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Daniel 11



  Interpretation of the Vision of History Unfolding The Kingdoms of Egypt and Syria Early Struggles Between the Seleucids and Ptolemies
  11:2-4 11:2b 11:2b-4
Warring Kings of North and South   11:3-4  
11:5-10 11:5-6a 11:5-9 11:5-18
  11:10-13 11:10-12  
11:14-28 11:14-19    
  11:20-28 11:20  
    The Evil King of Syria Antiochus Epiphanes
    11:21-24 11:21-24
    11:25-28 11:25-26
The Northern King Blasphemes     11:27-30
11:29-35 11:29-35 11:29-30a  
11:36-39 11:36-39 11:36-39 11:36-39
The Northern King's Conquests     The End of the Persecution
11:40-45 11:40-45 11:40-45 11:40-41

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. This chapter is the central revelation of the angel to Daniel, which began in chapter 10 and concludes in chapter 12.


B. It was surprising to Daniel because it revealed to him that God's people would suffer continuing hardships, not because of their sin (as they did in the Exile), but because they are the people of God. This chapter continues the theme of the entire book, which is that human fallen governments are opposed to God. Each empire has become more and more anti-God. This culminates in the fourth empire of Rome which is a type of end-time anti-God human government (cf. Rev. 16-17).


C. Verses 2-20 describe in detail the history of the struggle between two of the dynasties of Alexander's generals who fought over Palestine. They are the Ptolemies of Egypt and the Seleucids of Syria/Babylon. These verses relate to the historical period of 323 b.c.-165 b.c. Good sources for a historical perspective are

1. F. F. Bruce, Israel and the Nations

2. Cambridge Ancient History, vol. 8

3. a Jewish perspective in I and II Maccabees and Josephus' Antiquities


D. Verses 21-35, although less specific, relate to the eighth Seleucid ruler, Antiochus IV Epiphanes.


E. Verses 36-45 relate to either (1) Antiochus IV or (2) the Antichrist at the end-time. There has been much disagreement among commentators about verses 21-45. See note at v. 36.


F. This chapter is so very detailed. Were these historical details (i.e. vv. 2-35) the major intent of the inspired author? The genre he chose says "No!" Let me quote several sentences from a new and exciting book on prophetic and apocalyptic literature by D. Brent Sandy, Plowshares and Pruning Hooks: Rethinking the Language of Biblical Prophecy and Apocalyptic.

1. From chapter 2, "What Makes Prophecy Problematic?"

a. "the question is whether emotional language is necessarily exact language," p. 41

b. "hyperboles, in effect, stretch the truth in order to increase the impact of the words," p. 41

c. "a prophet's intent may be to express emotion more than exactness," p. 41

d. "at what level are readers supposed to understand the prophetic visions—every detail? The overall picture?" p. 48

2. From chapter 3, "How Does the Language of Prophecy Work?"

a. "if we fail to grasp the inherent metaphorical nature of language, we fail to understand prophecy," p. 59

3. From chapter 5, "How Does the Language of Apocalyptic Work?"

a. Are the details in the vision allusive and symbolic or precise and explicit? Generally, the images lack precision," p. 117

b. "anticipating the details of political events of the fourth through the second centuries raises the issue whether the point of the vision is the details or the overall impact," p. 119

c. "but we must not begin with the specific lest we fail to grasp the global!" p. 122

d. "it is also expected with the nature of apocalyptic language that some details may simply be for effect; stated another way, some details may be make-believe," p. 124

e. "details may have no particular significance other than to give the account more emotive power," p. 126

f. "there is a certain amount of futility; therefore, in trying to determine the significance of all the details of apocalyptic visions," p. 126

g. "to read the Apocalypse with a microscope, even striving to decipher the significance of the most minute detail, defrauds the genre of it intended function," p. 127

h. "understanding the orality of the Apocalypse underscores the point that correct interpretation pays more attention to the overall impression of the visions than to the individual details," p. 127

i. "from the vision in Daniel 8 we learn that while apocalyptic may seem on the surface to describe the future in detail, in point of fact, it does not. Some details may in the end match up with a precise event, but it would have been impossible to see that in advance," p. 128

4. From chapter 6, "How Have Prophecies Been Fulfilled?"

a. "the already fulfilled prophecies demonstrate a pattern of translucence rather than transparency. The intent was apparently not to give specific information about the future," p. 146

b. "figures of speech abound in the poetry of prophecy. That should suggest that correct understanding of prophetic poetry is often not possible until after the fulfillment," p. 150

c. "if we grasp the intent of prophecy as primarily prosecution and persuasion, we will not expect it to reveal details of the future," p. 154

