B.) Daniel 8 & 11: Medo-Persia and Greece As Daniel 7 provided more details than chapter 2 concerning the predicted series of kingdoms, so Daniel 8 unveils even more specific information about the two middle kingdoms, Medo-Persia and Greece. We read in Daniel chapter eight:
1 In the third year of the reign of king Belshazzar a vision appeared unto me, even unto me Daniel, after that which appeared unto me at the first. 2 And I saw in a vision; and it came to pass, when I saw, that I was at Shushan in the palace, which is in the province of Elam; and I saw in a vision, and I was by the river of Ulai. 3 Then I lifted up mine eyes, and saw, and, behold, there stood before the river a ram which had two horns: and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher came up last. 4 I saw the ram pushing westward, and northward, and southward; so that no beasts might stand before him, neither was there any that could deliver out of his hand; but he did according to his will, and became great. 5 And as I was considering, behold, an he goat came from the west on the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground: and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes. 6 And he came to the ram that had two horns, which I had seen standing before the river, and ran unto him in the fury of his power. 7 And I saw him come close unto the ram, and he was moved with choler against him, and smote the ram, and brake his two horns: and there was no power in the ram to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground, and stamped upon him: and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand. 8 Therefore the he goat waxed very great: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven. 9 And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land. 10 And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them. 11 Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down. 12 And an host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practised, and prospered. 13 Then I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot? 14 And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed. 15 And it came to pass, when I, even I Daniel, had seen the vision, and sought for the meaning, then, behold, there stood before me as the appearance of a man. 16 And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of Ulai, which called, and said, Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision. 17 So he came near where I stood: and when he came, I was afraid, and fell upon my face: but he said unto me, Understand, O son of man: for at the time of the end shall be the vision. 18 Now as he was speaking with me, I was in a deep sleep on my face toward the ground: but he touched me, and set me upright. 19 And he said, Behold, I will make thee know what shall be in the last end of the indignation: for at the time appointed the end shall be. 20 The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia. 21 And the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king. 22 Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power. 23 And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up. 24 And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people. 25 And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand. 26 And the vision of the evening and the morning which was told is true: wherefore shut thou up the vision; for it shall be for many days. 27 And I Daniel fainted, and was sick certain days; afterward I rose up, and did the king’s business; and I was astonished at the vision, but none understood it. (Daniel 8:1-27)
Daniel had this vision in the third year of the Babylonian Belshazzar, who began his co-regency with Nabonidus in 553 B. C.13 His first sight is a “ram which had two horns: and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher came up last” (8:3). This ram, according to 8:20, represents Medo-Persia; the higher and latter horn represents the fact that Persia grew to dominate their alliance (cf. Dan 7:5). In Persian mythology, the guardian spirit of Persia’s kingdom was represented as a ram with clean feet and sharp, pointed horns; when the Persian king stood at the head of his army, he bore—not a crown—but the head of a ram. Furthermore, in astronomical geography of that day, Persia was represented in the Zodiac under the sign of Aries, the ram; while Greece shared with Syria (the primary seat of the Seleucid monarchy) the sign of Capricorn, the goat. The ram was “pushing westward, and northward, and southward” (8:4); however, easterly expansion is not mentioned. This description coincides perfectly with the major conquests of the Medo-Persian Empire, which were in these three directions: on the west, they overran Babylonia, Mesopotamia, Syria, and Asia Minor, on the north, Colchis, Armenia, Iberia, and the regions around the Caspian Sea; and on the south, Palestine, Ethiopia, Egypt, and Lybia. On the east, they expanded only in a minor way. The ram “did according to his will, and became great,” for the Medo-Persian empire met no successful opposition in its early conquests, nor was its expansion halted until its failure to defeat the Greeks, a portent of its subsequent overthrow by Alexander the Great.
