The Liberal-Critical Interpretation of the 490 years in Daniel 9

EXCERPT: Daniel was written in the sixth century BC but contains explicit and accurate predictions of later empires. Since liberal scholars do not accept that accurate predictions of the future are possible. They propose that Daniel was written after the events it seems to predict, namely during the reign of Antiochus IV. But then they have to explain the 490 years in terms of the history up to that point in time and their explanation breaks down under investigation.

A summary of this article is available HERE.


WHEN WAS DANIEL WRITTEN?

According to Daniel itself, it was written in the sixth century BC. But it contains accurate predictions of later empires. 

Liberal scholars dominate the academic world. One can see this in the Wikipedia page on Daniel 9. Because it emphasizes the liberal view, I complained as follows to Wikipedia:

I grant you that the current academic consensus is that Daniel was written in the 2nd century BC even though the book itself states that it was written in the 6th century BC.

However, firstly, the average Christian is not even aware of that view. Liberalism is the view that the Bible is purely the product of the evolution of human thought and, therefore, not divinely inspired. As such, liberalism, by definition, is a minority view within Christianity.

The view that Daniel was written in the second century BC is not taught in churches. Those who believe that, avoid the topic. Those who believe that Daniel is true prophecy, written in the 6th century BC, use it as cornerstone for their eschatology and preach their views very strongly.

Secondly, you also know that liberal criticism developed in the 19th/20th century. The reformers, therefore, such as Luther and Calvin, believed that Daniel is true prophecy. Again, by over-emphasizing the current scholarly consensus and by ignoring the orthodox view of Daniel 9, you are doing a disservice to your readers.

Apparently, my comment was sent to various people within Wikipedia and I received many comments back, for example:

The idea that the Book of Daniel has historicity does not fly with mainstream academia. As a historical view, it is not even remotely tenable.

The folks saying that Daniel was written in the sixth century don’t publish in mainstream outlets, generally speaking.

It is clearer than the sun at noonday that the Pentateuch was not written by Moses, but by someone who lived long after Moses.

Wikipedia will only listen to mainstream historians and mainstream Bible scholars, as opposed to people preaching what should be the true beliefs of their own congregation.

Wikipedia is a venue for rendering mainstream scholarship, and we despise so-called “scholars” who in fact are preaching to their own choir.

In other words, the views of colleges and magazines that are linked to specific denominations are not accepted by Wikipedia. Only independent academic publications are. The problem is that, in science, something is only true if it can be proven. That removes the supernatural from the realm of the possible. Therefore, when one subjects to Bible to the principles of “science,” it becomes the product of the development of human thought over the centuries.

DANIEL 9

Since liberal scholars do not accept that accurate predictions of the future are possible, they propose that Daniel, including the 490 years-prophecy, was written after the events it so accurately seems to predict. In other words, the accurate predictions in Daniel are actually recorded history written in the form of prophecy.

The Greek king Antiochus IV desecrated the temple and killed many Jews. Since Daniel seems to ‘predict’ this accurately, liberals assume that Daniel was written after Antiochus desecrated the temple in 167 BC.

However, the Jews soon revolted (known as the Maccabean revolt), defeated Antiochus’ army, drove them out of Judah, and rededicate the temple. But the prophecy of Daniel 9 ends with the accumulation of desolations. In Daniel 9, there is no indication of a rededication of the altar. Liberal scholars, therefore, assume that Daniel was written before the success of the revolt and, therefore, before the rededication of the temple in 164 BC. 

For the same reasons, they propose that the crisis in Daniel, even in Daniel 9, is the conflict caused by Antiochus IV.

THE LIBERAL TIMELINE

In the standard liberal timeline:

    1. The seventy weeks (490 years) began with the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC.
    2. The first 49 years (7 weeks) came to an end with Cyrus’ decree in 538 BC, which liberated the Jews and allowed them to return to Judah and to rebuild the temple.
    3. At the end of the next 434 years (62 weeks), Onias III was murdered in 171/0 BC.
    4. It is Antiochus who will “destroy the city and the sanctuary … make a firm covenant … for one week, but in the middle of the week … put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering” (Dan 9:26-27).
    5. After the successful Maccabean revolt, the temple was rededicated in 164 BC. This was the end of the 490 years.

Below, these assertions are discussed.

DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM

In the liberal schema, the 490 years began with the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC.

