William Kelly Major Works Commentary
Notes on the book of
With an introduction IN REVIEW OF
DEAN FARRAR'S WORK ON THE PROPHET
IN THE "EXPOSITOR'S BIBLE."
These lectures on the Book of Daniel were taken in shorthand and printed first some forty years ago, with a very slight correction in a later edition. It would be easy to fill up details and to improve their literary form. But as they are, they have helped not a few souls, and not least since Great Britain and the United States have been beguiled into their growing pursuit of that guilty and withering craze which calls itself the "Higher Criticism." What is it in the main but a revival of older British Deism, aided by devices of foreign unbelief, and decorated with modern German erudition or its home imitation? Yet all fail to conceal hostility to God's inspiration, and ceaseless effort to minimize real miracle and true prophecy, where, as in this country, men dare not yet deny them altogether.
The notorious Oxford Essays, which roused strong feeling in a former generation, are quite left behind. Dissenters vie with Nationalists (Episcopalian or Presbyterian), Methodists with Congregationalists, and of late Ritualists with avowed Rationalists, in showing themselves up to date in freethinking; as if the revealed truth of God were a matter of scientific progress. What joy to all open infidels, who cannot but hail it as the triumph of their contempt for His word! It is not now profane men only, as in the eighteenth century, but religious professors, ecclesiastical dignitaries in the various bodies or so-called "churches" of Christendom, and particularly those who hold theological and linguistic chairs in the Universities and Colleges all over the world, who become increasingly tainted with this deadly infection. Alas! it is the sure forerunner of that "apostasy" which the great apostle, from almost the beginning of his written testimony, said must "first come" before the day of the Lord can "be present."
Take, as a recent instance (and it is only one out of many in the conspiracy against Scripture), the present Dean of Canterbury's contribution on the Book of Daniel to the Expositor's Bible. Self-deception may hide much from its victims; but no believer should hesitate to say, "An enemy hath done this." While claiming for the Book an "undisputed and indisputable" place in the Canon, think of the infatuation of denying openly and unqualifiedly its genuineness and its authenticity! "It has never made the least difference in my reverent (!) acceptance of it that I have for many years been convinced that it cannot be regarded as literal history or ancient prediction." Yet such persons assume to be actuated simply by the love of truth; for this they confound with the counter-love of doubting. Alas! they are under "the spirit of error" (1 John 4:6); or, as Jude so warns, "These speak evil of the things which they know not: but what as the irrational animals they know, in these things they corrupt themselves." May the Christian keep Christ's word, and not deny His name!
W. K., CANNES, April, 1897.
DANIEL is characteristically the prophet of the Babylonish exile. The frightful excesses of Antiochus Epiphanes find their place in the course of his visions, and a special place, quite distinct from the general ground on which the book starts and proceeds. From the first the solemn fact is made evident that the Jews are for the present Lo-ammi (not My people): God no longer addresses them through the prophet. They are called Daniel's people in Daniel 9:24, Daniel 10:14, Daniel 11:14, Daniel 12:1; and God is distinctively designated "the God of the heavens" (Daniel 2:18; Dan 2:37; Dan 2:44); which is repeated in Ezra 1:2, Ezra 5:12, Ezra 6:9-10, Ezra 7:12; Ezr 7:23, Nehemiah 1:4-5, Nehemiah 2:4, and also in 2 Chronicles 36:23. The state of His people, their idolatrous apostasy, made it incompatible with His nature and majesty to act at their head or in their midst as "the Lord of all the earth." (Joshua 3:11) He is only called "Jehovah" in the prophet's own prayer and confession. (Dan. 9) "Thus saith Jehovah" would have been equally out of place.
Yet, as the God of the heavens, He deigned to make known to the heathen king "what should be at the end of the days" (Daniel 2:28): for then only will God's purpose be manifest to every eye in the judgment of the Gentile empires, and in the subsequent establishment of His kingdom, which shall fill the whole earth and stand for ever. Hence Daniel gives, as no other does, the "times of the Gentiles." (Luke 21:24) This large scope is precisely suited to a great prophet raised up at the starting-point in Nebuchadnezzar's day, and continuing in singular honour not only before a mighty king at first and an unworthy successor at the close, but none the less when the new dynasty superseded the "head of gold," and Medo-Persia rose to supreme power. All this and more agrees with "the six magnificent opening chapters," as well as with the latter six, more wondrous still in unveiling the definite iniquities of the great powers, at the close in particular, and the glorious intervention of the Ancient of Days and Son of man to set them aside judicially, and bring in a kingdom universal and everlasting. Here only we see that the saints of the high places have judgment given to them (Daniel 7:22), and their "people" have the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven (27).
In this vast sweep of prophecy "the days of Antiochus Epiphanes" receive not the smallest notice. Neither was there any analogy between the circumstances of that day to suggest such grand considerations. Nor, again, did the persecution of that cruel enemy of the Jew, his profane contempt for the institutions of the law, and his rabid zeal for Hellenizing their worship, resemble the evils foreshown thus far in Daniel. Historically the Syro-Greek antagonism is set out in Daniel 8:9-14, and reappears with fuller detail in Daniel 11:21-32. As not another reference to his days can be proved to occur in the entire book, this may serve to expose the absurd assumption of the "higher critics." Yet absurdity is a venial fault compared with the infidelity which ignores and denies the light from the lamp of prophecy over the Gentile empires as a whole. Especially, as if to destroy their leading principle by anticipation, does the prophet dwell on the closing scenes, which induce the judgment, not even yet accomplished, to be surely executed in the day of the Lord. Only unbelief is surprised at the peculiar traits of the book: what they call its cosmopolitanism, its rhetorical rather than poetic style, and its apocalyptic form. Hence their blindness to its moral and doctrinal elements, and their undisguised contempt for the details in Dan. 11, so considerately given in the absence of living prophets. But surely a man is too bold when he also compares "the grotesque and gigantic emblems of Daniel" with the Second Book of Esdras, the Book of Enoch, and the Sibylline Oracles. If he have no real faith in Scripture, or at least in the Book of Daniel at this moment, he has solemnly subscribed Art. 6.
