The Kings of the North and South
The angel said he had been sent to tell me what had been written in the Book of Truth, a heavenly account of history, written in advance. He began by saying that there would be three more Persian kings in a time of relative peace and prosperity, then a fourth who would attempt to put down the growing threat from Greece. This fourth one, called Xerxes, is the one who would humiliate Phillip of Macedon and create the circumstances that would eventually bring Alexander the Great to power. He is also the King who would take the Hebrew slave Esther as his bride and make her Queen of Persia. Her selfless act of sacrifice during a time of persecution of the Jewish people in Persia is commemorated in the Feast of Purim. Perhaps one day she’ll tell you her story.
As I’ve already told you, upon Alexander’s death in 323BC, Greece would be split among his four generals. The descendants of Cassander and Lysimachus would pretty much fade into the footnotes of history, but those of Seleucus and Ptolemy would be in an almost continuous state of warfare over the lands they’d inherited for the next 150 years or so until the Macabbean revolt. The angel simply referred to the descendants of Seleucus as the King of the North, and the descendants of Ptolemy as the King of the South, but in reality there were several generations of each and nearly every reference is to a different person since they tended to kill each other off with nauseating regularity. In case you’re interested in each one’s identity, I’ll insert their names along with the time in history of their reigns and a few personal observations in the angel’s narrative. Otherwise it appears here just as he gave it to me in the portion of my story you know as Daniel 11:5-35. (The angel’s words are in italics.)
“The king of the South (Ptolemy I Soter, 323-285) will become strong, but one of his commanders (Seleucus I Nicator, 311-280) will become even stronger than he and will rule his own kingdom (Babylon) with great power. After some years, they will become allies. The daughter of the king of the South (Berenice, daughter of Ptolemy II Philadelphus, 285-246) will go to the king of the North (Antiochus II Theos, 261-246) to make an alliance, but she will not retain her power, and he and his power will not last. In those days she will be handed over, together with her royal escort and her father and the one who supported her. (Antiochus left his wife Laodice for Berenice, but Laodice conspired to have Antiochus, Berenice, and her father Ptolemy II killed. The city of Laodicea in Rev. 3 is named after her.) (Daniel 11:5-6)
“One from her family line will arise to take her place. (Berenice’s brother Ptolemy III Euergetes, 246-221. He killed Laodice to avenge his sister and father.) He will attack the forces of the king of the North (Seleucus II Callinicus, 246-226) and enter his fortress; he will fight against them and be victorious. He will also seize their gods, their metal images and their valuable articles of silver and gold and carry them off to Egypt. For some years he will leave the king of the North alone. Then the king of the North will invade the realm of the king of the South but will retreat to his own country. His sons (Seleucus III Ceranus, 226-223 and Antiochus III, called the Great, 223-187) will prepare for war and assemble a great army, which will sweep on like an irresistible flood and carry the battle as far as his fortress. (Daniel 11:7-10)
“Then the king of the South (Ptolemy IV Philopator, 221-203) will march out in a rage and fight against the king of the North (Antiochus the Great), who will raise a large army, but it will be defeated. (The Battle of Raphia in 217) When the army is carried off, the king of the South will be filled with pride and will slaughter many thousands (10,000 according to the historian Polybius), yet he will not remain triumphant. For the king of the North (still Antiochus) will muster another army, larger than the first; and after several years, he will advance with a huge army fully equipped. (Daniel 11:11-13)
“In those times many will rise against the king of the South (Ptolemy V Epiphanes, 203-181). The violent men among your own people (Jews) will rebel in fulfillment of the vision, but without success. (Ptolemy’s general Scopas crushed the rebellion in 200) Then the king of the North (still Antiochus the Great) will come and build up siege ramps and will capture a fortified city. The forces of the South will be powerless to resist; even their best troops will not have the strength to stand. The invader will do as he pleases; no one will be able to stand against him. He will establish himself in the Beautiful Land (Israel, captured from the King of the South in 197) and will have the power to destroy it. He will determine to come with the might of his entire kingdom and will make an alliance with the king of the South. And he will give him a daughter (Cleopatra I married Ptolemy V in 194) in marriage in order to overthrow the kingdom, but his plans will not succeed or help him. (Don’t confuse this Cleopatra with the later one, Cleopatra II, consort to both Julius Caesar and Marc Anthony) Then he will turn his attention to the coast lands and (teaming up with the famous Carthaginian General Hannibal) will take many of them, but a commander (Roman Consul Lucius Cornelius Scipio Asiaticus, with whom Cleopatra and Ptolemy had sided) will put an end to his insolence and will turn his insolence back upon him. After this, he will turn back toward the fortresses of his own country but will stumble and fall, to be seen no more. (Antiochus the Great died in battle in 187) (Daniel 11:14-19)
“His successor (Seleucus IV Philopator) will send out a tax collector (Heliodorus) to maintain the royal splendor. In a few years, however, he will be destroyed, yet not in anger or in battle. (Heliodorus engineered a coup against him)
“He will be succeeded by a contemptible person (Antiochus IV Epiphanes, 175-164) who has not been given the honor of royalty (Antiochus Epiphanes mounted a palace revolt against his young cousin and rightful heir Demetrius I). He will invade the kingdom (Israel) when its people feel secure, and he will seize it through intrigue. Then an overwhelming army will be swept away before him; both it and a prince of the covenant (Onias III, Israel’s last legitimate High Priest, who was murdered in 170) will be destroyed. After coming to an agreement with him, he will act deceitfully, and with only a few people he will rise to power. When the richest provinces feel secure, he will invade them and will achieve what neither his fathers nor his forefathers did. He will distribute plunder, loot and wealth among his followers. He will plot the overthrow of fortresses—but only for a time. (Daniel 11:20-24) Antiochus conquered Israel and, for a time, Egypt.
“With a large army he will stir up his strength and courage against the king of the South (Ptolemy VI). The king of the South will wage war with a large and very powerful army, but he will not be able to stand because of the plots devised against him. Those who eat from the king’s provisions (Ptolemy’s family) will try to destroy him; his army will be swept away, and many will fall in battle. The two kings (Antiochus and Ptolemy), with their hearts bent on evil, will sit at the same table and lie to each other, but to no avail, because an end will still come at the appointed time. The king of the North will return to his own country with great wealth, but his heart will be set against the holy covenant. He will take action against it and then return to his own country. (On his way back to Syria, Antiochus Epiphanes plundered the Temple in Jerusalem and killed many priests) (Daniel 11:25-28)
“At the appointed time he will invade the South again, but this time the outcome will be different from what it was before. Ships of the western coast lands (Rome) will oppose him, and he will lose heart. Then he will turn back and vent his fury against the holy covenant. He will return and show favor to those who forsake the holy covenant. (Daniel 11:29-30)
(As Antiochus stood in Egypt on the shore of the Mediterranean, the Roman Commander Popilius Laenas drew a circle around him in the sand, telling him that if he stepped out of the circle for any other reason than to surrender and go home, he would be killed. Humiliated and furious he took out his rage on the Jews, prompting the Maccabean revolt. This revolt actually lasted from 168-160, but people are most familiar with the period from 168-165 when the Temple was made desolate in history’s clearest preview of the Great Tribulation.)
“His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation (168). With flattery he will corrupt those who have violated the covenant, but the people who know their God will firmly resist him. (The Hasidim, who remained faithful to God, were the ancestors of today’s Hasidic Jews. They are world renowned for their trade in diamonds) (Daniel 11:31-32)
“Those who are wise will instruct many, though for a time they will fall by the sword or be burned or captured or plundered. When they fall, they will receive a little help, and many who are not sincere will join them. (The Maccabeans, who defeated Antiochus, cleansed the Temple and restored Jewish autonomy, setting up the Hasmonean Dynasty that ruled Israel for about 100 years until the Romans came.) Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time. (Daniel 11:33-35)
Finally in about 175BC a King of the North called Antiochus IV Epiphanes, about whom we’ve spoken, would come to power and try to defeat the current King of the South, called Ptolemy IV Philomentor, for good. But the tables would be turned when Ptolemy received the help of a naval force from a relative newcomer on the world scene, Rome. Antiochus would be defeated and in embarrassment turn northward where he would take out his frustration on my people, Israel. Remember, I described this time of unprecedented persecution and terror in my account of the origin of Hanukkah.
At this point in the revelation, known by you as verse 35 of chapter 11, the angel skipped forward to a time still in your future. This angel was going to fill in the gaps in the account of those last 7 years that Gabriel had only summarized in his visitation to me two years earlier. Just as the Apostle John would tell the story of the Great Tribulation from the world’s perspective, I would be filled in on events that concerned my people, Israel. You who are known as the Church will be blessed to view that time from the safe haven of your hidden mansion in the sky, which the Lord Jesus has been preparing for you these last 2000 years.