The title of the book of Daniel comes from the primary character in the story. There is extensive internal and external evidence that Daniel wrote the book probably late in his life, about 530 BC. The most compelling evidence is a recent study that shows the First Testament canon was closed during the Maccabean period (167–142 BC), which means the book of Daniel would have to have been written, circulated, and widely accepted long before this date in order to have been accepted into the canon. There are liberal scholars who believe the book was written in the 100s BC by someone claiming to be Daniel. They believe this because predictions of the empires after Babylon are so accurate that it had to have been written after the empires, since there is no prophecy. This is obviously an assumption that prophecy is not possible. Several times the book claims to be predicting events to come (Dan. 2:29-30; 4:24; 5:2-30; 7–12). And several times Daniel was told to write his visions down and seal them up so that it could be verified when it happened later (Dan. 8:26; 12:4, 9). The book claims the author is Daniel (Dan. 2:1; 5:1; 10:1 etc.). One cannot trust the writing of one claiming to be someone they are not.
Daniel is not a prophet. The First Testament never calls him a prophet and makes no effort to present him as a prophet in any kind of way. The two things that distinctly mark one as a prophet is, first, that Yahweh brings them into the divine council of Yahweh and speaks directly to them and, second, they then go out and speak the will of Yahweh to the people. Daniel is never invited into the divine council of Yahweh; he only gets a glimpse of the throne, seen in Dan. 7, in the context of the earthly beasts coming out of the sea. Daniel was not made a part of the divine council of Yahweh. Yahweh never spoke to him; rather, He sent angels that gave Daniel dreamlike visions. In fact, the voice of Yahweh is never heard in the book. Daniel never spoke to his people; never said, “thus says Yahweh;” never led the people in any way; nor claimed any special gift. The book of Daniel is not placed among the prophets in the Jewish collection of the First Testament, and many of the early church fathers did not consider him a prophet.
Genesis tells the story of Yahweh choosing Abraham and calling him to exit Babylon and follow Him as His image bearer (Josh. 24:2-3). Yahweh promised Abraham and his descendants that He would give them a land, make them the great nation of Israel, and bless them so that they could be blessing to the world by drawing the nations into themselves and restoring them into a right relationship with Yahweh (Gen. 12:1-3; 15).
Eventually the people of Israel grew in numbers but became enslaved in Egypt. So Yahweh demonstrated His great power and love for them by delivering them from their bondage to Egypt and cleansing them via their crossing of the Red Sea. At Mount Sinai He made a covenant with them, declaring that if they obeyed Him, He would bless them as His special possession, make them into a unique and distinct nation, and use them to be a blessing to all the nations (Ex. 9:3-6). Yahweh gave them the Law (a means to live righteously), the tabernacle (a place to dwell with Yahweh like in the Garden of Eden), and the sacrificial system (a means to repent and be cleansed of their sins).
From Mount Sinai Yahweh led them to the Promised Land of Canaan so that He could dwell with them, bless them with the fruit of the land, and make them a beacon of blessing and reconciliation to the nations (Josh. 3-6). Yet, like the pagan nations, Israel continuously sinned and rebelled against Yahweh. For this reason, He allowed the nations to attack them as judgment for their idolatry and sin (Judg. 2:6-23). However, Yahweh continued to pursue them in reconciliation and mercifully delivered them from their oppressors. Even so, they did not change.
Eventually, they rejected the kingship of Yahweh by asking for a human king like all the other nations had (1 Sam. 8). So, Yahweh gave them a leader, Saul, who was selfish and corrupt just like the kings of the pagan nations. However, Yahweh chose a new king, David, and made an everlasting covenant with him (2 Sam. 7). Yahweh promised David that his descendants would always sit on the throne of Israel. David foresaw a day when one of his descendants would become king and priest, and Yahweh would use him to destroy the pagan nations and reconcile the true people of God back to Yahweh (Ps. 110).
But David’s son Solomon pursued the idols of the pagan nations rather than Yahweh. As a judgment for the entire nation’s idolatry, Yahweh divided the nation into two kingdoms—the kingdom of Israel, containing the ten tribes, in the north and the kingdom of Judah in the south (1 Kgs. 11:1-13). During the next three hundred years, the kings and the people of Yahweh continuously rebelled against His kingship and violated their covenant with Him. Thus, Yahweh sent the pre-Assyrian prophets (734–722 BC) to rebuke Israel for their sins and warn them of the coming Assyrians, who would carry them out of the land and into captivity in 722 BC (2 Kgs. 17:7-41). Then Yahweh sent the pre-Babylonian prophets (722–586 BC) to rebuke Judah for their sins and warn them of the coming Babylonians, who would carry them out of the land into captivity in 586 BC (2 Kgs. 24). Yet the prophets also promised Yahweh’s people that one day He would send his “Davidic servant” (Ps. 110) to destroy the pagan nations, restore the people back to the Promised Land, and reconcile them and the nations to Yahweh, and that Yahweh would cause them and the nations to prosper in the land of blessing.
Under the rule of the Assyrian empire, Nabopolassar (626–605 BC) united the entire Babylonian region under his rule (Neo-Babylonian empire) and began to attack the Assyrians in 612 BC. In 605 BC Nabopolassar with his son Nebuchadnezzar II (605–562 BC), with the help of the Median nation, defeated the Assyrian and Egyptian armies at Carchemish along the Euphrates River. That same year Nabopolassar died of natural causes. This victory gave Babylon supremacy over the ancient Near East. In 605 BC Nebuchadnezzar II moved south and invaded Judah (2 Kgs. 24:1). During this attack he gathered many of the young nobles, including Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, and took them back to Babylon to reeducate them (Dan. 1). He also took many of the articles from the temple of Yahweh and placed them in the temple of his gods (Dan. 1:1-2).
Nebuchadnezzar II invaded Judah again in 597 BC and took King Jehoichin (597 BC) of Judah to Babylon along with most of Judah’s remaining leaders and Ezekiel (2 Kgs. 24:10-17; 2 Chron. 36:10). He then made Zedekiah (597–586 BC) king over Judah. Nebuchadnezzar II returned a third time in 588 BC and placed the city of Jerusalem under siege. In 586 BC he sacked the city, destroyed the city walls and the temple, and took Zedekiah and all but the poorest into captivity in Babylon. During Nebuchadnezzar II’s 43-year reign, he built the Babylonian kingdom into a grand empire that was practically invincible and brought immense wealth into the empire, making it a spectacular architectural wonder. However, after his death a series of relatively weak kings followed each other in rapid succession, and Babylon’s power declined. This is where the book of Daniel begins.
The purpose of the book of Daniel is to demonstrate the sovereignty of Yahweh over the affairs of humanity and the nations throughout history and into the future. With the sacking of Israel (northern kingdom) by the Assyrians in 722 BC and the sacking of Judah (southern kingdom) by the Babylonians in 586 BC, it would look to both the Jews and the pagan nations that Yahweh was not able to protect His chosen people or had abandoned them. Yahweh showed that not only had He not abandoned the Jews, but He had entered into exile with them. The stories in Dan. 1–6 show that Yahweh was not only able to take care of His people while in exile, but He was and is sovereign over the most powerful kings of the most powerful kingdoms of the world. He is the one who raises them up and puts them into power, therefore He is the one who can move them at will and bring them down (Dan. 2:20-23; 4:34-35; 5:18-21). Not only is Yahweh sovereign over the affairs of humanity in history, but Dan. 7–12 shows that Yahweh has already foreseen the future of His people and the surrounding nations and is able to direct them at will and bring them down before they even come into existence and power. Thus, He demonstrates through the life of Daniel and the visions He gave him that He is able to take care of His people in the midst of the seemingly all-powerful nations and throughout all time. And in the end, He will deliver them as He promised.
“The predominant message is that God’s people will experience suffering and be threatened with extinction, but that will not be the end of the story because their God is the living and all-powerful God who will get glory by vindicating His name and who will save them.”
Three major theological themes stand out in the book of Kings and develop the reason Israel went into exile.
The Sovereignty of Yahweh over All
The question the book of Daniel is answering is who is really king. The pagan kings of the ancient Near East had built some of the greatest and most powerful empires the world had ever seen. As a result, these men viewed themselves like gods. In addition, they were ruling over the beaten-down Jews, and therefore the God of the Jews was insignificant to them. Through the lives of Daniel and his friends Yahweh revealed that despite the circumstances of the world, whether they be the power of the pagan kings or the defeat of the Jews, Yahweh was still and always would be sovereign over creation and time. He will not allow powers to go unchecked, and He would not fail to keep His covenant promises to bless His people and restore them to the land one day.
The Grace of Yahweh for All
Despite Israel’s grievous sins against Yahweh and His covenant, Yahweh reveals in the book of Daniel that He still loves His people and is intimately involved in their lives even and especially while in exile. Yahweh not only took care of Daniel and his friends as they faced powerful men who wanted to control them and impossible circumstances that threatened to overwhelm them, but He also would continue to speak to them and reveal His will to them.
The People of Yahweh Can Influence the Culture
The story of Daniel and his friends is not one of people who compromised with the culture and began to think and act like the world, as seen in 1 and 2 Kings. Nor is it one in which the people of Yahweh condemn and judge the culture by withdrawing completely or standing outside the establishment yelling and criticizing it. Daniel and his friends entered into the culture, had government jobs in a pagan and corrupt culture, and befriended the pagan and immoral people and powers of the culture. Yet they did not condone or join the culture. They were committed to think and act in accordance with the character and will of Yahweh and to not be defiled by the culture. Learning about the culture and using it is not the same thing as assimilating to it. But it is the essential basis for critical involvement in it.
When confronted with the corruption, misunderstanding, and even hostility of the culture, they made it clear that they would remain loyal to Yahweh. While doing this, however, they treated the people around them with love, consideration, and respect. They were willing to work with the people while clearly and confidently proclaiming Yahweh as supreme and sovereign over the world and culture. As a result, Yahweh used them to influence and change the culture around them, including two very powerful and seemingly hopeless kings—Nebuchadnezzar II and Darius the Mede. Those who continued to oppose Yahweh and His people, like Belshazzar and the satraps, Yahweh allowed them to be victims of the very culture they had given their allegiance to and had celebrated. Daniel and his friends did not feel the need to judge or overthrow those who were against them, for they were confident that Yahweh would protect and deliver them.
There are two concurrent structures in the book of Daniel. The primary one is that the book is arranged in two divisions. The first division is Dan. 1–6, which contains narrative stories recounting the experiences of Daniel and his friends while living in Babylon. The second division is Dan. 7–12, which contains the prophetic visions of the things that were to come concerning the Jews while living under the rule of the pagan empires.
The second structure is organized around the chapters written in Hebrew and the ones written in Aramaic. The opening chapters (Dan. 1:1–2:4a) and the closing chapters (Dan. 8–12) are written in Hebrew, while the middle chapters (Dan. 2:4b–7:28) are written in Aramaic. The reason for this difference is not clear. Some have suggested that the Hebrew sections pertain more to the Jews and the Aramaic section pertains more to the pagan nations and rulers.
The Aramaic chapters have a symmetrical structure. Dan. 2 and 7 contain prophecies of four successive kingdoms, the last of which is destroyed and replaced by the kingdom of Yahweh. Dan. 3 and 6 tell stories of miraculous deliverances. Dan. 4 and 5 focus on Yahweh’s sovereignty over the prideful rulers of Babylon.
I. Yahweh Active in the History and Culture of the Nations (1:1–6:28)
This first division contains narrative stories recounting the experiences of Daniel and his friends while they were living in Babylon. The emphasis in this division is on Yahweh’s supreme sovereignty over the nations. Daniel and his friends’ submission to the sovereignty of Yahweh put them directly in conflict with the culture and the kings who dictated the culture. The godly way they handled these conflicts is what brought Yahweh’s blessings and allowed them to be used by Yahweh to influence those around them.
A. Daniel in Exile (1:1-21)
Dan. 1 is the introduction to the whole book. The emphasis of the chapter is on Daniel’s decision to remain loyal to Yahweh and not be defiled by the surrounding culture. This decision became the basis for his character, which accounts for his long and successful career.
1:1-2 Jehoiakim (609–598 BC) was the third to last king of Judah before Nebuchadnezzar II (605–562) came and sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the temple in 586 BC. Nebuchadnezzar II attacked and carried a portion of the Israelites off into exile in three different waves (605, 597, 586 BC). The book of Daniel begins in 605 BC, when Nebuchadnezzar II had just defeated the Egyptians at Carchemish and then marched south against Egypt. During this campaign he besieged Jerusalem, carried off some of the temple treasures, and took some of the nobility back to Babylon. This included Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.
According to the worldview of the ancient Near East, this chapter begins with the victory of Nebuchadnezzar II over Yahweh, His temple, and His people. From their perspective, Yahweh was unable to protect His people from the might of the foreign, pagan Babylonians. It would have been natural for even the Israelites to conclude that Yahweh was too weak to protect them or that He had deserted them. Now Nebuchadnezzar II would begin to assimilate the Jewish people into his culture and erase their Jewish identity and their God. However, these verses and the rest of the book make it clear that Yahweh is superior to Nebuchadnezzar II and Babylon, despite how the culture would view these events. This is seen in the contrast between Dan. 1:1, which says Nebuchadnezzar II “took,” and Dan. 1:2, which says Yahweh “delivered” it all to Nebuchadnezzar II.
1:3-7 The king had ordered Ashpenaz, his court official, to choose the best of the captives in order to recondition them into the Babylonian culture. By giving them new names, reeducating them, and having them eat the Babylonian food, Nebuchadnezzar II was communicating that the men belonged to him, were going to be made Babylonians in their thinking and conduct, and would then represent him before all others in his empire. The giving of a new name as a sign of new ownership and allegiance was a common court practice (Gen. 41:45; 2 Kgs. 23:34; 25:17; Esth. 2:7). Daniel (whose Hebrew name means “my judge is God”) was renamed Belteshazzar (“Bel guard his life”), Hananiah (“Yahweh has been gracious”) was renamed Shadrach (“Illuminated by the sun god”), Mishael (“Who is what God is?”) was renamed Meshach (“Who is like the moon god?”), and Azariah (“Yahweh has helped”) was renamed Abednego (“servant of Nego”). The meaning of the Babylonian names is not completely certain. Notice that at the heart of the name change was not the meaning of the name but the god it referenced. Nebuchadnezzar was attempting to change their identity and thus allegiance to the Babylonian gods and culture.
1:8 Daniel determined in his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s food and wine. The reason for Daniel rejecting the king’s food and wine as defiling is not clear. It is clear that vegetarianism is not the issue here, for the sacrificial system of the Mosaic Law required the Israelites to eat the meat of the sacrifice, and later Daniel’s diet included meat (Dan. 10:3).
One possibility is that it may have come from the temple and been offered to pagan deities. However, this could also be true of the vegetarian food. And most likely, only the king would have been allowed to eat the food that came from the temple sacrifices. Also, the Bible always makes reference to idols when they are involved, yet here there is no reference to idols.
A second possibility, suggested by the word “defilement,” is that the Mosaic food laws are in view. However, the Mosaic food laws make no reference to wine as being forbidden.
A third possibility is, with the specific mention of it being the king’s food, that eating it may represent loyalty to the king by eating at his table. Eating meals with others represents covenant making (Gen. 31:44-54; Ex. 24:1-11). However, this does not explain the use of the word “defile.”
It could be a combination of all of the above. What is clear is that the term “defile” (ga’al) refers to cultic defilement (Ezra 2:62; Neh. 7:64; Lam. 4:14; Mal. 1:7, 12), so Daniel’s religious piety is in view. The Bible makes it clear that true piety is one’s total allegiance to Yahweh alone. Nebuchadnezzar II had plundered, destroyed, and defiled the temple and its holy articles of Yahweh, and now this pagan king was demanding Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s total allegiance to him. This is seen in the fact that the head court official had “put” (wayyasem) the names on the Judeans; in response, Daniel “put” (wayyasem) it on his heart not to eat the king’s food and wine.
Despite the fact that Yahweh had allowed Daniel’s city to be attacked, some of Daniel’s people and family to be killed, and Daniel and others to be kidnapped and brainwashed, Daniel resolved to remain loyal to Yahweh above all. Not only that, but Daniel had every reason to hate the Babylonians for what they had done to him, yet Daniel politely asked his “subjugator” for a different plan.
1:9-14 As a result of Daniel’s commitment to Yahweh, Yahweh made the court official sympathetic to Daniel. The court official shared with Daniel that his life was on the line with the king if he did not obey the king and if Daniel became unhealthy. Daniel continued to care for the court official by devising a plan that would benefit them both. Daniel asked for ten days to prove that his plan would allow him to remain healthy. If it did not work, there would be plenty of time to adopt the king’s plan so that the court official’s life would not be endangered. Here, Daniel showed his obedience to Yahweh’s commands to love Yahweh and love others.
