Antiochus and Daniel’s Evil King

A Word version of this
document is available here.

INTRODUCTION

Critical scholars are convinced that the evil king predicted by Daniel chapters 7, 8 and 11 points to Antiochus IV.

The article “Daniel’s evil king; Greek or Roman?”, published on this website, has shown that this evil king comes out of the Roman Empire. It therefore cannot refer to Antiochus IV. The current document supports this conclusion by comparing Antiochus IV with the following characteristics of the predicted evil king:

  1. His immediate predecessor was “a raiser of taxes” that was destroyed “within few days”.
  2. He becomes king and rules by deceit.
  3. He is greater than all his predecessors.
  4. He starts small, but expands exceedingly.
  5. He expands towards the south, east and towards Judea.
  6. He is a tyrant that opposes God and His saints as first principle.
  7. He kills “the prince of the covenant” (11:22), which is Jesus Christ.
  8. He appears on the scene 483 years after a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.
  9. 30 days before he commences to persecute the saints he defiles the sanctuary by taking away the “daily” and by setting up the “abomination of desolation” (12:11).
  10. He distributes his plunder.
  11. He magnifies himself above every god.
  12. He serves and promotes a “strange god”, unknown to his fathers.

PREDECESSOR

It is agreed with the critics that 11:19 describes the death of Antiochus III.  If the vile person of 11:21 refers to Antiochus IV, then 11:20 refers to the person that reigned between Antiochus III and Antiochus IV, namely Seleucus IV Philopator; the eldest son of Antiochus III.  Antiochus IV became king after Seleucus IV was murdered.

But Seleucus IV does not fit the description in 11:20:

The king in 11:20 shall be destroyed “within few days”, while Seleucus IV reigned for 13 years. Literally interpreted the time periods in Daniel are short (about 6 years at the most). In comparison 13 years is a long time.

The king in 11:20 will be “a raiser of taxes”, but Seleucus IV did not raise taxes any more than his father.

DECEIT

Daniel 11:21 describes how the predicted evil person becomes king:

… 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.

“By intrigue” means by plotting, conspiracy or trickery. Antiochus IV did not seize the kingdom by intrigue. The following quote from ancientmacedonia.com describes how he became king:

Seleucus was murdered by Heliodorus, his treasurer (B.C. 176) … On the death of Seleucus, the throne was seized by Heliodorus; but it was not long before Antiochus, the brother of the late king, with the help of the Pergamene monarch, Eumenes, recovered it.

The predicted evil king not only becomes king through deceit; he also rules through deceit; he “cause deceit to succeed” (8:25). History does not identify Antiochus IV as any more deceitful than other Greek kings.

GREATER

In Daniel 7 the evil eleventh horn is much larger than the other 10 horns (7:20). In Daniel 8 the horn is larger even than Alexander the Great: Alexander is described as “very great” (8:8) but the horn is “exceedingly great” (KJV; RSV, 8:9).

This does not fit Antiochus IV. Antiochus IV cannot be described as greater than Alexander the Great. Antiochus IV can also not be described as greater that the Seleucid kings that preceded him. Seleucus I Nicator was the first king of the Seleucid branch of the Greek Empire after Alexander’s empire split up. He had significant military successes. A few generations later Antiochus III was called “the Great” because he expanded the domain of the Seleucid kingdom to close to its original size. His military successes are described in 11:15, but later in his career the Romans defeated him and left his empire, particularly in the west, subject to the threat of Rome’s growing power. His son, later to become Antiochus IV, grew up as hostage in Rome because of these defeats.

Antiochus IV was weak compared to Alexander the Great, Seleucus I and his father, Antiochus III the Great. He had success against the Ptolemy branch of the Greek kingdom (Egypt), but by the time Daniel was allegedly written (165 BC) the Romans had already ordered him to leave Egypt, and he had to oblige. On the eastern side of his kingdom the Parthians were taking Iran from his empire, and the need to attend to this threat later allowed the Jewish revolt to succeed; the Maccabees were soon able to drive his soldiers out of Israel and reinstate temple services.

STARTS SMALL

When the predicted evil king in Daniel first appears, it is small (7:8; 8:9) and weak (11:23; supported by few), but later expands to become “exceedingly great” (8:9), which means that it becomes mighty.

Antiochus IV did not start small. He was a Seleucid prince and the brother of the murdered king. After his brother’s murderer seized the throne, he was made king with the support of a neighboring king.

The word “elahah” is used to describe the growth of the four Greek horns (8:8). This describes vertical growth, which is an appropriate word for them because they did not expand the Greek territory. They simply subdivided the area already occupied by Alexander the Great amongst themselves. In contrast the word “yatsah” is used to describe the growth of little horn (8:9). This describes horizontal growth and implies that the horn expands the area it occupies. The horizontal expansion of the predicted evil king is more specifically described as “toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land (Judea)” (8:9).

