Desecrating the Temple
The ships of Kittim (Cyprus) carried the Roman army, along with their ambassador to Egypt, who told Antiochus to give up his conquest in Egypt. Antiochus complied with the demand, but he took out his anger on Judea. On his first trip he plundered Jerusalem, and then two years later he plundered the temple itself. Finally, he decided to de-nationalize Judea and turn it fully into a Greek province having Greek culture and religion.
It appears that his goal was to assimilate the Judeans so that they might lose their national identity. He already had a certain level of support, for many of the Judeans were already Hellenized, or Grecianized, and were in support of Greek culture and philosophy, if not religion. In fact, when he first came to plunder the city, the city gates were opened to him by his supporters. Josephus tells us, “he took the city without fighting, those of his own party opening the gates to him” (Antiquities of the Jews, XII, v, 3).
Two years later, when he plundered the temple itself, he burnt down many of the chief buildings in Jerusalem, tore down part of the wall, and “he built a citadel in the lower part of the city” (Antiquities, XII, v, 4). He killed 40,000 and enslaved another 40,000 of the women and children (2 Macc. 5:14), no doubt to force them by slavery to become one people—Greeks. The rest of the Jewish population escaped, “whereupon the city was made an habitation of strangers” (1 Macc. 1:38). In other words, it became a city inhabited by Greeks.
If his intent was to win them over to the Greek way of life and culture, he did not seem to realize that he could not do so by gaining the ill will of the people.
Josephus says that the new citadel (fortress) overlooking the temple was manned by a Macedonian garrison. Further, he says,
“However, in that citadel dwelt the impious and wicked part of the [Jewish] multitude, from whom it proved that the citizens suffered many and sore calamities” (Antiquities, XII, v, 4).
Hence, Dan. 11:30 tells us that Antiochus was to “come back” to Jerusalem “and show regard for those who forsake the holy covenant.” The angel called those Antiochus’ supporters “those who forsake the holy covenant.”
The Regular Sacrifice Abolished
Daniel 11:31 continues,
31 And forces [zerowa, “arm, armed forces”] from him will arise, desecrate the sanctuary fortress, and do away with the regular sacrifice. And they will set up the abomination of desolation.
The temple here is referred to as a “fortress.” The Concordant Version calls it a “stronghold.” The angel says that Antiochus was to “do away with the regular sacrifice.” That puts it mildly. We read of this in 1 Macc. 1:41-49,
41 Moreover king Antiochus wrote to his whole kingdom, that all should be one people, 42 and everyone should leave his laws; so all the heathen [people] agreed according to the commandment of the king. 43 Yea, many also of the Israelites consented to his religion, and sacrificed unto idols, and profaned the Sabbath. 44 For the king had sent letters by messengers unto Jerusalem and the cities of Juda, that they should follow the strange [foreign] laws of the land, 45 and forbid burnt offerings, and sacrifice, and drink offerings, in the temple; and that they should profane the Sabbaths and festival days; 46 and pollute the sanctuary and holy people; 47 set up altars, and groves, and chapels of idols, and sacrifice swine’s flesh, and unclean beasts; 48 and that they should also leave their children uncircumcised, and make their souls abominable with all the manner of uncleanness and profanation; 49 to the end they might forget the law, and change all the ordinances.
So Antiochus did away with “the regular sacrifice.” He did not do away with all sacrifice, of course, because we see in verse 47 that he commanded the people to “sacrifice swine’s flesh and unclean beasts.” Josephus tells us further,
“And when the king had built an idol altar upon God’s altar, he slew swine upon it, and so offered a sacrifice neither according to the law, nor the Jewish religious worship in that country” (Antiquities, XII, v, 4).
This Greek altar, inspired by the spirit of Vainglory that was upon Antiochus, was set up at “the appointed time,” which is recorded in 1 Macc. 1:54,
54 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, and builded idol altars throughout the cities of Juda on every side.
The date given is according to the Seleucid Calendar, which began in 312 B.C. By our modern calendar, the “abomination” was set up in early December, 168 B.C.
