Kings of North and South
“At the time of the end, the king of the south shall attack him, but the king of the north shall rush upon him like a whirlwind, with chariots and horsemen, and with many ships. And he shall come into countries and shall overflow and pass through” (v. 40).- Daniel 11
Before moving to Daniel 11, let us make a final point about Daniel 9. When we come to texts whose interpretation is highly disputed, it is usually safest to look at what the greatest minds in church history have said about such passages. Luminaries such as Augustine and John Calvin saw this text fulfilled in the first coming of Jesus. Daniel’s original readers would have hardly fathomed a rapture like we find in modern eschatological (end-times) speculation, so our tradition’s failure also to see a rapture and seven-year end-times tribulation in this text is a strong point against that view. In light of the New Testament, moreover, it is hard to find in Daniel 9 anything but Christ’s first advent and its immediate historical context. An anointed one is cut off and sacrifice is ended (vv. 26–27a). Jesus the Messiah—the “anointed”—died, ending the old covenant sacrificial system (Heb. 10:18). The people of the prince who is to come will destroy Jerusalem and its temple (Dan. 9:27b). Rome, the fourth beast of Daniel 7, destroyed Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70. On this reading, the text is thoroughly messianic and confirms the accuracy of biblical prophecy.
Speaking of the accuracy of biblical prophecy, Daniel 11 also demonstrates the trustworthiness of God’s Word. We lack space to cover everything in this chapter, so, we recommend that you consult John Calvin’s commentary for more details. In any case, 11:1–4 foresees the fall of Persia to Alexander the Great, the “mighty king” (v. 3), as well as Alexander’s brief reign and subsequent division of his realm among four generals, the “four winds” (v. 4).
The battles between the kings of the south and the kings of the north in verses 5–35 refer to the ongoing conflict between the descendants of two of Alexander’s four generals. During the third and second centuries BC, the Ptolemies, who ruled Egypt, and the Seleucids, who ruled Babylon and other areas north of the Promised Land, continually vied for supremacy. The people of God found themselves to be something of a football passed back and forth between the two kingdoms as they alternated in the possession of Canaan. By verse 21, the king of the north in view is Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Seleucid ruler who in the middle of the second century BC moved against the Jewish people in the territory of Judea that he controlled. He put idols in the temple, sparking the Maccabean revolt, which led to the reign of Hasmonean kings in Judah and ultimately Rome’s conquering of Judea and the installation of Herod the Great as the earthly ruler of the Jews.
Daniel’s vision in today’s passage emphasizes the point that the exilic conditions of the old covenant community would continue once they were back in their land. The Jews would have to wait for their exaltation over the kingdoms of this world and the defeat of their enemies. We continue to wait for the exaltation of all of God’s people, Jew and Gentile alike, and the defeat of our enemies. This end goal will surely be accomplished. Let us pray that the Lord will bring it soon.
Passages for Further Study
2 Thessalonians 2:1–12