I was recently asked by a friend how I might answer someone claiming to see Satan in the message of Ezekiel 28:1-19 (HERE is the passage).
Here is my brief response:
First, I point to 28.2 which specifically says “prince of Tyre” and this message is embedded within a series of messages against the kingdom/city and ruler (26-28) and surrounded by other texts against other kingdoms and rulers (25-32). To make this passage suddenly about “Satan” or “the devil” would be to potentially be ignoring the context.
Second, the individual addressed is human and ONLY thinks themselves to be like a god: v. 2 “you are only a man”, vv. 4-5, 16 amassing great wealth, vv. 7-10, 17-18 suffering judgment by a foreign military, vv. 10, 19 and dying.
Third, the prophetic imagery of “cherub” (vv. 14, 16) in “Eden” (v. 13) draws upon ancient story, but not the Biblical one preserved in Genesis 2-3. It draws upon that same world (and apparently was known in Tyre and likely some part of their mythology). A similar prophetic image function happens with Egypt and Pharaoh being a water monster of the Nile (29.3-5).
The connection people have made to Satan from this passage has been the language of Eden (ignoring the rest of the context of the passage ultimately) and presuming that any reference to an angelic like being in Eden must be referring to the serpent of Genesis 2-3. However, that serpent is called a “creature of the field” and never anything more. It is never called a cherub nor hinted at. The only reference to a cherub in Genesis 2-3 is with regard to the one left with a sword guarding the eastern entrance back into the garden once the man and woman are evicted.
Though reading Satan into this text has a long tradition behind it, it simply does not bear up under any real scrutiny. (As an aside, one could also examine Isaiah 14’s reference to the “morning star” [poorly translated “Lucifer” by some], but that is for another blog post on another day.
In a recent conversation about events in the Middle/Near East, a question was raised as to the potential for fulfillment of prophecy, specifically concerning “Gog and Magog”.
Gog and Magog have so captured the imagination that their very mention seems clouded by mystery and ready at hand to apply to nearly any particularity in contemporary geo-politics involving the modern nation-state of Israel. However, few consider the actual texts where these terms are mentioned in Scripture. Gog (the referent to the prince of the eschatological hordes) only occurs two places in Scripture (excluding the referents which point to a genealogical figure): Ezekiel 38-39 and Revelation 20.
In Ezekiel, Gog is the prince from Magog (meaning “place of Gog”). This ruler is brought by the will of Yahweh to a restored Israel to make war. He is gathered with hordes from the corners of the known world (6th century BC). These two chapters are spent describing the hordes and their ultimate destruction and burial. Interestingly enough the valley of Hamon-Gog where the bodies are buried over 7 months immediately follows another valley filled with dead: the valley of very dry bones (Eze.37). That first valley was the slain of Israel, restored by the Spirit of Yahweh and even restored as a united people in the land of promise. This latter valley becomes the resting place of all who would think to destroy the work of Yahweh to live in peace in the midst of His people.
While numerous people groups are included in this horde (including Persia [part of modern Iran]…a favorite current target of prophetic prognosticators) the intention is not to locate the people groups specifically. It seems to function more toward all those who are from far away (from the very boundaries of civilization) who would gather together against the work of Yahweh (though brought by the “hook” of Yahweh to the land). This is NOT intended as Ezekiel’s message against a restored Caliphate (something imagined by Muslim extremists and fear-mongering Westerners). Nor is it against any of these people groups. It is against all who would oppose the ultimate plan of Yahweh to dwell with His redeemed people (Israel for Ezekiel, but inclusive of all of God’s people in the NT).
In the Revelation 20.8, Gog and Magog function as stock phrase for the opposing hordes from the four corners of the earth in an even more broad sense than Ezekiel. This is in contrast to “Gog” who was “from Magog” in Ezekiel. Here (if one is following a sort of “timeline” of events in the Revelation) is the final battle to end all battles. This one follows the 1000 year imprisonment of Satan and the 1000 year reign of Christ. It immediately precedes the final judgment and the coming of the New Jerusalem and the New Heavens and New Earth.
Given the above passages (from a Premillennial eschatology) it should seem readily apparent that anyone attempting to discern “Gog and Magog” in our contemporary setting has no grounds. Not only do the passages not support such an interpretation (even if one is not Premillennial) given their prophetic/eschatological nature to depict things in more broad terms, but they also would not support such following the predominant western Evangelical approach of Premillennialism which would locate this war at the very end of the millennial reign (and distinguish it from the Battle of Armageddon immediately preceding the Second Coming). Meaning it would be a thousand years from the Second Coming. The face of the planet (and her empires) would be radically refashioned from the current geo-political make-up.
In brief, finding Gog and Magog in contemporary news and prognostications is biblically unfounded. So stop looking at Russia, Turkey, or Iran. We need look no further than locating it with all who ultimately oppose the rule of the Lord Jesus Christ and his reign over the earth.
The God of Israel is not the god of philosophic speculations….a god perfect to reason. He is not a god unfeeling and unmoved. The God of Israel is a god living with His people. Their lot is his lot. It is among them that he resides as one of them though king of all.
Thus, in Ezekiel it is not simply the people removed from the holy city…it is the God of Israel, YHWH, who himself is removed. Across the Kidron Valley resting just a moment…lingering over the abandoned home…turning at last to the north…and to the River Chebar. Israel does not go into exile without her king…the king goes along because he is her husband. Israel and her God are homeless…together…though it is not by the choice of Israel. It is YHWH who has been abandoned, yet remains the faithful husband of his rescued bride. And YHWH leads the procession.
Broken walls and smoldering homes against the background. Weeping, the train of exiles depart. But YHWH is with them…the Exiled God who would not be abandoned and does not finally abandon. The Homeless God with his homeless people…awaiting the return to a home unconquerable and unending where at last it may be said, “YHWH resides here”.
“Biblical” diets seem to be the fad of late (or maybe I’m just late to this news). There are those who are promoting the Daniel’s Diet, or perhaps enjoy a loaf of some Ezekiel Bread (I’m not even making this stuff up). The question is…were such accounts intended for “healthy diets” or as signs of God’s blessing against the natural outcome (Daniel) and dietary judgment on those in Jerusalem for disobedience (Ezekiel)?
I noticed a friend of mine (and OT professor at Evangel University in Springfield, MO) Bill Griffin (Harvard – M.Div; Emory – PhD) was just writing on Facebook about so-called “biblical” diets. I thought his comment rather poignant:
For those who think the book of Daniel is a cookbook for healthy living: (1) Daniel objected to eating food which was ceremonially unclean. This is rarely an issue for Christians. (2) Daniel & friends became FATTER (ובריאי בשר) of flesh than their non-Jewish compatriots. The NIV gets it wrong when it says “better nourished”, unless you wish to translate Judges 3:18, “Now Eglon king of Moab was a very nourished man.” (3) As Dr. Dwight Sheets has noted, it took a miracle of God for Daniel to grow fatter on that diet, and it is parallel to the other episodes of miraculous deliverance in the book. The change of diet had nothing to do with losing weight!
I think Bill has gotten this correct. Such accounts were NEVER intended to be duplicated as if they were precedent setting patterns for health. They are intended as signs of God’s intervention in a very particular circumstance. It is quite disgusting to see such things marketed. 1 cup of poor interpretation + a spoonful of dietary research + 2 teaspoons of marketing + a sprinkling of spirituality and Biblical texts = BIG PROFIT (not to be confused with the prophets) that church-folk will go bonkers over.
