19 October 2018

The Identification of the “Little Horn” in Daniel

Daniel
In the eighth chapter of Daniel the “little horn” represents a malevolent king that appears from one of the four kingdoms that succeeded the first great ruler of Greece, Alexander the Great (Daniel 8:9; 8:21-26; 11:1-4). The historical references make it possible to identify this king and by process of elimination the identity of the fourth kingdom of Daniel 7:7-8.
     The figures of the ram and the goat represent the kingdoms of Medo-Persia and Greece (Daniel 8:21-26).

      The empire of the “Medes and Persians” founded by Cyrus the Great was defeated by Alexander the Great in 331 BC. He ruled his new domain for only a few years until his death in 323 BC, after which his generals contended for the succession until a settlement was reached after years of intermittent conflict. The empire was divided among four generals into smaller states (Ptolemy, Seleucus, Cassander, Antigonus). By 275 BC only three of the original four remained; Ptolemy in Egypt, Seleucus in Syria and Antigonus in Greece and Macedonia.
     Ptolemy I founded the Ptolemaic Kingdom in Egypt in 305 BC, a dynasty that endured until 30 BC. The small Jewish state of Judea was part of the Ptolemaic domain, which allowed it to govern its own internal affairs.
     The Seleucid dynasty was founded by Seleucus I in 312 BC and endured until 63 BC. Intermittent wars occurred between the Seleucid and Ptolemaic regimes over territory with Judea caught in the frontier between them. After several Seleucid victories, Judea became part of its empire in 198 BC and remained under Seleucid rule for several decades.
     The Seleucid rulers employed a policy of tolerance toward the Jewish nation.  Judea was free to govern its internal affairs and no attempt was made to repress the Jewish religion. This changed after the accession to the Seleucid throne by Antiochus IV or Antiochus Epiphanés in 175 BC.
     Antiochus was not the direct heir to the throne. He was the younger brother of the legitimate king, Seleucus IV (reigned 187-175 BC). He was assassinated by his chancellor who attempted to seize the throne (2 Maccabees 3:21-28). The legitimate heirs of Seleucus were his two underage sons.  Antiochus was in Athens at the time of his brother’s death.  As a brother to the assassinated king and uncle to his underage sons, he became the lawful regent though he was not the direct heir. Antiochus removed the usurper and installed himself to rule as regent. He held real power and intended to remain an absolute ruler. After his youngest nephew was killed some years later, he ruled openly as king until his death.
     The rise to power by Antiochus Epiphanés was unexpected and made possible only by historical circumstances. His rise to the Seleucid throne is very likely symbolized by the ten horns of the fourth beast, three of which were removed to make way for “another, a little horn” (Daniel 7:7-8). The ten horns are “ten kings who will arise,” the “little horn” arises later and is “diverse” from them. He “cast down three kings” (7:15-25). In the Seleucid line Antiochus IV is the eighth ruler since Seleucus I:
  1. Seleucus I [Nicantor] (312-281 BC)
  2. Antiochus I [Sotér] (281-261 BC)
  3. Antiochus II [Theos] (261-246 BC)
  4. Seleucus II [Kallinikos] (246-226 BC)
  5. Seleucus III [Keraunos] (226-223 BC)
  6. Antiochus III [the Great] (223-187 BC)
  7. Seleucus IV [Philopator] (187-175 BC)
  8. Antiochus IV [Epiphanés] (175-163 BC)
     To make way for Antiochus IV three rivals were removed:  the rebel chancellor and the two legitimate heirs. Thus three “horns” were “uprooted” so another could rule. The descriptions, “little horn” and “diverse,” distinguish Antiochus from his predecessors.  Unlike them, he was not a direct heir and did not transition to power through legitimate means.
     Once in power Antiochus waxed exceeding great “toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the beauty,” which alludes to his conflicts with Egypt (south), Persia and other eastern territories (cp.1 Maccabees 3:29-37), and against Judea (the “beauty”).
     Antiochus was not initially hostile to the Jewish people. Circumstances created by war with Egypt and internal conflicts in Jerusalem set the stage for his aggression against the Jewish nation.
     When Antiochus assumed the throne the high priest in Jerusalem was Onias III, the last legitimate high priest from the line of Zadok (1 Kings 2:27-35; 1 Chronicles 29:22). His brother, Jason, a proponent of Hellenism, went to Antioch, the capital city of the Seleucid Empire, and bribed the king to appoint him the high priest instead of his brother. In need of money, the king accepted the bribe and appointed him the high priest (2 Maccabees 4:7-17).
     Jason was of the priestly line but his appointment was irregular. He used his new position to promote Hellenism in Jerusalem.  In 171 BC Jason sent an aid named Menelaus to pay his annual tribute to Antiochus but upon arrival, Menelaus offered the king an even larger bribe to make him the high priest instead (2 Maccabees 4:23). Antiochus welcomed this larger bribe and replaced Jason with Menelaus as high priest.
