Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Daniel 10:1 the character of the prophecy is indicated:
1. Its subject-matter is afflictive. "The conflict is great. It covers a time of great calamities (see the Hebrew).
2. The prophecy was to be unusually intelligible. And he understood the word, and understanding was there to him in the vision." Some haze of mystery there might be, but not the thick darkness which had enrobed preceding revelations.
3. It would certainly be true. "A word was revealed to Daniel... and true the word." The prophecy of ch. 11. is the most minute of Scripture; and hence men have been tempted to disbelieve in it as prophecy, and to regard it as prophecy written after the event, lien might have disregarded it before fulfilment; hence Daniel gives this assurance. We now here concern ourselves with Daniel's vision of the Christ.
I. THE SCENE OF THE VISION On the Tigris. The first migration to Jerusalem had taken place. Daniel's advanced age made it, perhaps, impossible that he should have joined in it. He may have been on the Tigris:
1. Either on an embassage.
2. Or retired from all official life.
II. THE TIME OF THE VISION.
1. Two years after the first migration back from captivity (ver. 1).
2. A time of sorrow. Mourning was usually for seven days: Daniel mourned for three times seven. Fasting, etc. Why? Realize the circumstances. The temple was indeed rising; but neighbouring peoples were exerting all their influence with the Persian king to frustrate the work. Therefore anxiety and fear. Daniel's affliction would be in proportion as success seemed certain. Good men grieve over slow progress of the Divine kingdom, and the fierceness of the opposition.
3. Time of the Passover. On the twenty-fourth day of the first month came the vision. We infer that Daniel had consecrated the first three weeks of the new year to devotion. This included the Passover week - a time of unusual solemnity - when he would be in earnest sympathy with his nation.
III. THE VISION. That this was none other than the vision of Christ the Lord appears:
1. From the after-developments of the scene.
2. From a comparison with the vision of Christ in the Apocalypse. (Revelation 1.)
Compare the two descriptions of clothing - the girdle, the countenance, the eyes, the feet, the voice. Daniel adds, "His body also was like the beryl." John adds, "His head and his hairs were white," etc. In drawing out the description into detail, note: the clothing was of the finest, purest - the garb of priests, prophets, saints, and angels; the uncovered portions of the body shone with gemlike splendour; all the symbols suggest light-splendour; the girdle of fine gold; the arms and feet "like the eye of polished brass," the part that catches the blaze of sunlight and throws it back; the face as lightning, and the eyes as fire; the voice majestic. All this may be spiritually expanded.
IV. THE EFFECT OF THE VISION.
1. On the companions of the seer. (Ver. 7.) Compare effect on Paul's companions on the way to Damascus, of the vision of the same Christ.
2. On the seer. (Vers. 8, 9.) He swooned; but the mighty voice came rolling into his ear, as the roar of ocean breaks into the caves upon the shore. Here we have a picture of the inability of man to stand before the unveiled revelations of God (comp. Revelation 1:17).
V. THE RESTORING OF CHRIST THE LORD. Christ:
1. Sets man erect in the presence of Divine revelations. (Ver. 11.) No need of cringing. We ourselves are made. in the image of God, and have affinity with the Divine.
2. He does so gradually. Daniel was first flat on his face; then on all fours; then half-raised and trembling; and finally stood upright on his feet. In this, see how man is gradually led up to all the light which God has to give. In heaven the unveiling may be gradual (vers. 9, 10, 11).
3. Sympathetically. "Behold, a hand touched me" (vers. 10, 16-19).
4. Assures man that his devout aspirations are recognized beyond the sky. Daniel's was the attitude of a devout truth-seeker. He "had set his heart to understand," and "to chasten himself before his God." We should have more uniformity of Scripture interpretation, were the interpreter always of this spirit.
5. And of the sure answer to his prayers. (Ver. 12.) As soon as prayer was offered, it was heard, and secret agencies were evoked for its answer; but there were many obstacles to be overcome. The later part of the chapter shows this. So may it ever be, before our prayers can be answered, long lines and combinations of secondary causes may have to he set in operation, and formidable hostilities subdued. Patience in waiting for, as well as faith in expecting, the answer, are both necessary in the matter of prayer. - R.
