Exposition of Daniel 1:17-21 Yahweh causes Daniel’s rise

Daniel 1:17-21

17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.

18 At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. 20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.

21 And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.

Commentary

While it was true that Nebuchadnezzar had sent Daniel and his friends into training, it was Yahweh who granted them mastery by giving them knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning (verse 17). Not least, they knew the true God and could disregard the false gods of Babylon. They also knew to steer clear of divination and sorcery, which were forbidden in the law (Deut. 18:10-12). For an example of how the Babylonians commonly used such practices to make decisions during military campaigns, see Ezekiel 21:18-24 with special attention to Ezek. 21:21.

Not only did God enable the four young men to read cuneiform tablets written in Akkadian, but he also granted to Daniel the special skill of understanding “all visions and dreams” (ESV) not “all kinds of visions and dreams” (NIV). Yahweh did not make Daniel the master of dream categories; he made Daniel the precise interpreter or any individual dream by giving him the exact interpretation when required. This will become plain in chapter 2. In effect, Daniel became the channel for God’s interpretation of any dream whose meaning was to be made known to others.

Wood supports the above interpretation of verse 17 when he says:

This gift was entirely from God. Daniel could not learn the technique of true vision and dream interpretation. There is point to noting this here, for the Babylonians believed one could do so. In fact, much of the literature in which the young men would have had to become proficient concerned such techniques. … The four Judeans would have had to reject all such thinking, as they recognized that true revelation could come only from God, and as he pleased.[1]

In time, the day of reckoning came for Nebuchadnezzar to personally interview every candidate trained for service in his government (verses 18-20). This kind of attention to detail is plainly what made him one of the most formidable rulers of ancient times. By showing the king’s meticulous care, Daniel sets the stage for the unfolding of the king’s shrewd actions in chapter 2.

Because several English versions (NIV, ESV, NET and NLT) use the word “magicians” to describe some of the king’s counselors in Dan. 1:20b, we should clarify this term. The English word “magician” leads us to think of various illusions and tricks we have seen on television. But that is not anywhere close to the function Daniel mentions. The standard Hebrew lexicon offers “soothsayer-priests”[2] and HCSB skillfully translates using “diviner-priest.” Miller further describes the role of the diviner-priests:

Supposedly in touch with the world of the spirits and the gods, these individuals were advisers to the king on virtually every matter. They employed rites and spells intended to heal, exorcise demons, or counter an evil spell placed upon the sufferer. Omens were studied in order to understand the future, and astrology played an important part in this activity.[3]

Before you sneer at the idea of a powerful ruler being guided by such arcane advice, consider that one of our most popular American presidents is known to have used the advice of an astrologer in making and executing many decisions. In Nebuchadnezzar’s time there was no reason to hide such advisers; they served in an official capacity.

Chapter 1 records the steady rise of Daniel and his companions. They began as royal captives swept up in punitive conquest (verses 2-3). By maintaining their special diet as a symbol of loyalty to Yahweh, the four are seen by their overseer to be superior in appearance to all other trainees (verse 15). When Nebuchadnezzar examines their skill, they demonstrate superiority to all the diviner-priests and enchanters in Babylon (verse 20). At the beginning of the chapter no one is paying much attention to Daniel and his friends, but by the close of their training, the king values them above all his other advisers. The king has unwittingly recognized the skills Yahweh has given to these young men, and the chapter closes with the note that Daniel’s career extended throughout the Neo-Babylonian empire and into the reign of Cyrus the Great of Persia (verse 21).

Copyright 2015 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. These materials were originally prepared for use at Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

[1] Leon Wood, A Commentary on Daniel (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1973)43.

[2] HALOT, chartum, soothsayer-priest, q.v.

[3] Stephen R. Miller, Daniel, The New American Commentary (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 1994)72.

Exposition of Daniel 11:36-45 The Antichrist seeks total control

Daniel 11:36-45

36 The king will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place. 37 He will show no regard for the gods of his ancestors or for the one desired by women, nor will he regard any god, but will exalt himself above them all. 38 Instead of them, he will honor a god of fortresses; a god unknown to his ancestors he will honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and costly gifts. 39 He will attack the mightiest fortresses with the help of a foreign god and will greatly honor those who acknowledge him. He will make them rulers over many people and will distribute the land at a price.

