Scripture Focus: Daniel 8.12,25
12 Because of rebellion, the Lord’s people and the daily sacrifice were given over to it. It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground.
25 He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power.
Reflection: Being Anti-Antiochus
By John Tillman
Scholars are not in serious doubt about the identity of Daniel’s “fierce-looking king,” the “master of intrigue” who will cause great devastation. This prophecy refers to Antiochus IV, who called himself Antiochus Epiphanes.
Antiochus claimed to be the “image” of Zeus, the highest Greek god—Zeus in the flesh. Ephiphanes means “God Manifest.” A common joke of the day changed a letter of his name making it “Epimanes,” meaning “madman.” However, this didn’t stop the destruction he caused and surviving his rule typically meant playing along.
As a power grab, Antiochus sought to give one religion, his religion, favored status. “God Manifest” wanted his image to be reverenced above all others. So, rather than allow people to worship as they wished, he desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem and erected an image of himself on its altar. The rebellion of the Jews that followed, their eventual victory, the reconsecration of the Temple, and Antiochus’s death of a wasting illness are all depicted in 1 Maccabees and are the subject of the celebration of Hannukah.
These are the events that Daniel’s vision directly refer to but, like many prophecies, these images give us a pattern of warning for the future. Jesus knew about historical Antiochus, yet he used Daniel’s vision as warning for the future. (Matthew 24.15-16) Antiochus is the model Jesus chose to warn about “Anti-Christs” and false messiahs to come.
One might think it would be foolish for a modern ruler to claim to be “God Manifest.” But that depends on what “god” people want to see manifested. Antiochus “manifested” Zeus, a despot and a philandering adulterer, who had children by many different women. Have we not seen and heard modern leaders manifesting this “image?” Have we not seen people of faith bending the knee to them?
Perhaps few would dare to say, “I am the image of God on earth.” However, we have seen many leaders claim a metaphorical mantle of authority from God. Some leaders (like Esther) are chosen by God for such a time as this (Esther 4.14), but far more common are those twisting scripture and “throwing truth to the ground.”
We must take Jesus’ warning seriously. Antiochus-like leaders will come. We might not be able to stop them. But we mustn’t play along or follow them. May we be blessed with discernment and endurance for times of testing. We must be anti-Antiochus.
Music: “Hayo, Haya” Peter, Paul, and Mary
Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Our sins are stronger than we are, but you will blot them out. — Psalm 65.3– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.
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