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By Dr Peter Pett BA BD (Hons -London) DD.
Chapter 8 The Rise of the Greek Empire and The Resulting Evil King Whose Persecution Brought About Such a Transformation of The True Remnant In Israel That The Time of God’s Wrath Against Israel Came to An End (Until Israel Rejected The Messiah).
This chapter, which moves from the Aramaic of the previous six chapters to the Hebrew of chapter 1 and of the remainder of the book, both debunks the theory of a separate Medan empire in Daniel (as does 5.28) and explains at the same time why it was thought necessary. It was mainly because the horn (the small one) of chapter 7 was wrongly equated with the ‘small horn’ of chapter 8, both of which were identified with Antiochus Epiphanes, a king arising from the Greek empire, who savagely persecuted Israel.
But small horns are small because they are those which start to come up later, that is they come up after others that precede them, therefore there can be any number of them. It depends what beast they are on. And in fact these two are presented so differently that to identify them would be to lose all sense of reality. What such interpreters fail to acknowledge is that Antiochus Epiphanes is in fact but an example of the greater Anti-God yet to come.
At this time the Babylonian empire was weakening and new powers were arising, first the Medes, and then the Persian empire under Cyrus II who rebelled against the Medes and conquered them (550 BC). He then conquered Lydia (547 BC) and Babylon (539 BC). His son Cambyses followed him (530 BC) and conquered Egypt, followed by Darius I (522 BC) and Xerxes (also named Ahasuerus - 486 BC). Both Darius and Xerxes sought to conquer Greece which was made up of a number of nation states, the last part of their world which remained unconquered. But, after some success, they finally failed. However, the empire continued and at last seemed on the point of taking over Greece as a result of bribing the Greeks to fight each other, thus weakening them considerably, but civil war developed in the empire preventing consolidation of the position, and they failed, although the Greeks of Asia did still remain under their control.
Then Philip of Macedon united the Greeks, followed by his son Alexander the Great (336 BC) who invaded the Persian empire, and having first ‘delivered’ the Greeks in Asia, Alexander defeated the main Persian army in 333 BC. From there he went forward and conquered the whole of the Mediterranean world and beyond. But when he died (323 BC) his enfeebled son was unable to do anything and his empire was eventually divided up into four empires, two of which were the Seleucids, north of Palestine (Babylonia and Syria) and the Ptolemies, south of Palestine (in Egypt), the ‘king of the north’ and ‘the king of the south’. Both empires were ‘Hellenised’, that is, strongly influenced by Greek culture.
The Ptolemies ruled Palestine for the next one hundred years but interfered little in their internal and religious affairs, until eventually there arose a Seleucid king name Antiochus III, ‘the Great’ (223-187 BC), who annexed Palestine in 198 BC, and showed the Jews great consideration. Meanwhile Hellenisation continued apace in Palestine, causing growing dissension between the Hellenised Jews with their new ideas, which at a minimum flirted with the Greek gods, and the more orthodox. Then Antiochus III, encouraged by Hannibal of Carthage who was now a refugee in Asia, advanced into Greece where he came into conflict with the might of Rome (192 BC), who drove him back from Greece and followed him into Asia, totally defeating him. Antiochus III died in 187 BC while plundering an Elamite temple for needed treasure, for he was still subject to Roman tribute. His son Seleucus IV (187-175 BC) who succeeded him began to meddle more in Jewish affairs (2 Maccabees 3).
Things, however, came to a head in the reign of his successor and brother Antiochus IV (Epiphanes) (175-163 BC) who had been a hostage in Rome. Threatened by both Rome and Egypt he determined to unify his empire round Hellenistic culture, including the worship of the Greek gods, which included himself as the manifestation of Zeus, (depicted on his coins), and sought every means of building up his treasury, plundering a number of temples in the cause. He took more seriously what others before him had claimed.
He was a strange man. He would mix among the common people and partake in their fun, and yet he could rob their temples, and treat them savagely, especially when he thought that they were being unreasonable.
Internal dissension among the Jews, largely about Hellenisation and who should be High Priest, meant that all parties looked for assistance to Antiochus, which was a great mistake, and eventually, as a result of opposition to his policies, and probably with his eye on the temple treasures, (he was an infamous robber of temples), he sacked Jerusalem and practically forbade the practise of Judaism, suspending regular sacrifices, destroying copies of the Scriptures and forbidding circumcision and the observance of the Sabbath. Moreover all without exception were to offer sacrifices to Zeus (see the Jewish histories 1 Maccabees 1.41-64; 2 Maccabees 6.1-11).
This was later followed by the erection of an altar to Zeus in the temple, on which he sacrificed a pig, an abomination to the Jews, a Desolating Horror. This latter took place in December 167 BC. While a deliberate snub to the Jews he almost certainly could not understand why there was so much fuss. No other part of his empire would have objected strongly to such moves.
This all resulted in a rebellion by the Jews under the Maccabees which enabled them through good generalship, great bravery and fortuitous circumstances to free themselves from Antiochus’ yoke and restore and cleanse the temple in December 164 BC, three years after its desecration.
The vision in this chapter sees this period as pivotal for Israel. The persecutions of Antiochus were seen as the final and most furious manifestation of God’s indignation against His people. The faithful remnant who resulted were seen as free from wrath and as opening the way for the coming of the Davidic Messiah, Jesus, (as depicted in chapter 7).
Commencement of Daniel’s Vision.
8.1 ‘In the third year of the king Belshazzar, a vision appeared to me, even to me Daniel, after that which appeared to me at the first.’
Daniel draws our attention to the fact that this, his second great vision, occurred two years after the first. But this was not stated to be a dream-vision, but a full vision during which he remained awake and conscious. The mention of Belshazzar is important in that it indicates the continuation at this time of the Babylonian empire. The order of the empires is thus here clearly stated, Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek.
8.2 ‘And I saw in the vision, - now it was so that when I was seeing I was in Shushan the fortress, which is in the province of Elam - and I saw in the vision, and I was by the River Ulai.’
Daniel repeats that he saw things in vision, and informs us of his whereabouts at the time. He was in Shushan (Susa), the fortress-city, in the province of Elam. It is quite probable that he was there on a mission on behalf of Babylon, as a retired governor of Babylon now available for such special missions. This would explain why, as he saw the power of Medo-Persia, he recognised that the downfall of Babylon must come soon. On the other hand some see this as meaning that he was, as it were, transported there in the vision.
Shushan was Cyrus’ capital city, capital of the Persian empire, a huge fortress of a city in the former territory of Elam, ‘in the province of Elam’. In Ezra 4.9 the ‘Shushancites’ are differentiated from the Elamites. This was a differentiation of cityfolk from the provincials. Compare Jerusalem and Judah, often seen in apposition. At this time Elam was a province of either Media or Persia.
The ‘River’ Ulai flowed by Susa and was a canal, 275 metres (900 feet) wide, which joined two large rivers.
The Mighty Ram - The Medo Persian Empire.
8.3 ‘Then I lifted up my eyes and saw, and behold, there stood before the river one ram which had two horns, and the two horns were high, but one was higher that the other, and the higher came up last.’
‘I lifted up my eyes.’ We might paraphrase as ‘my eyes were opened’. The fact that he was by this Medo-Persian river partly explains why he had Medo-Persia in mind and saw this vision.
‘One ram which had two horns, and the two horns were high, but one was higher that the other, and the higher came up last.’ He emphasises that there was one ram but that it had two horns, of which one was higher than the other, and had come up last. This is a clear description of the Medo-Persian empire (verse 20). Cyrus was the larger horn, being over the whole, but beneath him and allied to him was the kingship of the Medes, which had previously been the most powerful. His general who captured Babylon was a Mede.
We are told that the guardian spirit of the Persian kingdom was said to appear under the form of a ram with clean feet and sharp-pointed horns, and that often, when the king stood at the head of his army, he carried the head of a ram. Ezekiel used the picture of the ram, and the he-goat, to denote a form of leadership (34.17; 39.18). Although not wild beasts they were still seen as pretty fearsome.
8.4 ‘I saw the ram pushing westward, and northward, and southward, and no beasts could stand before him, nor was there any who could deliver out of his hand, but he did according to his will and magnified himself.’
The vision was of a successful empire builder, conquering in all directions, all-powerful and undefeatable, one who attained great power and authority. ‘Pushing’, that is, with his horns. ‘Magnified himself’ (as with Nebuchadnezzar - 4.30) is probably intended in a bad sense explaining why God brought his empire crashing down. The Persian empire was however always favourable to Israel, for its policy was to foster local religions.
The Mighty He-Goat - The Greek Empire.
8.5 ‘And as I was considering, behold a he-goat came from the west over the face of the whole earth and did not touch the ground. And the goat had a notable horn between its eyes.’
As we are specifically told later (verse 21) this he-goat represents Greece, to the west of the Persian empire. Greece had been well known for centuries as a source of trade, and it had provided contingents of very effective mercenaries for foreign armies, including the Egyptian and Persian armies. ‘Over the face of the whole earth’ means the Mediterranean ‘earth’, but now stretching into Europe as well. ‘Did not touch the ground.’ They skimmed over the ground, demonstrating the speed of their conquests. The notable horn was no doubt Alexander the Great.
8.6-7 ‘And he came to the ram which had two horns, which I saw standing before the river, and ran on him in the fury of his power. And I saw him come close to the ram, and he was full of rage against him, and smote the ram and broke his two horns. And there was no power in the ram to stand before him. But he cast him down to the ground and trampled on him. And there was none who could deliver the ram out of his hand.’
Alexander’s swift approach and savage attack defeated the Persian army which came out to oppose him, and he then overran Syria and Palestine and finally defeated the Persians once and for all at the battle of Gaugamela, near Nineveh in 331 BC. The contrast between the one horn of the he-goat (thus a visionary goat, for goats have two horns) with the two horns of the ram, emphasis the dual nature of the Medo-Persian empire. This duality is constantly emphasised as we have seen.
8.8 ‘And the he-goat magnified himself exceedingly, and when he was strong the great horn was broken, and instead of it there came up conspicuously four towards the four winds of heaven.’
Following the death of Alexander his empire eventually divided into four. But the reason for his death is emphasised. He magnified himself exceedingly, taking godlike status. Thus at the height of his strength he was smitten down, resulting finally in the four empires.
‘Towards the four winds of heaven.’ The four winds of heaven always indicate the activity of God. For He is the king of heaven and acts from heaven (7.2; 4.37 compare 4.13, 26, 31). For these ‘four winds of heaven’ compare Jeremiah 49.36, where they represent God’s fierce activity against Elam resulting in their scattering to all parts of the earth. They are winds with ‘worldwide’ effects, although we must remember that it means the known world of that day. Israel too had been spread in all directions around the known world by the four winds of heaven (Zechariah 2.6). Thus the idea of the four winds of heaven is of the activity of God stirring up ‘the world’ with mighty effects (compare 7.2 and contrast Ezekiel 37.9 where the four winds are life giving for the people of God). The idea here is that, just as Alexander had magnified himself, so they also defied God to His face.
Some see it simply as meaning in all four directions, but that is the four winds, not the four winds of heaven.
On the death of Alexander the Great his empire was in fact split between his four generals, two of whom were prominent in the Mediterranean world north and south of Palestine. Most who hold this view think that they were Lysimachus (who ruled over Thrace and Bithynia), Cassander (Macedonia and Greece), Seleucus (Syria, Babylonia, and the eastern territories), and Ptolemy (Egypt, Palestine, and Arabia Petrea). However, the exact identification of the rulers is debatable because it took about 20 years for the kingdom to be successfully divided. But there is no question about the fact that Greece split into four major parts.
Antiochus Epiphanes - The Persecutor of the Jews and Despoiler of the Temple.
8.9-10 ‘And out of one of them came a horn from smallness which grew exceedingly great towards the south, and towards the east and towards the beauty (the desirable). And it grew great even to the host of heaven, and some of the host and of the stars it cast down to the ground and trampled on them.’
This horn is described in a totally different way from that in 7.8. There it is described as ‘a horn, a small one’, and it uproots and replaces three horns. Here it is ‘a horn from smallness’, that is a growing one, and it arises from one horn. Its activity is also described in a different way.
Given that both defy God and persecute the people of God these differences in description are specific and do not suggest identification. They could of course be reconciled by clever argument, but the first impression is certainly of a different type of attitude and situation.
The king referred to here in chapter 8 is almost certainly Antiochus IV Epiphanes, (175-164 BC) who ruled the Seleucid empire in Babylonia and Syria (see I Maccabees 1.10), in contrast with that in chapter 7 which refers to a great and evil king of the time of the end.
‘Which grew exceedingly great towards the south, and towards the east and towards the beauty (the desirable).’ Reference here would seem to be towards Antiochus’ campaigns against Egypt (the south - 11.5) - see 1 Maccabees 1.16-19, from which he was turned back by the authority of Rome. The east is Elymais in Persia, and Armenia (1 Maccabees 3.31, 37; 6.1-4).
‘The beauty (the desirable).’ Reference may be made to 11.16, 41, 45; Jeremiah 3.19; Ezekiel 20.6, 15; compare Psalm 106.24; Zechariah 7.14. The reference is to the land of promise, seen as God’s land and God’s inheritance to His people. The aim is to bring out the awfulness of his crime.
‘And it grew great even to the host of heaven, and some of the host and of the stars it cast down to the ground and trampled on them.’
The host of heaven elsewhere can mean the sun, moon and stars and their connections with the gods (see Deuteronomy 4.19; 17.3; 2 Kings 17.16; 21.3 and often; Isaiah 34.4; Jeremiah 8.2; 19.13; Zephaniah 1.5), or the angels in God’s court (1 Kings 22.19; 2 Chronicles 18.18; Nehemiah 9.6). But the people of Israel are thought of as the hosts of Yahweh in Exodus 7.4; 12.41 also see Exodus 16.13; Deuteronomy 4.13 and often, where Israel are called ‘the host’.
Antiochus made great claims for himself, seeing himself as the manifestation of Zeus, and thus as being over the host of heaven in the first sense. He pillaged and robbed temples without restraint, treating their gods with contempt. Thus by the Jews he would be seen as not only blasphemous in his attitude towards God but also by many as sacrilegious in his attitude and behaviour towards the gods in general. That is not to say that he persecuted all religions, for that would have gained him nothing. As long as the people submitted to Zeus he left them generally alone, except where he felt that he could enrich himself by robbing their temples.
Polybius comments that he ‘robbed most of the sanctuaries’ although it is not clear how extensive was the area in mind, and Granus Licianus tells us that he plundered the temple of Diana in Hierapolis and robbed it of its treasures. Polybius also tells us that immediately prior to his death he made a vain attempt to acquire the riches of a temple of Artemis in Elymais, where he had come on a campaign against the Parthians (compare 1 Maccabees 6.1-4). These are examples we know of; we need not doubt that they were some among many, for it was clearly his custom. Thus he would adequately fit the description given, if interpreting the host of heaven as signifying the gods.
But alternately ‘the host of heaven’ (see 4.26 for the use of heaven to mean God) may here mean the people of the God of heaven. Compare verse 11 - ‘the prince of the host’, verse 12 - ‘the host who were given over to him’, and 12.3 where the true people of God are to shine as the stars, so that Daniel sees them as like stars (compare Genesis 37.9; Revelation 12.1). Indeed the next two verses really demand it. The trampling down then refers to their maltreatment and persecution.
8.11-12 ‘Yes it magnified itself, even to the prince of the host, and it took away from him what is done continually (religious worship including the offerings and sacrifices), and the place of his sanctuary was cast down, and the host was given up together with the continual (rites) because of transgression. And it cast down truth to the ground, and it acted and prospered.’
This would seem to confirm that the ‘host of heaven’ is the people of God. Antiochus, by his behaviour set himself against God and those who served Him.
For ‘the prince (sar) of the host’ compare Joshua 5.14, ‘as sar of the host of Yahweh have I come’ where the thought is probably of the divine Angel of Yahweh (Judges 2.1). See also ‘the prince (sar) of princes’ in verse 25 in this chapter. ‘Yahweh of Hosts’ was after all a regular name for God. In Isaiah 9.6 the coming king is called ‘the Prince (sar) of peace. But in Daniel 10.21 we have reference to ‘Michael your sar’ and in 12.1 to ‘Michael -- the great sar who stands for the children of your people’. However, neither are directly linked with God’s host.
So in the light of reference to the ‘taking away’ from him of what is ‘done continually’ (the sabbaths and feasts, the offerings and sacrifices) and the reference to ‘his’ sanctuary we must surely see this prince of the host as meaning God Himself or the Angel of Yahweh. The ‘host of heaven’ is then certainly the true Israel.
By his religious restrictions, forbidding sacrifices and circumcision, banning the sabbath, and the reading of the Scriptures, and by the desecration of God’s temple, he basically took away from God what was His, and in the course of it cast down the sanctuary (compare 1 Maccabees 1.44-47).
An alternative is to see the prince of the host as the true High Priest who had had taken from him the privilege of partaking in the continual rites of worship, and had also seen the sanctuary which was his responsibility, desecrated.
‘What is done continually’ (religious worship including the offerings and sacrifices). This is literally ‘the continual.’ It probably includes all the continually repeated aspects of Israelite worship; morning and evening sacrifice, other regular sacrifices, the keeping of the sabbath, circumcision, the reading of Scripture, and so on (compare again 1 Maccabees 1.44-47).
‘And the place of his sanctuary was cast down.’ ‘The place’ means that which has been set up. It may refer mainly to the altar, which was replaced by Antiochus with an altar for the worship of Zeus, or it may mean that the whole of the sanctuary which had been set up for the worship of God was rendered useless for its purpose because of the desecration. Notice that the stars (God’s true people?) were cast down to the ground, literally ‘were made to fall’ (verse 10), the place of His sanctuary was cast down (verse 11) and truth was cast down to the ground (verse 12), a threefold casting down denoting completeness.
The ‘giving up’ up may mean given up by God because of the transgressions of His people. Such humiliations of His people as this are usually traced to sin in Scripture, and at this time there was much sin and apostasy in Israel due to the worst aspects of Hellenisation. It will shortly be depicted as the latter part of the whole period of God’s indignation against Israel. Alternately it may signify that Antiochus gave them up, and the continual rites, to punishment, cessation and retribution because they had transgressed against him.
‘Because of transgression.’ Compare verse 23, but see also verse 13.
‘And it cast down truth to the ground, and it acted and prospered.’ This is expressing what has already been said in another way. As a result of his activities it was truth that was the victim. It was rejected and tossed to the ground. People were being turned from the way of truth by persecution. And in the face of it Antiochus prospered. There was judgment waiting to happen.
8.13 ‘Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to that certain one who spoke, “How long will be the vision about the continual things (worship rites) and the transgression that appals (or makes desolate), to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden underfoot?” And he said to me, “To two thousand three hundred mornings and evenings. Then will the sanctuary be cleansed (made righteous).” ’
Here we have a conversation between two holy ones, or angels, in which the question is put as to how long the devastating things that are to happen will last.
We could paraphrase it as ‘how long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled, during which the continual rites will cease, and the transgression that appals takes place, and from the time when the sanctuary and God’s people are trodden under foot, to the date when the sanctuary is finally made righteous (justified)?’
The main ideas to be considered are:
The reply to the question is then, for two thousand three hundred mornings and evenings, after which the sanctuary will be ‘made righteous’.
The ‘desolation’ or ‘astonishment’ may refer to the time when the High Priest Menelaus was appointed who was not of the priestly line, thus defiling the sanctuary, the time when he stole the sacred temple vessels for his own use, taking them out of the sanctuary, the time when he slew the true high priest who was sacred before God, or to the time when the daily sacrifices ceased, all being transgressions which astonished and desolated the true Israel. The transgression may have been that of Antiochus, or that of the high priest, or that of the leadership of Israel who allowed it, or all three.
The ‘two thousand three hundred mornings and evenings’ presents a difficulty of interpretation. Does this mean two thousand three hundred days, (compare the regular use of mornings and evenings in Genesis 1), or does it mean one thousand one hundred and fifty evening sacrifices and one thousand one hundred and fifty morning sacrifices which have been omitted because of the persecution? The latter may well be an accurate indication of the length of time that the sacrifices ceased.
And if it means two thousand three hundred days is it then the equivalent of ‘a time, times (e.g. five times) and half a time’ (7.25) where it signified a period that came to more than six but less than seven times, thought of here in terms of years? Seven years would be, say, two thousand five hundred and twenty days, Thus two thousand three hundred could be a round number indicating not reaching the perfect seven years because God prevented it, expressed here in days so as to suggest that every day of that dreadful time was counted by God.
One thing we can be sure of is that it does not mean two thousand three hundred years. It does not say ‘days’ it says evenings and mornings. Besides it is very questionable whether we have a right to see days as representing years anywhere except when it is made perfectly clear in the context. The prophets cannot be so straitjacketed or presumed upon.
If we take the two thousand three hundred evenings and mornings as representing the number of evening and morning sacrifices, thus one thousand one hundred and fifty days, we can obtain this by adding the 1,080 days (360 + 360 + 360) between the sacrificing of a pig on the altar and the purifying of the temple, plus an extra ten as the finalising of the building of the pagan altar was early December and the cessation late December (the former the 15th the latter the 25th of Chislev) making 1,090 days, and adding two round months because the actual sacrifices ceased prior to the altar being set up, thus making 1,150 days. Alternately the two months may be to take into account work done in preparation for the final desecration, once the sacrifices had been forbidden (1 Maccabees 1.45). Either way we can reach the 1,150 days referred to in this chapter as ‘2,300 evenings mornings’ (i.e. morning and evening sacrifices).
If we consider the meaning to be two thousand three hundred days, however, the period being over six years, but falling short of seven, compare ‘a time, times and half a time’, it may be from 171 BC, when Menelaus the High Priest appointed by Antiochus, who was not of the recognised priestly line, profaned the sanctuary itself by acting as High Priest, or from the time when he stole and profaned the temple vessels, or from 170 BC when he killed Onias III, the High Priest recognised by the people and by God (11.22), (any of these might be ‘the transgression that appals’) to 164 BC, the death of Antiochus, a date chosen on the grounds that only the death of the defiler could finally ‘make righteous’ the holy sanctuary and ‘atone’ for the blasphemy.
One thing we can be sure of is that it refers to a period during the reign of Antiochus during which he caused the sabbaths and the sacrifices to cease, desecrated the temple and persecuted Israel severely.
