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Tuesday, July 23rd, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Daniel 11

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries


The remarkably accurate prophecies of this chapter are so true, so astounding, and so wonderfully accurate that the whole critical world for centuries have never questioned a single one of them. The only allegation that Bible enemies have ever been able to bring against this chapter is that it is so exactly accurate that it had to be written after the events prophesied had already occurred. This slander against the Book of Daniel has existed a long time. It was first advanced by Malchus Porphyrius a follower of Plotinus who was bitterly opposed to Christianity. Porphyry is the Anglicized form of his name; and he lived 233-304(?) A.D.(F1) Since the great burden of these prophecies concerns the time following 250 B.C. (all of the prophecies dealing with Antiochus and the Maccabean rebellion), the undeniable refutation of the critical position is inherent in the fact that every single line of Daniel existed centuries prior to those events! The Septuagint (LXX) (translated into Greek in 250 B.C.) has every line of Daniel, centuries prior to the events which are admittedly prophesied in Daniel!

It is a comment on the sterility and impotence of criticism that not a single new argument has been invented against Daniel in the last 1600 years!.

The present-day student of the Bible is not overly concerned about the details of the pre-Christian history of Israel during the inter-testamental period and with the details of the depraved struggles of the pagan world powers and their ultimate efforts to exterminate the true worship of God. The undisputed point to remember about all of this is that Daniel’s prophecy has an accurate, detailed account of what was to happen, and of what did actually occur.

As Millard stated it, “It is this vision (the eleventh chapter) above all that leads many to the second century dating of the book (Daniel).”(F2)

First, we shall take a look at the sacred text.

Verses 1-21

“And as for me, in the first year of Darius the Mede, I stood up to confirm and strengthen him.” (Actually the conclusion of Daniel 10).

“And now will I show thee the truth. Behold, there shall stand up yet three kings in Persia; and the fourth shall be far richer than they all: and when he is waxed strong through his riches, he shall stir up all against the realm of Greece. And a mighty king shall stand up, that shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will. And when he shall stand up, his kingdom shall be broken, and shall be divided toward the four winds of heaven, but not to his posterity, nor according to his dominion wherewith he ruled; for his kingdom shall be plucked up, even for others besides these. And the king of the south shall be strong, and one of his princes; and he shall be strong above him, and have dominion; and his dominion shall be a great dominion. And at the end of years they shall join themselves together; and the daughter of the king of the south shall come to the king of the north to make an agreement: but she shall not retain the strength of her 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 those times. But out of a shoot from her roots shall one stand up in his place, who shall come unto the army, and shall enter into the fortress of the king of the north, and shall deal against them, and shall prevail. And also their gods, with their molten images, and with their goodly vessels of silver and of gold, shall he carry captive into Egypt; and he shall refrain some years from the king of the north. And he shall come into the realm of the king of the south, but he shall return into his own land. And his sons shall war, and shall assemble a multitude of great forces, which shall come on, and overflow, and pass through; and they shall return and war, even to his fortress. And the kings of the south shall be moved with anger, and shall come forth and fight with him, even with the king of the north; and he shall set forth a great multitude, and the multitude shall be given into his hand. And the multitude shall be lifted up, and his heart shall be exalted; and he shall cast down tens of thousands, but he shall not prevail. And the king of the north shall return, and shall set forth a multitude greater than the former; and he shall come on at the end of the times, even of years, with a great army, and with much substance. And in those times shall many stand up against the king of the south: also the children of the violent among thy people shall lift themselves up to establish the vision; but they shall fall. So the king of the north shall come, and cast up a mound, and take a well-fortified city: and the forces of the south shall not stand, neither his chosen people, neither shall there be any strength to stand. 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, and in his hand shall be destruction. And he shall set his face to come with the strength of his whole kingdom, and with him equitable conditions; and he shall perform them; and he shall give him the daughter of women, to corrupt her; but she shall not stand neither be for him. After this shall he turn his face unto the isles, and shall take many: but a prince shall cause the reproach offered by him to cease; yea, he shall cause his reproach to turn upon him. Then he shall turn his face toward the fortresses of his own land; but he shall stumble and fall, and shall not be found. Then shall stand up in his place one that shall cause an exactor to pass through the glory of the kingdom; but within few days shall he be destroyed, neither in anger, nor in battle. And in his place shall stand up a contemptible person, to whom they had not given the honor of the kingdom.”

