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.

And the multitude shall be lifted up, and his heart shall be exalted; and he shall cast down tens of thousands, but he shall not prevail. - American Standard

וְנִשָּׂא הֶהָמוֹן, ירום (וְרָם) לְבָבוֹ; וְהִפִּיל רִבֹּאוֹת, וְלֹא יָעוֹז. Hebrew

Most commentators connect this verse to the battle of Raphia in 217 BCE between Ptolemy IV and Antiochus III. Verse 11 states that Ptolemy is going to win. The first word in following verse, וְנִשָּׂא , I believe affects the interpretation of the passage depending on how the word is translated. It is conjunctive perfect verb with the root word meaning either ‘to-lift’ or ‘to-cast-away’, according to Strong’s. You can see the various translations above.

It affects the passage because if the translation is “when [Ptolemy] has carried off [Antiochus’ soldiers]” then the next part with Ptolemy “cast[ing] down myriads” can’t, in my opinion, relate to Antiochus’ soldiers being killed in the battle but something else since the battle’s ending is implied at the beginning of the verse. If, however the word is translated as “and the [Ptolemy’s army] shall be lifted” then the whole verse, including the part where myriads are cast down, is to do with the battle of Raphia.

How do translators go about deciding what this word means? Because it can either be the conjunctive perfect form to-lift or to-cast-away.

1 Answer 1


According a comparison between this Daniel’s prophecy and history we may reasonably conclude that this passage refers to the Raphia's battle, occurred between Ptolemy IV an Antiochus III, as you have told yet.

But you rightly did add: “[…] the next part with Ptolemy ‘cast[ing] down myriads’ can’t, in my opinion, relate to Antiochus’ soldiers being killed in the battle but something else since the battle’s ending is implied at the beginning of the verse.”

In other words, if I am not mistaken, your dilemma is: on the understanding that the Raphia’s battle is the historical event Dan 11:12 speaks of, the “myriads” (MT) refer themselves to the casualties and prisoners caused by the outcome of the Raphia's battle, or, they refer to another group of people, subsequent that battle?

As we will see in the rest of this answer, we have some different explanations to this alleged discrepancy.

In my opinion, the kind of inflection of the verbal form here utilized (והפיל) does not affect the understanding of the passage, whereas the verbal ‘tense’ does. Even granting that this form is on the Waw Consecutive, Perfect aspect, this does not mean – automatically – that we are obliged to translate this verbal form with a future form (to not mention the strong doubts of a number of scholars – me included - about the likelihood of the Waw Consecutive theory itself…).

In fact – for an example - Albert Barnes (in his Notes on the Bible) said (on Dan 11:12; bold is mine): “And he shall cast down many ten thousands - Or, rather, the meaning is, 'he has cast down many myriads'", so applying a past form to והפיל.

Along the lines of this fact, exist a possibility that Dan 11:12 ‘amplifies’ what is expressed in the previous verse.

In fact, Keil & Delitzsch (Commentary) stated – on Dan 11:12 - that “This verse illustrates the last clause of Dan 11:11, i.e., explains more fully how the great multitude of the enemy are given into his hand.” (K&D on Dan 11:12).

If this is the case, we’ve to solve again a couple of other troubles: (1) the meaning of the waw prefixed to the form (והפיל); and (2) the Daniel’s specification of the amount of the Antiochus’ fallen (dead or imprisoned) soldiers (רבאות, ‘ten thousands’, or, ‘myriads’).

If we choose to translate the waw prefixed to the form והפיל with a simple particle of conjunction (namely, “and”), the ‘myriads’ (MT) cited in 11:12 seem to not agree with the historical facts about the amount of fallen (dead or imprisoned) soldiers of Antiochus at Raphia. In fact, on the basis of the present historical data we have to our disposal, Ptolemy IV ‘carried away’ about 10,000 Antiochus III’s infantry and 300 cavalry into death and took 4,000 as prisoners, for a grand total of about 14,300 ‘fallen’ soldiers, not surely ‘myriads’ (MT) of them, anyway.

Granted, we can supposing (me included) that the historical Bible data are more reliable compared to the sometimes wobbly secular historical data, but this by-believers’ conclusion of ours seems be not necessary, in this case. In fact, John Gill (Exposition of the Bible) defined [bold is mine] (on Dan 11:12): “and he shall cast down many ten thousands; or ‘many thousands’, as the Vulgate Latin version; or rather ‘ten thousand’ [רבאות ‘decem millia’, Pagninus, Montanus, so Ben Melech.] […] and it may be rendered, ‘though he shall cast down many thousands’ [והפיל ‘etiamsi dejiciet’, Gejerus; ‘quamvis prostraverit’, Michaelis]; that is, cast them down to the earth, slay them, as he did, even ten thousand of them, the number here mentioned.”

Then, if we translate this passage, giving to the prefixed waw (in והפיל) the commoner sense of “and”, along with the acceptance of the rendering of Jerome’s Vulgate (multa milia, ‘many thousands’), we may discard the ‘troubles’ away.

This is a possibility.

In the case you think the MT rendering (“myriads”) is to be preferred to the Vulgate rendering (‘many thousands’), anyway, you may remember that a prefixed waw (to a verbal form) can carry on it the sense of an adversative/coordinative adverb (as ‘nevertheless’), conjunction (as ‘notwithstanding'), or preposition (as ‘despite’, ‘in spite [of]’).

See, please, the following samples of prefixed waw (to a verbal form) translating manners utilized by some Bible translations [I have underlined the prefixed waw in the following verses].

Deu 1:32 (ובמדבר) “Despite”, International Standard Version, Robert Alter, New American Bible; “In spite”, according English Standard Version, Good News Bible; “Malgré”, according Louis Segond.

2 Sam 5:7 (וילכד) “Nevertheless”, American Standard Version, Bishop (1568, ‘Neuerthelesse’), English Standard Version, Jewish Publications Society, Jubilee Bible, King James Version, Tree of Life Version, Webster.

1 Chr 11:5 (וילכד): “Nevertheless”, American Standard Version, Bishop (1568, ‘Neuerthelesse’), English Standard Version, Geneva Bible (1587, ‘Neuertheles’), International Standard Version, Jewish Publications Society, Jubilee Bible, King James Version, New American Bible, Tree of Life Version, Webster.

So, the sense of the verse would be: “In spite of his striking down of myriads he will not use his acquired strong position…”.

Matthew Henry commented (bold is mine): “Ptolemaeus Philopater, having gained this victory, grew very insolent; his heart was lifted up; then he went into the temple of God at Jerusalem, and, in defiance of the law, entered the most holy place, for which God has a controversy with him, so that, though he shall cast down many myriads, yet he shall not be strengthened by it, so as to secure his interest.” (Commentary on the Whole Bible, on Dan 11:11)

This is another possibility.

Last but not least, we cannot now omit some important historical details about the behaviour of Ptolemy IV after his victory at Raphia. These details bring to light another (final) possibility about the “myriads” identification attempt.

I let Joseph Benson himself explains it (Commentary, on Dan 11:12; bold is mine): “When he hath taken away the multitude, his heart shall be lifted up — This is a description of the effect which this victory would have on Ptolemy, namely, to puff him up with pride and insolence: and so we are informed it did; for being freed by it from his fears, he now more freely indulged his lusts; and, after a few menaces and complaints, he granted peace to Antiochus, that he might be more at liberty to gratify his appetites and passions. He had before murdered his father, his mother, and his brother; and now he killed his wife, who was also his sister, and gave himself up entirely to the management of Agathoclea his harlot, and her brother, Agathocles, who was his catamite, and their equally vicious mother Oenanthe: and so, forgetful of the greatness of his name and majesty, he consumed his days in feasting, and his nights in lewdness, and became not only the spectator, but the master and leader of all wickedness. Alas! what availed it to have conquered his enemies, when he was thus overcome by his vices; he was so far from being strengthened by it, that even his own subjects, offended at his inglorious peace, and more inglorious life, rebelled against him. After the retreat of Antiochus, Ptolemy visited the cities of Cœlosyria and Palestine, which had submitted to him; and, among others, in his progress, he came to Jerusalem, ‘where he took a view of the temple, and even offered sacrifices, &c., to the God of Israel. But, not being satisfied with viewing it only from the outer court, beyond which no Gentile was allowed to pass, he showed a great inclination to enter the sanctuary, and even the holy of holies itself. This occasioned a great uproar all over the city; the high-priest informed him of the holiness of the place, and the express law of God, by which he was forbid to enter it. But every sort of opposition only served to inflame his curiosity; he forced in as far as the second court, where, while he was preparing to enter the temple itself, he was struck by God with such terror, that he was carried off half dead. On this he left the city, highly exasperated against the whole Jewish nation, and loudly threatening future vengeance’. At his return, therefore, to Alexandria, he began a cruel persecution against the Jewish inhabitants of that city, and cast down many ten thousands; for it appears from Eusebius, that, about this time, forty thousand Jews, or, according to Jerome, sixty thousand, were slain. The loss of so many of his Jewish subjects, and the rebellion of the Egyptians, added to the mal-administration of the state, must certainly have very much weakened, and almost totally ruined his kingdom: see Bishop Newton, Wintle, and the Univ[ersal] Hist[ory], vol. 9. p. 220.”

Then, also if we translate the passage according the MT (“myriads”), the Raphia’s subsequent actions of Ptolemy seem to agree with the Bible account, even in this case.

I hope these information will be useful for your researches.

  • Wow! I'm impressed with your dialogue/accounting here, although at first I, for one, found it somewhat hard to follow, but because of my love for the book of Daniel, I persisted in trying to understand. However, if there is no biblical persuasiveness as to any kind of prophecy that may be involved, then whatever the understanding is, not withstanding the true "waw" perspective, it surely is of little consequence to our Christian believes, or is it? Historically intriguing nevertheless. Upvoted + 1, for literal content, if nothing else. Oct 18, 2021 at 20:49

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.