We begin this episode in Daniel 11. Surrounded by historical context and the mystery of prophecy, these verses have a lot to say to each of us and the decisions we make in our daily life. God’s hand and providence are essential and ever-present throughout the story of this world. Exploring Daniel helps us to see the role we are called to play in regards to truth and humility.
The First Abomination of Desolations
We’re going to start with Daniel 11:5.
We saw that there are going to be three more Persian generals and then there’s going to be Alexander the Great. And now we’re going to go into this whole period that I don’t know that much about, but we’re going to cover 250 years of history all using pronouns.
It’s not that unusual I’ll have a conversation with somebody, and they’ll say, “They went to the store, and they drove…and they…” “Okay, start over. Don’t use pronouns. Use names so I can understand what you’re saying.”
Well, we’re going to go like 200 years using all pronouns. And this is, for the most part, something that’s already happened because we’re going to make it to the period leading up to Antiochus IV, who’s Epiphanes, who we saw in chapter 8 is the little horn that speaks pompous words and does the abomination of desolations. So we’ve already seen one abomination of desolations.
And then we’re going to jump 2000 years and counting and see the next abomination of desolations that’s still in our future, the one that’s going to happen during the tribulation period.
Now I’m going to go through all this history stuff, and I’m taking people’s words for it, who are historians, who tell us what all this stuff is looking in the rear view mirror saying, “Okay, we can look at history. Now we know who the pronouns are and what events we’re talking about here.”
And you’re not going to remember it. I’m confident of that because I’ve studied this a ton, and I don’t remember it. I’m going to have to read some of this stuff.
What’s the point?
So, what’s the point? Let’s start with what’s the point and then we’ll skim through this stuff, and then, hopefully, say what’s the point again; and I’ll cram it into the time we have left.
The point is God has history in control. His eye is on the sparrow. He knows the number of hairs on our heads. And he told these people all these things are going to happen. And unlike Revelation where we look at it and say, “Man, there’s some crazy stuff that’s going to happen. I wonder what that is.” And we said—right?—Revelation is a real simple book if you go to it saying, “What am I supposed to do?” Well, be a faithful witness, don’t fear death. Real simple.
But if you go to it and say, “What’s going to happen?” you can’t understand what’s going to happen. We now know through history looking in the rear view mirror what happened, and it’s still hard to figure out what happened. That’s what we’re going to go over
But this has happened. God’s already predicted something that has happened, and we can look at this and say, if God goes into this degree of detail to show that these things are going to happen, and they happened just like he said, we can be totally confident that all these things in Revelation are going to happen, and not one single thing is going to go outside his will. Everything’s authorized. I think that’s the takeaway.
Now, the first abomination of desolations happens in 167 B.C.
The end of Alexander the Great
Now to go back to last episode, we started in 323 B.C. That’s when Alexander died. Alexander, 331 B.C. He conquers the whole world, the known world at that time. Conquers Persia. And then he dies. He’s 8 years king, then he dies.
Then what happens is there’s this guy named Perdiccas who was the guy who became regent. Because Alexander’s son is an infant. I mean, he’s a baby. He’s young. So they have a regent waiting for the son to grow up. When Alexander was asked who was to inherit his kingdom, he said, “The strongest.” This set up a series of wars between his successors called the Diadochi. And what they did is, basically, killed each other for the next decades.
Alexander, he was autocratic. If you crossed him, even if you had saved his life in battle, he would have you killed. He was calculating. He took scientists with him everywhere he went. Remember he was tutored by Aristotle. He was conquering. He conquered the whole world. And he was ruthless. If you got in his way, he would kill you. If you were his friend at the time, you were fine.
His generals picked that theme right up and kept going.
The struggle for Alexander’s kingdom
And so Perdiccas, when became the regent, he took the other generals and made them satraps of different areas.
Here are some of the some of these main players:
Antigonus was a Macedonian soldier who was a satrap of Asia Minor, Turkey.
Antipater was the Macedonian general they left in control of Macedonia when they went to conquer Persia. So he’s the real loyal guy. Antipater was the guy protecting Alexander’s family so the son could grow up and be the king. But unfortunately for Alexander’s kid, when Antipater died in 319—so only 4 years after Alexander died—his son, Cassander, didn’t have the affinity for the kids that his dad did. And he participated in murdering Alexander’s kid. Then there’s no more heir to the throne other than the generals at this point.
Cassander went in league with Lysimachus and Ptolemy. Ptolemy is the general that got Egypt, and he’s the regent of Egypt. He calls himself a regent or satrap or something like that all the way through 323 to 305. He only started calling himself a king in 305. He goes almost 20 years as “I’m not sure if somebody’s going to take this kingdom and put it back together, so I’m going to hedge my bets. That’s how long it takes for people to start saying, I’m in control now.
So Ptolemy, Lysimachus, and Cassander, the guy that murdered Alexander’s kids, go in league together to keep Antigonus from uniting the kingdom. Antigonus got real close.
And Seleucius, who ends up being a character in this thing, he was a satrap over Babylonia. So Antigonus came and knocked him out. And Seleucius had to flee over to Ptolemy. And then Ptolemy and then Lysimachus and Cassander go and they knock Antigonus off, and only then does Seleucius get to go back to his satrapping.
You get it so far? Every one of these guys died a violent death except Ptolemy. They all killed each other or were killed by their soldiers. Nice family to be in, don’t you think?
Let’s go to Daniel 11:5. And because of the time here, I’m going to insert the interpretation of what’s happening as we read. So when I’m saying things that aren’t in there, that’s because I’m adding it for explanation, okay?
So, “Also the king of the South—Now, South, Ptolemy, and Egypt are all the same thing. So the king of the South—that’s Ptolemy I—shall become strong, as well as one of his princes;
So Seleucius I, who was made the Satrap of Babylon, when Antigonus overthrew him, he had to go back to Ptolemy to be safe, and so he became one of Ptolemy’s princes.
—and he shall gain power over him—So that means the north, Seleucius, gains power over the south. —and have dominion. His dominion shall be a great dominion.
Seleucius, even though he was knocked out, he got installed back in, and he grew his kingdom to be even bigger than Ptolemy. First the south, Egypt, is ascendant, and then the north.
The Seleucid kingdom, the northern kingdom, the Syrian kingdom, and Antiochus. A lot of the kings of the north are named Antiochus. North, Seleucid, and Antiochus, Syria, all the same thing. Ptolemy, south, Egypt, all the same thing.
That’s how he became one of his princes and then became great.
Verse 6. And at the end of some years they shall join forces, for the daughter of the king of the South shall go to the king of the North to make an agreement; So what happened was now we’re into the next generation. Berenice is the daughter of Ptolemy II. And she was sent to the king of the north, who is now Antiochus II, to make an agreement. The agreement they made was Berenice would marry Antiochus and then their son would be king over both kingdoms. They’re trying to reunite the kingdom again.
—but she shall not retain the power of her authority, and neither he nor his authority shall stand; but she shall be given up—Here’s what happened to Berenice: Antiochus II was already married to a lady named Laodice; and Laodice arranged to have Berenice and her husband murdered so they did not stand. And their agreement did not stand. So she shall be give up. She was killed by Laodice, who was Antiochus II existing wife before the agreement with those who brought her, and with him who begot her, and with him who strengthened her in those times. Everybody’s killed. That’s what that is.
Verse 7. But from a branch of her roots one shall arise in his place—Aren’t these pronouns awesome? So the branch of her roots. Her is Berenice, the one that was killed. The one to come from Egypt to go up to Syria. So it’s her roots. And that’s her brother. And that turns out to be Ptolemy III. Ptolemy, Egypt, South.
So arise in his place, who shall come with an army, enter the fortress of the king of the North, and deal with them and prevail. And he shall also carry their gods captive to Egypt—So here’s the only place we get something besides a pronoun or north or south, which is kind of a pronoun, so we know for sure that the south is Egypt. So that’s one anchor that we’ve got.
And with their princes and their precious articles of silver and gold; and he shall continue more years than the king of the North.
So what happened was Ptolemy III was not happy that his sister got murdered, and so he invaded Syria. And in doing so won a great victory, and looted them and took all the goodies back to the South.
Verse 9. “Also the king of the North shall come to the kingdom of the king of the South, but shall return to his own land.
Now this one’s really interesting because the commentaries say we don’t know what event this was. It apparently wasn’t significant enough for secular history to record it which is kind of amazing because we know enough about this era where everything else in here they can say, yeah, that’s clear that that’s what that is. And there doesn’t seem to be any dispute about this. The main dispute tends to be about whether this was actually written before all these events happened or not. That’s where the liberals have to camp because this is so specific and so clear as to what’s going on.
So far, God is just telling them, here’s what’s going to happen. Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. And it all happened just like he said.
Verse 10. However his sons shall stir up strife, and assemble a multitude of great forces; and one shall certainly come and overwhelm and pass through; then he shall return to his fortress and stir up strife.
This his and her and him and they is Seleucius III and Antiochus III. They’re both northern kings. Seleucid, North; Antiochus, North. So Seleucius III and Antiochus III, called “The Great.” They are coming.
Now we’re all the way up to 219 B.C. Alexander dies in 323. We’re 219. We’re about 100 years later, now. Boom. We’re popping along. Verse 5 to verse 10, we’ve gone a hundred years.
“And the king of the South shall be moved with rage—South, that’s Egypt. —and go out and fight with him, with the king of the North, who shall muster a great multitude; but the multitude shall be given into the hand of his enemy.
Here’s what happens: Seleucid II died in 226 B.C., but his son Seleucid III and Antiochus III, called “The Great,” continued the wars with the Ptolemys. So that’s “stir up strife,” in verse 10.
Seleucius III was murdered after a brief three-year reign. Of course. What else do you do? You murder people, right?
And his brother, Antiochus III came to power. He was called “The Great” because of his military successes. And in the time period between 219 and 218 B.C. he campaigned in Phoenicia and Palestine, the Israel and Lebanon area, part of the Ptolymaic empire at the time. So at this point Israel is under the South, it’s under Egypt. So that’s returned to the “king of the South’s fortresses” in verse 10.
Then in response, Ptolemy IV launched a counter attack. Both armies were really large. According to Polybius, Ptolemy’s forces consisted of 70,000 infantry, 5000 cavalry, and 73 elephants. Wouldn’t that be cool to watch? Whereas Antiochus’s army had 62,000 infantry, 6000 cavalry, and 102 elephants.
When the battle ended in 217 B.C., Ptolemy had won a great victory over the Syrians at Raphia, which is in Israel. And so that’s “given into his hand.”
The king of the South’s enemies are given into his hands. Egypt won the great victory.
Verse 12: when he—This is Ptolemy—has taken away the multitude, his heart will be lifted up; and he will cast down tens of thousands, but he will not prevail.
For the king of the North will return and muster a multitude greater than the former—that means more elephants—and shall certainly come at the end of some years with a great army and much equipment.
Because of this victory Ptolemy’s heart was filled with pride or “lifted up,” and the Egyptian army had slaughtered tens of thousands of the Syrian troops in the battle. There’s one historian that says Antiochus III lost 17,000 soldiers. That’s a lot of soldiers.
Yet, Ptolymaic supremacy was not to continue.
Power shifts to the Seleucids
At this point in the chapter, we have a switch, and dominance starts shifting from the Ptolemys to the Seleucids. The Ptolemys are dominant for about a hundred years and then it starts shifting to the Seleucids, the north: Seleucids, North, Syrian. Ptolemy, Egypt, South.
And then approximately 15 years later, 202 B.C., Alexander would have died in 323 B.C., so we’re about 120 years after all this drama starts—Antiochus III again invaded the Ptolymaic territories with a huge army. The occasion for this invasion was the death of Ptolemy IV and the crowning of his young son who was only, like, 5 years old.
You have a 5-year-old king; what do you do? You invade. Antiochus III took the opportunity and attacked Phoenicia and Palestine. If you’re Israel at this time, I don’t know what it’s— “Oh here they come again. They’re going to be…” I don’t know if they went out in the hills and watched them. I don’t know how this worked.
Verse 14 “Now in those times many shall rise up against the king of the South. Also, violent men of your people—Now this is Gabriel speaking to Daniel. He’s saying your people are actually going to get involved at this point. And they shall exalt themselves in fulfillment of the vision, but they shall fall.
So the king of the North shall come and build a siege mound, and take a fortified city; and the forces of the South shall not withstand him. Even his choice troops shall have no strength to resist.
What’s happening here, this is the point at which now the nativist movement starts to take hold in Egypt. Remember, these are all Greeks running Egypt, running Syria; and they’re running people that aren’t Greek. And the Egyptians are like, we’re kind of tired of having Greek rulers. Let’s have our own rulers.
So there’s an uprising. And some of Antiochus’s vassals are over there, “Yeah! Yeah!” stirring it up. That’s the first part of this. And the vision that’s being fulfilled apparently is this vision.
And then some of the Israelites would rebel or exalt themselves against Egypt in fulfillment of this vision. But without success. It reads literally “but they will fall.” What happens here is general Scopas of the Egyptian forces punished the leaders of Jerusalem and Judah who rebelled against the Ptolemaic government.
In verse 15, General Scopas engaged the Syrian forces at the battle of Panium, which is near Caesarea Philippi. It’s called Banias or Paneas because they had an altar to Pan there, a temple to Pan, the Greek God Pan. And that’s where Peter said, “Thou art the Christ,” when Jesus said, “Who do you say I am?”
Then in 199 B.C. So Scopas was there and suffered severe losses, and then he retreated to Sidon on the Phoenician coast. And Antiochus (Antiochus, North, Syrian) forces pursued the Egyptians and besieged Sidon. And General Scopas finally surrendered in 198 B.C.
So Sidon is a coastal city. Tyre and Sidon. And it’s where Lebanon is today, just north of Israel.
I told you I was going to have to go fast to get this all going in. This is a NASCAR event here.
Verse 16. But he who comes against him—This he is Antiochus III still. Antiochus the Great. —shall do according to his own will, and no one shall stand against him. He shall stand in the Glorious Land—That’s Israel. —with destruction in his power. Which likely means he has the power to do whatever he wants to, which is important because his son, Antiochus IV, is going to be the one that does the abomination of desolations.
He—Antiochus III—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 to destroy it; but she shall not stand with him, or be for him.
What is this? So what happens was Antiochus III had a daughter named Cleopatra. Now you have to be careful with Cleopatra because there are seven of them. There’s Cleopatra I, II, III, IV, V, VI, and VII. This is the first Cleopatra. And her job was to go marry the Ptolemy that was on the throne at that time and seduce him into submission and corrupt him so that he would be vulnerable to Antiochus. That’s the idea of “to corrupt him.” He’s trying to corrupt her.
But instead, she was actually loyal to her husband. She did not get corrupted.
Verse 18. After this he—Antiochus III is who we’re still talking about—shall turn his face to the coastlands, and shall take many. But a ruler—which is going to be Rome. Now Rome enters the picture. —shall bring the reproach against them to an end; and with the reproach removed, he shall turn back on him. Rome went and defeated them in Turkey. That’s what they’re talking about there.
Then he shall turn his face toward the fortress of his own land; but he shall stumble and fall, and not be found.
This is Antiochus III defeat and end.
Having vanquished the Egyptians in 197 B.C. or shortly thereafter Antiochus turned his attention to the coastlands which are the islands or countries around the Mediterranean. And after Antiochus had some initial success, Lucius Cornelius Scipio Asiaticus—like that name?—He’s a ruler; or NASV translates “commander.” He was sent against him by the Roman government. And in 191 B.C. the Romans fighting with their Greek allies routed the Syrians at Thermopylae and forced them to withdraw from Greece and flee to Asia Minor.
Then 30,000 Roman troops pursued Antiochus into Asia and defeated his much larger army of 70,000 at a battle in Smyrna.
In 188 B.C., the Romans forced Antiochus to sign the Treaty of Apamea. Polybius reported that the Syrian king was ordered to surrender territory, much of his military force, 20 hostages—one of whom was Antiochus IV, which is going to be Epiphanes, the guy who does the abomination of desolation, hang on to that—and pay a heavy indemnity to Rome. Now they’re under tribute to Rome. Antiochus has gone from the biggest guy in the Middle East to “I gotta pay tribute to Rome.”
After this humiliating defeat, Antiochus returned to his country where he was killed by an angry mob in 187. At least he wasn’t killed by another ruler. But in desperate need of funds, particularly those required to meet the indemnity payments to Rome, the Syrian ruler pillaged the temple of Zeus but was killed in the process evidently by citizens defending their sanctuary.
[Text switches to NIV here]
Now verse 20. His successor, who’s going to be Seleucius IV, will send out a tax collector, a guy named Heliodorus to maintain the royal splendor. In other words to pay the tribute and still keep their lifestyle up. In a few years, however, he, Seleucius IV, will be destroyed, yet not in anger or in battle. What happened was Heliodorus poisoned Seleucius IV hoping to take the throne after a short rule.
This is kind of gross, isn’t it? Now is anybody feeling like our politics aren’t that bad?