40 At the time of the end the king of the South will engage him in battle, and the king of the North will storm out against him with chariots and cavalry and a great fleet of ships. He will invade many countries and sweep through them like a flood. 41 He will also invade the Beautiful Land. Many countries will fall, but Edom, Moab and the leaders of Ammon will be delivered from his hand. 42 He will extend his power over many countries; Egypt will not escape. 43 He will gain control of the treasures of gold and silver and all the riches of Egypt, with the Libyans and Cushites in submission. 44 But reports from the east and the north will alarm him, and he will set out in a great rage to destroy and annihilate many. 45 He will pitch his royal tents between the seas at the beautiful holy mountain. Yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him.

Commentary

As has happened with every vision in Daniel, the angel’s prophecy leaps ahead without warning to the seventieth seven-of-years and its cunning, proud, powerful, Satan-inspired ruler. We recall that this entire prophecy came in response to Daniel’s prayer about the Jews and the desolation of Jerusalem (Dan. 9:24). The story is not directly about us, but it is not impossible that some of us may live to see this day, and our Lord has commanded all of us to be ready for his unexpected return (Matt. 24:44).

Many things can be said about why verses 36-45 do not apply the Antiochus IV. For full discussion of those reasons, see Chisholm[1], Wood[2] and Miller.[3] Here, let it suffice to say that the resurrection of the righteous occurs right after God brings the rule of the evil king described in this passage to an end (Dan. 12:2). As Wood notes, “Since the Antichrist has been presented in the three prior revelational times of Daniel, one should not be surprised to have him set forth in this fourth time as well.”[4]

Miller explains the structure of this section: “Now the most notorious tyrant who will ever live is introduced into the narrative. First, Antichrist’s evil character is related (11:36-39); then his wars are described (11:40-45).”[5] Though any comparison of any modern figure to the Antichrist will fail to match his evil actions, Adolph Hitler probably gives the best hint of what the Antichrist will be like because of the twin goals of conquering the world and exterminating the Jews.

You might say that the Antichrist takes everything Antiochus IV did and scales those things up. Antiochus stamped his coins “god manifest,” meaning he was a god or like a god. The Antichrist will exalt and magnify himself above every god (verse 36). The verbal forms make clear that he will do this personally; it will not exclusively be done by having others praise him. To properly exalt himself, he must cut down rivals, and he will do so by speaking against Yahweh with: “unheard-of things” (NIV), “presumptuous things” (NET), “outrageous things” (HCSB). No one has ever heard the monstrous blasphemies that the Antichrist will use against the God of gods (verse 36).

Remember that in all these things God is showing his people where their rebellion has led them. Whether knowingly or not, they have aspired to be princes in hell, and he will show them the true face of what they will find there. As horrible as this process will be, it will finish transgression (Dan. 9:24), the rebellion of Abraham’s children against Yahweh and his Messiah. Accordingly, the Antichrist will be successful until the time of wrath is completed (verse 36b). The seventieth seven-of-years is like Belshazzar’s feast (Daniel 5) in that the Antichrist will have his way until the party comes to an abrupt, crushing end.

While directing the devotion of all toward himself, the Antichrist himself will worship military power (“a god of fortresses”), apparently in hope of subjugating those parts of the world not yet under his control (verse 39). Miller says: “The peoples of the world will be so impressed by his might that they will say: ‘Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?’ (Rev. 13:4).”[6]

Certain world powers will see what is coming and fight! The terms king of the South and king of the North describe two such opponents, with the directions North and South being defined in relation to Israel (the Beautiful Land of verse 41). It is unclear just who these kings will be, but we take the king of the North to be the person called Gog in Ezekiel 38:2, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, kingdoms located (during Daniels and Ezekiel’s time) in the area of modern Turkey.[7] In taking this view, we follow the outline of events defined by Bible scholar Dwight Pentecost[8], who takes this combined northern invasion and southern attack (verse 40) as the trigger-events forcing the Antichrist to break his covenant with Israel (Dan. 9:27) and invade Israel himself (verse 41).

