The Vile Person of Daniel 11: Is it Antiochus IV or a final world-wide anti-God ruler?

Summary

Introduction

Daniel mentions the kingdoms of Greece and Mede-Persia by name.  Critics do not accept that God knows the future.  They propose that Daniel was written after these kingdoms already came to power.

The main character in Daniel 11 is a “vile person.”  It is generally agreed that this person is the same entity as the evil horn-king of Daniel 7 and 8.

Daniel 11Antiochus IV was a Greek king who ruled in the middle of the second century BC.  He fits the sequence of kings and the activities of the “vile person” of Daniel 11 quite well.  Critics therefore propose that the book of Daniel was written in his time and that Antiochus IV was the “vile person.”  Critics transfer this interpretation to Daniel 7 and 8, and interpret the evil horn-king in these chapters also as Antiochus IV.

Interpretation

Interpreters generally agree on the interpretation of the first 13 verses of Daniel 11.  The chapter opens with a description of individual Persians kings.  It then moves to the Greek Empire.  It is generally understood that verses 14 to 19 describe Antiochus III; one of the Greek kings and predecessor of Antiochus IV.

Verse 22 is a critical verse.  It says that the Vile Person will:

Flood away the “overflowing forces“ and
Shatter the prince of the covenant.

There are strong word links between this verse and Daniel 9:24-27.  The words “flood” and nagid (prince) are unique to these two passages.  Only in these passages is “covenant” linked to a nagid-prince and is the nagid-prince cut off.  On the basis of these links it is proposed:

That the Prince of the covenant is Jesus;
That “broken” refers to His death on the Cross.
That the flood is the Roman Empire.

Since the events in Daniel 11 are given in their chronological sequence, and since the abomination (11:31) and the persecution of God’s people (11:32-34) are described later in Daniel 11, these must occur in time after Christ’s death in the first century AD.  These events therefore cannot be the activities of Antiochus IV.

Objections

One objection to this interpretation is that Daniel 11 provides much more detail about Antiochus III (vv 15-19); the father and predecessor of Antiochus IV, than about any previous king.  It is argued that Antiochus III is emphasized to identify the subsequent king (the vile person) as his son Antiochus IV.  But below it is argued that Antiochus III is emphasized because his reign was a turning point in history; not to identify the next king.

A second objection is that the Roman Empire is not mentioned in Daniel 11.  Daniel 11 continues, without an intervening empire, from Antiochus III to the vile person.  To this objection we respond by showing that the symbol of the evil king includes the Roman Empire, as well as the anti-God power that arose from it.

A principle in these prophecies is, once the prophecy reaches a key turning point in history, that the prophecy jumps over the remaining kings of that empire to the next empire.  The wars of Antiochus III were a key turning point in history.  At that point the prophecy jumps over the remaining Greek rulers to the Roman Empire, represented by the symbol of the vile person.

A third objection is that Antiochus IV fits the sequence of kings in Daniel 11 as well as the actions of the “vile person.”  This is acknowledged, but, on the other hand, the description of the “vile person” exceeds Antiochus IV.  There are much in the prophecy that does not fit Antiochus IV.  Antiochus IV is only a partial fulfillment of anti-God successor.  He is a type of the ultimate fulfilment of the final and much larger worldwide anti-God ruler that will arise after the time of the Roman Empire.

Purpose

Daniel 11 is one of the most difficult chapters in the Bible.  The conservative interpretation, as defended in these articles, is not based on Daniel 11, but on the earlier and easier to understand chapters.  The current article attempts to explain Daniel 11 from a conservative standpoint.

Introduction

Daniel is History written as Prophecy.

Daniel 8 mentions the kingdoms of Greece and Mede-Persia by name.  The first verses of Daniel 11 also clearly describe these kingdoms.  But critics do not accept that God knows the future.  They do not accept that these accurate descriptions in Daniel of historical events could have been written in the sixth century BC.  They therefore propose that Daniel was written after these kingdoms already rose to power.  In other words, in their view, Daniel is history written in the form of prophecy.

The Vile Person is the Small Horn of Daniel 8.

