“Then King Darius wrote
To all the people,
To all the nations,
Of every language,
The whole world.
‘May you have
This King Darius of Medes sent a decree to all the people and countries on the earth, no matter what their language. Of course, this would be hardly possible, since it was probably written in Aramaic. Anyway, he wished everyone peace and prosperity.
“‘This is the interpretation!
It is a decree
Of the Most High,
That has come upon
You shall be driven away
From human society!
Shall be with
The wild animals!
You shall be made
To eat grass
You shall be bathed
With the dew
It shall pass
Until you have learned
That the Most High
Over the kingdoms
He gives it
To whom he will.’”
Daniel then gave his shocking interpretation of the watcher’s cry to the king. He said that this was a decree that came from the Most High God. The king, Daniel’s lord, would be driven away from human society. He was going to live with the wild animals. He was going to eat grass like oxen do. He would be washed in heavenly dew for 7 years, until he would come to recognize that the Most High God ruled over all the mortal kingdoms. God was able to give his kingdoms to whomever he wanted.
“Jerusalem is built as a city.
It is bound firmly together.
The tribes go up to it.
These are the tribes of Yahweh,
As was decreed for Israel.
They were to give thanks
To the name of Yahweh.
There the thrones for judgment were set up.
These are the thrones of the house of David.”
Now we have a full blown eulogy to Jerusalem, a well built city. All the tribes of Israel, those who believed in Yahweh, had a decree to give thanks to the name of Yahweh in Jerusalem. This is the place where the thrones of judgment were, the kings of the house of David. This psalm does not seem to be from David, but about David.
“It happened that on the same day on which the sanctuary had been profaned by the foreigners, the purification of the sanctuary took place, that is, on the twenty-fifth day of the same month, which was Chislev. They celebrated it for eight days with rejoicing, in the manner of the festival of booths. They remembered how not long before, during the feast of booths, they had been wandering in the mountains and caves like wild animals. Therefore bearing ivy-wreathed wands and beautiful branches with also fronds of palm, they offered hymns of thanksgiving to him who had given success to the purifying of his own holy place. They decreed by public edict, ratified by vote, that the whole nation of the Jews should observe these days every year. Such then was the end of King Antiochus, who was called Epiphanes.”
This is very reminiscent of 1 Maccabees, chapter 4. However, the festival of booths was usually in September, but Chislev is December. As they were not able to celebrate it then, they celebrated it here for 8 days. This might be the source of Hanukkah. This took place 2 years to the day that the profanation of the Temple took place. It is the same time frame as the story in Esther. Yet it is reminiscent of the restoration of the Temple of King Hezekiah in 2 Chronicles, chapter 29. Here there is an official decree that is voted upon. This is the first mention of any kind of vote. Previously, questions were answered by lot. Perhaps this is the Greek influence. Nevertheless, this is the end of King Antiochus IV as now they have a restored Temple in Jerusalem to celebrate and remember.
“None of the people or priests shall be permitted
To nullify any of these decisions
Or to oppose what he says,
Or to convene an assembly in the country without his permission,
Or to be clothed in purple
Or put on a gold buckle.
Whoever acts contrary to these decisions
Or rejects any of them shall be liable to punishment.”
This decree gave Simon a lot of authority. No question about it, we have a full blown dictatorship. Nobody can oppose him. Nobody can call an assembly without his permission. They cannot wear purple or a gold buckle because only Simon can do that. Anyone who goes against his decisions would be liable to be punished. One man rule is really in place. Strangely enough, he did not ask for it.
“The Jews and their priests decided
That Simon should be their leader
And high priest forever,
Until a trustworthy prophet should arise.
He should be governor over them.
He should take charge of the sanctuary.
He should appoint officials over its tasks.
He should appoint officials over the country.
He should appoint officials over the weapons and the strongholds.
He should take charge of the sanctuary.
He should be obeyed by all.
All contracts in the country should be written in his name.
He should be clothed in purple and wear gold.”
This decree said that the Jews and the priests had decided that Simon and his family would be in charge forever. However, there was one caveat that a trustworthy prophet might rise up and challenge one of his descendents. He was the governor and the high priest combining the political and religious authority. He was in charge of the sanctuary as well as all the tasks of the government and the army. Every contract with another country had to be written in his name. He was to wear purple and gold. He was like a modern day appointed dictator benevolent ruler.
“In view of these things King Demetrius
Confirmed him in the high priesthood.
He made him one of the king’s friends.
He paid him high honors.
He had heard that the Jews
Were addressed by the Romans as friends,
Allies and brothers.
The Romans had received the envoys of Simon with honor.”
This decree also mentioned that King Demetrius II confirmed Simon in the high priesthood. It is still not clear where this authority came from. He, of course, made him one of the king’s friends. Thus he paid him high honors. He knew that Simon had sent envoys to Rome, who had addressed him as a friend, ally, and brother. The Seleucid King Demetrius II wanted to be on the right side of this relationship.
“Now on the fifteenth day of Chislev, in the one hundred forty-fifth year they erected a desolating sacrilege on the altar of burnt offerings. They also built altars in the surrounding towns of Judah. They offered incense at the doors of the houses and in the streets. The books of the law that they found they tore to pieces and burned with fire. Anyone found possessing the book of the covenant, or anyone who adhered to the law, was condemned to death by the decree of the king. They kept using violence against Israel, against those who were found month after month in the towns. On the twenty-fifth day of the month they offered sacrifice on the altar that was on top of the altar of burnt offering. According to the decree, they put to death the women who had their children circumcised. They put to death their families and those who circumcised them. They hung the infants from their mothers’ necks.”
Once again, we have specific days and years. Chislev was December of 167 BCE. The sacrilege mentioned might be the idol of Zeus. There will be more indications of this in the Book of Daniel and 2 Maccabees, which must be from about the same time period. They used the old altars with incense in the house and streets. When they found the book of the law, they tore it apart and burned it. Thus we have an early instance of the burning of books. Anyone who was following the Mosaic covenant was condemned to death. Violence was a way of life. They put to death any women who circumcised their children, plus their whole family. Then they would hang the infants on their mother’s necks. This seems like an especially brutal way to get rid of strange customs.
“A copy of the document was to be issued as a decree in every province, and published to all peoples. The Jews were to be ready on that day to take revenge on their enemies. So the couriers, mounted on their swift royal horses hurried out, urged by the king’s command. The decree was issued in the citadel of Susa.”
Now we are back at the Hebrew text, which summarizes the letter. A copy of this decree was sent to every one of the 127 provinces so that all the people knew about this. The Jews were to be ready on the 13th of Adar to take revenge against their enemies. This word went out by the royal couriers with their swift royal horses. The king had urged them on, since this decree came from the Persian capital of Susa.
“Therefore you shall observe this with all good cheer
As a notable day among your commemorative festivals.
Both now and hereafter it may represent
Deliverance for you and the loyal Persians.
However, this will be a reminder of destruction
For those who plot against us.
Every city and country, without exception,
That does not act accordingly
Shall be destroyed in wrath with spear and fire.
It shall be made not only impassable for human beings,
But also most hateful to wild animals and birds for all time.”
The Greek text of the document concludes that this should be a festival day because it represents deliverance for all loyal Persians. Now this festival is not only a Jewish remembrance but a Persian holiday showing what happens to those who plot against the Persians. Anyone who does not follow this decree will be wiped out, not only the humans there, but also the animals and birds of that area.