There is a threefold division in this chapter as follows:
1. vv. 1-20—The wars and other matters between Syria and Egypt, known as the wars of the Ptolemies and the Seleucidae.
2. vv. 21-35—The last king of Syria mentioned— Antiochus Epiphanes.
3. vv. 36-45—The coming Antichrist.
These two powers—Syria and Egypt—rose out of Alexander’s empire, as we saw when we studied chapter 8. These two are repeatedly called “the king of the north” and “the king of the south” (north and south of Israel’s land). The wars between these two powers, their victories and defeats, their plots and treaties, their murders and marriages are prophesied here in amazing detail. The last king whose character and conduct are set forth in this chapter (vv. 21-35) is the well-known Antiochus Epiphanes, the great oppressor, against whom the Maccabees rose up and whom they eventually defeated.
Critics of the Bible have sought for years to prove that Daniel could not have written this book and so accurately foretold all this history. Proud man likes to leave God out of His realm; because they can’t know the future, therefore He can’t, according to them. However, we know that the whole of the Old Testament was translated from Hebrew into Greek about 280 B.C., and since the book of Daniel was there then, there is positive proof Daniel had been written about one hundred years before this Antiochus was ever heard of. All of the minute facts found in our chapter have since been proven historically perfect and accurate.
The events recorded in verses 2-35 of our chapter are past; they are happenings well known and established in history. But there is an abrupt change at verse 36, for from then on it lists things that are to take place “at the time of the end” (v. 40); hence they are still future, as we shall soon see. There is abundant evidence for the historical fulfillment of the first 35 verses of our chapter, but nothing at all that answers in any way to the events described in verses 36-45. The history of verses 2 to 35 has been recorded by every author of a commentary on the book of Daniel, and there seems no call for repeating this, but I suppose there will be some who would like to know a little of the events detailed here and a treatise on Daniel would hardly be complete without, so we briefly note these various wheels and deals—from about 336 B.C. to approximately 166 B.C.—as given in this chapter. The marvelous accuracy of these prophecies thrills the believer and fills his heart with praise to Him Who knows the end from the beginning. I am following in general the interpretation of these events given by others much more capable than I am.
And now will I show 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 (v. 2).
These three kings were Ahasuerus, Artaxerxes, and Darius (not Darius the Mede, of course, for he was in power as Daniel wrote these things). The fourth king was the well-known Xerxes, said to have been immensely rich. He began to reign in 485 B.C. and invaded Greece about 480 B.C. He is the king who reigned at the time of Esther and was married to her —the Ahasuerus of that book.
And a mighty king shall stand up, that shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will (v. 3).
There follows a space of time of about 144 years between the second and the third verses of this chapter. The invasion of Greece took place in 480 B.C., and Alexander the Great—the king of verse 3—began his reign in 336 B.C., or 144 years later.
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 (v. 4).
It says nothing of Alexander’s mighty conquests, but states that at his death his kingdom was broken up into four parts, suggested here in its being scattered to the four winds of heaven; we saw the same point in the four-headed leopard (7:6) and the ram with the four horns (8:8). At his early death his empire was divided among four of his generals (not to his posterity as our text states, for he did not leave his empire to his sons or other relatives). Two of those principalities were Syria and Egypt—to the north and to the south of the land of Israel. The other two kingdoms are not mentioned any more; it is with Syria and Egypt that the rest of this chapter deals.
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 (v. 5).
This king was Ptolemy Lagus (Soter). The prince mentioned in this verse was Seleucus Nicator, who reached far out in his conquests.
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 (v. 6).
Here, indeed, is a remarkable, detailed chart of events, which only God could know, and which literally came to pass. The two who made a covenant are of course the king of the north—the Syrian ruler—with the king of the south—the Egyptian. The Egyptian princess Berenice, the daughter of Ptolemy II, married Antiochus Theos, the king of the north. History gives the date as approximately 250 B.C. The agreement was that Antiochus was to divorce his wife and that he would make any child Berenice might have by him heir to the Syrian throne. However, after Ptolemy died, Antiochus recalled his first wife, and Berenice and the son she had begotten were killed by poison. Then the first wife’s son inherited the throne under the title of Seleucus II.
