Commentary on Daniel 10-12

Last updated: March 24, 2010

English Translation (ESV)

10:1 In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a word was revealed to Daniel, who was named Belteshazzar. And the word was true, and it was a great conflict. And he understood the word and had understanding of the vision.

2 In those days I, Daniel, was mourning for three weeks. 3 I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, for the full three weeks. 4 On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river (that is, the Tigris) 5 I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold, a man clothed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. 6 His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a multitude. 7 And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision, but a great trembling fell upon them, and they fled to hide themselves. 8 So I was left alone and saw this great vision, and no strength was left in me. My radiant appearance was fearfully changed, and I retained no strength. 9 Then I heard the sound of his words, and as I heard the sound of his words, I fell on my face in deep sleep with my face to the ground.

10 And behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you.” And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling. 12 Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. 13 The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, 14 and came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come.”

15 When he had spoken to me according to these words, I turned my face toward the ground and was mute. 16 And behold, one in the likeness of the children of man touched my lips. Then I opened my mouth and spoke. I said to him who stood before me, “O my lord, by reason of the vision pains have come upon me, and I retain no strength. 17 How can my lord’s servant talk with my lord? For now no strength remains in me, and no breath is left in me.”

18 Again one having the appearance of a man touched me and strengthened me. 19 And he said, “O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage.” And as he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.” 20 Then he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? But now I will return to fight against the prince of Persia; and when I go out, behold, the prince of Greece will come. 21 But I will tell you what is inscribed in the book of truth: there is none who contends by my side against these except Michael, your prince.

11:1 “And as for me, in the first year of Darius the Mede, I stood up to confirm and strengthen him.

2 “And now I will show you the truth. Behold, three more kings shall arise in Persia, and a fourth shall be far richer than all of them. And when he has become strong through his riches, he shall stir up all against the kingdom of Greece. 3 Then a mighty king shall arise, who shall rule with great dominion and do as he wills. 4 And as soon as he has arisen, his kingdom shall be broken and divided toward the four winds of heaven, but not to his posterity, nor according to the authority with which he ruled, for his kingdom shall be plucked up and go to others besides these.

5 “Then the king of the south shall be strong, but one of his princes shall be stronger than he and shall rule, and his authority shall be a great authority. 6 After some years they shall make an alliance, and the daughter of the king of the south shall come to the king of the north to make an agreement. But she shall not retain the strength of her arm, and he and his arm shall not endure, but she shall be given up, and her attendants, he who fathered her, and he who supported her in those times.

7 “And from a branch from her roots one shall arise in his place. He shall come against the army and enter the fortress of the king of the north, and he shall deal with them and shall prevail. 8 He shall also carry off to Egypt their gods with their metal images and their precious vessels of silver and gold, and for some years he shall refrain from attacking the king of the north. 9 Then the latter shall come into the realm of the king of the south but shall return to his own land.

10 “His sons shall wage war and assemble a multitude of great forces, which shall keep coming and overflow and pass through, and again shall carry the war as far as his fortress. 11 Then the king of the south, moved with rage, shall come out and fight against the king of the north. And he shall raise a great multitude, but it shall be given into his hand. 12 And when the multitude is taken away, his heart shall be exalted, and he shall cast down tens of thousands, but he shall not prevail. 13 For the king of the north shall again raise a multitude, greater than the first. And after some years he shall come on with a great army and abundant supplies.

14 “In those times many shall rise against the king of the south, and the violent among your own people shall lift themselves up in order to fulfill the vision, but they shall fail. 15 Then the king of the north shall come and throw up siegeworks and take a well-fortified city. And the forces of the south shall not stand, or even his best troops, for there shall be no strength to stand. 16 But he who comes against him shall do as he wills, and none shall stand before him. And he shall stand in the glorious land, with destruction in his hand. 17 He shall set his face to come with the strength of his whole kingdom, and he shall bring terms of an agreement and perform them. He shall give him the daughter of women to destroy the kingdom, but it shall not stand or be to his advantage. 18 Afterward he shall turn his face to the coastlands and shall capture many of them, but a commander shall put an end to his insolence. Indeed, he shall turn his insolence back upon him. 19 Then he shall turn his face back toward the fortresses of his own land, but he shall stumble and fall, and shall not be found.

20 “Then shall arise in his place one who shall send an exactor of tribute for the glory of the kingdom. But within a few days he shall be broken, neither in anger nor in battle. 21 In his place shall arise a contemptible person to whom royal majesty has not been given. He shall come in without warning and obtain the kingdom by flatteries. 22 Armies shall be utterly swept away before him and broken, even the prince of the covenant. 23 And from the time that an alliance is made with him he shall act deceitfully, and he shall become strong with a small people. 24 Without warning he shall come into the richest parts of the province, and he shall do what neither his fathers nor his fathers’ fathers have done, scattering among them plunder, spoil, and goods. He shall devise plans against strongholds, but only for a time. 25 And he shall stir up his power and his heart against the king of the south with a great army. And the king of the south shall wage war with an exceedingly great and mighty army, but he shall not stand, for plots shall be devised against him. 26 Even those who eat his food shall break him. His army shall be swept away, and many shall fall down slain. 27 And as for the two kings, their hearts shall be bent on doing evil. They shall speak lies at the same table, but to no avail, for the end is yet to be at the time appointed. 28 And he shall return to his land with great wealth, but his heart shall be set against the holy covenant. And he shall work his will and return to his own land.

