Daniel 11.1-20

In our study of Daniel 10 we saw that a divine messenger was sent to Daniel so that he would have “an understanding of what will happen to your people in the latter days…” (Daniel 10.14) and that Daniel would be told “what is inscribed in the writing of truth” (Daniel 10.21). God, the Ruler of the realms of mankind, knew what would transpire in the future thus His message to Daniel was true. And as we will see, the Lord knew the details of what would transpire and how these events would affect His people.

Daniel 11:1 (NASB95) 1 “In the first year of Darius the Mede, I arose to be an encouragement and a protection for him.

Rather than offer commentary on individual verses, our aim in this lesson will be to provide a sketch of the historical events covered in these verses. But before we look at these events we should note that vs. 1 ties us back to the end of chapter 10. That chapter concluded with the divine messenger revealing to Daniel that only Michael stood with the messenger against the princes of Persia and Greece. Now we see that in the first year of Cyrus (Darius either being a governor under Cyrus or another name for the Persian king), this messenger arose to encourage and protect Michael (the “him” in this verse refers back to Michael, not to Darius). The point would seem to be that even though it was Cyrus who proclaimed a release to the Jewish captives (Ezra 1), this occurred only because the forces of the Lord were fighting for them.

Daniel 11:2–4 (NASB95)

2 “And now I will tell you the truth. Behold, three more kings are going to arise in Persia. Then a fourth will gain far more riches than all of them; as soon as he becomes strong through his riches, he will arouse the whole empire against the realm of Greece. 3 “And a mighty king will arise, and he will rule with great authority and do as he pleases. 4 “But as soon as he has arisen, his kingdom will be broken up and parceled out toward the four points of the compass, though not to his owndescendants, nor according to his authority which he wielded, for his sovereignty will be uprooted and given to others besides them.  

Cyrus was succeeded as ruler of the Persian empire by Cambyses, Smerdis, Darius and then Xerxes. These are the kings referenced in Daniel 11.2 and it was Xerxes who was arguably the riches of the Persian kings and the one who was most involved with battles against the Greeks. This verse spans about 70 years of Persian history. Then we skip ~130 years to the time of Alexander the Great who took the throne of Macedon in 336 B.C. (Daniel 11.3). Within 5 years he had toppled the Persian empire. However, Alexander died in 323 B.C. and a 20 year struggle for the throne ensued. Ultimately, Alexander’s descendants would not rule and the Greek empire was parceled out among his generals (Daniel 11.4; cf. 8.22). “Two of those divisions were in the Aegean region (Cassander had Greece and Macedonia; Lysimachus had Thrace), while the other two divided up the Near East (Ptolemy had Egypt and Palestine; Seleucus had Syria, Mesopotamia and Persia). The Ptolemaic line is going to represented by ‘the king of the South,’ while the Seleucid line will be represented by ‘the king of the North.’” (IVP Bible Background Commentary)

Daniel 11:5–9 (NASB95)

5 “Then the king of the South will grow strong, along with one of his princes who will gain ascendancy over him and obtain dominion; his domain will be a great dominion indeed. 6 “After some years they will form an alliance, and the daughter of the king of the South will come to the king of the North to carry out a peaceful arrangement. But she will not retain her position of power, nor will he remain with his power, but she will be given up, along with those who brought her in and the one who sired her as well as he who supported her in those times. 7 “But one of the descendants of her line will arise in his place, and he will come against their army and enter the fortress of the king of the North, and he will deal with them and display great strength. 8 “Also their gods with their metal images and their precious vessels of silver and gold he will take into captivity to Egypt, and he on his part will refrain from attacking the king of the North for someyears. 9 “Then the latter will enter the realm of the king of the South, but will return to his own land.  

