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CHAPTER IV

INTRODUCTION TO THE CONCLUDING VISION

The remaining section of the Book of Daniel forms but one vision, of which this chapter is the Introduction or Prologue.

Daniel is here spoken of in the third person.

It is dated in the third year of Cyrus (b.c. 535).639639   The LXX. date it in "the first year of Cyrus," perhaps an intentional alteration (i. 21). We see from Ezra, Nehemiah, and the latest of the Minor Prophets that there was scarcely even an attempt to restore the ruined walls of Jerusalem before b.c. 444. We have already been told that Daniel lived to see the first year of Cyrus (i. 21). This verse, if accepted historically, would show that at any rate Daniel did not return to Palestine with the exiles. Age, high rank, and opportunities of usefulness in the Persian Court may have combined to render his return undesirable for the interests of his people. The date—the last given in the life of the real or ideal Daniel—is perhaps here mentioned to account for the allusions which follow to the kingdom of Persia. But with the great and moving fortunes of the Jews after the accession of Cyrus, and even with the beginning of their new national life in Jerusalem, the author is scarcely at all concerned. He makes no mention of Zerubbabel the prince, nor of Joshua the priest, nor of the decree of293 Cyrus, nor of the rebuilding of the Temple; his whole concern is with the petty wars and diplomacy of the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes, of which an account is given, so minute as either to furnish us with historical materials unknown to any other historian, or else is difficult to reconcile with the history of that king's reign as it has been hitherto understood.

In this chapter, as in the two preceding, there are great difficulties and uncertainties about the exact significance of some of the verses, and textual emendations have been suggested. The readers of the Expositor's Bible would not, however, be interested in minute and dreary philological disquisitions, which have not the smallest moral significance, and lead to no certain result. The difficulties affect points of no doctrinal importance, and the greatest scholars have been unable to arrive at any agreement respecting them. Such difficulties will, therefore, merely be mentioned, and I shall content myself with furnishing what appears to be the best authenticated opinion.

The first and second verses are rendered partly by Ewald and partly by other scholars, "Truth is the revelation, and distress is great;640640   Lit. "great warfare." It will be seen that the A.V. and R.V. and other renderings vary widely from this; but nothing very important depends on the variations. Instead of taking the verbs as imperatives addressed to the reader, Hitzig renders, "He heeded the word, and gave heed to the vision." therefore understand thou the revelation, since there is understanding of it in the vision." The admonition calls attention to the importance of "the word," and the fact that reality lies beneath its enigmatic and apocalyptic form.

Daniel had been mourning for three full weeks,294641641   Lit. "weeks of days" (Gen. xli. 1; Deut. xxi. 13: "years of days"). during which he ate no dainty bread,642642   "Bread of desires" is the opposite of "bread of affliction" in Deut. xvi. 3. Comp. Gen. xxvii. 25; Isa. xxii. 13, etc. nor flesh, nor wine, nor did he anoint himself with oil.643643   Comp. Amos vi. 6; Ruth iii. 3; 2 Sam. xii. 20, xiv. 2. But in the Passover month of Abib or Nisan, the first month of the year, and on the twenty-fourth day of that month,644644   He fasted from Abib 3 to 24. The festival of the New Moon might prevent him from fasting on Abib 1, 2. he was seated on the bank of the great river, Hiddekel or Tigris,645645   Hiddekel ("the rushing") occurs only in Gen. ii. 14. It is the Assyrian idiglat. when, lifting up his eyes, he saw a certain man clothed in fine linen like a Jewish priest, and his loins girded with gold of Uphaz.646646   For the girdle see Ezek. xxiii. 15. Ewald (with the Vulg., Chald., and Syriac) regards Uphaz as a clerical error for Ophir (Psalm xlv. 9). LXX., Μωφάζ (Jer. x. 9, where alone it occurs). The LXX. omit it here. Vulg., Auro obrizo. His body was like chrysolite,647647   Heb., eben tarshish (Exod. xxviii. 2); Vulg., crysolithus; R.V. and A.V., "beryl" (Ezek. i. 16). Comp. Skr., tarisha, "the sea." his face flashed like lightning, his eyes were like torches of fire, his arms and feet gleamed like polished brass,648648   Theodot., τὰ σκέλη; LXX., οἱ πόδες (Rev. i. 15)—lit. "foot-hold"; Vulg., quæ deorsum sunt usque ad pedes. and the sound of his words was as the sound of a deep murmur.649649   This description of the vision follows Ezek. i. 16-24, ix. 2, and is followed in Rev. i. 13-15. The "deep murmur" is referred to the sound of the sea by St. John; A.V., "the voice of a multitude"; LXX., θόρυβος. Comp. Isa. xiii. 4; Ezek. xliii. 2. Daniel had companions with him;650650   Rashi guesses that they were Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. they did not see the vision, but some supernatural terror fell upon them, and they fled to hide themselves.651651   Comp. Acts ix. 7, xxii. 11.

