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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Daniel 10



Verse 1

Daniel 10:1. In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia — That is, the third after the death of Darius. Daniel must now have been above ninety years of age. It is reasonable to suppose that, being a youth when he was carried captive, he must have been at least twenty years of age; and that was seventy-three years before the date of this vision, which was the last Daniel saw, and it is not likely he himself survived it long. A thing was revealed unto Daniel — A revelation of future things (namely, those contained in the two following chapters, to which this is as it were a preface) was made to Daniel. And the thing was true — Or plain, as the word truth, or true, is sometimes taken in the Hebrew. The meaning seems to be, that the things were not revealed to him enigmatically, or symbolically, under the types of a statue, or wild beasts, as they were before; but as it were by an historical recital, and with more particular circumstances than before. It is the usual method of the Holy Spirit, to make the latter prophecies explanatory of the former; and revelation is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. The four great empires of the world, which were shown to Nebuchadnezzar in the form of a great image, were again more particularly represented to Daniel in the shape of four great wild beasts. In like manner, the memorable events which were revealed to Daniel, in the vision of the ram and the he-goat, are here again more clearly and explicitly revealed, in this last vision, by an angel; so that this latter prophecy may not improperly be said to be a comment upon, and explanation of, the former. But the time appointed was long — That is, the time when the things revealed were to come to pass, was at a great distance; “and consequently,” says Bishop Newton, “the prophecy must extend further than from the third year of Cyrus to the death of Antiochus Epiphanes, which was not above three hundred and seventy years. In reality,” adds he, “it comprehends many signal events after that time to the end of the world.” And he understood the thing, &c. — He had a clear view of the succession of the Persian and Grecian monarchies, and of the series of the kings of Syria and Egypt under the latter of them; although the remaining parts of the vision were obscure, especially with respect to their final event: see chap. Daniel 12:8.

Verse 2-3

Daniel 10:2-3. I Daniel was mourning — The reason of Daniel’s fasting and mourning might be, either because many of the Jews, through slothfulness and indifference, still remained in the land of their captivity, though they had liberty to return to their own land, not knowing how to value the privileges offered them; or, as Usher thinks, because he had heard that the adversaries of the Jews had begun to obstruct the building of the temple. Calmet, however, is of opinion, that his sorrow arose principally from the obscurity which the prophet found in the prophecies revealed to him; which, indeed, may be partly collected from the angel’s touching upon no other cause of mourning. In consequence of Daniel’s fasting, &c., the angel appears, and explains to him, in a clearer manner, what had been more obscurely revealed in the preceding visions. Three full weeks — Hebrew, three weeks of days. So we read of a month of days, Genesis 29:4; Numbers 11:20, where the English reads, a whole month. But the phrase may be used here to distinguish them from the weeks of years prophesied of in chap. 9. I ate no pleasant bread — “There seems to have been two sorts of fasting among the Jews; either a total abstinence from food of all sorts for at least a whole day, which David observed at the funeral of Abner, 2 Samuel 3:35; or a partial abstinence from the better kinds of food, which lasted for a considerable time, as in the case before us. The prophet made likewise an alteration in his dress, and did not anoint himself as usual after the eastern manner, 2 Samuel 12:20; Matthew 6:17; for the Jews never anointed themselves in times of mourning and humiliation.”

Verse 4

Daniel 10:4. In the four and twentieth day of the first month — “Nisan, if the Jewish computation be admitted; that is, the month in which was the paschal solemnity. Hence commentators have observed, from this fact of the prophet, that the Jews did not observe their festivals except in their own country, and in the place which God had appointed; but if the Persian computation should be followed, which seems not improbable, as the prophet dates his vision from the third year of Cyrus the Persian, then the month will be different.” I was by the side — Or, on the bank, of the great river Hiddekel — “Syriac, the Euphrates; but the Vulgate reads, the Tigris; the Greek and Arabic, Tigris-eddekel. It was probably near the junction of the two rivers, which was about Seleucia and Ctesiphon, in some part of Susiana, that the prophet was placed.” — Wintle.

Verse 5-6

Daniel 10:5-6. I lifted up mine eyes — Being by the river-side, in deep contemplation, I looked up, and saw a person appear before me, clothed in linen, &c. — “Who this certain person was we may be at no loss to determine, if we consider him as described in the attire of the high-priest, and compare the passage with Exodus 28:29., and the description of the Son of man by St. John in the Revelation 1:13. If, however, he were not the Son of God himself, he was probably an angel of the highest order.” — Wintle. Concerning the fine gold of Uphaz, see note on Jeremiah 10:9. His body was like the beryl — That is, cerulean, or of a bluish-green colour; his face as the appearance of lightning — See Matthew 28:3. By this was symbolically expressed his perspicacity, or quickness in discerning and knowing every thing; and his eyes as lamps of fire — To signify the comprehensiveness and piercing terribleness of his knowledge; his arms and feet like polished brass — Of a bright flaming colour: see Revelation 1:15. As the arms and feet in men are the instruments of action, by them we are here to understand his actions, the purity of which is meant to be expressed by the shining brass; and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude — By which greatness or terribleness of his voice was signified his denouncing terrible judgments on kings and kingdoms.

