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Analysis of the Chapter
This chapter introduces the last revelation made to Daniel, and is “merely” introductory to the disclosures made in the two following chapters. The whole extends to the time of the coming of the Messiah, embracing a detail of the principal historical events that would occur, and closes with some fearful allusions to the ultimate results of human conduct in the day of judgment, and to the great principles on which God governs the world. The contents of this introductory chapter are as follows:
(a) The statement of the time when the revelation occurred, Daniel 10:1. This was in the third year of Cyrus king of Persia, subsequently, therefore, to the visions in the previous chapters, and after the order had been given by Cyrus for the restoration of the Jews, Ezra 1:1.
(b) The particular period when this occurred was when Daniel was observing a fast that continued through three weeks, Daniel 10:2-27.10.3. This was at the passover, the first month in their ecclesiastical year, and the fast was observed by Daniel, evidently, on account of the sins and the calamities of his people.
(c) The place where this occurred, Daniel 10:4. He was by the side of the river Hiddekel or Tigris. Why he was there he does not say. But it is to be remembered that he seems to have been employed on some occasions in other parts of the empire than Babylon; and one of his former visions occurred on the banks of a river that flowed into the Tigris - the river Ulai. See the notes at Daniel 8:2. Indeed, it would appear that the banks of rivers were not unfrequently the places to which the prophets resorted, or where they were favored with their visions. They were retired places, and were on many accounts favorable for devotion. Compare Ezekiel 1:1; Acts 16:13. See also Revelation 22:1-66.22.2.
(d) While there, engaged in his devotions, Daniel saw a man, who suddenly appeared to him, clothed in linen, and girded with a belt of gold. Those who were with him fled astonished, and left him alone to contemplate the vision, and to receive the communication which this glorious stranger had to make to him. The effect of this vision on himself, however, was wholly to overcome him, to prostrate him to the earth, and to render him insensible, until the angel touched him, and raised him up, Daniel 10:4-27.10.10. In all this there is nothing unnatural. The effect is such as would be produced in any case in similar circumstances, and it has a striking resemblance to what occurred to Saul of Tarsus on his way to Damascus (Acts 9:3-44.9.4; Acts 22:7-44.22.9; and to John in the visions of Patmos, Revelation 1:10-66.1.17.)
(e) He who had thus appeared to Daniel proceeded to state to him the design for which he had come, Daniel 10:11-27.10.14. The prayer of Daniel, he said, had been heard the first day in which he had given himself to these solemn acts of devotion. He had himself been commissioned at that time to come to Daniel, and to disclose the events which were to occur. During a period of twenty-one days, however, in which Daniel had been engaged in this season of devotion, he had been withstood by “the prince of the kingdom of Persia,” and had been detained until Michael, one of the chief princes, had interposed to release him, and he had now come, at last, to make known to Daniel what would occur to his people in the latter days. The nature of this detention will, of course, be considered in the notes at Daniel 10:13.
(f) Daniel then Daniel 10:15-27.10.17 describes the effect which this vision had on him, rendering him unable to converse with him who had thus appeared to him.
(g) The heavenly messenger then touched him, and bade him be of good courage and be strong Daniel 10:18-27.10.19, and then said that he would return and fight with the prince of Persia, after having stated what was “noted in the Scripture of truth,” Daniel 10:20-27.10.21.
In the third year of Cyrus, king of Persia - In regard to Cyrus, see the notes at Isaiah 41:2. In Daniel 1:21, it is said that “Daniel continued even unto the first year of king Cyrus.” But it is not necessarily implied in that passage that he “died” then. It may mean only that he continued in authority, and was employed, in various ways, as a public officer, until that time. See the note at that passage. For anything that appears, he may have lived several years after, though, for causes now unknown, he may have retired from the court after the accession of Cyrus. This vision may have occurred when he was no longer a public officer, though the whole narrative leads us to suppose that he had not lost his interest in the affairs of the Jewish people. He may have retired on account of age, though his declining years would be naturally devoted to the welfare of his people, and he would embrace any opportunity which he might have of doing them good.
A thing was revealed unto Daniel - A revelation was made to him. The occasion on which it was done is stated in the next verse. It was when he was earnestly engaged in prayer for his people, and when his mind was deeply anxious in regard to their condition.
Whose name was called Belteshazzar - See the notes at Daniel 1:7. The name Belteshazzar was probably that by which he was known in Babylon, and as this prophecy was perhaps published in his own time, the use of this name would serve to identify the author. The name “Daniel” would have been sufficient to give it currency and authority among his own countrymen.
And the thing was true - That is, it would be certainly accomplished. This expresses the deep conviction of the writer that what was revealed in this vision would certainly come to pass. In his own mind there was no doubt that it would be so, though the time extended through many years, and though it could not be expected that it would be complete until long after his own death. Perhaps the declaration here is designed to bring the weight of his own authority and his well-known character to pledge his own word, that what is here said would be accomplished; or, as we should say, to stake his veracity as a prophet and a man, on the fulfillment of what he had affirmed. Such an assertion might be of great use in consoling the minds of the Jews in the troubles that were to come upon their nation.
But the time appointed was long - Margin, “great.” There is considerable variety in the translation and interpretation of this passage. The Latin Vulgate renders it, “fortitudo magna.” The Greek, “And the power was great.” The Syriac, “And the discourse was apprehended with great effort, but he understood the vision.” Luther, “And it was of great matters.” Lengerke, “And the misery (Elend) is great;” that is, the distress of the people. Bertholdt renders it, “Whose contents pertained to great wars.” This variety of interpretation arises from the word rendered in our version “the time appointed” - צבא tsâbâ'. This word properly means an army, host, as going forth to war; then the host of angels, of the stars, and hence, God is so often called “Jehovah of hosts.” Then the word means warfare, military service, a hard service, a season of affliction or calamity. See the notes at Job 7:1. It seems to me that this is the meaning here, and that Gesenius (Lexicon) has correctly expressed the idea: “And true is the edict, and “relates to long warfare;” that is, to many calamities to be endured.” It was not a thing to be soon accomplished, nor did it pertain to peaceful and easy times, but it had reference to the calamities, the evils, and the hardships of wars - wars attended with the evils to which they are usually incident, and which were to be conducted on a great scale. This interpretation will accord with the details in the following chapters.
