At the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him - These kings are to be understood in reference to the times of which the prophet speaks. While the kingdoms of Egypt and Syria were subsisting, the king of the south and the north applied to them exclusively: but they did not exist at the time of which the prophet speaks; therefore other southern and northern powers must be sought. These we may find in the Saracens, who were of the Arabians, who came from the south, headed by the false prophet Mohammed, who pushed at him - made war on the Greek emperor Heraclius, and with amazing rapidity deprived him of Egypt, Syria, and many of his finest provinces.
And the king of the north - The Turks, who were originally Scythians, seized on the remains of the Greek empire; and in process of time rendered themselves masters of the whole. They are represented as coming like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen; their armies being chiefly composed of cavalry.
And with many ships - With these they got possession of many islands and maritime countries; and were so powerful in their fleets, that they entirely defeated the Venetians; and at last their fleets became of the utmost consequence to them in besieging, and afterwards taking, Constantinople, a.d. 1453, which they hold to the present day. So they entered into the countries, and overflowed, rendering themselves masters of all Asia Minor and Greece.
And at the time of the end - See Daniel 11:35. The “time of the end” must properly denote the end or consummation of the series of events under consideration, or the matter in hand, and properly and obviously means here the end or consummation of the transactions which had been referred to in the previous part of the vision. It is equivalent to what we should say by expressing it thus: “at the winding up of the affair.” In Daniel 12:4, Daniel 12:9, Daniel 12:13, the word “end,” however, obviously refers to another close or consummation - the end or consummation of the affairs that reach far into the future - the final dispensation of things in this world. It has been held by many that this could not be understood as referring to Antiochus, because what is here stated did not occur in the close of his reign. Perhaps at first sight the most obvious interpretation of what is said in this and the subsequent verses to the end of the chapter would be, that, after the series of events referred to in the previous verses; after Antiochus had invaded Egypt, and had been driven thence by the fear of the Romans, he would, in the close of his reign, again attack that country, and bring it, and Libya, and AEthiopia into subjection Daniel 11:43; and that when there, tidings out of the north should compel him to abandon the expedition and return again to his own land.
Porphyry (see Jerome, in loc.) says that this was so, and that Antiochus actually invaded Egypt in the “eleventh year of his reign,” which was the year before he died; and he maintains, therefore, that all this had a literal application to Antiochus, and that being so literally true, it must have been written after the events had occurred. Unfortunately the fifteen books of Porphyry are lost, and we have only the fragments of his works preserved which are to be found in the Commentary of Jerome on the book of Daniel. The statement of Porphyry, referred to by Jerome, is contrary to the otherwise universal testimony of history about the last days of Antiochus, and there are such improbabilities in the statement as to leave the general impression that Porphyry in this respect falsified history in order to make it appear that this must have been written after the events referred to. If the statement of Porphyry were correct, there would be no difficulty in applying this to Antiochus. The common belief, however, in regard to Antiochus is, that he did not invade Egypt after the series of events referred to above, and after he had been required to retire by the authority of the Roman ambassadors, as stated in the notes at Daniel 11:30.
This belief accords also with all the probabilities of the case. Under these circumstances, many commentators have supposed that this portion of the chapter Daniel 11:40-45 could not refer to Antiochus, and they have applied it to Anti-christ, or to the Roman power. Yet how forced and unnatural such an application must be, anyone can perceive by examining Newton on the Prophecies, pp. 308-315. The obvious, and perhaps it may be added the honest, application of the passage must be to Antiochus. This is that which would occur to any reader of the prophecy; this is what he would obviously hold to be the true application; and this is that only which would occur to anyone, unless it were deemed necessary to bend the prophecy to accommodate it to the history. Honesty and fairness, it seems to me, require that we should understand this as referring to the series of events which had been described in the previous portion of the chapter, and as designed to state the ultimate issue or close of the whole.
There will be no difficulty in this if we may regard these verses Daniel 11:40-45 as containing a recapitulation, or a summing up of the series of events, with a statement of the manner in which they would close. If so interpreted all will be clear. It will then be a general statement of what would occur in regard to this remarkable transaction that would so materially affect the interests of religion in Judea, and be such an important chapter in the history of the world. This summing up, moreover, would give occasion to mention some circumstances in regard to the conquests of Antiochus which could not so well be introduced in the narrative itself, and to present, in few words, a summary of all that would occur, and to state the manner in which all would be terminated. Such a summing up, or recapitulation, is not uncommon, and in this way the impression of the whole would be more distinct.
With this view, the phrase “and at the time of the end” Daniel 11:40 would refer, not so much to the “time of the end” of the reign of Antiochus, but to the “time of the end” of the whole series of the transactions referred to by the angel as recorded “in the scripture of truth” Daniel 10:21, from the time of Darius the Mede Daniel 11:1 to the close of the reign of Antiochus - a series of events embracing a period of some three hundred and fifty years. Viewed in reference to this long period, the whole reign of Antiochus, which was only eleven years, might be regarded as “the time of the end.” It was, indeed, the most disastrous portion of the whole period, and in this chapter it occupies more space than all that went before it - for it was to be the time of the peculiar and dreadful trial of the Hebrew people, but it was “the end” of the matter - the winding up of the series - the closing of the events on which the eye of the angel was fixed, and which were so important to be known beforehand. In these verses, therefore Daniel 11:40-45, he sums up what would occur in what he here calls appropriately “the time of the end” - the period when the predicted termination of this series of important events should arrive - to wit, in the brief and eventful reign of Antiochus.