The “he goat” from the west that represented Greece (8:21) and defeated the ram, had a “notable horn between his eyes” (8:5), which 8:21 states is “the first king”—Alexander the Great, who was from Macedonia. A goat with one horn was the old symbol of Macedon. The goat “came from the west” (v. 5), where Greece was located in relation to the land of Israel and the kingdom of Medo-Persia, and “was on the face of the whole earth” (v. 5), for Alexander conquered the known world, and was said to have wept because there were no other worlds to conquer. The goat “touched not the ground” (v. 5)—a picture denoting, as did the image of the leopard with wings in 7:6, the swiftness of his conquests. At age twenty-one, Alexander was chosen to lead the Greeks against the Persians; at the age of thirty-three he died, thus completing his vast expansion in the span of twelve years. In 334 B. C. he invaded Persia and defeated the Persians in the battle of the Granicus; in 333 he defeated them again at the battle of Issus; he also conquered Parthia, Bactria, Hyrcania, Sogdiana, and Asia Minor. In 332 he conquered Tyre and Egypt, and built Alexandria. In 331 he defeated Darius Codomanus, and in 330 completed the conquest of the Persian army. In 328 he defeated Porus, king of India, and pursued his march to the Ganges. In these six years alone he had already overrun nearly all the then known world. The goat “came to the ram that had two horns . . . and ran unto him in the fury of his power” (8:6). The Greeks had harbored considerable animosity against the Persians for their earlier assaults—
when they had been turned back at Leuctra, Marathon, and Salamis; now Greece saw that the time for their retaliation had arrived. Thus, “moved with choler”—that is, in great anger, the goat “smote the ram, and brake his two horns: and there was no power in the ram to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground, and stamped upon him: and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand” (8:7). No earthly power was able to deliver the Medo-Persian empire from the hand of Alexander. Consequently, “the he-goat waxed very great: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken” (8:8). This statement refers to the untimely death of Alexander the Great before the age of thirty-three in a state of drunken debauchery, which left his empire without an effective single leader. After his death there “came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven.” (8:8). These represent the four generals of Alexander who by 301 B. C. had divided up his kingdom, as noted earlier in the analysis of Daniel seven (cf. Dan 7:6, 11:4). Alexander died in 323 B. C; Ptolemy Lagus took control of Egypt in 321 B. C.; Cassander had assumed the government in Macedon by the year 317; and Seleucus Nicator took possession of Syria in 311 B. C. In 301, Antigonus, who had reigned over Asia Minor and sought to control the entirety of Alexander’s empire, suffered defeat and death at the hands of the combined armies of Ptolemy, Cassander, and Lysimachus; and the kingdom was divided among the three of them and Seleucus. The four also assumed the title of “king” in 301 B. C. The divisions of their kingdoms were as follows: Seleucus Nicator obtained Syria, Babylonia, Media, Susiana, Armenia, part of Cappadocia, and Cilicia; his kingdom, at least in name, stretched from the Hellespont to the Indies. Lysimachus controlled part of Thrace, Asia Minor, part of Cappadocia, and the countries within the limits of Mount Taurus. Cassander possessed Macedonia, Thessaly, and part of Greece. Ptolemy acquired Egypt, Cyprus, Cyrene, and eventually Coelo-Syria, Phoenicia, Judea, and a part of Asia Minor and Thrace. Their conquests were “toward the four winds of heaven” (8:8), for the dominions of Seleucus were in the east, those of Cassander in the west, those of Ptolemy in the south, and those of Lysimachus in the north.