I sure hope the Ezekiel bread has been baked over coals of dung…otherwise, how can I expect to keep my girlish figure. And while I’m at it, I’m still waiting for the John the Baptist diet (or better yet, clothing line)….hmmm…now that I think of it…perhaps I should get that idea copyrighted before anyone reads this blog…
Eugene Peterson’s The Message offers a fresh reading of Scripture that is intended not for study, but for hearing Scripture in a way intended to be comparable to those originally hearing it.* In many ways he has done a marvelous job of this. He is a remarkable scholar and author (one of my favorites) and I am often delighted by his perspective on things.
However, recently I received a newsletter that quoted from Ezekiel and I was struck by the alteration to the Hebrew text. The most recurring statement…indeed THE theme of Ezekiel…is the revelation of YHWH as YHWH (Israel’s God). This is signified in every translation I’ve seen (with the strangely lacking use ANYWHERE in the Amplified version) and well conveys the intent of the message to and through Ezekiel for Israel (Judah) and the nations.
The Message, instead, states that they (Israel, nations) will “know that I am God.” While the referent is still the God of Israel whose intent is to reveal that indeed He is God…this falls short of conveying the original hearing which emphasized the Name (with all its connections to the revelation and covenant with Abraham and Israel at Sinai). I was sorely disappointed by this reading, because it seems to me to diminish the very center of Ezekiel’s theology.
* It was NOT intended for preaching or study, which sadly it has been used for by far too many a preacher. It is important we understand original intent…including that of a translation.
Neither of these two additions to the Book of Daniel has come down in a Hebrew text, but instead in the Theodotion, LXX and Latin Vulgate recensions.They were thus never included as part of the accepted text by the wider community of Israel, but were used regularly by the early Church which used the Greek translations as their Scripture and found much in these tales that they could use for their own purposes.They were, however, not regarded as part of the received “canon” of Scripture by all of the churches, but as that which was early on beneficial to be read in the churches.Even in the KJV these additions were originally included (although they were found not attached to Daniel but in a section labeled “Apocrypha” meaning “hidden” with the notion that these were not considered a part of the received canon of Scripture but were still read in the churches) up until as late as 1826.While these tales do not add anything essential to the story of Daniel, they do offer examples of wisdom in persistent faithfulness to the LORD in the face of wickedness and false worship…something which the Book of Daniel spells out again and again, and something we would do well to pay heed to in our own day.
Susanna 1:1 There was a man living in Babylon whose name was Joakim. 2 He married the daughter of Hilkiah, named Susanna, a very beautiful woman and one who feared the Lord. 3 Her parents were righteous, and had trained their daughter according to the law of Moses.
4 Joakim was very rich, and had a fine garden adjoining his house; the Jews used to come to him because he was the most honored of them all. 5 That year two elders from the people were appointed as judges. Concerning them the Lord had said: “Wickedness came forth from Babylon, from elders who were judges, who were supposed to govern the people.” 6 These men were frequently at Joakim’s house, and all who had a case to be tried came to them there. 7 When the people left at noon, Susanna would go into her husband’s garden to walk. 8 Every day the two elders used to see her, going in and walking about, and they began to lust for her. 9 They suppressed their consciences and turned away their eyes from looking to Heaven or remembering their duty to administer justice. 10 Both were overwhelmed with passion for her, but they did not tell each other of their distress, 11 for they were ashamed to disclose their lustful desire to seduce her. 12 Day after day they watched eagerly to see her.
13 One day they said to each other, “Let us go home, for it is time for lunch.” So they both left and parted from each other. 14 But turning back, they met again; and when each pressed the other for the reason, they confessed their lust. Then together they arranged for a time when they could find her alone.
15 Once, while they were watching for an opportune day, she went in as before with only two maids, and wished to bathe in the garden, for it was a hot day. 16 No one was there except the two elders, who had hidden themselves and were watching her. 17 She said to her maids, “Bring me olive oil and ointments, and shut the garden doors so that I can bathe.” 18 They did as she told them: they shut the doors of the garden and went out by the side doors to bring what they had been commanded; they did not see the elders, because they were hiding. 19 When the maids had gone out, the two elders got up and ran to her. 20 They said, “Look, the garden doors are shut, and no one can see us. We are burning with desire for you; so give your consent, and lie with us. 21 If you refuse, we will testify against you that a young man was with you, and this was why you sent your maids away.” 22 Susanna groaned and said, “I am completely trapped. For if I do this, it will mean death for me; if I do not, I cannot escape your hands. 23 I choose not to do it; I will fall into your hands, rather than sin in the sight of the Lord.”
24 Then Susanna cried out with a loud voice, and the two elders shouted against her. 25 And one of them ran and opened the garden doors. 26 When the people in the house heard the shouting in the garden, they rushed in at the side door to see what had happened to her. 27 And when the elders told their story, the servants felt very much ashamed, for nothing like this had ever been said about Susanna.
28 The next day, when the people gathered at the house of her husband Joakim, the two elders came, full of their wicked plot to have Susanna put to death. In the presence of the people they said, 29 “Send for Susanna daughter of Hilkiah, the wife of Joakim.” 30 So they sent for her. And she came with her parents, her children, and all her relatives. 31 Now Susanna was a woman of great refinement and beautiful in appearance. 32 As she was veiled, the scoundrels ordered her to be unveiled, so that they might feast their eyes on her beauty. 33 Those who were with her and all who saw her were weeping.
34 Then the two elders stood up before the people and laid their hands on her head. 35 Through her tears she looked up toward Heaven, for her heart trusted in the Lord. 36 The elders said, “While we were walking in the garden alone, this woman came in with two maids, shut the garden doors, and dismissed the maids. 37 Then a young man, who was hiding there, came to her and lay with her. 38 We were in a corner of the garden, and when we saw this wickedness we ran to them. 39 Although we saw them embracing, we could not hold the man, because he was stronger than we, and he opened the doors and got away. 40 We did, however, seize this woman and asked who the young man was, 41 but she would not tell us. These things we testify.” Because they were elders of the people and judges, the assembly believed them and condemned her to death.
42 Then Susanna cried out with a loud voice, and said, “O eternal God, you know what is secret and are aware of all things before they come to be; 43 you know that these men have given false evidence against me. And now I am to die, though I have done none of the wicked things that they have charged against me!” 44 The Lord heard her cry.
45 Just as she was being led off to execution, God stirred up the holy spirit of a young lad named Daniel, 46 and he shouted with a loud voice, “I want no part in shedding this woman’s blood!” 47 All the people turned to him and asked, “What is this you are saying?” 48 Taking his stand among them he said, “Are you such fools, O Israelites, as to condemn a daughter of Israel without examination and without learning the facts? 49 Return to court, for these men have given false evidence against her.”
50 So all the p
eople hurried back. And the rest of the elders said to him, “Come, sit among us and inform us, for God has given you the standing of an elder.” 51 Daniel said to them, “Separate them far from each other, and I will examine them.” 52 When they were separated from each other, he summoned one of them and said to him, “You old relic of wicked days, your sins have now come home, which you have committed in the past, 53 pronouncing unjust judgments, condemning the innocent and acquitting the guilty, though the Lord said, ‘You shall not put an innocent and righteous person to death.’ 54 Now then, if you really saw this woman, tell me this: Under what tree did you see them being intimate with each other?” He answered, “Under a mastic tree.” 55 And Daniel said, “Very well! This lie has cost you your head, for the angel of God has received the sentence from God and will immediately cut you in two.”
