Daniel 11:40-45 Two Kings or Three?

The following post is an updated and abbreviated version of a previous post, with added diagrams at the conclusion for those who are more visually orientated. Depending on how one understands the question of two kings or three in Daniel 11:40-45, it will dramatically affect how one understands the events that precede the coming of Jesus.

Daniel 11: Two-Kings or Three-Kings?

Debate has swirled for roughly the past one hundred (plus) years regarding whether there are two or three kings in Daniel 40-45.

    1. Two Kings: The King of the North and the King of the South

    2. Three Kings: Willful King / Antichrist, the King of the North, and the King of the South

Arguments for the three king Interpretation:

1. The three king interpretation holds that a consistent interpretation of the pronouns in vv. 36-43 points to three, and not two kings:

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. 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. He shall stretch out his hand against the countries, and the land of Egypt shall not escape. He shall have power over the treasures of gold and silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt; also the Libyans and Cush shall follow at his heels. —Daniel 11:40-43

2. If the two king interpretation is true, then the Antichrist is an end times leader from a neo-Seleucid (Middle Eastern) Kingdom, which conflicts with the popular (Roman / Euro-centric) interpretations of Daniel 2 (Metallic statue), Daniel 7 (Four Beasts) and Daniel 9:26 (People of the Prince to Come).

(Thus the three king view is largely rooted in an arguably false presupposition (European Antichrist) brought to the passage.)

Survey of interpreters holding to the three king interpretation:

    Sir Robert Anderson

    H.A. Ironside

    William Kelly

    Arno Gaebelein

    M.R. DeHaan

    H.C. Leupold

    Wm M. Smith

    John Walvoord

    Robert Culver

    John C. Whitcomb

    Leon Wood

    Harry Bultema

    Rodney Stortz

    J. Dwight Pentecost

    Renald E. Showers

    Iain M. Duguid

    Hal Lindsey

    Timothy Lahaye

    Mark Hitchcock

    Ed Hindson

    Arnold Fruchtenbaum

    Ron Rhodes

    Bob Faulkner

    Charles R. Swindoll

    John Macarthur

    Beth Moore

Arguments for the two king and against the three king interpretation:

1. The three king view violates the flow and breaks the pattern of the entire passage. (See the charts below)

2. The three king view turns the historical types of enemies (King of North and King of South) into eschatological allies against a common enemy.

3. The three king view turns Antiochus into both a type of the Antichrist (throughout all of Daniel chapter 8 as well as Daniel 11:21-35) and a type of the Antichrist’s greatest enemy (vv. 40-45).

4. It was Antiochus who invaded Israel and fulfilled the pattern of that which the Antichrist is to accomplish in the last days.

5. The passage only emphasizes and goes into some detail concerning the invasion and defeat of the South (Egypt), but says nothing about the defeat or invasion of the realm of the North.

6. The invader comes from the North, which is consistent with several other eschatological, antichristic prophecies. (e.g., Joel 2:1-27; Isa 10:12; 30:31-33; 31:8-9; Ezekiel 38,39).

7. Because this view minimizes Antiochus as a type of the Antichrist, it also forces a rejection of the clear correlation between the little horn of Daniel 8 and the little horn of Daniel 7.

8. The three king view conflicts with the universal interpretation of the early Church (see the list below).

9. The three king view is not found among interpreters until the late 19th century.

10. Despite the claims of those who argue for the three-king interpretation, the grammar of the passage in no way requires this view (cf., C.F. Keil’s comments &, J. Paul Tanner’s comments in JETS 35/3, Sept, 1992).

Survey of interpreters holding to the two-king interpretation.

    Hippolytus of Rome (170–235)

    Victorinus (d. 333)

    Lactantius (240–320)

    Ephrem the Syrian (306–373)

    John Chrystostom (347—407)

    Jerome (347–420)

    Theodoret of Cyrrhus (393–457)

    Sir Isaac Newton (1642—1727)

    John Gill (1697–1771)

    John Wesley (1703–1791)

    Jamieson, Fausset and Brown (1871)

    S.P. Tregelles (1813–1875)

    C.F. Keil (1813–1890)

    John Nelson Darby (1800 – 1882)

    J.E.H. Thompson, (1918)

    Clarence Larkin (1850–1924)

    William L. Pettingill, (1886-1950)

    Arthur W. Pink (1886–1952)

    G.H. Lang (1874–1958)

    F.F. Bruce (1910–1990)

    Charles L. Feinberg (1909—1995)

    Arthur Petrie, (1960)

    Edward J. Young, (1907–1968)

    Philip R. Newell, (1962)

    Geoffrey R. King, (1966)

    Desmond Ford (1929—)

    Robert D. Van Kampen (1938–1999)

    Gleason L. Archer Jr. (1916–2004)

    James Montgomery Boice, (1938–2000)

    Joyce G. Baldwin

    William H. Shea

    Steven R. Miller

    Jacques B. Doukhan

    John Goldingay

    David Guzik

    Andrew E. Hill

The Structure of Daniel 11 Charts:

Daniel 11 Chart 1

Daniel 11 Chart 2

  • David Roberts
    Posted at 03:11h, 29 January

    How likely do you think it is that the King of the South will be the supreme leader in Egypt?

