A Deep Dive into Daniel — Part 18 — The King of the North

“And the king shall do as he wills. He shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak astonishing things against the God of gods. He shall prosper till the indignation is accomplished; for what is decreed shall be done.”

Daniel 11:36

What if I told you that the Bible provides intricate details about the characteristics and career of the coming Antichrist?

What if we could accurately identify the son of perdition — the man of lawlessness — simply by studying the details in an ancient prophecy?

The 11th chapter of Daniel provides one of the most detailed descriptions in all of Scripture of the character and exploits of the “little horn” — aka the Beast or the Antichrist. In this vision, the fierce end-times enemy of God’s people is called “the King of the North.”

This particular title is significant in many ways, especially when comparing the career of Syrian tyrant Antiochus Epiphanes as one of clearest historical typological examples of the final Antichrist at the end of the age. In other words, Antiochus provides a basic template, a foreshadow, but the Antichrist will be the ultimate “King of the North.” He will descend upon the land of Israel from the north in the last days and lay siege to Jerusalem.

Map of Seleucid Kingdom of Antiochus Epiphanes

Like most of Daniel’s prophecies, there is disagreement about how to interpret the 11th chapter. Most scholars and Bible teachers agree that Daniel 11 has been partially fulfilled in history, but at the same time still looks to the future for its ultimate fulfillment. Such dual fulfillments are not uncommon in the prophet word, but it can be a daunting task in determining what is a foreshadow of the future and what is history.

I have written extensively about Antiochus Epiphanes being one of the primary types of the Antichrist [READ HERE], but I will not go into those details here. Instead, I aim to provide an interpretive perspective to Daniel 11 that helps divide the chapter up into history, typology, and future prophecy.

My basic outline of Daniel 11 is as follows …

  • Daniel 11:1-20 — History fulfilled in the past primarily through the years of conflict between the Seleucid (king of the north) and Ptolemy (king of the south) dynasties.
  • Daniel 11:21-34 — Typology partially fulfilled by Antiochus Epiphanes that also bleeds into the future career of the Antichrist.
  • Daniel 11:21-45 — Future prophecy that applies to the end-times Antichrist.

For more details about the historical fulfillment of Daniel 11, you can read this helpful article here. For the purpose of this post, however, I will focus on the typology and future fulfillment of this prophecy, which is contained in the details of Daniel 11:21-45.

Diving into the Details

Working through Daniel 11 requires attention to detail but is well worth the time. The following is a verse by verse examination of Daniel 11:21-31. I will conclude the chapter next time in part two of this post.

“In his place shall arise a contemptible person to whom royal majesty has not been given. He shall come in without warning and obtain the kingdom by flatteries.”

Daniel 11:21

Antiochus was a vile, contemptible person who assumed control of the Seleucid dynasty to carry out despicable things against the Jewish people. His territory was to the north of the Beautiful Land — hence the King of the North.

We can expect the coming Antichrist to be significantly more vile and contemptible a person than Antiochus. The end-times King of the North will be demonically charged with Satan himself — the very incarnation of the devil.

Interestingly, Daniel tells us that the King of the North will not emerge from a royal blood line or from a ruling family of great fame and notoriety. Rather, he will most likely be a man of no reputation who works his way up through the ranks of political and military hierarchy. He will remain on the periphery of the primary power brokers, awaiting his opportunity to seize control when the power vacuum is created in the unstable Middle East. He will do this “without warning,” and obtain his kingdom with flatteries, lies, intrigue, and deception. We would expect nothing less from the father of lies.

“Armies shall be utterly swept away before him and broken, even the prince of the covenant. And from the time that an alliance is made with him he shall act deceitfully, and he shall become strong with a small people.”

Daniel 11:22-23

As the King of the North rises to power, he will form military alliances with other Middle Eastern nations, and yet all who resist him will be “utterly swept away before him and broken.” He will grow in strength with only a small but fierce army, and continue to deal deceitfully with the bigger players on the world stage. Much like Adolf Hitler was able to quickly strike Europe early in his campaign, the Antichrist will have military success on a regional level before becoming emboldened to expand his dominance.

There is debate about the identity of the “prince of the covenant.” My best guess is that there will be another national leader that is involved in arranging the initial “covenant with many” [Daniel 9:26], perhaps from Israel or another prominent Middle Eastern nation. The Antichrist will strengthen and confirm this covenant at first, but eventually will break faith and turn against those who make the covenant.