56 Then, putting him to one side, he ordered them to bring the other. And he said to him, “You offspring of Canaan and not of Judah, beauty has beguiled you and lust has perverted your heart. 57 This is how you have been treating the daughters of Israel, and they were intimate with you through fear; but a daughter of Judah would not tolerate your wickedness. 58 Now then, tell me: Under what tree did you catch them being intimate with each other?” He answered, “Under an evergreen oak.” 59 Daniel said to him, “Very well! This lie has cost you also your head, for the angel of God is waiting with his sword to split you in two, so as to destroy you both.”
60 Then the whole assembly raised a great shout and blessed God, who saves those who hope in him. 61 And they took action against the two elders, because out of their own mouths Daniel had convicted them of bearing false witness; they did to them as they had wickedly planned to do to their neighbor. 62 Acting in accordance with the law of Moses, they put them to death. Thus innocent blood was spared that day. 63 Hilkiah and his wife praised God for their daughter Susanna, and so did her husband Joakim and all her relatives, because she was found innocent of a shameful deed. 64 And from that day onward Daniel had a great reputation among the people. (Susanna 1:1-64 – NRS)
Discussion of Susanna
This particular story is usually numbered as chapter thirteen of the Book of Daniel; however, in some Greek texts it was put as the very first chapter which would be awkward as well.This was written to account for Daniel’s standing among his own people, but nowhere else in the book of Daniel is this at issue.The book of Daniel is presented simply as an account of Daniel’s rise among the Gentiles as one possessed of wisdom and understanding to demonstrate the sovereignty of the Lord over all the other nations.So this particular addition becomes rather difficult to include in light of the overall scheme of Daniel.The text included above (translated by the NRS) is largely taken from the much longer recension of Theodotion as opposed to the much briefer LXX recension.The account notes false judges who attempt to abuse a righteous woman trying to use the Law against her by offering false testimony in order to put her to death (Lev.24:14), but instead they are put to death as false witnesseswhen proven to be false by the wisdom of Daniel (Deut.19:18ff).“Against the background of accepted theism the narrative showed that the divine will was given normative expression in the Torah of Moses, and that injustice was unequivocally condemned by the written Word.Her experience of God led Susanna to choose death rather than sin, but in making this decision she was actually placing her entire confidence in the divine ability to answer prayer and vindicate the innocent suppliant.By contrast, however, the deceitful wicked were unmasked and exposed, despite their hypocritical pretensions to justice and religion” (Harrison 1251).
Bel and the Dragon 1:1 When King Astyages was laid to rest with his ancestors, Cyrus the Persian succeeded to his kingdom. 2 Daniel was a companion of the king, and was the most honored of all his friends.
3 Now the Babylonians had an idol called Bel, and every day they provided for it twelve bushels of choice flour and forty sheep and six measures of wine. 4 The king revered it and went every day to worship it. But Daniel worshiped his own God. So the king said to him, “Why do you not worship Bel?” 5 He answered, “Because I do not revere idols made with hands, but the living God, who created heaven and earth and has dominion over all living creatures.” 6 The king said to him, “Do you not think that Bel is a living god? Do you not see how much he eats and drinks every day?” 7 And Daniel laughed, and said, “Do not be deceived, O king, for this thing is only clay inside and bronze outside, and it never ate or drank anything.”
8 Then the king was angry and called the priests of Bel and said to them, “If you do not tell me who is eating these provisions, you shall die. 9 But if you prove that Bel is eating them, Daniel shall die, because he has spoken blasphemy against Bel.” Daniel said to the king, “Let it be done as you have said.” 10 Now there were seventy priests of Bel, besides their wives and children. So the king went with Daniel into the temple of Bel. 11 The priests of Bel said, “See, we are now going outside; you yourself, O king, set out the food and prepare the wine, and shut the door and seal it with your signet. 12 When you return in the morning, if you do not find that Bel has eaten it all, we will die; otherwise Daniel will, who is telling lies about us.” 13 They were unconcerned, for beneath the table they had made a hidden entrance, through which they used to go in regularly and consume the provisions.
14 After they had gone out, the king set out the food for Bel. Then Daniel ordered his servants to bring ashes, and they scattered them throughout the whole temple in the presence of the king alone. Then they went out, shut the door and sealed it with the king’s signet, and departed. 15 During the night the priests came as usual, with their wives and children, and they ate and drank everything.
16 Early in the morning the king rose and came, and Daniel with him. 17 The king said, “Are the seals unbroken, Daniel?” He answered, “They are unbroken, O king.” 18 As soon as the doors were opened, the king looked at the table, and shouted in a loud voice, “You are great, O Bel, and in you there is no deceit at all!” 19 But Daniel laughed and restrained the king from going in. “Look at the floor,” he said, “and notice whose footprints these are.” 20 The king said, “I see the footprints of men and women and children.” 21 Then the king was enraged, and he arrested the priests and their wives and children. They showed him the secret doors through which they used to enter to consume what was on the table. 22 Therefore the king put them to death, and gave Bel over to Daniel, who destroyed it and its temple.
23 Now in that place there was a great dragon, which the Babylonians revered. 24 The king said to Daniel, “You cannot deny that this is a living god; so worship him.” 25 Daniel said, “I worship t
he Lord my God, for he is the living God. 26 But give me permission, O king, and I will kill the dragon without sword or club.” The king said, “I give you permission.” 27 Then Daniel took pitch, fat, and hair, and boiled them together and made cakes, which he fed to the dragon. The dragon ate them, and burst open. Then Daniel said, “See what you have been worshiping!”
28 When the Babylonians heard about it, they were very indignant and conspired against the king, saying, “The king has become a Jew; he has destroyed Bel, and killed the dragon, and slaughtered the priests.” 29 Going to the king, they said, “Hand Daniel over to us, or else we will kill you and your household.”
30 The king saw that they were pressing him hard, and under compulsion he handed Daniel over to them. 31 They threw Daniel into the lions’ den, and he was there for six days. 32 There were seven lions in the den, and every day they had been given two human bodies and two sheep; but now they were given nothing, so that they would devour Daniel.
33 Now the prophet Habakkuk was in Judea; he had made a stew and had broken bread into a bowl, and was going into the field to take it to the reapers. 34 But the angel of the Lord said to Habakkuk, “Take the food that you have to Babylon, to Daniel, in the lions’ den.” 35 Habakkuk said, “Sir, I have never seen Babylon, and I know nothing about the den.” 36 Then the angel of the Lord took him by the crown of his head and carried him by his hair; with the speed of the wind he set him down in Babylon, right over the den. 37 Then Habakkuk shouted, “Daniel, Daniel! Take the food that God has sent you.” 38 Daniel said, “You have remembered me, O God, and have not forsaken those who love you.” 39 So Daniel got up and ate. And the angel of God immediately returned Habakkuk to his own place.
40 On the seventh day the king came to mourn for Daniel. When he came to the den he looked in, and there sat Daniel! 41 The king shouted with a loud voice, “You are great, O Lord, the God of Daniel, and there is no other besides you!” 42 Then he pulled Daniel out, and threw into the den those who had attempted his destruction, and they were instantly eaten before his eyes.
These two accounts were placed at the conclusion of the Book of Daniel in the Greek recensions and were numbered as the fourteenth chapter in the Latin Vulgate (even though Jerome called them “fables” [Latin fabulas] in his preface to Daniel).The first of the accounts concerns the chief deity of Babylon from about 2275BC onward known as Bel (otherwise known as Marduk).In the neo-Babylonian period (626-538BC) his worship was particularly emphasized under the auspices of Nebuchadnezzar II with his building of the great temple known as Esagila.Apparently after the Medo-Persian conquest of Babylon (according to the tale), Cyrus of Persia also worshipped Bel there and believed Bel to consume considerable amounts of food and wine every day.Daniel, however, knew better and sets out to demonstrate to the king that it was not Bel who consumed it all, but the priests and their families which he succeeds in proving and thereby leads to the destruction of this temple of Bel and the deaths of the priests and their families.
