12. From Here to Eternity (Daniel 11:2-45)
In studying this eleventh chapter of Daniel, I compared the translation of the New Berkeley Version with that of the New American Standard Bible. My wife and I had purchased the Berkeley Version years ago while I was a seminary student and our girls were much younger. As I paged through the Old Testament and then through Daniel, there were a number of notes I had written in the margin of the text. When I reached chapter 11, I found another kind of writing; one of my daughters had scribbled all over the pages of chapter 11.
I found this rather humorous, wondering if when our Lord has returned and all of the prophecies of this chapter have been fulfilled, will not some of the comments I and others have made on this chapter be about as insightful as those scribblings on the pages of my Bible?
Please do not misunderstand. I am not implying that efforts to explain chapter 11 are futile and senseless. All Scripture is God-breathed, inspired, and therefore profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). I am saying that we do not have to understand all the particulars of chapter 11 for this prophecy to be profitable to us.
Consider Daniel as an old man, having retired from public office (compare 10:1 with 1:21) and nearing the time of his death (see 10:1; 12:13). The prophecy of chapters 10-12 was not to be publicized but rather sealed up and preserved for saints who would live in later times:
8 “But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase.” 9 And he said, “Go your way, Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed up until the end time” (Daniel 12:4, 9).
Daniel had fervently and faithfully prayed for the restoration of his people—for the coming of the kingdom of God (see Daniel 6:10; 9:1-19). That for which Daniel prayed was not to come in his lifetime. The vision of the glorified Christ (10:5-6), and the words spoken to him by the angel in chapters 10-12, were revealed to Daniel to encourage him as he faced death, knowing that his hope, along with that of believing Israelites, was sure (compare Hebrews 11:13-16).
Daniel greatly profited from the revelation he received in chapters 10-12. While he understood the vision of 10:5-6 to be a revelation of his Lord (10:1), he did not comprehend a great deal of the remaining revelation (see 12:8). Daniel did not know the names of all the kingdoms involved in the events leading to the end—he simply knew them to be nations north and south of Israel. Neither did he know the names of all the kings involved. Nevertheless, this prophecy was given to encourage and strengthen Daniel, and so it did.
Even though many years have passed and a number of this chapter’s prophecies have been fulfilled, Bible students differ strongly about which prophecies have and have not been fulfilled. Godly men and women disagree concerning when, by whom, or even how these prophecies have been fulfilled. I propose we approach this passage as Daniel did. We need not understand all the details to be instructed and encouraged. We do need to focus on the “big picture” in this passage to grasp the message God communicates by means of this text.
Our approach avoids attempting to explain the details of chapter 11, as we will try with few exceptions to understand and apply this revelation as though we were standing in Daniel’s sandals. We will consider the broad sweep of described events and the message God intended for Daniel and for us to gain from it.
Characteristics of This Chapter
Daniel 11 is unique, as a number of commentators have also noted. Its uniqueness causes some less conservative scholars to reject it as prophecy, insisting it is history written as though it were prophecy.107 To begin our study, we should consider some of those characteristics which will enhance our understanding of the chapter as a whole.
(1) The prophecy of chapter 11 is the longest, most detailed prophecy in all of the Book of Daniel, perhaps in all of the Old Testament.108 While chapter 2 is four verses longer than Daniel 11, a great deal of historical narrative is interwoven into these verses, making the prophecy of chapter 11 far more extensive than the general prophecy revealed in chapter 2. Chapter 11 contains not only more prophecy than any other chapter, but more detailed prophecy, much not revealed before.
(2) The symbolism of statues, winged-lions, rams, goats and horns is replaced by straightforward literal references to kings and kingdoms. None of the kings and only some of the kingdoms are named, but the mysterious symbolism has been dropped, and these final chapters of Daniel are written in straightforward terms, like the last chapters of Revelation in the New Testament.
