29 “At the appointed time he will return and he will come into the south, but it will not be ⌊as it was before⌋. 30 And the ships of Kittim will come against him, and he will lose heart, and he will turn back, and he will be enraged ⌊against the holy covenant⌋, and he will take action, and he will turn back, and he will pay attention to those who forsake ⌊the holy covenant⌋. 31 And military forces from him ⌊will occupy⌋ and will profane the ⌊sanctuary stronghold⌋, and they will abolish the regular burnt offering, and they will set up the abomination that causes desolation.
32 “And those who violate the covenant he will seduce with flattery, but the persons who know their God will stand firm and will take action. 33 And those who have insight ⌊will instruct⌋ the many, but they will fall by sword and by flame, by captivity and by plunder ⌊for some time⌋. 34 And ⌊when they fall⌋ they will receive little help, and many will join with them in hypocrisy. 35 And even some of those ⌊who have insight⌋ will fall in order for them to be refined by it, and to be purified and cleansed until the time of the end, for the appointed time is still to come.
Harris, W. H., III, Ritzema, E., Brannan, R., Mangum, D., Dunham, J., Reimer, J. A., & Wierenga, M. (Eds.). (2012). The Lexham English Bible (Da 11:29–35). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
33–35 The final passage of the section alludes to the persecution of the Jews by Antiochus IV in the aftermath of his failed second Egyptian campaign (vv. 33–35). As Baldwin, 195, iterates, these verses highlight the polarization between those who are seduced by “flattery” (v. 32a) and those “who know their God” (v. 32b), since “persecution eliminates the waverers.” The expression “those who are wise” (v. 33a) refers to those Jews who remain faithful to Yahweh’s covenant despite the atrocities committed against them by their Seleucid oppressors (i.e., those with “spiritual discernment,” according to Miller, 302). These “wise” (Heb. maśkîlîm) Jews will also teach or instruct (Heb. byn) many others during the time of the Seleucid persecution (v. 33a).
Goldingay, 303, describes the wise or discerning Jews as the “conservative leaders who possess the wisdom which consists in awed submission to Yahweh, that understanding which has reflected deeply on his ways in history, and that insight which perceives how his cause will ultimately triumph.” Presumably, this comprised the instruction the wise shared with others, along with their modeling of obedience to the stipulations of the Mosaic law. The fact that some “will fall” (v. 33b) indicates the Jews faithful to Yahweh’s covenant risk capture, torture, and even martyrdom, whether death by the sword or by burning (v. 33c; cf. Heb 11:34–35).
The revealing angel goes on to indicate that those who fall “will receive a little help” (v. 34a). Seow, 181, comments that two responses to the persecution of Antiochus were available to the Jews: a more passive resistance, as reflected in the example of the “wise”; and an active resistance, exemplified among the “zealous” or “devout Jews” (Heb. ḥasîdîm) described in 1 Maccabees 2:42. The enigmatic allusion “help” may refer to the Maccabean freedom fighters, who rose up actively to resist the forced Hellenism of Seleucid rule by means of guerilla warfare (e.g., Baldwin, 196–97; cf. 1 Macc 3). The rest of the verse (“many will join them in hypocrisy,” NASB; v. 34b) may allude to the harsh actions the Maccabees took against those Jews who complied with the edict of Antiochus, thus leading “some to join them out of fear rather than out of principle” (Lucas, 287; cf. 1 Macc 2:44–47; 3:5–8).
The Antiochene persecution leading to the capture, imprisonment, and even martyrdom of some of the “wise” Jews has the effect of refining and purifying them—making them “spotless” (v. 35a). Their suffering is not viewed as divine judgment in punishment for sin, but rather as “a means of testing and purifying their commitment” (Lucas, 287). Hartman and Di Lella, 300–301, understand the suffering in a communal sense as the purification of the Israelite nation and the vindication of the worship of Yahweh. It seems more likely that Collins (Daniel, 386) is correct to view the test of suffering in more individualistic terms as “purification [that] bespeaks an interest in individual salvation as distinct from (though not opposed to) the deliverance of the nation.”
No doubt the Antiochene persecution also had the effect of further purging the faithful Jews by winnowing out the insincere (so Goldingay, 303). Yet “the death of the martyrs is not vicarious. They are the ones who are purified,” and they have their primary effect on the community by their instruction (Collins, Daniel, 386). For the third time in this section (v. 35c; cf. vv. 24–27), the revealing angel indicates that the period of suffering the Jews must endure as a result of the persecution of Antiochus is an interim one. There is an “appointed time” for its end (v. 35c)—yet another reminder of God’s sovereign control of human history and Israel’s destiny (see comment on v. 27d).
