Exposition of Daniel 9:15-21 Daniel’s prayer – the desolation of Yahweh’s “holy hill”

15 “Now, Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. 16 Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us.

17 “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”

20 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the LORD my God for his holy hill — 21 while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice.

Having spoken of God’s greatness and his people’s sin, Daniel turns his attention to specific actions he is seeking. Specifically, he asks that Yahweh withdraw his wrath from Jerusalem (verse 16) and treat both Jerusalem and the desolate temple there with his favor (verses 17–18). This request rests upon God’s promise in Lev. 26:42b.

Verse 18b deserves special attention: “We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.” Everything we need starts with God’s mercy. As Christians, we do not stand on the same ground as Daniel. Because Jesus has died for our sins, the Scriptures say, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). We are not descendants of Abraham, as Daniel was, but we rely on God’s mercy as surely as he did. Even better news, Yahweh is full of mercy!

In the moment that Daniel’s prayer reaches “a passionate crescendo,”[1] the angel Gabriel swiftly approaches to reveal a vast span of God’s plans. In effect, Gabriel will reveal that God’s people are nearing the end of the original 70-year punishment, but the seven-fold enhancement of their penalty still lay in Daniel’s future.

Copyright © 2015 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

[1] Miller, Daniel, 249.

Exposition of Daniel 9:7-14 Daniel’s prayer – God’s actions shown to be just

Daniel 9:7-14 

7 “Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame — the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. 8 We and our kings, our princes and our ancestors are covered with shame, LORD, because we have sinned against you. 9 The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; 10 we have not obeyed the LORD our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you.”

11b “Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. 12 You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing on us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. 13 Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come on us, yet we have not sought the favor of the LORD our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. 14 The LORD did not hesitate to bring the disaster on us, for the LORD our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.

Daniel makes a sober assessment of the behavior that has taken place within the covenant between Yahweh and the sons of Israel. The result is the dramatic contrast described in verse 7 in which God is vindicated — proven righteous — and the people of Judah and all Israel “are covered with shame.” Daniel does not leave out the ten northern tribes comprising Israel when he speaks of their being sent to “all the countries where you have scattered us” (see also Lev. 26:33).

Daniel clearly understands why this punishment has come: God always keeps his Word, even those parts we tend to ignore. Your life will unfold ever so much better if you keep that in mind! Daniel spells out the direct reason for their current condition: “Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you” (verse 11b).

In the midst of life’s routines, it sometimes fails to register that our behavior has real consequences. Because God created us in his image, we and our actions have significance. God did not punish Israel on a whim; they disobeyed his commands and ignored his warnings. All of it was spelled out in the Law of Moses. Christians are not responsible to keep the Law of Moses, but God has defined our similar responsibilities to him in the New Testament.

NIV’s translation of verse 14a (“The LORD did not hesitate to bring the disaster on us”) tries to smooth out a difficult text. Recall that the Law of Moses contained both blessing and cursing sections and also flatly predicted the eventual disloyalty of the people and their removal from the land Yahweh had given to them. That removal is “the disaster” that God withheld until the appropriate time. The Hebrew text offers the idea that Yahweh “kept watch over the calamity” until the moment he released it upon the Jews. Even then, God cared for his people by elevating Daniel and others (Lev. 26:44-45).

In our day pollsters tell us that many reply “None” when asked their religious affiliation. A good number of those people are hoping that they can go their way and God will go his — live and let live; no harm no foul; “it’s all good.” All of that is wishful nonsense! Those who fail to seek God and learn what he requires of them will find that he still holds them responsible. Do you know from his Word what he wants from you? Know your responsibilities to our God!

Copyright © 2015 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

Exposition of Daniel 9:1-6 The context of Daniel’s prayer

Daniel 9:1-6 

1 In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom — 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. 3 So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed:

“Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.

Daniel follows his normal practice of connecting to historical events by providing a date tied to the name of a ruler (verse 1). NIV is almost alone in giving the ruler’s name as Darius son of Xerxes, where the italicized word is the Greek for the name Ahasuerus. Both Xerxes (Greek) and Ahasuerus (Hebrew) are transliterations [spelling in another language] of a throne-name similar to “Pharaoh” or “Caesar.”[1] In another 2500 years our word “President” will similarly need explanation.

