Dan 11.29-33 describes the war between the Judeans, who we will refer to as the Maccabees, and the Greek king Antiochus Epiphanes. This war is a picture of several things in prophecy. Antiochus is a picture of the false messiah and it also refers to the abomination of desolation. So this conflict will be essential in drawing a profile about the Birthpains. So, this is what happened.
We have already referred to a Mattiyahu at Modi’in and how the Greeks wanted to offer a pig, and have Mattiyahu do it, to show his rejection of the Torah. When a young priest went forward to offer the pig, Mattiyahu killed him. He and his sons made a stand for the Torah because they knew God. They fled, and didn’t know they were starting a rebellion. Mattiyahu said, “Whoever is zealous for the Torah, and steadfast for the covenant, let him follow me.” Shortly after fleeing into the wilderness, he died. He made a stand for himself, and refused to follow idolatry.
Soon people heard of him and his stand, and they left all and went into the wilderness. Spiritually, many people make a stand for the truth they have found in the Torah, and it will upset many around them. They will have to make a decision. Either assimilate into a religion and practices they know are not from God, or go into the “wilderness” where it will be lonely, but they will be with the Lord. To be a Maccabean warrior, you must go out into the “wilderness” and whatever that brings, rather than play along to get along.
To decide to stand up against Antiochus meant they were going against a very powerful enemy. He could bring up 130 foot siege towers, 40,000 infantry and 7000 cavalry. They marched into Judea and were reinforced daily by other Syrian forces in Philistia. The Judeans were small in number and untrained. One general summoned gentile slave traders to come and he would provide them with slaves, cheap, and then use the money to pay tribute the Syrians owed to Rome.
One of the most famous Judean fighters was a son of Mattiyahu named Judah. He was called “Yehuda Ha Maccabee” meaning Judah “the hammer.” He takes over the Judean army and was not discouraged. They assembled to fast and pray about what to do. This is what their forefathers did.
Spiritually, never go to battle without praying, or fasting if necessary, to find out what to do. You do not want to get into a battle when the Lord doesn’t want you to get into it. That is very important to remember in your warfare. The army of the Judeans were taught how to use the sword, but they were also taught the heart of Torah observance (Dan 11.33).
Remember Josh 1.1-9 where it says “obey and you will have great success.” They gathered at Mizpah, where Samuel judged Israel and was buried. They went there because the Temple was defiled. This was very close to Jerusalem and it could be seen from there. They cry out to the Lord with the Temple in the distance, and ask for help against a very powerful enemy. They brought up the priestly vestments, the tithe, the bikkurim (first fruits), the Nazarites who could not bring their required offerings to the Temple, and put them in front of those assembled there. They asked the Lord about what they were to do with these, and where should they take them if there was no Temple. They said “Your Temple has been defiled, and how can we stand against our enemies if you will not help us.” The one thing they did have was the “moreshet karav” or the “heritage of war” and they remembered previous battles in the Scriptures and how the Lord totally delivered them and it had nothing to do with weapons or numbers.
Spiritually, this is what we should do. We have a “moreshet karav” in the Scriptures and we remember the battles we have been in, and how the Lord delivered us many times. Israel has many overwhelming enemies today, threatening to kill them and wipe them off the map with nuclear weapons. But, those who know the Lord know that Israel will be delivered and it will have nothing to do with weapons or numbers. The “moreshet karav” is applicable today. It has everything to do with the people and their attitude towards the Lord.
What is the balance to this? You can’t say “I love you, Lord, therefore, you are going to fight for me and defeat my enemy.” Otherwise, you wouldn’t have Heb 11. What these people said was “I am going to stand for you regardless of what happens, and perhaps you will stand on my behalf and turn my enemy back, or perhaps not. But if you don’t, if I perish, I perish.” This was the attitude of Esther, Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael-Est 4.16; Dan 3.16-18). That is their attitude and notice what they did.
Judah divided his army into four battalions of 1000 men each. So, we have 47,000 against 4000. These were commanded by his brothers Yochanon, Jonathan and Shimon, with Deut 20.1-9 as their Scripture. So after reading Deut 20.1-9, he exhorted the remaining men to trust the Lord. He said, “Prepare yourselves, and be brave men. Be ready in the morning to fight the heathens who have gathered against us to destroy us and our Sanctuary. It is better for us to die in battle, then to witness the ruin of the nation and out Temple.”
