In ancient times, “god-kings” of the two earliest river valley civilizations Mesopotamia and Egypt dreamed of controlling the entire Middle East. And invariably, their path to imperial conquest ran through the Holy Land the narrow “land bridge” between Eurasia and Africa through which trade and military traffic had to flow. Whether it involved Babylonian, Assyrian, Chaldean or Persian emperors from the north or Egyptian pharaohs from the south, the threat to the inhabitants of Palestine was almost constant. In these frequent hostilities, the northern power usually dominated. In fact, Assyria briefly absorbed Egypt in the 7th century B.C. Later, although specific peoples and rulers changed the “game plan” seemingly things remained the same. Throughout the course of history, rulership of the Holy Land has often changed hands it being at times autonomous, but usually subject to some great northern or southern power.
Which brings us to one of the most amazingly detailed prophecies in the entire Bible. Found in Daniel 11, it is the longest prophetic passage in the Bible. With preceding chapters serving as an introduction, this prophecy was revealed to Daniel in the 3rd year of the reign of Persian Emperor, Cyrus the Great (10:1) around 536 B.C. The prophecy began with events in the then-immediate future, but also showed Daniel what would happen to his people in the “latter days” (v. 14). All told, this incredible prophecy encompasses more than 2,500 years of Mideast affairs and proves the divine inspiration of the Bible.
At the time of Daniel’s prophecy, the power to the north of Judah was, as noted, the Persian Empire under Cyrus. It stretched all the way from India in the east to modern Turkey in the west. And to the south of the Holy Land was, as always, Egypt long since freed from the Assyrian Empire and now ruled by its 26th dynasty.
Daniel is told, “Behold, three more kings will arise in Persia, and the fourth shall be far richer than them all; by his strength, through his riches, he shall stir up all against the realm of Greece” (Dan. 11:2). This is not to say that there would be only four more kings in the Persian Empire following Cyrus for there were in fact 12 more. Rather, only the first four are being documented here. First came Cambyses, who took over Egypt around 525 B.C. (Thus, as before, the “kingdom of the South” was absorbed by the “kingdom of the North.” Then followed Pseudo-Smerdis, Darius and finally Xerxes, who being the wealthiest of them all, launched an all-out war against Greece.
“Then a mighty king shall arise, who shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will” (v. 3). King Philip of Macedonia determined to defeat the Persian Empire with a mostly Greek army but died before carrying out his plans. However, his now-famous son, Alexander the Great, took up the cause, crushed the Persians at the Battle of Arbella in 331 B.C. and then conquered the entire Middle East all the way to India.
“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; for his kingdom shall be uprooted, even for others beside these” (v. 4). And so it was that at the height of his achievements, Alexander suddenly died at age 33. An initial attempt to hold his empire together by a joint regency in the name of his nephew and his unborn son failed. One of his generals made an ultimately unsuccessful bid for power. But within a few years, just as prophesied, the empire ended up split among four of Alexander’s other generals who assumed the title “king”: 1) Ptolemy Soter, ruling Egypt and Palestine; 2) Seleucus Nicator, ruling Syria, Mesopotamia and Persia; 3) Cassander, ruling Greece and Macedonia; and 4) Lysimachus, ruling Asia Minor (c.f. 7:6; 8:8).
Notice that the “kingdom of the South” has once again become a separate political entity from the “kingdom of the North.” This is reflected in Daniel’s prophecy, which from here on refers to a “kingdom of the North” and a “kingdom of the South.” At this point, the king of the South was clearly Ptolemy. And Seleucus became the king of the North.
Though initially one of Ptolemy’s generals, Seleucus became powerful in his own right and, when Ptolemy was tied up fighting a war in 312 B.C., Seleucus established his own throne in Syria over an even greater territory. “Then the king of the South (Ptolemy) shall become strong, as well as one of his princes (Seleucus) and he (Seleucus) shall gain power over him (Ptolemy) and have dominion. His (Seleucus) dominion shall be a great dominion” (Dan. 11:5).
There is then a clear time interval. The prophecies that follow were fulfilled much later in the Seleucid wars between Syria and Egypt: “And after some years they will form an alliance, and the daughter of the king of the South will come to the king of the North to carry out a peaceful arrangement” (v. 6). This happened in 252 B.C., when Ptolemy II Philadelphus of Egypt gave his daughter Bernice in marriage to Antiochus II Theos of Syria to cement a peace treaty between them. This required that Antiochus put away his former wife Laodice, who had pushed him into conflict with Egypt in the first place.
“But she (Bernice) will not retain her position of power, nor will he remain with his power, but she will be given up, along with those who brought her in, and the one who sired her, as well as he who supported her in those times.” And indeed, Berenice, her father and her husband were all removed from power by death! When Berenice’s father, Ptolemy II, died her husband Antiochus II repudiated her and took Laodice back as his wife. Laodice, however, doubting Antiochus faithfulness and anxious to secure the throne for her son Seleucus (II) Callinicus, murdered her husband. And she had Bernice put to death as well. What an amazing literal fulfillment of God’s Word.
