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the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Daniel 11

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verse 1

1. R.V. reads,”And as for me, in the first year,” etc. This is a continuation of Gabriel’s speech which should not have been interrupted by a chapter heading. For Darius the Mede see our Introduction, III, 3, (5). It is hard to be certain of the meaning of this verse. The various versions show that this uncertainty extended back to the earliest times. The words as they stand in the Hebrew may mean either that Gabriel had strengthened Michael in a former combat some years previously, in return for which he now gives him help against the prince of Persia (Daniel 10:13; Daniel 10:21), or they may mean that this divine messenger had been on the side of Darius the Mede in his conflict with Belshazzar (Daniel 5:30-31), thus emphasizing the fact once more that human kings get their thrones by heavenly help. The Greek version reads “Cyrus” here instead of Darius. This gives a new and important meaning to the statement of the angel, since it was in the first year of Cyrus that the edict for the return of the Jews to their own land was proclaimed. It would then mean that only by such supernatural agency could this victory for the Jews have been wrought, and that the same help was pledged to them in all their future history.

Verse 2

2. Three kings in Persia There were really a dozen kings who ruled over the Medo-Persian empire; but Daniel is only concerned with those who had especial influence over the destinies of the Jewish people. Even Prince sees from Daniel 9:25, etc., that the writer of Daniel knew that the Persian period lasted much longer than the reigns of only four kings. The names of the Persian kings to which the Bible refers as materially affecting the Jews are Cyrus, Darius, Xerxes, and Artaxerxes. The recent discoveries of Hilprecht show that Thomson’s supposition that Artaxerxes was merely a title, and not a personal name, cannot be longer maintained. This passage may, however, only mean that there will be three kings after Cyrus, the last of whom shall be this rich king whom almost all commentators identify as Xerxes. The three are mentioned merely to identify the fourth. The succession of kings ran: Cyrus, Cambyses, Darius Hystaspes, Xerxes. Many expositors have counted Artaxerxes as the king preceding Xerxes, and have tried to account for the inexactness in number by calling the “four” symbolical; but Dr. Hilprecht has recently shown that Artaxerxes followed Xerxes and preceded Darius II. Why Xerxes should be selected for special mention is explained by the romance attached to him because of his extraordinary wealth and the defeats inflicted upon his army of half a million men by the Grecian heroes of Thermopylae and Marathon. Every reader of the prophecy for centuries afterward would identify this king, far richer than they all, as Xerxes. Multimillionaires were not as common in those days as now. And by his strength, etc. Rather, as R.V., “and when he is waxed strong through his riches,” etc.

Verse 3

3. A mighty king This was Alexander the Great, as identified in the next verse. It is not stated that this king succeeds Xerxes immediately. He was in fact separated from him by several rulers. Alexander himself, however, affirms that his invasion of Persia was in revenge for Xerxes’s invasion of Greece; and thus historically “Xerxes began the struggle which on the field of history has for its climax and consummation Alexander’s conquest of Persia” (Urquhart).

Verse 4

4. This is a reference to what has been previously stated more explicitly concerning Alexander and the ending of his empire (Daniel 8:5-8). This identification is made easier by the statement that the kingdom was not divided between the posterity of this king, but should be for others beside those. (See notes Daniel 8:8; Daniel 8:21.) No one of these successors to this “mighty king” ruled according to his dominion, but over a territory and with a power much inferior to his.

Verse 5

5. We here come to the climax for which chap. x and these introductory verses of chap. 11 have furnished the preface. We are now suddenly brought into close and startling contact with the fourth brute empire (the Syriac-Egyptian; see notes Daniel 2:39; Daniel 7:7). This particular king of the south is doubtless Ptolemy I, the famous general of Alexander and the founder of the Ptolemaic kingdom.

One of his princes Seleucus I, who had obtained Babylon as his portion of the empire, but was forced to fly for help against Antigonus (another general of Alexander) to Ptolemy, was befriended by the Egyptian Pharaoh, and afterward obtained possession of Palestine and the adjoining territories, which were held with a firm hand by himself and retained by his successors for centuries. He well deserved the name, which he adopted, of Nicator (“the conqueror”), for his dominion, as this verse states, was a great dominion excelling even that of the Ptolemies. (See notes Daniel 2:39-40; Malachi 1:10; Malachi 1:10.)

Verse 6

6. This points to the close alliance between the kings of the south (the Ptolemies) and the kings of the north (the Seleucidae). As only these two empires are being spoken of they are called southern and northern with reference to their geographical relations to each other and in order that they need not be named more definitely, which would have been contrary to the best apocalyptic style. The king’s daughter of the south, who comes to make “equitable conditions” with the king of the north, is evidently Berenice, daughter of Ptolemy Philadelphus, who was accepted as wife by Antiochus Theos (B.C. 250) in order to make peace with Ptolemy, who was at that time invading his kingdom. She shall, not retain the power of the arm, etc. Antiochus had been compelled by the threats of Ptolemy to discard his real wife, Laodice, and take Berenice instead, agreeing to recognize her sons as his legitimate heirs. But this stroke of diplomacy, by which Egypt probably sought to capture Syria, failed; for a little later, perhaps when her father died, Berenice was given up, being divorced by Antiochus who took again his former wife. Laodice, however either in revenge for her former treatment or in fear for her future murdered Antiochus a little later (B.C. 246), as also Berenice and her son; thus all who favored this unhappy queen, and had expected good from this alliance, suffered great ill from it. These are the historical facts to which these purposely obscure phrases refer. Instead of he that begat her we may read “he whom she brought forth;” referring to the babe killed by Laodice.

