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Friday, November 4 2011
Antiochus And The Maccabees
There is a time gap of about three centuries between the end of the Old Testament record and the beginning of the New Testament record. During much of that time, the land of Israel was under the occupation of the Greek empire (see Ancient Empires - Greece), either by the famous King Alexander (known to history as "Alexander the Great") himself, or the military commanders and their successors who had divided up his kingdom after his early death (see The Seleucids and The Ptolemies). Alexander's cut-short life and the division of his kingdom into four major sections, was prophesied by the prophet Daniel over two centuries before Alexander was born, while Persia (see also Iran's Greatest Leader Was Pro-Zionist) was yet playing the "superpower."
"11:1 Also I in the first year of Darius the Mede, even I, stood to confirm and to strengthen him. 11:2 And now will I show thee the truth. Behold, there shall stand up yet three kings in Persia; and the fourth shall be far richer than they all: and by his strength through his riches he shall stir up all against the realm of Grecia.
Seleucus was the commander who took control of the Syrian region of Alexander's empire, thereby establishing the Seleucid dynasty. Antiochus IV was the eighth of the Seleucid kings, ruling from about 174-164 BC. Antiochus was one of the most arrogant kings that ever lived; he took the name of "Epiphanes," which supposedly meant "chosen of God" (see the coin in the illustration). Most of the people of his imperial kingdom had a different name for him however - they called him "the madman."
The land of Israel, which was geographically positioned between them, was contested between two branches of the former Greek kingdom - the Ptolemies, to the south in Egypt (Cleopatra was in later years one of its most famous members), and the Seleucids, to the north in Syria. Earlier, Israel was included in the Ptolemaic kingdom. During the reign of King Philadelphus of Egypt, the Jews of Jerusalem provided a translation of the Torah from Hebrew into Greek for the royal library in Alexandria (the Egyptian city was named after Alexander the Great). We know it today as the Septuagint. That benign attitude toward the Jews changed dramatically after the Seleucids took over Israel in 198 BC.
Antiochus IV soon proved himself to be no friend of the Jews. He mounted an effort to destroy them and all worship of the true God. He had any Jew who would not worship the Greek idols put to death. Praying to God, or observing the Sabbath according to The Fourth Commandment were also death-penalty offenses. Mothers found with circumcised infants were killed along with the child. Antiochus had many scrolls of the Holy Scriptures burned, although many were very likely saved by being hidden out in the wilderness in a manner similar to the >Dead Sea Scrolls.
The greatest outrage committed by Antiochus IV occurred in 167 BC when he entered the Temple (see also What Was Holy About Herod's Temple?) in Jerusalem, erected an altar to the pagan god Zeus, and sacrificed a pig on it - the original "abomination of desolation" (see the Fact Finder question below). That desecration, dated as the 25th of Kislev according to the Bible Calendar, triggered the Maccabean Revolt by the Hasmoneans. Their eventual victory and cleansing of the Temple is still commemorated by Jews today by the annual Festival of Hanukkah (see Christ's Hanukkah). The Maccabean Period, also called the Hasmonean Period, or Period of Independence, lasted from 167 to 63 BC, during which Judah was ruled by leaders from the family of Judas Maccabeus. It ended when the Romans invaded and occupied Judah in 63 BC.
"Now the fifteenth day of the month Casleu, in the hundred forty and fifth year, they set up the abomination of desolation upon the altar"
As stated, Antiochus is not recorded in contemporary time (i.e. he was spoken of prophetically by Daniel in the Old Testament and historically by Jesus Christ in the New Testament - although the Messiah used the historical reference in a prophecy i.e. "24:15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) 24:16 Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains" Matthew 24:15-16 KJV). Antiochus is recorded in 1 Maccabees - a Book that is not accepted as part of the Bible but which is historically accurate with regard to Antiochus, what he did to the people of Judah, including the "abomination of desolation," and what the people of Judah, led by the Maccabees, did to overthrow Antiochus from their country.
A historically accurate excerpt from 1 Maccabees:
" And it happened, after that Alexander son of Philip, the Macedonian, who came out of the land of Chettiim, had smitten Darius king of the Persians and Medes, that he reigned in his stead, the first over Greece,  And made many wars, and won many strong holds, and slew the kings of the earth,  And went through to the ends of the earth, and took spoils of many nations, insomuch that the earth was quiet before him; whereupon he was exalted and his heart was lifted up.  And he gathered a mighty strong host and ruled over countries, and nations, and kings, who became tributaries unto him.
Fact Finder: What did Jesus Christ say about the coming "abomination of desolation"?
This Day In History, November 4
1307: The Swiss Confederation declared independence from Austria.
1493: Christopher Columbus "discovered" Guadeloupe (it wasn't a discovery to the native people who were already there) during his second voyage to the "New World."
1520: Christian II of Denmark was crowned king of Sweden.
1576: The Spanish defeated the Walloons and took Antwerp.
1605: "The Gunpowder Plot" to blow up the British Houses of Parliament was discovered.
1646: The Massachusetts Bay Colony passed a law making it illegal to deny that the Bible was the Word of God. The penalty for violators was execution.
1760: Frederick II of Prussia defeated Austrian forces at the Battle of Torgau.
1854: During the Crimean War, Florence Nightingale and a team of 38 other nurses arrived in the Crimea to set up a military hospital for British troops there.
1862: Richard Gatling patented the "machine gun," the hand-cranked "Gatling Gun".
1890: The first electrified underground railway was officially opened in London, England.
1922: British archaeologist Howard Carter discovered the tomb of ancient Egyptian king Tutankhamen.
1942: British and Canadian forces under Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery defeated German forces under Erwin Rommel after the 12-day Battle of El Alamein.
1956: Soviet military forces occupied Budapest and crushed the Hungarian uprising; over 10,000 Hungarians died in the brief revolution, and another 200,000 fled. Imre Nagy was ousted as prime minister and was replaced by Janos Kadar.
1966: A British newspaper quoted John Lennon as saying that the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus." The statement was regarded as arrogant blasphemy by many people, resulting in worldwide protests where Beatle records were sometimes burned.
1979: Iranian protestors invaded the U.S. Embassy in Teheran, beginning the 444-day Iran Hostage Crisis.
1995: Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated at a peace rally by a Jewish extremist.