RAM AND THE MALE GOAT, PART 3
PTOLEMIES AND THE SELEUCIDS
the male goat grew very great; but when he became strong, the large horn was
broken, and in place of it four notable ones came up toward the four winds of
heaven. And out of one of them came a little horn which grew exceedingly great
toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Glorious Land.
(Daniel 8:8–9, NKJV)
the Great took the Greek Empire to its greatest heights and conquered the then
known world. Alexander died at the age of 32, leaving no heir to the empire. In
consequence, the empire was divided among his top four generals. But all was not
well within the empire as these divisions fought among themselves for total
domination of the empire.
Lagi, assisted by Seleucus, controlled Egypt, Palestine, and Arabia. Since the
Glorious Land plays a significant part in this prophecy, our attention in this
chapter will be focused mainly on the Ptolemies and the Seleucids, who
controlled the region during the tenure of the Male Goat.
another one of Alexander’s generals, ruled over Syria, Babylonia, and central
Asia. In 301 b.c., after the battle of Ipsus, located in Phrygia in Asia Minor,
Seleucus took over the area that had been controlled by Antigonus. Historian
Paul K. Davis writes, “Ipsus was
the high point of the struggle among Alexander the Great’s successors to
create an international Hellenistic empire, which Antigonus failed to do.”
After this battle, the empire was carved up between Ptolemy, who retained
control of Egypt, and Seleucus, who expanded his power into eastern Asia Minor,
and Alexander’s third general, Lysimachus, who received the remainder of Asia
281 b.c. Seleucus defeated Lysimachus at the Battle of Corpupedium, which was
near Sardis in Asia Minor. After the death of Alexander, Lysimachus controlled
Thrace and Bythinia. The addition of this area to the Seleucid Dynasty gave it
control over most of the Greek Empire. Ptolemy still controlled Egypt and
Cassander, Alexander’s fourth general, still controlled Macedonia and Greece.
An attempt by Seleucus to absorb Macedonia were thwarted when he was repulsed
crossing the Hellespont and Macedonia remained free and separate from the
control of either Seleucus or Ptolemy.
importance to the prophecy of the Ram and the Male Goat is what is brought out
in verse 9, And out of one of them came a little horn which grew exceedingly
great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Glorious Land. At this point, we are not interested in the little horn, but the
fact that the Glorious Land is Palestine, the home of the Jews. With the
Seleucids to the north and east and the Ptolemies in the south, Palestine was
caught in the middle between these constantly struggling factions of the Greek
Empire. Both factions controlled the Palestine; first the Ptolemies and then the
Seleucids. The story of these two factions as told in the lives of their kings
reads like a soap opera. As we journey through their stories, the names will
seem similar and some of the dates will overlap, which is just the misfortune of
Ptolemies controlled Palestine from 323 b.c. to 198 b.c. and were the first
group to maintain any real consistent control of Palestine after the death of
Alexander. For the most part, they were very good to their Jewish subjects,
although they did tax them quite heavily.
I, Soter, also known as Ptolemy Lagi, who was Alexander’s general who took
control of Egypt, Palestine, and Arabia, ruled from 323 b.c. to 285 b.c. Under
his rule, he relocated many of the Palestinian Jews to Egypt where Greek soon
became their native language.
II, Philadelphus, the son of Ptolemy I, ruled from 285 b.c. to 246 b.c. Under
his rule the Jews in Egypt and Palestine enjoyed a time of peace and quiet and
were prosperous to a degree. The High Priest and the council of priests and
elders in Jerusalem were allowed to rule as an extension of the government of
the Ptolemies. They were left alone as long as they paid an annual tribute of 20
talents. In Egypt the Jews were allowed to build synagogues for worship and
study. The result was that Alexandria soon became an influential Jewish center.
It was here the Jewish Scriptures were translated into Greek. This translation
is called the Septuagint and was most popular among the Jews of the dispersion.
It also was used by many of the writers of the New Testament.
the time of Philadephus, General Seleucus was murdered by his son, who took the
throne of the Seleucid Dynasty and reigned as Antiochus I from 280 b.c. to 262
b.c. Five years later his part of the empire was invaded by Philadelphus and a
war ensued for almost four years with neither side winning a victory. Antiochus
II, son of Antiochus I, reigned from 261 b.c. to 247 b.c and as he came to the
throne war again broke out between the two halves of the empire. A peace
agreement was reached in 252 b.c. because, as before, neither side was able to
defeat the other. To further complicate matters, Ptolemy II’s daughter,
Berenice, was given in marriage to Antiochus II with the goal of uniting the two
II, and Antiochus II died at about the same time. Ptolemy III, the son of
Ptolemy II, took the throne of the Ptolemy Dynasty, taking the name Euergetes I,
and reigned from 246 b.c. to 221 b.c. Antiochus II was succeeded by his son,
Seleucus II, who reigned from 247 b.c. to 226 b.c. Again, war broke out between
these two parts of the empire. The cause of the war was the murder of Berenice,
the wife of Antiochus II. She was killed by Laodice, who was first cousin of
Antiochus and his first wife. Laodice wanted her son to be their heir of the
Seleucid throne and not the son of Berenice, so she had both of them killed.
