Then a fourth kingdom as strong as iron shall arise, and inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and subdues everything, so also it shall break in pieces and subdue all things. (Dan. 2:40, OSB)
The Continuation of Bible Prophecy After the
Ministry of Malachi in the 4th Century B.C.
by Mark Mountjoy
The Rabbinic and Protestant notion of an inspirational drop-off at the Book of the Prophet Malachi four hundred years before Christ, is it true or is it an example of another myth? Is it true that for four centuries the God of Israel was silent; gave no signs and hid his saving hand from international, domestic and individual manifestations in this period of Jewish salvation history? Are we to believe and does any available evidence support the notion that during all that time there was no signs from heaven, no direct guidance to Jewish leaders and no prodigies suggesting God’s concern, love and care for the Jewish people?
In this short essay we want to invite you to look at direct evidence that the four hundred year silence claim is categorically false.
The Medeo-Persian Empire to
Be Succeeded by the Greeks
The notion of a gap and a cessation in God’s activities after the ministry of Malachi suffers its first blow when we examine and recognize the significance of the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2. There Daniel interpreted the king’s dream to represent four kingdoms beginning with the Neo-Babylonian kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar II. It was to be followed by three other kingdoms. But do those other three arise within the time-frame of Malachi’s lifetime? Nobody (not even the Rabbis) will affirm that the Persian Empire rose and fell by 450 B.C., nor will anyone (not even Protestants) allege that Alexander the Great, the Diadochi and the spread of world Hellenism happened before and by 450 B.C.
Let’s take a closer look at the specifics of Bible prophecy and how it contradicts the claims of this myth.
Alexander the Great Foretold
We have already noted that Daniel interpreted the Babylonian king’s dream as meaning that four kingdoms would rise and fall before the coming of the kingdom of God. In the Book of Daniel itself Babylon and the Medeo-Persian kingdoms had already debuted and the Prophet Daniel was a trusted official in both kingdoms (Daniel 5:29 cf. Daniel 6:3). But the Persian Empire did not end in 450 B.C. it would only meet its demise at the famous Battle of Granicus in May 334 B.C.
The Battle of Granicus, as history recognizes, Alexander the Great achieved the unlikely: He defeated the Persian Empire when it was seemingly at the height of its power and not in decline. But the prophecies of this turn of events are contained in Daniel 8:1-8.
The prophecy reads as follows:-
“In the third year of Belshazzar’s reign, a vision was revealed to me—to me, Daniel—after the one that appeared to me the first time. I was in Shushan, in the palace, in the province of Elam; and I saw in the vision that I was by the Ulai River. Then I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold, one ram stood before the Ulai, and it had horns.
The horns were high, but one was higher than the other; and the higher one came up last. I saw the ram pushing westward, northward, and southward, and no animal could withstand him or deliver from his power; but he did according to his will and he became great.
I was considering this, behold, a male goat came from the southwest, across the surface of all the earth, without touching the ground; and the goat had a notable horn between it eyes. Then he came to the ram that had the horns, which I saw standing before the Ulai, and he ran at him with furious power. I saw him running at the ram, and attacking him savagely.
He struck the ram and broke both its horns. Then there was no strength in the ram to withstand him, but he cast him to the ground and trampled him. There was no one that could deliver the ram from his power. So the male goat became exceedingly great, and when he became strong, his large horn was broken, and four horns came up under him toward the four winds of heaven” (Daniel 8:1-8 OSB).
This entire passage is remarkable! In it Daniel saw the rise of the Greeks in the military advance of Alexander the Great who, by the way, we are told by Josephus that he was shown this prophecy when his armies were in Jerusalem shortly after his successful Siege of Tyre in 332 B.C. (see The Antiquities of the Jews 11.8.5:336-337). But 332 B.C. is after 450 B.C. isn't it? It is!
Alexander the Great to be Succeeded by the Diadochi
Not only did the Prophet Daniel foresee the victory of Alexander the Great and the spread of imperial Greek power, but also he saw the political situation that quickly developed when Alexander suddenly died.
