Friday, March 23, 2018

Antiochus ‘Epiphanes’ and Herod ‘the Great’

Image result for herod the great



“The Jewish uprising that began in 167 B.C. against the ruling Seleucid kings was headed by a family of high priests from the Temple in Jerusalem. Known as the Maccabees, their establishment of the independent Hasmonaean dynasty, and their refusal to accept the imposition of Greek Seleucid culture, left a deep mark on the popular imagination. A century later, when the Romans tried to impose dominance on the Hasmonaeans, partisans rose up in the Galilee, dubbing themselves the new “Maccabees”.”


National Geographic





Edith Parmentier has written regarding the deaths of Herod the Great and Antiochus IV:


  • The memory of Antiochos IV
    In any case, whatever the relationship between Josephus and the books of the Maccabees (= even if we consider that for the revolt of the Maccabees, Josephus depends exclusively on The First Book of Maccabees and not at all on The Second Book of Maccabees) the story of Herod’s death bears numerous analogies with the death of Antiochos IV, the prototype of the religious persecutor. For Josephus’ reader, the persecution of young Jews by Herod inevitably evokes the memory of Antiochus IV’s persecution: Herod’s illness is the re-edition of Antiochus’ end and the death of 2 kings is a just punishment for their impious and tyrannical conduct towards the Jews. Eusebius, who was familiar with the books of the Maccabees and the posterity of the topos of the persecutor’s death in Christian literature, completely isolates Herod’s death from its cultural and religious context.


According to the National Geographic’s article,

“How King Herod Transformed the Holy Land”, those known as ‘new Maccabees’ rose up in Galilee:


The Jewish uprising that began in 167 B.C. against the ruling Seleucid kings was headed by a family of high priests from the Temple in Jerusalem. Known as the Maccabees, their establishment of the independent Hasmonaean dynasty, and their refusal to accept the imposition of Greek Seleucid culture, left a deep mark on the popular imagination. A century later, when the Romans tried to impose dominance on the Hasmonaeans, partisans rose up in the Galilee, dubbing themselves the new “Maccabees.” In 47 B.C. Herod, who was then governor of the region, was charged with putting down the threat. Rebels had hunkered down in near-inaccessible caves, but Herod ordered them to be stormed by lowering crate after crate containing soldiers. On their capture, Herod ordered all the prisoners to be killed. Angry protests erupted in Jerusalem, and Herod was called before the religious authorities to answer for his actions. In a sign of the clashes that he would later face as king, Herod asserted his authority, and narrowly escaped being condemned to death. ….


Compare Antiochus’s and Herod’s ‘pushing of Hellenization’, at:


“In 175 BC Antiochus Epiphanes came to power as the Seleucid Ruler with an agenda to expand the empire. He attacked and overthrew the Ptolmaic Empire in Egypt, thus Judea came under Seleucid control. Antiochus Epiphanes was also determined to push Hellenization. We learn from 1 Maccabees what the Jews faced and what they thought about being "Hellenized."


In those days lawless men came forth from Israel, and misled many, saying, "Let us go and make a covenant with the Gentiles round about us, for since we separated from them many evils have come upon us." This proposal pleased them, and some of the people eagerly went to the king. He authorized them to observe the ordinances of the Gentiles. So they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem, according to Gentile custom, and removed the marks of circumcision, and abandoned the holy covenant....

After subduing Egypt, Antiochus returned...He went up against Israel and came to Jerusalem with a strong force. He arrogantly entered the sanctuary and took...the silver and the gold, and the costly vessels; he took also the hidden treasures which he found. Taking them all, he departed to his own land. He committed deeds of murder, and spoke with great arrogance.     - 1 Macc 1:11-15, 20-24


This marks the beginning of The Maccabean Revolt, a period of Jewish rebellion provoked by a Gentile ruler denying religious freedom and persecuting the Jewish nation. It was brutal on the part of the Seleucids, heroic on Israel's part, and the emotional/nationalistic effects of this conflict were felt into the time of Jesus and even the early Christians as they endured similar Roman persecution”.




