A Faith-Building Study From Daniel 11

By Jason Jackson

If we measure the significance of Daniel 11 by the amount of attention that critics give it, then it must be a chapter of great magnitude. Indeed it is. In his work, Daniel the Prophet, E.B. Pusey wrote:

“The book of Daniel is especially fitted to be a battlefield between faith and unbelief. It admits of no half-measures. It is either Divine or an imposture. To write any book under the name of another, and to give it out to be his, is in any case forgery, dishonest in itself, and destructive of all trustworthiness. But the case as to the book of Daniel, if it were not his, would go far beyond even this. The writer, were he not Daniel, must have lied, on a most frightful scale, ascribing to God prophecies which were never uttered, and miracles which are assumed never to have been wrought. In a word, the whole book would be one lie in the Name of God” (p. 75).

Daniel 11 “admits of no half-measures.” In this chapter, Daniel predicted events pertaining to the Persian period down to the Hellenistic era, taking the reader to the brink of New Testament times. Daniel surveyed future events so accurately that not even the critics disagree with the basic historical outline. The unbelievers’ consensus is that Daniel 11 is so precise that it had to be written after the fact. An assertion, however, is not proof. S.R. Driver claimed, “The minuteness of predictions, embracing even special events in the distant future, is also out of harmony with the analogy of prophecy” (p. 478).

Here is the argument. The book of Daniel is in the same class (i.e., “the analogy of prophecy”) with Jeremiah, Isaiah, and other prophets, who did not reveal “distant future” events with “minuteness of prediction.” What an argument! Daniel did not predict distant future events because prophets did not do such things. This is merely an assertion that shows a bias against the possibility of predictive prophecy.

Since the book of Daniel is the product of the sixth century prophet, we have indisputable proof of the inspiration of the Bible.

While most of the chapters in Daniel reveal a single historical event or vision, chapter eleven is the center of the final revelation given to Daniel, which occupies three chapters. This last disclosure to the prophet involves chapters ten through twelve. Chapter ten prepares the way for the eleventh. Chapter eleven is essentially tied to Daniel 12:1-4, as well as the book’s conclusion (12:5-13).

The theme of this final revelation was revealed to Daniel in 10:14: “Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days; for the vision is yet for many days” (ASV). Through the vision and encouragement of chapter ten, Daniel is prepared for the content of this final divine message.

Daniel moved across the prophetic landscape of the Persian and Greek periods with two objectives. First, the prophetic form authenticated the message. Just like the miracles of Jesus proved “he was a teacher come from God,” so the prophecies of Daniel 11 demonstrated divine inspiration and revealed a deeper message that went beyond the details of the prophecy itself. Predictive prophecy proves inspiration!

Second, the historical developments prophesied in chapter eleven provided the context out of which a most significant event surfaced — a religious and national crisis (i.e., the persecution by Antiochus IV). The demise of God’s people seemed imminent from an earthly view. But Heaven announced the purging effect that this persecution would have on the nation and predicted the end of the affliction. Not even death would mean defeat for the faithful of God, for ultimate victory is measured in the resurrection (12:2). Divine revelation brings a message of hope!

In chapter eleven we progress swiftly from military conflicts, to religious persecution, to victory by the power of God. The faithful of those days, and of any age, are taught about hope and justice. They are tempered by the message’s form — predictive prophecy. They are strengthened by the message’s theme — God rules in the kingdoms of men (cf. Daniel 2:21; 4:17; Isaiah 44:24-45:13). These truths ought to motivate one to serve the living God with the same dedication that Daniel himself exemplified.

Daniel 11 commenced with the prophet’s own day, referring to four subsequent monarchs of the Persian era. A description of the Greek Empire of Alexander the Great followed, along with the consequent division of the empire after the untimely death of the Greek conqueror. Two of those divisions came into greater focus because of their proximity to the Jews. They were the Ptolemaic (Egyptian) and the Seleucid (Syrian) powers, described also as the kings of the south and north.

Verse 1

“And as for me, in the first year of Darius the Mede, I stood up to confirm and strengthen him.”

Daniel 11:1 concludes the thought of chapter ten in our English versions. The transition, however, is in 11:2. H.C. Leupold observed, “Nothing could be clearer than that this verse [11:1] still belongs to what was just considered” (p. 468).

Verse 2

“And now will I show thee the truth. Behold, there shall stand up yet three kings in Persia; and the fourth shall be far richer than they all: and when he is waxed strong through his riches, he shall stir up all against the realm of Greece.”

The Persian Period — Prepared for the revelation, Daniel hears, “And now I will show thee the truth” (cf. 10:21). God not only knew what would happen, but he would providentially utilize the political circumstances of the future. Though these things were in the future, their fulfillment was certain. He who “calleth the things that are not as though they were,” declared to Daniel what no man can know intuitively — the future.

The summary of the Persian period is brief by divine intent, but its brevity should not be mistaken for vagueness. Daniel learns, “Behold, there shall stand up three kings in Persia; and the fourth shall be far richer than they all: and when he is waxed strong through his riches, he shall stir up all against the realm of Greece” (11:2).

After Cyrus (cf. 10:1), three kings followed — the fourth was noteworthy. These prophetic details verify the inspiration of the text. The particulars attributed to the fourth ruler accurately describe the fourth from Cyrus — Xerxes I. Stephen R. Miller agrees when he says:

“Xerxes I (486-465 B.C.) is clearly identified as the fourth king by the description of his great wealth and expedition against Greece. It is a matter of historical record that the three kings between Cyrus and Xerxes I were Cambyses (530-522), Smerdis (pseudo-Smerdis or Gaumata; 522), and Darius I Hystaspes (522-486)” (p. 291).

