Chapter 3 - Tug of War


          As noted in the previous chapter, this book is not intended to convince the reader, but rather to serve as a tool, or springboard for the reader’s own study.  As such, I will not spend too much time slogging through the details of ancient history. Instead, I will provide enough information for context.  My primary focus, like Daniel’s, will largely be upon the prophetic events of our day. Given the fast pace of this prophecy, I will largely go through the verses consecutively as they appear beginning in the eleventh chapter of Daniel, as written in the King James Bible.

          Daniel’s vision begins as follows:

Also I in the first year of Darius the Mede, even I, stood to confirm and to strengthen him. And now will I shew thee the truth. Behold, there shall stand up yet three kings in Persia; and the fourth shall be far richer than they all: and by his strength through his riches he shall stir up all against the realm of Grecia. (Dan 11:1&2)

           Daniel was originally taken captive when Babylon destroyed Jerusalem. Babylon was then conquered by Persia, and Daniel found himself in the service of a new master, King Darius. Daniel saw in a vision a succession of four more Persian kings, the forth of which would be richer than all who came before him. This king would be called Xerxes.  Xerxes would use his great wealth to incite the kingdom of Persia against Macedonia in what would become known as the Second Persian Invasion.  Persia ultimately did not win this war, but it was a major conflict that resulted in great death and destruction which would leave a lasting cultural imprint on the Macedonian city-states.  There would be other kings of Persia after Xerxes, but ultimately Daniel foresaw that the kingdom of Persia would come to an end, largely as a result of the hatred Xerxes and his campaign of war and bloodshed instilled upon the Greeks. Daniel next saw how Persia’s end came to pass:

 And a mighty king shall stand up, that shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will. (Dan 11:3)

           This mighty king, whom Daniel prophesied would rise, was the young son of King Philip. King Philip lost his life fighting against the Persians. His son’s name was Alexander, and he would become known worldwide as Alexander the Great. Alexander had been taught by the famed Greek philosopher Aristotle.  Alexander was something of a genius and became a formidable leader and strategist at an early age.  While a teenager, when his father was at war against the Persians, he attacked and conquered the Thracian tribes.  These tribes were ferocious and believed by many to be unbeatable.

         When Alexander was only 20 years old, his father died, leaving him the kingdom. Immediately, Alexander went to war to avenge his father’s death. Despite being vastly outnumbered by the Persians, and due to Alexander’s unrivaled strategy and cunningness, his armies decimated the Persian forces. The Persian Empire soon fell to him. Alexander is the only general in recorded history to have never lost a single battle.  Due to his incredible skill and strategy, by the time he was only 30 years old, he had built the largest kingdom the world had ever seen. Daniel’s vision continues:

And when he shall stand up [Alexander], his kingdom shall be broken, and shall be divided toward the four winds of heaven; and not to his posterity, nor according to his dominion which he ruled: for his kingdom shall be plucked up, even for others beside those. (Dan 11:4)

           Daniel saw in his vision, that after Alexander had amassed the world’s greatest empire, he would die while still strong, that is to say, while still in the prime of life.  So it was that at the age of 32 years old, he did die. Some historians say he died of illness, others of poisoning.  Regardless of the cause of his death, his kingdom did not go to his children. Instead, upon his death, the kingdom was subdivided amongst his four generals.  Lysimachus received Thrace and most of Asia Minor. Cassander received Macedonia and Greece.  Ptolemy I received Egypt and Palestine, and Seleucos received Mesopotamia, the rest of the Levant, Persia, and part of India. 

           Daniel’s vision continues:

And the King of the South shall be strong, and one of his princes; and he shall be strong above him, and have dominion; his dominion shall be a great dominion. And in the end of years they shall join themselves together; for the king’s daughter of the south shall come to the King of the North to make an agreement: but she shall not retain the power of the arm; neither shall he stand, nor his arm: but she shall be given up, and they that brought her, and he that begat her, and he that strengthened her in these times. (Dan 11:5-6)

           The King of the South, refers to the southernmost of these four kingdoms, which was ruled by Ptolemy I, and was centered in Egypt. Ptolemy ruled his kingdom under the pattern of the ancient Pharaohs, with all of the corresponding pomp and circumstance. Nevertheless, Daniel saw that the time would come when Alexander’s fractured kingdoms would be reunited again, in what would become the Roman Empire.

