There are few places on earth filled with as much history, spiritual significance, and religious fervor as the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. For hundreds of years God’s House stood there. Two centuries before Christ, this temple suffered ungodly desecration. The Jewish system of life and worship was in grave danger.
The history of this difficult and crucial time is not recorded in our Bibles. Rather, it is recorded by way of prophecy. Daniel 8 predicts a ram and a male goat. Verses 20-21 plainly tell us the ram is Media Persia and the male goat is Greece. With that solid base, it is easy to understand that this is a prediction of Greece conquering the Persian Empire around 330 B.C. Verse 5 says the goat had a notable horn, which obviously, to anyone knowing history, refers to Alexander the Great. When the horn was broken (verse 8) (Alexander died at the young age of 33), his great conquests were divided into four horns, four parts. History shows one of these divisions to be Syria.
Out of Syria comes up a little horn (8:9), which would extend its power to the “Glorious Land” (Judah). The little horn would battle against the “prince of the host” (the High Priest), “and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down” as he “cast down the truth to the ground” (8:11-12). Not every detail is clear, but the main points cannot be missed. This is why careful Bible students easily see Antiochus Epiphanes of Syria as this little horn. He did exactly the things predicted.
Antiochus Epiphanes began his reign in Syria in 175 B.C. A major aim of his reign was to Hellenize the lands over which he ruled, that is, to supplant local customs with Greek culture, including Greek religion and philosophy. In Judah that would have drastic consequences. However, the fault was not entirely his. Many of the Jews were already in favor of this “modernization.” Antiochus deposed the true High Priest, Onias, and replaced him with his brother Jason, a Hellenist. Worse yet, a few years later, Antiochus declared Menelaus of the tribe of Benjamin the High Priest, and Benjamin proceeded to have Onias murdered. Imagine the outrage to true Jews, who knew that God only allowed Levites to enter the priesthood.
The temple sacrifices were increasingly neglected. Antiochus plundered the temple and devastated Jerusalem. Hellenization proceeded by force. Circumcision and Sabbath keeping brought the death penalty. A heathen altar was built on top of God’s altar whereon swine were sacrificed. The temple was not destroyed but was totally desecrated. Refusing to eat swine’s flesh brought death. Refusal to worship a pagan image brought death. Orders went out to destroy all Hebrew Scriptures. Sadly, Daniel’s predictions were fulfilled, the temple was defiled, and truth was cast down.
What if Antiochus Epiphanes had totally prevailed? What if the Jewish way of life had been wiped out? What would have happened to the promised coming of the Messiah to Israel? Who would arise to save the day?