  • Joel
    Posted at 10:38h, 29 January

    Most likely, IMO. I am not dogmatic as far as demanding it be some precise correlation between the historical and the future, but I think the historical gives us a recognizable pattern as to what to look for in the future. So Egypt in the South remains to be the only consistent entity that could fulfill the role of King of the South. The King of the North on the other hand, if it was precisely fulfilled, would be a ruler from the northern portion of Iraq. But the Seleucid Empire during the time period appropriate to the prophecy stretched over most of modern day Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Iran. It actually may have even included portions of Afghanistan and Pakistan. So I expect the King of the North to come from that general region. And for other reasons, I believe it may very well be Turkey that will take the leadership role there.

    But as always, God knows best. Times could change, as they tend to do rather quickly, and it could be fulfilled precisely, with a new leader emerging out of northern Iraq.

  • David Roberts
    Posted at 12:04h, 29 January

    When reading your reply, I couldn’t help thinking of the positive prophesies about Egypt and Assyria in Isaiah. It makes me wonder if this is somehow a Satanic perversion of the outer limits, the borders of the promised land God gave to Abraham from the river of Egypt to the river Euphrates. As you know, Walid thinks the AntiChrist will come out of Turkey, but it would be interesting if he came out of Assyria, being called the Assyrian. Time will tell. Thanks for the reply.

  • Joel
    Posted at 12:50h, 29 January

    Much of modern day Turkey was well within the ancient Assyrian Empire, so the two are not at all exclusive.

    One of the difficulties in communicating to modern students of prophecy is that too many today hear “Assyria” and immediately think almost exclusively of modern day Syria. Likewise, and even more understandably so, when many read or hear of the ancient Roman province of Syria, they assume that this correlates precisely with the modern day nation of Syria. But the Roman province of Syria included much more than just the modern nation of Syria. So whether we are speaking of the Empire of Assyria or the ancient region of Syria, these both included much of modern day Turkey and Iraq. It is this general region that the Scriptures seem to be repeatedly pointing us to, whether it be through the repeated motif of the Assyrian found throughout Isaiah, Micah and Zephaniah, or the pro to-type of Antiochus IV Epiphanes in Daniel 8 and 11, or through the significant emphasis on Asia Minor in the oracle of Ezekiel 38, 39. These are all pointing to that same general region.

  • David Roberts
    Posted at 13:48h, 29 January

    If this was facebook, I’d click like on your last comment. 🙂

  • giles
    Posted at 21:57h, 29 January


    Interesting to note that the two powers in question are both armed with Western weapons – Egypt being backed by the US for years, and Turkey being a member of NATO. Both have better tanks, better air defence, etc

    Yes, on facebook, I do “like” my own updates.

  • good4u
    Posted at 03:56h, 30 January

    You know, David Roberts, you could scroll up on Joel’s blog and click the “Facebook” icon on the right follow directions copy Joel’s comment give Joel the credit of course and then “like” it…just a thought. (:

  • David W. Lincoln
    Posted at 18:07h, 30 January

    I forget where it is in pjmedia.com but I recall reading that Maliki, is sticking up for Bashir Assad.

    The King of the North would have an easier path to power amidst smaller, weaker states, than the current borders of Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and so forth.

    Just my two cents worth.

  • David W. Lincoln
    Posted at 18:32h, 30 January

    Here is the link to where I found Maliki backing Assad:

  • Alecz
    Posted at 22:42h, 03 February

    Jesus says to John in revelations that he knows Sarandon throne is in pergamos which is in turkey, but this is satans ruling place. It is also written, he (antichrist) will be known as the Assyrian, but we learn that he must be born within the borders of the old Greek empire and the old Roman Empire so the place he is from must be within the overlapping empires. Also it is written that he has the mouth if a lion (he speaks primarily English), body of a leopard (from European Union) and feet of a bear (roots of family is from Russia). It is written that he is forty years old when he takes power. It is written that he stammers and stutters at times when he speaks. It is written that he obtains the kingdom by flatteries. There are many other things written as well.

  • Alecz
    Posted at 22:46h, 03 February

    Sorry that should be Satan’s throne not Sarandon

  • Islamic Infidel
    Posted at 00:30h, 04 February

    Is it still accurate to list Timothy Lahaye as a “three king” believer after his endorsement of your book? Have you spoken to him since?

  • Troy D. Geddes
    Posted at 13:50h, 10 February

    Joel, I am studying your books and have sent for your DVD’s. I am with you on nearly everything you are presenting but I have only had a short time to begin searching through what you are trying to say and teach. I praise God for your ability to communicate clear arguments and also how you are able to dismantle arguments of others. No flattery intended, just saying what I appreciate about your style of writing. I have one question that keeps coming to the forefront of my mind. I have been studying prophecy for 18 years so I am not new to the subject I fall under the Pre-Wrath thinking that focuses all its arguments on the Day of the Lord. (basically in reality we would handle most of Scripture in the same way) I am wondering if there is any room in your thinking and teaching for a “literal” man who becomes an incarnational devil. A “literal” man who takes a fatal head wound. An “actual” man who is killed and brought back to life.. (for the sake of argument with no intention of speculating) … say “Osama bin Laden” who the entire world saw killed, who was thrown into a bottomless pit, but no one actually was able to identify him with 100% accuracy came “back” to the world again as a fierce warrior. My question is this… Do you see a man who would act as a “copy cat” Messiah who takes a fatal head wound or in your thinking is this just referring to a beast kingdom that died in 1923? I am praying for you.. and admire your ability to humbly move forward in extremely turbulent issues and I pray for you to have wisdom and protection as we look forward to the New Heavens and New Earth God has promised us. I too pray the church will wake up and begin to struggle with the implications of this new understanding of end times as you always say needs to happen.

  • Joel
    Posted at 14:58h, 10 February


    Thanks much my friend. As for a literal fulfillment of the Antichrist receiving a fatal head wound, etc. I am certainly open to this. I simply feel as though we should begin with the Biblical motif of beast being an empire (Daniel 7) and then remain open for the man behind the empire to fulfill these details as well. (So long as we are open to these things only being fulfilled in the empire as well.) In other words, be aware of both views, remain humble and trust the Lord for guidance.

    Bless you!

  • Orlando
    Posted at 02:29h, 31 August

    When was the last time a comment was left here? There are interesting developments happening now (August/September 2013) in the Middle East. There’s a civil war in Syria into which the United States President is looking to get involved in. On the other side is Russia which backs the present Syrian regime. Also backing Syria is Iran. And on the other side is Turkey also a strong U.S. ally. Much farther south is Egypt which had the military take over the government there and which receives large financial backing by the United States. Given all these players, which then would you say fit the King of the North, the King of the South and a hypothetical third king?

  • Phil Mayo
    Posted at 14:39h, 13 June

    Hi Joel.
    There are two problems I see with your theory, if I understand it correctly.

    Dan 11:21. “He will be succeeded by a contemptible person who has **not been given the honor of royalty**. He will invade the kingdom when its people feel secure, and he will seize it through intrigue”.

    Rev 17:10-11. “They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for only a little while. The beast who once was, and now is not, **is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction**.”

    Those two passages of scripture highlight the difference between Antiochus IV, who fulfilled Dan 11:21 by usurping the throne, and the Antichrist who is an eighth king from a line of kings.
    Revelation does not call the Antichrist a usurper. So Dan 11:21 isn’t referring to the Antichrist.

    Dan 11:29-30 “At the appointed time he will invade the South again, but this time the outcome will be different from what it was before. Ships of the western coastlands will oppose him, and he will lose heart.”

    That was fulfilled when Antiochus IV was stopped by the commander of the Roman fleet based in Cyprus. So he wasn’t the leader of the Superpower of that day.

    But Revelation tells us there won’t be any earthly power capable of opposing the Antichrist.

    Rev 13:4 – “People worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, “Who is like the beast? **Who can wage war against it?**”

  • Joel
    Posted at 15:54h, 13 June

    Hi Phil,

    On your first point, you are using a fallacious argument from silence. The subject of Daniel 11:21 becomes a king, though he seizes it through intrigue. But he most certainly becomes a king. Your claim that because Revelation does not mention this seizing through intrigue must mean these are two different people is, as I said, a fallacious argument. Revelation does not reiterate every specific detail from every previous prophecy about the AC.

    Your second point is also easy to answer. The peoples say this after the beast has consolidated his power. Not before, obviously. Thus, this comment is made after he has crushed the King of the South.

