Book Review: Joe Sprinkle, Daniel (Evangelical Biblical Theology Commentary)

Sprinkle, Joe M. Daniel. Evangelical Biblical Theology Commentary. Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2020. xix+470 pp.; Hb.; $49.99. Link to Lexham Press

Joe Sprinkle’s commentary in Daniel is the first Old Testament volume in Lexham’s Evangelical Biblical Theology Commentary. Originally three New Testament volumes were published by Broadman & Holman as the Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation series. Lexham has repackaged those volumes and added three new commentaries on Joshua (David G. Firth), Psalms (James M. Hamilton) and Daniel. The series introduction indicates forty volumes are slated for the series.

The commentary series uses the text of the Christian Standard Bible (Broadman & Holman) although the exegetical commentary itself is based on the Hebrew and Aramaic text of Daniel. As might be expected from the original publisher, although the authors of the series come from a variety of backgrounds, they all affirm inerrancy and inspiration of Scripture (xv). Since the series intends to do biblical theology, the commentary is divided into sections exegesis and theology. Similar to the Two Horizons Commentary published by Eerdmans, theological issues rise from the exegesis of the text. Unlike the Two Horizons Commentaries, The EBTC volumes do not use the methods of Theological Interpretation of Scripture, and there is less interest in broader canonical issues (although Hamilton’s Psalms commentary may address canonical issues).

In the forty-four-page introduction to Daniel begins with a brief overview of the structure before launching into a spirited defense of the traditional view of Daniel’s authorship and historicity (pp. 6-40). Sprinkle was a student of Gleason Archer and he expands on his mentor’s arguments, concluding that “Daniel contains real history and genuine predictive prophecies” (40). For Sprinkle, “rejecting the critical view of the book is essential to preserving its theological and practical value” (345).

There are several points in the commentary which illustrate Sprinkle’s view that Daniel contains genuine prophecies. The third kingdom is the “Greek kingdom of Alexander the Great” and the four heads are the diadochi, the four successors who divided Alexander’s kingdom. Sprinkle prefers to call the fourth kingdom is “Rome and beyond” since the Roman empire has long since ceased to exist (177-78). To call the fourth kingdom a “revived Roman empire” is “special pleading.” Nevertheless, this fourth kingdom is a Rome-like kingdom. Since Revelation draws on Daniel 7, Sprinkle says, “Rome is at most a prototype of what this terrifying kingdom will be like” (178). The “one like a son of man” in Daniel 7:14 refers to the divine messiah (184-86) and observes similarities to other messianic texts such as Psalm 110 and Isaiah 9.

The little horn in Daniel 7 is not the same as the little horn in Daniel 8 (195). Antiochus IV “foreshadows the antichrist typologically.” He argues Revelation 13 draws on the imagery of fourth beast and the little horn in Daniel 7 (196). Antiochus IV is an illustration of the “biblical theological pattern in which kings and kingdoms exalt themselves against God” (226).

Regarding the seventy weeks of Daniel, Sprinkle rejects the view the seventy weeks lead up to Antiochus IV, but he is also unconvinced by the classic dispensational view which leaves a “awkward parenthesis” of two millennia between the sixty-ninth week and the seventieth (268). He leans towards E. J. Young’s view of the seventy weeks as a general time period from Cyrus’s decree to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70 (273).

As is well-known, Daniel 11 contains accurate predictions of the movements of the Ptolemy and Seleucid empires but does not accurately predict the fate of Antiochus IV. Sprinkle does not think Daniel 11:36-45 is a failed prophecy. He argues this section of Daniel 11 describes neither Antiochus IV nor Roman activity in first century Palestine, but rather Daniel 11:36-45 describes eschatological events (322).

The body of the commentary runs nearly three hundred pages. Although there is no indication of a new chapter, each unit begins with a reprint of the exegetical outline for the unit. An English translation is provided, followed by a brief paragraph placing the unit in context. Sprinkle then moves through the section verse by verse, commenting on the syntax and lexical issues and historical issues where necessary. Hebrew, Aramaic and occasional Greek appear in the commentary’s body without transliteration. Some knowledge of Hebrew is helpful but not necessary. He occasionally comments on suggested repointing of Hebrew or (more often) Greek translations of Daniel, but he usually concludes the Masoretic text is correct (see p. 299, for example). Sprinkle concludes his exegesis of each chapter with a summary entitled “Bridge.” Here he makes a few observations on the context of the section within Daniel and in a larger canonical context.

