Chapter eleven contains the most detailed prophecy about human world governments than any other place in Scripture. Daniel 11:2-4 is a brief repeat of the visions Daniel already saw of the beasts (Daniel 7) and the ram and goat (Daniel 8). The angel specifically calls out four more great kings of Persia and one great ruler of Greece. This would be Alexander the Great, before he died early and his kingdom was split between his four generals.
Daniel 11:5-20 overviews about 150 years of dealings between the Ptolemy family in Egypt (kings of the south) and the Seleucid family (kings of the north). The angel told Daniel about several rulers who would struggle back and forth between these two until Antiochus III would give his daughter, Cleopatra I, to Ptolemy V in marriage in order to finally infiltrate and destroy the Ptolemaic dynasty; it didn’t work (Daniel 11:17). Seleucus IV was the king who died “after a few days…though not in anger or battle” (Daniel 11:20). He was assassinated through the use of poison.
A brief look at the history of the world during this time proves that everything the angel told Daniel took place as prophesied. Of course, this is why the book is criticized by those who reject the possibility of prophecy. “No one could have given that much detail with complete accuracy 500 years before it happened. Daniel must have been written centuries later, after these events had taken place.” Only a mind already predisposed to reject the biblical God as the all-knowing sovereign ruler of all things could refuse to acknowledge that this could indeed be predictive prophecy. It must be either prophecy or a great hoax foisted on Israel and the Church; there are no other options.
The reason these events were so important to Daniel was because the nation of Israel was caught right in the middle of this war, controlled and taxed by the Seleucids. With the rise of the “despicable person” (Daniel 11:20), things only grew worse. Antiochus IV Epiphanes was not the rightful heir to the throne, and he was a brutal tyrant who murdered anyone brave enough to stand against him. His actions against the Jewish people were especially horrid. According to 2 Maccabees 5:13-14, “There was a massacre of young and old, a killing of women and children, a slaughter of young women and infants. In the space of three days, eighty thousand were lost, forty thousand meeting a violent death, and the same number being sold into slavery.”
Antiochus’ culminating offense was to erect a statue of Zeus in the Temple in Jerusalem and to sacrifice a pig on the altar there. This certainly profaned the sanctuary and stopped the daily sacrifices (Daniel 11:31). Although he was able to use “smooth words” to convince many Jews to follow him and worship Zeus, his actions pushed forward an internal drive for holiness and a rebellion which ultimately became the famous Maccabean Revolt which he could not stop (Daniel 11:32-35).
The final section of this chapter (Daniel 11:36-45), including Daniel 12:1-4, do not refer to Antiochus. In fact, no one in history has fulfilled the events mentioned here. A comparison with the little horn of Daniel 7 and the beast of Revelation 12 indicates that this new king will be the Antichrist of the Tribulation. The angel told Daniel that, when these final events occur, “There will be a time of distress unlike any other from the nations beginning up to that time” (Daniel 12:1).