Damien F. Mackey
“But tidings out of the east and out of the north shall trouble him: therefore he shall go forth with great fury to destroy, and utterly to make away many”.
Some commentators take this verse of Daniel as being a reference to the news brought to Herod by the Magi, as recorded in Matthew 2:1-2: “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him’.” Philip Mauro was adamant that this must be the case. Accordingly, this is what Mauro wrote in his 1921 book, The Seventy Weeks and the Great Tribulation:
TIDINGS FROM EAST AND NORTH
We come now to the last two verses of chapter 11, which read thus:
"But tidings out of the east and out of the north shall trouble him; therefore he shall go forth with great fury to destroy, and utterly to make away many. And he shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end and none shall help him" (#Da 11:44,45).
It is not at first glance apparent who is the antecedent of the pronoun "he" in these verses. But upon close attention to the text it will be seen that we have here a return to the main subject of this part of the prophecy, "the king" of verse 36 ….
…. [Farquharson] adds: "And the correctness of this view of the whole passage is confirmed by the literal manner in which the predictions in this 44th verse, and in the remaining verse of the chapter, were fulfilled by Herod."
Indeed we do not see how any fulfilment could be more complete and literal than that which is given us in Matthew's Gospel of the words "But tidings out of the east shall trouble him." For it is written that "When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of Herod the king, behold there came wise men FROM THE EAST to Jerusalem, saying, Where is He that is born king of the Jews? for we have seen His star IN THE EAST, and are come to worship Him. When Herod heard these things he was TROUBLED, and all Jerusalem with him" (#Mt 2:1-3). So here we have the exact thing prophesied, namely, "tidings out of the east" which "troubled him."
Nothing was so well calculated to "trouble" Herod as reports that some one was aspiring to his throne. In this case it is among the most familiar of all facts that Herod, being set at nought by the wise men, from whom he sought to learn the identity of the new born babe, "was EXCEEDING WROTH, and SENT FORTH, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under" (#Mt 2:16). Thus we have almost verbal agreement with the words of the prophecy, "he shall Go FORTH, with GREAT FURY, to destroy and utterly to make away MANY." ….
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The bigger picture
The king Herod under consideration here I have expanded to embrace the evil Hellenistic king of the Maccabean age, Antiochus IV ‘Epiphanes’. One will find this reconstruction in my series:
Merging Maccabean and Herodian ages. Part One: Judas the Jewish Revolutionary
Merging Maccabean and Herodian ages. Part Two: Gamaliel's feeble account of Judas
Merging Maccabean and Herodian ages. Part Three: The “King” (iii) Antiochus IV ‘Epiphanes’ merges into Herod
Compare also the “trembled” in I Maccabees 1:28: “All our people were clothed with shame, and our land trembled for them”[,] with Matthew 2:3: “When Herod the king heard it, he trembled, and all Jerusalem with him”.
Merging Maccabean and Herodian ages. Part Three: The “King” (iv) Antiochus/Herod merges into Hadrian
Merging Maccabean and Herodian ages. Part Three: The “King” (v) Was the “King” also “Caesar Augustus”?
Now, in my perusal of the two accounts of king Antiochus (my Herod) in 1 and 2 Maccabees, I have not been able to find any instance of that king’s being troubled by any news, tidings, or reports, from either the “east” or the “north”.
The “north” is rather problematical inasmuch as Antiochus himself is designated in Daniel 11 as “the king of the north”. For example we read in verses 15-17 of his warfare, and then alliance, with the king “of the South”, who was the Ptolemaïc (Hellenistic) pharaoh of Egypt/Ethiopia:
Then the king of the North will come and build up siege ramps and will capture a fortified city. The forces of the South will be powerless to resist; even their best troops will not have the strength to stand. The invader will do as he pleases; no one will be able to stand against him. He will establish himself in the Beautiful Land and will have the power to destroy it. He will determine to come with the might of his entire kingdom and will make an alliance with the king of the South. And he will give him a daughter in marriage in order to overthrow the kingdom, but his plans will not succeed or help him.
And the only occasion that I have found in 1 and 2 Maccabees where king Antiochus hears from the east is when, in his last days (I Maccabees 6:1-2):
King Antiochus was going through the upper provinces when he heard that Elymais in Persia was a city famed for its wealth in silver and gold. Its temple was very rich, containing golden shields, breastplates, and weapons left there by Alexander son of Philip, the Macedonian king who first reigned over the Greeks.
