Remarks on Daniel 10-11

Daniel 10‑11  •  43 min. read  •  grade level: 7
IT is plain that chaps. 10. 11. and 12. are one continuous subject, and show us the circumstances in which Daniel received this last, and, in some respects, most remarkable of all his prophecies. For, in the whole compass of divine writ, there is no such circumstantial and minute statement of historical facts, and that, too, running down from the Persian monarchy, under which Daniel saw the vision, till the time when all the powers of this world shall be obliged to bow to the name of the Lord. Not that the prophecy runs on from the time of the Persian empire to the reign of Christ without a single break: that would indeed be contrary to the analogy of all the rest of God's word. But we have, first of all, a concise, and, at the same time, clear, statement of the facts, until we come to a remarkable personage, who was the type of the great and notorious leader of the opposition to God's people at the close of the present age. Having brought us up to this, the prophecy breaks off, and then at once spans over the interval, and gives us “the time of the end:” so that we can understand how it is that there is that gap. For the present I must close where the break comes in. Upon a future occasion, I hope, the Lord willing, to take up the antitypical crisis at the close, which begins with chap. 11:36. We shall find that it is not confined to any particular evil one; but that in the end of the chapter we have the conflicts of the leaders of that day in and round the Holy Land. And then chap. xii. shows us the dealings of God with His own people, until they and Daniel himself shall stand in their lot at the end of the days: this last, that is to say, the blessing of God's people, or at least of the godly remnant, being the great object of the close.
“In the third year of Cyrus, King of Persia, a thing was revealed unto Daniel, whose name was called Belteshazzar,” &c. Daniel, we find, had not taken advantage of the decree of Cyrus, that went out two years before, leaving the Israelites at liberty to return to their own land, according to prophecy. Daniel was still in the scene of the captivity pf the Jews. But more than that, the Spirit of God draws attention to the state of the prophet's soul. He was not enjoying himself in a stranger-land; but mourning and fasting—and this, in circumstances where he had all, of course, at his command. He was found, as it is said, eating no pleasant bread, “neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.” Now surely it is not for nothing that the Spirit of God has shown us Daniel, not only before the decree of Cyrus went forth, but afterward, in such an attitude before the Lord. We can all understand, when the moment approached for the little remnant to leave Babylon, and return to the land of their fathers, that he should be found chastening his own soul before God, and passing in review the sin that had occasioned so fearful a chastening upon the people from the Lord—although he was even then doing exactly the contrary of what the flesh would have done under these circumstances. For when some great outward mercy is to be enjoyed is the time when man naturally is apt to give rather a loose rein to his enjoyment. In Daniel we see the contrary of this. He took the place of confession; and of confessing, not merely the sins of Israel, but his own. All was before him. None but a holy man could have so deep a sense of sin. But the same energy of the Holy Spirit which gives real self-abasement, enables one also in love to take in the sad and abject condition of God's people. Such thoughts as these seem to have filled the soul of Daniel when he found out by the prophecy of Jeremiah that deliverance was just at hand for Israel. There was no kind of exultation over a fallen enemy—he shouts of triumph because the people were to go free; although Cyrus himself considered it a high honor that God had made him to be the instrument of both. Well might a man of God ponder over what sin had wrought when the Lord could not even speak of Israel as His people, although faith in Daniel only the more led him to plead that they were.
Here the decree has gone forth according to his expectation. The Persian Emperor had opened the door for the prisoners of hope to leave Babylon, and those who pleased had gone back into their land. Daniel was not among these. Instead of anticipating nothing but bright visions of immediate glory, he is still found, and found more than ever, in a posture of humiliation before God. When the reason of this prolonged term of fasting comes out, we are let into the connection of the world that is seen with that which is unseen. The veil is not merely raised from the future, for all prophecy does that; but the statement of the vision here given us discloses, in an interesting light which is around us now, but unseen. Daniel was permitted to hear it, in order that we might know it, and might also have the consciousness for ourselves, that, besides the things that are seen, there are things invisible, far more important than what is seen.
