World Wide Study Bible
a Bible passage
Conflict of Nations and Heavenly Powers
In the third year of King Cyrus of Persia a word was revealed to Daniel, who was named Belteshazzar. The word was true, and it concerned a great conflict. He understood the word, having received understanding in the vision.
2 At that time I, Daniel, had been mourning for three weeks. 3I had eaten no rich food, no meat or wine had entered my mouth, and I had not anointed myself at all, for the full three weeks. 4On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river (that is, the Tigris), 5I looked up and saw a man clothed in linen, with a belt of gold from Uphaz around his waist. 6His body was like beryl, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the roar of a multitude. 7I, Daniel, alone saw the vision; the people who were with me did not see the vision, though a great trembling fell upon them, and they fled and hid themselves. 8So I was left alone to see this great vision. My strength left me, and my complexion grew deathly pale, and I retained no strength. 9Then I heard the sound of his words; and when I heard the sound of his words, I fell into a trance, face to the ground.
10 But then a hand touched me and roused me to my hands and knees. 11He said to me, “Daniel, greatly beloved, pay attention to the words that I am going to speak to you. Stand on your feet, for I have now been sent to you.” So while he was speaking this word to me, I stood up trembling. 12He said to me, “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. 13But the prince of the kingdom of Persia opposed me twenty-one days. So Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, and I left him there with the prince of the kingdom of Persia, 14and have come to help you understand what is to happen to your people at the end of days. For there is a further vision for those days.”
15 While he was speaking these words to me, I turned my face toward the ground and was speechless. 16Then one in human form touched my lips, and I opened my mouth to speak, and said to the one who stood before me, “My lord, because of the vision such pains have come upon me that I retain no strength. 17How can my lord’s servant talk with my lord? For I am shaking, no strength remains in me, and no breath is left in me.”
18 Again one in human form touched me and strengthened me. 19He said, “Do not fear, greatly beloved, you are safe. Be strong and courageous!” When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.” 20Then he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? Now I must return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I am through with him, the prince of Greece will come. 21But I am to tell you what is inscribed in the book of truth. There is no one with me who contends against these princes except Michael, your prince.
2. In those days I Daniel was mourning three full weeks.
2. Diebus illis ego Daniel dedi me luctui tribus hebdomadibus dierum.
3. I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.
We gather from this passage why the angel appeared to the Prophet in the third year of Cyrus. He says, he was then in the greatest sorrow; and what was the cause of it? At that period we know an interruption of the work of rebuilding the temple and city to have taken place. Cyrus was gone to a distance; he had set out for Asia Minor, and was carrying on war with the Scythians. His son Cambyses was corrupted by his couriers, and forbade the Jews to proceed with the rebuilding of their city and temple. The freedom of the people might then seem in vain. For God had promised the Jews in glowing language a return to their country with their standards unfurled. Besides this, we know the splendid language of the prophets respecting the glory of the second temple. (Isaiah 52:12; Haggai 2:9, and elsewhere.) When thus deprived of all opportunity of rebuilding their temple, what could the Jews determine except that they had been deluded after returning to their country, and God had made a shew of disappointing expectations which had turned out a mere laughing-stock and deception? This was the cause of the grief and anxiety which oppressed the holy Prophet. We now understand why he mentions the third year of Cyrus, as the circumstances of that period, even at this day, point out the reason of his abstinence from all delicacies.
He says, He was in affliction for three weeks of days The Hebrews often use the phrase weeks or times of days for complete periods. Very possibly, Daniel uses the word “days” here, to prevent a mistake which might easily occur through his so lately speaking of weeks of years. The distinction is thus more clearly marked between the seventy weeks of years previously explained, and these three weeks of days here mentioned. And the angel appears to have dwelt purposely on the completion of these three weeks, as this was the third year of King Cyrus’s reign. He says, He did not eat delicate bread, and he abstained from flesh and wine, implying his practice of uniting fasting with mourning. The holy Prophet is here represented as freely using flesh and other food, while the Church of God remained in a state of tranquillity; but when there was danger, lest the few who had returned home should be diminished, and many were still suffering at Babylon those grievous calamities to which they were subject during their exile from neighboring enemies, then the Prophet abstained from all delicacies. In the beginning of this book, he had stated the contentment of himself and his companions with bread, and pulse, and water for meat and drink. This statement is not contrary to the present passage. There is no necessity to fly to that refinement, which allows an old man to use wine, which he never touched in his youth and the flower of his age. This comment is far too frigid. We have shewn, how at the beginning of his exile the only reason for the Prophet’s abstaining from the delicacies of the palace, was the desire of preserving himself free from all corruption. For what was the object of the king’s designing shrewdness in commanding Daniel and his companions to be treated thus daintily and luxuriously? He wished them to forget their nation by degrees, and to adopt the habits of the Chaldeans, and to be withdrawn by such enticements from the observance of the law, from the worship of God, and from the exercises of piety. When Daniel perceived the artful manner in which he and his companions were treated, he requested to be fed upon pulse, he refused to taste the king’s wine, and despised all his dainties. His reason, therefore, concerned the exigencies of the times, as I then pointed out at full length. Meanwhile, we need not hesitate to suppose, that after giving this proof of his constancy, and escaping from these snares of the devil and of the Chaldean monarch, he lived rather freely than frugally, and made use of better bread, and fresh, and wine than before. This passage, then, though it asserts his abstinence from flesh and wine, need not imply actual fasting. Daniel’s method of living was clearly after the common practice of the Chaldeans, and by no means implies the rejection of wine, or flesh, or viands of any kind. When he says, he did not eat delicate bread, this was a symbol of sorrow and mourning, like abstinence from flesh and wine. Daniel’s object in rejecting delicate bread and wine during those three weeks, was not merely the promotion of temperance, but suppliantly to implore the Almighty not to permit a repetition of those sufferings to his Church under which it had previously labored. But I cannot here treat at any length the object and use of fasting. I have done so elsewhere; even if I wished to do so, I have no time now. To-morrow, perhaps, I may say a few words on the subject, and then proceed with the rest of my observations.
