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Bible Commentaries
Daniel 12

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary


The Establishment of the Universal Kingdom of God and the Triumph of the Wise, the Time being again Revealed to Daniel of the Glorious Consummation of all Things.

Verse 1

1. For Michael see note Daniel 10:13.

At that time This is, “in the time of the end,” so often referred to. (See Daniel 7:26; Daniel 8:25; Daniel 11:35; Daniel 11:40.) After the destruction of this arch enemy of the saints Daniel, now seemingly for the first time, gets a glimpse of another time of trouble before the final consummation of joy. (See notes Daniel 11:45; compare Matthew 24:21.) Michael is still Israel’s heavenly helper (Daniel 10:21), which is in itself sufficient proof that ultimately Israel shall be delivered. The close connection between the historic affliction and the Messianic triumph is natural in all prophecies. Dr. Terry calls attention to the glorious picture, Isaiah 4:2-6, which immediately follows the ruin of Judah and Jerusalem and to the “magnificent prophecy” of the coming Messiah (Isaiah 11:0), which is connected as clearly as possible with the overthrow of the Assyrian invader (Isaiah 10:0), and adds, “In such visions of the future no note is made of times that may intervene between the catastrophe and the final triumph, but the two opposite pictures are made to stand out so conspicuously in their main features that all else is for the time lost sight of.”

Every one that shall be found written in the book This thought, of a book in which Jehovah has carefully inscribed all the names of the righteous, meets us several times in Scripture (Exodus 32:32; Psalms 69:28; Malachi 3:16; Revelation 13:8). It was probably also familiar to the Babylonians, as it was certainly to the Egyptians. Professor Jastrow has shown the close connection between the zag-muku Babylonian festival and that held on the Jewish New Year: “On this day, according to the popular Jewish tradition, God sits in judgment with a book before him in which he inscribed the fate of mankind.” So Marduk during the festival zag-muku ( resh shatti) exactly equivalent to the Jewish Rosh-hash-shana (New Year) makes his decrees for the whole year while the gods stand solemnly about him ( Religion of Babylonia, pp. 681, etc.).

Verse 2

2. Contempt Rather, abhorrence.

Many The idea is that of multitudinousness. It neither asserts nor excludes the thought that all shall rise (Thomson). It was left for him who could say, “I am the Resurrection and the Life,” to make the clear, full, and final revelation of the general and universal resurrection.

This is one of the most astonishing verses in Daniel. As Behrmann says, we have here the “very last word” on Old Testament eschatology. What may be hinted in Isaiah 26:14; Isaiah 26:19; Isaiah 25:8, is here clear as sunlight. Not only will the Israelites who live in the Messianic era be blessed, but the martyrs and pious ones who defended the faith in former ages will be brought to life again, and with this resurrection the condition of each individual is fixed for evermore. That all the nations surrounding the Hebrews believed in a future existence, from the earliest times, no one will now deny.*

[* On the coffin of Amam supposed to have been a contemporary of Abraham which is now in the British Museum, is inscribed these affecting words, “He lives, he lives, lives this Amam. He dies not. He passes not away. This Amam passes not away. He lives, this Amam lives, he dies not, dies not.” This could be paralleled in hundreds of texts, both Egyptian and Babylonian. The power of the magical words and elaborate death ceremonial in both cults lay largely in their supposed influence in opening the eyes and mouth of the departed and giving back to him life and protecting him from the monsters of the future world. The difference between the Hebrew and the heathen ideas of the future lay chiefly in the conception of Jehovah as merciful and gracious, and able to protect his chosen ones in this world or any world. As Goethe wrote:

Abraham for his sire Jehovah

Chose, the Lord of star and sun;

Moses, deserts passing over,

Grew to greatness by the One.]

