IN THE FIRST YEAR OF DARIUS THE MEDE, I TOOK MY STAND TO
SUPPORT AND PROTECT HIM: The angel concluded his encouragement of Daniel by
adding that he had been responsible for encouraging and protecting Darius the
Mede from the beginning of his reign over Babylon. As mentioned previously (see
Dan 5:31), "Darius" was probably a title for Cyrus. The angel may have used it
here because it was a title that Daniel preferred (cp Dan 5:31; 6:1,6,9,25,28;
The first year of Darius in view was the first year of his
reign as king of Babylon, namely 539 BC. Almost immediately, in 538 BC, Darius
(ie, Cyrus) had issued his decree allowing the Jews to return from exile.
Obviously this angel's ministry had been effective and had resulted in blessing
for the Jews. This king had also issued a decree commanding everyone in his
kingdom to honor Yahweh (Dan 6:26,27), assuming that incident happened before
the events of Dan 10 -- 12.
Thus the point of this verse is that the success that the
Israelites had experienced under Darius had been the result of successful
angelic direction. This success was to encourage Daniel as he pondered the
future revelation of Israel's fortunes that he was about to receive. In the
years to come, various antagonists of Israel would seek to destroy the Jews:
Haman, Antiochus Epiphanes, and other yet-to-be-revealed wicked men.
Nevertheless, Daniel is assured, the holy angels, though invisible, would resist
Vv 2-45: "This prophecy presents a problem the like of which
occurs nowhere else in the Bible. In its detail it is TOO exact, TOO specific --
and apparently TOO pointless. [Vv 2-45] read for the entire world like a history
written in the language of prophecy. For a short and otherwise unimportant
period in Bible history, it deals with the inter-relations of the kings of the
south (the Ptolemys of Egypt) and the kings of the north (the Seleucids of
Syria), with only very slight mention of the consequent sufferings of the
attenuated Judaean state.
"Some say these features present no problem. They are content
to believe that God had some special purpose in foretelling in such a
'programmatic' fashion the events of that era. But the explanation goes no
further than that.
"The modernists assert: Here is history, written after the
event, not true prophecy-written before it. Here, they declare, is the final
proof that the Book of Daniel was not written by Daniel, but was written in his
name several hundred years later. But even if this could be established for Dan
11, it would prove nothing about the rest of the book.
"There is another view, which has been advanced by
conservative scholars like Wright and Boutflower. This suggests the possibility
that a Jewish Targum has replaced this part of Daniel's prophecy.
"These Targums were popular paraphrases of sections of
Scripture, and were much used in certain synagogues. Thus, it is suggested, a
short prophecy following on Dan 11:2 was blown up by some imaginative
commentator into a marvellous relevance to recent or current events. Some
Christadelphian attempts at elucidation of Last Day prophecies have been known
to yield to the same sort of temptation!
"Those who believe that the text of the OT has come down to us
in immaculate form will feel outraged at the idea that such a distortion has
over-taken a part, albeit a small part, of Holy Scripture. Yet there is no lack
of evidence that, whilst the OT text is in general thoroughly dependable, there
are places where distortions have crept in. The Jews were not ALWAYS as careful
of their Holy Scriptures as they have been in less ancient days.
"It would be possible, but too tedious, and long-winded, to
set out in parallel columns the otherwise uncanny correspondence in detail after
detail between the text of Dan 11 and the events preserved in the histories of
Josephus and Maccabees. Always the question recurs: Why? Why this photographic
exactness? This Targum theory may supply an explanation. One cannot be
"A further question is this: Where, then, does the genuine
prophecy of Daniel resume?
"Mesmerised by the opening phrase of v 40: 'And at the time of
the end...', some would insist on the verbal inspiration of the last six verses,
and are even inclined to accord verbal inspiration to their own personal
understanding of those verses. Yet even from this standpoint there are at least
three competing interpretations, and none of them free from difficulty. It may
be that these verses also are an extension of the main part of the chapter,
detailing some of the activities of the infamous Antiochus Epiphanes. But the
student and commentator can certainly resume with confidence his detailed work
at Dan 12:1" (WDan).