11:29–35 / At the appointed time (11:29), Antiochus conducted a second campaign in Egypt (ca. 168 b.c.). What led up to this was a surprising turn of events. Ptolemy Philometor had a brother, Ptolemy Physcon (later called Euergetes), who earlier had been a rival for the throne. However, the two brothers now united to form a league in opposition to Antiochus Epiphanes, which so angered the Seleucid king that he decided to invade the South again (11:29). However, this time the outcome was different from what it was before (11:29). The reason for Epiphanes’s failure was the intervention of Rome. The text mentions “ships of Kittim” (niv ships of the western coastlands; see the Additional Note on 11:30) that will oppose him, and he will lose heart (11:30). This refers to the Roman legate Gaius Popilius Laenas, who came by sea with a contingent from Rome and forced a reluctant Epiphanes to withdraw his army. (For more details, see “Historical Background” in the Introduction.) This experience was not merely a defeat but a major humiliation in front of the Egyptians, the Romans, and his own army. As a result, he was already enraged when he entered the land of Israel.
Unfortunately for the Jews, events there only increased his wrath. Apparently a rumor reached Jerusalem that Antiochus had been not only defeated but killed. Jason, who had been deposed as high priest earlier by Antiochus, sought to take advantage of this situation by assembling an armed force to reinstate him in the office. Menelaus, the high priest whom Antiochus had appointed to replace Jason, hid in the citadel. Antiochus, thinking there was an open revolt against him, responded violently (2 Macc. 5:5–11): he vented his fury against the holy covenant by persecuting the devout Jews, and he showed favor to those Jews who forsook the holy covenant (11:30) and who embraced Hellenistic culture and religion.
Antiochus’s armed forces arose to desecrate the temple fortress (11:31). They forced Jason to flee and reestablished Menelaus as high priest. They abolished the daily sacrifice (11:31; see also 8:11). The king sent out letters “to forbid burnt offerings and sacrifices and drink offerings in the sanctuary, to profane sabbaths and festivals, to defile the sanctuary and the priests, to build altars and sacred precincts and shrines for idols, to sacrifice swine and other unclean animals, and to leave their sons uncircumcised. They were to make themselves abominable by everything unclean and profane” (1 Macc. 1:45–48 nrsv). Moreover, the royal officers dedicated the Jerusalem temple to Olympian Zeus (2 Macc. 6:2) and set up the abomination that causes desolation (11:31; see also Dan. 8:13; 9:27; 12:11; Matt. 24:15; Mark 13:14). This seems to have been a pagan altar installed on top of Yahweh’s altar of burnt offering (1 Macc. 1:54, 59). On it were sacrificed “abominable offerings” (2 Macc. 6:5 nrsv), thought to be swine, which were ritually unclean animals according to Jewish law.
With flattery Antiochus corrupted those who had violated the covenant (11:32). An example of the influence the Syrians tried to exert can be seen when the king’s officers came to the village of Modein. There they attempted to entice Mattathias and his sons to participate in a pagan sacrifice. They said to Mattathias: “You are a leader, honored and great in this town, and supported by sons and brothers. Now be the first to come and do what the king commands, as all the Gentiles and the people of Judah and those that are left in Jerusalem have done. Then you and your sons will be numbered among the Friends of the king, and you and your sons will be honored with silver and gold and many gifts” (1 Macc. 2:17b–18 nrsv). In this case it was unsuccessful, though, because Mattathias confessed that he and his family would “continue to live by the covenant of our ancestors” (1 Macc. 2:20 nrsv). When a Jew stepped forward to participate in the sacrifice, Mattathias killed him as well as the officer and tore down the altar (1 Macc. 2:23–26). Thus began the Maccabean revolt. Elsewhere there were apostate Jews who were all too happy to abandon their religion in order to please the king: “Many of the people, everyone who forsook the law, joined them, and they did evil in the land” (1 Macc. 1:52 nrsv). However, others remained faithful: the people who knew their God were resolute in their actions (Dan. 11:32), refusing to eat pork or meat sacrificed to pagan gods: “But many in Israel stood firm and were resolved in their hearts not to eat unclean food. They chose to die rather than to be defiled by food or to profane the holy covenant; and they did die” (1 Macc. 1:62–63 nrsv).
