Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Currahee -- A Gripping Story of a United States Soldier's Sacrifice and Recovery

During World War II a United States Army training camp in far northeastern Georgia began training airborne assault troops for war. The 506th Parachute Infantry received their training at the foot of the mountain pictured here, Currahee Mountain, and they would begin each day with a three mile run from the training camp to the top of Currahee and then back down. The regimental patch that they wore upon completion of their training had the word "Currahee" and an outline of the mountain on it. Every time the men would jump from a plane, they would each cry "Currahee". This word is a Cherokee word which means "stand alone." The Currahee Mountain stood alone on the plains of Georgia, but there is also great meaning in this the word for the men who trained at Currahee and became a part of the 101st Airborne Division. These paratroopers of the 506th became famously known as The Band of Brothers.

The video below details the story of one young soldier's journey of recovery from severe wounds suffered while serving his country in Afghanistan. The turning point came when the unconcsious and critically injured soldier heard his four star general shout "Currahee."

Keep a kleenex handy.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Tragic Mistake Made by My Hero in the Ministry --Charles Haddon Spurgeon

On January 31, 1992, exactly one hundred years to the day from the death of Charles Spurgeon, the church I pastored in Tulsa hosted a "Celebration of the Life of Charles Spurgeon." Guest speakers included Dr. Tom Nettles, Professor of History at Southern Seminary, and the late Dr. Lewis Drummond, then President of Southeastern Theological Seminary. Dr. Drummond had just published his new biography of Spurgeon. I put together an old fashioned thirty minute slide and script presentation covering the basic facts of Spurgeon's life. About 200 pastors attended the event, and all seemed to greatly enjoy the evening of remembrance. I particularly delighted in the fellowship I had that night, and the next morning at breakfast, with Dr. Lewis Drummond who himself had recently resigned his position at SEBTS. The conversation about Spurgeon was unique and edifying, especially since Drummond was a historian so familiar with "The Prince of Preachers." My fondness for Spurgeon is well-known, and that weekend only cemented what I've long thought about the English Baptist pastor of the 19th Century. I have never read any Baptist writer with whom I feel more kinship theologically and ecclesiologically than Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

There is, however, one area in Spurgeon's ministry where I believe he made a grave mistake. Historians have called the months long conflict between Spurgeon and the Baptist Union The Downgrade Controversy. Spurgeon's wife believed that the sorrow her husband endured during this time led to his premature death. Most modern theological conservatives display the controversy between Spurgeon and the Baptist Union as thelogical in nature. They point to Spurgeon as being in the right theologically (conservative and orthodox), and the Baptist Union going down the trail of modernism and liberalism. But it's interesting that the doctrines for which Spurgeon defended(Calvinism) would be considered heretical by most modern "conservative" evangelicals. In my opinion, the controversy between the Baptist Union and Charles Haddon Spurgon was not theological in nature. The problem arose out of Spurgeon's unbiblical treatment of fellow pastors within the Baptist Union.

Spurgeon withdrew from the Baptist Union because, as he wrote to a friend, "my private remonstrances to officials, and my repeated pointed appeals to the whole body, had been of no avail."

But the officers of the Baptist Union emphatically denied that Spurgeon ever made known to them even one concern of his over any pastor in the Baptist Union who held to doctrinal heresy. They knew Spurgeon had expressed concern about the state of evangelicalism as a whole, but they believed the Baptist Union to be far more orthodox, and in line with Spurgeon's beliefs, than other denominations in Europe. Further, they said Spurgeon--if he truly was concerned about doctrinal error in the Baptist Union--should have gone to the persons with whom he had concerns personally and privately to seek their collective restoration.

Several biographers of Spurgeon have related their belief that the General Secretary of the Baptist Union, a pastor named Samuel Harris Booth, had exchanged many letters with Spurgeon where Booth had had even given Spurgeon details about doctrinal compromise and names of men in the Baptist Union whose orthodoxy he had reason to doubt. But, according to these biographers, Booth had sworn Spurgeon to secrecy. Whether Booth actually did this is debatable, since Spurgeon never produced the letters, but there is no misunderstanding about Spurgeon's response to alleged "heresy" within the Baptist Union. Rather than lovingly and privately voicing his concerns personally to the men with whom he had issues, Spurgeon took his concerns public.

But when the Baptist Union leadership, including Samuel Harris Booth himself, accused Spurgeon of misrepresenting the truth, Spurgeon honored Booth's wish to keep their correspondence confidential. Historian Ian Murray says "Spurgeon could have summarily proved the extent of his prior consultation with Union officials by producing correspondence from Booth" (The Forgotten Spurgeon; page 145). Instead, according to Murray, Spurgeon bore the abuse, even to the point of public censure by the Union.

J.C. Carlyle points out that "Spurgeon was never righted. The impression in many quarters still remains that he made charges which could not be substantiated, and when properly called upon to produce his evidence he resigned and ran away. Nothing is further from the truth. Spurgeon might have produced Dr. Booth's letters. I think he should have done so." (C. H. Spurgeon An Interpretive Biography; page 247).

But I believe the biographers of Spurgeon are missing it. Spurgeon did make a mistake--a big one. Unfortunately, it is a mistake that otherwise wonderful, Bible-believing, God-fearing Baptists seem to be in the habit of making.

Spurgeon did not follow Jesus' instructions by going privately to visit with those with whom he had offense. This was precisely the error that the Baptist Union accused Spurgeon of making at the time. In response to that charge, Spurgeon wrote: "I have followed out our Lord's mind as to private remonstrances--by seeing the President and Secretary (of the Baptist Union)."

Though Spurgeon alleged some pastors in the Baptist Union were either unorthodox or heretics, he never went to any individual pastor privately. Instead, he made his concerns a denominational-wide issue. It could have been he might have restored those "erring" brothers. Or, as suggested by Secretary Booth, Spurgeon may have found his concerns were based on second and third hand information and not founded on truth. Spurgeon talked "about" pastors in the Baptist Union, but never talked "to" pastors in the Baptist Union.

When the leaders of the Baptist Union expressed their concerns to Spurgeon over the unbiblical manner in which he sought to deal with his concerns, Spurgeon took great offense. He admitted that the articles he wrote about the "The Down-grade" did not deal exclusively with the Baptist denomination, which he admitted to be far less tainted than other denominations, but he posted his articles as a warning to all--including the Baptist Union. Spurgeon took great offense that the leaders of the Baptist Union accused him of speaking untruth about Baptist Union pastors, albeit unintentionally. When the leaders of the Baptist Union asked to meet with Spurgeon privately in order to correct his misperceptions about Baptist Union pastors, Spurgeon responded by drafting a letter that contains a very revealing statement:

The charge was not that I was knowingly untruthful, but that I said what was not true—I suppose through the failure of my mental powers. The inference should be that it is a waste of time to send a deputation to confer with so imbecile a person. I will not, however, draw the inference.

Spurgeon's allegation that the Baptist Union considered him an imbecile, and then simultaneously stating he didn't wish to infer that the Baptist Union was calling him an imbecile, is beneath Spurgeon's usual dignity and style of writing. It is evidence that Spurgeon, unfortunately, took criticism of the manner with which he sought to deal with his views of "heresy" by fellow pastors in the Baptist Union very personally.

I believe all us Southern Baptists would profit from studying the Downgrade Controversy not from a theological perspective, but with the desire to discover the proper (or improper) manner and means of dealing with concerns over heresy within a cooperating convention.

In His Grace,


Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Horrible Proposed Constitutional Amendment to the Georgia Baptist Convention's Governing Documents

Michael Ruffin, Pastor of Fitsgerald, Georgia, and owner of the blog On the Jericho Road, recently brought my attention to a constitutional amendment being brought before Georgia Baptists for vote during November's Georgia Baptist Convention (GBC) at First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Georgia. The proposed amendment (bold) reads as follows:

Article II. Membership.

Section 1. This body shall be composed of messengers from cooperating Baptist Churches. A cooperating church is one that gives evidence of its belief in Holy Scripture as its authority in matters of faith and practice and is in harmony and cooperation with the work and purpose of this Convention. A cooperating church does not include a church which knowingly takes, or has taken, any action to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior.

Pastor Ruffin wrote a letter to the Georgia Baptist Convention expressing his concerns over the proposed amendment. Pastor Ruffin asks ten questions.

(1). What is the nature of the "evidence" that is going to be required?

(2). Will it be good enough for a church to say, "Why yes, we believe in Holy Scripture as our authority in matters of faith and practice"?

(3). Will each local Georgia Baptist church that desires to continue as a cooperating GBC church be required by the GBC to adopt a confessional statement that affirms its commitment to biblical authority?

(4). If such an adoption is to be required, will a church be expected or allowed to compose its own statement or will it be permitted--or maybe even required--to adopt the Baptist Faith & Message Statement (rev. 2000) article on Scripture--or perhaps the entire statement--in order to be seen as providing sufficient "evidence"?

(5). If the forced adoption of a confession is not to be required, then who is going to determine what constitutes "evidence" of a local Georgia Baptist church's "belief in Holy Scripture as its authority in matters of faith and practice"?

(6). Is the GBC going to set up an "evidence of belief in Scripture" watchdog committee that will examine each GBC church?

(7). Perhaps the intention is only to deal with churches that present the GBC with some kind of "problem" in the kind of "evidence" it presents in its "faith and practice." The problem still remains--who is going to be "Big Brother"; who is going to decide which churches are and are not "in cooperation" with the GBC under the terms of this proposed amendment?

(8). If each local GBC church is not going to be required to adopt an acceptable statement regarding its fidelity to Scripture as its way of providing "evidence," then what are the standards going to be by which the adequacy of a church's "evidence" is evaluated?

(9). Is the GBC going to investigate each local church's "faith and practice" to see if it offers "evidence of its belief in Holy Scripture as its authority"?

(10). Will the Christian Index publish a list of standards to which each church must live up if it is to be welcomed as a "cooperating" church?

Pastor Ruffin has done all Baptists a service with his letter. Let's hope the powers that be in Georgia publish the letter and answer his questions for all to read.

We are all in trouble when those in denominational office and those few who hold convention power are handed the authority to determine who is--and who isn't--a true and faithful Southern Baptist.

All men have an inherent temptation to demand everyone else look like them.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Did Jesus Christ Identify the Anti-Christ as the President of the United States?

The above video was sent to me by one of my church members with the note: "Wow. I don't know what to make of this."

Well, after watching the video there are a few conclusions that I've categorically made:

(1). This video is being added to a list of reasons for why I am sometimes embarrassed to be known as a conservative, evangelical Christian Southern Baptist (see UPDATE below).

(2). It's sad that some believers would consider this video to possess even a grain of truth.

(3). I wish the producer of this video, whomever he may be, had spent more time studying spelling in grammar school.

(4). To answer my member, and any other Christian who may wonder, the video wouldn't qualify as scholarship even as a report submitted to a theological diploma mill.

UPDATE: It has come to my attention that the producer of the video is Carl Gallups, the Southern Baptist pastor of Hickory Hammock Baptist Church in Milton, Florida and a graduate of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (an SBC seminary). The YouTube video website with the church's name in the profile bar is located here. Conservative national talk show host Glenn Beck has featured the video on his television show.

Good grief.

In His Grace,


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Cast Away's Great Ending and Lessons Learned When Facing A New Crossroads in Life

Most who know me well understand that I am a movie buff. I enjoy a good Hollywood motion picture of all varieties--drama, comedy, epic, historic, adventure, etc... I have a top twenty list composed of my favorite movies of all times. To qualify to be on that list, the movie has to have been seen by me at least twice, with no objection from me to see to see the movie again, and again. One movie that qualifies for my top twenty list is the 2000 film Cast Away, directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Tom Hanks. Hanks portrays a FedEx employee who is stranded on an uninhabited island for 1500 days (over four years) after his plane crashes on a flight over the South Pacific. The film depicts his attempts to survive on the island using remnants of his plane's cargo, as well as his eventual escape and return to society. Hanks was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role at the 73rd Academy Awards for his critically acclaimed performance in this classic movie.

