DANIEL

Michael Rydelnik

INTRODUCTION

The book of Daniel is set during the Babylonian captivity. The book opens after King Nebuchadnezzar’s first siege of Judah (605 BC) when he brought Daniel and his friends to Babylon along with other captives of the Judean nobility. Nebuchadnezzar assaulted Judah again in 597 BC and brought 10,000 captives back to Babylon. In 586 BC he once again besieged Jerusalem, but this time destroyed the city and the holy temple and exiled the people of Judah to Babylon. Daniel’s ministry began with the arrival of the first Jewish captives in Babylon (605 BC), extended throughout the Babylonian captivity (539 BC; see Dn 1:21), and concluded sometime after the third year of the Medo-Persian king Cyrus the Great (537/536 BC; see Dn 10:1).

Author. The critical view of the book of Daniel is that it was written by a second-century BC Jewish author who chose to use the name of the prophet Daniel as a pseudonym. This naturalistic perspective denies the possibility of authentic foretelling. Since the book contains many precise predictions of events in the second century BC, critics think that it must have been penned after that time by someone other than Daniel to appear to be predictive.

The traditional view maintains that Daniel the prophet did indeed write this book. Internal testimony supports this claim. In the text itself, several times Daniel claimed to have written visions (8:2; 9:2, 20; 12:5). Passages containing third-person references to Daniel do not dismiss the fact of his authorship, since other biblical authors at times speak of themselves in the third person (for example, Moses in the Pentateuch). Moreover, God speaks of Himself in the third person (Ex 20:2, 7). Other ancient authors, such as Julius Caesar in The Gallic Wars and Xenophon in Anabasis, refer to themselves in the third person. The prophet Ezekiel refers to the prophet Daniel (Ezk 14:14, 20; 28:3) as well. Jesus Christ also attributes authorship of the book to Daniel (Mt 24:15).

Date. The critical view maintains a date of 165 BC in the Maccabean period, primarily because of the precise prophecies related to that time period. It views the historical sections as mere fiction, written much later than when the events allegedly transpired. R. K. Harrison points out that this critical approach became the standard understanding of the book so that "no scholar of general liberal background who wished to preserve his academic reputation either dared or desired to challenge the current critical trend" (R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1969], 1111).

The traditional view asserts that the book was written just after the end of the Babylonian captivity in the late sixth century BC. It holds that the book contains a factual recounting of events from the life of Daniel as well as supernatural predictions of events that took place during the intertestamental period and other prophecies that have yet to be fulfilled.

The traditional understanding is supported by manuscript evidence. Fragments from the book of Daniel were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls—this would be unexpected if the work had just been written. Linguistic evidence also supports the early date. For example, the use of Aramaic in Daniel appears to fit a fifth- to sixth-century BC date because it is parallel to the Aramaic of Ezra, the Elephantine Papyri, and other secular works of that same period. The use of Persian loanwords would not discredit the traditional view since Daniel’s final composition would have taken place in the Persian period. It is not surprising to find Greek words in Daniel since the Greek language had already begun to spread even prior to the conquests of Alexander the Great. Historical evidence also supports the early date. For example, Daniel accurately described Belshazzar as coregent with another king (Nabonidus) (cf. Dn 5:7, 16, 29), a fact that was lost until modern times. It appears that the late date view is driven by a categorical rejection of supernatural prophecy and not by objective evidence.

Some have argued that because the Jewish canon of the Hebrew Bible places Daniel in the Writings, Daniel must have a later date (165 BC). This wrongly assumes that the Hebrew canon developed progressively and that the Writings were the last section. An argument against this assumption is that an early book like Ruth, most likely written in the preexilic period, was also included in the Writings. It is wrong to view the canon as having a haphazard or progressive arrangement. Rather, it was formed with literary purpose and structure. Therefore, Daniel is not in the Writings because of a late date but because of its contents. It follows Esther and precedes Ezra/Nehemiah (in the Jewish canon) because the narratives of Daniel fit within the same time period as the events of these other books. Also, Daniel was one of the wise men of Babylon and Persia, so it made sense for those who ordered the canon to include his book in the section of the Bible that contained wisdom literature. Regardless, the LXX and Josephus (Contra Apion I, 38–39) both place Daniel among the Prophets, which most English versions follow. Since Josephus preceded the Masoretic division of the Bible by several centuries, its placement in the Writings has no bearing on its date.

Purpose and Theme. The theme of the book of Daniel is the hope of the people of God during the times of the Gentiles. The phrase, "the times of the Gentiles," used by Jesus (Lk 21:24), refers to the time period when the Jewish people lived under ungodly, Gentile, world dominion, between the Babylonian captivity and the Messiah Jesus’ return. The hope that the book promotes is that at all times "the Most High God is ruler over the realm of mankind" (Dn 5:21). The book’s purpose was to exhort Israel to be faithful to the sovereign God of Israel during the times of the Gentiles. Daniel accomplishes this by recounting examples of godly trust and pagan arrogance, as well as predictions of God’s ultimate victory.

The genre of Daniel is narrative, defined as "the recounting of events for the purpose of instruction." This narrative contains history, prophecy, and apocalyptic visions. Apocalyptic literature refers to revelation by God given through visions and symbols with a message of eschatological (end-time) triumph. Although Daniel contains apocalyptic elements, it is not an apocalyptic book. Rather it is a narrative with apocalyptic visions included.

Some have noted that the book of Daniel contains both history (chaps. 1–6) and prophecy (chaps. 7–12) and divide the book accordingly. However, a better way to view the structure of the book is based on the two languages it uses: Dn 1:1–21 (Hebrew); Dn 2:1–7:28 (Aramaic); and Dn 8:1–12:13 (Hebrew). The Hebrew sections pertain primarily to the people of Israel, while the Aramaic part, using the international language of that time, demonstrates God’s dominion over all the Gentile nations. (See the chart "Structure of the Book of Daniel.")

Background. The covenantal background of Daniel relates to God’s unconditional promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their descendants (Gn 12:1–7; 13:14–15; 15:18; 17:7–8; 26:2–3; 28:13; 35:12; 1Ch 16:16; 2Ch 20:6–7). When God added the Mosaic law, He expanded the land promises made to the patriarchs with a land covenant that promised the people of Israel material blessing in the land of Israel if they obeyed the law (Dt 28:1–14). However, if Israel disobeyed, God promised that He would discipline the nation. If they still disobeyed, God promised to drive them from the land of Israel into captivity (cf. Dt 28–30, especially 28:63–68). Despite the discipline of dispersion, God swore that He would never break his promises to Israel (Dt 4:31). Further, He promised that in the last days He would give Israel a circumcised heart and regather the Jewish people from all the lands in which they were scattered (Dt 4:30; 30:1–10).

The events in the book of Daniel occurred during the dispersion of the Jewish people to Babylon, and many of the prophecies pertain to their ultimate regathering at the end of days.

Contribution. Daniel’s book establishes the validity of predictive prophecy and lays the foundation for understanding end-times prophecy as well as the book of Revelation in the NT. But, most important, it emphasizes that the Lord God has dominion over all the kingdoms of the earth, even in evil days when wicked empires rule the world. Two key words in the book are king (used 183 times) and kingdom (used 55 times). Above all, Daniel teaches that the God of Israel is the Sovereign of the universe, "For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation" (Dn 4:34).

Structure of the Book of Daniel

History (1:1-6:28) Prophecy (7:1-12:13)
The Godly Person in the Times of the Gentiles (1:1-2:3) God’s Sovereignty over the Times of the Gentiles (2:4-7:28) God’s People Israel in the Times of the Gentiles (8:1-12:13)
HEBREW ARAMAIC HEBREW

OUTLINE

I. The Godly Remnant in the Times of the Gentiles (1:1–21; in Hebrew)

A. Daniel and His Friends in the Babylonian Captivity (1:1–7)

B. Daniel and the King’s Food (1:8–16)

C. Daniel and the Lord’s Reward (1:17–21)

II. God’s Sovereignty over the Times of the Gentiles (2:1–7:28; in Aramaic)

A. Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream and the Wise Men of Babylon (2:1–49)

1. The King’s Disturbance (2:1–3)

2. The Wise Men’s Difficulty (2:4–11)

3. The King’s Decree (2:12–13)

4. Daniel’s Delay (2:14–16)

5. Daniel’s Prayer and Praise (2:17–24)

6. Daniel’s Revelation and Interpretation before the King (2:25–45)

7. The King’s Response to the Dream and its Interpretation (2:46–49)

B. Daniel’s Friends and the Fiery Furnace (3:1–30)

1. The King’s Demand to Worship the Statue (3:1–7)

2. The Young Men’s Refusal to Worship the Statue (3:8–23)

3. The Lord’s Deliverance from the Fiery Furnace (3:24–27)

4. The King’s Recognition of the God of Israel (3:28–30)

C. Nebuchadnezzar’s Pride, Madness, and Repentance (4:1–37)

1. The Prologue: A Declaration of Praise (4:1–3)

2. The Story: A Dream Comes to Pass (4:4–34a)

a. The King’s Dream (4:4–18)

b. Daniel’s Interpretation (4:19–27)

c. The Dream’s Fulfillment (4:28–34a)

3. The Epilogue: A Declaration of Sovereignty (4:34b–37)

D. Belshazzar’s Feast and the Writing on the Wall (5:1–31)

1. The Feast of the King (5:1–4)

2. The Writing on the Wall (5:5–9)

3. The Advice of the Queen (5:10–12)

4. The Meeting with Daniel (5:13–29)

5. The Fall of Babylon (5:30–31)

E. Daniel in the Lions’ Den (6:1–28)

1. The Plot against Daniel (6:1–9)

2. The Prosecution of Daniel (6:10–14)

3. The Punishment of Daniel (6:15–18)

4. The Protection of Daniel (6:19–24)

5. The Praise of Daniel’s God (6:25–27)

6. The Prosperity of Daniel (6:28)

F. Daniel’s Vision of the Four Beasts, the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man (7:1–28)

1. Daniel’s Vision (7:1–14)

2. The Angel’s Interpretation (7:15–28)

III. God’s People Israel in the Times of the Gentiles (8:1–12:13; in Hebrew)

A. Daniel’s Vision of the Ram and the Male Goat (8:1–27)

1. The Vision of the Ram and the Goat (8:1–14)

2. The Interpretation of the Vision (8:15–27)

B. Daniel’s Prayer and Vision of the Seventy Weeks (9:1–27)

1. Daniel’s Prayer of Contrition (9:1–19)

2. Daniel’s Vision of the Seventy Weeks (9:20–27)

C. Daniel and His Final Vision (10:1–12:13)

1. Daniel’s Reception of the Vision (10:1–11:1)

a. The Setting of the Vision (10:1–3)

b. The Messenger of the Vision (10:4–9)

c. The Hindrances to the Vision (10:10–13)

d. The Purposes of the Angelic Visit (10:14–11:1)

2. The Angel’s Explanation of the Vision of Persia, Greece, and the False Messiah (11:2–12:3)

a. The Predictions of the Persian to the Maccabean Periods (11:2–35)

(1) The Predictions about the Persian Kings (11:2)

(2) The Predictions about Alexander the Great (11:3–4)

(3) The Predictions of the Hellenistic Period (11:5–35)

(a) The Period of the First Seleucids and Ptolemies (11:5–6)

(b) The Period of Ptolemy III (11:7–9)

(c) The Period of Antiochus III (11:10–19)

(d) The Period of Seleucus IV (11:20)

(e) The Period of Antiochus IV (11:21–35)

b. The Predictions of the End of Days (11:36–45)

c. The Comfort of the Chosen People (12:1–3)

3. The Angel’s Final Instructions to Daniel Concerning His Prophecies (12:4–13)

a. The Sealing of the Book (12:4)

b. The Time of the End (12:5–13)

COMMENTARY ON DANIEL

I. The Godly Remnant in the Times of the Gentiles (1:1–21; in Hebrew)

The first chapter of Daniel serves as an introduction to the entire book, identifying its setting, Babylon, and the main characters of the narrative, particularly Daniel. Since the book is designed to urge Israel to remain faithful to God despite living under ungodly, Gentile, world dominion, the first chapter demonstrates how faithfulness is to be maintained. Daniel and his friends represent Israel’s faithful remnant that remain true to the Lord despite the pressures of a pagan society.

A. Daniel and His Friends in the Babylonian Captivity (1:1–7)

1:1. While Daniel records that these events took place in the third year of the reign Jehoiakim, Jeremiah writes that it was in the fourth year (Jr 25:1, 9; 46:1). Most likely Daniel used the Babylonian system, which did not count a king’s year of accession to the throne, while Jeremiah used the Israelite system of counting, which did include the accession year, thus making it the fourth year. The events took place during the accession year of Nebuchadnezzar (whose name means O god Nabu, protect my son), king of Babylon (605–562 BC), apparently when he was still coregent with his father and just after his victory in the battle of Carchemish (605 BC, on the modern border of northwest Syria and southeast Turkey). This battle established the Babylonian Empire’s dominance and ended the Assyrian Empire’s role as a world power.

1:2. Although Nebuchadnezzar viewed his defeat of Judah as a victory for his gods, Daniel recognized that it was the Lord who gave Jehoiakim king of Judah over to the Babylonians (cf. 2Ch 36:5–6). The secular ancient historian Berosus (Hellenistic-era Babylonian writer, third century BC) mentioned these events when he wrote that Nebuchadnezzar conquered Hatti-land (meaning Syro-Palestine). After this initial conquest of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar would take more captives in 597 BC and then destroy Jerusalem and exile Judah to Babylon in 586 BC.

The Babylonian captivity fulfilled the covenant God had made with Israel when they were about to enter their land (Dt 28–30). In it, God promised that if Israel obeyed His commandments, He would bless them in the land of Israel. However, if they disobeyed, God assured Israel that He would discipline them with expulsion from the land. Just as Moses had foretold (Dt 31:29), Israel and Judah, for the most part, disobeyed the law, engaging in idolatry (Jr 7:30–31; 16:18), and neglecting the Sabbath and sabbatical years (Jr 34:12–22). So the Lord expelled the northern tribes of Israel from the land by the hand of the Assyrians (721 BC) and the southern tribes of Judah to Babylon.

At the time of Nebuchadnezzar’s first invasion, the king took vessels of the house of God (Dn 1:2; 2Ch 36:7) fulfilling what Isaiah had predicted when Hezekiah had shown the temple treasures to the Babylonian king a century before (cf. Is 39:2, 6). Nebuchadnezzar brought these to the land of Shinar, using the old word for Babylon as an allusion to the rebellious behavior surrounding the original building of the city and tower of Babel (Babylon) in Genesis (Gn 11:1–9).

1:3–5. The king ordered that some of the nobility of Judah be brought to Babylon to be trained so they could serve as leaders when Nebuchadnezzar would take all of Judah captive. Ashpenaz, described as chief of his officials, literally means "chief of the eunuchs." Since by this time the word had come to mean "royal official," most likely Ashpenaz was not a eunuch, nor did he make Daniel and his friends literal eunuchs.

Although Daniel and his friends were called youths, the Hebrew word literally means "children" or "boys." Here it probably refers to teenagers of around age fifteen. The Judean captives were to learn the literature and language of the Chaldeans, a reference to an ancient university-style education in Sumerian, Akkadian, and Aramaic. At that time, Babylon was the most cosmopolitan city and the seat of academia in the known world. They were also to be given the king’s choice food and wine, indicating their privileged status as counselors in training, despite being captives.

1:6–7. To assimilate the Judean captives, the commander of the officials assigned new names to them; and to Daniel ("God is My Judge") he assignedBelteshazzar ("Bel Protect Him"), to Hananiah ("God Has Been Gracious") Shadrach ("The Command of Aku"), to Mishael ("Who Is What God Is?") Meshach ("Who Is What Aku Is?") and to Azariah ("The Lord Has Helped"), Abed-nego ("Servant of Nebo"). These new Chaldean names replaced their Hebrew names, exchanging those that referred to the true God of Israel with others that referred to the false gods of Babylon.

B. Daniel and the King’s Food (1:8–16)

1:8. Daniel made up his mind that he would be faithful to God’s law even in a foreign land. Made up his mind literally means, "set upon his heart" and refers to a deep inner resolve. Daniel decided that he would not defile himself with meat from the king’s table because the Babylonian diet at that time included nonkosher meat such as horseflesh and pork. With regard to the wine, Daniel would not want to drink what had been offered to Babylonian gods as a libation. So he asked Ashpenaz for permission to abstain from the royal diet so that he might not defile himself.

1:9–10. God gave Daniel favor and compassion with Ashpenaz, indicating that it was not merely Daniel’s winsome personality but divine intervention. Nevertheless, the Babylonian official risked his own life if Daniel and his friends were to look more haggard (lit., "thin") than the other captives because of their diet. In that culture, appearing thin was a sign of illness, not health. If the four young Jewish captives were deemed ill because of mistreatment by Ashpenaz, Nebuchadnezzar would likely kill him, since the king was notorious for decreeing death for those who displeased him (2:12; 3:13–15).

1:11–14. Daniel demonstrated his wisdom by asking the overseer (better translated "guardian," since he was there to protect and provide care for the youths) whom Ashpenaz had assigned to them if they could eat a diet of vegetables and water for a trial period of ten days. The word for vegetables refers to that which grows from seed and would include vegetables, fruits, and grains. The guardian agreed to the experiment, after which he would observe the appearance of the youths compared to those eating the king’s choice food.

1:15–16. At the end of ten days Daniel and his friends looked fatter (i.e., healthier) but this is not a biblical endorsement of vegetarianism (cf. Gn 9:3). Rather, God in His providence made them healthy and strong so they could remain faithful to the Lord. Since they were fit, they were allowed to continue their diet.

C. Daniel and the Lord’s Reward (1:17–21)

1:17. Daniel and his friends received several rewards for their faithfulness to God. First, they were granted superior wisdom. All gifts come from God but these four youths received a special endowment of knowledge (referring to academic skill) and intelligence (meaning "good sense"). Additionally, Daniel even understood all kinds of visions and dreams, a point included to show Daniel’s prophetic ability and superior gifting as well as to prepare the reader for the events in the next chapter and the rest of the book.

1:18–19. As a second reward for their faithfulness, God granted Daniel and his friends special service to the king. At the end of their education, King Nebuchadnezzar talked with them and found them superior to all the other recent graduates of the King’s academy. As a result, they entered the king’s personal service at the king’s court.

1:20–21. God gave yet a third reward for faithfulness to Daniel and his friends—a successful ministry. This is evident in that the king found their counsel significantly superior (ten times better) to that of the wise men of Babylon.

Throughout the book of Daniel, there occur six different expressions for the king’s counselors. The first two, used here, are magicians and conjurers. The word magician comes from a root that means "engraver" and refers to those who engraved Babylonian religious activities and astrological movements of the stars onto clay tablets. The word conjurer refers to those who used spells and incantations to communicate with the spirit world. No wonder then that Daniel and his friends, by avoiding such occult practices and instead seeking wisdom from the true God, were wiser than the king’s pagan counselors.

Daniel’s successful ministry is also evident in the length of his service. He lived to see the end of the exile, serving the Babylonian kings until the first year of Cyrus the king (539 BC) of Persia. Once the Persian Empire conquered the Babylonians, Daniel continued as a counselor to the Persian king (cf. 10:1; 536 BC), resulting in more than 70 years of service.

In 1924, in an event made famous by the 1981 movie Chariots of Fire, Olympic runner Eric Liddell sat out a race because of his convictions as a follower of Jesus Christ. Later on, as he prepared to run the 400-meter race, a man slipped him a note that contained the words of 1Sm 2:30, "Those who honor Me I will honor." Liddell won the gold medal and broke the world record for that race at that time. As it was true for Liddell, for Daniel and his friends, and for the faithful remnant of Israel, it will be true for any follower of Christ—the Lord will honor those who honor Him.

II. God’s Sovereignty over the Times of the Gentiles (2:1–7:28; in Aramaic)

Having portrayed Daniel and his friends as models of the way the godly remnant is to live in the times of the Gentiles (Dn 1:21), the book of Daniel next addresses (in chaps. 2–7) God’s continued ultimate rule over the world despite Gentile world dominion. Since chaps. 2–7 pertain to God’s revelation about the Gentile nations, they were written in Aramaic, the international language in those days. The structure of this section is chiastic (A B C C’ B’ A’) with chaps. 2 and 7 each referring to the four kingdoms of this world, chaps. 3 and 6 dealing with persecution by Gentile kings, and chaps. 4 and 5 containing God’s special revelation to pagan kings.

Chapter 2 tells the story of King Nebuchadnezzar’s disturbing dream of a great statue (2:31) and Daniel’s revelation and interpretation of it. In so doing, it reveals the empires that would dominate Israel and the world during the times of the Gentiles. The primary message of chap. 2 is that the God of Israel is greater than the greatest of men.

A. Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream and the Wise Men of Babylon (2:1–49)

1. The King’s Disturbance (2:1–3)

2:1. The chapter opens with King Nebuchadnezzar having had troubling dreams, and therefore he called upon his wise men to interpret them for him. Since it is later revealed in the chapter that there was only one dream, the plural used here indicates that the king had a recurring dream. Since Nebuchadnezzar considered the dreams significant, he was troubled by them and could not sleep.

The events of Dn 2 took place in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, which would appear to be a historical contradiction in that Daniel’s three-year training program (1:5) began in Nebuchadnezzar’s first year (1:1). The problem is resolved if, as is likely, Daniel was using Babylonian reckoning: Daniel would have arrived as a captive and entered his first year of training during the year reckoned as Nebuchadnezzar’s accession year (605–604 BC); Daniel’s second year of training would have been during the year reckoned as the first year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign (604–603 BC); Daniel’s third and final year of training would have been during the year reckoned as the second of Nebuchadnezzar’s kingship (603–602 BC). Therefore, the king sought interpretation of his dreams in 602 BC, shortly after Daniel had completed his three-year education.

2:2–3. As a result of the king’s disturbing dreams he called for the court wise men to interpret for him. (For the meaning of magicians and conjurers, see notes on 1:20–21.) The Hebrew word used for sorcerers comes from the Akkadian word meaning "practitioners of sorcery or witchcraft." The word Chaldeans is both a general ethnic term for the Babylonian people and a specific term for priests who served as astrologers, soothsayers, and wise men in the king’s government. It is used in the secondary sense here, referring to the king’s astrologers/wise men.

2. The Wise Men’s Difficulty (2:4–11)

2:4. The text states, using Hebrew, that the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic. Although this is the actual language with which they spoke to the king, the words in Aramaic also function as a literary marker. At this point in the narrative, the language switches from Hebrew to Aramaic and continues in Aramaic until 7:28.

2:5–6. The king demanded that the wise men not only interpret the dream but that they also reveal its contents. Failure to meet the king’s conditions would bring death to all the royal counselors whereas successful identification and interpretation of the dream would bring the wise men great honor and reward.

Some versions translate the phrase the command from me is firm as "the dream is forgotten." But to do so, they must emend (change the letters of) the Aramaic text. It is better to keep the text as it is and translate it as referring to the certainty and finality of the king’s demand. Nebuchadnezzar withheld the facts of the dream not because he could not remember them, but because he wanted to test his wise men.

2:7–10. The wise men repeated their request for the king to reveal the dream to them. Yet the king was skeptical of his royal counselors—he sensed that they claimed supernatural knowledge without supernatural ability. Thus, Nebuchadnezzar demanded that they disclose what could only be known by supernatural revelation. The counselors insisted that this sort of request was unprecedented and that not a man on earth could provide such knowledge. Their objection provides a narrative introduction for Daniel’s entrance into the story as the man who could and would receive supernatural revelation directly from God and thereby disclose and interpret the dream.

2:11. The wise men admitted that what the king wanted could only be obtained through the gods whose dwelling place is not with mortal flesh. This is a candid confession that despite all their incantations, magic, and astrology, they were not capable of receiving supernatural revelation.

3. The King’s Decree (2:12–13)

2:12. The king became indignant and very furious at the failure of his counselors to identify his dream. The words wise men are used as a general term for all the king’s counselors who, except for the Jewish captives, gained their knowledge via occult means.

2:13. Daniel and his friends were also subject to execution only because they were in the class of wise men, not because they had participated in any of the discussions with the king. They had likely avoided associations with the wise men to prevent being tainted by their occult practices. Moreover, they were probably not previously consulted because of their relative youth and inexperience, having only just been appointed to government service.

4. Daniel’s Delay (2:14–16)

2:14–16. When the captain of the king’s bodyguard (a word that would be better translated "executioners") came to slay Daniel with the other wise men, Daniel asked why the king’s decree was so urgent (or more accurately, "so harsh" as in the HCSB). He then requested the king to grant him time, with the full confidence that he would declare the interpretation to the king. Unlike the other wise men, Daniel was not stalling. He had full confidence that the God of Israel would reveal both the contents and meaning of the dream to him.

5. Daniel’s Prayer and Praise (2:17–24)

2:17–19. Daniel informed his Jewish companions of his need, and then together they sought help from the true God of heaven. The title God of heaven is used four times in this chapter (2:18, 19, 37, 44) and nowhere else in the book. It is a fairly common name for the God of Israel in the postexilic writings (Ezr 1:2; 5:11–12; 6:9–10; 7:12, 21, 23; Neh 1:4–5; 2:4, 20) although it is not limited to this period (cf. Gn 24:3, 7; Jnh 1:9). This chapter uses this title to emphasize that only the God of heaven is omniscient (cf. Dn 2:20–22) and capable of revealing this mystery even as the pagan wise men recognized (2:10–11). Moreover, Babylonians worshiped the luminaries but the God of Israel was over all of them, hence called the God of heaven. The word mystery refers to a secret that can only be known by divine revelation. In response to their prayers, the dream was revealed to Daniel.

2:20–23. When God revealed the king’s dreams, Daniel "blessed the God of heaven" (v. 19). Daniel’s song of praise emphasizes that God is sovereign over the political affairs of humanity because He controls the times and the epochs and removes kings and establishes kings (v. 21). Moreover, Daniel recognizes that God alone can give revelation by giving wisdom to wise men and by revealing profound (lit., "deep") and hidden things, even the king’s mysterious dream. Daniel was careful to give thanks and praise the God of his fathers, recognizing that the ability to interpret dreams did not generate from within himself but rather his wisdom and power came as a gracious gift from God.

The point of the first half of chap. 2 is that the God of Israel is greater in wisdom than the greatest of men, since He was able to reveal the king’s dream, with its sovereign plan for the nations, to His servant Daniel. The God of heaven is vastly superior to all the great Babylonian Empire’s false gods, who were not able to reveal the king’s dream to all the wise men of Babylon.

2:24. With his knowledge from God, Daniel showed his compassion for his pagan colleagues, telling the executioner not to destroy the wise men of Babylon. He also told the king’s executioner that he would declare the interpretation, and by implication, the contents of the dream to the king.

6. Daniel’s Revelation and Interpretation before the King (2:25–45)

2:25–27. Having been brought to the king and asked if he was able to make knownthe dreamand its interpretation, Daniel asserted that no pagan soothsayer could declare it. The word translated diviners contains the idea of "cutting" or "determining" and refers to a person who is able to determine another’s fate.

2:28. Daniel attributed revelation to God alone, who is able to reveal mysteries. His statement that God has revealed what will take place in the latter days indicates that the king’s dream would find its complete fulfillment only in the end times.

2:29–30. Daniel gave glory to God, who alone is omniscient. Thus, He reveals mysteries and can disclose what will take place in advance. Daniel was also self aware, recognizing that he was merely an instrument of God, not someone with more wisdom than any other living man.

2:31–45. Daniel described the king’s dream of a single great statue (2:31–34), consisting of several parts. Each part was made of different elements and represented a different empire in historical succession. The head of that statue was made of fine gold (2:32a) and represented the kingdom of Babylon (605–539 BC) (2:37–38). Its breast and its arms were silver (2:32b) and symbolized the Medo-Persian Empire (539–331 BC) (2:39a). Its belly and thighs were bronze (2:32c) and stood for the Greek Empire (331–146 BC) (2:39b). The legs were iron (2:33a) and referred to the Roman Empire (146 BC–AD 476 in the West and 1453 in the East) (2:40). The feet were mixed of iron and clay (2:33b) and represented a yet future continuation or revival of Rome (2:41). It will divide into ten parts but with less cohesion than the original Roman Empire (2:42–43). The material of each section of the statue decreases in value but increases in strength. The decreased value may refer to the decline of morality or lessening political influence with each succeeding kingdom. The increased strength of the metals refers to the harsher domination each successive kingdom would impose. Daniel also described a stonecut out without hands which would shatter the statue (2:34). It represents a final kingdom that would grow into a great mountain and fill the whole earth—this is the kingdom of God (2:35, cf. v. 44–45).

Critical scholars, primarily because of their denial of predictive prophecy, divide the four kingdoms into Babylon, Media, Persia, and Greece (alleging that the book Daniel was written in 165 BC so it could not have foreseen the Roman Empire). This interpretation is doubtful because of its historically inaccurate division of the Medo-Persian Empire into two separate empires, a division that is rejected even within the book of Daniel itself (cf. 8:20 where the lopsided ram represents the unified Medo-Persian Empire).

A select few interpreters, while maintaining a sixth-century date for the book of Daniel, hold an alternative view that the four kingdoms are to be identified as the Assyrian, Median, Medo-Persian, and Greek Empires (cf. John H. Walton, "The Four Kingdoms of Daniel," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 29.1 [Mar 1986]: 25–36). This is certainly incorrect in that Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon and founder of the Babylonian Empire, that he represents the first kingdom (you are the head of gold) (2:38). Moreover, to justify this alternative view, Assyria and Babylon must be conflated into one empire. But the book of Daniel ignores Assyria and treats Babylon as the first kingdom of the times of the Gentiles.

Most interpreters who accept the reality of predictive prophecy view the four kingdoms as Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. Rome is then conquered by the kingdom of God. In seeing the fourth kingdom as Rome, these interpreters assert different opinions about the meaning of the stone. Some view it as a spiritual kingdom, embodied in the Church, which gradually conquered the Roman Empire. Others view it as a future, earthly kingdom, to be established when Messiah Jesus returns and institutes his physical rule that will fill the whole earth (2:35) and never be destroyed (2:44). According to this view, the Roman Empire will continue to exist until the end of days. According to some, the Roman Empire continues through its persistent influence in Western Civilization, existing until the end of days and the establishment of the kingdom of God. A more likely explanation is to recognize a prophetic gap, beginning with the fall of the Roman Empire (Rome I) and lasting through the establishment of a revived Roman Empire at the end of days (Rome II). The leader of this kingdom will be the little horn of Dn 7:8, 24–25. The destruction of this last phase of the Roman Empire will come with the establishment of the kingdom of God.

The evidence that there will be a literal, earthly, end-of-days kingdom of God and not merely the Church spiritually overtaking human governments is, (1) that all the previous kingdoms depicted in the statue were earthly; (2) that there was no coalition of conquered kings or kingdoms as described in 2:41–42 in the Roman Empire at the Messiah’s first advent as would be required if the Church were the kingdom; (3) that the stone, which represents the kingdom of God, destroys earthly kingdoms, yet the Lord Jesus did not do this at His first advent; (4) that the advent of the kingdom of God is described as a sudden overturn of earthly kingdoms, not the gradual transformation through the influence of the Church, and (5) that this vision is parallel to the four beasts described in chap. 7. All agree that in chap. 7 the kingdom arrives with the return of Jesus the Messiah—so should it be the same with the coming of the kingdom of God here in chap. 2 (cf. Stephen R. Miller, Daniel, NAC, edited by E. Ray Clendenen [Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2003], 100–101).

Daniel’s second chapter demonstrates that the God of Israel is greater than the greatest of men. In 2:1–24, it shows that He is greater in wisdom than all. In the second half of the chapter (2:25–45) it emphasizes that the God of Israel is greater in power than all the great earthly kings and kingdoms. In the end, God will establish His kingdom that will never be shaken.

7. The King’s Response to the Dream and its Interpretation (2:46–49)

2:46–47. The king’s initial response was to give homage to Daniel, but he also recognized that God was the source of Daniel’s supernatural knowledge. Although King Nebuchadnezzar gave honor to the Lord as one of many gods, even as God of gods and Lord of kings, he did not yet recognize the God of Israel as the one and only true God. He merely included the God of Israel in his pantheon of gods.

2:48–49. The ending note that the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego over the administration of the province of Babylon provides the setting for the events that will be described in the following chapter.

Even as Daniel previously praised the God of heaven upon the revelation of the dream (2:20–23), so the king also responded to Daniel’s revelation of his dream with an outburst of praise to God (2:47). Worship should be the response of any follower of the Messiah Jesus when encountering God’s supernatural revelation in His Word, the Bible. Daniel expresses it well: "Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to Him" (2:20).

B. Daniel’s Friends and the Fiery Furnace (3:1–30)

The events of Dn 3 probably took place shortly after Daniel explained the king’s dream (cf. Dn 2) although some have estimated that it could have been 10 or even 20 years later. Babylonian records indicate that there was a revolt against Nebuchadnezzar during the tenth year of his reign, and so this may have led to the king’s desire for the loyalty test described here. The purpose of this chapter was to give the faithful remnant of Israel a model of standing firm for the God of Israel in the face of pagan Gentile oppression.