And he understood the thing ... - This seems to be said in contradistinction to what had occurred on some other occasions when the meaning of the vision which he saw was concealed from him. Of this he says he had full understanding. The prophecy was, in fact, more clearly expressed than had been usual in the revelations made to Daniel, for this is almost entirely a historical narrative, and there could be little doubt as to its meaning.
In those days I Daniel was mourning - I was afflicting myself; that is, he had set apart this time as an extraordinary fast. He was sad and troubled. He does not say on what account he was thus troubled, but there can be little doubt that it was on account of his people. This was two years after the order had been given by Cyrus for the restoration of the Hebrew people to their country, but it is not improbable that they met with many embarrassments in their efforts to return, and possibly there may have sprung up in Babylon some difficulties on the subject that greatly affected the mind of Daniel. The difficulties attending such an enterprise as that of restoring a captured people to their country, when the march lay across a vast desert, would at any time have been such as to have made an extraordinary season of prayer and fasting proper.
Three full weeks - Margin, “weeks of days.” Hebrew, “Three sevens of days.” He does not say whether he had designedly set apart that time to be occupied as a season of fasting, or whether he had, under the influence of deep feeling, continued his fast from day to day until it reached that period. Either supposition will accord with the circumstances of the case, and either would have justified such an act at anytime, for it would be undoubtedly proper to designate a time of extraordinary devotion, or, under the influence of deep feeling, of domestic trouble, of national affliction, to continue such religious exercises from day to day.
I ate no pleasant bread - Margin, “bread of desires.” So the Hebrew. The meaning is, that he abstained from ordinary food, and partook of that only which was coarse and disagreeable.
Neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth - That is, he lived on bread or vegetables. It is not to be inferred from this that Daniel ordinarily made use of wine, for it would seem from Daniel 1:0: that that was not his custom. What would appear from this passage would be, that he practiced on this occasion the most rigid abstinence.
Neither did I anoint myself - The use of unguents was common in the East (see the notes at Matthew 6:17), and Daniel here says that he abstained during these three weeks from what he ordinarily observed as promoting his personal comfort. He gave himself up to a course of life which would be expressive of deep grief. Nature prompts to this when the mind is overwhelmed with sorrow. Not only do we become indifferent to our food, but it requires an effort not to be indifferent to our dress, and to our personal appearance.
And in the four and twentieth day of the first month - At the close of his season of fasting. Though he had not set apart this season of fasting with any view or expectation that it would be followed by such a result, yet there was a propriety that an occasion like this should be selected as that on which the communication which follows should be made to his mind, for
(a) his mind was in a prepared state by this extraordinary season of devotion for such a communication; and
(b) his attention during that period had been turned toward the condition of his people, and it was a fit opportunity to impart to him these extraordinary views of what would occur to them in future days.
It may be added, that we shall be more likely to receive Divine communications to our souls at the close of seasons of sincere and prolonged devotion than at other times, and that, though we may set apart such seasons for different purposes, the Spirit of God may take occasion from them to impart to us clear and elevated views of Divine truth, and of the Divine government. A man is in a better state to obtain such views, and is more likely to obtain them, in such circumstances than he is in others, and he who desires to understand God and his ways should wait upon him with intense and prolonged devotion. The “time” here specified is the “first month” - the month Nisan, answering to a part of our month April. This was the month in which the Passover was celebrated, and was a time, therefore, which a Jew would be likely to select as a season of extraordinary devotion. It was, for some reason, very common for the prophets to record “the very day” on which the visions which they saw appeared to them, or on which Divine communications were made to them. This was often of importance, because it served to determine the time when a prophecy was fulfilled.
I was by the side of the great river, which is Hiddekel - That is, the Tigris. The Syriac renders it the Euphrates. The name in the Scriptures, however, denotes the Tigris. Why Daniel was there he does not say. He was often away from Babylon (compare the notes at Daniel 8:2), and he may have been now among some of his people who resided near the Tigris. Possibly he may at that time have ceased to reside at the court in Babylon, and have taken up his residence in some place on the Tigris. See the notes at Daniel 10:1.
Then I lifted up mine eyes, and looked ... - While he was engaged in devotion. What is here said would lead us to suppose that he had been occupied in deep thought and meditation, perhaps with his eyes fixed on the ground.
Behold, a certain man clothed in linen - One who had the form and appearance of a man.
The subsequent disclosures showed that he was an angel, but when angels have appeared on earth they have commonly assumed the human form. The margin is, “one.” So also is the Hebrew “one man.” From Daniel 12:6, it would seem that two other such beings appeared in the course of the vision, but either one only was manifest now to Daniel, or his attention was particularly directed to him. The name of this celestial messenger is not given, but all the circumstances of the case lead us to suppose that it was the same who had appeared to him on the banks of the Ulai Daniel 8:16, and the same who had made the revelation of the seventy weeks, Daniel 9:21, following. Linen was the common raiment of priests, because it was supposed to be more pure than wool, Exodus 28:42; Leviticus 6:10; Leviticus 16:4, Leviticus 16:23; 1 Samuel 2:18. It was also worn by prophets, Jeremiah 13:1, and is represented as the raiment of angels, Revelation 15:6. The nature of the raiment would suggest the idea at once that this person thus appearing was one sustaining a saintly character.
Whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz - With a girdle made of fine gold; that is, probably, it was made of something in which fine gold was interwoven, so as to give it the appearance of pure gold. It was customary in the East, as it is now, to wear a girdle around the loins. See the notes at Matthew 5:38-40.5.41. These girdles are often made of rich material, and are highly ornamented. Compare the notes at Revelation 1:13. Nothing is known of Uphaz, unless, as Gesenius supposes, the word is a corruption of Ophir, made by a change of a single letter - ז (z) for ר (r). Ophir was celebrated for its gold, but its situation is unknown. See the notes at Job 22:24.
His body also was like the beryl - There is a very striking resemblance between the description here given and that of the Saviour as he appeared to John in Patmos, Revelation 1:13-66.1.16. See the notes at that passage. It contains, however, no description of the appearance of the body. “Beryl” is “a mineral of great hardness, occurring in green and bluish-green six-sided prisms. It is identical with the emerald, except that the latter has a purer and richer color. “ - Dana, in Webster’s Dictionary. The Hebrew word used here is תרשׁישׁ tarshı̂ysh “Tarshish, Tartessus,” and properly refers to a country supposed to be on the south of Spain, a place where this mineral was probably found. This was situated between the mouths of the river Baetis, or Guadalquivir, and was a flourishing mart of the Phoenicians, Genesis 10:4; Psalms 72:10; Isaiah 23:1, Isaiah 23:6, Isaiah 23:10, ... - Gesenius. The name was given to this gem because it was brought from that place. The true meaning of the word, as applied to a gem, is supposed to be the chrysolite, that is, the topaz of the moderns. “Tarshish, the chrysolite,” says Rosenmuller (“Mineralogy and Botany of the Bible,” pp. 38, 39), “is a crystal-line precious stone of the quartz kind, of a glassy fracture. The prevailing color is yellowish-green, and pistachio-green of every variety and degree of shade, but always with a yellow and gold luster. It is completely diaphanous, and has a strong double refraction. Most commonly the chrysolite is found solid and in grains, or in angular pieces. The Hebrew word “Tarshish” denotes the south of Spain, the Tartessus of the Greeks and Romans, a place to which the Phoenicians traded even in the earliest ages. Probably the Phoenicians first brought the chrysolite from Spain to Syria, and it was on that account called Tarshish stone.”
And his face as the appearance of lightning - Bright, shining. In Revelation 1:16 it is, “And his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.” See the notes at that passage.
And his eyes as lamps of fire - Keen, penetrating. So in Revelation 1:14 : “His eyes were as a flame of fire.”
And his arms and his feet like in color to polished brass - So in Revelation 1:15 : “And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace.” See the notes at that passage. The meaning is, that they were bright - like burnished metal. The Hebrew here is, “like the eye of brass;” then, as the word eye comes to denote the “face or countenance,” the meaning is, “like the face or appearance of brass.” Complete Exodus 10:5, Exodus 10:15; Numbers 22:5, Numbers 22:11. It is easy to conceive of the appearance which one would make whose arms and feet resembled burnished brass.
And the voice of his words like the voice a multitude - A multitude of people - loud and strong. So in Revelation 1:15 : “And his voice as the sound of many waters.”
And I Daniel alone saw the vision - That is, he only saw it distinctly. The others who were with him appear to have seen or heard something which alarmed them, and they fled. Who those men were, or why they were with him, he does not say. They may have been his own countrymen, engaged with him in the act of devotion, or they may have been Babylonians occupied in the public service; but whoever they were, or whatever was the reason why they were there, they became alarmed and fled. The case was somewhat different with the companions of Saul of Tarsus when the Saviour appeared to him on his way to Damascus. These saw the light; they all fell to the earth together, but Saul only heard the voice of him that spake. Acts 22:9.
Therefore I was left alone, and saw this great vision - That is, I distinctly saw it, or contemplated it. He perceived, doubtless, that it was a heavenly vision; and as he had often been favored with similar manifestations, he remained to receive the communication which probably he understood was to be made.
And there remained no strength in me - He was completely overcome. A similar effect was produced on John when he was in Patmos: “And when I saw him I fell at his feet as dead,” Revelation 1:17. That he should be overcome, and his strength taken away, was not an unnatural effect; and what occurred to Daniel and John may demonstrate that there may be such views of the Divine character and glory now as to prostrate our physical powers. It is certain that such visions as those which appeared to Daniel and John would have this effect; and, though we are not to expect that they will now be vouchsafed to men, no one can doubt that there may be such views of God, and heaven, and eternal realities presented to the eye of faith and hope; such joy in the evidence of pardoned sin; such a change from a sense of condemnation to the peace resulting from forgiveness, that the powers of the body may be prostrated, and sink from exhaustion. Indeed, it is not much of the revelation of the Divine character that in our present state we can bear.
For my comeliness - Margin, “vigour.” Hebrew, הוד hôd. The word means, properly, majesty or splendor; then beauty or brightness, as of the complexion. The meaning here is, that his “bright complexion” (Gesenius, Lexicon) was changed upon him; that is, that he turned pale.
Into corruption - The phrase used here means literally “into destruction.” The sense is, that by the change that came over him. his beauty - his bright or florid complexion was completely “destroyed.” He became deadly pale.
Yet heard I the voice of his words - What the angel said when he appeared to him Daniel has not recorded. He says Daniel 10:6 that the voice of his words was “like the voice of a multitude.” It is probable that those who were with him had heard that voice, and hearing it, and being struck with the remarkable character of the vision, they had suddenly fled in alarm. Daniel heard more distinctly what he said, though it does not yet appear that he had heard anything more than the sound of his voice.