29 “At the time appointed he shall return and come into the south, but it shall not be this time as it was before. 30 For ships of Kittim shall come against him, and he shall be afraid and withdraw, and shall turn back and be enraged and take action against the holy covenant. He shall turn back and pay attention to those who forsake the holy covenant. 31 Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress, and shall take away the regular burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate. 32 He shall seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant, but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action. 33 And the wise among the people shall make many understand, though for some days they shall stumble by sword and flame, by captivity and plunder. 34 When they stumble, they shall receive a little help. And many shall join themselves to them with flattery, 35 and some of the wise shall stumble, so that they may be refined, purified, and made white, until the time of the end, for it still awaits the appointed time.

36 “And the king shall do as he wills. He shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak astonishing things against the God of gods. He shall prosper till the indignation is accomplished; for what is decreed shall be done. 37 He shall pay no attention to the gods of his fathers, or to the one beloved by women. He shall not pay attention to any other god, for he shall magnify himself above all. 38 He shall honor the god of fortresses instead of these. A god whom his fathers did not know he shall honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and costly gifts. 39 He shall deal with the strongest fortresses with the help of a foreign god. Those who acknowledge him he shall load with honor. He shall make them rulers over many and shall divide the land for a price.

40 “At the time of the end, the king of the south shall attack him, but the king of the north shall rush upon him like a whirlwind, with chariots and horsemen, and with many ships. And he shall come into countries and shall overflow and pass through. 41 He shall come into the glorious land. And tens of thousands shall fall, but these shall be delivered out of his hand: Edom and Moab and the main part of the Ammonites. 42 He shall stretch out his hand against the countries, and the land of Egypt shall not escape. 43 He shall become ruler of the treasures of gold and of silver, and all the precious things of Egypt, and the Libyans and the Cushites shall follow in his train. 44 But news from the east and the north shall alarm him, and he shall go out with great fury to destroy and devote many to destruction. 45 And he shall pitch his palatial tents between the sea and the glorious holy mountain. Yet he shall come to his end, with none to help him.

12:1 “At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. 2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. 4 But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.”

5 Then I, Daniel, looked, and behold, two others stood, one on this bank of the stream and one on that bank of the stream. 6 And someone said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the stream, “How long shall it be till the end of these wonders?” 7 And I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the stream; he raised his right hand and his left hand toward heaven and swore by him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time, and that when the shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end all these things would be finished. 8 I heard, but I did not understand. Then I said, “O my lord, what shall be the outcome of these things?” 9 He said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end. 10 Many shall purify themselves and make themselves white and be refined, but the wicked shall act wickedly. And none of the wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand. 11 And from the time that the regular burnt offering is taken away and the abomination that makes desolate is set up, there shall be 1,290 days. 12 Blessed is he who waits and arrives at the 1,335 days. 13 But go your way till the end. And you shall rest and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days.”

Notes

10:1 In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a word was revealed to Daniel, who was named Belteshazzar. And the word was true, and it was a great conflict. And he understood the word and had understanding of the vision.

The third year of Cyrus’ reign was 536 BC. The first Jewish exiles would have recently returned to Israel. Verse 4 places Daniel near the Tigris River and therefore makes it clear that Daniel did not return to Israel with them.

2-3 In those days I, Daniel, was mourning for three weeks. I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, for the full three weeks.

The period of mourning and abstinence is the preparation for a visionary experience. Not anointing oneself was a sign of mourning.1

6 His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a multitude.

Due to the similarities between this description and the description of God in Ezekiel 1:26-28, we may understand this figure to be God. If this is the case, verse 10 must introduce an interpreting angel. Michael (10:13, 21) and two other angels (12:5) are also mentioned in this passage.2

12 Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words.

As in chapter 9, the angel is sent at the beginning of Daniel’s prayer, not at its completion. It is implied that Daniel was fasting in the hopes of receiving a revelation.

13 The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia,

The “prince of the kingdom of Persia” refers to the patron angel of Persia. In Deuteronomy 32 it is said that God appointed a heavenly ruler over each nation but ruled over Israel himself.3 The conflict between the angel of Persia and the angel that appeared to Daniel lasted twenty-one days, the length of time Daniel mourned and fasted.

The conflict referred to here may be a verbal/legal one with the representative of Persia, as in the scenes in Zech 3 and Job 1-2 (Jerome), or one involving a warrior seeking to halt a messenger (Ploger), or a “physical” struggle between supernatural armies (Collins): cf. the appearance in the heavenly scene of the Persian kings, presumably heavenly equivalents of the earthly kings who appear in 11:2. The background to the Persian representative’s opposing the messenger may be the earthly conflicts described in Ezra 4 (Keil), or it may be those to be announced in chap. 11: the Persian representative, then, wishes to avoid the declaring and thus the implementing of a message that begins with the fall of the Persian empire, an event associated with the end of the era (v 14) (Ploger).4

20 Then he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? But now I will return to fight against the prince of Persia; and when I go out, behold, the prince of Greece will come.

Presumably the angel will fight against the prince of Persia once more in order to guarantee the implementation of the prophecy. The prince of Greece will later fight the messenger because the prophecy also concerns Greece.

11:1 “And as for me, in the first year of Darius the Mede, I stood up to confirm and strengthen him.

Michael was probably fighting the prince of Babylon when the Persian Empire overthrew the Babylonian Empire.

2 “And now I will show you the truth. Behold, three more kings shall arise in Persia, and a fourth shall be far richer than all of them. And when he has become strong through his riches, he shall stir up all against the kingdom of Greece.

The fourth and richest king is Xerxes I (486-465 BC). After Cyrus, he followed the reigns of Cambyses (530-522), Smerdis (522), and Darius I Hystaspes (522-486). Xerxes I invaded Greece but was defeated at Salamis in 480.5 “Kings after Xerxes are not mentioned, apparently because the later Persian rulers were not germane to the writer’s purpose. The most likely reason for this is that the counterattack of Alexander, referred to in the next verse, was particularly encouraged by the massive military campaign launched against Greece by Xerxes I.”6

3-4 Then a mighty king shall arise, who shall rule with great dominion and do as he wills. And as soon as he has arisen, his kingdom shall be broken and divided toward the four winds of heaven, but not to his posterity, nor according to the authority with which he ruled, for his kingdom shall be plucked up and go to others besides these.

The “mighty king” is Alexander the Great (336-323 BC), who came to rule the largest empire the world had yet known. After his death from a fever, his sons Philip III and Alexander IV were nominal rulers until their deaths in 317 and 311, respectively. Central administrative power was held by Alexander’s prime minister, Perdiccas, until his assassination in 321. The empire divided into four parts and each part was ruled by a general.7

5 “Then the king of the south shall be strong, but one of his princes shall be stronger than he and shall rule, and his authority shall be a great authority.

At least in verses 5-35, the king of the south refers to a king of the Ptolemaic throne in Egypt (v 8) while the king of the north refers to a king of the Seleucid throne in Syria or Babylonia. After Alexander’s death, Ptolemy I Soter (the king of the south) took possession of Egypt and Seleucus I Nicator (the prince) obtained the satrapy of Babylon. Antigonus expanded his empire in Asia and attacked Babylon in 316 BC, causing Seleucus to flee to Egypt and become one of Ptolemy’s generals. In 312, Ptolemy and Seleucus defeated Antigonus at Gaza. Subsequently, Seleucus recovered Babylon and gradually the rest of Antigonus’ empire. After Antigonus’ death in 301, Seleucus ruled a greater realm than Ptolemy and the other successors of Alexander the Great.8

6 After some years they shall make an alliance, and the daughter of the king of the south shall come to the king of the north to make an agreement. But she shall not retain the strength of her arm, and he and his arm shall not endure, but she shall be given up, and her attendants, he who fathered her, and he who supported her in those times.

In about 250 BC, Ptolemy II Philadelphus tried to mend relationships with the Seleucid empire by marrying his daughter Berenice to Antiochus II Theos. Antiochus had divorced his first wife, Laodice, and excluded their sons Seleucus and Antiochus from succeeding him. After two years, Antiochus went back to Laodice, who then killed him, Berenice, his son by Berenice (clearing the way for her own son Seleucus), and a number of Berenice’s attendants. Berenice’s own father died in the same year.9

7-8 “And from a branch from her roots one shall arise in his place. He shall come against the army and enter the fortress of the king of the north, and he shall deal with them and shall prevail. He shall also carry off to Egypt their gods with their metal images and their precious vessels of silver and gold, and for some years he shall refrain from attacking the king of the north.

In 246 BC, Ptolemy III Euergetes, the brother of Berenice, came to the throne. He invaded the Seleucid empire, now ruled by Seleucus II Callinicus (son of Laodice), and gained control of a considerable amount of territory. He even captured and looted the Seleucid capital of Antioch. However, he had to return to Egypt to deal with a rebellion. His booty included the gods that had been removed by the Persian monarch Cambyses in 524. There were no conflicts between the two empires for two years.10

9 Then the latter shall come into the realm of the king of the south but shall return to his own land.

In 242 BC, Seleucus II Callinicus rapidly recaptured the territory that had been overrun by Ptolemy III Euergetes.11

10 “His sons shall wage war and assemble a multitude of great forces, which shall keep coming and overflow and pass through, and again shall carry the war as far as his fortress.

Callinicus was followed by Seleucus III Ceraunus (227-223 BC) and Antiochus III the Great (223-187). Seleucus III was killed during a campaign in Turkey. Antiochus III initially put down a revolt by Molon, satrap of Media, and then dealt with the secession of Achaeus in Asia Minor. He saw an opportunity to recapture Coele-Syria when the weak Ptolemy IV Philopator succeeded to the Ptolemaic throne in 221. Verse 10 refers to the events of 219-218, when Antiochus III captured cities east of the Jordan, Seleucia, the port of Antioch, and when Tyre and Ptolemais were handed over to him by Theodotus, the Ptolemaic governor of Coele-Syria. The “fortress” in question is uncertain, but may refer to Raphia (v 11) or to Egypt.12

11 Then the king of the south, moved with rage, shall come out and fight against the king of the north. And he shall raise a great multitude, but it shall be given into his hand.

