Antiochus Epiphanes IV
Is He the Main character of Daniel's Prophecies?

Historical Background

Antiochus Ephiphanes IV was a king in the Seleucid Dynasty so let's begin with the history of the Seleucid kingdom and the relationship of Palestine to this kingdom.

We know that the Israelites as a nation were restored to Palestine under the decrees from the Persian empire. In Daniel 8 the He-Goat represented Grecia, with its horn representing it's first king Alexander the Great. Alexander, son of King Philip of Macedonia, united most of the Greeks, defeated the Persian armies, conquered much territory and just as he was settling into establishing a vast empire, died at the age of 32 (323 BC). Thus the horn was broken and four notable ones stood up in their place. Verses 22 & 8 "As to the broken horn- (after Alexanders death) four notable ones arose in its place (Alexander's kingdom was divided into four parts) thus the four notable ones represent four kingdoms which will arise from his kingdom, although not with his power.
These four "notable ones" represent more than the four men, they represent the resulting four kingdoms of Alexander's empire.

1. The Seleucids (covered ancient Babylon)
2. The Ptolemaics (covered ancient Egypt)
3. The Cassanders (covered Greece)
4. The Lysimachus (Syria and Asia Minor)

This transfer of power was not automatic, nor were there only four contenders, there was a struggle.
Seleucus I Nicator, a Macedonian companion of Alexander the Great and an office in his army, engaged in the struggle for control after Alexander's death.

Things didn't go to well for Seleucus I in the beginning and he fled to Ptolemy, who was in control of Egypt for protection. With Ptolemy they defeated Demetrius, and Seleucus once again turned to controlling the northern Grecian Empire. It was a long story, but in the end Seleucid managed to establish the Seleucid Empire, which gained its greatest expansion under his rule. He pushed Lysimachus out and ended up being the "king of the north". He wanted Palestine as well, but Jerusalem was, at that time under the control of Egyptian ruler, Ptolemy I Soter.

The Map below shows the extensive Selucid kingdom which Seleucus I Nicator (312-281) established.

Palestine was ruled by the Ptolemies for almost a century. The Egyptians seemed not to interfer too much with the Jewish internal affairs, where a priestly aristocracy was the main governing body. Let us now list the kings

The Ptolemies

The Seleucids

323-285/3...Ptolemy I Soter
285/3-246...Ptolemy II Philadelphus

246-221.....Ptolemy III Euergetes

221-204.....Ptolemy IV Philiopator
203-181.....Ptolemy V Epiphanes
181-145.....Ptolemy VI Philometer
145............Ptolemy VII Neos Philopatar
145-116.....Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II
116-107.....Ptolemy IX Soter II & Cleopatra III
107-88..... Alexander
..80-51 .....Ptolemy XII Auletes
..51-47 .....Ptolemy XIII & Cleopatra VII
..47-44......Ptolemy XIV & Cleopatra VII
..44-31......Cleopatra VII

312-281..... Seleucus I Nicator
281-261..... Antiochus I Soter
261-246..... Antiochus II Theos
246-225..... Seleucus II Callinicos
225-223..... Seleucus III Ceraunos
223-187..... Antiochus III The Great
187-175..... Seleucus IV Philopater
175-164..... Antiochus IV Epiphanes
164-150..... Antiochus V Eupator
162-150..... Demetrius I
150-145..... Alexander Balas
(145-139 and 129-125) Demetrius II
139-129..... Antiochus VII
69-64.........Antiochus XIII
65-64.........Philip II

During the century following Seleucus I Nicator, the Seleucid empire was in no position to take Palestine. They were having problems with rebellions in the eastern provinces (Persia, Parthia, Hyrcania, Bactria), followed by losses in Asia Minor. The empire was slowly and gradually shrinking till its effective control was restricted to the area between the Taurus Mountains and Media.

Then came Antiochus III the Great, the father of Antiochus IV Epiphanese, and by far the greater king and statesman and conqueror.

