Dan 11:1 "Also in the first year of Darius the Mede, I, even I, stood up to confirm and strengthen him.)
This verse seems to belong to the end of the previous chapter; the chapter division was probably incorrectly put here because it has a phrase that usually appears at the beginning of chapters:
In the first year of Darius the Mede
So the end of the previous chapter should read:
But I will shew thee that which is noted in the scripture of truth: and there is none that holdeth with me in these things, but Michael your prince. [Chapter break]"Also in the first year of Darius the Mede, I, even I, stood up to confirm and strengthen him. - Dan 10:21-11:1
Therefore, this should be taken as Gabriel strengthening Michael as opposed to Darius.
Stephen Miller, in the New American Commentary, says of this:
“In 10:13, 21 it is revealed that Michael had helped the interpreting angel; now in 11:1 Gabriel related that he had supported and protected Michael. The first year of Darius42 the Mede was ca. 538 B.C., two years before this vision. Gabriel's awesome power is evidenced by the fact that he was called on to “support” Michael”1
Dan 11:2 And now I will tell you the truth: Behold, three more kings will arise in Persia, and the fourth shall be far richer than them all; by his strength, through his riches, he shall stir up all against the realm of Greece.
Three more kings will arise in Persia
Three more kings did arise in Persia, but as discussed in the commentary on Daniel 9:1, there were also co-ruling Median kings who account for the discrepancies in some kings lists by historians. Failing to understand that there were often two kings at a given time ruling over the Medo-Persian Empire has caused a number of problems for bible commentators as well as secular historians, but these problems are perfectly reconciled when this is understood.
The fourth shall be far richer than them all; by his strength, through his riches, he shall stir up all against the realm of Greece.
The fourth king mentioned here is clearly Xerxes I, and this is a very accurate way for the angel to describe him in advance.
By his strength and riches, he raised an army so big that the number of soldiers that Herodotus gave for it is questioned by modern scholars because of how high it is. He used this army to advance on Greece. This began with the famous battle of Thermopylae, portrayed often in movies where 300 Spartan soldiers put up a good fight, though ultimately losing to the massive Persian army.
I think it’s fascinating the way that scripture describes the main thing that Xerxes did: he simply stirred up Greece. The reason this is interesting is first, because that’s all he really did to the Greeks. He ultimately did not conquer them at all. But second, it was the stirring up of Greece that gave rise to Alexander the Great. It is very unlikely that Alexander would have done what he did when he did if Xerxes had not stirred up Greece.
After the battle of Thermopylae, Xerxes entered the deserted city of Athens and burned it, an act that outraged the Greeks, as that was considered a war crime of sorts in those conditions. Some say that Xerxes did it in a fit of rage and realized his mistake and tried to rebuild it the next day, but whatever happened, it certainly became a huge part of the anti-Persian sentiment in Greece after that.
Xerxes had all kinds of problems with storms and other factors, which eventually resulted in his retreat, but the hatred of the Persians by the Greeks after this war was at a consistent fever pitch.
And as soon as Alexander the Great took power in Greece, his hatred of Persia led him to immediately march toward Persia in a military campaign that would literally change the course of human history.
So when scripture tells us that the main act of Xerxes was that he stirred up Greece, it is no small matter.
As we move to the next verse, we will see that this idea is validated, as the next prophecy that the angel gives is of Alexander the Great.
Dan 11:3 Then a mighty king shall arise, who shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will.
Dan 11:4 And when he has arisen, his kingdom shall be broken up and divided toward the four winds of heaven, but not among his posterity nor according to his dominion with which he ruled; for his kingdom shall be uprooted, even for others besides these.
This mighty king who arose is universally agreed upon to be Alexander the Great, who defeated the Persian Empire and began the Greek Empire. One of the reasons that we can be so sure that this is speaking of him is because of the details given in verse 4, which states that his kingdom will not be given to his descendants, as was the custom, but divided up among four non-descendants.
This of course happened because Alexander died at age 33, and though he had two sons, they were too young to rule, and were later assassinated anyway.
Alexander did not name a successor on his deathbed, instead only saying to “give it to the strong”. This led to a 22-year war among his generals, which eventually ended with a peace treaty dividing the empire between four of them.
Note: Seleucus = Seleucus I Nicator (r. 312-280 BC), Ptolemy = Ptolemy I Soter (r. 323-282 BC)2
Verse 4 also notes that this dividing would not be according to his dominion with which he ruled. In other words, it wouldn’t look exactly like the kingdom Alexander had left, and that was true as well. After the 22 years of war, there developed many changes in the boundaries of the Greek Empire. For example, the vast area that Alexander controlled to the east of Syria had almost all been lost.
Dan 11:5 "Also the king of the South shall become strong, as well as one of his princes; and he shall gain power over him and have dominion. His dominion shall be a great dominion.
The king of the South is a reference to one of Alexander’s four generals: Ptolemy I Soter. He was one of Alexander’s greatest generals, and when the dust settled after the wars, he controlled the prized territory of Egypt and the surrounding lands, which, from here on out, I will refer to as either the king of the South or by the technical name of the kingdom which derives from his name, that is the Ptolemaic Empire.
One of his princes; and he shall gain power over him and have dominion. His dominion shall be a great dominion.
This is a reference to Seleucus I Nicator, another of the original generals of the four divisions of the Greek Empire mentioned earlier . We also call his division by his proper name today, that is the Seleucid Empire.
It says in verse 5 that Selucus was one of Ptolemy’s princes or commanders before getting his own kingdom, and this is true.
During the turbulent years of the wars between these generals, before it was at all clear who would rule what, Selucus, a lesser former general of Alexander’s, was put over the city of Babylon as a satrap, kind of like a mayor or governor.
But, as was so often the case during these 22 years of war, Antingonus, another one of Alexander’s generals, seized Babylon. Selucus, the satrap, fled toward Egypt after this takeover and became one of the king of the South’s (Ptolemy’s) princes or commanders.
About four years later, Ptolomy, with the help of Selucus, went back to Babylon and defeated Antigonus, who by that time had built up the northern kingdom pretty well. So when Ptolemy gave Selucus back the northern lands, he was giving him a good-sized kingdom. Selucus then enlarged it even more, eventually making it, as it says in verse 5, a larger dominion than Ptolemy’s.
The two kingdoms lived in peace for some time, but eventually Selucus to the north claimed dominion over the hotly contested lands of Israel and the surrounding lands which lay between the two empires. This sparked hostilities between the two nations, which would eventually result in 130 years of war between these two divisions of the Greek empire.
The next 15 or so verses in Daniel detail the wars between them. Israel would always be controlled by the empire which had the most power at the time.
Dan 11:6 And at the end of some years they shall join forces, for the daughter of the king of the South shall go to the king of the North to make an agreement; but she shall not retain the power of her authority, and neither he nor his authority shall stand; but she shall be given up, with those who brought her, and with him who begot her, and with him who strengthened her in those times.
The two kings, Ptolemy I and Selucus I, died, and their sons basically started some wars which were based on their fathers’ dispute over control of the lands surrounding Israel, in what is known as the first and second Syrian wars.
And at the end of some years they shall join forces
After the second Syrian war, they joined forces by coming to terms in a peace treaty which stipulated that Berenice, the daughter of the king of the South, was to marry the king of the North, who at this time was Ptolemy I’s grandson Antiochus II Theos.
The problem was that Antiochus II already had a wife named Laodice. Antiochus II, however, exiled her to Ephesus and transferred the right to succeed him to the sons of his new wife as per the peace treaty.
She shall not retain the power of her authority, and neither he nor his authority shall stand; but she shall be given up, with those who brought her, and with him who begot her,
Berenice did not retain the power of her authority because after her father back home in Egypt died, her new husband put her away and took Laodice back.
Laodice, however, perhaps not liking that she had been exiled in the first place, when she was back in the palace poisoned her husband and told everyone that his last words were to have her son be the next ruler.
Berenice contested this and said her son should be the ruler, but Laodice had both Berenice and her infant son killed.
