Daniel 12:4
But you, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.
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(4) Shut up the words.—The revelation, which commenced in Daniel 10:20, now draws towards a close, and the prophet receives a further revelation respecting the time of the end. The revelation continues to be called by the same name, “the words,” as in Daniel 10:1; and now the prophet is told that the book in which this revelation is written must be placed in a safe and sure place, for the need of it will be felt in “the time of the end,” that is, in the time when the fulfilment makes the meaning of the prophecy clear and unambiguous.

Many shall run to and fro.—The verb “to run” is used in Jeremiah 5:1 of searching after knowledge. In this sense it is used of “the eyes of the Lord” (Zechariah 4:10; comp. Amos 8:12). In the same sense it is used in this verse. Many will anxiously search in this book for knowledge of the manner of God’s dealings with His people, and will derive comfort and understanding therefrom.

Daniel 12:4. But thou, shut up the words, and seal the book — By this was intimated, 1st, That the writing of truth (see Daniel 10:21) was finished, and therefore the book that contained it is ordered to be closed; 2d, That the time of its full and final accomplishment was distant; for the prophecies which were shortly to be fulfilled are forbidden to be sealed, Revelation 22:10; Revelation 3 d, That it would in a great measure remain obscure, and as a sealed book, till the events predicted were about to take place; 4th, That care was to be taken to preserve this prophecy safe and secure, as a treasure of great value, laid up for future ages, to which it should be of great service. Till the time of the end — Or, the appointed time; till the things here foretold, begin to come to pass; that then thy prophecies may be compared with the events, and it may be seen how exactly they are fulfilled; and men may be struck with astonishment at the wisdom and knowledge of that God who could, so long beforehand, reveal such a variety of things to thee so fully and clearly. Many shall run to and fro — Many shall diligently search into these prophecies, and make use of all the means in their power to arrive at a true knowledge of them; shall improve all opportunities of getting their mistakes rectified, their doubts resolved, and their acquaintance with divine things in general, and with these and the other prophecies of God’s word in particular, improved and perfected. And knowledge shall be increased — By these means great light shall be thrown on every part of divine revelation, and especially on the parts that are prophetic: the more the predictions are accomplished, the better will they be understood; and future ages will receive more instruction and edification from them than we do. The words have an especial reference to gospel days; and the expression of running to and fro, doubtless points to the journeys, voyages, and labours of gospel ministers, whether apostles, evangelists, pastors, or teachers, who should traverse sea and land, and travel from place to place, from country to country, to spread the knowledge of divine truth, and testify the gospel of the grace of God.12:1-4. Michael signifies, Who is like God, and his name, with the title of the great Prince, points out the Divine Saviour. Christ stood for the children of our people in their stead as a sacrifice, bore the curse for them, to bear it from them. He stands for them in pleading for them at the throne of grace. And after the destruction of antichrist, the Lord Jesus shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and He shall appear for the complete redemption of all his people. When God works deliverance from persecution for them, it is as life from the dead. When his gospel is preached, many who sleep in the dust, both Jews and Gentiles, shall be awakened by it out of their heathenism of Judaism. And in the end the multitude that sleep in the dust shall awake; many shall arise to life, and many to shame. There is glory reserved for all the saints in the future state, for all that are wise, wise for their souls and eternity. Those who turn many to righteousness, who turn sinners from the errors of their ways, and help to save their souls from death, Jas 5:20, will share in the glory of those they have helped to heaven, which will add to their own glory.But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words - To wit, by sealing them up, or by closing the book, and writing no more in it. The meaning is, that all has been communicated which it was intended to communicate. The angel had no more to say, and the volume might be sealed up.

And seal the book - This would seem to have been not an unusual custom in closing a prophecy, either by affixing a seal to it that should be designed to confirm it as the prophet's work - as we seal a deed, a will, or a contract; or to secure the volume, as we seal a letter. Compare the notes at Daniel 8:26; Isaiah 8:16.

