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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.

We observe the Prophet by no means content with the usual method of address, for the purpose of stirring up the attention of the pious, and of assuring them how worthy of special notice are the prophecies which follow. He marks the time, the third year of King Cyrus, as the Jews were then forbidden by a new edict to build their temple, although liberty to do so had been previously granted to them. He says, “a wordwas made known to him, and he adds, the word was true, although the time was long. The time is treated more at length in the next verse. By saying, a word was manifested to him, he is thought to distinguish this prophecy from others, as it was not offered to him by either a dream or a vision. He uses the word מראה, merah, a “vision,” at the end of this verse, but I do not see why the noun “word” should be taken in so restricted a sense. Interpreters, again, seek for a reason why he mentions his own name as Belteshazzar; some think it celebrates some honor to which he was raised; others treat it as commending the superiority of his abilities, as the name implies — descended from heaven; while others bring forward various conjectures. I have no hesitation in stating Daniel’s wish to erect some illustrious monument of his vocation among the Medes, Persians, and Chaldeans. There, most probably, he was usually called Belteshazzar, and the name Daniel was almost buried in oblivion, and so he wished to testify to his being no stranger to the people of God, although he suffered a foreign name to be imposed upon him; for we have already seen the impossibility of his avoiding it. I therefore think the Prophet had no other intention than to render this prophecy notorious throughout all those regions in which he was well known under the name of Belteshazzar. Besides this, he wished to testify to his fellow-countrymen that he was not entirely cut off from the Church through being called Belteshazzar by the Chaldees; for he was always the same, and while banished from his country, was endued with the Spirit of prophecy, as we have previously seen. As the name of Daniel was almost unknown in Chaldea, he wished to make known the existence of both his names.

It now follows, And there is truth in the word Daniel here commends the certainty of the prophecy, as if he had said, I bring nothing before you but what is firm and stable, and whose actual performance the faithful ought confidently to expect. There is truth in the word, says he; meaning, there was no room for doubting his assertions, for he had been divinely instructed in events which should be fulfilled in their own time. I understand what follows to mean, although the time should be long. Some of the Rabbis take צבא, tzeba, for the angelic hosts, which is quite absurd in this place. The word signifies “army” as well as an appointed time, but the exposition which they thrust upon the passage cannot stand its ground. The particle “and,” as I think, must here be taken adversatively, in the sense of “although.” Thus the Prophet proclaims our need of calmness of mind, and patient endurance, until God shall really complete and perform what he has verbally announced. This feeling ought to be extended to all prophecies. We know how ardent are the dispositions of men, and how hastily they are carried away by their own desires. We are compelled, therefore, to curb our impetuosity, if we wish to make progress in the school of God, and we must admit this general principle: If a promise should tarry, wait for it; for it will surely come, and will not delay. (Habakkuk 2:3) Here Daniel affirms in a special sense, the time will be long this would restrain the faithful from rushing headlong with too much haste; they would command their feelings, and remain tranquil till the full maturity of the period should arrive.

He afterwards adds, He understood the vision; by this assertion he confirms the prophecy which he is about to explain, and thus assures us of his not uttering anything either perplexed or obscure. He also induces all the pious to hope for the exercise of the same understanding as he had himself attained; as if he had said, I know what God wished; he has explained to me by his angel various events which I will now set forth in their own order; let every one peruse these prophecies attentively and reverently, and may God grant him the same gift of understanding, and lead him to certain knowledge. The information conveyed by the Prophet belongs to all the pious, to deter them from sluggishness and despair. At the first glance this teaching may appear very obscure, but they must seek from the Lord that light of manifestation which he deigned to bestow upon the Prophet himself. It now follows, —

Daniel 10:2-3

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.

3. Panem deliciarum 127127     “Delicate;” verbally, “of desires.” — Calvin. non comedi: et caro et vinum non intravit in os meum: et unguendo non fui unctus donec impletae sunt tres hebdomades dierum.


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.

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