Antiochus III the Great, rebuilt the empire in the east, pressing on as far as India. He reformed the empire administratively and improved relations with neighbouring countries. He gained control of the important eastern Mediterranean sea ports of Tyre and Ptolemais. He fought against Egypt, then ruled by Ptolemy IV Philopator (221-203) but was defeated. However, when the Egyptian throne was held by the young Ptolemy Epiphanes (203-181) Antiochus III renewed the battle and drove the Egyptians out of Asia. The Seleucid empire was now in control of Palestine

The Jews, according to Josephus, received the change with joy, taking up arms against Ptolemy's garrison in Jerusalem and welcoming Antiochus III with open arms.


Having virtually reconquered the east, and subdued Egypt and taken over all Egypt's Asian territories, Antiochus III, now marched west. A number of times the Romans sent ambassadors demanding that Antiochus III stay out of Europe and set free all the territories in that area which he claimed. Things really got serious when Hannibal, the great Carthaginian general who had been defeated by the Romans in the second Punic war ending in 201 BC, joined Antiochus III. That victory of Rome over Carthage made Rome the leading power in the ancient world. Hannibal had escaped after his lost battle at Zama and fled to Antiochus III to become his advisor, stirring up the Seleucid king to combine forces against Rome. In 191 the Romans, numbering more than 20,000 sent Antiochus fleeing to Ephesus, his fleet was wiped out by Rome. There was more fighting, till Antiochus agreed to renounce all claim to his conquests in Europe and in Asia Minor west of the Taurus at the peace Treaty of Apamea. He was forced to pay a huge amount of money to Rome (ten thousand talents) and furnish hostages, including his son Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

As we view history we see that ROME defeated Philip (the Macedonian king) in 197, and stripped him of his domains outside Macedon. Though the Greek cities were left indepent, Rome had de facto control of Greece
Rome defeated Antiochus III at Magnesia in 190 BC. This date according to (Columbia History of the World p. 190) marked the new era of Roman supremacy.

Not long after his defeat by the Romans, Antiochus III was assassinated and his son Seleucus IV took the throne. From this point on the Seleucid empire entered into decline. Seleucus IV was assassinated. Antiochus IV Epiphanes, was a hostage in Rome and was on the way home when news of his brother's death reached him and he hurried home and ousted the usurper Heliodorus, and took the throne.

During the problem years in the Seleucid government, Egypt was thinking of retaking her lost territory to the north. Antiochus Epiphanies embarked on a victorious campaign against Egypt. Since Ptolemy VI was his nephew, (his sister having married Ptolemy V), Antiochus Epiphanes set himself up as the young king's guardian.

However, Egypt didn't want a Seluecid king as the guardian of their king and they tried to set up a rival government, they appealed to Rome for help.

Antiochus Epiphanes invaded Egypt again in 168 and the "cards" seemed stacked in his favor, UNTIL ROME deprived Antiochus of the benefits of his victories.

"In Eleusis, a suburb of Alexandria, the Roman ambassador, Gaius Popillius Laenas, presented Antiochus with the ultimatum that he evacuate Egypt and Cyprus immediately. He drew a circle in the earth around the king with his walking stick and demanded an unequivocal answer before Antiochus left the circle. Dismayed by this public humiliation, the king quickly agreed to comply."

Antiochus Epiphanes had no power against Rome, all his life he paid tribute to Rome. In fact, much of what he did was motivated by the NEED to raise money to keep the Romans happy.

Palestine at this time was still in Seleucid control, but it must be noted that it was NOT Antiochus Epiphanses that took Palestine from Ptolemies territory, it was his father Antiochus III the Great.


The Jews were divided into two parties.
1. The "pious" Jews.
2. The reform party that favoured Greek culture and Hellenism.
Jason, the high priest, belonged to group two, he had obtained the position by offering Antiochus a large sum of money, and he built a gymnasium in Jerusalem for the Greek education of the young. The legitimate priest, Onias III, (who was Jason's brother) is reported by Josephus (Wars of Jews I:i,1:VII:X:2,3)as having fled to Egypt where he constructed a temple, but 2 Macc. 4:33-38 says he was assassinated while yet in Antioch.

Later Antiochus Epiphanese appointed Menelaus who "out bid" Jason, as the high priest in Jerusalem.

While Antiochus was in Egypt on his first campaign, Jason tried to retake his position with armed forces and killed quite a few people.

Antiochus Epiphanse, saw all this as rebellion against his rule and descended on Jerusalem, looting the temple and re-establishing Menelaus in office.