And when I heard the voice of his words, then was I in a deep sleep on my face - Compare the notes at Daniel 8:18. Lengerke renders this, “I sank into a deep sleep,” etc. This is undoubtedly the meaning, that when he heard this voice he was overcome, and sank prostrate and senseless upon the earth. The sense of the Hebrew may be thus expressed: “I became (הייתי hâyı̂ytı̂y) oppressed with sleep,” etc.
And, behold, an hand touched me - The hand of the angel. Compare Daniel 8:18.
Which set me upon my knees and upon the palms of my hands - Not “upright,” as in Daniel 8:18. That is, he had not strength given him at once to stand erect, but he was partially raised up and enabled to move, though in a feeble and tottering manner. The word used here (נוע nôa‛) means to move to and fro; to waver; to vacillate; and the sense here, as expressed by Gesenius (Lexicon) is, “lo, a hand touched me, and caused me to reel (i. e., to stand reeling and trembling) upon my knees and hands.” He was gradually restored to strength.
And he said unto me, O Daniel, a man greatly beloved - That is, in heaven. Margin, as in Hebrew, “of desires.” See the notes at Daniel 9:23.
Understand the words that I speak unto thee - That is, attend to them, implying that he would be able to understand them.
And stand upright - Margin, as in Hebrew, upon thy standing. That is, stand erect. See the notes at Daniel 8:18.
Then said he unto me, Fear not - Be not alarmed at my presence; do not fear that your devotions are not accepted, and that your prayers are not heard.
For from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand - That is, by a season of extraordinary devotion. Daniel had devoted three full weeks to such a service Daniel 10:2-27.10.3, and it would seem from this that one object which he had in view was to make inquiry about the future condition of his people, or to learn what was his own duty in the present circumstances, or what methods he might use to secure the return of his countrymen to their own land. The circumstances of the case were such as to make either of these inquiries proper; and the angel now affirms that, from the first day when he entered on these investigations, he was despatched to come to him, and to assure him that his prayer was heard. The reason why he had not sooner arrived, and why Daniel was left to continue his prayers so long without any answer being returned, is stated in the following verses. Compare the notes at Daniel 9:23.
And to chasten thyself before thy God - That is, by fasting and humiliation. Literally, to afflict thyself.
Thy words were heard - In heaven. Another proof that prayer is at once heard, though the answer may be long delayed. The instance before us shows that the answer to prayer may seem, to be delayed, from causes unknown to us, though the prayer ascends at once to heaven, and God designs to answer it. In this case, it was deferred by the detention of the messenger on the way Daniel 10:13; in other cases it may be from a different cause; but it should never be set down as a proof that prayer is not heard, and that it will not be answered, because the answer is not granted at once. Weeks, or months, or years may elapse before the Divine purpose shall be made known, though, so to speak, the messenger may be on his way to us. Something may prevent the answer being borne to us; some “prince of the kingdom of Persia” may withstand the messenger; some cause which we may not know may hinder the immediate answer of our prayer, either in our own hearts, or in outward events which cannot at once be controlled without a miracle, or in the feelings and views of our friends whom we seek to have converted and saved; but the purpose to answer the prayer may have been simultaneous with its being offered, and a train of measures may have been commenced at once to bring about the result, though many weeks or months of delay, of anxiety, of tears, may elapse before we attain the object we desired.
Daniel would have been cheered in his days of fasting and service if he had known that an angel was on his way to him to comfort him, and to communicate to him an answer from God; often - if not always - in our days of deepest anxiety and trouble; when our prayers seem not to penetrate the skies; when we meet with no response; when the thing for which we pray seems to be withheld; when our friends remain unconverted; when irreligion abounds and prevails; when we seem to be doing no good, and when calamity presses upon us, if we saw the arrangement which God was already making to answer the prayer, and could see the messenger on the way, our hearts would exult, and our tears would cease to flow. And why, in our days of trouble and anxiety, should we not believe that it is so; and that God, even though the delay may seem to be long, will yet show himself to be a hearer and an answerer of prayer?
But the prince of the kingdom of Persia - In explaining this very difficult verse it may be proper
(1) to consider the literal sense of the words;
(2) to deduce the fair meaning of the passage as thus explained; and
(3) to notice the practical truths taught.
The word rendered “prince” - שׂר s'ar - means, properly, a leader, commander, chief, as of troops, Genesis 21:22; of a king’s body-guard, Genesis 37:36; of cup-bearers, Genesis 41:9; of a prison, Genesis 39:21-1.39.22; of a flock, Genesis 47:6. Then it means a prince, a noble, a chief in the state, Genesis 12:15. In Daniel 8:25, in the phrase “Prince of princes,” it refers to God. So far as the word is concerned in the phrase “prince of the kingdom of Persia,” it might refer to a prince ruling over that kingdom, or to a prime minister of the state; but the language also is such that it is applicable to an angelic being supposed to preside over a state, or to influence its counsels. If this idea is admitted; if it is believed that angels do thus preside over particular states, this language would properly express that fact. Gesenius (Lexicon) explains it in this passage as denoting the “chiefs, princes, and angels; i. e., the archangels acting as patrons and advocates of particular nations before God.” That this is the proper meaning here as deduced from the words is apparent, for
(a) it is an angel that is speaking, and it would seem most natural to suppose that he had encountered one of his own rank;
(b) the mention of Michael who came to his aid - a name which, as we shall see, properly denotes an angel, leads to the same conclusion;
(c) it accords, also, with the prevailing belief on the subject.
