This passage is a forecast of history, but is selective rather than continuous. The period is one of nearly 400 years, from the time of Daniel’s vision to the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes.
Verses 2-4 are introductory, having reference to the rulers of Persia, up to Xerxes (verse 2), and to the rise of Alexander the Great nearly 150 years later, and to the division of his kingdom into four (verses 3, 4). From this point the prophecy confines itself to two of these four kingdoms; Egypt, whose ruler is called ‘king of the South’, and Syria, whose ruler is called ‘king of the North’. The successive rulers of these kingdoms in historical succession were:
(a) Egypt: (b) Syria:
Ptolemy I (304-285 BC); Seleucus I (312-280 BC);
Ptolemy II (285-246 BC); Antiochus I (280-261 BC);
Ptolemy III (246-221 BC); Antiochus II (261-246 BC);
Ptolemy IV (221-205 BC); Seleucus II (246-226 BC);
Ptolemy V (205-180 BC); Seleucus III (226-223 BC);
Ptolemy VI (180-145 BC); Antiochus III, called the Great (223-187 BC);
………………………………………. Antiochus IV, called Epiphanes (175-163 BC).
Verse 5a of this chapter refers to Ptolemy I, and
verse 5b to Seleucus I, who for a time was one of Ptolemy’s generals, but became ruler of a wider empire than Ptolemy’s.
Verse 6 refers to Ptoemy II, who gave his daughter Berenice to Antiochus II in marriage with certain conditions which were, however, broken and Berenice lost her life.
Verses 7 and 8 refer to Ptolemy III, brother of Berenice, who successfully attacked the kingdom of Syria under Seleucus II and returned with great spoils. Seleucus II later invaded Egypt, but without success (verse 9).
Verses 10-19 predict continued wars between the kings of Syria and Egypt in the reigns of Antiochus III, Ptolemy IV and Ptolemy V.
The Victory turned to the North (verses 10), then to the South (verse 11, 12). Then Antiochus brought Egypt low (verses 13-17), but, wishing to press westwards (verse 18), made an alliance with Egypt by giving Ptolemy V his daughter Cleopatra in marriage (verse 17).
The plans for a conquest westward were, however, defeated by a Roman commander (verse 18), and Antiochus had to retire to his own kingdom, where he died (verse 19).
Verse 20 refers to Seleucus IV, who imposed heavy taxes upon Palestine to build up his kingdom’s finances. In all this time Palestine, named Beautiful Land’ (verse 16) and ‘royal splendour’ (verse 20), was the pathway of marching armies, and a bone of contention between the warring nations. But it had not yet suffered what it was soon to suffer under Antiochus IV
- What was the purpose of this detailed prediction?
In what way would it help the remnant during the persecution that was to come?
- Ponder the words ‘do as he pleases’ in verse 3 and 16. See also verse 36, and contrast John 4:34; Rom. 12:1, 2; 1 John 2:17.
Are you learning to say with Christ Matt. 26:42 and Heb. 10; 7?
Note. Verse 14. A party will rise up among the Jews, hoping to bring about fulfillment of the prophecy by violence.