Studies in Daniel: Chapter 11

DanielIt is easy to believe that the events of our world are all randomness and chaos. The shifting of powers, the rise and fall of leaders and empires, the destruction and desolation of peoples. To look through history is to see one seemingly meaningless devastation after another. Daniel 11 challenges such presumptions, however, by asserting the sovereignty of God even over the chaos.

Throughout the Bible there are a number of ways that God’s rule over chaos is clearly revealed. In ancient Near-eastern cultures, it was believed that the world was full of good spirits and evil spirits, who frequently waged war against one another. Cosmic battles would ensue and the results were often dramatic. In fact, many ancient religions believed that world was made as a result of such cosmic battles, the earth arose out of the conflict of the gods. As a result of such a view, many saw the seas as evil, chaotic, incapable of being tamed. But as Genesis one opens we see God, “hovering” over the waters, separating waters below and waters above, pushing the sea apart to make land. He is Lord over all the earth, and this includes the foaming waters. Throughout the rest of the Bible he maintains that authority. The Psalmist says that Yahweh “rebukes” the waters (Ps. 104:7), and He set the boundaries that they may not traverse (v. 9). The Lord “sits enthroned over the flood” we are told (Ps. 29:3-4). Habakkuk asserts that God tramples the sea (3:15). And, in the New Testament, we see Jesus too calms the raging seas with nothing but a word, “Peace!” (Mark 4:39). There is nothing so chaotic that God cannot tame it. There is nothing so seemingly uncontrollable that God does not in fact control it. The same is evident in the long prediction of Daniel chapter 11

Daniel 11 is a lengthy and difficult chapter to make sense of. By-in-large the chapter is understood as a prediction of succession of Persian kings, along with the on-going conflict between the Seleucid and Ptolemaic dynasties, which followed them. The text gives rather specific detail about events, including the rise of Alexander the Great and the eventual division of his kingdom among the four generals. It also spells out details about an attempted alliance, like the Peace treaty signed by Ptolemy II (285-246 b.c.) with the Seleucid ruler, Antiochus II Theos (261-246 b.c.), and then the eventual betrayal of that treaty with the murder of Ptolemy’s daughter (Bernice) (see v.6). The predictions are surprisingly specific and easily connected to actual historical events. Most interpreters agree on these specific associations to history, at least with regard to verses 1-35.

What significant to note here is that all the upheavals, intrigue, betrayal, and chaos are foreseen, predicted, and controlled by God. Gabriel reveals these things to Daniel prior to their happening as a means of encouraging the man of God that He need not fear the future. He reveals these things as a means of inspiring hope and confidence in the God who controls even the seeming chaos. He can be trusted, and we are not wrong to put our confidence in Him over and above the political powers-that-be.

There is a significant amount of debate with regard to verses 36-45. There are some who suggest that the text jumps forward now to discuss the End of Days and the Antichrist in particular. In my opinion there is nothing in the text that warrants this decision. In fact the text continues to refer to the Kings of the North and South just as it has previously done. It is harder to make historical connections in this portion of the text, but I see no reason textually to change my hermenuetic when reading it. So, I believe these verses address specifically Antiochus IV (Epiphanes, 175-163), the same person addressed in verses 21-35. Even if, however, readers are inclined to see this as a fully future forecasting pointing to the Antichrist the application is still the same. God controls and rulers over the chaos. He can be trusted.

Could there be a more fitting text to encourage your hearts on November 8th? As we seek to cast of our vote for the next future President of the United States of America we remember that whatever the outcome there is one who rules over it all. There is a God who can be trusted with our confidence, there is a God who reigns over the seeming chaos. Rulers come and go, empires rise and fall, regimes change, presidents are elected and yet God stands above them all working His supreme plan for the good of His people. He can be trusted, friends. More than your vote, more than your political system, more than your party, more than the next president, God can be trusted. He rules over all, and though chaos may seem to abound, one day soon He will speak into the seeming chaos and says, “Peace!”

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