Although the matter is disputed, we identify this ruler, “Darius son of Ahasuerus” (ESV),  as Cyrus the Great, also known as Darius the Mede (Daniel 5:31) and Cyrus the Persian; Cyrus’s mother was Median and his father was Persian; because he was a great success, everyone claimed him! The first year of his reign was 539-538 B.C., at which time Daniel was likely more than eighty years old.

God keeps his word — all of his word

It is important to realize that the issues presented in Daniel 9 did not begin with Daniel or even with the deportation of Judah to Babylonian captivity. By studying the words given by Yahweh to Jeremiah the prophet, whose messages Daniel heard while living in Jerusalem, Daniel uncovers a fraction of the history leading to his people’s captivity in Babylon.

In verse 2, Daniel understands from Jeremiah’s prophecies (Jeremiah 25:11-12) that “the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years.” Other Scriptures, such as Dan. 9:11b and 9:13, inform us that the reason for this number 70 was that God’s people had failed to obey the Law of Moses. In particular, 2 Chronicles 36:20-21 relate the captivity years to “sabbatical years” (NET).  What does that mean? To answer this question we must return to Mount Sinai where the exodus generation was being instructed how to behave in the land God had promised but not yet given to them, the land of Canaan.

At Sinai, Yahweh told Moses that “the land itself must observe a sabbath to the Lord” (Leviticus 25:2). Every seventh year in the land, the people could not sow their fields or prune their vines. They would live on the bounty granted in the previous year to let the land rest during the seventh year. Further, the people were required to count off “seven sabbath years — seven times seven years — so that the seven sabbath years amount to forty-nine years” (Lev. 25:8). That forty-ninth year was a sabbath year, and was followed by the Jubilee Year when slaves were freed, debts forgiven, and land returned to those who received it from Yahweh as their inheritance in Canaan.

Eventually, the people neglected these sabbath years and often failed to observe them. That was a grave mistake that brought severe consequences. As Harold Hoehner, a New Testament scholar and historian, puts it, “Each year of captivity represented one seven-year cycle in which the seventh or Sabbath year had not been observed.”[2] Yahweh keeps track of everything going on with his people, and with everyone else as well.

In the first instance, those seventy ignored sabbath years determined the length of the captivity in Babylon and the desolation of Jerusalem. But that is not the full story! In Leviticus 26, Yahweh warns the people that if they ignore his blessings and disobey him, the result will be: “I will punish you for your sins seven times over” (Lev. 26:18). To reinforce the point, he repeats this seven-fold enhancement of punishment two more times (Lev. 26:21, 28). Yahweh also promises that the land will certainly gets its prescribed sabbath rest during their absence in the land of their enemies (Lev. 26:34-35)!

Now we do the math. Seventy years of punishment for missed sabbath years times an enhancement factor of seven yields 490 years (70 x 7 = 490). In his prayer Daniel expresses concern about relief at the end of seventy calendar years of captivity, but Gabriel’s answer spans all 490 years of additional punishment that is due because of the enhancement.

Here is a key idea for using the above information in the interpretation of chapter 9: Yahweh will apply those 490 years of punishment in whatever way pleases him. He is not bound by the common but misguided expectation that he will start the clock at 0 and let it run continuously to reach 490 years. Later we will learn how Yahweh will distribute the punishment.

Daniel’s prayer — A necessary confession of rebellion

Certainly Daniel’s prayer is profound and theologically significant. But, since God has already revealed that the captivity in Babylon would last seventy years, why does he think it necessary to pray for an end to God’s anger against his people? The answer lies in Lev. 26:40-42, verses that record Yahweh’s promise to respond to the confession of sin and demonstration of humility by the people in Babylonian captivity. Perhaps it was Daniel’s earnest attention to these issues of confession and humility that satisfied what God had stated in Leviticus 26. In other words, Daniel carefully considered what Yahweh had said and acted accordingly.

