The date, according to our calendar, would be 535 or 534 b.c. The revelation was about war, and its interpretation came in a vision seen by the Tigris River.
In many respects, the man seen in the vision looked like the Ancient of Days (7:9-10; see also Eze 1:15-21, 26-27; Rev 1:13-16). Daniel's companions saw nothing but fled in fear; Daniel fell to the ground in a deep sleep. A divine touch brought him to his feet.
The message was a response to Daniel's prayers as he sought understanding of the end times. The angel mentioned a struggle with Persia, and another angel, Michael, came to help Daniel.
Daniel could not cope with the overwhelming presence of his visitor; his body became weak, and anguish gripped him. Another touch revived him to hear more of the message. The angel would return to confront Persia, and afterward the Greeks would come. However, Darius the Mede had been found worthy of support. Clearly the great empires of that era were regarded as enemies of the Most High God and must be subdued.
The next section (11:2-45) is cast in the future tense in keeping with the statement “The vision concerns a time yet to come” (10:14). After Cyrus there would be four more kings. Historically, these kings were Cambyses (530-522 b.c.); Pseudo-Smerdis (522 b.c.); Darius I (522-486 b.c.); and Xerxes I (486-465 b.c.), who tried and failed to conquer Greece.
A century is skipped to pick up a mighty king, Alexander the Great of Greece (336-323 b.c.) and the four generals who followed him (the four winds).
Wars would take place between kings of the North and kings of the South. Historically, the identification of the following seems fairly certain: The king of the South (v. 5) was Ptolemy I (323-285 b.c.), ruler of Egypt, and his rebel commander was Seleucus I (311-280 b.c.), who took control of Babylonia. The daughter (v. 6) was Bernice, whose father was Ptolemy II (285-246 b.c.). Her husband was Antiochus II (261-246 b.c.).
The former wife of Antiochus was Laodice, who led a conspiracy that ended in the death of both Antiochus and Bernice in 246 b.c. Ptolemy II died the same year. The next Egyptian king (v. 7), Ptolemy III (246-221 b.c.), killed Laodice and defeated the new king of the North, Seleucus II (246-226 b.c.), whose fortress was at Antioch, Syria. The latter's sons, Seleucus II (226-223 b.c.) and Antiochus III (223-187 b.c.) kept pressure on the Egyptian fortress at Raphia in southern Palestine until it fell in 217, during the reign of Ptolemy IV (221-203 b.c.).
The crucial struggle took place in 198 b.c. when Antiochus III took all of Palestine (vv. 14-16) from Ptolemy V (203-181 b.c.). In a treaty between the two rulers, Antiochus III gave his daughter (v. 17) to Ptolemy V in marriage.
Antiochus III conquered Asia Minor. But he was blocked by the Roman consul Lucius Cornelius Scipio Asiaticus who defeated him at the Battle of Magnesia, Asia Minor, in 190 b.c. (v. 18). Antiochus III died in 187 b.c. (v. 19). His successor was Seleucus IV (187-175 b.c.) who had a tax collector named Heliodorus. This man was killed by Seleucus IV (v. 20). The contemptible person was Antiochus IV Epiphanes who usurped the throne from the crown prince (v. 21) and did his best to destroy the Jewish religion. He was the little horn of 8:9-12: In his title “Epiphanes” he touted himself as “God Manifest” and thus claimed divinity.
The prince of the covenant (v. 22) was Ptolemy VII who ascended Egypt's throne at the age of six (181-145 b.c.). Vv. 22-28 seem to deal with the tides of peace and war between the North and the South when treaties were often broken. Making a strong effort to annex Egypt, Antiochus IV was confronted by a Roman navy and told by Poplius Laenas to go home, a command that was quickly obeyed.
The real interest of Antiochus IV was the abolition of the Jewish religion (the holy covenant, v. 28) in Jerusalem. The issue was the occupant of the high priestly office, and Antiochus IV entered Jerusalem to enforce his will. The climax of the struggle was the placement of an image of Zeus in the temple and the sacrifice of pigs on the high altar. The event took place in December, 168 b.c. In his Olivet Discourse, Jesus picked up the phrase (v. 31) “the abomination that causes desolation” (Mt 24:15; Mk 13:14) and applied it to a siege of Jerusalem in the last days.
Antiochus IV was able to divide the leaders of Jerusalem by offering awards to those who would support Greek concepts. Some went to his side and violated the covenant, whereas others took a stand for their God (v. 32), suffering great personal loss, even their lives. Led by the priest Mattathias and his five sons, the Maccabees, the faithful among the Jews were able to throw off the yoke of the Greeks. Another group set up a community at Qumran on the northwest corner of the Dead Sea. Vv. 33-34 describe these daring followers of God. The process of refinement, purification and being made spotless was not limited to them; it remains in operation to the time of the end.
The perspective of the message shifts from Antiochus IV to a tyrant in a far distant future who will be much like him but more vicious and blasphemous in behavior. During his domination of the world, promoting a world religion, the believers in the one true God will suffer greatly. Wars will rage between super powers (symbolized by North and South), and little nations, especially Israel, will be crushed. When all who are good seem doomed to destruction, the Beast (Rev 19:19-21) will be defeated, and no one will help him (Da 11:45). God in his power will win the final victory.
The focus moves from the political and military activities of the mighty tyrant to the results of God's final victory for his faithful worshipers.
The names of these saints will be found in the book (see Ex 32:33; Ps 69:28; Mal 3:16; Rev 20:12). They will be delivered by means of a momentous event; the dead will awake. The wicked will be forever punished, but the wise and the soul-winners will shine like stars. All believers will have everlasting life. This is the only clear statement in the OT on the resurrection of the just and the unjust. Compare with Job 19:26; Ps 16:10-11; 17:15; 73:23-24; Isa 25:8.
Daniel was told to place a seal on the scroll containing this message, but he was greatly confused and asked several angels about the length of time involved. The answer was that for three and a half years (see 7:25) the holy people will be powerless.
Daniel wanted to know the outcome, for he was concerned about these holy people. The answer was partially evaded; Daniel was to seal the record of these predictions and be satisfied that the saints will be purified and the wicked will continue their wickedness throughout that 1,290-day (three-and-one-half-year-plus-twelve-day) period. The saints who wait another forty-five days will be blessed. This was the angelic hint that the faithful will be rewarded. Daniel will rest (die) but will rise again.
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