V 2: THREE MORE KINGS: Historically these proved to be
Cambyses, Pseudo-Smerdis (also known as Gaumata and Bardiya), and Darius I. The
fourth Persian king to appear did become stronger than his predecessors and
attacked Greece. He was Xerxes I (Ahasuerus).
HE WILL STIR UP EVERYONE AGAINST THE KINGDOM OF GREECE:
Xerxes attacked Greece in 480 BC with a huge army, but he suffered defeat and
Then comes a big historic gap of about 50 years.
A MIGHTY KING: The mighty king who arose and did as he
pleased proved to be Alexander the Great (cf Dan 2:32,39b; 7:6; 8:5-8,21). He
was, of course, Greek. His invasion of the Persian Empire was in large part
retaliation for Xerxes' attacks against his people. He first attacked the
Persians at the Granicus River near Constantinople in 334 BC and finally
overthrew the Persian yoke at Gaugamela near Nineveh in 331 BC.
GREAT POWER: His conquest of the ancient world took
only five years (334-330 BC). His empire stretched from Macedonia to India. This
passage was shown to Alexander by the high priest, and gained his favor for the
HIS EMPIRE WILL BE BROKEN UP: After conquering most of
the ancient world, even farther east than the Persian Empire had extended,
Alexander died prematurely in Babylon, his imperial capital, in 323
TOWARD THE FOUR WINDS OF HEAVEN: The four parts of
Alexander's empire divided to his four generals (cf Dan 7:6; 8:8,22). Cassander
ruled Macedonia-Greece, Lysimachus governed Thrace-Asia Minor, Seleucus took the
rest of Asia except lower Syria and Palestine, and Ptolemy reigned over Egypt
IT WILL NOT GO TO HIS DESCENDANTS: His two sons,
Hercules and Alexander, were both murdered when they were very young.
NOR WILL IT HAVE THE POWER HE EXERCISED: This Greek
Empire following Alexander's demise did not retain the strength that it had
previously under the centralized authority of Alexander.
V 5: THE KING OF THE SOUTH WILL BECOME STRONG: The king
described in this verse proved to be Ptolemy I, one of Alexander's most powerful
generals, who proclaimed himself king of Egypt in 304 BC. He was an ambitious
monarch who sought to extend his holdings north into Cyprus, Asia Minor, and
Greece. His dynasty ruled Egypt until 30 BC.
BUT ONE OF HIS COMMANDERS WILL BECOME EVEN STRONGER THAN HE
AND WILL RULE HIS OWN KINGDOM WITH GREAT POWER: The prince under the king of
the South who would gain ascendancy over the king of the South was Seleucus I,
another of Alexander's most prominent generals. He had gained authority to rule
Babylon in 321 BC. However in 316 BC another of Alexander's generals, Antigonus,
attacked Babylon. Seleucus sought help from Ptolemy I, and with Ptolemy's
sponsorship and superior power was able to retain control of Babylon. He was in
this sense Ptolemy's prince; he submitted to him to gain his military support
against Antigonus. Seleucus I eventually ruled all of Babylonia, Media, and
Syria, a territory much larger than Ptolemy's. He assumed the title "king" in
305 BC and was "the king of the North" referred to in this verse. His dynasty
lasted until 64 BC.
In the South, Ptolemy I eventually died in 285 BC, leaving his
throne to his son, Ptolemy II.
In the North, Seleucus I was the victim of an assassin in 281
BC, and his son, Antiochus I, began ruling in his place. Antiochus I died in 262
BC and left his son, Antiochus II, in power.
