Daniel 11
Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Also I in the first year of Darius the Mede, even I, stood to confirm and to strengthen him.

(1) In the first year of Darius.—These words must be closely connected with the last verse of Daniel 10. The allusion is, most probably, to the fall of Babylon and the return from the Exile, at which time, as at the Exodus, the angel of the Lord went before His people. There is also a reference to Daniel 6:22.

And now will I shew 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.
(2) The truth.—Comp. Daniel 10:21. This is the commencement of the revelation promised in Daniel 10:14; and from this point till the end of the book the difficulties that have to be encountered in attempting an exposition are almost insuperable. It has been customary from the time of St. Jerome, if not from an earlier epoch, to explain most of what follows as referring to the Ptolemies and Seleucidæ. The difficulties which oppose this interpretation will be pointed out in the notes. It is a question whether, after all, the early interpretation is correct, and, if not, whether this revelation does not still await its complete fulfilment. The mere similarity which exists between certain things predicted here and what actually occurred in the times of the Ptolemies is not sufficient to limit the fulfilment of the prophecy to those times, still less to justify the assumption that the section before us is a history of what occurred from the disruption of the Greek Empire to the death of Antiochus. “History repeats itself;” and just as Antiochus (Daniel 8:23-25) is a type of Antichrist (Daniel 7:21), so the events and political combinations which preceded Antiochus may be regarded as typical of what will occur before the coming of the Messiah and the general resurrection, with a prediction of which (Daniel 12:2-3) this revelation concludes.

Three kings.—It is hard to say who these were. Cyrus being on the throne already, it is most probable that his three successors are intended—Cambyses, Darius, and Xerxes. Those four kings appear to have been selected whose influence was most prominent in its bearings upon Israel. Xerxes is called the fourth king because the reckoning dates from Cyrus, and the short reign of the Pseudo Smerdis is not taken into account. Not only do the riches of Xerxes point him out as the last king, but also his conduct towards Greece may be correctly described as “stirring up” against himself “the realm of Grecia.”

Against . . .—The passage gives better sense if translated, he shall stir up all, the kingdom of Greece, that is, amongst those stirred up the kingdom of Greece is most prominent. It should be noticed that at the time of the invasion of Europe by Xerxes, Greece was in no sense “a kingdom.” Such language is incompatible with an authorship during the Maccabee period.

And a mighty king shall stand up, that shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will.
(3) A mighty king.—No clue is given to show over what nation this king reigns. According to the context he might be either a Greek or a Persian, or he might belong to a kingdom not yet mentioned. Those who explain what follows to refer to the Ptolemies and Seleucidæ identify him with Alexander the Great, and compare with this verse Daniel 7:6; Daniel 8:5-8; Daniel 8:21-22. Certainly the self-will spoken of in this verse was characteristic of Alexander (comp. also Daniel 8:4), but there was nothing in the context which makes it necessary to limit the passage to him. Some autocrat may arise “in the latter times” to whom it will apply with greater force than it did to Alexander.

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.
(4) Broken.—The shortness of the king’s reign is implied; the moment that he has arisen he will come to nothing. As in Daniel 8:8, the great horn was broken, so here the kingdom is broken and dismembered. This has been explained to mean the sudden collapse of the Greek empire after the death of Alexander.

Not to his posterity.—The kingdom disappears without the members of the king’s family reaping any benefit from it. It is “plucked up for others besides these”—i.e., to the exclusion of his lawful heirs—and strangers shall possess the fragments of his empire. This is explained of the partition of Alexander’s empire among his generals, and of the murder of his two sons, Hercules and Alexander, but the language is too indefinite to make any such identification certain. The revelation directs our attention to a self-willed king, whose large empire is to come to a sudden and unexpected end; the ruins of it are not to benefit his posterity, but apparently two strangers, who are designated king of the north and king of the south respectively.

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.
(5) The king.—This king of the south (see Daniel 11:8) is suddenly introduced to our notice. The vagueness of the language prevents us from asserting that the reference is to Ptolemy Soter, who assumed the title of king about B.C. 304. Equally obscure is the phrase “one of his princes.” Both the Greek versions interpret the passage to mean “that one of the princes of the king of the south shall be stronger than his former master.” It is hard to see how Seleucus Nicator can be called a “prince” of Ptolemy Soter. Any attempt at making the pronoun “his” refer to the mighty king mentioned in the last verse is opposed to the context, and to introduce any fresh sentence such as “shall arise” is an unwarrantable assumption. The obscurity of the Hebrew text is well reproduced in the English Version. It should be stated that Ptolemy took Jerusalem B.C. 320, and that these times must have been very critical to the Jews.