This killing of her son is what may be meant by the phrase “and with him who begot her” which the NET bible translates as “her child”, a translation which has support in the Greek versions of the Old Testament.
Dan 11:7 But from a branch of her roots one shall arise in his place, who shall come with an army, enter the fortress of the king of the North, and deal with them and prevail.
Dan 11:8 And he shall also carry their gods captive to Egypt, with their princes and their precious articles of silver and gold; and he shall continue more years than the king of the North.
From a branch of her roots one shall arise in his place
This came to pass when Berenice’s brother back in Egypt, Ptolemy III, rose to power after the death of his father.
Who shall come with an army, enter the fortress of the king of the North, and deal with them and prevail.
Ptolemy III raised a great army and attacked the king of the North to avenge his sister’s murder by Laodice. Laodice was effectively now ruling the North, though technically it was her son, Seleucus II Callinicus, who was officially on the throne.
Ptolemy’s Egyptian army crushed the Syrian armies and even captured Antioch, the capital city, and killed Laeodice. This is what is known as the third Syrian war.
And he shall also carry their gods captive to Egypt, with their princes and their precious articles of silver and gold;
Ptolemy spent a lot of time plundering the east after the war, bringing back treasures of all kinds. He made it at far as Babylon on his plundering trips, even taking things back to Egypt that were said to originally have been the property of Cambyses (Cyrus’s son). He brought so much wealth back to Egypt that they gave him the title of Euergetes, which means “Benefactor.”
The war ended with a peace treaty which awarded Ptolomy III of Egypt even more wealth. The text says he shall continue more years than the king of the North. He did. In fact, he enjoyed a 24 year reign, a very long time for the period.
Dan 11:9 "Also the king of the North shall come to the kingdom of the king of the South, but shall return to his own land.
There is some confusion as to what this verse is actually saying. Basically it’s hard to tell if this is saying that king of the North will try to invade Egypt, but return quickly, or if it is simply summing up the previous discussion by saying the king of the South will return home.
The Pulpit commentary sums the problem up nicely:
“The Septuagint Version differs less than usual from the Massoretic, "The King of Egypt shall enter into (his) kingdom certain days and return to his land." Theodotion renders, "And he shall enter into the kingdom of the king of the south, and return into his land." The Peshitta differs more, "The king of the south shall enter in strength, and turn to his own land." The Vulgate does not differ from the others. This verse, assuming the king of the south, Ptolemy Euergetes, to be the subject of the verb, merely completes the statements of the previous verse, and seems to describe the triumphant return of Euergetes into Egypt. If we take - which, however, is not so natural - the king of the north as the subject, then the reference may be to the unsuccessful attempts made by Seleucus Callinicus to invade Egypt. “ - The Pulpit Commentary
I don’t have an informed position on this, but will only say that the verse is describing a very mundane thing any way you look at it (either a return trip home, or a planned invasion by the king of the North that ends in retreat, which the next verse seems to suggest is the case), but since either way it brings us to the same place, I will take a pass on taking a stand on it.
Dan 11:10 However his sons shall stir up strife, and assemble a multitude of great forces; and one shall certainly come and overwhelm and pass through; then he shall return to his fortress and stir up strife.
The king of the North had two sons. The eldest only ruled for a few years and was assassinated by his army while on campaign. The younger son was named Antiochus III the Great. Both of these sons [stirred up strife, and assembled a multitude of great forces].
One shall certainly come and overwhelm and pass through; then he shall return to his fortress and stir up strife.
This is a reference to Antiochus III (the younger son) campaigning in Lebanon, lands that were claimed by the king of the South at the time. Though he had to return to his fortress because his attempt to take Lebanon was unsuccessful, he definitely stirred up strife when he began to plan another attack on the hotly contested region, which was claimed by the South. His actions in Lebanon sparked the reactions of the king of the South in the next verse.
Dan 11:11 "And the king of the South shall be moved with rage, and go out and fight with him, with the king of the North, who shall muster a great multitude; but the multitude shall be given into the hand of his enemy.
The king of the South, who by now was Ptolemy IV, went out to defeat the king of the North (Antiochus III), who did indeed muster a great multitude, including not just his regular forces but also 10,000 Nabateans and Arab forces. This, however, wasn’t enough because, as it says in verse 11, the multitude shall be given into the hand of his enemy. In other words, the king of the North (Antiochus III) was defeated at this great battle in 217 BC, sometimes called the battle of Raphia (southwest of modern Gaza).
Dan 11:12 When he has taken away the multitude, his heart will be lifted up; and he will cast down tens of thousands, but he will not prevail.
Though the Hebrew here is difficult, it seems this is talking about how this complete victory at Raphia made the Egyptian king proud. The Pulpit commentary suggests that the last part of this verse, speaking of him not prevailing even though he was the victor, is talking about his refusal to follow up the victory by pursuing those that fled and destroying them, which, as we will see, will ultimately be a terrible mistake.
J Paul Tanner suggests that the latter part of this verse is referring to the defeated Antiochus III, who, though responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands, survived the battle and spent the next 14 years putting down revolts.
This would seem to make the most sense historically considering that Antiochus III is again in view in the next verse.
Dan 11:13 For the king of the North will return and muster a multitude greater than the former, and shall certainly come at the end of some years with a great army and much equipment.
About 15 years after the previous verse, the defeated Syrian King Antiochus III was not so weak anymore, He would return to fight the Egyptians with a much greater force, also with great equipment. This would mark the beginning of the fifth Syrian war.
In fact, this verse marks the end of general Egyptian dominance as well; after this point, the Syrian kingdom would be consistently the stronger of the two nations.
Dan 11:14 "Now in those times many shall rise up against the king of the South. Also, violent men of your people shall exalt themselves in fulfillment of the vision, but they shall fall.
When Antiochus III went to attack the Ptolemaic strongholds around Israel, he found some allies in certain Jewish men. The bible calls them here violent men of your people. This phrase is mostly used for thieves and murderers in the Old Testament, and it appears that only these types of men joined Antiochus III.
However, the general discontentment with the Egyptians who were ruling Judah at this time was great, and the Jews were living very difficult lives as a result of Ptolemaic rule, so it not surprising that certain Jewish men would jump at the chance to join a strong army and revolt against their oppressors.
It says that these Jewish soldiers fighting with Antiochus shall exalt themselves in fulfillment of the vision, but they shall fall.
Clark says that the vision these men were trying to fulfill is in Isaiah 30. He says:
“Shall exalt themselves to establish the vision - That is, to build a temple like that of Jerusalem, in Egypt, hoping thereby to fulfill a prediction of Isaiah, Isaiah 30:18-25, which seemed to intimate that the Jews and the Egyptians should be one people. They now revolted from Ptolemy, and joined Antiochus; and this was the means of contributing greatly to the accomplishment of prophecies that foretold the calamities that should fall upon the Jews.”3
It says that they shall fall. This is an interesting lesson here, because this is the one time that Israel bet on the right horse, so to speak, yet they still wound up falling.
Usually, despite all God’s warnings not to trust their neighbors for security, Israel chose someone to protect them, and then that nation would end up being defeated by the nation that they wanted to be protected from, and Israel would be punished severely for their rebellion, in other words they would be in worse shape than if they had not chosen a side in the first place.
But in this case they did make the right decision in one sense: Antiochus III was a great power, and he would end up defeating their oppressors. But the battles were not won quickly or easily, and in fact, Antiochus suffered an early defeat at the hands of an Anatolian general named Scopas who, even though he would only hold out a little longer against Antiochus, used his brief victory to punish these men for their rebellion, thus causing them to fall. Though I should submit that there is very little history I could find about the details of this last event, and I am relying primarily on Clark’s commentary, so I would be open to a different interpretation at this point.
Dan 11:15 So the king of the North shall come and build a siege mound, and take a fortified city; and the forces of the South shall not withstand him. Even his choice troops shall have no strength to resist.
In 200 BC, Antiochus launched a 2nd attempt to defeat Scopas. This time, he was successful. Scopas retreated to a fortified city (Sidon) on the coast to try to escape the pursuit of Antiochus. However, as it says here, the forces of the South shall not withstand him. Even his choice troops shall have no strength to resist. The forces gave in at Sidon and surrendered to Antiochus III. This would mark the end of Ptolemaic rule of Judah.
