DANIEL - CHAPTER 11
A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
Copyright 2000 James Melough
11:1. “Also I in the first year of Darius the Mede, even I, stood to confirm and to strengthen him.”
It is unclear whether the “him” refers to Darius or to Michael. If to Darius, then the statement is that the angel supported him against his evil spiritual antagonists; if to Michael, the reference is to the angel’s having assisted Michael in his conflict with his spiritual adversaries.
11:2. “And now will I shew thee the truth. Behold, there shall stand up yet three kings in Persia; and the fourth shall be far richer than they all: and by his strength through his riches he shall stir up all against the realm of Grecia.”
Were it not for the assurance that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim 3:16-17), all except those interested in history might be tempted to pass over this chapter. But since it is a part of Scripture, God intends that it, no less than any other part, should be studied.
As we have noted earlier, the Grecian empire, after Alexander’s death, was divided among four of his officers. Scripture is concerned with only the two whose activities affected Israel: Ptolemy who took possession of Egypt, and founded the dynasty of the Ptolemies; and Seleucas, who seized control of Syria, and Babylon, and founded the dynasty of the Seleucids. It is the wars of the Ptolemies and the Seleucids (covering a period of almost two hundred years), as well as the activities of the beast emperor of the coming Tribulation age, which are foretold in Daniel chapter eleven.
The record begins with this second verse, for verse one obviously belongs in chapter ten. This is while the mighty Persian empire was ruling the world of its day. The first of the four kings was Cambyses, son of Cyrus. The second was Pseudo-Smerdis, an imposter who obtained the throne through trickery. The third was Darius (the Great) Hystaspes, and the fourth was Xerxes (the Ahasuerus of the book of Esther), the one referred to here as “far richer than they all,” and his stirring up all against the realm of Grecia, relates to his unsuccessful invasion of Greece. It wasn’t until the days of Alexander the Great, the “mighty king” of verse three however, that Persia was conquered by Greece.
11:3. “And a mighty king shall stand up, that shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will.”
The “great king” was Alexander the Great, who had conquered virtually all of the known world of his day by the time of his death at the age of thirty-two.
11:4. And when he shall stand up, his kingdom shall be broken, and shall be divided toward the four winds of heaven; and not to his posterity, nor according to his dominion which he ruled: for his kingdom shall be plucked up, even for others beside those.”
This verse outlines the dissolution of Alexander’s empire, and its division among four of his generals. (His two sons were slain, hence the appropriation of his kingdom by those who were not his posterity).
11:5. “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.”
This begins the record of the wars between the Ptolemies and the Seleucids, and we should note here that throughout this record “the king of the north” refers to the ruler of Syria, while “the king of the south” refers to the ruler of Egypt.
The ambiguity of the text makes exact understanding of some of the details difficult, and certainly precludes dogmatism, but much of the difficulty is removed when we interpret the details in the light of history. By that method many scholars understand verse five to mean that in the beginning Seleucas 1 Nicator became ruler of Babylon, but was subject to the more powerful Ptolemy Lagus. Time brought changes, however, and in the days of Ptolemy Soter, son of Ptolemy Lagus, Selecus had extended his dominion to include Media and Syria, and was independent of Ptolemy, the preservation of that independence spawning the wars that made up much of the history of Egypt and Syria for about two hundred years.
11:6. And in the end of years they shall join themselves together; for the king’s daughter of the south shall come to the king of the north to make an agreement: but she shall not retain the power of the 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 these times.”
This is generally understood to be the description of a peace treaty between Ptolemy Philadelphus (king of the south), and Antiochus Theos (king of the north), in which Bernice, Ptolemy’s daughter was to marry Antiochus. The difficulty arising from the fact that Antiochus already had a wife, Laodice, was quickly resolved by his divorcing her. This proved to be a tragic mistake. She succeeded in having Bernice and her infant son murdered; and shortly after, she poisoned Antiochus, whereupon her son Seleucas Callinicus ascended the throne.
It is not to be expected that Egypt would suffer such an affront to go unpunished, nor did they.
11:7. “But out of a branch of her roots shall one stand up in his estate, which shall come with an army, and shall enter into the fortress of the king of the north, and shall deal against them, and shall prevail:”
11:8. “And shall also carry captives into Egypt their gods, with their princes, and with their precious vessels of silver and of gold; and he shall continue more years than the king of the north.”
Ptolemy Euergetes, brother of Bernice, invaded Syria to avenge his sister’s death. He defeated Callinicus, slew Laodice, and returned to Egypt with many captives, and much treasure.
11:9. “So the king of the south shall come into his kingdom, and shall return into his own land.”