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.
(6) In the end.—Comp. Daniel 11:8; Daniel 11:13, and 2Chronicles 18:2. Here again the reference is most obscure. If the “joining themselves together” refers to the marriage of Antiochus II. with Berenice, the daughter of Ptolemy Philadelphus, and if “the agreement” (comp. “upright ones,” Daniel 11:17) refers to the terms of the marriage, which were that Antiochus should put away his former wife Laodice, and appoint her firstborn son successor to the throne, then it must be remarked that history is irreconcilable with the prophecy. Also it appears from Daniel 10:14 that this revelation bears upon the future of Israel, and it does not appear that this marriage affected the Jewish people more than any other marriage. This, and the fact that a period of more than fifty years intervened between the events supposed to be implied in Daniel 11:5-6, make the traditional interpretation very unsatisfactory. The language refers to what is mentioned as one of the characteristics of the last empire (Daniel 2:43), various attempts to consolidate earthly powers by political marriages. These do not characterise the era of the Seleucidæ any more than they do the times of Ahab, or many other periods of history.

Shall not retain.—The Greek versions show the difficulties experienced by the translators, the LXX. apparently following a different text. The meaning appears to be that the marriage will not accomplish its intended purpose. The king of the south, instead of becoming independent of his northern rival, will only become more subjected to him than he was previously. This does not appear to have happened with regard to Ptolemy Philadelphus and Antiochus Theos, the former of whom is generally identified with “he that begat her,” the latter with “he that strengthened her.”

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:
(7) As yet there has been no account of any war between the northern and southern king, but it must not be forgotten that Ptolemy Philadelphus and Antiochus Theos were at war for ten years or more. In this and the following verses there is a description of a severe war, in which the southern king is victorious. This is explained of the war between Ptolemy Evergetes and Seleucus Callinicus, which lasted B.C. 246-243, and in which Ptolemy was successful, carrying back with him into Egypt on his return large quantities of spoil and images of gods which he had taken. The coincidence between history and prophecy is far from establishing the truth of the explanation; but the mention of Egypt in Daniel 11:8 directs our attention to a country which will hereafter become the scene of the fulfilment of the prophecy.

Out of a branch of her roots.—The same words occur in Isaiah 11:1. The meaning is, “a branch growing from her roots shall stand up in the place of the person last mentioned.” It is not easy to say which king is meant, nor is there any agreement among commentators as to what is intended by “her roots.” According to one view, “her parents” are intended, so that “the branch” is some one of collateral descent with herself. According to another view the words mean “her family.”

With an army.—Literally, to the army. Theodotion and the LXX. both translate by δύναμιν, which Theodoret explains to be a name for Jerusalem. The person spoken of comes to attack the army, and the fortress has been supposed to be Seleucia. However, the use of the plural “them” in the latter part of the verse makes it more probable that the word “fortress” is used collectively for fortified cities.

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.
(8) He shall continue.—Apparently the meaning is (comp. the use of the preposition in Daniel 11:31) “He shall stand on the side of [i.e., as an ally of] the northern king several years.” Others translate, “He shall abstain from the king of the north some years.” In either case the sense is nearly the same. The reference is said to be to the cessation of hostilities between Ptolemy and Seleucus, but there is nothing in these verses which leads us to infer what history states as a fact, that the northern king was completely crippled by a serious defeat, and that his fleet was dispersed by a storm.

So the king of the south shall come into his kingdom, and shall return into his own land.
(9) The king of the south.—According to the Hebrew text, these words are in the genitive case (so Theod. Jer.), though the English Version is supported by the LXX. In this case the meaning is, “The king of the north shall come into the kingdom of the southern king,” and then shall return to his own land—i.e., the north—apparently without gaining any advantage.

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.
(10) His sons.—The pronoun refers to the subject of Daniel 11:9, which is the northern king (though, according to the LXX. and English Version, it must be his rival). There is a marginal alternative in the Hebrew “son.” The LXX. supports the text. If the king of the north last mentioned is Seleucus Callinicus, his sons must be Seleucus Ceraunus, a man of no importance, and Antiochus the Great. It is here stated of the sons that they are stirred up; that they collect a vast army, which advances steadily, overflowing like a torrent, while its masses pass through the land; that they shall return and carry on the war up to the frontier of the southern king. Considering the uncertainty of the readings in the Hebrew text, and the ambiguity of the language, this is anything but a definite statement. However, it has been explained to refer to the wars of Antiochus and Ptolemy Philopator, in course of which they took Seleucia, Tyre, and Ptolemais, besieged the Egyptians in Sidon, and actually took possession of Gaza.

