The Seventh Seal – Silence in Heaven – Revelation 8:1

This seal has caused far more debate among commentators than any other. There are dozens of plausible (and not a few implausible) suggestions for what this short period of silence means. It is possible this is simply a rhetorical pause, the calm before the storm.

Some see it connected to the Jewish practice of silent prayer, which is connected to incense burning found in the same context as the silence. In the context of chapter 8 this is possible, since the angels are lighting incense in the temple of God. David Aune offers several rabbinic texts implying a ritual silence was practiced during the burning of the incense (m. Tamid 5:1-6 does not explicitly say that the incense was offered in silence; 2:508). This suggestion has some merit, since silence is associated with worship of God in the Old Testament (Psalm 46:10) and even among the Greeks (Thucydides, for example).

Thuc 6.32.1  The ships being now manned, and everything put on board with which they meant to sail, the trumpet commanded silence, and the prayers customary before putting out to sea were offered, not in each ship by itself, but by all together to the voice of a herald; and bowls of wine were mixed through all the armament, and libations made by the soldiers and their officers in gold and silver goblets.

Greg Beale observes silence is associated with Gods judgment. The nations are silenced when they fall under God’s judgment (Revelation, 446). In Isaiah 47:5 Babylon is told to “sit in silence,” in Ezekiel 27:32, Tyre is silenced. Zephaniah 1:17 the day of the Lord is an occasion for silence because it is like a sacrifice to the Lord.

Isaiah 47:5 “Sit in silence, go into darkness, Daughter of the Babylonians; no more will you be called queen of kingdoms.

Ezekiel 27:32 As they wail and mourn over you, they will take up a lament concerning you: “Who was ever silenced like Tyre, surrounded by the sea?”

Zephaniah 1:7 Be silent before the Sovereign LORD, for the day of the LORD is near. The LORD has prepared a sacrifice; he has consecrated those he has invited.

Both silence in judgment and silence as worship appear in the pseudepigrapha. In 1 Enoch 18:2, Enoch sees the fifth heaven where encounters the innumerable armies called Grigori” (the watchers) who had turned aside from the Lord. The gigantic beings are perpetually silent and “there was no liturgy in the fifth heaven.” In 4 Ezra 7:30, after the messiah dies “the world shall be turned back to primeval silence for seven days.”

The Letter of Aristeas describes Temple worship as “well ordered silence” (92), “a general silence reigns, so that one might think that there was not a single man in the place although the number of ministers in attendance is more than seven hundred” (95).  The Testament of Adam begins with a list of the twelve hours, concluding with “the twelfth hour is the waiting for incense, and silence is imposed on all the ranks of fire and wind until all the priests burn incense to his divinity” (1.12). Notice the connection between silence (Rev 8:1) and incense (Rev 8:2-5).

I think it is best to see the seventh seal, trumpet, and bowl as parallel. Just prior to God’s intervention to defeat his enemies (the seventh bowl), there will be worship in heaven. First, this is silence, but it is followed by loud worship. Revelation 12:15 says when the seventh trumpet sounds, there were “loud voices in heaven” because the kingdom of God has come.

Why “about a half an hour?”  Once again, there are dozens of suggestions. It is a short and indefinite time, much like Daniel 4:16,19, Daniel was amazed and struck with silent awe for about an hour. Later in Revelation, several judgements all take place within an hour (18:10, 17, 19).

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.

Book Review: Brian J. Tabb, All Things New: Revelation as Canonical Capstone

Tabb, Brian J. All Things New: Revelation as Canonical Capstone. NSBT 48; Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2019. 270pp. Pb; $28.  Link to IVP Academic

Tabb previously published Suffering in Ancient Worldview: Luke, Seneca and 4 Maccabees in Dialogue (LNTS 569; London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2017). He edits the online journal Themelios. This new contribution to the NSBT Series began as he prepared the notes on Revelation for The NIV Zondervan Study Bible (D. A. Carson, ed.; Zondervan, 2015).  In the preface to the book Tabb thanks his former professors G. K. Beale and Craig Koester. Although their influence is clear throughout the volume, Tabb has contributed an excellent introduction to major theological themes present in Revelation which serve as a summation of the whole canon of Scripture.

In his introduction, Tabb briefly discuss is the genre and purpose of Revelation as well as some unusual problems one in counters when interpreting the book. Following Richard Bauckham, Tabb argues Revelation is the “climax of prophecy.” The book of Daniel ends with the command to seal up the book of prophecy, but in Revelation John announces the fulfillment or goal of previous prophecy but also discloses what was previously hidden from the prophets before Christ (19).

