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Bible Commentaries
Daniel 11

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verse 1

1. Daniel’s preparation to receive the vision 10:1-11:1

This section can be divided into seven parts.

The background of the vision 10:1

The third year of Cyrus’ rule as king over Babylon was 536 B.C. Cyrus had begun ruling over Persia in 558 B.C., but Daniel’s and the other biblical writers’ interest in Cyrus was as ruler over Babylon, which he conquered in 539 B.C. (Daniel 5:31). Cyrus had issued his decree allowing the Jews to return to their land and to rebuild their temple in 538 B.C. Some of them had departed that same year under Zerubbabel’s leadership. They had reinstituted the sacrifices by 537 B.C. (Ezra 3:6), and by 536 B.C. they had begun to rebuild the temple (Ezra 3:8). Daniel would have been in his 80s in 536 B.C., and his age may account for his not returning to the Promised Land. Daniel remained in government service until the first year of Cyrus (538 B.C., Daniel 1:21), but he remained in Babylon for several additional years, perhaps in "retirement."

Critics have attacked the Book of Daniel because, they claim, the title "Cyrus king of Persia" was not a contemporary way of referring to him. [Note: E.g., Montgomery, p. 405.] However, this would have been a perfectly legitimate way of referring to this king unofficially, if not officially. [Note: Young, p. 223. See also R. D. Wilson, "The Title ’King of Persia’ in the Scriptures," Princeton Theological Review 15 (1917):90-145.] Perhaps Daniel’s Babylonian name appears again here to assure the reader that this was the same Daniel whom we met in preceding chapters (cf. Daniel 1:7). He was the Daniel who had unusual skill in understanding visions and dreams (Daniel 1:17).

The message that came to Daniel was a revelation from God that included a vision. The emphasis on "message" in this verse may indicate that, in contrast to the preceding visions, this one came primarily as a spoken message, perhaps again from an angel. Daniel claimed that the message was true and that it involved a revelation of great conflict to come. The AV translation "the time appointed was long" has less linguistic support, but the message did involve prophecy yet far distant in the future. Daniel apparently understood this vision better than he had some of the earlier ones (e.g., Daniel 8:27). This verse as a whole prepares the reader for the revelation itself, which has major significance.

"The revelation in the vision given to Daniel on this occasion shattered any hope the prophet might have had that Israel would enjoy her new freedom and peace for long." [Note: Pentecost, "Daniel," p. 1365.]

Verse 1

This verse actually concludes the tenth chapter. The NASB, NIV, and NKJV translators have sought to clarify this fact by making this verse the last part of the parenthetical statement begun in Daniel 10:21. Without observing this, we might conclude that another reference to a king introduces a different incident from the one already introduced in Daniel 10:1 (cf. Daniel 1:1; Daniel 2:1; Daniel 3:1; Daniel 4:1; Daniel 5:1; Daniel 6:1; Daniel 7:1; Daniel 8:1; Daniel 9:1).

The angel concluded his encouragement of Daniel, by adding that he had been responsible for encouraging and protecting Darius the Mede during the beginning of his reign over Babylon. Another, less likely interpretation, is that the antecedent of "him" is Michael rather than Darius. I think it is less likely in view of the apparent point of this verse explained below.

As mentioned previously (see my comment on Daniel 5:31), "Darius" was probably another name for Cyrus. The angel may have used it here because it was a title that Daniel preferred (cf. Daniel 5:31; Daniel 6:1; Daniel 6:6; Daniel 6:9; Daniel 6:25; Daniel 6:28; Daniel 9:1). The first year of Darius in view was the first year of his reign as king of Babylon, namely, 539 B.C. Almost immediately, in 538 B.C., Darius (Cyrus) had issued his decree allowing the Jews to return from exile. Obviously this angel’s ministry had been effective and had resulted in blessing for the Jews. This king had also issued a decree commanding everyone in his kingdom to honor Yahweh (Daniel 6:26-27), assuming that incident happened before the events of chapters 10-12. Thus, the point of this verse, is that the good fortune that the Israelites now experienced under Darius, had been the result of successful angelic warfare in the heavenly realms. This change for the better would encourage Daniel as he pondered the future revelation of Israel’s fortunes that he was about to receive. Three antagonists of Israel would seek to implement the plan of Satan and his angels to eliminate the Jews: Haman, Antiochus, and Antichrist. Nevertheless holy angels, though invisible, would resist them effectively.

Verses 2-35

2. The near future 11:2-35

The interpreting angel now explained the long anticipated (since Daniel 10:1) revelation about the future that involved Daniel’s people, the Jews. The first part of it concerns events preceding Messiah’s first advent (Daniel 11:2-35), and the second part, events preceding Messiah’s second advent (Daniel 11:36 to Daniel 12:4). [Note: The primary sources of information about Daniel’s predicted events that preceded Messiah’s first advent (Daniel 11:2-35), apart from Daniel himself, are the second-century B.C. Greek historian Polybius, the apocraphal books of 1 and 2 Maccabees, the first-century B.C. writer Diodorus Siculus, the Roman historian Livy (ca. 59 B.C.-A.D. 17), Josephus, the second-century A.D. writer Appian, and the historian Porphyry, whom Jerome quoted. See Goldingay, p. 293; Baldwin, p. 190.]