Subsequent Persian rulers were not relevant to the prophecy.

Verses 3-4

“And a mighty king shall stand up, that shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will. And when he shall stand up, his kingdom shall be broken, and shall be divided toward the four winds of heaven, but not to his posterity, nor according to his dominion wherewith he ruled; for his kingdom shall be plucked up, even for others besides these.”

The Greek Period — The “mighty king” was Alexander the Great (336-323 B.C.), the prince who was a student of Aristotle. He certainly became mighty, and he did according to his own will. He accomplished what he set out to do, which was no small vision.

This description is fitting for a man who is recognized as one of the greatest military generals in the history of warfare. Accordingly, one widely distributed source notes:

“As a general Alexander is among the greatest the world has known. He showed unusual versatility both in the combination of different arms and in adapting his tactics to the challenge of enemies who commanded novel forms of warfare — the Saka nomads, the Indian hill tribes, or Porus with his elephants. His strategy was skillful and imaginative, and he knew how to exploit the chances that arise in every battle and may be decisive for victory or defeat; he also drew the last advantage from victory by relentless pursuit. His use of cavalry was so effective that he rarely had to fall back upon his infantry to deliver the crushing blow” (“Alexander the Great,” Encyclopaedia Britannica).

He launched his assault against the Persian Empire in 334 B.C., and he claimed complete victory in three years. Consequently, Daniel saw in the vision of chapter eight the rough he-goat from the west, the king of Greece, advancing against the Medo-Persian Empire with such rapidity that “his feet did not even touch the ground” (Daniel 8:5,20-21).

Although Alexander’s conquests followed the exploits of Xerxes I by more than 100 years, there is an apparent connection between the aggression of Xerxes I and Alexander’s retaliation in these verses. The Greek monarch saw his campaign as just recompense for the century of conflict initiated by Xerxes I. Thomas W. Africa contributed the following observation, noting the enduring antagonism of Alexander: “Alexander burned Persepolis in revenge for the Persian [Xerxes I] burning of Athens in 480 B.C.” (“Alexander the Great,” p. 327).

Alexander wrote to Darius, communicating this belated animosity that Greece had for the Persians:

“Your ancestors entered into Macedonia, and the other parts of Greece, and did us damage, when they had received no affront from us as the cause of it; and now I, created general of the Grecians, provoked by you, and desirous of avenging the injury done by the Persians, have passed over into Asia” (qtd. in Barnes, Vol. 2, p. 210).

Verse four contains several prophetic details, which were known by Daniel only through divine inspiration. First, at the zenith of his power, he was broken. Alexander died at about 33 years of age. Second, his kingdom was divided into four segments, ruled by four generals. Third, the successors were not his sons. Fourth, the Greek Empire never regained the strength it had under the unified rule of Alexander.

Verses 5-20

“And the king of the south shall be strong, and one of his princes; and he shall be strong above him, and have dominion; his dominion shall be a great dominion. And at the end of years they shall join themselves together; and the daughter of the king of the south shall come to the king of the north to make an agreement: but she shall not retain the strength of her arm; neither shall he stand, nor his arm; but she shall be given up, and they that brought her, and he that begat her, and he that strengthened her in those times.

“But out of a shoot from her roots shall one stand up in his place, who shall come unto the army, and shall enter into the fortress of the king of the north, and shall deal against them, and shall prevail. And also their gods, with their molten images, and with their goodly vessels of silver and of gold, shall he carry captive into Egypt; and he shall refrain some years from the king of the north. And he shall come into the realm of the king of the south, but he shall return into his own land.

“And his sons shall war, and shall assemble a multitude of great forces, which shall come on, and overflow, and pass through; and they shall return and war, even to his fortress. And the king of the south shall be moved with anger, and shall come forth and fight with him, even with the king of the north; and he shall set forth a great multitude, and the multitude shall be given into his hand. And the multitude shall be lifted up, and his heart shall be exalted; and he shall cast down tens of thousands, but he shall not prevail. And the king of the north shall return, and shall set forth a multitude greater than the former; and he shall come on at the end of the times, even of years, with a great army and with much substance. And in those times there shall many stand up against the king of the south: also the children of the violent among thy people shall lift themselves up to establish the vision; but they shall fall. So the king of the north shall come, and cast up a mound, and take a well-fortified city: and the forces of the south shall not stand, neither his chosen people, neither shall there be any strength to stand. But he that cometh against him shall do according to his own will, and none shall stand before him; and he shall stand in the glorious land, and in his hand shall be destruction. And he shall set his face to come with the strength of his whole kingdom, and with him equitable conditions; and he shall perform them: and he shall give him the daughter of women, to corrupt her; but she shall not stand, neither be for him. After this shall he turn his face unto the isles, and shall take many: but a prince shall cause the reproach offered by him to cease; yea, moreover, he shall cause his reproach to turn upon him. Then he shall turn his face toward the fortresses of his own land; but he shall stumble and fall, and shall not be found.

“Then shall stand up in his place one that shall cause an exactor to pass through the glory of the kingdom; but within few days he shall be destroyed, neither in anger, nor in battle.”

Prophecies Concerning Egypt and Syria — These verses relate to that period of time following the death of Alexander the Great (323 B.C.) to the rise of Antiochus Epiphanes IV (175 B.C.). During those intervening years, the kings of the south and the north, two remnants of Alexander’s empire, competed for dominance. The Ptolemies (i.e., kings of the south) were the Greek kings of Egypt who ruled from 323 to 30 B.C. The Seleucids (i.e., kings of the north) were the Greek rulers whose domain was centralized in Syria and Mesopotamia from 312 to 64 B.C.

