Thursday, February 9, 2017

Living Lives Of Purpose: Lessons From The Book Of Daniel, Day 33. Daniel's Revelation, Part Four

Living Lives Of Purpose:
Lessons From The Book Of Daniel
Day 33
Daniel's Revelation
Part Four

The angel is still telling Daniel of wars to come between the kingdom of the north (the Seleucid Empire: Syria) and the kingdom of the south (the Ptolemaic Empire: Egypt) with the holy land in between. When we closed yesterday we found Antiochus III of Syria had temporarily defeated Egypt and gained control of the holy land.

"Then the king of the South will march out in a rage and fight against the king of the North, who will raise a large army, but it will be defeated. When the army is carried off, the king of the South will be filled with pride and will slaughter many thousands, yet he will not remain triumphant. For the king of the North will muster another army, larger than the first; and after several years, he will advance with a huge army fully equipped." (Daniel 11:11-13) Ptolemy IV Philopater of Egypt did not intend to take the loss of Palestine lying down. He attacked Antiochus III so fiercely he was forced to retreat, with Ptolemy IV retaking Palestine and Phoenicia and killing thousands of Syrians. Ptolemy IV was so prideful of his victory at the Battle of Raphia that he went back to Egypt to live in luxury and splendor, believing Egypt would never have to deal with Antiochus again. 

Ptolemy IV and his wife died suddenly in mysterious circumstances, leaving the throne to their infant son Ptolemy V Epiphanes. During the several years of peace, Antiochus III was at work rebuilding his army, nearly bankrupting his own nation in the process. He then returned and fought again with Egypt over Palestine. The Jews in the holy land sided with him, wanting out from under the rule of the Ptolemaic dynasty. The angel told Daniel, "In those times many will rise against the king of the South. Those who are violent among your own people will rebel in fulfillment of the vision, but without success." (Daniel 11:14) On their own, the Jews were not successful in rebelling against Egypt, but allied with the Seleucud Empire they had a fighting chance.

"Then the king of the North will come and build up siege ramps and will capture a fortified city. The forces of the South will be powerless to resist; even their best troops will not have the strength to stand. The invader will do as he pleases; no one will be able to stand against him. He will establish himself in the Beautiful Land and will have the power to destroy it." (Daniel 11:15-16) The Jews originally viewed Antiochus III as their liberator but in time they would deeply regret helping him to defeat the army of Ptolemy V. A king would arise in his place, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who would persecute the Jews without mercy.

At this time Rome was on the rise, and Rome was on the side of Egypt. The army of the young Ptolemy V took advantage of this situation and rebelled against the Seleucid Empire. Antiochus III fought back and defeated Ptolemy's general, Scopas, forcing him to surrender at the fortified city of Sidon, fulfilling verse 15. He now had control of the entire region all the way to Gaza, fulfilling verse 16. But Rome was displeased with the actions of Antiochus III there and elsewhere. So he thought it in his best interests to make a political alliance with Egypt. He believed that, in giving his daughter in marriage to Ptolemy V, he would manage through her to gain the upper hand. He intended to use her against her husband. With Rome breathing down his neck, it appeared he could not at this time destroy Egypt from the outside, so he hoped to destroy it from the inside. "He will determine to come with the might of his entire kingdom and will make an alliance with the king of the South. And he will give him a daughter in marriage in order to overthrow the kingdom, but his plans will not succeed or help him." (Daniel 11:17) Antiochus III gave his young daughter Cleopatra I Syra in marriage to the young Ptolemy V. This is not the Cleopatra made famous by Hollywood, but an earlier queen by the same name. These newlyweds were still quite young; some believe Cleopatra was about ten years old and Ptolemy around sixteen. Other scholars think they were even younger than that. The scheme of Antiochus III failed, for Cleopatra was always loyal to her Egyptian husband rather than to her Syrian father.

Seeing that his plans in Egypt have failed, Antiochus III concerns himself with conquering other territories. "Then he will turn his attention to the coastlands and will take many of them, but a commander will put an end to his insolence and will turn his insolence back on him. After this, he will turn back toward the fortresses of his own country but will stumble and fall, to be seen no more." (Daniel 11:18-19) Antiochus III moved to occupy parts of the kingdom of Pergamum and the Greek cities of Asia Minor. He then advanced on into Thrace and declared himself sovereign over it, incurring censure from Rome, who sent ambassadors to demand he stay out of Europe and release the territories he had annexed in Asia Minor. Antiochus III insulted the ambassadors and scornfully informed them that Asia Minor was none of Rome's business. He then allied himself with the famous Carthaginian general Hannibal, who had fled Carthage after it fell to Rome. He found asylum in Syria and had a staunch ally in Antiochus III, who made him his adviser, further enraging Rome. The Aetolians asked for help to get out from under Rome and Antiochus answered with the full force of his army, being defeated in several battles before having to surrender in humiliation to the Roman commander Lucius Scipio. The terms of his surrender were that he must renounce all claims to Europe and Asia Minor, surrender all his elephants and his naval fleets, and pay a war indemnity to Rome over the next twelve years of 15,000 talents. To secure his obedience to these terms, Rome demanded to hold hostages, including his son Mithridates.

Bankrupted by his many wars, Antiochus III set about trying to restore the fortunes of his own country. He taxed quite heavily his own people and the territories still under his control. He even resorted to thievery, entering a temple of Baal near Susa in Babylon to pillage it. This is where he met his death. The citizens were enraged at his audacity and blasphemy, attacking and killing him in the temple. He was succeeded by his son Seleucus IV Philopater. At this point it would appear impossible for Antiochus' son Mithridates to ever gain the throne. He's captive in Rome while his brother wears the crown in Syria. In addition, King Seleucus IV has produced an heir, a son to someday take his place. But the prophecy given earlier in the book of Daniel will be fulfilled, even though to man's eyes it seems impossible. The very wicked king foretold in Daniel, a "little Antichrist" of Old Testament times, will still rise and persecute the Jews. Mithridates, against all odds, will become Antiochus IV Epiphanes, ruler of the Seleucid Empire and deadly enemy of the Jews.

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