The ‘Silent’ Years
Following the death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C., the Greek Empire was divided between four of his generals:
Cassander, who took Macedonia and Greece; Lysimachus, who took Asia Minor and Thrace; Seleucus, who took the largest
portion of Syria and Babylon; and Ptolemy, who took Egypt, Arabia and Israel. In Daniel 11, the king of the south is
Ptolemy I and the king of the north is Seleucus I. Israel, being the northern extremity of Ptolemy’s region, effectively
becomes a buffer state between the south and the north and is caught up in the 150 years of warfare between the two
regions, chronicled in Daniel 11:5-35.
What follows is:
Daniel’s prophecy by verse …… followed by …..
the relevant history
And the king of the south shall be strong, and one of his princes; and he shall be strong above him, and have dominion;
his dominion shall be a great dominion.
The king of the south here is Ptolemy, who reigned over the land south of Judea which included Egypt, Lybia, Cyrene,
Ethopia, Arabia and Phoenicia, as well as others. The king of the north, Seleucus, was greater, for he reigned over
countries from Syria eastward as far as India.
And in the end of years they shall join themselves together; for the king's daughter of the south shall come to the king of
the north to make an agreement: but she shall not retain the power of the arm; neither shall he stand, nor his arm: but
she shall be given up, and they that brought her, and he that begat her, and he that strengthened her in these times.
After a lapse of some years, a political marriage is arranged between Antiochus II of the north and Bernice, the daughter of
Ptolemy II, from the south. Antiochus is required to divorce his own wife, Laodiceia, to facilitate this arrangement. Bernice
was unable to prevail against her rival Laodiceia who poisoned Antiochus, murdered Bernice, and set her elder son,
Seleucus II Callinicus, on the throne.
But out of a branch of her roots shall one stand up in his estate, which shall come with an army, and shall enter into the
fortress of the king of the north, and shall deal against them, and shall prevail:
Ptolemy III Euergetes, the brother of murdered Bernice, invades Syria, seizes the port of Antioch, and overruns Seleucus’
empire as far as Babylon.
And shall also carry captives into Egypt their gods, with their princes, and with their precious vessels of silver and of gold;
and he shall continue more years than the king of the north.
His spoils for Egypt included 4,000 talents of gold, 40,000 talents of silver, and 2,500 idols. These included treasures
carried from Egypt some 280 years earlier. He ruled more years than his rival: 24 years as opposed to 20.
So the king of the south shall come into his kingdom, and shall return into his own land.
(The Septuagint reads “and he shall enter the kingdom of the king of the south, and he shall return to his own land.”)
After two years Seleucus reorganises and marches south against Egypt, is defeated and returns to Antioch with only a
small remnant of his army.
But his sons shall be stirred up, and shall assemble a multitude of great forces: and one shall certainly come, and overflow,
and pass through: then shall he return, and be stirred up, even to his fortress.
The sons of Seleucus II are Seleucus III, who is murdered during a campaign in Asia Minor, and Antiochus III (known as
Antiochus the Great) who recovers the fortress of Seleucia, the province of Coele-Syria and Tyre, then resumes the war
with Egypt. After this campaign, in the following spring (219 B.C.), Antiochus returns with a large army of 60,000 men to
And the king of the south shall be moved with choler, and shall come forth and fight with him, even with the king of the
north: and he shall set forth a great multitude; but the multitude shall be given into his hand.
Ptolemy IV assembles an army of 70,000 men, meets Antiochus III at Raphia where they fight and Antiochus is defeated.
His losses are said to be 10,000 infantry and 300 cavalry.
And when he hath taken away the multitude, his heart shall be lifted up; and he shall cast down many ten thousands: but
he shall not be strengthened by it.
Ptolemy IV’s pride in victory leads to a celebratory tour of his provinces, including Jerusalem where he attempts to enter
the Holy of Holies, but is miraculously prevented by paralysis. He returns to Egypt and persecutes the Egyptian Jews,
killing many of them. Ptolemy IV is said to have not taken advantage of his victory but, being content then returned to
Egypt, there to continue to indulge himself in the sensual pleasures and vices of the life he had been used to.
