Sabbath School Lesson for March 14-20, 2020
A general outline of Daniel 11 parallels the previous visions received by Daniel. But it gives more details about…
- the kingdoms of Persia and Greece–Daniel 11:1-4 (Sunday)
- two dynasties that emerge from the Grecian Empire–Daniel 11:5-15 (Monday)
- pagan Rome–Daniel 11:16-28 (Tuesday)
- papal Rome–Daniel 11:29-39 (Wednesday)
- final events–Daniel 11:40-45 (Thursday)
Three major features have been seen in nearly all of the prophetic dreams and visions in the book of Daniel.
- The kingdoms from the time of the vision are identified.
- The oppression of God’s people is recognized.
- The conflict always results in victory for God and His people.
Chapter 11 is said to be the most difficult chapter in the book. In it, we see the way the kings of the north and south contend for the Glorious (Beautiful) Land, or Israel, (Daniel 11: 16, 41) with a succession of powers fighting against each other.
Although real kings and kingdoms from history can be seen as completing the prophetic timeline here, there is also a spiritual dimension to the events portrayed in this and other chapters.
Therefore, in our Christian world today, we see Israel symbolically as the remnant of God in the end times (Galatians 3:29), not as the geographical entity with which it is often associated.
Especially for events that still lie in the future, we must be cautious about our interpretation of this chapter, but we might safely conclude these observations from our prophetic revelations so far:
- The king of the south stands for ancient Egypt.
- Egypt, eventually overpowered by the king of the north, may also be seen to represent atheism and secularism in the last days.
- The king of the north is identified with ancient Syria.
- Babylon, located north of Jerusalem, later became associated with pagan and papal Rome, and in the final days, with apostate Christianity, with its confusing, false doctrines.
Memory Text: “And some of those of understanding shall fall, to refine them, purify them, and make them white, until the time of the end; because it is still for the appointed time.” Daniel 11:35 NKJV
God does not hesitate to warn His children about trials and persecutions that lie ahead. The purpose is to fortify and encourage them, and to let them know that no matter how dismal their situation appears, God will have the final victory over the forces that oppose them.
Sunday: Prophecies about Persia and Greece
The first four verses of chapter 11 are indisputably talking about the kingdoms of Persia and Greece. Their names are specifically mentioned. What is so amazing is that although the vision was given to Daniel during the reign of Darius, the third Medo-Persian king after Cyrus, it accurately predicts several kings and kingdoms that would follow.
This listing of Persian kings of the Achaemenid dynasty helps us see how precisely Daniel’s vision followed the pages of history. Four more rulers did reign after Cyrus, just as it said in Daniel 11:2. They were…
- Cambyses (the son of Cyrus–530-522 B.C.)
- False Smerdis (also called Bardiya–522 B.C.)
- Darius I (522-486 B.C.)
- Xerxes (mentioned in the book of Esther as Ahasuerus)
Daniel 11:3 is no doubt talking about Alexander the Great, known as a great conqueror, whose dominion extended to most of the then-known world. Upon his sudden death at age 32, leaving him with no heirs, the Grecian Empire was divided between his four generals (Daniel 11:4)…
- Seleucus (who took over Syria and Mesopotamia)
- Ptolemy (Egypt)
- Lysimachus (Thrace and parts of Asia Minor)
- Cassander (Macedonia and Greece)
Read Daniel 11:1, 2 and Esther 1:2-4. How does the fourth king seem to fit the description of Ahaseurus, also known as Xerxes I?
Read Daniel 11:3, 7:6, and 8:4. Why do Bible scholars and historians see the leopard, the ram, and this “mighty king” with “great dominion” as Alexander the Great? What similarities are there in the different descriptions of this ruling force?
Read Daniel 11:4. How does this further our belief in Alexander the Great as the fulfillment of this prophecy?
Monday: Prophecies of Syria and Egypt
The prophecy of the four unclean animals in Daniel 7 seemed to focus on the political, secular world. It was followed in Daniel 8 with the vision of the ram and goat, both clean animals used in the sanctuary services, which brought us a more religious perspective.
The prophecies in Daniel 11 seem to accomplish the same goal: to see the world from the viewpoint of the unsaved, and the saved. After giving an accurate description of the major kingdoms of Persia and then Greece, two other kings, both symbolically and in reality, are brought to our attention: the king of the north and the king of the south, and their interest in the Holy Land.
Historically, we did see two of Alexander’s generals produce dynasties that fought over the Holy Land, due to their geographic locations. One general was Seleucus (whose heirs ruled over Syria to the north of Israel) and the other Ptolemy (whose family controlled the southern area of Egypt). They tried briefly to unite through the marriage of Bernice, daughter of the Egyptian king Ptolemy II, to Antiochus II Theos, grandson of Seleucus I. See Daniel 11:6.
These dynasties fought hard for control of the Middle East, particularly Israel, called the Beautiful or Glorious Land. But they may also represent the enemies of God’s people in these final days as well.
Since today’s Israel no longer represents God’s people (its 490 years granted by God for them to keep His covenant have long since expired), we must consider that another power will come on the scene to oppose the saints of God in the final days.
But just knowing that victory will be God’s in the end, helps us endure whatever trials may come from this strange, new power system.
Read Daniel 11:5-7. How does the history of the region around Jerusalem following the death of Alexander the Great (two dynasties warring over the territory) match the struggle described here?
Read Daniel 11:11-14. Why do you suppose the king of the north (representing Syria) was able to conquer the forces of the king of the south (in Egypt), if the north is now seen as religious apostasy and the south as idolatry and paganism? Do we now see a similar prevalence in the world today–doctrinal errors of religious systems more prevalent than primitive, pagan practices? Which one is more likely to deceive us, and why?