Undoubtedly, one who takes into view all the circumstances referred to in this passage would most naturally understand this of an angelic being, having some kind of jurisdiction over the kingdom of Persia. What was the character of this “prince,” however, whether he was a good or bad angel, is not intimated by the language. It is only implied that he had a chieftainship, or some species of guardian care over that kingdom - watching over its interests and directing its affairs. As he offered resistance, however, to this heavenly messenger on his way to Daniel, as it was necessary to counteract his plans, and as the aid of Michael was required to overcome his opposition, the fair construction is, that he belonged to the class of evil angels.
Withstood me - Hebrew, “stood over against me.” Vulgate, “restitit mihi.” The fair meaning is, that he resisted or opposed him; that he stood over against him, and delayed him on his way to Daniel. In what manner he did this is not stated. The most obvious interpretation is, that, in order to answer the prayers of Daniel in respect to his people, it was necessary that some arrangement should be made in reference to the kingdom of Persia - influencing the government to be favorable to the restoration of the Jews to their own land; or removing some obstacles to such return - obstacles which had given Daniel such disquietude, and which had been thrown in his way by the presiding angel of that kingdom.
One and twenty days - During the whole time in which Daniel was engaged in fasting and prayer Daniel 10:2-27.10.3. The angel had been sent forth to make arrangements to secure the answer to his prayer when he began to pray, but had been delayed during all that time by the opposition which he had met with in Persia. That is, it required all that time to overcome the obstacles existing there to the accomplishment of these purposes, and to make those arrangements which were necessary to secure the result. Mean-time, Daniel, not knowing that these arrangements were in a process of completion, or that an angel was employed to secure the answer to his prayers, yet strong in faith, was suffered to continue his supplications with no intimation that his prayers were heard, or that he would be answered. How many arrangements may there be in progress designed to answer our prayers of which we know nothing! How many agents may be employed to bring about an answer! What mighty obstacles may be in a process of removal, and what changes may be made, and what influences exerted, while we are suffered to pray, and fast, and weep, amidst many discouragements, and many trials of our faith and patience! For a much longer period than Daniel was engaged in his devotions, may we be required often now to pray before the arrangements in the course of Providence shall be so far complete that we shall receive an answer to our supplications, for the things to be done may extend far into future months or years.
But, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes - Margin, “the first.” That is, the first in rank of the “princes,” or the angels. In other words, Michael, the archangel.” The proper meaning of this name (מיכאל mı̂ykâ'êl) is, “Who as God,” and is a name given, undoubtedly, from some resemblance to God. The exact reason why it is given is not anywhere stated; but may it not be this - that one looking on the majesty and glory of the chief of the angels would instinctively ask, “Who, after all, is like God? Even this lofty angel, with all his glory, cannot be compared to the high and lofty One.” Whatever may have been the reason of the appellation, however, the name in the Scriptures has a definite application, and is given to the chief one of the angels. Compare the notes at Jude 1:9. The word “Michael,” as a proper name, occurs several times in the Scriptures, Numbers 13:13; 1Ch 5:13; 1 Chronicles 6:40; 1Ch 7:3; 1 Chronicles 8:16; 1 Chronicles 12:20; 1Ch 27:18; 2 Chronicles 21:2; Ezra 8:8. It is used as applicable to an angel or archangel in the following places: Daniel 10:13, Daniel 10:21; Daniel 12:1; Jude 1:9; Revelation 12:7. Little more is known of him than
(a) that he occupied the rank which entitled him to be called an archangel; and
(b) that he sustained, in the time of Daniel, the relation of patron of Israel before God Daniel 10:21.
That an “angel” is referred to here is manifest, for,
(1) It occurs in the account of transactions conducted by an angel.
(2) The use of the word elsewhere leads to this supposition.
(3) What is said to have been done is the appropriate work of an angel. This is apparent, because Gabriel, the speaker, says that what was done was beyond his power to accomplish. He was effectually resisted and thwarted by the counsels of Persia, until one of higher wisdom and rank than himself came to his aid. He could, therefore, have been no less than an angel, and was clearly a being of a higher rank than Gabriel himself.
(4) The phrase “one of the chief princes” sustains this interpretation. It implies that he was one of those who held an exalted rank among those who are called “princes,” and if this word in this connection denotes angels, then Michael was an angel, and one of the most exalted of the angels. This accords with the appellation given to him by Jude - “the archangel.”
Came to help me - He does not state in what way this was done, but it is fairly implied that it was by securing better counsels at the court of Persia - counsels more favorable to the Hebrews, and different from those which would have been carried out under the auspices of him who is called “the prince of Persia.” There is nothing in the passage to forbid the supposition that it was by so influencing the mind of the king and his ministers as to dispose them to favor the return of the Jews, or to afford them facilities to rebuild their temple, or to remove some of the obstacles which would tend to prevent their restoration.
And I remained there with the kings of Persia - The kings of Persia here, in the plural, must mean the rulers. There was properly but one king of that nation, though the name may have been given to subordinate rulers, or perhaps to those who had been kings in their own country, and whose countries had been subdued by the Persian arms, and who now resided, with more or less authority, at the Persian court. The phrase “I remained there” has been variously translated. The Vulgate renders it as in our version. The Greek, “And I left him (to wit, Michael) there with the prince of the kingdom of Persia.” The Syriac, “And I was hindered there against the prince of the Persians.” Luther, “Then obtained I the victory with the kings in Persia.” Lengerke, “Then obtained I the ascendency (Vorrang) among the kings of Persia.” That is, as he explains it, “I obtained the victory; I secured this result that my counsel in behalf of the Jewish people prevailed,” p. 503.
