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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Daniel 11

 

 

Introduction

Chapter 11 The Course Of History.

In this most remarkable chapter we are given an outline of history from the time of Daniel to the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, and then briefly to the end of time. It first covers the period while Israel were still under the wrath of God up to ‘the latter time of the indignation’ in the days of Antiochus (Daniel 8:19), and then it moves on briefly to the evil fourth empire, to the end of time, in a final depiction of what is to be. As often in prophecy the prophet moves suddenly from the near to the far, from a prior fulfilment to its greater manifestation. The duration of the fourth empire is always left an open question.

It is often said that the Book reveals a greater knowledge of history the nearer it approaches to the time of Antiochus, but that is to overlook what is a constant feature of the book and that is that it constantly abbreviates the early history in order to deal with the later history in more detail, because the latter is its main emphasis. This chapter is very selective and grows in detail so as to gradually grow into its main message of the times of Antiochus and the king of the end times.


Verse 2

The Kings Of Persia.

“And now I will show you the truth. Behold there will stand up yet three kings in Persia, and the fourth will be far richer than all of them, and when he has established himself strongly through his riches he will stir up all against the realm of Greece.”

‘And now I will show you the truth.’ That is the truth as indelibly inscribed in the writing of truth (Daniel 10:21), which must therefore come about.

The fourth king, richer than all, who becomes excessively rich and powerful, and stirs up all (either all the resources of the empire, or all peoples from his empire) against Greece is undoubtedly Xerxes. ‘There will stand up’ suggests that Cyrus the current king was not in mind. Thus the four would be Cambyses, Smerdis, Darius Hystapsis and Xerxes.

The purpose of the verse is to bring out the growth of the Persian empire to its maximum point and the result that followed, the first major invasion of Greece. It is really preparatory to the details given of the Greek empire. There is no intention of outlining Persian history. This is not simply an exercise in foretelling the future, it is depicting the fulfilment of God’s purposes. The idea is to show the steps of growth up to the fourth massive empire previously mentioned, but not to depict all the details. Certainly it is patterned on the previous visions. That is why only four kings are mentioned and Cyrus, as the reigning king, is omitted. (Had he been needed in order to make up four he would have been included). The fourth king, like the fourth empire, is the potent one from a world point of view.

Daniel is very much aware that he could not (in his schema) be the ‘fifth’ king, for that would make him the covenant king. In the same way in the previous visions there could not be five empires, until, that is, the arrival of the covenant empire, for five is the number of covenant. Xerxes had to be the fourth king, however the number was to be obtained. He was from the world’s viewpoint ‘theking’ as far as Persia was concerned. Only he was powerful enough to instigate the invasion of Greece.

His failure to mention any Persian king after Xerxes was not due to lack of knowledge but the requirements of his schema. Kings who followed him were irrelevant for Xerxes had made the move that would introduce the Greek empire. He was ‘the fourth king’ who included all that followed.

Xerxes invaded Greece in 480 BC, with a huge army, but he suffered defeat and never recovered, for after he had subdued virtually all of Greece down to the Isthmus of Corinth, including the reduction to ashes of the city of Athens, his navy was thoroughly worsted by the united Greek fleet at the Battle of Salamis in 480 BC. He himself retreated leaving his general Mardonius to see to affairs, and he was crushed in the following year by the allied forces of the Greeks at the battle of Plataea. All subsequent attempts to crush Greece also failed. In Xerxes was summed up all Persia’s future against Greece.


Verse 3

The Growth and Division of the Grecian Empire.

‘And a mighty king will stand up who will rule with great dominion and do according to his will.’

This was the final result of the acts of Xerxes, and of those who followed him, the rise of this mighty king of Greece, Alexander the Great, who would have great and widespread authority and could exercise his will wherever he would.

After conquering most of the ancient world, penetrating even further east than the Persian Empire, Alexander died prematurely in Babylon, his imperial capital, in 323 BC. His two sons, Hercules and Alexander, were both murdered when they were very young, and consequently his kingdom was eventually divided up between his four leading generals (compare 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.


Verse 4

‘And when he shall stand up his kingdom will be broken and will be divided towards the four winds of heaven. But not to his posterity, nor with similar dominion to that with which he ruled, for his kingdom will be plucked up even for others beside these.’

This is not the epitaph that Alexander would have desired. He stood up only to be broken. So was Alexander the Great dismissed by God. His great empire was just a passing fancy. ‘Divided towards the four winds of heaven’ may be intended to signify heavenly princes over each of the four sections into which the empire eventually split, compare Daniel 10:13; Daniel 10:20. (It may be simply directional but ‘of heaven’ usually denotes more, depicting heavenly activity). But his throne would not go to ‘his posterity’. As mentioned above both his young sons were murdered. All he had achieved would be for others, ‘plucked up even for others beside these’, initially for all his generals, but gradually uniting into four separate sections. The mighty ‘unified’ power of his empire would not be sustained. However strong they may seem, empires rise, and divide, and fall. As with the image in chapter 2 the empires were deteriorating in splendour.

The two that would concern Israel were the Egyptian empire under the Ptolemies (the king of the south) and the Syrian empire under the Seleucids (the king of the north). Sadly for Israel both coveted Palestine.


