Report on the Eleventh Chapter of Daniel
With Particular Reference to Verses 36-39
THE study group appointed by the Committee on Biblical Study and Research to give study to Daniel 11 gave careful consideration to a number of manuscripts placed in their hands by its chairman. These included the following:
1. Pioneer Views on Daniel Eleven and Armageddon, by Raymond F. Cottrell.
2. Notes on Daniel Eleven and Armageddon, by Raymond F. Cottrell,
3. The King of the North, by Jeann Vuilleumier.
4. Diagram of Final Events, by Jeann Vuilleumier.
5. Editorial in the Review and Herald of May 13, 1862, by Uriah Smith.
6. Editorials in the Review and Herald of November '29, 1877, and October 3, 1878, by James White.
7. The Eleventh Chapter of Daniel: a Paraphrase and a Partial Interpretation, by Edward Heppenstall
8. A Literal and Historical Application of the Explanation of Daniel Eleven, by William Hyde.
9. The Papacy in Daniel Eleven, by Edwin R. Thiele.
10. A Study of the King of the North, by John M. Kennedy.
11. A Letter from L. H. Christian to M. E. Kern re Daniel Eleven.
12. "He Shall Come to His End, "by L. L.. Caviness.
13. The Power That Comes to Its End Without Any Help, by L. L. Caviness.
11. The Period of the End, by C. D. Colburn.
After a careful study of these manuscripts and a free discussion of the points at issue, the study group presented to the full committee the following report as their considered judgment and conclusion pertaining to the problems presented in reference to the interpretation of Daniel 11, verses 36-45, in its relationship to the historical Seventh-day Adventist position regarding these verses.
I. Daniel 11:1-35. These verses, it was felt, present no great problem. There have been among our Bible students some minor differences of opinion concerning the interpretation of certain verses and the application of some of the prophecies to past history. However, the committee felt that on the whole there is quite full agreement among our Bible expositors on this section of the chapter and therefore there would be no point in covering these verses in our report.
II. Daniel 11:36-39. It was recognized by the committee that this passage has been variously interpreted by our Bible students both in the past and in the present, and therefore presents a problem that demands careful consideration.
The committee, having studied at some length the various opinions held and also the teaching of the pioneers of this movement on the interpretation of these verses, presented the following observations:
1. The pioneers of this movement were for the first
twenty-five or thirty years of our history unanimous in stating that papal
William Miller held this view as far back as 1842 (see
Evidences From Scripture and Prophecy,
by J. V. Himes, pp. 97, 98). This was the interpretation presented by James
White on many occasions, the first being in
Word to the "Little Flock," published in 1847, pages 8, 9. He
says: "Michael is to stand up at the time that the last power in chap. 11, comes to his end, and none to help him. This power is
the last that treads down the true
"Let us take a brief view of the line of prophecy four
times spanned in the book of Daniel. It will be admitted that the same ground
is passed over in chapters two, seven, eight, and eleven, with this exception
Page 22 THE MINISTRY
and eleven, We first pass down the great image of chapter
two, where Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome are represented by the gold, the
silver, the brass, and the iron. All agree that these feet are not Turkish but
Roman. And as we pass down, the lion, the bear, the leopard, and the beast with
ten horns, representing the same as the great image, again all will agree that
it is not Turkey that is cast into the burning flame, but. the
Roman beast. So of chapter eight, all agree that the little horn that stood up
against the Prince of princes is not
"Now comes the point in the argument upon which very
much depends. Does the eleventh chapter of the prophecy of Daniel cover the ground
measured by chapters two, seven, and eight? If so, then the last power
mentioned in that chapter is
Elder White at the same time advised caution in giving a
positive interpretation of unfulfilled prophecy. He also warns against
"removing the landmarks fully established in the advent movement"
This article leaves no doubt that James White considered in 1877 that the power
referred to in Daniel 11:36-39 is papal
Even Uriah Smith, who later departed from this view, in an
editorial in the
Review and Herald,
May 13, 1862, under the title "Will the Pope Remove the Papal Seat to
Jerusalem?" refers to the Papacy as the power in Daniel 11:45. He quotes a
statement from the Liverpool Mercury in which it is stated that a certain plan
was under way which "points to the realizing of Pio
Nono's favorite plan of removing the seat of the
2. Adventists take for granted today what James White
emphasized in 1877 and 1878: that the prophecies of Daniel, chapters 2, 7, 8,
and 11, show remarkable parallels in treating of
MARCH, 1954 Page 23
7:24, 25, and Daniel 8:23-25 refers to the Roman Catholic power, which accurately fulfills the prophetic symbols. It was the conviction of the committee that where the "king" is again mentioned in Daniel 11:36 and described in almost identical language it could not represent a new power like France or Turkey not previously presented by Daniel in his prophetic outline, and that it would be most reasonable and in harmony with the prophetic outline of the rest of the chapter to conclude that the "king" in these and following verses also refers to papal Rome.