It seems possible that the account of the “dragon” (Greek δράκωνcan be read as “serpent”) was added to the one of Bel because they both deal with the theme of Daniel demonstrating the falsity of worshipping gods that are not the true God (Harrison 1253).This dragon was apparently kept as a god and worshipped, but Daniel wanted to demonstrate that it was not a god so he devised a plan to kill it by convincing it to eat tar.When it died, the people of Babylon were distraught at all that had happened and feared that Daniel had gained influence over the king so they demanded the death of Daniel by having him kept for a week in a hungry den of lions.However, the prophet Habakkuk was taken by the angel of the LORD (by the “hair of his head” cf. Eze.8:3) from Judah to Daniel in Babylon to feed him in the lion’s den.When the week had ended and Daniel was shown to have been preserved (cf. Dan.6) those who had Daniel cast in were themselves thrown in and the king confessed the God of Daniel to be God.
11:36-39 – The king who exalts himself. This king does have certain levels of overlap with Antiochus IV Epiphanes (and many commentators believe that this individual is one and the same), but the description does not fit as it did in the verses prior. The best explanation seems to be that this king is some yet future king who also exalts himself and of which Antiochus IV was only a type. He is none other than the “little horn” of Daniel 7 and the “ruler who would come” of Daniel 9:26 (cf. the “man of lawlessness” in 2 Thess.2:3-12; the “Antichrist” in 1 Jn.2:18; and the “beast” in Rev.11-20). This king does “as he pleases” and exalts himself “above every god” and even speaks blasphemies against the one true God (cf. 2 Thess.2:4; Rev.13:12, 14-15). Note that he will have a certain leeway to do what he plans until the “time of wrath” if fulfilled or “complete”. What would it mean for him to “show no regard for the gods [the Hebrew could also read “God”, but “gods” is most likely] of his fathers”? It means that he breaks with those before him and does what would have not been thinkable before. He also shows no regard for the “desire of women” which some have taken as a reference to unnatural inclinations, others as a rejection of the messianic hope of the Jewish people and still others as the god Tammuz who was likened to such (cf. Eze.8:14). This last is the most plausible given the context of “gods” before and after. He regards himself and a god of his own strength as his god and even a “foreign god” as his own. In the New Testament, this “god” is described as the dragon or Satan, but here we are left to wonder at who or what this might be. He will give great rewards to those who support him.
11:40-45 – The end of that king. “At the time of the end” points to the time that was to be completed for this king and thus in some sense to the end of all the kingdoms of this world. The “king of the South” once again may be referring to Egypt though it may also refer to some alliance considered “south” of Israel while the “north” (rather than only to Syria) may refer to some alliance primarily to the north of Israel. How these are to be conceived is less important than to consider that this is simply the continuing struggle between kings and kingdoms that fight for control over and in the “Beautiful Land” (the land of Israel; cf. Jer.3:19; Eze.20:6; Dan.8:9; 11:16; Mal.3:12). Many nations and peoples will fall, but apparently the traditional enemies of Israel (Edom, Moab and the leaders of Ammon – these tribal groups would be in what is now modern Jordan) will not fall to him (contrast Isa.11:14; Mal.1:2-5). Though he will succeed in his assault against the “king of the south” and many others he will be distraught by news of an impending attack from the east and north and he himself will be at “the beautiful holy mountain” (Jerusalem), but this does not exclude the notion of his forces making their final stand at the valley of Megiddo in what has come to be known as the battle of Armageddon (Rev.16:16). The end of the king will come and he will not find any help from anywhere – whether his gods or otherwise. Though he set out to destroy many, he will be destroyed.
12:1-4 – The time of the end. “At that time” refers to the raging of the last portion of chapter 11 and the raging of the king of the north. Michael (“Who is like God?”; cf. Dan.10:18, 21; Jude 9; Rev.12:7) the “great prince” is again named and here declared to defend against Israel’s complete annihilation, but not against many being martyred. The promise of the “time of distress” (Heb. ‘ēt sārâ) is such that there will no other equal for Israel (cf. Matt.24:21 where it appears that Jesus uses the language of the LXX and thus speaks of thlipsis). According to Zechariah 13:8, only one third of Israel will survive, but it will lead to the ultimate salvation of Israel (cf. Zech.12:10; Rom.11:25-27). The “deliverance” is not from the first death, but the second death (Rev.2:11; 20:6; 21:8) though this is not at all laid out in Daniel with clarity. It is notable that only those whose names are “found written in the book” are spared this. What is this “book”? According to Goldingay, it would be the citizenry of the “true Jerusalem” (306; cf. Ezra 2; Neh.7; Ps.87:6; Isa.4:3; Eze.13:9); though we might assume this to later be the “book of life” (Ps.69:28; Phil.4:3; Rev.3:5; 20:12, 15; 21:27). The “multitudes” (Heb. rabbîm) can sometimes mean “all” (cf. Deut.7:1; Isa.2:2), but the typical all inclusive word in Hebrew is kol. “The emphasis is not upon many as opposed to all, but rather on the numbers involved” (Baldwin 226). Why are these many said to be sleeping? The very notion of “sleep” for death implies the reality of the resurrection. “The words…do not exclude the general resurrection, but rather imply it. Their emphasis, however, is upon the resurrection of those who died during the period of great distress” (Young 256). The state of those who “awake”, that is are raised to life, is to either everlasting life or “shame and everlasting contempt”. Why should these be contrasted and in this manner? Also, are we to think of a time difference between the resurrection of the righteous and the wicked mentioned here? (cf. Rev.20:5, 12-13 where it is described in terms as separated by the millennium)
Note the blessing that is given to those who are “wise” (or see the footnote in the NIV “who impart wisdom” which may be the likelier reading). They are described as shining “like the brightness of the heavens” and “like the stars forever and ever”. How might this blessing be understood? It was common to consider celestial beings with the notion of the “stars” (Jud.5:20; Job 38:7; Dan.8:10; 1 Enoch 104), but Paul would later take this up as the promise concerning those who were pure and blameless in a wicked and perverse world (Phil.2:15). John Goldingay makes note that the angelic beings of Daniel have all been described in very human-like terms and as such he notes the contrast as follows: “As chapter 10 speaks of celestial figures who are the embodiments of earthly institutions, so chap. 11 speaks of earthly figures who are the embodiments of spiritual principles” (317). What does it mean for Daniel to “close up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end”? It does not pertain to making it a secret since he has already written it down, but instead means that it was to be preserved and protected for the appointed time and the appropriate readership (i.e., the “wise”; see Young 257). The idea is that only those who are fit to understand this message will do so. “Many will go here and there to increase knowledge” but they will not discern the times nor the message which was to the wise and discerning (Amos 8:2). It is notable that Daniel is not included among the prophets in the Hebrew canon, but among the writings and it may very likely be because of his emphasis upon wisdom. As such this suggests Daniel as a form of wisdom literature, albeit unlike the traditional proverbs or the likes of Ecclesiastes and Job. Yet, Daniel is intended as wisdom for the future generations who will grapple with hopelessness and despair, but must know that if they will remain faithful they will be raised
at the last day and receive their reward despite the terrorizing of the kings of this age and the ages to come. The end will yet come and the wise know this and live accordingly.