* * * * * * * * * *

But that future abode was dark and comfortless or filled with earthly ideas which were not the holiest. (See notes Ezekiel 26:20; Ezekiel 32:18.) Tiele confesses that the Mosaic prophetism alone was an exception to the “gloomy misanthropy combined with voluptuous sensuality which was a characteristic of all other Semitic religions.” But this doctrine of a resurrection, though hinted before (see note as above and Ezekiel xxxvii), is here for the first time seen in a developed state. While the idea of the punishment of the wicked is found previously (Isaiah 66:24, etc.), here for the first time we find a double and distinct resurrection for both good and bad. These views of Daniel are widened out in Enoch and 2 Macc. (See particularly our Introduction, II, 9.) The New Testament conception of the resurrection is much larger and more advanced than that of Daniel; but blessed was the generation which first heard from human lips the utterance of this splendid hope!

Verse 3

3. They that be wise See Daniel 11:33, and compare Hosea 14:9. In Hosea’s day this was a “new and beautiful doctrine” that the wise could know the ways of the Lord and walk in them. (See particularly Alexander Duff, Old Testament Theology.) We now have the equally new and beautiful doctrine that those who are thus wise shall live forever as heavenly lights. The figure of speech which would compare a wise teacher to a light was not unknown even in ancient Babylon; for on a tablet dating back to Abraham’s day, and written in the sacred Sumerian language, are found these words, “Whosoever has distinguished himself at the place of tablet writing (i.e., in the school or university) shall (may) shine as the light” (Hilprecht). But all this Babylonian wisdom pales when contrasted with Daniel’s teaching.

They that turn many to righteousness Contrast with Daniel 11:32. This is surely the Gospel in the Old Testament. (See Matthew 13:43.) These words have shone like the stars of heaven ever since this inspired seer of God flung them out before the eyes of a dark world. This is the glorious “end” of Daniel’s vision. These saints who were “stars” while they lived (Daniel 8:10), though cast down to the grave, shall be lifted up to shine eternally. It must not be forgotten that all the theology of the Hebrews sprang out of their conception of Jehovah. Jehovah shines as the sun, and therefore his saints may shine as the stars. (See previous footnote.)

Verse 4

4. “This command more naturally refers to the entire Book of Daniel’s revelations, whether communicated by dream, by vision, or by the word of the angel. It is like Daniel 8:26, and Isaiah 8:16, a solemn charge to preserve the written revelation in security. Daniel wrote his dreams (Daniel 7:1), but he did not, even after the explanation of the angel, fully comprehend them (Daniel 7:28; Daniel 8:27). None could clearly understand their import at that time. They were accordingly to be kept in most perfect security until the time of the end, when God’s own providence would make all plain” Terry. All past exegesis proves the truth of Daniel’s statement here. This is one prediction which every scholar must acknowledge has been proved literally true. More books have been written concerning this prophecy of Daniel than on any other book of Scripture, yet only those who are very ignorant can think that they have even yet solved all its enigmas. The book is still at least partially sealed. We remember that Nachmonides in his colossal biblical treatise, Gate of Reward, closed the discussion of one difficult section with the remark: “Only One can know the exact truth about a great mystery.” Many shall run to and fro, etc. This may either refer to the excitement and hurry of troublous times, in which case the last clause should be translated, “and many shall be the calamities;” or it may refer to the running everywhere in search after knowledge, in which case we may translate, with Prince, “many shall search it [the book] diligently, and knowledge shall be increased.” This passage has inspired many Hebrews to poetic flights:

Virgin of Israel, arise! rejoice!

In Daniel’s vision, lo! the end is sealed:

When Michael on the height

Shall stand aloft in strength

And shout aloud in might,

And a Redeemer come to Zion at length!

Amen, amen! Behold

The Lord’s decree foretold.

E’en as thou hast our souls afflicted sore,

So wilt thou make us glad for evermore!

Ibn Gebirol.