The last section of the commentary is Biblical and Theological Themes. At just under one hundred pages, Sprinkle traces several theological issues raised by Daniel. Almost forty pages are devoted to God, divided into a section on his attributes and his relationship to his people. Although there is much to say about angels in the book, only five pages discusses what Daniel contributes to a biblical theology of angels. Since Sprinkle dates the book early, he does not relate Daniel’s view of angels to developing Jewish theology in the Second Temple period. Sprinkle surveys what Daniel says about the Messiah and relates this material to other Old Testament texts and New Testament interpretations of those texts. For example, following Hippolytus, she relates the “stone cut without human hands (Dan 2:34-35) Psalm 118:22, a text Jesus quotes and applies to himself (Luke 20:17-18). For Sprinkle, Jesus is Daniel’s stone (401).

Finally, Sprinkle summarizes Daniel’s “Theology of History.” Daniel demonstrates that God has sovereignty directed history and has set appointed precise times for events to occur (421). Much of this section concerns eschatology, including a description of the antichrist (1 John 2:18) or man of lawlessness (2 Thess 2:3-4) drawn from the arrogant little horn (Daniel 7). Antiochus IV Epiphanes is the prototype of this evil, eschatological figure and a study of his character based on Daniel 8 and 11 “provides insight into what the antichrist might be like” (425).

Conclusion. Joe Sprinkle’s commentary is a fine example of a conservative evangelical commentary which takes Daniel as containing predictions of future events, some of which have been realized, others remain unfulfilled. Even if one disagrees with his conclusions on the historicity of Daniel, his exegetical notes are very good and will be helpful for understanding what the text of Daniel says.

NB: Thanks to Lexham Press for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

Book Review: Tremper Longman III, How to Read Daniel

Longman III, Tremper. How to Read Daniel. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2020. 189 pp. Pb; $20.  Link to IVP Academic

Tremper Longman has previous published five volumes in the How to Read series (on Psalms, Proverbs, Genesis, Exodus, and Job [with John Walton]). In this series, Longman intentionally targets the lay person, pastor and seminarian rather than an academic audience. Like the previous volumes in this series, Longman provides a clear introduction to this fascinating but sometimes frustrating prophetic book.

Longman, How to Read DanielIn the first part Longman deals with some introductory issues in three chapters. In the first chapter he deals with the genre, language and structure of the book of Daniel. Daniel is composed of a series of “court tales” (Dan 1-6) and apocalyptic visions (Dan 7-12). Longman uses the genre to divide the book into two units, although he does consider using the use of Aramaic in chapters 2-7 and the clear chiastic pattern as a way to structure the book.

Second, he sets the book of Daniel into the historical context of the Babylonian exile. He briefly treats a historical problem for the historicity of Daniel, the identity of Darius the Mede. Not surprisingly Longman accepts an early date for the book. Since the prophecy in Daniel 11 is so detailed many scholars consider it an example of prophecy after the fact, a common feature in apocalyptic literature. Since Longman believes God often predicts the future, he sees no reason to bracket out his faith when he interprets Daniel 11. If the prophecy is after the fact, then “these texts traffic in deception” (p. 33).

Third, Longman sketches a brief theology of the book by tracing the primary theme of God’s control of the events of history (which guarantee his ultimate victory). This is true despite present difficulties, as illustrated in the court tales. This theme of God’s sovereign control of the events of history should be comforting to those enduring oppression. A secondary theme in Daniel is that God’s people can survive and thrive in a toxic culture. While the theme is found throughout the book, Longman illustrates this theme with the testimony of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego when Nebuchadnezzar demands they demonstrate their loyalty to him or die in the fiery furnace. These two themes are developed further in the final two chapters of the book.

