Daniel 8:23
And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up.
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(23) Transgressors . . .—When transgressors have filled up the measure of their guilt so as to exceed the limits of God’s mercy, then this event shall take place. The transgressors are the apostate Jews. Here, as in the other visions, the particulars respecting the most prominent objects of the vision are given more fully in the interpretation than in the early part of the chapter. The king is represented as being “of a fierce countenance,” he is shameless, he has no reluctance in pursuing the cruelties which he has designed. He “understands dark sayings,” or uses falsehood and dissimulation to carry out his purposes.

Daniel 8:23. And in the latter end of their kingdom — When their power was diminishing, and the Roman empire beginning to be established in Greece, from whence the Grecian kingdoms in Asia had their origin: for the bringing of Greece into subjection to the Roman power was a manifest indication of the declension of the Macedonian, or third monarchy, with its four heads, and the advancement of the fourth monarchy. Now this was remarkably brought to pass when Æmilius, the Roman consul, vanquished Perseus, king of Macedonia, and thereby brought all Greece under the power of the Romans, which happened one hundred and sixty-six years before Christ, and about the time when Antiochus profaned the temple, and set up therein the abomination of desolation. It must be observed likewise, that, before that time, the four horns, or kingdoms, had been reduced to two principal ones, Syria and Egypt. Antiochus had attempted to gain the latter, and had marched toward Alexandria to besiege that city, the conquest of which would have made him absolute master of the whole kingdom; but in order to prevent his success, Ptolemy Euergetes and his sister Cleopatra had sent ambassadors to the Romans, to beg their relief; and when Popilius was deputed by the senate to go into Egypt, he proposed terms to Antiochus which he was obliged to accept, and obey the commands of the senate. Thus both Syria and Egypt became, in some sort, vassals to Rome. When the transgressors are come to the full — Here the reason is assigned why God permitted these calamities to fall on his people, namely, their wickedness had risen to a very great height: of which Bishop Newton gives the following account. “The high-priesthood was exposed to sale. Good Onias was ejected for a sum of money, to make room for wicked Jason; and Jason again was supplanted for a greater sum of money, by a worse man, if possible, than himself, his brother Menelaus; and the golden vessels of the temple were sold, to pay for the sacrilegious purchase. At the same time, the customs of the heathen nations were introduced among the Jews; the youth were trained up and exercised after the manner of the Greeks; the people, apostatized from the true religion, and even the priests, (2Ma 4:14,) despising the temple, and neglecting the sacrifices, hastened to be partakers of unlawful diversions. Nay, the temple was profaned under the conduct of the high-priest Menelaus, was defiled with swine’s blood, and plundered of every thing valuable; and in the same year that Paulus Æmilius vanquished Perseus, the last king of Macedonia, and thereby put an end to that kingdom, the Jewish religion was put down, and the heathen worship was set up in the cities of Judea, and in Jerusalem; and the temple itself was consecrated to Jupiter Olympus, and his image was erected upon the very altar.” So evident it is that the transgressors were come to the full, and that it was in the latter time of the Macedonian empire, when what follows took place. A king of fierce countenance shall stand up — This is a very just character of Antiochus, according to Diodorus, Polybius, and all the historians. And such a character may be presumed to belong to antichrist, who would be acquainted with all the depths of Satan, Revelation 2:24. “I must confess,” says Mr. Wintle, “that this part of the interpretation appears to me to agree better with Antiochus than with the Romans: when interpreted of the latter, it is understood to mean a warlike and politic state.” Understanding dark sentences — One practised in craft and policy, particularly in the arts of seducing men from their religion. In this Antiochus was too successful with the Jews. Michaelis renders the clause, rex omnis doli peritus, a king skilled in every kind of deceit. Mr. Wintle reads, penetrating in mysterious craft.

8:15-27 The eternal Son of God stood before the prophet in the appearance of a man, and directed the angel Gabriel to explain the vision. Daniel's fainting and astonishment at the prospect of evils he saw coming on his people and the church, confirm the opinion that long-continued calamities were foretold. The vision being ended, a charge was given to Daniel to keep it private for the present. He kept it to himself, and went on to do the duty of his place. As long as we live in this world we must have something to do in it; and even those whom God has most honoured, must not think themselves above their business. Nor must the pleasure of communion with God take us from the duties of our callings, but we must in them abide with God. All who are intrusted with public business must discharge their trust uprightly; and, amidst all doubts and discouragements, they may, if true believers, look forward to a happy issue. Thus should we endeavour to compose our minds for attending to the duties to which each is appointed, in the church and in the world.And in the latter time of their kingdom - When it shall be drawing to an end. All these powers were ultimately absorbed in the Roman power; and the meaning here is, that taking the time from the period of their formation - the division of the empire after the battle of Ipsus (see the notes at Daniel 8:8), until the time when all would be swallowed up in the Roman dominion, what is here stated - to wit, the rise of Antiochus - would be in the latter portion of that period. The battle of Ipsus was fought 301 b.c., and the Roman power was extended over all those regions gradually from 168 b.c. - the battle of Pydna, when Perseus was defeated, and Macedonia was reduced to a Roman province, to 30 b.c., when Egypt was subjected - the last of these kingdoms that submitted to the Roman arms. Antiochus began to reign, 175 b.c. - so that it was in the latter part of this period.