1. The King’s Demand to Worship the Statue (3:1–7)

3:1. Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, much like a colossus, not of solid gold but more probably overlaid with it. Most likely, this statue reflects the king’s desire to have an actual replica of the image he saw in his dream (cf. 2:31–33). In that image only the head representing Babylon was made of gold. Therefore, the king had a statue built covered entirely in gold so as to negate the earlier message of a temporary Babylonian Empire. Since a size of 90 feet high and nine feet wide (the equivalent dimensions of a height of sixty cubits and a width of six cubits) would make a grotesque distortion of a human body, it is more likely this was an image placed on a large pedestal.

The location of the statue was on the plain of Dura, a site that has not been conclusively identified. It was not in the city of Babylon but on a plain somewhere in the province. Perhaps Daniel was not involved in the events here since he remained in the capital city "at the king’s court" (2:49) while other officials, including his three friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, were called to Dura to show their loyalty. No doubt, had Daniel been there, he too would have refused to bow to the image.

3:2–3. Nebuchadnezzarsent word to assemble all the officials of the realm to come to the dedication of the image. Seven offices are mentioned specifically, but the exact meaning of each position is unclear other than that they are listed in descending order of rank. The use of the Persian loanword for satraps does not necessarily imply an anachronism since Persian inscriptions have been discovered from the neo-Babylonian era. Moreover, by the time Daniel completed this book, the Persian period had already begun so it would not be surprising for him to use Persian words.

3:4–5. Upon hearing the music, all present were to fall down and worship the golden image. Six specific instruments are mentioned, three of which (lyre, psaltery, and bagpipe) are the only Greek loanwords in Daniel. This also should not imply a date for Daniel in the later Greek period because even Assyrian inscriptions, predating the Babylonian period, refer to Greek instruments and musicians (Gleason Archer, "Daniel," EBC, edited by Frank E. Gabelein [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1985], 21).

Although some conjecture that the image was of Nebuchadnezzar himself, this is unlikely because the Babylonians did not believe their king was divine. More likely, the image was of a Babylonian god, perhaps Nebuchadnezzar’s patron Nabu or the chief Babylonian god Marduk. Despite ancient paganism tending to tolerate a panoply of gods, here Nebuchadnezzar made this demand for worship of his god as a form of a loyalty oath to him personally.

3:6–7. Those failing to worship the image would be incinerated in a furnace of blazing fire, a punishment that Nebuchadnezzar had also used on two Judean false prophets, Zedekiah and Ahab (Jr 29:22). This was a normal Babylonian penalty as seen in the Code of Hammurabi, Sections 25, 110 and 157. Perhaps this furnace was built to smelt the gold for the image Nebuchadnezzar had made. The king’s threat was sufficient to make all the officials present there, except the three Jewish young men, worship the golden image.

2. The Young Men’s Refusal to Worship the Statue (3:8–23)

3:8–12. When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego refused to worship the false god, certain Chaldeans maliciously brought charges to the king. The word Chaldeans is both a general ethnic term for the Babylonian people and a specific term for priests who served as astrologers, soothsayers, and wise men in the king’s government. It is used in the secondary sense here, referring to the king’s astrologers and wise men. Likely these were the governmental officials who had been summoned to the plain of Dura.

Their motive in denouncing the three faithful Jewish men was not devotion to the king’s demand but a hatred for the Jewish people. They sought to accuse the Jews (3:8) and they referred to certain Jews whom you have appointed (3:12). Were it not hatred for God’s chosen people, their accusation would have been about some royal officials without mention of their ethnicity. Hatred of the Jewish people has been a persistent sin in the Bible from Pharaoh to Haman. It reflects a hatred of the God of Israel and is expressed through oppression and even attempts at genocide of His people (Ps 83:2–5). By saying that these Jewish men did not serve your gods or worship the golden image, the wise men were accusing them of disloyalty, another anti-Jewish slur, which persists to this day.

3:13–18. The enraged king offered Daniel’s friends a second chance to worship the idol, but they persistently refused. They were confident that the true God was able to deliver them from the furnace of blazing fire. The Aramaic imperfect verb yesezib ("He can deliver, rescue") in this context indicates possibility and not certainty. They were saying that God may deliver them or He may choose not to rescue. It was His choice. Their faith was not limited to belief in a miracle but also included trust in God’s sovereignty. They asserted that if God chose not to deliver them from this punishment but would allow them to become martyrs for Him, they would still refuse to serve the king’s gods or worship the golden image. This is one of the strongest statements of faith in the entire Bible. They trusted the Lord to decide their destiny while still being faithful to Him.

3:19–23. The infuriated king gave orders to heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated, an idiom for "as hot as possible." When the appointed guards cast Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego into the furnace, the heat was so intense that its flames slew those men who carried God’s three faithful servants to the furnace. This indicates that there was no naturalistic explanation for the survival of the three.

The ancient furnace was shaped like an old-fashioned milk bottle and built on a small hill or mound with openings at the top and side. The ore to be smelted would be dropped in a large opening at the top and wood or charcoal would be inserted in a smaller hole on the side, at ground level, to heat the furnace. There would have been two other small holes at ground level in which to insert pipes connected to a large bellows to raise the temperature of the fire. (Archer, "Daniel," 56). Some have estimated that this furnace could reach a temperature of 1,800 degrees fahrenheit (Miller, Daniel, 115, 122). Most likely this furnace was used to smelt the gold ore and bricks for Nebuchadnezzar’s statue. Thus, the three men fell into the midst of the furnace (3:23) from the top and the king was able to see into the furnace (3:24–25) from its side opening.

3. The Lord’s Deliverance from the Fiery Furnace (3:24–27)

3:24–25. When the king looked into the furnace, he was astounded to see four menwalking about in the furnace, and the fourth looked like a son of the gods. This may have been an angel or even more likely, the Angel of the Lord, meaning a pre-incarnate appearance of the Messiah. Nevertheless, it is doubtful that a pagan king would have understood this. Rather, his statement is indicative of the glorious appearance of the deliverer whom he saw. The faithful reader is to understand who was in the furnace even though the pagan king did not.

3:26–27. Having called the men out of the furnace, Nebuchadnezzar and all his government officials saw that the fire had no effect on their bodies. Not only did the fire fail to burn their hair and clothing, they did not even have the smell of fire on them. Hebrews 11:34 cites this miracle of faith, referring to those who "quenched the power of fire."

4. The King’s Recognition of the God of Israel (3:28–30)

3:28–30. King Nebuchadnezzar continued on his odyssey of faith, begun in Dn 2. There he learned that the Lord is a true God, powerful enough to reveal secret dreams and to control the destinies of nations. In a sense, he recognized the God of Israel as a part of the panoply of gods. However, in Dn 3, Nebuchadnezzar learned that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were "servants of the Most High God" (3:26), indicating that he saw the God of Israel as the one who is greater than all other gods. Even so, he remained a polytheist, believing in many gods. Despite Nebuchadnezzar’s praise of the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego for His deliverance and the king’s prohibition against saying anything offensive against the God of Israel (3:28–29), he still had not come to a full knowledge of the one and only true God.

The three young men remained faithful to the true God despite intense pressure to acquiesce to idolatry. They experienced the promise of Is 43:2: "When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you." Thus, they became a model to the faithful remnant of Israel in the times of the Gentiles as well as to any person today who has become a follower of the Lord Jesus. Despite living in a pressure-packed society that consistently invites disloyalty to the Lord, His followers can be assured of His presence in the midst of the fire. God is fully capable of supernatural deliverance from the intense heat of pressure or to bring His faithful ones safely home to Him.

C. Nebuchadnezzar’s Pride, Madness, and Repentance (4:1–37)

1. The Prologue: A Declaration of Praise (4:1–3)

4:1–3. The text does not indicate when the events of Dn 4 took place nor is it significant to the interpretation of the passage. Nevertheless, King Nebuchadnezzar most likely had his dream (see v. 5) about ten years before the end of his 43-year reign. Then, God in His grace allowed the king one year to repent followed by seven years of madness. Once he came to his senses, the king lived approximately two to three years before dying in 562 BC.

Daniel has included this chapter as a formal letter sent by Nebuchadnezzar himself to his empire. No doubt, the king did indeed write the letter, but it is Daniel, as author of the book, who chose to include it. It would be unlikely that the king would switch from writing about himself in the first person (4:1–27, 34–37). Yet Daniel, as the author of the book and personal confidante of the king, was uniquely aware of the king’s experience. Therefore, he most likely wrote the section that speaks of the king in the third person (vv. 28–33) and records his time of mental illness. The chapter is structured in three sections: (1) a prologue in which the king praises the true God (4:1–3); (2) a narrative body (4:4–34a), which recounts (a) the king’s dream, (b) Daniel’s interpretation, (c) the king’s illness and repentance; and (3) an epilogue in which the king declares his own recognition of the sovereignty of the true God (4:34b–37). Of course, the chapter is written from the perspective of the king looking back at the signs and wonders which the Most High God had done for him (4:2). Therefore, this prologue reflects what the king had already come to understand by the end of the chapter—that God’s kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and His dominion is from generation to generation.

2. The Story: A Dream Comes to Pass (4:4–34a)

4:4–34a. The story covers a period of eight years, beginning with the dream, the year afterward, and then the seven-year period of mental illness.

a. The King’s Dream (4:4–18)

4:4–7. King Nebuchadnezzar once again had recurring dreams that alarmed him. Therefore, he called the four classes of wise men to interpret his dream (for the meaning of magicians and conjurers, see the comments at 1:20–21, for Chaldeans see 2:2–3 and for diviners see 2:27). Unlike the dream of Dn 2, the king related the dream to them but similarly they could not make its interpretation known to him.

4:8. Daniel finally came before the king—perhaps he was away from the palace when the previous wise men appeared before the king or maybe he was only brought to deal with problems beyond the ability of the ordinary wise men. No matter, the king recognized that a spirit of the holy gods was in Daniel. This translation reflects the perspective of a pagan king but since the king is relating this from the perspective of a chastened king who knows that God alone can reveal what is hidden, it might be better to translate the phrase "the spirit of the Holy God is in him."

Beginning in this verse and throughout the chapter, Daniel is most frequently called by his Babylonian name Belteshazzar, likely because it was written from the perspective of the Babylonian king, not a Hebrew exile.

4:9–13. Nebuchadnezzar related his dream to Daniel, describing what he saw as a treegreat and which grew large and became strong And its height reached to the sky, a figure for an exceptionally tall tree. A similar expression was used in Gn 11:4 for the tower of the city of Babylon, the top of which was to reach "into heaven." The tree provided food and shelter for all the creatures of the earth. The king also saw an angel, here called a watcher, a holy one.

4:14–18. The angel in the king’s dream announced that the tree would be cut down but that the stump with its roots would remain in the ground, indicating the continuation of life. The stump was to have a band of iron and bronze around it, indicating the protection of the stump. The tree plainly represents a man (the king) because the angel declared that his mind would be changed from that of a man to that of a beast’s for seven periods of time or for seven years.

b. Daniel’s Interpretation (4:19–27)

4:19. Daniel was appalled for a while and his thoughts alarmed him upon hearing the dream because he understood its meaning. As a loyal servant of the king, Daniel was alarmed about the dreadful discipline that would befall the king.

4:20–26. The tree represented King Nebuchadnezzar who would be given a mental illness that would cause him to live outdoors like the beasts of the field and feed on grasslike cattle for seven years. This would last until King Nebuchadnezzar repented of his pride and recognize[d] that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes. Rather than taking credit for his own accomplishments, the king needed to recognize God’s sovereignty in placing him in his position. When the king would acknowledge that it is Heaven that rules, God would restore his sanity and realm to him. This is the only place in the OT where Heaven is a metonymy for God. This usage became commonplace in intertestamental literature, the NT, and Rabbinic literature.

4:27. Daniel advised the king to repent with the hope that this might stay God’s discipline. To do so, the king was to separate himself from his sins by doing righteousness. Some have understood the Aramaic word for "righteousness" as a reference to giving charity. In post-biblical Hebrew and Aramaic this word does indeed begin to include "giving charity" within its range of meaning. However, this use in the book of Daniel would be too early for that definition and would merely mean "justice." Rather than calling for good deeds as a means of salvation or even of staying temporal judgment, Daniel exhorted the king to acknowledge God’s rulership by faith, and having done so, to break with his sins and live in conformity to God’s righteous (or just) standard.

c. The Dream’s Fulfillment (4:28–34a)

4:28–30. One year later, Daniel’s predictions were fulfilled. Nebuchadnezzar, who had no fewer than three palaces in the city of Babylon, was walking on the roof of one of them. Seeing the magnificent city, he was overcome with its grandeur and became consumed with pride. He called the city Babylon the great, a phrase echoed in Rv 17:5 and 18:2.

According to Herodotus (a Greek historian who died c. 425 BC), Babylon was the most glorious city of the ancient world. He recorded that Babylon’s outer walls alone were 56 miles long, 80 feet wide and 320 feet high. Nebuchadnezzar was a great builder and expanded the city to six square miles. He also beautified it with magnificent buildings, temples, and palaces. Within the city there were some 53 temples to various gods, many containing massive gold statues. The main sacred procession street passed from the famed Ishtar Gate to the Temple of Marduk, with its adjacent ziggurat rising 288 feet into the sky. A 400-foot bridge spanned the Euphrates River and united the eastern and western halves of the city. On the northwest corner of the king’s primary palace sat one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the famed Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Built on terraces, it more properly should be called overhanging gardens. Whether the ancient historian exaggerated or gave a precise depiction, the city of Babylon was indeed the largest, most populated, and greatest city in the known world at that time. Perhaps it was on the roof of the Hanging Gardens with a view of his glorious city that Nebuchadnezzar became filled with pride.

The king’s overwhelming pride is evident in his exclamation: Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have builtby the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty? (italics added, v. 30). Note Nebuchadnezzar’s emphasis on himself and his failure to give God the credit and the glory for giving all of this to him. Many years later, Paul would upbraid the Corinthians for their pride by asking, "What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?" (1Co 4:7). Herein lies the problem with pride: it takes credit for what God alone has done.

4:31. After a year of patience (4:28), God enacted His discipline at the very instant that Nebuchadnezzar had become fully consumed with his pride, even while the word was in the king’s mouth. As evidence that God alone is the source of human accomplishment and authority, Nebuchadnezzar’s sovereignty was taken away and the king descended into the abyss of mental illness.

4:32–33. Nebuchadnezzar was driven to live with the beasts of the field, apparently suffering from boanthropy, a rare mental illness in which people believe they actually are cattle. Hence, he began eating grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew. One modern case of boanthropy resulted in the patient growing long matted hair and thickened fingernails, much like Nebuchadnezzar, whose hair grew like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws (Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, 1116–17).

Critics contend that secular history has no record of Nebuchadnezzar’s mental illness, thereby challenging the historicity of this account. However, it is questionable as to whether an ancient Near Eastern despot would place his bout with insanity into official court records. Moreover, Eusebius, the church historian (d. AD 339), citing Abydenus, a third-century BC Greek historian, referred to a time, late in Nebuchadnezzar’s life when he was "possessed by a god" (Praeparatio Evangelica IX, 41, cited by Leon Wood, A Commentary on Daniel [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1973], 121–22), a possible secular reference to the events of Dn 4. Also, third-century BC historian Berosus possibly referred to these events when he spoke of an illness that befell Nebuchadnezzar just prior to his death (Wood, Daniel, 122).

Critics have questioned whether the Babylonian Empire could function while mental illness incapacitated its king. Yet, excellent administrative leadership, such as provided by Daniel, would certainly have kept the kingdom intact.

4:34a. The nature of boanthropy is not such that the sufferer cannot reason or understand what has befallen him. So, it was possible for the king to realize that his own pride had caused his insanity and therefore, repent. Hence, when Nebuchadnezzar raised his eyes toward heaven in repentance for his pride and acknowledged the Most High God, his sanity returned to him fully and instantly.

3. The Epilogue: A Declaration of Sovereignty (4:34b–37)

4:34b–35. As an epilogue to the narrative, Nebuchadnezzar glorified God, using words that describe not only his own realization but summarize the theme of the book of Daniel: He recognized God’s everlasting dominion, His eternal kingdom, and His sovereignty over all the inhabitants of the earth.

4:36–37. Having repented, Nebuchadnezzar finds his sanity returned, and the Lord also restored his majesty and sovereignty over Babylon. The very last sentence of the chapter summarizes the message of this story: God is able to humble those who walk in pride. Although some have disputed that the pagan King Nebuchadnezzar actually did come to a saving knowledge of the true God, it appears that he did. In his 40-year journey of faith, Nebuchadnezzar accepted the God of Israel into the panoply of gods (2:47), recognized Israel’s God as the Most High God (3:26), and ultimately repented of his pride and submitted to the God of Israel’s sovereignty over the world and his own life (4:34–37). Therefore, near the end of his life, Nebuchadnezzar experienced salvation when he came to know and follow the God of Israel.

Too often, people take credit for their own skills, status, or success. It would be wise to learn the lesson of Nebuchadnezzar and acknowledge that all these come from the Sovereign of the universe, not ourselves.

D. Belshazzar’s Feast and the Writing on the Wall (5:1–31)

The developments in Dn 5 took place some 23 years after the events in the previous chapter. Nebuchadnezzar had died in 562 BC, shortly after his time of insanity and subsequent repentance. After his death, a series of intrigues and assassinations resulted in several obscure kings ruling Babylon until Nabonidus took the throne (556–539 BC). Earlier critics questioned the historicity of Belshazzar, since he was unknown in secular documents. However, beginning in 1914, 37 separate archival texts have been discovered, documenting the existence of Belshazzar as crown prince. Discovered ancient texts also confirm that Nabonidus spent much of his reign in Arabia, leaving Belshazzar in Babylon, to rule the empire as coregent.

1. The Feast of the King (5:1–4)

5:1. Belshazzar the king held a great feast for a thousand of his nobles most likely to bolster the morale of the nobility after Nabonidus had experienced a crushing defeat at the hands of the Persians. Ancient Greek historians Herodotus and Xenophon confirm that Babylon fell while a great feast was in progress (5:30). Excavations in Babylon have uncovered a large throne room that could have easily accommodated one thousand nobles.

5:2–4. While feasting, Belshazzar gave orders to bring the gold and silver vessels which had been taken out of the temple 47 years earlier. By drinking libations to Babylonian gods with vessels devoted to the true God of Israel, Belshazzar was acting in an unusually aggressive and blasphemous way. Nebuchadnezzar was called Belshazzar’s father, even though Nabonidus was his father. Most likely, Belshazzar’s father, Nabonidus, married Nebuchadnezzar’s daughter to establish his own claim to the throne of Babylon, making Nebuchadnezzar the grandfather of Belshazzar. The Aramaic word translated "father" could refer to a grandfather, ancestor, or even a predecessor to a king without any lineal tie whatsoever.

2. The Writing on the Wall (5:5–9)

5:5. It was precisely at that moment, when the king and his nobles were mocking the God of Israel, that the fingers of a man’s hand emerged and began writingon the plaster of the wall. This was not a vision merely seen by Belshazzar alone but a miracle seen by all present. Even afterward, the wise men called to interpret could still see the words written on the plaster wall. According to the archaeologist who excavated Babylon, the Babylonian throne room (see 5:1) had walls covered with white gypsum (or plaster), fitting the description contained in Daniel (cf. Robert Koldeway, The Excavations at Babylon, [London: Macmillan, 1914], 104).

5:6–7. The writing on the wall so terrified Belshazzar that his hip joints went slack and his knees began knocking together. Therefore, he called for the wise men and offered great honor if any of them could interpret the words on the wall. He even proposed to make the successful wise man third ruler in the kingdom, after Nabonidus and Belshazzar.

5:8–9. None of the wise men could read the inscription or make known its interpretation, following the pattern of the book (cf. 2:3–13, 4:7). Consistently, the wise men of Babylon were incapable of interpreting God’s messages—only Daniel, God’s prophet, was capable of doing so (1:17).

3. The Advice of the Queen (5:10–12)

5:10. The queen who entered the banquet hall was the Queen Mother, not the wife of King Belshazzar since all his wives were already present with him (cf. 5:3).

5:11–12. Daniel was approximately 80 years old at this point and was either retired or forgotten. The Queen Mother, who was the daughter of Nebuchadnezzar, remembered Daniel’s extraordinary spirit and his abilities to interpret dreams, explain enigmas, and solve difficult problems during her father’s reign. Therefore, she advised her son to call Daniel to declare the interpretation of the writing on the wall.

4. The Meeting with Daniel (5:13–29)

When Daniel was brought before the king, he did not demonstrate the same level of respect that he had consistently shown to Nebuchadnezzar. Instead, he rebuked Belshazzar for his brazen attitude and failure to learn from Nebuchadnezzar. Rather than remembering the lesson of humility before the God of Israel that his father had learned, Belshazzar had brazenly mocked the true God.

5:13–17. Upon hearing the king’s offer to honor him and make him the third ruler in the kingdom, Daniel refused to accept any gift, telling the king to give his rewards to someone else. This was not because Daniel was rude or arrogant but rather indignant at the king’s disregard for Nebuchadnezzar’s lesson of humility before God and his blasphemous use of the temple vessels.

5:18–24. Writers of historical narrative frequently communicate the essential message of a text through dialogue. In this case, Daniel’s words served as a rebuke for Belshazzar for his failure to learn from the experience of Nebuchadnezzar (as described in Dn 4). Daniel reviewed for Belshazzar that the Most High God had granted sovereignty to Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar’s predecessor. Also, that God had humbled Nebuchadnezzar when his spirit becameproud by afflicting him with boanthropy until he recognized the sovereignty of the God of Israel. Daniel reprimanded Belshazzar because he had not humbled his heart, even though he knew all this. According to ancient Babylonian texts, Belshazzar had served in the government of King Neriglissar (who ruled Babylon from 560–556 BC) in 560 BC indicating that he had been old enough to be aware of the events at the end of Nebuchadnezzar’s life. Instead of learning to submit to the Almighty, he used the temple vessels to blaspheme God and so exalted himself against the Lord of heaven. The specific sins Daniel cited were pride, blasphemy, idolatry, and failure to glorify the true God. For this reason, the inscription was written on the wall with a message of judgment and doom.

5:25–29. The three words on the wall were Aramaic as follows: MENE (numbered), TEKEL (weighed) and UPHARSIN (divided). They indicated that Belshazzar’s days were numbered and his kingdom would come to an end, that his reign had been weighed and found deficient, and that Babylon would be divided among the Medes and Persians.

Although the third word was written on the wall in the plural form (UPHARSIN), Daniel explained its meaning by using the singular form (PERES). The prediction that Belshazzar’s kingdom has been divided does not indicate that the Babylonian Empire would be divided equally by two kingdoms (Medes and Persians) but rather that Babylon would be destroyed or dissolved and taken over by the Medo-Persian Empire. The third word on the wall (UPHARSIN) has the same letters as the Aramaic word for "Persian," and was used as a play on words, indicating that the kingdom would fall to a Persian army.

5. The Fall of Babylon (5:30–31)

5:30. Having lost a brief skirmish outside the walls of Babylon, Belshazzar had retreated to the city and made light of the coming Persian siege. The Babylonians had 20 years of provisions, and the city was a seemingly impregnable fortress. Nevertheless, Darius diverted the waters of the Euphrates and entered below the water gates. He took the city that same night without a battle and killed Belshazzar. Xenophon noted that the city fell while the Babylonians were in the midst of a drunken feast. The kingdom of Babylon fell just as foretold by Daniel in his interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the statue (2:39). The head of gold (Babylon) had fallen and was replaced by the chest and arms of silver (Medo-Persia) (2:40).

5:31. The identity of Darius the Mede who received the kingdom at about the age of sixty-two is uncertain. Some believe that he was Gubaru, the governor of Babylon (cf. J. C. Whitcomb, Jr., Darius the Mede [Grand Rapids, MI: BAker, 1959]). and called Darius because it was not a personal name but an honorific title, meaning "royal one" (Archer, "Daniel," 76–77). Others maintain that Darius the Mede was an alternate title for the Persian emperor, Cyrus the Great, also viewing the word Darius not as a name but as a royal title (J. M. Bulman, "The Identification of Darius the Mede," WTJ 35 [1973]: 247–67). Both of these identifications are possible, but there is no conclusive evidence for either. Regardless, Darius the Mede was not a fictional character but an actual historical figure.

God did not intend for Nebuchadnezzar alone to learn to honor the true Lord of heaven (cf. Dn 4:37). He also expected Nebuchadnezzar’s descendants to glorify Him as well. Unlike Belshazzar, who ignored the humbling of his predecessor, followers of Messiah today must learn the lesson of humility, exalting the Lord above all in their lives and recognizing His granting of every good gift.

E. Daniel in the Lions’ Den (6:1–28)

In one of the most well-known stories in the book, Daniel was cast into the lion’s den for his faith. Since Daniel was about 15 in 605 BC, when the Babylonians brought him as a captive to Babylon, and since the events in Dn 6 most likely took place in the second or third year after the Medo-Persian conquest of Babylon in 539 BC, Daniel would have been approximately 82 years old when he was cast into the lions’ den (see the chart, after the comments on 6:28, on Daniel’s age throughout the events in the book). He was an old man, not a teenager, as is often pictured in Bible storybooks and sermons.

1. The Plot against Daniel (6:1–9)

6:1. Darius began organizing the newly conquered Babylonian Empire and immediately decided to appoint 120 satraps over the kingdom. According to Herodotus, there were 20 satrapies in the Medo-Persian Empire (3.89–94), while the book of Esther records that the Persian Empire had 127 provinces (Est 1:1; 8:9). It can be assumed that the 120 satraps identified here are not to be understood as one satrap for each particular section of the entire empire, but rather lower officials who helped rule over the entire empire or just over that part of the empire that was formerly Babylonian.

6:2. The king appointed three commissioners over the 120 satraps, to assure that the 120 government officials would properly collect taxes without any embezzlement or corruption. For the three administrative leaders, the king needed men with trustworthy reputations and so chose Daniel as one. He must have heard of Daniel’s reputation or perhaps he may have been aware of Daniel’s interpretation of the writing on the wall on the night Babylon fell.

6:3. Quickly, Daniel began distinguishing himself as a superlative administrator because of his extraordinary spirit, a phrase previously used to describe him (5:12). Therefore, the king planned to appoint him over the entire kingdom as prime minister.

6:4–5. The king’s choice of Daniel created jealousy in the other court officials and they wished to denounce Daniel. Since Daniel was both diligent and honest in his work, the commissioners and satraps could not find any negligence or corruptionin him. Therefore, they sought to create a law sure to contradict Daniel’s faith in order to entrap him.

6:6–7. When these corrupt officials approached the king, they falsely claimed that all government officials supported the proposal that for 30 days anyone who makes a petition to any god or man besides the king would be cast into the lions’ den. By agreeing to this law, Darius had not claimed deity but rather adopted the role of a priestly mediator. His goal was to unite the Babylonian realm under the authority of the new Persian Empire.

6:8–9. The irrevocability of the law of the Medes and Persians is confirmed elsewhere in Scripture (Est 1:19; 8:8) and secular literature (Diodorus of Sicily, XVII:30).

2. The Prosecution of Daniel (6:10–14)

6:10–11. Even though the law prohibiting prayer had gone into effect, Daniel still prayed with his windows open toward Jerusalem. Jewish people in exile always pray toward Jerusalem—even today—just as Solomon had directed in his prayer of dedication for the temple (1Kg 8:44–49). Daniel prayed three times a day either because this was his own personal devotional habit or perhaps because the Jewish custom of morning, afternoon, and evening prayers had already been established. Daniel prayed not out of rebellion to the king but out of obedience to the greater command of God. As the apostles would later say, "We must obey God rather than men" (Ac 5:29). So great was Daniel’s reputation for spiritual commitment that even his enemies knew that he would obey God rather than the king’s edict.

6:12–14. The conspirators reminded the king of his injunction and notified him of Daniel’s behavior. As a result, the king was deeply distressed at hearing of Daniel’s disobedience, not because Daniel had defied him, but because the king now understood that the true purpose of the law was to entrap Daniel. As a result, the king was exerting himself to find a way to rescue Daniel—but he was trapped by his own law and could not deliver Daniel.

3. The Punishment of Daniel (6:15–18)

6:15–16. Since the law of the Medes and the Persians could not be overturned, Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den as punishment. The Persians used mutilation by lions as one of several brutal forms of execution. The king hoped that the God whom Daniel constantly serve[d] would deliver him.

6:17–18. The word for den could also be translated "pit." Daniel was cast into a pit over which a stone was brought and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and the rings of his nobles. The king then spent the night fasting without entertainment, presumably praying to his own gods for Daniel.

4. The Protection of Daniel (6:19–24)

6:19–23. Early the next morning, when the king came to inquire of Daniel’s condition, Daniel told the king that God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths. God uses angels to accomplish his purposes, including protection of His people (Ps 34:7; 91:11; Heb 1:14). He did so for Daniel’s three friends in the furnace many years before this incident (3:25). As on that occasion, this may have been not merely an angel but the Angel of the Lord (i.e., a pre-incarnate appearance of the Messiah) who rescued Daniel.

Daniel was not claiming perfection in declaring that he was found innocent before God. Rather, Daniel claimed that his allegiance to God, even above the king, made him guiltless in this matter. Nevertheless, it was not Daniel’s works that brought him deliverance from God but his faith, because he had trusted in his God.

Daniel’s Ages

(All approximate based on the conjecture that Daniel was about 15 when taken captive to Babylon)

6:24. The king punished those who had maliciously accused Daniel by casting them into the lions’ den with their children and their wives. Although executing family members is exceptionally cruel, according to Herodotus, this was a common Persian practice (Histories, 3.119).

5. The Praise of Daniel’s God (6:25–27)

6:25–27. Just as King Nebuchadnezzar did before him (4:2), so Darius issued a decree to all the peoples, nations and men of every language (cf. 4:2) declaring praise to the God of Daniel. Darius recognized the greatness of God: that He is the living God, eternal, sovereign and powerful, and able to rescue his people, even as He delivered Daniel from the power of the lions. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that Darius came to a saving faith at this point but instead accepted the God of Israel into the panoply of gods.

6. The Prosperity of Daniel (6:28)

6:28. Now secured as prime minister, Daniel continued his government service in the reign of Darius andof Cyrus the Persian. Although some have maintained that the citation of both kings would indicate that Darius could only be identified with Gubaru and not as Cyrus the Persian (cf. 5:31), it is possible to translate this verse as "during the reign of Darius, even Cyrus the Persian." This translation could be understood as a biblical historical notation, clearly identifying "Darius the Mede" as an alternate name for Cyrus. Once again the identification of Darius the Mede is inconclusive.

Pressure to deny the Lord still exists for those who want to live for Him. Resistance to those forces can present terrifying results—loss of jobs, relationships, or in some parts of the world, life itself. Nevertheless, Daniel’s trust in the Lord to deliver him (6:23) is a model for living in a pressurized world. Hebrews 11:33 says that by faith, some, like Daniel, even "shut the mouths of lions." When the strains and pressures of life cause fear of contemporary lion pits, just as in Daniel’s life, faith is the key to commitment and deliverance.

F. Daniel’s Vision of the Four Beasts, the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man (7:1–28)

Daniel 7 is one of the most important chapters in the whole OT. Located at the center of the book of Daniel, it is an essential guide to biblical prophecy. Moreover, the vision of the Son of Man is the centerpiece of OT revelation concerning the Messiah.

The King’s dream of the statue in chap. 2 and Daniel’s vision in chap. 7 form a parenthesis (or an inclusio) for the Aramaic section of Daniel. Written as a parallel, the two chapters should be interpreted in light of each other (see the chart comparing the two visions near the comments on chap. 7). One reason for repeating the similar information in these two chapters is that they offer differing perspectives on the same material. Chapter 2 presents the world kingdoms from a Gentile perspective, with the use of glittering metals to show the grandeur and glory of the world kingdoms. Chapter 7 views the Gentile empires from the perspective of the Jewish people, envisioning them as violent and destructive beasts. Another reason for the repetition of the content in these two visions is to confirm the certainty of the predictions. As Joseph said, Pharaoh’s dreams were repeated because "the matter is determined by God, and God will quickly bring it about" (Gn 41:32).

The vision was included in the book to give hope to Israel in captivity, informing the nation that life in the times of the Gentiles would get worse for God’s covenant people, but ultimately the messianic kingdom would be established.

1. Daniel’s Vision (7:1–14)

7:1. Daniel received this vision in the first year of Belshazzar, the Babylonian king who was overthrown in Dn 5, who became coregent with Nabonidus in 553 BC. Assuming Daniel was about 15 in 605 BC when he was exiled to Babylon, he would have received this vision when he was approximately 67 years old. The events described in this chapter preceded those of Dn 5 but were placed here at the end of the Aramaic section to form a literary inclusio with chap. 2.

