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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Daniel 10

 

 

Introduction

Chapter 10 Angelic Warfare.

In this remarkable chapter the veil of the other world is partly lifted. Daniel had seen the rise and fall of empires, but now he was to learn a little of the supernatural activity that lay behind such historical events. He was to learn of battles in the spiritual realm of which previously he had been unaware. Jacob had experienced such a glimpse into the other world at Bethel in Genesis 28:12; Genesis 28:17; Elisha was very much aware of it and prays that his servant too may have a glimpse of it (2 Kings 6:17, compare Daniel 2:11-12); Ezekiel saw it in the heavenly temple which descended on the unknown high mountain (Ezekiel 40:2) where he was able to examine it in depth; now Daniel is to have further revelation of that invisible world, brief but emphatic. It will then be followed by an outline of history leading up to the end of time.

But a central theme of the chapter is the physical effects it had on Daniel. Having to do with the spiritual realm in this way was physically and emotionally exhausting. This is emphasised again and again. He was overwhelmed by what he saw and experienced.


Verse 1

‘In the third year of Cyrus, king of Persia, a word was revealed to Daniel, whose name was called Belteshazzar, and the word was true. It was about a great warfare (literally ‘even a great warfare’). And he understood the word and had understanding of the vision.”

The change of method of dating suggests either that Darius the Mede was Cyrus, or more likely that Darius the Mede was no longer the ruler of Babylon, having died or been replaced. Note that Cyrus is not called the king of Babylon, whereas Darius had been (Daniel 9:1). Daniel makes clear distinctions. ‘King of Persia’ is an attested title for such a ruler.

It is noteworthy that Daniel has not returned with the exiles. If the account was fictitious we would expect that he would be depicted as so returning, so that this is a strong affirmation of the genuineness of the account.

Here we learn that ‘a word’ from God was revealed to Daniel, a word that was true. The latter statement, which is unusual, suggests that on this occasion Daniel felt the need to emphasise the truth of what he had seen. This may also explain his reference to himself as Belteshazzar. He wanted his credentials to be appreciated, and most knew him as Belteshazzar. What was revealed was a great warfare. This most probably refers to the supernatural warfare described in the chapter, which parallels warfare on earth. Others see it as referring to a struggle within Daniel himself. ‘Understood’ may mean simply that he apprehended it and was able to write it down (compare Daniel 12:8).


Verse 2-3

‘In those days I Daniel was mourning three whole weeks. I ate no pleasant bread, nor did flesh or wine come in my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all until three whole weeks were fulfilled.’

We are not told why Daniel was mourning. Perhaps news had reached him of the dire straits of the exiles who had returned to Jerusalem at the instigation of Cyrus, or perhaps he was mourning over the significance of the visions that he had received, praying for God’s mercy on those to be involved. But the seriousness of his mourning comes out in that it lasted ‘three whole week’ (‘three weeks, days’). The days is added to demonstrate that the three weeks was to be taken literally (‘three weeks’ could usually signify one and a bit to three weeks).

During that time he only drank water and had plain fare. And he refrained from the usual preparations for meeting people. (The emphasis on what he avoided counts against him having no food at all).


Verses 4-6

‘And on the twenty fourth day of the first month, as I was by the side of the great River Hiddekel (Tigris) I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold a man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with pure gold of Uphaz. His body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to burnished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude.’

Three weeks to the 24th day of the first month means that the period included Passover and unleavened bread, which would finish on the 21st. It may be that it was because he could not fulfil the Passover (either because of uncleanness or because the facilities were not available) that he decided on a period of mourning.

Walking by rivers appears to have been one of his favourite pastimes. A similar thing occurred before the vision in chapter 8. But this time it was the Tigris, and he was accompanied.

‘I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold a man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with pure gold of Uphaz.’ For the man clothed in linen compare Ezekiel 9:2-3; Ezekiel 9:11; Ezekiel 10:2; Ezekiel 10:6-7; Mark 16:5. This was possibly also the one mentioned in Daniel 8:16. He was clearly of great authority, and linen was worn by important personages. His loins were also covered in the finest gold, a further sign of splendour and importance.

‘His body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as torches of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to burnished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude.’ ‘Beryl’ is literally ‘Tarshish’ and is probably Spanish gold topaz. The face as the appearance of lightning, the eyes like torches of fire, and arms and feet like burnished brass are intended to express indescribable glory. Compare the description of the Son of Man in Revelation Whose face was like the sun in its strength, whose eyes were as a flame of fire and whose feet were of burnished brass.

