Antiochus & Anti-Messiah
Given By: "Glenn D Blank" On Saturday, December 15, 2012

 

 

Behind all the sweetness of latkes and the light of little candles is the story of an ancient struggle, between a proud, self-exalting Greco-Syrian tyrant and a band of determined Jewish zealots, a clash between Hellenistic culture with its god-like heroes, athletes, elite philosophers of this world, and the Jewish culture of the One God, servants of the Lord, kedoshim or saints of whom this world is not worthy, a war between the kingdoms of this world and the kingdom of our God, between the spirit of anti-Messiah who seeks to dominate this world and the Messiah who is the revelation of the righteousness and mercy of the Father in heaven.

 

In a recent NY Times Op-Ed, Hilary Leila Krieger wrote,

When my brother was in kindergarten, where he was the only Jewish student, a parent organizing enrichment activities asked my mother to tell the class the story of Hanukkah. My mother obligingly brought in a picture book and began to read about foreign conquerors who were not letting Jews in ancient Israel worship freely, even defiling their temple, until a scrappy group led by the Maccabee family overthrew one of the most powerful armies in the world and won their liberty.

The woman was horrified.

The Hanukkah story, she interrupted, was not about war. It was about the miracle of an oil lamp that burned for eight days. She urged my mother to close the book. My mother refused.

The woman wasn’t alone. Many Americans, Jews as well as Christians, think that the legend of the long-lasting oil is the root of Hanukkah’s commemoration. And perhaps that mistake is no surprise, given that for many the holiday has morphed into “Christmas for Jews,” echoing the message of peace on earth accompanied by gift giving. In doing so, the holiday’s own message of Jewish survival and faith has been diluted.

 

Amen! And I’d like to go further. Too many people have a misconception that Hanukkah is not even in the Bible. In fact, Messiah Yeshua observed Hanukkah in John 10:22–23, “Then came Hanukkah (the Feast of Dedication in Christian translations). It was winter in Jerusalem. Yeshua was walking in the Temple around Solomon’s Colonnade.” Some Jewish opponents were challenging Yeshua to his implicit claim to be the Messiah, and Yeshua went on to point out the miraculous works that He did as signs. 

To this day, when we celebrate Hanukkah, we bless HaShem for the miracles that He did for our fathers in those days, at this season. Surely there were no mightier works than those of Yeshua. V’eemru?

 

Moreover, the core of the story of Chanukah is told in the Hebrew Bible. Where? In Daniel.

In Daniel 7, the seer reports a strange apocalyptic vision of four beasts, including one with ten horns and then a little one in Daniel 7:8, with “eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth uttering big words.” That mouth uttering big words is something to watch out for….

Then Daniel sees the Ancient of Days, before whom books of eternal significance are opened.

In 7:11, “the sound of the big words that the horn was speaking” tries to interrupt the scene,” before

“the beast was slain and its body destroyed…” (These images are important for our study of Revelation.)

Then in Daniel 7:13, he sees “with the clouds of heaven was coming One like a Son of Man.”

Daniel is so awe-struck by this vision, and bamboozled, that the angel Gabriel is sent to explain it.

Gabriel launches into a long discourse giving Daniel an outline of history to come. Gabriel’s outline, though at times hard to understand (for one thing, he leaves out any names and dates) is nevertheless accurate enough that secular scholars conclude that Daniel must have been written after the fact, i.e., sometime shortly after the victory of the Maccabees in 164 B.C.E.

The problem with this theory is that Gabriel also includes predictions of events that happened after 164.

His only dating scheme is the 70 weeks leading up to Daniel 9:26, with the coming of the Mashiach, who “will be cut off: and “then the people of a prince will come to destroy the city and the sanctuary.”

We now know that the “people of the prince” were the Romans and Titus, who destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 C.E. Well before this time, Daniel’s vision of “the Son of Man” had become a touchstone of apocalyptic Jewish literature, and the title that Yeshua used to refer to Himself, notably in Matthew 24:30; “They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.” Yeshua also refers to the “appalling abomination” that Daniel mentions three times, in chapters 9, 11 and 12—only for Yeshua, there was yet an abomination to occur in the future.

After the revelation of chapters 7-9, Daniel fasted & prayed for three weeks, after which the angel returns with more details.  

Chapter 11 gives an account of history from the final four kings of the Persian Empire. Then in Daniel 11:3-4, “a mighty king will arise, who will rule a vast realm and do as he pleases. But soon after he has arisen, his kingdom will be broken up and divided up.” Who was the mighty king? Alexander the Great.

Gabriel then outlines the struggles between the Kings of the South (the Ptolemys in Egypt) and the Kings of the North (the Seleucids in Syria), with their armies criss-crossing the land of Israel betwixt.

Now, let’s pick up the action in Daniel 11:21,“Then in his place will arise a vile person … who will seize the kingdom with smooth promises.” Wikipedia explains that in 175 B.C.E, Antiochus IV ousted the legitimate heir to the throne, by persuading the King of Pergamum to help him, and proclaiming himself co-regent for another infant son of the previous king (whom he then murdered a few years later). Slimy this fellow, but that’s how power worked in those days (and often still does). 

Antiochus styled himself “Theos Epiphanes (God Manifest)”—he was indeed a mouth uttering boasts!

11:25 reports, “He will summon his power and his heart against the king of the south with a great army.”

He leaves two Ptolemy brothers with some power in Egypt.

Then as verse 28 reports, “He [the king of the north, Antiochus) will return to his own land with much plunder. But his heart will be against the holy covenant.” 