Dan 11:16 But he who comes against him shall do according to his own will, and no one shall stand against him. He shall stand in the Glorious Land with destruction in his power.
J. Paul Tanner says of this verse (a reference to the victorious Antiochus III):
“The important port-city of Sidon had now fallen to Seleucid control, an event that enabled the Seleucids to maintain control over the interior lands. Since Egypt was too weak to mount another offensive, Antiochus III could essentially do as he pleased. Antiochus III (with power to destroy) spent the first half of 198 BC extending his control over the rest of the former province of Coele-Syria, including Judea and Jerusalem, the Beautiful Land. Antiochus now completely dominated Coele-Syria, the prize that the Seleucid kings had long sought for (and felt was their rightful possession) since the Battle of Ipsus in 301 BC.”4
Dan 11:17 "He shall also set his face to enter with the strength of his whole kingdom, and upright ones with him; thus shall he do. And he shall give him the daughter of women to destroy it; but she shall not stand with him, or be for him.
Antiochus III then began to extend his empire to the lands to the east of Syria and had great success. However, this great success came to the attention of Rome, which was beginning to become the great power in the region.
Rome essentially forced Antiochus to make a peace agreement with Egypt. Antiochus gave his daughter to the King of Egypt, which was a customary peace arrangement. However he did this hoping that, when the time was right, she would turn on her husband, and essentially be an agent for his plan to defeat the Egyptians. This is what is meant by he shall give him the daughter of women to destroy it.
This plan, however, did not work. When the time came, she sided with her new Egyptian family. This is what is meant by but she shall not stand with him, or be for him.
Dan 11:18 After this he shall turn his face to the coastlands, and shall take many. But a ruler shall bring the reproach against them to an end; and with the reproach removed, he shall turn back on him.
These next verses predict the downfall of the great Antiochus III.
After he made the peace agreement with the Egyptians by giving his daughter to them, he once again turned his attention to conquering more land, this time the coastlands.
The ESV translates this verse this way:
(ESV) Afterward he shall turn his face to the coastlands and shall capture many of them, but a commander shall put an end to his insolence. Indeed, he shall turn his insolence back upon him.
The conquering of the coastlands of Asia Minor by Antiochus once again angered the Romans, who had many interests in the area, so they organized campaigns to destroy him. The commander that is referenced is Scipio Asiaticus, who defeated Antiochus in the Battle of Magnesia.
Antiochus was not killed in battle, and instead was forced to sign the Treaty of Apameia, in which he abandoned all lands east of the Tarsus Mountains, which Rome then distributed.
Dan 11:19 Then he shall turn his face toward the fortress of his own land; but he shall stumble and fall, and not be found.
After the signing of this treaty, Antiochus went to the eastern provinces of his own land to deal with rebellion. He was killed by an angry mob when, in need of money, he plundered the temple of Zeus in that city. The mob, outraged at this, killed him and those who were with him.
Dan 11:20 "There shall arise in his place one who imposes taxes on the glorious kingdom; but within a few days he shall be destroyed, but not in anger or in battle.
Antiochus III was succeeded by his son, Seleucus IV Philopator, Seleucus inherited a huge financial burden because of the taxes Rome had forced on his kingdom after their defeat and the subsequent Treaty of Apameia.
Again the ESV helps us to get a better sense of this verse:
"Then shall arise in his place one who shall send an exactor of tribute for the glory of the kingdom. But within a few days he shall be broken, neither in anger nor in battle. (ESV)
The exactor of tribute who was sent out by Seleucus was named Heliodorus. He was basically a tax collector and was hated by many. He was also sent to Jerusalem to collect taxes from the temple, but a Jewish legend says that a vision of an angel stopped him from doing so. In any case, it was this Heliodorus who would fulfill the next part of this verse, namely that King Seleucus would not be killed in anger or in battle. Heliodorus poisoned the king in hopes of taking his place.
Dan 11:21 And in his place shall arise a vile person, to whom they will not give the honor of royalty; but he shall come in peaceably, and seize the kingdom by intrigue.
And now we come to the most infamous Antiochus: Antiochus IV or Antiochus Epiphanies. He is the vile person being referred to in this verse, mostly because of his persecution of the Jews, which we will detail later.
They will not give the honor of royalty; but he shall come in peaceably, and seize the kingdom by intrigue.
Antiochus did not come to power by the usual way, either by conquest or by being the rightful heir to the throne. He was also a son of Antiochus III, just like his brother Seleucus, whom we just talked about.
However, after Heliodorus the tax collector killed his brother, the rightful heir to the throne was Seleucus’ son, who was in Rome at the time, though Heliodorus took the throne after he killed the king anyway.
Antiochus had Heliodorus the usurper killed, and he took the throne himself. He was only able to get away with this because he declared that he would be co-ruling with the rightful heir (his nephew) who was still in Rome. However, he later had his nephew killed, and thus took the kingdom by intrigue.
Dan 11:22 With the force of a flood they shall be swept away from before him and be broken, and also the prince of the covenant.
There is some disagreement on this passage, which I think derives in part because of some difficulties with the Hebrew at this point.
After Antiochus took power, he heard that the Egyptians were planning a war to retake the area around Israel (Coele-Syria). So he preemptively attacked the Egyptian armies and swept away and broke all the armies he encountered. In fact, he conquered almost all of Egypt, with the exception of Alexandria.
During this first campaign, he also took captive the prince Ptolemy VI, who could be the referent for the prince of the covenant, though some make a good case for this being a reference to Onias III, the high priest in Jerusalem, who was ousted by an arrangement with pro-Hellenist elements within the Jewish nobility with the backing of Antiochus.
After his capture, Ptolemy VI made a covenant to become an ally of Antiochus if the Syrians would help him regain his throne in Egypt, which had been taken by his younger brother, Ptolemy VII. Antiochus was delighted to make such a pact, for he felt that it would give him a foothold in Egypt.5
Dan 11:23 And after the league is made with him he shall act deceitfully, for he shall come up and become strong with a small number of people.
After Antiochus and Ptolemy made this pact, Ptolemy would end up breaking the terms of the agreement. Instead of being a pro-Syrian puppet, as Antiochus had hoped, Ptolomy would join forces with his brother, which was a small number of people which would become strong. They would eventually ally with the Romans as well and defeat Antiochus.
But in the meantime, after Antiochus’ initial victory over all but Alexandria, he would have a time of great prosperity.
Dan 11:24 He shall enter peaceably, even into the richest places of the province; and he shall do what his fathers have not done, nor his forefathers: he shall disperse among them the plunder, spoil, and riches; and he shall devise his plans against the strongholds, but only for a time.
This verse is referring to the time just after Antiochus defeated all but Alexandria. He was able to basically loot all of Egypt, which was incredibly wealthy. It says he shall do what his fathers have not done, nor his forefathers: he shall disperse among them the plunder, spoil, and riches
This is a reference to what Antiochus did with the wealth he obtained during this period. A book written about his life in 2006 by Peter Franz Mittag is kind of a revisionist history trying to paint him in a good light, yet nevertheless it offers never-before-heard information about Antiochus and his career.
In it, there is a section that seems to validate this verse, where it describes the various ways that Antiochus used the spoils of this particular war to please the people.
He shall devise his plans against the strongholds, but only for a time.
During this time, Antiochus had high hopes about what he could accomplish if he could only finish the job and attack the stronghold of Alexandria. He plotted and planned, but this time of high hopes was not to last. It was indeed only for a time.
Dan 11:25 "He shall stir up his power and his courage against the king of the South with a great army. And the king of the South shall be stirred up to battle with a very great and mighty army; but he shall not stand, for they shall devise plans against him.
Dan 11:26 Yes, those who eat of the portion of his delicacies shall destroy him; his army shall be swept away, and many shall fall down slain.
