likely made no sense to him at all, but he was able to see the sovereign hand of God in all world events. The King of kings has control over every earthly king. He raises up kings and deposes kings according to His will. The remainder of the book of Daniel is prophecy, much of which has already been fulfilled. Some of it must have been very difficult for Daniel to hear since it involved the persecution of his people. But some of it must have been wondrous to hear, for it involved the resurrection of the dead and the eternal kingdom of Christ. In the coming days we will continue to study the prophecies of Daniel which have been fulfilled in history. Then we will move on into that which is yet to come, including the promise that "many will be made spotless, purified and refined" and that there is a resurrection of the dead and that there are rewards for the faithful. 

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