7:2. The four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea refers to the convulsions of the Gentile nations in the times of the Gentiles. The chapter later indicates that the sea represents "the earth" (7:17) from which the four kingdoms arise. Moreover, "the sea" is frequently symbolic of Gentile humanity in other biblical passages (Is 17:12–13; 57:20; Rv 13:1, 11; 17:1, 15).

7:3. The four great beasts represent the four nations (7:17) previously identified in the vision of the statue in Dn 2 (cf. 2:31–45). Here animals are used as symbols because images from the animal kingdom, even today, commonly represent nations. These four beasts are increasingly violent, perhaps indicating the growing moral degeneracy of the respective kingdoms they represent.

7:4. The lion with wings of an eagle represents the Babylonian Empire. The winged lion was a fitting symbol because some biblical passages represent Nebuchadnezzar as a lion (Jr 4:7; 49:19, 22; 50:17, 44) and others as an eagle (Jr 49:22; Lm 4:19; Ezk 17:3; Hab 1:8). The Babylonian Empire used lions to represent itself, and statues with winged lions were common there. The famous Ishtar gate of Babylon was decorated with lions. Perhaps the plucked-off wings represent Nebuchadnezzar’s madness and the lion standing on two feet like a man and receiving a human mind indicates his restoration.

7:5. The lopsided bear with three ribsin its mouth represents the Medo-Persian Empire and its three main conquests: Babylon (539 BC); Lydia (546 BC); and Egypt (525 BC). Its lopsided nature expresses the Persian dominance in this joint empire. Some have argued that the bear represents the Median Empire alone and not the combined Medo-Persian (cf. C. Marvin Pate and Calvin Haines, Doomsday Delusions [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1995], 65; also Walton, "The Four Kingdoms of Daniel," 30–31). This is highly unlikely in that, at no time after the fall of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, did the Median empire exist as separate and distinct from the Persian empire. Moreover, the book of Daniel never views the kingdom of the Medes and the Persians as two distinct empires but consistently links them together (for example, in 8:20, the two-horned ram "represents the kings of Media and Persia," and 6:8, 15 refers to "the law of the Medes and Persians"). It would be decidedly inconsistent of Daniel to link the two empires as one in these other chaps. but view them as separate kingdoms in chaps. 2 and 7. Finally, the text of Daniel identified the successor kingdom to the Babylonians, not as the Medes, but as the Medo-Persians, when Daniel told Belshazzar, "your kingdom has been divided and given over to the Medes and Persians" (5:28). Although critical scholars and a few evangelicals have interpreted the second kingdom as just referring to the Medes alone, the overwhelming history of interpretation within both the Church and Judaism, have identified the second kingdom as Medo-Persia.

7:6. The flying leopard represents the Greek Empire. Its four wings refer to the great speed of Alexander’s conquests and its four heads represent the four principle sections of the empire: Greece and Macedonia, Thrace and Asia Minor, Syria and Babylon, and Egypt and Israel. Some have identified the leopard as Persia, stating that "the brilliant, swift-moving armies of Cyrus defeated the ponderous, bearlike Median empire" (Pate and Haines, Doomsday Delusions, 66–67; Walton, "The Four Kingdoms of Daniel," 31). This view fails in that the second empire is identified throughout Daniel as the united Medo-Persian Empire (see the comments on 7:5), so this third beast must represent the kingdom of Greece. Additionally, the use of a leopard is more appropriate as a symbol for Greece than Persia in that Alexander conquered the known world in just 10 years. Cyrus, however, took approximately 30 years to complete his conquests and never did conquer Greece. That was left to his son, Cambyses II, who conquered Egypt, Nubia, and Cyrenaica after Cyrus’s death. Additionally, in light of the next chapter plainly stating that Alexander’s kingdom would be divided into four (8:21–22), the four heads of this beast more suitably represent the division of Alexander’s Greek Empire among four generals and in four sections rather than four Persian kings (Cyrus, Artaxerxes, Xerxes, and Darius III Codomannus).

7:7. The fourth beast, characterized as dreadful and terrifying, represents the Roman Empire. This beast is only described by its external appearance in a limited way (large iron teeth) but more so by its fearful character. That it devoured and crushed and trampled points to Rome’s conquests. This beast was different from the previous three because it was more powerful and had a longer dominion. Also, with regard to this beast, it appears that there will be a yet future or revived Roman Empire with ten horns, perhaps representing the ten parts of this future kingdom, much in the same way that the statue had ten toes (2:41–43). Horns commonly represent kings or kingdoms in Scripture (Ps 132:17; Zch 1:18; Rv 13:1; 17:12) as the angel’s later interpretation plainly indicates (Dn 7:24).

As discussed in the comments at 2:31–45, the fourth kingdom continues to the end of days, when it is replaced ultimately by the kingdom of God. To explain this, some affirm that the Roman Empire has continued through its persistent influence in Western civilization, and thus will exist until the end of days and the establishment of the kingdom of God. A more likely explanation is to recognize a prophetic gap, beginning with the fall of the Roman Empire (Rome I) and lasting through the establishment of a revived Roman Empire at the end of days (Rome II).

Some have objected that it is more suitable to identify the fourth kingdom with Greece rather than Rome, with its ten horns representing the 10 independent states in the third century BC descended from the initial four divisions of Alexander’s empire: Ptolemaic Egypt, Seleucia, Macedon, Pergamum, Pontus, Bithynia, Cappadocia, Armenia, Parthia, and Bactria. (Pate and Haines, Doomsday Delusions, 68–69; Walton, "The Four Kingdoms of Daniel," 31–33). However, in light of the above arguments for taking the second kingdom as Medo-Persia (see the comments on 7:5) and the third as Greece (see the comments on 7:6), it seems essential to view this fourth kingdom as Rome. Moreover, this kingdom "will devour the whole earth" (7:23), a more appropriate description of Rome than Greece. Additionally, in both chaps. 2 and 7, the fourth kingdom is said to be displaced by the kingdom of God (2:34–35, 44–45; 7:26–27). But the Greeks were displaced as a world power by Rome and not by the kingdom of God, making this proposed interpretation unlikely. Finally, Daniel’s precise prophecies of Greece (8:8, 22; 11:3–4) do not view the Greek Empire as dividing into 10 kingdoms but into four and then focus on just two of them, the Seleucid and Ptolemaic kingdoms (11:5–35). This makes it unlikely that Daniel has the 10 successor kingdoms to the quadripartite kingdoms of Greece in view here.

7:8. Another horn, a little one represents a king from the fourth kingdom who starts small in power but becomes dominant. It appears that this king takes power gradually sometime yet in the future, in the revived Roman Empire. He extends his authority over three of the first horns by pulling them out by the roots, indicating conquest over three of the 10 fellow kings. Since the future kingdom of God destroys the little horn and replaces his fourth kingdom, the little horn’s defeat of the three kings is yet future. It does not refer to Antiochus the Great and Antiochus Epiphanes’ defeat of Cappadocia, Armenia, and Parthia (so Walton, "The Four Kingdoms of Daniel," 33–34). This interpretation requires the conflation of the little horn into two kings (Antiochus the Great and Antiochus IV Epiphanes), but the text describes the little horn as just one king (7:24).

The little horn’s eyes likea man indicates its shrewdness, and its mouth uttering great boasts points to its blasphemous boasting against God (7:25). This little horn is not to be identified as a Roman or Greek king from the past, but he is a future world ruler. Scripture calls him "the prince who is to come" (9:26), the king who "will do as he pleases" (11:36), "the man of lawlessness," "the son of destruction," (2Th 2:3), "the beast," (Rv 13:1–10), and "antichrist" (1Jn 2:18).

7:9–10. Daniel then saw God as the Ancient of Days (referring to His eternal nature) in blazing glory, taking His throne as judge, even as the court of heaven (v. 10) was convened in the presence of myriads upon myriads of angels. His vesture (clothing) was like white snow, indicating His holiness and moral purity (Is 1:18; Rv 1:14). His hair was like pure wool, symbolic of old age, an apt description for the eternal God. God’s throne was ablaze with flames, indicating God’s just judgment. That the throne had fiery wheels describes it as a chariot (cf. Ezk 1, 10), a common description of the thrones of both kings and gods in the ancient Near East. The river of fireflowing from the throne demonstrates that God’s wrathful judgment would be poured out upon the wicked. An innumerable number of angelic beings were attending Him, ready to do God’s bidding. The entire scene is of the righteous Judge sitting in judgment in the court of heaven, with the booksopened (Ex 32:32; Dn 12:1; Lk 10:20; Rv 20:12), in which every human thought, word, or deed was recorded. Although all will stand in judgment before the Ancient of Days, the emphasis here is to promise God’s righteous and wrathful judgment on the little horn and his kingdom described in the previous verses.

7:11–12. The destruction of the beast by burning fire refers to end of the fourth kingdom, the revived Roman Empire, with the return of the Messiah and the coming of His kingdom. The rest of the beasts would maintain some continuity even when the fourth beast has its dominance. But the fourth beast, and whatever remained of the other three beasts that preceded it, will be destroyed by burning fire of judgment when the Messiah comes and establishes His kingdom.

7:13–14. Having defeated and destroyed the four kingdoms of the times of the Gentiles, the Ancient of Days granted One like a Son of Man to receive a kingdom in which all the peoples, nations, and men of every language might serve Him. Although some have maintained that the Son of Man is the archangel Michael or even just a collective personification of the "saints of the Highest One" (7:18), this one is none other than the divine Messiah Himself. Jesus understood it to be a messianic title (see the comments on Mt 8:18–22; Mk 14:61–62) and used it to speak of Himself. The high priest considered Jesus’ usage of the title to be blasphemy (Mk 14:64), demonstrating that it was a term for deity. Later Rabbis saw it as one of the names of the Messiah (b. Sanhedrin 98a). The phrase Son of Man is used of the Messiah because He will fulfill the destiny of humanity (Ps 8; Heb 2:5–18) while at the same time being deity.

2. The Angel’s Interpretation (7:15–28)

7:15–16. Alarmed by the ferocious animals in the vision, Daniel asked one of those who were standing by, most likely one of the myriads of angels he had seen, for help in understanding the vision. The rest of the chapter contains the angel’s interpretation of Daniel’s vision.

7:17–18. Having identified the four beasts as the four kingdoms, the angel indicates that the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom. Perhaps the saints of the Highest One refers to the faithful of all ages, but more likely it is a reference to Israel, describing the nation when it turns in faith to their Messiah Jesus (Zch 12:10; Rm 11:26). The literal covenant people will receive the kingdom, emphasizing that Messiah’s final kingdom will be "a literal, earthly kingdom, replacing the previous empires of men" (Archer, "Daniel," 93).

7:19–24a. After Daniel requested a more in-depth interpretation of the fourth beast (7:19–22), the angel explained that the fourth kingdom, in its future state, will devour the whole earth, depicting world domination. The identity of the ten kings might not be literal but rather a figure for completeness. In light of the literal nature of the numbers in this chapter (four kingdoms, the four successor kingdoms of Greece) and the number ten’s linkage with the ten toes in the dream of the great statue (2:40–43), more likely this refers to an empire with a literal confederation of ten kings (Rv 17:12–13).

7:24b–26. Another king, the antichrist (cf. 7:7–8), described in the vision as the little horn, will arise and take control of this last human empire by subdu[ing] three kings. He will be characterized by blasphemy (speak[ing] out against the Most High), anti-Semitism (wear[ing] down the saints of the Highest One), religious corruption (he will intend to make alterations in times and in law). His oppressive rule will last for a time, times, and half a time, three and one-half years, or the second half of the future tribulation (cf. Rv 7:14). Some consider that this was fulfilled when Antiochus oppressed the Jewish people from 167–164 BC. This is unlikely since that period was for only three years and not three and one-half. Since this has not yet been fulfilled, it is better to view this oppression as still future. When the heavenly court will sit for judgment, the antichrist will be taken away and destroyed forever.

7:27–28. The Son of Man will take his throne and rule over His everlasting kingdom. Then the people of the saints of the Highest One, namely the believing remnant of Israel, will receive this kingdom under the authority of their Messiah, the Son of Man.

Daniel was terrified as he reflected on the powerful and cruel nations that will govern the world during the times of the Gentiles. Followers of Messiah today also gasp at the totalitarian governments in various parts of the world and the persistent oppression of the Jewish people and believers in Jesus. Yet Daniel’s hope as described in this chapter is still available, namely, the coming of the Son of Man in glory to establish His kingdom on earth. While great nations will arise in wickedness, the kingdom of God will be established in righteousness. With this message, the section of Daniel (chaps. 2–7) about God’s sovereignty over the times of the Gentiles ends.

III. God’s People Israel in the Times of the Gentiles (8:1–12:13; in Hebrew)

Having shown God’s ultimate authority even when it appears that ungodly nations control the world, the book returns to the Hebrew language in Dn 8:1–12:13, and it now turns to describing God’s people of Israel during the times of the Gentiles.

A. Daniel’s Vision of the Ram and the Male Goat (8:1–27)

Daniel 8 does not reiterate the message about all four great kingdoms and their end-time significance (as in Dn 2 and 7). Rather, this vision predicts events about the second and third world empires and focuses on events that would take place from the sixth through the second centuries BC.

1. The Vision of the Ram and the Goat (8:1–14)

8:1. Daniel received this vision in the third year of the reign Belshazzar the king who became coregent with Nabonidus in 553 BC. Assuming Daniel was about 15 in 605 BC when he was exiled to Babylon, he would have received this vision in 550 BC when he was approximately 70 years old. Although the events in this chapter precede those described in Dn 5, they are included here because of the literary focus on Israel in the times of the Gentiles.

8:2–4. Daniel’s vision places him in Susabeside the Ulai Canal, a location not under Babylonian control but which would become the future capital of Persia. As in the previous chapter, Daniel sees a vision of animals that stand for world empires. First, he saw a ram, representing the Medo-Persian Empire (8:20). It had two horns, to represent the two nations in this confederated empire. One was longer than the other, with the longer one coming up last, signifying the dominant status of Persia in the empire even though it originally was the weaker kingdom. The ram in this text is comparable to the chest and arms of silver in the vision of the statue (2:32, 39) and the lopsided bear in the vision of the four beasts (7:5).

8:5. Daniel also saw a male goat, representing the Greek Empire with a conspicuous horn representing Alexander the Great (8:21). It came from the west, crossing the surface of the whole earth without touching the ground, referring to Alexander’s speedy conquest of the entire Near East in only three years. The male goat, in this vision, represents the same kingdom as the belly and thighs of bronze in the vision of the statue (2:32, 39) and the four-winged and four-headed leopard in the vision of the four beasts (7:6).

8:6–7. The goat struck the ram and shattered his two horns indicating the Greek Empire’s crushing defeat of Medo-Persia (331 BC).

8:8. Although the male goat magnified himself, at the height of his power, the large horn was broken, referring to Alexander’s sudden death at the peak of his greatness (323 BC). The four conspicuous horns that replaced him describe Alexander’s four generals (Cassander over Macedon and Greece, Lysimichus over Thrace and Asia Minor, Seleucus over Syria and Babylon, Ptolemy over Egypt) that divided the Hellenistic Empire.

8:9–12. As opposed to the little horn that would come from the fourth kingdom (Rome) described in Dn 7:8, a different small horn emerged out of one of the four kingdoms that divided the Greek Empire. This one was Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175–163 BC), ruler of the Seleucid dynasty, who conquered surrounding areas to the south and to the east but especially dominated the Beautiful Land of Israel. He caused some of the host and some of the stars to falland … [he] trampled them. The depiction of the host and stars provides a symbolic reference to the Jewish people (cf. Gn 22:17; 37:9). His trampling of the stars refers to Antiochus’s brutal persecution of the Jewish people from 170–164 BC. Antiochus blasphemously presented himself as equal with the Commander of the host, God Himself (also called the "Prince of princes" in 8:25). He also stopped regular sacrifice and defiled God’s sanctuary, the holy temple in Jerusalem (167 BC) by offering a swine to the pagan god Zeus on the altar in the holy of holies. He would prosper, but only temporarily.

8:13–14. An angel announced that the time of Antiochus’s defilement of Israel would only be for 2,300 evenings and mornings. This is a reference either to the 2,300 full days from Antiochus’s appointment of the murderer Menelaus as high priest (171 BC) to the rededication of the temple under Judah Maccabee (164 BC) or to a total of 1,150 morning and 1,150 evening sacrifices from the defiling of the temple (167 BC) to its rededication (164 BC). In either case, Antiochus’s defilement would last only until the temple would be rededicated by Judah Maccabee, an event still celebrated by Jewish people today during the festival of Chanukah (English, "dedication") (cf. Jn 10:22–23).

