A Question I Was Asked:

What is the Meaning of Daniel 11?

The Question:

I have interpreted Daniel chapter 11. I want to ask for your time to read my interpretation....here are the connections: Babel defeated by Persia, Persia defeated by Greece, Greece defeated by the Roman Empire, the Romans defeated by the Germans, Germany defeated by the Soviet Union and USA, the Soviet Union disintergrating into Russia, Russia then becoming the New Rising Roman Empire (after defeating USA).

UK Apologetics Reply:

Fortunately, you and I don't need to worry too much about the meaning of Daniel 11 because some very prodigious Bible scholars have been there before us. Indeed, with respect, it can be arrogant for any not possessing the knowledge of some of those luminaries to suddenly announce that they alone can finally "understand" a particular Bible chapter; therein lies the path of the cult/sect founders. Granted, with prophecy there could remain 'grey areas,' but usually the essentials have become more clear with time.

That great, but much underrated, Bible scholar, Dr Henry Halley spent considerable time considering the details of the Holy Bible and, time and again, I find that I go back to Dr Halley, especially on prophecy and Bible history. Indeed, the interpretation of many of the events of Daniel 11 finds quite widespread agreement among Bible commentators, although one needs to avoid the adventist/dispensationalist prophecy extremists.

So, without the slightest embarrassment or hesitation, I largely rely here on the Halley outline of Daniel 11.

Firstly, there is widespread agreement among all biblical scholars as to the identity of the four world empires:

World Empire One. Babylonian (606-536 BC).
World Empire Two. Medo-Persia (536-332 BC).
World Empire Three. Grecian, with its four clear divisions (331-146 BC).

The text then considers the wars of the Syrian and Egyptian kings (323-146 BC), and the evil Antiochus Epiphanes and his desecration of Jerusalem (175-164 BC), Then we come to:

World Empire Four. The Roman Empire (146 BC- circa 400 AD).

Other things possibly considered towards the end of this chapter:
The public ministry of Jesus Christ (app. 30-33 AD), the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans (AD 70). The text could also refer to: Mohammedan control of the Holy Land (7th-21st centuries), possibly the papacy (app. 9th-18th centuries) and the 'world troubles' at the 'time of the end,' followed by the resurrection of the dead. So some things later in the chapter are less clear and open to various interpretations, but much is incredibly clear!

Okay, so let us look a little closer:

Vs 2: "Three kings" - Cyrus, Cambyses, Darius Hystaspes. The "fourth" - Xerxes, the richest and most powerful of all these kings. He invaded Greece but was killed at Salamis.

Vs 3: "A mighty king" - Alexander the Great.

Vs 4: "Fourfold" division of Alexander's kingdom - Greece, Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt.

Vs 5: "King of the south" - Ptolemy I of Egypt. "One of his princes" - Seleucus Nicator, originally an officer under Ptolemy I, became king of Syria, the most powerful of Alexander's successors.

Vs 6: "Daughter" - Berenice, daughter of Ptolemy II, was given in marriage to Antiochus II, but was later murdered.

Vs 7-8: "A shoot from her roots" - Ptolemy III, a brother of Berenice; in retaliation,for her murder he invaded Syria, winning a great victory.

Vs 10-12: "Two sons" - Seleucus III and Antiochus III.

Vs 13: Ptolemy IV defeated Antiochus III with great loss in the battle of Raphia, near Egypt.(217 BC).

Vs 14: Antiochus III, after 14 years, returned with a great army against Egypt.

Vs 15: The Jews help Antiochus.

Vs 16: He defeats the forces of Egypt.

Vs 17: Antiochus conquers Palestine.

Vs 18-19: Antiochus gives his daughter, Cleopatra, in a treacherous marriage alliance to Ptolemy V, hoping, through her, to get complete and final control of Egypt. But Cleopatra stands with her husband. Antiochus then invades Asai Minor and Greece but is defeated by the Romans at Magnesia (190 BC). He returns to his own land but is killed.

Vs 21-35: "A contemptible person" - Without question, this refers to Antiochus Epiphanes.

Vs 22-25: Not the rightful heir, he gets the throne by treachery.

Vs 26 : He makes himself leader of Egypt, by cunning and deceit.

Vs 27: Ptolemy VI, son of Cleopatra, nephew of Antiochus is defeated by treachery.


Vs 28:Under the guise of friendship, Antiochus and Ptolemy secretly plotted against each other.

Vs 29: Returning from Egypt, Antiochus attacks Jerusalem, killing 80,000, taking 40,000 captive and selling a further 40,000 into slavery.

Vs 30-31: Antiochus again invades Egypt, but the presence of the Roman fleet compels his army to withdraw.

vs 32: He now vents his anger and frustration upon Jerusalem, desecrating the temple.

Vs 32-35: He is helped by rebellious and apostate Jews.

The above brings us to the exploits of the heroic Maccabean brothers. Note the following:

'And the king [Antiochus IV Epiphanes] sent letters by messengers to Jerusalem and the cities of Judah; he directed them to follow customs strange to the land, to forbid burnt offerings, and sacrifices and drink offering in the sanctuary, to profane Sabbaths and feasts, to defile the sanctuary and the priests, to build altars and sacred precincts and shrines for idols, to sacrifice swine and unclean animals, and to leave their sons uncircumcised. They were to make themselves abominable by everything unclean and profane, so that they should forget the law and change all the ordinances. "And whoever does not obey the command of the king shall die." . . . Now on the fifteenth day of Chislev, in the one hundred and forty fifth year, they erected a desolating sacrilege upon the altar of burnt offering. They also built altars in the surrounding cities of Judah, and burned incense at the doors of the houses and in the streets. The books of the law which they found they tore to pieces and burned with fire. Where the book of the covenant was found in the possession of any one, or if any one adhered to the law, the decree of the king condemned him to death. They kept using violence against Israel, against those found month after month in the cities. And on the twenty-fifth day of the month they offered sacrifice [probably of swine] on the altar which was upon the altar of burnt offering. According to the decree, they put to death the women who had their children circumcised, and their families and those who circumcised them; and they hung the infants from their mother's necks. But many in Israel stood firm and were resolved in their hearts not to eat unclean food. They chose to die rather than to be defiled by food or to profane the holy covenant; and they did die. And very great wrath came upon Israel.' (1 Maccabees 1:41-50, 54-64; thanks to Ed R. Meelhuysen).

The above will give some idea of the evil committed by Antiochus Epiphanes.

I think wisely, for his part, Halley refuses to be drawn on the precise interpretation of the final verses 36-45, but Dr Halley - in general terms - believes that such as Antiochus Epiphanes, the Mohammedan possession of the Holy Land and the Antichrist could be implicated. In my own view, the "king" mentioned from vs36 to vs 39 appears to be different from the preceding verses, he appears to be a religious-type 'king' who exercises great power. Though one might say that 'the jury is out' on the precise fulfillment of these verses, they have obviously often been identified with the papacy at the height of its powers, the Islamic empire might also be an explanation. But - to me - the most likely explanation is the Roman Empire with its 'caesars' who were celebrated as gods.

So we might just look at these verses 36-39:

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. 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 11:36-39).

Of those verses, Meelhuysen writes the following,

"There are two possible interpretations here. 1) The first and most rational continues with Antiochus IV Epiphanes as the chief player. As was common in those days, Antiochus IV considered himself a god, though he took it a bit further than many of his predecessors. Several examples of Antiochus' arrogance are found in the Maccabean books.'

"So Antiochus (IV) carried off eighteen hundred talents from the temple, and hurried away to Antioch, thinking in his arrogance that he could sail on the land and walk on the sea, because his mind was elated." 2 Maccabees 5:21, 22.

In another incident during which Antiochus was torturing a family for refusing to defile themselves, one of the family members responded to the king, ". . . But you, unholy wretch, you most defiled of all men, do not be elated in vain and puffed up by uncertain hopes, when you raise your hand against the children of heaven. You, by the judgment of God, will receive just punishment for your arrogance." 2 Maccabees 7:34.

In a letter to the Hellenistic Jews from Antiochus V, Epiphanes' son, wrote that his father had gone on to the gods." 2 Maccabees 11:23. In the footnote of The Oxford Annotated Apocrypha, pg. 284, it is mentioned that 'in his (Antiochus IV) lifetime, he had been worshiped.'

Antiochus IV Epiphanes also honored those who followed him with wealth. "Then the king's officers who were enforcing the apostasy came to the city of Modein to make them offer sacrifice. Many from Israel came to them; and Mattathias and his sons were assembled. Then the king's officers spoke to Mattathias as follows: 'You are a leader, honored and great in this city, and supported by sons and brothers. Now be the first to come and do what the king commands, as all the Gentiles and the men 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.' " Mattathias and his sons (including Judas Maccabees) refused and began leading a rebellion against the vile Syrians.

2) A second, though less likely interpretation, involves an unstated timing jump to the Roman period, where now the King of the North is the secular Roman Empire which conquered Palestine by coming down from the North. The Roman Empire, though having many idolatrous gods, also considered the Emperor to be a god and he was worshipped as such. In general, nations that were conquered by the Roman armies submitted and joined the empire. One notable exception was the Jewish nation with its fiercely loyal and religious people. Their refusal to be loyal subjects and eventually their refusal to provide offerings and prayers for the emperor resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Those that became subject to the Romans were honored with power and possessions." (Source: http://www.bibleplus.org/prophecy/kings.html).

I may say that I am far less sceptical about Meelhuysen's "less likely interpretation" than he is. It seems to me that, upon carefully looking at what actually happened, it seems very likely that 'the king of the north' becomes the Roman Empire from verse 36.

In common with Dr Halley, I am not going to say any more on the final verses of chapter eleven but we should just be cautious and note that several suggested interpretations have already been proven incorrect.

Of these later verses, Matthew Henry wrote,

"The remainder of this prophecy is very difficult, and commentators differ much respecting it. From Antiochus the account seems to pass to antichrist. Reference seems to be made to the Roman empire, the fourth monarchy, in its pagan, early Christian, and papal states." (Matthew Henry, Daniel 11; Commentary on the Whole Bible).

It should not bother us that a few of the later verses in this remarkable prophecy remain somewhat uncertain as to interpretation, the way that the verses up to about 35 have been borne out in actual history is truly remarkable and we must remember that these words were written a few hundred years before their fulfilment - a testimony as to the reliability of Old Testament prophecy!

Now I just want to make one or two comments about the failure of those disbelievers who have insisted that Daniel was written very late (because they don't like the fact of fulfilled prophecy).

The Failure of the Attempts to Discredit Daniel

Bible critics, sceptics and atheists realise that Daniel contains several astonishing prophecies which have been fulfilled in amazing detail (we have only looked at one of those prophecies here!), their response has been to claim that Daniel did not live when he claimed at all but that he lived much later - in the second century BC. This, they know, is the only way that this incredible book can be refuted. Most of their claims and arguments have long since been refuted yet they often still cling to them with the desparation of atheists proved wrong. Here are just a few points to remember when you encounter somebody who attempts to discredit this book by claiming it was written much later than the Scripture says:

Robin A. Brace. December 19th, 2011.