Who is the king of the North in Daniel 11?

The prophecy of Daniel 11 stresses what will happen to God’s children in the latter days (Dan 10:14), but the vision starts in the days of the prophet (as do other Apocalyptic visions i.e. Revelation) and continues through history culminating with Christ’s Kingdom, just as the prophecies Daniel 2, 7 and 8.


The message begins with Persia and moves to Alexander of Greece in v. 3 (Compare with Dan 8:8, 21).  In v. 4, the Greek kingdom is parted into four main parts:

  • With Ptolemy securing Egypt in the south
  • Seleucus taking Babylon and the eastern empire
  • Lysimachus securing Thrace and Asia minor toward the north
  • Cassander ruling Greece in the west

Each rising toward one of the four winds of heaven (Dan 8:8).  Verses 4-15 describe the 1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th Syrian Wars between the Greek Seleucids (identified in the prophecy as the king of the north) and the Greek Ptolemies (identified as the king of the south), with God’s people, Judah, captured in the middle.

In these verses the King of the North refers to the Seleucids because they are north of God’s people in Judah. Even though Seleucus took the eastern portion of Alexander’s empire, while the King of the South points to the Ptolemies who were south of Judah.  These powers are described in terms relative to God’s people, because the prophecy is about what will happen to God’s people.

Other views

Many commentators continue looking to a Greek kingdom for the fulfillment of the remaining verses and read the history of Antiochus Epiphanes into the text, but they don’t see the transition in v. 16 which refers clearly to Rome, not Greece.  If we compare the language of v. 3 where a new power arises with v. 16, we find the same language is used, showing a new power is rising.  When comparing these verses (v. 16-22) to Daniel 8:23, it is clear that in the latter time of the Greek kingdom, a new power will arise that Daniel describes as having a ‘fierce face’.  The Hebrew word for face – ‘paniym’ is first used in Daniel 11:16 and appears in v. 17, 18, 19 and 22 – referring to Rome, not Greece.

These verses do not use the references of King of the North or South any longer because the war between the two Greek Empires, north and south is no longer the focal point. The very center of this message relies around the death of the ‘Prince of the Covenant’ in v. 22 which is the point around which all of the history of God’s people revolves.  Christ is the ‘Prince of the Covenant’ and His crucifixion fulfills the new covenant in His blood (See Isa 42:6, Isa 49:8 and Matt 26:28).

Spiritual Meaning

The names, references and nations in the 2nd half of Daniel 11 (after v. 22) are to be viewed in a spiritual sense.  God’s children are no longer situated in Jerusalem, but have spread to preach the gospel message to every nation, tongue, tribe and people.  The King of the North is still Babylon, and the King of the South is still Egypt, except these powers have now taken on a wider spiritual application.  These powers affect the church the same way Babylon and Egypt affected ancient Israel.

Just as Israel was first oppressed by Egyptian slavery and idolatry at her beginning, so is the church by the idolatry of the Pagan Roman Empire (Dan 11:23-27).  And just as Israel was carried captive by the Babylonians for her disobedience to God, so the church is carried captive during the 1260 years of Papal oppression because of her disobedience to God (Dan 11:31-39).

Prophetic Meaning

The final war will take place between the false religion of Spiritual Babylon (which many reformers and Bible scholars of ages past have identified with the Roman Catholic Papacy) and the atheism of Spiritual Egypt (See Ex 5:2).  It was in 1798 that the Atheism in modern France dealt a deadly wound to the kingdom of the Papacy (see v. 40), setting the church free from ‘Babylonian’ captivity.  But the prophecy states that ‘the King of the North’ (Spiritual Babylon) will come against Egypt (modern Atheism), control and subdue it.

Only a few verses remain to be fulfilled in this amazing prophecy, but world events definitely show the strengthening and resurgence of the Roman Papacy.  All that remains are the final movements before the ‘time of trouble’ and Michael stands up to judge and save His faithful children.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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