NO DECREE

Firstly, the prophecy states that the 490 years will begin with a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem (Dan 9:25). The destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC was not a decree of any kind. At the time of Jerusalem’s destruction, there was no “decree” that speaks of a rebuilding of Jerusalem.

The decrees that have to do with Jerusalem’s restoration were much later; Cyrus (538 BC), Darius (520), and Artaxerxes (458 and 445). But since liberals regard the prophecies in Daniel as history written in the form of prophecy, they must fit the 490 years of Daniel 9 before the time of Antiochus. For that reason, they have to find something as early as possible. Therefore, they propose the destruction of Jerusalem but, as stated, that was not a decree of any kind.

TOO SHORT

Secondly, the destruction of Jerusalem does not fit the timeline in Daniel 9. From 586 BC to the rededication of the temple in 164 BC was only 422 years; not the 490 years required by the prophecy.

That is with respect to the entire prophecy. If we evaluate the three parts of the prophecy, we note that Cyrus issued a decree allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem and to rebuild the temple. He issued that decree 48 years after the destruction of Jerusalem, which is only one year short of the required 49 (7 x 7) years of the prophecy.

But the main reason that the liberal timeline is too short is because the 62 weeks extend from Cyrus’ decree (539/8 BC) to Onias (171/0 BC). But this is only 367 years; 67 years short of the predicted 434 years (62 x 7).

If, as critics believe, Daniel 9:24-27 is history written after the events in the form of prophecy, then one could rightly expect that history would fit the timeline in the prophecy perfectly, but scholars accept the differences on the assumption that the chronological knowledge, when Daniel was written, was not very exact.

CONCURRENT

Thirdly, if the timeline starts with the destruction of Jerusalem, then the 70 years of exile run concurrently with the 490 years. But, for the following reasons, this is not logical:

Firstly, at the time that the Daniel 9 prophecy was received, at the end of the 70 years, the 70 years were past history while the 490 years were a promised future.

Secondly, the 70 years of exile were the penalty for past disobedience while the 490 years were a renewal or an extension of God’s covenant with Israel.

Thirdly, as elsewhere discussed, the 70 years of exile were the penalty for 490 past years of disobedience and the new cycle of 490 years was a replacement for the 490 years that Israel wasted through disobedience. Therefore, the 70 years should not be part of either the wasted past 490 years or the promised future 490 years.

ONIAS III

In the liberal schema, at the end of the next 434 years (62 weeks), Onias III was murdered in 171/0 BC.

ONIAS WAS NO MESSIAH.

A first objection is that this identifies Onias II as the Messiah of Daniel 9:26, but Onias was no messiah. The Bible uses the term “messiah” exclusively for people who rescue Israel from danger. Onias did not save Israel from anything. Antiochus IV replaced him as high priest with his more liberal brother Jason. A few years later, in 171/0, he was killed; 4 years before Antiochus IV desecrated the temple.

MESSIAH DISAPPEARS IMMEDIATELY.

Secondly, in the critics’ scheme, the messiah (Onias) disappears (is cut off) immediately at the end of the “seven weeks and sixty-two weeks.” But the text says that the messiah will APPEAR at the end of the 7+62 weeks (Dan 9:25) and be killed some undefined time “AFTER the sixty-two weeks” (Dan 9:26).

ANTIOCHUS IV

In the liberal schema, it is Antiochus who will:

    1. destroy the city and the sanctuary …
    2. make a firm covenant … for one week,
    3. but in the middle of the week … put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering” (Dan 9:26-27).

Antiochus IVAntiochus did indeed stop the Jewish sacrifices. According to the book of 1 Maccabean, the “desolating sacrilege“—a heathen altar—was erected on the great altar of burnt sacrifice on December 4, 167 BC (15 Kislev, 145; 1 Macc 1:54). This was more or less in the middle of the seven years after Onias was murdered. The liberal interpretation assumes that the abomination of desolation, mentioned elsewhere in Daniel, is this heathen altar which Antiochus Epiphanes erected in place of the Lord’s altar for burnt offerings (see I Macc 1:54). However:

DESTROY

Firstly, Antiochus never destroyed the sanctuary. He turned it into a temple of his own god. Neither did Antiochus destroy Jerusalem. He destroyed only part of Jerusalem and massacred many of its inhabitants. A second-century author would have seen with his own eyes that Antiochus did not destroy the temple, but only defiled it (1 Macc 1:30-31, 39).

