God gave the prophet Daniel supernatural visions in the sixth century B.C.E. One vision left him exhausted and sick, too weak to stand. He saw a vision of a mighty goat with a prominent horn charging from the west. His horn broke off and four small horns grew in its place. One of the horns grew toward the Beautiful Land, took away the daily sacrifice, and trampled on the Jews (Daniel 8:5-12). Daniel foresaw actual events that transpired between 336 and 165 B.C.E.
The goat was Alexander the Great of Macedonia, in the Greek islands. The large horn represented his sole drive to conquer the civilized world. His forces masterfully seized the reins of world power from Persia. The Persian Empire, from Egypt to India, became the Greek Empire in 336 B.C.E. It remained Greek until the time of the Romans, just decades before Yeshua was born! Alexander became “King of the World.” He ushered in Greek culture and the Hellenistic Age. This culture was directly opposed to the Hebrew culture in the Bible.
Alexander died at the age of 33, with no adult heir. His four generals became the four horns in Daniel’s vision. They divided his vast empire into four kingdoms. The Syrian and Egyptian kingdoms became the King of the North and King of the South in Daniel 11. Little Israel got caught in the middle between these two kingdoms. Two centuries later, the King of the North became a type of antichrist or anti-Messiah who plundered Israel, ended daily offerings, sacrificed a pig on the altar, desecrated the Holy of Holies, and dedicated the Temple to Zeus. He set up the “abomination that caused desolation” described in Daniel 11:31.
The tyrant who persecuted Israel was Antiochus Theos Epiphanes. He came to power in 175 B.C.E. His name meant “image of the invisible god,” and he wanted to be worshiped. The Jews called him Epimanes or “madman.” Antiochus stole the throne by trickery, fulfilling Daniel 11:21-24. He oppressively enforced the Greek culture of Alexander the Great. Israelites were taught to love God first in Exodus 20:2-3. Antiochus introduced them to a new first love: a love of sports, beauty, art, and philosophy. Antiochus brought Greek athletics to Israel, erecting a gymnasium in Jerusalem for Olympic-style games. Many Jews began to speak the Greek language, adopt Greek customs, and wear unisexual Greek clothing. Jewish athletes, anxious to be accepted, endured surgical mutilation to appear uncircumcised. They wanted to look like the Greek athletes who competed in the nude. Greeks saw beauty in the human body and, for them, beauty was holiness. It was a foreign idea to the Jews who thought that holiness and right living before God was true beauty. The Hebrew culture itself was at war with Greek culture:
|Hebrew Culture||Greek Culture|
Salvation lived out every day.
Make our world a better place.
God does not change.
Worship includes service.
Gender roles come from Genesis.
Raise children according to the Bible.
Holiness is beauty.
Salvation comes from knowledge.
Only the spiritual world is good.
The gods change constantly.
Worship is not service.
Gender roles are blended.
It takes a village to raise a child.
Beauty is holiness.
When Antiochus’ political and military strategies against Egypt failed in 168 B.C.E., he punished Israel. He invaded Jerusalem on a Sabbath day for a campaign of terrorism. He outlawed the Law of Moses and a biblical lifestyle. He tried to erase the memory of God’s covenants (1 Maccabees 1:48-49).
Antiochus put to death anyone who worshiped God, or studied Torah. He brutally punished circumcision, Sabbath-keeping, and eating kosher. He hung freshly circumcised baby boys around their own mothers’ necks. Here, their little bodies rotted as a warning to others. In some cases, soldiers pushed mothers of circumcised boys off city walls to their deaths below. Antiochus tortured to death any Jew who would not sacrifice to Greek gods, or bow to Zeus in the Temple courtyard. He sprinkled the blood of a sacrificed pig in the Holy of Holies and on sacred Torah scrolls. He killed anyone who would not eat pork.
Antiochus martyred 100,000 righteous Jews. The godly Eleazar, a 90-year-old scribe, was the first to die. Soldiers forced his mouth open and shoved pork inside. He spit it out and said that he would not disgrace his old age with food forbidden in the Bible. He died willingly to set a good example. As they beat him to death, he cried out, “In my soul I am glad to suffer these things because I fear Him” (2 Maccabees 6:30). Antiochus killed a mother and her seven sons who all refused to eat pork. Soldiers scalped the first son, cut out his tongue, and cut off his hands and feet. While he was still breathing, they fried him in hot oil in a pan. They tortured all of the brothers by dismembering and boiling them, and finally killed the mother. Although she saw her seven sons perish in one day, her faith in God remained strong (2 Maccabees 7:20).
This was the man who sold original furniture and vessels from Solomon’s Temple (1 Kings 7:48-50). Although Nebuchadnezzar had plundered the Temple in the sixth century B.C.E., the Persian King Cyrus returned everything that Nebuchadnezzar had carried away (Josephits, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 11, Chapter 4, Section 4). When the Jews returned from exile in 536 B.C.E., they brought back the gold and silver vessels and furniture, the Lampstands, Altar of Incense, and Table of Showbread. These priceless artifacts were back in Jerusalem. Antiochus sold them for scrap gold to pay the salaries of his troops!
In Modi’in, one of Antiochus’ officers ordered Mattathias to sacrifice a pig to Zeus on a newly-erected altar. The wealthy priest Mattathias, refused. Another Jewish priest, who had embraced a Greek lifestyle, offered to do it. Mattathias was furious. He grabbed the officer’s sword, killing him and the corrupt priest. He tore down the altar, and cried out, “Let everyone who is zealous for Torah and supports the covenant, come with me!” (1 Maccabees 2:27) With five sons and a few brave men, he led the revolt to end religious persecution under Antiochus Epiphanes. On his deathbed, he said, “Now my children, show zeal for the law, and give your lives for the covenant” (1 Maccabees 2:50). After Mattathias died, his son Judah took command. Maccabee means “hammer.” For three years, the fighters hammered away at Antiochus’ soldiers and Jewish traitors. In 165 B.C.E., 10,000 Maccabees faced 60,000 enemy soldiers. God gave them victory in two battles between Jerusalem and Hebron. The enemy retreated, and the Maccabees reclaimed Jerusalem.
Priests cleansed the Temple, built a new altar and furniture, and hung new curtains before the Holy of Holies. Kislev 25, the day Israel rededicated the Temple, was the same day of the year Antiochus had defiled it with a pig three years earlier. They offered a sacrifice on a new stone altar while Levites played instruments and sang the Hallel, Psalms 113 to 118. Everyone fell facedown to worship. Israel decided to celebrate the rededication for eight days because the nation had missed the eight-day celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles (2 Maccabees 10:6-9). It was the birth of a new feast, the Feast of Dedication.
Rabbis say that a one-day supply of olive oil miraculously burned for eight days in the Lampstand, enough time to press olives and refine new oil (Gemara, Shabbat 21B). Some say the pitcher for filling the Lampstand miraculously refilled for eight days, like the widow’s jar that refilled in the days of Elijah (1 Kings 17:16). The earliest historical records do not mention this legend. Archaeologists say that Israel could have rededicated the Temple two months earlier, on the anniversary of earlier Temple dedications in the days of Solomon and Ezra (1 Kings 8:2 and Ezra 3:1-3).
The First Temple had ten golden Lampstands. The Second Temple had one. Priests made the new Lampstand from lead. With sufficient wealth, they built a Silver Lampstand and finally a Golden Lampstand, following Moses’ design.