How was Antiochus IV (Epiphanes) a threat to the Jews?

Author: BibleAsk Team

Antiochus IV (Epiphanes), the Hellenistic king of the Seleucid Empire, reigned from 175 to 164/163 B.C. He was a son of King Antiochus III the Great. Antiochus’ often odd and unpredictable behavior led some of his contemporaries to call him Epimanes “The Mad One.”

Antiochus’ Threat to the Jews

His policy of Hellenization caused a national crisis upon the Jews. History affirms that Antiochus tried to force the Jews to give up their faith, values and to accept in its place the faith, values, and language of the Greeks. This was the most prominent event in Jewish history during the entire intertestament period.

The calamities posed by Antiochus Epiphanes challenged the Jews with a threat comparable to the calamities caused by Pharaoh, Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar, Haman, and Titus. During his short-term rule of 12 years, Antiochus almost eliminated the religion and values of the Jews. He took away the temple treasures, robbed Jerusalem, left the city and its walls in wrecks, killed thousands of Jews, and took many as prisoners.

Antiochus outlawed Jewish religious ceremonies and rites and commanded the worship of Zeus as the supreme god (2 Maccabees 6:1–12). The Jews were forced to build pagan altars in every Judean city and to offer pig’s flesh upon them. This was anathema to the Jews. Also, he commanded them to hand in every manuscript of their Holy Scriptures to be shredded and burned.

The king himself offered pigs before a pagan idol set up in the Jewish Temple. And he commanded the Jews to stop their sacrifices (either in 168–165 or 167–164 B.C.). These decrees threatened the existence of the Jewish religion and their identity as a people. Rabbinical sources refer to him as “the wicked” one.

The Jews’ Rebellion and Freedom

Finally, the Jews rebelled against Antiochus and kicked his armies out of Judea. They even triumphed in preventing an army sent by him for the sole purpose of annihilating them as a nation.

When the Jews were liberated from his cruel hand, they reestablished the Temple, erected up a new altar, and offered sacrifices (1 Macc. 4:36–54). As for Antiochus, he had a horrible end. According to Jewish literature, “the all-seeing Lord, the God of Israel, struck him with an incurable and invisible blow”— 2 Maccabees 9:5-9,

Few years later, the Jews made an alliance with Rome (161 B.C.). During that period, they had approximately a century of relative independence and success, until Judea became a Roman ethnarchy in 63 B.C.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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