At this great spectacle his strength departed, and295 his brightness was changed to corruption;652652   Comp. Hab. iii. 16; Dan. viii. 18. and when the vision spoke he fell to the earth face downwards. A hand touched him, and partly raised him to the trembling support of his knees and the palms of his hands,653653   Lit. "shook" or "caused me to tremble upon my knees and the palms of my hand." and a voice said to him, "Daniel, thou greatly beloved,654654   x. 11. LXX., ἄνθρωπος ἐλεεινὸς εἶ; Tert., De Jejun., 7, "homo es miserabilis" (sc., "jejunando"). stand upright, and attend; for I am sent to thee." The seer was still trembling; but the voice bade him fear not, for his prayer had been heard, and for that reason this message had been sent to him. Gabriel's coming had, however, been delayed for three weeks, by his having to withstand for twenty days the prince of the kingdom of Persia.655655   The protecting genius of Persia (Isa. xxiv. 21; Psalm lxxxii.; Ecclus. xvii. 17). The necessity of continuing the struggle was only removed by the arrival of Michael, one of the chief princes,656656   Michael, "who is like God" (Jude 9; Rev. xii. 7). to help him, so that Gabriel was no longer needed657657   Heb., nôthartî. "I came off victorious," or "obtained the precedence" (Luther, Gesenius, etc.); "I was delayed" (Hitzig); "I was superfluous" (Ewald); "Was left over" (Zöckler); "I remained" (A.V.); "Was not needed" (R.V. marg.). The LXX. and Theodoret seem to follow another text. to resist the kings of Persia.658658   LXX., "with the army of the king of the Persians." The vision was for many days,659659   Again the text and rendering are uncertain. and he had come to enable Daniel to understand it.

Once more Daniel was terrified, remained silent, and fixed his eyes on the ground, until one like the sons of men touched his lips, and then he spoke to apologise for his timidity and faintheartedness.

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A third time the vision touched, strengthened, blessed him, and bade him be strong. "Knowest thou," the angel asked, "why I am come to thee? I must return to fight against the Prince of Persia, and while I am gone the Prince of Greece [Javan] will come. I will, however, tell thee what is announced in the writing of truth, the book of the decrees of heaven, though there is no one to help me against these hostile princes of Persia and Javan, except Michael your prince."

The difficulties of the chapter are, as we have said, of a kind that the expositor cannot easily remove. I have given what appears to be the general sense. The questions which the vision raises bear on matters of angelology, as to which all is purposely left vague and indeterminate, or which lie in a sphere wholly beyond our cognisance.

It may first be asked whether the splendid angel of the opening vision is also the being in the similitude of a man who thrice touches, encourages, and strengthens Daniel. It is perhaps simplest to suppose that this is the case,660660   So Hitzig and Ewald. The view that they are distinct persons is taken by Zöckler, Von Lengerke, etc. Other guesses are that the "man clothed in linen" is the angel who called Gabriel (viii. 16); or Michael; or "the angel of the Covenant" (Vitringa); or Christ; or "he who letteth" (ὁ κατέχων, 2 Thess. ii. 7), whom Zöckler takes to be "the good principle of the world-power." and that the Great Prince tones down his overpowering glory to more familiar human semblance in order to dispel the terrors of the seer.

The general conception of the archangels as princes of the nations, and as contending with each other, belongs to the later developments of Hebrew opinion on such subjects.661661   Thus in the LXX. (Dent, xxxii. 8) we read of angels of the nations. See too Isa. xlvi. 2; Jer. xlvi. 25. Comp. Baruch iv. 7; Ecclus. xvii. 17; Frankel, Vorstudien, p. 66. Some have supposed that the "princes"297 of Persia and Javan to whom Gabriel and Michael are opposed are, not good angels, but demonic powers,—"the world-rulers of this darkness"—subordinate to the evil spirit whom St. Paul does not hesitate to call "the god of this world," and "the prince of the powers of the air." This is how they account for this "war in heaven," so that "the dragon and his angels" fight against "Michael and his angels." Be that as it may, this mode of presenting the guardians of the destinies of nations is one respecting which we have no further gleams of revelation to help us.

Ewald regards the two last verses of the chapter as a sort of soliloquy of the angel Gabriel with himself. He is pressed for time. His coming has already been delayed by the opposition of the guardian-power of the destinies of Persia. If Michael, the great archangel of the Hebrews, had not come to his aid, and (so to speak) for a time relieved guard, he would have been unable to come. But even the respite leaves him anxious. He seems to feel it almost necessary that he should at once return to contend against the Prince of Persia, and against a new adversary, the Prince of Javan, who is on his way to do mischief. Yet on the whole he will stay and enlighten Daniel before he takes his flight, although there is no one but Michael who aids him against these menacing princes. It is difficult to know whether this is meant to be ideal or real—whether it represents a struggle of angels against demons, or is merely meant for a sort of parable which represents the to-and-fro conflicting impulses which sway the destinies of earthly kingdoms. In any case298 the representation is too unique and too remote from earth to enable us to understand its spiritual meaning, beyond the bare indication that God sitteth above the water-floods and God remaineth a king for ever. It is another way of showing us that the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing; that the kings of the earth set themselves and the rulers take counsel together; but that they can only accomplish what God's hand and God's counsel have predetermined to be done; and that when they attempt to overthrow the destinies which God has foreordained, "He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh them to scorn, the Lord shall have them in derision." These, apart from all complications or developments of angelology or demonology, are the continuous lesson of the Word of God, and are confirmed by all that we decipher of His providence in His ways of dealing with nations and with men.


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