The same explanation is given by Geier, Gesenius, DeWette, Havernick. The word יתר yâthar properly means, to hang out and over; to be redundant; to remain or be left; to be over and above; to excel, etc. Hence, the notion in Niphal, of excelling others, of getting the ascendency, of obtaining a victory. This is, undoubtedly, the meaning here, for he was not left with the kings of Persia; he did not remain there. The true idea is, that by the help of Michael, who came to his aid, he was enabled so far to influence the Persian counsels against the purposes of him who is called the “prince of Persia,” as to secure the favors for the Hebrew people which Daniel sought by prayer; and having done this, he came at once to him. The only delay in the case was what was caused by the purposes of the Persian court, and by the difficulty of securing such arrangements there as to favor the Hebrew people, and to facilitate their return to their own country. Having done this, he came at once to Daniel to announce the long series of events which would follow pertaining to his people, and in reference to which his mind had been so much affected during his protracted period of devotion.
Such is the explanation of the literal meaning of this difficult passage. Now, in reference to the second point suggested as necessary to its proper interpretation its real meaning - the exact truth taught in it, the following remarks may be made:
(1) There was early a prevailing opinion that special angels had the charge of individuals, as their guardians; and the same idea existed respecting nations, that their affairs were assigned to particular celestial beings. This notion among the Hebrews was found in this form - that they were “angels, or created” beings of exalted rank who thus presided over the affairs of men. Among the Greeks, and other pagan nations, the form which it took was, that they were gods or tutelary divinities, and hence, each people, each class, each family, each house, had its own god. The Hebrews never approximated to this opinion so far as to suppose that these beings were divine, or that they occupied the place of the supreme God - Jehovah - who was peculiarly their covenant God, and who was the only true God. They did admit the supposition, however, that there might be guardian angels of their own nation, and the same idea seems to have prevailed among them in regard to other nations. This is clearly the idea in the passage before us, that while Michael was, in a peculiar sense, entrusted with the affairs of the Hebrew people, there were intelligent invisible beings of angelic rank who presided over other nations, and who influenced their counsels. It does not appear by any means that it was supposed that in all cases these were good beings, for the counsels of the nations were too often malignant and evil to admit of this supposition. In the ease before us, it is evidently supposed that the influence of the presiding angel of Persia was adverse to what was right, and such as should be counteracted by one who came from heaven. Compare the notes at Ephesians 2:2.
(2) No one can demonstrate that this is not so. The existence of wicked angels is no more incredible in itself than the existence of wicked men, and that they should influence nations and rulers is in itself no more improbable than that distinguished statesmen should. There may be, indeed, no foundation for the opinion that particular angels axe assigned to particular individuals or nations, as peculiar guardians; but it may be true, notwithstanding, that some one of these fallen spirits for if there are any such beings at all, they are numerous - may have special influence over a particular individual or nation. If it be said that we know too little about this to enable us to make any positive statements in favor of this opinion, it should also be said that we know too little to enable us to make any positive statements against it; and for aught anyone can prove, it may be so. No one has a right to assume that it is not so; no one can demonstrate that it is not so.
It may be said further, that things look as if this were so. There are many influences on nations and individuals; many things that occur that can be most easily accounted for on the supposition that there is such an agency from some invisible quarter. If we admit the reality of such influence, and such interpositions, the things which occur are more easily explained than if we deny it. There are measures taken; plans proposed; influences exerted; schemes adopted - there are things from an unseen quarter to give prosperity, or to thwart the best laid plans, that cannot be well explained without the supposition of such an interference; things which perplex all philosophers and all historians in accounting for them; things which cannot be anticipated or explained on any known principles of human nature. If we admit the reality of the influence of invisible beings, as in the case before us, the solution becomes comparatively easy; at least we find phenomena just such as we should expect on such a supposition.
(3) It may be added, also, in regard to the particular case before us
(a) that the counsels against the Jews to prevent their return to their own land, and to embarrass them, were such as we should anticipate on the supposition that an evil angel - an enemy of God and his people - had influenced the Persian rulers; and
(b) that the changes wrought in those counsels in favor of the Jews, facilitating their return to their own land, were such as we should expect to find on the supposition that those counsels and plans were overruled and changed by the interposition say of Gabriel and Michael.
And similar events often happen. There are such changes in the counsels of nations, and in the minds of rulers, as would occur on the supposition that superior beings were engaged in thwarting evil plans, and influencing those who have the power to do right. In reference to the Jews in their exile, there had been a long series of acts of opposition and oppression pursued by the governments of the East, as if under the direction of some malignant spirit; then a series of acts in their favor followed, as if the change had been brought about by the interposition of some benignant angel. These facts are the historical basis on which the representation is here made.
In reference to the third point suggested pertaining to this passage - the practical truths taught that may be of use to us - it may be remarked that the great truth is, that the answer to prayer is often delayed, not by any indisposition on the part of God to answer it, and not by any purpose not to answer it, and not by the mere intention of trying our faith, but “by the necessary arrangements to bring it about.” It is of such a nature that it cannot be answered at once. It requires time to make important changes; to influence the minds of men; to remove obstacles; to raise up friends; to put in operation agencies that shall secure the thing desired. There is some obstacle to be overcome. There is some plan of evil to be checked and stayed. There is some agency to be used which is not now in existence, and which is to be created. The opposition of the “prince of Persia” could not be overcome at once, and it was necessary to bring in the agency of a higher power - that of Michael - to effect the change.
