Commentary on Daniel
(c) Copyright,1997 by Wm. G. Most
: Many today think Daniel was written rather
late, in the second century B.C., after the time of Antiochus IV
and his persecution. They think many things that seem to be
prophecies are really made after the things happened (prophecies
).We will defend the position that Daniel was written
in 6th century B.C. Step by step we will take up the difficulties
against that position for all but the last two chapters 13-14,
which are a later work it seems.
, not in use before the time of Antiochus. However fine
studies by Gleason Archer (, ed. F.
Gaebelein, VII, pp.20-24) and Kenneth Kitchen, , Chicago, 1966.36-44 have shown that most of the Persian
type words in Daniel are attested in early Aramaic documents from
5th and 6th centuries B.C.) Kitchen also (, Chicago, 1966) has shown other instances of words once
thought to be late which are now known to have been early. Kitchen
has likewise shown how empty are common arguments for the
documentary theory and for other things often held.
Another frequent line of argument to support the late view is on
the dating of events within Daniel. We will consider these one at
a time below, especially in relation to literary genre.
: It is clear that there are two genres in Daniel.
, which presents highly colored images and
often secret things. We still will need to ask whether the writer
means to that he saws the visions described, or are they
only a literary device to convey certain truths. In any case, the
original readers knew they must reduce the imagery very much.
Within apocalyptic it is permitted to give prophecies of things,
as if they were still to come, whereas they are past. The genre
lets us know that such retrojected prophecies are apt to be
present. In most other genres it is not permitted to retroject a
prophecy, though it is possible to retroject things. other than
Many exegetes today think the prophecies in Daniel are mostly
retrojected, and the event had happened before the writing was
done. Specifically, they think what appears to be prophecy is
merely a record of what happened in the time of Antiochus IV of
Syria. It is also quite possible to see cases of multiple
fulfillment, i.e., some things really did already happen under
Antiochus, but not all: Some look ahead to the future of Christ.
We will need to consider the specific cases separately. An example
of multiple fulfillment appears in Isaiah 7.14 about the young
woman/virgin who is to conceive and bear a son.
We will try to show step by step, that there is an answer to all
difficulties against considering it basically historical.
The problem becomes acute right away in the opening verse, in
regard to the date of the third year of Jehoiakim, which seems at
least a first sight to contradict the Babylonian records.
One possible solution is to say that the stories of that part of
Daniel and some others too, are in the edifying narrative genre.
It is clear that such a genre was running during that period,
e.g., in the story of Ahiqar. In this genre we read stories that
are quite interesting, but the relation of the things in them to
real history or biography is about he same as the relation of
science fiction to science. For example, there are some early
medieval lives of Irish Saints. These Saints did everything by
miracles. A normal process would be more striking. Now: would an
ancient Irishman even with six good shots of whiskey really take
these stories as real history? Of course not. Yet he got a sort of
lift out of reading them. It is evident that in such a genre there
is no need for precision on dates and some other things.
There is little else in Daniel that presents problems such that we
really need to suppose the edifying narrative genre.
But here is another solution to the problem of Daniel 1.1. The
text says the siege came in the third year of King Jehoiakim. Now
Jeremiah 46.2 puts the first year of Nabuchodonosor as the fourth
year of Jehoiakim. And the Babylonian cuneiform records agree with
the date in Jeremiah.
However there were two ways at that time of dating the first year
of a king. In the the year in which a
king actually began to reign was counted as his first year, even
if he began to reign later in that year. In that system the first
year of Jehoiakim would be 608. This system was in use in Judah at
the time (the northern kingdom had used the accession year system,
but that kingdom came to an end with the fall of Samaria in 722.).
Pius XII in his Scripture Encyclical , of
1943 (EB 559-60) pointed out well that Semites are prone to
approximations and hyperbole. Examples are common and large. In
the book of Jonah in the Hebrew we hear that God will destroy the
city in 40 days. But the LXX for the same passage has 3 days.
Still another special use of the third days is explained in a
scholarly article by Bertrand de Margerie, S.J. "Le troisième
jour, selon les Ecritures, Il est ressucité" in (Strasbourg, 66, 1986, pp.158-88) shows that
the third day was widely used in Scripture for the day of rescue.
It was the day of the rescue of Isaac from being sacrificed (Gen
22.4ff) and of the deliverance given by Joseph to his brothers
(Gen 42.17ff). The Hebrews were to go three days into the desert
to sacrifice (Ex 5.3-4). It was the day of the revelation of the
law at Sinai (Ex 19.16). It was the day the spies saved by Rahab
were delivered (Jos 2.22). David had sinned by ordering a census,
but chose a punishment of pestilence to end on the third day (2
Sam 24.13ff). It was the day on which Hezekiah would go up to he
temple again, after being delivered from death (Is 38.1-5). It was
the day on which Esther found favor with the king and saved her
people (Esther 5.1). It was the day of return from the exile at
the time of Ezra (Esdr 8.32) It was the day of deliverance of
Jonah from the whale (Jon 2.1). Jesus Himself predicted His
resurrection on the third day (Mt.16.21; 20.19; 27.63).
Interestingly, in Babylonia, in the , the third
day was the day of the reawakening of the fertility gods: ANET
55.(Cf. Is 53:10; Paul in Gal 1, 18 -2.1 says at after his
conversion he went for a time into Arabia and then returned to
Numbers 25.9 tells of 25,000 slain in a plague. But St. Paul in 1
Cor 10.8 puts the number at 23,000.
