Welcome, eschatologists! We’re going start a new series entitled, DANIEL CHAPTER 11: “A Real Life Game of Thrones.”
Chapter 11 contains the message that came from an angel sent by God to inform Daniel of what was to come in the future for the Jewish people. The angel told Daniel about political and military events that would occur between the kings of the north and the kings of the south and how the machinations of these kings would affect the Jewish people. What is fascinating is that Daniel chapter 11 is like a real life version of the television series “The Game of Thrones.” As we study this chapter, you’ll be surprised how much the historical events that happened actually mirror the storytelling in “The Game of Thrones.”
But here’s the sad part about chapter 11. As far as eschatology students are concerned, most of them feel compelled to skip it. But that would be a terrible mistake. They think the first 35 verses of the chapter have nothing to do with end time prophecy. Their only focus of chapter 11 has to do with the last nine verses—verses most everyone agrees are about the end time figure that Daniel calls “the little horn,” and that 1st John 2 calls the “Antichrist,” and that the book of Revelation calls the “beast.” Daniel chapter 11 is filled with fascinating information; and I promise, you will not be bored by this series. Keep reading.
DANIEL CHAPTER 11: A Real Life Game of Thrones
First in a Six-Part Series
By Karen Thompson
Is the Book of Daniel Pseudo Prophecy?
We have now come to the crux of Daniel’s last vision, the vision which foretells a great war coming to Daniel’s people, the Jews. Before we get into a breakdown of its verses, I want to first talk about the fact that the book of Daniel is a highly contested book. It is the only prophetic book that contains such a large and extensive amount of what is called “predictive” prophecy, a detailed and precise foretelling of future events. For that reason, since its existence, it has had many critics and skeptics down through the ages.
There is a section in chapter eleven that is written in a very peculiar way, and it’s because of this that critics believe the prophecies in Daniel are “pseudo prophecies.” The entire chapter is a prophetic foretelling of chronological events of kings at war with each other. Almost all of the events prophesied in chapter eleven have already come to pass with amazing accuracy. Daniel’s critics, however, argue that in the last portion of the chapter, the accuracy comes to an end.
For that reason, critics believe the book of Daniel wasn’t written in the sixth century during the Babylonian exile. Instead, they think it was written by someone writing under the pseudonym of Daniel who actually lived in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes in the second century. This will be expounded on later. For now, suffice it to say the book of Daniel has been accused of being a fraud, written by an imposter.
I, however, believe without a doubt the book of Daniel was written by the prophet Daniel during the Babylonian exile in the sixth century. And furthermore, he didn’t go “off course” in his writings in chapter eleven. The peculiarity in the way that it was written is for a reason. And you’ll find the reason to be a fascinating surprise! We’ll talk more about the charge of fraud and the odd style of writing in more detail later on. For now, let’s begin our study.
Historical Narrative of the Kings of the North and South
The events listed in verses 1–35 pertain to wars between the kings of the north and the kings of the south, and these events have already come to pass. However, the events in verses 36–45 are specific to the activities of the future end time Antichrist, and they have not yet come to pass. People very often try to apply present-day events to verses 1–35, mangling both the events and the prophetic verses in order to make them fit. But as stated before, the events in these verses have already come to pass. Don’t try to apply them to present-day events.
Daniel chapter 11 is fascinating both to read and study as it contains famous events as well as famous people. In fact, some of the events are so famous that they are still talked about today. We’ll study this chapter section by section.
Verse 1: Recap of Chapter 10
Dan. 11:1 Also I in the first year of Darius the Mede, even I, stood to confirm and to strengthen him.
The first verse of chapter 11 says, “Also I in the first year of Darius the Mede, even I, stood to confirm and to strengthen him.” This verse is a continuation of the conversation in chapter 10. If you recall in our last series on Daniel chapter 10, we talked about how Daniel’s last vision is contained in the last three chapters of Daniel, chapters 10–12. Chapter 10 begins by telling us Daniel had been in mourning because God had revealed to him a prophetic word about the Jewish people. Daniel 10:1 says, “In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a word was revealed to Daniel … And the word was true and it referred to great tribulation (conflict and wretchedness). And he understood the word and had understanding of the vision” (Amp.).
The Lord had revealed to Daniel that the Jewish people would experience a time of great tribulation. In chapter 12, Daniel described how severe this tribulation would be: “And there shall be a time of trouble, straitness, and distress such as never was since there was a nation till that time” (Dan. 12:1 Amp.). Daniel was grieved and in mourning because God had revealed to him that the Jewish people would experience a time of trouble greater than any time of trouble they had ever experienced as a nation—the worst time in all their history as a people! That is why Daniel was in mourning.
Daniel had been in prayer and fasting for three weeks when he received an angelic messenger with a message: “O Daniel, you greatly beloved man, understand the words that I speak to you and stand upright, for to you I am now sent” (v. 11 Amp.). God had sent the angel to give Daniel a message. The angel explained that as soon as Daniel began to pray, he was dispatched with a message, but his way was blocked by demonic principalities in the unseen realm. He said the only way he was able to get through this blockade was because the archangel Michael came to help him in the battle.