The new and elaborate effort to defraud Daniel of the book which God gave him to write is the more egregious and unreasonable, as it is not denied that "Daniel was a real person, that he lived in the days of the exile, and that his life was distinguished by the splendour of its faithfulness." The fact is, that no prophet has in the Old Testament such a testimony to him as Ezekiel renders twice (Ezekiel 14:14; Eze 14:20 and Ezekiel 28:3); nor is anyone more commended by our Lord in the New Testament to the reader's heed. (Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14) And what does the fact mean that the great prophecy which concludes the Canon of Scripture is grounded on the Book of Daniel more manifestly than on any other prophet?
Is it objected as strange that two languages, Hebrew and Aramaic, should be employed in the book? Such a phenomenon, on the contrary, suits the time of Daniel, not that of Antiochus Epiphanes. Is it not notorious that Jeremiah, his elder, has a verse in Aramaic (Jeremiah 10:11) strikingly preparing the way? and that the inspired scribe-priest Ezra, who followed and flourished in the reign of Artaxerxes Longimanus, incorporates Aramaic through several chapters? (Ezra 4: 8 - 6: 18; Ezra 7:12-26) Why, then, object to a similar course in Daniel?
As to the particular words questioned, the reader may well be wary of plausibilities; for hostile criticism is unscrupulous. Take the spelling of the name of the Babylonian conqueror. It is alleged that Daniel always uses Nebuchadnezzar; while Ezekiel invariably writes Nebuchadrezzar, the assumed correct form. But it is remarkable that Jeremiah's prophecy employs both forms, Daniel's no less than Ezekiel's. How does this favour the date of Antiochus Epiphanes? and why be stumbled by some Persian words, allowing the fact to be certain? or even by the three names of musical instruments which resemble Greek words?
The depreciators of the written word cry out loudly against the "uncharitableness" of those who denounce their evil ways. But can those who know the truth be indifferent to a matter so serious and daring as the systematic perversion of the miracles in Daniel into Haggadoth, or religious romances, and of its prophecies into histories pretending to prediction? To such as neither love the Scriptures nor believe in their divine authority, it is a mere question of literary criticism. Is it not utterly vulgar to feel or to speak with decision about a Hebrew sage? Why not cultivate "sweetness and light"? God is in none of their thoughts.
Some fifteen seeming mistakes are set forth from Daniel 1 to 11: 2, all of them founded on appearances against reality, which can only be accounted for by uncommon confidence in man and his monuments, and a total want of faith in Scripture. They have been refuted abundantly, as Dr. Farrar ought to know. That the answers satisfy unbelieving minds is what grace alone can effect until judgment come. Let the first "remarkable error," as it is called, serve for the rest: - "In the third year of Jehoiakim, king of Judah." Now, against such a flippant attack let me cite the calm and clear language of an acknowledged expert in chronology, who was not a theologian, and had no controversial aim but simply the truth. Under the year B.C. 606 (371) Mr. H. F. Clinton says, "The fourth year of Jehoiakim, from Aug. B.C. 606. The 23rd from the 13th of Josiah: Jeremiah 25:3. The deportation of Daniel was in the 3rd year of Jehoiakim: Daniel 1:1. Whence we may place the expedition of Nebuchadnezzar towards the end of the 3rd and beginning of the 4th year, in the summer of B.C. 606. In the 4th year of Jehoiakim Baruch writes the book: Jeremiah 36:1-2." (Fasti Hellen. i. 328) Anyone, even a pert boy, can question anything. But could an upright mind on reflecting fail to see that the supposed contradiction of Daniel 2 is the strongest evidence of truth? No writer in the Maccabean age would have allowed it to appear; but a contemporary, when all was notorious, could leave it to be understood. "The second year" is necessarily Nebuchadnezzar's sole reign, as Dan. 1 implies association with his father; and Daniel's three years (Daniel 1:5) would fall in with it. Scripture is written for believers, not for irreverent cavillers.
Two more of these "surprises" betray unmistakably malevolent ignorance - Nebuchadnezzar's prostrate homage to Daniel with an oblation and sweet odours; whilst the critic asks in astonishment whether Daniel could have accepted the offering. Now it is demonstrably false, from the king's own words, that he regarded Daniel as a god; and it is certain that Daniel disclaimed any such blasphemy as much as Paul and Barnabas. But the heathen king believed, what the Anglican dean does not, that God supernaturally intervened in the case, in making "Daniel the prophet" to recall the forgotten dream, and to be the interpreter for the future throughout the "times of the Gentiles" till His kingdom come. Such a revelation led Nebuchadnezzar, in his deep emotion and gratitude, to pay Daniel the highest honours, even to what we westerns regard as an extravagant degree. There is no semblance of a sacrifice as at Lystra. The word translated "oblation" is frequently and rightly used for "a present," irrespective of the true God or a false one; just as prostration and worshipping were often expressive of no more than civil reverence. But imagine a Jew trying to write the book in Maccabean days; would he have written in this freedom of truth? If he had introduced it at all, what care to tell the king that he must worship and offer to God alone! As to the sweet odours, can anyone be so infatuated as to contend that the very great burning made at the burial of King Asa (2 Chronicles 16:14) implies his deification? As a like offensive tone with utter unbelief of Scripture pervades much of the rest, one may well turn to something more decorous if not better founded.
The unity of the book, so often and vehemently assailed, is now admitted even by the most advanced freethinkers, save eccentric men. This is in no way weakened by the fact that only in the latter half (from Dan. 7) does the writer speak in the first person, or "I Daniel." The first half having the historical form, Daniel is spoken of, and the Gentile chiefs are prominent; especially he who was the object of divine communications (Dan. 2, 4), though the prophet only was given to recall the first and interpret both. The historic chapters (Dan. 3-6) are of the utmost value as following the outline prediction of Dan. 2, and introducing the moral view with its richer instruction of Dan. 7 over the same ground. In the second half of the book the prophet alone has the visions and interpretations.
