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Lesson 5: The Bible Is Unique In Its Prophetic Nature

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The Bible is unique in that one quarter of it is prophetic; it contains about 1000 prophecies, 500 of which have not yet been fulfilled.1 In fact, God used prophecy to prove his deity and to disprove the deity of other “gods.” Isaiah 41:21-24 says:

Present your argument,” says the Lord. “Produce your evidence,” says Jacob’s king. “Let them produce evidence! Let them tell us what will happen! Tell us about your earlier predictive oracles, so we may examine them and see how they were fulfilled. Or decree for us some future events! Predict how future events will turn out, so we might know you are gods. Yes, do something good or bad, so we might be frightened and in awe. Look, you are nothing, and your accomplishments are nonexistent; the one who chooses to worship you is disgusting.

God challenged other so-called “gods” to share their past prophecies or to share new ones to prove their deity. He then declared that those who worship these false gods were disgusting. In Isaiah 42:8-9 and 48:3, God said this about himself:

I am the Lord! That is my name! I will not share my glory with anyone else, or the praise due me with idols. Look, my earlier predictive oracles have come to pass; now I announce new events. Before they begin to occur, I reveal them to you.

I announced events beforehand, I issued the decrees and made the predictions; suddenly I acted and they came to pass.

God presented prophecy as proof that he is the true God—he foretold events and they happened. Since prophecy is given as an evidence of God’s deity, these prophecies must be diligently studied to strengthen the faith of believers and used apologetically with nonbelievers. What are some of these prophetic evidences? First, we’ll consider fulfilled, past prophecies and then unfulfilled, future ones.

Fulfilled Prophecies

Prophecies About King Cyrus And King Josiah

At times in Scripture, God gives names of prominent people and the works they would accomplish even before they were born. In fact, after challenging the false gods to prove themselves by giving and fulfilling prophecies, God predicted that he would send Israel back from captivity through a future leader, named Cyrus. Consider Isaiah 44:28 and 45:1-4:

who commissions Cyrus, the one I appointed as shepherd to carry out all my wishes and to decree concerning Jerusalem, ‘She will be rebuilt,’ and concerning the temple, ‘It will be reconstructed.’”

This is what the Lord says to his chosen one, to Cyrus, whose right hand I hold in order to subdue nations before him, and disarm kings, to open doors before him, so gates remain unclosed: “I will go before you and level mountains. Bronze doors I will shatter and iron bars I will hack through. I will give you hidden treasures, riches stashed away in secret places, so you may recognize that I am the Lord, the one who calls you by name, the God of Israel. For the sake of my servant Jacob, Israel, my chosen one, I call you by name and give you a title of respect, even though you do not recognize me.

What makes this prophecy even more interesting is the fact Israel had not yet been exiled to Babylon. To the Israelites, Isaiah must have appeared crazy. The book of Isaiah was written between 739—681 BC, during Isaiah’s prophetic ministry to Judah.2 In Isaiah 39, Isaiah actually prophesied to Hezekiah that in a later generation, Babylon would take Judah into exile. Then he prophesied that Cyrus, the king of Persia, would send Israel back to their land to rebuild it, which happened in 538 BC. Isaiah gave this prophecy approximately 100 years before Cyrus was born and an almost 150 years before his rule.3

Because of the difficulties of this prophecy, liberal scholars teach that Isaiah must not have written the book. They declare there must have been two or three authors (Deutero-Isaiah or Trito-Isaiah) writing the book at different times.4 Since liberal scholars don’t accept the miraculous nature of prophecy and it would be impossible for Isaiah to have lived before Israel’s exile, throughout their exile, and after their eventual return, the only conclusion for them is that the book had multiple authors. They speculate that one author would have written before the exile, another during the exile, and the final author after the exile. However, this does not correspond with the internal and external evidence of the book. In Isaiah 1:1, the author claims to have lived during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah—the kings of Judah. In addition, New Testament authors affirm Isaiah as the book’s author by their citations (cf. Matt 12:17, 15:7, etc.).5

Though the miracle of prophecy may be hard to accept for some, God predicting the future and proving himself to be God is the exact point of the context. God essentially said, “False gods, perform a miracle! Predict the future to prove yourself!” and then God predicted the future to prove his deity to all. Again, Isaiah 41:21-23 says:

Present your argument,” says the Lord. “Produce your evidence,” says Jacob’s king. “Let them produce evidence! Let them tell us what will happen! Tell us about your earlier predictive oracles, so we may examine them and see how they were fulfilled. Or decree for us some future events! Predict how future events will turn out, so we might know you are gods…

The fulfillment of the Cyrus prophecy happens in 2 Chronicles 36:22-23 (and Ezra 1:1-11), when Cyrus issued an edict to rebuild Israel and sent a delegation to accomplish it. Second Chronicles 36:22-23 says:

In the first year of the reign of King Cyrus of Persia, in fulfillment of the promise he delivered through Jeremiah, the Lord moved King Cyrus of Persia to issue a written decree throughout his kingdom. It read: “This is what King Cyrus of Persia says: ‘The Lord God of the heavens has given to me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build for him a temple in Jerusalem in Judah. May the Lord your God energize you who belong to his people, so you may be able to go back there!”