1:15-17 Yahweh blessed Daniel and his friends by making them healthier than all the others who had partaken of the king’s food and wine. So the court official applied Daniel’s diet to all the other men. Yahweh continued to bless the four men with knowledge and wisdom that surpassed all the others.
1:18-21 When the king saw that the four men were, in their wisdom and ability, beyond all the others and even his own wise men, he took them into his personal service. Because Daniel remained committed to Yahweh, Yahweh would use Daniel to influence one of the most prideful, corrupt, and powerful men in all the Babylonian empire. Daniel served as a high official through the lifetimes of many Babylonian kings and even into the Persian empire that followed. Because Daniel was committed to Yahweh above all others, he surpassed and outlived many pagan kings of hubris who trusted in their own wisdom and ability.
In this chapter, the problem did not arise due to any hatred toward the Jews; rather, from the king’s point of view, he believed he was giving them the greatest education and opportunity to be successful that anyone could have given them. Daniel recognized the dangers inherent in this offer and the temptation to assimilate and drift away from their faith in Yahweh. The conflict in this chapter arises from Daniel’s own conscience. No one was attacking or opposing them and it never became a political scandal. And because he refused to assimilate to the culture and treat the people with love and respect, He became a witness to the superiority of Yahweh.
B. Daniel Interprets the King’s Dream (2:1-49)
Dan. 2:4b–7:28 is written in Aramaic, which signals to the reader that this part is a distinct section of the book. In this section Yahweh directly confronted the pride of Nebuchadnezzar II with His sovereignty over the king’s kingdom and destiny. The means by which He did this was a dream and only His servant Daniel could communicate the meaning to Nebuchadnezzar II. This dream is the foundation to all the other visions that come in the next division (Dan. 7–12).
There is no universal agreement among scholars on the identity of the four metals of the statue of Dan. 2 and the four beasts of Dan. 7. All scholars agree that the kingdoms that the metals match up with correspond to the kingdoms that the beasts match up with. All scholars also agree that the first metal (gold) and the first beast (winged lion) is Nebuchadnezzar II because Dan. 2:38 specifically states this. And all scholars agree that the identity of the following metals and beasts that came after the first are kingdoms that consecutively followed the Babylonian empire.
Where scholars disagree is which kingdom is the second metal/beast, which determines which kingdom is the third and fourth metal/beast. The Roman empire view sees the second metal/beast as the Medo-Persian empire and thus the four metals and beasts are the Babylonian empire (gold/winged lion), Medo-Persian empire (silver/bear), Greek empire (bronze/leopard), and Roman empire (iron/terrible beast with horns). The Greek empire view sees the Median and Persian empires as two separate empires and thus the four metals and beasts are the Babylonian empire (gold/winged lion), Median empire (sliver/bear), Persian empire (bronze/leopard), and Greek empire (iron/terrible beast with horns). So the two main issues are whether to see Media and Persia as two separate empires and whether the Roman empire was at all in view in the book of Daniel. See The History of the Intertestamental Period for a historical background on the empires associated with the book of Daniel).
The Roman empire view has been the more popular view throughout the history of the Christian church for three main reasons. First, those who take the Roman empire view argue that the Median empire was not its own separate empire and did not really follow the Babylonian empire but rather co-existed with the Babylonian empire in an alliance and then with the Persian empire in an alliance. They would also argue that it was Cyrus II leading the Medo-Persian empire who conquered the Babylonian empire, thereby establishing itself as the next world empire, not the Median empire. However, it can also be argued that the order of Daniel’s kingdoms is the order of their rise to the height of their power and prominence, not the chronological beginning to end of their existence. The Persian empire existed before they defeated the Babylonian empire, and the Babylonian kingdom existed long into and after the Persian empire, and likewise for the kingdoms after them. Daniel makes it clear that the order of the kingdoms is not the order of their existence but the order of their supreme power over the other kingdoms. This is specifically seen in Dan. 7:11-12, where the fourth beast is destroyed but the other three are allowed to exist for a little while though they had been stripped of their dominion.
The idea that no Median empire existed on its own between the Babylonian and Persian empires is a misconception. Cyrus II did build Persia into an empire when he became king in 550 BC while Babylon was still an empire. And then he defeated Babylon in 539 BC. But this does not mean Media did not exist as the dominant empire before Persia. The difficulty is that we know so little about the Median empire because the empires of Nebuchadnezzar II and Cyrus II were so grand and overshadowed the Medes. Thus, we say with confidence that it was not a dominant empire. The Medians were an ally of Nebuchadnezzar II and helped him defeat the Assyrian empire. And they were overshadowed by the power of Nebuchadnezzar II’s Babylon, merely existing as a neighbor kingdom. But, after the death of Nebuchadnezzar II (605–562 BC) Babylon declined significantly in power, and the Median empire began to control the world scene. During the rule of Nebuchadnezzar II’s successors, the Median monarch was Astyages (585–550 BC). Astyages was a powerful and influential king who had married one of his daughters to Nebuchadnezzar II; his other daughter was married to Cambyses I of Persia and became the mother of Cyrus II. Even Nebuchadnezzar II’s fear of Median power is seen in the fortifications he built along the northern frontier of his empire. Between the Babylonian and Persian empires, Astyages conquered both Elam and Susa as he expanded his empire. Media was the dominant empire in the world until Cyrus II (the grandson of Astyages) became king of Persia. The reasons will be discussed in this chapter (Dan. 7) with metals, further in Dan. 7 with the beasts, and in Dan. 8 with the ram and goat.
It is also important to note that the Roman empire view was not the earliest view, as the Greek empire view was held by noted early Jewish scholars. Most significant was the fourth Sibyl, a Jewish scholar whose book is dated to about 80 AD; his source, however, has been identified as pre-Roman, dating to about 140 BC. The four empires are identified as the Assyrians, the Medes, the Persians, and the Macedonians (Greek). This is also supported by the Greek historians as early as Herodotus. Many of the ancient scholars did not view the Assyrian and Babylonian empires as separate but saw the Babylonian empire as a continuation of the Assyrian empire since they were so culturally similar. Of the Persians the fourth Sibyl says, “Their might shall be supreme in all the world.” And of the Macedonians the fourth Sibyl says, “The Persians shall experience the yoke of slavery and terror.” Both of these comments correspond to Daniel’s comments concerning the kingdoms in Daniel 2.
The Roman historians also viewed these four successive empires in the same way but increased the number to five by adding the Roman empire. Polybius quotes the Roman general Scipio, viewing the destruction of Carthage, as thinking back on the downfalls of Assyria, Media, Persia and Macedonia, and expecting the same eventuality for Rome. The view of the empires by these ancient scholars, who lived in the historical time period of Daniel, matches up perfectly with the Greek empire view of the book of Daniel.
Second, those who take the Roman empire view argue that the Jewish literature of the Roman empire and the early Christian literature interpreted the fourth metal and beast as the Roman empire. This view began with the Jewish historian Josephus (37–100 AD), who fought the Roman empire, was captured by the Romans, and was then consulted on behalf of the Romans to help them better understand the Jews. It then became popularized by the Jewish writing 2 Esdras 12:11-12 (written sometime between 70 and 218 AD). It was then carried over into the early church fathers. The problem with this is that these views all began and were held during the time the Roman empire was ruling. They do not necessarily reflect an attempt at discerning the intentions of the book of Daniel but could merely be a reinterpretation of the book of Daniel to fit their own historical circumstances.
Third, those who take the Roman empire view argue that Paul used the language of Dan. 7 to describe the Antichrist and that John in the book of Revelation used the symbolism of Daniel 7 to refer to powers that were then existent and future. The fact that Paul and John used symbolism from Daniel does not mean they were saying the fourth metal and beast were Rome. Rev. 13 describes only one beast, not four, and it looks like a conglomeration of all the beasts. This shows that John is using the imagery of the fourth beast as a typology of his current situation; he is not saying that Daniel meant it as Rome. The Second Testament does this a lot when they use the child Emmanuel (Isa. 7:14) as a typology for Jesus (Matt. 1:22-23) or the name Babylon to refer the equally corrupt and dominating empire of Rome (1 Pet. 5:13; Rev. 14:8; 17:5).
A major problem with the Roman empire view is that Daniel specifically states that the Son of Man, whom Jesus identified as Himself, would come after the destruction of the statute and the fourth beast. The problem is that Jesus came in the middle of the Roman empire, which reached its height of power many years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, under Trajan (53–117 AD). This would mean the Roman empire view believes Daniel was referring to the second coming of Jesus after the fall of Rome. Though western Rome fell in 476 AD, it continued on in the east politically and in the west religiously in the Holy Roman Empire. The problem is that it is clear by now that there is no remnant of the Roman empire anymore. This has led many to form the “gap” theory or “restored” theory: that Rome will be restored in some way as the ten horns. But there is nothing in the book of Daniel to even hint at the fourth beast and its horns being two separate iterations of the Roman empire nor any hint of any kind of gap. With the falling away of the Roman empire and the many problems with the restored theory, many scholars have been forced to reexamine the book of Daniel based on the details and context of the book and not the culture we live in. Thus, the following chapter will be examined based on the Greek empire view while also acknowledging there are still things we do not understand from Daniel’s time and culture.
2:1-2 That these events happened in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar II’s reign (605–562 BC) seems to contradict the previous chapter, which said that the testing period was three years. It is clear from the context that the events of this chapter happened after the previous, since Daniel and his friends are currently serving as full-fledged members of the king’s advisory court. The problem is solved by understanding how the Babylonians reckoned a king’s succession year. In the Babylonian system, the year that the king came to the throne (accession year) was not counted as his first year of reigning. His first full year of reigning was counted as his first year of reigning, so the second full year of his reign was actually his third year. The Israelite writers, on the other hand, counted fractions of a year as a whole year. So the final months of the year 605 BC, in which Nebuchadnezzar became king, would have been considered year one by the writer of the book of Daniel, though it would not have been counted by the Babylonians.
Nebuchadnezzar was filled with anxiety, which caused him to have disturbing dreams. Yahweh used this in order to give the king a dream that was meant to reveal a truth about the king’s kingdom, which would then draw the king toward Yahweh. The king then summoned all the experts from many fields of study in order to give him wisdom on the meaning of the dream. The word for “magicians” (hartummim) is Egyptian in origin. It is used of dream interpreters at the Assyrian court. The variation of terms in the different lists from chapter to chapter shows that the narrator is not using them with any exactness but is showing that an impressive group of experts have been called forth. The narrator does this in order to contrast their failure with Daniel’s success.
2:3-9 All the wise men asked the king to tell them his dream so that they could tell him what it meant. However, the king had determined not to tell them the dream. In the interpretation of visions and dreams, it was not uncommon to give vague interpretations that could be understood in different ways. That way, no matter what happened the interpretation was always correct. The king knew that the only way he could depend on the interpretation was if they could also tell him the dream. This would show that they were truly connected to the gods and gifted. To motivate them, he threatened to kill all those who could not do it and reward greatly those who could. The meaning of this dream was obviously very important to him.
2:10-13 The court advisors showed their failure to help the king by proclaiming that no human could do what he had asked—only the gods, who do not live among the humans. Yet, in this declaration of ineptness they unknowingly espoused great wisdom and set the stage for Yahweh to speak through Daniel. This is where Yahweh would reveal the difference between Himself and the gods. The gods rarely interacted with humans, and when they did, it was to serve only their purposes. Yet Yahweh is a relational God, intimately involved in the affairs of humans.
The king was unwilling to hear their wisdom and gave the order to execute all the advisors in the kingdom, whether they were there or not. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were mostly likely not present because they were low-ranking advisors, newly added to the administration.
2:14-23 Arioch was then sent out to execute all the advisors in the kingdom, including Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Daniel requested to be brought before the king, where he asked the king for time to discover the interpretation of the dream. Daniel immediately asked Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah to join him in prayer, that Yahweh in His mercy would reveal to him the interpretation of the dream so he and all the advisors might not die. Once again, Daniel was not looking out for just his own and his friends’ lives, but even the lives of all the advisors. Yahweh then revealed the dream and its meaning to Daniel in a vision. This is what the other gods could not and would not do. Daniel’s immediate response was to praise Yahweh. The heart of the psalm is that only Yahweh puts kings into power and gives wisdom to whom he chooses. Yahweh, as the sovereign King of creation, is over all kings. Daniel’s successful appeal to Yahweh has no parallel in the wisdom literature of the ancient Near East. Wise men always succeeded on their own. Yet three times Daniel asserted that Yahweh reveals mysteries (Dan. 2:20-23, 27-28, 29b-30).
2:24-30 Daniel was then brought into the presence of the king. When the king asked Daniel if he was able to interpret the dream, Daniel immediately proclaimed that no human could do what he asked for. However, there is a God in the heavens that reveals mysteries to humans. The first part of Daniel’s statement was in agreement with the advisors. It is the second half that is different and shows Yahweh as unique. Daniel made it clear that the meaning of the dream was given to him not because he was better than others but so that the king could understand his dream. This shows that Yahweh’s intended goal in giving the king a dream was not to confuse and disturb the king but to communicate with him and draw him to Himself. Theologically, what is important here is not that Yahweh gave Daniel wisdom but why He gave him wisdom. These verses underscore the superiority of Yahweh over the gods of Babylon. The word “mystery” (raz) is a Persian word used only in this chapter and in Dan. 4:6 in the Bible. It is a technical term for that which can be understood only by means of divine revelation, especially Yahweh’s hidden purpose in history.
2:31-36 Daniel described the dream as a giant statue made of different metals that was then destroyed by a rock cut not by human hands. Not a trace of the statue could be found, but the rock grew into a large mountain that filled all the earth. Each of these metals match up with specific empires that would rule over the Israelites. The association of kingdoms with metals was common in the ancient Near East.
2:37-38 Even though Daniel declared the king to be the king of kings, he made it clear that the king had been put into power by the sovereign God of creation. Daniel stated that the gold head of the statue was Nebuchadnezzar II of the Babylonian empire. When Nebuchadnezzar II became king in 605 BC, he was the one who destroyed the Assyrian empire and built the Babylonian kingdom into a grand empire that was practically invincible. During his 43-year reign, he brought immense wealth into the empire and built Babylon into a spectacular architectural wonder, making it world-famous for its magnificence and strength. However, after his death a series of relatively weak kings followed each other in rapid succession, and Babylon’s power declined. The book of Daniel always associates the glory and magnificence of Babylon with Nebuchadnezzar II (Dan. 2:37, 38; 4:22, 30, 36; 5:18, 19).
2:39 Daniel made it clear that all the metals below the head were the consecutive kingdoms that followed the Babylonian empire. Daniel stated that the second kingdom (silver) would come after Nebuchadnezzar II, not after the Babylonian empire as a whole. After the death of Nebuchadnezzar II, Babylon declined significantly in power and the Median empire began to control the world scene. The Persian empire did not dominate the world until many years after Nebuchadnezzar II.
Daniel also stated that the second kingdom (silver) was inferior to the first (gold) and that the third kingdom (bronze) “will rule the earth,” making clear that the second (silver) was inferior to both the first (gold) and third (bronze). The second (silver) was passed over quickly, as if it was not worth mentioning. This fits well with the Median empire, which was not as great as the Babylonians before them or the Persians after them. During Nebuchadnezzar II’s reign, Babylon and the Medes were allies, but Nebuchadnezzar II was the more powerful and dominant of the two. After his death and the decline of Babylon, the Medes became the more dominant and powerful of the two; however, they were never as great as Babylon had been. They maintained this until Cyrus II built Persia into great empire.
The second empire (silver) cannot be Persian because, as an empire, it was far greater than all the empires before it and in many ways those after it. The land Cyrus II conquered was by far the vastest empire the world had seen. And his successors continued to push outwards the borders of the Persian empire. His successors added all of Egypt, a chunk of Europe, and more territory in the East. This is why the Persian empire fits better with the description of the third kingdom (bronze). The third kingdom (bronze) also cannot be Greece, which was slightly smaller than the Persian empire.
2:40-43 Daniel then stated that the fourth kingdom (iron) was marked by its strength and would crush all the empires before them; this fits with the Greek empire, which conquered all the other empires more swiftly and in a more devastating way than all those before them. The Roman empire was not as swift and struggled to dominate the world.
The exact meaning of “iron mixed” is unknown and is found only in two Zoroastrian texts (an influential Persian religion of the time). Daniel stated that this was different kinds of people mixing together, which would make this final empire weak. This most likely refers to the divided Greek empire after the death of Alexander II (356–323 BC), which weakened his empire. The mixing of peoples may refer to the marriage alliances of the different kingdoms of the Greek empire (Dan. 11–12) after Alexander II’s death.