So it is true, very true, that ancient Semites did not handle
numbers the way we Americans do. So perhaps there is no need to
labor over a difference of 1 year.
: Hebrew is used in Daniel 1.1- to 2.4. Then, when the
Chaldeans speak to the King, it changes to Aramaic which is used
to the end of chapter 7. Aramaic was the in the
Babylonian and Persian Empires in 6th- 5th centuries. Many guesses
have been made on why the shift in languages, but none are
The pattern of the book is clear: chapters 1-6 could be the
edifying narrative type, of which we spoke above. Chapters 7-12
are apocalyptic; chapters 13-14 are narrative additions. We recall
that Apocalyptic is a genre or pattern of writing in which the
author describes visions and revelations. It is not usually clear
if he meant to assert they were real, and not merely a vehicle for
his message. They contain bizarre, highly colored images. Often
there are figures of animals, to represent pagan empires, a horn
to stand for a king or a power, and they often include an angel
who interprets images. Apocalyptic is commonly a work to give
consolation in time of severe trial. God is presented as Lord of
history. There may be prediction of the future. Now if such
predictions were made in a rather factual genre, we would need to
maintain that they really were made before the events .However
because of the highly colored imagery and fanciful nature of
apocalyptic, the predictions may be made after the events
pictured, without any dishonesty. It is understood such things may
happen in this genre.
Most of Daniel is in Hebrew, yet chapters 2-7 are Aramaic. The
reason for this is not fully clear. The suggestion has been made
that the Hebrew chapters were for the special concerns of the
Jewish people, while the Aramaic portions were intended especially
for the gentiles - for Aramaic was the international language of
diplomacy at the time.
: When Alexander the Great came through the Jewish
land, the High Priest and other priests with their robes came out
to meet him, Alexander prostrated himself before the name of God.
He explained that before leaving for Asia, he saws the High Priest
in a dream, telling him to come over to Asia---something like
Cyrus being appointed by God to capture Persia.(Isaiah cap 45).
Then they showed Alexander the book of Daniel and on reading part
of it he concluded it referred to his conquest of Persia:
Josephus, 1.5-6, 329-40.
Chapter 1: Daniel and his three companions were put into the care
of the chief of the eunuchs, who was to give them the food and
drink of the king himself. The king wanted them to learn the
letters and language of the Chaldeans. That would have included
classical Akkadian, the official literary language from the days
of Hammurabi. They also needed the study of the language and
literature of ancient Sumerian religious literature, magical, and
astrological and scientific, was important for Babyonian religion.
The chief of the eunuchs gave the four Chaldean names.
The young men were to be educated for three years. Yet soon, in
the second year they will be called on to explain the king 's
dream (chapter 2). There is more than one way to explain the
second year. First, these may have been taken captive in 605 when
Nabuchodonosor was in Israel. Or - because of his distress, the
king may have tried all possible means to interpret his dream and
so even though their education was only 2/3 finished, they might
still help, and did so. Or -If we recall the semitic approximation
and looseness of numbers which we explained above, this could be
an other instance of that sort of thing.
The king ordered his own food and wine to be given them. But that
would surely involve foods forbidden to Jews. God made the chief
of eunuchs favorable, and so Daniel asked him to give them only
vegetables and water for a 10 day trial period.
At the end of the 10 days, Daniel and his three companions looked
healthier-- a miracle- not a proof that fasting is physically
Chapter 2: During the second year of the reign of Nabuchodonosor,
the king had a dream (Problem of second year explained above). He
called all the wise men, including the "Chaldeans". The word has
two meanings 1) members of that nation 2) a special class of
astrologer-soothsayers. The king demands that they tell him what
dream he had and then interpret it. They were unable, and said no
king had ever asked such a thing. If they had the picture of the
dream, they could devise something, and the king knew it. Being a
real tyrant, the king said he would have them torn apart - no
metaphor In the most literal way of understanding the expression
'You shall be made into limbs", the arms and legs would be tied to
four trees near each other, with the tops of the trees roped
together. When the upper rope would be released, the trees would
spring back literally tearing the victim to pieces. Or, they might
be hacked to pieces with swords and axes. So the king ordered that
it be done to them, including Daniel and associates. The reason:
they had claimed special powers, but now were proved to be fakes.
When Daniel heard of it he asked to see Arioch, the king's
captain, and got him to beg a bit of time from the king. Daniel
and his friends then prayed. Then he went to the king and said he
could interpret the dream, not by his own power, but by the power
and wisdom of God.
Daniel told the king that he, the king, had begun to think of
"days to come".- this expression first appears in Gen 49.1 at the
start of the prophecy made by Jacob. It also occurs in Dt. 4.30,
in 31.39, in Is 2.2, Ezek 38.16 and in Dan 10.14.
In his dream, the king had seen a giant statue, terrible to
behold. The head was gold, standing for the power of
Nabuchodonosor. Obviously, the first king, the golden head, is the
Then other kingdoms: breast and arms of silver, belly and thighs
of bronze, and legs of iron with its feet part iron, part clay.
The mixture foretells a mixed people which would not hold up
because of the mixture of iron and clay- which do not blend.