     Menelaus was an apostate Jew and not even a member of a priestly family (2 Maccabees 4:26). While Jason’s rise to the priesthood was irregular, he was from a legitimate priestly line. The appointment of Menelaus was beyond the pale and stirred up great resentment among devout Jews. Menelaus quickly became an ally of Antiochus in Jerusalem. Like Jason he promoted Hellenism. In 171 BC Menelaus robbed some of the vessels from the Temple treasury to pay his bribe to Antiochus.
     The rightful high priest, Onias III, was still alive and in the city of Antioch in 171 BC and publicly denounced Menelaus for plundering the Temple treasury. That year the king departed to deal with disorder in Cilicia and left his minister Andronicus in charge in Antioch. Menelaus took advantage of the situation to bribe Andronicus to execute Onias III, an act that outraged pious Jews. Up to this point, Antiochus was not hostile to the Jewish nation. The last thing he needed was unrest closer to home. To avoid further offense against the religious sensibilities of Jews, upon his return to Antioch the king had Andronicus executed on the very spot where Onias III had been killed. Regardless, in the minds of devout Jews, the execution of Onias III marked the start of Antiochus’ outrages against Israel.
     In the summer of 169 bc, Antiochus launched a military attack against Egypt. The king’s campaign necessitated new sources of revenue. The temples of the various religions throughout his domain were often depositories of great wealth, so the king began to raid them, including the Jerusalem Temple. Upon his return from Egypt in 169 BC Antiochus stopped in Jerusalem where the apostate high priest, Menelaus, escorted him into the sanctuary, a place normally available to priests and only under the right conditions, and certainly not to a pagan ruler. This defilement along with the looting of the Temple treasury deepened the resentment of many Jews.
     Antiochus launched another expedition against Egypt in the spring of 168 BC. This time things did not go well. Rome intervened to stop his subjugation of Egypt. The Roman Senate demanded that Antiochus cease and desist from aggression against Egypt, otherwise he risked war with Rome. Antiochus had no choice but to comply.
     Rumors of Rome’s rebuff reached Jerusalem even as Antiochus began his return trip from Egypt. This caused unrest and an attempted revolt in Jerusalem. The king sent a large force of soldiers to quell it and exact punishment. This unit took the city by force, killed significant numbers of Jews and sold many others into slavery. Thereafter Antiochus garrisoned loyal soldiers in the city, martial law was imposed and Jerusalem lost its status as a temple-state.
     The military governor of Samaria and Judea, Apollonius, was dispatched to ensure Jerusalem would cause no more trouble and to turn it into a Greek city-state (2 Maccabees 5:24-27). He demolished the city’s walls and erected a new fortress alongside the Temple. The latter half of 168 BC marked a new phase in the repression of the Jewish nation and its religion. It was now apparent that the exclusivist religious faith of the Jewish people was partly responsible for the resistance of many Jews. Steps were necessary to eradicate Israel’s ancestral faith.
     The Temple rituals were stopped. The Jewish practices of Sabbath observance (and other holy days), circumcision, dietary restrictions and the like, were outlawed. Jewish sacred writings were banned and copies burned. This latter crime may well be intended in the references in Daniel 8:12 (“it cast down truth to the ground”) and 7:25 (“he hoped to change times and the law”).
     The worst offense came in December 168 BC with the placement of an altar to the pagan deity Zeus Olympian on top of the Jewish altar of burnt offerings. On it ritually unclean animals were sacrificed to Zeus. The book of First Maccabees identifies this egregious profanation as the “abomination of desolation” (1 Maccabees 4:54, 10:1-5).
     The Aramaic name for Zeus Olympian was Ba’al Shamen, meaning “lord of heaven.” In Hebrew “abomination of desolation” is a wordplay on Ba’al Shamen. Among the devout, the pagan name Ba'al was an “abomination” or shíqqûç, and the Hebrew word for “desolation” or shômem sounded only slightly different from the Aramaic shamen. Thus shíqqûç shômem or “abomination of desolation” was a sarcastic retort to the sacrileges of Antiochus IV.
     Altars to Zeus Olympian were set up throughout the towns and villages of Judea. Jews were required to offer sacrifices to this pagan god or suffer severe punishments. The repression of the Jews stirred up armed resistance to Seleucid rule, the Maccabean Revolt (167-160 BC).  After several victories by Maccabean forces, Seleucid forces were driven from Palestine.
     Jerusalem and the Temple were recaptured by Jewish forces in 165 BC. Subsequently, the Temple was “cleansed” and rededicated (1 Maccabees 4:51-59), a little over three years after the “abomination of desolation” was first installed. The daily sacrifices were restored and from that day forward sacrifices in the Temple continued without interruption until it was destroyed by a Roman army in 70 AD.
     Antiochus died of an unknown disease in 164 bc a few months after the Temple was cleansed. At the time he was campaigning in the eastern region of his kingdom.  Thus he was “broken in pieces without hand” (8:25).

