If you are on our texting service, you know that today we’re in Daniel chapter 11, and perhaps, I know at least a few of you who read ahead, and if you did read ahead you probably got a pretty big picture of “Wow.” This is a very detailed chapter, giving the history (or future history) of centuries and centuries of what’s going on in and around Judah from Daniel’s time all the way to the Roman Empire, and then even covers the end of all things.
It’s a massive chapter, 45 verses long, by far the most content that we have in one chapter in the book of Daniel, and as I was getting ready for Daniel months ago, I thought about splitting it up, and spending two or three weeks on it, but I really think it goes as one unit and shows us one main thing. And so, one Sunday, all of Daniel 11. If you’re new today, I want you to know: usually we do not cover 45 verses in one Sunday. Especially when we get into Philippians in a few weeks, we are slow down quite a bit and dig deeply.
If you were here last week you were introduced to this vision that Daniel receives that makes up all of chapters 10, 11, and 12. If you remember, we saw from Daniel 10, how Daniel was standing on the bank of the Tigris River when he was given a vision of a glorious angelic being who scared him bigtime, because of just how marvelous he was. Daniel falls on his face, but then is reassured by the angel that God loves him.
And now what is given to Daniel in this vision is what will happen to those Jews who returned to Jerusalem after the edict of Cyrus sent them back in 536 B.C., so they could rebuild the city and the temple. Jeremiah’s prophecy, if you remember back to chapter 9, of Israel’s 70-year captivity and the end of that captivity and even the end of the Babylonian empire, all of it had been now fulfilled. But, these Jews who had returned to Israel, they were having issues with the peoples around them. So much so that they were halted in their rebuilding for about 15 years. In fact, that’s why we saw last week, what brought about this vision that consumes these last three chapters, was Daniel mourning and fasting for weeks. He didn’t know if the restoration of his people was actually going to happen. And God assures him that it would indeed happen.
NOW, in chapter 10, God is showing Daniel what is to come, that Judah is going to find themselves stuck in the middle of a lot of chaos, especially stuck between two particular empires who were going to be in war with each other for quite a while. And as that part of the vision comes to an end, Daniel will be given a glimpse into the future once again, but this time it’s a glimpse into the distant future. This will be a time when a powerful enemy of God will arise, one that brags all about himself and will threaten the people of God, but who in the end will be destroyed by Yahweh’s kingdom that triumphs over all things, especially in the final judgment.
So, in verses 2-35, we see the future of Judah prophesied literally 100s of years beforehand! And what’s most amazing about this future that’s foretold is that it is unbelievably detailed and also accurate! Almost all commentators agree on who is referred to in this vision. Pretty much all the peoples and kings mentioned in Daniel 11, which are quite a few you will notice, pretty much all of them are obvious, as far as their identity when we look back into history. With the vast majority of them, there is no controversy as to who, exactly, they’re referring to, even with secular scholars.
In fact, the amazing detail and accuracy of Daniel 11 is what causes many secular scholars to date this book later. Their logic requires that there is just no way Daniel could have gotten this many details correct writing before the events actually take place. Of course, we know better than that. It’s not that Daniel had some sort of amazing gift; it’s that Daniel had an amazing God, yes? God decided to reveal these details to Daniel. In other words, this chapter and its amazing prophetic detail and accuracy shouldn’t point us to Daniel and his awesome ability to tell the future. It should instead point us to God, and one particular truth about him that I’m about to give you.
I do want us to work our way through this text. And I know it may seem overly-intricate and even complicated at times. But the goal is not merely to know all the details. In fact, I’m sure that you will forget some or even most of the details after today. BUT, my goal in us working through this together, and not just skipping over it, is for us to see and savor this one great truth. He’s telling this to Daniel 100s of years beforehand. He not only knows what is coming, but in some way he is even orchestrating these events that come about. I want us to slow down, savor, and even experience as we read this chapter, mainly one great truth. One primary truth to remember that as we dig into the details, number 2 in your notes. I’m just going to give all three of these away here, but the most important is number 2:
- God holds every intricate detail of the future in his hands. We need to hear that. We need to see that. And we need to be shown over and over and over this morning.