Ptolemy I was a key figure in the 20 year power struggle that followed Alexander’s death. Seleucus I served as a general under Ptolemy. Ultimately, Ptolemy was able to proclaim himself as king of Egypt in 306 B.C. and Seleucus gained control of Babylon and the territory to the east (Daniel 11.5). Significantly, Palestine was supposed to be part of Seleucus’ territory, but Ptolemy claimed it for himself before Syrian forces could take control. For the next 40 years Egypt (Ptolemy) and Syria (Seleucus) would be at war. However, “About 252, Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285–246) sent his daughter, Berenice, with her entourage to marry the Seleucid king, Antiochus II Theos (261–246), and thereby to establish an alliance between their kingdoms. The alliance would give Ptolemy control of Syria and Antiochus control of Asia Minor. The fragile relationship held for a couple of years, and Berenice had a child, but a former wife of Antiochus, Laodice, whose sons had been cut off from succession, allegedly poisoned Antiochus and consequently had Berenice and her son (along with many from her entourage) murdered. Ptolemy II also had died in that year. Needless to say, the alliance crumbled and the next fifty years are full of tumultuous warfare between the two kingdoms.” (IVP Bible Background Commentary). These are the events related in Daniel 11.6.  The new king of Egypt, and brother to Bernice, responded by invading Syria, conquering much territory and taking much plunder (Daniel 11.7-8). In 243 B.C. Seleucus II, son of Laodice, unsuccessfully attempted to fight against Egypt and to gain control of Palestine. (Daniel 11.9). 

Daniel 11:10–19 (NASB95)

10 “His sons will mobilize and assemble a multitude of great forces; and one of them will keep on coming and overflow and pass through, that he may again wage war up to his very fortress. 11 “The king of the South will be enraged and go forth and fight with the king of the North. Then the latter will raise a great multitude, but that multitude will be given into the hand of the former. 12 “When the multitude is carried away, his heart will be lifted up, and he will cause tens of thousands to fall; yet he will not prevail. 13 “For the king of the North will again raise a greater multitude than the former, and after an interval of some years he will press on with a great army and much equipment. 14 “Now in those times many will rise up against the king of the South; the violent ones among your people will also lift themselves up in order to fulfill the vision, but they will fall down. 15 “Then the king of the North will come, cast up a siege ramp and capture a well-fortified city; and the forces of the South will not stand their ground, not even their choicest troops, for there will be no strength to make a stand. 16 “But he who comes against him will do as he pleases, and no one will be able to withstand him; he will also stay for a time in the Beautiful Land, with destruction in his hand. 17 “He will set his face to come with the power of his whole kingdom, bringing with him a proposal of peace which he will put into effect; he will also give him the daughter of women to ruin it. But she will not take a stand for him or be on his side. 18 “Then he will turn his face to the coastlands and capture many. But a commander will put a stop to his scorn against him; moreover, he will repay him for his scorn. 19 “So he will turn his face toward the fortresses of his own land, but he will stumble and fall and be found no more.  

Seleucus II was succeeded for a brief time by his son Seleucus III, but after he died in battle another son of Seleucus II took the throne. This was Antiochus III the Great who ruled over Syria from 223-187 B.C. This “king of the North” is the main subject of Daniel 11.10-19. 