Even to the time of the end - That is, the period when all these things shall be accomplished. Then

(a) the truth of the prediction now carefully sealed up will be seen and acknowledged;

(b) and then, also, it may be expected that there will be clearer knowledge on all these subjects, for the facts will throw increased light on the meaning and the bearing of the predictions.

Many shall run to and fro - Shall pass up and down in the world, or shall go from place to place. The reference is clearly to those who should thus go to impart knowledge; to give information; to call the attention of men to great and important matters. The language is applicable to any methods of imparting important knowledge, and it refers to a time when this would be the characteristic of the age. There is nothing else to which it can be so well applied as to the labors of Christian missionaries, and ministers of the gospel, and others who, in the cause of Christian truth, go about to rouse the attention of men to the great subjects of religion; and the natural application of the language is to refer it to the times when the gospel would be preached to the world at large.

And knowledge shall be increased - To wit, by this method. The angel seems to mean that in this way there would be an advance in knowledge on all the subjects of religion, and particularly on the points to which he had referred. This would be one of the characteristics of these times, and this would be the means by which it would be accomplished. Our own age has furnished a good illustration of the meaning of this language, and it will be still more fully and strikingly illustrated as the time approaches when the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the whole world.

Having thus gone through with an exposition of these, the closing words of the vision Daniel 12:1-4, it seems proper that we should endeavor to ascertain the meaning of the angel in what is here said, and the bearing of this more particularly on what he had said before. With this view, therefore, several remarks may be made here.

(1) it seems clear that there was in some respects, and for some purpose, a primary reference to Antiochus, and to the fact that in his times there would be a great rousing up of the friends of God and of religion, as if from their graves.

(a) The connection demands it. If the close of the last chapter refers to Antiochus, then it cannot be denied that this does also, for it is introduced in immediate connection with that, and as referring to that time: "And at that time."

(b) The facts referred to would require the same interpretation. Thus it is said that it would be a time of trouble, such as there had never been since the nation existed - a state of things which clearly refers to the calamities which would be brought upon them by the persecutions of Antiochus Epiphanes.

(c) This interpretation seems to be in accordance with the purpose of the angel to give the assurance that these troubles would come to an end, and that in the time of the greatest calamity, when everything seemed tending to ruin, God would interpose, and would secure the people, and would cause his own worship to be restored. Porphyry then, it appears to me, was so far right as to apply this to the times of Antiochus, and to the events that occurred under the Maccabees. "Then," says he, "those who, as it were, sleep in the dust of the earth, and are pressed down with the weight of evils, and, as it were, hid in sepulchres of misery, shall rise from the dust of the earth to unexpected victory, and shall raise their heads from the ground the observers of the law rising to everlasting life, and the violators of it to eternal shame." He also refers to the history, in which it is said that, in the times of the persecutions, many of the Jews fled to the desert, and hid themselves in caves and caverns, and that after the victories of the Maccabees they came forth, and that this was metaphorically (μεταφορικῶς metaphorikōs) called a resurrection of the dead. - Jerome, in loc. According to this interpretation, the meaning would be, that there would be a general uprising of the people; a general arousing of them from their lethargy, or summoning them from their retreats and hiding-places, as if the dead, good and bad, should arise from their dust.

(2) This language, however, is derived from the doctrine of the literal resurrection of the dead. It implies the belief of that doctrine. It is such language as would be used only where that doctrine was known and believed. It would convey no proper idea unless it were known and believed. The passage, then, may be adduced as full proof that the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust, was understood and believed in the time of Daniel. No one can reasonably doubt this. Such language is met used in countries where the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead is not believed, and where used, as it is in Christian lands, is full proof, even when employed for illustration, that the doctrine of the resurrection is a common article of belief. Compare the notes at Isaiah 26:19. This language is not found in the Greek and Latin classic writers; nor in pagan writings in modern times; nor is it found in the earlier Hebrew Scriptures; nor is it used by infidels even for illustration; and the proof, therefore, is clear that as employed in the time of Daniel the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead was known and believed. If so, it marks an important fact in the progress of theological opinion and knowledge in his times. How it came to be known is not intimated here, nor explained elsewhere, but of the fact no one can have any reasonable doubt. Even now, so clear and accurate is the language, that if we wish to express the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, we cannot do it better than by employing the language of the angel in addressing Daniel. (See Editor's Preface to volume on Job.)