So, again, as we get into the details of this chapter, Judah, God’s people, is no longer in exile. The 70 years are over. Many of them have returned to Jerusalem; they’re rebuilding. But, obviously that doesn’t mean that everything is just fine and dandy. They’re possessing the land. We read of their rebuilding in Ezra and Nehemiah, but after this immediate future, Israel is going to be under occupation, in other words they’re politically subordinate to the Persians first, then the Greeks, and then they are caught between these two empires as far as who is in control.
Because this is still part of the same vision that is recorded in chapter 10, we have to remember that behind all of these earthly clashes there are spiritual forces at work as well. If you remember, we had the angels Michael and Gabriel involved in chapter 10, as well as demonic forces, called “princes.” So, as we work through the details in this chapter, remember:
Behind earthly chaos are spiritual forces waging war. We’ll notice through this chapter that sometimes this war can get quite messy and complicated. And then the last truth we’ll see near the end is that, 3. The enemy to come has an appointed time in which he will be destroyed.
So, if in the next 15-20 minutes you get lost, remember back to these three truths, and our goal of just plugging ourselves into this text and seeing and savoring these truths. I know we’re used to big macs, or Google where you get the information as quickly as humanly possible, and once you have the information, you’re done. Sometimes we need to slow down and see the same truths over and over and over, and dwell on them. Hide them in your heart this morning.
If you have a Bible please follow along with me. In verse 1, the angel tells Daniel that he’s there to strengthen him. That’s what he’s there for. Then, in verses 2-4, he goes into some details of the kings of Persia. Persia, of course, are the ones currently ruling, at least in Babylon. He tells of three kings to rise up, and a fourth who is particularly rich. We know, from history, who these four kings are, and that the fourth is Xerxes I. That might be a name you recognize. We know he was in fact very rich, as we see in verse 2. He did invade Greece multiple times, but he never succeeded in really defeating them. Then, verse 3 brings up a mighty king who was able to do whatever he pleased, who was headstrong, even. Who is this? All commentators agree: this is Alexander the Great.
With Alexander the Great, he easily defeated the Persians, and did much more than that, all before we was 33 years old, but when he died at such a young age, his kingdom was split up between four of his generals. That’s what is meant in verse 4 by “the four winds of heaven.” His kingdom was split up and will not have the power it once had. At the end of verse 4, it says his kingdom will be uprooted and given to others. And that’s exactly what happened. It’s split between four of his generals.
And two of these four kingdoms survived long-term, the Seleucids to the north (which is the same area as the Persians and the Babylonians before), and the Ptolemies to the south, which makes up Egypt. In fact, I have a picture of this. Judah, unfortunately, is right in the middle between these two kingdoms. They go through multiple invasions and multiple changes in occupation and who is ruling. In every way imaginable, they are between a rock and a hard place. And this doesn’t stop until the Romans come in 61 B.C.
So, verse 5 brings up the first king of the south, who we know to be Ptolemy I. One of his generals ends up leaving Egypt (the south), and moving to Babylon, basically gaving himself the new title of King, and began trying to expand his rule up in and around Babylon. Eventually this kingdom became bigger even that Ptolemy’s kingdom, which Ptolemy probably didn’t love. This kingdom was now a threat. So they start having issues for a time until a peace treaty was signed!
We know from history, and we see in verse 6, that Ptolemy II offered his daughter to Antiochus II in exchange for peace, Antiochus II being the ruler of the Seleucid kingdom. So, what’s the problem with this peace agreement? What could make it go wrong? Well, Antiochus II was already married. Laodice, his actual wife, wasn’t happy about him taking a second wife, so she poisoned him. And then she even had Berenice, this supposed wife to-be that was offering to him, she had her killed along with her son. Why? To be sure that her own son, Seleucid II would reign, not this new wife and her son. That’s what we see in the rest of verse 6: “She [meaning this second wife that wasn’t supposed to bring peace] will not retain her power, and he and his power will not last.” That’s what that means. Instead, they’re all betrayed. They all die. Already, I hope you see that this incredible detail, more than 300 years before these events come to pass!
This angel goes on in verse 7 through 9, telling of a war that will come between Ptolemy II and Seleucid II. It says in verse 7, “one from her family line,” talking of Berenice, the daughter that was killed. A son of HERS, Ptolemy II, will come against the army of the north and will prevail. He’ll even take out all of their precious gold and metal images and gods and silver. And then, according to verse 7 and according to history, for some years after this he will not attack the king of the north again. He gives them a break, I suppose. Then, the king of the north will also invade the king of the south, but instead of staying in that region like Ptolemy did when he came up north, Seleucid will return to the north. He comes to attack and then returns, mainly due to being unsuccessful in their attempt to take over the south.