The second part of the book devotes a chapter to each of Daniel’s chapters with the exception of last vision (Daniel 10:1-12:4) and 12:5-13 (the conclusion to the book). This is a light commentary on major sections of the English text. Longman offers insight into key details when necessary, but this is an introduction not an exposition of the text. For controversial issues, Longman usually does not take a side. For the empires represented by the four metals, he says “it does not really matter which kingdoms are represented by these metals” (69). When he summarized the vision of four beats in Daniel 7, he does not consider the possibility the arrogant little horn represents Antiochus IV Epiphanes (although the contemptible person in 11:21-35 is Antiochus).

The final part of the book concerns the application of Daniel for the twenty-first century Christian. These final two chapters are more detailed expansions of the two themes he introduced in chapter 3. First, Longman returns to Daniel 1-6 and makes several suggestions for living in a toxic culture. Daniel and his friends engage with culture and provide a model for navigating how Christians can engage contemporary culture. Second, the visions of Daniel 7-12 offer comfort in God’s ultimate victory. Longman says Daniel 7-12 gives readers “the long view to help them live with confidence in a troubled world” (166). Here Longman refers to Jesus’s own apocalyptic discourse which cites the book of Daniel. This chapter also relates the book of Daniel to Revelation. Daniel certainly looks forward to God’s intervention in history to rescue his people, but Longman is clear: Daniel’s visions do “not have an interest in giving us information that will allow us to predict when that great even will happen” (140). Although he briefly mentions Hal Lindsey and Harold Camping (along with the faculty of Dallas Theological Seminary) as using Daniel and Revelation to predict the return of Christ (or interpret current events), he refrains from bashing them unfairly and he does not relate these attempts to dispensationalism. He concludes, “perhaps the saddest consequence of the obsession with Daniel as a tool to reconstruct an apocalyptic timetable is that we often miss the important message the book has for us today in the twenty-first century” (142).

Each chapter concludes with several discussion questions which could be used in the context of a small group Bible study or classroom. An annotated commentary list appears as an appendix including Goldingay (WBC), House (TOTC), Longman (NIVAC), Lucas (AOTC), Miller (NAC), Widder (SOG), and E. J. Young, The Prophecy of Daniel (Banner of Truth, 1949). Occasional endnotes point interested readers to other literature.

Conclusion. Like Longman’s other How to Read books, How to Read Daniel succeeds in introducing the reader to the book by providing the background necessary to better understand Daniel. Longman’s careful explanations and judicious application of the text to contemporary issues will appeal to lay Christians who want to dig deeper into Daniel.

NB: There is a minor typographical error on page 24, Nebuchadnezzar’s reigns until 662 BC; this ought to be 562 (it is correct in the next paragraph). On page 128, Antiochus Epiphanes IV ought to read Antiochus IV Epiphanes (it is correct elsewhere in the text).

Thanks to IVP Academic for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

Daniel 11:36-12:3 – The Willful King

“The Antichrist interpretation of these verses is exegetically witless and religiously worthless.” (Hartman and Di Lella, Daniel, 303).

For many interpreters, Daniel 11:36-45 shifts away from Antiochus IV Epiphanes and the persecutions which lead to the Maccabean Revolt to a future, ultimate persecutions by an ultimate enemy of God, sometimes called the antichrist. Those who take a second century view of Daniel take the entire chapter as referring to Antiochus. Seow, for example, considers this a “recapitulation” of Antiochus’ offenses, with some general predictions which are only accurate in the most general sense, i.e. Antiochus will die (Daniel, 182).

Daniel 11:36-40 appears to say Antiochus will launch a new attack against the Ptolemaic Egypt, Judea will suffer greatly although Moab, Edom, and Ammon will be spared. Antiochus will be successful in plundering all of North Africa, including Egypt, Lydia and Ethiopia. As he is waging a successful war in the south, he will hear a rumor from the north, likely from his Syrian base, and return there. He will, however, make camp between Jerusalem and the Mediterranean Sea, where he will be killed.