ESV skillfully presents Daniel’s description of Yahweh: “the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments” (verse 4). Note the sequence covenant-love-love-commandments; this type of A-B-B-A structure is common in the Old Testament. God’s covenants usually include both blessing sections and cursing sections, corresponding to his people’s obedience or disobedience, respectively. People today are often drawn to emphasize God’s love and to downplay his commandments. That emphasis can put us just one step away from thinking that we can risk a little disobedience since God loves us. That is exactly how God’s people ignored many sabbath years and wound up in Babylon!

The Hebrew verbs in verse 4 are significant. The first verb (translated by “prayed”) stresses the function of intercession, in which Daniel takes on the role of advocacy on behalf of God’s people and his desolated holy place, including both the temple and Jerusalem. This is not a prayer about relative trivia; it addresses subjects worthy of attention from the ruler of heaven and earth. As believers, we too are worthy of his attention, a fact that is a result of his mercy and kindness.

The second verb (translated as “confessed”) stresses acknowledgement — a fascinating, double-edged verb that, when it concerns Yahweh, amounts to praise, and, when it concerns Daniel and the people, amounts to confession.  When we properly acknowledge God, we are praising him for who he is and what he does. When we acknowledge our own condition, we must confess that God is not finished with us, and — worse — that our hearts are sometimes in rebellion against him.

Verse 9b is stated a bit better by the ESV: “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments.” Note particularly the italicized portion. Yahweh always upholds his side of the relationship, and he always extends loyal love toward those who are loyal to him and obedient. The fact that the Jews suffer in Babylon is not the result of any failure on Yahweh’s part to keep the covenant; their condition flows directly from their disloyal worship of idols and their failure to carry out their role under the covenant.

Verses 4-6 name many types of sin and make the point that Yahweh had repeatedly warned his people through the prophets, but they did not listen. Those who fail to listen to God are cruising toward the rocks.

Copyright © 2015 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

[1] According to Goldingay, Daniel, 239, the name Ahasuerus is the Hebrew spelling of an Old Persian throne-name likely meaning “hero among rulers.”

[2] Harold Hoehner, “Daniel’s Seventy Weeks and New Testament Chronology,” Bibliotheca Sacra 132 (January–March 1975) 49.

Exposition of Daniel 8:19-27 Fall of the Last Evil King

Daniel 8:19-27

19 He said: “I am going to tell you what will happen later in the time of wrath, because the vision concerns the appointed time of the end. 20 The two-horned ram that you saw represents the kings of Media and Persia. 21 The shaggy goat is the king of Greece, and the large horn between its eyes is the first king. 22 The four horns that replaced the one that was broken off represent four kingdoms that will emerge from his nation but will not have the same power. 23 ”In the latter part of their reign, when rebels have become completely wicked, a fierce-looking king, a master of intrigue, will arise. 24 He will become very strong, but not by his own power. He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever he does. He will destroy those who are mighty, the holy people. 25 He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power. 26 ”The vision of the evenings and mornings that has been given you is true, but seal up the vision, for it concerns the distant future.”

27 I, Daniel, was worn out. I lay exhausted for several days. Then I got up and went about the king’s business. I was appalled by the vision; it was beyond understanding.

As the angel Gabriel continues his explanation of the vision, verse 19 takes up the story where verse 17 left off. What he sees is a steady stream of Gentile oppressors for Israel, ending with the worst of all, the Antichrist. Note carefully the phrases “later in the time of wrath … the appointed time of the end” (verse 19). Miller explains that the first half of this quotation may also be translated “in the latter part of the time of wrath” (emphasis added).[1] The term translated “later part” will recur in verse 23.

Looking at matters from our own position in history, we find that Gabriel identifies three kingdoms long past (Medo-Persia, Greece, and the four kingdoms that emerged after Alexander) and one that will rise in our future, in the latter part of the time of wrath. The accuracy of the prophecy about the kingdoms in our past gives us complete confidence in what Gabriel says about the evil ruler to come, someone also known as the Antichrist or “the beast” (Rev. 13:2).