Four future Persian kings 11:2

This revelation begins at the same place as the vision of the ram and the goat in chapter 8. It begins with the second kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar’s image (ch. 2) and with the second of the four beasts (ch. 7), namely, Medo-Persia.

Daniel learned that three more Persian kings would arise after Darius (Cyrus, cf. Daniel 10:1). Historically, these proved to be Cambyses, Pseudo-Smerdis (also known as Gaumata and Bardiya), and Darius I. The fourth Persian king to appear did become stronger than his predecessors, and he attacked Greece-just as predicted. He was Xerxes I (Ahasuerus). Some conservative scholars do not count Pseudo-Smerdis, but identify the third king as Xerxes, and the fourth as Artaxerxes I (465-424, Ezra 7:11-26). However, Artaxerxes did not contend with Greece as Xerxes did. Xerxes attacked Greece in 480 B.C. with a huge army, but he suffered defeat and never recovered. This battle probably happened between chapters 1 and 2 of Esther. [Note: See the chart of Persian Kings of the Restoration Period under my comments on 5:31 above.]

"After his [Xerxes’] great army (estimated by Herodotus at a million men) had subdued virtually all of Greece down to the Isthmus of Corinth and the city of Athens had been reduced to ashes, Xerxes’ navy was thoroughly worsted by the united Greek fleet at the Battle of Salamis in 480 B.C. This unexpected setback prompted him to beat a hasty retreat to Asia. The one-hundred-thousand-man land army he left behind under the command of Mardonius was completely crushed in the following year by the allied forces of the Greeks at the battle of Plataea." [Note: Archer, "Daniel," p. 128.]

Verse 3

The mighty king who arose and did as he pleased proved to be Alexander the Great (cf. Daniel 2:32; Daniel 2:39 b; Daniel 7:6; Daniel 8:5-8; Daniel 8:21). He was, of course, Greek. His invasion of the Persian Empire was in large part retaliation for Xerxes’ attacks against his people. He first attacked the Persians at the Granicus River near Constantinople in 334 B.C., and finally overthrew the Persian yoke at Gaugamela near Nineveh in 331 B.C. His conquest of the ancient world took only five years (334-330 B.C.).

Verses 3-4

The rise and fall of Alexander the Great 11:3-4

Verse 4

After conquering most of the ancient world, even farther east than the Persian Empire had extended, Alexander died prematurely in Babylon, his imperial capital, in 323 B.C. His two sons, Hercules and Alexander, were both murdered when they were very young, as was his uncle, Philip Arrhidaeus. Consequently, his kingdom eventually was divided up between his four leading generals (cf. Daniel 7:6; Daniel 8:8; Daniel 8:22). Cassander ruled Macedonia-Greece, Lysimachus governed Thrace-Asia Minor, Seleucus took the rest of Asia except lower Syria and Palestine, and Ptolemy reigned over Egypt and Palestine. This Greek Empire following Alexander’s demise did not retain the strength that it had previously under the centralized authority of Alexander.

Verse 5

The king described in this verse proved to be Ptolemy I Soter (323-285 B.C.), one of Alexander’s most powerful generals, who proclaimed himself king of Egypt in 304 B.C. He was an ambitious monarch who sought to extend his holdings north into Cyprus, Asia Minor, and Greece. His dynasty ruled Egypt until 30 B.C.

The "prince" under the king of the South, who would gain ascendancy over the king of the South, was Seleucus I Nicator (312-281 B.C.), another of Alexander’s most prominent generals. He had gained authority to rule Babylon in 321 B.C. However, in 316 B.C., another of Alexander’s generals, Antigonus, attacked Babylon. Seleucus sought help from Ptolemy I, and with Ptolemy’s sponsorship and superior power was able to retain control of Babylon. He was in this sense Ptolemy’s prince; he submitted to him to gain his military support against Antigonus. Seleucus I eventually ruled all of Babylonia, Media, and Syria, a territory much larger than Ptolemy’s. He assumed the title "king" in 305 B.C., and was "the king of the North" referred to in this verse. His dynasty lasted until 64 B.C.

Verses 5-20

Conflicts between the Ptolemies and the Seleucids 11:5-20

The angel now began describing the affairs of two kingdoms whose kings he called "the king of the South" and "the king of the North." These north and south directions are in relation to Palestine, the land of Daniel and his people. The nation to the south was Egypt (Daniel 11:8), which Ptolemy I and his descendants ruled. The kingdom to the north was what later became Syria, which Seleucus I and his heirs governed. Shortly after the division of Alexander’s kingdom into four parts, this Syrian kingdom included much of Asia Minor in the West, and it extended into India in the East. The Holy Land stood between these two great powers, Egypt and Syria, and it became territory that each one coveted and tried to possess.

Verse 6

In the South, Ptolemy I eventually died in 285 B.C., leaving his throne to his son, Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285-246 B.C.).

