How Are the Prophet Daniel, Antiochus IV, and Hanukkah Related?

In the 6th century B.C., Daniel prophesied the four kingdoms of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome through Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2 and in his own visions and dreams in Daniel 7 and 8. Greece would be like a leopard with “four wings of a bird on its back.”[1] Alexander the Great ruled Greece between 336 and 323 B.C. In only a handful of years, he conquered thousands of miles of land and amassed a massive empire. Upon his passing, his four generals Cassander, Ptolemy, Antigonus, and Seleucus split up the kingdom. Antiochus IV (or Antiochus Epiphanes, “God manifest” or Antiochus Epimanes, “the Mad”) was a descendent of Seleucus.    

“As for the ram that you saw with the two horns, these are the kings of Media and Persia[2] [Darius the Mede and Cyrus.] And the goat is the king of Greece. And the great horn between his eyes is the first king [Alexander the Great] As for the horn that was broken, in place of which four others arose, four kingdoms shall arise from his nation, but not with his power. And at the latter end of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their limit, a king of bold face, one who understands riddles, shall arise. His power shall be great—but not by his own power; and he shall cause fearful destruction and shall succeed in what he does, and destroy mighty men and the people who are the saints. By his cunning he shall make deceit prosper under his hand, and in his own mind he shall become great. Without warning he shall destroy many. And he shall even rise up against the Prince of princes, and he shall be broken—but by no human hand.” (Daniel 8:20-25)

“Then the goat became exceedingly great, but when he was strong, the great horn was broken, and instead of it there came up four conspicuous horns toward the four winds of heaven. Out of one of them came a little horn, which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the glorious land. It grew great, even to the host of heaven. And some of the host and some of the stars it threw down to the ground and trampled on them. It became great, even as great as the Prince of the host. And the regular burnt offering was taken away from him, and the place of his sanctuary was overthrown. And a host will be given over to it together with the regular burnt offering because of transgression, and it will throw truth to the ground, and it will act and prosper. Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to the one who spoke, ‘For how long is the vision concerning the regular burnt offering, the transgression that makes desolate, and the giving over of the sanctuary and host to be trampled underfoot?’ And he said to me, ‘For 2,300 evenings and mornings. Then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state.’ (Daniel 8:8-14)

Antiochus Epiphanes reigned from 175 to 164 B.C., when he died. In 169 B.C., he plundered the 2nd Temple and in 167 B.C., he desecrated it by building an altar to Zeus and demanding worship of him.[3] He also outlawed performing male circumcisions, observing the Sabbath, and being in possession of the Scriptures. To enforce his laws, Josephus (in Antiquities of the Jews) said that he whipped, strangled, beat, and crucified his victims.

“And from the time that the regular burnt offering is taken away and the abomination that makes desolate is set up, there shall be 1,290 days.” (Daniel 12:11)

The 2nd book of Maccabees (9) detailed Antiochus Epiphanes’ fate. The Jewish people, led by Judas Maccabeus (or  “hammer”), revolted around 167 B.C.[4] and Antiochus IV was eventually stopped. They had forced him to flee, which bruised his outsized ego, so he decided to get them back by returning to Jerusalem and turning it into a mass grave. He set out on a chariot when God struck him hard with an invisible blow, which resulted in unbearable stomach pain. Now his fiery rage and arrogance fueled him as he raced again to Jerusalem only to be thrown to the ground by God once again. He writhed in pain as his flesh started to rot and stink, which continued to his death.   

Today, the 8-day-long celebration of Hanukkah is in remembrance of this Maccabean victory. Hanukkah is also known as the Feast of the Dedication because the Maccabees re-dedicated the 2nd Temple to God. When they did so, God caused a flame to burn on the Menorah for 8 days on one day’s worth of olive oil, which was a miraculous feat. As reported in John 10:22-23, Jesus celebrated Hanukkah, which today is also known as the Festival of Lights. We should too. Happy Hanukkah!

[1] Daniel 7:6

[2] Through the ram with two horns, Daniel’s view of dual reign between the Medes and Persians is clear. This view is further underscored by the writing on the wall with King Belshazzar in Daniel 5:26-28. Daniel translated the words on the wall: “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin.” Upharsin is the plural of Peres. Belshazzar had been weighed in the balances and found wanting and his kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians. Some have posited four kingdoms of Babylon, Media, Persia, and Greece, but we have no evidence to suggest Media had conquered Babylon separate from the Persians. 

[3] Duignan, B., Rodriguez, E., Sampaolo, M., and Sheetz, K. (2020).  Temple of Jerusalem. Encyclopedia Britannica, September 17.

[4] Note that scholars have debated the dating of the Maccabean revolt, which was either between 168 and 165 or 167 and 164 B.C.  L.L. Grabbe (1991). Maccabean Chronology. Journal of Biblical Literature, 110(1), 59-74.

4 Replies to “How Are the Prophet Daniel, Antiochus IV, and Hanukkah Related?”

  1. I like to point out that had there been no Hanukkah, there’d be no Christmas. Nice job btw. Also very very interesting that Hanukkah takes place on Kislev the 25th. There’s an argument I can make based on Jewish sources that Kislev the 25th is when the Messiah was to be revealed/born. I realize the arguments against this time of year, but Kislev does roughly correspond to DEC 25, and if you take into account that all the first Christians were Jews following the Jewish calendar..well it gets interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

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