For many so-called wise ones teach that Daniel's final prophecy is also about Antiochus Epiphanes, as if YHWH cannot see beyond that event. But now that we understand how YHWH uses ambiguity, we will see how the final prophecy given to Daniel foretells many of the things that would come before and after the appearance of YHWH's messenger of the covenant.
The prophecy begins with the kings of Persia, and how Persia is defeated by a mighty king, which is Alexander the Great, whose kingdom is broken to the four winds.
It then outlines the rivalry between a “king of the north,” which is the Syrian line of kings to the north of Israel, with the title Antiochus, and a “king of the Negev” or “south,” which is the Egyptian line of kings, with the title Ptolemy.
Their rivalry is eventually interrupted by another king: “And the one coming against him will do as he pleases, and none will stand before him; and he will stand in the Land of Beauty, and the end will be by his hand. And he will set his face to come with the strength of all his kingdom, and equitable terms with him, which he makes.” 1
This is the ambiguous “little horn” spoken of in the earlier prophecy given to Daniel. It is the Roman power, in whose hand the holy land ends up, and through whom it is eventually desolated. Rome first became the mediator between the Jews and Syria, and later, Roman general Pompey took Jerusalem.
The prophecy continues: “And he will give a daughter of the women to him, to bring him to ruin, but she will not stand, and she will not be for him. And he will set his face to the coastlands, and take many. And a commander will eradicate his reproach for him, so as not to face reproach; but he will turn back to him.” 2
The prophecy does not go into great detail about the complex power struggles that took place within the Roman empire, but simply focuses on the final outcome of a few of the principle characters, to help us see that this is indeed really about the Romans.
First is Cleopatra, the “daughter of the women” and last of the line of the Egyptian “king of the south” independent from Rome. She became involved with Caesar, but neither she nor her kingdom eventually stood, for she committed suicide, and her kingdom became part of the Roman empire.
Second is Pompey, the Roman general who captured many coastlands for the Roman empire, and who later became a rival of Caesar. Pompey was assassinated by a commander from Ptolemy of the “south” so as not to face Caesar’s reproach, but Caesar was appalled at this, and turned away with disgust from the man who brought him Pompey’s head.
Third is Julius Caesar himself, who was assassinated not long after he returned to Rome from his own military campaigns, and whose death is described next by the prophecy.
“And he will turn his face back to the fortresses of his land, but he will stumble, and fall, and not be found. And in his place will stand one who causes an exactor for the honor of the kingdom to pass through; and after some days he will be broken, but not in anger and not in battle.” 3
Here the prophecy is careful to be specific about positions, for it says “in his place.” The surname of Julius was Caesar, and that became a title for the emperors to follow; and while there was a fight between Antony and Octavian for who would rule Rome, it was Octavian, who became known as Augustus and hence “Caesar,” who stood in the place of Julius.
Augustus was awarded the honorary title “Pater Patriae” by the Roman Senate, as Augustus himself writes: “While I was administering my thirteenth consulship the senate and the equestrian order and the entire Roman people gave me the title Father of my Country.” 4
How did “the entire Roman people” give him this honor? They were required to enroll and take an oath of loyalty to the emperor, although over 6,000 Pharisees from the Jews refused to swear this oath, and King Herod slaughtered many.5 Augustus died in peace, leaving the Roman empire in relative peace.
“And in his place will stand one who is despised, and they will not give him the glory of the kingdom, but he will come in peacefully and secure the kingdom by slick dealings. And the arms of the flood will be flooded before him, and will be broken, and even the prince of the covenant.” 6
The one who stood in place of Augustus was Tiberius, the only Caesar in the Julio-Claudian line of emperors who did not receive the honor “Pater Patriae.” He had to act craftily to secure the kingdom, since he faced several dangers at first.
In later years, Tiberius withdrew from political life, and Sejanus was left in control of the empire. Sejanus was commander of the Roman imperial bodyguard, known as the Praetorian Guard. But when the power of Sejanus became great, he was arrested and killed. The Roman soldiers, the “arms of the flood,” burned and plundered, angry because they had been suspected of being disloyal to the emperor.7
Tiberius died not many years later. The historian Suetonius says that the people were so glad of his death, that at the first news of it some ran about shouting, 'Tiberius to the Tiber.'” 8
The phrase “in his place” is not used in the prophecy after this, as if it is no longer as concerned about identifying individual rulers. Perhaps this is because the “prince of the covenant” is also “broken” under the rule of Tiberius; and once this “prince” has been identified, the identity of specific Roman rulers who come later is not as important.
If this “prince of the covenant” is also YHWH’s despised servant, it is ironic that he is “broken” under the rulership of “one who is despised.” But the two are despised for very different reasons. Tiberius was one who slaughtered people cruelly in his later years, while YHWH's despised one would be like a lamb to the slaughter.