In the North, Seleucus I was the victim of an assassin in 281 B.C., and his son, Antiochus I Soter (281-262 B.C.), began ruling in his place. Antiochus I died in 262 B.C. and left his son, Antiochus II, in power.

Ptolemy II of Egypt and Antiochus II of Syria were contemporaries. They were also bitter enemies. However, they finally made an alliance about 250 B.C., which they sealed with the marriage of Ptolemy II’s daughter, Berenice, to Antiochus II. When Ptolemy II died in 246 B.C., Antiochus II took back his first wife, Laodice, whom Antiochus had divorced to marry Berenice. Laodice is the woman for whom the town of Laodicea in Asia Minor was named (Revelation 3:14; et al.). Similarly, the towns of Antioch, in Syria and in Asia Minor, received their names from Antiochus. Antioch of Syria was the capital of Syria during the Selucid dynasty. To gain revenge, Laodice had Berenice and her infant son by Antiochus murdered. Laodice also poisoned Antiochus and ruled in his place briefly. Her son, Seleucus II, then succeeded his father, Antiochus II, and ruled Syria beginning in 246 B.C. Berenice is the woman the angel referred to in this verse.

The NASB text says, "She [Berenice] will not retain her position of power [as queen of the North], but she will be given up [by her husband, Antiochus II], along with those who brought her in [perhaps the diplomats who arranged the marriage], and the one who sired her [her father, Ptolemy II], as well as he who supported her in those times [perhaps her supporting patron]."

Verse 7

Berenice’s brother, Ptolemy III (246-222 B.C.), whose other name, "Euergetes," means "Benefactor," succeeded his father and determined to avenge Berenice’s death. He attacked Seleucus II at Antioch in Syria and killed Laodice. He also conquered much adjacent territory and remained the foremost power in the region for the rest of his reign.

Verse 8

Ptolemy III returned to Egypt from Antioch with much spoil, including idols and precious vessels from the temples and treasure houses of Syria. He also signed a treaty with Seleucus II in 240 B.C. that resulted in peace between their two nations.

Verse 9

Evidently Seleucus II invaded Egypt later unsuccessfully, though I know of no record of this in secular history.

Verse 10

Seleucus II’s son, Seleucus III Ceraunus (sometimes called Soter, 226-223 B.C.), succeeded his father upon his death in 227 B.C. However, Seleucus III himself died not many years later in 223 B.C., and his brother, Antiochus III the Great (223-187 B.C.), became king of the North. Both of these sons of Seleucus II had sought to restore Syria’s glory. Seleucus III invaded Asia Minor, and later Antiochus III attacked Egypt. Though Antiochus III did not defeat Egypt, he was successful in gaining control of Israel during his campaign of 219-217 B.C. Egypt’s northern border had until then been Syria, but Antiochus III drove the Egyptians, then led by Ptolemy IV, back to the southern borders of Israel. He earned the epitaph "the Great" because of his military successes.

All of this prediction did not just prove that God can anticipate history by hundreds of years, an amazing fact in itself. It also set the stage for events in the Holy Land, which was the primary concern of this revelation to Daniel.

Verse 11

In an attempt to recapture his lost territory to the north, Ptolemy IV Philopator (222-203 B.C.) attacked Antiochus III on the southern borders of Israel, specifically at Raphia in 217 B.C. Initially he was successful.

"Antiochus lost his entire army and was almost captured as he fled to the desert." [Note: Jerome, p. 124.]

Verse 12

Ptolemy IV was proud and did not pursue his advantage, even though he killed many Syrians. He did acquire all of Palestine, however.

Verse 13

Antiochus III then proceeded to turn in other directions for conquests, specifically to his east and to his north. About 203 B.C., Antiochus III returned with a much larger army and repulsed the Egyptians, who were then under the rule of the child king, Ptolemy V Epiphanes (203-181 B.C.). Antiochus was able to retake Palestine as far south as Gaza.

Verse 14

The Macedonians under Philip V of Macedonia and the Jews living in Israel joined Antiochus III in opposing the Egyptians. Evidently some of the politically zealous Jews believed that they could gain more freedom if Antiochus III succeeded, but that did not happen.

Verse 15

The fortified city that Antiochus III besieged and took was Sidon, which he defeated about 200 B.C. There he forced the Egyptian General Scopas, whom he had recently defeated at Paneas (biblical Dan), near the headwaters of the Jordan River, to surrender. Three other Egyptian commanders tried to free Scopas from Sidon, but they failed. The king of the north in this instance was Seleucus IV Philopator (187-175 B.C.).

Verse 16

Antiochus III continued to solidify Syrian control over Palestine without successful opposition from the Egyptians.

"When Scopas finally surrendered to Antiochus III at Sidon, the Holy Land was permanently acquired by the Antioch [Syrian] government, to the exclusion of Egypt." [Note: Archer, "Daniel," p. 132.]

When Antiochus III entered Jerusalem, the populace welcomed him as a deliverer and benefactor.