But the descriptions are not exact and we are probably to see here only a powerful and glorious angel, but one not quite as powerful as Michael and the other chief princes (Daniel 10:13). This is further confirmed by the later description of his activities.

‘And the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude.’ The stress is on the fact that he spoke with the power of many voices. It is not necessary to assume that it was inarticulate. Crowds can speak as it were with one voice. It is the roar and crescendo that is in mind. The whole description is intended to bring out the awesome impact of the visitor.


Verse 7

‘And I Daniel alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision, but a great quaking fell on them and they fled to hide themselves.’

This does not necessarily mean that they saw nothing. The very approach of the glorious figure may well have terrified them before he appeared in full view, so that they ran for cover and hid themselves and thus missed the full glory of the vision. (Running for cover suggests that they saw something). On the other hand it would not be the only time when a vision was only seen by one man while his companions were only aware of something strange and the sound of a voice (compare Acts 9:3 onwards).


Verse 8

‘So I was left alone, and saw this grand vision, and there remained no strength in me, and my acceptable appearance was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength.’

The grandeur of the vision had a powerful effect on him. He lost all strength, and felt totally corrupt in the presence of such holiness.


Verse 9

‘Yet I heard the voice of his words, and when I heard the voice of his words, then was I fallen into a deep sleep on my face, with my face towards the ground.’

The rolling thunder of the man’s voice continued even as Daniel collapsed to the ground and hid himself from the glorious sight, and then fell into a swoon, a deep unnatural sleep, with his face towards the ground (compare Daniel 8:18; Genesis 2:21; Genesis 15:12). The whole thing was too much for him.


Verse 10

‘And behold a hand touched me, which set me on my knees and on the palms of my hands.’

‘A hand touched me’ probably means that he felt himself seized by a powerful hand, compare Daniel 8:18 where it lifted him onto his feet, also Daniel 9:21. Here it set him on his hands and knees. His awareness of the powerful and holy figure before him prevented him rising to his feet. He probably felt too weak. But there was something symbolic here. He was on all fours as a beast but he was to be raised to stand up like a man.


Verse 11

‘And he said to me, “O Daniel, you man greatly beloved (valued, precious), understand the words that I speak to you and stand upright. For I am now sent to you.” And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood, trembling.’

Notice that the standing upright and the understanding of God’s words through His messenger are linked, Compare Daniel 7:4; Daniel 8:18. Man was made upright at the same time as he was made in the image of God as a spiritual and moral being. The one symbolises the other. That is why the nations were wild beasts that went on all fours, whereas the people of God were represented as the son of man.

‘You man greatly beloved.’ What a testimony to an old man. He was greatly beloved of God, precious to God, the highest accolade that a human being could receive.

‘Understand.’ That is, ‘listen and comprehend’.

‘And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood, trembling.’ Daniel responded to the man’s demand, but did so fearfully and with trembling. The situation had resulted in him being filled with awe.


Verse 12-13

‘Then he said to me, “Do not be afraid Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come for your words’ sake. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me for twenty one days. But lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, and I remained there with the kings of Persia. ” ’

We may probably assume from this that Daniel had been contemplating his previous visions during the days of his fast, ‘setting his heart’ to grasp and understand their significance, while at the same time humbling himself before God.

‘From the first day --- your words were heard.’ God never fails to hear the prayer of the righteous when they humble themselves before Him, not in ostentatious humility, but in genuine lowliness of heart. Yet we are here reminded that there is often a definite period, sometimes short, sometimes considerable, between the praying of the prayer and the final answer coming through, not because God does not hear, but because of the way things are. To us the answer might seem simple, for we see only what is limited to our vision, but it must all work in with the purposes of God and the way that creation was created.

God had in fact sent the angel immediately on receiving the prayer, and it was because of that word that he had come. But there had been difficulties. An angel responsible in some way for watching over Persia had withstood him. He had seen that the message coming through to Daniel was not helpful to what he wanted for Persia and had tried to delay its receipt, possibly hoping to stop it altogether. If Daniel had not prayed on it may never have been received.