5. Chapter 7, "How Will Prophecies Be Fulfilled?"

a. "because prophecy is poetic, it is inherently ambiguous and in some ways less precise," p. 158

b. "given the nature of prophecy, we should probably deduce that it offers panorama, not close-up details," p. 163

c. "prophecy and apocalyptic: it is a stained-glass window, not a crystal ball," p. 184

d. "the function of the prophets' language was to draw attention to basic ideas about the future, not to reveal precisely what will happen and when it will happen," p. 184

6. Conclusion

a. "the fundamental question is, does the language of prophecy intend to give us details from which we can preconstruct how the future will unfold?" p. 206

b. "biblical prophecies were generally not understood before they were fulfilled," p. 199

This perspective has helped me as I struggled with 9:24-27. It is less helpful with chapter 11 because there are so many corroborated historical details from v. 2 to v. 35. Verses 36-45 parallel 7:7-8,11,24-25 and 9:24-27. These seem to fit into Jesus' words in Matt. 24; Mark 13; Luke 21; Paul's words in I and II Thess.; and John's words in the Revelation. However, as the NT authors saw fulfilled OT prophecy only after Jesus' life, these end-time events are not all literal, historical predictions. Only time will tell. But for those last generation of hurting and dying believers, many (but not all) of them may be very literal to encourage them to faith and hope (which is the purpose of all apocalyptic literature).

G. The major truth of this chapter relates to the coming suffering of God's people. Although they look defeated by fallen, organized humanity, they are victorious through their God who is in control of all history (cf. 11:1, 12, 27, 29, 35, 36, 45).



A. "three more kings" (v. 2) Cambyses II (530-522 b.c.), Pseudo-Smerdis (522 b.c.) and Darius I (522-486 b.c.)


B. "a fourth" (v. 2) Xerxes I (486-465 b.c.), also known as "Ahasuerus" of Esther


C. "a mighty king will arise" (v. 3) Alexander II called the Great (336-323 b.c.)


D. "the four points of the compass" (v. 4) Most believe this relates to Alexander's major generals:

1. Cassender -Macedonia and Greece

2. Lysimicus -Thrace

3. Seleucus I -Syria and Babylon

4. Ptolemy I -Egypt and Palestine


E. "not his own descendants" (v. 4), Alexander had two sons:

1. Hercules by Barsine which was Darius I's daughter

2. Alexander III by Roxana

3. both were assassinated


F. "the king of the South" (v. 5 ), Ptolemy I Soter (323-285 b.c.)


G. "one of his princes" (v. 5), Seleucus I Nicator was forced out of Babylon by Antigonus in 316 b.c. but, with the help of Ptolemy I, he became ruler of the Seleucid dynasty (312-280 b.c.)


H. "the daughter of the king of the South" (v. 6), this was Bernice, the daughter of Ptolemy II (285-246 b.c.)


I. "the king of the North" (v. 6 ), Antiochus II (261-246 b.c.)


J. "the descendants of her 1ine" (vv. 7, 9), this refers to the brother of Bernice who was Ptolemy III (246-221 b.c.)


K. "the king of the North" (vv. 7, 8, 9, 10,11, 15-18), Antiochus III the Great (223-187 b.c.)


L. "he" (v . 7), Ptolemy III kills Laodice who had Bernice killed


M. "one of them" (v. 10), this refers to Antiochus III, the Great (223-187 b.c.)


N. "his. . .the king of the South. . .the former" (vv. 10-11, 14), Ptolemy IV (221-207 b.c.), this king defeated the Seleucids badly but did not follow up on his victory


O. "his heart will be lifted up" (v . 12), Ptolemy IV (221-207 b.c.)


P. "the forces of the South" (v. 15), Ptolemy V (203-181 b.c.) was a child when he became ruler. This verse refers to the defeat of his best general, Scopas, at Sidon where he lost 100,000 chosen troops.


Q. "the daughter of women" (v. 17), this refers to Antiochus III the Great's daughter, Cleopatra, who was given in marriage to Ptolemy V; however, the consummation of the marriage had to wait for five years because of the age of Ptolemy V. She, however, sided with her husband against her father!


R. "a commander" (v. l8a), this refers to a Roman general who confronted Antiochus III at Magnesia, west of Sardis. Antiochus was forced to retreat. On his way back home he took out his anger on Jerusalem.


S. "one will arise…he…" (v. 20), Seleucus IV (198-175 b.c.)


T. "An oppressor" (v. 20), this refers to Seleucus IV's tax collector, Heliodorus (cf. II Mac. 3:7-40).


U. "a despicable person will arise" (v. 21), this refers to Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-163 b.c.). This is the Seleucid ruler who tried to force the Jews to become Hellenists.


