THE KINGS OF THE NORTH AND THE SOUTH
A COMMENTARY ON DANIEL 11
WITH ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY ON DANIEL 10 & 12
By Ed R. Meelhuysen
Maps adapted from Hammond's Atlas of the Bible Lands
The Kings of the North and the South referred to in Daniel chapter 11 and its associated chapters of Daniel 10 and 12 have proved an enigma to many. Who or what countries do the terms refer to? Is there a quantum leap forward to the end of the world as seems to be indicated somewhere in these chapters? If so, then at what verse does that take place? If one of the kings is the Anti-Christ, could Saddam Hussein or any of the past dictators of the 20th century have fulfilled the requirements? If not, then what would be required of a future King of the North in order to fulfill these prophecies?
In this fascinating study, we will be taking an in-depth look at Daniel, chapters 10 through 12. We will look at a number of the more commonly used arguments for explaining the prophecy, examine their benefits and shortcomings, and in the end come away with a much greater appreciation for God and His omniscience. For truly "He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. " (Dan. 2:21)
In attempting to learn about the kings of the North and the South for my own study, I picked up a number of books that offered interpretations of the passages. Although the beginning of Daniel 11 seemed to have a common interpretation, as the middle and end of the chapter approached, all of a sudden, the interpretations left their logical progression and spontaneous conclusions were arrived at rather abruptly. This procedure reminded me of when I was taking higher math classes in college. On several occasions, the teacher would describe a math problem, turn around to the black board, and scribble something while shielding the board from our eyes with his body. He would then turn around, and "Voila!" show us the answer! As students, we called it "hand-waving." Wave your hands here and there, and Presto! A Conclusive Result!
Having an engineer's analytical background and disposition, I needed a more logical approach to solving the enigmas of the kings of the North and the South. I felt that this "hand-waving approach" is not quite appropriate for God's children. "Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD." (Isaiah 1:18). Therefore as I compiled the thousands of texts on various topics contained on this website and its predecessor publication Sola Scriptura and through my study of God's Word, I observed the following:
1) The words "the end" or "the end of time" do
not necessarily refer to the literal end of the world. Although they can refer
to the end of the world, they more generally refer to the end of whatever the writer or
angel has been talking about. This may include a certain kingdom or series of events. One
must examine the context to determine what the phrase "the end" or "an
end" applies to.
2) The argument of obscurity to downplay certain kings which some interpreters use, is not appropriate. Just because something or someone is little known to the 21st century population does not mean that it wasn't important to the people back then being affected by the fulfillment of that prophecy.
3) A smooth transitional interpretation is preferable to a discontinuous large leap forward or backward. If evidence can be found to support a smooth transition, then if supported by following fulfillments, use it. I don't believe that God hop-scotches forwards and backwards in time in prophecy. One only finds leaps forward in time.
4) If a tiny bit of historical information is missing, but the
events after that missing piece took place as prophesied, then let's allow ourselves the option
of skipping finding an exact fulfillment of that part of a prophecy, especially if it is
not very significant to our time. One can more appropriately blame past historians for lack of
accurate recording or the destruction of recorded history, rather than placing all the
events after that missing link into the future. For example, the great
library in Alexandria, Egypt was destroyed as were many other ancient libraries,
causing an enormous loss of knowledge of recorded history.
5) Assume first that the prophecy is literal rather than symbolic.
There are two types of bible prophecy, primarily literal and primarily
symbolic. There are guidelines for differentiating between the two. If the prophecy is symbolic, then the Bible should be able to provide an interpretation of
In the following paragraphs, the italic portions are my commentaries and additions such as quotes or excerpts from the references listed at the end. The non-italic plain face portions are Daniel's observations and narration. The non-italic Boldface are the words of a holy one such as an angel speaking.
Verse numbers are left in place, even though it may affect readability.
All dates are B.C. unless otherwise noted by the letters A.D.
With these premises and conventions in mind, let's begin our look at Daniel 10 to 12.
Daniel 10 to 12
Dan. 10:1 In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia, a revelation was given to Daniel (who was called Belteshazzar). Its message was true and it concerned a great war. The understanding of the message came to him in a vision.2 At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. 3 I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over. 4 On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river, the Tigris, 5 I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of the finest gold around his waist. 6 His body was like chrysolite, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude. 7 I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; the men with me did not see it, but such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves. 8 So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. 9 Then I heard him speaking, and as I listened to him, I fell into a deep sleep, my face to the ground. 10 A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 He said, "Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you." And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling. 12 Then he continued, "Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. 13 But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. 14 Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come." 15 While he was saying this to me, I bowed with my face toward the ground and was speechless. 16 Then one who looked like a man touched my lips, and I opened my mouth and began to speak. I said to the one standing before me, "I am overcome with anguish because of the vision, my lord, and I am helpless. 17 How can I, your servant, talk with you, my lord? My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe." 18 Again the one who looked like a man touched me and gave me strength. 19 "Do not be afraid, O man highly esteemed," he said. "Peace! Be strong now; be strong." When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, "Speak, my lord, since you have given me strength." 20 So he said, "Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come; 21 but first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth. (No one supports me against them except Michael, your prince. (The thought continues in the next sentence. The chapter breaks were added later.)