Accordingly things are presented, not in their external aspect, but in their relation to God's people, and with yet higher aims. When Babylon fell, even during the transition of Darius the Mede, a marked change is observable in answer to the prophet's intercession, as he knew by the books that the captivity was near its end. A new appearance and insensibly plainer language were vouchsafed as to the city and sanctuary of Jerusalem, but with the appalling fact that Messiah was to be "cut off and have nothing," and its dire consequences, not only then but when the last week of the seventy is in accomplishment at the end of the age. Lastly, when the restorer from the exile was reigning, the final communication comes in plainer language still, corrective of all vain hopes for the present founded on the return, and in God's gracious condescension giving those continuous and unwonted details which have so roused the scornful unbelief of men, that they have dared to brand them as pretended or "pseud-epigraphic prophecy." They must give account of such incredulity to God. Meanwhile this indulgence in the principle of infidelity - the preference of our own thoughts to God's word - does not fail to spread one knows not how far. It may seem little, but it is the little beginning of a very great evil.
The book thus derives its special form from Daniel as the prophet of the Exile far more impressively than any written by even his contemporaries. Both Jeremiah and Ezekiel were inspired to dwell, one on the future blessedness of Israel in the land under Messiah and the new covenant, the other on a wondrous display of the divine glory, which will give a new form to the city and the temple, and a new partition of the land to the restored tribes, when the nations shall know that Jehovah hallows Israel, and His sanctuary shall be there for ever. Their task was outside God's purpose by Daniel, which helps to explain why he abode among strangers when he might have returned to Jerusalem with the remnant in Cyrus' day. He had learnt definitely that the time for Messiah's coming was not yet, and that, when come, He should be rejected. He was shown subsequently that "at the time of the end" not only should the kings of the north and of the south resume their conflicts, but a new and portentous personage should reign in the land and be assailed by both, the counterpart of Messiah in evil, the man of sin as He of righteousness: a state totally different from and irreconcilable with Antiochus Epiphanes in any of his phases, and introduced by the prophet, not only after that "vile person" had long ceased to trouble the Jews, but expressly at an indefinitely distant time - the end of the age. This, once pointed out, no serious person can intelligently deny to be correct.
Then will an unparalleled tribulation befall the Jews; but another remnant shall be saved out of it with an unparalleled deliverance. Then shall God's people as a whole awake from their long sleep in the dust of the earth, some to life everlasting, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. Then shall faithful and zealous intelligence in the dark day receive its reward when the glory of Jehovah is risen on Zion (still desolate). Then the times and the seasons shall be punctually fulfilled when the scattering of the power of the holy people is accomplished, and he that waited is indisputably blessed. Till then the words were closed up and sealed for the Jew as such till the time of the end. But we Christians know the Incarnate Word, and believe that in His rejection by the Jew and the Gentile He accomplished redemption, and has given us life eternal; so that meanwhile a fuller revelation said for us to a greater prophet, "Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand." (Revelation 22:10.) Till the time is arrived Daniel was to rest, it did not matter where on earth, still more and better above, as much above the weeping of the old men as above the joyous shouts of the young. (Ezra 3) He was assured, as all saints should be, of standing in his lot at the end of the days.
The style is perfectly adapted to the circumstances with which the book was meant to deal, as much so as richness and sublimity to Isaiah's work, or tender feeling to Jeremiah's, or rugged grandeur to Ezekiel's. How utterly incongruous with the disclosures of Daniel would have been the impassioned and poetic manner of the Psalms! Daniel was given the extraordinary province of revealing "the times of the Gentiles," both in their splendid aspect of conferred imperial power and in their inward reality as "Beasts" before God uncared for and unknown, with special seducers and oppressors within those times; as well as the transgressions of the chosen people and their chiefs, which brought on them such chastenings and such an abnormal state, but also a faithful remnant first and last, who alone were wise and understood His mind.
As Babylon was in God's ways the appropriate place, so during that first empire, till Cyrus the Persian succeeded, was the period for this peculiar testimony. Who can conceive an epoch less morally or circumstantially in keeping with its entire scope than about B.C. 167 for "a brave and gifted anonymous author, who brought his piety and his patriotism to bear on the troubled fortunes of his people"? That Porphyry of Batanea, who hated Christ, should have invented such a fable is intelligible. That an unbelieving Jew like Dr. Joel should not be ashamed of following a heathen philosopher, one can also understand. But is it not treason for a baptised man, for a Christian minister so called, to imitate such profane impiety, As faith is discarded, so any intelligent apprehension of the book becomes impossible. Daniel opens with fixing attention on an event so momentous as the Lord's delivering over the king of David's house to the Chaldean, who carried off part of the holy vessels into the house of his god. This is followed up, in Dan. 2, by the distinct announcement that God set the conqueror of Jerusalem as the first of the world-powers. Only Babylon had this place direct from God; Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome had theirs simply in providential succession. So thoroughly is this distinction recognized in Scripture, that the fall of Babylon brings before the Holy Spirit in Isaiah and Jeremiah the final destruction of the Gentile authorities as a whole, and the connected deliverance, not of Judah only but of Israel also, Cyrus' being but its foreshadow. It is not so with the intermediate empires, till the judgment is fully manifested which yet awaits the fourth or Roman; for in the final sense "the Beast," or that empire, perishes only when the Lord Jesus appears from heaven, as we read in Revelation 19:19-20. Now this was made known in Daniel 7 no less clearly. What could a patriotic Jew know about it at a time when prophets admittedly had long ceased? No, it was first given to "Daniel the prophet" to reveal.
The theory of histories turned into pretended prophecies is only worthy of men without faith, insensible to the unique value, character, and authority of God's word when it is before their eyes, with a malignant intent to make spots where they cannot find them. When parables appear (or as goes the Rabbinical term, Haggadoth), they are so styled, or self-evidently such; whereas not a book in the Bible takes more decided ground than Daniel's for historic truth, evident miracles, and true predictions. For the epoch was just one when miracles and prophecies were for God's glory. Imperial power was now first conferred in God's sovereignty on the Gentile, and it was made known by undoubted divine authority. It was as much or more necessary to prove at that very time that God's calling and gifts were not subject to change of mind, though the people who had them were set aside for a while. Hence the remnant, when captive in Babylon, are proved alone to have His secret, even as to the distant future, and maintained by overwhelming and supernatural might against all the rage even of the powers that then were.