(3) The prophecy of Daniel 11 is a part of the final recorded revelation given to Daniel in chapters 10-12. Chapter 10 serves as the introduction, chapter 11 supplies the major content of the revelation, and chapter 12 sums up and concludes the prophecy. Chapter 10 focuses on our Lord, as revealed to Daniel in his vision (verses 5-6). Chapter 11 focuses on the “kings of the North and the South.” Chapter 12 focuses on Daniel and the faithful, who die without receiving the promise, with the assurance of attaining it after their resurrection.
(4) While chapter 10 focused on the spiritual warfare in the heavenlies, chapter 11 dwells on the earthly, human struggles occurring between men, especially between the kings of the north and the kings of the south. Chapter 10 has opened our eyes to the unseen struggle taking place between fallen and unfallen angels. Somehow, this conflict and its outcome has a direct relationship to the events which take place on the earth. Chapter 11 is much more earthy, much more human. It has the appearance and even the smell of earthly politics. Kings come to the conference table making promises and commitments, lying all the while (verse 27). The daughter of the king of the South is given to the king of the North as his wife, hoping an alliance can be made (verse 6).
(5) While human motivation, self-seeking, and even rebellion are prominent in chapter 11, the underlying theme is man in his rebellion achieving the will of God, determined long before time began. In this chapter, as elsewhere, kings assert themselves, seek their own interests, and even oppose God and His people, while in the midst of it all, they accomplish what God has purposed (verses 27, 29, 36).
(6) The kings of the North and of the South, in pursuit of their own interests and expressing their own sinfulness, continually have contact with the nation Israel, posing a constant threat to this small nation caught between two super-powers. “North” and “South” are reckoned with respect to the nation Israel. When the “king of the North” engages the “king of the South,” he passes by Israel on his way there and back. The same can be said for the “king of the South.” If the king is successful, he may seek to gain more territory and control at Israel’s expense. If he is defeated, he may take out his wrath on Israel in retaliation for his defeat. Israel finds herself caught in the middle of this struggle between the powers of the North and those of the South. This may appear to be mere coincidence, but our text strongly suggests this is by divine design. Israel is not only impacted by the results of the spiritual warfare in which angels are engaged, she is also affected by the struggle of earthly kings, because God has providentially God placed His people between the major world powers.
(7) A very clear connection exists between the evil king of verses 21-45 and the “little horn” of chapter 8. It is my understanding that one “king of the North” is spoken of in verses 21-45,109 and that this king is none other than the “little horn” of chapter 8. Consider the following similarities between these two villains, the “little horn” of chapter 8 and the “king of the North” of chapter 11:
Characteristics of the Two Villains
Wicked and evil
Proud, glorifying themselves
Methods of the Two Villains
Use trickery and deception
Take advantage of peace
Deeds of the Two Villains
Oppose God and His people
Threaten the “Beautiful land”
Exalt and glorify themselves
Defile, bringing on the abomination of desolation
Accomplish divine objectives
(8) A literary unity and continuity is evident in chapter 11, distinct from that of previous chapters. The prophecies of Daniel 2 and 7 focus on four kingdoms, symbolized by the four metals of the statue (chapter 2) and the four beasts (chapter 7). The unifying factor in chapter 11 is the on-going struggle between the North and the South. This struggle seems to commence shortly after the death of Alexander the Great (11:3-4) and continues until the very end of human government (11:45). The emphasis does not fall so much on the kingdoms previously named. The fall of the Medo-Persian empire and the rise of the Greek empire is described, but not pointed out as such (11:2-4). Because the text does not emphasize distinct phases of prophecy but a continuity of struggle between the North and the South, I have made no effort to identify specific kings or events in terms of time.
From Daniel’s Day
to the Fall of Alexander the Great
2 “And now I will tell you the truth. Behold, three more kings are going to arise in Persia. Then a fourth will gain far more riches than all of them; as soon as he becomes strong through his riches, he will arouse the whole empire against the realm of Greece. 3 And a mighty king will arise, and he will rule with great authority and do as he pleases. 4 But as soon as he has arisen, his kingdom will be broken up and parceled out toward the four points of the compass, though not to his own descendants, nor according to his authority which he wielded; for his sovereignty will be uprooted and given to others besides them.