There is no way that this prophecy actually qualifies as some kind of a historical survey passed off as a pretended prophecy. The critical proposition that some forger in the second century wrote this is obviously ridiculous. What “historical survey” could possibly have passed over the tremendous military campaign of Xerxes against Greece with its tremendous battles which are still the talk of all mankind? Later on in Daniel 11:34, the great campaigns of the Maccabees were practically ignored, being called in that verse “a little help!” It is simply impossible to suppose that any person whatever could have written such a thing after those stirring events of the Maccabean rebellion.

The whole proposition that this chapter is a prophecy “post eventum” (after the event) is false, contrived, unsupported by anything whatever except the unbelieving slanders of the Bible by evil men. Keil has summarized some of the reasons why it is impossible intellectually to allow the allegations against the chapter which are advanced by unbelievers. His conclusion was that, “The contents and form of this prophecy contain much which a supposed Maccabean origin makes in the highest degree improbable, and directly contradicts.”(F3)

Moreover, all of the exact dates and many other particulars which are alleged to be in the prophecy are simply not in it. For example, take a look at Dummelow’s analysis of what he alleges to be prophesied here:

“Yet three kings” “These are Cambyses, Darius I (Hystaspes), and Xerxes I (Ahasuerus). The fourth including Cyrus I is Xerxes I, a king of vast wealth. He prepared a great army and navy, invaded Greece, encountered total failure, suffered great losses at Thermopylae, Salamis (480 B.C.) and at Plataea and Mycale.”(F4) Note that hardly any of this is actually in the prophecy!

“A mighty king” Alexander the Great (333:322 B.C.).”

“The partition of Alexander’s empire is described.”(F5) (Daniel 11:4)

“The king of the south” “This is Ptolemy I (Sorer), the first Egyptian king.” “One of his princes” is Seleucus I (Nicator), the first Syrian king.

“The king’s daughter of the south” is a reference to Berenice, daughter of Ptolemy II (Philadelphus). She was given in Marriage to Antiochus II. On the death of Ptolemy II, Antiochus divorced Berenice and took Laodice back. Laodice poisoned Antiochus, and their son Seleucus (afterward Callinicus) murdered Berenice and her child. “He that begat here, etc...” refers to Ptolemy II.

Ptolemy III (Euergetes), brother of Berenice, to avenge his sister’s death invaded Syria, then ruled by Callinicus, captured Seleucia and returned to Egypt with much spoil. “A branch of her (Berenice’s) roots” was her brother Ptolemy III. (Daniel 11:7-8)

Daniel 11:9 Seleucus II (Callinicus) invaded Egypt in 242 B.C. but had to retreat.

Daniel 11:10 “His sons” The sons of Seleucus II were Saleucus III and Antiochus III (called the Great).

Daniel 11:11 is an allusion to the battle of Raphia.

Daniel 11:12 refers to Ptolemy the IV.

Daniel 11:13-14. Twelve years later Antiochus joined with Philip of Macedon in an attack upon Ptolemy V (Epiphanes), son of Ptolemy IV.

Daniel 11:15-16. Antiochus III shut up Ptolemy V in Sidon, where Ptolemy surrendered in 198 B.C. Antiochus then overran Palestine and threatened Egypt. “The glorious land” (in Daniel 11:16) is Palestine.”

“A well fortified city” Daniel 11:15 is a reference to Sidon.

“He that cometh” is Antiochus III. “Against him” i.e., against Ptolemy V.

(Daniel 11:17) Antiochus III gave his daughter Cleopatra in marriage to Ptolemy V.

“...The isles” is a reference to the coastlands on the shores of the Aegean Sea.

“A prince on his own behalf” is the Roman general Scipio.

“Fortresses of his own land” Daniel 11:19 is a reference to his withdrawal to Syria.

“Then shall stand up in his place one… and in his place shall stand up a contemptible person” Antiochus III was succeeded by Seleucus IV (Philopater) who sent his chief minister to take charge of the Temple treasures in Jerusalem. That chief minister (Heliodorus) murdered Seleucus IV and tried to usurp the kingdom, but he was dispossessed by Antiochus IV (Epiphanes), the brother of Seleucus. Antiochus Eipihanes was the contemptible one.