Meanwhile, one of the Syrian Greek generals named Gorgias had detached 5000 men from the main body to surprise the Jews in their own camp. Renegade Jews from Jerusalem served as guides. Judah had been forewarned and at night positioned his men to attack the enemy main base. At daybreak, the under armed Jews saw that they were confronted with a seasoned, well-armed army.
They prayed to God to be steadfast. Here is what Judah said, “Do not fear their numbers or their attack. Remember how our ancestors were saved at the sea of Reeds when Pharaoh and his army pursued them. Let us now cry out to God and perhaps he will accept our prayer, remember his covenant with our ancestors and crush the enemy camp that now faces us. Then all the heathen will know there is one who rescues and preserves Israel.” He ordered them to attack and it broke the Syrian ranks and caused a retreat. They decimated their rear, set fire to their camp and killed over 3000 as they pursued them. Gorgias and his troops were still in the mountains and when they saw the fire, they panicked and fled. What worked for them? Emunah (faith) based on the heritage of war, and how they fought in the past. If it worked for them it will work for us.
Spiritually, in our warfare, if you want to learn how to pray, pray like they did in the Scriptures. If you want to learn how to fight spiritual battles, fight like they did. That is our heritage, do what they did. They are models for us to pattern ourselves after. For example, the traditional “Lord’s Prayer” was not necessarily given to be prayed “by rote” but it was a model for us to pattern our prayers after, adding our own needs to it. Study how prayer is structured. Many prayers start out with adoration, then confession, then thanksgiving and then supplication (A.C.T.S.). It is acceptable to pray this verbatim, they prayed many Scriptures verbatim in the Temple, like Exo 15, Deut 32, the daily psalm, the Shema and the Amidah. But learn the intent and how to address the Lord. These men had a handle on something. You don’t go out with 4000 men against 50,000 because it is not logical. We need what they had.
After a year of licking their wounds, Lysias, a commander under Antiochus, brought 60,000 infantry and 500 cavalry. Judah met them at Beth-Tzur (“house of the fortress”) with 10,000 men. He prayed again to the Lord saying, “Blessed are you, O Savior of Israel, who halted the charge of the Philistine champion Goliath through your servant David and who delivered the Philistine camp into the hands of Yonaton Ben Shaul, and his armor bearer. Do the same to this camp. Let them be ashamed of their army and their cavalry. Make them cowardly and melt their boldness. Make them tremble at their imminent destruction. Strike them down with the sword of those who love you, and let all who know your name sing praises to you.” They attacked and killed 5000, and Lysias saw their determination and returned to Syria. Judah and his men come into Jerusalem, reestablished it to God, and rededicated the Temple on Kislev 25, which is where Chanukah comes from.
The war goes on after this, with many more battles. Almost all the brothers of Judah get killed in battle. The Syrians had war elephants, and in open terrain, they were hard to stop. They only way to stop a charging elephant was to wound it and it turned on the enemy. There is only one way to kill an elephant. You get under it and stab it, and hopefully get out from underneath it before it falls. Eliezar, one of Judah’s brothers, died doing this. There was a real price to pay. They knew from their “moreshet karav” that the Lord was with them in their battles, but there was no “magic” or anything in their power that could help, but a price was paid and it wasn’t free. It went from the top to the bottom. Judah and his brothers die, and there were children who died. Read the story about Hannah and her seven sons to see the price that needs to be paid sometimes.
By this time, Antiochus went to Persia, and died there in 163 BC. Lysias came back again, this time with 100,000 men and 20,000 cavalry and many elephants. They capture Beth-Tzur and Beth Zechariah and reached the gates of Jerusalem. They began to lay siege to Mount Zion. The situation became difficult. It was a Sabbatical year (Shemitah) and the fields were not worked and food was scarce. With the overwhelming Syrian army before their eyes, their courage began to give way to fear. But the Lord intervened. Lysias received word that there was a rebellion in the making back home, which is one of the risks when you are away at war. His rival was trying to take control. So he called off the siege, went back to Damascus and executed his rival. Before he lifted his siege, he turned to his men and said, “We are getting weaker with every day. Food is scarce and the place against which we are encamped is strongly fortified. And we are concerned with royal matters. Let us therefore extend our right hand to these men and make peace with them and all their people. Let us allow them to observe their religion, as they have always done, because it is only in defense of their religion, which we have suppressed, that they arose and acted as they did.”