Ptolemy II of Egypt and Antiochus II of Syria were
contemporaries. They were also bitter enemies. However, they finally made an
alliance about 250 BC, which they sealed with the marriage of Ptolemy II's
daughter, Berenice, to Antiochus II. When Ptolemy II died in 246 BC, Antiochus
II took back his first wife, Laodice, whom Antiochus had divorced to marry
Berenice. To gain revenge, Laodice had Berenice and her infant son by Antiochus
murdered. Laodice also poisoned Antiochus and ruled in his place briefly. Her
son, Seleucus II, then succeeded his father, Antiochus II, and ruled Syria
beginning in 246 BC. Berenice is the woman the angel referred to in this
SHE WILL NOT RETAIN HER POWER... SHE WILL BE HANDED OVER,
TOGETHER WITH HER ROYAL ESCORT AND HER FATHER AND THE ONE WHO SUPPORTED HER:
She [Berenice] would not retain her position of power [as queen of the North],
but she will be given up [by her husband, Antiochus II], along with those who
brought her in [perhaps the diplomats who arranged the marriage], and the one
who sired her [her father, Ptolemy II], as well as he who supported her in those
times [perhaps her supporting patron].
Berenice's brother, Ptolemy III, whose other name,
"Euergetes," means "Benefactor," succeeded his father and determined to avenge
Berenice's death. He attacked Seleucus II at Antioch in Syria and killed
Laodice. He also conquered much adjacent territory and remained the foremost
power in the region for the rest of his reign.
Ptolemy III returned to Egypt from Antioch with much spoil
including idols and precious vessels from the temples and treasure houses of
Syria. He also signed a treaty with Seleucus II in 240 BC that resulted in peace
between their two nations.
Evidently Seleucus II invaded Egypt later unsuccessfully,
though there is currently no record of this in secular history.
Seleucus II's son, Seleucus III, succeeded his father upon his
death in 227 BC. However, Seleucus III himself died not many years later in 223
BC, and his brother, Antiochus III, became king of the North. Both of these sons
of Seleucus II had sought to restore Syria's glory. Seleucus III invaded Asia
Minor, and later Antiochus III attacked Egypt. Though Antiochus III did not
defeat Egypt, he was successful in gaining control of Israel during his campaign
of 219-217 BC. Egypt's northern border had until then been Syria, but Antiochus
III drove the Egyptians, then led by Ptolemy IV, back to the southern borders of
Israel. He earned the epitaph "the Great" because of his military
In an attempt to recapture his lost territory to the north,
Ptolemy IV attacked Antiochus III on the southern borders of Israel,
specifically at Raphia in 217 BC. Initially he was successful. Antiochus lost
his entire army and was almost captured as he fled to the desert.
Ptolemy IV was proud and did not pursue his advantage even
though he killed many Syrians. He did acquire all of Palestine,
Antiochus III then proceeded to turn in other directions for
conquests, specifically to his east and to his north. About 203 BC, Antiochus
III returned with a much larger army and repulsed the Egyptians who were now
under the rule of the child king, Ptolemy V. Antiochus was able to retake
Palestine as far south as Gaza.
The Macedonians under Philip V of Macedonia and the Jews
living in Israel joined Antiochus III in opposing the Egyptians. Evidently some
of the politically zealous Jews believed that they could gain more freedom if
Antiochus III succeeded, but that did not happen.
The fortified city that Antiochus III besieged and took was
Sidon, which he defeated about 200 BC. There he forced the Egyptian General
Scopas, whom he had recently defeated at Paneas (the Biblical Dan), near the
headwaters of the Jordan River, to surrender. Three other Egyptian commanders
tried to free Scopas from Sidon, but they were unsuccessful.
Antiochus III continued to solidify Syrian control over
Palestine without successful opposition from the Egyptians. When Scopas finally
surrendered to Antiochus III at Sidon, the Holy Land was permanently acquired by
the Syrian government, to the exclusion of Egypt. When Antiochus III entered
Jerusalem, the populace welcomed him as a deliverer and benefactor.
Antiochus III, under threat from Rome, then initiated peace
with Egypt and offered his daughter Cleopatra to Ptolemy V in marriage to insure
their alliance. He hoped that Cleopatra would remain pro-Syrian and that her
loyalty to him would give him control over Egypt. This attempt failed, however.
Cleopatra consistently sided with her husband against her father, even though
Ptolemy V was then only a boy.