King Josiah

Likewise, God also prophesied about King Josiah—calling him by name and telling of his future works long before he was born. In 1 Kings 13:1-2, God predicted that a king named Josiah would arise and sacrifice the false priests on specific high places. First Kings 13:1-2 says:

Just then a prophet from Judah, sent by the Lord, arrived in Bethel, as Jeroboam was standing near the altar ready to offer a sacrifice. With the authority of the Lord he cried out against the altar, “O altar, altar! This is what the Lord says, ‘Look, a son named Josiah will be born to the Davidic dynasty. He will sacrifice on you the priests of the high places who offer sacrifices on you. Human bones will be burned on you.”

This prophecy was fulfilled 300 years later in 2 Kings 23:14-20, as earlier prophesied.6 Second Kings 23:14-20 says:

He smashed the sacred pillars to bits, cut down the Asherah pole, and filled those shrines with human bones. He also tore down the altar in Bethel at the high place made by Jeroboam son of Nebat, who encouraged Israel to sin. He burned all the combustible items at that high place and crushed them to dust; including the Asherah pole. When Josiah turned around, he saw the tombs there on the hill. So he ordered the bones from the tombs to be brought; he burned them on the altar and defiled it. This fulfilled the Lord’s announcement made by the prophet while Jeroboam stood by the altar during a festival. King Josiah turned and saw the grave of the prophet who had foretold this. He asked, “What is this grave marker I see?” The men from the city replied, “It’s the grave of the prophet who came from Judah and foretold these very things you have done to the altar of Bethel.” The king said, “Leave it alone! No one must touch his bones.” So they left his bones undisturbed, as well as the bones of the Israelite prophet buried beside him. Josiah also removed all the shrines on the high places in the cities of Samaria. The kings of Israel had made them and angered the Lord. He did to them what he had done to the high place in Bethel. He sacrificed all the priests of the high places on the altars located there, and burned human bones on them. Then he returned to Jerusalem.

Prophecies Dating The Messiah And About Israel’s Future

What are some other major prophecies in Scripture? Daniel 9:24-27 is often called “God’s Prophetic Time Clock” and “The Backbone of Bible Prophecy.”7 As background, Daniel was praying about the future of Israel (Dan 9:1-3) when the angel, Gabriel, appeared and shared with Daniel about Israel’s future, including the coming of the messiah. Consider verse 25:

So know and understand: From the issuing of the command to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until an anointed one, a prince arrives, there will be a period of seven weeks and sixty-two weeks. It will again be built, with plaza and moat, but in distressful times.

This prophecy gives not only information about Israel’s future but also the actual date that the messiah would be on the earth. When the angel referred to “weeks,” it could also be translated “sevens,” as in the NIV. This could mean seven days or years.8 Years makes the most sense, because the context deals with Israel’s long-term future including the coming of the messiah, and also because Daniel already had been thinking in terms of years (Israel’s seventy years of exile, Daniel 9:2). The angel Gabriel told Daniel that it would be seven sevens (49) plus sixty-two sevens (434) until the messiah comes. Altogether, that equals 483 years (49 + 434 = 483). From the issuance of the decree to rebuild Jerusalem until the messiah came would be 483 years. Gabriel adds that Jerusalem would be rebuilt in “distressful times.” The book of Nehemiah tells us that while Nehemiah led Israel in rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls, there was much persecution. In one scene, the Israelites did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other (Neh 4:17).

Though Israel was sent back to their land by Cyrus, the issuing of the decree to rebuild Israel was given by King Artaxerxes to Nehemiah in 444 B.C (Neh 2).9 When one takes into account that the Jewish calendar was 360 days and not 365 as ours is today, 483 years later would be 33 AD—right around the time of Christ’s death.10

Those who have actually counted the days claim that the prophecy was fulfilled on Palm Sunday11—the day when Jesus road into the streets of Jerusalem on a donkey, and the people shouted, “Hosanna! Hosanna!” as they recognized Jesus as the messiah. Consider what Jesus said about the city on that very day:

Now when Jesus approached and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you had only known on this day, even you, the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and surround you and close in on you from every side. They will demolish you—you and your children within your walls—and they will not leave within you one stone on top of another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.”

