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THE KINGS OF THE SOUTH AND NORTH, PART 5

 

THE FALL AND RUIN OF ANTIOCHUS EPIPHANES

 

Then the king shall do according to his own will: he shall exalt and magnify himself above every god, shall speak blasphemies against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the wrath has been accomplished; for what has been determined shall be done. He shall regard neither the God of his fathers nor the desire of women, nor regard any god; for he shall exalt himself above them all. But in their place he shall honor a god of fortresses; and a god which his fathers did not know he shall honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and pleasant things. Thus he shall act against the strongest fortresses with a foreign god, which he shall acknowledge, and advance its glory; and he shall cause them to rule over many, and divide the land for gain. (Daniel 11:36–39)

 

These verses speak of the ongoing suppression of the Jewish religion and Epiphanes exaltation of himself. Some of the atrocities committed by Antiochus Epiphanes were mentioned in the previous chapter. While these verses clearly continue the narrative of the previous paragraph, verses 30–34, they logically lead into the following paragraph, verses 40–44. Bible commentators have differences of opinion as to what verses 36–39 actually mean.

Adam Clarke reports that some commentators see the object of these verses as something happening in a future church age:

 

This may apply to Antiochus, who exalted himself above every god, called himself a god, sported with all religion, profaned the temple, etc., etc. But others think an antichristian power in the Church is intended; for in the language of this prophecy king is taken for power, a kingdom, etc. That such a power did spring up in the Church that acted in an arbitrary manner against all laws, human and Divine, is well known. This power showed itself in the Greek emperors in the east, and in the bishops of Rome in the west. And this is to continue.

 

The Classic Commentary echoes the words of Clarke, but with a decided prejudice towards a future antichrist.

 

This and the following verses represent a shift in the narrative. Verses 11:1-35 clearly point to the activities of the Hellenistic empires and their involvement with the Jews. In this section, though many of the descriptions apply to Antiochus, the little horn of the third kingdom, many of the descriptions here seem to look forward to the little horn of the fourth kingdom, i.e., the Antichrist of the last days. the king—i.e., Antiochus, and ultimately the Antichrist.

 

The first principle of Daniel’s prophecies is that they concern the four world-wide kingdoms from the time of Babylon to the coming of Messiah during the time of the Roman Empire. Verse 36 cannot refer to a future antichrist in the church age as that is outside the scope of the first principle; therefore, it must refer to Antiochus Epiphanes.  Matthew Henry stays true to the first principle as he writes:

 

. . . here some think begins a prophecy of the antichrist, the papal kingdom. It is plain that St. Paul, in his prophecy of the rise and reign of the man of sin, alludes to this, which shows that Antiochus was a type and figure of that enemy, as Babylon also was; but, this being joined in a continued discourse with the foregoing prophecies concerning Antiochus, to me it seems probably that it principally refers to him, and in him had its primary accomplishment, and has reference to the other only by way of accommodation.

 

He explains verse 36 for us: 

 

He shall impiously dishonour the God of Israel, the only living and true God, called here the God of gods. He shall, in defiance of him and his authority, do according to his will against his people and his holy religion; he shall exalt himself above him, as Sennacherib did, and shall speak marvellous things against him and against his laws and institutions. This was fulfilled when Antiochus forbade sacrifices to be offered in God's temple, and ordered the sabbaths to be profaned, the sanctuary and the holy people to be polluted, etc., to the end that they might forget the law and change all the ordinances, and this upon pain of death, 1 Maccabees 1:45.

 

In explaining verse 37, “he shall regard neither the God of his fathers nor the desire of women, or regard any god; for he shall exalt himself above them,” Henry ways:

 

He shall proudly put contempt upon all other gods, shall magnify himself above every god, even the gods of the nations. Antiochus wrote to his own kingdom that every one should leave the gods he had worshipped, and worship such as he ordered, contrary to the practice of all the conquerors that went before him, 1 Maccabees 1:41, 42. And all the heathen agreed according to the commandment of the king; fond as they were of their gods, they did not think them worth suffering for, but, their gods being idols, it was all alike to them what gods they worshipped. Antiochus did not regard any god, but magnified himself above all. He was so proud that he thought himself above the condition of a mortal man, that he could command the waves of the sea, and reach to the stars of heaven, as his insolence and haughtiness are expressed, 2 Maccabees 9:8,10.