(3) The full meaning of the language is not met by the events that occurred in the times of the Maccabees. As figurative, or, as Porphyry says, metaphorical, it might be used to describe those events. But what then occurred would not come up to the proper and complete meaning of the prediction. That is, if nothing more was intended, we should feel that the event fell far short of the full import of the language; of the ideas which it was fitted to convey; and of the hopes which it was adapted to inspire. If that was all, then this lofty language would not have been used. There was nothing in the facts that adequately corresponded with it. In the obvious and literal sense, there was nothing which could be called a resurrection to "everlasting life;" nothing that could be called an awaking to "everlasting shame and contempt." There was nothing which would justify literally the language "they shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and as the stars forever and ever." The language naturally has a higher signification than this, and even when employed for illustration, that higher signification should be recognized and would be suggested to the mind.


4. shut up … seal the book—John, on the contrary, is told (Re 22:10) not to seal his visions. Daniel's prophecy refers to a distant time, and is therefore obscure for the immediate future, whereas John's was to be speedily fulfilled (Re 1:1, 3; 22:6). Israel, to whom Daniel prophesied after the captivity, with premature zeal sought after signs of the predicted period: Daniel's prophecy was designed to restrain this. The Gentile Church, on the contrary, for whom John wrote, needs to be impressed with the shortness of the period, as it is, owing to its Gentile origin, apt to conform to the world, and to forget the coming of the Lord (compare Mt 25:13, 19; Mr 13:32-37; 2Pe 3:8, 12; Re 22:20).

run to and fro—not referring to the modern rapidity of locomotion, as some think, nor to Christian missionaries going about to preach the Gospel to the world at large [Barnes], which the context scarcely admits; but, whereas now but few care for this prophecy of God, "at the time of the end," that is, near its fulfilment, "many shall run to and fro," that is, scrutinize it, running through every page. Compare Hab 2:2 [Calvin]: it is thereby that "the knowledge (namely, of God's purposes as revealed in prophecy) shall be increased." This is probably being now fulfilled.

Shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: by these words the angel doth not forbid all knowledge of the things here foretold, for

whatsoever is written is written for our learning; but the meaning is,

1. That Daniel must take notice of the special favour of God to him to make so great discoveries of the Divine secrets.

2. That they were intrusted with him to see the force and fruit of his humiliation and fervent prayer.

3. That he should support, and lay up these things for the support of the godly in their future deep afflictions.

4. That God would never utterly forsake his people, though their sins justly provoked his heavy hand upon them.

5. That these things be kept from the profane, who would make an evil’ use of them.

6. The book was commanded to be sealed, because it would be long ere the words would be all fulfilled, whereas those that were shortly to be fulfilled were forbidden to be sealed: see 2 Chronicles 21:12 Isaiah 8:16 Revelation 22:10. Many shall run to and fro; they shall diligently inquire and search these prophecies concerning the fates of the church, and shall see and admire both the prescience and providence of God concerning things to come; they shall know signs of the times, and wait upon God in the way of his judgments: see Psalm 77:5-7 Isaiah 26:8 1 Peter 1:10-12. The miserable Jews pervert this scripture, and forbid the people by dire threatenings to calculate times, namely, lest they find thereby that Jesus Christ is the true Messiah. Thus are they wilfully and judicially blinded, Acts 28:26 Romans 11:8. And knowledge shall be increased; he means chiefly in gospel times, which came by the preaching of Christ and searching the Scriptures about it. But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words,.... Of the book, in which he had wrote the visions and prophecies delivered to him: this he is bid to "shut up", to keep it from the common and profane people, who would only burlesque it; and to keep it to himself, as a peculiar treasure committed to his care; and though it was not kept from the saints and people of God, from their reading it, yet he was not to interpret and explain it to them; it was to remain a secret until the time of its accomplishment was come, or, however, near at hand; so that this denotes the obscurity of the prophecy, and the great difficulty of understanding it; it being like a book that is shut and sealed, as follows, see Revelation 5:1,

