Daniel 11 – “A Political Prophecy”

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Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
An angel tells Daniel that the Persian empire will be superseded by a mightier Greek one. The Greek empire will then fragment into four regions, and eventually a deceitful tyrant will arise from the “kingdom of the north” (Syria). This ruler, who will attack many nations and desecrate the temple, is ultimately doomed to die.

II. Photo
Although he doesn’t mention his name, Daniel appears to describe Alexander the Great in vv. 3-4: “Then a warrior king will appear who will have an extensive dominion and do as he pleases. But after his appearance, his kingdom will be broken up and scattered to the four winds of heaven…”

III. Important Verses
vv. 2-4: And now I will tell you the truth: Persia will have three more kings, and the fourth will be wealthier than them all; by the power he obtains through his wealth, he will stir everyone up against the kingdom of Greece. Then a warrior king will appear who will have an extensive dominion and do as he pleases. But after his appearance, his kingdom will be broken up and scattered to the four winds of heaven, but not for any of his posterity, nor with dominion like that which he had; for his kingdom will be uprooted and belong to others beside these.
v. 31: Forces will be levied by him; they will desecrate the temple, the fortress; they will abolish the regular offering and set up the appalling abomination.
v. 41: he will invade the beautiful land, too, and many will fall, but these will escape his clutches: Edom, Moab, and the chief part of the Ammonites.
vv. 44-45: But reports from east and north will alarm him, and he will march forth in a great fury to destroy and annihilate many. He will pitch his royal pavilion between the sea and the beautiful holy mountain, and he will meet his doom with no one to help him.

IV. Outline
1-45. An angel predicts the political forecast for Persia, Greece, Egypt, Syria, and Judea

V. Comment
In chapter 11 the angel reveals much of Second Temple history to Daniel. Collins writes: “The angel proceeds to tell Daniel what is written in ‘the book of truth,’ a heavenly writing that is analogous to the tablets of destiny in Babylonian mythology… The implication is that the course of history is predetermined. The history in question begins with the last kings of Persia and extends down to the second century B.C.E. No names are mentioned, in accordance with prophetic style, so that the impression is given that the future is perceived dimly, though in detail. (Akkadian predictions have a similar style.) Kings of Syria (the Seleucids, in the Hellenistic period) are called the ‘the king of the north.’ Kings of Egypt (the Ptolemies) are called ‘the king of the south.’ In 11:21 we are told that ‘a contemptible person’ will arise. This is Antiochus Epiphanes. Verses 25-28 describe Epiphanes’ first invasion of Egypt, which took place in 170 C.E. [sic] and was relatively successful. Verse 29 describes his second invasion of Egypt, in 168, which was a disaster. He was confronted by the Romans (the Kittim) and ordered to withdraw. He obeyed. Daniel implies that he took out his frustration on Jerusalem. While the king was in Egypt, civil war had broken out in Jerusalem between the former high priest, Jason, and the current one, Menelaus (see 2 Macc 5:5-14). The king took it that Judea was in revolt, and sent in the troops.

“After this, for reasons that remain controversial, Antiochus attempted to suppress the Jewish cult. Some Jews collaborated. Daniel says: ‘he shall seduce with intrigue those who violate the covenant’ (11:32). The people who know their God, however, stand firm. The real heroes, from the viewpoint of Daniel, are the ‘wise’ (Hebrew maskilim) who instruct the common people, even though some of them do so at the cost of their lives.” (569) While Collins posits that Daniel belonged to the group known as the maskilim, he admits that there is controversy regarding who the group was. It is possible that they were the Hasidim mentioned in 1 Macc 2:42, 7:12-13, and 2 Macc 14:6. Also, it is unclear why Daniel makes no explicit mention of the Maccabees. Collins writes: “Daniel 11:34 says that the wise shall receive little help. This has often been interpreted as a slighting reference to the Maccabees. It is not clear, however, that Daniel would have regarded the Maccabees as a help at all. In his view, the battle would be won by the archangel Michael. The role of the Jews was to keep themselves pure and not do anything to obstruct their heavenly deliverer.” (ibid.)

While traditionalists might view Daniel 7-12 to be a proof to the authenticity of prophecy, many scholars believe that the “prophecies” are actually a retelling of history. According to scholars, when was the book written? Collins writes: “Daniel 11:40-45 describes the downfall of the king. Verse 45 claims that he would meet his death between the sea and the holy mountain., that is, in the land of Israel. This prophecy was not fulfilled. Antiochus Epiphanes died in Persia, from wounds received in an attempt to rob a temple, late in 164 B.C.E. The unfulfilled prophecy reveals the date of the composition of Daniel. All the ‘predictions’ are correct down to the persecution. This part of the prophecy was presumably written after the fact and served to inspire confidence in the real prediction of the end of the story, which was yet to come. The prophecy must have been written before the news of Antiochus’s death reached Jerusalem.” (570)

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Collins, John J. Introduction to the Hebrew Bible (Minneaolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
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