If there are conflicts upon earth, they flow from higher conflicts—the angels contending with these evil beings, the instruments of Satan, who constantly seek to thwart the counsels of God with regard to the earth. This comes out remarkably here. We know that angels have to do with the saints of God; but we may not have discerned so clearly that they have to do also with the outward events of this world. The light of God here shines upon this subject, so that we are enabled to understand that there is not a movement of the world but what is connected with the providential dealings of God. And angels are the instruments of executing His will they are expressly said to do His pleasure. On the other hand, there are those that thwart God constantly: evil angels are not found wanting. Those who are not alive to this certainly lose something, because it gives us a far stronger view of the necessity of having God as our strength. Were it a mere question between man and man, we could understand that one person, in the consciousness of his strength or his wisdom, or other resources, might not fear another. But if it be a fact that we have to contend with powers that are immensely superior to us in everything of outward intelligence and might (for angels excel in strength, as we are told) it is clear that we are thrown, if we are to be conquerors, upon the support of Another that is mightier than all that can be against us. The faith that thus counts on God is a deliverance from anxiety about all that is taking place in the world. For although there are wicked spirits, and men are only as the pieces that are moved by them in the game of this life, yet, in fact, there is a supreme hand and mind that leads to the moves behind the scene, and unknown to the persons acting. This gives a much more solemn character to our thoughts of all that occurs here below.
Besides these angels, another appears on the scene: “a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz.” he, of whom we have so magnificent a description in ver. 6, and whom Daniel alone sees, does not appear to have been a mere angel. He may have been seen in some features of angelic glory: but I conceive this is one who often appears both in New and Old Testament history—the Lord of glory Himself. He appears now as a man—as One who had the deepest sympathy with His servant upon the earth. All others had fled to hide themselves, Daniel abode: nevertheless, there remained no strength in him—his comeliness was turned into corruption. Even a beloved man and faithful saint of God must prove that all his past wisdom was unavailing; for he was now a very aged man, and had been singularly faithful to the Lord. At this very time he was the one that best realized the true condition of Israel. For he saw well that a long time must elapse before the Messiah must come, and the revealing angel had announced that the Messiah should be cut off and have nothing. No wonder, then, that he was mourning. Others might be full of their bright hopes that the Messiah would soon come and exalt them as a nation in the world. But Daniel was found mourning and fasting; and now this vision passes before him, this blessed person reveals Himself to him. Yet, spite of all the love that rested upon him—spite of his familiar knowledge of God's ways, and the favor that had been shown him in previous visions, Daniel is made thoroughly conscious of his own utter weakness. All his strength crumbled into dust before the Lord of glory. And this has a moral for us of no little moment. However much may be the value of what a saint has learned, the past alone does not enable us to understand the new lesson of God. God Himself is necessary for this—not merely what we have learned already. I think that this is a weighty truth and most practical. We all know the tendency there is in men to lay up a store for the time to come. I do not deny the value of spiritual knowledge in various ways—whether in helping others, or in forming ourselves a right and holy opinion of circumstances that are passing around. But where the Lord brings out something not previously learned, then Daniel, spite of all that he had known before, is utterly powerless. He is most of all prostrated in this last vision, and realizes more than ever the nothingness of everything within him. He is thrown entirely upon God for power to stand up and enter into what the Lord was about to make known to him. The same thing appears in the Apostle John, who had lain in the Savior's bosom while on earth, and of all the disciples had most entered into His thoughts. Yet, let that Savior stand before him in His glory, to make known to him His mind about the future, and what was even the Apostle John? The Lord has to lay His hand upon him, bidding him fear not. He has to encourage him by what He was Himself—the Living One who had died but was alive again, and had the keys of death and hides. Therefore it was that he was to listen with the most perfect confidence, because that was what Christ was. There was no power but must fail before Him.
Daniel, in his measure, enters into this here. The death of the flesh must always be realized before the life of God can be enjoyed. This is important, practically. In the grace that brings salvation, it is not that death must be learned first, and life afterward. Life in Christ comes to me as a sinner, and that life exposes the death in which I lay. If I must realize my death in order for that life to come to me, it would be evidently man set into his true place, as a preparation for his blessing from God. That is not grace. “That which was from the beginning,.... which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled of the word of life.” That is to say, it is the person of Christ Himself, who comes and gives the blessing. After that the soul learns that “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” It learns that if we say that we have light—fellowship with Him who is light—and yet walk in darkness, we he and do not the truth. All the practical learning of what God is, and what we are, follows the manifestation of life to us in the person of Christ. If you speak of the order as to a sinner, it is sovereign grace which gives life in Another; but if of the order of progress in the believer, it is not so. The believer having already got life, must mortify all that pertains to him, merely in nature, in order that that life should be manifested and strengthened. That is all-important for the saint, as the other is for the sinner. Man in his natural state does not believe that he is dead, but he is laboring to get life. He wants life: he has none. It is Another alone that brings and gives it to him in perfect grace—seeing only evil in him, but coming with nothing but good, and bringing it in love. This is Christ. But in the believer's case, having already found life in Him, there must be the judgment of the evil, in order that that new and divine life should be developed and grow. So that, while to the one it is life exposing the death and meeting the man in death and delivering him from it, to the other it is the practical putting to death everything that has already existence naturally in him. All that must have the sentence of death put upon it, in order that the life be unhindered in its growth and manifestation.