The angelic messenger then revealed his purpose in coming: “Now I have come to make you understand what is to befall your people in the latter days, for the vision is for [many] days yet to come” (Dan. 10:14 Amp.). He was there to reveal to Daniel what would befall the Jewish people in the “latter days,” meaning the end times. When the angel had completed his assignment, he said he had to rejoin the fight between the archangel Michael and the demonic principalities in the unseen realm.
In his last words to Daniel, he said some interesting things about the archangel Michael: “But I will tell you what is inscribed in the writing of truth or the Book of Truth. There is no one who holds with me and strengthens himself against these [hostile spirit forces] except Michael, your prince [national guardian angel]” (v. 21 Amp.). How interesting! He called Michael “your prince,” meaning that Michael was a guardian angel for the nation of Israel!
As you know, chapter 11 is a continuation of chapter 10. That means the angel’s comment about Michael continues with the first verse of Daniel 11: “Also I in the first year of Darius the Mede, even I, stood to confirm and to strengthen him.” The Amplified version says, he, the angelic messenger, “stood up to confirm and to strengthen him [Michael, the angelic prince].” The angelic messenger is telling Daniel that he fights alongside of Michael, who he just identified as Israel’s guardian angel. In making this statement, he is telling Daniel that he and Michael fight for the same cause… for Israel and the Jewish people!
Verses 2–4: Persia Falls to Alexander the Great
Dan. 11:2 And now will I shew thee the truth. Behold, there shall stand up yet three kings in Persia; and the fourth shall be far richer than they all: and by his strength through his riches he shall stir up all against the realm of Grecia. 3 And a mighty king shall stand up, that shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will. 4 And when he shall stand up, his kingdom shall be broken, and shall be divided toward the four winds of heaven; and not to his posterity, nor according to his dominion which he ruled: for his kingdom shall be plucked up, even for others beside those.
In verse two, the messenger said there would be three more kings that would “stand up” in Persia. The original word translated as “stand up” is amad and it means “to arise, appear, come on the scene, stand forth, appear, rise up or against.” So when it says three kings will “stand up,” it is simply saying three kings will “arise.” It goes on to describe a fourth king as being very rich, in fact, “far richer than they all.” This detail describing the fourth king as being richer than all the kings before him is stated in a matter-of-fact way. Here, again, is another example of how the Bible understates significant details. The last part of verse two tells us that with all his wealth “he shall stir up all against the realm of Grecia.” Later on, you will see how this Persian king’s wealth was a motivating factor that would ultimately change the ruling dynamics of the world.
Verse three says a “mighty king shall stand up, that shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will.” This great king that will “stand up,” or arise, is Alexander the Great, who led the Grecian/Macedonian armies against Persia. When it says he will rule with “great dominion, and do according to his will,” it means that he will have ultimate authority. His kingdom will be powerful, so powerful that there was no one greater than him.
Now let’s look at verse four: “And when he shall stand up, his kingdom shall be broken, and shall be divided toward the four winds of heaven; and not to his posterity, nor according to his dominion which he ruled: for his kingdom shall be plucked up, even for others beside those.” The phrase “when he shall stand up, his kingdom shall be broken,” is referring to Alexander conquering all of Persia. Shortly after he conquered all of Persia, he died before he could enjoy ruling as an emperor. After his death, his kingdom was “broken.” Then the next phrase tells us how his kingdom was broken: “and shall be divided toward the four winds of heaven.” This phrase is referring to his four generals dividing up his empire among themselves. The phrase “and not to his posterity” refers to the fact that Alexander’s infant son did not inherit his father’s kingdom. The phrase “nor according to his dominion which he ruled,” refers to the fact that his empire did not go to his “dominion” which was Greece/Macedonia.
In the vision of the ram and goat, these events were reflected in the symbolism of when the goat broke off the horns of the ram. And when the goat defeated the ram, his own great horn was broken off. When Alexander’s horn was broken, four horns came up in its place which were his generals. (Dan. 8)
If we look at the history between these two nations, the meaning of these verses will become more apparent. The following is a simplified overview of the relationship between Persia and the Greek colonies. From the time of Cyrus II up until the time when Alexander conquered the Persian Empire, there were ten kings that ruled the Persian Empire. Four of them would enter into military conflict with Greece, stirring up a hatred in Greece toward Persian dominance. The fourth king (the rich king) to have interaction with Greece would be the last king to rule the Persian Empire; he is Darius III.
Let’s examine the historical relationship between Greece and the four kings of Persia in verse two. At the time of Daniel’s writing, Cyrus II the Great was king of Persia (590–529 BC). At that time, there were Greek colonies along the western coast of Asia Minor (present-day Turkey) already vassals to Persia. In 522 BC, the Greek colonies rebelled when Darius I ascended the throne, but he was able to put down the rebellion by 495 BC. But Darius I was angry they rebelled and wasn’t satisfied with simply subjugating them into submission again. He wanted revenge against the city of Athens for its role in leading the rebellion, so he launched a punitive campaign in 490 BC. Surprisingly, the Greeks drove Darius back and defeated the Persian army.
