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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Daniel 10

 

 

Verse 1

1. For Cyrus see our Introduction to Daniel, III, 3, (6), and note Daniel 6:28; for Daniel… Belteshazzar see Introduction, II, 8; III, 1, and notes Daniel 1:7; Daniel 2:26. Bosanquet (Messiah the Prince) thinks this verse is an interpolation, being opposed to Daniel 9:2; Zechariah 1:12; but this is not probable, as the versions differ no more here than in other passages.

Thing — Or, word.

But the time appointed was long — R.V., “even great warfare.” The obscurity of the text may be seen by the fact that Hebrew scholars of the greatest renown have variously rendered this phrase, “and the word is truth, and great distress; and he heeded the word and gave heed to the vision;” or, “and truth is the revelation and (the) distress is great; and understand thou the revelation, and understand it in the vision.” The R.V., however, is a good translation of the Hebrew text as it stands, and makes good sense. The “warfare” referred to is that between Gabriel and the guardian angel of Persia of which the prophet now hears for the first time. (See Daniel 10:13 and chap. 11.)

Third year — Various reasons have been given, such as his great age and the need of his services in Babylon, why Daniel had not returned back to the Holy Land with his companions; but this question is not raised at all in the narrative. His “sorrow” seems as great as it had been in the reign of Darius, before the edict was given by Cyrus for the return of the Jews to their native land. (See notes Daniel 10:2-4; Daniel 9:1-4.) There is no necessary contradiction to history here. Such a return as was actually accomplished was very different from the triumphant victories which, according to Jeremiah’s prophecy, might have been expected by an exilic prophet. (See notes Daniel 9:2; Daniel 9:24.)


Verses 2-4

2-4. Daniel observes another period of mourning over the sins of the people, the desolation of Jerusalem, and his own ignorance of the future (see Daniel 10:14; compare Daniel 9:3, etc.), and after three weeks, in which he had eaten no “dainties” and observed the usual external marks of one in great sorrow or of one who fasted before the Lord, hoping for some special divine token of favor (compare 2 Samuel 14:2), finally, on the 29th of Abib (Nisan), as he was on the bank of the great river Hiddekel, another vision burst upon him in answer to his prayers. It is interesting to remember that this was the month in which the great Passover Feast was held, and the date given shows that instead of feasting at the passover as was customary, he was fasting. This may be the reason why the date is given so explicitly. The Hiddekel (Genesis 2:14) is without doubt the Tigris, one Assyrian form of that name being Idiglat.


Verse 5-6

5, 6. This angelic man (doubtless Gabriel, Daniel 9:21), clothed in the pure white linen robes of Jehovah’s priest (Leviticus 6:10; compare Ezekiel 9:2), is very like the man Ezekiel saw on Jehovah’s throne (Ezekiel 1:4; Ezekiel 1:24; Ezekiel 1:26), and very like the transfigured Christ afterward seen by the apostle John (Revelation 1:13-15); but all those who live near to God grow to look like him (compare Revelation 19:10-11). His girdle was of the gold of Uphaz, or, with the change of one consonant, Ophir. (Compare Psalms 45:9.) Beryl is almost universally supposed to be chrysolite. (See note Ezekiel 1:16.)


Verse 7

7. Too many men are ready to flee, when they feel they are in the presence of God, instead of waiting for the revealing vision. (Compare Acts 9:7; Exodus 20:18-20.) Whether the companions of Daniel were courtiers or servants or fellow Hebrews, who were fasting with him, is not intimated.


Verse 8

8. Daniel alone remained, but though accustomed to visions and angelic presences (Daniel 7:10; Daniel 7:16; Daniel 9:21) he was almost prostrated by the awe which this dazzling, heavenly form inspired. (Compare Luke 9:32.)

For my comeliness was turned in me into corruption — Daniel’s natural “splendor” (Hebrews) of countenance faded before the splendor of this celestial messenger, and his face became ghastly with the pallor of death. (Compare Daniel 7:28.)


Verse 9

9. He almost or quite fainted away, as he had previously done at the sound of the awe-inspiring voice and at the deep mysteries of these divine revelations. (See notes Daniel 8:18; Daniel 8:27.)


Verse 10

10. The touch of the mighty hand of this messenger of Jehovah (compare Ezekiel 3:14; Ezekiel 3:22; Ezekiel 8:1; Ezekiel 8:3, etc.) shocked (literally, “shook”) the prophet upon his hands and knees, though he was still “tottering” with weakness and his face was to the earth.


Verse 11

11. Before the king of Babylon all courtiers were accustomed to bow with their foreheads in the dust. It was natural for Daniel, therefore, even when strength returned to his limbs, to retain this most humble attitude before this one who looked glorious enough to be Jehovah himself. But this beloved one (compare Daniel 9:23) is called to his feet to receive Jehovah’s word. (See note Ezekiel 2:1.) The angel in this case is the servant sent by heaven’s King to the prophet he delights to honor, and one so exalted of Jehovah is not the inferior even of an angel, and must not occupy such a position of humility and fear. (Compare Hebrews 1:14.)