Starting here and ending at verse 28, the text goes into more detail about the 1st campaign of Antiochus. In other words, it kind of rehashes the same information that appears in verses 22-24 about the first and only successful campaign of Antiochus. This is also the view of Miller.6
This time, however, it seems to focus more on the deceptive nature of Ptolemy’s advisors, and the role they played in the initial downfall of Egypt in the first part of the war.
He shall stir up his power and his courage against the king of the South with a great army.
This is a reference to Antiochus conquering nearly all of Egypt, which was discussed earlier.
But he shall not stand, for they shall devise plans against him.
The reason that Ptolomy was defeated by Antiochus is because they shall devise plans against him.
The “they” is clarified in the next verse when it says Yes, those who eat of the portion of his delicacies shall destroy him.
This is referring to the counselors of Ptolomy (who was only a boy king of 16). The counselors were in the pay of Antiochus and seemed to sabotage the whole affair. Some suggest that because they forced Ptolemy to declare war on Antiochus, it gave him the moral high ground to “preemptively strike”.
It seems that there was an attempt already to oust Ptolomy in favor of his brother and his niece Cleopatra. This deception by his counselors may have been the ends to those means.
Dan 11:27 Both these kings' hearts shall be bent on evil, and they shall speak lies at the same table; but it shall not prosper, for the end will still be at the appointed time.
This is again a reference to the deal between Antiochus and his now prisoner, Ptolomy, to work together to put Ptolomy back on the throne in exchange for him becoming a puppet of Antiochus. This verse indicates that neither Antiochus nor Ptolomy had any intention of following through with this plan.
Dan 11:28 While returning to his land with great riches, his heart shall be moved against the holy covenant; so he shall do damage and return to his own land.
It is tempting to see this verse as the famous incident of Antiochus going to Israel in a rage after his defeat by the Romans, but that will come later. This verse is speaking of his first victorious return from Eqypt to his own land (Syria). Of course, to get there, he had to pass through Israel, during which he went into the temple and stole the treasures therein. He did not at this time commit the abominations that are so famous.
This looting the temple on his way back to Antioch is mentioned in I Maccabees 1:20-24; this is the damage he will do before he returns to his own land.
Dan 11:29 "At the appointed time he shall return and go toward the south; but it shall not be like the former or the latter.
Now we get to Antiochus’ second attempt to take the kingdom of Egypt. One of the reasons that his invasion would not be like the former or the latter was because, during his absence from Egypt, his puppet king reconciled with his brother and joined forces. When Antiochus heard of this betrayal, he made haste to attack them both. However, the new Egyptian coalition had another trick up its sleeve: the Romans.
The Egyptians had written to Rome and told them about how Antiochus was behaving in violation of the Treaty of Apameia signed by Antiochus’ father. In fact, the only reason that Antiochus had success in his first campaign against Egypt was probably because at the time Rome was tied up in the third Macedonian war and didn’t have the resources to enforce the treaty.
But by Antiochus’ 2nd attempt to take Egypt, Rome had finished its war, and had both the time and the resources to deal with the situation. It sent help to the Egyptians.
Dan 11:30 For ships from Cyprus shall come against him; therefore he shall be grieved, and return in rage against the holy covenant, and do damage. "So he shall return and show regard for those who forsake the holy covenant.
For ships from Cyprus shall come against him
The literal phrase is not Cyprus, but rather Kittim, which in Jewish literature (such as the Dead Sea Scrolls) was used specifically for Rome, but it was also generally used for the region of the Mediterranean including Cyprus. Since the following event occurred in Cyprus, it would seem that, either way, this is a match.
What happened is that Rome, hearing that the Ptolomaic kingdom was about to be destroyed, and having just concluded its war against Macedon, sent ships to Cyprus to attack Antiochus.
After they defeated Antiochus, the general Gaius Popillius Laenas did something from which we get the phrase “line in the sand”. He demanded the defeated Antiochus immediately end the war and completely withdrawal from Egypt. Antiochus basically said he needed to think about it, but Gaius Popillius Laenas drew a circle around him in the sand and told him that he needed to give an answer before he stepped out of the circle. Antiochus, totally humiliated, then agreed to all the Roman terms.
Therefore he shall be grieved, and return in rage against the holy covenant, and do damage.
Antiochus was enraged for a number of reasons at this point as he headed back to Israel.
The first is obvious: he had lost a battle in a humiliating way, a battle that he spent his whole political career planning for, and had come very close to winning.
The second reason was that a revolt had broken out in Judea, partially because a false report said that Antiochus had died, which then caused the Jewish people to oust the puppet high priest whom Antiochus had put in to rule them. But when Antiochus arrived and it was obvious that he hadn’t died, he reinstated his high priest and began a number of atrocities which are in view in the following verses.
He shall return and show regard for those who forsake the holy covenant
This verse states pretty much the same thing as verse 32, which says:
“Those who do wickedly against the covenant he shall corrupt with flattery”
At this point in Jewish history, there were a number of factions in Israel, one of which was radically pro-Greek or pro-Hellenist. Antiochus had a policy of acting favorably to those Jews willing to turn from the biblical faith and embrace Hellenization.
This paints an interesting picture of Antiochus who is usually described at this point as a madman, but there seems to have been a method to his madness, even in this time of humiliation and defeat. His main goal seems to have been the stabilization and consolidation of what parts of his empire he had left. This would necessarily include (as he saw it) making an example of the Jews who did not embrace Hellenism, and who were a part of the recent rebellion against his Hellenist puppet.
The fact that he is twice referred to as being kind to those who got with the program is evidence that he was not acting in blind rage, but with a sense of political savvy.
This also perhaps gives up some insight into the Antichrist, who also will cause a great apostasy, not just by deception, but also by providing incentives to apostatize. In the case of the Antichrist, the ones who leave their faith will have their lives spared, but they will also be able to buy and sell again. This is a deal that is hard to refuse, and will require steadfast faith on the part of the saints to do so.
Though it will not be until verse 36, five verses later, that the future Antichrist will be in view, I do think that about here we start to see the beginnings of the “fade effect”, where certain elements apply to one or both Antiochus and the Antichrist.
There will be more on why conservative scholars are in agreement that the future Antichrist is in view when we get to verse 36.
Dan 11:31 And forces shall be mustered by him, and they shall defile the sanctuary fortress; then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation.
Antiochus’s forces carried out a wide range of policies and acts that defile the sanctuary fortress.
Here is a list of these acts and policies from J. Paul Tanner:
Then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation.
The worst of all the atrocities was the abomination of desolation. Having taken away the daily sacrifices, as they were a part of Jewish rituals which Antiochus saw as a threat to Greek rule, in their place, he put some kind of pagan altar. Its exact nature is disputed somewhat, though according to 2 Macc 6:2, the sanctuary was to be renamed “the temple of Olympian Zeus.”8
Dan 11:32 Those who do wickedly against the covenant he shall corrupt with flattery; but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.
The first part of this verse was covered in the discussion of verse 30.
But the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.
Miller explains this reference to those who opposed Antiochus’s attempt to outlaw Judaism:
“Yet even in this dark period there were true believers (“the people who know their God”) among the Jews who remained faithful to their God... Foremost among those who resisted the oppressive measures of Antiochus were the Maccabees.
A certain priest named Mattathias …refused to forsake his God (cf. 1 Macc 2:1–14). He had five sons, three of whom … became known as the Maccabees…
The Maccabees successfully overthrew the Syrian yoke through a series of brilliant military victories (apparently predicted in Zech 9:13–17) against Antio-chus's military commanders… as a result the temple was rededicated (Hanukkah) to Yahweh on 25 Chislev (December 14) 164 B.C. (1 Macc 4:52).”9
Dan 11:33 And those of the people who understand shall instruct many; yet for many days they shall fall by sword and flame, by captivity and plundering.
Dan 11:34 Now when they fall, they shall be aided with a little help; but many shall join with them by intrigue.
Dan 11:35 And some of those of understanding shall fall, to refine them, purify them, and make them white, until the time of the end; because it is still for the appointed time.
These verses describe the actions of those involved in the Maccabean revolt on the one hand, describing their martyrdom in their fight to restore their right to practice Judaism.