In 217 BC, Ptolemy IV (221-203) sent an army to engage with Antiochus III at Raphia, the Egyptian stronghold on the border with Palestine. According to Polybius, over 100,000 men fought in the battle. Antiochus lost over 14,000 men in defeat.13

12 And when the multitude is taken away, his heart shall be exalted, and he shall cast down tens of thousands, but he shall not prevail.

Philopator was euphoric at the victory, but despite the casualties inflicted on Antiochus, the Ptolemaic Empire was not strengthened. Philopator recovered Coele-Syria and made peace with Antiochus but failed to press his advantage. Moreover, his success at Raphia was gained with the assistance of native Egyptians, who were admitted to the army for the first time. These now became restless with Ptolemaic rule and a series of uprisings followed. Moreover, Philopator “gave up all honorable pursuits and turned to a life of abandonment.”14

13 For the king of the north shall again raise a multitude, greater than the first. And after some years he shall come on with a great army and abundant supplies.

From 212-205 BC, Antiochus campaigned in Turkey and the east, regaining much of the old Seleucid empire. Then, in an alliance with Philip V of Macedon, he raised an even larger army than before to attack the Ptolemaic kingdom.15

14 “In those times many shall rise against the king of the south, and the violent among your own people shall lift themselves up in order to fulfill the vision, but they shall fail.

In 204 BC, Philopator and his queen died in mysterious circumstances. Philopator was succeeded by Ptolemy V Epiphanes (203-181), a boy of six. The country was actually ruled by Agathocles, a chief minister under Ptolemy IV. The oppressive regency of Agathocles provoked insurrection in Egypt and led to his assassination. The reference to a failed insurrection by the Jews in order to fulfill a vision is obscure, but may refer to the punishment inflicted on Jews in Jerusalem and Judah who rebelled against Ptolemaic rule.16

15 Then the king of the north shall come and throw up siegeworks and take a well-fortified city. And the forces of the south shall not stand, or even his best troops, for there shall be no strength to stand.

In 199 BC, Antiochus defeated the Egyptian general Scopas at Paneas (Caesarea Philippi). Scopas and his troops retreated to Sidon, an Egyptian fortified city. In 198, Scopas and his “best troops,” the Aeotlian mercenaries, had to surrender after Antiochus besieged Sidon.17

16 But he who comes against him shall do as he wills, and none shall stand before him. And he shall stand in the glorious land, with destruction in his hand.

From this point on, Palestine remained under Seleucid control.18

17 He shall set his face to come with the strength of his whole kingdom, and he shall bring terms of an agreement and perform them. He shall give him the daughter of women to destroy the kingdom, but it shall not stand or be to his advantage.

Antiochus was in a position to invade Egypt itself and destroy the Ptolemaic empire, but he feared the Romans would intervene. Instead he made peace with Egypt in 197 BC, betrothing his daughter Cleopatra to Ptolemy V. The marriage took place four years later at Raphia. Antiochus hoped to further his designs on Egypt through his daughter, but Cleopatra became loyal to her husband and new homeland. She became regent of Egypt when her husband died in 182 and had controlling influence until her death eight years later. Antiochus’ designs on Egypt were frustrated.19

18 Afterward he shall turn his face to the coastlands and shall capture many of them, but a commander shall put an end to his insolence. Indeed, he shall turn his insolence back upon him.

Antiochus now campaigned in Asia Minor and captured a number of Greek islands, reaching Thrace in 196 BC. The Romans, commanded by Lucius Cornelius Scipio, defeated Antiochus at Thermopylae in 191 and drove him out of Asia Minor with a victory at Magnesia in 190. Antiochus became a vassal of Rome and his youngest son, the later Antiochus IV, was taken to Rome as a hostage.20

19 Then he shall turn his face back toward the fortresses of his own land, but he shall stumble and fall, and shall not be found.

Antiochus returned to Syria. He died in Elymais in 187 BC while attempting to sack the temple of Bel in order to get money to pay the tribute imposed on him by the Romans after their victory.21

20 “Then shall arise in his place one who shall send an exactor of tribute for the glory of the kingdom. But within a few days he shall be broken, neither in anger nor in battle.

Antiochus was followed by Seleucus IV Philopator (187-175 BC), whose main concern was paying the tribute imposed on his father. He sent out his finance minister Heliodorus to exact tribute. According to 2 Maccabees 3, Heliodorus was thwarted when he attempted to pillage the treasury of the Jerusalem Temple. Seleucus died when he fell victim to a plot by Heliodorus (possibly abetted by Antiochus IV).22

21 In his place shall arise a contemptible person to whom royal majesty has not been given. He shall come in without warning and obtain the kingdom by flatteries.

