The book of Daniel contains specific details about developments that are mentioned in extant historical writings. From ancient times, there have been persons who simply could not believe that these historical occurrences could have been foretold long in advance and, therefore, dismissed the book of Daniel as having been compiled after the fact.
One of these individuals was the philosopher Porphyry who lived most of his life in the third century CE. In the introduction to his commentary on Daniel, Jerome (c. 347 to 419 or 420 CE) wrote about this philosopher’s opinion. Porphyry claimed that the book of Daniel was composed by “some individual living in Judea” at the time of Antiochus Epiphanes (the Seleucid king of Syria whose reign ended in l64 BCE). This philosopher, according to Jerome, “alleged that ‘Daniel’ did not foretell the future” but “related the past” and “that whatever he spoke of up until the time of Antiochus contained authentic history, whereas anything he may have conjectured beyond that point was false,” for “he would not have foreknown the future.”
A view similar to that of Porphyry has gained widespread acceptance in modern times. Although very early manuscript fragments of the book of Daniel have been discovered (the earliest one considered to date from about 125 BCE), many still feel that the book was compiled about 165 BCE or about the time the rule of Antiochus Epiphanes ended. Others, however, regard the existence of the ancient scrolls as indicating that the book could not have gained the acceptance of the Jews in such a short time, a mere 40 years.
One evidence that Daniel lived long before the second century BCE is a reference to him in the book of Ezekiel. It is there stated that, if Noah, Daniel, and Job had lived in Jerusalem at that time, they alone (not even son or daughter) would be saved from destruction. (Ezekiel 14:14, 20) With reference to the king of Tyre, Ezekiel 28:3 says, “you are wiser than Daniel.” Those who do not accept the book of Daniel as historical dismiss the references in Ezekiel, pointing to the fact that the name is spelled differently. There is no yod (Y) and so the name may be read as “Danel.” Different spellings for the same name, however, are not uncommon. One example is that there are two spellings for the Babylonian monarch who conquered Jerusalem — “Nebuchadnezzar” and “Nebuchadrezzar.” (2 Kings 24:1; Jeremiah 21:2)
In the first century CE, the Jewish historian Josephus wrote extensively about Daniel and the book of Daniel. Regarding Daniel he said, “He retains a remembrance that will never fail, for the several books that he wrote and left behind him are still read by us till this time; and from them we believe that Daniel conversed with God; for he did not only prophesy of future events, as did the other prophets, but he also determined the time of their accomplishment; and while the prophets used to foretell misfortunes, and on that account were disagreeable both to the kings and to the multitude, Daniel was to them a prophet of good things, and this to such a degree that, by the agreeable nature of his predictions, he procured the goodwill of all men; and by the accomplishment of them, he procured the belief of their truth.” (Antiquities, X, xi, 7)
An example of Daniel’s prophecies to which Josephus pointed is the one regarding the ram and the he-goat found in Daniel chapter 8. With reference to developments involving the he-goat and later events, Josephus wrote, “The he-goat signified that one should come and reign from the Greeks, who should twice fight with the Persian, and overcome him in battle, and should receive his entire dominion; that by the great horn which sprang out of the forehead of the he-goat was meant the first king; and that the springing up of four horns upon its falling off, and the conversion of every one of them to the four quarters of the earth, signified the successors that should arise after the death of the first king, and the partition of the kingdom among them, and that they should be neither his children nor of his kindred that should reign over the habitable earth for many years; and that from among them there should arise a certain king that should overcome our nation and their laws, and should take away our political government, and should spoil the temple, and forbid the sacrifices to be offered for three years’ time. And indeed it so came to pass, that our nation suffered these things under Antiochus Epiphanes, according to Daniel’s vision, and what he wrote many years before they came to pass. In the very same manner Daniel also wrote concerning the Roman government, and that our country should be made desolate by them. All these things did this man leave in writing, as God had showed them to him, insomuch, that such as read his prophecies, and see how they have been fulfilled, would wonder at the honor wherewith God honored Daniel.” (Antiquities, X, xi, 7)
Besides his comments on portions of the book of Daniel, Josephus recorded a tradition that when Alexander the Great was shown the part in the book “wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians, he supposed that he himself was the person intended.” (Antiquities, XI, viii, 5)
It is difficult to see how Josephus could have written what he did if the book of Daniel was compiled in the second century BCE. When writing Against Apion (I, 8), Josephus stated that none of the books recognized by the Jews as having the highest authority were written after the reign of the Persian monarch Artaxerxes. Concerning books from a later period, he wrote, “It is true, our history has been written since Artaxerxes very particularly, but has not been esteemed of the like authority with the former by our forefathers, because there has not been an exact succession of prophets since that time; and how firmly we have given credit to those books of our own nation is evident by what we do; for during so many ages as have already passed, no one has been so bold as either to add anything to them, to take anything from them, or to make any change in them; but it becomes natural to all Jews, immediately and from their very birth, to esteem those books to contain divine doctrines, and to persist in them, and, if occasion be, willingly to die for them.” The expressions of Josephus make it clear that he must have considered the book of Daniel to be one of the “holy books.” In his Life (Section 75), Josephus specifically says that, by the concession of Titus, the conqueror of Jerusalem who later became the emperor of Rome, he had the “holy books,” and his extensive comments about the contents of the book of Daniel indicate that he did have a copy in his possession.
