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The Four Empires of Daniel's Prophecies

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Among the Jewish captives taken from Judah and exiled to Babylon was a young man whose Hebrew name was Daniel, renamed Belteshazzar by the Babylonians (Daniel 1:1-7 Daniel 1:1-7 1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to Jerusalem, and besieged it. 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god. 3 And the king spoke to Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes; 4 Children in whom was no blemish, but well favored, and skillful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans. 5 And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king’s meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king. 6 Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: 7 To whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave to Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego.
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). Daniel lived in the remarkable times of the downfall of the kingdoms of both Judah and Babylon. He served as a high official in both the Babylonian government and that of its successor, the Medo-Persian Empire.

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Yet at the end of the book God instructed Daniel to “shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase” (Daniel 12:4 Daniel 12:4But you, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.
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). This indicates that certain major prophecies that previously wouldn't have made sense will be understandable as the end approaches.

The prophecies of Daniel provide proof of the accuracy of the Bible. Many of his prophecies are so detailed and specific that they have long confounded Bible critics.

In fact, some skeptics have not challenged the content of Daniel's prophetic accuracy. Rather than admit that his words are indeed inspired, they have simply labeled his book a fraud. They claim that it was not written by Daniel in the sixth century B.C.—timing which is evident by events written of in the book—but that it was penned by an unknown author in the 160s B.C., long after many of the events prophesied in the book came to pass. This, the critics allege, is the real reason for the book's startling prophetic accuracy!

Daniel's testimony challenges the critics. But let's first consider the nature of the critics' approach. They dispute Daniel's authorship because he refers to himself in the early chapters in the third person, as if writing about someone else. However, as The Expositor's Bible Commentary points out, this “was the custom among ancient authors of historical memoirs …” (1985, Vol. 7, p. 4). In relating some of his experiences Daniel did write in the first person (Daniel 7:15 Daniel 7:15I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the middle of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me.
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; 8:15; 9:2; 10:2).

The identity of Daniel's critics is significant as well. The first person to question the authenticity of Daniel's authorship was the Greek scholar and historian Porphyry, who lived A.D. 233-304. He is labeled by historians as a Neoplatonist, which means he subscribed to the doctrines of the Greek philosopher Plato rather than the Bible. “Porphyry is well known as a violent opponent of Christianity and defender of Paganism” ( Encyclopaedia Britannica , 11th edition, Vol. 22, p. 104, “Porphyry”).

Since Porphyry was an enemy of Christianity, his objectivity is open to question. He had no factual basis for his opinion, and his view contradicted the testimony of Jesus Christ, who referred to Daniel as the author of the book (Matthew 24:15 Matthew 24:15When you therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoever reads, let him understand:)
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).

The biblical scholar Jerome (A.D. 340-420) refuted Porphyry's contention. Thereafter no one took Porphyry's remarks seriously again until many centuries later. “… He was more or less dismissed by Christian scholarship as a mere pagan detractor who had allowed a naturalistic bias to warp his judgment. But during the time of the Enlightenment in the eighteenth century, all supernatural elements in Scripture came under suspicion …” ( Expositor's , p. 13).

Some of today's scholars with liberal leanings have recycled these centuries- old arguments. Old Testament historian Eugene Merrill says their beliefs are built on feeble evidence. “[Daniel's] rhetoric and language are eminently at home in the sixth century [B.C.] … It is only on the most subjective and circular lines of evidence that the man and his writing have been denied historicity” ( Kingdom of Priests , 1996, p. 484).

Phenomenal prophecy and fulfillment

image The accuracy of Daniel's prophecies of remotely distant events is spectacular. For example, in the “70 weeks” prophecy recorded in Daniel 9:24-27 Daniel 9:24-27 24 Seventy weeks are determined on your people and on your holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. 25 Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem to the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and three score and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. 26 And after three score and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and to the end of the war desolations are determined. 27 And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the middle of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured on the desolate.
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, “Daniel predicts the precise year of Christ's appearance and the beginning of his ministry in A.D. 27” ( Expositor's , p. 9).

Another amazing prophecy recorded by Daniel is his interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream in chapter 2. In the second year of his reign the Babylonian king had a troubling dream that none of his counselors could explain. Babylonian culture placed considerable emphasis on dreams, and Nebuchadnezzar was convinced that this one was of great importance (Daniel 2:1-3 Daniel 2:1-3 1 And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, with which his spirit was troubled, and his sleep broke from him. 2 Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to show the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king. 3 And the king said to them, I have dreamed a dream, and my spirit was troubled to know the dream.
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).