The Greek empire was very clearly divided into two periods—invincible strength followed by division and weakness. The Roman empire does not have a clear division in its time of existence that would fit with the iron mixed with clay. Likewise, the Greek empire was clearly a mixture of the western and eastern worlds of cultures, whereas the Roman empire never really ruled over the east in the way the Greeks did.
The fact that all of these metals, which represent different kingdoms, are all part of the same statue shows that, ultimately, they are all the same kingdom—the kingdom humans build. Each successive metal increases in strength but decreases in value. Though human kingdoms may become stronger over time, they will decrease in their value. The statue as a whole is an image of a human, who were created in the image of God yet have now made themselves into an idol, thus becoming less than what they were originally created to be. Something has gone wrong with the image, for humans have made themselves autonomous from their creator and seek gain at the expense of others. The human image has become an idol. The head of the idol is a sinful human. He has exalted his kingdom rather than Yahweh’s and so will be destroyed.
2:44-45 The stone represents a new kind of kingdom—the kingdom of Yahweh that He will establish to destroy and replace the kingdoms of humans, a kingdom that will endure forever (Isa. 2:2; 6:3; Mic. 4:1). The stone that crushes the statue is not cut by human hands, which means it will not be created or sustained by humans. The stone represents Yahweh’s rule, and there is no hint of a messianic expectation in this chapter. The rock is used throughout the First Testament as a metaphor of Yahweh’s power, protection, provision, and care for His people. Yahweh is continuously called the Rock (Gen. 49:24; Deut. 32:4, 18, 30-31; 2 Sam. 2:2; 22:32, 47; 23:3; Ps. 18:2, 31, 46; 19:14; 27:5; 28:1; 31:2, 3; 40:2, 9; 42:9; 62:2, 6, 7; 71:3; 78:35; 89:26; 92:15; 94:22; 95:1; 144:1; Isa. 17:10; 26:4; 30:29; 44:8; Hab. 1:12). It is later revealed that Jesus would be the rock that Yahweh would use to destroy the kingdoms of humans and establish the kingdom of Yahweh. In the Second Testament, Christ alluded to Himself as being the rock—in the parable of the two builders (Matt. 7:24-27 [Lk. 6:46-49])—and told Peter that He would build the church on Himself as the rock (Ps. 118:22; Isa. 8:14-15; Matt. 16:18). Finally, Paul and Peter both explicitly state that Christ is the rock (Rom. 9:33; 1 Cor. 10:4; 1 Pet. 2:8). The stone not cut by human hands that represents a kingdom has no parallel in non-biblical sources.
Yahweh will destroy this human idolatrous kingdom with His small and seemingly insignificant Rock/Messiah (Amos 9:11-12; Hos. 3:4; Mic. 5:1-5; Isa. 9:6-7; 11:1-5, 10; 42:1-7; 49:1-7; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12; 61:1-3; Jer. 23:5; 30:9, 21; 33:14-22; Ezek. 17:22-24; 34:23-24; 37:24-28) and replace it with His kingdom that will grow into a mountain (Mic. 4:1-2; Isa. 2:2-4; 24:23; 25:6-9; Ezek. 40:1-48:35) that fills all the earth (Mic. 5:1-9; Isa. 2:2-4; 24:21-23; 66:12; Zeph. 3:9-12; Ezek. 47:1-12). Anyone who chooses to remain a part of this false image of God will be destroyed along with the idolatrous human kingdom. But as the prophets have already shown, anyone among the nations can choose to defect and become a part of the kingdom of Yahweh by faith (Mic. 4:1-7; 7:16-17; Isa. 2:2-4; 11:10; 19:18-25; 40:6-7; 49:6; 55:3-5; 56:3-8; 60:1-11; 66:12; Zeph. 3:9-12; 66:17-19; Jer. 3:16-18; Ezek. 17:22-24). The message of this dream reminds the citizens of the kingdom of Yahweh that power and glory of the kingdom of the world is an illusion; it will not last and will fall away. When you know that something is temporary, it is easier to resist.
2:46-49 By Nebuchadnezzar II bowing down to Daniel and offering sacrifices and incense to him, he was not acknowledging Daniel as a god or as a superior to him; rather, he was honoring Daniel’s god through Daniel as a mediator or a priest-like figure. Nor did Nebuchadnezzar II convert to an exclusive belief in Yahweh. He was merely acknowledging Yahweh as a superior to many of the Babylonian gods in the area of his ability to reveal information. His lack of conversion is seen in the following chapter. Yet Nebuchadnezzar II did move closer to an acknowledgement of Yahweh as supreme than he ever had before. And with each chapter he will move closer to Yahweh. Nebuchadnezzar then appointed Daniel to his personal court. Daniel also requested that his friends be appointed. This moved them higher up into the government in order to have a greater influence.
In this chapter, the conflict that Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego faced had nothing to do with their faith but with the fact that they were part of the government of Babylon and just happened to get caught in the politics of power. Their faith in Yahweh, not their position within the government or how they played politics, was what gave them the advantage. Their God was able to reveal things to them that the sages did not know. As a result, involvement in the pagan government and culture gave them the opportunity to witness the superiority of Yahweh.
C. Daniel’s Friends and the Fiery Furnace (3:1-30)
There is a direct connection between the dream of the statue Yahweh gave Nebuchadnezzar II in the previous chapter and the statue that Nebuchadnezzar II built in this chapter. The way Nebuchadnezzar II built the statue and forced everyone to bow down to it shows that he did truly accept the message of Yahweh’s dream. In rescuing Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Yahweh actively demonstrated His sovereignty over Babylon that He had declared in the previous chapter.
It is not clear where Daniel is in this chapter, but it is extremely unlikely that the lack of mention is because he bowed down to the statue. As an administrator in Nebuchadnezzar II’s kingdom, Daniel could have been serving abroad as an ambassador to the king. One can be confident that he did not bow down to the statue because, as seen in the previous chapter and all the following chapters, the character of Daniel is consistently loyal to Yahweh despite all opposition. Yes, godly people do mess up, but the Bible has never been afraid to illustrate this. In fact, the Bible usually emphasizes these moments of human failure. Finally, if Solomon lost the kingship because of his idolatry, then there would be no way Yahweh would have given so many visions to Daniel concerning the future of Israel had he bowed down to the statue.
3:1 The setting up of impressive statues is well documented in the histories of the Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, and Greek empires. The statue was meant to celebrate the military, the culture, and the values of the Babylonian empire. Nebuchadnezzar’s name means “may Nabu preserve my firstborn son/dynasty.” Nabu was the Babylonian god of writing, destiny, and wisdom. The statue was most likely a gold-plated statue of Nabu. In the dream Yahweh gave Nebuchadnezzar II, only the head, which represented him, was gold, meaning his dynasty and kingdom would come to an end. Now he had built a statue of Nabu, gold plating the whole statue as if to say the Babylonian god Nabu had written a better destiny for him as king—his dynasty and kingdom living on forever. The king had created something in his own image, which represented his human rule rather than Yahweh’s divine rule. Therefore the king as the head of the Babylonian empire was defining reality, right and wrong, success and failure, Babylon is god. Yet this image had no life. Here, he was living in direct opposition to the word of Yahweh and his own statements of Yahweh’s superiority at the end of Dan. 2.
The statue being ninety feet tall and nine feet wide has odd dimensions. Normal proportions of the human figure are 5:1 or 6:2, while this statue was 10:1. It may have been a stele (stone slab) only partly sculptured. Or, it may have been a human-like figure on a tall pedestal. It may even be that the size of the figure is not meant to be taken literally but is a part of the satirical portrayal of paganism, presenting the image as something abnormal and grotesque.
3:2-7 The king then commanded all the kingdom’s officials to come to the dedication of the statue. The list of all the officials does not refer to specific offices within the Babylonian kingdom; rather, they are general terms to communicate the point that every possible person of authority and influence showed up.
The herald proclaimed that when all the different instruments (the band) played, then everyone was to fall down and worship the image that the king had set up. Whoever did not would be burned in the very furnaces that baked the bricks for the image. Death by burning as punishment is referred to occasionally in sources relating to Babylonian (Jer. 29:22), Persian (Herodotus, History 1.86), and Greek (1 Macc. 7; 13:4-8) empires.
3:8-12 At first the list of officials and instruments looks impressive, but then the repetition of the lists descends into satire. This repetition is used to portray the pagans as a version of Pavlov’s dogs. The Babylonians went to the king and complained that the Jews were not acting automatically at the sound of the band, as they were (Dan. 3:10-11). They were thinking and acting on their own—on the word of Yahweh and not the music of the empire. The words of the officials show that these Jews had a reputation for allegiance to Yahweh and not to the king and his empire.
The word Jew is a shortened anglicized form of the Hebrew word Yehudi, which is the English name Judah. The tribe of Judah was the head over all the tribes of Israel. After the kingdom split in 930 BC, the ten tribes in the north became known as the kingdom of Israel, while the tribe of Judah became known as the kingdom of Judah. In the years after the split, many of the godly people from the northern tribes migrated to Judah because of the ungodly kings of Israel. Over time the tribe of Judah was filled with people from all the tribes. In 722 BC the Assyrian empire sacked the kingdom of Israel in the north, killing most of the people and deporting the rest. In 586 BC Babylon sacked the kingdom of Judah, deporting the wealthy and allowing the poor to remain in the land. These exiles were referred to as Jews since they had been residents of Judah. This name became more prominent when they returned to the tribal territory of Judah after the exile in 539 BC.
3:13-18 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s refusal to bow down to the statue was a direct affront to the king’s authority. The king said that if they did not bow down, then he would throw them into the furnace to die. The king then specifically said there was no god who could save them. Though he did not question the existence of Yahweh, for he had already acknowledged Yahweh (Dan. 2:47), he was questioning the existence of a god who could or would save them. The king was basically saying, “There is no god who can rescue you because I am god and my gods will not save you.”
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s commitment to Yahweh was so great that they would not renounce their allegiance to Yahweh even if it meant their deaths. Dan. 3:17 literally reads, “If our God whom we serve exists, He is able to deliver us from the blazing fiery furnace, and from your hand, O king, He will deliver.” This sounds like they are doubting Yahweh’s existence, but the context does not support this. Why would they stand up to the king on pain of death if they did not believe Yahweh was real? The phrase is rhetorical for the sake of argument and reflects, perhaps sarcastically, the king’s doubt in the existence of Yahweh, a God who could save them. What makes their faith so amazing is that they had no reason to believe that Yahweh would perform a miracle on their behalf. Though they knew He could, their lives so far had shown that He usually did not. He had not saved them from being abducted by the Babylonians or saved the Jews from being killed or the city of Jerusalem from being destroyed. Their faith was not based on what Yahweh could do for them but on who He is. Likewise, the men did not defend their behavior but simply stated that they would remain true to the commands of Yahweh.
3:19-23 Enraged at their defiance, the king ordered that the furnace be heated to an extreme temperature and for them to be tied up and thrown in. The fact that the soldiers assigned to this task died from the leaping flames of the furnace shows how impossible it would be for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to survive. When a nation deifies its own authority, then human life becomes less valuable. The king would throw away human life just to destroy human life.
3:24-27 After Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown in, the king was then amazed, for he saw a fourth man walking around in the furnace with the three, who were now untied. The king referred to this fourth man as one who “looks like a son of the gods.” In the Hebrew the word for “god” always has a plural form, so plurality is determined by context. However, the plural Aramaic word for “god” is always a true plural. “A son of the gods” is a Semitic idiom for a member of the class “gods,” a member of the pantheon of the gods. The term “the Most High” is used both of Yahweh (Deut. 32:8; Ps. 9:2) and of the pagan gods (Num. 24:16; Isa. 14:14). When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the furnace, their clothes were not singed nor did they even smell like smoke. This also emphasizes that this was truly a miracle.
3:28-30 Nebuchadnezzar II was impressed by both the facts that they were willing to die as and that they had been rescued. However, his praise for Yahweh does not mean he had converted. The king was still concerned with power; he was just also impressed now with Yahweh’s power. In fact, he still used power to tell the people which God or gods to honor. Before, he had threatened to destroy anyone who did not worship the image; now he threatened to destroy anyone who spoke against Yahweh. He still did not recognize, care for, or lead his people; they belonged to him to command and use. However, for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego it was not about power and measurable outcomes, but about morality and their relationship with Yahweh.
This story is about being an active part of the culture while resisting what is not godly. They did not withdraw from and condemn the culture. They had government jobs in an extremely immoral and corrupt government. They did not even scream and protest against it, for the king had not even noticed them. They merely lived their lives the way Yahweh wanted them to and did not go along with the culture when it did not align with Yahweh. When they were finally noticed, they did not defend their actions, condemn the king and culture, or lecture him. They treated him with love and respect while they clearly and politely communicated whom their allegiance belonged to. This is what made it so difficult for Nebuchadnezzar II, because they did not give him a real violation of the law or any reason to kill them, and their character did not offend. The fact that they were not a threat is what makes their witness so powerful.
We cannot expect the culture to reflect the character and morality of Yahweh if it does not know Him. We are called to lovingly and peacefully remind the Nebuchadnezzars of our culture that they are not god. We are to love Yahweh and others. And if we truly love others, then we are going to seek the best for our nation and people, not because we believe our nation is the best but because we care about the people.
In this chapter, Nebuchadnezzar II’s decree was not a result of anti-Jewish motives, though he did call for the deaths of any dissenters, which would directly affect faithful Jews. When they were noticed for their exclusive faith, they immediately became the target of a government that wanted to destroy them because of their exclusive beliefs. Their accusers were motivated by power and jealousy. And with Nebuchadnezzar II, religion, politics, and personal agendas and pride were all mixed together and became a whirlwind threatening Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. But because they remained firm in their beliefs in Yahweh and treated the king with respect, they became a witness to the superiority of Yahweh.
D. Yahweh Humbles Nebuchadnezzar (4:1-37)
Here Nebuchadnezzar II finally learned the lesson that Yahweh had been trying to communicate for so long. Yet because of his stubbornness Yahweh had to break him so he would realize who was truly king.
4:1-3 Nebuchadnezzar II began his letter by addressing “who dwell in all the earth,” implying the great extent of his rule, but ends by praising “the King of heaven.” The king praised Yahweh not just for His power but that Yahweh’s power and kingdom are superior to all others and are eternal. He has finally acknowledged what Yahweh had communicated to him in the dream of the statue. The king then tells of how he truly learned this and came to accept it.
4:4-9 Though the king was flourishing, Yahweh had given him another dream that disturbed him. When the king described himself as “thriving,” he used the word ra‘nan, which is usually used to describe the vibrant foliage of a tree (Deut. 12:2; Jer. 11:16). It is used metaphorically to denote human flourishing and prosperity like that of a tree (Ps. 37:35; 92:13-15).
As before, he consulted all his wise men for the meaning of the dream, and they could not tell him. Obviously he had not truly learned from the previous dream in Dan. 2, that only Yahweh could give meaning to his questions and troubles. Once again, he found that only Daniel, who served Yahweh, could give him the meaning. Nebuchadnezzar II’s description of Daniel’s source of insight as “a spirit of ’elahin qaddisin” is most naturally taken in a polytheistic sense.
4:10-12 In the dream the king saw an enormous, flourishing tree that provided shelter for all the earth, feeding and sheltering all the animals of the earth. A large, fruitful, and long-living tree is a common symbol of the life-giving and sustaining cosmos or deity itself. Such a tree is also a natural symbol for the king, who mediates the deity’s life, provision, and protection to his people (Ezek. 31). The king then saw an angel who commanded that the tree be cut down, the fruit be scattered, and the stump be bound with iron and bronze, which meant it had been judged and would not be able to regrow.
The image of the tree then shifted to a human, who is Nebuchadnezzar II (Ezek. 17:22-24; 31:18). The king’s mind was to be reduced to that of an animal, where he would live and act like one for “seven times” and then be restored. The “seven times”—seven often being a metaphor for completion—could literally mean seven years or to the complete amount of time that it would take for the king to turn to Yahweh.
4:24-27 Daniel then told the king the interpretation of the dream. It was not from Daniel’s professional skill but from his personal relationship with Yahweh that he gained insight. Yahweh had decreed that the king would be driven away from his people to think, act, and live like a wild animal. At the end of the set time he would finally and truly acknowledge Yahweh as sovereign over all the nations, the one who gives and takes power from whomever He chooses. The fact that this is repeated twice means it is the point the king is to learn. What is being called for is evidence of a changed attitude in changed behavior. The king’s kingdom (stump) would not be restored to him until he acknowledged Yahweh and Yahweh decreed it to be so. Mesopotamian dream interpreters had magical remedies for dispelling the evil warned by dreams. Daniel did not do that. Instead, he called for a moral conversion of the king. Daniel immediately encouraged the king to renounce his sins, turn to Yahweh, and live righteously and justly. However, Nebuchadnezzar II did not listen, so Yahweh had to break him.
