Greetings, fellow eschatologists! This will be the second post in our series “DANIEL CHAPTER 11: A Real Life Game of Thrones.” Let’s review what we learned in our last post. We learned how an angelic messenger told Daniel about future events that would affect the Jewish people. He told Daniel about four kings that would rise up in Persia. The fourth one would be very wealthy. Each of these four kings would come into conflict with Greece. Then the angel told about another king that would rise up, one so mighty that he would do as he willed because no one could stop him. That was Alexander the Great, who went on to conquer the entire Persian Empire. When Alexander died, four of his generals divided his empire up among them. All that was covered in the first four verses of chapter 11.
In this post, we’ll see how the generals, who are now kings, engaged in military, diplomatic, and political machinations to gain each other’s portion of Alexander’s empire. And here is a little tidbit that should pique your attention. The historical events you see played out in Daniel chapter 11 are like a real life version of the television series “The Game of Thrones.” Truthfully, I’ve never watched an episode of the show, but all the hoopla about the last season made me curious. So I read articles about the series and watched a bunch of clips on YouTube. According to Wikipedia, the TV drama of “The Game of Thrones” chronicled the “violent dynastic struggles among the realm’s noble families for the Iron Throne.” The story line is filled with the machinations and political intrigue that seven kingdoms engaged in to become ruler of all seven kingdoms.
You’ll see in the nonfiction events in Daniel chapter 11 how the activity of the generals in their pursuit to gain each other’s portion of Alexander’s empire is just like the television show. You’ll see how these kings used their own offspring as pawns in their political maneuverings against each other. And just like you saw in the fictional “Game of Thrones,” it can be risky to selfishly use people as pawns. That is what a particular Seleucid king realized too late when his own political machinations brought upon his head the fury of a woman scorned. He betrayed her… and she betrayed him right back. Interested? Keep reading.
DANIEL CHAPTER 11: A Real Life Game of Thrones
Second in a Six-Part Series
By Karen Thompson
The Wars Between the Kings of the North and South
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.
Verse 5: General Ptolemy in the South and General Seleucus in the North
If you noticed, I actually listed five generals that received a portion of Alexander’s kingdom, yet the prophecy mentions only four generals. What gives? The answer is in verse five:
Dan. 11:5 And the king of the south shall be strong, and one of his princes; and he shall be strong above him, and have dominion; his dominion shall be a great dominion.
When Alexander’s empire was divided among the five generals, General Antigonus immediately set out to gain a greater portion. He moved against General Seleucus in Syria and Babylon. Unable to drive back Antigonus, Seleucus fled to Egypt where he was given safe harbor by General Ptolemy. The other generals hated Antigonus, so they united together against him and defeated him at the Battle of Ipsus in 301 BC. The ousted General Seleucus assisted General Ptolemy militarily in the battle against Antigonus. When Antigonus was killed, Seleucus reclaimed his area of Syria and Babylon. His return to Syria/Babylon marked the beginning of the Seleucid Empire. At that point, four generals ruled all of Alexander’s empire.
After that, the four generals, now kings, continued to fight one another until there were only two left standing: General Ptolemy in the south and General Seleucus in the north. The empire of General Seleucus in the north was far greater than the empire of General Ptolemy in the south. Seleucus’ empire at its height included Syria, southern Asia Minor, Mesopotamia (Babylon), and Iran (Persia). Ptolemy controlled Egypt and, at times, Cyrenaica (present-day Lybia), Cyprus (an island in the east Mediterranean Sea, south of Turkey), and Israel. Israel would remain under Ptolemaic rule for 100 years.
Prophecy was fulfilled when “the king of the South [Ptolemy] became 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” (NKJV). That’s how Alexander’s empire came to be ruled by four generals and then by two.
Verses 6–8: The North and South Kings in Constant War
Verses 6–20 have to do with the wars fought between the kings of the Grecian Seleucid Empire (kings of the north) and the Grecian Ptolemaic Empire (kings of the south). Let’s look at verses 6–8:
Dan. 11:6 And in the end of years they shall join themselves together; for the king’s daughter of the south shall come to the king of the north to make an agreement: but she shall not retain the power of the arm; neither shall he stand, nor his arm: but she shall be given up, and they that brought her, and he that begat her, and he that strengthened her in these times. 7 But out of a branch of her roots shall one stand up in his estate, which shall come with an army, and shall enter into the fortress of the king of the north, and shall deal against them, and shall prevail: 8 And shall also carry captives into Egypt their gods, with their princes, and with their precious vessels of silver and of gold; and he shall continue more years than the king of the north.