Daniel now narrates the acceptance of his prayers, because all angel appeared and instructed him in the future condition of the Church. Without the slightest doubt, the fasting already described was a preparation for prayer, as we have stated before, and as we may gather from many passages of Scripture, especially from the assertion of Christ, where he says, the demon could not be cast out except by prayer and fasting. (Matthew 17:21.) Daniel, therefore, did not abstain from all food, and wine, and luxuries, with the view of rendering any obedience to God, but of testifying his own grief: then he was anxious to rouse himself to prayer, and by that mark of humility, to prepare far better for repentance. He says now — on the twenty-fourth day of the first month — meaning March, the first month of the Jewish year — he stood on the bank of the great river, namely, the Tigris. The word יד, yid, is metaphorically used for the bank, and interpreters are agreed in identifying Hiddekel with the Tigris. Geographers state the name of this river to be in some places, and especially near its fountain, Digliton, which answers to the common Hebrew name Hidekel. Without doubt, this river is called Phison by Moses, since the Tigris has three names among profane nations. Its usual name is Tigris, and in one part of its course it becomes the Hidekel, and has also the names of Pasitigris and Phasis, which is equivalent to Phison. The Prophet relates, his standing on the bank of this great river It is uncertain whether he was then in that part of the world, or whether God set before him the prospect of the river, as we have seen elsewhere. I rather incline to the opinion of his being rapt in the prophetic spirit, and obtaining vision of the river, and not to his being really there. Possibly, that province might have been placed under his government in the course of the great changes which took place in those times. While Belshazzar lived, he could not have been at Susan, and so we were compelled to explain his former language by the prophetic rapture. And as to the present passage, I shall not quarrel with the opinion of any one who supposes Daniel to have dwelt in that district, but, as I have stated before, I think it most probable, that this spectacle was offered to the holy Prophet when far distant from the river’s bank, and only able to behold it in commenced his abstinence from flesh, and food, and all pleasant viands, and then relaxed his fast for three weeks, as he here marks the date on the twenty-fourth day. But I leave this doubtful, through the impossibility of ascertaining the point with certainty. Let us now proceed, —
As to the word Uphaz, some think it to be a pearl or precious stone, and they take the word כתם, kethem, which precedes it, for pure gold. Others take uphaz adjectivally, for pure gold. I do not suppose it to be an epithet, but I rather subscribe to the view of those who understand it as the proper name of a place, because this view is in accordance with the phraseology of the tenth chapter of Jeremiah. There is another opinion which is unsuitable. Uphaz is said to be derived from the noun Phaz, and is called “pure,” the letter Aleph being redundant. The above mentioned passage of Jeremiah is sufficient to prove my assertion, that it signifies a certain region; and so some have translated it by ophir. The word תרשש, tharsis, is thought to mean chrysolite: some think it denotes the color of the sea, and then, by a figure of speech, take it generally for any sea. It is also said to mean sky-colored.
Daniel now begins to relate the manner in which the vision was offered to him. He says, when he stood on the bank of the river a man appeared to him, different from the common order of men. He calls him a man, but shews him to be endued, or adorned with attributes which inspire full confidence in his celestial glory. We have elsewhere stated, how angels are called men, whenever God wished them to put on this outward form. The name of men is therefore used metaphorically whenever they assumed that form by God’s command, and now Daniel speaks after the accustomed manner. Meanwhile, some absurdly imagine angels to have been really men, since they assumed this appearance, and were clothed in a human body. We ought not to believe them to be really men, because they appeared under a human form. Christ, indeed, was really man, in consequence of his springing from the seed of Abraham, David, and Adam. But as regards angels, God clothes them for a single day or a short period in bodies, for a distinct purpose and a special use. Wherefore, I assert the gross error of those who suppose angels to become men, as often as they are corporeally visible in a human form. Still they may be called men, because Scripture accommodates itself to our senses, as we know sufficiently well. Daniel therefore says, he saw a man, and afterwards distinguishes him from the human race, and shews fixed and conspicuous marks inscribed upon him, which discover him to be an angel sent down from heaven, and not a mere earthly mortal. Some philosophize with subtlety on the word raised, as if Daniel so raised his eyes upwards as to be unconscious of all earthly objects; but this does not appear to me sufficiently certain. The Prophet wishes to impress the certainty of the vision; not only was his mind composed and collected, but he applied all his senses to the one object before him — the attainment of some consolation from God. The Prophet, therefore, denotes the earnestness of his desire, for when he looked round he found himself subject to many cares and anxieties. Again, with reference to the marks by which Daniel might infer the object of his vision to be neither earthly nor mortal, he first says, he was clothed in linen This kind of garment was common enough among the people of the East. Those regions are remarkably warm, and their inhabitants need not protect themselves against the cold, as we are necessarily compelled to do. They seldom wear woolen clothing. But on special occasions when they wish to use more splendid attire, they put on linen tunics, as we learn not only from many passages of Scripture, but also from profane writers. Hence I take this passage as if Daniel had said, the man appeared to him in splendid apparel. For בדים, bedim, is supposed not to mean common linen, but a more exquisite kind of fabric. This is one point.