12:5-13 – The end of all these things and of Daniel. There were two beings, one on either side of the river and one other who hovered over the middle and wore linen and was likely the one from before (Dan.10:5). Again, Daniel is meant to overhear the conversation. The question of “How long?” was put to the one hovering over the water who raised both hands which gives special solemnity to the swearing by God (normally only one hand was raised – cf. Gen.14:22; Deut.32:40; Rev.10:5-6) and declares that it will be for “a time, times and half a time” (cf. Dan.7:25; that is for approximately three and a half years). The time designated was to bring to an end the one who would be destroying the “holy people” (see the NET). Daniel was still concerned about the outcome of this time that was yet future, but was assured and told that it would be accomplished and would have the effect that was necessary for the wise and the wicked (cf. Rev.22:11). What should this tell us about applying ourselves to the wisdom of the book of Daniel?
The final notes about the number of days from the time of the ceasing of daily sacrifices and the abomination of desolation offers a problem to the more simple approximate three and a half years of verse 7. Instead, 1290 days are first mentioned which would give forty-three months of thirty days each which gives one extra month and also requires thirty day months for the three and half years. Then the 1335 days for holding out to the end is given which makes for an extra forty-five more days on top of that. According to John Walvoord, these numbers are necessary for adequate time to deal out judgment and for the establishment of Christ’s millennial kingdom (295-6). However, it remains rather obscure as to why and without further elaboration elsewhere in Scripture one is left wondering just what was meant (whereas other such issues have had some clarity brought to bear on them by other Scripture). The best explanation for the days beyond what would be expected seems to be that of Joyce Baldwin: “As in the teaching of Jesus, the emphasis is on endurance to the end (Mark 13:13). A particular blessing awaits one who goes on expectantly even after the time for the fulfillment of the prophecy is apparently passed, as in the parable of Jesus there is a special blessing for the servant who continues to be faithful even when his master does not come home at the stated time (Matt.24:45-51)” (232).
10:1 – The Time and General Content of the Vision. The third year of Cyrus king of Persia would place this vision in approximately 536-535BC. This would also suggest that the recently begun work on rebuilding the Temple of the LORD by the returning exiles under the supervision of Ezra had been stopped temporarily by Samaritan opposition (Ezra 4:5, 24). Why would Daniel suddenly at this point refer to himself as “Belteshazzar” and in the third person? This would seem to tie in the contents of the first chapter with the contents of the last vision (chapters 10-12) by referring to King Cyrus (Dan.1:21; although this refers to his first year) and to Daniel’s Babylonian name (Dan.1:7). Why should the “message” be affirmed as “true” (Heb. ’ĕmet)? Is this not always the case of messages from the LORD? This serves to mark the vision apart as truly a vision given concerning the future and accurately speaking to matters that will occur. It also suggests that what will occur has already been written in the “Book of Truth” (Heb. kətāb’ĕmet in Dan.10:21). There is considered to be some ambiguity about a “great war” (Heb. sābā’ gādōl) that is referred to here as is noted by the NIV footnote that reads “true and burdensome”, but the former seems the most likely in light of the conflicts that ensue in the following in the vision of the future. The vision concerns a message of peace, rest and blessedness it also concerns the great conflicts leading to the final conflict of the ages.
10:2-4 – Fasting by the Tigris. Daniel was apparently so perturbed in his spirit before even receiving this vision likely because of the setbacks of the Temple project in Jerusalem that he gave himself to fasting and did so outside of Babylon itself. That he gave up eating “choice food” and then speaks of “meat and wine” means that he had taken these up again some time after his initial training upon arriving at Babylon and proving his faithfulness to the LORD at that time. In other words, he did not consider such things to be a rule or law for all time, but only something that called for the obedience of that appointed time to demonstrate faithfulness. The date of his fasting is important to note because if he had been fasting for three weeks and does not end it until the twenty-fourth day of the first month that means that he fasted for right through the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Passover) that was to occur every year from the 15th of Nissan, sometimes also called Abib (the first month of the year), to the 21st which was required to be observed. Granted that he would not make the journey back to Jerusalem, still, why would Daniel intentionally not observe one of the three Feasts that were required by the LORD (Exo.12:2; 23:15; 34:18; Deut.16:1)? Why should Daniel give himself to fasting at all since he was well into his eighties by this time? It is a little strange that he calls the Tigris river the “great river” since that is the normal name of the Euphrates, but it is not completely out of the question that he should have done so. This would place him anywhere within 20 miles to a couple hundred miles of Babylon depending on where exactly along the Tigris he was. It would seem the most likely that he was somewhere fairly nearby Babylon.
10:5-9 – The Appearance of a Man. The description that Daniel gives of the one he sees and describes as a “man dressed in linen” suggests one who is perhaps prepared for a priestly sort of ministry (cf. Exo.28:42; Lev.6:10; 16:4), but this is also the sort of clothing of the angelic-like “men” that Ezekiel describes (Eze.9:2-3, 11; 10:2, 6-7). He wore a golden belt and his body and face glowed. His eyes were “like flaming torches” and arms and legs “burnished bronze” with a mighty voice of a great crowd. This description fits very closely with that of Ezekiel 1:26-28 and Revelation 1:12-16 and this individual is so imposing that he may in fact be a theophany (that is, the appearing of God Himself) with later messengers giving the explanations to the revelation (Dan.10:10-14) in much the manner that John in the Revelation would later receive. Why was Daniel the only one who could see the vision of this “man”? Obviously there was something tangible about the whole experience because those who were with him became terrified and ran to hide. Even Daniel described himself as overwhelmed by the vision.
10:10-14 – Affirmation of Daniel. It may be that the one who touched him and speaks in verses 10-14 is not the same as the one in verses 5-6 because if the first one was in fact a theophany then there would have been no need for the help of another (Michael) and he would not have come to only explain. Further, the Hebrew does not designate that there was only one individual there and seems to suggest as in previous visionary visits that there may have been more than one present (cf. Dan.8:13). Daniel is made to tremble on his hands and knees by the touch of this messenger who affirms him as “highly esteemed”. This touch accompanied by the command to consider what he would be instructed and to stand was sufficient to bring him to his feet even though he was still in a trembling state. Though Daniel was “highly esteemed” by the LORD this not only did not exclude him from suffering but seems to have necessitated it at some level, just as it did for Mary the mother of Jesus (cf. Luke 1:30; 2:35) and Jesus himself who was the beloved of the Father. As it was for Daniel, so for us, it should never be taken for-granted that understanding comes natural without applying ourselves to intentionally seek to understand and humble ourselves before God.
The messenger assures Daniel that he came in response to the prayers of Daniel, but was held back by the “prince of the Persian kingdom” for twenty one days apparently the whole time Daniel was praying. However, he was assisted by “Michael” who is here called “one of the chief princes,” who enabled him to be released from the struggle and bring the message to Daniel. Michael is mentioned here and Daniel 12:1, Jude 9 and Revelation 12:7. In each account, he is one who engages in conflict and particularly in Daniel 12:1 defends the people of Israel. He is called an “archangel” or “chief (first) angel” in Jude 9 and as such is the only one named in the Protestant canon of Scripture. It is unclear just who the “prince of the Persians” and the “king (lit. ‘kings’) of Persia” are, but the likeliest explanation at least for the former is some sort of wicked spiritual power. The latter may be a reference to the actual king (or kings) of Persia or to some other form of these spiritual powers.
