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Go to Bible: Daniel 11
“in the first year of Darius the Mede.” Making Daniel 11:1 the first verse of Daniel 11 instead of the last verse of Daniel 10 makes the chronology of Persia unworkable. Daniel 11:1 should be the last verse of Daniel 10, not the first verse of Daniel 11. The chapters were put in the Bible long before archaeologists and historians pieced together an understanding of Persian history, and in this case, the chapter break between Daniel 10 and Daniel 11 was put in the wrong place: Daniel 10 was ended one verse early.
The Bible was originally written with no spaces, punctuation, verses, or chapters. An entire scroll was just one solid string of letters. So, for example, if the original Bible was in English, John 11:34-36 (RSV) would be: ANDHESAIDWHEREHAVEYOU LAIDHIMTHEYSAIDTOHIMLORD COMEANDSEEJESUSWEPTSO THEJEWSSAIDSEEHOWHELOVEDHIM.
Chapters: The Jews began dividing the Old Testament into “sections” (not chapters yet) before the Babylonian Captivity in 586 BC. Our modern chapter divisions in the Old Testament came from Stephen Langton, a professor in Paris engaged in editing a Latin version of the Bible in 1205. These chapter divisions were added to the Hebrew text in 1330. The chapter divisions in the New Testament began to be made much earlier, before the Counsel of Nicea in 325 AD, but today’s chapter divisions were not finished until the Archbishop of Canterbury did so in about 1227.
Verses: After the Babylonian Captivity of 586 BC, the Jews started to occasionally add spaces to the Hebrew text of the Old Testament before what to them was the start of a new thought, and some of those spaces later became verse divisions in our modern English Bible. However, our modern verse divisions in the Old Testament were standardized much later, about 900 AD.
When it came to the verses in the New Testament, the first systematic verse divisions were added by Robert Stephanus to his critical Greek text of 1551. Those verse divisions were then used by William Whittingham in 1557, a major translator of the Geneva Bible of 1560; and thus the Geneva Bible of 1560 was the first English Bible to use standardized chapter and verse divisions. The Geneva Bible was the Bible used by William Shakespeare and John Bunyan (author of Pilgrim’s Progress), and was also the Bible brought across to America on the Mayflower by the Pilgrims, who used that version, not the King James Version. It should be noted, however, that even today scholars occasionally differ on where to divide a verse and thus even modern versions still occasionally differ a little (see commentary on Psalm 36:1).
The standardization of the chapter and verse divisions by 1560 was both a good and bad thing. On the good side, it allowed for much easier and more accurate communication about the Bible, because one person could write to another and comment about a chapter and verse and they both could then communicate about the same verse.
On the bad side, however, was the fact that there was a lot about Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, and also about biblical history, that was not known in the 1500’s. As a result, many chapters and verses in the Bible are broken in the wrong place, often causing confusion or misinterpretation of the Bible, or at least a loss of the proper emphasis of what the Bible is saying.
The traditional chapter break in Daniel 11:1 is one of the places where the chapter is in the wrong place. This is well understood by conservative scholars, but not easily seen by the English reader who is not familiar with Persian history. “The people who divided Scripture into chapters have not done this accurately at all times. Thus the first verse of this chapter [Dan. 11] should have been the last one of chapter 10” (Harry Bultema, Commentary on Daniel. P. 313). “Nothing could be clearer than that this verse [Dan. 11:1] still belongs to what was just considered [in Dan. 10] (H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Daniel. P. 468). “…it is clear that it [Dan. 11:1] should be considered with the statement in 10:21 concerning the reciprocal aid between Michael and the interpreting angel” (Stephen Miller, The New American Commentary: Daniel. P. 289). Daniel would be easier to read and understand if Daniel 11:2 had been correctly marked as Daniel 11:1.(top)
“Now I will show you the truth.” The Complete Jewish Bible (CJB) translates this sentence as, “What I am going to tell you now is true,” which, while not a strict translation, catches the meaning very well. Daniel 11:2 should actually have been numbered Daniel 11:1, see commentary on Daniel 11:1.
The verses that follow include a thumbnail history of Persia, Greece, and the Seleucid and Ptolemaic empires. Obviously, not every historical detail of that time period can be covered; that would take a huge book, but enough detail is covered that we get a general overview of many major events. The record of the events in Daniel 11, however, does not cover the Church Age.
Due to the short and thumbnail-like overview of the events, there are some descriptions in the prophecies that are either unclear or that do not seem to exactly match history. That is to be expected for several reasons. One is that God is not trying to give us the exact history of every event, but a general overview, especially from His perspective, of events. It often occurs in prophecy that what we get is a “take-home message,” not a blow-by-blow narrative.
