The end of the eleventh chapter of Daniel describes a great king who sets himself against the Biblical God.
But is this the story of one king alone, or is it combining the stories of two different kings?
Scholars will identify the king as the notorious Antiochus Epiphanes.
They will see the first half of the chapter as a summary of the previous history beginning with Alexander, arguing that Antiochus himself appears from
I see no reason why Christians should object to this view (as a first interpretation).
There’s also a common consent that the story from v40 onwards fails to correspond with anything in this king’s history.
The disagreement is about what that means.
The academic will want to dismiss those verses as an unsuccessful attempt to project the future course of the king’s career.
The alternative is to treat them as genuine prophecy relating to a later king.
The real key to this question is the way we apply the previous passage, vv36-39.
It seems to be a settled assumption among academics that these verses are part of the story of Antiochus.
That’s how they’re defined, for example, in the headings of the Jerusalem Bible.
But is that interpretation going to stand up to close inspection?
Taking the different sections in turn;
The man is introduced, in v21, as “a contemptible person”, one “to whom royal majesty has not been given” (he was the uncle of the nearest
The following verses may be applied to the way he rose to power, first as joint king and then as sole king, “by flatteries”, by “scattering
plunder”, by making deceitful alliances, and by violence.
This had an impact on the province of Judah. The High Priest Onias(the “prince of the covenant”) was first displaced and then murdered. The king
“made alliance” with Jason, the man he appointed as the new High Priest. Then he “acted deceitfully”, when Jason was displaced in his turn by
a man who offered a larger bribe.
In 169 B.C., as described in vv25-27, he invaded Egypt, sweeping aside the armies of the Egyptian king Ptolemy Philometor.
When he left Egypt, he was ostensibly Ptolemy’s ally and supporter against a rebellious younger brother. However, neither king was very sincere in
this alliance (“they shall speak lies at the same table”). In fact the two brothers patched things up shortly afterwards.
v28 On his way back north, Antiochus stopped off in Jerusalem to support his chosen High Priest by force, and to seize gold and silver vessels from
“His heart shall be set against the holy covenant, and he shall work his own will, and return to his own land”.
v29 The king invaded Egypt again in the following year.
But this was “not as it was before”, because “the ships of Kittim” came against him.
This refers to one of the most celebrated encounters in the history of diplomacy, if “diplomacy” is the right word.
This was the famous “circle in the sand” episode described by Livy (I’ll have to add that in a footnote), and it’s not surprising that he
should be so “enraged” afterwards.
In vv31-35, the king took action to “re-model” the religion in Jerusalem.
The connection with previous events would be the suspicion that the party of more “traditional” Jews were supporters of Egypt.
Occupying “forces” appeared, under the command of Apollonius.
The image of Zeus Olympios was erected in the Temple- this was the “abomination”, the act of idolatry.
As a consequence of this, the sacrifice to Israel’s God came to an end- this was the “taking away” of the continual burnt offering.
It was also the immediate cause of the “desolation”, their sense of being isolated from their God.
The passage describes how the Jews were divided.
Some were “seduced with flattery” and acquiesced.
There were others, who “knew their God”, who were “standing firm” and “taking action” against the king’s forces.
Many of these would die by the sword, though some would fall away.
The end of v35 declares “It is yet for the time appointed.” I take this to be the conclusion of the story of king Antiochus. It seems to me that
the following verses are about a completely different king.
If these verses, from v36 onwards, were intended as a character study of Antiochus, they really should have come earlier.
But the assumption is undermined, in any case, by a closer study of the passage.
“The king shall do according to his will”- which means not just that he is wilful, but that he is successfully
wilful, and that’s where
the comparison begins to fall down.
Antiochus was already ceasing to “prosper” by the time the attack on the Jews began.
The scholars would apply “He shall speak astonishing things against the God of gods” to his assault on the Temple worship.
But we find in the next verse that this king disrespects all
the gods, not just the God of the Jews. He worships none of them, not the gods
preferred by men, nor the gods preferred by women.
Instead of these, he draws upon the aid of a “foreign” god- which has to mean a god foreign to his own
What we know about the life of Antiochus Epiphanes says the exact opposite.
Despite his conversion to Epicurean views, he was renowned, according to Livy, for the way that he honoured the temples of the traditional gods.
In two important and honourable activities he showed a truly royal disposition- in benefactions to cities and tributes to the gods…one may cite
the temple of Jupiter Olympius at Athens, the only temple in the world planned on a scale proportionate to the greatness of the god; besides this, he
adorned Delos with splendid altars and an abundance of statues, and he promised at Antioch a magnificent temple to Jupiter Capitolinus”
Livy, History of Rome, BookXLI.20
I’m certainly not aware of any worship that his own people could have described as a “foreign” god.
Two other statements are made about this king’s religion.
In v36, that he shall exalt and magnify himself
above every god.
In v38, that he will honour the god of “battles” or “fortresses”.
The two statements would come to the same thing, if his confidence was in his own military strength, like the devotees of “blood and iron” who
ruled Germany between Bismarck and Hitler.
However, this simply does not work as a description of Antiochus Epiphanes.
Just look at his campaigns. His military career was something of a “curate’s egg” (“good in parts and bad in others”, according to the old
Therefore I’m forced to the conclusion that this passage describes a king later than Antiochus Eplphanes, though one with a similar temperament and
hostility to the Biblical God.
The last portion of the chapter, from v40 onwards, clearly follows on from these verses, and must be about the same later king.
I think we also have to consider the possibility that the stories of the two kings are “overlapping”.
Certainly most Christians(on the authority of Matthew ch24) would want to apply the “abomination of desolation” passage to the later king as
This would really have to include the whole of vv31-35, about the assault on God’s worship and the reaction of God’s people.
There is room for debate about how much further back this “overlapping” premise should be taken.
I’m agnostic, as I’ve said elsewhere, about applying it to the narrative from the beginning of the chapter.
However, it seems manifest that the end of the chapter, at least, is pointing beyond Antiochus Epiphanes to a later king, cut from the same cloth.
edit on 6-5-2013 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)