The Scripture of Truth: 1

Daniel 11‑12  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 9
ONE of our sages, the founder of inductive philosophy, distinguishes between divine prophecies, and such as have been of certain memory and from hidden causes. These were no better than probable conjectures or obscure traditions that many times turn themselves into prophecies. Lord Verulam undoubtedly was a man of profound thought, and (whatever, his sad failure) a great deal wiser than those who now in effect deny divine prophecy altogether, and merely show themselves out as unbelievers. Now unbelief is an insult to God and His word, and not merely so, but along with it goes as the rule ignorance of Christ and of redemption. Everything is shaken thereby; for the moment you begin to cavil at scripture, where is the line to be drawn? It is no better if you question the beginning. You may begin with Genesis; for the same principle is apt to carry the mind in doubt throughout the Bible to Revelation. There is abundant evidence for scripture, more by far than for any books of antiquity; but evidence of an external sort never raises you to faith. Scripture claims to be the written word of God and carries its own evidence as light to the conscience. Unless received on its own divine authority, men do not really believe it savingly. They may readily allow that it has a character intrinsically superior to other so-called sacred books. But this makes it only a question of old Hebrew sages or of those who wrote in Christian times, who were better or abler men.
In the prophecy which now claims our attention we have as nearly as possible the language of history. We have seen the symbolic style in the earlier visions of the book. Chap. 9 is transitional, the weeks being in a measure enigmatic; the rest plain language with figures interspersed, as in all the interpretations. The peculiarity of the eleventh and twelfth chapters, like the ninth, is in leaving symbolic form for the language of every day on historical matters. Thus we have a succession of kings in a double contemporary series, north and south of the holy land, which was beyond controversy God's center on the earth. We must therefore look up or down from that fixed point.
Here we find a striking introduction before we hear of kings of the north and the south. “And now will I show you the truth. Behold, there shall stand up yet three kings in Persia.” Cyrus was then the great ruling personage. Darius was in honor only as a sort of complementary king; the conqueror of Babylon put him forward in recognition of the Medes who joined his standard, whatever may have been the exact family tie which bound them together. For scripture is silent, and the facts are by no means cleared by the profane writers of history. As Ctesias says that Cyrus made his own grandfather, the dethroned king of the Medes, a satrap, it is not improbable that he is Darius the Mede of the prophecy. Probable it seems that Astyages' daughter Mandane married Cambyses II., father of Cyrus, whom Herodotus mentions as a Persian noble, the monuments as the king, which appears to have been the fact. However this be, Cyrus was a man of real and widely extended power. Thenceforward scripture proof of the succession appears in Ezra 4.
First we have Ahasuerus, the unworthy son of a great father, here (Ezra 4:66And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, wrote they unto him an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem. (Ezra 4:6)) called Ahasuerus, or Cambyses as he is named in ordinary history. It was not he that disturbed the Jewish remnant, after their restoration, but the usurper who followed him when the Samaritan enemies of Israel appealed to stop the work of re-building the temple and the city. This work Artaxerxes (Smerdis Magus) (ver. 7-23) was the more ready to thwart, as he being a Mede paid no regard to the policy of Cyrus, whose son, Cambyses, did; he would be disposed naturally to reactionary measures. Darius Hystaspis became king on the revolt which set aside the pseudo-Smerdis; and he is the king of Persia who confirmed the decree of Cyrus. See vers. 5, 24, and chaps. 5. and 6. This Darius H. is the third 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), that is, the third after Cyrus the Great.
“The fourth,” it is said, “shall be far richer than they all.” This proverbially rich king of Persia was Xerxes, who tried to follow his father's enmity to Athens (defeated at Marathon, B.C. 490), and strike the Greeks a death-blow. “And when he is waxed strong through his riches, he shall stir up all against the realm of Grecia.” He likewise was defeated at the famous battles of Salamis and Platma, B.C. 480, 479. How exact and terse is the prophet's sketch! “By his strength through his riches.” It was not skill or force of arms, but wealth that mustered the vast hosts of barbarians. But his enormous armies, far greater than those of his father Darius, were unavailing. Luxury had enervated those once hardy warriors. And now also they had overstepped their limits. Whilst they pushed their dominions through Western Asia, God in His providence was with them; but when they sought the sea and Europe, by rushing into Greece, they laid the foundation of that enmity which found its vent in Alexander the Great, who led the Greeks and his own Macedonian forces against the East. The great battles at the Granicus, and at Issus, and at Arbela resulted in the total overthrow of the Persian empire. See how clearly this is set out in a few words in ver. 4: “And a mighty king (Alexander) shall stand up that shall rule with great dominion and do according to his will.” But what about his own dynasty? “And when he shall stand up, his kingdom shall be broken, and shall be divided toward the four winds of heaven; but not to his posterity, nor according to his dominion wherewith he ruled: for his kingdom shall be plucked up, even for others besides these” (ver. 5). This was all verified to the letter.
Thus are we brought to the desired two out of the four parts of Alexander's kingdom—Syria in the North, Egypt in the South. And a most characteristic sketch it is. Gibbon, the skeptical historian, says in his sneering way that Daniel “is too exact for a prophet,” “The four empires are clearly delineated: the expedition of Xerxes into Greece; the rapid conquest of Persia by Alexander; his untimely death without posterity; the division of his monarchy into four kingdoms, one of which, Egypt, is mentioned by name; then various wars and inter-marriages; the persecution of Antiochus; the profanation of the temple; and the invincible arms of the Romans are described with as much clearness as in the histories of Justin and Diodorus. From such a perfect resemblance the artful infidel would infer that both alike were composed after the event” (G. to Hurd, Works, v. 365).
Certain it is that the Lord does authenticate “Daniel the prophet” to every believer, who finds here in short compass a sketch more simple, consecutive, and correct than in all the historians put together, and with slight exception in the common style of history. This is admittedly a feature unusual in prophecy; and because of this some have rashly yielded to incredulity. Dr. Arnold was thus misled; for no piety can quite undo the poisonous effects of unbelief.
But no Christian can doubt that it is as easy for God to give a consecutive anticipation as a single luminous picture. It is the general way of prophecy, no doubt, to hurry on to the judgment, and the blessing that follows the Lord's intervention at the close, as being of supreme importance. But there was good reason in His eyes to give at this junction an account of the kings, north and south of Palestine, and their mutual struggles and alliances, sometimes sought to be cemented by marriage. We have these movements traced with precision; nothing in history can be more exact. Name if you are able any great writer on that time, who gives facts with as great accuracy, simplicity, and clearness, as this chapter.
Take the following curt summary: verse 5 presents Ptolemy Lagi, one of Alexander's chief captains, in remarkable strength; yet another about to be stronger than he, and to have a great dominion, the first Seleucus surnamed Nicator. In ver. 6 after an indicated space we hear of an endeavor to patch up the jealousy which from earliest days had arisen about the land which lay between these powers, when Ptol. Philadelphus gave his daughter Berenice to Antiochus Theus. But Laodice, the injured first wife, brought all to naught and worse than ever by restoration to the northern king's favor, when she poisoned those from the south as well as her husband and Berenice's son. Vers. 7 and 8 tell us of “a shoot” from Berenice's roots, Ptol. Euergetes, avenging her wrongs, when Sel. Callinicus reigned in the north, and gained great successes over the north, surviving his adversary and returning to his own land (ver. 9). Then in ver. 10 we have the efforts of Sel. Ceraunus and Antiochus the Great against the south, the latter of whom alone recovered Seleucia; so that even Ptol. Philopator, ipert as he was, got enraged (11), and Antiochus after various successes sustained an utter rout at Raphia (12). But no fruit remained to the Egyptian king, especially as he oppressed the Jews; but Ant. waited till he could fall on his infant nephew when the Jews revolted (13, 14), and he took Sidon (15), notwithstanding all Egypt could do to hinder (defeated at Panium), and he visited the land of beauty (16). In ver. 17 we hear of his fair words but foul intrigues through Cleopatra, who thwarted his craft; as in ver. 18 his invasion of the isles of Greece was stopped by a Roman chief in the person of Quinctius the Consul at the Isthmus. Inglorious defeat sealed his stumble and fall (19). The twentieth verse briefly tells us of his son Sel. Philopator, overloaded with tribute, as is here strikingly noticed, who fell through his “exactor,” Heliodorus. From vers. 21 to 32 inclusively follows the account of his brother Antiochus Epiphanes with a detail beyond all before, as being the foe not only of the Jews but of their God, the living God. Demetrius was the true heir. “A person vile” indeed was their supplanter. His deceit was as great against his nephew of Egypt as against his brother. At length “ships of Chittim came against him” (ver. 30), as against his ancestor. The Romans compelled him to retire from Egypt; and he vented his indignation on the Jews; as later on by his order “the abomination that maketh desolate” was set up in the temple through apostates that helped him, though valiant opposition was not wanting.
If one ventured to enter into the details of those successive kings, it would take considerably more space than can be now given. But the last king of the north stands out from all the rest.