Dan. 11:1 And in the first year of Darius the Mede (not Darius I, but rather the Darius of Lion's Den fame), I took my stand to support and protect him.) 2 "Now then, I tell you the truth: Three more kings will appear in Persia, and then a fourth, who will be far richer than all the others. When he has gained power by his wealth, he will stir up everyone against the kingdom of Greece.
'After the death of King Cyrus, who was reigning at the time of the vision, the next three kings of Persia were Cambyses (530-522 B.C.), a usurper called the False Smerdis or Bardiya (522) and Darius I (522-486 B.C.). The fourth king was Xerxes (486-465 B.C.), known in the Bible as Ahasuerus and the husband of Queen Esther. He spent four full years stockpiling supplies and assembling manpower for a military expedition against Greece, just as the angel had predicted. He truly stirred up "all." His army teemed with contingents from forty nations . . . Together they marched, perhaps 300,000 of them, mostly on foot, all the way from their homelands to the battles of Salamis (480) and Plataea (479) in Greece--and to complete defeat.'
v 3 Then a mighty king will appear, who will rule with great power and do as he pleases.
This king was Alexander the Great who conquered most of the civilized world by 331 B.C. The map below demonstrates the extent of Alexander' s Empire.
v 4 After he has appeared, his empire will be broken up and parceled out toward the four winds of heaven. It will not go to his descendants, nor will it have the power he exercised, because his empire will be uprooted and given to others.
Realizing he was dying after a drunken debauchery (others suggest dying from swamp fever or malaria), Alexander parceled out his kingdom to four of his generals, Cassander, Lysimachus, Seleucus I "Nicator" and Ptolemy I "Soter". An examination of the map of that time as well as the following verses indicates that the Seleucid kingdom based around Syria became the King of the North, and that the Ptolemaic kingdom encompassing part of Egypt became the King of the South. These two kingdoms were constantly striving to conquer the other. Since Israel was located in the middle of the two, its territory was continually exposed to the military campaigns of the two kingdoms, Israel's land and people being at times subservient to one kingdom, then the other.
v 5 "The king of the South (Ptolemy I Soter) will become strong, but one of his commanders (Seleucus I Nicator) will become even stronger than he and will rule his own kingdom with great power.
'Egypt was immensely wealthy and rather easy to protect (from the start). The "prince" who became "stronger than he" was Seleucus I Nicator, the general who originally won the eastern part of Alexander's empire. Seleucus was driven out of the east by yet another one of Alexander's generals and fled to Egypt for safety. Ptolemy gave him special status and helped him outfit a new army. Quickly successful in driving his rival out of the east, Seleucus followed through by pushing Lysimachus out of Syria and Asia Minor, thus making himself "King of the North" and the master of most of Alexander's former empire. He would have liked to control Judea too, taking it away from Egypt; but Ptolemy reminded Seleucus that without his help in the first place, he would never have staged his comeback.'
v 6 After some years, they (King Ptolemy II Philadelphus and King Antiochus II Theos of Syria) will become allies. The daughter of the king of the South (Berenice) will go to the king of the North (Antiochus Theos) to make an alliance, but she will not retain her power, and he and his power will not last. In those days she will be handed over, together with her royal escort and her father (other translations use or include "child") and the one who supported her.
"Around 250 B.C., King Ptolemy II Philadelphus of Egypt (285-246 B.C.) and King Antiochus II Theos (261-246 B.C.) of Syria attempted to guarantee peace between their countries by having King Antiochus marry King Ptolemy's daughter, Berenice. Antiochus already had a wife, called Laodice. It was part of the deal that he divorce her. So the divorce was arranged, the new marriage was celebrated, and in due course a baby boy arrived who could someday be the next king. Unfortunately, Antiochus soon found that he didn't like Berenice very well. He kept making comparisons between her and his first wife. And when Berenice's father, the king of Egypt, died, Antiochus divorced her and took Laodice back again. But Laodice had become bitter. She was afraid, too, of what her husband might do next. So using her royal powers in a manner all too common in those days, she had Antiochus, Berenice, and Berenice's attendants and Bernice's little son all murdered.'
v 7"One from her family line will arise to take her place (Ptolemy III Euergetes, 246-221 B.C.). He will attack the forces of the king of the North (Antiochus II Theos, 261-246 B.C.) and enter his fortress; he will fight against them and be victorious.8 He will also seize their gods, their metal images and their valuable articles of silver and gold and carry them off to Egypt. For some years he will leave the king of the North alone.
'By his divorce and remarriage, Antiochus lost far more than he could have hoped to gain. For the next king of Egypt, Ptolemy III (246-221), a brother of Berenice's, determined to avenge Berenice's death by invading Syria. He took his army all the way to Babylon and beyond before voluntarily pulling back! His navy occupied Seleucia, the port that served Antioch, the capital of Syria, and for some time Egyptian shipping dominated the eastern Mediterranean.'
v 9 Then the king of the North (a new king, Seleucus II) will invade the realm of the king of the South, but will retreat to his own country.
'In the year 242, Seleucus II Callinicus (246-225) attempted to avenge himself for Egypt's deep penetration of his ancestral lands, but his army was vanquished and his navy blown away. He returned to Antioch badly bloodied and empty-handed.'
v 10 His sons (the two sons of Seleucus II, namely Seleucus III Ceraunos, who was assassinated after a short reign [225-223] and Antiochus III the Great [223-187]) will prepare for war and assemble a great army, which will sweep on like an irresistible flood and carry the battle as far as his fortress.11 "Then the king of the South (Ptolemy IV) will march out in a rage and fight against the king of the North (Antiochus III), who will raise a large army, but it will be defeated. 12 When the army (Antiochus') is carried off, the king of the South will be filled with pride and will slaughter many thousands, yet he will not remain triumphant.
