WORLD EVENTS CAUSING ISRAEL TURMOIL ARE PREDICTED FROM DANIEL’S TIME TO DESPICABLE ANTIOCHUS EPIPHANES — BEFORE JUMPING AHEAD TO THE ULTIMATE ANTICHRIST IN END TIMES
Stephen Miller: In the previous section the vision was introduced; now its contents are revealed – a history of key events leading up to the end. Gabriel begins with the Persian period, the time in which Daniel was then living, making reference to four of its kings (v. 2). Next he describes the Greek Empire under Alexander and its subsequent division into four sections after the great conqueror’s death (vv. 3-4). Two of these divisions, the Ptolemaic and the Seleucid, receive special attention because of their important relationship to Israel (vv. 5-20). Palestine was located between them and was controlled first by the Ptolemies and then the Seleucids.
The historical material in 11:2-20, however, is in reality an introduction to the exceptionally wicked persecutor of the Jews, Antiochus IV Epiphanes (vv. 21-35). Following Antiochus, Gabriel provides a description of the most villainous tyrant that Israel (and the world) will ever encounter, the eschatological Antichrist (vv. 36-45). The vision concludes with a characterization of Antichrist’s reign of terror as the worst period in human history and a promise of deliverance and blessing for the saints (12:1-3). Emphasis is therefore placed on the activities of two individuals, Antiochus and Antichrist.
The historical details set forth in this prophecy are astounding. Wood asserts: “The detail of this history as presented provides one of the most remarkable predictive portions of all Scripture.” Of course, the Bible records many other exact predictions made far in advance of their fulfillment.
David Thompson: If ever you want to know or prove that God is sovereign over the future, all you need to do is to turn to Daniel 11. Daniel 11 is one of the most remarkable prophetic chapters in all of the Bible. In the first thirty-five verses alone, there are at least 135 prophecies which have been literally fulfilled and may be proved by a study of the history of this time period. This is the chapter that caused the heathen philosopher Porphyry (3rd century A.D.) to say the book of Daniel was a forgery. He said there was no way these things could have been so accurately predicted before they happened.
John Walvoord: Interestingly enough, it was the eleventh chapter of Daniel with its detailed prophecy of about two hundred years of history that prompted the heathen philosopher Porphyry (third century A.D.) to attack the book of Daniel as a forgery. In his study, Porphyry established the fact that history corresponded closely to the prophetic revelation of Daniel 11:1-35, and the correspondence was so precise that he was persuaded that no one could have prophesied these events in the future. Accordingly, he solved the problem by taking the position that the book of Daniel was written after the events occurred, that is, it was written in the second century B.C. This attack prompted Jerome to defend the book of Daniel and to issue his own commentary, which for over one thousand years thereafter was considered the standard commentary on the book of Daniel. . .
In attempting the difficult exegesis of this portion, the general principal should be observed that prophecy, as far as it goes, is accurate, but that prophecy is selective. The revelation does not contain all the history of the period nor name all the rulers. It is not always possible to determine why some facts are included and others excluded. But the total picture of struggle and turmoil which characterized the period of the third empire is portrayed by special reference to Antiochus Epiphanes, who is given more space than any other ruler in this chapter because of the relevance of his activities to the people of Israel.
(:2A) PROLOGUE – AUTHENTICATING THIS AMAZING PROPHECY
“And now I will tell you the truth.”
Andrew Hill: The repetition of the word “truth” (Heb. ʾemet) no doubt authenticates the revelation by connecting it to the “Book of Truth” mentioned previously (10:21).
I. (:2b) CONCERNING PERSIA
A. Three Additional Kings
“Behold, three more kings are going to arise in Persia.”
B. Fourth Extremely Wealthy King = Xerxes I
“Then a fourth will gain far more riches than all of them;”
John Walvoord: According to Daniel, the climax of Persian rulers came with Xerxes I who in secular history used his great riches and a period of some four years to gather a great army amounting to hundreds of thousands, one of the largest armies in the ancient world. The expedition which he launched in 480 B.C. against Greece was disastrous, however, and Xerxes never recovered. The Ahasuerus of Esther 1 may be identified with Xerxes I, and the ill-fated expedition against Greece may have occurred between chapters 1 and 2 of Esther. Details on the Persian Empire are not given here because these are covered adequately in the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Ether, insofar as they related to the people of Israel and the plan of God, and these records are supplemented by the prophetical books Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. The revelation turns immediately to details of the third empire not given elsewhere in the Word of God.
C. Conflict with Greece
“as soon as he becomes strong through his riches,
he will arouse the whole empire against the realm of Greece.”
Homer Kent: Since this vision occurred during the reign of Cyrus, the three kings who would “yet” stand up are Cambyses, Pseudo-Smerdis, and Darius Hystaspis. The next monarch (4th) was Xerxes, who was fabulously wealthy, and used his treasures to maintain a huge army (cf. Herodotus iii, 96; vi, 27-29), and made an expedition against Greece.
Tremper Longman III: Our first thought, and perhaps the best guess, is Xerxes I (486–465 B.C.). This Persian was a great and powerful king, and it is arguable that he set off the chain of events that over a century later led to the downfall of Persia at the hands of the Greeks, for he chose to invade areas controlled by Greeks. He failed at this attempt, being defeated at Salamis in 480 B.C., but his actions led to a Greek-Persian conflict that ended with Alexander.
Andrew Hill: The fact that two hundred years of Persian histo
ry are compressed into a single verse is due primarily to the intent of Daniel’s original query concerning the fate of the Hebrew people (cf. 10:14). The message of the revealing angel gives prominence to the kingdoms of the Ptolemies (the “kings of the south”) and the Seleucids (the “kings of the north”) because their political and military interplay directly affects the history of Israel (11:5–20).
II. (:3-4) CONCERNING GREECE – A MIGHTY WARRIOR KING
A. (:3) Alexander the Great
“And a mighty king will arise,
and he will rule with great authority and do as he pleases.”
Tremper Longman III: We know with certainty the identity of the “mighty king” of verse 3—none other than Alexander, whom we call “the Great.” But as soon as he came on the scene, he disappeared from it. Alexander was king of Macedon, succeeding his father Philip, in 336 B.C., and by 330 he had conquered Persia. He continued his conquests and reached the Indus, but died in 323, leaving his mentally challenged half brother Philip III and his son Alexander IV in charge. These two were under the guidance of Perdiccas. All three were eventually murdered: Perdiccas in 321, Philip III in 317, and Alexander IV in 311. Power passed into the hands of Alexander’s four leading generals—thus the reference in verse 4 to the “four winds of heaven.”