IN JESUS’ FUTURE

Secondly, while liberals limit the crisis in Daniel to the time of Antiochus, Jesus put the abomination of desolation of Daniel’s prophecies in His future:

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)” (Matt 24:15)

Daniel’s prophecies, therefore, cannot be limited to the time of Antiochus, approximately 200 years before Jesus spoke. For many people, this is sufficient evidence against the liberal interpretation.  Daniel is the only Bible book that Jesus by name recommended that we understand.

NO COVENANT

Thirdly, Antiochus IV did not conclude or confirm an agreement with anybody for one week. His general support for the Hellenizing Jews cannot be limited to one week. For instance, he replaced Onias with his pro-Seleucid brother a number of years before Onias was killed.

PRINCE OF THE COVENANT

Fourthly, logically, the “prince of the covenant” in Daniel 11:22 must be the same person as the prince who confirms the covenant for one week (Dan 9:27). But, in the liberal interpretation, in Daniel 9, Antiochus is that person but, in Daniel 11, he kills that person.

END OF THE 490 YEARS

In the liberal schema, the 490 years end with the rededication of the temple in 164 BC.

Judas Maccabeus

The altar of sacrifice was rededication by the victorious Judas Maccabeus on December 14, 164 BC (25 Kislev, 148; 1 Macc 4:52), exactly 3 years after the first heathen sacrifice in the temple. The liberal view understands this as the “anointing of a most holy place,” listed as one of the purposes of the seventy weeks (Dan 9:24). However:

TOO LITTLE TIME

Firstly, as already stated, this means that the total period is 422 years from 586 to 164 BC; not the 490 years mentioned by the prophecy.

ENDS IN CHAOS

Secondly, Daniel 9 ends with the multiplication of chaos. There is no evidence in that chapter that the temple will be rededicated and that the sacrifices will be resumed after “he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering” (Dan 9:27).

CONTRADICTION

Thirdly, the liberal view seems to contradict itself. On the one hand, they conclude the last week ends with the rededication. On the other, they say that the writer of Daniel did not expect the success of the Maccabean revolt.

WHY 490 YEARS?

If we assume that the prophecy of Daniel 9 was written during the reign of Antiochus IV, then it is clear from the text of the prophecy that the writer of Daniel did not foresee the success of the Maccabean revolt. Then we can ask, why would he postulate a period of 490 years?  The liberal interpretation fails to explain what end the writer has in mind. And what was envisaged after the end of the 490 years?

In addition, the liberal interpretation does not fit the purpose of the 490 years.

Daniel 9 goalsDaniel 9:24 gives six goals to be achieved during the 490 years, including to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness.

Why would a faithful Jew, compiling the book of Daniel in the second century, during the period of temple desecration under Antiochus IV, give these 6 goals for the 8 events predicted in the prophecy? It would require substantial creativity to find application for goals such as “to make an end of sin” and “to bring in everlasting righteousness” (Dan 9:24) to the time of Antiochus, particularly on the basis of the liberal assumption that Daniel was written prior to the success of the Maccabean revolt.

The conflict in the time of Antiochus IV was more of the nature of a civil war between pro-Hellenistic and anti-Hellenistic Jewish factions than it was a conflict with an external oppressor. “The severest condemnation of the writer of I Maccabees goes, not to the Seleucid politicians, but to the lawless apostates among his own people” (The introduction to I Maccabees in the NAB). This makes it even more difficult to see how a second-century writer could link the goals in Daniel 9:24 to that conflict.

THE ESSENCE

The essence of the prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27 is that, within 500 years from the restoration of Jerusalem, and therefore before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, the Messiah would arrive but be killed. In the context of goals such as “to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness” and in the context of the New Testament, this must be a prophecy about Jesus Christ. But Jesus finds no place in the liberal interpretation.

DANIEL IS HISTORICALLY ACCURATE.

Liberals are aware of the concerns raised above but they claim that the second-century writer of Daniel did not know his history too well. However, it should be noted that the book of Daniel contains amazingly accurate historical facts that were poorly known during the later pre-Christian centuries. For example:

NebuchadnezzarThe author of Daniel is correct in his description of Nebuchadnezzar as the builder of Babylon (4:30). RH Pfeiffer was compelled to concede, “We shall presumably never know how our author learned that the new Babylon was the creation of Nebuchadnezzar, as the excavations have proved.”

