Daniel Chapter 11 Bible Study: A tale of three madmen

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Book of Daniel Bible Study Chapter 11

Daniel 11: A tale of three madmen

by I Gordon

We saw last time that an angel was sent to Daniel to bring him an important prophetic message, yet it took 21 days to reach Daniel because of conflict in the angelic realm. To be specific, a demonic spirit called 'the prince of Persia' resisted this angel from reaching Daniel until Michael, one of the chief princes, came to his aid. Today we shall look at the first part of this message. It is quite a long chapter so we will focus on some areas more than others. It should also be noted that when Daniel was given this prophecy every part of it concerned the future. Today, it is partly past history, and partly future history!

There are three men I want to focus on in this study. Two are part of chapter 11 and one is very familiar (and hated) to those of our grand parent's generation. The three madmen that this study will focus on are, of course, Antiochus Epiphanes, Adolf Hitler, and a third man who has not arrived on the scene yet. But he is generally known as the 'antichrist'.

Future world history in advance

Daniel 11:1-4 'Now then, I tell you the truth: Three more kings will appear in Persia, and then a fourth, who will be far richer than all the others. When he has gained power by his wealth, he will stir up everyone against the kingdom of Greece. Then a mighty king will appear, who will rule with great power and do as he pleases. After he has appeared, his empire will be broken up and parceled out toward the four winds of heaven. It will not go to his descendants, nor will it have the power he exercised, because his empire will be uprooted and given to others.

In the early part of this revelation, the angel outlines the future history for the Medo-Persian Empire and the Grecian Empire with particular focus on the fourth ruler in Persia (Xerxes I) and the mighty king from Greece, Alexander the Great. At the peak of his power, Alexander died at the not so ripe old age of 32. His two sons were then murdered and his kingdom was divided between his four generals. As noted in the Bible Knowledge Commentary -

'After Alexander's death, his kingdom was divided among his four generals (cf. 8:22): Seleucus (over Syria and Mesopotamia), Ptolemy (over Egypt), Lysimacus (over Thrace and portions of Asia Minor), and Cassander (over Macedonia and Greece). This division was anticipated through the four heads of the leopard (7:6) and the four prominent horns on the goat (8:8).'

Verses 5-20 of Daniel 11 outline the continued conflict between the Ptolemies (who ruled Egypt 'the king of the South') and the Seleucids (who ruled Syria 'the king of the North'). While it was all future prophecy when first delivered to Daniel, it is now past history covering the period of 323BC - 176BC. For those interested I will include some notes in the small print  [1]  , but let's have a look at the introduction of a new king in verse 21 as he is a very interesting character indeed!

The coming of the despicable person

Daniel chapter 11 AntiochusDaniel 11:21-24 'He will be succeeded by a contemptible person who has not been given the honor of royalty. He will invade the kingdom when its people feel secure, and he will seize it through intrigue. Then an overwhelming army will be swept away before him; both it and a prince of the covenant will be destroyed. After coming to an agreement with him, he will act deceitfully, and with only a few people he will rise to power. When the richest provinces feel secure, he will invade them and will achieve what neither his fathers nor his forefathers did.

These verses introduce the person that is the biggest type of the coming antichrist that there is in scripture.  [2]  His name is Antiochus Epiphanes. Antiochus came to power in the Syrian branch of the Greek empire in 175 BC and by all accounts had quite a high opinion of himself. In fact, he even had a special name that he liked to be called - 'theos epiphanies' which means 'God made manifest'.  [3]  We see from the verses above that he rose to the throne through 'intrigue' taking it through a mixture of force and deception. As I mentioned earlier, take special note of the actions of this character for they point to a coming world leader in the last days.

Time to take it out on the Jews....

Daniel 11:29-35 'At the appointed time he will invade the South again, but this time the outcome will be different from what it was before. Ships of the western coastlands will oppose him, and he will lose heart  . Then he will turn back and vent his fury against the holy covenant. He will return and show favor to those who forsake the holy covenant. 'His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation.  With flattery he will corrupt those who have violated the covenant,  but the people who know their God will firmly resist him.  'Those who are wise will instruct many, though for a time they will fall by the sword or be burned or captured or plundered. When they fall, they will receive a little help, and many who are not sincere will join them.  Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time. 

