Daniel the prophet, according to the book of Daniel, lived in the sixth century B.C. That was before the kingdoms of Greece and Mede-Persia existed. But Daniel 11 and 8 mention these kingdoms by name. Critical scholars do not accept that God knows the future. They do not accept that these accurate descriptions of historical events could have been written in the sixth century BC, as the book itself claims. They, rather, propose that the book of Daniel was written by an unknown writer after these kingdoms already came into existence. In their view, the prophecies of Daniel are history written in the form of prophecy.
The main character in Daniel 11 is described as a “vile person.” Interpreters generally agree that this is the same as the evil horn-king of Daniel 7 and 8:
Later prophecies elaborate on the earlier prophecies.
Both the horn and the vile person persecute God’s people for a period of 3½ times, profane the temple by setting up the abomination (grotesque sin) and removing the regular sacrifice, use deceit and magnify themselves.
Antiochus IV was a Greek king who reigned in the middle of the second century BC. He fits the sequence of kings and the activities of the “vile person” of Daniel 11 fairly well. Critic scholars, 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 then also interpret the evil horn-king in these chapters as Antiochus IV.
JESUS CHRIST IN DANIEL 11
Interpreters generally agree on the interpretation of the first 13 verses of Daniel 11. The chapter opens with a description of individual Persian kings. It then moves to the Greek Empire.
Interpreters also generally agree that verses 14 to 19 describe Antiochus III; one of the Greek kings and predecessor of Antiochus IV.
Verse 22 is a key 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 word links, this article proposes:
– That the Prince of the covenant is Jesus Christ;
– That “shatter” refers to His death on the Cross.
– That the flood is the Roman Empire.
Since the events in Daniel 11 are given in chronological sequence, and since the abomination (11:31) and the persecution of God’s people (11:32-34) are described after verse 22, these must then occur in time after Christ’s death. Verse 22, therefore, does not describe Antiochus IV.
One possible 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. Critics argue that Daniel 11 emphasizes Antiochus III to identify the next king (the vile person) as his son Antiochus IV.
In response, the current article points out that, once the prophecy reaches a key turning point in history, it 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. Therefore, Daniel 11 emphasizes Antiochus III because his reign was a turning point in history; not to identify the next king.
NO ROMAN EMPIRE
A second possible objection is that Daniel 11 does not mention the Roman Empire. 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 vile person in Daniel 11 and the evil horn in Daniel 8 include both the Roman Empire and the anti-God power that arose from it.
A third possible objection is that Antiochus IV fits the sequence of kings in Daniel 11 as well as the actions of the “vile person.” This is true, but, on the other hand, the description of the “vile person” exceeds Antiochus IV. There is much in the prophecy that does not fit Antiochus IV. Antiochus IV is only a partial fulfillment of the anti-God successor. He is a type of the ultimate fulfillment of the final and much larger worldwide anti-God ruler that will arise after the time of the Roman Empire.
These concepts will now be discussed in more detail.
PURPOSE OF THIS ARTICLE
Daniel 11 is one of the most difficult chapters in the Bible. The conservative interpretation, as defended on this website, 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 perspective.
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 (critical scholars) do not accept that God knows the future. They do not accept that these accurate descriptions of historical events could have been written in the sixth century BC, as the book itself claims. They propose that Daniel was written after these kingdoms already rose to power. In other words, in their view, the prophecies of Daniel are history written by an unknown writer in the form of prophecy.
THE VILE PERSON IS THE SMALL HORN OF DANIEL 8.
The KJV describes the main character in Daniel 11 as a “vile person” (11:21). Interpreters generally agree that this “vile person” is the same as the horn of Daniel 8 and Daniel 7, argued as follows:
(1) As already stated, 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, 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 note **)
. . Profane the temple (11:31; 8:11) (See ***)
. . Set up “the abomination” (11:31; 8:13); (See ****).
. . Remove the continual sacrifice (the tamid) (8:11; 11:31);
. . Use deceit (8:25; 11:21-24); and
. . “Magnify himself” (8:11; 11:36-37).
NOTE ** PERSECUTION
The persecution by the vile person is described in 11:32-34, but when Daniel asks in 12:6, “How long shall it be?”, the response came, “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). In other words, the holy people will be persecuted for the prophetic period of “a time, two times, and half a time;” equal to 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 also mentions the “time, times, and half a time” as a period of persecution of the saints of the Most High by the little horn-king.
NOTE *** PROFANE THE TEMPLE
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 **** ABOMINATION
An abomination is a sin. In Deuteronomy 7:25 “graven images of their gods” are called “an abomination to the LORD your God.`” Both 11:31 and 8:11-12 mentions the “abomination” in connection with the “regular sacrifice” (the tamid). 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 reigned in the middle of the second century BC. He fits the sequence of kings and the activities of the “vile person” of Daniel 11 fairly well. But the events described in the last part of Daniel 11 do not fit known history. For these reasons, Critics propose that:
(A) The book of Daniel was written in the time of Antiochus IV;
(B) The book of Daniel was written in response to the persecution of the Jews by Antiochus IV;
(C) The evil king in Daniel is Antiochus IV, and
(D) The events described later in Daniel 11, that do not fit history, are the guesswork of the uninspired writer of Daniel.
Critics transfer this interpretation to Daniel 7 and 8, and interpret the evil horn-king in these chapters also as Antiochus IV. This is called the Maccabean thesis. As one Critical scholar 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, but often find it difficult to explain Daniel 11.
There are no animals in Daniel 11. The prophecy names the Persian kingdom (11:2), but none of the later kingdoms or kings are named. Instead, the titles “king of the south” and “king of the north” are used to describe entire kingdoms, each consisting of a 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:
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.
The 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 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.
Verse 14 refers to the “breakers of your people.” Here interpretations start to diverge. But interpreters generally agree 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 key verse. The following is a fairly literal translation of it:
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 pictures inferior forces (“the arms of the flood“) being defeated by the superior forces of the “vile person” (v21). 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:
(a) Flood away the “overflowing forces“ and
(b) Shatter the prince of the covenant.
The current article proposes that the prince of the covenant is Jesus Christ 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.
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 the nagid in the phrases “Messiah the Prince” and “the prince who is to come.” This implies that “the prince of the covenant” (11:22) is the “Messiah the Prince” (9:25), describing Christ when He was on earth.
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” is found 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. Elsewhere in Daniel, “covenant” always refers to the covenant between God and His people (9:4; 11:28, 30, 32). This implies that the covenant in 11:22 also refers to God’s covenant with Israel.
On the basis of these word links, this article concludes as follows:
1. The nagid-prince in the two passages refers to the same individual, namely that the Prince of the Covenant is Jesus Christ.
2. The shatterring of the prince of the covenant in 11:22 refers to His death.
3. The flood that floods away the “overflowing forces“ in 11:22 is the same as the flood that destroys the city and the sanctuary in 9:26. Both are the Roman Empire.
Since the events in Daniel 11 are given in chronological sequence, and since the abomination (11:31) and the persecution of God’s people (11:32-34) are described after verse 22, the abomination and persecution must occur after Christ’s death in the first century AD. These events therefore occur during or after the end of the Roman Empire, and cannot refer to Antiochus IV.
Jesus confirmed this when He put the abomination in the future:
“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 died about 200 years earlier.
With this conclusion, and with the assistance of the previous articles in this series, 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 the covenant (v22)||Nagid cut off (v 25-27)||Horizontal expansion (8:9)||Fourth beast (v8, 23)|
|Vile person: profanes temple, sets up abomination (v31), persecutes for 3½ times (v32-34; 12:7)||Little horn: casts temple down, removes daily, transgression of desolation (v8-13)||Little horn: persecutes God’s people for 3½ limes; (v25)|
This section responds to possible objections to the interpretation proposed above.
EMPHASIS ON ANTIOCHUS III
One possible 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. Critical scholars argue that this is to identify the next king (the vile person) as his son Antiochus IV.
This article gives a different explanation as to why the prophecy emphasizes Antiochus III:
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. Daniel 11:2 emphasize Xerxes 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 (Artaxerxes 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 their empire was left subject to the growing dominance of Rome.
KEY TURNING POINT
Both the reigns of Xerxes and Antiochus III were therefore key turning points in history that shifted the balance of power to the next empire. Daniel 11 emphasizes Xerxes and Antiochus III for this reason; not to identify the kings that follow them.
JUMPS OVER THE NEXT KINGS
In the case of Xerxes, 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). Read in this way, Daniel 11:19 is 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. The prophecy, therefore, jumps over the remaining Babylonian kings.
The prophecy emphasizes Antiochus III because his reign was a turning point in history; not to identify the next king.
NO ROMAN EMPIRE
A second possible 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.
We respond to this objection 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 “vile person” includes both the Roman Empire, symbolized by the flood (11:22), and anti-God power that arose from it. To elaborate:
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. Almost 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” (NASB). Political Rome is seen only as the flood that flows away both the “overflowing forces” and the “prince of the covenant” (11:22). By far most of the descriptions in Daniel 11 are about the anti-God king that comes out of the Roman Empire.
As mentioned before, the sole purpose of these prophecies, including the descriptions of the first four kingdoms, is to identify the anti-God king that will come out of the Roman Empire. Moving from Daniel 2 to 7 to 8 to 11, the emphasis on the political powers progressively reduces, while the emphasis on this anti-God power keeps increasing.
ANTIOCHUS IV FITS.
A third possible 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 the 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.
It is true that Antiochus fits the description, 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 similarly jumps from the king of Babylon to Lucifer, without interruption (14:4, 12) and 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 of this principle, 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 person, just like the little horn in Daniel 7 and 8 is not a literal horn. The “vile person” symbolizes both the Roman Empire and its anti-God successor.
Antiochus IV is only a partial fulfillment of the anti-God successor. He is a type of the ultimate fulfillment of the final and much larger worldwide anti-God ruler that will arise from the Roman Empire.
WHY INCLUDE ANTIOCHUS IV?
Why did God include the reign of Antiochus IV in Daniel 11? It takes a long time for a prophecy to become accepted in a community. Daniel was also not a prophet in the normal sense of the word, and he was told, “as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time” (12:4). Perhaps God’s purpose, for including references to Antiochus IV, was that the Jews would see these events (partially) fulfilled in his reign so 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. A summary of this article is also available.
ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES
1. The metal man of Daniel 2 divides world history into six ages.
2. The four beasts of Daniel 7
3. Three possible interpretations of the little horn
4. To identify the fourth kingdom, compare Daniel 7 and 8.
5. Daniel correctly predicted HOW the Roman Empire will fall.
6. Daniel 8: The evil horn does not come out of a Greek horn.
7. Daniel 11’s Vile Person: Antiochus or Antichrist?
8. Antiochus IV does not fit the profile of Daniel’s Evil King.
9. Critical scholars attack Daniel to attack the Book of Revelation.