Daniel (ch. 7-12)
ISAIAH PROPHESIED IN Judah both before and also during the reign of the God-fearing Hezekiah, when under his influence things seemed outwardly to be better. Yet the prophet had to reveal the hidden corruption under the surface. In our Bibles his book is followed by that of Jeremiah, who was raised up of God to speak for Him in the last sad days of Judah's history, when things were hopelessly bad and beyond recovery, and the blow fell on them through Nebuchadnezzar.
The seven nations of Canaan had formerly inhabited the land and done horrible things in it: so much so that God sent Israel against them under Joshua with orders to exterminate them. But now the Lord has to say through Jeremiah. 'A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land. The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and My people love to have it so; and what will ye do in the end thereof?' (Jer. 5: 30, 31). What God did through the Babylonian king 'in the end thereof,' Jeremiah had to see and experience to his deep sorrow. We may get some idea of the depth of his grief, if we read the book of Lamentations, which follows his main prophecy.
This book is followed by Ezekiel who was carried amongst many others into captivity in the days of Jehoiachin some years before the final crash fell on Zedekiah, which Jeremiah witnessed. In the land of his captivity he saw in vision the glory, which marked the presence of God, departing from temple and city, and if God was gone, all was lost.
Yet each of these three prophets predicted God's future intervention in a way that would be altogether new. Isaiah foretold things that should be absolutely new. even, 'new heavens and a new earth,' brought about by the twofold advent of the Messiah; first as the humbled Servant, to suffer for sins, and then as the mighty Arm of Jehovah redeeming in power what He had first redeemed by His blood.
Jeremiah follows, predicting that these new things will be established, not on the old covenant of law but on a new covenant of grace. Let Jeremiah 31: 31-34 be read and note how again and again, 'I will,' appears, rather than the, 'If ye will,' of Exodus 19: 8. In this New Covenant God is going to act according to His own thoughts and purposes in grace, based on the work of Christ, as unfolded by Isaiah.
Ezekiel completes the prophetic outline, that is given to us by these three major prophets. In Ezekiel 36 he foretells the New Birth that will take place with a remnant of Israel before they enter on millennial blessedness, and his next chapter speaks of how they will be spiritually quickened, and brought into a new order of life.
This brings us to Daniel, who raised up by God just as the 'times of the Gentiles' (Luke 21: 24) began under Nebuchadnezzar. He was enabled of God to give us a prophetic outline of the course of these times, during which the Messiah would be cut off. Hence tribulation is to be the portion of the people, but with the hope of deliverance at the end.
Daniel's prophecy falls quite simply into two parts after the introductory chapter, which relates the courageous stand of Daniel and his three companions against the taint of idolatry, and the way God honoured it. From the point where the Chaldeans spoke 'to the king in Syriack' (Dan. 2: 4), to the end of Daniel 7, this language of the Gentiles is used, and Hebrew is only reverted to as we start Daniel 8. Thus the historical details and the prophecies that relate to the Gentile powers are written in the Gentile language. Then in the five chapters that complete the book things are revealed to Daniel that mainly concern his people, though details as to the nations are referred to.
CHAPTER SEVEN (Daniel 7)
IN Daniel 5, we had the record of the last year, indeed of the last hours, of the kingship of Belshazzar. As we open chapter 7, we are carried back to the first year of his reign. At this time Daniel had sunk into complete obscurity, as chapter 5 bears witness. He had lost touch with worldly fame, but by a dream he was still in touch with heaven. Previously his fame had largely rested upon his God-given interpretations of dreams, though in Daniel 2 the interpretation was revealed to him in 'a night vision'. Now, in his retirement from worldly affairs, by a dream a prophetic revelation is given to him, and 'he wrote the dream', for our benefit, since it has been included in the inspired Sciptures.
Verse 2 is very instructive. What he saw was produced by the striving of 'the four winds of the heaven ... upon the great sea'. Now the sea is used figuratively as indicating the masses of mankind, as are the 'many waters' of Revelation 17: 1 and 15, which represent 'peoples, and multitudes, and nations'. So also, 'wind' often represents the power of Satan, for he is 'the prince of the power of the air' (Eph. 2: 2). What Daniel saw was, in figure, the forces of darkness working on the masses of mankind, and as a result producing, as we shall see, the four world-empires that fill up the times of the Gentiles. Israel is the only nation that has been raised up by God to a place of supremacy; but, while it is set aside, four world powers arise as a result of the striving of Satanic forces, and not of the working of God's power.
The powers that emerge are represented by 'beasts'. It is worthy of note that this figure re-appears in the book of Revelation, where the revival of the Roman Empire in the last days is presented as 'a beast' rising up 'out of the sea' (Rev. 13: 1). That the four empires should be portrayed as beasts is no compliment to them. But God does not pay compliments, but pre-figures things exactly as they are, according to their inward nature. History, as far as it has been enacted up to the present, quite supports the accuracy of the figure used.
The four beasts appear in rotation, and are described in verses 4-7. The first was the Babylonian, with the strength of a lion and the swiftness of an eagle, and the latter part of verse 4 seems to refer to God's disciplinary dealings with Nebuchadnezzar. This had been nearly fulfilled when Daniel had the dream.
The second, described in verse 5, was the Medo Persian, that overthrew the Babylonian soon after Daniel had the dream. It is represented as a bear, which is worthy of note. The Babylonian was like a lion and an eagle, as we see also in Jeremiah 4: 7, and Jeremiah 49: 19-22. Now the bear in nature has not the strength of the lion, but it is marked by rapacity, as indicated in our verse. History records that 'one side' of it, namely the Median, came up first, for Darius was a Mede; but soon Cyrus the Persian became dominant. He became favourable to the Jews, as the opening verses of Ezra show, but apart from this its power was not tolerant, and the words, 'Arise, devour much flesh', were fulfilled in its history.
