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The Mideast in Prophecy—What History Reveals! – Part 2

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The Mideast in Prophecy—What History Reveals! – Part 2

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The Middle East has for thousands of years been filled with unrest and violence. Governments inside and outside the region have attempted to bring peace, but have always failed. Conditions are seen to be rapidly growing much worse.

In-depth coverage of history is necessary to understand the reason for such instability. History presents a pattern for the future, demonstrating the Bible’s authority—and proving God foretold events before they came to pass. Follow carefully with an open Bible. You will be astonished at what you learn!

Daniel 11 is the single longest unbroken prophecy in the Bible. We will learn how God has brought to pass many specific events He foretold would occur in this picture of the future written in advance.

For background on the early parts of the Daniel 11 prophecy, read my Personal The Mideast in Prophecy—Today’s Unrest! – Part 1.

Many of the intricate separate prophecies contained in Daniel 11 have already been fulfilled exactly as God foretold, and have taken their place in history. They are now facts that can be examined—and are powerful proofs that a Supreme Being foretold them and then brought them to pass! The evidence presented serves to make plain the certainty of Bible prophecy—leaving those who disregard future prophecies without excuse!

Understand that the very authority of the Bible is at stake in this series of prophecies. If they stand true—proven by the facts of history!—then a Divine Author recorded them, and all other Bible prophecies carry the same authority. If the prophecy failed, then the Bible is a book of men and can be thrown away as not worth the paper it is written on.

This prophecy culminates with tremendous events to occur in our time! These events will impact all nations—and yet they have been sealed, closed until this age! So said the prophet Daniel in chapter 12 verse 9.

Also recognize that Daniel was inspired to record these prophecies hundreds of years before the events took place. He lived in the sixth century BC.

Understand that men inserted all chapter and verse divisions of the Bible. While these can be helpful, they can also inadvertently break up longer stories, thoughts or, as in this case, prophecies. The true meaning and scope of the subject matter can be obscured or completely lost from view due to these divisions.

God placed special emphasis in Daniel 10:1 on how the prophecy is “true.” Grasp this! Since the prophecy ends with events yet to happen—in our time—also grasp this!—we must study events already fulfilled to appreciate those in the prophecy not yet fulfilled, but that will be because of the prophecy’s historical accuracy. Movies, plays and books cannot be understood by entering them in the middle or near the end. This means we start at the beginning.

Two Prophesied Great Kings

Chapter 11 verse 2 begins covering persons and events that immediately lose the average Bible reader who would have no clue what they mean. But you can understand. History is our constant guide. Read verses 2 and 3: “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. And a mighty king shall stand up, that shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will.”

Who are these four kings—where the fourth is greater than the first three? And who is the “mighty king”? Daniel was speaking of kings Cambyses, Smerdis and Darius of Persia as the first three, with Xerxes being historically the greatest and richest of the four. History shows it was Xerxes who did “stir up” war with Greece.

We must now briefly understand verses in Daniel 8. Alexander the Great’s father, King Philip of Macedonia, created a master plan to conquer and defeat the Persian Empire with a Greek army. But Philip died before he could execute his plan. His son invaded Persia in his stead, and Alexander’s army fought the Persian army at the famous Battle of Issus in 333 BC. (Daniel 8:2 and verses 5-6 describe it.)

Two years later, in 331 BC, in a second battle with Darius called the Battle of Arbela, Alexander completely defeated the Persian Empire. Having already conquered Egypt shortly before, he followed this battle with the destruction of everything from the Middle East to India. This happened precisely as prophesied!

Now chapter 11 verse 4: “And when he shall stand up, his kingdom shall be broken, and shall be divided toward the four winds of heaven; and not to his posterity, nor according to his dominion which he ruled: for his kingdom shall be plucked up, even for others beside those.”

What does this mean? What are the “four winds,” and how was Alexander’s kingdom plucked up?

Numerous historical authorities acknowledge that Alexander died suddenly, at age 32, when, as stated by the famous historian George Rawlinson in A Manual of Ancient History (which we will quote often), Alexander was, “Cut off unexpectedly in the vigour of early manhood, he left no inheritor, either of his power or of his projects.” Alexander’s kingdom did break into four kingdoms because he had no son to replace him. Prophecy was fulfilled just as God foretold!

