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Prophetic History from Daniel 11: Intertestamental History

Prophetic History from Daniel 11: Intertestamental History
By Dr. David Bowen

In the second segment in our deep dive into the prophetic history from Daniel 11, we marveled at the prophecies that were fulfilled by the ongoing wars between the Ptolemies and the Seleucids. Now we will see how the Jewish people are introduced into the conflicts of the Intertestamental history.

The Battle of Panium

Daniel 11:14 introduces the Jewish people. “Those people” in this verse are Daniel’s people, the Hebrews. The angel is still speaking to Daniel. Historically (Josephus, Antiquities 12:3, 135-6 on the 5th Syrian War), we do know some Jews did join with Antiochus III’s army against Egypt. The Jews were led by a man named Tobias, who attacked the Egyptian garrison (military post) stationed in Jerusalem.

Verse 15 is the defeat of Egypt as Antiochus III sweeps through the region. At the battle of Panium or Paneas (near Caesarea Philippi) (200 B.C.), the land of Israel moved from being controlled by Egypt to being controlled by Syria.

Verse 16 is about the “glorious” or “beautiful” land, which is Israel. The land came under the control of Antiochus III, meaning he had the authority of taxation. For the first three years, he let the land be exempt. Then, he allowed the elders, priests, scribes, and Temple singers to be exempt while lowering everyone else’s tax burden in Israel to a third of what it was under Egyptian rule. He also gave back large sums to the Temple in Israel.

Conflict with Rome

Daniel 11:17 reveals Antiochus III tried to control Egypt by marriage. Antiochus III’s military expansion put him in conflict with Rome. Rome wanted him to stay out of Europe, but Antiochus III refused. In 195 B.C., he came to Egypt to begin negotiations, which would also deal with Rome. Antiochus proposed this agreement: he promised Ptolemy V that he could marry his daughter Cleopatra (not the Cleopatra of Julius Caesar and the wife of Mark Antony). Ptolemy V was only seven years old when he married Cleopatra in 193 B.C. Antiochus was trying to destroy the Egyptian empire through marriage.

Antiochus assumed with this arrangement, his daughter would side with him, but she rebelled against her father. Ptolemy V died (181 B.C.), and Cleopatra became the ruler of Egypt until her son Ptolemy VI took over. She kept peace with Syria and kept Rome from invading.

The Apamea Treaty

Daniel 11:18 reveals Antiochus III’s campaign against Rome. Rome was beginning to rise to power, and he wanted to stop their rise. In 191 B.C., he was defeated in battle just north of Athens. This battle began in December 190 B.C. in modern-day Turkey. In that battle, 10,000 Syrians died, and 5,000 Romans died. In the end, Antiochus III refused Roman ambassadors who offered a treaty. In rebellion, he treated them scornfully and told them Asia did not concern them and that he was not subject to their orders. However, in 188 B.C., he was forced to accept the Treaty of Apamea and had to abandon all of Asia Minor to Roman rule.

Verse 19 reveals the death of Antiochus III the Great. With the Apamea Treaty, he returned home in defeat. Over the next twelve years, he had to pay 15,000 talents as a condition of peace and surrender his elephants and any hostages. Because of his debt, he was assassinated in the temple near Susa, when in desperation, he tried to plunder it of its revenue.

Verse 20 reveals the following prophecy of the Syrian empire. After he died in 187 B.C., his second son, Seleucus IV, became king. Antiochus III the Great had exempted many in Israel from taxes and had even sent money to the Temple in Jerusalem. His son reversed all that and added tax, particularly to the Temple. Because of his father’s defeat, Seleucus IV had to pay heavy tribute to Rome. The Treaty of Apamea, signed in 188 B.C., mandated that Syria pay 1,000 talents to Rome annually. A talent weighs 60 pounds, so the son had to come up with 60,000 pounds of metal every year. To do so, he had to collect taxes from every region. He sent a representative to Jerusalem to seize the temple treasury.

The prophecy “within a few days” was fulfilled as this king ruled for only eleven years, whereas his father ruled for thirty-seven years.

Antiochus Epihanes

Daniel 11:21 is a crucial transition and is essential to understand. “In his place, a despicable person will arise, on whom the honor of kingship has not been conferred, but he will come in a time of tranquility and seize the kingdom by intrigue.”

This verse introduces Antiochus Epihanes. He is not the legitimate heir. He is the brother of the former king, Seleucus IV. The rightful heir would have been the king’s first son, Demetrius I. Antiochus Epihanes, who was a prisoner of Rome until 176 B.C. when he was released in a trade for his nephew, Demetrius I. After his release, Antiochus Epiphanes assembled an army and claimed the throne for himself. With Demetrius I imprisoned, the next rightful heir would have been Seleucus IV, the second son of Antiochus.

