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Bible Commentaries

Layman's Bible Commentary

Daniel 12

Verses 1-4

The Promise of Resurrection (12:1-4)

The reader must remember that the author of Daniel was writing while Antiochus IV was still alive and before the Temple was reclaimed and reconstituted for worship. In that perspective he saw beyond the "little horn" to the emergence of the Kingdom that would be delivered into the hands of the saints, to the Stone that would destroy the image and itself fill the whole earth. After Antiochus, the Kingdom of God would be delivered into the hands of the saints. Some people were dying in the holocaust and for them the urgent question arose, What is the basis for hope?

At the beginning of the end-time Michael, the patron angel of the Jews, will arise. Prior to his rise to power there will be an incomparable "time of trouble"; "but at that time your people shall be delivered, every one whose name shall be found written in the book." This promise is in effect an extension of the "righteous remnant" idea, wherein true Israel is only that portion of Israel which has been true to the Covenant. Many of the dead will rise out of the dust, the faithful to everlasting life and the faithless to everlasting contempt. The wise who have discerned the hand of God in the events of history, as Daniel did, and have remained loyal "shall shine like the brightness of the firmament; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever." With the dawning of God’s Day of Judgment the wise man and the martyr will be raised to an involvement in life, freed from persecution and threat.

This same language and these same thought forms are carried into the New Testament language of faith. At the end-time when society is redeemed by God, it will not be as an impersonal or corporate mass, but as a unity of many persons drawn together in a single faith to which they had remained constantly loyal.

With his literary point of view still that of the Persian period, the author recounts how Daniel is to seal this ancient book until the time of crisis for which its message is meant. The book here sealed is the same kind of book whose seven seals are opened in Revelation (Revelation 5:1-5).

Verses 5-13

Epilogue (12:5-13)

The general thrust and intent of the treatise ended with the sealing of the book unto the end-time, but events demanded that some corrective footnotes be added for the sake of accuracy.

Once more on the bank of the river where the vision was first given, Daniel encountered the heavenly messenger, "the man clothed in linen," who was above the waters of the stream. Speaking for his people who were still caught in the grip of tribulation, Daniel asked the agonizing question: "How long shall it be till the end of these wonders?" It would appear that the glorious end forecast in chapters 7 and 8, as well as in (Daniel 12:1-4), was still far in the future. The predicted period of three and a half years was not a satisfactory answer for those still in the fiery furnace of oppression. But still with both hands raised in solemn oath toward heaven the angelic messenger swears that the end will come after "a time, two times, and half a time" (Daniel 7:25; Daniel 8:14).

The exact meaning of the next clause is uncertain. The shatterer of the holy people was Antiochus, who was the last manifestation of evil standing between the holy people and the New Kingdom. The shattering power aimed at the holy people will end, and that will be a signal for the consummation of God’s promises. Daniel asked for further clarification of the future but was told, "Go your way." The words were shut and sealed in the book unto the time of the end, since they would not be fully understood until the end-time (vs. 9).

Meanwhile in the world the pattern of struggle would continue. "Many shall purify themselves, and make themselves white, and be refined." In trial and even by martyrdom, purity and cleansing will come to those who resist evil even unto death. But their resistance will not blot out evil because "the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand." To the wicked in any age, loyalty which faces death for faith or principle is never understandable. "But those who are wise shall understand." The wise who look at life and history with the eyes of faith see the goal of history and understand that life dedicated to God is not wasted when it is true even in the face of persecution.

Verses 11-12 are a kind of appendix to an epilogue which was probably added sometime later than verses 5-10. The urgent inquiry for an answer to the question "How long?" required more exactness, so the writer tried to provide it. "From the time that the continual burnt offering is taken away, and the abomination that makes desolate is set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days." From December 25, 168 B.C., until the restoration there would be a 1290-day span of time. For no apparent reason the time is extended to 1335 days in the next verse.

It is possible that the starting point was different in each, but the important point to remember is that the end has been set within the limits of a relatively specific time. Again the point of faith was made that God had set the limits of the powers of men, for these powers are derived from the power of God and continue only upon divine sufferance. When God’s purpose is done, man’s tribulation will end and the instruments of that tribulation will be destroyed.

Verse 13 is a statement of tremendous beauty and promise. Not completely informed about the time span or the details of the endtime, Daniel was told, "But go your way till the end." Good advice this is in any time: Go about your normal business in simple trust until the end, which is in the hands of God. "You shall rest" may be a reference to the rest of death. But afterward the promise to Daniel is: "You . . . shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days." Here, then, is the final confidence for the life of faith: seeing only in general terms the dimensions and details of our future, we go our way. God will cause us to stand up in our true being in the end-time. This confidence is the ground for hope when there is no hope. This attitude has been expanded into a major theme in much of the New Testament record. Daniel came out of turmoil and tribulation to speak to those who pass through these same experiences. But another came who said, "In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33b).

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Daniel 12". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/daniel-12.html.