THE FINAL KING OF THE NORTH — PART ONE
One of the more intriguing of prophetic passages in the Bible pertains to the "King of the North" found at Daniel 11:36-45. This passage is actually part of a larger prophecy that was introduced to Daniel at Daniel 10:1. The actual prophetic part of the prophecy begins at Daniel 11:1 and continues to Daniel 12:12.
There have been various possible solutions offered as to the fulfillment of it. Some of these solutions have involved a coming Anti-Christ, Russia or the USSR, US presidents, a resurgent China, and a London based cabal. Some have wondered about the passage and decided it is best to take a wait-and-see view. And still others have written the passage off as foolish religious babbling that will never see any real fulfillment.
What this thread hopes to accomplish is to build on understanding already gained in related prophecies and apply it towards identifying this King of the North in Daniel 11:36-45, and in understanding the events described in connection with him. Of special interest in this thread is a clue that Jesus gave that may very well prove to be the key to identifying this king.
The Purpose of Daniel Chapters 10 to 12
In Daniel chapter 10, Daniel is informed by an angelic visitor that the "word" he is about to receive is about "a great conflict." (or possibly, "hard service") And he was assured that "the message was trustworthy" or "true." (Dan 10:1) A little further, at Daniel 10:14, he is told by the angel, "Now I have come to help you understand what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision pertains to future days." (NET)
The rendering, "great conflict" in Dan 10:1 might indicate the involvement in the prophecy of military conflict. The rendering, "hard service," may indicate a coming time of very great difficulty for Daniel's people. (See footnote 3 at Daniel 10:1 in the NET translation.) Considering the focus given by Daniel 10:14, "hard service" may be the preferable rendering. But in either case, the prophecy does include both "hard service" for 'Daniel's people,' as well as "great [military] conflict."
At any rate, what Daniel 10:14 does do is to show that the prophecy is not just about the final king of the north and who he is. Its main focus is about what is going to happen to 'Daniel's people' when the time of that 'final' king arrives. We still want to know who that king is. But it is important to remember that, in the end, he is just a part of the scenery. (1Co 7:31) An important part, to be sure. And the struggle between the "King of the North" and the "King of the South" that runs through the prophecy has historical connections to other parts of Daniel. (For example, compare Dan 2, 7 & 8.) But in the end, the core interest of the prophecy is really about what will happen to God's people, which also has ties to other parts of Daniel. (For example, compare Dan 1, 3, 6 & 9.)
The Prophecy of Daniel Chapter 11:1-20
Chapter 11 is where the prophecy begins to give its prophetic details. The chronological starting point is "in the first year of Darius the Mede." (Dan 11:1) That is, the first year of his ruling over Babylon. It is quite possible that this is Cyrus the Persian himself. Compare the similar linguistic structure of Dan 6:28 with 1Ch 5:26. "Darius" is thought to be a title rather than a name. See also footnote 49 at Dan 6:28, here. Incidentally, this is also the starting point at which the metal of the image in Daniel chapter 2 begins to degrade. (Dan 2:37-39)
Daniel 11:2-4 travels through 4 more Persian kings and on into the rise and fall of Alexander the Great. With Alexander's death, the Grecian Empire is then broken into four parts. Starting with Dan 11:5 the prophecy moves thru the history of two parts of these four, referring to them as the "king of the south" and the "king of the north." The "south" and "north" relate to the fact that the king of the south is centered around Egypt, and the king of the north is centered around the land of Syria. These two areas are south and north of the land of Israel. The other two parts of Alexander's broken empire are never mentioned again in the prophecy. It is this struggle between the northern and southern kings that is an important feature of this prophecy. (Interestingly, the latter part of Dan 2 also features a kingdom that is "divided" - Dan 2:41. Another interesting historical connection is with Daniel chapter 7. This is regarding the 4th Persian king mentioned in Dan 11:2, Xerxes I [ca. 486-465 B.C.] His all-out assault is against, what is considered, the birthplace of Democracy - Compare with Dan 7:8, and see footnote 5 on Dan 11:2 here)
At this point (Dan 11:5) the prophecy begins to slow down in its movement through history. Daniel 11:5-20 gives a brief outline or survey of events that take place between the kings of the north and south. Enough information is given so that each king along the way can be historically identified. The emphasis, though, appears to be on the king of the north. The logic seems to be that he is the one who will have the greatest impact on 'Daniel's people' in "the latter days." But as you will see, we are being carefully guided to the rise of one particular king of the north. The last king of the north in this section of the prophecy (Dan 11:5-20) is Seleucus IV Philopator (Dan 11:20; c. 187-176 BCE). He is the king of the north just before the one that this section of the prophecy focuses on.
Before going on, there is something else worth noting about Dan 11:5-35: The kings involved, as discussed in this prophecy, they are all individuals. The prophecy in Dan 11:5-35 does not refer to an empire or nation as "the king of the north" or "south." Rather, each "king" is a particular person. Says footnote 9 at Dan 11:5 in the NET translation:
The historical kings of the north and south for Dan 11:5-35:The king of the south [in Dan 11:5] is Ptolemy I Soter (ca. 323-285 B.C.). The following reference to one of his subordinates apparently has in view Seleucus I Nicator (ca. 311-280 B.C.). Throughout the remainder of chap. 11 the expressions “king of the south” and “king of the north” repeatedly occur. It is clear, however, that these terms are being used generically to describe the Ptolemaic king (i.e., “of the south”) or the Seleucid king (i.e., “of the north”) who happens to be in power at any particular time. The specific identity of these kings can be established more or less successfully by a comparison of this chapter with the available extra-biblical records that discuss the history of the intertestamental period. In the following notes the generally accepted identifications are briefly mentioned.
A "Final" King of the North
Starting at Daniel 11:21, and continuing to Daniel 11:35, the prophecy explodes with detail about the next king of the north who is described as, "a despicable person" (NET, NASB; "contemptible" NIV, ESV; Dan 11:21) This king is the infamous Antiochus IV Epiphanes (c. 175-164 BCE). The prophecy has been carefully moving us through history for the very purpose of describing this king and detailing what will happen to 'Daniel's people' during his reign.
In this passage (Dan 11:21-35) the main characters are: (1) The King of the North, who is portrayed as an enemy of "the holy covenant" (Dan 11:28, 30b), along with forces under his control. (2) The King of the South, along with forces under his control. Which, incidentally, both kings are portrayed as unrighteous. (Dan 11:27) And (3) Various ones having some connection with "the holy covenant." (Dan 11:28) These include: "a prince of the covenant" (Dan 11:22); "Those who have rejected the covenant" (Dan 11:32); And, "the people who are loyal to their God," who are also described as "wise" and who "teach the masses." They also appear to suffer the heaviest persecution. (Dan 11:32-33 NET)
In what sense would Antiochus IV Epiphanes be considered a "final" king of the north? He certainly was not the last of the Seleucid dynasty. (See here.) That dynasty lasted about another 100 years. But from the viewpoint of this part of the prophecy (from Dan 11:21-35), Antiochus IV represents the climax or the main 'act' that the prophecy was pointing to. After Antiochus IV no more attention is given to the rest of the Seleucid dynasty. Thus, based on this particular prophecy, Dan 11:21-35 represents, in a sense, the final king of the north, as it relates to the Seleucid dynasty.
The events described in Dan 11:21-35 are well documented history. For example, see here. (Or Google "Maccabean Revolt") And so, we are not going to spend any more time detailing those events here. What has been said above is what we need to know for where we are going next.
(A link to an extensive article on Antiochus IV Epiphanes can be found in post # 115 in this thread.)
A Difference Starting at Dan 11:36
Amazingly, the prophecy up to Dan 11:35 has proven to be so historically accurate that some cannot believe that it was written down centuries earlier by Daniel. In their view, the only possible explanation for the accuracy is that someone during or after Antiochus IV had to have recorded it. (The Septuagint (LXX) represents a time limit on this point of view, since it includes the book of Daniel. Those who believe the late writing idea cannot place it later than the Septuagint, 2nd century BCE.)
But for those with faith in God's ability to see the future, the account, so far, has been just as the angel promised in Dan 10:1, "trustworthy" or "true." For doubters who think it was written down after the fact, what position will they take if the following part of the prophecy has yet more fulfillment after Antiochus IV?
Which leads us to Dan 11:36. Something changes in this prophecy starting at Daniel 11:36. Notice what footnote 81 in the NET translation of Daniel 11:36 says:
The identity of this king is problematic. If Dan 11:36-45 continue the description of Antiochus Epiphanes, the account must be viewed as erroneous, since the details do not match what is known of Antiochus’ latter days. Most modern scholars take this view, concluding that this section was written just shortly before the death of Antiochus and that the writer erred on several key points as he tried to predict what would follow the events of his own day. Conservative scholars, however, usually understand the reference [starting at Dan 11:36] to shift at this point to an eschatological figure, viz., the Antichrist. The chronological gap that this would presuppose to be in the narrative is not necessarily a problem, since by all accounts there are many chronological gaps throughout the chapter, as the historical figures intended by such expressions as “king of the north” and “king of the south” repeatedly shift.
Similarly, the NAC-Daniel commentary (Stephen R. Miller, pp. 304-5) says concerning Dan 11:36-39:
Scholars are in agreement that the vision up to this point [i.e up to Dan 11:35] has been concerned with events between the time of Cyrus (in which Daniel lived) and the death of Antiochus IV, but with [Dan 11:36] this agreement ends. . .
Those who adhere to the Maccabean thesis maintain that [Dan 11:36-45] continues to speak of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. However, there are serious problems with this position, not the least of which is the fact that much of the historical data set forth in these verses (even in [Dan 11:36-39]) is impossible to harmonize with Antiochus's life. . .
Exegetical necessity requires that Dan 11:36-45 be applied to someone other than Antiochus IV.
And in a similar vein, Constable's Notes (at Dan 11:36, here) comments:
[Parts of the quotations in brackets are Bobcat's for clarification. Some scripture citations have been reformatted in order to work with the RefTagger app.]Mention of “the end time” (Dan 11:35) prepares for the revelation to follow, which concerns events not yet fulfilled in history. “The appointed time” (Dan 11:27, 29, 35; 12:7) reminds the reader that all these predicted events would be the outworking of divine control and purpose even though they would involve suffering for the Israelites.
We can understand why critics who deny the possibility of predictive prophecy believe these verses must have been written after they occurred.“The amazingly detailed prophecies of the first thirty-five verses of this chapter, containing as they do approximately one hundred and thirty-five prophetic statements, all now fulfilled, constitute an impressive introduction to the events that are yet future, beginning in verse 36. . . . The fact is that there is no supported evidence which can contradict any statement made in these thirty-five verses [that is, Dan 11:1-35]. ... From the divine viewpoint, the accuracy of this prophetic word is supporting evidence that prophecy yet unfulfilled will have the same precise fulfillment in the future.”
While very much respecting the sentiments expressed in these quotations, Part Two in this thread will attempt to show one fulfillment of Daniel 11:36-45 that even these commentaries did not expect.
Index to This Thread