I find Cast Away emotionally gripping on several fronts. The movie has the least amount of actor dialogue than any Hollywood movie since the silent film era of the early 1900's--yet it also won an Oscar for "sound" due to the incredible sounds that made the audience feel they were on the island. The theme song is one of the great Hollywood songs of all time, and it is the only song played in those brief places where there is actually music in the film. When I first saw the movie, I was disappointed--very disappointed--in the ending. If you've seen it, you know that Hank's character is eventually rescued, but there is no happy ending. His wife, who waited for two years hoping her husband would be found and rescued, eventually gave up, and had a funeral. Then, a year later, she remarried. The fact that thoughts of his wife (and a small photograph in a pocket watch) is what kept the castaway alive for four years, only to discover that he had actually lost her after he himself had been rescued, caused me a great deal of angst as a movie goer.

But time has softened my view of the ending. In fact, I now consider the last scene of Cast Away as one of the closings of any Hollywood movie. I don't want to give it away because of people who may have not yet seen it (like my secretary). But the lesson from the scene, which involves a ranch and a road, is that after a few tough hit ins life, when dreams are shattered, you must keep on going down the road of life--and you might as well do it with enthusiasm and a smile. The scene is very simple yet visual, the theme song is played for the final time, and the viewer feels hope after vicariously feeling the pain of Hank's character. In retrospect, though I disliked the ending when I first saw it, I am now tempted to place Cast Away's concluding scene as one of my favorite movie endings. Why the change in evaluation? Because after over nine years of reflection, Cast Away mirrors real life, not fantasy, which Hollywood usually portrays. Disappointment happens--but we must move on. God has a way of working all things for our good, even those tough, hurtful, broken things of life.

I had the opportunity this past Thursday to take a couple of photographs with my cell phone (the two below) at the very place director Robert Zemeckis and actor Tom Hanks filmed the final scenes. I had been to a funeral of a close family friend in Borger, Texas, and was heading back to Enid, Oklahoma on Highway 60 when I turned south on County Road #5 about 12 miles west of the Texas panhandle town called Canadian, Texas. I had been told that Cast Away had filmed near Canadian, Texas and after calling and speaking to a very helfpul secretary at First Baptist Church, Canadian whose husband worked near the Arrington Ranch, I followed his directions and turned off travelled south on County Road #5. Sure enough, four miles down the white shale road, on the west side, is the Arrington Ranch (pictured here). The same family has farmed the this acreage of land for over one hundred years. Their working ranch also doubles as a bed and breakfast. It was here that Tom Hank's character, in the final scene of Cast Away, delivers the package that meant so much to him while on the island.

After taking a few pictures, I went six miles further south from the Arrington Ranch where County Road #5 (also called Ranch Road 48) intersects Ranch Road 1268, which runs east/west. It is at this crossroads that the compelling last scene of Cast Away is filmed. A choice to move on on down the road is made. The road Hanks took is pictured in the second paragraph here. After taking a few more pictures I turned around and went north on County Road 5 to Highway 60 and made my way back to Enid. The little side trip took about 45 minutes, and it might seem silly to some, but I really had a great time on the little excursion. Thinking about Cast Away's last scene, reflecting on the different crossroads of my own life, and contemplating the goodness of God during my entire life made the trip home seem really short!

In His Grace,


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Listen My Friends and I Will Tell of the Daring Ride of Lieutenant Averell

Many would consider Paul Revere's horseback ride in 1775, made famous by Henry Longfellow's poem Paul Revere's Ride, as the most incredible horseback adventure in American history. But for sheer thrills, intrigue, danger and superior horsemanship, the greatest horseback ride in American history is the little known, but startling journey of Lieutenant William Woods Averell through Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) at the beginning of the United States Civil War. On April 17th, 1861, Lieutenant Averell set off from Washington D.C. to hand deliver an order from Abraham Lincoln and the War Department to Union soldiers stationed at the US forts in Indian Territory. The order called for the immediate evacuation and removal of all United States Federal troops to Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. Averell, under civilian disguise, travelled by train to St. Louis. He then took a carriage from St. Louis, south, to the Arkansas River. He crossed the river by ferry and entered Fort Smith, only to discover it had already been captured by Confederates. Maintaining his disguise, Averell managed to buy a horse (wild and unbroken), and began his horse ride to Fort Arbuckle, Indian Territory (Oklahoma), 200 miles from Fort Smith. It is this horse ride, begun on April 27th, 1861 and completed on May 5, 1861 when Averell handed the War Department order to United States Colonel W.H. Emory at Fort Arbuckle, that is arguably the greatest horseback adventure in American annals--particularly because it involves one Union soldier traversing through territory buzzing with fight hungry Confederates, angry Indians, wild beasts and Oklahoma spring storms.

Background to Averell's Ride

With the Indian Removal Act of 1830, President Andrew Jackson and the United States Congress began forcibly removing the Indians who lived in states and territories east of the Mississippi. The government 'gave' to these Indians land west of the Mississippi, called Indian Territory, which encompassed the lands that would eventually become the states of Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma. The southern portion of Indian Territory, the territory that now represents the state of Oklahoma, was first officially surveyed for the United States government in 1828 by Isaac McCoy, a Baptist missionary to the Indians. McCoy wrote to President Jackson after his survery and suggested that the "Creeks, Choctaws, Cherokees, Seminoles and Chickasaws," be given this southern portion of Indian Territory (Oklahoma), because it was a suitable replacement for the woods, rivers and agricultural lands of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Florida--the places where these Five Civilized Tribes then lived east of the Mississippi. The Creeks, Choctaws, Cherokees, Seminoles and Chickasaws were called "civilized" because, unlike other Indian tribes, they had adopted Western customs, had purchased land for farming, and were integrating themselves into United States southern culture. But the whites wanted even these "civilized" Indians out of the states and territories east of the Mississippi.

The government agreed to Isaac McCoy's recommendation, and the Five Civilized Tribes were relocated to southern Indian Territory, within the boundaries of what we now call Oklahoma. The forced marches to the west endured by these civilized tribes, under the supervision of the United States Army, began with the Choctaws in 1831 and ended with the Cherokees in 1838/1839. These different journeys became known to each tribe, respectively, as their Trail of Tears. Tens of thousands of Indian men, women and children died on these ill-fated and poorly prepared for journeys. By the dawn of the 1840's, the eastern Five Civilized Tribes had completed their forced relocation and resided within the borders of southern Indian Territory (Oklahoma).

Forts Built In Oklahoma to Protect the Civilized Tribes

However, there was a problem with the relocation from the start. There were Indians already in Indian Territory. These "wild" Indians, known as Plainsmen Indians, resented the civilized tribes coming to their land. The Osage Indians were at war with the Cherokees, the Chickasaw and Choctaw found themselves fighting the Comanche and Apache, and the Creek and Seminole Indians were often raided by Plainsmen tribes who would steal their horses and cattle, ravage their crops, and even capture their women and children. The United States government was forced to build and then heavily staff some additional army forts in Oklahoma to keep the peace among the Indians. Fort Smith (Arkansas) had been established in 1817 and was considered to be the gateway into the unknown wilderness of Indian territory. Seven years later (1824), Fort Gibson became the first United States fort established within Indian territory. Fort Gibson became the receiving and processing place for all civilized Indians who were being relocated from the east during the 1830's. However, Fort Smith and Fort Gibson did not supply enough manpower to keep the peace among the Indians in Indian Territory. In 1842 General Zachary Taylor and was commissioned to build Fort Washita. Fort Washita, pictured here, still stands at its original location, nineteen miles above where the Washita River meets the Red River, near Durant, Oklahoma at the northern end of the modern man-made Lake Texhoma. Fort Arbuckle was built in 1851, at the northern base of the Arbuckle Mountains, about seven miles east of modern day Davis, Oklahoma. Ft. Cobb (1859) was the last fort built by the United States army in Indian Territory prior to the outbreak of the Civil War. By the time of the Civil War, nearly 1,500 United States infantry, cavalry and artillery troops were stationed at Forts Smith, Washita, Arbuckle, and Cobb. Fort Gibson had been temporarily closed due to widespread and severe illnesses among the troops. In addition to these troops, there were support personnel, family members, and other United States citizens stationed in an around at these forts.

The Beginning of the Civil War

On April 12, 1861, Confederate troops opened fire on Fort Sumter, the United States garrison located in Charleston Harbor. The Civil War had begun. The War Department of the United States, with the approval of President Abraham Lincoln, decided that it was best to evacuate the United States military forts in Indian Territory and withdraw all troops and personnel to Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. Texas had already seceded from the Union (February 1, 1861), and word came to Washington that Arkansas would be next (Arkansas seceded on May 6, 1861). The U.S. Army forts in Indian Territory would be under attack by the Confederate Army soon, and Lincoln felt that the troops stationed at these Indian Territory forts would better serve the United States effort against the Confederates by evacuating the forts and handing Indian Territory over to the Confederacy rather than staying to defend the Indians.

But how could word be given to commander Colonel W. H. Emory, First United States Cavalry, the soldier in command of the district embracing Forts Washita,Arbuckle and Cobb in the Indian Territory that he and his troops were to evacuate? There was no telegraph capability in Indian Territory. How could this evacuation order from Washington D.C. be received by the Union commander in Indian Territory (Oklahoma)? A messenger needed to be sent.

Enter United States Lieutenant William Woods Averell and the most amazing horse ride in American annals.

From Washington, D.C. to Fort Smith

William Averell was born in Cameron, New York. As a boy he worked as a drugstore clerk in the nearby town of Bath, New York. He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1855 and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Mounted Rifles. His early assignments included garrison duty at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, and the U.S. Army Cavalry School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. In 1857 he was sent to Fort Defiance in New Mexico, where he was critically wounded in action in 1859 during a skirmish against the Indians. Woods was trasnsported back to Washington, D.C. where he was placed on the disabled list for two years. He had fully recovered and his readmission papers were signed four days after the firing on Fort Sumter.

On April 17, 1861, Lieutenant Averell was handed a special War Department order that was to be hand carried over 2,000 miles and given to the commander of the Indian Territory forts. His instructions were to proceed by train to St. Louis, then by coach to Fort Smith, where the quartermaster would outfit him with a horse and supplies that would carry him for the remainder of his journey to Fort Arbuckle (200 miles from Fort Smith), where Lieutenant-Colonel Emory was headquartered. Averell would travel in civilian clothes through the heart of the Confederacy. The special orders would be hidden on his person, and he was instructed to escort the Union troops from Fort Arbuckle north to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and then make his way back to Washington, D.C. as quickly as possible with a report on the success of his mission. Lieutenant Averell kept a diary that is part of the Official Record of the Union and Confederate Armies. Volume 53, pages 493-496. Averell's journey to St. Louis is in his own words:

"Providing myself with a rough traveling suit of citizen's clothing, I left Washington at 2.45 p. m. on the 17th of April, by the Baltimore and Ohio Railway. At Harper's Ferry, where the train stopped for a few minutes, I saw Capt. Roger Jones, commanding a detachment guarding the arsenal at that point, who informed me of his apprehensions of an attack, and that, aware of the insufficiency of his force to defend the public property, he had made arrangements to destroy it and withdraw his small force into Maryland. The towns and villages through which my journey to Saint Louis was made were alive with agitated people turning out volunteer in response to the call of the President. I arrived at Saint Louis on the evening of the 19th, and left on the morning of the 20th by the first train to Rolla, Mo., where I arrived, 115 miles distant, at 5 in the afternoon.