THEORIES CONCERNING THE PERSON REFERRED TO IN VERSES 36-45 (taken from E. J. Young, The Prophecy of Daniel, pp. 246-247 and adapted):

A. Antiochus IV Epiphanes (Ephraim of Syria, and most modern interpreters)


B. Titus and Vespasian (many rabbis)


C. Constantine (Rabbi Ibn Ezra, Jacchiades, and Isaac Abarbanel)


D. Roman Empire (R. Solomon, Rashi and John Calvin)


E. Herod the Great (Mauro)


F. the Papal system (Martin Luther)


G. The Antichrist (evangelical scholars)

1. Jerome says a double reference to Antiochus IV and the end-time antichrist starts in vv. 21-45

2. Hippolytus and Theodotion say it starts in v. 36

3. Chrysostom says it starts in verse 1




 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. 3And a mighty king will arise, and he will rule with great authority and do as he pleases. 4But 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."

11:2 For "A Brief Historical Survey of the Powers of Mesopotamia" see Appendix Three.

▣ "And now I will tell you the truth" This is an idiom which means that the message is trustworthy and accurate (cf. 8:26; 10:1,21). See fuller note at 10:1.

▣ "three more kings" This may refer to the last three before Xerxes I, Cambyses II (530-522 b.c.), Pseudo-Smerdis (522- 521 b.c.) and Darius I (521-486 b.c.). We learn from history that there were nine kings in the series, but v. 2 summarizes 200 years (538-331 b.c.) of Persian history (cf. A Handbook on the Book of Daniel, UBS, p. 280).

▣ "then a fourth" Jerome was the first to assert that this refers to Xerxes I (486-465 b.c.), which is the Greek name for Esther's husband, Ahasuerus. He planned a campaign into Greece for over 4 years. When he finally attacked Greece with a much superior force, he was defeated by the well-organized Greek army. Heroditus says that he invaded with over one million men. That Persia could be defeated would have surprised everyone who lived in the Persian Empire.

"will gain far more riches than all of them; as soon as he becomes strong through his riches" This apparently refers to Xerxes I (his Greek name), who planned and attacked Greece with all his resources.

NASB"he will arouse the whole empire"
NKJV, NRSV"he shall stir up all"
NJB"he will make war"

The NKJV and NRSV are closest to the Hebrew text, which leaves ambiguous who the "all" refers to.

1. the Greek empire (NAB, Moffatt translation)

2. the Persian empire (NASB)

3. everyone against Greece (NIV)



NJB"and a mighty king will arise"
NRSV"a warrior king shall arise"
TEV"a heroic king will appear"

The Hebrew ADJECTIVE (BDB 150) is often used of God (cf. Deut. 10:17; Neh. 9:23; Isa. 10:21; Jer. 32:18). It described Nimrod, the founder of Babylon, as a mighty hunter (cf. Gen. 10:9). It described the Messiah in Isa. 9:5. Its cognate root in Arabic has the connotation of "one who magnifies himself" or "a tyrant," which fits Alexander II. The next VERB and OBJECT are the same word (BDB 605-606, KB 647) "rule and great rule," which describes the amazing exploits of Alexander.

There is a time gap between v. 2, the closing of the Persian Empire (the second kingdom of chapters 2 and 7, cf. 8:20) and v. 3, the coming of the Greek Empire (the third kingdom of chapters 2 and 7, cf. 8:21).

NASB"he will rule with great authority"
NKJV, NRSV"who shall rule with great dominion"
TEV"he will rule over a great empire"
NJB"govern a vast empire"

This idiom is repeated in v. 5, where it refers to the extent of the reign. Brown, Driver, Briggs see II Kgs. 20:13 and Isa. 39:2 as parallel (BDB 606).

NASB"do as he pleases"
NKJV"do according to his will"
NRSV"take action as he pleases"
TEV"do whatever he wants"
NJB"do whatever he pleases"

This is the essence of fallen humanity, which characterizes all the kingdoms of Daniel (see full note at 8:4). The book of Daniel accentuates the supposed sovereignty of these worldly leaders with the true sovereignty of YHWH, as v. 4 demonstrates (three Niphal VERBS).

11:4 "as soon as he has arisen, his kingdom will be broken up and parceled out" Alexander the Great conquered the known world of his day and died of a fever at the age of 32 in Babylon (323 b.c.).

"the four points of the compass" Literally this is "the four winds of heaven" which is a metaphor for the world (cf. 7:2; 8:8). Alexander's generals (i.e. the twelve satraps of his kingdom) divided his domain. However, four of them became dominant powers: (1) Cassander - Macedonia and Greece; (2) Lysimicus - Thrace; (3) Seleucus I - Syria and Babylon; (4) Ptolemy I - Egypt and Palestine and (5) Antigonus - part of Asia Minor. However, Antigonus was killed very early in this power struggle.