One shall certainly come.—Not the king, but the multitude just spoken of. The words “overflow,” “pass through” “return,” all refer to the ebbing and flowing of the tide of war.

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.
(11) And the king.—The ambiguity of this verse is very great. “He” may refer to either king; so that while some commentators see in the words an account of the successes of Ptolemy against Antiochus in the battle of Raphia (B.C. 217)—the “multitude” being the army of Antiochus, which was severely defeated at that place—others infer that the northern king is represented as defeating his rival. Evidently the words “with the king of the north” are added, as in Exodus 2:6, for the sake of clearness. This makes it most probable that the first of the two interpretations just given is correct, and that “he” refers to the northern king, “his hand” to the hand of the southern king. This is supported by Daniel 11:12, where we read of the conduct of the southern king after his victory.

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.
(12) And when he.—It is not clear whether “the multitude” or “the king” is subject of the sentence, or whether the verb “he hath taken away” is to be translated active or passive. The verse might mean, “And the multitude is lifted up—i.e., takes courage—and its heart is exalted,” or, “when the multitude takes courage the king’s heart is exalted.” The English translation is most in accordance with the context, but the second rendering is preferred by many, according to which the king’s courage and pride increase as he perceives the mightiness of his troops. The LXX. follow a different reading throughout the verse.

And he shall cast down.—These words describe the victory of the southern king after he has taken the “multitude” of the northern king.

But he shall not be strengthenedi.e., he does not prove so successful as he had hoped. His aim was to gain complete supremacy over his rival, but for reasons which are about to be stated he was unable to gain his object. Those interpreters who see a distinct reference to the wars of Ptolemy and Antiochus point out that though the loss of the Syrians was very great, yet Ptolemy did not follow up his success as he should have done. Instead of striking a decisive blow, he was content with regaining the towns which Antiochus had taken from him.

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.
(13) Shall return.—In this and the next two verses the causes are mentioned to which the failure of the southern king was due. He returns some years after his defeat to take revenge, and brings with him a larger army than he had on the previous occasion.

Much richesi.e., all that is necessary for the maintenance of a large army; literally, anything acquired. This has been explained of the invasion of Egypt by Antiochus and Philip of Macedon, some thirteen or fourteen years after the battle of Raphia, when Ptolemy Epiphanes, a mere child, had succeeded his father, Philopator. On the hypothesis that these chapters refer to this period, it is surprising that there should be no allusion to the religious persecutions to which the Jews in Egypt had been subjected by Ptolemy Philopator, who, after his victory at Raphia, attempted to enter the Holy Place, as is mentioned in the Third Book of Maccabees. It should be remembered that the Jews suffered considerably from both parties during the whole of this period; but though the prophecy is supposed to have been written for their comfort and encouragement at this very juncture, yet not a word is said which bears allusion to them.

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.
(14) In those times.—It must be noticed that at this verse—the earliest in which there is any reference to Daniel’s people and to the vision (Daniel 10:1; Daniel 10:7-8)—we appear to be approaching the great crisis. We appear to be within “a very few days” (see Daniel 11:20) of the vile-person who corresponds to the little horn of the fourth beast. At this period the king of the south suffers from many hostile opponents, while certain others, more closely connected with the Jews, become prominent for a while, but then fail. The obscurity of the Hebrew text was felt by the LXX., and distinct historical allusions can be found by those only who are determined to find them. These are stated to be some insurrections during the early years of Ptolemy Epiphanes, and a league which some of the Jews made with Antiochus the Great against Ptolemy.

Robbers of thy people.—This difficult expression occurs only in five other passages (Psalm 17:4; Isaiah 35:9; Jeremiah 7:11; Ezekiel 7:22; Ezekiel 18:10). The words in this passage can only refer to certain Jews who committed various violent breaches of the Law, and on this occasion revolted against the king of the south.

To establish the vision.—The meaning is, the result of their acts is to bring about the accomplishment of the vision (Daniel 10:14). The significant part of the verse is the “falling” of the robbers. It seems to mean that the conduct of these men shall bring them just the reverse of what they had expected.

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.
(15) The king of the north.—This prince attacks the fortress of his rival, who is unable to resist him. Here it is supposed that the allusion is to the capture of Sidon by Antiochus the Great. The troops of Ptolemy under Scopas had acquired possession of Jerusalem and of various portions of Syria during the absence of Antiochus. Scopas and the Egyptian troops under him fled to Sidon, where they were forced by famine to surrender to the Syrians (B.C. 198).