Verses 5-6

5, 6. In addition to Gabriel and Michael, whom Daniel has already seen, two “other angels” now appear to confirm the oath about to be made (Daniel 12:7; compare Deuteronomy 19:15). It is perhaps one of these who asks the angel Gabriel (see Daniel 10:5; Daniel 9:21), as he stands “above” the waters of the river (Tigris), the same question which has again and again pressed itself to the front in these visions, “How long shall it be to the end?” The answer is the same as before (Daniel 12:7; compare Daniel 7:25).

Verse 7

7. Gabriel held up both hands to heaven in order to strengthen his oath by this double appeal to Jehovah. (Compare Genesis 14:22; Exodus 6:8.) Even yet in Syria the strongest oath is by the blood taken from the arm, because the arm represents strength. To uplift the arm suggests swearing by one’s blood and proffering it in its strength as an inviolable covenant with God (Trumbull, Blood Covenant, p. 236). The angel swears by the ever-living Jehovah (compare Daniel 4:34) that it should be for a time, times, and a half. (See notes Daniel 7:25; Daniel 9:27.) Interpreters differ as to whether this merely means to reaffirm the truth of the statement previously made (Daniel 7:25) or whether, in the providence of God, another cycle corresponding to the former as the seventy weeks of Daniel corresponded to the seventy years of Jeremiah should be hinted at here. Even though we explain this strictly according to the historical method, as pointing to the three and a half years which elapsed from the defilement of the sanctuary to the death of Antiochus, we can yet accept it as the prototype of another cycle of suffering which should lengthen into centuries until full deliverance through the Messiah should come (Matthew 24:30; Matthew 24:34; Revelation 12:14).

And when he shall have accomplished, etc. R.V., “and when they have made an end of breaking in pieces the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished.” This refers primarily to Antiochus Epiphanes and the adversaries of God’s people who stood with him against the Maccabean patriots; but this does not exclude its continuous application to the suffering saints in every great crisis of the Christian Church. God rules, and therefore right must ultimately triumph. Notwithstanding this “breaking” of the saints nay often because of the rack and the sword and the fire the power of Jehovah shall be exalted, and beyond even the blessed “end” which Daniel saw shall come another “end,” more triumphant still, when the heavenly Son of man shall enter fully into his kingdom.

Verse 8

8. This is not literally a question as to the length of time before the end (Daniel 12:6), but as to the issue of this struggle so far as the wicked oppressors and the righteous sufferers are concerned. But the reply of the angel takes account also of the fact that Daniel had not understood the answer to his former question.

Verse 9

9. See note Daniel 12:4. Even prophets like Daniel cannot know all that they wish to know. Mysteries must remain. It is enough for man that all the struggles and seeming failures of the saints are known to God and that he has planned for them all a glorious future. The sun now obscured by the clouds shall shine some day with great glory, but only for the “wise” and in the “last time.”

Verse 10

10. See note Daniel 11:35. R.V. reads, “Many shall purify themselves, and make themselves white, and be refined.” The human will must always act conjointly with the divine in the struggle for purity. (Compare Revelation 7:14.) Some Scripture texts emphasize the manward side of salvation and others the God-ward side. (Compare Acts 3:19; James 5:20.) In this particular case it is the suffering for God’s cause which is to be the purifying agent. (Compare Hebrews 2:10.)

None of the wicked shall understand No sufferings can purify those who “do wickedly,” and such men cannot understand the meaning of these divine chastisements.

But the wise These shall understand now that the truth has been revealed to Daniel by God’s angel. Perhaps the phrases of this revelation were made so peculiarly enigmatical in order that the wicked and the careless should not understand.

Verses 11-12

11, 12. See notes Daniel 8:11; Daniel 11:31. These numbers are still a mystery even to the “wise.” A “time, times, and half a time,” if literally calculated as three and a half years, would amount to twelve hundred and sixty days. Daniel’s twelve hundred and ninety days and thirteen hundred and thirty-five days could hardly both be identical with the “time, times, and half a time,” unless, as Dr. Terry holds, these differences may have been designed to suggest that the “time, times, and dividing of a time could not be reckoned with mathematical accuracy.” (Compare Matthew 24:34-36; Acts 1:7.) Behrmann has pointed out, however, that if the intercalary month, which was reckoned by the Babylonians and Hebrews at regular intervals, be counted with the three and one half years, the result is exactly twelve hundred and ninety days. Most modern scholars who follow the historical method seek an explanation of these varying numbers in the events following the defilement of the temple by Antiochus.