Dilettanti critics do not like to hear that their system gives the lie to Daniel, even if we say nothing of the Holy Spirit. And as to objections founded on language, history, general structure, theology, etc., why do they repeat what has been often answered satisfactorily? Do they presume on popular ignorance or personal indolence, too apt to yield to the last or loudest voice? The book itself, like all Scripture, is the best reply to calumnies.
Daniel 1 is a preface, from Jerusalem losing the direct government of God (who set up meanwhile Babylon in a fresh imperial position), down to the first year of Cyrus. Dan. 12 has also a conclusory character in the judgment of the Gentiles up to the deliverance of Israel. From Dan. 2 to 6 Gentiles are prominent in an exoteric way. From Dan. 7 to the end, only the prophet receives and communicates the mind of God intimately on all, with the glory of the Son of man and His people here below and His saints on high. We may therefore call this half esoteric. What had so immense, as well as intimate, a range of truth in keeping with Maccabean times? It is true that the Syrian king's furious persecution of the Jews, and his profanation of worship, find a marked place in the course of the book; but where it does, plain indication is given of a greater power and worse evil typified thereby before "the end of the indignation." What sad belittling of an inspired book to make that king, audacious as he was and cruel, a blind not only to the final actor in that sphere, but to others on an incomparably larger scale, who are all to come under divine dealings at "the time of the end" - a time which assuredly is not yet arrived!
Daniel 2 conveys the interesting and important fact that "the God of the heavens" acted by a dream on the first Gentile head of empire, to show the general course of dominion then begun till its extinction: an image gorgeous and terrible, but gradually deteriorating as it descends, and closing with great strength and marked weakness also. Then He sets up another kingdom, His own, after destroying not only the fourth empire in its last divided condition of the ten toes (which did not exist when Christ suffered or the Holy Spirit came down), but the remains of all from the first - the gold, the silver, the brass, as well as the iron and clay. Only when judgment was executed does the "little stone" expand into a great mountain and fill the whole earth. Here the rationalist coalesces with the ritualist in teaching the self-complacent nonsense of an "ideal Israel," the church or Christendom. Yet in the church is neither Jew nor Greek, but Christ is all. It is the body of the glorified Head; and its calling is to suffering grace on earth, awaiting glory with Christ at His coming. Crushing to powder the image of Gentile empires is in no way or time the church's work. The once rejected but now exalted Stone will do it, as He declared in Matthew 21:44 and in other scriptures. But the literal Israel will be then and there delivered, and become His earthly centre in power and glory. Such is the uniform witness of the prophets. We need not begrudge this to the remnant of Jacob then repentant; for we are called to far brighter glory with Christ in heavenly places. But, whether believed now or not, the first dominion on earth will surely come to the daughter of Zion in that day, and as long as the earth endures.
The intervening histories in Dan. 3-6 are in the fullest accord with the predictions of Daniel, two of them general (Dan. 3, 4) and two particular (Dan. 5, 6) (as we shall find the prophecies are also), but none of them referring to the peculiar scourge in the days of Antiochus Epiphanes. In not one is there a trace of Hellenism imposed on the Jews. Not even in Belshazzar have we the least real likeness to punishing recalcitrants against the gods of Olympus. The aim is to show how the Gentile entrusted with imperial power by God used it, deeply impressed as he had been by the lost secret which none but the Hebrew captive could interpret. Alas! man being in honour abides not; he is like the beasts that perish. So it had been with Israel under law, with Judah, and with David's house. New-fangled idolatry on pain of the most cruel death was the first recorded command of the Gentile world-power: a religious bond to unite by that act the various peoples, nations, and tongues of the one empire, and thus to counteract the divisive influence of gods peculiar to each of these races. But such a universal test gave God, thus ignored, the occasion to prove the nullity of that idol and every other, the total and manifest defeat of supreme power even by its own captive cast into the fiery furnace, be it ever so heated. How grave the public lesson read to all the Gentile empires, were not man as forgetful of God as he is bent on his own will!
The next chapter (Dan. 4) is no less general, and the more impressive as the deepest humiliation was inflicted by God, after His slighted warning, on the same haughty head of imperial power. Nebuchadnezzar had ascribed all his glory to himself, and was debased, as none else ever was, to the bestial state till "seven times" passed over him. After that he "lifted up his eyes to heaven," a repentant and restored man owning the Most High, no longer like the brute but morally intelligent. It is childish to lower or restrain to the Seleucid prince a lesson he never learnt. It is infidel to doubt the facts of this chapter or of the preceding one. It is blind not to recognize that Dan. 3 looks on to the deliverance of faithful ones (not "the many") at the end, as the other to the day when the Gentile shall have a beast's heart no more, but will bless the Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth: the character of the divine display when this present evil age terminates. What connection had either with the loathsome foe of the Jews, Antiochus Epiphanes? Nothing could be more telling than both displays of God's power during the "head of gold" "till the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled." It is Satan's work to disbelieve them; and a nominal Christian is far more guilty now than a heathen of old if he help Satan against God.
The special aims of Dan. 5, 6 are of no less serious moment. Neither the one nor the other resembles or represents Antiochus Epiphanes. In Dan. 5 we see dissolute profanity eliciting a most solemn token of divine displeasure on the spot, and judged by a providential infliction that very night. Monuments or not, the word of our God shall stand for ever. Nothing more dangerous than to trust any thing or one against Scripture; and what can be more sinful? What avail the brave words of men enamoured of Babylonish bricks, cylinders, etc.? Let them beware of the snares of the great enemy; not even resurrection power broke Jewish unbelief. In Dan. 6 man was by craft set up for a while as the sole object of prayer or worship, which brought on its devisers the sudden destruction they had plotted for the faithful. What bearing had this, any more than the chapter before, on the grievous time of Antiochus Epiphanes? They evidently prepare the way, for the judgment of the future Babylon in the one (Dan. 5), and for that of the Beast in the other (Dan. 6), as given in the Book of Revelation, where both perish awfully though differently.