4:28-33 A year later, while the king was bragging about the empire he had built, a voice came from heaven saying the dream was now going to be fulfilled. The king immediately began to think of himself as an animal and to act like one. This is a real and documented mental illness called boanthropy, zoanthropy, or lycanthropy. Its decline came in the 1600s due in part to the widespread recognition of the symptoms of mental illness and in part to better community care, which prevented the insane from walking around. The scholar R. K. Harrison gives a detailed description of a case of boanthropy that he personally observed in a British mental institution in 1946.
In the previous chapters, the king showed that he had chosen not to act as the image of God but rather to reflect his own image to the world and dominate with power. In the first dream he was portrayed as a magnificent and costly statue. He had made himself and his kingdom into an idol. In this second dream he was shown to be the beast he truly was. When humans cease to reflect the image of God, they no longer act as true humans, as they were meant to be. Instead, they act as beasts, driven by their desire, dominating and taking from others for their own gain to the exclusion of righteousness, justice, and the good of others. The dream here reveals that Nebuchadnezzar II had become this, and the vision to come in Dan. 7 will reveal that all the nations are this.
4:34-37 At the end of the time, the king was restored to his right mind and truly turned to Yahweh, confessing Him as the only sovereign king. The fact that no other nobility assassinated him and took power during this time of extreme weakness is a testament to Yahweh’s care for Nebuchadnezzar II. The poem shows that he had truly learned the point and had converted to Yahweh. Yahweh then restored Nebuchadnezzar II’s kingdom to him. The phrase “to the people of every race” is used in Dan. 3:4, 29. First it was directed towards Nebuchadnezzar II and then to Yahweh. In both cases, the king used force to get people to acknowledge it. Now he simply bears witness to Yahweh’s power. He no longer relies on the power of physical force but on the power of personal testimony.
E. Yahweh Declares the Fall of Babylon (5:1-31)
Dan. 4 and 5 are meant to be read together, as seen by Dan. 5:2 and 5:11, which connect this chapter to Nebuchadnezzar II. Here Yahweh showed that He would fulfill the message of the dream He revealed to Nebuchadnezzar II in Dan. 2. Just as he brought down Nebuchadnezzar II in the previous chapter, now He would bring down the Babylonian empire. This fall is evidence to the fact that the following empires would also fall, just as the dream had said.
5:1 The chapter begins with Belshazzar, of whom Nebuchadnezzar is said to be the father. Historically speaking, Nebuchadnezzar II was not Belshazzar’s biological father. Nebuchadnezzar II (605–562 BC) reigned for forty years. He was succeeded by his son Amel-Marduk (562–560 BC), who made religious reforms that angered the priesthood. This may have something to do with his father’s conversion. Amel-Marduk also set free from prison Jehoiachin, one of the last kings of Judah, and placed Jehoiachin at his banquet table for the rest of Jehoiachin’s life (2 Kgs. 25:27-30). Amel-Marduk was assassinated by his brother-in-law Neriglissar (560–556 BC), who restored all paganism in the Babylonian empire. He was succeeded by his son, Labashi-Marduk (556 BC), who was only a child. Nine months later he was assassinated by Nabonidus (556–539 BC)—possibly the son-in-law of Nebuchadnezzar II—and his son Belshazzar. Nabonidus neglected the chief Babylonian god Marduk and gave priority to the moon god Sin, which angered the priesthood. Nabonidus left the capital for ten years to restore the temples of the god Sin. He left his son Belshazzar in charge of the capital while he was gone. Nebuchadnezzar II’s being called Belshazzar’s father is most likely in the same sense as our “founding fathers”—as in he is in the line of kings in the Neo-Babylonian empire that Nebuchadnezzar founded and built.
Some scholars have questioned the fact that Belshazzar is called king here but was never truly king in an official way. It is clear from history, however, that he did act as a king. There is an Aramaic and Assyrian inscription on a statue discovered in Tel Fakhariyeh in Syria. The statue is of the ninth-century BC ruler Guzan. In the Assyrian text he is called sakin (“governor”), and in the Aramaic text he is called mlk (“king”). This means the Aramaic word for king used here in Dan. 5:1 has a much broader meaning and can easily be used of Belshazzar.
5:2-4 Belshazzar threw a banquet in his own name and invited his nobles to drink with him. He may have been using his father’s absence and conflict with the priesthood to become king. Unlike Nebuchadnezzar II, Belshazzar had no accomplishments to his name and so entertained people with pleasure to secure their loyalty. He was more concerned with flaunting his status than with his responsibility. And so he had no place in his kingdom for Daniel, who had now been pushed away into silence.
Belshazzar had the vessels from the temple of Yahweh, which Yahweh had given over to Nebuchadnezzar II (Dan. 1:1-2), to drink from at the party. These were the holy vessels of the temple of Yahweh used in the atonement for sins and were the last connection to the temple. Belshazzar’s sacrilege here had two parts: first, non-Jews were drinking from them in an orgy, and, second, they used the vessels as they praised their gods. He must have lost his senses because even among the ancient Near Eastern cultures using the vessels of another god in this way was seen as sacrilegious. This is why Nebuchadnezzar II had put them in the temple of his gods—he still saw them as sacred.
5:5-8 Suddenly the fingers of a human hand began to write on the palace wall near the lampstand. The reference to the lampstand probably means that the writing could be clearly seen by all and metaphorically represented the illumination of Yahweh. The king immediately transitioned from drunken pride to crippling fear. The Hebrew phrase “the knots of his loins were loosed,” translated as “his knees gave way,” may mean he lost control of his bowels (Gen. 35:11; Job 38:3; 40:4). The writing on the wall is culturally significant for the Babylonian god Nabu, to whom Nebuchadnezzar II had looked to write him a favorable destiny; the god was now being shown as inept as Yahweh showed His power over history by writing Belshazzar and Babylon’s destiny of destruction. Again, the king brought in the wise men to read and interpret the writing, but no one could do it. The phrase was probably written in cuneiform or unpointed Aramaic, which can be difficult to read because the vocalization is dependent on how it is understood.
5:10-17 The queen mother—as in someone from an early generation who remembered Daniel and all he had done for Nebuchadnezzar II—came to tell Belshazzar of Daniel. The queen introduced Daniel because he had retired or had been ignored. Her knowledge of Daniel also fits the fact that in the Bible foreign rulers are often made to look ridiculous by resourceful women. There is somewhat of an insult here as she and Nebuchadnezzar II knew of the wisdom of Daniel and employed him to guide the nation but the foolish Belshazzar knew of him and slighted him.
Daniel was then brought in to interpret the dream and was offered money if he could do it, but Daniel rejected the reward. He did not want to be under obligation, nor did he want the interpretation to be connected to personal profit. Daniel used Yahweh’s gifts for Yahweh’s glory rather than for personal advantage.
5:18-24 Daniel began by making the point that Nebuchadnezzar II had truly been a great king of authority and power, one who did what he wanted when he wanted, implying Belshazzar was not such a king. The point, however, was not the greatness of Nebuchadnezzar II but that even this great king was brought down by Yahweh when he became arrogant and prideful. Yahweh does what He wants with kings. Nebuchadnezzar’s restored power was not due to his own greatness but to his acknowledgement of the greatness of Yahweh.
In contrast, Belshazzar had not humbled himself, though he was aware of Nebuchadnezzar II and Daniel’s history. Therefore, his days were numbered because he did not measure up, and his kingdom would be given over to the Medes and Persians.
Belshazzar was so impressed that he clothed Daniel in purple and gave him a gold necklace. We should not see this as a fault of Daniel, who had previously rejected a reward and now did not. Rather, it would be a social and political offense to stop the king and his court officials from honoring you.
That very night the writing on the wall came true. Belshazzar was killed, and Darius the Mede became king (discussed in the next chapter). During the reign of Nabonidus, the Persian king Cyrus II (559–530 BC) was increasing in power. He had become popular among the Babylonians because he had promised to restore prominence of the god Marduk. As the Persian army moved toward Babylon, Nabonidus returned to defend the city. But he was captured in 539 BC, with an unknown fate, when Cyrus II took the city. The Babylonian empire fell as the Babylonians welcomed Cyrus II into the city, which performed the rites of Marduk.
F. Daniel and the Lion’s Den (6:1-28)
This chapter shows that Yahweh’s sovereignty over the Babylonian empire as well as His involvement in the lives of the Babylonians remain true and unchangeable in the flowing empire of Persia.
Though there is nothing in the very few historical records we have that Darius the Mede ever existed, which has led many scholars to question the accuracy of this chapter, there is also nothing in the historical records that contradicts the existence of a Darius the Mede.
Some believe that Darius was another name for the Persian general who actually captured Babylon for Cyrus II. In some texts he is named Ugbaru and others Gubaru. As a reward for capturing Babylon, Cyrus II made him the governor of Babylon. Though this is possible, the problem is that this man was never called Darius the Mede in these other writings, and he was also not a Mede. Recently it has become clear that the Ug/Gubaru who captured Babylon and the Gubaru who was governor were two different people, and the latter did not take office until the fourth year of Cyrus II’s rule over Babylon.
Another possibility is that Darius was just a title, like Pharaoh or Caesar, and that this is Cyrus II. Since his mother was a Mede, he could be called a Mede. And Cyrus conquered Babylon while in his sixties (Dan. 5:30). The problem with this is that his father was Cambyses, not Ahasuerus (Dan. 9:1). Some have said that Ahasuerus could have been a title as well, or his throne name. It was not uncommon for kings of the ancient Near East to have multiple names. The problem with this is that it would have been more likely that he be called the Persian, since that was the part of himself he emphasized more in his reign. Likewise, though none of this can be proven wrong, it is an argument based on what could be. However, this is the most likely possibility with what we know about this time period.
6:1-5 Unlike Belshazzar, Darius recognized the skill and wisdom of Daniel and made him one of the three senior ministers over the kingdom. There is no known parallel in the Persian administration to the three chief ministers here. Satrap is a Persian technical term for a governor placed in charge of a region of the empire. Daniel showed himself to be so skilled that the king wanted to make him the prime minister. The other minsters did not like this, probably because Daniel was a Jew. They wanted to bring charges against him but could not find any corruption or negligence in his office. They decided to attack him through his allegiance to Yahweh, which was well known.
6:6-9 The officials went to Darius with the idea to make a law that forbade anyone from praying to any other god or human except for him for the next thirty days, or that person would be thrown into the lion’s den. Darius liked the idea and made it into a law that could not be repealed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians. The one who was put on a semi-divine pedestal is at the same time shown to be naïve and conceited, therefore open to manipulation.
There is no way Darius would have prevented all worship to all gods in his kingdom. This would have been spiritual and political suicide. Zoroastrianism—a monotheistic religion that worshiped the god Ahura Mazda—was the dominant religion in the Persian empire at this time. This religion required constant prayer from its followers. Likewise, for anyone to neglect their god or gods, on whom they depended for everything, would have been foolish.
Most likely he was decreeing that he would be the only true representative of the gods and that all prayers would go through him. During this time, Zoroastrianism had started to become syncretistic, and the priesthood was struggling to maintain a purity of worship. The Magi promoted syncretistic practices in Persia, and the Persian king often leaned toward syncretistic beliefs and practices. By requiring all prayers to come to the throne for thirty days, he would have been taking a stand against the rising syncretistic beliefs. The king would then have directed the prayers to Ahura Mazda. This would not have been actively enforced throughout the entire empire but only for the Iranian political officials and Magi who were perverting the religion of Zoroastrianism. John H. Walton, who put forward this view, admits that his view is speculative because we do not know who Darius the Mede was. However, what is certain is that Darius was functioning merely as mediator to a god or gods, not making himself the only god.
6:10-15 Despite the decree, Daniel changed nothing about what he did. Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, he continued to be committed to Yahweh despite the culture and did not do so in a public or protesting way. Daniel was not directly or confrontationally flaunting his defiance, nor did he hide. He lived his life the way Yahweh wanted him to. Daniel was so committed to Yahweh that the officials knew they would find him praying despite the decree. In a manipulative way, they reminded Darius of his decree and then pointed Daniel out to him as a violator of the law. They did not say Daniel was violating the law but that he was paying no attention to the king. They made it personal in order to make him angry. Darius was immediately distressed because he liked Daniel and wanted to save him but could not. Once again, the king was naïve and powerless to save Daniel. The story subverts absolute claims to power, which is seen in Daniel’s continuous prayer despite the edict and the irony of the law that elevated the king to power is the law that now trapped him.
6:16-18 The king was forced to throw his friend into the lion’s den. The Aramaic word traditionally translated “den” (gob) really refers to a “pit.” The king stating that God would save Daniel is grammatically ambiguous. He could be making a statement of confidence that Daniel’s God would save him, but it seems more likely that he is expressing a wish. The irony is that the king felt more peril throughout the night than Daniel felt.
6:19-28 The next morning, the king ran to the den hoping he might find Daniel alive. This hope shows that he had become familiar with the stories of how Yahweh had rescued Daniel and his friends in the past and that he believed them. In fact, Yahweh had sent an angel to close the mouths of the lions because the true and sovereign Judge of creation had found Daniel innocent and not deserving of death. The question that this story is asking is who has the power to make and uphold the law, and the answer is Yahweh.
The king then had the men and their families guilty of false testimony thrown into the lion’s den. The fact that the lions tore them apart before they hit the ground shows that Yahweh had truly rescued Daniel. In contrast to the king’s edict to have them killed, Daniel was not bitter and did not seek retaliation.
The king then issued a decree that the people must have respect for the God of Daniel. He then made the same statements that Nebuchadnezzar II had made in Dan. 4, and he gave witness to Yahweh rather than using his own power.
Throughout these stories, the miracles are not the focus but the steadfast faith of Daniel and his friends and how Yahweh used that to redirect the wills of the most prideful and arrogant kings. It is not our protesting or rebuke that Yahweh will use to change the powerful men and women in government but our faithfulness to a God greater than them and our love for them when they see us and ask, or even when they try to destroy us.
II. Yahweh Active in the Future of Israel and the Nations (7:1–12:13)
In this second division the book shifts from narrative stories to visions that Yahweh gave Daniel concerning the future of the Jewish people. Dan. 7 is a general look at the coming nations, where the chapters after focus more on how the Jews would be affected by these nations. All the chapters have as the focus the persecution of the Jews by Antiochus IV. The main focus here is that Yahweh would bring all nations under judgment and establish His kingdom on earth forevermore.
A. The Four Beasts and the Son of Man (7:1-28)
The beasts of Dan. 7 greatly parallel the metals of the statue in Dan. 2, which is the foundation for the remaining vision of the book. (See discussion on Dan. 2 for an introduction to the different views and The History of the Intertestamental Period for a historical background on the empires associated with the book of Daniel.) This chapter is the climax of the whole book and discusses the greater picture of Yahweh’s future revelation, whereas the following chapters deal with only parts of the picture.
7:1 The first year of Belshazzar’s reign would have been 552 or 551 BC, more than fifty years since Daniel’s deportation to Babylon. It was not until Daniel was much older and wiser and had walked with Yahweh many years that Yahweh began to give him visons of the future.
7:2-3 The phrase “I watched” appears at the beginning of the description of the fourth beast, emphasizing its importance. The first thing Daniel saw in his vision was the four great winds of heaven churning up the great sea in order to reveal four great beasts, each different from the other. The four winds represent the four corners of the earth and the providence of Yahweh. It is Yahweh who would allow these kingdoms to rise, and it is He who would bring them down. All four of these beasts are found in Hosea. 13:7-8, where Yahweh states that He would send these animals against Israel and the nations to punish them for their rebellion against Him. The order is changed in Daniel 7 from Hosea because the bear was seen as second to a lion, like silver is to gold.
The fact that they come from the sea means they are symbols of chaos and disorder. In the ancient Near East and the Bible, the raging sea is a symbol of chaos and anti-life. It is what existed before there was an ordered creation (Gen. 1:2; 7:11). The beasts that come out of the sea represent the powerful and destructive elements of creation that are out of the control of humans and bring chaos and destruction in life (Job 7:12; 26:12; Ps. 74:12-14; 89:9-11; Isa. 27:1; 51:9-10; Ezek. 32:2). These beasts are not a normal part of Yahweh’s creation; they are mutations or hybrids gone wrong. According to the Jews’ laws about clean and unclean animals (Lev. 11; Deut. 14), they would have seen hybrid animals as unclean and thus defiling of one’s purity.