He that strengthened her This must refer either to her father or her husband at the beginning of their married life; more likely to the former. (See above.)

Verse 7

7. This branch or “shoot” out of the ancestral roots from which Berenice came is acknowledged with general unanimity to be her brother Ptolemy Euergetes, who, having succeeded his father in his estate (or, place, as in Daniel 11:20-21; Daniel 11:38), advanced into Syria to avenge his sister, came “against the army” (R.V., margin) of the king of the north (Seleucus II), captured his capital and chief fortress, slew Laodice, and in general dealt (literally, did) with them as he wished.

Verse 8

8. He shall also carry away with him into Egypt “their gods, with their molten images, and with their desirable things of silver and gold; then shall he desist some years from attacking the king of the north.” It is said that the silver captured amounted to forty thousand talents, and that there were two thousand five hundred of these images, including those which Cambyses had carried off from Egypt in one of his campaigns. It has been said that it was this great triumph which gained for the king the name Euergetes (“magnificent”). If the A.V. is to be followed, he shall continue more years than the king of the north This refers to the fact that Ptolemy outlived Seleucus II several years. The other rendering, as given above, is, however, permissible and contains a more significant statement.

Verse 9

9. According to the A.V. this verse merely describes the triumphant return of Ptolemy to his own country. The next verse, however, shows the R.V. to be correct: “And he shall come into the realm of the king of the south, but he shall return into his own land.” The natural style of an apocalypse, which intentionally veils its meaning to the careless reader, accounts for the sudden change of reference here without warning. According to this best text it is not Ptolemy Euergetes spoken of here, but most probably Seleucus II, who attacked Egypt in order to punish its king for his invasion of Syria, but was forced to retreat with large loss.

Verse 10

10. His sons That is, Seleucus Ceraunos and Antiochus III, the sons of Seleucus II. Ceraunos, after a reign of about three years, was killed during a campaign in Asia Minor and was succeeded by his brother Antiochus III (the Great) who for thirty-six years ruled with a strong hand (B.C. 223 to 187), conquering Parthia and Bactria, and constantly threatening Egypt and the far-distant East with his immense armies.

But his sons shall be stirred up Rather, and his sons shall war. (See above.) One shall certainly come, etc. Rather, and he shall surely come, and overflow, and pass through: and he shall return and war, even to his fortress. This is a picture of the attack upon Egypt by Antiochus the Great, and of his renewed attack when he got only as far as Raphia, which was the extreme frontier stronghold of Egypt. A decisive battle was fought there a little later. (See next verse.) This is the usual modern view, although his fortress may possibly refer to some frontier stronghold of Antiochus.

Verse 11

11. This means that the king of the south (Ptolemy IV) the son of the Ptolemy mentioned in Daniel 11:8 stirred at last to angry activity by the aggressiveness of Antiochus III, raised an immense army, met the even greater army of the Syrian king at Raphia, and defeated it; slaughtering over ten thousand of his enemies on the battlefield, and taking four thousand prisoners.

Verse 12

12. Rather translate, with Terry, “And the multitude shall be carried away, and his heart shall be exalted.” That is, a vast number of the soldiers of Antiochus shall be killed or taken prisoners, because of which Ptolemy IV shall be greatly puffed up, “and he shall cast down myriads; but he shall not be strong,” or “he shall not prevail” (R.V.). He was naturally a weak and sluggish king, and he failed to follow up his advantage, only acquiring a little territory and then making peace.

Verse 13

13. Antiochus the Great, after thirteen years in which he had pushed his conquests even into Ionia (not “India,” as is generally supposed) and accumulated great wealth, gathered again an even greater army than before and moved against Egypt upon the death of the former Ptolemy and the accession of his young son, Ptolemy Epiphanes. The result was a complete victory and the annexation to the Syrian territory of the portions of Palestine and Philistia formerly claimed by Egypt.

Much riches R.V., “much substance.” This is a general term equivalent to “stuff” or “goods.” Its use in Daniel 11:24; Daniel 11:28, and elsewhere, would seem to exclude the meaning “weapons,” which many modern scholars, following Hitzig, prefer.

Verse 14

14. Shall many stand up Antiochus the Great succeeded in allying Philip of Macedon with him in his attack on Egypt, and there were also insurrections even in Egypt itself against the new and infant Ptolemy. Also the robbers, etc.. R.V., “also the children of the violent among thy people shall lift themselves up,” etc. These “sons of oppressors” are variously thought of as the tax collectors, who then, as in later Egypt, were a scourge to the land; or perhaps as the Egyptian Jews, who, because of their hatred of Ptolemy Philopator, were very friendly with Antiochus, who showed them special favors (Josephus, Antiquities, XII, Daniel 3:3). That the expression refers to the Jews seems most probable, because these deeds were done “to establish the vision;” that is, doubtless, to bring in the fulfillment of the prophecies which spoke of the exaltation of the people of Israel and their holy city. Many who take this view translate, following the Greek, “and the builders of the breaches of thy people shall lift themselves up to establish vision;” meaning to say that those who stood up for Antiochus against Ptolemy were good Jews who longed for the restoration of Jerusalem to its former glory, and took the stand they did for that reason. But the antagonistic attitude of this prophecy toward Antiochus Epiphanes makes it improbable that there would unnecessarily be thrown in here a word of praise for the Jews who had sustained the enterprises of the father of this hateful king. (Compare also Daniel 11:16.) Besides, the Jews of Egypt and of Palestine were never noted for their friendliness to each other.