B. (:4) Fourfold Division of the Kingdom
“But as soon as he has arisen, his kingdom will be broken up and parceled out toward the four points of the compass, though not to his own descendants,
nor according to his authority which he wielded;
for his sovereignty will be uprooted and given to others besides them.”
Homer Kent: This prophecy is in accord with Greek history, for the great empire of Alexander was not inherited by any of his sons or other relatives, but was seized by his generals after Alexander died at the age of 32. After warring among themselves, they finally achieved a fourfold division of the empire, under the control of Ptolemy (Egypt), Antigonus (Babylon, North Syria), Lysimachus (Thrace, Bithynia), and Cassander (Macedonia). Naturally this fourfold division would not present as strong a kingdom as Alexander’s unified empire; hence it was not “according to his dominion wherewith he ruled.”
Andrew Hill: The revelation of Daniel’s final vision repeats elements of the earlier vision of the four great beasts that arise out of the churning sea, in this case the leopard with four heads (7:6). The uprooting of Alexander’s empire and its division into quadrants (v.4b) recalls the breaking of the single horn of the goat and its regrowth “toward the four winds of heaven” in Daniel’s vision of the ram and the goat (8:8).
III. (:5-20) CONCERNING EGYPT AND SYRIA (THE KINGS OF THE SOUTH –KS — AND THE KINGS OF THE NORTH — KN)
A. (:5-19) Conflicts between Southern and Northern Kings
(Ptolemies and Seleucids)
1. (:5-9) Conflict between Egypt and Syria
a. (:5) Introduction of the King of the South
“Then the king of the South will grow strong, along with one of his princes who will gain ascendancy over him and obtain dominion; his domain will be a great dominion indeed.”
Homer Kent: The first king of the south (i.e. Egypt — KS) was Ptolemy Lagus (called “Soter”). Associated with him as his general was Seleucus Nicator, who had been forced to flee from Babylonia. Later Seleucus recovered Babylonia by defeating Antigonus at Gaza (312 B.C.) and built the Seleucid Empire (Syria) which greatly exceeded that of the Ptlemies, reaching from Phrygia to the Indus.
Tremper Longman III: The story of the Ptolemies and Seleucids begins in earnest in verse 5. To start, the king of the south is Ptolemy I. He had taken Egypt from the point of Alexander’s death. The king of the north was Seleucus I. Upon Perdiccas’s assassination (421 B.C.), he was given the satrapy of Babylon, but in 316 had sought refuge with Ptolemy in Egypt to avoid conflict with another powerful Diadochi, Antigonus. When Ptolemy and Seleucus defeated Antigonus in Gaza in 312, Seleucus returned to Babylon. In 301 B.C. at the Battle of Ipsus the struggles between the various Diadochi were resolved when the elderly Antigonus and his son Demetrius were defeated. It was at this time that Syria-Palestine was assigned to Seleucus. However, his long-standing ally Ptolemy moved against his holdings and occupied Palestine. Seleucus and his successors never gave up claim to this area, however, so there was now tension between the two that would play itself out to the end of the period.
Andrew Hill: It is generally agreed that the citations to the “king of the South” (v.5) and the “king of the North” (v.6) refer to the rulers of the Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt and the Seleucid dynasty of Syria and western Mesopotamia. These were the two most powerful of the Hellenistic kingdoms emerging from Alexander’s divided empire. These two kingdoms vied for control of the land bridge connecting Africa and Asia, since it meant both economic and military advantage for that kingdom able to establish its authority over the land of Palestine. Naturally, the political and military energies expended by the Ptolemies and the Seleucids on controlling this key piece of real estate in the ancient Near East had a direct impact on the Jews living in Palestine.
Stephen Miller: Especially significant is the fact that from the Seleucid kingdom eventually would appear the evil Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the “little horn” of chap. 8.
b. (:6) Attempted Alliance with King of the North
“And after some years they will form an alliance, and the daughter of the king of the South will come to the king of the North to carry out a peaceful arrangement. But she will not retain her position of power, nor will he remain with his power, but she will be given up, along with those who brought her in, and the one who sired her, as well as he who supported her in those times.”
Homer Kent: After a number of years, new kings were on the thrones of their respective counries, but they were still kings of the north (Syria – KN) and the south (Egypt). Berenice, the daughter of Ptolemy Philadelphus (KS, 280-247), married Antiochus II (KN, or Syria), 261-246. This was a political marriage, and Antiochus II was forced to put aside his own wife Laodiceia in order to marry Berenice. Two years later when Ptole
my died, Antiochus II abandoned Berenice and returned to his former wife. The former wife gained revenge by having Antiochus II poisoned, and having Berenice murdered. Thus the attempted alliance ended in bloodshed and complete failure.
c. (:7-8) Invasion of Syria by Ptolemy Euergetes
“But one of the descendants of her line will arise in his place, and he will come against their army and enter the fortress of the king of the North, and he will deal with them and display great strength. 8 And also their gods with their metal images and their precious vessels of silver and gold he will take into captivity to Egypt, and he on his part will refrain from attacking the king of the North for some years.”
Homer Kent: Ptolemy Philadelphus was succeeded by Ptolemy Euergetes (III, 246-222), who was the brother of Berenice and thus of “her root.” He invaded Syria and had great success against Seleucus Callinicus (KN, 246-226), even to putting to death Laodiceia, the murderess of Berenice. According to Jerome, Ptolemy took back to Egypt with him 40,000 talents of silver and 2,500 idol statues.
Andrew Hill: The reference to “one from her family” (v.7a) is probably an allusion to Ptolemy III Euergetes (246–221 BC). He was the brother of Berenice and succeeded his father Ptolemy II in 246 BC. He waged a successful sea and land campaign against the Seleucid Empire, overrunning much of Syria and avenging his sister Berenice’s death by executing Laodice (v.7b). According to tradition, among the booty plundered by Ptolemy III were images of Egyptian deities carried away by the Persian King Cambyses in 525 BC (which eventually ended up in the possession of the Greeks; v.8a). According to Collins (Daniel, 378), Ptolemy III was given the name “Euergetes” (or “benefactor”) by his people because he had returned the images of the Egyptian gods to their homeland (cf. Hartman and Di Lella, 290). There was a lull in the conflict between the two kingdoms from 244–242 BC (v.8b). Seleucus II mounted a counter-invasion of Egypt in 242 BC but was eventually forced to withdraw his troops from the region (v.9).
d. (:9) Invasion of Egypt by Seleucus Callinicus
“Then the latter will enter the realm of the king of the South, but will return to his own land.”