Due to the heavy losses he experienced in battle, Ptolemy I (king of the south, or Egypt) was forced to go a different route in securing and expanding his kingdom. A cunning diplomat, he began to form alliances with the surrounding nations through marriage. As a result, he gave his daughter Arsinoe II in marriage to Lysimachus of Thrace. He gave his stepdaughter Theoxena to Agathocles of Syracuse. He gave his daughter Ptolemais to Demetrius Poliorcetes. He gave another stepdaughter, Antigone, to Pyrrhus of Epirus.
Ptolemy I died in 282 BC, and his son Ptolemy II (309–246 BC) became king of Egypt. Ptolemy II suffered great loss after entering into two military campaigns against the king of the north of the Seleucid Empire (274–270 BC and 260–253 BC).
Using the same diplomatic methods as his father, Ptolemy II, in 250 BC, secured an end to the war by marrying his daughter, Berenice, to his foe, Antiochus II (261–246 BC). The reason Antiochus II agreed to this alliance was because Berenice came with a huge wedding dowry. The condition of the alliance was that Antiochus II had to dismiss his marriage to his then present wife, Laodice, which meant her son lost succession rights to the throne and Berenice’s firstborn son was to inherit the Seleucid throne. Antiochus did, indeed, disinherit his son by Laodice. As per the contract, he married Berenice who bore him a son who was destined to inherit the throne of the Seleucid Empire.
Berenice’s father, Ptolemy II, died in 246 BC. Upon hearing of his death, Antiochus II left Berenice and their infant son in Antioch to live again with his divorced wife, Laodice. Antiochus II would not find a forgiving Laodice.
In politically arranged royal marriages, a woman did not expect her husband, the king, to be in love with her. These wives didn’t even expect their husbands to be faithful to her in the marriage bed. They knew their husbands would most likely have dalliances with other women, but they expected their husbands to be discreet about it. What these women get out of their politically arranged marriages was the expectation that their sons would inherit the throne. Her glory and pride was to be the mother of the king. It was no small thing. There is a saying “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” When a woman in a politically arranged royal marriage is denied the honor of her son becoming king, everybody better watch out! There will be hell to pay.
This was the case with Laodice. When Berenice replaced Laodice, it meant that Laodice’s son would not inherit the throne. As soon as Antiochus II returned to the scorned Laodice, she took the opportunity to secure her son’s position to the throne by poisoning Antiochus II. She then proclaimed her son, Seleucus II Callinicus, as king (246–225 BC). The political supporters of Laodice had Berenice and her infant son killed, as well as all the people in her court.
After Ptolemy II had died, his son, Ptolemy III (Berenice’s brother), became king of Egypt. When he learned of Berenice’s murder, he was outraged. He immediately invaded the Seleucid Empire and was successful in his attack. He acquired a large portion of its territory and came home with a large booty.
In this way prophecy was fulfilled: “And at the end of some years they [the kings of the south and north] shall join forces, for the daughter of the king of the South [Berenice] shall go to the king of the North [Antiochus II] to make an agreement [of marriage]; but she shall not retain the power of her authority [she was killed by Laodice’s political supporters], and neither he nor his authority shall stand [Antiochus II was poisoned by his first wife, Laodice]; but she [Berenice] shall be given up, with those who brought her, and with him who begot her, and with him who strengthened her in those times [Berenice, her son, and household were all murdered, and her father died]. But from a branch of her roots [Berenice’s brother, Ptolemy III] one shall arise in his place, who shall come with an army, enter the fortress of the king of the North, and deal with them and prevail. [Ptolemy III heard of Berenice’s murder and made an attack on the king of the north and was successful.] And he shall also carry their gods captive to Egypt, with their princes and their precious articles of silver and gold; and he shall continue more years than the king of the North. [Ptolemy carried back to Egypt great booty from his successful military campaign against the king of the north.] (NKJV)
In the next post, the series on Daniel chapter 11 will continue with verses 9–16.
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