For the king of the north shall return, and shall set forth a multitude greater than the former, and shall certainly come after
certain years with a great army and with much riches.
Following the death of Ptolemy IV in 203 B.C., he is succeeded by his son Ptolemy V Epihpanes who is an infant just four
years old. Twelve years after the battle at Raphia, Antiochus III sets out with a much greater army than before with the
intent to conquer Egypt.
And in those times there shall many stand up against the king of the south: also the robbers of thy people shall exalt
themselves to establish the vision; but they shall fall.
Antiochus makes allegiance with Philip of Macedon and they separately attack Ptolemy’s provinces. There is also an
uprising among the vassals of Egypt and also some of the Jews.
So the king of the north shall come, and cast up a mount, and take the most fenced cities: and the arms of the south shall
not withstand, neither his chosen people, neither shall there be any strength to withstand.
Antiochus takes Coelesyria (a Hellenistic term for a region of Syria) and Phoenicia. In 200 B.C., Scopas, an Egyptian
general, takes Judea but is then defeated at Sidon in 198.
None are able to stand against Antiochus the Great.
But he that cometh against him shall do according to his own will, and none shall stand before him: and he shall stand in
the glorious land, which by his hand shall be consumed.
Still referring to Antiochus the Great, of whom Gill says in his commentary, is able to “take cities, and dispose of them at
his pleasure; the army of the king of Egypt not being able to oppose him, and stop his conquests in Coelesyria and
Phoenicia; nor should they hinder his entrance into Judea.”
“The glorious land” is Judea, where Antiochus stands as a victorious conqueror with the Jews readily submitting to him,
receiving him into their city, and assisting him in taking the castle where Scopas had placed a garrison of soldiers.
It is the practice of his soldiers to ‘consume’ the land, but secular history tells us that following the favourable reception
and subsequent assistance by the priests and elders of Jerusalem, Antiochus frees them from tribute, permits them to live
according to their own laws, allows them cattle and other things for sacrifice and provides wood for repairing the Temple.
He shall also set his face to enter with the strength of his whole kingdom, and upright ones with him; thus shall he do: and
he shall give him the daughter of women, corrupting her: but she shall not stand on his side, neither be for him.
It is now 197 B.C. and Antiocus III embarks on a campaign to take Cilcia, Lycia and Caria which are still under Egyptian
control. His army includes Jewish supporters, even some that had switched their allegiance from Ptolemy. However, he is
defeated and, realising he could not take Egypt by force, offers the hand of his daughter Cleopatra to Ptolemy as a political
solution. The marriage is arranged in 197 B.C. (but not consummated until some years later as the groom was just 10
years old) with a dowry which includes Coele-Syria, Phoenicia and Judea. This political solution fails as Cleopatra becomes
a devoted wife and forsakes her own people in favour of her husband and his people.
After this shall he turn his face unto the isles, and shall take many: but a prince for his own behalf shall cause the reproach
offered by him to cease; without his own reproach he shall cause it to turn upon him.
Being disappointed in the failure of his scheme to obtain Egypt, Antiochus now looks toward Greece. He makes a strategic
mistake in aligning himself with Hannibal, the Carthaginian general, to fight the Romans. In 191 B.C. he is defeated at
Thermopylae and in 190 B.C. suffers a decisive defeat at Smyrna by the Roman commander Lucius Scipio, and is forced to
surrender all his territory west of the Taurus Mountains.
Then he shall turn his face toward the fort of his own land: but he shall stumble and fall, and not be found.
Antiochus is now burdened with a heavy tribute of 15,000 talents and flees eastward, plundering temples on the way to
fund the expense. An intent to rob the temple of Jupiter Elymaeus is discovered and the incensed inhabitants band
together and slay Antiochus and his remnant army. He is killed at the age of fifty two after reigning for thirty seven years,
but his body is never found.