Certainly there is nothing clear here concerning a structure of authorities by which one can (or should) build a highly structured doctrine of spiritual powers and authorities beyond this very basic teaching that there are actual spiritual beings and realities at work throughout the kingdoms of this world. We cannot (nor should not) simply assume that the kingdoms of this world are all that there is because this is all we may be used to through our own experience
s (cf. Eph.6:10-18). There are other references to some sort of gods of the nations that may represent some reality behind them (even when a prophet like Isaiah will confess that they are really “nothing”; cf. Isa.46:2; Jer.46:25; 49:3; see also Deut.32:8 in the LXX and Qumran; Ps.96:4). Since it is not revealed in Scripture how these conflicts among these “princes” actually took place…it would be mere conjecture to make suppositions about how this was and is carried out. The message that was so necessary for him to bring to Daniel was a message about the future and not even about the present. This was something which Daniel seemed more concerned about. What might this say about our present struggles and reality?
10:15-11:1 – The Strengthening of Daniel. Once again Daniel was overwhelmed and bowed over and once again was touched, but this time on the lips. Why would he be touched on the lips? To affirm the message he was being given and his ability to speak it and to allow him to confess his own sense of helplessness and humility. Again he was touched and this time given strength and reaffirmed concerning the LORD’s estimation of him. In what sense does the word of the LORD to Daniel to “Peace! Be strong now! Be strong.” become the strengthening of Daniel joined to the touch? The message and the touch are not simply passive work, but active and empowering in the life of Daniel as in us. Why would the messenger return to the fight against the “prince of Persia”? The engagement will be taken up until the “prince of Greece” would come. We can only surmise that this would entail a further conflict among the “princes”, but this refers to a time in our own history that would not happen until about 331BC with the rise of the Greeks under Alexander (or perhaps slightly sooner).
Before he left he assured Daniel that what he would share with him was already written down in the “Book of Truth” which is apparently a way of referring to what has been determined to be by the LORD. He notes that only Michael supports him against the princes of Persia and Greece. The messenger had taken his stand with Michael two years before against the “prince of Persia” and it would appear that this was to protect “Darius” (though this is less than certain). Why should these struggles among beings that are not human require long term conflict when the LORD could easily resolve them? For the same reason that this world could quickly be redeemed and all wickedness be dealt with in a moment without the conflict of the righteous struggling against sin and principalities and powers until the last Day. The reason is that it all works for the ultimate glory of God as demonstrated in the cross, resurrection and coming again of the Lord Jesus Christ who will judge the living and the dead. It is that in the end, he might be demonstrated to be supreme over all (Col.1:15-20).
Vision de Daniel à Suze By: Stephanus Garsia (11th Century)
8:1-2 – Daniel has a vision three years after the dream of chapter seven (approximately 550BC) while Belshazzar was still in Babylon (and his father, Nabonidus, still king of all Babylon). Perhaps the reason he repeats the “vision” three times is because it was so disturbing to him (8:27). Daniel was taken (much like Ezekiel) in this vision to the “citadel of Susa” (another name for the “city”) located 220 miles east of Babylon and 150 miles north of the Persian Gulf. This city was later to become one of the royal cities of Medo-Persia acting as a winter palace (cf. Est.1:2; Neh.1:1; 2:1). The location is important as it had not yet become a location of prominence again having been destroyed some years before and the Medo-Persians having not yet rebuilt it for full use yet at the time of Daniel’s vision.
8:3-4 – A Ram Appears. The ram has two horns, one longer than the other, but the shorter growing longer than the former. According to one fourth century AD writer (Ammianus Marcellinus 10:1 – see Goldingay 208) the Medo-Persians always carried a golden head of a ram into battle with them as their symbol. More importantly this ram is later interpreted as Medo-Persia and it can be surmised that the initially longer horn was Media which was the initially predominant power of the two, until Persia became the more powerful. The charging of the ram is to the west, north and south following essentially the path of Medo-Persia in her conquests of Babylon, Lydia, Asia Minor, and Egypt. There appeared to be none that could stop this empire. In what sense might the kingdoms of this world all be understood as “animals” in light of the implications of verse 4? What does this suggest about all worldly kingdoms even though they be ordained of the LORD?
8:5-8 – A Goat Appears. This goat is described with a “prominent horn between his eyes” suggesting a single ruler and kingdom (Alexander the Great of Macedon as the interpretation of Dan.8:21 declares). The ram notably charges across the earth “without touching the ground” in a similar manner to the four-headed leapord-like creature of Dan.7:6 that suggested Greece as well. The enraged goat destroyed the ram and the two horns. However, the “large horn” before it could become even greater than it had already become was “broken off” and replaced by “four” (again the connection to Dan.7:6). Alexander’s untimely death off in Babylon (323BC) left his empire shattered and ten years later it was divided among four of his generals.
8:9-12 – A Small Horn. From among one of the four horns of the goat there appeared a small horn initially that grew in the south, east and toward the “Beautiful Land” (Heb. sebî : that is toward “Jerusalem”; cf. Dan.11: 16, 41; Jer.3:19; Eze.20:6, 15) On this occurring see 1 Macc.1 and 2 Macc.5-6. Who is this “small horn” that grew? History now tells us it was Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reigned 175BC-163BC) of Syria who assassinated the high priest Onias III in 170BC replacing him with another priest, ended the sacrifices and desecrated the temples setting up an altar to Zeus and sacrificing a swine on the altar in 167BC, that the temple was restored and dedicated December 14, 164BC (Hanukkah), while he died shortly thereafter in 163BC. But who are the “host of heaven” that he threw down to the earth and trampled? Certainly not angels. More likely this refers to the faithful of Israel (cf. Dan.12:3; see also Gen.15:5; 22:17; Deut.17:3; Enoch 46:7; Mt.13:43; Phil.2:15; Rev.12:4). Further, he set himself up against the “Prince” of the host…which suggests God Himself. This is done by his taking away the “daily sacrifice” (Heb. tāmîd “continually”; cf. Exo.29:38-42; Num.28:3-8) and desecrating the temple. Why would the LORD allow it to prosper in everything it did and truth to be “thrown to the ground”? Does the LORD have a greater purpose than the immediate or temporary?
8:13-14 – The Conversation. Daniel is meant to overhear a conversation among some of the “holy ones” (angels?). It seems that even they are concerned with the question of humanity, “How long?” (cf. Ps.6:3; Isa.6:11; Zech.1:12) The two speaking are concerned with how long it will take for all of the declared to happen to actually occur. The answer is declared to Daniel (though the LXX and Syriac read that the answer was given to the other holy one) that it will take “2300 evenings and mornings”. How should we understand this? As 1500 days or as 2300 days? The latter seems preferable given the manner in which Hebrew chooses to express the form for the numbers with mornings and evenings. Thus this would be about seven years time from beginning to end. In other words, there is a definite limit set to the wickedness of this king and his kingdom. There is no reason to automatically assume that this “horn” is to be identified with the “horn” of chapter seven since that one belonged to the fourth beast (rather than the third which was Greece) and came from one of the four horns as opposed to that fourth beasts little horn that came up among the ten horns and displaced three. While both chapters speak of little horns, they are distinguished considerably even while both being arrogant and prideful and opposing the LORD and the saints.
8:15-18 – Gabriel Arrives. While Daniel was contemplating all that he had seen and heard he received a messenger like “a man” (Heb. gāber) who would explain the vision. There are only two angels ever named in Scripture and this is the first occasion where one is named. “Gabriel” appears again at the announcement of John the Baptist’s birth (Luke 1:19) and Jesus birth (Luke 1:26). “Michael” is the other angel named in Scripture (Dan.10:13, 21; 12:1; Jude 9; Rev.12:7); though in the approximately second-third century BC apocryphal work of 1 Enoch there are several others named as well: Raphael, Uriel, Raguel, Saraqqel and Remiel (1 Enoch 9:1; 20:1-8). Gabriel task appears always to be that of messenger in the Scripture (thus “angel” is a fitting name though he is not called that here in Daniel). Daniel kept falling in fear before Gabriel and actually may have passed out, but Gabriel lifted him up. The message Gabriel had for Daniel was that these things pertained to “the time of the end”, but the “end” of what? The end of that era or the end of all things? The former seem
s more likely if one postulates the historical interpretation at all, but if one still holds to any future sense then there must be also something remaining of the actual “end” of this world and the reign of the LORD.
There are actually four main views for interpreting Daniel 8: (1) Historical – All of Daniel 8 was historical and has been fulfilled; (2) Futuristic – All is still in the future; (3) Dual Fulfillment – The chapter referred both to what happened historically now and what will happen at the Second Coming; (4) Typological – The chapter refers to historical fulfillment but also things typical of that which points to the end of the age (see Walvoord 192-196).
8:19-27 – The Interpretation. Gabriel interprets the vision for Daniel (who earlier in the book had been the interpreter for others) and explains that the ram was Medo-Persia and the goat was Greece and specifically the horn was the first king of Greece. What Daniel has seen up to this point is over two hundred years in the future from his time. He is told that the kingdom of Greece will be divided into four kingdoms none of which will come close to the power of Greece and from one of those will be raised up a particular king (this actually foretells what will occur 350 years in the future). It is noteworthy that this king is raised up when wickedness is complete (cf. Gen.15:16; 1 Th.2:16). The king is noted for his appearance, intelligence, and unknown source of power; and though everything he does even against the LORD and the saints seems to succeed it will only be temporary until the LORD Himself destroys him. What does it mean for Daniel to “seal up” (Heb. sātam) the vision? This term when “applied to a book is not strictly ‘seal’ but rather ‘guard from use’ and therefore from misuse (cf. 12:3)” (Baldwin 179). Why should the LORD have told Daniel any of this and not saved such matters for another more near to the time of the incidents? What was the purpose of revealing this in the third year of Belshazzar? Also, does this not point ahead beyond Antiochus IV Epiphanes to one who like him will do much the same even as it would appear that almost similar sorts of calamity overtook Judea in the latter part of the first century (cf. Matt.24; Mark 13; Luke 21:5ff), but still point ahead to “the end”?
This chapter is considered by most to be the most significant chapter of Daniel and also a key chapter of the Old Testament. There are some who have proposed that Daniel has borrowed from the ancient Near Eastern mythologies around him in this composition (such as the account of Adapa, Enuma Elish, or the Ugaritic Baal Cycle; see Goldingay 150-151), but Daniels dream and its explanation seem just far more likely to belong to the literature of the prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel) and to Genesis and Psalms where there has been anything expounded upon, but he seems to simply have his own visions and explanations apart from these others as well as in addition to these others.
Chapter seven closes out the chiastic structure of chapters two through seven (see Goldingay 158) as well as concluding the Aramaic portion of Daniel:
Ch. 2 – A vision of four kingdoms and their end (Nebuchadnezzar)
Ch. 3 – Faithfulness and miraculous rescue (three friends)
Ch. 4 – Judgment presaged and experienced (Nebuchadnezzar)
Ch. 5 – Judgment presaged and experienced (Belshazzar)
Ch. 6 – Faithfulness and miraculous rescue (Daniel)
Ch. 7 – A vision of four kingdoms and their end (Daniel)
“Dan 2 offered world rulers a vision of their position as a God-given calling. Dan 3-6 has portrayed them inclined to make themselves into God; they are thus also inclined to put mortal pressure on those who are committed to God (chaps. 3; 6), but are themselves on the way to catastrophe (chaps. 4; 5). These motifs are taken up and taken further in chap. 7. The tension between the human and the bestial that appeared in chaps. 4 and 6 becomes a key motif: bestiality is now turned on God himself (Barr), but he puts an end to the reign of the beast and gives authority to a humanlike figure (Lacocque). As the real statue of chap. 3 follows on the dream statue of chap. 2, the dream animals of chap. 7 follow on the real animals of chap. 6. As people of all races, nations, and languages were called to bow before the statue (3:4; cf. 5:19), so now they honor the human figure of Daniel’s vision (7:14). Once Nebuchadnezzar testified to God’s lasting power (3:33; 4:31; cf. 6:27); now Daniel’s human figure has this power (7:14). Once Nebuchadnezzar’s humiliation was limited to seven periods of time (4:13); now the humiliation of the heavenly ones will be limited to 3 ½ such periods (7:25). Once God demonstrated in history that as ruler in the earthly realm he could give royal authority to the most ordinary of human beings (4:14); now he gives it to a humanlike being at the end of the story of earthly kingdoms (7:13-14). Once Darius took hold of power (6:1); now the heavenly ones do so (7:18). Once Darius acknowledged that God’s rule would persist until the end (סופאעד) (6:27); now the king symbolized by the small horn has his authority destroyed permanently (סופאעד) (7:26). Dan 2-6 have affirmed that God controlled times and epochs, his decree being victorious over the decrees of kings (2:9, 13, 15, 21; 6:6, 9, 13, 16); now a king who think to control times set by decree will lose all power (7:25-26). Chaps. 3-6 indicate why the sequence of earthly regimes is destined to be brought to an end in the way chap. 2 describes. Chap. 7 combines the thrust of the preceding chapters as a whole, and puts them in a new perspective” (Goldingay 158-159).
7:1 – Daniel had a dream. The date indicated by Daniel places this dream between chapters four and five. Daniel states that it was the first year of Belshazzar’s reign: 550-549BC (Goldingay 157), or 553BC (Miller 194; Walvoord 149) or 552-551BC (Baldwin 153). Chapter eight then follows just two years later (8:1) and chapter nine is dated to between chapters five and six (9:1) with chapters ten to twelve concerning messages that were given sometime around or after the events of chapters six (10:1). Whereas in chapter two it was king Nebuchadnezzar who dreamed of four kings/kingdoms, here it is Daniel and it was still during the days of the Babylonian empire. Daniel proceeded to record what he saw and the interpretations he received.
7:2-3 – Four beasts from the great sea. What might the “four winds” refer to? Is this a sort of reference to the Spirit of God come from all directions? Also, what and where is this “great sea”? While some have proposed that it refers to the Mediterranean (which is the normal meaning of “great sea” in the Old Testament), it seems more likely to refer to the earth…that is to the nations and peoples of the earth according to the interpretation Daniel receives (Dan.7:17; cf. Isa.17:12-13; 57:20; Rev.13:1, 11; 17:1, 15). Who or what are the “four beasts” of Daniel’s visions? They are kings and kingdom—there is often overlap between the two where one may indicate the other (Dan.7:17; cf. Rev.13:1-7; 17:8). They were to be distinguished from one another and to arise in succession. Further, they would rule in ways not like lesser kingdoms, but as world powers who would act beastly in their rule though called by God to their places.
7:4 – The first beast was like a lion, but with wings like an eagle (or vulture?) until the wings were torn from it. It was made to be human-like after the wings were torn from it. What might this refer to? (Jer.4:7; 49:19, 22; 50:17, 44; Lam.4:19; Eze.17:3; Hab.1:8) Many suggest it refers to the account of Nebuchadnezzar’s humbling in Daniel 4. There is little question, but that this kingdom is Babylon. It is beastly: majestic and swift, powerful, but God determined to give it glory as a “man” and to raise it up in a manner that others would not be raised.