Verse 5

‘And the king of the south will be strong, and one of his princes, and he will be strong above him and have dominion. His dominion will be a great dominion.’

The king described here was Ptolemy I, one of Alexander's most powerful generals, who proclaimed himself king of Egypt in 304 BC. He was very ambitious and sought to extend his empire north into Cyprus, Asia Minor, and Greece. His dynasty ruled Egypt until around 30 BC.

The prince under the king of the south who would ‘be strong in excess of him’ was Seleucus I, another of Alexander's prominent generals. He was given authority over Babylon in 321 BC. But another of Alexander's generals, Antigonus, took over Babylon, and Seleucus had to flee and seek help from Ptolemy I. With Ptolemy's sponsorship and superior power he was able to regain control of Babylon. This was the sense in which he was Ptolemy's prince, for he submitted to him in order to gain his military support against Antigonus. But Seleucus I eventually ruled from Phrygia in the west to the Indus in the east, including all of Babylonia, Media, and Syria, a territory much larger than Ptolemy's. His dynasty was seen as commencing in 312 BC. His descendants are the kings of the north. His dynasty lasted until 64 B.C.


Verse 6

‘And at the end of years (i.e. after some years) they will join themselves together, and the daughter of the king of the south will come to the king of the north to make uprightness (i.e. a friendly alliance making things ‘right’), but she will not retain the strength of her arm, and neither will he stand nor his arm, but she will be given up, and those who brought her, and he who begat her, and he who strengthened her in those times.’

‘After some years.’ In the South, Ptolemy I eventually died in 285 BC, leaving the throne to his son, Ptolemy II. It was in his day that we learn from the Zenon papyri that the Ptolemean minister of finance in Egypt owned large tracts of land in Palestine, including land east of Jordan, possibly what were once crown lands which would thus pass to the new overlord. In the North, Seleucus I died at the hands of an assassin in 281 BC, and his son, Antiochus I, began ruling in his place. Antiochus I died in 262 BC 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 in about 250 BC, which was sealed, in accordance with common practise, by the marriage of Ptolemy II's daughter, Berenice, to Antiochus II, who for the purpose, divorced his wife Laodice, by whom he had had two sons.

‘She will not retain the strength of her arm.’ When Ptolemy II died in 246 BC, Antiochus II took back his first wife, Laodice, whom he had divorced in order to marry Berenice.

‘And neither will he stand, nor his arm.’ Laodice then rewarded him by poisoning him in order to secure her position, and gaining control over his supporters (‘his arm’), briefly ruled in his place.

‘She will be given up.’ In order to gain revenge and secure her son’s right to the throne, Laodice (or her sons) then had Berenice and the infant son that she had borne to Antiochus murdered, together with ‘those who brought her, and he who begat her, and he who strengthened her in those times’. This refers to the courtiers who had accompanied Berenice from Egypt. ‘He who begat her’ is probably the one who became her guardian after the death of her father (‘begat’ is often used loosely from our viewpoint). He may also be the strengthener, or she may have had a court favourite. All were killed so as to ensure no repercussions

Her son, Seleucus II, then succeeded his father, Antiochus II, and ruled over the Syrian empire commencing in 246 BC.


Verse 7

‘But out of a shoot from her roots one will stand up in his place, who will come to the army and will enter into the fortress of the king of the north, and will deal with them and will prevail.’

But those who perpetrated these evil deeds were themselves dealt with, for Berenice’s brother Ptolemy III, Euergetes, ‘a shoot from the ancestry of Berenice’, came against their army, seized their main fortress, and totally subjugated them.


Verse 8

‘And he will stand (refrain) some years from the king of the north.’ He then left Seleucus II alone for some years, having made a treaty with him.


Verse 9

‘And he will come into the land of the king of the south, but he will return to his own land.’

Eventually Seleucus II counterattacked in around 240BC, but unsuccessfully, and had to withdraw defeated.


Verse 10

Antiochus III (father of Antiochus Epiphanes) (Daniel 11:10-19).

‘And his sons will be stirred up (or ‘will strive’ or ‘will make war’) and will gather a multitude of great forces, and he will relentlessly come on, and overthrow, and pass through. And he will return and make war (or ‘be stirred up’), even to his fortress.’

First Seleucus II's son, Seleucus III, who succeeded his father on his death in 227 BC, and then when he died not many years later in 223 BC, his brother Antiochus III, were ‘kings of the north’. Both of these sons sought to restore the glory of the Syrian empire, and they mustered their forces and went out raiding in various directions. Seleucus III invaded Asia Minor, and Antiochus III later attacked Egypt (‘his’ probably refers to Egypt) and the fortress was probably Gaza, giving him control of Palestine, for although Antiochus III did not invade Egypt proper, he was successful during his campaign of 219-217 BC in gaining control of Israel. Egypt's northern border had until then been Syria, but Antiochus III succeeded in driving the Egyptians, then under Ptolemy IV, back to the southern borders of Israel. He earned the epitaph "the Great" because of his military successes.

But the important thing about this was that it meant that Israel for the first time came under the control of the Syrian empire, the Seleucids. It was to be crucial to their future, especially as outlined by Daniel.