The KJ rendering of this verse is particularly ambiguous. It is generally understood to be, not that the king of the south came again into Syria, but rather that Syria, unsuccessfully, attempted an invasion of Egypt.
11:10. “But his sons shall be stirred up, and shall assemble a multitude of great forces: and one shall certainly come, and overflow, and pass through; then shall he return, and be stirred up, even to his fortress.”
These sons of Selecus II were Selecus III (known also as Ceraunus), and Antiochus III. Following the death of Selecus III (he was assassinated), Antiochus III ruled, and it was he who drove the Egyptians back to the southern border of Palestine, they having formerly extended their sway as far as Syria’s southern border.
11:11. “And the king of the south shall be moved with choler, and shall come forth, and fight with him, even with the king of the north: and he shall set forth a great multitude; but the multitude shall be given into his hand.”
Ptolemy IV came again against Antiochus III, and though Antiochus mustered a large army, he was defeated by the Egyptians.
11:12. “And when he hath taken away the multitude, his heart shall be lifted up; and he shall cast down many ten thousands: but he shall not be strengthened by it.”
Ptolemy IV (known also as Philopator), however, was an utter profligate, incapable of maintaining his advantage, and when Syria revolted, he was satisfied to make a peace treaty with Antiochus, rather than enforce his dominion. This is the gist of the contents of verses 11-12.
11:13. “For the king of the north shall return, and shall set forth a multitude greater than the former, and shall certainly come after certain years with a great army and with much riches.”
11:14. “And in those times there shall many stand up against the king of the south: also the robbers of thy people shall exalt themselves to establish the vision; but they shall fall.”
11:15. “So the king of the north shall come, and cast up a mount, and take the most fenced cities; and the arms of the south shall not withstand, neither his chosen people, neither shall there be any strength to withstand.”
11:16. “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, which by his hand shall be consumed.”
Upon the death of the dissolute Ptolemy IV (Philopator), Antiochus III, aided by Philip the Third of Macedonia, and many Jews (apostates, described in verse 14 as “the robbers of thy people,”) marched against Egypt, which was ruled by Ptolemy V Epiphanes, the four-year-old son of Ptolemy Philopator. Antiochus swept everything before him, and passing through Palestine (the glorious land) on his victorious return, repaid with much liberality and kindness, the assistance given him by the Jews, so that the land enjoyed a period of peace and prosperity such as it hadn’t known in years.
11:17. “He shall also set his face to enter with the strength of his whole kingdom, and upright ones with him: thus shall he do: and he shall give him the daughter of women, corrupting her: but she shall not stand on his side, neither be for him.”
This refers to the attempt of Antiochus III to strengthen his control of Egypt by giving his daughter to Ptolemy V Epiphanes - a scheme which went awry, for she proved loyal to her husband against her father. (The “corrupting her” of the KJ translation should be “to corrupt,” i.e., to corrupt Ptolemy).
11:18. “After this shall he turn his face unto the isles, and shall take many: but a prince for his own behalf shall cause the reproach offered by him to cease; without his own reproach he shall cause it to turn upon him.”
11:19. “Then he shall turn his face toward the fort of his own land: but he shall stumble and fall, and not be found.”
Assuming that the marriage alliance with Ptolemy V Epiphanes, would secure him against attack from Egypt, Antiochus III then sought to extend his dominion by conquering Asia Minor and Greece. Rome, however, with whom Greece had an alliance, thwarted his plans, defeating him at the battle of Magnesia in 190 B.C.
He returned to his own land in shame, and the next year, while attempting to plunder a heathen temple in order to replenish his depleted treasury, was slain by an angry mob.
11:20. “Then shall stand up in his estate a raiser of taxes in the glory of the kingdom: but within few days he shall be destroyed, neither in anger, nor in battle.”
The “raiser of taxes” was Seleucus IV Philopator, son of Antiochus III. He achieved notoriety by exacting taxes for Rome. An impoverished treasury impelled him to desperate means, which included the plundering of the temple in Jerusalem. His reign of eleven years - relatively short compared to the almost forty year reign of his father - was brought to an end when he was poisoned by his treasurer, Heliodorus. Thus he was “destroyed, neither in anger, nor in battle.”
11:21. “And in his estate shall stand up a vile person, to whom they shall not give the honor of the kingdom: but he shall come in peaceably, and obtain the kingdom by flatteries.”
11:22. “And with the arms of a flood shall they be overflown from before him, and shall be broken; yea, also the prince of the covenant.”
11:23. “And after the league made with him he shall work deceitfully; for he shall come up, and shall become strong with a small people.”
This introduces one of the most infamous characters to darken the page of history, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the “little horn” of 8:9. Having gained the throne by trickery and flattery, he consolidated his position by making a treaty with Israel and with Egypt. His speedy violation of the treaties, however, assures us that they were made with treacherous intent on his part. The “prince of the covenant” of verse 22 is presumed by most to be the Jewish high priest who would have signed the covenant. Antiochus deposed him.