Then shall stand up in his estate a raiser of taxes in the glory of the kingdom: but within few a days he shall be destroyed,
neither in anger, nor in battle.
Antiochus the Great is succeeded by his eldest son Seleucus Philopater, who is to reign for twelve years from 187 to 175
B.C. Throughout his reign he places a heavy burden of taxation on his people to pay tribute still due to the Romans, Judea
being included. After twelve years he is poisoned by his treasurer Heliodorus intending to take over. But Antiochus
Epiphanes, who had been held hostage by the Romans since his father’s defeat, is freed as all monies have now been paid.
And in his estate shall stand up a vile person, to whom they shall not give the honour of the kingdom: but he shall come in
peaceably, and obtain the kingdom by flatteries.
There should have been other candidates to succeed Antiochus the Great: Seleucus IV’s son Demetrius who is being held
as a hostage in Rome, or the youngest son, also named Antiochus, but he is still only a baby living in Syria. But Antiochus
Epiphanes arrives back in Antioch just after his brother dies, poses as the guardian of the infant Antiochus, and pretends to
be taking the throne for his nephew Demetrius until his release. With the promise of allegiance, Antiochus Epiphanes
enlists the support of the Eumenes, king of Pergamum, and his brother Attalus against the usurper Heliodorus, and gains
the kingship as Antiochus IV. His kingship has been thus obtained through intrigue and flattery, despite his reputation as a
vile man, which gained him the nickname ‘Epimanes’ the madman, a kind of opposite to the name he gave himself,
‘Epiphanes’, meaning illustrious.
Antiochus IV (175-164 B.C.) is the ‘little horn’ of Daniel 8:9.
And with the arms of a flood shall they be overflown from before him, and shall be broken; yea, also the prince of the
The supporters of the usurper Heliodorus were crushed by Eumenes and Attalus, leaving Antiochus with a peaceful
kingdom to reign over.
Onias III, High Priest in 171 (here referred to as ‘the prince of the covenant’) is murdered and the priesthood is sold to
Onias’s younger brother Jason (2 Maccabees 4).
And after the league made with him he shall work deceitfully: for he shall come up, and shall become strong with a small
Antiochus is now able to move about with a small number of men, apparently peaceably, but with the intent to overcome
He shall enter peaceably even upon the fattest places of the province; and he shall do that which his fathers have not
done, nor his fathers' fathers; he shall scatter among them the prey, and spoil, and riches: yea, and he shall forecast his
devices against the strongholds, even for a time.
Unlike his forefathers, Antiochus IV does not keep all the spoils for himself but distributes them amongst his men. This
tactic allows him to ‘become strong with a small people’ [verse 23].
And he shall stir up his power and his courage against the king of the south with a great army; and the king of the south
shall be stirred up to battle with a very great and mighty army; but he shall not stand: for they shall forecast devices
Antiochus now gathers a large army and heads for Egypt to fight with Ptolemy VI Philometer, who has himself assembled a
large army in preparation for Antiochus’ attack. But Ptolemy Philometer is unable to stand against Antiochus and is
defeated. Ptolemy’s defeat is not entirely due to the military strength of Antiochus, as there has been a power struggle
between Ptolemy VI and Ptolemy Euergetes (II), who is later to succeed him. His defeat is said to have been aided by bad
advice and treachery.
Yea, they that feed of the portion of his meat shall destroy him, and his army shall overflow: and many shall fall down
It was after the death of his mother, Cleopatra, that Ptolemy VI Philometer had received bad advice regarding Antiochus
IV. Although Antiochus was able to take Egypt, he was unable to subdue Alexandria. The Alexandrians now brought
Ptolemy Philometer’s brother Ptolemy Euergetes (II) to the throne.
And both these kings' hearts shall be to do mischief, and they shall speak lies at one table; but it shall not prosper: for yet
the end shall be at the time appointed.