The “king of the south” (v. 5) was Ptolemy I Soter (323-285 B.C.), the trusted general of Alexander, who ruled in Egypt (cf. v. 8). Another is described as “one of his princes,” who will become stronger than he. The word translated in the ASV “princes” comes from the Hebrew term sar. This masculine noun is employed 381 times in the Old Testament, and it is used to identify numerous kinds of dignitaries or leaders. Daniel used the term 17 times, referring to “the prince of the eunuchs” (1:7); God himself, “the prince of the host” (8:11); Israelite officials (9:6); and angels (10:21) (Harris, pp. 884-885).

The “prince” of Ptolemy I Soter was Seleucus I Nicator (312-280 B.C.). He fled Babylon when another general, Antigonus, pursued his life (316 B.C.). Seleucus found protection under Ptolemy. When Antigonus was defeated at Gaza, Seleucus returned to Babylon, thus establishing the Seleucid dynasty in 312 B.C. Solidifying control, he ruled the largest division of Alexander’s empire. Thereby, “his dominion shall be a great dominion,” exceeding that of the king of the south (v. 5).

Throughout these years of Greek rule, conflicts continued between the kings of the north and the south. When Ptolemy I died (285 B.C.), the hostilities did not cease while his son, Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285-246 B.C.), ruled in Egypt. According to tradition, Ptolemy II authorized the Greek translation of the Old Testament, which is known as the Septuagint (c. 250 B.C.).

About 250 B.C., Ptolemy II entered into a treaty with Antiochus II Theos, the Seleucid ruler (261-246 B.C.). Accordingly, Daniel had written, “And at the end of years they shall join themselves together” (v. 6). This alliance, however, would not last. In fact, the terms of alliance brought disaster, as Daniel had predicted. Berenice, daughter of the king of the south (Ptolemy II), was given to Antiochus II as a wife. According to the terms for peace, the son of that union should inherit the throne. Antiochus II was already married, however, and his scorned wife, Laodice, conspired to have her husband poisoned and Berenice and son-heir assassinated. About the same time, Berenice’s father died. Thus, both Ptolemy II and Antiochus II died about 246 B.C. As Daniel had predicted (v. 6), so it was fulfilled.

Laodice returned to power, watching over her son, Seleucus II Callinicus, and heir to the throne. But retaliation followed, even as Daniel said, “One out of a shoot from her roots. . . shall come unto the army. . . and shall prevail” (v. 7). The brother of Berenice, Ptolemy III Euergetes, ruled Egypt (246-221 B.C.) in the place of his father. Provoked by the assassination of his sister, Ptolemy III marched against “the fortress of the king of the north,” (v. 7), which ignited a war that lasted some five years (246-241 B.C.).

After plundering the Seleucid capital of Antioch, Ptolemy III returned with idols of gold and silver, fulfilling Daniel’s predictions (v. 8). Because of this, the Egyptians called Ptolemy III “Euergetes,” which meant “benefactor” (Miller, p. 294). Note the following:

“Ptolemy III, also called Euergetes or Benefactor (280?-221 B.C.), the son of Ptolemy II, successfully led his armies deep into western Asia. From there, he brought back to Egypt the statues of the gods that had been carried off by the Persians” (Africa, “Ptolemy,” p. 754).

Verse nine reads differently in the KJV than it does in the ASV. The KJV puts “the king of the south” as the subject, which would mean that verse nine summarizes the previous verse — the campaign of Ptolemy III against Syria (Barnes, Vol. 2, p. 215). The ASV (and others) renders “king of the south” as a predicate nominative, suggesting that the subject of this verse (v. 9), merely “he,” refers back to the king of the north. The thought is, evidently, that the king of the north made an attempt to counter-assault the king of the south unsuccessfully (Miller, p. 294).

Daniel 11:10-19 prophesied the conflicts between Antiochus III and Ptolemy IV Philopater (221-203 B.C.) and Ptolemy V Epiphanes (203-181). Antiochus III was called the “Great” because of his military conquests. This period is significant for a number of reasons. It is another historical stepping-stone, providing context as to how the Jews came into contact with a subsequent Seleucid king — Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Stephen Miller explains:

“Antiochus III was an extremely important personality, for during his reign Palestine fell under Seleucid control. His conflicts with Egypt recounted here provide an explanation of how this came about. With Palestine dominated by the Seleucids, the stage was set for the coming of the tyrant depicted in vv. 21-35” (p. 294).

Daniel 11:10-12 described the first round of conflicts prosecuted by Antiochus the Great. Having subdued various rebellions in Asia, he turned his attention to “the achievement of the century-old ambition of his house, the conquest of Southern Syria” (Montgomery, p. 433).

The record of these battles is readily accessible in secular histories, encyclopedias, and in well-researched commentaries. Without describing the engagements at length, note three significant specifics regarding the conflict (vv. 10-12), which were fulfilled in every aspect.

First, his “sons” shall prepare for war and assemble a great army. When Seleucus II died, one of his sons became king, and the other was a general. Seleucus III Ceraunus (226-223 B.C.) was murdered after a short three-year reign, and his brother Antiochus III (223-187 B.C.) came to the throne. Note the change from the plural, “the sons,” to the singular, “he.” “He” shall return and war (v. 10; ASV fn.).

The Hebrew text contains, in the first part of the verse, two third person plural verbs (i.e., “war” and “assemble”), while the latter part of the verse relates that these plans were carried out by one of them, Antiochus III. The third person singular verbs (i.e., he will come, overflow, pass through, return, and war; v. 10b) predicted this “unforeseeable” subtly wherein one of them faded from the scene, and the plans were carried out by the other. In the next verse, Daniel explicitly prophesied this change in the political situation in Syria, having first identified the “sons” (v. 10), but then Daniel noted “him,” the king of the north, who would war with the king of the south (v. 11).

