Daniel 11:40-45 describes a war “at the time of the end,” the last battle in a war between the King of the North and the King of the South that has been raging for 2,300 years. Evidence given in 9: The Locust Army suggests that this last battle is the same war described in the trumpet plagues of Revelation 8-11. A study of the war through the centuries makes it possible to identify the end-time players.

Daniel 11 seems at first to be very confusing, referring to “he” without making it clear whether “he” is the King of the North, the King of the South, or someone else. The vision also seems to give very detailed descriptions of specific rulers but then skims over vast stretches of history with no mention of the events that took place. Three principles help to make sense of this confusing chapter.

First and most important, chapter 11 is parallel with the visions of Daniel chapters 2, 7, and 8.[1] The metal image of chapter 2 provides the basic outline of a progression through the empires that have oppressed God’s people (Babylon, Persia, Greece, Pagan Rome and Papal Rome). Chapters 7 and 8 fill in more details, showing that the emphasis of the visions is on the papal period of the Middle Ages when the saints are persecuted, that there is an attempt to change God’s law, and that there is an attack on the “daily sacrifices.” We would also expect chapter 11 to progress through the same empires and focus on the same persecution and attacks. Locating these events in the vision helps to give some general structure and time frames.

Secondly, as the vision moves from one empire to the next there is a detailed description of the first kings of each empire, which helps to verify the transition. But the vision skims over all but the most important of later events of the empires.

Finally, there are “landmarks” within the vision, the most important of which are “Cyrus, king of Persia” (10:1) at the beginning of the vision, the “time of trouble such as never was” (12:1) at the end of the vision, and “the prince of the covenant” (Jesus) in verse 22. This shows that the vision begins with the Persian Empire under Cyrus and moves through the Greek Hellenistic Empires and has reached the pagan Roman Empire by verse 22. The vision then continues from pagan Rome through papal Rome to the end of time. Other important landmarks include Daniel 11:4 (“His kingdom shall be broken up and divided toward the four winds of heaven”). A comparison with Daniel 8:8 shows clearly that this is the division of the Greek Empire after the death of Alexander the Great. Also Daniel 11:31 (“they shall take away the daily sacrifices”), when compared with Daniel 8:11, is clearly the time of papal supremacy in the Middle Ages.

From these observations it is obvious that the Kings of the North and South are not static entities, but will change and evolve through the course of history.

The vision was given to Daniel after the fall of Babylon “in the third year of Cyrus king of Persia” (Daniel 10:1) which coincided with “the first year of Darius the Mede” (Daniel 11:1). Darius was the ruler of the Persian province of Babylon during the reign of Cyrus the Great (who conquered Babylon in 539 BC). “Behold, three more kings will arise in Persia, and the fourth shall be far richer than them all…He shall stir up all against the realm of Greece. Then a mighty king shall arise who shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will” (Daniel 11:2-4).

These verses set the pattern for the whole vision. There are a number of phases in the vision, just as in Daniel’s previous visions—Persia, Greece, pagan Rome, and papal Rome. In each phase there are amazingly accurate details of the first few years, and the remainder of the phase is skipped over quickly. The “three more kings…in Persia” who arose after Cyrus were Cambyses, False Smerdis, and Darius I. The fourth who would “stir up all against the realm of Greece” was the immensely wealthy Xerxes (Ahasuerus, the husband of Esther in the Bible) who launched a series of attacks against Greece, with disastrous defeats at Salamis and Plataea in 480 and 479 BC.

The narrative then skips over the remaining eight kings of Persia down to the time of Darius III, who was defeated by Alexander the Great (“a mighty king,” v.3) in 331 BC and established the Greek (Hellenistic) Empire. And as in chapter 8, where Alexander, under the figure of a goat with a great horn which is broken with four horns coming up to take its place, so here “His kingdom shall be broken up and divided toward the four winds of heaven, but not among his posterity…His kingdom shall be uprooted, even for others” (v.4). Alexander died of a fever in Babylon at the age of 32 and the Greek Empire, rather than going to his offspring, was carved up into four Hellenistic (Greek-speaking) kingdoms, which included the Seleucid (“King of the North”) kingdom in Syria and the Ptolemaic (“King of the South”) kingdom in Egypt.

