Chapter 11 records Daniel’s last vision. It begins in chapter 10, where Daniel explains how he received God’s revelation in the third year of Darius/Cyrus the king of the Medo-Persians. The revelation given to him caused Daniel great consternation that he began to pray for understanding of what it was he saw.
Daniel sees a vision of a Christophany along with some angelic beings. One of the beings, Gabriel, interpreted the vision for Daniel, speaking on Christ’s behalf.
Chapter 11 begins the run down of this revelation and there are some important points to consider:
– The events described in chapter 11 are future for Daniel. He will not live to see them fulfilled. Most of these events don’t start playing out until 50 years or more into the future from Daniel’s time.
– The historical events described for us take place in the prophetic 69 weeks of 7 years (483 years). The kings and kingdoms – utterly oblivious to God’s sovereign purposes – are fulfilling prophecy that has direct bearing upon Israel as a nation and the first advent of Jesus Christ when those 483 years come to a close. Chapter 11:1-35 reveals what happens during the 483 years, whereas 11:36 and following reveals what happens during those last 7 years.
– Chapter 11 testifies to the supernatural nature of God’s Word. This chapter is so detailed and accurate it is the reason why liberals want to push the date of its composition into the first century B.C. They alleged that an unknown author writing as “Daniel” is looking back in history and writing his story as prophecy. But in truth, the accuracy of this revelation, BEFORE any of the people and events occur, shows us how God’s divine hand is upon these events. Chapter 11 should instill confidence in the trustworthiness of God’s Word. These details, otherwise overlooked by historians, yet prophesied years before they happen, demonstrate the divine hand upon this revelation. Only God could know these exact details.
With those things in mind, let me turn our attention toward this chapter and five major figures prophesied. All of these individuals and events play out around the nation of Israel after their return to their land. I will consider the first four figures in this study, the fifth one in the next.
I. Ahasuerus (11:2)
Verse 2 says four kings will come up. The fourth one would attack Greece. The kings that followed the current king, Darius/Cyrus.
Cambyses – Son of Cyrus/Darius
Smerdis – Usurper who is said to have tried to impersonate Cambyses.
Ahasuerus Xerxes – This is the king in Esther. Xerxes, the fourth king in Daniel’s prophecy, led an attack on Greece that failed miserably.
II. Alexander (11:3-9).
The “mighty ruler” is Alexander the Great. He is also mentioned in Daniel 8. Though he came a long time after Xerxes died, his attacks on Greece were not forgotten and Alexander attacked Persia when he assumed control of his father’s kingdom. It was as if God raised up Xerxes for the sole purpose of stirring up Alexander so as to fulfill prophecy.
The text states no one in his family will succeed him and this happened as predicted.
His half-brother was mentally retarded, he had an illegitimate son, and another son was born after he died. All of them were murdered so as not to allow a heir to reign.
Instead, four of Alexander’s generals came to power and divided his kingdom.
Cassander, who ruled Macedonia and Greece.
Lysinechus, ruled Thrace and Asia Minor.
Seleucus, ruled Syria.
Ptolemy, ruled Egypt.
From this point on, the “kings of the north” – Seleucids – and “kings of the south” – Ptolemaic – dominate the prophecy. Why would that be? Because Israel was right in between them and their fighting.
Initially, the Ptolemaic kingdom was powerful, but the Seleucids eventually gained more control.
There are some interesting historical details noted by Daniel in this prophecy for this time.
Daniel states in 11:6 that after some time they will “join forces.” Historically, this happened when Ptolemy II Philadelphius of Egypt gave his daughter, Bernice, to marry the Seleucid king, Antiochus II Theos. He was married to Laodice I, but he divorced his wife to marry Bernice for this political arrangement. After Ptolemy II died however, , Antiochus divorced Bernice and reunited with Laodice. She in turn killed Antiochus, and had Bernice and her infant son killed, also.
Bernice’s brother, Ptolemy III Euergetes attacked the heir of the Seleucid kingdom, Callinicus (11:7-8), plundering their temples. One other detail Daniel notes is that Ptolemy III reigned longer than Callinicus. Callinicus died in a riding accident and Ptolemy III reigned 6 more years.
III. Antiochus the Great (11:9-20)
The sons of Callinicus wanted revenge for what happened earlier with Ptolemy III. Selucius III and Antiochus III attacked Egypt (11:9). Selucius was murdered and that left Antiochus alone to reign. He was called “Great” because of his success.
Daniel continues providing unique, historical details. In response to this earlier attack (11:11), Ptolemy IV Philopater launched an attack against Antiochus. He was victorious against the Seleucid army. Verse 12 says he casted down ten thousands, but he won’t prevail. Even though Ptolemy had this victory, in the end, it didn’t strengthen him.
Antiochus re-gathered his forces 13 years later and returned to fight them with the Macedonians, and with what Daniel describes in 11:14 as “robbers” or “covenant breakers” of Daniel’s people. These were Jewish revolutionaries looking to get independence from the Ptolemaic kingdom, only to be attacked by the Seleucids they helped, “he shall stand in the glorious land.” Working together, they beat back Ptolemy and his forces.
Then, in another interesting detail, Daniel notes that “he gave his daughter of women to destroy it” (11:17). Feeling pressure from Rome to make peace with Egypt, Antiochus gave his daughter, Cleopatra (not the Marc Anthony “Cleopatra” played by Elizabeth Taylor in the movie of the same name. She lived 100 years later), to marry Ptolemy IV. He intended her to be a spy for her father, but as Daniel notes, “she shall no stand with him, or be for him.” Cleopatra loved her husband and wouldn’t do what her father wanted. How else would Daniel have known that if it were not divinely revealed?
Then in verse 18, it says “he turned to the coastal lands.” Antiochus tried to take coastal areas in Greece, but this military move brought him in conflict with Rome, and he was defeated by their forces. On his return to his home, Antiochus went to plunder the temple of Jupiter in order to pay the reparations required by Rome after his defeat. Instead, he was killed in the process.
Rome required Seleucus IV Philopater to pay the tribute. He did what all politicians in debt do, raised taxes to pay off the annual fine. He sent his finance minister to Jerusalem to seize the temple treasures, only to have the minister assassinate him.
IV. Antiochus IV Epiphanes (21-35)
We saw Antiochus in chapter 8. Recall how he got his throne by bribes and political intrigue (11:21). He deceitfully pretended to be a “Robin Hood” and redistributed wealth to the weaker communities. But it was all a play to get more power. As stated in verse 23-26, he was able to defeat Egypt by creating a league with Ptolemy VI against his rival Ptolemy VII. When Antiochus invaded Egypt in 168 BC, the two Ptolemies and the Romans helped defeat Antiochus and drive him out. It was after this that he returned to the “glorious land” and began persecuting the Jews (11:28). Daniel notes in 11:35 that this persecution is an “appointed time.” It had a purpose: To refine, purify, and make them white. In a manner of speaking, drive Israel to the true God, which is exactly what happened. See commentary on Chapter 8.