2. The Interpretation of the Vision (8:15–27)

8:15–16. Daniel did not understand the vision and so received the interpretation from the angel Gabriel, only one of two good angels (along with Michael) who are named in Scripture. Gabriel would also give the message of Daniel’s 70 weeks (9:24–27) and announce the birth of John to Zechariah (Lk 1:19) and the birth of the Messiah Jesus to Mary (Lk 1:26).

8:17–22. Gabriel addressed Daniel as son of man, but does not use the Hebrew equivalent of the Aramaic title given to the Messiah (7:13). Rather this phrase emphasizes the human weakness and mortality of Daniel. Gabriel also indicated that the vision referred to the time of the end (vv. 17, 19). This might seem unexpected since the events predicted all took place between the sixth and second centuries BC and do not appear to be end-time events. But chap. 7 and 8 were intentionally placed next to each other and both mention a little horn. In this way, the author established a deliberate typological relationship—Dn 7 referring to the end-time antichrist and Dn 8 referring to the second-century BC Antiochus IV Epiphanes. While a different character, Antiochus is similar and deliberately presented as a type of the future antichrist. Readers through the ages would identify him as the little horn of Dn 8 but also recognize that he would typify the end-time antichrist. So, although Dn 8 directly referred to Antiochus, this vision pertains to the end-times as a type deliberately intended by the author of Daniel. Gabriel interpreted Daniel’s vision of the beasts as explained above, to refer to the Medo-Persian and Greek Empires as well as the fourfold division of Alexander’s empire.

8:23–25. After his summary explanation of Daniel’s vision, Gabriel expanded his description of Antiochus. He would rise treacherously, being skilled in intrigue, taking the throne through deceit against the rightful heir, his nephew Demetrius. His great power would not be his own but have a satanic source. This demonic power would enable him to destroy to an extraordinary degree, devastating the land of Israel and the Jewish people. This power will cause him to prosper and perform his will, defeating mighty rulers and generals and destroying many of God’s holy people Israel. Additionally, this king will magnify himself enough to oppose God, the Prince of princes. Nevertheless, he will ultimately and suddenly be broken and not by human agency, but rather by God. This refers to his death not through assassination or battle but by God. According to 1 Macc 6:8–16, Antiochus IV died of sorrow and sadness in Babylon after being defeated in the battle of Elymais and also receiving word that his forces had been crushed in the land of Israel.

8:26–27. Gabriel instructed Daniel to seal up the vision (not to keep the vision secret as in the NASB). This sealing was not to hide its meaning from the faithful readers of Scripture but to secure it for safekeeping into the distant future. The predictions would need to be read for many years because the vision pertains to many days in the future, both the time of Antiochus, which would be some 400 years after the vision, and the time of the antichrist, which is yet future and typified by Antiochus. Astounded at the vision, Daniel went back to serving the king in Babylon, where he was physically present at the time of the vision.

The message of Dn 8 to the faithful of Israel was that God would indeed allow Gentile nations to be instruments of discipline of His chosen people. Nevertheless, God promised that He would also deliver them from the oppression of these Gentile nations. Followers of Messiah Jesus ought to remember this lesson, never siding with the anti-Semitism of the nations but always with the Lord, in His love and protection of His people.

B. Daniel’s Prayer and Vision of the Seventy Weeks (9:1–27)

1. Daniel’s Prayer of Contrition (9:1–19)

9:1. Daniel received this vision in the first year of Darius which was 539/538 BC. If Daniel was approximately 15 when he went into captivity, he would have been around 81 years old at the time of the vision. That Darius was called the son of Ahasuerus is not an anachronistic reference to Xerxes (485–465 BC), the later Persian king mentioned in the book of Esther (Est 1:1). The name Ahasuerus was most likely a Persian royal title rather than a personal name and refers to an ancestor of Cyrus the Great or Governor Gubaru (cf. comments on 5:31).

9:2. Although the book of Jeremiah the prophet was completed only a generation before the events described in Dn 9, Daniel already recognized it as Scripture, or the word of the Lord. Jeremiah predicted that the desolations of Jerusalem would last for seventy years (Jr 25:11–13; 29:10), so Daniel calculated that since the first captives had been taken to Babylon in 605 BC, at this time, some 67 years later, the 70 years were nearly complete.

9:3. Daniel’s prayer was with fasting, sackcloth and ashes, three customary ways to express contrition (Ezr 8:23; Neh 9:1; Est 4:1, 3, 16; Jb 2:12; Jnh 3:5–6).

9:4–19. Daniel prayed to the Lord his God (the Hebrew name Yahweh is translated Lord in English). This name of God is used seven times in Daniel but only in this chapter (9:2, 4, 8, 10, 13, 14 [twice], 20). Since Daniel’s prayer emphasized God’s faithfulness, it was appropriate to use the name Yahweh because it is associated with the covenant-keeping nature of the God of Israel (Ex 6:2–8). Daniel’s prayer of contrition begins with worship of the covenant-keeping God (9:4), continues with confession of Israel’s sin (9:5–14), and concludes with a strong plea for the Lord to deliver Israel from captivity (9:15–19). The author included this prayer not as a mere record of the humble prayer of the godly Daniel, but also as a model prayer for Israel in the times of the Gentiles and for contemporary believers to follow.

9:4. Worship. Daniel began his prayer by addressing God as Lord (Adonai, meaning "Master" or "Sovereign One"), glorifying Him as great and awesome. The word great refers to God’s grandeur and importance while awesome comes from the verb "to fear," indicating God is the one to be feared. Moreover, Daniel recognized the Lord as one who keeps His covenant, a reference to the Abrahamic covenant in which God promised to preserve the Jewish people and provide them with a land (Gn 12:1–7; 15:18–21). Daniel acknowledges God as one who keeps lovingkindness, a word describing God’s special characteristic of "loyal love" to those with whom He is in a covenant relationship (Dt 7:9, 12). Moreover, God’s "loyal love" is frequently linked with His forgiveness and mercy (Ex 34:6–7; Ps 103:4). The covenantal and merciful aspects of God’s love are prominent in this passage. Finally, these gracious benefits are for those who love Him and keep His commandments.

9:5–14. Confession. Although always faithful and obedient to the Lord, Daniel confessed the sins of the nation, notably including his own, showing his identification with the guilt of his own people.

9:5–6. Daniel began his confession of sin, specifying the nature of Judah’s waywardness by citing six different characteristics of disobedience to God. (1) Daniel admitted that all Israel had sinned, a word that means "to miss the mark" (Jdg 20:16) of God’s righteous standard. (2) Also, they had committed iniquity, a word that refers to being twisted or bent and indicates that they had behaved perversely or crookedly. (3) Daniel recognized that Israel had acted wickedly, meaning they had committed crimes against people and God. (4) Daniel said they had rebelled, using a word emphasizing the wickedness of knowingly disobeying God and defying Him. (5) He confessed that they were guilty of turning aside, a verb that refers to apostasy from God. They had done so by abandoning God’s commandments, as found in the Mosaic law. This apostasy was the underlying problem, causing the above-mentioned sinful behaviors. (6) Additionally, Daniel confessed that the entire nation, from royalty to commoners, had not listened to the exhortations of God’s prophets, whom God had sent as covenant enforcers, reminding them to obey the law.

9:7–8. Having confessed Israel’s sins, Daniel moved to describing the consequences of those sins. He does this by contrasting God and Israel. Righteousness belongs to the Lord, meaning that God is holy in completely adhering to His own just standards. In contrast, Israel was characterized by open shame (vv. 7 and 8) for departing from God’s holy and just requirements. While shame in English is generally an inner quality, the Hebrew word indicates public disgrace. All classes of Judah experienced disgrace by their public dispersion among the nations.

9:9. In the center of this confession, Daniel identified the sole hope upon which he and the rest of Judah could depend, namely, that while rebellion belonged to Judah, to the Lord our God belong compassion and forgiveness. The Hebrew word for God’s compassion is rarely used of humanity and commonly used of God. It refers to the deep, tender love and pity that a parent feels for a child (Ps 103:13) which God in His sovereignty chooses to bestow. The word for forgiveness is used solely of God, never being used of human forgiveness. It refers to the pardon that God alone can provide to those who rebel against Him. Both words are plural, intensifying the expression of the depth of God’s pity and pardon.

9:10–14. Daniel’s confession identified the nature and consequences of Judah’s disobedience as well as their only hope. Daniel also cited God’s absolute justice in His discipline of Judah. God was righteous in His judgment because Israel had disregarded the prophets and disobeyed the law. As a result, God sent the nation into exile, in fulfillment of His oathwritten in the law of Moses (Lv 26:27–33; Dt 28:63–68). The great calamity that befell Judah and Jerusalem was in direct fulfillment to the warnings found in the law, that if Israel failed to obey God’s commandments, eventually God would "scatter [them] among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth" (Dt 28:64). In contemplating Judah’s dispersion, Daniel expressed no bitterness toward God for their suffering, noting that the Lord our God is righteous with respect to all His deeds which He has done.

9:15–18. Plea. Daniel concluded his prayer with a plea for God to forgive and restore Judah and Jerusalem. His plaintive request is based on God’s reputation and His merciful character but not on any merit found in Israel. At the outset of His plea (v. 15), Daniel reminded God of the exodus, when God had established Himself as the faithful God of the covenant, who remembered Israel and brought them out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand. At that time, God had made a name for Himself among the nations as the God of Israel. Israel often appealed to God’s reputation as the nation’s Redeemer when calling upon Him to show mercy and compassion (cf. Ex 32:11–14; Nm 14:11–19). Daniel appealed to God to turn away His anger and His wrath from Jerusalem and His holy mountain (v. 16). Evoking the Aaronic benediction (Nm 6:24–26), he begged the Lord, let your face shine on Your desolate sanctuary (v. 17). Despite God’s justice in sending Israel into exile, Daniel pleaded with God not on the basis of Israel’s merits but on God’s great compassion (v. 18). God’s forgiveness and restoration was not derived to be from human works but God’s grace alone.


9:19. With heightened and growing passion, Daniel begged God to act. Repeating the vocative, O Lord, three times, Daniel importuned God to hear, forgive, listen and take action. Ultimately, Daniel’s plea for the Lord to act without delay was based on Jerusalem (Your city) and Israel (Your people) being called by His name. Once again, God’s reputation was the basis of Daniel’s plea for the restoration of the Jewish people to their land.

2. Daniel’s Vision of the Seventy Weeks (9:20–27)

9:20–23. While Daniel was still praying, the angel Gabriel appeared for a second time in the book of Daniel (8:16). Here he is called a man, not an angel, because he appeared in human form. He arrived at about the time when the evening offering would have been offered had the temple still stood, or between 3 and 4 p.m. Gabriel came immediately in response to Daniel’s fervent and humble prayer because God highly esteemed Daniel.

9:24. The vision Gabriel recounted referred to a sum total of seventy weeks, which some have interpreted as a symbolic number. However, in the context, at the opening of the chapter, Daniel recognized that the 70-year captivity referred to literal time (9:2). Therefore, it is more likely that the 70 weeks also refer to a literal number.

The word weeks in Hebrew refers to a unit of seven, or a heptad, with its meaning determined by the context. Sometimes it refers to a period of seven days but here it denotes a period of seven years. The reasons for this are (1) that in this context Daniel was concerned with years not days (9:2); (2) that in the Hebrew of Dn 10:2–3, Daniel specified that he was fasting for "three entire weeks" to distinguish from the weeks of years described in the previous paragraph (9:24–27); (3) that the broken covenant of the 70th week leaves three and one-half periods of desolation and destruction, and this amount of time is described as three and one-half years in parallel passages (7:25; 12:7; Rv 12:14).

Why did the message of the angel, pertaining to 490 future years, come when Daniel was pondering the end of the 70-year captivity? Judah’s captivity lasted 70 years because the nation had failed to keep the sabbatical rest of the land 70 times (Lv 26:34–35, 43). Thus, 70 years of captivity provided the land with the 70 Sabbatical rests it had missed (2Ch 36:21). Therefore, the context of Daniel’s considerations was not merely the 70-year captivity but the cause of that length of time, namely, 70 weeks of years (i.e., 490 years) when the land had not experienced its rest. While Daniel’s prayer was focused on the past period of 70 weeks of years and the end of the 70-year captivity, the angel came with a message about the future, also about a period of 70 weeks of years. (See the chart "Daniel’s Vision of the 70 Weeks.")

By the completion of the 490-year period, six objectives would be accomplished in a comprehensive way. The first three objectives pertain to dealing with sin: first, finishing transgression refers to bringing an end to Israel’s history of rebellion against God; making an end of sin brings it to a halt by final judgment; and making atonement for iniquity refers to the Messiah’s once for all death for sin. The final three relate to consummating prophetic events by bringing in a kingdom of everlasting righteousness, fulfilling all vision and prophecy, and setting apart the most holy place (lit., the holy of holies), referring to a yet future, literal, millennial temple (cf. Ezk. 40–48). All six of the purposes will be fulfilled completely for Israel by the time of the return of the Messiah and the establishment of the messianic kingdom.

9:25. The first part of the prophecy predicts that from a particular future starting point until the coming of the Messiah the Prince, there would be 69 weeks of years. The Hebrew word mashiach (Messiah) is commonly and accurately translated as "anointed." It is used 39 times in the Hebrew Bible, generally with another noun, such as "the anointed priest." The word also has a technical meaning, commonly translated as "the Messiah" and defined by W. H. Rose as "a future royal figure sent by God who will bring salvation to God’s people and the world and establish a kingdom characterized by features such as peace and justice" (W. H. Rose, "Messiah," in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch, edited by T. Desmond Alexander and David W. Baker [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2003], 566). Although some believe that the term did not develop this technical meaning until after the close of the OT canon, this is not so. Besides its specialized usage here and in 9:26, there are at least 10 other OT passages that use the technical term "Messiah" (1Sm 2:10, 35; 2Sm 22:51; 23:1; Pss 2:2; 20:6; 28:8; 84:9; 89:51; Hab 3:13; see Michael Rydelnik, The Messianic Hope: Is the Old Testament Really Messianic? [Nashville: B&H Publishers, 2010], 2–3). Here the Messiah has the additional title, "the Prince." The Hebrew word means "ruler" or "leader" and derives from the idea of "one who goes before."

Some have argued (Pate and Haines, Doomsday Delusions, 73) that the word "anointed" cannot have a technical messianic sense in this context since it lacks the definite article. They have also maintained that the word "anointed" is more suitable for describing a priest (Lv 4:3). Furthermore, they assert that the word "prince" is also used of a priest (Neh 11:11; Jr 20:1). Thus, they conclude that this verse refers to Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest after the captivity.

However, in Hebrew, proper nouns, names, or titles such as "Anointed One" or "Messiah" need not have the article. Furthermore, the Hebrew word mashiach was not used of a high priest "beyond the Mosaic period and whenever it was used it was always clarified by juxtaposition with the word ‘priest’ " (J. Paul Tanner, "Is Daniel’s Seventy-Weeks Prophecy Messianic? Part 2" BibSac 166 [July–Sept 2009], 323)—like "the anointed priest." And while the word "prince" may be used of a priest, it is a rare usage (only three of 43 times). In fact, it is used in a prediction of the coming Messiah in Is 55:4. For these reasons, throughout the history of interpretation, overwhelmingly, the Church has understood "mashiach nagid" to refer to the Messiah the Prince. Ancient Judaism also understood this passage as messianic. According to the Talmud (AD sixth-century rabbinic writing), when, in the first century BC, Jonathon ben Uzziel wanted to write a Targum (paraphrastic commentary) on the Writings (including Daniel), it was said that the Bat Kol (voice of heaven) stopped him, because Daniel contained the fixed date of Messiah’s coming (Megillah 3a). Although this is merely a legendary account, it demonstrates that ancient Rabbis interpreted Dn 9:24–27 as of the Messiah. It seems that only tendentious interpretation, seeking to avoid the messianic understanding, explains it otherwise.

The starting point of the prophecy is from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. Some scholars who seek to minimize the messianic predictions of the OT maintain that the word "decree" is literally "word" and therefore refers to Jeremiah’s prophetic word (Jr 30:18–22; 31:38–40) issued in 587 BC about Jerusalem’s restoration (Pate and Haines, Doomsday Delusion, 72–73). This would see the fulfillment in 538 BC with Joshua the high priest under Zerubbabel. However, the Hebrew word for "decree" is debar, which means "a word" or "thing." In this context, it is used in the general sense of a word from a king, i.e., a decree, and in no way requires the interpretation of a "word" from the Lord or a prophet. Second, the passages cited from Jeremiah do not refer to the return from captivity but are eschatological, looking forward to the end-time restoration of Israel. Third, it is entirely arbitrary to choose 587 BC as the date that Jeremiah gave his oracle. In fact, even if Dn 9:25 referred to Jeremiah’s prophetic word, the dating in Jr 29:1–3 indicates that the year was 597 BC, making the proposed fulfillment ten years late. Finally, at the outset of this chapter, it is clear that Daniel does not have these verses from Jeremiah in view but rather, Jr 25:11–13; 29:10, which speak of a 70-year, not a 49-year captivity.