Daniel was proving this as the practical means of entering into, and being made the suited witness of the wonders that the Spirit of God was about to bring before him. Hence, whatever might have been the favor in which he stood,—and he was, “a man greatly beloved,” —nevertheless, death must be realized by his soul. “And when he had spoken this word unto me, I stood trembling. Then said he unto me, fear not, Daniel; for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words.” And then we have an intimation brought out to him how it was that there had been such a delay. “But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one-and-twenty days; but lo I Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me: and I remained there with the Kings of Persia.” Here, I apprehend, we have another person speaking. Not the first and glorious one that Daniel had seen, but used as a servant—an angel, in fact, that the other employed. The last chapter will prove clearly that there was more than one person sent: and it is plain from the language of the speaker that he is subordinate. Daniel is encouraged by learning that from the first day that he had set his heart to understand and to chasten himself before God, his words were heard. He did not receive the answer the first day nor the second. Not until one-and-twenty days after did the answer arrive, and yet it was sent from God the very first day. Of course, he could at once have given it. But what then? First of all, the terrible struggle that is always raging between the instruments of God and the emissaries of Satan would not have been so dearly understood. Then, again, faith and patience would not have had their perfect work.
I am not forgetting that the Holy Ghost is sent down now to dwell in the hearts of believers in a way not known then. For, although the Spirit of God was always at work in the holy prophets and in holy men, yet the abiding indwelling of the Holy Ghost was that which was not and could not be until Jesus was glorified, and the great work of redemption was wrought, in virtue of which the Holy Ghost was sent down from heaven; to take his abode in the hearts of those that believe, the seal of the blessing which is theirs in Christ. So that, besides this outward, providential care of God, so beautifully brought out here, we have this blessed, divine person constituting our bodies the temple of God. Yet the outward struggles go on. The same thing that hindered Daniel from having the manifest answer to his prayer, may hinder us from having the answer of circumstances. The answer of faith we ought always to reckon on at once; the answer of circumstances, governed of God, so as to bring out a manifest answer, we may have to wait for. Daniel had, and the reason is given us. From verse 13 we learn, that although God had sent the answer from the very first day, the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood for twenty-one days exactly the time that Daniel was kept in mourning and fasting before God. “But lo! Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the Kings of Persia.” Plainly it is an angel that speaks. It would be derogatory to the Lord to suppose that He was the One who needed help from one of His own angels. But Michael was mentioned here, because he was well-known to be the archangel, who took a special guardian care over the nation of Israel. So that, however people may make a mock at the truth of the interposition and guardianship of angels, yet scripture is quite clear about it. Romanism, as we know, has made them objects of adoration. But the truth itself is of special interest. That angels are employed of God in particular services is plain from the word of God. Nor was this merely a new truth. We find that Jude mentions as a well-known circumstance the contention of Michael the archangel with the devil about the body of Moses. The same truth comes out again in this. It was Michael's care over the Jewish people. He knew their tendency to idolatry, and that the man whom they had rebelled against during life, they would make an idol of after his death. And thus, Michael, as the instrument of blessing on God's part to Israel, contends with Satan, so that the body of Moses was not found—the Lord being said to have buried it; though the instrument that the Lord employed was Michael. Now here we have this interesting ray of light cast upon earthly circumstances. The powers of this world may be governing, but angels have not given up their functions. There are the devil and his angels, and Michael and the holy angels with him, brought forward again in the last book of the Bible. The facts of Christ having come, and of the Holy Ghost having been given, do not supersede this. On the contrary, we know that there will be one most tremendous conflict at the close between the holy angels and the wicked ones, when the heavens shall be forever cleared of those evil powers that had for so long defiled them. This is most interesting, as showing the perfect patience of God. Because we know that with a word He could put down the devil and all his host. But He does not. He allows Satan even to venture into the lower heavens—nay, still to have possession of them. Therefore it is that he is called “the prince of the power of the air,” as he is called elsewhere “the prince” and “the god of this world.” But I believe it is only there that he is prince. We never read of such a thing as Satan being prince in hell. It is a favorite dream of great poets, and of small ones too, but we never read of it in Scripture. What it shows us is, that his real power now is either in the heavens or on the earth; but that when he is broken, both in his