Alexander’s four generals obviously represent the “four winds of heaven”—or directions to which his kingdom was divided: General Lysimachus ruled Asia Minor, Cassander ruled Greece and Macedonia, Seleucus ruled Syria, Babylonia and all regions east to India, and Ptolemy ruled Egypt, Judea and part of Syria. These are all established facts of history.

From this point, the prophecy tracks two of these four kings, or divisions of territory. The Syrian kingdom represents the “king of the north.” The Egyptian kingdom represents the “king of the south,” because Egypt is generally south of Jerusalem. (Jerusalem is the central focus of all prophecy and, therefore, directions are always established in relation to this city.) These two kingdoms often fought back and forth across Palestine—the Holy Land and Jerusalem—with possession of this area constantly shifting, depending on the outcome of the last battle.

Ptolemy I, named Soter, established Egypt as a much greater, more dominant power than when Alexander was alive. Seleucus also became very strong. By 312 BC, he had established an equally powerful kingdom in Syria. These two kingdoms became and represent, respectively, the “king of the south” and the “king of the north” mentioned throughout the prophecy. Realize that the kings of the north and the south shift in location much later in the prophecy. Verse 5 states, “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.”

Amazing Fulfillment of Verse Six

Verse 6 is a very specific and truly remarkable prophecy. Let’s examine various phrases within it: “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 [most Bible margins say “rights,” meaning marriage union or rights, in this case]: 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.”

What could all of this refer to?

Fifty years later, Antiochus II (called Theos) was the king of the north, ruling at Syria. His wife, Laodice, carried great influence in the kingdom. But Theos divorced her and married Berenice, the daughter of the king of the south. Berenice was to lose the “power of her arm.” Her husband, the king of the north, was foretold to not “stand,” and she and her father (“he that begat her”) were both also prophesied to be “given up.” These three did come to a bad end.

An amazingly detailed, precisely fulfilled prophecy ensues from verse 6. Rawlinson states, “Her [Laodice’s] influence…engage[d] him in a war with Ptolemy Philadelphus [king of the south], b.c. 260, which is terminated, b.c. 252, by a marriage between Antiochus and Berenice, Ptolemy’s daughter…On the death of Philadelphus [“he that begat her”], b.c. 247, Antiochus repudiates Berenice and takes back his former wife Laodice, who…doubtful of his constancy, murders him to secure the throne for her son Seleucus [II], b.c. 246.”

Rawlinson later states that Berenice “had been put to death by Laodice…”

Control of the Holy Land Shifts Repeatedly

Before reading verse 7, realize that control of the Holy Land shifts repeatedly. Also realize we are only giving the barest thumbnail of what history reveals. This is because our purpose is to show that God inspired these prophecies, not to teach an in-depth history lesson—as could be done. Also realize that God would have to make known from history the meaning of these verses so we could know that He is the Bible’s Author.

Now verse 7: “But out of a branch of her roots [Berenice’s parents] shall one [this is her brother who took the throne in his father’s stead as the king of the south] stand up in his estate [the margin says “in his place or office”], 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.”

Rawlinson brings the names, “Ptolemy Euergetes [the III—eldest son of Philadelphus, and therefore Berenice’s brother—a branch of her roots] invades Syria, b.c. 245, to avenge the murder of his sister, Berenice…In the war which follows, he carries everything before him.”

Now verses 8 and 9: “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. So the king of the south shall come into his kingdom, and shall return into his own land.” This speaks of the southern king carrying silver and gold vessels, with captives, back to Egypt—“his own land”—after a successful invasion of the north.

In fact, Ptolemy III did conquer Syria, the Port of Antioch (capital of the kingdom) and Seleucia. He took a vast amount of spoils, including 2,500 idolatrous vessels and molten images that, in 526 BC, the northern king, Cambyses, had taken from Egypt.

The passage also states that King Ptolemy III would rule longer (“more years”) than the northern king, Seleucus II. Seleucus died in 226 BC, and Ptolemy III reigned four years longer, until 222 BC.

At Seleucus’ death, his kingdom was ruled successively by his two sons. Seleucus III reigned just three years (226 to 223 BC), while his brother, Antiochus III, also called “the Great,” reigned for over 36 years (223 to 187 BC). Each established great armies to fight Egypt, recover their port city of Seleucia, and avenge the previous defeats of their father.

