You can read about the King of the North and the King of the South in Daniel, chapter 11. Beginning in verse 40, the Bible predicts a revival of the two ancient kingdoms immediately prior to the second coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.Within days, we should have a better idea as to the identity of the new King of the North.
“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 Ethiopians shall follow at his heels.” (NKJV)
There are three theories as to who the end-time King of the North will be.
Over two thousand years ago, the Kings of the North and South were ruled by descendants of Alexander the Great’s generals, Seleucus and Ptolemy.
Selecus was the King of the North, ruling from Antioch (now in Turkey). His empire was vast, including what are now Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Iran and parts of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Bible refers to the Seleucid dynasty as the “King of the North” because its capital was north of Jerusalem. The prophecy was written by Daniel in the middle of the sixth century BC, but was not fulfilled until the third century, so no other name was used to describe this empire. The kingdom lasted until 63BC, when Rome conquered the area, including Judea.
The King of the South, with its capital in Alexandria, was south of Jerusalem. It was also conquered by Rome after its famous Queen Cleopatra died in 31BC.
These two kingdoms fought six wars with each other in a fairly short period of time. Every time they fought, the Jews got trampled on.
After a very detailed prophecy that ends in 167BC with the Seleucid King, Antiochus Epiphanes, desecrating the Temple in Jerusalem, Daniel, chapter 11, continues with less detailed information on the Maccabbean Revolt and the Roman period. It picks up again in verse 40 with a more detailed prophecy “at the time of the end.” Why is there a jump of over 2,000 years?
The answer is quite simple – there was no independent Jewish nation from the time of the Roman invasion in the first century before Christ until 1948 when the state of Israel was proclaimed. Now the prophecy could continue.
But the final fulfillment will not take place until both the king of the North and the king of the South have been reconstituted. This does not mean the restoration of the respective dynasties, which would be impossible.
What we are looking for is political entities that resemble the territories of the former powers.
Three Possible Scenarios
One prophetic school of thought is that the King of the South is Egypt, just as it was in ancient times. The kingdom then included parts of Libya and Nubia (Sudan). The king of the North in this scenario is a revived Roman Empire, just as the Roman Empire took over the territory of the Seleucids in the first century BC. This remains a possible scenario.
Another theory involving a European King of the North pictures Iran as the King of the South. This is not likely, for historical, religious and ethnic reasons. Iran, formerly Persia, was actually part of the ancient king of the North, so it is not likely to be the king of the South at the time of the end. Also, Iran is predominantly Shia Islam and, therefore, hardly likely to unite Sunni Muslim nations, including Egypt. Additionally, the nation is ethnic Persian, not Arab. The people speak Farsi, not Arabic.
A third theory is that the Shia-Sunni divide is a major factor in the coming resurrection of these two powers, with Shia Islam forming the King of the North and Sunni Islam the King of the South.
A look at a contemporary map shows Shia Islam forming an arc of nations stretching from Lebanon, through Syria, Iraq and Iran, roughly the boundaries of the old King of the North. Egypt retains its old geographical position. It is the dominant Arab nation of Sunni Islam. Sudan would almost certainly support Egypt in any conflict, while Libya is fragmented, volatile and unpredictable.
The first and third theories remain possible scenarios. Read the following quote from the Expositors’ Bible Commentary.
“On the analogy of the struggle between the Ptolemies of Egypt and the Seleucids of Syria, we might expect to see in the final Near Eastern struggle the contest between a block of nations allied with Egypt, including Libya and Nubia (or Sudan) referred to in verse 43, and a Syrian coalition, comprising a league of Middle Eastern nations. Yet if the anti-type of Antiochus Epiphanes is referred to by the title “king of the North,” which was applied to the Seleucid kings in the earlier narrative, then we cannot be altogether certain that we are dealing with a ruler located in either Syrian Damascus or Antioch (a city now under Turkish control). It may be that the eschatological counterpart is actually an Italian leader. The ruler “who will come” (9:26) will have to be a Roman or be somehow connected with the latter-day revival of the Roman Empire. The historical Roman Empire was mainly centered around the Mediterranean with its capital in Italy; so there is a good possibility that “the ruler who will come” will be from Europe rather than from the Near East.” (Barker and Kohlenberger, Expositors’ Bible Commentary, 1994, page 1402)
Note the comment about a possible Egyptian coalition versus a Syrian coalition. This would be a Sunni-Shia conflict. If President Assad and his Alawite clan retain power, then this scenario is more likely, with Iran being the driving force of this Shia bloc. The bloc was actually made possible by the US-led military invasion of Iraq. Under Saddam Hussein, Iraq was ruled by Sunnis. Following the western invasion, the subsequent election resulted in the Shia majority taking over. Iraq and Syria are vital links between Iran and the Iranian-backed terrorist movement Hizbollah in Lebanon. The terrorist movement and Iran have pledged to bring about the destruction of Israel.
If Syria’s government is overthrown, then theory number one becomes more likely.
What is happening right now is extremely important. The US and Britain sent warships to the eastern Mediterranean to attack Syria but the action is half-hearted. There is no endgame. What is the objective? It is not to bring about regime change, which means that nothing will change. Serious and prolonged cruise missile attacks would bring more suffering to the nation of Syria. This could lead to a palace coup – the ruling Alawites replacing President Assad with somebody else – but, again, nothing would change.
The action is also half-hearted because Iran, Russia and China are backing Syria. It’s not likely the US will risk a conflict with these three powerful nations.
A further complication has just been announced – the British parliament has voted against Prime Minister David Cameron’s support of the US against Syria. The prime minister lost by 13 votes. Congress is equally divided in the US, with public opinion against another Mideast war.
The United States stands to lose face over this. President Assad has already taunted the US with his comment on how the US, starting with Vietnam, has not won any war. In fact, the US has not won a major war since 1945, when victory was achieved with the British Empire and the Soviet Union. America’s great military power has consistently failed to bring about long-lasting change wherever it has been used.
Could this open a door for a European force, perhaps led by Europe’s most powerful nation, Germany?
In time, it certainly could, but the EU nations need to build up their militaries first. This could happen quickly if the US is perceived as impotent over the Syrian crisis. The description of the King of the North’s attack against the King of the South in verse 40 is more likely Europe than Iran: “shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, horsemen and with many ships.” The terminology is reminiscent of the infamous German blitzkrieg of World War II.
While the King of the South has always been clearly identified with Egypt, we should have a much better idea on the identity of the King of the North over the next few weeks.