 

The statement that he regards not the desire of women is difficult to explain. Matthew Henry suggests the expression may reflect his barbarous cruelty and that his treatment, even of women, is indicative of his contempt for everything men of honor hold in respect. The Classic Commentary suggests this refers to Antiochus’ attack on the temple where women worshipped the Syrian Venus, also called Nanea. This attack is mentioned in 2 Maccabees 1:11–16:

 

Insomuch as God hath delivered us from great perils, we thank him highly, as having been in battle against a king. For he cast them out that fought within the holy city. For when the leader was come into Persia, and the army with him that seemed invincible, they were slain in the temple of Nanea by the deceit of Nanea's priests. For Antiochus, as though he would marry her, came into the place, and his friends that were with him, to receive money in name of a dowry. Which when the priests of Nanea had set forth, and he was entered with a small company into the compass of the temple, they shut the temple as soon as Antiochus was come in: And opening a privy door of the roof, they threw stones like thunderbolts, and struck down the captain, hewed them in pieces, smote off their heads and cast them to those that were without.

 

Epiphanies did not regard any god and he magnified himself above all gods. His predecessors had honored the God of Israel and had given gifts to the temple, but Antiochus dishonored both God and the temple.

 

THE GOD OF FORTRESSES

 

But in their place he shall honor a god of fortresses; and a god which his fathers did not know he shall honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and pleasant things. Thus he shall act against the strongest fortresses with a foreign god, which he shall acknowledge, and advance its glory; and he shall cause them to rule over many, and divide the land for gain. (Daniel 11:38–39).

 

In place of the God of Israel and the gods of the surrounding pagans, Antiochus sets up a new god the prophecy call the god of fortresses, or as this King James Version renders is, the god of forces. The prominent pagan gods were Apollo and Diana, which were gods of pleasure; in their place, he set up this new god, which in all probability really was Jupiter. The Classic Commentary says of the god of forces: 

 

God of forces—or the “fortress god,” probably Jupiter Capitolinus, to whom Antiochus erected a temple at Antioch. This was the patron god of Rome, and in building this temple, Antiochus may have been seeking Roman support. He may also have identified Jupiter Capitolinus with Zeus Olympias, to whom he had dedicated the Jerusalem temple (168 b.c.)

 

It seems that Antiochus identified himself with this god and following his prejudice and is immoral character he put those who chose to worship this god in positions of power and trust and paid them handsomely out of the wealth of Judea.

 

THE TIME OF THE END

 

At the time of the end the king of the South shall attack him; and the king of the North shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter the countries, overwhelm them, and pass through. He shall also enter the Glorious Land, and many countries shall be overthrown; but these shall escape from his hand: Edom, Moab, and the prominent people of Ammon. He shall stretch out his hand against the countries, and the land of Egypt shall not escape. He shall have power over the treasures of gold and silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt; also the Libyans and Ethiopians shall follow at his heels. (Daniel 11:40–43).

 

Throughout this prophecy we have been reading that the time of the end was not yet; we now come to the time of the end for Antiochus Epihpanes.

Antiochus makes another expedition against Egypt in 168 b.c. Up to this time the Romans had kept him from invading Egypt. As Antiochus advances, Ptolemy pushes back and makes an attempt to take some of the lands held by Antiochus. Antiochus fights back “like a whirlwind” with incredible swiftness having a large army supported by a navy. In the process he overthrows many countries and enters into the Glorious Land, Israel. The countries of Edom, Moab, and the people of Ammon manage to escape the onslaught, but Egypt bears the brunt of the war. Antiochus took all the treasures of gold, silver and precious things of Egypt and left it destitute. Libya and Ethiopia were pillaged along with Egypt, being close in the neighborhood.

The downfall of Antiochus Epiphanes is prophesied in verses 44 and 45.

 

But news from the east and the north shall trouble him; therefore he shall go out with great fury to destroy and annihilate many. And he shall plant the tents of his palace between the seas and the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and no one will help him.

