God is Judge

Chapter 20

A Commentary on the book of Daniel

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The Kings of the North and the South


Daniel 11 is recognised as posing unique exegetical challenges.  J. A. Montgomery correctly judged the eleventh chapter of Daniel as, “the greatest stumbling-block to the ‘traditionalist’ interpretation of the book”.[1] T. Gaston[2] observes, “The difficulty presented by the chapter is not so much the accuracy of its predictions but its focus. The consensus of the majority of scholars, critical and conservative, is that larger part of this chapter refers to the Hellenistic age, and more specifically, those events leading up to the Maccabean crisis. This difficulty is not lost on conservative commentators.” [3] Generally, there seems to be agreement with relating Dan. 11:2-35 to the Seleucid and Ptolemaic Empires culminating in the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes.[4]


[1] J. A. Montgomery, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Daniel, (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1927), 59.


[2]  I am indebted to Tom Gaston for an excellent overview of the problem, T. Gaston, Daniel 11 in The Christadelphian eJournal of Biblical Interpretation, (eds., A. Perry, P. Wyns: Willow Publications,2008, 295-312),295

[3] T. Gaston (2008:295) cites H.A. Whittaker: “This prophecy presents a problem the like of which occurs nowhere else in the Bible. In its detail it is too exact, too specific – and apparently too pointless. Verses 3-39, and possibly to the end of the chapter, read for all the world like a history written in the language of prophecy. For a short and otherwise unimportant period in Bible history, it deals with the inter-relations of the kings of the south (the Ptolemies of Egypt) and the kings of the north (the Seleucids of Syria), with only very slight mention of the consequent sufferings of the attenuated Judean state.” H. A. Whittaker, Visions in Daniel (Cannock: Biblia, 1991), 24.

[4] P. L. Tan, The Interpretation of Prophecy, (Rockville: Assurance Publishers, 1974), 323; J. F. Walvoord, Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1974), 252; J. G. Baldwin, Daniel: An Introduction and Commentary, (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1978), 43

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Conservative scholars such as J. G. Baldwin believe that the details, though accurate, are not so precise as to require “that the prophecy must have been written after the event.”[5] Daniel 11 poses distinct challenges as the chronology of the Maccabean revolt is confused (in the primary sources)[6] and the Hebrew in this chapter is exceptionally poor[7] which is compounded by the Greek translators who tended to exaggerate the link between earlier prophecies and the Antiochene crisis.[8] Although no variant manuscripts exist that do not witness to the    Continued  ˃


[5] Joyce G. Baldwin, Daniel: An Introduction and Commentary, (Downers Grove, Ill., 1978), 43

[6] A. Ferch offers the following summary, “Indeed, events during  this period which  still remain a matter  of  controversy among historians include the cause of  the religious persecution  of  the Jews, the precise time of  Jason’s  rebellion,  the date of  Antiochus’  death, and the matter of  whether  there was one campaign or  whether there  were  two  campaigns  of Antiochus against Jerusalem”. Ferch adds the following footnote (fn.10); “Baldwin, (Daniel, 41) though herself  recognizing  the role of Antiochus in Dan  11, observes that “given  a  thorough  knowledge  of  the ancient historians  of  the  period. . .  a commentary  on  the chapter  can  become  a  maze  of  information which  bewilders  the reader.  .  . .  not  all  the  events  in Daniel  11  fit  into  the  evidence  culled  from  other sources…we ought not to exaggerate the extent  to which the Daniel narrative  fits into known  history  of  the period.” Arthur J. Ferch, The Book of Daniel and the “Maccabean Thesis”, (Andrews University Seminary Studies, Summer 1983, Vol.  21, No. 2 : Andrews  University Press, 129-141),133

[7] See R.H. Charles, A critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Daniel, (Oxford: Clarendon,1929),269-9

[8] Evidence of this is found in the OG translation of the ‘seventy prophecy’ which converges on “year 139” in the Seleucid calendar.

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present form of Daniel 11[9] the DSS are minimally pre-150 and the history of transmission before this point is unknown. 


The unique character of Daniel 11


Daniel 11 has unique characteristics that demonstrate discontinuity with the other visions. After the introductory statement (v.2a) follows a virtual repeat of the Ram and Goat vision in Dan. 11:2b-4. The next section demonstrates an Egyptian Bias (Dan.11:5-19) followed by the rise of Antiochus Epiphanes (Dan. 11:20-30a) which may be based upon a non-Jewish historical source and a section with a Judeo-centric (Daniel 11:30b-35) orientation, closing with what many scholars regard as an eschatological prophecy (Dan. 11:36-45).




Daniel 11 is in the form of a direct speech without any interruption to record the reactions of Daniel (cf. Dan. 10:2, 7, 11, 15, 19; 12:5, 8), it has no dramas personae enacting the drama (cf. the angelic ‘princes’ in Dan. 10:12-14; 10:20-11:1) nor is there an angelus interpreter to cause Daniel to understand (cf. Dan.10:14).


The Ram and Goat vision (Dan 11:2b-4)


Chapter 11 commences with a short introduction that presents the struggles between Persia and Greece, culminating with the notable career of Alexander and the division of his empire by the four Diadochi and eventually “for others besides those” (v.4b). The introduction is therefore effectively a summary of the Ram and the Goat vision of chapter eight. However, whereas the immediate focus of the vision in ch.8 is on the desecration of the sanctuary by Antiochus Epiphanes (Dan. 8:9-14) it is left until Dan. 11:20-30a before the main protagonist is encountered. The intervening fourteen verses (Dan. 11:5-19) have the composition of a historical account rather than a prophecy.