It took 27 years for Antiochus to recapture Seleucia and conquer Syria and the area from Judea to Gaza. Verses 10 and 11 state, “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 [“stirred up again,” as it states in the margin], even to his fortress. And the king of the south shall be moved with choler [anger], 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 fulfilled verse 11 exactly. After gathering an army of 75,000, he did “move with anger” against Antiochus the Great.

Now verse 12: “And when he has taken away the multitude, his heart shall be lifted up; and he shall cast down [kill] many ten thousands: but he shall not be strengthened by it.” Ptolemy IV fulfilled verse 12 because he did kill “many ten thousands.” However, he retreated too soon to Egypt, having made too hasty a peace with Antiochus, and wasted the substance he had gained, hence the phrase, “But he shall not be strengthened by it”—that is, his victory over Antiochus in 217 BC.

Twelve years later (205 BC), Ptolemy Philopator, king of Egypt, died. His baby son, Ptolemy Epiphanes, was given the throne. Thus, Egypt became vulnerable to attack. Antiochus in the north took advantage of this vulnerability “after certain years” by defeating Egypt. Verse 13 explains, “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.”

Soon after, Antiochus formed an alliance with a later Philip of Macedonia to attack Egypt and retrieve Phoenicia and southern Syria from Egypt. This is a clear fulfillment of verse 14. Let’s read it: “In those times there shall many stand up against the king of the south: also the robbers of your people shall exalt themselves to establish the vision; but they shall fall.”

The famous Jewish historian Flavius Josephus states that a large number of Jews joined Antiochus in this campaign. This is what the end of verse 14 is describing. (Again, read each verse from your Bible as these historical events are outlined before you.) Many believe this prophecy simply cannot be understood. This is because they cannot understand it. These never seem to ask the obvious: why would God record a long detailed prophecy—or any other prophecy—and not want it understood? The answer is He would not.

The Prophecy Continues

Next, Antiochus laid siege all the way from Egypt to Sidon, eventually seizing control of Judea in 198 BC at the Battle of Mount Panium. Notice the reference to the Holy Land (Judea) as “the glorious land” in verses 15 and 16: “So the king of the north [Antiochus] 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. But he that comes against him shall do according to his own will, and none shall stand before him: and he shall stand in the glorious land [again, Judea], which by his hand shall be consumed.” In each case so far, history records that events occurred exactly as God foretold.

Now verse 17: “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.”

At this time (198 BC), Antiochus arranged to have his daughter, Cleopatra (not the famous Egyptian queen of 31 BC) marry the now little boy king, Ptolemy Epiphanes. But this plan to control and possess Egypt through deceit failed because Cleopatra deceived her father, Antiochus, and did not help him take control of Egypt.

This caused Antiochus to focus on defeating and taking control of the coasts of Asia Minor, including the islands around it (197-196 BC). However, in the Battle of Magnesia (190 BC), Lucius Cornelius Scipio Asiaticus, the Roman general, defeated him and destroyed his army. This is recorded in verse 18: “After this shall he turn his face unto the isles [the coasts of Asia Minor], and shall take many: but a prince for his own behalf [one of his generals] shall cause the reproach offered by him to cease; without his own reproach he shall cause it to turn upon him.”

Verse 19 records what came next: “Then he shall turn his face toward the fort [fortresses] of his own land: but he shall stumble and fall, and not be found.” Antiochus, after redirecting his concerns toward his own fortresses, was killed in 187 BC while plundering Oriental temples in Elymais in an attempt to pay war reparations to the Romans.

Daniel 11:20: “Then shall stand up in his estate a raiser of taxes in the glory of the kingdom: but within [a] few days he shall be destroyed, neither in anger, nor in battle.”

A man named Heliodorus, the “raiser of taxes,” was sent by Seleucus IV Philopator to raise money throughout Judea. However, Heliodorus poisoned Seleucus, who consequently reigned only 11 years (a “few days”)—187 to 176 BC.

Antiochus IV or Epiphanes, Seleucus the IV’s younger brother, won control of the kingdom by flattery and deceit. Verse 21 states, “In his estate shall stand up a vile person [Antiochus Epiphanes], to whom they shall not give the honor of the kingdom: but he shall come in peaceably, and obtain the kingdom by flatteries.” This man was an extremely “vile,” contemptible person and his aid, Eumenes, did come to assist him. Rawlinson states, “Antiochus [Epiphanes], assisted by Eumenes, drives out Heliodorus, and obtains the throne, b.c. 176. He astonishes his subjects by an affectation of Roman manners...[and] good-natured profuseness [flatteries].”