It is certainly wise to ask what ends at “the appointed time of the end” (verse 19). Wood explains the answer with skill: “The long period known as the times of the Gentiles (when Gentiles are dominant over Palestine, Luke 21:24) will be brought to a conclusion. The period began with the Judean captivity to Babylonia, since which time God’s people have never enjoyed a period of true autonomy over their land, and will end only with the Antichrist’s dethronement.”[2]

The NET Bible’s translation of verse 23 is probably preferable: “Toward the end of their rule, when rebellious acts are complete, a rash and deceitful king will arise.” In relation to the italicized phrase, the NET Bible Notes say, “The filling up of transgressions is a familiar OT expression (cf. Gen 15:16) and fits this context well.”[3] The idea to take away is that at the moment when rebellion against God is at its peak, the Antichrist will make his move toward supreme political power.

In verse 24 we are told that the fierce-looking king achieved great strength “but not by his own power.” There can be little doubt that the source of his power is none other than Satan (Rev. 12:9; 13:2; 2 Thess. 2:9).

At this point it is appropriate to say that we are interpreting this set of verses as if their chief referent were the Antichrist (following Wood) rather than Antiochus IV Epiphanes (following Miller). For example, verse 24 speaks of this evil ruler as causing “astounding devastation.” It is hard for us to see how a regional ruler, even one as bloody as Antiochus, can be said to have caused destruction that far surpassed rulers who came before him and those who came after. When the Roman general Titus led four legions against Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the temple was destroyed, its articles taken away, and over a million Jews died while almost 100,000 were sold into slavery.[4] Antiochus was an evil, boastful man, but he is just a shadow of what the Antichrist will be.

Verse 25 is important because it talks in summary about both the evil king’s methods and his eventual destruction. Since NIV omits translation of two phrases, we will consider the ESV instead: “By his cunning he shall make deceit prosper under his hand, and in his own mind he shall become great. Without warning he shall destroy many. And he shall even rise up against the Prince of princes, and he shall be broken– but by no human hand.” From verse 25 we may conclude several things:

  • Deceit will play a major role in his rule.
  • He will have a high opinion of himself and behave arrogantly.
  • Many will die “without warning” (NIV: “when they feel secure”; NET: “unaware of his schemes”; CEB: “in a time of peace”).
  • He will oppose “the Prince of princes” [probably a reference to Jesus the Messiah as Lord of lords and King of kings].
  • He will be shattered by divine power.

For those who are historically aware, the closest modern equivalent might be Adolph Hitler, especially when we consider his deceit-filled rise to power, his arrogance and his earnest effort to exterminate the Jews. The coming evil king will make Hitler look like an amateur before God strikes him down.

Gabriel concludes (verse 26) by reaffirming the validity of “the vision of evenings and mornings” (verse 14), yet he orders the vision sealed up for preservation since it concerns the distant future. It makes sense that proclamation of the vision among the Jews would only create problems in light of the fact that the vision appalled Daniel, who actually saw it and heard the interpretation; he found the matter “beyond understanding” (verse 27).

Copyright © 2015 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

[1] Miller, Daniel, 233.

[2] Wood, Daniel, 223.

[3] NET Bible Notes for Daniel 8:23.

[4] Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, VI.9.3.

Exposition of Daniel 8:9-18 An ancient sketch of the Antichrist

Daniel 8:9-18

9 Out of one of them came another horn, which started small but grew in power to the south and to the east and toward the Beautiful Land. 10 It grew until it reached the host of the heavens, and it threw some of the starry host down to the earth and trampled on them. 11 It set itself up to be as great as the commander of the army of the LORD; it took away the daily sacrifice from the LORD, and his sanctuary was thrown down. 12 Because of rebellion, the LORD’s people and the daily sacrifice were given over to it. It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground.

13 Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to him, “How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled — the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, the surrender of the sanctuary and the trampling underfoot of the LORD’s people?” 14 He said to me, “It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated.”

15 While I, Daniel, was watching the vision and trying to understand it, there before me stood one who looked like a man. 16 And I heard a man’s voice from the Ulai calling, “Gabriel, tell this man the meaning of the vision.” 17 As he came near the place where I was standing, I was terrified and fell prostrate. “Son of man,” he said to me, “understand that the vision concerns the time of the end.” 18 While he was speaking to me, I was in a deep sleep, with my face to the ground. Then he touched me and raised me to my feet.