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 (v. 7).
The one who came out of Berenice’s roots was her own brother Ptolemy III, known as Euergetes, who came to avenge her death. He conquered Syria; he defeated the ruling king, Seleucus II, the son of Antiochus Theos, who had had Berenice and her infant son poisoned. He slew the first wife of Antiochus, who, like Herodias the wife of Herod, had been the fiend behind that double murder. Ptolemy seized the fortress, the port of Antioch.
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 (v. 8).
Ptolemy did carry away much spoil. It is said he took with him some 4000 talents of gold (an immense sum in those days), 40,000 talents of silver, and numerous idols and idolatrous paraphernalia. He outlived this Seleucus II about five years, and died in 222 B.C.
So the king of the south shall come into his kingdom, and shall return into his own land (v. 9).
Ptolemy Euergetes returned to his own land. This same Seleucus II whom he had defeated some four or five years earlier, in 240 B.C. invaded Egypt but was defeated and had to go back home. Verse 9 is obscure, the actual translation is “this same [king of the north] shall come into the realm of the king of the south, but shall return to his own land.” This is proven by the historical accounts given by many writers. Seleucus invaded but got nowhere; his fleet was wrecked in a severe storm.
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 (v. 10).
The sons of Callinicus (Seleucus II) were Seleucus III who succeeded his father in 226 B.C., and Antiochus III (the Great) who began to reign in 223 B.C. Antiochus invaded Egypt and went further in when the king of Egypt—Ptolemy IV, called Philopater—did not oppose him. In 218 B.C. Antiochus took the fortress of Gaza.
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. 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 (vv. 11, 12).
In 217 B.C. Ptolemy IV roused himself and fought Antiochus the Great who came against him with an immense force but got beaten in spite of that. Ptolemy continued to be successful in battle, but he did not take advantage of his gains, giving himself over to a life of voluptuousness so that his victories did not strengthen him, as verse 12 says.
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 (v. 13).
About 205 B.C. Antiochus came with a bigger army than in 217. In the meantime Ptolemy IV had died and left an infant son named Ptolemy (V) Epiphanes.
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 (v. 14).
Antiochus had for his ally Philip V, king of Macedon. Meanwhile in Egypt many rebelled against the government, and there were wicked Jews (called in v. 14 the “robbers of thy people”), who sided with the king of Syria. They were to learn some years later by bitter experience that it did not pay to make friends with Syria, from which country and ruler they were to know fearful troubles for years to come.
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.
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 (vv. 15, 16).
These two verses recount the invasion of Palestine by Antiochus III. He subdued the whole land, but he was favorable to the Jews because they had sided with him against Egypt.
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 (v. 17).
Antiochus had a long reign, from about 223 to 187 B.C., or about 36 years. It was probably about 197 B.C. that Antiochus in order to gain complete possession of Egypt made an agreement with the king of Egypt, to have his daughter Cleopatra marry Ptolemy (V) the king of the south. She is called the “daughter of women” in our verse, because she was only a child at the time, and under the particular care of two women—her mother and her grandmother. This scheme came to naught.
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.
Then he shall turn his face toward the fort of his own land: but he shall stumble and fall, and not be found (vv. 18, 19).
Later on this Antiochus conquered islands on the coast of Asia Minor. The “prince” mentioned (v. 18) was Scipio Asiaticus—a Roman general. Antiochus had offended the Romans and was defeated by them in combat. He returned to Syria and died a wretched death, trying to plunder the temple of Belus in Elymais.
Then shall stand up in his estate a raiser of taxes in the glory of the kingdom; but within a few days he shall be destroyed, neither in anger, nor in battle (v. 20).
This king is Seleucus IV, who reigned from 187 to 176 B.C. The Jews hated him on account of his constant demands on them for money. His tax collector Heliodorus poisoned and killed him, so that he was slain neither in anger nor in battle.
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 (v. 21).