Verse 17

Antiochus III, under threat from Rome, then initiated peace with Egypt and offered his daughter Cleopatra to Ptolemy V in marriage to cement their alliance. He hoped that Cleopatra would remain pro-Syrian and that her loyalty to him would give him control over Egypt. This attempt failed, however. Cleopatra consistently sided with her husband against her father, even though Ptolemy V was then only a boy.

Verse 18

Antiochus III then turned his attention to the Aegean coast and sought to conquer Asia Minor and Greece. He had been contemptuous of Roman authority in Greece and had said the Romans had no business there. Antiochus did not succeed completely because a Roman commander named Claudius Scipio resisted him effectively. He is the commander that fulfilled the prophecy in this verse.

Verse 19

Antiochus III returned to Antioch were he died a year later in 187 B.C. He had tried to reunite Alexander the Great’s empire under his own authority, but he failed largely because he underestimated the power of the rising Roman Empire. Nevertheless Antiochus III, "the Great," was a brilliant and successful military leader.

Verse 20

Antiochus’ elder son, Seleucus IV, succeeded his father. He taxed his people, including the Jews, so heavily to pay Rome that his Jewish tax collector, Heliodorus (2 Maccabees 3:7), poisoned him. Heliodorus was evidently the oppressor that Seleucus sent through "the jewel of his kingdom," namely, Israel, collecting taxes. This assassination set the stage for the terrible persecutions of the Jews that followed. Thus Seleucus IV did not die because of mob violence, as his father had, or in battle, but from poison, as this verse predicted.

Verse 21

The Seleucid king who succeeded Seleucus IV was the younger son of Antiochus III, namely, Antiochus IV Epiphanes ("Illustrious One," 175-164 B.C.). Antiochus IV honored himself by taking on the name "Epiphanes." As mentioned previously, he linked "Epiphanes" with "Theos" on coins that he minted and so claimed to be "God manifest." However, he proved so untrustworthy that many people made a play on his name and called him "Epimanes" ("Madman"). The throne rightly belonged to one of the sons of Seleucus IV, the former king and brother of Antiochus IV, but Antiochus IV seized it for himself and had himself proclaimed king. He persuaded the leaders of Syria to allow him to rule since Demetrius, the eldest son of Seleucus IV, was being held hostage in Rome. In this way, through scheming to gain power, he secured the throne for himself.

Verses 21-35

The great persecution under Antiochus Epiphanes 11:21-35

God gave more information about the following individual than He did about all the preceding ones combined. The reason is his devastating influence on the Jews. During his tenure as king, Syria was in decline and Rome gained power. Antiochus IV corresponds to the little horn of chapter 8 (Daniel 8:9-12; Daniel 8:23-25), and he foreshadows the little horn of chapter 7 (Daniel 7:8), Antichrist.

"The earlier kings are described to provide a background for Antiochus Epiphanes (175-164 B.C.), and he is given ample attention because he foreshadows Antichrist of the end times. The movement of the chapter is toward these two significant personages who dramatically affect the fate of the Jews." [Note: Campbell, p. 127.]

Verse 22

Antiochus IV was successful in battle against the Egyptians initially, which this verse describes as "flooding away" the overwhelming forces opposed to him. The Egyptian king was now Ptolemy VI, whom Antiochus deceived and then defeated.

"It was Epiphanes’ policy to throw his intended victims off guard by offering them his friendship and alliance. Then he would maneuver for an advantageous position till he could catch them by surprise." [Note: Archer, "Daniel," p. 136.]

Note the parallel strategy of Antichrist (Daniel 9:27). Antiochus also swept away the Jewish high priest, Onias III, here called "the prince of the covenant," about 172 B.C. Another view is that Ptolemy VI was "the prince of the covenant" since Antiochus later made a treaty with him. However, the term "covenant" in this chapter seems to refer to the Jewish state (cf. Daniel 11:28; Daniel 11:32).

Verse 23

This verse probably refers to the alliance that Antiochus made with Ptolemy VI in 170 B.C. This treaty was part of a plot to advance his own power in Egypt by siding with Ptolemy VI and against his rival for the Egyptian throne.

Verse 24

Antiochus craftily pillaged the treasures of his provinces, but not to grow rich himself as his predecessors had done. He used this wealth to bribe and manipulate other leaders to cooperate with his plans. In this way he enlarged his power base (cf. 1 Maccabees 3:30).

Verse 25

After Antiochus had grown strong enough, he marched his army against Ptolemy VI in 170 B.C. This was his first campaign against Egypt. He was able to get all the way to the Nile Delta before the Egyptians discovered that he was approaching. He exercised much influence over Egypt, usually pretending to be an ally, and then using this enemy for his own advantage. Notice how the text highlights Antiochus’ deceptiveness. We can see again how he was a forerunner of the future Antichrist.

Verse 26

Those who ate Ptolemy’s choice food, those who should have supported him, plotted to destroy him. Eventually his army suffered defeat and many soldiers died.

Verse 27

This battle was successful in part because Antiochus claimed to be fighting for Ptolemy against a usurper within Egypt. When the battle was over, Antiochus and Ptolemy sat down together at a banquet, pretending to want peace. Actually, each king was trying to make the most of the situation for his own advantage.