These beasts match up with the metals of the statue of Daniel 2. Yahweh has pulled the veil from the marvelous and attractive nations represented in the statue and revealed them for the chaotic, mutated abominations of creation they truly are. These kingdoms are now portrayed as beasts because they no longer resemble the image of God they were created to be; they are no longer human in the way Yahweh created humans to be. As we saw in Daniel 5, when humans see themselves as autonomous and begin to glorify themselves instead of Yahweh, they spiral down into chaos and become an abomination that acts like an beasts, which destroys everything around it for its own power and glory. Humans have the ability to control their impulses, whereas beasts do not.
7:4 Nearly all scholars agree that the winged lion corresponds to the gold head in Dan. 2 and represents the Babylonian empire. The winged lion shows up a lot in Babylonian art. The eagle was a symbol of swiftness, and the lion was a symbol of strength and kingship. The Bible repeatedly describes Nebuchadnezzar II and the Babylonians of his time as being like both an eagle (Deut. 28:49-53; 2 Kgs. 25:1-11; Jer. 49:19, 22; Lam. 4:19; Ezek. 17:1-5, 11-14; Hab. 1:6-8) and a lion (Isa. 5:25-30; Jer. 4:6, 7, 13; 25:9, 38; 49:19, 22; 50:17, 44). Prov. 30:30 states that the lion is the mightiest beast.
The ripping off of its wings probably represents Nebuchadnezzar II’s madness (Dan. 4). The lion being made to stand on its feet like a human and given a human mind (in the Aramaic “the heart of a man”) represents his restoration and conversion to Yahweh. In the Bible the concept of being given a new heart or mind is associated with redemption (Deut. 30:6; Jer. 31:33-34; 32:39; Ezek. 36:26-27; Rom. 2:25-29; 12:1-2). When Nebuchadnezzar II began to walk with Yahweh, his transformation of the heart meant he no longer acted like a beast in self-glorification and in the domination and destruction of others for his own gain; he became a true human again, in the image of Yahweh reflecting Yahweh’s character.
7:5 The Roman empire view interprets the bear as the Medo-Persian empire. The bear raised up on its side is the two parts of the Medo-Persian empire, where Persia was more dominant than the Medes. The three ribs represent the kingdoms of Babylon, Egypt, and Lydia. These were the three nations the Medo-Persians had to conquer in order to become an empire. The problem with this view is, first, these nations are never mentioned in the Bible in connection to each other. Second, Dan. 2:39 said this second kingdom would be inferior to Nebuchadnezzar II, but that is not true of the Persian empire, which was far greater in size and power than all the ancient Near Eastern empires before and after it.
The Greek empire view interprets the bear as the Median empire. Although the bear is not as swift as the lion, it was equally feared as the second mightiest of the animals. The lion and the bear are mentioned together a number of times in the Bible (1 Sam. 17:34; Prov. 28:15; Lam. 3:10; Amos 5:19). In a similar way, the Babylonians and Medes together dominated the surrounding nations with fear. The bear is particularly slow compared to the winged lion and winged leopard, which fits with the Median empire that slowly came into power with the help of Nebuchadnezzar II and did not really expand that much. The bear does not fit with the Persian empire under Cyrus II, which was characterized by a succession of swift victories and rapid and complete expansion.
In this view then, the two sides would refer to the two stages of the Median empire. The higher side represents the first stage, when Media was the dominant empire of the ancient Near East after the death of Nebuchadnezzar II. The lower side is the second stage, when Media was the lesser power while the Persians and Medes ruled as allies after Cyrus II’s (600–530 BC) victory over Media in 550 BC. Cyrus II’s father was Persian, but his mother was Median, so he allowed Media to still have some power in his empire. After his death, however, Media no longer had power in the Persian empire.
The three ribs are connected to Jer. 51:27-29, which states that Yahweh stirred up four nations from the north against the Babylonians. The four nations were the Median empire and the smaller nations of Ararat, Minni, and Ash-kenaz, which were under the control of the Median empire. This fits well with the Greek empire view of the bear being the Median empire with the three lesser kingdoms in its mouth and under its control. Likewise, several times the Bible says that Yahweh had stirred up the Medians as the next empire after Babylon (Isa. 13:17; 21:2; Jer. 51:27-29), just like the four winds stirring up the sea. It is not the Persians that are mentioned as the next empire.
7:6 The Roman empire view interprets the leopard as the Greek empire. They believe that the speed of the leopard fits well with the speed at which Alexander III (356–323 BC) conquered the ancient Near East. And the four wings and heads correspond with his four generals—Ptolemy, Seleucid, Cassandra, and Lysimachus—who took control of the Greek empire after his death. The problem is that the wings and heads are different and cannot mean the same thing. And whole of the image communicates power and dominance where Alexander III’s breaking into four separate kingdoms after his death is diminished power and strength.
The Greek empire view interprets the leopard as the Persian empire. The four wings represent the four winds or corners of the earth (Ps. 104:3; Zech. 2:6), referring to the four corners of the ancient Near East that the Persian empire controlled. Inscribed on a clay cylinder, Cyrus II described himself as “king of the four corners of the earth.” On another he said, “Sin [Persian god], the light of heaven…gave into my hands the four corners of the earth.”
The four heads refer to the kings Cyrus II (559–530 BC), Cambyses II (530–522 BC), Darius I (522–486 BC), and Xerxes I (465–424 BC), the first four and most powerful kings who built the Persian empire in all its vast extent and wealth. (Bardiya, who reigned after Cambyses II, was an imposter who reigned briefly in 522 BC.) After Xerxes I, the empire began to decline significantly. These four are also in Dan. 11:2, where the first is clearly Cyrus II and the last is Xerxes I. This fits with Dan. 2:39, which says it will rule the whole earth, which the Persian empire did in a way that no other empire has in the ancient Near East.
7:7a The Roman empire view interprets the terrible beast as the Roman empire. They would argue that the Roman empire was far greater than the Greek empire in its strength, as the fourth beast is described here. The goat in Dan. 8 (which all scholars agree represents Greece) has four horns, whereas this beast has ten horns. So this beast cannot be Greece because the two do not have the same number of horns. They argue that the Greek view cannot produce an acceptable understanding of the ten horns even though they have many different views on the identity of the ten horns. But this is also a great weakness with the Roman empire view—that they cannot find a clear and unanimous connection between the horns and the Roman empire.
The Greek empire view interprets the terrible beast as the Greek empire. First, this beast is described as invincible, which would apply to Alexander III, who never lost a battle, conquering all in his path with very little resistance. The Roman empire, however, lost many battles, and their growth was slowed with much resistance from other kingdoms. And as already mentioned in Dan. 2:40, Greece devoured the whole earth by defeating all the previous empires that had come before it, whereas Rome defeated only Greece and never occupied the eastern world. Second, the beast is said to be different from all the others before it. This is most certainly true of Greece, which was the only western empire that had conquered the eastern and western worlds and united them into one empire, which had never been done before. The Roman empire was not different from those that came before. In fact, Rome copied and adopted much of all the cultures that came before it, especially the Greek culture and worldview.
7:7b-8 All scholars agree that the ten horns on the fourth beast as well as the four horns on the goat (Dan. 8) represent a later development in the empire. There are many different guesses of what the ten horns are in the Roman empire view, from Caesars to cities, but they all fall short in many ways. For the Greek empire, some have suggested the ten horns are the Seleucid kings, from Seleucus Nicator to Antiochus IV. The problem is that there are only seven kings, so the other three are identified as ones who might have contested the throne against Antiochus IV (Alexander, Heliodorus, and Demetrius). The vision, however, shows ten and then three removed, not seven and three that tried to become. Another explanation is that when Alexander III died, his kingdom was divided among his generals, and they did not do a very good job of keeping his kingdom together. By the last part of the third century BC, there were ten identifiable independent states that together comprised what was once Alexander III’s empire: Ptolemaic Egypt, Seleucia, Macedon, Pergamum, Pontus, Bithynia, Cappadocia, Armenia, Parthia, and Bactria.
So, who is the little horn and the three uprooted horns? The evidence for Antiochus IV being the little horn is very strong, as will be seen in the following chapters. The best explanation, however, of the three unrooted horns are the independent states of Cappadocia, Armenia, and Parthia, which Antiochus III (the father of Antiochus IV) subdued under his rule when he came into power. It may be that the little horn is not a specific person but the family of Antiochus IV, for it has already been seen, in Dan. 7, that king and kingdom are used interchangeably.
It is also clear that the nations that appear in the visions of Daniel do so because of their connection to Israel. It was Antiochus III who brought Israel under the control of the Seleucid kingdom. So this may be the rising up of the little horn as it began to rule over Israel. Then Antiochus IV became the boasting antichrist figure who oppressed the Jews significantly and brought the abomination of desolation discussed in Dan. 9. The fact that Antiochus IV fits Daniel’s description of the little horn here and in following chapters is a major argument against the Roman empire view, which has no good candidate for the little horn. The little horn here and the little horn that rose out of the goat in Dan. 8:9-12 are described in very similar ways. Dan. 8:21 specifically says that the goat is Greece, making it obvious that the little horn is Antiochus IV. These similarities strengthen the argument of the fourth beast being Greece. So there may still be things we do not understand about this time period, but the Greek empire view does fit better with the details of the book of Daniel than the Roman empire view, which will continue to be developed in the following chapters.
7:9-10 The scene of the beasts destroying creation is interrupted by Daniel beholding the throne of Yahweh in the Divine Council of Yahweh. This second use of “I watched” brings emphasis and shows that this is the climax of the chapter and book. Yahweh’s throne is portrayed as much more spectacular and all powerful. The phrase “Ancient of Days” may allude to Yahweh’s eternal existence (Job 36:26; Isa. 41:4) but especially emphasizes His authority in a culture where age was respected and required to be a wise ruler. The thrones refer to the other Sons of God or angels that have authority in the divine council of Yahweh (Ps. 82; 89; 1 Kgs. 22:19-22; Isa. 6), and later in Rev. 4 we see the elders who sit on thrones next to Yahweh. His white clothing represents righteousness (Ps. 51:7), and white hair can represent purity and wisdom. The fire that surrounds and comes forth from His throne represents His judgment on the nations (Ps. 97:3; 50:3). The thousands upon thousands could be his angelic military, since usually those who gather around Him are described as the heavenly host (army) of Yahweh. This makes sense in the context of the judgment that is going to be poured out on the beasts. The wheels represent His chariot throne, the Shekinah Glory of Yahweh that went before Israel in the Red Sea crossing (Ex. 13–14) and Ezekiel’s vison (Ezek. 1; 10; 43). These books represent the record of history (Ex. 32:32-33; Ps. 69:28; Isa. 4:3; Dan. 12:1; Mal. 3:16) and people’s deeds (Neh. 5:19; 13:14; Isa. 65:6; Ps. 51:1; 56:8; 109:14) by which they will be judged.
7:11-12 The first judgment that Yahweh executed was the destruction of the fourth beast and the still-boasting horn, as they were consumed in the blazing fire that came from His throne. The burning of bodies was a particularly heinous offense in the Bible (Lev. 20:14; 21:9; Josh. 7:25). The other beasts were not destroyed immediately but were stripped of their power until a later date for their final destruction (Rev. 19). The point is that human kings may seem to be free to rampage at will, like beasts across the earth, but there is a throne in heaven, and they are ultimately subject to the One who sits on it.
7:13-14 Daniel then watched and saw a figure like a son of man approaching the throne of Yahweh. The phrase “son of man” means this figure is a human. The Aramaic phrase bar ’enos and its Hebrew cognate ben ’enos means “son of man” and is used throughout the Bible in parallel with ’adam (“human,” “man”), referring to one as human. In Hebrew, whenever there is a phrase “son of x,” it means the son is of the same essence as x, so x = son. So, if the figure is a son of man, then it is a man.
The fact that this figure is said to be “like” a son of man does not mean he is not actually a man; rather, it “is best understood as indicating the mode of perception proper to a vision, so that ‘like a son of man’ means ‘a human figure seen in a vision,’ where the figure may or may not represent something other than a human being.” The point is that no one has ever seen a human in visions of heaven, and everything Daniel had been seeing so far were strange beasts; now a stark contrast is being made with this human figure who has appeared in the vision. There is an obvious contrast between the figure and the beasts.
This son of man is also coming with the clouds. This was an ancient Near Eastern image of divinity because the only thing in creation that was in, with, or above the clouds were the gods and in the Bible it is Yahweh and the angels (the sons of God). In the Hebrew, the preposition im can mean “on” or “with”; the clouds are associated with Yahweh in a variety of ways (Ex. 19:9; 34:5; Num. 11:25), for Yahweh can come on or with the clouds. This means that this figure is also a divine figure. But this seems wrong because no human is divine.
No sinner could ever approach the throne of Yahweh without being surrounded by angels to shield them from the glory of Yahweh (Deut. 33:2; Acts 7:53; Gal. 3:19) or, now, without the blood of Jesus. Yet this son of man approached the throne with neither; therefore, he is sinless.
He walked right up to the throne of Yahweh, who then gave him all ruling authority, honor, and sovereignty over all peoples, nations, and language groups. His authority is eternal and will not pass away and his kingdom will not be destroyed. This description can only describe the one true Yahweh, yet Yahweh is giving this figure all of this making him Yahweh.
What is described here is a sinless human who is divine and who is given everything Yahweh is and has. By the Intertestamental period this phrase was used as a title for a specific kind of person (1 Enoch 37-71; 2 Esdras). This is why Jesus’ referring to Himself as the Son of Man is so significant, because He is the only one who can fulfill this. When this figure approached Yahweh, he was not stripped of power or destroyed like the beasts had been, but he was given dominion. This figure is what Israel was meant to be as the image of God, yet he was so much more as the son of God—the only one who could restore humanity in a fallen world.
Jesus used the Son of Man title of Himself more than any other God or Messianic title. See Matthew 8:20 (Lk. 9:58); 9:6 (Mk. 2:10; Lk. 5:24); 10:23; 11:19 (Lk. 7:34); 12:8 (Mk. 28; Lk. 6:5); 12:32; (Lk. 12:10); 12:40 (Lk. 11:30); 13:37, 41; 16:13; 16:27-28 (Mk. 8:38; Lk. 9:26); 17:9-12 (Mk. 9:9-12); 17:22 (Mk. 9:31; Lk. 9:44); 19:28; 20:17 (Mk. 10:33; Lk. 18:31); 20:26-28 (Mk. 10:45); 24:27 (Lk. 17:22-24); 24:30 (Mk. 12:26; Lk. 21:27); 24:37-39 (Lk. 17:26); 24:44 (Lk. 12:40); 25:31; 26:1; 26:24 (Mk. 14:21; Lk. 22:22); 26:45 (Mk. 14:41); 26:64 (Mk. 14:62; Lk. 22:69); Mark 8:31; Luke 6:22; 9:21-22; 12:8; 17:30; 18:8; 19:10; 21:36; 22:47-48; 24:6; John 1:51; 3:13; 5:27; 6:27, 53, 62; 8:28; 9:35; 12:23, 34; 13:31.
7:15-18 After seeing all these strange beasts destroying everything, Daniel was greatly disturbed and confused, so he asked one of the angels the meaning of what he had seen. In Daniel 1–6 Yahweh revealed the meaning of the dreams to him directly, while in chapters 7–12 Daniel needed the aid of an interpreting angel in order to understand the visions. The angel began to describe the beast as kings coming from the earth instead of the sea as the vision showed. The kings coming from the earth show that they are earthly and human in origin. The angel begins with the main point that these beasts would rule the earth for only a time. It is the people of Yahweh who would possess the earth for all eternity.
7:19-22 Daniel then stated that he specifically wanted to know the meaning of the ten horns and the boasting horn. What he adds that was not mentioned in the earlier description of the vison was that the beast was trampling the people of Yahweh. The reason these kingdoms are highlighted is their direct relationship with the Israelites, for they had ruled or would rule over and oppress Israel. But it is the Ancient of Days who rescues them and gives them the kingdom of Yahweh.
7:23-28 Overall, the angel adds only a little bit of clarity to the vision. First, he stated that this fourth beast would destroy all the earth (the world of the ancient Near East), which Rome never did. Second, he specifically stated that the horns are kings who would rise up out of the fourth kingdom as discussed above. Third, the little horn king will blaspheme Yahweh, oppress the Jews, and change the holy festivals and laws of Yahweh. This specifically matches up with Antiochus IV, who made the Jewish customs, festivals, and sacrifices illegal (1 Macc. 1:44-49). In 167 BC, he desecrated the temple and sacrificed pigs to Zeus in it (1 Macc. 1:54-55). There is no Roman who fits this description. Fourth, this little horn king would oppress the Jews for three and a half years (“time, times, and half”). In the Hebrew, the word times communicates two rather than any multiple of years. It was exactly three years and ten days that the temple remained desecrated until Judas Maccabeus regained the temple and ordered it to be cleansed (1 Macc. 1:54; 4:52). The starting point of the three and a half years could be before the temple desecration. It would be in the next 160 years after this that Greek empire would fall and Christ would come and spiritually defeat the kingdoms of the material and spiritual realms at the cross. The angel then gives no further details. Daniel ends by stating he was still disturbed and confused.
B. The Ram and the Goat (8:1-27)
In this section Daniel’s vision focuses more on the empires of Medo-Persia and Greece and the anti-God figure of Antiochus IV. The focus is on how quickly these empires are replaced by the one that follows and more specifically the actions of anti-God figure of Antiochus IV affects the people of Yahweh.
8:1-4 Two years after the previous vision, in 550/549 BC, Daniel received another vision. It is in this year that Cyrus II broke away from his allegiance to Astyages, the Median king, and established the joint state of the Medo-Persian empire. Susa was the ancient capital of Elam and would become one of the greatest cities in the Persian empire. In the vision, Daniel saw a ram, which represented the Medo-Persian empire (Dan. 8:20). The ram is the male of the flock and is, in the prophetic books, symbolic of oppressive rulers (Ezek. 34:17; 39:18; Jer. 51:40; Zech. 10:3). It had two horns, one of which was longer than the other. This emphasizes the superiority of the Persians over the Medes in the Medo-Persian empire. Horns are symbolic of power and authority, and many kings wore horns on their heads (crowns) or were depicted on coins as having animal horns. The ram charged west and to the north and to the south. The Cyrus II’s armies came from the east and moved north toward the Black Sea, west toward Lydia, and south toward Israel and Egypt. He conquered the vast majority of the ancient Near East in ten years (549–539 BC). No one could stop or withstand the power of the Persian empire as it rolled across the ancient Near East. Daniel passed judgment as he said that “it did as it pleased and became great.” “Became great” is not necessarily a negative comment, but when used of humans it is often used of one who separates from and opposes Yahweh, as in “magnifying oneself.”
8:5-8 Then the ram was confronted with a he-goat from the west (Isa. 14:9), which is the Greek empire (Dan. 8:21). The Greek empire was the only empire up to this point that had come from the west. The single horn is Alexander III, who conquered all the land of the previous empires in five years (334–329 BC). Goats are fiercer and stronger than rams, and this one breaks the horns of the ram, which would have been an awful sound and sight for Daniel. The ram was barely in power before another came to destroy it. The goat also “became great,” but at the height of its power, when it was the strongest, its horn was broken off and replaced by four others, showing how power and strength mean nothing in the end; they can all disappear as quickly as they came.
The four horns are Alexander III’s four generals—Ptolemy, Seleucid, Lysimachus, and Cassander, who divided his empire among themselves after his death. These horns are passed over with very little comment.
8:9-12 Then another horn grew up out of one of the four horns. This little horn is Antiochus IV, who came out of the Seleucid dynasty. The Seleucids controlled all the land of original Persia and gained more land and power in the east and toward Israel, the beautiful land (Jer. 3:19; Ezek. 20:6, 15), in the south. He even grew toward the angelic army of heaven when he declared himself to be a god and demanded to be worshiped. Throwing some of the starry host to the ground could mean he elevated himself above other gods, who are often referred to as stars, or he conquered other kings, who are also sometimes called stars.
The little horn’s making himself the commander of Yahweh’s army, taking away the daily sacrifices, and throwing down Yahweh’s sanctuary refer to Antiochus IV’s defilement of the temple. Antiochus IV declared himself to be a god, requiring the Jews to use coins bearing his image. In 167 BC he outlawed the festivals of Yahweh, desecrated the temple of Yahweh with idols of Zeus, and prevented sacrifices to Yahweh (Ex. 29:42). Dan. 8:12 is difficult grammatically but seems to say that the army of Israel and its sacrifices were given over to him for the time of his rebellion.
8:13-14 Then Daniel heard an angel (“holy one”) ask how long this desolation of the temple would last. The phrase “desolating rebellion” (pesa‘somem) occurs in variant forms in Daniel (Dan. 9:27; 11:31; 12:11). It is a derogatory play on the title Ba’al Samem (“Lord of Heaven”), which is the Aramaic form of Zeus Olympios (“Olympian Zeus”), the god to whom the Seleucids dedicated the temple in Jerusalem (2 Macc. 6:2). Another angel said it would last for 2,300 days, which is three and a half years, and then the temple would be cleansed.
It was exactly three years and ten days that the temple remained desecrated until Judas Maccabeus regained the temple and ordered it to be cleansed (1 Macc. 1:54; 4:52). The starting point of the three and a half years could be before the temple desecration. The idea of the three and a half years is that the harsh treatment of the Jews had gone beyond anything they deserved, thus the need for Yahweh’s intervening mercy (Zech. 1:12).
8:15-27 While Daniel was trying to understand the vision, he heard an angel tell another angel, named Gabriel, to tell Daniel the meaning of the vision. Daniel was so overwhelmed by the glory of Gabriel that he fell to the ground. For the first time ever, an angel specifically identifies the images in the vison with specific nations: Medo-Persia and Greece. The four horns are the generals who rose up after Alexander III. The little horn broken not by human hands echoes the stone in Dan. 2:34. Once again, the pagan empires end with the coming of Yahweh’s kingdom, which would replace them and last for all eternity. Daniel was then commanded to seal up the vision so that when it came true people would be able to read it and see that it happened just as Yahweh said and that He knows all. This one vision wore Daniel out for several days as he stressed over it.
C. The Seventy Weeks (9:1-27)
In this section Daniel wants to know when the exile will end, and Yahweh sends an answer that is not as straightforward as Daniel would have liked. Here the prophecy becomes even more specific as to the things that must happen in the future until Yahweh’s plan of redemption could be fully realized.
9:1-3 The first year of Darius the Mede was 539 BC. Jeremiah (Jer. 25:11; 29:10; 2 Chron. 36:21; Zech. 1:1-12) said that the Jewish people would be in exile for 70 years and then Yahweh would return His people to the land. Seventy is most likely a symbolic number. It had been sixty-six years since Daniel had been taken into exile and forty-seven years since Judah had been sacked by Nebuchadnezzar II. With Cyrus II of the Persian empire now in power, Daniel began to plead with Yahweh to let the time come to an end. Little did he know that in the same year Cyrus II would decree that people of all nations could return to their homelands from before their deportation under the Assyrians and Babylonians.
9:4-23 In Daniel’s prayer he immediately acknowledged that Yahweh is a covenantal God who keeps his promises. Daniel confessed the sins of his nation that had caused them to be punished and sent into exile. Daniel stepped in line with his ancestors and said “we” had sinned, even if he had not committed all the sins. Even though they were covered in shame because of their sin, he rested in the fact that Yahweh is a merciful and forgiving God. Daniel declared that Yahweh had fulfilled His covenant judgment against Israel (Lev. 26:27-45; Deut. 28:15-68), and now he asked for Yahweh to bring them back to the Promised Land as He had done in Egypt. The minute Daniel had started praying, Yahweh sent the angel Gabriel to answer his prayer, arriving while Daniel was still praying.
9:24 The prophecy of the seventy weeks is one of the most confusing and disputed passages in the First Testament among scholars. The Hebrew word sabu'im literally means “seven” but can be translated as “week” as well. So it could be understood as “seventy sevens” or “seventy weeks.” Many scholars believe that the sabu'im “sevens/week” represents seven years so that seventy sevens is equal to 490 years. This is based on the fact that Lev. 25:8 uses it in a literal way to refer to seven years, which is linked to the seven-fold punishment in Lev. 26:18, 21, 24, 28. However, it could also be understood symbolically as a period of completion, where the 490 years is not meant to be understood literally but as a long period of time that Yahweh had ordained to pass for His plan of redemption to be complete. This can be seen in the fact that Yahweh said Judah would be in exile for seventy years, but it was actually less than seventy from the beginning of captivity in 586 BC to Cyrus II’s decree of their return in 539 BC.
What is clear is that at the end of this completed time Yahweh will have accomplished six things in which Yahweh is the subject of them all. The first three are negatives that have to do with sin, and the last three are positives that have to do with the kingdom of Yahweh. The first is finishing transgression, a word that is used of human rebellion, self-assertion, and autonomy. The second is putting an end (finish or completion) to sin. The third is atoning for iniquity, which refers the to blood sacrifices for sin. The point to all three of these together is that Yahweh will truly take away and forgive sin in a way that is not untrue to his righteousness and justice. In other words, Yahweh cannot justly let sin go unpunished by completely forgiving someone of their debt, but nor does the merciful compassion of Yahweh bare to execute death on all humans because of their sin. It is in the cross that Yahweh justly executed death on humanity through Jesus as their representative. He poured out His forgiveness on those who claim Jesus as their substitutionary sacrifice. The intensity and finality of these phrases clearly point to the cross as the only possible fulfillment. These things are the answer to Daniel’s prayer. The focus is not precisely how long it will be before it is complete—though the number seventy sevens makes it seem like it is—but rather on there being a set time Yahweh has ordained for when it will be complete.
The fourth thing Yahweh will have accomplished is that when sin is done away with, He promises to bring in an everlasting righteousness. This is not the righteousness that sinners can have by being obedient to the law but an attribute of Yahweh alone (Dan. 9:7, 14, 16; Jer. 23:6; Zech. 3:4; Rom. 3:25). This is a sinless nature made possible only by the full completion of Yahweh’s redemptive plan. The fifth is sealing up the prophetic vison. This refers to fulfillment, completion, and total implementation of all the promises Yahweh has made throughout the First Testament—when the complete plan of Yahweh’s redemption is fully realized. The sixth is anointing a Most Holy Place. This would be a place where people could dwell in the presence of Yahweh without sin. The object is not specified, which means it is not found in a certain place, as in the temple in Jerusalem, but could be more comprehensive, such as in the person of Jesus Christ (Matt. 12:6; Rev. 21:9-27). It is clear that these latter three have not been completely accomplished but are things yet to come, in the second coming of Christ (Matt. 24; Eph. 1:10; 1 Cor. 15:28).
9:25-27 The seventy weeks is divided into three distinct periods of seven weeks (49 years), sixty-two weeks (434 years), and one week (7 years).
The first period (seven weeks) begins with a decree to rebuild the city of Jerusalem and ends with the arrival of an anointed ruler whose task is to carry out the decree.
The second period (sixty-two weeks) is the time during which the city is rebuilt, after which an anointed one (not called a ruler) will be cut off. Jerusalem is destroyed by the people or by an army of a ruler who is to come. War will continue throughout the rest of this period.
The third period (one week) begins with an unidentified person (presumably the ruler who is to come) ratifying a covenant with the many, which will bring an end to the war. But then he desecrates the temple and ends all sacrifices before meeting his demise.
There is a major textual issue on how one should translate Dan. 9:25 that affects how the interpretation and understanding of this passage. The traditional translation is based on the manuscript q, which reads, “From the issuing of the decree to rebuild Jerusalem until an anointed one, a ruler, arrives there will be a period of seven weeks and sixty-two weeks. It will be rebuilt with a square and a trench, but in distressing times.” This reading makes it sound like that the anointed one of Dan. 9:25 and 9:26 are the same person and that he will not come until the end of the sixty-nine weeks—the seven weeks and then the sixty-two weeks.
The Masoretic Text reads, “From the issuing of the decree to rebuild Jerusalem until an anointed one, a ruler, arrives there will be a period of seven weeks. Then during the seventy-two weeks, a square and a trench will be rebuilt, but in distressing times.” This reading sees the two anointed people as separate people since they are separated by sixty-two weeks (434 years).
The problem with the traditional (first) translation is that it does not make sense to say “for seven weeks and sixty-two weeks,” when one could just say “sixty-nine weeks.” The only reason to divide it is if something happened at the end of the seven weeks. But according to the first translation, nothing did. Likewise, Dan. 9:26 begins by saying “after the sixty-two weeks.” Why go back and mention what happened after the sixty-two weeks when you have already said what happens after the seven weeks plus sixty-two weeks? Yet every scholar who takes the first translation believes that this is what happens after the sixty-nine weeks, even though it does not say that. The second translation is more faithful to the logical and grammatical reading of the texts—i.e., after the first period this happens, during the second period this happens, and during the last period this happens. Finally, the Masoretic is an older and more reliable manuscript, though there are some exceptions to this. Many early Christians who knew of q took the Masoretic reading of the text.
There are two major ways that scholars have understood this passage. The first view is the traditional messianic view, which has historically been the most common view. They read the text according to the first translation, as discussed above, where the anointed ruler of Dan. 9:25 and 9:26 is the same person and is Jesus the Christ (“anointed”); 483 years [seven weeks (49) plus sixty-two weeks (434)] after the decree to rebuild the city, Jesus will arrive and will be crucified (“cut off’).
The question, then, is when was the decree to rebuild the temple given? The four options are the different decrees of the Persian kings. First was Cyrus II’s decree in 538 BC to rebuild the temple (2 Chron. 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4; 6:1-5). Second was Darius I’s decree in 512 BC confirming Cyrus II to rebuild the temple (Ezra 6:1, 6-12). Third was Artaxerxes I’s decree in 457 BC to return and take treasure to the temple (Ezra 7:11-26). Fourth was Artaxerxes I’s decree in 444 BC authorizing Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem and its walls (Neh. 2:1-8). Only the fourth one has anything to do with the rebuilding of the city, so 444 BC is the beginning of the 490 years.
The problem with this view other than the illogical reading of the text mentioned above is that 483 years after 444 BC (counting year 0) is 40 AD, which is not when Christ was crucified (33 AD). Some try to fix this based on a 360-day calendar, but historically very few people used this kind of calendar, and the most uncommon calendar is not likely to be the one Yahweh would have used. If one takes the second translation, Jesus would have had to arrive in 395 BC (49 years) and be cut off in 40 AD. Likewise what happened between the end of the first period of seven weeks (49 years) and the start of the sixty-two weeks (483 years). They say it must have been when the city was finished. But this is reading into the passage what is not there, if one takes the first translation as they do. Likewise, there is nothing here that specifically points to Christ since prophets, kings, and priests were all called anointed.
In this view, since the non-anointed ruler has to come after Jesus in the final week (7 years), then it must have been the Roman general Titus (39–81 AD), who destroyed the temple in 70 AD before he became the emperor of Rome (79–81 AD). However, he made no covenant with the Jews, and seven years after 40 AD is not 70 AD. Likewise, there has been no mention of Titus anywhere in the book of Daniel. The focus has always been on Antiochus IV. This is why some have interpreted this final week to be the future antichrist of the future empire that comes at the end of time. The problem with this is that there is no hint of a several-thousand-year gap between the sixty-ninth week and the final week. And Rome is not in the picture, as discussed above. This view did not come about until the end of the 100s AD. This was because of q translation of Dan. 9:25 and Josephus’s influence in seeing the fourth empire as the Roman empire as discussed in Dan. 2.
The second view is the Antiochus view. They read the text according to the second translation, as discussed above, where the anointed ruler of Dan. 9:25 and 9:26 are two different people. They take the decree to rebuild the temple as coming from Yahweh. Since Daniel was familiar with Jeremiah’s prophecy of the desolation of the temple and the return of the Jews, then he would have been aware of Yahweh’s decree to Jeremiah to rebuild the city (Jer. 30:18), which is dated between 597 and 586 BC. Seven weeks (49 years) after that would be sometime between 548 and 539 BC, when Cyrus II (559–530 BC) was ruling; in 539 BC he decreed that the Jews could return to the Promised Land. In Isa. 45:1 Yahweh literally calls Cyrus II His anointed ruler right after he is depicted as decreeing the rebuilding of the temple (Isa. 44:28).
Sixty-two weeks (434 years) after this would be 114–105 BC, which would be during the reigns of the Jewish rulers over Jerusalem—Aristobulus I and Alexander Jannaeus. However, these rulers are not significant anywhere else in the book of Daniel. This would place the final week (7 years) around 107–98 BC, when nothing significant is happening.
This is why most do not calculate the seventy weeks in a literal way but rather see them as symbolic periods of time, as mentioned above. Therefore, there is a period of time until the first anointed ruler Cyrus II (Dan. 9:25) came and executed Yahweh’s decree to rebuild the city of Jerusalem and let the Jews return home. The 49 years could just be symbolic of the year of the sabbatical year and the year of Jubilee. Yahweh commanded the Jews to let the land rest and to set slaves free every seven years, and 49 is a multiple of seven. Then every fifty years they were to do the same and cancel all debts and return all bought lands back to their original owners. So the 49 and 50 years were back to back sabbaticals. This is exactly what Cyrus II decreed in 539 BC, that the captive Jews would be set free and be given back their land, because they no longer owed a debt to Yahweh for their rebellion against him before the exile.
