29. At the time appointed he shall return, and come toward the south; but it shall not be as the former, or as the latter.
29. Ad tempus revertetur et veniet in AEgyptum: et non erit ut prius, it a posterius.
30. For the ships of Chittim shall come against him: therefore he shall be grieved, and return, and have indignation against the holy covenant: so shall he do; he shall even return, and have intelligence with them that forsake the holy covenant.
30. Et venient contra eum naves Cithim, et debilitabitur, et revertetur, et indignabitur adversus foedus sanctitatis, et faciet, et revertetur, et intelliget, ad desertores foederis sanctitatis.
First of all, the angel says, Antiochus should return a short time afterwards and take possession of Egypt. This was the fruit of that pretended peace and perfidious friendship which has already been mentioned. For the uncle and nephew banqueted together in mutual distrust, as the angel has already stated, and as we found in the 27th verse of this chapter. This deception was shortly afterwards dissolved, when Antiochus, without any reasonable impulse, returned to Egypt. In this way he shewed his want of nothing but an opportunity for breaking the truce, and he only delayed it for a time, because he had no wish to oppress his nephew in haste. This, then, is one point. We may take the word mvd mogned, |time,| for a period divinely predetermined; but as this explanation may seem too forced, I am contented with the common one. He shall return, then, for a time, and shall come, says he, to Egypt; but the latter exposition shall not be like the former; for the whole preparation for war which had struck such terror into Egypt should lose its effect. He had seized on a portion of the kingdom, and King Ptolemy Philometor was besieged when Publius Popilius arrived, of whom the angel will presently speak. For the cause of his return is added, --
ships shall come from Chittim We have explained this word elsewhere. By comparing all the passages of Scripture in which the word occurs, we shall find all the Gentiles denoted by it, from Macedon through the whole of Greece, as far as Illyricum and Italy. The ancients used another term for the Macedonians; they call them Maketoe, and some think the letter M a useless addition. But whether this be so or not, the circumstances shew the Macedonians, and Greeks, and other transmarine nations, to have been called Chittim. If any one still disputes about this word, let us desist from all contention; still, we cannot help observing what the perpetual tenor of Scripture enables us to discover, -- that the Macedonians, Greeks, and Italians are included under this term. This passage is free from all doubt, because Antiochus was restrained not by the Greeks but by the Romans. Ambassadors were sent by them, not for this purpose alone, but to investigate the whole state of Greece and Asia Minor. The affairs of Greece were then very unsettled, and the Romans were turning their attention towards Achaia, for they thought the Achaean league would become too powerful. Among these ambassadors was P. Popilius, a stern man, as we may venture to conjecture, but austere and barbarous. When he met with Antiochus, who was then besieging Alexandria, and held the boy-king in captivity, he addressed him after his own manner. King Antiochus received him graciously, and mildly, and even blandly, and wished even to salute him, for, as we have already stated, his disposition was naturally servile. Popilius rejected all these advances, and ordered him to keep his familiarities for private intercourse; for Antiochus had been intimate with him when a hostage at Rome, during his father's lifetime. He rejected all these acts of courtesy, and explained to him the commands of the Senate, and ordered him instantly to depart from Egypt. The king said he would consult with his friends. But he was unable to lay aside his accustomed sternness; he drew a circle with the wand which he held in his hand, and ordered the king to summon his counselors, and to deliberate on the spot, otherwise he must declare war at once. When the king perceived this barbarian acting so decisively, he dared no longer to hesitate or dissemble, but threw himself at once into the power of the Senate, and suddenly retired from the country. This history is now described by the angel. All these events were as yet unperformed, but God set before the eyes of the pious what was then entirely concealed and contrary to the expectation of mankind. The angel therefore states the reason wily that expedition of Antiochus should be quite unlike the last one. There shall come against him, says he, ships of Chittim, meaning Italy, and he shall grieve and return; that is, he shall obey, although he shall feel indignant at such imperious treatment, and be compelled to retreat with every mark of disgrace. It was unworthy of a king to demean himself so humbly at the mere word of his adversary.
This accounts for his indignation: But he shall return and be indignant against the covenant of holiness; meaning, he shall turn his rage against the temple and city of God. This second return involved the Jews in a far longer period of slaughter than the former one. Antiochus was then unwilling to return home, unless laden with spoil, after pretending to establish peace; but now he was compelled to retreat with great disgrace, and this only exasperated and enraged him. Hence he acted most outrageously towards both the people and the temple of God. Thus the angel says, He shall be indignant against the holy covenant, and shall do so and return He repeats the same language twice as if he had said, Antiochus should return to Syria without effecting his object, through obeying the Roman Senate, or rather his old friend whom he had known at Rome. We have already stated the reason, which we shall afterwards more fully explain, why the angel predicted the fury of the king as turned against the holy covenant It is this, -- the confidence of the pious would naturally be injured by observing the divine permission granted to the tyrant for spoiling the temple.
He next adds, And he shall act with intelligence towards the forsakers of the holy covenant The angel here points out the manner in which secret agreements should take place between Antiochus and those apostates who should desert God's holy covenant. It is quite clear that he was summoned to Jerusalem, first, by Jason, and then by Menelaus. (2 Maccabees 4:19-23.) I shall touch but briefly events recorded in history. Profane authors inform us accurately of these occurrences, and besides this, a whole book of Maccabees gives us similar information, and places clearly before us what the angel here predicts. Every one who wishes to read these prophecies with profit, must make himself familiar with these books, and must try to remember the whole history. Onias the elder was a holy man; his son has been previously mentioned. (2 Maccabees 3:1.) For, with the view of escaping from snares, he set out for Egypt and built a temple, as Josephus informs us, and pretended to fulfill that passage in Isaiah which says, There shall be an altar to God in Egypt. But Onias the elder, who discharged faithfully and sacredly the office of high priest, was put to flight, and eventually put to death. Then Jason, whom he had sent to appease Antiochus, assumed the high priesthood, and betrayed the temple and the whole nation, as well as the worship of God. (2 Maccabees 4:35-37; also 7.) He afterwards met with the reward which he deserved, for he was slain, and then Menelaus succeeded him, and conciliated the favor of Antiochus. (2 Maccabees 5:9; 4:27.) The authority of the priesthood prevailed so far as to enable him to draw with him a great portion of the people. Here, then, the angel predicts how Antiochus, on approaching the city, should have deserters and apostates as His companions. The words are, He shall apply his mind to the forsakers of the holy covenant, and the sense is by no means obscure. Antiochus should not make open war against the Jews, but one faction should go forth to meet him and ingratiate themselves with him. I run through these events briefly, because when I afterwards arrive at a general summary, it will be far more convenient to elicit the general improvement. The angel says next: