Today the tone of the Book of Daniel changes. The first six chapters described the experiences and wisdom of Daniel and his three Hebrew friends. We saw that God demonstrated that He is the ruler of the world and God’s people need to be faithful and live and act wisely in every situation they find themselves. These last chapters feature visions that God have to Daniel, visions showing Daniel and the rest of the Jews that the future rests securely in God’s hands. Ultimately every single empire will fall down before the kingdom of heaven. Daniel’s people will be rescued from all their troubles and God will resurrect and judge all humankind. Daniel had help interpreting the visions with the help of divine messengers. Chapter 7 contains a terrifying vision and its interpretation. The sequence of the kingdoms in this vision recalls the dream Nebuchadnezzar had nearly 45 years earlier with the figure made up of four different metals. In the Old Testament the sea is typically a picture of evil or chaos and in this vision the wind that stirred up the chaos of the sea brought four huge beasts, each one different. These beasts are kingdoms of the world. Lions and eagles are dignified rulers in their realms. Babylon is typically portrayed as a lion and they were shown as an eagle in attacking Edom. This beast became like a human and was given a human mind. Remember, Nebuchadnezzar had taken on the mind of a beast and was later restored and learned to acknowledge the Most High God.
The second beast Is most likely Persia. Bears were known for their vicious attacks. The three ribs are Babylon, Media, and Lydia, all of whom Cyrus conquered. God had called Cyrus and Persia to conquer many nations. Leopards were known for their speed and agility. The fact that this leopard had four birds wings and four heads indicates the scope and speed of this fierce nations military campaigns. Greece fit this symbolism well, particularly under Alexander the Great. After his death his mighty kingdom was divided into four parts, none of which was as strong as the original. The fourth beast was different not just in degree but also in kind. It was made of unliving metal. It was hardly an animal; it was impersonal, utterly violent, and merciless. Even it’s teeth were a perfect killing machine. Most associate this beast with the Roman Empire and its kings. In apocalyptic literature, horns stand for kings, power and strength. Others believe the fourth beast only partially represented Rome and that there will be another even more brutal kingdom that will come through the dominion of the final little horn, a human being with great power and arrogance. While the kingdoms of the world are represented by fierce animals, the kingdom of God is represented by a divine human figure and holy people. God is the Ancient One. His existence preceded all the nations and peoples of the earth. White hair and clothing represent wisdom and purity and the River of fire speaks of God’s purifying presence. Those ministering to God are beyond number. God the judge of the nations can extend the lives of nations and individuals. Defeated nations who have lost their political and military prowess can continue to live on culturally and ethnically and retain their national identities. It happened to the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, and Greeks.
The little horn was arrogant, boastful, and violent. On the other hand, the one like a son of man did none of those things. He instead received God’s favor and blessings and was led into God’s presence. God gave him kingship and a kingdom. This figure is the Messiah, God’s chosen and anointed one. He was like a human being but his coming with the clouds also suggests that he is a divine being. Every single ruler and kingdom of the earth will pass away but the Messiah’s rule is eternal and will never be destroyed. His kingdom is given to the holy people of the Most High and it fills the earth. Daniel dared to approach the beings standing beside the throne of God, asking for clarification…and he was helped not harmed. God had given Daniel a vision of the course of history, something no human could ever accomplish. The holy people belong exclusively to God and share His character. In Daniel’s case this referred to the people of Israel. Daniel also asked and received more information about the fourth beast, the ten horns and the little horn. The little horn was after God’s holy people, seeking to destroy them. He hated them. Here he was much like pharaoh and Haman…think Esther here. However, the Ancient One would turn the tide of battle when He judged in favor of His holy people. In God’s time His people would take over the kingdom with their king. The ten horns are ten kings. It may mean ten specific kings or it might be a symbolic number meaning this kingdom lasted through the reigns of many kings. They were bad but the little horn would defy the Most High and oppress the holy people by blaspheming the Lord. The reference of time, times, and half time is verbiage from the Book of Revelation. It stands for 42 months, three and a half years or 1,260 days. It reminds the people that the oppression would be limited and would end suddenly and expectedly.
Chapter 8 expands on chapter 7 with some additional symbolism in regards to the second and third beasts. The small horn that arises from the goat has some similarities with the little horn. Susa was located in the Persian lowlands southwest of the Zagros mountains, and was one of the capital cities of Persia. It was a fortified capital whose architecture was decorated with glazed griffins, winged bulls, and lions. Griffins were legendary creatures that had the head and wings of an eagle and the body, tail, and back legs of a lion. The Ulai River was most likely an irrigation canal. The two long horns indicates there were two major nations in this kingdom represented by a ram. This was the Medes and the Persians and the longer horn meant Persia as the dominant nation of the two. The charging goat represents Greece and the prominent horn is Alexander the Great, their first king. Two centuries after Daniel lived Alexander would swiftly conquer the world. He defeated Persia in 331 B.C. and died in 323 B.C. but not before he arrogantly allowed himself to be called a god. After his death his kingdom was divided into four kingdoms ruled by his generals.
This small horn is most likely Antiochus IV and he bore the name Epiphanes. He desecrated the Jewish temple and Jewish worship and he tried to destroy Judaism and unify his kingdom under the cult of Hellenistic culture. Through all of this God was still in control. The Prince of princes is the King of Israel, ruler of heaven and earth. Antiochus, who ruled from 175-163 B.C. exalted himself as god and intended to destroy Jerusalem. However, God would break him and just as he did not rise to power on his own, he fell from power the same way. Antiochus was eaten by worms.
Daniel prayed for his people, realizing that Jerusalem’s 70 years of desolation were due to end. His prayer is similar to those of Solomon, Ezra, and Nehemiah. God answered Daniel’s prayer quickly. It appears that Daniel had a copy of what Jeremiah had written and when he realized the time of exile was almost over he turned to the Lord seeking restoration for his people and the city of Jerusalem. The position Daniel took was one of mourning. He was wearing sackcloth. He fasted and prayed. He sprinkled ashes on his head. Daniel confessed the sins of his people and the city of Jerusalem. He contrasted the faithfulness of God with the unfaithfulness of God’s people. This was like a high priestly prayer, complete with quotes and allusions from the Torah, the Psalms, and the prophets. He used the covenant name of God…Yahweh. In confessing their sins Daniel used four different words meaning sin. The people had sinned, meaning they had missed the mark. They had done wrong, saying they had committed a bent or twisted act. They had rebelled against the covenant and scorned…literally turned away from the Lord’s instructions. Daniel admitted God was right and the people had done wrong. God had expended every covenant curse He had against His people. But Daniel prayed, God could bring lasting honor to His name by rescuing His people from exile in Babylon, just as He had rescued them from Egypt. God’s name was mocked and dishonored when His chosen people were taken from His city. It looked like God was helpless. Daniel recognized that God is compassionate and merciful. Daniel prayed this prayer in 539 B.C. and in 538 B.C. King Cyrus gave his decree allowing the Jews to return home to Jerusalem. The new temple was completed in 515 B.C. As Daniel prayed God sent Gabriel to explain Daniel’s vision. His explanation covered the near and distant future of Daniel’s people. In the Book of Daniel the words insight and a wisdom are key words that often refer to the meaning of Gods revelation. Gabriel explained that when Daniel began praying, a command was given, perhaps a command that the exile was to come to an end or that the future was to be explained to Daniel. Daniel was also told that he was very precious to God. And then come the numbers. There is debate as to what exactly all the numbers mean but we will give this a shot in explaining!
Many understand the period of 70 sets of 7 as 490 years. But they are not called years in the Hebrew text and the 490 years does not match up exactly with the actual historical period. Therefore scholars believe that the numbers are not intended as calendar years but as symbolic periods of time to fulfill the visions. Just as Jerusalem suffered a lifetime of desolation, she would also experience many lifetimes of restoration. The period of time was for Daniel’s people and Jerusalem. Six purposes are listed here in verse 24 and they refer to the restoration of the Jews and the city of Jerusalem. Some look at these six purposes and see God’s universal work of redemption in the world. Confirming the prophetic vision means to fulfill the content of the visionary answer to Daniel’s prayer. The 70 sets of 7 marks the beginning of rebuilding of the temple and Jerusalem. More weeks are added, taking the time to when Jesus was born…the Anointed One. Others take the extra weeks and point to the time between 66-70 A.D. when Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed by Rome. Still others point to Antiochus IV and his attempt to destroy the temple.