The Angel Gabriel Appears To Interpret the Vision.
8.15-16 ‘And so it was that when I, even I Daniel, had seen the vision, that I sought to understand it, and behold there stood before me the appearance of a man, and I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai which called and said, “Gabriel, make this man (or ‘that one there’ - hallaz) to understand the vision.’
Daniel, considering the vision he had seen and seeking in his own mind to understand it, suddenly saw the appearance of a man (gaber = ‘man’ or ‘strong’ - suggestive of Gabriel = ‘man of God’ or ‘God has made strong’) before him. Then he heard the voice of a man (adam), possibly coming from above the water at the centre of the river (compare 12.6, 7), telling Gabriel (see also 9.21) to reveal to him the truth about the vision. It was the voice of authority.
The voice was probably not an ordinary ‘holy one’ (angel) otherwise why differ from verse 13? Thus this must have been the man clothed with linen (12.6, 7; Ezekiel 9.2), who was so powerful that he could declare the ending of time (12.7) and mark men off for judgment (Ezekiel 9.2), for the fact that it is described as the voice of a man suggests that whoever it was had appeared in human form. The voice commanded Gabriel to reveal the meaning of the vision.
We should note that, along with Michael the archangel, Gabriel is the only angel ever mentioned by name in Scripture (9.21; 10.13, 21; 12.1; Luke 1.19, 26; Jude 1.9).
8.17 ‘So he came near where I stood, and when he came I was filled with awe, and fell on my face. But he said to me, “Understand O son of man, for the vision belongs to the time of the end.”
The approach of Gabriel filled Daniel with awe and he fell on his face. The presence of Gabriel and the voice from the river made him aware of the awesome presence of God. Gabriel then addressed him as ‘son of man’, a title suggestive of weakness and humanity, and, in the context of Daniel, of one of the people of God.
‘For the vision belongs to the time of the end.’ The meaning of this statement is open to question. Of course, for interpreters who see large parts of prophetic Scripture as belonging to what they call ‘the end times’, meaning the time just before Christ’s second coming, even when, on the face of it, it does not fit in, there is no difficulty, ‘the end’ always means that period. The fact that what has gone before does not fit in with that is no problem, they simply double up and say it all applies to both its obvious meaning and the end times. Such interpreters take up certain phrases and say that they always indicate what they mean by ‘the end times’ (phrases such as ‘the Day of Yahweh’, which can actually refer to any ‘day’ when Yahweh acts in judgment whether at the ‘end times’ or not; and ‘in that day’, which can simply mean at that time; although both often can mean ‘the end times’).
But we have to ask what Daniel meant by it in context, and, as we have seen, the vision refers first to the rise of the Medo-Persian empire, and then of the Greek empire and then refers at the end to the time of the rise and persecutions of Antiochus Epiphanes and desecration of the temple, and ceases at the point of the ‘making righteous’ of the temple. ‘The ‘fourth empire’ is not yet in sight. Thus the obvious meaning of ‘belongs to the time of the end’ is that the whole significance and purpose of the vision was to bring us up to that end point, the end of the vision. The ‘time of the end’ is ‘the time of the end of the vision’. The concentration of the vision was not on the prior sweep of history but on the final phase, the dealings of Antiochus Epiphanes. That is the time the vision ‘belongs to’, the time at the end of the vision.
Note on - ‘The vision belongs to the time of the end’ and similar phrases
In Daniel, references to ‘the end’ are many and certainly do not all point to one period. We have seen already that in 8.17 ‘the time of the end’ is the time on which the vision concentrates at its end, the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, thus meaning ‘the time of the end of the vision’. We can compare 8.19 where ‘the latter time of the indignation’, that is the final part of the period of indignation against Israel and Judah, (which includes the three hundred and ninety years of Israel and the forty years of Judah - Ezekiel 4.4-13) belongs to ‘the appointed time of the end’. This refers to the activities of Antiochus which are seen as the closure of the time of indignation. The angel’s explanation will cover exactly the same period. This ‘indignation’ refers to God’s wrath against His people as described by the prophets, which was clearly here seen as continuing during the activities of Medo-Persia and Greece because of the disobedience of God’s rebellious people, the latter time of it being the reign of Antiochus, for that is what the vision is specifically emphasising. The end of this period is ‘the appointed time of the end’ (of the indignation).
This phrase ‘the appointed time’ also occurs in 11.27; 11.29; 11.35 where each time it is referring to the time that God has appointed in which to deal with this vile persecutor, Antiochus. The exile was clearly not seen as having averted ‘the indignation’, and this was to be Israel’s next major hurdle. Thus Daniel saw the Maccabaean uprising which followed Antiochus, and the rise of the Hasidim (the loyal ones) and their followers, preparatory for the coming of John the Baptiser and Jesus, as following this period of indignation. The return from exile had not purified the people. This had required the persecution of an Antiochus.
In 11.6 ‘the end of the years’ simply means the end of the period to which those particular circumstances apply.
Very different are references to ‘the end’ (9.26; 11.40, 12.6 compare 12.13, and possibly 12.4; 12.9) where there is no reference point for ‘the end’ and we must therefore see them as actually referring to the time when God is about to sum up history. For all these references see the commentary at that point.
Like all the prophets Daniel looked forward in his vision and saw the near and far future. None of them knew how long it would be. But they saw certain events ahead like mountain peaks one behind the other. And to them beyond the first mountain peak were ‘the last days’.
Imagine a sturdy walker on a long hike in unknown mountainous country. He looks ahead and sees stretching before him a number of mountain peaks, and the farthest does not seem all that much further than the nearest. The problem is going to be getting to the first. Then they will come quickly one after another. So he struggles on and at last reaches the first mountain. But when he gets to the top of the first mountain peak, he receives his first shock. The second mountain peak which had seemed to be just behind the first is now a long way distance away separated from him by a huge plain. So he begins his weary trip towards the second. And the same happens each time he reaches a mountain top. Rather than being close together as they first appeared they are each separated from the other by huge plains.
In the same way the prophets looked ahead and saw the mountain tops. They did not know what lay between, and they rarely reached the first mountain. (Ezekiel did and then he saw further mountains ahead). They were not fortune tellers or foretellers of future events in order to satisfy human curiosity, they were the voice of God, declarers of what God was going to do and the principles that he would follow through to the end. Their prophecies were regularly in two phases, the first phase which would be fulfilled in the not too distant future, but would only be a partial fulfilment, and a second phase, a further mountain top, which would bring about its final fulfilment. Compare for example Tyre (Ezekiel 26.7-14). This was first to be defeated by Nebuchadnezzar, but it would only a lot later on become a place to spread nets in. A similar example is Babylon, defeated by the Medes, but it was only long centuries later that it became a total ruin (Isaiah 13.17-22). And yet the second result followed the first inexorably.
In Daniel’s case he saw first the persecutions of Antiochus Epiphanes, which would have such a profound effect on the faith of Israel, bringing about the birth of what was good in the Pharisaic teaching with its emphasis on the resurrection. That was his first mountain top. And then would come (of which he saw glimpses) the rise of the fourth kingdom and the birth of Jesus the Messiah and Son of Man, followed by the establishment of the new Israel under the Kingly Rule of God, arising out of the old Israel, all smiting at the base of the totality of the empires, and then would come ‘the end’, troublous times, followed by the final judgment of God and the resurrection (12.2-3). And all seen as coming closely one after another, without any conception of the spans of time that lay between, which to us seem so huge, but which to God, Who can step from one mountain top to another in a moment of time, are just ahead.
So the fourth and final empire, which was already in view in 11.30, would follow Antiochus. And as we have seen in his visions that was the ‘end time’ empire, (2.40-44; 7.7-8, 19-25), the apocalyptic empire, which would clash with the smiting stone and the son of man receiving His kingdom.
To put it in other words the actions of Antiochus would introduce ‘the last days’. These ‘last days’ would include the conquests of Rome, the coming of Jesus, the Messiah and Son of Man, (regularly described in the New Testament as ‘the last days’ and as being ‘the end of the ages’ and its equivalent - Acts 2.17; 1 Peter 1.20; 4.7; 1 Corinthians 10.11; Hebrews 1.1-2; Hebrews 9.26-28), the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome, the growth of the new Israel, the everlasting kingdom of God which incorporates all true believers, and indeed is the true church and the true Israel of God, the disintegration of Rome into many ‘kingships’ (the ten horns), and the final times prior to the second coming of Christ, which would include the rise of ‘the horn, the small one’, leading up to that coming, and the resurrection and the final judgment of God. All these are portrayed in one way or another by the prophets.
End of note.
8.18-19 ‘Now as he was speaking with me, I fell into a deep sleep (swooned) with my face towards the ground, but he touched me and set me upright, and he said, “Behold I will make you know what shall be in the latter time of the indignation, for it belongs to the appointed time of the end.” ’
The effect of the contact with Gabriel caused him to go into a deep swoon as he lay on his face on the ground (verse 17). This is elsewhere the result of contact with the supernatural where something unique is happening, compare 10.9; Genesis 2.21;15.12. But Gabriel touched him and aroused him, giving him strength for this ordeal of receiving revelation from such a powerful angel. For ‘set me upright’ compare 7.4. He was made ready to receive God’s revelation.
By considering the vision we are made to recognise that God’s indignation against his people had not ceased with the return from exile, simply because they failed to repent and be transformed. So it continued through the rise of Medo-Persia to the appointed time for Antiochus, the latter period being in the latter part of the whole period of indignation, leading up to ‘the appointed time of the end’ of the indignation. All was within God’s appointment. And the result of Antiochus’ persecution was the beginning of a new period for the true purified Israel, free from indignation, which was the beginning of the last days, preparing for the arrival of the Messiah, and was also the beginning of the rise of the fourth kingdom, the kingdom of the last days, which began with Rome and continued in different forms ever since. The days of Antiochus were seen as pivotal.
The Interpretation of the Vision.
8.20-22 ‘The ram which you saw, which had the two horns, they are the kings of Media and Persia. And the rough he-goat is the king of Greece. And the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king. And as for that which was broken, in the place whereof four stood up, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not with his power.’
This confirms what we have seen above, all given in a few words within which more than three hundred years have passed by. But all is leading up to the time of Antiochus IV. Note the emphasis on the declining control of the empires. ‘Two horns’, an empire made up of two, although one king had dominion of the other; ‘four kingdoms’, an empire made up of four, and even more separated. Compare the declining value of the metals in 2.37-43.
8.23 ‘And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors (or, repointed, this could be ‘transgressions’) are come to the full, a king of strong countenance, and understanding riddles, will stand up. And his power will be mighty, but not by his own power. And he will destroy wonderfully, and will prosper and will do (whatever he wants). And he will destroy the mighty ones and the holy people.’
The one now spoken of arises in the latter time of the Greek kingdom, at a time when Israel’s transgressing has reached its full, as they turned back to the idolatry from which the exile was supposed to deliver them. Some would turn back reluctantly under persecution, but these had turned back for political convenience long before. Among many hellenisation and acknowledgement of the Greek gods gave them a new way of life and a new culture, and they embraced it eagerly (see 1 Maccabees 1.11-15).
‘A king of strong countenance, and understanding riddles, will stand up.’ This can hardly be any other than Antiochus Epiphanes. ‘Strong countenance’ refers to hardness of feature caused by a hard and unyielding spirit (compare Deuteronomy 28.50).
‘Understanding riddles.’ Seeing himself as a god he saw himself as wise and full of understanding of the things of the gods, which was why the stubborn Israelites so infuriated him. Did they not realise that he was a master of the knowledge of the gods? Or the idea may be that he was a master of dissimulation, cunning enough to be able to deceive people and disguise his intentions. For example, he sent his general to Jerusalem pretending peace, and when they received him he took advantage of the Sabbath and then slaughtered many Israelites.
‘And his power will be mighty, but not by his own power.’ He claimed to be the manifestation of Zeus and thus that Zeus was operative through him, thus this may be seeing it from his viewpoint. Others see it as meaning that it was God Who enabled him in order to use him as an instrument of chastisement for His people. He was only able to do it because God allowed it. Like the Assyrians and Nebuchadnezzar before him he was the rod of God’s anger (Isaiah 10.5). Perhaps the latter may be seen as more likely to be in Daniel’s mind.
‘He will destroy wonderfully, and will prosper and will do (whatever he wants). And he will destroy the mighty ones and the holy people.’ This describes his effectiveness in every sphere. He destroyed, and prospered, and did whatever he wanted. No one, apart in the end from the Romans, could prevent him from doing whatever he wanted. However mighty his enemies might be they could not stand before him. ‘The mighty ones and the holy people.’ A deliberate contrast. He was not just a successful warrior, he was an attacker of God’s true people, and it was that that would result in his downfall. He was the first real persecutor.
8.25 ‘And by his understanding he will cause deceit to prosper by his hand, and he will magnify himself in his heart and he will destroy many in security. He will also stand up against the prince of princes. But he will be broken without hand.’
His ‘understanding’ means his understanding of cunning. He used deceit to obtain victory and reap wealth. He was a man who could not be trusted. ‘Magnifying himself in his heart’ may well refer to his claims of deity. Once kings magnified themselves too highly, their end was sure. Compare 8.4, 8. ‘Destroy many in security’ probably refers to his methods such as that of pretending to come in peace and then taking men by surprise and slaughtering them (see 1 Maccabees 1.29-30).
‘He will also stand up against the prince of princes. But he will be broken without hand.’ The ‘prince of princes’, that is God. Compare ‘the prince of the host’ (verse 11.) This probably mainly refers to the desecration of the temple and the ban on circumcision, the Sabbath, and true worship, and the enforced destruction of the Scriptures. Thus he would die, but not by a human hand, that is not ‘naturally’ or by being slain in warfare but because God had destined him for death. They need not fear for God has him in hand.
8.26 ‘And the vision of the evenings and mornings which has been told is true. But shut up the vision for it belongs to many days.’
Compare verse 14. The spoken vision of the evenings and the mornings was of the period when the temple was desecrated, whether by a the ministrations of a false High Priest (Menelaus) or by the altar of Zeus. It would be a heavy burden for Israel if they considered the fact, that the sanctuary that they would so painfully erect would again be desecrated, and almost unbelievable that God would allow it. But Daniel is assured that it will indeed be so, but that it will not be for a long time. So the vision was not to be read out as though it could happen at any time. It was to be kept on one side and preserved with a recognition that it spoke of a distant future and in those days would prove a comfort and a strength.
8.27 ‘And I Daniel was totally exhausted, and was sick certain days. Then I rose up and did the business of the king, and I was astonished at the vision, but none understood it (or ‘I did not understand it’).’
The reception of the vision was exhausting and demanding, so much so that Daniel was ill and unable to carry out his duties for the king. And he spent much time pondering it in total astonishment. But as it had been explained to him it is difficult to believe that this means that he did not understand it, as some suggest. Possibly he found it hard to believe and comprehend, living as he did when the Persian empire was so strong and powerful. Or possibly the idea is that, when he tried to explain it, it was too hard for men to grasp. It would seem to speak in riddles. It was beyond conception.
Should We Read Into This Horn of Littleness The Evil King of the End Times?
That he is a pattern of that king we need not doubt, but the evil king of the end times is clearly depicted in chapter 7. Thus this one is but a shadow of the other. It is in chapter 11 that the one merges into the other. We may safely therefore say that he was a warning and pattern of what is to come, but should probably go no further than that. Some are too eager to read into Scripture what it does not say, and should beware. This is the word of God. Our interpretations must therefore be careful and not so enthusiastic that they go beyond what is said.
Chapter 9 The Vision of the Seventy Sevens.
Daniel prays over the situation of Jerusalem and passionately declares the undeserving of Israel and expresses his hope in the mercy and forgiveness of God. He pleads for the restoration of Jerusalem. His prayer reveals the powerful influence of Jeremiah’s writings on him. God then sends Gabriel to tell him that there are yet ‘seventy sevens’ before the final purposes of God can be brought about.
9.1 ‘In the first year of Darius, the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans, in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of years about which the word of YHWH came to Jeremiah the prophet for the bringing to conclusion of the desolations of Jerusalem, even seventy years.’
For Darius the Mede see chapter 6 opening. Here he is called the son of Ahasuerus (Persian khshayarsha). This was a name applied to royalty (the Greek equivalent is Xerxes) in the Medo-Persian empire and there is no reason why someone with such a name should not be father to Darius the Mede. And he is said to be ‘of the seed of the Medes’. This stresses that ‘the Mede’ refers to his birth and not to the empire over which he was king.
‘Was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans.’ ‘Was made.’ He was acting as an under-king to the ruler of the whole empire. We only hear of the first year of his reign and it may well be that he died, or was replaced, shortly after, for within two years Daniel begins to date in terms of Cyrus (10.1), whose son took over the governorship of Babylon. As Darius was 62 years old when he was ‘made king’ (5.31) he would not rule for long, and he was probably appointed as having a recognised ability for the organisation of administrators (6.2). Nothing is known of him historically, but in view of his short tenure this is not necessarily surprising. He has been variously identified with Cyrus himself, and with Cyrus’ general Gobryas, but his age at accession makes these identifications unlikely. There is no good to reason to deny his historicity, or for not accepting his identity at face value.
‘Understood by the books.’ Daniel clearly had a number of ‘books’ which included at least a part of the prophet Jeremiah (see Jeremiah 36.2-3, 28). It is very possible that he had other parts of the Old Testament as well, especially Deuteronomy. These told him that Jerusalem’s period of barrenness and emptiness was to be seventy years, after which His people would return to the city (Jeremiah 25.11-14; 29.10-11; compare 2 Chronicles 36.21). The prayer that follows is clearly based on Scripture and confirms that Daniel was heavily influenced by Jeremiah and Deuteronomy, even to the use of the divine name YHWH, which is found nowhere else in Daniel.
‘Seventy years’ would be considered a round number indicating the divine perfection of the period involved and a fairly long period, thinking in terms of a lifetime (Psalm 90.10). Daniel at this stage had been in Babylon since 605 BC (sixty six years) and was thus probably around eighty. He would therefore have felt that God’s time was surely near.
He ‘set his face’, suggesting firm intention and perseverance. The Lord Who is God had promised and He must do it. Note the signs of repentance and humility, fasting, sackcloth and ashes. He was really in earnest (compare Exodus 34.28; 2 Kings 6.30; Isaiah 58.5; Jonah 3.5; Ezra 8.23; Nehemiah 9.1; Esther 4.1, 3, 16; Job 2.12).
9.4 ‘And I prayed to YHWH my God, and made confession, and said, “O Lord, the great and dreadful God, who keeps covenant and mercy with those who love him and keep his commandments.” ’
In Babylon the Israelite God was called ‘the God of heaven’, but in private prayer He was still YHWH, the covenant name. Or perhaps the fact of reading Jeremiah had renewed for Daniel the thought of that name, for it has not been used prior to this and yet he uses it regularly in this chapter (verses 2, 10, 13, 14 (twice), 20) and not again after this. This would appear to emphasise a stress in this chapter on the covenant, as mentioned specifically in this verse. Outside this chapter all references to the covenant refer to the sacred covenant with YHWH (11.22, 28, 30, 32). Note that Daniel, with all his experiences of the divine, does not approach God lightly. Sometimes we fail to recognise the awe and reverence we should have when we approach Him. ‘The great and dreadful God,’ the powerful and awesome One Who had allowed His city and temple to be destroyed because of men’s sin (see Deuteronomy 7.9, 21; 10.17).
‘Who keeps covenant and mercy with those who love him and keep his commandments.’ Cited from Deuteronomy 7.9 (see also 5.10). Daniel’s hope lay in the fact that God was the covenant God, and would thus respond in mercy towards those who were faithful to His covenant. The word for ‘mercy’ indicates ‘covenant love’. God responds in covenant love towards those who obey the covenant commandments, not because they earn it, but because by it they reveal that they are His.
9.5 “We have sinned and have dealt perversely, and have done wickedly and have rebelled, even turning aside from your precepts and from your judgments.”
Daniel here identifies himself with his people. Note the multiplying of words to express sinfulness; wandered from the right way, behaved unrighteously, falling short of God’s requirements, doing wickedly by following that which was positively known to be wrong, acting in rebellion against God, and a deliberate turning aside from His Law as revealed in the Scriptures. Yet he no doubt felt its truth about himself deeply. None are more conscious of sin than the truly righteous.
9.6 “Nor have we listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.”
They had added to their sins in that they had refused to listen to the words of the true prophets, who had spoken in YHWH’s name. All were involved in this, from the king downwards. Compare Jeremiah 7.25; 25.4; 26.5; 29.19; 44.17, 21; Nehemiah 9.32, 34; Ezra 9.7. The verses in Jeremiah demonstrate where Daniel obtained his ideas from, but he had distant memories of having seen it for himself. The references in Nehemiah and Ezra are more formal indicating that they come later than Daniel.
9.7 “O Lord, righteousness belongs to you (is what is yours), but to us confusion of face as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel who are near, and who are far off, through all the countries where you have driven them, because of their trespass which they have trespassed against you.”
He first acknowledges that God has been totally righteous in all His dealings with Israel. No blame could be set at His door. He had done all, and more than all, of what could have been expected. But His people, on the other hand, could only avoid His gaze in confusion, for they had failed Him utterly. The Hebrew is succint, ‘to You, honour, to us, dishonour’.
As a trained administrator Daniel distinguishes the three sections of Israel, Jerusalem, (which always saw itself as a separate city), Judah and all Israel, although in 1.3, 6 he uses the names interchangeably. Thus perhaps ‘all Israel’ is to be seen as including the others. But wherever Israel is found all will suffer confusion of face, inability to look God or good men in the face, because of the way in which they have broken His laws and done what they should not. And this is demonstrated by the fact that they have been scattered among the nations because of it.
9.8 “O Lord, to us belongs confusion of face, to our kings, and to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you.”
Daniel repeats his confession that they can only be ashamed before God. The princes were the heads of the tribes. ‘The fathers’, the heads of sub-tribes and family groups. All were responsible for guiding the behaviour of the people.
9.9-10 “To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him, nor have we obeyed the voice of YHWH our God, to walk in his laws which he set before us by his servants the prophets.”