Another reason is that not everything we find in the ancient records is accurate. Historians know this, and ancient histories are constantly being rewritten as new research reveals that what used to be thought as true has been found to be false or “not exact.” For example, kings were notorious for doctoring records to make themselves look favorable, and also, while God can reveal people’s hearts and motives, human historians cannot.
Another reason is that we often do not know the accurate translation of a word, or especially an idiomatic phrase. One only has to read an older version of the Bible such as the King James Version (1611) and compare it to a much more modern version such as the English Standard Version (last revised 2016) to see that the modern translations often differ greatly from the older versions.
Daniel 11 is broken into two major sections. Daniel 11:2-35 starts out by very briefly covering events in the Persian Empire, then the Greek Empire of Alexander the Great and four of his generals. After that, it launches into a much more detailed account of the empires of two of Alexander’s generals and the two dynasties they start: the Ptolemaic and Seleucid dynasties. Then there is a time gap that includes the Church Age, and then Daniel 11:36-45 deals with the time of the End, a time that is still future when the last Gentile ruler, whom we know as the Antichrist, rules the earth and meets his end: “he will come to his end with no one to help him” (Dan. 11:45).
Although Daniel saw the vision and wrote it down in 536/535 BC (Dan. 10:1), the events described in Daniel 11:2-35 happened many years after that. For example, Alexander the Great reigned from 336-323 BC, two hundred years after Daniel wrote, and the wars between the Seleucids and Ptolemies described in Daniel 11:5-35 took place over many years and many rulers, and ended some 350 years after Daniel wrote. Yet Daniel’s prophecies are so incredibly detailed, and so well documented in history by ancient authors such as Josephus (c. 37-100 AD), that historians who do not believe in God and prophecy deny that Daniel wrote them, asserting instead that they are so accurate they had to be written after the fact.
For example, The Interpreter’s Bible says, “Once we have accepted the second century B.C. as the time of writing rather than the seventh century B.C., we have a book that is religiously significant. …The book [of Daniel] is not magical foretelling. It deals with a contemporary situation, which removes it from the realm of suspicious superstitious magic to the realm of faith (The Interpreter’s Bible; Abingdon Press, 1956, p. 355). To us, this kind of interpretation is doubletalk. Why would a history written after the fact be more “religiously significant” than one written by revelation before the events happened? Indeed, why would writing a history after the fact be in “the realm of faith” at all? Furthermore, if God is real then surely He can reveal future events without that being “magical” foretelling. There is no “magic” involved. The believer accepts Daniel at face value, as Jesus did (cp. Matt. 24:15), and realized that God told Daniel what would happen before it happened.
It is proper to ask the question, “What was God’s purpose for giving such a detailed history of events involving the Jews so many years before the fact?” The answer is “hope.” The Jews could have hope in the midst of their difficult situation because they knew God had His hand upon them and their future is bright—even though it was still in the distant future. Furthermore, the hope God gives us from these limited vignettes of history should give us hope for all of history. The fact that God shows us that He has His hand on a small section of history is meant to teach us that He has His hand on all of history. Not that God controls history, He doesn’t. The earth is still a war zone between Good and Evil, and people still have free-will, but God can still influence the way history will develop, and He will bring things to a righteous and godly solution in the End.
To the Jews living through the Seleucid-Ptolemaic wars, those wars likely seemed endless, but the Jews who believed knew there was an end in sight, so they knew to stay faithful to God. Similarly, today and during the Great Tribulation in the future, believers going through those times may think the End is never coming, but reading Matthew 24, the book of Revelation, and chapters about the Tribulation in the Old Testament should give them the stamina, courage, and hope to stand and speak what is right (cp. Matt. 10:16-23).
“three more kings.” The current king was Cyrus (Daniel 10:1). The three more Persian kings were Cambyses (530-522 BC); Pseudo-Smerdis (also known as Gaumata) (522 BC); and Darius I (522-486 BC). Historians debate the exact dates, but these are very close.
