Daniel Chapter 11
Conflicts to Come
We are now in the year 536 B.C. As the narrative continues from chapter ten, the angel adds that he is defending the cause of the Jews. When the Babylonian empire came to a close, Michael had a part in the succession to the throne of Darius, which was the occasion for restoring the Jewish captives back to Jerusalem.
Three kings will arise in Persia, and the three following Cyrus were Cambyses, the son of Cyrus (ruled 7 years and 5 months, 530-522), Smerdis, who was an impostor, pretending to be another son of Cyrus (ruled 7 months, 522), and Darius, the son of Hystaspes, who married Mandane, the daughter of Cyrus. He was also known as Darius the Great (ruled 36 years, 522-486).
The fourth king is Xerxes (486-465), also called Ahasuerus in the book of Esther. He caused great trouble against Greece during his reign. He invaded Greece and had 2 to 3 million fighting men at his command.
Then in Daniel 11:3 the “mighty king” would arise in later years and “rule with great authority.” This was none other than Alexander the Great, who conquered the known world in 331 B.C. Because of the wrongs Greece had suffered under Xerxes, he vowed to conquer Persia. In 12 years, he had conquered the world. He died in June, 323 B.C. after consuming too much wine. Then it is said that his kingdom would be divided into four parts. But notice that his kingdom would be parceled out “though not to his own descendants.” Consider the fulfillment of this prophecy.
“The family of Alexander had a most tragical end:
- His wife Statira was murdered soon after his death by his other wife Roxana.
- His brother Aridaeus, who succeeded him, was killed, together with his wife Euridice, by command of Olympias, Alexander's mother, after he had been king about six years and some months.
- Olympias herself was killed by the soldiers in revenge.
- Alexander Aegus, his son, together with his mother Roxana, was slain by order of Cassander.
- Two years after, his other son Hercules, with his mother Barsine, was privately murdered by Polysperchon;
so that in fifteen years after his death not one of his family or posterity remained alive!” (Adam Clarke’s Commentary)
The “four points of the compass” into which his kingdom was divided were as follows among Alexander’s generals. Seleucus I Nicator founded the Seleucid empire in the north (Syria); The king of the South (Egypt) was Ptolemy I; Cassander assumed control of Macedonia (Greece); and Lysimachus assumed control of Thrace (located on the northeastern of the Greek peninsula, and Asia Minor, which included Israel, Turkey, and the Arabian peninsula).
In later times, both Ptolemy and Seleucus caused trouble to Judah. Then we have the Egyptian king’s daughter, Berenice, married off to Antiochus Theos, King of Syria. He was the nephew of Seleucus. These two rulers had been at war for some time, and this arranged marriage was the occasion of bringing peace. A condition was that Antiochus divorce his wife and her children, and marry Berenice along with her huge fortune.
This arrangement did not last long, as Antiochus’ first wife, Laodice, had Berenice murdered. Berenice’s brother, Ptolemy III, came and attacked and conquered Syria. He carried much loot back to Egypt. Ptolemy later died, Antiochus took back Laodice, who then poisoned him, caused Berenice and her son to be put to death, and raised her own son, Seleucus Nicator (Callinicus), to the throne. She had been afraid that Antiochus might call Berenice back, so she put all that to rest. (Wouldn’t all this make for a good “soap opera” on TV today?)
“Neither will he stand…” The king of Egypt will no longer have any hope of having one of his descendants, the son of Berenice, on the throne of Syria.
In time, the Syrian king came to Egypt but was not successful in his campaign, so returned to his land.
But the sons of Callinicus, who were Seleucus Ceraunus and Antiochus afterward called the Great, assembled an army to engage in war in Egypt. But they didn’t have enough money to pay the soldiers, so they mutinied, and Seleucus was poisoned by two of his generals. Then Antiochus became king. He gained power over his area, and he came to Egypt with a large army. The Greek historian Polybius wrote that in the campaign against Egypt, Antiochus lost 10,000 soldiers in the victory.
Antiochus the Great
The Jews, seeing that Syria is bringing a large army against Egypt, join in the fight, and Egypt falls. Then the Syrian army turns against the Jews, even though they had joined forces with them against Egypt. But the Syrian ruler, Antiochus the Great came against the “Beautiful Land.” The “fortified city” in Daniel 11:15 is a reference to the city of Sidon.
In order to make a pact of peace with Egypt, Antiochus the Great gave his daughter in marriage, intending for her to work in the interests of her father’s kingdom. But she proves to be more loyal to her husband than to her father. And what was her name? Cleopatra.
Ptolemy Epiphanes, son of Ptolemy Philopator, had just been crowned king of Egypt at age 4 when Antiochus came against Egypt. In Antiochus’ successful fight some years later, Ptolemy was 14 when he was married to Cleopatra (210-176 BC). (Not the one associated with Marc Antony)
Then Antiochus turns to the Mediterranean islands and captures many of them, but in time his victories are stopped. Rome joined in the battle against him, and he was defeated and had to give over part of his Asian territory to Rome. He returned home and died a year later in 187 B.C. His son, Seleucus Philopater inherited a large kingdom as well as the large tax that his father had agreed to pay to Rome. This placed a burden on his subjects, as raised their taxes to pay the debt. He was assassinated by Heliodorus, who sought to be king.
The next several verses deal with the rise of Antiochus Epiphanes, who was described in Daniel 8:9-11 in the image of the male goat.
“And out of one of them came forth a rather small horn which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Beautiful Land. And it grew up to the host of heaven and caused some of the host and some of the stars to fall to the earth, and it trampled them down. It even magnified itself to be equal with the Commander of the host; and it removed the regular sacrifice from Him, and the place of His sanctuary was thrown down.”
So, a “despicable person” (vile person, KJV) comes along and takes over the kingdom from Heliodorus. He is good with flattery. He ruled over Syria from 175-167 BC, a relatively short reign, but he did much harm in his time on the throne. The true heir to the throne is his nephew Demetrius
In Daniel 11:22, the removal of the “prince of the covenant” would be the removal of Onias the high priest, as a bribe was given to replace him. (See notes on Daniel 8:9-14.)
Antiochus proceeds to grow stronger by winning over various areas by promising peace and security and giving gifts, accomplishing more control than his ancestors had done. He then raises a large army to go against Egypt. The Egyptian ruler raised a large army in defense but could not stand before the forces of Antiochus. The implication in Daniel 11:25-26 indicates that his own friends may have given bad advice. The Egyptians thought Ptolemy was in the hands of Antiochus, and had removed him from the throne and put his brother Euergetes in his place.
In Daniel 11:27, Antiochus and Ptolemy sit down for a conference, but neither was being honest, as the record says both were lying. It is interesting to note that the Egyptian ruler is Euergetes, the brother of Ptolemy Philometer, and they are the nephews of Antiochus since they are sons of Cleopatra, Antiochus’ sister. These two claim to be working together, but each has his own design on the kingdom of Egypt. Very likely Antiochus says he will help Ptolmey gain back the throne, while his nephew wants the kingdom freed from the hand of Antiochus.
But God is still in control, “for the end is still to come at the appointed time.” No matter what schemes they may devise, they cannot change what God has determined for the future.
And in Daniel 11:28, Antiochus then returned to his home country and took many treasures he had plundered with him. His heart was “set against the holy covenant,” referring to his antagonism against Israel and their worship of God.
In 167 B.C. the two Ptolemy brothers agreed that they should share the throne, and hired troops from Greece. Antiochus heard of this and planned to invade Egypt again. But the brothers enlisted the aid of Rome. As it looked as if he would be at war with Rome as well as Greece, he angrily gave up the invasion. The “ships of Kittim” were evidently Greek ships carrying Roman ambassadors. It seems they “drew a line in the sand” and warned Antiochus not to cross it.
On his way back home, marching through Palestine, he dispatched 22,000 soldiers to destroy Jerusalem, which they did, and killed 80,000 Jews. Some abandoned their God-given laws and were spared, but those who were faithful to God were slain.
The “abomination of desolation” in Daniel 11:31 had a great impact on the nation. Christ used the same words to describe the coming destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Note that the following passage does not refer to the events at the end of our present age, as some false teachers maintain, for when the end comes, it will be over in a moment of time. No one will be running to the hills, etc.
"But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it should not be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. And let him who is on the housetop not go down, or enter in, to get anything out of his house; and let him who is in the field not turn back to get his cloak. But woe to those who are with child and to those who nurse babes in those days! But pray that it may not happen in the winter.” (Mark 13:14-18)
As to what Daniel is referring to, the historical record is quite clear as to what happened. Antiochus stole the valuables from the temple, commanded the Jews to worship the idol of Zeus he had set up in the temple, ended the daily sacrifices, and offered a pig on the altar. Such a sacrilege was about as offensive to the Jews as anything could be. He further forbad circumcision, forbad the possession of the Torah, the copy of the Law of Moses, and ended observance of the Sabbath. What happened at that time is very similar to what took place in the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 A.D.
This violence against the Jews caused a rebellion.
“In the narrative of I Maccabees, after Antiochus IV issued his decrees forbidding Jewish religious practice, a rural Jewish priest from Modiin, Mattathias the Hasmonean, sparked the revolt against the Seleucid Empire by refusing to worship the Greek gods. Mattathias killed a Hellenistic Jew who had stepped forward to take Mattathias's place in sacrificing to an idol. Afterward, he and his five sons fled to the wilderness of Judah. After Matta-thias's death about one year later in 166 BC, his son Judah Maccabee led an army of Jewish dissidents to victory over the Seleucid dynasty in guerrilla warfare, which at first was directed against Hellenized Jews, of whom there were many. The Maccabees destroyed pagan altars in the villages, circumcised boys, and forced Hellenized Jews into outlawry. The term "Maccabees" used to describe the Jewish army is taken from the Hebrew word for "hammer".
"The revolt itself involved many battles, in which the light, quick, and mobile Maccabean forces gained notoriety among the slow and bulky Seleucid army, and also for their use of guerrilla tactics. After the victory, the Maccabees entered Jerusalem in triumph and ritually cleansed the Temple, reestablishing traditional Jewish worship there and install-ing Jonathan Maccabee as high priest. A large Seleucid army was sent to quash the revolt but returned to Syria on the death of Antiochus IV. Beforehand, Judas Maccabees made an agreement with Rome and became allied, tying the hands of the weaker Seleucid Empire. Its commander Lysias, preoccupied with internal Seleucid affairs, agreed to a political compromise that restored religious freedom.” (Wikipedia).
Here we have a picture painted of a a conceited Antiochus, as he exalts himself above all gods and speaks evil things against all other gods, which of course would include Jehovah. Daniel writes that he will “prosper until the indignation is finished.” History tells us that Antiochus died of a wasting disease that was so bad that “no man could endure to carry (him) for his intolerable stink” (II Maccabees 9:10).
What an egomaniac he was! He was also known as being licentious and lacking restraint, thus the reference to “no desire…for the regard of women." The things he worshipped seemed to be things concerning wealth and power.
With respect to Daniel 11:39, consider the following quote:
“Thus shall he do in the most strong holds of Judea; setting up the image and worship of this strange god in them all: and, those base persons, whom he shall affect, he shall advance to great glory; and shall cause them to rule over many better than themselves; and shall share the land of Judea amongst them for a reward of their unworthy service” (Hall’s Explication of Hard Texts).
There is some difficulty in connecting these verses with the history of Antiochus. Various scholars project these verses forward to the Antichrist. There is not much recorded history of Antiochus attacking Egypt again, but the historian Porphyry does state that Antiochus actually did invade Egypt on another occasion towards the end of his reign.
“The difficulty of reconciling this with Antiochus' history is that no historian but PORPHYRY mentions an expedition of his into Egypt towards the close of his reign. This Da 11:40, therefore, may be a recapitulation summing up the facts of the first expedition to Egypt (171-170 B.C.), in Da 11:22,25; and Da 11:41, the former invasion of Judea, in Da 11:28; Da 11:42,43, the second and third invasions of Egypt (169 and 168 B.C.) in Da 11:23,24,29,30. AUBERLEN takes rather PORPHYRY'S statement, that Antiochus, in the eleventh year of his reign (166-165 B.C.), invaded Egypt again, and took Palestine on his way. The "tidings" (Da 11:44) as to the revolt of tributary nations then led him to the East. PORPHYRY'S statement that Antiochus starting from Egypt took Arad in Judah, and devastated all Phoenicia, agrees with Da 11:45; then he turned to check Artaxias, king of Armenia. He died in the Persian town Tabes, 164 B.C., as both POLYBIUS and PORPHYRY agree.” (Jamieson-Faussett-Brown Commentary)
Following is an excerpt from Second Maccabees that expands on the history of that time.
"At that time Antiochus returned with dishonour out of Persia. For he had entered into the city called Persepolis, and attempted to rob the temple, and to oppress the city: but the multitude running together to arms, put them to flight: and so it fell out that Antiochus being put to flight returned with disgrace. Now when he was come about Ecbatana, he received the news of what had happened to Nicanor and Timotheus. And swelling with anger he thought to revenge upon the Jews the injury done by them that had put him to flight. And therefore he commanded his chariot to be driven, without stopping in his journey, the judgment of heaven urging him forward, because he had spoken so proudly, that he would come to Jerusalem, and make it a common burying place of the Jews. But the Lord the God of Israel, that seeth all things, struck him with an incurable and an invisible plague. For as soon as he had ended these words, a dreadful pain in his bowels came upon him, and bitter torments of the inner parts. And indeed very justly, seeing he had tormented the bowels of others with many and new torments, albeit he by no means ceased from his malice. Moreover being filled with pride, breathing out fire in his rage against the Jews, and commanding the matter to be hastened, it happened as he was going with violence that he fell from the chariot, so that his limbs were much pained by a grievous bruising of the body. Thus he that seemed to himself to command even the waves of the sea, being proud above the condition of man, and to weigh the heights of the mountains in a balance, now being cast down to the ground, was carried in a litter, bearing witness to the manifest power of God in himself: So that worms swarmed out of the body of this man, and whilst he lived in sorrow and pain, his flesh fell off, and the filthiness of his smell was noisome to the army. And the man that thought a little before he could reach to the stars of heaven, no man could endure to carry, for the intolerable stench.” (II Maccabees 9, Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA))