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Bible Commentaries
Daniel 11

Bridgeway Bible CommentaryBridgeway Bible Commentary

Verse 1

A vision beside the Tigris (10:1-11:1)

Daniel’s final vision was also his longest, and his account of it lasts till the end of the book. At this time Cyrus was in the third year of his rule over the Jews (10:1). The Jews who had returned to their land had already met so much opposition that they had stopped rebuilding their temple (Ezra 4:1-5,Ezra 4:24).

Perhaps this opposition was part of the cause of Daniel’s sadness (2-3). Whatever the cause, his mourning and fasting provided the circumstances in which he came face to face with a man-like figure more glorious than any he had met previously (4-6). The presence of this glorious figure was so overpowering that the people with Daniel fled and hid themselves, even though they had not seen him. Daniel remained, but was overcome with weakness (7-9).
First of all the superhuman messenger gave Daniel fresh strength. He then told Daniel that God was pleased with his humble attitude and sincere desire to know more of God and his ways. God had heard Daniel’s prayer when he started praying three weeks previously, and had sent this messenger to him (10-12; cf. v. 2-3), but the messenger had been delayed by forces opposed to God. One reason for the Jews’ present troubles was that an evil spiritual power was behind the rulers of Persia. This evil spirit tried to prevent the messenger from reaching Daniel, but Michael, a good spirit who worked on behalf of God’s people, came and won control over the evil spirit, thereby releasing the messenger to come to Daniel (13-14).
On hearing about the spiritual conflicts going on in the unseen world, Daniel was again overcome with weakness and needed to be strengthened by God’s heavenly messenger (15-19). Just as two years earlier this messenger had helped Michael (probably in securing the Jews’ release from Persia), so now Michael would help the messenger. The two would fight on behalf of the Jews against the evil power behind Persia. Then, later, when Greece overthrew Persia, they would fight against other evil powers behind Greece (20-11:1).

Verses 2-20

Kings from the north and the south (11:2-20)

The messenger went on to describe to Daniel the conflicts involving Persia and Greece as they would affect the Jews. This account runs on unbroken through Chapters 11 and 12. The comments on these chapters below are designed to outline the history of the period and to show how events followed the pattern of the predictions given to Daniel.
After the death of Cyrus, the states in the region of Greece steadily grew in power. (Although there was no ‘official’ Greek nation at that time, these notes will use the name Greece to refer to the region in general. The most important of the Greek states was Macedonia in the north, which later became the centre of the Greek Empire.)
Earlier Persian kings had some outstanding successes against these Greek states, but the Greeks eventually re-established their independence and began to expand their power. Probably the most notable victory came in 333 BC, when the armies of Alexander the Great took control of the eastern Mediterranean region. The Greek conquest then spread rapidly through western Asia and northern Africa. Then, within only a few years of establishing his power, Alexander unexpectedly died, and his vast empire was divided among four of his generals (2-4; cf. 7:6; 8:8).

In the eastern areas of this divided empire there were two main sectors, Egyptian to the south and Syrian to the north. When the Syrian sector became dominant (under the leadership of a man who had previously served under the Egyptian leader), the struggle between the two sectors increased. Israel, caught between the two power centres, suffered much because of these conflicts (5).
Later an alliance was established between the south and the north when the Egyptian king gave his daughter in marriage to the Syrian king. But the marriage broke up and eventually the Syrian king was murdered (6). The woman’s brother then invaded and plundered Syria. This was about 246 BC (7-8). During the next fifty years Syria and Egypt invaded each other on several occasions, both sides tasting victory and defeat (9-13).

A decisive battle as far as the people of Israel were concerned was fought in 198 BC. Some of the Jews joined with the Syrians against Egypt, thinking they were fulfilling a prophetic vision that would bring benefits to themselves. In the end they only brought themselves greater trouble, because Syria not only conquered Egypt but also took firm control of Palestine (14-16).

The Syrian king tried to gain full control of the Egyptian throne by giving his daughter in marriage to the king of Egypt, but the scheme did not bring him the success he hoped for (17). He then attacked Greece, but was defeated and forced to flee back to Syria, where he died (18-19). The new king, in order to obtain money to pay the victorious enemy, was attempting to plunder the Jewish temple treasures when he was suddenly murdered (20).

Verses 21-28

The rise of Antiochus Epiphanes (11:21-28)

Antiochus Epiphanes then became king over the region controlled by Syria. He was not the legal heir, but by bribery and flattery he managed to gain the throne. He was a ‘contemptible person’ (RSV), treacherous, cruel, greedy and ambitious for power. He devised the most evil schemes to deceive his allies, crush his enemies and plunder the defenceless (21-24).
Within a short time, Antiochus had conquered Egypt, helped by certain traitors in the Egyptian administration who betrayed their king (25-26). He tried to form a partnership with the new king that he had appointed in Egypt, but this king was as deceitful as Antiochus, and the partnership soon failed. Antiochus returned to Syria, planning to carry out the chief aim of his program, the destruction of the Jews and their religion (27-28).

Verses 29-45

Antiochus attacks the Jews (11:29-45)

Before he had a chance to launch his anti-Jewish campaign, Antiochus heard there was unrest in Egypt, so he returned south to put down the rebellion. But Egypt called in the help of a foreign navy and Antiochus was forced to flee back to Palestine. On his arrival in Jerusalem, he found that fighting had broken out between rival Jewish groups. One of these groups consisted of people who were loyal to their ancient religion, the other of people who were prepared to change their beliefs and practices to gain political benefits from their foreign overlords. Already angry because of his defeat in Egypt, Antiochus eagerly took the opportunity to attack the Jews (29-30).
The enraged Antiochus slaughtered Jews in thousands, made others slaves, and prohibited all from keeping their religious laws. Worse than this, he set up a Greek idol and a Greek altar in the Jewish temple, then sacrificed animals that the Jews considered unclean. To loyal Jews this was ‘the abomination that makes desolate’ (RSV), ‘the awful horror’ (GNB). Though some Jews joined Antiochus in order to save their lives, others stood firm no matter what it cost them (31-33).
Jewish resistance to Antiochus was led by a courageous priest and his five sons, known as the Maccabees. They persuaded many to join them in their fight for religious freedom. Amid all the persecution some Jews failed, but others stood firm and were martyred for their faith. The effect of the persecution among the people at large was one of spiritual cleansing. Purified faith enabled the faithful to stand firm, with the result that in 165 BC, after more than three years of fighting, they regained their religious independence and rededicated their temple (34-35).

In addition to blaspheming the God of the Jews, Antiochus dishonoured the Syrian and Greek gods. Considering himself to be above every god, he replaced the existing gods with others brought from elsewhere. He rewarded those who flattered him, by giving them gifts of land and promoting them to positions of power (36-39).
Towards the end of his reign Antiochus was attacked by Egypt. He began his successful counter-attack by overrunning Palestine and once again slaughtering the unfortunate Jews, though he did not invade neighbouring states that were hostile to the Jews. He then moved down to take over Egypt along with those African states that were under Egypt’s control (40-43).
When he was later attacked from the north-east by the Parthians, Antiochus left his temporary headquarters on the plains of Palestine and went out with his usual fury and confidence to meet the attack. But when returning from the battle he suddenly and unexpectedly died (44-45).

Bibliographical Information
Fleming, Donald C. "Commentary on Daniel 11". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bbc/daniel-11.html. 2005.
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