“the fourth.” The fourth king of Persia after Cyrus was Xerxes I (486-465 BC). It was Xerxes I who stirred up his people against Greece, and then led against the Greeks one of the largest armies ever to be amassed in the ancient world consisting of hundreds of thousands of men. But the attack was a disaster and a great loss from which Xerxes never recovered. Thus, Daniel’s vision now moves on to Greece.(top)
“a mighty king.” This is Alexander the Great. The Bible’s description of him is accurate: he had a vast empire, was an absolute ruler, and did what he pleased. But, as we know from history, he died prematurely and his kingdom was divided up and ruled by four of his generals. He had a huge impact on history. For example, his conquest of Egypt led to Egypt being ruled by Greeks (“Cleopatra Queen of Egypt” was actually a Greek), and to the development of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament.(top)
“will be divided...but not to his posterity.” After Alexander the Great died, his sons were murdered and his kingdom was eventually divided up between four of his generals: Cassander, who ruled over Macedonia and Greece, the traditional homeland of Greece. Lysimachus who ruled over Thrace, Bithynia, and most of Asia Minor (mostly todays Turkey). Seleucus who controlled Syria and the lands east of it including Babylonia; and Ptolemy, who took control of Egypt. He also controlled Palestine and some of south-eastern Arabia, but those areas were not firmly in his control and they were fought over and went back and forth between being under Seleucid control and Ptolemaic control, as we see here in Daniel 11.(top)
“king of the South.” This is Ptolemy I Soter (323-285).
“one of his commanders.” This is Seleucus I Nicator (312/311-280 BC). Seleucus was appointed satrap over Babylonia but had to flee from a rival general, Antigonus. He fled to Ptolemy in Egypt and served under him, but when Antigonus was defeated in 312 BC, Seleucus returned to power in the north and eventually became more powerful than Ptolemy.(top)
“After some years.” The Hebrew is an idiom; the text more literally reads, “At the end of years.”
“the daughter of the king of the south will come to the king of the north.” There were continual periodic clashes between the Seleucids in the north and the Ptolemies in the south, in Egypt. After the death of Ptolemy I in 285 BC, Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285-246 BC) took the throne in Egypt, and about 250 BC made a peace treaty with the current Seleucid ruler, the grandson of Seleucus, who was Antiochus II Theos (261-246 BC). Under the peace treaty, Berenice, the daughter of Ptolemy II Philadelphus, was to marry the Seleucid king, Antiochus II, and then after Antiochus II died, the Seleucid throne would be given to a child of theirs. The phrase “come to” in this context means for a woman to go live in the man’s house; i.e., marry the man (cp. Josh. 15:18).
The plan failed. In order for the treaty to work Antiochus had to divorce his wife, a powerful woman named Laodice (or Laodiceia), and exclude his two sons by her from the throne. But Laodice managed to have Antiochus, his new wife Berenice, and their child, all killed. Thus, Berenice did not retain the “strength of her arm,” that is, her power, and neither did Antiochus, who strengthen her in those times. Furthermore, Berenice’s father, Ptolemy II, died about that same time.(top)
“But from a shoot from her roots one will arise.” The phrase, “from her roots,” means from the same family stock as she was from. After Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285-246 BC) died, his son, Ptolemy III Euergetes (246-221 BC; “Euergetes” means “benefactor”) came to the throne in Egypt. He was the brother of Berenice, and he amassed a large army and attacked the Seleucid kingdom to avenge his sister’s murder. The war lasted from 246-221 BC, and Ptolemy had great success. He even successfully entered and looted the Seleucid capital city, Antioch. A monument erected to him claims he subjugated Mesopotamia, Persia, Susiana, Media, and all countries as far as Bactria (John Walvoord; Daniel, pp. 333-334). He also apparently put Laodice to death.
Ptolemy carried the Seleucid gods into Egypt as a sign of their total defeat. This was often done by victorious nations (see commentary on Dan. 11:8).(top)
“Also their gods.” It was a common custom for a conquering nation to take back home with them the gods of the defeated nation (cp. Isa. 46:1-2; Jer. 48:7; 49:3; Hos. 10:5; see commentary on Hos. 10:5).(top)
“will come into the realm of the king of the south.” The Seleucid king of the north, Seleucus II Callinicus, tried to mount a counterattack against Ptolemy (c. 240 BC), but he was soundly defeated and returned to his own land.(top)
“But his sons will continue the war.” Seleucus II Callinicus had two sons: Seleucus III Ceraunus (ca. 227–223 BC) and Antiochus III the Great (ca. 223–187 BC). They waged war on Ptolemy in Egypt.
“his sons…he…he.” This is very historically accurate. Although the sons of Seleucus II Callinicus started to make war on Ptolemy together, the elder son, Seleucus III Ceraunus, died in a war and the younger son, Antiochus III “the Great” took over. The verse represents this by changing from the plural to the singular.
Antiochus III “the Great” was successful in restoring the territory of Phoenicia and Palestine to Seleucid control as far south as Gaza, which was strong and well-fortified, and thus aptly referred to as a “fortress.”(top)
“The king of the south.” This king of the south is Ptolemy IV Philopator (reigned ca. 221–204 BC).
“the king of the north.” This is Antiochus III the Great (reigned ca. 223–187 BC). Both Ptolemy and Antiochus amassed huge armies. “According to Polybius, Ptolemy’s forces consisted of 70,000 infantry, 5,000 cavalry, and 73 elephants; whereas Antiochus’s army had 62,000 infantry, 6,000 cavalry, and 102 elephants” (Stephen Miller, The New American Commentary: Daniel). Despite the fact that the armies were closely matched, Ptolemy IV Philopator won a decisive victory and basically wiped out the northern army, with Antiochus barely escaping into the desert.
“who will set forth a great multitude.” The text is “and he will,” and it is referring to the king of the north. The king of the north will set forth a multitude, that is, Antiochus III will be the agressor; however, that multitude will be given into the hand of the king of the south, Ptolemy IV Philopator, who will defeat Antiochus.(top)
“his heart.” This is now referring to the king of the South, Ptolemy IV Philopator.
“lifted up with pride.” Ptolemy’s heart was lifted up with pride, which caused him not to press his advantage and head north and completely conquer the Seleucids, especially since he still controlled Phoenicia and Palestine. This would turn out to be a huge mistake because the Seleucids grew strong again, and thus Ptolemy “would not prevail.” While Ptolemy was basking in the glow of his victory, and generally not being of a warlike character anyway, Antiochus III the Great focused on conquests in other areas, and gathered his troops and was very successful. From 212-204 BC he moved east as far as India, and as far north as the Caspian Sea. Meanwhile, the Egyptian king, Ptolemy IV Philopator, died in 204 BC, and his young son, Ptolemy V Epiphanes, who was four to six years old (the age is not exactly known), was crowned in 203 BC.(top)
“For the king of the north will return.” With these words, Daniel 11:13 marks a shift in the back-and-forth conflicts in the Ptolemaic and Seleucid dynasties. During the time covered by Daniel 11:13-35, it is the Seleucid dynasty that has greater power.
“after some years.” The Hebrew is idiomatic, and literally reads: “at the end of years.”
“he will come on with a great army.” In 202 or 201 BC, Antiochus III the Great mounted another attack on the holdings of the Ptolemies, taking full advantage of the death of Ptolemy IV Philopator and the fact that Ptolemy V Epiphanes was only a child. Antiochus attacked and conquered Phoenicia and Palestine, and captured the fortress of Gaza by 201 BC.(top)
“the violent ones.” The Hebrew is idiomatic: “the sons of violence.” This is a general idiomatic term for unlawful men such as robbers or bandits. It is not making a distinction between people who are “peaceful” and people who are “violent.” It is saying that some of the lawless among the Jews joined in the war.
“among your people will lift themselves up.” This vision is being given to Daniel, so “your people” refers to the Jews. A number of violent Jews joined with Antiochus III in his war against the young Egyptian king, Ptolemy V Epiphanes (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 12.3.3).
“but they will fail.” The more literal Hebrew is “but they will fall,” but it refers to them failing. This is a very accurate piece of history, because although Antiochus III the Great had great success against Ptolemy, and gained much territory, and was joined in the war by some violent Jews, the Jews suffered for it. Although the Egyptian forces of Ptolemy led by general Scopas ultimately lost the war, it was not before he “punished the leaders of Jerusalem and Judah who rebelled against the Ptolemaic government (Stephen Miller, New American Commentary: Daniel).(top)
“the king of the north.” This is Antiochus III the Great. In the wars between Antiochus III and Ptolemy V Epiphanes, the army of Antiochus engaged the southern army led by Ptolemy’s general Scopas who eventually ended up in the fortified city of Sidon. But after a siege, Antiochus took Sidon in 198 BC and Scopas surrendered. This victory resulted in Antiochus controlling Palestine down to Gaza, as well as Phoenicia and even some areas on the coast of Asia Minor (now Turkey) that had been under Ptolemaic control.
“the forces of the south will not stand.” This seems to refer to the fact that Egyptian forces sent north to support Scopas at Sidon failed to turn the tide of the war and thus give the Ptolemaic general the victory.(top)
“But he who comes against him will do as he pleases.” This is to be understood as, “But he [Antiochus III the Great] who comes against him [Ptolemy V Epiphanes] will do as he [Antiochus III] pleases.
“and he will stand in the glorious land.” The “glorious land” is Israel. The Seleucids had controlled Israel for a brief time before this, but now Antiochus III had undisputed control of Phoenicia and Israel, and this control would last. This set the stage for the control of Israel by the son of Antiochus III the Great, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who was the infamous person who did so much harm to the Jews and who was the clearest type of the Antichrist in the Bible, and who is the subject of Daniel 8:9-14.
“and in his hand will be destruction.” This is idiomatic for Antiochus having the power of destruction. Israel was under his firm control.(top)
“set his face.” This is a Hebrew idiom for “resolve,” “firmly decide.” Antiochus III the Great decided to make a treaty with Ptolemy rather than face possible conflict with the growing power of Rome.
“terms of an agreement and will perform them.” Instead of pressing on to an even greater military victory after defeating the forces of Ptolemy V Epiphanes in Sidon, in 197 BC, Antiochus III the Great opted to force a peace treaty upon Ptolemy. This was due to the growing influence of the power of Rome. Antiochus feared that if he attacked Egypt, Rome might intervene.
“he will give him a daughter of women to destroy the kingdom, but she will not stand with him.” As part of the peace treaty of 197 BC, Antiochus III gave one of his daughters, Cleopatra, to Ptolemy V Epiphanes in marriage. Basically, Antiochus forced his daughter upon the young Ptolemy, who was still under ten years old. Antiochus planned to have Cleopatra undermine Ptolemy V, but instead she loved her husband and stood with him against her father, even working to make alliances with Rome as a way of protecting the kingdom.
Antiochus’ daughter Cleopatra was the first Cleopatra of Egypt, not the famous Cleopatra of the movies. The famous Cleopatra was Cleopatra VII Philopater (c. 69-30 BC), who lived more than a century after the first Cleopatra. Cleopatra VII was the last queen of Egypt (her son Caesarion reigned as Pharaoh for less than a month after she died), then Rome took control of Egypt.
The phrase, “a daughter of women” is more literally in Hebrew, “a daughter of the women,” which is an interesting and uncommon idiom for “a daughter.”(top)
“turn his face.” A Hebrew idiom, here meaning “turn his attention.”
“and will capture many of them.” After Antiochus III the Great was not able to move against the Ptolemaic kingdom (which included his daughter, the new queen), he turned his attention to the coastlands and islands around the Mediterranean Sea, especially Greek holdings in Asia Minor but eventually in Greece itself, and had good success.
“But a commander will put a stop to his insolence.” The aggression of Antiochus III aroused the ire of Rome, and Rome sent against him an army led by Lucius Cornelius Scipio (he was the brother of Publius Cornelius Scipio, called “Scipio Africanus” whose chariot army was portrayed in the movie “Gladiator,” which lost in the movie but won in real life). After a series of defeats, in 188 BC Antiochus was forced to sign a peace treaty with Rome the included his surrendering territory, troops, hostages (including his son), and paying a heavy tribute to Rome.(top)
“turn his face.” A Hebrew idiom, here meaning “turn his attention.”
“toward the fortresses of his own land.” It is possible that this refers to Antiochus III the Great going back to his homeland for protection, but it could also be a reference to the fact that the money he needed to pay Rome was mostly in fortified cities and temples.
“and will be found no more.” After being humiliated by the Romans, and in desperate need of funds, Antiochus went back to his country and in 187 BC tried to pillage the Temple of Zeus (Bel) at Elymais, but he was killed by a mob that was apparently trying to defend their god (cp. John Goldingay, Word Biblical Commentary).(top)
“Then will stand up in his place one who will cause a tax collector to pass through the kingdom.” After Antiochus III the Great was killed in 187 BC, Seleucus IV Philopater (187-175 BC) took over the Seleucid kingdom. The kingdom was still in desperate need of money to pay the heavy tribute exacted by Rome, so Seleucus IV sent a tax collector, Heliodorus, around the kingdom to get money. This would be of interest to Daniel because Heliodorus got some of the money by passing the oppressive tribute to Rome onto the Jews in the form of oppressive taxes. As Daniel’s prophecy says, Seleucus IV did not die in battle, or by an angry mob like his father died, but instead was poisoned as part of a plot by his tax collector, who was most likely trying to take over the kingdom for himself (Stephen Miller, The New American Commentary: Daniel).(top)
“a despised person.” This is Antiochus Epiphanes, the Seleucid ruler. He is described in Daniel 8:9-13, and as a foreshadowing of the Antichrist in a doubly fulfilled prophecy in Daniel 8:23-25.(top)
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“The king will do according to his will.” This verse in Daniel 11:36 is the shift between the historical type of the Antichrist (up to Dan. 11:35), and the Antichrist himself (Dan. 11:36-45). This has been understood by many commentators through the years from Jerome (347-420 AD) to modern conservative commentators.(top)
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“devote to destruction.” That is, to destroy them totally. [For more on things “devoted” to Yahweh and devoted to destruction, see commentary on Josh. 6:17].(top)
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