'These three verses deal principally with the battle of Raphia, June 22, 217 B.C. . . . in which over 70,000 foot soldiers and 5,000 cavalry were committed on each side. The body count the next day showed that Antiochus III had lost 10,000 killed and 4,000 taken prisoner. Ptolemy's loses were lighter but still significant . . . . Egypt won the battle, for Antiochus lacked discipline . . . Yet Ptolemy failed to follow up on his victory and Antiochus III was eager for a rematch'
v 13 For the king of the North (Antiochus III) will muster another army, larger than the first; and after several years, he will advance with a huge army fully equipped.
After his defeat, Antiochus III sprung back and reconquered the territory to the east all the way to India and to the west to the Aegean Sea. He then prepared for a second attack on Egypt. At this time, the king of Egypt was Ptolemy V Epiphanes, a boy of six.
At this point, the interpretations applied to the succeeding passages vary greatly between several different schools of thought. We will investigate the various options and interpretations.
v 14 "In those times many will rise against the king of the South. The violent men among your own people will rebel in fulfillment of the vision, but without success.
At this time, many of the Egyptians began rebelling against the ruling Grecian family and began rioting and defying them. Many of the more zealous Jews also began rebelling against the Ptolemaic regime, hoping to establish their own independence.
v 15 Then the king of the North (Antiochus III the Great) will come and build up siege ramps and will capture a fortified city. The forces of the South will be powerless to resist; even their best troops will not have the strength to stand. 16 The invader will do as he pleases; no one will be able to stand against him. He will establish himself in the Beautiful Land and will have the power to destroy it.
Antiochus III the Great took Palestine, the Beautiful Land, from the Ptolemies at the Battle of Panias in 197 B.C. The Ptolemaic kingdom was never able to reclaim it from the Seleucid kingdom.
v 17 He will determine to come with the might of his entire kingdom and will make an alliance with the king of the South. And he will give him a daughter in marriage in order to overthrow the kingdom, but his plans will not succeed or help him. 18 Then he will turn his attention to the coastlands and will take many of them, but a commander will put an end to his insolence and will turn his insolence back upon him. 19 After this, he will turn back toward the fortresses of his own country but will stumble and fall, to be seen no more.
Antiochus III the Great took many of the coastline territories bordering on the eastern and northeastern edges of the Mediterranean Sea away from the Ptolemaic Kingdom.
While there may be additional information regarding the intermarriage and commander referred to, I have not found it yet.
v 20 "His successor will send out a tax collector to maintain the royal splendor. In a few years, however, he (the successor) will be destroyed, yet not in anger or in battle.
This verse most likely reflects Antiochus III's son (Seleucus IV Philopater, 187-175 B.C.) who sent Heliodorus to Jerusalem to collect the "untold sums of money" from the temple treasury. Heliodorus was prevented from accomplishing his task by the reported personal intervention of God as he sought to enter the temple. See 2 Maccabees 3. However, a plot arose against Seleucus the IV, and he was assassinated (i.e. neither in anger nor in battle).
Alternately (though not likely) this verse could reflect the following incident instigated by Antiochus III the Great's other son, Antiochus IV Epiphanes as reported in 1 Maccabees. "Two year later (after carrying away most of the temple's belongings) the king (Antiochus IV Epiphanes) sent to the cities of Judah a chief collector of tribute, and he came to Jerusalem with a large force. Deceitfully he spoke peaceable words to them, and they believed him; but he suddenly fell upon the city, dealt it a severe blow, and destroyed many people of Israel. He plundered the city, burned it with fire, and tore down its houses and its surrounding walls. And they took captive the women and children, and seized the cattle. Then they fortified the city of David with a great strong wall and strong towers, and it became their citadel. And they stationed there a sinful people, lawless men. These strengthened their position; they stored up arms and food, and collecting the spoils of Jerusalem they stored them there, and became a great snare." 1 Maccabees 1:29-35. This interpretation, however, would be out of order.
v 21 "He will be succeeded by a contemptible person who has not been given the honor of royalty. He will take over the kingdom when its people feel secure, and he will seize it through intrigue.
The Living Bible translates this text as: "Next to come to power will be an evil man not directly in line for royal succession. But during a crisis, he will take over the kingdom by flattery and intrigue.".
The King James Version translates this as "And in his estate shall stand up a vile person, to whom they shall not give the honor of the kingdom; but he shall come in peaceably, and obtain the kingdom by flatteries."
Antiochus IV Epiphanes was not directly in line to succeed the assassinated Seleucus IV Philopater, as Philopater's son, Demetrius I should have been the next king. However, upon Philopater's death, Antiochus IV Epiphanes through flatteries ingratiated himself with the Romans and took over the kingdom, even though Demetrius petitioned the Roman senate to let him return from Rome where he was being held as a "hostage" (common in those days). Demetrius I, after Epiphanes' death, escaped from Rome, returned to Antioch and had Antiochus V and Lysias, his guardian, killed. (See following chart.)
v 22 Then an overwhelming army will be swept away before him; both it and a prince of the covenant will be destroyed.