Next follow the more complicated communications of God's mind about the four "Beasts," the last especially, much fuller and more intimate than in Dan. 2. The movement of heaven is disclosed, and God's interest in His people, and particularly in the sufferers for His name, specified "as saints," and even as "saints of the high places." The dream of Nebuchadnezzar, condescending as it was to him and awe-inspiring in itself, contained no such vision of glory on high, no such prospects for heaven or earth, no such display of divine purpose in the Son of man.
But as in Dan. 2, so yet more in Dan. 7, the last and most distant empire, the fourth, is much more fully described than the Babylonish then in being, or the Medo-Persian that next followed, or the Greek that succeeded in its due time. For we have a crowd of minute predictions of an unexampled nature, the many horns in the last empire at its close, the audacious presumption and restless ambition of its last chief, who from a small beginning governed the rest, and, not content with trampling down the saints, rose up in blasphemy against God and His rights, which called forth summary and final judgment on all, with the action of heaven in establishing the everlasting kingdom of power and glory.
Such a revelation fundamentally clashes with the canons of the Higher Criticism, and demonstrates, if believed, their utter futility. Hence we can understand their efforts to get rid of the unvarnished truth Daniel sets before us in this vision. The attempt to separate the Medish and the Persian elements, so as to make them respectively the second and third empires, is desperate and unworthy. Daniel 5:28 was explicit beforehand as well as Daniel 6:8; Dan 6:12; Dan 6:15; and afterwards Dan. 8 demolishes such contradiction of Scripture. The bear in Dan. 7 answers to the ram in Dan. 8, which had two horns, the kings of Media and Persia - not two Beasts but one composite power expressly. The leopard, therefore, with its four heads answers to the goat of Greece, for whose great horn, when broken, four stood up in its stead. The fourth Beast, different from all the Beasts before, is none other than the Roman Empire, which has ten horns in its final shape, after which, when further change comes, divine judgment falls in a form without previous parallel.*
* As far as I know, Ephraem Syrus stands alone among the early ecclesiastics in treating Antiochus Epiphanes as the little horn of Daniel 7. A devoted man, extremely attached to monasticism, and vehement against the heterodox, he died in A,D. 378, but one has yet to learn why his differing from all other fathers earlier and later should have weight. Grotius and others, notorious for excluding the future and Christ, and for limiting prophecy to past history, followed in modern times, though early fathers enough led in the same path of unbelief.
If we let in, as we are bound, the further light of the Apocalypse, where we cannot but recognize the same "Beast" as Daniel saw in the fourth place, we gain the fullest certainty from Rev. 17 that the seven heads were successive governing forms, of which the sixth or imperial head was in being when John saw the vision (v. 10); and that the ten horns were contemporary, for all receive authority as kings for "one hour with the beast." It is preparatory to the last crisis, when they make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them. (vv. 12-14) This is also decisively shown in verse 16, "And the ten horns which thou sawest, and [not 'on'] the beast, these shall hate the harlot," etc., as they also give their kingdom to the "Beast" until the words of God shall be fulfilled. This, accordingly and absolutely, disposes of the attempt to make the "ten horns" mean only ten successive kings, so as to apply the list to the Seleucidae, and make it appear that Antiochus was the little horn of Daniel 7, who got rid of the three last of his predecessors. Such a scheme is mere perversion of Scripture, wholly dislocates the chapter, and deprives us of the only true interpretation. For this supposes a divine interposition at the end of the age in judgment of the Roman Empire, revived to fulfil its complete destiny and to be judged by the Lord Jesus at His appearing.
The first empire had a simplicity peculiar to itself. The second or Medo-Persian had dual elements; and so has the symbol two horns, of which the higher came up last. The third or Macedonian had after its brief rise four heads, of which two are noticed particularly as having to do with the Jews in the details of Daniel 11. The fourth empire, beyond just doubt, is the Roman, diverse from all before it, and distinguished by the notable form of ten concurrent horns, ere its destructive judgment by a divine kingdom which supersedes all, and is truly both universal and everlasting. Then shall the saints of the high places have their grand portion, surely not to eclipse the Son of man, as these sorry critics would like, but to swell the train of His glory who is Heir of all things.
None but the Roman Empire corresponds with the feet of iron and clay; none other furnishes an analogy to the ten toes in one case and ten horns in another, the only true force of which is ten kings (subject to the violent change indicated) reigning together. Nor can any power that ever bore sway be so truly compared to "iron breaking and subduing all things," or a most ravenous nondescript brute with great iron teeth which "devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it." The entrance of the Teuton clay indicates the brittleness of independent will (in contrast with the old Roman cohesive centralism), which, as it broke up the empire in the past, will culminate in the tenfold division of the future in that revival of the empire which is presupposed in Daniel 7 before judgment falls, and is distinctly revealed in Revelation 17. This is a trait wholly absent from all previous empires, as well as from the Syro-Greek kingdom, which never was an empire nor approached it.
As this revival of the Roman Empire is so momentous a fact of the future and for "the time of the end," it may be well here to point out the clear and conclusive evidence of Scripture. On the showing of Daniel 2 and 7 the fourth or Roman Empire is in power when the kingdom of God comes, enforced by the Son of man. But the Revelation explains how this can and will be. In Revelation 13:1-10 is seen the "Beast" emerging once more from the sea or revolutionary state of nations, having seven heads and ten horns. These last have been ever held to identify it with Daniel's fourth empire. And the seven heads, now appropriately added, can only confirm it, for (explained as it is in Revelation 17:9-10) this description applies to no known empire so significantly as to the Roman. Only we have to observe an absolutely new fact in connection with the healing of that one of his heads (the imperial, as I conceive) which had been wounded to death, that the great dragon (who in Rev. 12 is declared to be Satan) gave him his power and his throne and great authority.