With remarkable accuracy Daniel highlights in verses 5-15 the history of the first few kings of the North and South during the Hellenistic period, so accurately, in fact, that many commentators have concluded that it must have been written after the events had taken place.[2] See, for example, C. Mervyn Maxwell, God Cares vol. 1, Pacific Press for a review of some of the historical details of the Seleucid and Ptolemaic kings and how they relate to the prophecies of Daniel 11.

Verse 16 marks an important transition. The Hellenistic Kings of the North and South have been attacking each other through verse 15, but now a new power comes into the picture: “But he [the new power] who comes against him [the King of the North] shall do according to his own will, and no one shall stand against him. He shall stand in the Glorious Land with destruction in his power” (Daniel 11:16). The most destructive power in the vision of Daniel 7 was the fourth beast, Rome. Likewise, in chapter 8 the “little horn which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east and toward the Glorious Land…[which] cast down some of the host and some of the stars to the ground and trampled them” (Daniel 8:9) was also Rome. From history we know that the power which conquered the Seleucid kingdom (the King of the North ) and stood “in the Glorious Land” (Palestine) was Rome. Pompey was the Roman general who conquered Palestine in 66 BC and he briefly shared in the rulership of Rome, but Julius Caesar defeated him and greatly increased the power of the Roman Empire (details of his reign are found in verses 17 and 18) [3] Now there was a new King of the North.

“There shall arise in his place one who imposes taxes on the glorious kingdom” (v.20). This was Caesar Augustus who took power after the assassination of Julius Caesar. His imposing of taxes is even mentioned in Luke 2:1 at the time when Jesus was born—“a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered” (“taxed,” KJV).

“In his place shall arise a vile person” (v.21)—Augustus was succeeded by Tiberius and the series of emperors who followed, including such “vile persons” as Nero, Hadrian, Decius, Diocletion and other cruel tyrants who caused God’s people so much grief. During the reign of the pagan Roman emperors the “prince of the covenant,” Jesus, was “broken” and the Jewish nation “swept away…with the force of a flood” (v.22), a reference to the crucifixion of Christ in AD 31 and the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.

“And after the league (Hebrew chabar, joining or binding together, union, alliance) is made with him, he shall act deceitfully, for he shall come up and become strong with a small number of people” (v. 23). During the reign of Constantine (ruled 312-337 AD) the union of church and state was formed (“the league”) which was to pave the way for the Medieval Papacy.[4] This was symbolized in the multi-metal image of Daniel 2 as the legs and feet of iron mixed with clay, where two materials that ordinarily do not mix were mixed together. In the vision of the beast empires of Daniel 7 “the league” is symbolized by the horns (divisions) of the fourth beast (Rome) that are dominated by the “a little horn [the papacy]…different from the first ones...whose appearance was greater than his fellows” (Daniel 7:8,24,20).

Just as the little horn of Daniel 7 and 8 began small and developed into the major power which opposed God’s people, so here the new King of the North, the Papacy, begins “with a small number of people” and “comes up and becomes strong.” “He shall enter peaceably, even into the richest places of the province” (v. 24). The popes became the effectual rulers of Rome (“the richest places”) and eventually of Western Europe, gaining power “peaceably”—they did not fight their own wars but got others to fight for them (See chapter 2: Thyatira).