"not his own descendants" Alexander the Great had two sons, Hercules by Barsine, the daughter of Darius I, and Alexander III by Roxana (daughter of the Scythian king). Both of them were assassinated.

"and given to others besides them" The "others" could refer to (1) his descendants; (2) smaller kings and kingdoms in his empire; or (3) the four major generals.

 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. 6After 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. 7But 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. 8Also 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. 9Then the latter will enter the realm of the king of the South, but will return to his own land."

11:5 This begins the series of intrigues between the Ptolemies of Egypt (kings of the south) and the Seleucids of Syria (kings of the north). The Jews were caught in the middle of the struggles of these two empires. The rest of verses 5-20 are a summary of the historical conflict, at least up until 175 b.c.

▣ "the king of the South" This refers to Ptolemy I Soter (323-285 b.c.), who was the very effective military general of Alexander who founded the Ptolemy dynasty in Egypt.

▣ "along with one of his princes" This apparently refers to Seleucus I Nicator (321-281 b.c.), anotherof Alexander's military leaders who served Ptolemy I for a time after he was forced to flee Babylon by Antigonus in 316 b.c. He later (312 b.c.) took an army and re-conquered Babylon thus becoming the first ruler of the Seleucid dynasty, which controlled Syria-Babylon.

11:6 "and the daughter of the king of the South will come to the king of the North" This was an attempt to stop the tension between these two dynasties by marriage (252 b.c.). However, the king of the North, Antiochus II Theos (261-246 b.c.), was already married to a lady named Laodice and they had two sons, Seleucus II Callinicus and Antiochus III. This lady was divorced and the daughter of Ptolemy II, Philadelphus (285-246 b.c.), was made the bride of Antiochus II. Her name was Bernice. However, when her father, Ptolemy II, died, Bernice was rejected for Laodice. Laodice, fearful of her position, poisoned her husband, Antiochus II, and had her son (Seleucus II Callinicus) put on the throne. She also killed Bernice and her child and her servants.

11:7 In verse 7 we see that Bernice's brother ("branch of her roots"), Ptolemy III ("one of the descendants of her line"), angry over the death of his sister, invaded the north (246 b.c.). He was very successful militarily against the Seleucid Empire, but did not push his advantage. He took a large amount of the spoils from Antioch and returned to Egypt. We learn of this in verses 8 and 9.

11:8 "and also their gods" Ptolemy III, when he invaded Syria and Babylon, recovered the Egyptian's idols that had been taken by Cambyses II in 524 b.c. By restoring these Egyptian idols, he became a very popular Egyptian ruler.

11:9 There is a time gap of two years between verse 8 and 9. There is no historical record of this incident.

 10"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. 11The 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. 12When 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. 13For 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."

11:10 "and his sons" This refers to the sons of Antiochus II (the king of the North): (1) Seleucus II Callinicus (240-227 b.c.) and (2) Antiochus III (223-187 b.c.), later known as "the Great." The phrase in verse 10, "one of them," refers to Antiochus III.

▣ "his very fortress" This refers to a fortress of Ptolemy IV Philapater (cf. v. 11), possibly located at Gaza.

11:11 This fight occurred at the city of Raphai, south of Gaza (217 b.c.). At this battle the Egyptians were initially routed. The larger Seleucid force pursued the Egyptians, but the Egyptians reorganized and attacked and finally won the day. We learn from this battle that Antiochus III (223-187 b.c.) lost 10,000 infantry men, 300 cavalry, and 5 elephants. Also, 4,000 prisoners were taken (cf. Polybius 5:86).

Gleason L. Archer, Jr., Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 135, interprets vv. 11-12 in light of Ptolemy IV's (221-203 b.c.) embarrassment at not being allowed into the temple in Jerusalem and, therefore, taking his anger out on the Jews in Egypt, particularly those in Alexandria.

So, the interpretive question is to who does "his heart was lifted up" (v. 12) refer?

1. Ptolemy IV

2. Antiochus III

If #1 the "tens of thousands to fall" refers to Jews in Egypt or if #2, then to Seleucid soldiers killed during the military campaign.

11:11-12 "that multitude will be given. . .yet he will not prevail" This is the recurrent theme that God, not worldly leaders, is in control of history (cf. vv. 27, 29, 35, 36, 45)!

11:13 "after an interval of some years" This seems to refer to a thirteen year historical gap. Antiochus III attacked Egypt again in 205 b.c.).

 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. 15Then the king of the North will come, cast up a siege ramp 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. 16But 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. 17He 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. 18Then 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. 19So he will turn his face toward the fortresses of his own land, but he will stumble and fall and be found no more."