“But from a branch of her roots (i.e. Bernice’s brother, Ptolemy III Euergetes, since her parents were her roots) one shall arise in his place (as the king of the South) who shall come with an army, enter the fortress of the king of the North, and deal with them and prevail” (v. 7). Ptolemy III invaded Syria around 245 B.C. to avenge the death of his sister. And he seized Syria’s “fortress” Seleucia, which served as the port of Antioch, capital of the kingdom. “And he shall also carry their gods captive to Egypt, with their princes and their precious articles of silver and gold” (v. 8). Ptolemy carried immense wealth back to Egypt, including around 2,500 molten images and idolatrous vessels that Cambyses had taken from Egypt in 526 B.C. “and he shall continue more years than the king of the North.” Ptolemy II ruled until 222 B.C., four years after the death of Seleucus II of Syria.
And on and on this awesome chapter goes, foretelling detail and detail more than 100 of which have already been fulfilled exactly as prophesied.
Verses 10 through 20 give us specifies about the lives of Syrian Kings Seleucus III, Ceraunus, Antiochus III the Great and Seleucus IV Philopater, as well as Egyptian Kings Ptolemy IV Philopater and Ptolemy V Epiphanes. These men reigned more than 300 years after Daniel wrote about them! Verses 14 through 16 foretold that a number of Jews would actually help Antiochus III in his fight against Ptolemy V but that Antiochus would then “stand in the Glorious Land” that is, he would wrest the Holy Land from the South’s control, which he did. Eventually, we come to an individual who served as a type of the end-time ruler to come. Verse 21: “And in his, Seleucus IV’s, place shall arise a vile person, to whom they will not give the honor of royalty; but he shall come in peaceably, and seize the kingdom by intrigue.” Antiochus IV Epiphanes was a despicable reprobate who came by surprise and through flattery and deceit took over the kingdom in 176 B.C. Notice what was to later happen after he defeated Egypt: “While returning to his land with great riches, his heart shall be moved against the holy covenant; so he shall do damage and return to his own land” (v. 28). Returning from the South with the spoils of victory in 168, Antiochus set himself against the Jews, massacred many of them and plundered the temple at Jerusalem before returning to Syria.
The next two verses describe his second venture into Egypt unsuccessful this time because a Roman fleet forced him to give up his fight and return the island of Cyprus to Egypt. “Therefore he shall be grieved, and return in rage against the holy covenant, and do damage. So he shall return and show regard for those who forsake the holy covenant” (v. 30). Antiochus vented his fury on the Jews, yet accorded special favor to those among them who rejected their religion.
And then came the worst: “And forces shall be mustered by him, and they shall defile the sanctuary fortress; then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation” (v. 31). In 167 B.C., Antiochus sent troops to the Holy Land. They desecrated the temple and its sanctuary, stopped the daily sacrifices and set up a pagan altar in the temple, with pigs unclean in God’s law (Deut. 14:8) being offered to an image of Zeus! Moreover, the Jews were forbidden to observe the Law of Moses and were forced to adopt the Greek culture!
“Those who do wickedly against the covenant he shall corrupt with flattery; but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits” (Dan. 11:32). We’ve already seen how Antiochus extended favor to those Jews who recanted their religious beliefs. And shamefully, as a result, many did. But a number did not. The next year saw the uprising of the Maccabees followers of Judas Maccadeus of the Hasmonean priestly dynasty. In large part due to the efforts of these patriots, Syrian forces were gradually driven out and independence was reestablished.
But this is where the step-by-step fulfillment of prophecy in Daniel 11 seems to end. Why? We must realize that prophecy sometimes skips forward in time without directly saying so. For example, notice this messianic prophecy in Isaiah 9: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder” (v. 6).Notice that the italicized text refers to Jesus Christ’s First Coming, whereas the unitalicized text pertains to His Second Coming. Other passages show that these two events are thousands of years apart, but this fact is not directly evident from this prophecy alone.
We should also realize that prophecy is sometimes dual that is, there may be two fulfillments of the same prophecy. For instance, “Malachi 4:5 prophesied that someone would precede the Messiah in the spirit of the prophet Elijah which is yet come, but then explained that such an individual had already come in the person of John the Baptist. Thus, according to Christ, this prophecy has two fulfillments one that preceded the earthly ministry of His First Coming and a similar one that would precede His Second Coming.
With this in mind, let’s look at Daniel 11:32 again: “the people who know their God shall be strong and carry out great exploits.” This verse is dual in nature and serves to advance the time frame of Daniel 11. For not only was this true of the Maccabees, but it is even more characteristic of those who have known God better than any group of people on earths true Christians. Now verse 33 makes perfect sense: “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.” Christ and His apostles did teach many people. Moreover, they were all persecuted and nearly all of them were killed. Later Christians would experience the same suffering even as late as the Middle Ages, when millions were slaughtered for their beliefs.
