This chapter can be difficult to understand, so I’ve tried to make it short and simple for you.
Daniel 11:1-4 is about Alexander the Great (“mighty king” in verse 3) rising to power over the Persian kings, then dying young (323 B.C.) and his four generals divide his kingdom among themselves:
Macedonia: General Cassander
Asia Minor: General Lysimachus
Syria: General Seleucus
Egypt: General Ptolemy
(PHOTO: Bust of General Seleucus)
Verses 5-19 focus on the battles between the kings of Syria and Egypt, the descendants of Seleucus and Ptolemy. Seleucus’ family descendant, Antiochus the III was able to take Israel away from Egypt with the help of the Jews and made a covenant of peace with them. He tried to fight against the Romans and was punished by having his son, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, taken from him as a pledge that he would pay Rome war damages and fines for his attempt to attack them and for the war costs. He died in 187 B.C. trying to raid his own temples to pay the enormous fines back to Rome to keep his son, Antiochus IV, safe from harm (Daniel 11:19). An interesting bit of trivia is that Hannibal, who led armies on elephants across the Alps against Rome and failed to conquer Rome, had joined Antiochus III in this new attack of Rome. Hannibal was pursued by the Romans and committed suicide when surrounded in a house by his pursuers. Another bit of trivia is that Antiochus III had given his daughter, Cleopatra, to the Pharoah Ptolemy V of Egypt as a political move. After Syria attacked Rome, Egypt sided with Rome against Syria. Since rulers back then inter-married in their own families and took their names from their parents, grandparents, etc, the Cleopatra many years later that we all hear about in history (Cleopatra VII) was a descendent of this Cleopatra, who was really Syrian, and not Egyptian at all. In fact, her famed descendant, Cleopatra VII, was the lover of Julius Caesar and their son, Caesarion, was proclaimed “King of Kings”. She also had two sons with Mark Antony, the Roman, named Alexander Helios and Ptolemy Philadelphus, both of which seemed to vanish into history.
Antiochus III’s other son, Seleucus IV, took over the kingdom upon his father, Antiochus III’s death. He loved to raise taxes, and soon was assassinated by Heliodorus, the treasurer.
Antiochus IV had been replaced as collateral or hostage in Rome by his nephew. He had then become a political leader in Athens. When he heard that his brother Seleucus IV had been murdered, Antiochus IV defeated his brother’s murderer (Heliodorus), with the help of the king of Pergamum, and made himself king instead of allowing his brother Seleucus IV’s son to take the kingdom.
Antiochus IV turned his back on portions of the covenant. For example, he started pushing the Syrian-Greek lifestyle, pagan festivals, and beliefs on the Jews, and seeking far more taxes from the Jews (and their temple) than his father’s covenant had decreed. The “prince of the covenant” in this verse is the old high priest, Onias III, who was a more godly high priest. Most of the other high priests were evil and willing to do anything to raise tax money. One of these, Menelaus, worked with Antiochus IV’s lieutenant, Andronicus, to lure Onias III into a murderous assassination. Thus, the phrase “yea, also the prince of the covenant”.
Antiochus IV (considered to be a prototype of the future false Christ and who may help us understand how the future false Christ may be like) then goes down and conquers one half of Egypt. At this time in Egyptian history there are two Pharaohs, Ptolemy VI and VII. One reigned from Memphis and one from Alexandria. The one in Memphis, Ptolemy VI, was conquered by Antiochus IV (verse 25). Antiochus IV wasn’t able to complete his conquest of Egypt, because a civil war broke out in Israel as two parties existed who fought over power for control. Antiochus IV was furious and began angrily killing the Jews. Once he had this state of affairs under control, he returned to Egypt to finish his conquest.
“Ships of Chittim” is representative of Roman envoy, Gaius Popillius Laenas, who sailed to stop Antiochus IV from completing his conquer of Egypt (Alexandria’s Ptolemy VII) and taking over a valuable ally of Rome. The Roman envoy drew a line in the sand around Antiochus IV and told him: “Before you cross this circle I want you to give me a reply for the Roman Senate”. Thus, today we say “line in the sand” and this is where that cliche probably originated.
Antiochus IV, who had endured being held ransom by the Romans, and who had aspired to take their ally, Egypt, from them, was now very angry with this unfulfilled ambition and took his fury out on the Jews of Israel, who he most likely blamed for his failed conquest of Egypt. He completely forsook the covenant between his father, Antiochus III and Onias III the high priest, and began an attempt to completely annihilate the Jews and force them to believe like Syrians in the Hellenistic religion and culture. He killed a pig on the altar of the temple of Israel and desecrated it further with an idol of himself in the temple.
Mattathias, his son Judah, and his other sons and Maccabean family, fought back against the evil Antiochus IV and eventually won back the temple and cleansed and rededicated it (known now as Hanukkah [Chanukah] which means “dedication” or also in the New Testament as the “feast of dedication”).
These verses speak of the future false Christ. These events were never accomplished by Antiochus IV. These verses speak of that future evil prince, also mentioned in Revelation, as the “beast”.
Some things to note in these verses about the false Christ:
- Does his own will, proud, exalts himself above all gods but himself, and blasphemes God.
- No desire for women.
- Exalts god of fortresses and honors a foreign god with wealth.
- He will do this in the strongest of fortresses with a foreign god.
- He will divide the land for gain among those who he causes to rule over many.
- He will conquer the North, the South, the Middle East (“earth central”), and the East. Who does he not conquer here? The West – this is interesting.