The phrase "prince of the covenant" is a combination of two Hebrew words, beriyth (Strong #1285) and nagid (Strong #5057).
Nagid has been translated as "captain, chief, governor, leader, noble, prince, ruler" and is defined as: a commander, either civil, military or religious with generally an honorable connotation.
Beriyth has been translated as: "covenant or league", for example: a contract made by the passing between two piece of cut flesh (similar to what Abraham did in Gen. 15:9-21)
In this setting, the interpretation that the nagid beriyth is Jesus Christ is a "forced" or "make it fit" interpretation based upon usage of those two terms in Daniel 9:24-27. However, it should be noted that the term nagid is used once in Dan. 9:25 to apply to the Messiah and once in 9:26 to apply to the coming ruler which will desolate Jerusalem. Interpreting nagid beriyth as Jesus Christ doesn't fit into the sequence of events of this prophecy.
A more reasonable transliteration would be "contracting ruler" or "a ruler who had made an agreement or contract" or a "ruler of the Jewish people by their covenant with God". This would be consistent with the verses following (see verses 23 and 30).
Many interpreters consider this 'prince of the covenant" to be Onias III, a godly priest who lead the Jewish nation at that time. Others suggest a ruler named Jason (which I am not knowledgeable of).
v 23 After coming to an agreement with him (a leader in Israel), he (Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the king of the North) will act deceitfully, and with only a few people he will rise to power.24 When the richest provinces feel secure, he will invade them and will achieve what neither his nor his forefathers did (note the relationship tie-in to the former kings). He will distribute plunder, loot and wealth among his followers. He will plot the overthrow of fortresses --but only for a time. 25 "With a large army he will stir up his strength and courage against the king of the South 26 Those who eat from the king's provisions will try to destroy him; his army will be swept away, and many will fall in battle. 27 The two kings, with their hearts bent on evil, will sit at the same table and lie to each other, but to no avail, because an end will still come at the appointed time. 28 The king of the North will return to his own country with great wealth, but his heart will be set against the holy covenant. He will take action against it and then return to his own country.
Note the consistency of this diabolic cunning plotting king, not only in his attainment of the kingdom, but his military conquests. He later turns his fury upon the Israelite worship service.
v 29 "At the appointed time he will invade the South (Second invasion in 169 B.C. when Egypt was still governed by Ptolemy VII Philometer) again, but this time the outcome will be different from what it was before.30 Ships of the western coastlands (literally from Chittim or i.e. Roman warships) will oppose him, and he will lose heart. Then he will turn back and vent his fury against the holy covenant. He will return and show favor to those who forsake the holy covenant.
Antiochus' victory in Egypt was short-lived. When the Romans showed up with their warships, the Roman ambassador C. Popilius Laenas, informed Antiochus that the Roman Senate wanted him to leave. The grim Roman drew a circle around Antiochus with his cane and demanded a decision before he stepped out of it.' GC Vol. 1, p. 159. You can imagine after this humiliating ejection from Egypt that Antiochus was looking to vent his fury.
"After subduing Egypt, Antiochus [IV Epiphanes] returned in the one hundred and forty-third year [169 B.C.]. He went up against Israel and came to Jerusalem with a strong force. He arrogantly entered the sanctuary and took the golden altar, the lampstand for the lights, and all its utensils. He took also the table for the bread of the Presence, the cups for drink offerings, the bowls, the golden censors, the curtain, the crowns and the gold decoration on the front of the temple; he stripped it all off. He took the silver and the gold, and the costly vessels; he took also the hidden treasures which he found. Taking them all, he departed to his own land." 1 Maccabees 1:20-24.
v 31"His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation.32 With flattery he will corrupt those who have violated the covenant, but the people who know their God will firmly resist him. 33 "Those who are wise will instruct many, though for a time they will fall by the sword or be burned or captured or plundered. 34 When they fall, they will receive a little help, and many who are not sincere will join them. 35 Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time.
'And the king [Antiochus IV Epiphanes] sent letters by messengers to Jerusalem and the cities of Judah; he directed them to follow customs strange to the land, to forbid burnt offerings, and sacrifices and drink offering in the sanctuary, to profane Sabbaths and feasts, to defile the sanctuary and the priests, to build altars and sacred precincts and shrines for idols, to sacrifice swine and unclean animals, and to leave their sons uncircumcised. They were to make themselves abominable by everything unclean and profane, so that they should forget the law and change all the ordinances. "And whoever does not obey the command of the king shall die." . . . Now on the fifteenth day of Chislev, in the one hundred and forty fifth year, they erected a desolating sacrilege upon the altar of burnt offering. They also built altars in the surrounding cities of Judah, and burned incense at the doors of the houses and in the streets. The books of the law which they found they tore to pieces and burned with fire. Where the book of the covenant was found in the possession of any one, or if any one adhered to the law, the decree of the king condemned him to death. They kept using violence against Israel, against those found month after month in the cities. And on the twenty-fifth day of the month they offered sacrifice [probably of swine] on the altar which was upon the altar of burnt offering. According to the decree, they put to death the women who had their children circumcised, and their families and those who circumcised them; and they hung the infants from their mother's necks. But many in Israel stood firm and were resolved in their hearts not to eat unclean food. They chose to die rather than to be defiled by food or to profane the holy covenant; and they did die. And very great wrath came upon Israel.' 1 Maccabees 1:41-50, 54-64
How could I write more about this prophecys fulfillment than what historical writings record?
v 36 "The king (of the North) will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place.37 He will show no regard for the gods of his fathers or for the one desired by women, nor will he regard any god, but will exalt himself above them all. 38 Instead of them, he will honor a god of fortresses; a god unknown to his fathers he will honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and costly gifts. 39 He will attack the mightiest fortresses with the help of a foreign god and will greatly honor those who acknowledge him. He will make them rulers over many people and will distribute the land at a price.