He declares that YHWH is the compassionate and forgiving One. This is literally ‘compassions and forgivenesses’. The thought is of God’s continual acts of compassion and forgiveness, resulting from the fact of His compassion and His willingness to forgive.
Had it not been for His compassion and forgiveness they would have been totally destroyed, for they had rebelled against Him, they had not obeyed His voice, and they had not walked in His laws which had been fully explained to them by God’s servants the prophets. They were thus without excuse.
We can apply the same idea to ourselves. Before we point the finger at Israel we must look at our own lives.
9.11 “Yes, all Israel have transgressed your law, even turning aside that they should not obey your voice. Therefore has the curse been poured out on us, and the oath that is written in the Law of Moses the servant of God. For we have sinned against him.”
Daniel points back to the written Law. Remember his reference to Deuteronomy earlier. They have broken God’s Law. And they have also refused to listen to the voice of God through His prophets. That is why they have been cursed, as indeed God had warned them that they would be (Jeremiah 44.22; Deuteronomy 27.26; 29.20; and in detail 28.15 onwards; Leviticus 26.14 onwards).
Daniel Relates What Has Happened To What They Deserved Should Happen.
In this section Daniel does not speak to God directly, but indirectly. Indeed it may be that this short section was included by Daniel as an explanation of his prayer when he wrote the details down.
9.12 “And he has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us and against our judges who judged us, by bringing on us a great evil. For under the whole heaven has not been done as has been done to Jerusalem.”
What has happened to Jerusalem has in fact been a confirmation of the word of God. By His judgment He has demonstrated that He is a God Who does what He promises, and carries out what He says He will do (Jeremiah 35.17; 36.31). That is why this great evil has come on them.
‘For under the whole heaven has not been done as has been done to Jerusalem.’ If we were only thinking of the destruction of Jerusalem this would be a forgivable exaggeration. For other great cities have also been destroyed and razed to the ground. But he was thinking of more. He was also thinking of what Jerusalem had meant as the city of God, as God’s earthly dwellingplace. It was the most sacred city of all. Thus for it to be destroyed was a crime beyond telling. And they had enjoyed it and had lost it all. No one had ever lost what they had lost, for others had never enjoyed it.
9.13-14 “In accordance with what is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, all this evil has come on us, yet have we not appeased (begged the favour of) YHWH our God, that we should turn from our iniquities and have discernment in your truth. Therefore has YHWH watched over the evil and brought it on us. For YHWH our God is righteous in all his works which he does, and we have not obeyed his voice.”
Daniel acknowledged that all that had come on Israel was exactly what had been promised in God’s covenant, in the Book of the Law of Moses (compare Joshua 8.31; 23.6; 2 Kings 14.6) . He also acknowledged that they could have turned from their sin and sought God’s favour (for the meaning of the verb see 1 Kings 13.6; Jeremiah 26.19), but had failed to do so. They had refused to receive discernment and understanding through His truth. Thus YHWH had Himself seen all that they had done and had brought His judgment on them, something revealed in the evils that they faced (see Jeremiah 1.12; 31.28; 44.27). And he summed up the situation by acknowledging that YHWH was righteous in all that He had done and does, and that Israel’s fate was simply due to their own disobedience.
Note that it was not a question of them earning their deliverance. Deliverance required the favour and mercy of God, but it would always be available if they sought Him in repentance. But nevertheless without an obedient response there could be no deliverance. Responsive faith and obedience always go together.
Daniel’s Final Plea.
Daniel again begins to speak directly to God.
9.15-16 “And now, O Lord our God, you have brought your people forth out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have made for yourself a name as at this day. We have sinned, we have done wickedly. O Lord, in accordance with all your righteousness, let your anger and your fury, I pray you, be turned away from Jerusalem your city, the mountain of your holiness, because for our sins and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a reproach to all who are round about us.”
He reminds God as the Lord that by His great and powerful deliverance from Egypt He had established what He was, He had ‘made for Himself a Name’ which had continued to this day. He admitted that in themselves they deserved nothing. They had sinned and done wickedly. But He asked God to reveal the righteousness that all good men knew that He had, by turning His anger away from Jerusalem His city, from His holy mountain so that the reproach of non-Israelites round about, in what they said about YHWH, might be shown to be false. Thus it was to be for the sake of His own holy name (‘that they might know that I am the Lord YHWH’ was a regular cry on the lips of God through Ezekiel), not for the sake of His totally undeserving people who had brought this judgment on Jerusalem.
‘The mountain of your holiness.’ All that was left of Jerusalem at this time was the mountain and huddles of ruined buildings, some of which had probably been made barely habitable by people struggling to survive.
9.17-18 “Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant, and to his supplications, and cause your face to shine on your sanctuary which is desolate, for the Lord’s sake (or ‘which is desolate because of the Lord’). O my God, incline your ear and hear, open your eyes, and behold our desolations and the city which is called by your name. For we do not present our supplications before you for our righteousnesses, but for your great mercies.”
Daniel’s prayer bring out the feelings of the faithful among the exiles about Jerusalem and the Sanctuary. All their thoughts were centred on them, and their restoration, as though God’s purposes could not go on without them. They felt that until Jerusalem and the Sanctuary were restored God’s name would not be vindicated, nor would Israel be able to rise again, and the thought tore at their hearts. They had not heeded the message of Ezekiel which turned their thoughts away from Jerusalem to the presence of God in His heavenly temple on ‘a high mountain’ away from Jerusalem in a portion which was ‘very holy’, far holier than Jerusalem (Ezekiel 40.2 with 45.2-8). See our commentary on Ezekiel.
Gabriel would also seek to turn his thoughts away from Jerusalem to the fuller purposes of God. True it would be rebuilt, but then both city and sanctuary would be destroyed before God’s final purposes came to fruition. He was pointing out that they were only secondary in the purposes of God for Israel and the world.
Now, however, Daniel pleads with God on behalf of the sanctuary and the city. And he does it, not on the basis of the people’s deserving, but on the basis of His mercy. He asks Him to hear his pleading and let His face shine on the sanctuary which was desolate, and to turn His eyes on the situation of Jerusalem. To ‘let His face shine on’ means to again accept it and restore it and make it His earthly dwellingplace (Numbers 6.25; Psalm 80.3), and he is sure that once God takes a good look at Jerusalem and its devastation He will be moved for His own name’s sake to act on its behalf. His hope lies fully in the mercy of God.
‘For the Lord’s sake.’ A difficult expression in the context. Some see it as the equivalent of ‘For your sake, O Lord.’ Others as ‘desolate because of the Lord’. The latter may have been a well known saying, repeated here by Daniel verbatim.
‘The city which is called by your name’, or ‘on which your name is called’. Such a city was one over which the one named had exercised his sovereignty by conquest or restoration, or by virtue of great and memorable things done in it. The result was that men connected the name with the city. Thus Jerusalem was connected with the Name of YHWH.
‘For we do not present our supplications before you for our righteousnesses, but for your great mercies.’ He makes clear that that he recognises that if mercy is to be shown it will only be because God is merciful. There is no question of it being deserved in any way.
9.19 “O Lord, hear. O Lord, forgive. O Lord, listen and act, and do not put it off, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.”
Daniel’s prayer was becoming more fervent. His pleading increased, ‘hear, forgive, listen, act, do not put off’. His desperation is apparent. He would not take no for an answer, for he was deeply concerned for God’s reputation. The Lord must act for His own name’s sake, for the vindication of His name by restoring the city and the people which were called by His name.
Gabriel Appears With The Promise That God Will Fully Bring About His Purposes, But It Will Not Be Within Seventy Years But Within Seventy ‘Sevens’.
At this point deliverance for Israel was already in motion. In this first year of Cyrus the edict would be proclaimed which allowed Israel to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple (Ezra 1). The same would happen to many other nations. It was Cyrus’ policy. Indeed he restored many gods to their homelands from which Nabonidus had removed them, and in Israel’s case commanded that the temple vessels, stolen by Nebuchadnezzar, should be restored to them.
But while man was concerned for the city and the temple, God’s concern was for greater things. His vision far exceeded that of Daniel. The city and temple were secondary, indeed would eventually be put out of the way. What mattered was the final fulfilment of history in the establishing of the Rule of God in righteousness. And graciously He recognised that that was indeed the end that Daniel really intended without fully understanding it. He would grant him the greater blessing.
9.20-22 ‘And while I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before YHWH my God for the mountain of holiness of my God, yes, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly in weariness, touched me (or ‘reached me’) at about the time of the evening oblation. And he instructed me and talked with me, and said, “O Daniel, I have now come to make you to make you wise in understanding.” ’
The first part of these verses summarises Daniel’s petition. He has been praying audibly, and confessing both his own sinfulness, and also the sinfulness of his people Israel. And secondly he has been praying audibly for the restoration of God’s mountain of holiness, for the establishment of a new Israel in a new temple and a new Jerusalem. To Daniel that was the ultimate hope. From there would spring forth the purposes of God for the future. It was only in chapter 12 that he recognised a greater hope, the resurrection of men to face God and receive either blessing or cursing. But like Isaiah 26.19 he probably saw that resurrection as resulting in a new life on this earth for the righteous, and like Isaiah 66.24 he probably saw the fate of the wicked as connected with the valley of Hinnom.
And then ‘the man Gabriel’ appeared, the same Gabriel that he had previously seen and before whom he had collapsed in awe. Called here a man because that was his appearance (8.15-17).
‘Being caused to fly in weariness.’ The idea here is that he was sent with such promptness and speed that had he really been a man it would have exhausted him. Daniel wants us to be aware of how quickly God had responded to his prayer (verse 23).
‘Touched me about the time of the evening oblation.’ We are possibly to understand that Daniel had begun praying at first light and that he had prayed through the day. The evening oblation was the time of the evening offering which would have been offered before the light died if there had been a temple in Jerusalem. It was a time observed by the faithful in Israel for worship and prayer, because the sacrifice could no longer be offered. The verb ‘touched’ can also mean ‘reached’. Daniel’s aim may have been to remind us of 8.18, where Gabriel had made him ready to receive the vision by touching him, or it may have been simply to give the time of arrival.
‘And he instructed me (or ‘made me to understand’) and talked with me, and said, “O Daniel, I have now come to make you to make you wise in understanding.’ This sums up what will follow. Gabriel would instruct him in, and enable him to understand, the message that he had brought to him.
9.23 “At the beginning of your supplications the word went forth, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved. Therefore consider the matter and understand the vision.”
Gabriel assures him that ‘the word went forth’ for the fulfilment of his hopes right from the beginning of his prayer. He was not heard for his much speaking but because of the graciousness of God towards a beloved servant. The idea of ‘the word going forth’ is powerful. God makes His decree and sends forth His word to bring it about. The exact phraseology is paralleled in verse 25. Thus verse 25 must also be seen in similar terms. The word that goes forth there, is the word that has gone forth here. It is God’s word bringing about His purpose (compare Isaiah 55.11). We are not therefore left to hazard as to when the seventy sevens commences. It commences in 539/8 BC in the first year of Darius the Mede, when Daniel put forth his intercession for the rebuilding of the city and the Temple.
Here we learn the vital lesson that God’s response is prompt and not dependent on the volume of our prayers, as Jesus Himself would make clear (Matthew 6.7-8). But Daniel had not wasted his time. It had brought him nearer to God. Now he would learn what God was going to do in the future. His prayer had been the final touch to the prayers of all the faithful throughout the world. And he was to hear, and consider and understand.
The Great Vision.
We have come now to what is probably one of the most crucial passages in eschatology. It is the passage on which is based the idea of the ‘seven year’ tribulation, a concept which must be very seriously questioned. The Bible knows nothing of a seven year tribulation period, for as we shall see it is not in mind here, and the suggestion of seven years occurs nowhere else. And yet it is pivotal to many schemes. On the other hand this passage in Daniel is often also interpreted to fit in with those schemes with scant regard to the niceties of the Hebrew in this passage. I would therefore suggest that in view of the importance of the passage the first thing that we need to ask ourselves is, ‘what does the Hebrew actually say?’ And as we look at these verses that will be the first priority that we keep in mind.
So as a preliminary to our study let us consider some of the niceties of the Hebrew, and the first one that leaps to our attention is that the word for ‘prince’ in both cases is nagid. Elsewhere Daniel uses a number of words for ‘prince’ but the only time that he uses nagid is when he is speaking of an Israelite prince, a ‘prince of the covenant’ (11.22). And in 9.25 it is also clear that it is an Israelite prince that is in mind. The only possible ambiguous use is in verse 26 where it speaks of ‘the prince who is coming’. But as the coming of a prince (nagid) has been mentioned in verse 25 it seems reasonable to see ‘the coming prince’ in verse 26 as the same prince, that is, as the one previously referred to in verse 25 as coming, and thus as an Israelite prince. There are, however, those who seek to make it signify an foreign unknown prince who is coming. But if the latter was intended why did Daniel not use sar as he normally does?
This is especially so in that, outside Daniel, nagid as a title is a regular term for the anointed rulers of Israel. It is only once used in the singular of a ruler outside Israel, and then specifically of him as an ‘anointed one’, probably in ironic contrast to the son of David. Let us consider the facts.
From the earliest days nagid was a regular term applied to rulers of Israel, to Saul, David and Solomon (1 Samuel 9.16; 10.1; 13.14; 25.30; 2 Samuel 5.2; 6.21; 7.8; 1 Kings 1.35) and to early rulers of Israel and Judah after Solomon (1 Kings 14.7; 16.2; 2 Kings 20.5) . Saul was anointed ‘nagid’ (1 Samuel 9.16; 10.1). David was to replace him as ‘nagid’ (1 Samuel 13.14), as David himself acknowledged (2 Samuel 6.21). And it was a title of honour recognised by others (1 Samuel 25.30; 2 Samuel 5.2; 6.21; 7.8) And even though David later saw Solomon as king, he still recognised that in his becoming king Solomon would be appointed ‘nagid’ (1 Kings 1.35). God was King, each king was His chosen nagid, His anointed representative and war leader. It will further be noted that in all the verses except one (2 Kings 20.5) it is used of the initial appointment of the king. However, 2 Kings 20.5 is probably not to be seen as an exception, for there it is used by God of Hezekiah, and we may therefore well see that reference as also having the fact that he was a God-appointed king in mind.
In the remainder of the Old Testament there is only one use of nagid where it refers to a foreign prince, and that is when it is applied by Ezekiel to the king of Tyre at the point where he is claiming to be a god. This is found in Ezekiel 28.2. There is, however, very good reason for seeing its use there as deliberately derisive, contrasting him with his grand claims with God’s chosen princes. The contrast is between on the one hand him as a self-proclaimed ‘nagid’, one who claims to be the chosen of the gods (see verse 2), an ‘anointed’ cherub (verse 14), and on the other hand the true nagid of the people of God, who are the true anointed of God, and adopted as His sons (Psalm 2.7; 2 Samuel 7.14; Psalm 89.26-27). It is derisive of his great and blasphemous claims. He thinks he is a ‘nagid’ but he is only a king. Later in the passage he is in fact called ‘the king of Tyre’ (28.12). Thus nagid in its use here also points to one anointed and divinely chosen.
Daniel maintains this emphasis when he speaks of ‘the prince of the covenant’ in 11.28 and when he speaks in 9.25 of ‘an anointed one, a nagid’, clearly connecting the use of nagid with one who is anointed by God.
In the plural, but only in the plural, it is also used of important men in authority in Israel and Judah, for example of ‘rulers over the house of God’, of rulers of priestly courses, and of grand viziers of Judah and Israel, once kingship was fully established, who all represented God under the king. In the plural it is also used more generally in Psalm 76.12, but even there it may actually signify princes of Israel in contrast with the kings of the earth. The only time it is ever definitely applied outside Israel and Judah is in 2 Chronicles 32.21, where it is used in the plural of the king of Assyria’s war leaders. Thus even in the plural it is almost always used of leaders of Israel, although not totally exclusively.
In the singular, however, its only certain use of a foreign prince, even outside Daniel, is in Ezekiel 28.2, and there it is as one chosen of the gods, and whose anointing is mentioned in context (verse 14), and as we have suggested, the idea of the nagid of Israel is in mind as a contrast. It is being used ironically while keeping its basic meaning in mind. He is being seen as imitating the true nagids of YHWH.
That being so there is overwhelming reason for seeing nagid in the singular as being a unique title referring exclusively to princes of Israel as representatives of God, a title used when they are appointed, adopted as His sons and anointed in His name. If this be so it means that we should then see ‘the people of the nagid who is coming’ as referring to Israel as the people of an Israelite prince, and it would seem sensible to parallel it with ‘the coming prince’ whom they had rejected and killed. This explains fully why the action is referred to the people and not to the prince. The prince was dead. And as we shall see later there are other reasons also why we should interpret it in this way.
The second thing we should note is that ‘the covenant’ mentioned in verse 27 is ‘confirmed’ not made. Now the only covenant mentioned elsewhere in Daniel is in 9.4; 11.22, (where there is reference to Israel’s ‘nagid’ as ‘the prince of the covenant’); 11.28, 30, 32. Thus in Daniel ‘covenant’ always means ‘the holy covenant with God’. It is God’s covenant with His people, closely connected with His nagid. We should note in this regard that the idea of the covenant has already been introduced in this chapter (verse 4), and is clearly continually in mind.
The third thing that we should note is that there is no mention anywhere of ‘years’. Indeed the seventy ‘sevens’ are contrasted with the seventy ‘years’ prophesied by Jeremiah. Deliverance for Judah will come after seventy years, but God’s full and final deliverance will only come after seventy ‘sevens’. There are therefore no real grounds for applying the idea of ‘years’ to the seventy ‘sevens’.
The more detailed niceties we will refer to as we come to them.
9.24 “Seventy sevens are decreed on your people, and on your holy city, to finish transgression, and to make and end of sin, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy (‘one’ or ‘place’).”
The seventy sevens are here seen as not only making the situation right between the nation and God, resulting at the commencement in the rebuilding of the city and the sanctuary in the first ‘seven’, (which was what the seventy years of Jeremiah had in mind), but also as resulting in the making of a way of final full restoration and acceptability with God, and the final fulfilment of all prophecy, which includes all nations. The whole world is in mind.
‘Seventy sevens.’ These seventy ‘sevens’ are in contrast with Jeremiah’s seventy ‘years’. Thus the idea is that final and full deliverance will occur in God’s timing. What Gabriel is saying is that far beyond the limited statement of Jeremiah concerning seventy years there was rather to be a period of seventy ‘sevens’ which would result in the fulfilment of God’s final purposes. In other words the ‘sevens’ (divinely perfect time periods) replace years. This expresses the ultra divinely perfect period. Seven is the number of perfection and seventy is an intensification of that number (see Genesis 4.24). Thus there are to be a divinely perfect number, not of years per Jeremiah, but of divinely perfect periods. God has them measured, even if man does not, and they are perfect within His will. The word for ‘sevens’ is unusually in the masculine plural, as in 10.2, 3 (and in Genesis 29.27 in the singular). Perhaps this was to stress the importance of these periods. They would be powerfully effective. (Further consideration will shortly be given to the interpretation of ‘sevens’).
‘Are determined on your people and on your holy city.’ The limited view that suggests that therefore these verses only refer to Israel misses the point. God’s purpose for Israel and the holy city (Isaiah 2.2-4; Micah 4.1-3; Jeremiah 3.17; Zechariah 14.8-9) was that finally they should be a blessing to the world. So Israel was not here for itself, it was here for the world. From the time of the first promise to Abraham of blessing on all nations (Genesis 12.3), through the appointment of Israel as a kingdom of priests in the Sinai covenant (Exodus 19.6), to the recognition that they were to be God’s servant to the nations in Isaiah 42 onwards, the divine emphasis was always on their status and position as world functionaries (see Isaiah 49.6). What God determined on His people He determined for the sake of the world. Thus this prophecy has a world view.
The result of the seventy sevens is to be:
In our view these descriptions cancel out any interpretation of these seventy ‘sevens’ that falls short of resulting in final perfection. There is no space for an inadequate ‘kingdom age’ to follow. Perfection has been achieved. And although there is a genuine sense in which Christ’s work on the cross and His resurrection fulfilled what is described here up to a point, it did not at that time bring it to complete fulfilment. That awaits the coming of Christ in glory and the final judgment. In our view it is not sufficient to stop short in a partial fulfilment at Christ’s first coming, glorious and initially complete though that was. Daniel is clearly, in the end, thinking of the final consummation.
It has been said that there is no clear indication of what closes off the seventieth ‘seven’, but we find this suggestion quite remarkable. For we have it stated here quite clearly. It is closed by the final fulfilment of all God’s purposes brought to a state of perfection and completion. In terms of verse 27 it is closed by ‘the consummation’.
9.25 “Know therefore and discern, that from the going forth of the command to restore and to build Jerusalem to the anointed one, the prince (nagid), will be seven sevens, and sixty two sevens. It will be built again with street and moat, even in troubled times.”
The command (literally ‘word’) to restore and build Jerusalem almost certainly refers to God’s command for it to happen spoken of in verse 23, for the same phraseology is used by the angel to Daniel there. In verse 23 the ‘word (of the Lord) went forth’ in response to Daniel’s prayer for the restoration of the land, the city and the Temple. That would appear to indicate that the word that goes forth here is the same word. In terms of verse 23 that dates the commencement of the seventy sevens as being the first year of the reign of Darius the Mede, which is 539/8 BC. The fulfilment of that word on earth proceeded in stages. It commenced with the decree of Cyrus in 538 BC (Ezra 1.2-4) which, although it was specifically about rebuilding the temple, necessarily involved other building work in the city with the purpose of housing those who would have direct responsibility for the Temple. That is possibly why in Isaiah 44.28 Cyrus is seen as declaring of Jerusalem ‘she shall be built’ and of the Temple ‘your foundation will be laid’. A further edict was decreed in the time of Nehemiah in 445 BC (Nehemiah 2.8), and there the city was to be fortified with walls and made a governing city of the area. Furthermore the words in Ezra 4.12-16 also indicate that an attempt had previously been made to continue the work of building Jerusalem, an attempt stymied by the activities of enemies of Jerusalem. Some work had already proceeded, certainly sufficient to arouse the ire of the complainants, and the consequence of their complaint was that the work was immediately suspended (Ezra 4.21-24). It is clear therefore that the work was proceeding ‘in troubled times’.