They shall fall That is, the hopes of these friends of Antiochus shall be crushed. The vision of Jerusalem’s glory cannot be fulfilled by any Syrian king. (Compare notes Daniel 9:24; Daniel 10:14.) It is a curious circumstance that the later Jewish expositors explain these “children of the breakers of thy people” as referring to the followers of Jesus. Jephet Ibu Ali says, “Matthew the publican, Mark the fisherman, Luke the disciple of Paulus, and John the kinsman of Jesus,… these have been the cause of our ruin and destruction during our captivity.”

Verses 15-16

15, 16. Antiochus the Great shall come against Egypt, raise earthworks against “a well-fortified city,” and take it. This probably has reference to the capture of Sidon, where Scopas, the commander of the Ptolemic forces, after the Syrian king’s victory at Mount Pannius, had intrenched himself with ten thousand of his men. The result is thus stated: “And the forces of the south (i.e., Ptolemy’s) shall not withstand [Antiochus] nor (even) his [Ptolemy’s] chosen men, and there shall be no strength to withstand (Daniel 11:16). And he [Antiochus] who shall come against him [Ptolemy] shall do as he wills, and none shall withstand him, and he shall stand in the land of glory with destruction in his hand.” This is a fair historical statement, from a Hebrew standpoint, of the trials of Antiochus the Great. The love of the Jews for the pleasant or “glorious” land is shown from the days of David onward. That other nationalities felt in the same way concerning their own native country is seen from the tale of Sanehat, an Egyptian of Abraham’s day, who, while dying in a foreign land, craved with his last breath to be buried in “the blessed land,” i.e., Egypt.

Verse 17

17. Translate, with Bevan, “And he shall set his face to come with the power of his whole kingdom; but he shall make an agreement with him.” After the conquests just mentioned Antiochus determined to subjugate Egypt, but because of Roman intervention he was restrained from doing this and therefore made an alliance by marriage with the reigning Ptolemy.

The daughter of women This was Cleopatra, the very young daughter of Antiochus, who was betrothed to Ptolemy at this time (198 B.C.) and married to him five years later, receiving the taxes of Coele-Syria, Palestine, and Phoenicia as her dowry. Having failed to obtain Egypt by conquest this sly Syrian king hoped to obtain some advantage in this way.

Corrupting her Rather, to corrupt her. That is, he hoped by her influence or intrigues to control the Egyptian policy. The text may be read, “to her ruin,” or, “to its [Egypt’s] ruin,” but we prefer the former view. As we have before remarked, these apocalyptic descriptions were intentionally veiled in phrases which could bear several interpretations, and were plain only to the “wise.” But she shall not stand, etc. Or, it shall not stand nor shall he attain it ( his object). Instead of acting as a Syrian spy and for her father’s interests, Cleopatra at once threw herself with energy into all her husband’s plans, even joining him in the public rejoicing which followed her father’s defeat by the Romans in the critical battle of Magnesia (190 B.C.).

Verse 18

18. Isles Or, coasts. This refers especially to the campaign by sea and land which Antiochus waged against Asia Minor, so disastrously terminated by the battle mentioned above. But a prince, etc. Rather, but a captain shall make his ( insults) to cease, yea, his reproach ( insults) shall he turn back upon him. While the construction here is difficult the meaning is plain; the reference is no doubt to the well-known controversy between this insolent king after he had seized all the Asiatic possessions of Philip of Macedon, and had crossed over into Europe to continue his aggressions, and the Roman general and ambassador Lucius Scipio. As reported by the ancient historians, this interview was very dramatic. When Antiochus was politely requested by the Roman ambassador to restrain his ambitions he insolently replied, “As I do not trouble myself about Italy, why should the Romans trouble themselves about Asia?” The severe chastisement which immediately followed at the battle of Magnesia, while it perhaps did not directly answer the king’s question, at least put an effectual stop to further arrogant interrogations on his part.

Verse 19

19. The fort Rather, forts. Having returned to the small dominion still left to him west of the Taurus, he was killed in an insurrection in Elymais (197 B.C.). The tradition is that his death occurred during a sacrilegious night attack upon the temple of Bel, in that city, in order to rob it of its treasures.