Perhaps there would be an alliance by marriage, which would not
After that would come another kingdom that will never be
destroyed. For a rock cut out of a mountain, without human hands,
would break the previous kingdoms to pieces, the gold, silver, and
bronze and iron. The stone that was cut out without hands would
The second and third kingdoms could be Medio-Persian and Alexander
Many have been tempted to see the
4th kingdom as Rome, so it may connect in time with the messianic
kingdom, which comes after it. But gaps in time in things that at
first sight seem continuous common enough- cf. Isaiah on death of
sennacherib in cap 37 and Luke on return to Nazareth) But we must
note that the feet standing for that kingdom are part pottery,
part iron - which do not mix. This hardly fits the strong power of
Rome. . If so, we
would say the edifying narrative genre could account for the
matter. However, we must add that the Jewish historian, Flavius
Josephus, in his Antiquities, 10, 245-49 (xi.4) does report that
there was a Darius the Mede, a kinsman, who would have ruled for
Cyrus for a time while Cyrus was occupied with other things. Such
an action would be quite in character with the known policies of
Chapter 3: After this King Nabuchodonosor had a great golden
statue made about 90 feet high and 9 feet wide. It must have been
covered with gold leaf - there was not enough gold in the country
at that time to make it of solid gold. The god was probably Nabu.
We have no knowledge of any Mesopotoamian king being worshipped as
divine during his lifetime. He summoned his satraps and other
officials for the dedication --seems to have been a well organized
bureaucracy. Five of the titles seem to be of Iranian origin. The
division into satrapies had not yet been made. But later editors
might update language, especially when later Jews might not have
known some of the older words, and it is possible here that the
Median language may have contributed some words as early as 600
The chief aim of the king may have been to get a recognition of
his own power. The fact that after chapter 2 the king seemed to
have worshipped the god of Daniel may have been the superficiality
of the king's thought, or the fact that in a polytheistic country
many gods were worshipped.
If any did not comply they were to be executed in the superheated
furnace nearby --a sort of smelter, with bellows to add heat.
All were to worship at the sound of a sort of orchestra of six
kinds of instruments. All did so except Daniel's three associates.
He was absent, perhaps ill, perhaps it was felt that he had no
need to prove his loyalty after interpreting the great dream.
Some high ranking Chaldeans saw that the three did not bow. The
word used here was a term that could mean
astrologers (as in chapter 2), but here seems to have stood merely
for high-ranking men. In a show of zeal for the king, they
denounced the three Jews.
They were brought before him - the king would not easily
understand why they would withhold so simple a sign of loyalty to
the king. Seeming surprised, he asked them if they really had
The three bravely replied: We do not need to defend ourselves in
this matter. Our God is able to deliver us. But even if He does
not, we will not serve your gods.--Magnificent adherence to God!
If the story were mere fiction, the writer surely would have had
Daniel in the group.
The king's face showed fury. He ordered the men to be bound
tightly with all their clothing, and to be thrown into the furnace
which was superheated- by the use of the bellows
But the three walked about in the flames, singing praise to God.
Their long and beautiful hymn is not found in the Hebrew. It is a
deuterocanonical addition by an inspired author, as we know from
the decree of the Council of Trent.
The king on seeing them unharmed jumped to his feet and shouted:
Did we not throw three into the furnace? But I see four men
walking around in the fire, and the fourth looks like a son of the
The king and his counselors came as close as they could to the
door of the furnace. He praised the true God and decreed that if
anyone spoke against Him, he should be torn limb from limb and his
home destroyed. He promoted the three to high positions in the
province of Babylon.
Chapter 4: This remarkable chapter opens with a speech in the
first person by King Nabuchodonosor. He had a dream which none of
his consultors could interpret. But Daniel could He saw a great
tree in the middle of the earth. Its top reached to the sky and it
could be seen from all the earth. It had fine leaves and abundant
fruit. Then a watcher (an early name for an angel), a holy one
came from the sky and cried out an order to cut down the tree and
its branches. Yet the stump should be left, bound with iron and
bronze, amidst the dew of heaven and the grass. Let his mind be
changed into that of a beast to make known that the Most High God
rules all kingdoms.
At first, Daniel, also called Baltassar, hesitated to give the
interpretation. Yet he did. It said that the King was the great
tree, but was to be cut down, but the stump would remain and be
wet with the dew until seven times (years) had passed. It meant
that the King would lose a human mind, and be like an ox for seven
years until he would acknowledge God.
Twelve months later, when the king was walking on the roof of his
great palace, and was thinking of his great power until a voice
from the sky told him his fate. He then became like an ox for
At the end of the seven years his reason returned, and he praised
God. more than before.
The episode in chapter 4 of Nabuchodonosor's temporary insanity
(boanthropy) does seem strange. Yet we notice that the Babylonian
records carry no entries of military activity on his part between
582 and 575. Boanthropy was a mental disease comparable to the
better known lycanthropy. The victim being constantly in the open
in the difficult climate (range from 110 or 120 down to below
freezing in winter, with high humidity) would develop coarser
skin. His hair never being cut would be matted and coarse and his
nails would grow long.
Chapter 5: Nabuchodonosor died in 563.Then came his son, Evil
Merodach (Man of Marduk). He was assassinated by his brother-in-
law General Neriglassdar who had served under Nabuchodonosor when
Jerusalem was destroyed. Neriglissar was followed by his son
Labashi-Marduk who was murdered nine months later, in 556. The
leader of the revolt was Nabonidus (Nabunaid).
An objection used to be made about chapter 5: Baltassar is
presented as the last king of Babylon before its fall. But we now
know that know that Nabonidus in the third year of his reign, 553,
made his son Baltassar coregent, and he himself left for Teima in
Arabia, where he stayed for about ten years, and never reassumed
the throne. So people in Babylon would commonly speak of him as
king. We are not sure why he stayed so long -- perhaps better
climate for his health, or perhaps religious reasons.