In verse 6, the third empire is prefigured, which we know as the Grecian, founded by Alexander the Great. Now a leopard is a cruel beast, marked by great agility. The idea of swift agility is increased by this beast having 'four wings of a fowl' on its back. This aptly sets forth the swiftness of Alexander's conquests, and his overthrow of the Persian empire. It also had 'four heads', and in this we see an allusion to what followed the early death of Alexander-the division of the empire into four separate states, under four of his leading generals.
But a fourth empire was to arise, as stated in verse 7; namely the Roman, which would be so remarkable that no well-known beast, such as lion, bear or leopard, could represent it. It would be, 'diverse from all the beasts that were before it',-'dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly'. Its teeth would be 'iron', and it would not only subdue, but also devour and break in pieces all that it subdued. How exactly this described the Roman empire, history bears witness.
Here then we have the four world-empires, that were indicated in Nebuchadnezzar's dream, recorded in Daniel 2. But they are presented in a very different aspect. There the deterioration in the quality of their governments, descending from gold to an unreliable combination of iron and clay, was indicated. Here we have their true inner character and spirit set before us; and all four are beasts, endowed with great strength, which is used with destructive force. What a terrible unveiling is here before us as to the true character, as God sees it, of the mighty empires of men, which are to fill up the times of the Gentiles. Let us ponder these things deeply, and learn to view world affairs in the light of what is here made known to us.
The fourth beast had ten horns, answering to the ten toes at the base of the image, in Daniel 2. Verses 8 and 9 of our chapter show that these 'horns' prefigure powerful men and kings, that will arise in the last days of the fourth beast. Of these, three will be overthrown before 'another little horn', to be marked by penetrating intelligence and great powers of boastful speech. Here, for the first time, we meet with that evil man in whom Satan's power will be personified, as we shall see lower down in our chapter.
As Daniel gazed at this remarkable sight, 'thrones were set, and the Ancient of days did sit' (New. Trans.); that is, he saw the hour of God's judgment arrived. How majestic is the language of these verses! One cannot read them without being reminded of the way the Lord Jesus appeared to John, as he records in Revelation 1. We remember also that 'the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son' (John 5: 22). To Pharisees and others John the Baptist declared, 'He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire . . . He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire' (Matt. 3: 11, 12); and 'fire', you notice, marks the scene we have before us here.
The 'Ancient of days' then presents God to us in the eternity of His Being, for we must remember that the Persons of the Godhead were not clearly distinguished, as they have been since the coming of Christ. In the presence of Almighty God the Roman empire in its last and worst phase, under the domination of the 'little horn', whom we identify with the first beast of Revelation 13 will be destroyed in judgment; while up to that time the three earlier beasts will have been permitted to exist, though dominion had been taken from them, as stated in verse 12.
This dream clearly divides into three parts. The first, the vision of the four beasts. The second, the vision of judgment established and the fourth beast with its little horn destroyed in the presence of Almighty God. The third, the vision of the advent and glory and eternal dominion of 'the Son of Man'. The allusion to the Lord Jesus here is not as distinct as it is in Psalm 8: 4, where the first 'man' represents the Hebrew word meaning 'mortal man', and the second is the word 'Adam'. He was not mortal man, but He was indeed 'Son of Adam', as Luke's Gospel shows. In verse 13, however, it is really, 'a son of man' (New Trans.), and the word in the Chaldee is the one used for mortal man. Daniel saw the One in the vision as being like a son of man, and this He was, for He was 'made in the likeness of men' (Phil. 2: 7). In the light of the New Testament we are privileged to know who He really is.
From verse 15 to the end of the chapter we have the explanation that was given to Daniel, of the vision he had seen. Much of it we have already mentioned, but there are in it details not represented in the dream. In verses 18 and 25, for instance, we find mentioned 'the saints of the most High', or 'of the high places'. When the fourth beast is destroyed, together with the 'horn', which is its imperial head, these saints will take the kingdom and possess it for ever. Yet some of them will be worn out, or destroyed. As verse 21 says, the 'horn' made war with the saints, 'and prevailed against them'.
We have here a brief allusion to things more clearly revealed in Revelation 13: 7 and Rev. 14: 9-13. We ask our readers to read these verses, noting particularly the 13th verse, and then turning to Rev. 20: 4. It seems plain then that the 'horn' who is the first 'beast' of Revelation 13, will persecute and slay many of the godly, who refuse him and his 'mark'. But such will be blessed in a particular degree, as resting from their labours, and they will be raised before the start of Christ's reign, to share in a heavenly portion and have dominion given to them, in common with all others, who are 'of the high places'; that is, enjoying a heavenly portion, as distinct from a place in millennial blessedness on earth.
Not all the saints, mentioned in verse 21 of our chapter, are slain, though war is made against them. These of course will pass into the earthly blessedness of the Kingdom. So, in our chapter we have 'the saints', who will escape and be blessed on earth: 'the saints of the high places,' whose portion is in heaven: and further, in verse 27, 'the people of the saints of the high places', to whom the greatness of the kingdom 'under the whole heaven', is to be given. That people will be the true Israel, cleansed and born again, as predicted in Ezekiel 36, and thus made spiritually to live, according to Ezekiel 37.
This vision was given to Daniel shortly before the first of the four great empires fell, and since he was without the further light shed in the New Testament, we can understand what a disturbing effect it had on his mind. What disturbed him may well encourage us. The beast-like empires of men will vanish in judgment, and all dominion will be vested in the Son of Man, while delegated authority will be exercised by saints both heavenly and earthly.
CHAPTER EIGHT (Daniel 8)
WE NOW LEAVE that portion of the prophecy that deals specially with the Gentile powers; and so, as we begin chapter 8, the language of the original reverts to Hebrew from the Chaldee. The vision recorded in this chapter, is dated about two years after the one we have just considered. Though Gentile powers are still in view, the main point seems to be their action in regard to Jerusalem with its sanctuary and sacrifices. It came to Daniel not when he was in Babylon but rather in Shushan; that is, in a palace of the Medo-Persian empire, which overthrew the Babylonian, and it must have been just before that overthrow took place.
Thus before the Medo-Persian empire triumphed, its own overthrow was pictured in the mind of Daniel, since the ram with two horns clearly represented that power. The Persian horn became the dominant one, but it came up last. For a time the ram was irresistible, doing its own will and pushing in all directions.
The he goat of verse 5 is clearly the Grecian power, and the 'notable horn' was a prediction of Alexander the Great, who, moving with great swiftness, crushed the Persian power. Then verse 8 predicted the sudden end of Alexander and the division of his newly acquired dominion into four lesser ones.
Thus far, we have been given an enlarged view of what was compressed into verse 6 of the previous chapter; but in Daniel 8: 9 we pass into predictions that are new, and that deal with happenings that would spring out of the dissolution of the Grecian empire rather than the affairs of the last days, until we come to the interpretation of the vision, which is given to us in verses 19-26. As is frequently the case, the interpretation travels beyond the details given in the vision.
The predictions, as to 'the little horn' and his doings, are distinct from those of the 'little horn', of Daniel 7. That was to spring out of the fourth empire in its last days: this, out of one of the four parts of the divided third empire. This striking individual was to glorify himself and reach towards the south and east and 'the pleasant land', which doubtless is Palestine. The 'stars' he would cast down, we understand to be shining servants of God. He would take away the daily sacrifice and tread the sanctuary down, dishonouring the 'prince of the host'. This was all fulfilled in the career of that evil man, known to history as Antiochus Epiphanes. He defiled the temple and tried to force heathen worship on the Jews, which led to the revolt under the Maccabees, and a time of much tribulation, until at last after the 2,300 evenings and mornings the sanctuary was cleansed. We believe that many details given in Hebrews 11: 35-38, may refer to saints of those days.
When Daniel was made to understand the vision, his thoughts were soon carried on to 'what shall be in the last end of the indignation', as verse 19 says. Verses 20-22, summarize the history we have considered, and then verse 23 carries us on to the latter days, when two things will happen. First, transgressors will have 'come to the full'. Second, a king, marked by bold power and clever understanding, will rise up from the same quarter. This is indicated by the fact that he arises in the latter time of 'their kingdom'; that is, from the north region of Syria, whence came Antiochus of evil memory, who sprang from Seleucus, one of Alexander's generals, who became king of the north, while Ptolemy and his successors became kings of the south, or Egypt.
This coming king of the north, like Antiochus, will attempt to 'destroy the mighty and the holy.people'; that is, the Israel of the last days. His doings are described in verses 24 and 25, but at the last he will 'stand up against the Prince of princes', and as a result be broken 'without hand'; that is, we understand, without human instrument ality. Here then, we have that 'king of the north', or 'the Assyrian', that figures so largely in other Old Testament prophecies, who will be destroyed by the Lord Jesus Himself when He appears in His glory, and His feet stand on the Mount of Olives, as Zechariah has predicted in the opening of Zech. 14.
It is important, we believe, to keep clear in our minds the distinction between this 'little horn', proceeding from the third beast, and the one on the fourth beast in Daniel 7, who is supported by the false Messiah in Jerusalem, according to Revelation 13; and that means of course that he is in league with the Jew and Jerusalem, whereas this northern king is violently against them. Both, though probably not at the same moment, will be destroyed by the glorious appearing of Christ.
Daniel was assured that this vision was true and certain, though what it portrayed was distant from his days. Though the terror of it caused him to faint, he understood it not. It was to be as a sealed book in his day. It is an open vision to us, since we have the light of the New Testament and are indwelt by the Spirit of God. We may well exclaim, 'Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift'!
CHAPTER NINE (Daniel 9)
WHAT IS RECORDED in chapter 9 took place shortly after Darius had overthrown Babylon and taken the kingdom -that is, soon after the experience Daniel had, as narrated in Daniel 5. By this time he was of course an old man, and near the end of his life of service, for he had been amongst the first batch of captives, deported by Nebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah, an older man, had been left in Jerusalem, prophesying there until its destruction years later.
The fall of Babylon was a tremendous upheaval. What effect had it upon Daniel? It moved him to study that portion of the Word of God that was available under his hand. A first-rate example for us today, since the upheavals among the nations during the past fifty years have been more far-reaching than the fall of Babylon. The prophecies of Jeremiah had been committed to writing and were available to him as, 'books'. We have the completed Bible, which really means 'The Book'.
To Daniel these 'books' came as 'the word of the Lord'; that is, he received Jeremiah's writings as being inspired of God, and hence authoritative, and to be accepted without question. Happy are we if, following his example, we treat our Bible in the same way. The particular passage that affected Daniel so deeply was Jeremiah 25: 8-14, where 'desolations' lasting 70 years were predicted. Daniel must at once have realized that the 70 years had nearly run their course, and that deliverance of some kind was near at hand. The effect that this discovery had upon him is most instructive and also searching for us.