This verse introduces us to the infamous Antiochus (IV) Epiphanes who came to power in 176 B.C. He was a younger son of Antiochus the Great and had no direct right to the throne, but he worked his way in by flattery. He is the same person as the little horn of chapter 8 of whom it is said in verse 11 of that chapter that “he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and from him [that is, from the Lord Jesus Christ] the daily sacrifice was taken away [this Antiochus caused the true worship of God to stop], and the place of his sanctuary was cast down” (A.S.V., marg.). Quite similar things are said of the “vile person” of our chapter, “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” (v. 31). From verse 21 to verse 35 this king is the subject, as in detail his own personal acts, which are now history, are described; in verses 36-45 it tells of a future person, whose ways are foreshadowed by the Antiochus Epiphanes of old. That future person is the Antichrist, seen in verses 36 to 39. Antiochus Epiphanes, as we saw, set up idol worship in the temple in Jerusalem; in the future the Antichrist will do that same thing, and it is in this way Antiochus points to the coming Antichrist. Verses 36 to 45 thus point on to the “time of the end” (vv. 35, 40), and hence they point on to the future.
The record of these Syrian and Egyptian rulers ends here with the rise and rule of this Antiochus, for the reason that he is the prototype of the coming Antichrist, and to impress us with the fact that a similar situation will exist in the end time as it did when this last king was such a thorn in Israel’s side. History repeats itself, and our special attention is called to this in our chapter.
We return then to the history of Antiochus Epiphanes (vv. 22-35.)
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 (v. 22).
He was successful in defeating his enemies, and also Ptolemy (VI) Philometor and the generals of his army.
And after the league made with him he shall work deceitfully: for he shall come up, and shall become strong with a small people.
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 (vv. 23, 24).
He pretended to be friends with Ptolemy, but came treacherously against Egypt with a small army and conquered part of that country, as far as the city of Memphis. He took possession of fertile lands in Egypt under the pretense of protecting them from invasion. He took Pelusium. True to his character, he got others to side with him by lavishly sharing the spoils of his victories.
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 (v. 25).
This king of the south was Ptolemy (VII) Physcon. He faced Antiochus with a mighty army, but he failed because of treason among his own men.
And both 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 (v. 27).
These two kings were Antiochus Epiphanes and his partner Ptolemy Philometor (who had fallen into Antiochus’ power some years before). They made an alliance against Ptolemy Physcon, co-ruler of Egypt, but, like thieves, they fell out among themselves, and their scheme did not succeed.
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 (v. 28).
After this failure, Antiochus returned home with vast wealth, amassed in his many campaigns. He marched through Judea and captured the city of Jeru- salem without any battle, because some of the Jews who sided with him opened the gates to him. He slew a great many of the opposite party, and after plundering a great deal of money, he returned to Antioch.
At the time appointed he shall return, and come toward the south; but it shall not be as the former, or as the latter.
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 (vv. 29, 30).
He made another attempt against the south but without success. The ships of Chittim (now well known as a fleet sent out from Rome) met him when he was but a few miles off Alexandria. The Roman officials gave him orders to discontinue the war against his nephews, the Egyptian rulers. History tell us that, when Antiochus said he would discuss this with his partners and consult them, Popilius, one of the Roman legates, drew a circle in the sand with his staff and told him to give his answer right then before he stepped out of the circle. Fearing the power of the Romans, he was forced to yield.
In anger he went back and invaded Judea, to wreck his vengeance there. Josephus tells us that this second visit to Jerusalem was some two years after the first. This time he did not spare anybody but slew thousands and carried away some 10,000 captives. Apostate Jews, those who had forsaken the holy covenant, were on his side and betrayed their own people.
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 (v. 31).
This brings us to the climax of this monster’s acts. It answers, as said repeatedly, to what is said about this same person in chapter 8:11. The Jewish sacrifices ceased and the ceremonials of Judaism came to an end for that time. The temple was desecrated and a sow was offered upon the holy altar.
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 (v. 32).
Apostates among the Jews (as there will be in the days of Antichrist) were honored by Antiochus and given positions of prominence, but there were faithful and godly Jews (as there will be in the future) who stood against him and who fought him, as is now a matter of history in the courageous resistance of the Maccabees.
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. Now when they shall fall, they shall be holpen with a little help: but many shall cleave to them with flatteries.
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 (vv. 33-35).