It was the rise of Nehemiah that resulted in a great advance in the situation. It was he who received the king’s authority to rebuild the city and its walls, and to establish it as an independent city, thus demonstrating that God was ensuring that His plan to go forward. It was then, and only then, that Jerusalem could become what for Israel it had always been, a capital city, ruling over its own dependency. Note the words spoken to Daniel, it would be built with street and moat, a planned and defendable city, not a huddle of houses. This presumably occurred within the first ‘seven.
The importance of this is clear. When Jerusalem was destroyed and ceased to be a ruling city, that was the sign that God had forsaken His people. And while it was trodden down that situation remained. The almost overwhelming vehemence of Ezekiel’s cries that ‘Jerusalem must be destroyed’ was the seal that God had closed a chapter in the history of Israel and Judah. (Later indeed, in other circumstances, after another destroying of Jerusalem, we are told that the times of the Gentiles will continue while Jerusalem was trodden down (Luke 21.24) demonstrating again that it was Jerusalem primarily and the Temple only secondarily that was seen as the prime test of God’s favour on the Jews).
Up to the time of Nehemiah Jerusalem had again been populated to some extent, but it was as a huddle of buildings with its own small Temple, and it was ruled from elsewhere and had little real authority. It was merely a provincial town of no importance and no status, part of a larger province, with no independence. It was still a dream in Israelite hearts rather than a reality. It was Nehemiah who rebuilt the walls and made it once more a ruling city with its pride restored (Nehemiah 5.14). It was Nehemiah who made ‘Jerusalem’ truly independent from the surrounding nations. Thus the word going forth in Daniel’s prophecy must be seen as resulting both in the edict of Cyrus and in the edict of Artaxerxes concerning Nehemiah, when Jerusalem once again began to count for something.
‘To an anointed one, a prince (nagid) will be seven sevens, and sixty two sevens.’ There is no indication from the Hebrew whether the coming of the anointed prince was to be after the seven sevens or the sixty two sevens. However the fact that the anointed one will be cut off at the end of the sixty two ‘sevens’ would appear to date his coming at that time. So we must ask, what is the significance of the split into two sections ? For nothing is specifically stated as happening at that time (unless we see it in the reference to the building of the city with street and moat in troubled times), and anointed princes were coming along in Israel all the time. It should be noted that this is not intended to be an ongoing prophecy like those in chapter 7, 8 and 11, covering different aspects of history. In this prophecy all the emphasis is on the achievement of God’s ends. This being so we must probably see this anointed prince as being also the one described in verse 26. All eyes are on his coming.
The main answer to the question of the reason for the split almost certainly lies in the nature of seven ‘sevens’. We must look at this from the perspective of Israel and understand in this regard that ‘seven’ was a distinctive period for Israel. Time for them was split up into seven day periods, with the seventh day a sabbath; then into moon periods; then into years; and then into seven year periods, with the seventh year a sabbath for the land; and then finally into ‘seven sevens of years’ (Leviticus 25.8) with the fiftieth year a year of Yubile (Leviticus 25.10-12), a time when all Israelite bondservants would be released and land outside of walled cities would revert to its original owners (see Leviticus 25 & 27). All Israel would then be made free again. Thus time was seen as moving forward in seven day periods, and then in seven year periods and then in forty nine year periods (seven sevens of years). The fiftieth year was not strictly a year like all the others but overlapped the forty ninth year at the end of one period and the first year that began to next period of forty nine years. The Jews therefore saw time as moving forward in sevens.
Thus if seven days ended up with the sabbath and seven years ended up with the sabbath for the land and seven sevens of years ended up with the year of Yubile, then seven ‘sevens’ might well have been seen as a period ending with a seventh ‘seven’ which would be a time of special blessing. Seemingly this would be the period when the street and moat of Jerusalem would be built in troubled times, the street indicating a populated city, the moat indicating a city with strong defences (verse 25). Thus by the time of the seventh ‘seven’ Jerusalem would have been established as a populated and fortified city. And they might well have seen that as indicating that the kingdom of blessing would then come. The angel is therefore careful to explain that that will not be so. For the seven ‘sevens’ will simply lead into the sixty two ‘sevens’. They were not to look for a quick solution. The purpose of this is n order to emphasise that there will be a considerable length of time which must pass before what is prophesied finally comes about. The everlasting kingdom will not be issued in by the restoration of the city and building of the sanctuary.
This is not suggesting that we are to think strictly of a certain period of years. Indeed it rather brings out that we are dealing in ‘sevens’ not years. Not ‘seven days’, not ‘seven years’, nor seven sevens of years, but seven ‘sevens’, seven divinely determined periods. And these will then be followed by a period of a further sixty two ‘sevens’, and then by a final period of ‘a seven’. And these are clearly to occur in sequence. There is not even a hint of a gap in between. The first ‘seven’ (divinely determined period) sees the establishment of Jerusalem. The second series of ‘sevens’ will end in the coming of the anointed Prince, and the third ‘seven’ will bring about the consummation, the final fulfilment of prophecy and the introduction of the everlasting kingdom.
(At this point an interesting fact should be considered. In prophetic and general calculations months tended to be seen as of thirty days. This was equally used for convenience outside prophetic circles. It was a useful approximation. Of course true months per the moon were for twenty eight to twenty nine days, but this made for awkwardness, whilst our method of calculating months would not have been known to Daniel. Men lived by moon periods. So for calculation purposes a month was often seen as thirty days. Consider the 1,260 days of Revelation 11.3 which equates to forty two months which is intended to represent three and a half years (Revelation 11.2 with 11.3), and the 150 days of the flood which seems to indicate five months (Genesis 7.11 with 8.4). If we take the first sixty nine sevens as years and count them as being 360 days in length (12 times 30) we have 483 x 360, and the number of days resulting after the edict given to Nehemiah would actually, quite remarkably, bring us to the time of Jesus ministry on earth. This is so extraordinary a ‘coincidence’ that some find it difficult to see it as a mere coincidence. But the fact is that the angel has made quite clear when ‘the word went forth’ (verses 23 and 25) and that was in 359/8 BC. Thus the main idea behind the seventy ‘sevens’ (rather than ‘seventy years’ as prophesied by Jeremiah) is of God’s perfect timing and a divinely perfect number of God-determined periods of activity of a duration unknown to man, as with the ‘seven times’ in 4.16. It should be noted in this regard that neither Jesus nor the Apostles ever seized on this passage as evidence that Jesus had come as ‘the anointed One’, nor did anyone else in the early church. That must count against its having a timing significance).
‘To an anointed one, a prince (or ‘to Messiah the Prince’).’ The latter translation would mean that we have here the first specific reference to the Messiah, although not to the Messianic idea, which occurs fairly regularly in the Old Testament. But either way, in these words all the emphasis is on this prince. He is the one who is coming, and to whom all should look forward. This account is all about ‘the anointed One, the Prince’, who is coming, and what is done to him, and what subsequently follows.
9.26 “And after the sixty two sevens the anointed one will be cut off, and will have nothing, and the people of the coming prince will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And their end will be with a flood. And even to the end there will be war. Desolations are determined.”
Now if we read this verse without preconceived notions, and without a theory to be supported, the natural interpretation of this verse is that the anointed prince, who was to come after the sixty nine ‘sevens’ have passed, will be cut off, and that his people will then destroy the city and the sanctuary. And this is supported by the fact that the prince is a ‘nagid’ (a prince of Israel, see earlier in the passage) in both cases. Note especially that on this interpretation verse 25 speaks of ‘the anointed one, the prince’, then verse 26 refers to him first as ‘the anointed one’ and then as ‘the prince’. Thus the three references fit together as referring to the same person in three different ways, the first combining both terms and preparing for the other two.
Indeed on this basis the whole passage fits together. The prince arrives. Rebellion takes place. The prince is cut off (compare Leviticus 7.20; Psalm 37.9; Isaiah 53.8). Then his rebellious people destroy the city and sanctuary. But could this be seen as happening to God’s anointed prince? Could it be that the One for whom Israel has waited should be cut off (put to death for gross sin), and finish up with nothing?
That that could be seen as happening is evidenced by Isaiah’s picture of the anointed prophet who, personifying Israel, comes to proclaim the truth to Israel (Isaiah 49.1-6), is falsely tried, smitten, spat on and shamed (Isaiah 50.6; 53.7-8), and sets his face like a flint to go towards his destiny (Isaiah 50.7), with the result that he is made to suffer and is offered as a sacrifice (Isaiah 53.3-5, 8, 10-12), thereby accomplishing the will of God (Isaiah 53.10). And finally He is to be exalted, extolled and be very high (Isaiah 52.13). Daniel may well have had this picture and thought in mind, especially if we link it with the anointed prophet in Isaiah 61.1.
The fact is that all were looking forward to the coming of an anointed Prince (Isaiah 11.1-2; 9.6-7; 55.3; Hosea 3.4-5) or Prophet (Deuteronomy 18.15, 18; Isaiah 42.1-4; 49.1-6; 53.1-12; 61.1-2). But the prophets had come to realise that when such a One came Israel would reject Him, because He would not fulfil their expectations, They would put Him away because He was too righteous (compare Zechariah 13.7). But above all they recognised that somehow, in spite of what they did, God’s purposes would be fulfilled through that rejection.
Of course this picture will not be pleasing to those who want to see Antiochus Epiphanes as the prince who destroys the sanctuary (but why then a nagid?), nor to those who want to see it as referring to Titus or the king of the end days. But it is very questionable whether any of these could be given the title ‘nagid’, which means a prince anointed by God and chosen as His adopted son. Indeed it is difficult to see why Antiochus Epiphanes or the king of the end days should be called ‘prince’ at all, or why they would be spoken of, uniquely, in terms of their people. They are always referred to elsewhere as ‘king’. And there is really no reason why the Roman invasion should not have been attributed to a king, for Titus was acting on his father’s authority. But these difficulties are often simply overlooked because they get in the way of a theory.
A further point to be made is that the reference is to ‘the people of the prince who is coming.’ Now if the prince has been cut off we can see immediately why they should be so described. On the other hand Daniel does not otherwise normally refer to ‘the people’. He refers directly to the king or the kingdom, whilst the people who follow the king are assumed. Why then this sudden change? Why say ‘the people of Antiochus’ or ‘the people of Titus’? It is very odd indeed and against all precedent.
However there is one circumstance where ‘the people’ are referred to rather than the prince, and that is in 7.27 where reference is to the people of God in contrast with the kings and their kingdoms. They are called ‘the people of the saints of the Most High’. There the emphasis is on the people and not the prince. Thus general usage is against the phrase ‘the people of the coming prince’ being seen as signifying a worldly ruler and is in favour of it indicating Israel, although in this case Israel in rebellion.
But how then was this fulfilled? Certainly an ‘anointed prince’ came in Jesus Christ (Jesus the anointed One), and certainly He was put to death and had nothing. And certainly by their act of crucifying Jesus Israel brought on its own head the wrath of God resulting in the destruction of the city and the sanctuary. This was something that Jesus again and again pointed out would happen. The act of rejecting and crucifying Him was constantly connected by Him with the idea of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.
They had refused to listen to Him when He sought to gather them as chickens under His wings and their house would therefore be left to them desolate (Matthew 23.37-38; 24.2; compare John 2.19). The fig tree was to be cursed and the mountain was to be thrown into the sea (Mark 11.21-22). Jesus was confident that the Temple would be destroyed, and that must surely have been with His coming death in mind (Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21). Compare how in the same context in Daniel as this verse Jerusalem’s previous destruction came from a curse on them in Daniel 9.11-12. So by this act of cutting off the Messiah the people are seen by Daniel as again putting themselves under a curse, and thus, by it, bringing about the effective destruction of the city and the sanctuary.
Furthermore it should be noted that very similar language was in fact used by the Jewish historian Josephus in 1st century AD, who also ascribed the destruction of Jerusalem to his own people and their behaviour. He says, ‘I venture to say that the sedition destroyed the city and the Romans destroyed the sedition.’ And again, ‘I should not mistake if I said that the death of Ananus was the beginning of the destruction of the city, and that from this very day may be dated the overthrow of her walls.’ (Italics ours).
And when we look at what happened we can understand why he said it. For the story of the end of Jerusalem in 70 AD is almost unbelievable. The Jews behaved like madmen. They fought each other even while the armies of Rome were approaching the city, and in consequence they sacked much of the city. They even destroyed the grain supplies to prevent their rivals from using them. The different factions then defended different places from which they glared at each other, and made sallies against each other, although in the end also, with much bravery, fighting the Romans. And it must seem very probable that they did deliberately set alight their own temple in order to prevent Titus from desecrating it (Titus had given strict orders for the preservation of the Temple). So the suggestion that they destroyed their own city is certainly historically true, and if Josephus could thus date this destruction of Jerusalem from the death of Ananus, how much more could it be dated from the death of their God sent Messiah.
How poignant is the picture. The city and sanctuary having been built, the anointed prince comes. But the people are so sinful that they ‘cut Him off’, (a phrase which regularly signifies someone cut off for gross sin) and then by their actions bring about the destruction of the very city and sanctuary which they had so longed for. Retribution indeed. By it the sinfulness of man is revealed to its fullest extent. But by it also the city and sanctuary are finished. They are written off. Hope now lies totally in God. In other words this revelation is emphasising that final hope must not be placed in the city of Jerusalem or in the Temple
We must pause for a moment to consider this picture. Daniel has seen and known of the process of Jerusalem’s first destruction, which has witnessed to the sinfulness of his people, he has been informed of the sacrilege to happen against the second temple in the days of Antiochus Epiphanes, which was to be the end of the days of indignation against his people’s sins (8.19), and now he learns that Jerusalem and the sanctuary are once more to be destroyed, this time by his own people. The message could only be that once again his people as a whole will fail to truly respond to God, that no hope can be placed in them, even though they have been given another chance.
‘And their end will be with a flood. And even to the end there will be war. Desolations are determined.’ Scripture often describes invaders in terms of a flood. See 11.22; Isaiah 8.7-8; 17.13; Jeremiah 46.8. So Israel having killed their Messiah will experience the flood of God’s anger (Nahum 1.8). Reference is made to ‘their end’, which comes suddenly, and then to ‘the end’. This could be to the end of a new period of God’s indignation against them (compare 8.19), or possibly to the end of time. Either way it is described in terms of war. Jesus may well have had this verse in mind when He spoke of wars and rumours of wars (Mark 13.7). Some have tried to see ‘even to the end’ as signifying a gap between the sixty ninth and seventieth week. But if that were so it would leave the destruction of the city and the Temple to occur before the gap, and thus in the sixty ninth seven. For their theory it is simply self-defeating. And it is difficult to see ‘to the end’ as signifying any other than what it says. To the end of the seventy ‘sevens’.
‘Desolations are determined.’ The world and its sinfulness is such that there can only be desolations. Man in his inner heart does not change unless transformed by the power of Christ. Thus his continuing sinfulness will result in desolations, and is the reason why God determines desolations on him. War and desolations are to be the future of mankind.
Note On The Prince Who Will Come.
The natural interpretation of the prince who will come in the context, given that the reference is to his people, is that it refers to the prince already described as coming in verse 25. He has been cut off and therefore his people are left to act on their own. This would tie in with the use of nagid, which almost always refers to a king of Israel appointed by God, and it would also link him and his death with the destruction of the city and the Temple, something which the Gospels do of the death of Jesus.
There is, however, another popular view (although not among most scholars) which attempts to see in this description a reference to a king who will come prior to the second coming of Christ. The idea is that his people are mentioned (which they see as the Romans) pointing to the fact that the king of those final days of the age will also be connected with the Roman empire, a Roman empire that is revived. But this view must be rejected for a number of reasons:
Thus everything about this interpretation is wrong.
End of note.
9.27 “And he/they will make a covenant to prevail (‘will confirm covenant’) with many for one seven, and in the midst of the seven they will cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, and even to the consummation, and that determined, will wrath be poured out on the desolator.”
It should be noted that there is no clear indication here of any break between the sixty nine sevens and the seventieth seven. The natural interpretation if we were not trying to fit it into history would be that the seventieth seven follows on immediately after the sixty ninth seven.
It will be observed immediately that it is suggested that the singular verbs could be translated in the plural. And the reason that this is has been done is because the obvious antecedent to the he/they is ‘the people of the coming prince’, for they are the subject of the previous sentence. This is because the word for ‘people’ is a collective singular noun and therefore requires a singular Hebrew verb, although in English we translate as a plural. The translation is therefore a correct rendering of the Hebrew if the people are being referred to.
Many see the subject of the verbs as being ‘the coming prince’ of verse 26 or the ‘anointed one, the prince’ of verse 25. Both are possible. But neither are grammatically the most likely. Indeed the genitive ‘of the prince’ is extremely unlikely as an antecedent, for the emphasis of the phrase is on the people and the prince is only an identifying factor, and it is extremely unusual in Hebrew for the subject of a verb to indicate a previous genitive. On the other hand the mention of the ‘other’ prince is too far away really to be an antecedent, and besides, as the ‘other’ prince has been cut off, the idea of him confirming a covenant could only be derived from elsewhere. Neither is a totally insuperable objection but they do make either interpretation extremely unlikely. An alternative suggestion is that the initial ‘he’ is referring to God. The sudden introduction of God as ‘he’ without any other identification is something that occurs elsewhere in the Old Testament. But the undeniable fact is that Hebrew verbs with no subject usually look back to the subject of the previous sentence. And as that makes complete sense in this case we can see no reason why should we look elsewhere, especially as ‘the covenant’ in Daniel always means the holy covenant.
What is to take place here is within the final ‘seven’, that final period of God’s divinely perfect activity of unknown duration which will bring His final purposes to pass.
The people of the prince who has been cut off, will at some stage recognise their rebellion for what it was and, realising that they have by their actions breached their holy covenant, will come to renew it before God, (as many such as Paul did) including within that renewal the ‘many’ who had not breached it, the true Israel of God, Gods true people. The word ‘many’ is regularly used by Daniel when referring to people of an uncertain number and identity (8.25; 11.14, 18, 26, 33, 34, 39, 41, 44; 12.3, 4, 10, compare also its use in Isaiah 53.11). This is a picture of the widespread conversion of Jews to their Messiah, to Christ, and of their rapprochement with the true people of God, something which did happen in the early days of the church prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Such a conversion is seen as having taken place in the early chapters of Acts when large numbers of Jews responded to the preaching of the Apostles and the followers of Jesus, and it continued as the message went out into the wider world, with many Jewish Christians (including Paul) preaching the Gospel in the synagogues around the know world.
This period may be seen as immediately following the cutting off of the prince, as ‘the many’ of His followers are joined by large numbers of other repentant Jews in the confirming of God’s covenant through Christ, resulting in the new Israel, and then in the bringing in to the new Israel of the Gentiles who are converted to Christ (Romans 11.17-20; Galatians 3.29; 6.16; Ephesians 2.12, 19-22).
The ceasing of true worship in the midst of the seven may then be seen as referring back to the reference to the destruction of the sanctuary, or alternatively it may refer to apostasies that will occur as a result of persecutions, such as those referred to in the letter to the Hebrews.
It should be noted in this regard that verses 26a and 27 can be seen as parallel. Each commences at the time when the anointed prince is cut off, and each goes up to ‘the end’. Thus we may see in them two reactions of ‘the people of the Prince’. The one the reaction of those who rejected Him, and continued to do so, the other the reaction of those who after His death (and resurrection) responded to him. The whole of Israel rarely acted as one.
But some consider it the more natural reading to see verse 27 as following the destruction of Jerusalem and the sanctuary. That would not, however, require a ‘gap’ for the destruction of city and sanctuary could well be directly connected with the cutting off of the prince, and be seen as occurring within the sixty ninth ‘seven’. Nevertheless they try to argue that this must be seen as occurring towards ‘the end’, when a great turning back of Israel to God through Christ is to be expected (Joel 2.15-17, 32; Zechariah 8.21-23; Romans 11.23, 26-32). This is especially the case for those who wish to treat the ‘sevens’ as years (in order to make the years fit). On this basis it would refer to a wholesale conversion in the end days. But the interpretation has to be ‘read in’. it is not a natural interpretation of the passage.
This idyllic final ‘seven’ will be interrupted, for in the midst of the ‘seven’ the sacrifices and oblations will be caused to cease. In context this should probably be seen as another way of indicating the destruction of the Temple already mentioned in the previous verse. This was a blow to both unbelieving Jews and to believing Christian Jews who still engaged in Temple worship. Alternately it can be seen as indicating that, after the renewal of the covenant, many will again turn away from Christ, probably as a result of the activities of persecutors, and possibly following some proscription of Jewish Christians (or all Christians) by the powers that be, and especially finally by the horn, the small one, of chapter 7 who is to ‘wear out the saints of the Most High’ (7.25 compare Revelation 11). Thus they will cease to worship and honour God, and will renege on their commitment to Christ. They will cease to honour His sacrifice on their behalf. They will ‘cause the sacrifice and oblation to cease’, not literally, for there will be no literal sacrifices (no new temple has been posited), but the spiritual sacrifices of worship, praise and thanksgiving through Christ’s own sacrifice of Himself ( Romans 12.1; Hebrews 13.15; 1 Peter 2.5; Mark 12.33). Given a further chance they will have once again failed. Either way desolation is to follow, something which has occurred regularly throughout subsequent history.
(It must always, however, be recognised that throughout all these failures of Israel there have always been a remnant who have carried on the purposes of God. God has never been left without a witness. And it was this remnant which became the new true Israel and which Jesus used for the spreading of the Gospel incorporating into it converted Gentiles who thus themselves became part of the true Israel. Thus were God’s promises for Israel fulfilled even when Israel as a whole failed).
‘And on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate.’ ‘Abominations’ regularly refers to idolatry and ungodliness. Thus the reference here may be to the Roman armies who continued to wreak desolation throughout Palestine. Or it may signify persecution wrought by idolatrous emperors against the people of God. Thus desolation is a keynote of what follows the cutting off of the Messiah, and the destruction of the Temple, and it will especially affect Palestine. Such desolations certainly resulted in Palestine later becoming bereft of Jews. But they tie in with Jesus’ warning of what the future held for the world (‘wars and rumours of wars’). And this will go on until the final consummation determined by God, at which point judgment will be poured out on the desolator (see 12.1-3; Revelation 19.11-21).
