Responsibly Interpreting the Visions of Daniel 11 (part 4)

Daniel In this final post on the history described in Daniel 11 we will cover verses 29-45. My aecoinattempts all along have been to responsibly read the text of Daniel firmly rooted in its historical context so as to best make sense of its message. Although there still seem to be readers who wish to dismiss these historical readings outright in favor of theological positions which place all of these events in the unknown future, I nevertheless insist that these texts must be taken seriously in all of their details, both geographically and politically. As Ben Witherington III used to regularly say in class, “a text without a context is just a pretext for whatever you want it to mean.”


Daniel 11:29-30a

The temporal phrase “at the appointed time” serves to highlight the events which are to follow as climactic. In the year 168 BCE Antiochus IV again invaded Egypt, attempting to cripple the military forces of Ptolemy VI and his siblings. In particular, he moved against the grand city of Alexandria. This act of aggression, as the text indicates, would not turn out as it did previously for Antiochus. The Roman army, which was strong enough to “play referee” in the Mediterranean, moved to intervene against Antiochus IV. The reference to the “ships of Kittim” indicate Italian/Roman forces according to other contemporary usages (cf. 1QpHab 2.12, 14; 3.4, 9; 4.5, 10; 4Q161 frgs. 8-10 3.5-8; 4Q169 1.3).

Neither Rome nor Syria desired to go to war with one another, and Rome certainly feared how the balance of power would significantly shift if Syria controlled Egypt. The historian Polybius recounts how the Roman ambassador Gaius Popillius Laenas personally met Antiochus at Alexandria and submitted unto him Rome’s terms on what historians call the “Day of Eleusis”:

But when [Antiochus], after reading [the terms], said he would like communicate with his friends about this intelligence, Popilius acted in a manner which was thought to be offensive and exceeding arrogant. He was carrying a stick cut from a vine, and with this he drew a circle around Antiochus and told him he must remain inside this circle until he gave his decision about the contents of the letter. [Antiochus] was astonished at this authoritative proceeding, but, after a few moments’ hesitation, he said that he would do all that the Romans demanded. (History 29.27.4-7)

Inevitably, Antiochus retreated back toward the north. During his time in Egypt, rumors of his death had spread to Jerusalem. This provoked Jason, the formerly-ousted high priest, to violently engage the current high priest Menelaus. Jason was eventually defeated and forced to retreat, leaving Menelaus still in charge of Jerusalem.


Daniel 11:30b-31

In light of the skirmish between Jason and Menelaus (which Antiochus understandably assumed to be a revolt) Antiochus send his agent Apollonius the Mysarch to Jerusalem with a contingency of Syrian troops. This occurred in the summer of 167 BCE. The author of 1 Maccabees refers to Apollonius as a “chief collector of tribute” who came with a “large force” (1 Macc 1:29; cf. 2 Macc 5:24). The situation appeared peaceful at first, but soon turned deadly;

Deceitfully he spoke peaceable words to them, and they believed him; but he suddenly fell upon the city, dealt it a severe blow, and destroyed many people of Israel (1 Macc 1:30).

Menelaus the high priest was a strong proponent of Hellenizing Judea, even going so far, according to 2 Macc 13:3, as personally partnering up with Antiochus in hopes of being established in his office as high priest.

In 167 the Syrian forces desecrated the Jerusalem temple and halted the sacrificial system from continuing to function. A pagan altar was placed on top of the altar used for burnt sacrifices. This pagan altar is the object described by Dan 11:31 as “the abomination of desolation.” Note carefully that the A of D in 11:31 is a thing (not a person). This is confirmed by the contemporary writer of 1 Maccabees who states that “they set up the abomination of desolation upon the altar” (1 Macc 1:54). When the Maccabean forces succeeded at driving out the Syrians in 164 BCE, the removal of this abomination is likewise spoken of as an object rather than a person;

they had pulled down the abomination, which he had set up upon the altar in Jerusalem (1 Macc 6:7).

From the perspective of pious Jews in Jerusalem, the pagan influences were coming from both Antiochus and from the reigning high priest. This was nothing short of a national disaster. The struggle was real.