[9] The Dead Sea Scrolls witness to vv.  1-2, 11-39:  4QDana, 4QDanc, pap6qDan. Old Greek versions of Daniel contain Daniel 11 in its present form with variants.

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Egyptian Bias (Daniel 11:5-19)


The events recorded in Daniel 11:5-19 have an Egyptian bias reflected in the fact that they omit damaging references to Egyptian intervention in Judea such as the capture of Jerusalem by Ptolemy I Soter.[10] In fact the events are more pertinent to the power play between Egypt and Syria with references to Judea only incidental to foreign dynastic struggles. While v. 5 informs us about the reign and dominion of Ptolemy I (‘King of the South’), the accession and career of Seleucus I Nicator and his son Antiochus I Soter are entirely omitted.[11] Although Egypt is only mentioned explicitly in v.8 of the MT (rather than ‘the south’) the OG does so several times.  Jennifer Dines argues that the LXX is decidedly more pro-Ptolemaic than the MT (which already leans in this direction).[12] A. McCrystall[13] believes that the LXX    Continued  ˃


[10] Discussing Wright’s interpolation thesis T. Gaston (2008:300) comments on the omission of the capture of Jerusalem (in Dan. 11:5 noted by Wright), Gaston observes; “Josephus records that, after the division of Alexander’s empire, Jerusalem was captured by means of “deceit and treachery” (c. 320 B.C.E.). Ptolemy I Soter entered the city on the Sabbath day on the pretence of offering a sacrifice and the citizens of Jerusalem allowed him entry unawares. Josephus also records that ―he “reigned over it in a cruel manner”. (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews XII.1.4, (trans., H. St. J. Thackeray et al; 10 vols; Loeb Classical Library; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1926-1965).  Though this event was probably incidental to the fortunes of the Didachoi, the capture and subsequent treatment of Jerusalem by Ptolemy I must have been of particular significance to the Jewish people. The fact that this event is omitted, while the marriage-alliance between Berenice (daughter of Ptolemy II) and Antiochus II is included, indicates a particularly partiality in the text.  C. H. H. Wright, Daniel and His Prophecies  (London: Williams and Norgate, 1906),249

[11] Wright, Ibid, 249.

[12] Jennifer Dines (p.207). Dines adds; “Attitudes toward the Ptolemies are less clear, but, except for 11.12 (Ptolemy IV’s possible hubris) and 11.27 (Ptolemy VI’s “lies”), there are no negative judgements, while 11.7, with its echoes of Isaiah 11.1, suggests stronger approval than has sometimes been recognized, for instance, by Collins (1993:380). Collins does, however, suggest positive bias in 11.17 (Cleopatra) and 26 (the shifting of blame to Ptolemy VI’s advisers). More generally, it can be observed that the context for Jewish history is the wider struggle between the superpowers, Egypt and Syria. Not that these are described evenly: a motif throughout is the unsuccessful attempt by “the north” to invade “the South” (Collins 1993:378), perhaps indicating the author’s conviction that Egypt should prevail. Jennifer Dines, “The king’s Good Servant? Loyalty, Subversion, and Greek Daniel” in Jewish Perspectives on Hellenistic Rulers, (eds. Tessa Rajak, Sarah Pearce, James Aitken, Jennifer Dines, University of California Press, Berkeley: Los Angeles: London,2007, 205-224),207,209-210

[13] A. McCrystall, “Studies in the Old Greek Translation of Daniel”, DPhil thesis, University of  Oxford”(1980),322

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translator wanted to emphasise the importance of the Ptolemies and P.-M. Bogaert[14] also finds evidence for pro-Ptolemaic partisanship. Jennifer Dines discusses the intertextual use by the Greek translators of Amos 9.11 LXX in Dan 11.14 and among other options suggests that this refers to Onias/and or his sons (all important generals in the Ptolemaic army) and their building of the Leontopolis temple in Egypt or, alternatively, to the Maccabean leaders who rededicated the Jerusalem temple.[15] T. Gaston (2008:61) comments, “Even if this aggressor [i.e. of vv.21-30a] is identified with Antiochus Epiphanes, the relevance of vv. 5-20 is questionable; comparison with Daniel 8 indicates that the level of detail in these verses is far greater than that required to set the scene. Rather this section almost has the feel of prophetic showboating”. The Greek version is in some respects a reinterpretation of the Hebrew version. A.van der Kooij says, “One has to take into account the possibility that LXX Daniel alludes to    Continued  ˃


[14] P.-M. Bogaert,“Septante et versions grecques” in Supplément au Dictionnaire de la Bible, vol.12,fasc.68,(eds. L.Pirot, A.Robert, and H.Cazelles, Letouzey & Ané:Paris, 1993, 536-693),648

[15] Dines, Ibid, 220-221

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other events than the Hebrew text does, or that LXX Daniel presents a different view of the same event”.[16]


The rise of Antiochus Epiphanes (Daniel 11:21-30a)


This section commences with Seleucus IV Philopator (187-175 BC) and Heliodorus who attempted to collect tribute by despoiling the Jerusalem temple (2 Macc. 3) and the rise of Antiochus IV Epiphanes who usurped the throne (v.21) and had the high priest in Jerusalem, Onias III murdered (v.22) and made an alliance with Pergamum allowing him to gain power with a small military force (v.23) he was rapacious and prodigal (v.24) and invaded Egypt for the first time in BC 170 causing the young Egyptian king Ptolemy VI Philometor to flee (vv.25,26) and conducted duplicitous negotiations (v.27) he robbed the Jerusalem temple (Macc. 1:20 cf.2 Macc. 5:11-21) on his return from Egypt (v.28) he attempted to invade Egypt again in BC 168 (v.29) but was warned to leave by Rome (v.30a).