Who Is the Antichrist?The problem with this reconstruction is that it never happened. Up until verse 36, reasonable connections may be drawn between historical events and the words of Daniel, but after 36 the connections become strained at best, or contradictory to the historical record at worst. Antiochus was not successful in his second invasion of Egypt, there is no record of a third invasion which was successful. He did not return home after hearing a rumor, but Rome told him to leave. He did not die in Judea at all, but in Persia after raiding a Temple in Elymas in 168 B.C.

This is why some read this as a shift from a historical survey to actual prophecy about “the last days.” Typically, the leader of this end-times rebellion is called antichrist, although Daniel never uses the word and is not a part of the vocabulary of apocalyptic until the Christian era. Daniel calls this person a willful king and describes his activities as defiant against God. This willful defiance is reminiscent of the king of Babylon in Isaiah 14.

Why should we begin to read Daniel as prophetic of the great end time conflict between humanity and God? It is difficult to harmonize Daniel 11:36-45 with events in the life of Antiochus. But as John Collins suggested, Daniel 11:36-45 may be a “deliberate polemical distortion” (Daniel, 386).

It is possible the writer of Daniel 11-12 begins making a prediction of events that have not yet occurred in his lifetime, but hopes they soon will (Towner, Daniel, 164, Montgomery, Daniel, 465). “The quasi-prophecy closes with an evaluative summary of Antiochus’s religious attitudes as king” (Goldingay, Daniel1, 304). Daniel 11 is expressing wishful thinking about how the current conflict might come to an end, but that prediction was mostly wrong. For example, the death of the “king” 11:45 takes place in Israel, but Antiochus died in Tabae, over a thousand miles from Israel. It is also possible the writer is generally right about the events he predicts, although not precisely so. Daniel got the “gist of things” right (Seow, Daniel, 185). The general idea that Antiochus would be killed I the near future is right, but the details are not correct.

But there are several indications the writer has shifted focus to future events in the passage. [NB: I am following Paul Tanner, “Daniel’s ‘King of the North’: Do We Owe Russia an Apology?” JETS 35 (1992):315-328. His commentary in the EEC series was released March 2020 but I have not had the chance to read his comments yet.] First, The subject of verse 36 is not referred to as the “king of the North” but only as “the king.” Normally in chapter 11 a qualifier such as “south” or “north” is included (except in vv. 2–3, which refer to the Persian kings, and verse 27, which refers to both the kings, clearly implied the north and south).

Second, in 11:21–35 Antiochus IV served in the role of the “king of the North,” as did the other Seleucid kings before him. In v. 40, however, “the king” is apparently in contention with both the “king of the North” and the “king of the South.” This argument assumes some exegesis on verse 40, noted below.

Third, 11:35 still anticipates the “end time,” but 11:40 indicates the “end time” has finally arrived. This is also anticipated in 10:14, in which the angelic visitor says the vision which Daniel saw concerns “the days yet future,” or the “latter days.” Those who hold to the Greek view see this as the end of Antiochus rather than “the end times” eschatologically.

Fourth, Daniel 12:1-3 begins with “Now at that time,” and refers to a “time of great distress” in 12:1 and the mention of the resurrection in 12:2 gives the whole unit an eschatological setting.

Fifth, A leap forward in time from Daniel 11:35 to 11:36 is consistent with other leaps in time throughout the chapter. For example, 11:2-3 cover 200+ years of Persian history without comment.

Sixth, the comment in Daniel 11:36 that the king “will exalt himself above every god” is not precisely true in regard to Antiochus. Antiochus exalted Zeus on the reverse side of his coinage.

Seventh, if the description of Antiochus found in Daniel 11 is an expansion of the previous prophecies in Daniel 2, 7 and 8, then the “final kingdom” is destroyed by the kingdom of God. Antiochus does not represent the last kingdom, rather, he is one of the last kings of the third kingdom. To a large extent, the activities of Antiochus III and IV are responsible for drawing Roman attention to the eastern regions, including Palestine. Antiochus’ kingdom was not replaced by the kingdom of God in any way, nor was the Maccabean revolt ultimately successful in establishing a real messianic kingdom. In fact, the rulers that follow the war are fairly corrupt high priest / kings who are nearly as evil as Jason and Menelaus were!