The “contemptible person” is Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-163 BC). In accordance with Roman demands after the battle of Magnesia, he was sent to Rome as a hostage in 189 BC. In 176/5 he was released in exchange for his nephew Demetrius, the eldest son of his brother Seleucus IV and rightful heir to the throne. Seleucus was murdered while Antiochus was in Athens. Antiochus, with the assistance of Eumenes of Pergamum, acquired an army, proceeded to Babylon, and assumed power. For five years he ruled with a co-regent, also named Antiochus, who was probably a son of Seleucus. The precise circumstances of his accession are obscure but the co-regency implies a compromise. The young co-regent was murdered in 170.23

22-23 Armies shall be utterly swept away before him and broken, even the prince of the covenant. And from the time that an alliance is made with him he shall act deceitfully, and he shall become strong with a small people.

These verses describe Antiochus’ general practices. The “prince of the covenant” is probably Onias III who was deposed in 175 BC and assassinated as the result of intrigues against him in 171 BC. A small group of collaborators allowed Antiochus to become strong.24

24 Without warning he shall come into the richest parts of the province, and he shall do what neither his fathers nor his fathers’ fathers have done, scattering among them plunder, spoil, and goods. He shall devise plans against strongholds, but only for a time.

Always active to enlarge his kingdom, either by military devices or intrigue, Antiochus, according to verse 24, like his fathers, robbed the richest places of the country under his control. . . . Unlike his father, Antiochus IV did not use his wealth secured in this way for personal advantage so much as to buy favor with others and to secure their cooperation. The expression he shall scatter among them the prey, and spoil, and riches indicates this distribution of the wealth he had secured. According to 1 Maccabees 3:30, “He feared that he might not have such funds as he had before for his expenses and for the gifts which he used to give more lavishly than preceding kings” (RSV).25

25-26 And he shall stir up his power and his heart against the king of the south with a great army. And the king of the south shall wage war with an exceedingly great and mighty army, but he shall not stand, for plots shall be devised against him. Even those who eat his food shall break him. His army shall be swept away, and many shall fall down slain.

In 169 BC Ptolemy VI Philometor (181-146) tried to regain territories lost to the Syrians but his “exceedingly great and mighty army” was defeated by Antiochus’ forces. Ptolemy was captured and held hostage by Antiochus. Ptolemy VII Euergetes II (Physcon) took the throne in Egypt. The failure of the invasion was blamed on the counselors (“those who eat his food”) to the young Ptolemy VI.26

27 And as for the two kings, their hearts shall be bent on doing evil. They shall speak lies at the same table, but to no avail, for the end is yet to be at the time appointed.

While Ptolemy VI was a prisoner . . . Ptolemy VII Eurgetes (Physcon) was made king. This development led Ptolemy VI and Antiochus (“the two kings”) to plan how they would regain the Egyptian throne. Both kings made promises that they had no intention of keeping. Of course, Antiochus was willing to support Ptolemy merely for personal gain, and in turn Ptolemy made insincere promises in order to receive aid from the powerful Syrians. “The figure of speaking lies at the same table is significant, because, to the oriental, deception practiced at a table of hospitality was the very lowest in kind.” Nevertheless, the plan of Antiochus and Ptolemy to control all Egypt was “to no avail,” even though they did have some successes in Egypt, including the capture of the strategic center, Memphis. Ptolemy VI was installed as king there, but Ptolemy VII still ruled in Alexandria. Later Ptolemy VI established a joint rule with his brother Ptolemy VII.27

28 And he shall return to his land with great wealth, but his heart shall be set against the holy covenant. And he shall work his will and return to his own land.

Before Antiochus withdrew from Egypt, Alexandria declared its support for Ptolemy Euergetes (younger brother of Philometor) and Cleopatra (his sister). Antiochus besieged Alexandria but failed to take it. Late in 169 he withdrew from Egypt (1 Macc 1:20), leaving Philometor in Memphis. He left a garrison at Pelusium in case he needed to intervene again. . . .

According to Jerome, “both the Greek and the Roman historians related that after Antiochus had been expelled from Egypt and had gone back once more, he came to Judea, that is, against the holy covenant, and that he despoiled the Temple and removed a huge amount of gold; and then, having stationed a garrison in the citadel, he returned to his own land.” The dating of this incident after the first invasion of Egypt is supported by 1 Macc 1:20, which puts it in the 143d year. The motivation for this attack was generally attributed to the king’s need for funds. Josephus cites Polybius, Strabo, and Nicolas of Damascus, among others, in support of the view that it was lack of money that induced Antiochus to plunder the temple.28

29 “At the time appointed he shall return and come into the south, but it shall not be this time as it was before.

The reference is to the second invasion of Egypt in 168 B.C.E. Philometor and Euergetes had been reconciled, so that the results of Antiochus’s first expedition to Egypt had been undone.29

30 For ships of Kittim shall come against him, and he shall be afraid and withdraw, and shall turn back and be enraged and take action against the holy covenant. He shall turn back and pay attention to those who forsake the holy covenant.