Judeo-centric (Daniel 11:30b-35)


On his return from Egypt Antiochus vented his frustration on Judea and on the advice of Jewish renegades who had forsaken the covenant (v.30b), he sent (BC 168-167) the “Mysarch” (Mysian commander) to Jerusalem with an army of 22,000 men (2 Macc. 5.24) and built the Akra overlooking the temple (1Macc.1:31-33), which was a fortified citadel occupied by foreign Seleucid troops (1 Macc. 3.45; 14.36) and pro-Seleucid Jews (1 Macc.1.34; cf. 6.21-24) the temple in Jerusalem was made into a sanctuary of Olympian Zeus (2 Macc. 6.1 f) -  “The abomination of desolation” (Dan. 9.27; 11.31; 12.11; 1 Macc. 1.54) (v.31), offers were made by the captain of the king to Mattathias (1 Macc. 2:18) but they responded with active resistance and revolt (v.32),    Continued  ˃


[16] A. van der Kooij, “A Case of Reinterpretation in the Old Greek of Daniel 11” in Tradition and Re-interpretation in Jewish and Early Christian Literature: Essays in Honour of Jurgen C.H. Lebram, (Studia Post-Biblica 36, eds. J.W. van Henten, H.J. de Jonge, P.T. van Rooden, and J.W. Wesselius, Leiden: Brill,1986, 72-80),74

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however the wise (wise like Daniel?)[17] offered passive resistance and endured like the suffering servant of Isaiah (v. 33), when the “wise” are persecuted they receive little help from anyone (even from the Maccabean resistance) and any support is insincere (v.34) but their martyrdom is a trial of their faith (v.35). See Appendix at the end of the chapter for a historical summary.


Is Daniel 11:36-45 an Eschatological prophecy?


The majority of scholars believe that the final verses of the chapter (Dan. 11:36-45) do not correspond to the historical events of Antiochus IV’s death. Modern scholarship usually marks the transition from ex eventu prophecy to real (and supposed erroneous) prediction at v. 40 (commencing with the phrase “At the time of the end”). Six different views[18] on the problem of interpreting vv. 36-45 exist:


(1)   All ten verses are a historical account of the reign of Antiochus IV.[19]

(2)   Vv. 36-39 comprises an historical account of Antiochus and vv. 40-45 is a prophecy of the latter part of his reign.[20]


[17] Goldingay (Word,1989:303) comments, “The terms the discerning and the multitude hint at the idea that the calling of the servant of Yahweh described in Isa 52:13-53:12 is being fulfilled here, not only by the leadership but by the people as a whole who suffer (Brownlee, BASOR 132[1953]12-13)”.

[18] The first five views are culled from the article by M. Mercer, “The Benefactions of Antiochus IV Epiphanes and Dan 11:37-38 An Exegetical Note” TMSJ 12/1, (2001): 89-93. See also Mercer’s dissertation, “An Historical, exegetical, and Theological Study of Daniel 11:2b–12:4” (ThD diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1987), 184-203. Two other articles have discussed the passage: J. P. Tanner, “Daniel’s ‘King of the North’: Do We Owe Russia an Apology?” JETS 35 (1992): 315-28, and G. M. Harton, “An Interpretation of Daniel 11:36-45” Grace Theological Journal 4 (1983): 205-31.

[19] Jerome, Commentary on Daniel, 11.24.

[20] R. A. Anderson, Signs and Wonders: A Commentary on the Book of Daniel (ITC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984), 142; A. A. Bevan, A Short Commentary on the Book of Daniel (Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1892), 198;  R. H. Charles, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Daniel (Oxford: Clarendon,1929), lxxv, 317-18; S. R. Driver, The Book of Daniel, (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges; Cambridge: University Press, 1936), lxv-lxvi; L. F. Hartman and A. A. DiLella, The Book of Daniel (AB 23; New York: Doubleday, 1978), 276, 294, 303; J. E. Goldingay, Daniel, (WBC; Dallas: Nelson, 1989), 305; J. A. Montgomery, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Daniel (ICC; Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1927), 464-66, 470; and N. W. Porteous, Daniel: A Commentary (OTL; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1979), 169 -70.

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(3)    Vv. 36-45 was historically fulfilled by Antiochus and vv. 40-45 is a summary of his entire reign.[21]

(4)   Vv. 36-45 refers both to Antiochus and a future king.[22]

(5)    Vv. 36-45 were not fulfilled by Antiochus, but will be fulfilled by a future king.[23]

(6)   Vv. 36-45 refer to the rise of Roman power[24]


[21] A. Barnes, Notes on the Old Testament: Critical, Explanatory, and Practical, The Book of the Prophet Daniel, (2 vols; London: Knight & Hawkes), 2:246-47; E. W. Faulstich, History, Harmony,& Daniel: A New Computerized Evaluation (Spencer: Chronology, 1988) 134, 148; and H. A. Whittaker, Visions in Daniel (Cannock: Biblia, 1994), 24-26.