Like Jerome at a later time, those who identified themselves as Christians in earlier centuries believed that Daniel was a prophet who accurately foretold future events. But persons like Porphyry, though unable to deny that specific developments mentioned in the book of Daniel were historically verifiable, countered this with the contention that the book was written after the fact. The attack on the book of Daniel prompted Jerome to write, “But this very attack testifies to Daniel’s accuracy. For so striking was the reliability of what the prophet foretold, that he could not appear to unbelievers as a predictor of the future, but rather as a narrator of things already past.”
For the most part, the Masoretic Text and the Dead Sea Daniel scrolls read the same, including the Hebrew and Aramaic sections. The differences that do exist are minor, and a few of them are significant. This, however, is not the case regarding the Septuagint. The oldest extant Greek text (P967), thought to date from the third century CE, departs from the reading of the Hebrew-Aramaic text in major ways, with extensive sections that are not contained in the extant Hebrew-Aramaic text. Additionally, the Greek text is not in the same order. The material in chapter 4 is followed by what is contained in chapters 7 and 8 and then chapters 5 and 6. The same order as the Hebrew text resumes with the contents of chapter 9.
During the reign of Jehoiakim, the king of Judah, the Babylonian monarch Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem and besieged the city. This is said to have taken place in the third year of Jehoiakim’s reign. Many who do not consider the account in Daniel to be a narration of actual events view the reference to the third year as a historical blunder in a legendary story. Throughout the centuries, however, persons who accepted the book of Daniel as historical have offered plausible explanations. (1:1)
The reference to the “third year” that seems to fit better than other views is one that coincides with the way in which Josephus narrates events. His narration is largely based on 2 Kings 24:1, 2, 12-16; Jeremiah 22:13-19; 52:28, and includes some additional information for which there is no extant confirmatory account. (1:1)
According to Antiquities (X, vi, 1-3; vii, 1), Nebuchadnezzar, after having reigned “four years,” or in the “eighth year” of Jehoiakim’s rule, came with mighty forces against Judah and demanded tribute from Jehoiakim, threatening to war against him if he refused to pay. Then, in the “third year” thereafter or in the eleventh year of his reign, Jehoiakim did not pay the tribute. A short time later, Nebuchadnezzar “made an expedition against Jehoiakim.” Out of fear that the prophecy of Jeremiah would be fulfilled that he would be killed and not be granted an honorable burial (Jeremiah 22:13-19), Jehoiakim did not mount a defense of Jerusalem and did not “shut the gates.” After entering the city, the Babylonian monarch “slew such as were in the flower of their age, and such as were of the greatest dignity, together with their king Jehoiakim, whom he commanded to be thrown before the walls, without any burial.” Jehoiachin, the son of Jehoiakim, then began to reign as king. Not long thereafter, Nebuchadnezzar, fearing that Jehoiachin would cause the people to revolt because he had killed his father Jehoiakim, sent an army against Jerusalem and besieged the city. Jehoiachin, not wanting to endanger the city, surrendered. (1:1)
A Babylonian chronicle about the early years of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar reports that, in the fourth year, he “mustered his army and marched to Hatti land [Hattu].” There in Hatti land (Hattu) the Babylonian warriors “marched unopposed.” In the same year, Nebuchadnezzar led his army into Egypt, which meant that the Babylonian forces passed through the realm of Jehoiakim. During the fighting in Egypt, both sides incurred heavy losses. Thus the Babylonian chronicle agrees with the account of Josephus that Nebuchadnezzar was in Judah in the fourth year of his reign, which would have been the eighth year of Jehoiakim’s reign. Therefore, it is conceivable that, before the Egyptian campaign, Nebuchadnezzar (as Josephus wrote) required Jehoiakim to pay tribute, which he did for two years but then refused to do in the third year, and it is this “third year” to which the opening verse of the book of Daniel has been interpreted to refer. That “third year” would be the eleventh year of Jehoiakim’s reign and the seventh year of Nebuchadnezzar’s rule. The Babylonian chronicle does report that Nebuchadnezzar besieged the “city of Judah” or Jerusalem in his “seventh year,” “captured the king” (Jehoiachin), and “appointed there a king of his own choice” (Zedekiah). (1:1)
The judgment that befell Jehoiakim was one that YHWH had decreed, and so he, the Lord, is spoken of as having delivered “Jehoiakim, the king of Judah,” into the “hand” of Nebuchadnezzar. To indicate that their gods had triumphed over the deities of other nations, victorious kings deposited the images of the deities of defeated peoples in the temple of their own gods. As there were no images of YHWH at the temple in Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar took some of the sacred vessels from the temple to the “land of Shinar” (the ancient name for Babylonia [Genesis 10:9, 10; 11:2-8]) and placed them in the temple treasury of his god (probably Marduk, the chief deity of Babylon), thereby tangibly representing that his god had been victorious. (1:2; see the Notes section.)