The author was correct in his knowledge that Belshazzar, mentioned only in Daniel and in cuneiform records, functioned as king when Cyrus conquered Babylon in 539 BC.

On the basis of cunei­form evidence, the vexing chronological problem between Daniel 1:1 and Jeremiah 25:1; 46:2 has been solved without any discrepancy. (For a further discussion, see – Is the Book of Daniel a Fake?)

These exam­ples show that the writer of Daniel knew history quite well, and would not have made such a massive mistake with the dates.

IMPLICATIONS

The liberal interpretation is based on the assumption that Daniel is a fake; that it is history up to the time of Antiochus IV written by an unknown writer in the form of prophecy, with some added uninspired and incorrect speculations of future events. If this was true, we should question the credibility of the entire Bible. In particular, it means that the Book of Revelation, which relies heavily on Daniel, is fiction. The liberal interpretation is an attack on the Christian faith.

THE MESSIAH

Masoretic TextThe Masoretic punctuation—as is, for instance, used in the RSV—has two messiahs in the prophecy; one at the end of 49 years and the other is cut off 62 weeks (434 years) later (Dan 9:26). Liberal scholars use this punctuation and identify the first messiah as Cyrus and the second as the Jewish High Priest Onias III, who was murdered in 171/0 BC. In this view, Daniel 9 does not refer to Jesus at all.

Liberal scholars obtain support for this view from Isaiah 45:1, where Cyrus is called the anointed of the Lord, and from Leviticus 4:3 and following, which refers to priests as “anointed.” (The Hebrews word translated messiah in the NASB is mashiach, and means anointed and is translated as “anointed one” in some translations of Daniel 9:26, for example, the RSV.)

However:

(1) A previous article discussed the punctuation and concluded that there is only one messiah in the prophecy, and he appears after 7 + 62 weeks as, for example, in the NASB.

(2) Two different messiahs in two consecutive verses are unlikely.  Daniel 9:25 and 9:26 most likely refer to one and the same person as “messiah.”

AN ALTERNATIVE VIEW

One proposed alternative liberal view is as follows:

    • The first 7 weeks are from the Captivity in 587 BC until 538 BC: Exactly 49 years.
    • The next 62 weeks (434 years) are from the date Jeremiah prophesied in 605 BC (Jer 25:11-12) to Onias’ death in 171 BC: Exactly 434 years

The advantages of this proposal are that it exactly fits the 49 and 434 years required by the prophecy and it starts the 62 weeks with a “word” (KJV). The disadvantages are:

(1) Jeremiah 25:11-12 does not speak of the rebuilding of Jerusalem at all.
(2) In this proposal, the first two divisions (7 + 62) run parallel to each other rather than one after the other. In total, Israel, therefore, never received its promised 490 years.
(3) The wording of Daniel 9:25 requires “seven and sixty-two weeks” (that is, 69 weeks) and not just 62 weeks from “the word to restore and rebuild Jerusalem” until Messiah the Prince.

ANCHOR BIBLE

Anchor Bible Commentary
Anchor Bible Commentary

A slight variation from the standard liberal schema is proposed in an article by Hartman and Di Lella in the influential Anchor Bible Commen­tary. They do not start the 490 years with the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC, but with Jeremiah’s announcement as recorded in 29:10, which they date to 594 BC.  Otherwise, they remain with the standard liberal-critical schema. 

The benefit of this proposal is that the 490 years do not start with the destruction of Jerusalem, but with a “word”, as required by Daniel 9.  However:

(A) Jeremiah 29:10 was also not a “word to rebuild and restore Jerusalem” (Daniel 9:25 KJV). Jeremiah 29:10 only speaks of bringing back exiles to Judah.

(B) From 594 BC to 538 BC is 56 years, not 49 years.  Hartman and Di Lella suggest that 56 years is “sufficiently close to the quasi-artificial figure of ‘seven weeks’ of years. Not everybody would accept the 7 weeks as “quasi-artificial.”

(C) The second section of the 490 years remains too short. Consequently, the full period from 594 BC to 164 BC is only 430 years; 50 years short of the required 490 years.


OTHER ARTICLES

Antiochus IV does not fit the profile of Daniel’s evil king.