Verse 20

20. Estate Rather, place (as in Daniel 11:7; Daniel 11:21; Daniel 11:38). A raiser of taxes, etc. Or, one that shall cause an exactor to pass over ( through) the glory of the kingdom. The various versions greatly differ. The Vulgate renders, “in his stead shall stand a vile person and unworthy of royal dignity.” The reference is either to Heliodorus, the chancellor of Seleucus Philopator, who was sent by this king at the suggestion of Apollonius, governor of Coele-Syria and Phoenicia, to rob the temple of Jerusalem being interrupted super-naturally in his purpose and scourged by divine agents, according to 2 Macc. iii or to Seleucus IV, Philopator himself, who as the son and successor of Antiochus III fell heir to terrible financial embarrassments, which compelled him to exact heavy taxes, and may perhaps have induced him to countenance such robberies as that of Heliodorus. Palestine would most naturally be called by a Hebrew writer the glory of the [Syrian] kingdom; though Dr. Terry understands this to refer not to Palestine specifically, but generally to all of the most beautiful and productive portions of the kingdom.

Within few days Seleucus IV only reigned in all a few days compared with his father (twelve years), and certainly only reigned a “few days” after the bootless mission of Heliodorus, mentioned above; for, according to the ancient account of his death, this courtier poisoned him, 176-175 B.C. Probably the method of his death explains why it can be said that he was “broken” neither in anger [that is, in a quarrel or insurrection, as was his father], nor in battle.

Verse 21

21. A vile person This was Antiochus Epiphanes, of whom we have already heard so much. (See Daniel 7:8; Daniel 7:20-21; Daniel 7:24-25; Daniel 8:9-19; Daniel 8:23-25; Daniel 9:27.) Demetrius Soter was the son and rightful heir of Seleucus IV, and had doubtless received the honor [the royal dignity] of the kingdom, from all lovers of the ruling house; but Antiochus, the brother of Seleucus IV, upon his death (for which many think this “contemptible” person was responsible), treacherously seized the throne. (See note Daniel 7:24; Daniel 8:23.)

He shall come in peaceably Rather, in time of security; that is, when men are careless and not expecting change. (Compare the use of the word in Jeremiah 22:21; Ezekiel 16:49.) So the word also carries with it the idea of “unawares,” “unexpectedly.” “The FLATTERIES or dissimulation by which he obtained the kingdom refer to the artful representations of his claims and plans by which he induced Eumenes and Attalus, kings of Pergamos, to help him expel Heliodorus and recover the throne for his own family. The same arts of dissimulation doubtless served him further in adjusting things in Antioch after the overthrow of the usurper Heliodorus.” Terry.

Verse 22

22. The arms of a flood It is not clear whether this phrase has reference to the suddenness and farsighted diplomacy with which Antiochus disposed of all his opponents, who were “swept away” from before him as with a deluge, or to the vast armies of Egypt which had been accustomed formerly to overflow Syria, but were now swept back by him. According to the first view this passage refers to his successful opposition to all enemies in Syria during the opening years of his reign (175-171 B.C.); according to the second, it refers to his later campaigns against Egypt. The former view seems preferable.

The prince of the covenant Or, his covenant. The reference may be to some allied prince, perhaps Ptolemy Philometer, with whom Antiochus may have had some sort of a compact, or, more likely, to the death of Onias III, the Jewish high priest a hero of unblamable life who was assassinated by him (171 or 170 B.C.); he having rebuked Menelaus, a creature of Antiochus, for stealing some of the sacred vessels of the temple (2 Macc. iv).

Verse 23

23. Bevan translates, “And from the time when they shall ally themselves with him, he shall practice fraud and shall rise and become strong with ( but) few men.” Those with whom this king made alliances (compare Daniel 11:22) were usually outwitted. (Compare Daniel 7:23.) At the beginning he had not very many trusty helpers, but his cunning diplomacy aided him in climbing up, step by step, until he became almost the greatest power in the civilized world.

Verse 24

24. He shall enter peaceably, etc. This sentence may be translated either, “In time of your security shall become even upon the fattest places of the province” (R.V.), or “In time of security and with the fat (rich) ones of the province shall he come” (Terry), or “And by stealth he shall assail the mightiest men of (each) province.” Each rendering may be grammatically and historically defended. Antiochus did have the art of selecting the best places in which to plunder; he did succeed in allying to himself as strong supporters some of the chief men of Syria and other provinces, and he had no scruples about striking down any influential friends when it seemed to his advantage to do so.

He shall do that which his fathers have not done This has been quite generally supposed to refer to the characteristic of Antiochus just noted in the preceding phrase; but certainly his predecessors had not been remarkable for their failure to acquire territory, etc., even by robbery, or for their antipathy to influential alliances, or for their noncombativeness. (See Daniel 11:13-17; Daniel 11:20.) It therefore seems best to translate, “He shall do what his fathers have not done: he shall scatter among them,” etc.; considering this to be a reference to the prodigal hand with which Antiochus Epiphanes was accustomed to lavish gifts upon those who helped him or with whom he was specially pleased. He scattered his gold pieces as his predecessors had never done ( 1Ma 3:28-30 ; Livy, 41:20; Polybius, 28:17). He shall forecast his devices, etc. Rather, he shall devise devices against strongholds; that is, he was always plotting against his neighbors and depended as much upon his wily strategy as upon the force of his arms. (See Daniel 8:23.)

Even for a time Or, but [ only ] for a time. The end of his successfully wicked career is coming.

