Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
This and the two following chapters form the concluding section of the book of Daniel. The vision occurred two years after the departure of the exiles from Babylon, and at a time when those who were rebuilding the city were beginning to experience the “troublous” times spoken of in Daniel 9:25. This section is partly supplemental to Daniel 8, 9, and introduces details with regard to the fourth Empire, certain features of Daniel 7 being developed. The date of the vision is the third year of Cyrus, the prophet continuing to be known by the name which he had received more than seventy years previously.
In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a thing was revealed unto Daniel, whose name was called Belteshazzar; and the thing was true, but the time appointed was long: and he understood the thing, and had understanding of the vision.(1) A thing.—A revelation, as Daniel 9:25. The contents of the revelation are specified in the perplexing words, “the thing was true, and the time appointed (comp. Daniel 8:12) was long,” by which is meant apparently that truth and long tribulation were the subject of their vision. “Time appointed” is translated “warfare” (Isaiah 40:2), and is here used in the same sense, meaning “hardship” or “tribulation.” This revelation, however, speaks of the “warfare” which not Israel only, but all God’s people must undergo before the coming of the Messiah in His kingdom.
And he understood.—Comp. Daniel 8:27. It appears from Daniel 12:8 that the whole was not understood by him. Certainly the duration of the tribulation was not clearly revealed to the prophet, though he received enigmatic declarations respecting it (Daniel 12:10, &c.).
I . . . was mourning.—It is needless to suppose that Daniel’s fast was in consequence of some breaches of the passover ritual, of which his people had been guilty. The Jews were involved in troubles, and had committed sins of faithlessness which justified the prophet in turning to God with fasting and praying. At Jerusalem there were the factious oppositions offered to the newly returned colonists, of which we read in the book of Ezra. They experienced the want of spiritual guides (Ezra 2:63) in one very important matter; nor need we doubt that the circumstances mentioned in Ezra 4:1-6 had occasioned many complications. But there was in Israel the sin of faithessness to God’s promises, which grieved the aged seer’s heart. The number of those who had obeyed the prophet’s command, “Go ye forth from Babylon” (Isaiah 48:20), was comparatively insignificant, and those who should have been foremost in leading their fellow-countrymen—namely, the Levites—had preferred the life in Babylon to the trials and hardships of rebuilding their own city (Ezra 2:40; comp. Ezra 8:15).
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) Pleasant bread—i.e., delicate food. Abstaining from this as well as from the use of oil (comp. 2Samuel 12:20; Amos 6:6) were the outward signs of Daniel’s grief.
And in the four and twentieth day of the first month, as I was by the side of the great river, which is Hiddekel;(4) The four and twentieth day.—After the end of his three weeks’ fast the prophet was upon the bank of the Tigris, where he saw the following vision. Hiddekel is the Accadian name of the river. (Comp. Genesis 2:14.) “Great river” is an epithet usually applied to the river Euphrates, as Genesis 15:18. Daniel was here in the body, and not only in the spirit, as Daniel 8:2.
Then I lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz:(5) A certain man.—The appearance of this person is minutely described, while that of the angels is not mentioned. The dress especially recalls to our minds the clothing of the high priest. (See Exodus 39:27-29, and comp. Revelation 1:13.) The person himself is carefully distinguished from Michael (Daniel 10:21), and as we may infer from Daniel’s silence (comp. Daniel 9:21), he is distinct from Gabriel also. He is the same man who stood before Daniel (Daniel 8:15), and must be regarded as “the Angel of God” (Exodus 32:34), or “God’s Presence” (Exodus 33:14), or “God’s Name;” in fact, the One who was the Logos.
Uphaz.—A place only mentioned in this passage and Jeremiah 10:9. The locality of it is unknown. The additions of the LXX. should be noted.
His body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude.(6) Beryl.—Heb., Tarshish, a variety of the topaz.