Is there any precedence for multiple fulfillment of prophecy?  Daniel 11 seems to predict in remarkable detail the general outline of history down to about 164 B.C. If it also looks beyond the Maccabean period, then there seems to be two (or more) “fulfillments” of the prophecy. This is analogous to several Old Testament prophecies which are literally fulfilled in the context of the prophet’s life, but also again at a later date, usually the ministry of Christ. A possible objection to these examples is that they assume the New Testament for the second fulfillment. For this reason, we might better speak in terms of “second application” of a prophecy.

In the case of the “sign of Immanuel” in Isaiah there is an immediate point of contact in the prophecy (a woman in Ahaz’ household will give birth, and before the child is a few years old, the kingdom of Damascus will fall), but also a distant fulfillment / application in the birth of Christ (Matthew 1: 22-23). The call of Isaiah included a prediction of futility. The people to whom Isaiah was sent would be “ever hearing, but never understanding.” This text is quoted in Matthew 13 by Jesus to explain why he taught in parables, a “second fulfillment / application” of the prophecy.

It seems appropriate to interpret Daniel 11:36-12:3 as referring to an ultimate, final eschatological persecution on a grand scale. Antiochus foreshadows a future persecution prior to God’s decisive action in history to restore a kingdom to God’s people.

Daniel 11:29-35 – The Fall of Antiochus IV Epiphanes

Antiochus’s second failed Egyptian campaign was followed by his persecution of the Jews (11:29-35). In 168 Antiochus made a second foray into Egypt with the intention of annexing it to his own kingdom. This time things were not to go as well as he had planned. His army was met by a delegation from the Roman senate led by Popilius Laenas. Popilius presents Antiochus with a letter from the Senate ordering him out of Egypt or face the wrath of Rome.

Antiochus IV EpiphanesAntiochus asked for time to consider the letter, so Popilius drew a circle around him on the ground and told him not to leave the circle until he made his decision. Humiliated, Antiochus was forced out of Egypt and he took his frustration out on Judea.

After his humiliation in Egypt, Antiochus learned of the uprising in Jerusalem caused by the competing high priests. Jason had picked this time to make his attempt to regain the office of High Priest based on a rumor which said Antiochus had been killed in battle. See 1 Mac. 1:16-19. He waited until the Sabbath then sends his general Appolonius and some mercenaries into Jerusalem. They slaughter men, women and children indiscriminately and burn much of the city.

Antiochus fortified the citadel heavily, imposed a heavy tax on the city for the rebellion, and confiscated land. He occupies the city with foreign troops and Hellenistic sympathizers. 1 Mac 1:35-36 calls these “people of pollution” and notes the city had become the abode of foreigners.

Perhaps the most offensive action Antiochus did was to combine the worship of Yahweh with Zeus. Within the temple itself Antiochus sacrificed to Zeus, supported by the high priest and the Hellenistic Jews! (1 Maccabees 1:29-40; 2 Maccabees 5:11-27).