“Herod pushed Hellenization: he had many Greek building projects all around his kingdom in Galilee, Samaria and in Jerusalem. Herod ruled until 4 BC and towards the end of his reign he became more and more willing to act rashly, punish and kill anyone who stood in his way and was perfectly willing to sacrifice family as well. All of this only inflamed the Jewish hatred for this Jewish pretender who ruled Judea. …”.


Daniel T. Unterbrink writes, in “Judas the Galilean”:



According to the Slavonic Josephus, Matthias and Judas [the Galilean] said this to their followers:

"Come, men of Judaea, now is the time for men to behave like men, to show what reverence we have for the Law of Moses.  Let not our race be shamed, let us not bring disgrace on our Law-giver.  Let us take as the model for [our] exploits Eleazar first and the seven Maccabee brothers and the mother who made men [of them].  For, when Antiochus had conquered and subjugated our land and was ruling over us, he was defeated by these seven youths and [their] old teacher and an old woman.  Let us also be worthy of them, let us not prove weaker than a woman.  But even if we are to be tortured for our zeal for God, a greater wreath has been plaited for us.  And if they kill us, our souls as it leaves [this] dark abode will return to [our] forefathers, where Abraham and his offspring [dwell]." 

(After War 1.650) (Emphasis mine) ….

Part Two:
The King’ of Daniel 11


Philip Mauro thought that Daniel 11:36-45 pertained to Herod the Great, rather than to Antiochus IV ‘Epiphanes’, a distinction that may not be necessary, however, if Herod were Antiochus.


Philip Mauro’s account of Daniel 11 is given here, with some comments of mine added:


The Seventy Weeks and the Great Tribulation
by Philip Mauro (1923)


"The King"
Chapter IX


"And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods and shall prosper until the indignation be accomplished" (Dan 11:36).


Here we reach that part of the prophecy in regard to which there is the greatest difference of opinion among expositors; and yet, if we be not greatly mistaken (as to which our readers must judge) it is an easy matter, in the light of history, both sacred and profane, to identify that "king" whose character and doings are set forth in such striking words in our prophecy. Because, however, of the disagreement referred to, it behooves us, at this point, to exercise special diligence and care in examining and applying the proofs; and we ask the reader, on his part, to give close attention to the exposition of these verses; for one's understanding of the word of prophecy as a whole will depend very largely upon the view he may take of them.


We will first point out some of the current explanations of this part of the prophetic narrative of Daniel 11.


According to one view (that presented by Smith's Bible Dictionary and other reputable authorities such as Taylor) this portion of the prophecy (Dan 11:36 to end) has still to do with Antiochus Epiphanes, and that tyrant is "the king" of verse 36. That view of the passage is necessitated by the general scheme of interpretation adopted in the work referred to, which makes the first coming of Christ and the Kingdom He then established, to be the "stone," which strikes the great image of Gentile dominion upon its feet (Dan 2:34,35). Now, inasmuch as it is a matter of Bible fact, as well as of familiar history, that Christ did not come into destructive collision with the Roman empire, but rather strengthened it, this scheme of interpretation is compelled to ignore the Roman empire, and to make up the four world-powers by counting Media as one and Persia as another. This makes Greece the fourth, instead of the third, and compels the idea that the entire 11th chapter has to do with the Greek era.


Mackey’s comment: Which might actually be the correct scenario after all.


But this whole scheme is shattered by contact with the undisputed facts. For first, Scripture declares plainly that Media and Persia formed one kingdom, not two. Even during the short time that "Darius the Mede" (11:1) was on the throne it speaks expressly of "the laws of the Medes and Persians" (5:26; 6:8), which shows that, from the very first, the two constituted one government. The Scripture also says plainly, "The ram which thou sawest, having two horns, are the kings of Media and Persia, and the rough goat is the king of Grecia" (Dan 8:20, 21). The meaning of this is unmistakable. It shows that the two "horns" (or powers) were united to form one kingdom; and that it was this united kingdom (and not that of Persia alone) which was overthrown by Alexander the Great.


Mackey’s comment: This is mixing different chapters of the Book of Daniel.


Secondly, it was the power of Rome, not that of Christ's Kingdom, which brought the Greek dominion to an end. This happened at the battle of Actium, a quarter of a century before Christ was born.