SUMMARY

INTRODUCTION

It is generally agreed that the 11th horn of Daniel 7, the little horn of Daniel 8, and the “vile person” in Daniel 11 refer to the same Antichrist figure. Critical scholars are convinced that this is Antiochus IV; a Greek king that reigned in the middle of the second century BC.

I know that liberal scholars have a high tolerance for differences between Antiochus IV and the evil king in Daniel, but Antiochus does not fit the profile:

ROMAN KING

Some of the beasts in Daniel 7 and 8 have multiple heads and horns. Some of them are higher on one side, and have wings and iron teeth. The two beasts in Daniel 8 are explicitly identified as Medo-Persia and Greece (Dan 8:20-21). A comparison of the attributes of these beasts shows that the two beasts in Daniel 8 are parallel to the second and third beasts in Daniel 7. The fourth beast in Daniel 7, therefore, must be the Roman Empire. It follows that the evil 11th king coming out of that beast, comes out of the Roman Empire: It cannot be a Greek king.

METHODS

Antiochus IV did not “seize the kingdom by intrigue” (Dan 11:21). After the previous king (his brother) was killed, He became king with the help of the Pergamene monarch.

He did not “cause deceit to succeed” (Dan 8:25) any more than any other Greek king.

He did not “distribute plunder, booty and possessions” (Dan 11:24). On the contrary, he had owed huge sums of war debt to Rome following his father’s defeats against the Romans and needed all the money he could lay his hands on.

GROWTH

He did not begin small (Dan 7:8; 8:9) or weak (Dan 11:23). He was a Seleucid prince who became king after his oldest brother was killed.

He was not greater than all of his predecessors (Dan 7:20), who, in the critical interpretation, would include Alexander the Great. Daniel 8 describes Alexander the Great as “very great” but the horn as even greater (Dan 8:8-9).

He did not expand his kingdom “toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land (Judea)” (Dan 8:9). In the liberal interpretation, by the time that Daniel was written, the Romans already ordered him out of Egypt. And Judea was part of his kingdom when he became king.

PRINCE OF THE COVENANT

He did not kill “the prince of the covenant” (Dan 11:22):

Critics claim that “the prince of the covenant” refers to the high priest Onias and that Antiochus killed him, but Antiochus had no direct involvement. The high priest that Antiochus appointed (Menelaus) killed Onias.

On the basis of word links, another article shows that “the prince of the covenant” (Dan 11:22) is the same as the “prince” who “confirms the covenant with many for one week” (Dan 9:27), namely, Jesus Christ. Antiochus did not kill Jesus.

TIME PERIODS

In the liberal interpretation, all the time periods in Daniel, including the “time and times and the dividing of time” (Dan 7:25), the 2300 “evening morning” (Dan 8:14), and the “seventy weeks” (Dan 9:24) describe the evil king. But Antiochus does not fit the time periods.

For example, in Daniel 9, the first 483 years are from the “decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince” (Dan 9:25). In the critical interpretation, the first 483 years preceded Antiochus IV. But 483 years before Antiochus brings us to about 50 years before Jerusalem was destroyed. There was no such decree at the time.

The history of Antiochus also does not explain the differences between these times periods.

AGAINST GOD

Antiochus’ heart was not “set against the holy covenant” (Dan 11:28, 30) and he did not “speak monstrous things against the God of gods” (Dan 11:36). Antiochus IV was not principally opposed to the God of the Bible. He ordered the various nations of his empire to abandon their particular customs and robbed temples of various gods; not only the Jews.

He appointed the high priest in Jerusalem because he appointed rulers for all nations in his empire and the high priest was the ‘king’ of Judea.

The Maccabean war began in 167 BC as a Jewish rebellion against the pro-Hellenistic Jews that ruled Judea. When the Jewish rebels forced the high priest to hide in the citadel, Antiochus IV saw this as a revolt against his authority (2 Macc 5:11). That is why he attacked Jerusalem (II Macc 5:5-16). He did not attack Jerusalem because it worshipped God.

GODS

He did not:

    • Exalt and magnify himself above every god” (Dan 11:36),
    • Had he no regard for the gods of his fathers (Dan 11:37), or
    • Served a “strange god,” unknown to his fathers (Dan 11:38).

Antiochus’ aim was the opposite, namely that all people should serve the gods of his fathers. For example, it was a statue of Zeus that he set up in the temple in Jerusalem.