Now Seleucid II actually died in 226, which isn’t too far away from when Jerusalem is destroyed in 167 B.C. His son, Seleucid III takes the reign, then dies only 3 years later, and so his brother, Antiochus III, then takes the reigns. This is who verse 10 is speaking of. Antiochus III goes to war with Ptolemy IV, and this war is spoken of in verses 11-12: “Then the king of the South will march out in a rage and fight against the king of the North, who will raise a large army but it will be defeated.” Then the king of the south is all prideful and decides to murder tens of thousands. So Ptolemy IV wins and gains a whole lot of Seleucid territory, but he returns to Egypt and dies. So, his son, Ptolemy V takes over.
The problem with Ptolemy V is that he is only five years old. So what happens? Antiochus III, the same ruler who fought Ptolemy IV, decides this is a great opportunity to seek revenge. I was just attacked, now it’s time for me to attack back, because their strong ruler has died and now a 5-year-old is reigning. So, he goes after Egypt. And this particular battle will be told in even more detail than these others. Verses 13-19 record this battle between Antiochus III of the Seleucid kingdom and Ptolemy V of the Ptolemaic kingdom.
Here it begins in verse 13: “For the king of the North will muster another army, large than the first; and after several years, he will advance with a huge army fully equipped.” And then, catch this in verse 14: “In those times many will rise against the king of the South. Those who are violent among your own people will rebel in fulfillment of the vision, but without success.” Wait a minute! Who’s this talking about?
Don’t forget: This is an angel telling Daniel what is coming, and he says to him, “those among your own people will rebel.” He’s saying this to Daniel, so he’s talking about the Jews! Do we know anything of this from history? Yes! IN 199 B.C., what happens? There’s civil war in Jerusalem. There were Jews who supported the Seleucid kingdom and those who supported Ptolemy kingdom. That’s what verse 14 is talking about! Then, verse 15: “the king of the North will come and build up siege ramps and will capture a fortified city. The forces of the south will be powerless to resist; even their best troops will not have the strength to stand. The invader will even establish himself in the Beautiful Land and will have the power to destroy it.” This is Antiochus III fighting against General Scopas in 198 B.C., just a year after this civil war. This Antiochus III will stand in the Glorious or Beautiful Land, which is Judah, this land stuck between these two empires. Yet again I must just top and say what incredible detail in this history before it’s history that the angel gives Daniel. Unbelievably detailed.
The second half of verse 17 says something very interesting. Antiochus III wants to make an alliance with the king of the south, and so he offers to him a daughter, some of your translations say, “the daughter of men.” He thinks that by offering his daughter, he can secure some rule in the Ptolemaic empire. He has a daughter, a spy of sorts! The problem with this? She was too impressed by her new husband. She supported Ptolemy V instead of her father. That’s what it means at the end of verse 17, “but his plans will not succeed or help him.” Then, in verses 18 and 19 he tries to go even farther in his expansion but is stopped by Roman troops, returns home, and then actually he’s killed by an angry mob.
So, after Antiochus III comes his son, Seleucid IV. The first thing we know from history of Seleucid IV is that he sends his treasurer to Jerusalem to loot the temple! This is what’s referred to in verse 20: “His successor will send out a tax collector to maintain the royal splendor. In a few years, however, he will be destroyed, yet not in anger or in battle.” But this is about all we know about Seleucid IV; apparently, he didn’t reign for too long, nor do anything significant other than loot the temple. Now, the one who took over for Seleucid IV is a bit different.
If you remember Antiochus IV Epiphanes. He was the one who named himself God, that’s what Epiphanes means. But people that knew him nicknamed him “Epimanes” as opposed to “Epiphanes,” which means “mad one.” Verse 21 starts out by calling this man, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, as “a contemptible person.” He comes in and obtains the kingdom by flatteries. He can talk. He can deceive, and he does. Even “the prince of the covenant” is swept away and deceived. Most scholars think the prince of the Coveannt is Anias III, who is the high priest in Jerusalem. Even he is deceived! So, from this point forward there is an agreement between these two and that just fuels the flames even more for Antiochus IV. He took over even the richest parts of the kingdom, doing things even his fathers and grandfathers couldn’t do. But, all of this only for a time.
