Short Shot: Daniel 9:24f, Antiochus Epiphanes, Onias III and the Atonement
Don K. Preston
It is commonly claimed among the higher, “critical” and “liberal” commentators that Daniel 9:24-27 was fulfilled in the time of Antiochus Epiphanies in the second century BC– circa 174-168 BC.
One of the constituent elements foretold in Daniel 9 was that the Atonement would be accomplished; “Seventy weeks are determined…to make the atonement.”
Also among the events foretold by Daniel 9 was the death (by murder) of the anointed one in the midst of the seventieth week “Messiah shall be cut off but not for himself.” In the aforementioned construct, (that Daniel 9 foretold the time and events of Antiochus), is the view that the “anointed one” is referent to Onias III who was slain by Menalaus. Onias III had the reputation of being a godly man, full of piety and knowledge of Torah.
Will this construct work? Is Daniel 9 about the time and events of Antiochus Epiphanes, and not the first century and the sacrificial work of Jesus as the great high priest? Is Daniel 9:24 even a Messianic prophecy? (It is interesting as a historical note, that an anti-Christian by the name of Porphyry was the first person to suggest that Daniel 9 was not Messianic but referred to the time of Antiochus. Thus, an enemy of Christianity was the source of the Antioch an view).
I believe there are many reasons why the Antiochan view is wrong. In this brief article I will focus on only one of those many reasons why the Antiochan view is to be rejected.
Daniel 9:24 says “Seventy weeks are determined…to make the atonement.
Let’s keep in mind that only a duly qualified, High Priest of the tribe of Levi could serve as High Priest. Not only did he have to be of the proper lineage, he had to morally upright, a man of integrity and devoted to the law (see Leviticus 21).
Moral purity and integrity were of tremendous importance for a man to serve as High Priest. After all, he was to administer the Atonement sacrifice, the most holy sacrifice, on Yom Kippur, the most holy day of the year. It was, therefore, of paramount importance that a man of proven holiness serve as High Priest and this is where the Antiochan view runs headlong into its own internal, historical contradictions.
Onias III – the supposed anointed prince of Daniel 9:26 – was the last of the known, fully qualified, High Priest of holiness. Please catch the power of this. (The corruption of the priesthood following the evils of Jason and Menalaus right down to Jesus’ day, was well known among the historians. Joseph us speaks of it a great deal. It was the temple / priestly corruption that led, according to many scholars, to the establishment of the Dead Sea Community of the Essences. They believed that the entire priesthood in Jerusalem was evil, polluted, thus, they withdrew into the desert until the time when the Teacher of Righteousness would arise and restore the priesthood purity). It was because of his integrity and moral courage that he was ultimately murdered.
An official of the Temple, Simon the Benjamite, convinced the king, Seleucus Philopator, to plunder the Temple treasures for personal gain. Onias withstood him. When Antiochus became king, Onias was forced to flee Jerusalem due to the corruption of his brother Jason in partnership with Antiochus. Onias fled to a sanctuary at the city of Daphne, near Antioch. However, it was there that Menalaus, in conspiracy with Andronicus, a governor of the region, deceived Onias into coming out of his refuge. When he did, they murdered him.
For more on the sordid actions of both Jason and Menalaus see: (https://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/11710-onias). A great deal more could be said about this but suffice it to say that in the saga surrounding Onias and his demise, and the corruption of the High Priestly office that followed, it was a long story of bribery, corruption, violence and intrigue– none of it could be called “holy.”
With this in mind, let me take note again that Daniel 9 prophesied that the atonement would be made. This demanded that a qualified, holy High Priest offer the sacrifice for Yom Kippur.