Second, although Antiochus the Great would have early success (v. 10), the king of the south (Ptolemy IV Philopater) would retaliate, driving Antiochus III out of Palestine (217 B.C.; v. 11). From the ranks of Antiochus III, 17,000 men died. In spite of the victory of Ptolemy IV, his control over Palestine would not last (v. 12).

Third, Daniel emphasized that the conflict would involve large armies. Polybius, upon whom historians rely, related the size of Ptolemy’s army as 70,000 strong, with an additional 5,000 horsemen, and 73 elephants. Similarly, he recorded that Antiochus III had a force of 62,000 foot soldiers, 6,000 cavalry, and 102 elephants (5.79).

Verse thirteen prophesied a significant turning point in the Ptolemy-Seleucid conflict. After many years of success elsewhere, the veterans of warfare marched with Antiochus III again. This conflict was assisted by various rebellions in Ptolemy-controlled territories (v. 14). Particularly the “children of the violent among thy people” were mentioned (i.e., pro-Seleucid Jews; v. 14). Although the Ptolemy commander, General Scopas, was eventually beaten, he punished those Jews who aided Antiochus III.

Verse fifteen and sixteen predicted the conclusion of this conflict. General Scopas suffered severely in the Battle of Panium (199 B.C.). He retreated to the Mediterranean coast, taking refuge at Sidon. Antiochus III besieged Sidon, as Daniel had predicted: “The king of the north shall come, and cast up a mound, and take a well-fortified city: and the forces of the south shall not stand, neither his chosen people, neither shall there be any strength to stand” (v. 15). General Scopas was forced to surrender, and Antiochus the Great controlled “the glorious land” (i.e., the land inhabited by the people of God).

Verse seventeen described another marriage-alliance between the king of the north and the king of the south. Antiochus III, dictating the terms of peace, gave his daughter Cleopatra to Ptolemy V for a wife (note: The Cleopatra associated with Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony was of a later era; Miller, p. 296). Antiochus III hoped that his daughter would influence Ptolemy V because of her Seleucid roots. Cleopatra was loyal, however, to her husband, as Daniel had predicted: “But she shall not stand, neither be for him [her father, Antiochus III]” (v. 17).

Daniel prophesied the bitter end of Antiochus the Great (vv. 18-19). “After this [the conquest of Ptolemy V] shall he turn his face unto the isles” (v. 18a). The historical details are as follows:

“In his insatiable expansionist drive, Antiochus occupied parts of the kingdom of Pergamum in 198 and in 197, Greek cities in Asia Minor. In 196 BC he crossed the Hellespont into Thrace, where he claimed sovereignty over territory that had been won by Seleucus I in the year 281 BC. A war of harassment and diplomacy with Rome ensued. A number of times the Romans sent ambassadors demanding that Antiochus stay out of Europe and set free all the autonomous communities in Asia Minor. To meet these demands would have meant the actual dissolution of the western part of the Seleucid Empire, and Antiochus thus refused” (“Antiochus III,” Encyclopaedia Britannica).

His aggression, however, would have a different result. To Daniel it was revealed, “But a prince [i.e., the Roman captain Scipio] shall cause the reproach offered by him [Antiochus III] to cease” (v. 18b).

Polybius (c. 200-118) recounted these developments in his work The Histories:

“Antiochus, who, after his defeat in the naval engagement, remained in Sardis neglecting his opportunities and generally deferring action of any kind, on learning that the enemy had crossed to Asia, was crushed in spirit and, abandoning all hope, decided to send to the Scipios to beg for peace” (21.13).

In 188 B.C., Antiochus signed the Treaty of Apamea and agreed to its heavy burdens. Polybius related the conditions in detail.

“Antiochus shall pay to the Romans twelve thousand talents a year, the talent not to weigh less than eighty Roman pounds, and five hundred and forty thousand modii of corn: he shall pay to King Eumenes three hundred and fifty talents in the next five years, paying seventy talents a year at the same time that is fixed for his payments to the Romans and in lieu of the corn, as Antiochus estimated it — one hundred and twenty-seven talents and twelve hundred and eight drachmas, the sum Eumenes agreed to accept as a satisfactory payment to his treasury: Antiochus shall give twenty hostages, replacing them every three years, not below eighteen years of age and not above forty: if any of the money he pays does not correspond to the above stipulations, he shall make it good in the following year” (Polybius, 21.42).

Interestingly, one of the hostages was Antiochus IV, son of Antiochus III (“Antiochus III,” Encyclopaedia Britannica).

The defeated Antiochus the Great returned to Syria. In 187 B.C., he entered the Temple of Elymais near Susa, possibly seeking the funds to meet the Roman stipulations. During the inhospitable visit, Antiochus III met his providential end at the hands of insurrectionists. In the prophetic words of Daniel, “Then [after his defeat by the Romans] he shall turn his face toward the fortresses of his own land; but he shall stumble and fall, and shall not be found” (v. 19).

Verse twenty records the relatively short reign of Seleucus IV, son of Antiochus III. Daniel prophesied, “Then shall arise in his [Antiochus III] place one [Seleucus IV] who shall send an exactor of tribute for the glory of the kingdom. But, within a few days he shall be broken, neither in anger nor in battle” (v. 20). Daniel predicted that Seleucus IV would attempt to exact heavy taxation from the Jews, that he would send an “exactor” to accomplish this, and that Seleucus IV would see an early grave, but it would not be the result of a bloody revolution or in battle.