and seal the book, even to the time of the end; till the time comes appointed for the fulfilment of it, which shows that it reached to times at a great distance; that till these times were come, or near, it would be as a sealed book, and yet the accomplishment of it would be sure and certain, as what is sealed is:

many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased; that is, towards the end of the time appointed, many persons will be stirred up to inquire into these things delivered in this book, and will spare no pains or cost to get knowledge of them; will read and study the Scriptures, and meditate on them; compare one passage with another; spiritual things with spiritual, in order to obtain the mind of Christ; will peruse carefully the writings of such who have gone before them, who have attempted anything of this kind; and will go far and near to converse with persons that have any understanding of such things: and by such means, with the blessing of God upon them, the knowledge of this book of prophecy will be increased; and things will appear plainer the nearer the accomplishment of them is; and especially when accomplished, when prophecy and facts can be compared together: and not only this kind of knowledge, but knowledge of all spiritual things, of all evangelic truths and doctrines, will be abundantly enlarged at this time; and the earth will be filled and covered with it, as the sea with its waters; see Isaiah 11:9.

But thou, O Daniel, {e} shut up the words, and seal the book, {f} even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.

(e) Even though the most part despise this prophecy, yet make sure you keep it and esteem it as a treasure.

(f) Until the time that God has appointed for the full revelation of these things: and then many will run to and fro to search for the knowledge of these mysteries, which things they obtain now by the light of the Gospel.

4. The closing injunction to Daniel.

shut up, &c.] The injunction is similar to that in Daniel 8:26.

until the time of the end] i.e. (Daniel 8:17) the time of Antiochus’ persecution, regarded from the standpoint of Daniel himself. The words are meant to explain why the visions in the book, though communicated to Daniel, were not made generally known until the time of the persecution. Cf. on Daniel 8:26; and contrast Revelation 22:10.

many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased] A famous passage, prefixed by Bacon in its Latin form (Multi pertransibunt, et multiplex erit scientia) to the first edition of his Novum Organum, and interpreted by him (1. 93) as signifying that the complete exploration of the world (pertransitus mundi), which seemed to him to be then on the point of accomplishment, would coincide with great discoveries in science (augmenta scientiarum). This explanation of the words is, however, unhappily, too foreign to their context to be probable. But it must be admitted that the words are enigmatic. The verb rendered run to and fro occurs elsewhere, Jeremiah 5:1, Amos 8:12 (of literal movement hither and thither); Zechariah 4:10, 2 Chronicles 16:9 (of Jehovah’s eyes, present in every part of the earth); and the sense generally given to the passage is that many will then run to and fro in the book, i.e. diligently explore and study it, and so the knowledge of God’s providential purposes, to be obtained from it,—how, for instance, He tries, but at the same time rewards, His own faithful servants, and how the course of human history leads ultimately to the establishment of His kingdom,—will be increased.