Pagan Rome was evil exceedingly, and had its part in the crucifixion of the Lord of glory. The same Roman Empire will reappear at the end of the age, energized by Satan in a way neither itself nor any other empire ever had been. This gives the key to its extreme blasphemy and defiance of the Most High as well as its other enemies, because of which the judgment shall sit and the dominion be taken away by the wrath of God from heaven, when the Beast with its hosts dares to make war against the Lord descending in power and glory. The horns will then act as one will with the "Beast" that is then present to give imperial unity. For still more clearing the intimations of Rev. 13, Revelation 17:8 is most explicit, "The beast that thou sawest was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss and to go into perdition." Again, at the close of the verse, "Seeing the beast, how that he was, and is not, and shall be present." (See also verse 11.) It was the "Beast" without the horns under the Caesars and their successors. Horns in their varying numbers were without the "Beast" in the middle ages and onward: "The beast was, and is not." But the wonder of the future is that the Beast, before the closing scene, is to arise not only out of the sea, but, with the far more awful symbol, out of the abyss, the prelude of perdition. Here, again, the consistency of the truth asserts itself. To none but the Roman Empire can these predictions apply. To Alexander's empire they are irrelevant, how much more to a mere offshoot of it! No, it is the empire that rose up against the Lord in humiliation, which, blinded and filled by Satan's power, will make war with the Lamb when He comes in glory to its appalling ruin.
Dan. 8 is manifestly of a character and scope more circumscribed than the general prophecies of Dan. 2 and Dan. 7. Yet it is none the less important for its design, because it takes up only a special part; but all alike conduct us to the catastrophe at the end. As this we have seen to be evidently true of the great general visions of the book, so is it equally of the particulars, which circumstance exposes the fallacy of identifying the objects. All come into collision with divine judgment; but they are distinct in character as in fact. "A divine kingdom" crowns the two general series of the four empires, as even rationalism does not dispute for Dan. 2, and admits that our Lord in Matthew 26:64 alludes to Dan. 7. There is, indeed, an effort to treat "the personality of the Messiah" as "at least somewhat subordinate and indistinct." But such unbelief is vain. No believing Jew severed the coming kingdom from the Great King, as haughty Gentiles are prone to wish. The saints of the high places are very far from usurping the Son of man's place in the vision, which makes Him the manifest centre and the object invested with dominion for ever. But their blessedness also is carefully shown. Whatever honour these saints may have in that day (and they reign with Christ, as the New Testament plainly puts it), it is a false interpretation which denies Him personally and supremely the excellent glory.
In this Dan. 8, then, the first of the special prophecies, we have the second empire of Medo-Persia assailed overwhelmingly by the third or Greek kingdom of Alexander the Great. How any upright mind can fail to apprehend this from the simple reading of the text is hard to account for. The great horn was broken when it became strong, and in its stead came up four notable horns. Out of one of these four kingdoms rose a little horn which became exceeding great, and also meddled peculiarly with the Jews and the sanctuary. It is a deplorable lack of intelligence to confound this oppressor with the little horn of chapter vii., the one being as manifestly a ruler over a part of the Greek Empire in the East, as the other from a small beginning arrives to be the chief of the Western Empire. Both are to be excessively impious and wicked, and both are punished by God beyond example; but to confound them is to lose the difference of the actors at the close, even wholly opposed as they are to each other, though both inflict the worst evils on the chosen people. But there is the less need of many words here, as it is agreed that the vision in its later part from verse 9 does set forth the Seleucid enemy of the Jews and of their religion. And it would appear that verses 13, 14 apply to his defilement of the sanctuary and suppression of the daily offering.
As usual in Daniel, and elsewhere in Scripture, the interpretation not only explains, but adds considerably, and in particular dwells, not on the typical Antiochus Epiphanes, but on the final antitypical enemy in the same quarter at the latter day. It is weak to pretend that the awful end predicted for the infamous personage of the future in this chapter and at the end of Daniel 11 was fulfilled in the death of Antiochus Epiphanes, terrible as it was in the estimate of Greeks as well as Jews. Thus the real prediction of his history in the preceding verses of the same chapter (11 up to 32) does not dwell on it as comparable with that of him who is found at the end.
Even in the earlier portion (Dan. 8) there is a remarkable parenthesis in verses 11, 12 defined by "he," as compared with "it" in the verses before and after. This appears to give marked personality to the evil actor that is chiefly in view, however much the king who sought the apostasy of the Jews and the destruction of such as refused to Hellenize made him a type.
But the prophecy goes on to the consummation, when God interferes in unmistakable power. Hence the angelic interpreter would make Daniel know "what shall be at the end of the indignation." Who can say with the smallest show of truth that this was in the days of the Syrian's evil or of the Maccabean resistance? "The end of the indignation" will only be, when Israel are truly repentant and God has no more controversy with His people. Nor should this surprise anyone who reads the Scriptures in faith, for all the prophets look on to that happy time. The real person before the mind of the Holy Spirit at the close is one who will "stand up against the Prince of princes," but shall be "broken without hand," in a way far beyond its type in past history. A gap, therefore, necessarily occurs in every one of the prophecies. In no instance is continuity aimed at. Enough is said to make the general bearing plain; but in every case the Holy Spirit dwells on the final scene which connects itself with the subject-matter before us, because then only will the judgment of God decide all absolutely and publicly, and introduce the kingdom of power and glory that shall never pass away.
Daniel 9 has its own peculiarities. Those who contrast this book with other prophecies, as lacking the predominantly moral element, only prove their own blindness. In no prophecy is it so conspicuous; and the same chapter which so profoundly tells out to God a heart that identified itself with the sins and iniquities ("we have sinned," etc.) of the men of Judah, and of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and of all Israel near and far off, but with the most earnest intercession, is precisely the one that, as he prayed, received from God a prediction in some respects the most striking and important of such scriptures. Here even rationalism cannot but own that the promised blessings of verse 24 belong to the Messianic hope, when the 490 years are closed. Thus it shares, with every other prediction in the book, the mark of going down to the end of the age when the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled, and God sets up His kingdom in Christ by judgments executed on all wickedness, Jewish or Gentile. But here, where Jeremiah's seventy years are referred to, with the provisional return of a remnant from Babylon to rebuild the city and the sanctuary, we have not only Jehovah the Lord God of Israel addressed, but also Messiah's first advent and cutting off. This interrupts the thread of the seventy weeks, as it naturally must, and an undated vista of desolation follows. For it clearly includes Messiah's rejection, and leaves nothing but the destruction of the city and temple, and a flood of troubles on the Jews. There evidently is the break. Messiah's death was "after" the sixty-ninth week = 483 years. Then follow the desolation determined, and to the end war, outside the course of the "weeks" altogether, as it is hardly possible to deny.