During the portion of the vision (vs. 16-24) that represents the reign of the Roman emperors (27 BC-476 AD) and the early Papacy, the King of the South is not mentioned. This is consistent with history—Rome conquered the Ptolemaic kingdom of Egypt in the Battle of Actium in 31 BC and Egypt became a Roman province. But starting in AD 632 a new power arose in the South, Islam, represented in verse 25 by a new King of the South. “He [the King of the North, the Medieval Papacy] shall stir up his power and his courage against the King of the South with a great army. And the King of the South shall be stirred up to battle with a very great and mighty army, but he shall not stand.” Islam was the southern power that had conquered the Middle East, parts of Spain and had become a threat to the eastern Christian Byzantine Empire. The last straw was when the Seljuk Turks began to interfere with pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem. Pope Urban II urged the European leaders to carry out the first crusade from 1096-1099 AD. The Turks opposed them “with a very great and mighty army” but ultimately they were conquered and the crusaders "liberated" Jerusalem (“he shall not stand”).

The Muslims gradually regained control of the Holy Land over the next two hundred years despite two more crusades. In 1201 “Pope Innocent III persuaded many French nobles to take part in [the fourth Crusade]. The crusaders bargained with the Venetians to take them by ship to the eastern Mediterranean. But when they got to Venice they could not pay the costs. The Venetians said they would transport the crusaders to the Holy Land if the crusaders helped them attack the Byzantine Empire…They seized Constantinople after a fierce battle…The Venetians and crusaders divided Byzantine territory and riches among themselves…It was an expedition for economic and political gain. The real victors were the Venetians…The crusaders never reached the Holy Land, and much of it remained in the hands of the Muslims.[5]

This fourth crusade is mentioned in verses 29-31—“At the appointed time he [the King of the North as represented by the crusaders] shall return and go toward the south; but it shall not be like the former or the latter. For ships from Kittim [the Venetians][6] shall come against him,[7] therefore he shall be grieved and return in rage against the holy covenant, and do damage…they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation” (vs. 29-31). The crusaders did “return in a rage…and do damage”-–the sack of Orthodox Constantinople not only contributed to the defeat of Eastern Christianity by the Muslims, but also left a wound and schism between Orthodox and Catholics that continues to this day. But worse was to come. After the debacle of the fourth crusade the Papacy turned its attention to “heretics” closer to home, setting up the most abominable, desolating institution of all times—the Inquisition.

Pope Innocent III, who ordered the fourth crusade, presided over the Papacy at the zenith of its power. The doctrines that obscured the plan of salvation had been developing for centuries (the taking away of the daily sacrifices—See chapter 14: The Daily Sacrifice). The death decree against those who would not accept the Catholic system of worship was codified in the inquisition which he set up in 1229—the abomination of desolation (See 2: Thyatira, 10: The Abomination of Desolation and Appendix 10). All of this was predicted in verses 30 and 31—"he shall…return in rage against the holy covenant, and do damage…then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation."

The focus of Daniel 11:29-39 is on the King of the North, the medieval Papacy, which "shall exalt and magnify himself above every god, shall speak blasphemies against the God of gods, and shall prosper" (v. 36).[8] The persecution of God's people, particularly the reformers, is also predicted—"The people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits. And those of the people who understand shall instruct many; yet for many days[9] they shall fall by sword and flame, by captivity and plundering" (vs. 32,33).

In the meantime the King of the South has again dropped out of the picture with no mention of him in verses 31-39. This is consistent with the long decline of the Ottoman Empire as a world power after the crusades, so that by the end of World War I Islam was essentially impotent as a political and military force.

The extensive focus of Daniel 11 on the King of the North as the medieval Papacy (vs. 23-39) is consistent with the visions of Daniel chapter 7 (the four beasts, and the “little” horn which “shall speak pompous words against the Most High” and “shall persecute the saints" Daniel 7:25), of chapter 8 (the ram, the goat, and the “little” horn which “cast down some of the host,” takes away “the daily sacrifice” and sets up “the transgression of desolation" Daniel 8:9-14”) and of Revelation 13 (the beast which rises out of the sea and “opened his mouth in blasphemy against God” and “to make war with the saints”[10]). All of these visions identify and focus on the persecuting papal power of the Middle Ages. A comparison of the four visions show that they have many elements in common, confirming their identity and filling out details not found in any one vision by itself.

