The conflict between Persia and Greece presented in the vision of the ram and goat is recapped at the start of the final vision – Daniel 11:1-4.
The introduction to the final vision did more than just portray an impressive angelic visitation. It provided verbal links to the vision of the “ram and the goat” and its interpretation. Now, additional details are presented concerning the demise of Persia, the rise of Greece and its first great king, and its division into four lesser realms.
The first paragraph of chapter 11 sets the stage for the conflicts between two of the four Greek kingdoms, and for the rise of an especially arrogant king. In this section, the links to the earlier vision and its interpretation are clear, including the reference to “Greece,” its first “mighty king,” his downfall, and the subsequent four smaller kingdoms.
- (Daniel 11:1-4) – “And as for me, in the first year of Darius the Mede, I stood up to confirm and strengthen him. And now will I show you the truth. Behold, there will stand up yet three kings in Persia; and the fourth will be far richer than they all: and when he is waxed strong through his riches, he will stir up all against the realm of Greece. And a mighty king will stand up, that will rule with great dominion, and do according to his will. And when he will stand up, his kingdom will be broken and divided toward the four winds of heaven, but not to his posterity, nor according to his dominion wherewith he ruled; for his kingdom will be plucked up, even for others besides these.”
The “four winds of heaven” links the paragraph to the visions of the “four beasts from the sea,” and to the vision of the “goat and the ram”:
- (Daniel 7:2-3) – “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea. And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another.”
- (Daniel 8:8) – “And the goat magnified himself exceedingly: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken (shabar); and instead of it there came up four notable horns toward the four winds of heaven.”
The fourth ruler after Cyrus “waxed strong through his riches and stirred up all against the realm of Greece.” More than four Persian rulers succeeded Cyrus. But the passage does not state that the fourth king was the last one, or that Greece overthrew him, only that he was responsible for stirring up the Greeks, which is historically accurate.
The fourth king was Darius I, also known as Darius the Great, and Darius Hystaspis (reigned 550-486 B.C.). He was the richest of the Persian kings and extended the empire to its furthest limits. And in the west, his territory reached the shores of the Aegean Sea, which put Darius into direct conflict with the city-states of Greece.
Most famously, Darius invaded Greece hoping to subjugate Athens, but this attempt culminated in the defeat of the Persian army at the Battle of Marathon (490 B.C.). His meddling fomented deep resentment throughout Greece, and retribution against Persia became the alleged justification for the later invasion of the empire by Alexander the Great.
“For his kingdom will be plucked up, even for others besides these.” As great and swift as Alexander’s conquests were, his kingdom did not long survive his death. Although the four subsequent realms were also Greco-Macedonian, they were “lesser kingdoms.” Collectively, they replaced Alexander’s empire, the “leopard with four heads.” The distinction is important to the prophetic outlook of Daniel. The “fourth kingdom” with its “little horn” is not identical to Alexander’s original empire.
Alexander died in 323 B.C. when his son was still an infant. This caused a struggle for succession among his generals. In the end, the bulk of his empire was divided among four generals, with Ptolemy I over Egypt (the “king of the south”), and Seleucus claiming Syria and Mesopotamia (the “king of the north”).
Thus, Daniel’s visions are firmly rooted in history. In the book of Revelation, the “four winds of heaven” appear prior to the “sealing of God’s servants,” but the description becomes the “four winds of the earth”:
- (Revelation 7:1-3) – “After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that no wind should blow on the earth, or on the sea, or upon any tree. And I saw another angel ascend from the sun rising, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a great voice to the four angels to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea nor the trees until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.”
In Daniel’s vision of the “four beasts from the sea,” the “four winds of heaven” stirred up the “sea” and caused the four creatures to ascend out of it, including the “fourth beast” that waged “war against the saints.”
Elsewhere in Daniel, the “four winds of heaven” corresponded to the four points of the compass.
In Revelation, the “four winds of the earth” are restrained from harming the earth or the sea until God’s servants are “sealed.” These destructive forces cannot be unleashed until the saints are prepared to withstand the inevitable onslaught.
With the demise of the vast Persian Empire, Greece assumed the mantle of World-Power. With this background, the stage is prepared for the coming conflicts between the “king of the south” and the “king of the north,” and the inevitable rise of the “contemptible king” who would wage war against the “saints,” defile the sanctuary in Jerusalem, cause the cessation of the daily burnt offering, and erect the “abomination that desolates.”
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