Among those who interpret this passage as referring to Messiah, some identify this with Cyrus’s decree allowing the captives to return (2Ch 36:22–23; Ezr 1:1–3) in 539/538 BC and interpret the 69 weeks of years symbolically. Thus, the period of time from the decree until the coming of the Messiah is merely described as a symbolic length of time. Three factors make this interpretation especially problematic. First, Cyrus’s decree was for the captives to return to the Holy Land from Persia, not for the restoration of Jerusalem. Second, Daniel understands Jeremiah’s prediction of the 70 years of captivity to be literal years and so calls into doubt treating these numbers symbolically. Third, there would be no significance to this prediction since any amount of time could be used to fulfill it.

Others suggest that the starting point is Artaxerxes’ first decree in 457 BC (Ezr 7:11–26) and calculate that the 69 weeks (483 years) were fulfilled at Jesus’ baptism, when He began His public ministry. However, this particular decree only provided a call for more exiles to return, the restoration of the temple’s utensils, and permission to appoint civil leaders (Ezk 7:11–26). It did include the most essential element mentioned here, namely, a decree for the restoration and rebuilding of Jerusalem.

The most likely starting point was Artaxerxes’ second decree in 444 BC, authorizing Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem (Neh 2:1–8). This decree fits the requirement of the prediction since it was indeed for the restoration of Jerusalem. Moreover, the restoration was carried out in times of distress just as Daniel predicted (v. 25) and Nehemiah described (Neh 4:1–6:14).

The calculation of the prophecy is as follows: There will be a period of seven weeks of years (49 years) followed by sixty-two weeks of years (434 years), making a total of 69 weeks of years or 483 years from the decree until the coming of Messiah the Prince. The seven-week period (49 years) most likely pertains to the time it actually took from the issuing of the decree until the restoration of Jerusalem. The total of 483 years (69 weeks) should be calculated as specific biblical/prophetic years of 360 days each. The starting point of the prophecy would have begun on Nisan 1 (March 5), 444 BC, followed by 69 weeks of 360 day years or 173,880 days, and culminated on Nisan 10 (March 30), AD 33, the date of Jesus the Messiah’s triumphal entry (Lk 19:28–40) (cf. Harold W. Hoehner, "Daniel’s Seventy Weeks and New Testament Chronology," in Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1977], 115–139).

Unit Professor Harold Hoehner's proposal Remarks
Years 444 B.C. to 33 A.D. = 476 years Since only 1 year expired between 1 B.C. and 1 A.D., the total is 476, not 477.
Days 476 years x 365 days = 173,740 days A total of 476 years divided by 4 (a leap year every four years) gives 119 additional days. But 3 days must be subtracted from 119 because centennial years are not leap years, though every 400th year is a leap year.
Add for leap years (476 x 1/4) - 3 = 116 days
Add for extra days 30 - 5 - 1 = 24 days 5th March to 30th March, both exclusive
Total 173,880 days The interval contained exactly and to the very day 173,880 days, or 69 x 7 prophetic years of 360 days, the sixty-nine "sevens" of Gabriel's prophecy.

Those who seek to reject the messianic interpretation deny that the seven weeks and the 62 weeks are consecutive, totaling 69 weeks of years. Rather, they maintain that a Hebrew disjunctive accent mark (called an athnach) requires the two periods to be concurrent. Then, they date the beginning of the 62 weeks in 605 BC and see its fulfillment 434 years (627) later in 171 BC when Onias III, the high priest was murdered (Pate and Haines, Doomsday Delusions, 73).

In response, it seems that they build far too much on an extremely small accent. First, the Hebrew accents were added quite late—AD 800–1000—and were not part of the inspired Hebrew text. Second, the ancient versions (LXX, Theodotion, Symmachus, the Peshitta, Syriac, Vulgate) do not reflect the disjunctive accent found in the Hebrew text but treat the seven- and 62-week periods as a single period of 69 weeks. Third, although the scribes who added the accents and vowels faithfully followed Jewish tradition, it is likely that in the Rabbinic and Church Fathers eras (second-third centuries AD), polemical interaction between Christians and Jews over the messiahship of Jesus led to the adaptation of the Jewish understanding of messianic texts such as this one. It is likely that, at that time, Jewish interpreters added the disjunctive accent to avoid the identification of Jesus as Messiah the Prince. Several centuries later, Jewish scribes, seeking to consolidate the Hebrew text, incorporated the accent as the tradition that they received into the Hebrew Bible as it stands now (Roger T. Beckwith, "Daniel 9 and the Date of Messiah’s Coming in Essene, Hellenistic, Pharisaic, Zealot and Early Christian Computation," Revue de Qumrani 10 [1979–81]: 541); Rydelnik, The Messianic Hope, 35–36). Thus, it is better to view, with all the ancient versions, the seven- and 62-week periods as one single 69-week period. The reason the 69 weeks were divided into two continuous periods was to recognize the purpose of the original decree (to restore and rebuild Jerusalem) and identify the completion of the rebuilding of Jerusalem at the end of the seven weeks of years.

9:26. The second feature of the prophecy is to predict several events that would follow the seven weeks and the sixty-two weeks (or the total of 69 weeks). First, the Messiah would be cut off, a prediction of the death of the Messiah. Thus, the book of Daniel, written in the sixth century BC, contains predictions not only of the precise date of the Messiah’s coming (9:25) but also of the Messiah’s death sometime before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. This was fulfilled when Jesus the Messiah was crucified in AD 33 (AD 30 according to some interpreters, a date, however, that does not easily fit the historical conditions at the time of Jesus’ death). Second, the people of the prince who is to come would destroy the city of Jerusalem and the second temple. The prince who is to come is distinct from Messiah the Prince but instead is a reference to the future ruler described as the little horn in Dn 7, also known as the beast or the antichrist. He, himself, will not be the one who destroys Jerusalem and the temple, but rather it is his people who will do it. Since previously Daniel (cf. 7:7–8) viewed this ruler as coming from the fourth major world power, or Rome, this prophecy predicts that the Romans would destroy Jerusalem, as they did in AD 70. Third, there appears to be a significant time gap from the end of the 69th week to the beginning of the 70th week, as is common in prophecy. The beginning of the 70th week is yet future.

9:27. The third part of the prophecy is the prediction of the final seven-year period, or the 70th week, which will begin when he (the coming prince or the antichrist) will make a firm covenant of peace with the many in the leadership of Israel. Although some consider this prince to be Christ, establishing the new covenant and ending the OT sacrificial system, it is inconceivable that Messiah would be the one who would commit the abomination of desolation. Therefore, he is more accurately identified as the antichrist, who will desecrate the future temple and stop worship in it. This covenant is yet future and will mark the beginning of a time of oppression of the Jewish people called "the time of Jacob’s distress" (Jr 30:7) or the tribulation period (Mt 24:29; Mk 13:24). In the middle of the week, or after the first three and one-half years, the antichrist will break his covenant with Israel, leading to a time of unprecedented persecution of the Jewish people (Mt 24:21; Mk 13:19) as well as followers of Jesus (Rv 7:14) that will last for another three and one-half years (Dn 7:25; Rv 11:2–3; 12:14; 13:5).

When the antichrist breaks his covenant, he will also put a stop to sacrifice in the yet-to-be rebuilt temple (Dn 7:25). In desecrating the temple and declaring himself to be God (2Th 2:4; Rv 13:5–7), he is said to be one who comes on the wing of abominations and makes desolate (or as the one who commits "the abomination of desolation" (see the comments on Mt 24:15 for evidence supporting the as-yet future fulfillment of the abomination, and the unlikely fulfillment either under Antiochus or in 70 AD). The Antichrist’s oppression and abominations will continue until God’s decree of a complete destructionis poured out on the one who makes desolate (11:45; Rv 19:20).

A few evangelicals have identified the coming Prince, not as the antichrist but Antiochus Epiphanes, leaving open the possibility that there would be multiple fulfillments of the same prediction, including Titus in AD 70 and the future antichrist (Pate and Haines, Doomsday Delusion, 74–75). However, this contradicts a basic interpretive rule that any biblical text has only one intended meaning. Second, when Jesus spoke of "the abomination of desolation" after the time of Antiochus, he viewed it as yet future (Mt 24:15). Finally, although Antiochus did indeed desecrate the second temple as a prefiguration of the future antichrist (Dn 11:31), in this verse it speaks of a desecration after the destruction of the second temple (9:26). Therefore, this indicates that the one who makes desolate will do so in a yet future temple, not the one that Antiochus defiled and Titus destroyed. Finally, the figure here is linked to the little horn of chap. 7. In Dn 9:27, this one who makes desolate breaks his covenant in the middle of the 70th week, leading to three and one-half years before the decreed final judgment is poured out on him. In Dn 7:25, the little horn carries out his oppression of Israel for three and one-half years. Significantly, after the judgment of the little horn, his dominion will be destroyed (7:26) and replaced by the messianic kingdom (7:27), an event not yet fulfilled in the defeats of Antiochus or Titus. Thus, identifying the one who makes desolate with Antiochus does not fit the context and literary evidence of the book of Daniel.

Daniel’s concern at the outset of the chapter was God’s restoration of the people of Israel to the land of Israel after 70 years of captivity. But God’s concern was not with the past or present but with the future. Therefore, he sent an angel with a message about His prophetic program for Israel, including the Messiah’s advent, death, return, and the restoration of Israel. Much like Daniel, followers of Messiah can become frustrated at the decay, desecration and corruption of contemporary society and long for God to take action immediately. Nevertheless, those who have trusted in Jesus can be encouraged that God has the big picture in view and that He will certainly fulfill His prophetic calendar and establish His kingdom on earth.

C. Daniel and His Final Vision (10:1–12:13)

The last three chapters of Daniel form a single unit, containing Daniel’s final vision. Daniel 10:1–11:1 contains the description of Daniel’s reception of the vision, 11:2–12:3 includes the angel’s explanation of the vision, and 12:4–13 marks the angel’s final instructions to Daniel regarding his prophecies. The entire three-chapter section was designed to give the faithful remnant of Israel hope and confidence during the times of the Gentiles.

1. Daniel’s Reception of the Vision (10:1–11:1)

Daniel 10 functions as a prologue to the detailed vision explained in the next chapter. Although merely an introduction, it contains "important facts relative to angels and demons and their respective interests in the people and work of God" (Wood, Daniel, 264).

a. The Setting of the Vision (10:1–3)

10:1. Daniel received this vision in the third year of Cyrus, which was in 536 BC. Assuming Daniel was about 15 when taken captive (605 BC) he was approximately 84 years old at the time of this vision. The vision was about a great conflict in the future, described in Dn 11:2–12:3.

10:2. Possibly, Daniel had been mourning because of the poor conditions of the returned captives. The Samaritans were opposing reconstruction of the temple and the work had been stopped (Ezr 4:5, 24). Daniel’s mourning period was for three entire weeks. The Hebrew text contains the words "weeks of days" to distinguish it from the weeks of years in the paragraph immediately preceding this one (9:24–27).

10:3. Daniel engaged in a partial fast, rejecting tasty (or rich) food such as meat or wine, recalling his decision as young man not to eat from the king’s table (1:8–16). At this time, it was not because the food had been offered to the gods but as a spiritual discipline to intensify his prayers.

b. The Messenger of the Vision (10:4–9)

10:4. Daniel was by the bank of the great riverthe Tigris, some 20 miles from Babylon when he received the heavenly messenger. At his advanced age of 84, Daniel had not made the difficult and demanding journey to Israel with the other Jewish returnees but instead remained in government service in Babylon.

10:5–6. Daniel saw an angel in the form of a certain man with a glorious appearance. This was not the pre-incarnate Messiah (despite his similarity with Christ’s appearance in Rv 1:12–16) because the Messiah would not need help from the angel Michael, as this angel did.

10:7–9. The Hebrew for I, Daniel, alone saw the vision is emphatic: "I saw, I, Daniel, I alone." His companions sensed a powerful and terrifying presence but saw nothing, so they ran and hid (cf. Ac 9:3–7).

c. The Hindrances to the Vision (10:10–13)

10:10–13. As the vision came to Daniel, he was weakened and fell into a deep sleep (10:9). Therefore, the angel strengthened and informed Daniel that God had heard him from the first day of the three weeks of prayer and had immediately sent the angel to answer him. Some interpreters have identified the angel as Gabriel, an unlikely conclusion since the text does not identify him as such. The angel had only arrived after twenty-one days because the prince of the kingdom of Persia had withstood him. The Persian prince had to be supernatural to oppose this angel and evil to oppose God’s purposes. Therefore, he was a demonic spirit seeking to influence Persia’s political affairs and oppose God’s purposes. Other biblical passages also teach of unseen spiritual forces influencing principalities and world powers (Ezk 28:11–19; 2Co 10:3–4; Eph 6:12). The angel was able to prevail over the demon associated with Persia only when the angel Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help him. Michael (whose name means "who is like God?") is the guardian angel of Israel (cf. Dn 10:21; 12:1; Rv 12:7) and designated an archangel in the NT (Jd 9).

d. The Purposes of the Angelic Visit (10:14–11:1)

10:14. The angel revealed that the first purpose of the vision was to reveal what would happen to Israel in the latter days. Although many of the predictions in Dn 11 pertain to events in the intertestamental period, they shift dramatically (11:36–12:3) to events related to the return of Christ. Even those fulfilled earlier, such as the abominations of Antiochus IV, have a deliberate typological significance to point to the last days.

10:15–19. The angel’s second purpose in coming was to strengthen Daniel. Although Daniel was in anguish because of the vision and without strength, twice the angel strengthened him, first by his touch (10:18) and second with his words of encouragement (10:19).

10:20–21. As the angel prepared once again to fight against the prince of Persia, he informed Daniel that afterward he would also take up the battle against the prince of Greece, the demonic power seeking to control the Greek Empire and oppose God’s purposes for that nation and Israel. This is an allusion to the prediction that Greece would follow Persia as the next major world power (8:4–8, 20–22). The angel’s third and final purpose was to reveal what is inscribed in the writing of truth, a reference not to a particular earthly book but rather to God’s heavenly decrees regarding the future of the nations of the world.

11:1. Although the linen-clothed angel visited Daniel "in the third year of Cyrus king of Persia" (10:1), he revealed to Daniel that he had arisen as an encouragement and a protection for Michael in the first year of Darius the Mede. Whether Darius the Mede is used as the alternate name for Cyrus or as the title of Gubaru (see the discussion at 5:31), the angel’s point was that he had begun his work of encouragement and protection of Michael not when he brought word of the vision but two years earlier, in the year Cyrus began his reign (539 BC). God is concerned for and active in the political affairs of humanity and in the protection of the Jewish people.

2. The Angel’s Explanation of the Vision of Persia, Greece, and the False Messiah (11:2–12:3)

Daniel 11 contains some of the most precise predictions in the entire Bible, so much so that it has led many scholars to claim that it was written as a pseudo-prophecy after the events actually took place. But if God is omniscient, knowing the end from the beginning (Is 46:10), and capable of foretelling future events, then there is no problem with predictive prophecy. The first part of the chapter predicts events in political history from Daniel’s time (536 BC) until the Maccabean period (164 BC) (11:2–35). The second section of the vision contains end-time predictions of the antichrist, the tribulation, and the resurrection of humanity (11:36–12:3).

a. The Predictions of the Persian to the Maccabean Periods (11:2–35)

(1) The Predictions about the Persian Kings (11:2)

11:2. The angel predicted that there would be three more kingsin Persia, namely Cambyses (530–522 BC), Pseudo-Smerdis (522 BC), and Darius I Hystaspes (522–486 BC). Xerxes I would be the fourth king with far more riches than the others.

(2) The Predictions about Alexander the Great (11:3–4)

11:3–4. The mighty king predicted was Alexander the Great (336–323 BC) and, as prophesied, his kingdom was parceled out toward the four points of the compass, referring to the division of his empire between his four generals, rather than his own descendants (cf. comments on Dn 8:8).

(3) The Predictions of the Hellenistic Period (11:5–35)

These verses contain predictions covering approximately 160 years, from 323 BC to 164 BC. The predictions are limited to the Ptolemaic and the Seleucid Hellenistic kingdoms rather than all four divisions of Alexander’s empire, because these two alone relate to Israel (10:14).

