Part 28—“Your Will Be Done on Earth”
In the book “Your Will Be Done on Earth” we are now studying in chapter 10, entitled “The North Against the South.” This concerns the military and political duel between what Daniel’s prophecy, chapter 11, styles “the king of the north” and “the king of the south.” The identity of these two symbolic kings changes from time to time. For more than two hundred years the role of the king of the north was carried by the line of Hellenic rulers of Syria in the Middle East. But in 64 B.C. Syria was made a Roman province with its capital at Antioch, and here at the latest the line of rulers of the Roman Empire became the king of the north. Emperor Caesar Augustus died A.D. 14, and his stepson Tiberius became his successor, a “contemptible person,” as Daniel 11:21 calls him. During the reign of Tiberius the military “arms of the flood” in subdued countries were held in check or were “swept away from before him” and were “broken.”
64. How was also the “prince of the covenant” then “broken” before him?
64 Even the “prince of the covenant” was broken in death. This was not any Jewish high priest, whom the Roman political representatives had put into office. It was the Leader of the covenant that Jehovah God had made with Abraham for blessing all the families and nations of the earth. It was the Seed of Abraham promised in this covenant. It was Jesus Christ. On Passover day, Nisan 14, of the year 33 (A.D.) Jesus stood in the governor’s palace (the Praetorium) in Jerusalem, before Pontius Pilate, who represented Tiberius Caesar and before whom the Jewish priests charged Jesus with treason against the emperor. Jesus said to the Roman governor: “My kingdom is no part of this world. . . . my kingdom is not from this source.” In order that the Roman governor might not release the faultless Jesus, the Jews shouted to Pilate: “If you release this man, you are not a friend of Caesar. Every man making himself a king speaks against Caesar. . . . We have no king but Caesar.” Then, according to the recent law of laesa majestas (“injured majesty”), the Roman governor handed Jesus over to be “broken,” impaled on a torture stake.—John 18:36; 19:12-16; Mark 15:14-18.
65. Why was the law of laesa majestas established, and what made Tiberius Caesar unpopular?
65 Yes, because of being very suspicious, Emperor Tiberius had extended the law of laesa majestas to include offenses against his own person and he also encouraged the informer system (delation). The land became like a police state and the latter part of his imperial rule became one of terror. The Roman author Pliny the Elder called Tiberius the “gloomiest of men.” Because he was so reserved, uncommunicative and retiring, the people could not understand him, and this made him unpopular.
66. With whom was Tiberius Caesar in league, and to what extent, and how did he become strong “with a little nation”?
66 Still speaking in advance about Tiberius, the angel said to Daniel: “And after the league made with him he shall work deceitfully; and he shall come up and become strong, with a little nation.” (Dan. 11:23, JP) Tiberius was constitutionally in league with the Roman Senate; he depended upon them formally, according to the constitution. Actually, though, he depended upon the “little nation.” Which “nation”? The Praetorian Guards, which had been formed by Caesar Augustus in 13 B.C. as Imperial Lifeguards, like the bodyguard around the person of the commander in chief of a Roman army. Up till now this imperial guard had been seen only near Rome in small detachments. Tiberius changed this. On the advice of his favorite, Sejanus, the commander of the Praetorian Guards, Tiberius had these Guards encamp permanently in full force close to the city walls. By this arrangement he held in check any unruliness of the people. This attached great importance to the commander of the Guards. The Guards came to enjoy special privileges and in time became so powerful that they were able to put emperors in office or to dethrone them, according to their will. By means of the Guards, just about 10,000 strong, Emperor Tiberius kept strong. Without much trouble, any risings within the Roman domain against his authority were put down. He almost completely abolished the popular assemblies known as the comitia.
67, 68. How did he enter into the fattest portion of the province, doing what his fathers and fathers’ fathers had not done, yet how did he die?
67 “In quiet and into the fattest portion of the province will he enter; and he will do what his fathers have not done, nor his fathers’ fathers: the prey, and spoil, and riches will he divide freely to them, and against the strong-holds will he devise his plans, but only till a certain time.” (Dan. 11:24, Le) This is what Tiberius did by the way he expressed his suspicions, largely under the influence of Sejanus, commander of the Praetorian Guards, till finally Sejanus himself fell under suspicion and was killed.
68 Ceaselessly Emperor Tiberius expended great care on the Roman provinces. At his death he left all the peoples subject to the empire in a condition of prosperity that they had not known under Augustus or previously and did not know again. Because of strict government economies, taxes were light and Tiberius was able to show generosity when times were exceptionally bad anywhere. If representatives of the empire, whether soldiers, governors or other officials, oppressed anyone below them and promoted any sort of irregularity in handling matters, they could be sure of imperial vengeance. A firm grip on power kept up the public security and quiet both in Italy and in foreign lands. The improvement in the communications system helped along commerce. With what were considered the sterner Roman virtues, the emperor saw to it that affairs were administered fairly and steadily both inside and outside Rome. In many respects the laws were improved, and social and moral relations were safeguarded by holding on to and furthering the reforms instituted by Caesar Augustus. However, the Roman historian Tacitus describes the personality of Tiberius as “one of studied dissimulation and hypocrisy from the beginning.” He was considered a tyrant, and after his death, in the latter half of March, A.D. 37, he was not honored with any deification. A “contemptible person”!
