Hanukkah, Part 2: The Prophetic Background of Daniel

The prophetic mention of the events culminating in Hanukkah are in two passages in Daniel (Daniel 8:9‑14 and 11:21-35).[1] The first passage describes the events of the little horn. This is not the same as the “little horn” of Daniel 7 that represents the Antichrist, but rather his type, Antiochus Epiphanes (Daniel 8:9‑14). Out of the four horns that Daniel wrote about previously in this chapter, one little horn arises. The four horns represent the four divisions of the Greek Empire after the death of Alexander the Great. One of those divisions was Syria.

This little horn rises out of Syria, and Antiochus Epiphanes – who desecrated the Temple, which incited the Maccabean revolt – was from Syria. Verse 9 also states that he waxed exceeding great. He conquered in three directions: To the south, he conquered Egypt; to the east, he conquered Mesopotamia and other regions to the east as far as Armenia; and he went against the glorious land. The glorious land is the Land of Israel (Jer. 3:19; Ezek. 20:6; Dan. 11:16, 41; Zech. 7:14). In fact, the glorious land became a battleground between two divisions of the Greek empire: Syria and Egypt.

Antiochus Epiphanes, as this prophecy relates, first defeated Egypt and then invaded Israel. In Dan 8:10, Daniel makes two statements in this verse. First: it waxed great, even to the host of heaven. The word heaven is a term that stands for God, and the host of heaven is the “army of God.” Sometimes the army of God refers to the angelic army, but it sometimes refers to Israel (Gen. 15:5; Ex. 12:41). Antiochus was going to persecute the Jews in defiance of the angelic host who are their protectors (Dan. 12:1). Secondly: and some of the host and of the stars it cast down to the ground, and trampled upon them. Here Daniel prophesies that Antiochus Epiphanes is destined to war against the Jews, and he will succeed in winning over them.[2] Dan 8:11-12 goes on to prophesy how Antiochus Epiphanes would be guilty of committing the “Abomination of Desolation,” a campaign to paganize Judaism and paganize the Jewish people.

How long would Antiochus Epiphanes’ persecutions last (v. 13)?  The answer is found in v. 14:

He said to me, “For 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the holy place will be properly restored.” (NASB)

If he means two parts of a day, then this refers to 2,300 days. If he means 2,300 offerings, counting morning and evening separately, then the total would be 1,150 days. The Aramaic does not have the word “and” between evenings and mornings. A more correct translation from the original is: two thousand three hundred evenings and mornings. Therefore, the duration is 2,300 days.

The historical fulfillment is recorded in 2 Macc 4:7‑50. The persecutions began in the year 173 B.C. when the High Priest Onias III, also known as “Onias, the Righteous,” was replaced. Antiochus Epiphanes appointed a wicked brother of Onias, whose name was Jason, as the high priest. Jason was replaced by an even wicked brother, Menelaus, who also bribed Antiochus Epiphanes for the position. In 171 B.C., Onias III, the Righteous One, was murdered by Menelaus. Onias was the only biblically legitimate high priest on the basis of the Law of Moses. From then on, there were illegitimate priests until 164 B.C., when Antiochus died.

It is also known from history that the Abomination of Desolation, the erection of the statue of Jupiter, was done on the 25th day of the month of Kislev in 168 B.C. The sanctuary was cleansed on the 25th day of Kislev in 165 B.C. So the entire duration of 2,300 days began September 9, 171 B.C. with the death of Onias, until the rededication of the Temple on December 25, 165 B.C. As always, prophecy was literally fulfilled; it was fulfilled exactly 2,300 days later. Just as Daniel prophesied, between the murder of Onias and the rededication of the Temple there were 2,300 days (1 Mac. 4:36‑59; 2 Mac. 10:1‑9).

The second passage pertaining to the prophetic culmination of Hanukkah is Dan 11:21-31, which also pertains to Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Here his rise to power, usurping of the throne, consolidation of power, and the growth of his strength are revealed. Verse 32-53 prophesy of the revolt that brought about the Feast of Hanukkah, the revolt of the Maccabees. The Maccabees were five brothers who led the revolt against Antiochus Epiphanes (so 1 Macc. 2:1‑13:53; 16:1‑2; 2 Mac. 8:1‑15:36).

[1] This post is a modified version of Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum’s original Messianic Bible Study. The full version may be obtained here.

[2] While the Books of 1 and 2 Maccabees are not inspired Scripture, they are historical books that contain fairly accurate history. 1 Maccabees records the fulfillment of the prophecy of Daniel 8:10.