Antiochus III then turned his attention to the Aegean coast
and sought to conquer Asia Minor and Greece. He had been contemptuous of Roman
authority in Greece and had said the Roman's had no business there. Antiochus
did not succeed completely because a Roman commander named Claudius Scipio
repulsed him. He is the commander that fulfilled the prophecy in this
Antiochus III returned to Antioch were he died a year later in
187 BC. He had tried to reunite Alexander the Great's empire under his own
authority, but he failed largely because he underestimated the power of the
rising Roman Empire. Nevertheless Antiochus III, "the Great," was a brilliant
and successful military leader.
Antiochus' elder son, Seleucus IV, succeeded his father. He
taxed his people, including the Jews, so heavily to pay Rome that his Jewish tax
collector, Heliodorus (2Ma 3:7), poisoned him. Heliodorus was evidently the
oppressor that Seleucus sent through "the jewel of his kingdom," namely Israel,
collecting taxes. This assassination set the stage for the terrible persecutions
of the Jews that followed. Thus Seleucus IV did not die because of mob violence,
as his father had, or in battle, but from poison, as this verse
Vv 21-35: The great persecution under Antiochus Epiphanes.
There is more information about this individual than all the preceding ones
combined. The reason is his devastating influence on the Jews. During his tenure
as king, Syria was in decline and Rome gained power. Antiochus IV corresponds to
the little horn of Dan 8 (vv 9-12,23-25), and he foreshadows the little horn of
Dan 7 (v 8).
The earlier kings are described to provide a background for
Antiochus Epiphanes (175-164 BC), and he is given ample attention because he
foreshadows the Last Great Enemy of Israel in the end times. The movement of the
chapter is toward these two significant personages who dramatically affect the
fate of the Jews.
V 21: The Seleucid king who succeeded Seleucus IV was
the younger son of Antiochus III, namely Antiochus IV Epiphanes ("Illustrious
One"). The throne rightly belonged to one of the sons of Seleucus IV, the former
king and brother of Antiochus IV, but Antiochus IV seized it for himself and had
himself proclaimed king. He persuaded the leaders of Syria to allow him to rule
since Demetrius, the eldest son of Seleucus IV, was being held hostage in Rome.
In this way, through intrigue, he secured the throne for himself.
Antiochus IV was successful in battle against the Egyptians
initially, which this verse describes as sweeping them away before him. The
Egyptian king was now Ptolemy VI, whom Antiochus deceived and then defeated. It
was Epiphanes' policy to throw his intended victims off guard by offering them
his friendship and alliance. Then he would maneuver for an advantageous position
till he could catch them by surprise. Antiochus also swept away the Jewish high
priest, Onias III, here called a "prince of the covenant", about 172 BC.
Antiochus made an alliance with Ptolemy VI in 170 BC. This
treaty was part of a plot to advance his own power in Egypt by siding with
Ptolemy VI and against his rival for the Egyptian throne.
Antiochus craftily pillaged the treasures of his provinces,
but not to grow rich himself as his predecessors had done. He used this wealth
to bribe and influence other leaders to cooperate with his plans. In this way he
enlarged his power base (cf 1Ma 3:30).
After Antiochus had grown strong enough, he marched his army
against Ptolemy VI in 170 BC. He was able to get all the way to the Nile Delta
before the Egyptians discovered that he was approaching. He exercised much
influence over Egypt -- usually pretending to be an ally and then using this
enemy for his own advantage. Notice how the text highlights Antiochus'
deceptiveness. (In this he is a good example, and prototype, of other "little
Those who ate Ptolemy's choice food, those who should have
supported him, plotted to destroy him. Eventually his army suffered defeat and
many soldiers died.
This battle was successful in part because Antiochus claimed
to be fighting for Ptolemy against a usurper within Egypt. When the battle was
over, Antiochus and Ptolemy sat down together at a banquet pretending to want
peace. Actually, each king was trying to make the most of the situation for his
As a result of this "peace conference," Antiochus returned
home with much plunder. Then his interests turned from Egypt to
A Jew named Jason wanted to be high priest. Knowing Antiochus'
reputation Jason offered the king a bribe to depose the high priest, Onias III.