As the Syrians were moving to besiege Alexandria, the Roman commander Gaius Popilius Laenas met Antiochus four miles outside of the city and handed him a letter from the Roman Senate ordering him to leave Egypt or face war with Rome. Then the Roman commander drew a circle in the sand around Antiochus and told him that he must respond before stepping from the circle. Well aware of the might of Rome, having been a hostage there, and also remembering his father’s (Antiochus III) defeat by the Roman legions at the Battle of Magnesia, the Syrian king stood in humiliated silence for a brief interval and then acquiesced to the demand. Antiochus withdrew from Egypt to Antioch in utter humiliation.30

Following on a rumor that Antiochus had been killed in Egypt, Jason – whom Antiochus had removed from the high-priesthood – returned to Jerusalem and led a violent rebellion against his successor Menelaus and the Tobiad ruling party (2 Macc 5:5-10), and presumably against the Syrian governor (2 Macc 5:21-23a). Conservative Jews may have supported his action; he was a less objectionable person than Menelaus, who had cooperated with Antiochus’s looting of the temple the previous year. To Antiochus Jason’s action amounted to an attempt to overthrow the government he had appointed and replace it by one that could be presumed to be pro-Egyptian if it was anti-Syrian. Hence he had to “take harsh action against a holy covenant” (v 30) to put down this rebellion (2 Macc 5:11-14), sending Apollonius, the commander of his mercenaries from Mysia in Asia Minor, to Jerusalem (2 Macc 5:23b-27; 1 Macc 1:29-32). “He will pay heed to such as have abandoned a holy covenant”: Antiochus thus reestablished the authority of the Tobiad leadership.31

31 Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress, and shall take away the regular burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate.

The temple is spoken of here as a “fortress” either because it was a place of spiritual strength or more likely because it was used as a military citadel. Later, in 167 B.C., the suppression of the Jewish religion began on a grand scale (1 Macc 1:41-50; 2 Macc 6:1-6). All Jewish religious practices such as circumcision, possessing the Scriptures, sacrifices, and feast days were forbidden on penalty of death (1 Macc 1:50, 63); and the imperial cult was introduced. Desecration of the Jewish religion reached its climax on 15 Chislev (December) 167 B.C. (1 Macc 1:54) when an altar or idol-statue devoted to Olympian Zeus (Jupiter) was erected in the temple (“the abomination that causes desolation”), and on 25 Chislev sacrifices, probably including swine (cf. 1 Macc 1:47; 2 Macc 6:4-5), were offered on the altar (cf. 1 Macc 1:54, 59). In this manner the temple was desecrated and rendered empty of Yahweh worshipers.32

32 He shall seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant, but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.

Antiochus made fine sounding promises (“flattery”) to entice Jews to support his policies (1 Maccabees 2:18; 2 Maccabees 7:24) and thus violate the covenant between God and Israel. Many Jews chose death rather than profaning the covenant (1 Maccabees 1:62-63).

Foremost among those who resisted the oppressive measure of Antiochus were the Maccabees. A certain priest named Mattathias who lived in the town of Modein (ca. seventeen miles northwest of Jerusalem) refused to forsake his God (cf. 1 Macc 2:1-14). He had five sons, three of whom (Judas, Jonathan, and Simon) became known as the Maccabees, although the term Maccabeus (“hammer”) originally was given only to Judas (1 Macc 2:4). The Maccabees successfully overthrew the Syrian yoke through a series of brilliant military victories (apparently predicted in Zech 9:13-17) against Antiochus’s military commanders, Apollonius, Seron, Gorgias, and Lysias (cf. 1 Macc 3:10-4:35) between 166 [or 165] and 164 B.C.; as a result the temple was rededicated (Hanukkah) to Yahweh on 25 Chislev (December 14) 164 B.C. (1 Macc 4:52).33

34 When they stumble, they shall receive a little help. And many shall join themselves to them with flattery,

The “little help” refers to the resistance of the Maccabees. Some people who joined the Maccabees may not have been fully committed. For example, some may have joined out of fear for the ruthlessness of the Maccabees (1 Maccabees 2:44; 3:5-8; 6:18-24).

35 and some of the wise shall stumble, so that they may be refined, purified, and made white, until the time of the end, for it still awaits the appointed time.

Antiochus died in Persia in 163 BC.

36-39 “And the king shall do as he wills. He shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak astonishing things against the God of gods. He shall prosper till the indignation is accomplished; for what is decreed shall be done. He shall pay no attention to the gods of his fathers, or to the one beloved by women. He shall not pay attention to any other god, for he shall magnify himself above all. He shall honor the god of fortresses instead of these. A god whom his fathers did not know he shall honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and costly gifts. He shall deal with the strongest fortresses with the help of a foreign god. Those who acknowledge him he shall load with honor. He shall make them rulers over many and shall divide the land for a price.

Through verse 35 commentators are in agreement that the text has been accurately describing the reign of Antiochus IV. Scholars who believe Daniel was written during the Maccabean period (167-164 BC) believe verses 2-35 are so accurate because they were written after the events described had happened. These scholars believe the author made real predictions about the end of the reign of Antiochus IV in verses 36 and following (some would say verses 40 and following). Based on this interpretation, they confidently date the final form of the Book of Daniel to 164 since an author writing after the death of Antiochus would not make such false predictions.

