World Wide Study Bible
a Bible passage
A stream of fire issued
and flowed out from his presence.
A thousand thousands served him,
and ten thousand times ten thousand stood attending him.
The court sat in judgment,
and the books were opened.
Daniel proceeds with what he commenced in the former verse. He says a splendor or stream of fire; for נהר, neher, may be used in both senses, since נהר, neher, signifies both “to flow” and “to shine.” Yet, since he previously spoke of splendor, the word “stream” will suit the passage very well; for a fiery stream issued from the presence of God, which both inundated and burnt up the land. Without doubt God wished to inspire his Prophet with fear for the purpose of arousing him the better, as we never sufficiently comprehend his majesty unless when humbled; and we cannot experience this humility without fear. This is the reason why God always shows something terrible when he appears to his servants, not merely to create astonishment, but to excite their fear and reverence. Hence God seems to have considered this point in this vision, when the stream took its rise from his appearance, even a river of flame. Afterwards he adds, numberless attendants stood before him. Without the slightest doubt, the Prophet here speaks of angels. He says there were thousands of thousands, or ten times a hundred thousand; and again, ten thousand times ten thousand, that is, ten thousand myriads. Here the numbers are not reckoned, but God signifies his having at hand the greatest forces obedient to his will, and far surpassing any armies which the greatest; and most powerful princes collect. This passage teaches us that angels were created for the purpose of receiving and executing the commands of God, and of being the ministers of God, as it were his hands in heaven and in earth. As regards numbers, no wonder many myriads are enumerated by the Prophet. Christ said,
“Can I not ask the Father and he will send a legion?”
So, in this passage, Daniel says there were numberless angels under God’s hand, and there was no need of collecting armies after the manner of princes, since they are always present and intent on obedience. Thus they immediately fulfill all his commands, as angels run swiftly throughout heaven and earth. We also perceive the supreme power of the Almighty denoted here, as if the Prophet had said — God is not like a king or a judge merely by title, but he possesses the greatest and most unlimited power; he has myriads of satellites ever at hand for the purpose of fulfilling and executing his supreme will. And in this sense he says, they stood before him. He uses the word for ministry or service, and afterwards, adds, to stand. For ministers cannot always render their service as quickly as their rulers desire. But the angelic method is different. Not only were they prepared to obey, but in a moment they understand what God wishes and commands without needing time for compliance. We see even the greatest princes cannot immediately carry out their decrees, because their ministers are not always at hand. But there is no necessity for dwelling longer upon angels. Daniel adds, The judgment was fixed, and the books were opened. Although God alone is eminent and conspicuous above the angels, and the height of their glory and dignity does not obscure the supreme empire of the Almighty, yet, as we have formerly said, he deems them worthy of the honor of being placed as councilors on each side of him, and that for the sake of illustrating his own majesty. For we have stated that nobles do not sit at the side of monarchs to diminish his majesty or to attract it to themselves, but rather to reflect the magnitude and power of the monarch more fully. This is the reason why the Prophet joins angels with God, not as allies, but simply as his councilors.
I refer the phrase, the books were opened, to the preaching of the gospel. Although God was recognized in Judea, as it is said in the 76th Psalm, (Psalm 76:2,) yet this acknowledgment was but slight and involved in many figures. God was revealed through enigmas until Christ’s coming; but then he manifested himself truly, just like opening books previously shut. There is therefore a contrast to be observed here between that obscure season which preceded the coming of Christ, and the clearness which now shines under the gospel. Because, therefore, God was plainly made known after the Sun of righteousness arose, according to the Prophet Malachi, (Malachi 4:2,) this is the reason why the books are now said to have been opened at that season. Meanwhile, we confess that God was not altogether hidden, nor did he speak from astonishment, but this is said comparatively by the Prophet, as the books were opened whenever God openly appeared as the Judge, Father, and Preserver of the world, in the person of his only begotten Son. It afterwards follows: —