Arrogant King of the North

Beginning with the division of the Greek empire, the angel outlines the coming conflicts between two of the subsequent realms that will culminate in the rise of a “contemptible” ruler. Previously, the rise and division of the Greek empire were portrayed in the vision of the “Ram” and of the “Goat,” representing the realms of the “Medes and Persians” and “Greece,” respectively.

The Goat’s prominent horn symbolizes Greece’s first “great king,” Alexander the Great. After his demise, “four kingdoms stood up out of the nation, but not with his power.” From one of them came the “king of fierce countenance” who sought to “destroy the mighty ones and the holy people.”

This arrogant king despoiled the “sanctuary,” stopped the daily burnt offerings, and erected the “transgression that desolates” – (Danial 8:1-27).

As great and swift as Alexander’s conquests were, his empire did not long survive his death. When it was divided, the four subsequent realms were “lesser kingdoms,” and not one was ruled by his offspring – (“but not to his posterity”).


When Alexander died, a struggle ensued between his generals over the succession. Eventually, his domain was divided among four of them, two of whom played significant roles in the history of Judea – Ptolemy I in Egypt (“king of the south”), and SeleucusI in Syria and Mesopotamia (“king of the north”).

The first half of the chapter deals briefly with the conflicts between the “king of the south” and the “king of the north.” The section ends with the assassination of Seleucus IV Philopator in 175 B.C., the ruler of the Seleucid empire. Through subterfuge, his younger brother, Antiochus IV, seized the throne – (Daniel 11:5-20).

Antiochus is the “contemptible man” described in the passage. The term refers to his usurpation of the throne since he was not the legitimate heir (“and they have not given unto him the honor of the kingdom”) – (Daniel 11:21).

Seleucus IV had two sons, the eldest, Demetrius I, and the younger one who was also named Antiochus. Both were underage when he died. His brother, Antiochus IV, exploited the situation by seizing the throne for himself. This is represented in symbolic language in the earlier vision of the “little horn” before whom “three horns” were removed, Seleucus IV and his two sons - (Daniel 7:8).

Periodically, Antiochus waged war against the Ptolemaic kingdom. When he was at the point of achieving final victory, a delegation from the Roman senate intervened by ordering him to cease his attack or face Rome’s wrath (“For ships of Kittim will come against him; therefore, he will be grieved and return” – Daniel 11:30).

Frustrated by the setback, he vented his rage by attacking the city of Jerusalem, the event that marked the start of his suppression of the Jewish religion:

  • (Daniel 11:30-31) – “And he will return, and have indignation against the holy covenant, and will do his pleasure… And have regard to them that forsake the holy covenant. And forces will stand on his part, and they will profane the sanctuary, even the fortress, and remove the daily burnt-offering, and they will set up the abomination that makes desolate.

As in the book’s previous visions, we find references to the profanation of the “sanctuary,” the cessation of the daily burnt offerings, and the “Abomination that Desolates” - (Daniel 8:11-13, 9:26-27).

The verbal parallels are consistent between the several visions. The “little horn” before whom three horns were removed, the “king of fierce countenance,” and now, the “contemptible man” all refer to the same person.

Most likely, the “Abomination that Desolates” refers to the altar to Zeus Olympias installed in the Jerusalem “sanctuary” on the orders of Antiochus. And on this altar, “unclean” animals were sacrificed to honor the Syrian deity.


Another link to the earlier visions is the reference to the “indignation” and its “determined” end:

  • (Daniel 8:19) – “I will make you know what will be in the latter time of THE INDIGNATION, for it belongs to the appointed time of the end.
  • (Daniel 9:27) – “And he will make a firm covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week, he will cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and upon the wing of abominations will come one that makes desolate; and even unto the full end, and that DETERMINED will wrath be poured out upon the desolate.
  • (Daniel 11:30, 36) – “For ships of Kittim will come against him; therefore, he will be grieved, and return, and have INDIGNATION against the holy covenant, he will even return, and have regard to them that forsake the holy covenant and he will prosper till the INDIGNATION is accomplished; for that which is DETERMINED will be done.”

Thus, the malevolent figure portrayed in Daniel’s visions is the pagan ruler who suppresses the religious practices of the Jews. The man known from history who fits the description is Antiochus IV, the ruler of the Seleucid kingdom (reigned 175-164 B.C.).

This ruler’s attacks against the Jews occurred between 168 and 164 B.C., a little over three years. This is the period described in Daniel as the “time, times, and part of a time,” the “two-thousand three-hundred evenings-mornings” (i.e., 1,150 days), and the second half of the “seventieth week.”

Besides outright persecution, his efforts included the corruption of the Jewish leadership by imposing Hellenistic customs and religious practices. The attack on the “holy covenant” and the “saints” is described variously in each of the visions - (Daniel 7:21, 8:23-24).

The description of the king who “exalts himself above every god…and speaks marvelously” refers to his violations of the Temple rituals. “Speaking marvelous things” recalls the description of the “little horn with the mouth speaking GREAT THINGS,” and the “king of fierce countenance” who “corrupted MARVELOUSLY.”

The story in chapter 11 ends with the demise of the “king of the north” described enigmatically and briefly. His end was presented in similar terms in the earlier visions:

  • (Daniel 7:26) – “But the judgment will be set, and they will take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end.”
  • (Daniel 8:25) – “He will also stand up against the prince of princes; but he will be broken without hand.”
  • (Daniel 9:27) – “And upon the wing of abominations will come one that makes desolate; and even unto the full end, and that determined, will wrath be poured out upon the desolated one.”

The predicted downfall of Antiochus also echoes the conclusion of Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the “great image” with the golden head - “he will be broken without hand,” and, “he will come to his end, and none will help him” – (Daniel 2:44-45).

Antiochus died in 164 B.C. Unfortunately, surviving records provide sparse details on precisely where, when, and how his death occurred. According to the second book of Maccabees, it was due to disease and a consequent fall from his chariot - (2 Maccabees 9:5-9).


The language from chapter 11 is echoed in Paul’s description of the destruction of the “Man of Lawlessness” at the return of Jesus (“he will be broken without hand”):

  • (2 Thessalonians 2:8) – “And then will be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus will slay with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the manifestation of his arrival.”

The visions in Daniel tell the story of the agelong struggle between the “kingdom of God” and the kingdom(s) of the present fallen age, especially the World Empire that appears in history repeatedly.

On the cosmic level, the battles are waged against the “saints” by Satan’s earthly representatives as political powers attempt to corrupt and destroy God’s people.

And in Daniel, the primary protagonist who fights for the “saints” is the one who is “like a son of man.” He is also called the “prince of princes” and the “prince of the host.” He is a surrogate for the people of God since an attack on the “saints” is the same as an attack on him.

And the “little horn” that wages “war against the saints,” desecrates the “sanctuary,” causes the cessation of the daily sacrifices, and erects the “Abomination of Desolation” provides the scriptural background in the New Testament for the description of another “Abomination of Desolation” in Christ’s ‘Olivet Discourse,’ as well as the malevolent figure known as the “Man of Lawlessness” in Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians.



Silence in Heaven

Sorrow Not