Mackey’s comment: So, according to the conventional view of history, which I, however, am challenging.


Therefore, the view stated above must be dismissed as directly contrary to the plainest facts. It may be added, moreover, that there are certain definite statements made concerning this "king" which cannot possibly be made to apply to Antiochus, as for instance that he should "prosper until the indignation be accomplished." We therefore concur with the large number of expositors who hold that this part of the prophecy cannot be taken as applying to Antiochus Epiphanes.


The "Break" Theory


According to another view (one that is widely held at the present day) there is a complete break in the prophecy at the end of verse 34 (or as some say at the end of verse 35) all the rest of the chapter being assigned to the days of antichrist, which were then in the far distant future. The supposition, however, that an abrupt break occurs at this point, and an unmentioned interval of many years, where the text has the form of a continuous historical narrative, is a very radical one; and it certainly ought not to be accepted without convincing proof.


Mackey’s comment: I would agree with this observation.


The strongest magnifying glass would fail to reveal the slightest indication of any such "break," but on the contrary every item of the subject-matter of verses 34, 35, and 36 is connected with the one which precedes it by the conjunction "and."


Mackey’s comment: Despite this sensible reading of the text, Mauro will then proceed to break the narrative by introducing a new “king”.


On the other hand we find strong reasons for the view that the prophecy is just what it appears to be, namely, an outline, in continuous historical form, of the main events of "the latter days," that is to say, the second term of Jewish national existence. The view we hold requires that the last three of the four prophetic world-powers should come into view within the period of this chapter. At the time it begins the Babylonian empire was already a thing of the past. Hence the continuance of the prophecy should bring us successively to the eras of Persia, Greece, and Rome. That it conducts us to the era of Persia and then to that of Greece is agreed to by all. Why then imagine that, when we come to the Roman era, which is far the most important of all, the prophecy (without giving the faintest intimation of such a thing) takes a sudden leap of many centuries into the future? The only reason why that strange idea has been entertained by any is that they have not known of any historical personage who answers to what is stated in these verses. Yet there is such a personage, and he stands forth very conspicuously in both Bible history and secular history, as we shall now proceed to show. But first we ask our readers to bear in mind that the presumption is strongly against there being any "break" in the prophecy, as is assumed by those who hold the theory we are now considering. This presumption stands upon the following grounds:--

First. The form in which the prophecy is given, that of a straightforward narrative, in continuous historical order, omitting no happening of any importance, precludes the idea of there being any break, such as is supposed.

Second. The prophecy has expressly for its subject the events of "the latter days" of Jewish history, and the text itself shows this to be the designation of the second term of national life for Israel, which began under Cyrus. This forbids the cutting off of the last (and most important) part of the prophecy and the application of it to a remote age.

Third. After verses 36-39, which speak of the character and doings of "the king," we find the words, "And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at (or with) him; and the king of the north shall come," etc. (v 40). This and succeeding verses (where mention is made of Edom, Moab, and the children of Ammon--people which have not long ago ceased to exist) afford clear proof that the prophecy is still occupied with the era of the wars between Syria and Egypt, which continued till the battle of Actium, BC 30.

Fourth. Finally a conclusive reason for the view we are now presenting is found in the words of the angel recorded in chapter 12:7. It will be observed that the prophecy continues without interruption to verse 4 of chapter 12, where it reaches its end. But then Daniel asked a question concerning "the end of these wonders" which the angel had been foretelling. To this question the angel gives a reply which makes it perfectly certain that the prophecy extends to the dispersion of the Jews at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, and no further. For he said, "And when He (God) shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished." We do not see how it can be contended, in the face of these clear words, that the prophecy has to do with events subsequent to the scattering of the national power of the Jewish people; and it is not open to dispute that that took place in AD 70. We shall refer to this at greater length later on.