There are two possible interpretations here. 1) The first and most rational continues with Antiochus IV Epiphanes as the chief player. As was common in those days, Antiochus IV considered himself a god, though he took it a bit further than many of his predecessors. Several examples of Antiochus' arrogance are found in the Maccabean books. '
"So Antiochus (IV) carried off eighteen hundred talents from the temple, and hurried away to Antioch, thinking in his arrogance that he could sail on the land and walk on the sea, because his mind was elated." 2 Maccabees 5:21, 22.
In another incident during which Antiochus was torturing a family for refusing to defile themselves, one of the family members responded to the king, ". . . But you, unholy wretch, you most defiled of all men, do not be elated in vain and puffed up by uncertain hopes, when you raise your hand against the children of heaven. You, by the judgment of God, will receive just punishment for your arrogance." 2 Maccabees 7:34.
In a letter to the Hellenistic Jews from Antiochus V, Epiphanes' son, wrote that his father had gone on to the gods." 2 Maccabees 11:23. In the footnote of The Oxford Annotated Apocrypha, pg. 284, it is mentioned that "in his (Antiochus IV) lifetime, he had been worshiped."
Antiochus IV Epiphanes also honored those who followed him with wealth. "Then the king's officers who were enforcing the apostasy came to the city of Modein to make them offer sacrifice. Many from Israel came to them; and Mattathias and his sons were assembled. Then the king's officers spoke to Mattathias as follows: 'You are a leader, honored and great in this city, and supported by sons and brothers. Now be the first to come and do what the king commands, as all the Gentiles and the men of Judah and those that are left in Jerusalem have done. Then you and your sons will be numbered among the friends of the king, and you and your sons will be honored with silver and gold and many gifts.' " Mattathias and his sons (including Judas Maccabees) refused and began leading a rebellion against the vile Syrians
2) A second, though less likely interpretation, involves an unstated timing jump to the Roman period, where now the King of the North is the secular Roman Empire which conquered Palestine by coming down from the North. The Roman Empire, though having many idolatrous gods, also considered the Emperor to be a god and he was worshipped as such. In general, nations that were conquered by the Roman armies submitted and joined the empire. One notable exception was the Jewish nation with its fiercely loyal and religious people. Their refusal to be loyal subjects and eventually their refusal to provide offerings and prayers for the emperor resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Those that became subject to the Romans were honored with power and possessions.
v 40 "At the time of the end the king of the South will engage him (the King of the North) in battle, and the king of the North will storm out against him with chariots and cavalry and a great fleet of ships. He will invade many countries and sweep through them like a flood.41 He will also invade the Beautiful Land. Many countries will fall, but Edom, Moab and the leaders of Ammon will be delivered from his hand. 42 He will extend his power over many countries; Egypt 43 He will gain control of the treasures of gold and silver and all the riches of Egypt, with the Libyans and Nubians (Ethiopians) in submission. 44 But reports from the east and the north will alarm him, and he will set out in a great rage to destroy and annihilate many. 45 He will pitch his royal tents between the seas at the beautiful holy mountain. Yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him.
This section has several interpretations. Here are three:
1 - The Most Likely Interpretation
1) As mentioned at the beginning of this study, the term "at the time of end" does not always mean the literal end of the world. It is a "time leap indicator".
In verse 40 above, the most straightforward approach is to ask, "what does the end refer to?" I believe it refers to the end of what we've been talking about, namely, the end of the Ptolemaic Empire and the Seleucid Empire.
At the time of the end of the Seleucid and Ptolemaic Empires, the King of the North, now the Roman Empire (Julius Caesar and his general Pompey) swept down through Palestine, into Egypt, and into Libya and Ethiopia (Nubia). The Roman galleys (warships) struck terror in the sight of many of the countries and eventually, the Roman Empire controlled all the coastal countries around the Mediterranean Sea. However, the countries of Edom, Moab and Ammon, fell just outside the borders of the Roman Empire and remained free of their control. (see the adjacent map for the location of the kingdoms of Edom, Moab and Ammon.)
The beautiful holy mountain could refer to the hill that Jerusalem was on (Mt. Zion), Mt. Sinai (in Saudi Arabia), or Mt. Nebo (east of the Jordan).
The location of Mt. Sinai is held by tradition to be on the Sinai Peninsula. The peninsula has the Red Sea on the south, the Gulf of Suez on the west, the Gulf of Aqaba on the east, and the Mediterranean Sea on the north. However, this was a location chosen by the Emperor Constantine's mother whom he sent to that area to pick a Mt. Sinai. But 1500 years of tradition doesn't make it fact! More accurate evidence indicates that the true Mt. Sinai is actually the mountain known as Jabel El Lawz, located in Saudi Arabia (see Galatians 4:24) and the Red Sea crossing was actually over the Gulf of Aqaba, rather than the Gulf of Suez. (See the Surprising Discoveries section of this website for photos of Mt. Sinai.)