Antiochus cooperated. This state of affairs encouraged another pretender to the
high priesthood, Menelaus, to try the same tactic against Jason. Antiochus
cooperated again. Onias, whom the Jews respected, objected and lost his life for
doing so. Antiochus executed certain individuals for their alleged roles in
these maneuverings. However, he did not punish Jason or Menelaus but the people
of Jerusalem, again in response to bribes. After Jason attempted a coup de etat
thinking that Antiochus was dead, Antiochus entered Jerusalem, slew 80,000 men,
and, accompanied by Menelaus, desecrated the temple. This happened in 168
In the same year, Antiochus decided to attack Egypt. When he
arrived with his army, the Roman consul, Popillius Laenas, met him at Alexandria
and forbade him to invade Egypt. Consequently he was not able to do what he
wanted with Egypt as he had previously.
The ships from Kittim (Cyprus) that came against him belonged
to Popillius Laenas and Rome. Antiochus had to return home since to do otherwise
would have meant declaring war on Rome, a foe he could not hope to defeat. He
returned to Syria disappointed.
Again he took out his frustration on the Jews in Jerusalem who
observed the holy covenant (ie, the Mosaic Law; cf v 28). He favored the
renegade Jews who had abandoned the Mosaic Law (cf 1Ma 2:18; 2Ma 6:1). Menelaus
and his henchmen, for example, willingly abandoned their religious scruples
rather than oppose Antiochus -- who had put them in power.
Antiochus Epiphanes -- the King of the North -- ordered his
general, Apollonius, and a contingent of 22,000 soldiers into Jerusalem on what
he claimed was a peaceful mission. However, when they were inside the city, they
attacked the Jews on a sabbath, when the Jews were at a disadvantage in fighting
back. Apollonius killed many Jews, took many Jewish women and children captive
as slaves, plundered the temple, and burned the city.
Antiochus' objective was to exterminate Judaism and to
Hellenize the Jews. Consequently he forbade them to follow the Mosaic Law, and
he did away with the Jewish sacrifices, festivals, and circumcision (1Ma
1:44-54). He even burned copies of their law. As a culminating measure, he
installed an image of Zeus, his Greek god, in the temple and erected an altar to
Zeus on the altar of burnt offerings (cf 2Ma 6:2). Then he sacrificed a pig, an
unclean animal to the Jews, on it. This happened on December 16, 168 BC. The
Jews referred to this act as "the abomination that caused desolation" (cf Dan
12:11) since it polluted their altar and made sacrifices to Yahweh on it
impossible (cf Dan 8:23-25). Antiochus further ordered his Jewish subjects to
celebrate his subsequent birthdays by offering a pig to Zeus on this
Jesus Christ indicated that another similar atrocity would
befall the Jews in the future (Mat 24:15; Mar 13:14). [This was not the first
time such a sacrilege had been committed. King Ahaz had set up an idolatrous
altar (2Ki 16:10-16), and King Manasseh had installed images of pagan gods (2Ki
21:3-5) in the first temple.] Jesus referred to the coming depredation literally
as "the abomination that causes desolation," the exact words used in the LXX for
this verse. Thus Antiochus' actions were a preview of similar atrocities that
are yet to befall the Jews. The destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD by the Roman
general Titus may be at least a beginning of the fulfillment of Jesus'
prediction. However, Titus did not treat the Jews as Antiochus did. Furthermore
the Book of Revelation predicts the coming of a "beast" who will behave as
Antiochus did, only on a larger scale (Rev 13).
Antiochus thus becomes a typical prophecy of the future man of
sin, and his activities foreshadow the ultimate blasphemous persecution of
Israel, the subjugation of Jerusalem, and the desecration of their holy place in
the last days. This will be one of the surest signs of the nearness of the
return of Christ.