Homer Kent: Seleucus Callinicus (KN) conducted an invasion of Egypt (c. 240), but was unsuccessful and had to return home.
John Walvoord: Seleucus, however, was defeated completely and was forced to “return into his own land.” This, of course, was only the beginning of the seesaw battle between the two nations. The inclusion of this background material leads up to the important point, which is the burden of the prophecy in verses 10-19 – the ascendancy of Syria over Egypt and the return of the Holy Land to Syrian control. This set the stage for the persecutions of Israel under Antiochus Epiphanes, which is the major concern of verses 21-25 of this prophecy.
2. (:10-12) Conflict Continued
a. (:10) Two Sons (Especially Antiochus III the Great) Make Serious Inroads into Egypt
“And his sons will mobilize and assemble a multitude of great forces; and one of them will keep on coming and overflow and pass through, that he may again wage war up to his very fortress.”
Homer Kent: His two sons, Seleucus Ceraunus (227-224) and Antiochus the Great (III, 224-187), stirred themselves for war. After Ceraunus was killed in Asia Minor, Antiochus the Great moved south through Egyptian territory and captured the Egyptian fortress Gaza. Ptolemy Philopator (KS, 222-205) offered no serious resistance at this time.
b. (:11a) King of Egypt Enraged and Engaged in Battle
“And the king of the South will be enraged
and go forth and fight with the king of the North.”
c. (:11b-12) Ptolemy Philopator Conquers for a Brief Time
“Then the latter will raise a great multitude, but that multitude will be given into the hand of the former. 12 When the multitude is carried away, his heart will be lifted up, and he will cause tens of thousands to fall; yet he will not prevail.”
Homer Kent: Ptolemy Philopator (KS) eventually raised a huge army of 73,000 men, 5,000 cavalry, and 73 elephants, and overcame Antiochus the Great (KN), so that the army of Antiochus came into the hands of Ptolemy. Ptolemy Philopator defeated Antiochus at Raphia, and caused the Syrians to lose 10,000 infantry, 300 cavalry, 5 elephants, and 4,000 prisoners (according to Polybius). However, Ptolemy did not press his victory, but resumed his dissolute life.
Andrew Hill: The next passage (vv.11–13) distills two campaigns waged against Egypt by Antiochus III. In the first, Antiochus was defeated at Raphia by Ptolemy in 217 BC (v.11). As a result, Ptolemy was able to regain control of Palestine and southern Syria (besides inflicting heavy casualties on the Seleucids (some 17,000 of 68,000 troops; v.12a).
Yet Ptolemy would “not remain triumphant” (v.12b), for he failed to press his advantage and made peace with Antiochus and the Seleucids (cf. Lucas, 281). Fourteen years later, after extending Seleucid rule into Asia Minor and eastern central Asia, Antiochus again mustered his forces to invade Egypt (v.13). He defeated Scopas (the Aetolian mercenary commander of the army) and the Egyptians at Banias (or Panias, near one of the sources of the Jordan River) in 200 BC, and the control of Judea now passed from the Ptolemies to the Seleucids. The turn of events in the royal family of the Ptolemies at this time no doubt precipitated the actions of Antiochus against Egypt. In 204 BC, Ptolemy IV Philopator (221–204 BC) and his queen died mysteriously (following unrest in Egypt that began as early as 207 BC). Ptolemy V Epiphanes (204–181 BC) was only a boy six years of age when he succeeded his father to the throne of Egypt. Antiochus was able to exploit the political upheaval and low morale among the Egyptians to military advantage.
3. (:13-15) Antiochus III the Great Fights against Egypt
a. (:13) Impressive Troops and Weapons
“For the king of the North will again raise a greater multitude than the former, and after an interval of some years he will press on with a great army and much equipment.”
Homer Kent: Antiochus the Great (KN) raised an even greater army because of successes in the East, and 13 or 14 (203 B.C.) years after the defeat at Raphia he came again against Egypt.
b. (:14) Aided by Rebels Who See Weakness in Egypt
“Now in those times many will rise up against the king of the South; the violent ones among your people will also lift themselves up in order to fulfill the vision, but they will fall down.”
John MacArthur: Violent Jews wanted Judean independence from Egypt, but failed in their revolt.
Homer Kent: By this time Ptolemy Philopator had died, and was succeeded by his four or five year old son, Ptolemy Epiphanes. Realizing a weakness in Egypt, many rose in rebellion against KS, including Antiochus the Great who had made a league with Philip of Macedon, some rebels within Egypt, and even some Jews who allied themselves with Antiochus against Egypt.
Tremper Longman III: Verse 14 is obscure in detail, but acknowledges that these great events caused turmoil among the Jewish people. We are not sure to whom the “violent men” refer, but we do know there were political power plays going on at the time in Jerusalem. The Oniads controlled the high priesthood and supported Egyptian rule, but the Tobiads, a politically powerful family related by marriage to the Oniads, leaned in the opposite direction. Again, we are not even sure about what is meant by “vision.” It may even be that some took heart at the prophecies of Daniel, giving them courage to think they were at the time when the end of foreign oppression was to arrive. They may have taken matters into their own hands, but failed. We cannot be certain.
c. (:15) Successful Siege against City of Sidon
Homer Kent: As Antiochus the Great (KN) came against Egypt, the Egyptian general Scopas was sent to prevent him. Gen. Scopas and the Egyptians were finally defeated when Antiochus captured the city of Sidon.
Tremper Longman III: Whereas Ptolemy IV did not follow up his victory at Raphia with Antiochus III, Antiochus pursued Scopas to Sidon; this is likely the reference in verse 15. Collins suggests that the “best troops” indicates Scopas’s Aetolian mercenary troops.
4. (:16-19) Campaigns of Antiochus III the Great
a. (:16a) His Autonomy and Power
“But he who comes against him will do as he pleases,
and no one will be able to withstand him;”
Andrew Hill: This invader will do “as he pleases” (v.16a)—an expression applied previously to Alexander the Great (v.3) and subsequently to the king who exalts himself (v.36).
b. (:16b) His Focus on Palestine
“he will also stay for a time in the Beautiful Land,
with destruction in his hand.”