Ten years later in 481 BC, Darius’ son, Xerxes, initiated another campaign against the Grecian colonies with a large military force. In spite of Persia’s huge army, the Greeks were able to repel Persia for an extended period of time. Even though the Grecians fought with all their might, the Persians ultimately poured into central Greece. The events of this particular war inspired the 2007 movie directed by Zack Snyder entitled “300,” which told the story of the battle at Thermopylae. It’s the story of how only 300 Greek warriors managed to block the enormous Persian army from entering Greece for three days.
A fun fact about this movie had to do with a couple lines of dialogue that movie critics argued were too “corny.” The first so-called corny line was when the Persians ordered the Greeks to hand over their weapons. The Greeks replied, “Come and take them.” The second corny line was when the Persians warned them they would shoot so many arrows that it would block out the sun. The Greeks replied, “Then we will fight in the shade.” The fun fact is that both of these lines were taken straight out of historical accounts! Not surprisingly, this movie was a blockbuster hit in Greece, but it was banned in Iran!
During the next century, the Grecian colonies were too busy fighting each other in various wars to do anything about Persia. Then in 386 BC, the Persian King Artaxerxes moved against the Greek colonies, and this time, more Greek settlements along the Asia Minor shore came under Persian rule. This outraged the Greek citizens and they wanted revenge. But because of the almost constant conflicts among the Greek colonies, they could not unite together to form a coalition to take revenge on Persia.
Prominent Greek citizens tried to unite the Greek colonies but to no avail. Finally, the famous orator Isocrates turned to King Philip II of Macedonia for military help in setting free the Greek cities that fell to Persian rule. To further his own interests of expansion, King Phillip agreed to assume leadership of a coalition of Macedonia and the Greek colonies against Persia. Just when Philip was ready to lead his first expedition to recapture the Greek cities from Persia, he was assassinated in 336 BC. His son, Alexander, would take his place as king and commander of the army. At the young age of 20, he was already experienced both politically and militarily. However, the campaign against Persia was delayed due to upsets in his own kingdom.
When Alexander finally set out on his campaign in 334 BC, Darius III was king of Persia (336–330 BC). Darius III is the fourth Persian king, the rich one. Compared to the Persians, the Macedonians were dirt poor. The Macedonian king’s lifestyle was not that much elevated above his citizens. If you saw the king among his subjects, it would have been difficult to pick him out because he didn’t dress much differently. When Alexander led his army on his first military campaign, it was imperative that they won because they needed the spoils of victory to pay for their next campaign!
The initial purpose of the campaign was to simply regain the Greek colonies in Asia Minor (Turkey) that the Persian Empire had conquered. But when Alexander and his generals discovered the unbelievable wealth of the Persian king, they became inflamed with a lust for riches. As a result, Alexander expanded his campaign to include conquering the entire Persian Empire. And this is why the statement about the Persian king’s wealth in verse two had significant importance.
Peter Green in his book Alexander of Macedon, 356–323 B.C. A Historical Biography, wrote about Alexander’s reaction to the king’s wealth. When Darius lost the battle and fled, Alexander and his men found a fortune in Darius’ base camp. It was bursting with riches: gold and silver vessels, luxurious furniture and tapestries, and even swords with jewels on them. The women left behind in the camp were stripped of all their wealth as well. Mr. Green writes that Alexander took a bath in the Great King’s tub and then changed into one of his robes. Then he went into the huge tent where there had been a lavish celebration banquet prepared. Alexander lounged on one of the luxurious couches and said, “So this, it would seem, is to be a king.” The Greeks and Macedonians had never seen this level of wealth before. It set on fire within them a lust for more.
After Alexander conquered all of Persia, he didn’t live long. He became sick with a fever that went on for days. His officers were at his side until the very end. When they realized his death was inevitable, they asked him the question that needed to be asked: “To whom do you bequeath your kingdom?” He simply whispered, “To the strongest.” On a June morning in 323 BC, Alexander the Great died.
When Alexander died, his generals immediately began to argue about which of them would rule the empire. A factor that complicated matters was that Alexander’s wife, Roxana, soon gave birth to a son, the rightful heir to the empire. General Cassander took care of the “problem” by killing both mother and child.
Eventually, the kingdom would be divided up among Alexander’s generals. Ptolemy’s portion included Egypt, Judea, Arabia, and Peterea. General Cassander’s portion was Macedonia and Greece. General Lysimachus’ portion was Thrace and Bythinia. General Antigonus’ portion was Pamphylia and Lycia. General Seleucus’ portion was Syria and Babylonia.
Just as predicted, there would be four Persian kings that would stir up all against Greece. The mighty king that would arise and rule with great dominion was Alexander the Great. When he died, his kingdom was broken up and divided among his generals, thus fulfilling the prophecy that his kingdom would not go to his posterity.
In the next post, the series on Daniel chapter 11 will continue with verses 5–8.
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