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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Daniel 12



Verse 1

Daniel 12:1. And at that time, &c. — It is usual with the prophets, when they foretel the troubles of the church, to furnish it, at the same time, with proper supports and consolations; and none are so sovereign, of such general application, so easily accommodated to every case, and of such powerful efficacy, as those that are fetched from Christ, and a future state revealed in his gospel. At that time — When the troubles are the greatest; shall Michael stand up — The word Michael signifies, Who is like God? which name, with the title here given him, The great prince which standeth for the children of thy people, manifestly points out the Messiah, and cannot properly be understood of a created angel. The angel had told Daniel 10:21, what a friend Michael was to the church of God, and he now informs him that he should interpose in a singular way, and work out deliverance for her. If this have any reference at all to the respite from trouble, and the deliverance wrought out for the Jews, after the death of Antiochus; yet that cannot be the primary intention of the prediction. It evidently relates to the incarnation of the Son of God, which was to take place soon after the days of Antiochus; in order to the eternal salvation of God’s people. As if the angel had said, As after the signal judgment of God upon Antiochus, that persecutor of his people, they shall have some deliverance from their calamities; so there will be a yet far greater salvation wrought out for them, when Michael your prince shall appear for you. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, &c. — This is not only applicable to, but evidently primarily intended of the calamities suffered by the Jews, before and during the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans; calamities brought upon them for their rejection and crucifixion of their own Messiah. Of this time of trouble Christ speaks in similar language, Matthew 24:21, when he says, Then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to that time, no, nor ever shall be. Of which, see the notes on Deuteronomy 28:50-63. Of this the angel had spoken much, Daniel 9:26-27; and it happened soon after the time in which Christ set up his gospel kingdom in the world. It may refer, however, also to the dreadful judgments which shall be executed on all antichristian powers, to make way for the universal spread of the gospel, and the final conversion and restoration of the Jews. Concerning which awful judgments, see Revelation 16:18-21; Revelation 19:17-21. The prediction may include likewise the judgments of the great and last day, the day that shall burn as an oven, when all the proud, and all that do wickedly, shall be as stubble, and shall be consumed; that will be such a day of trouble as never was, to all those against whom Michael our prince shall stand. And at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one found written in the book — By those found written in the book, or, as it is expressed, Isaiah 4:3, written among the living in Jerusalem, may be understood, 1st, The pious Jews who should be preserved from the mischief and ruin designed them by Antiochus; but more especially, 2d, Such as should believe in Christ when he appeared, embrace his gospel, and become his true disciples, who should escape both the temporal calamities coming on their countrymen, and obtain spiritual and eternal salvation through him. It includes, 3d, Those who should be converted in the latter days, and restored to their own land; and lastly, All that should be found written in the book of life at the day of final judgment, that is, all truly justified, regenerated, and pious persons. Of the book of life, see notes on Exodus 32:32; Psalms 69:28; Isaiah 4:3.

Verse 2

Daniel 12:2. And many that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake — This may be understood, 1st, Of those saints who rose from the dead immediately upon the resurrection of Christ, spoken of Matthew 27:52-53, where we read that the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of their graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. 2d, It may be interpreted figuratively of the mystical resurrection of Jews and Gentiles from spiritual death to spiritual life, by the preaching of the gospel, or of their conversion to true Christianity. Calmet thinks that this, without all question, is the primary sense of the verse, and that it is only in a secondary sense that it can be understood of the resurrection of men’s bodies. Most commentators, however, are of a different opinion, and consider the words as being primarily intended of the general resurrection which will take place at the last day. And they think, that the next clause, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt, requires this application of the words, and does not admit of any other interpretation. The Lord Jesus certainly seems to have referred to this passage, John 5:28, where he speaks of the resurrection of life, and the resurrection of damnation; and upon the ground of it chiefly, the Jews are said by St. Paul, Acts 24:15, to expect a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and of the unjust. And nothing could be brought in more seasonably than this doctrine is here; for under Antiochus’s persecution some basely betrayed their religion, others bravely adhered to it. Now it would be a trouble to the upright and faithful among the Jews, that they could neither reward the one nor punish the other; this therefore would be a satisfaction to them, that they would both be recompensed at the general resurrection. And the apostle, speaking of the pious Jews that suffered martyrdom under Antiochus, tells us, that though they were tortured, yet they accepted not deliverance, (namely, deliverance offered them on terms they could not conscientiously comply with,) because they hoped to obtain a better resurrection. In accordance with this sense of the words, which seems evidently to be that primarily intended, it must be observed, that the word many in the first clause of the verse must include all mankind, as it does in Romans 5:19, where St. Paul says, By one man’s disobedience MANY were made sinners.