At the time of Belshazzar’s death (see chapter 5), the Babylonian empire had fallen, and Cyrus was presently the king of Medo-Persia. The text indicates the events of chapters 10-12 took place in the “third year of Cyrus, king of Persia” (10:1). The angel now informs Daniel that three more kings will arise in Persia, followed by a fourth (11:2).
Critics quickly point out that Persia had more kings than Daniel mentions. I see several possibilities. It may be the angel is speaking only of those kings who are considered major figures in history. The explanation which best satisfies me is that which the text itself seems to suggest: the angel had no intention of indicating the total number of kings who would rule over Persia. The angel indicated only that the Persian king who arouses the animosity of Greece is the fourth king of Persia. There could well have been other kings after him, and during their reign Greece waited for the time when they could avenge themselves by defeating Persia. However, the actions of this fourth Persian king is that which offended the Greeks and led ultimately to the overthrow of the Medo-Persian empire by Greece.
The “mighty king” who was to arise seems to be Alexander the Great, whose power was indeed great but who came to an early end to be replaced in time by four men. These four were not his sons nor did they exercise the authority which Alexander once demonstrated. Verse 4 strongly suggests the normal course of events did not happen because God sovereignly intervened, taking the throne away from Alexander the Great and his descendants. In all that took place, God was in control, and His purposes were achieved. Despite the great plans Alexander the Great may have had, God’s plans prevailed.
The First Kings
of the North and the South
5 “Then the king of the South will grow strong, along with one of his princes who will gain ascendancy over him and obtain dominion; his domain will be a great dominion indeed. 6 And after some years they will form an alliance, and the daughter of the king of the South will come to the king of the North to carry out a peaceful arrangement. But she will not retain her position of power, nor will he remain with his power, but she will be given up, along with those who brought her in, and the one who sired her, as well as he who supported her in those times. 7 But one of the descendants of her line will arise in his place, and he will come against their army and enter the fortress of the king of the North, and he will deal with them and display great strength. 8 And also their gods with their metal images and their precious vessels of silver and gold he will take into captivity to Egypt, and he on his part will refrain from attacking the king of the North for some years. 9 Then the latter will enter the realm of the king of the South, but will return to his own land. 10 And his sons will mobilize and assemble a multitude of great forces; and one of them will keep on coming and overflow and pass through, that he may again wage war up to his very fortress. 11 And the king of the South will be enraged and go forth and fight with the king of the North. Then the latter will raise a great multitude, but that multitude will be given into the hand of the former. 12 When the multitude is carried away, his heart will be lifted up, and he will cause tens of thousands to fall; yet he will not prevail. 13 For the king of the North will again raise a greater multitude than the former, and after an interval of some years he will press on with a great army and much equipment. 14 Now in those times many will rise up against the king of the South; the violent ones among your people will also lift themselves up in order to fulfill the vision, but they will fall down. 15 Then the king of the North will come, cast up a siege mound, and capture a well-fortified city; and the forces of the South will not stand their ground, not even their choicest troops, for there will be no strength to make a stand. 16 But he who comes against him will do as he pleases, and no one will be able to withstand him; he will also stay for a time in the Beautiful Land, with destruction in his hand. 17 And he will set his face to come with the power of his whole kingdom, bringing with him a proposal of peace which he will put into effect; he will also give him the daughter of women to ruin it. But she will not take a stand for him or be on his side. 18 Then he will turn his face to the coastlands and capture many. But a commander will put a stop to his scorn against him; moreover, he will repay him for his scorn. 19 So he will turn his face toward the fortresses of his own land, but he will stumble and fall and be found no more. 20 Then in his place one will arise who will send an oppressor through the Jewel of his kingdom; yet within a few days he will be shattered, though neither in anger nor in battle.
Beginning with verse 5, the kings of the North and the South are introduced in Daniel. The ensuing struggle goes on for a long period of time, continuing it seems to the day of God’s wrath (see 11:45; 12:1). There are a number of kings, both in the North and in the South, but the struggle between these two superpowers is represented as continuing throughout the course of history. It seems somewhat similar to the conflict between the “East” and the “West,” until recently in our own times—the struggle between Russia and the United States, or between communism and the free world.110
“North” and “South,” as I understand it, is reckoned from the standpoint of Israel. The “kings of the North” are those kings who rule over the kingdom north of Israel, and the “kings of the South” are those kings who rule over the southern kingdom. Whether this is always the same precise piece of geography or the same political entity I do not know.