It had ten horns, and another, a little one greater than his fellows (vs.8,20). A little horn which grew exceedingly great (v. 8). He shall come up and become strong with a small number of people (v. 23). I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having…ten horns (v. 1).
He shall speak pompous words against the Most High (v. 25). He even exalted himself as high as the Prince of the host (v. 11). He shall exalt and magnify himself... and shall speak blasphemies against the God of gods (v. 36). He opened his mouth in blasphemy against God (v. 6).
He shall persecute the saints of the Most High (v. 25). It cast down some of the host and some of the stars to the ground, and trampled them (v. 10). They shall fall by sword and flame, by captivity and plundering (v. 33). It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them (v. 7).
He shall persecute…for a time, times and half a time (v. 25). It refers to many days in the future (v. 26) For many days they shall fall by the sword (v. 33) He was given authority to continue for forty-two months (v. 5).
He shall intend to change times and law (v. 25). By him the daily sacrifices were taken away, and the place of His sanctuary was cast down (v. 11). Shall defile the sanctuary fortress; then they shall take away the daily sacrifices (v. 31) To blaspheme...His tabernacle (v. 6)
The same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing (v. 21) An army was given over to the horn…He did all this and prospered (v. 12). The king shall do according to his own will…and shall prosper (v. 36). The world marveled…Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him? (vs. 3,4).

The point of these comparisons is that since these four passages obviously describe the same power, it is possible to learn details from one passage to fill in gaps in the others. This is important because it is from Revelation 13 that we learn the identity of the end-time persecuting powers.

At the “time of the end” the King of the South reappears (“the King of the South shall attack him”), and it will be this offensive that provokes the extreme reaction of the King of the North who “shall come against him like a whirlwind” (v. 40). Here is predicted the resurgence of militant Islam (the King of the South) with a powerful, coordinated end-time attack against the King of the North that ushers in the time of trouble.[11]

By this time the King of the North has evolved again. Revelation 13 reveals that the papacy would suffer a “mortal wound.” This was fulfilled with the Protestant reformation, the arrest of Pope Pius VI in 1798 and the loss of the papal territories in 1870, reducing the ability of the papacy to manipulate governments (See 13:3 The Deadly Wound). But “his mortal wound was healed”—the papacy regained its prestige and influence (See 13: The Deadly Wound Healed).[12] In addition, Revelation 13 reveals that the papacy was to gain a new end-time ally—the “beast coming up out of the earth”—the United States of America (see 13:11,12 The Beast from the Earth)—which “exercises all the authority of the first beast [the papacy] in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast” (Revelation 13:11,12). The United States will be the military agency of the Papacy, “bringing fire down from heaven” (false miracles) and “causing as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed” (persecution) (Revelation 13:13-15).

From these comparisons it appears that at the time of the end there will be an attack by militant Islam against Europe, the United States, or both (“the king of the South shall attack him” Daniel 11:40). The northern forces will retaliate—their armies “with chariots, horsemen and with many ships shall enter the countries, overwhelm them, and pass through” (Daniel 11:40).

All of chapter 11 has been quite literal, more so than any of the other prophecies of Daniel, thus there is no reason to consider the description of this last phase of the war to be symbolic. When Daniel writes that “He [the King of the North] shall also enter the Glorious Land,” this would indicate that the last war will be centered in the Middle East. Specific countries which have modern counterparts are mentioned—“Edom, Moab, and the prominent people of Ammon…Egypt shall not escape…the Libyans and Ethiopians shall follow at his heels” (vs. 41-43) Apparently the headquarters of the King of the North will be in Palestine, perhaps at Jerusalem—“And he shall plant the tents of his palace between the seas [the Dead Sea and the Mediterranean Sea] in the glorious holy mountain” (v. 45). Some kind of development will enrage the northern forces into a murderous frenzy of destruction—“But news from the east and the north shall trouble him; therefore he shall go out with great fury to destroy and annihilate many” (v. 44).[13] However, despite the vast military machine of the northern countries, they will ultimately fail—“Yet he shall come to his end, and no one will help him” (v. 45).