This could not be done in a moment, a day, or a week, and hence, the long delay of three “full weeks” before Daniel had an assurance that his prayers would be answered. So it often happens now. We pray for the conversion of a child; yet there may be obstacles to his conversion, unseen by us, which are to be patiently removed, and perhaps by a foreign influence, before it can be done. Satan may have already secured a control over his heart, which, is to be broken gradually, before the prayer shall be answered. We pray for the removal of the evils of intemperance, of slavery, of superstition, of idolatry; yet these may be so interlocked with the customs of a country, with the interests of men, and with the laws, that they cannot be at once eradicated except by miracle, and the answer to the prayer seems to be long delayed. We pray for the universal spread of the gospel of Christ; yet how many obstacles are to be overcome, and how many arrangements made, before this prayer can be fully answered; and how many tears are to be shed, and perils encountered, and lives sacrificed, before the prayer of the church shall be fully answered, and the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord. The duty, then, which is taught, is that of patience, of perseverance, of faith in God, of a firm belief that he is true to all his promises, and that he is a hearer of prayer - though the blessing seems long delayed.
Now I am come to make thee understand ... - After these long delays, and after the arrangements have been made necessary to bring about the objects sought by your prayers.
In the latter days - In future times - extending down to the last period of the world. See the notes at Isaiah 2:2.
For yet the vision is for many days - Extends far into future time. It is probable that the prayer of Daniel referred more particularly to what he desired should soon occur - the restoration of the people to their own land; the angel informs him that the disclosures which he was to make covered a much more extended period, and embraced more important events. So it is often. The answer to prayer often includes much more than we asked for, and the abundant blessings that are conferred, beyond what we supplicate, are vastly beyond a compensation for the delay.
And when he had spoken such words ... - Daniel was naturally overcome by the communication which had been made to him. The manner in which the prayer was answered seems to have been entirely different from what he had expected. The presence of a heavenly being; the majesty of his appearance; the assurance that he gave that he had come to answer his prayer; and the fact that he had important revelations to make respecting the future, overcame him, and he laid his face upon the ground in silence. Is there any one of us who would not be awed into profound silence if a heavenly messenger should stand before us to disclose what was to occur to us, to our families, to our friends, to our country, in far-distant years?
And, behold, one like the similitude of the sons of men touched my lips - In the form of a man. The reference here is undoubtedly to Gabriel appearing to Daniel in human form. Why he does not name him is unknown; nor is there any intimation whether he changed his form as he now approached the prophet. It would seem not improbable that, seeing the effect of his presence and his words on Daniel, he laid aside some of the manifestations of awe and majesty in which he had at first appeared to him, and approached him as a man, and placed his hands on his lips - as a sign that he should speak, or as imparting power to him to speak. See the notes at Isaiah 6:6-23.6.7.
I opened my mouth, and spake - His fear was removed, and he was now able to address the heavenly messenger.
O my lord - A title of respectful address, but without indicating the rank of him to whom it is applied.
By the vision my sorrows are turned upon me - The word rendered “sorrows” (צירים tsı̂yrı̂ym) means, properly, “writhings, throes, pains,” as of a woman in travail, Isaiah 13:8; Isa 21:3; 1 Samuel 4:19; and then any deep pain or anguish. Here it refers to “terror or fright,” as so great as to prostrate the strength of Daniel. The word rendered “are turned” (נהפכוּ nehepekû - from הפך hâphak) means, in Niphal. to turn one’s self about, to turn back. The same phrase which is used here occurs also in 1 Samuel 4:19, “her pains turned upon her;” that is, came upon her. Perhaps we should express the idea by saying that they rolled upon us, or over us - like the surges of the ocean.
For how card the servant of this my lord - Acknowledging his humble and lowly condition and rank in the presence of an angel - a messenger now sent from heaven.
Neither is there breath left in me - That is, he was utterly overcome and prostrate. He felt that he was incapable of speaking in the presence of one who tied descended from God.
Then there came again, and touched me ... - The same one is here referred to doubtless who is mentioned in Daniel 10:16 - the angel. He came to him again in this condescending and familiar manner in order to allay his fears, and to prepare him to receive his communications with entire calmness.
And said, O man greatly beloved - See the notes at Daniel 9:23.
Fear not - Neither at my presence, nor at what I have to say. There was nothing in the visitation of an angel that could be a ground of dread to a good man; there was nothing in what he had to communicate that could be a reasonable cause of alarm.
Be strong, yea, be strong - These are words of encouragement such as we address to those who are timid and fearful. We exhort them not to yield; to make a vigorous effort to meet danger, difficulty, or trial.
Let my lord speak - That is, I am now prepared to receive what you have to communicate.
For thou hast strengthened me - By your encouraging words, and by the kindness of your manner.
Then said he, Knowest thou wherefore I come unto thee? - This was known by what the angel had said in Daniel 10:14. He seems to have called his attention to it, and to have proposed the question, because Daniel had been so overcome by his fright that it might be doubtful whether he had understood him distinctly when he had told him the object of his coming. He therefore proposes the question here; and as the silence of Daniel seems to have been construed as a declaration that he did understand the purpose of the visit, he proceeds to unfold frilly the purport of his message.
And now will I return - That is, evidently, after he had made known to him the message which he came to deliver. He cannot mean that he would then leave Daniel, and return immediately to Persia, for he proceeds at length Dan. 11–12 to deliver his message to him, and to state what would occur in the world in future times.
To fight with the prince of Persia - In Daniel 10:13, he says that he had had a contest with that “prince,” and that in consequence of that he had been delayed on his journey to Daniel. By the interposition of Michael, the affairs of Persia had been so arranged that the opposition to what was desired by Daniel had been in part removed - so far, at least, as to make it certain that Iris prayers would be answered. See the note at that verse. But still it would seem that the difficulty was not entirely overcome, and that it would be desirable for him to return, and to complete the arrangements which had been commenced. There were still causes in existence in Persia which might tend to frustrate all these plans unless they were counteracted, and his presence might still be necessary there to secure the safe return of the exiles to their own land, and the means required to rebuild the city and temple. The simple meaning of this is, that it would be necessary to exert a farther influence at the Persian court in order to bring about the object desired; and this fact is expressed in language derived from the belief that angelic beings, good and bad, have much to do in controlling the minds of men.
