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.

As has happened with every vision in Daniel, the angels 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 Daniels 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 3645 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, Antichrists 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 Abrahams 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 Belshazzars 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 Ezekiels 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 Antichrists 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 heavens 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 201 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. D5erived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

[1] Chisholm, Handbook on the Prophets, 324-5.

[2] Wood, Daniel, 304-5.

[3] Miller, Daniel, 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] Miller, Daniel, 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 10:1-9 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 9:1-6 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 8:1-8 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.