11:24. “He shall enter peaceably 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 the prey, and spoil, and riches: yea, and he shall forecast his devices against the strong holds, even for a time.”
Feigning friendship, Antiochus came into Egypt with just a small number, but they seized “the fattest places of the province,” and he enriched his supporters with the spoil.
11:25. “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 be stirred up to battle with a very great and mighty army; but he shall not stand: for they shall forecast devices against him.”
11:26. “Yea, they that feed of the portion of his meat shall destroy him, and his army shall overflow: and many shall fall down slain.”
This describes the cunning scheming of Antiochus, and his successful invasion of Egypt, while verse 26 informs us that it was the treachery of his sons and servants which contributed in no small measure to Ptolemy’s defeat.
11:27. “And both these kings’ 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.”
Though he had won the battle, Antiochus did not succeed in conquering all of Egypt, hence the conference mentioned here between him and Ptolemy in a pretended attempt on the part of both to make peace.
That Ptolemy and Antiochus were equally untrustworthy, is indicated in verse 27
“... for yet the end shall be at the time appointed” is generally taken to refer to Antiochus’ soon-coming death.
11:28. “Then shall he return into his land with great riches; and his heart shall be against the holy covenant; and he shall do exploits, and return to his own land.”
This describes the victorious return of the booty-ladened Antiochus through Palestine, at which time his hatred of the Jews vented itself in a ruthless attack in which they were subjected to unbelievable cruelties.
11:29. “At the time appointed he shall return, and come toward the south; but it shall not be as the former, or as the latter.”
11:30. “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.”
11:31. “And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate.”
This describes a second incursion against Egypt, from which Antiochus was forced by the Romans to return unsuccessful, the Egyptians having appealed to Rome for aid. The “ships of Chittim,” are generally accepted as having reference to the Roman galleys. An angry, frustrated Antiochus then proceeded to vent his hatred on the Jews again. “... them that forsake the holy covenant” refers to the apostate Jews who aided him. Thousands of the Jews were slaughtered, thousands more led away captive, the temple worship was ended, a sow was offered on the altar, the temple dedicated to the worship of Jupiter, and Antiochus himself presented as a god.
“... the abomination that maketh desolate,” refers to the setting up of a statue of Jupiter in the temple, and the decree that he and other heathen gods were now to be worshiped under pain of death.
11:32. “And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt by flatteries: but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.”
This describes the bribery and corruption of the apostate Jews by Antiochus, the resistance of faithful Jews under the leadership of the Maccabees being referred to in the words, “... the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.”
11:33. “And they that understand among the people shall instruct many; yet they shall fall by the sword, and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil, many days.”
11:34. “Now when they shall fall, they shall be holpen with a little help: but many shall cleave to them with flatteries.”
11:35. “And some of them of understanding shall fall, to try them, and to purge, and to make them white, even to the time of the end: because it is yet for a time appointed.”
Many scholars view this section as being descriptive, not only of the sufferings of the Jews at the hand of Antiochus, but of their sufferings in general throughout the centuries since then, and which are to culminate in the terrible sufferings of the Tribulation judgments at the hand of the tyrant typified by Antiochus, the Roman beast emperor of the Tribulation age. This view seems to be validated by the reference in verse 33 to “many days” (indicative of a long time), and to the reference in verse 35 to “the time of the end.
Few question that Israel’s Tribulation sufferings are foreshadowed in their terrible experiences at the hand of Antiochus, or that Antiochus is a type of the Tribulation tyrant whose venomous persecution of God’s people will surpass anything they have ever known.
As already noted, however, what is written in verses 33-35 certainly relates first to the experience of the Jews in the days of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Led by Judas Maccabeus and his family, some of the Jews refused to bow to the will of the tyrant, and as more and more Jews (some from ulterior motives) joined the revolt, they fought courageously, and suffered much, but at the end of three years, on December 25, 165 B.C., the Temple was purified, an event celebrated to this day at the Feast of Hanukkah, or the Feast of Dedication (Jn 10:22).
Verses 36 to the end of this present chapter, however, clearly go beyond Antiochus, and relate exclusively to his coming terrible antitype, for there are details which could not apply to Antiochus, nor can there be found, as in the preceding verses, any historical parallel to the things described.
11:36. “And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvelous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done.”
11:37. “Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all.”
11:38. “But in his estate shall he honor the God of forces: and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honor with gold, and silver, and with precious stones, and pleasant things.”
This continues to declare the self-exaltation of the Roman beast emperor, an exaltation that will continue until “the indignation be accomplished,” the “indignation” being generally understood to refer to the Great Tribulation, i.e., the final three and a half years of the Tribulation era.
“Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers....” has been understood by some to indicate that this coming king will be a Jew. The term, however, may apply with equal force to an apostate Gentile, for it is clear that the beast emperor is not a Jew.
“... nor the desire of women,” appears to be the announcement of his utter disregard for the Lord Jesus Christ, for since the desire of every Jewish woman was that she might be the mother of the Messiah, He might very well be described as “the desire of women.” One translation of this phrase, in fact, is “the one desired by women.”
“He shall magnify himself above all.” Considering himself superior to all other gods, he will himself assume the role of God, acknowledging no power except that of “the God of forces,” who may well be Satan, the prince of this world, the ruler of the powers of darkness mentioned in Eph 6:12. Nor is it strange that he should worship the evil prince of darkness, since it will be by Satan’s power that he will rule.
The beast’s self-deification is foretold also by Paul, see 2 Th 2:3-4.
11:39. “Thus shall he do in the most strongholds with a strange god, whom he shall acknowledge and increase with glory: and he shall cause them to rule over many, and shall divide the land for gain.”
Other translations do little to dispel the ambiguity of the KJ rendering of this verse. The phrase “thus shall he do in the most strongholds” is generally understood to mean that he will be successful in his attacks against even the strongest foes, his power being given by the “strange God,” Satan, and as Satan grants him increased dominion, so will he in turn cause Satan to “increase with glory” by compelling an idolatrous worship of which Satan will be the object.
The latter part of this verse appears to allude to his liberality in rewarding those who help to consol-idate his power.
11:40. “And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at 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 over.”
The language of this verse is also obscure, but the most reasonable interpretation appears to be that which takes it to mean that in the Tribulation “the king of the south (Egypt),” and “the king of the north (Syria),” will oppose the Roman beast emperor. Many believe that the opposition will take the form of an invasion of Israel, with which the Roman beast ruler will have made a seven-year covenant, the attack on Israel therefore, being the equivalent of an attack on the beast himself.
The latter part of the verse “and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over,” is ambiguous, but the “he” appears to be the beast, while the countries he enters and overflows seem to be Egypt and Syria. If this is correct, then it becomes the announcement of the Roman beast’s defeat of these Egyptian and Syrian foes.
11:41. “He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon.”
11:42. “And he shall stretch forth his hand also upon the countries: and the land of Egypt shall not escape.”
11:43. “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.”
This appears to refer to his entering Palestine, presumably at the time when he violates the seven-year treaty, i.e., at the midpoint of the Tribulation.
Edom, Moab, and Ammon (present-day Jordan) “shall escape out of his hand,” perhaps because they will have taken no part against him, but he will subjugate many other countries besides Egypt and her North African allies.
11:44. “But tidings out of the east and out of the north shall trouble him: therefore he shall go forth with great fury to destroy, and utterly to make away many.”
11:45. “And he shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him.”
The “tidings out of the east” in all likelihood will be related to the impending invasion of his domain by the 200 million-man eastern army of Re 9:16. “The north” referred to here, however, must not be confused with Syria, for clearly, as other Scriptures indicate, e.g., Ezekiel 38 and 39, this northern power is from the general area of Russia.
This foretells the frenzied activity on earth that will precede the Lord’s return to end the Tribulation and establish His millennial kingdom. The beast ruler will apparently establish headquarters “between the seas,” i.e., in Palestine between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea, “in the glorious holy mountain (Jerusalem).” But “he shall come to his end.” That end is described in Re 19:20, “And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet.... These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.”
This passage has frequently prompted the question, Of what use is all this historical detail? The answer is that while there are undoubtedly many reasons which won’t be revealed on this side of eternity, there is one reason that isn’t difficult to see. Prophecy is not only the forthtelling of the mind and will of God: some of it is also prewritten history, and it is often overlooked that this is the record of a revelation given to Daniel of events which in his day were still at least three hundred years in the future; and in the case of verses 36-45, of events that have not yet been fulfilled. The specific detail lifts the prophecy beyond that of mere generality, and declares that none but God could possess such foreknowledge. This stamps the writing as Divine, and assures faith that the exact fulfillment of such a large portion of the prophecy (the part up to the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanies) guarantees the complete fulfillment of all that God has written. To the unbeliever it stands as a rebuke of his faithlessness, and a warning that continued unbelief will bring him into that same terrible lake of fire which is the foretold eternal dwelling place of the beast.
The part not yet fulfilled will bring to the believers of the Tribulation era the same assurance of God’s omnipotence and omniscience as justified the faith of those who lived in the days of Antiochus, and who saw in him and his activity the fulfillment of what God had written three hundred years before.