Had we been in his place we might have felt greatly exhilarated by the discovery, and inclined to have a time of jubilation. But it was not thus with Daniel; but rather the exact opposite. He was moved to fasting, humiliation, confession and prayer, realizing the great sin of his people which had brought all this judgment upon them. This we see, if verses 4-19 of our chapter be read. He utterly condemned himself as identified with his people, and he vindicated God in His judgments, proclaiming His righteousness in all He had done.
These words of Daniel should be deeply pondered by each of us. Nowhere in the Bible do we find a finer example of thorough-going confession and prayer, though Ezra's prayer recorded in Ezra 9 closely resembles it. He made no allusion to the covenant of promise made with Abraham, but placed himself before God on the basis of the covenant of the law of Moses, and the subsequent ministry through the prophets. As to this he confessed complete breakdown and disaster, though personally he was less implicated in it than any in his day.
But thus it always is. Those deeply implicated in failure and sin are by that very fact rendered insensible to the depths into which they have sunk, while those less involved are painfully alive to the state of things. What is the state of things in the professing church today? A prophetic sketch of church history is given us in Revelation 2 and 3. The last stage is that of Laodicea. Are those deeply involved in its grievous evils likely to bow down in confession and prayer? No. Only those who are lightly involved will do so. May we all take heed to this.
The things that mark true confession come clearly to light here. The evil is acknowledged without any aMempt at excuse or extenuation. The rightness of God's judgments and discipline are fully acknowledged, and the plea that God would grant deliverance, according to His word, is urged, 'not ... for our righteousnesses, but for Thy great mercies'. Let us cultivate these excellent features in our day. We too can ask for nothing on the ground of merit, but only on the ground of mercy. As we contemplate the state of Christendom today, and of our own state too, let us cultivate the spirit of humble confession that marked Daniel.
Such confession and prayer meets with an immediate answer, as we see in verses 20 and 21. Gabriel, the angelic messenger of God, was sent, 'to fly swiftly', with an answer that would give Daniel 'skill and understanding' as to events that lay ahead, with the assurance that he was in God's estimation a man 'greatly beloved'. What other saint was permitted to hear himself so described? Our Lord's words were, 'he that shall humble himself shall be exalted' (Matt. 23: 12). Here we have an illustration of this. Daniel had humbled himself in exceptional measure, and so he is permitted to know that he is greatly beloved in Heaven. What an exaltation! Had he not been truly humbled such an assurance might have puffed him up to his undoing.
Gabriel was commissioned to reveal to Daniel the prophecy of the 'seventy weeks'; the word week here indi cating a period of seven, it may be of days, or as here it clearly is, of years. We have just seen Daniel stirred to confession and prayer by the discovery of the fact that the seventy years of the desolations had nearly run their course; he is now to learn that seventy years, multiplied by seven, were to pass when according to the Divine reckoning, full release and blessing would be reached, as indicated in verse 24.
The contents of this verse must be carefully noted. In the first place, the time indicated is determined upon 'thy people and upon thy holy city', and not upon the world in general; though doubtless what transpires upon Israel and Jerusalem will have great effect upon the world in general. Then, in the second place, the end that is to be reached is the establishment of full millennial blessedness. Then it is that the sad story of transgression and sin will be dosed; then 'the righteousness of the ages' (New Trans.), will be brought in; then the vision and the prophecy will be sealed up, since all is accomplished: then 'the most holy' or, 'the holy of holies' will be anointed, and set apart for God, as is also predicted in such a passage as Ezekiel 43: 12. The end of the seventy years of desolations would only be a very faint and imperfect forecast of this.
The seventy weeks, or 490 years, were, however, to be divided into three parts, and they were to start when the commandment was issued to restore and to build Jerusalem as a city. The opening verses of Ezra give us the edict of Cyrus to rebuild the temple: the edict to rebuild the city was that of Artaxerxes, as recorded in Nehemiah 2. This latter was the start of the seventy weeks, predicted here. The first part-seven weeks, or 49 years,-were to be occupied with the rebuilding, and the re-establishment of Israel in the city and land: that is, about up to the time of Malachi. Then were to come the 62 weeks, or 434 years, completing the period 'unto the Messiah the Prince'.
Here then we have a very clear and definite prophecy, which has been fulfilled. In checking its fulfilment the main difficulty lies in the fact that the Jews calculated their years in a way different from ourselves, which gives rise to complications. We are content to accept the result of an investigation made years ago by the late Sir Robert Anderson, a competent and reliable person. He showed that not only were the 483 years to Christ correct, but that they expired exactly to the day on which He made His formal presentation of Himself to His people, riding on the foal of an ass, as Zechariah had foretold.
And what was the result of this presentation? Just what we have in verse 26. Messiah was 'cut off, but not for Himself', or better, as the margin has it, 'and shall have nothing'. Thus His rejection was foretold, and though He had the title to everything on the earth, He had nothing: a borrowed stable for His birth; nowhere to lay His head, while He served; a borrowed tomb at the finish. Here then we find the Jews committing themselves to a sin far worse than their breaking of the law and their persistent idolatry. The consequences flowing from this greatest of all sins, are stated at the end of verse 26.
Years ago we heard of a Christian talking to a Jewish Rabbi, and asking him what in their history justified God in condemning them to the disasters and miseries they suffered in Babylon. He admitted at once that it was their law-breaking and idolatry. Then, said the Christian, tell me, what have you done that justifies God in condemning you to far worse disasters and miseries, lasting from A. D. 70, to the present time, with even worse things still in prospect? It was a devastating question, and what could he say? We know what we should at once say; pointing to the Messiah crucified between two thieves.