When we considered verse 8, we concluded that the four horns were Alexander’s generals, who inherited the four parts of his kingdom. In verse 9, our attention narrows to one of the four horns, Seleucus (312-280 B.C., reign), who ruled the area of Syria, Babylon and India. As the dynasty continued, the kingship eventually came to Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-163 B.C., reign). He is considered by scholars to be “another horn, which started small and grew in power” (verse 9). Examining his image on his coinage would reveal in detail the strong resemblance of this coin to one depicting Alexander the Great. That should give you a clue about Antiochus IV.

That strange epithet “Epiphanes” means manifest or manifestation in Greek.  The inscription on the back of the coin reads “King Antiochus, God Manifest, Victor.” Not too shy, is he? The Greek historian Polybius, a contemporary of Antiochus Epiphanes, said that the king had gained the different surname Epimanes {“the Madman”] by his conduct.[2] His conduct may have been strange, but his power expanded greatly, including toward “the Beautiful Land” (verse 9b), an epithet referring to Palestine.

Antiochus Epiphanes is brought to Daniel’s attention — though not by name — because he treated the inhabitants of Palestine so severely and desecrated the temple. In addition, his conduct previews what the Antichrist will do in the last days. Wood explains:

Antiochus Epiphanes is sometimes called the antichrist of the Old Testament; that is, the one who brought suffering to the Jews in his day, in the pattern of what the real Antichrist will do during the Great Tribulation (compare 7:24-26 and 9:27 with 8:10-13). From what Antiochus did to Jews in his day, therefore, one may know the general pattern of what the Antichrist will do to them in the future.[3]

Two examples will show the savage, defiant nature of Antiochus Epiphanes. Two ancient Jewish historical works, 1 and 2 Maccabees, “are considered to contain generally reliable history.”[4] They allege that in 169 B.C., the king ordered an attack on Jerusalem that resulted in 80,000 deaths, including even infants. Miller also says, “In December 167 B.C. Antiochus committed his crowning act of sacrilege against the Jewish religion by erecting an altar to Zeus in the temple precincts and offering swine on it.”[5]

The term “the commander of the armies of the LORD” (verse 11) is NIV’s clarifying expansion of a two-word Hebrew phrase meaning “commander of the army.” We consider this term to be a reference to the Messiah; the phrase is a close match to the title found in Joshua 5:14, when Joshua met the commander of Yahweh’s army before the walls of Jericho. Jesus the Messiah is also pictured in this role in Rev. 19:11-16.  The acts of Antiochus in killing some of God’s people was considered the killing of part of God’s army.

Verses 11–12 contain a litany of defeat in which worship of Yahweh is overthrown and his truth is treated with contempt. We are told all this occurs “because of rebellion” (verse 12), and we agree with Miller about the cause: “The books of 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees report that many in Israel were not faithful to their God and even adopted the idolatrous Greek religion (cf. 1 Macc. 1:11-15, 43).”[6] It is important to realize that Antiochus was able to do these things because God allowed his defiance to manifest itself for a certain period of time. The same pattern will recur for the Antichrist.

It is fascinating to find that angels share our curiosity about things to come (verse 13) and wonder how long the tragic events would be allowed to go on. The answer is provided in terms of “evenings and mornings” (verse 14), a unit that has proven controversial. Because two sacrifices occurred at the temple in a day, morning and evening, some think the period will be 1,150 days. However, no mention of sacrifices occurs in verse 14, and the phrase is literally “evening morning,” similar to Genesis chapter 1. For these and other reasons, we agree with Miller[7] and Wood[8] in saying the verse’s explicit reference to “2,300” refers to 2,300 days, or about 6 years and 4 months. The end point appears to fall on December 14, 164 B.C., when the temple was cleansed and rededicated.

We will have more to say about the death of Antiochus IV Epiphanes in relation to verse 25 below, but we can tell you now that his career did not take him to the same spiritual destination as Nebuchadnezzar.

Verses 15-18 are transitional in that they begin with Daniel trying to understand the vision and end with Daniel waiting to hear a heaven-sent explanation (given in verses 19-26). However, certain details are elusive, perhaps because the intent of the encounter is to provide the explanation of the vision rather than to dissect an overwhelming experience.

