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Daniel 11

Dan 11:1

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; 9:1).

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 them effectively.

Dan 11:2

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 sure.

"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 never recovered.

Dan 11:3

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 Jews.

Dan 11:4

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 BC.

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 and Palestine.

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.

Dan 11:5

Vv 5-25: See Lesson, Kings of north and south.

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.

Dan 11:6

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 verse.

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].

Dan 11:7

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.

Dan 11:8

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.

Dan 11:9

Evidently Seleucus II invaded Egypt later unsuccessfully, though there is currently no record of this in secular history.

Dan 11:10

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 successes.

Dan 11:11

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.

Dan 11:12

Ptolemy IV was proud and did not pursue his advantage even though he killed many Syrians. He did acquire all of Palestine, however.

Dan 11:13

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.

Dan 11:14

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.

Dan 11:15

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.

Dan 11:16

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.

Dan 11:17

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.

Dan 11:18

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 verse.

Dan 11:19

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.

Dan 11:20

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 predicted.

Dan 11:21

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.

Dan 11:22

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.

Dan 11:23

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.

Dan 11:24

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).

Dan 11:25

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 horns"!)

Dan 11:26

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.

Dan 11:27

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 own advantage.

Dan 11:28

As a result of this "peace conference," Antiochus returned home with much plunder. Then his interests turned from Egypt to Israel.

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 BC.

Dan 11:29

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.

Dan 11:30

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.

Dan 11:31

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 altar.

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.

Dan 11:32

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.

Dan 11:33

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" (v 32).

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.


Dan 11:34

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 fellow Jews.

Dan 11:35

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 BC.

Dan 11:36

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 verses.

Dan 11:40

CHARIOTS AND CAVALRY AND A GREAT FLEET OF SHIPS: This echoes 1Ma 1:17, with its description of Antiochus' invasion of Egypt.

Dan 11:41

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)?

Dan 11:44

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 Dan 11:30).

Dan 11:45


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?

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