He next says, He was girt with pure gold; that is, with a golden belt. The Orientals were formerly accustomed to gird themselves with belts or girdles, as their garments were long and reached almost down to the feet. Hence it became necessary for those who wished to move expeditiously to gird themselves with belts. When the angel appeared with raiment of this kind, the difference between himself and other men was displayed to the Prophet. Some refer the linen garment to the priesthood of Christ, and treat the girdle as an emblem of rigor. But these are mere refinements, and seem to me destitute of all reality. I therefore am content with the simple opinion on which I have touched, namely, this form of clothing distinguished the angel from ordinary mortals. But this will appear clearer from the following verse. For Daniel says, His body was sky-colored, or like the precious stone called beryl, of a golden hue Without doubt, the Prophet beheld something different from a human form, for the purpose of his clearly ascertaining the vision not to be a man, but an angel in the form of man. I leave the allegory here, although it proceeds throughout the whole verse. I am aware of the plausible nature of allegories, but when we reverently weigh the teachings of the Holy Spirit, those speculations which at first sight pleased us exceedingly, vanish from our view. I am not captivated by these enticements myself, and I wish all my hearers to be persuaded of this, — nothing can be better than a sober treatment of Scripture. We ought never to fetch from a distance subtle explanations, for the true sense will, as I have previously expressed it, flow naturally from a passage when it is weighed with maturer deliberation. He says, His face was like the appearance of lightning This, again, assured the Prophet of his being an more than earthly mortal. His eyes would lead to the same conclusion; they were like lamps of fire; then his arms and feet were like polished or burnished brass; lastly, the voice of his words was the voice of a tumult, or noise, or multitude. The sum of the whole is this, — the angel, though clad in human form, possessed certain conspicuous marks by which God separated him from the common crowd of men. Thus Daniel clearly perceived the divine mission of the angel, and God wished to establish the confidence and certainty of those prophecies which will afterwards follow in the eleventh chapter. Let us proceed:
He pursues his own narrative in which he appears prolix, but not without design. This prophecy required all kinds of sanction for the purpose of inspiring unhesitating confidence in it, not only with those Jews of that generation, but with all posterity. Although the predictions of the eleventh chapter have been fulfilled, yet their utility is manifest to us as follows: first, we behold in them God’s perpetual care of his Church; secondly, we observe the pious never left destitute of any necessary consolation; and lastly, we perceive, as in a glass or in a living picture, the Spirit of God speaking in the prophets, as I have observed before, and shall have occasion to remark again. Daniel, therefore, has good reasons for impressing us with the certainty of the vision, and with whatever tends to prove its reality. He says, I alone saw the vision; but the men who were with me did not see it; just as the companions of Paul did not hear Christ’s voice, but only a confused sound: they did not understand his language, as Paul alone was permitted to comprehend it. (Acts 9:7) This is related to promote belief in the prophecy. Daniel’s power of hearing was not superior to his companions, but God intended to address him alone. Thus the voice, although like the voice of a multitude, did not penetrate the ears of those who were with him. He alone was the recipient of these prophecies, as he alone was endued with the power of predicting future events, and of consoling and exhorting the pious to live them a knowledge of futurity even to the last day. Should any one inquire how he carried his companions with him while he was probably lying on his bed at a distance from the bank of the river, the answer is easy. He had his domestics with him; the river’s bank only existed in the vision, and he was carried completely out of himself, and thus his family would be acquainted with the ecstasy without being aware of the cause. Daniel then continued at his own home, and only visited the bank of the river during the vision; although many witnesses were present, God struck them all with astonishment, while Daniel only perceived what is afterwards narrated. God deemed him worthy of this singular honor to fit him to become a teacher and instructor to others. The men who were with me, says he, saw not the vision; but a great terror fell upon them This distinction, as I have stated, shews Daniel to have been selected as the sole listener to the angel’s voice, and as receiving the information which he was afterwards to convey to others. Meanwhile, God intended many witnesses to notice Daniel’s entire freedom from any delusion through either a dream or a passing imagination. His companions, then, were fright-eyed This terror proves the Prophet to have been divinely instructed and not to have labored under any delirium. They fled, therefore, into hiding-places It afterwards follows: —
This language all tends to the same purpose — to assure us that Daniel did not write his own comments with rashness, but was truly and clearly taught by the angel on all the points which he committed to writing, and thus all hesitation is removed as to our embracing what we shall afterwards perceive, as he is a faithful interpreter of God. He first states he saw a vision. He had said so before, but he repeats it to produce a due impression; he calls the vision great, to arouse our attention to its importance. He adds, he was deprived of all vigor; as if he had been rendered lifeless by the blast of the Spirit. Thus we gather the object of the exhibition of all these outward signs; they not only bring before us God speaking by the mouth of his angel, but they prepared the Prophet himself, and trained him to reverence. God, however, does not terrify his sons, as if our disquiet was with him an object of delight, but solely because it is profitable for us; for unless our carnal feelings were utterly subdued, we should never be fit to receive improvement. This necessarily requires violence, on account of our inborn perverseness; and this is the reason why the Prophet was reduced to this state of lifelessness. Even my comeliness, or beauty, or appearance, was turned to corruption; meaning, my deformity was similar to that induced by death. He adds lastly, I did not retain my vigor. He uses a variety of phrases to shew himself depressed by the heavenly blast, for but a slight amount of vitality remained, and he was scarcely preserved from actual death. We ought to learn to transfer this instruction to ourselves, not by the vanishing of our rigor or the changing of our appearance whenever God addresses us, but by all our resistance giving way, and all our pride and loftiness becoming prostrate before God. Finally, our carnal disposition ought to be completely reduced to nothing, as true docility will never be found in us until all our senses are completely mortified; for we must always remember how hostile all our natural thoughts are to the will of God. It afterwards follows; — but I cannot proceed further today; I must delay my comment on the next verses till to-morrow.
In yesterday’s Lecture Daniel confessed himself astonished at the sight of the angel, and deprived of all inward strength. He afterwards adds, On hearing the sound of his words he threw himself on the ground; for this is the sense of the ninth verse, as we have just read it. He represents himself as being in a swoon and in the unconscious state which usually occurs when all our senses are paralyzed by excessive fear. While lying thus senselessly on the ground, Behold, he adds, hands touched me, and placed me upon my knees and the palms of my hands He mentions his being partially raised by the angel, not only through the sound of his voice, but by the touch of his hand. He implies that he was not yet raised to either the standing or sitting posture; he was only placed upon his knees with his hands upon the ground, this posture being the sign of his dejection. Thus he was partially relieved, and fear no longer seized upon either his mind or his limbs. From this passage we should learn that when prostrated by the voice of God, we cannot be restored otherwise than by his strength. We know the hand to be the symbol of strength. Unless God himself stretches out his hand to us, we shall always remain apparently dead. This is one lesson. The Prophet next adds the address of the angel to him, —
He here relates how he was strengthened, by the angel’s exhortation. He now begins to raise himself from his former position, and the angel now orders him to raise his drooping spirits, and calls him a man greatly beloved We have previously discussed this word, which some refer to Daniel’s zeal, and take it passively, because he was inspired with a most invincible ardor through anxiety for the common welfare of the Church. I rather incline to the opposite view, thinking him so called through the force of his desires, because he was dear and precious to God. By This epithet the angel wished to animate the holy Prophet, and to calm and quiet his mind for listening to what he so ardently expected. Understand, therefore, he says, or attend to, the words which I shall speak to thee, and stand upright. Some translate it, in thy station, but “station” does not refer to the position of the body. I have already shewn how the Prophet was not now quite prostrate; his face was towards the earth, while he was supported by his hands and knees; and we now perceive him raised another step. This doctrine is profitable to us, because many think themselves utterly neglected and deserted by God, unless they immediately regain their mental rigor. But God does not all at once restore to life those whom he has rendered all but lifeless, but he conveys new life by degrees, and inspires the dead with fresh animation. We perceive this to have been done in Daniel’s case. Therefore I am never surprised when God raises us gradually by distinct steps, and cures our infirmity by degrees; but if even a single drop of his virtue is supplied to us, we should be content with this consolation, until he should complete what he has begun within us. Lastly, this passage unfolds to us how God works in his servants, by not rendering them perfect all at once, but allowing some infirmity to remain until the completion of his own work.
Daniel afterwards adds, When he heard this address, he stood up. We here observe the effect and fruit of the angel’s exhortation, as Daniel no longer needed to support himself on his hands and knees. He could stand upright, although he adds, he remained trembling Although thus erect in body, he was not entirely free from feelings of dread; and, though he stood upon his feet, he was not yet relieved from all trepidation, even at the angel’s command. This confirms my previous remark — God leaves in his servants some signs of fear, to remind them of their infirmity; they venture to raise themselves by hope above the world, but they do not forget they are but dust and ashes, and so restrain themselves within the bounds of humility and modesty. It now follows: —
By the angel’s commanding the Prophet to be of a serene and tranquil mind, we gather the continuance of his fright, and his being as yet unable to listen with composure. And yet this trembling improved his teachableness. Without the slightest doubt, God desired to prepare his servant in this way to render him more attentive to his disciples, and yet this very terror prevented Daniel from summoning all his senses to listen to the address of the angel. The remedy is exhibited in these words, O Daniel, fear not The angel did not wish to remove all fear from the Prophet’s mind, but rather to calm it, lest his trembling should prevent him from giving due attention to the prophecies which we shall soon discuss. I have already said enough on the subject of this address. As God knows fear to be useful to us, he does not wish us to be entirely free from it, as too great self-confidence would immediately produce slothfulness and pride. God, therefore, wishes our fears to restrain us like a bridle, but meanwhile he moderates this dread in his servants, lest their minds become stricken and disturbed, and thus disabled from approaching him with calmness.
The angel adds, From the first day on which thou didst begin to apply thy mind to understanding, and to afflict thyself before God, thy prayers were heard This reason sufficiently shews in what sense and with what intention the angel forbade the Prophet’s fears — because, says he, thy prayers have been heard He was unwilling to banish all fear, but he offered some hope and consolation; and relying on this expectation, he might wait for the revelation which he so earnestly desired. He states his prayers to have been heard from the time of his applying his mind to understanding, and from his afflicting himself before God These two points may be noticed: first, by the word “understanding” the angel informs us of God’s being propitious to the prayers of his servant, because they were sincere and legitimate. For what spectacle did Daniel behold? He saw the condition of the Church entirely confused, and he desired the communication of some mark of favor, which might assure him of God’s being still mindful of His covenant, and of his not despising those wretched Israelites whom he had adopted. As this was the object of the Prophet’s prayer, he so far obtained his request, and the angel bears witness to God’s being entreated by him. We are taught then by this passage, if we are anxious for our supplications to be both heard and approved by God, not to give way to those foolish lusts and appetites, which solicit and entice us. We ought to observe the rule here prescribed by the angel, and fashion our entreaties according to God’s will. We know, says John, that if we ask anything according to his will, he will hear us. (1 John 5:14.) This is the first point. The second is the addition of penitence to fervor in devotion, when the angel says, Daniel’s mind was afflicted or humbled. A second condition of true prayer is here set before us, when the faithful humble themselves before God, and being touched with true penitence, pour out their groans before him. The angel, therefore, shews how Daniel obtained his requests, by suppliantly afflicting himself before God. He did not utter prayers for the Church in a mere formal manner, but as we have previously seen, he united fasting with entreaty, and abstained from all delicacies. For this reason God did not reject his petitions. He says, before thy God; this expression of the angel’s implying that the Prophet’s supplication sprang from true faith. The prayers of the impious, on the other hand, always