Commentary on Daniel: Chapter 11
God does not view history as we do. What we see as important, God sometimes just skips over. He includes what he views as important and omits the rest. We should strive to see history as God sees it and not strive to force our view of what is important on God.
The focus of this vision is the history of the Jews in the latter days, where the latter days refers to the end of the Jewish age which occurred in the first century.
The focus is not the end of the world and the focus is not the many other nations that are mentioned. These other nations are only important with regard to how they are involved with the Jews.
Finally, as we will see, the prophecies in this chapter are some of the most detailed found anywhere in the Bible. Further, they were given to Daniel hundreds of years before they came to pass. (The extreme level of detail is what has caused the liberals to conclude that it must have been written after the fact.)
Such extreme precision raises many philosophical questions about the foreknowledge of God and the free will of man. We will not consider these questions now, but anyone who does should definitely take a long look at Daniel 11. Very few sections of scripture give us a better demonstration of God’s knowledge and control of the future.
1 And as for me, in the first year of Darius the Mede, I stood up to confirm and strengthen him.
This verse really belongs at the end of Chapter 10. The angel, still speaking, tells Daniel that he stood up and helped Michael in his struggle with Persia.
As we have already mentioned, Satan was actively seeking to destroy the Jews so that God’s plan could not proceed.
About 50 years after this vision, during the reign of Xerxes, Haman received consent to kill all of the Jews. As we recall, his plans were thwarted by Queen Esther.
Much later, Antiochus IV Epiphanes tried to exterminate the Jewish culture and religion. We recall the outcome of that attempt.
In each case, we can only speculate about the spiritual battles that were occurring.
2 “And now I will show you the truth. Behold, three more kings shall arise in Persia; and a fourth shall be far richer than all of them; and when he has become strong through his riches, he shall stir up all against the kingdom of Greece.
The three kings that followed Cyrus were Cambyses (Cyrus’ elder son), Gaumata (the impostor who passed himself off as Cyrus’ younger son Smerdis), and Darius the Persian (son of Hystaspes and cousin of Cyrus who killed the impostor and took the throne).
The fourth king after Cyrus was Xerxes (Darius’ son) who reigned from 485 to 464. This king is called Ahasuerus in the book of Esther. Esther 1:4 talks about the “riches of his glorious kingdom.”
Xerxes invaded Greece with a huge army and was very successful until his navy was defeated by a united Greek fleet at the Battle of Salamis in 480. He retreated to Asia and his forces that remained in Greece were completely defeated the next year at the Battle of Plataea.
3 Then a mighty king shall arise, who shall rule with great dominion and do according to his will.
In moving from verse 2 to verse 3, we skip over 6 Persian kings and 134 years. Note that this skip occurred without any warning. We will need to be very alert so that we will notice such jumps should they occur again. Notice also that the country of interest has changed from Persia to Greece.
The mighty king is Alexander the Great who defeated the Persians in 331. He died in 323 at the age of 33. The Hebrew for “shall arise” is literally “shall stand up,” which emphasizes how brief his reign was.
4 And when he has arisen, his kingdom shall be broken and divided toward the four winds of heaven, but not to his posterity, nor according to the dominion with which he ruled; for his kingdom shall be plucked up and go to others besides these.
Alexander’s kingdom did not go to his posterity, which included his Persian princess wife Roxana and their son, Alexander IV (who was murdered in 310). Alexander IV’s illegitimate brother had already been killed in 317. Thus, there were no blood descendants of Alexander, as the book of Daniel predicted.
Instead, it was divided into four pieces among Lysimachus, Antipater (and his son Cassander), Seleucus I Nicator, and Ptolemy I Soter.
5 “Then the king of the south shall be strong, but one of his princes shall be stronger than he and his dominion shall be a great dominion.
The king of the South is Ptolemy I Soter whose ambitions extended far beyond Egypt to include Palestine and the rest of Asia. For most of their history, however, the domain of the Ptolemies was restricted to Egypt and Cyprus.
The prince who would be stronger than the king was Seleucus Nicator of the Seleucid Empire, who defected to Ptolemy after the Battle of Antigonus. He later returned to Babylon and became king under Ptolemy’s sponsorship. His empire and authority stretched from India to Phoenicia, and thus was much greater than that of Ptolemy.