Now, having control over all of Egypt with the exception of Alexandria, Antiochus entertains Ptolemy Philometer on which
occasions they both show regard for one another. However, both are acting deceitfully. Antiochus appears to side with
Ptolemy concerning his brother at Alexandria, but all the while having an interest in completing his acquisition of all the
territories of Egypt; Ptolemy appearing grateful with Antiochus’ protection, but intending to conspire with his brother
against Antiochus. Nothing is to come of these deceits since any planned outcome would not suit God’s plan at this time.
Then shall he return into his land with great riches; and his heart shall be against the holy covenant; and he shall do
exploits, and return to his own land.
In Jerusalem there has been a rumour that Antiochus was dead and an uprising ensues led by Jason seeking to recover his
position as High Priest. In the process he mercilessly slays some of his own people, thinking them to be his enemies.
Antiochus hears of this, and presuming the whole of Judea is in revolt, heads for Jerusalem. The city is taken by force and
many killed regardless of sex or age. The Temple is raided and treasures taken, after which he returns to Antioch boasting
of the massacre.
At the time appointed he shall return, and come toward the south; but it shall not be as the former, or as the latter.
At a time appointed by God, Antiochus embarks on a third expedition to Egypt with a large army but, unlike the first two
occasions, there is to be no military success.
For the ships of Chittim shall come against him: therefore he shall be grieved, and return, and have indignation against the
holy covenant: so shall he do; he shall even return, and have intelligence with them that forsake the holy covenant.
Ptolemy, king of Egypt, and his brother, having come to an agreement, send representatives to the senate of Rome
pleading for assistance against Antiochus. In response, Rome sends ambassadors in ships from Chittim (Macedonia)
demanding Antiochus should not make war against Ptolemy, and that he should quit Egypt. The intimidation of the Romans
is sufficient and Antiochus returns to Syria humiliated. His humiliation drives him to take his revenge on the Jews, and he
sends Apollonius with an army of twenty thousand men with orders to slay the men and sell the women and children.
Now there were many apostate Jews who had forsaken the law of God and turned to become heathens. Antiochus had kept
correspondence with these apostates to keep in touch with the affairs of the Jews, and to encourage propagation of
Heathenism, forbidding offerings and sacrifice, and encouraging them to profane the Sabbaths and festival days.
And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice,
and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate.
Antiochus’ army invades the Temple, defiling it by entering it and preventing sacrifices and offerings. The “abomination of
desolation” is committed by Antiochus Epiphanes himself by placing an image of Jupiter Olympus on the altar of God and
sacrificing a pig on it.
And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt by flatteries: but the people that do know their God shall be
strong, and do exploits.
Over time Antiochus had persuaded many Jews toward a more Hellenistic life, encouraged by apostate high priests. But
there are those who hold strong to the laws of God and resist all the threats, tortures and death inflicted by Antiochus.
Such a person is Mattathius Hasmoneas, whose deeds are to lead to an uprising known as the Maccabean revolt.
And they that understand among the people shall instruct many: yet they shall fall by the sword, and by flame, by
captivity, and by spoil, many days.
Among these are men who are able to teach many concerning God’s laws, though some of these, and many of those they
teach, suffer at the hand of Antiochus for not obeying his heathen laws. They are killed, some burned alive, some captured
and sold as slaves, and many houses plundered and spoiled.
Now when they shall fall, they shall be holpen with a little help: but many shall cleave to them with flatteries.
The revolt of Mattathius and his sons gains much support, though there will be those whose support will have less than
And some of them of understanding shall fall, to try them, and to purge, and to make them white, even to the time of the
end: because it is yet for a time appointed.
The revolt has its setbacks, but eventually brings about a period of peace and independence for the Jews. Nevertheless,
there are to be deep divisions within the Hasmonean dynasty which will lead to its downfall, with the Jewish nation left to
await a time appointed by God for their restoration.
Only a small slice of history has been prophesied here, focusing on the pivotal event of the abomination that
maketh desolate in verse 31. Also prophesied in Daniel 9:27 (Daniel’s Seventy Weeks) and 12:11 (The end times),
and referred to by Jesus in his ‘signs of the end of the age’ [Matt 24:15; Mark 13;14].