Over time, the relationship between the kings of the North and the kings of the South changes. Early on, the “king of the South” grows very powerful; after a number of years, he attempts to form an alliance with the “king of the North” by giving this northern king his daughter as a wife, although this does not produce the desired effect over a long period of time (11:6). Eventually, these two powers end up at war (11:7-13).
Taking advantage of the uprising of many (including some Jews, see verse 14) against the “king of the South,” the “king of the North” seeks to make political and military gains. Even the best troops of the “king of the South” cannot stand up to him and are defeated. This enables the northern king to occupy Israel, where he brings much destruction (verse 16). His intention is to muster all his forces and consolidate his gains. He even has a peace proposal which he puts into effect with the aid of a woman, but this does not last. Turning his efforts to the coastal regions, he is turned back by an unnamed commander. Afterwards, he stumbles and is removed. Another takes his place and wages an attack on the “Jewel of his kingdom” —perhaps Jerusalem—but he is shattered in some unexpected way (verse 20). These “kings of the North and South” set the stage for the final scene—the emergence of the final “king of the North” —the “little horn” of chapter 8.
The Final King of
the North: The Little Horn
21 “And in his place a despicable person will arise, on whom the honor of kingship has not been conferred, but he will come in a time of tranquility and seize the kingdom by intrigue. 22 And the overflowing forces will be flooded away before him and shattered, and also the prince of the covenant. 23 And after an alliance is made with him he will practice deception, and he will go up and gain power with a small force of people. 24 In a time of tranquility he will enter the richest parts of the realm, and he will accomplish what his fathers never did, nor his ancestors; he will distribute plunder, booty, and possessions among them, and he will devise his schemes against strongholds, but only for a time. 25 And he will stir up his strength and courage against the king of the South with a large army; so the king of the South will mobilize an extremely large and mighty army for war; but he will not stand, for schemes will be devised against him. 26 And those who eat his choice food will destroy him, and his army will overflow, but many will fall down slain. 27 As for both kings, their hearts will be intent on evil, and they will speak lies to each other at the same table; but it will not succeed, for the end is still to come at the appointed time. 28 Then he will return to his land with much plunder; but his heart will be set against the holy covenant, and he will take action and then return to his own land. 29 At the appointed time he will return and come into the South, but this last time it will not turn out the way it did before. 30 For ships of Kittim will come against him; therefore he will be disheartened, and will return and become enraged at the holy covenant and take action; so he will come back and show regard for those who forsake the holy covenant. 31 And forces from him will arise, desecrate the sanctuary fortress, and do away with the regular sacrifice. And they will set up the abomination of desolation. 32 And by smooth words he will turn to godlessness those who act wickedly toward the covenant, but the people who know their God will display strength and take action. 33 And those who have insight among the people will give understanding to the many; yet they will fall by sword and by flame, by captivity and by plunder, for many days. 34 Now when they fall they will be granted a little help, and many will join with them in hypocrisy. 35 And some of those who have insight will fall, in order to refine, purge, and make them pure, until the end time; because it is still to come at the appointed time. 36 Then the king will do as he pleases, and he will exalt and magnify himself above every god, and will speak monstrous things against the God of gods; and he will prosper until the indignation is finished, for that which is decreed will be done. 37 And he will show no regard for the gods of his fathers or for the desire of women, nor will he show regard for any other god; for he will magnify himself above them all. 38 But instead he will honor a god of fortresses, a god whom his fathers did not know; he will honor him with gold, silver, costly stones, and treasures. 39 And he will take action against the strongest of fortresses with the help of a foreign god; he will give great honor to those who acknowledge him, and he will cause them to rule over the many, and will parcel out land for a price. 40 And at the end time the king of the South will collide with him, and the king of the North will storm against him with chariots, with horsemen, and with many ships; and he will enter countries, overflow them, and pass through. 41 He will also enter the Beautiful Land, and many countries will fall; but these will be rescued out of his hand: Edom, Moab and the foremost of the sons of Ammon. 42 Then he will stretch out his hand against other countries, and the land of Egypt will not escape. 43 But he will gain control over the hidden treasures of gold and silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt; and Libyans and Ethiopians will follow at his heels. 44 But rumors from the East and from the North will disturb him, and he will go forth with great wrath to destroy and annihilate many. 45 And he will pitch the tents of his royal pavilion between the seas and the beautiful Holy Mountain; yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him.”