In this prophecy the result of the cutting off of the Messiah is briefly summed up at the end of verse 26. The more immediate result was to be the destruction of the city and the sanctuary by 'the people of the prince that shall come.' Now this prince is the 'little horn', of whom we read in Daniel 7, the head of the Roman Empire in its revived and last stage, whom we identified with the first 'beast' of Revelation 13. This Roman despot is still to come, but the Roman people were the dominant power in the time of our Lord, and they did destroy Jerusalem in very thorough fashion.
That destruction was but the beginning of God's disciplinary judgments upon them. So the prophecy moves on to 'the end thereof', which is to be 'with a flood', or 'an overflow', indicating, we judge, that the sorrows and persecutions that have followed the Jews through all these centuries will rise to flood-tide height just before the end. The closing words of this verse may be read, 'unto the end, war,-the desolations determined'. Here is a state" meet, conveying volumes in a few words.
In the past nineteen centuries war has been the prominent feature. If all reference to it were cut out of our history books, there would be not much history left, and there are wars predicted, that yet have to come. But the Jew and his city are particularly in view in this prophecy, and hence we again meet with the word, 'desolations'. Our chapter began with a reference to the 70 years' desolations predicted by Jeremiah; now as we reach its end we find another prediction of desolations, which in length and final severity will surpass the former. So Messiah's death was to be followed almost immediately by the destruction of Jerusalem, and ultimately, for a long period, but its length not revealed, by war and desolations.
Having mentioned the end in verse 26, we are carried on to the events of the end in verse 27. Who is the 'he', with whom the verse begins? Clearly the 'prince that shall come,' dominating the revived Roman Empire of the last days. He is going to confirm, not 'the covenant' but, 'a covenant with the many for one week' (New Trans.). And this is evidently the one week which completes the 70 weeks of this prophecy. This covenant, we judge, will permit the Jews of that day to resume 'the sacrifice and the oblation' in Jerusalem, for in the midst of the week he will break the covenant, and the desolations will reach their climax.
In the New Translation the close of the verse reads, 'because of the protection of abominations (there shall be) a desolator, even until that the consumption and what is determined shall be poured out upon the desolate'. This will be the time of the great tribulation, and the 'desolator' we should identify as being the 'king of fierce countenance', spoken of in the closing verses of Daniel 8. At the end of this seventieth week Messiah will appear in power and great glory, as other scriptures show, and the 'everlasting righteousness', or 'the righteousness of the ages', will be established. His appearing will completely overthrow the desolator and completely deliver the desolate.
Thus, the day of grace, in which we are living, comes in between weeks 69 and 70. The latter part of verse 26 shows that there is to be an undefined period at that point, marked by war and desolations as to world affairs and the Jews, but marked also by the going forth of the Gospel, as the New Testament shows. The rejection and the death of the Messiah was thus plainly predicted, with the sorrows of the world in general and of the Jew in particular, as the result of it.
CHAPTER TEN (Daniel 10)
As WE COMMENCE reading chapter 10, we again find mention of 'weeks'. They are, however, to be distinguished from the 'weeks' we have just been considering, since a note in the margin of our Bibles indicates that in the Hebrew they are 'weeks of days'. For those weeks Daniel was mourning and fasting, though the reason for this is not stated.
At the end of chapter 1, we were told that Daniel continued to the first year of Cyrus: what we are about to consider occurred in the third year of Cyrus, so Daniel was now an old man and very near the end of his remarkable career. Our chapter furnishes us with details preparatory to the prophetic revelations made in Daniel 11 and Daniel 12. They are very instructive, as showing us the way in which angelic beings may act as 'ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation' (Heb. 1: 14).
Verses 5-9, describe the angelic visitation and the effect it had upon Daniel. We may remark that uniformly when angelic beings assume a form visible to human eyes, they appear as men. Nevertheless that which is supernatural marks them, reminding the one who sees them of the presence of God. It was so on this occasion, and the description given in verse 6 reminds us of John's description of his Lord, as recorded in Revelation 1: 14, 15. Yet the angel here was not the Lord, as verse 13, we think, makes plain. Still it put Daniel on his face and prostrate.
There is also a resemblance between this scene and what took place at the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. Then his companions saw the light but did not hear the words that were spoken though they heard the sound. Here the men with him saw nothing but they were filled with trembling, and fled to hide themselves. Fallen man cannot stand in the presence of God, and even a saint-whether Daniel in the Old Testament or John in the New-falls down 'in a deep sleep', or 'as one dead'. We know God as our Father, but we must never forget His supreme majesty as God.
In the first year of Darius, Daniel was addressed as a man 'greatly beloved', as we saw in the last chapter. We have now come to the third year of Cyrus, and again he is thus addressed twice, showing he had not forfeited the earlier description. And why was this, seeing that so often saints backslide, and do not maintain the life of godliness? The answer, we think, is found in verse 12. In his devoted life Daniel had maintained two things.
In the first place he had set his heart to understand. How often is this lacking amongst us today! Is it our fervent desire to understand what God has revealed, not with the head only, but with the heart? Daniel loved his God, and loved his people, so that what God made known deeply affected him. If love were more fervent with us, we should be setting our hearts to understand the truth made known to us.
In the second place he 'chastened', or 'humbled' himself before God, while he sought the understanding. Here again we have to challenge ourselves. It is fatally easy to desire a large understanding of Divine truth because it confers a certain prominence and importance upon the person who possesses it. In reality all truth, if apprehended in the heart, humbles us. This is exemplified in the Apostle Paul. Writing of God's great thoughts as to the church in Ephesians 3, he is 'less than the least of all saints'. In 2 Corinthians 12, after telling how he had been caught up into Paradise, and heard unspeakable things, he says, 'though I be nothing'. Did we chasten ourselves more truly before God. we should soon have a larger understanding of His truth.