Scholars who believe chapters 10-12 contain real prophecies that were recorded in the Persian period believe that verses 36 and following are prophecies about the end times and that the author allowed for an indefinite gap of time between the reign of Antiochus IV and the reign of an end-time king (sometimes identified as the Antichrist mentioned in chapter 7). Indefinite gaps certainly exist between the different events prophesied in verses 2-35 and therefore the main issue is whether verse 36 is still speaking about Antiochus IV or whether a new, different king is in mind. Let us examine the arguments put forth by traditional scholars.

First, verses 36-39 seem to be introducing the king for the first time in this passage. The similarities between this king and the final king described in chapters 7 and 9 tell the reader that the same king is in view here.

Second, in this chapter the rise of Rome is evident (11:30) and in previous chapters a kingdom after the Greek Empire is envisioned. The author could not have believed the end of the age would occur before the fourth kingdom was established.

Third, Antiochus did not capture large parts of Africa (11:43) and never shattered the power of the Jews (12:7). Chapter 11 already notes setbacks that Antiochus experienced at the hands of the Romans in Africa and at the hands of the Maccabees in Israel. It is hard to believe that the author would portray Antiochus gaining more power before his defeat.

The king of verses 36-39 makes himself out to be a god and thus does not pay attention to other gods. The “god of fortresses” need not be a literal deity but rather an indication that the king trusts in his military power.34 Verses 40-45 describe the wars that he will wage.

12:1 “At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book.

The passage now focuses on Israel (“your people”). The “book” is probably the book of life, which includes the names of all the members of the covenantal community.35

2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

Many of those who sleep appears to imply a limited resurrection, and this is the view taken by those interpreters who think in terms of a setting in the Maccabean period. According to them it was essential that justice should be seen to be done, because in the general massacre good and bad alike perished. The resurrection is in that case ‘a flash of inspired insight’, as Porteous calls it, a way of making possible God’s vindication of the martyrs and His judgment on the opposition. But the use of the word ‘many’ in Hebrew is not quite parallel with its use in English. Hebrew rabbim, ‘many’, tends to mean ‘all’, as in Deuteronomy 7:1; Isaiah 2:2, where ‘all nations’ becomes ‘many peoples’ in the parallel verse 3; and in Isaiah 52:14, 15; 53:11, 12, where this key-word occurs no less than five times, with an inclusive significance. As Jeremias points out, the Hebrew word kol, ‘all’, means either ‘totality’ or ‘sum’; there is no word for ‘all’ as a plural. For this rabbim does duty, and so comes to mean ‘the great multitude,’, ‘all’; cf. ‘Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth . . .’ (NIV). The emphasis is not upon many as opposed to all, but rather on the numbers involved.36

4 But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.”

The close of verse 4 with its statement, “many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased,” is difficult to translate; and commentators have not been agreed as to its precise meaning. . . . [I]n the context the search for knowledge seems to be the main idea. Montgomery interprets it in the light of Amos 8:12, “And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro and seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it.” John Calvin translated it, “Many shall investigate, and knowledge shall increase.” Leupold interprets the verse to mean, “Many shall diligently peruse it, and knowledge shall be increased.” In the Hebrew the word for “knowledge” is hadda’at, literally, “the knowledge,” that is, understanding of this long prophecy. Some consider the sentence as referring to the eyes of a reader running “to and fro” in reading the Word of God (cf. 2 Chr 16:9). Whether or not physical wandering and travel is involved, the implication is that attempts to understand the truth will require considerable effort.

Young agrees with Montgomery in finding the key in Amos 8:12 and states, “The verb appears to describe the vain traveling about in order to discover knowledge.” As Young goes on to explain, what the angel is saying to Daniel is that for the immediate future, attempts to understand these prophecies will be in vain, but in the time of the end, when these prophecies will become especially pertinent, additional understanding will be given. . . . There is also the intimation that the ceaseless search for knowledge by men will often go unrewarded either because they do not look in the right place for it, or because their time and circumstance does not justify their understanding of prophecy that does not immediately concern them. No doubt, those living in the time of the end will have far greater understanding of these things than is possible today.37

9 He said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end.

This is not a rebuke for the speaker gives further information. Rather, the speaker is telling Daniel that he should go about his life because the prophecy concerns events far in the future.38

11-12 And from the time that the regular burnt offering is taken away and the abomination that makes desolate is set up, there shall be 1,290 days. Blessed is he who waits and arrives at the 1,335 days.

The heavenly messenger now turns to the original question of verse 6, ‘How long will it be until these amazing events come to an end?’ (TEV). The answer is given in the number symbolism typical of the book, but it is an enigmatic answer, as the many different ways of understanding it prove.

On the one hand, many commentators have taken these numbers literally, in the belief that the original writer was thinking in terms of the period between the removal of the continual burnt-offering by Antiochus Epiphanes and either the rededication of the Temple or the death of Antiochus. S. R. Driver, for example, takes the end of the 1,290 days as synchronizing with the latter event, though ‘the exact date of it is not known.’ H. Gunkel noted the mention of 1,150 days in 8:14, and put forward the suggestion that the 1,290 and 1,335 days are successive corrections, made when the end did not come at the time originally expected. He was followed by Montgomery, Bentzen, Delcor and Lacocque, but Porteou confesses to difficulty in seeing how urgent corrections could have been made to a book that had just been issued, even though in a limited number of copies. The numbers did not fit, and it is difficult to make them fit any scheme.