The main character in Daniel 11 is a “vile person” (KJV; 11:21).  It is generally agreed that this “vile person” is the same as the horn of Daniel 8 and Daniel 7, argued as follows:

(1) As stated before, the later prophecies in Daniel elaborate on the earlier prophecies.  Based on this principle chapter 11, even though it does not have beasts and horns representing kingdoms and their division, but rather a series of selected individual kings who ruled those kingdoms, still refers to the same kingdoms.

(2) Both the horn and the vile person:
. . . Persecute God’s people (7:25; 11:32-34);
. . . For a period of 3½ times (7:25; 12:7); (See **)
. . . Profane the temple (11:31; 8:11) (See ***)
. . . Set up “the abomination that makes desolate” (11:31; 8:13); (See ****).
. . . Remove the continual (tamid) (8:11; 11:31);
. . . Work through deceit (8:25; 11:21-24); and
. . .Magnify himself” (8:11; 11:36-37).

Notes

Note ** The persecution by the vile person is described in 11:32-34, but when Daniel asked “How long shall it be?” (12:6), the response is, “it would be for a time, two times, and half a time; and that when the shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end all these things would be accomplished” (12:7).  This seems to say that the holy people will be persecuted for the prophetic period of “a time, two times, and half a time“, —a total of 3½ times.  Since this question and answer come at the end of the prophecy of Daniel 11·12, it refers to the previously mentioned persecution, which is the persecution in 11:32-34.

The 3½ times of Daniel 12:7 is also mentioned in Daniel 7:25—where it is also a time of persecution for the saints of the Most High, namely by the little horn-king.

Note *** The vile person profanes the strong temple (11:31), which is equivalent to the casting down of the place of the temple by the horn in 8:11.

Note **** An abomination is a sin.  In Deuteronomy 7:25 “graven images of their gods” are called “an abomination to the LORD your God.`” Both of these expressions are related to the tamid (continual) in their respective contexts (compare 11:31 with 8:11-12).

Daniel 11 therefore covers the same ground as Daniel 8, and provides additional detail.

The Vile Person is Antiochus IV.

After the death of Alexander the Great, his Greek kingdom was divided into four empires.  One of these was the Seleucids of the Middle East.  Antiochus IV was one of the kings in this kingdom.  He ruled in the middle of the second century BC.  He fits the sequence of kings and the activities of the “vile person” of Daniel 11 quite well.  But the events described in the last part of Daniel 11 do not fit known history.  Critics therefore propose:

(A) That the book of Daniel was written in the time of Antiochus IV;
(B) That Daniel was written in response to the persecution of the Jews by Antiochus IV;
(C) That the evil king in Daniel is Antiochus IV, and
(D) That the events in Daniel 11, that do not fit history, are the guesswork of the uninspired writer of Daniel.

Daniel 7 and 8

Critics transfer this interpretation to Daniel 7 and 8 as well, and interpret the evil horn-king in these chapters also as Antiochus IV (the Maccabean thesis).  As one critic wrote:

Daniel was written during the period of the Maccabees, in the middle of the 2nd century B.C., or about 400 years after the events it describes.  Its origin is betrayed in chapter 11, when Daniel supposedly prophesies about the future.

Conservatives, on the other hand, base their interpretation of Daniel mostly on Daniel 2, 7 and 8, and often find it difficult to explain Daniel 11.

Interpretation

Critics do not accept that the future can be known. They believe that the evil king in Daniel 11 was the Greek king Antiochus IV.  The current article defends the conservative interpretation of Daniel 11.There are no animals in the vision of Daniel 11.  The Persian kingdom is identified by name (11:2), but none of the later kingdoms or kings are named.  Instead, the names “king of the south” and “king of the north” are used; each describing an entire kingdom consisting of a whole series of kings.  The reader of Daniel 11 has to identify the individual kings by comparing the events described in the prophecy with actual history.

Interpreters generally agree on the interpretation of Daniel 11:1-13:

Persian Kings
The chapter opens with a description of individual Persians kings, concluding with Xerxes, who attacked Greece (11:2).  By virtue of his failed attack on the Greeks, he brought the Greek nation onto the ‘world’ scene.

Greek kings
King of the NorthThe prophecy then jumps over the next 150 years of Persian rule to the first Greek king—the “mighty king” (Alexander the Great) (11:3).  His kingdom was divided into four divisions after his death (11:4).  Verses 5 to 13 describe key events in the history of two of the four divisions, namely those divisions that were threats to Judea.  To the north of Judea was the “king of the north;” the Seleucid kings of the Middle East.  To the south was the “king of the south,” namely the Ptolemaic kings of Egypt.  The actions of the Ptolemies and Seleucids, as described in these verses, are fairly consistent with what we know today as their history.