7:5 – The second beast was like a bear, but in some manner uneven. It would be less majestic than the lion-like creature, but still powerful and terrible. It is unclear what it means for a bear-like creature to be “raised up on one of its sides,” but it appears to refer to Medo-Persia and the unevenness of the dual empire with Persia as predominant. Also, it remains unclear just wh
at the three “ribs” in its mouth refers to. Some have proposed the three primary kingdoms Medo-Persia conquered: Babylon (539BC), Lydia (546BC) and Egypt (525BC), but this is really nothing more than conjecture. It was further given instructions to eat more despite already eating. The idea would be that it would not be satisfied and look for more to conquer with a voracious appetite.
7:6 – The third beast was like a leopard, but with four wings and four heads. That it was like a leopard suggests speed and that it included four wings suggests that this speed was increased. The four heads suggests four kings or kingdoms in some way composing this empire. This is apparently the Greek empire as under Alexander the Great the empire grew in rapid succession beginning in 334BC until his early death (323BC) whereupon it was divided between his four generals: Antipater over Greece and Macedonia; Lysimachus over Thrace and much of Asia Minor; Seleucus I Nicanor over Syria, Babylon and much of Asia except Palestine that part of Asia Minor controlled by Lysimachus; and Ptolemy I Soter over Egypt and Palestine.
7:7-8 – The fourth beast was beyond description with iron teeth it destroyed everything and crushed underfoot all (for the proposal of what empire this is see below). This creature was truly terrifying and had ten horns which bothered Daniel enough to make him wonder about them. As Daniel watched he saw a “little horn” grow up and displace three of the ten previous horns and this little one had eyes like a man and a boastful mouth (cf. Dan.11:36-37; 2 Th.2:3-12; Rev.13:5-6). The eyes suggest intelligence and the mouth pride. The horns refer to kings specifically as will be explained later (Dan.7:24).
7:9-10 – The blazing court in heaven. While Daniel was bothered deeply by the turbulence of his visions and even the boastfulness and terribleness of this last beast, suddenly he sees the court of heaven convening in the midst of fire and thousands upon thousands standing before the throne. What are the plural “thrones” referring to? (cf. Luke 22:30; 1 Cor.6:2; Rev.3:21; 20:4) How should we understand the name and description of the “Ancient of Days”? Also, what does it mean for a throne to have “wheels” on it? (Eze.1:15; 10:6) What are the “books” that were opened? (Exo.32:32; Isa.65:6; Dan.12:1; Mal.3:16; cf. Luke 10:20; Rev.20:12)
7:11-12 – The judgment. Daniel is immediately wondering what will happen to the boastful horn given the scene he has just witnessed in heaven. Note that not only is the “horn” dealt with, but the fourth beast is “slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire” (cf. Rev.19:20). Why should the whole of the fourth beast be destroyed and thrown into the fire when it was the “horn” itself that was so boastful? In what sense can the kingdom and the king truly be separated from one another? What does this say about those who profess Christ as their king? What might Daniel mean by his comments about the other three beasts being stripped of their authority but being allowed “to live for a period of time”?
7:13-14 – The vision of the “son of man”. John Goldingay seems correct when he writes that Daniel 7 “invites us to focus on the humanlike figure’s role rather than on its identity” (172). However, this should not exclude our asking who is this one “like a son of man” (Aram. kĕbar ’enāš)? Jesus certainly takes up the language of Daniel here and applies it to himself in the Gospels (Mark 14:64), but the term itself had not been unknown and had before really only referred to being truly “human” (cf. Ezekiel’s regular usage of the term in just this fashion), but did take on great significance in other places in the OT (Eze.1:26; 8:2; and even somewhat in the human significance of the “son” in Psalm 2 and 8:4 among other places in the Psalms). In what sense is the one only “like” a son of man? This one is described in divine terms by “coming with clouds of heaven” and receiving worship in the very presence of God. This one could be none other than God himself…the Son of God as he revealed Himself in the New Testament. Though Daniel was far from such an explanation in his visions. Daniel notes that the kingdom and dominion of this one is forever and ever in comparison to those beasts and that whereas they came from below this one was from above.
7:15-28 – The interpretation of the dream. Daniel was actually bothered by his visions and inquired of one of those (an angel?) who was nearby. The explanation he received was that the four beasts were four kingdoms though he was not told just who the four kingdoms were. He was also told that the “saints” would actually receive the “kingdom” forever despite the ferocity of the kingdoms (and particularly the fourth kingdom and the little horn) that would come and go and all they would try to do against the saints. The only kingdom which Daniel receives explanation of is the fourth one. This one also receives a further description as having bronze claws. The “little horn” (one of the ten kings) would destroy and replace three others and make war against the saints of God until the very end of days when the final judgment would commence and the saints receive their reward. This fourth kingdom was declared to be very different from the others before it and be truly global and utterly destructive. Part of his agenda will be to “try to change the set times and the laws”. What does that mean? Some believe this refers to his abolition of the Jewish calendar and therefore the setting himself in the place of the LORD, but another likely explanation is that he will try to rule history and determine the course of events against the plan and purpose of God’s will (see Dan.2:9, 21). Daniel is informed that the persecution of the saints will be successful for “a time, times and half a time” which is later connected with approximately 3 ½ years (the 1290 days of Dan.12:11 and the 1335 days of 12:12; the 42 months of the beasts authority in Rev.13:5; the trampling of Jerusalem by the Gentiles for 42 months in Rev.11:2 and1260 days in Rev.12:14; and the breaking of a covenant in the middle of the seventieth “seven” which points to the mid-point of a seven year period in Dan.9:27; see Miller 215). In other words, there is a definite limit set to the time for this king and his kingdom and to the suffering of the saints and their endurance.
One should compare this fourth beast with the beast of the Revelation (Dan.7:7, 11, 19, 23; Rev.13:1-2; 17:3). They are both opposed to God and blasphemers (Dan.7:25; Rev.13:1, 5-6); both have ten horns (Dan.7:7, 20, 24; Rev.13:1; 17:3, 12, 16); both persecute the saints (Dan.7:25; Rev.13:5); both have power for three and a half years (Dan.7:25; Rev.13:5); and both are destroyed at the coming and kingdom of Christ (Dan.7:26-27; 2 Th.2:8; Rev.19:19-20). So just what empire is this? Some have proposed it was the Seleucids and the “little horn” was fully fulfilled in Antiochus Epiphanes, but this would be excluded by the NT parallels to this beast and final ruler. Some have proposed an Islamic Caliphate or a revived Rome (with the latter being the more popular view) – as the first Rome has since passed away and the end has not come. Certainly Rome fulfilled some of what constituted this final world power
according to certain elements in the NT, yet John in the Revelation speaks of what is still future. Is there a sense in which this kingdom will be Roman-esque in its severity, but not actually Rome? That seems likely. In fact, it seems likely that Rome was only a type pointing ahead to a final world power and ruler that would exalt himself beyond all others and would make all other kingdoms and powers before him seem rather mild in comparison which is why Daniel describes it as peculiarly “different” than all the others he saw (Dan.7:7).
Judgment is certain and the end of that kingdom will be forever. But better than just the end of all earthly (and beastly kingdoms) is the rule and reign of the Most High and His saints forever and ever. Why might Daniel be so bothered by his thoughts rather than comforted by the ultimate victory of the LORD? “The chapter’s ending on this note of perplexity encourages us as we find ourselves in some perplexity over key aspects of it. If we thought we had a clear and certain understanding of it that would be a sign that we had misunderstood it” (Goldingay 182).