The last week remains for the close, without fixing any connection or starting-point, save that the Roman "prince" (whose "people" came and destroyed Jerusalem) will, at the time of the end, make covenant with "the many," or mass of faithless Jews, for a week or seven years, and will in the midst of it cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease. That is, he will put down the Jewish religion, contrary to his covenant; and "because of the protection" (rather than the overspreading) "of abominations" or idols, which take its place, a desolator will be, even until the consumption and that which is determined be poured on the desolate, i.e. Jerusalem. The desolator seems to be the last north-eastern enemy, as the Roman prince is he who is so prominent in Daniel 7, where we saw the times and laws given into his hand for the same last half week, or three and a half times.
Instead of this plain, worthy, and homogeneous interpretation, what do the neo-critics say? "There can be no reasonable doubt that this [the cutting off Messiah] is a reference to the deposition of the high priest, Onias III., and his murder by Andronicus (B,C, 171)"; while the rest is turned to Antiochus. Of course, all is chaos among the critics. The design is to pervert the prophecy, from Christ's death and the burning of their city and the flood of desolation, to those murderers. The precise scope is clear if the interruption of the series is observed in the text, with the future bearing of the last week. If this be true, it is a death-blow to the "higher critics," and an unanswerable proof that the true Daniel wrote it, who here distinctively brings in the awful truth of Christ's rejection, which has deferred the world-kingdom till His second advent, while the disasters of the poor Jews are shown not only till the Romans destroyed their city and temple, but at the end of the age when they meet their worst tribulation before deliverance comes for the godly in that day.
It is well known that De Wette in his German version of the Bible strove to eliminate "Christ" from this great prophecy, so striking for its chain of dates; and that the dogs of rationalism do their worst in rending it ever since by exaggerating whatever difficulty may exist. The chief difference among believers is the slight one of applying "the word to restore Jerusalem" (Daniel 9:25) to the decree of Artaxerxes Longim. either in his seventh year (Ezra 7), or in his twentieth year (Nehemiah 2). The prediction itself leaves a margin, not "at" but "after" the 62 weeks, added to the preliminary 7 ( = 69 weeks, or 483 years); so much so, that some suppose this margin covers the three years or more of our Lord's ministry before the cross, answering, in fact, to the first half in evil of the future Roman chief's covenant with "the mass" of ungodly Jews. Otherwise the lineaments are plain. Here De Wette betrayed his unbelief; for Messiah no more in Hebrew than in English requires the definite article. It is correct to say, "Messiah shall be cut off." Why did he say here only "ein Gesalbter," when elsewhere he gives "der G."? Was it not to get rid of the weightiest truth predicted and fulfilled, and to avoid the total refutation of the reverie here about the days of Antiochus Epiphanes? But all this effort is fighting against God's word. May men learn their folly and sin before His judgment overtake them! may they be spared to proclaim the truth they have sought to destroy, and glorify God thereby, if to their shame, assuredly to their joy and blessing for ever!
Of course to these critics the chapter is confusion, and wholly unworthy of a prophet. But the cutting off of Messiah was an event of transcendent importance, especially being through the will and guilt of His people; as is implied in the interruption of the weeks, and the undated vista that follows of their desolation, in which is prominent the accomplished destruction of their place and nation by the Roman people. It is not yet, however, the prince that should come. He is reserved for the last week, when he makes covenant with "the many," or ungodly majority, in contrast with the faithful remnant of the Jews, and breaks it with yet more iniquity, when the end of evil comes, and the long expected blessing follows.
The last three chapters are also a particular prophecy, and Dan. 11 is exceedingly minute, to the fierce dislike of such as think for God, and would dictate to Him if they could. There is a rich variety in Scripture, and not less in the prophetic word. Our place is to bow to God and learn of Him. Unbelief sits in judgment on Him who is worthy of all trust and adoration. Now Dan. 11, peculiar as it may be, demands and deserves our fullest confidence, whatever say the scorners. It was in the third year of Cyrus that the revelation came to Daniel. Three more kings were to arise in Persia - Cambyses, Pseudo-Smerdis, and Darius Hystaspes; then the fourth, richer than them all, Xerxes, who, when waxed strong by his riches, should stir up the whole against the kingdom of Javan, or Greece.* This gives the fitting gap, which necessarily must be, unless an uninterrupted thread were inserted: a thing unprecedented in such cases, as the gap we have seems to be regular.
* It is a false statement (p. 61) that the writer only knows of four kings of Persia - Cyrus, Cambyses, D. Hystaspes, and Xerxes; for after Cyrus he refers to three, and describes Xerxes as the richest. In Ezra 4 they are named Ahasuerus answering to Cambyses, Artaxerxes to Pseudo-Smerdis (who helped the adversaries), and Darius H. (who adhered to Cyrus' proclamation). Later Persian monarchs appear in Ezra and Nehemiah.
The next personage is the Macedonian chief, who repaid the blow intended by Persia. No honest man can avoid seeing Alexander the Great in verse 3, or his divided kingdom in verse 4, which introduces two of those divisions, the kingdoms of the north and the south, and their conflicts which follow. Again, it is clear and certain that in verses 21-32 we have a full account of him who more than any hated the Jews and their religion. The sceptical theory is, that a patriotic Jew in his day personated Daniel of ancient renown in the exile, and converted the past history into professed prophecy up to that time. But the fact stands opposed that, when Antiochus Epiphanes is dropped, verses 33-35 give a protracted state of trial which ensued long for the Jews, when their old foe ceased from troubling, and that the text expressly declares their trial was to go on to "the time of the end." Here, therefore, is the great gap implied in accordance with the other predictions of the book, and even with the same principle on a smaller scale between verses 2 and 3 of this chapter.