However, because the next verse after this begins the unambiguous shift from Antiochus to the Antichrist, and considering that the abomination of desolation spoken of in verse 31 is supposed to in part refer to the future abomination of the Antichrist (see Dan 12:11), I think I am on firm footing here when I see these verses as partially, if not mostly to do with the saints persecuted by the Antichrist in the future, as well as referring in part to the Maccabean rebellion.
If the fade-in, fade-out example I used earlier is true, then this would be the point in the fade where you can see more details from the picture that you were fading to at this point rather than the picture you were fading from, and by the next verse (36), I don’t think you will be able to see the Antiochus picture anymore at all, which is precisely the reason the next section is so interesting.
If these three verses apply to the future persecuted church by the Antichrist after the “abomination of desolation”, then it is an accurate picture of that time, since we see a few key elements that are repeated in the New Testament of that persecution.
For example, the reason for allowing the martyrdom is to refine them, purify them, and make them white, until the time of the end.
This is also the reason why God grants the Antichrist the power to kill the saints (1 Peter 4:12-19, Rev 6:9-11).
Also the next line until the time of the end; because it is still for the appointed time
It seems to be a parallel to Matthew 24 when the Lord talks at length about the time of the Antichrist’s persecution. He says:
And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. - Mat 24:6
The “end” will come after the persecution of the saints, which Jesus clarifies a few verses later:
Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. - Mat 24:9-14
Dan 11:36 "Then the king shall do according to his own will: he shall exalt and magnify himself above every god, shall speak blasphemies against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the wrath has been accomplished; for what has been determined shall be done.
Up to this point in Daniel chapter 11, we have been dealing with a succession of kings from the Seleucid and Ptolemaic Empires, concluding in verses 21-35 with the “vile” King Antiochus IV Epiphanies.
In this verse, however, we have the beginning of a transition to someone other than Antiochus.
Stephen Miller says on this point:
“Exegetical necessity requires that 11:36–45 be applied to someone other than Antiochus IV.”10
Miller is expressing the majority view of conservatives about this section of scripture. That is, by the time we get to verse 36 of Daniel 11, there are certain clues in the text that demand the reader see the king spoken of there as someone other than Antiochus.
Most of these conservative scholars would say that this new king is referring to the Antichrist of the last days, for reasons we will detail later.
First of all, we should note that such a transition has precedent within this very chapter.
Very often in chapter 11: 1-36, the actual king who is in view will change from one verse to the next, while still calling him the “King of the North” or the “King of the South.”
The reader, by this point in the chapter, has become accustomed to looking for a new historical character from one verse to the next, even though he is referred to by the same general title, i.e. “King of the North” or “South”.
Even the significant leap forward in time from one character to the next, which would be required in the Antichrist interpretation, has precedent in the chapter.
J. Paul Tanner expresses the point this way:
“A sudden leap forward in time from Dan 11:35 to 11:36 is consistent with other leaps in time throughout the chapter (e.g. 11:2–3).”11
The following are some of the points that scholars have cited as their reasons for seeing a shift from Antiochus to someone else at this point:
In verse 40, we are told that the temporal context of this king is during the “time of the end”. There is a further defining of what that phrase means in 12:1, which starts out with the phrase “at that time”, i.e. during the time of this “time of the end” king.
It goes on to say that “at that time” will begin “a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time,” an obvious reference to the so-called “Great Tribulation” which begins at the midpoint of Daniel’s 70th week.
If that wasn’t enough to place this king in an eschatological context, he then goes on to say that “at that time” also includes the resurrection of the dead (12:2).
The previous section about Antiochus was accurate to the last detail, yet from verse 36 on, we find descriptions of this king that are impossible to apply to Antiochus. These same details, in many cases, can be found in other places in scripture as descriptions of the Antichrist.
“For example, Antiochus did not exalt himself above every god (vv. 36–37), reject “the gods of his fathers,” or worship “a god unknown to his fathers” (v. 38); on the contrary, he worshiped the Greek pantheon, even building an altar and offering sacrifices to Zeus in the Jerusalem temple precincts. Daniel also predicted that this king “will come to his end” in Palestine (v. 45), but it is a matter of historical record that Antiochus IV died at Tabae in Persia.”12
As we go through this study, we will find many other points of divergence between Antiochus and this new king.
J. Paul Tanner notes “Verse 35 still anticipates the “end time,” whereas v. 40 reflects that the “end time” has finally come.”13
Tanner makes another very important point that we will defend at length later on when he says:
“In vv. 21–35 Antiochus IV served in the role of the “King of the North,” as did the other Seleucid kings before him. In v. 40, however, “the king” is apparently in contention with both the “King of the North” and the “King of the South.”14
Finally, it should be noted that the king in verse 36 is simply called “the king” not the “King of the North” or the “King of the South,” as has been the very consistent pattern previously.
This is especially important when you take into account all the other kinds of shifts that happen at verse 36. In other words, if there was ever a time to reestablish which king you are talking about, it would be verse 36, yet the text simply calls this person “the king.”
For these, as well as many other reasons that I am about to explain, I will be writing this commentary with the assumption that the Antichrist is in view in verses 36-45, a view which I share with nearly every conservative expositor.
"Then the king shall do according to his own will:
It is certainly possible that this reference to the king doing his own will could simply be a reference to his not taking orders from anyone else, especially in contrast to Christ, who consistently did his “Father’s will” (John 5:30).
I think it’s also possible that this phrase could have something to do with his military might, as the phrase is used by Daniel to refer to earthly kings like Alexander the Great (8:4) and Antiochus I the Great (11:16). In that context, “doing their own will” is speaking of them conquering in a military sense. Both views are possible and not mutually exclusive.
I saw the ram (Alexander) pushing westward, northward, and southward, so that no animal could withstand him; nor was there any that could deliver from his hand, but he did according to his will and became great. - Dan 8:4
He shall exalt and magnify himself above every god, shall speak blasphemies against the God of gods
We are given similar information about the Antichrist in Daniel 7:25:
“He shall speak pompous words against the Most High”
We are told that he will magnify himself above every god. This particular idea that the man of sin will not just be a blasphemer, but will declare himself greater than all gods, including Yahweh, is quoted by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:4 when he says of the Antichrist:
Who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
It would appear that the so-called “revealing” of the Antichrist occurs here at the midpoint when he sits in the temple and makes this blasphemous declaration. It is not at all clear to me if this was his public theology for the first 3.5 years; I suspect not. It is my guess that the abomination of desolation occurs at some point after his apparent resurrection from the dead, and this is possibly when this theology about being higher than every god develops.
And shall prosper till the wrath has been accomplished; for what has been determined shall be done.
This is a reference to the Antichrist being given power to prosper for a short time.
It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. - Rev 13:7
He will only prosper till the wrath has been accomplished. This is a reference to God’s wrath, a wrath that must come as a part of the eschatological end of the age. This is referenced by Daniel in other places. For example, in Daniel 8:19 he calls it there the “latter time of the indignation.” When God’s wrath has been accomplished, the man of sin will be imprisoned in the Abyss with the false prophet and eventually be destroyed (Rev 20: 2-10).
Dan 11:37 He shall regard neither the God of his fathers nor the desire of women, nor regard any god; for he shall exalt himself above them all.
He shall regard neither the God of his fathers
This verse is often twisted and tweaked to suit a particular commentator’s presuppositions about the Antichrist. Even certain Bible translations make the “G” in god lowercase and add an “s” (making it gods and not God) to make it seem as if Yahweh is definitely not in view here. I have even heard commentators say that, “in the Hebrew, “Elohim” is plural in this case,” but such a statement is either ignorant or dishonest.
Take Arnold Fruchtenbaum, for example, who writes:
“Any student of Hebrew would see from the original Hebrew text that the correct translation should be ‘the gods of his fathers’ and not the ‘God of his fathers’”15
First of all, this statement is simply not true. Dr. Michael Hesier is more than “any student” of Hebrew, having a PhD in Hebrew Bible and Semitic languages. He points out the fallacy of Fruchtenbaum’s statement when he says:
“Elohim can be either singular or plural depending on context.”16
Hesier goes on to give an example of how to determine if Elohim is singular or plural. He says the word Elohim or “God” in Hebrew is a lot like the word “sheep” or “deer” in English; they can be singular or plural, depending on the context. For example, in the sentence “The sheep are lost”, we know that the usage is plural, but in the sentence “The sheep is lost”, we know that it is singular.