           Incredibly Daniel saw that this merger would be centered around the actions of a young female descendant of Ptolemy I. This young woman was none other than the famed Egyptian queen – Cleopatra.  The King of the North was a strong young leader named Julius Caesar.  Caesar had risen to power over the Roman republic and had begun to change the power structure of Rome.  He became a dictator, and under his leadership, Rome began expanding.

           Meanwhile, there was turmoil and sibling rivalry in Egypt.  Cleopatra was forced to flee from Egypt to Syria, as one of her brothers sought the kingdom.  She needed a powerful ally if she was to retain her kingdom.  So it was that Cleopatra sought an audience with the powerful King of the North - Julius Caesar.  Caesar was immediately taken by Cleopatra’s beauty and fell in love with her. Julius Caesar defeated Cleopatra’s brother and restored the kingdom to her. He remained in Egypt with her for a time and they had a child together, Caesarion, or Little Caesar.  Caesar, was not able to enjoy his time with Cleopatra for long. Trouble was brewing in Rome, which required his presence.  That trouble would ultimately claim his life, as he was murdered by his peers upon his return to Rome.

           Having lost a powerful ally in Caesar, Cleopatra’s rule was once again in jeopardy.  Meanwhile, the power of the Roman Empire fell upon two men, Mark Anthony, and Octavian.  In a play to secure her kingdom, Cleopatra sought an audience with Mark Antony.  Like Caesar before him, Mark Antony fell for Cleopatra’s legendary beauty and vowed to support her kingdom.  He abandoned his own wife and children and moved to Egypt to be with Cleopatra.  He too had children with Cleopatra.

           Out of jealousy and fear that Mark Antony was planning on relocating the Roman capital to Egypt, Octavian and the Roman Senate stripped Mark Antony of his titles and declared him an enemy of the state.  A war against him quickly ensued.  He lost that war, and having received a false report that Cleopatra had died, he took his own life.  The news of Mark Antony’s death broke Cleopatra’s heart, and she joined him in death by committing suicide herself.  Thus, all of her plans were for not, she lost both her love and her kingdom, just as Daniel had foreseen. Thus, the four fractured kingdoms that Alexander had built were reunited once again, this time under the banner of Rome.

           The vision continues:

But out of a branch of her [Cleopatra’s] roots shall one stand up in his [the King of the North – Rome] estate, which shall come with an army, and shall enter into the fortress of the King of the North, and shall deal against them, and shall prevail: And shall also carry captives into Egypt their gods, with their princes, and with their precious vessels of silver and of gold; and he shall continue more years than the King of the North. (Dan 11:7-8)

           Egypt continued to be part of the Roman Empire until 270 AD, when to the utter shock of the Roman Empire, a woman and her son would wrench it away again. This woman was Septima Zenobia. Zenobia was a Roman citizen who claimed to be a descendent of Cleopatra. For some time there had been growing differences between the eastern half of the Roman Empire and its western half.  The west was seen as corrupt and failing.  Zenobia capitalized on these feelings and, via her son Vaballathus, raised an army and began attacking Rome. They conquered most of the eastern part of the Roman Empire, including Egypt, and ruled it under what became known as the Palmyrene Empire. To this day she is a celebrated heroine in the region. Daniel continues:

So the King of the South [Vaballathus] shall come into his kingdom, and shall return into his own land. But his [the King of the North] sons shall be stirred up, and shall assemble a multitude of great forces: and one shall certainly come, and overflow, and pass through: then shall he return, and be stirred up, even to his fortress. (Daniel 11:9-10)

           Rome did not take the challenge to its authority lightly. A Roman defeat by any measure was humiliating, but losing the eastern half of its kingdom to a woman, was unconscionable.  In part, due to the miraculous nature of her conquest, Zenobia became wildly popular among the people of her newly created empire.  She ruled her empire out of Egypt, as Cleopatra had done before her.  She reigned as queen for three short years, but it was long enough to have a lasting impact upon the people of the east.  Even though the Roman soldiers were able to retake her lands, Zenobia had won the people’s hearts and minds.