The arms of the south.—Comp. Daniel 11:31. The phrase means the armed force of the south.

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.
(16) But he that cometh.—We now hear of further proceedings of the northern king. He follows up the vision mentioned in the last verse, enters the glorious land (i.e., Palestine), and commits great ravages in it. The king is described in language which reminds us of Daniel 11:3. He acts just as he pleases after his entrance to the southern kingdom. This has been applied to the conduct of Antiochus the Great, but history does not speak of any acts of destruction committed by him in Palestine. On the contrary, it is recorded of him that he treated the Jews with kindness. (On the “glorious land,” see Daniel 8:9.)

Which by his hand . . .—Literally, destruction being in his hand.

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.
(17) He shall also.—He has further plans for subduing the dominions of the southern king. He brings together all the forces he can amass, and then attempts by means of a political marriage to establish peace; but this also proves a failure.

Upright ones.—Literally, all that is right; hence the words have been explained, “straightforward pleas”. If “persons” are intended, it is not impossible that there may be a hint at the Jews taking the part of the northern king in the contest.

Daughter of womeni.e., a woman. (Comp. the phrase “son of man,” Ezekiel 2:1.) The rest of the verse is obscure. It seems to mean that the consequence of this marriage was the destruction of the woman mentioned. Or it is possible that “her” refers to the southern kingdom. St. Jerome explains it, “ut evertat Ptolemœum sive regnum ejus.” This has been supposed to point to the marriage of Ptolemy Epiphanes with Cleopatra, the daughter of Antiochus the Great. However, the language is very general. (Comp. Daniel 11:6.)

But she shall not stand.—These words form an explanatory clause, meaning that the plan will not answer.

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.
(18) Shall he turn.—He goes northward, this being the direction indicated by “the isles.” This has been explained of the victories gained by Antiochus the Great in Asia Minor. He is stated to have reduced various towns and islands, and finally to have taken Ephesus. He was in this way brought into contact with the Romans, and was defeated by L. Scipio, who is identified with “the prince” mentioned in this verse. The Greek versions exhibit considerable variations.

A prince.—It is doubtful whether this is to be taken as nominative or as accusative. The English Version treats it as nominative, St. Jerome and Theodotion as accusative. In accordance with the latter rendering, the meaning is, “The king of the north will cause to cease the princes who have been his reproach. But the princes shall return him his reproach.” The word “prince” is used collectively to mean the rulers of the islands mentioned in the first part of the verse. It is stated that in the first instance the northern king will be successful, but in the end the princes will repay him the reproach which he inflicted upon them, as appears more fully in the next verse.

Then he shall turn his face toward the fort of his own land: but he shall stumble and fall, and not be found.
(19) The fort.—The king of the north is forced to take refuge in his fortresses, and here meets with his end. This is explained of the death of Antiochus the Great at Elymais, where he had profaned a temple.

Then shall stand up in his estate a raiser of taxes in the glory of the kingdom: but within few days he shall be destroyed, neither in anger, nor in battle.
(20) A raiser of taxes.—The marginal version is to be preferred, as it gives the meaning of the word “exactor,” or “oppressor,” which it has in Exodus 3:7, and in every passage where it occurs, except perhaps Isaiah 9:4. The new king of the north causes the “oppressor” to pass through “the majesty of the kingdom” (a phrase occurring elsewhere only in Psalm 145:12; but comp. 1Chronicles 29:25), meaning the “richest parts of his kingdom,” and not necessarily Palestine. The effect of this policy was that the king fell a victim to a conspiracy in a few days. According to St. Jerome, the person alluded to was Seleucus Philopator.

With this verse the first part of the prophecy concludes. It is to be observed that thus far (1) notes of time are very scanty; we only meet with indefinite expressions, such as “in the end of years” (Daniel 11:6), “certain years” (Daniel 11:13), “within few days” (Daniel 11:20), and vague terms expressing sequence of time. (2) There is nothing in the text which implies any change of sovereigns, except in Daniel 11:7; Daniel 11:19. It follows from a careful study of these verses that according to their natural and literal sense they speak of only two southern kings and only one northern king. The southern king of whom we read most is apparently the offspring of the daughter of the first southern king, mentioned in Daniel 11:5, and it is he who engages in conflict with the first northern king, and with his sons (Daniel 11:10). The whole prophecy is eschatological, and refers to two opposing earthly powers which will affect the destiny of God’s people in the last times. It relates a series of wars and political intrigues between these two powers, all of which prove futile, and it concludes with the account of the death of the first northern king. Daniel 11:20 is a transition verse, in which another character is introduced, who will mark the approach of the end; while Daniel 11:21 introduces the most prominent object of the prophecy—a person who remains before the reader till the end of the chapter, while the southern king gradually disappears (Daniel 11:25; Daniel 11:27; Daniel 11:40), and what is apparently his country is mentioned without its sovereign in Daniel 11:43.

