Quick Links Quick Links

The Writing of Truth-Chapter 14: Daniel 11

by R. H. Boll

RHBoll(From Bro. Boll’s Study of the book of Daniel)

"Now then, I tell you the truth," said the heavenly visitor to Daniel. By "the truth," is meant the Divine interpretation of the symbolic visions. (See Daniel 7:16, 19; 10:1, 21.) The vision, of which this is the interpretation, is not given. But manifestly Daniel had had some great vision, and his three weeks' fast and prayer (Daniel 10:2ff) was for the purpose of obtaining the "truth," i. e., the interpretation of it. (Daniel 11:12, 14.) It concerned Daniel's people, the nation of Israel; and, like all the former visions, it referred chiefly to "the latter days," the end-time of Israel's career, the things leading up to and including her glorious restoration. (Daniel 2:28, 29; 7:22, 27; 8:17, 19, 26; 9:24; 10:14.) It is important to keep in mind this oft-reiterated fact, namely, that Daniel's prophecies concern his people, and that his prophecies all focus upon the time of the end.

At a world-exposition the visitor could see a "Cyclorama" picture of the battle of Gettysburg. In the foreground were actual fields and fences of real soil and material. This led up to a picture landscape in the distance; and so skillful and realistic was the arrangement that it was difficult to tell where the real foreground ended and the painted picture began. Prophecies of Daniel in like manner, always begin with the [43] foreground of Daniel's time, and the immediate future; but swiftly they pass on to the distant times and events, which form the real point of interest of the prophecy. There is just enough of the near things given to establish a continuity and relation with the far future. Such is the case here. There is a foreground of things of Daniel's time and of the near future events; then the prophecy passes on to the latter days and the time of the end.

"Behold, three more kings are going to arise in Persia. Then a fourth will gain far more riches than all of them; as soon as he becomes strong through his riches, he will arouse the whole empire against the realm of Greece." (Vs. 2.)

This is a bit of immediate foreground of Persian history. The student of history will at once recognize in the fourth Persian king, the famous and fabulously rich Xerxes, who sought to conquer Greece, but failed in the attempt. Then the prophecy leaps forward to "Alexander the Great"--who once already has figured in Daniel's vision (Daniel 8:21)--"And a mighty king will arise, and he will rule with great authority and do as he pleases." (Vs. 3.) This great king's sudden end, and the division of his empire into four parts "toward the four points of the compass, though not to his own descendants, nor according to his authority which he wielded," has also been spoken of before. (Daniel 8:21, 22.)


Here begins the record prophetic of a great warfare between two of those four kingdoms into which Alexander's empire was divided--the king of the South (Egypt, which fell to Ptolemy, one of Alexander's generals); and the king of the North (Syria, which had come into the possession of Seleucus, another of Alexander's generals). The conflict between these two contending kingdoms takes up the greater part of our chapter. The prophetic forecast requires close examination that we may get a clear picture of the events foretold.

  1. The first paragraph (vs. 5, 6) introduces a powerful king of the South (i. e., of Egypt) and one of his princes who outstrips him in power, and obtains dominion--a very great dominion. This king and his rival prince after some years join themselves together. A king of the North (i. e., of Syria) now appears. The king of the South arranges a diplomatic marriage, giving the king of the North his daughter to wife. But no benefit comes of that. Both the daughter and her father and all his helpers go down. The king of the North is ahead.
  2. (Vs. 7-9.) A near relative of the southern king's daughter now rises up and successfully invades the stronghold of the king of the North, returning to Egypt with much booty. Some years later the king of the North, makes an unsuccessful attempt to invade the southern kingdom, and retires again into his own land.
  3. (Vs. 10-19.) The sons of the king of the North resume the campaign with great forces, making an assault against the king of the South. The latter, stirred to anger, retaliates upon the king of the North, who opposes with a vast army, but is nevertheless vanquished by the king of the South. The victory, however, is not decisive. The king of the North raises a bigger army than before, and he gets the support of many others (among them the turbulent and vicious element among the Jews who will ally themselves with the king of the North, but not to their gain; they shall fall). The verses following (15-18) describe the sweeping victory of the king of the North. He casts down all the power of the king of the South, invades the latter's territory, dictates conditions of peace to him; and again there is a marriage of political expediency: a daughter of the southern king is given to the king of the North--a piece of intrigue by which the king of the South hoped to destroy the agreement with the king of the North. But the hope is vain. The king of the North now turns to the isles (islands near Asia Minor, or perhaps the coast-lands of Egypt)--but here some unnamed prince comes in and stops him, and sends him back to his own land where he perishes.
  4. (Vs. 20-27.) The prophecy continues with the kings of the North who rise up successively in the place of that fallen predecessor. The first one to come up lasts but a short while (v. 20). Then comes one who is described as "a despicable person," who obtains the kingdom by underhand methods, and, growing strong, sweeps away all opposition (even "the prince of the covenant," the high-priest and leader of the Jews). Like some who have risen up in our days, this contemptible one regards no league or treaty or covenant or promise. He then wages a victorious campaign against the king of the South. These two kings--both tricky and unscrupulous--meet for a conference, but accomplish nothing, "for the end is still to come at the appointed time." For "Many plans are in a man's heart, But the counsel of the LORD will stand." (Proverbs 19:21.) Here, for the first time, the end is mentioned.
  5. (Vs. 28-35.) The story now moves to a final issue. The exploits of the contemptible king of the North--his mistreatment of the faithful Jews (he befriends the traitors and renegades)--his growing disappointments and difficulties--his profanation of the sanctuary, his interference with the daily [44] sacrifices and his setting up of "the abomination that causes desolation," and his fierce persecution of the faithful ones of God's people--fill up this section. And again the time of the end is brought into view. "Some of those who have insight (the 'Maskilim,' teachers of the Jews in this tribulation) will fall, in order to refine, purge and make them pure until the end time; because it is still to come at the appointed time."

