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When, taking these observations along with us, we advert to the history of Daniel's people, during, and immediately after, the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, we find in it a clear fulfilment of this prophecy, and readily discover the era here called the end. The family of Mattathias—the teachers, continued for several generations at the head of the Jewish nation. Jonathan, who succeeded Judas as the military commander, was made high priest ;* and after him, his brother, Simon, was made both high priest and governor.t Simon's son, John Hyrcanus, succeeded him in both capacities. Aristobulus, the son of Hyrcanus, assumed, in addition to the high-priesthood, the title and state of king ; § and the two offices continued in his family, united in one person, till Antigonus, the last who was in possession of them both, was taken prisoner by Herod, surnamed the Great, and put to death by Mark Antony.|| “ And thus,” says Josephus, “ did the government of the Asmoneans” (the descendants of Simon and Mattathias) “ cease, a hundred and twenty.six years after it was set up.”
Let us now see, how literally the conditions of the prophecy were fulfilled, in the history of this race of priests and sovereigns. Their's was a history, the events of which emerged during the persecution by Epiphanes, and through the time which immediately succeeded it. It was a history which had a definite and well-marked conclusion, or end, in the extinction of the male branches of the peculiar race, whose rule gave way to a totally different succeeding system of government and affairs of the Jewish people. The special characters of the events, too, accurately agree with the prediction. Some of this race of priests, who instructed many, fell,—and fell by violent deaths, and by captivity, and by being spoiled of their possessions and authority. Eleazar, the son of Mattathias, was crushed to death under an elephant, which he killed in battle.* Judas Maccabeus also fell in battle. His brother, John, was taken by the children of Jambri and put to death. Jonathan was circumvented by Tryphon, and slain with a thousand men.$ Simon was treacherously murdered by his own son-in-law.|| Some of the race also fell, to the time of the end of their dynasty. Aristobulus, the son of Alexander Jannæus, who, for a time, usurped the sovereignty, was taken captive, and carried to Rome, by Pompey the Great, to grace his triumph. Hyrcanus, his elder brother, who was high priest for forty years, was spoiled of his office, and maimed by Antigonus, the son of Aristobulus, and afterwards put to death by Herod.** We have already seen, that Antigonus himself was dethroned by Herod, and put to death by Antony. Aristobulus, the grandson of both the royal brothers, Aristobulus and Hyrcanus, by a son of the former, and daughter of the latter, and the last male descendant of the Asmonean family, who held for a short time the highpriesthood, was drowned by Herod.tt
* Ist Macc. x. 21.
+ 1st Macc. xiv. 35. # Ist Macc. xvi. 24, and Josephus' Antiquities, Book xiii. chap. 8. sec. 1. $ Antiq. xiii. 11. 1. | Antiq. xiv. 16. 4.
And by their teaching, and example of fidelity to their religion, under extreme persecution, and their good
* Ist Macc. vi. 46. Ist Macc. ix. 18. # lst Macc. ix. 36, 42. § 1st Macc. xii. 41–48. Ist Macc. xvi. 16. 1 Antiq. xiv. 4. 5. ** Antiq. xiv. 13. 10; and xv. 6. 2.
tt Antiq. xv. 3. 3.
administration of public affairs, when first raised to the supreme power, the family of Mattathias refined, and made clean, and white, their countrymen. We learn what we are to understand by refining, and the other synonymous terms, from the language of another prophet. “I will refine them as silver is refined, -and will try them as gold is tried ; and they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, it is my people ; and they shall say, the Lord is my God."* From the cruel persecution of Epiphanes, and the numerous defections of the Jews, it seemed as if the whole nation would cease to call the Lord their God. But Mattathias continued faithful, and said, « Though all the nations that are under the king's dominion obey him, and fall away every one from the religion of their fathers, and give consent to his commandments ;-yet will I, and my sons, and my brethren, walk in the covenant of our fathers. God forbid that we should forsake the law and ordinances. We will not hearken to the king's words, to go from our religion, either on the right hand or the left.”+ This resolution, faithfully persisted in by him and his sons, led to the wars, and heroical achievements of the Maccabees ; during which they retook and purified the temple, and restored, there, those services which were the centre and support of the Mosaic institutions. The whole nation, by degrees, submitted themselves to the rule and instructions, and imitated the example, of these faithful and resolute priests. They deserted the superstitions of the heathens, and again
* Zechariah xiii. 9.
+ Ist Macc. ii. 19-22.
called the Lord their God, and joined in those services which he had commanded. In the words of Bishop Newton, already quoted, “ the Jewish religion and govern. ment were established on a firmer basis than before." John Hyrcanus, their first successor, walked in the footsteps of the five sons of Mattathias. “ He administered the government,” says Josephus, “in the best manner for thirty-one years.”* The authors of the Universal History, summing up the merits of his administration, say,“ his reign was no less remarkable on account of his great wisdom and piety, than his conquests abroad. Never did the Jewish religion or commonwealth appear in greater lustre, since the return from the captivity.”+ Thus, was restored, among Daniel's people, that fidelity to their revealed religion, which continued to characterize them afterwards. They no more apostatized from that religion, to adopt heathen superstitions. They were thus, in this respect, “refined, and made clean, and made white," by the fidelity and zealous exertions of the Maccabees and Asmoneans ;-although corruption and defilement afterwards, unhappily, appeared among them, under new forms, when they made the word of God of none effect through their traditions, till “ wrath was complete.”
We have now come to the conclusion of the Third Section of these Illustrations, during the progress of which, we have had occasion to controvert not a little of the reasoning of Bishop Newton, on the five verses of Daniel which form its subject,-in his highly valuable « Dissertations on the Prophecies, which have remarkably been fulfilled, and at this time are fulfilling, in the world.” But we have only controverted his reasoning in a passage, where he himself seems to allow, that he is not very well assured of the firmness of the ground on which he treads; for he admits, that, in interpreting this part of Daniel's last prophecy, commentators “pursue so many different paths, that it is not always easy to know whom it is best and safest to follow.” We trust, that while, in the search after truth, we have debated many of his positions respecting this part of the prophecy, we have done so in terms of sufficient respect for the name of that eminent author, who, with learning, industry, good judgment, and eloquence, that highly fitted him for the task, has illustrated, in the most satisfactory manner, many other of the Scripture prophecies ; and so, we trust, has been one instrument of confirming the Christian faith, and hope, of many. In the succeeding part of our illustrations, we shall not so frequently advert to his reasoning. But we cannot part from him here without paying this humble tribute to his high merit ; lest we should seem,-by arguing against him so often, in reference to our very limited subject to furnish ground for suspicion, that his reasoning, on other points, is equally liable to objection. We think his reason. ing clear, sound, and incontrovertible, in the great majority of his other interpretations of prophecy.
* Antiq. xiii. 10, 7.
+ Universal History.
Vol. x. p. 342.