Lectionary Calendar
Monday, July 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
We are taking food to Ukrainians still living near the front lines. You can help by getting your church involved.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries
Daniel 11

Carroll's Interpretation of the English BibleCarroll's Biblical Interpretation

Verses 1-13



Daniel 11:1-12:13

We now come to the last discussion on the book of Daniel and there are difficulties in interpreting the last two chapters of this book, as follows:

1. The difficulty in determining the text is unusually great. While the Hebrew text is authoritative, yet the several Greek versions, particularly Septuagint and Theodotion, the Syriac Peshito, and the Vulgate (Latin) are relied on in aiding to determine the true text. These versions, however, on these chapters do in some instances complicate rather than relieve the difficulties.

2. The section of Daniel 2 treating of the "king of the south and the king of the north," (Daniel 2:5-45), introduces, by far, the most serious difficulty in this, that most commentators find it easy to refer Daniel 2:5-32 to the conflicts between the Syrian and Egyptian divisions of Alexander’s empire, culminating in Antiochus Epiphanes. But no commentator is able to apply Daniel 2:36-45 to that conflict without doing great violence to both the text and to history. There appears to be in Daniel 2:33-35, if not at Daniel 2:21, a transition to events more remote, and to a person more important than Antiochus Epiphanes, and directly connected with the final resurrection in the beginning of Daniel 12. So that in general terms we have three theories of interpretation:

(1) The higher critics, plausibly agreeing from the apparent continuity of the references to the kings of the north and south from Daniel 2:5 to the end, apply the whole section to the wars between the Seleucids and the Ptolemies. Their only escape from the obvious misfit of the latter part is that Daniel was himself mistaken in that part, and also our Lord and his apostles.

(2) Some pre-millennialists, particularly Tregelles, seeing plainly the misfit of the latter part to anything verifiable in the history of the Seleucids and Ptolemies, ignore the obvious verification in the first part arid deny any reference to them at all in the chapter.

(3) Other interpreters (e.g., Luther, Calvin, and a host of other Protestants) accept the reference of the first part to the Seleucids and Ptolemies, but find a transition about Daniel 2:33-35 to more remote events and persons connected with the last things of time. This theory is by far the best of the three in harmonizing all the facts, and is in line with the perspective of prophecy, which, like a view of distant mountains, one peak behind another, but higher, from the viewpoint of the beholder, gives a blended view as of but one peak. Only nearer approach, or a side view from another point of observation, reveals the distinction in the peaks. They cite many scriptural illustrations–for example, Psalm 72, which gives a blended view of Solomon and the remote Messiah in which it is hard to distinguish just what parts to limit to Solomon and what parts to the Messiah. This is not, strictly speaking, giving a double sense to the meaning of words. There has never been but one objection, worth counting, to this theory – to wit, verse 40, evidently in the latter part, names the king of the south and the king of the north, as if plainly a continuation of the first part.

3. The third difficulty in the interpretation is to understandingly apply the time numbers 1290 and 1335 in Daniel 12:11-12.

Now let us take up the interpretation of Daniel 11:2-4. The meaning there is obvious: It is not in the author’s plan to enumerate all the kings of Persia, but the number up to the great provocation, which led to a union of the many independent Greek states into one empire, and to their counterinvasion of Persia. We may count it two ways:

1. The three kings to arise are Cambyses, the son of Cyrus was not so friendly to the Jews as his father.

2. The Artaxerxes of Ezra 4:7, who was the impostor, Guamata, the pseudo Smerdis, reigning only seven months, but in that time revoking the Cyrus decree; Darius Hystaspea, who renewed the Cyrus decree (Ezra 6), and Xerxes the Great, the Ahasuerus who divorced Vashti and married Esther (see book of Esther).

Or we may omit the impostor and make Xerxes the fourth, including Cyrus. But the part played by the impostor in Jewish affairs (Ezra 4) favors the retention of him as one of the three, and thus making Xerxes the fourth after the three and the fifth, including Cyrus. Evidently the prophecy lays special stress on Xerxes because of his great riches and because of his stirring up all the world against the realms of Greece. The word "realm" is plural in the versions, referring to the many Greek states. Every schoolboy is familiar with the history of Xerxes the Great, whose wealth was incalculable, who stirred up the world to invade the Grecian states, whose army by some was reckoned 5,000,000, who crossed the Hellespont, killed Leonidas of Sparta at the pass of Thermopylae, captured Athens, when its citizens had embarked on their fleet, who was disastrously defeated in the naval battle of Salamis by Themistocles, and whose bridge of boats on the Hellespont was destroyed by a storm, provoking his impotent wrath against the sea, and his having the sea flogged with chains, and his disgraceful return to his own land. (See schoolboy and legislative oratory on Thermopylae, and Byron’s matchless poem, "The Isles of Greece," in Childe Harold. See also Herodotus VII: 20-99; and Rollin’s Ancient History, for his immense armament.)