And in his estate shall stand up a vile person, to whom they shall not give the honour of the kingdom: but he shall come in peaceably, and obtain the kingdom by flatteries.
(21) A vile person.—The meaning of the language will be plainer after a reference to Psalm 119:141; Jeremiah 22:28. The moral character of the man is especially described. The words that follow explain more fully that he was not worthy of receiving royal majesty. This person is generally identified with Antiochus Epiphanes. The description certainly agrees with him very closely. In fact, just as his predecessors resembled in various points the kings spoken of in Daniel 11:1-20, so Antiochus resembles the person here described. The language of St. Jerome about early interpreters of the Book of Daniel is striking: “Cumque multa quœ postea lecturi et exposituri sumus super Antiochi persona conveniant, typum eum volunt Antichristi habere, et quœ in illo ex parte prœceperint, in Antichristo ex toto esse complenda.

Peaceably.—Unexpectedly, as LXX. (Comp. Daniel 8:25.) The king is here represented as taking possession of the kingdom by craft, and in the following clause he is said to gain his end by “flatteries,” or by intrigues and cunning hypocritical conduct. It does not appear that this was done by Antiochus Epiphanes.

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.
(22) With the arms.—More correctly, and the arms in a flood; that is, the overwhelming forces of invading armies are swept away by the troops of this terrible king. But besides the enemy, the “prince of the covenant” is to be destroyed also. This expression is most readily explained by observing that it stands in contrast with the hostile armies mentioned in the first clause. It is an expression similar to “men of covenant,” “lords of covenant,” and means “those who were at peace with him,” “prince” being used as a collective noun (see Daniel 11:18). This has been supposed to refer to the murder of Onias III. (2 Maccabees 4:1, &c., 2 Maccabees 4:33, &c.); but there is no reason for supposing that the high priest was ever called by such a title as “prince of the covenant.”

And after the league made with him he shall work deceitfully: for he shall come up, and shall become strong with a small people.
(23) He shall work.—Apparently this verse explains more fully the means by which the king succeeds in maintaining his influence. He has already destroyed those who are at peace with him. From the time that he first becomes their confederate, he works deceitfully, coming up with hostile intent, accompanied only by a few people, and in this way throwing off their guard those whom he would destroy.

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.
(24) Peaceably.—The subject continues to be the perfidious conduct of the king mentioned in the last two verses. While the inhabitants are expecting nothing of the sort, he enters the richest parts of the province, and while he scatters largesses with profuseness and in apparent friendship, he is really planning attacks against the fortresses of the district, endeavouring to reduce them into his power.

This has been referred to the conduct of Antiochus Epiphanes, mentioned in 1 Maccabees 3:27-30, after the defeat of the Syrian army by Judas Maccabæus. According to another interpretation, the meaning is that he will scatter or disperse the accumulated wealth of the different provinces “among them”—that is, to their hurt. The former explanation appears to be most in accordance with the deceit and craft which the prophecy attributes to the king.

For a time.—That is, the end of the time decreed by God. (Comp. Daniel 11:35, Daniel 8:17; Daniel 8:19; Daniel 12:4; Daniel 12:6.)

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.
(25) The south.—Here, for the first time in the second portion of the prophecy, mention is made of the southern king. It is highly probable that the deceit mentioned in the last three verses had this king and his provinces for its object. This and the next two verses are supposed to describe the war of Antiochus with Ptolemy Philometor (see 1 Maccabees 1:16-19), or his war with Physcon, on which see Livy. xliv. 19.

His power and his courage—i.e., his military skill as well as his personal energy.

But he shall not stand.—Comp. Daniel 8:4. The subject is the king of the south, who finds the devices of his opponent are more than a match for him. The “devices are explained in the next two verses.

