Have you ever felt like you were being squeezed in a vise? Life is not always easy. Job’s assessment: “Man who is born of women is of few days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1). Sometimes this trouble comes from our faithfulness to God. Paul warned, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).
Daniel 11 foretells how Israel would be squeeze between the south (Egypt) and the north (Syria). Let’s notice…
“Behold three more kings will arise in Persia, and the fourth shall be far richer than them all” (Daniel 11:2).
This prophecy occurs in the first year of Darius the Mede (Daniel 11:1). If this Darius the Mede is Ugbaru, then date is 539 B.C. (cf. Daniel 5:30-31). If this Darius the Mede is Gubaru, then date is 538 B.C.. Either way, Cyrus is reigning.
Five Persian kings are mentioned: (1) Cyrus II (the Great) 539-530 B.C. is now reigning. After him will come four more Persian kings in this prophecy… (2) Cambyses II 530-522 B.C. (3) Bardiya (Smerdis or Pseudo-Smerdis/ Gaumata) 522 B.C. (4) Darius I (the Great) 522-486 B.C. (5) Xerxes I 485-465 B.C. This one would be far richer than the others who followed Cyrus (a.k.a. Ahasuerus, Esther 1).
“…by his strength, through his riches, he shall stir up all against the realm of Greece” (Daniel 11:2).
Xerxes tried to invade Greece (480-479 B.C.). His effort was great. Herodotus lists 58 nations, or peoples, subject to Xerxes, who composed this invading force into Greece (Heroditus Book 7). However, the invasion failed.
“Then a mighty king shall arise, who shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will” (Daniel 11:3).
This is Alexander the Great. He, in rage, moved against Persia (Daniel 8:7). He defeated Persia at the Battle of Gaugamela, October 1, 331 B.C..
“And when he has arisen, his kingdom shall be broken up and divided toward the four winds of heaven, but not among his posterity nor according to his dominion with which he ruled” (Daniel 11:4).
Alexander died in June 323 B.C. He was 33 years old.
He left no heir to reign. His wife, Roxana (from Bactria, located in modern-day Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan), gave birth, after his death, to his son Alexander IV. However, one of the generals, Cassander, had Roxana and the child killed (c. 310 B.C.).
Alexander’s kingdom was, ultimately divided into four parts, between four generals. (1) Cassander controlled Macedonia and Greece. (2) Lysimachus controlled Thrace and much of Asia Minor. (3) Seleucus controlled Syria and vast areas to the east. (4) Ptolemy controlled Egypt and areas to the south.
It is these last two divisions, we are going to focus on in this study. Israel was geographically located between Egypt and Syria, in an area greatly contested over, by these two powers.
Kings of The South and The North
Daniel 11:5-45, by prophecy, speaks of power ebbing and flowing between these two powers over a period of one and a half centuries (323-164 B.C.). At time, Egypt (the South) was stronger (Daniel 11:7-9, 10-12, 29-30). At times, Syria (the North) was stronger (Daniel 11:5, 13-17, 25, 40-43).
Israel was in a bad spot. Consider: (1) “He shall stand in the Glorious Land with destruction in his power” (Daniel 11:16). Antiochus III, the Great, of Syria (223-187 B.C.) took control of Israel (c. 197 B.C.). (2) “There shall arise in his place one who imposes taxes on the glorious kingdom” (Daniel 11:20). Seleucus IV, Philopator of Syria (187-175 B.C.) heavily taxed the Israelites to pay tribute to Rome (cf. 2 Maccabees 3). (3) “He shall stir up his power and his courage against the King of the South… While returning to his land with great riches, his heart shall be moved against the holy covenant; so shall he do damage and return to his own land” (Daniel 11:25-28). Antiochus IV, Epiphanes, of Syria (175-164 B.C.) plundered Egypt (170-169 B.C.). He also, on his way home, and suspecting disloyalty in Israel, plundered the temple in Jerusalem, killed 80,000, and took 40,000 prisoners in the space of three days (1 Maccabees 1:21-28; 2 Maccabees 5:11-21). (4) “He shall return and go toward the south; but it shall not be like the former or the latter. For ships from Cyprus shall come against him; therefore he shall be grieved, and return in rage against the holy covenant, and do damage… then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation” (Daniel 11:29-31). Antiochus IV again invaded Egypt in 168/167 A.D.. He was defeated. Rome and Cyprus had allied with Egypt. Antiochus took his anger out on Israel, as he returned home (1 Maccabees 1:31-ff; 2 Maccabees 5:25-26; 6:1-ff). He instructed them to leave their own law (1 Maccabees 1:43). He burned copies of the Bible (1 Maccabees 1:59). He prohibited Jewish religious practices (1 Maccabees 1:47-48, 51, 63-64). He made idols and encouraged sacrifice to such (1 Maccabees 1:45, 50). (5) “At the time of the end the King of the South shall attack him; and the King of the North shall come against him like a whirlwind… He shall also enter the Glorious Land” (Daniel 11:41). Don Simpson suggests that this refers to the end of the Ptolemy Kingdom with Mark Anthony and Cleopatra being defeated by Octavian (Augustus) at the battle of Actium in 31 B.C., followed by Roman rule being settled in Judea (Don Simpson, The Book of Daniel, pp. 142-145). However, Rex Turner Sr. understands this as a recapitulation or overview of things leading to Antiochus’ downfall (Turner, Daniel: A Prophet of God, pp. 255-256).
There were great temptations to not remain faithful to God in the days of Antiochus. Some Jews “joined themselves to the heathens, and were sold to do evil” (1 Maccabees 1:16). “Many Jews consented to his service: and they sacrificed to idols, and profaned the Sabbath” (1 Maccabees 1:45). “Those who do wickedly against the covenant he shall corrupt with flattery” (Daniel 11:32).
How to Respond
1. Stand for truth and teach others.
“The people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits. And those of the people who understand shall instruct many” (Daniel 11:32-33).
When evil abounds, may we continue to stand for truth, do God’s will, and teach others to do the same. Such is our duty.
2. Remember the big picture.
“For many days they shall fall by the sword and flame, by captivity and plundering (Daniel 11:33). Yes, the righteous do suffer, at times, in this life.
However, consider the big picture. “And those of the people who understand shall instruct many; yet for many days they shall fall by the sword and flame, by captivity and plundering…And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to everlasting shame and contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 11:33; 12:2-3). “Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection” (Hebrews 11:35). “Be faithful until death, and I will give you a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10)