Antiochus also banned the books of God’s law. Josephus tells us,
“And if there were any sacred book of the law found, it was destroyed; and those with whom they were found, miserably perished also” (Antiquities, XII, v, 4).
We see, then, how Antiochus took such radical and violent steps to transform Judean society into the likeness of Greece. To do this, it was necessary to destroy all copies of the Scriptures and make it a capital crime to possess a copy. This was, perhaps, the most extensive attempt to put away the law that was ever attempted. In modern times, the antinomians have adopted a more subtle approach, twisting Paul’s words to induce people to abandon the law voluntarily.
The Samaritan Response
The Samaritans, Josephus tells us, saw what Antiochus was doing in Jerusalem and immediately disavowed any kindred with the Jews, claiming to be a colony of the Medes and Persians. Those Samaritans who lived in Shechem—forefathers of the woman of Shechem (Sychar) who talked to Jesus in the fourth chapter of John—wrote a letter to Antiochus, expressing their compliance and support for his culture-changing policies. Josephus records the letter, which reads (in part):
“To king Antiochus the god Epiphanes, a memorial from the Sidonians, who live at Shechem…
Now, upon the just treatment of these wicked Jews, those that manage their affairs, supposing that we were of kin to them, and practiced as they do, make us liable to the same accusations, although we are originally Sidonians, as is evident from the public records. We therefore beseech thee, our benefactor and saviour, to give order to Apolloniuis, the governor of this part of thy affairs, to give us no disturbance, nor to lay to our charge what the Jews are accused for, since we are aliens from their nation and from their customs; but let our temple, which at present hath no name at all, be named the Temple of Jupiter Hellenius. If this were once done, we should be no longer disturbed, but should be more intent on our own occupation with quietness, and so bring in a greater revenue to thee” (Antiquities, XII, v, 5).
Of interest to us is the fact that Antiochus’ “governor” was named Apollonius, “belonging to Apollo.” As the executor of Antiochus’ policies, his name made him part of the deeper prophecy of “antichrist,” along with Antiochus.
Apollo was the sun god who desired to prophesy. According to Greek mythology, a python guarded Delphi and was the source of its prophetic gift. In his desire to prophesy, Apollo killed the python and took its place. And so in Acts 16:16 we read of “a certain slave-girl having a spirit of divination” (literally, “a spirit of python”). She was inspired by the Delphic Oracle, where Apollo was reputed to prophesy by the spirit of python.
This suggests that Apollonius was inspired by the spirit of python and represented a type of false prophet on behalf of Antiochus “God Manifest.” It appears that the spirit of python is Apollo, the close associate of Vainglory. The Jewish Encylopedia tells us that Apollonius was Antiochus’ general who had been sent to plunder Jerusalem:
“As long as he was occupied with preparations for his expedition against Egypt, Antiochus had no time for Palestine; but when the Romans compelled him to forego his plans of conquest, his rage at the unexpected impediment was wreaked upon the innocent Jews. An officer, Apollonius, was sent through the country with an armed troop, commissioned to slay and destroy. He first entered Jerusalem amicably; then suddenly turning upon the defenseless city, he murdered, plundered, and burnt through its length and breadth.”
The Abomination of Desolation
This term is used three times in the book of Daniel (9:27; 11:31; 12:11). In our present study the term is used in Dan. 11:31 to prophesy the idolatrous takeover of the temple in Jerusalem. The term “abomination” was a euphemism for an idol, because idolatry was “an abomination to the Lord your God” (Deut. 7:25).
In Dan. 9:27 the term is applied to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., and this is how Jesus applies it in Matt. 24:15 and Mark 13:14.
Dan. 12:11 applies the term in still another context, showing that “1,290 days” would intervene between the time that “the regular sacrifice is abolished” and when “the abomination of desolation is set up.” There is no evidence that there was such a 1,290 day period in the time of Antiochus, because history shows that these events all took place within the same year. So this refers to yet another application. We will say more of this later when we may focus on that verse.