The argument is best made for Caesar camping in the neighborhood of Jerusalem with the Dead Sea to the east, and the Mediterranean Sea to the west. While it is possible that Caesar may have camped near Mt. Nebo or the true Mt. Sinai, neither is really sandwiched between two seas that are fairly close by.
While Caesar was in Egypt, concerning himself with Cleopatra and the governance of Egypt, reports came from the north and east that the Syrians were invading. Enraged, he marched his troops for several days to surprise his foes. When he and his troops arrived at the scene, he and his soldiers fell immediately upon the invaders, gaining the victory in a short time. It was after this battle that Caesar is reported to have spoken the immortal words "Veni, Vidi, Victi," I came, I saw, I conquered!
Subsequent to his exploits, Julius Caesar was assassinated in Rome in 44 B.C. at the hands of sixty fellow Romans led by G. Cassius Longimus, one of his commanders. These senators and friends were afraid of Julius' growing popularity and that it might take away from the Roman democratic form of government. Hence, no one raised a hand to help him.
The Time of the End
Some will argue that the "time of the end" just mentioned connects directly with Dan. 12:1 which says 'At that time, Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress . . . etc.' This verse has strong references to the events just preceding Jesus Christ's Second Coming and we will look at this text shortly. However, we need to recognize an important biblical principle: "With the Lord, a day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years are as a day" (2Pet. 3:7). Thus, whether two events happen within days or thousands of years, to the Lord, it is if it happens at the same time. There are numerous times in the Bible where events that we recognize as being separated by long periods are detailed as if they occurred together. See Isaiah 7:14, 18, 11:1,10, Dan. 12:2 compare to Rev. 20:4-6 for a few examples,
God has always permitted and even encouraged a sense of eminency regarding coming events, even though relative to man's short lifespan, they may be far distant. God, in His infinite knowledge knew that man would not respond just to His love, but would procrastinate in sharing the good news of salvation and of coming judgment if they knew the events were far distant. Secondly, if someone reads the "soon" style writings of the prophets and apostles, then they will be more encouraged to apply the writings to their own time. Let's look at several interpretations that use a "last day event's" type of perspective.
2 - Other Common Contemporary, but Far Fetched Interpretations
2) A second class of interpretation takes a jump to the time closer to the actual end of the world and pits the King of the South against the Anti-Christ. There are a number of evangelical Christians who believe that a new world power will emerge in the Middle East who will conquer Israel, Egypt and many other countries.
3 - The Crusades a Possibility?3) A third touted interpretation is that the kings involved are the Holy Roman Empire and the Islamic countries, and the battles referred to are the various Crusades. However, Egypt, Libya and Ethiopia were never conquered during these battles (see Wikipedia article on the Crusades). Again, given the remarkable fulfillment in detail of the previous parts of the chapter, this interpretation seems inconsistent and lacks fulfillment in most of the details.
Daniel Chapter 12
Dan. 12:1 "At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people --everyone whose name is found written in the book --will be delivered. 2 Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.3 Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.
This paragraph has two potential interpretations, the second being the more likely one:
1 - Refers to events surrounding Christ's resurrection and the end of the Times of the Israelites / Jews
1) It is possible this paragraph refers to a continuance of the events of the previous chapter. Some believe that Michael, the arch angel became incarnate as Jesus Christ. The time of distress may refer to the deaths, tortures and other methods of coercion employed by the Romans to maintain control over their subjects. Persecution of the Jews accelerated as they continually rebelled the Romans invaders. This especially became severe during the siege and destruction of Jerusalem between 66 and 70 A.D. Even after that, Roman emperors persecuted Jews wherever they were in the empire.
At Christ's death, there was an earthquake and many righteous people were resurrected. "And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus' resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people" (Matthew 27:50-53). Emphasis added.
It is difficult to ascertain how many holy people were resurrected. However, given that "wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.", (Matt. 7:13,14), it is possible that all the deceased righteous Israelites were resurrected at that time. However, who exactly was resurrected was not known to the disciples, because shortly thereafter, Peter in his address to the crowd on the day of Pentecost indicated that David was still in his grave. (see Acts 2:29)
When Christ went back up into heaven, He took those resurrected at his death with him. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians quoted an excerpt from Psalms, "This is why it says: 'When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.'" (Eph. 4:8). The actual quote from Psalms reads, "The chariots of God are tens of thousands and thousands of thousands; the Lord [has come] from Sinai into his sanctuary. When you ascended on high, you led captives in your train; you received gifts from men, even from the rebellious-- that you, O LORD God, might dwell there." (Ps. 68:17, 18)
Jesus quoting from Isaiah said, " 'The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.' Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, 'Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.' " (Luke 4:18-21). The full quotation says "The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, . . ." (Isaiah 61:1, 2). Note that Jesus in saying that this was fulfilled at his anointing was also talking about a time of vengeance, since the two events, release of captives and day of vengeance are interrelated.