In 539 Baltassar was holding a great banquet, and in pride and
wine he ordered the sacred vessels taken by Nabuchodonosor from
the Jerusalem Temple to be brought, and he and his guests drank
from them. .
Babylon was considered impregnable. It was about 1 1/2 sq. miles.
It once had a double wall, but Nabuchodonosor built beyond it
another and more extensive wall. There were 8 gates. and 53
temples, the largest being that of Marduk which seems to have been
the biblical tower of Babel. The king received his royalty each
year at he New Year festival when he "took the hand of Marduk".
At the end of this chapter 5, the text of Daniel says; in came
Darius the Mede. But the Babylonian account says Cyrus, not
Darius, took the city. Josephus helps us here. In his
10.4. 259 he says. that it was Darius the Mede, 62
yrs. old, who made the actual conquest, while Cyrus, his kinsman,
was fighting elsewhere. Then a bit later Cyrus took over. Darius,
knowing the reputation of Daniel took him with him into Media and
made him one president over one of the 360 provinces he ruled. It
was after this that other courtiers, envious of Daniel, laid a
trap for him, as we read in Josephus 5.250 as a result of which
Daniel was put into the den of lions. Daniel 5.30 says that that
very night when the city was taken, Baltassar was slain. -- St.
Jerome in his Commentary on Daniel 9.24-27 has no hesitation in
saying that Darius the Mede actually took Babylon. Jerome is
relying there on Jewish traditions.
A hand appeared writing on the wall: Mene, Mene, Tecel, Phares
.The wise men could not interpret it, but Daniel did: God has
numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end;
Tekeln: You have been weighed in the balance and found wanting;
Peres: your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and
Chapter 6: Before going ahead, we need to compare the kingdoms of
the statue of cap 2 with the kingdoms in the visions of the
breasts in caps 7-8. Here is a summary. Details will follow after
our comments on the intervening chapters 3, 4, 5, 6.
In chapter 7, Babylon of course is the golden head. Then for the
silver parts of the great statue, we see Media and Persia, with
Persia the stronger of two. the third is the leopard, which goes
so fast as to barely touch the ground: this is Alexander with his
lightning conquests. But on his death, his empire at once breaks
into four parts under his generals. They are the Diadochi empires.
In Chapter 8, the ram is Persia which is greater than Media The
leopard is Alexander, whose conquests are so quick he hardly
touches the ground. But he dies young and his kingdom is broken
into four, the kingdoms of the Diadochi .A voice says this is for
Other records say it as Cyrus who took Babylon. But Josephus,
Antiquities. 5.2.50, says Darius, a kinsman of Cyrus made the
actual capture, while Cyrus was out fighting elsewhere.
We now turn back to the intervening chapters, 3, 4, 5, 6.
: - the three men in the fiery furnace, the
vision of the giant tree, and the stories in the appendix
(chapters 13-14), could have served the purpose of encouraging the
Jews to perseverance in fidelity to their laws at a time of
persecution. The episode in chapter 4 of Nabuchodonosor's
temporary insanity (boanthropy) does seem strange. Yet we notice
that the Babylonian records carry no entries of activity on his
part between 582 and 575.
An objection used to be made about chapter 5: Baltassar is
presented as the last king of Babylon before its fall. But it was
said that the cuneiform records showed the last king was
Nabonidus. We now know that Nabonidus in the third year of his
reign, 553, made his son Baltassar coregent, and he himself left
for Tema in Arabia, where he stayed for about ten years, and never
reassumed the throne.
Chapter 6: During the reign of Darius the Mede who according to
Josephus (Antiquities 10.5.249) took Babylon for Cyrus- enemies of
Daniel's success laid a trap for him. They knew he was so
religious in observing his prayers that they induced the king to
decree that if anyone for 30 days would pray to any god but
Datius, he would be cast into the den of lions. Of course they
easily caught Daniel praying three times a day, and denounced him
to the king. the King tried to rescue Daniel, but was reminded
that the decree of the Medes and Persians could not be changed,
not even by the king. So, sadly, the king did drop Daniel into the
lions' den. Such dens were kept for shows of animals fighting or
to devour criminals. The entrance to the den was sealed with the
king's own seal. Next morning, the king hurriedly came to the den,
and found Daniel unharmed. So the king threw in Daniel's accusers
with their wives and children- They were devoured by the lions at
The end of chapter 6 says Daniel; prospered during the time of
Darius and Cyrus.
, showing they are
hostile and chaotic forces opposed to God. They seem to represent
the same sequence of kingdoms as the vision of the great statue in
chapter 2, except that here we get the detail of the small horn
that spoke arrogantly, which at least seems to many to be
But some details cannot fir Antiochus,
Modern scholars want to make it fit the events of the time of
Antiochus IV who persecuted the Jews, and desecrated the temple.
But he did not set himself up in the temple. Nor was there an
expiation of guilt after Antiochus, bringing everlasting justice.
The evil ruler in this passage magnifies himself above every god -
this does not fit Antiochus, who put not a statue of himself but
of Zeus in the Jerusalem temple. Verse 37 says he pays no
attention to any god -again, this does not fit Antiochus. St.