This act outraged the Ptolemies of the southern kingdom and, again, war broke
out. This was the third of the six Syrian Wars, known as the Laodicean War. The
Ptolemies captured a large part of the Seleucid holdings, including all of
Syria, before local problems called Ptolemy III back to Egypt. With Ptolemy III
no longer on the battlefield, Selecus II managed to recapture much of his
territory. He tried to take back Palestine, but was unsuccessful. Peace was
declared in 240 b.c. Seleucus II was followed by Seleucus III in 226 b.c. and
reigned until 223 b.c. when he was poisoned. He was succeeded by his younger
brother, known as Antiochus the Great, who reigned from 223 b.c. to 187 b.c.
More on this person in the section on the Seleucids below.
IV, Philpater succeeded Ptolemy III after his death in 221 b.c. He reigned until
203 b.c. and has been called the most cruel and vicious ruler of the Ptolemaic
Dynasty. He hated the Jews and persecuted them without mercy. He even attempted
to force his way into the Holy of Holies in the Jewish Temple with the purpose
to defile it. The Jews detested this man and when he died in 203 b.c. they
celebrated with great rejoicing.
V, Epiphanes took the throne in 203 b.c. at the age of five and ruled until 180
b.c. when he died at the age of 23, probably from poisoning. The dynasty was
under a series of regents during most of this time and was effectively
paralyzed. He was not the last of the Ptolemy rulers but he is the last one that
is pertinent to this prophecy. The Ptolemaic Dynasty came to an end in 30 b.c.
with the death of Cleopatra.
198 b.c. the Seleucids under Antiochus III finally took control of Palestine
which they held to some degree until the coming of the Romans in 63 b.c.
III, the Great, ruled from 223 b.c. to 187 b.c. He was 18 years old when he came
to the throne of the Seleucid Dynasty. As young as he was, he was an experienced
governor, as he served as Governor of Babylonia under his brother, Seleucid III.
Upon his coming to the throne he started an effort to conquer the Ptolemies. He
was not able to defeat the Ptolemies, but in 198 b.c. at the Battle of Panion in
the Jordan Valley he did succeed in taking complete control of Palestine. The
Jews were relieved by this event as it seemed that the constant warring between
the two dynasties, in which they were continually caught, had finally come to an
end. Little did they realize that the Seleucids would be worse than the
the same time, Hannibal, the Carthaginian general, was defeated by the Romans
and fled to the court of Antiochus for protection, where he convinced Antiochus
to invade Greece. The Romans defeated Antiochus in 190 b.c. and put him under
tribute. To make sure Antiochus continued making payments, the Romans took his
youngest son to Rome where they kept him for 12 years. The son later returned to
the Seleucid Empire and assumed the throne under the name of Antiochus Epiphanes.
years after the defeat at the hand of the Romans, Seleucus III died and was
succeeded by Seleucus IV, who ruled for 12 years, from 187 b.c. to 175 b.c. In
order to keep up the payments to Rome, he laid heavy taxes on the people,
including the Jews of Palestine. This created a moral dilemma for the Jews as
some felt it was morally permissible to give money to the government and others
felt it was sinful. Two bothers formed opposing parties on the subject. One
group, under the leadership of Onias the High Priest, was opposed to helping the
Seleucids in any way. The other group, which supported the Seleucids, was led by
Jason who was the brother of Onias. Jason opposed his brother and offered large
sums of money to Antiochus in hopes of being made the High Priest. The story is
recorded in 2 Maccabees chapters three and four. Seleucus ignored them.
IV, Epiphanes, murdered Seleucus IV in 175 b.c and took the throne, reigning
until 163 b.c. He immediately took advantage of Jason’s offer of money and
removed Onias from the high priesthood and made Jason High Priest. Three years
later a man by the name of Menelaus offered Antiochus even more money, so
Antiochus removed Jason and made Menelaus High Priest. This infuriated the Jews
who were still trying to be faithful to God. They were grieved that the office
of high priest could be sold to the highest bidder.
invaded Egypt in 169 b.c. in an attempt to destroy the Ptolemaic Dynasty. Word
got back to Jerusalem that he had been killed. When Jason heard of this, he
threw Menelaus out of Jerusalem and again assumed the office of high priest.
Unfortunately for him, Antiochus had not been killed and when he returned to
Jerusalem he used the army to remove Jason and reinstall Menelaus as the High
Priest. It was at this time Antiochus entered the Temple and stole a great deal
of its treasure. The pious Jews saw this as an abomination before God.
168 b.c. Antiochus renewed his campaign against the Egyptians but was stopped by
the Romans and ordered to leave Egypt and never return. This made Antiochus
angry and he returned to Jerusalem and took out his anger on the city. He tore
down the city walls, slaughtered many of the Jews, ordered the Jewish Scriptures
to be destroyed, and he and his soldiers brought prostitutes into the Temple
where they had sexual intercourse with them for the sole purpose of defiling the
Temple. He also ordered everyone to worship the Geek gods and he established the
death penalty for anyone who practiced circumcision or who observed the Sabbath
or any of the Jewish feasts and sacrifices. He had an elderly scribe named
Eleazar flogged to death because he refused to eat the flesh of swine. He had a
mother and her seven children murdered because she refused to worship an idol.
He had two mothers thrown to their deaths from tops of buildings because they
had circumcised their newborn sons. The last straw was when he sacked the Temple
and erected an altar to the pagan god Zeus. On December 25, 168 b.c. he offered
a pig to Zeus on the altar of God. This led to a large-scale rebellion of the
Jews against the Seleucids known in history as the Maccabean Revolt.
rule of the Ram, the Persians, over Palestine was benign compared to what the
Palestinian Jews experience under the Male Goat. The Ptolemies were bad enough,
but the Seleucids, especially Antiochus Epiphanes, were horrendous.