69. How did the king of the north, in Claudius, develop the empire still further, and under which emperor did it attain its greatest expansion?
69 Tiberius was succeeded by Gaius Caesar, commonly called Caligula, who, in turn, was succeeded by his uncle, Claudius, in 41 (A.D.). Besides what Tiberius, as king of the north, had done for the improvement of the Roman Empire, Claudius saw to the further development of the empire along the lines that Augustus had in mind. Says one authority: “Client-states were absorbed, southern Britain was conquered, the Romanization of the West received powerful impulse, public works were executed in Rome and Italy, and the organization of the imperial bureaucracy made rapid strides.”a Says a history: “An important extension of the state was made under Claudius, who sent a successful expedition into Britain in A.D. 43 and added the southern portion of the island as the province of Britannia. Later the British frontier was pushed farther northward and secured by a line of defenses. Trajan (A.D. 98-117) . . . ambitious to build a great oriental empire, entered upon a war of aggression in which he defeated the Parthians in Persia and added Armenia, Mesopotamia and Assyria to the empire as provinces. This represents the expansion of Rome to its greatest extent, but these conquests by Trajan in the East were abandoned by his successor.”b
70. With Daniel 11:25, who does the king of the north become, and during his reign whose ambitions became a danger to the empire?
70 Continuing his preview of the activities of the prophetic king of the north, Jehovah’s angel told Daniel: “And he will then stir up his power and his courage [heart] against the king of the south with a great army: and the king of the south will prepare himself for the war with an exceedingly great and mighty army; but he will not stand; for they will devise evil plans against him. Yea, they that eat of his food will bring his downfall, and the army of the other will overflow; and many will fall down slain.” (Dan. 11:25, 26, Le) With this verse the king of the north has become Emperor Aurelian (A.D. 270-275). One of his great problems was Queen Septimia Zenobia, of Palmyra in the Syrian desert. An ancient city, Palmyra was favored in its growth by the wars between the Romans and the Parthians in Persia. When Emperor Hadrian visited the town about A.D. 130 he named it Adrianopolis. It became a Roman colony and an important military post. The wars with Persia brought Palmyra to political importance for a time and it became for a few years the mistress of the Roman East. It became a danger to Rome, because of the ambitions of Queen Zenobia. Her native name was Bath Zabbai. Her husband, King Odaenathus, was the supreme commander of the East. After he died (A.D. 266-267), Zenobia planned to lift her position higher than his by making Palmyra the dominant city of the Roman Empire in the East. Already skilled at government administration, she took over the reins of government entirely.
71. How did she, with her son, come to occupy the position of king of the south toward the Roman Empire?
71 Her general-in-chief was Zabdā, a kinsman of her husband, and under him the Palmyrene army occupied Egypt A.D. 270 under the pretext of making it secure to Rome, for there were pretenders that disputed the Roman emperor’s authority along the Nile River. Zenobia directed this conquest, and her son governed Egypt with the title of king, whereas his mother was titled queen. Garrisons of Palmyrene troops were established in Asia Minor as far west as Ancyra (now Turkish Ankara) and even opposite European Byzantium. Zenobia came to be called Augusta or empress. When Aurelian became the Roman emperor in 270 (A.D.) he became king of the north. He soon appreciated that the ambitious policy of Queen Zenobia was putting the unity of the Roman Empire in danger. In his second year the breach between him and Queen Zenobia occurred. Zenobia was now faced with an invasion by the king of the north, to whom she held the position of king of the south. She had gained worldly greatness by uniting the desert Arabs with the Egyptians. Besides Mesopotamia and part of Asia Minor, she held Egypt as well as Syria. She could rely on the Arabs and the Armenians, but not too strongly on the loyalty of the Syrians.
72. What did the king of the north have to stir up, and how did the king of the south have to prepare himself, and how did the contest result?
72 It required Emperor Aurelian to stir up his power and his heart to proceed against this warlike queen of Egypt and Syria. For her part, she had to prepare herself for war with the king of the north by an exceedingly great and mighty army under her two generals Zabdā and Zabbai. Aurelian first recovered Egypt for himself by Probus. Then he got ready for a big expedition into Asia Minor and Syria. Zenobia with her two generals was defeated at Emesa (now Homs) and retreated to Palmyra. Although this city was bulwarked by the desert, Aurelian finally formed and kept up a siege of the strongly fortified and well-provisioned city. Under the siege the courage of Zenobia cracked. She and her son got out of the city and fled toward Persia for help. The Romans captured them on the bank of the Euphrates River. The besieged Palmyrenes lost heart and surrendered their city, A.D. 272. Aurelian spared the life of Zenobia and took her to Rome to be his prize feature in his great triumphal march through the imperial capital A.D. 274.c After that she was permitted to spend the rest of her life as a Roman matron.