Seleucus IV sent Heliodorus to plunder the temple in Jerusalem (see comments on vv. 18-19; see also the secular source 2 Maccabees 3:7-40), but he returned empty-handed. Gleason Archer observed in his commentary on Daniel:

“No other details are given in this verse of the twelve-year reign of this rather ineffectual king, except that he did not die in battle or in a mob action as had his father, Antiochus. Yet Seleucus IV met an untimely end through poison administered by Heliodorus” (p. 134).

Verses 21-35

“And in his place shall stand up a contemptible person, to whom they had not given the honor of the kingdom: but he shall come in time of security, and shall obtain the kingdom by flatteries. And the overwhelming forces shall be overwhelmed from before him, and shall be broken; yea, also the prince of the covenant. And after the league made with him he shall work deceitfully; for he shall come up, and shall become strong, with a small people. In time of security shall he come even upon the fattest places of the province; and he shall do that which his fathers have not done, nor his fathers’ fathers; he shall scatter among them prey, and spoil, and substance: yea, he shall devise his devices against the strongholds, even for a time. And he shall stir up his power and his courage against the king of the south with a great army; and the king of the south shall war in battle with an exceeding great and mighty army; but he shall not stand; for they shall devise devices against him. Yea, they that eat of his dainties shall destroy him, and his army shall overflow; and many shall fall down slain. And as for both these kings, their hearts shall be to do mischief, and they shall speak lies at one table: but it shall not prosper; for yet the end shall be at the time appointed.

“Then shall he return into his land with great substance; and his heart shall be against the holy covenant; and he shall do his pleasure, and return to his own land. At the time appointed he shall return, and come into the south; but it shall not be in the latter time as it was in the former. For ships of Kittim shall come against him; therefore he shall be grieved, and shall return, and have indignation against the holy covenant, and shall do his pleasure: he shall even return, and have regard unto them that forsake the holy covenant. And forces shall stand on his part, and they shall profane the sanctuary, even the fortress, and shall take away the continual burnt-offering, and they shall set up the abomination that maketh desolate. And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he pervert by flatteries; but the people that know their God shall be strong, and do exploits. And they that are wise among the people shall instruct many; yet they shall fall by the sword and by flame, by captivity and by spoil, many days. Now when they shall fall, they shall be helped with a little help; but many shall join themselves unto them with flatteries. And some of them that are wise shall fall, to refine them, and to purify, and to make them white, even to the time of the end; because it is yet for the time appointed.”

Antiochus IV Epiphanes — In Daniel 11:21-35, the prophet revealed the rise and rule of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Seleucid king who reigned from 175-163 B.C. Daniel’s prophecy involved the rise of Antiochus to power, the conflicts of the ruler with Egypt (i.e., the king of the south), and his hostilities toward the people of Israel. The Encyclopaedia Britannica states:

“Antiochus was the third son of Antiochus III the Great. After his father’s defeat by the Romans in 190—189, he served as hostage for his father in Rome from 189 to 175, where he learned to admire Roman institutions and policies. His brother, King Seleucus IV, exchanged him for Demetrius, the son of Seleucus; and after Seleucus was murdered by Heliodorus, a usurper, Antiochus in turn ousted him” (“Antiochus IV Epiphanes”).

And Daniel foresaw: “In his [Seleucus IV] place shall arise a contemptible person to whom royal majesty has not been given. He shall come in without warning and obtain the kingdom by flatteries” (v. 21).

Antiochus IV determined to seize control of the kingdom. Antiochus’ rise to power corresponded to the following predictions by Daniel, prophet of the Most High God. First, Antiochus would come to power after the untimely death of his predecessor. Second, he was a contemptible person, called by many Antiochus Epimanes (i.e., the madman) instead of his preferred appellation, Epiphanes (i.e., God Manifest). Third, he was not an heir to the throne, indeed to him “royal majesty has not been given.” Fourth, Antiochus did not lead a brutal uprising, but he obtained “the kingdom by flatteries.” Edward J. Young described the scene: “By flattery he won over the kings of Pergamus to his cause, and the Syrians gave in peaceably” (p. 241).These exact events, prophesied about three and a half centuries before they happened, were fulfilled in the days of Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

The conflicts of Antiochus IV with Egypt are foretold in Daniel 11:22-30. These campaigns brought him into direct contact with Israel, since Palestine is between Syria and Egypt. Note the prophetic specifics concerning the hostilities of Antiochus IV against Israel.

First, the hostilities of Antiochus IV against Israel corresponded to more than one Egyptian conflict (vv. 29-30). Second, Antiochus would take military control of Jerusalem, and especially the temple: "Forces from him shall appear. . . " (v. 31a). Third, he would cause the sacrifices to cease: “Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress, and shall take away the regular burnt offering” (v. 31). Fourth, he would “set up the abomination that makes desolate” (v. 31b). Fifth, Antiochus would prefer and protect those who “violate the covenant” (v. 32a). Sixth, Antiochus would meet resistance (vv. 32b-33). Seventh, the righteous would suffer intense persecution (vv. 33-34a). Eighth, there would be imposters among the righteous (v. 34b). Ninth, these events would result in a purification of the people of God (v. 35).

