I. The 4 Persian Kings:
Cambyses, Pseudo-Smerdis, and Darius Hystaspes. or
Cambyses II, son of Cyrus the Great, ruled 529-522 BCE
Smerdis (Bardiya), alleged son of Cyrus the Great, ruled 522 BCE (Possibly a usurper)
Darius I the Great, brother-in-law of Smerdis and grandson of Arsames, ruled 521-486 BCE
Xerxes I the Great, son of Darius I, ruled 485-465 BCE
Note on Xerxes:
Xerxes, whose riches were proverbial. Persia reached its climax and showed its greatest power in his invasion of Greece, 480 B.C. After his overthrow at Salamis, Persia is viewed as politically dead, though it had an existence. Therefore, Da 11:3, without noticing Xerxes’ successors, proceeds at once to Alexander, under whom, first, the third world kingdom, Grecia, reached its culmination, and assumed an importance as to the people of God.
II. Verse by Verse Commentary on North and South
A few years after Alexander’s death, his kingdom was divided among his four generals (cf. 8:22): Seleucus (over Syria and Mesopotamia), Ptolemy (over Egypt), Lysimacus (over Thrace and portions of Asia Minor), and Cassander (over Macedonia and Greece). This division was anticipated through the four heads of the leopard (7:6) and the four prominent horns on the goat (8:8). Alexander founded no dynasty of rulers; since he had no heirs, his kingdom was divided and the empire was marked by division and weakness.
The strong king of the South was Ptolemy I Soter, a general who served under Alexander. He was given authority over Egypt in 323 B.C. and proclaimed king of Egypt in 304. The commander referred to in verse 5 was Seleucus I Nicator, also a general under Alexander, who was given authority to rule in Babylon in 321. But in 316 when Babylon came under attack by Antigonus, another general, Seleucus sought help from Ptolemy I Soter in Egypt. After Antigonus’ defeat in 312, Seleucus returned to Babylon greatly strengthened. He ruled over Babylonia, Media, and Syria, and assumed the title of king in 305. Thus Seleucus I Nicator’s rule was over far more territory than Ptolemy I Soter’s.
Ptolemy I Soter died in 285 B.C. and Ptolemy II Philadelphus, Ptolemy’s son, ruled in Egypt (285-246). Meanwhile Seleucus was murdered in 281 and his son Antiochus I Soter ruled till 262. Then Seleucus’ grandson Antiochus II Theos ruled in Syria (262-246). Ptolemy II and Antiochus II were bitter enemies but finally (after some years) they entered into an alliance in about 250. This alliance was sealed by the marriage of Ptolemy II’s daughter Berenice to Antiochus II. This marriage, however, did not last, for Laodice, whom Antiochus had divorced in order to marry Berenice, had Berenice killed (she was handed over). Laodice then poisoned Antiochus II and made her son, Seleucus II Callinicus, king (246-227).
Berenice’s brother, Ptolemy III Euergetes (246-221), succeeded his father and set out to avenge the death of his sister Berenice. He was victorious over the Syrian army (the king of the North), put Laodice to death, and returned to Egypt with many spoils.
After this humiliating defeat, Seleucus II Callinicus (the king of the North) sought to invade Egypt but was unsuccessful. After his death (by a fall from his horse) he was succeeded by his son, Seleucus II Soter (227-223 B.C.), who was killed by conspirators while on a military campaign in Asia Minor. Seleucus III’s brother, Antiochus III the Great, became the ruler in 223 at 18 years of age and reigned for 36 years (till 187).
The two sons (Seleucus III and Antiochus III) had sought to restore Syria’s lost prestige by military conquest, the older son by invading Asia Minor and the younger son by attacking Egypt. Egypt had controlled all the territory north to the borders of Syria which included the land of Israel. Antiochus III succeeded in driving the Egyptians back to the southern borders of Israel in his campaign in 219-217.
The king of the South in this verse was Ptolemy IV Philopator (221-204 B.C.). He was the one driven back by Antiochus III the Great (cf. comments on v. 10). Ptolemy IV came to meet Antiochus III at the southern borders of Israel. Ptolemy IV was initially successful in delaying the invasion of Antiochus (Ptolemy slaughtered many thousands). But after a brief interruption Antiochus returned with another army (much larger) and turned back the king of the South.
yria was not Egypt’s only enemy, for Philip V of Macedonia joined with Antiochus III against Egypt. Many Jews (your own people, i.e., Daniel’s people, the Jews; cf. “your people” in 9:24; 10:14) also joined Antiochus against Egypt. Perhaps the Jews hoped to gain independence from both Egypt and Syria by joining the conflict, but their hopes were not realized.
Antiochus then sought to consolidate control over Israel from which he had expelled the Egyptians. The fortified city seems to refer to Sidon which Antiochus captured in 203 B.C. Antiochus III continued his occupation and by 199 had established himself in the Beautiful Land (cf. 8:9; 11:41). Antiochus sought to bring peace between Egypt and Syria by giving his daughter to marry Ptolemy V Epiphanes of Egypt. But this attempt to bring a peaceful alliance between the two nations did not succeed (v. 17).
Antiochus III then turned his attention to Asia Minor in 197 B.C. and Greece in 192. However, Antiochus did not succeed because Cornelius Scipio (a commander) was dispatched from Rome to turn Antiochus back. Antiochus returned to his own country in 188 and died a year later. Antiochus III the Great had carried on the most vigorous military campaigns of any of Alexander’s successors, but his dream of reuniting Alexander’s empire under his authority was never realized.
Antiochus III’s son Seleucus IV Philopator (187-176 B.C.) heavily taxed his people to pay Rome, but he was poisoned (destroyed … not in … battle) by his treasurer Heliodorus.
(3) Invasion by Antiochus IV Epiphanes (11:21-35). These verses describe Antiochus IV Epiphanes, a son of Antiochus III the Great. This one Seleucid who ruled from 175-163 B.C. is given as much attention as all the others before him combined. He is the little horn of Daniel 8:9-12, 23-25. A long section (11:21-35) is devoted to him not only because of the effects of his invasion on the land of Israel, but more so because he foreshadows the little horn (king) of 7:8 who in a future day will desecrate and destroy the land of Israel.
Antiochus IV is introduced as a contemptible person. He took to himself the name Epiphanes which means “the Illustrious One.” But he was considered so untrustworthy that he was nicknamed Epimanes which means “the Madman.” The throne rightly belonged to Demetrius Soter, a son of Seleucus IV Philopator, but Antiochus IV Epiphanes seized the throne and had himself proclaimed king. Thus he did not come to the throne by rightful succession; he seized it through intrigue. He was accepted as ruler because he was able to turn aside an invading army, perhaps the Egyptians. He also deposed Onias III, the high priest, called here a prince of the covenant.
After his military victories, Antiochus Epiphanes’ prestige and power rose with the help of a comparatively small number of people. He evidently sought to bring peace to his realm by redistributing wealth, taking from the rich and giving to his followers.
After Antiochus consolidated his kingdom, he moved against Egypt, the king of the South, in 170. Antiochus was able to move his army from his homeland to the very border of Egypt before he was met by the Egyptian army at Pelusium near the Nile Delta. In this battle the Egyptians had a large … army but were defeated and Antiochus professed friendship with Egypt. The victor and the vanquished sat at a table together as though friendship had been established, but the goal of both to establish peace was never realized for they both were deceptive.
Antiochus carried great wealth back to his homeland from his conquest. On his return he passed through the land of Israel. After his disappointment in Egypt (he had hoped to take all of Egypt but failed) he took out his frustrations on the Jews by desecrating the temple in Jerusalem. Evidently he opposed (set his heart … against) the entire Mosaic system (the holy covenant). After desecrating the temple, he returned to his own country.
Two years later (in 168) Antiochus moved against Egypt (the South) again. As he moved into Egypt, he was opposed by the Romans who had come to Egypt in ships from the western coastlands (lit., “ships of Kittim”; cf. NIV marg., i.e., Cyprus). From the Roman senate Popillius Laenas took to Antiochus a letter forbidding him to engage in war with Egypt. When Antiochus asked for time to consider, the emissary drew a circle in the sand around Antiochus and demanded that he give his answer before he stepped out of the circle. Antiochus submitted to Rome’s demands for to resist would be to declare war on Rome. This was a humiliating defeat for Antiochus Epiphanes (he will lose heart) but he had no alternative but to return to his own land.
For a second time (cf. v. 28) Antiochus took out his frustration on the Jews, the city of Jerusalem, and their temple. He vented his fury against the holy covenant, the entire Mosaic system (cf. v. 28), favoring any renegade Jews who turned to help him (cf. v. 32). He desecrated the temple and abolished the daily sacrifice. Antiochus sent his general Apollonius with 22,000 soldiers into Jerusalem on what was purported to be a peace mission. But they attacked Jerusalem on the Sabbath, killed many people, took many women and children as slaves, and plundered and burned the city.
In seeking to exterminate Judaism and to Hellenize the Jews, he forbade the Jews to follow their religious practices (including their festivals and circumcision), and commanded that copies of the Law be burned. Then he set up the abomination that causes desolation. In this culminating act he erected on December 16, 167 B.C. an altar to Zeus on the altar of burnt offering outside the temple, and had a pig offered on the altar. The Jews were compelled to offer a pig on the 25th of each month to celebrate Antiochus Epiphanes’ birthday. Antiochus promised apostate Jews (those who … violated the covenant; cf. v. 30) great reward if they would set aside the God of Israel and worship Zeus, the god of Greece. Many in Israel were persuaded by his promises (flattery) and worshiped the false god. However, a small remnant remained faithful to God, refusing to engage in those abominable practices. Antiochus IV died insane in Persia in 163 B.C. (Cf. comments on this Antiochus in 8:23-25.)
The Jews who refused to submit to Antiochus’ false religious system were persecuted and martyred for their faith. The word fall (vv. 33-34), literally “stumble” (kāšal), refers to severe suffering on the part of many and death for others. This has in view the rise of the Maccabean revolt. Mattathias, a priest, was the father of five sons. (One of them, Judas, became well known for refurbishing and restoring the temple in late 164 B.C. He was called Judas Maccabeus, “the Hammerer.”) In 166, Mattathias refused to submit to this false religious system. He and his sons fled from Jerusalem to the mountains and began the Maccabean revolt. At first only a few Jews joined them. But as their movement became popular, many joined them, some out of sincere motives and some from false motives. The suffering that the faithful endured served to refine and purify them. This time of persecution was of short duration. It had previously been revealed to Daniel that the temple would be desecrated for 1,150 days (8:14; see comments on 8:23-25). Here Daniel was assured that this persecution would run its course and then be lifted, for its end will still come at the appointed time.
III. Future or Not
A. The King is ?
All the events described thus far in chapter 11 are past. The intricate details of the conflicts between the Seleucids and the Ptolemies were fulfilled literally, exactly as Daniel had predicted. So detailed are the facts that skeptics have denied that the book was written by Daniel in the sixth century B.C. They conclude that the book must have been written during the time of the Maccabees (168-134 B.C.) after the events took place. However, the God who knows the end from the beginning, was able to reveal details of forthcoming history to Daniel.
In verses 36-45 a leader is described who is introduced simply as “the king.” Some suggest that this is Antiochus IV Epiphanes and that the verses describe additional incursions of his into Israel. However, the details given in these verses were not fulfilled by Antiochus. True, Antiochus was a foreshadowing of a king who will come (cf. comments on 8:25). But the two are not the same. One is past and the other is future. The coming king (the little “horn” of 7:8 and “the ruler” of 9:26) will be the final ruler in the Roman world. His rise to prominence by satanic power is described in Revelation 13:1-8 where he is called a “beast.” According to John (Rev. 17:12-13), he will gain authority not by military conquest but by the consent of the 10 kings who will submit to him. Starting with Daniel 11:36 the prophecy moves from the “near” to the “far.”
The events recorded in verses 36-45 will occur during the final seven years of the 70 sevens (9:24).
11:36-45 and 12:1-13 discussion will be Next Week