Well, eventually, Antiochus IV Epiphanes turns his attention back to the Ptolemies of the south. This is the historic rival or enemy, and so he turns his attention back to them, and of course, who’s in the middle once again? Judah. Verse 25: He will stir up his strength and courage against the king of the South, who is now Ptolemy VI. Ptolemy puts up a fight, but isn’t able to stand against him. Even those who eat with Ptolemy VI stand against him apparently, according to verse 26. Then verse 26 speaks of two kings, who are Ptolemy VI and his younger brother Ptolemy VII. They speak evil, tell lies even to one another, but it doesn’t matter, their end will come too.
This is when we have a moment’s pause with the angel’s message: All of this will happen; it will seem chaotic, God’s people will be right in the middle of it, and yet, GOD is in control. We come back once again this primary truth we can savor in the midst of all this craziness: God holds every intricate detail of the future in his hands. At the end of v. 27: “an end will still come at the appointed time.” No matter the plots these men; no matter how invincible they think they are, an end will come, and that end has been appointed. God holds every intricate detail of the future in his hands.
From this point forward in the text, the scene shifts pretty drastically. Antiochus IV shows himself to be one of the most contemptible enemies of God, an antichrist of sorts. We see this in verse 28: “He will return to his own country with great wealth, but his heart will be set against the holy covenant. He will take action against it and then return to his own country.” This is new and different! Isn’t it!? His heart is against the covenant that God made with Israel, back at Mount Sinai. This land stuck in the middle; their covenant—his heart is set against it!
Verse 29: “At the appointed time he will invade the South again, but this time the outcome will be different from what it was before. Ships of the western coastlands will oppose him, and he will lose heart. Then he will turn back and vent his fury against the holy covenant.” Why is he flipping out? Well, we know that Antiochus was stopped by the Romans when he came down to invade Egypt. Well, he didn’t like that.
In fact, there’s this story of a Roman leader named Gaius Popillius Laenas drawing a circle around Antiochus and telling him he couldn’t leave until he had answered all his questions. Talk about condescending. Antiochus is not used to treatment like this. He’s always been the big kid on the block, that can bully others, never the one being bullied. But there’s nothing he can really do; the Romans are far too powerful even by this time. They restrain Antiochus. That’s why he’s enraged in verse 30. So he comes back to Jerusalem and it says he shows favor to those who forsake the holy covenant, meaning he tries to turns the Jews into Greeks. Antiochus’ efforts in this area is well known in history. He tries to replace Jewish heritage and religion with Greek heritage and religion.
So we see in verse 31 his armies rise and desecrate the temple and even abolish the daily sacrifice, the burnt offerings. Antiochus IV is the “little horn” of Daniel chapter 8, we read about this. Daniel 8:9-14. That was a prophetic reference, if you remember, of Antiochus IV coming into the temple and desecrating it. His goal was to destroy the temple completely, but committed Jews fought back. The last part of verse 32: “but the people who know their God will firmly resist him.” And apparently this resistance was a big deal. We read Josephus the historian’s description of this battle, and it’s almost legendary in its proportions. Then, in verses 33-35, we see a description of the Maccabean wars, when the Maccabeans oppose Antiochus IV, especially when he tries to turn the Jerusalem temple into a temple of Zeus. There’s clearly a lot going on, and finally the Jews are at least trying to stand up for themselves, or at least some of them are.
What we see in verse 35, though, is key: It says some of the Jews will stumble and even fall into line with Antiochus IV, BUT, what Antiochus wants to come about, the destruction of the temple and of the Jewish people and heritage, that will not happen! Why? Verse 35: “for it is still to come at the appointed time.” It wasn’t time yet! The time was coming no doubt, the Roman general Titus will destroy the Jerusalem temple in A.D. 70. But the time was not yet here! Why? Because God had not appointed it! No matter how powerful Antiochus IV was, he did NOT hold the future in his hands.
Yet again, we come to the one thing we’re savoring this morning: God holds every intricate detail of the future in his hands. No one else but God.
So, the last section in this chapter, verse 36-45, beg the question: Is the angel still telling Daniel about this Antiochus IV Epiphanes? Or has he now moved on to speaking more to the time of the end? I certainly think it’s ok to disagree on this between ourselves, but let me just give you two reasons why I think it’s best to understand this section as moving forward in time to the end, and talking specifically about an antichrist figure to come at the end of time.