‘The wing of abomination.’ The thought of the singular ‘wing’ may be that false religion can only offer half of what it pretends. It flies with one wing, and is therefore deficient and lacking. It, as it were limps, along. (This is a vision so that the question of whether it is possible to fly with one wing is irrelevant, and anyway it could be argued that it flies like an injured bird). There may here be a deliberate contrast with the One Who carries His people on eagles’ wings, on two wings (Exodus 19.4; Deuteronomy 32.11). Others refer it to the wing of the temple, as an indication that the desolator is parodying the temple, or indeed replaces the Temple. The singular may, however, just be similar to our use when we speak of ‘a bird on the wing’.
Some see the seventieth seven as referring to the time when Christ was on earth, with the renewing of the covenant then taking place through the ministry of Jesus, and the ceasing of sacrifices and offerings coming about through His death. This is then followed by an indeterminate period, the final part of God’s plans of unknown duration, in which the people of God have to face the tribulations ahead until God’s final judgment. The problem with this interpretation in my view is that it here treats the cessation of sacrifice and offering as a good thing, whereas elsewhere in Daniel it is a bad thing (8.11-12; 12.10-11). Nor does it lead up to the final consummation.
‘And even to the consummation (or ‘full end’), and that determined, will wrath be poured out on the desolator.
Finally the troubles must cease, for the full end is coming as determined by God, and then wrath will be poured out on the desolator. We are left to recognise that the consummation indicates the great blessings of verse 24 will become true for God’s own people. For the final destruction of evil coincides with the triumph of the people of God. Both are sides of the same coin, and the latter was the central purpose of the vision.
Note. Could There Be a Break Between the Sixty Nine Sevens and the Seventieth Seven?
The fact of such a gap has been seen by some as suggested by the phrase ‘to the end’. Elsewhere in Daniel we have examples of history foretold and then of a sudden jump to ‘the end’. Contrast 11.29-35 with 11.36-45. In chapter 11 the contrast between those two sections is so remarkable that two different periods of activity appear to be in mind, and the latter takes us on to ‘the time of the end’. This phenomenon is found in all the prophets. Regularly there is a gap between the near fulfilment and the far fulfilment.
Compare and contrast also the ‘small horn’ (a small horn is an indication of a horn that is starting to grow) of the third empire in 8.20-26 with that of the fourth empire in 7.20-25 where the contrasts are far more than the similarities. The former deals with Antiochus’ persecutions, the latter with the time of the end. But there is no real reason for seeing a gap here in chapter 9, which reads like a continuous sequence, while ‘to the end’ would seem to indicate what it says, something that will occur to the very end, not something which will be followed by a further ‘seven’.
Certainly, if the seventy sevens is taken to mean seventy sevens of years (on no really satisfactory grounds, for in context the seventy ‘sevens’ are contrasted with Jeremiah’s seventy ‘years’) then there must be a gap, for the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple did not take place within seven years of the death of Christ. This would, of course, depend on what the ‘seventieth seven’ means. If it is ‘a divinely perfect time of unknown length’, as we believe, then all that is described in verses 26-27 can be encompassed in that ‘seven’. It simple represents ‘the end of the ages’ which began at the time of Christ’s death (1 Corinthians 10.11; Hebrews 9.26; 1 Peter 1.20; 4.7). When we are dealing with God time is irrelevant. To him a thousand years, or even ten thousand, could be accomplished within a ‘seven’, His final perfect activity.
Furthermore, here in chapter 9 Daniel sums up what follows the cutting off of the Messiah by ‘their end will be with a flood’. Whose end? Why, surely the people of the coming Prince (a singular noun in Hebrew followed by a singular verb). They will be destroyed by a flood of invaders (compare 11.22). And the phrase that follows, ‘and even to the end shall be war, desolations are determined’ is an indefinite and vague phrase that can cover many situations. Mankind will continue to face suffering and hardship because they are the result of their own sin.
That such a history would be theirs is actually confirmed by Jesus in Luke 21.24 where He speaks of the coming in of the invaders, the times of the Gentiles, and the terrible and long exile of the Jewish people (described in Matthew as included in the ‘great tribulation’ which they would suffer under the invasion of Titus and the mad antics of their own fanatical leaders), which would commence with the destruction of the city and the sanctuary, when ‘the times of the Gentiles’ would begin. Thus the ‘seventy sevens which are determined upon your people’ (9.24) could possibly be seen as suspended, but there are no grounds in the text for suggesting it.
The idea of a gap in the history of the Jews may also be seen as suggested by Paul in Romans 11.15-24. Indeed that is exactly his argument. He is dealing with the problem of God turning away from His people and setting them aside and answers it along two lines.
Given this fact Paul clearly saw a period when the unbelieving part of the Jewish nation would be put into the background, followed in the end by a great work of God among that people as they come in response to Christ. There can in fact be no future for the Israel away from Christ. It is only when they respond to Him and are grafted back into the olive tree that they can be saved and begin again to fulfil God’s purpose . This situation could be seen as confirmed in the seventieth seven.
But while we agree that such a gap is ‘possible’, (anything is possible with interpreters) it is really taking what Paul is saying too far, for he nowhere connects it with prophetic interpretation, and such a gap is not obvious from this passage. Furthermore Paul is not indicating a gap, he is indicating the individual response to Christ of both Jews and Gentiles to make up the sum total of the elect, and the continuation of Israel. It therefore seems far more realistic to see the seventieth seven as immediately following the sixty ninth, and therefore as including all that will then happen from the end of the sixty ninth seven until the end of time. It then encompasses within it conversion, apostasy and tribulation, and all the continual experience of the people of God, the true Israel, as well as the destruction of Jerusalem because of the unbelief of those who continually reject Him. Taken in this way it ties in with the apocalyptic message of Jesus in Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21, which also have in mind the death of Christ, people responding to the covenant who will be persecuted, the destruction of the Temple, and continuing desolations.
Note. Is This the Period of the Great Tribulation?
We ask this question because of the use made of this passage by many, not because there is anything in the passage to suggest it. It is this popular usage that makes it a violable question.
Firstly, however, we must question the phrase ‘the Great Tribulation’. It is the invention of Bible students not of the Bible. The Bible does speak of ‘great tribulation’ which would come on parts of the church in the time of the Apostle John (Revelation 2.22), and ‘great tribulation’ which the Jews would face when Titus destroyed Jerusalem (which could be avoided by fleeing to the mountains, thus it is a tribulation limited to the Jews) with its aftermath in the dispersion of the Jews to face tribulation through the centuries (Matthew 24.21; Luke 21.24). There is also a mention of great tribulation which the people of God would suffer through the ages (Revelation 7.14), possibly referring back to the great tribulatio of Revelation 2.22, but never is there mention of a period called ‘the Great Tribulation’.
Secondly we should note that here in Daniel war and desolations are promised right from the time of the destruction of Jerusalem (verse 26), so that what is described in verse 27 is not unusual. Certainly verse 27 may be seen as suggesting that the people of God will be persecuted so that some turn aside from the covenant, but if it is to be restricted to a seven year period at the end of time that might be limited to Palestine, and anyway the people of God are persecuted in all ages, and never more so than in parts of the world today, especially in Muslim countries. We must not over-exaggerate the picture.
Thirdly we should note that while at the end there will be ‘a time of trouble such as never was’ (Daniel 12.1) that is nowhere limited to seven years, and its geographical extent we do not know. It is mainly connected with the Jews.
So this modern huge emphasis by some on a seven year tribulation period cannot be obtained from Daniel. Nor, we believe, can it be found in Revelation (see our commentary on Revelation). That is not to deny that at the end there will be great troubles and persecution. Such have always been the lot of Christians and it is very likely that they will intensify as Satan realises that his time is short. It is only to reject the idea that it can be summed up in a seven year period on the basis of this passage.
End of note.
Chapter 10 Angelic Warfare.
In this remarkable chapter the veil of the other world is partly lifted. Daniel had seen the rise and fall of empires, but now he was to learn a little of the supernatural activity that lay behind such historical events. He was to learn of battles in the spiritual realm of which previously he had been unaware. Jacob had experienced such a glimpse into the other world at Bethel in Genesis 28.12, 17; Elisha was very much aware of it and prays that his servant too may have a glimpse of it (2 Kings 6.17, compare 2.11-12); Ezekiel saw it in the heavenly temple which descended on the unknown high mountain (Ezekiel 40.2) where he was able to examine it in depth; now Daniel is to have further revelation of that invisible world, brief but emphatic. It will then be followed by an outline of history leading up to the end of time.
But a central theme of the chapter is the physical effects it had on Daniel. Having to do with the spiritual realm in this way was physically and emotionally exhausting. This is emphasised again and again. He was overwhelmed by what he saw and experienced.
10.1 ‘In the third year of Cyrus, king of Persia, a word was revealed to Daniel, whose name was called Belteshazzar, and the word was true. It was about a great warfare (literally ‘even a great warfare’). And he understood the word and had understanding of the vision.”
The change of method of dating suggests either that Darius the Mede was Cyrus, or more likely that Darius the Mede was no longer the ruler of Babylon, having died or been replaced. Note that Cyrus is not called the king of Babylon, whereas Darius had been (9.1). Daniel makes clear distinctions. ‘King of Persia’ is an attested title for such a ruler.
It is noteworthy that Daniel has not returned with the exiles. If the account was fictitious we would expect that he would be depicted as so returning, so that this is a strong affirmation of the genuineness of the account.
Here we learn that ‘a word’ from God was revealed to Daniel, a word that was true. The latter statement, which is unusual, suggests that on this occasion Daniel felt the need to emphasise the truth of what he had seen. This may also explain his reference to himself as Belteshazzar. He wanted his credentials to be appreciated, and most knew him as Belteshazzar. What was revealed was a great warfare. This most probably refers to the supernatural warfare described in the chapter, which parallels warfare on earth. Others see it as referring to a struggle within Daniel himself. ‘Understood’ may mean simply that he apprehended it and was able to write it down (compare 12.8).
10.2-3 ‘In those days I Daniel was mourning three whole weeks. I ate no pleasant bread, nor did flesh or wine come in my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all until three whole weeks were fulfilled.’
We are not told why Daniel was mourning. Perhaps news had reached him of the dire straits of the exiles who had returned to Jerusalem at the instigation of Cyrus, or perhaps he was mourning over the significance of the visions that he had received, praying for God’s mercy on those to be involved. But the seriousness of his mourning comes out in that it lasted ‘three whole week’ (‘three weeks, days’). The days is added to demonstrate that the three weeks was to be taken literally (‘three weeks’ could usually signify one and a bit to three weeks).
During that time he only drank water and had plain fare. And he refrained from the usual preparations for meeting people. (The emphasis on what he avoided counts against him having no food at all).
10.4-6 ‘And on the twenty fourth day of the first month, as I was by the side of the great River Hiddekel (Tigris) I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold a man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with pure gold of Uphaz. His body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to burnished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude.’
Three weeks to the 24th day of the first month means that the period included Passover and unleavened bread, which would finish on the 21st. It may be that it was because he could not fulfil the Passover (either because of uncleanness or because the facilities were not available) that he decided on a period of mourning.
Walking by rivers appears to have been one of his favourite pastimes. A similar thing occurred before the vision in chapter 8. But this time it was the Tigris, and he was accompanied.
‘I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold a man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with pure gold of Uphaz.’ For the man clothed in linen compare Ezekiel 9.2, 3, 11; 10.2, 6, 7; Mark 16.5. This was possibly also the one mentioned in Daniel 8.16. He was clearly of great authority, and linen was worn by important personages. His loins were also covered in the finest gold, a further sign of splendour and importance.
‘His body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as torches of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to burnished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude.’ ‘Beryl’ is literally ‘Tarshish’ and is probably Spanish gold topaz. The face as the appearance of lightning, the eyes like torches of fire, and arms and feet like burnished brass are intended to express indescribable glory. Compare the description of the Son of Man in Revelation Whose face was like the sun in its strength, whose eyes were as a flame of fire and whose feet were of burnished brass.
But the descriptions are not exact and we are probably to see here only a powerful and glorious angel, but one not quite as powerful as Michael and the other chief princes (10.13). This is further confirmed by the later description of his activities.
‘And the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude.’ The stress is on the fact that he spoke with the power of many voices. It is not necessary to assume that it was inarticulate. Crowds can speak as it were with one voice. It is the roar and crescendo that is in mind. The whole description is intended to bring out the awesome impact of the visitor.
10.7 ‘And I Daniel alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision, but a great quaking fell on them and they fled to hide themselves.’
This does not necessarily mean that they saw nothing. The very approach of the glorious figure may well have terrified them before he appeared in full view, so that they ran for cover and hid themselves and thus missed the full glory of the vision. (Running for cover suggests that they saw something). On the other hand it would not be the only time when a vision was only seen by one man while his companions were only aware of something strange and the sound of a voice (compare Acts 9.3 onwards).
10.8 ‘So I was left alone, and saw this grand vision, and there remained no strength in me, and my acceptable appearance was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength.’
The grandeur of the vision had a powerful effect on him. He lost all strength, and felt totally corrupt in the presence of such holiness.
10.9 ‘Yet I heard the voice of his words, and when I heard the voice of his words, then was I fallen into a deep sleep on my face, with my face towards the ground.’
The rolling thunder of the man’s voice continued even as Daniel collapsed to the ground and hid himself from the glorious sight, and then fell into a swoon, a deep unnatural sleep, with his face towards the ground (compare 8.18; Genesis 2.21;15.12). The whole thing was too much for him.
10.10 ‘And behold a hand touched me, which set me on my knees and on the palms of my hands.’
‘A hand touched me’ probably means that he felt himself seized by a powerful hand, compare 8.18 where it lifted him onto his feet, also 9.21. Here it set him on his hands and knees. His awareness of the powerful and holy figure before him prevented him rising to his feet. He probably felt too weak. But there was something symbolic here. He was on all fours as a beast but he was to be raised to stand up like a man.
10.11 ‘And he said to me, “O Daniel, you man greatly beloved (valued, precious), understand the words that I speak to you and stand upright. For I am now sent to you.” And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood, trembling.’
Notice that the standing upright and the understanding of God’s words through His messenger are linked, Compare 7.4; 8.18. Man was made upright at the same time as he was made in the image of God as a spiritual and moral being. The one symbolises the other. That is why the nations were wild beasts that went on all fours, whereas the people of God were represented as the son of man.
‘You man greatly beloved.’ What a testimony to an old man. He was greatly beloved of God, precious to God, the highest accolade that a human being could receive.
‘Understand.’ That is, ‘listen and comprehend’.
‘And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood, trembling.’ Daniel responded to the man’s demand, but did so fearfully and with trembling. The situation had resulted in him being filled with awe.
10.12-13 ‘Then he said to me, “Do not be afraid Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come for your words’ sake. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me for twenty one days. But lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, and I remained there with the kings of Persia. ” ’
We may probably assume from this that Daniel had been contemplating his previous visions during the days of his fast, ‘setting his heart’ to grasp and understand their significance, while at the same time humbling himself before God.
‘From the first day --- your words were heard.’ God never fails to hear the prayer of the righteous when they humble themselves before Him, not in ostentatious humility, but in genuine lowliness of heart. Yet we are here reminded that there is often a definite period, sometimes short, sometimes considerable, between the praying of the prayer and the final answer coming through, not because God does not hear, but because of the way things are. To us the answer might seem simple, for we see only what is limited to our vision, but it must all work in with the purposes of God and the way that creation was created.
God had in fact sent the angel immediately on receiving the prayer, and it was because of that word that he had come. But there had been difficulties. An angel responsible in some way for watching over Persia had withstood him. He had seen that the message coming through to Daniel was not helpful to what he wanted for Persia and had tried to delay its receipt, possibly hoping to stop it altogether. If Daniel had not prayed on it may never have been received.
Prayer is a powerful and effective tool, but Jesus Himself warned us against its misuse. It is not to be a means of obtaining things for ourselves, but of extending and expanding the work of God and improving our spiritual lives. Indeed He told us that we do not need to ask for what we think we need, as our Father knows what we really need and will provide it (Matthew 6.8). The exception, the prayer for daily bread, is really a recognition that our bread comes from God, and is for a necessity which we cannot do without. Large numbers of modern prayers are totally selfish, miss the whole point of prayer, and ignore what Jesus said. He wanted us to have the wider vision. When Paul asked prayer for himself it was in order that the Kingly Rule of God might be extended and God’s name glorified, not in order that he might be comfortable.
Jesus’ concentration in His prayer was on the exaltation of God’s name, the extending of His Kingly Rule, and the doing of His will on earth. We do well to make that the commencement of, and the major factor in, our praying, as Daniel clearly did.
‘Twenty and one days.’ This covers the three week period during which Daniel was praying.
‘But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me for twenty one days. But lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, and I remained there with the kings of Persia.’ We learn from this that there are spiritual forces affecting the world situation that we know little about and comprehend even less. They are usually totally hidden from us and we are specifically warned against making too much of angels. They are God’s instruments and heed His voice and not ours.
This suggests that as we would expect the spiritual forces that support ‘the wild beasts’ depicted in Daniel work in a way that is contrary to the purposes of God. They are angels who follow Satan, egging man on in his sinful behaviour, while the true angels of God support the case of God’s people behind the scenes. As we read of the latter, ‘Are they not all ministering spirits sent to sent out to do service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?’ (Hebrews 1.14).
But we must not read into these verses that every nation has its angel allocated by God, and that for the majority it is an evil angel. That is being far too simplistic. It is extremely unlikely that God has allocated the nations of the world to specific angels, of which most are evil. The point is rather that while nations are set to behave like wild beasts, especially powerful nations, that evil mastermind Satan will allocate those nations to one or more of his minions to stir up and encourage their behaviour.
In this case we are being told of one of Satan’s minions who was allocated to ensure that Persia behaved as Satan wanted. It was because of such doings that Satan could say to Jesus that the nations could be His for the asking (Matthew 4.9). It was no idle boast. The nations, without realising it, were largely subservient to him as he exercised his power and control through his angels, because their minds and hearts were set in that direction, and the gods they worshipped were backed by ‘devils’, that is these evil angels (1 Corinthians 10.20).
Such activities continued in Paul’s day and continue today. ‘We do not wrestle against flesh and blood -- but against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places’ (Ephesians 6.12). See also Revelation 12.7-11.
But they did not, and do not, have total control over these nations. God too was at work, changing the course of nations. And here we learn that this mighty angel who was speaking to Daniel, working on behalf of Persia, was helped by Michael, one of the chief princes among God’s true angels, who assisted him and enabled him on behalf of Persia to somewhat counter the effects of the evil angel appointed by Satan as ‘the prince of Persia’. By this he assisted the kings of Persia, unknown to them, in the direction of the purposes of God, to some extent modifying the success of the evil ‘prince’. (The angel can hardly be God or he would not have been so limited in his ability).
We are not to think that God recognised the authority of the so-called ‘prince of Persia’. He was not appointed by God (except in so far as all rulers are appointed by God). What in the end determined the success of these angels was the attitudes of men. Angels could only influence nations ‘spiritually’, men made the final decisions. Thus we have here a partial explanation of Cyrus’ tolerance towards, and assistance of, God’s people, the result of the work of the mighty angel assisted by Michael. But it was Cyrus under God’s will who made the final decisions, responding to the influence of the good or evil angels.
As Paul told us, these evil angels work partly by blinding the eyes of men to the truth so that they do not see the glory of God revealed in creation, but rather turn to the worship of created things, sun, moon, stars, beasts, birds and creeping things (2 Corinthians 4.4a with Romans 1.18-23).
10.14 “Now I am come to make you understand what will befall your people in the latter days. For the vision is as yet for many days.”
The latter days are the days of the fourth empire, commencing from the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, who was outfaced by the power of Rome, and going on to the end of time. But Daniel is assured that it is many days hence. One of the main reasons for Daniel’s visions was to prevent too much being made of the return from exile. Once that failed to mature into what Israel hoped for, and the hopes and expectancy were certainly there as Haggai makes clear, they would read the book of Daniel and recognise hat God had said it would be so.
‘The latter days.’ The phrase first occurs in Genesis 49.1 and means in the future beyond the present time. It puts no restriction on the length of the latter days. The only point is that they are some distance away. In Numbers 22.14 it refers to the future of Moab in terms of their dealings with Israel. In Deuteronomy 31.29 it refers to the times after Moses has gone and some time has passed (compare Deuteronomy 4.30). In Daniel 2.28 it includes the subsequent empires to Nebuchadnezzar’s. Thus it simply refers to the future without limitation.
10.15-17 ‘And when he had spoken to me in accordance with these words I set my face towards the ground and was dumb. And behold, one like the similitude of the sons of men touched my lips. Then I opened my mouth and spoke and said to him who stood before me, “O my lord, as a result of the vision my pangs have come on me, and I am without strength. For how can the servant of this my lord speak with this my lord?” For as for me, immediately there remained no strength in me, nor was there breath left in me.’
The impact of the angel’s words on Daniel was immediate. He bowed his head and did not speak. ‘I was dumb’ may simply mean that he did not speak (Psalm 37.2, 9) or it may refer to a supernatural dumbness as later with Zacharias (Luke 1.20). In view of the sequel the latter is probably correct. It was not easy to be a Daniel.
‘One like the similitude of the sons of men.’ Also called ‘a man clothed in linen’ (verse 5), ‘one like the appearance of a man’ (verse 18) (but not ‘one like to a son of man’, this phrase is carefully avoided). The point was that he looked like a man and yet was not a man.
‘Touched my lips.’ throughout the visions Daniel has made clear how dependent he was on supernatural help (verse 10; 8.18). The visions were hugely physically demanding and without this sustenance he could not have coped. As a result of this touch he was again able to speak. But all he could do was declare his weakness and his unworthiness. This was then followed by another period of sustained weakness, and he felt breathless.
‘My lord.’ The usual address by an inferior to a superior.
10.18-19 ‘Then there touched me again one like the appearance of a man, and he strengthened me. And he said, “O man greatly beloved, do not be afraid. Peace be to you. Be strong, yes, be strong.” And when he spoke to me I was strengthened, and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me”.’
Again ‘the man’ touched him and he felt renewed. Then he was again described as a man precious to God (compare verse 11), and told not to be afraid. Rather he was to be strong, repeated for emphasis (compare Joshua 1.6, 9). It basically means ‘you will need to be very strong’. And even as the ‘man’ spoke to him he was strengthened, and asked the man to give to him the message that he had come to give. God often works through our weakness, but He strengthens us at the last.