  • Phil Mayo
    Posted at 21:29h, 13 June

    On the contrary, the argument isn’t made from any silence. Revelation states loud and clear that the Antichrist is a king from a line of eight.

    Antiochus IV was actually an eleventh who arose through a group of ten that were not all kings, which I list below with a little historical info:

    1.Seleucus a.k.a Seleucus I Nicator) went on to establish the Seleucid Empire. His successors are listed below:

    2. Antiochus I Soter. Founded the cult of his father. An inscription found in Ilion (a.k.a Troy) advises priests to sacrifice to Apollo, the ancestor of his family, whose symbols include a serpent.

    3. Antiochus II Theos.

    4. Seleucus II Callinicus.

    5. Seleucus III Ceraunus.

    6. Antiochus III the Great. His wife Laodice III was his paternal first cousin. They were the parents of Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

    7. Seleucus IV Philopator. Inherited vast debts to Rome. He sent Heliodorus to raid the Jewish temple treasury. Heliodorus is the one referred to in chapter 11:20 as a “raiser of taxes in the glory of the kingdom”.

    8. Heliodorus. In 175BC he assassinated Seleucus IV Philopator and usurped the throne. He was later ousted by Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Whilst Seleucus legitimate heir: Demetrius I Soter was a hostage in Rome, Antiochus, with the help of King Eumenes II of Pergamum, seized the throne proclaiming himself co-regent with another son of Seleucus, an infant also named Antiochus, whom he murdered a few years later.

    9. Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Had not been the next in line for the throne. He got there through plots and assassination. Most Bible scholars agree that this man fulfils the prophecy of the little horn, that is seen as a prototype Antichrist.

    Thus, Antiochus IV Epiphanes fulfilled the chapter Dan 7:8 vision of a little horn that rose up amongst the ten, uprooting three before it.

    The three horns he uprooted were:


    Demetrius I Soter.

    The infant Antiochus.

    Daniel 11:3 to 31 is prophecy that foretells the rise to power and deeds of Antiochus IV. A king who persecutes God’s people, and sets up the abomination of desolation, that will be similarly repeated by the Antichrist.

    There is no scriptural evidence that points to the future Antichrist repeating Antiochus’s rise to power, or any of his deeds other than the persecution and the abomination.

    And for that reason no justification for assuming anything prior to Dan 11:36 is referring to the Antichrist. With of course the exception of verse 31. And possibly 32 to 35.

    If you claim verse 21 onwards refers to the Antichrist. You have to include the ancestry recorded in the previous verses. And that doesn’t fit Rev 17 account.

    Therefore your theory is based on unwarranted assumptions.

    As to the second point. Good answer! 🙂

  • Joel
    Posted at 23:02h, 13 June

    The eight kings / kingdoms speak of a series of pan-historical kingdoms and not some line of eight. In John’s day one was. That was the Roman Empire. Regardless, even if the eighth king were in some other line of kings, your argument would still not hold. You just acknowledged that Antiochus was a king in a line of kings. The fact that he usurped the throne does not take away from the fact that he became king. It’s a faulty argument.

  • Phil Mayo
    Posted at 06:57h, 14 June

    With respect Joel. I think you misread my last post, I didn’t say Antiochus was a king in a line of kings. I said he rose through a group that were not all kings. It’s an important point that is a key to understanding the symbolism. Nevertheless, Antiochus became a king, just as you say.

    But I repeat, there’s no indication in Revelation that the Antichrist becomes a king in a similar way. Or that Antiochus’s lineage can be overlaid onto the Antichrist. That’s not an argument from silence. It comes from the biblical narrative. So you’re reading something in that simply isn’t there!

    Revelation’s eight can’t possibly be speaking of pan-historic kingdoms. The original Greek language of Revelation has a word for ‘king’ – βασιλεύς, έως, ὁ. It’s a masculine noun. (Greek has masculine and feminine, like French) It’s pronounced bas-il-yooce.

    Greek also has a word for ‘kingdom’ – βασιλεία, ας, ἡ. It’s a feminine noun, pronounced bas-il-i’-ah.

    In Revelation 17 the masculine noun (βασιλεύς, έως) is used.

    In fact, in this case I believe it’s best translated ’emperor’.

    I’m sure you will agree that there wouldn’t be any misunderstanding of what Jesus was saying on John’s part. And that Jesus wouldn’t say βασιλεύς, έως, ὁ if He meant βασιλεία, ας, ἡ. So we must accept the fact that kings, not kingdoms are intended.

    Which means the conclusions drawn by numerous scholars has been wrong for a very long time. And are therefore not a good foundation to build upon.