Here the tenor of the prophecy changes. All intervening history is passed over, and the struggle between the king of the North and the king of the South as renewed in "the time of the end" now comes into view. The spotlight falls on an evil king of the last days--the great anti-type of the wicked ruler of vs. 21-32--who prospers till "the indignation" is completed. (The "indignation" is the time of Israel's rejection and chastisement, Daniel 8:19; Isaiah 10:5; 26:20.) The conflict portrayed in vs. 40-45 is to take place "at the time of the end."

But before we examine this portion, let us go back to consider the significance of the great warfare up to v. 36. Has that part of the prophecy been fulfilled, wholly or in part? Or is its fulfillment yet future? The judgments of prophetic teachers differ on this point: some hold that from verse 5 on all is future; others that all, at least so far as v. 35, has been fulfilled. The evidence is strongly in favor of the latter. Gaebelein among others ("Daniel," pp. 167-177) traces in minute detail an exact historic fulfillment of this part of the prophecy, in the ancient wars between the kingdom of the Ptolemies (Egypt) and the Seleucidae (Syria), up to the appearance and reign of the wicked king of Syria, the "king of the North," first mentioned in v. 21, whose blasphemous, God-defying deeds are spoken of in vs. 30-33. This vile being is known in history as "Antiochus Epiphanes." The correspondence of the predictions in vs. 2-35 with the known facts of history seems to be perfect, and to compel the conclusion that this part of the prophecy has been fully fulfilled.1

However there is yet a word to be said about this. The wicked Antiochus Epiphanes was surely also the type and foreshadowing of a greater one who was to come--the great wicked one of the end-time, who bears all the features of "the man of lawlessness," of 2 Thessalonians 2, and who answers to the description of the Beast in Revelation 13.

It is after the manner of prophecy to begin with things present, or just at hand, and to pass, by sudden, or hardly noticeable transitions to the greater things and events of like sort in the future.

Thus, for example, the locust plague in Joel issues in a vision of the judgment of the great and terrible day of the Lord. The limited commission of Christ to the twelve (Matthew 10) widens out into the world-wide scope of later-days. The predicted destruction of Jerusalem of A. D. 70 in the Olivet Sermon turns into a forecast of another, greater, calamity of like kind in the end-time--the Great Tribulation, which immediately precedes the Lord's return in glory (Matthew 24:15-31).

In like manner the picture of these conflicts between the kingdoms that sprang up from Alexander's empire, culminates in the manifestation of a wicked king; and then like a dissolving view, turns into the revelation of the greater monster that is to come in the time of the end. The nearer events form the foreground and foreshadowing of the greater final vision. It was indeed Antiochus Epiphanes who set up "the abomination of desolation," even as the apocryphal book of Maccabees declares. But he was only an understudy and not the king (the real subject of the prophecy) who is to set up the "abomination of desolation," and thereby will usher in the great tribulation. That king had not yet come, and that prediction was still unfulfilled even when Christ spoke of it (Matthew 24:15); and it is still unfulfilled. The vision belongs to the end-time.