[22] R. Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and D. Brown, eds., A Commentary Critical, Experimental, and Practical on the Old and New Testaments, (6 vols; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1945), 4:450-51.

[23] Jerome 11:36; E. J. Young, The Prophecy of Daniel: A Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1949), 311-12; John F. Walvoord, Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Interpretation, (Chicago: Moody, 1971), 270-73; Leon Wood, A Commentary on Daniel (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1973), 304-5.

[24] Robert J.M. Gurney, “A Note on Daniel 11: 40-45,” TSF Bulletin 47 (1967): 10-12; John M. Oakes, Daniel: Prophet to the Nations,(Great Commission Illustrated Books:USA,2000),197-200

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Assessment of the six views


View 1
Verses 40-45 cannot be correlated in the same way as vv. 21-39 with actual chronological historical events during the reign of Antiochus. There was no further campaigning against Egypt by Antiochus after BC 168. John Granger Cook remarks that, “It is clear that modern scholarship’s view of the break in historical accuracy at Dan. 11:40-45 (not fulfilled during the time of the Maccabees) was not Porphyry’s break. He saw that text as being historically accurate. Any real prophecies in Daniel are lies for Porphyry....”[25] 


View 2
Goldingay (1989:304) understands vv.21-39 as continuous. Commenting on the transition from vv.21-35 to vv.36-39; “The reference has been taken to be to Antichrist, but the paragraph begins resumptively (not even “the northern king”) and there is no hint that the subject might be different from that in vv.21-35”.


View 3
Of these five views, the third requires further elaboration. One way in which vv. 40-45 can be seen as a summary of Antiochus’ reign is set out on the following page.


[25] John Granger Cook, The Interpretation of the Old Testament in Greco-Roman Paganism,(Paul Mohr Verlag,2004),199

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Antiochus and Daniel


However, Goldingay (1989:305), comments: “…the phrase “at the time of the end” (contrast v. 35) seems to preclude our taking the verses as a résumé of Antiochus’s career as a whole”.


View 4
If vv.40-45 has no historical connection with Antiochus then it is difficult to understand how the complete section vv. 36-45 can have an application to both Antiochus and the Antichrist.

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View 5
The section vv.36-45 consists of two distinct parts with vv.36-39 continuing the flow of the preceding narrative (resumptively so Goldingay) with vv.40-45 commencing a new section with, “And at the time of the end” - - moreover, vv.40-45 uses distinct phraseology and mythic configuration. (The use of mythic pattern in vv. 40-45 will be examined anon.) 


View 6
To the five different views of vv.36-45, we may add interpretations that understand these verses as describing the rise of Roman power. Robert Gurney suggests that Dan. 11:40-45 refers to Crassus’s[26] failed campaign against the Parthians in the east (54BC) in which Crassus met his death, with further reference to the territories of the Nabataean Arabs (Edom, Moab and Amon) that eluded conquest by Pompey, who captured Jerusalem instead (63BC).


J. Oakes suggests that Dan. 11:37-45 concerns Julius Caesar’s adopted grandson Octavius (later called Augustus Caesar) who launched the naval battle at Actium (31BC) where he defeated Marc Antony and his ally Cleopatra queen of Egypt, thus gaining dominion over Egypt, Libya, Nubia and Palestine (but not Amon, Edom and Moab which remained independent until Trajan). Caesar Augustus dispatched his armies to the east to counter threats from the Parthians. Oakesunderstands the reference to “his end” (v.45) as a reassurance to believers that the Roman Empire would also come to an end rather than a prophecy concerning the personal demise of Augustus.[27] 


[26] Crassus, Pompey and Julius Caesar were the members of the first triumvirate. Before the campaign he took over the province of Syria and pillaged it very thoroughly, also plundering the treasures of the temple in Jerusalem. Robert J.M. Gurney, “A Note on Daniel 11: 40-45,” TSF Bulletin 47 (1967): 10-12.

[27] John M. Oakes, Daniel: Prophet to the Nations,(Great Commission Illustrated Books:USA,2000),197-200

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In both of these interpretations (view 6) of the final verses of ch. 11, Rome replaces Syria as the “king of the north”. Oakes’ interpretation finds a reasonable fit but the explanation for the demise of the protagonist is contrived and the point where the referent changes from Syria to Rome in v.37 is forced. However, the introduction of Rome onto the scene with the person of Caesar Augustus (63 BC – AD 14) has merit in so far as it was during his reign that Christ was born – in our view this period is important because the birth of Christ heralds the dedication of a ‘new temple’ and commences the last seventy years of Daniel’s 490 Prophecy.


The relationship of vv.36-39 to vv. 40-45


36.Then the king shall do according to his own will: he shall exalt and magnify himself above every god, shall speak blasphemies against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the wrath has been accomplished; for what has been determined shall be done.37. He shall regard neither the God of his fathers nor the desire of women, nor regard any god; for he shall exalt himself above them all.38.But in their place he shall honor a god of fortresses; and a god which his fathers did not know he shall honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and pleasant things.39.Thus he shall act against the strongest fortresses with a foreign god, which he shall acknowledge, and advance its glory; and he shall cause them to rule over many, and divide the land for gain.


If vv.36-39 ‘resumptively’ continue the preceding narrative in vv.30-35b, (which is the natural way to read the text) then the verses that follow present a character analysis of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Many of the terms such as “desire of women” and “god of fortresses” are    Continued  ˃

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ambiguous[28] but a picture emerges of an irreligious king willing to sacrifice anything and everything on the altar of political expediency in    Continued  ˃


[28] C. F. Keil comments: “The exalting of himself above all on the part of the king is further described. “He shall not regard the gods of his fathers,” i.e. shall cast aside the worship of the gods transmitted to him from his fathers. This again does not accord with Antiochus Epiphanes, regarding whom it is true that history records that he wished to suppress the worship practiced by the Jews, but it knows nothing of attempts made by him to destroy the gods and the worship of other nations. The words which follow, על חמדת נשים, the old interpreters understood of the love of women, or conjugal love; the modern, after the example of J. D. Michaelis and Gesenius, on the contrary, understand them of the goddess Anaïtis or Mylitta, the Assyrian Venus, and refer them specially to the spoiling of the temple of this goddess in Elymaïs (1 Macc. vi. 1, cf. Macc.1. 13). Ewald finally would understand by the expression “the desire of women” the Syrian deity Tammuz-Adonis. The connection requires us to think on a deity, because these words are placed between two expressions which refer to the gods. But the connection is not altogether decisive; rather the על כל in the clause at the end of the verse denotes that the subject spoken of is not merely the king’s raising himself above the gods, but also above other objects of pious veneration. A verbal proof that חמדת נשים denotes the Anaïtis or Adonis as the favorite deity of women has not been adduced. For these words, desiderium mulierum, denote not that which women desire, but that which women possess which is desirable; cf. under 1 Sam. ix. 20. But it is impossible that this can be Anaïtis or Adonis, but it is a possession or precious treasure of women. This desirable possession of women is without doubt love; so that, C. B. Michaelis has remarked, the expression is not materially different from אהבת נשים, the love of women, 2 Sam. i. 26. The thought: “he shall not regard the desire of women, or the love of women,” agrees perfectly with the connection. After it has been said in the first clause: he shall set himself free from all religious reverence transmitted from his fathers, from all piety toward the gods in which he had been trained, it is then added in the second clause: not merely so, but generally from all piety toward men and God, for all the tender affections of the love of men and God. The “love of women” is named as an example from the sphere of human piety, as that affection of human love and attachment for which even the most selfish and savage of men feel some sensibility. Along with this he shall set himself free from כל אלוה, from all piety or reverence toward God or toward that which is divine (Klief). This thought is then established by the last clause: “for he shall magnify himself above all.” To על כל we may not add אלוה; for this clause not only presents the reason for the foregoing clause, על כל אלהי אבתיו לא יבין, but for both of the foregoing clauses. Hitzig and Kliefoth are right in their interpretation: “above everything, or all, gods and men,” he shall magnify himself, raise himself up in arrogance”., Carl Friedrich Keil, Biblical Commentary on the Book of Daniel, (Trans. M. G.Easton. Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament. N.p.; reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., n.d.),464-5

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the exercise of raw power. Montgomery considered the title “god of fortresses” as “entirely obscure” and the Greek Theodotion and Latin Vulgate treat it as a divine name (dues Maozim),[29] however, forms of the word “fortress” (mä|`uzzîm) are found throughout the MT of Daniel 11(vv.1, 7, 10, 19, 31, 38, 39) of which the mention in vv.38-39 is the climax. Antiochus stationed a Seleucid garrison in the city, this fortress is the Acra; “And they built the city of David with a great and strong wall, and with strong towers, and made it a fortress [Greek: Acra] for them: And they placed there a sinful nation, wicked men, and they fortified themselves therein: and they stored up armour, and victuals, and gathered together the spoils of Jerusalem; And laid them up there: and they became a great snare. And this was a place to lie in wait against the sanctuary, and an evil devil in Israel”. (1 Macc. 1:35–38). Although the actual location of the Acra is still disputed with proposals for it being situated north/south/west of the temple it was built (according to Josephus) in a high place overlooking the temple enclosure.[30] If the location was indeed north of the temple as argued by    Continued  ˃


[29] See the article on “God of Fortresses” in DDD by M J Mulder. Dictionary of deities and demons in the Bible, K. van der Toorn, Bob Becking, Pieter Willem van der Horst, (Brill &Wm. B. Eerdmans, Leiden: Michigan, 2nd edition, 1999), 369-370

[30] Antiq.12.5.4

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Koen Decoster then it would place the Acra in the vicinity of the later Antonia which stood north of the Temple and also dominated the temple.[31] This would assimilate the actions of Antiochus to the mythic pattern of Isaiah 14:13, “For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north’”. The “god of fortresses” or “stronghold god” was probably Zeus, worshipped as Ba’al Šamem by the Syrian garrison. “Thus he will play no heed to the god of his fathers” (v.37), Goldingay comments (1989:304); “Antiochus replaced Apollo by Zeus as the god of the Seleucid dynasty, apparently again for political reasons: it provided religious support for the irregularity involved in his accession”. In conclusion, the description in vv.36-39 best fits what is known of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (“god manifest”) in his exercise of raw power, his hubris, his political and religious expediency and his challenge to Yahweh.




Are interpreters justified in understanding a shift in perspective from Syria to Rome? S.R. Driver believed that a change of subject is unsound exegetical practice,[32] but the narrative introduces Rome as early as Daniel 11:28-30, where Antiochus Epiphanes second campaign against Egypt in 168 BC was frustrated by a Roman envoy;


For ships of Kittim shall come against him, and he shall be cowed, and he shall return,    Continued  ˃


[31] Koen Decoster, “Flavius Josephus and the Seleucid Acra in Jerusalem”, (ZDPV: Weisbaden, Germany: O. Harrassowitz,1989), 70–84

[32] “It is contrary to all sound principles of exegesis to suppose that, in a continuous description, with no indication whatever of a change of subject, part should refer to one person and part to another, and “the king” (Dan. 11:36) should be a different king from the one whose doings are described in verses 21-35”. (S.R. Driver, Commentary on Daniel, Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges), 193

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and have indignation against the holy covenant, and shall do his pleasure; and he shall return, and have regard unto them that forsake the holy covenant (Dan. 11:30 JPS).


The ‘ships of the Kittîm are recognised by the Septuagint version as ‘Roman’[33]. The name Kittîm has various designations in extra-biblical literature. It can refer to a location on the island of Cyprus, or more generally to the island itself, or it can be an inclusive term to refer to parts of the Mediterranean world that lay west of the Middle East. According to Josephus (Ant 1.6.1), the Hebrew uses the name “for all islands and most maritime countries” and in 1 Maccabees Alexander is said to have come  from the land of Kittîm (1:1) and Perseus, king of Macedonia, is called “king of Kittîm”(8:5). The Qumran pĕŝārîm contain several references where the term is used to describe the Romans[34]. The War Scroll also refers to the Kittîm.


Hanan Eshel [35] remarks; “We may conclude that we have seen that the Kittim were identified as the hellenistic kingdoms in 1 Maccabees, 4Q247, the War Scroll, and Pesher Isaiah A……..When the pesher [on    Continued  ˃


[33] καὶ ἥξουσι Ῥωμαῖοι (Roman) καὶ ἐξώσουσιν αὐτὸν καὶ ἐμβριμήσονται (Dan. 11: 30 LXX). “And the galleys and the Romans shall come upon him, and he shall be struck, and shall return.....”(Dan. 11:30 DRA) “Ships of the western coastlands {Hebrew of Kittim} will oppose him....” (Dan.11:30; NIB/NIV/NLT).

[34] G.J. Brooke, The Kittim in the Qumran Pesharim, in Images of Empire, ed., L. Alexander JSOT Sup 122 (Sheffield Academic Press, 1991), 135-59.

[35] Hanan Eshel, The Kittim in the War Scroll and in the Pesharim, in, Historical Perspectives: From the Hasmoneans to Bar Kokhba in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls Proceedings of the Fourth International Symposium of the Orion Center for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Associated Literature, 27-31 January, 1999, (Eds. David Goodblatt, Avital Pinnick, Daniel R. Schwartz, Brill,2001,29-45),41

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Isaiah 10:28-34] [36] was composed in the first quarter of the first century BCE (between the years 100 and 75 BCE), people still identified the Kittim as the hellenistic kingdoms, which would be destroyed by Israel (4Q161 8-10 iii 7)”. However, the War Scroll references are disputed[37] and the extra-biblical evidence suggests that the original term was flexible enough to apply to the Romans (particularly in their exercise of naval power), or that the semantic range of the term was expanded to include the Romans.


At the time of the end the king of the South shall attack him; and the king of the Northshall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter the countries, overwhelm them, and pass through. 41. He shall also enter the Glorious Land, and many countries shall be overthrown; but these shall escape from his hand: Edom, Moab, and the prominent people of Ammon. 42. He shall stretch out his hand against the countries, and the land of Egypt shall not escape. 43. He shall have power over the treasures of gold and silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt; also the Libyans and Ethiopians shall follow at his heels. (Dan. 11:40-43)


[36] J.D. Amusin suggested identifying the events mentioned in this pesher on Isaiah 10 as relating to Ptolemy Lathyrus’ campaign against Alexander Jannaeus. J.D. Amusin, The Reflection of Historical Events of the First Century B.C. in Qumran Commentaries, (4Q161; 4Q169; 4Q166), HUCA 48 (1977):123-34.

[37] 1QpHab 2:12,14;3:4,9;4:10;4 QpIsaa 3:7,9,12;4QpNahum 1:3; 1QM1:2,4,6; etc. See Yadin, The Scroll of the War, 22-26. The War Scroll refers to kittîm of Asshur and Egypt probably denoting both the Seleucids and Ptolemies.

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It is therefore possible that the vv. 40-43 (beginning with, “And at the time of the end”) introduces the exercise of Roman power under Augustus Caesar (63 BC –AD 14). The conquest of Egypt provided immense land rents to finance the Roman Empire. The highly productive agricultural land also yielded enormous revenues that were available to Augustus and his successors to pay for public works and military expeditions, as well as bread and circuses for the population of Rome.[38]


The drive for imperial expansionism is accorded divine sanction by Virgil’s Jupiter, who in Book 1 of the Aeneid promises Rome imperium sine fine, “sovereignty without limit”.[39] Virgil also attributes to a legendary ancestor of Augustus the words: tu regere imperio populos, Romane, memento—“Roman, remember by your strength to rule the Earth’s peoples!”[40] Octavius bore the honorific title Augustus (“the revered one”) and was deified, he styled himself (Eck 2003:50) as, Imperator Caesar divi filius, “Commander Caesar son of the deified one”. This ‘son of god’ represented the deification of human power and similar to Nebuchadnezzar and Antiochus before him, the deification of raw power challenged the sovereignty of the God of Israel, “who rules in the kingdom of men”.


44. But news from the east and the north shall trouble him; therefore he shall go out with great fury to destroy and annihilate many. 45. And he shall plant the tents of his palace between the seas and the glorious    Continued  ˃


[38] Matthew Bunson, Encyclopedia of the Roman Empire,(Facts on File Inc: New York, 1994),144

[39] Werner Eck, “The Age of Augustus”,(Blackwell Publishing: Oxford, 2003,translated by Deborah Lucas Schneider; new material by Sarolta A. Takács),95

[40] Walter Eder, “Augustus and the Power of Tradition,” in The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Augustus, (Cambridge Companions to the Ancient World, ed. Karl Galinsky, 13–32. Cambridge, MA; New York: Cambridge University Press,2005),30

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holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and no one will help him. (Dan. 11:44-45)


Although there is a theological and historical warrant to apply the events of vv. 40-43 to Augustus, the same cannot be said of vv.44-45 as they find no, or little, application to either Augustus or Antiochus. The complete section (vv.40-45) including the last two verses, form a complex mythic pattern that should (could) have had a realization in the first century - the advancement of Roman power (Augustus), the birth of Christ (the ‘new temple’) and the destruction of the ‘old temple’ in AD70 should have heralded the return of Christ and the establishment of the eschaton.


Mythic Patterns in vv.40-45


In a mutually reinforcing cycle, historical events become ensconced in mythology, which in turn become the basis for further re-interpretation of other historical events (even though the historical setting is different) giving rise to mythic patterns. For example, mythic tradition is put into service in Dan. 8:10-11, where Antiochus is modelled on ancient near eastern mythic traditions of Isaiah 14:12-15, where the Assyrian king Sennacherib is compared to the Daystar of Canaanite myth, who claims to ascend above all the stars but is brought low for his pride. M. Nobile detects the mythic patterns of divine theophany, Chaoskampf or Combat Myth and the establishment of a divine temple in Ezekiel chs. 38-39.[41] The mythic pattern in Ezekiel chs. 38-39 is employed in Daniel 11:40-45:


Mythic Patterns


[41] M. Nobile, “Bezichung zwischen EZ 32,17-32 und der Gog-Perikope (Ez 38-39) im Lichte der Endredaktion,” BETL LXXIV (1986),225-229

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Adam Van Der Woude[42] remarks; “That the “Assyrian,” looked upon as the eschatological enemy and assimilated to a mythic pattern, would meet his fate in the Holy Land (Isa. 14:25) received confirmation from Ezekiel 38-39 where Gog is said to fall on the mountains of Israel. These considerations unmistakably lead to the conclusion that the picture drawn in Dan. 11:40-45 is primarily inspired by Holy Scripture, taken as “canonical literature” in the sense of God-given prediction (cf. Dan. 9:2). Similarly, when speaking of the War scroll, Hartman says; “Per se, it is possible that the author could have associated the Daniel texts with the calamities under Antiochus. But instead he uses the time of Antiochus as a kind of transparency, through which he projects his eschatological picture”. [43]


This “eschatological picture” echoes Isaiah 41 where the nation is consoled with the promise of Yahweh’s help in the form of deliverance from the north-east (north /east?). In Daniel, the enemy responds to this news with “great fury” (v.44) but perishes on the mountains of Israel without anyone coming to his assistance as the following table demonstrates:


[42] A. S. van der Woude proposes that the prediction in 11:40-45 was not mere guesswork, but based upon contemporary rumours of a future Egyptian campaign and upon the eschatological framework provided by the OT prophets (63-73). Adam S. Van der Woude, Prophetic Prediction, Political Prognostication, and Firm Belief Reflections on Daniel 11:40-12:3 in The Quest for Context and Meaning: Studies in Biblical Intertextuality in Honor of James A. Sanders, ed., Craig A. Evans and Shemaryahu Talmon, Biblical Interpretation Series 28, (Leiden, Brill Academic Publishers,  1997),66

[43] Lars Hartman, Text-Centered New Testament Studies: Text-Theoretical Essays on Early Jewish and Early Christian Literature,(J.C.B. Mohr, P. Siebeck,1997),112

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Isaiah 41 (JPS) Daniel 11:44-45 (JPS)
v.25) “I have raised up one from the north, And he shall come; From the rising of the sun he shall call on My name; And he shall come against princes as though mortar, As the potter treads clay”. v.27) A harbinger unto Zion will I give….a messenger of good tidings.


v.44) But tidings out of the east and out of the north shall affright him; and he shall go forth with great fury to destroy and utterly to take away many.
v.10) Fear thou not… yea, I help thee v.13)… ‘Fear not, I help thee.’ v.14) Fear not…. I help thee v.45) And he shall plant the tents of his palace between the seas and the beauteous holy mountain; and he shall come to his end, and none shall help him.


Eschatological opposition is also a motif in Psalm 2:1 (“Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing?”), Revelation chs. 11-12 assimilates the same mythic pattern by combining Psalm 2 [44] with Daniel - - “the devil having great wrath” (Rev.12:12 cf. “great fury” in Dan. 11:44) and “war in heaven” with Michael in Rev. 12:7 (cf. Dan. 8:10-11; 12:1-3).


The enigmatic ships of Kittîm are mentioned in Num. 24:24 as afflicting Asshur and Eber, forming the basis of the allusion in Dan. 11:29. The prophet Baalim informs us in the parable taken up against Amalek that, “his end shall come to destruction” (Num. 24:20 JPS) which echoes Dan. 11:45, “he shall come to his end” (JPS). In Rabbinic literature


[44] Revelation 11-12 has echo’s and allusions to Psalm 2 - - Rev 11:15 cf. Ps 2:6; Rev 11:1 cf. Ps 2:18; Rev11:18 cf. Ps 2:8; Rev12:15 cf. Ps 2:7,9; Rev 12:2 cf. Ps 2:7; Rev 12:10 cf.Ps2:2; Rev 11:8 cf.Ps2:11-12

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Amalek becomes a cipher for Rome and this probably reflects first century usage.[45] In Numbers 24:24, Asshur is Assyria and Eber represents the people from the “other side” (of the river Euphrates)[46] this was a fitting way[47] for Daniel to allude to the Roman (Kittîm) campaigns directed against the Syrian Antiochus and the trans-Euphrates Parthian Empire. First and early second century Judaism interpreted the Baalim prophecy in the light of messianic opposition to Rome and this is confirmed by the title that was appropriated by the Messianic pretender Bar-Kochba (Son of a Star) who revolted against Rome in ca. 132 BC ;

I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star (Kochba) shall come out of    Continued  ˃


[45] On Amalek as a symbol of Rome in Rabbinic literature see Pesiqta de-Rab Kahana 3 and other sources cited by Ginzberg 6:25, n.147. See Wilhelm Bacher, Die Agada der Tannaiten, vol.1 Strassburg: Trübner, 1903), 146. Amalek and Edom became symbols of Rome in Rabbinic literature, “Because the LORD has sworn: the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation” (Ex. 17:16), the rabbi’s understood the appearance of the Messiah as coinciding with the fall of Amalek (Rome). See Louis H. Feldman “Remember Amalek!” Vengeance, Zealotry, and Group Destruction in the Bible According to Philo, Pseudo-Philo, and Josephus, (Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Press, 2004), 80. Amelek is described as “the first of the nations” (Num. 24:20), interestingly Octavius was also granted the title Princeps alongside Augustus by the senate in 27 BC. Princeps, comes from the Latin phrase primum caput, “the first head”, in the case of Augustus it became an almost regnal title for a leader who was first in charge. See, Eck (2003), 3,50, 149

[46] Eber (Ever) is a descendant of Shem and Noah (Genesis 10:21-25), and the ancestor of the Hebrew people. Ever translates from the Hebrew as meaning ‘the other side’, and Ivri, meaning ‘Hebrew’, denotes those who have come from ‘ever ha-nachar’ (‘from the other side of the river’), i.e. from Charan, on the other side of the Euphrates, the home of Abraham and Nachor. Eber is similar to Hebrew and denotes all those who pass over from “the other side”

[47] Gog is also mentioned in the LXX version of Num. 24:7

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Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel, and batter the brow of Moab, And destroy all the sons of tumult. (Num. 24:17)




Vv. 36-39 fits the character of Antiochus IV Epiphanes.  Vv. 40-45 is in the form of a mythic pattern that could have been completely realized in the first century, but because of national disobedience was only partially realized (by the Romans) in vv.40-43. Augustus Caesar gathered support in Syria (and was defacto “king of the north”) on his way to engage Anthony and Cleopatra (“king of the south”) in his conquest of Egypt. The LXX translators understood the importance of the Romans in the eschatological picture and reinterpreted the MT accordingly. The deification of human power is at the root of all sin and is the causa sui of man’s (cf. Adam’s) downfall and the Caesars were absolute in their pursuit of “sovereignty without limit”. It was during the reign of Augusts that Christ was born. The introduction of Jesus Christ at this juncture in history completes the partial realization of Daniel’s prophecies - - of Jesus as the replacement of the temple - - of Jesus as the resurrection. However, the eschatological realization still awaits – the church as replacement of the temple - - the general resurrection. This indicates that although the mythic pattern of vv.40-45 has a Roman fulfilment, it is still open to a fresh realization “at the time of the end”.


First century Judaism expected the introduction of the messianic age to follow the destruction of the temple. First century Christianity understood the destruction of the temple as heralding the return of Christ, thus realizing Daniel’s 490 prophecy and also Daniel 11:40-12:13.  However, instead of a complete fulfilment, the first century only saw a typical realization of Dan. 12:1-3 in the resurrection of Christ. The evidence from Daniel and Revelation points to a prophecy that could have been completely fulfilled in the first century but the prophetic programme was interrupted still leaving a final three-and-one-half year period unrealized.


Needless to say, the eschatological enemy that will realize the mythic pattern of Dan. 11:40-45 is no longer Roman. It will be an enemy that    Continued  ˃

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accomplishes the terms of the prophecy by occupying the “glorious land”. Despite the notion of historical determinism in Daniel it is apparent that the visions are discontinuous and sometimes polyvalent,[48] displaying flexibility and an inter-active feedback mechanism. By that we mean that the prophetic programme is susceptible to delay in response to national disobedience.   This is why it is impossible to calculate the eschaton from Daniel’s 490 years, and it also explains why the pre-glorified Christ answered,  “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only”(Matt. 24:36). The inter-action/parallelism between Daniel’s visions can be schematically represented (see the schema on the next page).


[48] As noted earlier, Josephus understood Daniel as applying to Antiochus and Rome.

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Dan 2&7


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Historical Events