A History Lesson

Daniel 11

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
October 2018

No one has ever said that this was their favorite chapter in the Bible.  It is a long chapter.  It is complicated.  It is incredibly detailed.  It is a difficult chapter.  It is perhaps the most difficult chapter in the book.  This chapter is virtually impossible to preach.  You will never hear anyone ever preach a sermon on this chapter unless someone goes chapter by chapter through the Book of Daniel in an expository fashion, which few preachers do today.

I used to think that this must be the most boring chapter in the Bible but tucked away in this chapter is one of the most amazing verses in the whole book.  If you dig deep enough, you will find gold beneath the surface of this chapter.  This chapter will challenge your faith.  We will look at it.

This is a long chapter.  We are not going to do an in-depth study of each verse.  I want to do a brief overview of this chapter.  I want to look at the big picture.  We want to see what this chapter is about.  What is this prophecy all about?  Who is it even talking about?  Why is it in Daniel?  How does it apply to us?

The last three chapters of the book give us Daniel’s last and final vision.  Daniel 11, gives us a vision of world history from Darius to the Antichrist.  His vision is more of a nightmare.  He saw some of the worst dictators in history.  Daniel saw not just one terrible dictator but of two tyrants. Both will persecute God’s people.  Both claimed to be God and both will persecute God’s people.  The first ruler is Antiochus Epiphanies.  The second is the Antichrist.

Daniel does not just see the evil actions of dictators, he sees the cruel spectacle of war.  He sees a vision of a great war.  In fact, he sees a vision of more than one war.  He sees many wars.  He witnessed many battles and they are all in the Middle East.  These wars will affect the Jews.

He also knows that this vision is true.  Daniel knows that this prophecy will not possibly take place.  It is guaranteed to take place.  It can’t be changed.  In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a word was revealed to Daniel, who was named Belteshazzar. And the word was true, and it was a great conflict. (Daniel 10:1 ESV)

Summary of the Chapter

We can divide this chapter into two main parts.  The first part of the chapter deals with the NEAR FUTURE.  The second part of the chapter deals with the FAR FUTURE.  The first part of it was future to Daniel.  The second part of it is future to us.  As we look at this chapter, part of it is history.  It has already been fulfilled and part of it is prophecy.  It has yet to be fulfilled.

Daniel 11:1-35 all deal with history.  It has all been fulfilled.  It can all be corroborated historically.  For us today, it is a HISTORICAL PROPHECY.  Everyone agrees on that fact.  Beginning with Daniel 11:36 is all future.  It is an END-TIME PROPHECY.  It is all future to us.  It has not been fulfilled yet.  There is a gap of time between Daniel 11:35 and Daniel 11:36.

The Historical Section

Daniel 11:1-35 deal with the near future.  It is the part that has already been fulfilled.  What is predicted in these verses?

1) Prophecy about Persia (536-334 BC)

“Now then, I tell you the truth: Three more kings will arise in Persia, and then a fourth, who will be far richer than all the others. When he has gained power by his wealth, he will stir up everyone against the kingdom of Greece (Daniel 11:2 NIV)

The prophecy came in the third year of Cyrus (Daniel 10:1).  The Persians are in power.  Daniel makes all kinds of specific predictions about Persia and who would rule Persia after Darius.  It is like predicting who the next four presidents would be after Trump.

The last one was the wealthiest of all of them.  His name was Xerxes.  He was the one who married Esther in the Book of Esther.  He also invaded Greece in 480 BC.  He tried to avenge his dad who was humiliated by the Greeks but he was not successful.  Because of Xerxes, the Greeks decided to take over the country.

2) Prophecy about Greece (334-323 BC)

He then predicted what country would take over after Persia went into decline.  Greece would take over and Alexander the Great would rule.  The Greek empire was even more powerful than the Persian Empire.  Then a mighty king will arise, who will rule with great power and do as he pleases. (Daniel 11:3 NIV).

Some think Alexander the Great was the greatest leader of all time.  He was a military genius.  His troops were outnumbered two to one and he was still able to conquer Persia around 334 BC.  He conquered the world and did it in only a few years but he died in his prime at the age of thirty-two.  Al the members of his family were murdered.