Verse 28

As a result of this "peace conference," Antiochus returned home with much plunder. Then his interests turned from Egypt to Israel.

A Jew named Jason wanted to be high priest. Knowing Antiochus’ reputation, Jason offered the king a bribe to depose the current high priest, Onias III. Antiochus cooperated. This state of affairs encouraged another pretender to the high priesthood, Menelaus, to try the same tactic against Jason. Antiochus cooperated again. Onias, whom the Jews respected, objected and lost his life for doing so. Antiochus executed certain individuals for their alleged roles in these maneuverings. However, he did not punish Jason or Menelaus, but instead scapegoated the people of Jerusalem-again in response to bribes. After Jason attempted a coup de etat thinking that Antiochus was dead, Antiochus entered Jerusalem, slew 80,000 men, and, accompanied by Menelaus, desecrated the temple. This happened in 168 B.C.

Verse 29

In the same year, Antiochus decided to attack Egypt. When he arrived with his army, the Roman consul, Popillius Laenas, met him at Alexandria and prevented him from invading Egypt. Consequently he was not able to do what he wanted with Egypt as he had previously.

Verse 30

The ships from Kittim (Cyprus) that came against him belonged to Popillius Laenas and Rome. Antiochus had to return home, since to do otherwise would have meant declaring war on Rome, a foe he could not hope to defeat. He returned to Syria disappointed.

Again he took out his frustration on the Jews in Jerusalem who observed the "holy covenant" (i.e., the Mosaic Law; cf. Daniel 11:28). He favored the renegade Jews who had abandoned the Mosaic Law (cf. 1 Maccabees 2:18; 2 Maccabees 6:1). Menelaus and his henchmen, for example, willingly abandoned their religious scruples, rather than oppose Antiochus who had put them in power.

Verse 31

Antiochus ordered his general, Apollonius, and a contingent of 22,000 soldiers, into Jerusalem on what he claimed was a peaceful mission. However, when they were inside the city, they attacked the Jews on a Sabbath, when the Jews were reluctant to exert themselves. Apollonius killed many Jews, took many Jewish women and children captive as slaves, plundered the temple, and burned the city. Antiochus’ objective was to exterminate Judaism and to Hellenize Palestine. Consequently he prohibited the Jews from following the Mosaic Law, and did away with the Jewish sacrifices, festivals, and circumcision (1 Maccabees 1:44-54). He even burned copies of their law. As a culminating measure, he installed an image of Zeus, his Greek god, in the temple and erected an altar to Zeus on the altar of burnt offerings (cf. 2 Maccabees 6:2). This was not the first time such a sacrilege had been committed. King Ahaz had set up an idolatrous altar (2 Kings 16:10-16), and King Manasseh had installed images of pagan gods (2 Kings 21:3-5), in the first temple. Then Antiochus sacrificed a pig, an unclean animal to the Jews, on the altar. This happened on December 16, 168 B.C. The Jews referred to this act as "the abomination that caused desolation" (cf. Daniel 12:11), since it polluted their altar and made sacrifices to Yahweh on it impossible (cf. Daniel 8:23-25). Antiochus further ordered his Jewish subjects to celebrate his subsequent birthdays by offering a pig to Zeus on this altar.

Jesus Christ indicated that another similar atrocity would befall the Jews in the future (Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14). By the way, Jesus Christ’s explicit reference to "the prophet Daniel" being the writer of this prophecy in these verses should be proof enough that Daniel, rather than a second-century writer, wrote this book. Jesus referred to the coming atrocity literally as "the abomination that causes desolation," the exact words used in the Septuagint version of this verse in Daniel. Thus Antiochus’ actions were a preview of similar atrocities that are yet to befall the Jews. The destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 by the Roman general Titus has seemed to some interpreters to fulfill Jesus’ prediction. However, Titus did not treat the Jews as Antiochus did. Furthermore the Book of Revelation, which dates after the destruction of Jerusalem, predicts the coming of a "beast" who will behave as Antiochus did, only on a larger scale (Revelation 13). [Note: See Mark L. Hitchcock, "A Defense of the Domitianic Date of the Book of Revelation" (Ph.D. dissertation, Dallas Theological Seminary), 2005, for defense of this date.]

"Antiochus thus becomes a type of the future man of sin and his activities foreshadow the ultimate blasphemous persecution of Israel and the desecration of their temple." [Note: Walvoord, Daniel . . ., p. 268.]

"Just as the Saviour had Solomon and the other saints as types of His advent, so also we should believe that the Antichrist very properly had as a type of himself the utterly wicked king, Antiochus, who persecuted the saints and defiled the Temple." [Note: Jerome, p. 130.]

Verse 32

Antiochus deceived many Jews with his flattery and promises (cf. 1 Maccabees 1:11-15). They participated in the worship of Zeus.

"This tyrant was a past master in manipulating Jewish leaders who were divided in their loyalties, winning them over to his cause by glowing promises of preferment and reward. As a matter of fact, Antiochus already had as partisans for his cause a considerable number of influential leaders in Jerusalem society and politics who were convinced of the expediency of a pro-Hellenic policy. . . .

