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.” By this time Daniel is 83 to 85 years of age. Historical evidence indicates that Cyrus was not frequently called “king of Persia,” 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.” 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.” 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.
 Miller, Daniel, 276.
 Miller, Daniel, 276, footnote 2.
 Wood, Daniel, 267–8.
 Miller, Daniel, 281–2.