Daniel 11:32

With smooth words Antiochus will turn those acting wickedly toward godlessness. mattatiasHistorically, Antiochus’ officials attempted to persuade the Jews to offer sacrifices upon this pagan altar (1 Macc 2:14). Mattathias, the father of the Maccabean family, was told that “you and your sons will be numbered among the friends of the king, and you and your sons will be honored with silver and gold and many gifts” (1 Macc 2:18). Mattathias slew the commander in righteous zeal, ushering the beginning of the Maccabean Revolt. Daniel 11:32 frames the nature of those who resisted Hellenization as “those who know their God,” thus highlighting their fidelity to the God of Israel.


Daniel 11:33-35

These next verses will highlight the varied reactions to the abomination of desolation which Antiochus’ forces erected. “Those who have insight” refer to a select group known as the maskilim whose ideal characteristics are highlighted throughout the Book of Daniel. The four Hebrew youths exiled to Babylon are described with the same Hebrew verb (Dan 1:4), particularly in regard to their refusal to compromise strict Jewish kosher (1:8) in addition to their rejection of pagan idols (3:18; 6:10). In Daniel chapter twelve the maskilim are further identified as leading many in faithful covenant observance (i.e., “righteousness” – 12:3) and those possessing discernment/understanding (12:10). What is interesting from a social standpoint is that the maskilim, in each of these references (including 11:33), are never described as actively contributing to the violent uprising or armed rebellion against the agents of Hellenism. It would appear that since the initial four Hebrews and the further references to the maskilim in Daniel 11 and 12 are highly considered that the authors of the Book of Daniel shared this wise and nonviolent ideology and wanted to persuade the readers to adopt it as well. For the maskilim, the appropriate response to pagan oppression is nonviolent resistance, refusal to compromise faithful Jewish practices, and a willingness to be martyred for their covenant commitment to Yahweh.

Many of the maskilim will unfortunately fall by sword, fire, captivity, and by plunder. These unfortunate consequences have already been observed in the lives of Daniel and his three friends. The martyred mothers and brothers refusing to compromise with Hellenism are beautifully depicted in 2 Macc 6-7. The apocalyptic nature of Daniel’s oracles here clearly reflects the understanding that the righteous will indeed suffer at the hands of the wicked in this age as they wait expectedly for God’s intervention in history.

The maskilim will receive a little help, but the results will yield little fruit because those helping only in hypocritical words. The insincerity of their initial followers will not help their cause (in contrast from the more dominant form of resistance in the violent revolt of the Maccabean militia). In the meantime, some of the maskilim will “refine, purge, and make pure.” These same three verbs reappear in Dan 12:3 to contrast the maskilim with the wicked, further encouraging Daniel’s readers to adopt their worldviews in the midst of pagan persecution. Their actions, according to Dan 11:35b, will continue until a time of the end, and “the end” in sight for Daniel’s readers will be the intervention of God to remove the Greek oppressor Antiochus Epiphanies, thus liberating Jerusalem from pagan oppression.


Daniel 11:36-39

These verses break up the historical narrative by offering focus on the character of aecoin2.JPGAntiochus IV. Throughout the history detailed in Daniel 11 there were many kings fighting against each other. Antiochus Epiphanies goes a step further and magnifies himself against the God of gods, Israel’s God. Antiochus IV was the first king in history to promote himself on coins as “god” and “god manifest” (note the coin on the left with the Greek BASILEOS ANTIOCHOU THEOU EPIPHANOUS NIKYFOROY – “Antiochus, God made manifest, bearer of victory”). Of course, the author of Daniel would have considered these titles blasphemous. Antiochus’ history of plundering other temples of the gods only further proves his arrogant attitude and disdain for other deities. However, 11:36 assures the readers that God’s decree against Antiochus will indeed be accomplished, thus offering comfort to those living during this oppressive period.