heavenly usurpation first, and then in his earthly power, he is east down to hell; and that instead of being a king in hell, he will be the most miserable object of the vengeance of God. The solemn thing is, that he is reigning here now, and people do not feel it. His worst reign is that which he acquired—not that which he had before. The death of Christ, although it is the ground on which he will eventually lose all his power, was, nevertheless, the means by which he became the great usurping power, opposing God in all his thoughts about this world. But here is a thought that is of importance for us. If God permits such a thing as this—if He allows the presence of this evil one, the enemy of His Son in heaven itself—if, instead of the crucifixion of Christ leading God to deprive Satan of all his power, we find Him after this displaying His greatest longsuffering, what a lesson this is for us not to trouble ourselves about circumstances! No man has ever trodden these unknown regions: there has been none to tell us about them except the word of Ged, which lays it bare before us. We do not know all of course; but we know enough to see that there is this tremendous power of evil opposed to God, and that the power of God is always and infinitely mightier than the power of evil. Evil is but an accident which has got into the world through the rebellion of the creature against God. By “accident,” I mean that it was only the creature's interrupting for a time the purposes of God; while in truth it but served to bring them out with brighter luster. To bless heaven and earth was the plan of God, and that will stand. Evil will be banished from the scene, and evil men will suffer the awful consequences of having rejected the only good and blessed One.
But while the certainty of all this has been made known to faith before the execution of the thoughts of God, we have the view opened to us of the grave conflict that is unseen. This puts faith to the test. Daniel had to go on waiting, mourning, praying, spreading out all before God. We see in him the perseverance of faith—praying always. And how was his faith not rewarded! For when the angel does come, he makes known this at the bidding of the glorious One who had first appeared to Daniel. It was the prince of the kingdom of Persia who had withstood him one-and-twenty days; but Michael had come to his help.
I may also observe that we have all important hint in the next verse, of the main objects that God had an eye to in this prophecy. Only persons that have read much know the torture the chapter has suffered by men's own thoughts brought to explain it by. The pope, of course, has been very prominently introduced into it. And then the daring soldier of the early days of this century is found in it too: I allude, of course, to Napoleon. In short, whatever has been going on in the world of extraordinary interest, persons have tried to find it in Dan. 11. The 14th verse of chap. 10. puts to the rout all such thoughts. “I am come,” says the angel, “to make thee know what shall befall thy people in the latter days: for yet the vision is for many days.”
Nothing can be plainer. It is put as a sort of frontispiece to the prophecy to show that the great thought of God for the earth is the Jewish people, and the main design of this prophecy is what must befall them in the latter days. We have the series of the history almost from the day in which Daniel lived, but the latter days are the point of it. Prophecy in general may afford to give a little earnest close at hand, but we never see the full drift of it, save in the latter day; and then the thoughts and plans of God always have, as their earthly center, the Jews and their Messiah. I do not mean to deny that the Church is a far higher thing than the Jews, and the relations of Christ to the Church nearer and deeper than His relations to the Jews. But you do not lose Christ and the Church, because you believe in His link with Israel. Nay, if you believe not this, you confound them with your own relations to Christ, and both are lost, as far as definite knowledge and full enjoyment go. This is for want of looking at Scripture as a whole. If chap. 10. had been read as an introduction to chap. 11., such a mistake might not have been made. But some read Scripture very much as others preach it. A few words are taken and are made the motto of a discourse, which perhaps has no real connection with the scope of that passage—perhaps not with any other in the Bible. The thoughts may be true enough abstractedly, but what we want is a help to understand the word of God as a whole, as well as the details. If you were to take a letter from a friend and were merely to fasten upon a sentence or a part of one, in the middle of it, and dislocate it from the rest, how could you understand it? And yet Scripture has infinitely larger connections than anything that could be written on our part; and therefore there ought to be far stronger reasons for taking Scripture in its connection than the little effusions of our own mind. This is a great key to the mistakes which many estimable people make in the interpretation of Scripture. They may be men of faith too; but still it is difficult to rise above their ordinary habits. The prophecy before us shows the importance of the principle I have been insisting on. Take the ordinary books on this prophecy—no matter when, where, or by whom written; and you will find that the great effort is to make a center of their own days, &c. Here is the answer to all. Neither Rome, nor the papacy, nor Napoleon is the object of the prophecy, but “what shall befall thy people (Daniel's people, the Jews) in the latter days.”