The next major paragraph of the prophecy is devoted to the career of Antiochus Epiphanes (176-164 B.C.).

We leave it to any fair minded person to judge whether or not a// of this is spelled out in the prophecy. The purpose of such detail is to show how it would have been impossible for a prophecy written before the event could possibly have contained so many details. However, critics need to remember that the sacred prophecies contain all kinds of the most detailed information.

Examples: (1) The exact amount, kind, and disposition of the 30 pieces of silver weighed out for Jesus’ betrayal by Judas was prophesied (Zechariah 11:12). (2) There were two Bethlehems in ancient Israel; but the prophet declared that Christ would be born in Bethlehem Judah (Micah 5:2). (3) More than 20 of the most particular details of the crucifixion of Christ were foretold in Psalms 22, including even the fact of the soldiers gambling for the seamless robe of Christ! This list could be extended for many pages; but it is obvious to all Christians that true prophecy did indeed predict the most exact and circumstantial details; and the very fact of the critics finding all the details noted above in this prophecy of Daniel is merely what they should have expected to find. Remember, there is no doubt whatever that Daniel existed for centuries before these events happened. As old H. A. Ironside put it, “Don’t ever forget that history is His Story!”(F6) In this amazing prophecy, God wrote it down (through Daniel) before it happened!

Verses 21-27

“But he shall come in time of security, and shall obtain the kingdom by flatteries. And the overwhelming forces shall be overwhelmed from before him, also the prince of the covenant. And after the league made with him he shall work deceitfully; for he shall come up, and shall become strong with a small people. In time of security shall he come 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 prey, and spoil, and substance: yea, he shall devise his devices against the strongholds, even for a time. 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 war in battle with an exceeding great and mighty army; but he shall not stand; for they shall devise devices against him. Yea, they that eat of his dainties shall destroy him, and his army shall overflow; and many shall fall down slain. And as for both these kings, their 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 appointed time.”


“The prince of the covenant” is thought to be the Jewish high priest Onias III, who was deposed by Antiochus in favor of Onias’ brother Jason who became a full-fledged ally of the corrupt Antiochus.

The real feature of this great prophecy is not the exact historical events foretold, but the development of the pagan world powers in their opposition to God and to his holy worship. The mighty features of the prophecy are therefore these: lust, murder, greed, avarice, cunning deceit, falsehood, treachery, violation of trust, breaking of treaties, mass extermination of whole populations, self-glorification, disregard of all sacred things, hatred of both God and man. Brother, there is your prophetic picture of the pagan world governments that rose up to destroy the worship of God and to remove his holy name from the face of the earth, culminating in the outrages of Antiochus Epiphanes. Now, all of this happened unto God’s FIRST ISRAEL; and in this prophecy Daniel offers it as a prophecy of what shall at last happen to THE SECOND ISRAEL in that culmination of world events leading up to the resurrection of the dead and the final judgment. It is most distressing to see unfolding in the present-day history of world powers the very same ugly characteristics which led up to the disasters that befell the first Israel.

The focal point of all the events prophesied here is noted in Daniel 11:15, where we have these lines, “The forces of the south shall not stand, NEITHER HIS CHOSEN PEOPLE.” This refers to God’s chosen people. It was the overwhelming of Israel itself by the pagan world powers that formed the focal center of the holy prophet’s attention in this chapter. To miss this is to miss the whole point of the prophecy. Again, from Keil:

“This war arose under the Seleucidan Antiochus Epiphanes to such a height, that it formed a prelude of the war of the time of the end. The undertaking of this king to root out the worship of the living God and to destroy the Hebrew religion, shows in type the great war which the world power in the last phase of its development shall undertake against the kingdom of God, by exalting itself above every god, to hasten on its own destruction and the consummation of the kingdom of God.”(F7)

Verses 28-35

“Then shall he return into his land with great substance; and his heart shall be against the holy covenant; and he shall do his pleasure, and return to his own land. At the time appointed he shall return, and come into the south; but it shall not be in the latter time as it was in the former. For ships of Kittim shall come over against him; therefore he shall be grieved, and shall return, and have indignation against the holy covenant, and shall do his pleasure: he shall even return, and have regard unto them that forsake the holy covenant. And forces shall stand on his part, and they shall profane the sanctuary, even the fortress, and shall take away the continual burnt-offering, and they shall set up the abomination that maketh desolate. And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he pervert by flatteries; but the people that know their God shall be strong, and do exploits. And they that are wise among the people shall instruct many; yet they shall fall by sword and by flame, many days. Now when they shall fall, they shall be helped with a little help; but many shall join themselves unto them with flatteries. And some of them that are wise shall fall, to refine them, and to purify, and to make them white, even to the time of the end; because it is yet for the time appointed.”

