Summary: Antiochus Epihpanes looks like a man who fits the prototype of the endtime man of sin. These are facts that came to pass already in the days between Greece and Rome. But much of his action looks modern too.
11:29a “At the appointed time he shall return and go toward the south”
In 168 is the third invasion of the Sixth War. Some say he had actually placed the crown on the head of Euergetes in the last campaign and is coming this time ostensibly to correct that matter by crowning the rightful heir. Now, the rulers of Egypt have already come up with a plan for joint regency of the two brothers and even the mother! But Antiochus needs a reason. He returns to make things right, and works at it until winter stops him.
In the spring, he raises a siege of Alexandria and marches toward Memphis. Philometer is properly installed as king. But when Antiochus is gone, the brothers talk again and decide, with Mom, that they don’t need Antiochus telling them who will rule. The joint regency is re- established.
Antiochus, used to his own way, as was his dad, is not at all pleased. He attacks Memphis, then Alexandria, and has decided to crush this little satrapy in one blow, when he is inter- rupted, proving what God said, that
11:29b “it shall not be like the former or the latter .”
Not like former conquests of Egypt, not even like the last time he was here. Rome is on the scene again. The nemesis that had curbed his father’s ambitions is ready to squelch his too.
11:30a “For ships from Cyprus shall come against him;”
In between these two trips, Egypt has cemented its ties with Rome. When the triumvirate of Egypt hear that Antiochus is on the way, they get a message to their “Big Brother”. Ships sailing out of Cyprus carry a Roman embassy to within a mile of Alexandria, where they
wait for the approaching Epiphanes. Livy says that on their approach Antiochus salutes them and holds out his right hand to Popilius, but into that hand Popilius delivers to Antiochus the decree of the Senate: back off! Go home! Or else!
Popilius actually draws a circle where Antiochus stands and says, “Now choose before you come out of this circle, whether you will evacuate Egypt or attack her.”
It was an easy decision. Even a madman will not dare come against the rising might of Rome.
11:30b “therefore he shall be grieved, and return in rage against the holy covenant and do damage.”
Why is he so angry with Israel again and forever? What’s been going on down there? Hatred of Israel is a common thing through the years, and Satan works diligently to keep that feeling at fever pitch, but there is always the outline of a reason behind it, even in our day. We need a major background break here.
Among the wealthy upper class in the Judea of the days before Christ were those who were attracted by commercial opportunities opened by the Greeks and Greek ways. There were new fashions, new ideas. Some Jews assumed that a more powerful civilization must be a greater civilization. It is the myth under which we labor even in our own time.
Leading these “assimilationists”, the folk who wanted a foot in Judaism and in Hellenism at the same time, was the House of Tobiah, or the “Sons of Tobias” , a family that may well have dated its beginnings to the days of Nehemiah, when the Ammonite harasser of the work of God himself was alive, that is, Tobiah.
In the 250’s, one of this family named Joseph, a traditional Jew, but a moderate Hellenist too, came to the rescue of the High Priest of Israel , Onias II. Now Onias had refused to pay tribute to the current Ptolemy, and that sovereign was threatening to occupy Judah, reversing many years of self rule there.
Joseph, witty and skillful, was able to charm his way into the hearts of these powered men and avert a disaster. In the process, he takes upon himself some of the authority that Judea had normally found in its high priest. He rises to prominence at the Egyptian court, and learns how to compromise even more of his faith while at it.
Joseph’s son Hyrcanus through an illicit relationship, also becomes a court favorite. But during the days of his dealings with Egypt, there is a power shift. Antiochus takes Palestine and Hyrcanus must flee for his life.
Fortunately for them, all of Hyrcanus’s brothers are pro-Seleucid. These families also become favorites at the court, but at the court of Antiochus, not Ptolemy. Both sides of the family have sold out Judaism.
Onias III has become the High Priest and sole leader, though, since the days of Joseph, with much le ss power. His distant cousins, descendants of Joseph, are very assimilated by now. They belong to a pro-Seleucid Hellenistic party in Jerusalem, and they are led by Simon, who becomes the administrator of the Temple, Menelaus, and Lysimachus.