This raises a fundamental and serious – I suggest fatal – objection to the Antiochan view. The indisputable fact is that Jason, who initially succeeded Onias, through bribery and political intrigue, was morally corrupt, violent and evil. According to many sources, Jason initially obtained the Priesthood by bribing Antiochus (who was always looking for sources of income to fund his wars). In fact, a summary of the nature of Jason and Menalaus, (who outbid him for the priesthood) is given on Wikipedia:
Jason apparently outbid his brother for the position in 175 BCE, and a newcomer named Menelaus outbid Jason in 171 BCE, resulting in his dismissal from the position. He later attempted to forcibly retake his old position in 168 BCE, but failed, and was forced into exile. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jason_(High_Priest)
At this juncture, ask yourself the question: Were Jason or Menalaus qualified to “make the atonement”? (Many sources claim that Menalaus was actually a Benjamite, not a Levite: Thus, there was simply no way that Menalaus could properly, lawfully or morally “make the Atonement”). But, Jason can hardly be considered a paragon of virtue either, given the fact that he was a briber, and at the very least, an (attempted) murderer!
This means one thing– one undeniable, historical, not to mention theological – fact: Since neither Jason or Menalaus were qualified to “make the Atonement” then Daniel 9 was not predicting the High Priestly functions of either man. Neither man was qualified to make the Atonement! And since Onias was the very last of the known qualified High Priests, that means that “the Atonement” was not – could not have been – properly offered, or accepted, from that time forward. In fact, among the “pious” Jews, there was a strong belief that the priesthood had so polluted the city and temple that it was not possible for proper worship to be offered there, and so, they left the city and no longer worshiped at the temple.
Kiwoong Son offers this assessment of the situation:
The destruction of the Jerusalem Temple (BC 586 DKP) and the process of Hellenization led meany pious people to regard the city as desecrated and now under the judgment of God (1 Maccabees 2:713; 2 Macc. 5:17; Test. Of Levi 14:5-8; Psam of Solomon 2:1-3; 8:8-21…). They saw the defilement of the temple as a sign that the temple was no longer a proper place for God’s dwelling, and consequently they left Jerusalem.”
In footnote, #126, same page: “The Qumran community saw Jerusalem as a city ‘where the Wicked Priest committed abominable deeds and defiled the temple of God,” (Kiwoong Son, Zion Symbolism in Hebrews; Hebrews 12:18-24 as a Hermeneutical Key to the Epistle (Grand Rapids, Paternoster, 2005), 52.
The critical point is that even if one were to argue that there were some qualified High Priests after Menalaus, this would not be relevant to the interpretation of Daniel 9. After all, the seventy weeks were determined “to make the Atonement.” It does not say that making of the Atonement would lie outside the seventy weeks. (Some– I will mention no names – have argued that the making of the Atonement could be fulfilled at any time after the end of the Weeks. To say this is an argumentum ad desperatum is a HUGE understatement; it is literally absurd!! I am unaware of any actual scholar that has ever made that argument).
These facts are critically important. Let me offer my argument as succinctly as possible:
Seventy weeks were determined to make the Atonement.
The Atonement had to be made by a duly qualified, holy, High Priest (Leviticus 21).
Neither Jason or Menalaus were duly qualified or holy.
Therefore, neither Jason or Menalaus made the Atonement.
Following on that:
Seventy weeks were determined to make the Atonement
The Atonement had to be made within the seventy week countdown.
There were no qualified, holy High Priests during the days of Antiochus Epiphanes, i.e. during the seventy week period– Onias was murdered, Jason and Menalaus were not qualified.
Therefore, the prophecy of Daniel 9 was not a prediction of the time and events of the days of Antiochus Epiphanes.
There are many other objections and obstacles to the claim that Daniel 9:24f foretold the days of Antiochus Epiphanes and the Oniad priesthood. But this Short Shot is, I am convinced, more than sufficient in and of itself to prove that the seventy week countdown was in fact not predicting the days of Antiochus, Onias, Jacob or Menalaus. Daniel 9 was a Messianic prophecy of the coming of Jesus and his perfect High Priestly work, through whom we have now received the atonement.
Be sure to get a copy of my book, Seventy Weeks Are Determined…for the Resurrection to see confirmation that Daniel 9 truly was Messianic.