It is further noted that Antiochus will not regard the god of his father, specifically Apollo, the sacred ancestral god of the Seleucid dynasty. In actuality, Antiochus revered Zeus Olympias instead of Apollos on coins dating as early as 173/172 BCE. The placement of an altar to Zeus upon Jerusalem’s sacrificial alter in 167 BCE further demonstrates this point. The author of 2 Maccabees recounts how Antiochus sent one of his agents to Hellenize the Jerusalem temple and “to call it the temple of Olympian Zeus” (2 Macc 6:2). The “desire/beloved of women” is usually regarded as the deity Tammuz from Ezek 8:14, although admittedly historians possess very little data on this god.

Daniel continues to frame the actions of Antiochus with religious terms in 11:39. Antiochus will move against the Jerusalem fortress with “help” from his pagan deity. Many followed Antiochus in this regard, including some compromising Jews, as noted by a variety of indications from 1 Maccabees:

All the Gentiles accepted the command of the king. Many even from Israel gladly adopted his religion; they sacrificed to idols and profaned the Sabbath. (1 Macc 1:43)

Then the king’s officers spoke to Mattathias as follows: “You are a leader, honored and great in this town, and supported by sons and brothers. Now be the first to come and do what the king commands, as all the Gentiles and the people of Judah and those that are left in Jerusalem have done. Then you and your sons will be numbered among the Friends of the king, and you and your sons will be honored with silver and gold and many gifts.” (1 Macc 2:17-18)

a Jew came forward in the sight of all to offer sacrifice on the altar in Modein, according to the king’s command. (1 Macc 2:23)

This passage again highlights both the political and religious plight facing conservative Jews who refused to accommodate Hellenism during the reign of Antiochus.


Daniel 11:40-45

While Dan 11:27 notes that the skirmishes between the king of the north and the king of the south were not yet the appointed “time of the end,” Dan 11:40 indicates that this definitive time has finally arrived. However, it is at this point in the narrative, after thirty-nine verses of accurate historical “predictions,” that the account departs from what actually took place in history. This point has been the primary grounds upon which critical attempts at dating the Book of Daniel, in its final form, have produced the date of 164 BCE. Stated differently, the events from 11:1-39 are remarkably accurate while the events in the final six verses do not match up well with history. How is one to responsibly account for this interpretive dilemma? The best explanation, according to the vast majority of modern commentators on Daniel (Collins, Goldingay, Newsom, Pace, Seow, Smith-Christopher, Towner), is that the author was living in the midst of the Maccabean Revolt and could therefore look back on the historical events of Dan 11:1-39 as “predictive” history while acknowledging that 11:40-45 are actual predictions. Interestingly enough, Antiochus did in fact die and the abomination of desolation was removed in the year 164, much to the relief of the conservative Jews in Jerusalem.

The fact that the author of Daniel is forced to predict the final results of the life of Antiochus and the Maccabean Revolt can be confirmed when we examine the different (and increasing) answers to the typical apocalyptic question; “’How long, O Lord,’ will you allow this act of godless pagan oppression upon your chosen people to remain?” Daniel 8:13-14 asks and answers the question with the answer 2,300 evenings and mornings (1,150 days). As this prediction began to look questionable, it was revised in 12:6 (“How long until the end of wonders?”) and answered in 12:11 with 1,290 days. Then, the answer is again further revised in Dan 12:12 with 1,335 days.

Ultimately, the final redactor notes the comforting reality that the protagonist Daniel will die and rise up in resurrection at the end of days (Dan 12:13).

Those who would read Daniel 11 during the midst of Antiochus’ persecutions would be offered with three different religious responses to these horrifying events:

Option one – They could join with the Hellenizers (Antiochus, the Syrians, and Menelaus the high priest). This would be the “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” option.

Option two – They could join the Maccabees in armed revolt against the pagan forces. Those who took this option could draw upon biblical examples such as Phinehas and Elijah for inspiration.

Option three – They could join the maskilim and nonviolently resist Hellenistic accommodation and await Israel’s God to vindicate this situation. This would have been the option chosen by Jesus Christ if his teachings were any indication.


The author of Daniel hopes that his readers take option three.