Three figures are present: Daniel, the angel Gabriel and “one who looked like a man” (verse 15). With Miller, we conclude that this last figure “is best understood to be God himself.”[9] It is his voice that echoes off the walls of the Ulai canal to command Gabriel to provide the meaning of the vision to Daniel (verse 16).

In verses 17-18, it is easy to focus on the wrong thing: Daniel’s condition. Far more important is Gabriel’s statement that “the vision concerns the time of the end” (verse 17). Scholars differ over the referent of the two-word Hebrew phrase translated “time of the end.” Some think it refers to the end of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Others think it refers to the Antichrist’s reign of terror just prior to Christ’s second coming. A final group thinks it applies to both.

We adopt the view that the vision mainly relates to the period of profound trouble — still future to us today — during which the Antichrist occupies center stage. The similarity of the vision to events during the reign of Antiochus IV illustrates the kind of measures the Antichrist will take, but only in the way that a sketch of a criminal fugitive suggests the true face of the criminal.

We adopt that view for several reasons:

  1. The two-word Hebrew phrase translated “time of the end” (verse 17) occurs four other times in Daniel (11:35, 40; 12:4, 9), and all of them relate to the time just prior to Christ’s return.
  2. Wood rightly asks what really ends when Antiochus IV falls: “This did not bring an end to Jewish suffering. No day of blessedness [such as the Millennium predicted by the prophets] then set in.”[10]
  3. The similarity of the vision in Daniel 7 to the one in Daniel 2 makes a decisive difference. The stone that shattered the image in chapter 2 quickly becomes a world-spanning, eternal kingdom (Daniel 2:44). No such kingdom arises after the fall of Antiochus IV.

More support will be presented in a post to come.

Copyright © 2015 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

[2] Polybius, The Histories, Book XXVI, line 1.1.

[3] Wood, Daniel, 212.

[4] Miller, Daniel, 226, footnote 26.

[5] Miller, Daniel, 226.

[6] Miller, Daniel, 227.

[7] Miller, Daniel 229.

[8] Wood, Daniel, 218.

[9] Miller, Daniel, 231.

[10] Wood, Daniel, 222–3.

Exposition of Daniel 8:1-8 How ancient events forecast our future

Daniel 8:1-8

1 In the third year of King Belshazzar’s reign, I, Daniel, had a vision, after the one that had already appeared to me. 2 In my vision I saw myself in the citadel of Susa in the province of Elam; in the vision I was beside the Ulai Canal. 3 I looked up, and there before me was a ram with two horns, standing beside the canal, and the horns were long. One of the horns was longer than the other but grew up later. 4 I watched the ram as it charged toward the west and the north and the south. No animal could stand against it, and none could rescue from its power. It did as it pleased and became great.

5 As I was thinking about this, suddenly a goat with a prominent horn between its eyes came from the west, crossing the whole earth without touching the ground. 6 It came toward the two-horned ram I had seen standing beside the canal and charged at it in great rage. 7 I saw it attack the ram furiously, striking the ram and shattering its two horns. The ram was powerless to stand against it; the goat knocked it to the ground and trampled on it, and none could rescue the ram from its power. 8 The goat became very great, but at the height of its power the large horn was broken off, and in its place four prominent horns grew up toward the four winds of heaven.

As we have said previously, the Bible is firmly anchored in history, and yet this history is presented along with its theological implications so that we can understand how our God influences history in both subtle and direct ways. Such is the case in Daniel 8. The revelations given to Daniel in “the third year of Belshazzar’s reign” (551 B.C.) informed him of international developments extending to at least 150 B.C., some 400 years later. That period would end with terrible persecution of God’s people.

While the then-future developments from 551 B.C. to 150 B.C. were certainly of interest to Daniel because of their effect on his people, that is not the main reason the prophetic visions were given. The angel ordered to explain the visions to Daniel said, “Understand that the vision concerns the time of the end” (verse 17). In other words, the events that developed through God’s intervention in the centuries just after Daniel’s time have direct bearing on how things will happen in “the time of the end” still in our future. For this reason, Jesus warned his disciples, “You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour you do not expect him” (Matthew 24:44).

