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Daniel 8:13-14

13. Then I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot?

13. Et audivi sanctum unum loquentum: dixit ergo sanctus unus mirabili, dicemus postea de voce, loquens, Quousque visiom jugis sacrificii, et sceleris vastantis ad dandum, 5959     Some translate, How long will the vision be permitted? but it ought rather to be treated by the rules of grammar — “How long will be allowed for the vision of the perpetual sacrifice and the devastating wickedness?” — Calvin. et sanctuarium, et exercitus conculcatio. 6060     That is, for treading down. This word may be repeated. — Calvin.

14. And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.

14. Et dixit mihi, ad vesperum, mane, 6161     That is, until evening and morning. Calvin. — Wintle’s notes on these verses are very explanatory, and agree on the whole with Calvin’s comments. See Dissertation on this verse. — Ed. duo millia et trecenti anni: et justificabitur sanctuarium.


Here he expresses more clearly, what I formerly said, unfolding God’s intention of consoling and soothing the sorrows of the pious lest they should sink under the severity of their trials, at the sight of an impious tyrant domineering in the sanctuary of God. Besides, the spot which God had promised should be his perpetual dwelling-place, was exposed to impious superstitions, for the idol of Jupiter Olympius was erected there, the history of the Maccabees informs us. (2 Maccabees. 1:57; 2 Maccabees. 6:2.) God therefore wished to uphold his servants, lest too severe a temptation should overwhelm them, and lest trial in so many forms should cause them to yield and become deficient in piety through want of courage. But while Daniel is stupefied through astonishment, God provides for his infirmity by means of an angel. Daniel himself, without doubt, inquired concerning the vision as we shall see he did afterwards; but here God desired to meet him, as he saw the holy man so overcome by fear as scarcely to dare to make any inquiry. God, therefore, here affords no common proof of his paternal goodness and indulgence, in interposing and sending his angel to make inquiries in the Prophet’s name. He says, then, he heard a holy one, meaning an angel. For, although God deigns to call the faithful while dwelling in the world by this honorable title, yet the superior purity of angels is familiar to us, as they are altogether free from the lusts of the flesh. But we, alas! are detained in this prison-house, we are bound down in slavery to sin, and are polluted by much corruption. The holiness of angels, however, is far greater than that of mortals, and thus this attribute of “holiness” is properly applied to them. When Daniel was caught up by the prophetic spirit, he was separated from the society of men, and was admitted to that of angels.

An angel then, said to the wonderful one The Hebrews often use this expression when they mean “whoever it may be” — ploni almoni and apply it to places as well as persons. They use it also of any place unknown to them or concealed from them. They treat the noun as compounded of two words, and many interpret it of any one unknown, but I think the word to be more emphatic than this. 6262     Calvin means to imply that the Jews used these words to express the idea of the Latin phrase, “omne ignotum pro magnifico ” — Ed. Daniel here brings forward an angel speaking, and adds dignity to his description by calling him “holy.” Without doubt, then, the person of whom the angel asked the question was his superior; it is not likely that he would be called “a certain one,” while the angel is termed a holy one. Reason, then, requires the expression to be applied to some angel whose glory was incomprehensible, or at least far superior to ordinary ones; for, as Daniel calls one angel “holy,” so he would have called the rest, as we shall afterwards see. When treating, however, of a distinct being, he uses the word פלמוני, palmoni, and its etymology guides us to its sense, as meaning something mysterious and incomprehensible. Then, who does not see that Christ is denoted, who is the chief of angels and far superior to them all? In the ninth chapter of Isaiah, (Isaiah 9:6,) he is called פלא pela, “wonderful.” The word in the text is a compound one, as we have said, but as פלא pela, signifies “hidden” in Hebrew, as Christ is so called, and as in Judges 3:1, God claims this name as peculiarly his own, all these points agree well together. The sense then is, an angel comes to Christ for the sake of Daniel and of the whole Church, and seeks from him as from the supreme teacher and master, the meaning of the declarations which we have just heard. We need not feel surprise at angels inquiring into eternity, as if it were unknown to them. It is the property of Deity alone to know all things, while the knowledge of angels is necessarily limited. Paul teaches us to wonder at the Church being collected out of profane and strange people; this was a mystery hidden from angels themselves, before God really showed himself the father of the whole world. (Ephesians 3:10.) Hence, there is no absurdity in supposing angels to inquire into mysteries, as ignorance is not necessarily deserving of blame, and as God has not raised his creatures for his own level. It is his peculiar province to know all things, and to have everything under his eye. The angel desires to understand this mystery, not so much for his own sake as on account of the whole Church; for we know them to be our ministers, according to the clear testimony of the Apostle. (Hebrews 1:14.) As they keep watch over us so carefully, it does not surprise us to find the angel inquiring so anxiously concerning this vision, and thus benefiting the whole Church by the hand of Daniel.