In view of these prophetic details given by Daniel, consider the following from the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

“Antiochus’ hellenizing policies brought him into conflict with the prosperous Oriental temple organizations, and particularly with the Jews. Since Antiochus III’s reign the Jews had enjoyed extensive autonomy under their high priest. They were divided into two parties, the orthodox Hasideans (Pious Ones) and a reform party that favoured Hellenism. For financial reasons Antiochus supported the reform party and, in return for a considerable sum, permitted the high priest, Jason, to build a gymnasium in Jerusalem and to introduce the Greek mode of educating young people. In 172, for an even bigger tribute, he appointed Menelaus in place of Jason. In 169, however, while Antiochus was campaigning in Egypt, Jason conquered Jerusalem — with the exception of the citadel — and murdered many adherents of his rival Menelaus. When Antiochus returned from Egypt in 167 he took Jerusalem by storm and enforced its Hellenization. The city forfeited its privileges and was permanently garrisoned by Syrian soldiers” (“Antiochus IV Epiphanes”).

Verses 36-39

“And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods; and he shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished; for that which is determined shall be done. Neither shall he regard the gods of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god; for he shall magnify himself above all. But in his place shall he honor the god of fortresses; and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honor with gold, and silver, and with precious stones, and pleasant things. And he shall deal with the strongest fortresses by the help of a foreign god: whosoever acknowledgeth him he will increase with glory; and he shall cause them to rule over many, and shall divide the land for a price.”

Antiochus or Antichrist — Some disagreement exists among commentators concerning the subject of verses thirty-six through thirty-nine, as well as the several verses leading up to this section. Those with a premillennial bent argue that the king (vv. 36-39) is the “Antichrist,” or Antiochus IV who serves as a type of the “Antichrist.” Stephen Miller, a premillennialist, argued, “But the clearest indication that this ‘king’ will live in the latter days is that the resurrection of the saints will take place immediately after God delivers his people from this evil individual’s power (cf. 12:2)” (p. 305).

There are insurmountable problems, however, for this view. First of all, the whole premillennial scheme is without biblical merit (cf. “Examining Premillennialism”). Second, it begs the question to say that “the clearest indication that this ‘king’ will live in the latter days is that the resurrection of the saints will take place immediately after God delivers his people from this evil individual’s power.”

In response to this characterization, note that “the time of the end” (v. 40) does not necessarily mean the end of the world. In this context, its employment was with respect to the events of the “latter days” concerning the Jews (cf. 10:21), thus it may be used with respect to various redemptive and chronological milestones. The “time of the end,” whatever it may or may not mean, could not have significance for “thy people” (i.e., the Jews) beyond A.D. 70, when God “sent his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city” (Matthew 22:7). That incident finalized the divine intention that “the kingdom of God shall be taken away from you, and shall be given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof” (Matthew 21:43). Paul affirmed this Christian Age distinction, which our Lord taught, when he wrote, “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring” (Romans 9:7-8).

It is also fallacious to assert that the resurrection of 12:2 necessitates that all events of the previous verses must be interpreted as occurring shortly before the resurrection. The fact of the matter is, for all people who have died, in any age, the next redemptive, or punitive, act of God for them will be the resurrection — regardless of the time-span between their deaths and the Judgment Day. By way of analogy, recall how our Lord discussed the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world in one discourse (Matthew 24) — events which are obviously separated by centuries.

For an excellent survey and refutation of the major premillennial proof-texts, consult Everett I. Carver’s work, When Jesus Comes Again.

Those who reject the doctrine of premillennialism generally believe that Antiochus IV is still in view in verses thirty-six through thirty-nine. But there are some amillennialists who still hold to an eschatological “Antichrist” (cf. “1 John 2:18 – Who is the Antichrist?”).

The particulars of Daniel 11:36-39 are these: first, the king would have the ability to do whatever he desires (v. 36). Second, he would behave with extreme arrogance (v. 36). Third, he would prosper only “till the indignation be accomplished” (v. 36). Fourth, he would not be restrained through any moral or religious sensitivities (v. 37). Fifth, his only regard was the god of his choosing. His own lust for rule and riches dictated his religious preferences — not conviction or even ancestry (v. 38). Sixth, he would accept bribes and grant favors to satisfy his greed for power and wealth (v. 39).

Is Antiochus the subject of these verses? With no apparent transition in the text and a lack of reasonable objections, Albert Barnes concluded, “The most obvious and honest way, therefore, of interpreting this is, to refer it to Antiochus” (Barnes, Vol. 2, p. 243).

Verses 40-45

“And at the time of the end shall the king of the south contend with him; and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass through. He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown; but these shall be delivered out of his hand: Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon. He shall stretch forth his hand also upon the countries; and the land of Egypt shall not escape. But he shall have power over the treasures of gold and of silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt; and the Libyans and the Ethiopians shall be at his steps. But tidings out of the east and out of the north shall trouble him; and he shall go forth with great fury to destroy and utterly to sweep away many. And he shall plant the tents of his palace between the sea and the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him.”

Antiochus’ Final Days or the Beginning of Roman Persecution — While there is no little disagreement over the analysis of the previous section, more controversy exists concerning the interpretation of verses forty through forty-five. The premillennial view (see comments on vv. 36-39), and the objections that premillennialists would raise to our discussion of these verses, are dismissed here for the sake of focusing on two scripturally-possible views.

While the following perspectives are very different, they represent ideas that do no injustice to the inspiration of the text and foster no doctrinal error. These scriptural possibilities are (1) the Roman view, and (2) the Antiochus IV position.

Some conservative scholars, and good brethren, maintain that the subject of this section is the Roman persecution of the Christian era. A summary of the reasons for the Roman view are as follows:

(1) The historical details (vv. 40-45) allegedly do not correspond to the rule of Antiochus IV.

(2) The Antiochus position represents a “liberal view.”

(3) Since 12:2 refers to the resurrection, which will be the consummation of the Christian Age, then 12:1 must apply to the persecution of that age.