Verse 3

Daniel 12:3. They that be wise — Namely, that are wise unto salvation through faith in Christ, that are truly godly and righteous, shall shine as the brightness of the firmament — Shall be clothed with glory and immortality; shall have bodies conformed to Christ’s glorious body; shall shine forth, says Jesus, as the sun in the kingdom of their Father, Matthew 13:43; and especially those shall be thus glorious who are wise to win souls; who, being well instructed themselves in divine things, shall lay themselves out to instruct, reclaim, and save others; such shall shine as the stars — That is, with a splendour like that of the luminaries of heaven, for ever and ever To all eternity. This seems chiefly to refer to the teachers of divine truth, and especially to those who confirm their doctrine by their sufferings and example: such shall undoubtedly receive a distinguished reward, though not procured by their own merit. The Judge of all the earth will certainly do right; and when he cometh, his reward is with him, to give to every man according as his work shall be, Revelation 22:12. And as he hath given the fullest assurance that there is a reward for the righteous; so he hath assured us also that it will be augmented, in proportion as men have laboured to be more extensively useful, and to advance the real and best interests of their fellow-creatures, namely, their spiritual and eternal interests.

Verse 4

Daniel 12:4. But thou, shut up the words, and seal the book — By this was intimated, 1st, That the writing of truth (see Daniel 10:21) was finished, and therefore the book that contained it is ordered to be closed; 2d, That the time of its full and final accomplishment was distant; for the prophecies which were shortly to be fulfilled are forbidden to be sealed, Revelation 22:10; Revelation 3 d, That it would in a great measure remain obscure, and as a sealed book, till the events predicted were about to take place; 4th, That care was to be taken to preserve this prophecy safe and secure, as a treasure of great value, laid up for future ages, to which it should be of great service. Till the time of the end — Or, the appointed time; till the things here foretold, begin to come to pass; that then thy prophecies may be compared with the events, and it may be seen how exactly they are fulfilled; and men may be struck with astonishment at the wisdom and knowledge of that God who could, so long beforehand, reveal such a variety of things to thee so fully and clearly. Many shall run to and fro — Many shall diligently search into these prophecies, and make use of all the means in their power to arrive at a true knowledge of them; shall improve all opportunities of getting their mistakes rectified, their doubts resolved, and their acquaintance with divine things in general, and with these and the other prophecies of God’s word in particular, improved and perfected. And knowledge shall be increased — By these means great light shall be thrown on every part of divine revelation, and especially on the parts that are prophetic: the more the predictions are accomplished, the better will they be understood; and future ages will receive more instruction and edification from them than we do. The words have an especial reference to gospel days; and the expression of running to and fro, doubtless points to the journeys, voyages, and labours of gospel ministers, whether apostles, evangelists, pastors, or teachers, who should traverse sea and land, and travel from place to place, from country to country, to spread the knowledge of divine truth, and testify the gospel of the grace of God.

Verse 5-6

Daniel 12:5-6. Then I, Daniel, looked — Here begins an account of a new vision that appeared to Daniel, confirming and explaining the former; for Gabriel, it seems, had finished his narrative, and what now follows is added by way of illustration. Some will have these other two angels to be the guardians of Persia and Greece; and from thence contend, that these two empires are the only ones concerned in the preceding scripture, or writing, of truth. But this is mere conjecture, unsupported by the relation here given. The one on this side of the bank of the river, &c. — Namely, the river Hiddekel, or Tigris, of which mention is made Daniel 10:4. And one said — Hebrew, And he said, that is, one of the angels. But the Syriac, Arabic, some of the Greek copies, and the Vulgate, read, And I said, meaning Daniel, to the man clothed in linen — Mentioned Daniel 10:5, (where see the note,) which was upon, or rather, above, the waters of the river — Namely, the Son of God, our High-Priest, who rules the nations, of which standing upon, or above, the waters, was an emblem: see Psalms 29:10. As a figure of this, Christ, in the days of his flesh, walked upon the waters, Matthew 14:25. How long shall it be to the end of these wonders — What is the time fixed in the divine counsels for the full accomplishment of these wonderful predictions? When shall these extraordinary events take place?