Role of Antiochus IV (Epiphanes)

We now begin looking more closely at the extraordinary role of Antiochus Epiphanes. He becomes an important type of something that will happen at the very end of the age. We can now read verse 22: “With the arms of a flood shall they be overflown from before him, and shall be broken; yes, also the prince of the covenant.” This verse pictures an effort by Antiochus Epiphanes to remove the Jewish high priest (“prince of the covenant”). Antiochus’ purpose was to install someone who would be loyal to him. Some misunderstand the term “prince of the covenant” as a reference to Christ. It is not. In the context, it clearly refers to the Jewish high priest. Consider. For this to be Jesus Christ, all the previous verses must have an entirely different meaning.

The next three verses are an insight into Antiochus’ character and manner. Verse 23 first: “After the league made with him he shall work deceitfully: for he shall come up, and shall become strong with a small people.” Antiochus started with a small group of supporters, yet through flattery and deceit he slipped into greater power and secured large numbers of followers.

Verse 24 and part of verse 25: “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: yes, and he shall forecast his devices against the strong holds, even for a time. 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 [also] a very great and mighty army…”

Although Antiochus’ ancestors granted favor to the Jews, he swept into Lower Egypt and Galilee, thereby alienating the Jews. Let’s read again from Rawlinson: “The Jews…were driven to desperation by the mad project of this self-willed monarch” and, “Threatened with war by the ministers of Ptolemy Philometor [the then-southern king], who claim Coele-Syria and Palestine as the dowry of Cleopatra, the late queen-mother, Antiochus marches against Egypt.”

This is 171 BC, when his nephew (Ptolemy Philometor) attacked him with a “great army.” However, Ptolemy’s officers betrayed him to Antiochus and he lost the battle. This is recorded at the end of verse 25: “But he [Ptolemy Philometor, the king of the south] shall not stand: for they shall forecast devices against him.”

In 174 BC, Antiochus had joined his young nephew Ptolemy at a feast. Antiochus feigned support for Ptolemy against his brother, Euergetes II, in a case of mutual deceit. Read verses 26 and 27: “Yes, they that feed of the portion of his meat shall destroy him, and his army shall overflow: and many shall fall down slain. And both these kings’ hearts shall be to do mischief, and they shall speak lies at one table [at the feast]; but it shall not prosper: for yet the end shall be at the time appointed.”

The Abomination of Desolation

Now we read verse 28 for what happens next: “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.”

This describes Antiochus deciding to attack and slaughter as many Jews as possible. Upon returning from Egypt in 168 BC, with “great riches,” he sacked the Temple at Jerusalem and took from it the golden vessels—all as part of his planned genocide of the Jews!

Now verse 29: “At the time appointed he shall return, and come toward the south; but it shall not be as the former, or as the latter.” History records that Antiochus did turn back toward Egypt, this time without similar success, because Ptolemy Philometor had secured assistance from Rome.

Daniel 11:30 adds, “For the ships of Chittim shall come against him [Antiochus]: 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.”

The Roman commander, Popillius, brought his fleet of ships to attack Antiochus. Popillius secured surrender on his own terms, which included leaving Egypt after returning the island of Cyprus to Egypt. This caused Antiochus to again vent his anger against the Jews as he was returning to Antioch. This “indignation against the holy covenant” offered favor to any Jews who would renounce their beliefs and practices.

What follows is fascinating, and begins a powerful parallel for our day. Follow closely.

First, the crucial verse 31: “And arms shall stand on his part [again, Antiochus’ part], and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that makes desolate.” Note this.

Antiochus dispatched troops to Palestine one year later, in 167 BC, with terrible results for all who fell in his path. He destroyed the Temple and its sanctuary—doing away with the daily sacrifice (described in Daniel 8:11-24), while setting up an image of Zeus, Jupiter Olympus—the abomination of desolation—directly on the Temple altar!

Some try to portray this as having been fulfilled when the Dome of the Rock was built on the Temple site over eight centuries later, in the AD 600s. Again understand. For this to be true, all the verses that have been explained to this point would require some other equally plausible explanation to work with the precision we have seen every step of the way thus far. This would also apply to all verses that follow Daniel 11:31. Were this so, no one has ever seen that other “plausible” explanation. Why? Because there is no other way to understand the facts of history.

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