Summary
The first three of Daniel’s four beasts are identified:  Babylon, Medo-Persia and the Greco-Macedonian Empire of Alexander the Great (Daniel 7:1-8). The latter was divided into four lesser domains after Alexander’s death.
     The details provided about the “little horn” and related events are too close to actual events to be coincidental. Antiochus IV ruled over one of the four kingdoms derived from Alexander’s original empire.  He gained the throne through the removal of three rivals for it. Adding Antiochus’ seven predecessors on the Seleucid throne to the three royal rivals totals ten, thus fulfilling the image of a “little horn” arising from among ten others after three horns were removed. This means Daniel’s fourth beast is the Seleucid kingdom from which Antiochus IV arose.
     Antiochus IV claimed divine status by assuming the name Epiphanésor “god manifest.” On his coinage and elsewhere he portrayed himself as Zeus Olympian manifested in the flesh (“speaking great words”).
     The persecution of the Jews by Antiochus and his attempt to wipe out their religion line up with the vision of chapter 8 and its interpretation; the daily sacrifice was removed, the Temple was desecrated and the people of the saints oppressed. In the midst of all this, a pagan altar was erected in the Temple on which unclean animals were sacrificed, a desecration of the worst kind. This time of indignation continued until Jerusalem and environs were free of Seleucid control and the Temple cleansed.
     In Daniel 7:25times and law” are given into the little horn’s hand “for a time, times and the dividing of time.” The persecution of the Jewish faith initiated in the summer of 168 BC continued until December 165 BC, a period of almost three and one-half years. 
     If the period of “a time, times and the dividing of time” is intended to represent three years plus part of another year, it fits neatly with the actual events. The desecration of the Temple and the cessation of the daily sacrifice was to continue for “two thousand and three hundred evening-mornings,” after which the “the Sanctuary shall be vindicated.” If this figure represents one thousand one hundred and fifty days (1,150), this is another close fit to the period of desecration from the day the altar to Zeus Olympian was erected until the Temple was cleansed a little over three years later.
     The descriptions of the “little horn” are symbolical and enigmatic in the seventh chapter of Daniel, making its identification uncertain. Some identify the fourth beast as the Roman Empire and the “little horn” as one of its emperors. But no known succession of Roman emperors fits the scenario of ten kings with three removed to make way for an eleventh. In contrast, the Seleucid succession fits it perfectly.
    Be that as it may, the historical references to Medo-Persia, to its overthrow by Greece, and to the four lesser kingdoms that formed from the remains of Alexander’s conquests are clear; in the eighth chapter, the “little horn” can only be Antiochus IV.

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