The first three chapters discuss the Triune God in Revelation. The book of Revelation the presents God as the sovereign who rules over all of creation and is worshiped unceasingly by his creation. He is the Alpha and Omega who announces glorious redemption and transformation of his creation (21:1). In Revelation, God is at the very center of all reality. The second person of the Trinity is the reigning and returning king Jesus. Revelation is in fact framed with the person of Jesus: it begins as “a revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:1) the book concludes with the prayer “amen, come Lord Jesus!” (22:19). Although Tabb connects Revelation’s view of Jesus to Daniel’s “son of man,” Jesus is also the faithful witness in the book of Revelation. Although Jesus is presented as the messianic ruler throughout the book, Revelation’s favorite and most distinctive Christological title is the slaughtered lamb (Rev 5).

The Holy Spirit is described as the “sevens for Spirit of God” and “the spirit of vision.” In each of the letters to the seven churches, the one “who has ears to hear” will listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. Tabb also connects the Holy Spirit to the resurrection of the dead, observing that Ezekiel 37:10 describes the “spirit of life” entering in order to return Israel to life.

Tabb offers two chapters grouped under the heading “Worship and Witness.” The first of these chapters examines the various titles Revelation gives to the people of God. This includes a priestly kingdom, lamp stands, the prophetic witness, conquerors, and a new Israel. He sees the 144,000 as representing the church and he argues the child of the woman in Revelation 12 refers to the church as a new Israel. For Tabb, “the apocalypse clarifies in dramatizes the churches true identity, present struggle in future hope” (110).  The nations also featured prominently in the book of Revelation. In some cases, every tribe and nation are singing praises to the beast and are drunk on Babylon’s wine (13:7-8; 18:3). In other cases, John sees the redeemed as a multitude from every tribe and nation (7:9-10).

In Revelation, true worship focuses on God and the Lamb who share the throne in heaven. Counterfeit worship praises the beast in his image. Tabb argues the first Christian readers of the Apocalypse faced tremendous social and economic pressure to participate in public displays of loyalty and gratitude to the Roman emperor (125). This connects well with the book of Daniel, in which the Jewish people faced pressure in Babylon to conform by eating food sacrificed to idols.

Tabb groups three chapters under the heading of “judgment, salvation and restoration.” In chapter 7 he focuses attention on the exodus as a pattern of judgment and salvation. He argues extensively that imagery in Revelation is drawn from the theophany at Mount Sinai in Exodus 19 (including prayers of the saints, thunder and other seismic activity). The plagues in exodus are the clear background to the seven seals, trumpets, and bowls. Tabb provide several charts paralleling this material. Salvation in Revelation is seen as a new exodus. For example, Revelation 15 refers to a “new song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the lamb.”

Chapter 8 Tabb contrasts Babylon the harlot in Jerusalem the bride. This is one of the most clear structural parallels in the book of Revelation, as illustrated by Tabb with several clear charts showing the parallel material. Since the prophets frequently used a marriage metaphor to describe Israel’s relationship with God, this chapter could have been improved by grounding both the whore of Babylon and the New Jerusalem as a bride in this important Old Testament imagery, as he did with the Exodus (ch. 7) and New Eden (ch. 9).

Chapter 9 of the book develops the image of the New Jerusalem as a new creation. The creation mandate will be fulfilled, in the end of the canon refers back to the beginning. The New Jerusalem is like a final holy of holies, but it is also like a new Eden. But it is more than that, this even is not just restored or regain, it is a transformed Eden. As Tabb observes, the original garden has been expanded and intensified.

The final chapter of the book examines the theme trustworthy testimony in final pages of the book of Revelation. Jesus is called faithful and true in Revelation 19:9, 11 and John’s testimony is faithful and true because he has reported what he has seen.

Conclusion. Tabb achieves is his goal of demonstrating Revelation uses the entire canon of Scripture and functions as a “canonical capstone.” The author of Revelation intentionally drew upon themes from the Old Testament in order to show that what God has planned for the future will sum up and fulfill what God had intended from the very beginning.

NB: 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 11:2-20 – Who are the Kings of the North and South?

Daniel 11 is begins with a general history of the end of the Persian Empire (11:3), the Rise of Alexander the Great (11:3-4) and the complicated maneuvering of the Greek Ptolemaic kings in Egypt  and Greek Seleucid kings in Syria. In this chapter, the Ptolemies and the kings of the south and the Seleucids are the kings of the north.

