LAWTON CHURCH OF GOD, LAWTON OKLAHOMA

Home   About Us   Holiness Library   Bible Prophecy   Listen to Sermons  History of the Holiness Movement   Early English Bibles   Bible Studies   Links

 

 

 

 

THE RAM AND THE MALE GOAT, PART 3

 

THE PTOLEMIES AND THE SELEUCIDS

 

 

Therefore 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)

 

 Alexander 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.

Ptolemy 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.

Antigonus, 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 Minor.

In 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.

Of 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 history.

 

THE PTOLEMIES

 

The 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.

Ptolemy 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.

Ptolemy 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.

During 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 dynasties.

Ptolemy 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.

Ptolemy 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.

Ptolemy 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.

 

THE SELEUCIDS

 

In 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.

Antiochus 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 Ptolemeis.

About 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.

Three 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.

Antiochus 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.

Antiochus 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.

In 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.

The 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.