When the “king of the North” falls, he is replaced by another. The replacement “king of the North” has no legal claim to the throne. He is not placed in power but “seizes the kingdom,” but not by brute force for he has little military might or political support (verse 23). This evil king rises to power by means of his political skill and his devious schemes. The extent of his cunning and intrigue is evident in that he far surpasses any of his predecessors in his accomplishments. He achieves this in a “time of peace” and seemingly without the use of great military force himself (verse 24).
His confidence bolstered by his accomplishments, this new “king of the North” decides to take on the mighty “king of the South.” By this time, the “king of the North” has mustered a large armed force. The “king of the South” also has a very sizeable force but is defeated, not by military might but by schemes which appear to be the handiwork of the “king of the North” (verses 25 and 26).
Both kings apparently agree to sit down at the conference table to negotiate peace terms. Both kings give the appearance of good will and sincerity, but both lie to each other so that the effort is unsuccessful. The reason, we are told, is because this must all end in God’s way and in His time (verse 27). The “king of the North” returns to his country, greatly enriched by his venture. His heart is also set against Israel and especially against the “holy covenant.” His heart and mind are bent on using his might to destroy and defile the people and the place of God (verse 28).
In God’s appointed time, the “king of the North” turns southward once again, but things will not go so well this time as they had before (verse 29). Ships from Kittim will oppose and resist him, so that he will return to his land, not in the pride of victory, but in the shame of defeat. On his way, he will pass Israel, determining to take his vengeance on this place, which he already hates in his heart (verse 30).
This king returns to the land of Israel and shows favor to the Jews who forsake the covenant. With his forces, he will desecrate the sanctuary fortress, doing away with the regular sacrifice, and bringing about the previously prophesied “abomination of desolation” (Daniel 9:27; cf. also 8:11; 12:11).
This king will employ his power of deception and persuasion on the people of Israel. Many will fall for his line. These will be the godless, who want to hear what he has to say, and whose senses are deadened toward the truth. The righteous will not be taken in, however. They will recognize him for what he is, and they will “take action” (verse 32). This “action” will not be military resistance, as I understand it, but rather the faithful practice and proclamation of the truth. The righteous will “give understanding to many.” The faithfulness of the godly will have its price, for many will be put to death. This will occur for a number of days (verse 33). They will receive a token gesture of help, and they will also have followers who join them hypocritically. Even “some of those who have insight will fall, in order to refine, purge, and make them pure, until the end time … ” (verse 35).
While this time of desolation, persecution, and proclamation of the truth is yet future, we have already seen a sample of it in the early days of the church. In those early days, there was opposition and persecution but also the faithful proclamation of the gospel, the salvation of some, and the hypocritical following of others.
While this time of adversity will bring about the death of some of the saints, it is a part of the plan and purpose of God for purging and purifying His people in preparation for the coming of His kingdom (verse 35).
At this point in time, this “king of the North” will be granted the power to “do as he pleases” (verse 36). As his apparent power rises, the ego of this king becomes greatly inflated, so that he, like Satan, his mentor and master, begins to exalt and magnify himself above all gods. He speaks blasphemously against God Himself (verse 36; see also Isaiah 14:13-14; Ezekiel 28:17). As this king surpassed his predecessors in his accomplishments, so he also surpasses them in his madness. Forsaking the gods of his fathers, he also disdains the “desire of women.” 111
This king will turn from any previous gods to a new one, a “god of fortresses” (verse 38). This seems to be a new god who operates in the realm of military strength.112 Through the power of this foreign military “god,” the “king of the North” will wage war with great success. In return for the support of men, this king parcels out the spoils of victory (verses 38-39).