His dream gives us a “disclosure of God's plan for the ages till the final triumph of Christ” and “presents the foreordained succession of world powers that are to dominate the Near East till the final victory of the Messiah in the last days” ( Expositor's , pp. 39, 46).

Without prior knowledge of its content, Daniel explained the details of the dream to Nebuchadnezzar: “You, O king, were watching; and behold, a great image! This great image, whose splendor was excellent, stood before you; and its form was awesome. This image's head was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay” (Daniel 2:31-33 Daniel 2:31-33 31 You, O king, saw, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before you; and the form thereof was terrible. 32 This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, 33 His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay.
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).

Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar that his Babylonian Empire was represented by the head of gold (verses 37-38). The silver, bronze and iron components of the image, or statue, represented three powerful empires that were to follow mighty Babylon (verses 39-40).

This interpretation provided an astounding preview of history. Nebuchadnezzar's dream occurred and was interpreted by Daniel about 600 B.C. The image represented, in symbolic form, the sequence of great empires that would dominate the region's political scene for centuries.

“The silver empire was to be Medo- Persia, which began with Cyrus the Great, who conquered Babylon in 539 … This silver empire was supreme in the Near and Middle East for about two centuries” ( Expositor's , p. 47).

“The bronze empire was the Greco-Macedonian Empire established by Alexander the Great … The bronze kingdom lasted for about 260 or 300 years before it was supplanted by the fourth kingdom” (ibid.).

“Iron connotes toughness and ruthlessness and describes the Roman Empire that reached its widest extent under the reign of Trajan” (ibid.). Trajan reigned as emperor A.D. 98-117, and the Roman Empire itself ruled for many centuries.

The fourth empire was depicted as having 10 toes. The feet and toes were composed partly of iron and partly of clay, as verse 41 explains. “Verse 41 deals with a later phase or outgrowth of this fourth empire, symbolized by the feet and ten toes—made up of iron and earthenware, a fragile base for the huge monument. The text clearly implies that this final phase will be marked by some sort of federation rather than by a powerful single realm” (ibid.). (For more details, request or download our free booklet The Book of Revelation Unveiled .)

Another dream adds important details

Additional aspects of this succession of world-ruling empires were revealed to Daniel in a later dream. This time the four empires were represented by four beasts: a lion (Babylonian Empire), a bear (Medo-Persian Empire), a leopard (Greco-Macedonian Empire) and a fourth beast described as “terrible” and unlike the other three (Daniel 7:1-7 Daniel 7:1-7 1 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head on his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters. 2 Daniel spoke and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove on the great sea. 3 And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another. 4 The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand on the feet as a man, and a man’s heart was given to it. 5 And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus to it, Arise, devour much flesh. 6 After this I beheld, and see another, like a leopard, which had on the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it. 7 After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and broke in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns.
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).

Notice what verse 7 says about this fourth creature: “After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth [paralleling the iron legs of the prior dream]; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.”

What does this description mean? It too is a reference to the great power of Rome, which crushed all who opposed it. “Thus the superior power of the colossus of Rome … is emphasized in the symbolism of this terrible fourth beast” ( Expositor's , p. 87).

Verse 8 of Daniel 7 elaborates on the 10 horns: “I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots.” Later in the chapter we see that this little horn exalts himself to the position of an internationally powerful religious leader (verses 24-25), even commanding a false religious system that persecutes the true followers of God.

Daniel 7:9-14 Daniel 7:9-14 9 I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. 10 A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered to him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened. 11 I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spoke: I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame. 12 As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time. 13 I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 14 And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
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takes us right through to Christ's establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth: “Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.” So this Roman system, through its periodic revivals down through history, continues right to the time of the end when Jesus Christ returns to rule the earth.

Revelation 17 also helps us in understanding this end-time power. In this chapter it is again depicted as a beast, but now we see that its final manifestation includes 10 “kings”—leaders of nations or groups of nations—who “receive authority for one hour” with the ruler of this end-time superpower, an individual the Bible refers to as “the beast” (Revelation 17:12-13 Revelation 17:12-13 12 And the ten horns which you saw are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. 13 These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength to the beast.
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). This final revival of the Roman Empire leads into Christ's return as they “make war with the Lamb” (verse 14).