Those who understood were, of course, God’s faith- ful people in that day of apostasy in Antiochus’ time. Many would lose their lives, be carried away captive, or lose their possessions. Maybe Hebrews 11:34 has them in view as those who “quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, ... waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.”
Many would fall but they, or others in their places, would rise again and continue the strife for their spiritual liberties (v. 35). And now, between verses 34 and 35 there is a tremendous jump in time—from 167 B.C. to times yet ahead. Verse 35 talks of the “time of the end,” when Israel’s past experience will be repeated—in a much more extensive measure—in their coming tribulation. Then, too, many of the faithful shall fall; they will be tried in the fiery furnace of suffering to purge them from their sins and lead to their conversion, for they shall be made white in the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 7:14). It is with this future prospect that verse 35 closes, thus introducing us to those final days of Israel’s travail pains, in the last ten verses of our chapter (Dan. 11:36-45). Let us quote these closing verses:
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. 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.
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. 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.
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. 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. He shall stretch forth his hand also upon the countries: and the land of Egypt shall not escape. 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.
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. 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 (vv. 36-45).
In the above passage we are reaching the “time of the end.” There is nothing in history to account for the events set forth in these verses. Just as there was a long interval between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks of Daniel (9:26, 27) so there is here between verses 35 and 36. The “king” (v. 36) is a person who, as we shall see, has not until now appeared here in Daniel on the page of inspiration. It is not Antiochus Epiphanes for he is long gone; it is not the “king of the north,” who in this passage appears as an antagonist of this “king”; it is not the “little horn” of chapter 8, for he is a Gentile and this king is a Jew as is clear from the things said about him (v. 37). He is the future Antichrist—Israel’s future religious and political ruler. Hence, there is a long space of time between Antiochus Epiphanes (vv. 21-35) and the Antichrist of the future; a lapse of time from 167 B.C. to after the present.
For a moment let us look at four long parentheses of time hinted at in Daniel:
1. The period of the times of the Gentiles (Luke 21:24). This began in 606 B.C. under Nebuchadnezzar and still has not reached its end, covering some 2573 years. Within that length of time three shorter times appear in this book, each one falling within the framework of these 2573 years of Gentile supremacy.
2. The interval between Daniel 11:35 and 36. We saw just now that this covers from 167 B.C. to what is still ahead of us—the coming of Antichrist—thus covering already about 2134 years.
3. The years between the death of Christ upon the Cross, mentioned in Daniel 9:26, and Israel’s tribulation (v. 27) which has not yet taken place. The interval between these two events is from about A.D. 33 to the present, or a length of time of at least 1934 years.
4. The lapse between the two legs of Nebuchadnezzar’s image (which he saw in his dream, Dan. 2:33) and the ten toes. We have noticed that the legs represent the Roman empire of the past; the feet and the ten toes picture the Rome of the future. Rome as a power disintegrated about A.D. 475, so there is a space between the Rome of the past and the Roman empire of the future of about 1500 years. All of these four intervals are presented in the book of Daniel.
And notice that while these parentheses have each a distinct time of their beginning they all go on to one and the same “ending”; they all reach their conclusion at the coming of Christ when He shall deliver his ancient people Israel and blast their enemies, when He shall inaugurate His universal sway. It is thrilling to catch this note in Daniel’s book. The focal point throughout the book is the glorious advent of Israel’s King, to take vengeance and to reign. Not His coming for the church, Daniel has nothing to do with that or say about it; his whole treatise is written with Israel in view.
The book of Daniel throws its searchlight upon the Son of Man, the King of Israel. Christ is the Stone Who smites the image on its feet, Who comes to judge the nations and punish them (2:45). He is the One Who walks with His people in the furnace of affliction in their coming tribulation (chap. 3). It is He Whose kingdom Nebuchadnezzar acknowledges as an everlasting dominion (4:34), and Christ will set up this dominion at His coming. Darius also owns the Lord as King, whose dominion shall be even unto the end (6:26). Christ is seen as the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven (7:13), which our Lord declares refers to Himself at His coming to judge the world (Matt. 24:30). We see the doom of the future “beast” of Revelation 13 at the hand of Christ (8:25), called in this verse the “Prince of princes.” We read of the destruction of this king of the north (11:45) who comes to his end in the glorious holy mountain—at Jerusalem—at our Lord’s return in power (Matt. 24). Thus throughout the book of Daniel everything is focused upon the final days of Israel, their terrible hour of tribulation but also the blessed and glorious climax of the coming of their Messiah to deliver those who turn to Him in faith and to reign victoriously over a redeemed earth. Many scriptures both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament declare these great truths.