6 After some years they shall make an alliance, and the daughter of the king of the south shall come to the king of the north to make peace; but she shall not retain the strength of her arm, and he and his offspring shall not endure; but she shall be given up, and her attendants, her child, and he who got possession of her.
After the death of Ptolemy I in 285, his son Ptolemy II (Philadelphus) continued the contest with the Seleucids until 252 when a peace treaty was made with Antiochus II Theos. Under this treaty, Antiochus II was to marry Berenice, the daughter of Ptolemy II.
One slight problem with the plan was that Antiochus II was already married to a very influential woman named Laodice. She was divorced and banished. She arranged the assassination of the king, Berenice, and their infant son. Afterward, she took control as queen regent for her young son, Seleucus II (Callinicus).
7 “In those times a branch from her roots shall arise in his place; he shall come against the army and enter the fortress of the king of the north, and he shall deal with them and shall prevail. 8 He shall also carry off to Egypt their gods with their molten images and with their precious vessels of silver and of gold; and for some years he shall refrain from attacking the king of the north.
Ptolemy II died soon after his daughter Berenice was murdered. His son, Ptolemy III (Euergetes) came to power and marched off to avenge his sister’s death. He is the “branch from her [Berenice’s] roots” in verse 7.
The king of the north is Seleucus II Callinicus, the son of Laodice. Ptolemy captured the capital city of Antioch and returned to Egypt laden with spoil. This spoil included long-lost idols that had been taken by Cambyses in 524 BC. Their return made Ptolemy III very popular with the native Egyptian populace, who named him Euergetes which means benefactor.
Ptolemy III made a peace treaty with Seleucus II in 240 BC.
9 Then the latter shall come into the realm of the king of the south but shall return into his own land.
The “latter” is Seleucus II and the “king of the south” is Ptolemy III. While their is no record that Seleucus II ever invaded Egypt, he did invade the territory of the Ptolemies in the 230s when he regained control of northern Syria and Phoenicia.
10 “His sons shall wage war and assemble a multitude of great forces, which shall come on and overflow and pass through, and again shall carry the war as far as his fortress. 11 Then the king of the south, moved with anger, shall come out and fight with the king of the north; and he shall raise a great multitude, but it shall be given into his hand. 12 And when the multitude is taken, his heart shall be exalted, and he shall cast down tens of thousands, but he shall not prevail.
Seleucus II Callinicus died in 226 and was succeeded by his son Seleucus III Soter, who reigned for only three years and was succeeded by his brother Antiochus III (the Great).
The king of the south in verse 11 is Ptolemy IV Philopater and the king of the north is Antiochus III. Ptolemy IV defeated the much larger army of Antiochus III at the Battle of Raphia in 217.
Ptolemy IV got back all of the territory of Phoenicia and Palestine, but his success did not last very long. After he died, his four year old son Ptolemy V (Epiphanes) came to power and Antiochus saw his chance to invade Egypt.
The Rosetta Stone, which finally allowed modern scholars to understand Egyptian hieroglyphics, was found in 1799 built into an old wall that was being demolished by the French near a village they called Rosetta. Located now in the British Museum, it contains a decree given by Ptolemy V written in three languages: Greek, Egyptian Demotic, and Egyptian hieroglyphics.
13 For the king of the north shall again raise a multitude, greater than the former; and after some years he shall come on with a great army and abundant supplies.
In 202, Antiochus III (the king of the north) invaded Phoenicia and Palestine and marched all the way to Gaza, which fell in 201.
14 “In those times many shall rise against the king of the south; and the men of violence among your own people shall lift themselves up in order to fulfil the vision; but they shall fail.
The king of the south here is Ptolemy V. The “men of violence among your own people” are the pro-Seleucid Jews who rebelled against the Ptolemies. The vision they were fulfilling by doing this was the very vision that Daniel was now receiving!
But they failed. The Egyptians, led by General Scopas, punished the Jewish rebels severely until his defeat at the Battle of Panium in 200 BC. He then retreated to Sidon off the Phoenician coast.
