Chapter 11 continues the vision of chapter 10. The Lord God himself shows Daniel the wars and succession of kings in the Persian and Grecian Empires. The year 535 BC marked about 70 years of the Jews’ captivity in Babylon. At this time, some of the Jews returned to their own country and began to rebuild the Temple as Cyrus had given them permission to do.
This vision deals mainly with the kings of Egypt and Syria after the conquest of Judea by Alexander in 330 BC. The Jewish homeland lay between their dominions and suffered as the Egyptian and Syrian armies marched back and forth across their land.
Together with chapter 12, Daniel 11 gives a far more detailed and accurate prophecy than the first four visions of Daniel. A case could be made that this is the most detailed and accurate prophecy in the Bible. What follows is an overview, but for a more in-depth treatment with corroborating historical sources, read “Part III: Historical Background and Resources,” the sections on the “Third Kingdom” and “Fourth Kingdom.”
1. Also I in the first year of Darius the Mede, even I, stood to confirm and to strengthen him.
In the first year of Darius the Mede — When Babylon was subdued by the Medes and Persians in 539 BC, Darius took command of the empire. The two rulers, Cyrus and Darius, began simultaneously. By the time of this prophecy, Cyrus had already ruled for three years, but Darius had previously ruled for just one year. Although the vision occurs in the third year of the reign of Cyrus the Persian (535 BC), Daniel is told by the angel of events three years earlier during the first year of the reign of Darius the Mede.
2. And now will I shew thee the truth. Behold, there shall stand up yet three kings in Persia; and the fourth shall be far richer than they all: and by his strength through his riches he shall stir up all against the realm of Grecia.
Three kings — the first, Cambyses the son of Cyrus (530-522 BC); the second, Smerdis Magus (522 BC); the third, Darius the son of Hystaspes (521-486 BC).
The fourth — Xerxes (486-465 BC)
3. And a mighty king shall stand up, that shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will.
4. And when he shall stand up, his kingdom shall be broken, and shall be divided toward the four winds of heaven; and not to his posterity, nor according to his dominion which he ruled: for his kingdom shall be plucked up, even for others beside those.
A mighty king shall stand up — Alexander the Great, whose rule and life ended as soon as he conquered the world. His kingdom was divided among Antigonus, Cassander, Ptolemy and Seleucus.
5. And the king of the south shall be strong, and one of his princes; and he shall be strong above him, and have dominion; his dominion shall be a great dominion.
The king of the south — Ptolemy I Soter, the son of Lagus, king of Egypt, which lies south of Jerusalem.
One of his princes — One of Alexander’s princes, Seleucus I Nicator. A former general of Alexander the Great, Seleucus seized control of the Asian segment of the empire following Alexander’s death and founded the Seleucid Dynasty, which ruled from 312 to 64 BC.
Shall be strong above him — Shall be stronger than the king of Egypt. The angel speaks of Seleucus I Nicator, king of Asia Minor and Syria, whose successors are here called the kings of the north, because their dominions lay to the north of Jerusalem.
6. And in the end of years they shall join themselves together; for the king’s daughter of the south shall come to the king of the north to make an agreement: but she shall not retain the power of the arm; neither shall he stand, nor his arm: but she shall be given up, and they that brought her, and he that begat her, and he that strengthened her in these times.
The king’s daughter of the south — Berenice, daughter of Ptolemy II Philadelphus, married to Antiochus II Theos, the grandson of Seleucus.
7. But out of a branch of her roots shall one stand up in his estate, which shall come with an army, and shall enter into the fortress of the king of the north, and shall deal against them, and shall prevail:
A branch of her roots — Ptolemy III Euergetes, the son of Ptolemy II Philadelphus.
8. And shall also carry captives into Egypt their gods, with their princes, and with their precious vessels of silver and of gold; and he shall continue more years than the king of the north.
The king of the north — Seleucus II Callinicus, King of Syria (246-225 BC).
9. So the king of the south shall come into his kingdom, and shall return into his own land.
10. But his sons shall be stirred up, and shall assemble a multitude of great forces: and one shall certainly come, and overflow, and pass through: then shall he return, and be stirred up, even to his fortress.
His sons — Seleucus III Soter (also called Ceraunus) and Antiochus III the Great, the sons of Seleucus II Callinicus.
One shall certainly come — Antiochus III the Great.
11. And the king of the south shall be moved with choler, and shall come forth and fight with him, even with the king of the north: and he shall set forth a great multitude; but the multitude shall be given into his hand.
The king of the south — Ptolemy IV Philopator, son of Ptolemy III Euergetes.
12. And when he hath taken away the multitude, his heart shall be lifted up; and he shall cast down many ten thousands: but he shall not be strengthened by it.
13. For the king of the north shall return, and shall set forth a multitude greater than the former, and shall certainly come after certain years with a great army and with much riches.
14. And in those times there shall many stand up against the king of the south: also the robbers of thy people shall exalt themselves to establish the vision; but they shall fall.
15. So the king of the north shall come, and cast up a mount, and take the most fenced cities: and the arms of the south shall not withstand, neither his chosen people, neither shall there be any strength to withstand.
16. But he that cometh against him shall do according to his own will, and none shall stand before him: and he shall stand in the glorious land, which by his hand shall be consumed.
He that cometh against him — Antiochus III the Great fought against the king of the south, Ptolemy V Epiphanes.
The glorious land — Judea
17. He shall also set his face to enter with the strength of his whole kingdom, and upright ones with him; thus shall he do: and he shall give him the daughter of women, corrupting her: but she shall not stand on his side, neither be for him.
He … his whole kingdom —That is, Antiochus III the Great hatched a plot to make Egypt subservient to Syria.
The daughter of women — Antiochus the Great gave his daughter, Cleopatra I Syra, to Ptolemy V Epiphanes in order to influence him, but this plot did not succeed because Cleopatra took the interests of her husband more to heart than those of her father.
18. After this shall he turn his face unto the isles, and shall take many: but a prince for his own behalf shall cause the reproach offered by him to cease; without his own reproach he shall cause it to turn upon him.
A prince — Scipio Asiaticus, the Roman general.
Shall cause the reproach — Scipio is here called a prince who shall cause the reproach because he overthrew Antiochus and made him submit to very dishonorable terms before he would end the war. He caused the reproach on the Romans to cease and turned it back on Antiochus III.
The reference is to the disgrace brought on the Roman armies by the conquests of Antiochus. Antiochus had seemed to mock that power; he had engaged in war with the conquerors of nations; he had gained victories, and thus appeared to insult the majesty of the Roman name. All this was turned back again, or caused to cease, by the victories of Scipio (Barnes’ Notes on the Whole Bible).
19. Then he shall turn his face toward the fort of his own land: but he shall stumble and fall, and not be found.
He shall stumble and fall — Then Scipio turned to make war against the Romans, but was defeated by Scipio Africanus. After this, Antiochus III returned to his own land. He was slain by his own people who were aroused to fury by the burdensome taxes exacted to defray the expenses of his unsuccessful war and the resulting tribute laid upon him by the Romans.
20. Then shall stand up in his estate a raiser of taxes in the glory of the kingdom: but within few days he shall be destroyed, neither in anger, nor in battle.
A raiser of taxes — Seleucus IV Philopator, who sent Heliodorus to plunder the Temple at Jerusalem, and was shortly thereafter slain by Heliodorus.
21. And in his estate shall stand up a vile person, to whom they shall not give the honour of the kingdom: but he shall come in peaceably, and obtain the kingdom by flatteries.
A vile person — Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the son of Antiochus the Great, dethroned Heliodorus without bloodshed. However, Antiochus was at first not received as king.
22. And with the arms of a flood shall they be overflown from before him, and shall be broken; yea, also the prince of the covenant.
The prince of the covenant — The king of Egypt, Ptolemy VI Philometor, the most powerful adversary of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, formed a league and conspired to fight against him.
23. And after the league made with him he shall work deceitfully: for he shall come up, and shall become strong with a small people.
24. He shall enter peaceably even upon the fattest places of the province; and he shall do that which his fathers have not done, nor his fathers’ fathers; he shall scatter among them the prey, and spoil, and riches: yea, and he shall forecast his devices against the strong holds, even for a time.
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 be stirred up to battle with a very great and mighty army; but he shall not stand: for they shall forecast devices against him.
The king of the south — Ptolemy VI Philometor, the king of Egypt. Daniel 11:25 foretells this ruler’s military expedition against Egypt. 2 Maccabees 5 gives a full account of this campaign which occurred in 170 BC.
26. Yea, they that feed of the portion of his meat shall destroy him, and his army shall overflow: and many shall fall down slain.
27. And both of these kings’ hearts shall be to do mischief, and they shall speak lies at one table; but it shall not prosper: for yet the end shall be at the time appointed.
28. Then shall he return into his land with great riches; and his heart shall be against the holy covenant; and he shall do exploits, and return to his own land.
29. At the time appointed he shall return, and come toward the south; but it shall not be as the former, or as the latter.
30. For the ships of Chittim shall come against him: therefore he shall be grieved, and return, and have indignation against the holy covenant: so shall he do; he shall even return, and have intelligence with them that forsake the holy covenant.
The ships of Chittim — At this time, “Chittim” denoted all the islands and coasts of the Mediterranean west of Palestine. The ships of Chittim are the ships of the Romans. Popilius and other Roman ambassadors came in galleys and made Antiochus depart from Egypt.
31. And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate.
The sanctuary of strength — The Temple at Jerusalem.
They shall place the abomination that maketh desolate — Antiochus ordered the idol of Jupiter Olympus to be set up and slaughtered a pig in the sanctuary of the Temple.
The remainder of this Fifth Vision is difficult, and commentators differ greatly in their interpretations. Futurists interpret these verses to apply to a future Antichrist. However, in the context of history, the remaining verses of the vision must pertain to the Maccabean revolt against Antiochus Epiphanes, the cruel and violent persecutor of the Jews, and the time when Judea became again partially dominated by Syria and then by the Romans.
32. And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt by flatteries: but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.
The people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits — This refers to the revolt of the Judean people against Antiochus IV Epiphanes led by Judas Maccabeus.
33. And they that understand among the people shall instruct many: yet they shall fall by the sword, and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil, many days.
Yet they shall fall by the sword — Judea is plagued once again by wars with the Syrians and surrounding nations and internal civil wars until the time of Julius Caesar.
34. Now when they shall fall, they shall be holpen with a little help: but many shall cleave to them with flatteries.
35. And some of them of understanding shall fall, to try them, and to purge, and to make them white, even to the time of the end: because it is yet for a time appointed.
36. And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvelous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done.
The king — This speaks of the line of Caesars and especially the conquest of Julius and his adopted son Augustus who were proclaimed to be gods.
He shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god — After a series of Roman civil wars, Augustus Caesar assumed the role of emperor and was considered “The Son of God” and the “Savior of the World” according to Roman inscriptions. In Acts 4:12, Peter refers to the folly of this statement: “For there is none other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
37. Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all.
38. But in his estate shall he honour the God of forces: and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honour with gold, and silver, and with precious stones, and pleasant things.
The God of forces — Literally, the god “Maozim.” The Roman emperors claimed divinity for themselves. It was by “forces” that they extended and maintained their power, and enforced the worship they demanded. In the following verses, some see a reference to Herod, others to Julius or Augustus Caesar. In any case, the time of the Roman Empire is the subject of the rest of the vision.
39. Thus shall he do in the most strong holds with a strange god, whom he shall acknowledge and increase with glory: and he shall cause them to rule over many, and shall divide the land for gain.
40. And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over.
41. He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon.
At the time of the end — This is not “the end” in an eschatological sense, but the end of the time period prophesied by Daniel, the time of the Roman Caesars, “in the days of these kings” (Daniel 2:44).
Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon — Julius Caesar extended the Roman Empire as far east as Arabia to the lands of Edom, Moab, and Ammon.
42. He shall stretch forth his hand also upon the countries: and the land of Egypt shall not escape.
43 But he shall have power over the treasures of gold and of silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt: and the Libyans and the Ethiopians shall be at his steps.
He shall have power … over all the precious things of Egypt — Julius Caesar took his army to Egypt, where he defeated Ptolemy XIII.
The Libyans and the Ethiopians shall be at his steps — Julius Caesar conquered all of Egypt and extended the Roman Empire as far south as Ethiopia and to the coastline of Libya and northern Africa.
44. But tidings out of the east and out of the north shall trouble him: therefore he shall go forth with great fury to destroy, and utterly to make away many.
45. And he shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him.
Tidings out of the east and out of the north shall trouble him — Even while Julius was conquering the southern part of the empire, a rebellion had broken out at Roman province of Pontus in Asia Minor. There he defeated Pharnaces II, saying, “Veni. Vidi. Vici.” – “I came. I saw. I conquered.”
And he shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain — Julius Caesar passed through Judea and Syria on his way to fight Pharnaces. He entered into an alliance that favored Judea after the Jews, led by John Hyrcanus II and Antipater I the Idumean, came to his aid and rescued him during the Battle of the Nile against Ptolemy XIII.
Yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him — Julius was assassinated in Rome by those closest to him. This brings us to the rule of Augustus Caesar who was the Roman emperor at the birth of Jesus the Messiah (Luke 2:1).