  • Joel
    Posted at 12:08h, 14 June

    Again, you say you are not arguing from silence, but this is exactly what you’re doing. You cannot say that because something does not say something (in Revelation) that is proof that it cannot mean that. That is a fallacious argument. In other words, it is false logic. This would be like me saying that because you did not say in the last post that you did not rob a bank, it is proof that you must have.

    Second, the text first says the seven heads are mountains:

    The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits, and they are seven kings; five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain a little while.

    As anyone familiar with the Old Testament is aware, mountain this is a very commonly biblical symbol for kingdom.

    Now it will come about that
    In the last days
    The mountain of the house of the LORD
    Will be established as the chief of the mountains,
    And will be raised above the hills;
    And all the nations will stream to it. (Isaiah 2:2)

    “Then your mighty men will be dismayed, O Teman, So that everyone may be cut off from the mountain of Esau by slaughter.” (Obadiah 1:9)

    The deliverers will ascend Mount Zion To judge the mountain of Esau, And the kingdom will be the LORD’S. (Obadiah 1:21)

    When it thus says the seven heads are seven mountains (and also) seven kings, the biblically literate mind immediately understands that these are both kings and kingdoms. You cannot have one without the other. It’s very simple. I accept the text for what it says, as referring to kings / kingdoms. If you are trying to say it refers purely to ancient Roman kings, (as the sixth was alive at the time of John) then you end up with the typical mess of preterists, none of whom can agree as to which kings are being spoken of, thus they have about 6 different possible lists as to which kings the prophecy is referring.

  • Phil Mayo
    Posted at 17:16h, 16 June

    Reading through your replies to other posts, I see you lamenting the fact that some of the people you debate with on their websites, edit what you say, or simply don’t publish it. Thus making it look as if they won the debate. I’m sure you wouldn’t stoop to doing the same. So I will try again to get my point across:

    You argue that verse 17:9 says the seven heads represent seven mountains. And mountains are sometimes allegorical representations of kingdoms in the Old Testament.

    That is true. But where else do we see the Lord using a double layered allegory: heads means mountains means kingdoms?

    We don’t. This is an invented interpretive rule, that has no biblical precedent or justification. The Greek word is ὄρος, ους, τό (oros). Which means mountains/hills, nothing else!

    The references to mountains/hills and kings is more likely intended to have the secondary effect of reminding us of the city of Rome, that sits on seven hills, and its legendary seven kings.

  • Joel
    Posted at 02:54h, 17 June


    You began this recent effort to make your perspective known on this site with a rather manipulative and transparently childish “gotcha” question. I deleted it. Your comments here are also manipulative. And a lie. I neither lament anyone editing my comments elsewhere nor have I ever edited your comments. At this point, you have worn out your welcome. I will respond one final time. Kings and Kingdoms go together. This is simple common sense. Kings cannot at the same time also be literal mountains. Such a suggestion is ridiculous.

    Be blessed.

  • Steven L. Simmons
    Posted at 01:06h, 13 July

    I asked you about your thoughts on the 3 character view before I saw this article! So this gives me the answer. Sorry! I appreciate your ministry and attitude. None of us will agree on every aspect of eschatology, but we hold together on the fundamentals.

  • David Higgins
    Posted at 15:14h, 27 September

    Joel, if one takes the position that Daniel 8 is yet future and the shaggy goat with the one conspicuous horn is broken into 4 pieces, does it follow then that all of Daniel 11 is yet future? It seems that Daniel 11:4 describes the same situation as Daniel 8: 4-8. Does it also then follow that there is yet to be a whole host of events between the King of the North vs the King of the South etc…in the future?? I’m wondering if all the mayhem described in Daniel 11 is what Jesus refers to in Matthew 24 as wars and rumors of wars…perhaps even the first 4 seal judgements described in Revelation 6.



  • Joel
    Posted at 12:56h, 28 September

    Some say so. I’m not convinced.

  • Carlos Molina
    Posted at 16:45h, 21 April

    Hi Joel, I’ve been studying Daniel 11 with the help of your videos and materials. However, I cannot find your comments on verse 44 when it says says

    44 But news from the east and the north shall alarm him, and he shall go out with great fury to destroy and devote many to destruction.

    who is in the East? and
    who is in the north if this is the king of the north?

    I would appreciate your input

    and thank you so much for your ministry but most of all, your love for our Lord Jesus

  • Joel
    Posted at 06:09h, 22 April

    Hi Carlos,

    In Mideast Beast, I suggest this could be China and Russia. Though we cannot know for sure. Could be Pakistan and Indonesia and Russia. Only time will tell.

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