10.20-11.1 ‘Then he said to me, “Do you know why I have come to you? And now I will return to fight with the prince of Persia, and when I go, lo, the prince of Greece will come. But I will tell you what is inscribed in the writing of truth, and there is none who makes himself strong with me against these, but Michael your prince. And as for me, in the first year of Darius the Mede I stood up to confirm and strengthen him.”
The question is rhetorical to make him think of the vision to come. But first it is necessary for Daniel to know that behind all that is said powerful beings are at work bringing about God’s purposes, and powerful beings are at work seeking to thwart them. Once he has finished speaking with Daniel this mighty angel will return to the battle against the prince of Persia. And this will later be followed by a battle against the prince of Greece. For as the previous visions, and the one to come, are fulfilled on earth, these battles will be taking place in heavenly places.
Both the prince of Persia and the prince of Greece are Satan’s minions, seeking to shape the history of Persia and Greece to their will to ensure that they continually behave as brute beasts. But the mighty angel and the even mightier Michael are at work thwarting those purposes. Thus they will aid the struggling returned exiles, they will aid in the building of the temple and the thwarting of the enemies of the project, they will aid Nehemiah in defending the city and building its walls, they will aid the people of God in the activities of the kings of the north and the kings of the south, and will aid the fight against Antiochus, for they are the angels who support the people of God unseen. Why it was they who had strengthened and sustained activities while Darius the Mede was on the throne of Babylon in his first year. This probably refers to the restoration of the temple vessels to the exiles and the assistance with their return against all difficulties.
And now that he realises this Daniel can learn what is written in the writing of truth, the heavenly record of what is to happen in the days to come with regard to those peoples who surround and affect the people of God (as described in chapter 11), for he is now aware of those who stand firm for the people of God.
‘There is none who makes himself strong with me against these, but Michael your prince.’ To make himself strong means that he as it were girds on his armour and arms himself, and gathers his followers, in order to support his fellow angel. The negative is probably speaking about the leaders. Both he and Michael are probably to be seen as having legions of angels under their control. ‘Michael your prince’ (compare 12.1 where he is ‘the great prince who stands for the children of your people’) suggests that it is Michael who especially watches over the people of God. Because they are responsive to God no Satanic angel can be their prince (this of course applies to the ‘ideal’ or true people of God. Many Jews who were not really the people of God would be influenced by, indeed had already been influenced by, Satanic angels).
For in the end all God’s promises are to His true and responsive people. The Jews also recognised this. Each group saw themselves as really representing the people of God. There was a strange ambivalence about their views. The Pharisees could see the Sadducees as fellow Israelites, and as rightly participating in temple rites, but they also saw them as in some sense not true Jews at all and as, at the most, doubtful recipients of eternal life.
Excursus on the Princes of Persia and Greece and Suchlike.
It should first be noted that that great man of prayer, Daniel, was not called on to battle with the prince of Persia or Greece in any way. The battling was to be left in the hands of the angel visitant and Michael the Archangel. Daniel was to deal with the earthly side of things by means of the word and prayer. Heavenly conflict was to be left to heavenly beings. If we do otherwise we transgress the bounds that God has laid down.
We are reminded by Jude of those angels who ‘kept not their own principality, but left their proper habitation’ and in that context he spoke of those men who ‘set at nought dominion and rail at dignities (‘glorious beings’), whereas Michael the Archangel, when contending with the Devil --- dare not bring against him a railing judgment but said “The Lord rebuke you”. But these rail at whatever things they know not.’ This was a stern warning that men should not step outside the bounds that God has set. Men should not seek to ‘take on’ the ‘heavenly’ forces of evil, or commune with them in any way, although they must resist their activities against men by the word of God and prayer.
2 Peter backs this up sternly speaking of those who ‘walk after the flesh in the lust of defilement and despise dominion. Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble at railing at glorious beings, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not bring a railing judgment against them before the Lord’ (2 Peter 2.10-11). If even angels have to beware when dealing with the spirit forces of evil, how much more men. Yet, says Peter, there are some foolish enough to try. That is not to say that we should live in fear of them. Through Christ we have certain protection, but only while we do not overstep the bound between the physical and spirit world.
It is, of course, true that where evil angels/spirits/devils do impinge on human territory, seeking to influence their minds and turn men from the true way, they are to be battled with, but this is by taking on the armour of God, by the right use of the word of God, and through righteousness, both imputed from Christ and revealed in life (Ephesians 6.10-18). We note in that passage that we are to stand firm (verse 14 compare Ephesians 4.27), not to take the battle to the enemy. It is the battle for the mind, the battle against spiritual blindness and temptation. We resist him by being ‘subject to God’ (James 4.11). All this is to do with ‘the wiles of the Devil’ and we are reminded above that he is not to be treated lightly.
When Christians battle against such forces it is on an ‘earthly’ basis. Then ‘the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds, casting down imaginations (reasonings, often false), and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 10.4-5). In other words God enables us through the word and prayer to open men’s eyes, to remove the blindness brought about by the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4.4), to win the battle for the hearts and minds of men. But if we seek to take the battle against ‘heavenly’ beings into a higher sphere apart from this, both Jude and Peter say that we do very foolishly.
Fortunately the Devil has been bound and is restricted by God (Mark 3.27; Revelation 20.3) which is why his power is limited, but not so limited that Michael dared attack him directly. These descriptions of his being limited and restricted are to comfort us in our defensive battle against him. They are pictorial and not to be taken literally. Satan is a spirit being and cannot be bound by a physical chain or in a physical place. Thus he is at the same time restricted by God, and yet prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5.8), revealed through the activities of persecutors (verse 9 with 4.12-16).
Note how as in Daniel it is Satan’s effects in this world that we battle against, not directly Satan himself. That is to be left to greater than us (Revelation 12.7). Jesus nowhere taught His disciples to enter into such conflicts. They were only to call on Christ’s name against the Enemy when he had sought to interfere in human affairs by possession.
End of Excursus.
Chapter 11 The Course Of History.
In this most remarkable chapter we are given an outline of history from the time of Daniel to the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, and then briefly to the end of time. It first covers the period while Israel were still under the wrath of God up to ‘the latter time of the indignation’ in the days of Antiochus (8.19), and then it moves on briefly to the evil fourth empire, to the end of time, in a final depiction of what is to be. As often in prophecy the prophet moves suddenly from the near to the far, from a prior fulfilment to its greater manifestation. The duration of the fourth empire is always left an open question.
It is often said that the Book reveals a greater knowledge of history the nearer it approaches to the time of Antiochus, but that is to overlook what is a constant feature of the book and that is that it constantly abbreviates the early history in order to deal with the later history in more detail, because the latter is its main emphasis. This chapter is very selective and grows in detail so as to gradually grow into its main message of the times of Antiochus and the king of the end times.
The Kings Of Persia.
11.2 “And now I will show you the truth. Behold there will stand up yet three kings in Persia, and the fourth will be far richer than all of them, and when he has established himself strongly through his riches he will stir up all against the realm of Greece.”
‘And now I will show you the truth.’ That is the truth as indelibly inscribed in the writing of truth (10.21), which must therefore come about.
The fourth king, richer than all, who becomes excessively rich and powerful, and stirs up all (either all the resources of the empire, or all peoples from his empire) against Greece is undoubtedly Xerxes. ‘There will stand up’ suggests that Cyrus the current king was not in mind. Thus the four would be Cambyses, Smerdis, Darius Hystapsis and Xerxes.
The purpose of the verse is to bring out the growth of the Persian empire to its maximum point and the result that followed, the first major invasion of Greece. It is really preparatory to the details given of the Greek empire. There is no intention of outlining Persian history. This is not simply an exercise in foretelling the future, it is depicting the fulfilment of God’s purposes. The idea is to show the steps of growth up to the fourth massive empire previously mentioned, but not to depict all the details. Certainly it is patterned on the previous visions. That is why only four kings are mentioned and Cyrus, as the reigning king, is omitted. (Had he been needed in order to make up four he would have been included). The fourth king, like the fourth empire, is the potent one from a world point of view.
Daniel is very much aware that he could not (in his schema) be the ‘fifth’ king, for that would make him the covenant king. In the same way in the previous visions there could not be five empires, until, that is, the arrival of the covenant empire, for five is the number of covenant. Xerxes had to be the fourth king, however the number was to be obtained. He was from the world’s viewpoint ‘the king’ as far as Persia was concerned. Only he was powerful enough to instigate the invasion of Greece.
His failure to mention any Persian king after Xerxes was not due to lack of knowledge but the requirements of his schema. Kings who followed him were irrelevant for Xerxes had made the move that would introduce the Greek empire. He was ‘the fourth king’ who included all that followed.
Xerxes invaded Greece in 480 BC, with a huge army, but he suffered defeat and never recovered, for after he had subdued virtually all of Greece down to the Isthmus of Corinth, including the reduction to ashes of the city of Athens, his navy was thoroughly worsted by the united Greek fleet at the Battle of Salamis in 480 BC. He himself retreated leaving his general Mardonius to see to affairs, and he was crushed in the following year by the allied forces of the Greeks at the battle of Plataea. All subsequent attempts to crush Greece also failed. In Xerxes was summed up all Persia’s future against Greece.
The Growth and Division of the Grecian Empire.
11.3 ‘And a mighty king will stand up who will rule with great dominion and do according to his will.’
This was the final result of the acts of Xerxes, and of those who followed him, the rise of this mighty king of Greece, Alexander the Great, who would have great and widespread authority and could exercise his will wherever he would.
After conquering most of the ancient world, penetrating even further east than the Persian Empire, Alexander died prematurely in Babylon, his imperial capital, in 323 BC. His two sons, Hercules and Alexander, were both murdered when they were very young, and consequently his kingdom was eventually divided up between his four leading generals (compare 7.6; 8.8, 22). Cassander ruled Macedonia-Greece, Lysimachus governed Thrace-Asia Minor, Seleucus took the rest of Asia except lower Syria and Palestine, and Ptolemy reigned over Egypt and Palestine.
11.4 ‘And when he shall stand up his kingdom will be broken and will be divided towards the four winds of heaven. But not to his posterity, nor with similar dominion to that with which he ruled, for his kingdom will be plucked up even for others beside these.’
This is not the epitaph that Alexander would have desired. He stood up only to be broken. So was Alexander the Great dismissed by God. His great empire was just a passing fancy. ‘Divided towards the four winds of heaven’ may be intended to signify heavenly princes over each of the four sections into which the empire eventually split, compare 10.13, 20. (It may be simply directional but ‘of heaven’ usually denotes more, depicting heavenly activity). But his throne would not go to ‘his posterity’. As mentioned above both his young sons were murdered. All he had achieved would be for others, ‘plucked up even for others beside these’, initially for all his generals, but gradually uniting into four separate sections. The mighty ‘unified’ power of his empire would not be sustained. However strong they may seem, empires rise, and divide, and fall. As with the image in chapter 2 the empires were deteriorating in splendour.
The two that would concern Israel were the Egyptian empire under the Ptolemies (the king of the south) and the Syrian empire under the Seleucids (the king of the north). Sadly for Israel both coveted Palestine.
11.5 ‘And the king of the south will be strong, and one of his princes, and he will be strong above him and have dominion. His dominion will be a great dominion.’
The king described here was Ptolemy I, one of Alexander's most powerful generals, who proclaimed himself king of Egypt in 304 BC. He was very ambitious and sought to extend his empire north into Cyprus, Asia Minor, and Greece. His dynasty ruled Egypt until around 30 BC.
The prince under the king of the south who would ‘be strong in excess of him’ was Seleucus I, another of Alexander's prominent generals. He was given authority over Babylon in 321 BC. But another of Alexander's generals, Antigonus, took over Babylon, and Seleucus had to flee and seek help from Ptolemy I. With Ptolemy's sponsorship and superior power he was able to regain control of Babylon. This was the sense in which he was Ptolemy's prince, for he submitted to him in order to gain his military support against Antigonus. But Seleucus I eventually ruled from Phrygia in the west to the Indus in the east, including all of Babylonia, Media, and Syria, a territory much larger than Ptolemy's. His dynasty was seen as commencing in 312 BC. His descendants are the kings of the north. His dynasty lasted until 64 B.C.
11.6 ‘And at the end of years (i.e. after some years) they will join themselves together, and the daughter of the king of the south will come to the king of the north to make uprightness (i.e. a friendly alliance making things ‘right’), but she will not retain the strength of her arm, and neither will he stand nor his arm, but she will be given up, and those who brought her, and he who begat her, and he who strengthened her in those times.’
‘After some years.’ In the South, Ptolemy I eventually died in 285 BC, leaving the throne to his son, Ptolemy II. It was in his day that we learn from the Zenon papyri that the Ptolemean minister of finance in Egypt owned large tracts of land in Palestine, including land east of Jordan, possibly what were once crown lands which would thus pass to the new overlord. In the North, Seleucus I died at the hands of an assassin in 281 BC, and his son, Antiochus I, began ruling in his place. Antiochus I died in 262 BC and left his son, Antiochus II, in power.
Ptolemy II of Egypt and Antiochus II of Syria were contemporaries. They were also bitter enemies. However, they finally made an alliance in about 250 BC, which was sealed, in accordance with common practise, by the marriage of Ptolemy II's daughter, Berenice, to Antiochus II, who for the purpose, divorced his wife Laodice, by whom he had had two sons.
‘She will not retain the strength of her arm.’ When Ptolemy II died in 246 BC, Antiochus II took back his first wife, Laodice, whom he had divorced in order to marry Berenice.
‘And neither will he stand, nor his arm.’ Laodice then rewarded him by poisoning him in order to secure her position, and gaining control over his supporters (‘his arm’), briefly ruled in his place.
‘She will be given up.’ In order to gain revenge and secure her son’s right to the throne, Laodice (or her sons) then had Berenice and the infant son that she had borne to Antiochus murdered, together with ‘those who brought her, and he who begat her, and he who strengthened her in those times’. This refers to the courtiers who had accompanied Berenice from Egypt. ‘He who begat her’ is probably the one who became her guardian after the death of her father (‘begat’ is often used loosely from our viewpoint). He may also be the strengthener, or she may have had a court favourite. All were killed so as to ensure no repercussions
Her son, Seleucus II, then succeeded his father, Antiochus II, and ruled over the Syrian empire commencing in 246 BC.
11.7 ‘But out of a shoot from her roots one will stand up in his place, who will come to the army and will enter into the fortress of the king of the north, and will deal with them and will prevail.’
But those who perpetrated these evil deeds were themselves dealt with, for Berenice’s brother Ptolemy III, Euergetes, ‘a shoot from the ancestry of Berenice’, came against their army, seized their main fortress, and totally subjugated them.
11.8a ‘And he will also carry captive into Egypt their gods, with their molten images, and with their desirable vessels of silver and gold.’
This was the measure of the victory. It was overwhelming enough for him to march off with their gods and temple furniture. It was total success. The Egyptians were jubilant.
11.8b ‘And he will stand (refrain) some years from the king of the north.’ He then left Seleucus II alone for some years, having made a treaty with him.
11.9 ‘And he will come into the land of the king of the south, but he will return to his own land.’
Eventually Seleucus II counterattacked in around 240BC, but unsuccessfully, and had to withdraw defeated.
Antiochus III (father of Antiochus Epiphanes) (11.10-19).
11.10 ‘And his sons will be stirred up (or ‘will strive’ or ‘will make war’) and will gather a multitude of great forces, and he will relentlessly come on, and overthrow, and pass through. And he will return and make war (or ‘be stirred up’), even to his fortress.’
First Seleucus II's son, Seleucus III, who succeeded his father on his death in 227 BC, and then when he died not many years later in 223 BC, his brother Antiochus III, were ‘kings of the north’. Both of these sons sought to restore the glory of the Syrian empire, and they mustered their forces and went out raiding in various directions. Seleucus III invaded Asia Minor, and Antiochus III later attacked Egypt (‘his’ probably refers to Egypt) and the fortress was probably Gaza, giving him control of Palestine, for although Antiochus III did not invade Egypt proper, he was successful during his campaign of 219-217 BC in gaining control of Israel. Egypt's northern border had until then been Syria, but Antiochus III succeeded in driving the Egyptians, then under Ptolemy IV, back to the southern borders of Israel. He earned the epitaph "the Great" because of his military successes.
But the important thing about this was that it meant that Israel for the first time came under the control of the Syrian empire, the Seleucids. It was to be crucial to their future, especially as outlined by Daniel.
11.11 ‘And the king of the south will be filled with fury, and will come out and fight with him, even with the king of the north, and he will set forth (‘raise’) a great multitude, and the multitude will be given into his hand.’
Angry at what had happened and in an attempt to recapture his lost territory to the north, Ptolemy IV Philopator raised a large army of infantry, cavalry and elephants, and attacked Antiochus III on the southern borders of Israel, specifically at Raphia in 217 BC on the coast road to Egypt. Initially he was successful. Antiochus was soundly defeated, and ‘the multitude was given into his hand’.
11.12 ‘And the multitude will be lifted up, and his heart will be exalted, and he will cast down tens of thousands, but he will not prevail (‘be strong’).’
Ptolemy IV’ successful army were elated, and Ptolemy himself was filled with pride at his achievement, as his army slaughtered the enemy and put them to flight, but Ptolemy was dissolute and lazy and did not pursue his advantage even though he killed many Syrians. He would never really be a conqueror. His forces did, however, regain all of Palestine.
11.13 ‘And the king of the north will return, and will raise a multitude greater than the former, and he will come on at the end of the times, even years, with a great army and much substance.’
Kings like Antiochus III lived to fight and conquer. Thus on his defeat he returned to his land and gathered another, even larger army, and sought victories in other directions, to the east and the north. In this he was successful and his army grew large and powerful and became well armed with weapons of war (‘much substance’). So after some years, having made an alliance with Philip of Macedon, he renewed his attack on Egypt.
‘At the end of the times, even years.’ This does not mean that ‘times’ always means years. It was, however, true in this case. (Had it always meant years it would not have had to be explained).
11.14 ‘And in those times many will rise up against the king of the south. Also the sons of those who make a breach among your people will lift themselves up to establish the vision. But they will fall.’
Antiochus was now in league with Philip of Macedon, and may well have been in touch with Egyptian dissidents and foreign mercenaries in Egypt. The ‘many’ probably also includes some of his subject peoples. So it was a powerful force that went forward. ‘The sons of those who make a breach among your people’ were possibly Hellenizers or dissenters among Israel who were keen to support Antiochus, hoping for his support in return. Their aim was probably to make their vision of a Hellenised Israel a reality. But they never achieved their vision. ‘They fell.’ Antiochus in fact was welcomed by the people of Jerusalem and renewed all the old rights.
11.15 ‘So the king of the north will come, and throw up siege works, and take a well-fenced city. And the arms of the south will not withstand, nor the people of his choice, nor will there be any strength to withstand.’
Most see this as a reference to the capture of Sidon by Antiochus. The boy king Ptolemy V, who had succeeded his father, had sent one of his best generals to oppose him, but the Egyptian forces were defeated at the headwaters of the Jordan (near the Biblical Dan) and eventually surrendered at Sidon.
‘The arms of the south will not withstand, nor the people of his choice, nor will there be any strength to withstand.’ The ‘arms’ denote strength. Here the Egyptians were not strong enough. ‘The people of his choice’ are probably his finest and best warriors selected to deal with the attack.
11.16 ‘But he who comes against him will do according to his own will, and none will stand before him. And he will stand in the land of Desire and in his hand will be destruction (‘finishing’).’
Antiochus’ advance into Palestine was irresistible. The Egyptian forces could not hold him back, and Israel suffered as a consequence as he finished off the Egyptian forces there. This was inevitable as they were caught between two forces, although once Antiochus was secure he showed them great favour.
‘The land of Desire’. This was Israel.
11.17 ‘And he will set his face to come with the strength of his whole kingdom, and upright ones with him, and he will do his pleasure, and he will give him the daughter of women to corrupt her, but she will not stand, nor be for him.’
Antiochus came against Egypt with all his strength, including ‘upright ones’. This may represent Israelites who in the Psalms are often thought of as ‘the upright’. Alternately the word may mean ‘equitable conditions’ and refer to an agreement. Either way he did make an alliance and offered his daughter Cleopatra in marriage to the boy Pharaoh. His hope was to ‘corrupt her’, that is make her act in a way not fitting for a wife by desiring her to betray her husband. But Cleopatra in fact refused to cooperate and was thenceforth faithful to her husband. She no doubt felt that her future lay in Egypt and that it was in her interests.
11.18 ‘After this he will turn his face to the coastlands and will take many, but a prince will cause the reproach offered by him to cease. Yes, moreover, he will make his reproach turn on him.’
This probably refers mainly to the coastlands of Asia Minor, although he did enter Greek territory, but his activities attracted the attention of Rome. Lucius Scipio Asiaticus drove him back into Asia Minor and defeated him at Magnesia in 190 BC.
‘Yes, moreover, he will make his reproach turn on him.’ The terms of peace were humiliating. He had to yield all of Asia Minor except Cilicia, to surrender his war elephants and his navy, to hand over certain important refugees, and to send twenty hostages to Rome, one of which was his son Antiochus (later to be Epiphanes). He was also required to pay an enormous indemnity. It was in attempting to raise funds for this purpose that he was killed by angry citizens when he was attempting to rob a temple at Elymais in 187 BC.
11.19 ‘Then he will turn his face towards the fortresses of his own land, but he will stumble and fall and will not be found.’
In view of his current weakness dissent broke out at home and he had to deal with it by force, subduing fortresses in his own land. And then came his ignominious end described above.
Antiochus Epiphanes - The Scourge of Israel.
Apart from the next verse the remaining verses in the chapter deal with the life of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, second son of Antiochus III, who usurped the throne from his brother’s son, Demetrius, and persecuted Israel, leading on into a mysterious figure who will appear at the end of time (verse 40). Antiochus IV is the ‘horn of littleness’ of 8.23-25, while the mysterious figure is the ‘horn, the small one’ of 7.24-26.
11.20 ‘Then will stand up in his place one who will cause an exactor to pass through the glory of the kingdom, but within few days he will be destroyed, neither in anger nor in battle.’