We are not to understand that Xerxes, except under the instigation of Haman, was unfriendly to the Jews, but he is made prominent here, because it was his invasion that led largely afterward to the unification of the Greek states under Philip of Macedon, with a view to invade Persia in return, as was done under Philip’s son, Alexander the Great. We know that Alexander justified his invasion as a retaliation for the Xerxes invasion of Greece, and so this prophecy drops all reference to later Persian kings in order to pass to the rise of the third great monarchy. The great king of Daniel 11:3 is Alexander, and in Daniel 11:4 we have a prophecy of the fourfold division of his kingdom under Cassander, Lysimachus, Seleucus, and Ptolemy, discussed in the exposition of Daniel 8, only here it is shown that his heirs did not succeed him, nor any of the divisions equaled his dominion. Diodorus Siculus tells us that Cassander murdered his legitimate son by his queen Roxana, named Alexander after himself, and caused to be murdered his illegitimate son, Hercules.

Antiochus had about whipped out the eastern kings, had conquered all Judea and Egypt and was besieging Alexandria when some ships from Chittim came into the port, and history tells us that from those ships came the Roman officer, Popilius, and said to Antiochus, "Stop this siege and go home." Antiochus replied that he would take time to think about it. The Roman general drew a circle around him in the sand with a stick, and said, "You answer before you get out of that ring," and he answered. That is a new detail.

It has been shown in previous discussions that all the prophetic sections in the book after the first are but elaborations of the first, and that each succeeding one gives some details of some one of the five empires not previously given. In Daniel 8, we have an expansion of the third empire, giving an account of its fourfold division, just related, and particularly showing the rise of Antiochus Epiphanes, the little horn, in the latter days of the third empire, so now let us consider the new details of this empire, given in Daniel 11:5-32, as follows:

1. We have here (Daniel 11:5-20) and not elsewhere in the book, the details of the long series of conflicts between the kings of the Syrian and Egyptian divisions of Alexander’s empire. As Judea lies directly between Syria and Egypt, it became the battleground and prey of the contending armies, passing in subjection first to one, then to the other, as the fortunes of war favored one or the other. The historical verification of these verses can be found in any commentary. Driver, in "Cambridge Bible," is as good as any on these verses, if not the best. It is brief and clear.

2. Daniel 11:21 reads as follows: "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." Now that vile or contemptible person is where we commence to learn about the last antichrist of the Bible. In Daniel 11:21-32, if they refer at all to Antiochus Epiphanes (which may be questioned), these are details not given in Daniel 8:9-14) Daniel 11:23-25 (which unquestionably refer to him). Among these details are (1) the reference to his prodigal gifts (Daniel 11:24), (2) his check by the Romans (Daniel 11:30), (3) the varying tides of his war with Egypt.

It may be questioned that this chapter refers at all to Antiochus Epiphanes, because –

1. Daniel 8 has already given details of his relations to the third empire and to Israel, and is therefore less necessary here. We find nowhere else in the book a repetition of minute details. The details of the war between the Seleucids and Ptolemies are given in this chapter because not elsewhere given.

2. As he, the little horn of the third beast, was the first antichrist, and as the little horn of the fourth beast was the second antichrist, harmonizing with Revelation 13, so this chapter, from Daniel 11:21 to the end, may be explained to refer to the third antichrist, not harmonizing with Paul’s man of sin (2 Thessalonians 2:3-12) who lasts to the final advent here (Daniel 12:2). It is certain that Daniel 11:36-45 cannot apply to Antiochus, and if Daniel 11:21-32 are concerning the same person, then the transition to the last things commences at Daniel 11:21 and not at Daniel 11:33-35, according to the third theory hereinbefore set forth. Daniel never saw Paul’s man of sin.

3. The fact that there is an abomination of desolation here (Daniel 11:31 and Daniel 12:11. as well as in Daniel 8:11; Daniel 8:13-14) does not prove identity, but is squarely against any reference here to Antiochus for the following reasons:

(1) The abomination of desolation in Daniel 9:26-27 is different from the one in Daniel 8:11; Daniel 8:13-14, as our Lord in his great prophecy clearly shows (Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14).

(2) The abomination of desolation here (Daniel 11:31; Daniel 12:11) is not the same as Daniel 8:11; Daniel 8:13-14, because the time number, 2,300 days of chapter 8 is different from the time numbers here, 1,290 and 1,335.

(3) Because this deliverance connects with the resurrection and judgment (Daniel 12:2).

(4) Because John in Revelation refers Daniel’s "time, times and a half time" as well as the great oath of God (Daniel 12:7) to a point of time yet future in A.D. 95.

(5) Because some things foretold (even in Daniel 11:21-32) cannot be verified in the history of Antiochus, and none of the great things foretold in Daniel 11:36-45 and in Daniel 12.

The true point of the transition, therefore, to the third antichrist commences with the "vile person" (Daniel 11:21) and not at Daniel 11:33-35, as set forth in the third theory.


1. All commentators, radicals, and conservatives, pre-and postmillennialists agree that Daniel here refers to a real and final resurrection of the bodies of the just and the unjust.