"In some ways this defection of the would-be ’progressives’ among the Jews themselves was an even more serious threat to the survival of Israel as a nation than the tyrannical measures of Antiochus. For it was the same kind of large-scale betrayal of their covenant obligations toward the Lord that had made inevitable the former destruction of Jerusalem and the Babylonian captivity in the days of Jeremiah." [Note: Archer, "Daniel," p. 140.]

This most repulsive of all insults to the Jews precipitated the Maccabean revolt, in which thousands of Jews rebelled against Antiochus. Initiated by a priest named Mattathias from the town of Modein in Ephraim, and led by three of his sons, Judas, Jonathan, and Simon (cf. 1 Maccabees 2:23-28), this nationalistic movement eventually overthrew the Seleucids in Palestine. The word "Maccabee" is the Greek form of the surname of Judas ben Mattathias (1 Maccabees 2:4). The Jews applied this name to the whole family of Mattathias and to the party within Israel that his sons led. The word itself also meant "hammer" or "eradicator" as in "the terminator." Judas Maccabeus slew Antiochus’ general, Apollonius, in battle, and later he and his brothers achieved many important victories that freed the Jews.

Verse 33

Antiochus’ persecutions gave impetus to the Chassidim ("the godly, pious, loyal ones") movement that was already underway in Israel. The Chassidim advocated strict adherence to the Mosaic Law and the traditions of Judaism. Even today, the strictest orthodox Jews refer to themselves as Hasidim. The Maccabean revolt likewise fueled this movement since it was a political and military manifestation of the Chassidim conservative philosophy. The Chassidim movement really resulted in the spiritual survival of Israel until Jesus’ time. Some of the Chassidim became the sect of the Pharisees ("separated ones"), which appears in the Gospels. Later a smaller group of Chassidim became the isolationist Essene community that lived at Qumran beside the Dead Sea. The Essenes repudiated the rationalism of the Sadducees and the materialism of the Pharisees. All these groups had their roots in "the people who know their God" (Daniel 11:32).

Antiochus retaliated with brutal force and killed tens of thousands of Israelites during the few years that followed his desecration of the temple. He died insane, in Persia, in 163 B.C.

Verse 34

The godly in Israel received little encouragement from their apostate pro-Hellenistic brethren at first. Even the Maccabean revolt started out small. As time went by and the Maccabees’ effectiveness became apparent, more Jews joined their numbers, but many of them did so without abandoning their pro-Hellenistic convictions. They hypocritically joined the nationalists. Eventually the Maccabees had to purge their own ranks. They executed many of their fellow Jews.

Verse 35

Even though many godly Jews died, the struggle against the Syrians (Greeks) purified the Jews. John Hyrcanus, the son of Simon Maccabeus, eventually founded a strong Jewish kingdom. His son, Alexander Jannaeus, enlarged it to its fullest extent in the last part of the first century B.C. [Note: See Anthony J. Tomasino, Judaism Before Jesus, for more detail of this "second temple period."]

Daniel received assurance that the predicted persecution would run its course and end. The purification of his people came eventually, though not completely, through the turmoil just described. There would be a final end later.

Mention of "the end time" (Daniel 11:35) prepares for the revelation to follow, which concerns events not yet fulfilled in history. "The appointed time" (Daniel 11:27; Daniel 11:29; Daniel 11:35; Daniel 12:7) reminds the reader that all these predicted events would be the outworking of divine control and purpose, even though they would involve suffering for the Israelites.

"The amazingly detailed prophecies of the first thirty-five verses of this chapter, containing as they do approximately one hundred and thirty-five prophetic statements, all now fulfilled, constitute an impressive introduction to the events that are yet future, beginning in Daniel 11:36. . . . The fact is that there is no supported evidence which can contradict any statement made in these thirty-five verses. . . . From the divine viewpoint, the accuracy of this prophetic word is supporting evidence that prophecy yet unfulfilled will have the same precise fulfillment in the future." [Note: Walvoord, Daniel . . ., pp. 269-70.]

We can understand why critics who deny the possibility of predictive prophecy believe these verses must have been written after they occurred.

3. The distant future 11:36-12:4

In the revelation given to Daniel about the 70 sevens (Daniel 9:24-27), we observed that what Gabriel told the prophet in Daniel 11:24-26 has already happened. Those verses described what would happen in the first 69 sevens. Daniel 11:27 predicts things that have not happened yet. It reveals what will happen in the seventieth seven. There is a similar break between Daniel 11:35-36 of chapter 11. What was predicted in Daniel 11:2-35 has happened. What follows in this chapter has not happened. [Note: See Andrew E. Steinmann, "Is the Antichrist in Daniel 11?" Bibliotheca Sacra 162:646 (April-June 2005):195-209.] Young also believed that the preceding verses describe Antiochus Epiphanes, but with Daniel 11:36, Antichrist becomes the subject. [Note: Young, pp. 246-249.] Even liberal scholars, who believe that a second-century writer wrote the book as history rather than as prophecy, admit that all of what follows has had no literal fulfillment in the past. [Note: E.g., Montgomery, p. 465.] A few scholars, liberal and conservative, believe that Antiochus Epiphanes fulfilled some of these predictions, especially those in Daniel 11:36-39. [Note: E.g., ibid., p. 461; R. Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and D. Brown, Commentary Practical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, pp. 762-63; Goldingay, p. 304; Baldwin, p. 197; and Chisholm, p. 326.] However, I am not aware of anyone who believes that he fulfilled them all literally.