Verses 12 and 13 show that answers to our prayerful desires may be delayed by adverse powers in the unseen world. Satan has his angels, and it appears that some may be deputed by him to hinder God's work in certain kingdoms. The prince of the kingdom of Persia, who withstood the holy angel speaking to Daniel, was doubtless a fallen angelic being. Michael, elsewhere called the archangel, came to help him. The first verse of Daniel 12 shows us that Michad is specially commissioned to act on behalf of the children of Israel, and hence he intervened on this occasion. In the last verse of our chapter he is called, 'your prince'.
In the angelic world there was also 'the prince of Grecia', as verse 20 shows; but in spite of these adverse powers the messenger of God had come to Daniel, and lifting him up had strengthened him to receive the communication that God was now sending him. Conflict in the angelic realm had still to take place with the princes of Persia and Grecia-the empire that was presently to overthrow the Persian empire-but the instruction of this humble and devoted servant of God took precedence, as to time, over even that.
He had come to show Daniel, 'that which is noted in the Scripture of Truth'. He spoke as if it had already been so noted, but we may indeed thank God that it has been noted in the Bible-the Scripture of Truth-which we hold in our hand and can read today. What was thus conveyed to Daniel is noted in the chapters that follow, and as we read them we shall see that some things revealed have already taken place, and some remain to be fulfilled, as we have just seen in the prophecy of the seventy weeks. What has been so accurately fulfilled assures us that the important things, that remain to be fullfilled, will all take place with equal accuracy in their season.
CHAPTER ELEVEN (Daniel 11)
WE NOW COME to the last of the prophetic revelations, received and recorded by Daniel. The opening verses of chapter 11, indeed the larger part of the chapter, give us predictions that very evidently have long since been fulfilled. If our readers will glance at the close of verse 35, they will see the words, 'to the time of the end, because it is yet for a time appointed'. Then turning back to Daniel 9: 26, they will see the words, 'unto the end'; and at that point came the undisclosed gap in the prophecy of the seventy weeks-as we now know, lasting over nineteen centuries-before the seventieth week arrives. So it is, we believe, here, and only when we reach verse 36 of our chapter does the prophecy suddenly move on to the time of the end, and to the last days.
The three Persian kings who were to 'stand up', according to verse 2, are evidently the three mentioned in Ezra 4: 5.7, known in history as Cambyses, Smerdis, and Darius Hystaspes. The fourth, 'richer than they all', would be Xerxes, who was so intoxicated by his own greatness that he attacked Greece, and stirred up the 'mighty king' of verse 3-Alexander the Great-to humble his pride and shatter his kingdom; gaining for himself 'great dominion', according to his own will.
History records how brief was Alexander's dominion, for he died when still young, and his kingdom was divided between four of his generals, as is clearly foretold in verse 4. Their powers, however, were far more limited and 'not according to his dominion'. From verse 5 onward, our attention is directed to the doings of two out of these four; the king of the south and the king of the north respectively. If we enquire why the prophecy concentrates on these two only, the answer surely is that only these two meddled with and oppressed the Jews back in the land. Their kingdoms were north and south of Palestine; what we should now call Syria and Egypt, and the first kings were Seleucus and Ptolemy.
The New Translation renders verse 5 as, 'The king of the south, who is one of his princes, shall be strong; but [another] shall be stronger than he'. Both of these princes of Alexander would be strong, but the northern one the stronger of the two. This exactly came to pass.
Verse 6 begins, 'And in the end of years', and we at once travel on some distance into history, for the prophecy does not concern itself here with individual kings. It is just 'the king of the north', or 'of the south', though different individuals may be indicated. What is plainly foretold is the state of friction and warfare that continued for many years between these two opposing powers, to the trouble and discomfort of the Palestinian Jews, who were located between them. We may say therefore that verses 6-20 forecast their evil schemings and fightings up to a point when the power of Rome became manifest, before which the then king of the north should 'stumble and fall, and not be found'. His successor had to be a mere 'raiser of taxes', to meet the demands of Rome. Infidels have insisted this chapter must have been written after the events, so accurately does it foretell what actually took place.
Reaching verse 21, we read that after this 'raiser of taxes' there would 'stand up a vile person', marked equally by cunning flattery and by warlike violence, and his doings and the things that sprang out of his doings occupy us until we come to the end of verse 36. We have here again, we believe, the man presented to us in Daniel 8: 9, as the 'little horn' rising out of one of the four kingdoms into which the Grecian dominion was divided-the man known to history as Antiochus Epiphanes. His evil doings are dwelt upon at some length, we believe, because he acted with such violence against the Jews as to make him a type or forecast of the king of the north, who in the last days will be their great adversary.
This is seen especially in verses 28-32. In the first of these verses, 'his heart shall be against the holy covenant'. Then for a time his plans are spoiled by 'the ships of Chittim'; that is, an expedition from Rome. This was the occasion that some of us may remember hearing about in our school days, when tired with his falsity the Roman leader drew a circle about him where he stood, and demanded an answer before he stepped out of it. This it was that angered him, and as he dared not attack the Romans, he vented his spleen on the Jews, and had 'indignation against the holy covenant'.
Amongst the Jews of his days were found some 'that forsake the holy covenant', as verse 30 indicates, and establishing contact with these, he proceeded to pollute the sanctuary in a violent way, as verse 31 predicts. He overturned the whole order of things in the temple at Jerusalem, stopping the sacrifices to Jehovah in the endeavour to make all venerate a false image, which is described here as 'the abomination that maketh desolate'. Then he corrupted and gained to his side by flatteries 'such as do wickedly against the covenant'.