Then from verse 36 we find ourselves confronted with the last time. We are told, not of a king of the north or of the south as before, but of "the king," that final wicked one whom a prophet so distinguished and early as Isaiah presents in Isaiah 11:4, Isaiah 30:33, Isaiah 57:9 with the same ominous phrase, the personal rival of the Anointed, reigning in the land according to his own pleasure, and thus fully contrasted with Him who only did His Father's will. It is an energetic sketch of one exalting himself against every god; whereas Antiochus Epiphanes was devoted to the gods of Greece and Rome. Though speaking impious things against the God of gods, he is to prosper till the indignation be accomplished - God's indignation against His guilty people (as Isaiah also spoke), another proof of days still to come. The Palestinian prince (which Antiochus Epiphanes was not, but king of the north) will have no regard for the God of his fathers, namely, Jehovah (for he is an apostate Jew), nor the desire of women (Messiah, the hope of Israel), nor any god (i.e. of the Gentiles), which last it is absurd and false to say of Antiochus Epiphanes. It is, in truth, the long predicted and then present Antichrist, supplanting Christ, denying the Father and the Son, coming in his own name, and received by those that refused Him who came in the Father's. His and their destruction is shown elsewhere; but here the prophet turns to the old struggle of the kings of the north and of the south, both being as opposed to "the king" as to each other: an incontestable proof of the folly, first of fancying Antiochus Epiphanes here, and next of denying that these events, believed or disbelieved, are set forth as the prophet's prediction of the last future collision.
Observe, finally, what accumulation of proofs Daniel 12 affords of these events to come, which of themselves refute the petty scheme of seeing only Antiochus Epiphanes up to the end. For when the last king of the north perishes by divine judgment, a divine intervention on behalf of Israel is assured "at that time." Sorely will the Jews need it, for they will have passed through this their last and severest tribulation. But, unlike their calamitous history for long centuries, "at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book." It is no mere policy nor prowess, but mercy for the righteous. Hence the appropriate figure of many of the sleepers in the dust awakening, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. So Isaiah (Isa. 26) and Ezekiel (Ezek. 37) employed the same figure of resurrection for the uprising of Israel nationally, but with the rejection of the unrighteous, as our prophet plainly indicates.
The result, then, of this brief survey of the book, assailed by neo-critical unbelief, is to show that their scheme is unfounded from first to last, and that it overlooks the grand scope of Gentile empire, both exoteric (Dan. 2) and esoteric (Dan. 7). In this so inconsiderable a ruler as Antiochus Epiphanes could have no place, still less be the culmination of all in bringing on the divine extinction of the entire system of Gentile empire, and hence in restoring Israel under conditions of blessing and glory which will change the world's history. It is plain that no such time is come. When Christ came, the fourth empire was in power; which will also play its part against Him at His second advent, as the New Testament carefully and clearly reveals. His cross laid the basis for reconciling, not believers only, but all things also in due time. Meanwhile in the world "the times of the Gentiles" proceed, and "the indignation" against faithless Israel. The gospel is indeed sovereign grace toward all and upon all that believe, and the church is Christ's body for heavenly glory. But the world-kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ is not yet come, nor can it come till the seventh trumpet is blown. Even in the particular prophecies of Daniel, where Antiochus Epiphanes is referred to (Dan. 8 and Dan. 11), the book itself teaches us to look on from his evil to a greater and worse antitype expressly bound up with "the time of the end," which in no way applies to the Seleucid king.
Thus every part of the book, when received in faith, is seen to rise up in rebuke of the unbelieving dream that makes Antiochus Epiphanes the paramount object and chief upshot. And as the Roman Empire, in its not yet revived shape, is from the earliest vision predicted, and its judgment when the Son of man appears in glory, so also we learn of a north-eastern monarch who is to oppress the Jews at the final crisis. (Dan. 8) Nor is the book silent on the role of the western chief in making and breaking his compact with the Jews, and in imposing idolatry on them, and thus bringing on the consummation. (Dan. 9) Then Daniel 11:36-39 presents the clear picture of the lawless king in the land, who magnifies himself above God and Christ, as well as every pretended god, yet honours a strange god himself, exalting whom he will, and dividing the land for gain. If we had not the Lord Jesus vindicating for ever "Daniel the prophet," such a survey calls for believing and thankful acknowledgment of the book as not only genuine and authentic but inspired of God, casting His light authoritatively on all the Gentile empires, and especially on the end of the age, on which each part converges.
It was for others rather than our prophet to descant on the bright scenes of righteousness and peace under Him who is alike David's Son and David's Lord, the Man whose name is the Branch and Jehovah, King over all the earth, as He is also Head over all things. But Daniel simply abides prophet of "the times of the Gentiles"; and this he is with a divine precision and fulness for all who are children of light now. For others it is only natural to love darkness rather than light.
What else after all could be expected from one who, ignoring the word and Spirit of God, takes his stand on "our reason and our conscience as lights which light every man who is born into the world" The apostle Paul alleges, in Romans 1 and 2, that these suffice to leave without excuse even a Gentile who has not the law (still less the gospel). Think of a professing Christian abandoning his precious privileges for heathen ground! And what perversion of John 1:9 to a similar purpose! There the evangelist is really asserting the supreme excellence of Christ as the Light, which, coming into the world, sheds its light on every man, instead of acting, as the law, in the limited sphere of the Jews. One could understand such ideas in a Quaker, though not a few of the Society are beyond that. No wonder that one so far from the truth of the gospel testifies his gratitude to the heathen philosopher Porphyry (86, 87, 317), the bitterest foe, not only of Christ, but of Christianity and of revelation. No wonder that he praises the "manly words" of Grotius in avowedly adopting this part of Porphyry's scepticism. "The unjust knoweth no shame." The "higher criticism" begins in disloyalty to God and His word, and can only work to more and greater ungodliness.