He is the “king” of 11:36-39. This is evident for the “king of the south” and “the king of the north” come against him (v. 40) which means that he is between the two, for, as said before, “north” and “south” in these chapters are in relation to the land of Israel. He is the king in Palestine. This person exalts himself and magnifies himself above every god, and shall speak marvelous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished. This identifies him with the Antichrist, of whom very like things are said (II Thess. 2:4), that he too “exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” The inevitable conclusion is that these two verses both speak of the same person. He reigns in Jerusalem, for he “sitteth in the temple of God,” and there is no other temple of God than that in Jerusalem. This verse in Thessalonians indicates that the Jews will build a temple in Jerusalem some day, which Revelation 11:2 also indicates. The Antichrist will prosper “till the indignation be accom- plished,” and we saw earlier that this “indignation” has reference to Israel’s coming great tribulation. Therefore Antichrist will exercise his power till the end of the tribulation—till Christ comes (v. 36). He will be the bitter persecutor of the faithful Jews during the three and a half years of their great tribulation. He will not regard the God of his fathers (v. 37), which shows that he is a Jew, for the “fathers” in the Bible ever refer to the patriarchs of the Jewish nation of old. He shall not regard the “desire of women,” a well-known longing on the part of Jewish mothers to become the mother of the Messiah. In other words, this Antichrist will not acknowledge the God of his fathers, nor the Christ of God revealed so fully in the New Testament. He will insist on himself being the true and only God. The apostle John gives us this same view of the Antichrist, when he says, “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is Antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son” (I John 2:22). All true worship of God will be forbidden, and this includes both Israel and the false corrupt church which is left on earth in those days. Here in Daniel the Antichrist is seen taking supreme religious authority in regard to Israel; in Thessalonians we see him doing the same thing in regard to the professing church or Christendom (II Thess. 2). In the last nineteen centuries since the Cross the true believers have ever been the butts of persecution, but when Antichrist reigns we won’t be here. His spite is vented on the only other two groups which still maintain some recognition of the true God, namely, on Israel and on the professing church, left here when the Lord catches us up to glory. We see the persecution of Israel in the great tribulation; you can read about the annihilation of the false church in Revelation 17:16.
The Antichrist shall honor the “God of forces,” of mighty military power. This tells us, as Revelation 13 indicates and as we saw in Daniel 9:27, that he makes a treaty with the “beast” (Rev. 13), who is the ruler of the mighty coalition of western European nations, known familiarly as the to-be revived Roman empire. This false Messiah will honor and reward and share his power with those who ally themselves with him—those called the worshippers of the image of the beast (Rev. 13). He imitates the true Messiah, for Christ will reward those who love and serve Him. However, the honors the Antichrist will bestow won’t last long, while our blessed Lord decks His own with eternal glory. Antichrist’s tenure of office will be short, and, as we are told, the Lord shall consume him with the spirit of His mouth and destroy him with the brightness of His coming (II Thess. 2:8).
And now, in the closing verses of this chapter, we learn of the troubles which will beset the Antichrist as he reaches the end of his brief reign. Verses 40-45 tell us of the invasion of the land of Israel “at the time of the end.” That invasion and the final judgment falling on those invading forces are also given elsewhere in Scripture. Of the king of the south nothing is said further; the king of the north is the important party in those last days. He comes with a mighty army, like a whirlwind, with many ships; he shall enter into the countries on his way south and pass them by and shall enter the glorious land, the land of Israel (vv. 40, 41).