Leaving Rolla by the first stage coach at 5 a. m. the 22d, with several prominent Southern gentlemen as fellow-passengem, I proceeded, with changing horses, mails, and passengers, toward Fort Smith, through towns wild with secession excitement and rumors of war. The unruly temper of the people and their manifest readiness to embrace any pretext for violence made it necessary for the safety of my dispatches and their suceessful delivery that my name and character should remain unknown. Having assumed a name and purpose suitable to the emergency, I experienced no great difficulty in passing safely through several inquisitions. I was obliged to drive the stage a greater part of the distance between Classville and Bentonville, on account of the drunkenness of the driver, there being no other male passenger. At Evansville I met the intelligence, which momentarily astounded me, that Fort Smith had been captured by a force of secessionists 800 strong, which had come under the command of Colonel Borland from Little Rock. Near the foot of Boston Mountain, on the southern side, the rumor was confirmed by the passengers of a eoach from Fort Smith which we met, happily in a pitchy dark night, which prevented my recognition by some of the lady passengers, wives of army officers who might have known

Trouble in Fort Smith

After avoiding recognition, Averell crossed the Arkansas River by ferry and arrived in Fort Smith on the morning of April 27, 1861, ten days after leaving Washington. However, as he came near the fort he discovered that it had been overtaken the day before by Confederates, the quartermaster who was to resupply him and give him a horse to finish his journey into Indian Territory was in the brig. Averell describes what happened next in his diary.

"Exchanging my gold watch and a little money for a horse, saddle, and bridle with a man whose principal incentive to the trade was his apprehension of losing his horse by public seizure, I mounted for the remainder of the journey. It was 260 miles to Fort Arbuckle (ed. note: Averell overestimates the mileage here). Having been out of the saddle two years on account of my wound, and having just completed a toilsome, jolting journey of 300 miles in a coach, I was in poor condition for the struggle before me. The horse was unbroken to the saddle, and after a fierce but unsuccessful effort to throw me ran wildly away through the sucessive lines of drilling troops, but I managed to guide him in a westerly direction and mastered him before reaching the Poteau River. This stream, 100 yards wide, was bank full and the bridge destroyed. Removing my heavy black overcoat, I swam the horse across, after a fearful struggle, in which I lost my overcoat and also suffered some injury from being struck by the horse."

The Greatest Horse Ride in the History of America

The journey by horseback from Fort Smith to Fort Arbuckle is the stuff of a modern Hollywood adventure movies. Averell is recognized as a Union soldier just a day out of Fort Smith by some Confederates and is chased through the wooded mountains of eastern Oklahoma. He manages to escape, and finds an Indian guide to help him navigate the strange territory, but he becomes lost, as well as loses his guide, during a fierce Oklahoma spring storm. He manages to eventually get back on track and has several encounters with wild beasts and a few Indians, only to eventually meet up with the Union soldiers for whom he came to give the special War Department order. When Lieutenant Averell handed the order of the War Department to Colonel Emory, this very dramatic scene set the course of the Civil War in Indian Territory. The meeting took place on the Fort Washita-Fort Arbuckle military road near the vicinity of present day small town of Reagen in Johnston County, Oklahoma on May 3, 1861. Averell's amazing journey is detailed in full in an article written by Muriel Wright in the 1961 Oklahoma Historical Chronicles. William Averell left Washington, D.C. on April 17th, 1861, just five days after the firing on Ft. Sumter. His entire trip to the heart of Indian Territory took less than three weeks, an astonishingly fast trip considering the circumstances under which he had to travel (train, carriage, horse), and the knowledge that if he were caught as a Union soldier on a mission in civilian clothes, he would be shot or hung.

The Evacuation to Kansas

Another reason I find this story so fascinating is because the route taken by Averell, Black Beaver and the Union troops leaving Indian Territory for Kansas led them right through my hometown of Enid, Oklahoma. In 1861 Enid was not a city. The land on which the city now sits is in the middle of what was known in 1861 as The Cherokee Outlet. The United States had promised the Cherokees in eastern Oklahoma a route to the Colorado mountain hunting grounds, unencumbered by white settlers, so the land was "given" to the Cherokees as an "outlet" to Colorado "as long as grass grows and the waters run." The several hundred Union soldiers and loyalists who were evacuating Forts Arbuckle, Cobb and Washita in May of 1861, heading to Kansas, were being led by a Delaware Indian scout and tracker named Black Beaver. Their journey north took them directly through the heart of the Cherokee Outlet. The caravan stretched over one mile long and included many wagons, a few cannons, all the supplies from the forts including horses, hound dogs, a few cattle, plus over two hundred women and children. Black Beaver had been a captain in the United States Army during the Mexican War (1846-1848) and had once lived among the Cherokees himself. He was familiar with the Indian routes taken during hunting season, and he knew that, where the city of Enid now sits, there were five natural springs that flowed into a natural watering hole that gave cool refreshment in a portion of Indian Territory that had few such watering holes. Black Beaver guided the U.S. troops north and on or around May 14, 1861, one thousand United States soldiers and U.S. citizens either refreshed themselves or encamped at what we now call Government Springs Park, the heart of what is now the city of Enid. Black Beaver would successfully and safely lead the troops, including Lieutenant William Averell and Colonel Emory, to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, arriving the last week of May, 1861. Hearing that Black Beaver had led the Union troops north, the Confederates who had moved into Indian Territory from Texas and Arkansas took over the abandoned U.S. forts and intentionally destroyed Black Beaver's home and crops. The United States government never fully reimbursed paid Black Beaver for his heroic work on behalf of the U.S. troops at the beginning of the Civil War. Eight years later, in 1969, at the urging of Colonel Emory, the War Department finally gave $5,000 to Black Beaver, though his losses in 1861 amounted to well over $20,000. Late in life Black Beaver would come to faith in Christ and became a Baptist preacher in Oklahoma, I.T., dying on May 8, 1880 at the age of 74. His body is buried, with honors, at Fort Sill, Oklahoma and his grave is registered as a National Historic Site.

The Chisholm Trail Follows Black Beaver's Trail

During the Civil War an Indian trader named Jessie, Chisholm who had moved to Wichita, Kansas, from Indian Territory at the start of the Civil War as well, would sometimes make his way back into Indian Territory to trade goods with the Indians. He would continue this practice after the Civil War as well, loading up on supplies in Wichita and taking wagons south to trade with the Indians near Council Grove (Oklahoma City). The route that Chisholm followed as he went south, and then back north, was the same trail that Black Beaver had blazed four years earlier. The route could still be seen by Chisholm because f the deep impressions and ruts left in the ground by the mile long U.S. Army caravan in May 1861. Chisholm died in 1868, but for twenty years after his death, Texas cattle drovers moved their longhorns from Texas to Kansas following the same trail through Enid, Oklahoma. Millions of steers were driven along what the cowboys called The Chisholm Trail in honor of Jessie Chisholm, but was more accurately called the "Black Beaver Trail" by the Indians in honor of the Black Beaver's sacrifice on behalf of the United States government in leading the U.S. troops out of Indian Territory in 1861.

William Averell's historic ride from Washington D.C. to Indian Territory, to Fort Leavenworth and then back to Washington D.C. from April to June 1861 is a little known historic ride which caused a ripple effect on other events through the end of the century. The abandonment of Indian Territory by Union soldiers led to the Confederates invading Indian Territory unapposed, and the Five Civilized Tribes, for the most part, signed treaties with the Confederates and fought against the Union army during the duration of the war. It was the Indians decision to side with the Confederates that led the U.S. government, after the war, to break the contracts signed with the Indians prior to the war that gave the land in Indian Territory to the Indians "as long as the waters run." Still the waters run, but we whites now live in Oklahoma because the United States government opened up Indian territory to white settlement in the late 1880's and 90's through a series of land runs, including the largest land run in the history of the world, The Cherokee Strip Land Run of September 16, 1893. On that day, Enid, Oklahoma, was founded. The government land office was located at the famous natural springs used by Black Beaver and the Union troops thirty two years earlier, and the city was plotted around those springs, renamed "Government Springs." The Cherokee Land Run was popularized in the movie commemorating the 100th anniversary of the run, the 1993 Ron Howard movie Far and Away, starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.

But back to William Averell.

For his bravery, Lieutenant Averell was promoted upon completion of his historic ride. He went on to lead Union troops in several successful battles against Confederates in the east. On retirement from the military, Averell would hold the rank of general. After his military retirement, Averell was appointed general consul to British North America (1866-1869). William Averell was particularly innovative and he died a multi-millionaire after profiting from several inventions, including American asphalt.

I find the Civil War connections to Enid, Oklahoma, including the fascinating John Wilkes Booth, Boston Corbett, and Abraham Lincoln connection, to be nothing short of extraordinary. I hope to compile a short book documenting several of the more startling ones.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Is There a Culture Among Southern Baptists That Goes Beyond Biblical Christianity?

I was recently asked by a fellow Southern Baptist pastor why I no longer write posts about the Southern Baptist Convention. He said that he missed my observations and wished I would begin again writing about the SBC. This pastor's email was the most recent of similar requests. Contrary to the suggestions of these well-meaning individuals, I intend to continue writing posts that have nothing to do with the SBC, but the following will give insight into the reasons behind my decision.

I can remember my father, a Southern Baptist preacher himself (but definitely not the preacher pictured here), often saying from the pulpit (I paraphrase)-- "I am a Christian who happens to be a Southern Baptist. If and when the Southern Baptist Convention ever moves toward a belief system, an attitude, or a mission that is contrary to that held by Christ, then I will cease being a Southern Baptist. But I cannot, I will not, ever cease following Christ."

This simple conviction was seared into my consciousness even as a youth, and the three Southern Baptist churches that I have had the pleasure of serving these past twenty-five years have heard me say something similar on several occasions.

I found myself in 2008, at times, questioning whether or not the Christ I follow is actually represented by the Convention with which we choose to affiliate. I recently spoke with J.C. Watts, former United States Congressman from Oklahoma and a life-long Southern Baptist, about our mutual affiliation and affection for the SBC. He said that politics in Washington D.C. is rough and tumble, but he has never seen anything as vicious as Southern Baptist politics. Though I have no experience with D.C. politics, I can echo similar sentiments regarding the SBC and the utter lack of civility among some.

Sadly, the simplicity of life in Christ and our mutual acceptance of the gospel of God's grace seem to have been superceded by the desire of some in the SBC to demand conformity on all things non-essential to the Christian faith. The polarization resulting from recent attempts to disqualify and disassociate from Southern Baptists who don't see eye to eye on eschatology, ecclesiology, spiritual gifts, soteriological minutiae, etc... causes me to wonder if our Southern Baptist belief system is beginning the slow descent into a closer resemblance to the pecular religious church dogmas of Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and other cults that major on all things religious and minor on Jesus Christ and His work for sinners than to the New Testament. When we care more that people who affiliate with us look like us, talk like us, think like us, act like us, believe like us, etc..., then we've taken our focus off Christ and put it on our man-made system of religious performance. I do not wish to look like a Southern Baptist. I wish every Southern Baptist would mirror Christ in life and attitude.

I love the people I pastor in Enid. I love the people of Christ in my community, regardless of their denominational affiliation. I love the freedom and grace we enjoy as a church that is on mission for Christ. I love the Christ who has redeemed us. I love being a Christian. I, at times, wonder if my identity as a Southern Baptist is coming into conflict with my identity in Christ. That, in essence, is why I no longer write about the politics in the SBC. I wish to be known by others, foremost, as a follower of Christ. The culture of the SBC sometimes becomes an obstacle to this desire.