At the end time, yet another major confrontation will take place between the “king of the North” and the “king of the South.” The “king of the North” wins a decisive victory, then turns his attention once again toward Israel. While the people of Edom, Moab, and Ammon are rescued from his grasp, Egypt and the nation Israel are not. Rumors from the East and North enrage the “king of the North,” causing him to strike out mercilessly, destroying and annihilating many (verse 44). He seems then to encamp his army in Israel beside the “beautiful Holy Mountain” (verse 45).
I understand the last half of verse 45 to be parenthetical. This “king of the North,” this “little horn,” will be defeated and destroyed, accomplished by means other than human instrumentality (8:25), and there will then be no one who can come to his aid (11:45). But his end is not yet. That will take place, in my understanding, in the events described in the early part of chapter 12. For now, we are to see this evil and very powerful king stationed in Israel, intent on devastating this place but knowing that his end is near.
The early events of chapter 11 can quite easily be seen as fulfilled in the rise and fall of Alexander the Great. After this, history, as presently understood, does not neatly fit into the scheme of events spelled out in the prophecy of this chapter. In the future, we may see how this has occurred, but for now we must see that at least the last verses of the chapter are yet to be fulfilled in the end times. While we cannot understand all the details of the program outlined in chapter 11, we certainly can see the “big picture” and find comfort and encouragement, just as Daniel could and did. What are some of the lessons this chapter offers for our edification?
(1) The details in this chapter provide the saints of the last days with a description of the “little horn,” which will expose the deception and cunning of this coming king. The ungodly will not discern the wickedness of this king, or if they do, they will actually be attracted by it. They will follow him to their own destruction. The godly will have “insight,” through the Word of God and the Spirit of God, and discern who he is and resist him. Some of the “insight” by which they will discern his identity and the events of the last days will come from Daniel chapter 11.
Christians have been inclined to think of this evil king in a way quite different from the description given in our text. The origin of this “king of the North” is very different from his final outcome. He has no legitimate claim to his throne, and yet he seizes it (verse 20). He arises in a time of tranquility, not in a time of war. He comes to power not by military might but by cunning and intrigue (verse 21). His power is given to him by men, because he offers and provides them with what they want. Like the false prophets of all ages, he appeals to the flesh and wins a broad hearing and support (see 1 Peter 2; Jude 1). Let us be very careful to think of this “little horn” as the Scriptures describe him, and beware of the appeal of his cunning and schemes.
(2) Our text describes the willful acts of godless kings and those who follow them, but all the while it reminds us that while these sinners are rebelling against God and seeking their own interests, God’s plans and purposes are being achieved. Let us draw our attention to those verses which underscore the sovereign control of God over all human history and especially over the events which come about at the end time (see verses 2, 4, 14, 20, 24, 27, 29, 35, 36, 45). God is in control of human history, including the events which occur due to the reign of wicked men. The degree of detail depicted about future events in our chapter reflects the degree to which God’s sovereign control of history extends.
(3) The prophecy of Daniel 11 tells us of the certain suffering of the saints, especially those living in the days of this evil king yet to come. This king has a special animosity toward God, toward Israel, toward the covenant, and toward all who worship and serve God. Repeatedly, he comes in contact with Israel and consistently seeks to devour, destroy, or defile it. When wicked men rule, the saints should expect to suffer. This is the consistent teaching of the Word of God for the saints (see John 15:17-21; Acts 14:22; 2 Timothy 3:12; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-9; 2:18-25; 4:1-6, 16-19).
(4) Our text warns the godly of the certainty of suffering, but it assures them of their security in the midst of suffering. Verse 32 tells us some who disdain the holy covenant will follow the wicked “king of the North.” While this will happen, the godly are assured that God has given them the means not only to endure, but to be enriched in the troublesome times of the evil king. Not only will the godly have “insight” to recognize this king for who he is, they will “take action” by proclaiming the truth, as the Lord brings some to genuine repentance and salvation (verses 32-33). For their faithfulness, the godly will be persecuted and some will be put to death. This will in no way hinder their blessings, but enhance them. In the process of suffering, they will be purged and purified. God allows the wicked to triumph over the righteous for a time, but it is always for His glory and our good (see Romans 8:28).