We have seen that verses 32-35 have to do (as is generally agreed) with the [H]Asmoneans or Maccabees, verse 35 telling what was to befall them to the time of the end. What, therefore, we would be led to expect next is a reference to that order of things in Israel which followed immediately after the era of the Asmonean princes. And that is exactly what we do find. For there is no need (and no ground) either for the attempt to make the next succeeding verses apply to Antiochus Epiphanes, or to make a sudden and gigantic leap into the far distant future, in order to find a person whose career might conceivably answer to this part of the prophecy. For history, both sacred and profane, sets before us a most notable character, one who appears upon the scene and occupies the center of the stage in Israel just at "the end" of the Asmonean era, and one who answers to every item of the prophetic description. We have reference to that strange, despotic, ungovernable and unspeakably cruel personage, whom the evangelists designate emphatically as--


--that remarkable character who was a usurper upon the throne of David when Christ, the true King, was born. The proof which enables us to identify "the king" of Daniel 11:36-39 with Herod the Great and his dynasty, is so convincing that we feel warranted in saying that the prophecy could not possibly mean anyone else.


It would be strange indeed if, in an outline which gives prominence to Xerxes, Alexander, the Seleucids, the Ptolemies, Antiochus Epiphanes, and the Maccabees, there were no mention of that remarkable personage who exerted upon Jewish affairs and destinies an influence greater than they all, and who sat upon the throne of Israel when Christ was born.

The words, "the king," should suffice, in the light of the context, without further description, to identify Herod to those who thoughtfully read their Bibles; for Herod alone is called by that title in the Gospels, and he alone had the rank and authority of "king" in Israel in the days after the captivity, "the latter days." The text does not speak of a king, but of the king, the emphatic Hebrew article being used. This is in marked contrast with the terms of v. 40, where the original speaks of "a king of the north," and "a king of the south."


Mackey’s comment: But Antiochus IV Epiphanes is referred to as “the king” in I Maccabees 1:44 (which is in my Bible). Thus: “The king also sent messengers with a decree to Jerusalem and all the towns of Judea, ordering the people to follow customs that were foreign to the country”.


A glance at the context is enough to show that "the king" of v. 36 cannot mean either of the kings of v. 27. Moreover, these are never spoken of as "the king," but always, both before and after v. 36, as "the king of the north," or "the king of the south," as the case may be. Nor does the Scripture speak of any "king" who is to arise at the time of the end of this present age, and who answers at all to the description of the prophecy. The "man of sin," described in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10, is supposed by some to be "the king" of Daniel 11:36. But he is not called a king, nor described as having kingly rank, but rather as one claiming divine worship in the temple of God, and backing up his pretensions by means of miracles and lying wonders. The "king" of Daniel 11:36 is a very different personage, and achieves his ends in a very different way, as will be clearly seen by all who diligently compare the two passages.


What has caused able commentators to go astray at this point, and in some instances to seek far field for the interpretation of this passage, is the fact that they were unable to find anyone among the successors of Antiochus [Mackey: sic] who answers at all to the description of "the king." But they have overlooked two things which, had they heeded them, would have kept them from being so misled. Those things are, first, that the prophecy has not for its subject the kingdoms of Syria or Egypt, but the people of Israel, and hence the expression, "the king," without other qualification, would mean one who was king over Daniel's people; and second, that the verses immediately preceding (31-35) relate wholly to the affairs of the Jews under the Asmonean princes, and hence the terms of the prophecy itself lead us to look at this point for the beginning of a new order of things in Israel. And that is just what history certifies to us; for, precisely at this juncture of affairs, the Asmonean dynasty was brought to an end by violence and bloodshed, and it was replaced by that of a "king," who answers perfectly to the description of the last part of the prophecy.


Moreover, and to this we would specially invite attention, it is said of this king that "he shall prosper until the indignation be accomplished" (or until wrath be completed), in fulfillment of which is the fact that the dynasty of Herod retained, through all the political upheavals of the times, its favor with Rome, and flourished in authority in Palestine, until the destruction of Jerusalem, which is the "wrath," or "indignation," or "tribulation," to which these prophecies of Daniel so frequently refer as "the end" of Jewish nationality. For it was "Herod the king" who sought to compass the death of Christ soon after His birth, and whose successors of his own family put to death John the Baptist (this was done by Herod Antipas) and James the brother of John (by Herod Agrippa I, who also imprisoned Peter, intending to deliver him to the Jews) and finally sent Paul in chains to Rome


"According to His Will"


