THE BOOK OF DANIEL
Chapter 4.....THE KING OF THE NORTH:
First let us look at the outstanding features of the whole chapter. Quite evidently there is the king of the north, and the king of the south, and there is another king mentioned who some think is neither the king of the north, nor the king of the south. We will call him "anonymous" for the time being. Then you have a "mighty king" mentioned in v. 3 and another individual, "a raiser of taxes" in verse 20; also you have a despicable fellow mentioned in verse 21, and you have "the robbers of the people" in verse 14. They may be the same in spirit at any rate, as those " that forsake the holy covenant" in verse 30. You have also in verse 30 "the ships of Chittim," and "the abomination that maketh desolate in verse 31. "The glorious land" is mentioned two or three times. You have also two supernatural beings. You have Michael, and another, who maybe, and I think probably was Gabriel. Well now, that is the personnel: they are the outstanding features of the chapter--quite enough for us to consider.
The second thing is that the theme begins, not at chap. 11, v. 1, but at chap. 11, v. 2; the first verse really belongs to the 10th chapter. Taking the subject as a whole I think we shall conclude that it embraces the first four verses of chapter 12.
Now coming after chapter 10, from which it cannot be separated, you will see that this chapter is related to the angelic powers. Those angelic evil powers are there disclosed as coming under the divine sovereignty because nothing is outside God's ultimate control. Those angelic powers are a tremendous factor in the experience of nations. This chapter is itself a revelation of the one who comes to speak to Daniel, and undertakes to tell him the truth. "Now will I show thee the truth." (verse2).
The third thing is quite obvious. The passage of Scripture, which we have taken, begins with history in the past. There can he no question about that. When you come to the other end of the chapter you are in the future, and there is-- equally --no question about that. Look at verse 40 for example, "And at the time of the end"..............It is evident that while you are looking at history when you begin the chapter, you are looking at prophecy when you finish it. The question to be determined is where is the dividing line in this chapter when you pass from history and enter into prophecy? It is quite possible that there is at least one portion of this chapter which is not only history as referring to the past, but is also prophecy as referring to the future. That is to say, "history repeats itself."
The fourth point is this--the king of the north, and the king of the south are not the same individuals throughout the chapter. It is perfectly clear that the king of the north at the beginning is not the king of the north at the end. If I referred to the King of England I might be referring to George the Sixth; but if I said that he signed Magna Charta, you would at once come to the conclusion that it could not be he. So do the titles--"the king of the north," and "the king of the south"--remain, but the individuals change in this chapter.
Let us look now at verse 2. The first thing that is pointed out to Daniel is the fourth king of Persia-Artaxerxes. He was defeated at the battle of Salamis. The image had reached its third stage. The head of gold had passed, and the breast of silver; now came the belly and thighs of brass. So Artaxerxes sees the winding up of the Persian domination. He is followed by that "mighty king" who is mentioned in verse 3. This "mighty king" is Alexander the Great. If you want a farther exposition of the contacts between Greece and Persia you must turn to chapter 8. There you will see the ram and the he-goat: and a terrific tussle is mentioned in that chapter. The he-goat waxes very great against the ram, and takes fierce revenge upon him. "And I saw him come close unto the ram, and be was moved with choler against him, and smote the ram, and broke his two horns: and there was no power in the ram to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground, and stamped upon him: and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand." That was a complete conquest. While it is easy to read in symbol, it must have been a terrific experience as Alexander the Great came into the full possession of his victories, and their fruits.
Now the Greek kingdom was not sustained very long, because Alexander the Great, a wonderful man, a military genius, died at the age of thirty-three, and so it was a short-lived triumph. "When he was strong the great horn was broken;" and in place of it his kingdom was divided, "toward the four winds of heaven." Now in verses 5 and 6 of this chapter you have the first mention of the king of the north and the king of the south. It seems perfectly clear that "the king of the south" was one of the princes under Alexander the Great. The king of the north, and the king of the south always get their title from their relationship to God's chosen Land--Palestine; "the king of the north" operating in Syria, and the king of the south operating in Egypt. And so you get the king of the South, one of Alexander's princes, operating from the region of Egypt, and the king of the north, operating from the region of Syria.
Now so far as the chapter is history, we may be perfectly sure that the chapter is fulfilled in the life of Antiochus Epiphanes. It is quite possible, though by no means certain, that this will take us as far as verse 31. Antiochus Epiphanes outraged the Jews. He had a statue of Jupiter put into the Temple, and he declared it was a representative of himself. He sacrificed pigs upon the altar. If ever there was "abomination" it certainly is to be found in his evil deeds in relation to the Jews. There was a godly remnant who resisted him, and you may read how they suffered under his hand in the record of the Maccabees. They were slaughtered by thousands. Eventually they appealed to the Romans to defend them, and the Romans sent an embassage to make terms with Antiochus Epiphanes. When Popillius presented the terms of the Roman Senate, Antiochus Epiphanes asked for time to consult his friends, but Popillius described a circle around Antiochus Epiphanes, and said, "You cannot step outside that circle until you have given me an answer." So Antiochus Epiphanes had to make his answer there and then, and fall into line with the Roman demands.