11:14 "now in those times many will rise up against the kings of the South" This refers to the reign of Ptolemy IV. He experienced many rebellions in his empire, including one by the Jews, who supported Antiochus III, but none of them succeeded. They were defeated by General Scopas in 200 b.c.

11:15 Ptolemy V was only 4 years old when his father died. Therefore, one of his best generals, Scopas, was in charge and he attacked the north. However, he was defeated in the field and retreated to the city of Sidon where he lost his entire army of 100,000 elite soldiers (198 b.c.).

11:16 "he. . .will do as he pleases" See theological note at 8:4.

▣ "he will stay for a time in the Beautiful Land" This refers to Antiochus III the Great who was welcomed into Jerusalem as a liberator from the Egyptian domination in 198 B.C. "The Beautiful Land" refers to the Promised Land (cf. 8:9).

NASB"with destruction in his hand"
NKJV"with destruction in his power"
NRSV"and all of it shall be in his power"
TEV"and have it completely in his power"
NJB"destruction in his hands"

The Hebrew VERB kalah (BDB 477I, Qal PERFECT) can mean "be complete," "at an end," "finished," "accomplished." It can mean "complete destruction" or "annihilation," depending on how it is pointed (vowel marks added under the consonants by later scribes). The MT points it as "complete destruction."

11:17 "he will also give the daughter of women to ruin it" Here is another attempt at political marriage, but this time it is an attempt to overthrow Egypt, not reconcile with the Ptolemies. "The daughter" refers to Cleopatra I, the daughter of Antiochus III. She was married in 195 b.c. to Ptolemy V. Because of his young age, the marriage was not consummated for five years. Cleopatra's father was hoping to control Egypt through his daughter, but she truly loved the young Egyptian monarch and sided with him.

11:18 "Then he will turn his face to the coastlands and capture many" This refers to Antiochus III's attempted domination of the coastlands and the islands of the eastern Mediterranean. This attempt was stopped in 190 b.c. by a united force from the Greek city states and the Roman army (General Lucius Cornelius Scipio Asiaticus). The truce was signed at the city of Magnesia, west of Sardis. The Roman victors put extremely hard surrender terms on Antiochus III.

1. a large payment of money over several years

2. Seleucid's claims to Europe and Asia Minor had to be dropped

3. the Seleucids withdrew to the Tarsus mountains

4. the surrender of all of Antiochus III's elephants

5. the surrender of all of his navy

6. twenty hostages were to be sent to Rome as a guarantee of the treaty.

These hostages included his son, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, and was supposed to include Hannibal, the exiled Carthaginian general who had moved into the Seleucid court, but he fled and was not captured.

11:19 This verse may refer to Antiochus III's attempt to gain revenue from the temple treasuries ("fortresses," a Hebrew term which denotes a place of safety) in order to pay his requested tribute to Rome. His own citizens were enraged and assassinated him in 187 b.c. as he tried to rob the temple at Elymais.

 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 not in anger nor in battle. 21In 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. 22The overflowing forces will be flooded away before him and shattered, and also the prince of the covenant. 23After an alliance is made with him he will practice deception, and he will go up and gain power with a small force of people. 24In 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. 25He 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. 26Those who eat his choice food will destroy him, and his army will overflow, but many will fall down slain. 27As 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. 28Then 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."

11:20 This refers to the reign of Selecus IV Philopator (187-175 b.c.), who, in order to raise money to pay the Romans, assigned a very heavy tax on his own realm (esp. the temple in Jerusalem). His tax collector (NASB, "an oppressor"; NKJV, "one who imposes taxes"; the Hebrew word [BDB 620] means "exactor of tribute") was named Heliodorus (cf. II Macc. 3). Many believe that he poisoned Selecus IV in order to gain control, but he himself was overthrown by Antiochus IV (cf. II Mac. 3:7-40).

11:21 "a despicable person will arise" This Hebrew VERB's (BDB 102, KB 117) basic meaning is "despised with contempt." In the Niphal form it is used in Ps. 15:4; 119:141; Isa. 53:3; Jer. 22:28; Mal. 1:7. The Arabic cognate means "to raise the head loftily or disdainfully." This refers to Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-163 b.c.).

▣ "on whom the honor of kingship has not been conferred" The rightful heir of Seleucus IV was his son, Demetrius I. However, Demetrius I had been traded as a hostage to the Romans for Antiochus IV's freedom. Antiochus IV was the brother of Seleucus IV. When Antiochus IV heard that his brother had died he claimed to be guardian of the kingship, but through flattery and intrigue, conferred it upon himself. It is fortunate for Demetrius II that he was a prisoner in Rome for he would have surely been killed by his uncle.

▣ "intrigue" History shows Antiochus IV to be a man of great skill in political compromise, bribery, threats and lies (cf. 8:23-25).