Verse 11

‘And the king of the south will be filled with fury, and will come out and fight with him, even with the king of the north, and he will set forth (‘raise’) a great multitude, and the multitude will be given into his hand.’

Angry at what had happened and in an attempt to recapture his lost territory to the north, Ptolemy IV Philopator raised a large army of infantry, cavalry and elephants, and attacked Antiochus III on the southern borders of Israel, specifically at Raphia in 217 BC on the coast road to Egypt. Initially he was successful. Antiochus was soundly defeated, and ‘the multitude was given into his hand’.


Verse 12

‘And the multitude will be lifted up, and his heart will be exalted, and he will cast down tens of thousands, but he will not prevail (‘be strong’).’

Ptolemy IV’ successful army were elated, and Ptolemy himself was filled with pride at his achievement, as his army slaughtered the enemy and put them to flight, but Ptolemy was dissolute and lazy and did not pursue his advantage even though he killed many Syrians. He would never really be a conqueror. His forces did, however, regain all of Palestine.


Verse 13

‘And the king of the north will return, and will raise a multitude greater than the former, and he will come on at the end of the times, even years, with a great army and much substance.’

Kings like Antiochus III lived to fight and conquer. Thus on his defeat he returned to his land and gathered another, even larger army, and sought victories in other directions, to the east and the north. In this he was successful and his army grew large and powerful and became well armed with weapons of war (‘much substance’). So after some years, having made an alliance with Philip of Macedon, he renewed his attack on Egypt.

‘At the end of the times, even years.’ This does not mean that ‘times’ always means years. It was, however, true in this case. (Had it always meant years it would not have had to be explained).


Verse 14

‘And in those times many will rise up against the king of the south. Also the sons of those who make a breach among your people will lift themselves up to establish the vision. But they will fall.’

Antiochus was now in league with Philip of Macedon, and may well have been in touch with Egyptian dissidents and foreign mercenaries in Egypt. The ‘many’ probably also includes some of his subject peoples. So it was a powerful force that went forward. ‘The sons of those who make a breach among your people’ were possibly Hellenizers or dissenters among Israel who were keen to support Antiochus, hoping for his support in return. Their aim was probably to make their vision of a Hellenised Israel a reality. But they never achieved their vision. ‘They fell.’ Antiochus in fact was welcomed by the people of Jerusalem and renewed all the old rights.


Verse 15

‘So the king of the north will come, and throw up siege works, and take a well-fenced city. And the arms of the south will not withstand, nor the people of his choice, nor will there be any strength to withstand.’

Most see this as a reference to the capture of Sidon by Antiochus. The boy king Ptolemy V, who had succeeded his father, had sent one of his best generals to oppose him, but the Egyptian forces were defeated at the headwaters of the Jordan (near the Biblical Dan) and eventually surrendered at Sidon.

‘The arms of the south will not withstand, nor the people of his choice, nor will there be any strength to withstand.’ The ‘arms’ denote strength. Here the Egyptians were not strong enough. ‘The people of his choice’ are probably his finest and best warriors selected to deal with the attack.


Verse 16

‘But he who comes against him will do according to his own will, and none will stand before him. And he will stand in the land of Desire and in his hand will be destruction (‘finishing’).’

Antiochus’ advance into Palestine was irresistible. The Egyptian forces could not hold him back, and Israel suffered as a consequence as he finished off the Egyptian forces there. This was inevitable as they were caught between two forces, although once Antiochus was secure he showed them great favour.

‘The land of Desire’. This was Israel.


Verse 17

‘And he will set his face to come with the strength of his whole kingdom, and upright ones with him, and he will do his pleasure, and he will give him the daughter of women to corrupt her, but she will not stand, nor be for him.’

Antiochus came against Egypt with all his strength, including ‘upright ones’. This may represent Israelites who in the Psalms are often thought of as ‘the upright’. Alternately the word may mean ‘equitable conditions’ and refer to an agreement. Either way he did make an alliance and offered his daughter Cleopatra in marriage to the boy Pharaoh. His hope was to ‘corrupt her’, that is make her act in a way not fitting for a wife by desiring her to betray her husband. But Cleopatra in fact refused to cooperate and was thenceforth faithful to her husband. She no doubt felt that her future lay in Egypt and that it was in her interests.


Verse 18

‘After this he will turn his face to the coastlands and will take many, but a prince will cause the reproach offered by him to cease. Yes, moreover, he will make his reproach turn on him.’

This probably refers mainly to the coastlands of Asia Minor, although he did enter Greek territory, but his activities attracted the attention of Rome. Lucius Scipio Asiaticus drove him back into Asia Minor and defeated him at Magnesia in 190 BC.

‘Yes, moreover, he will make his reproach turn on him.’ The terms of peace were humiliating. He had to yield all of Asia Minor except Cilicia, to surrender his war elephants and his navy, to hand over certain important refugees, and to send twenty hostages to Rome, one of which was his son Antiochus (later to be Epiphanes). He was also required to pay an enormous indemnity. It was in attempting to raise funds for this purpose that he was killed by angry citizens when he was attempting to rob a temple at Elymais in 187 BC.