All of this concurs with Daniel 2:44 Daniel 2:44And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.
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, which obviously indicates that the second coming of Christ will occur in a time during which vestiges of the fourth beast or kingdom (the Roman Empire) still exist: “And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.”

The greater part of these prophetic events, as detailed by the two dreams, has already been fulfilled. Their detailed completion affirms the divine inspiration of the Bible. The odds of any person foreseeing this on his own defy credibility. “… There is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days” (Daniel 2:28 Daniel 2:28But there is a God in heaven that reveals secrets, and makes known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Your dream, and the visions of your head on your bed, are these;
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).

The Bible's most detailed prophecy

Daniel 11 records another phenomenal prophecy. The chronological setting is given in Daniel 10:1 Daniel 10:1In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a thing was revealed to Daniel, whose name was called Belteshazzar; and the thing was true, but the time appointed was long: and he understood the thing, and had understanding of the vision.
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as the “third year of Cyrus king of Persia.” A “man” (verse 5), no doubt an angel (compare Daniel 9:21 Daniel 9:21Yes, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation.
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), came to tell Daniel what would occur “in the latter days” (Daniel 10:14 Daniel 10:14Now I am come to make you understand what shall befall your people in the latter days: for yet the vision is for many days.
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).

The prophecy that follows is the most detailed in all the Bible. The third year of Cyrus was more than 500 years before the birth of Christ. Yet this prophecy foretells events that began to occur almost immediately and will continue until the return of Christ. The initial stages of the prophecy confirm the Bible because they have already been fulfilled, as can be verified by a study of the Persian and Greek empires. No man could foresee such fine historical detail.

Some elements of what follows are intricate, requiring close attention. But a comparison of the prophetic words with the historical record makes them clear.

Protracted political intrigue

The first 35 verses of Daniel 11 give an account, written years in advance, of the intrigue between two political entities— the “king of the South” and the “king of the North.” In secular history, the king of the South is often referred to as Ptolemy. The Ptolemaic dynasty ruled from Alexandria in Egypt. The king of the North ruled from Antioch in Syria under the name Seleucus, or Antiochus.

With this in mind, let's examine some of the details of the prophecy. It is important because it reveals the political climate and tensions in the Middle East preceding both the first and second appearances of Jesus Christ as the Messiah. In both instances, Jerusalem is at the center of the political conflicts of the time.

You can find more information on the historical fulfillment of much of this prophecy in resources such as The Expositor's Bible Commentary , which we quote below, or other reliable reference works. Rather than our quoting the entire scriptural passage, we recommend that you read in your own Bible the verses we cite, and remember that these details were foretold far in advance of their occurrence.

image Daniel 11:2 Daniel 11:2And now will I show you 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.
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:
The “three more kings” are Cambyses, the elder son of Cyrus; pseudo-Smerdis, an impostor who passed himself off as Cyrus's younger son, who had been secretly killed; and Darius the Persian. “The Persian king who invaded Greece was … Xerxes, who reigned 485-464 B.C.” ( Expositor's , p. 128).

Verses 3-4: “Verse 3 introduces us to … the rise of Alexander the Great” (ibid.). The language in verse 4 “clearly suggests that this mighty conqueror was going to have a comparatively brief reign … In seven or eight years he accomplished the most dazzling military conquest in human history. But he lived only four years more; and … died of a fever in 323 …” (ibid.).

Alexander's kingdom was divided “among four smaller and weaker empires” (Expositor's, p. 129). Alexander's infant son had been murdered in 310 and an illegitimate brother assassinated in 317. “Thus there were no descendants or blood relatives to succeed Alexander himself” (ibid.). So his kingdom was not divided among his posterity (verse 4).

Alexander's generals warred for control of his empire. The ensuing struggles for domination eliminated all but four, who became heads of the four divisions of his empire. The four were Cassander, reigning in Greece and the West, Lysimachus in Thrace and Asia Minor, Ptolemy in Egypt and Seleucus in Syria. Of these four, two—Ptolemy and Seleucus—expanded their rule and territory. These were the kings of Egypt and Syria, respectively.