The first thing said of this king is that he should "do according to his will." This is usually taken to mean that he would be of an exceptionally self-willed disposition, one of the sort who act without restraint, and without regard to the rights or the feelings of others. This may indeed be in part the meaning of the words; but much more than this is implied. Self-willed people are so very numerous that, if that were all that were meant, the words could not serve for purposes of identification. But not many are so placed, and have such power in their hands that they are able to "do," that is, to achieve or accomplish what they "will" or plan to do; and this is what is meant. For the expression is used in this same prophecy of two other notable personages. The first of these is Alexander the Great, of whom it is said that he "shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will" (v. 3). The other (v. 16) has been identified as Antiochus the Great. Of him also it is said, "he shall do according to his own will": and history shows that this monarch, too, was very successful, during the first part of his reign, in carrying out his various designs.


Mackey’s comment: So I would connect v. 3 (Antiochus IV Epiphanes), with v. 36 (Herod).


This is what distinguished Herod the Great in a remarkable degree. For history records nothing of this nature more notable than Herod's success in rising up from a lowly origin to the rank and authority of king, in securing for himself despotic power and retaining it through all the political changes of the times, and in the way he used that power for the accomplishment of all his designs, however stupendous in magnitude … or atrocious in character (as condemning to death his own wife and children). …. All things considered, there is nothing more wonderful in the career of Herod than his extraordinary success in doing "according to his will."


But, taking the expression in the other sense, we may say that it would be difficult to find in history one who so ruthlessly executed the designs of his own tyrannical and cruel heart, even upon those of his own flesh and blood, as Herod the king. His murder of his best-loved wife, the beautiful Mariamne, who was a princess of the Asmonean family, is, in its special circumstances, without parallel in history. He put to death also three of his own sons (two of them by this favorite wife) because he suspected them of aspiring to his throne; and similar deeds of willfulness characterized his entire reign. Josephus gives many instances of this (see for example Ant. XII 9, 4).


Exalting and Magnifying Himself


Further it is said of this king that "he shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvelous things against the God of gods." These words are descriptive of Herod. The words "above every god" may be taken to mean every ruler and authority in Israel, just as "God of gods" means the Supreme Authority above all authorities. Herod did successfully aspire to the lordship over every authority in the land, whether priests or rulers. He assumed to appoint whom he would to the office of high priest. He put his own brother-in-law, Aristobulus, Mariamne's brother, in that office, and shortly after had him murdered (Ant. XV 3, 5).


Herod also uttered great things against the God of gods. This, we believe, refers specially (though not exclusively) to his decree for the slaughter of the babes of Bethlehem …


Mackey’s comment: Antiochus IV Epiphanes and his men “… murdered everyone—men and women, boys and girls; even babies were butchered” (2 Maccabees 5:13).

He ‘slaughtered innocent children’ (8:4): “They also asked the Lord to show his hatred of evil by taking revenge on those who were murdering his people, mercilessly slaughtering innocent children, and saying evil things against the Lord”.


… the express purpose of which was to get rid of Immanuel, God come in the flesh to be the Ruler of His people, and to be "Prince of the kings of the earth" (Rev 1:5). Herod's way of making himself secure upon the throne was to put to death every suspected rival. For Herod, in common with the Jewish teachers in his day (and with some teachers in our own day who ought to know better) mistakenly supposed that the Christ of God was coming at that time to occupy the earthly throne upon which Herod was then seated. We shall have occasion to refer again to this prominent act in the career of Herod.


The Desire of Women


Verse 37 reads: "Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god; for he shall magnify himself above all."

These words call for special comment. The first clause manifestly could not apply to any heathen king like Antiochus. For whether or not a heathen king should change his national gods is a matter of no importance whatever. But with a king of Israel it is a matter of supreme importance. Now Herod, though supposedly of Idumean (i.e. Edomite) origin, was virtually a Jew; for all the remaining Idumeans, who had come into Judea several centuries previous, had been amalgamated with the Jews. In addressing the people Herod habitually used the expression "our fathers" (Ant. Bk. XV Ch. 11, Sec. 1). So fully was Herod regarded as a Jew, that the Herodians even held him to be the Messiah. Therefore, in introducing the worship of Caesar, Herod conspicuously failed to "regard the God of his fathers." Moreover, in this connection, it should not be forgotten that Esau was Jacob's twin brother, and hence that the God of the fathers of the Edomites was the same as the God of the fathers of the Jews.