“And when [Alexander] became strong, his large horn was broken, and four horns came up under him toward the four winds of heaven. Then from one of them one strong horn came forth, strong and exceedingly great, toward the south and the east and toward the host . . .” (Daniel 8:8-9).
The prophecy does not end with the death of Alexander but continues unabated to the rise of Alexander’s four generals, who are known historically as the Diadochi. The Diadochi, represented as four horns, struggled and war over the vast territories Alexander the Great had acquired and, we must not forget, Judea, the land of the Jewish people lay perilously in the middle of all this action, violence, and chaos that unfolded in not one war, but four which had lasting negative and detrimental effects, as we shall see below.
King Antiochus IV Epiphanes
Temporarily Ruins the Second Temple
The continuation of the work of God in Bible prophecy, after 450 B.C., after the fall of the Persians to the power of the Greeks, and after the rise of the Diadochi to terrorize the post-Alexander the Great world led to further woes and crisis of no small magnitude in the person of king Antiochus Epiphanes IV. Succeeding his father, Antiochus III, began his reign in 175 B.C without any notable incidents.
Now, the general outline of his rule and the reasons he is important in the study of Bible prophecy is precisely because he came to policies of tyranny, genocide, and sacrilege due to his megalomania, avarice, and uncontrolled expansionist ambitions. These included taking Egypt away from his rival Greek colleagues, the Ptolemies; it included emptying out the run-down Zerubbabel Second Temple of all its wealth, riches and, valuables. To these horrifying developments, Daniel 8:9-14 foretell,
“Then from one of them, one strong horn came forth, strong and exceedingly great, toward the south and toward the east and toward the host” (Daniel 8:9).
Now, we know what was in the south: Ptolemaic Egypt. What was in the east? Parthia. But what was “the Host”? The Host was the Second Temple (called Zerubbabel’s) and, although we know very little about what it looked like, one thing is for sure: It was full of many riches and very valuable furniture and utensils. But more than that, it was of inestimable value due to it being the central hub of the Jewish world and the house of the God of Israel. It was built at the beginning of the Persian era under the auspices of Ezra, Nehemiah and Zerubbabel and, we are told, was nothing in beauty compared to Solomon’s Temple, which was destroyed by king Nebuchadnezzar and it came to replace (2 Ezra 3:11-13).
Coming back to the second century B.C. before Antiochus came to power, Judea, under Seleucus, the king of Asia, enjoyed prestige and presents and revenues of his own expenses for all the services and sacrifices. But things would not continue in this posture. For one Simon, a Jew from the tribe of Benjamin, who was a protector and custodian of the Temple went to Apollonius, the governor of Coelesyria and Phoenicia, and reported to him that there were untold wealth and riches in the Temple, so much so that the funds could not be counted! He argued that these funds did not belong to the account of the sacrifices, but they could fall under the authority of the king. It was after Simon betrayed this information to this Greek ruler that it became widely known that the Temple of God was, for all intents and purposes, a well-funded bank. Now, although God did step in and turn away Seleucus’ attempt at robbery through his adjutant Heliodorus, he would not intervene later on when Antiochus Epiphanes attempted the same thing, why not?
Because it was fomenting corruption mainly from within Jewry. Such internal processes were feeding into the decline of Judaism at this time in history. Persons like Simon and Jason and Menelaus and the party of the Tobiads worked feverishly to help ensure that the country was breaking apart and leaving behind, once and for all, its inheritance and its integrity.
And so, in 169 B.C. Antiochus, forced by financial debacles and obligations to pay taxes to the Romans made a desperate bid to the Second Temple of its vast treasures.