The horn (8:9) that came out of one of the four kingdoms created upon the death of Alexander the Great clearly refers to Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164 B. C.), the eighth king in the Seleucid or Syrian dynasty. He was a great enemy and persecutor of the Jews, and so became a very important and very imfamous figure in their history. His actions are prophesied in greater detail in Daniel 11. Daniel 8:23-26 describes him as one who would appear “in the latter time of their kingdom”—that is, he would be in power during the period of the four kingdoms of 8:22. Indeed he was present during this period, since the division of Alexander’s kingdom occurred about 300 B. C., and Antiochus seized power in 175 B. C. The text portrays Antiochus IV Ephiphanes’ intelligence, his power derived from Satan, his exploits against the Jews, (“the mighty and the holy people”), his craft, his self-exaltation, and his employment of false peace to deceive and destroy. Nevertheless, he would be “broken without hand”—that is, die without human intervention, as he did of a foul disease. Daniel 8:9 predicts his growing “exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land.” Concerning the south, in 171 B. C. he declared war on Ptolemy Philometor, king of Egypt, and essentially conquered the whole land in 170, plundering Jerusalem on the way.14 His greatness toward the east relates to his reinforcement of tribute in Persia and the eastern countries that were nominally subject to him (cf. 1 Maccabees 3:21-37). The “pleasant land” refers to Israel, which Antiochus invaded on his return from Egypt, robbing the temple and spreading desolation throughout the land (1 Maccabees 1). His waxing great “to the host of heaven,” some of which he “cast down . . . to the ground, and stamped upon them” (8:10), refers to his persecution of the faithful Jews, God’s people, who are represented as stars in other places in Scripture (cf. Genesis 15:5, 22:17, Daniel 12:3, Matthew 13:43). Antiochus “magnified himself even to the prince of the host” (8:11)—God Himself—by claiming divine honor. His name “Epiphanes” refers to a glorious manifestation such as belongs to God, and he gave himself the title of Theos, or God, on the coins he minted. Antiochus also stopped the “daily sacrifice” and “cast down” the “sanctuary” (8:11), for he intended to destroy the religion of Israel and promote a universal Hellenization. He forbade the offering of the daily temple sacrifices, prohibited the circumcision of children, burned copies of the Hebrew Scriptures, and ultimately erected an idol in the temple and offered a sacrifice of swine’s flesh on the altar of burnt offering. This period of desolation continued for “two thousand and three hundred days,” after which the sanctuary was again cleansed (8:14). This humiliating period began with Antiochus’ hostilities against the Jews and their religion, including the murder of the legitimate Jewish high priest, Onias III, and the inauguration of a line of pseudo-priests. The era concluded with the successes of the Maccabean revolt, when the Jews ably defeated their hostile Gentile opponents, purified the temple and reestablished worship there. Shortly afterwards Antiochus died. The prophecy of Daniel 8:12-14 doubtless greatly comforted the Jews of Antiochus’ day, for they knew that Jehovah had predicted both the temporary desolation of the temple and their successful reestablishment of worship there.
Indeed, the prophecies of Daniel chapters two, seven, and eight would rightly have encouraged the Jews during the days of Antiochus Ephiphanes, for they saw how God had remarkably fulfilled all that His prophet Daniel had predicted from the sixth century up to their day. So observing God’s work, they could confidently trust that He would fulfill the predictions that related to their time as well. However, to the one who rejects the infallibility of the Bible and the God who authored it, what can portend more certain doom than the predictions of the future reign of Christ, along with the destruction of His enemies, within the context of predictions that, in relation to events of the past, have been perfectly fulfilled? These predictions have not been read into the text of these chapters in the book of Daniel; they are plainly there and are plainly the fingerprint of the all-knowing God. Such witness is a powerful testimony to His reality and cries out to all who are willing to investigate the truth. The prophecies of Daniel that pertain to the future, such as the everlasting bliss of the righteous and the everlasting condemnation of the wicked (12:2), are as certain of fulfillment as those that relate to the past, which we have seen have been fulfilled in all their many details to the letter. Remember that the God of Israel said, as we saw at the beginning of this booklet, that He was the true God, and He would prove it by His ability to predict the future. Can predictions such as those of Daniel 2, 7, and 8 be explained as mere coincidence? Would you be willing to lose an eternity of bliss in heaven, for an eternity of torment in hell, upon such a supposition? Would it not be better to immediately forsake your sins, all non-Biblical religion (including agnosticism, atheism, or simply self-worship in the form of putting your desires before God’s will as revealed in His Word), your mental refusal to submit to the Word of God, and all else to submit to Him as your Lord, and find mercy and eternal joy at His hand? While the evidence above is more than sufficient, perhaps you are not yet convinced (or, God forbid, do not want to be convinced); God provides even more prophetic detail in Daniel chapter eleven. Let us examine the chapter.
