And in the first year of Darius the Mede, I took my stand to support and protect him.) Daniel 11:1
The first year of Darius the Mede was the year of the conquest of Babylon by the Medes and Persians.
These words must be closely connected with the last verse of Daniel 10:
So he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come; but first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth.(No one supports me against them except Michael, your prince. Daniel 10:20-21
The allusion is, most probably, to the fall of Babylon and the return from the Exile, at which time, as at the Exodus, the angel of the LORD went before His people. Here the angel of the LORD strengthened and encouraged Darius to let the people of Israel go free and give them full liberty to go into their own land, and rebuild their city and temple.
“Now then, I tell you the truth: Three more kings will arise in Persia, and then a fourth, who will be far richer than all the others. When he has gained power by his wealth, he will stir up everyone against the kingdom of Greece. Daniel 11:2
The “fourth” king of Persia after Cyrus was Xerxes (Greek name for Ahasuerus) who was the husband of Queen Esther. He ruled at the height of Persian power and wealth. Xerxes raised a huge army with contingents from forty different nations and attacked Greece around 480 BC.
The Persian invasion was eventually repelled, but it roused a burning desire on the part of the independent city states of Greece to unite and average themselves on the Persians.
Then a mighty king will arise, who will rule with great power and do as he pleases. After he has arisen, his empire will be broken up and parceled out toward the four winds of heaven. It will not go to his descendants, nor will it have the power he exercised, because his empire will be uprooted and given to others. Daniel 11:3-4
These two verses deal with Alexander the Great and his successors. So great was his dominion, that Alexander III, the King of Macedonia, ruled not only over Greece and the whole Persian Empire but added India to his conquests. His dominion stretched over three continents.
Alexander’s empire was broken up after his death because he left no legitimate heir to the throne. The Diadochi was name of the first generation of military and political leaders who would rule over his divided empire. In the end the four kingdoms arose upon its ruins.
Cassander the king of Macedonia ruled over Greece. Lysimachus was the ruler of Thrace which was located in southeastern Europe. Seleucus established the Seleucid dynasty and reigned the territories north of the land of the Jews. At the height of its power, it included central Anatolia, Persia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, and what is now Kuwait, Afghanistan, and parts of Pakistan and Turkmenistan. Ptolemy I Soter ruled Egypt which comprised the territory to the south of the land of the Jews.
“The king of the South will become strong, but one of his commanders will become even stronger than he and will rule his own kingdom with great power. After some years, they will become allies. The daughter of the king of the South will go to the king of the North to make an alliance, but she will not retain her power, and he and his power will not last. In those days she will be betrayed, together with her royal escort and her father and the one who supported her.
“One from her family line will arise to take her place. He will attack the forces of the king of the North and enter his fortress; he will fight against them and be victorious. He will also seize their gods, their metal images and their valuable articles of silver and gold and carry them off to Egypt. For some years he will leave the king of the North alone. Daniel 11:5-8
These verses begin a remarkably detailed prophecy of the 150-year struggle between Ptolemy I Soter and his successors in Egypt (the kings of the South) and Seleucus I Nicator and his successors in Syria (the kings of the North).
Ptolemy I, the king of Egypt, became strong but one of Alexander’s generals, Seleucus I became even stronger and ruled over Syria with great power. Egypt controlled Palestine during the entire 3rd century B.C. The rivalry and power struggles between the rulers of Syria and Egypt would cause distress and threaten the security of the Holy Land that was situated in the territory between these two kingdoms.
Berenice, daughter of the king of the South married the king of the North. She was the daughter of Ptolemy II, and her marriage to Antiochus II marked a temporary cessation in the wars between the Egyptian monarchs and the Seleucids. On the death of Antiochus, however, Laodice I, the king’s divorced first wife, brought about the death of Berenice and her infant son before Berenice’s brother, Ptolemy III, could arrive.
Ptolemy III Euergetes was the third king of the Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt. He successfully waged war against Seleucus Callinicus II. Ptloemy III carried back to Egypt large quantities of spoil including gold and silver idols which he had taken from Syria.
Then the king of the North will invade the realm of the king of the South but will retreat to his own country. His sons will prepare for war and assemble a great army, which will sweep on like an irresistible flood and carry the battle as far as his fortress.
“Then the king of the South will march out in a rage and fight against the king of the North, who will raise a large army, but it will be defeated.