repel the Almighty, and they can never be sure of his being propitious to them. In consequence of the hesitation and vacillation of unbelievers, this testimony to true faith is set before Daniel — he prayed to his own God Whoever approaches God, says the Apostle, (Hebrews 11:6,) ought to acknowledge his existence, and his being easily entreated by all those who seek and invoke him. We ought diligently to notice this, as this fault is most manifest in all ages, men often pray to God, but yet through their hesitation they pour forth their petitions into the air. They do not realize God as their Father. Another passage also reminds us how useless is the hope of obtaining anything by prayer, if we are agitated and tossed about in our emotions. (James 1:6, 7.) Unless faith shine forth, we must not feel surprise at those who call upon God losing all their labor through their profanation of his name. Lastly, by this expression, the angel shews us how Daniel’s prayer was founded on faith; he had not sought God with rashness, but was clearly persuaded of his being welcomed among the sons of God. He prayed, therefore, to his own God, and for this reason, his petitions were heard. Then the angel adds, he came at his words; as it is said in the Psalms. (Psalm 145:19.) God inclines with desire towards those who fear him; and in this sense the angel waits upon Daniel. It now follows, —
The angel now assigns a reason why he did not appear at once, and at the very first moment to the Prophet, who might complain as follows, — “What treatment is this, to suffer me to consume away through grief for so long a period?” for Daniel had remained through three weeks in succession in the severest affliction. God had heard him, indeed, from the very first day; how, then, could he still behold this wretched man thus prostrate in mourning? why did not God cause it to appear openly and really that he had not prayed in vain? The angel now meets this objection, and shews how he had been otherwise occupied in promoting the Prophet’s welfare. We ought carefully to notice this, because delay often disturbs us when God does not immediately extend his help, and for a long time hides from us the fruit of our prayers. Whenever our passions burst forth with a strong impetuosity, and we easily manifest tokens of impatience, we must notice this expression of the angel, for our prayers may be already heard while God’s favor and mercy is concealed from us. The experience of Daniel is daily fulfilled in every member of the Church, and without the slightest doubt the same discipline is exercised towards all the pious. This is our practical reflection. We must notice, secondly, God’s condescension in deigning to explain himself by the angel to his own Prophet. He offers a reason for the delay of the angel’s return, and the cause of this hindrance was, as I have already stated, his regard for the safety of his elect people. The wonderful clemency of the Almighty is here proved by his offering an excuse so graciously to his Prophet, because he did not shew himself easily entreated on the very day when prayer was offered to him. But we ought to derive another practical benefit from the passage, — God does not cease to regard us with favor even while he may not please to make us conscious of it, for he does not always place it before our eyes, but rather hides it from our view. We infer from this, God’s constant care for our safety, although not exhibited exactly in the way which our minds may conceive and comprehend. God surpasses all our comprehension in the way in which he provides for our safety, as the angel here relates his mission in quite another direction, and yet in the service of the Church. It now appears how Daniel obtained an answer to his prayers from the very first day of their offering, and yet remained unconscious of it, until God sent him some consolation in the midst of his troubles. A very different interpretation of this verse has been proposed, for some expounders think the angel sent into Persia to protect that kingdom. There is some probability in this explanation, because the Israelites were still under the Persian monarchy, and God may have furnished some assistance to the kings of Persia for the sake of his own people. But I think the angel stood in direct opposition and conflict against Cambyses, to prevent him from raging more fiercely against God’s people. He had promulgated a cruel edict, preventing the Jews from building their temple, and manifesting complete hostility to its restoration. He would not have been satisfied with this rigorous treatment, had not God restrained his cruelty by the aid and hand of the angel.
If we weigh these words judiciously, we shall readily conclude, that the angel fought rather against the king of the Persians than for him. The prince, says he, of the kingdom of the Persians, meaning Cambyses, with his father Cyrus, crossed over the sea and contended with the Scythians, as well as in Asia Minor. The prince of the kingdom of Persia was ranged against him, as if he had said, — He detained me from reaching you, but it was for the good of your race, for had not God used me in assisting you, his cruelty would have been aggravated, and your condition would have been utterly desperate. You perceive, then, how there has been no want of zeal on my part, for God was never deaf to your entreaties. The prince of the kingdom of the Persians stood against me for twenty-one days; meaning, from the period of your beginning to pour forth your prayers before God, I have never flinched from any attack or assault, by which I might defend thy people. The prince of the kingdom of the Persians stood against me; meaning, he was so hot against the Israelites, as to intend to pour forth the very dregs of his wrath, unless the help which I afforded you had been divinely interposed.
He adds next, Behold! Michael, one of the chief leaders or princes, came to strengthen me Some think the word Michael represents Christ, and I do not object to this opinion. Clearly enough, if all angels keep watch over the faithful and elect, still Christ holds the first rank among them, because he is their head, and uses their ministry and assistance to defend all his people. But as this is not generally admitted, I leave it in doubt for the present, and shall say more on the subject in the twelfth chapter. From this passage we may clearly deduce the following conclusion, — angels contend for the Church of God both generally and for single members, just as their help may be needed. This we know to be a part of the occupation of angels, who protect the faithful according to Psalm 34 (Psalm 34:8.) They fix their camp in a circuit round them. God, therefore, plants his angels against all the endeavors of Satan, and all the fury of the impious who desire to destroy us, and are ever plotting for our complete ruin. If God were not to protect us in this way, we should be utterly undone. We are aware of Satan’s horrible hatred to us, and of the mighty fury with which he assails us; we know how skillfully and variously he contrives his artifices; we know him as the prince of this world, dragging and hurrying the greater part of mankind along with him, while they impiously pour forth their threats against us. What prevents Satan from daily absorbing a hundred times over the whole Church both collectively and individually? It clearly becomes necessary for God to oppose his fury, and this he does by angels. While they are contending for us and for our safety, we do not perceive this hidden malice, because they conceal it from us.