A divine messenger appeared to Daniel in 536 B. C. (Dan 10:1) and gave him a revelation of the future from Daniel’s day to the time of Antiochus IV Ephiphanes (175-164 B. C.) in 11:1-35. The rest of the chapter (11:36-45), introduced by a sharp break through the appearance of a new king (v. 36) at “the time of the end” (v. 35), discusses the coming of the Antichrist in the future Tribulation period, who will be destroyed when the Lord returns with His saints to set up His rule on earth (11:45). Since this latter portion of the chapter deals with events still in the future, we will focus on the first thirty-five verses, which constitute a prophecy so detailed and specific that it renders indisputable the Divine authorship of the Bible. The chapter reads:
1 Also I in the first year of Darius the Mede, even I, stood to confirm and to strengthen him. 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. 3 And a mighty king shall stand up, that shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will. 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. 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. 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. 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: 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. 9 So the king of the south shall come into his kingdom, and shall return into his own land. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 19 Then he shall turn his face toward the fort of his own land: but he shall stumble and fall, and not be found. 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. 21 And in his estate shall stand up a vile person, to whom they shall not give the honour of the kingdom: but he shall come in peaceably, and obtain the kingdom by flatteries. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 34 Now when they shall fall, they shall be holpen with a little help: but many shall cleave to them with flatteries. 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. (Dan 11:1-35)
The Babylonian empire having fallen in the lifetime of Daniel, and the Medo-Persian empire having established its dominance as predicted in Daniel 2 and 7, the prophecy stated that “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” (v. 2). The three future kings, who came after the death of the then current ruler, Cyrus II (550-530 B. C., Dan 10:1), are Cambyses (529-522 B. C.), Pseudo-Smerdis (522-521 B. C.), and Darius I Hystaspes (521-486 B. C., Ezra 5, 6). The fourth king, who exceeds them all in his riches, is Xerxes I (486-465 B. C., Ezra 4:6), who represented both the height of Persian power and the beginning of its dissolution. Xerxes spent four years gathering an army of hundreds of thousands of men from all parts of his vast kingdom to conquer Greece and assaulted that country in 480 B. C.; however, his attempted conquest failed disastrously. It only succeeded in spilling much blood and arousing much Greek hatred. The Greeks were able to revenge themselves on the Persians when Alexander the Great conquered them, as described in 11:3-4 (cf. 8:5-8, 7:6, 2:39): “And a mighty king shall stand up, that shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will.” Alexander conquered more of the world, and so extended the power of Greece, to limits beyond what any man or empire had done before him. However, it was predicted that “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” (11:4). Upon Alexander’s sudden death in 323 B. C., his kingdom, as predicted, was shattered, and divided, not among his children, but to his four generals—Ptolemy, Seleucus, Cassander, and Lysimachus. Alexander’s son Hercules was murdered by Polysperchon, and his other son, born posthumously of Roxana, was murdered in 310 B. C. The four generals did not preserve the glory and power that the empire had emjoyed in Alexander’s day and so did not rule “according to his dominion which he ruled” (11:4). From 11:5-35, the prophecy focuses upon the two remnants of the Greek empire that affected Israel—first, the kingdom “of the south,” Egypt under the Ptolemies (who ruled until the rise of the fourth beast of Daniel 2 and 7, the Roman empire) and second, the kingdom “of the north,” or the Seleucid dynasty which ruled in Syria. These “south” and “north” kingdoms were to the south and north of Israel, respectively.
