- 11:3 A strong king - Alexander the Great.
- 11:4 Alexander dies of a mysterious disease after commencing
the rebuilding of Babylon. A few years after Alexander’s death, his
kingdom was divided among his four generals (cf. 8:22): Seleucus (over
Syria and Mesopotamia), Ptolemy (over Egypt), Lysimacus (over Thrace
and portions of Asia Minor), and Cassander (over Macedonia and Greece).
This division was anticipated through the four heads of the leopard
(7:6) and the four prominent horns on the goat (8:8). Alexander founded
no dynasty of rulers; since he had no heirs, his kingdom was divided
and the empire was marked by division and weakness.
- 11:5 The rest of the book concerns the two regions of the Greek
empire adjacent to Israel.
The strong king of the South was Ptolemy I Soter, a general who served under Alexander. He was given authority over Egypt in 323 B.C. and proclaimed king of Egypt in 304.
The commander referred to in verse 5 was Seleucus I Nicator, also a general
under Alexander, who was given authority to rule in Babylon in 321. But in 316
when Babylon came under attack by Antigonus (another general), Seleucus sought
help from Ptolemy I Soter in Egypt. After Antigonus’ defeat in 312, Seleucus
returned to Babylon greatly strengthened. He ruled over Babylonia, Media, and
Syria, and assumed the title of king in 305. Thus Seleucus I Nicator’s rule was
over far more territory than Ptolemy I and was king of the largest empire after
that of Alexander.
These two kingdoms are at war throughout most of the reign of the Greeks,
and Israel is in the middle and suffers.
- 11:6 Ptolemy I Soter died in 285 B.C. and Ptolemy II Philadelphus,
Ptolemy’s son, ruled in Egypt (285-246). Meanwhile Seleucus was murdered in 281
and his son Antiochus I Soter ruled till 262. Then Seleucus’ grandson Antiochus
II Theos ruled in Syria (262-246). Ptolemy II and Antiochus II were bitter
enemies but finally (after some years) they entered into an alliance around
Ptolemy Philadelphus gave his daughter Berenice in marriage to Antiochus Theos
of Syria, upon condition that he should put away his wife, Laodice. But, as
foretold in the prophecy, this league did not last; for Ptolemy died soon
after, and then Antiochus put away Berenice, and took back his former wife, who
subsequently requited him by procuring his murder, and also the murder of
Berenice. Laodice poisoned Antiochus II and made her son,
Seleucus II Callinicus, king (246-227).
- 11:7 The brother of Berenice, Ptolemy III Euergetes, 246-221, ("one out of
her roots"), undertook to avenge her death by an invasion of Syria
("enter into the fortress of the king of the north"),
in which he was successful ("and who should "prevail"). He slew Laodice.
- 11:8 Ptolemy, returned with forty thousand talents of silver, precious
vessels, and twenty-four hundred images, including Egyptian idols, which
Cambyses had carried from Egypt into Persia. The Egyptians were so
gratified, that they named him Euergetes, or "benefactor." Ptolemy survived
Seleucus by four years, reigning in all forty-six years.
- 11:9 After this humiliating defeat, Seleucus II Callinicus (the king of
the North) tried to invade Egypt but was unsuccessful. After falling from his
horse to his death, he was succeeded by his son, Seleucus III Soter (227-223
B.C.), who was killed by conspirators while on a military campaign in Asia
Minor. Seleucus III’s brother, Antiochus III the Great, became the ruler in 223
at 18 years of age and reigned for 36 years (until 187). The two sons (Seleucus
III and Antiochus III) had sought to restore Syria’s lost prestige by military
conquest, the older son by invading Asia Minor and the younger son by attacking
Egypt. Egypt had controlled all the territory north to the borders of Syria
which included the land of Israel. Antiochus III succeeded in driving the
Egyptians back to the southern borders of Israel in his campaign in 219-217.
- 11:10 Antiochus prosecuted the war with Ptolemy Philopator,
son of Euergetes and Berenice, until he had recovered all the parts of Syria
subjugated by Euergetes, "passing through" like an "overflowing" torrent
(Daniel 11:22, 26, 40; Isaiah 8:8). Antiochus penetrated to Dura (near
Cæsarea), where he gave Ptolemy a four months' truce. After the truce he
returned to the war "...even to his (Ptolemy's) fortress",
a Ptolemaic border-fortress (in Syria) to protect against incursions by way
of Edom and Arabia-Petræa, near Gaza.
- 11:11 "a multitude of great forces" - According to Polybius, Ptolemy had
70,000 infantry, 5,000 cavalry, and 73 African war elephants and Antiochus
62,000 infantry, 6,000 cavalry, and 102 Asian war elephants. As the battle
the African elephants of Ptolemy were afraid of the sight, smell, and
sound of the Indian elephants, and gave way before them,
disrupting friendly lines in their panic. Ptolemy used this to his advantage,
leaving Antiochus to pursue the retreating horse and elephant cavalry on the
right flank, while leading a charge with his ground troops in the center.
Antiochus thought he was winning, and when he realized his error, it was too
late. He wanted to regroup, but his troops had already retreated into the
fortress of Raphia.
After the customary truce to bury the dead, Antiochus counted his losses
at 10000 infantry, 300 horse and 5 elephants, with 4000 taken prisoner.
Ptolemy lost 1500 infantry, 700 horse, and 16 elephants - but captured
the remaining Seleucid elephants.
- 11:12 Instead of following up his victory,
Ptolemy Philopator made peace with Antiochus, and gave himself
up to licentiousness [POLYBIUS, 87; JUSTIN, 30.4], and profaned the temple of
God by entering the holy place [GROTIUS]. Instead of "prevailing",
he lost the power gained by his victory through luxurious indolence,
devoting himself to orgiastic forms of religion and literary
dilettantism. He was famous for being "ruled" by his favourites, who indulged
his vices. He built a temple to Homer and composed a tragedy, to which his
favourite Agathocles added a commentary. He married (about 220 BC) his sister
Arsinoë III, but continued to be ruled by his mistress Agathoclea, sister of
Agathocles. He is said to have built a huge ship known as the tessarakonteres
("forty") with 40 banks of oars.
- 11:13 "For the king of the north shall return,
and shall set forth a multitude greater than the former."
About fourteen years later, after successful campaigns against Persia and India,Antiochus renewed the war with an even larger force against Ptolemy Epiphanes,
son of Philopator, still a child.
- 11:14 "...many shall rise up against the king of the south" — and Syria
was not Egypt’s only enemy. Philip V of Macedonia joined with Antiochus III
against Egypt. Many Jews (“your people” 9:24 10:14) also joined Antiochus
against Egypt. In the expedition he was aided by reprobate Jews ("robbers of
thy people"), so as to revolt from Ptolemy, and join themselves to Antiochus.
The Jews helped Antiochus army with provisions, when on his return from Egypt
he besieged the Egyptian garrison left in Jerusalem [JOSEPHUS, Antiquities,
12.3.3]. "They shall fall" — though helping to "establish the
vision", they shall fail in their aim of making Judea independent. For this
aid rendered by the Jews, Antiochus was for a time very favourable to them, but
they did not obtain independence.
- 11:15 The Egyptian general Scopas met Antiochus at
near the sources of the Jordan. Antiochus fielded "cataphracts",
fully armored cavalry - the first "knights" - which attacked the Egyptian
cavalry on the flanks, driving them off and leaving the backs of the infantry
exposed. Scopas was defeated and fled to the fortress of Sidon, a
strongly "fenced city" (captured by Antiochus in 203 B.C.), where he was
forced to surrender. Egypt's special forces ("chosen ones") were sent under
Eropus, Menocles, and Damoxenus, to deliver Scopas, but in vain [JEROME].
- 11:16 Antiochus III continued his occupation and by 199 had established
himself in the Beautiful Land (8:9, 11:41, Ezekiel 20:6, 15). Antiochus
sought to bring peace between Egypt and Syria by giving his daughter Cleopatra
to marry Ptolemy V Epiphanes of Egypt. But this attempt to bring a peaceful
alliance between the two nations did not succeed - as we shall see next time.
When Antiochus entered Palestine he was received by the Jews with great
demonstrations of joy, for the decadent Ptolemy was hated and had defiled the
temple. So as foretold, "he stood in the glorious land". But in the end this
proved to be a calamity for the Jews, for he fulfilled the words, "which by his
hand shall be consumed" - literally, "perfected," that is, completely
brought under his sway. (Also, Judea was much "consumed" or "desolated" by
being the arena of conflict between the combatants, Syria and Egypt.)
Thus, the stage was set for the Hellenizers we
studied in Daniel 8.