Question: "Who is the prince of Persia in Daniel 10?"
Answer: The prince of Persia is only mentioned in Daniel 10, a highly apocalyptic (and therefore at least partially symbolic) section of the book of Daniel. Most likely, the prince of Persia is a reference to an evil spiritual entity that wielded authority over the ancient kingdom of Persia.
The prophet Daniel had received a troubling vision concerning a great war (Daniel 10:1). He went into a three-week period of mourning, fasting, and prayer. In response to Daniel’s prayer, God sent a heavenly messenger to explain the vision. However, the messenger was delayed for those same three weeks, as he explains to Daniel: “But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia” (Daniel 10:13). Later, the angel speaking to Daniel predicts further fighting: “Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come; but first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth. (No one supports me against them except Michael, your prince)” (verses 20–21).
Taking this passage at face value, it seems that the prince of Persia is a fallen angel who in some sense had authority or influence over the physical kingdom of Persia. In Daniel 10, the prophet is praying about the future of his people and their exile in Persia. A heavenly angel is dispatched with the answer, but a demonic “prince of Persia” obstructs the messenger. This action would make sense, as the divine answer involves the overthrow of the Persian Empire. The angelic messenger finally gets some help from the archangel Michael, who is apparently the prince (or one of the princes) of Israel in the angelic realm (Daniel 10:13, 21).
Then the angelic messenger says he will face even more spiritual warfare, returning to fight against the prince of Persia. After that, he will face another spiritual enemy, the prince of Greece (Daniel 10:20). We know from history (and as was prophesied in Daniel) that Greece would be the next world power after Persia, and that Greece would dominate Israel for a time. In this passage, three spiritual entities are mentioned in relation to three earthly nations: the prince of Persia, the prince of Greece, and the prince of Israel (Michael). As the New Testament reminds us, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). The battle is real.
It seems that, as events play out on earth, there is corresponding activity in the spiritual realm. Whether or not this spiritual prince of Persia’s fate was tied to that of the physical Persian Empire is unknown. We do know that, if his job was to keep the Persian Empire in a place of dominance over the nation of Israel, he failed. It is interesting to note that Iran is modern Persia, and the leaders of Iran still want to dominate or obliterate the nation of Israel. As a Shiite Muslim nation, Iran persecutes Christian believers as well—so perhaps the spiritual prince of Persia is still active today. But, as with all of Satan’s minions, his time is limited, and he can only go as far as God will allow in accomplishing His perfect will.