The account is in the second book of the Maccabee Kings and reads as follows:-
“At about this time, Antiochus made his second invasion of Egypt. 2 For about forty days, there were visions of soldiers on horses running through the air around the city. They wore gold garments and were armed with spears and 3 with drawn swords. They organized companies of cavalry, each attacking and counterattacking, wielding shields and spears and shooting arrows. Gold ornaments and armor gleamed brightly. 4 As a result, everyone hoped that the visions were a good sign. 5 When a false rumor spread that Antiochus had died, Jason took no fewer than a thousand soldiers and made an unexpected assault on the city. When the troops on the wall had been defeated, and the city had been seized at last, Menelaus fled into the elevated fortress. 6 Jason mercilessly slaughtered his own citizens. He failed to realize military success against one’s own people is the greatest misfortune but thought that he was winning trophies from his enemies and not from his fellow citizens. 7 But he didn’t gain the government; instead, he received shame as a result of his plot and again fled as a fugitive into Ammonite country. 8 Finally, he came to a miserable end. Brought up on charges before Aretas the Arab tyrant, he fled from city to city, chased by everyone. Hated as a traitor to the laws and loathed as the murderer of his native land and citizens, he was cast ashore in Egypt. 9 He, who had exiled many from their homeland, died in a foreign land after he sailed to the Spartans to seek protection because of their kinship. 10 So the one who had cast out a crowd of corpses to lie unburied died without mourning and received no funeral or place in his ancestral burial plot.
11 When the news of these events reached the king, he thought Judea was in revolt. So he broke camp and marched from Egypt while wild with emotion, and took the city by force. 12 He commanded his soldiers to cut down without mercy anyone they met and to slaughter those fleeing into their houses. 13 They killed young and old, murdered adolescents, women and children, and slaughtered virgins and infants. 14 Over a three-day period, eighty thousand people’s lives were ruined. Forty thousand were killed in hand-to-hand fighting, and no fewer than those slaughtered were sold as slaves. 15 Not content with these measures, he dared to enter into the holiest temple of all the earth, guided by Menelaus, who had become a traitor to the laws and to his native land. 16 Clutching the holy equipment with polluted and unclean hands, Antiochus made off with them and the things donated by other kings to increase the prestige, glory, and honor of the holy place. 17 Antiochus was really pleased with himself, not realizing the Lord had become angry for a short time because of the sins of those who lived in the city. For this reason, he had shut his eyes to the holy temple.”
It should be noted that this period was rife with activity, both strife and violence both in the heaven and on the ground. Armies of soldiers in their armor sailed through the skies of second century B.C. Judea. This lets us know that heaven was not asleep to what was happening. And what is more, an important turning point was coming up on the Jewish horizon: The Greek era, which had begun peacefully when Alexander the Great arrived in Jerusalem and met the priest there, was ending in tragedy, but it was almost over and the Jewish people were at the cusp of coming to an extraordinarily violent period which would make the end of the Greek epoch and the beginning of a new and hopeful heyday for the Jewish people possible.
Nevertheless, in the meantime, Antiochus himself was in an aggressive mood and took the country by storm, robbing the Temple, he ordered thousands put to death. We are told over eighty thousand Jews died in the chaos that followed.
But the powers of heaven were restive, too. The appearance of soldiers in their war apparel must be seen as more than trivial signals. And these, together with the grave and deadly hardships below presaged the rise of that famed family from the linage of Abraham and Israel, Isaac and Levi: The Hasmoneans. If nothing was to happen according to God’s own counsel and his own plans after 450 B.C., then what happens next is totally inexplicable.
The Rise of the Hasmoneans Foretold
Daniel chapter 8 and Daniel chapter 11 are two chapters in the Tanakh that foretold how Persian power would come and go (Daniel 8:6-7 cf. Daniel 11:1-4) and how Greek power would come and go (Daniel 8:7 cf. Daniel 11:3). Besides showing the entrance of Alexander and Greek influence and the downfall of the Second Temple through the atrocities, sacrilege, and abomination of desolation, Daniel 8:13-14 predicts that the tribulation would continue for two thousand three hundred days “then the sanctuary shall be cleansed.” This is important to note because we not only know who defiled the Temple (king Antiochus IV Epiphanes), we also know who cleansed the Temple: Judas the Maccabee (1 Maccabees 4:36-61; 2 Maccabees 10:1-9 ). But there is more!