Luke 19:41-44

Daniel 9:25 prophesies the exact day Christ would be on the earth, so Israel would be ready to accept their messiah. However, they failed to give attention to the prophecy and instead crucified the Son of God—bringing judgment upon themselves.

Prophecy Of Israel’s History After Christ

Along with announcing the time-period when Christ would be on the earth, the prophecy also shares glimpses into Israel’s future history. In Daniel 9:26 (ESV), the angel specifically describes Israel’s history after the 483 years, which has certainly come true. It says:

And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed.

The angel prophesied that Christ would be killed, the city and temple would be destroyed, and Israel would continue in a state of war and desolation until the end of days. In AD 70, the Romans destroyed the temple and Jerusalem. Israel’s history since then has proven the prophecy true as well. The nation has constantly been in a state of war and desolation, even until this day. Later, we will consider Israel’s future as prophesied in Daniel 9:27.

The Destruction Of The City Of Tyre

In Ezekiel 26-28, God predicted the destruction of a famous city named Tyre, years before it began and over 250 years before it was finally completed.12 The name Tyre means “Rock.” It was an impregnable city, known for its sea commerce. Tyre consisted of two parts: the mainland city on the coast of Lebanon and the island city off the coast of Lebanon. The city had a double wall around it that was 150 feet tall, with 25 feet of earth packed in between. In 587 BC, Ezekiel wrote three long chapters prophesying about the city’s destruction, which ultimately was fulfilled.13

Why would it be destroyed? Israel and Tyre were bitter trade-competitors until Babylon besieged and later conquered Israel in 586 BC. 14 Tyre had previously “dominated the sea routes, while Jerusalem controlled the caravan routes.”15 Without Jerusalem controlling the land routes, Tyre would be more prosperous. Therefore, when Babylon besieged Jerusalem, Tyre scoffed at the nation and boasted in its own future prosperity. This prompted God to prophesy coming judgment on Tyre—he promised to bring “many nations” against them. Ezekiel 26:2 says:

Son of man, because Tyre has said about Jerusalem, ‘Aha, the gateway of the peoples is broken; it has swung open to me. I will become rich, now that she has been destroyed,’ therefore this is what the sovereign Lord says: Look, I am against you, O Tyre! I will bring up many nations against you, as the sea brings up its waves.

In Ezekiel 26:7-11, Ezekiel prophesied the demise of Tyre years before it began. The first nation to judge them would be Babylon. Verse 7-11 says:

For this is what the sovereign Lord says: Take note that I am about to bring King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, king of kings, against Tyre from the north, with horses, chariots, and horsemen, an army and hordes of people. He will kill your daughters in the field with the sword. He will build a siege wall against you, erect a siege ramp against you, and raise a great shield against you. He will direct the blows of his battering rams against your walls and tear down your towers with his weapons. He will cover you with the dust kicked up by his many horses. Your walls will shake from the noise of the horsemen, wheels, and chariots when he enters your gates like those who invade through a city’s broken walls. With his horses’ hoofs he will trample all your streets. He will kill your people with the sword, and your strong pillars will tumble down to the ground.

History says that Nebuchadnezzar conquered Israel in 586 BC, then headed north in 585 BC to besiege Tyre. The siege lasted for thirteen years, until Tyre was defeated in 573 BC, as prophesied by verses 7-11.16 Afterwards, Tyre still existed but never regained its former power.

However, in verse 12, the prophecy considers the other nation which would conquer Tyre. Ezekiel changed the pronoun “he”—referring to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon—to “they”—referring to Greece. Babylon started the destruction of Tyre, but Greece completed it. Ezekiel 26:12-14 says:

They will steal your wealth and loot your merchandise. They will tear down your walls and destroy your luxurious homes. Your stones, your trees, and your soil he will throw into the water. I will silence the noise of your songs; the sound of your harps will be heard no more. I will make you a bare rock; you will be a place where fishing nets are spread. You will never be built again, for I, the Lord, have spoken, declares the sovereign Lord.

In 332 BC, Alexander the Great destroyed the city after a seven-month siege.17 To reach the island city, he had his soldiers throw the ruins of the mainland city into the ocean to build a causeway to reach it—fulfilling the prophecy on the stones, soil, and trees being thrown into the sea (26:12).18 After destroying the city, he left it a “bare rock” (26:14). The island city has never been rebuilt, just as God foretold (26:14). Ezekiel predicted this about 250 years before it happened.19

William MacDonald, in the Believer’s Bible Commentary, said:

Over a hundred years ago a traveler described the ruins of Tyre as being exactly as predicted: The island, as such, is not more than a mile in length. The part which projects south beyond the isthmus is perhaps a quarter of a mile broad, and is rocky and uneven. It is now unoccupied except by fishermen, as “a place to spread nets upon.”20

Today, the island city of Tyre is just a bare rock which has never been rebuilt, as Scripture predicted. However, the coastal mainland still exists, as they are currently part of Lebanon.