(4) If 12:1 refers to first-century persecution, then arguably the contextual connection between 11:40-45 and 12:1 demands a Roman interpretation of 11:40-45.

The most significant historical difficulty with the Antiochus view is the description of a fourth campaign against Egypt (v. 40). But if one interprets this section as Roman activity, he must also attempt to defend how 11:40-45 could reasonably correspond to the known facts of history.

Is the Antiochus the “liberal view”? Some dismiss even the possibility of the Antiochus position. We recognize that there are those liberal advocates who argue for a second-century author. They see Antiochus as the latest character of the book, assuming that the second-century contemporary was nothing more than an amateur historian and novelist. We completely reject that idea — that the author of this book is anyone other than Daniel the prophet who lived in Babylon in the sixth century B.C. Even those who argue this view believe that Daniel predicted events that pertained to Antiochus IV earlier in the eleventh chapter. The allegation — that one who interprets Daniel 11:40-45 as applying to Antiochus IV is a liberal unbeliever — is simply wrong.

The third and fourth questions pertain to the contextual connections between Daniel 11:40-45 and 12:1, and that of 12:1 and 12:2. Undoubtedly there are connections between these verses. But does 12:1 have reference to Roman persecution, as some assume? This thought is linked to the supposition that since 12:2 pertains to the end of the Christian era, then Daniel 12:1 must be discussing the Christian age. Neither the language of the passage nor the context necessarily implies this conclusion.

In favor of the Antiochus interpretation of Daniel 11:40-45, I mention the following for careful thought and study. First, the most natural reading of the text is that there is not a transition in thought between verses thirty-nine and forty. I maintain that an objective reader, even one unfamiliar with the interpretation controversy, would assume that the same subject is in view (i.e., the persecution of Antiochus IV against the Jews).

Second, a possible interpretation should not be disregarded merely because it is difficult to reconcile. Difficult does not mean impossible. I believe that unless there is some insurmountable reason why the Antiochus IV view cannot be accepted, it should be adopted as the most likely interpretation.

In reality, the details are not irreconcilable. We may not have all the historical data about the final days of Antiochus IV, but should we not let Daniel speak for himself? Will we believe Daniel only when we can double-check him against profane, uninspired men? Has he not checked out in every detail where verifiable? Is not the inspired book inerrant?

Sound brethren have taken the Roman view as the preferable one, and they could elucidate their reasons far more effectively than I can for them. If the linchpin of their argument is merely the silence of secular history relative to a fourth Egyptian conflict, then I believe the argument needs to be reconsidered.

I refuse the intimidation, from the relentless bombardment of commentaries, that in every chapter, we must doubt Daniel first. Robert D. Wilson encouraged the following posture, when he wrote concerning “the argument from silence”:

“We refuse to accept as true the indiscriminate charges and multitudinous specifications entirely unsupported by evidence which are often made against the truthfulness of the Old Testament writings. A man is presumed to be innocent until he is proven guilty. A book, or document, is supposed to be true until it is proven false. And as to particular objections made against the historicity of a person or event mentioned in the book of Daniel on the ground that other authorities fail to notice them, would it not be well for us to possess our souls in patience, until such charges are supported by some direct evidence bearing upon the case? Why not give Daniel the benefit of the doubt, if doubt there be?” (Vol. 1, pp. 22-23).

Third, I am convinced that the Antiochus position respects the overall context of the vision best, and in my estimation, any other view misses the point of the grand theme of this section. Again, I quote from Robert D. Wilson, who outlined the importance of Antiochus IV to the primary thrust of this prophetic message.

“It appears to us, then, that the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes was one of the most important events in the history of the church. . . Among all the crises to which the people of God have been subjected, it can be compared only with the dispersion in the time of Nebuchadnezzar. The return of the exiles had been definitely foretold by Jeremiah, and Jeremiah’s prediction was known and pondered by Daniel. He was not needed, nor was it given to him, to supplement the work of his great predecessor. But he performed a greater and more lasting service for the church. He showed clearly that all the tyrants of the earth were under the control of the God of heaven, that the kingdoms of this world were foreordained by Him and should at last be superseded by the Kingdom of the Messiah and his saints, and he encouraged the people not merely of his own time but of all time to be steadfast in the midst of fiery trials and deadly perils of all kinds in view of the certainty that God could and would eventually circumvent or crush the tyrants and deliver the innocent for time and for eternity” (Vol. 2, p. 273).

Fourth, some take Daniel 11:40-45 as a summary of the major points regarding the infamous rule of Antiochus Epiphanes. Albert Barnes respectfully defended this position (Vol. 2, pp. 246-254), and brother Rex Turner published this view in his commentary, Daniel: A Prophet of God.

Significantly, Barnes asserted, “If the statement of Porphyry were correct [that a fourth conflict between Antiochus and Egypt did occur the year before the death of Antiochus Epiphanes], there would be no difficulty in applying this to Antiochus” (Vol. 2, p. 246; emphasis added).

Fifth, the connection between 11:40-45 and 12:1-2 demands some comment. We note that 12:1 begins "And at that time. . . " There is a relationship between the two, and the average reader would correctly assume that the deliverance promised in 12:1 followed the persecuting rule of the previous verses.

How can 12:1 be applied to the Antiochus persecution, and, most critically, how does the doctrine of the resurrection pertain to that?

The language of 12:1 certainly fits the horrible nature of the Antiochus persecution. As Robert D. Wilson described it: “But, now, under Epiphanes, was attempted what had never been proposed by Babylonian conqueror or Persian friends, the entire destruction of people and religion at one fell blow” (Vol. 2, p. 274).