15 Then the king of the north shall come and throw up siegeworks, and take a well-fortified city. And the forces of the south shall not stand, or even his picked troops, for there shall be no strength to stand. 16 But he who comes against him shall do according to his own will, and none shall stand before him; and he shall stand in the glorious land, and all of it shall be in his power.
The king of the north (Antiochus III) moved against Sidon, and Scopas finally surrendered. At this time, Palestine (the glorious land) became a permanent part of the Antioch government.
Antiochus did not destroy Jerusalem, but only extracted reprisals from the pro-Egyptian leaders that he captured. When he entered Jerusalem in 198 he was welcomed as a deliverer and benefactor.
17 He shall set his face to come with the strength of his whole kingdom, and he shall bring terms of peace and perform them. He shall give him the daughter of women to destroy the kingdom; but it shall not stand or be to his advantage.
Antiochus’ plan at this point in the story was to place the 10 year old king Ptolemy V under the influence of his daughter Cleopatra I. [The Cleopatra from the movie was Cleopatra VII. We will meet her in verse 40.] He knew that their son would be legal heir to both thrones, and would give him a good excuse to interfere in Egypt. The phrase “destroy the kingdom” in verse 17 is better translated “corrupt the kingdom.”
When the marriage finally did take place a few years later, Cleopatra became completely sympathetic to Ptolemy V and his kingdom, which greatly disappointed her father. Thus, their son, Ptolemy VI, gave no advantage to Antiochus III.
When Ptolemy V died, Cleopatra I became queen of Egypt. Her death years later put an end to any possibility of Seleucid influence in Egyptian affairs.
18 Afterward he shall turn his face to the coastlands, and shall take many of them; but a commander shall put an end to his insolence; indeed he shall turn his insolence back upon him.
Soon after his victory over Scopas at Sidon, Antiochus III moved against a new front, Pergamum and the Aegean coastline island of Rhodes. The Rhodians appealed to Rome for help.
Meanwhile, Hannibal (who had been exiled by the Romans) joined forces with Antiochus III as a military advisor. The Romans were not happy that he had given asylum to their enemy.
The Roman commander Lucius Cornelius Scipio defeated Antiochus III in 190 at Magnesium. (This same general had defeated Hannibal in 202.)
Antiochus was humiliated by the Romans. He lost most of his land and his army. His son Antiochus IV Epiphanes was taken back to Rome as a hostage.
19 Then he shall turn his face back toward the fortresses of his own land; but he shall stumble and fall, and shall not be found.
Antiochus III died the next year while pillaging a temple of Bel in Elymais in an attempt to raise money to pay the Romans. The local inhabitants stormed his forces and managed to kill him and defend their temple.
20 “Then shall arise in his place one who shall send an exactor of tribute through the glory of the kingdom; but within a few days he shall be broken, neither in anger nor in battle.
Antiochus III was succeeded by his oldest son, Seleucus IV (Philopator). The exactor of tribute that he sent out was Heliodorus.
Heliodorus was sent to rob the temple at Jerusalem, which a Jewish spy had said contained enough treasure to meet all of the Roman demands. Heliodorus decided not to rob the temple, but instead went back and eventually poisoned the king, who thus did not die due to battle or mob action as his father had.
21 In his place shall arise a contemptible person to whom royal majesty has not been given; he shall come in without warning and obtain the kingdom by flatteries.
Verses 21–35 are devoted to the activities of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who we first met in Chapter 8. As we recall, he did his best to completely wipe out the Jewish religion and culture by persecuting the Jews and introducing Greek culture.
He is the “contemptible person” in verse 21 to whom “royal majesty has not been given.” In fact, Demetrius I Soter, the son of Seleucus IV, was next in line for the crown. He, however, was being held hostage in Rome, so the crown went to his uncle, Antiochus IV Epiphanes instead. (Antiochus was later able to set aside Demetrius’ claims to the throne, but Demetrius later led a Roman army against Antiochus’ son, Antiochus V Eupator.)
“Epiphanes” mean illustrious, very evident, or manifest. On coins, he linked the name with “theos,” thus taking the title “God Manifest.” Many of his enemies referred to him instead as “Epinanes” which means “madman.”
22 Armies shall be utterly swept away before him and broken, and the prince of the covenant also. 23 And from the time that an alliance is made with him he shall act deceitfully; and he shall become strong with a small people. 24 Without warning he shall come into the richest parts of the province; and he shall do what neither his fathers nor his fathers’ fathers have done, scattering among them plunder, spoil, and goods. He shall devise plans against strongholds, but only for a time.
Verses 22–24 bring us back to the continuing struggle between the Seleucids and the Ptolemies. It was Epiphanes’ policy to first offer friendship and then wait for an opportunity to launch a surprise attack.
Ptolemy VI launched an invasion against Antiochus, which at first was successful but eventually led to his capture. The Egyptians gave up on him and placed his brother Ptolemy Physcon on the throne. Antiochus placed Ptolemy back on the throne by force, this time as his ally backed up by a treaty of friendship and alliance.
Ptolemy Physcon is also known as Ptolemy VIII or Euergetes II. His nickname Physcon means ‘fat paunch.’ I am not sure which is worse: being deposed from the throne of Egypt by your brother or going through history with the nickname ‘fat paunch.’ Both of these things happened to Ptolemy VIII.
Eventually, Ptolemy VI made an alliance with his banished brother Physcon to get rid of Antiochus. Antiochus then marched against Egypt, but this time Rome intervened and told him to leave Egypt or face war with Rome. Popilius drew a circle around him in the sand and told him to make up his mind before he left it. He left in humiliation.
The “prince of the covenant” in verse 22 is probably Onias III, the high priest. Antiochus had him replaced by his brother, Joshua (who went by his Greek name Jason), in exchange for a large bribe. Jason was later replaced by Menelaus who offered a larger bribe. Menelaus had Onias III, the legitimate high priest, killed.
The “small people” in verse 23 refer to the small invasion force Antiochus used in his initial invasion of Egypt. The “richest parts of the province” refers not only to Egypt but also to the eastern provinces he invaded.
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 wage war with an exceedingly great and mighty army; but he shall not stand, for plots shall be devised against him. 26 Even those who eat his rich food shall be his undoing; his army shall be swept away, and many shall fall down slain.
Verse 25 describes the attack by Antiochus against Ptolemy Physcon (the king of the south in verse 25) in the attempt to put Ptolemy VI back on the throne. Those Egyptians still loyal to Ptolemy VI plotted against Physcon.
27 And as for the two kings, their minds shall be bent on mischief; they shall speak lies at the same table, but to no avail; for the end is yet to be at the time appointed.
The two kings, after the defeat of Ptolemy Physcon, were Antiochus IV and Ptolemy VI. As this verse suggests, they sat down and made a treaty after the defeat of Physcon, but already they were plotting against each other.
28 And he shall return to his land with great substance, but his heart shall be set against the holy covenant. And he shall work his will, and return to his own land.
Antiochus returned to his capital city of Antioch with a great deal of plundered wealth from Egypt. It is at this point that he set his mind against the “holy covenant”; that is, he began to persecute the Jews.
The deposed illegitimate high priest Jason had heard a rumor that Antiochus had died in Egypt. He thus took the city of Jerusalem and locked up the other illegitimate high priest Menelaus. Antiochus decided to get rid of the Jewish religion altogether. He took the city back, released Menelaus, killed 80,000 people, and robbed and desecrated the temple. (This occurred in 168 BC.)
29 “At the time appointed he shall return and come into the south; but it shall not be this time as it was before. 30 For ships of Kittim shall come against him, and he shall be afraid and withdraw, and shall turn back and be enraged and take action against the holy covenant. He shall turn back and give heed to those who forsake the holy covenant.
These verses predict Antiochus’ humiliation by Rome and his subsequent return to desecrate the temple in Jerusalem. Those “who forsake the holy covenant” in verse 30 are the allies of Menelaus who did not protest as Antiochus pillaged the temple.
The ships of Kittim are Roman ships. Kittim refers to Cyprus, which was under Roman dominion.
31 Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress, and shall take away the continual burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate.
This verse gives more details about the desecration of the temple that occurred in December 168 BC.
The “abomination that makes desolate” may refer to a statue of Jupiter that was set up in the inner sanctuary. In fact, the temple was renamed the temple of Zeus Olympius. It may also refer to the desecration of the altar that occurred when a pig was sacrificed and the temple was sprinkled with pig broth.
In Matthew 24:15, Jesus speaks of the abomination of desolation that Daniel the prophet spoke of. However, Jesus made it very clear that the event he was referring to had not yet occurred, but would occur soon. (See Matthew 24:34.) Thus, Matthew 24:15 cannot be referring to Daniel 11:31 since the event predicted by Daniel 11:31 came to pass before the birth of Christ. What was Jesus referring to then? Stay tuned…
32 He shall seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant; but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.
Antiochus was a master at winning over people with flattery and empty promises. He convinced many of the influential Jews to adopt his pro-Hellenic policies. These are the ones who “violate the covenant”; that is, they violated their covenant with God by compromising with the world.
One commentator notes:
In some ways this defection of the would-be “progressives” among the Jews themselves was an even more serious threat to the survival of Israel as a nation than the tyrannical measures of Antiochus. For it was the same kind of large-scale betrayal of their covenant obligations toward the Lord that had made inevitable the former destruction of Jerusalem and the Babylonian captivity in the days of Jeremiah.
Those who “stand firm and take action” are the Maccabees who stood up to Antiochus and started the revolt that eventually led to the first independent Jewish nation since before the Babylonian captivity.
Again, one commentator notes:
Their uncompromising commitment to faithful adherence to the Mosaic covenant and law resulted in the spiritual survival of the nation till the first coming of the Lord Jesus.
33 And those among the people who are wise shall make many understand, though they shall fall by sword and flame, by captivity and plunder, for some days.
The Maccabean leaders went throughout the countryside and preached a message of repentance and a return to the law of Moses. These are the “wise” that “make many understand.”
The patriots, however, suffered great hardship. Many lost their lives as Antiochus pursued them and burned their fields and cities.
34 When they fall, they shall receive a little help. And many shall join themselves to them with flattery;
Many of the initial leaders, including Mattathias himself, died early during the struggle. Those who were left received a “little help” from early supporters of their cause.
When it began to look like they were going to win, many more joined their cause. Many of these latter converts were insincere and only switched over to save their own necks.
35 and some of those who are wise shall fall, to refine and to cleanse them and to make them white, until the time of the end, for it is yet for the time appointed.
Many of the Jewish patriots faced death early in the struggle rather than retreat to save their lives. This verse stresses the spiritual meaning of the struggle. Those who fell lost their lives but saved their souls. Then as today, those who seek to save their life will lose it.
The context suggests that the time of the end in this verse is the end of the Jewish struggle with the Seleucids, which came in 142 when Judea became politically independent 25 years after the start of the rebellion. The Seleucids lasted a little longer but their power had been permanently broken. Again, we discover here that their end was a part of God’s plan for the Jews.
36 “And the king shall do according to his will; 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 determined shall be done.
Who is the king mentioned in verse 36? Verses 28–35 have been discussing the “king of the north” so it would seem that verse 36 is also discussing the “king of the north.” But who is this king of the north? (We have seen four different kings of the north so far.)
(1) Some say that the king of the north is Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who we have been reading about since verse 21. Although a cursory reading seems to make this choice the most likely, a more in-depth study leaves no doubt that verse 36 is no longer talking about Antiochus IV.
Antiochus IV never fought a war against Egypt after 168 BC. Thus, verses 40–43 cannot apply to him.
Antiochus IV never conquered Libya and Ethiopia as verse 43 suggests the king in verse 36 did.
Antiochus IV never had all the riches mentioned in verse 43. In fact, he robbed temples in his spare time to pay the Roman taxes.
(2) The premillennialists says that the king in verse 36 is the antichrist, who will show up just before Christ shows up to reign on earth for 1000 years.
As we have said, this view cannot possibly be correct since the vision is explicitly said to deal with the history of the Jews in the latter days, where we know from Acts 2 that the latter days occurred in the first century.
As we will see, this vision ends in AD 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Romans. Contextually there is no valid reason to insert a gap of at least several thousand years into this vision as the premillennialists try to do.
In short, this view has all of the problems associated with premillennialism, which as we have seen are legion.
(3) Who then is this king? Well, let’s look at the problem in reverse. We have said that this vision deals with Jewish history up to AD 70. Further, we have seen the Persians and the Greeks so far. Who haven’t we seen? Rome!
