Daniel's Final Vision - Part 1 (June 28, 2020, AM)
We now arrive at the main point and purpose of verses 21-35. It is without question and in many ways “at the appointed time” (v. 29), as the God of history orchestrates his plan for his people (v. 35). Antiochus once again launches a campaign against Egypt (the South), but this time things are different: “This time will not be like the first.”
Antiochus encountered opposition from the “Ships of Kittim” (Cyprus), a Roman fleet that had come to Alexandria at the request of the Ptolemies (11:30). The Roman commander Gaius Popilius Laenas met Antiochus and handed him a letter from the Roman Senate ordering him to either leave Egypt or deal with Rome. The Roman commander famously drew a circle in the sand around Antiochus and told him that he must give an answer before stepping out of the circle. Antiochus wisely withdrew from Egypt and headed back to Antioch humiliated (v. 30).
Antiochus’s embarrassment turned into anger, which he directed against the Jewish people (“the holy covenant”) once more. He sent Apollonius (2 Macc 5:23-26), the head of his mercenaries and the “chief collector of tribute” (1 Macc 1:29), to Jerusalem. Apollonius pretended to come in peace, but on the Sabbath Day he suddenly attacked the Jews, massacring many people and plundering the city (cf. 1 Macc 1:30-32; 2 Macc 5:25-26). But he rewarded those apostate Jews (“those who abandon the holy covenant,” Dan 11:30) like the high priest Menelaus, who supported his Hellenizing policies (cf. 1 Macc 1:30-32; 2 Macc 4:7-17) (Miller, Daniel, 301).
In 167 BC, the persecution of the Jewish religion reached a climax (1 Macc 1:41-50; 2 Macc 6:1-6). All Jewish religious practices such as circumcision, possessing the Scriptures, offering sacrifices, and observing feast days were forbidden on penalty of death (1 Macc 1:50,63), and the imperial cult was introduced. Desecration of the Jewish religion reached a crescendo on December 15, 167 BC (1 Macc 1:54) when an altar or idol-statue devoted to Zeus was erected in the temple. On December 25, sacrifices including swine (cf. 1 Macc 1:47; 2 Macc 6:4-5) were offered on the altar (cf. 1 Macc 1:54,59). The temple was desecrated, and “the abomination of desolation” became a historical reality (11:31).