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October 30

Other comments on this day's readings can be found here.

Reading 1 - 2Ch 28:19-21

"The LORD had humbled Judah because of Ahaz king of Israel [that is, Judah], for he had promoted wickedness in Judah and had been most unfaithful to the LORD. Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria came to him, but he gave him trouble instead of help. Ahaz took some of the things from the temple of the LORD and from the royal palace and from the princes and presented them to the king of Assyria, but that did not help him" (2Ch 28:19-21).

Literally, Ahaz "divided up -- or set aside -- a portion of the temple" -- giving it to the Assyrian soldiers as a place to rest and reside. (A similar policy was followed by the Assyrians with other vassal nations; compare also the Roman garrison prominently established next to the Temple in New Testament times.) Similar ideas are expressed in Isa 63:18; 64:11; Psa 74:3-8; 79:1; Isa 7:13; 11:9; 52:1; Mic 5:5.

Here is a clear example of what Jesus later called "giving dogs what is sacred, and throwing your pearls to pigs". And sure enough, it wasn't long before the Assyrians were trampling them under their feet, and turning and tearing Judah to pieces (Mat 7:6).

Reading 2 - Dan 8

The little horn of Daniel 8:

In 203 BC, a king named Antiochus the Great came into power in Syria, to the north of Palestine. He captured Jerusalem from the Egyptians and began the reign of Syrian power over Palestine. He had two sons, one of whom succeeded him and reigned only a few years. When he died, his brother took the throne. This man, named Antiochus Epiphanes, became one of the most vicious and violent persecutors of the Jews ever known. In fact, he is often called the "Antichrist of the Old Testament," since he fulfills some of the predictions of Daniel concerning the coming of one who would be "a contemptible person" and "a vile king." His name (which he modestly bestowed upon himself) means "Antiochus the Illustrious." Nevertheless, some of his own courtiers evidently agreed more with the prophecies of Daniel, and they changed two letters in his title, from Epiphanes to Epipames, which means "the madman."

His first act was to depose the high priest in Jerusalem, thus ending the long line of succession, beginning with Aaron and his sons through the many centuries of Jewish life. Onias the Third was the last of the hereditary line of priests. Antiochus Epiphanes sold the priesthood to Jason, who was not of the priestly line. Jason, in turn, was tricked by his younger brother Menelaus, who purchased the priesthood and then sold the golden vessels of the temple in order to make up the tribute money. Epiphanes overthrew the God-authorized line of priests. Then, and under his reign, the city of Jerusalem and all the religious rites of the Jews began to deteriorate as they came fully under the power of the Syrian king.

In 171 BC Antiochus invaded Egypt and once again Palestine was caught in the nutcracker of rivalry. Palestine is the most fought-over country in the world, and Jerusalem is the most captured city in all history. It has been pillaged, ravished, burned and destroyed more than 27 times in its history.

While Antiochus was in Egypt, it was reported that he had been killed in battle, and Jerusalem rejoiced. The people organized a revolt and overthrew Menelaus, the pseudo-priest. When report reached Antiochus (who was very much alive in Egypt) that Jerusalem was delighted at the report of his death, he organized his armies and swept like a fury back across the land, falling upon Jerusalem with terrible vengeance. He overturned the city, regained his power, and, guided by the treacherous Menelaus, intruded into the very Holy of Holies in the temple itself. Some 40,000 people were slain in three days of fighting during this terrible time. When he forced his way into the Holy of Holies, he destroyed the scrolls of the Law and, to the absolute horror of the Jews, took a sow and offered it upon the sacred altar. Then with a broth made from the flesh of this unclean animal, he sprinkled everything in the temple, thus completely defiling and violating the sanctuary. It is impossible for us to grasp how horrifying this was to the Jews. They were simply appalled that anything like this could ever happen to their sacred temple.

It was that act of defiling the temple which is referred to by the Lord Jesus as the "desolating sacrilege" which Daniel had predicted (Mat 24:15), and which was reproduced -- to some degree -- by the Roman destruction of Herod's temple in AD 70. As we know from the New Testament, another similar desecration still lies in the future.

Daniel the prophet had said the sanctuary would be polluted for 2300 days (Dan 8:14). In exact accordance with that prophecy, it was exactly 2300 days –- six and a half years –- before the temple was cleansed. It was cleansed under the leadership of a man now famous in Jewish history, Judas Maccabeus. He was one of the priestly line who, with his father and four brothers, rose up in revolt against the Syrian king. They captured the attention of the Israelites, summoned them to follow them into battle, and in a series of pitched battles in which they were always an overwhelming minority, overthrew the power of the Syrian kings, captured Jerusalem, and cleansed the temple. The day they cleansed the temple was named the Day of Dedication, and it occurred on the 25th day of December. On that date Jews still celebrate the Feast of Dedication -- or Hanukkah -- each year.

Reading 3 - Acts 8:1,4

"And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria... Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went" (Acts 8:1,4).

Probably Saul was one of the judges, and thus was excluded from actually and literally executing the judgment (cp Deu 17:4-7,12). He seems to allude to the same thing in Acts 26:10, when he recalls: "When they were put to death, I cast my vote against them."

The word "scattered" (which occurs in both verses above) is the Greek "diaspeiro" -- from which is derived the English "diaspora" or dispersion. This describes a scattering of seed, as done by a farmer -- and thus, symbolically, the scattering of the "seed" of the gospel, of which Jesus spoke in his parable (Mat 13:3). The persecution of the early church led to its dispersion; and this became the means by which Christ's promise was to be fulfilled -- that his disciples would preach in all nations (Mark 16:15,16; Mat 28:19,20). (The fruits of this are soon obvious, as seen later in this very chapter: with Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch.)

"For here we do not have an enduring city" (Heb 13:14). Those who were driven away from the earthly Jerusalem went forth to preach a heavenly Jerusalem!

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