Antiochus III

Verse 14 refers to the “breakers of your people.”  Here interpretations diverge.  But it is generally agreed that verses 14 to 19 describe Antiochus III.  To quote a critical scholar:

Daniel 11:2-20 is a very accurate & historically corroborated sequence of events from the third year (10:1) of the Persian era up to the predecessor of Antiochus IV: some 366 years!  Only the names and dates are missing.  Most of the details are about the conflicts between the kings of the South (the Ptolemies of Egypt) and the kings of the North (the Seleucids of Mesopotamia/ Syria).  The Seleucids are shown to become stronger and stronger (despite some setbacks) …  Of course, Jerusalem was in the middle and changed hand (197, from Egypt to Syria).

Prince of the covenant

Verse 22 is a critical verse.  The following is a rather literal translation of this verse:

the arms of the flood are overflowed from before him, and are broken; and also the leader (nagid; prince–NASB) of the covenant (YLT)

The text presents a picture of inferior forces (“the arms of the flood“) being defeated by the superior forces of the vile person. The lesser flood is flooded by an even greater flood of arms.  The prince of the covenant is also broken.  In other words, it says that the vile person will:

Flood away the “overflowing forces“ and
Shatter the prince of the covenant.

The current article proposes that the prince of the covenant is Jesus, and that “broken” refers to His death on the Cross.  This conclusion is based on the word links between 11:22 and the prophecy of Christ’s death in Daniel 9:24-27.

Word Links

The word “flood,” as a noun occurs only twice in Daniel—in 9:26 (“Its end shall come with the flood, and to the end there shall be war“) and in 11:22.

The word ‘sar’ (translated “prince”) occurs 11 times in Daniel (8:11, 25; 9:6, 8; 10:13, 20 [twice], 21; 11:5; 12:1).  But the word ‘nagid’, which is also translated “prince,” occurs only in 11:22 and in 9:24-27. In 9:24-27 we find nagid in the phrases “Messiah the Prince” and “the prince who is to come.”  The implication is that “the prince of the covenant” (11:22) is the “Messiah the Prince” (9:25), describing Christ in His earthly incarnate state.

In both 9:24-27 and 11:22 the nagid-prince will be destroyed.  He is “cut off” (9:26) and ”broken” (11:22).

The word covenant occurs in both passages.  Covenant also occurs elsewhere in Daniel, but only in these two passages is a prince connected with the covenant.  Consequently, only the nagid-prince is connected with the covenant.  In 9:26-27 the nagid-prince makes strong the covenant for one week. (See Covenant in Daniel 9:27.)  In 11:22 the nagid-prince of the covenant is broken.  “Covenant” elsewhere in Daniel always refers to the covenant between God and His people (9:4; 11:28, 30, 32).  It is therefore assumed that the covenant in 11:22 also refers to God’s covenant with Israel.

Conclusion

On the basis of these word links it is concluded as follows:

1. The nagid-prince in the two passages refers to the same individual, namely that the Prince of the Covenant is Jesus.
2. The breaking of the prince of the covenant in 11:22 refers to the death of Jesus Christ.
3. The flood in the two passages also refers to the same power: The flood that floods away the “overflowing forces“ in 11:22 (and destroys the city and the sanctuary in 9:26) is the Roman Empire.

Since the events in Daniel 11 are given in their chronological sequence, and since the abomination (11:31) and the persecution of God’s people (11:32-34) are described later in Daniel 11, these events must occur in time after Christ’s death in the first century AD.  These events therefore occur during or after the Roman period, and cannot be the deeds of Antiochus IV.

Jesus confirmed this when He said:

Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet (Daniel 11:31 and 12:11), standing in the holy place“ (Mat 24:15)

Jesus therefore also interpreted the vile person as an anti-God ruler that will arise after His time; not as the Greek king Antiochus IV who lived about 200 years earlier.