Verse 19

‘Then he will turn his face towards the fortresses of his own land, but he will stumble and fall and will not be found.’

In view of his current weakness dissent broke out at home and he had to deal with it by force, subduing fortresses in his own land. And then came his ignominious end described above.


Verse 20

‘Then will stand up in his place one who will cause an exactor to pass through the glory of the kingdom, but within few days he will be destroyed, neither in anger nor in battle.’

This was Antiochus III’s elder son, Seleucus IV, who succeeded his father. He taxed his people, including Israel, so heavily to pay the Roman indemnity that he was poisoned, by his prime minister, Heliodorus. Heliodorus was probably the exactor that Seleucus sent through "the jewel (glory) of his kingdom," that is, Israel, collecting taxes, and with the special intention of robbing the temple treasury (2 Maccabees 3:7). So Seleucus IV did not die through mob violence, as his father did, nor did he die in battle. Rather he died from poison.

‘Within few days’, that is, within a comparatively short time of his blasphemous activity.


Verses 20-44

Antiochus Epiphanes - The Scourge of Israel.

Apart from Daniel 11:20, the remaining verses in the chapter deal with the life of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, second son of Antiochus III, who usurped the throne from his brother’s son, Demetrius, and persecuted Israel, leading on into a mysterious figure who will appear at the end of time (Daniel 11:40). Antiochus IV is the ‘horn of littleness’ of Daniel 8:23-25, while the mysterious figure is the ‘horn, the small one’ of Daniel 7:24-26.


Verse 21

‘And in his place will stand up a contemptible person, to whom they had not given the honour of the kingdom. But he will come in time of security and will obtain the kingdom by flatteries.’

‘A contemptible person.’ On Seleucus’ death the throne rightly belonged to one of his sons, Demetrius,who had been sent as hostage to Rome so that his brother Antiochus could be released. To his sons belonged ‘the honour of the kingdom’. But Antiochus, a master of intrigue, took the opportunity provided by his absence to persuade the leaders of Syria, who were no doubt affected by the forces of the king of Pergamum which were put at Antiochus’ disposal, to allow him to rule since Demetrius, the eldest son of Seleucus IV, was being held hostage in Rome. In this way, through intrigue, he secured the throne for himself.


Verse 22

‘And with the arms of a flood will they be swept away from before him, and will be broken. Yes, even the prince of the covenant.’

Antiochus IV swept away all opposition from before him, overflowing them with an overwhelming flood, breaking them like a broken vessel. This included the Israelite high priest, Onias III, who was opposed to him, here called "the prince (nagid) of the covenant." Onias was in Antioch on affairs of state when Seleucus was assassinated. And it was while he was there that Antiochus deposed him by selling the high priesthood to the highest bidder, first to Jason, Onias’ brother, and then to Menelaus who outbid him. Onias was thrust aside, although still recognised as the true high priest by the faithful in Israel. ‘Negid berith’ was by now probably a technical term for the true high priest who was also political leader of his people. Outside the book of Daniel ‘nagid’ in the singular always refers to the prince of Israel in relation to the covenant. (See introduction to Daniel 9:24).

Another view suggested is that Ptolemy VI was "the prince of the covenant" since Antiochus later made a treaty with him. But the term ‘covenant’ in Daniel regularly means the holy covenant (Daniel 11:28; Daniel 11:30; Daniel 11:32; Daniel 9:4), and other alliances are described differently (Daniel 11:6; Daniel 11:17; Daniel 11:23). Nor is the king of the south likely suddenly to be called a nagid. Whereas we can quite understand that the writer wants us to be aware of Antiochus’ treachery against Israel right from the start.


Verse 23

‘And from the time that a league is made with him he will work deceitfully, for he will come up and become strong with a small people.’

This probably refers to his behaviour with Israel. He removed Onias and made his agreement with Jason, the replacement high priest (2 Maccabees 4:7-22), and then rescinded it in favour of a higher bidder, Menelaus (2 Maccabees 4:23-29). This was then followed by his later treacherous behaviour towards Israel when his general slaughtered many of them on the Sabbath (when most would not fight), having professed to come in peace. Less likely is that it refers to his later alliance with Egypt (see Daniel 11:25), for then we would expect mention of the king of the south. The Egyptian king was now Ptolemy VI, whom he would deceive, wooing him and the Egyptian people with friendship, and then defeating them, but this is mentioned below. This was in accordance with his normal treacherous behaviour. He believed in winning friendship, and then following it with betrayal when it suited him. Or the verse may be outlining the general principles on which he worked.

‘He will come up and become strong with a small people.’ This may be describing his general rise to power as a result of his various activities. Syria was by now fairly small, but he was gradually expanding his power base. But the ‘small people’ may refer to his support within Israel from the Hellenisers who were not at this time large in numbers, which enabled him to be accepted there.


Verse 24

‘In time of security will he come even on the fattest places of the province, and he will do what his fathers have not done, nor his fathers’ fathers. He will scatter among them prey, and spoil, and substance. Yes he will devise his devices against the strongholds, even for a time.’

