The King of the North, the King of the South, and the Antichrist
- Historical Events in Connection with the Land of Israel (11:2-35)
- The Succession of Persian Monarchs from Cyrus (v.2)
- Alexander the Great and the Division of His Empire (vv.3-4)
- The King of the North and the King of the South (v.5)
- Conclusion of 1st and 2nd Syrian Wars: Failed attempt at Marriage Alliance (v.6)
- 3rd Syrian War: Ptolemy III Retaliates for the Murder of Berenice (vv.7-9)
- 4th Syrian War: Antiochus III sweeps down & is defeated by Ptolemy IV (vv.10-12)
- 5th Syrian War: Antiochus III sweeps down & defeats Ptolemy V (vv.13-16)
- The Subsequent Actions and Downfall of Antiochus III (vv.17-19)
- The Brief Reign of Seleucus IV (v.20)
- The Early Career of Antiochus IV Epiphanies in Palestine (vv.21-24)
- 6th Syrian War: Successful 1st Attack on Egypt (vv.25-28)
- 6th Syrian War: Rome blocks Antiochus’s 2nd Attack on Egypt (vv.29-30a)
- The Wrathful Return of Antiochus to Palestine (vv.30b-35)
- Prophetic Events in the End of the Times (11:36-45)
Historical Events in Connection with the Land of Israel (11:2-35)
Objection. The greatest object raised by unbelievers against the Book of Daniel is that it must have been written after the events had taken place! A more accurate and precise account of Seleucid-Ptolemaic history is not found in any of the secular annals. This passage encourages us that we can rely fully on the Word of God, regardless of what secular history says. Minute details are not given in every part of prophecy. We are given what we need to know, and must receive the whole by simple faith.
The Succession of Persian Monarchs from Cyrus (v.2)
2 And now will I declare unto thee the truth. Behold, there shall stand up yet three kings in Persia; and the fourth shall enrich himself with great riches more than all; and when he hath become strong through his riches, he shall stir up all against the realm of Greece. v.2 This verse gives us the kings of Persia that follow Cyrus, although their names are not mentioned here. To get their names we must turn to Ezra 4, where vv.6-23 gives the succession of monarchs between Cyrus and Darius. We know the Spirit refers to those that follow Cyrus because Cyrus was reigning at the time Daniel wrote, and it says “there shall stand up yet three kings.”
- Cyrus the Great (559 – 530 B.C.), or Cyrus II was the first King of Persia. Founded the Achaemenid Empire, the first Persian Empire. One of the greatest conquerors that has ever lived, perhaps second only to Alexander the Great. He defeated the Medes (550 B.C.), the Lydians (546 B.C.) and finally the Babylonians (539 B.C.). Cyrus was very tolerant to his subjects, and often incorporated those he conquered into his empire. Cyrus was raised up by God to punish the Babylonians and allow the Jews to return to Palestine (2 Chron. 36:22; Ezra 1:1; Isa. 45:1).
Cyrus was followed by three successive monarchs, these are referred to here in Dan. 11:2:
- Cambyses II (530 – 522 B.C.), sometimes called Ahasuerus. He extended the Persian Empire into Egypt, and developed the first imperial navy. He conquered Egypt at tremendous expense, and from all appearances went crazy. He was intolerant of Egyptian religion, and gained a very bad reputation. While in Egypt, he heard that the Persian crown had been usurped, and began to return to Susa, but died on the way. No one knows how he died, either by assassination (Darius I), or by accidental injury.
- Bardiya (522 – 522 B.C.), (called Smerdis the magician) was a usurper. The real Smerdis was the younger brother of Cambyses II, and was appointed by Cyrus on his deathbed as satrap of some far-eastern province, while Cambyses reigned supreme. Bardiya was assassinated after a short time, most likely by Cambyses out of envy, who kept the murder quiet. However, Bardiya’s steward’s brother (a Zoroastrian magician) looked very much like Bardiya, and usurped the throne by pretending to be the real Smerdis, while Cambyses was in Egypt. The usurper is called Pseudo-Smerdis, and is probably the second king referred to here in Dan. 11:2. Much of what we know about this whole chain of events comes from Darius’s inscription on Mount Behistun, so the whole thing is murky. Bardiya was the “Artaxerxes” who commanded the rebuilding of the Temple to cease in Ezra 4. He is different from the later King Longimanus called “Artaxerxes” in the book of Nehemiah.
- Darius I (522 – 486 B.C.) king of Persia, or Son of Hystaspes. Darius was the lance-bearer of Cambyses II, and he came to power under suspicious circumstances. After Cambyses II died, Darius went with an undercover unit to take out Pseudo-Smerdis, and successfully killed the magician in his fortress. Darius claimed right to the throne by the will of the gods. After quelling a number of rebellions in his early years, Darius undertook significant investments in infrastructure, and divided the rule among a number of governors. He also tried to punish Greece for the Ionian rebellion, but it ended in failure at the Battle of Marathon, at which time the Persians were expelled from Europe.
- Xerxes I (485 – 465 B.C.) king of Persia. Xerxes I was the son of Darius, and was well-known for his vast wealth; “the fourth shall enrich himself with great riches more than all”, as the first chapter of Esther describes. It was he that “stirred up” Greece by assaulting it. Famously, Xerxes and his million-man army was withstood by 300 Spartan warriors led by King Leonidas at the Battle of Thermopylae. The Spartans were defeated, Athens was captured and torched, and the Persians overran much of Greece. Xerxes undertook a naval battle against the combined Greek navy in unfavorable conditions, and was severely defeated at the Battle of Salamis. A year later, the Persians were defeated on land at the Battle of Plataea, and forced to retreat and abandon their campaign. Two pontoon bridges that Xerxes had built across the Hellespont were destroyed by a storm, and Xerxes had the bridge builders beheaded and the strait itself whipped with three hundred lashes. It is believed, that after the defeat in Greece, Xerxes returned to Persia and undertook a public relations campaign to restore the moral of the empire and army, which is described in Est. 1 as “a feast unto all his princes and his servants” in which “he shewed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honour of his excellent majesty many days, even an hundred and fourscore days” (Est. 1:3-4). However, Xerxes’ invasion of Greece awoke a sleeping bear, and the consequences of this are described in Daniel 8:6-7. In reading secular history, it is difficult to overestimate the significance of Xerxes’ invasion.
Who was the “Ahasuerus” of Esther? W. Kelly believed it was Xerxes I, because of the connection between Dan. 11:2 and Est. 1 (“great riches”). It could have been Xerxes’s son, Longimanus who issued the decree to rebuild Jerusalem. If so, the “queen” sitting by him could have been Esther (Neh. 2:6). However, I tend to agree with W. Kelly. We do not know for sure… the title “Ahasuerus” was a general one, just as Caesar of Rome, Pharaoh of the Egyptians, and Abimelech of the Philistines. Xerxes’s son was Artaxerxes I, called Longimanus. He was very favorable to the Jews. The first commandment to rebuild Jerusalem was given to Ezra, the scribe, “in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king” (Ezra 7:7). In the twentieth year of the same monarch’s reign, another commandment was given to Nehemiah (Neh. 2:1), which marks the beginning of Daniel’s seventy weeks (455 B.C.).
Alexander the Great and the Division of His Empire (vv.3-4)
3 And a mighty king shall stand up that shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will. v.3 This “mighty king” is none other than Alexander the Great, who took the throne of Macedon at 20 years old, defeated Darius III (the “king of kings”), crushed the Persian Empire, and within ten years he had created one of the largest empires of the ancient world, stretching from Greece to northwestern India. He was undefeated in battle and is widely considered one of history’s most successful military commanders.
4 And when he shall stand up, his kingdom shall be broken, and shall be divided toward the four winds of the heavens; but not to his posterity, nor according to his dominion wherewith he ruled; for his kingdom shall be plucked up, even for others beside these. v.4 After Alexander’s death (323 B.C.), his empire was divided under the control of the “Diadochi”, his favorite generals. After 40 years of fighting with each other, four kingdoms under four of the Diadochi emerged (281 B.C.), described in Daniel 8:8 as “four notable [horns] toward the four winds of the heavens”, answering to the four heads of the leopard-beast (Dan. 7:6). The directions of these four quadrants are measured from Israel and Jerusalem, God’s earthly center. Out of these four kingdoms, two become immensely important in prophecy.
- Syria (northeast) – eventually becomes the King of the North
- Egypt (southeast) – eventually becomes the King of the South
- Greece & Macedon (southwest) – soon succumbed to the advancing Roman power.
- Thrace & Pergamon (northwest) – soon succumbed to the advancing Roman power.
The leadership of these four quadrants did not fall to “his posterity”, but to those who were unrelated to Alexander… a non-traditional feature that makes the historical fulfillment of this quite obvious.
The King of the North and the King of the South (v.5)
5 And the king of the south, who is one of his princes, shall be strong; but another shall be stronger than he, and have dominion: his dominion shall be a great dominion. v.5 The king of the south (satrap of the Egyptian quadrant) was Ptolemy I, one of Alexander’s “princes” or top generals. The Ptolemaic dynasty was very strong, and lasted for 275 years, from 305 to 51 B.C. But “another stronger” arose to the north. The king of the north was another “prince” called Seleucus I Nicator, of greater strength than the southern neighbor. The Seleucid Empire, ruled by the Seleucid dynasty, existed from 312 BC to 65 B.C. The strife between the kings of the north and south are spoken of in the history of the Maccabees. The “king” of the north or south is a title given by God to the leader of each kingdom at any point in time.
The Land of Israel lays between the kingdoms of the north and south, and became the battleground for many of their conflicts. Over these decades, the possession of Palestine changed rapidly from one to the other. An important observation is that God never allowed to those who took His land to rest with it. They might sign contracts, intermarry, etc. but there would always be war because He is jealous over that land.
Conclusion of 1st and 2nd Syrian Wars: Failed attempt at Marriage Alliance (v.6)
6a And after the course of years they shall join affinity; and the king’s daughter of the south shall come to the king of the north to make equitable conditions: v.6a After sixty years of conflict (the 1st and 2nd Syrian Wars), the king of the north and of the south made an alliance by marriage (252 B.C.). The daughter of the king of the south (Berenice Syra, daughter of Ptolemy II) was given to the king of the north (Seleucid monarch Antiochus II Theos), who divorced his previous wife to marry the princess. This attempt to improve relations between north and south (“equitable condition”) would later end in failure, and the bloody conflicts between north and south would grow into a full-scale war.
6b but she shall not retain the strength of her arm; neither shall he stand, nor his arm; and she shall be given up, she and they that brought her, and he that begat her, and he that strengthened her in those times. v.6b The marriage alliance did not bring the couple enough influence (his “arm”, and her “arm”) to protect and secure their family. Antiochus II was killed, the divorced wife Laodice had Berenice, her son, and her attendants assassinated, and Laodice’s son, Seleucus II, took the crown in 246 B.C.
3rd Syrian War: Ptolemy III Retaliates for the Murder of Berenice (vv.7-9)
7 But out of a shoot from her roots shall one stand up in his place, who shall come to the army, and shall enter into the fortress of the king of the north, and shall deal against them, and shew himself mighty. v.7 A “branch from her roots” means not her descendent, but a descendent of her parents, that is her brother, Ptolemy III. Ptolemy declared war on Seleucus II to avenge the murder of his sister, and forged a very successful campaign into Syria under the leadership of a Spartan mercenary general.
8 He shall also carry captive into Egypt their gods, with their princes, and their precious vessels of silver and of gold; and he shall subsist for more years than the king of the north; 9 and the same shall come into the realm of the king of the south, but shall return into his own land. vv.8-9 Ptolemy reached as far as Antioch and east to Babylon, bringing the Ptolemaic kingdom to its apex. The successes of the king of the south during the 3rd Syrian War enriched Egypt greatly. The king of the north made an unsuccessful attempt “into the realm of the king of the south”, but was turned back into his own land. Ptolemy outlived Seleucus II, but after his death the empire weakened.
4th Syrian War: Antiochus III sweeps down & is defeated by Ptolemy IV (vv.10-12)
10 And his sons shall be stirred up, and shall assemble a multitude of great forces; and one shall certainly come, and overflow, and pass through; and he shall return and carry the war even to his fortress. v.10 This is the 4th Syrian War. “His sons” refer to the sons of Seleucus II: first, Seleucus III Ceraunus who only reigned a year or two; and then, his brother and successor, Antiochus III the Great. Antiochus is the “one” who “shall certainly come”. He overflows the land of Israel and surrounding nations, passing through, carries the battle to the doorstep of the King of the South.
11 And the king of the south shall be enraged, and shall come forth and fight with him, with the king of the north, who shall set forth a great multitude, but the multitude shall be given into his hand. v.11 Although the king of the north musters a vast army, the rage of the southern king is hot against him. In the summer of 217 BC, Ptolemy engaged and defeated Antiochus in the massive Battle of Raphia; involving 140,000 men and the use of war elephants.
12 And when the multitude shall have been taken away, his heart shall be exalted; and he shall cast down myriads; but he shall not prevail. v.12 The victory at Raphia, in which the king of the south casts down tens of thousands, does nothing to strengthen his kingdom or bring closure to the Syrian conflicts. The reason is in v.13, the king of the north simply raises another even greater army!
5th Syrian War: Antiochus III sweeps down & defeats Ptolemy V (vv.13-16)
13 For the king of the north shall return, and shall set forth a multitude greater than the former; and shall certainly come at the end of the times of years with a great army and with much substance. v.13 Antiochus III stages a second invasion. By this time Ptolemy IV has died, and the empire is in turmoil, with the boy king Ptolemy V barely hanging onto power. Antiochus makes an agreement with Philip V of Macedon for support, and sweeps down again into the Land of Israel with a massive army and much substance.
14 And in those times shall many stand up against the king of the south; and the violent of thy people will exalt themselves to establish the vision; but they shall fall. v.14 During this time there was great turmoil in Egypt. There was a bloody conflict over the reign of the boy king Ptolemy V, whose mother had just been assassinated. Power was passed from one adviser to another, creating a state of near anarchy. “The violent of thy people” refers to insurrectionists among the Jews that would try to “exalt themselves” or improve their standing with the Seleucids, and at the same time Antiochus perhaps wanted to enlist the God of the Jews on his behalf “to establish the vision“. But God would see to it that these fleshly efforts would one day come to nothing, for “they shall fall“.
15 And the king of the north shall come, and cast up a mound, and take the well-fenced city; and the arms of the south shall not withstand, neither his chosen people, for there shall be no strength to withstand. 16 And he that cometh against him shall do according to his own will, and none shall stand before him; and he shall stand in the land of beauty, and destruction shall be in his hand. vv.15-16 Antiochus delivers a crushing blow to the king of the south at the Battle of Panium, near the headwaters of the Jordan River. The forces of the king of the south are unable to stop the advance of Antiochus. The battle was fought near Caesarea Philippi, and the king of the North built up “mounds” or siege ramps to capture the fortified city. He stood in the “land of beauty” or Palestine, which is ever God’s gift to Israel, regardless of its appalling condition. E. Dennett remarks that the word “consumed” should be “perfected”; and it seems that the king of the north acted as a friend to the Jews, and assisted in the beautifying of the temple.
The Subsequent Actions and Downfall of Antiochus III (vv.17-19)
17 And he shall set his face to come with the strength of his whole kingdom, and upright ones with him; and he shall practise; and he shall give him the daughter of women, to corrupt her; but she shall not stand, neither shall she be for him. v.17 Having taken the land of Palestine, the king of the north would prepare, or “set his face”, to enter Egypt with the military force of the entire Seleucid Empire. But before that attack, he tries to make peace again by another marriage alliance; this time the king of the north gives his daughter (Cleopatra I) to the king of the south (Ptolemy V). His purpose was “to corrupt her”, that is, he was hoping that she would act as a Syrian political agent in the court of Egypt. However, this also would fail as Cleopatra would refuse to work for her father against her husband.
18 And he shall turn his face unto the isles, and shall take many; but a captain for his own behalf shall cause the reproach offered by him to cease: he shall turn it upon him, without reproach for himself. v.18 At the time of his victories in Palestine, Antiochus began to advance westward into “the isles” (Greece). This stirred up the concern of a new power… the Roman Empire, which was rapidly advancing east. The captain mentioned here is a Roman general, likely Lucius Cornelius Scipio Asiaticus. He won a decisive Roman victory over the army of Antiochus III in the plains of Lydia, at the Battle of Magnesia (190 B.C.) which turned the tide in the Roman–Seleucid War (192–188 B.C.).
19 And he shall turn his face toward the fortresses of his own land; and he shall stumble and fall, and not be found. v.19 His defeat caused Antiochus III to head back to Syria. The Romans had levied a huge war-indemnity, and he sought for means to repay them. He launched a campaign into the east looking to plunder and thus obtain the sum. He “stumbled and fell” while plundering a Persian temple in Susa in 187 B.C.
The Brief Reign of Seleucus IV (v.20)
20 And in his place shall one stand up who shall cause the exactor to pass through the glory of the kingdom; but in a few days he shall be broken, neither in anger nor in battle. v.20 The one to took Antiochus III’s place was his son, Seleucus IV Philopator. The Romans compelled him to pay a heavy war-indemnity as a result of his father’s war. Seleucus sent his tax-collector Heliodorus to Jerusalem to seize the temple treasury; this is the “exactor”. A few years later, Seleucus was assassinated by his very own tax-collector. “Neither in anger nor in battle” – his death wasn’t in battle the Romans or the Ptolemies, but merely an internal matter.
The Early Career of Antiochus IV Epiphanies in Palestine (vv.21-24)
Antiochus IV Epiphanies is the final “King of the North” is history, and he forms the type used by the Spirit of God to foreshadow the still future apocalyptic King of the North, also known as the Assyrian. This is why his career is given with such detail. He is the same person as the “little horn” of Daniel 8:9. He enforced idolatry in the temple itself, and set up the “abomination of desolations”, an sacrilegious violation of the Holy of Holies.
21 And in his place shall stand up a vile person, to whom they shall not give the honour of the kingdom; but he shall come in peaceably and obtain the kingdom by flatteries. v.21 Antiochus Epiphanes commenced his reign about 175 B.C. The historical record agrees with scripture that he was a “vile person”, an immoral man. He took the kingdom, not by right, but by deceit. He gained the Seleucid throne by proclaiming himself co-regent with another son of Seleucus, an infant named Antiochus, whom he then murdered a few years later.
22 And the overflowing forces shall be overflowed from before him, and shall be broken: yea, also the prince of the covenant. v.22 He swept down into Palestine “overflowing” the land, crushing all resistance “the overflowing forces” and setting aside the leader of the Jews, called “the prince of the covenant”.
23 And after the league made with him he shall work deceitfully, and he shall come up, and shall become strong with a small people. v.23 The Jews would make a league with Antiochus, and afterwards he would exploit that league. This possibly refers to when the High Priest named Jason offered to pay Antiochus in order to be confirmed as the new High Priest in Jerusalem. Antiochus accepted this for a time, then another man Menelaus outbid Jason with a larger bribe, and Jason was forced to flee. In this way, Antiochus manipulated the Jews, exercising complete control of them.
24 In time of peace shall he enter even into the fattest places of the province; and he shall do that which his fathers have not done, nor his fathers’ fathers: he shall scatter among them prey, and spoil, and substance, and he shall plan his devices against the fortified places, even for a time. v.24 Antiochus would work deceitfully to take the best of the land for himself, the “fattest places of the provinces”. He would depart from the tradition of all previous Seleucid rulers (“his fathers”), by outlawing Judaism and forcing idolatry on the Jews. This he did in full measure after returning from the south (v.28). All during this time, like his predecessors, he planned an expedition against the king of the south.
6th Syrian War: Successful 1st Attack on Egypt (vv.25-28)
25 And he shall stir up his power and his courage against the king of the south with a great army; and the king of the south shall engage in battle with an exceeding great and mighty army; but he shall not stand, for they shall plan devices against him. v.25 In B.C. 169, Antiochus won a stunning victory over Ptolemy VI Philometor, and seized the strategic town of Pelusium. Antiochus then captured King Ptolemy VI and all of Egypt, with the exception of the city of Alexandria. He took Ptolemy VI (who was his nephew) under his wing, giving him effective control of Egypt. But they planned “devices against him” and with the support of Rome, Ptolemy VIII and Cleopatra II ascended the throne.
26 And they that eat of his delicate food shall break him, and his army shall be dissolved; and many shall fall down slain. v.26 Antiochus wrought treachery against Ptolemy VIII from within, and war from without. Throughout the course of the war, the Ptolemaic army was broken.
27 And both these kings’ hearts shall meditate mischief, and they shall speak lies at one table; but it shall not prosper; for yet the end shall be at the time appointed. v.27 By this time Ptolemy VIII and Ptolemy VI were jointly ruling Egypt, with Ptolemy VI as the puppet of Antiochus. The kings of the north and south were locked in this power struggle that consisted of “speaking lies at one table”. God would not allow peace between north and south to “prosper” because the appointed time had not been reached.
28 And he shall return into his land with great substance; and his heart shall be against the holy covenant; and he shall practise, and return to his own land. v.28 Antiochus withdrew his army in 169 B.C. and returned to the north with two things:
- Great wealth from his plunder in the south,
- A heart full of hatred for the Jews and their religion. While in Egypt, the Jews had heard a false report of his death, and an insurrection occurred. The Spirit of God makes it clear that at this time Antiochus had already decided not to keep any deal he had made with the Jews. “He shall do exploits” – on his homeward march he attacked Jerusalem, massacred thousands of its inhabitants, and profaned the temple.
6th Syrian War: Rome blocks Antiochus’s 2nd Attack on Egypt (vv.29-30a)
Roman Influence in the Syrian Wars. It is helpful to understand that Rome had two alliances that put the Seleucid Dynasty in a tough position. They had an alliance with western Greece, which Antiochus III had meddled with earlier. They also had an alliance with Ptolemaic Egypt because of the grain Egypt supplied to the growing western power. Rome tolerated the fighting back and forth between the kings of north and south… until Antiochus IV threatened to wipe out the Ptolemies completely. Then Rome stepped into the sandbox and put a stop to Seleucid aggression.
29 At the set time he shall return, and come towards the south; but not as the former time shall be the latter; 30a for ships of Chittim shall come against him; vv.29-30a At the “set time” (around 158 B.C.) Antiochus made his second attack on Egypt. In his absence, the “table of lies” had not prospered, because Ptolemy VI and his bother Ptolemy VIII had been reconciled. Without his puppet, Antiochus had effectively lost control of Egypt. But this second attack would be different from “the former”. Sensing that the enriched Antiochus IV would likely wipe out the Ptolemies (and their grain supply too), the Roman Empire sent the “ships of Kittim” to interfere. “Kittim” is an ancient name for the twin peninsulas of Europe (see Gen. 10:4). This is a reference to the fleet of Gaius Popillius Laenas, the newly appointed Roman consul, who intercepted Antiochus outside of Alexandria. The Roman senate had demanded that Antiochus abort his attack on Alexandria. Antiochus played for time; but Popillius Laenas supposedly drew a circle around the king in the sand with his cane, and ordered him not to move out of it until a firm answer had been given. His hand being forced, Antiochus agreed to withdraw.
The Wrathful Return of Antiochus to Palestine (vv.30b-35)
Does is seem strange that Antiochus IV should both (1) form the type of the Apocalyptic Assyrian, but also (2) his actions form the type of the Apocalyptic Antichrist? Edward Dennett remarks on this in his exposition of Daniel. He says:
“[Antiochus Epiphanies] seems to concenter in himself almost every element of hostility and profanity that will be found in the two beasts of Revelation 13 as well as in the king of the north.” – E. Dennett
30b and he shall be grieved, and return, and have indignation against the holy covenant; and will practise; and he shall return and direct his attention to those that forsake the holy covenant. v.30b Conquering Egypt was ever the great aim of the Seleucid dynasty. Thwarted on the brink of this accomplishment by his new enemy Rome, he returned from the south with a nasty temper. His indignation, frustration, and bitterness was vented upon the Jews. First, he will “practice” indignation against the godly Jews in that time. Secondly, he will “direct his attention to” the apostate Hellenized Jews, and through flattery get into favor with them, in order to fulfill v.31.
31 And forces shall stand on his part, and they shall profane the sanctuary, the fortress, and shall take away the continual sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate. v.31 With the army and the Hellenized Jews on his side, he used that power to pollute the sanctuary, take away the daily burnt offering, and set up an idol in the temple called “the abomination that maketh desolate”. This idol is but a small scale type of what will be set up once again in the Holy Place at the middle of Daniel’s 70th week (reference Daniel 12:11; Matt. 24:15; Rev. 13:14). From other sources we learn that the worship Antiochus instituted in the place of worshiping the true Jehovah, was that of Jupiter Olympus. We learn from Daniel 8:14 that the temple lay in a defiled condition (sacrifices discontinued) for 2300 days. This period was brought to a close partly by the force and courage of the Maccabees. The temple was once more cleansed, and the Jewish worship resumed. This was accomplished in the winter time, and the Jews thenceforward commemorated it with “the feast of dedication” (John 10:22).
The Abomination of Desolation. Notice that the Lord, when referencing the abomination of desolation, does not quote from Daniel 11:31, but from 12:11 in the Olivet Discourse. W. Kelly explained that strictly speaking, the expressions in Dan. 11:31 and in Dan. 12:11 are distinct. In Dan. 11:31 it means the “abomination of the one who makes desolate”. It refers to the abomination that Antiochus (the “desolater”) set up. But in Dan. 12:11, the true meaning is the “abomination that makes desolate”. It refers to the great abomination that Antichrist will set up, which is the cause of the Assyrian coming down in the moral government of God. There is a resemblance between the two phrases, but there is also a difference; and it shows that the Lord was referring, not to the abomination set up by Antiochus, but the future one predicted in Dan. 12. The expression in Dan. 11 is historical only, although a foreshadowing of what is still to come; but Daniel 12:11 is explicitly prophetic.
This historical “abomination” is referred to in the First book of the Maccabees in the following words:
“The king had sent letters by messengers unto Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, that they should follow the strange laws of the land, and forbid burnt offerings and sacrifices and drink offerings in the temple; and that they should profane the sabbaths and festival days: and pollute the sanctuary and holy people: set up altars, and groves, and chapels of idols, and sacrifice swine’s flesh, and unclean beasts… to the end they might forget the law, and change all the ordinances.” 1 Maccabees 1:44-49
32 And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he pervert by flatteries; but the people that know their God shall be strong, and shall act. 33 And they that are wise among the people shall instruct the many; and they shall fall by the sword, and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil, many days. vv.32-33 We are given the three categories of the Jews at this time.
- The Apostate Jews. They would believe the flatteries of Antiochus, and be used by him to further his purposes.
- The Faithful Jews. These “know their God” and suffered great persecution, imprisonment, and martyrdom. Jason, the last of Zadok’s line of High Priests was killed. Yet they “shall be strong, and shall act” referring to the Maccabean Revolt (167 – 160 B.C.). The history of this revolt in covered in I and II Maccabees. For years they won victory after victory against the king of the north, and stemmed the tide of evil.
- The Wise among the People. These are a special class of teachers, referred to in the Psalms as the “the Maschilim”. They were taught of God, were able to instruct the remnant in the word, and to encourage them in the path of faith in spite of persecution. They are mentioned again in Dan. 12:3.
There are, however, some differences between the remnant in Antiochus’ day and in the tribulation. The remnant in the future will suffer; but nothing is said of “deeds of power”. Deeds of power describe the Maccabees, but not the faithful remnant in the tribulation.
34 And when they fall, they shall be helped with a little help; but many shall cleave to them with flatteries. 35 And some of the wise shall fall, to try them, and to purge and to make them white, to the time of the end: for it shall yet be for the time appointed. vv.34-35 The deeper trials of the faithful are now given to us. God would help the faithful remnant providentially, in the hour of their trial. But many would defect from the faith, being swayed by infiltrators that “cleave to them with flatteries.” Even some who were known a “wise” students of the word fell away to join the Hellenists, and this was especially trying, and it “purged” the remnant, taking away any who were false. It is clear that these scriptures are written to encourage the godly remnant during the Syrian Wars, as well as the faithful remnant in the tribulation.
The break. We now come to a break in the prophecy. Scripture tells us there is a break by saying “even to the time of the end: because it is yet for a time appointed.” God has come down through the Greek history to the man that is in type what is to befall Israel in the latter days. Then he expands in great detail (vv.31-35) this king, bringing out the evil of his heart and ways. The Spirit does not finish the history of Antiochus, or tell of his sudden excruciating death. He leaves us with the thought that the sifting of faithful Jews would continue “to the time of the end”. Then, in v.36 He jumps forward to talk about the last days, the “time of the end” (c.p. the same expression in v.40, and “the indignation” in v.36). Based on this, we must conclude that a break, an immense interval of time lies between verses 35 and 36.
Prophetic Events in the End of the Times (11:36-45)
The Reign of Antichrist in the Midst of the Apostate Jews (vv.36-39)
36a And the king shall do according to his will; v.36a This “king” is a new person being introduced. He is clearly not the king of the north or south, because he is distinguished from both in v.40. Some might turn to Isa. 30:33 to equate “the king” with the Assyrian, but the verse should be translates “prepared also for the king”, indicating the Assyrian is distinct from the person called “the king”. The godly remnant could well expect the appearance of a diabolical person called “the king”, for he is introduced as such in Isa. 57:9. It refers to the second Beast of Rev. 13, often called “Antichrist“. His chief characteristic is that he acts “according to his own will“. Self-will is the very definition of sin (1 John 3:4), and it is what Adam did at the fall. For this reason, Antichrist is elsewhere called “the man of sin” (2 Thess. 2:3) because he is the embodiment of self-will, of sin itself, of all the evil in man. He is the very opposite of the true Christ, who could say “I do always those things that please [the Father]” (John 8:29). The world has an idea that independency is a great quality for a righteous ruler. But the Word of God shows that a self-willed ruler will bring about a wicked reign.
36b and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every GOD, and speak monstrous things against the GOD of GODS; v.36b This king is marked by spiritual wickedness of the worst kind. He exalts himself above every god, whether false or true. We cannot help but see how this aligns with 2 Thess. 2:4; where we read that Antichrist “opposes and exalts himself on high against all called God, or object of veneration; so that he himself sits down in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.” We are also told that his doctrine consists of “monstrous things” against the true God. We cannot help but see how this aligns with Rev. 13:11-17 where the second Beast acts in the office of a False Prophet.
36c and he shall prosper until the indignation be accomplished: for that which is determined shall be done. v.36c The reign of Antichrist will last up until “the indignation” is accomplished. What is the indignation? It is a technical term that refers to the time of God’s indignation against the Jews (see Dan. 8:19). This period is spoken of in Isaiah 10:5, 24, 25. From those verses we know that the indignation is a limited period of time in which God will use the Assyrian (king of the north) to punish Israel without intervention from God, and then Christ will in turn destroy the Assyrian. Antichrist prospers until the indignation is accomplished. This tells us that Antichrist’s reign will be terminated by the descent of the Assyrian (1260 days)!
37 And he will not regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women; nor regard any +god: for he will magnify himself above all. v.37 Here we find that Antichrist will be an apostate Jew, for he will “not regard the God of his fathers“. This answers the common confusion of the personal Beast with Antichrist. One is a Gentile, the other is a Jew. The “desire of women” is a reference to the Messiah, the One whose birth was desired above everything else by Jewish women. Even the Name of Christ, which is universally renowned at the present day, he will despise.
38 And in his place will he honour the +god of fortresses; and a +god whom his fathers knew not will he honour with gold and silver, and with precious stones and pleasant things. v.38 In place of the True God, this willful king will honor another god. Why? Because the human heart must have some kind of religion, some object to worship – even the heart of Antichrist himself, so he will introduce to them a god outside himself. This god is a new one… “a god whom his fathers knew not”. This is different than any of the past kings of Israel (Manasseh, etc.) who introduces Baal, or even the dictators of the past (Antiochus Epiphanies). Antiochus tried to force Jupiter Olympus upon the Jews; but this king adopts a new superstition. Both are true: Antichrist set himself up to be a god, and he institutes the worship of another god. We cannot help but see how this aligns with Rev. 13:11-17 where the second Beast (Antichrist) causes the earth-dwellers to worship the first Beast. He is called here the “god of mahuzzim” or fortresses. “Fortresses” might have the thought of Satanic power for protection. At the same time, the Beast will have massive military power at his command, and for this reason he will be worshiped as the “god of fortresses”. Antichrist invents this worship, and a system of idolatry; with “gold and silver”, etc.
39 And he will practise in the strongholds of fortresses with a strange +god: whoso acknowledgeth him will he increase with glory; and he shall cause them to rule over the many, and shall divide the land to them for a reward. v.39 This idolatry will be connected with the interests of the ruling class; i.e. those who submit to his worship will be given places of authority, “increased glory”. These leaders will rule over “the many” (a term referring to the mass), so the land of Israel will be divided among his chiefs as a reward. This prophecy deals with Antichrist in Israel, but the book of Revelation deals with the wider sphere of Christendom. Accordingly, Rev. 13:16-17 tells us that Antichrist will leverage the entire western economy to enforce the worship of the Beast!
The Apocalyptic Attack of the King of the North (vv.40-43)
Setting. Now we come to the indignation. The historical details given in the early part of this chapter now get their importance as we are told about the final conflict. The players in this final conflict have been absent for centuries, or even millennia. Like a global-scale chess match put on hold for 2000 years, God has already begun assembling the pieces, and when the last is put in place, the game clock will be set in motion.
- The Nation of Israel. It is clear from this passage the Israel will be a nation once again in their homeland. From other scriptures we know that they will have a temple again, and Antichrist will be reigning as king. In 1948 Israel was established as a nation after 1878 years of diaspora!
- Surrounding Nations. It is also clear from v.41 and other scriptures that the nations that formerly surrounded Israel will re-appear in their old places. Edom, Moab, and Ammon are mentioned here. They may not go by those names, but they will be present. Read Deut. 32:8.
- The King of the North. There will be an apocalyptic King of the North, elsewhere called “the Assyrian”. He will have a huge confederacy of Arab nations that will be allied with him; ten nations, to be exact (listed in Psa. 83). The leader will be from the same area as the old Seleucid empire, from modern day Turkey.
- The King of the South. There will be an apocalyptic King of the South. He too will have a confederacy, consisting of Egypt, Libya, and Ethiopia. This will be the final form the Ptolemaic empire of antiquity.
- The Roman Empire. Just as there was great western power that interfered with the actions of Antiochus III and IV, so the Roman Empire will be revived again in the last days. The leader of this Empire is the “little horn” of Daniel 7, and the “Beast” of Revelation. He too will have a confederacy, consisting of ten European countries represented by ten horns. Once again, Rome will have a vested interest in the Middle East, especially in Israel when False Prophet sits in the Temple, spreading his lies. Once again, Rome will interfere.
40 And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him; and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and overflow and pass through. v.40 What we have in this verse is the final Syrian War, the seventh, if you will. The King of the south will push north against “him” (Antichrist). This is an attempt to reclaim for the south that ancient possession (Palestine) that was last stripped away by Antiochus III (v.13) of the Seleucid dynasty. It is possible that the apocalyptic King of the South will be an ally to the Western confederacy, and upon seeing the armies of the Assyrian amassing on the eastern border, could “push” north as a preemptive strike on behalf of the Beast. Such an alliance would be consistent with vv.29-30a. This movement will provoke the king of the north to come down… and he will do so was alarming speed (“as a whirlwind”) and force (“chariots, horsemen, many ships”). It will involve both ground troops and naval forces. For descriptions of this terrible army read Isa. 5:26-30 and Joel 2:3-11. This attack will affect Israel, but also “many countries” that surround Israel. The relative strength of the King of the north, who is a global superpower, will overwhelm the King of the south.
Pawns in a Global Chess Game. These rapid movements of nations will seem very tumultuous for people on earth, but they are all ordered of God. In Isa. 7:18-19 this very sequence is described again. “And it shall come to pass in that day, that Jehovah will hiss [or, whistle] for the fly which is at the extremity of the streams of Egypt, and [whistle] for the bee which is in the land of Assyria; and they shall come…“. Just as a man whistles for his dog or cat to come, Jehovah has the movements of nations in His hand, and He alone can command them for His purposes. He whistles once, and the king of the south comes up. He whistles again, and the king of the north comes down.
41 And he shall enter into the land of beauty, and many countries shall be overthrown; but these shall escape out of his hand: Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon. v.41 Isa. 9 – 10 give the approach of the Assyrian from the north. Isa. 14 – 20 gives the countries into which his armies will “overflow”. But here we find that some of Edom, Moab, and Ammon escape. In Isa. 11:13 we find that God so orders their escape from the king of the north, so they can be ravaged by the triumphant Israelites! “Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim, but they shall fly upon the shoulders of the Philistines towards the west… they shall lay their hand upon Edom and Moab, and the children of Ammon shall obey them.” God will see to it that Israel gives the final blow.
42 And he shall stretch forth his hand upon the countries; and the land of Egypt shall not escape. 43 And he shall have power over the treasures of gold and of silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt; and the Libyans and the Ethiopians shall be at his steps. vv.42-43 The great aim of the Seleucid Empire will finally be reached… the king of the north will destroy the king of the south, taking possession of Egypt and her allies. “And the Egyptians will I give over into the hand of a cruel lord, and a fierce king shall rule over them, saith the Lord, Jehovah of hosts” (Isa. 19:4). The “the treasures of gold and of silver” indicate that Egypt will be enriched by this time.
What happens to Antichrist? When the king of the north sweeps down through the land of beauty, there is no mention of an encounter with “the king”. The reason, which we glean from other scriptures, is that Antichrist flees before the Assyrian reaches Palestine. He will dessert the Jews in their deepest hour of need. In this way, the apostate Jews’ “covenant with death and hell” will not protect them; “when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it” (Isa. 28:14-21). A few of these scriptures are:
- The “hireling flees” when he sees the “wolf” coming (John 10:13)
- The “foolish and idle shepherd” leaves the sheep (Zech. 11:17)
- The Lord will “drive him from his office” in preparation for the true Messiah (Isa. 11:19-21)
He flees presumably to Rome. We know this because he returns a few weeks later with the Beast, to fight the Lord at His appearing (Rev. 19:20). Antichrist meets his fate not upon the sword of the Assyrian, but at the appearing; “whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming” (2Th 2:8).
The Final Destruction of the King of the North (vv.44-45)
44 But tidings out of the east and out of the north shall trouble him; and he shall go forth with great fury to exterminate, and utterly to destroy many. v.44 When the king of the north is down in the south (Egypt), he hears these troubling rumors from the north and east. The “north” is where the Assyrian comes from. The “east” is the region he controls (Syrian, Iraq, Iran). His own countries send him troubling news; something that makes him hasten back home (through Palestine) with the intent to “exterminate” and “utterly destroy” some enemy.
What are the troubling rumors? There are a few things it could be. Russia and her confederacy will begin gearing up for war at this time (Ezek. 38-39). Being allied with Russia, the Assyrian may fear that a double-cross has occurred, and decide to head north to encounter the northeastern giant! But I want to give another reason that I believe is the most likely cause. A prophecy in Numbers 24:24 says “ships shall come from the coast of Chittim, and afflict Asshur, and afflict Eber.” We have already shown that Chittim is an ancient name for the peninsulas of Europe (Gen. 10:4), and the “ships of Chittim” are the Roman navy (see vv.29-30a). Asshur is an ancient name for Assyria (Gen. 10:11) which is the land of the king of the north. “Eber” is the ancestor of the Jews (Gen. 10:24). So this verse indicates that, in the last days, the revived Roman Empire will send a large navy against Palestine and the King of the North! Perhaps this will be in response to the sudden attack of the Assyrian through Palestine, a land under Roman protection (the “protection of abominations”, Dan. 9:27). But “no prophecy of the scripture can be privately interpreted” and so Rev. 16:16 tells us that the Gentile nations will be gathered together “to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon.” The Hebrew form of Armageddon is “Megiddo”, a place to the north of Israel where God, in the Old Testament, came forth to fight against those who raised themselves against Him, see Jud. 5:19-20 (see 2 Chron. 35:22, Zech. 12:11). It is the area in Israel called the valley of Jezreel, or the Plain of Esdraelon. This is where the ravenous birds are gathered to the supper of God in Rev. 19:17-18. This is where the Beast, Antichrist, and the armies of Europe gather (Rev. 19:19-20). This is also the place where the Lord will first appear and destroy the meddling western power. Conclusion: the landing of a massive western army, and the commotion that follows could be the trigger for the Assyrian’s territories in the north and east to reach out to him with “troubling rumors”. We can’t say for sure.
45 And he shall plant the tents of his palace between the sea and the mountain of holy beauty; and he shall come to his end, and there shall be none to help him. v.45 The king of the north reaches Palestine. He will set up his temporary military base “between the [Mediterranean] sea” and Mount Zion in Jerusalem. His end is sudden and conclusive. Other scriptures provide added details.
Details of the fall of the King of the North. The Lord will be at the north of the land (Zebulon and Naphtali) where He will have just destroyed the Beast at Megiddo (Rev. 16:16; 19:19-20). The Jews there "have seen a great light" (Isa. 9:1-2). The King of the North will return from the land of Egypt "with great fury to exterminate, and utterly to destroy many" (Dan. 11:44). The remainder of the faithful remnant in Jerusalem will flee, but will be trapped at the Mount of Olives. Just at dusk, the Lord will plant His feet "upon the Mount of Olives" - the very place He ascended from - fulfilling Acts 1:11-12. The whole region will become light. The Mount of Olives will split in half, and separate, creating a valley running east to west (Zech. 14:4). The remnant will flee into that valley, all the way to Azal (Zech. 14:5) reaching safety. The Lord will reveal Himself to the Jews at this time. The Lord will encamp around His "house" (Zech. 9:8), and cover Jerusalem with His "wings" (Isa. 34:5). He will refuse to let the "exactor" pass through a second time. The King of the North will "plant the tents of his palace" - his temporary military base - “between the [Mediterranean] sea and the mountain of holy beauty [Zion]" (Dan. 11:45). The King of the North will "stand up against the Prince of princes" in battle (Dan. 8:25). By the sound of His voice, the Lord will "break the Assyrian" in the mountains below the city (Isa. 14:24-25). The Lord will then drive the King of the North "afar off" into a desert place, with his back to the Mediterranean and his front to the Dead Sea (Joel 2:20). The Lord will consume them with a fire that kills "both soul and body". Their bodies will collapse "as when a sick man faints" (Isa. 10:18). By morning, the vast army will be destroyed (Isa. 17:14). The entire ordeal will be over in one day (Isa. 10:17-18). The Lord will cast the King of the North into the lake of fire (Isa. 30:33).