 

The news from the east was that Midthridates I., leader of the Parthian, had revolted against Antiochus. The News from the north was that Artaxias I., king of Armenia, had revolted against Antiochus. He leaves his conquest of Egypt and the Ptolemies with the intention of destroying these rebellious kings and bringing their territory back under his control.

The prophecy says that he “plants the tents of his palace between the seas and the glorious holy mountain.” This is precisely where he made his camp for this campaign. Between the seas in this region is between the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea; and the glorious holy mountain is Jerusalem and Mount Zion. Specifically, this location is the village of Emmaus, the place near where, just after His resurrection, Jesus met two of his disciples nearly 200 years later.

Antiochus now comes to his end and there is no one who can, or will, help him. After successfully defeating the Parthian and reoccupying Armenia, Antiochus suddenly died of disease in 164 b.c. 2 Maccabees 9:5–28 records the death of Antiochus and his pathetic groveling before God in attempt to escape his just due.

 

But the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, smote him with an incurable and invisible plague: or as soon as he had spoken these words, a pain of the bowels that was remediless came upon him, and sore torments of the inner parts; And that most justly: for he had tormented other men's bowels with many and strange torments. Howbeit he nothing at all ceased from his bragging, but still was filled with pride, breathing out fire in his rage against the Jews, and commanding to haste the journey: but it came to pass that he fell down from his chariot, carried violently; so that having a sore fall, all the members of his body were much pained. And thus he that a little afore thought he might command the waves of the sea, (so proud was he beyond the condition of man) and weigh the high mountains in a balance, was now cast on the ground, and carried in an horselitter, shewing forth unto all the manifest power of God. So that the worms rose up out of the body of this wicked man, and whiles he lived in sorrow and pain, his flesh fell away, and the filthiness of his smell was noisome to all his army. And the man, that thought a little afore he could reach to the stars of heaven, no man could endure to carry for his intolerable stink. Here therefore, being plagued, he began to leave off his great pride, and to come to the knowledge of himself by the scourge of God, his pain increasing every moment. And when he himself could not abide his own smell, he said these words, It is meet to be subject unto God, and that a man that is mortal should not proudly think of himself if he were God. This wicked person vowed also unto the Lord, who now no more would have mercy upon him, saying thus, That the holy city (to the which he was going in haste to lay it even with the ground, and to make it a common buryingplace,) he would set at liberty: And as touching the Jews, whom he had judged not worthy so much as to be buried, but to be cast out with their children to be devoured of the fowls and wild beasts, he would make them all equals to the citizens of Athens: And the holy temple, which before he had spoiled, he would garnish with goodly gifts, and restore all the holy vessels with many more, and out of his own revenue defray the charges belonging to the sacrifices: Yea, and that also he would become a Jew himself, and go through all the world that was inhabited, and declare the power of God. But for all this his pains would not cease: for the just judgment of God was come upon him: therefore despairing of his health, he wrote unto the Jews the letter underwritten, containing the form of a supplication, after this manner:

 

Antiochus, king and governor, to the good Jews his citizens wisheth much joy, health, and prosperity: If ye and your children fare well, and your affairs be to your contentment, I give very great thanks to God, having my hope in heaven. As for me, I was weak, or else I would have remembered kindly your honour and good will returning out of Persia, and being taken with a grievous disease, I thought it necessary to care for the common safety of all: Not distrusting mine health, but having great hope to escape this sickness. But considering that even my father, at what time he led an army into the high countries. appointed a successor, To the end that, if any thing fell out contrary to expectation, or if any tidings were brought that were grievous, they of the land, knowing to whom the state was left, might not be troubled: Again, considering how that the princes that are borderers and neighbours unto my kingdom wait for opportunities, and expect what shall be the event. I have appointed my son Antiochus king, whom I often committed and commended unto many of you, when I went up into the high provinces; to whom I have written as followeth: Therefore I pray and request you to remember the benefits that I have done unto you generally, and in special, and that every man will be still faithful to me and my son. For I am persuaded that he understanding my mind will favourably and graciously yield to your desires.

 

Thus the murderer and blasphemer having suffered most grievously, as he entreated other men, so died he a miserable death in a strange country in the mountains.