Prayer is a powerful and effective tool, but Jesus Himself warned us against its misuse. It is not to be a means of obtaining things for ourselves, but of extending and expanding the work of God and improving our spiritual lives. Indeed He told us that we do not need to ask for what we think we need, as our Father knows what we really need and will provide it (Matthew 6:8). The exception, the prayer for daily bread, is really a recognition that our bread comes from God, and is for a necessity which we cannot do without. Large numbers of modern prayers are totally selfish, miss the whole point of prayer, and ignore what Jesus said. He wanted us to have the wider vision. When Paul asked prayer for himself it was in order that the Kingly Rule of God might be extended and God’s name glorified, not in order that he might be comfortable.

Jesus’ concentration in His prayer was on the exaltation of God’s name, the extending of His Kingly Rule, and the doing of His will on earth. We do well to make that the commencement of, and the major factor in, our praying, as Daniel clearly did.

‘Twenty and one days.’ This covers the three week period during which Daniel was praying.

‘But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me for twenty one days. But lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, and I remained there with the kings of Persia.’ We learn from this that there are spiritual forces affecting the world situation that we know little about and comprehend even less. They are usually totally hidden from us and we are specifically warned against making too much of angels. They are God’s instruments and heed His voice and not ours.

This suggests that as we would expect the spiritual forces that support ‘the wild beasts’ depicted in Daniel work in a way that is contrary to the purposes of God. They are angels who follow Satan, egging man on in his sinful behaviour, while the true angels of God support the case of God’s people behind the scenes. As we read of the latter, ‘Are they not all ministering spirits sent to sent out to do service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?’ (Hebrews 1:14).

But we must not read into these verses that every nation has its angel allocated by God, and that for the majority it is an evil angel. That is being far too simplistic. It is extremely unlikely that God has allocated the nations of the world to specific angels, of which most are evil. The point is rather that while nations are set to behave like wild beasts, especially powerful nations, that evil mastermind Satan will allocate those nations to one or more of his minions to stir up and encourage their behaviour.

In this case we are being told of one of Satan’s minions who was allocated to ensure that Persia behaved as Satan wanted. It was because of such doings that Satan could say to Jesus that the nations could be His for the asking (Matthew 4:9). It was no idle boast. The nations, without realising it, were largely subservient to him as he exercised his power and control through his angels, because their minds and hearts were set in that direction, and the gods they worshipped were backed by ‘devils’, that is these evil angels (1 Corinthians 10:20).

Such activities continued in Paul’s day and continue today. ‘We do not wrestle against flesh and blood -- but against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places’ (Ephesians 6:12). See also Revelation 12:7-11.

But they did not, and do not, have total control over these nations. God too was at work, changing the course of nations. And here we learn that this mighty angel who was speaking to Daniel, working on behalf of Persia, was helped by Michael, one of the chief princes among God’s true angels, who assisted him and enabled him on behalf of Persia to somewhat counter the effects of the evil angel appointed by Satan as ‘the prince of Persia’. By this he assisted the kings of Persia, unknown to them, in the direction of the purposes of God, to some extent modifying the success of the evil ‘prince’. (The angel can hardly be God or he would not have been so limited in his ability).

We are not to think that God recognised the authority of the so-called ‘prince of Persia’. He was not appointed by God (except in so far as all rulers are appointed by God). What in the end determined the success of these angels was the attitudes of men. Angels could only influence nations ‘spiritually’, men made the final decisions. Thus we have here a partial explanation of Cyrus’ tolerance towards, and assistance of, God’s people, the result of the work of the mighty angel assisted by Michael. But it was Cyrus under God’s will who made the final decisions, responding to the influence of the good or evil angels.

As Paul told us, these evil angels work partly by blinding the eyes of men to the truth so that they do not see the glory of God revealed in creation, but rather turn to the worship of created things, sun, moon, stars, beasts, birds and creeping things (2 Corinthians 4:4 a with Romans 1:18-23).


Verse 14

“Now I am come to make you understand what will befall your people in the latter days. For the vision is as yet for many days.”

The latter days are the days of the fourth empire, commencing from the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, who was outfaced by the power of Rome, and going on to the end of time. But Daniel is assured that it is many days hence. One of the main reasons for Daniel’s visions was to prevent too much being made of the return from exile. Once that failed to mature into what Israel hoped for, and the hopes and expectancy were certainly there as Haggai makes clear, they would read the book of Daniel and recognise hat God had said it would be so.