The committee felt that a careful study of Daniel 11:36-39 reveals outstanding characteristics of the Papacy and a remarkably clear picture of the cunning flattery and deceit of this power in its historical activities and its religious practices. These verses parallel not only the above-mentioned verses in Daniel 7 and 8 but also 2 Thessalonians 2:4 and Revelation 13:5, 6. It was therefore the unanimous conclusion of the committee that, both historically and according to a sound exegesis of the text, Daniel 11:36-39 must refer to the papal power, and further, that these verses are parallel to Daniel 7:24, 25, and Daniel 8:23-25, which have always been considered by the Seventh-day Adventist ministry as referring to the Papacy.
3. The committee also studied the possible causes that
prompted Uriah Smith and others to depart from this historic denominational
interpretation, substituting the history of
a. The complete loss of temporal power by the Papacy in
1870, resulting in Pius X proclaiming himself a "prisoner in the
b. The conviction expressed in the secular and religious press that the Papacy had fallen
March, 1954 Page 23
to rise no more. This led Uriah Smith to state in the 1888 edition of Thoughts on Daniel: "The attempt which some make to bring in the Papacy here (that is, in Daniel 11:36-45) is so evidently wide of the mark that its consideration need not detain us."Page 383.
The bringing of
d. Russian armies seemed about ready to close in on
Constantinople, and the world press was full of declarations that the
"sick man of the East" would soon be expelled from
e. Earlier Protestant commentators, such as Bishop Newton,
Adam Clarke, and others, had generally held that the
Uriah Smith was evidently not in agreement with James White, who gave definite
warnings that the positions being taken on the Eastern question were based on
prophecies that had not yet met their fulfillment. White said, "But what
will be the result of the positiveness in unfulfilled
prophecies should things not come as very
confidently expected, is an anxious question." (Emphasis
his. James White in
Herald, Nov. 29, 1877.) He then proceeded to point out the parallel between
Daniel 11 and the prophecies of Daniel in earlier chapters that were to him
"that the last
power mentioned in that chapter is
James White's position was dearly stated in 1878 as follows:
"And there is a line of historic prophecy in chapter eleven, where the symbols are thrown off, beginning with the kings of Persia, and reaching down past Grecia and Rome, to the time when that power 'shall come to his end, and none shall help him,' If the feet and ten toes of the metallic image are Roman, if the beast with ten horns that was given to the burning flames of the great day be the Roman beast, if the little horn which stood up against the Prince of princes be Rome, and if the
Page 24 The Ministry
field and distance are covered by these four prophetic chains, then the last
power of the eleventh chapter, which is to 'come to his end and none shall help
The committee therefore concluded that the change from the earlier views held by the denomination came about largely under the direction of Uriah Smith. In light of current political developments of the time, together with the apparent recession of the Papacy into a position of nonpotency in the political and religious world, he presented very ably and with deep conviction what seemed to him the more reasonable interpretation of the text in question.
This view, as taught by Uriah Smith, was published in our periodicals and more permanently in the book Thoughts on Daniel and the Revelation, written by Smith about this time. This book had a wide circulation and was a large factor in bringing possibly thousands into the truth. Its interpretation of the prophecies was very largely in harmony with former Seventh-day Adventist teachings. It became, therefore, to a large majority of our ministers and laymen the accepted interpretation of all the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation. During the years it came to be looked upon as our official denominational teaching. The fact that it differed in some respects from the position of the pioneers was almost lost from view.
Not until the events so confidently predicted did not materialize, and the Papacy, instead of having "fallen to rise no more," again became a decisive influence in international affairs with a resumption of temporal power in 1929, did our Bible students undertake a re-examination of our denominational interpretation of these prophecies.
