Notes on Daniel
Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 15 February 2010; Revised 30 October 2015
Scripture: Unless otherwise indicated Scripture quotations are taken from the NASB Updated Edition (1995). The text for this chapter may be found here. Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. Most versions can be accessed on the Internet.
Sources: Bibliographic data for sources cited may be found at the end of the article. The Septuagint (LXX) is the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, which was in use by Jews by the mid-2nd century BC. The LXX with English translation may be found here. Citations for Talmud tractates are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); found at Halakhah.com.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Hebraic and Jewish nature of Scripture I use the terms Tanakh (Old Testament) and Besekh (New Testament), as well as the terms Yeshua (Jesus) and Messiah (Christ).
Vocabulary: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB."
Please see the Introduction for background information on the book of Daniel, interpretative approaches and historical context.
Daniel's last recorded vision begins here in chapter ten and concludes in chapter twelve. This unit reveals the broad sweep of history from the beginning of the Persian Empire to the final consummation of history and the resurrection. The first part of the unit, 10:1―11:1, contains preparation for the vision, then the vision is given in 11:2―12:3 and final instructions are given in 12:4-13 (Miller).
1― Daniel's final revelation occurs in the third year of Cyrus, two years after the vision of chapter nine. As stated in previous chapters concerning dating the reigns of kings the "third year" may not include the accession year. The transition of third person in the first verse to the first person in the second verse may indicate the work of a trusted scribe who recorded the visions as Daniel dictated, much as Baruch served Jeremiah. This verse has perplexed scholars since Daniel 1:21 states, "And Daniel continued until the first year of Cyrus the king." Some have supposed that Daniel died in that year, but that is argument from silence, since there is no mention of his death anywhere in the book. Assuming that Cyrus and Darius are titles for the same person, the first year of Cyrus was an eventful year. The Jews were given permission to return to Jerusalem, but Daniel elected to stay in Babylon. That year Daniel had the trial of the lion's den and it may be that by the end of that year Daniel had retired from government service. The name Belteshazzar assures the reader that this is the same Daniel as introduced in the first chapter. He was now about 85.
Daniel received a message, Heb. davar, which lit. means "speech or word" from the Lord that portended great conflict
2―3 Daniel tells the reader that in the third year of Cyrus he had been mourning, Heb. aval, to mourn or lament (BDB 5). The word normally occurs in the context of mourning over death or some calamity, although it does occur in reference to mourning over sin. The only required fast day in the Torah is the Day of Atonement (Lev 16:29). During the captivity the Jews observed four additional fast days in commemoration of the various sad events that had befallen the nation during that period (Zech 7:3-5; 8:19). These were the fast of the fourth month (Tammuz), of the fifth month (Av), of the seventh month (Tishri), and of the tenth month (Ṭevet). The Book of Esther records an additional fast (9:31) when the nation was threatened once again with extinction. The context implies that the three-week fast preceded the revelation on the 24th of the first month related in verse 4.
Daniel does not explain why he was fasting, although Miller suggests that Daniel was mourning over the condition of the Jews who had returned to their homeland. Perhaps he had heard of the halting of all construction on the temple in Jerusalem (cf. Ezra 4:5, 24) and was dismayed at this development (Archer). The reason seems to be alluded to in verses 12-14, which implies that his concern was the future of his people. The month of Nisan with its emphasis on Passover brought the matter into sharp focus. Passover recalled the great deliverance from Egypt and the Jews are in captivity yet again. The revelation of chapter nine portended more suffering for the Jewish people that Daniel knew he wouldn't live to see. So perhaps his mourning was grieving in advance combined with intercession that God would have mercy.
Daniel did not engage in a complete fast from food or drink. He specifies that he fasted from what made life pleasant, which is customary for Jews mourning the death of a family member. Tasty food (Heb. chemdah lechem) would be lit. "delightful bread," probably referring to bread with yeast, so he could have in effect began the Feast of Unleavened Bread early. He also abstained from meat, Heb. basar, lit. "flesh," whether of men or animals (BDB 142). Daniel probably meant that he abstained from eating lamb for Passover which became customary in the captivity because of the lack of a temple for sacrifice. (Ashkenazi Jews still do not eat lamb for Passover.) However, he extended the avoidance for the whole period. He could have eaten fish or fowl, so he did not necessarily just subsist on bread and water as Miller suggests.
Wine, Heb. yayin (occurring 138 times in the Tanakh), was a common drink for refreshment, for celebration and for religious offerings (BDB 406). Daniel was not a teetotaller. There is no Scriptural prohibition of drinking wine, or any alcoholic beverage for that matter, although there are prohibitions of drunkenness and carousing. While not originally included in the institution of Passover wine became a staple part of the meal with four cups (diluted with four parts water) during the Seder. Refraining from wine for his three-week fast was a significant act of self-denial for Daniel. Lastly, he refrained from anointing himself with ointment. Ancient peoples, including Jews, commonly used oil to soothe the skin and to protect against the heat (Miller).
4― Daniel gives a precise date for the vision, the twenty-fourth day of the first month. The first month of the Hebrew calendar was originally called Aviv (Ex 13:4), but during the exile the Jews adopted the Babylonian names for months. The Babylonian calendar began in the Spring and Nisan coincided with Aviv. If Daniel means Nisan here, then his three-week fast lasted through the entirety of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which began with Pesach (Passover) on 14 Nisan and ended on 21 Nisan. He was now within the period of Sefirat HaíOmer (Counting the Omer), which began on the first day following the Sabbath after Pesach and lasting 50 days. Without knowing the complete calendar of this year it is impossible to determine how far into Counting the Omer Daniel was.
The place of revelation is identified as at or near the Tigris River, which means he was away from the Persian capital of Babylon. The Tigris is about 1163.2 miles long and originates in the Turkish highlands. The river forms the northern border of Syria and travels into Iraq where it roughly parallels that of the Euphrates River. After the rivers enter Iraq they are never more than 100 miles apart. The Tigris and Euphrates join as one river in southeastern Iraq before emptying into the Persian Gulf.
5―6 Man is Heb. ish , which is used in the Tanakh for "man" or "husband" (BDB 35). In 8:15 Daniel had used the word geber to describe "the man" who visited him then and who turned out to be Gabriel. There are striking similarities between this "man in linen" and the description of a theophany in Ezekiel and Revelation:
"Now above the expanse that was over their heads there was something resembling a throne, like lapis lazuli in appearance; and on that which resembled a throne, high up, was a figure with the appearance of a man. Then I noticed from the appearance of His loins and upward something like glowing metal that looked like fire all around within it, and from the appearance of His loins and downward I saw something like fire; and there was a radiance around Him. As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face and heard a voice speaking." (Ezek 1:26-28)
"and in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash. His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire. His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters." (Rev 1:13-15)
Because of features common in all three accounts some commentators believe this heavenly messenger to be a pre-incarnate appearance of the Son of God (so Miller & Morris). They further insert an interpreting angel for the revelation commencing in verse 11. However, there are three points against this interpretation. First, in 9:21 Gabriel is called ish as is used of the "man in linen" here. Second, if there is an interpreting angel, then the transition takes place in verse 16. The references of his words (verse 9) and He said (verse 11) must grammatically find their antecedent in the man of verse 5. Third, as Archer and Sevener point out, this visitor has limitations and must be an angel. Could the demonic forces of Persia have resisted God for one minute, let alone twenty-one days (verse 13)? It's not possible. Revelation also records an angel with similar features as this messenger:
"Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven. He was robed in a cloud, with a rainbow above his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs were like fiery pillars. He was holding a little scroll, which lay open in his hand. He planted his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, and he gave a loud shout like the roar of a lion. When he shouted, the voices of the seven thunders spoke." (Rev 10:1-3 NIV)
Sevener believes the angel to be a guardian cherub (Heb. kerub), although there is no mention of this angel having wings (cf. Ex 25:20). Archer notes the commonality this messenger had with other descriptions of angels clothed in bright apparel (Judg 13:6; Luke 24:4; Acts 1:10). It is more likely that this messenger could be one of the archangels or represents another special class of angels. I think pre-incarnate visitations of the Son of God should be limited to those identified as either "YHVH," such as the man who visited Abraham (Gen 18:1), or the "angel of YHVH," such as the one who met with Hagar (Gen 16:7) and later with Abraham (Gen 22:11, 15).