In His Grace,


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Why the 1963 BFM Is a Better Confession than the 2000 BFM When It Comes to a Statement About Belief In the Scriptures

Recently I was asked a question about my belief in the Word of God. The question, given in three parts, went like this: Do you agree that the Holy Scriptures are the sure and certain, inspired revelation of God? Do you believe that they are the infallible, inerrant, fixed truth which can be known by man? Do you see the Scriptures as the standard by which our faith, ministries and actions will be measured?

My answer to that question, given in writing, reveals why I believe the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message is a better statement about the Word of God than the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. My answer is as follows:

"I believe the Bible is the sure and certain, inspired, infallible and inerrant fixed truth which can be known by man. But, there are a couple of points for clarification to help one better understand my high view of Scripture. All Scripture is God-breathed, but it cannot be said all Scripture is of equal importance in terms of application for the New Covenant believer and Christ’s church. For instance, God’s covenant with Israel forbad the eating of pork, demanded the remembrance of the Sabbath, required the offering of sacrifices, etc… These commands, and others similar in nature, are part of the “infallible, inerrant, fixed truth” of God’s word—yet they are not commands given to a New Covenant follower of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ fulfilled and abolished the Old Covenant, and as a result, all the laws and commands associated with the Old Covenant are forever gone. Believers in Jesus Christ have been given “a new commandment” (John 13:34) to “love one another just as Christ has loved us.” It is this command to love others, which is the distinguishing mark of the follower of Jesus Christ, that differentiates Christianity from all other religions. Of course, it is impossible to love others as Christ has loved us unless we have a clear and comprehensive understanding of the eternal, unconditional, and personal love of God for us—thus the gospel (good news) is the preeminent message of the New Testament.

For one to understand the differences between the Old Covenant commands to Israel and what Paul calls “the law of Christ” (to love others), one simply needs to look at the differences between the nature of the two types of law. An Old Covenant command says, “If you will…then God will.” The blessings of God were conditional upon the obedience of God’s people, the Jews. If Israel obeyed, God blessed them. If Israel disobeyed, then God brought judgments upon them. The reason God’s chosen people were taken into Babylonian captivity in the 6th century B.C. was due to their disobedience to God’s Sabbath command. The reason God ultimately divorced Himself from His covenant with Israel and established “everlasting righteousness” through His Son (Daniel 9:24), was due to Israel’s complete disobedience to their covenant with God. Again, had Israel obeyed, they were promised blessings. Because Israel disobeyed, they received God’s wrath. Of course, the Old Covenant was given in order to show us the extent of man’s sin. It never had the power to deliver or save anyone from God’s wrath because all men and women (even the Jews), by nature, are sinful and disobedient—this is Paul’s argument in Romans. The commands of the Old Covenant were used by God as a school master to drive us to faith in Christ. Therefore, in the covenant with sinners that God seals through the blood of His Son (Hebrews 8), all the blessings of God are received through faith in the person, performance and obedience of our Savior, Jesus Christ. We have been blessed with all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ our Lord. The legalists, the prosperity gospel advocates, and others who misunderstand the gospel, will often take conditional promises of the Old Testament (particularly the material blessings promised to Israel if they obeyed God), and misapply them to Christians today.

This is why when we talk about “the infallible, inerrant, fixed truth” of God’s Word, we must be careful to add the phrase "when properly interpreted." Further, when we talk about God’s Word being the standard by which our faith, ministries and actions will be measured, we must realize that the Bible is our standard when properly interpreted. We don’t stone kids in rebellion as they were commanded to do in the Old Covenant; we love our children through their disobedience. We don’t abstain from certain meats or foods as Israel was commanded to do by God; we now, like Peter, call all meats “clean” to eat (Acts 10:15). We don’t set aside holy days, new moons and Sabbaths as “special days,” but we consider every day a sabbath rest in Christ (Col. 2:14-16). We don’t kill our enemies, we love them as Christ has loved us.

I believe the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message committee did a marvelous job with the following sentence under Article 1: The Scriptures: “The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ.” This statement, tragically, is left out of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. One of the dangers of not recognizing that all scripture must be interpreted through an understanding of the person and work of Christ is that one will end up not realizing how the Old Covenant has been abolished through the ministry of our Lord.

It should be evident--with the clarifications given--that I have a very high view of Scripture and rejoice in affirming that the Bible is “the infallible, inerrant, fixed truth which can be known by man.” The struggle we all face is our fallibility in interpreting the sacred text, so it is especially important to see the written word of the Old Covenant through the filter of the Living Word Jesus Christ as revealed in the New Covenant. Of course, if one really wishes to know whether or not a pastor has a high view of the sacred text, one should listen to him preach. It is incongruous for a pastor to say he believes the Bible should be our standard for faith and practice if it does not serve as the basis for teaching at one’s church. Over the course of the past twenty five years I have preached through multiple books of the bible, verse by verse, including Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Psalms, Jonah, Daniel, Habakkuk, Matthew, Mark, Acts, Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, I and II Thessalonians, Hebrews, Jude, and The Apocolypse of Yeshua the Anointed One, that is, Revelation (thanks M.H.)—and other textual series.

I evidence my belief in that the Bible is the inspired Word of God by teaching and preaching (proclaiming) His Word instead every Sunday. For a comparison between the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message and the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, go here. It is possible for a conservative with a high view of Scripture to prefer the 1963 Confession over the 2000 Confession. "

In His Grace,


Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Excellency of Gratitude In Comparison to Other Christian Virtues Including Repentance and Prayer

I am currently a quarter of the way through updating into modern English an 18th century Christian classic entitled Meditation Among the Tombs, written by James Hervey and published in 1745. This little book went through twenty-five editions by the turn of the 19th Century, and Hervey donated all proceeds from the sale of his book to charity. The newly edited and modern English version, which I hope to be able to publish by the end of this year, is titled "Thoughts While Sitting In A Cemetery." I have been careful to turn Hervey's archaic but beautiful 18th Century English into simple and modern English so that a new generation can enjoy Hervey's "Meditations.". At the same time I wish to keep, if possible, the rythm and style that is peculiar to Hervey, a man who has often been called "The Prose Poet" by his biographers.

Hervey was an original member of the The Holy Club at Oxford along with John and Charles Wesley, George Whifield, and a handful of others. He remained friends with Whitefield throughout his entire life, but John Wesley publicly turned on Hervey due to Hervey's insistence that salvation is only experienced though the imputation of sin to Christ at Calvary and the imputation of Christ's righteousness to those who place their faith and trust in Jesus' work on behalf of sinners. Wesley, who taught righteousness before God came through "methodical" holy living, called imputed righteousness "imputed nonsense." It was years after being involved with "The Holy Club" at Oxford that Hervey came to personal faith in the righteousness of Jesus Christ for the salvation of his soul--under the influence and teaching of a poor farmer who had no formal theological education but had come under the influential teaching of grace by famous non-conformist pastor Dr. Philip Doddridge.

Hervey was at his best when he wrote to convince the lost of their need for a righteousness that comes from outside of themselves. I have profited greatly from updating Meditation Among the Tombs for possible republishing. Hervey's works often contain more nuggets of truth that edifies the soul per page than most books have in their entirety.

An example of one such nugget of truth I offer below. The following is a rewrite of a small portion of "Meditations" as Hervey describes being seated in an ancient church that doubled as a cemetery for the dead. He notices a beautiful, framed painting behind the altar and later discovers that the altar-piece has been donated by the craftsman who originally built the church in "gratefulness to the Almighty" for being able to complete their task. The meditation Hervey offers on the workmens' gratitude to God has caused me a great deal of pleasant and profitable reflection this week. I trust it will do the same for you.

I have always considered gratefulness to be the greatest instrument in moving the heart of man toward action. Gratitude contains something noble; feels naturally selfless, and if I may say so, seems always attached to an intense devotion. Unlike gratitude, repentance keeps a sharp attention on our fallen nature, and prayer is most often focused on oneself. In the Garden of Eden there were no prayers and repentance because there were no faults or sins to deplore—but there was gratitude. Likewise, there will be no prayers or repentance in heaven for what is faulty has been restored and “God is all in all”—but gratitude shall be perpetuated there. Gratitude is the most excellent of all Christian principles. The language of the grateful spirit is: “I am unspeakably obligated. How may I express my appreciation?” ... Gratitude would quicken each of us toward effectual holiness more than a thousand other motives! Under the influence of such thankfulness we would work to maintain a purity of intention, a dignity of action and a walk worthy of that transcendently majestic Being who admits us to a fellowship with Himself and with His Son Jesus Christ.

In Gratitude for His Grace,


Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Why Daniel 11 Should Matter to Every Christian

In an age of Christian skepticism and an enormous proliferation of religions, every believer in Jesus Christ should know why their Bible is trustworthy and reliable. Whereas no other religious book in the world contains even one prophecy that was later fulfilled, the Bible has hundreds, with Daniel 11 leading the charge as the most incredible prophecy of all. Daniel 11 contains a vision of the future that God gave to Daniel in 532 BCE--a vision that encompasses 500 years (500 B.C to the Messiah's Coming)--and is so precise, so startling accurate to the events that actually unfolded during the next five centuries, that beginning with the Enlightment, liberal scholars universally proclaimed that the book of Daniel had to have been written long after Daniel lived and after the historical events discussed in Daniel 11 had already occurred.

Liberals clung to their late dating of Daniel until the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls in 1947. Then, it was made clear that ALL of the Old Testament books, including Daniel, were being used by the Jewish community centuries before the date liberal scholars decreed that Daniel had been written. The Dead Sea Scrolls discovery confirmed an early dating to Daniel, so the prophecies of Daniel were written on scrolls long before the events that fulfilled the prophecies occurred.

But occur they did! The precise fulfillment of the startling Daniel 11 prophecies confirm the Bible as the Word of God and not man.

One of the weaknesses of the modern world, even the Christian church, is the lack of historical perspective. Without an understanding of the events of history there is little appreciation for the uniqueness of the Holy Writ. The Bible stands alone as the Word of God because of not only the number of prophecies given, but more pointedly, the one hundred percent fulfillment of that which was prophesied. Just a little brief review of Daniel 11 will show the importance of this great chapter to every Christian's biblical understanding.

Remember that Daniel and the Jews were conquered by Babylon (586 BC) and were taken as captives back to Babylon (modern Iraq). The Babylonian king was feasting one night when a hand appeared and wrote on the wall "Mene, Mene, Tekel Upharson" ("You have been weighed in the balances and found wanting"). The judgment of God was coming upon Bayblon because of the wickedness of Belshazzar the King, and Daniel the Prophet told Belshazzar that God was removing from him the kingdom. That very night history records for us that the Medes and the Persians (The Persian Kingdom) were secretly digging under the walls of Babylon and would conquer the Babylonians.

After the Persian Kingdom's conquest of Babylon, Daniel, concerned for his people the Jews, prayed and asked God to reveal to him when "the indignation" of the Jewish people would come to an end. The prophecy of Daniel 11 is a detailed history/time line of the events that would affect the Jewish people for the next 500 years.

Let's examine the chapter in detail...

Daniel 11:2 Prophecies that Four Persian Kings Will Reign after the Giving of this Vision "And now I will tell you the truth, Behold, three more kings are going to arise in Persia. Then a fourth will gain far more riches than all of them" (v.2).

Those four kings were Cambyses II (530-522), Gaumata The Magian (522), Darius the Great (522-486), and Xerxes (486-465).

Daniel 11:2 Prophecies that the Fourth Persian King, Xerxes, Would Use His Vast Resources to Arouse Greece. "As soon as (the forth king) becomes strong through his riches, he will arouse the whole empire against the realm of Greece" (v.2).