That the chapter is not only history however is clear from our Lord's words in Matt. 24; 15 for there our Lord speaks in its terms but of the future. "When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place." You may he inclined to think, perhaps, that this was fulfilled in A.D.70 at the destruction of Jerusalem, But you must bear in mind what is said in the beginning of chap. 12: "And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation, even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall he found written in the book." "Thy people shall he delivered." Now, without any question, God's people have not yet been delivered.' That is perfectly clear. You have only to look at the facts of life! You can see that God's people are not delivered: and, therefore, thev are yet to be delivered. Whatever may have been the historical sequence of Antiochus Epiphanes, whatever may have happened at the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, there is no question from this passage of Scripture that "the abomination of desolation" is yet in the future. For when the ultimate fulfilment of prophecy obtains, God's Ancient people shall he delivered.
Now the next point. There are three episodes connected with "the glorious land." They are important to notice. In verses 16, 31, and 41--and these references to "the glorious land" are sufficient to give us help in the understanding of the chapter. 'What is the chapter really? It is a kind of struggle between the king of the north, and the king of the south, and the scene of their conflict is "the glorious land." Now let us look at it from that standpoint, and see if the chapter will yield something to us. Verses 5-9: In the nature of preliminary tactics the king of the south comes into conflict with the king of the north, and the king of the south wins. This gives the king of the south considerable encouragement, and he ventures to challenge the king of the north. Then you get these three tremendous struggles between the king of north and the king of the south: and the first you will find in verses 10-19. This time the king of the south does not succeed; he cannot withstand the king of the north. The latter seems to be invincible, and he presses on until he comes to "the glorious land" which having ravaged he addresses himself to the isles. It seems as if he is omnipotent, yet we read--"But he shall stumble and fall, and not be found." How that happens we are not told. We are just told that that is the end of him. He gets a mighty victory over the king of the south. He sweeps into the glorious land and he begins to think of greater domination. At the end there is seen that controlling hand of God, which is declared in the beginning of the Book, and is emphasized on other occasions. We see that when a human individual gets to a point where everything is at his feet, then God says. "That is enough."' And as soon as God says that, a man is seen to he utterly helpless. "He shall stumble and fall, and not be found."
In his place there rises this "raiser of taxes." I shall not deal with him at all except to say that it seems as a result of all those conquests, there is evidently a terrible economic situation created, and the economist comes in to try to settle the issue. But he is quickly destroyed "neither in anger, nor in battle." In his place there comes a despicable fellow, "a vile person," and that begins to lead us up, to the second phase of "the, glorious land"--verses 21.32--there you have got the stage set for the king of the north, and the king of the south again. Of course, the individuals concerned have changed. The title remains the same, but the individuals are not identical with those that we have been thinking of previously.
You will notice as you read through these verses that you have got rather a different approach this time. This second phase is largely a phase of negotiations. I could have almost said that this must have been fulfilled between 1918 to 1939--only, of course, one must not mention dates! It is an era of negotiations and flatteries. In this section dealing with the relationship between the king of the north, and the king of the south, you will find them indulging in leagues. There is no word so attractive as "leagues" in the dictionary of politics! We are going to have more of' them as time goes on. You find here cliques; and you have mention of devices. Here, too is one of the most interesting verses of Scripture. Will you look at verse 27--Here is the king of the north, and the king of the south, "And both these kings' hearts shall be to do mischief, and they shall speak lies at one table." God, speaking through the angelic visitor, says that they are both bound on mischief, and shall speak lies at one table. The king of the north, and the king of the south have got many descendants! They are supposed to be coming together to negotiate a peace, and yet each is trying to deceive the other: and God permits it! As you get towards the end time you may be perfectly sure that diplomacy is going to be entirely a matter of speaking lies at one table. You will remember when Italy was going to advance on the State of Ethiopia, every nation in Europe had pledged itself that they would all apply sanctions together, and stop Italy from so acting. But when they got to Geneva this nation, and that said, "We are sorry: we cannot do it. Italy is our friend. We cannot do this thing." And Geneva, which was supposed to be a centre of peace, was seen to he a centre of utter international hypocrisy. Yet there were thousands of Christians in this country praying for God's blessing upon this centre of international hoodwinking.The king of the north, and the king of the south are sitting at one table, "and they shall speak lies." How can you pray for God's blessing upon them? You can only pray that God ' s truth may be madc manifest. So both these kings, with their hearts set on mischief forecast devices.