Then a longer period of time after this (sixty-two weeks) would be another anointed one who was not a ruler (Dan. 9:26a) and would be cut off. This would be Onias III, who was the Jewish high priest in 175 BC. When Antiochus IV came into power, he began to sell the priesthood to the highest bidder. Onias III was ousted by his brother Jason, who was then ousted by the non-Jew Menelaus, who then murdered Onais III in 171 BC. This was an extremely significant event in Jewish history because it was the first time the high priest was not Jewish or in the line of Aaron and was, therefore, not anointed by Yahweh. This happened because the last anointed priest was cut off and replaced. This began the reign of terror of Antiochus IV, the ruler who was not anointed (Dan. 9:26b). He also made a covenant with the Jewish people (1 Macc. 1:11). He did not literally destroy the city and the temple, but he did destroy many people in the city and desecrated the temple. This lasted for a very short period of time (the final week), and in the middle of it he desecrated the temple (167 BC). Though this was not exactly 483 years later (between 114 and 105 BC), the number sixty-nine may have been chosen by Yahweh because it is symbolic of incompletion and rebellion, being one less then seventy, which is completion. Thus, Antiochus IV was an incomplete and flawed ruler. At the end of the final week, the leader of the Jewish rebellion, Judas Maccabeus, defeated the army of Antiochus IV and cleansed the temple in 164 BC. Thus, the narrator sees an end or completion to both the wickedness of Antiochus IV and the rebellion of Israel, when they gained their independence in 142 BC. Once this had all come to completion, then Christ would come onto the scene and bring an end to Israel’s exile by accomplishing Dan. 9:24.
Yes, Christ did speak of the abomination of Daniel as having a future fulfillment (Matt. 24:15), but that does not mean he was saying it had not been fulfilled yet. In prophecy there is often an immediate fulfillment that happens in the life of the early Jews, as in Isa. 7, while it also becomes a typology or a pattern that can happen again or several more times. 1 John 2:18-23 says there have already been antichrists and there will be many more to come. Jesus was merely saying to expect men like Antiochus IV to appear again and again.
No matter which view you take, it is clear that the message from Yahweh is that, unlike what Daniel thought, a physical return to the land would not be the event that brought an end to the exile. Exile was more than physical separation from the Promised Land; rather, it was spiritual separation from Yahweh. A physical return to the land would mark the beginning of the countdown to the end of spiritual exile. But there were still things that had to happen before Yahweh could send His Son to fulfill Dan. 9:24 and bring an end to the exile.
D. The Kings of the North and South (10:1–12:13)
Dan. 10:1-11 tells of an angel that came to Daniel to explain the meaning of an unrecorded vision that Daniel had of a great war. Dan. 11:2–12:4 is a detailed explanation of the vision. The rest of Dan. 12 provides a conclusion to this revelation.
10:1-9 The third year of Cyrus II was 537 BC. The first group of exiles had returned to the land of Israel, but Daniel and many others had not. Daniel had received a vision of a great war that is not recorded here, but its explanation is given in Dan. 11. The vision of this great war so greatly distressed him that for twenty-one days Daniel mourned and fasted. Twenty-one days later, an angelic being appeared before Daniel in response to his prayer.
Daniel was the only one who saw the vision of the angelic being, yet everyone around him sensed that something so awesome and powerful had just happened that they fled in terror. When Daniel heard the angel speak, he fell to the ground in fear. If this is the awesome presence that an angel commands, bringing this kind of reaction, then one can only imagine what it would be like to come into the presence of Yahweh.
10:10-14 The angel put a comforting hand on Daniel and told him not to be afraid and to stand up. Because of Daniel’s character, he was highly esteemed in heaven and thus was granted the privilege of receiving visons from Yahweh.
10:12-14 The moment Daniel had started praying, the angel was sent to him with an answer to his prayer, but it took him twenty-one days to get to Daniel. Previously, in Dan. 9:20-23, the angel was sent and arrived the moment Daniel had started to pray. Yet now it took him twenty-one days to arrive. The reason it took him so long is the Prince of Persia had stopped him from coming, and he had to fight his way free, which took twenty-one days. The only way he was able to get free is that Michael, one of the chief princes of Yahweh, came to his aid against the Prince of Persia. The Prince of Persia was a hostile angel/demon. The Hebrew word sar sometimes refers to human rulers in Daniel (Dan. 9:6, 8; 11:5) but is also used of angelic powers (Dan. 10:13, 21; 12:1). The context also makes it clear that this was a hostile angel. There is no way that Cyrus II, a human ruler/prince, could have stopped this powerful angelic being after how he is described in this chapter and what we learn about angels everywhere else in the Bible. Likewise, Michael is called the chief Prince, and he is clearly an angelic being (Dan. 12:1; Jude 1:9; Rev. 12:7). The Bible teaches that there are hostile angelic beings that rule over the different nations of the world and oppose the will of Yahweh (Deut. 32:8-9, 17; Ps. 82; 89:5-7; 97:7-9; 2 Kgs. 18:33-35). The hostile angel/demon that ruled over the Persian empire from the spiritual realm did not want the announcement of the fall of Persia to be delivered to Daniel, and so he opposed the angel of Yahweh to prevent the delivery of the message.
10:15-11:1 Daniel was still so overwhelmed by the vision of the great war and now of the angel standing before him that he confessed to being so filled with anguish that he had become weak. Once again, the angel comforted and assured Daniel that he would be all right. The angel then told him that he would give him the meaning of the vision of the great war. Afterward he would have to return to fight the Prince of Persia, for soon the Prince of Greece would come—as in the rise of the Greek empire under the power of a hostile angel/demon. This angel and Michael are the only angels who oppose the princes of Persia and Greece.
Dan. 11:1, though somewhat confusing, seems to serve the purpose of connecting the vision of Dan. 9 with this one and the angel Gabriel (Dan. 9:1) with the angel that had just appeared to Daniel here. It also seems to be saying that Gabriel’s fight with the Prince of Persia began in the first year of Darius the Mede (Dan. 9:1) and had been going on for the last three years (Dan. 10:1). Daniel’s prayer during this time had shown that he had stood with the angel Gabriel during his battle, and this may be one of the reasons Daniel was highly esteemed.
This passage makes it clear that there is a very real spiritual war that is going on (Eph. 6:10-20), where what happens in the material realm does affect what happens in the spiritual and vice versa. This sheds an important light on the explanation given in Dan. 12 concerning the kings of the earth and their wars with each other. In light of what had been revealed to Daniel here, one now knows that there are spiritual hostile angels that are ruling over and affecting the rise, fall, and wars of the kings of the earth. This passage also makes it clear that prayer affects the powers in the spiritual realm. Daniel’s continued fasting and prayer seems to be directly linked to the angel’s ability to break through the resistance of the Prince of Persia. Though we do not how this works, it is clear that prayer is a spiritual weapon in the war against earthly and spiritual evil (Eph. 6:18-20).
11:2 It is important to understand that the explanations given by the angel is not meant to be an exhaustive history of the years to come, for this would take way more than just a couple of pages. Rather, it is more concerned with recording the most important events and matters of which everyone would have been aware in a day before instant and widespread communication.
The angel stated that there would be four more kings of Persia after Cyrus II. The difficulty is identifying these four, since there were thirteen rulers of the Persian empire from Cyrus II to Darius III. The kings referred to here are most likely the four kings of Persia who ruled in sequence after Cyrus II: Cambyses II (530–522 BC), Smerdis (522 BC), Darius I (522–486 BC), and Xerxes I (486–465 BC). This does leave more than a hundred-year gap between these four kings and the fall of the Persian empire, where Dan. 11:3 picks up. Yet these kings were the most significant in the Persian empire, and Xerxes was an extremely wealthy king who did attack Greece during his reign. This “three…and the fourth” is an idiom used in the Bible (Prov. 30:15-31; Amos 1–2) to communicate the most significant examples, not all the incidents ever.
11:3-4 The “warrior-king” is clearly Alexander III (336–323 BC), who defeated the Persian empire and created the Greek empire. Right after his death, his empire was divided among his four generals (“four winds”)—Ptolemy, Seleucid, Cassander, and Lysimachus, who took control of the Greek empire after his death. Their kingdoms were not as great and powerful as that of Alexander III, and they spent most of their time warring with each other.
King of the South
King of the North
Ptolemy I (322–285 BC)
Seleucus I (312–280 BC)
Ptolemy II (285–246 BC)
Antiochus I (262–246 BC)
Ptolemy III (246–221 BC)
Seleucus II (246–226 BC)
Seleucus III (226–223 BC)
Antiochus III (223–187 BC)
Antiochus III (223–187 BC)
Ptolemy IV (221–203 BC)
Ptolemy V (203–180 BC)
Seleucus IV (187–175 BC)
Antiochus IV (175–163 BC)
Ptolemy VI (180–145 BC)
11:5 In Dan. 11:5-20 the angel focused on two specific kingdoms, whose kings are called “the king of the south” and “the king of the north.” These north and south directions are in relation to the land of Israel. The kingdom to the south was the land of Egypt, ruled by the Greek rulers Ptolemy I and his descendants. The kingdom to the north is the land of Asia Minor and Syria, ruled by the Greek rulers Seleucus I and his descendants. These were the two most powerful generals of the four who took over the Greek empire after Alexander III’s death. These two kingdoms were often in conflict with each other, especially over the land of Israel, which was central to trade. As a result, the Jews were often caught in the middle and oppressed by these kingdoms. In the beginning, the Ptolemies ruled over the land of Israel and the Jews (Dan. 11:5-10) until the Seleucids took control over Israel in 217 BC (Dan. 11:10-20).
Seleucus I (“one of his commanders”) was attacked by another of Alexander III’s generals, Antigonus. So Seleucus I fled to Ptolemy I (“king of the south”) and became one of his generals in exchange for help in defeating Antigonus. Together they defeated Antigonus in 312 BC at the Battle of Gaza, and Seleucus I regained control of Babylon. In 301 BC Antigonus was killed at the Battle of Ipsus, and Seleucus I took over his lands in Asia Minor and then expanded into Asia, making his kingdom the largest of all the other Greek kings.
11:6 In the south, Ptolemy I was succeeded by his son, Ptolemy II. In the north, Seleucus I was assassinated, and his son, Antiochus I, succeeded him. Antiochus I was then succeeded by his son, Antiochus II.
Ptolemy II (south) and Antiochus II (north) were bitter enemies. However, they made an alliance in 250 BC, by Ptolemy II marrying off his daughter Berenice (“the daughter of the king”) to Antiochus II. Antiochus II had divorced his first wife Laodice and disowned his infant son Seleucus II to make this alliance happen. When Ptolemy II died in 246 BC, Antiochus II divorced Berenice and took back his first wife Laodice. After Antiochus II’s death (reportedly poisoned by Laodice), Laodice had Berenice, her son, and her escort killed to ensure that her son Seleucus II would take the throne.
11:7-9 Berenice’s brother, Ptolemy III (“one of her family”), succeeded his father, and, in revenge for Berenice’s death, he attacked Seleucus II at Antioch in Syria and killed Laodice. He gained many territories in Asia Minor. Ptolemy III returned to Egypt with many spoils including the idols and holy vessels that Cambyses II had taken from Egypt to Persia in 525 BC. He also signed a treaty with Seleucus II in 241 BC. Two years later, Seleucus II invaded Egypt but was forced to withdraw.
11:10 In the south, Ptolemy IV then succeeded his father over the expanded empire. In the north, Seleucus III (“his sons”) succeeded his father and attacked the Ptolemies in Asia Minor but died in an attempt to regain the land taken by Ptolemy III. He was succeeded by his brother Antiochus III (“his sons”), the other son of Seleucus II. Antiochus III attacked Egypt and succeeded in gaining the territory of Israel in 217 BC.
11:11-12 In an attempt to recapture the lost territory of Israel, Ptolemy IV (south) attacked Antiochus III (north) in 217 BC with a large army of elephants, cavalry, and infantry and was successful in retaking Israel. He was extremely euphoric as a result of his victory and indulged himself in alcohol and entertainment, “a life of abandonment.”
11:13 Antiochus III then turned to the east and north and spent the next fourteen years conquering these lands. This is when he earned the epitaph “the Great.”
11:14a In Egypt there had been increasing unrest due to Ptolemy IV’s life of debauchery, oppressive rule, and allowing native-born Egyptians to serve in the Greek army. Ptolemy IV and his wife died of mysterious circumstances in 203 BC, and he was succeeded by their infant son Ptolemy V.
11:14b It is not clear what is meant by the Jews rebelling violently, nor what not succeeding means. At this time there was a division among the Jews—those who were pro-Ptolemy and those who were pro-Seleucid. It could mean that the pro-Ptolemy Jews rebelled against Antiochus III but were not successful, in that they failed to stop Antiochus III from retaking Israel. Or it could mean that the pro-Seleucid Jews believed they would have great freedom under Antiochus III and so joined him in his fight against the Ptolemies. But they failed in the sense that he and his descendants’ rule would bring a far greater oppression than anything they had experienced.
11:15-16 In 203 BC Antiochus III, taking advantage of Ptolemy V’s inexperience, returned to Israel with a much larger army and began to drive back the Ptolemaic army. The fortified city that Antiochus III besieged and took was Sidon, north of Israel, which he defeated in about 200 BC. There he forced the Egyptian general Scopas to surrender. Three other Egyptian commanders tried to free Scopas from Sidon, but they were unsuccessful. Antiochus III successfully retook Israel as far south as Gaza with great ease. When Antiochus III entered Jerusalem, the Jews welcomed him as a deliverer and benefactor.
11:17 Antiochus III, under threat from Rome, made an alliance with Ptolemy V by giving his daughter Cleopatra I to Ptolemy V in marriage. Antiochus III had hoped that Cleopatra would remain pro-Seleucid and that her loyalty to him would give him control over Egypt. However, his plan failed when she proved to be completely loyal to her husband and even encouraged him to make an alliance with Rome.
11:18-19 Antiochus III then turned his attention to Greece and seized many of the territories along the Aegean coast in Asia Minor. Angry over Roman control in Greece, he crossed the Hellespont straight into Greece to drive the Romans out in 192 BC. But the Roman commander Claudius Scipio (“a commander will put an end to his insolence”) crushed him and drove him all the way back to the southern coast of the Black Sea. Antiochus III returned to Antioch, where he died a year later in 187 BC.
11:20 Seleucus IV succeeded his father and taxed his people greatly, including the Jews, to pay his father’s debts to Rome. He learned about the great wealth in the temple in Jerusalem and so sent his prime minister (“tribute collector”) to seize the wealth. Then his Jewish tax collector, Heliodorus (2 Macc. 3:7), poisoned him. Heliodorus was stopped by a divine apparition that nearly killed him. He returned to Seleucus IV and had him killed.
11:21 He was succeeded by his brother Antiochus IV, “the contemptable person” (the little horn of Dan. 7:8; 8:9-12, 23-25). The throne rightly belonged to one of the sons of Seleucus IV. The eldest son, Demetrius, was imprisoned in Rome, and Heliodorus had seized the throne supposedly in the name of the younger brother Antiochus. But Antiochus IV came back from being imprisoned in Rome with an army and seized the throne for himself in the name of Demetrius, and Heliodorus fled. He persuaded the leaders of Syria to allow him to rule since Demetrius, the eldest son of Seleucus IV, was being held hostage in Rome. Later, his nephew Antiochus was killed.
11:22-24 Initially Antiochus IV was successful in defeating the armies of Ptolemy VI. “The prince of the covenant” refers to the high priest of the Mosaic Covenant, who was Onias III. At first Antiochus IV allowed the Jews to have an internal self-government in accordance with the Mosaic Covenant. Onias III opposed the Hellenization of the Jews. In 175 BC, Jason, Onias III’s brother, gave Antiochus IV a large bribe and promised him he would support Hellenization. Antiochus IV agreed and deposed Onias III. In 172 BC, Menelaus, who was not of the high priestly family, bribed Antiochus IV to make him high priest. Onias III discovered that Menelaus had stolen gold items from the temple. Onias III made a public protest about this, and Menelaus killed him in 171 BC. The picture in these verses is of Antiochus IV supporting the Jews and then betraying them and making promises and breaking them. The angel makes it clear that Antiochus is more evil than those who came before him but that Yahweh has limited his career and the damage he would be able to do (Isa. 28:15-22).