History records for us that Persian King Xerxes (486-465 BC) took his armies to battle Greece, but on September 28, 480 BC, in the Battle of Salamis, the united Grecian city states defeated Xerxes and his vast Persian armies. This battle marks the rise of the Grecian Empire and the ultimate fall of the Persian Empire.

Daniel 11:3-4 Prophecies the Rise and Fall of Alexander the Great and the Subsequent Division of Alexander's Kingdom into Four Regions. "And a mighty king will arise, and he will rule with great authority, and do as he pleases. But as soon as he has arisen, his kindgom will be broken up and parceled out toward the four points of the compass, though not to his own descendents" (vs. 3-4).

Again, history records for us that the Grecian Emperor Alexander the Great (born 356 BC - died 323 BC) conquered and ruled the world. Upon his sudden death at the age of 32, there were no heirs to take his throne, so the Grecian kingdom was divided into four separate regions (North, South, East, West) and four of Alexander's generals became "king" of their respective region.

West (Greece) - General Cassander
East (Asia Minor) - General Lysimachus
North (Syria/Bayblon) - General Seleucus (pronounced Sa loo kus).
South (Egpyt/Holy Land) - General Ptolemy

After several decades of internal fighting for control, by 281 BC the East and West Grecian kingdoms had been absorbed into the North and South kingdoms, and so the world was dominated by two Grecian (Hellenistic) Kingdoms - the North and the South.

For the rest of Daniel 11 (from verse 5 to the end of the chapter), the "king of the North" represents the king leading the northern "Seleucid" people (when pronouncing the people of the north it is Sa loo sids with a soft "c"), also known as the Syrian kingdom. Likwise, for the rest of Daniel 11, the "king of the South" refers to the king leading the southern "Ptolemy" people, also known as the Egyptian kingdom.

Daniel 11:5-9 Prophecies a Specific Peace Treaty Between the Seleucids (the Northern kingdom) and the Ptolemies (the Southern kingdom) Involving the Daughter of the King of the South."5 The king of the South will grow powerful, but one of his commanders will grow more powerful and will rule a kingdom greater than his. 6 After some years they will form an alliance, and the daughter of the king of the South will go to the king of the North to seal the agreement. She will not retain power, and his strength will not endure. She will be given up, together with her entourage, her father, and the one who supported her during those times. 7 In the place of the king of the South, one from her family [b] will rise up, come against the army, and enter the fortress of the king of the North. He will take action against them and triumph. 8 He will take even their gods captive to Egypt, with their metal images and their precious articles of silver and gold. For some years he will stay away from the king of the North, 9 who will enter the kingdom of the king of the South and then return to his own land." (vs. 5-9).

In 249 BCE, king of the South Ptolemy II Philadelphus sent his daughter Berenice to king of the North Antiochus II Theos. His plan was to stop the war that was raging between them and unite the two kingdoms through their marriage. Unfortunately, this plan had a flaw: Antiochus II was already married. However, because he knew his marriage to Ptolemy II's daughter would ensure peace and allow him to regain most of the Syrian possessions his father had lost to the king of the South, Antiochus II put away his wife Laodice and married Berenice. She persuaded him to reject Laodice's children and set up her own to succeed him on the throne. However, after Ptolemy II died in 246 BCE, Antiochus II repudiated his marriage to Berenice and left her and their infant son to return to Laodice. Doubting his faithfulness, Laodice quickly murdered Antiochus II with poison. She then convinced her son, Seleucus II Callinicus, to kill both Berenice and her son. So, just as the prophecy said would happen, Ptolemy II king of the South, his daughter Berenice, and Antiochus II king of the North all lost in their struggle for power (Daniel 11:6).

To allow for an easy following of the rest of Daniel 11:7-12:1, the subsequent commentary and historical analysis of Daniel 11 is taken directly from Here a Little, There a Little. I would encourage the reader to pay particlarly close attention to the explanation given regarding Daniel 11:36-39, usually interpreted in a futuristic manner and believed to be a prophecy of the coming anti-Christ. The following commentary will clearly show this portion of Daniel's prophecy to be an accurate prediction of the life and reign of King Herod the Great. The only One who can foretell the future is God--and after a careful perusal of this chapter, never again should a believer ever doubt that God is the ultimate author of the Holy Bible.

Read on, paying close attention to the detailed prophecies and their fulfillment, and you will be able to answer any person who questions you about the authenticity of God's Word...

DANIEL 11:7 "But from a branch of her roots one shall arise in his place, who shall come with an army, enter the fortress of the king of the North, and deal with them and prevail."

Ptolemy III Euergetes, the eldest son of Ptolemy II and brother of Berenice, was not happy about the murder of his sister. He immediately invaded the Seleucid empire. His armies defeated the forces of new king of the North, Seleucus II, who was the son of Antiochus II and Laodice. His campaign was successful, and his armies achieved victory from the Tigris River to the coasts of Asia Minor. Ptolemy III captured and put to death Laodice. He was even able to enter Seleucia, the port city on the Tigris River of the capital Antioch, and leave a garrison there.

DANIEL 11:8 "And he shall also carry their gods captive to Egypt, with their princes and their precious articles of silver and gold; and he shall continue more years than the king of the North."

During the Third Syrian War, king of the South Ptolemy III is credited with recovering many of the sacred statues that the Persian forces of Cambyses had carried off during their conquest of Egypt some three hundred years earlier. Because of this, he was known as Euergetes ("Benefactor"). Ptolemy III acquired much gold and silver during his victorious campaign; in fact, from Seleucia alone he received 1,500 talents of silver annually as tribute (about 10% of his annual income). He outlived Seleucus II, who died after falling from his horse, by four or five years (222 BCE).

DANIEL 11:9 "Also the king of the North [lit. "he"] shall come to the kingdom of the king of the South, but shall return to his own land."

In 240 BCE, the king of the North, Seleucus II, attempted to invade Egypt in response to the humiliation he had suffered at the hands of Ptolemy III. However, he had to return in defeat after his fleet perished in a storm.

DANIEL 11:10 "However his sons shall stir up strife, and assemble a multitude of great forces; and one shall certainly come and overwhelm and pass through; then he shall return to his fortress and stir up strife."

The sons of Seleucus II were Seleucus III Ceraunos ("Thunder") and Antiochus III (the Great). Seleucus III, the eldest son of Seleucus II, began a war against the Egyptian provinces in Asia Minor. However, he was unsuccessful, and was assassinated by members of his army in Asia Minor in 223 BCE. Seleucus II's younger son, Antiochus III, took the throne at the age of 18 after his brother's death. In 219-218 BCE, Antiochus III victoriously went through Judea, coming almost to the borders of Egypt.

DANIEL 11:11 "And the king of the South shall be moved with rage, and go out and fight with him, with the king of the North, who shall muster a great multitude; but the multitude shall be given into the hand of his enemy."

Antiochus III met Ptolemy IV Philopater at the Battle of Raphia (also known as the Battle of Gaza) in 217 BCE. Antiochus III, the king of the North, had 62,000 infantry, 6,000 calvary, and 103 war elephants. But the forces of Ptolemy IV, king of the South, were victorious in the battle. Antiochus III was forced to withdraw into Lebanon.

DANIEL 11:12 "When he has taken away the multitude, his heart will be lifted up; and he will cast down tens of thousands, but he will not prevail."

After his victory over Antiochus III, Ptolemy IV spent only three months settling affairs in the Holy Land before heading back to Alexandria. He was apparently eager to return to his luxurious and decadent life in Egypt. In his haste to go home, Ptolemy IV left the important port of Seleucia-in-Pieria on the Phoenician coast (which his father had first captured) in the hands of Antiochus III. After his victory at Gaza, the Egyptian troops trained to fight the Seleucids began a successful guerilla campaign against his rule in Egypt. By the end of Ptolemy IV's reign, they had achieved total independence in the southern part of Egypt.

DANIEL 11:13 "For the king of the North will return and muster a multitude greater than the former, and shall certainly come at the end of some years with a great army and much equipment."

After the death of Ptolemy IV in 204 BCE, Antiochus III rallied his forces once again to attack the kingdom of the South. In the Fifth Syrian War (202-195 BCE), Antiochus III swept down into Judea from Syria. He retook the territory that he had occupied some eighteen years previously. When Antiochus III withdrew for the winter, the Egyptian commander Scopas reconquered the southern portions of the lost territory, including Judea and Jerusalem.

DANIEL 11:14 "Now in those times many shall rise up against the king of the South. Also, violent men of your people shall exalt themselves in fulfillment of the vision, but they shall fall."

Antiochus III negotiated an alliance with King Philip V of Macedonia to divide up Egypt's Asian possessions. After some temporary setbacks (particularly at Gaza), Antiochus III's army inflicted a crushing defeat on the Ptolemaic forces about 199 BCE at Paneas, near the headwaters of the Jordan River. Regarding the prophesied actions of the Jews, the Jewish historian Josephus wrote:

Yet was it not long afterward when Antiochus overcame Scopas, in a battle fought at the fountains of Jordan, and destroyed a great part of his army. But afterward, when Antiochus subdued those cities of Celesyria which Scopas had gotten into his possession, and Samaria with them, the Jews, of their own accord, went over to him, and received him into the city [Jerusalem], and gave plentiful provision to all his army, and to his elephants, and readily assisted him when he besieged the garrison which was in the citadel of Jerusalem. (Ant. 12.3.3)

Unfortunately, this Jewish assistance was not to be remembered when Antiochus IV later came against Jerusalem.

DANIEL 11:15 "Then the king of the North shall come and throw up siegeworks and take a well-fortified city. And the forces of the South shall not stand, or even his best troops, for there shall be no strength to stand."

Following his defeat at Paneas, Scopas fled to the fortified port city of Sidon. But after Antiochus III besieged it, Scopas surrendered in 199 BCE in exchange for safe passage out of the city back to Egypt. He and his troops were allowed to leave the city naked after giving up their weapons.

DANIEL 11:16 "But he who comes against him shall do according to his own will, and no one shall stand against him. He shall stand in the Glorious Land with destruction in his power."

With his final victory over Scopas at Sidon, Antiochus the Great took the Holy Land away from the Egyptians for good. Judea and Jerusalem had passed from the king of the South to the king of the North.

DANIEL 11:17 "He shall also set his face to enter with the strength of his whole kingdom, and upright ones with him; thus shall he do. And he shall give him the daughter of women to destroy it; but she shall not stand with him, or be for him."

Young Ptolemy V had entered into a treaty with Antiochus III after his military defeat in the Fifth Syrian War. Through this treaty, Antiochus III tried to strengthen his position and expand his empire even further. Ptolemy V surrendered his Asian holdings to the king of the North and accepted Antiochus III's daughter, Cleopatra I, as a bride. They were married in 194 BCE. Through this marriage, Antiochus III sought to gain a foothold in Egypt itself through his daughter. But his plan backfired. Cleopatra I was a true wife to Ptolemy V, standing by him instead of seeking to benefit her father. Cleopatra I was beloved by the Egyptian people for her loyalty to her husband.

DANIEL 11:18 "After this he shall turn his face to the coastlands, and shall take many. But a ruler shall bring the reproach against them to an end; and with the reproach removed, he shall turn back on him."

In 192 BCE, the ambitious Antiochus III crossed into Greece to aid the Aetolians. He sent ambassadors to Rome asking for friendship. However, the Roman senate replied that they would be friends if Antiochus III left the Greeks in Asia free and independent and if he kept away from Europe. Antiochus III refused, and went to war against Rome. With 10,000 men, Antiochus III sailed across the Aegean Sea and took some strongholds in Asia Minor.

