Chapter 10 set the introduction to the vision that Daniel would see in chapter 11. Before we read chapter 11, let us remember a couple of aspects about the vision we are going to read about. Daniel 10:14 tells us that what the angel reveals to Daniel is concerning “what will happen to your people.” Therefore, the things that we are reading about in chapter 11 must be concerning the Jews, for these are Daniel’s people. Second, verse 14 also tells us that these will happen “in the latter days.” Recall that this is a reference to the time when the events will lead up to the end of the Jewish age, sometimes called the “last days,” “time of the end,” or “end of the age” (Heb. 1:1-2). For further notes about this point, please see my remarks in chapter 10 and chapter 2. Therefore, the things that we read in chapter 11 cannot refer to future events past our lifetime. They must have taken place prior to the end of the Jewish age, culminating in 70 A.D.
The Mighty Kings of the North and South
Kingdom of Greece (11:2-4)
As we begin looking at verse 2, recall that we are still reading the words of the angel. Though we have an unfortunate chapter break here, the angel from 10:20 is continuing to speak to Daniel. The angel is now going to reveal the things contained in the book of truth ( 10:21 ). “Three more kings will arise in Persia .” Daniel 10:1 tells us that Daniel is seeing these things in the third year of Cyrus. The next three kings of Persia are Cambyses (530-522 B.C.), Smerdis (522 B.C.), and Darius I Hystaspes (522-486 B.C.). “And the fourth will be far richer than them all.” The fourth king of Persia would be Xerxes (486-465 B.C.). This wealth of Xerxes is recorded for us in Esther 1:3-4, where he is called Ahasuerus. History records that Xerxes did stir up opposition to the realm of Greece .
In verses 3-4 we read of a mighty king who would arise and have great power. However, when he has arisen his kingdom will be divided into four. It should be clear to us by now who this mighty king is because Daniel has seen him in visions many times previous to this one. The description given in verses 3-4 are very similar to the scriptures in Daniel 8:8 and 7:6. This mighty king is Alexander the Great who brought the downfall of the Persian empire . Upon Alexander’s death, the kingdom of Greece was divided into four parts among his military leaders, and not his children. Verse 4 also points out their these rulers will not have the power or dominion that Alexander had.
Kingdoms of Egypt and Syria (11:5-20)
“The king of the South shall become strong” (vs. 5). Of the four kingdoms that Greece divided into, the one to the south is Egypt . The kingdom of Egypt (known as the Ptolemaic reign) became very great. This king is likely a reference to Ptolemy I Soter. “One of his officers shall grow stronger than he.” Ptolemy had a general named Seleucus I. Seleucus was a satrap of Babylonia for a time until Antigonus seized Babylonia . Once Antigonus was defeated at Gaza in 312 B.C., Seleucus returned to Babylonia where he greatly increased in power. This is the beginning of the conflict between the Ptolemies ( Egypt ) and the Seleucids ( Syria , Babylonia , & Media). The Seleucids, according to history, had the largest of the four divisions of the Grecian kingdom. Some time later, Berenice, daughter of Ptolemy II (king of the South), would marry the Seleucid king (king of the North), Antiochus II Theos (vs. 6). However, Antiochus was already married to a powerful woman named Laodice who succeeded in murdering Antiochus, Berenice, and their child. Therefore, their “power will not last.” In verses 7-8, “a branch from her roots shall arise in his place.” Berenice had a brother named Ptolemy III Euergetes who succeeded to the throne in Egypt . Ptolemy III attacks the Seleucid king (Seleucus II Callinicus). Ptolemy seizes Syria ‘s gods and other treasures, returns home where he lives the rest of his reign in peace. Verse 9 describes the Seleucid king, Seleucus II, attacking Ptolemy III, failing, and returning home. However, Seleucus II has three sons who ruled and continued the wars with the Ptolemies (vs. 10). Antiochus III would rise up and attack the king of the South. He was renamed Antiochus the Great because of his military successes, attacking even into Egypt (vs. 10). In verse 11 we read that in response to these events, the king of the South ( Egypt ), Ptolemy IV Philpator, launched a counterattack with an immense army. Ptolemy wins a great victory at Raphia in Palestine . Because of this victory, Ptolemy’s heart was filled with pride (vs. 12). Antiochus had lost 17,000 soldiers, yet the Ptolemaic supremacy would not last. At the death of Ptolemy IV some years later, Antiochus III invades the Ptolemaic lands where the fortress of Gaza falls to Antiochus (vs. 13). In verse 14 we read that the Jews (violent men of your people) would aid Antiochus III in these battles leading to victory, but it would lead to their own undoing (since Antiochus IV would thus be enabled to rule over Palestine ). In verse 15 we read that Antiochus III (the king of the North) would take the well-fortified