(1) Is the subject-matter of the testimony opposed to reason?
(2) Was the witness himself deceived?
(3) Is the witness truthful? Now, on all these points the record of Daniel is thoroughly reliable.
The matter of this vision is most reasonable in itself. We have an accumulation of proof that Daniel was not deceived. It was not a subjective hallucination, but an objective reality. As evidence of Daniel's thorough truthfulness, he places on record the minutest circumstances of time and place. If there had been any inaccuracy here it would have been detected in the age while Daniel's contemporaries were yet alive. In many parts of the narrative we have the confirmations of secular historians; and best evidence of all have we that this was a real visit of an angel, viz. that his predictions of events have been verified in history.
I. THERE WAS PERSONAL PREPARATION TO RECEIVE THIS HEAVENLY VISION. The habit which Daniel formed in youth was of inestimable service to him in old age. Incidentally we may observe how self-consistent are the several parts of this prophetical book. The flesh has always been, more or less, hostile to the spirit. Daniel had wisely repressed and held in control his bodily appetites in the days of his youth; and by reason of this the finer feelings and loftier faculties of his soul had been gradually developed. The practice of abstinence and self-denial had become easy. Yet he did not abstain from food because the act possessed in itself any meritorious excellence. He abstained because his soul was so absorbed in nobler occupation that appetite had lost its edge and food its charm. We are not told the particular reason of this long mourning, yet we can easily infer that his grief was excited by the depressed condition of his people Israel. Self had long since been sacrificed on the altar of his God. He rejoiced in Israel's joy; he mourned in Israel's sorrow. Such tears clear the eye of the soul for the perception of heavenly things.
II. THE SUBSTANCE OF THE VISION. It was the vision of a celestial being, in the form and raiment of a man. To what extent this august person, as he appeared to Daniel, appeared in his native essence, or accommodated himself to human eyes, no living man can say. Whether the unfallen angels have any definite form apprehensible to human eyes, is a question more curious than important. But certain it is that in many vital respects men resemble angels. They have understanding of God's works. They can appreciate truth. Both angels and regenerate men love righteousness and hate wickedness. Both are gifted with benevolence. Both have conscience, affection, choice, will. Here are ample grounds for intercourse and friendship - a joint occupation of heaven. In this resplendent vision we may see what ransomed man shall be. Precious stones, fire, electric flame, burnished brass, - these are the emblems of our transfigured nature. Earthly dulness and deformity shall give place to the refinements of celestial splendour. What we call, in our ignorance, supernatural, is but Nature in her higher forms and essences. Whether communication of thought among the angels is by means of outward signs - something akin to words - we cannot tell. On this occasion there was not only the form of a glorious man, there was also the language of a man and the sympathy of a man. To accommodate themselves to the necessities of men is a delight to angelic natures as it is to God.
III. THE STRANGE EFFECTS OF THIS VISION UPON MEN. One might have supposed that this visit of a heavenly stranger would be to Daniel, if not to his attendants, an occasion of unmixed delight. It was, without doubt, a special mark of God's favour. When we wish to show a distinguishing mark of respect to a friend we send our messages, not by a menial servant, but by a person of distinction. And that God should have sent a special despatch to Daniel - not a mere voice, not a human messenger, not an ordinary angel - but Gabriel himself, this ought to have been welcomed as a high mark of Divine kindness. To be assured that God has other orders of servants beside ourselves, this is a pleasure. To be assured that these nobler and more loyal natures regard us, not as dangerous rivals of their privileges, but as fellow-heirs of their home, this ought to be rich delight. On what ground, then, does this pious man shrink from contact with this glorious servant of Jehovah? We can conceive of no other ground than this, viz. the sense of personal sin. Notwithstanding Daniel's penitence for sin, and his faith in God's mercy, there yet remained the consciousness of great unworthiness. Hence a messenger from God may be an instrument to visit just recompense. Still, we must note that the effect o, Daniel was very different from the effect on his companions. At the sound of the angel's overpowering voice the attendants on this aged statesman fled. Regardful chiefly of their own safety, they fled to hide themselves. Like the Gravelling companions of St. Paul, they heard a voice but saw no person. There is such a thing, even in our present life, as a refinement of the bodily senses - a development and quickening of the sensitive capacity - to discern immaterial things. On the eve of the Saviour's crucifixion the Father's voice pierced the blue welkin. Bystanders, with dull and stolid souls, said that it thundered. Others, having a finer perception of things, caught an articulate sound, and averred that an angel spake. Yet One at least detected the very words, and recognized them as the response of the eternal God. Daniel's senses were overpowered by the splendour of this distinguished visitor. Strength failed him. He was prostrate with awe, yet his mind was awake and active, so that he heard the words which this glorious spirit spake.