Our earlier teaching was then rediscovered, together with
the explicit warnings given by Elder White and others concerning the newer
views advocated by Elder Smith. These findings, with the realization that
current historical events had failed to develop along the lines expected,
convinced many of our ministers and Bible teachers that those texts demanded a
careful restudy. This study has resulted in again placing the Papacy rather
Page 24 THE MINISTRY
conviction of the committee, who were in complete agreement in this conclusion.
The difference of opinion among Seventh-day Adventists begins with the 36th verse, with the introduction of "the king" who "shall do according to his will" and "shall exalt himself."
In deciding who this "king" represents, it is well to remember that in verses 33-35 there is a slight break in the sequence of thought, where the faithfulness of the honest of heart, and their sufferings, and the brief respite brought to them are described.
That Papal Rome is included in the prophecy is made clear in verses 30-32, where its relationship to the "holy covenant," "the daily," and "the abomination that maketh desolate" is presented. Then in verses 33-35 the papal persecutions, together with the Reformation, are presented. "The people" that "instruct many" are "holpen with a little help," "even to the time of the end."
The power causing the people of God their trouble is not mentioned after the 32d verse, but is implicit in the troubled experience of the faithful. When is this persecuting power again referred to? It is "the king" of verse 36. It must be noted that the reading "the king" is found in the accepted Hebrew text, and translated thus in the King James Version and nearly all standard versions of the Scripture. After carefully weighing translations of the Hebrew on this question, we feel that the weight of evidence is on the side of the generally accepted rendering, "the king.
It helps in the identification of this "king" to notice that the power introduced as Rome is usually spoken of as "he" or "him," but in verse 21 it is called a "kingdom," and in verse 27 the "he" and his opponent in the battle are spoken of as "both these kings." When, therefore, the prophet again refers to "the king" in verse 36, it is most reasonable to apply the text to the king already mentioned. In verse 36, without a break in the thought, and without even a new sentence in some translations, "the king" is again presented and his activities further explained. It would, therefore, seem to be but reasonable to conclude that the power here set forth is the same as in previous verses.
4. This is further emphasized by the fact that verses 36-39 so nearly parallel other texts that have always been applied to the Papacy by most Protestant commentators. Note the following:
Verse 38: "But in his estate shall he honour the God of forces: and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honour with gold, and silver, and with precious stones, and pleasant things."
The translation here seems to be obscure and in the King James Version there are three marginal readings indicating the lack of agreement on the part of the translators as to its correct rendering. The first marginal reading indicates that this power would, while seated in "his," or God's, seat, "honour the God of forces." The word "forces" is again obscure. One marginal reading gives "munitions," another "Gods protectors." Some translators do not translate the word but retain the original Mauzzim in the text. This word implies "protection," or a "protector," as used in Psalms 27:1; 28:8; and 31:5. Claiming therefore to be God, or at least from God's "seat," he points to a "god whom his fathers knew not" for protection and help. Surely the prayers directed to the saints of the church and to the virgin Mary would accurately fulfill this verse. Also the gifts of "gold, and silver, with precious stones, and pleasant things" point directly to the priceless gifts that the church has bestowed upon the images of the saints. Here the Hebrew word "Namadeth," used also in Isaiah 44:9, signifies the costly ornaments wherewith the heathen decked their images. This has
MARCH, 1954 Page 25
been fulfilled thousands of times in Catholic churches where images of the virgin Mary and of the saints have been decked with gifts of untold value and robed in priceless garments woven with gold and silver and precious stones.
Verse 39: "Thus shall he do in the most strong holds with a strange god, whom he shall acknowledge and increase with glory: and he shall cause them to rule over many, and shall divide the land for gain."
Again the translation is obscure. William Lowth would translate this verse, "And he shall make the strongholds of the Mauzzims jointly with the strange (or foreign) god." In other words, in the temples and religious places he shall mingle with these "protectors" or saints, the worship of "a strange god, whom he shall acknowledge and increase with glory." The exaltation of the pope as God and his power to "rule over many" is evidently here foretold. Furthermore, he "shall divide the land for gain," or "distribute the earth for a reward." The pope's assignment of whole provinces and kingdoms to certain princes, and his granting of the whole overseas world to the Spanish and Portuguese crowns, certainly accurately fulfills this verse. Also his assignment of titles and honors and benefices as a reward to kings or princes for their support and protection is no doubt applicable here.