Antiochus Epiphanes was in Athens when he heard his brother was murdered. His nephew, his brother’s second son, who in 175 B.C. was just five years old, became the true heir to the throne. But because of his age, his mother (Heliodorus) took the real power. Antiochus Epiphanes came to Syria, killed Heliodorus, the mother/wife of the current and past king, and proclaimed himself co-ruler. He said he was the boy’s legal guardian, and in 170 B.C., at age 10, the boy somehow died. This is why verse 21 says he will “seize the kingdom by intrigue.”

Verse 22 speaks to Antiochus Epiphanes’ military victories. Verse 22 mentions the “prince of the covenant,” which we find out in verses 28 and 32. This is the Jewish high priest. Daniel 8:9-14 spoke about the Jewish high priest Onias being forced out of office and his evil brother Jason being installed. Onias is then murdered by an even more evil brother who bribed his way into the position of high priest.

Verse 23 speaks of Antiochus Epiphanes’ growth in “strength” and “deception.” His alliance with Egypt is the focus point. He felt he could use his family bond to gain control over Egypt. His sister, Cleopatra, was still the ruler of Egypt, but Egypt was in the middle of a civil war at the time.

Verse 24 speaks of Antiochus Epiphanes’ growth in “wealth.” He attacked other nations in “times of security” when they least expected it. He used the plunder to bribe people and win favor.

Verse 25 speaks to the first of several campaigns against Egypt, which started in 170 B.C. Remember, Antiochus III married his daughter Cleopatra to Ptolemy V, who was too young to be king, so she became the leader of Egypt. Together, they eventually had three children.

1. Ptolemy VI
2. Ptolemy VII
3. Cleopatra II

At this time, when the king of Egypt was his nephew Ptolemy VI, Egypt was planning on invading Israel. Judah had been given as a dowry when Bernice married Antiochus II (11:6). Antiochus Epiphanes would not let Egypt take the territory of Israel from him. Egypt mounted a great army but was not successful in taking Israel from Syria.

Verse 26 prophesied that Ptolemy VI’s most trusted counselors would betray him to Antiochus, which, based on historical records, is precisely what happened. Even though Egypt had a large army, many of its soldiers were killed in battle. Then, in verse 27, the angel prophesized that the kings would turn against each other. The kings the angel spoke of were Antiochus Epiphanes and Ptolemy VI. Ptolemy was now a captive to his uncle. When the people of Alexandria heard their king was a captive, they placed Ptolemy VII in charge.

To respond to this, Antiochus pretended to become friendly with his nephew, who was his captive, promising him that he would return him to power in Egypt; Ptolemy VI pretended to believe his uncle fulfilling the prophecy of verse 27, “As for both kings, their hearts will be intent on evil, and they will speak lies to each other at the same table.” This is why what we have in Daniel is so incredible. It was prophesied three hundred years beforehand that these two leaders would meet for a meal, lie to each other, and fail at their proposed plan.

Their plan did not prosper as the people of Alexandria rejected the reinstatement of the prior king, and the two brothers, Ptolemy VI and Ptolemy VII, reconciled and decided to rule together and not fight a civil war.

Verse 28 is the return of Antiochus Epiphanes to Syria. He was angry he did not get control of Egypt. Scripture says his “heart was turned against the Holy covenant.” This means that in his wrath, he carried out his program against the Jews. He would come to Israel multiple times to carry out his cruel acts.

While he was in Egypt, the evil high priest, Jason, began a revolt in Jerusalem. Before his return to Syria, Antiochus stopped that revolt and plundered Jerusalem. This is recorded in the historical books of 1 Maccabees 1:20-28 and 2 Maccabees 5:11-17. In doing so, he killed 40,000 Jews and took another 40,000 into slavery.

Antiochus Epiphanes Third Campaign Against Egypt

Daniel 11:29-30 describe Antiochus Epiphanes’ third campaign against Egypt. (Scripture does not deal with his second campaign against Egypt). When he was on the verge of annexing Egypt to Syria, the “ships of Kittim” came against him. That is the territory of Cyprus, west of Israel. The Jewish Talmud connects Kittim with Rome. Remember, Rome warned Antiochus not to expand his kingdom in their direction. Antiochus knew he did not have the power to defy the Roman Empire, so he withdrew. In defeat, he became more ambitious against the people he did rule: Israel!

We know through historical records that a section of the Jewish population had become apostates and abandoned the “Holy covenant”, as Scripture said they would. They supported the Greek culture and Greek way of life.

In the fourth and final segment of this deep dive into the prophetic history from Daniel 11, the Jewish people will experience the Abomination of Desolation that would foreshadow the coming of the Antichrist.

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