The heart of the issue is this. These people made a decision, they wanted to live for the Lord, and follow what he said, and learn it if they didn’t know. They gave up Hellenism and moved into the wilderness. If you want to study about the false messiah, study Antiochus (Dan 11.32-39) because this scenario will play out again, and people will have to choose who they are going to follow. The false messiah will be “lawless (meaning “against the Torah” in Greek) just like Antiochus was. Spiritually, we also have to make the same decisions they did about assimilation, and move away from the Hellenistic influences found in Christianity and other religions. This will require that you give up some things. Fellowship will be scarce as you move away from all this and go into “the wilderness.” You can’t become like the Greeks and Romans anymore. You will leave churches and certain Bible studies, you may even leave a seminary. You must go into the wilderness and get the Hellenism out of you. You have a sacrifice to make, and it will cost you.
To be a Maccabean warrior, you must separate and go out and be a minority. Its no fun in the wilderness. They don’t have hay rides, socials and fancy parties out there. The war is on and you must learn the Scriptures in the way the Lord intended for you to understand them, not from a western, Greek oriented mindset. You must now get ready for the battle, and prepare. Your priorities will change. You want something more. You won’t enjoy the same things that you did anymore.
The Christian television shows you thought were so “anointed” will be seen for what they are. Songs that you thought were so “spiritual” will not be the same. You will find yourself isolated, and you may find little “pockets” of people who are going through the same thing, but maybe not. Your friends will say “You are not one of us, you should be with us for the sake of unity. You don’t do the things we do. How could so many good people be so wrong, and you are right.” In reality, you must know what the Scriptures say for yourself and why you are in the wilderness. And you will get hurt. If you haven’t yet, you will. You will feel like you are “out on a limb.”
Your attitude should be like this. You can’t learn the Scriptures in a course. You can learn about the Bible, but you never will learn it all. Your knowledge of the Scriptures should change, and your perceptions. You can’t tell a five year old the whole truth, but what he can understand at the time. It is the same with us.
When you first begin to learn what we have learned, consider yourself in first grade, but keep going. It won’t take long, and you will be changing and start seeing things that you never saw before. What matters is what the Lord thinks (Isa 55). Children make more mistakes than they are “cuddly.” They drive you crazy sometimes. So do we at first. But, children grow and you don’t remember the bad stuff, all the mistakes and the hurts. What made the Maccabean warrior great? The ability to learn, to leave Hellenism behind. They were willing to go into the wilderness, alone if they had to. They were willing to get hurt by others and “out on a limb” because of conviction and belief, and it wasn’t free.
The end result of this was the Hasmonean Dynasty. These leaders were were Levites, descended from Aaron and priests, and could not be a king, because that was for those from the tribe of Judah, and the house of David. But they did declare themselves “nasi” which means “prince” or “president” at first. Shimon was the last remaining son of Mattiyahu, and he began a “dynasty” that went up to the time of Herod. Rome was called in to help against Antiochus, and this was a grave mistake that will play out. What the original Hasmonean leaders began deteriorated into a corrupt dynasty. They eventually combined the secular headship with the religious, but this was not at the direction of the Lord. These “kings” are referred to in John 10 as those who took control of the sheep by robbery and were not good shepherds. The setting for John 10 is the feast of Chanukah, which celebrated this victory over the Syrian Greeks and the rededication of the Temple (John 10.22).
The true spirit of the Maccabees and their dedication to following the Lord had long since died and it was not the spirit of the leaders at the time of Yeshua. In Part 21, we will begin to talk about the Roman period and how Crassus, Pompey and Julius Caesar formed a triumvirate around 60 BC. Pompey will be of particular importance to our study. Understanding what is going on will help you in understanding the back-round of the New Testament, and give us more information about our spiritual warfare.