Verse five states that “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.” The “king of the south” is Ptolemy I Soter (323-285 B. C.), and the one who “shall be strong above him, and have dominion” is the king of Syria, Seleucus I Nicator (312-281 B. C.). The two were temporarily associated as they sought to consolidate their power, but eventually Seleucus became stronger, as predicted; he gained control over the entire region from Asia Minor to India. Verse six then tells us that “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.” After the passage of a good period of time (“in the end of the years”), the successors to the Egyptian and Syrian thrones, Ptolemy II Philadelphius (285-246 B. C.) and Antiochus II Theos (261-246 B. C.), “join[ed] themselves together” in a marriage alliance—Ptolemy II’s daughter, Berenice, married Antiochus II around 252 B. C. The union, however, required Antiochus to divorce his old wife, Laodiceia. They intended to unify their two kingdoms, but the attempt turned out badly. Within a few years of the marriage, Ptolemy died, after which Antiochus took back his old wife Laodiceia, who proceeded to murder him, his Egyptian bride Berenice, and their infant son. After this:
[O]ut 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: 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. So the king of the south shall come into his kingdom, and shall return into his own land. (Daniel 11:7-9)
Ptolemy III Euergetes (246-221 B. C.), the brother of Berenice and the son of Ptolemy II, sought to revenge himself upon the Syrians, defeated their army, “enter[ed] into the fortress of the king of the north,” and took back to Egypt their princes as hostages, some of their idols, and their precious silver and gold vessels. After this, however, the Syrian “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” (v. 10). The war with Egypt was carried on by the Syrian “sons” Seleucus Ceraunus and Antiochus the Great, until the death of the former, when the “one” left alive successfully assembled a “multitude of great forces” and recovered Syria from Egyptian dominion, eventually also removing the land of Israel from Egyptian sovereignty. At this advance of the Syrian power, “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” (Daniel 11:11). Ptolemy Philopator, who succeeded Ptolemy Euergetes in Egypt, assembled an army, which defeated the “great multitude,” sixty-two thousand foot soldiers, six thousand horsemen, and a hundred and two elephants, which had been set forth by his Syrian enemy, and recaptured Canaan. However, he was not ultimately “strengthened by it” (v. 12), for the Syrian king returned again fourteen years later in 203 B. C. with a “multitude greater than the former” (v. 13) and “much riches” that he had gained in conquests in the East, where he had advanced again to the borders of India and as far north as the Caspian. At this time “many st[ood] up against the king of the south” (v. 14), for, in addition to the oncoming Syrian armies under Antiochus the Great, Philip, king of Macedon, opposed him, and Agathocles excited a rebellion against him in Egypt. Also, the “robbers of thy people” (v. 14), the oppressive rulers of the Jews, took sides with the Syrians against the less severe Egyptians. Consequently, the “king of the north” came and “cast up a mount, and t[ook] the most fenced cities; and the arms of the south [did] not withstand” (v. 15) the assault. After a number of battles, the Syrian forces ended up firmly in control of the land of Israel, “the glorious land” (v. 16), which was greatly “consumed” (v. 16) during the various battles that took place to control it. After this, Antiochus, because of war with the Romans, sought to bring the Egyptians into an alliance by “giv[ing] him the daughter of women” (v. 17); he arranged the marriage of his own daughter, Cleopatra, to Ptolemy Epiphanes, the son of Ptolemy Philopator, which took place in 193 B. C. However, Cleopatra did not “stand on [her father’s] side, neither [was] for him” (v. 17); she did not favor Syrian interests, but consistently preferred her Egyptian husband and his concerns. Nevertheless, as Antiochus pursued his wars with the Romans he “turn[ed] his face unto the isles, and [took] many” (v. 18), coming into control of many islands in the Mediterranean and the region around Greece. However, the Romans under Lucius Cornelius Scipio then caused the “reproach” (v. 18) brought by his victories to their national pride to cease, as Scipio won successive victories over him and finally brought upon him disastrous defeat. In his last battle before seeking a submissive peace with Rome, 50,000 infantry and 4,000 of his cavalry died; 1,500 prisoners were taken, and Antiochus himself barely escaped, while the Roman army lost only 325 men. Defeated and broken, Antiochus then had to “turn his face toward the fort of his own land” (v. 19) defeated and broken. He died in an attempt to plunder a temple in Elam.