2 Maccabees 5:11–27 (NRSV) When news of what had happened reached the king, he took it to mean that Judea was in revolt. So, raging inwardly, he left Egypt and took the city by storm. 12 He commanded his soldiers to cut down relentlessly everyone they met and to kill those who went into their houses. 13 Then there was massacre of young and old, destruction of boys, women, and children, and slaughter of young girls and infants. 14 Within the total of three days eighty thousand were destroyed, forty thousand in hand-to-hand fighting, and as many were sold into slavery as were killed. 15 Not content with this, Antiochus dared to enter the most holy temple in all the world, guided by Menelaus, who had become a traitor both to the laws and to his country. 16 He took the holy vessels with his polluted hands, and swept away with profane hands the votive offerings that other kings had made to enhance the glory and honor of the place. 17 Antiochus was elated in spirit, and did not perceive that the Lord was angered for a little while because of the sins of those who lived in the city, and that this was the reason he was disregarding the holy place. 18 But if it had not happened that they were involved in many sins, this man would have been flogged and turned back from his rash act as soon as he came forward, just as Heliodorus had been, whom King Seleucus sent to inspect the treasury. 19 But the Lord did not choose the nation for the sake of the holy place, but the place for the sake of the nation. 20 Therefore the place itself shared in the misfortunes that befell the nation and afterward participated in its benefits; and what was forsaken in the wrath of the Almighty was restored again in all its glory when the great Lord became reconciled. 21 So Antiochus carried off eighteen hundred talents from the temple, and hurried away to Antioch, thinking in his arrogance that he could sail on the land and walk on the sea, because his mind was elated. 22 He left governors to oppress the people: at Jerusalem, Philip, by birth a Phrygian and in character more barbarous than the man who appointed him; 23 and at Gerizim, Andronicus; and besides these Menelaus, who lorded it over his compatriots worse than the others did. In his malice toward the Jewish citizens, 24 Antiochus sent Apollonius, the captain of the Mysians, with an army of twenty-two thousand, and commanded him to kill all the grown men and to sell the women and boys as slaves. 25 When this man arrived in Jerusalem, he pretended to be peaceably disposed and waited until the holy sabbath day; then, finding the Jews not at work, he ordered his troops to parade under arms. 26 He put to the sword all those who came out to see them, then rushed into the city with his armed warriors and killed great numbers of people. 27 But Judas Maccabeus, with about nine others, got away to the wilderness, and kept himself and his companions alive in the mountains as wild animals do; they continued to live on what grew wild, so that they might not share in the defilement.

Antiochus is well known for his persecutions of the Jews; the details are recorded in 1 & 2 Mac as well as in Josephus. His “forced Hellenization” is prototypical of all tyrants who attempt to force Jews to conform to Gentile standards.

Daniel 11 says that despite the persecution, some of the wise will survive, but only after they are purified as with fire. The identity of “the wise” in this passage is a difficult problem. Some identify the wise with the Hasadim, while others do not. The Hasadim were the dissenters who opposed Hellenistic trends and eventually divided into Pharisee, Sadducee, and Essene.

There were two “paths of resistance” in the Maccabean revolt. One could take up arms, as Judas and his brothers did, or one could resist passively and be martyred for the faith. The “wise” in Daniel are likely those who accepted the martyr’s path.

1 Maccabees 1:59–62 (NRSV) On the twenty-fifth day of the month they offered sacrifice on the altar that was on top of the altar of burnt offering. 60 According to the decree, they put to death the women who had their children circumcised, 61 and their families and those who circumcised them; and they hung the infants from their mothers’ necks. 62 But many in Israel stood firm and were resolved in their hearts not to eat unclean food.

After his humiliation in Egypt and the desecration of the Jewish Temple, Antiochus returned to Syria and selected his 8-year-old son Antiochus V Eupator as his successor (1 Mac 3:27-37). He named Lysias as the boy’s regent and left him in charge of about half the army. Lysias lead the army of the Seleucids against the Maccabean resistance, but this is not found in Daniel.

Antiochus was in desperate need of funds, so he led his army east to collect tribute. (He could not go to the south, since the Romans were protecting Egypt, and Palestine was already well looted).  He had some success but was turned back at Elymas. He thought gold left from Alexander’s day was at Elymas. He returned to Babylon, where he died in 163 B.C. 1 Mac 6:1-16 describes the king as dying of consumption soon after hearing the news of the cleansing of the temple by Judas Maccabees. It is also possible he was poisoned.

And this is a problem for interpreting Daniel 11. The “end of the story” is not quite right. Daniel 11:36-12:3 does predict the end of the arrogant king who persecuted God’s people. But the details are not quite right. Michael does not appear to defend God’s people and the Greeks are not replaced by a glorious kingdom of God as Daniel 2 and 7 expected. Does Daniel “get it wrong” at this point? Is the hoped for kingdom the short-lived Hasmonean kings? Or does Daniel shift to the future in 11:36?

Daniel 11:21-35 – Concerning Antiochus IV Epiphanes

Daniel 11:21-24 describes the rise of Antiochus IV Epiphanies. Antiochus IV had been in Rome as a hostage. Before his death Seleucus Philopater had sent his son to Rome in exchange for his brother Antiochus IV. These twelve years spent in Rome influenced the young Antiochus greatly. After leaving Rome he went to Athens where he served as Chief Magistrate until Seleucus IV Philopater was murdered by Heliodorus. Heliodorus ruled as regent for Demetrius, the second son of Seleucus IV.