“The wise ones” (Heb. maskilim; here in 11:33, 35 and also in 12:3, 10) among the Jews are highlighted for special treatment: those who are wise will instruct many [rabbim] (11:33). While some commentators (e.g., Hartman and Di Lella, Daniel, p. 299) identify “the wise ones” with the Hasideans or Hasidim (Heb. khasidim “pious ones”), who are mentioned in the books of Maccabees (1 Macc. 2:42–44; 7:13; 2 Macc. 14:6), it is an unlikely connection. Whereas the Hasideans were soldiers in Judas Maccabeus’s army, the apocalyptist who wrote Daniel apparently was not. He is not looking for deliverance to come from below, by human means. On the contrary, he is looking for the kingdom of God to come from above, brought from heaven to earth by a supernatural act of God, as portrayed in Daniel 7 (Collins, Daniel, p. 385). The author of Daniel identifies with this group known as “the wise ones” and considers himself a member. They are the ones who understand the revelations concerning the end times and the coming kingdom of God. These will bear the responsibility for teaching “the many,” that is, the masses of untutored ones. It is possible that this is an allusion to the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 40–55, because of the use of “wise” and “many.” Yahweh’s servant “will act wisely” (yaskil; Isa. 52:13) and “will justify many” (rabbim; Isa. 53:11; cf. Dan. 12:3; see Ginsberg, “Oldest Interpretation of the Suffering Servant,” pp. 400–404). He will do this through vicarious suffering. Likewise, here in Daniel the wise ones will suffer intense persecution: they will fall by the sword or be burned or captured or plundered (11:33).
When the wise ones fall, they will receive a little help (11:34). The help is usually associated with the Maccabean revolt. The apocalyptist does not expect ultimate deliverance to come from that quarter, but he acknowledges the Maccabees’ attempts to drive out the Syrian Greeks during the time of persecution. If this interpretation is correct, then this verse (and perhaps the whole book, except for the epilogue, Dan. 12:5–13) can be dated to the interval between 167 and 164 b.c. It must be after the beginning of the persecution and the revolt, because these are alluded to, but before the final victory in 164, when it would be apparent that the armed struggle was more than “a little help.”
Not all who follow the teachings of the wise ones, the ones who truly understand the revelations about the future, are trustworthy. Daniel warns that many who are not sincere will join them (11:34). This might refer to the Hasideans (Collins, Daniel, p. 386). They agreed with the wise ones about being faithful to Jewish practice but disagreed about how Antiochus Epiphanes would be overthrown. The wise ones believed God would do it directly, while the Hasideans believed they should go on the offensive. Some of the Hasideans may have formed alliances with the wise ones without being forthright about their differences. Another possibility is that the insincere ones were the apostate Jews. Before the Maccabean revolt, they were protected by the king’s army. After the revolt began, they were attacked by the pious Jews (1 Macc. 1:44; 3:5–8), which might have forced some to join the resistance, although they did not not join earnestly, but only because they were coerced (Goldingay, Daniel, p. 303).
Some of the wise will stumble, that is, be martyred, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end (11:35). This may hint at a concern for “individual salvation” (Collins, Daniel, p. 386), or it may express hope for the resurrection (12:1–3; see Lacocque, Daniel, pp. 230–31). It can also be read in such a way that “they” refers to the survivors, not the martyrs. In that case it means that although some will be killed, their deaths will have the effect of purifying the rest of the faithful community. “To refine” and “to purify” are drawn from the metal-production industry. Metals would be heated in the fire to burn off impurities. The term translated “made spotless” in the niv comes from clothing production and actually means “made white.” The same three verbs are repeated in the next chapter: “Many will be purified, made spotless and refined” (Dan. 12:10; see also Rev. 3:18). It is important to recognize the theme of threats to the Jews as a unifying link between the court stories in the first half of the book and the visions in the second half. Daniel and his friends could have been forced to transgress the Jewish dietary laws or to face punishment if they had failed their health test (Dan. 1:8–15). Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were cast into the fiery furnace for refusing to bow down before the image (Dan. 3), and Daniel was thrown to the lions for praying to his God when it was forbidden (Dan. 6). So it is that persecution of the Jews is expressed or implied also in chapters 7–12 (Dan. 7:21, 25; 8:10–13; 9:26–27) and especially here in chapter 11, where martyrdom is explicit.