We may not find any sharp line of demarcation where the prophecy passes from the more immediate to the remote future; but presently we perceive that we have passed beyond the nearer things of the prophet's time and are moving amidst the events of the end-time. At verse 36 the evil king of the end-time comes into view. He is neither the king of the South, nor the king of the North; but "at the time of the end" both the king of the South and the king of the North will attack him (v. 40); but before his superior power both are utterly defeated, and all opposition is swept from before him.2 Only a few countries ("Edom and Moab and the chief of the children of Ammon," v. 41) will be delivered out of his hand. [45]

Several things are told concerning this king.

He shall do according to his will--that is, he will recognize no higher law than his own will: therefore he is the "lawless one" of 2 Thessalonians 2:8.

"He will exalt and magnify himself above every god." Verse 37 adds: "He will show no regard for the gods of his fathers or for the desire of women, nor will he show regard for any other god; for he will magnify himself above them all."

He "will speak monstrous things against the God of gods."

He shall be a bitter persecutor of the Jews.

He "will prosper until the indignation is finished."

But though he exalts himself above every god, there is nevertheless one god whom, instead of them, he honors--"a god of fortresses"; a god "whom his fathers did not know," a "foreign god"--whom, he honors with offerings of "with gold, silver, costly stones and treasures" (v. 38). It is with the help of this god he is enabled to deal with the strongest fortresses (v. 39); that is, he will be able to break down any and every resistance.

Who is this god? If it were only the "god of fortresses" we might think it would be the personification of brute force (as in Habakkuk 1:11, 16 "whose strength is their god"; and "they offer a sacrifice to their net and burn incense to their fishing net"). But the statements in Daniel 11:38, 39 point to an actual "god," an evil power from whom he obtains his power and success: "he will give great honor to those who acknowledge him."

And "he"--either the willful king is meant, or his "god"--"and will cause them to rule over the many, and will parcel out land for a price"--i. e., he will auction off portions of the land to them at a price.

This is the picture of the wicked king of the end-time; and no doubt, it has brought to our minds what we found before in the prophecies of Daniel--the "little horn" of the fourth beast in Daniel 7 who "will speak out against the Most High." (vs. 8, 11, 20-25); the little horn of Daniel 8 (vs. 9-12) symbolizing a king of the latter day, "insolent" ("king of fierce countenance," ASV), "skilled in intrigue," whose "power will be mighty, but not by his own power," who will "destroy to an extraordinary degree, and prosper and perform his will," who will "destroy mighty men and the holy people." (Daniel 8:23-25.)

The correspondence between this person and "the man of lawlessness" in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-8, and the Beast of Revelation 13, is perfect, as to the time of manifestation, the source of his ruthless power, his world-wide sway, his pride, self-exaltation, and blasphemies against God, and his wicked deeds. Our space will not allow the working out of all the parallel; but it will be an interesting and profitable task for the student to trace the comparison between this dark personage of the last days, and his "god," with the description given in the Thessalonian epistle of the "lawless one," and in Revelation 13, of the beast.

But there is ever a fly in his ointment--several in fact. Though this king has world-wide sway, it is not perfect nor is it undisputed. Like our modern dictators, with all Satanic power to help him, he cannot quite hold everything, nor subdue everybody, nor have everything his own way. He does gain smashing victory over the king of the South and the king of the North, and all that shall come against him in the time of the end "like a whirlwind" (ASV) (striking description of modern warfare!), "with chariots, with horsemen and with many ships"--for he defeats both and overruns their lands (comp. Daniel 7:23); invades the land of Palestine also, and many countries are overthrown by him (vs. 40, 41).

Several smaller lands--Edom, Moab, and the main parts of Ammon--shall be delivered out of his hand; how and why we are not told. But Egypt with all her treasures, Ethiopia, and Libya will fall to him.

But from the East and out of the North will come tidings of revolt; and again he rushes out with terrible force, "he shall go forth with great fury to destroy, and utterly to make away many."; and "he shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain"--that is, in the coastal plain between the Mediterranean and Jerusalem.

"Yet"--despite all his victories and overwhelming and irresistible power--"he will come to his end, and no-one will help him." Not even his mighty ally, the devil, will deliver him from his fate. Compare Daniel 7:11, 26; 8:25--"But he will be broken without human agency"; and 2 Thessalonians 2:8; Revelation 19:20. [46]

The twelfth chapter of Daniel stands in close sequence to the eleventh. But we must reserve it for another lesson.


The revelations God gave to His servants the prophets were always for practical ends. We do Him small honor when we cast aside any part of His word as unnecessary, or superfluous, or unintelligible. Daniel did not so regard the visions which God granted to him. He knew they were of surpassing worth, and set himself with purpose of heart, to obtain their meaning. And that despite the fact that these visions and prophecies pertained, not so much to Daniel himself, nor to his days, but to times afar off. For, being God's word, these prophecies served an important end, from the day they were given. "For no word of God shall be void of power."