As we saw in chapter 9, there are clear linkages between the final King of the North and the locust armies of Joel and Revelation 9. A likely scenario is that the initial attack (“At the time of the end the King of the South shall attack him” v. 40) will be a strike by militant Islam, and this corresponds to the first four trumpets. The counterattack (“And the king of the North shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter the countries, overwhelm them, and pass through” v. 40) would be military retaliation by European and American forces and corresponds to the fifth and sixth trumpets.

This war is followed by “a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation” (Daniel 12:1) which corresponds to the seven last plagues. Finally Jesus will come to rescue His people—“And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:1-3).

Continue to next section: APPENDIX 4

[1] See chapter 13: The Beast from the Sea for an explanation of the repeated progression of history in the prophecies of Daniel 2 and 7. See 14: When in History for a brief overview of Daniel 8.

[2] Most commentators agree on the identities of the kings of the North and South through the Hellenistic period, but disagreement begins in verse 14. An exception are those who see the “abomination of desolation” in verse 31 as the reign of Antiochus Eipiphanes (reigned 175-164 BC). This interpretation ignores the fact that Jesus said that the abomination of desolation was still future in His day (Matthew 24:15). See footnote on chapter 3: The Day of Atonement, 2300 Days for more details.

[3] Consistent with the pattern of the vision, details are given of the first Roman emperors, including Julius Ceasar’s relationship with Cleopatra (“the daughter of women” v. 17), his Mediterranean campaign to consolidate his power (“he shall turn his face to the coastlands” v. 18) and his murder by Brutus and Cassius in 44 BC (“a commander will put an end to his insolence” v. 18).

[4] “The league” could also refer to the loose union of tribes that came to be the Holy Roman Empire, represented by the ten toes of the image of Daniel 2 and the 10 horns of the fourth beast of Daniel 7. Both the union of church and state under Constantine in the east and formation of the Holy Roman Empire in the west took place in the same time frame (fourth through sixth centuries) and had the same results—a corrupt church whose dogmas and decrees are enforced by an oppressive state.

[5] “Crusades” World Book Encyclopedia article World Book Inc. (Chicago, IL, 1986).

[6] Kittim is a general term for all islanders or people of the coastland of the Mediterranean Sea (See Strongs Concordance or other Bible dictionary), and in fact the Greek Septuagint translates it as Romaioi—Romans, which at that time referred to all Italians (including Venetians).

[7] English translations make it sound like there is an attack by the “ships of Kittim” against the King of the North. But the Hebrew does not say “come against him”—the word bow simply means come, enter or come in. A literal, word-for-word translation might be “enter ships of Kittim, disheartened he turns back”.

[8] The parallel passage in the vision of Daniel 7 is verse 7 “He shall speak pompous words against the most high” and in the vision of chapter 8 verses 10-12 “He even exalted himself as high as the Prince of the host and by him the daily sacrifices were taken away…He cast truth down to the ground. He did all this and prospered.”

[9] The “many days” are the 1260 days of Daniel 7 and Revelation 12—See chapter 12: One Thousand Two Hundred Sixty Days.

[10] Revelation 13:1-10

[11] In chapter eight we saw that the great time of trouble has two parts—the seven trumpets (chapters 8-11), which are Satan’s attempt to defeat God’s people, and the seven last plagues (chapters 15-19), which are God’s rescue of His people.

[12] The mortal wound is alluded to in Daniel 11:3: "Then the King [of the North] shall do according to his own will...and shall prosper till the wrath has been accomplished, for what has been determined shall be done."

[13] This verse could correspond to the sixth trumpet, in which a 200 million-man army kills a third of mankind (Revelation 9:13-19).