Homer Kent: Antiochus then turned his attention to Palestine (“the glorious land”), and his approach was irresistible. However, Antiochus treated the Jews with favor because they had aided him against the Egyptians.
c. (:17) His Failed Scheme to Compromise Egypt with Cleopatra
“And he will set his face to come with the power of his whole kingdom, bringing with him a proposal of peace which he will put into effect; he will also give him the daughter of women to ruin it. But she will not take a stand for him or be on his side.”
Homer Kent: Antiochus determined to completely destroy his enemy Egypt (KS), so he contracted an agreement whereby he gave his daughter, Cleopatra, in marriage to Ptolemy Epiphanes. He hoped she would be more faithful to her father than to her husband, but this was not the case. Thus the scheme of Antiochus did not work to his advantage. The expression “daughter of women” may indicate the very essence of femininity (so Young, and Montgomery).
d. (:18) His Focus on the Mediterranean Coastlands
“Then he will turn his face to the coastlands and capture many. But a commander will put a stop to his scorn against him; moreover, he will repay him for his scorn.”
Homer Kent: Antiochus then turned his attention to the Mediterranean coastlands and islands, and this brought him in conflict with the Romans. He was defeated at Magnesia in 190 B.C. by the Roman Lucius Scipio, and his boastings came back upon his own head.
Tremper Longman III: Antiochus never tired of ambition, and in accordance with the prophecy of verse 18 started annexing parts of Asia Minor as well as some Greek islands. In 196 B.C. he encroached on Thrace. All of this began to arouse the attention of the new power in that part of the world, Rome. He did not obey Roman warnings, so the Roman senate sent the consul Lucius Cornelius Scipio against him. Antiochus was defeated at Thermopylae in 191 and Magnesia in 190. He then had to retreat to the core of his empire. He had been reduced to stealing precious materials from the temple of Bel at Elymais, and he died in 187.
His son Seleucus IV Philopator (187–175) succeeded him, but he was not popular because of the burden he put on the people to raise the tribute to keep the Romans off his back. One of his ministers was a man named Heliodorus. According to 2 Maccabees 3 he was the one who tried to sack the temple in Jerusalem. Seleucus IV died under mysterious circumstances just as his younger brother, who had been made a hostage in Rome after the battle of Magnesia, was returning to his homeland. That younger brother’s name was Antiochus IV, who got the nickname Epiphanes. The attention of the text turns now to this highly significant figure.
John Walvoord: In this series of events, the prophecies of verses 13-17 are accurately fulfilled. Antiochus the Great begins to suffer reverses, however, as indicated in verse 18, where “prince for his own behalf” refers to the Roman consul Lucius Scipio Asiaticus, who, as Young expresses it “brought about the defeat of Antiochus.” The reference to “the reproach offered by him,” refers to Antiochus’ scornful treatment of the Roman ambassadors at a meeting in Lysimachia, when he said contemptuously, “Asia did not concern them, the Romans, and he was not subject to their orders.”
This defeat came about in the following manner. Having successfully sustained his conquest against Egypt by defeating Scopas, Antiochus then turned his attention to the threat fro
m the west and attempted to equal the conquests of Alexander the Great by conquering Greece. In this he was notably unsuccessful, being defeated in 191 B.C. at Thermopylae north of Athens and again in 189 B.C. at Magnesia on the Maeander River southeast of Ephesus by soldiers of Rome and Pergamum under the leadership of the Roman general Scipio. This fulfilled the prophecies of verses 18 and 19, and from an historic viewpoint, was important in removing from Europe the control by Asiatic governments. This paved the way for Roman expansion later.
Antiochus the Great, who could have gone down in history as one of the great conquerors of the ancient world if he had been content to leave Greece alone, instead fulfilled the prophecy of verse 19 in that he had to return to his own land, defeated and broken. He was killed trying to plunder a temple in Elam.
e. (:19) His Ultimate Return Home and Demise
“So he will turn his face toward the fortresses of his own land, but he will stumble and fall and be found no more.”
Homer Kent: Following his defeat Antiochus had to abandon further conquests. He returned home and was ultimately killed trying to plunder the temple of Belus in Elymais.
Tremper Longman III: The story of Antiochus III the Great’s reign continues through verse 19. The significance given to his reign likely has much to do with the fact that it was through his agency that Palestine finally shifted from Ptolomaic control to Seleucid control, thus setting the scene for the horrors of his son’s reign (cf. below on vv. 21ff.).
B. (:20) Northern King (Seleucus Philopator) Who Dispatches an Oppressor (Heliodorus)
“Then in his place one will arise who will send an oppressor
through the Jewel of his kingdom;
yet within a few days he will be shattered,
though neither in anger nor in battle.”
Homer Kent: He was succeeded by Seleucus Philopator (187-176). Because he had to pay to the Romans annually an enormous tribute of 1000 talents, he sent his prime minister Heliodorus to seize the funds of the temple treasury in Jerusalem (cf. II Macc. 7). Shortly afterward, Seleucus was mysteriously removed, probably through poisoning by Heliodorus.
Andrew Hill: Towner, 157, comments that “the brief and undistinguished reign of the son of Antiochus, Seleucus IV Philopater (187–175 BC), is dismissed in verse 20.” Antiochus the Great had two sons. Seleucus IV succeeded his father on the throne; his brother Antiochus was held hostage in Rome. The reference to the “tax collector” (v.20a) is probably a reference to Heliodorus, the finance minister of Seleucus (cf. 2 Macc 3 on Heliodorus’s attempt to confiscate the monies in the treasury of the Jerusalem temple). Collins (Daniel, 381) summarizes that the reign of Seleucus IV “was dominated by financial exigency, because of the tribute to Rome.” Seleucus was assassinated in 175 BC in a plot hatched by Heliodorus (possibly in a conspiracy including Antiochus, who had been released from prison in Rome). The report that Seleucus died “not in anger or in battle” (v.20b) may indicate the king died in disgrace, since he was not killed fighting valiantly on the battlefield (cf. Montgomery, 445).
IV. (:21-35) CONCERNING ANTIOCHUS IV EPIPHANES (CLIMACTIC KING OF THE NORTH) – FORESHADOWING FUTURE ANTICHRIST —
GOD’S PEOPLE WILL SUFFER PERSECUTION IN THIS LIFE
End Time Mysteries:
– The list of the back and forth interactions of the kings of the north from the Seleucid Empire and the kings of the south from the Ptolemaic Empire end with a king of the north called Antiochus Epiphanes.
o He’s not the last Seleucid king; there were several more kings to follow Antiochus Epiphanes. He is simply the last Seleucid king listed in Daniel’s vision.