This continues to describe his methods. He was unlike his ancestors. They were straight conquerors, winning position and wealth in battle. But he worked differently. While things were at rest he would enter the wealthiest and finest parts of the province and distributes bribes and gifts, and also win the favour of those in charge of strongholds. Thus he wooed for himself many friends in important positions over a period of time before carrying out his grosser activities. The comparison with his ancestors is disapproving, depicting his exceptional deceitfulness. All kings offered bribes, and all kings involved themselves in intrigue, but Antiochus had it down to a fine art.

‘In time of security.’ Compare Daniel 11:21. He took advantage of other people’s amicability and contentment to obtain his own way. It is when people are least thoughtful of danger that they are most in danger from deceitful enemies. This is a lesson for us too in our spiritual lives.


Verse 25-26

‘And he will stir up his power and his courage against the king of the south with a great army, and the king of the south will war in battle with an exceeding great and mighty army, but he will not stand, for they will devise devices against him. Yes, those who eat of his meat portion will destroy him. And his army will be overflowed and many will fall down slain.’

Once Antiochus felt he was strong enough, he took his courage in his hands and in 170 BC marched against Egypt. He was able to get all the way to the Nile Delta before the Egyptians discovered that he was approaching. Notice how Antiochus' deceptiveness is highlighted. By subtlety and bribery he was exercising a great deal of influence in Egypt, usually pretending to be a friend and then using people for his own advantage, and he inflicted a defeat on Ptolemy, partly as a result of the divisions he had caused. Ptolemy’s large army was routed, and many men were killed. Notice the stressed contrast in the size of armies, but what Antiochus lacked in men, he made up for by trickery and bribery. He was an arch-deceiver, like the Anti-God who would appear at the end of time.

‘Those who ate his meat portion.’ Ptolemy had been advised by bad advisers, and when they saw that Ptolemy’s position seemed hopeless these men turned to a rival king, Ptolemy’s brother, whom they crowned as Ptolemy VII. The result could only be civil war. By eating his meat portion they had professed to be faithful servants to the king of the south, so that they above all should have supported him, and yet it was they who plotted to destroy him.


Verse 27

‘And as for both these kings, their hearts will be to do mischief, and they will speak lies at one table. But it will not prosper, for yet the end will be at the time appointed.’

Ptolemy now turned to Antiochus who offered him assistance against his rival, even though that rivalry was partly fostered by Antiochus, and he met with Antiochus who professed to be willing to help him, although only for his own ends. They met in ‘friendship’, eating food together, a sign of commitment and integrity. But in fact both were equally dishonest, both acting only for their own ends, and with no intention of benefiting the other. (Ptolemy had learned quickly). But whatever their plans were, they would fail. The time of Antiochus’ end was already appointed by God, and nothing could delay it.


Verse 28

‘Then he will return to his own land with great substance, and his heart will be against the holy covenant. And he will do his pleasure and return to his own land.’

His mission to Egypt having been mainly successful he returned to his own land loaded with treasures. But news had reached Israel that Antiochus had been killed in Egypt, and Jason, deciding that it was a good time to regain the high priesthood, entered Jerusalem, killing many of his fellow Israelites without mercy. However his attempt was unsuccessful and he had to flee into exile.

Meanwhile Antiochus had heard of these events and decided to teach Israel a lesson. He took Jerusalem by force of arms and slaughtered many (1 Maccabees 1:20-28; 2 Maccabees 5:11-12). Then guided by Menelaus he entered the temple itself (‘against the holy covenant’) and looted it (‘he did his own pleasure’). From now on he was a man marked by God.


Verse 29-30

‘At the time appointed he will return and come into the south, but it will not be in the latter time as it was in the former. For ships of Kittim will come against him.’

We are not being given the whole history of war between Egypt and Syria and some of it is now skipped over. What mattered to the author was the parts that affected God’s purposes. For what now took place was at the appointed time. Antiochus’ destiny was in God’s hands.

He thought once more to invade Egypt (in 168 BC), and at first met with success, reaching Alexandria, but then he met up with the power that had destroyed his father, the might of the fourth empire, represented here by the might of Rome. Before this he could do nothing.

‘Ships of Kittim.’ Compare Numbers 24:24. Kittim in fact denotes Cyprus, from which possibly some of the Roman fleet sailed, although it may only be that it represented ‘the Roman world across the seas’, Cyprus being the nearest point known to them. So this was in fact the Romans (LXX reads ‘and the Romans will come’) under Gaeus Popilius Linus who sailed to Egypt to prevent his activities. Egypt had clearly made some kind of treaty with Rome. He met with Antiochus and demanded that he should withdraw and did so in a humiliating way. He had no doubts that Antiochus would do so.

Antiochus was furious, but he had no option except to withdraw, for he was no match for Rome, and, determined to avenge himself on the annoying people who were continually thwarting his wishes, and to seize further treasures, he turned his anger on Israel.


Verse 30

‘Therefore he will be grieved, and will return, and have indignation against the holy covenant, and will do his pleasure. He will even return and have regard to those who forsake the holy covenant.’