This paragraph stresses the outrages of Anitochus Epiphanes, stressing his destructive attacks upon God’s worship, the Temple, and the Law of Moses. Such an all-out attack upon the very soul and continuity of the Israel of God was truly an event of the greatest magnitude. (See under Daniel 8:14, above, for a discussion of Antiochus Epiphanes’ attack upon God’s worship.)

We have already noted the almost negligent reference to the “little help” that the Maccabees would give to God’s cause in that emergency (Daniel 11:34). This absolutely forbids any notion that anyone in the second century B.C. era could have authored this chapter.

“The abomination that maketh desolate” It is the use which Jesus Christ himself made of this passage that must take priority in our efforts to understand it. In the first instance of that “abomination,” it was without question the desecration of the Temple, the pollution of the altar by the offering of a sow upon it, the erection of an image of Zeus Olympus in the Temple itself, and other outrages of Antiochus. However Christ in Matthew 24:15-16 (and related passages) mentioned another “abomination of desolation” that would come into the “Holy Place,” making that a signal for the Christians living at that time to flee from the City of Jerusalem, which they did, saving their lives by their flight to Pella, during the final destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Thus this “abomination of desolation” was associated with “the end of the first Israel” in the destruction of their nation, their worship, and their status as “God’s chosen people.”

But there is something which goes far beyond even that. Christ himself by his detailed prophecy of Jerusalem’s destruction mingled it with prophecies of the Final Judgment and of the end of the world, the prophecies themselves having double meanings applicable to both events! From this, the conclusion is irresistible that the destruction of Jerusalem is to be understood as a type of the destruction of the whole world, or “the end of the world,” to use Jesus’ own words. Therefore, since the abomination of desolation was featured dramatically in the fall of Jerusalem, it follows that the antitypical fulfillment of this will occur a second time in”the time of the end.” All of the ancient students of the Bible have understood this perfectly.

What is that antitypical fulfillment. The world powers shall become increasingly hostile to the worship of God, any god. The final result will be an all-out effort to exterminate the name and knowledge of God from the face of the earth. There will arise an Antichrist, the antitype of Antiochus Epiphanes, “Whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of his mouth and bring to naught by the manifestation of his coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:8). This evil person is called the Lawless One (2 Thessalonians 2:8). It is incorrect to identify this person with the Man of Sin. (See Excursus on the Man of Sin (Vol. 9 in our New Testament Series of Commentaries), pp. 106-117.)

These are but a few of the very weighty considerations that require an eschatological interpretation of some of the following passages in this prophecy. Therefore with Daniel 11:36 we pass into a prophetic presentation of the kind of world governments that shall precede the end of the world.

Verse 36

“And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvelous things against the God of gods; and he shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished; for that which is determined shall be done.”

It is not possible to apply these words to Antiochus Epiphanes. His attack was not against “all gods,” for he erected an image of Zeus in the Temple itself. Antiochus directed his attack against the true God, not against the pagan deities which he evidently still honored. The evil person in view here is that Lawless One mentioned by Paul, the Antichrist.

“Till the indignation be accomplished” What is this? It is the indignation of God. Why should God be indignant with Adam’s rebellious race? Simply because of their continued rebellion against God, the stubborn and persistent refusal of practically all the human race to honor God in any way whatever, their insistence on walking in drunken and immoral ways contrary to all of God’s laws and without showing any remorse or repentance whatever. To all such wicked men, there is an important word here designed especially for them. It is the word “accomplished.” God’s righteous indignation against Adam’s race will yet have a climax. What is it? Satan shall be loosed a little while (Revelation 20:3). Brother, that will accomplish the indignation! If we should inquire as to the purpose of this, it would appear to be that God, at last, his patience exhausted and his forbearance and longsuffering toward Adam’s posterity having at last reached its inevitable end, God will finally (in the loosing of Satan) permit Adam (in the person of his total remaining posterity) to receive an object lesson in what serving the Devil really means. That will be the time when the horrors of the “time of the end” shall unfold. This is that period of which Jesus inquired, “When the Son of Man cometh shall he find faith on the earth (Luke 18:8)?