JESUS

Jesus referred to “the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel” as something in His future (compare Matt 24:15 to Dan 12:11). It, therefore, cannot refer to something that Antiochus IV did.

The liberal interpretation not only destroys the book of Daniel. It discredits Jesus Christ and the entire Bible. Revelation, in particular, picks up on various aspects in Daniel, such as the beasts (Dan: 7:4-8; Rev 13:2), the “time, times, and half a time” (Dan 7:25; Rev 12:14), and the oath (Dan 12:7; Rev 10:6). If Daniel falls, Revelation also falls.

CONCLUSION

As discussed in the article on Daniel 11, Daniel 11:2-19 correlates well with known secular history until the death of Antiochus III in verse 19. There are also many similarities between Antiochus IV 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. He was only a type of the evil king. For complete fulfillment, we must search for a later and much more powerful evil king.

Daniel 11, therefore, may be understood as two stories intertwined. The text describes the history up to and including Antiochus IV but, while discussing Antiochus IV, it jumps to a future and worldwide evil king.

END OF SUMMARY –


RULE BY DECEIT

Daniel 11:21 describes how the predicted vile person (despicable person in the NASB) 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 plotting, conspiracy or trickery. Antiochus IV did not seize the kingdom by intrigue. 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 evil king in Daniel 11 not only becomes king through deceit; he also rules through deceit: “cause deceit to succeed” (Dan 8:25). History does not identify Antiochus IV as any more deceitful than other Greek kings.

STARTS SMALL

The vile person of Daniel starts out small (Dan 7:8; 8:9) and weak (Dan 11:23; supported by few), but later became “exceedingly great” (Dan 8:9).

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.

GREATER THAN OTHERS

The eleventh horn of Daniel 7 is another symbol of the evil king. In Daniel 7:20, this horn is much larger than the other 10. In the liberal interpretation, this means that he is greater than the other kings of that empire. In Daniel 8, the horn is even larger than Alexander the Great: Alexander is described as “very great” (Dan 8:8) but the horn is “exceedingly great” (KJV; RSV, Dan 8:9).

This does not fit Antiochus IV. Antiochus IV cannot be described as greater than Alexander the Great. Antiochus IV was not greater than 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 Daniel 11:15 but later the Romans defeated him and left his empire, particularly in the west, subject to Rome’s growing power. Because of these defeats, Antiochus IV, as a boy, grew up a hostage in Rome.

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 that Critical scholars say Daniel was 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.

EXPANDS HORIZONTALLY

ALEXANDER THE GREAT

Daniel 8:8 uses the word “elahah” to describe the growth of the four Greek horns. This means vertical growth. This word is appropriate because the four Greek horns did not expand the Greek territory. They simply subdivided the area already occupied by Alexander the Great amongst themselves.

In contrast, Daniel 8:9 uses the word “yatsah” to describe the growth of the little horn (Dan 8:9). This means 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)” (Dan 8:9).

Antiochus IV did not expand his kingdom into those three directions. He did have some success in the south (Egypt), but in 165 BC, when Daniel was supposedly written, the Romans already ordered him to leave Egypt. 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.

OPPOSES GOD

The vile person in Daniel is a tyrant that principally opposes God and His saints: “His heart will be set against the holy covenant” (Dan 11:28, 30). He “will speak monstrous things against the God of gods” (Dan 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 his subjects (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 person “shattered … the prince of the covenant” (Dan 11:22). The article on Daniel 11 shows, on the basis of word links, that “the prince of the covenant” is the same “prince” who “confirms the covenant with many for one week” (Dan 9:27). These are the only princes “of the covenant” in Daniel. The articles on Daniel 9 prove that the prince in 9:27 is Jesus Christ. “The prince of the covenant” is therefore also Jesus Christ. Antiochus died 180 years before Jesus and had nothing to do with His death.

PRINCE OF THE HOST

That “prince of the covenant” refers to Jesus can be confirmed as follows: The “prince of the covenant” in Daniel 11 is arguably the same as the “the prince of the host” in Daniel 8:11 because both are the leader of God’s people. Critics propose that this prince in Daniel 11 is the high priest Onias III that was murdered during the reign of Antiochus IV. It is true that the Bible sometimes refers 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, where He is worshiped:

14 He said, “No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the LORD.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth15 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 implies that “the prince of the host” is Jesus Christ, which implies that the “prince of the covenant” also refers to Jesus. 