Dr J. Paul Tanner, also a Hebrew expert, agrees with Hesier, and adds another point in favor of this being a reference to Yahweh in his class notes on Dan 11:
“The Hebrew term Elohim can be translated as "God" or "gods." Elaboration: While either translation is grammatically correct, we should observe that the expression "the God of his fathers" is a commonly used phrase in the OT to refer to Israel's covenant God, Yahweh, who had long associated Himself by covenant with the "fathers" of the nation.
He goes on to reference a number of instances when this Hebrew phrase is used:
Ex 3:16, 1 Chr 28:9, 2 Kg 21:22, Gen 31:29, Gen 46:1,3, Jer 19:4, Dan 2:23.
Think of how damaging that point is to Fruchtenbaum’s argument. He says that “any student” of Hebrew would know that Elohim is plural here, yet in other instances in scripture, the exact same phrase is translated as singular, where it is quite clear that Yawheh is in view, not pagan gods, while conversely the phrase is never used to refer to pagan gods.
The significance of this verse is that it would be strong evidence that the Antichrist will be of Jewish origin. This would seem to make sense if he is to pass himself off as the Messiah, as there would be little hope of a man being accepted as the Messiah to the Jews unless he was in fact Jewish. Although this doctrine is difficult to be dogmatic about, there are other passages that seem to suggest this too, such as Ezekiel 28:10.
Joel Richardson, author of The Mideast Beast and a proponent of the Islamic Antichrist theory, somewhat ironically agrees with the idea that this phrase is speaking about Yahweh and not pagan gods, though he makes the case that when it says that the Antichrist will not regard the “God of his fathers,” it is a reference to how an Islamic person’s lineage ultimately would go back to Abraham through Ishmael.
This too would have problems.
Nor the desire of women
There are two main views about this passage:
I would suggest a third option before discussing each one, and that is that this could simply be referring to childbirth itself, not necessarily messianic childbirth, in other words, that the Antichrist will not care about the desire of women, which is having children in general, a common biblical theme. This could be referring to 1 Timothy 4:3, which says that in the “latter times,” marriage will be prohibited, which could be extended to mean there will be an end-times ban on childbirth as well.
I think that all three interpretations are possible based on the grammar. However, I tend to lean toward the view that this is talking about Jesus because of the context.
Let’s look at this verse again to see why I say that.
“He shall regard neither the God of his fathers nor the desire of women, nor regard any god; for he shall exalt himself above them all.”
There are three ideas expressed here, the first that he won’t regard the God of his fathers, the second idea is the one in question, and the third is about him exalting himself above any god.
It would seem to me that the second idea about the desire of women would most likely be associated with the theme of his blasphemous acts, which the first and third ideas are. If it were talking about him being a homosexual or abolishing childbirth, it would seem to be contextually out of place, sandwiched between two ideas of the same nature. However, if it were talking about the Messiah, then it would make great sense. It would read something like this:
“He will not regard God or the Messiah but will exalt himself above them both.”
Many commenters take this position, and though I have not seen clear evidence myself of the historical or cultural desire of Jewish women being to give birth to the Messiah, there is some indication of this found in the Gospel of Luke, in which Mary says:
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; for behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed” (Luke 1:46–48).
It may be that Daniel used this (desire of women) idea to refer to the Messiah’s prophesized human birth. We see in Genesis 3:15 that the Messiah would come thorough childbirth, that is through Eve. One could also see his references to the “son of man” in Daniel 7:13-14 as a precursor to this language in Daniel which he used to refer to the Messiah.
Dan 11:38 But in their place he shall honor a god of fortresses; and a god which his fathers did not know he shall honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and pleasant things.
But in their place he shall honor a god of fortresses;
The Antichrist seems to honor a god other that the true God and his son. This is also paradoxical. On the one hand, we are just told he honors no gods but himself, and on the other, we are told that he does honor a god. In order to try to figure this out, we need to read the entire section and get as much information about this god of fortresses as we can.
But in their place he shall honor a god of fortresses; and a god which his fathers did not know he shall honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and pleasant things.
Thus he shall act against the strongest fortresses with a foreign god, which he shall acknowledge, and advance its glory; and he shall cause them to rule over many, and divide the land for gain. - Dan 11:38-39
It appears that this worshipping of the god of fortresses is not simply for show, but in fact real homage is paid and genuine reward for that homage is given, rewards such as him being able to successfully conquer lands and causing him to rule over many, both of which are attributed to this god that he worships.
If one considers these details, then the identity of this god of forces or fortresses can be surmised, because we know by what power the Antichrist conquers the nations and rules over many:
Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority. - Rev 13:2
The dragon is an unambiguous reference to Satan in Revelation 13.
Another example of this idea that the Antichrist derives his power from Satan is in 2 Thessalonians 2:
The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders. - 2Th 2:9
It is admittedly difficult in this reading to understand the phrase a god which his fathers did not know, because in one sense Satan was known even by Adam. Perhaps it could be a reference to a more intimate “knowing”, like in this case worshipping. There is no clear picture of anyone knowingly worshipping Satan in the Bible that I am aware of.
He shall honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and pleasant things.
There is only one other place that this phrase “gold and silver, with precious stones can be found in the Bible. That is in Revelation 18:12, in reference to the items that are brought to Mystery Babylon.
In my book Mystery Babylon When Jerusalem Embraces the Antichrist, I go through every item that the merchants bring to the city of Jerusalem and show that, in each case, there is a connection to the rebuilding of the temple, the reinstitution of the sacrificial system, as well as a massive worldwide pilgrimage system which I`m sure the Antichrist intends to make look like the institution of the millennial reign.
I believe that this sacrifice of Gold and silver to Satan is fulfilled with the image of the beast.
And he [false prophet] deceives those who dwell on the earth—by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived.
He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. - Rev 13:14-15
The image of the beast seems to be placed in the temple after the abomination of desolation for the purpose of receiving the worship of humanity. Paul tells us that spiritual beings can essentially receive the worship that people direct toward idols (1 Cor 10:20). It would seem probable that Satan is receiving the worship directed to the image of the beast.
Revelation 13:4 seems to make this point clear:
So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, "Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?" - Rev 13:4
Here we are told that the dragon (Satan) is worshipped, and also the beast (the Antichrist). This dual worship could be explained by the scenario I outlined here.
I suggest that the image of the beast is an image of the Antichrist put in the temple to be worshipped. This is done because the Antichrist cannot stay in the temple, as he has wars to make. This must be done however in order to seem to fulfill the prophecies of the Messiah sitting in the temple and receiving gifts from the world pilgrimage continually.
It may even be that the materials used in the image of the beast’s construction are “gold, silver, and precious things.” I say this because the false prophet tells those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast, and it may be, that it is just like in Exodus when the people used their gold jewelry to make the image of the calf. That is they used their gold, silver, and precious things to make the image of the beast But this point is unclear.
Dan 11:39 Thus he shall act against the strongest fortresses with a foreign god, which he shall acknowledge, and advance its glory; and he shall cause them to rule over many, and divide the land for gain.
Thus he shall act against the strongest fortresses with a foreign god
This is referring to the wars of the Antichrist, which are detailed in verses 40-45. Satan, as we have seen, is the power behind this conquering of fortresses by the Antichrist.
Acknowledge, and advance its glory;
It is difficult to reconcile the idea of the Antichrist exalting himself above every god as well as acknowledging and advancing this foreign god, though I think the answer can be found in Revelation 13:4, where people are worshipping Satan, who gave the beast his power as well as the beast himself.
While this verse seems to suggest an acknowledging of Satan by the Antichrist in some way, it is not clear to me if this acknowledging of Satan will be obvious to the people who may interpret this god of the Antichrist in a different way.