As Keil stated regarding this passage, “This revelation of the Lord to Daniel did not concern what was going to happen from the third year of Cyrus to the times of Antiochus Epiphanes; but according to the express declaration of Daniel 10:14, what shall happen to God’s people in Messianic times.”(F8)

Verse 37

“Neither shall he regard the gods of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god; for he shall magnify himself above all.”

None of this can be applied to Antiochus Epiphanes, these characteristics being applicable to the Antichrist who will appear at the end of the age.

Verses 38-39

“But in his place shall he honor the god of fortresses; and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honor with gold, and silver, and precious stones and pleasant things. 39 And he shall deal with the strongest fortress by the help of a foreign god; whosoever acknowledgeth him he will increase with glory; and he shall cause them to rule over many, and shall divide the land for a price.”

“These words in no sense agree with Antiochus, nor do they permit us to think of any heathen deity in this connection.”(F9) The “god of fortresses” is perhaps only another way of saying the “god of force.” “Might makes right” is the policy of such a character. Keil’s view was that:

“The god of fortresses is a personification of war;… he will regard no other god, but only war. The taking of fortresses will be his god; and he will worship this god above all as the means of his gaining world power.”(F10)

Daniel 11:39 means that this Lawless One, this Antichrist, shall reward with glory, riches, and honor all who acknowledge him and do his will.

Verses 40-43

“And at the time of the end shall the king of the south contend with him; and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass through. He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown; but these shall be delivered out of his hand: Edom and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon. And he shall stretch forth his hand also upon the countries; and the land of Egypt shall not escape. But he shall have power over the treasures of gold and of silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt; and the Libyans and the Ethiopians shall be at his steps.”


Any application of these words to Antiochus Epiphanes “stands in irreconcilable contradiction to the historical facts regarding the last undertakings of Antiochus.”(F11) Furthermore, the final paragraph of this chapter “is irreconcilable that in them we have a comprehensive repetition of what has already been written of Antiochus.(F12) As a matter of simple fact, it is impossible to apply the words of this chapter beginning with Daniel 11:36 to Antiochus or to any other ruler of the inter-testamental period. Here we are dealing with a prophecy of the final developments of the Adamic probation on earth. “These words refer only to the final enemy of the people of God, the Antichrist.”(F13)

The mention of the sparing of Edom, Moab and Ammon is somewhat misleading until it is remembered that these peoples are the old, hereditary, and chief enemies of God’s people. Therefore they would appear again finally as allies and helpers of the anti-God “king” who appears in these lines. The enmity of those ancient peoples against the people of God accounts for their being spared by God’s enemy.

Verses 44-45

“But the tidings out of the east and out of the north shall trouble him; and he shall go forth with great fury to destroy, and utterly to sweep away many. And he shall plant the tents of his palace between the sea and the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him.”


We are not given any details about the “end” of this evil king, except what may be inferred from the fact that his success continued right on up to the very end itself. The planting of his tents between the sea and the glorious holy mountain indicates that at the very last he shall stand near the “holy place” itself as a contradiction of everything true and faithful. Apparently also, his end would come at the very zenith of his presumptuous and arrogant power. This harmonizes with what Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians 2:8. The Second Advent of Jesus Christ would be the occasion of his utter destruction.

Thus, right down to the end of this passage, it is obvious that no reference whatever is found here that can be applied to Antiochus Epiphanes. Despite this, many have tried to harmonize this with the end of Antiochus, including that Master Infidel Porphyry who is the father of all the critical denials encountered even today regarding this chapter.

“The glorious holy mountain” In the days of Daniel and later this would have indicated the city of Jerusalem; but in the frame of reference in which the Antichrist will appear, such an expression has reference to the Church. In some disastrous manner not revealed to us the Antichrist will in large measure checkmate and destroy the witness of the Church during those final days. Now, none of this can apply to Antiochus. He met his destruction, not near the city of Jerusalem at all, but far away in the Persian city of Tabae on his return from Persia to Babylon.

Again, for those interested in the further pursuit of this subject, please see our Excursus cited above.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Daniel 11". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/daniel-11.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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