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Bible Commentaries

Layman's Bible Commentary

Daniel 10

Verse 1

Vision of the Last Days (10:1-12:13)

Introduction and Date (10:1)

The incident upon which this vision was based is set in the third year of the reign of Cyrus when "a word" (a message or a divine oracle) was given to Daniel, whose Babylonian name was Belteshazzar. The authentic word was one that spoke of great conflict. Daniel had some immediate understanding of the message and the accompanying vision. Thus three years after Cyrus conquered Babylon, Daniel is represented as seeing the whole panorama of history from Cyrus to Antiochus and beyond.

Verses 2-9

Setting (10:2-9)

Daniel was so affected by the dark pattern of the future that he immediately went into a "three weeks" period of mourning. Fasting meant that he forewent the usual delicacies, meats, and wines. Furthermore, he did not anoint himself with oil during the period of mourning. On the twenty-fourth day of the first month he was standing by the Tigris River. Once again the text is reminiscent of and dependent upon the vision of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1).

Daniel saw a man clothed in white linen, like the figure described in Ezekiel 9:2 (see also Ezekiel 40:1-4). Some kind of emissary from God was intended. However, the description of this messenger from on high was patterned after Ezekiel’s vision of God (Ezekiel 1:26-28). His body was like beryl, his appearance was as a flash of lightning, and his eyes were like flaming torches. Although the language of Daniel is similar, unlike Ezekiel he does not claim to have seen the glory of the Lord.

Like Paul after him (Acts 9:7), only Daniel saw the vision, although a great trembling and an overpowering fear fell upon those who were with him. Fearful, Daniel’s associates "fled to hide themselves," so that the author explains, "I was left alone . . . and no strength was left in me" (vs. 8). Completely enervated by the vision, the seer explains that the sound of words was too much and that in awe he fell upon his face on the ground. This is the pattern of ecstatic experience, vivid action followed by complete immobility.

Verses 10-18

Conversation with the Messenger (10:10-18)

God does not give his vision to men that they should lie groveling in the dust; having given his wisdom and strength, he demands that a man stand upright. So he had commanded Ezekiel; and now, like Ezekiel, Daniel was brought up trembling to hands and knees in a listening position. The angel spoke in most affectionate and familiar terms to Daniel, who was apparently no stranger. At the outset the messenger, probably Gabriel, reminded the seer that his standing was good in heaven. In fact, the angel admitted that he had come in answer to the prayer Daniel had made during his fast.

Gabriel had been delayed for three weeks because of a struggle with the king of Persia. Again the reader must understand the mode of expression in which earth’s struggles were shadows cast by the conflicts among heavenly beings. The same view is especially evident in the Qumran community literature, known to us popularly as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Finally Michael, another angel, came to the aid of Gabriel, who was thus released to complete his visit with a message to Daniel. The writer is looking at history from the vantage point of God, a perspective in which Persia was a temporary and unimportant factor. The vision is still to make known the climax of the historical process (vs. 14b).

The clear literary dependence upon Ezekiel is evidence that this work came into its present form after the Book of Ezekiel was a well-known work. Like Ezekiel, Daniel fell to the ground and was dumb. Only by divine help did he surmount this dumbness (compare Ezekiel 3:22-26). Proper humility on Daniel’s part was quite manifest in his first words after the awe-inspiring vision. He had no strength or breath left in him (vss. 16-17).

God gave the seer strength to stand through "one having the appearance of a man." Along with the touch which brought strength, a voice was heard giving a word of encouragement. Having been given God’s strength, his true servant Daniel was ready to hear the message. With this, the angel promised that he would return to take up the cudgels against Persia and then added, "and when I am through with him, lo, the prince of Greece will come." Before leaving to dispose of the Persians and the prince of the kingdom of Greece, the angel will reveal "what is inscribed in the book of truth." But first the seer must clearly understand that in this heavenly struggle only Michael, the patron angel of Israel, was an ally.

While this section of Daniel is strange to our thought patterns and conceptions of history, still it is the vehicle for profound insight into history. The ultimate issues of history are not decided in the realm of history but above history. The real battles are not the ones we see, nor are the actual powers the ones we behold.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Daniel 10". "Layman's Bible Commentary".