3) Prophecy about Alexander the Great’s successors (323-176 BC)

Daniel 11:4-20 deals with Alexander’s successors.  After he has arisen, his empire will be broken up and parceled out toward the four winds of heaven. It will not go to his descendants, nor will it have the power he exercised, because his empire will be uprooted and given to others. (Daniel 11:4 NIV).

His powerful kingdom was split up.  It went to his four generals.  They were all Greek.  The rest of the world was ruled by Greeks but it did not even go to any of his children.  It went to four of his generals and they were rivals.

The two that had the most power and they always fought with each other.  The King of the North (Seleucids) fought with the King of the South (Ptolemies).

This chapter is all about the north against the south.  These were two superpowers.  Why is one called the King of the South and one called the King of the North? Because one was south of Israel and one was north of Israel (present day Syria and present-day Egypt).  Israel was in the middle.  Every time these two nations fought, Israel was caught in the cross fire.

History record six wars fought by the successors of Alexander the Great (called Wars of the Diodochi).  Some call them the Grecian Wars or the Syrian wars.  It reads like a soap opera.  It is like Jerry Springer.  The south would attack the North.  The North would attack the South.  Sometime the South would win.  Sometime the North would win.  Both sides tried marriage alliances but they did not work.

4) Prophecy about Antiochus Epiphanies (175-163 BC)

The first twenty verses cover three hundred and fifty years.  The next fifteen verses (Daniel 11:21-35) cover only twelve years.   They deal with a ruler who came from the Seleucids and became the Adolf Hitler of the OT.  He was a monster.  He was an anti-Semite.  He was a mass-murderer.

Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress, and shall take away the regular burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate. 32 He shall seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant, but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action (Daniel 11:31-32 ESV)

Here we see why Antiochus was called a vile person and why the Jews hated him.  He outlawed their religion.  He burned their Bibles.  He desecrated their temple.  He brought prostitutes into the temple and offered pigs on the altar.  He turned the Temple of the Lord into a Temple for Zeus.  He was the first person in history to persecute people because of their religion.

Some Jews compromised with Antiochus.  Some stood up to him and fought back.  The ones who fought back were the Maccabees.  C.H. Spurgeon said that the best interpreter of Daniel 11:32 is found the book of Maccabees.[1]  It is not even inspired but it is historical.

The Greeks invaded the land, desecrated the temple, told the Jews to worship Greek gods, commanded them to sin and they said no.  They led a revolt.  A small group of Jews defied the government decrees.  In fact, they fought back.

When a government official came by and told them to offer sacrifice to Greek gods, a Jew stepped forward and did it.  Matthias Maccabeus, who was an old man and was a priest, killed him and then he killed the government official who ordered him to commit idolatry (I Maccabees 2:23-27).  You can read what happened next in the book of I Maccabees.

The Prophetic Section

Daniel 11:46-45 deals with Antichrist.  It deals with “the time of the end”  (Daniel 11:40).  This was the view of many people in church history.  That was the view of Hippolytus.  He lived from 170 -235 AD.  Hippolytus was a disciple of Irenaeus, a disciple of Polycarp, a disciple of John the Apostle.

Hippolytus wrote the very first commentary on Daniel.  He believed that these verses are dealing with the Antichrist.[2]  The fourth century church father Jerome, who translated the Bible into Latin, also held this view.  He wrote a commentary on Daniel.  He also believed that this refers to the Antichrist.[3]

How could this possibly refer to the Antichrist?  He will not be around at the time of the King of the South and the King of the North?  They will all be long gone when he arrives.  The King of the South and the King of the North do not refer to the same person in this chapter.  They refer to many different people.

The king of the South refers to Ptolemy I (Daniel 11:5), Ptolemy II (Daniel 11:6), Ptolemy III (Daniel 11:7-8), Ptolemy IV (Daniel 11:9-15), Ptolemy V (Daniel 11:16-19), Ptolemy IV (Daniel 11:20-31).

The king of the North refers to Seleucus I (Daniel 11:5), Antiochus II (Daniel 11:6), Seleucus II (Daniel 11:7-8), Antiochus III (Daniel 11:9-19), Antiochus IV (Daniel 11:20-31).  Syria and Egypt may be involved in the conflict over Israel in the future.  This chapter gives us a glimpse into the character of the Antichrist.

And the king shall do as he wills. He shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak astonishing things against the God of gods. He shall prosper till the indignation is accomplished; for what is decreed shall be done.

37 He shall pay no attention to the gods of his fathers, or to the one beloved by women. He shall not pay attention to any other god, for he shall magnify himself above all. 38 He shall honor the god of fortresses instead of these. A god whom his fathers did not know he shall honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and costly gifts. (Daniel 11:36-38 ESV)

Character of the Antichrist

1) He will be powerful

The first thing we see about the coming Antichrist is that he will do “as he pleases” (Daniel 11:36). He will be an absolute dictator. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed (Daniel 11:36 NIV). He does not worship any god except the god of power (Daniel 11:38).  He will worship the god of fortresses.  Power and military might will be his god (tanks, planes, missiles).

2) He will be proud

He will exalt and magnify himself above every god (Daniel 11:36 NIV).  Atheism will not be the religion of the Antichrist because the verse says that he will magnify himself above every god.  He will require people to worship him

3) He will be profane

He will be blasphemous.  He will say unheard-of things against the God of gods (Daniel 11:36 NIV).

4) He will be peculiar

He will not do what everyone else is doing.  He will be different.  He shall pay no attention to THE GODS OF HIS FATHERS, or to the one beloved by women. He shall not pay attention to ANY OTHER GOD, for he shall magnify himself above all. (Daniel 11:37 ESV).  What does it mean that “he will not regard the desire of women” (Daniel 11:37 KJV)?  You have to read the whole verse.

Women are mentioned in the middle of the passage and the passage is all about worshiping idols.  It says that he will not worship the gods that he fathers worshiped.  He will not worship the gods that women worship or any other god.  That would not be talking about the desire FOR women by the desire BY women (e.g., Tammuz), which we even see in the Bible (Ezekiel 8:14).

5) He will be punished

The chapter ends with the words, “Yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him” (Daniel 11:45).  The Second Coming will take care of him.  Jesus will destroy with the breath of his mouth.  He will blow him away and with one breath he is gone.

Applications for Today

To us, it reads like a boring history lesson.  It is long.  It is tedious.  It mentions a bunch of kings and none of them are even named (just the king of the north and the king of the south).  God is not mentioned one time in the chapter. How does this chapter apply to us? This chapter has some good news and some bad news for us.  It tells us four things.

1) It tells us that we can trust the Bible

These predictions covered more than three hundred and fifty years of history.  These predictions were detailed.  They were specific.  Daniel prophesied the rise of Alexander the Great.  Daniel prophesied that Alexander’s empire would split into four parts.  He predicted the rise of Antiochus Epiphanies.  The first thirty-five verses contain 135 prophecies that have been literally fulfilled and can be corroborated.   That is why Daniel is one of the most hated books in the Bible.The Bible is trustworthy.

Critics of Daniel 11

Critics say that it is impossible for Daniel to make these detailed predictions hundreds of years in advance.  There is no way that anyone could predict history in advance.  In fact that they claim that the book is really a forgery.  It claims to be prophecy but it is really history, history written like it was prophecy, because no one could possibly know all of these details in advance.

They start with the assumption that genuine prophecy is impossible.  If you start with that premise, then it must be a forgery but that is circular reasoning.

There is a big problem for the critics.  It is the Dead Sea Scrolls.  All but two chapters of Daniel are found in the Dead Sea Scrolls.  Even Frank Moore Cross, the Orientals Language expert from Harvard, says that one copy of Daniel comes from the late second century.[4]  That makes the late date for Daniel virtually impossible.

This chapter PROVES the inspiration of the Bible.  It proves that the Bible is a supernatural book.  It proves that God’s Word is absolutely accurate and totally reliable.  All of it came to pass exactly as it was predicted.  Predictive prophecy proves inspiration!

2) It tells us that we may be tested in this world

This chapter shows that bad things may happen to believers in this world.  That is probably why Daniel was mourning for three weeks.  This prophecy had some bad news in it.  Evil rulers will come on the scene who are contemptible.  That will seem to be all powerful.  That will be able to do whatever they want.  They will persecute believers.  Many will be tortured and killed.  The temple will be desecrated.  In fact, it will be desecrated twice, one by Antiochus Epiphanies in the past and once by the Antichrist in the future.

33 And the wise among the people shall make many understand, though for some days they shall stumble by sword and flame, by captivity and plunder. 34 When they stumble, they shall receive a little help. And many shall join themselves to them with flattery, 35 and some of the wise shall stumble, so that they may be refined, purified, and made white, until the time of the end, for it still awaits the appointed time. (Daniel 11:33-35 ESV)

Trials and persecution refine believers.  That is one of the purposes of suffering.  It is one of the reasons that Christians suffer.  God uses it to get our attention.  I Peter 1:7 says, “the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (ESV).

3) It tells us that we can do great things, even in the worst of times

I like the KJV renders Daniel 11:32.  It reads, “but the people that do know their God shall be strong and do exploits.”  We can do EXPLOITS.  We are purposed for great exploits.  God wants us to do great things.  He does not want us to sit back and be passive.  God calls us to do great exploits.  What are exploits?

An exploit is a daring feat, a heroic act.  It doesn’t mean that we have to start killing people like the Maccabees did but those who know their God have the ability to do great exploits for God.  They have the ability to do incredible things, thing that they did not think were possible.

Ordinary believers can do them.  Ordinary people who know God can do extraordinary things.  The Bible is full of example of people who did them.  David killing Goliath.  Daniel’s three friends did great exploits.  They were thrown in the fiery furnace.  Daniel did them.  He was thrown in the lion’s den.  A whole chapter of the bible is devoted to this topic (Hebrews 11).

The missionary William Carey said, “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.”  What exploits are you doing?  What are you even attempting?  What would you like to do?  God is looking for ordinary believers that He can use and do some extraordinary things though.

To do great exploits for God, you have to know God.  The people THAT DO KNOW THEIR GOD shall be strong and do exploits.”  They do not just know about God.  They know him personally.  You have to have a personal relationship with God.  We know about all kinds of people, like famous celebrities, that we do not know personally.

The only way you can know God personally is to be saved.  Jesus said that you know knowing God when you have eternal life.  Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3 NIV).

4) It tells us that God is sovereign, even in the worst of times

The two kings, with their hearts bent on evil, will sit at the same table and lie to each other, but to no avail, because an end will still come at THE APPOINTED TIME (Daniel 11:27 NIV)

At THE APPOINTED TIME he will invade the South again, but this time the outcome will be different from what it was before. (Daniel 11:29 NIV)

Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at THE APPOINTED TIME. (Daniel 11:35 NIV)

When bad things happen in the world, God is not surprised.  He does not say, “What am I going to do?”  He is sovereign.  He is sovereign over history.  He is sovereign over current events.  He is sovereign over evil.  He is sovereign over evil dictators.  He allows them to come to power and decides how long they live.  He is sovereign over everything that happens in our lives.  That does not mean that we will understand it all, but we can trust him.

Everything is appointed.  An end is coming.  Last week, we learned from Daniel 10 that some nations are under demonic control.  This chapter shows us that even though demon spirits may control some geographic areas, God is still sovereign.  He still controls history.  It is all predetermined.

[1] https://www.spurgeongems.org/vols10-12/chs609.pdf

[2] Regarding Daniel 11:36ff. he writes, “And so these things the prophet described in this way concerning the Antichrist, as he will be shameless and warlike and a tyrant daring to exalt himself over every god, who boasts in his own power and pillages the fortresses of cities, and bearing lofty things in gold and silver and precious stone, he shall speak immoderate words against God, wishing that he himself alone be worshiped as God.” (Commentary on Daniel, IV, 49.1).  Accessed online at https://www.preteristarchive.com/Books/pdf/0205_hippolytus_commentary-on-daniel_2010.pdf

[3] Regarding Daniel 11:36, he writes, “The Jews believe that this passage has reference to the Antichrist … We too understand this to refer to the Antichrist.”  Accessed at http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/jerome_daniel_02_text.htm

[4] Frank Cross Moore, Ancient Library of Qumran, 2nd ed (1961), p. 43.

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