I reach the conclusion that this section concerning the king of the north and the king of the south is partly history, as fulfilled in Antiochus Epiphanes: and it is also prophecy of what is going to be fulfilled in the future. It is going to be very interesting for us if we live long enough.
Well, "At the time appointed he shall return (the king of the north)," verse 29. The negotiations have failed: the battle is breaking out again, but there is a difference in the tactics. The difference is this, that he is troubled by the ships of Chittim, which come against him. That is to say, there is a naval power that stands in the way, and makes it difficult for him. And, secondly, there is a new attitude to the Jew, God's People. There is an accommodating treaty negotiated with some of the apostate Jews. We saw that in our previous study. There are some Jews who do not see the truth of God, and there are those to whom reference is made: "they know their God and (out of their knowledge of God) do exploits." That word "exploits" in your Bible is in italics, or it should be, so that the words read: "They shall be strong and do ......." They act --by way of testimony and of course, they act Godwards. It will be the time of "the abomination of desolation."
Now there is a third picture of the king of the north, and the king of the south from verses 33 to 45, and taking in those extra verses from Chapter 12. This period, without any question, is in the future. It is the time of the end, to which reference has been made in verse 40. "The king shall do according to his will," verse 36. "And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots and with horsemen, and with many ships: and he shall enter into the countries, and he shall overflow, and pass over." What does this mean? Does it indicate that another king has arisen, and that the king of the south attacks this anonymous king and not only the king of the south, but the king of the north also attacks him? Do these agelong rivals thus come into a kind of confederacy at the end? I do not think that is the understanding of the passage. This is the conclusion that I have reached. "At the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him (the king of the north) and the king of the north shall come against him (the king of the south)."
I regard this as being a conflict still between the king of the north and the king of the south. The king of the north comes against the king of the south, not only with chariots and horsemen, but also "with many ships." He has learned the lesson that he must have a navy. The king of the south lies prostrate before him, he wins complete victory, and enters "the glorious land." He has power also in Libya and in Ethiopia, so that he makes a tremendous conquest. Then tidings come to him from the east and from the north--Asia becomes a challenge. And as a result of what he bears, he goes forth "with great fury to destroy, and utterly to make away many." That, of course, is the time of "the Great Tribulation" to which reference is made in the first verse of the next chapter. Here is this king of the north visiting such terrible cruelty upon the Jews that at last Michael the angel, who stands for Daniel's people, rises up to defend them; and when the angel stands up like that, that is the end of human beings. Mark you that! Our Lord said, concerning those who took Him, that they could do nothing unless God so willed; that He had legions of angels at His disposal who would soon turn all human strength into utter weakness; so when you look, out on the world to-day don't get too despondent. Remember this, the whole thing is in God's hands. He has reserves of power, so vast, that even the angels could step in and settle the issues of a world War: that is a great comfort
Remember too, that there is nothing happening outside of God's control. We are simply waiting now for God's moment: and God's moment, when it comes, will be the revelation of His mind and will, and the effective accomplishment of it. And so these tidings from the east and from the north alter the plans of the king of the north and "he shall come to his end, and none shall help him."
What a consummation for a man who has been striking terror into the hearts of millions! The reason why he comes to his end is this: he shall be destroyed with the breath of our Lord's mouth and the brightness of His Coming. In the Upper Room our Lord breathed the Holy Spirit upon His disciples, and the Church received it. Now our Lord breathes on the king of the north, "and he shall come to his end, and none shall help him." Well, it is quite clear from this that God has the issue in His hands. It is perfectly clear that men and nations are bound to work out the inscrutable decrees of Deity. You may say, "Well, then, it does not matter?' We are living in a world of fatalism. In one sense, if you are using the word "fatalism" for divine providence you are right: in another sense you are wrong.
The whole issue turns upon the condition of your heart. If you say, "Oh, God, I thank Thee for the revelation of these chapters: and I can see the end of Gentile domination is chaff and dust, and every incarnation of modern civilisation shall be destroyed by the breath of Thy mouth." If you say that, THEN in a very solemn way offer up your heart and will to God, that you do not withstand His will, but that in everything His will shall be done in you as it is done in Heaven. Blessed is the man who passes through such days as these in obedience and submission to the will of God, understanding something of the divine revelation and seeing the streaks of dawn already breaking the darkness.
"EVEN SO COME LORD JESUS.
Oh Christ Thou art the 'Smiting Stone
To Gentile pride and power;
Ere long 'the image' will lie prone,
Struck down by missile from the Throne,
When dawns Thine Advent hour.
Come Lord, and smite 'the image' down!
Bring in Thy Kingdom! Take Thy Crown!"
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