The Empire of the Greeks – Daniel 11:1-20

We are approaching the conclusion of the Book of the Prophesies of Daniel. Chapters 11 & 12 take some of the things that have already been seen, and they put a little more meat upon the bones. There are a few dividing lines in these chapters, but I couldn’t see how to make them into sermon divisions. A few verses deal with the Persians, then there are the Greeks and finally the Romans. Some of these verses originally spoke of future events, but now we can see that they have been fulfilled. And some of these verses are yet to be fulfilled. Perhaps those divisions could be arranged into a sermon outline, but it would obviously be too large. And therefore, I’m going to turn this into a verse by verse exposition from here to the end of the book. If I see a verse of doctrinal significance, I’ll develop that into next Sunday’s morning message, but if not, then we may have a sermon taken from elsewhere in the scriptures.

Once again in these verses, we are faced with so much detail that the enemies of the Word of God declare that their penman was not Daniel. Since these people are determined that these are not divine scriptures, they say that it must be that these chapters were written after the rise and fall of Alexander and the Greek Empire. But there is ample archeological and manuscript evidence to prove that these verses contain prophecy, not history.

This evening we shall look at verses 1-21 – the Persians and some of the Greeks.

“Also I in the first year of Darius the Mede, even I, stood to confirm and to strengthen him.
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.”

Here we have the future history of the Medes and Persians in a nut shell. Remember that this is the angel speaking to Daniel; it is not Daniel speaking. It is probably Gabriel, but we can’t be positive about that. Some say that this angel was sent during the first year of Darius to strengthen the archangel Michael. I rather think that he was sent to strengthen Darius. If you will remember it was Darius who took the first steps towards Judah’s return to their land.

Remember also that as Gabriel spoke to Daniel, it was in the third year of Cyrus, king of Persia – Daniel 10:1. The three kings who succeeded Cyrus were Ahasuerus, Artaxerxes and another king named Darius. They are also known as Cambyses (529-522 BC), Smerdis and Darius Hystaspes (521-485 BC). The fourth king was Xerxes. This man raised vast armies to invade Greece in 480 BC, but his invasion not only failed, it provoked the Greeks to strengthen themselves. After Xerxes there were other Persian kings, but since they aren’t particularly important, they aren’t mentioned in this scripture. In fact the prophecy jumps nearly a century and a half to Alexander the Great who was born in 336 BC.

“And a mighty king shall stand up, that shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will.
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.”

Scholars are unanimous about the identity of this mighty king – Alexander, the son of Philip of Macedon. In a few short years, Alexander lead his armies against the Persians and overcame them. He passed through Israel and into Egypt; he pushed passed the Tigris River and headed toward India. But by that time his heart had left him, and he died while residing in Babylon. No one knows for sure the cause of his death, but one opinion that I read was West Nile Encephalitis.

At the death of Alexander the Great, his empire was divided among his four generals. Alexander had some possible heirs to his throne, but they did not receive the inheritance. He had a son through his wife Roxana, but he was later murdered. He had another illegitimate son by his mistress, who was a daughter of a Persian ruler. And there was also a mentally deficient brother. But history tells us that his kingdom was divided between Seleucus, Ptolemy, Lysimachus, and Cassander.

God’s prophecy now narrows down to two of Alexander’s successors.
The reason, of course is to confine our thoughts to those which relate to Israel. “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. 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.”

The new Grecian king to the south of Israel was Ptolemy of Egypt. But another one of the “princes” of Alexander ruled to the north of Israel. Seleucus Nicator, was made ruler of Syria and Babylon, but he was driven out and fled to Egypt. There he was strengthened by Ptolemy, by which he returned north, regaining his power and appointment. In fact he became far more powerful than his southern benefactor. Eventually Seleucus ruled from the Aegean Sea to the Indus River. And for a while there was even war between the two kings, but this was ended when the daughter of Ptolemy married into the family of Seleucus. It was agreed that the son of this union would become heir to the northern throne. So Ptolemy thought that he had pulled a fast one, eventually uniting both Greece and Seleucia. Ptolemy’s daughter’s name was Berenice, and her husband, the son of King Seleucus, was Antiochus.

At this point the history really becomes Hollywood-esque. About two years after the wedding, Ptolemy died, and with that Antiochus divorced his Egyptian bride. Then he took back his former wife, whom he divorced in order to marry Berenice. But wife #1 worried about a man that could change his mind like that, so she had him poisoned. Then several others were murdered including Berenice and her son, the royal heir. Thus she didn’t retain “the strength of her arm.” Please keep in mind that while I am reading these scriptures, I am explaining them with the facts of secular history.

“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: 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. So the king of the south shall come into his kingdom, and shall return into his own land.” Berenice’s brother, Ptolemy III, a branch of her roots, avenged his sister’s death by invading Seleucia. (Remember that as these armies move back and forth from Egypt to Syria, they are crossing the land of Palestine every time. This is one of the reasons why this information was given to Daniel – it affected his people. But a secondary reason is that it proves the authority of God and the accuracy of His prophecies. Ptolemy III could have completely conquered the Seleucid Empire, but problems back home forced his return.