We then find Daniel expressing in humbleness of mind his unfitness for receiving such communications. First, one like the similitude of the sons of men touches his lips and he is instructed to speak unto the Lord. He confesses his weakness—that there was no strength left in him. But “there came again and touched him one like the appearance of a man, and he strengthened me, and said, O man, greatly beloved, fear not! Peace be unto thee; be strong, yea, be strong.” Men, until they are thoroughly established in peace, until their hearts know the real source of strength, are not capable of profiting by prophecy.
Here we find Daniel set upon his feet, his mouth opened, his fears hushed, before the Lord can open out the future to him. His heart must be in perfect peace in the strength of the Lord and in the presence of his God. Anxiety of spirit, the want of settled peace has more to do than people think with the little progress that they make in understanding many parts of God's word. It is not enough that a man have life and the Spirit of God; but there must be the breaking down of the flesh and the simple, peaceful resting in the Lord. Daniel must go through this scene in order to fit him for what he is to learn, and so must we in our measure. We must realize that same peace and strength in the Lord. If I am in terror of the Lord's coming, because I am not sure of how I shall stand before Him, how can I honestly rejoice that it is so near? There will be a hindrance in my spirit to the clear understanding of the mind of God on that subject. The reason of that lack of competence is not want of learning, but of being thoroughly established in grace—the want of knowing what we are in Christ Jesus. No matter what other things there may be—nothing will repair that sad deficiency. I speak now of Christian men. As for mere scholars dabbling in these things, it is as completely out of their sphere as a horse would be in pretending to judge of the mechanism of a watch. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” It is only a scribe of this age meddling with what belongs to another world.
We have a rapid survey of what was about to befall Israel in the latter days. It is the same speaker here as in chap. 10. “Also I, in the first year of Darius the Mede, even I, stood to confirm and to strengthen him. And now will I show thee the truth. Behold there shall stand up yet three kings in Persia.” There we have the succession of Persian monarchs from Cyrus. Scripture does show us who these were, although their names are not mentioned here. I would refer you to Ezra 4., where you will find these very three kings mentioned. In Ezra 4. the occasion arose out of the attempt of the enemies of Israel to stop the building of the temple: and these hired “counselors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus, king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.” Now in order to understand that chapter, you must bear in mind that, from the sixth verse down to the end of verse 23, is a parenthesis. The beginning and end of the chapter refer to events during the reign of Darius. But the Spirit of God goes back to show that these adversaries had been working from the days of Cyrus till the days of Darius. Consequently, in the parenthesis from verse 6-23 inclusively, you have the various monarchs that had come between Cyrus and Darius, whose minds the adversaries had been trying to work upon. “In the reign of Ahasuerus,” i.e., the successor of Cyrus, called in profane history Cambyses, “in the beginning of his reign, wrote they unto him an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.” Then we have the next king. “And in the days of Artaxerxes wrote Bishlam,” &c. This is a different person from the Artaxerxes mentioned in Nehemiah, who lived at a later epoch, and is called in profane history Smerdis the magician, who by wicked means acquired the crown for a time, and lent an ear to the accusations against the Jews. This usurper was put to death through a conspiracy headed by Darius, not the Mede of Daniel, but the Persian spoken of in the book of Ezra. Darius Hystaspes was his historical name. He follows immediately: so that we have these three kings mentioned in Ezra 4. exactly answering to the three in Dan. 11:22And now will I show thee the truth. Behold, there shall stand up yet three kings in Persia; and the fourth shall be far richer than they all: and by his strength through his riches he shall stir up all against the realm of Grecia. (Daniel 11:2). Thus we find one part of Scripture throwing light upon another, without the need of going into the territories of man at all. “Behold, there shall stand up yet three kings in Persia.” These came after Cyrus and were called in Scripture, as we have seen, Ahasuerus, Artaxerxes, and Darius: and in profane history Cambyses, Smerdis the magician, and Darius Hystaspes. “And the fourth shall be far richer than they all; and by his strength through his riches he shall stir up all against the realm of Grecia.” That is the celebrated Xerxes, who stirred up all against Greece. This confirms an idea thrown out on a former occasion that the reason of the he-goat's coming with such fury against Persia, was in return for the Persian assault upon Greece. Xerxes was the man who made that great attempt. His riches are proverbially known, and no event made so profound an impression on the world then as that expedition against Greece and its consequences. Then, in verse 3, Persia, the ram of chap. 8., is dropped, and we find the he-goat of that chapter, or rather its horn. “A mighty king shall stand up that shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will.” That is Alexander. “And when he shall stand up, his kingdom shall be broken, and shall be divided toward the four winds of heaven.” That was true at his death: the Greek empire was then broken into fragments. “And not to his posterity, nor according to his dominion which he ruled: for his kingdom shall be plucked up even for others besides those.” It was not to be a single head getting rid of the family of Alexander and taking possession of his kingdom. This was to be divided into a number of parts, four more particularly; and out of these four divisions two acquire an immense importance. But what constitutes their chief importance here? When God speaks of things upon the earth, He always measures from Israel; because Israel is His earthly center.
Hence it is that the powers which meddle with Israel are those that in God's view are important. This is the reason why the other kingdoms are not noticed: only those of the north and of the south. And why are they so described? Palestine is the place from which God reckons. The king of the north means north of the land that His eyes were upon; and the southern power means south of that same land. These are the countries commonly called Syria and Egypt. These two are referred to throughout the chapter, the other divisions of Alexander's empire being put aside. Only those are looked at which had to do with Israel. Now we are told that “the king of the south shall be strong” —he is the person well known as one of the Ptolemies or Lagidae— “and one of his princes” (i.e., of the chiefs of Alexander); “and he shall be strong above him, and have dominion; his dominion shall be a great dominion.” This is another person, the first king of the north, who rises in strength above Ptolemy. In profane history he is called Seleucus. The descendants of both these and their strife is often spoken of in the history of the Maccabees. There minute accounts are given of the transactions predicted in this chapter: and of the two, what God says in few words is infinitely more to the point than man's long tale.
But let us look a little at some of these events. “And in the end of years they (i.e., the kings of the north and of the south) shall join themselves together. For the king's daughter of the south shall come to the king of the north to make an agreement.” One remark before going further. In this chapter it is not the same king of the north, nor the same king of the south, that we have all the way through, but a great many different ones. The same official title runs all through. As people say in law, The king, or the queen, never dies. That is just the way we are to look at it here. This sixth verse is an instance. “In the end of years they shall join themselves together.” They are not the same kings of the north and south who had been spoken of in verse 5, but their descendants. “In the end of years they shall join themselves together; for the king's daughter of the south shall come to the king of the north to make an agreement.” They made, not only an alliance, but a marriage between their families. “But she shall not retain the power of the arm.” The attempt to make a cordial understanding between Syria and Egypt, by marriage, would be a failure. Of course, this was exactly verified in history. There was such a marriage, and the king of the north even got rid of his former wife in order to marry the daughter of the king of the south. But it only made matters a great deal worse. They had hoped to terminate their bloody wars, but it really laid the foundation of an incomparably deeper grudge between them. As it is said here, “Neither shall he stand nor his arm: but she shall be given up, and they that brought her, and he that begat her, and he that strengthened her in these times. But out of a branch of her roots shall one stand up in his estate, which shall come with an army, and shall enter into the fortress of the king of the north, and shall deal against them and prevail.” It was not her seed, but her brother—out of the same parental stock. She was one branch and he another. The brother of this Berenice, daughter of the Egyptian king, comes up to avenge the murder of his sister, and prevails against the king of the north. Here we have the explanation confirmed of what the kingdom of the south is. “He shall also carry captives into Egypt their gods, with their princes, and with their precious vessels of silver and gold; and he shall continue more years than the king of the north.” “So the king of the south shall come into his kingdom, and shall return into his own land.” There you have Egypt triumphant for a time; but the tide was soon to turn. “His sons shall be stirred up, and shall assemble a multitude of great forces. And one shall certainly come, (the other disappeared,) and overflowed and pass through; then shall he return, and be stirred up, even to his fortress. And the king of the south shall be moved with choler.” Now comes another war at a subsequent date: and this time it is the south returning the blow of the north. “The king of the south shall come forth and fight with him, even with the king of the north: and he shall set forth a great multitude; but the multitude shall be given into his hand.” There the Spirit of God refers to several notable facts. The two principal actors are the kings of Syria and Egypt. There was the hand that lay between them—a sort of burdensome stone to these kings who made it their battle-field, which ever went to the conqueror. If the king of the north was victorious, Palestine fell under Syria; and in the same way if the king of Egypt got the better. But God never allowed rest to those who took His land. They might intermarry and contract alliances; but it only proved the prelude to graver outbreaks—brothers, sons, grandsons, &c., taking up the quarrels of their kindred. “The Scripture cannot be broken.” All was distinctly laid down there beforehand.
“And when he hath taken away the multitude his heart shall be lifted up; and he shall cast down many ten thousands; but he shall not be strengthened by it.” Then we find that the king of the north returns and “sets forth a multitude greater than the former, and shall certainly come after certain years with a great army, and with much riches. And in those times there shall many stand up against the king of the south; also the robbers of thy people shall exalt themselves to establish the vision.” Allow me to call attention to these words. It at once settles the question that might be asked. How do you know that Daniel's people do not mean God's people in a spiritual sense? The answer is given here— “the robbers of thy people.” It at once puts aside the plea for a spiritual sense. We could hardly talk about “robbers” in that case. This confirms what ought not to have needed further evidence—that Daniel's people mean the Jewish people and nothing else. Here we find that some of the Jews form a connection with one of these contending monarchs of the north. These are called here “the robbers of thy people,” and take the part of Antiochus, the king of the north, against Ptolemy Philopator, or rather his son, but all came to naught. The Syrian king might hope that by bringing in this new element, by getting the countenance of the Jews, perhaps God would be with him. But no. They were the robbers of the people—unfaithful to God, and not holding fast their separation front the Gentiles. They, too, might think to establish the vision, “but they shall fall.”
“So the king of the north shall come and cast up a mount, and take the most fenced cities; and the arms of the south shall not withstand, neither his chosen people, neither shall there be any strength to withstand. But he that cometh against him shall do according to his own will, (that is the king of the north,) and none shall stand before him; and he shall stand in the glorious land, which by his hand shall be consumed.” Another remarkable thing that we see here is that the Spirit of God still holds to the importance of that little strip of land—the territory of Palestine. It was God's gift to God's people. Whatever might be its deplorable condition, it is the glorious land still. God repents not of His purposes: “He will yet choose Israel, and set them in their own land.” And if, when it is a question of God's earthly purposes, He thus holds to them, spite of every hindrance, what will He not do for His heavenly people? Who can doubt that he will bring them to heavenly glory?
“He 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, corrupting her; but she shall not stand on his side, neither be for him.” This is another attempt at marriage; only it is the converse. It is not now the king's daughter of the south coming to the king of the north; but the king of the north gives his daughter Cleopatra to the king of the south, hoping that she will maintain Syrian influence in the court of Egypt. That is what is called here “corrupting her;” because it was plainly contrary to the very essence of the marriage-tie: it was an attempt to use her in order to serve his political purposes. “But she shall not stand on his side, neither be for him.” All the pleas—the innermost secret of their hearts, come out here. There is another disgrace, which is not only known to God, but is made known to His servants.
“After this shall he turn his face unto the isles, and shall take many; but a prince for his own behalf shall cause the reproach offered by him to cease; without his own reproach he shall cause it to turn upon him.” That is, Antiochus meddles with Greece, and takes many of the isles; but this other prince, for his own behalf, takes up the contest against the king of the north. Here we have the entrance upon the scene of a new power—the first allusion to the Romans. A Roman consul is meant by the prince that comes on his own behalf against the king of the north. He will not allow Greece to be touched. It was one of the Scipios who interfered. “Then he shall turn his face towards the fort of his own land: but he shall stumble and fall and not be found.” He is obliged to return to Syria, but he shall stumble and fall.
“Then shall stand up in his estate a raiser of taxes, in the glory of the kingdom.” The Romans, who defeated the father, obliged his son to raise a heavy annual tribute. That was all that the poor man did during his life. “Then shall stand up in his estate a raiser of taxes but within few days he shall be destroyed, neither in anger nor in battle.” He was killed by one of his own sons. “And in his estate shall stand up a vile person, to whom they shall not give the honor of the kingdom: but he shall come in peaceably, and obtain the kingdom by flatteries. And with the arms of a flood shall they be overthrown from before him, and shall be broken; yea, also, the princes of the covenant. And after the league made with him he shall work deceitfully: for he shall come up and shall become strong with a small people.” This is the man who typifies the last king of the north; called in profane history Antiochus Epiphanes; morally abominable, but most notorious for his interference with the Jews, first by flattery and corruption, and afterward by violence. This is the man the Spirit of God dwells most on, because he most meddled with Israel, the glorious land and the sanctuary. He it was who enforced idolatry in the temple itself, setting up an image to be worshipped even in the holy of holies. Therefore it is that he acquires importance. Otherwise he was a man little known, except for daring wickedness. Nothing can be more simple. His history consists of intrigues, first against the king of the south, and then against the Jews; and of various expeditions, in some of which he was successful at first, but afterward entirely defeated. “He shall enter peaceably even upon the fattest places of the province; and he shall do that which his fathers have not done, nor his father's fathers..... And he shall stir up his power and his courage against the king of the south with a great army; and the king of the south shall be stirred up to battle with a very great and mighty army; but he shall not stand.” These kings try to plan against each other, but all is defeated. “Both these kings' hearts shall be to do mischief, and they shall speak lies at one table; but it shall not prosper; for yet the end shall be at the time appointed. Then shall he return into his land with great riches; and his heart shall be against the holy covenant; and he shall do exploits, and return to his own land (i.e., in the north.) At the time appointed he shall return, and come toward the south; but it shall not be as the former, or as the latter.” Then we have further details.
“For the ships of Chittim shall come against him.” There are these indefatigable Romans that come in again. They had dealt with his father when he had made an attack upon Greece; and now that the son had his hand over the throat of his prey, the Roman consul came, and at once forbad his doing anything further. He even drew a circle round him, as is well known, when the artful king wished to gain time to evade. The answer was demanded before he stepped out of the circle, and he was obliged to give it. This was a death-blow to all his policy. He went home a miserable defeated man, with a heart utterly infuriate, though putting on a humble appearance before the Romans. He goes, therefore, to wreak out all the anger of his heart upon the Jews. As it is said here “Therefore shall he be grieved, and return and have indignation against the holy covenant: so shall he do; he shall even return and have intelligence with them that forsake the holy covenant.” Poor as the Jews were, they were the only witnesses for God upon the earth, and he hastens to pour out his fury upon whatever bore a testimony to God among them. This was his ruin, and brought God's vengeance upon him. “He shall even return and have intelligence with them that forsake the holy covenant,” i.e., with the apostates of the Jews. “And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate.” He will put an end to the Jewish service and will set up an idol, “the abomination that maketh desolate,” in the temple of Jerusalem. It is a mistake to suppose that this refers to the last days. It is only a type of what will take place then. The latter part of the chapter, and the next chapter, do refer to the latter day in the full sense of the word. But here is the step of transition from what is past to the future. You come down in regular historical order to Antiochus Epiphanes, and then we meet with a great break. Scripture itself intimates as much. But Antiochus did on a small scale what the great northern king of the latter day will do on a larger one. It is said, (v. 35,).... “even to the time of the end: because it is yet for a time appointed.” There God stops. He says, as it were, I have come to the man that shows you in type what is to befall you in the latter days; and so He dwells emphatically upon this king, laying before them the extreme wickedness of his heart and conduct. The Spirit then stops the course of the history, and plunges at once into the last scene. This, however, must be reserved for another occasion. What we have seen shows us that whatever may be the general outline of events elsewhere, God can be, and sometimes is, singularly minute in the details of a prophecy, and no where more so than in this very chapter. And what is the great objection raised by infidels against it? That it must have been written after the events had taken place? Certain it is, that there is no one historian of these times who gives us such an admirable account as we have in these few verses. If I want to know the history of these two contending monarchies, Syria and Egypt, I must look here. How entirely we can confide in the word of God about everything! It may be an exception to His general rule to dwell upon the kings of the north and of the south, but He does so at times. The great thing on which He bestows care is the souls of His people. May our hearts answer to the interest that He takes in us!