Which he shall acknowledge, and advance its glory; and he shall cause them to rule over many, and divide the land for gain.
This phrase is a little hard to understand in the NKJV, so I will quote from the NET to give a better Idea of its meaning:
“To those who recognize him he will grant considerable honor. He will place them in authority over many people, and he will parcel out land for a price.”
This is a similar tactic to that employed by Antiochus IV, where in Daniel 11:30,32, we see that he gave rewards to those who forsook God and followed him. It seems that the people in view here are rulers of nations and that they go over to his banner when he offers them these rewards.
So we should expect that in addition to wars, the Antichrist uses generous diplomatic tactics to help conquer much of the world.
And he shall cause them to rule over many, and divide the land for gain.
It would appear that the Antichrist’s wars, detailed in the following verses, suggest that the world will be remade in such a way that he is able to decide who rules what. There might be more information about who these people are in Daniel 7, as well as in the following verses:
Dan 11:40 "At the time of the end the King of the South shall attack him; and the King of the North shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter the countries, overwhelm them, and pass through.
At the time of the end
Here we have an explicit indication of this being eschatological, especially when combined with 12:1, which refers to the Great Tribulation and the resurrection of the dead.
The King of the South shall attack him
We learn that the Antichrist will be attacked by the King of the South. Most scholars see this southern king as being the King of Egypt, as that was the identity of the King of the South in the earlier parts of this chapter. It would seem that verse 43 validates this idea, as there we are told specifically that Egypt will be conquered by the Antichrist. I would suggest that this phrase King of the South in the end times could include more countries than Egypt but it must also include Egypt.
And the King of the North shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, horsemen, and with many ships;
Because the grammar is not quite clear as to whom “him” is referring to here, there has arisen a division on how to interpret this verse.
Two main theories have been developed; they are sometimes called the “three king theory” and the “two king theory.”
On the one hand, you have the three king theory, which sees there being three subjects in verse 40: the Antichrist, the King of the North, and the King of the South. Using brackets to explain the pronoun referents, it would read as follows:
And at the end time the King of the South will collide with him [the Antichrist], and the King of the North will storm against him [the Antichrist]…and he [the Antichrist] will enter countries, overflow them, and pass through.17
So, in this reading, the King of the South attacks the Antichrist, then the King of the North attacks him as well, but the Antichrist defeats them both.
The two king theory has only two subjects in view. This is because they see the King of the North as the Antichrist, so it would read like this:
And at the end time the King of the South will collide with him [the King of the North = the Antichrist], and the King of the North [the Antichrist] will storm against him [the King of the South]…and he [the King of the North = the Antichrist] will enter countries, overflow them, and pass through.18
In this reading, it would be saying that the King of the South attacks the King of the North, who is also the Antichrist, but the King of the North / Antichrist attacks the King of the South as well, and the Antichrist will be victorious.
One way to explain the difference is to say that, after the introduction of the Antichrist in verse 36, all pronouns “him” or “his” are referring to the Antichrist, whereas the two king view has the references going back and forth.
It may not seem like it, but this is a crucial point if the church hopes to derive the geopolitical rise of the Antichrist from this chapter, and in the correct way.
Depending on your view, you could be looking for a very different set of events for the rise of the Antichrist on the world scene.
J. Paul Tanner has demonstrated that the Hebrew grammar is not much help for either view, and that both readings are technically possible.19 So we will have to rely on other factors if we hope fully understand this most critical verse.
Tanner defends the three king theory in his paper Daniel’s “King of the North”: Do We Owe Russia An Apology? And I would direct anyone interested in this to read that paper, as he also interacts with the leading arguments against his theory.
I propose that the three king theory is the correct way to understand this passage, and I will sum up a few points about why I think so. Then I will interact with some criticism made recently about this view by Joel Richardson.
First, I think that the usage of “him” here to refer to different kings back and forth without clarification is unprecedented in this chapter, and it would constitute an entirely new way to express who is fighting whom. Tanner sums it up this way:
“In Dan 11:40, the pronouns on the prepositions marking the recipient of the verbal action (עִמּ וֹ֙ and עָלָָ֜יו ) are quite out of keeping with the way the hostilities between the two kings were previously described in the chapter. What I mean to say is that elsewhere in the chapter, whenever an assault by one of the kings against the other was mentioned, the one who was the object is specified by his full title (not merely by a pronoun)…In light of this characteristic writing style of the author, the “him” is more likely the same referent in this verse, namely, “the king” of the preceding paragraph, i.e., the Antichrist. This favors the three-king theory.”20
Tanner also notes that when referencing this king in verse 36, it simply calls him “the king,” not using either “of the North” or “of the South,” a particularly important point considering that it would mark the only time in this chapter when this occurs (save verse 27, when it is referencing both kings).
I suggest that the three king theory is the most natural reading of the text, and that is why it is the majority view. Basically, after the Antichrist is introduced by the angel in verse 36, it quickly becomes obvious that the angel is again describing the same guy who has dominated Daniel’s attention through the entire book, like in Daniel 7, where Daniel specifically asks the angel to tell him more about the Antichrist, or in Daniel 8, when after hearing about the Antichrist, Daniel is sick for many days. And so when it becomes clear that that same guy, who has now been the main subject of three separate visions of Daniel, is again in view, it is only natural that from then on, the word “him” refers back to that dominating character, You can see the same basic pattern of pronouns in any of the other visions concerning the Antichrist in the book of Daniel.
Joel Richardson, a proponent of the two king theory, argues that in the three king view, the King of the North and the King of the South have become allies, a point that he strongly disagrees with.
“… the kings of the North and South, who are enemies throughout the historical portion of the prophecy, are suddenly cast as allies together against the Antichrist.”21
I have two things to say about this point; the first is that this is not a necessary conclusion of the three king theory at all. Richardson quotes Tim Lahaye, who theorizes that since the King of the North attacks the Antichrist, and the King of the South attacks him, that this is coordinated attack of allies against their common enemy (the Antichrist).
That view is assumed by Lahaye, but the text certainly does not say that they are coordinated, joint attacks against the Antichrist or that these two kings are allies in any way. In addition, we are not given the chronology of these attacks. How far apart is the attack of the King of the North from the attack of the King of the South? We are not told. It could be years between these attacks. It could simply be that the Antichrist is attempting to gain control over the entire region, and these are isolated attempts of these countries at protecting themselves from the Antichrist.
The second point I would like to make is that even IF these countries make an alliance here against the Antichrist, it is not damaging to the three king theory at all. In fact, contrary to what Richardson said, such a thing has precedence in the historical portion of Daniel 11. For example, an alliance was formed in verse 6 between the King of the North and the King of the South. There is no biblical reason that these kings would not find it advantageous to form an end-times alliance in light of a mutual enemy of the magnitude of the Antichrist.
Another criticism of the three king view that Richardson makes is the following:
“The three king view turns Antiochus into both a type of the Antichrist (throughout all of Daniel chapter 8 as well as Daniel 11:21-35) and a type of the Antichrist’s greatest enemy [He says this because the antichrist will defeat the King of the North which Antiochus was obviously a part of when that title referred to the Seleucid Empire].”22
Richardson first assumes that Antiochus is in view after verse 36, which almost every conservative scholar would disagree with. Antiochus cannot be said to have fulfilled anything past verse 36.
By this point (v. 36), a transition has been made that now describes someone wholly different and unconnected with Antiochus.
This particular genre of a “type” that we see with Antiochus IV and the Antichrist, where there is a complete divergence from the first individual, can also be seen in Ezekiel 28, where the first part of the chapter seems to be talking of an earthly king, the King of Tyre.
Then there is a point where the actions of both the King of Tyre and Satan seem to overlap for a moment, and by the time we get to verse 12 of Ezekiel 28, it becomes clear that Satan is only individual in view, and the King of Tyre has absolutely nothing to do with what follows.
For example, the King of Tyre was not in the “Garden of Eden”, nor was he a “covering cherub” in the “mountain of God.” A change was made and the inspiration for that change is dismissed, never to be returned to. A similar pattern for this kind of type can be seen in Isaiah 14 about the King and Prince of Babylon.