This was Antiochus III’s elder son, Seleucus IV, who succeeded his father. He taxed his people, including Israel, so heavily to pay the Roman indemnity that he was poisoned, by his prime minister, Heliodorus. Heliodorus was probably the exactor that Seleucus sent through "the jewel (glory) of his kingdom," that is, Israel, collecting taxes, and with the special intention of robbing the temple treasury (2 Maccabees 3.7). So Seleucus IV did not die through mob violence, as his father did, nor did he die in battle. Rather he died from poison.
‘Within few days’, that is, within a comparatively short time of his blasphemous activity.
11.21 ‘And in his place will stand up a contemptible person, to whom they had not given the honour of the kingdom. But he will come in time of security and will obtain the kingdom by flatteries.’
‘A contemptible person.’ On Seleucus’ death the throne rightly belonged to one of his sons, Demetrius,who had been sent as hostage to Rome so that his brother Antiochus could be released. To his sons belonged ‘the honour of the kingdom’. But Antiochus, a master of intrigue, took the opportunity provided by his absence to persuade the leaders of Syria, who were no doubt affected by the forces of the king of Pergamum which were put at Antiochus’ disposal, to allow him to rule since Demetrius, the eldest son of Seleucus IV, was being held hostage in Rome. In this way, through intrigue, he secured the throne for himself.
11.22 ‘And with the arms of a flood will they be swept away from before him, and will be broken. Yes, even the prince of the covenant.’
Antiochus IV swept away all opposition from before him, overflowing them with an overwhelming flood, breaking them like a broken vessel. This included the Israelite high priest, Onias III, who was opposed to him, here called "the prince (nagid) of the covenant." Onias was in Antioch on affairs of state when Seleucus was assassinated. And it was while he was there that Antiochus deposed him by selling the high priesthood to the highest bidder, first to Jason, Onias’ brother, and then to Menelaus who outbid him. Onias was thrust aside, although still recognised as the true high priest by the faithful in Israel. ‘Negid berith’ was by now probably a technical term for the true high priest who was also political leader of his people. Outside the book of Daniel ‘nagid’ in the singular always refers to the prince of Israel in relation to the covenant. (See introduction to 9.24).
Another view suggested is that Ptolemy VI was "the prince of the covenant" since Antiochus later made a treaty with him. But the term ‘covenant’ in Daniel regularly means the holy covenant (verses 28, 30, 32; 9.4), and other alliances are described differently (11.6, 17, 23). Nor is the king of the south likely suddenly to be called a nagid. Whereas we can quite understand that the writer wants us to be aware of Antiochus’ treachery against Israel right from the start.
11.23 ‘And from the time that a league is made with him he will work deceitfully, for he will come up and become strong with a small people.’
This probably refers to his behaviour with Israel. He removed Onias and made his agreement with Jason, the replacement high priest (2 Maccabees 4.7-22), and then rescinded it in favour of a higher bidder, Menelaus (2 Maccabees 4.23-29). This was then followed by his later treacherous behaviour towards Israel when his general slaughtered many of them on the Sabbath (when most would not fight), having professed to come in peace. Less likely is that it refers to his later alliance with Egypt (see verse 25), for then we would expect mention of the king of the south. The Egyptian king was now Ptolemy VI, whom he would deceive, wooing him and the Egyptian people with friendship, and then defeating them, but this is mentioned below. This was in accordance with his normal treacherous behaviour. He believed in winning friendship, and then following it with betrayal when it suited him. Or the verse may be outlining the general principles on which he worked.
‘He will come up and become strong with a small people.’ This may be describing his general rise to power as a result of his various activities. Syria was by now fairly small, but he was gradually expanding his power base. But the ‘small people’ may refer to his support within Israel from the Hellenisers who were not at this time large in numbers, which enabled him to be accepted there.
11.24 ‘In time of security will he come even on the fattest places of the province, and he will do what his fathers have not done, nor his fathers’ fathers. He will scatter among them prey, and spoil, and substance. Yes he will devise his devices against the strongholds, even for a time.’
This continues to describe his methods. He was unlike his ancestors. They were straight conquerors, winning position and wealth in battle. But he worked differently. While things were at rest he would enter the wealthiest and finest parts of the province and distributes bribes and gifts, and also win the favour of those in charge of strongholds. Thus he wooed for himself many friends in important positions over a period of time before carrying out his grosser activities. The comparison with his ancestors is disapproving, depicting his exceptional deceitfulness. All kings offered bribes, and all kings involved themselves in intrigue, but Antiochus had it down to a fine art.
‘In time of security.’ Compare verse 21. He took advantage of other people’s amicability and contentment to obtain his own way. It is when people are least thoughtful of danger that they are most in danger from deceitful enemies. This is a lesson for us too in our spiritual lives.
11.25-26 ‘And he will stir up his power and his courage against the king of the south with a great army, and the king of the south will war in battle with an exceeding great and mighty army, but he will not stand, for they will devise devices against him. Yes, those who eat of his meat portion will destroy him. And his army will be overflowed and many will fall down slain.’
Once Antiochus felt he was strong enough, he took his courage in his hands and in 170 BC marched against Egypt. He was able to get all the way to the Nile Delta before the Egyptians discovered that he was approaching. Notice how Antiochus' deceptiveness is highlighted. By subtlety and bribery he was exercising a great deal of influence in Egypt, usually pretending to be a friend and then using people for his own advantage, and he inflicted a defeat on Ptolemy, partly as a result of the divisions he had caused. Ptolemy’s large army was routed, and many men were killed. Notice the stressed contrast in the size of armies, but what Antiochus lacked in men, he made up for by trickery and bribery. He was an arch-deceiver, like the Anti-God who would appear at the end of time.
‘Those who ate his meat portion.’ Ptolemy had been advised by bad advisers, and when they saw that Ptolemy’s position seemed hopeless these men turned to a rival king, Ptolemy’s brother, whom they crowned as Ptolemy VII. The result could only be civil war. By eating his meat portion they had professed to be faithful servants to the king of the south, so that they above all should have supported him, and yet it was they who plotted to destroy him.
11.27 ‘And as for both these kings, their hearts will be to do mischief, and they will speak lies at one table. But it will not prosper, for yet the end will be at the time appointed.’
Ptolemy now turned to Antiochus who offered him assistance against his rival, even though that rivalry was partly fostered by Antiochus, and he met with Antiochus who professed to be willing to help him, although only for his own ends. They met in ‘friendship’, eating food together, a sign of commitment and integrity. But in fact both were equally dishonest, both acting only for their own ends, and with no intention of benefiting the other. (Ptolemy had learned quickly). But whatever their plans were, they would fail. The time of Antiochus’ end was already appointed by God, and nothing could delay it.
11.28 ‘Then he will return to his own land with great substance, and his heart will be against the holy covenant. And he will do his pleasure and return to his own land.’
His mission to Egypt having been mainly successful he returned to his own land loaded with treasures. But news had reached Israel that Antiochus had been killed in Egypt, and Jason, deciding that it was a good time to regain the high priesthood, entered Jerusalem, killing many of his fellow Israelites without mercy. However his attempt was unsuccessful and he had to flee into exile.
Meanwhile Antiochus had heard of these events and decided to teach Israel a lesson. He took Jerusalem by force of arms and slaughtered many (1 Maccabees 1.20-28; 2 Maccabees 5.11-12). Then guided by Menelaus he entered the temple itself (‘against the holy covenant’) and looted it (‘he did his own pleasure’). From now on he was a man marked by God.
11.29-30a ‘At the time appointed he will return and come into the south, but it will not be in the latter time as it was in the former. For ships of Kittim will come against him.’
We are not being given the whole history of war between Egypt and Syria and some of it is now skipped over. What mattered to the author was the parts that affected God’s purposes. For what now took place was at the appointed time. Antiochus’ destiny was in God’s hands.
He thought once more to invade Egypt (in 168 BC), and at first met with success, reaching Alexandria, but then he met up with the power that had destroyed his father, the might of the fourth empire, represented here by the might of Rome. Before this he could do nothing.
‘Ships of Kittim.’ Compare Numbers 24.24. Kittim in fact denotes Cyprus, from which possibly some of the Roman fleet sailed, although it may only be that it represented ‘the Roman world across the seas’, Cyprus being the nearest point known to them. So this was in fact the Romans (LXX reads ‘and the Romans will come’) under Gaeus Popilius Linus who sailed to Egypt to prevent his activities. Egypt had clearly made some kind of treaty with Rome. He met with Antiochus and demanded that he should withdraw and did so in a humiliating way. He had no doubts that Antiochus would do so.
Antiochus was furious, but he had no option except to withdraw, for he was no match for Rome, and, determined to avenge himself on the annoying people who were continually thwarting his wishes, and to seize further treasures, he turned his anger on Israel.
11.30b ‘Therefore he will be grieved, and will return, and have indignation against the holy covenant, and will do his pleasure. He will even return and have regard to those who forsake the holy covenant.’
Behind this there is a history. Threatened by both Rome, who had destroyed his father, and Egypt who at times of strength constantly had their eyes northwards, he had determined to unify his empire round Hellenistic culture, including the worship of the Greek gods, which included himself as the manifestation of Zeus, (depicted on his coins), and sought every means of building up his treasury, plundering a number of temples in the cause. He took more seriously what others before him had claimed.
Internal dissension among the Jews, largely about Hellenisation and who should be high priest, meant that all parties had looked for assistance to Antiochus, for he was the one with authority to determine the situation. He had thus appointed first Jason and then Menelaus as high priest. These had promised among other things to ensure the Hellenisation of Israel. A gymnasium, with all its connections with Greek religion, had been set up in Jerusalem, and many Israelites had participated willingly in these attempts. There was thus in Israel divided loyalty, those on the one side who had political ascendancy and who favoured Hellenisation, who were looked on as abandoning the Mosaic Law, and those who on the other hand sought faithfulness to God’s covenant.
Thus the Hellenisation, which at first seemed outwardly to be on its way to success, did not take hold, and Antiochus no doubt looked on the people as obstinate troublemakers and intransigent. So he now determined to enforce his will and collect from them further tribute at the same time.
He sent one of his generals, Apollonius, who approached Jerusalem in seemingly friendly fashion, but then took advantage of the Sabbath, fell on the city, looting and burning, and slaughtered many Israelites. This was in support of the Hellenisers. ‘He had regard to those who forsake the holy covenant’.
They then rebuilt a fortress in Jerusalem to contain the king’s treasures seized from the Israelites, which was from then on occupied by a strong force, and was in order to enforce the king’s will. The king also practically forbade the practise of Judaism, suspending regular sacrifices, destroying copies of the Scriptures and forbidding circumcision and the observance of the Sabbath. Moreover he demanded that all without exception were to offer sacrifices to Zeus (see the Jewish histories 1 Maccabees 1.41-64; 2 Maccabees 6.1-11).
11.31 ‘And arms will stand on his part, and they will profane the sanctuary, even the fortress, and will take away that which is continual, and they will set up the Abomination that Appals.’
These activities were then followed by the setting of sentries in the temple itself, (‘arms will stand on his part, and they will profane the sanctuary’), and finally the erection of an altar to Zeus in the temple, on which he sacrificed a pig, an ‘Abomination that Appals’, to all Israelites a Desolating Horror. It was the Horror to end all Horrors. This latter took place in December 167 BC. Like his father, who had died in the attempt, he considered that he could do what he liked and get away with it. Compare for all this 8.10-13.
‘Will take away that which is continual.’ The sabbaths, the feasts, the morning and evening sacrifice, the regular temple worship, and all regularly connected with it were banned.
‘The Abomination that Appals’ (The Abomination that Desolates). Jesus would later apply this picture to the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD (Matthew 24.15; Mark 13.14; and put in terms the Gentiles could understand, Luke 21.20).
11.32 ‘And such as do wickedly against the covenant will he pervert by flatteries. But the people who know their God will be strong and will so act. And those who are wise among the people will instruct many. Yet they will fall by the sword, and by flame, and by imprisonment, and by being spoiled, for many days.’
Jerusalem was still divided. While some of the Hellenisers, those ‘who did wickedly against the covenant’, may have been shaken, they allowed themselves to be talked round and were willing to cooperate in what was happening. As usual bribery and flattery, including political advancement, were utilised and soon did away with their doubts.
‘But the people who know their God will be strong and will so act.’ The persecution spread throughout the whole of the land. Everywhere the decrees were enforced by violent means. To circumcise a new born child meant death. The Scriptures were burned. People were forced to sacrifice to Zeus. Violation of the Sabbath was enforced. And many reluctantly yielded. It was something that Israel had never experienced before.
But it was to have an effect that none living at the time could have foreseen. Those who truly knew God stood firm. Many fled into hiding so that they would not have to give way. Others who had been tolerant to Hellenisation, and had done nothing about it, now recognised its evil effects and were aroused against it. Their faith was purified. And a people who had been unresisting now thought only in terms of resistance.
‘And those who are wise among the people will instruct many. Yet they will fall by the sword, and by flame, and by imprisonment, and by being spoiled, for many days.’ Brave and faithful men of God with an understanding of God’s word moved around encouraging the people to stand firm and teaching them from the Scriptures, and many found that their faith was strengthened and was becoming alive again as never before. The true Israel was being revived. But there was a cost. There were daily executions. people were burned alive. Others were imprisoned and made slaves. When found the teachers were summarily dealt with.
It is doubtful if by ‘wise’ we are to see reference to a particular group. The wise were those who were faithful to the covenant, those who obeyed God (Deuteronomy 32.29; Psalm 14.2; 53.2; 119.99). It is ‘the fear of Yahweh that is the beginning of wisdom’.
11.34-35 ‘Now when they shall fall they will be helped with a little help. But many will join themselves to them with flatteries. And some of those who are wise will fall, to refine them, and to purify them, and to make them white, even to the time of the end, because it is yet for the time appointed.’
In the light of the previous verse those who fall are surely those who die under the persecution. In the period of their testing they will receive ‘a little help’ from God. They will not be delivered like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego or Daniel were, but they will be helped none-the-less. Meanwhile they will be joined by others who will flatter them and seek to talk them round, seeking to win them from their seeming folly, but they will not listen, and so many will fall. But the purpose behind their fall is that they might be purified, and made white, and this will be true for all who fall until the end. This is a call for endurance. Their hope is in God. They await the resurrection (12.2).
And this will go on ‘even to the time of the end’. Thus what now follows applies to ‘the time of the end’ (see 11.40; 12.4; 12.9).
(Many interpret the reference to the little help as referring to Judas Maccabaeus, but that was the beginning of a new era in the purposes of God, while this is seeking to produce fortitude in the face of coming events, even to the time of the end. We cannot therefore accept that interpretation while recognising gladly that God did turn events round).
The King At The Time Of The End (11.36-45).
11.36a ‘And the king will do according to his will’.
The question is, which king does this refer to? Antiochus Epiphanes has never been called the king. He is ‘the contemptible person to whom had not been given the honour of the kingdom’. And he is simply referred to as ‘he’ throughout (see especially verse 32 where it is after a break). It is true that he is included as such secondarily in the phrase ‘both these kings’ in 11.27, but he is never called ‘the king’, not even ‘the king of the north’. The phrase which was so readily on the author’s lips previously is now no longer used. This is quite blatant. He is the usurper.
Furthermore such phrases as ‘king of the north’ and ‘king of the south’ can move from king to king without meaning the king mentioned previously. So this simply means ‘whoever is the king at the time being spoken of’. And the time being spoken of is the time of the end (see also verse 40). We thus see the term ‘the king’ as signifying someone not yet spoken of who arises at this time.
Thus to say as some do that ‘there is no indication of a change of subject’ is quite short-sighted. There is a clear change of subject. This new one is a genuine king, not a usurper. (Whereas earlier when there was a change of king the change was not always clear, such as ‘the king of the south’ in verse 5 and 6. No one would suggest that the king of the south is the same one all the way through).
11.36 ‘And the king will do according to his will, and he will exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and will speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and he will prosper until the indignation be accomplished. For that which is determined shall be done.’
That this king is a parallel, and more, of Antiochus must be granted, but to say that there is no change of subject is unwarranted. Antiochus, the bogus ‘king’, has been replaced by a true king. Antiochus’ persecution had been the time of the end of the indignation against Israel described in chapter 8. Here this king is the end of the indignation against the people of God at the end of time. We have a similar comparison to that between the two horns in chapter 8 and chapter 7. There is a similarity but they are not the same.
The king of the end time ‘will do according to his will’, just like the mighty king had done in verse 3 and the invincible king of the north had done in verse 16. Both those kings were called ‘the Great’. So here is another to be called ‘the Great’. But both had been humbled. So here was another one to be humbled.
‘And he will exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and will speak marvellous things against the God of gods.’ Antiochus had likened himself to Zeus, king of the gods, but so had others before him. He merely exalted himself as some other kings had in the past. But this one goes even higher, he exalts himself above the God of the gods. To Daniel this can only refer to Yahweh. But Antiochus had not even considered Yahweh. He had dismissed him as a local god. However, this one knows Yahweh and opposes Him. He challenges the Most High (2 Thessalonians 2.4).
We should note that while Antiochus did take his belief in his own divinity very seriously, it must have taken a very serious blow when the Roman general made him stand in a ring, and would not allow him to step out of it until he had agreed to leave Egypt. It is difficult to believe that after that he could think of himself as so exalted, and even less that his army could.
‘And he will prosper until the indignation be accomplished. For that which is determined shall be done.’ As the indignation against Israel was removed from the holy remnant by the purifying which took place through the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes, so will the indignation of God against His people again be removed by the persecutions in the end days. We have no right to put this all on physical Israel. There is little doubt that God is also indignant about the behaviour of the church of Christ. They too need to be purified. And the king of the end days will prosper until that is accomplished (may even be prospering now). For God’s determined purpose must be fulfilled.
11.37 ‘Nor will he regard the gods of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god, for he will magnify himself above all.’
This one will thrust aside any gods connected with his family, or his forebears, nor will he follow any gods or goddesses or aspects of the occult, that women particularly desire after (compare Ezekiel 8.14), nor will he regard any god. He will magnify himself above them all. The list is complete. He is the great Anti-God. We are reminded here of the one in Revelation who, observing the destruction of Babylon, demanded sole worship (Revelation 17.11, 13, 17; 19.19).
11.38-39 ‘But in his place he will honour the god of fortresses, and he will honour a god whom his fathers did not know, with gold, and silver, and with precious stones, and pleasant things. And he will deal with the strongest fortresses by the help of a foreign god. Whoever acknowledges him he will increase with glory. And he will cause them to rule over many, and will divide the land for a price.’
In the place of ‘any god’ he will honour the god of fortresses. Might and power will be his god, for he sees himself as a god and wants all men to look to him, and he seeks that all precious things might be offered to him, and accumulates them for himself. He is the god whom his fathers did not know, the god who is ‘foreign’, the one of whom the like has not been known, he is unique compared with all gods that went before. And in order to enjoy that might and power he will reward those who aid him, and increase the status of all who acknowledge his divinity. They will be given authority, position, land and status. All this depicts the great Anti-God.
(These descriptions go far beyond anything Antiochus said or dreamed of for himself. His thoughts were very much rooted in the gods he knew, over whom he saw himself reigning as Zeus).
11.40-41 ‘And at the time of the end the king of the south will butt at him (or gore him - the word depicts the attack of a wild animal), and the king of the north will come against him like a whirlwind with chariots, and with horsemen and with many ships, and he will enter into the countries, and will overflow and pass through. He will enter also into the glorious land, and many countries will be overthrown. But these will be delivered out of his hand, Edom and Moab and the chief of the children of Ammon.’
‘In the time of the end.’ It is quite clear that this is the end day empire of chapter 7. A greater than Antiochus is here. For him Egypt and Rome hold no fears. When Egypt attacks like a wild animal, he amasses huge forces both on land and sea with all the latest armaments. He swamps the Near East. No countries can prevent his passing, including the glorious land, Israel (this would be especially significant today).
That this could not signify Antiochus is quite clear. The Roman might had ensured once and for all that he leave Egypt alone. There is no way that the author would even in vision have depicted him as becoming so powerful in both men and ships that he could sweep Rome to one side.
But this verse does not depict this great king as facing the combined might of the kings of the south and the north. The description of the forces of the king of the north makes clear that he is that king. And today, as through the centuries, those nations north of Palestine (i.e. that come through it from the north when they invade) are the semi-tamed part of the world from which even today our threats all come. They are a maelstrom of warfare (they worship the god of fortresses). This might be pure coincidence, or it may be very significant, only the future will tell.
But why should Edom, Moab and the chief of the children of Ammon be delivered out of his hand? The answer is probably in order to indicate that parts of the widespread area in which he operates will escape his attentions. It may also be because they will be unwanted territories. East and south of the Jordan in barren wilderness they hold no interest for this mighty king. They are too small to bother with. (If we literalise it, it may even suggest that Jordan will be neutral).
Alternately the thought may be that they have in a cowardly way made peace with the tyrant, willingly submitting themselves to his yoke, thus being treated as allies and not a conquered people, benefiting from the distress of others, just as Edom did in the days of Nebuchadnezzar, something for which Israel never forgave them.
But while containing some literal significance, all this is also symbolic of the distant future. After all it represents a world that Daniel could have no conception of. Today Edom, Moab and Ammon are no longer there. The Near East is no longer the centre of the world. So this may be seen as depicting the warfare and violence that will characterise the whole of the period of the fourth empire, the apocalyptic empire, a world under the influence of Satan. Everything is subject to his control, apart from the people of God. (As with much prophecy it probably contains both literal and spiritual elements).
11.42 ‘He will stretch forth his hand also on all countries, and the land of Egypt will not escape. But he will have power over the treasures of gold and silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt. And the Libyans and Ethiopians will be at his steps.’
All the countries of the Near East will be subject to him, and this will extend as far as Egypt, Libya and Ethiopia. These are probably to be seen as the three horns taken by ‘the horn, the small one’ in 7.20. The treasures of the Near East will be his, and the treasures of Egypt were proverbial. The fourth empire, the apocalyptic empire, is being re-established.
In the case of the nations amassed to go against Israel in Ezekiel 38 Jordan and Arabia were onlookers (Ezekiel 38.13), not participants. The same is the case here in Daniel. But the remainder of the Near East become one empire, including Lybia and Ethiopia, and at length mass against Israel. There may be some literal truth here, for these are all mainly Muslim countries, and it may be that they could produce a leader who will see himself as semi-divine, as did the Mahdi in Sudan. But in the end we should look wider than this for Daniel is seeking to depict the end time empire.