Behind this there is a history. Threatened by both Rome, who had destroyed his father, and Egypt who at times of strength constantly had their eyes northwards, he had determined to unify his empire round Hellenistic culture, including the worship of the Greek gods, which included himself as the manifestation of Zeus, (depicted on his coins), and sought every means of building up his treasury, plundering a number of temples in the cause. He took more seriously what others before him had claimed.

Internal dissension among the Jews, largely about Hellenisation and who should be high priest, meant that all parties had looked for assistance to Antiochus, for he was the one with authority to determine the situation. He had thus appointed first Jason and then Menelaus as high priest. These had promised among other things to ensure the Hellenisation of Israel. A gymnasium, with all its connections with Greek religion, had been set up in Jerusalem, and many Israelites had participated willingly in these attempts. There was thus in Israel divided loyalty, those on the one side who had political ascendancy and who favoured Hellenisation, who were looked on as abandoning the Mosaic Law, and those who on the other hand sought faithfulness to God’s covenant.

Thus the Hellenisation, which at first seemed outwardly to be on its way to success, did not take hold, and Antiochus no doubt looked on the people as obstinate troublemakers and intransigent. So he now determined to enforce his will and collect from them further tribute at the same time.

He sent one of his generals, Apollonius, who approached Jerusalem in seemingly friendly fashion, but then took advantage of the Sabbath, fell on the city, looting and burning, and slaughtered many Israelites. This was in support of the Hellenisers. ‘He had regard to those who forsake the holy covenant’.

They then rebuilt a fortress in Jerusalem to contain the king’s treasures seized from the Israelites, which was from then on occupied by a strong force, and was in order to enforce the king’s will. The king also practically forbade the practise of Judaism, suspending regular sacrifices, destroying copies of the Scriptures and forbidding circumcision and the observance of the Sabbath. Moreover he demanded that all without exception were to offer sacrifices to Zeus (see the Jewish histories 1 Maccabees 1:41-64; 2 Maccabees 6:1-11).


Verse 31

‘And arms will stand on his part, and they will profane the sanctuary, even the fortress, and will take away that which is continual, and they will set up the Abomination that Appals.’

These activities were then followed by the setting of sentries in the temple itself, (‘arms will stand on his part, and they will profane the sanctuary’), and finally the erection of an altar to Zeus in the temple, on which he sacrificed a pig, an ‘Abomination that Appals’, to all Israelites a Desolating Horror. It was the Horror to end all Horrors. This latter took place in December 167 BC. Like his father, who had died in the attempt, he considered that he could do what he liked and get away with it. Compare for all this Daniel 8:10-13.

‘Will take away that which is continual.’ The sabbaths, the feasts, the morning and evening sacrifice, the regular temple worship, and all regularly connected with it were banned.

‘The Abomination that Appals’ (The Abomination that Desolates). Jesus would later apply this picture to the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD (Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14; and put in terms the Gentiles could understand, Luke 21:20).


Verse 32

‘And such as do wickedly against the covenant will he pervert by flatteries. But the people who know their God will be strong and will so act. And those who are wise among the people will instruct many. Yet they will fall by the sword, and by flame, and by imprisonment, and by being spoiled, for many days.’

Jerusalem was still divided. While some of the Hellenisers, those ‘who did wickedly against the covenant’, may have been shaken, they allowed themselves to be talked round and were willing to cooperate in what was happening. As usual bribery and flattery, including political advancement, were utilised and soon did away with their doubts.

‘But the people who know their God will be strong and will so act.’ The persecution spread throughout the whole of the land. Everywhere the decrees were enforced by violent means. To circumcise a new born child meant death. The Scriptures were burned. People were forced to sacrifice to Zeus. Violation of the Sabbath was enforced. And many reluctantly yielded. It was something that Israel had never experienced before.

But it was to have an effect that none living at the time could have foreseen. Those who truly knew God stood firm. Many fled into hiding so that they would not have to give way. Others who had been tolerant to Hellenisation, and had done nothing about it, now recognised its evil effects and were aroused against it. Their faith was purified. And a people who had been unresisting now thought only in terms of resistance.

‘And those who are wise among the people will instruct many. Yet they will fall by the sword, and by flame, and by imprisonment, and by being spoiled, for many days.’ Brave and faithful men of God with an understanding of God’s word moved around encouraging the people to stand firm and teaching them from the Scriptures, and many found that their faith was strengthened and was becoming alive again as never before. The true Israel was being revived. But there was a cost. There were daily executions. people were burned alive. Others were imprisoned and made slaves. When found the teachers were summarily dealt with.

It is doubtful if by ‘wise’ we are to see reference to a particular group. The wise were those who were faithful to the covenant, those who obeyed God (Deuteronomy 32:29; Psalms 14:2; Psalms 53:2; Psalms 119:99). It is ‘the fear of Yahweh that is the beginning of wisdom’.


Verse 34-35

‘Now when they shall fall they will be helped with a little help. But many will join themselves to them with flatteries. And some of those who are wise will fall, to refine them, and to purify them, and to make them white, even to the time of the end, because it is yet for the time appointed.’