Verse 7

Daniel 12:7. And he held up his right hand and his left unto heaven — It was the general custom, in swearing, to lift up one hand to heaven: see Genesis 14:22; Deuteronomy 32:40; but here Christ is represented as holding up both his hands, as a greater confirmation of the truth and importance of what he was about to say; and sware by him that liveth for ever — By the self-existent and everlasting God. Thus the mighty angel, whom St. John saw, Revelation 10:5-6, is brought in, with a plain reference to this vision here, standing with his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the earth, and, with his hand lifted up to heaven, swearing that there should be no longer any delay of the execution of the divine counsels. That it should be for a time, times, and a half, or, the dividing of time, as it is expressed in Chaldee, Daniel 7:25, where see the note, which contains, understood literally, three years and a half, during which time the public sacrifices and worship were discontinued through the persecution of Antiochus, the type of antichrist. But this line of time is expressly applied to the antichristian persecution, Revelation 12:14, and is further explained in that chapter, Daniel 12:6, by one thousand two hundred and sixty days, which is three years and a half, reckoning three hundred and sixty days to a year: see note on Daniel 9:24. And if we suppose each day to signify a year, which is the prophetical sense of the word day, this period of time denotes one thousand two hundred and sixty years: see note on Daniel 8:14. And when he shall have accomplished to disperse the power of the holy people — When the dispersions of the Jews shall be ended, then the most remarkable events contained in this prophecy shall be fulfilled. The restoration of the Jewish nation is foretold by the prophets, as one of those signal events to be brought to pass in the latter days, or times, of the world. Mr. Mede makes this parallel with those words of Christ, Luke 21:24; Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled; that is, till the times of the fourth monarchy and the reign of antichrist be expired. Many commentators understand this last clause, which speaks of accomplishing to scatter the power of the holy people, not of the termination of the time of their dispersions, but of the beginning of it; and suppose that it will be one thousand two hundred and sixty years, from the beginning to the end of that time. But then, by the power of the holy people, they do not understand the Jews, but the Christians. They do not, therefore, calculate this period from the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, and the subsequent dispersion of the Jews; but from the time when the anti- christian usurpers began to scatter the power of true Christians, by false doctrines, persecutions, massacres, and religious wars; and they extend it to the period when these powers shall be subverted.

Verse 8-9

Daniel 12:8-9. And I heard, but I understood not — I did not understand what time was allotted for bringing to pass this event, namely, the restoration of the Jewish nation, or the complete overthrow of all antichristian powers. The prophets, it must be observed, did not always receive the interpretation of what was revealed to them, as appears from 1 Peter 1:11-12. “Study and particular application were required, and often an immediate revelation. The evidence which appears to us so clearly, in the greater part of the prophecies which respect Jesus Christ, and the establishment of the church, was under an impenetrable obscurity before the event. It was the same with respect to those which concerned the persecutions of Antiochus. All this was most inexplicable to the Jews, before they saw the completion; and it is pretty nearly the same at present with us respecting some future events foretold by the prophets, particularly in the book of Revelation, which are yet to be accomplished, and which consequently are dark, and difficult to be understood.” — Calmet. And he said, Go thy way, for the words are closed up, &c. — Be content with what has been made known to thee; (see Daniel 12:13;) for the full explication is deferred, till the time of its accomplishment draws near.

Verse 10

Daniel 12:10. Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried — See chap. Daniel 11:35, where the same words are found, but in different order. They are words of general and ordinary use, expressive of the purification intended to be produced in the minds of men by afflictions. If we would ascertain their import, the first word is borrowed from wheat, which is cleansed from the chaff; the second from cloth, which is whitened by the fuller; and the third from metal, tried and separated from its dross by goldsmiths. I would refer the whole, says Wintle, to the righteous, who, it is here foretold, should be cleansed by various tribulations and trials; but the like discipline would have no effect on the wicked: see Revelation 22:11. Their wickedness would blind their minds, so that they would not understand, nor attend to these predictions, which the wise, that is, the considerate and divinely enlightened, should understand; should be fully instructed in themselves, and so should be able to teach them to others: see Wintle.

Verse 11-12

Daniel 12:11-12. And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away — It is here declared, that the whole time that these calamities would last, should run somewhat beyond a time, times, and half a time, namely, thirty days beyond it; for a time, times, and a half signify only twelve hundred and sixty days, whereas here twelve hundred and ninety is mentioned as the term of duration; for which space of time, but not longer, the daily sacrifice should be taken away, or prohibited, and an idol be placed in the temple. Blessed is he that waiteth, or survives, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days — This period is forty-five days longer than the term last mentioned, or the twelve hundred and ninety days; and, if taken literally, and interpreted of the time of Antiochus’s persecution, is supposed to be spoken of the time of his death, when the Jewish nation was not only delivered from their calamities, but also from all fear of their being renewed.

