Starting out, I was not sure what to share out of Daniel 11 – basically, it’s a continuation of the message from chapter 10. Gabriel speaks to Daniel the meaning of the vision he had, relating it to things that will come.
Mostly, this chapter is about the fall of Persia and the establishment of the Greek empire/kingdoms. The fourth king mentioned in verse 2 is, according to genealogy, is Xerxes from the book of Esther. The mighty king of verse 3 is Alexander the Great, and the division of his empire was spread to the four cardinal directions (north, south, east and west) from Israel’s point of view. Eventually, Alexander’s empire would settle into two kingdoms, ruled by the Seleucid (north) and Ptolemaic (south) families. Great conflict remained between them, leading up to the time of Antiochus IV, who like the Antichrist in the future, attempted to overthrow worship of God in favor of himself.
As I considered the passage this evening, it occurred to me that this lays out the timeline of the Maccabees (Jewish family who fought against Antiochus’ tyranny) and the miracle of Hanukkah. All this takes place in what’s commonly called the “400 Silent Years” that divide the Old and New Testaments. After Zechariah and Malachi, God never moves openly again until the births of John the Baptist and Jesus. The thought that hit me was this: just because God was silent does not mean that He wasn’t active. Divine intervention in the war against political and religious oppression, not to mention the miracle of multiplying olive oil (in the Temple lampstand/menorah, commemorated by Hanukkah) are proof of this.
This message was more than a preview of political shift in the Middle East – it was a revelation to Daniel that God not only knew the rise and fall of empires, but was deeply involved in the process. Angelic forces moved in the rise and fall of Babylon, and the same was true of Cyrus and Darius’ Persia. They rose and fell from power as God allowed; like the kings of Israel, they were held accountable by Him for their actions as rulers. The message Gabriel was giving Daniel, besides the interpretation of his vision from chapter 10, was that God remained knowledgeable and in control of the future, even when events seemed bleak from the human point of view. In a very real sense, this word of encouragement was passed on to the Jewish people through him. God was still working through His people, preparing the world for the time when Jesus would come to redeem the world as Messiah.
As a kid, when I was feeling glum or discontent with the present situation, my father would share these words with me: “Is God still on the throne? (Yes) Is Jesus still your Lord and Savior? (Yes) Then put a smile on it (your face).” I find that the same counsel applies to the future; if God is in control and you have trusted Him with your life, then the situation before you isn’t as grim as you think. God has in store something better than we could ever imagine, so be patient and look with joy for what He will do when you put your trust in His eternal plan.