How could we possibly have a history of the Jews in the latter days that did not mention Rome? Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70. Rome fits in perfectly with the declared scope of this vision.
Also, as we will see, the description in verses 36–45 fits very well with what we know about Rome and the Roman rulers. (This will be made clear as we continue through the text.)
Which Roman king does verse 36 refer to? My own view is that the description in verses 36–40 does not refer to any single Roman ruler, but instead is a composite description of many Roman rulers, and in fact is a description of Rome itself.
I think verse 36 summarizes the Roman mindset from its emergence as a world power until its fall. This king does whatever he wants, he magnifies himself above every god, and sets himself against the true God. As we know, this fits very well with what we might call the “typical” Roman emperor.
Consider the following passage from 2 Thessalonians in which I think Paul is discussing the Roman emperor Domitian:
2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition, 4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.
And what is the indignation? I think it is the final outpouring of God’s wrath on Rome. Although this occurred long after AD 70, it is mentioned in this vision as a side comment. In fact, each time Rome is referred to, we are given a side comment to the effect that “they are getting it too one of these days!”
I think we see the same thing in Luke 21:24. There, Jesus is talking about the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of Rome, and he makes the following comment:
Luke 21:24 they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led captive among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
In Luke, Jesus says “Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” Here in Daniel 11:36, the angel says “he shall prosper till the indignation is accomplished.” I think that both of these verses are saying that “Yes, Jerusalem will be destroyed by the Romans, but the Romans are going to be destroyed as well.”
This is just a side comment, however. The fall of Rome is not part of the vision. Indeed, the vision ends at a time when Rome is still very much in power.
One objection to the identification of this king in verse 36 with Rome is that it causes a very abrupt change from verse 35. But we saw another abrupt change back in verse 3 when we switched from Persia to Greece. Back in Chapter 5, the narrative jumped from the reign of Nebuchadnezzar to the very end of the Babylonian empire. Abrupt changes are not uncommon at all in Daniel. Indeed, they seem to be the rule rather than the exception.
37 He shall give no heed to the gods of his fathers, or to the one beloved by women; he shall not give heed to any other god, for he shall magnify himself above all.
Here we see even further the arrogance of Rome and of the Roman rulers. As the Roman emperors began to deify themselves, all other ‘gods’ were pushed aside. The Roman rulers magnified themselves above all else.
The phrase “one beloved by women” is difficult to interpret. It may simply be the counterpart to the gods of their fathers; that is, they would pay no heed to the gods of their fathers or of their mothers. Or, perhaps there is a particular god the angel has in mind; one that was worshipped primarily by women.
A literal translation of the passage points to another possibility. Literally, the phrase is “the love of women”; that is, these rulers would pay no heed to the love of women. As we know, homosexuality was rampant in Rome, and it is possible that this verse is referring to the moral collapse of Rome, which we know from secular historians contributed to Rome’s fall.
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.
Rome only had one real god throughout its history. Rome worshipped power. Rome worshipped war. Rome’s god was the “god of fortresses.”
Rome did not care what type of religion you practiced just so long as you recognized their ultimate authority and you paid your taxes. Rome was not religiously zealous in the sense that they sought to convert those they conquered for religious reasons. Everything Rome did was for pragmatic reasons. They worshipped at the altar of perpetual power, and all of their resources were devoted to that god.
39 He shall deal with the strongest fortresses by the help of a foreign god; those who acknowledge him he shall magnify with honor. He shall make them rulers over many and shall divide the land for a price.
Rome used other nations and their “foreign gods” to accomplish its goals. In fact, Rome used anything and everything necessary to accomplish its goals.
This verse suggests that Rome would magnify with honor those who helped it and would divide the land for a price. Did Rome do this? Yes. Rome set up a system of client kingdoms around its border. Consider the following description found in the History of Rome by Michael Grant:
The client kings were tied to the service of Rome in order to defend its frontiers and serve as listening posts to the outside world. In return, they were supported by the Romans against internal subversive movements and allowed a free hand inside their own countries. Thus Rome was spared the trouble and expense of administering these territories; and the formula worked well.