Antiochus IV heard of his brother’s death and that Heliodorus had seized the throne. He hurried to Syria where he began to flatter and bribe everyone involved in arbitrating the dispute over who should be king. Antiochus was named king, despite not being the rightful heir.

Antiochus IV Epiphanes

But Antiochus took over a kingdom which was in trouble. The Seleucid kingdom was nearly out of money and continentally harassed by Rome to the west and the Parthians to the east. Antiochus dealt with the first problem by robbing temples and shrines throughout the kingdom, including Jerusalem.

In order to develop some stability in the kingdom, he encouraged Hellenism throughout the kingdom, usually by adding Zeus to the local pantheon. Goldstein argues Antiochus was less interested in imposing Greek customs than imitating the Roman way of administering a large kingdom (Goldstein, 1 Maccabees, 111).

Daniel describes Antiochus as a “contemptible person.” He did develop a reputation for maniac behavior. Polybius described him as a “completely unreliable rule” who went from practical joking to deranged cruelness almost without warning. Antiochus would sometimes join a stage performance as an actor, or an orchestra as a player. He was reputed to participate in public sex on occasion. When he added Theos Epiphanes, “God Manifest,” to his name in 169 B.C., many made a joke out of his name by calling him Epimanes, “Madman.”

Early in his reign, Antiochus was involved in a dispute over the high priesthood in Jerusalem. Jason was the very pro-Hellenism brother of the legitimate high priest, Onias III. He bribed Antiochus to be appointed as the new high priest (1 Mac 1:13-15, 2 Mac 4:7-15). In order to please Antiochus, Jason pledged to build a gymnasium near the Temple and encourage the Jews to become more Greek. The gymnasium was popular and some of the priests participated in the games dedicated to Hermes.

As offensive as these things were to the many Jews, some though this Hellenization did not go far enough. Menelaus (with the support of the Tobiad party) went to Antiochus and offered the king a larger bribe (300 more talents than Jason) for the office. Antiochus immediately declared Menelaus high priest and sent Syrian troops with him in order to oust Jason from Jerusalem. Menelaus was not even of a priestly family and was only interested in the priesthood for political power and wealth.

Jason was removed from Jerusalem but had enough support that he hopes to return and remove Menelaus from office. Menelaus had some serious problems as well. Most of the Jews did not support him as high priest so he had trouble raising the money to pay Antiochus. As a result, he was forced to sell Temple items to pay bribes to the king’s agent Andronicus.

The legitimate high priest Onias protested this offense: Menelaus was not the real high priest and had no authority to sell anything from the temple, let alone to pay bribes to a Gentile king! Antiochus was not impressed with his protest and had the true high priest killed (2 Mac 4:33-38, possibly Dan 9:26-27).

Robbing of the temple caused riots against his priesthood. Lysimachus, Menelaus brother, led troops against the rioters and killed 3000, but was killed himself in the battle. Menelaus was called into account by Antiochus but managed to bribe his way out of trouble (2 Macc 4:43-50).

Antiochus IV sought to unite Egypt and Syria, probably because Ptolemy Philometer was a very young man at the time (11:25-28). He could not attack Egypt because of Egypt’s relationship with Rome. If he attacked Egypt, Rome would come to their defense. Fortunately for Antiochus, Egypt attacked him in 169. He as able to march on Egypt and rout the Egyptian army.

About this time Jason heard a false rumor Antiochus was killed in battle in Egypt. He took 1000 men and attacked Jerusalem in an attempt to run Menelaus out. Menelaus hid in the citadel, Jason failed and eventually died as an outcast (2 Mac 5:5-10).

Returning from Egypt, he entered Jerusalem as a show of force after hearing of the growing insurrection caused by the rival high priests (1 Mac 1:16-28, 2 Mac 5:1-11). He looted the temple with the help of Menalaus the High priest, and slaughtered 80,000 Jews.