His feet.—More correctly, the place where his feet were, or the lower extremities of his limbs. We are not told in what position the man was when Daniel first saw him. Later on (Daniel 12:6) he is described as being upon or above the waters. In this position he symbolises God as supreme over the nations who are represented by the Tigris.
And I Daniel alone saw the vision: for the men that were with me saw not the vision; but a great quaking fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves.(7) I . . . alone saw the vision.—St. Jerome compares the account of St. Paul (Acts 22:9). It may be added that, as upon that occasion (comp. Acts 9:7), the companions of the prophet heard the voice but saw nothing. The words of the voice (Daniel 10:6) are unrecorded.
Therefore I was left alone, and saw this great vision, and there remained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength.(8) This great vision.—Daniel again distinguishes this from former visions: The glory of the man who appeared to him was far in excess of what he had witnessed previously (Daniel 8:17). The effects of the vision upon him are also mentioned. His “comeliness was turned,” or, he grew pale with terror at what he saw, and fainted.
Yet heard I the voice of his words: and when I heard the voice of his words, then was I in a deep sleep on my face, and my face toward the ground.(9) His words.—He refers to the unrecorded words of Daniel 10:6. (Comp. Daniel 8:17-18.)
And, behold, an hand touched me, which set me upon my knees and upon the palms of my hands.(10) An hand.—This hand was that of the person who appeared, but it is spoken of as “felt,” not as seen. But though supported by this hand, the prophet is unable to stand upright. He crouches in a terrified posture. It should be noticed that the equivalent of “set” is translated “scatter” (Psalm 59:11 ). It is used in the same sense in the passage before us. (See Amos 9:9.)
And he said unto me, O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee, and stand upright: for unto thee am I now sent. And when he had spoken this word unto me, I stood trembling.(11) Greatly beloved.—See Daniel 9:23, Note. The assuring words thus addressed to the prophet enabled him to stand upright, but his alarm had not as yet subsided.
Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words.(12) From the first day.—The meaning appears to be that this vision was vouchsafed to him in consequence of his prayer to understand what would befal his people in the future. The prayer was heard from the first day that he offered it, but it had been impossible for him to realise the answer before the present time, for reasons mentioned in the next verse.
But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia.(13) The prince of the kingdom.—Perhaps no single verse in the whole of the Scriptures speaks more clearly than this upon the invisible powers which rule and influence nations. If we were without a revelation, we should have thought it congruent that God Himself should direct all events in the world without using any intervening means. But revelation points out that as spiritual beings carry out God’s purpose in the natural world (Exodus 12:23; 2Samuel 24:16) and in the moral world (Luke 15:10), so also they do in the political world. From this chapter we not only learn that Israel had a spiritual champion (Daniel 10:21) to protect her in her national life, and to watch over her interests, but also that the powers opposed to Israel had their princes, or saviours, which were antagonists of those which watched over Israel. The “princes” of the heathen powers are devils, according to 1Corinthians 10:20. The doctrine of the ministry of angels is taught in Psalm 34:7; Psalm 91:11; Psalm 96:5 (LXX.); Isaiah 24:21; Isaiah 46:2; Jeremiah 46:25; Jeremiah 49:3. Further passages in the New Testament bearing upon the question are 1Corinthians 8:5; Colossians 1:16.
Withstood me.—The phrase is identical with “stood over against him” (Joshua 5:13). The verse implies that the spiritual powers attached to Persia were influencing Cyrus in a manner that was prejudicial to the interests of God’s people. It must be borne in mind that the vision occurred at the time of the Samaritan intrigues with the Persian Court in opposition to Zerubbabel.
Michael.—Mentioned only in the Book of Daniel and Jude 1:9, Revelation 12:7. The title “chief princes,” rightly explained in the margin, shows that the charge of Israel had been entrusted by God to the highest of the heavenly powers; but the name “first prince” points out that, great though he is, he is inconsiderable when compared with God.
I remained there.—Literally, I prevailed there, as Genesis 49:4. The person is explaining to Daniel how it had happened that he had received no visible answer to a prayer that had been offered with success three weeks previously. There had been a conflict between the powers of light and darkness, in which the former had gained the victory, which had been decisive. By the kings of Persia are meant all the successors of Cyrus. It may be remarked that from this time onward the Persian kings were, upon the whole, favourable to the interests of Israel.
Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days: for yet the vision is for many days.(14) The latter days.—Comp. Daniel 2:28; Daniel 8:17. The time is here more narrowly defined as “those days,” that is, the period when the vision of Daniel 11 shall receive its complete fulfilment. The “vision” is identical with “the thing” (Daniel 10:1), or “the vision” (Daniel 10:16). It must be carefully borne in mind that there is no reference to preceding visions, except so far as the revelation contained in Daniel 11 develops certain details of other visions.
And when he had spoken such words unto me, I set my face toward the ground, and I became dumb.(15) I set my face.—The conduct of Daniel described in this verse is not to be ascribed to his fear, for that had been already driven away (Daniel 10:12), but to his reverence for the majestic person who was before him, and to the gratitude that he felt for the answer to his prayer. (Comp. Daniel 9:3-4.)
And, behold, one like the similitude of the sons of men touched my lips: then I opened my mouth, and spake, and said unto him that stood before me, O my lord, by the vision my sorrows are turned upon me, and I have retained no strength.(16) One like . . .—Comp. Daniel 8:15. However, there is no reason for supposing that the person is different from the one mentioned in Daniel 10:10; Daniel 10:18. By “sorrows” is meant the pain produced by terror.
For how can the servant of this my lord talk with this my lord? for as for me, straightway there remained no strength in me, neither is there breath left in me.(17) For how.—The whole verse must be regarded as addressed by Daniel to the angel. On the phrase “neither is there any breath in me” comp. 1Kings 17:17. Here we may notice the same fear which possessed Isaiah at the time of his vision (Isaiah 6:5).
And said, O man greatly beloved, fear not: peace be unto thee, be strong, yea, be strong. And when he had spoken unto me, I was strengthened, and said, Let my lord speak; for thou hast strengthened me.(19) Be strong.—Comp. 2Samuel 10:12.
Then said he, Knowest thou wherefore I come unto thee? and now will I return to fight with the prince of Persia: and when I am gone forth, lo, the prince of Grecia shall come.(20) Then said he.—The meaning of this verse is obscure. Apparently the person who is speaking refers back to what he had said (Daniel 10:12-14); and from the question “Knowest thou?” &c., we are to infer that Daniel was perfectly aware of the reasons which caused him to come, viz., “to make thee understand what shall befal thy people in the latter days.” But before he proceeds to make this revelation, he prepares Daniel’s mind for a portion of what is about to be revealed, by mentioning the spiritual powers which ruled over Greece. “I shall return to fight,” referring to the Providence which watched over Israel during the Persian sovereignty; “but while I am gone forth” (the word being used in a military sense, as in Joshua 14:11) “the prince of Javan will come,” this word being also used in a hostile sense. The prophet is in this manner prepared for troublous times, which shall occur under the Macedonian supremacy.
But I will shew thee that which is noted in the scripture of truth: and there is none that holdeth with me in these things, but Michael your prince.(21) But.—A further contrast is introduced by the adversative. This may be brought out by paraphrasing the verse as follows: “It is true that the prince of Javan will attack you, but do not despair at the thought of one persecuting empire succeeding another. It is all written in the Scripture of truth:” that is, in the revelations which God had already conveyed, or shortly would convey, to Daniel, and in the book of Providence (Psalm 139:16). We have here a striking parallel to our Saviour’s words, “Lo, I have told you before.”
And there is none . . .—A still further ground of encouragement. Michael, who stood up as Israel’s champion under the Persian troubles, will prove himself strong against the evil powers which lead Javan.