2. The radical critics are mistaken in using this to prove a late origin for the book of Daniel, in order to account for the development of the doctrine. As our Lord says on this very point to the Sadducees, who were the higher critics of his day, "Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures," and then proves that the Pentateuch taught the resurrection. So also teaches Isaiah before Daniel’s time, and so the Psalms, as Peter proved at Pentecost. And so Ezekiel (37) uses the resurrection of the body to illustrate the spiritual resurrection of the Jews.

3. The interpretation of Daniel 12:2 by Tregelles, the pre-millennialist, separating by a long interval the resurrection of the just from that of the unjust, finds no support in any text or version, and so far as I know in any great commentary. The curious mind wants the explanation of the time numbers 1,290 and 1,335 in Daniel 12. Here the Son of God himself, who interprets this vision to Daniel, declines to answer the question, bidding Daniel go his way and wait for the fulfilment to demonstrate its meaning. So we pass on. But more important are the great pulpit themes in this book as suggested by it. Let us consider a few of them:

The supremacy of the divine government over individuals and nations:

And at the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me; and I blessed the Most High; and I praised and honoured him that liveth forever, whose domination is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation; and all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: as he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? – Daniel 4:34-35.

Now that is a great text on the supremacy of God’s government of individuals and nations.

The second great text is found in the same chapter: "Take away from him the heart of a man and give him the heart of a beast." And that is the theme for the agnostic, the one who can’t know that there is a God and that he ruleth in heaven. He classes himself with the beast, and he might as well be a brute and go out and eat grass like an ox. Another great subject is the distinction between duty to God and to the state, based on Daniel 3:16-18: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God, whom we serve is able to deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

Couple that with what is said of Daniel when he knew the decree was signed that no man should pray to any god but the king for thirty days (Dan. 6). He went to his room and prayed as his custom was and he prayed three times a day just as he had done before. Now in discussing that as a preacher it is important to show that when human government clashes with divine government we must make the law of God paramount: "Render unto Caesar whatsoever is due Caesar, but render unto God what is due to God." Then Nebuchadnezzar, the king, was astonished, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king. True, O king. He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God. – Daniel 3:24-25.

Now the great theme there is the presence of God with his people in their afflictions.

Another theme is the patriotism of Daniel or his love for his people as set forth in his prayer in Daniel 9 and in his three weeks’ prayer in Daniel 10. Another great theme is the Messiah in the book of Daniel, (1) in the coming of his kingdom (Daniel 12:2); (2) his great expiation (Daniel 9:25); (3) the pre-manifestation (Daniel 12:10); (4) the presence of the Lord with his people in their afflictions, (the text I have just given); (5) in his exaltation after his expiation (Daniel 12:7) ; and (6) in his final advent for resurrection and judgment (Daniel 12:12).

A great theme for the preacher is, "The Messiah as Presented in the Book of Daniel." Another great theme is the several antichrists and the several abominations of desolation. First, Antiochus Epiphanes, the little horn of the third beast, and the abomination is the setting up of the statue of Jupiter and the sacrificing of a hog on the altar. Then the abomination in Daniel 9 fulfilled at the destruction of Jerusalem in the effigy of the Roman Emperor on the standards of the soldiers. The second antichrist is the little horn of the fourth beast and the abomination of desolation that he sets up in claiming to be God and demanding worship of men. The third antichrist, the atheistic, world ruler who comes just before the millennium, and then the last antichrist, the same as Paul’s man of sin who will be destroyed at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and his abomination will be that he himself will claim to be the returned Messiah, the king, in his final advent and demand to be worshiped. Several other themes are found in the book, viz.: The Influence of a Great Man, and of his Book on After Ages; The Wisdom and the Righteousness of Daniel as Seen by Ezekiel; Keep Thy Window Open Toward Jerusalem When You Pray; and "They That Be Wise Shall Shine as the Firmament, and They That Turn Many to Righteousness as the Stars Forever."


1. What is the first difficulty in interpreting the last two chapters of Daniel, and what aids to its solution?

2. What is the second difficulty, and what the three theories of interpretation in this connection?

3. What is the third difficulty?

4. On Daniel 11:2-4 answer: (1) Who were the four kings of Persia here mentioned? (2) How does Xerxes fill the description of the fourth? (3) Who the mighty king that should stand up and rule, and how does history prove that he fulfils the conditions here stated relative to his kingdom?

5. Relate the incident of Popilius and Antiochus Epiphanes.

6. What are the new details of this empire given in Daniel 11:5-32?

7. Show the historical fulfilment of Daniel 11:5-20.

8. What question is raised with reference to Daniel 11:21-32?

9. If this passage refers to Antiochus Epiphanes, what the details?

10. Why may it be questioned that this chapter refers at all to Antiochus Epiphanes?

11. What of the resurrection in Daniel 12:2?

12. What is the explanation of the time numbers 1290 and 1335 in Daniel 12?

13. What are the great pulpit themes of this book as suggested by it?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Daniel 11". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/daniel-11.html.
Ads FreeProfile