Jerome in his commentary on this passage thinks the figure is the
Antichrist. Already in 8:17 the angel-interpreter told Daniel that
the vision referred to the end-time. But we could make Antiochus a
weak prefiguration of the horror of the Antichrist. In 11:45 the
evil ruler will come to a sudden end, with no one to help him,
seemingly at the beautiful holy mountain, which probably means
Zion. But Antiochus met his end in Persia
Verses 13-18 still in chapter 7 includes the famous vision of one
like a son of man, who receives from the Ancient of Days dominion,
glory and kingship that will never be taken away forever.
Commentators like to make this individual son of man just the
"holy ones of the most high." But this is unrealistic, the Jewish
people never did get such a kingship, one that will last forever.
Nor would Jewish thought suppose a headless kingdom. However if
the figure is the Messiah, then we do have a rational explanation.
In Hebrew thought we often meet an individual who stands for and
as it were embodies a collectivity. Jesus often used the phrase
Son of Man to refer to Himself. This was part of His deliberately
Chapter 8 largely repeats the thought of chapter 7, in a different
A he goat with one conspicuous horn between his eyes. He ran at
the ram and broke the horns of the ram When the goat was strong
the great horn was broken and instead came up four conspicuous
horns toward the four winds. v. 21: the voice says the he goat is
the king of Greece. Alexander
The goat, Alexander, did not touch the earth, he came so fast. The
goat charged the ram and shattered his two horns. At the height of
his power his large horn was broken off and in its place four
prominent horns grew up (probably the Diadochi, the successors to
Alexander.).Out of one of them came another horn, at first small,
but grew great to the south and the east and the glorious land It
even cast down some of the stars of the sky and trampled on them.
It magnified itself even up to the Prince of the host. The
continual burnt offering was taken away and the place of the
sanctuary was overthrown.
A voice asked: How long? Two thousand and three hundred evenings,
and then the sanctuary will be restored.
Daniel hears a voiced between the banks of the Ulai which called
on Gabriel to make Daniel understand. Daniel fell on his face and
the angel said to Daniel: Understand, son of man that the VISION
IS FOR THE END, "it pertains to the appointed time of the end."
It said: the ram with two horns are the kings of Media and Persia.
The goat is king of Greece. In the place where four horns were
broken, four kingdoms will arise, but not with his power.
At the end of their rule when transgressors have reached full
measure, a king with bold face will arise who understands riddles.
He will destroy many mighty men and the people of the saints. He
shall even rise up against the Prince of Princes. But he shall be
broken by no human hand.
In chapter 9 we meet the famous enigmatic prophecy of 70 weeks of
We begin with 9:2 in which Daniel is told that the desolation of
Jerusalem is to last 70 years.
First, we notice that the number 70 is normally round, as is 40.
How free this can be can be seen from a comparison of the Hebrew
text of Jonah 3:4 where Jonah says Nineveh will be destroyed in 40
days - along side of the Septuagint translation of the same line,
where it is not 40 but 3 days. The 70 years told to Jeremiah 25:11
were the length of the exile - very roundly, 70 years. But Daniel
by inspiration sees that there is a further fulfillment of the 70.
We can make it fit rather well with the time of Antiochus, thus:
1) Start with 605 AD the message to Jeremiah (25:11) - saying that
for 70 years they will be enslaved to the king of Babylon. In one
sense, which Jeremiah saw, this meant the length of captivity -
Daniel does not contradict, but extends the prophecy by taking
weeks of years instead of single years, about 70 weeks of years.
2) 605 BC minus 62 weeks (434 years) extends to 171 BC, the death
of Onias, the High Priest, the anointed one (9:26).
3) Persecution for one week = 7 years, runs from 171-164 (death of
Onias to death of Antiochus). Antiochus makes the compact with
many, the fallen Jews (v.27).
4) The half week in v.27 is 167-65, the time of desecration of the
But, there must be a reference to Christ also, for we note that
9:24 is too grand - there was no everlasting justice, nor
expiation of guilt after end of Antiochus. Now, St. Augustine
wisely noted in 17.3, that some prophecies refer
partly to OT events, partly to Christ - we know this when they do
not fit either one perfectly. So 9:24 refers to Christ. "A most
holy" could hardly refer to Onias - it easily does refer to
We add two details to the interpretation that takes the prophecy
to refer to the period up to Antiochus:
1) The in 9.27 may mean Antiochus making a deal with fallen
Jews - but it might also vaguely refer to Jesus making the eternal
covenant. After half a week Jesus abolishes the sacrifices of the
old law, and starts the new regime.
2) V.25 says seven weeks of years remain until Cyrus, God's
anointed (as Isaiah 45:12 said, in the sense that God empowered
him to crush Babylon and so to liberate the Jewish captives in
539). Jeremiah twice (25:11, dated in 605 BC, and 29:10, dated
between 597 and 587, probably in 594) foretold the exile would
last 70 years. From 594 to 539 is 55 years, not precisely seven
weeks or 49 years. However, in this sort of prophecy that is a
good enough approximation - we recall the case of Jonah 3:4
We conclude: the prophecy of the seventy weeks works out rather
well - with allowance for some approximation - in reference to the
times leading up to Antiochus, yet verse 24 refers entirely to the
time of Christ, and there may be vague allusions to that same time
in verse 26.
So we believe that the mixture of references comes from the well-
known pattern of multiple fulfillment: cf. a chapter on that in
Wm. G. Most,
Chapter 10: In the third year of King Cyrus, after Daniel had been
fasting and praying much he seemed to himself to be on the banks
of the River Tigris. There he saw a man--- really, the Archangel
Gabriel -- clothed in lines, the priestly garb. His loins were
girded with gold, his body like beryl, his face like lightning,
his eyes like flaming torches. His arms and legs were like bronze.