11:22-35 These verses and possibly 22-45, describe the continuing warfare between the rulers of the Seleucid Empire (king of the north) and the rulers of the Ptolemaic Empire (king of the south).

▣ "the prince of the covenant" This is a difficult phrase in light of Daniel's previous use of these two theologically loaded words in 9:26. There have been many possibilities suggested for this reference: (1) some see it as referring to Ptolemy VI Philometor, but better, (2) others believe that it refers to Onias III (198-175 b.c.), the Jewish High Priest (cf. TEV) who opposed Antiochus IV and his Jewish conspirators (Onias' brother Jason), who attempted to Hellenize their fellow Jews. He was removed in 175 b.c. and killed in 171 b.c.

11:22-24 This ambiguous passage has several similarities to 9:24-27. Be careful that your systematic eschatological grid does not remove the apocalyptic features. There is no easily discernable reference to these words in the life of Antiochus IV. This is why some explain the possible reference to the end-time antichrist of vv. 36-45 to include 21-45.

11:24 "he will enter the richest parts of the realm" Some commentators say that this refers to Egypt while others say it refers to the taxation of his own land as his predecessor, Seleucus IV, had done before (cf. v. 20).

11:25-26 This may reflect the tension and conflict between Antiochus IV and his nephew, Ptolemy VI (181-146 b.c.), who was the son of his sister, Cleopatra (v. 17). During this conflict the Egyptian monarch was betrayed by several of his own generals (A Handbook on the Book of Daniel, UBS, p. 305).

The Hebrew term "schemes" (BDB 364) is used in both v. 24 and v. 25 for Antiochus' schemes and helpers. This reflects the fallen, human heart always planning evil for the purpose of more and more for me! When this is reflected in a ruler the whole society is in jeopardy!

11:26 "those who eat his choice food will destroy him" This seems to refer to the political intrigue occurring in the Egyptian court (cf. vv. 25-27).

11:27 "‘As for both kings, their hearts will be intent on evil'" This is the divine understanding of the fallen human heart/mind (cf. Gen. 6:5,11-12,13; 8:21; Ps. 14:1-3; Rom. 3:9-18,23).

The "evil" in this context is the desire for more power and control. This is the essence of sin, "more and more for me at any cost"!

11:28 This possibly refers to a successful, but limited, military operation (cf. v. 13) or a failed negotiation ("at the same table"). Verse 28 seems to demand a Seleucid victory of some type at the expense of the Ptolemaic empire.

▣ "but his heart will be set against the holy covenant" Even with much possessions Antiochus IV had an agenda against the Jews. Whether it was his devotion to Roman or better Hellenistic culture or his animosity toward Jewish exclusivism (monotheism, "the God of gods," v. 36), he hated and acted against God's people (cf. vv. 30-33).

 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. 30For 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. 31Forces from him will arise, desecrate the sanctuary fortress, and do away with the regular sacrifice. And they will set up the abomination of desolation. 32By 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. 33Those 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. 34Now when they fall they will be granted a little help, and many will join with them in hypocrisy. 35Some 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."

11:29 "at the appointed time" This is the recurrent theological theme of the book of Daniel, that God is in total control of time and history (cf. vv. 27,29,35,36,45; 8:19).

"he will return and come into the South" This refers to a second campaign by Antiochus IV against Ptolemy VI, which is recorded in I Maccabees 1:29 and Polybius 29:1.

11:30 "for the ships of Kittim will come against him" There has been much discussion of the meaning of "Kittim" (BDB 508). In the OT it seems to refer to Cypress (cf. Gen. 10:4; Isa. 23:1). However, it came to be used for the Romans (cf. the Dead Sea Scrolls; the Septuagint and Jerome).

If this does refer to Rome then it may relate to the Roman consul Gaius Popilius Laenas' confrontation in 172 b.c. of Antiochus IV as he besieged Alexandria, Egypt. The account of this confrontation is found in Cicero, Philippus 8.8; Livy, Ab Lrbe Condita 45.10,15; and Polybius 29:1.

11:31 "desecrate the sanctuary fortress, and do away with the regular sacrifice" This phrase refers to the temple in Jerusalem and its sacrificial system (cf. 8:11; 9:27; 12:11). Many see this as referring to the attempt by Jason, the brother of Onias III, to become High Priest. Jason, through intrigue in the Seleucid court, became High Priest, but in three years he was replaced with another Seleucid sympathizer, Menelaus. Onias III was finally killed in 171 b.c. because he objected to Menelaus' attempt to Hellenize the Jews.

"the abomination of desolation" In this context it seems to refer to Antiochus IV Epiphanes' orders to offer a pig on the altar in the Temple in Jerusalem and set up a shrine to Zeus Olympus in the Holy Place (Dec. 168 b.c., cf. I Macc. 1:54, 59). This started the Maccabean revolution. Jesus uses this same phrase to describe the coming of the Roman armies against Jerusalem in Matt. 24:15, Mark 13:14 and Luke 21:20. Obviously this phrase is used in several ways to describe the horrors that the people of God would face throughout history. There is an obvious allusion to end-time events, but as to specific details, they will remain ambiguous until that day comes.

11:32-33 "they will fall to the sword" There is a clear cleavage within national Israel. There are compromising Jews and there are faithful Jews who would not accept Hellenization (i.e. false worship). This refers to the Hasidim or Maccabean army who opposed Antiochus IV (cf. I Macc. 1:62; 2:42; 7:13).

11:34 "Now when they fall they will be granted a little help" This seems to be the only biblical reference to the revolt of Judas Macabbeas, the son of the priest Mattathias of Modim. He rededicated the temple in Dec. 165 b.c., which is the source of the modern Jewish celebration known as Hanukkah or the Festival of Lights, which remembers the cleansing of the temple. Notice "they" could not do it without supernatural, divine aid!

11:35 This shows that the purpose of the trials and problems that God's people face is not a direct result of sin, as the Exile was, but is a direct connection because they follow the God of heaven. The entire book of Daniel is a series of conflicts between God and His people and organized human government controlled by the evil one and his angels (cf. Ps. 2; Ezek. 38-39).

In context "those who have insight" is linked with v. 33, which refers to the Maccabean revolt against the Hellenistic policies of Antiochus IV. However, because vv. 36-45 do not fit Antiochus' day, this phrase may refer to persecuted ("will fall") believers in the end-time ("until the end time"). If this is so the text itself gives us a temporal marker (see also "at the end time" in v. 40).

 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. 37He 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. 38But 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. 39He 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 will cause them to rule over the many, and will parcel out land for a price."

11:36-45 Modern scholars assume that the book of Daniel was written during the Maccabean period because

1. of the detailed, historical information of 11:2-35, which is so unusual for predictive prophecy or apocalyptic literature

2. at v. 36 this detailed information does not match secular sources, so they assert that the author wrote close to this time and simply made up a future prophecy that turned out to be inaccurate

3. it is not obvious from the text itself that vv. 36-45 change subjects. To assert that since the details do not conform to current secular history, then the subject must be future (an end-time Antiochus, like Antichrist), seems to relate to one's systematic theology, not exegesis.

A Response

1. This would not be an unusual way even for apocalyptic literature to introduce another major person and period.

2. It is surely true that OT prophecy/apocalyptic literature telescopes history into what looks like sequential chronological events, but in reality have a large, temporal gap between them (cf. Isa. 7; Matt. 24).

3. If Daniel is read through the eyes of the NT a biblical pattern, theme, and plan is revealed. We must do our historical and grammatical exegesis, but it does not always give us the big picture (cf. 9:24-27; 11:36-45). Here the genre and Solo Scriptura show the way to a unified perspective.

a. Fallen humans want to control their own lives and fallen governments want to control everything.

b. Mankind is becoming progressively anti-monotheistic.

c. Monotheism has an added addendum. There is a divine Messiah who through suffering and death will bring in the age of the Spirit.

d. This new age will involve suffering, pain, and persecution on behalf of the true believers.

e. The end is sure. God reigns! His people will be victorious!

4. Antiochus is, in a sense, the OT type of an anti-God world leader. This type of person is common to every age and region. Satan does not know the time of Christ's return, so he must always have someone ready to step onto the stage of history. The NT describes the end-time person (cf. Matt. 24; I Thess. 4; II Thess. 2; Revelation). This same person has already been touched on in Dan. 7:7-8,11,24-25; 9:24-27 and again in 11:36-45.


11:36 "the king" In context "the king" seems to refer to Antiochus IV Epiphanes, but because (1) it does not fit into our current understanding of history; (2) "the end-time" is mentioned in v. 40; and (3) it is so similar to the description of the Antichrist in II Thess. 2:4, vv. 36-45 could describe the Antichrist of the end-time, as does the little horn of Dan. 7 and 9:24-27.

"will do as he pleases" See full note at 8:4.

"he will exalt and magnify himself" These two VERBS (BDB 926, KB 1202 and BDB 152, KB 178) are synonymous. This action reflects the little horn of 8:11,25. It reflects the same attitude as Nebuchadnezzar in 4:30-31 and 5:20 (cf. Isa. 14:13-15).

"will speak monstrous things" This Hebrew term's (BDB 810, KB 927) basic meaning is "surpassing" or "extraordinary." It can be used in several senses in Niphal.

1. mysterious, wonderful, Deut. 17:8; Prov. 30:18

2. wonderful actions by God, Exod. 3:20; Josh. 3:5

3. difficult, Gen. 18:14; Deut. 30:11; Jer. 32:17,27

4. arrogant words, Dan. 11:36 (cf. 7:8,11; Rev. 13:5-6)


"against the God of gods" The term "gods" is elim (BDB 42), which is not used of the Hebrew God, except here. Usually it refers to the gods of the nations (cf. Exod. 15:11). Theologically it is parallel to Dan. 2:47 where, in the Aramaic section of the book, Elohim is used (cf. Deut. 10:17).

The point is, does this refer to the king as abusing religion in general or YHWH in particular? Verses 40-45 do not fit Antiochus IV at all, but vv. 36-39 partially fit him. There is purposeful ambiguity (i.e. apocalyptic literature) so that it can refer to one and all who epitomize human rebellion and arrogance.

11:37 "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" This is difficult to understand because Antiochus IV did not reject the gods of his fathers. He worshiped Zeus.

The phrase "the desire of women" has been referred to by some to mean that he neglected human love, but in context, it seems to possibly relate to Tammuz, the love goddess of Babylon (cf. Ezek. 8:14).

▣ "he will magnify himself above them all" This seems to show that he will claim deity for himself (Epiphanes means "manifested god"). It is obvious from the coins of this period that the Seleucid rulers believed themselves to be divine. This was especially true of Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

11:38 "But instead he will honor a god of fortresses" There seems to be a contradiction between v. 37, where he will reject "gods," and v. 38, where he will follow "a god of fortresses." Many commentators believe that the phrase "a god of fortresses" is simply a way of talking about warfare. The concluding part of v. 38, which seems to speak of military booty, seems to reinforce this theory.

Another theory (BDB 732, same word used in v. 1) is that this phrase refers to the Roman god who protects fortresses (Jupiter Capitolinus), which was parallel to the Greek god Zeus. Antiochus IV offered sacrifices to Zeus on the altar in the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. He also built an elaborate temple to Zeus in Antioch.

This god of fortresses will supposedly protect Antiochus IV's cities, but will help destroy other people's forts and towns (cf. v. 39).

 40"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. 41He 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. 42Then he will stretch out his hand against other countries, and the land of Egypt will not escape. 43But 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. 44But rumors from the East and from the North will disturb him, and he will go forth with great wrath to destroy and annihilate many. 45He 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."

11:40 "at the end time" See note at 8:19.

▣ "the king of the South. . .the king of the North" These references imply that all of chapter 11 relates to the jealousy and rivalry between the Seleucid empire (Syria/Babylon) and the Ptolemaic empire (Egypt/Palestine). These phrases are a major problem in seeing vv. 36-45 or 40-45 as exclusively future. There is no hint of two geographical Mediterranean kings being involved in end-time warfare over Israel!

If we understand the genre then all the details become symbolic for an end-time conflict between believers and unbelievers, not Jews and their enemies!

11:41 "Edom, Moab. . .Ammon" These involve the enemies of Israel which surrounded them in a more ancient time. Even in the Macabbean period Moab had passed from the scene forever. This shows that verse 41 must be taken symbolically to refer to local enemies of God's people.

11:43 "Libyans and Ethiopians" These were allies with Egypt.

11:44 "the rumors from the East and from the North will disturb him" Those interpreters who see this context as referring to Antiochus IV Epiphanes believe that this refers to the invasion of the Parthians or a rebellion somewhere in his realm.

"annihilate" This is from the Hebrew word herem (BDB 355 I). This is the term associated with that which is given to God (like Jericho in Josh. 6) and thereby must be destroyed lest it be corrupted by human use (cf. Josh. 6:21).

However, the word often simply means "destroy," which it probably means here (cf. Isa. 37:11; Jer. 50:21,26; 51:3).

11:45 "the seas" This is plural and seems to refer to the Dead Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.

▣ "the beautiful Holy Mountain" This must refer to the city of Jerusalem and particularly to the mountain on which the temple is build, Mount Moriah.

"yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him" Polybius 31.9 asserts that Antiochus IV traveled to Elymais in Elam to rob the temple of Artemis, but that the local worshipers resisted and he left. While on the way home he became ill at Tabae in Persia and died (163 b.c.). Some attributed the illness to a divine madness as a result of his sacrilege.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. What is the major purpose of the vision of Chapter 11?

2. Why do the historical events begin in 323 b.c. and end in 165 b.c.?

3. Historically, who were the two main protagonists in this section?

4. Why is such detail given into a history of empires that surround the Jewish people?

5. Why is Antiochus IV Epiphanes a good example of the Antichrist spirit current in the world (cf. I John 2:18)?

6. Who is referred to in verses 36-45?