Miller cites several commentators who believe this angel to be Gabriel since he had appeared previously to Daniel in 8:16 and 9:21. The key difference between Michael and Gabriel that may be noted from the various passages where their names are found is that while both are very powerful Michael is principally a guardian of Israel (10:13, 21; Jude 1:9; Rev 12:7) and Gabriel is a messenger to Israel (8:19; cf. Luke 1:19, 26). Considering the description here and the narrative of Chapter Twelve my guess is that this "man dressed in linen" is the strong angel of Revelation 10, who could indeed be Gabriel. It could be that the glorious appearance is what this archangel really looks like, but he can "turn off" the glory and appear more earthly human.
7― While Daniel's companions did not see what he saw, they felt an abnormal fear and fled.
8― no strength was left in me: Daniel experienced physical weakness at seeing extraordinary visions (7:28; 8:27), and upon first meeting Gabriel (8:15-18). The second time he met Gabriel there was no fainting spell.
9― However, this time Gabriel revealed his full glory and Daniel fell into a deep sleep or coma, much as John did upon his encounter with the glorified Messiah (Rev 1:17).
10― Then behold, a hand touched me: Some commentators suppose the hand was the hand of God, but the "man in linen" had arms which implies he had hands at the end of them. He touched Daniel and as God's emissary it would be as if Daniel were touched by God. Gabriel not only touched him but helped him to stand. There is a powerful spiritual lesson in that simple physical assistance.
11― High esteem (Heb. chemdah, "desire, delight," BDB 326) does not refer to Daniel's sense of self-worth, but God's opinion of Daniel. Oh, to be highly esteemed by God. The angel informs Daniel of his heavenly mission and encourages him to understand (Heb. bin, to discern, perceive, know, observe, BDB 106) the words (Heb. dabar, speech or word, BDB 182), meaning the revelation that will be given and stand up straight. The messenger has been sent, (Heb. shalach) with a commission, another confirmation that this person is not God. At this point the messenger endeavors to assure Daniel that everything will be all right. All he needs to do is listen. However, even in standing Daniel's body was still quaking from shock.
12― As in chapter nine where Daniel was assured that God's answer via an emissary was dispatched as soon as Daniel started praying (9:23), so Gabriel gives a similar report. Note the angel says your God (Elohim), not "Me." God hears our words and cares. When we pray the answer is on the way!
13― The enemy did not want Daniel to receive the revelation from God, the entire time of Daniel's fast. The prince (Heb. sar; see comment on 8:25; 9:6) of Persia alludes to an organization under Satan's leadership, such as Paul describes in Ephesians 6:12. The "prince of the Persian kingdom" who resisted God's messenger probably refers to a powerful evil spirit who influenced the affairs of the Persian government. The reference to the prince would not just mean the individual being, but his entire organization. Michael (Heb. Mikha'el, "who is like God?") is described as one of the chief princes. "Chief," Heb rishon, may mean former, first or chief (BDB 911). In Jude 9 he is called an archangel. It could be that Michael was one of the first angelic beings created and from the beginning was the guardian of the Messianic line, which later extended to the nation of Israel. Michael was apparently sent because Daniel's intercession directly concerned Israel (Miller).