ONIAS KILLED

Critics claim that “the prince of the covenant” refers to the high priest Onias and that Antiochus killed him, but that is not true. As already stated, the high priest was effectively the king of 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 also 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, as Critics do. It was the Jewish high priest who arranged his death.

DOES NOT FIT TIME PERIODS

Through the prophecies in Daniel, God gave us information to identify the vile person; the Antichrist in Daniel. That is the only reason why Daniel mentions the preceding four kingdoms. In the liberal interpretation, all the time periods in Daniel describe the evil king:

He does not appear in DANIEL 2 and there are no prophetic time period in that chapter.

The first time period in Daniel is the “time and times and the dividing of time” in DANIEL 7, often understood as 3½ years, during which the vile person persecutes the saints (Dan 7:25).

The second time period is in Daniel 8:14, which announces that the sanctuary will be cleansed after 2300 “evening morning.” This is 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. To get it closer to the period of Antiochus’ defilement of the temple, Critics interpret this 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 weeks” of Danial 9:24, subdivided into 7 weeks, 62 weeks, and the final seven. (As interpreted by this website, this time period does not relate to the evil king. See, Daniel 9 does not describe the same crisis.)

To explain and to link the other time periods, Daniel 12 provides two further time periods, namely 1290 days and 1335 days.

ANTIOCHUS AND THESE TIME PERIODS

Antiochus IV does not fit these time periods but liberals argue that Daniel was written before the end of these time periods, and the writer was simply wrong with his predictions. Critics, therefore, do not require the time periods to fit history exactly. But at least two of the time periods preceded the pollution of the temple by Antiochus IV, and they should fit 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” (Dan 9:25). In the view of Critical scholars, the last week describes the time of Antiochus IV, which means that the preceding 483 years were past when their unidentified second-century author wrote. The 483 years must, therefore, correspond to actual history, but to fit 483 years between the possible decrees and Antiochus IV is not possible. Critics have several very creative solutions, but the article on the Liberal-critical interpretation of Daniel 9 shows clear flaws in such proposals.

The other time period that was past when the critics’ second-century author wrote, is the first 30 days of the 1290 days in Revelation 12:11. The 1290 days began with the desecration of the temple. 30 days later, the persecution of the saints begins and lasts for 1260 days. (See below for an explanation.) 

In the view of the Critics, the second-century author completed the book of Daniel while the sanctuary was still defiled and the saints were still being 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. 

1290 DAYS

Daniel received this explanation after 

After Daniel was reminded of the 3½ years of persecution (Dan 12:7), he asked for more information (Dan 12:8). Then he was told:

And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away,
and the abomination that maketh desolate set up,
there shall be a 1290 days. (KJV; Dan 12:11)

The 1290 days, therefore, explain the 3½ years. Since Daniel 12:11 only specifies a beginning 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 (cf. 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 Daniel 12:11.)

The taking away of the “daily” and the setting up of the “abomination of desolation” (Dan 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 beginning of the persecution of the saints. 

INCONSISTENT INTERPRETATIONS

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 “evening morning” 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.

JESUS PREDICTED THE ABOMINATION

The 1290 days start 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). (Matt 24:15)

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

DISTRIBUTES PLUNDER

The predicted evil king “will distribute plunder, booty and possessions among them” (Dan 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.

HONORS A STRANGE GOD

“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” (Dan 11:36-37). “But instead he will honor a god of fortresses, a god whom his fathers did not know” (Dan 11:38).

This Antiochus did not do. His aim was rather the opposite, namely that all people should serve the gods of his fathers. It was a statue of Zeus that he set up in the temple in Jerusalem.

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, being more powerful than all other Greek kings, and principally opposing God. However, if the “evil person” 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:

      • He started small.
      • He appeared on the scene 483 years after a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.
      • He promoted a “strange god”, unknown to his fathers.

As discussed in the Daniel 11 article, Daniel 11:2-19 correlates well with secular history until the death of Antiochus III in verse 19 and there are many similarities between Antiochus and the vile person, but Antiochus IV by no means exhausts the passage. Antiochus IV is not the complete fulfillment of Daniel’s vile person. Antiochus IV is a type of the 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 in one. The text describes the history up to and including Antiochus IV, but while discussing Antiochus IV, it jumps to a future and worldwide evil king.


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