The Devil knew that. He did his utmost and used all his power to prevent Daniel's getting the Divine message. Satan often shows a higher respect for the power of God's word than God's people do. (See Luke 8:12, for instance.) He makes special effort also, it seems, to disparage the word of prophecy. God told us that "So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts" (2 Peter 1:19); but the Devil would have us think that the word of prophecy is a dark place in scripture which we shall do well to avoid.

What reasons did God have of making these things known to Daniel--and to us? What lesson, what practical purpose did He have in mind when He revealed these strange things? You may not be able to see at once. But be sure it is there. God never tells us anything just to satisfy curiosity. Much less would He tell us something that had no earthly use or meaning. It may not always seem "practical," in the sense that it contains instructions as to what to do, or how to do some particular thing; nevertheless it molds our hearts and thoughts, and carries its precious lessons to the upright (Micah 2:7b). "For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." (Romans 15:4.)

The speedy fulfillment of the nearer predictions--about the three kings of Persia that were to come, and the fourth one, far richer than they all, who should undertake a campaign (pre-doomed to failure) against Greece; and the conquest of the Persian empire by Alexander--this was a great credential to Daniel's prophecy; and it assures the equally exact fulfillment of the prophecies concerning the end-time which are not yet fulfilled. "So, in after-ages, would the children of God be able to rest with confidence upon those utterances which penetrate still further into the future, even to the time of the end; so would they know in all seasons of depression, and especially in the last great tribulation, that in such crises God is but working out His own purpose, and hastening the flight of events which must precede the glorious consummation." (G. H. Pember.)

The willful king of Daniel 11:36, some contend, is not the beast of Revelation 13, nor the little horn of Daniel 7:8, 20, 24, but is identical with the "second beast" of Revelation 13, called "the false prophet" in Revelation 19, and the "man of sin" in 2 Thessalonians 2; and that he is the religious leader, Satan's "Christ" (therefore the Anti-Christ), and that he is an apostate Jew, because in Daniel 11:37 the "God of his fathers," (a distinctly Jewish expression, referring to Jehovah) is mentioned. [Editor's note: This discussion is because the old King James version used the expression "God of his fathers" and that is why some thought the Anti-Christ would be an apostate Jew. However the NASBU renders the passage correctly as "gods of his fathers."]

These distinctions lack foundation and conclusive proof. The second beast of Revelation 13 not only plays the second fiddle to the first beast, but really effaces himself, boosting the worship and exaltation of the first beast. That is not the way of the "willful king," nor of the "man of sin." This wicked one who would usurp the place of Christ in world-wide authority and honor is the ruler (dictator) and also military head of the world-power (Revelation 13:2, 7). The "second beast" is only an adjunct, an agent, and underling. Nor is it certain that his willful king will be a Jew. The expression "the God of his fathers" in v. 37, is rendered in the Revised Version (also in Leeser's translation, also in the Septuagint, the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament)--"the gods of his fathers," and quite justly so. [So also does the NASBU, Ed.]. Neither is this "willful king" to be identified with the king of the North. It seems clear from v. 40 that he is neither king of the North nor the king of the South. We can not go in for lengthy discussion of details and of linguistic distinctions. On such, [47] and such like, points of interest, we give our best understanding, without entering upon all the reasons and arguments pro and con.

The God of the Bible knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). He permits the working of evil forces and wicked men, yet within strict limits. Though He conducts His battles along strict lines of fairness, not compelling any one arbitrarily to do either right or wrong, the outcome is assured: He will fulfill His counsel and shall do all His pleasure. When all is done the Lord will have accomplished His gracious ends. (Acts 4:28.)

1 The close correspondence between this prophecy of Daniel and the subsequent events of history was one of the chief reasons why the Destructive Critics, and our "Modernists," have tried to make the date of Daniel two or three centuries later. Their question-begging argument is that such predictive prophecy is not possible: therefore the prophecy must have been made after the events had transpired. But those false theories of faithless men have been entirely confuted.
2 If in v. 40 it is the king of the North that fights against the king of the South, then the "king of the North" would be the king of v. 36, the final world dictator. But the context would favor the view given above.

Robert H. Boll: Lessons on Daniel, 3rd Edition, Revised (2000)

Except where otherwise indicated,
Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible®,
Copyright © The Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968,
1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995.
Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)


Third Edition, Revised and updated by R. L. Garrett
Published by Churches of Christ, P.O. Box 30, RUWA, ZIMBABWE


Leave a Reply

I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:13