The words, "nor the desire of women," are very significant. There can scarcely be any doubt that they refer to Christ, and that Daniel would so understand them. For, of course, the "women" must be understood to be women of Israel; and the ardent "desire" of every one of them was that she might be the mother of Christ. The same word is found in Haggai 2:7: "And the Desire of all nations shall come." Evidently then it is Christ who is referred to as "the desire of women"; and if so, then we have a striking fulfillment of these words in Herod's attempt to murder the infant Messiah. For the record given in Matthew 2:1-16 makes it quite clear that Herod's deliberate purpose was to put to death the promised Messiah of Israel. It was for the accomplishment of that purpose that he inquired of the chief priests and scribes as to where Christ should be born. The slaughter of the babes of Bethlehem was an act of atrocity almost without parallel in history. It was, moreover, an event that had been foretold by Jeremiah in the words, "A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children," etc. (Jer 31:51, quoted in Matt 2:17,18). Each one of those murdered infants was "the desire" of his own mother; and thus Herod fulfilled Daniel 11:37 in another sense.


Mackey’s comment: This is a nice pious thought and it may well be true.

Some, though, think that it refers to Tammuz-Adonis (e.g. Ezekiel 8:14): “He brought me to the north gate of the LORD's Temple, and some women were sitting there, weeping for the god Tammuz”.


The God of Forces


Verse 38 reads: "And in his estate," or for his establishment, "shall he honour the god of forces," or god of fortresses; "and (or even) a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honour, with gold and silver, and precious (or costly) stones, and with pleasant (or valuable) things."

Herod's career affords a most striking fulfillment of this verse. The expression, "god of forces, or fortresses," is so unusual that it furnishes a most satisfactory means of identification; for it applies to the Caesars as to none others in history, seeing that the Roman emperors claimed for themselves divine honors, and that it was by "forces," or "fortifications," that they extended and maintained their power, and enforced the worship they demanded.

.... he converted the ancient Strato's Tower into a magnificent seaport, and named it Caesarea … and … later he rebuilt Samaria, and renamed it Sebaste (Sebastos being the equivalent of Augustus). He built many other fortified cities ….

The same subject is continued in verse 39, which reads: "Thus shall he do in the most strongholds with a strange god whom he shall acknowledge and increase with glory; and he shall cause them to rule over many, and shall divide the land for gain," or "parcel out the land for hire."

Here we have a reference to one of the most prominent acts of Herod's long reign, namely, his rebuilding of the temple, and his making the temple area a stronghold …. He made the temple the most famous building in the world for its dimensions, its magnificence, and particularly for the size of the stones whereof it was built, to which the disciples specially directed the Lord's attention (Mark 13:1), and which Josephus says were 25 cubits long, 12 broad, and 8 thick (Ant. XV II, 3). But, in rebuilding it, Herod took care to convert it into a fortress for his own purposes, this being the "most stronghold" of the land. As a part of this plan he constructed on the north side of the temple, and overlooking it, a strong citadel which he named the Tower of Antonia …. Josephus says:

"But for the Tower itself, when Herod the king of the Jews had fortified it more firmly than before, in order to secure and guard the temple …" (Ant. XV 11:4-7).


Mackey’s comment: But see this article: 


Massive Challenge to Standard Geography of Jerusalem-Temple.





The words "dividing the land for gain" (or parcelling it out for hire) were fulfilled in the practice adopted by Herod of parcelling out among persons favorable to himself, the land adjacent to places which it was important for him to control in case of emergency. Josephus speak of this (Ant. XV 8,5).

We thus find that every item foretold of "the king" was completely fulfilled in the career of Herod, and that the record of this fulfilment has come down to us in an authentic contemporary history, which is on all hands acknowledged to be trustworthy in an unusually high degree.

Other predictions concerning this "king" are given in verses 44, 45. These also were fulfilled with literal exactness, as will be shown when we come to the exposition of those verses.