The Father William Most Collection
Commentary on Daniel
Date of composition: Many today think Daniel was written rather late, in the sercond 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 ex eventu). 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.
One line of argument for a late date claims there are late words, not in use before the time of Antiochus. However fine studies by Gleason Archer (Expositor's Bible Commentary, ed. F. Gaebelein, VII, pp. 20-24) and Kenneth Kitchen, Problems in Daniel, 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 (Ancient Orient and Old Testament, 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.
Genre: It is clear that there are two genres in Daniel.
One is apocalyptic, which presents highly colored images and often secret things. We still will need to ask whether the writer means to assert 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 prophecies.
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.
It is less easy to be certain of what genre the second one is. 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. As we shall see, there is really nothing that cannot be understood as straight history or apocalyptic,
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 Nebuchadnezzar 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 non-accession year system 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).
In the accession year system, the year in which the king actually began to reign did not count as his first year. In Babylon the accession year method was in use at this time. Thus in Babylonian reckoning the first year of Jehoiakim would be 607 and his third year would have been 605, the year of the siege of Jerusalem. So the problem vanishes if we suppose that Daniel, who was writing from Babylon, used the Babylonian system.
Pius XII in his Scripture Eneyclical Divino afflante Spiritu, of 1943 (EB559-60) 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 Recherches des Sciences Religieuses (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 Descent of Ishtar, 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 Damascus.
Another example of approximation: 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.
Languages: 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 lingua franca in the Babylonian and Persian Empires in 6th- 5th centuries. Many guesses have been made on why the shift in languages, but none are satisfactory.
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.
Most important: 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 ch. 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, Antiquities 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 Sumer. 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 Nebuchadnezzar 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 beneficial.
Chapter 2: During the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, 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 o f 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 Nebuchadnezzar. Obviously, the first king, the golden head, is the Babylonian kingdom.
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 last.
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 stand forever.
The second and third kingdoms could be Medio-Persian and Alexander
It is also clear that the stone that filled the earth is the messinic kingdom (cannot be Jews, who never did get such power, last forever. so the stone is Jesus, cut from the mountain, the Rock which is God (often called Rock in OT) He is cut out without hands: this stands for virginal conception and birth.
What then is the 4th kingdom? 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 were common enough - cf. Isaiah on death of sennacherib in ch. 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. Many interpreters take the four to be: Babylonian, Median, Persian, and Hellenistic kingdoms after the death of Alexander. We observe: if one follows that view, then there is a Median kingdom before the Persian, which would imply that Darius the Mede, who in 6:1 took Babylon, is a historical figure. Most writers say Darius is fictitious, that Cyrus of Persia conquered Babylon. 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 Cyrus.
The problem is to make the images of chapters 2, 7 and 8 fit. The following chart and explanations give a plausible picture:
(2) gold = (7) lion = = Babylon
(2) silver = (7) bear = (8) ram = Media and Persia
(2) bronze = (7) leopard = (8) he goat = Alexander (and his successors, in 7 and 8)
(2) iron-clay = the Hellenistic kingdoms after Alexander (Diadochi)
(7) fourth beast = from among Alexander's successors, the line which brought forth Antiochus IV
The image of the statue is less suggestive with regard to the second and third kingdoms than are the images in chapters 7 and 8. Thus, we have interpreted the statue so as to fit with plausible interpretations of the other visions.
If the bear and the ram, as hypothesized, each stand for Media and Persia, than the facts that the bear is raised on one side and that the goat has two horns, one longer than the other, indicate that there are two kingdoms involved in each, of which the second, Persia (the longer horn comes up second), was stronger than the first.
The he goat in chapter 8 is said to charge so fast that its feet do not touch the ground; this indicates the swift conquests of Alexander. The leopard (chapter 7) is also a swift beast. The leopard has four wings and four heads, and the he goat's large single horn gives way to four smaller horns, thus symbolizing the fourfold division of Alexander's realms after his death.
The kingdom of iron and clay also represents the successors of Alexander, the Diadochi, all of which became subject to Rome.
In chapter 7, the fourth beast, receiving a separate treatment from the rest of the Diadochi, represents the line which brought forth Antiochus IV of Syria, who is represented by the little horn which uproots the three others. This is the same as the little horn in chapter eight, which comes out of the four horns which replaced the single big one.
Chapter 3: After this King Nebuchadnezzar had a great golden statue made about 90 feet high and 9 feet wide. It must have been covered with gold leaf - there weas 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 BC.
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 gubrin kasda'in, a term that could mean astrologers (as in chapter 2), but here seems to have stood merely for highranking 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 disobeyed.
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 gods.
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.
This story, the vision of the giant tree in chapter 4, 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.
Chapter 4: This remarkable chapter opens with a speech in the first person by King Nebuchadnezzar. 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 Belteshazzar , 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 seven years.
At the end of the seven years his reason returned, and he praised God more than before.
The episode in chapter 4 of Nebuchadnezzar'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: Nebuchadnezzar died in 563. Then came his son, Evil Merodach (Man of Marduk). He was assassinated by his brother-in-law General Neriglassar who had served under Nebuchadnezzzer 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: Belshazzar 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 Belshazzar 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 Belshazzar was holding a great banquet, and in pride and wine he ordered the sacred vessels taken by Nebuchadnezzar 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 Nebuchadnezzar 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 the 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 Antiquities 10. 4. 259 he says that it was Darius the Mede, 62 years 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, Belshazzar 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: Mene: God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; Tekel: You have been weighed in the balance and found wanting; Peres: your kingom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.
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 Darius, 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 once.
The end of chapter 6 says Daniel prospered during the time of Darius and Cyrus.
Chapter 7: The four beasts rise from the sea, 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 Antiochus IV of Syria. But some details cannot fit 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 include 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 gradual self-revelation.
Chapter 8: Largely repeats the thought of chapter 7, in a different way.
There is a he goat with one conspicuous horn between his eyes: Alexander. He charged the ram, moving so fast that he did not touch the earth, and shattered the ram's 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 time of the end."
It said: the ram with two horns are the kings of Media and Persia. The goat is king of Greece, i.e., Alexander. 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 years.
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. years
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 Temple.
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 City of God 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 Christ.
We add two details to the interpretation that takes the prophecy to refer to the period up to Antiochus:
1) The he 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 mentioned above.
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. the chapter on that in Wm. G. Most, Free From All Error.
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 linen, 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 visionl; 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 vision pertains to the latter days. So it was not just a revelation of history soon to come, though that was included too. The vision of prophets spans great ages of time without difficulty. 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 him 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 end.
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 prophecy. 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 died there.
Second: 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.
Third, Antiochus IV: 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 171 BC.
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 Maccabees 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), seemingly Adonis-Tammuz.
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 worshipped.
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 Explorata res; (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 Lumen gentium §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 to souls." LG says 3 times in all (also in §56) that she cooperated by obedience-- 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 omnipotentia suppplex-- 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 rabbim, 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 until the times of the gentiles are fulfilled". Rom 11. 25 says a blindness in part has come on Israel "until the-full number of the gentiles come in." 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 titular 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, at the time of acting, 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 days.
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 participial 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 Qumran 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 in Ezek14. 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 under 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 Marduk. Every day 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 each night.
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 secret doors.
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 acute indigestion.
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 was 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.