Responsibly Interpreting the Visions in Daniel 11 (part 3)

ae4coinThis is part 3 of our historical journey through the prophecy in Daniel 11. To get caught up to speed, be sure to check out the previous posts on Dan 11:1-9 and 11:10-19. This post will over the events over the next nine verses with greater detail than I have been writing before. This added emphasis is due primarily because some of my critics seem to be unconvinced by my attempts to take the historical context of this passage responsibly, both as an interpreter and as a historian.


Daniel 11:20-28

After the death of Antiochus III (Dan 11:19), his son Seleucus IV began to rule in his place. During his reign, he was alerted to the fact that the Jerusalem temple was filled with treasure. In what was likely an attempt to fund his military campaigns (which were suffering due to his father’s defeat at the hand of the Romans) Seleucus sent his chief minister Heliodorus to Jerusalem in order to pillage the Jewish treasury. Daniel 11:20 references this account with the phrase “one will arise who will send an oppressor through the Jewel of the kingdom.” However, Heliodorus was thwarted by angelic guards who beat him nearly to death, thus protecting the Jerusalem temple from being robbed. The account is narrated in 2 Maccabees chapter three (with some legendary details likely added):

But when he arrived at the treasury with his bodyguard, then and there the Sovereign of spirits and of all authority caused so great a manifestation that all who had been so bold as to accompany him were astounded by the power of God, and became faint with terror. For there appeared to them a magnificently caparisoned horse, with a rider of frightening mien; it rushed furiously at Heliodorus and struck at him with its front hoofs. Its rider was seen to have armor and weapons of gold. Two young men also appeared to him, remarkably strong, gloriously beautiful and splendidly dressed, who stood on either side of him and flogged him continuously, inflicting many blows on him. When he suddenly fell to the ground and deep darkness came over him, his men took him up, put him on a stretcher, and carried him away (2 Macc 3:24-28)

Heliodorus survived this encounter and eventually assassinated Seleucus IV in the year 175. This is what Dan 11:20 means when it says that “he will be shattered, though not in
house of seleucus.JPGanger or in battle.” At this point, the crown should have passed onto the eldest son, Demetrius. However, he was a hostage in Rome at the time, and thereby unaware that his father had perished. His younger brother, an infant named Antiochus, was crowned king by his mother, Laodice, who herself was made regent. At this time, another Antiochus, known to us as Antiochus IV Epiphanes, secured an army from the king of Pergamum. Antiochus IV had Heliodorus removed and eventually slew the infant Antiochus. Prior to murdering the young Antiochus, Antiochus IV strategically married Laodice, thereby making him coregent with his new stepson. Five years later, the young Antiochus was murdered, thus leaving Antiochus IV the only king, despite the fact that “the honor of kingship had not been conferred upon him” (11:21).

The remaining twenty-four verses of Daniel 11 deal with Antiochus IV, thus giving him over half of the chapter’s complete attention. Daniel 11:22 seems to be a general characterization of Antiochus’ career as a whole. The initial descriptions of flooded and shattered forces are broad but the mention of the prince of the covenant also being shattered is clear. It was already noted back in Dan 9:26 that an anointed figure, the high priest Onias III, was cut off, and it seems that he is also spoken of here. During this period, the only person who could be spoken of as the “prince of the covenant” would be the Jewish high priest (note that the high priest Joshua was also called a “prince” in Dan 9:25). The alliance made so as to “gain power with a small force of people” was already mentioned with the pact with the king of Pergamum, King Eumenes II (11:23). One of the feats which Antiochus IV accomplished which was never attempted by his predecessors was the lavish spending and gift giving he appropriated unto his troops, at times even paying his army a year’s salary in advance (11:24). This, of course, led to some financial problems, observed by the author of 1 Maccabees:

He feared that he might not have such funds as he had before for his expenses and for the gifts that he used to give more lavishly than preceding kings. He was greatly perplexed in mind; then he determined to go to Persia and collect the revenues from those regions and raise a large fund. (1 Macc 3:30-31)