Push at him - As in the wars referred to in the previous verse - in endeavoring to expel him from Coelo-Syria and Palestine, and from Egypt itself, Daniel 11:25, Daniel 11:29-30. See the note at those verses.
And the king of the north shall come against him - The king of Syria - Antiochus. Against the king of Egypt. He shall repeatedly invade his lands. See the notes above.
Like a whirlwind - As if he would sweep everything before him. This he did when he invaded Egypt; when he seized on Memphis, and the best portion of the land of Egypt, and when he obtained possession of the person of Ptolemy. See the notes at Daniel 11:25-27.
With chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships - All this literally occurred in the successive invasions of Egypt by Antiochus. See the notes above.
And he shall enter into the countries - Into Coelo-Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and the adjacent lands.
And shall overflow and pass over - Like a flood he shall spread his armies over these countries. See the notes at Daniel 11:22.
After a long interval, the king of the south and the king of the north again appear on the stage of action. We have met with nothing to indicate that we are to look to any localities for these powers other than those which shortly after the death of Alexander, constituted respectively the southern and northern divisions of his empire. The king of the south was at that time Egypt, and the king of the north was Syria, including Thrace and Asia Minor. Egypt is still, by common agreement, the king of the south, while the territory which at first constituted the king of the north, has been for the past four hundred years wholly included within the dominions of the sultan of Turkey. To Egypt and Turkey, then, in connection with the power last under consideration, we must look for a fulfillment of the verse before us.DAR 273.3
This application of the prophecy calls for a conflict to spring up between Egypt and France, and Turkey and France, in 1798, which year, as we have seen, marked the beginning of the time of the end; and if history testifies that such a triangular war did break out in that year, it will be conclusive proof of the correctness of the application.DAR 273.4
We inquire, therefore, Is it a fact that at the time of the end, Egypt did “push,” or make a comparatively feeble resistance, while Turkey did come like a resistless “whirlwind,” against “him,” that is, the government of France? We have already produced some evidence that the time of the end commenced in 1798; and no reader of history need be informed that in that very year a state of open hostility between France and Egypt was inaugurated.DAR 273.5
To what extent this conflict owed its origin to the dreams of glory deliriously cherished in the ambitious brain of Napoleon Bonaparte, the historian will form his own opinion; but the French, or Bonaparte at least, contrived to make Egypt the aggressor. Thus, when in the invasion of that country he had secured his first foothold in Alexandria, he declared that “he had not come to ravage the country or to wrest it from the Grand Seignior, but merely to deliver it from the domination of the Mamelukes, and to revenge the outrages which they had committed against France.” — Thiers’s French Revolution, Vol. IV, p. 268.DAR 274.1
Again the historian says: “Besides, he [Bonaparte] had strong reasons to urge against them [the Mamelukes]; for they had never ceased to ill-treat the French.” — Id., p. 273.DAR 274.2
The beginning of the year 1798 found France indulging in immense projects against the English. The Directory desired Bonaparte to undertake at once a descent upon England; but he saw that no direct operations of that kind could be judiciously undertaken before the fall, and he was unwilling to hazard his growing reputation by spending the summer in idleness. “But,” says the historian, “he saw a far-off land, where a glory was to be won which would gain a new charm in the eyes of his countrymen by the romance and mystery which hung upon the scene. Egypt, the land of the Pharaohs and the Ptolemies, would be a noble field for new triumphs.” — White’s History of France, p. 469.DAR 274.3
But while still broader visions of glory opened before the eyes of Bonaparte in those Eastern historic lands, covering not Egypt only, but Syria, Persia, Hindustan, even to the Ganges itself, he had no difficulty in persuading the Directory that Egypt was the vulnerable point through which to strike at England by intercepting her Eastern trade. Hence, on the pretext above mentioned, the Egyptian campaign was undertaken.DAR 274.4
The downfall of the papacy, which marked the termination of the 1260 years, and, according to verse 35, showed the commencement of the time of the end, occurred on the 10th of February, 1798, when Rome fell into the hands of Berthier, the general of the French. On the 5th of March following, Bonaparte received the decree of the Directory relative to the expedition against Egypt. He left Paris May 3, and set sail from Toulon the 19th, with a large naval armament, consisting of 500 sail, carrying 40,000 soldiers and 10,000 sailors. July 5, Alexandria was taken, and immediately fortified. On the 23d the decisive battle of the pyramids was fought, in which the Mamelukes contested the field with valor and desperation, but were no match for the disciplined legions of the French. Murad Bey lost all his cannon, 400 camels, and 3000 men. The loss of the French was comparatively slight. On the 24th, Bonaparte entered Cairo, the capital of Egypt, and only waited the subsidence of the floods of the Nile to pursue Murad Bey to Upper Egypt, whither he had retired with his shattered cavalry, and so make a conquest of the whole country. Thus the king of the south was able to make but a feeble resistance.DAR 275.1