Furthermore, the ‘correction’ theory breaks down when the context of 8:14 is examined, for in that chapter the third empire is in question, whereas in 7:25 and 12:7 we have argued that the period is the fourth empire. The verses are parallel but do not refer to the identical occasion. In 8:11-14 Antiochus’ attack on the Temple is indicated, but in 12:7 the fulfillment of the book’s prophecies as a whole is envisaged. True, verse 11 picks up the language of 8:11-14 and the ‘desolations’ of 9:2. The Temple was first left desolate in the ‘seventy years’ of exile; it was again to be made desolate for a short while when Antiochus profaned it; but these were no more than preliminary anticipations of the onslaught to be expected.

On the other hand, all attempts to find an exact application of the literal numbers break down. We turn next to the symbolic interpretation, keeping in mind that there have already been indications of symbolic numbers in the book, notably the seventy sevens of years in 9:24-27. These were divided into 7 + 62 + ½, thus leaving the total short of seventy, and implying ‘the end is not yet’. The addition of 1,290 days, or just over three and a half years, would complete the seventy sevens of years, so bringing persecution to an end. Even so there is need to persevere a little longer, till 1,335 days, another month and a half, have passed.

Thus, as in the teaching of Jesus, the emphasis is on endurance to the end (Mk 13:13). A particular blessing awaits the one who goes on expectantly even after the time for the fulfillment of the prophecy is apparently passed, as in the parable of Jesus there is a special blessing for the servant who continues to be faithful even when his master does not come home at the stated time (Mt 24:45-51).39

13 But go your way till the end. And you shall rest and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days.”

Daniel is told that he will die before the events prophesied are fulfilled but he shall be resurrected with others as described in 12:2.

Bibliography

Baldwin, Joyce G. Daniel. InterVarsity Press, 1978.

Collins, John Joseph, Frank Moore Cross, and Adela Yarbro Collins. Daniel: A Commentary on the Book of Daniel. Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1994.

Goldingay, John. Daniel. Dallas Tex.: Word Books, 1989.

Miller, Stephen R. Daniel. Holman Reference, 1994.

Walvoord, John F. Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation: A Commentary. Moody Publishers, 1971.

1Collins, Cross, and Collins, Daniel, 372-373.

2Walvoord, Daniel, 244.

3Collins, Cross, and Collins, Daniel, 374-375.

4Goldingay, Daniel, 292.

5Ibid., 294-295.

6Miller, Daniel, 291.

7Collins, Cross, and Collins, Daniel, 377-378; Goldingay, Daniel, 295.

8Collins, Cross, and Collins, Daniel, 378; Goldingay, Daniel, 295-296.

9Collins, Cross, and Collins, Daniel, 378; Goldingay, Daniel, 296.

10Collins, Cross, and Collins, Daniel, 378; Goldingay, Daniel, 296; Miller, Daniel, 294.

11Collins, Cross, and Collins, Daniel, 378; Goldingay, Daniel, 296; Miller, Daniel, 294.

12Collins, Cross, and Collins, Daniel, 378-379; Goldingay, Daniel, 296-297.

13Collins, Cross, and Collins, Daniel, 379; Goldingay, Daniel, 297.

14Collins, Cross, and Collins, Daniel, 379.

15Collins, Cross, and Collins, Daniel, 379; Goldingay, Daniel, 297.

16Collins, Cross, and Collins, Daniel, 379-380; Goldingay, Daniel, 297-298; Miller, Daniel, 295.

17Collins, Cross, and Collins, Daniel, 380; Goldingay, Daniel, 298; Miller, Daniel, 296.

18Collins, Cross, and Collins, Daniel, 381.

19Collins, Cross, and Collins, Daniel, 381; Goldingay, Daniel, 298.

20Collins, Cross, and Collins, Daniel, 381; Goldingay, Daniel, 298.

21Collins, Cross, and Collins, Daniel, 381; Goldingay, Daniel, 298.

22Collins, Cross, and Collins, Daniel, 382; Goldingay, Daniel, 298-299; Miller, Daniel, 297.

23Collins, Cross, and Collins, Daniel, 382.

24Baldwin, Daniel, 192-193.

25Walvoord, Daniel, 266.

26Miller, Daniel, 299-300.

27Ibid., 300.

28Collins, Cross, and Collins, Daniel, 383.

29Ibid., 384.

30Miller, Daniel, 301.

31Goldingay, Daniel, 301-302.

32Miller, Daniel, 301-302.

33Ibid., 302.

34Walvoord, Daniel, 275-276.

35Collins, Cross, and Collins, Daniel, 391.

36Baldwin, Daniel, 204.

37Walvoord, Daniel, 291-292.

38Miller, Daniel, 324.

39Baldwin, Daniel, 209-210.

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