In a way, we can see the final events described in chapter 11 as the ultimate illustration of the truths taught in Psalm 73. There, Asaph confesses his frustration and sinful response to the prosperity of the wicked. How could the God who promised blessing to the righteous allow the wicked to prosper and even to persecute the righteous? As Asaph gains an eternal perspective, he understands that the success of the wicked led them to arrogance and rebellion against God, but suffering caused him to cling more closely to God. So we read in Psalm 73 and hear the witness of saints through the ages: God turns suffering to blessing as the “nearness of God” is our good.
Daniel 11 is the ultimate outworking of the truths of Psalm 73. This arrogant, wicked king who is yet to come will prosper for a season. When he does, he will persecute and afflict the people of God. God will nevertheless bless His people in their suffering and bring them through it to enjoy His presence forever. The wicked will prosper for a time but will then come to sudden destruction. God’s purposes and presence are realized in suffering by those who know and trust Him.
May God use the revelation of this chapter, when evil men seem to triumph over the righteous, to give us insight and encouragement to face the trials of this age, to His glory and for our good.
Questions and Answers
(1) What is the structure of Daniel 10-12, and how does chapter 11 fit into it?
Chapters 10-12 of Daniel are a unit, a final revelation given to Daniel in the third year of Cyrus (10:1). Chapter 10 serves as the introduction; chapter 11 provides the content of the revelation; and chapter 12 is the conclusion. Chapter 10 focuses on Christ, the object of the vision of verses 5 and 6 and the center and culmination of all prophecy. Chapter 11 focuses on the political struggles of fallen men, leading up to the coming of Christ, with particular emphasis on the final “king of the North” who persecutes the people of God, desecrates the holy place, and pre- cipitates (humanly speaking) the coming of Christ. Chapter 12 focuses on Daniel, nearing the time of his death, and the hope he shares with all true believers of entering into the kingdom of God after his resurrection from the dead.
(2) How does chapter 11 fit into the argument of Daniel?
Daniel 11 is a part of the last final segment of the Book of Daniel, comprised of chapters 10-12. This is the last recorded revelation in Daniel, received late in his life shortly before his death (12:13). In this final revelation, details of the on-going conflict between the “kings of the North” and the “kings of the South” are disclosed. The revelation covers the period from Daniel’s day to the day of the Lord, when He comes to destroy His enemies and to establish His kingdom on earth. The prophecy of this final segment is given to Daniel to encourage him as the day of his death draws near and to give insight to those who will thereby be able to recognize the coming of this evil king, and “take action” in faithfulness to God and His Word.
(3) What is the nature and structure of chapter 11?
Chapter 11 contains very specific prophecy concerning those events which were still future when Daniel received this revelation. Though some critics try to avoid the specific nature of this prophecy by claiming it is history written in a way that appears to be prophecy, it claims to be and is indeed prophecy. The prophecy we find in chapter 11 is not couched in vague, mysterious, or perplexing symbols (statues, beasts, horns, etc.) as the case earlier in Daniel, but rather in plain language.
There are various ways of understanding the structure of Daniel 11. In particular, Bible students differ as to where in the chapter one distinguishes between those prophecies already fulfilled and the beginning of those prophecies yet unfulfilled. As I understand the text, this “line” for which we look is deliberately blurred. The text seems to stress the “unity” of prophecy, because throughout the chapter (and the course of history from Daniel’s day to the end) there is an on-going conflict between the “king of the North” and the “king of the South.” I understand verses 5-20 to speak of several “kings” of the North and South, but verses 21-45 appear to be speaking of the final “king of the North,” whose rise to power precedes and precipitates the coming of the King described in His glory in Daniel 10:5-6.
(4) What is the relationship between the prophecy of Daniel 11 and the previous prophecies of Daniel?