There is no indication whatsoever anywhere in 1 and 2 Maccabees that this hearing about the east (Persia) either (as according to Daniel 11:44) troubled him, or caused him to go forth with great fury to destroy, and utterly to make away many.
Philip Mauro, following the unreliable Josephus, does attempt to identify some bad news from the “north” in the case of Herod. Mauro greatly stretches things to have Daniel’s “the north” now refer to Rome (op. cit., ibid.):
At about the same time, that is, in the last years of Herod's life, "tidings out of the north" also came to "trouble" that self-tormenting monarch. For Antipater, his oldest son (a despicable character), then at Rome (which had now become the centre of what is indefinitely called in this prophecy "the north") conspired to have letters written to his father giving information that two other of his sons, whom he purposed to make his successors, had calumniated their father to Caesar. This caused Herod again to break forth with intense "fury" against his own sons, and their supposed abettors, as related by Josephus at great length (Ant. XVII 4-7; Wars 1:30-33).
In regard to these extraordinary events, Farquharson quotes a passage (which we give below) from the Universal Ancient History, saying he does so the more readily because the authors of the passage had no thought at all of recording a fulfilment of prophecy. They say:
"The reader may remember that we left Herod in the most distracted state that can well be imagined; his conscience stung with the most lively grief for the murder of his beloved and virtuous Mariamne and of her two worthy sons; his life and crown in imminent danger from the rebellious Antipater, and ungrateful Pheroras; his reign stained with rivers of innocent blood; his latter days embittered by the treacherous intrigues of a sister; his person and family hated by the whole Jewish nation; and last of all, his crown and all his glories on the eve of being obscured by the birth of a miraculous Child, who is proclaimed by heaven and earth to be the promised and long expected Messiah and Saviour of the world. To all these plagues we must add some fresh intelligences which came tumbling in upon that wretched monarch; and which by assuring him still more, not only of the treasonable designs of the unnatural Antipater, but also of the bitter complaints which his other two sons, then at the Roman court, vented against them both, rendered him more than ever completely miserable" (Universal History, Vol. X. pp. 492, 493).
Herod's "great fury" (to use the words of the prophecy) was not confined to the babes of Bethlehem, and to members of his own family. For, says Josephus, "it was also during paroxysms of fury, that, nearly about the same time, he burned alive Matthias and forty young men with him, who had pulled down the golden image of the Roman eagle, which he had placed over the gate of the temple" (Ant. XVII 7). Furthermore Josephus relates the following characteristic action of Herod:
"He came again to Jericho, where he became so choleric, that it brought him to do all things like a madman; and though he was near death, yet he contrived the following wicked designs: He commanded that all the principal men of the entire Jewish nation be called to him. Accordingly there were a great number that came, because * * * death was the penalty of such that should despise the epistles that were sent to call them. And now the king was in a wild rage against them all; * * * and when they were come, he ordered them all to be shut up in the hippodrome, and sent for his sister Salome and her husband Alexas, and spake thus to them: 'I shall die in a little time, so great are my pains; * * * but what principally troubles me is this, that I shall die without being lamented, and without such a mourning as men usually expect at a king's death.'" Therefore, in order to insure that the nation should be plunged into mourning, he left an order that, immediately upon his own death, all those leaders of the Jews, whom he had confined in the hippodrome, should be slain. That order, however, was not carried out.
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Daniel’s prophecy about “the east” does appear to fit rather well with the Magian scenario.
As to “the north”, it is possible that this just may give us a further clue to the place of origin of the Magi. They may have come collectively from lands ‘east and north’, and met up - just as Job’s friends, all hailing from different places, “set out from their homes and met together by agreement” (Job 2:11).
Extra note: Philip Mauro thought that he had found another reference to the baby Jesus in Daniel 11:37’s phrase (which some commentators take to refer to the god Tammuz):
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, See. 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 (#Hag 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 fulfilment of these words in Herod's attempt to murder the infant Messiah. For the record given in (#Mt 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 #Mt 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.
As already explained, I have rejected the traditional picture of Herod as an Idumean (and half-Jew), and have identified him instead as Antiochus IV ‘Epiphanes’, a Macedonian (Hellenistic) Greek of the Maccabean era.
And I have also completely rejected the chaotic chronology traditionally associated with Herod ‘the Great’.