In the light of the previous verse those who fall are surely those who die under the persecution. In the period of their testing they will receive ‘a little help’ from God. They will not be delivered like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego or Daniel were, but they will be helped none-the-less. Meanwhile they will be joined by others who will flatter them and seek to talk them round, seeking to win them from their seeming folly, but they will not listen, and so many will fall. But the purpose behind their fall is that they might be purified, and made white, and this will be true for all who fall until the end. This is a call for endurance. Their hope is in God. They await the resurrection (Daniel 12:2).

And this will go on ‘even to the time of the end’. Thus what now follows applies to ‘the time of the end’ (see Daniel 11:40; Daniel 12:4; Daniel 12:9).

(Many interpret the reference to the little help as referring to Judas Maccabaeus, but that was the beginning of a new era in the purposes of God, while this is seeking to produce fortitude in the face of coming events, even to the time of the end. We cannot therefore accept that interpretation while recognising gladly that God did turn events round).


Verse 36

‘And the king will do according to his will, and he will exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and will speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and he will prosper until the indignation be accomplished. For that which is determined shall be done.’

That this king is a parallel, and more, of Antiochus must be granted, but to say that there is no change of subject is unwarranted. Antiochus, the bogus ‘king’, has been replaced by a true king. Antiochus’ persecution had been the time of the end of the indignation against Israel described in chapter 8. Here this king is the end of the indignation against the people of God at the end of time. We have a similar comparison to that between the two horns in chapter 8 and chapter 7. There is a similarity but they are not the same.

The king of the end time ‘will do according to his will’, just like the mighty king had done in Daniel 11:3 and the invincible king of the north had done in Daniel 11:16. Both those kings were called ‘the Great’. So here is another to be called ‘the Great’. But both had been humbled. So here was another one to be humbled.

‘And he will exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and will speak marvellous things against the God of gods.’ Antiochus had likened himself to Zeus, king of the gods, but so had others before him. He merely exalted himself as some other kings had in the past. But this one goes even higher, he exalts himself above the God of the gods. To Daniel this can only refer to Yahweh. But Antiochus had not even considered Yahweh. He had dismissed him as a local god. However, this one knows Yahweh and opposes Him. He challenges the Most High (2 Thessalonians 2:4).

We should note that while Antiochus did take his belief in his own divinity very seriously, it must have taken a very serious blow when the Roman general made him stand in a ring, and would not allow him to step out of it until he had agreed to leave Egypt. It is difficult to believe that after that he could think of himself as so exalted, and even less that his army could.

‘And he will prosper until the indignation be accomplished. For that which is determined shall be done.’ As the indignation against Israel was removed from the holy remnant by the purifying which took place through the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes, so will the indignation of God against His people again be removed by the persecutions in the end days. We have no right to put this all on physical Israel. There is little doubt that God is also indignant about the behaviour of the church of Christ. They too need to be purified. And the king of the end days will prosper until that is accomplished (may even be prospering now). For God’s determined purpose must be fulfilled.


Verse 37

‘Nor will he regard the gods of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god, for he will magnify himself above all.’

This one will thrust aside any gods connected with his family, or his forebears, nor will he follow any gods or goddesses or aspects of the occult, that women particularly desire after (compare Ezekiel 8:14), nor will he regard any god. He will magnify himself above them all. The list is complete. He is the great Anti-God. We are reminded here of the one in Revelation who, observing the destruction of Babylon, demanded sole worship (Revelation 17:11; Revelation 17:13; Revelation 17:17; Revelation 19:19).


Verse 38-39

‘But in his place he will honour the god of fortresses, and he will honour a god whom his fathers did not know, with gold, and silver, and with precious stones, and pleasant things. And he will deal with the strongest fortresses by the help of a foreign god. Whoever acknowledges him he will increase with glory. And he will cause them to rule over many, and will divide the land for a price.’

In the place of ‘any god’ he will honour the god of fortresses. Might and power will be his god, for he sees himself as a god and wants all men to look to him, and he seeks that all precious things might be offered to him, and accumulates them for himself. He is the god whom his fathers did not know, the god who is ‘foreign’, the one of whom the like has not been known, he is unique compared with all gods that went before. And in order to enjoy that might and power he will reward those who aid him, and increase the status of all who acknowledge his divinity. They will be given authority, position, land and status. All this depicts the great Anti-God.

(These descriptions go far beyond anything Antiochus said or dreamed of for himself. His thoughts were very much rooted in the gods he knew, over whom he saw himself reigning as Zeus).


Verse 40-41

‘And at the time of the end the king of the south will butt at him (or gore him - the word depicts the attack of a wild animal), and the king of the north will come against him like a whirlwind with chariots, and with horsemen and with many ships, and he will enter into the countries, and will overflow and pass through. He will enter also into the glorious land, and many countries will be overthrown. But these will be delivered out of his hand, Edom and Moab and the chief of the children of Ammon.’

‘In the time of the end.’ It is quite clear that this is the end day empire of chapter 7. A greater than Antiochus is here. For him Egypt and Rome hold no fears. When Egypt attacks like a wild animal, he amasses huge forces both on land and sea with all the latest armaments. He swamps the Near East. No countries can prevent his passing, including the glorious land, Israel (this would be especially significant today).