  • Daniel 11.12-13 – “In 217 Ptolemy IV engaged Antiochus III at the Battle of Raphia for what would turn out to be the climactic battle of the Fourth Syrian War. Raphia was a traditional dividing line between Palestine and Egypt, about twenty miles southwest of Gaza on the Mediterranean coast. Antiochus claimed an army of seventy thousand, but even with the superior size of his armies he was beaten badly by the Egyptians. This victory restored Syro-Palestine to the control of the Ptolemies. This status was maintained until the death of Ptolemy IV in 204. The suspicious circumstances of the death of Ptolemy IV (still in his thirties) brought his six-year-old son, Ptolemy V Epiphanes (204–180), to the throne of Egypt. Antiochus took the opportunity of conflict over who was in charge to initiate the Fifth Syrian War (202–200), allied with Philip V of Macedon.” (IVP Bible Background Commentary)
  • Daniel 11.14-16 – Antiochus was able to gain temporary control of Palestine in 201, but he was ultimately pushed back by Egyptian forces. However, at the Battle of Panion in 200 B.C. Antiochus defeated the Egyptians and took firm control of Palestine. Vs. 14 speaks of “violent ones among your people”. Historically, it is unclear of any specific event that this verse may reference. The point would seem to be that the opinion of many Jews was against the Ptolemies and they were now in favor of Syrian rule. “Josephus (Ant. 12.3.3–4) says that the Jews in Jerusalem were divided into pro-Ptolemaic and pro-Seleucid factions. According to him, when Antiochus visited Jerusalem after gaining control of Palestine, he was well received and guaranteed the Jews freedom to live by their ancestral laws.” (Zondervan Illustrated Bible Background Commentary)
  • Daniel 11.17-19 – While the message to Daniel concerned itself with events between Egypt and Syria (because Jerusalem lay between the two powers), other events were transpiring in the world that would shift the balance of global power. Rome had been encroaching on Greek territory and had established control of mainland Greece by 196 B.C. Some Greeks appealed to Antiochus for help and he was willing. But first, he needed to neutralize Egypt. He sought to do so by sending his daughter, Cleopatra, to be Ptolemy V’s bride. Antiochus had hoped that his daughter would spy for him, but instead she chose loyalty to her husband. Meanwhile, Antiochus suffered a string of defeats at the hands of the Romans who were under the command of Scipio. A much smaller Roman force soundly defeated the larger army of Antiochus at Magnesia (~ 50 miles north of Ephesus). Antiochus was forced to accept the Roman terms of surrender, including sending his son Antiochus IV to Rome as captive. “By the Treaty of Apmea in 189 Antiochus became a vassal of Rome, had to send twenty hostages to Rome, and paid a huge indemnity. This left him humiliated and short of funds… In 187 b.c. Antiochus and his followers were assassinated by the local people when he tried to plunder the treasury of the temple of Bel in Elymais in Persia in order to pay his tribute to Rome” (Zondervan Illustrated Bible Background Commentary)

Daniel 11:20 (NASB95)

20 “Then in his place one will arise who will send an oppressor through the Jewel of his kingdom; yet within a few days he will be shattered, though not in anger nor in battle.  

Antiochus III was succeeded by his son, Seleucus IV (187-175 B.C.). His reign was relatively peaceful, but he did on one occasion send an official to Jerusalem to seize funds from the Temple treasury. Jewish literature claims that the official was prevented from doing so by a divine vision. Seleucus was later assassinated by the same official he had sent to loot the Temple (Daniel 11.20). He would ultimately be succeeded by his brother, Antiochus IV. Much of the remaining message concerns this wicked king.


  1. The case for Divine inspiration. As we noted in the introductory material to Daniel, the date for the composition of the book has been the topic of much debate over the last few centuries. As discussed then, the evidence points to the book being written by Daniel in the 6th century B.C. Yet, many advocate for an author in the 2nd century B.C. Their reason? They do not believe in predictive prophecy; they do not believe in a sovereign God. One of the chief values of this book for us is that it shows there is a God who knows what will transpire and can reveal that to His servants. The detail of the revelation in Daniel 11 should only bolster our faith.
  2. God always rules in the realm of mankind. When Nebuchadnezzar exalted himself against Jehovah God, he was humbled until he recognized that “the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes” (Daniel 4.17,25,32). It would seem that the point of the visions in the latter portion of Daniel is to emphasize that not only did Jehovah rule in the days of Babylon and Persia, but His sovereign rule would continue. He did not necessarily determining what nations and kings would do (note that Nebuchadnezzar had the opportunity to repent and not suffer God’s wrath, see Daniel 4.27), but He knew what would transpire and how the events of the future would affect His people. This fact should give God’s people needed perspective. Our God knew everything that would transpire last year, last decade, last century. He knows what will transpire this year, this decade and this century. That knowledge is not given to us, yet we can take comfort in knowing that if we follow Him, He will take care of us day by day.

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