The history begins with three Persian kings, then a fourth who is far richer than the others (11:2). Assuming Daniel has the vision during the reign of Cyrus, thus the next three Persian kings would be Cambyses, Smerdis, and Hystapes, (Ahasuerus, Artaxerxes and Darius as they are known in the Bible). Xerxes (486-465) has been identified as the fourth king since the time of Jerome’s commentary.  Xerxes was perhaps the wealthiest of the kings of Persian, building the empire with the largest army of the era, 2.6 million men.  He invaded Greece, although was turned back in 480 B.C. The Persian Empire lasted another 150 years before Alexander conquered it, likely in response to the sacking of Athens.

The problem with the “three more, then a fourth” king is Persia had nine kings from Cyrus to Alexander. Some commentators therefore point to this lack of precision as a lack of knowledge of the Persian Empire by a second century author. He does manage to cover 200 years of Persian in a single verse! Another possibility is the vision covers Persian history in the same way it covered world history, in a series of four epochs.

The vision then briefly describes a mighty king, undoubtedly Alexander the Great (11:3-4). Alexander’s kingdom was divided between four generals known as the Diadochi: Ptolemy, Lysimachus, Seleucus, and Cassander. This four-fold division of Alexander’s kingdom is implied in Daniel 7:6 and 8:8.

Antiochus III the Great

Antiochus III the Great

The Kings of the North and South are the subject of the Daniel 11:5-20, culminating in the rise (11:9-16) and fall (11:17-19) of Antiochus III the Great. Antiochus III’s defeat will pave the way for Antiochus IV Epiphanes to take the control of the Seleucid dynasty. He will persecute the Jewish people and lead to the events of the Maccabean revolt.

As Daniel 11:5 implies, the Seleucid Dynasty did in fact get the major share of the Empire, by 281 B.C. Seleucus I Nicator (312-280) controlled territory from the Punjab (NW India) to the Hellespont (Asia Minor).  Seleucus was the Satrap of Babylon in 321 but was supplanted by Antigonus.  He lived in Egypt until Antigonus was defeated and he returned to Babylon in 312.  Seleucus lived like a great eastern king and was said to rival Alexander in his aristocratic behavior.

Ptolemy I Soter (323-285) controlled Egypt, first as a “satrap”, but took the title “king” in 305.  While this was a smaller territory, Egypt was incredibly wealthy.  Eventually this wealth, especially in the form of massive food stores, will attract the attention of Rome. The geography of these two “kings” leaves Palestine as a buffer zone, a key strategic point for both kingdoms.

Antiochus III the Great (241-187) was determined to drive the Ptolemies out of Syria.  He drove south to the city of Dura, recapturing all of the territory lost to the Ptolemies.  He also suppressed rebellions throughout Seleucid controlled territory (Daniel 11:9-10).

Ptolemy IV Philopater (221-203) was a weak and indecisive king and did not act to defend his territory until the Antiochus III was in Egypt (11:11-12).  When he did act, he was relentless. When the two armies met at Raphia in 217 Antiochus III had 62,000 men, 6000 cavalry and 102 elephants; Ptolemy had a nearly equal force of 70,000 men, 5000 cavalry, and 73 elephants (Polybius, Histories, 5.79). Antiochus lost 17,000 men in this battle and Ptolemy annexed Palestine. Ptolemy made peace with Antiochus III which turned out to be a mistake since Antiochus would recover and shift the balance of power in favor of the Seleucid dynasty.

Antiochus III recovered quickly from this defeat and began expanding his empire, campaigning in the east (11:13-16). By 202 B.C. he had built his army to the point that he was ready to attack Egypt. Ptolemy IV and his wife had died, possibly by poison, and left a 4-year-old heir, Ptolemy V Epiphanies (203-181). Antiochus III saw his chance, made an alliance with the King of Macedonia, and attacked Egypt. His army was larger and better prepared than before, and Egypt was struggling through an internal rebellion.

It is at this point in Daniel 11 the Judeans are first mentioned. The angelic guide says “many of your own” will join the king of the North. Indeed, many Jews joined the destruction of the Ptolemy V’s army. Antiochus offered to reduce taxes by a third and grant a tax exemption for three years in exchange for Judean assistance against Ptolemy (this was a false promise – Antiochus could not afford to reduce taxes).