In Chapter 2, Rome was pictured as being composed of iron mixed with clay. That is Rome was both strong and weak. The weakness came from these client kingdoms, which history tells us contributed to their downfall. This is also referred to in Revelation 17:12–17.
40 “At the time of the end the king of the south shall attack him; but the king of the north shall rush upon him like a whirlwind, with chariots and horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall come into countries and shall overflow and pass through.
The time of the end, as it did earlier, points to the time appointed by God for the events in the vision to have all come to pass. All it means here is that we are nearing the end of the vision.
The “king of the south” here is the Ptolemies of Egypt under Cleopatra VII aided by Marc Antony. Their push against Rome (the king of the north) led to Octavian’s declaration of war against Egypt.
Rome is pictured as rushing in like a whirlwind with ships and chariots. This began at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC, which ended the Ptolemy kingdom, which itself was the last vestige of the Grecian kingdom. Egypt itself fell to Octavian in 30 BC. Cleopatra and Marc Antony committed suicide at Alexandria when the country fell to the Romans.
Verse 40 very clearly indicates that the kingdom of the north under consideration here is Rome. Who else was attacked by Egypt during this time period? Who else so thoroughly conquered Egypt during this time period?
41 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.
The glorious land is Palestine, and of course as we know, Rome took control of the holy land in 63 BC when Pompey marched into Jerusalem.
Herod’s patron was Marc Antony. When Antony was defeated, Herod as you might suspect switched sides. Octavian realized the importance of Herod as a client king and thus confirmed his royal status.
The ‘tens of thousands’ who fell are those who were on the losing end of Rome’s continued expansion. As this verse points out, however, Rome had its share of failures.
Aelius Gallus’ expedition into Arabia for Augustus, for example, was not successful. Instead, he was betrayed by Obodas, chief minister of the king of the Nabathean Arabs, who forced Gallus to travel along a dangerous sea route by falsely telling him that there was no safe land route. This failed Arabian campaign may be what the angel has in mind here in verse 41.
42 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 Ethiopians shall follow in his train.
After the defeat of Cleopatra, Octavian confiscated the royal treasures of Egypt, just as verse 43 suggests. Michael Grant says that Octavian’s “seizure of the Cleopatra’s treasure made him wealthier than the Roman state itself.”
As for the Libyans and the Ethiopians, they were also part of the triumphal procession into the city of the Rome. (Antony and Cleopatra killed themselves to avoid appearing in just such a procession.)
Libya and Ethiopia, like Egypt, were conquered by Rome. Ethiopia fell in 22 BC. Libya had long been under Roman domination, but was claimed by Cleopatra when she marched against Rome. Rome, of course, retained control.
44 But tidings from the east and the north shall alarm him, and he shall go forth with great fury to exterminate and utterly destroy many.
Again, we are reminded that all was not well with Rome. Rome’s biggest threats came from the east and the north, just as this verse suggests.
The Germanic hordes and the Gauls were north of Rome and the Parthians were east of Rome.
Parthia was an Iranian feudal empire beyond the Euphrates that had broken away from the Seleucids in the third century BC. In the first century BC, they were only the substantial foreign power confronting Rome anywhere in the world.
Later in Rome’s history, the threat shifted to the north. In fact, the city of Rome itself was sacked in AD 410 by Alaric, a (Germanic) Visigoth from the north. That event marked the first time in 800 years that the city had been taken by a foreign invader.
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.
This verse shows that Rome would be firmly in control of Palestine, as in fact it was. The “sea” in Hebrew is plural and refers most probably to the Dead Sea and the Mediterranean.
Again, we are given a side comment to the effect that Rome is not going to be around forever. The fall of Rome is not a part of this vision because it takes place far outside the clearly stated time frame and it has nothing at all to do with the Jews. Even so, the angel makes it clear to Daniel that Rome would not be around forever. They also would come to an end as a part of God’s plan.
Notice the time frame of this verse. Rome is in control of Palestine and Egypt has been defeated. What happens next? Jesus is born! The very next verse begins with the phrase “at that time.” Which time? During the time of Roman rule. This time frame will be crucial to understanding Chapter 12. (It will also help us avoid a very common pitfall in Chapter 12.)
God's Plan of Salvation
You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)
You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)
You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)
Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!
Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)