11:25-28 The young Ptolemy VI was now king over Egypt, and his courtiers encouraged him to retake Israel. Antiochus IV heard about it, marched his superior army toward Egypt, and defeated their army in 169 BC. While Ptolemy VI was at battle, his courtiers declared his younger brother Ptolemy VII to be king. Antiochus IV pretended to make a treaty with Ptolemy VI to put him back on the throne. Ptolemy VII was set up as king in Memphis but in actuality became the puppet of Antiochus IV. But Antiochus IV’s control over Ptolemy VI and Egypt was lost when Cleopatra II got her brothers Ptolemy VI and Ptolemy VII to reconcile and become co-regents. When Antiochus IV returned to Israel, he killed a lot of Jews and robbed the temple. His motives for doing this are not clear. The phrase “because an end will still come at the appointed time” comes from Hab. 2:3a and shows that though one may be perplexed by why Yahweh is allowing this to happen, there is a divine appointed time for his end.
11:29-30a Antiochus IV decided to attack Egypt again. But when he arrived with his army, the was met in Alexandria by the Roman consul, Gaius Popillius Laenas, who had come on the ships from Kittim (Cyprus). Gaius Popillius Laenas ordered him to leave, but Antiochus IV tried to stall. So Gaius Popillius Laenas drew a circle around Antiochus IV and told him not to step out of the circle until he had made a decision. Humiliated by this and knowing he could not defeat Rome, he returned home.
11:30b Jason, the ousted priest, heard that Antiochus IV had been killed in Egypt. This led Jason to attack Jerusalem with a thousand men, and Menelaus took refuge in a citadel. Though Jason killed many supporters of Antiochus IV, he failed to take the city and eventually fled to Ammon. When Antiochus IV heard of the revolt, he sent his army to crush it, not realizing it was already over. His general Apollonius pretended to come in peace but attacked the city on a sabbath, slaughtering thousands of people. The city walls were torn down, and a citadel was built. Many pro-Seleucid Jews fought against their own people and served in the citadel.
11:31 Antiochus IV forbade all Jewish practices and festivals on pain of death. He stopped the daily offerings in the temple, banned circumcision, and burned copies of the Torah. Altars to his gods were set up throughout the land, and pigs (an unclean animal) were sacrificed on them. On December 16, 168 BC, he set up an idol to Zeus in the temple and made sacrifices to Zeus on the altar in the temple (“the abomination that causes desolation”).
11:32-35 Many Jews compromised their beliefs and joined the pagan practices. But there were also many Jews who resisted this Hellenization and these pagan practices. The “wise” are those who truly understand the word of Yahweh and are willing to follow it even if it means their death (Dan. 3:16-18). Their commitment will not be easy, but it will cause some who are not sincere to join them and give them a little help.
One day a priest named Mattathias from the town of Modein in Ephraim refused to submit to the Seleucid delegation sent to his village and started a rebellion. After his death the rebellion was led by three of his sons—Judas, Jonathan, and Simon (1 Macc. 2:23-28). This started the Maccabean revolt, which grew so big that it eventually drove Seleucid power out of Israel. At Mattathias’s death, Judas Maccabeus took over the rebellion. Eventually he killed Apollonius, took back the temple, and cleansed it on 16 December 164 BC. Antiochus IV died insane in Persia in 163 BC.
11:36-39 These verses evaluate Antiochus IV’s character. The general statement in Dan. 11:36 is filled out in Dan. 11:37-39, which focuses on his religious attitudes and policies. The opening phrase links back to the foreshadowing of Antiochus IV in the figures of Alexander III (Dan. 11:3) and Antiochus III (Dan. 11:16). The point is that, like them, he was a man of arrogance who would meet an untimely and unexpected death that had been decreed by Yahweh. The verb for “exalt himself” is used in the Bible to describe men who see themselves as autonomous and oppose Yahweh and His will. Antiochus named himself Antiochus Epiphanes, meaning “God manifest.” He had coins minted with the god Apollo on one side and himself on the other side. The coins said, “King Antiochus, God Manifest, Victory-Bringer.” But what Daniel emphasizes here is not just Antiochus IV’s hubris but that it was directed toward Yahweh. And not just Yahweh, but he even opposed his own people’s traditions. The Seleucids had given favor to Apollo, but Antiochus IV elevated himself with Apollos and gave preference to Zeus. “The one that women love” could mean the Tammuz-Adonis (Ezek. 8:14) or Dionysius, who were popular in Egypt and had mostly a female following. The shows contempt for all gods, all people, and all traditions. Himself was all he cared about.
11:40-45 The story concludes by telling how the king of the north would beat back another attack from the king of the south, invade Israel, conquer Egypt, and set up camp between the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea before meeting his death. However, none of this corresponds to any of the recorded historical events of the last days of Antiochus IV. How is this to be understood? Many scholars believe Daniel 11 was written in 165 BC, so all the previous verses would be recorded history, and the things the author predicted in Dan. 11:40-45 he simply got wrong. This is very unlikely considering the amount of detail that has been given, and there is no reason for the author to suddenly “make it up.” This also makes the faulty assumption that prophecy is not possible.
Most evangelicals reject this view and believe that all of Daniel 11 is predictive but that the prophecy switches to the distant future coming of the antichrist, either in Dan. 11:36 or Dan. 11:40. Thus, these verses are about an Antiochus IV-like figure who will come at the end of time. They point to Matt. 24:15, 2 Thess. 2:3-9, 1 John 2:18, and Rev. 13:1-10 to validate this view. This seems, however, like a very abrupt switch with no indications to signal such a switch. Certainly the author switches many times throughout Dan. 11 from one Ptolemy to another without any indications, but these are still historical figures who lived in the same decade.
Most likely this is just a continuing summary of Antiochus IV’s life started in Dan. 11:36, merely recapitulating the major events of his life and summing up his arrogant attitude and militarism that had no regard for human life and eventually led to his death. Dan. 11:40-45 reinforce and illustrate the summary given of Antiochus IV in Dan. 11:36-39. The details may not agree with our understanding because it is a general overview, or perhaps our understanding is wrong. There are four different historical accounts of Antiochus IV’s death that agree only on the point that he launched a campaign in Persia at the end of his life, and then he died. They do not even agree on how he died.
These final verses could also be a general picture of what all these kings of the ancient Near East were like. All were arrogant but ultimately died and were forgotten. This type is then being used as a typological picture, like Gog of Ezek. 38-39, of all the kings of past history and those yet to come. In this sense, it does paint a picture of the Second Testament antichrist figures. But to say that it is specifically about the Antichrist is reading a Second Testament idea back into the First Testament and assuming a lot without any literary indications to signal this change.
12:1-2 The phrase “at that time” shows that the following events refer to the time of Antiochus IV and not some future time. The future Antichrist view does not make sense for the author to switch to the future and then back to the past with no indications. The angel now states that at the same time this earthly struggle is happening, there would be a corresponding struggle in the spiritual realm. Michael, the Prince of Israel, will arise in the midst of Israel’s great suffering under the Seleucids and lead them in a deliverance. The Hebrew word ya‘mod (“will arise”) implies a judicial battle (Zech. 3:1) in which Michael will carry out the judicial judgment of Yahweh on the Seleucids. This could be referring to Michael somehow aiding Judas Maccabee in his taking back of the temple and driving the Seleucids out of Israel.
12:2-3 This is the clearest statement in the First Testament in the belief of the Resurrection of the dead. The fact that it is so fully developed and clear means that a concept of the resurrection had already existed in Israel for a long time in order to develop to this point. In the Bible, the language of sleeping and waking refers to resurrection (2 Kgs. 4:31; Isa. 26:19; Jer. 51:39, 57; Job 14:12). The wise who live obedient, righteous lives will one day shine like the stars because they will be in the light of Yahweh in the resurrection. How this would happen is not explained and would not be explained until the Second Testament.
The angel then told Daniel to roll up the revelation and seal it until it was time for its fulfillment. This means that as these future events began to happen, the Jews could read this prophecy of Yahweh and see that He knew these things would come. His foreknowledge of these events would strengthen their faith in Him and in His promise of deliverance.
12:5-7 Daniel then saw two other angelic beings. They asked how long it would be until these things were fulfilled. The first angel said it would be three and a half years (“time, times, and half”). This most likely refers to the retaking of the temple referred to in Dan. 7:25.
12:8-13 Daniel then asked what would be the outcome of all that he had seen. The angel did not answer and said it had been sealed up. But he did assure Daniel by saying that the faithful would be purified in the persecution and that the wicked would be punished when it was all over. No one fully understands the meaning of the two different numbers given. However, the point is clear that Yahweh still has many things to accomplish until the completion of His plan of redemption. Finally, the angel assured Daniel that he would die and rest before this time of unrest and that he would be among those in the resurrection.
Through the book of Daniel, Yahweh reminded Israel that He was still the supreme sovereign king over creation. Even in a foreign nation controlled by a pagan despot king, He was still governing the affairs of the nations. Likewise, Yahweh reminded them that He was still intimately involved in their lives, guiding, protecting, and caring for them. Unlike any other god, Yahweh revealed to Israel the future and the coming trials they must go through before the completion of His plan of redemption. Yahweh’s prophecy showed that He had already gone before them and knew what was going to happen to them, and, thus, He would be with them in the midst of it all. Also, there is a promise that the trials would last only so long before Yahweh would bring deliverance.
Throughout the Bible this is the consistent message: Yahweh is sovereign over all things and is intimately involved in the lives of humans. This brings the promise that He is with us and that He will take care of us no matter how hopeless the affairs of the nations and our surrounding cultures look.
Avalos, Hector I. The Comedic Function of the Enumerations of Officials and Instruments in Daniel 3. The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 53: 580-588.
Baldwin, Joyce G. Daniel, An Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries series. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1978.
Bevan, Anthony Ashley. A Short Commentary on the Book of Daniel. Cambridge: University Press, 1892.
Bryan, David. Cosmos, Chaos and the Kosher Mentality. JSP Supplemental series 12, Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995.
Charles, Robert Henry. The Book of Daniel. The New Century Bible series. New York: H. Frowde, Oxford University, n.d.
Chisholm, Robert B. Handbook on the Prophets. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002.
Collins, John J. Daniel. Hermeneia series. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993.
Flusser, D. The Four Empires in the Fourth Sibyl and in the Book of Daniel. Israel Oriental Studies 2 (1972) 148-175.
Goldingay, John E. Daniel. Word Biblical Commentaries series. Dallas: Word Books, 1989.
Gurney, Robert J. M. The Four Kingdoms of Daniel 2 and 7. Themelios. Vol. 2, Iss. 2. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/themelios/article/the-four-kingdoms-of-daniel-2-and-7
Harrison, R. K. Introduction to the Old Testament. London: Tyndale, 1970.
Hasel, G. The Four World Empires of Daniel Against Its Near Eastern Environment. JSOT 12 (1979) 17-30.
Lucas, Ernest. Daniel. Apollos Old Testament Commentary series. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2002.
Montgomery, James A. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Daniel. International Critical Commentary series. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1927.
Russell, David S. Daniel. The Daily Study Bible series. Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1981.
Walton, John H. “The Decree of Darius the Mede in Daniel 6.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 31:279-286.
Walton, John H. “The Four Kingdoms of Daniel.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 29:25-36.
Wenham, Gordan. Daniel: The Basic Issues. Themelios. Vol. 2, Iss. 2. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/themelios/article/daniel-the-basic-issues/
Wiseman, Donald J. Nebuchadrezzar and Babylon, Schweich Lectures 1983; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985.
 For a more comprehensive discussion on the dating of the book of Daniel, see Gordan Wenham. Daniel: The Basic Issues.
 See Gerhard von Rad. Old Testament Theology II (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1965), p. 315.
 See Cory Baugher. The Divine Council of Yahweh, at www.knowingthebible.net.
 Samuel A Meier. Themes and Transformations in Old Testament Prophecy. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2009.
Joyce G. Baldwin. Daniel, An Introduction and Commentary, p. 66.
 In Dan. 1:4 the Hebrew it says “Chaldeans” (chaldea), which is an ancient term for Babylonians. Chaldea appears in the Assyrian inscriptions from at least the 800s BC as the name of the southern region of Babylon inhabited by several tribal groups. In the Bible and classical sources, the dynasty of the of Babylonian rulers, founded by Nabopolassar (658–605 BC), is called Chaldean. Outside the book of Daniel, the term Chaldean is used of the people of Babylon in general. See Lucas Earnest. Daniel, pp. 52-53.
 See Lucas Ernest. Daniel, p. 94.
 See Cory Baugher. The History of the Intertestamental Period, at www.knowingthebible.net.
 See Robert J. M. Gurney. The Four Kingdoms of Daniel 2 and 7.
 See John H. Walton. The Four Kingdoms of Daniel.
 See D. Flusser. The Four Empires in the Fourth Sibyl and in the Book of Daniel, pp. 148-175. See also G. Hasel. The Four World Empires of Daniel Against Its Near Eastern Environment, pp. 17-30.
 See D. Flusser. The Four Empires in the Fourth Sibyl and in the Book of Daniel. pp. 159-160.
 See D. Flusser. The Four Empires in the Fourth Sibyl and in the Book of Daniel. pp. 159-160. He gives other examples as well.
 See John H. Walton. The Four Kingdoms of Daniel.
 See John H. Walton. The Four Kingdoms of Daniel.
 Robert B. Chisholm. Handbook on the Prophets, p. 296.
 Joyce G. Baldwin. Daniel, An Introduction and Commentary, p. 85.
 See Lucas Ernest. Daniel, p. 70.
 See Lucas Ernest. Daniel, p. 78.
 See Lucas Ernest. Daniel, p. 72.
 See Lucas Ernest. Daniel, p. 94.
 See James A. Montgomery. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Daniel, p. 196.
 See Donald J. Wiseman. Nebuchadrezzar and Babylon, p. 111.
 See Lucas Ernest. Daniel, p. 89.
 See Hector I. Avalos. The Comedic Function of the Enumerations of Officials and Instruments in Daniel 3, pp. 580-588.
 See Robert B. Chisholm. Handbook on the Prophets, p. 299.
 See John E. Goldingay. Daniel, p. 67.
 See Lucas Ernest. Daniel, p. 89.
 See Lucas Ernest. Daniel, p. 94.
 See John E. Goldingay. Daniel, p. 87.
 See Lucas Ernest. Daniel, p. 111.
 See R. K. Harrison. An Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 116-117.
 See Lucas Ernest. Daniel, p. 126.
 See Lucas Ernest. Daniel, p. 129.
 See Lucas Ernest. Daniel, p. 130.
 For a more detailed discussion on Darius the Mede, see Lucas Ernest. Daniel, pp. 134-136.
 See John H. Walton. The Decree of Darius the Mede in Daniel 6, p. 282.
 See James A. Montgomery. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Daniel, p. 270.
 See John H. Walton. The Decree of Darius the Mede in Daniel 6, p. 285.
 See Cory Baugher. The History of the Intertestamental Period, at www.knowingthebible.net.
 See David Bryan. Cosmos, Chaos and the Kosher Mentality, p. 227.
 See Robert J. M. Gurney. The Four Kingdoms of Daniel 2 and 7.
 See Robert J. M. Gurney. The Four Kingdoms of Daniel 2 and 7.
 See Robert J. M. Gurney. The Four Kingdoms of Daniel 2 and 7.
 See Robert J. M. Gurney. The Four Kingdoms of Daniel 2 and 7.
 See Robert J. M. Gurney. The Four Kingdoms of Daniel 2 and 7.
 See John H. Walton. The Four Kingdoms of Daniel. And see F. E. Peters. The Harvest of Hellenism, pp. 312–314 for the information on these Macedonian states.
 See John H. Walton. The Four Kingdoms of Daniel.
 See Cory Baugher. The Divine Council of Yahweh, at www.knowingthebible.net.
 See John J. Collins. Daniel, p. 305.
 See Lucas Ernest. Daniel, p. 218.
 q is a Greek translation of the Hebrew First Testament produced around AD 180 by Theodotion, a Jewish proselyte from Asia Minor. He used a Hebrew text closer to the later Masoretic tradition than the Hebrew text behind the LXX (the first Greek translation of the First Testament). Later, his version of the book of Daniel replaced the LXX version.
 The Masoretic Text is a Hebrew manuscript from the 900s and 800s BC. It is considered one of the oldest and most reliable manuscripts for the First Testament.
 See Lucas Ernest. Daniel, p. 246.
 See Cory Baugher. The Divine Council of Yahweh, at www.knowingthebible.net.
 See Lucas Ernest. Daniel, p. 289.
 See Lucas Ernest. Daniel, pp. 292-293. And Robert. B. Chisholm. Handbook on the Prophets, pp. 326-327.