Nebuchadnezzar commanded “Ashpenaz [Abiesdri (LXX); Asphanez (Theodotion); Aspanes (P967)], his chief eunuch, to bring some of the sons of Israel,” and members of the royal family and of the nobles, to be trained for functioning in the Babylonian court. It was customary to make such captives eunuchs. According to Josephus (Antiquities, X, x, 1), “Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, took some of the most noble of the Jews that were youths, and the kinsmen of Zedekiah their king.” Josephus wrote that the Babylonian monarch made “some of them eunuchs, which course he took also with those of other nations whom he had taken in the flower of their age.” (1:3; see the Notes section.)
The account in the book of Daniel describes the youths to be selected as ones without any blemish or physical defect, good-looking males, “being prudent in all wisdom” (being intelligent or wise), “knowing knowledge” (being knowledgeable), and “discerning thought” (having good comprehension). They were to be persons who would be able to “stand” or serve in the palace of the king. Those who met the qualifications were to be taught the writing and language of the Chaldeans. (1:4)
As to their nourishment, they were to be given a daily provision from the rich fare of the king and from the supply of the wine that he drank. After a period of three years of education and being given what was considered to be the choicest food and drink, the young men were to “stand before the king” or were to be brought into his presence. (1:5)
Among those chosen for special training were four youths from the “sons of Judah” who had been led as captives to Babylon — Daniel, Hananiah (Hananias [LXX]), Mishael (Misael [LXX]), and Azariah (Azarias [LXX]). The name “Daniel” means “my God is Judge.” “Hananiah” may be understood to indicate that “YHWH has shown favor.” The name “Mishael” may be translated as a question, “Who is like God?” “Azariah,” like “Hananiah,” incorporates an abbreviated form of the divine name and signifies “YHWH has helped.” All four names included reference to the true God, the God whose servants these youths were. (1:6)
The chief eunuch gave them new names, which preserved no link to YHWH or the God whom the young men revered. For one’s name to be changed indicated one’s being subordinate to the one who did the renaming. When the chief eunuch changed the names of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, he did so at the direction of King Nebuchadnezzar. This is evident from the name given to Daniel — Belteshazzar (Baltasar [LXX]). In verse 12 of chapter 5, it is stated that King Nebuchadnezzar gave him the name Belteshazzar, and verse 8 of chapter 4 quotes the Babylonian monarch as referring to the name as being “according to the name of my god.” The name “Belteshazzar” means “guard the life of the king” and appears to have been an invocation directed to Bel, a designation that came to be applied to Marduk, the principal deity of Babylon. (1:7)
The name of Hananiah was changed to Shadrach (Sedrach [LXX]). Though by no means certain, the name Shadrach may be a form of Shudur Aku, meaning “command of Aku” (the Babylonian moon god). (1:7)
Whereas the name Mishael appears to have focused on the true God, indicating that there is no one like him, the changed name, Meshach (Misach [LXX]), may have incorporated the designation of the Babylonian moon god Aku. If the name is a form of Mishaaku, it could mean, “Who is what Aku is?” (1:7)
The name Azariah was changed to Abednego (Abdenago [LXX]), meaning “servant of Nebo” or Nabu. As part of the Babylonian pantheon, Nebo was linked to the planet Mercury and considered to be the son of Marduk. (1:7)
It may be that the intent of giving names with no link to YHWH was to make the young men forget about their God and begin to think in terms of the Babylonian deities. On account of the successful Babylonian campaign against Jerusalem and the kingdom of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar would have regarded his gods as being superior. (1:7)
In his “heart” or his inmost self, Daniel determined not to defile himself with the royal fare and with the wine that the king drank. Therefore, he requested the chief of the eunuchs that he might have other food and drink so as not to pollute himself. The rich food may have included meat from animals that had not been properly bled or that the Mosaic law designated as unclean for food. It may also be that there were idolatrous connections with the food and the wine. (1:8)
The gracious favor and compassion (“honor and favor” [LXX]; “mercy and compassion” [Theodotion]) that the chief eunuch showed to Daniel are attributed to God. This may indicate that YHWH, by means of his spirit, influenced the chief eunuch to be favorably inclined toward Daniel. (1:9)