Verses 7-9

Daniel 10:7-9. The men that were with me saw not the vision — This was just as it happened to the company who were with St. Paul, when he had a vision, going to Damascus, Acts 9:7. God can cast a cloud before the eyes of any one when he pleases, so that the organs may not be able to perform their usual functions; thus it is said, Luke 24:16, of the two disciples going to Emmaus, that their eyes were holden that they should not know him. But a great quaking fell upon them — Occasioned perhaps by their hearing some unusual and terrible sound. Thus the men with St. Paul heard a voice which struck them speechless, though they saw nothing. So that they fled to hide themselves — Through the terror and astonishment wherewith they were seized, they fled from the place, as from a place in which they were exposed to instant destruction. And there remained no strength in me — I fell into a swoon, or fainting-fit. My comeliness, or vigour, was turned in me into corruption — Houbigant reads it, The flower of my strength withered, and all my powers failed me. When I heard the voice of his words — The very sound of his words deprived me of all sense and power of motion. Then was I in a deep sleep Then I lay lifeless, with my face prone upon the ground. — Houb.

Verses 10-12

Daniel 10:10-12. And behold, a hand touched me — This was not the same angel, or personage, who is described Daniel 10:5, but some other of not so great brightness, probably the angel Gabriel in a human form, who had before been sent to Daniel on the like occasions. Whoever it was, his touch revived Daniel, and enabled him to stand upright. And when he had spoken, I stood trembling — Though Daniel was not so greatly disturbed and terrified as at the appearance described Daniel 10:5, yet he could not forbear trembling at the appearance of this angel, though of an inferior order, and probably in a human form. Then said he, Fear not, Daniel — And his word was with power: see Matthew 28:5-10; Luke 2:10. From the first day thou didst set thy heart to understand — As soon as thou didst set thy mind to consider concerning the state of thy people, and how, and in what degree, or time, their restoration would be; and to chasten thyself before thy God — When thou didst begin to testify the concern thou wast in upon that account, by fasting and mourning, and didst humble thyself before God; thy words were heard — As God graciously answered those prayers which thou didst address to him in thy former humiliation, (see Daniel 9:2-22,) so now God is pleased, in answer to thy repeated humiliation, and solicitous concern for thy people, to send me, to inform thee what shall be their state and condition in after times. What an encouragement is this to us, to spread our wants before God, and present to him our lawful requests; for we find twice in this book an angel assuring Daniel, that as soon as he began to pray, God began to grant his petitions.

Verse 13-14

Daniel 10:13-14. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia opposed me — Hebrew, עמד לנגדי, stood before me. — Purver. And so Jun. and Tremel., referring it to an earthly prince. This is thought by some to be Cambyses, the son of Cyrus, intrusted with the management of affairs in the court of Persia when his father was absent on some expedition, and set against the Jews by their enemies, and now endeavouring to embarrass their affairs: over his designs the angel had been watching, in order to defeat them. Others have thought there is an allusion in this verse, and at Daniel 10:20, to the guardian, or tutelary angels, of different countries; which doctrine seems to be countenanced by some passages in Scripture, and especially by Zechariah, chap. Daniel 6:5 . Grotius is of this opinion; and Bishop Newcome, on the last-mentioned place, refers to the passage before us. “That there were such tutelar angels,” says Lowth, “not only over private persons, Acts 12:15, but likewise over provinces and kingdoms, was an opinion generally received. The four spirits, mentioned Zechariah 6:5, seem to be the guardian angels of the four great empires.” This opinion supposes the presiding angels, here mentioned, to be good angels, but it is surely absurd to think that the holy angels are ever engaged in contending with each other; or that “one holy angel is set to oppose another holy angel.” — Scott. Others suppose the contest to be between a good and an evil angel, as in Zechariah 3:1, and Jude, Daniel 10:9, “which latter opinion,” says Wintle, “is perhaps the most just, as there should seem to be no dispute, or contest, between the ministering spirits of heaven, who are always obedient to the pleasure of their Lord. And when the Almighty sent a superior angel, Michael, whose name is sometimes given to Christ himself, Revelation 12:7, his office probably was to assist Gabriel in subduing the prince of the power of the air, the powers of this darksome world, or the spirits that rule over the children of disobedience, Ephesians 2:2. The opposition was made twenty-one days; and as this was exactly the number of days that Daniel fasted, the contest may possibly have some allusion to this struggle. Daniel was certainly highly favoured, and the Almighty, who delights in hearing and answering the prayers of his servants, directs the angel to apologize (if I may so speak) for his delay in attending to the patient solicitations of the prophet: the angel also is represented as pleading the difficulty of his task, and another higher power, or chief, in the regal court of heaven, favours his business, and comes in to his assistance. In whatever light this is to be understood, it is a strong and affecting, though less gross, instance of the anthropopathia, or of the Deity’s accommodating himself and his measures to the manners of men.” See De Sacra Poes. Hebrews, Præl. 6. Houbigant is of opinion, that this prince of the kingdom of Persia was an evil angel, and in agreement with it renders the last clause of the verse, and I have now left him on the side of the kings of Persia. But it seems most proper to understand Cambyses as meant. Now I am come to make thee understand, &c. — I am now come to inform thee of what shall befall thy people hereafter; for yet the vision is for many days — For it will be a long course of time before the things I shall inform thee of shall come to pass. Daniel, we find, was informed by this vision, that the empire should be translated from the Persians to the Greeks, Daniel 11:3; and then what should be the condition of the Jews under Alexander’s successors, the kings of Syria and Egypt.