The prophecy of Daniel 11 then predicts that the successor to the Syrian Antiochus would be “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 Romans forced the king foreseen here, Seleucus IV Philopator, to pay a thousand talents annually in tribute, a tremendous sum amounting to many millions of dollars in today’s currency. To meet these obligations, he raised taxes—especially in the land of Israel, the “glory of the kingdom.” Discovering the great riches of the Jerusalem temple, he had determined to plunder it, when he disappeared under mysterious circumstances, very possibly poisoned, so that his short reign did not end in rebellious tumults or excitements, in “anger,” or in “battle.” Verses twenty-one through thirty-five then describe the reign of the great enemy of the Jewish nation, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Syrian king from 175 to 164 B. C., whom we already have seen in the exposition of the prophecy of Daniel 8 (v. 9-14, 23-25).
After the death of Seleucus IV Philopator, Antiochus IV Epiphanes stood up “in his estate,” as the next ruler, and is described in verse 21 as a “vile person,” one who was not “give[n] the honour of the kingdom” but who would “come in peaceably, and obtain the kingdom by flatteries.” The proper successor to Seleucus’ throne upon his death would have been his son Demetrius, at that time a hostage in Rome. Seleucus also had a younger son named Antiochus who was still a baby in Syria. Posing as the guardian of Seleucus’ infant son, Antiochus IV Ephiphanes took the throne through a variety of intrigues. The infant son was soon murdered, and Antiochus IV assumed the Syrian crown. His “arms” (v. 22), compared to the rushing waters of a flood (cf. Isaiah 8:8), went on to achieve notable military victories, “com[ing] up” (v. 23) and almost subduing Egypt, with which he had assumed covenantal obligations. He deceitfully attempted to bring the country under his control, asserting that he was coming “peaceably” (v. 24) to assist the Egyptian king Ptolemy Philometer in securing his power, but he instead plundered “the fattest places of the province” (v. 24). By means of this pillage, he “return[ed] into his land with great riches” (v. 28). Through treachery, he gained control of the country from Memphis to Alexandria and took the Egyptian king captive, and so obtained greater victories against his kingdom’s great rival than had “his fathers” or “his fathers’ fathers” (v. 24). While they had battled over Palestine, none had pierced so far into the heart of Egypt itself as he in his several invasions. Antiochus IV Ephiphanes defeated the “great army” of “the king of the south” so that “he [did] not stand” (v. 25) but “many [fell] down slain” (v. 26), aided by internal Egyptian dissensions. In the course of their battles, both the Syrian and Egyptian rulers made agreements that neither intended to keep, and so “spoke lies at one table” (v. 27). However, Antiochus was not able to finally take Egypt; for, in desperation, the nation had called for aid from Rome. The Romans sent a delegation led by Caius Popilius Laenas, “the ships of Chittim” (v. 30), which sailed through Greece to Egypt, found Antiochus besieging Alexandria, and demanded that he leave Egypt immediately, or face war with Rome. When Antiochus said he would lay the affair before his council, Popilius drew a circle with his staff around the king in the sand on which they stood and demanded an answer before he left the circle. Abashed, “grieved” (v. 30), and unwilling to fight Rome, Antiochus agreed to “return” (v. 30) to his own country, ended the siege of Alexandria, and left Egypt with his army.
Antiochus IV Epiphanes was no friend to the Jews and their Law; his heart was “against the holy covenant” (v. 28). He had deposed the legitimate Jewish high priest, Onias III, and put in one Jason, who had offered him a large bribe for the office, and then deposed him in favor of Menelaus, who offered an even larger bribe than Jason. Menelaus, to meet his obligation to Antiochus, proceeded to sell some of the votive offerings and golden utensils of the temple, at which sacrilege Onias earnestly protested, angered Menelaus, who had him killed. The Jewish population was furious at this deed, but Antiochus did not punish Menelaus. While Antiochus was in Egypt, Jerusalem received a false report of his death, and Jason organized a thousand armed supporters, shut Menelaus up in the Jerusalem citadel, and massacred a number of perceived opponents. Upon hearing this, Antiochus determined to suppress the Jewish religion entirely. After the Romans came on the “ships of Chittim” and commanded him to leave Egypt, he returned back through the promised land with “indignation against the holy covenant.” Further, he had “intelligence with them that fors[ook] the holy covenant” (v. 30), that is, were unfaithful to the true Jewish religion; and, with “arms [standing] on his part” (v. 31), he invaded Jerusalem with overwhelming force, released Menelaus, and massacred eighty thousand men, women, and children. He then “pollut[ed] the sanctuary of strength . . . [took] away the daily sacrifice . . . and [placed] the abomination that maketh desolate” (v. 31). He entered into the temple, desecrated the altar by offering a pig upon it, removed its golden vessels and other sacred objects, valued at the incredible sum of eighteen thousand talents, and set up the “abomination that maketh desolate,” an idol which he placed in the holy place of the temple. He ended the daily temple sacrifices, outlawed circumcision, commanded the Jews to profane the Sabbath and feast days, and sought to destroy all copies of the Scriptures. The desecration of the temple took place on December 16, 168 B. C. Antiochus found allies in unconverted “progressive” Jews, those who did “wickedly against the covenant” (v. 32), to whom he promised a variety of benefits in return for forsaking the God of Israel and His religion. Jehovah’s worship was thus threatened by Antiochus’ severe external repression and by the internal apostasy of those of Jewish blood who were willing to follow the spirit of the times.
God, however, preserved a faithful remnant within His chosen nation; “the people that [did] know their God [were] strong, and [did] exploits” (v. 32). This persecution purified true believers and ignited the Maccabean revolution,15 which resisted the Syrian government of Antiochus and the pro-pagan Jews. These zealous patriots were stirred to action by a priest named Mattathias, the father of the Maccabean leaders Judas, Jonathan, and Simon, each of whom was involved in the successful liberation of Israel from Syrian control. These ones “that underst[ood] among the people [instructed] many” (v. 33) in the ways of God, although tremendous numbers of these faithful Jews fell “by the sword, and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil, many days” (v. 33). The initial forces of resistance were very small; but others, viewing their actions, bravery, and martyrdoms, and the evident manner in which God was with them, joined their cause: “when they [fell], they [were] holpen with a little help” (v. 34), in the prophetic language of Daniel. As they won victories, and the likelihood of ultimate success grew, “many [cleaved] to them with flatteries” (v. 34), who did not share their heart for the religion of Israel, but sought merely personal advancement. Daniel predicted that through the difficulties of war “some of them of understanding shall fall” (v. 35), as many of the original leaders of the revolt fell in battle, and those that were left were refined and purged until “the time of the end” which was “appointed” (v. 35), when the limits set by the sovereign God who controls the actions of nations brought their fight to its successful conclusion. The temple was purified in 165 B. C., and an independent Jewish kingdom was ultimately established by John Hyrcanus, the son of Simon Maccabaeus, and enlarged to its fullest extent by his own son, Alexander Jannaeus. In this manner, the greatest threat to the continuation of the religion and the nation of Israel that had ever then arisen, the persecutions under Antiochus IV Epiphanes, a picture of the yet future trials of the nation under the Antichrist (v. 36-45), were repulsed.
Daniel chapter eleven predicts the future in astounding detail from the time of contemporary events in the sixth century down to c. 165 B. C. Verses 1-35 contain approximately 135 prophetic statements, every single one of which was historically fulfilled. The likelihood that all of these prophecies happened by chance is infinitesimally small. Recall Jehovah’s statement at the beginning of this composition that He would prove Himself the true God by His ability to predict the future (Isaiah 44:6-8). The descriptions in Daniel 11 provide such proof. To refuse to believe in and obey the Bible as the infallible Word of God is, in light of this chapter, utter intellectual irresponsibility, a product of a willful antagonism to its Author. However, the book of Daniel not only predicted the world empires that arose after its composition (as seen in chapters two, seven, and eight), and the sequence of events from the sixth century onwards that led to the tremendous struggles under Antiochus IV Epiphanes (as seen in chapter eleven); it also predicted the exact time of the coming of Jesus Christ in chapter nine.