– Israel was now part of the Seleucid Empire.
– Antiochus Epiphanes was the first ruler in history to try and force a nation to change its faith and culture.
o By official decree, Antiochus Epiphanes forced the Jewish people in Israel to become “Greek,” to worship Greek gods and adopt Greek culture.
o If they resisted, they were persecuted, arrested, and/or killed.
o Antiochus Epiphanes removed the high priest Onias from his office and replaced him with his brother, Joshua.
o Joshua was in favor of Israel becoming a Greek nation. He began to speed up the process of transforming Israel and the Jewish people into a Greek nation.
– The majority of the Jewish people refused to worship Greek gods and adopt Greek culture, so they revolted.
o The Maccabean Revolt occurred during the years 167 to 160 BC.
o After 3 ½ years, the Jewish rebels took back Jerusalem and restored the temple.
– In the end, the Jewish people won their freedom from the Seleucid king, who met with a very unfortunate death.
A. (:21-24) His Rise to Power, 1st Campaign against Egypt and Scheming Tactics
1. (:21) Usurping the Throne
“And in his place a despicable person will arise,
on whom the honor of kingship has not been conferred,
but he will come in a time of tranquility
and seize the kingdom by intrigue.”
Homer Kent: Antiochus Epiphanes (175-164) had no legitimate claim to the throne, being the late king’s brother (and thus a younger son of Antiochus the Great). The late king (Seleucus Philopator) had two sons, Demetrius and an infant also named Antiochus. However, by various intrigues and political maneuverings he gained the throne.
Tremper Longman III: According to Daniel, the struggles between the south (Ptolemaic Egypt) and the north (Seleucid Syria) culminated with one ruler, a “contemptible person” (v. 21). The prophecy’s assessment of his importance and his character is based exclusiv
ely on the turmoil that his rule created in Jerusalem. This man greatly offended the orthodox Jewish sensibilities of his time. For this, he became paradigmatic of human power that exalts itself with disregard for God himself. We will see that his actions are considered paradigmatic with ultimate wickedness toward the end of the chapter.
John Walvoord: The title Epiphanes, meaning “glorious,” was a title which Antiochus gave himself, in keeping with his desire to be regarded as god. The description here given is God’s viewpoint of him because of his immoral life, persecution, and hatred of the people of God. His life was characterized by intrigue, expediency, and lust for power in which honor was always secondary.
2. (:22) 1st Campaign against Egypt — Overwhelming Forces and Key Leaders
Homer Kent: Antiochus routed the forces of Egypt in battles between Pelusium and the Casian Mountains. The “prince of the covenant” may be a reference to the high priest Onias III, who was deposed and later murdered. (Others take the view of referring it to Ptolemy Philometor who was defeated.)
John MacArthur: Egypt’s armies were swept away by Antiochus’ invading forces as by a flood (cf. “flood” for military onslaught, 9:26). Israel’s “prince of the covenant,” Onias III, was murdered by his own defecting brother Menelaus at the request of Antiochus (171 B.C.).
3. (:23) Deceptive Alliance with Egypt to Increase His Power
“And after an alliance is made with him he will practice deception,
and he will go up and gain power with a small force of people.”
Homer Kent: Antiochus Epiphanes adopted a policy of feigned friendship with Egypt. He pretended to support his nephew Ptolemy Philometor against another of his nephews Ptolemy Euergetes. However, it was merely a cove to advance his own interests. Some historians claim that Antiochus Epiphanes even managed to have himself crowned king at Memphis.
4. (:24) Plunder and Distribution of Foreign Booty to Increase His Influence
“In a time of tranquility he will enter the richest parts of the realm,
and he will accomplish what his fathers never did, nor his ancestors;
he will distribute plunder, booty, and possessions among them,
and he will devise his schemes against strongholds, but only for a time.”
Homer Kent: Antiochus Epiphanes greatly plundered his conquered lands, but differed from his predecessors by distributing the spoils lavishly to the people (so say Livy, I Macc. 3:30, Polybius), thus winning friends to himself. He also used the device of keeping a strong garrison at Pelusium on the border of Egypt, so that his entry into Egypt at any time would be unobstructed.
B. (:25-28) His 2nd Campaign against Egypt, Corrupt Diplomacy and Covenant Hostility
1. (:25-26) 2nd Campaign against Egypt
“And he will stir up his strength and courage against the king of the South with a large army; so the king of the South will mobilize an extremely large and mighty army for war; but he will not stand, for schemes will be devised against him. 26 And those who eat his choice food will destroy him, and his army will overflow, but many will fall down slain.”
Homer Kent: Antiochus Epiphanes made a second expedition against Egypt. He defeated Ptolemy Physcon (or perhaps Ptolemy Philometor). One of the reasons for the Egyptian defeat was apparently treason by some of Ptolemy’s men. It is known that some of his supporters did desert him. (Specific historical data as to the nature of this treason is still lacking, however.)
Tremper Longman III: Verse 25 turns our attention now to Antiochus’s actions against the south. Polybius tells us that it was actually the south that was the aggressor, but the pivotal first battle took place as the northern army passed into southern territory. The political situation in the south was that, after the death of Cleopatra the wife of Ptolemy V, who served as regent until 176 B.C., her young son Ptolemy VI Philometer took the throne. Two of his advisors were the real power, however, Eulaeus and Lenaeus. They were the ones who initiated a new anti-Syrian policy, and Antiochus was likely making a preemptive strike against them. The battle was joined south of Gaza near Pelusium, and Antiochus won the day. Ptolemy was a young man at the time and the defeat was probably to be blamed on the two advisors, who may be the referent to the phrase “those who eat from the king’s provisions” (v. 26).
2. (:27) Corrupt Diplomacy
“As for both kings, their hearts will be intent on evil,
and they will speak lies to each other at the same table;
but it will not succeed, for the end is still to come at the appointed time.”
Homer Kent: The two kings probably are Antiochus Epiphanes and Ptolemy Philometor who presumably were working together to overcome Ptolemy Physoc. (Both Livy and Polybius state this to be true.) However, they both were more interested in their own successes.
John Whitcomb: This is a remarkable description of false, superficial, corrupt diplomacy. How much of this (speaking lies at the table) is going on today in international diplomacy?