Yea, they that feed of the portion of his meat shall destroy him, and his army shall overflow: and many shall fall down slain.
(26) They that feed.—The context points to treachery. The false companions of the southern king betray him to the enemy; he is broken, the hostile army pours in, and many are slain. This has been referred to the second campaign of Antiochus in Egypt; however, history is silent of any treachery against Physcon. St. Jerome remarks: “Nostri secundum superiorem sensum interpretantur omnia de Antichristo qui nasciturus est de populo Judœorum, et de Babylone venturus, primum superaturus est regem Egypti, qui est unus de tribus cornibus.”

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.
(27) Both these kings.—The two rival kings are here described as living upon terms of outward friendship, while each is inwardly trying to outwit the other. The context is opposed to any reference to the combination of Antiochus and Philometor against Physcon (see Livy, xlv. 11; Polyb. xxix. 8). The object of the paragraph is to show that the southern king was attempting to fight his rival with his own weapons—viz., deceit—but the plots of each king fail.

For yet . . .—i.e., the end of each will come only at the time definitely ordained by God for the consummation of His kingdom (Daniel 11:35). Man cannot hasten the events decreed by God’s providence. For an interesting commentary, read Isaiah 18:4-6.

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.
(28) Then shall he return.—He returns, apparently bringing abundant spoils with him, and while on the journey sets his heart against the holy covenant.

Great riches.—The prophecy points distinctly to Antiochus after his return from Egypt. (See 1 Maccabees 1:19-28; 2 Maccabees 5:11-17.) This was the occasion of his first attack upon the theocracy. The typical character of Antiochus is drawn in Daniel 11:30, &c., with still greater clearness.

He shall doi.e., prosper in his undertakings against the covenant. (See the passages from the Books of Maccabees referred to in the last Note.)

At the time appointed he shall return, and come toward the south; but it shall not be as the former, or as the latter.
(29) At the time appointed—i.e., in God’s own time. According to 1 Maccabees 1:29, it was after two years were fully expired since his return to Syria that Antiochus made another attack upon Jerusalem. This attack was made after his return from Egypt.

But it shall not be.—No such success attended him at the latter as at the former invasion.

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.
(30) Ships of Chittim.—On Chittim, see Genesis 10:4; comp. Numbers 24:24. The LXX. explain this of the Romans, referring to the story in Livy, xlv. 11.

He shall be grieved.—Literally, he shall lose heart. Compare the words of Livy, which describe the feelings of Antiochus at the peremptory demands of Popilius: “Obstupefactus tam violento imperio.” Theodotion apparently imagined that the Cyprians came as allies to the aid of Antiochus.

Return.—That is, to Palestine, where he will indulge his anger.

Have intelligencei.e., pay attention to them. These persons are such as those who are mentioned in 1 Maccabees 1:11-16, who were anxious to Hellenise all their institutions, not only forsaking the outward sign of the covenant, but actually taking Greek names.

On the manner in which Antiochus treated the apostates, see 2 Maccabees 4:14, &c., and comp. Daniel 11:39.

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.
(31) Arms.—A further statement of the assistance which the king obtains in his attacks upon all sacred institutions. The word “arms,” as in Daniel 11:5, means “assistance,” especially military assistance, or some other aid, with which is contrasted in the next verse the help given by the apostates.

The sanctuary of strength.—In the Hebrew (see Theodotion) there are two nouns in apposition. Apparently the two words are a name for the Temple, which is so called because it was the spiritual support of God’s people, as well as a very powerful fortress. (See Isaiah 25:4, &c.; Psalm 31:2-4; and compare 1 Maccabees 1:44; 1 Maccabees 6:7; 2 Maccabees 6:4, which speak of the various deeds of Antiochus upon this occasion.) On the daily sacrifice, and on the abomination of desolation, see the Notes on Daniel 8:13.

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.
(32) Such as do wickedly.—In these verses are traced the effects of the apostasy upon the people of God. These persons have been already spoken of in Daniel 11:30. They had begun with indifference to true religion, they have now become intolerant of it.

Corrupt.—Literally, make profane. On the Hebrew notion of profanity, see Cheyne’s Isaiah, vol. 1, p. 3. These persons have now become as the heathen. (See 1 Maccabees 2:17-18.)

But the people. . . .—While the large mass of people becomes obedient to the persecutor, there is a party of true believers remaining, who are “strong,” or rather, confirm the covenant, and “do,” i.e., succeed in their attempt. That such a party existed in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes appears from 1 Maccabees 1:62, &c., 1 Maccabees 2:3, &c. Similarly in all times of persecution there will be a remnant, though it may be very small. which will remain firm to their covenant with God. (Comp. 1Kings 19:18.)