Therefore, from the foregoing, we conclude that verses 36-39
of Daniel 11 accurately set forth in prophetic language the work and history of
But to apply the prophecy in verses 36-39 to the Papacy is to continue the thought logically and also to retain the parallel with chapters 7 and 8. The terms of verses 31-39 fit the Papacy better than they do any other power of history.
III. Daniel 11:40-45. The committee spent considerable time and study in a consideration of these verses. It was agreed that in light of the foregoing conclusions this passage must largely be considered as unfulfilled prophecy.
It was the considered opinion of the committee that the expression in verse 40, "at the time of the end," need not refer to a specific date at the beginning of "the time of the end," but could refer with equal accuracy to any time in or during "the time of the end." Therefore, we need not necessarily look for the fulfillment of verse 40 and following texts in 1798, but rather to events subsequent to the beginning of "the time of the end," and yet prior to the close of probation or the standing up of Michael in Daniel 12:1.
The committee were not fully agreed
as to the interpretation of the "king of the south" and the
"king of the north" in these verses. It was agreed, however, since
all through the eleventh chapter of Daniel these terms apply to powers
geographically located in the eastern
With the rapidly changing situation in current world history; with the developing power of Russia lying to the north, which evidently has national ambitions in the Middle East; with the determination of the Western powers to restrain the power and growth of Russia; and with the vital and strategic position of the Papacy in the conflict looming up between the two opposing ideologies, one of which is the avowed enemy of the Catholic Church, whereas the other recognizes the Papacy as the greatest spiritual force in the world, it seemed to the committee that these verses need to be studied in the light of present-day developments and may rightly refer to a larger and more extensive conflict than a local contest between Egypt and Turkey. [Note that this was written in 1954. World conditions and the power equation have changed since then. Also, the reference to the King as "he" and "him" is overlooked]
There may be here in this passage also a parallel with Daniel 7:26, "And they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end." Some members of the committee felt that Revelation 17 and 18 should also be studied in relation to the final events of Daniel 11.
Inasmuch as it is the definite conviction of the committee on Daniel 11 that this portion of the prophecy refers to events that are largely in the future, we conclude it would be the better part of wisdom not to make any definite pronouncement at this time as to the exact ap‑
Page 26 THE MINISTRY
plication of Daniel 11:40-45.1 The purpose of prophecy is not that one should outline the details of world events for the future, but as the Saviour said, "that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe" (John 14:29). It is our opinion that the counsel given by Elder James White in 1877 concerning these very texts might well be recognized as still applicable. He said:
"Fulfilled prophecy may be understood by the Bible student. Prophecy is history in advance. He can compare history with prophecy and find a complete fit as the glove to the hand, it having been made for it. But in exposition of unfulfilled prophecy, where the history is not written, the student should put forth his propositions with not too much positiveness, lest he find himself straying in the field of fancy. . . . Positions taken upon the Eastern question are based upon prophecies which have not yet their fulfillment. Here we should tread lightly, and take positions carefully, lest we be found removing the landmarks fully established in the advent movement."Review and Herald, Nov. 29, 1877.
This has been well stated by Sir Isaac Newton, who was a
devout student of the prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation. He said that
"the folly of interpreters has been, to foretell times and things by this
prophecy (the Revelation), as if God designed to make them prophets. By this
rashness they have not only exposed themselves, but brought the prophecy also
into contempt."Observations Upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of
The committee, therefore, feels that where the Bible and the Spirit of prophecy are both silent as to the details of future events, we should exercise extreme care in setting forth dogmatically the course of human history, lest we assume the role of prophets ourselves, by attempting to dogmatize on the exact outcome of international events that still lie in the future.
Therefore we conclude that it would be well to hold in abeyance any positive interpretation of Daniel 11:4-45 until the events foretold can be clearly seen and identified as the fulfillment of the prophecy. Then we can with assurance and without embarrassment proclaim these events as signs of the approaching standing up of Michael and the coming of the Lord as presented in Daniel 12:1-3. [See footnote below.]
1 There can be no doubt that the shape
of the events foretold in Daniel 11:45 now can be clearly seen and
identified as the fulfillment of the prophecy; although how Daniel
11:40-44 is being fulfilled remains obscure.
There can be no doubt that the shape of the events foretold in Daniel 11:45 now can be clearly seen and identified as the fulfillment of the prophecy; although how Daniel 11:40-44 is being fulfilled remains obscure.