Meanwhile, we must notice, how Christ is the chief of angels and also their instructor, because he is the eternal Wisdom of God. Angels, therefore, must draw all the light of their intelligence from that single fountain. Thus angels draw us to Christ by their example, and induce us to devote ourselves to him through the persuasion that this is the supreme and only wisdom. If we are his disciples, being obedient, humble, and teachable, we shall desire to know only what he will make manifest to us. But the angel asks. What is the meaning of the vision of the perpetual sacrifice, and of the sin? that is, what, is the object of the vision concerning the abrogation of the perpetual sacrifice, and concerning the sin which lays waste? As to the second point, we explained yesterday the various opinions of interpreters, some twisting it to Antiochus, who impiously dared to violate God’s temple, and others to the priests. But we said the people were intended, lest many, as they are accustomed, should blame the Almighty for so heavily afflicting the Church. But God wished to bear witness to the origin of this devastation from the sins of the people. It is just as if the angel had said, How long will the sacrifices cease? How long will this vengeance, by which God will chastise the wickedness of his people, endure? For the sin is called devastating, through being the cause of that calamity. It is afterwards added, how long will the sanctuary and the army be trodden, down? that is, how long will the worship of God, and true piety, and the people itself, be trodden down under this cruel tyranny of Antiochus? But this question has far more efficacy, than if the Prophet had said, as we saw yesterday, that the punishment should be uniform and temporal. It was now necessary to explain what had already been stated more clearly. Thus this question was interposed with the view of rendering Daniel more attentive, and of stirring up the people by this narrative to the pursuit of learning. For it is no common event when angels approach Christ for our sakes, and inquire into the events which concern the state and safety of the Church. As, therefore, angels discharge this duty, we must be worse than stony, if we are not urged to eagerness and carefulness in the pursuit of divine knowledge. We see, then, why this passage concerning the angel is interposed.

The phrase, And he said to me, now follows. This ought to be referred not to the angel inquiring, but to the Wonderful One. Whence we, rather gather the great anxiety of the angel concerning the interpretation of the prophecy, not for his own sake, but for the common benefit of the pious. Respecting this Wonderful One, though I am persuaded he was the Son of God, yet whoever he was, he certainly does not reject the angel’s request. Why then does he address Daniel rather than the angel? Because the angel was not seeking his own benefit, but took up the cause of the whole Church, as we have Shawn how angels are occupied in our salvation. Thus also we see how the angel notices the Prophet’s astonishment, when he was almost dead, and had not thought of inquiring for himself, or at least did not dare to break forth at once; for he afterwards recovered himself, and was raised up by the angel’s hand, as we shall soon perceive. The Wonderful One said to me — that is, the incomprehensible or the mysterious one said to me for two thousand three hundred evenings and mornings, then the sanctuary shall be justified Here the Hebrews are mutually at variance whether they ought to understand the number of years or of months; but it is surprising to perceive how grossly they are deluded in so plain a matter. The expression, to evening and morning, is not doubtful, since Christ, clearly means two thousand three hundred days; for what else can the phrase, morning and evening, signify? It cannot be used of either years or months. Evidently we ought to understand natural days here, consisting of twenty-four hours each. Those who receive it of years and months are wretchedly mistaken, and even ridiculous in their calculations. For some begin to calculate the, time from Samuel, they next descend to the reign of Saul, and next to that of David; and thus they foolishly trifle, through not understanding the intention of Christ, who wished his Church to be forewarned of the coming empires and slaughters, with the view of rendering the faithful invincible, however sorely they may be oppressed on all sides. Christ therefore wished to hold up a light to direct all the elect through the approaching darkness under the tyranny of Antiochus, and to assure them that in the very depths of it they would not be deserted by the favor of God. Hope would thus elevate their minds and all their senses unto the promised termination. To what purpose, then, do those interpreters speak of the reigns of Saul and David? We see this to be altogether foreign and adverse to the mind of Christ, and to the use of this prophecy. No less absurd is the guess of those who prate about months. Their refutation would occupy three or four hours, and would be a waste of time, utterly profitless. It is sufficient to gather this simple meaning from the words — Christ does not speak here of years or months, but of days. We must now seek the true interpretation of the passage from the whole context. We have shewn how impossible it is to explain this prophecy otherwise than by Antiochus: the event itself proves this to be its meaning. Blind indeed must be those who do not hold this principle — the small horn sprang from one of those remarkable and illustrious persons who came forth in place of one very large horn. Boys even know this by reading the accredited history of those times. As Christ here alluded to the tyranny of Antiochus, we must observe how his words accord with the facts. Christ numbers 2300 days for the pollution of the sanctuary, and this period comprehends six years and about four months. We know the Jews to have used lunar years as well as months. They afterwards used interealary periods, since twelve lunar months did not correspond with the sun’s course. The same custom prevailed among both Greeks and Romans. Julius Caesar first arranged for us the solar year, and supplied the defect by intercalary days, so that the months might accord with the sun’s course. But however that was, these days, as I have said, fill up six years and three months and a half. Now, if we compare the testimony of history, and especially of the book of Maccabees, with this prophecy, we shall find that miserable race oppressed for six years under the tyranny of Antiochus. The idol of Olympian Jove did not remain in the temple for six continuous years, but the commencement of the pollution occurred at the first attack, as if he would insult the very face of God. No wonder then if Daniel understood this vision of six years and about a third, because Antiochus then insulted the worship of God and the Law; and when he poured forth innocent blood promiscuously, no one dared openly to resist him. As, therefore, religion was then laid prostrate on the ground, until the cleansing of the temple, we see how very clearly the prophecy and the history agree, as far as this narrative is concerned. Again, it is clear the purifying of the temple could not have been at the end of the sixth current year, but in the month כסלו, keslu, answering to October or November, as leaned men prudently decide, it was profaned. For this month among the Jews begins sometimes in the middle of October, and sometimes at the end, according to the course of the moon; for we said the months and years were lunar. In the month Keslu the temple was polluted; in the month אדר Ader, about three months afterwards, near its close, the Maccabees purged it. (1 Maccabees 4:36.) Thus the history confirms in every way what Daniel had predicted many ages previously — nay, nearly three hundred years before it came to pass. For this occurred a hundred and fifty years after the death of Alexander. Some time also had already elapsed, as there were eight or ten kings of Persia between the deaths of Cyrus and Darius. I do not remember any but the chief events just now, and it ought it to be sufficient for us to perceive how Daniel’s predictions were fulfilled in their own season, as historians clearly narrate. Without the slightest doubt, Christ predicted the profanation of the temple, and this would depress the spirits of the pious as if God had betrayed them, had abandoned all care of his temple, and had given up his election and his covenant entirely. Christ therefore wished to support the spirit of the faithful by this prediction, thereby informing them how fully they deserved these future evils, in consequence of their provoking God’s wrath; and yet their punishment should be temporary, because the very God who announced its approach promised at the same time a prosperous issue.

Respecting the phrase, the sanctuary shall be justified, some translate it — “Then the sanctuary shall be expiated;” but I prefer retaining the proper sense of the word. We know how usually the Hebrews use the word “justify” when they speak of rights. When their own rights are restored to those who have been deprived of them — when a slave has been blessed with his liberty — when he who has been unjustly oppressed obtains his cause, the Hebrews use this word “justified.” As God’s sanctuary was subject to infamy by’ the image of Olympian Jove being exhibited there, all respect for it had passed away; for we know how the glory of the temple sprang from the worship of God. As the temple had been defiled by so great disgrace, it was then justified, when God established his own sacrifices again, and restored his pure worship as prescribed by the Law. The sanctuary, therefore, shall be justified; that is, vindicated from that disgrace to which for a time it had been subject. It follows: —

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