The Ptolemaic forces down in Egypt, which haven’t been mentioned lately in the prophecy, show up again in 11:25. The Sixth Syrian War was fought between Antiochus and Egypt, lasting from 170-168 BCE. Daniel 11:25 indicates that Egypt, led by Ptolemy VI, was able to amass a much larger army than ptolemy6Antiochus. However, the king of the south did not stand for long as he was ousted by two Alexandrian aristocrats in his court, Comanos and Cineas. This is what 11:26 refers to by “those who eat his choice food will destroy him.” Although the war ended in 168 BCE, Daniel continues to narrate the details of the life of Ptolemy VI. While in Egypt, Antiochus successfully besieged Alexandria, but was unable to take the city completely. Both Ptolemy VI and Antiochus IV eventually met in Memphis in 169 BCE with evil attempts at working out a “peaceful” agreement (11:27). The narrator of Daniel lets the reader know that the end of Antiochus IV is still to come “at the appointed time,” indicating that although his actions appear out of control, the God of Israel is still sovereign over the situation.  The next verse notes how Antiochus IV returned to his land (from Memphis, Egypt) in the autumn of 169 BCE. On his way north, he stopped by the Jerusalem temple and took much of the gold and silver from its treasury (11:28). These events are recorded in 1 Maccabees chapter one:

After subduing Egypt, Antiochus returned in the one hundred forty-third year. He went up against Israel and came to Jerusalem with a strong force. He arrogantly entered the sanctuary and took the golden altar, the lampstand for the light, and all its utensils. He took also the table for the bread of the Presence, the cups for drink offerings, the bowls, the golden censers, the curtain, the crowns, and the gold decoration on the front of the temple; he stripped it all off. He took the silver and the gold, and the costly vessels; he took also the hidden treasures that he found. Taking them all, he went into his own land. He shed much blood, and spoke with great arrogance (1 Macc 1:20-24)


Do the historical details make sense or should we rather place Daniel 11 into the future, prior to the end of the age? Leave a note in the comments section and please look forward to further updates on the historical prophecy recorded in Daniel 11.

Responsibly Interpreting the Visions in Daniel 11 (part 2)

In the previous post we began trekking through the climactic prophecy of the Book of a449df20b21ffdb618c9eeb223e46ecaDaniel – chapter eleven. We observed how the chapter begins with a brief prediction of the Persian Empire which was eventually overtaken by the Greek armies led by the young Alexander the Great. After Alexander died his dominion was ultimately passed onto his four generals due to his lack of offspring. Although these four generals took to the four points of the compass, only two of them are in focus for this particular prophecy. The general which ended up taking control of Syria (and the Middle East) was Seleucus I. Ptolemy I, on the other hand, took Egypt as his territory. Both of these generals eventually established lengthy dynasties. From the perspective of Jews living in Judea, these kings in the north and in the south were the major ‘power players’ for the next few hundred years and the nation of Israel was unfortunately caught in the midst of their crossfire. This post will cover the life and military campaign of the Greek ruler Antiochus III (Dan 11:10-19), a king given substantial treatment in this prophecy.


Daniel 11:10-19

The sons of Seleucus II, being Seleucus III and Antiochus III, begin to amass their armies for Syria (11:10). Seleucus III reigned only three years, from 226-223. His brother, antiochus 3rdAntiochus III, ruled for much longer (223-187). His military success was much more evident than his brother’s. The imagery of “coming and overflow and pass through” (NASB) suggests an epic quality to Antiochus’ campaigns, as he secured northern Palestine both east and west of the Jordan, including Samaria and Galilee. He made his way down to Egypt, culminating in the Battle of Raphia on June 22, 217 BCE. The KS at that time was Ptolemy IV, who ruled from 221-204. Ptolemy’s forces succeeded in the Battle of Raphia after raising a sizable force (11:11) which crushed much of the Syrian army, but not quite a crippling defeat so as to completely wipe out Antiochus III (11:12). This battle is described further (with some legendary details) in 3 Macc chapter one.