73. How was it that the king of the north did not stand, those who ate of his food bringing about his downfall?
73 Not only had Queen Zenobia in the role of king of the south not stood before the armed might of Rome, but even her conqueror, Emperor Aurelian, did not stand against conspirators. The Roman Senate rightly conferred upon him the title Restorer of the Roman Empire. He was the first Roman emperor to wear the diadem, and on medals he was entitled Lord and God. Toward the end of his triumphal year he set out on an expedition against the Persians. While waiting in Thrace for the opportunity to cross the straits into Asia Minor, those who ate his food carried out their evil plans against him and broke him. He was going to call his secretary Eros to account for certain irregularities. Eros incited certain officers to conspire against the emperor by forging a list of men who were marked out for death and including these officers. The sight of this list moved them to devise his assassination.
74. As regards the further representation of the king of the north, how did the “army of the other” overflow, so that many fell down slain?
74 The career of the king of the north did not end with Emperor Aurelian. Other emperors followed him, and for a time there were an emperor of the west and an emperor of the east, within the one empire. Under these the army of the king of the north was swept away and many fell down slain, as prophesied, due to the invasions of barbarians from the north. These invasions were thrown back until the fourth century, when the barbarians successfully broke through. The Goths or Germans found out that the armed legions of Rome were invincible no more. Now that they had broken the Roman frontiers, invasion followed invasion. By the beginning of the sixth century they had shattered the Roman Empire in the West, and German kings bore rule in Italy, Britain, Gaul, Spain and North Africa. In the eastern part of the empire, Constantinople (Byzantium) had failed to fall before the threatening Attila the Hun, who then went west.
75. How did the Roman Empire finally become divided into two parts, with two emperors, and how did Egypt eventually come under British domination?
75 Emperor Constantine (324-337) gave state recognition to the popular form of Christianity and even presided over the Council of Nice in Nicomedia, Asia Minor, less than a hundred miles from Byzantium, A.D. 325. Later he moved the imperial residence from Rome to Byzantium. There, on May 11, A.D. 330, he founded the new imperial capital and dedicated it as New Rome or Constantinople. But there was still one Roman Empire. On the death of the later emperor, Theodosius, January 17, 395, the empire was finally divided between his sons, Honorius receiving the western section and Arcadius the eastern, with his capital at Constantinople. Egypt fell to the lot of Constantinople and became a province of the eastern division of the Roman Empire. In 641 (A.D.), when Heraclius was the emperor of the East, the Egyptian capital, Alexandria, fell to the Mohammedan Saracens and Egypt became a province of the caliphs or successors of Mohammed. Long afterward, in 1516-1517 Egypt became a Turkish province, governed by a pasha. When World War I broke out in 1914, Egypt belonged to Turkey and was ruled by a khediv or viceroy. Because of siding with the Germans, the Khedive Abbas Pasha was deposed on December 18 that year, and Egypt was declared a British Protectorate, particularly with a view to protect the Suez Canal.
76. When and how was the Eastern Roman Empire ended?
76 Constantine P. XII was the last emperor of the East, ascending the throne in 1448. The Mohammedans had repeatedly tried to capture Constantinople. After centuries of attempts they at last succeeded. It was besieged fifty-three days by Turkish Sultan Mahomet (Mohammed) II and was taken on May 29, 1453. With its capture the Eastern Roman Empire definitely ended.
77. In what line of bishops did a new political religious figure arise, and when did it become proper to speak of an Eastern Empire and a Western Empire?
77 In the western part of the Roman Empire a new religious political figure arose in the Catholic bishop of Rome, particularly with Pope Leo I, the Great, who is noted as the real founder of the papacy in the fifth century. In course of time the pope took it upon himself to crown the emperor of the Western Roman Empire. This occurred when Pope Leo III crowned Frankish King Charles (Charlemagne) on Christmas Day, A.D. 800, at Rome, as emperor of the Western Roman Empire. Pope Leo III said: “To Charles the Augustus, crowned by God, great and pacific emperor, life and victory.” So from then on the political ruler was supposed to rule “by the grace of God.” However, says one recent history: “The coronation of Charlemagne was a usurpation, for the government at Constantinople was still the legal governing authority in the Empire.”d This was true even though at the time a woman usurper, Empress Irene (780-802), sat on the throne at Constantinople. From this point forward it is proper to speak of the Eastern Empire and the Western Empire, both claiming to be Christian. Charlemagne added a second head to the eagle in his insignia, to denote that the Empires of Rome and of Germany were united.
(To be continued)
a The Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 23, page 651b.
b On the Road to Civilization, by Heckel and Sigman (1937), page 198, paragraph 1.
c See Thy Kingdom Come, by C. T. Russell (1891), pages 33, 34.
d On the Road to Civilization, by Heckel and Sigman, page 275, paragraph 3.