Prophecies Compared

We are now able to compare Daniel 11 with the earlier prophecies:

Daniel 11 Daniel 9 Daniel 8 Daniel 7
Persian kings (v2) Persian decree (v25) Ram (v2-4) Bear (v5)
Greek king (v3) Goat (v5-7) Leopard (v6a)
Kings of North and South Goat’s four horns (v8) Leopard’s four heads
Roman flood breaks Nagid of covenant (v22) Nagid cut off (v 25-27) Horizontal expansion (8:9) Fourth beast (v8, 23)
Vile person: profanes temple, set up abomination (v31), persecute for 3½ times (v32-34; 12:7) Little horn: casts temple down, removes daily, transgression of desolation (v8-13) Little horn: persecute God’s people for 3½ limes; (v25)

 

Objections to this interpretation

Antiochus III emphasized

One objection against this interpretation is that Daniel 11 provides much more detail about Antiochus III (vv 15-19); the father and predecessor of Antiochus IV, than about any previous king.  Critics argue that Antiochus III is emphasized to identify the subsequent king (the vile person) as his son Antiochus IV.  To this reasoning we respond as follows:

The reign of the fourth Persian king (Xerxes) was also emphasized earlier in verse 2 of Daniel 11, but not to identify the Persian king that would follow after him.  Xerxes was emphasized because his unsuccessful wars against Greece was a key turning point in history that shifted the balance of power in the known world from Mede-Persia to Greece.  After Xerxes was mentioned in verse 2, the prophecy immediately jumps over the next 150 years during which seven Persian kings reigned (Arlaxerxes I, Darius II, Xerxes II, Artaxerxes II, Artaxerxes Ill, Arses, and Darius III), to the first Greek emperor; Alexander the Great (11:3).

We then note that Antiochus III’s unsuccessful war against the Romans, as described in Daniel 11, was similarly a key turning point in history.  It shifted the balance of power from the Greek Empire to Rome.  As a result, Antiochus and his sons had to pay penalties to the Romans, and were left subject to the growing dominance of Rome.

Both the reigns of Xerxes and Antiochus III were therefore turning points in history that shifted the balance of power in favor of the next empire.  These two reigns are emphasized in the text of Daniel 11 for this reason; not to identify the kings that follow them.

In the case of Xerxes we note, once the key turning point has been reached, that the prophecy jumps over the next 150 years of Persian rule to the next empire.  This principle applies equally to the shift from the Greek to the Roman empires.  After Antiochus III’s unsuccessful war against Rome, the prophecy jumps over the next 170 years, during which several Greek kings reigned, to the next empire (Rome).  11:19 is then a description of the death of Antiochus III, while 11:22 describes the death of Christ 200 years later.

This principle is also noted when Daniel 7 and 8 are compared.  The vision in Daniel 7 mentions Babylon, but the vision in Daniel 8, which was received only two years later (compare 7:1 and 8:1) does not.  The reason is that the key turning point, that shifted the balance of world power from Babylon to Mede-Persia, was reached between these two dates.  This was the war between the Medes and the Persians, which resulted in the prophesied Cyrus becoming supreme ruler of both the Medes and the Persians.

Conclusion: Antiochus III is emphasized because his reign was a turning point in history; not to identify the next king.

Roman Empire is not mentioned

A second objection is that the Roman Empire is not mentioned in Daniel 11.  Daniel 11 continues, without an intervening empire, from Antiochus III to the vile person.

To this objection we respond in the same way as to the same question in Daniel 8, namely that the evil horn-king of Daniel 8 represents both the Roman Empire and the evil horn that arises from it.  The same principle applies to Daniel 11: The symbol of the evil king includes the Roman Empire, symbolized by the flood (11:22), and anti-God power that arose from it.  To explain further:

Daniel 7 describes a fourth empire, followed by a horn-king that seeks to exterminate God’s people and God’s message.  But even in Daniel 7 the emphasis is on this anti-God ruler.  Daniel 7 describes the fourth empire in only two verses, but allows 6 verses for the evil horn.

Daniel 8 does not mention the Roman Empire directly.  Political Rome is mentioned only indirectly in the initial horizontal expansion of the little horn (8:9).  The religious phase is represented by the subsequent vertical growth of the horn.  Daniel 8 uses the horn-king for both the Roman Empire and worldwide anti-God ruler.  Nearly all the attention in Daniel 8 is on the religious phase.