Who is this king of the north? No one can say positively. We do know that long ago the Assyrian was Israel’s enemy coming from the north; later on, as mentioned frequently in this chapter, it was Syria. Syria now is a nation to the north of the land of Israel, but from the description given in our chapter and from the fact that Russia is shown in Ezekiel 38 and 39 as Israel’s enemy in the future, it seems logical to see Russia in this king of the north, even if it is not the only power arrayed against Israel. Egypt is to the south, and even today Egypt is showing its hatred of Israel.
This king of the north invades the promised land and drives through it further south till he conquers Egypt (v. 42), as well as Libya and Ethiopia (v. 43). This invasion is clearly forecast in the book of Zechariah where we read, “For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city” (Zech. 14:2). Jerusalem is taken in that future day and the same thing is suggested here in verse 41 of Daniel 11. It also reveals that Edom, Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon shall escape out of his hand. What a wonderful proof of divine inspiration is here, for long ago Isaiah had prophesied that these three nations would be blessed under Israel’s control in the day of their blessing (Isa. 11:14). Probably these three nations (whoever they are in the latter days; I don’t know whether they are identifiable right now) are spared because all three are related to Israel by family ties as the descendants of Esau and of Lot the nephew of Abraham.
When this northern power and his armies are in Egypt, tidings out of the east and out of the north trouble him. When we turn to the book of Revelation we get, I believe, the explanation of this. Revelation 16:16 reveals the fact that in those latter days mighty armies will have landed in the land of Israel at Armageddon, which is quite a distance to the north of Jerusalem. These are the armies from the west—under the command of the “beast,” the ruler of the European confederacy of ten nations (Rev. 17:12, 13). Since they had made a league with Israel (Dan. 9:27), they have come to Israel for their help and protection against this king of the north, but as happens so often, they had come too late, for the northern forces had already invaded the land, captured Jerusalem and had pressed down further south, as we saw just now. And the news from the east most likely has to do with the invading hordes—200 millions of them according to Revelation 9:14-21 and Revelation 16:12. Those Asiatic nations, the famous “yellow peril,” apparently were also converging on the land of Israel. (How all these things cast their shadows before them, for right now the tension between Russia and China, the restlessness of the Arab states, and the emergence of Egypt are plainly visible.) Those tidings coming to the king of the north while he is in Egypt, to my mind, plainly have those mighty future gatherings for war in view.
The king of the north rushes back in fury to destroy those enemies. He reaches the land of Israel and makes his camp at Mount Zion, the glorious holy mountain (v. 45), and that is where he and his armies meet their end. And that “end” is very clearly set forth in Zechariah 14:3 and 4, “Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.”
It is when Christ returns to earth to deliver His people Israel and to smite His enemies that His vengeance falls on this northern army at the city of Jerusalem. This gives us the destruction of the northern forces at the coming of our Lord and it takes place at Jerusalem. But what about the armies of Europe? They are not at Jerusalem; they landed at Armageddon as the book of Revelation shows.
There are two major annihilations of armies at the glorious appearing of Christ—one at Jerusalem, the other at Armageddon. The one at Jerusalem is described in the Old Testament; the one at Armageddon in the New Testament. I am inclined to believe that the destruction of Russia(?) and her armies takes place last and that at Armageddon first, because at Armageddon He comes in the clouds of heaven (before He even touches the earth), but at Jerusalem, as we read in Zechariah 14, His feet stand on the Mount of Olives. He left for heaven from that mount some 1900 years ago and will return to the same place. He will come, as Isaiah declares, to punish the world for their evil and the wicked for their iniquity (Isa. 13:11).
The massacre of the western armies under the beast is described in Revelation 19, “And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet [the Antichrist] that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh” (Rev. 19:19-21). The place of this massacre is identified as “Armageddon” (Rev. 16:16), which is about 40 miles north of the city of Jerusalem—the valley of Megiddo. Here the western powers (at Jerusalem the northern powers) are destroyed at Christ’s coming. God’s judgment comes upon the two armies at two different places and at two different times.
Thus the blessed day of Israel’s eternal blessing, to which they have looked forward for centuries, will have arrived. The world won’t be made a world of peace and plenty through the efforts of sociologists, or even through the preaching of the gospel, but through the judgments of God upon sinful man. Jesus is coming; sing the glad words!