When the transgressors are come to the full - Margin, accomplished. That is, when the state of things - the prevalence of wickedness and irreligion in Judea - shall have been allowed to continue as long as it can be - or so that the cup shall be full - then shall appear this formidable power to inflict deserved punishment on the guilty nation. The sacred writers often speak of iniquity as being full - of the cup of iniquity as being full - as if there was a certain limit or capacity beyond which it could not be allowed to go. When that arrives, God interposes, and cuts off the guilty by some heavy judgment. Compare Genesis 15:16 : "The iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full." Matthew 23:32 : "fill ye up then the measure of your fathers." 1 Thessalonians 2:16 : "to fill up their sins alway." The idea is, that there is a certain measure or amount of sin which can be tolerated, but beyond that the Divine compassion cannot go with safety to the universe, or consistently with the honor of God, and then the punishment may be expected; then punishment must come. This is true, doubtless, of individuals and nations, and this period had arrived in regard to the Jews when Antiochus was permitted to lay their temple, city, and country waste.

A king of fierce countenance - Stern and severe. This expression would be applicable to many who have held the kingly office, and no one can doubt that it may be applied with strict propriety to Antiochus.

And understanding dark sentences - Gesenius (Lexicon) explains the word here rendered "dark sentences" to mean artifice, trick, stratagem. This will better agree with the character of Antiochus, who was more distinguished for craft and policy than he was for wisdom, or for explaining enigmas. The meaning seems to be that he would be politic and crafty, seeking to make his way, and to accomplish his purpose, not only by the terror that he inspired, but by deceit and cunning. That this was his character is well known. Compare the notes at Daniel 8:25.

Shall stand up - Shall succeed, or there shall be such a king.

23. transgressors are come to the full—This does not hold good of the times of Antiochus, but of the closing times of the Christian era. Compare Lu 18:8, and 2Ti 3:1-9, as to the wickedness of the world in general just before Christ's second coming. Israel's guilt, too, shall then be at the full, when they who rejected Christ shall receive Antichrist; fulfilling Jesus words, "I am come in My Father's name, and ye receive Me not; if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive" (compare Ge 15:16; Mt 23:32; 1Th 2:16).

of fierce countenance—(De 28:50); one who will spare neither old nor young.

understanding dark sentences—rather, "artifices" [Gesenius]. Antiochus made himself master of Egypt and Jerusalem successively by craft (1 Maccabees 1:30, &c.; 2 Maccabees 5:24, &c.).

In the latter time of their kingdom, i.e. when they were come to the height, and beginning to decline. It notes that time when the Romans began to seize part of the Grecian kingdom, by Emilius Probus, who subdued Perseus king of Macedonia, and thereby brought all Greece under the Roman jurisdiction; which was one hundred and sixty-six years before Christ was born, that very year Antiochus set up the abomination of desolation.

When the transgressors are come to the full; when the Jews were grown to an excess of wickedness, and called for punishment, then God suffered Antiochus to persecute them.

Of fierce countenance; such was he: the word is translated impudent, inhuman, for the countenance is the discoverer of the mind and manners oftentimes.

Understanding dark sentences; full of all subtlety, another Julian, to lay snares, and fetch over the inconstant and backsliding Jews: such a one all histories declare this Antiochus to be.