At this juncture, however, the situation of Napoleon began to grow precarious. The French fleet, which was his only channel of communication with France, was destroyed by the English under Nelson at Aboukir; and on September 2 of this same year, 1798, the sultan of Turkey, under feelings of jealousy against France, artfully fostered by the English embassadors at Constantinople, and exasperated that Egypt, so long a semi-dependency of the Ottoman empire, should be transformed into a French province, declared war against France. Thus the king of the north (Turkey) came against him (France) in the same year that the king of the south (Egypt) “pushed,” and both “at the time of the end;” which is another conclusive proof that the year 1798 is the year which begins that period; and all of which is a demonstration that this application of the prophecy is correct; for so many events meeting so accurately the specifications of the prophecy could not take place together, and not be a fulfillment of the prophecy.DAR 275.2
Was the coming of the king of the north, or Turkey, like the whirlwind in comparison with the pushing of Egypt? Napoleon had crushed the armies of Egypt; he essayed to do the same thing with the armies of the sultan, who were menacing an attack from the side of Asia. Feb. 27, 1799, with 18,000 men, he commenced his march from Cairo to Syria. He first took the fort of El-Arish, in the desert, then Jaffa (the Joppa of the Bible), conquered the inhabitants of Naplous at Zeta, and was again victorious at Jafet. Meanwhile, a strong body of Turks had intrenched themselves at St. Jean d’Acre, while swarms of Mussulmans gathered in the mountains of Samaria, ready to swoop down upon the French when they should besiege Acre. Sir Sidney Smith at the same time appeared before St. Jean d’Acre with two English ships, reinforced the Turkish garrison of that place, and captured the apparatus for the siege, which Napoleon had sent across by sea from Alexandria. A Turkish fleet soon appeared in the offing, which, with the Russian and English vessels then co-operating with them, constituted the “many ships” of the king of the north.DAR 276.1
On the 18th of March the siege commenced. Napoleon was twice called away to save some French divisions from falling into the hands of the Mussulman hordes that filled the country. Twice also a breach was made in the wall of the city; but the assailants were met with such fury by the garrison, that they were obliged, despite their best efforts, to give over the struggle. After a continuance of sixty days, Napoleon raised the siege, sounded, for the first time in his career, the note of retreat, and on the 21st of May, 1799, commenced to retrace his steps to Egypt.DAR 276.2
“And he shall overflow and pass over.” We have found events which furnish a very striking fulfillment of the pushing of the king of the south, and the whirlwind onset of the king of the north against the French power. Thus far there is quite a general agreement in the application of the prophecy. We now reach a point where the views of expositors begin to diverge. To whom do the words, he “shall overflow and pass over,” refer? — to France or to the king of the north? The application of the remainder of this chapter depends upon the answer to this question. From this point two lines of interpretation are maintained. Some apply the words to France, and endeavor to find a fulfillment in the career of Napoleon. Others apply them to the king of the north, and accordingly point for a fulfillment to events in the history of Turkey. We speak of these two positions only, as the attempt which some make to bring in the papacy here is so evidently wide of the mark that its consideration need not detain us. If neither of these positions is free from difficulty, as we presume no one will claim that it is, absolutely, it only remains that we take that one which has the weight of evidence in its favor. And we shall find one in favor of which the evidence does so greatly preponderate, to the exclusion of all others, as scarcely to leave any room for doubt in regard to the view here mentioned.DAR 276.3
Respecting the application of this portion of the prophecy to Napoleon or to France under his leadership, so far as we are acquainted with his history, we do not find events which we can urge with any degree of assurance as the fulfillment of the remaining portion of this chapter, and hence do not see how it can be thus applied. It must, then, be fulfilled by Turkey, unless it can be shown (1) that the expression “king of the north” does not apply to Turkey, or (2) that there is some other power besides either France or the king of the north which fulfilled this part of the prediction. But if Turkey, now occupying the territory which constituted the northern division of Alexander’s empire, is not the king of the north of this prophecy, then we are left without any principle to guide us in the interpretation; and we presume all will agree that there is no room for the introduction of any other power here. The French king, and the king of the north, are the only ones to whom the prediction can apply. The fulfillment must lie between them.DAR 277.1
Some considerations certainly favor the idea that there is, in the latter part of verse 40, a transfer of the burden of the prophecy from the French power to the king of the north. The king of the north is introduced just before, as coming forth like a whirlwind, with chariots, horsemen, and many ships. The collision between this power and the French we have already noticed. The king of the north, with the aid of his allies, gained the day in this contest; and the French, foiled in their efforts, were driven back into Egypt. Now it would seem to be the more natural application to refer the “overflowing and passing over” to that power which emerged in triumph from that struggle; and that power was Turkey. We will only add that one who is familiar with the Hebrew assures us that the construction of this passage is such as to make it necessary to refer the overflowing and passing over to the king of the north, these words expressing the result of that movement which is just before likened to the fury of the whirlwind.DAR 277.2