Without warning he shall come into the richest parts of the province, and he shall do what neither his fathers nor his fathers’ fathers have done, scattering among them plunder, spoil, and goods. He shall devise plans against strongholds, but only for a time. 25And he shall stir up his power and his heart against the king of the south with a great army. And the king of the south shall wage war with an exceedingly great and mighty army, but he shall not stand, for plots shall be devised against him. 26Even those who eat his food shall break him. His army shall be swept away, and many shall fall down slain. 27And as for the two kings, their hearts shall be bent on doing evil. They shall speak lies at the same table, but to no avail, for the end is yet to be at the time appointed. 28And he shall return to his land with great wealth, but his heart shall be set against the holy covenant. And he shall work his will and return to his own land.

Daniel 11:24-28

Every military campaign needs money, so the next step taken by the King of the North will be to invade the “richest parts” of the region and take plunder, spoil, and goods to finance his campaign. Perhaps this is oil or gold or other natural resources. After securing some funds, the Antichrist will start to plan strategically to determine which military strongholds to pursue next.

But before he can act on his strategy, his heart is stirred up against the King of the South, which represents Egypt. Just as the Seleucid and Ptolemaic dynasties clashed for years, there will be a replay of military conflict between the King of the North (Turkey/Syria) and the King of the South (Egypt).

The prophecy reveals that the Antichrist initially will deliver a considerable blow to Egypt, as the Egyptian army will be “swept away, and many shall fall down slain” [Daniel 11:26]. Apparently the two kings will meet at the negotiating table following the conflict but to no avail, as both men will be bent only on doing evil and speaking lies to one another.

Once the Antichrist acquires more wealth from Egypt, he will turn his heart toward the “holy covenant” and return to this own land for a season. The holy covenant primarily refers to the Abrahamic covenant, including God’s everlasting promise to bless and secure the nation of Israel in their own land. The covenant with many could also be in view, which likely will be some type of security agreement between the leaders of Israel and the Antichrist.

“At the time appointed he shall return and come into the south, but it shall not be this time as it was before. 30For ships of Kittim shall come against him, and he shall be afraid and withdraw, and shall turn back and be enraged and take action against the holy covenant. He shall turn back and pay attention to those who forsake the holy covenant. 31Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress, and shall take away the regular burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate.”

Daniel 11:29-31

The King of the North eventually will return to attack Egypt, but apparently the King of the South will be prepared by securing backup from the ships of Kittim. Traditionally Kittim refers to the island of Cyprus but can also include all the coastlands of the Mediterranean Sea. So we aren’t sure who the ships of Kittim represent — possibly Greece or other European nations — but we know that these naval reinforcements are strong enough to frustrate the plans of the Antichrist and force him to retreat in a fit of rage.

This is interesting in that the early military campaign of the Antichrist will be met with some resistance, which demonstrates that there will be opposition to the Beast kingdom — at least initially.

Enraged and possibly embarrassed by his retreat, the Antichrist channels his anger toward the people of the covenant and “takes action against the holy covenant.” The Antichrist will “pay attention” to those who forsake the holy covenant, which I interpret as those who share the same desire to wipe Israel off the map and eliminate the Jewish nation once and for all. Also, if there is to be some peace agreement — a covenant with “many” — in the last days, it will likely include Israel and many surrounding Muslim nations. At the appointed time, all of these nations will forsake and violate their end of the covenant, leaving Israel all alone with no one to help.

Then those who forsake the covenant will form an alliance of armies led by the King of the North — aka Antichrist — and they will invade Israel, surround Jerusalem, lay siege to the city, put a stop to the regular sacrifices, and profane the Temple by setting up the abomination of desolation. This is precisely what Jesus predicted.

“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near.”

Luke 21:20

The abomination that causes desolation is the key turning point in the career and military campaign of the Antichrist. Jesus and Paul both pointed to this event as the primary sign of the end of the age and the trigger that starts the clock for the Great Tribulation [Matthew 24:15-28, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-8].

From this point, both Daniel and the book of Revelation tell us that there will be 3.5 years, or 1260 days, until the appointed time of the end and the Day of the LORD.

As we will see next time, this is a call for the endurance of the saints.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s