And in the latter time of their kingdom,.... Toward the close of the kingdom of the four kings that divided Alexander's kingdom; for though they were four distinct kings, and had four separate kingdoms, yet these all belonged to one kingdom or monarchy, the Grecian empire; and when that was decreasing, and coming into the hands of the Romans, there rose up, stood, and flourished awhile, King Antiochus, afterwards described, who began to reign in the hundred and thirty seventh year of the Seleucidae,

"And there came out of them a wicked root Antiochus surnamed Epiphanes, son of Antiochus the king, who had been an hostage at Rome, and he reigned in the hundred and thirty and seventh year of the kingdom of the Greeks.'' (1 Maccabees 1:10)

and 166 B.C., and the same year that he set up the abomination of desolation in the temple at Jerusalem, as Mr. Mede (p) has observed, Aemilius the Roman consul conquered Perseus king of Macedon, whereby all Greece came into the hands of the Romans; so that this king may be truly said to arise and stand in the latter part of the Grecian empire, when that was declining, and the Roman empire was taking place:

when the transgressors are come to the full; many among the Jews, who apostatized from their religion, turned Heathens, even some of the priests, when their number was completed, and they had filled up the measure of their iniquities; in the Apocrypha:

"In those days went there out of Israel wicked men, who persuaded many, saying, Let us go and make a covenant with the heathen that are round about us: for since we departed from them we have had much sorrow. &c.'' (1 Maccabees 1:11)

a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up; meaning Antiochus; as is generally agreed, both by Jewish and Christian interpreters, and to whom these characters agree: he was "hard of face" (q), as it may be rendered; an impudent brasen faced man, who had no shame nor fear in him; regarded neither God nor man; committed the most atrocious crimes in the most public manner; and particularly was daring and impudent in his blasphemy against God and the true religion; and it may also signify that he was cruel, barbarous, and inhuman, especially to the Jews, as his persecution of them abundantly proves: and his "understanding dark sentences", or "riddles" (r), which he could both propose and answer, shows him to be sagacious and cunning, well versed in wicked craft and policy; he had the art of inveigling and deceiving men; it was by deceit and cunning he got the kingdom from his nephew; and, by the wicked art of persuasion he was master of, he seduced many of the Jews to relinquish their religion, and embrace Heathenism; and so well skilled he was in wicked politics, that he could cover his own designs, and penetrate into the secrets of others; according to Jacchiades, he was skilful in the art of magic and astrology. This is the little horn that was to rise out of one of the four horns or kingdoms; as Antiochus did from that of Seleucus, and stood and reigned more than twelve years.

(p) Works, B. 3. c. 11. p. 654. (q) "durus facie", Calvin, Piscator; "validus facie", Michaelis. (r) "aenigmata", Pagninus, Montanus, Munster, Calvin, Piscator, Polanus.

And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of {h} fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up.

(h) Noting that this Antiochus was impudent and cruel, and also crafty so that he could not be deceived.

23. in the latter time of their kingdom] in the closing period of the rule of the Diadochi (which the author pictures as brought altogether to an end at the death of Antiochus).

when the transgressors have completed (their guilt)] i.e. filled up the measure of their transgressions (cf., though the Heb. word is not the same, Genesis 15:16). Or, with ‘transgressions’ for ‘transgressors’ (Sept., Theod., Pesh., Ew., Meinh.: the difference affects only the vocalization), when they (or men) have completed transgressions. It is disputed whether the reference is to the Israelites (Keil, Behrm.) or their heathen oppressors (Hitz., Meinh., Bevan). In the former case, the meaning will be that when the measure of Israel’s guilt is full, this final and severest of persecutions will fall upon them: in the latter case, Antiochus will be viewed as the climax of heathen impiety.

a king of hard countenance] i.e. unyielding, unmoved, deflant: lit. ‘strong of countenance,’ i.e. hard, firm (in a bad sense). The expression is borrowed from Deuteronomy 28:50 : cf., with the corresponding verb, Proverbs 7:13 (of the harlot), ‘she made her face strong,’ i.e. hard, impudent, Proverbs 21:29; ‘a wicked man hardeneth his face,’ Ecclesiastes 8:1.

and understanding riddles (Daniel 5:12)] a master of dissimulation, able to conceal his meaning under ambiguous words, and so disguising his real purposes. Cf. Daniel 8:25, ‘deceit,’ Daniel 11:27, ‘obtain the kingdom by smooth sayings.’ Examples are afforded by his treatment of his nephew, Ptolemy Philometor, and the manner in which he completely misled the legates who were sent by the Romans for the purpose of ascertaining his feelings towards them (see on Daniel 11:27; Daniel 11:40). Antiochus was habitually successful in concealing his real motives and intentions when his interests required it.

23–25. A fuller description of the character and policy of Antiochus Epiphanes.