Yahweh will tear apart the invading king of the North, Gog, and his allies, in a terrifying display of might (Ezek. 38:18-23) that lets many nations clearly see his power and identity. The Antichrist will then invade Israel and also seize territory toward the south, into Egypt and beyond (verses 41-43).

In spite of his victories, the Antichrist will face new threats from the east and north described in verse 44. In response, the Antichrist will set up his headquarters between the seas at the beautiful holy mountain (verse 45). The seas in question are the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea, with the beautiful holy mountain being Mount Zion in Jerusalem. Wood explains somberly, According to Zechariah 13:8-9, he will by this time have brought either death or captivity to two-thirds of the inhabitants of the land, indicating an appalling destruction.[9]

Given the nature of these events, the angels mention of the Antichrist’s end is very restrained (verse 45b). Centuries will pass before another angel reveals to the Apostle John the sudden opening of another front in the great campaign of Armageddon when heaven opens (Rev. 19:11) and the stunning splendor of the King of kings and Lord of lords rides forth at the head of heaven’s armies to stomp the winepress of the furious wrath of God, the All-Powerful (Rev. 19:15b NET). The so-called battle likely takes just seconds as the Antichrist is hurled alive into the lake of fire and the gathered kings and armies are slain by a word from Jesus the Messiah (Rev. 19:19-21).

Truly I am God, I have no peer;

I am God, and there is none like me,

who announces the end from the beginning

and reveals beforehand what has not yet occurred,

who says, My plan will be realized,

I will accomplish what I desire,

Isaiah 46:9b-10 NET

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

[1]Robert B. Chisholm, Handbook on the Prophets (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002) 324-5.

[2] Leon Wood, A Commentary on Daniel (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1973)304-5.

[3] Stephen R. Miller, Daniel, The New American Commentary (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 1994)305-6.

[4] Wood, Daniel, 305.

[5] Miller, Daniel, 306.

[6] Miller, Daniel, 308.

[7] Daniel I. Block, The Book of Ezekiel, Chapters 2548, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998) 436.

[8] Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1964) 356.

[9] Wood, Daniel, 314.

Exposition of Daniel 11:29-35 Daniel’s final vision — Part 2

Daniel 11: 29-35

29 At the appointed time he will invade the South again, but this time the outcome will be different from what it was before. 30 Ships of the western coastlands will oppose him, and he will lose heart. Then he will turn back and vent his fury against the holy covenant. He will return and show favor to those who forsake the holy covenant.

31 His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation. 32 With flattery he will corrupt those who have violated the covenant, but the people who know their God will firmly resist him.

33 Those who are wise will instruct many, though for a time they will fall by the sword or be burned or captured or plundered. 34 When they fall, they will receive a little help, and many who are not sincere will join them. 35 Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time.

We have been studying the amazingly accurate prophecy that the angel is sharing with Daniel regarding the future of Israel. Although by this time the Jews were being allowed to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple, the vision Daniel is receiving indicates that there will not be an end to conflict for some time. In fact, things will eventually get much worse.

Once again, the Bible passage will be divided into sections so that it will be easier to understand the commentary that follows. Recall that we left off with the introduction of a mighty, but contemptible king who persecutes the Jews.

The further desolation caused by Antiochus IV Epiphanes

Though Antiochus brought back great plunder from his first invasion of Egypt (verse 28) in 169 B.C., things did not go so well in his return invasion in 168 B.C. (verse 29). This time a Roman fleet came to support the Ptolemies at Alexandria and sent him into a frightened retreat (verse 30a). Upon returning from the invasion attempt, the deeply humiliated Antiochus took out his anger (verse 30b) on the holy covenant (the Law of Moses).

Antiochus soon banned all forms of Jewish religious observance including circumcision, possessing the Scriptures, sacrifices and feast days; the penalty for violation was death.[1] Miller adds, Desecration of the Jewish religion reached its climax on 15 Chislev (December) 167 B.C. when an altar or idol-statue devoted to Olympian Zeus (Jupiter) was erected in the temple.[2] It is probable that swine were also sacrificed there, an abomination to the Jews.

While some Jews (those who violated the covenant) participated in the Greek religion of their oppressor, others (the people who know their God) joined the armed rebellion led by the sons of a priest named Mattathias, a force called the Maccabees (verse 32). The Maccabees fought using guerrilla warfare tactics, won many encounters, and eventually rededicated the temple in December, 164 B.C. Verses 33-35 describe the sorting of loyalties, for or against God, that took place during this terrible time. But God brought down Antiochus IV at the time of his choosing. Chapter 9 of 2 Maccabees describes a horrible death for Antiochus in 163 B.C.

Aside from showing Gods power to dictate events centuries beforehand, verses 29-35 likely show how Jews suffering under the terrible Antichrist-to-come will react. They also reveal an idea of how the Antichrist will again desolate Jerusalem, desecrating it near the end. But he, too, will not prevail.

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

[1] Stephen R. Miller, Daniel, The New American Commentary (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 1994)301, citing 1 Maccabees 1:50, 63.

[2] Miller, Daniel, 301, citing 1 Maccabees 1:54, 59.

Exposition of Daniel 10:15-11:1 An angelic warrior speaks

Daniel 10:15–11:1

15 While he was saying this to me, I bowed with my face toward the ground and was speechless. 16 Then one who looked like a man touched my lips, and I opened my mouth and began to speak. I said to the one standing before me, “I am overcome with anguish because of the vision, my lord, and I feel very weak. 17 How can I, your servant, talk with you, my lord? My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe.”

18 Again the one who looked like a man touched me and gave me strength. 19 “Do not be afraid, you who are highly esteemed,” he said. “Peace! Be strong now; be strong.” When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Speak, my lord, since you have given me strength.”

20 So he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come; 21 but first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth. (No one supports me against them except Michael, your prince.

1 And in the first year of Darius the Mede, I took my stand to support and protect him.)

An angelic warrior speaks

When we consider Daniel’s age, his long fast, and the overwhelming nature of his encounter with the Messiah, it is not surprising that he has difficulty even standing before the angelic messenger, much less learning what the angel has come to reveal (verse 15). Even though NIV has Daniel saying that he suffers “with anguish because of the vision” (verse 16), the underlying Hebrew noun is used most frequently for labor pains, which any mother will attest are worse than mere anguish!

Note that the angel, who had the appearance of a man, was able to strengthen Daniel with a touch (verse 18). This is exactly what we pray for in relation to others who are suffering or in distress, and this is how God may answer if he is willing.

It is astonishing that this powerful angel left his ongoing battle with “the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia” (verse 20, NLT) to inform Daniel about the future of his people and Jerusalem. Perhaps this glimpse of angelic war indicated to Daniel why the Jews who went to Jerusalem were still suffering opposition. Their enemies were not just human ones. [Neither are ours!]

Miller points out that this spiritual struggle of angels against demons would continue for over two centuries of Persian rule (539–331 B.C.) and adds: “This struggle involved all of the decisions and relationships pertaining to the Jews during the Persian period (e.g., the reconstruction of the temple, deliverance of the Jews during the time of Esther, permission for Ezra and Nehemiah to return, and their subsequent construction of the city).”[1]

When that long battle ends with the fall of Persia, it will be replaced by a new one when “the spirit prince of the kingdom of Greece will come” (verse 20b, NLT). Of course, Daniel already knows that the Persian kingdom will be replaced by a Greek kingdom because he was explicitly told that in a previous vision (Dan. 8:21). But he had not known until this moment that the ferocity of the Greek king would be inspired by a powerful demon. The participation of the angelic warrior against the coming Grecian kingdom will prove all too necessary as the detailed prophecies of chapter 11 will show. The Jews will face many threats during the period of Greek dominance, especially during the rule of Antiochus IV.

Before returning to the angelic battle, the warrior-angel carries out the strategic mission of revealing to Daniel additional details concerning the future of the Jews and Jerusalem (presented in chapters 11–12). What he reveals is trustworthy because it is recorded in a reliable record (“the Book of Truth,” NIV for verse 21a) to which the angel has access.

Before presenting details about events to come, the warrior-angel returns to a description of the forces Yahweh has deployed to defend the Jews. In the fight against the spirit princes of Persia and Greece, the warrior-angel has but one ally, “Michael, your prince” (verse 21b). Both here and in Dan. 12:1 we find that Michael is a powerful angel specially charged with defending the Jews against Satanic attack. They both worked together in the crucial first year of Darius the Mede, also known as Cyrus (verse 11:1). Wood says, “Thus it comes to be known that Cyrus’s decision to let the Jews go had been accomplished by God working through these two high angels.”[2]

A strategic briefing

Human interest in angels has always been intense, but it has sometimes been guided more by speculation than by revelation. Paul warns us that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12).

It is apparent that how nations treat the Jews is a great concern to Yahweh. That being the case, we would project that considerable angelic power is brought to bear on the United States, which is the home of almost as many Jews as the nation of Israel. Further, it is plain in the Bible that anti-Semitism is displeasing to God; those who engage in it are giving aid to the enemy. This does not mean that we must condone every act of the Israeli government or Jews in general. God is well able to discipline those who need it without our help.

We are caught up in a long war between God’s holy angels and those angels who followed Satan in rebellion.  Revelation 12:7 informs us of war in heaven itself, when Michael led the angelic forces that defeated Satan and cast him and his angels down to the earth (Rev. 12:7–9). This is not some remote problem because Satan acts “to wage war against … those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus” (Rev. 12:17).

Christians gather in groups to learn and to pray and to show love not just as a matter of tradition, but for mutual protection! We are stronger for Christ together than we are separately. The Lord fights for us and gives us this promise:

Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38–39

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, 288.

[2] Wood, Daniel, 279.

Exposition of Daniel 10:10-14 The angelic front of the Great War

Daniel 10:10–14

10 A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 He said, “Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.” And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling.

12 Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. 13 But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. 14 Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come.”

The angelic front of the Great War

Since Daniel proved unable to hear the voice of the Messiah, an angelic messenger lifts him to his feet while declaring that he has “now been sent” (verse 11) to explain things that Daniel is commanded to understand. Though still trembling, Daniel is strengthened to listen and learn.

What the angel reveals is astonishing because it describes spiritual activity — both influence on specific people and conflict with one another — that goes on all the time but is unseen by humanity. The angel reassures Daniel and explains that his humble heart triggered a response from heaven on day one of his fast (verse 12)! So, why did it take 21 days for the message to arrive? The answer is that the angel was resisted by “the prince of the kingdom of Persia” (verse 13). Wood explains, “These matters taken together show that this adversary was a demon, no doubt of high rank, assigned by the chief of demons, Satan, to Persia as his special area of activity.”[1] If that sounds odd, recall that Cyrus, king of Persia, is the one who returned many Jews to Jerusalem and whose further decisions would affect their welfare. The entirety of Revelation 12 tracks the attempts of Satan to attack the Jews, kill the Messiah and dominate the earth, so influencing Persian policy was vital!

The messenger-angel was not able to reach Daniel, a subject of king Cyrus of Persia, until greater angelic power was brought to bear in the person of Michael, “one of the chief princes” (verse 13). The standard Hebrew lexicon says that here prince means “a higher being, a guardian angel.”[2] Miller summarizes: “From this passage several important facts are evident concerning angels: (1) angels are real; (2) there are good and evil angels; (3) angels can influence the affairs of human beings. Particularly, this passage teaches that angels inspire human governments and their leaders.”[3] From this conclusion we can understand why Paul commands Christians to pray “for kings and for all those in authority” (1 Timothy 2:2) no matter how we may feel about them. Our lives may depend on it!

In a book that emphasizes God’s rule over all things, it is vital to know that he rules over the unseen realm as surely as over the part we plainly see. His temporary tolerance of rebellion, both human and angelic is no sign of weakness or disinterest. Miller quotes a wise statement by Old Testament scholar Gleason Archer: “‘While God can, of course, override the united resistance of all the forces of hell if he chooses to do so, he accords to demons certain limited powers of obstruction and rebellion somewhat like those he allows humans. In both cases the exercise of free will in opposition to the Lord of heaven is permitted by him when he sees fit.’”[4] Of course, even limited rebellion has serious consequences as the punishment of the Jews amply demonstrates!

Verse 14 describes the scope of what the angel came to tell Daniel. He will explain future events that involve “your people” (the Jews). These events are said to be “in the future” (NIV), but, in fact, the phrase means “in the latter days,” as we said in connection with Daniel 2:28. Miller explains, “Normally the phrase describes events that will occur just prior to and including the coming of the kingdom of God upon the earth.”[5]

We will soon discover that the angel’s message focuses on Antiochus IV Epiphanes (who ruled 175 B.C. to 163 B.C.) and his Satanic, end-times counterpart the Antichrist. Both men were of interest to Daniel, but the second one is our chief concern today.

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

[1] Wood, Daniel, 272.

[2] HALOT, sar, prince, q.v.

[3] Miller, Daniel, 285.

[4] Miller, Daniel, 286, quoting G. Archer, Daniel, 125.

[5] Miller, Daniel, 286–7.

Exposition of Daniel 10:1-9 Daniel’s vision of the Messiah

Daniel 10:1-9

1 In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia, a revelation was given to Daniel (who was called Belteshazzar). Its message was true and it concerned a great war. The understanding of the message came to him in a vision.

2 At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. 3 I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.

4 On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river, the Tigris, 5 I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. 6 His body was like topaz, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude.

7 I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; those who were with me did not see it, but such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves. 8 So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. 9 Then I heard him speaking, and as I listened to him, I fell into a deep sleep, my face to the ground.

Once again Daniel anchors his last vision in history by mentioning “the third year of Cyrus king of Persia” (verse 1). Miller explains, “Cyrus’s third year would have been 536/535 B.C., two years after Gabriel’s appearance to Daniel in chapter 9 and a short while after the first return of the Jewish exiles to Palestine.”[1] By this time Daniel is 83 to 85 years of age. Historical evidence indicates that Cyrus was not frequently called “king of Persia,”[2] but there is a reason he is so designated here, and that reason will emerge later in the chapter.

The vision itself “concerned a great war,” a statement that may be considered a monumental understatement! The war described in chapters 10–12 spans at least 2,500 years and involves both angelic forces and human beings on each side. Both the Messiah and Satan appear to be directly involved. When the conflict ends, the earth will never return to what it was before.

Daniel switches from a narrator’s voice (third person) in verse 1 to a first-person viewpoint in verses 2–3. He probably does so in order to better relate a very personal encounter. In the midst of an extended fast, he expresses great sorrow, probably because he has heard about the devastated condition of Jerusalem and the harassment endured by the Jews who have recently returned to Palestine (Nehemiah 1:4; Ezra 4:5, 24).

Daniel is away from the capital and standing on the banks of the Tigris river, which passes just 20 miles west of Babylon. “Behold, a man” appeared over the Tigris, with an awesome appearance that defies adequate description (verses 5–6). Many scholars believe this man is Gabriel, who had appeared to Daniel twice before (Dan. 8:16 and 9:21). But Wood objects: “If so, however, it is strange that he is not mentioned by name, as he was in those chapters. Also, he is described at length here and was not before.”[3] We agree with Miller, who says, “That this person was God seems to be the correct view not only because of the overwhelming effect of his presence on Daniel but because of the similar appearance of [God] presented in Ezek. 1:26–28 and the even closer parallel to the portrait of Christ in Rev. 1:12–16.”[4] The appearances of the Messiah are like bookends for chapters 10–12 in that he appears to Daniel in chapter 10 and again in chapter 12, where his final words to Daniel end the book.

The vision of the man over the river was seen only by Daniel. Verse 7 is unusually emphatic in Hebrew: “I saw, I, Daniel, I alone.” Those with him, whether companions or a security detail, were so overwhelmed with terror that they ran away and hid themselves. A similar experience happened to Paul and his companions on the road to Damascus, when Jesus appeared to Paul (Acts 9:1–7).

As sometimes happens during overwhelming emotion, Daniel releases his hold on consciousness and slumps with his face to the ground (verse 9). No one may encounter the living God without being changed. Perhaps it is not accidental that, at the conclusion of chapter 12, the Messiah speaks of Daniel going to his rest until the resurrection on the last day; certainly he had some involuntary rest on this day.

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, 276.

[2] Miller, Daniel, 276, footnote 2.

[3] Wood, Daniel, 267–8.

[4] Miller, Daniel, 281–2.

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.