Verses 25-26

25, 26. These verses probably describe the campaign of Antiochus Epiphanes (170 B.C.) against Ptolemy Philometer of Egypt, the king of the south. (See note Daniel 11:5.) The young Ptolemy gathered an immense army to withstand the Syrian invasion, but owing to the treachery of his own people, who “devised devices” against him, he was defeated. Probably the chief traitors here thought of are Eulaeus and Lenaeus, two courtiers upon whom the king lavished every favor and who virtually controlled the state policy after the death of Cleopatra, the queen mother. Antiochus marched on into Egypt as its conqueror as far as Memphis, and even captured Ptolemy himself. It seems to be intimated here that those who were closest to the Egyptian sovereign and who ate the “dainties” of the royal table, were responsible for this disaster. (See above.)

His army shall overflow Rather, by a slight change in the text, read, with Dr. Terry, “his army shall be overwhelmed.”

Verse 27

27. They shall speak lies at one table After the Egyptians who had plotted against Philometer had placed Physton, his brother, on the throne Antiochus changed front with regard to his captive and joined hands with him in a plan to snatch the Egyptian scepter from the usurper. That they both lied to each other in their professions of mutual trust and pledges of future help there can be no doubt. But how vivid is this description! It sounds as if the writer had been sitting at the table with them taking notes.

Yet the end shall be at the time appointed The heavenly powers rule and overrule, notwithstanding the plots of earthly kings. (See note Daniel 10:21.) No shrewdness on the part of Antiochus can avert the divine decree.

Verse 28

28. His heart shall be against the holy covenant This “holy covenant” is not the one just made with Philometer (Daniel 11:27) as careless readers would suppose. The “holy covenant” is here used instead of “people of the holy covenant” for the same purpose doubtless as the other enigmatical phrases to be found everywhere in this apocalypse, to confuse the careless and for the enjoyment of the “wise.” Antiochus on his return from Egypt found that Menelaus, whom he had approved as high priest in Jerusalem, had been ousted from his place by Jason who had heard that Antiochus had died on this Egyptian campaign and many of his followers killed ( 2Ma 5:5 ). Antiochus “in a fury” immediately marched against the city, capturing it, massacring many thousands of its population, and looting the sacred treasures of the temple (1 Maccabees 1; 2 Macc. v; Josephus, Antiquities, XII, Daniel 5:3; Apion, Daniel 2:7).

He shall do exploits, and return R.V., “he shall do his pleasure, and return.” Having worked his will in Jerusalem he left a “most cruel barbarian” as governor of Jerusalem and continued his journey home to Antioch.

Verse 29

29. It shall not be, etc. Rather, not as the former shall be the latter. This campaign “into the south” (168 B.C.) shall not be successful as was the last (Daniel 11:25-27).

Verse 30

30. Ships of Chittim The people of Kittim from the earliest times were regarded as descendants of Javan (Genesis 10:4), and “therefore belonging to the Greek or Graeco-Latin races of the West” (MacPherson, in Hastings’s Dictionary of the Bible, 1900). In its early and original sense Kittim meant the Isle of Cyprus, but later it broadened in scope until it included Rhodes and even the coast lands of Macedonia. The Scripture phrase “coast of Chittim” does not mean Macedonia nor Rome, “but simply the western power which for the time being is to the front” (MacPherson). There can be no doubt that the ships referred to here were those of the Romans connected with the expedition under the leadership of Caius Popilius Laenas, who was sent against Antiochus 168 B.C. and speedily pushed him back from Egypt in great humiliation ( Polybius, 29:11; Livy, 44:19; 45:11).

He shall be grieved Or, dejected (Terry); or, cowed (Bevan). When the Roman legate drew a threatening circle with his cane around him, and charged him before he stepped out of it to make his decision whether he would continue his march into Egypt or return home, he was full of anger and chagrin which he vented, on his return, upon Jerusalem and the “holy covenant.” (See Daniel 11:28.)

So shall he do Rather, and shall do ( his will).

And have intelligence with [rather, and have regard unto ] them that forsake the holy covenant That is, he begins now more than ever before to favor the apostate Jews who have turned heathen and to pour out his vials of wrath against the “pious ones.” (See notes Daniel 7:25.) Apollonius with twenty-two thousand men captured the city on a Sabbath day, when the inhabitants would not fight, burned the city, and threw down its walls, massacred almost all the male population, and sold the women into slavery. The intention was to thoroughly exterminate the Jewish people and their religion (1 Maccabees 1; 2 Maccabees 4, 5 ; Polybius, 38:18). Such Jews as would apostatize were preserved from the massacre, and afterward large bribes were offered to all influential Jews who would give up their religion and become heathen (1 Maccabees 2). The continued efforts of this king to destroy this religion points to his settled conviction that it offered to the Jewish nation a standard of righteousness and a bond of unity which would ever prove dangerous to his rule unless he could stamp it out.

Verse 31

31. R.V., “And arms 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.” (See notes Daniel 7:24-25; Daniel 8:11; Daniel 8:13; Daniel 9:27.)

Arms shall stand That is, the force which the king sent against the city was sufficient.