And when I am gone forth - literally, “and I go forth.” The meaning seems to be, that he would return to Persia, and would so direct affairs there that the welfare of the Jews would be promoted, and that protection would be extended to them. This, he says, he would continue as long as it was necessary, for when he should have gone forth, the king of Greece would come, and the affairs of Persia would be put on a new footing, but on such a footing as not to require his presence - for the government would be of itself favorable to the Jews. The sense is, that up to the time when this “king of Grecia” should come, there would be a state of things in the Persian court that would demand the presence of some being from heaven - exerting some constant influence to prevent an outbreak against the Jews, and to secure their peace and prosperity; but that when the “king of Grecia” should come, he would himself favor their cause, and render the presence of the angel unnecessary. No one can prove that this is not a correct representation, or that the favor shown to the Jews at the Persian court during all the time of the rebuilding of the city and the temple, was not to be traced to some presiding influence from above, or that that was not put forth in connection with the ministration of an angelic being. Indeed, it is in accordance with all the teachings of the Bible that the disposition of kings and princes to show favor to the people of God, like all else that is good in this world, is to be traced to an influence from above; and it is not contrary to any of the laws of analogy, or anything with which we are acquainted pertaining to the spiritual world, to suppose that angelic interposition may be employed in any case in bringing about what is good.
Lo, the prince of Grecia shall come - Hebrew - יון yâvân. There can be no doubt that Greece is intended. The word properly denotes Ionia (derived from this word), “the name of which province,” says Gesenius, “as being adjacent to the East, and better known, was extended so as to comprehend the whole of Greece, as is expressly said by Greek writers themselves.” - Lexicon By the “prince of Greece” here, there can be no doubt that there is reference to Alexander the Great, who conquered Persia. See Daniel 11:1-27.11.4. The meaning here is, that when he should come, and conquer Persia, the opposition which the Hebrews had encountered from that country would cease, and there would then be no need of the interposition of the angel at the Persian court. The matter of fact was, that the Hebrews were favored by Alexander the Great, and that whatever there was in the Persian or Chaldean power which they had had reason to dread was then brought to an end, for all those Eastern governments were absorbed in the empire of Alexander - the Macedonian monarchy.
But I will show thee what is noted in, the scripture of truth - The word noted here means “written, or recorded.” The scripture of truth means the true writing, and the reference is doubtless to the Divine purposes or decrees in this matter - for
(a) there is no other writing where these things were then found;
(b) the angel came to make known what could be known in no other way, and therefore what was not yet found in any book to which man had access;
(c) this language accords with common representations in the Scriptures respecting future events.
They are described as written down in a book that is in the hands of God, in which are recorded all future events - the names of those that shall be saved - and all the deeds of men. Compare Deuteronomy 32:34; Malachi 3:16; Psalms 139:16; Revelation 5:1. The representation is figurative, of course; and the meaning is, that, in the view of the Divine mind, all future events are as certain as if they were actually recorded as history, or as if they were now all written down. The angel came that he might unfold a portion of that volume, and disclose the contents of its secret pages; that is, describe an important series of events of great interest to the Jewish people and to the world at large.
And there is none that holdeth with me in, these things - Margin, “strengtheneth himself.” So the Hebrew. The idea is, that there was none that rendered aid in this matter, or that stood by him, and would accomplish the designs which he was meditating in their behalf pertaining to Persia. The angel saw that there were powerful influences against the interests of the Hebrew people at work in the court of Persia; that it was necessary that they should be counteracted; that unless this were done, fearful calamities would come upon the Jewish people, and they would be subjected to great embarrassments in their efforts to rebuild their city and temple, and he says that there was no one whose aid could be permanently and certainly relied on but that of Michael. He himself was to return to the court of Persia to endeavor to counteract the influence of the “prince of Persia,” but, as in the former case when on his way to Daniel Daniel 10:13, he would not have been able to counteract the machinations of that prince if it had not been for the interposition of Michael, so he felt now that reliance was still to be placed on his assistance in the matter.
But Michael your prince - See the notes at Daniel 10:13. The patron, or guardian of your people, and of their interests. The idea intended to be conveyed here undoubtedly is, that Michael was a guardian angel for the Jewish people; that he had special charge of their affairs; that his interposition might be depended on in the time of trouble and danger, and that, under him, their interests would be safe. No one can prove that this is not so; and as on earth some of the most important favors that we enjoy are conferred by the instrumentality of others; as we are often defended when in danger by them; as we are counseled and directed by them; as God raises up for the orphan, and the widow, and the insane, and the sorrowful, and the feeble, those of wealth, and power, and learning, who can better guard their interests than they could themselves, and as these relations are often sustained, and these favors conferred by those who are invisible to the recipients, so it gives, in a higher sense, a new beauty to the arrangements of the universe to suppose that this benevolent office is often undertaken and discharged by angelic beings.
Thus they may defend us from danger; ward off the designs of our enemies; defeat their machinations, and save us from numberless evils that would otherwise come upon us. This view receives additional confirmation, if it be admitted that there are evil angels, and that that seek the ruin of mankind. They are malignant; they tempt the race of man; they have power far superior to our own; they can set in operation a train of evil influences which we can neither foresee nor counteract; and they can excite the minds of wicked men to do us injury in a way which we cannot anticipate, and against which we cannot defend ourselves. In these circumstances, anyone can perceive that there is concinnity and propriety in the supposition that there are good beings of a higher order who feel an interest in the welfare of man, and who come to us, on their benevolent errand, to defend us from danger, and to aid us in our efforts to escape from the perils of our fallen condition, and to reach the kingdom of heaven.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Daniel 10". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent