Daniel 11 as History

Much of the prophecy in Daniel 11 has already happened. Some of it is still in the future. This chart compares historical events with the prophecy so we can tell what are past, and what are future events.

11:2-4, And now I will tell you the truth: Behold, three more kings will arise in Persia, and the fourth shall be far richer than them all; by his strength, through his riches, he shall stir up all against the kingdom of Greece. Then a mighty king shall arise, who shall rule with great dominion and do according to his will. 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 which he ruled; for his kingdom shall be plucked up and go to others beside these.
Alexander the Great arose from Greece and defeated Darius III to take rule over the known world which was under Persian rule.Not long after claiming rule, Alexander died suddenly at the age of 33. He had no children to take his new kingdom, so it was divided among his four top generals.

This division sets the stage for “North (Seleucids)” and “South (Ptolemies)” Kingdoms.

The Northern ranged from Greek through Iran. The Southern Kingdom was Egypt with the Middle East.

From Israel, the Northern Kingdom is Selecids, the Southern Kingdom is Ptolemies.

The struggles between the Ptolemies and the Seleucids:
11:5, Then the king of the south shall be strong, but one of his princes will be stronger than he and his dominion shall be a great dominion.
The strong king of the south is Ptolemy II Philadelphus (283-246 BCE), The prince, Ptolemy III Euergetes (246-221), was his successor who was an even stronger ruler.
11:6, 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.
Ptolemy II’s daughter, Berenice, married the north king Antiochus II Theos bringing a short lived alliance. Berenice’s children were to be the new heirs to the throne. But Antiochus left later returned to his first wife and Berenice and her children were all killed.
11:7, In those times a branch from her roots shall arise in his place; he shall come against the army and fortress of the king of the north, and he shall deal with them and shall prevail.
Berenice’s brother (the branch), Ptolemy III (already mentioned as the ‘strong prince’) waged a war against the northern king Seleucus, which was known as the 3rd Syrian War (245-241 BCE), and won taking the capital at Antioch.
11:8, 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 III carried back to Egypt immense booty and 2,500 molten images and idolatrous vessels with 40,000 talents of silver.
11:9, Then the latter shall come into the realm of the king of the south but shall return into his own land.
Seleucus II then undertook an anabasis to regain Parthia, in Ptolemy territory, the results of which came to nothing. According to some sources, he was even taken prisoner for several years by the Parthian king.
11:10, His sons shall wage war and assemble a multitude of great forces, which shall come on and overflow and pass through, and again carry the war as far as his fortress.
Seleucus II’s son, Antiochus III the Great, took his forces all the way to Ptolemais, retaking all the territories lost to Ptolemy III, who was now succeeded by Ptolemy IV Philopator.
11:11-13, The 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. And when the multitude is taken, his heart shall be exalted, and he shall cast down tens of thousands, but he shall not prevail. For the king of the north shall again rise a multitude, greater than the former; and after some years he shall come on with a great army and abundant supplies.
Ptolemy IV responded quickly the following year at Raphia. Antiochus III lost at Raphia, but this was only a setback, for he was soon organizing his next move.Antiochus waged another war some time later and won back the land taken by the south.
11:14, In those days many shall rise up against the king of the south; and the men of violence among your own people shall lift themselves up in order to fulfill the vision; but they shall fail.
This could refer to an account found in the orthodox book of 3 Maccabees.Ptolemy IV went to Jerusalem to make a sacrifice and attempted to enter the Temple but was prevented. He hated the jews (Daniel’s own people) for this and attempted to kill many of them.

(NOTE: The story is considered legendary by some, however there could be some truth to the book?)

11:15-16, Then the king of the north shall come and throw up siege-works, 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. 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.
Antiochus III was now ready to take a bite out of the south. The death of Ptolemy IV shown opportunity to attack Egypt at Gaza (the well fortified City).Then he turned against the jews in Judea (the glorious land) and won the land.
11:17-18, 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. Afterwards 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 on him.
After the wars, an attempt at peace with Egypt is made when Antiochus III offers his daughter Cleopatra I in marriage to the new king Ptolemy V.It doesn’t work, Ptolemy V works with Rome to attack Antiochus. Rome attacked Antiochus because he went after the coastlands of Asia Minor.

Rome won which resulted in Antiochus loosing newly claimed land.

11:19, 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 then turn back to his own land in Iran. Antiochus mounted a fresh expedition to the east in Luristan, where he died in an attempt to rob a temple at Elymaïs, Persia, in 187 BC.
11:20, 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 left The Seleucid kingdom to his son Seleucus IV Philopator.The war with Rome left his kingdom in financial stress. In turn he was assassinated (broken, neither in anger nor in battle) by his minister, Heliodorus, because of his policies.
2 Maccabees 3:1-28 reports Seleucus tried to take treasures from the temple in Jerusalem, possibly the meaning of “exactor of tribute.”
11:21-24, 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.
Armies shall be utterly swept away before him and broken, and the prince of the covenant also. And from the time that an alliance is made with him he shall act deceitfully; and shall become strong with a small people.
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 21-24 are a brief account of Antiochus IV, the verses after 25 go into more detail.The throne of Seleucus had no heir, because his son, Demetrius, was prisoner in Rome. He was a prisoner in exchange for Antiochus IV, son of the previous king Antiochus III. Antiochus IV took advantage of the empty throne and established himself as king.

Antiochus lead a few campaigns against Egypt, and warred with Israel(the prince of the covenant) and other countries through his reign. He was able to avid Roman Intervention By leaving the King of Egypt on the throne, but only as a puppet king. He later invaded Egypt again, under the rule of Ptolemy VI Philometor. After leaving Egypt, he took Israel which was under Egyptian rule.

Israel was treated harsher by Antiochus than any king before. He taxed them, literally, to death, then killed them some more. He striped their freedom of religion too.

11:25-26, 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. Even those who eat his rich food shall be his undoing; his army shall be swept away, and many shall fall down slain.
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.
Verses 21-24 were an overview, now we go into more detail.Antiochus IV invades Egypt for his first time. He captures most of it. Antiochus leaves Egypt with it’s king, Ptolemy VI, on the throne, as a part of an agreement; Ptolemy is to be a puppet king to Antiochus.

Ptolemy was eventually driven off the throne by his members of his own family, where he would go to Rome for help.

The two kings could refer to Ptolemy and his younger brother who ruled jointly.

Birth of Hanukkah
11:28, 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 IV returned to his kingdom after his victory, passing through Israel as he went north. He wanted to Hellenize the Jews there, so his heart was “ against the holy covenant.” He passed laws making it illegal to worship God and replaced him with Zeus.
11:29-30a, At this time appointed he shall return into the south; but it shall not be this time as before. The ships of the Kittim shall come against him, and he shall be afraid and withdraw”.
Antiochus IV returned to Egypt again, the outcast Ptolemy VI was ahead of him this time. Having told Rome(Kitttim, west of Israel) what Antiochus was up to, Rome sent her ships after Antiochus and found him invading. Having almost won the war, he was caught by the Roman,Gaius Popillius Laenas
11:30b-31, and [he] 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. 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 desolation.
Being threatened, he ran and withdrew from Egypt. He was furious and turned his wrath on the Jewish nation of Israel.He wanted so bad to make the Jews into Greeks he killed anyone who resisted Hellenization, built a statue of Zeus at the temple for worship, and sacrificed a pig on the alter of the holy temple. To a Jew, pig sacrifice was a very unholy thing. This was the “abomination that makes desolation.“
11:32-33, He shall seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant; but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action. And those among the people who are wise shall make many understand, though they shall fall by the sword and flame, by captivity and plunder, for some days.
Whomever worships Zeus was safe from his hand, but those who didn’t were severely persecuted. They held out for some years.
11:34-35, When they fall, they shall receive a little help. And many shall join themselves to them with flattery; 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.
Antiochus died suddenly after he had his way with Israel. So God’s people prevailed and the Temple restored. The final stand against Antiochus marks the beginning of the Jewish holiday Hanukkah.
What never happened (or is yet to happen)
36-44 “Then the king shall do according to his own will: he shall exalt and magnify himself above every god, shall speak blasphemies against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the wrath has been accomplished; for what has been determined shall be done. 37 He shall regard neither the God of his fathers nor the desire of women, nor regard any god; for he shall exalt himself above them all. 38 But in their place he shall honor a god of fortresses; and a god which his fathers did not know he shall honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and pleasant things. 39 Thus he shall act against the strongest fortresses with a foreign god, which he shall acknowledge, and advance its glory; and he shall cause them to rule over many, and divide the land for gain.40 “At the time of the end the king of the South shall attack him; and the king of the North shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter the countries, overwhelm them, and pass through. 41 He shall also enter the Glorious Land, and many countries shall be overthrown; but these shall escape from his hand: Edom, Moab, and the prominent people of Ammon. 42 He shall stretch out his hand against the countries, and the land of Egypt shall not escape. 43 He shall have power over the treasures of gold and silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt; also the Libyans and Ethiopians shall follow at his heels. 44 But news from the east and the north shall trouble him; therefore he shall go out with great fury to destroy and annihilate many. 45 And he shall plant the tents of his palace between the seas and the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and no one will help him.
The Verses following 36 cannot be linked with actual historical events. They tell of the last days(the time of the end) where the northern king will position himself as a god to be worshiped, and will be attacked by the Southern King.After the attack, the Northern King will dominate and overtake many countries. Yet his time will also come to an end.

So now the question remains, why did this not happen? Why does it seem to be reserved for a future event?

The answer may be confusing at first, but Paul speaks of “the dispensation of the mystery” a time which was never prophesied. We are living in it now. It is an unforetold gap in prophetic history, put here by God to save the Gentiles until Israel is ready.

You can read more about this here.

If you want to read about what actually happened after Hanukkah, click here. You scroll to Wikipedia’s timeline at the bottom of the page to see what happens to Antiochus.

In short the Romans crush the empire after his son takes the throne to rule for the next few hundred years.