The machinations that follow relate to these two. They are referred to as the king of the South (Ptolemy) and the king of the North (Seleucus) because of their location relative to Jerusalem.

Verse 5: “The king of the South was to be Ptolemy I” ( Expositor's , p. 130). The biblical expression “one of his princes” refers to Seleucus. He had originally served under Ptolemy. In the intrigue after Alexander's death, Seleucus ultimately gained control over Syria and became king of the North. Seleucus eventually wielded more power than Ptolemy. The dynasty of the Seleucid line was to continue until 64 B.C.

The Laodicean war

Verse 6: A state of tension and hostility existed between the king of the South and the king of the North. Ptolemy I died in 285 B.C. In 252 the two powers attempted a treaty under which Berenice, the daughter of Ptolemy II, was to marry Antiochus II, the king of the North. Laodice, the first wife of Antiochus II, was angry because he had divorced her. In retaliation, she manipulated a conspiracy from her place of banishment. She had Berenice and her infant son assassinated. “Not long afterward the king himself [Antiochus II] was poisoned …” (ibid.).

Laodice established herself as queen, because her son Seleucus II was too young to rule. The prophecy “she [Berenice] shall be given up” refers to the coup that Laodice engineered to effect the execution of Berenice. Some nobles who had supported Berenice as queen were also brought down.

Verses 7-9: Retaliation followed. A series of military actions, which came to be known as the Laodicean War, resulted. Ptolemy II died soon after Laodice killed his daughter, Berenice. Ptolemy III sought to avenge his sister's death. He attacked the king of the North and captured the Syrian capital of Antioch. Verse 8 describes the recapture by Ptolemy of “long-lost idols and sacred treasures” ( Expositor's , p. 131) that had been stolen from Egypt by Cambyses in 524 B.C.

Peace was concluded between Ptolemy III and Seleucus II in 240, and hostilities ceased until 221, when Ptolemy III died.

Verses 10-12 : The sons of Seleucus II attacked the king of the South after their father died. One of these sons, Seleucus III, reigned for only three years. His military activity was relatively minor. He died by poisoning. Another son, Antiochus III (the Great), did “overwhelm and pass through.” He conquered Judea.

Ptolemy IV, the king of the South, retaliated (verse 11) and defeated the larger army of Seleucus III at the Battle of Raphia. After his victory Ptolemy turned to a life of debauchery during which he slaughtered tens of thousands of Jews in Egypt (verse 12). Through all this he weakened his kingdom.

Verses 13-16: The phrase “at the end of some years” refers to an incident when, 14 years after his defeat, Antiochus III came against Ptolemy V, still a young boy. (Ptolemy IV had died in 203.) The Egyptian provinces were in turmoil because of the wretched rule of Ptolemy IV. Many of the people—including Jews sympathetic to the king of the North—joined with Antiochus against the king of the South. The rebellion was ultimately crushed by the Egyptian general Scopus (verse 14).

Scopus also rebuffed the forces of Antiochus during the winter of 201-200. The king of the North responded with another invasion. He captured the city of Sidon (“a fortified city”), where Scopus surrendered (verse 15). Antiochus acquired complete control of the Holy Land, the “Glorious Land” (verse 16).

Verse 17: The Revised English Bible reads: “He [the king of the North] will resolve to advance with the full might of his kingdom; and, when he has agreed terms with the king of the south, he will give his young daughter in marriage to him, with a view to the destruction of the kingdom; but the treaty will not last nor will it be his purpose which is served.” Having defeated Scopus, Antiochus desired to gain control of Egypt itself. He gave his daughter, Cleopatra, to Ptolemy V in marriage. Antiochus believed she would act in his favor and betray the interests of her husband. But she frustrated his plans by siding with Ptolemy.

Verses 18-19 : In his frustration, Antiochus attacked islands and cities of the Aegean area. He also gave asylum to Rome's enemy, Hannibal of Carthage, who assisted him in landing in Greece. Rome responded by attacking Antiochus and inflicting defeat on his forces. The Romans deprived him of much of his territory and took several hostages to Rome, including Antiochus's son. Rome exacted heavy tribute of him (verse 18).

Antiochus returned in disgrace to his stronghold, Antioch. Unable to pay the heavy fees exacted by the Romans, he attempted to plunder a pagan temple. His action so enraged local inhabitants that they killed him, bringing him to an inglorious end (verse 19).