‘The latter days.’ The phrase first occurs in Genesis 49:1 and means in the future beyond the present time. It puts no restriction on the length of the latter days. The only point is that they are some distance away. In Numbers 22:14 it refers to the future of Moab in terms of their dealings with Israel. In Deuteronomy 31:29 it refers to the times after Moses has gone and some time has passed (compare Deuteronomy 4:30). In Daniel 2:28 it includes the subsequent empires to Nebuchadnezzar’s. Thus it simply refers to the future without limitation.


Verses 15-17

‘And when he had spoken to me in accordance with these words I set my face towards the ground and was dumb. And behold, one like the similitude of the sons of men touched my lips. Then I opened my mouth and spoke and said to him who stood before me, “O my lord, as a result of the vision my pangs have come on me, and I am without strength. For how can the servant of this my lord speak with this my lord?” For as for me, immediately there remained no strength in me, nor was there breath left in me.’

The impact of the angel’s words on Daniel was immediate. He bowed his head and did not speak. ‘I was dumb’ may simply mean that he did not speak (Psalms 37:2; Psalms 37:9) or it may refer to a supernatural dumbness as later with Zacharias (Luke 1:20). In view of the sequel the latter is probably correct. It was not easy to be a Daniel.

‘One like the similitude of the sons of men.’ Also called ‘a man clothed in linen’ (Daniel 10:5), ‘one like the appearance of a man’ (Daniel 10:18) (but not ‘one like to a son of man’, this phrase is carefully avoided). The point was that he looked like a man and yet was not a man.

‘Touched my lips.’ throughout the visions Daniel has made clear how dependent he was on supernatural help (Daniel 10:10; Daniel 8:18). The visions were hugely physically demanding and without this sustenance he could not have coped. As a result of this touch he was again able to speak. But all he could do was declare his weakness and his unworthiness. This was then followed by another period of sustained weakness, and he felt breathless.

‘My lord.’ The usual address by an inferior to a superior.


Verse 18-19

‘Then there touched me again one like the appearance of a man, and he strengthened me. And he said, “O man greatly beloved, do not be afraid. Peace be to you. Be strong, yes, be strong.” And when he spoke to me I was strengthened, and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me”.’

Again ‘the man’ touched him and he felt renewed. Then he was again described as a man precious to God (compare Daniel 10:11), and told not to be afraid. Rather he was to be strong, repeated for emphasis (compare Joshua 1:6; Joshua 1:9). It basically means ‘you will need to be very strong’. And even as the ‘man’ spoke to him he was strengthened, and asked the man to give to him the message that he had come to give. God often works through our weakness, but He strengthens us at the last.


Verse 20-21

.1 ‘Then he said to me, “Do you know why I have come to you? And now I will return to fight with the prince of Persia, and when I go, lo, the prince of Greece will come. But I will tell you what is inscribed in the writing of truth, and there is none who makes himself strong with me against these, but Michael your prince. And as for me, in the first year of Darius the Mede I stood up to confirm and strengthen him.”

The question is rhetorical to make him think of the vision to come. But first it is necessary for Daniel to know that behind all that is said powerful beings are at work bringing about God’s purposes, and powerful beings are at work seeking to thwart them. Once he has finished speaking with Daniel this mighty angel will return to the battle against the prince of Persia. And this will later be followed by a battle against the prince of Greece. For as the previous visions, and the one to come, are fulfilled on earth, these battles will be taking place in heavenly places.

Both the prince of Persia and the prince of Greece are Satan’s minions, seeking to shape the history of Persia and Greece to their will to ensure that they continually behave as brute beasts. But the mighty angel and the even mightier Michael are at work thwarting those purposes. Thus they will aid the struggling returned exiles, they will aid in the building of the temple and the thwarting of the enemies of the project, they will aid Nehemiah in defending the city and building its walls, they will aid the people of God in the activities of the kings of the north and the kings of the south, and will aid the fight against Antiochus, for they are the angels who support the people of God unseen. Why it was they who had strengthened and sustained activities while Darius the Mede was on the throne of Babylon in his first year. This probably refers to the restoration of the temple vessels to the exiles and the assistance with their return against all difficulties.

And now that he realises this Daniel can learn what is written in the writing of truth, the heavenly record of what is to happen in the days to come with regard to those peoples who surround and affect the people of God (as described in chapter 11), for he is now aware of those who stand firm for the people of God.