The end will come when God determines it, at his appointed time (11:35; see also Dan. 8:17, 19; 10:14; 11:27, 40, 45; Hab. 2:3). This was a word of comfort, because the persecution could not continue any longer than God permitted (Hartman and Di Lella, Daniel, p. 301). Included in the end would be the death of Antiochus Epiphanes (11:40–45). This notion of an appointed end is mirrored in the nt in the teaching of Jesus that the Father has determined a time for the return of Christ, which no one knows—not the angels and not even the Son (Matt. 24:36). For those who are troubled about the doctrine of predestination, the Bible does not teach that humans are automata or puppets on strings. God has not predetermined every move we make, so we really do have freedom when it comes to individual decisions, whether trivial (e.g., deciding which shirt to wear in the morning) or significant (e.g., choosing whether to follow God or the world). Nevertheless, he is the sovereign Lord of history who directs its course and will bring all things to fulfillment in his time.
11:32b–35 the people who know their God will firmly resist him. Amid Antiochus’s corrupting persecution, “wise” and faithful servants of Yahweh appeared, who honored God’s covenant and instructed others to do the same (cf. 12:3). Many chose death or enslavement over surrendering their faith and practice (1 Macc. 1–2; 2 Macc. 6; see also the comments on 7:25–26 and 8:9–14). The “little help” they receive alludes to the Maccabean Revolts, which were sparked by Jerusalem’s persecution (167 BC). The violent methods of the priest Mattathias and his sons (notably, Judas Maccabeus) led many Jewish zealots who were “not sincere” in their beliefs to join the rebellion. The purpose of the sufferings of the “wise” is spiritual purification. Moreover, these hardships last only “for a time,” that is, until “the time of the end,” which comes “at the appointed time.” These phrases intentionally allude to the approximately three and a half years of Jewish persecution presented throughout Daniel (7:25; 8:13–14; 9:26–27; 12:7, 11–12).
Rather than abandon their faith and religious practice to obey the commands of Antiochus IV, many Jews chose torture and death. This illumination from a manuscript (Royal 15 D I) of the second edition of the Bible Historiale by Guyart des Moulins (ca. 1291–95) shows persecutions by Antiochus IV Epiphanes like those recorded in 2 Maccabees 7.
11:33–35. The Maccabees would experience suffering in their battle with Antiochus—some would die by sword and by flame, while others would experience captivity and plunder (cf. Heb 11:35–38). The phrase the end time literally reads “time of the end” and refers to the end of Antiochus’s oppression of the Jewish people, not to the end of days. At that time, the Maccabees would defeat Antiochus, rededicate the holy temple in Jerusalem, and establish the festival of Chanukah (Dedication), which the Lord Jesus celebrated (Jn 10:22) and Jewish people still observe today.
11:33–35. The Jews who refused to submit to Antiochus’ false religious system were persecuted and martyred for their faith. The word fall (vv. 33–34), literally “stumble” (kāšal), refers to severe suffering on the part of many and death for others. This has in view the rise of the Maccabean revolt. Mattathias, a priest, was the father of five sons. (One of them, Judas, became well known for refurbishing and restoring the temple in late 164 b.c. He was called Judas Maccabeus, “the Hammerer.”) In 166, Mattathias refused to submit to this false religious system. He and his sons fled from Jerusalem to the mountains and began the Maccabean revolt. At first only a few Jews joined them. But as their movement became popular, many joined them, some out of sincere motives and some from false motives. The suffering that the faithful endured served to refine and purify them. This time of persecution was of short duration. It had previously been revealed to Daniel that the temple would be desecrated for 1,150 days (8:14; see comments on 8:23–25). Here Daniel was assured that this persecution would run its course and then be lifted, for its end will still come at the appointed time.
11:33–35 the wise among the people shall make many understand. This likely refers to those who truly fear God and who will encourage others to fight and even die rather than perform abominations before God. This refers primarily to the Maccabean Revolt. In that process many (tens of thousands) would die. In this time of persecution, the nation will receive a little help, which probably refers to the small forces that initially rebelled against the Syrians in Modein, 17 miles (27 km) northwest of Jerusalem, led by Mattathias and later his third son Judas Maccabeus (1 Macc. 2–4). The rest of Dan. 11:34 probably has in view the many who would join themselves to the Maccabean rebellion out of necessity to save their lives, though it may more specifically refer to the Hasidim who joined with the Maccabeans and killed those who were sympathetic to the Seleucids (cf. 1 Macc. 2:42–48). Some of the wise shall stumble likely describes true believers who would die in this persecution; through this persecution they would be refined, purified, and made white. Similarly, church history has shown that the Christian church has flourished under times of intense persecution, which may be what Dan. 11:35b is referring to (until the time of the end). But at least it refers to the end of Antiochus IV’s persecution, which ended with his death in 164 b.c. while he was on a campaign in Persia.
11:35 The refining process looks forward to God’s refining of the church (Rom. 5:3–5; Heb. 12:3–11; 1 Pet. 1:6–7).
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