The sanctuary of strength Or, better as above, the sanctuary, even the fortress. The temple sanctuary was in any case the real fortress and strength of the city, and it may have literally been fortified at this time. The exact date at which this profanation of the temple by the invading soldiers and the apostate Jews took place is not known, but the abominable heathen altar which was erected on Jehovah’s altar was used for sacrificial purposes December 25, 168 B.C. ( 1Ma 1:54 ); while “indecent orgies” were carried on also in the courts of the temple after, and probably also before, this date. Recent discoveries suggest, however, that the phrase “abomination of desolation” may refer specifically to the Zeus worship (being a play on a well-known technical term designating this worship) rather than exclusively to the altar itself. As Nestle has pointed out there must have been an idol statue in front of this altar of Zeus and, as has long since been noticed, שׁקוצ is never used of an altar but is used of an idol (1 Kings 11:5, etc.; and see Nestle, in Stade’s Zeitschrift, 1883).

Verse 32

32. Corrupt Rather, pervert, that is, “make profane.” The Books of the Maccabees contain the mention of many of the wiles and bribes by which he induced multitudes of Jews to become renegades. But the effect upon those who did not apostatize was to arouse the spirit of heroic martyrdom (Malachi 3:3; Malachi 2:0 Macc. vi, vii). At first they offered no resistance, but died triumphantly and gladly for their faith; but finally Mattathias, an aged priest, the head of a distinguished sacerdotal family, killed a brutal officer of Antiochus, and fleeing to the mountains set up the standard of war. Upon his death (166 B.C.) his sons continued the struggle and with marvelous success (1 Macc. ii; Josephus, Antiquities, XII, Daniel 6:2). The exploits of these heroes struggling for their altars and their homes are among the most romantic and soul-inspiring which human history recounts. Although doubtless in the minority even among their own countrymen, they succeeded in drawing to their side a great part of the nation and in turning back the evil influences which were threatening to destroy the national and moral life of Judaism. As Ezekiel by his visions of God’s presence and sovereignty even in Babylon, and by his inspired proclamation of the divine decrees concerning Israel, saved his people from becoming Babylonians, so the Maccabees (encouraged by this prophecy of Daniel) saved their countrymen from becoming Greeks. The events recorded in this verse mark the conditions at the beginning of this Maccabean rebellion.

Verse 33

33. And they that understand “They that be wise;” that is, the “pious.” (Compare 1Ma 2:27 , and Psalms 14:1.)

They shall fall See note Daniel 11:32.

Verse 34

34. With a little help At the beginning of the Maccabean uprising there were some surprising successes, but when the later defeats and severe sufferings came it was found that numbers who in the first flush of excitement had joined these heroes could not be depended on. (Compare 1Ma 6:21 ; 1Ma 6:27 .)

Flatteries Dissimulations. (Compare Daniel 11:21.) Bevan translates, “treachery” or “guile” (Daniel 11:21). The very Hebrew word used here sounds like the slippery and untrustworthy “clack-clack” of these pseudo-patriots. They could talk, but when it came to action, they would not even furnish “a little help.” The adherents who joined the army through policy, not principle, were too ready to make friends with either party which seemed at the time likely to win.

Verse 35

35. R.V., “And some of them that be 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.” Suffering and martyrdom are not proofs of God’s forgetfulness. This is the refining fire which comes “to test and purify” the saints. Blessed is he that shall endure to the end which end God knows and the time of which He has fixed.

Verse 36

36. This is a description of Antiochus Epiphanes, the persecutor of the saints (Daniel 11:35), in which numerous characteristics appear which have previously been ascribed to the “little horn” of chaps. vii and 8. (Compare also Daniel 9:27.) It agrees with the Maccabean opinion. (See 2 Macc .

Daniel 9:12.) The Greek historians thought this intolerant persecutor “pious,” because he was liberal in his gifts to heathen temples; but his plundering of heathen as well as Jewish sanctuaries shows that at heart he was as this verse paints him. He who could order that a monthly search be made and that every person found with a copy of the law in his possession should be put to death, having women thrown headlong from the city walls merely because their children had been circumcised, would no doubt speak as well as do “monstrous things” against Jehovah “the God of gods.” (Compare Daniel 2:47.)

Shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished See note Daniel 8:17. The end of this storm is coming. What God has predetermined must come to pass.

Verse 37

37. God Or, gods. Antiochus did not reverence the deities of Syria which had been respected by his royal forefathers, but cared only for the “god of fortresses.” (See Daniel 11:38.) The difference between he spoke “marvelous things against the God of gods” (Daniel 11:36) and he “had no regard for the gods of his fathers” should be noted. According to this statement he cared nothing for the heathen gods, measuring them at their true worth; but the God of the Hebrews he feared and blasphemed.

He shall magnify himself above all He “proudly” thought of himself “as if he were God” ( 2Ma 9:12 ); he allowed himself to be so addressed by the Samaritans (Josephus, Antiquities, XII, Daniel 5:5).

Nor the desire of women This is a name probably for the deity Tammuz (Adonis), whose worship was the most popular of all in Syria, and particularly with women. (See note Ezekiel 8:4.) It is generally, however, referred to Nanaea, anciently identified with Artemis or Aphrodite, the feminine counterpart of Adonis, whose temple Antiochus once attempted to plunder.

Nor regard any god He does not give any deity the proper honor, otherwise he would not magnify himself and his own will and his own honor above all temples and priests as he did. He even engraved “Theos” as his accepted title upon his coins.