‘There is none who makes himself strong with me against these, but Michael your prince.’ To make himself strong means that he as it were girds on his armour and arms himself, and gathers his followers, in order to support his fellow angel. The negative is probably speaking about the leaders. Both he and Michael are probably to be seen as having legions of angels under their control. ‘Michael your prince’ (compare Daniel 12:1 where he is ‘the great prince who stands for the children of your people’) suggests that it is Michael who especially watches over the people of God. Because they are responsive to God no Satanic angel can be their prince (this of course applies to the ‘ideal’ or true people of God. Many Jews who were not really the people of God would be influenced by, indeed had already been influenced by, Satanic angels).

For in the end all God’s promises are to His true and responsive people. The Jews also recognised this. Each group saw themselves as really representing the people of God. There was a strange ambivalence about their views. The Pharisees could see the Sadducees as fellow Israelites, and as rightly participating in temple rites, but they also saw them as in some sense not true Jews at all and as, at the most, doubtful recipients of eternal life.

Excursus on the Princes of Persia and Greece and Suchlike.

It should first be noted that that great man of prayer, Daniel, was not called on to battle with the prince of Persia or Greece in any way. The battling was to be left in the hands of the angel visitant and Michael the Archangel. Daniel was to deal with the earthly side of things by means of the word and prayer. Heavenly conflict was to be left to heavenly beings. If we do otherwise we transgress the bounds that God has laid down.

We are reminded by Jude of those angels who ‘kept not their own principality, but left their proper habitation’ and in that context he spoke of those men who ‘set at nought dominion and rail at dignities (‘glorious beings’), whereas Michael the Archangel, when contending with the Devil --- dare not bring against him a railing judgment but said “The Lord rebuke you”. But these rail at whatever things they know not.’ This was a stern warning that men should not step outside the bounds that God has set. Men should not seek to ‘take on’ the ‘heavenly’ forces of evil, or commune with them in any way, although they must resist their activities against men by the word of God and prayer.

2 Peter backs this up sternly speaking of those who ‘walk after the flesh in the lust of defilement and despise dominion. Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble at railing at glorious beings, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not bring a railing judgment against them before the Lord’ (2 Peter 2:10-11). If even angels have to beware when dealing with the spirit forces of evil, how much more men. Yet, says Peter, there are some foolish enough to try. That is not to say that we should live in fear of them. Through Christ we have certain protection, but only while we do not overstep the bound between the physical and spirit world.

It is, of course, true that where evil angels/spirits/devils do impinge on human territory, seeking to influence their minds and turn men from the true way, they are to be battled with, but this is by taking on the armour of God, by the right use of the word of God, and through righteousness, both imputed from Christ and revealed in life (Ephesians 6:10-18). We note in that passage that we are to stand firm (Daniel 10:14 compare Ephesians 4:27), not to take the battle to the enemy. It is the battle for the mind, the battle against spiritual blindness and temptation. We resist him by being ‘subject to God’ (James 4:11). All this is to do with ‘the wiles of the Devil’ and we are reminded above that he is not to be treated lightly.

When Christians battle against such forces it is on an ‘earthly’ basis. Then ‘the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds, casting down imaginations (reasonings, often false), and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). In other words God enables us through the word and prayer to open men’s eyes, to remove the blindness brought about by the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4), to win the battle for the hearts and minds of men. But if we seek to take the battle against ‘heavenly’ beings into a higher sphere apart from this, both Jude and Peter say that we do very foolishly.

Fortunately the Devil has been bound and is restricted by God (Mark 3:27; Revelation 20:3) which is why his power is limited, but not so limited that Michael dared attack him directly. These descriptions of his being limited and restricted are to comfort us in our defensive battle against him. They are pictorial and not to be taken literally. Satan is a spirit being and cannot be bound by a physical chain or in a physical place. Thus he is at the same time restricted by God, and yet prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8), revealed through the activities of persecutors (Daniel 10:9 with Daniel 4:12-16).

Note how as in Daniel it is Satan’s effects in this world that we battle against, not directly Satan himself. That is to be left to greater than us (Revelation 12:7). Jesus nowhere taught His disciples to enter into such conflicts. They were only to call on Christ’s name against the Enemy when he had sought to interfere in human affairs by possession.

End of Excursus.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Daniel 10:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/daniel-10.html. 2013.


Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 23rd, 2017
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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