His words were like the sound of a great crowd.
Daniel alone saw the vision, his companions did not. Daniel fell
on his face, his strength gone until a hand touched him. Gabriel
said his words had been heard.
We now enter on a fully apocalyptic genre in which angels fight
against one another. Gabriel said that the prince of the kingdom
of Persia withstood him for 21 days, but Michael one of the chief
princes, standing for the protector of Daniel's people, came to
help him. Michael left the prince of Persia, and he came
strengthen Daniel and to tell him that the Yet the vision did express
the conflict of the holy people with Persia--some of which will
appear in chapter 11.
Then Michael when went to fight against the prince of Persia.
After he was to come the prince of Greece.
When was the third year of Cyrus? Cyrus began to reign in about
558, so his third year seems to have been 555/554.
The angels stand for kingdoms. Angels do not fight against angels,
unless we think of something like the case of a long protracted
exorcism to drive out an evil spirit.
In 10.14 the angel says that the vision is for the last days.
Chapter 12 makes this clearer still. And the vision of the statue
in chapter 2 speaks of the end time. We need to keep this point in
mind as we read these last chapters. They do speak in part of the
fate of Israel in the relatively near future. But they refer even
more to the last period. The only specific that will be given will
refer to Antiochus IV, but yet as we said, it extends even to the
Chapter 11: The first year of Darius the Mede seems to have been
539/38. As we saw in chapter 6, this Darius took Daniel with him
back to Media. While there came the episode of the lions' den. But
Daniel prospered also under Cyrus.
Chapter 10 told of things under the apocalyptic imagery of the
clash of the princes or angels of Persia, Greece and Israel. Now
chapter 11 though it does not give the names, yet will be in a way
more specific on what is to come Let us recall too what was said
about multiple fulfillment in the prophecy of 70 weeks of years.
Very early, the antichristian Neoplatonist Porphyry claims there
were no real prophecies in the passage beginning with 11.l. It was
just a telling of the history of the period in the guise of
prophesy. St. Jerome answered Porphyry.* But today many even
Catholics largely follow Porphyry.
It is good to note three points: First at 11.2 there are to be
four Persian kings before Alexander the Great Commentators today
are not at all in agreement on who the four should be. After
Darius the Mede we know there were these kings in general
history:: 1)Cyrus II (c.559-30), 2) Cambyses (529-22,son of Cyrus
and conqueror of Egypt; 3)Darius I, son of Hystaspes (c 522-486)
who invaded Greece, was repulsed at Marathon; 4) Xerxes I (485-65)
who invaded Greece, was repulsed by the Greeks at Salamis; 5)
Artaxerxes I.(465-25); 6) Darius II 423-04); 7) Artaxerxes II
(404-359); 8) Artaxerxes III (359-358); 9) Darius III Codomanus -
defeated by Alexander the Great at Issus; fled to Bactria, and
: After Alexander's early death, his dominion was divided
into that of the four Successors or Diadochi. Many wars among
them. No names are given in Daniel, yet the narrative seems able
to agree with profane history.
: Daniel gives many details on him- but by no
means all fit known history. As we saw in dealing with the 70
weeks of years prophecy, this Antiochus seems to be a type of the
antitype, the chief Antichrist.
Comment; Items 1 and 3 are surely not prophecy after the event.
Item 2 is able to agree, with no names given. rather broad
strokes. surely it is apocalyptic. If there were prophecy after
the event these things would have been made more correct. But in
apocalyptic they need not be so.
Details on Antiochus IV: Daniel does not name him or give any
names in his treatment. If we fill-in with the help of history we
get the following:
A despicable person (11.21), Antiochus IV got power by intrigue.
Soon after taking the throne he invaded Judah. where he destroyed
the prince of the covenant, Onias III. Onias sought refuge in
Daphne, near Antioch, but was assassinated there. in 171BC.
Then he attacked the King of the South, Ptolemy VI in 169. He
tried to win over Ptolemy VI and there seemed to be peace. He
advanced on Memphis, but a nationalist faction in Alexandria
proclaimed the brother of Ptolemy VI as king. Antiochus wanted to
take Memphis, but considered it impossible to take. With great
wealth he went back to Syria.
In going through Palestine he took the temple treasures, and left
a garrison in Jerusalem. A year later he tried a campaign against
Egypt In Alexandria he met a Roman Senator Popilius Laenas. who
drew a circle around Antiochus in the sand, ordered him to get out
of Egypt. Antiochus did. (The Kittim are the Romans).
In Palestine he persecuted the Jews, demanding they offer
sacrifice to the gods. He built a Greek type gymnasium there. Some
Jews gave in, many did not, especially Eleazar and the Mother of
seven sons. The Machabees and others made up an army and won
remarkable victories. Antiochus did not respect the gods of his
ancestors. Yet he seemed to identify himself with Olympian Zeus.
From 169-66 his image was on coins, seeming to identify himself
with Zeus Olympios. He called himself Epiphanes, a god who
appears. He did not honor "the delight of women" (11.37),
In Jerusalem (11.31) he stopped the continual daily sacrifice in
the temple, and set up the "abomination of desolation" there. In
view of the fact that Antiochus is the type of Antichrist, and in
view of the multiple fulfillment mentioned above in our study of
the 70 weeks of years, we may ask if this also foretells that the
Mass will be stopped at the time of the Antichrist-- we do not
know, and we recall Lk 18.8,and 2 Thes. 2.3) the abomination of
desolation was seen just before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD--
probably it was the entrance of the Roman military standards into
the Temple, with the eagles on them, which the soldiers
Now, beginning at 11,40 Daniel predicts disaster, but in unclear
language. By a sort of prophetic idealization (cf.Ez.39.4; Jl
3.2,12-13; Zech 14,2; Rev \Apoc 11.8) and Isaiah 17) he was
supposed to die near Jerusalem- actually it was, we think, in
Susa.(2 Mc 9).