Those who extend these predictions to the times of Popery and Mohammedanism, suppose that the expressions made use of to describe Antiochus’s persecutions are here applied to the desolations made by antichrist, of which those made by Antiochus were a figure: see note on Daniel 8:14; Daniel 11:36. And indeed they are expressions evidently applicable to different events, and have been accomplished at different times. “The setting up of the abomination of desolation,” says Bishop Newton, “appears to be a general phrase, and comprehensive of various events. It is applied by the writer of the first book of Maccabees, chap. 1 Maccabees 1:54, to the profanation of the temple by Antiochus, and his setting up the image of Jupiter Olympus upon the altar of God. It is applied by our Saviour, Matthew 24:15, to the destruction of the city and temple by the Romans, under the conduct of Titus. It may, for the same reason, be applied to the Emperor Adrian’s building a temple to Jupiter Capitolinus, in the same place where the temple of God had stood; and to the misery of the Jews, and the desolation of Judea that followed. It may, with equal justice, be applied to the Mohammedans’ invading and desolating Christendom, and converting the churches into mosques: and this latter event seems to have been particularly intended in this passage. If this interpretation be true, the religion of Mohammed will prevail in the East for the space of twelve hundred and sixty years, and then a great and glorious revolution will follow; perhaps the restoration of the Jews, perhaps the destruction of antichrist: but another still greater and more glorious will succeed; and what can this be so probably as the full conversion of the Gentiles to the church of Christ, and the beginning of the millennium, or the reign of the saints upon earth? For, Daniel 12:12, Blessed is he that waiteth and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days. Here, then, are three different periods assigned, twelve hundred and sixty, twelve hundred and ninety, and thirteen hundred and thirty-five years; but what is the precise time of their beginning, and consequently of their ending, as well as what are the great and signal events which will take place at the end of each period, we can only conjecture, time alone can with certainty discover. It is, indeed, no wonder, that we cannot fully understand and explain these things: for, as the angel said to Daniel himself, though many should run to and fro, should inquire and examine into these things, and thereby knowledge should be increased; yet the full understanding of them is reserved for the time of the end, to which time the words are closed up and sealed. But, however, the great uncertainty of these events, which remain yet to be fulfilled, cannot shake the credit and certainty of those which have already been accomplished.

“Upon the whole, what an amazing prophecy is this! comprehending so many various events, and extending through so many successive ages, from the first establishment of the Persian empire, above five hundred and thirty years before Christ, to the general resurrection! And the farther it extends, and the more it comprehends, the more amazing and the more divine it must appear. What stronger and more convincing proofs can be given or required of a divine providence, and a divine revelation; that there is a God who directs and orders the transactions of the world; and that Daniel was a prophet divinely inspired by him, a man greatly beloved, as he is often addressed by an angel! Our blessed Saviour hath bestowed upon him the appellation of Daniel the prophet, Matthew 24:15, and that is authority sufficient for any Christian; but, in the course of these notes, such instances and attestations of his being a prophet have been produced as an infidel cannot deny, or if he denies cannot disprove. In short, we see how well Daniel deserves the character which his contemporary, Ezekiel, hath given of him, Ezekiel 14:14-20; Ezekiel 28:3, for his piety and wisdom; and these usually go together: for, as the angel says above, Daniel 12:10, None of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand. Happy are they who both know the will of God and do it.”

Verse 13

Daniel 12:13. But go thou thy way till the end be — The prophet had been making inquiries respecting the end of these wonders; and the angel, having given him all the information that was needful either for himself or future times, now dismisses him, with an encouraging declaration concerning the happiness which awaited him in the heavenly world. Thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of thy days — Daniel was now ninety years of age, at least, and so could not expect to live much longer: and the angel here tells him, that after his life was ended, he should rest in peace with the righteous, namely, with respect to his soul; (compare Isaiah 57:2; Revelation 14:13;) and that at the resurrection, foretold Daniel 12:2, of this chapter, he should obtain a share of that inheritance which is reserved for the faithful servants of God, and which shall be actually conferred upon them at the conclusion of the times here specified, Daniel 12:12. Observe, reader, our time and days, yea, and all time and days, will soon have an end, and we must every one of us stand in our lot at the end of the days. In the judgment of the great day we must have our allotment according to what we were, and what we did, in the body, and we must stand for ever in that lot. It was a comfort to Daniel, and it is a comfort to all the saints, that whatever their lot is in the days of time, they shall have a happy lot in the end of the days. And it ought to be the great care and concern of every one of us, to secure a happy lot at that period; and then we may well be content with our present lot, whatever it may be, welcoming the will of God, in all things and at all times.


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Daniel 12:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. 1857.

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