That this could not signify Antiochus is quite clear. The Roman might had ensured once and for all that he leave Egypt alone. There is no way that the author would even in vision have depicted him as becoming so powerful in both men and ships that he could sweep Rome to one side.

But this verse does not depict this great king as facing the combined might of the kings of the south and the north. The description of the forces of the king of the north makes clear that he is that king. And today, as through the centuries, those nations north of Palestine (i.e. that come through it from the north when they invade) are the semi-tamed part of the world from which even today our threats all come. They are a maelstrom of warfare (they worship the god of fortresses). This might be pure coincidence, or it may be very significant, only the future will tell.

But why should Edom, Moab and the chief of the children of Ammon be delivered out of his hand? The answer is probably in order to indicate that parts of the widespread area in which he operates will escape his attentions. It may also be because they will be unwanted territories. East and south of the Jordan in barren wilderness they hold no interest for this mighty king. They are too small to bother with. (If we literalise it, it may even suggest that Jordan will be neutral).

Alternately the thought may be that they have in a cowardly way made peace with the tyrant, willingly submitting themselves to his yoke, thus being treated as allies and not a conquered people, benefiting from the distress of others, just as Edom did in the days of Nebuchadnezzar, something for which Israel never forgave them.

But while containing some literal significance, all this is also symbolic of the distant future. After all it represents a world that Daniel could have no conception of. Today Edom, Moab and Ammon are no longer there. The Near East is no longer the centre of the world. So this may be seen as depicting the warfare and violence that will characterise the whole of the period of the fourth empire, the apocalyptic empire, a world under the influence of Satan. Everything is subject to his control, apart from the people of God. (As with much prophecy it probably contains both literal and spiritual elements).


Verse 42

‘He will stretch forth his hand also on all countries, and the land of Egypt will not escape. But he will have power over the treasures of gold and silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt. And the Libyans and Ethiopians will be at his steps.’

All the countries of the Near East will be subject to him, and this will extend as far as Egypt, Libya and Ethiopia. These are probably to be seen as the three horns taken by ‘the horn, the small one’ in Daniel 7:20. The treasures of the Near East will be his, and the treasures of Egypt were proverbial. The fourth empire, the apocalyptic empire, is being re-established.

In the case of the nations amassed to go against Israel in Ezekiel 38 Jordan and Arabia were onlookers (Ezekiel 38:13), not participants. The same is the case here in Daniel. But the remainder of the Near East become one empire, including Lybia and Ethiopia, and at length mass against Israel. There may be some literal truth here, for these are all mainly Muslim countries, and it may be that they could produce a leader who will see himself as semi-divine, as did the Mahdi in Sudan. But in the end we should look wider than this for Daniel is seeking to depict the end time empire.

For in Ezekiel the picture is of the nations from remote places of the known world amassed against God’s people in the days leading up to the everlasting kingdom, and the Israel is not an earthly Israel as such, for it dwells safe and secure from these mighty foes in unwalled cities, as the people of God protected by God and therefore untouchable (compare Revelation 7). It symbolises a world, and Satan, at enmity with the people of God, and the people of God secure in the hands of God where none can hurt them. It is similar in picture to that of Revelation in Revelation 20:7-9 where the camp of God’s people, a worldwide camp, is also protected by God, which is also at the end of time.

Thus we are probably to see this picture in Daniel as summing up the same situation in vivid symbolism. On one side the Kingly Rule of God, on the other the world going its own way in rebellion against Him.


Verse 44

‘But tidings out of the east and out of the north will trouble him, and he will go forth with great fury to destroy and utterly to make away many, and he will plant the tents of his palace (his palatial tents) between the sea and the mountain of the delight of holiness. Yet he will come to his end and none will help him.’

His god is the god of fortresses, and he wars to the end. But Satan’s kingdom is divided. The world fight each other as well as the people of God. Yet in the end he cannot get away from his conflict with the people of God. He plants his palatial tents between the sea(s) and the glorious holy mountain.

‘The seas.’ This is plural. It may be a plural of intensity and thus be depicting the Great Sea, the Mediterranean. Or it may signify between the Great Sea and the Dead Sea.

This site is ever the site where the last great events on earth are depicted (Joel 3:2; Joel 3:12; Isaiah 2:2; Zechariah 14:2). Is the mountain of the delight of holiness the new heavenly Jerusalem? Or is it the high mountain on which Ezekiel saw in vision the heavenly temple, that site which he saw as especially holy and surrounded by an especially holy portion of land? Or is it both, representing in the end the heavenly temple and the new Jerusalem? (Ezekiel’s temple is specifically stated not to be in Jerusalem, but many miles away from it. The pictures cannot be the same literally. But are they meant to be literal? Certainly Ezekiel’s is a visionary temple with no suggestion that it should be built).

And there he meets his final end with none to help him, for they are in no position to do so (Revelation 19:11-21).

(It should be noted that there is in all this no limitation in period. The seventieth seven is really dealing with the future, after the death of the Messiah, for the people of God. The desolations mentioned in it are part of the desolations that the world continually faces. But we have no right to ‘fit everything in’ to our picture. To do so is to restrict God. This prophecy must stand on its own).

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Daniel 11:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/daniel-11.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, October 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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