3. (:28) Covenant Hostility
“Then he will return to his land with much plunder;
but his heart will be set against the holy covenant,
and he will take action and then return to his own land.”
Homer Kent: Antiochus Epiphanes returned from Egypt with much plunder, and marched through Judea. He put down an insurrection led by Jason (see I Macc. 1:20 ff, II Macc. 5) and took the opportunity to plunder the temple.
Andrew Hill: Antiochus IV (“the king of the North”) returned to Syria with “great wealth” (v.28a) as a result of his victory over Ptolemy VI and the Egyptians. The phrase “his heart will
be set against the holy covenant” (v.28b) describes both the venting of his anger in frustration at the setback in his failed siege of Alexandria and also some deeper hatred of the Jews—almost a demonic malignancy directed against God and his people. The expression “holy covenant” (v.28b) is an umbrella term encompassing the people of God’s holy covenant, the Jews, and their land of Judah—“all things religious in Israel” (especially the Jerusalem temple, cf. Wood, 299). Seow, 179, comments that after withdrawing his forces from the failed siege of Alexandria, Antiochus set “his heart on an easier target—the Jews.”
John Walvoord: Antiochus, returning from Egypt with great riches, began to manifest his hatred against the people of Israel and his covetousness in relation to the wealth of the temple. This is indicated in the statement, His heart shall be against the holy covenant.
C. (:29-35) His 3rd Campaign against Egypt
1. (:29) 3rd Campaign against Egypt
“At the appointed time he will return and come into the South,
but this last time it will not turn out the way it did before.”
Homer Kent: Antiochus Epiphanes made a third expedition against Egypt (168) without the success of his previous invasions. This campaign was directed against the two Ptolemy brothers, Philometor and Physcon, who had become reconciled to each other.
2. (:30a) Disheartening Opposition from Roman Ships
“For ships of Kittim will come against him;
therefore he will be disheartened,”
John Whitcomb: These ships from Rome (who is already beginning to show her power) will blockade his efforts and prevent him from taking Egypt. He will become disheartened. The fourth mighty world power is already on the horizon.
Homer Kent: The two Ptolemies had sought the aid of the Romans who responded by sending a fleet to contact Antiochus Epiphanes at the siege of Alexandria. Popilius Laenas commanded the Roman ships, and delivered to Antiochus the demand of the Roman Senate that he desist further aggression on threat of provoking Roman attack. Popilius drew a circle in the sand with his staff around Antiochus, and commanded him to reach his decision before he stepped out of the circle. Whereupon Antiochus unwillingly agreed. He then returned home by way of Judea, and gathered information concerning those Jews who would support him (I.e., apostate Jews).
3. (:30b) Renewed Rage against the Holy Covenant
“and will return
and become enraged at the holy covenant
and take action;
so he will come back
and show regard for those who forsake the holy covenant.”
4. (:31) Attack on Worship and Erection of Abomination of Desolation
“And forces from him will arise, desecrate the sanctuary fortress,
and do away with the regular sacrifice.
And they will set up the abomination of desolation.”
Homer Kent: The armed forces of Antiochus Epiphanes stood as guards at the temple, and regular worship was discontinued. On the sabbath day, the city was attacked, women and children were captured, and multitudes were slain. His army occupied the citadel overlooking the temple. Heathen idolatry was made mandatory, and Hellenic culture was enforced on Jewish life. The climax of proganation was the erection of the image of Zeus Olympius in the Jewish temple on the altar of burnt offering.
Andrew Hill: The “temple fortress” (v.31a) was either the temple complex itself, which functioned secondarily as a military citadel at this time (so Montgomery, 457), or an adjacent structure on the temple mount that served as a garrison and armory (cf. Goldingay, 302). This temple citadel was rebuilt and fortified and became the base of operations for Antiochus’s forces in quelling the “revolt” in Jerusalem (cf 1 Macc 1:29–35). The citadel was called the Akra, and “for a period of twenty-five years the Akra stood as a loathsome symbol of pagan domination” (Hartman and Di Lella, 299; cf. 1 Macc 3:45; 14:36).
5. (:32) Contrasting Responses by the Jews in Jerusalem
a. Response of Wickedness
“And by smooth words he will turn to godlessness
those who act wickedly toward the covenant,”
Tremper Longman III: The people of God were split into two parties (v. 32): those who supported Antiochus and his program of Hellenization of Judea and those who did not. Jason had earlier been removed from the high priesthood and replaced by a person named Menelaus, who was not even a member of the right family to be a priest. But he was probably supported by the powerful Tobiads and simply outbid Jason for the position. However, while Antiochus was waging his second Egyptian campaign, Jason, the deposed high priest, heard a rumor that Antiochus had been killed and so he moved against Menelaus. However, Antiochus, upset about the frustrations of his plans in Egypt, was far from dead. Thus, upon his return he acted against God’s people. He had many massacred and sold as slaves.
Andrew Hill: The Jews of Jerusalem divided into two camps in response to Antiochus’s temple desecration and his attendant persecution of those adhering to their ancestral religious rituals and practices. One group is identified as those who have “violated the covenant” (v.32a), corrupted by Antiochus’s “flattery” (mentioned previously as “those who forsake the holy covenant,” v.30c). The “forsakers” (Heb. rš ʿ, “act culpably, make oneself guilty”; GK 8399) of the covenant are those who have already “acted wickedly” with respect to God’s law as codified in the Mosaic covenant (suggested by the participial form of the verb; cf. Wood, 301). The word typically connotes the “wicked acts” of disobedience or general unfaithfulness to the stipulations of God’s covenant with Israel enacted at Sinai, but implicit in this disloyalty is false worship in violation of the command not to worship idols (Ex 20:3–4; cf. 9:5; 1Ki 8:47; Ne 9:33; 2Ch 22:3).
The reference to “flattery” (“smooth words,” NASB; Heb. ḥālāq, “smooth, smoothness”) proba
bly alludes to the enticing promises made by Antiochus to bestow honor and wealth on those Jews who join in the support of his pagan policies (cf. 1 Macc 2:18; 2 Macc 7:24). The book of 1 Maccabees reports that many Jews abandoned the law of Moses at this time and joined in the pagan worship and evil deeds promoted by Antiochus’s officers (1 Macc 1:51–52; 2:15).
b. Response of Righteousness
“but the people who know their God
will display strength and take action.”
Homer Kent: Some Jews yielded to the purposes of Antiochus, and apostatized form the religion of Israel. But those who remained true to God refused to eat unclean things, and many died for their faith.
