From Greece to Glory

I find it very interesting that I am about to comment on Daniel 11, arguably the most obscure chapter in all the Bible! What makes it even more interesting is that I volunteered to write this commentary! And what makes it even more interesting is that I did so, knowing full well that I am not trained as a biblical or language scholar but as a pastor! But that is the way things are.

How does one approach Daniel 11? There is no shortage of opinions on this chapter to say the least. In most instances, those who comment on it try their best to identify various political figures to go along with the progression that is so much a part of the chapter. They try to tie the progression in the chapter to history, something that seems to make sense for sure. In the Bible, time is linear, and the players on the stage of history are actual humans. I like the fact that Christianity looks to historical events to anchor its beliefs. This is all good.

Further, to be truthful, those attempting to link the progression in Daniel 11 to history, and to people in history, can do a reasonable and convincing job with the first part of the chapter, up to about v. 4. The mighty king there is rather easily identified as Alexander the Great. But then things become much more varied particularly when it comes to identifying the King of the North and the King of the South. For example, some commentators identify the King of the North as Russia and the King of the South as Israel. In their opinions, there is coming a great day of conflict between atheistic Russia and the covenanted descendants of Abraham. A quick Google search will reveal this line of thought quite quickly.

Another line of thought has the King of the North linked to the papacy. This is the position taken by the Seventh-day Adventist preacher Tim Roosenberg.[1] He goes on then to create a link between the Papacy and Islam, thereby bringing Islam into the prophetic picture, something that is very interesting given that, early on in Adventist eschatology, the Ottoman Empire played a major role the prophetic scheme until it collapsed and commentators had to change their prognostications. Certainly, there are other opinions on Daniel 11, but the two just listed are perhaps the most interesting and pervasive.

My own approach to Daniel 11 comes from looking at it from the “35,000 ft. level.” What do we see when we look at it in its larger context?

The first thing I would mention is that Daniel 11 is not a stand-alone chapter, unlike many of the other chapters in the book of Daniel. For example, in Daniel at least chapters 1, 2, 3, and 4 are stand-alone stories. While they have links and applications to other portions of Daniel, the stories they tell are complete. But not so with chapter 11. It (like the several chapters that come before it, 7-9) is part of the three last chapters that all have to do with a progression. In light of that, it cannot be understood on its own.

A second point to be made is that the big-picture progression of the three chapters that are linked here is very clear. There is a progression from earth to eternity. In other words, the story certainly begins on earth, but it ends in eternity, something that seems to have left Daniel in a confused state of mind. Clearly, Daniel did not understand what was being told to him, a fact that is so gently dealt with in Chapter 12 where Daniel is told that what he is seeing and hearing is not for him but for some future time. In a beautiful gesture, Daniel is told that he will die but that there will be a place for him in the Kingdom. For whatever reason, Daniel did not catch the extent of this progression that runs all the way from Greece to glory. But that is most certainly what we find in Daniel 11.

These two points lead me to the conclusion that this chapter is not supposed to be all figured out in advance. I don’t think that it is possible to identify all the players here. Further, I think that was the intent from the beginning. As so often happens with eschatology, the big picture is very clear, but the details get lost in murkiness lest we try to figure out the exact trajectory of God as the things of earth draw to a conclusion.

Another way of saying this is that I think the ending of Chapter 11 of Daniel gets, shall I say “lost,” in representative or symbolic language. It gets caught up in the struggle that attends all eschatology in that, in the Bible, the things of earth become representative of things going on in heaven. Put still another way, in the Old Testament, the plan of God was played out in a geographic location, not the whole plan of God but the specific part that had to do with Abraham and his descendants. The dynamics of that plan then have to be transformed into language that speaks of a cosmic battle. We are aware that terms like “Babylon,” “the King of Tyre,” “Jerusalem,” and others, all take on symbolic dimensions that cannot always be fully understood or described. The same is true of the “Little Horn” that eventually does battle with God, as it were. The struggle we have, then, with eschatological language is how best to translate terms that originate in historical and geographical contexts into terms that speak to a cosmic battle. Specifically with Daniel 11, how do we take the struggle of the nations that are relatively easy to describe at the beginning of the chapter and translate them into the struggle between Christ and Satan, between good and evil which becomes more evident at the end of the chapter, and certainly by the time we get to Chapter 12?