Antiochus IV did not expand his kingdom into those three directions. He did have some success to the south (Egypt), but in 165 BC, when the book was supposedly written, he was already ordered out of Egypt by the Romans. He also did not invade Judea. Judea was part of the kingdom when he became king. In the east he invaded nothing. At best he strengthened his control over the areas which his father already occupied. And if the south can be mentioned, then also the West, because he also invaded Cyprus when he invaded Egypt.

OPPOSES GOD

The predicted evil king in Daniel is a tyrant that opposes God and His saints as first principle. “His heart will be set against the holy covenant” (11:28, 30). He “will speak monstrous things against the God of gods” (11:36).

Antiochus IV was not principally opposed to the God of the Bible. His objective was merely to maintain authority over his empire. He ordered all peoples of his empire to abandon their particular customs; not only the Jews:

Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people, each abandoning his particular customs. All the Gentiles conformed to the command of the king, and many Israelites were in favor of his religion; they sacrificed to idols and profaned the Sabbath (1M1:41-43).

Antiochus IV did rob the Jewish temple, but he also robbed other temples (2 Macc 9:2) to pay his debt to the Romans.

After nearly 200 years of Hellenistic dominance over Israel the influence of the Hellenistic culture was strong, even without Antiochus IV forcing it down the throats of the peoples of his kingdom (1 Macc 1:11-14). Antiochus IV appointed rulers for all nations in his empire. He also appointed the high priest in Jerusalem. Since Judea was a temple kingdom, the high priest effectively was the king of Judea. A pro Hellenistic group of Jews ruled Judea. The Maccabean war began in 167 BC as a Jewish rebellion against the Jewish ruling party. When the Jewish rebels attacked Jerusalem and forced the high priest to hide in the citadel, Antiochus IV saw this as a revolt against his authority (2M 5:11). That is why he attacked Jerusalem. (II Macc 5:5-16) He did not attack Jerusalem because it worshipped God.

PRINCE OF THE COVENANT

The vile king “shattered … the prince of the covenant” (11:22). In the article on the horn-king of Daniel it has been shown, on the basis of word links, that “the prince of the covenant” is the same as the prince that “confirms the covenant with many for one week” (9:27). These are the only princes in Daniel that are linked to the covenant. In the article on Daniel 9 it was argued that the prince in 9:27 is our Creator Jesus Christ. “The prince of the covenant” is therefore also Jesus Christ.

This can be confirmed as follows: The “prince of the covenant” in Daniel 11 is arguable the same as the “the prince of the host” in 8:11 because both are the leader of God’s people. Critics propose that this prince is the high priest Onias III that was murdered during the reign of Antiochus IV. It is true that Bible sometimes refer to the high priest as a prince, but never as “prince of the host”. The only other reference in the Bible to the “prince of the host” is in Joshua 5:14-15, and here He is worshiped:

14 He said, “No; rather I indeed come nowas captain of the host of the LORD.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth … 15 The captain of the LORD’S host said to Joshua, “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” …

(The word translated “captain” in Joshua is the same word translated “prince” in Daniel 8:11, namely ‘sar’.)

This confirms that “the prince of the covenant” is Jesus Christ. Antiochus died 180 years before Jesus, and had nothing to do with His death.

Neither did Antiochus kill Onias III (eg NIV). The high priest was effectively the king in Israel, and in the same way that Antiochus IV appointed kings for other nations, he appointed the high priest in Israel. Antiochus replaced Onias III as high priest with Onias’s brother Jason and a few years later he replaced Jason with Menelaus. Menelaus did not like Onias’s criticism and had him killed in 171 BC. It would therefore not be valid to claim that Antiochus broke or shattered Onias. It was the Jewish leadership of the time that killed him.

TIME PERIODS

The purpose of the prophecies in Daniel is to identify the predicted evil king. He is the main character in Daniel. The preceding four kingdoms are only mentioned to allow us to identify him. All the time periods in Daniel relate to him:

The predicted evil king is not represented in Daniel 2 and there are no prophetic time periods in Daniel 2.

The first time period is the time and times and the dividing of time in Daniel 7, generally understood as 3½ years, during which the predicted evil king persecutes the saints (7:25).

The second time period is in Daniel 8, which announces that the sanctuary will be cleansed after 2300 “evening morning”; translated by the KJV as 2300 “days”. 2300 days is equal to more than 6 years, and does not fit the time of Antiochus IV. Critics read it as 2300 sacrifices, of which there was one each morning and one each evening, giving 1150 full days.

The third time period is the seventy sevens of Daniel 9, subdivided into 7 sevens, 62 sevens and the final seven.

To explain and to link the three major time periods, two further time periods are provided in Daniel 12, namely 1290 days and 1335 days.

Antiochus IV does not fit the time periods in Daniel. However, in the view of the critics, Daniel was written before the end of these time periods, and the writer was wrong with his predictions. Critics therefore do not require the time periods to fit history exactly. But at least two of the time periods precede the pollution of the temple by Antiochus, and these must fit the history exactly.

