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Daniel 12:5-7

5. Then I Daniel looked, and, behold, there stood other two, the one on this side of the bank of the river, and the other on that side of the bank of the river.

5. Et aspexi ego Daniel, et ecce duo alii stantes, unus hac ad ripam fluminis, et unus, id est, alter, illac ad ripam fluminis. 196196     That is, one on one side, and the other on the opposite. — Calvin.

6. And one said to the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, How long shall it be to the end of these wonders?

6. Et dixit ad virum qui indutus erat lineis, vestibus subaudiendum est, qui erat supra aquas fluminis, 197197     That is, stood above the bank. — Calvin. Quousque finis mirabilium?

7. And I heard the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand unto heaven, and swear by him that liveth for ever that it shall be for a time, times, and an half; and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished.

7. Et audivi virum indutum lineis, qui erat supra aquas fluvii, et sustulit dextram suam, et sinistram suam versus coelos, et juravit per viventem in aeternum, quod ad tempus praefixum, tempora praefixa, et dimidium: et ut consumpserint, vel, compleverint, dispersionem, vel, contritionem, manus populi sancti, complebuntur omnia haec.

 

Daniel here relates his vision of other angels standing on each bank of the river. He alludes to the Tigris which he had previously mentioned, as the vision was offered to him there. He says, One asked the other, How long will it be to the end? He who was asked, swore, with hands upraised to heaven, by the living God, that no single prediction was in vain, since the truth would be evident in its own period, and men must wait for the time, times, and half a time This is a summary of the passage. When he says he beheld, he commends to our notice the certainty of the vision. Unless he had been attentive, and had applied his mind seriously to these mysteries, his narrative would have failed to produce confidence. But as his mind was completely calm, and he was desirous of receiving the instruction conveyed by God through his angel, not the slightest doubt can be thrown upon what he so faithfully delivers to us. He speaks of angels as if they were men, for the reason previously assigned. He does not imply their being really men, but uses that expression in consequence of their outward appearance, for as they had a human face, they were called men. I do not assert their bodies to be merely imaginary, nor will I say Daniel saw only special forms and human shapes, for God might have clothed his angels in real bodies for the time, and yet they would not on that account become men. For Christ took upon Him our flesh and was truly man, while He was God manifest in flesh. (1 Timothy 3:16.) But this is not true of angels, who received only a temporary body while performing the duties of their office There is no doubt of this assertion, — the name of “men” cannot properly belong to angels, but it suits yew well the human form or likeness which they sometimes wore.

It does not surprise us to find one angel questioning another. When Paul is extolling the mystery of the calling of the Gentiles, which had been hidden from the preceding ages, he adds, — it was an object of wonder to angels, as they had never hoped for it, and so it had not been revealed to them. (Ephesians 3:10.) So wonderfully does God work in his Church, that he causes admiration among the angels in heaven, by leaving many things unknown to them, as Christ testifies concerning the last day. (Matthew 24:36.) This is the reason why the angel uses the interrogation, How long is it to the end of these wonders? God doubtless here urged the angel to inquire into an event veiled in obscurity, for the purpose of waking up our attention. Absurd indeed would it be for us to pass by these things with inattention, when angels themselves display such anxiety by their questions, while they perceive traces of the secret power of God. Unless we are remarkably stupid, this doubt of the angel ought to stir us up to greater diligence and attention. This also is the force of the word פלאות phlaoth, “wonderful things;” for the angel calls everything which he did not understand, wonderful. If the comparison be allowable, how great would be our ingratitude not to give our whole attention to the consideration of these mysteries which angels are compelled to confess to be beyond their grasp! The angel, as if he were astonished, calls those things “wonderful” which were hidden not only from the minds of men, but also from himself and his companions. But the other answers; whence some difference, although not a perpetual one, exists between the angels. The philosophy of Dionysius ought not to be admitted here, who speculates too cunningly, or rather too profanely, when treating the order of angels. But I only state the existence of some difference, because God assigns various duties to certain angels, and he dispenses to each a certain measure of grace and revelation, according to his pleasure. We know there is but one teacher of men and angels, — the Son of God, who is his eternal wisdom and truth. This passage may be referred to Christ, but as I cannot make any positive assertion, I am content with the simple statement already made. He states this angel’s clothing to have been linen garments, implying splendor. Linen garments were then of great value; hence an ornament and decoration is here applied to angels, as God separates them from the common herd of men. Thus Daniel would the more easily comprehend these persons not to be earth-born mortals, but angels clad by God for a short period in the human form.