Daniel 11 continues this pattern by representing both the Roman Empire and the anti-God ruler as a single symbol; the despicable person.  Political Rome is seen only as the flood that flows away the “overflowing forces” and also flows away the “prince of the covenant” (11:22).  By far most of the descriptions in Daniel 11 are about the anti-God king.

To this we must add the principle in these prophecies that, once the prophecies reach a key turning point in history, the prophecy jumps over the remaining kings of that empire to the next empire.  Daniel 11:19-22 can be interpreted as a jump from Antiochus III to the Roman Empire.

As mentioned before, the sole purpose of these prophecies, including the first four kingdoms, is to locate to the worldwide anti-God ruler in time.  Moving from Daniel 2 to 7 to 8 to 11, the emphasis on the political powers reduces in each later prophecy, while the emphasis on the anti-God power keeps increasing.

Conclusion
The wars of Antiochus III were a key turning point in history.  At that point the prophecy jumps over the remaining Greek rulers to the Roman Empire, represented by the symbol of the vile person, that first overflows “the arms of the flood” (Greek Empire) and also breaks the Prince of the covenant.

Antiochus IV fits.

A third objection is that Antiochus IV fits the sequence of kings in Daniel 11.  Studies by the current author (comparing Daniel 11 to the history of the Seleucids kings as it is available on internet) have confirmed the majority interpretation up to 11:19, where Antiochus III dies.  The description of the vile person starts in 11:21.  Therefore, if 11:20 describes Seleucus IV (and not Heliodorus), then Antiochus IV fits the sequence of kings.

Critics also correctly argue that the descriptions of the “vile person” in the verses after 11:21 fits the actions of Antiochus IV.  These include his double invasion of Egypt (compare 11:25, 29), and the persecution of God’s people.

For critics these are conclusive evidence that the vile person is Antiochus IV, and not the Roman Empire or some later ruler.

This is acknowledged, but, on the other hand, the description of the “vile person” exceeds Antiochus IV.  For instance, Antiochus never gained authority or ruled through deceit (v21).  He did not distribute the plunder (v24).  He did not magnify himself above every god or not had regard for the god of his fathers, nor for any god (v36-37).  And, as all agree, the events of the “time of the end” (v40-45) do not fit history at all.  As Desmond Ford noted:

Verses 21-35 fit his (Antiochus’s) time perfectly, but let it be noted that this interpretation by no means exhausts the passage (p 144; Daniel and the coming King).

For more detail, see Does Antiochus IV fit the profile?

Antiochus IV is a type.

Daniel 11 may therefore be understood as two stories intertwined:  The first story starts with Persia and continues until and including Antiochus IV.  But while discussing Antiochus IV it jumps to the second story, which is of a future and worldwide evil king.  This story continues until Michael stands up (12:1-3).

We see the same double meaning in Joel, where the prophet describes a local locust plague, but unexpectedly jumps to the day of the Lord.  Isaiah 14 jumps from the king of Babylon to Lucifer, without interruption (14:4, 12).  Ezekiel 28 moves from the king of Tyre (v12) to an “anointed cherub who covers” (v14).  It is also similar to Matthew 24, where Jesus combined the description of the destruction of the temple in 70 AD and the end of the world into a single story.  As another example, John the Baptist was a first representation of the Elijah to come.

We then conclude as follows:

The “vile person” is a symbol, and not a literal prediction.  It is a symbol of both the Roman Empire and its anti-God successor.

Antiochus IV is only a partial fulfillment of anti-God successor.  He is a type of the ultimate fulfilment of the final and much larger worldwide anti-God ruler that will arise after the time of the Roman Empire.

Why did God also reflect the events of Antiochus IV in Daniel 11?  Perhaps His purpose was, as the Jews see these events fulfilled in Antiochus IV, that they would accept the book of Daniel as inspired and expect the coming of the Messiah as predicted in Daniel 9.

For a more specific identification of the evil horn-king, please read the article on The Seven Headed Beast in Revelation.

God is in control.

This article therefore supports the view that the book of Daniel was written before the time of Antiochus IV, and that the prophecies are real predictions of future events.  God is in control of history:

There is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the latter days” (2:28).

The Most High God is ruler over the realm of mankind and that He sets over it whomever He wishes” (5:21).

NEXT:  Antiochus Does Not Fit the Description: In support of the current article, this article shows that Antiochus IV does not fit the specific characteristics of Daniel’s evil king.  Summary of this article

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