Online Bible Commentary
Stand in the Gap
Daniel 11:29 At the appointed time he shall return and go toward the south; but it shall not be like the former or the latter. 30 For ships from Cyprus shall come against him; therefore he shall be grieved, and return in rage against the holy covenant, and do damage. So he shall return and show regard for those who forsake the holy covenant. 31 And forces shall be mustered by him, and they shall defile the sanctuary fortress; then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation. 32 Those who do wickedly against the covenant he shall corrupt with flattery; but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits. 33 And those of the people who understand shall instruct many; yet for many days they shall fall by sword and flame, by captivity and plundering. 34 Now when they fall, they shall be aided with a little help; but many shall join with them by intrigue. 35 And some of those of understanding shall fall, to refine them, purify them, and make them white, until the time of the end; because it is still for the appointed time. (NKJV)
The time is 536 B.C. Daniel is about 84 years old. In this passage Daniel is treated to yet another vision from the Lord. At the time of this vision Daniel is on the bank of the Tigris River, not far from his home in Babylon. The vision is given to Daniel in the form of a preincarnate visit from Jesus.
The first six chapters of the book of Daniel are generally of the genre of historical narrative, while the last six chapters are prophetic. In this chapter, Jesus continues to minister to Daniel, through a prophecy of the history of Israel. He foretells events from 539-164 B.C. This encompasses Daniel 11:1-35, and 375 years. Daniel 11:36-12:13, the end of the book, foretell of the end times.
During this period of time the kingdoms of the North (Syria, including Babylon) and the South (Egypt, originally including Israel) are at war. The Ptolemy family rules Egypt, while the Seleucid family rules Syria. These are two of the four divisions of the Greek Empire established under the four generals of Alexander the Great upon his death.
In 198 B.C. Antiochus III of Syria defeats Egypt, taking possession of Israel. Syria, under Antiochus IV, attacks Egypt again in 169 B.C., and plunders Israel on the way back home.
In this passage, we pick up the prophecy in 167 B.C. Antiochus IV, the evil madman who rules Syria, attacks Egypt, once again (v. 29a). This attack, though, is not successful as were the others, or any to come (v. 29b).
Syria is intercepted and stopped by the Romans, the “ships from Cyprus”, near Alexandria on the coast of Egypt (v. 30a). Antiochus IV takes out his anger, again, on those of the Jewish faith, “the holy covenant”, as he attacks Israel on his way back to Syria (v. 30b). He shows “regard” for the apostate Jews in Israel (v. 30c).
The apostate Jews joined forces with Antiochus IV (v. 31a). Together they “defile the sanctuary fortress”, the temple, by offering a sow upon the altar (v. 31b). Then they “take away the daily sacrifices” (v. 31b). Finally, they erect an idol in the temple, an “abomination of desolation” (v. 31c).
Antiochus IV showers “flattery” upon the apostate Jews who help him (v. 32a). But those of the Jewish faith “who know their God” remain “strong, and carry out great exploits” (v. 32b).
One family, that of Judas Maccabeus, “those of the people who understand”, stands in the gap (v. 33a). They “instruct” the Jewish faithful to fight and many are killed and captured as the Syrians plunder Israel (v. 33b-34). Those who stand in the gap and die are refined, purified and made “white” until the Lord returns (v. 35).
Even though there is great loss of life, the Maccabean revolt is ultimately successful and Syria is defeated. The temple is rededicated by Judas Maccabeus in 164 B.C., which was the first celebration of Hanukkah. Antiochus IV dies that same year of a mysterious disease that Jewish tradition believes was from God.
Maccabeus means “the hammer”, and the larger family is known as the Hasmoneans, derived from the name of Judas’ great-great-grandfather. The Hasmonean family ruled Israel from 142-63 B.C., until Pompey claimed Israel for Rome.
Antiochus IV was evil, under the control of Satan. He was defeated by “the people who know their God”, the Israelites, because they remained strong.
Today, Christians around the world face evil on a daily basis. The Bible tells us that this persecution will only become greater until the Lord returns. We are called to remain strong in the face of persecution. We, like the Maccabeans, are called to stand in the gap. And in the end, the Lord will honor our sacrifice.