So what shall we do with this obscure chapter of Daniel 11? I think we recognize it as part of a progression that goes from earth to heaven, from Greece to glory, some parts of which can reasonably be determined but other parts of which we cannot define, that we rest content in the fact that, as is so evident in the rest of the Book, that God is at work in history and that he has his hands in the affairs of humans, that he intends to save from this earth and take to glory all those who trust in him and that we cannot ever figure everything in that progression out ahead of time.

David E. Thomas is Professor of Theology at Walla Walla University.

Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash

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[1] See Roosenberg’s statement at http://www.daniel11prophecy.com/uploads/1/1/3/7/113721993/tim_statement_...


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/10282

The book’s chiastic structure is key to understanding. Thus, ch 11 is a variant of ch 8.

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Uriah Smith in his book “Daniel and Revelation” seemed to have
chapter 11 all figured out. That was prior to the 1900’s.

Tim Roosenberg is not the only one within SDA to have this view. Dr’s Gane (Hebrew) and Younker (archaeology) at Andrews teach a doctoral exegesis class on Daniel 11 and also share the Islam as king of the South after 11:22. I find their hermeneutics and exegesis more compelling than some of the other interpretations. However, I myself do happen to like the view from 35,000 feet. It is always best to gaze on the broad perspective first. It seems there are three or four interpretations within SDA church regarding this chapter. It reminds me of a Ministry article several years back that listed 7 or 8 interpretations of the trumpets of Revelation, all somewhat trying to find our place on the linear timeline. I, like you, Dave, find greater comfort knowing who’s in charge of the story and what He promises to do in this cosmic conflict. In Daniel and Revelation, it is the “priestly” Son of Man, and Michael, and the Prince of the Covenant, the Slaughtered Lamb, who arrives on the scene to save, raise up, strengthen and reassure God’s people that He is our faithful God and one day will restore the creation He loving made, and our place with Him. I do appreciate a church which allows people the freedom to think and wrestle. I find unity is possible for both Daniel and Revelation at 35,000. When Jesus comes, we’ll get to sort out the trees in the forest. Thanks for view/story from 35,000.

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Interesting to note that in the Teachers’ Quarterly, the lesson author ‘suggests’ that the King of the South is Egypt, which represents atheism and secularism (p.160-161). Makes me wonder how they intellectually got those dots to connect, Egypt being one of the greatest polytheistic empires (except for Akhenaten)!

Further, a quote is as follows, “…such imagery and language must be interpreted as symbols of the universal ecclesiological realities brought about by Christ”. I would like someone to explain to me what in the world that means and no, I did not misspell ecclesiological, according the the quarterly. I will confess that I did not know it was a word in the English language.

But no Adventist explanation seems to touch the Selucid kings and the Ptolemies, their conflicts, and the rise of Antiochus IV in this chapter. So much of the history of these northern and southern conflicts fits well with the imagery in this chapter. If it is linked chiastically to chapter 8, that would also inject Antiochus into the mix there. This does not have to run into conflict with the idea that God is in charge of the succession of world powers, and their subordination to his coming and liberating rule.

With that said, this is the view of many non Adventist exegetes. It’s not even mentioned in this article, or in the quarterly. Too threatening?

Thanks…

Frank

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If you are interested in the various perspectives on Daniel 11, the following link will lead to an all weekend symposium on the the chapter at Andrews University. Blessings,
Copy the following in a google search and it should connect you to it daniel 11 prophecy videos sabbath html Blessings jbk

Frank,
Why do you have to always disrupt and spoil the happy party? :roll_eyes: :innocent:

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@jbk, your link failed.
Date and keynote would help my search.