THE ABOMINATION THAT CAUSES DESOLATION: Dan 9:27;
11:31; 12:11. Used by Jesus to speak of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem: Mat
24:15; Mar 13:14; Luk 21:20.
Antiochus deceived many Jews with his flattery and promises
(1Ma 1:11-15). They participated in the worship of Zeus.
This most repulsive of all insults to the Jews precipitated
the Maccabean revolt in which thousands of Jews rebelled against Antiochus.
Initiated by a priest named Mattathias from the town of Modein in Ephraim and
led by three of his sons, Judas, Jonathan, and Simon (1Ma 2:23-28), this
nationalistic movement eventually overthrew the Seleucids in Palestine. Judas
Maccabeus slew Antiochus' general, Apollonius, in battle; later he and his
brothers achieved many important victories that freed the Jews.
Antiochus' persecutions gave impetus to the Chassidim ("the
godly, pious, loyal ones") movement that was already underway in Israel. The
Chassidim advocated strict adherence to the Mosaic Law and the traditions of
Judaism. The Maccabean revolt likewise fueled this movement since it was a
political and military manifestation of the Chassidim conservative philosophy.
The Chassidim movement really resulted in the spiritual survival of Israel until
Jesus' time. Some of the Chassidim became the sect of the Pharisees ("separated
ones"), which appears in the Gospels. Later a smaller group of Chassidim became
the isolationist Essene community that lived at Qumran beside the Dead Sea. The
Essenes repudiated the rationalism of the Sadducees and the materialism of the
Pharisees. All these groups had their roots in "the people who know their God"
Antiochus retaliated with brutal force and killed tens of
thousands of Israelites during the few years that followed his desecration of
the temple. He died insane in Persia in 163 BC.
THOSE WHO ARE WISE WILL INSTRUCT MANY: Cp Dan
The godly in Israel received little encouragement from their
apostate pro-Hellenistic brethren at first. Even the Maccabean revolt started
out small. As time went by and the Maccabees' effectiveness became apparent,
more Jews joined their numbers, but many of them did so without abandoning their
pro-Hellenistic convictions. They hypocritically joined the nationalists.
Eventually the Maccabees had to purge their own ranks, killing many of their
Even though many godly Jews died, the struggle against the
Syrians (Greeks) purified the Jews. John Hyrcanus, the son of Simon Maccabeus,
eventually founded a strong Jewish kingdom. His son, Alexander Jannaeus,
enlarged it to its fullest extent in the last part of the first century
Vv 36-45: These vv seem to be a recapitulation of the earlier
verses about Antiochus Epiphanes -- perhaps with a view to emphasizing the
pattern for another "abomination" to come. This "Antiochus" or "King of the
North" will establish himself -- as a "God" -- on the glorious holy mountain
(the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem!) (cp Isa 14:13,14), but then seemingly come to
a ignominious end by a divine hand.
Due to the uncertainty of these verses (as to time written,
and time to be fulfilled, and relation to the previous verses in Dan 11), it
would probably be well to consider Last Days fulfillments by seeking
corroboration in other prophecies of anything suggested by these
CHARIOTS AND CAVALRY AND A GREAT FLEET OF SHIPS: This
echoes 1Ma 1:17, with its description of Antiochus' invasion of Egypt.
Vv 41,42: Threatened by the Romans, Antiochus broke off his
Egyptian campaign, and took it out of the Jews instead. (This was described in
more detail in earlier verses, vv 29,30.)
EDOM, MOAB... AMMON: Are these the 3 horns displaced by
the "little horn" (Dan 7:8)?
REPORTS FROM THE EAST AND THE NORTH: Antiochus
Epiphanes receives news of defeats suffered by his army operating against
Maccabees, which causes him to return to Israel (2Ma 9:3; already described in
HE WILL PITCH HIS ROYAL TENTS BETWEEN THE SEAS: The
Dead Sea and the Mediterranean.
AT THE BEAUTIFUL HOLY MOUNTAIN: Unquestionably the
Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Is this the Image standing up all in one piece in the
Last Days (Dan 2:35), to be broken all at once?