"No commentator claims to find precise fulfillment in the remainder of this chapter." [Note: Walvoord, Daniel . . ., p. 270.]

In view of later revelation, in the Olivet Discourse and in the Book of Revelation particularly, what the angel told Daniel in these verses must refer to the last one of Daniel’s seventy weeks. This is the last seven-year period before Jesus Christ returns to the earth to establish His kingdom. Jesus called the end of it a time of great tribulation (Matthew 24:21), and Daniel’s angel called it the worst period of distress that the Jews have ever seen (Daniel 12:1; cf. Jeremiah 30:7). Therefore it seems reasonable to conclude that what follows will occur in that seven-year period, the Tribulation. [Note: Culver, "Daniel," p. 797, gave seven reasons for believing that the prophecy shifts from Antiochus to Antichrist at Daniel 11:36.]

Verse 36

"Then" signals a leap in time to the distant future, as the context indicates.

The predicted king will have the power to do as he pleases; apparently he will not be subject to a higher human authority (cf. Daniel 7:23; Revelation 13:1-10; Revelation 17:12). He will exalt himself higher than any other god; which implies that he will demand worship (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:4; Revelation 13:11-18; Revelation 17:12-13). He will also repudiate the true God (cf. Daniel 7:25; Revelation 17:14). He will succeed for a time, until God’s indignation against His people the Jews has run its course (cf. Daniel 8:19; Isaiah 10:25; Isaiah 26:20; Revelation 17:15-17). All of this will happen under the sovereign authority of God, however.

Verses 36-39

The coming ruler 11:36-39

Verse 37

This verse gives more information about the ruler’s religious convictions. The phrase "the God of his fathers" is similar to one that occurs elsewhere in Scripture describing the God of the Jews (cf. Daniel 2:23; Exodus 3:15-16; Exodus 4:5; et al.). This has led some interpreters to conclude that this king will be a Jew. [Note: E.g., J. N. Darby, Studies in the Book of Daniel, pp. 107-14; Gaebelein, pp. 180-95; Young, p. 249; Ironside, p. 218; and Culver, "Daniel," p. 797.] However, the phrase does not require this interpretation. The name "God" is "Elohim," the general word for God, rather than the covenant name "Yahweh," that God often used when stressing His relationship to His chosen people. This word can have a plural translation (gods) or a singular one (God). Moreover, in the light of other revelation about this man, he seems to be a Roman (Daniel 7:8; Daniel 7:24; Revelation 13:1-10). Of course, he could be a Jewish Roman, but the description of him in this verse does not identify him clearly as a Jew. Probably the angel meant that this king will abandon the religion of his past (or ancestry), whatever that religion may have been. He will do this because he will set himself up as the object of worship in place of all gods.

The identity of "the desire of women" is also problematic. It may be a reference to the Messiah. [Note: Pentecost, "Daniel," p. 1371; Gaebelein, p. 188; Walvoord, Daniel . . ., p. 274; Feinberg, p. 175; Ironside, p. 221; Wiersbe, p. 304.] Supposedly the supreme desire of every godly Jewish woman in Daniel’s day was that she bear the Messiah. Another view is that the reference is to Tammuz (Gr. Adonis), a pagan goddess in Daniel’s day that women found very attractive. [Note: Montgomery, pp. 461-62; A. A. Bevan, A Short Commentary on the Book of Daniel, pp. 196-97.] Others believe that the meaning is that this king will have no desire for women. Some even speculate that he will be abusive toward women. In other words, he will be devoid of natural affection. [Note: Keil, pp. 464-65; Young, 249; Archer, "Daniel," p. 144; Whitcomb, p. 155. Cf. Leupold, pp. 515-16.] I tend to favor this third view.

Verse 38

What this king will really trust in is a "god" who he believes can give him military success. Evidently this is not a god in the religious sense. He will probably idolize power. His forefathers typically acknowledged some supreme being or some pagan god or gods. He will honor his "god" by spending money to build his military arsenal. In other words, he will be a materialist. Feinberg and Ironside believed the god in view is the Roman beast (the political leader), whom they distinguished from the Antichrist. [Note: Feinberg, pp. 175-76; Ironside, pp. 221-22.] They identified the Antichrist with the religious leader in Jerusalem. This is a minority view among premillennialists.

Verse 39

The foreign god referred to in this verse may be the god of military might mentioned in Daniel 11:38. Alternatively, it may be some other foreign god that he uses for his own ends, or it may even be himself. As Antiochus before him, this ruler will reward those who are loyal to him, and support them by bestowing honors and positions of authority on them. Perhaps he will also take bribes, as Antiochus did, and give land to those who pay him off. Another possibility is that he will reward with lands those who are faithful to him.