city of Sidon . With this victory, all of Palestine had come under Antiochus’ control (vs. 16). Palestine would continue to be in possession of the Syrian kings, which sets the stage for the reign of terror to follow under Antiochus IV. The Syrians forced terms of peace (an alliance) upon the Egyptian king because of the power Antiochus III wielded. To seal the agreement, Antiochus gave his daughter, Cleopatra, to Ptolemy V as a wife (vs. 17). But this did not work because Cleopatra loved her husband and supported the Ptolemaic cause. From this victory, Antiochus III turns his attention to the coasts of Asia Minor (vs. 18). A Roman general (Lucius Cornelius Scipio) would put an end to Antiochus’ attacks on their dominion in 191 B.C. at Thermopylae and Magnesium. The Romans forced Antiochus to surrender territory, much of his military force, twenty hostages, and pay a heavy tax to Rome . After this humiliating defeat, Antiochus III returned to his home country where he was killed by an angry mob (vs. 19). At his death, Seleucus IV Philopator succeeded the throne. Seleucus sends his prime minister Heliodorus throughout the kingdom to raise money to pay the taxes to Rome (vs. 20). Seleucus IV only reigned a few years and was not killed by an angry mob like his father, or in battle. Heliodorus, his prime minister, evidently seeking to gain the throne for himself or for Antiochus IV, poisoned the king.
Antiochus IV Epiphanes ( 11:21 -35 )
“In his place shall arise a vile person.” Antiochus IV Epiphanes takes the throne instead of the son of Seleucus (Demetrius I Soter). By flattery, he is able to win support from the kings of Asia Minor , who then help him gain the throne (vs. 21). Antiochus IV also won decisive victories against Ptolemy VI Philometer, even capturing him and holding him hostage (vs. 22). We also see in verse 22“the prince of the covenant.” There are two options generally presented as to who the prince of the covenant is. Some say that the prince of the covenant is Onias III, the high priest who was deposed and murdered by Antiochus IV. Others argue that the prince of the covenant is referring to Ptolemy IV because he agreed to become an ally of Antiochus if the Syrians would help him regain the throne in Egypt . A reference to Ptolemy as the prince of the covenant does not make sense to me personally. Would he not be called the king of the South, as the Ptolemies have been called throughout the chapter? The prince of the covenant must be a reference to something belonging to the Jewish covenant with God. It seems more likely that this is a reference to the removal of the high priest, thus leading to the ceasing of sacrifices in the temple and the abomination of desolation. In verse 23 we see that many alliances will be made with Antiochus; however, he will work deceitfully against his allies. He will become very strong in the world, though his people, the Syrians, are not very numerous. While some of the nations around feel at peace from these alliances, Antiochus would invade the rich provinces and plunder their treasures (vs. 24). Further, in verse 25 we see that Antiochus IV (king of the North) will again engage in war against the king of the South, who is Ptolemy VI. Ptolemy VI was defeated partly by sedition and desertion in and from his own army. Ptolemy’s counselors told him to go and recapture Syria and Palestine , igniting the wrath of Antiochus and causing the defeat of Ptolemy (vs. 26). Neither the kingdom of Egypt nor the kingdom of Syria would amount to greatness. An end had been appointed by God for each of these leaders (vs. 27). Antiochus would return to Palestine and begin to greatly persecute the Jews (vs. 28). In verse 29 we read that Antiochus would invade Egypt again, but this time he would not be successful. The reason is given for us in verse 30 that ships from Cyprus , bearing Roman envoys, came and ordered Antiochus’ withdrawal from Egypt . This again enrages Antiochus such that he again turns his attention against the temple and against the Jews. In verse 31 we see that Antiochus would send forces against the temple in Jerusalem . All the Jewish religious practices such as circumcision, possessing the Scriptures, sacrifices, and feast days were forbidden on penalty of death. The desecration continued as an altar of Zeus was erected in the temple. Swine was also offered in the temple, completely defiling the temple of God . In verse 32 we see that the wicked against God would continue in their evil, while the true people of God would display strength. The teachers of the people will teach many, but they, too, will suffer death or captivity during this time (vs. 33). During this period of oppression, those who are faithful to the Lord will receive a little help (vs. 34). This may be an allusion to the small number of people who were fighting against the actions of Antiochus. However, as the revolt began to grow, many more would join the rebellion. These events were to purify the people of God. This was a tool of God to try to bring the hearts of the people back to Him. The appointed end of the Jewish nation was still in the future.