I’m guessing it’s this one [http://www.daniel11prophecy.com/videos---sabbath.html]
I left the html visible

Frank…you’ve hit the nail on the head. SDA’s don’t want to accept the fact that the reason Daniel wrote the prophecies in Hebrew is because they pertained principally to the Jews in Old Testament times. It is too threatening, because otherwise, we’d have to accept the fact that what we construe to be the most significant prophetic message presaging the establishment of our denomination was a complete miscalculation.

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Linda –
There are certain scholars that consider that Abraham, when he
sojourned to Egypt, brought the ONE GOD [of heaven] theological
idea to the King. Lasted for a while, but later reverted to polytheism.
Some Archeologists believe that when Abraham stayed in Egypt that
he brought with him higher mathematics. Some say that there were
visible changes in the pyramids before and after that time period.

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Steve…I never heard what you have suggested, but it does not seem too far fetched. Akhenaten was the only monotheistic pharaoh, and his reign was relatively short-lived, if I remember my history correctly. Whether his reign syncs up with when Abraham was there, I could not say.

But connecting ancient Egypt to Atheism and Secularism…really?

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Not at all, no need to keep drinking from a stagnant pool of thought that was invented with the specific intention to distort and misinform, and one which you seem to have willfully fallen prey to.

Not quite, George. You can’t judge the accuracy of handling a text by the authority behind it. That’sa logical fallacy. I only mentioned another view outside of Adventism just to show that there are other major views that are worth exploration, that are not even addressed within this article or the quarterly.

The history of the Ptolomy and Selucid conflicts and political machinations that frame the rise of Antiochus IV, fits the imagery of Daniel 11 better than anything this article or the Sabbath School quarterly presents… Without compromising the main principle and message, that God is still in charge, and that his rule will be fully realized, despite the activities of the powers that be in this present age.

That opens up the possible application of Daniel’s message to all Christians, in all times and all cultures and circumstances, not just centered in one denomination’s self identification against the papacy and projected Sunday laws.

Frank

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Linda-- I never heard of civilizations that only had one God except
those in the line of Noah and the Chinese who moved East.
Most of the Civilizations had multiple gods. And at least one story
tells us that the “gods” got tired of taking care of themselves so they
created Humans to do the work for them.
Not acquainted with this view in Egypt folk-tale, but then I haven’t read
everything about their “gods”.
With the problem at the Tower of Babel, segments of populations felt
free to find fertile lands. Canaan was a good place, the land between the
Nile was very good. Many places in Africa had great civilizations created
by very intelligent and knowledgeable peoples.

Frank, sorry not sure what you are referring to here

You haven’t produced even a single fact about these other major views that “deserve exploration” after repeated requests not only from me but even from others who support your comments and ask for more information in very recent posting.

You see Antiouchus IV even in discussions where it isn’t relevant, such as this article, and until you provide some factual exegesis it just your opinion. Your position on this is akin to the guys that wanted to make a monkey from a tooth but ended up with a pig.

This statement is evidence you are not understanding (or no wanting to understand) prophecy. Your preteristic position not only breaks the continuity of the prophecies given to Daniel, but also the biblical continuity of Jesus’ Revelation, ultimately negating Jesus’ foretold ministry on Earth and his message to his church to prepare for his Second Advent.

George, I’ve read through this thread again, and haven’t found one single request from anyone for more information from me. That includes your first post, in which you basically called me a heretic. Maybe I’m missing something.

If you mean other recent threads, I remember no one else but you demanding supporting information about whatever text was under discussion. My thought, that I remember expressing, was that this type of thread was not the place to get into detailed exposition, because of length.

With that said:

11:5 Then the king of the south shall grow strong…

Ptolemy I occupied Egypt and Phoneicia/Palestine. Seleucus I conquered Babylonia and Syria, hence the respective south and north designations of them. The Seleucids made sporadic attempts to wrest control of Palestine, thus the description of conflict between the kingdoms.

11:6 After some years they shall make an alliance, and the daughter of the king of the south shall come to the king of the north to ratify the agreement. But, she shall not retain her power, and her offspring shall not endure. She shall be given up, she and her attendants and her child and the one who supported her.

After unsuccessful campaigns by Ptolemy II and Antiochus II, a peace treaty was sealed by a diplomatic marriage of Ptolemy’s daughter Berenice, to Antiochus II (252 or 250 BC). He divorced his first wife, Laodice, and barred her sons Seleucus and Antiochus from succession to the throne. But, Laodice murdered Berenice and her infant son, and shortly after that Antiochus II died, probably poisoned by her. Her son became king Seleucus II (246 BC).

Verses 7-8 describe Ptolemy III, Berenice’s brother, and his action against the Seleucids, which ranged into Asia before he was called back to Egypt.

11:9 then the latter shall invade the realm of the king of the south, but will return to his own land.

In 242, Seleucus II attempted to invade Palestine, and was repulsed.

There is plenty more, up through 11:20, George, if you care to consult solid commentaries. In the long view, this had major impact on the “holy people,” the people of God of that time. The holy land was a major flashpoint and nexus of the conflict between the Ptolemies and Seleucid kings, the kings of the south and north, which led all the way up to Antiochus IV, his desecration of the temple, and his prohibition of the practice of Judaism, finally ending with his expulsion by the Macabees, which is celebrated at Hannukah…a holiday that Jesus himself observed. Antiochus IV comes under condemnation from verses 21-45. He’s there, despite your protestations. Do the research yourself, if you care to know how this is anchored in history, and the text’s interaction with it. Unless, of course, you are simply content with deeming all of it heretical without any examination.

You don’t seem to understand that I once believed and taught the Adventist view of these prophecies. I don’t find it convincing anymore, nor the entire historicist method that led to the trainwreck of the Millerite movement. I have come to these conclusions after much study and research, much dialogue with trusted friends, and much painful wrestling with God and the Bible. My faith in Christ, and in the relevance to us of apocalyptic such as Daniel and Revelation, is still very much intact. Adventism, and its views, not so much, although I can still see some of its strong points.

I will not post at this length again. Most people will just skip over this, not wanting to be bothered. Again, if you want to examine in good faith, just do the research yourself.

Thanks…

Frank

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A good history lesson. Thanks.

Frank
Thanks for your reply, I realize it takes time to put these answers together but I feel it is worth it, as you can see by Steve’s reply there are people in this forum who have interest and do take the time to read.

I am familiar with your elaboration of historical events to interpret Daniel 11, having read similar analyses such as found in this link. Having also read the three main SDA positions on this topic from the time I was an interested teenager (1) The Turkey and Egypt Position (2) The Papacy and Atheism Position, and more recently (3) The Papacy and Islam Position - I personally agree with the author that we are probably still waiting for more light on this chapter.

I don’t accept Antiochus IV because it breaks Daniel 8, it certainly doesn’t fit in Daniel 9, which explains Daniel 8. How do you read the explanation given by Gabriel in Chapter 10 that he had come to show Daniel the things that would happen in the “latter days” and that the vision was yet to be kept closed for many days? And more importantly: do you explain going from supposedly Antiochus IV in Chapter 11 to suddenly to the end of time in Chapter 12? “And at that time shall Michael stand up…” This is a broken chain of events that doesn’t make sense, and we haven’t even touched on Revelation yet.

As I mentioned in earlier posts, you seem to be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The historicist method is not a Millerite hallucination or dreamed up by some Pope-haters but rather it goes back to the 3rd century AD, including Catholic scholars (I gave you some examples before), and one with which virtually all reformers agreed with. It represents the best hermeneutical method to understand prophecy, and one which, according to scholars of that time, mapped the history of this world from 457 BC to Christ’s return, ultimately it can be supported from the Bible without EGW or anyone else.

Regards,

DITTO!
Frank, I would write exactly the same if I were describing my own experience. I look back and ask myself, “How come you taught those things to others in the past?” I can’t believe I did.

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