Tied in with the ascension of the captives with Christ, would be their ministry with him in heaven. In Revelation, we see 24 elders surrounding the throne, offering the prayers of the saints to God as incense in golden bowls (see Rev. 4:4, 9 and 5:8). Christ, in the form of the ministering angel, also offers up the prayers of the saints in a golden censor. (see Rev. 8:3, 4). These elders appear to be part of the captives of death, that had been freed by Christ and joined with him in his ministry in the heavenly temple. Only Christ and the elders who had been through the sufferings and temptations that man is subjected too, could effectively minister as high priest and priests before the throne of God the Father. (see also Hebrews, esp. Hebrews 4:14)
2 - Interpretation placing events surrounding Jesus Second Coming and after the Millennium.
2) The second interpretation is the more standard and reasonable one and pertains to the actual time of the end of the world.
The phrases "At that time" and "In that day" are commonly used for denoting events that take place at Jesus Christs Second Coming, or at the renewal of all things. We could call these phrases "time leap indicators". For examples, see Isa. 11:10,11; 17:7; Isa. 25:7-9; Isa. 27:1-2; Isa. 29:18; Jer. 3:14-18; Jer. 25:30-33; Jer. 30:8,24; Jer. 31:1; Jer. 50:3,4; 50:19,20; Ezek. 38:18-22; Joel 2:31,32; 3:1,2,18; Zeph. 1:12-15; 3:19,20; Zech. 2:11; 3:10; Matt. 24:10,23,30; Mark 13:21,26; Luke 21:27; and John 16:23, 26.
In this interpretation, we are propelled to the end of time when Michael, also seen as Christ, stands up, ending his intercessory ministry in the heavenly temple, and the time of wrath or battle with the wicked begins. This would coincide with the throwing down of the censor of the ministering angel (Christ) and the beginning of the seven trumpet sequence. (see Rev. 8 ff.)
At the end of the time of tribulation, Christ returns to this world. Those who are righteous will be raised to partake in life eternal. The wicked dead will remain asleep until the end of another 1,000 years commonly known as the millennium. (see Rev. 20:1-9 and 1 Thess. 4:13-18). At that time or "in that day" the wicked are to be destroyed forever.
Note that in prophetic scenarios, events that we know are separate events (as defined more clearly elsewhere in Scripture) may be shown as taking place simultaneously in other prophecies. For example, the resurrection of the righteous and the wicked are depicted as simultaneous events in this prophecy. See also Jesus' application of the prophecy of Isaiah 61 above.
Let's continue on in Chapter 12
v 4 But you, Daniel, close up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge."
In this statement, considerable weight is given to interpreting the "time of the end" as the period just before the end of the world as we currently know it. General knowledge did not increase vastly at Christ's resurrection. Yet, according to Norman Edmund, Founder of the Edmund Scientific Company, with computers and the Internet, the accessibility of information and knowledge is doubling probably every year and will double every 73 days by the year 2020. Thus it would seem that we can and should expect a greater understanding of the prophecies at this time, as the prophecies become unsealed.
v 5 Then I, Daniel, looked, and there before me stood two others, one on this bank of the river and one on the opposite bank. 6 One of them said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, "How long will it be before these astonishing things are fulfilled?" 7 The man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, lifted his right hand and his left hand toward heaven, and I heard him swear by him who lives forever, saying, "It will be for a time, times and half a time. When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed."
Lets look at three ways to interpret the time, times and half a time.
Formula 1: In prophetic time, a time, times and half a time is taken as 3 1/2 years, with a prophetic year being 360 days. Thus a time, times and half a time would be 1,260 days, which would be the same as 42 prophetic months (30 days each). Compare the following prophetic verses and observe the interchangeability of the words expressing the forgoing time periods.
In each case, note that the 1,260-day period or its equivalents are used to designate a period of time when the saints, God's followers, would be suppressed by an evil power. Note the idea conveyed by: "The saints will be handed over to him . . . , When the power of the holy people has been finally broken . . . , it has been given to the Gentiles . . . , out of the serpent's reach . . ., power to make war against the saints and to conquer them "
While it is possible for these prophecies to be referring to the same time period, it seems highly unlikely, based on the context of those verses to force that conclusion. Usage of "time, times and half a time" could be a common or standard unit of time such as the number "7", "40" or three and a half days. In fact, note that a 3½ year time period (both literal and symbolic time) often refers to a time of difficulty, persecution and tribulation for Gods people.
Prophetic time can be either interpreted literally or symbolically.
Other Formulas: The Israelites used lunar months for time keeping. A lunar month has 29.53 days in it, hence a lunar year is a little over 354 days. Since this is considerably shorter than the 365 of a regular year, the Israelites added an extra month every 3 years (called Viadar which came after their last month of Adar) or more specifically, 7 extra months every 17 years. A lunar 3 and 1/2 years including the extra month would make a total of 1269 days. However, using lunar months as opposed to prophetic months for this time prophecy wouldn't be consistent with the rest of scripture. Alternately, a prophetic year of 360 days x 3.5 years + 30 days (for the leap year) equals 1290 days which would be consistent with the verse 11 of Daniel 12.
Interpretation 1: Using a day for a year principle consistent with much (but not all) of the rest of prophetic time (see Ezekiel 4:6 and Numbers 14:34) this time period would span a 1,260 year period. Many Christians see fulfillment of this prophecy as the 1,260 years that the Roman Church was first in power, extending from 538 A.D. to 1798 A.D. This application is also consistent with the fulfillment of the prophecies in Daniel 7:25 and Revelation 12:6 ff. (see above) which help identify this power as the Roman Church.