The Hasmonean Victory Over the
Tobiads and the Seleucids Foretold
Daniel chapter 11 gives a long and winding overview of Seleucid, Ptolemaic, early Roman, and Jewish intrigues. The main point of the passage was the fraught interrelationship between the kings of the north and the kings of the south: the Seleucids and the Ptolemies, respectively. Daniel 11:14 speaks of “the troublemakers of your people” are the same as the “transgressors” of Daniel 11:30 and 32, all referring to the Tobiads who longed desperately to be free from the Law of Moses and all things Jewish and to be Greeks, in all good standing. These desires and the surrounding international conflicts in which even the Kitians (that is, the Romans) were involved (e.g., Daniel 11:30) and in which the Jewish state was right there in the middle, led up to powerful and inescapable forces for violent and explosive social change.
But Daniel 11:32 -33 shows that the victors from these chaotic forces at that confusing time would and could only be a monotheistic people (certainly NOT the Romans)! We read,
“Transgressors shall bring about a covenant by deceitful means, but the people who do know their God will be strong and do valiantly. Those of the people who understand shall understand much, yet they shall be weakened by sword and flame, and by captivity and days of plundering. When they are weak, they shall be aided with a little help; but many shall join them with intrigue. Some of those of understanding shall fall, to refine them as by fire and test them, so they may be revealed at the time of the end; because the matter is still for an appointed time.”
Now, who will say the appointed time for the revelation of the heroes of the gloriously successful Maccabean Revolt came before 450 B.C.?
The Decline and Fragmentation
of the Fourth Principality Foretold
Not only was the Jewish people’s seventy-year sojourn in Babylonian Captivity forewarned in the Bible, but also their restoration and elevation under the Persians was foreseen and fulfilled, and not only that, but also struggles to survive the forces of Hellenistic social and cultural assimilation, but worse, the fragmentation of their principality by forces quite beyond their personal or national control weighed in and became obvious and evident very quickly. This decaying state of the country can be seen in the prophecy of Daniel 2:41-43.
Now, Judea after the Maccabees began to wane and fail due to a bitter civil war between two sibling claimants to the single Jewish throne: King Judah Aristobulus and his brother John Hyrcanus II. The imbroglio required the intervention of the Romans and Gnaeus Pompey decided that the rule of the country should be given to the weaker and more pliable John Hyrcanus. Twenty-five years after that fateful decision was made, Mark Anthony elevated Herod the Great and imprisoned the very last legitimate Hasmonean: King Mattathias II Antigonus.
A short while later Anthony had Antigonus beheaded and Herod was now free to harness the rebellious province to make it subject to his own aggrandisement and caprices. Now, when Herod the Great became the so-called “king of the Jews” in fact (rather than just on paper) Judea became, more and more, a very adulterous country, superstitious, and transgressive sphere of reality. Herod himself married a Hasmonean princess, Marriamne the Hasmonean and Jews, more than ever before, began to marry non-Jews.
The country also fell victim to bifurcating and fragmenting forces—Judaean religious sensibilities were very different from Idumean, Greek, and Roman morals in almost all ways, but had to exist, in extreme tension, side by side. The remaining last days of the Second Temple state can properly be described as the “end of days”—the Last Days of New Testament fame and a discussion of what the Bible teaches about that subject is beyond the focus, scope, and concerns of this present essay.
Captions: Scripture screenshot from 1 Maccabees from Η Aγία Γραφή, ΜΑΚΚΑBAIΩN A., 1999. Athens, Greece
He goat and ram/ Source: thirdangelsmessage.com
The Diadochi four headed leopard prophesied by the Prophet Daniel in 553 B.C. in Daniel 7:6. Source: unbannedbiblepublications.com.