He says, This angel raised up his hands to heaven Those who consider this action as a symbol of power are mistaken, for without doubt the Prophet intended to manifest the usual method of swearing. They usually raised the right hand, according to the testimony of numerous passages of Scripture. I have raised my hand towards God. (Genesis 14:22.) Here the angel raises both his hands, wishing by this action to express the importance of the subject. Thus to raise both hands, as if doubling the oath, is stronger than raising the right hand after the ordinary manner. We must consider then the use of both hands as intended to confirm the oath, as the subject was one of great importance. It follows, for a time, times, and half a time I have stated my objection to the opinion of those who think one year, and two, and a half, to be here intended. I confess the passage ought to be understood of that pollution of the Temple which the Prophet has already treated. History clearly assures us that the Temple was not cleansed till the close of the third year, and seven or eight months afterwards. That explanation may suit its own passage, but with reference to the doctrine here delivered, its meaning is very simple, time means a long period, times, a longer period, and a half means the end or closing period. The sum of the whole is this’ many years must elapse before God fulfills what his Prophet had declared. Time therefore signifies a long period; times, double this period; as if he had said, While the sons of God are kept in suspense so long without obtaining an answer to their petitions, the time will be prolonged, nay, even doubled. We see then that a time does not mean precisely one year, nor do times signify two years, but an indefinite period. With respect to the half of a time, this is added for the comfort of the pious, to prevent their sinking under the delay, because God does not accomplish their desire. Thus they rest patiently until this “time” as well as “the times” pass away. Besides, the issue is set before them by the words half a time, to prevent them from despairing through excessive weariness. I admit the allusion to years, but the words are not to be understood literally but metaphorically, signifying, as I have already stated, an indefinite period.

He afterwards adds, And in the complement or consumption of the dispersion or contrition of the hand of God’s people, all these things shall be fulfilled: first, the time must pass away, next, the times must be added, then the half time must follow; all these things must arrive at their accomplishment, and when they are thoroughly completed, says he, then will come the contrition of the hand of the holy people The angel again proclaims how the Church of God should be oppressed by many calamities; and thus the whole of this verse contains an exhortation to endurance, to prevent the faithful from becoming utterly hopeless, and completely losing their spirits, in consequence of their suffering severe and multiplied cares, not for a few months merely, but for a lengthened duration. He uses this phrase, the wearing down of the hand of the holy people — if you please to read it so — metaphorically, meaning, the holy people should be deprived of strength, just as if their hands were completely worn down. Whatever agility men possess is usually shewn in the hands, and they were given to men by God for the special purpose of being extended to all parts of the body, and for executing the ordinary operations of mankind. This metaphor is now very suitable, as the people were so mutilated, as to be deprived of all strength and rigor. This is a slight sketch of the meaning of the clause.

If we read “dispersion” according to the common signification, it will suit very well, since the hand of the holy people should be dispersed; meaning, the Church should be a stranger in the world, and be dispersed throughout it. This was continually fulfilled from that day to the present. How sad is the dispersion of the Church in these days! God indeed defends it by His power, but this is beyond human expectation For how does the body of the Church now appear to us? how has it appeared throughout all ages? surely it has ever been torn in pieces and dispersed. Hence the angel’s prediction is not in vain, if we adopt the interpretation — the hand of the holy people should be dispersed — but yet the end should be prosperous, as he had previously announced, when treating of its resurrection and final salvation. It now follows:


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