Antiochus Epiphanes – Who was he?

Antiochus IV, a king of the Seleucid Empire, took upon himself the title Epiphanes, meaning the "illustrious one" or "god manifest." He was known as Antiochus Epiphanes and reigned from around 175 BC until around 164 BC in what is now Syria.

He nearly conquered Egypt and was known for severe persecution of Jews. This oppression led to the Maccabean revolt. Jews nicknamed him Epimanes, meaning "mad one."

The Maccabean conflict began when some of the Jews, the Hellenists, integrated Greek culture and pagan practices into their communities. Others, the Traditionalists, continued to follow Mosaic Law and custom. When civil war between the two Jewish factions seemed imminent, Antiochus ordered all Jews to worship Zeus and made practicing Jewish rites and worshiping Yahweh illegal in an effort to extinguish Jewish culture.

The Jews rebelled. Antiochus attacked Jerusalem, stealing items from the temple and setting up an altar to Zeus. He went so far as to sacrifice a swine to Zeus, which caused a backlash from the Jews. Antiochus then had many Jews killed and others sold into slavery. He outlawed circumcision, making it a capital offense, and ordered Jews to sacrifice to pagan gods and eat pork.

Judas Maccabaeus led the rebellion from around 167—166 BC, winning battle after battle, including the defeat of Antiochus and restoration of the temple circa 165 BC.

Many see Antiochus as a foreshadowing of the prophesied Antichrist. Daniel 9:27, 11:31, and 12:11 tells of the temple being profaned and offerings stopped. Jesus referred to these prophesies as future events in Matthew 24:15–16, Mark 13:14, and Luke 21:20–21.

Antiochus was also part of a short negotiation with a Roman official which led to the saying "to draw a line in the sand." As he marched against Egypt circa 168 BC, a message was received from Rome to stop the attack. A man named Popillius delivered the message and when Antiochus requested time to confer with others, Popillius drew a circle around him in the sand and told him to make his decision before crossing out of it. If not, Popillius said, Rome would attack him. Antiochus chose then to stop the attack and withdraw.

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