Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by
International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.
© Copyright 2010 All rights reserved.
The Four Winds
After he has appeared, his empire will be broken up and parceled out
toward the four winds of heaven. It will not go to his descendants, nor
will it have the power he exercised, because his empire will be uprooted
and given to others.
This is where my interpretation dramatically changes from the NIV study notes
and Matthew Henry’s commentary. It is well known that Alexander the Great left no
heir so by 301bc, his empire was controlled by four of his generals.
Seleucus ruled Syria, Mesopotamia, and Persia.
Ptolemy ruled Egypt and North Africa.
Lysimachus ruled Thrace and Asia Minor, which is modern-day Bulgaria and
Cassander ruled Macedon or the Greek peninsula.
The NIV study notes and Matthew Henry’s commentary claim that these four
generals are the meaning of the “four winds” but I strongly disagree. For one reason,
the last two generals had nothing to do with the Middle East. Even Henry ignores the
last two generals and explains the rest of the chapter with battles between the
Ptolemaic and Seleucid empires. The NIV study notes share the same explanation,
up to verse 35, which supposedly took place around 165bc. Then, the NIV notes
disagree and claim that verse 36 takes a giant leap into the future. Indeed, verse 36
is in the future but that interpretation skips more than 2100 years of history.
The correct interpretation of Daniel 11 leaves no significant gaps in time. Actually,
the “four winds” refer to the next four empires that ruled north/south and then
east/west but none ruled the entire Middle East like the Babylonians, Persians,
or the Greeks.
The first two “winds” were the Ptolemaic and Seleucid empires (left), founded
by two of Alexander’s generals, as stated above. They controlled the “north”
(Mesopotamia) and the “south” (Egypt) but neither could overtake the other in
more than two centuries of battles.
One interesting fact about the Ptolemaic dynasty is that the Egyptians accepted
them as successors to the Pharaohs. All the subsequent kings took the name Ptolemy
and the queens were called Cleopatra, Arsinoe or Berenice. The most famous ruler in
the dynasty was the last queen, Cleopatra VII. She was best known for her role in the
Roman political battles between Julius Caesar and Pompey, and later between
Octavian and Mark Antony. The eventual conquest by Rome prompted her suicide,
which ended of Ptolemaic Empire.
The fate of Cleopatra provides a good transition to the third “wind”, the Romans.
They dominated Europe and defeated Alexander’s other two generals, Lysimachus
and Cassander, by 168bc. They entered the Middle East by conquering Palestine in
63bc. They conquered Egypt and ended the Ptolemaic dynasty in 30bc. Some may
consider the Romans more significant than just one of the four winds but Daniel 11
gets more detailed as the empires proceed. Besides, the previous interpretations
skip the Romans all together. In any event, the Romans tried to expand farther but
they became over extended and were stopped. In 112ad, they took control of
Armenia and some cities in northern Mesopotamia but that was the extent of their
The forth “wind”, which stopped the Romans, was the Parthian Empire. They
were an Iranian dynasty that ruled parts of Iran, Mesopotamia, and Armenia from
247bc-224ad. They were succeeded by the Sassanids, a Persian dynasty, who ruled
from 224-651. The two dynasties are grouped into one wind because Iranian and
Persian are almost the same. It was essentially the same empire but they had a
change of leadership. In any event, the Sassanids expanded the kingdom to extend
from Afghanistan to eastern Turkey. Yet the important thing is that they only
shared the Middle East with the Romans (left).
In 324, the Roman Empire voluntarily split into the Roman Empire in the west
and the Byzantine Empire in the east with Constantinople as the eastern capital.
Constantine I built the new capital and was the first Christian Roman Emperor.
Centuries later, the rise of Islam diminished the size of the Byzantine Empire but
they continued to rule Constantinople until 1453. The eventual fall of that city
is mentioned in verse 15 because the victory was significant to another Middle
The Romans or Byzantines shared the Middle East with the Parthians or
Sassanids for over 500 years. It is easy to see from the maps that one pair ruled
north/south while the others ruled east/west. Yet, none of the “four winds” ruled
the entire Middle East like the previous empires or the next to come.
Contrary to previous interpretations, the next empire would certainly not be
skipped by God in His Book of Truth. The next verse describes the rise of Islam.
In addition to conquering the entire Middle East, they spread a new religion into
the minds of the people they conquered. The empire and religion originated from
the Arabs who descended from Abraham, just as the Israelites did. Although Arab
rule was interrupted from time to time, they continue to occupy the region. More
importantly, their new religion continued to thrive and is the main opposition to
Israel today. All things considered, I do not think God would skip something that
significant in His Book of Truth.
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
“Winds” 1 & 2 (North & South)
“Winds” 3 & 4 (East & West)
Daniel 11 through history
(only 2 other interpretations)
Page 2 on Daniel 11
click chart to enlarge
Daniel 11 Explained
Condensed “one page” Commentary
Persia & Greece
Daniel 11: 2-3
(on PDF for space)