In case we have not been clear, you may live through the still-future events that will resemble the now-past events shown to Daniel. Not because we say so but because Jesus warnned us to stay ready.

Alexander the Great crushes Medo-Persia

As the vision begins (verse 2), Daniel sees himself in Susa, a fortified city located 230 miles east of Babylon and 120 miles north of the Persian Gulf.[1] Susa has an interesting history[2], but we must ask ourselves why Daniel sees himself in a location other than Babylon; commentators essentially ignore the question. Our own theory is that the imagined transfer of Daniel to another place and time is symbolic of the transfer of the events revealed to Daniel to another place and time. What that means is that Daniel is shown events that will unfold over the next 400 years, but those events have implications that must be transferred to the “time of the end.” Examples will be provided below.

Daniel sees a ram with two long horns (verse 3), which we will soon find to represent “the kings of Media and Persia” (verse 20). One horn was longer but grew that way later; Media was initially dominant in the relationship — such as in 539 B.C. when Babylon fell and Darius the Mede took over — but later Persia became the larger and more prominent. The Persian Empire, sometimes called the Achaemenid Empire, existed from 550 B.C. to 330 B.C., a period of 320 years. During that time the Persian armies rolled over their enemies, from India to Greece and from (modern) Turkey to Egypt (verse 4). But these developments were not known in 551 B.C. when Daniel received this vision!

Daniel had not yet digested the vision of the ram when a male goat with a single prominent horn approached swiftly from the west (verse 5). We learn in verse 21 that the goat represents Greece, and the prominent horn is its first king, Alexander the Great, ruling from 336 B.C. to 323 B.C. For a time he simultaneously held the titles King of Macedonia, Pharaoh of Egypt, and King of Persia. Even though the Persian armies always outnumbered Alexander’s forces by a wide margin, he crushed the Persians in every battle. Daniel says, “None could rescue the ram [Persians and Medes] from its power” (verse 7).

Alexander unexpectedly died at the age of 32 in 323 B.C. in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar; “At the height of its power the large horn was broken off” (verse 8). Four of Alexander’s generals divided the vast empire. Chisholm explains: “Cassander ruled Macedonia, Lysimachus controlled Thrace and Asia Minor, Selucus was in charge of Syria, and Ptolemy took Egypt. This geographical diversity explains why the four horns are described as growing toward the four winds of heaven (v. 8b).”[3] Remember that none of this was known in 551 B.C. when Daniel saw the vision.

At this point in his life Daniel has seen Yahweh fulfill every element of the detailed dream given to Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4), including Nebuchadnezzar’s highly unlikely humbling and restoration to power. He knows that Yahweh has all kingdoms in his hands and can turn them as he wishes. The real question raised by these visions in chapter 8, which we know were fulfilled in detail, is this: Will we live our lives in full expectation that Yahweh will bring to pass those visions whose fulfillment still lies in our future? Best decide your answer now because what comes next maps from the past into our unknown future.

Copyright © 2014 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

[1] Wood, Daniel, 207.

[2] Miller, Daniel, 221, explains that the famous legal Code of Hammurabi was discovered in the ruins of Susa in 1901. Esther later served as queen in Susa in a palace that has been fully excavated.

[3] Chisholm, Handbook of the Prophets, 311.

Exposition of Daniel 7:15-28 Resolving Daniel’s inner turmoil

Daniel 7:15–28

15 “I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me. 16 I approached one of those standing there and asked him the meaning of all this.

“So he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things: 17 ‘The four great beasts are four kings that will rise from the earth. 18 But the holy people of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever — yes, for ever and ever.’

19 “Then I wanted to know the meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others and most terrifying, with its iron teeth and bronze claws — the beast that crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. 20 I also wanted to know about the ten horns on its head and about the other horn that came up, before which three of them fell–the horn that looked more imposing than the others and that had eyes and a mouth that spoke boastfully. 21 As I watched, this horn was waging war against the holy people and defeating them, 22 until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the holy people of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom.

23 “He gave me this explanation: ‘The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it. 24 The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings. 25 He will speak against the Most High and oppress his holy people and try to change the set times and the laws. The holy people will be delivered into his hands for a time, times and half a time.

26 “’But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. 27 Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.’

28 “This is the end of the matter. I, Daniel, was deeply troubled by my thoughts, and my face turned pale, but I kept the matter to myself.”

If we had seen the visions that Daniel saw, we might have felt the same distress or even worse! He had enough experience with visions to feel the threat level, and the need for reliable interpretation was clear. To get information about “all this,” he approaches one standing before the Ancient of Days (verse 16).

The interpreting angel immediately defines the four beasts as four “kings” (verse 17), but he also says that the fourth beast represents a “kingdom” (verse 23), showing “how interchangeable the two ideas are in the vision.”[1] Verses 17 and 18 serve as a very compressed summary of the action, but two points receive stress: (1) “the holy people of the Most High” are the ones who finally receive the kingdom, and (2) their possession of the kingdom is permanent in the extreme.

That second point is expressed by an Aramaic sequence that Miller translates as “forever — yes for ever and ever.”[2] The phrase contains three instances of the Aramaic noun meaning “remote time, eternity.”[3] The interpreting angel wanted to contrast the eternality of God’s kingdom with the transitory nature of the human kingdoms that preceded it.

Because the fourth king/kingdom is so hideous and powerful, Daniel is concerned to know more about it (verse 19). For this reason, many new details emerge in verses 20–26 concerning the revived Roman Empire, over which the Antichrist — “the horn that looked more imposing than the others and that had eyes and a mouth that spoke boastfully” (verse 20) — will rule. Most disturbing is that the Antichrist will wage war against the holy people and defeat them until the judgment of the Most High ends his reign of terror (verses 21–22).

The angelic interpreter then reveals even more to Daniel. The empire of the fourth beast will conquer the entire earth (verse 23). The ten horns are ten contemporaneous kings, and the Antichrist will emerge as another king by defeating three of the ten (verse 24). The Antichrist will speak against the Most High and persecute his people (verse 25). That much is clear, but the second half of verse 25 is difficult. There are two views:

  1. The Antichrist will try to change “set times and the laws” that are likely related to religious freedom (verse 25). The holy people — meaning those who belong to God — will be in his hand “for a time, times and half a time” (verse 25b). Perhaps an apt analogy is to think of how Jesus was treated after he surrendered to the forces sent to arrest him in the Garden of Gethsemane (John 18–19). The enigmatic phrase “for a time, times and half a time” (verse 25b) is thought by Miller to mean 3½ years[4] and Wood[5] agrees.
  2. The Antichrist will try to change “the regular timings of the cosmos,”[6] which will be in his hand for an undetermined period of time that is ultimately cut short. Goldingay says, “‘A period, periods and half a period’ is not a cryptic way of saying 3½ years … . Nor is ‘a period, periods and half a period’ simply a convoluted way of saying 3½ periods.”[7]

Though the former view is quite popular — and can be supported by making additional assumptions — it is hard to decide which view is correct. In either case, the people of God who live under the rule of the Antichrist are in for a terrible experience.

When the angel says “the court will sit” (verse 26), he is looking back to verses 9–10. Based on the facts, the Ancient of Days will forever take away the world-spanning sovereignty exercised by the fourth beast. All such sovereignty will become the inheritance of “the holy people of the Most High” (verse 27). It is the Messiah to whom all sovereignty is given, and “all rulers will worship and obey him” (verse 27). The worship and obedience of those rulers may, in some cases, be grudging, but they will give the Messiah such worship and obedience or die, as Psalm 2 makes clear.

These visions took quite a toll on Daniel, and, if we understood them fully, we would take our loyalty to Christ all the more seriously. It is only God’s kindness toward us in Christ that will bring us through the coming cataclysm to our inheritance.

[It is important to realize that Revelation 13 and particularly Revelation 17 contain visions that overlap those revealed in Daniel 7. Tracing all the connections is quite instructive but lies beyond the scope of this study.]

Copyright © 2014 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

[1] Wood, Daniel, 196.

[2] Miller, Daniel, 211.

[3] HALOT, ʻālam, remote time, q.v.

[4] Miller, Daniel, 215.

[5] Wood, Daniel, 201.

[6] HALOT, ziman, a fixed time, q.v.

[7] Goldingay, Daniel, 181.