Verse 40

Finally the very end time of the seventieth week will arrive (cf. Daniel 11:27; Daniel 11:35; Daniel 12:4; Daniel 12:9). Then this king will be the focus of attack by the king of the South (cf. Daniel 11:42-43), a power south of Palestine, and the king of the North, a force to its north. Evidently these two rulers will attack him simultaneously. Apparently this king is neither the king of the South nor the king of the North himself. In view of Daniel 9:26, he will probably be a western ruler, the little horn arising out of the Roman Empire (i.e., Antichrist; Daniel 7:8; Daniel 7:24). [Note: Walvoord, Daniel . . ., p. 279; Pentecost, "Daniel," p. 1372; and Leupold, p. 521.] Other interpreters believe the king of the North is the Antichrist. [Note: Archer, "Daniel," p. 148; and Young, p. 251.] Still others hold that this king was not the Antichrist but only a minor ruler. [Note: E.g., Ironside, pp. 222-23.]

The conflict will be great, but he, apparently the ruler described in Daniel 11:36-39 (i.e., Antichrist), will invade many countries, overwhelm them, and pass on to conquer others. The Nazis were able to do this early in World War II.

"Presumably the warfare will be carried on by armored vehicles and missiles such as are used in modern warfare-though in order to communicate with Daniel’s generation, ancient equivalents of these are used here. Likewise, the ancient names of the countries or states occupying the region where the final conflict will be carried on are used in the prediction, though most of those political units will no longer bear these names in the last days." [Note: Archer, "Daniel," p. 147.]

Ezekiel described a great military force descending on Israel from the far north in the future (Ezekiel 38-39; Ezekiel 38:15). Ezekiel did not mention a power from the South. Part of the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy is probably the same invasion Daniel recorded here. I believe part of what Ezekiel prophesied to take place in his description of the battle of Gog and Magog will find fulfillment at the end of the Tribulation and part of it at the end of the Millennium. This aspect of the fulfillment will probably occur in the second half of the Tribulation, when Israel is suffering intense persecution. One writer argued that this king of the North will be a ruler from the area that Assyria formerly occupied, not someone from farther north in the area of Russia. I believe "Gog" is a code name (meaning "Dark") describing two similar invaders who will descend on Israel at two different times: at the end of the Tribulation and at the end of the Millennium. The first of these invaders is called the King of the North here. [Note: Carl Armerding, "Russia and the King of the North," Bibliotheca Sacra 120:477 (January-March 1963):50-55.]

Verses 40-45

The attack against the ruler 11:40-45

Verse 41

The Antichrist will also enter Palestine (cf. Daniel 8:9), and many there will fall before his forces. He will also defeat other countries in addition to Israel. He will probably enter Palestine after he breaks his covenant with Israel, which would confirm that these events will happen in the last half of the Tribulation. There will be a few areas that he does not overpower, however, namely those in the former territories of Edom, Moab, and Ammon. These nations were to the east and south of Israel. Today Jordan occupies this region. The "foremost" of the sons of Ammon probably refers to the best part. [Note: Baldwin, p. 203.] Young believed the names of these nations are symbolic, but he confessed ignorance concerning the meaning of the symbols. [Note: Young, p. 253.]

Verses 42-43

This ruler will then press his attack and invade other countries, particularly Egypt. It will fall to his control. He will plunder the treasures of Egypt and will bring those living in the ancient territories of Libya and Ethiopia under his control. Libya lay to the west of Egypt and Ethiopia to its south.

Verses 44-45

Rumors of enemy armies from the East (cf. Revelation 9:13-21; Revelation 16:12) and from the North (cf. Daniel 11:40) will irritate him, resulting in his killing "many" more people (cf. Zechariah 13:8). Compare the invasion sequence by Sennacherib (Isaiah 37:7-8). He will also return to Palestine. His headquarters there will evidently be in Jerusalem. This city stands between the Mediterranean and Dead Seas. The NIV translation "at the beautiful holy mountain" confirms this location, since Jerusalem stands on Mt. Moriah. It is evidently there that he will meet his match and suffer defeat. Later revelation says that Jesus Christ will return from heaven and destroy him (Revelation 19:19-20; cf. Zechariah 14:1-4).

One writer summarized the revelation about Antichrist in Daniel 11:36-45 as follows. He will act in self-will (Daniel 11:36), will exalt himself (Daniel 11:36), and will magnify himself above every god (Daniel 11:36). He will blaspheme the true God (Daniel 11:36), will succeed for a limited period of time (Daniel 11:36), and will be an irreligious person (Daniel 11:37). He will also place confidence in military might (Daniel 11:38-39), his military might will be challenged (Daniel 11:40), and he will be initially victorious in battle (Daniel 11:40-43). However, he will face renewed conflict (Daniel 11:44), will establish his headquarters in Jerusalem (Daniel 11:45), and will finally come to an end (Daniel 11:45). [Note: Campbell, pp. 132-34.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Daniel 11". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/daniel-11.html. 2012.
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