The text, it must be owned, is open to suspicion. Prof. Bevan making a slight change (הרעת for הדעת), in a sense suggested by the LXX., obtains the rendering ‘many shall run to and fro (viz. in distraction), and evils (calamities) shall be increased,’ i.e. the revelation is to remain concealed, because there is to ensue a long period of commotion and distress. For the thought of the emended clause, he compares 1Ma 1:9 (of the wars and other troubles brought upon the world by the Seleucidae and the Ptolemies) ‘and they multiplied evils in the earth.’Verse 4. - But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased. The Septuagint rendering in the last portion of the verse is totally different from the Masserotic recension, which is correctly rendered in our English version, "And thou, Daniel, hide the commands and seal the book till the time of the end, till many shall rave violently (ἀπομανῶσιν) and the earth be filled with unrighteousness." It is possible that יְשֻׁגּעוּ (yeshoogg'oo), "were mad," was read instead of יִּשׂטְטוּ (yishoetoo), "ran to and fro." In the older script מ. was not unlike ע. Professor Bevan has suggested that instead of הַדָּעַת (hadda'th), "the knowledge," the Septuagint translator has read הָרָעֹת (hara'oth), "the evils," and thinks that this gives the Septuagint Greek. Were one, however, to render the Greek back into Hebrew, that would not be the form the words would take. It may, however, be regarded as a paraphrase. Theodotion's version is closer to the Massoretic, "And thou, Daniel, shalt guard (ἕμφραζον, ('make a fence round') the words, and seal the book till the time of the end, till many shall be taught, and knowledge shall be fulfilled." Theodotion here takes שיט as meaning, not "run to and fro," but "peruse carefully." The last clause somewhat justifies Professor Bevan's suggestion: רָבָה used to mean "fulfil" or "fill out." The Peshitta renders, "And thou, then, Daniel, seal these commands, render silent, and seal this book till the time of the end, and many shall inquire, and knowledge shall be increased." The Vulgate agrees on the whole with the Massoretic text. Shut up the words. The exact rendering of the words is "close up;" hence Theodotion's rendering "put a rampart round," the סָתַם (satham), means generally "to stop up a well;" e.g. 2 Kings 3:19; 2 Chronicles 32:30; Genesis 26:15. In Nehemiah 4:1 (7) it is used of stopping the breaches in the wall; only in Ezekiel 28:3 and Psalm 8 (6) is the word rendered, even in the English versions, "hidden;" but even in these cases that is not the necessary or even the natural meaning of the woful. These remarks apply also to Daniel 8:26. Seal the book. There is a question as to the force of this phrase. Does it mean, as Hitzig, Bevan, and the critical school generally maintain it means, that the book was to be hidden and concealed? This view, if correct, would certainly give a plausibility to the contention that the book of Daniel is the work of a falsarisu. We have seen, however, that the real meaning of the verb translated "shut up" is not "conceal," but "to shut up" with the view certainly of hindering access to them, but not at all with the intention of concealment. So the "sealing" here does not necessarily indicate concealment, but rather the conclusion of the matter with further idea of confirmation. The oracles of God are regarded as a spring of water; if we follow the figure implied in the first word used, the flow is stopped now; so far as this message is concerned, nothing more is to be drawn from the fountain. But a fountain may also be sealed (see Song of Solomon 4:12, "A garden enclosed, a fountain sealed"). In that case there is no idea of concealment. The book, then, of the prophecy is to be sealed against any change or addition. Even take the view of the critics, there is here no elaborate directions as to the concealment of the vision as we find in the case of the 'Assumption of Moses.' But further, we have no account of the finding of the book. Daniel was not like the 'Assumption of Moses,' the esoteric possession of a single sect, it was on the critical hypothesis soon known all over Palestine and Egypt. We know that the finding of the book of the Law in the reign of Josiah is narrated in 2 Kings 22. and 2 Chronicles 34; but neither 1 Maccabees nor 2 Maccabees says a word about the finding of the Book of Daniel. Josephus also has no word of the discovery of Daniel, although he relates the finding of the book of the Law in the days of Josiah. There must have been no tradition of such a thing taking place, yet two centuries was not so long as to obliterate tradition. The sealing had metaphorical meaning - a book sealed, though it was visible to the eye, and was not hidden away - could not be read. If the key by which to interpret it is not granted, a book in cipher cannot be read (comp. Isaiah 29:11, 12, "And the vision of all is become unto you as a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot, for it is sealed. And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned." If the book were sealed that it could not be opened, the delivering of the book and the request to read it would be meaningless). Prophecy was delivered frequently in enigmatic language, and the meaning of it could only be grasped when circumstance supplied the key. To the time of the end. The end is not the end of the persecution of the days of Antiochus - that is already past; we have now reached the consummation of all things. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased. This is to be looked upon as a description of the last time, when circumstance shall remove the seal from the book. The translator of the Septuagint has been led away by the idea of the time as one of sorrow. The verb, however, translated "going to and fro" may be rendered, as it is by Ewald, as "to peruse." The veil then shall be removed, the seals broken when men peruse the prophecy carefully, and knowledge is increased. In these verses there is a description of the four beasts. - Daniel 7:4. The first beasts resembled a lion with eagle's wings. At the entrance to a temple at Birs Nimrud there has been found (Layard, Bab. and Nin.) such a symbolical figure, viz., a winged eagle with the head of a man. There have been found also images of winged beasts at Babylon (Mnter, Relig. der Bab.). These discoveries may be referred to as evidence that this book was composed in Babylon, and also as explaining the Babylonian colouring of the dream. But the representation of nations and kingdoms by the images of beasts is much more widely spread, and affords the prophetic symbolism the necessary analogues and substrata for the vision. Lions and eagles are not taken into consideration here on account of their strength, rapacity, and swiftness, but simply because they are kings among beasts and birds: "The beast rules royally like the lion, and wings its conquering royal flight high over the οἰκουμένη like the eagle" (Kliefoth). This emblem corresponds with the representation of the first kingdom with the golden head (Daniel 2). What the gold is among metals and the head among the members of the body, that the lion is among beasts and the eagle among birds.

After a time Daniel sees a change take place with this beast. The wings, i.e., the feathers by which it flies, are plucked off: it is deprived of its power of flight, so that it can no more fly conquering over the earth, or hover as a ruler over it; i.e., the kingdom will be deprived of the power of conquering, for it will be lifted up from the earth (הקימת is Hoph., cf. Daniel 4:33), and be placed on its feet as a man. The lifting up from the earth does not represent, accordingly, being taken away or blown away from the earth, not the destruction of the Chaldean kingdom (Theodrt., Hieron., Raschi, Hitzig, and others), but the raising of it up when lying prostrate on the ground to the right attitude of a human being. This change is further described by the words, "a man's heart was given to it," denoting that the beast-nature was transformed to that of a man. The three expressions thus convey the idea, that the lion, after it was deprived of its power of flight, was not only in external appearance raised from the form of a beast to that of a man, but also that inwardly the nature of the beast was ennobled into that of a man. In this description of the change that occurred to the lion there is without doubt a reference to what is said of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4:it cannot, however, be thence concluded, with Hofmann and others, that the words refer directly to Nebuchadnezzar's insanity; for here it is not the king, but the kingdom, that is the subject with reference to whose fate that event in the life of its founder was significant. Forasmuch as it was on account of his haughtiness that madness came upon him, so that he sank down to the level of the beasts of the field, so also for the same reason was his kingdom hindered in its flight over the earth. "Nebuchadnezzar's madness was for his kingdom the plucking off of its wings;" and as when he gave glory to the Most High his reason returned to him, and then for the first time he attained to the true dignity of man, so also was his world-kingdom ennobled in him, although the continued influence of this ennobling may not be perceived from the events in the reign of his son, recorded in Daniel 5. Besides, there lies herein not only the idea of the superiority of the first world-kingdom over the others, as is represented in Daniel 2 by the golden head of the metallic image, but also manifestly the typical thought that the world-kingdom will first be raised to the dignity of manhood when its beast-like nature is taken away. Where this transformation does not take place, or where it is not permanent, there must the kingdom perish. This is the prophetic meaning, for the sake of which that occurrence in the life of the founder of the world-monarchy is here transferred to his kingdom.

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