In the Ezekiel example, we wouldn’t expect the fact that the King of Tyre was the inspiration for the section about Satan to mean that Satan really was the King of Tyre and that he lived in Lebanon, or that Satan or the Antichrist would be from Tyre in Lebanon. It would be applying this type in a way that scripture never intended.
In Richardson’s view, since Antiochus was from the Seleucid Empire, the Antichrist must also be, because that was the historical person that the type grew out of in this chapter. But what would prevent a person then from saying that the Antichrist is from all the places that the various biblical types of the Antichrist are from? Surely we wouldn’t do that, as we would have several contradictory origins of the Antichrist.
Richardson believes that his two king view fits the theory that the Antichrist will be a Muslim, but even if we assumed the two king view, then we still have to deal with the fact of the Antichrist conquering Egypt, a decidedly Muslim country, as well as chasing after, and clearly intending to destroy all the Muslim communities surrounding Israel (v.41), as well as Libya. In Richardson’s book, it was not explained why his Muslim Antichrist will be so hostile to the Muslim world. Either the two or three king views would seem to me to be an incompatible belief with the idea of a Muslim Antichrist.
I will sum up by saying that although I, like a majority of evangelical expositors, hold to the three king view and will continue this exposition with that in mind, I will say that both views are technically possible based on the grammar, and it is difficult to be too dogmatic about this for that reason.
The main difference in terms of what to watch for on the geopolitical stage would boil down to the following:
If the two king theory is true, we are looking for a war where Egypt and its allies attack a northern coalition of Arab states, including Syria, and Syria and its allies absolutely destroy Egypt and take all of its wealth and power, as well as the countries to Egypt’s west and south, like the Sudan and Libya.
If the three king theory is true, not only will the Antichrist attack Egypt and its neighbors after first being attacked by them, he will, in addition, also conquer a coalition of northern Arab countries, including Syria after first being attacked by them.
It appears that the first wars of the Antichrist are defensive in nature. I suspect they have been provoked by the Antichrist in some way so that he can make himself look like the deliverer of Israel from their enemies, an attempt to look like the Biblical Messiah. Whatever the case, it is clear that during these two conflicts, the Antichrist does not strike first.
Like a whirlwind, with chariots, horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter the countries, overwhelm them, and pass through.
These attacks from his enemies will be repelled by the Antichrist and he will use tremendous force and superior materials to overwhelm them.
Dan 11:41 He shall also enter the Glorious Land, and many countries shall be overthrown; but these shall escape from his hand: Edom, Moab, and the prominent people of Ammon.
Here we see that the Antichrist will enter Israel (the Glorious Land) and many countries shall be overthrown. It is interesting to note here that there is no direct language that allows us to assume that the Antichrist intends to destroy or attack the Jewish people here. In fact, I would submit that the only groups that we can be sure he is attacking once he reaches Israel are Israel’s Arab neighbors.
One possible scenario is that he wants to appear to Israel as a deliverer of their enemies. Though this is not at all clear and it can also be seen as the moment just before the eschatological sacking of Israel (Rev: 17:16, Luke 21:20), perhaps there is even room for both of them to be true.
But these shall escape from his hand: Edom, Moab, and the prominent people of Ammon.
Notice that it says “but these shall escape from his hand”. This means that the Antichrist will not want to let these nations go, but in his attempt to overthrow countries in this region, these three will escape his grasp.
This is interesting because these three nations now constitute modern-day Jordan, Israel’s Arab neighbor to the southeast. I emphasize this point because so often commentators assume that these countries will somehow be allied with the Antichrist. This is especially promulgated by those who think the Antichrist will be a Muslim. But we can see that these countries will run from a pursuing Antichrist, certainly not the actions of allies.
Based on the text so far, it is a very possible scenario that the Antichrist will enter Israel looking to destroy only Arab nations. I say this not as a dogmatic statement, because it could be true that he will also seek to destroy Jewish cities, but I say it because the text only mentions that he will destroy Muslim nations and cities.
Dan 11:42 He shall stretch out his hand against the countries, and the land of Egypt shall not escape.
He shall stretch out his hand against the countries
This word for “the countries” is very general and could mean the land or the earth. It seems that, on a very general level, we are to know that after the Antichrist enters Israel, he will have more victories. It singles out Egypt as one country that will not escape his grasp.
Dan 11:43 He shall have power over the treasures of gold and silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt; also the Libyans and Ethiopians shall follow at his heels.
The power over the treasures of gold and silver, and over all the precious things seems to be referring to Egypt’s wealth particularly. This presumably happens after his conquest of them.
The Libyans and Ethiopians shall follow at his heels.
These two countries have represented Egypt’s southern allies in other places in scripture (Eze 30:5; Nah 3:9).
Follow at his heels
The NET Bible translates this “will submit to him.”
Dan 11:44 But news from the east and the north shall trouble him; therefore he shall go out with great fury to destroy and annihilate many.
It is difficult to make any assertions about the specific locations being referred to by the terms east and north here.
It seems reasonably certain that these are two new locations that have not yet played any role in the back-and-forth saga of chapter 11. The mention of the “east” is an entirely new idea in this chapter.
Though many expositors assume these two new threats to the Antichrist are countries that are some distance away (such a Russian and China), it should be noted that the text could just as easily be referring to a very near threat to his location (Israel) which just happens to be to his east and north.
One thing that seems certain is that whatever news troubles him will cause him to go attack and overcome these new threats.
This then is a pattern of the Antichrist’s conquests in this chapter. He seems to be an enemy to the region. Many nations will plot against him. In the case of the kings of the North and the South, they will both attack him first, and then he will destroy them. In this case, though we are not told what the news from the north and east is, it can be assumed to a degree that this news is of a military threat to him of some sort.
We must conclude that the Antichrist will be quite hated before the midpoint by at least some groups. If this chapter is any indication, then those groups will be Muslim, This is true whether one holds to the two or three king theory.
Dan 11:45 And he shall plant the tents of his palace between the seas and the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and no one will help him.
Tents of his palace
This is an odd word for palace used only here in scripture. The NET has “royal tents”.
Between the seas and the glorious holy mountain
This seems to be a reference to Jerusalem, as we know that the glorious holy mountain is Mt Zion, and the seas refer to the Mediterranean Sea. This would also make sense in context because we see in the next verse (though it is separated by an artificial chapter break) that this is when the Antichrist sits in the temple of Jerusalem, declaring himself to be God.
Yet he shall come to his end, and no one will help him.
Because this phrase, which forecasts the Antichrist’s destruction, is placed at the end of this chapter, it tempts the reader to think that the Antichrist will come to his end just as he reaches Jerusalem. This conjures up images of Gog and Magog in many people’s minds, the Antichrist attempting to take Jerusalem, but miraculously being defeated by God.
Such an interpretation of this verse would be wrong. This can easily be demonstrated by reading the next verse (12:1):
At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time… - Dan 12:1
The time spoken of is unambiguously talking of the Antichrist setting up his royal tents in Jerusalem. This is significant because it then uses the same language that Jesus uses in Matthew 24 to refer to the time just after the abomination of desolation called The Great Tribulation. In other words, there are at least 3.5 more years of the Antichrist after he sets up his royal tents.
The mentioning of his end coming is not unlike other occasions where the Antichrist is mentioned, while adding a declaration of his ultimate destruction.
Take for example 2: Thessalonians 2:8. When Paul introduces the Antichrist, he does so in this way:
And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. - 2Th 2:8
Paul goes onto talk at length about the lawless one, but his introduction here also includes a reference to his end, much like Daniel does in 11:45.
Another possibility is that this could mean that when the Antichrist “comes to his end” that his “end” in 11:45 could be a reference to his being killed and seemingly resurrected (Rev 13: 3, 12,14), which would fit nicely in the chronology if the next event is the abomination of desolation.
In other words, the Antichrist’s apparent resurrection may come in Jerusalem just before he declares himself to be God in the temple and thus begins the Great Tribulation, just after he fights the wars detailed in 40-45.