Let us notice that no less than four times the 'covenant' is mentioned in these verses, and on three of these occasions the word 'holy' is connected with it. What God has covenanted and decreed is always the object of the devil's attack, and this man was without a doubt an agent of Satan in his efforts to subvert what remained of the worship of the one true God at Jerusalem.
But in those days there were to be found not only those who were wicked and whom he could corrupt but also 'people that do know their God', and, 'that understand among the people'. This is ever God's way; He does not leave Himself without a witness of some kind, and here we have a prediction of what actually happened in those dark days. The Maccabees were raised up, zealous and Godfearing men, and under their leadership there was ultimately a deliverance, though not without much loss and suffering, as is indicated in verse 33.
In the closing verses of Hebrews 11, particularly in Hebrews 11: 36-38, we find allusions to the sufferings of saints of a bygone age which we can hardly identify from Old Testament history, and it may be that the reference is to saints who suffered in this period of trial, after the days of Malachi. Their testings were intensified by the failure and apostasy of some who were men of understanding, as verse 35 of our chapter predicted; but this would have a purging effect upon those who did really stand firmly for God.
This mixed state of things is to persist, 'to the time of the end'. Thus it is stated, and thus it has been-particularly as regards the Jew, who is before us in the prophecy here. There is to be in this master 'e time appointed', but no indication is given of how long the time is to be. We turn to such New Testament passages as Ephesians 3: 4, 5, and Colossians 1: 25, 26, to find that in our epoch of Gospel grace going out to the Gentiles, God is working out designs that He had from eternity, but which were not revealed in Old Testament times. In the wisdom of God, however, the prophecies were so worded as to leave room for the things subsequently to be made known without any collision of fact. An illustration of this, often referred to, is in Isaiah 61: 2, where both Advents are alluded to in one verse. The same thing may be said of Daniel 9: 26, and of the verse before us here.
In verse 36, 'the king' is suddenly introduced to us, and glancing at verse 40 we discover that his dominion will be 'at the time of the end', and also that his kingdom will be found in a land lying between the kings of the south and the north. We conclude therefore that he is a king who will dominate Palestine in the last days, and of whom we read further in the New Testament. He is to be identified, we believe, with the second beast of Revelation 13, and with that false Messiah, coming 'in his own name', whom the Lord Jesus predicted in John 5: 43.
The doings of this 'king' are predicted in verses 36-39, and the leading feature is this:-he 'shall do according to his will'. Now sin is lawlessness-the creature breaking loose from the control of the Creator, in order to assert and accomplish its own will. In 2 Thessalonians 2: 3, we read of 'that man of sin', who is to be revealed when He who restrains is removed, and if that passage be compared with this, we at once see some striking resemblances, for in both the leading features of this coming great one are selfwill and self-exaltation.
Let us each remember for our own soul's good that there is nothing more destructive of true Christian life than self will. We are called to do, not our own wills but the will of God. We are called to a life of obedience, for we are to have in us the mind that was in Christ, which led Him even to death. His was the life of self-humiliation, the exact opposite to the self-exalting mind which was in Adam, and which characterizes the flesh in each one of us.
Two expressions in verse 37 indicate that this king will be a Jew, for he disregards 'the God of his fathers', and also 'the desire of women', for every typical Jewish woman desired to be the mother of the Messiah. He will speak 'marvellous things' against the true God, assuming a God-like position for himself. Yet he will honour 'the god of forces', or 'of fortresses'; an allusion we think, to what is plainly seen in Revelation 13, where the second beast is the leader in religious apostasy but is dependent upon the first beast for worldly power and military might.
Support he will need, for the kings of both south and north will be antagonistic, more particularly the king of the north, as we see in the closing verses of the chapter. In Isaiah he is spoken of as the Assyrian, and 'the overflowing scourge' (Isa. 28: 15), and Zechariah 14: 1-3 appears to refer to the end of this northern adversary, as predicted in the two verses that close our chapter. At the outset he will have great success, overflowing many lands, save Edom, Moab and Ammon, who are reserved to be dealt with more directly by a restored Israel. He will even overpower Egypt, and then tidings from the north-east will lead him to Palestine, and he will 'plant the tents of his palace between the sea and the mountain of holy beauty', (New Trans.). And then, when his achievements seem to reach their climax, 'he shall come to his end, and none shall help him'. In this terse yet graphic way was revealed to Daniel what is stated in Zechariah 14: 3. Jehovah goes forth to the conflict, in the person of the Lord Jesus. The adverse northern king is crushed, and comes to his end.
CHAPTER TWELVE (Daniel 12)
THERE WILL BE, however, other antaganistic powers beside the kings of north and south and the false Messiah-king in Jerusalem. All will be dealt with for 'at that time' as the opening verse of chapter 12 declares God is going to resume His dealings with Israel in His grace. Michael the archangel is specially commissioned to act on their behalf, and he stands up to deal with things, and two great events come to pass. First, there will be a complete deliverance to Daniel's people.
This time of great trouble is evidently the time our Lord referred to in His prophetic discourse as the 'great tribulation', (Matt. 24: 21), after He had spoken of 'the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet'. In this He referred to verse 11 of Daniel 12, and not to verse 31 of Daniel 11, which though something of the same kind clearly refers to what took place under Antiochus Epiphanes. This verse in Daniel 12 is the first definite prophecy of this fearful time of tribulation which lies ahead.