Andrew Hill: The second group of Jews are those who “firmly resist” Antiochus because they “know their God” (v.32b). These Jews remained loyal to God by persisting in their obedience to the law of Moses and refusing to compromise the Mosaic covenant by engaging in false worship (cf. 1 Macc 2:16). Since the larger context of the Hebrew resistance to the policies of Antiochus forcing Hellenism on the Jews included martyrdom (vv.33–35), Lucas, 287, comments that the reference to those who resist “is best taken as including all forms of resistance to Antiochus’s edict, whether it took the form of passive resistance (1 Macc 1:29–38) or of armed revolt (1 Macc 1:42–48).” These faithful Jews faced persecution and the threat of death on two fronts: the military forces of the Seleucid Hellenists occupying Judah, and the turncoat Jews who forced the faithful Israelites to hide in whatever refuge they could find (1 Macc 1:53).
6. (:33-35) Persecution of Godly Opposition
a. (:33) Heroic Martyrs
“And those who have insight among the people will give understanding to the many; yet they will fall by sword and by flame, by captivity and by plunder, for many days.”
Tremper Longman III: The real heroes during this time of distress are the “wise,” who will instruct the “many” (v. 33). They are those who would be on Daniel’s religious wavelength.
b. (:34) Hypocrisy
“Now when they fall they will be granted a little help,
and many will join with them in hypocrisy.”
John Whitcomb: They are not going to bring in the kingdom – only Jesus can accomplish that. It will be a mixed multitude. From this group came the Pharisees who at the beginning were courageous people standing against Antiochus Epiphanes and the Syrians who tried to corrupt and destroy the religion of Judaism.
c. (:35) Persecution and Refinement until the End Time
“And some of those who have insight will fall,
in order to refine, purge, and make them pure, until the end time; because it is still to come at the appointed time.”
Homer Kent: During this period of persecution, a group of godly persons was formed called Hasidaeans, who stood for the law (I Macc. 2:42). Judas Maccabaeus, son of Mattathias, led a successful revolt against the Syrians and brought much relief from persecution. However, his successes (and those of the rest of the Maccabean family) were not permanent. There was still much suffering. Apostates were treated with bloody severity by Judas Maccabaeus.
Stephen Miller: “Some of the wise will stumble” expresses the same thought as v. 33 – true believers will suffer persecution and even martyrdom for their faith. The purpose of this fiery ordeal that fell upon Israel was to cleanse individuals and the nation as a whole of sinful practices and to strengthen their faith. It also separated the true believers form the unregenerate within the Jewish community.
In this context the “end” that has been “appointed” by the Lord denotes the termination of Antiochus’s persecutions. Those suffering in the second century B.C. would have been greatly comforted by the promise of an end to their suffering.
Antiochus IV died in 163 B.C. during an expedition in Persia, bringing to a conclusion both his wicked life and his atrocities against God’s people. Antiochus died a horrible death. Polybius relates that according so some the king died insane.
V. (:36-45) CONCERNING ONE GREATER THAN ANTIOCHUS = ULTIMATE ANTICHRIST (THE KING WHO WILL DO AS HE PLEASES)
A. (:36-39) Exaltation and Expansion of Power of the Antichrist in the Last Days
Tremper Longman III: The issue is: Who is in mind in verses 36–45? Further complicating the issue is the question of whose “mind” are we referring to, the human author or the divine author? It is our understanding of the nature of revelation (cf. 1 Peter 1:10–12) that the human author did not fully understand the implications of what he was speaking about. In other words, it is conceivable that Daniel thought he was still describing the climactic king of the north, whom he has been speaking about since verse 21 and whom we have identified as Antiochus IV Epiphanes, but the divine intention may have been much broader.
There are several signals for a broader intention.
(1) The language takes on bigger-than-life terms. As Clifford (who does not follow us in assigning an eschatological meaning to these verses) puts it, we get mythical, cosmic language here, that is, language that lifts us above mundane, earthly activity.
(2) We have the language of the “time of the end” (v. 40). This takes us to the edge of history, which, of course, was not achieved at the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, as horrible as his reign was.
(3) Finally, we know that verses 40–45 simply do not work when applied to the life and death of Antiochus Epiphanes. Antiochus did not “extend his power over many countries; Egypt will not escape” (v. 42). Nor did he die when he “pitch[ed] his royal tents between the seas at the beautiful holy mountain” (v. 45).
Stephen Miller: Exegetical necessity requires that 11:36-45 be applied to someone other than Antiochus IV. The context indicates that the ruler now in view will lie in the last days, immediately prior to the coming of the Lord. Verse 40 reveals that this king’s activities will take place “at the time of the end” (cf. 10:14), and the “time of distress” mentioned in 12:1 is best understood as the same “distress” (the tribulation) predicted by Jesus Christ in Mat
t 24:21 as occurring immediately before his second advent (Matt 24:29-31; cf. Rev 7:14). But the clearest indication that this “king” will live in the latter days is that the resurrection of the saints will take place immediately after God delivers his people from this evil individual’s power (cf. 12:2). Of course, the resurrection is an eschatological event. Finally, vv. 36-39 seem to introduce this king as if for the first time.
Daniel previously had described this person (chaps. 7 and 9) and expected the reader to recognize him without an introduction. He is none other than the “little horn” of Dan 7 and “the ruler who will come” of Dan 9:26. He is known in the New Testament as “the man of lawlessness” (2 Thess 2:3-12), the “antichrist” (1 John 2:18), and the “beast” (Rev 11-20). Interpreting this passage to foretell Antichrist has been a widely accepted view since ancient times (e.g., Chrysostom, Jerome, Theodoret), and Young rightly calls this “the traditional interpretation in the Christian Church.” Almost sixteen hundred years ago Jerome declared: “Those of our persuasion believe all these things are spoken prophetically of the Antichrist who is to arise in the end time.” Today the majority of both amillennial (e.g., Young) and premillennial (e.g., Archer) scholars interpret this king to be Antichrist. In reality a description of Antichrist should not be considered surprising in a context with Antiochus IV, for both of these oppressors of God’s people have previously been given a prominent place in Daniel’s prophecies (cf. chaps. 7-9). Thus Gabriel had now ceased to speak of Antiochus and had begun to describe the one he closely resembled (or typified), the eschatological Antichrist.