But in doing so, he alienated his former ally, Macedonian king Philip V. The Roman army entered Asia Minor and defeated the larger forces of Antiochus III at the Battle of Magnesia in 190 BCE. In the peace treaty of Apamea in 188 BCE, Roman general Publius Scipio set a high cost on Antiochus III for peace. He demanded twenty hostages (including his son, Antiochus IV), a reduction of naval ships to twelve, and payment to Rome for the cost of the war totaling 15,000 talents over the next twelve years. The all-consuming ambition of Antiochus III had finally brought defeat to the kingdom of the North.

DANIEL 11:19 "Then he shall turn his face toward the fortress of his own land; but he shall stumble and fall, and not be found."

As a consequence of the Roman victory over Antiochus III, the outlying provinces of the Seleucid empire again reasserted their independence. With his kingdom now reduced to Syria, Mesopotamia, and western Iran, Antiochus III was in dire need of funds with which to pay Rome for the cost of the war. In 187 BCE, while attempting to plunder a pagan temple in Babylon near Susa (Shushan), Antiochus III was murdered.

DANIEL 11:20 ""His successor will send out a tax collector to maintain the royal splendor. In a few years, however, he will be destroyed, yet not in anger or in battle."

Antiochus III's eldest son, Seleucus IV Philopater, took over after his father's death. Due to the heavy debt burden imposed by Rome, he was forced to seek an ambitious taxation policy on his shrunken empire. This included heavy taxation on the people of Israel. In fact, Seleucus IV even sent his treasurer, Heliodorus, to the Temple in Jerusalem to extract money.

The Roman senate decided to trade hostages; therefore, they ordered Seleucus IV to send his son Demetrius, the heir to the throne, to Rome. In return, the Romans released Seleucus IV's younger brother, Antiochus IV. When released, Antiochus IV went to Athens.

In 175 BCE, after Demetrius had been sent away to Rome, Seleucus IV was poisoned by his minister Heliodorus. Some historians think that Heliodorus desired the throne for himself, while others believe that Antiochus IV was behind the murder. Seleucus' young son, (another Antiochus – age 5) was put on the throne in his place. However, Heliodorus was the actual power behind the throne.

DANIEL 11:21 "And in his place shall arise a vile person, to whom they will not give the honor of royalty; but he shall come in peaceably, and seize the kingdom by intrigue."

With Seleucus IV dead, the rightful heir to the throne was the young Demetrius. However, he was no longer available, having been sent to Rome as a hostage. At the time of the murder, Antiochus IV was in Athens. However, when he heard of his brother's death, he quickly sailed to Pergamum. Once there, he sought the help of Eumenes II, the king of Pergamum. By flattering Eumenes II and his brother Attalus, he received their support and backing.

Antiochus IV arrived in Seleucia with a powerful ally and thwarted Heliodorus' designs on the throne. He became co-regent and protector of Seleucus IV's infant son (also named Antiochus). In 170 BCE, the younger Antiochus was murdered while Antiochus IV was conveniently absent, paving the way for him to take sole possession of the throne.

DANIEL 11:22 "With the force of a flood they shall be swept away from before him and be broken, and also the prince of the covenant."

Because of his ability to charm people and ally himself with them, Antiochus IV Epiphanes ("God manifest") was able to overcome all threats to his throne. The prince of the covenant here is a reference to the Jewish high priest Onias III. He was the high priest at the time that Antiochus IV came to the throne. A brother of Onias named Joshua, who had become hellenized and changed his name to Jason, made a deal with Antiochus IV. Jason told him that he would pay Antiochus IV a large bribe if he would remove Onias and make him high priest in his place. So Antiochus IV forced Onias out and installed his brother Jason as high priest in Jerusalem in 174 BCE.

In 172 BCE, Jason sent a priest named Menelaus to Antiochus IV with his tribute money. However, Menelaus took Jason's money, added some of his own to it, and bribed Antiochus IV to secure the high priesthood for himself. Menelaus then returned to Jerusalem and deposed Jason, who fled for his life. Antiochus IV's double-cross of Jason shows the true nature of his character.

DANIEL 11:23 "And after the league is made with him he shall act deceitfully, for he shall come up and become strong with a small number of people."

Once again, the "king of the North" set his sights on the kingdom of the South. In Egypt, the 14-year old Ptolemy VI Philometer had become king. He was the nephew of Antiochus IV; his mother (Cleopatra I) was Antiochus IV's sister. Antiochus IV sought an alliance with Ptolemy VI, seeking to take advantage of what he perceived as weakness in the Ptolemaic kingdom and gain Egypt for himself. He moved through Syria and Judea into Egypt with a small army, so as to not arouse suspicion to his true motive, and seized Egypt. His cover story was that he was coming to act as the "protector" of his nephew, Ptolemy VI.

DANIEL 11:24 "He shall enter peaceably, even into the richest places of the province; and he shall do what his fathers have not done, nor his forefathers: he shall disperse among them the plunder, spoil, and riches; and he shall devise his plans against the strongholds, but only for a time."

Antiochus IV pursued a novel plan for gaining the Egyptian-controlled provinces. He moved into the parts of the kingdom that were the richest. Then he did something that no other Seleucid king had ever done. Antiochus IV spread around some of the spoils from his war campaigns to secure the loyalty of the people. The historical book of I Maccabees states that he spent much on the public (I Mac. 3:30). It is even reported that he would go into the streets and throw money to the citizens there. However, this was only the beginning of Antiochus IV's plan. Using his cunning, he visited Egyptian strongholds to find out their power.

DANIEL 11:25 "He shall stir up his power and his courage against the king of the South with a great army. And the king of the South shall be stirred up to battle with a very great and mighty army; but he shall not stand, for they shall devise plans against him."

In 170 BCE, when Antiochus IV felt secure about the state of his own kingdom, he decided to take Egypt by force in what came to be known as the Sixth Syrian War. He regarded Ptolemy VI as a weak ruler and therefore not capable of successfully waging war against him. Antiochus IV was able to move his army to the border of Egypt before he was met by the Egyptians at Pelusium, which is near the Nile Delta. The Egyptians had a large army arrayed against him there. Antiochus, risking death by riding into the midst of the battle of Pelusium, ordered the Egyptians to be taken alive instead of slain. By this policy, he gained Pelusium and later took Memphis.

DANIEL 11:26 "Yes, those who eat of the portion of his delicacies shall destroy him; his army shall be swept away, and many shall fall down slain."

Ptolemy VI's army, although large, was not able to withstand Antiochus IV. In large part, this was due to the intrigues of Antiochus IV, who corrupted several of the Egyptian ministers and officers. This was one of the main causes of the defeat of Ptolemy VI. Those who were in his confidence and possessed the secrets of the state betrayed him to Antiochus IV. For example, Ptolemy Macron (also called "Ptolemy the son of Dorymenes") had been appointed by Ptolemy VI as governor of Cyprus. However, sensing the young king's weakness, he deserted to Antiochus IV, who made him governor of Coele Syria and Phoenicia.

DANIEL 11:27 "Both these kings' hearts shall be bent on evil, and they shall speak lies at the same table; but it shall not prosper, for the end will still be at the appointed time."

After he took control of Pelusium and Memphis, Antiochus IV set his sights on Alexandria. Due to the intrigues of Antiochus IV mentioned in verse 26, the Alexandrians had renounced their allegiance to Ptolemy VI, and had made his younger brother, Ptolemy VII Euergetes, king in his place. While at Memphis, Antiochus IV and Ptolemy VI had frequent conferences. Antiochus IV professed his great friendship to his nephew and concern for his interests, but his true plan was to weaken Egypt by setting the brothers against one another.

Conversely, Ptolemy VI professed gratitude to his uncle for the interest he took in his affairs. He laid the blame of the war upon his minister Eulaeus, one the guardians appointed to watch over him after his father's death. All the while, Ptolemy VI sought to smooth over things with his brother Ptolemy VII so they could join forces against their deceitful uncle, Antiochus IV.

DANIEL 11:28 "While returning to his land with great riches, his heart shall be moved against the holy covenant; so he shall do damage and return to his own land."

While Antiochus IV was engaged in Egypt, a false rumor arose in Judea that he had been killed. This prompted deposed high priest Jason to raise an army of 1,000 men and attack Jerusalem. His army captured the city and forced the high priest Menelaus to take refuge in the Akra fortress in Jerusalem. When news of the fighting in Jerusalem reached Antiochus IV, he took it to mean that Judea was in revolt against him.

Antiochus IV left Egypt; on his way home, he and his armies marched against Jerusalem. He commanded his soldiers to kill everyone they encountered (men, women, and children). Within the space of three days, his forces had killed somewhere between 40,000 and 80,000 people. A similar number were captured and sold into slavery.

Not satisfied with the slaughter, Antiochus IV entered the Temple and (guided by Menelaus) took the holy vessels, including the golden altar, the menorah, the table for the showbread, the cups for drink offerings, the bowls, the golden censers, the curtain, the crowns, and the gold decoration on the front of the temple. He took all the silver and gold, as well as the hidden treasures which he found. After appointing the Phrygian Phillip as governor in Jerusalem, Antiochus IV then returned to Antioch.

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."

Meanwhile, in Egypt brothers Ptolemy VI and Ptolemy VII reconciled and agreed to share power. This annulled Antiochus IV's alliance with Ptolemy VI and caused his loss of control over the Ptolemaic kingdom. Because of this, in 168 BCE Antiochus IV once again sought to go to war against Egypt. However, this time he would not have the same success as he achieved previously.

DANIEL 11:30 "For ships from Cyprus [Kittim] 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."

Because they knew that they could not defeat Antiochus IV alone, the Ptolemy brothers appealed to Rome for help. In order to check the threat of Greek expansion, the Romans agreed to provide assistance. The "ships from Kittim" here refer to the ships which brought the Roman legions to Egypt in fulfillment of the defense pact.

As Antiochus IV and his army marched toward Alexandria, they were met by three Roman senators led by Gaius Popillius Laenas in Eleusis, a suburb of Alexandria. There, Roman ambassador Popillius delivered to Antiochus IV the Senate's demand that he withdraw from Egypt. When the king requested time for consultation, Popillius drew a circle around Antiochus IV with a stick he was carrying and told him not to leave the circle until he gave his response. The king of the North was astonished at this display of Roman arrogance, but after a brief time, said he would do all that the Romans demanded.

On his return to Syria, Antiochus IV tried to ease the sting of the humiliation he had suffered at the hands of the Romans by taking out his frustration on the Jews in Judea. His armies encircled Jerusalem and then attacked. All those Jews who resisted were executed. However, the pro Hellenistic Jews who allied themselves with Antiochus IV were left unharmed.

DANIEL 11:31 "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."

Antiochus IV's army desecrated the Temple and stopped the daily sacrifices. On the 15th of Kislev, in December 168 BCE, the Syrians built a pagan altar over the altar of burnt offering in the Temple and placed an image of Zeus Olympius upon it. Ten days later, on the 25th of Kislev, swine's flesh was offered on the altar to Zeus.

DANIEL 11:32 "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."

After venting his anger upon the Jews and desecrating the Temple, Antiochus IV decreed that his entire kingdom should become one people, each giving up his own customs. The other peoples under his rule accepted Antiochus IV's command. Because of his flattering approach, many of the people of Israel also forsook the Law and adopted his religion.

Antiochus IV commanded a change in all the ordinances of God. No sacrifices were to be offered in the sanctuary, the Sabbaths and feasts were to be profaned, and that the Jews were not to circumcise their sons. Upon pain of death, they were commanded to profane the true religion so that eventually the Law would be forgotten. Antiochus IV appointed inspectors to watch the Jews and commanded the cities of Judah to offer pagan sacrifices. Yet many in Israel stood firm and rejected the innovations of the king of the North.