Verse 38

38. The God of forces Rather, the God of fortresses. Perhaps this means that he worshiped from policy, and only gave gifts and honors to such deities as had strong fortresses to defend them, the strongholds being his gods; but more likely there was some special deity of war to whom Antiochus gave real honor. Whether this was Jupiter Capitolinus (whose temple was itself a fort, and of whose warlike character everyone knows, to which god also he built a costly sanctuary at Antioch), or whether it was some little-known foreign fetich or deity cannot now be told. The latter is very possible, as superstition generally accompanies irreligiousness.

Whom his fathers knew not This shows that it was not Zeus Polieus, or any other deity whom the Seleucidae worshiped.

Verse 39

39. R.V., “And he shall deal with the strongest fortresses with the help of a strange god.” If this is a correct interpretation of this dark text our first suggestion of Daniel 11:38 is excluded. Bevan, by a slight change, reads, “And he shall procure for the strong fortresses the people of a strange god” referring to the foreign colonists which he settled in Jerusalem and elsewhere ( 1Ma 3:36-45 ). Meinhold reads, “together with the strange gods;” that is, he dealt with the fortresses as he did with their gods. Instead of “by the help of,” Prince ventures to translate, “in aid of a strange god;” that is, Antiochus looted the most impregnable strongholds for the sake of the one deity he loved to honor (Daniel 11:38). This latter construction of the Hebrew seems, however, too strained to be correct. The ancient versions understood the text as little as we do. Whom he shall acknowledge, etc. Rather, with R.V., “whosoever acknowledgeth him he will increase with glory.” Antiochus only promoted those who exalted himself; and even of the Jews, those who were willing to give up their religion and live like Greeks (Jason, and Menelaus, and many more), he advanced in office as long as they did as he directed and no one else outbid them for the place.

And shall divide the land for gain R.V., “for a price.” Offices were given to the man who offered the biggest bribe, and governors were appointed over provinces according to the amount of revenue they were able to promise to the crown. Or it may perhaps mean that when unable to properly compensate his court favorites with silver and gold, he would give them territory instead “for a reward.”

Verse 40

40. As we understand it (see remarks above) we have here an epitome of the history contained in Daniel 11:22-27.

At the time of the end See Daniel 11:4; Daniel 11:27; Daniel 11:35; Daniel 8:17. As we have shown (Daniel 11:40-45) this does not prove, as Bevan claims, that these events were subsequent to those previously described. Bevan himself would acknowledge that in the mind of the writer the “end” did not close until the end of Antiochus (Daniel 11:45). The seer now sees that the entire cruel reign of Antiochus is at [rather, in] the time of the end. The seventy long weeks of years find their consummation and end here. Beyond this end of the “indignation” (Daniel 8:19) comes the beginning of Messiah’s reign.

Verses 40-45


It is very difficult to explain Daniel 11:40-45 historically. No writers of the period have recorded an invasion of Egypt by Antiochus after he had been brought to account so sharply by the Romans (notes Daniel 11:29-30), and everything we know of the political conditions of the period is against this. One late author, however (Porphyry), affirms there was such a campaign just before the death of Antiochus and this is not absolutely impossible. It is not satisfactory to say with Kuenen, Bevan, and many others, that these verses express the expectation of the author of Daniel, but that this expectation was never realized. If indeed this passage was written and openly published only a few months before the death of Antiochus at which time these supposed glaring mistakes would have been most clearly seen it is impossible to conceive how the book could have been at once accepted as a true prophecy and a little later placed in the sacred canon. Many scholars believe that these verses arelater interpolations, or that they have dropped out of their true place in the narrative immediately after the historical sketch given in Daniel 11:1-5. The versions, however, though they differ much from the received text, do not hint this, and there are other objections to the theory.

In view of the difficulties embarrassing any historic explanation of this passage, a multitude of interpreters have given their fancy full play, seeking to find here as indeed everywhere else in Daniel allusions to conflicts which have taken place in the Middle Ages, or in modern times, or which shall happen in future centuries. This is not interpretation, it is imagination. Other writers believe that with Daniel 11:40 the vision of the prophet fuses two pictures: the triumphs and disastrous end of Antiochus with the victories and final defeat of the antichrist of whom he was a type. We have already defended this method of interpretation, and have no doubt that a counterpart of Antiochus may be found in the antagonists that arose against the theocracy in after ages; but we believe that every prophecy should be explained first with reference to the historic facts of the period concerning which it directly treats. A seeming discrepancy between the account and the known facts of the local period which it primarily depicts is not sufficient to relegate it wholly to a far-off future time. That is too easy a method. If its primary and local meaning is not understood, its secondary and universal teachings cannot be intelligently grasped. These verses do not have the customary tone of idealization and exaltation which usually accompanies a vision of the Messianic future. They are almost as matter-of-fact and full of detail as the accounts which have preceded, and which we have seen relate actual earthly events in the reign of this mad king, Antiochus. The “king of the north” means Antiochus, and the “king of the south” Ptolemy, as all the versions knew. We cannot therefore adopt the supposition that this passage treats of the end of the world and the battle with antichrist.

We incline to believe with many scholars of the highest rank that this passage is a general resume of all the Egyptian campaigns of Antiochus previously mentioned (Daniel 11:29-30), with special emphasis on the statement that all these campaigns happened “at the time of the end;” that is, as modern commentators agree, at the end of this era of persecution which was to precede the Messianic reign. (See notes Daniel 9:27; Daniel 12:1.) For seventy times seven years these afflictions, captivities, and persecutions have fallen on the holy people; but now, although it seems to the Maccabean martyrs that they have only reached their fullest power, in the days of this evil conqueror, they are really just at an end. Even the most boastful years of Antiochus are in “the time of the end.” This wild beast shall suddenly be “cut off without hand” for, whatever the manner of his death, every Hebrew who believed in the divine decree would know that it was an event fixed and appointed by God himself and after this the prophet sees victory for Israel and the glorious rule of One like unto a Son of man. (See notes Daniel 11:40; Daniel 7:13-14; Daniel 9:27.)

Verse 41

41. The glorious land That is, Palestine. (See Daniel 7:9.)

Edom, and Moab,… Ammon Why are these mentioned? Perhaps to make vivid the fact that while Antiochus burst with such fury upon the holy people and the Holy Land the nations nearest to the Israelites, and their hereditary enemies, were not disturbed. His special wrath was against the “Holy Covenant.” Dr. Terry would take these allusions to Edom, Moab, etc., to be “symbolical,” as in Isaiah 11:14-15. Ewald would understand these as terms of reproach applied to apostate Israelites. Even in the days of Cromwell such expressions were used of all antagonists and were thoroughly understood by the “wise.” However, as an historical fact, Edom and Ammon did help Antiochus against the Jews ( 1Ma 4:61 ; 1Ma 5:3-8 ), and as a tribe of Moabites was still in existence at that time (Behrmann) it would naturally do the same.

Verse 42

42. Here we have another glance backward at Daniel 11:25-28. Egypt, who has proved a helper to Palestine so often, shall herself be overrun by this beast with the iron teeth, who “shall wear out the saints of the Most High” (Daniel 7:25), who casts the holy ones to the ground and stamps upon them (Daniel 8:10; Daniel 8:23; Daniel 8:27).

Verse 43

43. Compare Daniel 11:24; Daniel 11:28.

The Libyans and the Ethiopians The LXX. reads, “And Libyans and Ethiopians shall be in his host.” Literally, Antiochus never did dominate Egypt, and certainly never had a campaign against Libya or Ethiopia. But this is precisely in the style of oriental hyperbole which was universal to literary men of ancient times. (Compare Ezekiel 19:8; Ezekiel 19:13, and the Books of the Maccabees, passim.) The Jewish prophets must be allowed to tell their story in the style most agreeable and familiar to their contemporaries.

Verse 44

44. After all his victories and brutal persecutions the “end” which God had from the first decreed is now upon him. The tidings reach him that the Parthians and Armenians are in revolt, and furiously does he rush to punish the offenders. (So 1 Maccabees 6; 2 Maccabees 9.) After all the breaks in time and place to which we have been accustomed in this chapter Bevan and Prince should not insist that because Antiochus in Daniel 11:43 was in Egypt the points of the compass should therefore be reckoned from Egypt in this verse. If, however, east and north be reckoned from the south land, the reference would very naturally be to the tidings from the Roman senate sent to him by Caius Popilius Laenas or Tiberius Gracchus which did send him in great fury to destroy, and utterly to make away many. (Compare notes Daniel 11:29-30.) If, however, the standpoint is considered as Palestine then the reference is to the revolt of the Parthians and Armenians, the tidings of which are said to have reached him in the last year of his life. (See above.) Several writers tell in what “fury” he went forth to punish those insurrectionists.

Verse 45

45. R.V., “And he shall plant the tents of his palace between the seas and [margin, at ] the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end and none shall help him.” He shall pitch his headquarters near to Jerusalem between the Mediterranean and Mount Zion, and work an awful destruction upon the holy people (see notes Daniel 11:31-36); but his own “end” is near and no heavenly help will come to him such as is offered to the persecuted Israelites (Daniel 10:21; Daniel 12:1). The tragic circumstances connected with the death of Antiochus are perhaps exaggerated in the Jewish writings, but at the best it was a death of dishonor following several years of disappointment, poverty, and failure. There are many opinions as to the meaning of the sea (or, seas) near to which Antiochus pitched his palace tents. Meinhold, for example, thinks these were the Euphrates and Tigris, between which Antiochus camped after his victory over the Armenians; but the above explanation seems best to us. The “holy mount,” as used in Scripture, seems always to refer to the temple mountain. We do not agree with Terry that this verse clearly implies that Antiochus came to “his end” in his Palestine camp. (Compare note Daniel 11:44.) The very form of apocalyptic composition forbids any such insistency upon the customary prosaic unities of time and place.

His end This is simply the repetition of a refrain which has been repeated again and again (Daniel 11:27; Daniel 11:35-40).

The “end of the indignation” is closely connected with the end of the little horn, and wherever the one has been promised the other has been threatened. Beyond this “end” of persecution as beyond the “end” which Jeremiah saw at the close of the seventy years captivity-there lies another period of struggle dimly seen and then everlasting victory!

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Daniel 11". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/daniel-11.html. 1874-1909.
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