“Now when they fall, they shall be aided with a little help; but many shall join with them by intrigue. And some of them of understanding shall fall, to refine them, purge them, and make them white, until the time of the end; because it is still for the appointed time” (vs. 34-35).This describes what members of God’s Church have experienced since it was founded false prophets coming among them (Acts 20:29-30; II Peter 2:1-3), and trials and tribulation, even martyrdom, to refine their character and make them spiritually white (Rev. 6:9-11; cf. 7:14).
So the prophecy has now come to the New Testament period. But who was the king of the North at this time? In 65 B.C., the Romans took possession of Syria and the Roman state thus became the kingdom of the North. Rome also later annexed Judea. (Note that when Egypt was swallowed up by Rome in 31 B.C., the Roman leader did not then become the king of the South, because he was already the king of the North.)
Notice Daniel 11:36: “Then the king shall do according to his own will: he shall exalt and magnify himself above every god, shall speak blasphemies against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the wrath has been accomplished; for what has been determined shall be done.” The Roman emperor had virtually absolute power and required everyone to sacrifice to and worship him as a god. Both Jews and Christians were persecuted and killed because they would not participate in this idolatry.
The next two verses show that instead of the old Roman deities, the emperor would, as we’ve just seen, declare himself a god and would honor a “A god of fortresses” or “forces”. Indeed, extravagant “defense spending” made Rome the strongest war-making power and the best-defended empire the world had ever known. Furthermore, according to the prophecy, the emperor would also honor” a god which his fathers did not know, a foreign god, which he shall acknowledge, and advance its glory: and he shall cause them to rule over many, and divide the land for gain” (vs. 38-39). This commenced with Constantine the Great in the 4th century, when Roman emperors began to honor and expand the power of a ‘god’ in a high religious office. This would progress through various “resurrections of the Roman Empire until the end time.
And that brings us to the next verse: “At the time of the end the king of the South shall attack him.” But who will the northern and southern powers be at the end of this age? As mentioned, the western part of the Roman Empire has been revived numerous times in Europe by Justinian, Charlemagne, Otto the Great, Charles V., Napoleon and the Mussolini-Hitler Axis. And at the 1947 Treaty of Rome, which brought the European Economic Community into existence, the signers were, according to former NATO Secretary-General Henri Spaak, “consciously re-creating the Roman Empire once more.” Thus, it appears that today’s European Union, which traces its roots to that starting point, is paving the way toward the final revival of the Roman Empire that the Bible elsewhere prophecies. It will be led by a Hitlerian type dictator of whom Antiochus Epiphanes was a type.
But what about the southern ruler? Though the East Romans or Byzantine Empire continued until 1453, Egypt was separated from it during the Arab conquest of 639-642, when that nation became an integral part of the Muslim world. Thus, the caliph of Islam became the king of the South, eventually ruling from Baghdad over a huge empire including the Holy Land. Interestingly, the struggle between North and South never really abated. The Muslims were repelled by Charlemagne’s grandfather from taking control of Europe in 732. And the 11th through 13th centuries saw the Crusades, launched by European Christendom to regain the Holy Land.
From around 1250, Egypt was ruled by Mamluk sultans until the Ottoman Turks seized this land in 1517. It then remained part of the Ottoman Empire for 400 years until World War I when it became a British protectorate. In 1937, Egypt finally gained its independence. Then, in World War II, the North-South struggle erupted yet again, when Axis forces tried to take over the whole of North Africa and the Middle East. The Allies, though, prevented them from doing so.
After the war, Egypt became a key member of the fledgling Arab League in 1945. The Arab League jointly attacked the newly formed state of Israel. Later, from 1958 to 1961, Egypt, Syria, Yemen and the United Arab States were merged into one political union the United Arab Republic. And in 1965, the Arab Common Market was founded.
All of these events may merely represent the beginnings of the Arab “confederacy” prophesied in Psalm 83. Dedicated to wiping out modern Israel, it comprises: “the tents of Edom (including Palestinians) and the Ishmaelites (Arabs in general); Moab (central Jordan) and the Hagarites (north Arabians); Gebul (a mountain region of Jordan), Ammon (the environs of Amman, Jordan), and Amalek (a branch of Edomite Palestines); Philistia (Gaza Strip) with the inhabitants of Tyre (southern Lebanon): (vs. 5-7). But verse 8 says that “Assyria has also jointed with them,” indicating a future alliance with modern Germany, the leading nation of the coming European empire.
It seems, then, that the final king of the South will be the leader of a coming Muslin confederation, of which Egypt will certainly be a part. That doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that the leader will be an Egyptian, though he may very well be. Some might think this can’t be since Egypt was, in Roman times, absorbed into the kingdom of the North. However Daniel 11:42 shows that Egypt will be defeated by the king of the North at the time of the end proving that this southern nation is not part of the northern kingdom directly beforehand.
The significance of this prophecy is “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. He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand
” (vs. 40-41). This invasion will surely lead to the final world war III.
For more information on what to watch for in these last days send for our DVD, “Watch Ye Therefore and Pray Always.” Do not be caught unaware!