The last of Daniel’s visions covers chapters 10-12. This final vision reaches historically from 536 B.C. to a distant future when Daniel would be raised from the dead and receive his inheritance. All earthly kingdoms would be destroyed, the eternal kingdom of the Son of Man would arise, God’s people would finally be rescued, and death…the ultimate enemy…would be defeated. Chapter ten begins shortly after king Cyrus issued the decree allowing the Israelites to return home. Daniel was apparently in mourning because of his previous visions but he had recovered enough to be standing on the banks of the Tigris River. He saw a vision of a man dressed in linen clothing; an unidentified messenger of the Lord. Daniel response was pretty typical for humans who encounter heavenly beings. He fell flat on his face on the ground. Again he was told that he was precious to God and that the messenger had been trying to come to him but the spirit prince of Persia had been blocking his way. This spirit prince is not a positive figure but most likely satanic. The unidentified messenger of the Lord eventually had help from Michael, one of the angels who comes from the presence of the Lord. Michael is a warrior angel. All of this left Daniel speechless, but the one who looked like a man touched Daniel’s lips and he began to speak. For the third time Daniel is supernaturally strengthened by one who touched him. Daniel is told there is not only a spirit prince of Persia but of Greece as well. The messenger was not speaking of himself, but from what was written in God’s Book of Truth. The Book of Truth contains what is written in Daniel 11:2-12:7. We see that God was over Israel and Michael was Israel’s spirit prince. Here the messenger provided a grand sweep of history from the time of Persia, through the break up of Greece, the rise and defeat of a wicked king or series of kings, and the final resurrection and triumph of God’s people.
There were three kings who followed Cyrus and the fourth was probably Xerxes I whose riches were legendary as was his army of 1,700,000 soldiers and a huge navy that he used to fight against Greece…a fight he lost. The mighty king was Alexander the Great who conquered much of the known world in 13 years, from Greece to India, and from far into the north to Egypt in the south. When Alexander died his descendants were not capable of governing and his brother Philip was incompetent. The kings of the south describes Alexander’s general Ptolemy and his descendants who ruled Egypt. The King of the north describes Alexander’s general Seleucus and his descendants who ruled Syria and Mesopotamia. The holy land and its people lay right between these two powers. Alliances were formed and daughters were given in marriage but many people were murdered in palace intrigue too. Eventually Antiochus IV rose to power, both three and four. More alliances were made and broken. Chapter 11 reads like a spy vs. spy thriller but much more is at stake. Antiochus IV is bound and determined to tear God’s people away from Him and the temple. But there are the wise who know God well. They follow His laws even in hostile and deceptive environments and many were martyred for their faithfulness. Antiochus desecrated the temple in 167 B.C. by putting a statue of Zeus in it. Three years later the Maccabees, the family of Mattathias and those around them, recaptured Jerusalem, removed the sacrilegious object, cleansed the altar, and restored daily sacrifices. But even among the pagans, Antiochus forsook the Syrian gods to worship Greek gods.
Most scholars look at 11:40-45 and believe they describe the time of the end of history. They echo the career of Antiochus IV but there is no historical record of these events. The glorious land referred to here is Israel, and once again they would find themselves under an attack by an evil king. Daniel’s language here at the end of the chapter seems larger than life. This prophecy refers to the time of the end. At the conclusion of the conflict between the antichrist and his political enemies, he will meet his end at the beautiful holy mountain, referring to the Temple Mount of Jerusalem…perhaps in connection with the battle of Armageddon.
Chapter 12 begins with, at that time, referring to the time of the end…the end of the evil kingdom, the time of the second coming. The time of trouble refers to the time of tribulation just prior to the second coming of Christ. Those who will be delivered will have their names written in the book of life, God’s record of those who have been justified by faith. This is the first clear reference to a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. Everlasting life referred to here is completely without shame or disgrace. Sleep is a picture of death and being awake is a reference to resurrection. And the wise not only understand salvation themselves, they also turn many others to the way of righteousness. Daniel was to keep this prophecy a secret. It would be revealed at God’s proper time, the time of the end. As Daniel stood on the banks of the Tigris River he saw three persons, one on each side of the River and one above the River. The two others refers to angels, different than the ones Daniel had already seen. The man clothed in linen may be the Pre incarnate Christ. How long refers to the duration of the trials. God appointed times for all things as He rules the ebb and flow of earthly and heavenly events, and the shattering of God’s people was part of His purpose to purify them.
God withheld exactly how and when all this would finally end, but Daniel would not see the end. His job was to finish out his life in faith. God would use violent and terrifying times to improve the moral and religious character of His people. Being wise includes having insight into God’s ways and walking accordingly. The wicked will not understand or change their wickedness even if the vision is explained to them. When the end nears, God’s people must wait and remain faithful. Daniel died before the final end, but he knew he would rise again! Here the end refers to that time when even the dead rise and the everlasting Kingdom of God Most High is established.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W