We read above about Antiochus' invasion of the south (Egypt) but this time things don't go so well as Egypt is helped by Rome (western coastlands). In the face of a humiliating defeat, Antiochus again turns his attention to the 'whipping boys' - the Jews. History records that he ordered his troops to stamp out every trace of Judaism and anyone found worshiping the God of Israel was put to death. The sacrifices were stopped, the scriptures were burnt. He ordered an altar dedicated to Zeus to be erected and pigs were sacrificed to the Greek gods in the Jewish temple. This act is that mentioned above as the 'abomination of desolation'. Now does any of this sound familiar? It should do for it typifies the attitude of Hitler in trying to wipe out the entire Jewish race and it gives us a picture of the coming 'abomination of desolation' that Jesus said will shortly precede His return at the end of the age (Matt 24:15) where the coming world leader will place himself in the Jewish temple declaring worship of himself as God (2 Thes 2:3-4).

Notice also that during this time of persecution in the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes, 'those who know their God will display strength and take action' (vs 32 NASB). It is always the way. This was historically fulfilled in the revolt of Judas Macabees as described by the Bible Knowledge Commentary:

'The Jews who refused to submit to Antiochus' false religious system were persecuted and martyred for their faith. The word fall (Dan_11:33-34), literally 'stumble' ( kāšal  ), refers to severe suffering on the part of many and death for others. This has in view the rise of the Maccabean revolt. Mattathias, a priest, was the father of five sons. (One of them, Judas, became well known for refurbishing and restoring the temple in late 164 b.c. He was called Judas Maccabeus, 'the Hammerer.') In 166, Mattathias refused to submit to this false religious system. He and his sons fled from Jerusalem to the mountains and began the Maccabean revolt. At first only a few Jews joined them. But as their movement became popular, many joined them, some out of sincere motives and some from false motives. The suffering that the faithful endured served to refine and purify them. This time of persecution was of short duration. It had previously been revealed to Daniel that the temple would be desecrated for 1,150 days ( Dan_8:14). Here Daniel was assured that this persecution would run its course and then be lifted, for its end will still come at the appointed time.'

Now verses 21-35 can be proven historically. Bible scholars and even critics agree that it is accurate to history. They also agree on something else - that verses 36-45 have not occurred yet! Both Christian and Jewish teachers have been convinced that there is a gap of time between verses 35 and 36  [4]  and that the king spoken of from verse 36 onwards is someone yet to arise on planet Earth! So let's have a look.

Introducing the Antichrist

Daniel 11:36-37 'The king will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place. He will show no regard for the gods of his fathers or for the one desired by women, nor will he regard any god, but will exalt himself above them all.

The first thing we see about the coming antichrist is that 'he will do as he pleases'. That is, he will be an absolute dictator. Now that doesn't mean that there won't be opposition or conflict. Far from it! But it does mean that no one will be able to stop him! In the words of Revelation  'the whole world was astonished and followed the beast. Men worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, 'Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?'  This coming king will recognise no rule or authority either in heaven or on earth but will exalt himself above every god  [5]  and will embody and seek to establish Satan's long held desire to 'be like the Most High' (Isaiah 14:14) In doing so he will speak out with all sorts of blasphemy against the true God.  [6]  Many in our day, as they see the rise of Islam, wonder whether the coming Antichrist will be a Muslim. I can't see it myself for it doesn't fit the scriptures. Islam worships Allah alone and their main tenant of the faith is that there is 'one God who is Allah and his prophet is Muhammad'. But as we can see from this passage in Daniel and from many others is that the coming antichrist recognises no god at all... He only exalts himself! He will be egotistical not religious (although he will use religion for a time until he directs all worship unto himself).

Daniel 11:38-39 Instead of them, he will honor a god of fortresses; a god unknown to his fathers he will honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and costly gifts. He will attack the mightiest fortresses with the help of a foreign god and will greatly honor those who acknowledge him. He will make them rulers over many people and will distribute the land at a price.

Outwardly, the antichrist's 'god' will be warfare. That is who he will worship, honour and trust. He will place his trust in his military strength and promote war. And he will be successful for behind the scenes he shall be helped by a 'foreign god'  [7]  . As Revelation tells us  'the dragon (Satan) gave the beast (Antichrist) his power and his throne and great authority.'  The coming antichrist will be completely satanically empowered. As the Apostle Paul noted, he will be  'the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.' (2 Thes 2:9-10)  Note also that from Daniel we see (like some of our politicians today!) that the antichrist will not be above buying off and rewarding those that fall into line and acknowledge him.

But he will come to his end

Daniel 11:40-45 'At the time of the end the king of the South will engage him in battle, and the king of the North will storm out against him with chariots and cavalry and a great fleet of ships. He will invade many countries and sweep through them like a flood. He will also invade the Beautiful Land. Many countries will fall, but Edom, Moab and the leaders of Ammon will be delivered from his hand. He will extend his power over many countries; Egypt will not escape. He will gain control of the treasures of gold and silver and all the riches of Egypt, with the Libyans and Nubians in submission. But reports from the east and the north will alarm him, and he will set out in a great rage to destroy and annihilate many. He will pitch his royal tents between the seas at the beautiful holy mountain. Yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him.

As we see from the verses above, the antichrist's rise to power is not without conflict. Not everyone is initially willing to fall into line with a new world ruler and we read of both the king of the north and the south engaging in warfare against him. This will lead to an invasion of Israel (the 'beautiful land') and many countries will be taken by force. Edom, Moab and Ammon (modern day Jordan) are delivered from his hand however as this seems to be the area that God sets aside for the Jews to flee to for protection during the tribulation.  [8] 

We also read above that he will pitch his tent between the seas and the beautiful holy mountain. That is, between the Dead Sea and the Mediterranean Sea at Jerusalem. In a vain attempt to pose as Christ, the Antichrist will set up his headquarters in Jerusalem, the same city from which Christ will rule the world in the Millennium. Yet this poser will come to his end. The Lord will see to that!

Rev 19:19-20 Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet... The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.

2 Thes 2:8 '...the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming.'

Before concluding, let me just state one more interesting possibility concerning the 'end' of the antichrist stated here in verse 45. While most believe that this is speaking about the defeat of the Antichrist at the end of the tribulation when Christ returns, there are others, including Arnold Fructenbaum, that believe that the events of verses 40-45 lead up to the mid-point of the tribulation. This is worth thinking about. One reason that some believe this is only at the midpoint of the tribulation is that Jesus quoted the next verse, Daniel 12:1, as the great tribulation which takes place in the 2nd half of the 7 year tribulation. So if the Antichrist does come to an end in the midpoint of the tribulation, how can he still be around to be ultimately defeated at the coming of Jesus at the end of the tribulation? One belief is that the Antichrist, who tries to counterfeit Christ, will be resurrected from the dead. The book of Revelation provides support for this:

Revelation 13:3 One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound,  but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was astonished and followed the beast.  

 Revelation 13:11-12 Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. (12) He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants  worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed.  

 Revelation 13:14 And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast  who had the wound of the sword and has come to life. 

Also check out the only description that we have of the Antichrist in scripture which says that a sword will strike him and his right eye will be totally blinded (Zech 11:12-17)


Antiochus Epiphanes hated and persecuted the Jews trying to destroy every trace of Judaism and worship of the true God. Hitler hated and persecuted the Jews and tried to destroy every trace of the Jews themselves. In killing over 6 million Jews he got one third of the way to achieving his satanic goal. Yet as bad as both of these men were, they are still only smaller glimpses of the coming world leader. Both Daniel and Jesus stated that this period of time will involve distress and tribulation on a scale that had never been experienced before. Zechariah states that during this time two thirds of the Jews will be killed. (Zech 13:8). And yet this coming world leader is only given power for a limited time and the real King of kings will return and setup his kingdom.

So how should we live in view of such things? Well, that will be the focus of the next study as we look at the last chapter in this wonderful book of Daniel the prophet.

[1] ↩  William MacDonald sums up verses 5-20 writing:

'11:5, 6  Verses 5-35 describe warfare lasting about two centuries between these latter two kingdoms. The firstking of the South was Ptolemy I, and theone who shall gain power over him was Seleucus I of Syria. These two were allies at first, then antagonists. Later Berenice, the daughter of Ptolemy II, married Antiochus II, king of Syria, to bring rapprochement between the two nations, but the strategem failed in a torrent of intrigue and murder. 

11:7-9  Ptolemy III, a brother of Berenice, successfully attacked the realm of Seleucus Callinicus, returning to Egypt with captives and great spoil. Two years later Seleucus launched an unsuccessful attack against Egypt. 

11:10-17 His sons  proved to be more successful, especially Antiochus III. Verses 10-20 describe how the tide of battle seesawed between the North and the South. Verse 17b tells how Antiochus III made a pact with Egypt, giving his daughter Cleopatra (not the famous - or notorious - queen of Egypt) in marriage to Ptolemy V, but she defected to side with Egypt. 

11:18-20  When Antiochus III attempted to conquer Greece, he was defeated by the Romans at Thermopylae and Magnesia, and returned to his own land to die in an insurrection. His successor, Seleucus Philopater, became infamous for his oppressive taxes on the glorious kingdom, Israel. He died mysteriously, perhaps by poisoning.' 

[2] ↩  I say in scripture because there is another in modern history that competes with Antiochus Epiphanes as the biggest type of the coming antichrist. That persons name is Adolph and probably needs no introduction.

[3] ↩  Although his contemporizes had their own name for him... They didn't call him Epiphanes but Epimanes which means 'the madman'. (Although I have a feeling they only said that behind his back). Isn't it funny that even 2000 years ago people were changing someone's name slightly to mock and ridicule them! There's nothing new under the sun!

[4] ↩  Apart from the obvious fact that verses 36-45 have not occurred in history, there is also a clue in the text itself that shows us that there is a gap in time between verses 35 and 36. Verse 35 states that there will be a refining period  'until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time.'  So verse 35 takes us right through to the time of the end. Verse 36 then introduces the new king that will come at the time of the end. This king is the antichrist.

[5] ↩  The one desired by women is a Jewish reference to the Messiah. The antichrist will have no desire for God, the Messiah Jesus or any other so called 'god' for that matter. In his mind the only one worth worshiping is himself.

[6] ↩  Basically every time the Bible talks about the antichrist, it makes mention of his mouth! This guy is going to have the biggest mouth. In the blasphemy that comes forth... In the grandiose claims that he makes... in the deceptive poison that he spreads... he will be known for his big mouth. Our parents and grand parents' generation has seen such a man. Adolf Hitler was known as a man whose speeches could stir and change the entire nation. He revelled in his ability to deceive and gave speeches about his desire for peace while privately preparing for war. Hitler believed in lies saying 'the magnitude of a lie always contains a certain factor of credibility since the masses more easily fall victim to a big lie than a small one.' The coming antichrist will be fashioned from the same satanic mould. His claims will be so outrageous people will think they must be true.

[7] ↩  This is the same with Hitler. His rise was not just through his ability to speak powerfully. Hitler was heavily into the occult and his rise was, like the coming antichrist, satanically empowered. Churchill observed Hitler and said his accomplishments were among the most remarkable in the whole history of the world. Hitler revived a collapsed economy in 5 years. He established training schools and bought the nation to full employment. One historian even notes that had he died before WWII he would have gone down as 'Adolf the great - one of the outstanding figures in German history'.

[8] ↩  Revelation 12:14 tells us that God has prepared a place for the Women (Israel) to flee to when the persecution from the Dragon (Satan) begins. Jesus told those in Judea to flee straight away to the mountains when they see the Abomination of Desolation (Matt 24:15). But where do they go? Micah 2:12 tells us that God will assemble the remnant of Israel to Bozrah (which is Petra in modern day Jordan):  'I will surely assemble, O Jacob, all of thee; I will surely gather the remnant of Israel; I will put them together as the sheep of Bozrah, as the flock in the midst of their fold: they shall make great noise by reason of the multitude of men.' KJV)  We also know that when Jesus returns He will come and fight the armies that are intent on destroying the nation of Israel. And where does He go? That's right - Bozrah because that is where the Jews who have fled Israel are hiding. It seems that He begins in Bozrah and from there moves back to Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives. (See Isaiah 63:1-6, Zech 14:1-4)