We may now treat this passage a little more in detail. The angel was stationed in Persia to repress the audacity and cruelty of Cambyses, who was not content with a single edict, but would have forcibly dragged the wretched Israelites back again to a fresh exile. And he must have succeeded, had not first one angel and then another confronted him. The angel now informs us how Michael, one of the chief leaders, came up with the requisite supplies. The defense of one angel might have been sufficient, for angels have no further power than what is conferred upon them. But God is not bound to any particular means, he is not limited to either one or a thousand, as when Jehoshaphat speaks of a small army, he states, It matters not before God, whether we be few or many. (2 Chronicles 14:11; 1 Samuel 14:6.) For God can save his people by either a small force or a mighty one; and the same also is true of angels. But God is anxious to testify to the care which he bestows upon the welfare of his people, and to his singular loving-kindness towards the Israelites displayed by the mission of a second angel. He doubled his re-enforcement to bear witness to his love towards these wretched and innocent ones, who were oppressed by the calumnies of their enemies, and by the tyranny of that impious king. Finally, the angel says, he was left among the Persian kings, for the purpose of removing the numerous obstacles in the way of the chosen people; for, unless God had withstood that deluge of weapons with his own shield, the Jews would have been buried beneath it on the spot. Let us proceed —
The angel follows up the same sentiment. He states his arrival for the purpose of predicting to Daniel coming events, and those, too, for a long period of time. He further proves the prayers of Daniel to have been neither vain nor fruitless, as they produced this conflict with the kings of Persia, both father and son. He now brings forward another proof of this, because God wished his Prophet to be instructed in patiently waiting for the arrival of the events, after being made fully aware of the elect people being under God’s care and protection. This he would readily acknowledge from the prophecies of the next chapter. He next adds, at the end of the days By this expression the angel commends God’s grace towards the Prophet, as he was its special minister. His mission was not only to announce to him the occurrences of three or four years, or of any brief period, but he had to extend his predictions over many years, even to the extremity of the days. I willingly refer this period to the renovation of the Church which happened at the advent of Christ. The Scriptures in using the phrase, the last days, or times, always point to the manifestation of Christ, by which the face of the world was renewed. It is exactly similar to the angel saying he would make Daniel fully acquainted with all future events, until the final redemption of the people, when Christ was exhibited for the salvation of his Church. Hence the angel embraces the 490 years of which he had spoken. For Christ’s advent determined the fullness of times, and the subjoined reason suits the passage exceedingly well. The vision is yet for days, says he; thus frigidly some expounders take these words. I feel persuaded that the angel intends to shew how God is now opening future events to his servant, and thus these prophecies become like a lamp ever shining in the Church. The faithful complain in the 74th Psalm (Psalm 74:9) of the absence of all signs, because no prophets are left. We see no signs, say they, no Prophet exists among us. This was an indication of God having rejected and deserted them. However faintly the light of his doctrine may shine upon us, the slightest glimmer ought to be sufficient to produce patience and repose. But when all the light of the Word is extinguished, we seem completely enveloped in tartarean darkness. As the Israelites suffered so many afflictions for nearly 500 years, this remedy ought completely to restore them; for when the angel testifies, the vision is yet for days, it means, although God permits his people to be miserably afflicted, yet by this new proof he shews that he had not entirely cast them off. Some vision remained; that is, by the light of prophecy he will always manifest his care for his chosen, and they may even anticipate a happy issue out of all their sorrows. We now understand the angel’s meaning when he says, the vision is yet for days. Prophecies, indeed, ceased soon afterwards, and God no longer sent other prophets to his people, yet their teaching always remained permanent like a finger-post, for in it was completed the whole series of times up to the advent of Christ. His children were never destitute of all necessary consolation; for although there were no prophets surviving who could instruct the people in God’s commands by the living voice, yet Daniel’s teaching flourished for nearly 500 years after his death. It also performed its part in supporting the courage of the pious, and shewing them the firmness of God’s covenant not withstanding all opposition. Although the Church was agitated in a variety of ways, yet God is consistent in all his promises, until the complete redemption of his Church by the advent of his only-begotten Son.
Daniel again signifies by these words that he was so inspired by reverence for the angel as to be unable to stand. This tends to recommend the prophecy to our notice, — to shew us how the holy Prophet was not only instructed by the angel, but to confirm what he will afterwards record in the 11th chapter, and free it from all doubt. Lastly, he enables us to confide in the angel’s words, which were not uttered in an ordinary way, but were so obviously divine as to cast Daniel headlong upon the earth. In my judgment those expounders of the phrase, he became dumb, are in error when they refer it to his repenting of his prophetic office, through supposing his prayers to have been disregarded. This is much too forced, because the Prophet expresses nothing more than his seizure by fear, causing both his feet and his tongue to refuse their usual duties. Thus he was apparently carried beyond himself. By becoming prostrate on the ground, he manifested his reverence, and by becoming dumb displayed his astonishment. I have already briefly explained the object of all these assertions — to prove to us how the angel was adorned with his own attributes, and what full authority should be assigned to his words. It follows: —
Daniel here narrates how the angel who inflicted the wound at the same time brought the remedy. Though he had been cast down by fear, yet the touch of the angel raised him up, not because there was any virtue in the mere touch, but the use of symbols we know to be keenly encouraged by God, as we have previously observed. Thus the angel raised the Prophet not only by his voice but by his touch. Whence we gather the oppressive nature of the terror from the difficulty with which he was roused from it. This ought to be referred to its own end, which was to stamp the prophecy with the impress of authority, and openly to proclaim Daniel’s mission from God. We are aware, too, how Satan transforms himself into an angel of light, (2 Corinthians 11:14;) and hence God distinguishes this prediction, by fixed marks, from all the fallacies of Satan. Lastly, by all these circumstances the Prophet shews God to be the author of the prophecy to be afterwards uttered, as the angel brought with him trustworthy credentials, by which he procured for himself favor, and openly proved his mission to Daniel. He says he appeared after the likeness of a man, or of the sons of man. He seems here to be speaking of another angel; but as we proceed we shall perceive the angel to be the same as at first. He had formerly imposed upon him the name of a man; now, to distinguish him from men, and to prove him to be only human in form and not in nature, he says he bore the similitude of the sons of a man. Some restrict this to Christ, but I fear this is too forced; and when all points shall have been more accurately discussed, I have already anticipated the result, as most probably the same angel is here designated of whom Daniel has hitherto spoken. We have already stated him not to be the Christ, because this interpretation is better suited to that Michael who has been already mentioned, and will be again at the end of this chapter. Whence it is more simple to receive it thus: the angel strengthened Daniel by touching his lips; and the angel, formerly called a man, was only one in appearance, wearing the human figure and image, yet not partaking of our nature. For allowing God to have sent his angels clad frequently in human bodies, he never created them men in the sense in which Christ was made man; for this is the special difference between angels and Christ. We have formerly stated how Christ was depicted for us under this figure. And there is nothing surprising in this, because Christ assumed some form of human nature before he was manifested in flesh, and angels themselves have put on the human appearance.