(a) The Period of the First Seleucids and Ptolemies (11:5–6)

11:5. The king of the South is Ptolemy I Soter (323–285 BC) of Egypt, who was outstripped by one of his princes, Seleucus I Nicator (311–280 BC). Seleucus I had abandoned Ptolemy I to become ruler of Babylonia, Media, and Syria, and establish the Seleucid kingdom, which surpassed in greatness that of Ptolemy’s Egypt.

11:6. Tensions between the Ptolemaic and Seleucid kingdoms would continue. The king of the South, Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285–246 BC) would make an alliance with the king of the North, Antiochus II Theos (261–246 BC), sealing the arrangement by giving his daughter, the Ptolemaic princess Berenice, to marry Antiochus. Yet the agreement would not continue nor would Berenice retain her position of power, as Antiochus’s former wife Laodice would murder Antiochus, Berenice, and their child.

(b) The Period of Ptolemy III (11:7–9)

11:7–9. One of Berenice’s family members (lit., "a shoot from her roots"), her brother Ptolemy III Euergetes (246–221 BC) would avenge her murder by storming Antioch, the fortress of the king of the North, Seleucus II Callinicus (246–226 BC), and killing Laodice. Ptolemy III would even seize Seleucid gods and valuables and bring them back to Egypt.

(c) The Period of Antiochus III (11:10–19)

11:10. The sons of Seleucus II, Seleucus III Ceraunus (226–223 BC) and Antiochus III (223–187 BC) would wage war up to the Ptolemaic fortress Raphia in southern Israel.

11:11–12. The king of the South, Ptolemy IV Philopator (221–203 BC) of Egypt would counter-attack the king of the North, Antiochus III (219–218 BC). Although both would command large armies, the result would be a great victory for the Ptolemies. As a result of his success, Ptolemy IV’s heart would become lifted up (arrogant) and slaughter tens of thousands of Seleucid troops. Nevertheless, he would not be able to maintain his dominance over the Seleucid kingdom.

11:13–15. Fifteen years later, the king of the North, Antiochus III, would raise an even greater army and attack the Ptolemies in Phoenicia and Israel. Antiochus III would receive support from Jewish rebels (here called violent ones among your people) and some Ptolemies against the king of the South, Ptolemy V Epiphanes (203–181 BC). Antiochus III’s forces would win a resounding victory, even capturing the well-fortified city of Sidon (199–198 BC).

11:16–17. Antiochus III would make the Beautiful Land of Israel a possession of the Seleucid kingdom in 198 BC and force a peace agreement on the Ptolemies. Antiochus III would give his daughter Cleopatra to Ptolemy V as a wife, hoping to control the Ptolemaic kingdom through her. This failed because Cleopatra helped her Ptolemaic husband and did not take a stand with or support her father, Antiochus III.

11:18–19. Antiochus III would then turn his face to the coastlands around the Mediterranean Sea but would be defeated by the Roman commander Lucius Cornelius Scipio at Thermopylae (191 BC) and then Magnesia (190 BC). This would force Antiochus to focus on his own country where he would stumble and fall and be found no more. Antiochus tried to pillage the temple of Zeus in Elymais and was killed by a mob that was defending the temple.

(d) The Period of Seleucus IV (11:20)

11:20. The king who would arise in his place was Seleucus IV Philopator (187–175 BC) who would send an oppressor, his tax collector Heliodorus to the temple in Jerusalem (the Jewel of his kingdom), to collect money with which to pay the heavy indemnity he owed to Rome. After his short reign, Seleucus IV was killed not in anger nor in battle but by poison from his tax collector.

(e) The Period of Antiochus IV (11:21–35)

This longer section predicted the rise and reign of the despicable king Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175–163 BC), who was previously predicted as the little horn in 8:9–12, 23–25 (cf. the comments there). He is emphasized in this section for two reasons: First, he would have a terrible and oppressive effect on the Jewish people. Second, his reign is designed as a pattern of the future world ruler who would also oppress the Jewish people, namely, the antichrist.

11:21. Antiochus IV was not directly in line to be king but would nevertheless seize the kingdom by intrigue, while the rightful heir, Demetrius, was held in Rome. The prediction called him a despicable person because of his hatred of the Jewish people, his attempt to destroy Judaism, his desecration of the temple, and megalomania, calling himself by the divine title Epiphanes (Manifest One, Illustrious One). People of that time also called him Epimanes (madman).

11:22. Despite Ptolemy VI Philometor (181–146 BC) attacking with overflowing forces, Antiochus IV would be able to defeat them and also to depose the prince of the covenant, the Jewish high priest Onias III.

11:23–24. Antiochus IV would gain power by sharing the wealth of his conquests, distributing plunder, booty and possessions to his followers.

11:25–26. Referring back to the war with Ptolemy VI (11:22), the vision predicted that not only would the power of Antiochus IV defeat Ptolemy VI, but also that schemesagainst him (Ptolemy VI) by his own followers would cause his army to be destroyed.

11:27–28. After the defeat of Ptolemy VI, Ptolemy VII took control of Egypt. Then, both kings, Antiochus IV and Ptolemy VI, would meet and speak lies to each other at the same table, to plot Ptolemy VI’s restoration to the throne. After initial limited success, in the end, they would fail. Then, Antiochus IV, having plundered Egypt, would return to his land, with his heartset against the holy covenant. En route home, he would attack Israel, kill 80,000 Jewish men, women, and children, and plunder the holy temple (169 BC).

11:29–30. Antiochus IV would launch another attack against Egypt but this time, ships of Kittim (cf. Nm 24:24), the Roman fleet led by Gaius Popilius Laenas, would force him to withdraw in humiliation.

11:31–32. Antiochus IV would once again attack Israel (167 BC) while returning to Syria, this time desecrating the sanctuary in Jerusalem. Antiochus would prefigure the future antichrist’s actions (9:27; 12:11) by doing away with the regular sacrifice and committing the abomination of desolation, dedicating the holy temple to Zeus and offering a pig on its altar. In response, the people who know their God will display strength and take action, a prediction of the Maccabean revolt (cf. comments on 8:13–14).

11:33–35. The Maccabees would experience suffering in their battle with Antiochus—some would die by sword and by flame, while others would experience captivity and plunder (cf. Heb 11:35–38). The phrase the end time literally reads "time of the end" and refers to the end of Antiochus’s oppression of the Jewish people, not to the end of days. At that time, the Maccabees would defeat Antiochus, rededicate the holy temple in Jerusalem, and establish the festival of Chanukah (Dedication), which the Lord Jesus celebrated (Jn 10:22) and Jewish people still observe today.

b. The Predictions of the End of Days (11:36–45)

At this point, the predictions shift away from Antiochus IV and begin to focus on the end of days. The king now in view (11:36–45) is the future antichrist, already identified as the little horn (cf. 7:8, 20) and "the prince who is to come" (9:26). Since there is no clear-cut change in 11:36, some have seen this as a continuation of the description of Antiochus. There are several reasons to see a different, end-times king in view here. First, the actions predicted of this king cannot be attributed historically to Antiochus IV. There is no evidence that Antiochus exalted and magnified "himself above every god" (v. 36), or that he showed "no regard for the gods of his fathers" (v. 37), or honored "a god whom his fathers did not know" (v. 38). Antiochus minted coins with the inscription, "King Antiochus, God Manifest" and with an image of Zeus or Apollo on the reverse side. Additionally, Antiochus was generally devoted to the Greek gods, and he specifically erected a statue of Zeus and required sacrifices to be made to it. He also advocated the worship of Dionysius in Jerusalem (2 Macc 6:7). Second, Antiochus IV is considered a king of the North (11:26–28), but the king in view here will be opposed both by a king of the North and South (11:40). Third, the author has already established a clear cut type/antitype relationship between Antiochus and the antichrist, calling them both "little horns" in adjoining visions. (In Dn 7 the little horn is the antichrist, and in Dn 8 the little horn is Antiochus IV—see notes on 8:17–22 and the chart on Antiochus IV on p. 1302; see also Andrew E. Steinmann, "Is the Antichrist in Daniel 11?" BibSac 162 [April–June 2005], 195–209.)

11:36–39. This is a description of the future antichrist. He will be authoritarian (he will do as he pleases), self-exalting (he will exalt and magnify himself), blasphemous (he will speak monstrous things against the God of gods), temporarily successful (he will prosper until the indignation is finished), irreligious (he will show no regard for the gods of his fathers), opposed to Christ (will show no regard for the desire of women, a reference the longing of Jewish women to give birth to the Messiah), warlike (he will honor a god of fortresses), and manipulative (he will give great honor to those who acknowledge himparcel[ing] out land for a price, lit., "as a reward").

11:40–44. During the great tribulation, the antichrist will engage in world war. Attacked in a pincer movement from both the North and the South, he will still be successful, entering countries and conquering them. He will also enter Israel, the Beautiful Land, ignoring some nations that are in alliance with him but conquering others, including Egypt, Libya, and Sudan (NASB Ethiopians but literally "Cushites" referring to Sudan). Rumors of nations from the East and from the North coming to attack will both disturb and infuriate him, leading him to pursue a course of genocidal war against his enemies, especially many of the Jewish people (cf. Zch 13:8–9).

11:45. The antichrist will establish his military capital in Israel, pitching the tents of his royal pavilion between the Mediterranean Sea and the city of Jerusalem, situated on the beautiful Holy Mountain. There the nations of the earth will gather (Zch 14:2) at Mount Megiddo to begin the campaign of Armageddon (Rv 16:13–16). At that time, when the nation of Israel calls on the Messiah Jesus, He will return (Mt 23:37–39) to deliver them, and the antichrist will come to his end, and no one will help him.

c. The Comfort of the Chosen People (12:1–3)

12:1. At that time refers to the events predicted in the previous paragraph (11:36–45), which details the antichrist’s furious attempt "to destroy and annihilate" the Jewish people (11:44). Then, the archangel Michaelwho stands guard over the Jewish people, will arise to their defense (cf. comments on 10:12–13; Rv 12:7). This will be necessary because the great tribulation (the second half of Daniel’s 70th week, Dn 9:27) will be a time of unprecedented distresssince there was a nation. Messiah Jesus Himself alluded to 12:1 when He said, "For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will" (Mt 24:21; see the comments there). Despite the horrific nature of the persecution of Israel, the result will be that the surviving remnant of the Jewish nation will turn in faith to their Messiah Jesus (Zch 12:10; Rm 11:25–27) and He will deliver them. These Jewish people who will be rescued are called those found written in the book, a reference to the heavenly book of life in which the names of the elect are listed (Ps 69:28; Php 4:3; Rv 13:8, 17:8, 20:15). This metaphor is derived from the ancient practice of keeping books with the names of a town’s citizens written in them.

12:2. Following Israel’s deliverance, there will be a resurrection of those who sleep in the dust, sleep being used as a metaphor for death. This verse does not imply any kind of soul sleep before the resurrection since the faithful go to be with God instantly upon dying (2Co 5:8; Php 1:21–23) and the faithless go to a place of suffering also immediately upon dying (Lk 16:22–23). The word sleep is used as a metaphor to emphasize the temporary state of death before being physically awakened at the resurrection (cf. Jn 11:11–15). All the dead will be raised, some to everlasting life and others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. Although telescoped together here (as is common in prophecy), the resurrection of the faithful and the unfaithful will be separated by the 1,000-year messianic kingdom (see the comments on Rv 20:4–6). Daniel 12:2 contains the clearest statement of resurrection in the OT, but by no means is it the only one (cf. Jb 19:25–27; Is 26:19).

12:3. Those who have insight refers to those with the wisdom to turn in faith to the Messiah Jesus and as a result, they will leadmany others to faith and thereby to righteousness.

3. The Angel’s Final Instructions to Daniel Concerning His Prophecies (12:4–13)

This last section of Daniel’s final vision functions as a conclusion to the vision and the entire book. Here the interpreting angel gave Daniel final directions for his book.

a. The Sealing of the Book (12:4)

12:4. Although it is possible that Daniel was told to conceal these words of the vision, a better rendering of the Hebrew is to "close up the words" and seal up the book, a reference to preservation of the text of Daniel until the end of time (or better, "the time of the end"). Preserving Daniel’s prophecy was necessary because in the end of days, many will go back and forth, not a reference to air travel but to seeking for answers that will be found in the book of Daniel. Moreover, in that day, knowledge will increase, not referring to the growth of general knowledge or science in the last days, but to understanding of Daniel’s prophecies, as the fulfillments of his predictions are recognized.

b. The Time of the End (12:5–13)

12:5–7. Daniel saw two others, meaning angels, who served as witnesses for the oath of the linen-dressed angel (10:5), two being the minimum number of witnesses necessary for an oath (Dt 19:15). One of the witnessing angels asked how long will it be until the end of the predicted time of distress. The angel dressed in linen answered that the time of the great tribulation (the second half of Daniel’s 70th week) would be for a time, times, and half a time, or three and one-half years (Dn 7:25; Rv 12:7). By the end of the great tribulation, the power of the holy people Israel would be shattered, causing them to turn in faith to their long-rejected Messiah, Jesus (Zch 12:10). At that time, He will return and deliver them (Zch 14:1–21) and all these events will be completed.

12:8–10. Daniel’s statement that he heard but could not understand was not that he did not comprehend that his prophecy was about the end of days but rather he did not understand how these events would precisely happen. Daniel was told to go on his way and not worry about these matters because these words are concealed (or better, "closed") and sealed up until the end time (or better, "the time of the end"). This means that they would not be fully recognized until their fulfillment at the end of days. At that time, the wicked will fail to understand their situation, but those have insight will understand the fulfillment of Daniel’s words and turn in faith to the God of Israel and His Messiah Jesus. They will receive this insight as a result of the Holy Spirit sovereignly drawing them.

12:11–12. Two periods of time were revealed to Daniel. First, from the middle of the tribulation when the antichrist stops regular sacrifice and commits the abomination of desolation until the end, there will be 1,290 days. The great tribulation is said to be three and one-half years (12:7) or 1,260 days (Rv 12:6; 13:5). Here it is 30 days longer, probably to include time for the judgment of the nations (Mt 25:31–46). Second, a blessing awaits he whoattains to the 1,335 days, a period that includes not only the 30 days for judging the nations but an additional 45 days, perhaps to establish the government of the messianic kingdom. Those who enter that kingdom are said to be blessed because they will be part of the most glorious world, governed by its greatest king, the Lord Jesus Himself (Archer, "Daniel," 156–157).

12:13. The angel told Daniel that he was to go his way, a phrase used in 12:9, meaning to continue in unconcerned fashion, to the end of his life, at which point he would rest, a euphemism used for death. Yet, he was given the hope that he too would rise from the dead at the end of the age (12:2).

Thus, the book of Daniel ends with the hope that the times of the Gentiles will not be forever and Israel will not be eternally oppressed. Rather, its message is that God is in control of all time and will place His King on the eternal throne. All readers of this book, from Daniel’s day until the present, if they have trusted in God’s Messiah, Jesus, have ultimate and eternal hope. The content of that hope is that God is still the Sovereign of the universe and He will surely establish His righteous rule over the world through His divine messianic King, Jesus.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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Culver, Robert Duncan. The Earthly Reign of Our Lord with His People, 4th edition. Rushford, MN: Vinegar Hill Press, 1999.

Feinberg, Paul D. "An Exegetical and Theological Study of Daniel 9:24–27." In Tradition and Testament, edited by John S. Feinberg and Paul D. Feinberg, 189–220. Chicago: Moody, 1981.

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Miller, Stephen R. Daniel. New American Commentary, edited by E. Ray Clendenen. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2003.

Shepherd, Michael B. Daniel in the Context of the Hebrew Bible. New York: Peter Lang, 2009.

Steinmann, Andrew E. "Is the Antichrist in Daniel 11?" Bibliotheca Sacra, 162:646 (April–June 2005), 195–209.

Tanner, J. Paul. "The Literary Structure of the Book of Daniel." Bibliotheca Sacra, 160:639 (July–Sept 2003), 269–82.

———. "Is Daniel’s Seventy-Weeks Prophecy Messianic? Part 1." Bibliotheca Sacra, 166:662 (April–June 2009), 181–200.

———. "Is Daniel’s Seventy-Weeks Prophecy Messianic? Part 2." Bibliotheca Sacra, 166:663 (July–Sept 2009), 319–35.

Wallace, Ronald S. The Message of Daniel: The Lord is King. The Bible Speaks Today, edited by J. A. Motyer. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1979.

Waltke, Bruce. "The Date of the Book of Daniel." Bibliotheca Sacra, 133 (Oct-Dec 1976): 319–29.

Walvoord, John F. Daniel. The John Walvoord Prophecy Commentaries, edited by Charles H. Dyer and Philip E. Rawley. Chicago: Moody, 2012.

Wood, Leon. A Commentary on Daniel. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1973.

Young, E. J. The Prophecy of Daniel. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1949.

 

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