Verse 20: While not Scripture, the apocryphal book of 3:7-40 3:7-40
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says that Antiochus's other son, Seleucus IV, was also unable to pay the taxes. Seleucus sent a Jew, Heliodorus, to plunder the temple at Jerusalem. Heliodorus went to the holy city but obtained nothing. Seleucus was later poisoned by Heliodorus, and so killed, “but not in anger or in battle.”

Antiochus Epiphanes

Daniel 11:21-35 Daniel 11:21-35 21 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. 22 And with the arms of a flood shall they be overflowed from before him, and shall be broken; yes, also the prince of the covenant. 23 And after the league made with him he shall work deceitfully: for he shall come up, and shall become strong with a small people. 24 He shall enter peaceably even on 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: yes, and he shall forecast his devices against the strong holds, even for a time. 25 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. 26 Yes, they that feed of the portion of his meat shall destroy him, and his army shall overflow: and many shall fall down slain. 27 And both of 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. 28 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. 29 At the time appointed he shall return, and come toward the south; but it shall not be as the former, or as the latter. 30 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. 31 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 makes desolate. 32 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. 33 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. 34 Now when they shall fall, they shall be helped with a little help: but many shall join to them with flatteries. 35 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.
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:
These verses speak of the infamous Antiochus IV (known also as Epiphanes), the brother of Seleucus IV, who had earlier been taken hostage to Rome. He was a “tyrannical oppressor who did his utmost to destroy the Jewish religion altogether” (Expositor's, p. 136).

Antiochus passed laws that forbade the practice of the Jewish religion, under penalty of death. He was a man of incredible cruelty. On his orders “an aged Scribe, Eleazar, was flogged to death because he refused to eat swine's flesh. A mother and her seven children were successively butchered, in the presence of the governor, for refusing to pay homage to an image. Two mothers who had circumcised their new-born sons were driven through the city and cast headlong from the wall” (Charles Pfeiffer, Between the Testaments , 1974, pp. 81-82).

Verse 31: This refers to the momentous events of Dec. 16, 168 B.C., when a crazed Antiochus entered Jerusalem and killed 80,000 men, women and children ( 5:11-14 5:11-14
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). He then desecrated the temple by offering a sacrifice to the chief Greek god, Zeus. This outrage was a forerunner of a comparable event that Jesus Christ said would occur in the last days (Matthew 24:15 Matthew 24:15When you therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoever reads, let him understand:)
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).

image Verses 32-35: These verses appear to describe, on one level, the indomitable will and courage of the Maccabees, a family of priests who resisted Antiochus and his successors. The Maccabees' revolt against the Syrian king was triggered when “Mattathias, the leading priest in the city of Modein …, after killing the officer of Antiochus who had come to enforce the new decree concerning idolatrous worship …, led a guerrilla band that fled to the hills …” (Expositor's , p. 141).

Mattathias was aided in his cause by five sons, most notably Judah or Judas, nicknamed Maqqaba (Aramaic for hammer, whence derives the name Maccabees). Many of these patriots died in this cause, but their heroics ultimately drove the Syrian forces from the country.

On another level, these verses could even refer to the New Testament Church, with their references to mighty works, persecution and apostasy.

Indeed, at this point Daniel's prophecy definitely takes on a different tone, referring explicitly to “the time of the end” near the end of verse 35. To quote Expositor's : “With the conclusion of the preceding pericope [extract] at v. 35, the predictive material that incontestably applies to the Hellenistic empires and the contest between the Seleucids and the Jewish patriots ends. This present section (vv. 36-39) contains some features that hardly apply to Antiochus IV, though most of the details could apply to him as well as to his latter-day antitype, ‘the beast.'

“Both liberal and conservative scholars agree that all of chapter 11 up to this point contains strikingly accurate predictions of the whole sweep of events from the reign of Cyrus … to the unsuccessful effort of Antiochus Epiphanes to stamp out the Jewish faith” ( Expositor's , p. 143).

From this point forward a little more than a century would pass before the Roman general Pompey would conquer Jerusalem. Much of the Middle East passed to the control of the Roman Empire, and much of its power in turn passed to its eastern leg, the Byzantine Empire, in the following centuries.

But then, as we'll see in the next chapter, a remarkable new power and religion arose on the scene to dominate the Middle East for centuries—the Islamic Empire.

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