The opening words "at that time" show this pertains to the end
time. Then there will be a time of distress such as has not
happened before. The language of Mt.24.21 is similar on the
distress (thlipsis) to come then. Most likely it is from the
persecution carried on by the
Antichrist of which Antiochus IV was a type. Jesus said that if
those days had not been cut short, no one would survive. But they
will be shortened.
Naturally, many ask themselves: would I hold up and persevere in
so great a time of distress?
There is a way to help in this difficulty.: St. Paul three times
(1 Ths 4.23-24, 1 Cor 1.8-9; Phil 1.6) promises the grace of final
perseverance will be offered to all.
But we must notice further that one could reject that grace.
However even for that further difficulty there is a way. Pius XI
in (Feb.2, 1923: AAS 15.104) taught "...nor would
he incur eternal death whom the Most Blessed Virgin assists,
especially at his last hour. This view of the Doctors of the
Church, in harmony with convictions of the Christian people, and
supported by the experience of all times, depends especially on
this reason (namely) the fact that the Sorrowful Virgin shared in
the work of the redemption with Jesus Christ." The same teaching
is found also in Benedict XV and Pius XII. In regard to her
sharing in the redemption, Vatican II joined the chorus of a total
of 17 documents of the Magisterium (every Pope from Leo XII to
John Paul II) by saying in #61: "...in suffering
with Him as He died on the cross, she cooperated in the work of
the Savior, in an altogether singular way, by obedience, faith and
burning love, to restore supernatural life to souls." LG says 3
times in all (also in #56) that she cooperated by --
she knew the Father willed that He die, die then, die so horribly.
All holy souls are obliged when they know what the Father
positively wills to positively will it with Him: here, to will His
death, in clash with her immeasurable love. He redeemed us
precisely by obedience (LG #3; Rom 5.19): thus she joined,
cooperated in that which gave the value to His sacrifice. So Pius
XI was right in saying her ability to keep from eternal death (by
rejecting the final perseverance grace) those who are really
devoted to her stems from her cooperation in redeeming us. That is
why Benedict XV called her -- suppliant
omnipotence :for by asking she can bring about anything God by His
inherent power can do.
Daniel continues predicting that all those whose names are found
in the book will be delivered. The book is of course the book of
life, containing the names of those who are and will be faithful.
There will be a resurrection. Some will rise to glory, others to
eternal shame. Will all persons rise at this time? It says that
many will rise. The word for many is the odd Hebrew ,
which means the all who are many. Did Daniel have a revelation of
the general resurrection of all humans? or just of Israel and the
enemies of Israel ?. From Scripture elsewhere we know it will be
all humans. Was that clear to Daniel, in this which is perhaps the
first revelation of a resurrection? It is unclear what Daniel
learned, even though in itself as we said it will be true of all
humans. As we are seeing, Daniel was written in the 6th century
BC. Even those who hold for a much later date, 2nd century, will
note a few texts from much earlier that seem to speak of something
similar. Job 19,26 predicts a resurrection. Psalm 17.l5 "And in
righteousness I will see your face: when I wake. I will be
satisfied in seeing your form." (cf. also Ps.73.23-24).
The wise clearly mean those who work to realize God's will.
Daniel is to seal the book until the end time, when all the
predictions and promises will be fulfilled. Many will busy
themselves with these words, and so knowledge shall increase. Yet
as we see from the sequel, the full meaning will not be entirely
clear until the end time.
Daniel then sees two angels who are the official witnesses. He
asks how long it will be? The angel replies: It is sealed until
the end time.
Daniel asks: How long? The angel replies: a time and times and
half a time. That is, 3 1/2 years.
The angel adds words misunderstood by many versions Anchor Bible
even thinks there is a mistranslation here. But the Hebrew kalah
is clear: when the shattering of the power of the holy people is
completed (kalah) all will come to pass.
Lk 21.24 says that Jerusalem "will be trodden by the gentiles
". Rom 11.25 says a
blindness in part has come on Israel "" Further in 2 Mc 2.5-7 we read that
Jeremiah hid the ark in a cave. When his followers tried to find
it, he said it would be hidden until God gathers His people
together again. -So we wonder: Are we close to this turning point?
Probably yes, but that still does not tell us how close to the end
we are, for with the Lord a thousand years is one day.