DANIEL 11:33 "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."

Whenever Antiochus IV's men found copies of the Torah, they tore them to pieces and burned them. Whoever was found in possession of a Torah was put to death. According to Antiochus IV's decree, women who had their children circumcised were put to death, along with their entire families and those who had circumcised them. Still, many in Israel chose to die rather than to break the holy covenant.

DANIEL 11:34 "Now when they fall, they shall be aided with a little help; but many shall join with them by intrigue."

As the historical book of I Maccabees shows, the decrees of Antiochus IV eventually led to a rebellion started by the priest Mattathias and his five sons (including Judas Maccabee). He and his family had fled from Jerusalem to Modein when the Seleucid forces took the city. There, Mattathias killed a Jew who was sacrificing according to Antiochus IV's command, as well as the king's officer who was forcing them to sacrifice. From this first act of rebellion, a guerilla war against the forces of Antiochus IV began. After the death of his father Mattathias in 167 BCE, Judas Maccabee defeated the large army of Antiochus IV's general Apollonius. This victory helped Judas to gather a sizable force; however, only a minority of the soldiers were actually faithful men.

Next, Seron, the commander of the Syrian army, came against the forces of Judas. His army was also defeated by Judas, and his fame spread all the way to Antioch. King Antiochus IV was greatly angered by the exploits of Judas and his men, and he gathered his army. He opened the royal treasury and gave his soldiers a year's wages, ordering them to be ready for whatever action needed to be taken.

This approach quickly emptied the royal treasury of funds and made it necessary for Antiochus IV to seek additional tribute and spoil from his lands. In 166 BCE, he decided to go to Persia to collect or seize by force the needed money. Antiochus IV left his general Lysias in charge of his son and half of his army, with instructions to attack and destroy Jerusalem and Judea. Lysias sent an army of 40,000 infantry and 7,000 cavalry and marched into Judea. He met the forces of Judas Maccabee (3,000 poorly equipped men) near Emmaus. However, despite being vastly outnumbered, Judas' army routed the Syrians, killing 3,000 and putting the rest to flight.

In 165 BCE, Lysias again sent the Syrian army (now numbering 60,000 infantrymen and 5,000 cavalry) against the Jewish forces, which had risen to 10,000. This time, 5,000 Syrians were killed and Lysias fled back to Antioch. Because of his great victory, Judas and his men were able to recapture the Temple.

The pious Jews cleansed and renewed it, and on Kislev 25, 165 BCE, three years to the day after the first abominable sacrifice had been offered, the new altar was rededicated and holy sacrifices offered. The Jews celebrated the rededication of the Temple for eight days. In memory of the Jewish victory and rededication of the Temple, Judas Maccabee decreed that the Feast of Dedication (called Chanukah in Hebrew) was to be observed every year thereafter for eight days, beginning on Kislev 25.

In 164 BCE, Antiochus IV's army was defeated at Elymais, Persia when he attempted to plunder the city of its gold and silver. Soon thereafter, a messenger came from Antioch and notified him of the defeat of his armies by Judas and the Jews. Terribly shaken by these events, he fell sick and became bedridden. Antiochus IV died shortly after that.

DANIEL 11:35 "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."

When the Gentile nations around Judea heard of their victory over the Seleucids, they became very angry. They began to kill those Jews who lived among them. Judas Maccabee and his brother Simon went out to fight against those Gentiles who sought to kill the Jews and defeated them.

After the death of Judas Maccabee in battle in 161 BCE, persecution continued upon the Jews, as history records. Many wicked Jews who had opposed Judas and his goals took opportunity after his death to persecute and kill righteous Jews.

Beginning with Mattathias' leadership of the rebellion against Antiochus IV, the rule of the Hasmoneans (named after Mattathias' grandfather, Asmoneus) lasted from 168 until 37 BCE. The words "until the time of the end" refer to the end of this second period of Jewish sovereignty. The "appointed time" refers to the 70 weeks of years that Gabriel had earlier told Daniel about (Dan. 9:24-27), which led to the appearance of the Messiah.

___The Prophecy of King Herod the Great_____

DANIEL 11:36 "And the king shall do as he wills. He shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak astonishing things against the God of gods. He shall prosper till the indignation is accomplished; for what is decreed shall be done."

In this verse, the king being spoken of changes. Starting in verse 21, Antiochus IV Epiphanes was the referenced king. Verses 32 through 35 prophesy his defeat by the Maccabees (the Hasmoneans) and encompass the subsequent fall of their dynasty. But the context shows that the remaining verses in this chapter cannot apply to Antiochus IV.

Most Christian scholars try to insert a huge chronological gap in the prophecy here, making the rest of it apply not to the antetype Antiochus IV, but to the end-time type, the Antichrist. But staying in the time sequence context earlier alluded to by Gabriel (Dan. 11:1), what should we expect to see next in this prophecy? Was there a king who ruled Israel after the end of the Hasmonean era?

What appears to have caused scholars to stray away from the correct understanding at this point of the prophecy is that they were unable to find a successor to Antiochus IV who matched the description of "the king." But two points must be kept in mind in order to properly understand this prophecy. The subject is the Seleucid or Ptolemaic dynasties ONLY as these kingdoms affected Daniel's people. Therefore, the expression "the king," without any other description, could certainly mean one who was king over Israel. Secondly, the immediately preceding verses (Dan. 11:32-35) refer to the Jews and their situation during and after the Maccabean revolt. Based on the history of this period, we should look for the fulfillment of this verse by a "king" other than Antiochus IV or the Hasmonean rulers.

Both secular history and the New Testament record the acts of a king who appeared on the scene in Israel at the end of the Hasmonean period. As we shall see, this king fulfilled every prophetic description given in verses 36 through 39. That king was Herod the Great. In verse 36, the one spoken of is not identified as either the king of the North or the king of the South, but simply as "the king." Herod was seated as king on the throne of Israel when Messiah Yeshua was born. He is the called "the king" in the Gospels (Matt. 2:1, 3, 9; Luke 1:5). He, like Antiochus IV before him, was an antetype of the coming Antichrist, as his actions revealed. Let's look at the specific points in the prophecy and see how Herod fulfilled them.

"The King Shall Do According to His Own Will"

The first thing said of this king is that he would "do according to his own will." While most take this to mean that the king would do as he pleased, it is instructive to see how this phrase is used elsewhere in the prophecy. In Daniel 11:3, we see that it is said of Alexander the Great that he would "do according to his will." Similar words are used of Antiochus the Great in Daniel 11:16. This means more than simply a strong-willed ruler who did things his own way. Both of these rulers (Alexander and Antiochus III) were exceptionally successful in achieving their goals.

Success in achieving and maintaining power also defined Herod the Great. History shows that Herod was an Idumean (the Edomites were forcibly converted to Judaism under the Hasmonean ruler John Hyrcanus about 130 BCE). His father Antipater II, a friend and advisor of Hasmonean ruler Hyrcanus II, was made procurator of Judea by Julius Caesar. In that position, Antipater II made Herod the governor of Galilee at the age of 25 in 47 BCE. Herod ingratiated himself with Rome following the assassination of Julius Caesar and eventually married Mariamne, a granddaughter of Hyrcanus II (even though he was already married with a young son). Due to a recommendation by Hyrcanus II (as well as a bribe paid to Roman ruler Mark Antony), Herod was appointed as a tetrarch over Judea in 41 BCE.

Shortly thereafter, the Parthians overran Judea in 40 BCE and installed Antigonus, the Hasmonean brother of Hyrcanus II, as king. Herod fled and eventually came to Rome, where he was appointed king of Judea by Gaius Octavius (the grandnephew of Julius Caesar) and Mark Antony. He left Rome with an army and by 37 BCE had captured Judea and deposed Antigonus. He bribed Antony to have Antigonus killed, lest his claims to the Judean throne be found to be more legitimate than Herod's own. All in all, Herod's rise to power showed that he was very successful at doing "according to his own will."

Viewing the expression in the sense of doing as he pleased, history shows that Herod was ruthless and cruel in doing his own will. He did not hesitate to murder those he considered to be threats to his rule, including Hyrcanus II and almost the entire Hasmonean line. Even those closest to him, his own family, were not safe. Herod had his beloved wife, Mariamne, executed on a trumped-up charge of adultery, as well as three of his own sons because he suspected them of conspiring to take his throne. These and other deeds of evil willfulness characterized his entire reign.

"He Shall Exalt and Magnify Himself Above Every God"

The text also states that the king "shall exalt and magnify himself above every god." The word "god" here is the Hebrew 'el. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says that "the primary meanings of this root as used in Scripture are 'god' (pagan or false gods) 'God' (the true God of Israel) and less frequently, 'the mighty' (referring to men or angels)." It is clear that Herod exalted and magnified himself above every "mighty one" in Israel, whether priests or rulers. He appointed whomever he chose to the sacred office of high priest. However, because he owed true allegiance only to himself in his lust for absolute power, Herod truthfully could be said to have exalted and magnified himself above all other gods (including the God of Israel, whose will he attempted to thwart by destroying the promised Messiah).

"He Shall Speak Astonishing Things Against the God of Gods"

The Hebrew word niphla'ot, rendered "blasphemies" in some translations, actually means "marvelous" (if used in a positive sense) or "astonishing" (in a negative sense). This charge against Herod primarily refers to his command to slaughter the male babies of Bethlehem. This was done for the express purpose of destroying the coming Messiah (Matt. 2:4), the one God had promised to send to be king over His people Israel. Herod chose to act directly against God's will in this way to ensure that his throne would not be taken over by the rightful heir, Messiah the Son of David. We shall look at this action more later.

DANIEL 11:37 "He shall regard neither the God of his fathers nor the desire of women, nor regard any god; for he shall exalt himself above them all."

"He Shall Regard Neither the God of His Fathers... Nor Regard Any God"

Even though Herod was an Idumean (a descendant of Esau), his family had converted to Judaism in the 2nd century BCE. Therefore, Herod was generally regarded as a Jew. In fact, when addressing the Jewish people, Herod customarily used the expression "our fathers" to emphasize his genealogical ties to the patriarchs. Yet Herod promoted Greek and Roman gods and built the port city of Caesarea (named after the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus), which became a symbol in Jewish eyes of everything pagan. In Caesarea, Herod built a huge temple dedicated to the worship of Caesar Augustus, the Roman emperor/god. Additionally, he built temples dedicated to Augustus in Sebaste (the rebuilt city of Samaria) and Panias (a city long associated with the worship of the pagan god Pan). He also supported the restoration of the temple of Pythian Apollo on the Greek island of Rhodes, participated in the building of the temple to Ba'al Shamim at Si'a, and contributed to temples in Tyre and Sidon. Herod extensively remodeled the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, but then placed a huge golden Roman eagle at the main entrance, which religious Jews saw as a blasphemous idol. A group of Torah students destroyed this emblem of idolatry, earning themselves the fate of being burned alive by Herod. Herod's regard was for the benefits that he could achieve by supporting various gods; his religion was one of expedience, not conviction. He exalted himself above all the gods.

"The Desire of Women"

The phrase "the desire of women" has been variously understood. Some scholars have opined that, speaking of the end-time Antichrist, this indicates that he will have no desire for women. This is far from the intended meaning of this phrase, however. In Haggai 2:7, the Messiah is called "the desire of all nations." The exact same Hebrew word, chemdat, is used in that verse and Daniel 11:37. It was the hope of every religious Jewish woman that she might be the mother of the prophesied Messiah. Therefore, it was primarily the Messiah who was "the desire" of Jewish women.