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.
(33) They that understand.—This is the name by which those are called who were spoken of in the last verse as “knowing their God.” (Comp. Daniel 12:10; Psalm 111:10.)

Shall instruct many.—That is, their example shall give instruction to “the many” who yield to the flatteries mentioned in the last verse. They show them whither they are drifting. For illustration, see 1 Maccabees 2:1, &c.; 2 Maccabees 6:18. Others may be found in the history of any religious persecution.

Yet they shall fall.—The prophecy obviously refers to martyrdom, but whether to the sufferings of “those who understand” or of “those who are instructed” is not clear. Probably both are intended, as appears from Daniel 11:35. The deaths mentioned in 1 Maccabees 1:57, &c., 3:41, 5:13, may be taken as typical of the sufferings of the Church in the last times.

Now when they shall fall, they shall be holpen with a little help: but many shall cleave to them with flatteries.
(34) Now when they shall fall.—Referring to those who suffer during this persecution, to whichever class they belong. (See last Note). These will not be entirely without help, but there will be some small assistance given them. It will be small, either compared with their present needs, or contrasted with the great help which will be given them when the tribulation attains its greatest severity. In the Maccabee persecutions help was given to the sufferers by Judas and his brethren (1 Maccabees 3:11, &c., 1 Maccabees 4:14, &c.). This prevented the faithful from disappearing entirely.

Many shall cleave. . . .—Dissimulation will cause some to declare themselves upon the side of “those that understand.” This is a feature which will be noticed in religious persecutions; according as one party or the other gains in power, as its prospects brighten, it gains fresh adherents. This held true in the days of Antiochus. (See 1 Maccabees 6:21, &c., 9:23.)

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.
(35) Some of them.—The reason of this persecution is revealed. Whilst in Daniel 11:33 it appears that the sufferings of “those that understand” would instruct others, it appears that they would themselves profit by their sufferings. These gradations are mentioned (1) “to try “—i.e., to refine, as a precious metal is refined by fire; (2) “to purge “—i.e., to separate the bad from the good; (3) “to make white”—i.e., to cause them to become completely purified. (Comp. Psalm 51:7; Isaiah 1:18). In this way the dissemblers are made known. The patient example of the sufferers is followed by others who are faithful, while the “flatterers” become open apostates.

And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done.
(36) The king.—He raises himself by his thoughts and deeds, not only above the heathen deities, but above the true God. Though there can be no doubt that the northern king is still spoken of, it must be remarked that the features of Antiochus are gradually fading away from the portrait. In no sense can Antiochus be called an Atheist; nor does the language of the writer of 2 Maccabees 9:12, “think of himself as if he were God,” correspond with the words of this verse. Antiochus’ main object was to Hellenise the Jewish religion, and to force the Greek gods upon the Jews. The character of the northern king, on the contrary, finds a parallel in St. Paul’s description of Antichrist (2Thessalonians 2:4).

Marvellous things.—That is, his utterances and blasphemies against the true God will be astounding. (Comp. Daniel 7:8; Daniel 7:11; Daniel 7:20.) This will continue till God’s indignation against His people is accomplished.

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.
(37) Neither shall they.—A further description is now given of the godlessness of this king, but the people of Israel are no longer mentioned in their relation to him. The northern king appears twice again in Palestine (Daniel 11:41; Daniel 11:45), and apparently dies there. He discards his hereditary religion, he has no regard to that natural affection which women look upon as most desirable, but exalts himself over all.

Desire of women.—The language used by Isaiah (Isaiah 44:9), “delectable things,” has led some commentators to think that an idol is here intended. It has been stated that the allusion is to the Asiatic goddess of nature, Mylitta, who, again, has been identified with the “queen of heaven” (Jeremiah 7:18, where see Notes). The context, however, leads us rather to think of human affection, or some other thing highly prized by women, for the words “neither shall he regard any god” would be unmeaning if a god were designated by “the desire of women.” It should be remembered that according to Polybius xxvi. 10, sec. 11, Antiochus exceeded all kings in the sacrifices which he offered at the gates, and in the honours which he paid to the gods.

In his estate—i.e., in the place of the God whom he has rejected, he will worship the “god of forces.” There is no reason for taking this to be a proper name, as is done by the Syriac translator and Theodotion. It can only mean “fortresses” (see margin), so that the whole religion of this king is the taking of fortresses. To him war is everything, and to war everything else must give way. To war, as if it were a god, he does honour with all his wealth.

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.
(39). A strange god.—By this help he carries out his schemes, and all who acknowledge him are rewarded. (Comp. Revelation 13:4; Revelation 13:16-17.)

