The Christ in Prophecy Journal

Prophetic History from Daniel 11: Ptolemies and the Seleucids

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In the first segment in our deep dive into the prophetic history from Daniel 11, we looked at how the prophecy given to Daniel by the angel foretold the coming of Alexander the Great. Now we will marvel at the prophecies that were fulfilled by the ongoing wars between the Ptolemies and the Seleucids.

The Ptolemies and the Seleucids

Daniel 11:5-20 focus on two kingdoms: the Ptolemies and the Seleucids (Syria and Egypt). These are the two territories led by two of his generals who most affected Judah. Syria is in the North, and Egypt is in the South.

Like chapter ten, verse 5 is another section that is so detailed that critics say Daniel could not have written it. The conflict between the king of the North and the king of the South is explained in great detail.

Ptolemy Soter (304-283 B.C.) became the king of the South, the King of Egypt. Seleucus Nicator (304-281 B.C.), a member of the quartet of generals, very quickly became the king of the north ruling Syria. Seleucus started as a general in Ptolemy’s army and became one of his princes. As Daniel prophesized, Seleucus (Syria) became stronger (had great dominion) than Ptolemy (Egypt).

Verse 6 uses the phrase, “After some years.” There is a time gap of fifty years between verses 5 and 6. The angel does give us details to know who is who. The king of the South (Egypt) was Ptolemy II Philadelphus (284 BC), who reigned for 36 years. During this time, the North had two rulers, Antiochus I and Antiochus II.

From 275-271 B.C., Ptolemy expanded his territory, which happened during the first Syrian War. In the second Syrian War (260-253 B.C.), Ptolemy lost most of what he had gained in the first war. It’s important to point out that Syrian king Antiochus II was married. His wife was Laodice. That’s important because, during the Second Syrian War, Ptolemy II convinced him to divorce his wife and marry his only daughter, Bernice. Her dowry (what Ptolemy offered Antiochus) would be the tax revenue Egypt was receiving from Judah. Possibly because royal polygamy was well established by then, Antiochus II consented to the marriage. However, Antiochus agreed to divorce her, fearing that Bernice’s life would be in danger if Laodice remained in the royal court. This political marriage put an end to their conflict.

Within two years of the marriage, Ptolemy died (246 BC), ending the purpose of the marriage, and Antiochus remarried his first wife, Laodice. Seeking revenge, Laodice retaliated by murdering (by poison) Antiochus, Berenice, and their infant son. Laodice then put her son, Seleucus Callinicus, on the throne. It was quite a family dynamic!

In verse 7, Laodice’s revenge continued into the next generation. Ptolemy III, Bernice’s brother, became the king of Egypt and reigned for 25 years. He plotted to avenge his sister’s death by attacking the North. He then killed Laodice and erected a monument in Syria to remind the citizens of his victory. He only stopped his advancements in the North because he had to return to Egypt for national issues — a famine had broken out.

Verse 8 describes the spoils of war, which he brought back to Egypt. He took 40,000 talents of silver and 2,500 images that had previously been taken from Egypt. By defeating the Syrians and taking the spoils of war back to Egypt, he also took their gods into captivity. Verse 9 describes Syria’s attempt at revenge by planning an attack on Egypt, but this attempt failed. Seleucus II was defeated and returned to his land empty-handed.

Seleucus III and Antiochus III the Great

Daniel 11:10 describes the transition of power from “his sons,” which refers to Seleucus III (226-223 B.C.) to his brother Antiochus III the Great (223-187 B.C.) Antiochus III made several attempts to war against Egypt. Finally, in the fourth Syrian War, with an army of 68,000 (219-216 BC), he was successful in seizing territory.

Verse 11 describes the response. Antiochus III, the king of Syria, was successful because Ptolemy IV, the king of Egypt, was known for being a lazy leader. Ptolemy IV enjoyed living in comfort and pleasure. However, when Antiochus III entered Egypt, he was forced to fight. He had an army of 75,000 men and 103 elephants. History records that Ptolemy IV married his sister, and she accompanied him into battle.

Verse 12 records how Ptolemy IV took 40,000 Syrian forces into captivity, but his laziness stopped him from finishing off the Syrian army and its leader. The people of Egypt were not pleased the battle had not been completed. The king and his sister/wife both died under mysterious circumstances.

Verse 13 explains that after Ptolemy IV’s death, Ptolemy V took over the throne, lasting twenty-three years. His nemesis in the North was Antiochus III which led to the 5th Syrian War (212-204 B.C.) Antiochus III’s military campaigns extended as far north as the Caspian Sea and east as India. In 202 B.C., he began a series of attacks on Egypt.

In the third segment of this deep dive into the prophetic history from Daniel 11, the Jewish people will be introduced into the conflicts of the Intertestamental history.

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Dr. David Bowen

Dr. David Bowen serves part-time at Lamb & Lion Ministries as the Teaching Evangelist. He pastors Standing Stones Community Church in Phoenix, Arizona.

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