“And now will I shew 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
Several years ago, our family purchased an acre of lakeside property with the intention of building a joint family vacation home on the site. While the men of our family have engaged in various aspects of construction work over the years, and the women of the family are not lacking in ideas, none of us knows much about the technical aspects of home design. So we turned to a professional to draw up a plan that met code requirements and took into consideration the slope of the lot, its shape and dimensions, and the lake view. A few months later, he contacted us to say a blueprint was ready for review.
Poring over the multiple sheets of the floor plan was an interesting experience. While it certainly gave us an idea of how the completed structure would look, it was still a challenge to visualize the finished product. Would the great room area be big enough for the whole family to comfortably gather in? What would the view be from this window? Would the slope of the ceiling in the attic bedroom make that area feel cramped? Should this hall be widened a bit?
The section views and specifications for the foundation, roof and floor joists, and mechanical systems were completely out of our realm of experience. So we scrutinized. We searched online for more information. We measured spaces with similar dimensions. We asked questions. And ultimately, we realized that the designer we had hired was the expert, and we could trust that he knew what he was doing! Thankfully, our trust was not misplaced. The house has been built, and we have enjoyed walking through the new structure and comparing it with the plans we scrutinized so carefully. Our questions no longer matter, because we have the finished product!
In today’s text, the angelic messenger began sketching out for Daniel a plan created by the Architect of the ages regarding what would occur in the future of God’s people. While the messenger’s description was detailed, no doubt there were many portions of the plan that Daniel could not fully comprehend. Perhaps after hearing the words in our focus verse he wondered about, Who are the three kings in Persia? What does the fact that “he shall stir up all against the realm of Grecia” signify? It must have been difficult for him to imagine exactly how these events would transpire. However, as the circumstances described by the messenger began to come to pass, what assurance it must have given God’s people that all was occurring according to a divine plan!
In our day, we can have that same assurance as we observe events around us — we can be certain that all is happening according to God’s plan. Many details of what will yet occur in the last days are provided in Scripture, and though some of those details may seem difficult for us to understand or visualize, we can trust the Architect. And one day, our questions will no longer matter because everything foretold in God’s Word will have been fulfilled!
This text adds new information to the visions of Daniel 8. As with other prophecies, identifying specific leaders/countries may be problematic because names used in a particular era are transitory. For example, the country known as Lebanon today had a different name in Daniel’s time. Even when names have stayed the same, national boundaries in some cases have changed dramatically. The Egypt of Daniel’s time, while still so named, has different, more clearly defined borders. However, in this portion of text, specific locations (such as the river Ulai in verse 2) and the cardinal directions (north, south, east, and west alluded to in verse 4) enable scholars to identify a general region, no matter what the era.
The “mighty king” who stood up (verses 3-4), whose kingdom was divided among four, is widely seen as being fulfilled in Alexander the Great. Upon his death, his four generals divided his kingdom, fulfilling the prophecy that his kingdom “shall be divided toward the four winds of heaven.” Ptolemy ruled Egypt, so is considered “the king of the south” (verse 5) and Syria was ruled by Seleucus I, “the king of the north” (verse 6). Their families made an alliance through marriage, and Daniel’s prophecy accurately predicted how their history would unfold.
In verse 20 the “raiser of taxes” is widely thought to have been Seleucus IV Philopater, who ruled from 187 to 175 B.C. in the region of Syria/Mesopotamia/Persia. His assassination ushered in the rule of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who would foreshadow the “little horn” of Daniel 7:8.
Of primary importance in revealing this vision was providing reassurance to God’s people so that He foresaw what was ahead and was in control. When they observed the foretold pattern of events transpire, they would be comforted as they recognized the Hand of God was shaping man’s actions in conformity with His will. Readers of Daniel would understand that God would be glorified as He watched over Israel, protecting them from nations and leaders far more powerful than themselves.
III. The prophetic history of the Jews
C. The vision of Israel’s future (the history of Israel in the 70 weeks, cf. 10:14)
2. The revelation of the sixty-nine weeks
a. The rule of Persia (11:2)
b. The rule of Greece
(1) The reign of Alexander (11:3)
(2) The division of the empire (11:4)
(3) The conflict of Ptolemy and Selecuid (11:5-20)
While Daniel and the people of Israel may not have fully understood the meaning of the messenger’s prediction of the future, they could be assured that God had a plan and was in control of the world events that were to come.