Daniel 11:13 notes how Antiochus III will continue with his military activities, focusing on Syria and Palestine in particular. The former Battle at Raphia ended with a peace treaty between the two kings, lasting as long as the kings lived. However, with Ptolemy IV’s death in 204 BCE Antiochus no longer felt that the treaty was in effect. This is what Dan 11:13 means with the phrase “after an interval of some years.” Meanwhile, Egypt suffered from a local native uprising/rebellion. The angel tells Daniel that “the violent ones among your people (i.e., the Jews) will also lift themselves up…but they will fall down,” indicating that some Jews had switched sides and freely supported Antiochus’ cause. In the year 200 BCE, Antiochus finally attacked Egypt, defeating the ruler (Scopas) at the Battle of Panion. Many Jews supported Antiochus III with provisions and helped remove the Ptolemaic garrison which was located in Jerusalem. The details of the outcome of this engagement are recorded by Josephus (Ant. 12.138-46). It is likely that these Jews had hoped that by removing Ptolemaic forces from Jerusalem that the holy land would be cleansed from pagan overlords, but their ambitions did not come to fruition (11:14 – “they will fall down”).

After Scopas, the reigning KS, was defeated at the Battle of Panion he retreated to Sidon with his hired Aetolian mercenaries. Antiochus III eventually took the city in the year 199 BCE after Scopas surrendered (11:15-16). This victory effectively took Palestine away from dleo1Ptolemaic rule. In the year 197 Antiochus began negotiating another peace treaty with Ptolemy V, although it required Ptolemy to openly recognize Antiochus’ territorial claims. Cleopatra I, the daughter of Antiochus III, was betrothed to Ptolemy as a part of the treaty (11:17). This marriage occurred sometime between 194-193 BCE. Antiochus has secretly wanted Cleopatra to undermine the Ptolemaic kingdom from the inside, but she ended up embracing her new husband’s ambitions instead. This is what the angel meant with the phrase “she will not take a stand for him or be on his side.” With the death of Ptolemy V in 180 BCE, his widow Cleopatra I continued to remain powerfully influential for some time, likely in part to her son being too young to rule.

Antiochus, seemingly bent on reclaiming the lands once possessed by his forefather Seleucus I, marched his armies towards Thrace and the Greek territories along the coastlands (11:18). However, Rome at this time was powerful enough to withstand Antiochus’ forces, stopping him in central Greece in the year 191. Two years later (189 BCE), Rome dealt Antiochus a decisive defeat in Asia Minor (11:18). The commanding officer mentioned in this verse was P. Cornelius Scipio, who personally presented Antiochus III conditions of peace in 188, costing him 15,000 talents, elephant elephantbattleand naval troops, and the release of Roman hostages. This so-called ‘agreement’ was an obvious attempt by the Romans to cripple the Greek armies belonging to Antiochus. This defeat in turn provoked a few rebellions in the eastern parts of the Greek kingdom, resulting in Antiochus’ death in the year 187 BCE. This occurred when Antiochus attempted to sack the temple (“fortress” – 11:19) of Bel in the city of Elemais, likely seeking the funds depleted from his ‘agreement’ with the Romans.


In the next post we will continue trekking through the history in Daniel 11. Be sure to subscribe for further updates!

Responsibly Interpreting the Visions in Daniel 11 (part 1)

Alas, we are on the homestretch of these visions in Daniel. The eleventh chapter encompasses the largest and longest of the visions within the book. Lucky for us, the majority of the details find universal agreement among scholars, both conservative and critical. This is due in part to the fact that the events of Daniel 11 fit the known descriptions of the stretch of history seleucus1.JPGbeginning in the Persian period and lasting well into the Hellenistic period. I should warn readers that this post will contain a lot of names, dates, and historical events (so those of you who struggled in history class might find this rather boring). I will do my best to keep the dates clear and the names sorted out, noting that the pronouns used in the Hebrew text often are not very clear. So here goes nothing…