These “violent men” respond to Antiochus in “fulfillment of a vision.” What vision is in mind here?  For many commentators, the vision is Daniel 11 itself. But the text may mean these men responded to a vision at the time that encouraged them to join with Antiochus III against Ptolemy.  The leader of the pro-Seleucid faction was Simon the Just, the high priest, and the rich and powerful Tobias family.  Was “Simon the Just” quite as lawless as Daniel makes him out to be?  This depends on which side of the political conflict you favor. In Sirach 50:1-4 he is listed among the righteous. This is may reflect a prejudice in the writer of Sirach, or as C. L. Seow suggests, a prejudice in the writer of Daniel (Daniel, 174).

Antiochus III now controlled all of Palestine, and placed the Jews under a harsh government, using the region as a staging ground to attack Egypt, stationing much of his army there. There is an increasing focus in the chapter on the land of Palestine in general and specifically Jerusalem.  In verse 16 the “Beautiful Land” refers to Judea and Jerusalem (cf. Ezekiel 20:6, Daniel 8:9)

Daniel 10 – Who is the Prince of Persia?

In Daniel 10:20 the angel says he was sent by God immediately when Daniel began to pray, twenty-one days earlier, but he was hindered by the “prince of Persia” and the “prince of Greece.”  Who is the “prince of Persia”?

For many interpreters, the prince of Persia is some kind of a national angel or territorial angel, in charge of the nation of Persia. In 12:1 Michael is the “prince” of God’s people, Israel. In 1 Enoch 20:1-8 for Michael as an archangel (cf., Jude 9).

The idea that nations had a particular angelic being ruling over it in the spiritual world may be behind the idea of local gods, or patron gods of the city-states. In 3 Enoch 35:12 identifies Samma’el as the “prince of Rome” and Dubbie’el as the Prince of Persia; both of these princes sit daily with Satan and write out the sins of Israel in order to deliver them to the seraphim.

3 Enoch 35:12 Why is their name called seraphim? Because they burn the tablets of Satan. Every day Satan sits with Sammaʾel, Prince of Rome, and with Dubbiʾel, Prince of Persia, and they write down the sins of Israel on tablets and give them to the seraphim to bring them before the Holy One, blessed be he, so that he should destroy Israel from the world.

In the Second Temple period the idea of an angelic “prince” developed into a mini-theology of angels. In Genesis 10 there are seventy nations and there were seventy sons of Abraham in Exodus 1:5. In addition, the Masoretic text of Deuteronomy 32:8 says God has fixed the borders of peoples “according to the number of the sons of God.” The Septuagint has “according to the angels of God” (κατὰ ἀριθμὸν ἀγγέλων θεοῦ). From these texts developed the idea there is a divine council with as many as seventy angels in charge of the nations. A Jewish writer would not think the gods of the nations were real, but they would not deny spiritual beings played a role in international politics. Although the text does not specifically mention angels, Sirach 17:17 says:

Sirach 17:17 (NRSV) He appointed a ruler for every nation, but Israel is the Lord’s own portion.

Does the Bible really claim there is a divine council or “regional angels” in charge of the nations? As appealing as this tradition is, it must be emphasized it is only a tradition developed on the Second Temple Period.

If the prince of Persia is not an angelic or demonic being, then the phrase refers to human political leaders. William Shea, for example, argued the princes in Daniel 10 refers to the kings of the Persians and Greeks. The prince of Persia is either Cyrus the Great or Cambyses, not a powerful angelic being. Without identifying specific Persian or Greek kings, but may be the case the cosmic battle between the prince of Persia, the prince of Greece, and the prince of Israel foreshadows the earthly conflict between the Persians, Greeks and the Judeans described in Daniel 11.

The significant elements in Daniel 10 is that the prince of Persia was able to hinder the messenger from God and that messenger was unable to overcome the prince of Persia for three weeks. Even then, he needed help from Michael, the Prince of Israel to overcome. At the very least, the prince of Persia is an enemy of God who (for some unexplained reason) wants to prevent Daniel from receiving the message from God.

 

Bibliography: David E. Stevens, “Daniel 10 and the Notion of Territorial Spirits” BSac 157 (2000): 410-431; William H. Shea, “Wrestling with the Prince of Persia: A Study on Daniel 10,” Andrews University Seminary Studies 21 (1983); David E. Stevens, “Does Deuteronomy 32:8 Refer to ‘Sons of God’ or ‘Sons of Israel’” BibSac 154 (1997): 131-41.; Michael S. Heiser, “Deuteronomy 32:8 and the ‘Sons of God,’” BibSac 158 (2001).  S. R. Driver, Daniel, 157 has a brief discussion of the “doctrine of tutelary angels.”