Many will be purified, but the wicked will grow still more wicked,
and will not understand. We naturally think of Lk.18.8: "When the
Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" And the words
of 2 Timothy 3 on the kind of men who will grow more wicked at the
end. Mt 24.12 says that since sin will reach its fullness the love
of most people will grow cold. Again we think of the two spirals
in opposite directions in which the good will grow in light, the
wicked will become more and more blind. To illustrate: If someone
gets drunk tonight for the first time, in the next morning there
will be guilt feelings: a clash of his moral beliefs and his
actions. But in time something will give. If he continues getting
drunk he no longer will see anything wrong in it. And other moral
beliefs will be pulled too and even dogmatic beliefs. (When John
Paul II visited Denver in 1993, Dignity, which explicitly defends
homosexuality, published a statement saying that the Pope is only
the titlular head of the Church. We ARE the Church. But if someone
lives strenuously following the teaching that things of time are
worth little compared to eternity, then his ability to see
spiritual truths grows in a spiral that feeds on itself, getting
ever larger. In the bad spiral there is justice: he has earned
being blinded; yet since the less one sees spiritually, the less
is his guilt, , So mercy and justice appear
in one and the same action. On the good spiral the man merits more
light in a secondary sense: in the basic sense all is gratuitous,
is mercy. So we think of the words of Jesus in Lk 19.26: "To whom
who has more, more will be given; from him who has not, even what
he has will be taken away." : We think too of Rev./Apoc.22.11.
None of the wicked shall understand, but the wise will. From the
time when the continual offering is taken away and the abomination
of desolation is set up, there will be 1290 days. Blessed is he
who waits 1335 days. But you Daniel go your way You shall rest and
stand at the end of these days.
Daniel did not understand. We, since we are closer to the end
time, have been able to see part of what he did not understand,
namely the line about the completion of the scattering of the holy
People. The cessation of the continual offering and the
abomination of desolation came when Antiochus IV stopped
sacrifice, and the abomination, an idol, was set up. We seem to
have here another instance of multiple fulfillment, namely the
continual sacrifice will be stopped-probably the Mass at the time
of the Antichrist. There will also be the abomination in the
temple-- the Antichrist will sit (cf. 2 thes 2.4) in the restored
Jerusalem temple (or which Ezekiel 40-48 spoke?).But we do not
know about the additional 45 days--nor did Daniel. It might be the
time in which the Antichrist is permitted to sit in the temple as
if he were god. At the end of that time Jesus comes in glory and
slays the Antichrist. Perhaps the Antichrist will be able to
entirely or almost entirely suppress the Mass, but only for the 45
Chapter 13: These two chapters, 13-14 are clearly not part of the
original book of Daniel. They are only in Greek, though it is
quite possible that the Greek is a rather free (cf. the large use
of participal constructions) translation from a Hebrew or Aramaic
original. We have the somewhat larger version by Theodotion (2nd
Century B.C reviser of LXX. Yet thanks to the Council of Trent we
know they are part of inspired Scripture.
At Quinran there are fragments of what seems to be a cycle of
Daniel stories. Still earlier we meet a mention of a man of
exceptional righteousness, joined with Noah and Job inEzek14.14.20
He is probably the same as the legendary Danel (note spelling
difference) in the myths of Ugarit. (once a great kingdom, modern
Ras Shamra) in the late Bronze Age--1600-1185. He was noted for
his compassion for widows and orphans. In Ezek 28.3 the King of
Tyre is supposed to be wiser than Danel.(Daniel).
This is the story of Susanna, a chaste wife of Joakin, a rather
rich Jew in the exile. Two Jewish elders become inflamed for her,
and surprised her in the garden of her home. St. Jerome reports a
Jewish tradition that the two were Ahab and Zedekiah, mentioned in
Jer 29.21-23. They threatened death if she did not consent to sex
with them. She refused them, and then they accused her of the very
sin she had refused, saying she had committed adultery with a
young man in the garden. She was condemned to death, but then a
young man, Daniel, exclaimed he was innocent of her death. All
returned to judgment. Daniel trapped the elders by asking them
singly under what kind of tree they had seen her.
There is in the Greek a play on words. "Under a mastic tree" in
Greek is hypo schinon to make a play on words with the prediction
that the angel of the Lord would split (schisei) him in two. The
second elder says he saw them into an oak (prinon)-the angel would
cut (prisai) him in two. Cf. 2 Kings 2.23 for a miracle worked by
a play on words.
Chapter 14: Daniel detects the trickery of the priests of Bel.
Daniel was in honor with Astyage, last king of Media. In 550 Cyrus
annexed his kingdom.
In Babylon there was a god called Bel-- which is the same as
Mrduk. Everyday the Babylonians put out a huge amount of food and
drink before his statue. In the next morning it would be gone. The
70 priests of Bel had secret doors to enter and consume the food
Daniel got the king to agree to a test. In the presence of the
king Daniel sifted ashes all over the floor before the statue, and
sealed it. In the morning, the seal was intact, and the food was
gone. The King jumped to the conclusion Bel had eaten it. Daniel
said: Wait a bit. He pointed to the footprints of the 70 priests
and their wives and children. The priests showed the king the
Then the king executed the false priests. and allowed Daniel to
destroy Bel--since Bel was the chief god of Babylon, with a great
temple, we wonder if it happened--or is this perhaps an instance
of edifying narrative story.
Daniel slays the dragon:
The Babylonians also worshipped a dragon or serpent. The king told
Daniel: You must admit this is a living god. Daniel said he could
kill the dragon without sword or club. Daniel took pitch, fat and
hair, and made them into cakes. The serpent ate them-- and died of
But the priests threatened to kill the king if he did not turn
Daniel over to them. The king did, and Daniel was put into the den
of lions for 6 days. The usual food as not given to the lions so
they would eat Daniel.
But God sent the prophet Habakkuk who was carried by his hair to
Babylon, carrying a bowl of pottage and bread. Habakkuk gave these
to Daniel. The king saw that God had saved Daniel.
On the 7th day the king came to mourn Daniel, but found him alive
and well. Then the king threw the priests into the den. They were
devoured at once.
This too seems likely to be of the edifying narrative genre.
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