The Roman Empire ( 11:36 -45)
This last section of text is used by many premillennialists to teach that this is the Antichrist that will come some day in the future yet to come. But why break from the chronology of history that we have been receiving at this point? Nothing in the text suggests that we are now speaking about things that would be over 2000 years later! The angel is continuing his discourse of the things that will happen to the Jewish people in the latter days ( 10:14 ). In verse 36 we seem to have a new entity that we are referring to. There are four views as to who this new king is that “will do as he pleases and exalt and magnify himself above every god.” As we have already noted, one view is that this is the Antichrist. Others suggest the king is Antiochus IV Epiphanes, Herod the Great, or a Roman emperor. Let us consider each of the four views.
Not Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Leupold says, “As soon as the attempt is made consistently to apply these verses to Antiochus IV, the difficulties begin to become overwhelming.” Here are four reasons this king is not Antiochus. (1) In verse 40, the king of the South moved against this king. However, the king of the South never moved against Antiochus. (2) Antiochus never fought a war against Egypt successfully after the events we have read in verses 21-35. Therefore these verses cannot refer to him. (3) Antiochus never conquered the nations listed in verses 40-45. (4) Antiochus never gained control of all the riches listed in verse 43.
Not Herod the Great. This view is rather easy to dismiss for the same reasons. (1) Egypt never came against Herod the Great as seen in verse 40. (2) Herod did not go and attack Egypt , nor did he conquer Egypt , Libya , and Ethiopia (vs. 41-44).
Not the “Antichrist.” As we have already noted, a future Antichrist does not fit into the chronology of the events we have been reading about thus far. How can we suddenly jump to events that would happen past the 20th century? Remember that Daniel 10:14 told us that these things were concerning Daniel’s people, not something worldwide that was yet to come. The time period given to us was the last days which always refers to the end of the Jewish age, as we have been reading about. The Antichrist does not fit here. Finally, the conclusion of the vision rests with the destruction of Jerusalem , as seen in chapter 12. The Antichrist does not fit in here, either.
Roman emperors. The logical understanding of this king is to see him as the Roman emperors. This seems to fit the chronology of what we have been reading. During the latter days it was the Roman empire that was the world power. Verse 36 easily fits the description of the emperors who deified themselves and blasphemed God. Verses 36-39 sound very familiar to the description given to the Roman empire in Revelation 13:1-7. Finally, it was the Roman armies that surrounded Jerusalem and destroyed it, just as this vision depicts. Therefore, Rome fits this king the best.
In verse 39 we read a very clear depiction of the nature of the Roman empire . When Rome conquered a place or a nation, the king who would submit readily, keep down nationalism, and pay taxes on time was given a place of leadership. This is the same description found in Revelation 17:12. In verse 40 we read of the king of the South (the Ptolemies) going against the Romans. Cleopatra, the last of the Ptolemy line, aided by Mark Antony begins to push against Rome . This leads to Rome declaring war against Egypt under the leadership of Octavian. Octavian would later become Augustus Caesar. The Ptolemies were put to an end as Rome conquered and won in the battle of Actium . As the Romans began their conquests, Edom , Moab , and Ammon were able to escape (vs. 41). The Romans also took control of Egypt and the surrounding nations as they continued their conquests (vs. 42). Therefore, the Romans controlled much of the known world and the nations were in subjection to them (vs. 43). The Romans placed many taxes on the nations to increase its wealth. Some would try to rise up against Rome , but it was useless. The Romans had great power and swept away any nation that tried to conquer it (vs. 44). Rome would exercise its power over the Jewish nation, but we are told that an end was appointed for the Roman empire , which was yet to be seen (vs. 45).
Chapter 12 will tell us the final end of the vision and we will see how Daniel reacts to this information.