IV. THE PROOFS THAT THIS VISION HAD AN OBJECTIVE REALITY. The votaries of science make a demand for facts. Theologians respond to the demand, and supply them with facts in abundance - facts which cannot be gainsaid. Here was the fact that Daniel's companions heard a voice so novel and so startling that they ran to hide themselves - a type this of what guilty men do in every age of the world. Here was the fact of which Daniel's eye was witness, the fact to which Daniel's ear testified, the fact to which Daniel's sense of touch responded. Here is an accumulation of evidence - one faculty corroborated the testimony of another faculty. Here were facts attested by the organs of his body, and confirmed by all the powers of his mind. Here were facts which entered into the inmost experiences of the man - clear answers to prayer, which satisfied his wish, and expanded his knowledge, and invigorated his hope. Here were facts predicted which, in due time, were verified in the actual history of the nations. If anything in history or in science is credible, this is certain - that Daniel's vision was no subjective illusion, no hallucination of the brain, but an objective reality. He obtained positive information, which has served ever since for the instruction of mankind. He received from his distinguished visitor strength - a positive communication of blessing. Here are solid facts, which refuse to evaporate before the breath of honest inquiry. - D.
I. ANGELS ARE EMPLOYED TO BRING TO MEN ASSURANCE OF THEIR ACCEPTANCE WITH GOD. This angel, who was probably Gabriel, was commissioned to assure Daniel that he was "greatly beloved." Every doubt upon that head was completely removed. The angel knew what were God's dispositions of mind towards Daniel, and he was empowered to convey the intelligence. There is nothing unreasonable in this; no improbability that beings of refined nature exist in nearer relation to God than do men; no improbability that they perform acts of service for men. That which is naturally probable is made certain by the written revelation. It is often the case that we cannot account for our moods of feeling, our hopefulness and our despondency, by any known events. Who shall say that these states of mind are not the result of angelic visitation? That we are not conscious of the presence of angels is no proof that they do not visit us. Their ethereal natures may be impervious to human sight, except by miraculous interposition. Elisha's servant did not perceive the angelic host sent for their protection until God had specially opened his eyes. Once and again this angel assured Daniel of his interest in God's love, charged him to dismiss his fears, and brought to him heavenly peace.
II. ANGELS ARE EMPLOYED TO INFORM THE HUMAN UNDERSTANDING. One main object of Gabriel's visit to Daniel was to shed light upon passing events, and to enlarge Daniel's comprehension of God's government. So high was God's esteem for Daniel, that Gabriel was despatched on purpose to dislodge ignorance and doubt from his mind. He assures him that the want of visible answer to prayer is no proof that God has not heard, nor that he is unwilling to reply. On the contrary, Daniel's prayer had taken effect from the very beginning, and measures were at once set in motion in accordance therewith. The prayers and lastings of good men are links (ordained by God) in the chain of causes and effects. As soon as man interceded for Israel, Gabriel was despatched on business of high importance to the kingdom of Persia. And Gabriel was further charged to unfold to Daniel what was in the volume of God's purposes - the series of vicissitudes through which Israel would be destined to pass. God's thoughts were loftier than Daniel's; his designs had a wider scope and range than his servant's. Nothing short of the establishment of permanent righteousness will satisfy God.