Additionally, children in general are "the desire of women." The fact that Herod attempted to murder the infant Messiah by destroying numerous babies shows that he had no regard for the maternal nature of women. Each one of the slain infants was "the desire" of his own mother. Herod exalted himself above all by valuing holding onto his power and position above everyone and everything else, including the God of Israel.

DANIEL 11:38 "But in their place he shall honor a god of fortresses; and a god which his fathers did not know he shall honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and pleasant things."

Herod's actions in securing and holding on to power provide an impressive fulfillment of this verse. The phrase "god of forces," or "fortresses," is uncommon enough that it provides us a ready means of identification. The Roman emperors proclaimed themselves to be "gods," and it was by their military "forces" or "fortresses" that they enlarged and sustained their power and their empire. Herod was quick to honor the warring Roman rulers with tribute and building projects. He rebuilt many fortresses in the land and temples in surrounding Gentile areas, including three temples dedicated to Caesar Augustus. He rebuilt the ancient Phoenician coastal fort called Strato's Tower and renamed it Caesarea in honor of Caesar Augustus; he rebuilt Samaria, and renamed it Sebaste (sebastos was the Greek word for "reverend," equivalent to the Latin augustus). He built many other fortified cities and named them in honor of Caesar. Herod also introduced Greek-style games in honor of Caesar. He often sent delegations to Rome to deliver valuable gifts and money to show his respect to Caesar.

DANIEL 11:39 "Thus he shall act against the strongest fortresses with a foreign god, which he shall acknowledge, and advance its glory; and he shall cause them to rule over many, and divide the land for gain."

Verse 39 continues the subject from the previous verse. Using the support and backing of the Roman emperor, Herod was able to overcome all of his foes. In the process, he promoted the glory of the Romans in Judea to his own benefit. Herod gave land and authority to those who supported him in order to secure their allegiance. When viewed properly, we can see that every item foretold of "the king" in verses 36-39 was fulfilled in the reign of Herod.

DANIEL 11:40 "At the time of the end the king of the South shall attack him; and the king of the North shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter the countries, overwhelm them, and pass through."

Remember, this prophecy is not primarily concerned with Syria, Egypt, Rome or any other foreign power, but with the fate of Daniel's people, the Jews. Verses 40-43 are a parenthetical insert describing the last major battle over the land of Israel before the Messiah appeared.

For the final time in this prophecy, we see the king of the South and the king of the North engage one another in battle. Here, the king of the South is Mark Antony and his ally Cleopatra (the last monarch to occupy the Egyptian throne). The king of the North is Octavius, who as the official representative of Rome, was ruler of the former Syrian empire of the Seleucids.

Antony and Octavius made a pact with a third party (Marcus Aemilius Lepidus) to rule Rome after the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BCE. In the civil war that followed Caesar's death, they defeated the assassins' forces in 42 BCE. The next year, Antony fell in love with Egyptian queen Cleopatra. After Antony suffered a military defeat against the Parthians in 36 BCE, he and Octavius had a falling out. Worsening the situation was the fact that, in 32 BCE, Antony divorced his Roman wife, Octavia (the sister of Octavius) and ceded many of the eastern Roman territories to Cleopatra and their children. Finally, in 31 BCE, a new civil war broke out between the Roman Senate-supported Octavius and Antony/Cleopatra.

The Roman historian Plutarch wrote that the first move in the war was made by Antony (at the insistence of Cleopatra). Thus we see that the "king of the South" indeed first attacked the "king of the North." The Roman Senate quickly pronounced Antony an outlaw and declared war on Cleopatra.

In this war, Herod supported Antony and sent supplies to his forces. He wished to join Antony for a final showdown with Octavius, but fortunately Antony dispatched him and his troops to fight the Nabatean king Malichus I.

Amazingly, the prophecy was accurately fulfilled in regard to the composition of the forces engaged in the war. Despite the fact that each side had assembled large infantry forces, Plutarch records that these infantry were not engaged at all in the short war. Although his generals advised Antony to use his overwhelming infantry advantage to defeat Octavius, Antony decided to prosecute the war primarily with ships in order to satisfy the request of Cleopatra. Thus the conflict was decided by chariots, horsemen, and in a major naval battle, approximately 630 ships. After the navy of Antony and Cleopatra was routed off the promontory of Actium in Greece on September 2, 31 BCE, the infantry deserted and never saw battle.

Seeing that Antony was all but defeated, Herod helped Quintus Didius, the Roman governor of Syria, prevent a troop of Antony's gladiators from reaching Egypt to aid Antony. Herod then undertook a dangerous sea voyage in winter 30 BCE to meet with Octavius on the Greek island of Rhodes. Herod came to him humbly and stated that he would be as loyal to Octavius as he had previously been to Antony. Octavius accepted Herod's pledge and promised him continued rule over Judea.

DANIEL 11:41 "He shall also enter the Glorious Land, and many countries shall be overthrown; but these shall escape from his hand: Edom, Moab, and the prominent people of Ammon."

The course Octavius took after his victory over Antony and Cleopatra accurately follows the prophecy. He passed through Syria, Judea (the "glorious land"), and Egypt in his pursuit of the pair. However, the lands of Edom, Moab, and Ammon were not invaded during this excursion. A later expedition into these areas (about 25 BCE), under the command of Aelius Gallus along with 500 troops from Herod, was not successful and no further efforts were made against them.

DANIEL 11:42 "He shall stretch out his hand against the countries, and the land of Egypt shall not escape."

Antony's plans to regroup their forces in Alexandria failed, since most of his soldiers had deserted to join Octavius. Based on a false report that Cleopatra had killed herself, Antony committed suicide with his own sword. Cleopatra actually lived for some weeks after Antony's death and met Octavius on at least one occasion to negotiate the best possible situation for her children. Realizing that Octavius was planning to publicly exhibit her as a captive in his victory parade in Rome, she too committed suicide, reportedly by allowing a venomous asp to bite her.

DANIEL 11:43 "He shall have power over the treasures of gold and silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt; also the Libyans and Ethiopians shall follow at his heels."

The prophecy refers specifically to the vast treasures of Egypt. Therefore, its fulfillment must be looked for in the days of Egypt's power and wealth. It cannot have been fulfilled in the debased and poverty-stricken Egypt of later centuries. In the days of Antony and Cleopatra the treasures of Egypt were of immense value, having been accumulated over the years of the Ptolemaic rule. Octavius captured the accumulated riches of Egypt with his victory over Antony and Cleopatra, and celebrated his triumph in Rome in 29 BCE. He became the first Roman emperor, entitled "Caesar Augustus." Interest rates in the Roman empire fell greatly due to the influx of plunder from Egypt. Octavius returned in victory to Rome. Octavius' general, Cornelius Balbus, later took Libya and Ethiopia for Rome.

Why are the parenthetical events of verses 40-43 singled out? Because they illustrate how Rome's domination over Judea was fully established and show the end of the separate history for the kingdom of the South. It also sets the stage for the political conditions that would exist at the time the prophesied Messiah was to arise, according to the 70 weeks prophecy given to Daniel earlier.

DANIEL 11:44 "But news from the east and the north shall trouble him; therefore he shall go out with great fury to destroy and annihilate many."

Having updated the story flow in verses 40-43 to show the Roman dominance of Judea and the end of the "king of the South," the prophecy now reverts back to its earlier subject, Herod the king. What news came "from the east" to trouble Herod? Clearly, it was the arrival of the magi heralding the birth of the one "who had been born King of the Jews" (Matt. 2:2). As the next verse in Matthew's Gospel states, "When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him" (Matt. 2:3).

Nothing could "trouble" Herod more than reports of a claimant to his throne. After the magi failed to return with a report of the location of the newborn king, Herod became extremely angry and commanded that all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, be slain, according to the time frame which he had determined from the wise men (Matt. 2:16).

Also in the last years of Herod's life, his oldest son Antipater conspired to take over his throne. Antipater was in Rome (which at this time had become the seat of what is indefinitely called "the north" in this prophecy). He sent letters to his father giving information that two of his other sons, whom Herod meant to make his successors, had denigrated their father to Caesar. These "tidings out of the north" troubled Herod to the extent that he had the two sons killed. Later, Antipater himself was executed for his conspiracy and intrigue.

Herod's "great fury" was not confined to the infants of Bethlehem or to the members of his own family. It was also, at nearly this same time, that he burned alive those who had pulled down his golden image of the Roman eagle from the gate of the Temple.

Realizing that his death was near and that he and his family were generally hated by the Jews, Herod commanded that all the chief men of the Jewish nation be summoned to him at Jericho. Out of fear of not obeying a royal decree, they came. Herod, in a seething rage, ordered them all to be shut up in the hippodrome there. He placed his sister Salome and her husband Alexas in charge of them, ordering that they were all to be killed when he died. He reasoned that only due to the death of so many noble Jewish men would his own death be mourned. Sanity prevailed, however, and his order was not carried out.

DANIEL 11:45 "And he shall plant the tents of his palace between the seas and the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and no one will help him."

Herod had many royal palaces throughout Judea, including two in Jerusalem. But as his illness worsened in March, 4 BCE, he retired to his winter palace at Jericho, less than 10 miles northwest of the Dead Sea, about 45 miles east of the Mediterranean Sea, and less than 20 miles northeast of Jerusalem.

The final part of the prophecy shows that, in his last days, the king would seek deliverance from a threat to his life, but would not receive it. This was literally fulfilled at the end of Herod's life, as the Jewish historian Josephus vividly documented. After years of suffering from a painful disease (probably syphilis), Herod finally became so despondent that he attempted to take his own life with a paring knife. He was stopped from this act by his cousin Achiab. Immediately after his suicide attempt, Herod ordered the execution of this son, Antipater. Just five days later he finally succumbed to his illness. Herod the king was 70 years old at the time of his death.

DANIEL 12:1 "At that time [uva'et] Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book. 2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt".

Chapter 12 starts with the Hebrew phrase uva'et, which is translated "at that time." When used in prophetic writings, this phrase always denotes the time of the appearance of Messiah to save Israel (Jer. 33:15; 50:4, 20; Joel 3:1; Zep. 3:20). (It is possible that) at the beginning of this chapter, we finally see the time gap most seek to insert at Daniel 11:36. However, some intepreters see the "many" resurrected corresponding to the Matthew account of many being resurrected at the time of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

John Gill sees Michael (mentioned in vs. 1) as a Hebrew name for Yeshua the Messiah. At the coming of the Messiah, prophesied by Daniel, there comes an end to "the indignation" of the Jewish people--tearing down the wall of partition between Jews and Gentiles. Regardless of whether Daniel 12 refers to the first advent of Jesus Christ through the natural flow of history leading up to it (Daniel 11), or whether Daniel 12 is a prophecy not yet fulfilled referring to the second coming of Jesus Christ and the general resurrection from the dead, Daniel 11 is a chapter with which every Christian apologist ought to be familiar.


The expansive prophecy recorded in Daniel 11 shows the political maneuverings of the powers which fought over and ruled Judea and the Jews throughout the period of the 70 weeks prophecy earlier given to Daniel (Dan. 9:24-27). These powers included the northern Seleucid kingdom of Syria, the southern Ptolemaic kingdom of Egypt, the Jewish Hasmonean dynasty, the Roman Empire, and Rome's vassal in Judea, Herod the Great. Like many prophecies, this one is likely dual in some ways; events that have occurred in ancient times could be replicated at the time of the end. Obviously, Antiochus IV and Herod the Great are antetypes of the coming Antichrist. But to assign much of this prophecy to a yet future time is to miss the fact that this prophecy conclusively shows God is in control and world events happen according to His plan and purpose.