                   Zenobia’s popularity proved to be far more damaging to the Roman Empire than the war itself.  Zenobia’s conquest had given the Romans of the east a new identity. Zenobia had given them independence from the corruption of the west, albeit briefly, and they wanted it back. Not long after Zenobia’s defeat, Rome would permanently split into two kingdoms, the Eastern Kingdom, and the Western Kingdom.  The Western Kingdom continued under the name of Rome, and became the seat of the Roman Catholic Church, but would not last more than 150 years before collapsing into oblivion.  The eastern part of the kingdom became known as the Byzantine Empire, which became the seat of the Greek Orthodox Church and would last until the dawn of the new age. In the end, as Daniel foresaw, the Byzantine Empire, born of Zenobia, would outlast Rome by a thousand years.

           At this stage in Daniel’s vision, the King of the North and the King of the South begin to represent more than empires. They come to represent ideological and philosophical differences.  The King of the North represents not only the Byzantine Empire but all Western civilization. The King of the South now represents a new rising power in the world.  This power took root in the South around 600 AD and quickly began to expand like wildfire.  I speak of the rise of Islam, and the Islamic caliphate.  Daniel’s vision continues:

And the King of the South shall be moved with choler, and shall come forth and fight with him, even with the King of the North: and he [the King of the North] shall set forth a great multitude; but the multitude shall be given into his hand [the King of the Souths hand]. And when he hath taken away the multitude, [the King of the South’s] heart shall be lifted up; and he shall cast down many ten thousands: but he shall not be strengthened by it. (Daniel 11:11-12)

           Islamic forces quickly began to expand and conquer the southern areas of the Byzantine Empire, which included Egypt and Palestine. Before the end, they would take the capital city of the Byzantine Empire, and begin pushing into Europe. But the Byzantine Empire would not go quietly into the night. For centuries, these two forces would fight in an epic tug of war over the region’s territories. When their need became dire, the Byzantine Empire called for aid from all of the Christian nations of Europe to help them in the tug of war against the South. The call was answered in the form of the Crusades.

           Europe sent tens of thousands of its fathers and sons to combat the Southern Islamic threat.  However, no matter how many men they sent, their victories were always temporary.  Despite the South’s victories, they were never strengthened by them either, at least not in the ways that Rome’s and Alexander’s victories had strengthen their kingdoms.  The South continued in poverty, expanding by force, and not by culture.  So it was until just before the dawn of the modern era, when the Byzantine Empire finally fell before the invading Islamic armies of the Ottoman Empire, in 1453.  

           At its height, the Islamic Ottoman Empire encompassed the following lands: Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Egypt, Hungary, Macedonia, Romania, Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, portions of Arabia, and large swaths of the North African Coast. The capital city of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople, named in honor of the famous Christian Roman Emperor, was renamed to Istanbul.  Thus the city of Constantine, became the city of Islam, the new capital city of the Islamic Empire.

                   However, rather than weakening the North, the fall of the last vestiges of ancient Rome helped propel the Italian renaissance into the rest of Europe.  Europeans awoke to a profound sense of what they had lost. This loss fostered renewed interest in the achievements of the Roman Empire.  Their architecture, art, and sciences became the genesis for the great awakening that revitalized Europe and brought it out of the Dark Ages.

           As a direct result of the renaissance, innovation blossomed in Europe. The German’s developed the printing press, which enabled the dissemination of knowledge and ideas in ways not possible before. The Italian city-states advanced the arts and sciences. For the first time, the Bible began to be published in the language of the common man. Religious reformers throughout Europe began to question the totalitarian rule and extra-Biblical doctrines of the Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches.

           The furor of Northern excitement soon exploded into a frenzy of opportunity when America was rediscovered. Wealth and opportunity blossomed in the North as never before.  Indeed, although the King of the South had conquered, his victory was hollow. The North had moved on to bigger and better things. No longer were they bound by the circumstances of their fathers.  They could prosper and grow wealthy through their own industry and trade. A new enlightened age of discovery and development was born.  Although the North had lost, they had seen the future, the old world was forgotten, it now became all bout the new one.