He says afterwards, he opened his mouth and spake By these words he explains more fully what we previously stated, for he was quite stupefied by terror, and to all appearance was dead. Then he began to open his mouth, and was animated to confidence. No wonder, then, if men fall down and faint away, when God shews such signs of his glory; for when God puts forth his strength against us, what are we? At his appearance alone the mountains melt, at his voice alone the whole earth is shaken. (Psalm 104:32.) How, then, can men stand upright who are only dust and ashes, when God appears in his glory? Daniel, then, was prostrate, but afterwards recovered his strength when God restored his courage. We ought to understand the certainty of our being compelled to vanish into nothing whenever God sets before us any sign of his power and majesty; and yet he restores us again, and shews himself to be our father, and bears witness of his favor towards us by both words and other signs. The language of this clause might seem superfluous — he opened his mouth, and spake, and said; but by this repetition he wished, as I have stated, to express plainly his own recovery of the use of speech after being refreshed by the angel’s touch.
He says he spoke to him who stood opposite This phrase enables us to conclude the angel here sent to be the same as the previous one; and this will appear more clearly from the end of the chapter, and as we proceed with our subject. Then he says, O my Lord, in the vision my distresses are turned upon me, and I have not retained my strength He here calls the angel “Lord,” after the Hebrew custom. Paul’s assertion was true under the law — there is but one Lord, (1 Corinthians 8:6,) but the Hebrews use the word promiscuously when they address any one by a title of respect. It was no less customary with them than with us to use this phrase in special cases. I confess it to be a weakness; but as it was a common form of expression, the Prophet uses no ceremony in calling angels lords. The angel, then, is called lord, simply for the sake of respect, just as the title is applied to men who excel in dignity. In the vision itself, that is, before thou didst begin to speak, I was buried in grief and deprived of strength. How then, says he, am I able to speak now? Thou by thy very appearance hast depressed me; no wonder I was utterly dumb; and now if I open my mouth, I know not what to say, as the fright which thy presence occasioned me held all my senses completely spellbound. We perceive the Prophet to be but partially erect, being still subject to some degree of fear, and therefore unable to utter freely the thoughts of his mind. Therefore he adds, And how shall the servant of this my Lord be able to speak with that my Lord? The demonstrative זה, zeh, seems to be used by way of amplifying, according to the phrase common enough in our day, with such a one. Daniel does not simply point out the angel’s presence, but wishes to express his rare and singular excellence. Dispute would be both superfluous and out of place should any one assert the unlawfulness of ascribing such authority to the angel. For, according to my previous remark, the Prophet uses the common language of the times. He never intended to detract in any way from the monarchy of God. He knew the existence of only one God, and Christ to be the only prince of the Church; meanwhile, he freely permitted himself to follow the common and popular form of speech. And truly we are too apt either to avoid or neglect religious ceremony in the use of words. Although we maintain that the Prophet followed the customary forms of expression, he detracted nothing from God by transferring it to the angel, as the Papists do when they manufacture innumerable patron saints, and despoil Christ of his just honor. Daniel would not sanction this, but treated the angel with honor, as he would any remarkable and illustrious mortal, according to my previous assertion. He knew him to be an angel, but in his discourse with him he did not give way to any empty scruples. As he saw him under the form of a man, he conversed with him as such; and with reference to the certainty of the prophecy, he was clearly persuaded of the angel’s mission as a heavenly instructor.
He next adds, Henceforth my strength did not remain within me, and my breath was no longer left in me. Some translate this in the future tense, — it will not stand; and certainly the verb יגמד ignemed, “shall stand,” is in the future tense; but then the past tense follows when he says, no breath was left in me. Without doubt, this is but a repetition of what we observed before; for Daniel was seized not only by fear, but also by stupor at the sight of the angel. Whence it appears how utterly destitute he was of both intellect and tongue, both to understand and express himself in reply to the angel. This is the full sense of the words. He adds, secondly, he was strengthened by the touch of him who wore the likeness of a man; for he touched me, says he. By these words Daniel more clearly explains how he failed to recover his entire strength at the first touch, but was roused by degrees, and could only utter three or four words at first. We perceive, then, how impossible it is for those who are prostrated by God to collect all their strength at the first moment, and how they partially and gradually recover the powers which they had lost. Hence the necessity for a second touch, to enable Daniel to hear the angel speaking to him with a mind perfectly composed. And here again he inspires us with faith in the prophecy, as he was by no means in an ecstasy while the angel was discoursing concerning future events. If he had always lain prostrate, his attention could never have been given to the angel’s message, and he could never have discharged towards us the duty of prophet and teacher. Thus God joined these two conditions — terror and a renewal of strength — to render it possible for Daniel to receive with calmness the angel’s teaching, and to deliver faithfully to us what he had received from God through the hand of the angel. It follows: —
He first explains how he recovered his spirits at the angel’s exhortation; for he refers to this encouragement as a command to be of good courage. Fear not, therefore, O man of desires The angel here addresses Daniel soothingly, to calm his fears, for he needed some enticement when oppressed with fear at both the words and aspect of the angel. This is the reason why he calls him a man to be desired He adds, peace to thee, a customary salutation with the Hebrews, who mean by the phrase the same as the Latin expression, May it be well with thee. Peace, as the Jews used it, means a state of prosperity, happiness, and quiet, and everything of this kind. Peace, therefore, to thee, meaning, May you prosper. By this word the angel declares his arrival in the Prophet’s favor to bear witness to God’s merciful feelings towards the Israelites, and to the reception of his own prayers. We ought diligently to notice this, because, as I have already remarked, whenever God puts forth any sign of his majesty, we necessarily become frightened. No other remedy is equal to the favor of God fully manifested towards us, and his testimony to his drawing near us as a father. The angel expresses this feeling by the phrase which he uses, shewing with what justice Daniel fell down lifeless through reverence for God’s presence, and the necessity for his being calm and collected when he knew himself sent forth to bear witness to God’s favor. Peace, therefore, to thee. He next adds, be strong, be strong By this repetition, the angel teaches how strong an effort was required to arouse the Prophet; if he had been but slightly terrified, one word would have been enough to recover him. But as he was carried beyond himself, and all his senses had failed him, the angel inculcates twice the same exhortation to be strong. Be strong, then, be strong; that is, recover your spirits; and if this cannot be done in a moment, persevere in recovering that alacrity which may render you a fitting disciple; for, while you thus remain astonished, I should address you in vain. There are two reasons why we must notice the Prophet’s informing us again how dejected he was. First, it proves how free from ambiguity this revelation really was, and how clearly it was stamped with marks of genuineness. Secondly, we must learn how formidable God’s presence is to us, unless we are persuaded of the exercise of his paternal love towards us. Lastly, we must observe how, when once we are struck down, we cannot immediately and completely recover our spirits, but we must be satisfied if God gradually and successively inspires us with renewed strength.
Daniel afterwards says, he was strengthened, and said, Let my lord speak, for thou hast made me strong By these words he indicates his peace of mind after the angel had roused him by touching him twice, and by giving him courage by means of his exhortation. It is very useful to us to take due notice of this mental tranquillity, because the Prophet ought first to become a diligent scholar to enable him afterwards to discharge for us the office of a faithful teacher. With the greatest propriety, he repeats his assertion about the recovery of his strength, which enabled him to address the angel with facility. It now follows: —
The angel appears here to lead the Prophet in vain through a winding course; for he might directly and simply have told him why he had come. It was necessary to recall the Prophet to his senses, as he was at one time scarcely master of his actions. He was not indeed permanently injured in his mind, but the disturbance of feeling through which he had passed had temporarily disarranged the calmness of his thoughts. This event both occurred and is narrated for our advantage. This is the reason why the angel again uses this preface, Dost thee know? as if he wished to gather together the Prophet’s senses which were formerly wandering and dispersed. He urges him to pay great attention. And now, says he, I will return; that is, after I shall have explained to thee what thou wilt afterwards hear, I will return again to contend with the prince of the Persians. Here the angel indicates the reason for the delay of his mission, not because God neglected the groans and prayers of his Prophet, but the fit time had not yet arrived. The angel had formerly stated how the Persian prince had stood before him; meaning, he detained me, and I was obliged to enter into conflict with him, for his cruelty to the people had become far more formidable and insolent. This is the account which he gives of his occupation. But he now adds, I will return to fight with the prince of the Persians; implying, God sent me purposely to unfold to thee future occurrences, but you now know how far I was from being at leisure or shall be hereafter. I now come to be God’s witness and herald of his good will towards thyself and thy people. In reality, I am the defender of thy safety, since I have constantly to fight for thee with the prince of the Persians. He means Cambyses. I follow my former interpretation of an engagement between the angel and the king of Persia, whom wicked men had stimulated to cruelty; for he had revoked the edict of his father. The angel resisted the king’s fury, who was naturally very turbulent, and profane writers have described his character in a similar way.
He now adds, I will go to fight against the prince of the Persians; for עם, gnem, has the force of “against” here and in many other passages. He next adds, And when I shall depart, that is, when I am gone, the prince of Greece shall approach, says he; that is, God shall exercise him in another way. He does not mean this to refer to Cambyses, but to other Persian kings, as we shall state in the proper place. It is quite correct to suppose the king of Macedon to have arrived by God’s permission; but the angel simply means to state the existence of various methods by which God hinders the cruelty of kings whenever they attempt to injure his people. He shall send the prince of the Greeks, says he. God, therefore, thus restrained Cambyses by the angel’s assistance, and then he protected his people from the cruelty exercised by Alexander, king of Macedon. God is always providing for the safety of his people, and always has a variety of methods in operation. The angel desired to teach us this with all simplicity. At length he adds: —
I omit the interpretation of those who say that after the departure of the angel the prince of the Greeks came forward, because God ceased to afford assistance to the kingdom of the Persians. This is altogether different from the Prophet’s sense, and we must hold the explanation which I have adopted. The angel now adds the object of his mission — to make Daniel acquainted with what he will afterwards relate. He again attracts our confidence towards his message, not only for the sake of the Prophet privately, but to assure all the pious how free Daniel’s writings were from any human delusion or invention, and how fully they were inspired from above. I will announce, therefore, what has been engraven, or ensculptured, in the Scripture of truth By this phrase, “the Scripture of truth,” he doubtless means the eternal and inviolable decree of God himself. God needs no books; paper and books are but helps to our memory, which would otherwise easily let things slip; but as he never suffers from forgetfulness, hence he needs no books. We are aware how often holy Scripture adopts forms of speech according to human customs. This clause implies the same as if the angel had said, he brought nothing but what God had already determined before, and thus the Prophet would expect a full and complete accomplishment
He next adds, There is no one who supports me in this duty except Michael, whom he calls prince of the elect people It is surprising why the angel and Michael alone fought for the safety of the people. It is written, Angels pitch their camp in a circuit around those who fear God, (Psalm 34:7,) and then but one Church existed in the world. Why, then, did not God commit this charge to more angels than one? Why did he not send forth mighty forces? We acknowledge that God does not confine himself to any fixed rule; he can help us as well by many forces as by a single angel or by more. And he does not make use of angels as if he could not do without them. This is the reason of that variety which we observe: he is first content with one angel, and then joins more with him. He will give to one man a great army, as we read of Elisha, and as other passages in Scripture afford us examples. (2 Kings 6:17.) the servant of Elisha saw the air full of angels. Thus also Christ said, Can I not ask my Father, and he will send me, not one angel only, but a legion? (Matthew 26:53.) Again, the Spirit of God assigns many angels to each of the faithful. (Psalm 91:11.) Now, therefore, we understand why God sends more angels, not always with the same purpose or intention, to inform us that he is sufficient to afford us protection, even if no other help should be supplied. He provides for our infirmities by bringing us help by means of his angels, who act like hands to execute his commands. But I have previously remarked this is not an invariable practice, and we ought not to bind him by any fixed conditions to supply our wants always in the same manner. God seemed, at least for a time, to leave his people without help, and afterwards two angels were sent to contend for them; first, a single one was sent to Daniel, and then Michael, whom some think to be Christ. I do not object to this view, for he calls him a prince of the Church, and this title seems by no means to belong to any angels, but to be peculiar to Christ. On the whole, the angel signifies that God did not put forth his full strength in contending for his Church, but shews himself to be a servant to promote its safety till the time of deliverance should arise. He afterwards adds — for the next verse may be treated shortly, and ought to be connected with this in one context.