It’s easy to get lost in Daniel 11. The events foretold there so closely mirror actual historical events (going from the fifth century B.C. to the second century B.C.) that scholars have doubted Daniel actually wrote it. There’s no way, they believe, Daniel could see that far into the future.
But this isn’t Daniel’s book. It’s the Lord’s book. Daniel is but the means God is using of communicating the message.
So what’s the message?
Daniel is, by this time, writing after the first return of God’s people from Babylon to Jerusalem. Daniel chose to stay in Babylon. So did a lot of other Jewish people.
Why did they stay? Perhaps Daniel himself was too old to make the journey by this time. Others, having made their homes (and perhaps grown up) in Babylon, chose the pagan environment over the city of God. God’s people are a divided lot. What does the future hold?
Alexander the Great (no doubt the mighty king of 11:3) will overcome the Persians, but at his death, his kingdom will be divided into four parts. Daniel 11 concerns itself only with two of them: The kings of the north (Syria) and the kings of the south(Egypt). Between them there will be conflict (11:5) alliances (vss. 6 & 17) and more conflict (vss. 7-13) and the balance of power will seesaw. God’s people will be caught in the middle, but the more violent prone among them will rebel – and fail. A king of the North will attempt to enlarge his boarders into Europe (coastlands – vs. 18) but will fail.
As time goes on, the northern kingdom will dominate for a while, and things will go badly for God’s people (vss. 20-28, 31-35). The king of the north will exalt himself as supreme – and it will look for all the world like he is, but soon, he, like all those before him, will perish (vss. 36-45).
Those who would like to see suggested identification of these kings involved might consult the NIV Application commentary on Daniel (pages 271-283), but remember: if Daniel wrote this book, NO ONE would know who those kings were. What did God intend for his people to get from this presentation if they couldn’t identify the kings?
Simply this, in the words of an old hymn: “The kingdoms of earth pass away one by one, but the kingdom of heaven remains.” As they always had (and as we persist in doing), God’s people pinned their hopes on earthly political movements and empires. But all those are destined to fail. The important thing is to have your name written in God’s book as one who leads others in righteousness (12:3).