For in Ezekiel the picture is of the nations from remote places of the known world amassed against God’s people in the days leading up to the everlasting kingdom, and the Israel is not an earthly Israel as such, for it dwells safe and secure from these mighty foes in unwalled cities, as the people of God protected by God and therefore untouchable (compare Revelation 7). It symbolises a world, and Satan, at enmity with the people of God, and the people of God secure in the hands of God where none can hurt them. It is similar in picture to that of Revelation in 20.7-9 where the camp of God’s people, a worldwide camp, is also protected by God, which is also at the end of time.
Thus we are probably to see this picture in Daniel as summing up the same situation in vivid symbolism. On one side the Kingly Rule of God, on the other the world going its own way in rebellion against Him.
11.44 ‘But tidings out of the east and out of the north will trouble him, and he will go forth with great fury to destroy and utterly to make away many, and he will plant the tents of his palace (his palatial tents) between the sea and the mountain of the delight of holiness. Yet he will come to his end and none will help him.’
His god is the god of fortresses, and he wars to the end. But Satan’s kingdom is divided. The world fight each other as well as the people of God. Yet in the end he cannot get away from his conflict with the people of God. He plants his palatial tents between the sea(s) and the glorious holy mountain.
‘The seas.’ This is plural. It may be a plural of intensity and thus be depicting the Great Sea, the Mediterranean. Or it may signify between the Great Sea and the Dead Sea.
This site is ever the site where the last great events on earth are depicted (Joel 3.2, 12; Isaiah 2.2; Zechariah 14.2). Is the mountain of the delight of holiness the new heavenly Jerusalem? Or is it the high mountain on which Ezekiel saw in vision the heavenly temple, that site which he saw as especially holy and surrounded by an especially holy portion of land? Or is it both, representing in the end the heavenly temple and the new Jerusalem? (Ezekiel’s temple is specifically stated not to be in Jerusalem, but many miles away from it. The pictures cannot be the same literally. But are they meant to be literal? Certainly Ezekiel’s is a visionary temple with no suggestion that it should be built).
And there he meets his final end with none to help him, for they are in no position to do so (Revelation 19.11-21).
(It should be noted that there is in all this no limitation in period. The seventieth seven is really dealing with the future, after the death of the Messiah, for the people of God. The desolations mentioned in it are part of the desolations that the world continually faces. But we have no right to ‘fit everything in’ to our picture. To do so is to restrict God. This prophecy must stand on its own).
Chapter 12. The Final End.
Having depicted the end days of the world in symbolism Daniel now looks at it from the point of view of the people of God. What is catastrophe for the world is the beginning of eternal glory for His people. The first three verses of this chapter sum up the end of time from their point of view. The final part then summarises the intent of the book.
The Destiny of The Righteous and The Unrighteous (12.1-4).
12.1 ‘And at that time will Michael stand up, the great prince who stands over the children of your people, and there will be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation, even to that same time. And at that time your people will be delivered, every one who will be found written in the book.’
‘At that time --.’ This refers back to 11.40-45. While the horn, the little one, is rampaging around the known world, Michael, the great prince of angels allocated to watch over God’s people, will be ‘standing over them’, ever on the alert to watch over them and protect them. Michael is one of only two angels mentioned by name in Scripture. He is described by Jude 1.9 as an archangel, and in Revelation he leads God’s army of angels (Revelation 12.7). His part is to deal with the activities of the evil angels who seek to control the world, and to intervene to prevent their final misuse of the people of God. There is never any thought of praying to such angels.
‘And there will be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation, even to that same time.’ Compare Jeremiah 30.6-7. This is the end of the world as we know it. No future is conceived of for the earth as it is, apart from that faced by the resurrected ones, and the ‘delivered’, which is in the everlasting kingdom (Ezekiel 37.25-28). This time of trouble is in direct contrast with Mark 13.19 and parallels, which speak of the great tribulation of the Jews at the time of the destruction of the temple by Titus in 70 AD and its aftermath (Matthew 24.21), and which see both a past and a future, the latter revealed by the words ‘nor ever shall be’ (missing from Daniel).
This time of trouble is different from that one, in that this one is final and is not said to be localised, although it too has in mind invasion and warfare, and the activities of Satan. But this one occurs at the end time against the people of God. On the other hand there is no suggestion that it is necessarily worldwide. It is simply indicating that at that time there will be intense trouble which the people of God will also face. It is concerned with how it affects God’s people.
‘And at that time your people will be delivered, every one who will be found written in the book.’ This phrase is very important. ‘Deliverance’ is now described. For those who have died it is by resurrection to the everlasting kingdom. For the living it means full deliverance, and again entry into the everlasting kingdom. In the end it refers to all who are God’s. The intensity of suffering will be followed by the intensity of blessing.
For Daniel this is the final climax to which the book has been leading. The idea here is of final deliverance, the result of the final smiting by the heavenly stone which fills the whole earth (2.34-35), the result of the son of man receiving His kingdom and entering into His glory (7.14), and the result of the saints of the Most High receiving the everlasting kingdom (7.27). He does not enter into detail of how unbelievers will be dealt with, apart from those described in verse 2. He sees only the final glory of God’s people, and their final deliverance.
The Old Testament knew of no heavenly realm for men and women. The concept had not yet developed. That is why it had continually to depict the everlasting future in terms of this earth. It knew no other. But regularly the wording went beyond anything possible on this earth, having in view ‘new heavens and a new earth’ (Isaiah 65.17). This is the only thing that makes sense of the whole picture. It should be noted that there is no suggestion here of a ‘millennial’ kingdom’. For Daniel the ultimate has been reached.
Note also that only those ‘written in the book’ will find deliverance. It clearly therefore does not simply mean the Jews, for they are not all ‘written in the book’, it means all of God’s true Israel. They are the only ones who enjoy final deliverance.
‘Your people.’ Daniel would here think of the remnant of the people of Israel who would prove faithful to God, although he was not aware of how God would expand that Israel. For the New Testament makes clear that that remnant of Israel was increased by all who came to Christ and in Him became members of the true Israel (Galatians 6.16; James 1.1), fellow-citizens with ‘the saints’ (Ephesians 2.19). They too were built into the living temple which was God’s dwelling place (Ephesians 2.19-22) and were accepted as true sons of Abraham (Galatians 3.7, 29). They were grafted in to the olive tree (Romans 10.17), and the bad branches removed. The Bible sees the true church as the true Israel. Israel’s future is the true church’s future, and vice versa.
‘Written in the book.’ This book is the record of the righteous (Psalm 69.28; Malachi 3.16 see also Psalm 139.16). Jesus said to His disciples that they should rejoice because their names were written in Heaven (Luke 10.20). It is to be differentiated from the book of the living, which was simply a record of those alive who were reckoned among the people of God (Exodus 32.32; Psalm 69.28 compare Isaiah 4.3; Ezekiel 13.9; Revelation 3.5), from which names could be blotted out if they proved unworthy. It can be more compared with the Lamb’s book of life, the record of those chosen and redeemed by God through Christ, from which no name could be blotted out (Revelation 13.8; 20.15; 21.27). (But we must remember that these are all symbolic descriptions and not particularise too much).
12.2 ‘And many of those who sleep in the ground of dust will awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.’
This occurs ‘at that time’. While this clearly teaches bodily resurrection, its main emphasis is on the ‘many’. Daniel may have specifically had in mind those who have been going through the time of trouble and will be delivered from a martyr’s death by resurrection. They have been laid in the dusty ground, but they will arise. However, it would also include those who had died in other ways (compare 12.13). It was a hope offered to the righteous. Death was not the end. Compare also Isaiah 26.19.
But an alternative is to see Daniel as meaning rather that ‘many’ (always an indefinite number in Daniel) will arise. That is that the resurrected will be a huge number. Those who awake will be many and not few. They include the multitude that no man can number out of all nations (Revelation 7.9).
But others would rise only to face shame and everlasting contempt, their bodies cast onto the burning rubbish dump outside the walls of Jerusalem, their bodies ever being eaten by maggots and burned in shame (Isaiah 66.24). The contrast was between the faithful and the unfaithful, those who knew their God (11.32), and those who did not. As always they were not all Israel, who were Israel (compare Isaiah 49.5-6). Being a member of the true Israel meant a genuine submission to God through the covenant.
‘Shame and everlasting contempt.’ The root idea is not of physical suffering. Rather the idea is that, having been raised and judged, they will be shamed and punished as described in Isaiah 66.24, their bodies lying in the valley of Hinnom, everlastingly a symbol of the consequences of sin, with no way by which their shame can be removed. Jesus gave His seal of approval to the advancement of this idea into an other-worldly Gehenna where the wicked would be finally punished (Mark 9.47-48).
We should note that both Isaiah and Daniel thought in terms of resurrection back to earth in the coming everlasting age. The idea of life in a heavenly realm was not then mooted. But Jesus added to it when He made clear that the resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous would take men into another ‘world’ to which this pointed, where they would be eternally in, or excluded from, God’s presence.
‘Who sleep.’ Death is likened to sleep from which a man will again awake as one raised from the dead to face his judgment.
‘The ground made of dust.’ The phrase is not exactly the same as in Genesis 2.7, although similar roots are used. It was also to the dust that man was consigned when he fell (Genesis 3.19). Here is the reversal of that process, the reversal of the curse. Man lives again as ‘a new creation’. The fall has been reversed. Man (adam) will again rise from the ground (adamah).
12.3 ‘And those who are wise will shine as the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.’
This is not indicating where they will go, but what they will be revealed to be. ‘Those who are wise’, that is those who have understanding and have demonstrated it by their lives and faithfulness to God’s covenant. ‘As the brightness of the firmament.’ Daniel may have in mind a glorious day when the whole of the sky is shining with the glory of the sun. Their lives will be glorious. Having been raised by God, and having been refined in the fire of trial, their future is glorious. Others would refer it to the glory of the moon and stars in the night sky.
‘Those who turn many to righteousness.’ This does not refer to the famous names (although if they are faithful they will be included), but to all who participate in the forward-going of God’s purposes. For each who is faithful plays his full part in the work of turning many to righteousness. And he who is in any way unfaithful hinders that work.
‘Turn many to righteousness’, that is, to faithfulness to the covenant, to lives that thereby reflect the glory of God.
‘As the stars for ever and ever.’ This is no kingdom age. This is the everlasting future. All would be familiar with the glorious heavenly lights illuminating a dark night. They had shone as stars in the darkness of the world, now they would shine as stars for ever.
12.4 ‘But you, O Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, even to the time of the end. Many will run to and fro, and knowledge will be increased.’
The idea is not that the book is made so that it cannot be read, only that its final fulfilment awaits the time of the end. The book can now be shut up and sealed because it is completed. Then an official sealed copy can be preserved for official consultation while other copies are made available to all. Then the end will reveal its truth. The sealing was for authentication and identification.
‘Many will run to and fro, and knowledge will be increased.’ For the meaning of the verb compare Job 1.7b, ‘going too and fro on the earth’. Amos 8.12 depicts men as running to and fro to seek the word of YHWH but as being unable to find it. So the picture here is that because men ignore this book they will run to and fro around the world, seeking the word of YHWH, gaining a kind of knowledge, but never able to find the truth, because they do not turn to this book or to the Scriptures.
The Final Analysis.
12.5-6 ‘Then I Daniel looked, and behold there stood other two, the one on the brink of the river on this side, and the other on the brink of the river at that side. And one said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, “How long will it be to the end of these wonders?” ’
We must assume that the two men were angels (compare 8.13). They were there only to observe and question, and to witness the oath. Possibly they are to be seen as attendants on the man in the linen clothes, emphasising his importance. He himself was ‘above the waters’ (repeated in verse 7). This repetition emphasised that this great river, which was one of the two sources of the fruitfulness and life of the area, was under his authority. Their question was a simple one. How long would it be before all these awesome events were fulfilled?
The word used for river is one regularly used for the Nile, but not exclusively (see Isaiah 33.21). It signifies a great river that produces fruitfulness. But Daniel must have chosen it deliberately. He may well have had Isaiah 33.21 in mind, ‘but there YHWH will be with us in majesty, a place of broad rivers and streams --’, for he had here met with God through one who was truly majestic.
‘These awesome events (wonders).’ There is no clear indication of what specifically these words cover. It may be the whole of what has been revealed in 11.2-12.3. There is no reason for restricting them to any section.
12.7 ‘And I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand to heaven, and swore by him who lives for ever and ever, that it will be for a time, times and a half. And when they have made an end of breaking in pieces the hand of the holy people, all these things will be finished.’
For the man clothed in linen compare 11.5-6, 13. He was a mighty angel, but not almighty (11.13). Yet his authority was such that he could swear in the name of the Everlasting One how long it would be. It would be for ‘a time, times and a half’. The phrase is similar to the one in 7.25 but not the same (the one was in Aramaic, this is in Hebrew). Its significance is that it is not a complete period. It is not ‘seven times’ but a broken period of ‘a number of times plus a half’. Here was no equivalent of the divinely perfect seven times, denoting a divinely perfect period, but a foreshortened period indicating that it ended before God’s final purposes were complete. The one acting in this period has no control over it. And yet its length was fixed by God who determined the length of ‘a time’.
This foreshortened period will end ‘when they have made an end of breaking in pieces the power of the holy people’. God will not be specific. But He will assure His people that the time is limited. The breaking in pieces of the power of the holy people will cease in the end. And then will be accomplished all the promises of 9.24, and then will follow the resurrection.
It is possible that this has reference to the final part of the seventieth seven in 9.27. When the Temple has been destroyed (the sacrifices have ceased) there will be a period of desolation and persecution for God’s people which will continue until the consummation (it has now lasted for nearly two thousand years). His people will be as pilgrims in the world, ever subjected to desolation and persecution. If we consider that he is speaking of the world of his day, which to us is the Middle Eastern world, it is that world which above all has persecuted and desolated the people of God.
The raising of both hands indicated that all was in the hands of God (compare Exodus 17.11-12), although some have seen it as indicating the intensity of the oath. Normally for an oath one hand would be held up to heaven.
Compare here the one who calls for the end of time in Revelation 10.5-6. There it was indicating the finishing of the mystery of God, in other words that which only God had known, but had by then been revealed, the mystery of the seven seals. Here it is signifying another mystery, now revealed, that of the finish of what has happened to God’s holy people.
‘When they have made an end of breaking in pieces the hand of the holy people, all these things will be finished.’ The ominous message here is that the holy people are to be subjected to attempts to break them in pieces, to utterly destroy them. It spoke of persecution and suffering which would attempt to break their ‘hand’, to break their resistance to sin, to tempt to faithlessness, to destroy their faith in God. But it will eventually come to an end in God’s timing. Yet it brings out how important God’s people are to Him. For this is mentioned because all is in consideration of their welfare. ‘The holy people’ are, of course, the true people of God, those who truly believe. In Daniel’s time they represented those among the Jews who were truly responsive from their hearts to God. They would continue on as the people of the Messiah (the Apostles and those who truly believed in the Messiah), ‘the elect race, the holy nation’ of 1 Peter 2.9, in other words the true believing church of Jesus the Messiah.
12.8 ‘And I heard but I did not understand. Then I said, “O my lord, what will be the end of these things?” ’
Daniel was still puzzled by it all, and no doubt concerned by the accounts of desolation and persecution. Thus he wanted to know the final results of it. What would happen to the people of God?
12. 9-11 ‘And he said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed till the time of the end. Many will purify themselves, and make themselves white, and be refined. But the wicked will do wickedly, and none of the wicked will understand. But those who are wise will understand. And from the time when those things which are continual shall be taken away, and the Abomination that Appals set up, there will be a thousand, two hundred and ninety days.”
The angel is enigmatic. He will not give Daniel the information that he seeks. The words have been shut up and sealed until the time of the end by Daniel himself (verse 4). But two pieces of information he will give. Firstly that the purpose of all this is the refining and purifying of the righteous. They will ‘purify themselves and make themselves white (Psalm 51.7; Isaiah 1.18) and be refined’ (11.35) by how they respond to the suffering in faith and obedience (compare Isaiah 1.25; 48.10; Zechariah 13.9; Malachi 3.3; Romans 5.3-5; Hebrews 12.3-12; Revelation 7.14).
But the wicked, those who are not faithful to God’s covenant, will go on doing wickedly. They will not understand. On the other hand the wise (11.33, 35 compare 1.4, 17; Jeremiah 9.24; Psalm 119.99) will understand, even though they have to go through such suffering.
‘And from the time when those things which are continual shall be taken away, and the Abomination that Appals be set up, there will be a thousand, two hundred and ninety days.’ He here puts a limit on the period of direst persecution, dating it from the cessation of the ‘continual things’; the sabbaths, the sacrifices and offerings, the morning and evening sacrifices, the regular rituals (a cessation for which we do not know the exact date). But no ending event is mentioned.
In Daniel there is only one reference to the Abomination that Appals, and that is in 11.31, so we are immediately taken back to the time of Antiochus Epiphanes. How we see this will depend on our interpretation of 8.14. If we see that as referring to two thousand three hundred days then the end event here may be the date of the purification of the temple. Thus the one thousand two hundred and ninety days would lie between the two events of the cessation of true worship by demand of Antiochus, prior to the setting up of the heathen altar, and the purifying of the temple after the defeat of Antiochus’ army.
But if we see 8.14 as referring to one thousand one hundred and fifty days (see on that verse) then that refers to the period between the commencement of the cessation of the continual worship and the repurifying of the temple, so we will have to look for another event that ends the one thousand two hundred and ninety days.
One possible explanation is that one thousand two hundred and ninety days is one hundred and forty days more than one thousand one hundred and fifty days, representing twice seven times ten, a period of divine perfection intensified. This may then refer to the length of time taken to fortify Mount Sion and rebuild its walls and fortify it with towers after the purification of the temple lest the Gentiles come and tread them down (1 Maccabees 4.60). For that would be almost as important as the purification of the temple. It would hopefully prevent its future desecration. Compare how previously the Temple was restored in the time of Zerubbabel, while the building of the walls awaited the time of Nehemiah.
Certainly the number is a difficulty to all other interpretations. All attempts to trace it have failed. Nor is it possible to see it as signifying three and a half years, for it represents three and a half years plus a month, and surely if he had wanted us to understand it as three and a half years he would have made it one thousand two hundred and sixty days. (Daniel nowhere speaks of one thousand two hundred and sixty days). John in Revelation clearly did not see one thousand two hundred and ninety days as signifying three and a half years, for when he wanted to indicate that length of time he did use one thousand two hundred and sixty days (confirming our doubt above).
It is true that an intercalary month could bring it to mean three and a half years, but why then did Daniel disguise it in that way so that even John did not recognise it? And it would certainly conflict with other criteria. Most have accepted this and have tried to find an added reason for the extra month, although not very satisfactorily.
If then we see 8.14 as signifying two thousand three hundred days , we may see this one thousand two hundred and ninety days as simply meaning ‘a little over three and a half years’, during which the persecutions were at their worst, a time commencing from the cessation of true worship and ending with the righting of the situation.
We may also see it in fact as indicating that he did not want it to be connected with references that might be confused with it such as ‘a time, times and half a time’ (although there is really no reason why that should mean three and a half years either, except for those who want it to).
We must bear in mind in all the discussion that the real purpose in stating the amount of time may be mainly to indicate the shortness and brevity of it, and to indicate that God wanted His people to know that he had set a limit on the time of suffering, and this must not be lost sight of in dealing with the problem. For even if we are not able to trace the exact period due to lack of information, what we do know is that it was a length of time reasonably relating to their suffering under Antiochus, commencing from the cessation of true worship and finishing around the time when things were set right.
However, if 8.14 refers to one thousand one hundred and fifty days then this is one hundred and forty days longer, which may be seen as necessitating a slightly different solution (for which see above).
(But if the two thousand three hundred was intended to indicate days commencing from the date of the appointment of the false Menelaus, or the date from which he commenced his sacrilegious ministry, or the date when he arranged the murder of Onias, or the date when he purloined the temple vessels which Onias had reproved him for, then there is no conflict).
Jesus takes this picture of ‘the Abomination that Appals’ (Matthew 24.15; Mark 13.14) and applies it to approach of the Roman army on Jerusalem in 70 AD. In the end, therefore, it is a reminder that all acts of sacrilege against God’s people are seen as summed up in the Abomination that Appals. To attack God’s people is an abomination to God. But all such attempts will finally fail, for a time limit has been put upon them by God.
12.12 ‘Blessed is he who waits, and comes to the one thousand three hundred and thirty five days.’
This suggests that it is this final period which is the most important of the two. The one thousand two hundred and ninety being a stage on the way to this final figure. But what can the one thousand three hundred and thirty five days refer to? It indicates a further one and a half months onto the one thousand two hundred and ninety days. If the end of the one thousand two hundred and ninety days refers to the recommencement of sacrifices then this could be the period of building the fortifications of the walls.
Those who saw that work completed would certainly count themselves as blessed. True worship would not only have been restored, but would also have been firmly secured.
But if the one thousand two hundred and ninety brings us to that point we can only see the extra one and a half months as due to a period which cannot be explained. Perhaps then the one thousand two hundred and ninety days can be seen as a stage in the process, possibly referring to the date of completion of some important section of it, clearly recognisable then, and thus as itself building up to the final day of blessing.
But the important lesson that comes from this is the need for the people of God to endure with perseverance under all persecution, because they can be sure that a time limit has been put upon it by God. He has even numbered it in days. The advancing lengths of time indicate the need to persevere that little bit longer even in the darkest hour, because even though God might allow it to go on longer than we expect, we can be sure that finally it will all come to an end.
12.13 ‘But go your way until the end be. For you will rest and will stand in your lot at the end of the days.’
In a closing benediction the angel tells him that his task is finished. He may now go his way satisfied that he has fulfilled God’s will. ‘The end’ is probably the end of his life, for it is the point at which he will rest. Then he will sleep, taking his rest until at the end of the days he is resurrected to enjoy his destiny, and shine as the stars for ever and ever.
Or ‘the end’ may signify the time of resurrection (12.2-3), when he will stand in his appointed position ‘at the end of the days’, that is at the consummation, at the time of the resurrection of the righteous.
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