Interpretation 2: Using a literal day reckoning, would have this 1,260 day period coincides with a 1,260 literal day period for the time of tribulation, and 42 literal months of strong witnessing by God's people under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Scriptures (a possible interpretation of the two witnesses at the end of time (see above texts)).
v 8 I heard, but I did not understand. So I asked, "My lord, what will the outcome of all this be?"9 He replied, "Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end. 10 Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.
Daniel was not permitted to understand the vision, as the words were to be sealed from human understanding until the time of the end. Yet purification and understanding go hand in hand, for those not purified by the Spirit of God, will not understand.
v 11"From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days.12 Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days.
This is one of the most debated and secretive prophecies to the Bible student. How does one determine when a time period ends if no closing event is given? Several postulations are given.
First let's look at instances when the daily sanctuary service was ended and an abomination causing desolation was set up.
Instance 1: Since the first option had already happened at the time the vision was given, that would not apply. So let us look at the next instance.
Instance 2: According to 1 Maccabees 1:54-60, the daily sacrifice was abolished on the 15th day of Chislev of 167 B.C. and swine were sacrificed on the 25th day of Chislev to the abomination that causes desolation (which some suggest was an idol of Zeus set up on the altar of sacrifice). Judas Maccabees and those zealous for the law, cleansed the temple and offered cleansing sacrifices on the 25th of Chislev, in 164 B.C., exactly 3 years later (1 Maccabees 4:52). Thus the time between the abomination and the cleansing was exactly three lunar years or 1,092 days (1,062 + 30 days for the leap month (the second month of Adar) which would have been added within a three year period). Therefore, this is probably not a fulfillment of Daniel 12:11.
Instance 3: In October A.D. 66, Cestius Gallus, the Roman governor of Syria, arrived at Jerusalem to restore Roman rule over the mutinous Jewish people. According to Josephus, a noted Jewish historian, the Jewish nation had refused to offer sacrifices and prayer at their temple for the emperor's well being. This sacrifice was a sign of subjection to and acknowledgement of the ruler. After an initial surprise victory by Jewish guerillas, Gallus almost succeeded in taking over the temple before inexplicably withdrawing from Jerusalem. The Christians in Jerusalem, aware of Christ's prophecy quickly left Jerusalem, and settled elsewhere. In the spring of A.D. 70 around the time of the Passover, the Roman general Vespasian and his son, Titus besieged Jerusalem with four legions of soldiers, destroying it and the temple. The simple timing between October of A.D. 66 and Spring of A.D. 70 is three and a half years. See additional dates in the following map of the Siege of Jerusalem and the Notes.
Compare the following two prophetic quotes from Jesus. Compare especially the boldfaced type:
Comparing Matthew 24, 15, 16 with Luke 21:20 indicates a strong resemblance or parallel. Studies of the Jewish historical layouts of the city and surrounding area of that time indicate that the land directly outside of the city walls had been given to some of the priests and Levites. Since the Jewish people were not bringing in the necessary tithes and offerings for the their support, this land had been given to them. This land was also known as the "holy place" or "holy land". Perhaps the above passages could be combined as follows:
While Josephus recorded many of the events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem, not all dates were recorded. Since the prophecy doesn't give the exact event ending these periods, it's difficult to know what to look for. However, it certainly seems reasonable and likely that the 1,260, 1,290 and 1,335 day prophecies were fulfilled at this time.
Additionally, since Jesus Christ applied certain prophecies of Daniel to this time and significant event, it puts this interpretation on quite solid ground.
Other than 508 A.D., none of the boldfaced dates (463, 1823 nor 1873 A.D.) as far as this writer is aware of historically or revealed by Internet searches, reveal themselves of any prophetic significance.
In 508 A.D., Clovis, king of the Franks, who professed conversion to the Catholic faith, and who had began his campaign against the Visigoths in 507, consolidated his victory with the conquest of the province of Aquitain (more information). Prophetically, this would have been the year of the uprooting of the first of the three horns referred to in Daniel 7:8 and 20.
But using the year of 508 A.D. as a starting point, doesn't reveal any new interesting dates.
Therefore it seems that this interpretation using the day for a year principle based upon the years 538 and 1798 A.D. does not apply.
Of the foregoing, interpretation 3 of this verse seems the most likely, followed by the 5th interpretation.
v 13"As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance."
I can't think of a more wonderful promise to come from God. To have one's salvation confirmed. The promise of the resurrection is something all of God's people look forward to, to be reunited with family and loved ones, but especially to see our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, face to face. And that's what scripture is all about, our God of love wanting to build a lasting relationship with His people.
Many of the prophecies of Daniel 10-12 were fulfilled unerringly in amazing detail as God prophesied through his angel. Not all prophecies are symbolic with beasts and horns. Some, like this one, are primarily literal in their nature.
And based upon what we have discovered, we may have every confidence that the prophecies of Revelation that are yet future to our day, will also be fulfilled with unerring accuracy.
May God be praised and honored as we continue to study His Word, the Bible.
For God and His Glory . . . . Amen!
Scripture quoted by permission. All scripture quotations, unless indicated, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved. Many thanks go to Zondervan.
Scripture compilations, and commentaries copyright © 1992-2003 by BiblePlus/The Bible Research Company. All rights reserved. The Bible Research Company/BiblePlus is a non-profit organization dedicated to spreading the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ, and to disseminating the marvelous truths of the Bible.