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Daniel 11:12 KJV And when he hath taken away the multitude, his heart shall be lifted up; and he shall cast down many ten thousands: but he shall not be strengthened by it.

Most commentators connect this verse to the battle of Raphia in 217 BCE with Ptolemy IV and Antiochus III. In some translations Ptolemy IV will cast down “many thousands” and in others “ten thousands”. The Hebrew word used is רִבֹּא֖וֹת which, according to Strong’s concordance, is the plural form of רְבּוֹ, ten-thousand.

Funny enough, Ptolemy IV’s army did actually manage to kill more or less 10,000 of Antiochus III’s soldiers.

Does this part of the verse relate to Antiochus’ soldiers killed at the battle of Raphia and, if so, why is the word רְבּוֹ in plural form?

Why do some bibles translate this word to “many thousands” rather than “ten thousands”?

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Each army had a multiple of tens of thousands on both sides of the battle of Raphia. According to Polybius' history Ptolemy IV had 70,000 foot soldiers, 5,000 horse and 73 elephants; while Antiochus III had 62,000 foot soldiers, 6,000 horse, and 102 elephants. (1)(2)

The verse is translated better in Young's.

"and he hath carried away the multitude, his heart is high, and he hath caused myriads to fall, and he doth not become strong." (Dan. 11:12, YLT)

The word translated as "myriads" is Strong's Heb. 7239 "רְבּוֹ" or ribbo, and can be used for many multiples of ten thousand(s). The BDB has it as indefinite at Dan. 11:12. The NASB translation notes it used for 120,000; 18,000; 20,000; 42,360; and 60,000.

Strong's Concordance has:

"From rabab; or ribbow {rib-bo'} from rabab; a myriad, i.e. Indefinitely, large number -- great things, ten ((eight)-een, (for)-ty, + sixscore, + threescore, X twenty, (twen)-ty) thousand." (3)

The verse refers to the number that fell, so the indefinite tens of thousands, or myriads were killed at the battle of Raphia as estimated by Polybius that Antiochus III lost nearly 10,000 footmen, and more than 300 horsemen. (4)

That is why the better translations use myriads or many thousands. But, generally the number "thousands" when used in the scriptures for counting actual things - shekels, cattle, people, etc. - are an approximation (as apart from the apocalyptic metaphor "thousand" which has the meaning of perfect completeness).

Notes:

  1. Polybius' Histories, Book V.79. Polybius

  2. Battle of Raphia Battles of the Ancients

  3. Strong's Heb. 7239 - ribbo Biblehub

  4. Polybius' Histories, Bk V, 86 Polibius

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If you take the verse literally, the Hebrew word רִבֹּא֖וֹת means at least 20,000 or 2 רְבּוֹ. Incidentally, like Hebrew, Chinese and Japanese have a single word (万) denoting 10,000.

Does this part of the verse relate to Antiochus’ soldiers killed at the battle of Raphia and, if so, why is the word רְבּוֹ in plural form?

No, it is not related to Antiochus’ soldiers killed at the battle of Raphia because the word רְבּוֹ is in plural form.

Why do some Bibles translate this word to “many thousands” rather than “ten thousands”?

To some modern ears, the phrase "many ten thousands" sounds kind of awkward.

English Standard Version strikes a nice balance between NIV and KJV:

And when the multitude is taken away, his heart shall be exalted, and he shall cast down tens of thousands, but he shall not prevail.

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