Consider that in Ezekiel 26, there are eight prophecies alone about Tyre:

  1. Many nations would come against Tyre (Ezekiel 26:3)
  2. The walls of Tyre would be broken down (Ez. 26:4)
  3. Dust would be scraped from her and she would be left like a bare rock (Ez. 26:4)
  4. Fishermen would spread their nets at Tyre (Ez. 26:5)
  5. King Nebuchadnezzar would build a wall against Tyre (Ez. 26:8)
  6. King Nebuchadnezzar would plunder the city (Ez. 26: 9-12)
  7. Nations would come to destroy the city and the stone ruins would be cast into the sea (Ez. 26:12)
  8. The city would never be rebuilt (Ezekiel 26:14)21

Mathematician Peter Stoner says the probability of all these prophecies happening as it did are 1 in 400 million.22 Truly amazing!

Prophecies Of Alexander The Great

What other major prophecies are found in the Bible? In Daniel, there are some very detailed prophecies about the rise and fall of Alexander the Great—given almost 200 years before his birth.23 It should be mentioned that, like Isaiah, the book of Daniel is a battle ground for the liberal-minded. The prophetic details are too accurate for someone with a naturalistic mindset to accept. Therefore, they deny the internal and external evidence and declare, “Somebody else had to have written the book of Daniel! It couldn’t have been written around 530 BC24 before the historical events happened! It is history! Not prophecy!” Mark Hitchcock shares a story which illustrates how ludicrous some of these attacks are:

A professor at a liberal theological seminary was teaching from the book of Daniel. At the beginning of one of his lectures he said, “Now I want you to know that Daniel was written during the Maccabean period in the second century B.C. The facts were written, as all history is, after the events took place.” One young man raised his hand and asked, “How can that be, sir, when Christ said in Matthew 24:15 that the book of Daniel was written by Daniel?” The professor paused for a moment, looked the student square in the eyes, and said, “Young man, I know more about the book of Daniel than Jesus did.”25

Daniel’s prophecies about Alexander the Great are most emphasized in Daniel 8 and 11, but Greece is prophetically introduced in Daniel 2 and 7. In Daniel 2, Nebuchadnezzar had a dream, which Daniel interprets, of four successive nations that would rule the earth. Initially, they are not all named, but eventually they become clear by prophecies given later in Daniel and through the confirmation of historical events. The nations are Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. In Daniel 2:37-40, Daniel’s interpretation of the dream is given:

You, O king, are the king of kings. The God of heaven has granted you sovereignty, power, strength, and honor. Wherever human beings, wild animals, and birds of the sky live—he has given them into your power. He has given you authority over them all. You are the head of gold. Now after you another kingdom will arise, one inferior to yours. Then a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule in all the earth. Then there will be a fourth kingdom, one strong like iron. Just like iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything, and as iron breaks in pieces all of these metals, so it will break in pieces and crush the others.

In the dream, there was a statue with a gold head representing Babylon, a silver chest and arms representing Persia, a bronze belly and thighs representing Greece, and iron legs with feet made of clay and iron representing Rome (Dan 2:33-34). In Daniel 5:28-31, part of the prophecy was fulfilled as Persia eventually conquered Babylon. The prophecy of Greece, the kingdom of bronze, conquering Persia, the kingdom of silver, happened many years after Daniel’s writings. But the details of these conquests are seen in Daniel 7, 8, and 11. In Daniel Chapter 7, Daniel again prophesied about these four kingdoms, through the symbolism of various beasts. In these prophecies, Greece was symbolized by a winged leopard. Daniel 7:6 says: “After these things, as I was watching, another beast like a leopard appeared, with four bird-like wings on its back. This beast had four heads, and ruling authority was given to it.” The leopard with wings represented the great speed and ferociousness of the nation’s conquering power. Alexander the Great, the king of Greece, left with his army in 334 BC at the age of twenty-two26 and essentially conquered the world in 323 BC by age thirty-three.27

Specifics about Alexander are added to this prophecy in Daniel 8, as it described the battle between Persia and Greece (334-331 BC).28 Persia was symbolized by a ram with two horns with one longer than the other, and Greece was symbolized by a goat with a conspicuous horn (or “large horn,” NIV). Daniel 8:1-8 says:

In the third year of King Belshazzar’s reign, a vision appeared to me, Daniel, after the one that had appeared to me previously. In this vision I saw myself in Susa the citadel, which is located in the province of Elam. In the vision I saw myself at the Ulai Canal. I looked up and saw a ram with two horns standing at the canal. Its two horns were both long, but one was longer than the other. The longer one was coming up after the shorter one. I saw that the ram was butting westward, northward, and southward. No animal was able to stand before it, and there was none who could deliver from its power. It did as it pleased and acted arrogantly. While I was contemplating all this, a male goat was coming from the west over the surface of all the land without touching the ground. This goat had a conspicuous horn between its eyes. It came to the two-horned ram that I had seen standing beside the canal and rushed against it with raging strength. I saw it approaching the ram. It went into a fit of rage against the ram and struck it and broke off its two horns. The ram had no ability to resist it. The goat hurled the ram to the ground and trampled it. No one could deliver the ram from its power. The male goat acted even more arrogantly. But no sooner had the large horn become strong than it was broken, and there arose four conspicuous horns in its place, extending toward the four winds of the sky.

What does the ram with two horns, with one larger than the other, and the goat with one large horn represent? The ram with two horns represented Persia and the Medes, with Persia being the prominent horn. In 550 BC, Cyrus, the King of Persia, conquered the Medes29 and then united the two tribes by putting officials from both kingdoms in charge of making a great army. This army eventually conquered Babylon in 539 BC.30 Then Greece conquered Persia in 331 BC31, as symbolized by the goat with a prominent horn.

Though not explained in Daniel 8, the symbols of the ram and goat probably would have been understood by the ancient audience without further clarification. Harold Wilmington shared this: “Marcellius, a historian in the fourth century, states that the Persian ruler bore the head of a ram as he stood in front of his army.”32 Similarly, there are ancient drawings which depict Greek armies as a horned goat.33 Using animals as national symbols was common in the ancient world, even as it is today.

The large horn on the goat clearly represented Alexander the Great, as clarified by Daniel 8:8. In describing him, it says: ”The goat became very great, but at the height of his power his large horn was broken off, and in its place four prominent horns grew up toward the four winds of heaven.” This appears to represent how Alexander the Great died at the young age of thirty-three, and his kingdom was divided into fourths. The “four horns” were his four generals: “Cassander over Macedon and Greece, Lysimichus over Thrace and Asia Minor, Seleucus over Syria and Babylon, Ptolemy over Egypt.”34

Daniel 11:2-4 further clarifies this prophecy, without symbols, by naming Persia and Greece and giving more detail about Alexander. It says:

Now I will tell you the truth. “Three more kings will arise for Persia. Then a fourth king will be unusually rich, more so than all who preceded him. When he has amassed power through his riches, he will stir up everyone against the kingdom of Greece. Then a powerful king will arise, exercising great authority and doing as he pleases. Shortly after his rise to power, his kingdom will be broken up and distributed toward the four winds of the sky—but not to his posterity or with the authority he exercised, for his kingdom will be uprooted and distributed to others besides these.

As shared in Daniel 11:4, when Alexander died at age thirty-three, his kingdom would not go to “his posterity” but to “others.” Alexander’s wife was pregnant with his only child when he died. Since no one knew the sex of the child, it caused dissension amongst his army about who would be king. The dissension continued even after Alexander’s son was born. Eventually, it led to the kingdom being divided amongst Alexander’s generals.35

To further add to the wonder of these prophecies, Josephus, an ancient Jewish historian, shared a story about Alexander reaching Jerusalem during his military campaign. Upon entering the city, he was met by Juddua, Israel’s high priest, who came dressed in a magnificent garb. The priest declared to Alexander how Daniel predicted his defeat of the Persians hundreds of years earlier. After reading Daniel 8, King Alexander fell down and worshiped him.36

The accuracy of Biblical prophecy is clearly seen in Daniel’s prophecies of Persia’s defeat of Babylon, Greece’s defeat of Persia, and even more specifically, the details about Alexander the Great—the large horn on the goat which breaks into four horns in Daniel 8 and the mighty king whose kingdom was broken up and distributed to “the four winds” in Daniel 11. Though liberal theologians try to deny that Daniel wrote these prophecies, internal evidence (what Daniel says about himself in the book) and external evidence (the NT authors’ beliefs and the writing of ancient Jews) support that Daniel wrote these amazing prophecies—some of them over 200 years before they happened. God’s Word is truly amazing!

Prophecies Of The Syrian Wars And Antiochus Epiphanies

The next prophecy we are going to briefly consider has been called the “Battleground of Daniel.”37 It is called this because the prophecies are so accurate, people say they must be history, not prophecy. Instead of accepting the traditional dating of 530 BC, liberal scholars date it to around 165 BC. In Daniel 11:1-35, at least 100 prophecies are recorded, and maybe as many as 135.38 John Walvoord said, “Probably no other portion of Scripture presents more minute prophecy than Daniel 11:1-35, and this has prompted the sharpest attack of critics seeking to discredit this prophetic portion.”39 John Phillips noted, “When Daniel 11 was written, they were not history but prophecy. We see them as history; Daniel saw them still ahead in the unborn ages. No other chapter in all of Scripture gives us such exhibition of God’s power to foretell the future.”40

Daniel 11:1-35 covers three topics: the battle between Persia and Greece (v. 2-4), the Syrian Wars between Syria and Egypt (v. 5-35), and specifically, the rise of a Syrian king named Antiochus Epiphanes, who was a vicious enemy of the Jews (v. 21-35). In Scripture, he is used as a “type” of future Antichrist. In fact, verses 36-45 stop describing Antiochus and begin to describe the Antichrist, an end-time figure who will hate God and persecute both Jews and Christians. Because the current focus is prophecies that have been fulfilled, only the basics of verses 1-35 will be covered.

Persia Versus Greece (V. 2-4)

Daniel 11:2-4 says,

Now I will tell you the truth. “Three more kings will arise for Persia. Then a fourth king will be unusually rich, more so than all who preceded him. When he has amassed power through his riches, he will stir up everyone against the kingdom of Greece. Then a powerful king will arise, exercising great authority and doing as he pleases. Shortly after his rise to power, his kingdom will be broken up and distributed toward the four winds of the sky—but not to his posterity or with the authority he exercised, for his kingdom will be uprooted and distributed to others besides these.

The first part of the prophecy is somewhat of a repetition. God gave Daniel visions of what was going to happen to Israel in the future, adding more details with each successive vision. Babylon had already been conquered by Persia, but God was revealing more about the future conflict between Greece and Persia.

In verse 2, the angel said there would be four more kings who would rule in Persia and the fourth would be very wealthy and stir the nation up against Greece. As clearly seen from history, “Those four kings were Cambyses (530–522 B.C.), Pseudo-Smerdis (522–521), Darius I Hystaspes (521–486), and Xerxes (486–465).”41

The fourth king, Xerxes, was the king who married Esther, a Jewish woman who protected the Jews as detailed in the book of Esther. As mentioned, Xerxes led Persia to advance against Greece; the advance was unsuccessful, creating a bitter rivalry between the two kingdoms. Eventually, the “mighty king,” Alexander the Great, defeated Persia in 331 BC. When Alexander died, the kingdom did not go to his young son, but instead to his four generals who oversaw Egypt, Syria-Babylon, Asia Minor, and Macedon-Greece.42 Again, the Bible predicted this over 200 years before it occurred.43

The Syrian Wars: Syria Versus Egypt (V. 5-35)

Daniel 11:5-6 says:

Then the king of the south and one of his subordinates will grow strong. His subordinate will resist him and will rule a kingdom greater than his. After some years have passed, they will form an alliance. Then the daughter of the king of the south will come to the king of the north to make an agreement, but she will not retain her power, nor will he continue in his strength. She, together with the one who brought her, her child, and her benefactor will all be delivered over at that time.

Verses 5-35 is an account of the relationship and battles between the Northern Kingdom, Assyria, and the Southern Kingdom, Egypt. The first king of the South was Ptolemy I; the subordinate, who would grow strong and rule a greater kingdom, was Syria’s prince, Seleucus I. Initially, these two were allies, but as Seleucus grew in power, he eventually took control of Syria and they became antagonists.44 This was the beginning of 160 years of discord between Egypt and Syria45, during which the stronger kingdom always maintained control of Israel.46 After their initial alliance was split, the two kingdoms were eventually yoked by marriage. Antiochus II, king of Syria, married Berenice, the daughter of Ptolemy II, the king of Egypt.47 “Yet the agreement would not continue nor would Berenice retain her position of power, as Antiochus’s former wife Laodice would murder Antiochus, Berenice, and their child.”48 Daniel 11:5-35 chronicles the 160-year struggle between the two dynasties from approximately 323 BC to 164 BC.49 This information was given to Daniel because it would greatly affect Israel. The rest of the prophecy describes these battles, but we will not consider all the minute detail here.

Syrian Wars: Antiochus Epiphanes (V. 21-35)

Daniel 11:21-23 says:

Then there will arise in his place a despicable person to whom the royal honor has not been rightfully conferred. He will come on the scene in a time of prosperity and will seize the kingdom through deceit. Armies will be suddenly swept away in defeat before him; both they and a covenant leader will be destroyed. After entering into an alliance with him, he will behave treacherously; he will ascend to power with only a small force.

Verses 21-35 highlight the rise of an infamous Syrian ruler named Antiochus Epiphanes. He was an enemy of the Jews and their religion. Verse 21 says that he was not royalty and that he actually seized the kingdom by deceit. Antiochus was the uncle of the rightful heir to Syria but seized control of it, since the true heir, his nephew, was only a child. Later, the prophecy details his war with the king of Egypt (v. 25) and his persecution of the Jews.

Daniel 11:31-34 says this about Antiochus’ attack on Israel:

His forces will rise up and profane the fortified sanctuary, stopping the daily sacrifice. In its place they will set up the abomination that causes desolation. Then with smooth words he will defile those who have rejected the covenant. But the people who are loyal to their God will act valiantly. These who are wise among the people will teach the masses. However, they will fall by the sword and by the flame, and they will be imprisoned and plundered for some time. When they stumble, they will be granted some help…

Antiochus stopped Jewish worship by abolishing the sacrificial system, setting up an altar of Zeus in the temple, destroying Jewish Bibles, forbidding circumcision, sacrificing a pig on the altar, and making the Jewish priests eat pig meat. According to David Guzik, Antiochus was also said “to have killed 80,000 Jews, taken 40,000 more as prisoners, and sold another 40,000 as slaves. He also plundered the temple, robbing it of approximately $1 billion by modern calculations.”50

In verse 31, the “abomination that causes desolation” was the idol of Zeus set up in the temple, which, according to Christ, was a foreshadowing of what the Antichrist will do during the end times. In Matthew 24:15-16, Jesus warned the Jews: “‘So when you see the abomination of desolation—spoken about by Daniel the prophet—standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains.” The initial abomination was just a foreshadowing of a later rebellion against God during the end times. Second Thessalonians 2:3-4 describes this:

Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not arrive until the rebellion comes and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction. He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, and as a result he takes his seat in God’s temple, displaying himself as God.

Daniel 11:32, in describing Antiochus’ works, says a number of Jews rejected their covenant with God to follow Antiochus. Likewise, verses 33-35 describe how those loyal to God will “act valiantly” and teach many during that time period, but also suffer for their faith. Specifically, this describes the Maccabean brothers and the rebellion they inspired—eventually leading to Antiochus’ defeat. This story is more fully told in 1 and 2 Maccabees which is part of the Apocrypha. Today the Jews still celebrate this great victory. It is called the “Festival of Lights” or “Hanukkah.”

Purpose Of The Daniel 11 Prophecy

We must ask ourselves, “Why did God give such minute detail about the Syrian Wars and the future of Israel in Daniel 11?” It was primarily so the Jews would not lose hope during those hard years, especially when they were persecuted by Antiochus. Also, as they experienced the fulfillment of prophecy, it would help sustain their hope in the coming messiah and all of God’s promises in Scripture.

In verses 36-45, which we will not cover, there is a prophetic gap, as Daniel’s prophecy skips ahead to the Antichrist, foreshadowed in the person of Antiochus. The prophecies described in those verses were not fulfilled by Antiochus, which is clearly seen by their ending with the resurrection of the righteous and the unjust (12:2). It says, “Many of those who sleep in the dusty ground will awake— some to everlasting life, and others to shame and everlasting abhorrence.” The final prophecy focuses on the end times.

Similar to Antiochus, the Antichrist will greatly persecute the Jews (and Christians), as Revelation 12 and 13 describes. He will declare himself as God in the rebuilt Jewish temple, and the people of God will be tempted to fall away because of the great persecution. However, Daniel’s prophecy, as well as other prophecies, encourage God’s people to not give up hope, as Christ will eventually return to reward his people and bring justice.

Though liberal scholars try to discount these prophecies, they are important to confirm the faith of God’s people, to help unbelievers come to know God, and to encourage God’s people to persevere in hard times. To reject or minimize them is to rob people of great blessings.

Reflection

  1. In the reading, what fulfilled prophecy stood out most to you and why?
  2. What are some fulfilled prophecies about Tyre, as mentioned by Ezekiel?
  3. Why do liberal scholars reject Isaiah and Daniel as the authors of their respective books? What are some evidences that Isaiah and Daniel were the actual authors of their books?
  4. What are some specific prophecies about Alexander the Great in Daniel?
  5. What chapter in Daniel is called “The Battleground of Daniel” and why?
  6. What other questions or applications do you have from the reading?

Copyright © 2020 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the NET Bible ® copyright © 1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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All emphases in Scripture quotations have been added.