History shows that the sons of verse 10 are not sons of Ptolemy, but sons of the king of the North. “But his sons shall be stirred up, and shall assemble a multitude of great forces: and one shall certainly come, and overflow, and pass through: then shall he return, and be stirred up, even to his fortress.” There were three sons of Seleucus, the third of which was named Antiochus the Great. These men, along with Antiochus’ son, attacked and captured much of Egypt. Over the years these battles went back and forth. There were battles in places with the familiar names of Tyre, Sidon, Ptolemais, and Gaza.

Verse 11 – “And the king of the south shall be moved with choler, and shall come forth and fight with him, even with the king of the north: And he shall set forth a great multitude; but the multitude shall be given into his hand. And when he hath taken away the multitude, his heart shall be lifted up; and he shall cast down many ten thousands: but he shall not be strengthened by it. For the king of the north shall return, and shall set forth a multitude greater than the former, and shall certainly come after certain years with a great army and with much riches. And in those times there shall many stand up against the king of the south: also the robbers of thy people shall exalt themselves to establish the vision; but they shall fall.

By the time of verse 14 – Egypt began to get into real trouble. The Ptolemy’s overextended themselves in bringing yet another army into the north. Ptolemy IV died and his son was crowned the new king. But Ptolemy V was just a boy when he inherited the throne, and Antiochus the Great took that advantage. He made an alliance with Philip of Macedon (a second Philip – obviously not the father of Alexander). And he stirred up many in Israel to support him – those collaborators were called “robbers of God’s people.” Some of these Jews claimed to have had divine revelations encouraging taking sides in the foreign conflict. They probably thought that if a solid victory could be won by Antiochus, then they might have peace, prosperity and personal power in their own land.

“So the king of the north shall come, and cast up a mount, and take the most fenced cities: and the arms of the south shall not withstand, neither his chosen people, neither shall there be any strength to withstand. But he that cometh against him shall do according to his own will, and none shall stand before him: and he shall stand in the glorious land, which by his hand shall be consumed.” Antiochus won great battles at Sidon and another at what was later called Caesarea-Philippi. And in these battles, not only did he defeat the Egyptians, but he gained complete control over all Palestine – “the glorious land.”

At this point Antiochus displayed his most evil character. “He shall also set his face to enter with the strength of his whole kingdom, and upright ones with him; thus shall he do: and he shall give him the daughter of women, corrupting her: but she shall not stand on his side, neither be for him. Remember that Ptolemy was only seven years old. Antiochus had defeated the generals who represented and controlled the young Egyptian. Then rather than creating a miliary dictatorship over Egypt, he came up with what he thought was a better plan. Antiochus proposed a marriage between his daughter and the infant king of Egypt. The daughter of Antiochus was quite young herself, and that may be why she is called “the daughter of women.” She was not seven years old, but she may still have been under a female governess and lady tutors. Her name was Cleopatra. Antiochus “corrupted” his daughter in the sense that she was supposed to be his pawn within the kingdom of the south. In a sense he prostituted her. It was hoped that she would dominate her husband and eventually everyone else, making Egypt into a vassal kingdom to Seleucia. But the plan failed as Cleopatra not only took sides with her husband and Egypt, but even encouraged the rising Romans against her father.

Verses 18-21 refer to Antiochus’ dealings with those Romans. “After this shall he turn his face unto the isles, and shall take many: but a prince for his own behalf shall cause the reproach offered by him to cease; without his own reproach he shall cause it to turn upon him. Then he shall turn his face toward the fort of his own land: but he shall stumble and fall, and not be found. Then shall stand up in his estate a raiser of taxes in the glory of the kingdom: but within few days he shall be destroyed, neither in anger, nor in battle.” After some initial success against the Romans in the Mediterranean, Antiochus began to loose more battles than he won. Then he put all his eggs into one basket and fitted out a fleet of 300 ships. He was defeated at a place called Magnesia in 190 BC by Scipio Asiaticus, the “prince” of verse 18. He returned home and sued for peace with the Romans, who demanded that he give up huge tracts of land around the Mediterranean, and to pay some astronomical sums as tribute. A few months later, while trying to collect taxes from his Eastern Provinces, he attempted to plunder the Temple of Bel in Elymais, but the people rose up and killed him. Thus he “stumbled and fell, and was not to be found.”

Antiochus the Great was succeeded by two sons. His eldest was Seleucus Philopater who became known as “a raiser of taxes ” in order to pay the heavy tribute demanded by the Romans. Toward the end of his tenure, he sent his Treasurer, Heliodorus, to Jerusalem to confiscate the treasures of the Temple, called the “glory of the kingdom.” Shortly afterward, within a few days, the king was mysteriously poisoned. So he died “neither in anger, nor in battle.”

Antichus the Great had a second son, who succeeded his brother. His name was Antiochus IV – also called Epiphanes. To this man we shall return, next Sunday evening.