The text suggests that the angelic prince of Persia was stronger than Gabriel, who needed the aid of Michael to complete his mission. Gabriel goes on to say that he had been left or detained in Babylon by kings, the plural form of melek. There is only one king of Persia, so the plural noun either alludes to pagan deities or demonic powers. The LXX translates melek with archōn, which in the Besekh is used to refer to evil spirits (e.g., Matt 9:34; 12:24). Paul used the related word arche, "rulers," in describing the enemy's organization in Ephesians 6:12. Therefore, the "man in linen" was not delayed merely by the demonic prince but by his army. Angels probably cannot be killed by other angels, but numbers and relative strength can affect the outcome.
14―15 Latter days had a definite ring of an eschatological prophecy. Just how "latter" becomes apparent in chapter twelve. Vision, Heb. chazon, refers to something seen and not merely heard. The "vision" refers back to the appearance in glorious form of the archangel in verse 7 and 8. The term may also point forward to the content of the revelation contained in chapter eleven and twelve. Chapter Eleven depicts conflict between Persian and Greece and then lengthy strife between the two main divisions of the Greek Empire: the Syrian Seleucid family (the "king of the north") and the Egyptian Ptolemies (the "king of the south"). Chapter Twelve depicts the final consummation of history. The mention of future means that all of chapter eleven would be past Daniel's lifetime, but it is history for us. As a result of these words Daniel bowed down, not able to think of any verbal response.
16―17 Human being is Heb. benay adam, lit. "sons of man." So, "one who looked like a man" (NIV) touched Daniel's lips. While the phrasing could suggest the introduction of another angel, the context seems to support the interpretation that this is the same archangel who has addressed Daniel throughout the chapter--Gabriel. Daniel simply emphasizes that the divine messenger was still in his non-glorious state and looked like an ordinary man. Daniel addresses the angel as lord, Heb. adōn, meaning lord or master (BDB 10). Daniel expresses his humility by pointing to his unworthiness to be addressed by one so powerful and reports that the encounter has left him without strength, Heb. koach, a word referring to physical stamina or ability. Interestingly, the word koach also refers to a small reptile, probably a kind of lizard, which is included in the list of unclean animals in Leviticus 11:30 (BDB 470). Daniel could be likening his himself to the powerlessness of the small reptile as he thought of the great power of the angel.
18―19 Daniel repeats his description of the messenger angel as one with human (Heb. adam) likeness. Again Daniel is touched and in that touch Daniel was strengthened (Heb. chazaq). The transfer of power from Gabriel into Daniel's body may hint at the angel's identity. The LXX translates chazaq with ischuō (be strong or mighty, have power), which is the root of ischuros used in Revelation 10:1 to describe the "strong angel." Angels are healers as well as messengers and warriors. The strong angel offers a two-fold exhortation: to be at peace, Heb. shalom. The phrase take courage and be courageous is Heb. chazaq vechazaq, lit. "be strong and be strong." The double imperative is both encouragement and expectation. Daniel comments that as soon as the angel spoke he received chazaq, so Daniel was physically revived by both physical touching and words of encouragement.
20― Gabriel queries Daniel to gauge the success of his mission. The question implies that Daniel did understand, at least to some degree. The angel then informs Daniel that he intended to return to fight against the prince of Persia. The spiritual war in the heavenlies would continue. The angel also alludes to Satan's organization by mentioning the prince of Greece. The invasion of Persia by Greece was not just accomplished by Alexander's power alone.
21― The writing (Heb kathav) of truth (Heb. emeth) could be similar to the little book carried by the strong angel of Revelation 10:1-3. This book could contain the history of the world (so Keil) or the history of Israel (so Miller), but it at least includes the revelation contained in chapters eleven and twelve. No one who stands firmly, Heb. chazaq, is not a complaint or whining about a lack of help but a statement of comparison. He is saying that there is no angel of equivalent strength and power to himself as Michael, the prince of Israel. Together they are formidable.
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