Verse 23. - And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up. The versions here are, on the whole, in agreement with the Massoretic. The Greek versions read, "their sins," as if it were the iniquities of the successors of Alexander that had become full, and thus afforded the occasion of the appearance of Epiphanes. The Peshitta and Jerome have "iniquities" generally, without reference to the kings, but with probable reference to the Jewish people. The probability is decidedly in favour of the Massoretic reading; it was an easy suggestion that the iniquities to be punished were those of the heathen kings. The whole analogy of Scripture leads us to look at the iniquity of the people of God being the cause of evil befalling them. Certainly immediately before the persecution inflicted on the Jews by Antiochus, the progress of the unbelieving Hellenizing party had been very great, as we see by 1 Macc. 1:13-16. It was "like people, like priest;" the people devoted themselves to Grecian games with all their heathen associations, and strove to hide their Hebrew origin and the covenant of their faith, and high priests were ready to abet their practices. A king of fierce countenance; "strong of countenance." This refers to courage and success in war. Thus Amaziah (2 Kings 14:8), when he wishes to challenge Joash King of Israel, desires to "look in his face." Epiphanes' countenance was one that could successfully stand a hostile meeting. The Greek versions render עַצ ('az) by ἀναιδής, "reckless." Understanding dark sentences. There may be some reference to incantations and superstitious observances; it may mean that he was well acquainted with omens, and how to benefit by them. Regardlessness in the matter of religion was a prominent characteristic of Antiochus; but it is quite a possible thing that, like most irreligious men, he was superstitious. He certainly was very keen-sighted in observing the political signs of the times, and very adroit at availing himself of what made for his own advantage. This last is the interpretation of Ewald. Zockler and Hitzig think it means that the king here pictured "will be cunning to hide his own designs from friend and foe." Yet more common is the view of Keil, Behrmann, Stuart, and Bevan, that it refers generally to his mastery in the use of artifice. The main difficulty in regard to this view is that usage, does not support assigning such a meaning to heedoth. On the other hand, when we bear in mind that here we have the language of symbol and prophecy, so tricks of strategy and chicane of policy may all be symbolized by "dark sayings," without necessary reference to sentences such as those with which the Queen of Sheba tested the wisdom of Solomon. Daniel 8:23Daniel 8:23-26 give the interpretation of the vision of the little horn (Daniel 8:9-12), with a more special definition of certain elements not made prominent in the vision. The horn signifies a king who will arise "in the last time of their kingdom." The suffix to מלכוּתם (of their kingdom) relates to the idea contained in מלכיּות ni deniat (kings). הפּשׁעים כּהתם, when the transgressors have made full, scil. the transgression or measure of the sins. The object wanting to התם is seen from the conception of the subject. הפּשׁעים, the rebellious, are not the heathen, for פּשׁע denotes the apostasy from God which is only said of the Israelites, but not of the heathen; and the word points back to בּפשׁע in Daniel 8:12. The king that rises up is Antiochus Epiphanes (cf. 1 Macc. 1:10ff.). עז־פּנים, hard of countenance, i.e., impudent, unashamed in trampling down, without fear of God or man; cf. Deuteronomy 28:50. חידות מבין, understanding mysteries; here sensu malo, concealing his purpose behind ambiguous words, using dissimulation, forming an artifice, interpreted in Daniel 8:25 by מרמה, cf. Daniel 11:21. The unfolding of these qualities is presented in Daniel 8:24, Daniel 8:25; in Daniel 8:24 of the עז־פּנים. By virtue of the audacity of his conduct his power will be strengthened, בכחו ולא, but not by his own might. The contrast here is not: by the power or permission of God (Ephr., Theodrt., Hv., Hitz., Kran.), reference being made to תּנּתן (was given) in Daniel 8:12, and to תּת (to give) in Daniel 8:13. This contrast is foreign to the passage. The context much rather relates to the audacity and the cunning by which, more than by his power, Antiochus raised himself to might. The strengthening of the power is limited neither to his reaching the throne by the overthrow of other pretenders to it (Berth. and others), nor to the to the following statements, he developed as king against Israel, as well as against other kingdoms. נפּלאות (wonderful works) is used adverbially, as in Job 37:5 : in an astonishing, wonderful way, he will work destruction. But from this word it does not follow that the expression בכחו ולא is to be referred to the power of God, for it does not necessarily mean deeds or things supernaturally originating from God; and even though it had only this meaning, yet here they could not be thought of as deeds accomplished in God's strength, but only as deeds performed by demoniacal strength, because ישׁחית (shall destroy) cannot be predicated of God in the sense determined by the context. This destructive work he shall direct against the mighty and against the people of the saints. עצוּמים does not here signify many, numerous, many individual Israelites (v. Leng., Maur., Kliefoth), partly because in Daniel 8:25 רבּים stands for that, partly because of the קדשׁים עם, by which we are to understand the people of Israel, not merely the insignificant and weak, or pious (Kran.). Hence עצוּמים cannot mean the elders of Israel, much less merely foreign kings (Berth., Dereser), but the mighty generally, under which perhaps we are specially to think of heathen rulers.
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