When the army is carried off, the king of the South will be filled with pride and will slaughter many thousands, yet he will not remain triumphant. Daniel 11:9-12
After two years Seleucus Callinicus II succeeded in re-establishing his power in Asia but proceeding to march against Ptolemy he was defeated, and obliged to retreat. Seleucus II was the father of Seleucus III Soter and Antiochus III Megas. Seleucus III succeeded his father as King. After a brief reign of three years, Seleucus III was assassinated in Anatolia by members of his army while on campaign against Attalus I of Pergamon. Antiochus III succeeded his brother Seleucus III as king. Antiochus, who then came to the throne, determined to resume the war with Egypt.
The Battle of Raphia, in 217 BC, was a part of the ongoing series of ‘Syrian Wars’ between the Ptolemies and the Seleucids. Antiochus III, the current Seleucid king, had been actively and aggressively reducing Ptolemaic holdings in Syria from 220 BC. Egypt was in crisis, the Ptolemy army was very weak, and Ptolemy IV had few troops. Sosibus, his talented minister saved Egypt by enrolling and training an army of natives. As Antiochus III advanced south with a large army consisting of 6,000 cavalry, 102 Indian elephants, and 62,000 infantry. Ptolemy IV was able to meet him with 5,000 cavalry, 73 African elephants, and 70,000 infantry at Raphia on the plains near Gaza.
As was prophesied, the king of the North had raised a large army but was defeated by Ptolemy IV, the king of the South.
When the army is carried off, the king of the South will be filled with pride and will slaughter many thousands, yet he will not remain triumphant. Daniel 11:12
For the king of the North will muster another army, larger than the first; and after several years, he will advance with a huge army fully equipped. “In those times many will rise against the king of the South. Those who are violent among your own people will rebel in fulfillment of the vision, but without success. Daniel 11:13-14
Twelve years later Antiochus III the Great joined with Philip of Macedon in an attack upon Ptolemy V, son of Ptolemy IV.
Then the king of the North will come and build up siege ramps and will capture a fortified city. The forces of the South will be powerless to resist; even their best troops will not have the strength to stand. The invader will do as he pleases; no one will be able to stand against him. He will establish himself in the Beautiful Land and will have the power to destroy it. Daniel 11:15-16
The king of the North, Antiochus III shut up Ptolemy V in Sidon – the fortified city, where Ptolemy V surrendered in 198 B.C. Antiochus then overran “The Beautiful Land” which is Palestine and threatened Egypt.
He will determine to come with the might of his entire kingdom and will make an alliance with the king of the South. And he will give him a daughter in marriage in order to overthrow the kingdom, but his plans will not succeed or help him. Daniel 11:17
Antiochus III gave his daughter Cleopatra in marriage to Ptolemy V.
Then he will turn his attention to the coastlands and will take many of them, but a commander will put an end to his insolence and will turn his insolence back on him. After this, he will turn back toward the fortresses of his own country but will stumble and fall, to be seen no more. Daniel 11:18-19
The coastlands taken by Antiochus were isles located on the shores of the Aegean Sea. The Roman general Publius Scipio, who was noted for his victory over the Carthaginian leader Hannibal, feared that Antiochus III would invade Greece. He was the titular head of the Roman Senate and argued against a Roman evacuation of that country. After Antiochus had advanced into Greece and had been thrown out by a Roman army, Scipio’s brother Lucius was given the command against him, Publius serving as his legate and together the brothers crossed to Asia. But Publius was too ill to take a personal part in Lucius’ victory over Antiochus at Magnesia. Defeated, Antiochus III withdrew to Syria.
“His successor will send out a tax collector to maintain the royal splendor. In a few years, however, he will be destroyed, yet not in anger or in battle. Daniel 11:20
Seleucus Philopater, the son and successor of Antiochus, oppressed his people with very heavy taxes. He needed to pay the tribute of one thousand talents annually to the Romans, as well as support his own government in Syria. He did not die in battle but was poisoned by his own treasurer.
“He will be succeeded by a contemptible person who has not been given the honor of royalty. He will invade the kingdom when its people feel secure, and he will seize it through intrigue. Then an overwhelming army will be swept away before him; both it and a prince of the covenant will be destroyed. After coming to an agreement with him, he will act deceitfully, and with only a few people he will rise to power. When the richest provinces feel secure, he will invade them and will achieve what neither his fathers nor his forefathers did. He will distribute plunder, loot and wealth among his followers. He will plot the overthrow of fortresses—but only for a time. Daniel 11:21-24
The contemptible person was Antiochus IV Epiphanes. His self-proclaimed title, Epiphanes which means “God manifest” demonstrated his egomania. Because of his cruelty and irrational behavior many people referred to him instead as Antiochus Epimames (“The Madman”).
He seized the Syrian throne illegally from the son of his murdered brother, his nephew Demetrius. Without a legitimate right to the throne, Antiochus used his considerable intelligence, personal magnetism, and generosity to advance his cause as well as had no compunction about silencing his opposition. He was a type of the Antichrist.
During the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, there was great persecution of the Jewish people and the temple in Jerusalem was defiled. The prince of the covenant who was prophesied to be destroyed was the high priest Onias III whom Antiochus had murdered.
“With a large army he will stir up his strength and courage against the king of the South. The king of the South will wage war with a large and very powerful army, but he will not be able to stand because of the plots devised against him. Those who eat from the king’s provisions will try to destroy him; his army will be swept away, and many will fall in battle. The two kings, with their hearts bent on evil, will sit at the same table and lie to each other, but to no avail, because an end will still come at the appointed time. The king of the North will return to his own country with great wealth, but his heart will be set against the holy covenant. He will take action against it and then return to his own country. Daniel 11:25-28
It is certain that Antiochus wanted to annex all of Egypt with the Seleucid Empire. This was partly due to his wanting to imitate Alexander, but a greater urgency loomed in that he couldn’t have Rome gain a major foothold on his southern flank. This left no course for Antiochus to follow but to plan the inevitable war with Egypt and possibly Rome.
The prominence and importance of Judea, to the Syrian kingdom, resided in the geographical fact that Judah lay as the last staging field and the site of demarcation for any invasion of Egypt. Judah’s preeminence was further amplified by Antiochus’ fear that the Ptolemies of Egypt were trying to establish an alliance with the Jews and against Syria.
Antiochus’ fears were confirmed and exacerbated by the fact that Judah’s powerful priesthood was led by a pious, highly respected, but decidedly pro-Egyptian high priest by the name of Onias III.
Ptolemy VI Philomet or ruler of Egypt demanded that Antiochus surrender Coelosyria to him (the area now forms part of the modern nations of Lebanon, Syria and Israel) as was his right according to the marriage articles between Ptolemy Epiphanes and Cleopatra. But Antiochus, instead of complying with his demand, invaded Egypt with a vast force both by sea and land. Antiochus was successful and before he returned to Syria with his plunder he devised the destruction of the Old Covenant, intending to replace it with pagan Hellenistic, hedonistic culture and religion.
Jason, whose Hebrew name was Joshua was the brother of the High Priest Onias. Jason, a confirmed Hellenist, was fully aware of Antiochus’ position and needs, so his offer was straight forward and to the point. What Jason purposed was that he would transfer, to Antiochus, a huge sum of funds to finance Antiochus’ campaigns against the Ptolemy’s of Egypt and Rome in exchange for Onias being deposed from the status of High Priest with that position then being transferred to Jason.
It didn’t take Antiochus long to accept Jason’s proposal and in 174 BC Jason became high priest and the head of the Jewish Sanhedrin. Jason without consulting Antiochus built a Greek gymnasium in Jerusalem, here he hosted the nude Greek athletic games, which were opened by Hellenistic ceremonies and included sacrifices to the heathen gods. Jason’s leadership also saw many Jews, who were convinced of the Hellenistic ideals, undergo a painful reverse circumcision.
Jason honored his contract and paid Antiochus what he had promised. Antiochus, now armed with the beginnings of a substantial war chest, continued with his preparations for an invasion of Egypt.
Meanwhile, Judah was in the initial throws of chaos. Normal Jewish religious life continued unabated but the Hellenistic and pagan ideals of Jason were having a telling effect. Many traditional Jews began to leave Jerusalem while a group lead by a greedy upstart named Menelaus, who had the backing of the extremely wealthy and powerful Jewish family of Tobiad, thought Jason’s efforts in Hellenizing the Jews weren’t radical enough.
These feelings caused Menelaus, in 172 BC, to seek an audience with King Antiochus, in which he laid out his plan for forcefully Hellenizing the Jewish people. Like Jason’s, Menelaus’ plan was extremely simple. Menelaus wanted to be High Priest and he was willing to pay Antiochus another huge sum from the Jewish treasury to make him high priest.
Once again, a pledge of gold was the only catalyst Antiochus needed to act, so he sent Menelaus back to Jerusalem with a garrison of soldiers who were to arrest Jason. However, Jason received word that his life and position were in danger, so by the time the Syrian troops arrived he had fled into what is now called the state of Jordon.
Jason’s departure left the position of high priest vacant and in 171 BC the vacancy was filled by Menelaus, with Antiochus’ blessing. This act sent the Jewish community into complete turmoil. For the first time since the second Temple had been built, with the blessing and protection of the Persian Empire, the title of High Priest was held by someone who was not of the tribe of Levi nor had he even been a priest. This constituted an act of the greatest heresy in the minds of many pious Jews.
“At the appointed time he will invade the South again, but this time the outcome will be different from what it was before. Ships of the western coastlands will oppose him, and he will lose heart. Then he will turn back and vent his fury against the holy covenant. He will return and show favor to those who forsake the holy covenant. Daniel 11:29-30
The city of Alexandria chose Ptolemy Euergetes to be their king. It wasn’t long before the two brothers (The Syrian puppet Ptolemy VI and the Alexandrian king Ptolemy Euergetes) decided it was in their best interest to rule all of Egypt jointly. This infuriated Antiochus so he invaded Egypt again, this time with the intent of conquering the city Alexandria while his fleet conquered Cyprus.
As Antiochus neared Alexandria he was met by a Roman envoy who ordered him to withdraw from Egypt and Cyprus immediately. Antiochus not liking the idea of being ordered to do anything replied that he would present the subject of withdrawal to his war council, whereupon the Roman envoy drew a circle around Antiochus. He then told Antiochus that if he were to step out of the circle before deciding to withdraw his troops from Egypt and Cyprus he would be at war with Rome.
Antiochus felt abased, degraded, demeaned, and rabid with anger but he knew he didn’t have the money to hire the troops needed for an extended war with Rome. This left Antiochus no choice but to agree to call off the siege of Alexandria and Cyprus and take his troops home.
As Antiochus retreated from Egypt to Judea he was in a rage, he had just been humiliated before the whole known world and in particular his enemies. He was, for all intents and purposes, financially broke, but most of all he was spiritually, mentally, and emotionally shattered. Antiochus’ dream of reuniting the Greek empire, as it had been under Alexander the Great, was in tatters.
While Antiochus was in Egypt the former high priest Jason had initiated a revolt against Menelaus with a majority of local support. Menelaus had Onias the high priest assassinated. Menelaus’ brother Lysimachus stole holy vessels from the Temple. The resulting riots by faithful Jews led to the death of Lysimachus. Menelaus was arrested for Onias’ murder, and was arraigned before Antiochus, but he bribed his way out of trouble. Jason became High Priest again.
This revolt against his appointed High Priest, Menelaus, was certainly viewed as a revolt against the Syrian Empire and the kingship of Antiochus.
The unrest in Judah was also proof that no longer could Antiochus count on his southern flank for protection from a southern invasion of the empire by either Rome or Egypt and this presented a huge security risk. Real or imagined, an invasion from the south had to have been on Antiochus’ mind.
“His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation. With flattery he will corrupt those who have violated the covenant, but the people who know their God will firmly resist him. “Those who are wise will instruct many, though for a time they will fall by the sword or be burned or captured or plundered. When they fall, they will receive a little help, and many who are not sincere will join them. Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time. Daniel 11:31-35
The enraged Antiochus Epiphanes outlawed the Jewish religion and ordered the Jews to worship Greek gods. His soldiers descended upon Jerusalem, massacring thousands of people and desecrating the city’s holy Second Temple by erecting an altar to Zeus and sacrificing pigs within its sacred walls.
Mattathias the Hasmonean, sparked the revolt against the Seleucid Empire by refusing to worship the Greek gods. Mattathias killed a Hellenistic Jew who stepped forward to offer a sacrifice to an idol in Mattathias’ place. He and his five sons fled to the wilderness of Judah. After Mattathias’ death about one year later his son Judas Maccabee led an army of Jewish dissidents to victory over the Seleucid dynasty in guerrilla warfare, which at first was directed against Hellenizing Jews, of whom there were many. The Maccabees destroyed pagan altars in the villages and circumcised boys. The term Maccabees as used to describe the Jewish army is taken from the Hebrew word for “hammer.”
The revolt involved many battles, in which the Maccabean forces gained notoriety among the Seleucid army for their use of guerrilla tactics. After the victory, the Maccabees entered Jerusalem in triumph and ritually cleansed the Temple, reestablishing traditional Jewish worship there and installing Jonathan Maccabee as high priest. A large Seleucid army was sent to quash the revolt, but returned to Syria on the death of Antiochus IV. Its commander Lysias, preoccupied with internal Seleucid affairs, agreed to a political compromise that restored religious freedom.
The Jewish festival of Hanukkah celebrates the re-dedication of the Temple following Judah Maccabee’s victory over the Seleucids. According to Rabbinic tradition, the victorious Maccabees could only find a small jug of oil that had remained uncontaminated by virtue of a seal, and although it only contained enough oil to sustain the Menorah for one day, it miraculously lasted for eight days, by which time further oil could be procured
“The king will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place. Daniel 11:36
The last ten verses of Daniel 11 describe events that have no parallel in world history. Therefore, this last portion of Daniel no longer applies to Antiochus IV but to the Antichrist.
He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God. 2 Thessalonians 2:4
I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues–last, because with them God’s wrath is completed. Revelation 15:1
He will show no regard for the gods of his ancestors or for the one desired by women, nor will he regard any god, but will exalt himself above them all. Instead of them, he will honor a god of fortresses; a god unknown to his ancestors he will honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and costly gifts. He will attack the mightiest fortresses with the help of a foreign god and will greatly honor those who acknowledge him. He will make them rulers over many people and will distribute the land at a price. Daniel 11:37-39
The Antichrist will exalt himself and demand that his image will be worshiped. This is the “abomination of desolation” that takes place at the mid-point of the Tribulation when he will stop the sacrifices in the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem and he will proclaim himself to be God.
“At the time of the end the king of the South will engage him in battle, and the king of the North will storm out against him with chariots and cavalry and a great fleet of ships. He will invade many countries and sweep through them like a flood. He will also invade the Beautiful Land. Many countries will fall, but Edom, Moab and the leaders of Ammon will be delivered from his hand. He will extend his power over many countries; Egypt will not escape. He will gain control of the treasures of gold and silver and all the riches of Egypt, with the Libyans and Cushites in submission. But reports from the east and the north will alarm him, and he will set out in a great rage to destroy and annihilate many. Daniel 11:40-44
These verses describe a series of military maneuvers that will take place at the time of the end, during the last few years of the Great Tribulation when the Antichrist will conquer many nations.
The “king of the South” refers to an end-time Egyptian ruler. The Muslim Brotherhood is a Sunni Islamic organization with a political approach to Islam. It was founded in Egypt in 1928 by cleric Hassan al-Banna after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. According to founder al-Banna, “It is the nature of Islam to dominate, not to be dominated, to impose its law on all nations and to extend its power to the entire planet.” Therefore, the Muslim Brotherhood opposes secular tendencies of Islamic nations and wants a return to the precepts of the Qur’an. The Brotherhood firmly rejects all notions of Western influences. An important aspect of the Muslim Brotherhood ideology is the sanctioning of jihad. The Brotherhood is also viewed by many in the Middle East and the West as the root source for Islamic terrorism. Sunni Turkey is a supporter and protector of the Muslim Brotherhood. The most prominent spiritual leader for the Muslim Brotherhood, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi declared in August of 2014 that Turkey is where the Caliphate will be established.
The “king of the North” refers to an end-time Syrian ruler. President Bashar al-Assad of Syria has confounded many observers by holding on to power for more than five years in the face of a rebellion by a large part of the population. Assad is a Shiite and his principal backers are Iran and Russia.
Islam is divided with Sunnis against Shias and Salafis-jihadists are against everyone. The Islamic State is a Sunni-Salafi Islamist organization which declared itself the “caliphate” of Islam on June 29, 2014. ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi or if he were to be killed his successor is a prime candidate for the Antichrist.
As the Antichrist tries to consolidate his power, he will face serious opposition both from Sunni and Shia forces. In the process he invades and conquers Israel, the “Beautiful Land.”
Toward the end of the Tribulation, he will hear rumors from the east. Persia (modern-day Iran) is referred to as the nation “from the East” (Isaiah 41:2, 46:11) and from the north. While the king of the North refers to the Syrian ruler, Babylon (modern-day Iraq) is referred to as the land of the north (Jeremiah 46:10, 50:9).
He will pitch his royal tents between the seas at the beautiful holy mountain. Yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him. Daniel 11:45
As the Antichrist prepares to go to war, he sets up his military headquarters near Jerusalem (the “beautiful holy mountain”) between the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea. The final battle will take place on the plains of Jezreel in central Israel near a crossroads called Megiddo. The Hebrew term for “Mountain of Megiddo” is Har Megiddo, which translates into English as Armageddon.