And it is worthy of note that this first prediction clearly relates it to the Jew, as also does the Lord's prophecy, recorded in Matthew 24 and Mark 13. It will be the climax of God's governmental dealings with that people, who rejected and crucified their Messiah, though as Revelation 3: 10 indicates, all the world will be affected by it, since the Gentiles as a secondary power had a hand in the death of Christ. In that tribulation there will be not only terrible evils, proceeding from both man and Satan, but the outpouring of the wrath of God, as revealed in Revelation 16. As Christians we have the assurance that, 'God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ' (1 Thess. 5: 9).
Our scripture tells us that an elect Israel will be delivered out of the tribulation-'every one that shall be found written in the book'; the book of life, as the New Testament speaks of it. The awakening that is predicted in verse 2, is evidently similar to that of which Ezekiel 37 speaks. Many a Jew will be asleep as regards their God, and buried in the dust of the nations. They will awake, some marked by faith to enter into the life everlasting of the millennial age; others still unbelieving to enter into judgment. It will be with them as it will be with Gentile peoples, as the Lord made known in Matthew 25: 31-46.
It will also be, as verse 3 shows, a time of reward for the wise and diligent in the service of their God. Let us all take good note of this, for the principles on which God deals with His servants do not vary. There is reward for the 'wise', those who have a God-given understanding of His truth and ways, so as to instruct others also; and a reward also for those who are active in the winning of souls, so as to turn them into the way of righteousness. Thus what we may call the contemplative side of Christian life and the active side of service are to be equally balanced.
Verse 4 closes the prophetic communication that began with Daniel 11, and it corroborates the statement that from verse 36 onwards we have revealed things that will come to pass at 'the time of the end'. Though made known to Daniel and recorded by him, it was to be as a shut book till the end time was reached. During the last century or so these things have been much studied and the light of them has shone forth. This should confirm us in the thought that the end of the age is near.
And the closing words of this verse should confirm us even further: 'many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased'. Our age is strikingly marked by both these things. Our powers of locomotion have increased beyond the dreams of our forbears-on land and sea, and in the air. But it is all to and from. We fly thither, and then back we come to our starting point, and end where we began. The increase of knowledge also is prodigious, even alarming in the field of nuclear energy, as everybody knows. Knowledge-yes: but, wisdom-no. Man is just the same sinful creature as of old-deceived by the adversary.
When we consider the dealings of God, particularly in judgment, the question that always arises in our minds is-How long? That was the enquiry between these angelic beings-appearing as men-that had conveyed the prophecy to Daniel. The answer is given in verse 7, and it plainly shows that the question was how long to the end of the time of trouble once it had begun? The answer was, 'a time, times, and an half', which we understand to signify, 3: years; doubtless the second half of the seventieth week, indicated in Daniel 9. When that last week is finished all power will have departed from 'the holy people'; that is, the God-fearing remnant in Israel. They will be marked by an extremity of weakness, and the adversaries will have reached apparently the peak of their power and splendour. Then the sudden appearing of the Lord in glory and might: His poor saints delivered; the adversaries irretrievably crushed.
Thus it has ever been, and thus it will yet be: Israel in Egypt, for instance. When Jacob went into Egypt in the days of Joseph he and his children were an honoured people. The years passed and they fell lower and lower, until they were a crowd of slaves under the task-master's lash. Then God acted in judgment: His powerless people delivered: the powerful enemy completely overthrown. Thus it will be for Israel at the opening of the millennial age; and we do not anticipate it will be otherwise when the saints are raptured to glory, as predicted in 1 Thessalonians 4. They will not have reached such a state of spiritual opulence that the angels might be tempted to think that they deserved it, but the very reverse. It will be the crowning act, not of merit, but of mercy, as we see in Jude 21.
Daniel's question, in verse 8, finds an echo in all our hearts. It now concerns not the time of the end, but what is to be the final outcome of all this human wickedness and of the dealings of God? Daniel was a godly Jew of a repre sentative sort, and to such at that time the real significance was 'closed up and sealed'. We are told in 1 Peter 1: 12 how Old Testament prophets spoke of things, which they themselves did not understand, as in their day redemption had not been accomplished, nor had the Holy Spirit been given. What Daniel was to know was that God would still maintain a people for Himself, who would be purified and made white and 'tried', or, 'refined', by all His dealings, while the wicked would still pursue their evil way in darkness. Only the wise would have the capacity to understand. This solemn fact is stated very clearly in 1 Corinthians 2: 14.
So Daniel had to go his way without any clear answer to his question. He was given, however, supplementary information as to the closing periods, for in verses 11 and 12 we have mentioned the two periods of 1290 and 1335 days. According to Jewish reckoning a year consisted of 360 days, and therefore the 'time, times, and a half', of verse 7, would consist of 1260 days, and the 1290 days would mean one month beyond that, just as the 1335 days would be a month and a half further beyond. What Daniel could know was that he who waited in patience to the expiration of the longest period, was to enter into blessing.
So here in one word there is an answer to the question of verse 8. Daniel might not know any details but he could be assured that blessing lay at the end for the people of God. We have the same assurance only we have it in larger measure and fuller detail. However searching are God's judgments upon man's evil, for the humble and patient there is always blessing at the end. Another fact lies embedded in these words. God acts, whether in judgment or in blessing in stages. He did so with Israel in Egypt. He did so again when the church was inaugurated. There was the forty days of His repeated manifestations in resurrection, followed by the ten days of waiting; and then the formation of the church by the shedding forth of the Holy Spirit.
So it will be in the last days, when the Kingdom of God arrives in manifested power, and the last word to Daniel is one of full assurance. Until it comes, rest is to be his portion, after a life of exceptional unrest and strain; and when it does come he has an appointed 'lot', in which he will stand-and we venture to think that his 'lot' will not be a small one.