In 167 Antiochus permanently garrisoned the city with Syrian soldiers and enforced hellenization forbidding Jewish rites.

Against this oppression Judas Maccabeus, leader of the "pious" Hasideans Jews, led out in a guerrilla war, and in 164 was victorious in battles against Antiochus' general, Lysias, and reconsecrated the Temple, fortified Jerusalem and Bethzur to the south..

The Maccabees's eventually succeeded in expelling the Seleucids from Palestine and established an independent State.

Epiphanies then tries to expand eastward in order to "increase his revenue" has some successes but dies (of natural causes in 164 BC) in the attempt.
During the reign of his son Antiochus V the Seleucids tried to restore control in Jerusalem, and partially succeeded. He did not interfere with Jewish religion. However the Maccabees continued to fight for independence, succeeded and actually built up quite a large Palestinian state.

After 164 Syria emerged as an independent kingdom, as did Judea in Palestine. In the east, all the provinces to the east of Media, Susiana, and Persis were lost, but 141 the Parthians annexed Babylonia and Mesopotamia. The Seleucid kingdom was greatly reduced and even this limited area was held precariously till the Romans totally absorbed it. In 63 BC the Roman General Pompey captured Jerusalem and once again Palestine lost it's independence.

The question that arises:
Is Antiochus Epiphanies the main character and purpose for the book of Daniel as so many Christians now suppose? Is he the little horn of Daniel eight?

First let's list all the characteristics of this little horn, for each element of the vision must be met by the proposed fulfillment, if the fulfillment is to have Biblical validity.

1. The four notable ones come up toward the four winds of heaven and out of one of them came forth a little horn. (8:9)

2. It waxed exceeding great. (8:9)

"exceeding" (#3499) "to jut over, or exceed, overhanging.
"great" (#1431)"to grow, advance, increase, lift up, make large

3. Moves toward the south, east, and pleasant land. (8:9)

4. It waxed great.(8:10)

5. Even to the host of heaven, and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground and stamped upon them. (8:10) 6. Magnifies himself even to the prince of the host.(8:11)

7. Takes away the daily.(8:11)

8. Casts down the place of his sanctuary. (8:11)

9. A host was given against the daily by reason of transgression (8:12)

10. Casts down truth (8:12)

11. It practiced and prospered (8:12)

12. It rises near the "later" end of the Grecian kingdom when transgressors are come to the full. (8:23)

13. King of fierce countenance and understanding dark sentences (8:23)

14. Power shall be mighty, but not by his own power (8:24)

15. Destroy wonderfully. (8:24)

16. He shall prosper and practice. (8:24)

17. He shall destroy the mighty and the holy people.(8:24)

18. Makes policies to cause craft to prosper in his hand (8:25)

19. Magnifies himself in his heart, (8:25)

20. With peace he shall destroy many, (8:25)

21. He shall stand up against the Prince of princes. (8:25)

22. Destroyed without hand (8:25)

Daniel 12.4
But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.

The difficulty one encounters studying Daniel 8, is that ancient historians and peoples applied the prophecies to their day and began a tradition that has been accepted as fact. The book of Maccabees is the final word on the subject for many people, and the Maccabees thought Epiphanes was the little horn who fulfilled the prophecy. This was approximately 160 years before Christ was born.

Yet the Bible clearly says the BOOK WAS SEALED back then and not until the increasing knowledge at the end of time would the book be understood.

Christ Himself, while on earth, spoke of the prophecies of Daniel as still being future in Matt. 24:15.

Another striking incompatibility is the repeated "prosperous" and "greatness" of the little horn, which just doesn't fit to Epiphanese career.

Looking at the characteristics

1. The four notable ones come up toward the four winds of heaven and out of one of them came forth a little horn. (8:9)

Now most interpretations say four horns came up after Alexander's big horn was broken, but interestingly enough the word "horn" is never mentioned in the original in connection to the "four notable ones". The emphases is on the "four winds"


Encyclopedia Britannica (1981)
Breasted, James H., "Ancient Times, A History of the Early World"
......................... "The Conquest of Civilization"
Bright, John, "A History of Israel"
Garraty, John, "The Columbia History of the World"
Hayes and Moon, "Ancient and Medieval History"
Maxwell, Mervyn, "God Cares Vol. I"

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