Antiochus had been meddling in Jewish affairs. [s] His policy was to impose Greek culture on subjects. Many Jews wanted to participate—Hellenism offered many perks of prestige & pleasure, such as Greek fashions and food, Greek art, Greek philosophy, athletic games in the gymnasia & arenas, Greek gods….

Other Jews resisted these changes, clinging to the customs and Scriptures of their ancestors.

Hmm… does this struggle sound familiar to us today?  Indeed…

Antiochus decided to replace the legitimate Kohen Gadol (High Priest) with a Hellenistic Jew called Jason (apparently his Hebrew name was Joshua). Not satisfied, Antiochus replaced Jason with an even more radically Hellenistic Jew named Menelaus. Moreover, as 1 Maccabees 1:21,24 reports, Antiochus “he arrogantly entered the sanctuary and took the golden altar, the lampstand for the light….  Taking all [the holy artifacts], he departed to his own land. He committed deeds of murder, and spoke with great arrogance.” Thus Maccabees confirms what Gabriel had revealed about his arrogance and big talk.

Not satisfied with the status quo, Antiochus attacked Egypt again.But Daniel 11:29 foretells. “Only this time it will not go as before. For ships of Kittim will come against him, and he will be intimidated.”

Antiochus had a problem. Roman power was rising. While he was a youth, he was a hostage in Rome.

While he was invading Egypt, the Romans were invading Macedonia, the homeland of Alexander.

While he was attempting to expand his power in the Mediterranean, a Roman navy defeated his navy off the coast of Cyprus, called Kittim in the Hebrew Bible…. “the ships of Kittim will come against him.”

While he was back in Egypt, the Romans sent a Senator for a little chat with Antiochus, demanding that he back off. Antiochus said he would consider the matter with his council. The Roman Roman envoy drew a line in the sand around him and said, "Before you cross this circle I want you to give me a reply for the Roman Senate" – implying that Rome would declare war if the King stepped out of the circle without committing to leave Egypt immediately. That was the original “line in the sand.”
Weighing his options, Antiochus decided to withdraw.

I.e., Mr. Big Talk or Theos Epiphanes was intimidated.

Continuing Gabriel’s discourse in Dan. 11:30, “When he turns back, he will take out his rage against the holy covenant, taking action. After he returns, he will favor those who forsake the holy covenant.”

While Antiochus was in Egypt, Jason led a revolt against Menelaus—who has forsaken the covenant.

Then, as 2 Maccabees 5:11-14 reports, “When these happenings were reported to the king, he thought that Judea was in revolt. Raging like a wild animal, he set out from Egypt and took Jerusalem by storm. He ordered his soldiers to cut down without mercy those whom they met and to slay those who took refuge in their houses. There was a massacre of young and old, a killing of women and children, a slaughter of virgins and infants. In the space of three days, eighty thousand were lost, forty thousand meeting a violent death, and the same number being sold into slavery.”

Bad scene. Really bad scene! Then it got worse. [s] Daniel 11:31 “His forces will rise, profane the Temple stronghold, eliminate the daily burnt offering, and set up the appalling abomination.”

What was this abomination that caused desolation in the Temple?

It was probably an idol. Deuteronomy 27:15 says, “‘Cursed is the man who makes an idol or a molten image, an abomination to HaShem.”

Specifically it was a statue of Zeus, the supreme Olympian god and favorite god of Antiochus.
Indeed, the statute may have resembled Antiochus. Did Gabriel mention that he was a bit arrogant?

To top it off, he ordered sacrifices offered to the idol … of pigs!

He also forbade observing Shabbat or festivals, Torah study or circumcision.

Hence the story of the dreydels…. When Syrians soldiers would come through a Jewish village, the men would hide their Torah scrolls and play a little gambling game with the toy dreydels.

But our ancestors who will still devoted to the God of our fathers resisted.

Gabriel reports in Daniel 11:32, “But the people who know their God will be strong and prevail.”

There, in half a verse, is a summary of the uprising and miraculous victory of the Maccabees.

It’s so brief that I suppose I can understand why many people miss it.

Possibly the reason it doesn’t get more notice is that soon after the Hasmoneans threw out the Greco-Syrian tyrants, they were themselves corrupted, declaring themselves as the High Priests, imitating many Greek practices, engaging in the same power struggles, and finally inviting the Romans in to take over.

Alas, power corrupts.

Alas, the struggle between the powers and principalities of this world of darkness and the power of the Prince of Peace continues through the ages to this day.

I hope you can see some helpful hints about this struggle in rise and fall of Antiochus Epiphanes?

The little horn may make big boasts, but he meets his end, soon enough.

The people of the holy covenant will experience some struggle and hardship, but will prevail in the end, when Mashiach, the anointed One, comes in glory. V’eemru?

I hope you all know whose side you’re on?

If you’re ever weary of the struggle or tempted to despair, remember the Hanukkah lights.
Remember that the Light of the World has come, as the servant of all, like the Shamash candle.

Remember that He came to give each of His light, declaring that you, too, ‘”are the light of the world.”

Remember that He came to transfer those who trust in Him from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light—the light of eternal truth and glory. V’eemru?

There is much more I could say about it, but it’s past time to sing some Hanukkah carols  and skits….

So I will continue with this Hanukkah story and what it reveals about the cosmic struggle between the anti-Messiah and the true Messiah another time… 

Stay turned… I’ll continue in two weeks, Lord willing….