Verse 12

12. For thy words — Rather, with R.V., “for thy words’ sake.” What power in prayer! It moves all heaven and brings the powers of heaven with help. Sometimes the answer to the prayer comes only after many years of waiting; sometimes after a few weeks of continuous fasting and beseeching as in this case; sometimes “in the day” when one cries (Daniel 9:20; Daniel 10:2; <19D803>Psalms 138:3).


Verse 13

13. The angel would have reached Daniel with an answer to his petition, that the future of his people might be a blessed future (see note Daniel 10:2-4), on the very day when his fasting and prayer began (the third day of the month) — in which case he would have been able to enjoy the passover feast on the 14th — if it had not been for an unexpected delay and bitter struggle with the prince of the kingdom of Persia. (See note Daniel 10:1.) This prince could hardly have been Cyrus, as so many commentators have supposed. The angel Gabriel could not have been detained in his mission by any earthly potentate. Rather, this prince of one of the beast kingdoms is imaged as a “prince of darkness” representing one of the “powers” and “spirits of wickedness” (Ephesians 6:12) which are at enmity with righteousness. This “war” could not mean simply an attempt of the angel to influence the mind of the prince of Persia and change his political designs against Israel. Rather, this “guardian angel” of a beast nation is supposed to be the adversary of any angel of light, and especially of one who bears a message of ruin for all the worldly kingdoms of evil and a message of eternal sovereignty for the new human Messianic kingdom of righteousness. The difficult and complicated questions which might arise concerning angels and demons cannot be discussed here. That God permits evil men to live in rebellion against his authority, and with a far-reaching harmful influence upon redeemed souls, is as mysterious as that he permits wicked angels to live. The Scriptures take the existence of angels for granted; but show a gradual development of belief or knowledge concerning them. Behrmann says of the angelology of Daniel, “In general we meet here no conceptions which had not been intimated or plainly begun in earlier or contemporary books.” He refers to Judges 5:20, and Isaiah 24:21, where these celestial beings mix up in the struggle of earthly nations, and points out that even the idea of archangels acting as patrons or guardians of nations meets us in Deuteronomy 32:8 (LXX.), while Israel from the beginning has its national archangel or protector (Exodus 14:19; Numbers 20:16; Zechariah 12:8). Dr. A.B. Davidson, however (art. “Angel,” in Hastings’s Dictionary of the Bible), well shows that the “angel of Jehovah” mentioned in these latter references is positively identified in the Scriptures with Jehovah himself. (See Genesis 16:10; Genesis 31:11; Exodus 3:2; Exodus 3:6, etc.) Daniel is the only book of the Old Testament in which the angels are ever given names, and in which their difference of rank and national guardianship is emphasized.

How far this picturesque angelology may be due to the figurative speech so natural and necessary to orientals, cannot perhaps be determined. In the Persian angelology, at a period not much later than the exile, each angel represented some attribute of deity. This same method of speech undoubtedly meets us in other places in the Scriptures. God’s chariots and horses are said to be the storm clouds (Habakkuk 3:8); the spirit of prophecy is “objectivized” as a man (Ezekiel 40:3; 1 Kings 22:21; Zechariah 1:13; Zechariah 1:19; Zechariah 3:3), while the operations of Jehovah among the nations are personified as horsemen and chariots, and the seven lamps of Zechariah’s vision are seven “eyes,” these seven eyes being the seven “spirits of God.” Much of what seems to us bald and literal may have really been symbolical. Both in Job and Zechariah we meet with the angelic Satan, the “opposer” or “accuser” who appears as the well-known enemy of good men; but of the archangels only Michael and Gabriel are mentioned by name in Scripture, though in the later Apocrypha the names of several others (Raphael, Uriel, etc.) are given. The Jews had a definite memory that they obtained the names of these angels in Babylon. Gabriel (or, as the name signifies, God’s hero — see note Daniel 8:16), though never called “archangel” in Scripture, is always given especial dignity in work and the highest honor in the heavenly hierarchy. He has been well called “the heavenly evangelist” (Godet) who preludes the work of the Messiah as the Saviour of the world (Luke 1:19; Luke 1:26). Michael is distinctly called “the archangel” in the New Testament (Judges 1:9), and is given so lofty a position in both Old and New Testaments that many scholars have argued that Michael (“who is God,” or, “who is as God”) was merely the title of the “Angel of Jehovah” and the “Messenger of the covenant,” who was the second person in the Godhead and afterward manifested as Immanuel, “God with us.” He is here called one of the chief princes, and later more clearly the prince who “standeth” for Israel (Daniel 10:21; Daniel 12:1). Some writers would even infer from the various references to these two angels that “Michael was the son of God as the strong contestant against Satan for his people, and Gabriel was the son of God in his loving proclamation of the good tidings.” While these views are homiletically attractive, they are not generally approved by critical scholars. It may perhaps be better to understand, with Davidson, that here, according to the oriental style, the “spirits” of Persia and Greece (Daniel 10:20) are personified as angelic or demonic beings, while the “spirit” of Israel is represented by this mighty, victorious, divinely endowed archangel Michael. This vision of a heavenly conflict between the nations’ angelic representatives would thus be entirely analogous to the vision of the Battle of the Beasts previously described (7, 8). Each nation is here pictorially represented with an angelic prince at its head as each Church with a special angel at its head (Revelation 2:2; Revelation 2:8; Revelation 2:12; Revelation 2:18, etc.). Persia’s representative could not be subdued until this angelic prince of the Jewish people took part in the conflict. It is not at all unlikely that the Babylonians were familiar with this idea that each nation had a protecting genius. (See closing note Daniel 10:21.)

And I remained there with the kings of Persia — Out of the numberless translations of these obscure words, the best is that of Prince, “While I was left alone there, contending with the kings of Persia,” or that of the original LXX., “And I left him there with the commander of the Persian king.” According to the former interpretation the emphasis is placed upon the help afforded by Israel’s angel to the solitary warrior of Jehovah, the victory being inferred. According to the latter, Michael takes Gabriel’s place in the battle while he, being relieved from attack, hastens on his way to deliver God’s message to Daniel.


Verse 14

14. For yet the vision is for many days — R.V., “for the vision is yet for many days;” that is, the vision of victory for Israel and her complete deliverance from persecution and affliction reaches into the far distance. Jeremiah prophesied great glory for Israel at the end of the seventy years of captivity; but the perfect fulfillment and consummation of those prophecies will not come until the Messianic age. (See notes Daniel 9:22; Daniel 9:24.)


Verse 15

15. Daniel drops his eyes — which had previously been uplifted in hope (Daniel 10:11-12) — and becomes speechless with grief because of the delay of this complete deliverance, which (from the study of Jeremiah’s writings) he had been led to believe would immediately follow the end of the Babylonish captivity.


Verse 16

16. One like the similitude of the sons of men — Theodotion renders “son of man” instead of “sons of men.” The clear meaning is that one having human appearance — but whom he did not dare to speak of as man merely — touched him. As Gabriel was alone when he left the field of battle (note Daniel 10:13), and as no other angelic beings have been mentioned, it is almost certain that it was he who touched the prophet’s lips as he had once before given him a shock of new life (Daniel 10:10). As Daniel’s eyes are on the ground he only sees the human outline of this glorious figure as it approaches him. (Compare Daniel 10:5-6.)

My sorrows are turned upon me — Rather, my pangs. It is a word used for the agonies of childbirth (1 Samuel 4:19). For the occasion of these sorrows see note Daniel 10:15.


Verse 17

17. For — Rather, And. In addition to the pains of disappointed hope (Daniel 10:15-16) he is overawed by the splendor and majesty of this heavenly visitor notwithstanding his gracious assurances. (See note Daniel 10:11.)


Verse 18-19

18, 19. Once more the angel strengthens him by a touch and comforts him with tender words. (Compare Daniel 10:10-11; note Daniel 10:16.) It is to be noted that even more than by his touch Daniel was strengthened by the angelic appeal to be strong. Even by the angels and the God of all angels the human will is honored. Man should not lose his strength, his self-possession, and his power of reason even in the presence of the supernatural.


Verse 20

20. Gabriel, “the angel of prophecy” (Ewald), recalls to the mind of the strengthened prophet that he had come for the sake of unveiling the future of Israel in answer to his prayer (note Daniel 10:2; Daniel 10:14), and adds that after giving this revelation he must return to do his part in carrying it out by continuing the fight with the “spirit” of Persia. (See note Daniel 10:13.) Daniel is distinctly said to have received this vision during the Persian supremacy (Daniel 10:1), and he is now told that the empire which shall follow the Persian will be the Grecian.


Verse 21

21. R.V. reads, “But I will tell thee that which is inscribed in the writing of truth: and there is none that holdeth with me against these, but Michael your prince.” Kautzsch’s free reading probably gives the true thought, “But yet will I let thee know what has been noted down in the book of truth, though no one assists me against those except your guardian angel Michael.” A page from this “book” in which is written the divine decrees concerning the future (compare Psalms 139:16) is now to be opened to the prophet. The angel has already intimated that two of the coming enemies of Israel are to be Persia and Greece, and he now states that against these (as doubtless against all the enemies which are to follow) himself and Michael are the only opponents. (See note Daniel 10:13.) But surely, with the mighty angel Gabriel on Israel’s side (seeverses 5 and 6) victory is certain. Take heart, Daniel!

This picture prophecy is most vivid. All language in the beginning is a language of pictures, and unlike all others it retains its freshness and interest to all time. This chapter has given us the seeds of thought out of which a Milton’s “Paradise Lost” could spring forth. The great spiritual lesson taught here is needed in every age. Heavenly forces are operating in the affairs of nations. The fall and rise of empires are determined not alone by the weapons of earth but by invisible conflicts between spiritual forces. The destinies of mankind are settled in heaven. Daniel is assured by this picture lesson, as previously by the warfare between the symbolic “beasts,” that Israel, small and weak as she is, has heavenly protectors.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Daniel 10:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/daniel-10.html. 1874-1909.


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Friday, October 20th, 2017
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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