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1 Hitchcock, Mark. The Amazing Claims of Bible Prophecy, (p. 8). Harvest House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

2 Accessed 8/5/19 from https://www.gotquestions.org/Book-of-Isaiah.html

3 Hitchcock, Mark. The Amazing Claims of Bible Prophecy, (p. 16). Harvest House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

4 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 936). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

5 Longman III, Tremper. An Introduction to the Old Testament: Second Edition. Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

6 Hitchcock, Mark. The Amazing Claims of Bible Prophecy, (p. 20). Harvest House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

7 Hitchcock, Mark. The Amazing Claims of Bible Prophecy, (p. 43). Harvest House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

8 Rydelnik, M. A. (2014). Daniel. In The moody bible commentary (p. 1305). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

9 Hitchcock, Mark. The Amazing Claims of Bible Prophecy, (p. 46). Harvest House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

10 Rydelnik, M. A. (2014). Daniel. In The moody bible commentary (p. 1306). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

11 Rydelnik, M. A. (2014). Daniel. In The moody bible commentary (p. 1306). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

12 Hitchcock, Mark. The Amazing Claims of Bible Prophecy, (p. 27). Harvest House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

13 Hitchcock, Mark. The Amazing Claims of Bible Prophecy, (p. 24). Harvest House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

14 Hitchcock, Mark. The Amazing Claims of Bible Prophecy, (p. 24). Harvest House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

15 Dyer, C. H., & Rydelnik, E. (2014). Ezekiel. In The moody bible commentary (p. 1243). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

16 Hitchcock, Mark. The Amazing Claims of Bible Prophecy, (p. 26). Harvest House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

17 Hitchcock, Mark. The Amazing Claims of Bible Prophecy, (p. 27). Harvest House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

18 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1057). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

19 Hitchcock, Mark. The Amazing Claims of Bible Prophecy, (p. 27). Harvest House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

20 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1057). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

21 Hitchcock, Mark. The Amazing Claims of Bible Prophecy, (p. 30). Harvest House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

22 Hitchcock, Mark. The Amazing Claims of Bible Prophecy, (p. 30). Harvest House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

23 Hitchcock, Mark. The Amazing Claims of Bible Prophecy, (p. 32). Harvest House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

24 Hitchcock, Mark. The Amazing Claims of Bible Prophecy, (p. 52). Harvest House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

25 Hitchcock, Mark. The Amazing Claims of Bible Prophecy, (p. 51). Harvest House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

26 Hitchcock, Mark. The Amazing Claims of Bible Prophecy, (p. 31). Harvest House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

27 Hitchcock, Mark. The Amazing Claims of Bible Prophecy, (p. 31). Harvest House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

28 Hitchcock, Mark. The Amazing Claims of Bible Prophecy, (p. 33). Harvest House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

29 “The Persian Empire” accessed 8/6/2019 from http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/imperialism/notes/persia.html

30 “The Persian Empire” accessed 8/6/2019 from http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/imperialism/notes/persia.html

31 “Alexander the Great” accessed 8/6/2019 from https://www.ancient.eu/Alexander_the_Great/

32 Wilmington, Harold. Wilmington’s Guide to the Bible (Expanded Edition, pg. 235). Tyndale House Publishers; Carol Stream, IL, 2011.

33 Wilmington, Harold. Wilmington’s Guide to the Bible (Expanded Edition, pg. 235). Tyndale House Publishers; Carol Stream, IL, 2011.

34 Rydelnik, M. A. (2014). Daniel. In The moody bible commentary (p. 1301). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

35 Accessed 9/9/19 from http://encyclopedia.kids.net.au/page/al/Alexander_IV_of_Macedon

36 Wilmington, Harold. Wilmington’s Guide to the Bible (Expanded Edition, pg. 235). Tyndale House Publishers; Carol Stream, IL, 2011.

37 Hitchcock, Mark. The Amazing Claims of Bible Prophecy, (p. 52). Harvest House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

38 Hitchcock, Mark. The Amazing Claims of Bible Prophecy, (p. 55). Harvest House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

39 Hitchcock, Mark. The Amazing Claims of Bible Prophecy, (p. 53). Harvest House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

40 Hitchcock, Mark. The Amazing Claims of Bible Prophecy, (p. 54). Harvest House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

41 Hitchcock, Mark. The Amazing Claims of Bible Prophecy, (pp. 55-57). Harvest House Publishers. Kindle Edition

42 Rydelnik, M. A. (2014). Daniel. In The moody bible commentary (p. 1301). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

43 Hitchcock, Mark. The Amazing Claims of Bible Prophecy, (p. 57). Harvest House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

44 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1088). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

45 Rydelnik, M. A. (2014). Daniel. In The moody bible commentary (p. 1310). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

46 Guzik, D. (2013). Daniel (Da 11:5). Santa Barbara, CA: David Guzik.

47 “Daniel 11” accessed 8/6/19 from https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/daniel-11/

48 Rydelnik, M. A. (2014). Daniel. In The moody bible commentary (p. 1310). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

49 Rydelnik, M. A. (2014). Daniel. In The moody bible commentary (p. 1310). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

50 “Daniel 11” accessed 8/6/19 from https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/daniel-11/

Related Topics: Basics for Christians, Bibliology (The Written Word), Prophecy/Revelation

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