Andrew Hill: The chief problem in assigning an eschatological meaning to the passage is that, unlike the earlier portion of the chapter (e.g., vv.2, 7, 20–21), there is no clear grammatical marker or transitional language indicating a shift of subject between v.35 and v.36 or between v.39 and v.40 (cf. Goldingay, 305; Longman, 281). Yet the tendency of biblical prophecy to “telescope” future events (or the idea that “the more distant event appears to merge with the nearer so as to become indistinguishable from it” (Baldwin, 202) has already been noted in Daniel (cf. 7:23–25). Thus Longman, 282, concludes that in vv.36–45 “we see references to Antiochus Epiphanes taking on larger than life characteristics, which we, living in the light of the New Testament, might describe as anticipatory of a figure called the Antichrist.”
John Whitcomb: All of a sudden we are rushed to the end of the world. Daniel didn’t know that there would be thousands of years with the church age intervening before these final events. But the Spirit of God understood that.
1. (:36-37) His Exaltation
a. (:36a) Magnifying Himself above Every God – Autonomous and Arrogant
“Then the king will do as he pleases,
and he will exalt and magnify himself above every god,
and will speak monstrous things against the God of gods;”
John Whitcomb: This king is distinct from the king of the north and of the south.
b. (:36b) Unnatural Prospering during Time of Indignation
“and he will prosper until the indignation is finished,
for that which is decreed will be done.”
c. (:37a) Unnatural Lack of Loyalty and Sexual Perversion
“And he will show no regard for the gods of his fathers
or for the desire of women,”
d. (:37b) Supreme Prideful Exaltation
“nor will he show regard for any other god;
for he will magnify himself above them all.”
John Whitcomb: This Antichrist must be a Jew – one who shows no regard for the God of his fathers. Maybe he will be a Jew raised in a Gentile environment and be very eloquent and brilliant and highly educated, but with some type of strange emotional characteristics. Look how arrogant he is.
John MacArthur: “no regard for the desire of women” – This could mean that Antichrist will be a homosexual; but it surely means he has no normal desire for or, interest in, women, e.g., as one who is celibate.
Tremper Longman: As a king, the Antichrist not only has pride, but he also has power, which leads him to assert his own sovereignty so that he will “do as he pleases.” As such, he attacks the gods. Interestingly, he is castigated not only for rejecting the true God, but also for disdain showed toward his own ancestral religion, perhaps mentioned because it reinforces the idea that he is a man of incredible pride. “The one desired by women” is often an epithet of Tammuz, whose cult of the dying and rising god features a prominent place for women, but is more likely the Syrian reflex that features Adonis as the object of attention.
In an apparent contradiction, however, the passage goes on to describe how this king, who exalts himself above every god, pays homage to “a god of fortresses” (v. 38)—though this may simply be a reference to the attention he pays to his own military machine and his insatiable desire to oppress others. Of course, Antiochus with his lifelong desire to subjugate the south is a suitable model for this bigger-than-life king.
2. (:38-39) His Expansion of Power
a. (:38) Worshiping Power
“But instead he will honor a god of fortresses,
a god whom his fathers did not know;
he will honor him with gold, silver, costly stones, and treasures.”
John MacArthur: The term for fortress is used 5 other times in this chapter (vv. 7, 10, 19, 31, 39) and each time means “a strong place.” Power is to be his god, and he spends all his treasures to become powerful and to finance wars. With this power, he will attack every stronghold (v. 39).
b. (:39) Rewarding Loyal Followers
“And he will take action against the strongest of fortresses
with the help of a foreign god;
he will give great honor to those who acknowledge him,
and he will cause them to rule over the many,
and will parcel out land for a price.”
John Whitcomb: This “foreign god” = Satan himself who operates with his own false prophet in Rev. 13.
Andrew Hill: The futurist considers the verse a vague reference to the rewards of political leadership and territorial allotments the antichrist figure will grant to those in league with him (e.g., Miller, 308).
B. (:40-45) Expeditions of the King of the North in the Last Days
Andrew Hill: The futurist interpreter assumes that Daniel alludes to some kind of confederation of modern states as occupying the territories of these archaic biblical kingdoms (cf. Miller, 311). In addition, the futurist approach associates the invasion of Israel by the Antichrist with the prophecies of Ezekiel, Joel, Zechariah, and Revelation concerning the city of Jerusalem (e.g., Archer, 148; Wood, 312–14; Miller, 312; cf. Eze 39:2–29; Joel 3:2–16; Zec 12:2–9; 13:8–9; 14:1–21; Rev 19:19–20). The “boastful king” will extend his rule into the far reaches of North Africa, including Egypt, Libya, and Nubia (vv.42–43).
1. (:40) Antichrist Attacked in Pincer Fashion from the South and North
“And at the end time the king of the South will collide with him,
and the king of the North will storm against him with chariots, with horsemen, and with many ships;
and he will enter countries, overflow them, and pass through.”
2. (:41) Antichrist Invades Israel but Spares Israel’s Historic Enemies
“He will also enter the Beautiful Land, and many countries will fall;
but these will be rescued out of his hand:
Edom, Moab and the foremost of the sons of Ammon.”
3. (:42-43) Antichrist Enjoys Success against Egypt and Others
“Then he will stretch out his hand against other countries, and the land of Egypt will not escape. 43 But he will gain control over the hidden treasures of gold and silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt; and Libyans and Ethiopians will follow at his heels.”
John Whitcomb: This powerful force from the north moves right through the holy land, breaks covenant with Egypt and tries to take over Egypt and surrounding countries. You have to turn to Rev. 13 to see what happens to the Antichrist at the hands of the king of the north. King of the north goes back into the Holy Land to try to kill the Antichrist again.
4. (:44-45) Antichrist’s Final Campaigns and Demise
“But rumors from the East and from the North will disturb him,
and he will go forth with great wrath to destroy and annihilate many.
45 And he will pitch the tents of his royal pavilion between the seas and the beautiful Holy Mountain;
yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him.”
Tremper Longman: Indeed, all I feel safe asserting is the following: Verses 40–45 look forward to a violent end to history. This end will see the destruction of the pride and arrogance of the wicked. The next section goes on to talk about the other side of the coin, the great eschatological reward for those who are on God’s side in the conflict.
John MacArthur: To face the latest threats, the willful king sets up his command post between the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea (and/or Sea of Galilee) and the holy mountain of Jerusalem, his troops filling the land (cf. Zec 12:2, 3; 14:2, 3; Rev 19:17-21). No one is able to help him against God, who, by the return of Christ, brings him to his end (cf. Rev 19:20).