Verses 15-17

Daniel 10:15-17. I set my face toward the ground — The fear with which Daniel had been struck at the sight of the angel Michael still continued in some degree, so that he was afraid to look up at this angel, or to speak to him. And behold, one like the similitude of the sons of men — Daniel, gathering courage to look up, perceived that the angel Gabriel had not that angelic form, or brightness, which Michael appeared in, Daniel 10:5, but that he was in a human form. Gabriel, then advancing, and touching Daniel’s lips, gave him the power of utterance, as he had before (Daniel 10:11) of standing on his feet. Then I opened my mouth, and said unto him that stood before me — This angel stood upon the earth near Daniel, not above the waters of the river, as the person did whose appearance was so glorious, Daniel 10:5. By the vision my sorrows are turned upon me — By beholding thee, although in a human form, I am greatly affected, or terrified. For how can the servant of this my lord talk, &c. — How can thy servant, a poor mortal man, maintain a discourse with a person of such rank and dignity? see Noldius, p. 353. The words may be translated thus: How can the servant of this my lord talk with that my lord? that is, with the other person that first appeared to me with so majestic a presence, at whose sight I was perfectly confounded, Daniel 10:5-9. Straightway there remained no strength in me — As soon as ever I saw him, all my strength went from me, and I could not support myself. Neither is there — Or rather, was there, breath left in me I fell breathless in a swoon.

Verse 18-19

Daniel 10:18-19. Then there came again, &c. — This seems to be spoken of the same angel, namely, the angel Gabriel, touching him again, whereby he was rendered more composed, and had his strength revived. And said, O man, &c., fear not — Thou needest not be under such terrible apprehensions, as if this vision did portend to thee some mischief; for it is a peculiar token of God’s favour to thee.

Verse 20

Daniel 10:20. Knowest thou wherefore I come unto thee? — Or, Thou knowest for what cause I am come, &c. “The angel, having strengthened the prophet, presumes that he also understood the general design of his errand. The Greek is, ει οιδας, Surely thou knowest, according to a usual Hebrew idiom. And now will I return to fight with the prince of Persia — With the evil angel, who, under “the god of this world,” presides over Persia; or rather, with the present ruling prince of Persia, whether Cambyses or any other person then intrusted with the chief power, whose designs against the Jews this angel was employed in counteracting, and would continue to counteract, as also those of every future prince of that kingdom, till it should be overturned by the Greeks. And when I am gone forth — Hebrew, ואני יוצא, and I going forth, namely, to execute my commission; or, when I am gone forth, having executed it, and their monarchy is brought down for their unkindness to the Jews, lo, the prince of Grecia shall come — The Macedonian empire, under Alexander the Great and his successors, shall be established in Asia; and though favourable to the Jews at first, as the Persian was, yet will afterward become vexatious to them. “Such is the state of the church militant; when it has got clear of one enemy, it has another to encounter; and such a hydra’s head is that of the old serpent; when one storm is blown over, it is not long before another rises.” — Henry.

Verse 21

Daniel 10:21. But I will show thee that which is noted in the Scripture, or writing, of truth — Namely, that which is certainly determined by God. God’s decrees are spoken of as if they were committed to writing, and registered in a book. And there is none that holdeth with me in these things, but Michael your prince — This may mean that the Jews had no friend in the court of Persia, who would co-operate with the angel, “to forward the prophet’s designs in behalf of his people, but Michael, their prince; and that Daniel must depend on him alone to disappoint the devices which were forming against them.” — Scott. As this chapter is intended as an introduction to the prophecies in the next two chapters, it may be observed that the sum of it is this: that the prayer of Daniel, in behalf of the Jews, had been heard; but that the Jews would be crossed in their design of building the temple; that nevertheless God would protect them; that the prince of Javan, or of the Greeks, that is, Alexander the Great, would come against the Persians; and that the principal angels, such as he was who talked with Daniel, and Michael the archangel, would be employed by God to defend and assist the Jews, and to strengthen the kings who were for the Jews, as, at the beginning of the following chapter, the angel who here speaks is said to have strengthened King Darius. The affliction and fasting of Daniel, who mourned for three weeks, should be considered as the effect of his zeal for the glory of God, to be manifested in the restoration of the Jews; it being the character of pious and zealous persons to afflict themselves when the glory of God is obstructed, and to offer up fervent prayers for the peace and prosperity of their country. With respect to what the angel said to Daniel, of his labouring and striving for the Jews against those who sought their ruin, it is a proof that God makes use of the ministry of angels to execute his designs, and for the protection and benefit of those whom he is pleased to bless.


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Daniel 10:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, June 27th, 2017
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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