11 “In the first year of Darius the Mede, I arose to be an encouragement and a protection for him. 2 And now I will tell you the truth. Behold, three more kings are going to arise in Persia. Then a fourth will gain far more riches than all of them; as soon as he becomes strong through his riches, he will arouse the whole empire against the realm of Greece. 3 And a mighty king will arise, and he will rule with great authority and do as he pleases. 4 But as soon as he has arisen, his kingdom will be broken up and parceled out toward the four points of the compass, though not to his own descendants, nor according to his authority which he wielded, for his sovereignty will be uprooted and given to others besides them.
In this chapter, God gives a vision containing incredibly specific historical details which had not yet come to pass. This should serve the believer well by demonstrating to the utmost God’s sovereignty, foreknowledge, planning, authority, and perfect wisdom. Darius, who cared for Daniel, was watched over by this angelic being. The spiritual realm does have a role to play in the world because God is actively involved in the world and in the hearts of those whom He loves. Though he had just spent the previous verse of chapter 10 explaining all of the evil present behind the Persian empire, it is not as if God was powerless to accomplish what He wanted. Even the king was protected by God for God’s purposes. Perhaps it was because of Darius’ kindness to Daniel that God looked after Darius, thereby also looking out for Daniel.
The timeline begins with Daniel 10:1 as a reference point, that being the reign of Cyrus, first of the kings of Persia. After Cyrus, there would be three more kings (Cambyses, Smerdis, Darius) followed by a fourth, Xerxes, who gain more riches than all of those before him. He would use his riches to strengthen himself and make a move against Greece. He would invade the mainland of Greece but be resisted and have to withdraw. After that time, the power of Persia steadily declined until the time of Alexander the Great of Greece. He conquered the last king of Persia, Darius III. Alexander is the mighty king of verse 3, for he ruled with great authority and did what he pleased. Nobody could stand in his way. But he died early at age 33, and his kingdom was parceled into four separate pieces ruled by his four generals, not his descendants. Cassander, one of Alexander’s generals, killed his wife Roxana and his baby to make sure that no descendants could take over the throne. The other generals were Ptolemy, Antigonus, and Lysimachus. Seleucus took over Antigonus’ territory as well as Lysimachus’ so that he became the king of the north. They were the Seleucids from Asia minor east to the former Persian and Babylonian territories. In the south, Ptolemy had consolidated power, and he was the effective king of the south, from Egypt up through Palestine. Israel was caught right in the middle of these two battling kings.
5 “Then the king of the South will grow strong, along with one of his princes who will gain ascendancy over him and obtain dominion; his domain will be a great dominion indeed. 6 After some years they will form an alliance, and the daughter of the king of the South will come to the king of the North to carry out a peaceful arrangement. But she will not retain her position of power, nor will he remain with his power, but she will be given up, along with those who brought her in and the one who sired her as well as he who supported her in those times. 7 But one of the descendants of her line will arise in his place, and he will come against their army and enter the fortress of the king of the North, and he will deal with them and display great strength. 8 Also their gods with their metal images and their precious vessels of silver and gold he will take into captivity to Egypt, and he on his part will refrain from attacking the king of the North for some years. 9 Then the latter will enter the realm of the king of the South, but will return to his own land.
Ptolemy II came against Antiochus I of the Seleucids, and the battle ended in a virtual stalemate. Antiochus II tried again to invade the Ptolemaic region, but the battle again was not decisive. To broker peace, Berenice, the daughter of Ptolemy II was given in marriage to Antiochus II. This brought peace for a brief period. In the process Antiochus II had to repudiate his wife Laodice, and she was sent with her son to Ephesus. But he died during a visit to her, and she claimed that he had named her son Seleucus II to be the heir. Ptolemy II died and was succeeded by Berenice’s brother Ptolemy III. When Laodice killed Berenice and her infant son, war broke out between the north and south. Her brother Ptolemy III of the south came against the north and took over a large part of it including Syria. A rebellion in Egypt forced him to return to the south, but he did take some plunder along with him, some of which were Egyptian statues that the Persians had taken from them. Seleucus II later took back most of what he had lost in this battle.
10 “His sons will mobilize and assemble a multitude of great forces; and one of them will keep on coming and overflow and pass through, that he may again wage war up to his very fortress. 11 The king of the South will be enraged and go forth and fight with the king of the North. Then the latter will raise a great multitude, but that multitude will be given into the hand of the former. 12 When the multitude is carried away, his heart will be lifted up, and he will cause tens of thousands to fall; yet he will not prevail. 13 For the king of the North will again raise a greater multitude than the former, and after an interval of some years he will press on with a great army and much equipment.
When Seleucus II died, Seleucus III became king, and his brother Antiochus III was his general. These sons mobilized a great army, but Seleucus III was murdered after a three year reign. Antiochus III took over, thus fulfilling the prophecy that one of them would keep on coming in war. Antiochus had early success against Ptolemy IV, but Ptolemy IV retaliated and drove him out of Palestine for a time. However, Antiochus III would eventually regain Palestine.
14 “Now in those times many will rise up against the king of the South; the violent ones among your people will also lift themselves up in order to fulfill the vision, but they will fall down. 15 Then the king of the North will come, cast up a siege ramp and capture a well-fortified city; and the forces of the South will not stand their ground, not even their choicest troops, for there will be no strength to make a stand. 16 But he who comes against him will do as he pleases, and no one will be able to withstand him; he will also stay for a time in the Beautiful Land, with destruction in his hand. 17 He will set his face to come with the power of his whole kingdom, bringing with him a proposal of peace which he will put into effect; he will also give him the daughter of women to ruin it. But she will not take a stand for him or be on his side. 18 Then he will turn his face to the coastlands and capture many. But a commander will put a stop to his scorn against him; moreover, he will repay him for his scorn. 19 So he will turn his face toward the fortresses of his own land, but he will stumble and fall and be found no more.
General Scopus of the Ptolemaic army was cruel to many of the Jews who resisted him. But then Antiochus III and many pro-Seleucid Jews joined forces along with other rebellions against the Ptolemies and marched against the remainder of the southern army led by General Scopus. He took refuge in Sidon, but Antiochus III besieged it. Antiochus III was victorious, and the south had been defeated. The Ptolemies came to an end, and the Seleucids took over. Israel was now in the hand of the Seleucids. Antiochus III gave his daughter Cleopatra to Ptolemy V as a means of a peace agreement which he dictated. The idea was that Cleopatra would influence Ptolemy V to acclimate to the Seleucid rule and dictates, thus keeping the peace. But she was loyal to her husband rather than to her father, as the Scripture predicted. Antiochus III then turned west toward the Roman empire, and, after capturing some territory, would eventually lose out to Scipio of Rome. This Roman commander put heavy taxes upon Antiochus III as part of the peace treaty including giving up some of their choice young men every year. His son, Antiochus IV Epiphanes was one who was taken to Rome as a hostage. As part of trying to pay the tax, Antiochus III entered the temple at Elymais, perhaps seeking to plunder what was there, but he was killed by insurrectionists.
20 “Then in his place one will arise who will send an oppressor through the Jewel of his kingdom; yet within a few days he will be shattered, though not in anger nor in battle.
Seleucus IV, one of Antiochus III’s sons, succeeded him for a short rule. He sent Heliodorus to plunder the temple in Jerusalem, but he didn’t succeed. Heliodorus poisoned Seleucus IV, so his death was not in battle or via an angry uprising.
21 In his place a despicable person will arise, on whom the honor of kingship has not been conferred, but he will come in a time of tranquility and seize the kingdom by intrigue.
Antiochus IV Epiphanes, after returning from his time as a hostage in Rome (his young nephew Demetrius was traded for him), took over the kingdom from Heliodorus who had tried to take the throne after killing Seleucus IV. The kingdom had not been conferred upon him, but he used flattery and intrigue to gain control. Through mere words and likely great charisma he got the powers and people of influence to go along with his plan. He was able to get King Eumenes II of Pergamos and the Syrian nobles to go along with his plan, likely using flattery and the promise of rewards. It may have been that they thought that they were installing Demetrius, the legitimate heir, when in reality, Epiphanes was taking all power for himself. He preferred to go by the name Epiphanes, meaning “God manifest,” yet many called him “Epimanes,” meaning “the madman.” Clearly, the man had a ridiculous ego thinking that he was a supreme god in a culture of many gods, and thus he was despised by many, especially the Jews who believed in one God Who was not him. His father Antiochus III had started a belief that the ruler was a manifestation of Zeus, something Epiphanes clearly continued.
22 The overflowing forces will be flooded away before him and shattered, and also the prince of the covenant. 23 After an alliance is made with him he will practice deception, and he will go up and gain power with a small force of people. 24 In a time of tranquility he will enter the richest parts of the realm, and he will accomplish what his fathers never did, nor his ancestors; he will distribute plunder, booty and possessions among them, and he will devise his schemes against strongholds, but only for a time. 25 He will stir up his strength and courage against the king of the South with a large army; so the king of the South will mobilize an extremely large and mighty army for war; but he will not stand, for schemes will be devised against him. 26 Those who eat his choice food will destroy him, and his army will overflow, but many will fall down slain. 27 As for both kings, their hearts will be intent on evil, and they will speak lies to each other at the same table; but it will not succeed, for the end is still to come at the appointed time. 28 Then he will return to his land with much plunder; but his heart will be set against the holy covenant, and he will take action and then return to his own land.
Antiochus IV got control over the empire, and the Jews were put under his control as he tried to convert them to Greek culture. Antiochus IV had great success taking over the Ptolemaic region in Egypt, for he had learned that Ptolemy VI was plotting to retake some of the old northern kingdom. He made a pre-emptive strike, consistent with Scripture’s reference to this being in a time of tranquility, and he put the rebellion to rest in short order. He allowed Ptolemy VI to rule as a puppet king. Ptolemy VI and VII tried to co-rule their territory, but they constantly lied to each other and appealed to Rome for help in taking over the other. But they were not the main story, being but puppets of Antiochus IV. He redistributed plunder throughout the land, and he gave lavishly to the various Greek temples to promote the worship of the Greek gods and himself as Zeus incarnate. He wanted to Hellenize the Jews to promote the Greek system of worship so that he could use their system of gods to set himself up with his cult of being god himself. He had appointed a Hellenized Jew who took the Greek name Jason to rule over the temple and transform it from Jewish tradition into Greek tradition, even building a gymnasium and teaching Greek culture. Jason got the position with a bribe, but Menelaus bribed Epiphanes more and got Jason deposed. Jason, believing Epiphanes had been killed in Egypt, came back to get his position back with a small army, and he slaughtered Menelaus and his supporters. Epiphanes, being “god incarnate,” couldn’t tolerate any uprisings or any chance that his cult would be uprooted. His anger and hate for the Jews continued to rise at the time, and he entered the temple at Jerusalem and stole much of its treasure. But the worst was yet to come for the Jews.
29 “At the appointed time he will return and come into the South, but this last time it will not turn out the way it did before. 30 For ships of Kittim will come against him; therefore he will be disheartened and will return and become enraged at the holy covenant and take action; so he will come back and show regard for those who forsake the holy covenant. 31 Forces from him will arise, desecrate the sanctuary fortress, and do away with the regular sacrifice. And they will set up the abomination of desolation. 32 By smooth words he will turn to godlessness those who act wickedly toward the covenant, but the people who know their God will display strength and take action. 33 Those who have insight among the people will give understanding to the many; yet they will fall by sword and by flame, by captivity and by plunder for many days. 34 Now when they fall they will be granted a little help, and many will join with them in hypocrisy. 35 Some of those who have insight will fall, in order to refine, purge and make them pure until the end time; because it is still to come at the appointed time.
Antiochus IV Epiphanes made another campaign against the Ptolemies of Egypt, but this time he was stopped by Rome and told not to come back. He came back home in great wrath, and he took out his rage on the Jews and Jerusalem (much like the future antichrist will do in Revelation 12:15-17). Epiphanes would show regard for those who rejected the covenant and worship of God, but those who did not would face severe consequences (also much like the future antichrist who will kill those who do not bow to his image- Revelation 13:15). Tens of thousands of Jews were killed in this time just preceding the rise of Judas Macabeeus and the rebellion he would lead. Epiphanes committed sexual immorality in the temple, killed babies just for being circumcised, built an altar to Zeus, knocked down the walls of Jerusalem, and eventually even sacrificed a pig on the altar in the temple. With the temple sacrifices removed and the death penalty instituted for following the Law of God, this was a time of great testing for the Jews. Some turned away and worshipped false deities, for Epiphanes was smooth with words and able to lead them astray. But the strong in faith could recognize the deception for what it was. Some had insight and helped others stay true to their God, yet it would be at a great cost. Many would die by the sword, by fire, and by captivity. The little help would come in Judas Maccabeus leading the successful rebellion. However, these severe persecutions were allowed by God on account of His people needing to be refined and purified (this sifting of Israel will happen again during the tribulation period- Amos 9:9-10, Isaiah 1:24-31, Malachi 3:3, Jeremiah 30:11). God never abandoned His people, but most of the time they failed to call out to Him and repent, choosing rather to happily accommodate to the pagan realities around them. God always preserved a remnant (and he will again in the last days- Zechariah 14:5, Joel 2:32, Zechariah 13:8-9). However, this period of captivity and warring against those who were more powerful was costly, for even those who were faithful suffered on account of the sins of their brothers and sisters during the persecution. In the end, Israel will be given a heart for God, and they will loath their rejections of Him over the past many centuries (Ezekiel 36:31).
36 “Then the king will do as he pleases, and he will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will speak monstrous things against the God of gods; and he will prosper until the indignation is finished, for that which is decreed will be done. 37 He will show no regard for the gods of his fathers or for the desire of women, nor will he show regard for any other god; for he will magnify himself above them all. 38 But instead he will honor a god of fortresses, a god whom his fathers did not know; he will honor him with gold, silver, costly stones and treasures. 39 He will take action against the strongest of fortresses with the help of a foreign god; he will give great honor to those who acknowledge him and will cause them to rule over the many, and will parcel out land for a price.
These descriptors are consistent with all that has already been described concerning Epiphanes. He was a madman in the sense that he did whatever he wanted and set himself up as god. He used the mythology of Greek gods as a means of creating a new cult religion with himself being Zeus incarnate. He spoke out against the God of the Jews and desecrated His temple. He killed women and children with no mercy in his purge of Jerusalem. He prospered in what he desired, even defiling the temple of God, but eventually he would meet his end, dying of disease a few years later. He enjoyed war and giving plunder to those who helped him fight. His lust for power and war dictated his religious preferences so that religion was a tool to use for his own gain and ultimately for his own ego. He would try to use other people’s culture and religion to his personal ends and glory. Those who supported him he would reward, and he was also easily bribed. Thus, he ruled like a madman, totally corrupt, totally prone to anger, and totally unstable. His rule and deceit left his kingdom ravaged. He wasn’t the rightful king, and thus it would be a matter of great internal strife for how the kingdom would continue after him. His kingdom would not be significant any longer. These characteristics which described Epiphanes with extreme detail long before he even came to be correspond to the coming antichrist as well. He will also set himself up as god and defile the temple (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4), and he will be merciless, a blasphemer, a killer and man of war, heartless, and brutal (Revelation 12-13).
40 “At the end time the king of the South will collide with him, and the king of the North will storm against him with chariots, with horsemen and with many ships; and he will enter countries, overflow them and pass through. 41 He will also enter the Beautiful Land, and many countries will fall; but these will be rescued out of his hand: Edom, Moab and the foremost of the sons of Ammon. 42 Then he will stretch out his hand against other countries, and the land of Egypt will not escape. 43 But he will gain control over the hidden treasures of gold and silver and over all the precious things of Egypt; and Libyans and Ethiopians will follow at his heels. 44 But rumors from the East and from the North will disturb him, and he will go forth with great wrath to destroy and annihilate many. 45 He will pitch the tents of his royal pavilion between the seas and the beautiful Holy Mountain; yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him.
The phrase “at the end time” signals a transition here from a type of antichrist in Epiphanes to the future antichrist. The phrase “at that time” in Daniel 12:1 also reinforces a transition to the last days. Furthermore, the Seleucid king, which would be Epiphanes, was the king of the north, but in verses 40-45, there is a different king of the north relative to the central character. Thus, at the end of time near the end of the final seven year period and just before Christ returns to annihilate antichrist’s armies and descend upon the Mount of Olives, a little bit of a picture of antichrist’s final days are given. Antichrist and his army will be somewhere around the same region that Epiphanes occupied, and he will enter Israel and take it over for a time. An army from the south and an army from the north will oppose him, but he will triumph over them. He will not conquer regions just east of Israel including Moab, Edom, and Ammon. This could be connected to Jesus’ warning to the Jews who are alive at this time to run to the mountains to take refuge (Matthew 24:15-21). It may be that the antichrist’s avoiding of these areas is related to God’s promise to look after a remnant of His people during the second three and a half years of the tribulation period (Revelation 12:14, Isaiah 26:20, Jeremiah 31:2). Many countries will fall before him as he easily passes through them despite the many ships and forces that come against him. Egypt will fall, and he will gain control of all the precious things belonging to Egypt, just as Epiphanes had done. The Libyans and Ethiopians will be compelled to follow in his footsteps as those defeated before him as well. Revelation 13:7-8 makes it clear that the antichrist will have a worldwide empire, and ten kings will give their allegiance to him (Revelation 17:12-13). Near the end, however, it appears some rebellion takes place as the kings of the north and east come against him (Revelation 16:12). From Daniel, it is clear that the antichrist’s conquest extends across northeast Africa, through at least some of the Mediterranean region (the old Roman empire), Israel, and possibly extending northward with his victory over the king of the north, at least initially. There is also a reference to his conquest over “many countries” which are not listed. He will clearly become the supreme and dominant world power who will force everybody to take his mark or be killed (Revelation 13:15). However, his time of power is short-lived as Jesus’ return is imminent. He is disturbed by rumors from the east, presumably east of Edom, Moab, and Ammon. He is also disturbed by rumors from the north (perhaps the king of the north has reassembled himself and his army). He, being a man of war just as Epiphanes was, decides to go out and fight against those who defy him. His purpose is to annihilate many, but Jesus will come and annihilate him. Though he will pitch his tents between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea and Mount Zion near Jerusalem, he will soon come to his end. No one will be able to help him, not any of the countless millions that he will lead astray. When Jesus returns on His white horse, death for His foes will be unstoppable (Revelation 19:11-19), and blood will be as high as the horse’s bridle throughout the valley of Har-mageddon (Revelation 16:16) and for nearly 200 miles to the east and south (Revelation 14:20). The antichrist will be seized and cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 19:20).