The first is the 483 years in Daniel 9. This prophecy requires 483 years from the “decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince” (9:25). In the schema proposed by critics the last week describes the time of Antiochus IV, which means that the preceding 483 years were past when their second century author wrote. The 483 years must therefore correspond to actual history, but to fit 483 years between the possible decrees and Antiochus is not possible. Critics have several very creative alternatives, but the article on Daniel 9 on this website shows clear flaws in such proposals.

The other time period that was past when the critics’ second century author wrote is the preceding 30 days of 12:11. This does not fit the time of Antiochus either. (This is a bit complex, and only a summary explanation will be provided here. A separate article on the time periods in Daniel and Revelation is planned which will explain this in more detail.)

Daniel 12:11 reads as follows:

And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days. (KJV)

This explanation is given after Daniel asks for more information (12:8) after he was reminded of the 3½ years of persecution (12:7). The “1290 days” therefore explain the 3½ years of 12:7. Since 12:11 only specifies a start event, it is implied that the 1290 days and the 3½ years end at the same time. Since the 3½ years is equal to 1260 days (Rev. 12:6, 14), the 1290 days is 30 days longer than the 3½ years, and therefore start 30 days before the beginning of the persecution. (The alternative interpretation, which understands the 1260 days to be equal to 1290 days by playing around with leap years, makes a mockery of 12:11.)

The taking away of the “daily” and the setting up of the “abomination of desolation” (12:11), with which the 1290 days start, is the desecration of the sanctuary. Since the 1290 days start 30 days before the persecution commences, the sanctuary is desecrated 30 days before the saints are persecuted. In the view of the critics the second century author completed the book of Daniel while the sanctuary remained defiled and the saints were persecuted. These 30 days must therefore fit the history of Antiochus IV exactly, but it does not. It was rather the other way around. Accor­ding to I and II Maccabees the persecution of the Jews commenced before the temple was desecra­ted.

A related point is that, in the interpretation as proposed by the critics, the time periods in Daniel conflict with one another. Critics assume that the 2300 is equal to 1150 real days, and that this is the duration of the defilement of the sanctuary. But then the 1150 days and the 1290 days commence at the same time, namely when the sanctuary is defiled, which means that the 1150 days end 140 days before the end of the 1290 days. This means that the saints are persecuted for 140 days after the sanctuary has been cleansed. This is not logical. Critics have no acceptable explanation for the differences between the times periods; the 2300 “evening morning”, the 3½ times and the 1260, 1290 and 1335 days.

Lastly, the 1290 starts with “the abomination that maketh desolate set up”. Critics interpret this as the setting up of a statue of Zeus in the Jewish temple by Antiochus IV, but Jesus said:

Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand). (Mat 24:15)

Jesus therefore placed the 1290 days in the future. It cannot refer to what Antiochus IV did.

OTHER DIFFERENCES

The following are further identifications that do not fit Antiochus IV:

Distribute the plunder: The predicted evil king “will distribute plunder, booty and possessions among them” (11:24). This was not true of Antiochus IV. To the contrary, he had owed huge sums of war debt to Rome following his father’s defeats against the Romans, and needed the money.

Magnify himself: The king … will exalt and magnify himself above every god and … He will show no regard for the gods of his fathers … nor will he show regard for any other god; for he will magnify himself above them all” (11:36-37). Antiochus did not “magnify himself above every god”. Neither did he had no regard the God of his fathers. To the contrary; he promoted the religion of his fathers. For instance, he set a statue of Zeus up in the temple in Jerusalem.

Strange god:But instead he will honor a god of fortresses, a god whom his fathers did not know” (11:38). Antiochus’s aim was that all people should serve the gods of his fathers.

CONCLUSION

Critics may argue that Daniel describes Antiochus as more evil and powerful than he really was because their second century Jewish author was emotionally wrapped up in the destruction of everything sacred to the Jews, with a consequential loss of objectivity. For this reason, they may argue, he described Antiochus as ruling by deceit, more powerful than all other Greek kings and as apposing God as first principle. However, if the predicted evil king is supposed to be a description of Antiochus, then Daniel includes factually incorrect information that cannot be ascribed to a lack of objectivity, such as:

      • His immediate predecessor was destroyed within few days.
      • He started small, with few supporters, but eventually became exceedingly great.
      • He appeared on the scene 483 years after a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.
      • He promoted a “strange god”, unknown to his fathers.

Daniel 11:2-19 correlates well with the history until the death of Antiochus III in verse 19 and there are many similarities between Antiochus and the predicted evil king, but Antiochus IV by no means exhausts the passage. Antiochus IV is not the complete fulfillment of Daniel’s predicted evil king. Antiochus IV is a type of the predicted evil king, but for the complete fulfillment of the prophecies we must search for a later and much more powerful evil king. Daniel 11 may therefore be understood as two stories intertwined.  The text seems to describe the history up to and including Antiochus IV, but while discussing Antiochus IV it jumps to a future and worldwide evil king.

TO: General Table of Contents