Divide the land.—This is evidently done as a reward offered to those who join his ranks. No such conduct of Antiochus is recorded. Bribery, however, was not an unusual mode of persuasion adopted by him. (See 1 Maccabees 2:18; 1 Maccabees 3:30.)

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.
(40) At the time of the end.—These verses speak of the last expedition of the northern king, and of the disappearance of the king of the south. The portrait of Antiochus, as noticed in the Note on Daniel 11:36, was gradually fading away, and now not a line of it remains. No such invasion of Egypt as that mentioned here is mentioned in history. From the time mentioned in Daniel 11:30 he appears to have abstained from approaching too closely to the Roman authorities. The story related in 1 Maccabees 3:27-37 states that on hearing of the successes of the Maccabee princes he went into Persia on a plundering expedition, leaving Lysias his representative in Palestine. Lysias was defeated at Bethsur, and the news of the overthrow of his army was brought to Antiochus while he was in Persia. So appalling was the effect upon him of these tidings, that “he fell sick for grief” (1 Maccabees 6:8), and died. It is unnecessary to suppose that the revelation resumes the narrative from Daniel 11:29 after a parenthetic passage (Daniel 11:30-39), or to assume that we have a general recapitulation of the wars of Antiochus, described in Daniel 11:22-39, without distinguishing the different campaigns. (For a good account of Antiochus, see Judas Maccabœus, by C. R. Conder, R. E., Daniel 3.)

Time of the end.—Comp. Daniel 8:17. The words mean the end of the world, with which (Daniel 11:45) the end of this king coincides. The word “push” occurs also in Daniel 8:4, and from the context it may be inferred that the southern king begins the last conflict, in the course of which both kings come to an end.

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.
(41) The glorious land.—See Daniel 11:16. On the occasion of his hasty march against Egypt, while passing through Palestine, the king takes the shortest route, avoiding the three tribes which had been distinguished by their hostility towards the people of Israel. It is remarkable that these nations (two of which appear as figures of Antichrist, Isaiah 25:10; Isaiah 63:1) should escape, while other nations fell before Antichrist. It is also noteworthy that these three tribes are called nations, for after the return from the exile it appears that they ceased to have any distinct national existence. As tribes they had some considerable power, taking the part of Antiochus in the Maccabee wars. (See 1 Maccabees 3:10; 1 Maccabees 5:1-8.) Judas also fortified Zion against the Idumæans.

The chief of—i.e., the best of them. (Comp. Numbers 24:20.)

He shall stretch forth his hand also upon the countries: and the land of Egypt shall not escape.
(42) He shall stretch forth.—He seizes various countries through which he passes, and among them Egypt is especially selected for mention, representing, as it does, the most powerful of them. The king has at last attained his object. He has frequently been partially successful in his attempts (see Daniel 11:12-13; Daniel 11:15; Daniel 11:29), but now Egypt is completely overthrown.

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.
(43) Libyans . . . Ethiopians.—These nations are specified as allies of Egypt. (See Ezekiel 30:5; Jeremiah 46:9.) They are represented as following the steps of the conqueror (comp. Exodus 11:8), and as submitting themselves to him.

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.
(44) He shall go forth.—The end of the northern king. While in Egypt he has bad news brought to him from the north and from the east, which stirs up feelings of revenge. Once again he halts in Palestine, where he comes to an end. That this cannot apply to Antiochus is evident from the following facts—(1) Antiochus was in Persia when the news of the defeat of Lysias reached him; (2) Judæa and Jerusalem cannot in any sense be regarded as either east or north of Persia; (3) Antiochus died in Persia, and not near Jerusalem.

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.
(45) He shall plant . . .—For a similar prophecy, comp. Jeremiah 43:10 (where see the Targum). The king is here represented as halting while a palatial tent is being erected for him. The word “palace” is omitted by the LXX., and simply transliterated “Apedno” by St. Jerome and Theodotion, as if it were a proper name.

Between the seas—i.e., between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea.

The glorious holy mountain.—Literally, The mountain of the holy ornament, generally explained to be Mount Zion. (Comp. Psalm 48:2.) This he threatens, as once did the Assyrian (comp. Isaiah 10:32-34), but without success.

He shall come to his end.—It is to be remarked that the end of this king is placed in the same locality which is elsewhere predicted by the prophets as the scene of the overthrow of Antichrist (Ezekiel 39:4; Joel 3:2; Joel 3:12; Zechariah 14:2).

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

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