III. ANGELS ARE EMPLOYED TO INCREASE OUR STRENGTH. It is noteworthy that as Daniel's needs arose one after the other, the angel was prepared to meet each one. Daniel was prostrate; the angel set him upright. Daniel was so stunned with the intelligence, that he was dumb; the angel opened his mouth, and gave him speech. Daniel fainted under a sense of awe and wonder; the angel imparted new strength with his touch. We are impressed with the considerateness, the tenderness, the thoughtful sympathy, of this angelic visitor. There was strength imparted to his physical nature by a touch; there was strength imparted to his soul by the angel's words. According to the constitution of man's nature is the agency employed by God. The angel who strengthened Christ Jesus in the garden of suffering can also strengthen us.
IV. ANGELS ARE ENGAGED TO PROTECT THE INTERESTS OF THE CHURCH IN PALACES AND IN COUNCILS OF STATE. There are times when they can best serve us, not at our side, but at a distance from us. Probably Daniel was agitated in soul, because for three weeks no sign of answer came from heaven. Yet, all the while, answer had come, though he was unconscious of it. Daniel was concerned, not for himself, but for the well-being and fortunes of Israel. But he might rest assured that God had more at heart these interests - than man, however zealous, ever can. This report of Gabriel opens to our minds a new view of angelic ministration. It is evident that they do perform their service on earth, for the most part, unseen by human eyes. Gabriel had been with the kings and statesmen of Persia. So important to Israel's well-being was his presence in that court, that for three weeks he had remained there. His power was limited; he could not be in two places at once, nor could he accomplish his mission without the assistance of Michael. For the time being, it was better that Daniel should remain in ignorance of the fact. His continued fasting and prayer were essential to complete success. In what fashion Gabriel rendered service we are not told. Most probably he had power to influence the views, the motives, the ambitious of men. A thousand subtle agencies were at his command, by which he could direct the counsels of men and bring about the purposes of God. Angelic influence, then, is a factor in state concerns which we do well not to ignore.
V. ANGELS HAVE OFTEN TO CONTEND WITH EVIL SPIRITS IN FULFILLING THE BEHESTS OF GOD. There can be little doubt that the language here employed by Gabriel, viz. "the prince of the kingdom of Persia," refers to one of the leading spirits of darkness, one of the fallen angels. There are principalities and powers in hell. Satan is termed the "prince of this world," "the prince of the power of the air." An antagonist of Gabriel would be fittingly an evil spirit. Gabriel speaks of fighting with him. There was hot warfare. So we read in the Epistle of Jude that Michael disputed with the devil about the body of Moses. That some bold and crafty spirit, in the confederate host of hell, should be told off to do some particular evil work is probable enough; and that such, having subordinates under him, should be styled leader or prince of a particular earthly empire is equally probable. This earth, then, is the scene of mighty conflicts. Angels here have their combats as well as men. Here, perhaps, is being fought out the crucial conflict between the Creator and his rebellious creatures - the conflict between righteousness and wickedness. Gabriel, though "excelling in power," is not omnipotent. Some things even an angel alone cannot do. They learn that in union is strength. Michael is sent to help him - Michael, who is set apart as the prince or protector of Israel. Gabriel cannot be long spared from the particular scene of conflict. During a temporary truce he visits Daniel This accomplished, he returns to the troublous scene in the court of Persia. - D.
Daniel 10:13, 20-ch. Daniel 11:1We read thus: "And the prince of the kingdom of Persia stood against me twenty and one days, and behold Michael one of the chief princes came to help me, and I gained the superiority there by the side of the kings of Persia And he said, Dost thou know why I came unto thee? And now I will return to war with the Prince of Persia, and while I [thus] go forth [to war], behold the Prince of Javan will come. But yet I will show to thee that which is written in the book of truth. And not one is there showing himself strong with me against these [the princes of Persia and Javan] except Michael your prince; I also in the first year of Darius the Mode stood in order to strengthen and for a fortress to him" (i.e. Michael). This reading of ours is necessary to make clear the meaning of our homiletical culture. Lest any should be surprised at the fulness of the revelation in Daniel as to angels and the angel-world, we may observe that there are two epochs in Hebrew history, when angels are specially prominent.
1. The time of the judges. Destitute of direct revelation or prophetic guidance.
2. The period of the Captivity. One of special trial, incident to contact wit h heathenism.
I. THE ANTAGONISTS.
1. On the side of God.
(1) The Angel-God. The Logos. The "certain man" of ver. 5. The Lord Jesus. The speaker throughout (vers. 13, 20 - Daniel 11:1).
(2) Michael. His name means, "Who is like unto God?" and implies that, however high is the scale of being, there is an infinite distance between him and God (see Daniel 12:1; Jude 1:7; Revelation 12:7). The following propositions seem clear about him: He is not the Logos; for he is here distinguished from him. "One of the chief princes," one of the principal in the hierarchy of heaven. "Your prince," the angelic representative and guardian of the Jewish nation. "The great prince who standeth for the children of thy people." An archangel.
2. On the side of the world. The "princes" here named are the supernatural power standing behind the daimoniae, who stood behind the national gods, and were represented by them. They are spirits of evil, inspiring the worldly anti-Divine action of the great empires of earth.
(1) The "Prince of Persia."
(2) The Prince of Javan; i.e. Greece.
II. THE WAR. The war was on behalf of Israel, and may be described as being prosecuted through three supernatural campaigns. We consider them separately.
1. The first campaign. (Daniel 11:1.)
(1) The antagonist. Not mentioned here by name, but, following the analogy of the rest of the description, is certainly the celestial "Prince" of Babylonia.
(2) The casus belli. The occasion of conflict. This, doubtless, was the necessity of placing on the Babylonian throne one who would be favourable to the return of Israel from the Captivity.
(a) Michael carried on the war.
(b) The Christ supported him.
This order is reversed in the next campaign.
(4) The victory. Lies with the Divine in every case.
2. The second campaign. (Ver. 15.)
(1) The antagonist. "The Prince of Persia.'
(2) The casus belli. The obstruction raised against the restoration of the temple, at the instigation of Israel's enemies.
(a) This campaign was carried on by the Angel-God himself.
(b) But aided by Michael. Here should be noted the doctrine that angels and men may be co-workers together with God.
(c) Was synchronous with Daniel's prayer. All the way through the twenty-one days the prayer was being answered through a mighty conflict carried on in a higher world.
(4) The victory. Specially mentioned: "And I gained the superiority there by the side of the kings of Persia."
3. The third campaign. (Vers. 20, 21.)
(1) The antagonists. The "princes" of Persia and Javan.
(2) The casus belli. All that, in their worldliness, was attempted by Persia afterwards, by Greece, by Alexander and his successors, especially Antiochus, to the sore detriment of the Jewish people.
(3) A speciality. Only Michael in this great contention was on the Christ-side. Note:
(a) There is, then, liberty in heaven as on earth to do or not to do - to go forth to war or to rest in peace.
(b) Michael made a noble use of liberty.
(c) By endowment he towered above others "One of the chief princes."
(d) Therefore to him were great responsibilities entrusted. He was made the guardian spirit of the Hebrew nation and Church. "To whom much is given" etc., seems to be a law of all moral worlds. "Michael your prince. To a subordinate spirit God will not entrust a work demanding special power and greatness."
(4) The victory. Again not expressly mentioned, but sure. The following deductions from the whole subject should, perhaps, have special mention and emphasis:
1. The Church has many and powerful enemies.
2. It abides under most powerful protection. What Michael was to Israel of old, that, and more than that, is the Lord Jesus to Israel now; and he has many helpers.
3. Its destiny is in conflict in the worlds above, as well as here below.
4. In the holy war here, the humblest may take a share. The Son of God stooped to avail himself of the help of Michael; so he ever stoops to accept the humblest contribution, the lowliest service.
"The Son of God goes forth to war,
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