Today's lesson will look at God'w word to Daniel of what would transpire between the time of Cyrus the Great and Antiochus IV Epiphanies.
In response to Daniel’s prayer, God sent an angel to give Daniel a message. This message was prophetic: God gave Daniel an overview of history from Daniel’s time (late 6th century B.C.) until God’s final victory. God ordains and knows the future. Isaiah 46:9-11 says “I am God, and there is one like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying ‘My counsel shall stand and I will accomplish all my purpose…I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass. I have purposed and I will do it.
From verse 2 through verse 20, god reveals what will happen in middle eastern history from Daniel’s time up to the time of the reign of Antiochus IV Ephipanes. First, he tells Daniel that three kings will arise, then a 4th who will be far richer.
The first three kings were Cambyses, Guamata and Darious 1. Cambyses reigned from 529 B.C. until 523 B.C. Gauamata reigned only from 523 to 522 and was murdered. Then, Darius I reigned from 522 through 486.
The 4th king was Xerxes I. He reigned from 486 to 465. He is believed to be the husband of Esther. He was a great king and brought Persia to the pinnacle of its power. But he also invaded Greece and was defeated at Salamis. He “shall sit up all against the kingdom of Greece”. (2)This started a conflict that eventually led to the downfall of Persia. This fact is the transition to the next king mentioned, the king of Greece. (11:2-3)
Verse 3 says “a might king shall rise”. This refers to Alexander the Great. He quickly conquered the whole Mediterranean basin, including Egypt. He is the leopard of Daniel 7:6. Josephus wrote that Alexander came to Jerusalem, but the high priest showed him the book of Daniel, so he granted the Jews religious freedom. But Alexander died young. He was only 33. He had no children except a son born posthumously. He and Alexander’s half brother were murdered. This is what verse 4 means by his kingdom shall be broken and divided, but not to his posterity. It was divided among his generals.
His kingdom was divided into 4 parts (4 winds of heaven):
Macedonia to Cassander.
Thrace & Asia Minor to Lysimachus,
Egypt to Ptolemy and
Syria\Babylonia to Seleucus.
Of course, the Jews were mostly concerned with Egypt and Syria, both close to home. The prophecy, therefore, focuses on them. They care called the king of the South and the king of the North.
The kings of the South are the Ptolemies of Egypt. The kings of the north are the Seleucids in Syria. Verse 5 says the king of the south shall be strong, but one of his princes even stronger, and he will have great authority. This was fulfilled in Ptolemy 1 of Egypt. He took control over Israel and the region around it.
The Ptolemies and Seleucids fought for 130 years. Whoever prevailed ruled the region, including Israel. Verse 6 speaks of a marriage treaty that ultimately failed. This was fulfilled when Ptolemy II gave his daughter, Berenice, to Antiochus II as a wife in a marriage treaty around 250 B.C. . That produced peace until Ptolemy II died. When he died, Antiochus II put Berenice away and brought back his first wife, Laodice. However, she had him poisoned. Then he had Berenice, her baby son and her attendants murdered.
Berenice’s brother assumed the throne as Ptolemy III. He avenged her murder by invading Syria and defeating Selects II. He is the “branch from her roots” in verse 7-8.
The wars between these two kingdoms are detailed through verse 20. Verse 14 says that many of the Jews would take part in the battles, but would fail. The kings of the south, Egypt, prevail for a time This is described in verses 9-13. Ptolemy Iv defeated Antiochus II at Rapha and regained control over Israel.
Beginning, in verse 13, though, we see the king of the north prevail over the king of the south. He obtained control over Israel as well. Verse 16 says he shall stand in the glorious land, with destruction in his hand. This was fulfilled when Antiochus III invaded Egypt and defeated Ptolemy V. The Jews initially supported Antiochus because they wanted out from under the dominion of Egypt. But that turned out to be a mistake.
Antiochus III sought to completely dominate Egypt. He gave his daughter, Cleopatra, to Ptolemy V as a wife, hoping to eventually take control over Egypt. She is the daughter of verse 17. But, as the verse says, it was not successful, for Cleopatra was to faithful to her husband and did not gain influence. This is not the Cleopatra of movie fame, who was involved with the Romans.
When his venture in Egypt failed, Antiochus III turned to the coastlands as described in verses 18-19. He tried t conquer Greece. He even made an alliance with Hannibal of Carthage. But the Romans defeated him. He retreated to Syria. He looted a Babylonian temple to recover some of his losses, but enraged local citizens killed him.
Antiochus III was succeeded by his oldest son, Seleucus III. His reign is described in verse 20. He sought to extract tribute, but was broken in a few days, but not in battle. He was assassinated, likely by his brother, Antiochus IV, the “contemptible person” of verse 21.
This concludes the first phase of the prophecy of Daniel 11. It ran from the successors of Cyrus the Great up to the time of Antiochus IV. These two superpowers battled from 322 B.C. to 175 B.C. when Seleucus IV was killed. The conflict was never resolved. Power went from one to the other, but with no real conclusion. Many lives were lost. Much money was spent. They could not keep their treaties. It all accomplished nothing of eternal significance. Ecclesiastes 4:4 says “Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.”
Even thought the Jews had little influence on these conflicts, they suffered from them. They were attacked and people were killed. Valuables were taken away. Tribute was imposed. They were subject to foreign powers. God’s people, then and now, will often suffer from the ambitions of kings and rulers. Some of those powers seem overwhelming to us. Some believers want to adopt the methods of these worldly rulers to preserve the church.
But the prophecy of this chapter will show us that worldly powers cannot destroy God’s work (or establish it). God may use earthly powers to accomplish his work and will, but it is hard for those on the ground at the time because they cannot see what God is about. The Jews, for example, thought support of Antiochus would make things better than they were under Egypt. They ended up much worse.
Believing in God’s sovereignty allows us to see the affairs of the world as under his control and accomplishing his purpose. We may suffer in the conflicts. But we know that God, our God, prevails.