It is true that the language of 12:1 is similar to language that Jesus used for persecution under the Romans, leading up to A.D. 70 (Matthew 24:21). That kind of language was also used of the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar (Ezekiel 5:9). It is also true that the Christians experienced a deliverance in connection with the destruction of Jerusalem (A.D. 70), even as Daniel 12:1 spoke of a deliverance by Michael.

But there is precedent in Daniel for analogous language to be used in connection with similar events. For instance, earlier in this chapter we read of the “abomination that makes desolate,” which refers to the days of Antiochus. Back in Daniel 9:27, the prophet used similar expressions to predict the destruction of Jerusalem (cf. Matthew 24:15) — similar language, similar events, but different times. So while the language of 12:1 is like the teaching used by our Lord with respect to Roman persecution, that alone does not prove that Daniel 12:1 predicted the Roman persecution.

We also observe the continuity of language with respect to this whole prophecy. It pertained to “thy people” (12:1). What would happen to “thy people,” was the general thrust of the revelation (10:14). Even some of “thy people” supported the Seleucid take over of Palestine (11:14). But within a few years, the Seleucid power would “profane the sanctuary,” and many shall fall “by the sword and by flame, by captivity and by spoil, many days.” The king of the north would have “indignation against the holy covenant,” and he would “have regard unto them that forsake the holy covenant” (v. 30).

A spiritual cleansing would result within the nation, and deliverance would follow when the “indignation be accomplished” (v. 36). Michael, “your prince” (10:21) would stand up (12:1), and “the great prince who standeth up for the children of thy people” (12:1) would accomplish the providential deliverance on behalf of “thy people.” If it were not for the providential intervention of God, the persecution may have resulted in the annihilation of the Jews (cf. the book of Esther).

Borrowing the similar thoughts of some Christians in Thessalonica, what about those who have fallen asleep? Although deliverance finally came, many perished. In my view, Daniel’s point is this: God brought about his plan, and no one can frustrate his redemptive purpose. Even those faithful who suffered in the wake of persecution will be victorious. Not all deliverances are of a fleshly, temporal nature. The ultimate deliverance, and final victory over evil, and over death itself, will be the resurrection.

Some may object saying, “The resurrection had no relevance to Jews of the second century.” Such an objection could be leveled against the prophecies of Moses, David, and Isaiah as well. The reality of the matter is that the resurrection is relevant to everyone. It is the one redemptive event during which all the faithful, of all time, will be raised in glory, at the same time (John 5:28-29). Just because life and immortality have been brought to light through the gospel, and we have more insight through the New Testament, we cannot affirm that the resurrection will mean less to Abraham and Daniel than it will to us.

This is the divine result of the fact that God rules in the kingdoms of men. He is not merely moving political figures around on a chessboard for his own amusement. He is working a plan of redemption that goes beyond this life.

His deliverance of the Jews from near annihilation preserved the nation through which the Savior was brought into the world. It furnished the context for a truth — not only taught, but also powerfully illustrated. God rules in the kingdoms of men. We ought, therefore, to trust and obey him completely, so that with the three Hebrew youths we say:

“Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace; and he will deliver us out of thy hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” (Daniel 3:17-18).

The God of heaven who elevated Daniel to the court of Nebuchadnezzar, who gave Daniel the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the golden image and the coming of the kingdom of heaven, who saved the Hebrew youths from the fiery furnace, who humbled the King of Babylon, who weighed Belshazzar in the balances, who shut the mouths of lions, who revealed the rise and fall of nations, who foretold the coming of the Anointed One and his redemptive work — he rules in the kingdoms of men. Let us enthrone the Lord of heaven and earth within our hearts, so that one day, though our bones lie in the dust of the earth, they shall be conformed to the body of the glorious Son of God (Philippians 3:20-21), raised to everlasting life — soul and body, redeemed from the penalty and power of sin through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Sources/Footnotes
  • Africa, Thomas W. (1984), “Alexander the Great,” The World Book Encyclopedia (Chicago: World Book), Vol. 1.
  • Africa, Thomas W. (1984), “Ptolemy,” The World Book Encyclopedia (Chicago: World Book), Vol. 15.
  • (2003), “Alexander the Great,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, CD-ROM (N.p.: Britannica).
  • (2003), “Antiochus III,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, CD-ROM (N.p.: Britannica).
  • (2003), “Antiochus IV Epiphanes,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, CD-ROM (N.p.: Britannica).
  • Archer, Gleason (1985), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan), Vol. 7.
  • Barnes, Albert (1950), Barnes Notes on the Old Testament: Daniel, Ed. Robert Flew (Grand Rapids: Baker), 2 Vols.
  • Carver, Everett I. (1979), When Jesus Comes Again (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed).
  • Driver, S.R. (1892), An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons).
  • Harris, R. Laird, et al. (1980), Theological Word Book of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody).
  • Leupold, H.C. (1969), Exposition of Daniel (Grand Rapids: Baker).
  • Miller, Stephen (2003), The New American Commentary: Daniel, Ed. E. Ray Clendenen (N.p.: Broadman), Vol. 18.
  • Montgomery, James A. (1927), A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Daniel (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons).
  • Polybius, The Histories, 17 Feb. 2005. (http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Polybius/home.html)
  • Pusey, E.B. (1886), Daniel the Prophet (New York: Funk and Wagnalls).
  • Turner, Rex (1993), Daniel: A Prophet of God (Montgomery: Southern Christian).
  • Wilson, Robert D. (1972), Studies in the Book of Daniel (Grand Rapids: Baker), 2 Vols.
  • Young, Edward J. (1949), The Prophecy of Daniel (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans).