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Daniel 11:2-12:13

Chapters 11-12 contain a vision communicated to Daniel by the angel Gabriel (11:2-12:3) as well as the latter's final instructions to him (12:4-13). The best way to proceed through the difficult 11th chapter is by reading the text with appropriate identifications of the principal figures involved. All are agreed that chapter 11 begins with a reference to the Persian kings who followed Cyrus, extends through Alexander the Great and his successors, and then provides a detailed summary of the on-going conflict between the Seleucid and Ptolemaic dynasties (the primary powers of the Greek empire), with special emphasis on Antiochus IV Epiphanes. As we will note in just a moment, many also believe that the latter half of this chapter (vv. 36-45) leaps forward to the end of the age and describes the end-time Antichrist.

A.             The Vision of Greek Domination 11:2-12:3

'11:2 And now I will tell you the truth. Behold, three more kings [after Cyrus: Cambyses (530-522), Smerdis (pseudo-Smerdis or Gaumata; 522) and Darius I Hystaspes (522-486 b.c.)] are going to arise in Persia. Then a fourth [Xerxes I (486-654 b.c.)] 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 [In this one verse (v. 2) the period from 538 to @331 b.c. is covered]. 3 And a mighty king [Alexander the Great (336-323 b.c.)] 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 [perhaps a reference to the four generals among whom the Greek empire, subsequent to Alexander, was divided, or perhaps the 'four major units (that) eventually emerged from Alexander's fragmented empire, centered on Macedon and Greece, Thrace, Syria and the east, and Egypt], though not to his own descendants [Alexander's two sons, Alexander IV and Herakles, were both murdered], nor according to his authority which he wielded; for his sovereignty will be uprooted and given to others besides them. 5 [Vv. 5-20 contain a history of the ongoing conflict between two divisions of the Greek empire: the Ptolemaic (Egyptian; the 'southern king) and the Seleucid (Syrian; the 'northern king), from the death of Alexander (323 b.c.) to the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes (175-163 b.c.)] Then the king of the South [Ptolemy I Soter (323-285 b.c.), ruler of Egypt, who had been one of Alexander's four generals] will grow strong, along with one of his princes [Seleucus I Nicator (312/11-280 b.c.; another of Alexander's four generals)] who will gain ascendancy over him and obtain dominion; his domain will be a great dominion indeed. 6 And after some years they will form an alliance [Ptolemy II (285-246 b.c.) made a treaty of peace in 250 b.c. with the Seleucid ruler, Antiochus II Theos (grandson of Seleucus; 261-246 b.c.)], and the daughter of the king of the South [Berenice, Ptolemy's daughter] will come to the king of the North to carry out a peaceful arrangement. But she will not retain her position of power [Berenice was murdered, along with Antiochus, by the latter's powerful ex-wife, Laodice], 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 [Ptolemy III Euergetes (246-221 b.c.), Berenice's brother] will arise in his place, and he will come against their army and enter the fortress of the king of the North [in retaliation for the murder of his sister], and he will deal with them and display great strength. 8 And 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 [for two years, to be exact]. 9 Then the latter [i.e., the King of the North] will enter the realm of the king of the South, but will return to his own land. 10 And his sons [Seleucus III Ceraunus (226-223 b.c.) and Antiochus III (the 'Great, 223-187 b.c.)] 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 [i.e., the King of the South's] very fortress. 11 And the king of the South [Ptolemy IV Philopator (221-203 b.c.)] 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 [Ptolemy's victory occurred in 217 b.c. at Raphia, near Palestine]. 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 [Ptolemaic supremacy, however, did not long continue. Vv. 13-35 describe the ensuing period of Seleucid supremacy.] For the king of the North [Antiochus III] will again raise a greater multitude than the former, and after an interval of some years [in 202 b.c.] he will press on with a great army and much equipment. 14 Now in those times many [Antiochus III, Philip V of Macedon and other insurrectionists in Egypt] will rise up against the king of the South; the violent ones among your people [i.e., Jews who sided with and aided Antiochus] will also lift themselves up in order to fulfill the vision, but they will fall down. 15 Then the king of the North [Antiochus] will come, cast up a siege mound, and capture a well-fortified city [Sidon, an Egyptian 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 [Antiochus] 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 [Palestine], with destruction in his hand. 17 And 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 [Ptolemy V] the daughter of women [Cleopatra; not the one who lived in the time of Julius Caesar and Mark Antony (69-30 b.c.)] to ruin it. But she will not take a stand for him [i.e., for her father, Antiochus; rather she proved loyal to her husband, Ptolemy], or be on his side. 18 [Vv. 18-19 prophesy Antiochus's defeat and ignominious end.] Then he will turn his face to the coastlands [the islands or countries around the Mediterranean Sea] and capture many. But a commander [Lucius Cornelius Scipio, a Roman general, in cooperation with their Greek allies] 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 [having suffered a humiliating defeat, Antiochus returned to his country where he was murdered by an angry mob in 187 b.c. His son, Antiochus IV Epiphanes was taken to Rome as a hostage]. 20 Then in his place one will arise [i.e., Seleucus IV Philopator (187-175 b.c.)] who will send an oppressor [Heliodorus, a 'tax collector of sorts] through the Jewel of his kingdom; yet within a few days he will be shattered, though neither in anger nor in battle [Heliodorus attempted to pillage the treasury of the Jerusalem temple to help Seleucus make payments to Rome in fulfillment of a debt incurred by the latter's father, Antiochus III].

[Vv. 21-35 are acknowledged by all to be a description of the reign of terror by Antiochus Epiphanes IV. The debate is whether Antiochus is also being described in vv. 36-45 or is the end-time Antichrist in view? Before proceeding further, here is a list of the two dynasties whose conflicts we have just noted:

The South (Ptolemies-Egypt) The North (Seleucids-Syria)
Ptolemy I (Soter) 323-285 Seleucus I (Nicator) 312-280
Ptolemy II (Philadelphus) 285-246 Antiochus I (Soter) 280-261
  Antiochus II (Theos) 261-246
Ptolemy III (Euergetes) 246-221 Seleucus II (Callinicus) 246-226
  Seleucus III (Ceraunus) 226-223
Ptolemy IV (Philopator) 221-204 Antiochus III (the Great) 223-187
Ptolemy V (Epiphanes) 204-181 Seleucuss IV (Philopator) 187-175

Ptolemy VI (Philometor) 181-145

Antiochus IV (Epiphanes) 175-163

'21 And 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 [Demetrius I, young son of Seleucus IV, was next in line to receive the crown. Through skillful maneuvering, Antiochus IV captured the throne]. 22 And the overflowing forces will be flooded away before him and shattered, and also the prince of the covenant [a reference to Ptolemy VI Philometor of Egypt; on the other hand, some believe this is Onias III, the Jewish high priest whom Antiochus deposed]. 23 And 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 [There begins here a more detailed account of Antiochus's involvement with Egypt] And 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 And 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 [V. 28 sums up briefly the measures taken by Antiochus in suppressing the religious liberties of Judah from 172 to 168 b.c.]. 29 At the appointed time he will return and come into the South [Egypt], but this last time it will not turn out the way it did before. 30 For ships of Kittim [i.e., Cyprus] 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 And 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 [Here we have a brief description of what occurred in December 168 b.c. when Antiochus placed a statue of Zeus on the altar of the temple in Jerusalem]. 32 And 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 [although applicable in principle to all believers, this refers specifically to the sons of the Jewish priest Mattathias: Judas, Jonathan, and Simon, known as the Maccabees, and the other heroic patriots who resisted Antiochus and eventually rededicated the temple to God in December of 165 b.c.]. 33 And 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 And 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.

[A major point of dispute is the identity of the person described in vv. 36-45. Some believe these verses refer not to an individual but to Rome, the fourth empire (assuming one takes Rome, not Greece, to be the fourth empire). Others believe Herod the Great is in view, while some have pointed to Constantine of the early 4th century a.d. Many evangelical interpreters believe that at v. 36 the angel leaps forward several thousand years to the end of the age and begins describing the Antichrist, of whom Antiochus is the prototype, who will appear just preceding the coming of Jesus. Their primary argument is that we have no explicit evidence that the details given in vv. 36-45 correspond to anything in the life and career of Antiochus. Others insist that these verses are simply a continuation of the description of Antiochus Epiphanes in the 2nd century b.c. It must be admitted that there is no indication of a break or a change of subject. Vv. 36-45 appear to flow in continuation with the preceding paragraph. There is reference to the 'king and to the 'king of the South and 'king of the North without the slightest indication that the three are any different from those in the 4th-2nd centuries b.c. who are described by the same names in the preceding verses. Although not without its difficulties, in my opinion, these verses continue the description of Antiochus.]

36 Then the king will do as he pleases [see 11:3,16], and he will exalt and magnify himself above every god [this may be an allusion to Antiochus's title, 'Epiphanes, (God) manifest, or perhaps to his use on coins of the title Theos = 'God and to his plundering of temples and suppression of other religions], 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 And he will show no regard for the gods of his fathers [some say he replaced Apollo by Zeus as the god of the Seleucid dynasty; others find little evidence for this and contend that 'this is probably deliberate polemical distortion, to depict the impiety of the king in the most extreme terms possible (Collins, 387)] or for the desire of women, nor will he show regard for any other god; for he will magnify himself above them all ['the desire of women may well be Adonis or Dionysus, deities favored in Egypt whom Antiochus slighted during his various encroachments into that region; some point to Tammuz in Ezek. 8:14, a deity worshiped by women]. 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 And 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 he will cause them to rule over the many, and will parcel out land for a price.

[The events in vv. 40-45 cannot be correlated with actual historical events as those in vv. 21-39 can, thus leading many to conclude that this is the end-time Antichrist of whom Antiochus was the prototype] '40 And 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 And 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.

'12:1 Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time [depending on how one interprets 11:36-45, this would refer either to the events of 148-145 b.c. when Antiochus oppressed the Jews (i.e., the events just described in 11:40-45), or to some later time of tribulation (perhaps 66-70 a.d. and the destruction of Jerusalem by the armies of Titus; perhaps the end-time tribulation under the final Antichrist]; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. 2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt [some contend that this is not a description of bodily resurrection but a figurative portrayal, using OT terms and imagery (see, e.g., Pss. 6, 69, 79), of the spiritual vindication and triumph of God's people over their enemies; others see it as a prophecy of the final resurrection (cf. Isa. 26:19). If the latter be the case, one must then decide whether it is simply a general declaration that just such a resurrection will occur for believers or whether it is saying that this resurrection will occur immediately following the persecution described in v. 2]. 3 And those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

B.             Gabriel's Final Instructions 12:4-13

1.              conceal and seal 12:4

The point of this command is both that the prophecies of Daniel be kept hidden or secret and that they be kept safe (cf. Jer. 32:9-12), with emphasis on the latter. When the time of fulfillment is at hand their truths will be relevant and encouraging to those who are suffering.

'In the ancient Near East, important documents such as contracts, promissory notes, and deeds of conveyance were written out in duplicate. The original document was kept in a secure repository, safe ('closed up') from later tampering, in order to conserve the interests and rights of all parties to the transaction. Though copies might be made from it, the original was to remain secure so that it might be consulted if any future challenge of its terms were made (Archer, 153).

The 'sealing of the document also points to its preservation, unaltered, down to the day when its predictions would be fulfilled. It is because the truths of Daniel's prophecies are not immediately accessible that many people 'will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase. When one looks at this oft-quoted verse in context it becomes clear that it has nothing to do with a supposed increase in travel and the amount of human knowledge at the end of the age! The point is that people will be unable to find a word from God concerning his purposes because the book of Daniel will have been sealed. This verse echoes what we read in Amos 8:11-12,

''Behold, days are coming,' declares the Lord God, 'when I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the Lord. And people will stagger from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east; they will go to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.

Two renderings of the phrase are possible: (1) 'Many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase, i.e., people will gain knowledge, to be sure, but not the knowledge of God's purposes as revealed in the book of Daniel. Or, (2) 'many will go back and forth, that knowledge will increase, i.e., their going back and forth is for the purpose of gaining knowledge, unsuccessful though it be. The former is more likely.

2.              the duration of the distress 12:5-7

Daniel suddenly sees two additional angelic figures standing on either side of the river. One speaks to the man dressed in linen, i.e., the being (Gabriel? Pre-incarnate Christ? Another angel?) already graphically described in 10:5-6. In response to a question from one angel concerning the duration of the prophesied distress, the man in linen raises both hands toward heaven and swears 'by Him who lives forever (v. 7a). Raising the hand when giving an oath was customary (cf. Gen. 14:22; Deut. 32:40), 'but raising both hands and swearing to keep the oath in the name of the eternal God (cf. Rev. 10:5-6) gives the greatest possible assurance that the words spoken are true (Miller, 323).

The reference to 'time, times, and half a time links this verse with 7:25 (descriptive of the brutal reign either of Antiochus in the 2nd century b.c. or the end-time Antichrist, or perhaps both). I take it to be the former. Thus the 'shattering the power of the holy people is 'presumably the events of 11:21-45, or perhaps the whole period from the exile (Goldingay, 309).

3.              the design of the distress 12:8-13

In vv. 11-12 we finally get an answer to the question posed in v. 6. 1,260 days is familiar enough (= 3 ½ years). But what is the purpose of the extra thirty days? And why is there then appended to the 1,290 days an additional forty-five? No one knows! 'The beginning of v. 11, notes Goldingay, 'could be the time of one of Antiochus's edicts, the actual desecration of the temple, or the enforcement of the ban on the regular sacrificial order (11:31-33). . . . Vv. 11-12 could terminate with Judas's [the Maccabees] victories, the temple rededication, Antiochus's death, the arrival of news of his death, or the further events envisaged by 11:45-12:3 (310). In any case, Baldwin points out that

'a particular blessing awaits the one who goes on expectantly even after the time for the fulfillment of the prophecy is apparently passed, as in the parable of Jesus there is a special blessing for the servant who continues to be faithful even when his master does not come home at the stated time (Mt. 24:45-51) (210).