The abomination that maketh desolate mentioned here certainly refers primarily to the altar of Jupiter, erected upon Jehovah’s altar of burnt offering, or to the statue of Jupiter which was doubtless in front of this altar. This abomination was set up Chislev (December) 25, B.C. 168 ( 1Ma 1:54 ; 2Ma 6:2 ; Josephus, Antiquities, XII, Daniel 5:4), and it was not until Chislev 25, B.C. 165, that the daily sacrifices were restored ( 1Ma 4:52 ; 2Ma 10:5 ; Josephus, Antiquities, XII, Daniel 7:6). It is perfectly plain that a period of time had elapsed before the setting up of the idol altar during which the temple was desecrated by the presence of the heathen, and equally clear that a period of time elapsed after the restoring of the daily sacrifices before the death of Antiochus occurred. It is in connection with these events that most modern scholars attempt to explain these numbers, supposing, for example, that the twelve hundred and ninety days end with the rededication of the temple and the thirteen hundred and thirty-five days with the death of Antiochus. Our knowledge of the period is not, however, sufficiently definite to absolutely prove this. Some scholars think that these numbers were made indefinite purposely, to represent an unknown period of time lying just beyond the date at which the temple altar was rededicated; during which brief though indefinite period the prophet saw in vision the death of this wild beast, followed by the dawning of eternal blessedness under the rule of the Messianic Son of man. (Compare Daniel 7:13-14; Daniel 8:13-14; Daniel 12:11.) We believe that the numbers used should not be pressed into the same compass as if found in a modern table of dates. Numbers were the ordinary channels through which religious lessons were taught in ancient times (see Introduction to Ezekiel, “Symbolism,” VIII), and beyond all the possible historical applications of these at present inexplicable numbers there may lie a deeper symbolical meaning which future students of the Word may see unveiled. And once more let it be said that, far beyond the primary and local meaning of the prophet’s words and symbols, there may lie an eternal and more glorious meaning. As Delitzsch says: “The prophets behold the future by means of the light of divine illumination as we do the sidereal heavens. To us the stars appear as if they were on one level; we do not distinguish their distance from us and from one another” ( History of Redemption, note p. 147).

Verse 13

13. Notwithstanding all the mysteries which he cannot even yet grasp the prophet can now be at peace, knowing that, however dark the present may be, the future shall be bright, and he shall stand with the other saints at the end. (Compare Daniel 8:17; Daniel 8:19; Daniel 11:29; Daniel 11:35; Daniel 11:40; Daniel 12:1; Daniel 12:4; Daniel 12:6; Daniel 12:9.) He might not understand all the mysteries hidden in “the time of the end,” but he could trust Him who did understand them all. And, however long this aged prophet should rest in the grave before that final triumphant end should come, nevertheless he should not fail to stand in the lot which Jehovah should give him there among the stars of heaven (Daniel 12:1-3; Daniel 12:10; compare Jeremiah 13:25). Thus the angel “sang the prophet to sleep” and went his way.

In this exposition many things have been left unexplained. The writer feels like saying, with Calvin, “I am no thaumaturge to undertake their solution.” It is better to leave a question open than to settle it contrary to the real meaning which the Spirit of Prophecy put into it. The exact meaning of many passages in Daniel no man knows. Those who claim most boldly to know are generally those who know least. Though much is left unsettled, “natheles let every diligent reder knowe hymselfe miche to have profited, if he but the cheif principalls understand, although it be but menely; and use the same with hys own godly exercise” (Geo. Jaye, 1545).

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Daniel 12". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/daniel-12.html. 1874-1909.
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