- First, in verse 35, the angel specifically brings up the time of the end. That seems to be a natural segway into telling some of the details of the end.
- Secondly, verse 36 brings up “THE King.” Up to this point in this entire chapter, the angel has only spoken of kings of the north or kings of the south.
There’s lots more to talk about there, but that’s at least two of the big reasons why it seems the angel is moving on to speaking of someone else. Not to mention, what he actually says about this man. Verses 36 and following I’m actually not going to read, but let me summarize it by reading Paul from 2 Thessalonians, because I think Paul is speaking of this same antichrist figure, and almost seems to be either quoting or summarizing this passage in Daniel. This is 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4-
“Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 4 He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.”
I think that summarizes well Daniel 11:36-39. This so-called king is so cluelessly arrogant and defiant that he will face his accuser, his judge, without fear! Or at least, so he thinks. He will honor those who acknowledge him, according to verse 39. Some take that to mean he will start his own religion, but the language here doesn’t necessitate that. Though verse 39 does seem to indicate he’ll be some sort of political ruler.
Then, verse 40, very pointedly turns to the actual end of time. It says the king of the north and the king of the south will rush upon him and attack him, but it won’t stop him: he will rush through countries and overflow and pass through. Now, verse 41 says something interesting about this antichrist to come: it says, “he shall come into the glorious land. And tens of thousands shall fall, but these shall be delivered out of his hand: Edom and Moab and the main part of the Ammonites.”
What’s weird about that? What’s weird is that these peoples no longer existed when Daniel is given this vision. Edom and Moab and the Ammonites. They no longer existed. What seems to be happening here is that language is used here symbolically to show how this king to come in the far future is like this king who is coming a lot sooner but still hundreds of years away, Antiochus IV. So, speaking even more specifically of this antichrist to come, we finish the chapter with verses 42-45:
He shall stretch out his hand against the countries, and the land of Egypt shall not escape. 43 He shall become ruler of the treasures of gold and of silver, and all the precious things of Egypt, and the Libyans and the Cushites shall follow in his train. 44 But news from the east and the north shall alarm him, and he shall go out with great fury to destroy and devote many to destruction.45 And he shall pitch his palatial tents between the sea and the glorious holy mountain. Yet he shall come to his end, with none to help him.
Now, I don’t remember who said or wrote this when I was studying this week, but I love what one theologian said: “I’d love to explain this last section, but I can’t. The reason I can’t is because it hasn’t happened yet.” Another: “The best interpretation of passages like this one is its historical fulfillment.” His point being: We’ll know it when it happens, but there’s no point to trying to guess beforehand. Listen, these people on TV constantly talking about end times and how it’s very close: they’ve been talking like that for hundreds of years! Maybe not on TV, but from whatever platform they could find. God doesn’t desire for us to know ALL the details of the future, otherwise he would have given them to us. He wanted Daniel to know a lot of details, but for us he was purposely vague. What we should focus on instead is this:
The people of God, me and you, are trapped in the middle of chaotic worldly kingdoms. Political, social, cultural, spiritual kingdoms. Hopefully we’re living for the Lord, trying to be faithful, even in a world that is not our own, a world that is chaotic in many ways, with a spiritual world invisible to our eyes but just as active and influential as any other forces, and yet in the midst of all of this, what could possibly comfort us? What could, even more than comfort us, what could bring us incredible JOY in the midst of chaos, both physical and spiritual? One main truth: God holds every intricate detail of the future in his hands.
Even this king that is coming to dominate, who will persecute many in the Church, he’ll try and save Himself at the end, but Daniel is told in the last words of Daniel 11, “Yet he shall come to his end, with none to help him.” For us who can look back to Antiochus and see how he is an example of this antichrist still to come, we can know, that no matter how terrifying or powerful or persuasive anyone may be, including this antichrist to come, there is only one truly in control. Only one who truly holds every intricate detail of the future in his hands. It is Yahweh.
- Cancer, MS, any other illness of which it’s hard to know the future.
- Your job, your family, school, anything else that causes stress and frustration.
- Pornography, anger, narcissism, anything other sin that plagues our hearts.
Behind earthly chaos there are spiritual forces waging war. But God holds every intricate detail of the future in his hands, and even the enemy to come has an appointed time in which he will be destroyed. Take heart. Find rest. Trust in Christ who is your life and righteousness.