Daniel 11:1-4

The passage begins with an unnamed apocalyptic revealer speaking with Daniel after a twenty-one day fast (10:2-3). The angel unveils to the story’s protagonist key historical alexgreat.JPGevents which are to take place soon after. Daniel 11:2 notes how three more kings will arise out of Persia while a fourth will arouse his kingdom against Greece. These four Persian rulers are not identified, but we do know that the leopard in Dan 7:6 possessed four heads. Furthermore, Ezra 4:5-7 mentions four Persian rulers by name (Cyrus, Darius, Xerxes, and Artaxerxes). What matters for the author of Daniel is that he only gives one verse to describe the tenure of the Persian Empire (11:2), choosing to move rather quickly to the kingdom of Greece. Within the Greek kingdom a mighty king (Alexander the Great) is said to arise for awhile (11:3), but his kingdom will be broken up towards the four points of a compass (cf. Dan 8:8) and given over to rulers who are not his offspring. Alexander possessed no children, so his kingdom was passed onto his four generals (11:4). It is important to note that this divided kingdom is still the Greek kingdom, since all four of the generals were Greeks and the text does not introduce a new realm/nationality. I should point out here that the remainder of Daniel 11 deals with this same empire: the Greek kingdom. It is safe to say that although the reader is carried from Daniel’s time through the Persian period, which lasted over two hundred years, the author wants to emphasize the events of the Greek kingdom from Dan 11:3-45. I have noted in Daniel 2, 7, 8, and 9 that the final kingdom always is stressed with more words and emphasis that any of the previous kingdoms, and Daniel 11 is no different. Readers need to seriously consider why Daniel stresses the Greek kingdom as much as he does.


Daniel 11:5-9

The eleventh chapter will continue to alternate between two primary actors; described respectively as the “King of the North” and the “King of the South” (whom I will abbreviate as ‘KN’ and ‘KS’ henceforth). From the perspective of the nation of Israel, the KN would represent the ruler in Syria. daniel-11-mapSeleucus I, one of the famous generals taking over part of Alexander’s realm, reigned from this particular territory. Also, the KS, from Israel’s perspective, easily would be represented by Egypt. Another famous general of Alexander’s, Ptolemy I, ruled from Egypt. Both Seleucus I and Ptolemy I established massive dynasties which ruled from these two geographical territories. Poor Israel was caught in the crossfire of Syria and Egypt (see map), which was nothing new for them as this dilemma was a longstanding struggle dating back to the minostry of the eighth century BCE prophet Isaiah. Of course, the particular individuals functioning in the roles of the KN and the KS changed over time, just as ancient Persia had a variety of successive rulers and modern America functions with a variety of successive presidents.

With that introduction we can move onto the exegesis. Daniel 11:5 describes how the KS (Ptolemy I) will grow strong, reigning from 323-285 BCE (thirty-eight years). The verse also notes how one of Ptolemy’s princes will eventually possess extensive dominion (Seleucus I as a satrap). The next verse (11:6) describes an alliance made between the KS and the KN. Historically this was fulfilled around 250 BCE with Antiochus II, the grandson of Seleucus I, marrying Berenice, the daughter of Ptolemy II. This intermingling in marriage had peaceful intentions, but it did not last long, as Antiochus II was allegedly poisoned by his ex wife Laodice. Berenice and her newborn child were likewise murdered in due course. This alliance was hinted at back in Dan 2:43, a section describing the fourth kingdom in Nebuchadnezzar’s statue, thereby confirming that the fourth kingdom in Daniel is Greece. Daniel 11:7 notes how one of the descendants in Berenice’s line, her brother Ptolemy III, will arise to take her place. He ruled from 246-221 BCE. He brought his armies against the KN, who at that time was seleuc2a.gifSeleucus II. This military campaign was rather successful, as the gods of Syria were plundered from the Syrian fortress and taken back to Egypt by Ptolemy III, who held off further attacks on the KN for some time (11:8).  However, Seleucus II attempted a counter-invasion of Egypt, but was unsuccessful with his attack (11:9) in comparison to the victory achieved earlier by Ptolemy III. Seleucus II, the KN, was forced to return home.


Stay tuned for the next installment of Daniel 11’s exegesis.