Read Isaiah 46:9, 10. In what way do the “former things of old” teach us about “things that are not yet done”? What does God want us to know about Him through the prophecies He gives us?
Tuesday: Rome and the Prince of the Covenant
Beginning with verse 16, we see a shift in our prophecy, which had been speaking about the two opposing dynasties (Seleucus–to the north and Ptolemy–to the south of the Holy Land). It appears to transition to the Roman Empire, which followed the Hellenistic (or Grecian) rule.
Verse 20, marked as a Messianic reference in some Bibles, talks about a ruler who “imposes taxes on the glorious kingdom”. In the Gospels we learn that Caesar Augustus, the first Roman emperor who reigned from 27 B.C.-14 A.D., did impose taxes on Israel at the time of Christ’s birth, causing Joseph and Mary to visit Bethlehem to be registered in the census.
In verse 21, we find that “a vile person” takes the place of Caesar Augustus, which can easily be seen as Tiberius, the second emperor of Rome, and the adopted stepson of Caesar Augustus. He ruled from 14-37 A.D., and was considered eccentric and unpopular, possibly due to his dysfunctional upbringing.
Verse 22 mentions the “prince of the covenant”, thought to be the Messiah, as being broken. This obviously refers to Jesus’ crucifixion, which happened during Tiberius’ rule.
Read Daniel 11:20 and Luke 2:1, 4, 5. How does this verse reassure us that the prophecy has shifted to the next empire, that of imperial Rome?
Read Daniel 11:21, 22, Luke 3:1, and Matthew 27:2. How does this confirm that Tiberius was the emperor at the death of Christ?
Read Daniel 11:22, 9:26, and 12:1. In what way is Christ the “prince of the covenant”? What does this title mean?
Wednesday: The Next Power
The next passage, Daniel 11:29-39, once again transitions to another power, presumably papal Rome, which appeared after imperial Rome was on the decline. Said to “not be like the former or the latter” kings (Daniel 11:29), this power structure does many things similar to the “little horn” power, spoken of elsewhere in Scripture.
It’s said to be a “northern king”, so, in addition to it being located north of Israel, we assume it has more of a religious component, just like Babylon and Syria were somewhat different from the idolatrous, pagan nature of Egypt. Most notable in this passage is the blasphemies, oppression, and spiritual deception that depicts the kingdom.
Here are the characteristics of this rule:
- It will act “in rage against the holy covenant”.–Daniel 11:30
- It shall “defy the sanctuary”.–Daniel 11:31
- It persecutes God’s people.–Daniel 11:35
- It speaks “blasphemies against the God of gods.”–Daniel 11:36
Read Daniel 11:30. What is God’s special covenant with man? Why would this ruler be opposed to it?
Read Daniel 11:31, 36 and 8:11. How has God’s plan of salvation been altered by this power system?
Read Daniel 11:35 and Daniel 12:9, 10. Why is persecution and suffering going to occur in different intensities up until Christ’s Coming?
Thursday: Final Events
The rest of chapter 11 (verses 40-45) unmistakably refers to the time of the end. The expression “time of the end” is found only in the book of Daniel (Daniel 8:17, 11:35, 40, and 12:4, 9). This has been seen to include from the end of papal rule (1798, when the pope was taken captive by one of Napoleon’s generals) until the Second Coming and the first resurrection of the dead.
Since we are talking in highly symbolic terms here, some theologians see the king of the south as atheism, or the absence of a belief in God or any higher power. This would be in contrast to the king of the north, which is a counterfeit of what the true Creator God represents.
Both these entities, secularism and apostate religions, struggle for victory on Mount Zion, God’s position of authority. They seem to form a coalition in order to achieve this goal, but are soundly defeated by God, allowing His Kingdom of peace and happiness to finally rule unopposed. See Daniel 11:44, 45 and Revelation 20:9.
Daniel 11:41, despite its vague meaning, may be significant to our understanding about end time events. Some have thought that those who escape from Edom, Moab, and Ammon (not considered Jews at the time) may signify that there will be faithful individuals from false religions who join God’s forces at the last minute. Jesus indicated as much when He said, ” ‘And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring…’ ” John 10:16 NKJV
Read Daniel 11:40. When is the “time of the end”? Who or what might the king of the north and the king of the south be referring to in the last days?
Read Daniel 11:41, Luke 23:39-42, and John 10:16. Who might be the people who would escape and join God’s remnant in the last days? Why do you think God allows such last-minute confessions and reversed commitments?
Read Daniel 11:45 and Revelation 20:9. Why do you think Satan and his agents make this last attempt to overthrow God’s Kingdom?
Even in the most difficult chapter in Daniel, chapter 11, we are told that those of understanding would teach others (Daniel 11:33). Is our understanding of prophecy at such a level that we are passionately sharing our knowledge with others?
The study of prophecy isn’t easy, and many deny the need for such instruction and fail to be blessed in a significant way by God’s prophetic messages. What exactly is the message God would have us receive from these difficult passages?
- God’s love shines through prophecy. Why else would He warn His children and forgive them so many times? Seeing the past and the future helps us through our present circumstances, no matter how hard they may be.
- God’s justice shines through prophecy. This might be the hardest virtue of all for us to understand about God. Anger, the closest human emotion to which we can compare it, is seen more clearly when we focus on the glorious outcome of the great controversy between Christ and Satan. Prophecy almost always reaches down through time when God’s justice will be more clearly understood and admired by the whole universe.
Next Week’s Lesson: From Dust to Stars (Daniel 12)
To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to https://www.absg.adventist.org/
Other Outlook blogposts by Teresa Thompson, are at http://outlookmag.org/author/teresathompson/