In one sense, the prophecies of Daniel 10-12 are the capstone of all the previous prophecies of Daniel. I understand the prophecies of Daniel to be progressive, in that each additional prophecy adds to or further clarifies those prophecies previously given. Daniel 10-12 covers the period of time from shortly after Daniel’s death to the second coming of our Lord, yet future. Daniel 11 seems to provide details concerning the Greek empire which were not previously disclosed. More than anything, Daniel 11 gives us a further explanation and clarification of the character and conduct of the “little horn” described in chapter 8.
(5) How does chapter 11 help to shape the perspective of the Christian who takes this text seriously?
Chapter 10 greatly enhances our perspective by taking us beyond earthly events and conflicts to those heavenly conflicts in which fallen and unfallen angels are engaged. It helps us to see the “unseen” spiritual warfare going on, which has a direct bearing on earthly events and on the implementation of God’s plan for creation. Chapter 11 broadens our perspective by focusing on the conflicts which take place between human, earthly powers, which seem merely to be the expression of sinful men seeking to fulfill their selfish ambitions. The constant emphasis of chapter 11 is that while sinful men are engaged in earthly struggles to fulfill their ungodly ambitions, God is employing them to achieve His purposes and to fulfill His plan for creation. All of this takes place exactly when and how God has purposed it. God’s plan, as seen in chapter 11, is very detailed and precisely on schedule.
Daniel 11 has much to teach the saints about suffering. The suffering of the saints appears, in this chapter, to be the result of human ambition, pride, and conflict. The rise of the “little horn” or the final “king of the North” results in the suffering of the saints. While this wicked one prospers, the righteous suffer. This is but the ultimate illustration of the lesson of Psalm 73. But in the prosperity of the wicked and the consequent suffering of the saints, God’s plans and purposes are being fulfilled. These things must happen before the return of our Lord, and when they do take place, the saints are not only purged and purified in preparation for the kingdom, they are given the opportunity to shine forth, demonstrating the grace of God in their perseverance and proclaiming the grace of God in the gospel, so that even in these dark days some will be saved (see verses 32-35).
107 “If this chapter were indeed the utterance of a prophet in the Babylonian Exile, nearly four hundred years before the events--events of which many are of small comparative importance in the world’s history--which are here so enigmatically and yet so minutely depicted, the revelation would be the most unique and perplexing in the whole Scriptures. It would represent a sudden and total departure from every method of God’s providence and of God’s manifestations of His will to the mind of the prophets. It would stand absolutely and abnormally alone as an abandonment of the limitations of all else which has ever been foretold.” F. W. Farrar, The Book of Daniel, p. 299, as cited by John F. Walvoord, Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971), p. 253.
108 The longest chapter in Daniel is chapter 2 with 49 verses. The shortest is chapter 12 with a mere 13 verses. The average length per chapter would be 30 verses. With 45 verses, chapter 11 is the second longest chapter, being fifty percent longer than the average.
109 If this is true, there is not a decisive break between verses 35 and 36, as maintained by noted scholars such as Dr. John Walvoord or as suggested in the translation of the New International Version. They would hold that while verses 1-35 refer to prophecies which have already been fulfilled, verses 36-45 are prophecies pertaining to the future, as yet unfulfilled. I do not know where the break comes in Daniel 11 between those prophecies which have been fulfilled and those which yet remain to be fulfilled. I understand the early verses of the chapter refer to events close to Daniel’s time which have been fulfilled. I also recognize that the final verses of the chapter and in chapter 12 refer to events pertaining to the end time. But I cannot see a clear dividing line in the text which tells me exactly where the transition takes place. I am inclined to think the dividing line was deliberately obscured.
111 There are various explanations for this statement in verse 37. It may be that this king is homosexual. It may also be that this man is so caught up in himself that he has no normal sexual appetite. The loss of sexual appetite can be seen in some measure today, by those who are so caught up in themselves (often in their work) that they seem to have lost their sexual desire.
112 This kind of “worship” should not seem all that strange to those of us who have watched the world put their trust in American military strategy and technology, and who gain a sense of peace and well-being due to weapons like the United States’ Patriot Missile System. We may not call military might our god, but it may well be so.
Related Topics: Prophecy/Revelation