Being obligated to carry out the commands of the Babylonian monarch, the chief eunuch told Daniel that he feared his “lord the king” who had specified the food and drink for those in special training. If, therefore, the king would see that the countenances of Daniel and his companions (the pronoun “you” is plural) worse in appearance than those of the other young men, the chief eunuch’s life would have been in jeopardy. As he expressed matters, Daniel and his companions would make his “head guilty to the king.” According to the Septuagint rendering, the chief eunuch said, “I will risk my own neck.” The version of Theodotion, however, reads like the extant Hebrew text. “You would make my head guilty to the king.” (1:10)
Daniel thereafter appealed to the official (meltsár) whom the chief eunuch had put in charge over him and Hananiah (Hananias [LXX]), Mishael (Misael [LXX]), and Azariah (Azarias [LXX]). There is a measure of uncertainty about the term meltsár. In the Vulgate, the designation is rendered as a name — Malassar. The Septuagint does not refer to someone other than the chief eunuch, but says that Daniel spoke to “Abiesdri [Ashpenaz], the chief eunuch.” (See verse 3.) According to the version of Theodotion, the one to whom Daniel directed his request was “Hamelsad” whom the chief eunuch had appointed over him and Hananias, Misael, and Azarias. The meaning “guardian” for meltsár is based on linking the designation to the Akkadian massāru. According to Gesenius, the term could be derived from the Persian word malasar, which he defined as “prefect of the wine.” (1:11; see the Notes section.)
Daniel asked that the one who had been appointed over him and his three companions let them have ten days with a different diet, enabling him to make a test of how they would look at the end of that period. Instead of wine, Daniel requested that they be given water. The Hebrew word zero‘ím designates the food that was to replace the royal fare and basically appears to designate “seeds” (“seeds of the earth” [LXX]). These would be edible seeds like peas, beans, and lentils. The vegetarian diet may also have included nuts, grain, and fruit. According to Josephus (Antiquities, X, x, 2), Daniel and his companions requested to be given edible seeds or pulse, dates, and anything else besides meat. (1:12)
At the end of the ten days, the official in charge of them could then look at their countenances and compare them with those of the youths who had their allotment from the royal fare. He, as Daniel said, could deal with him and his companions as he would then be able to see. (1:13)
The official “listened” to Daniel and his three companions “in this matter and tested them for ten days” with the vegetarian diet. In the Septuagint, the wording and meaning are slightly different. Regarding Abiesdri (Ashpenaz), the chief eunuch, it says, “And he dealt with them [according] to this manner and tested them ten days.” It was the “manner” that Daniel had proposed respecting the change of diet for ten days. Whereas the extant Hebrew text contains the words that may be rendered “in this matter,” the version of Theodotion does not include a corresponding Greek expression but otherwise reads like the Hebrew text. “And he listened to them and tested them for ten days.” (1:14)
At the “end of ten days,” Daniel and his companions looked better than all the youths who had eaten the rich fare that the king had designated for them. In the Hebrew text, Daniel and his companions are described as having a “good appearance” (literally, “appearances” or countenances) and “fat flesh” (not the unhealthy look of famished persons). According to the Septuagint, “their fair countenance and the state of [their] body” showed up to be “better” than that of “all the youths” eating the royal diet. The version of Theodotion indicates that they appeared “good and strong in flesh” or in their physical organism to a greater extent than the young men who received their food from the “table of the king.” (1:15)
Based on the good results he observed in the case of Daniel and his three companions, the official took away their portion of the royal fare and the wine, continuing instead with their vegetarian diet. In the Septuagint, the one who did this was Abiesdri (Ashpenaz), the chief eunuch, and the version of Theodotion says that it was Hamelsad (one serving under Asphanez [Ashpenaz or Abiesdri]). (1:16)
God is the one credited with giving the “four youths” (Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah) “knowledge and insight in all script and wisdom.” They proved to be learned and literate youths, able to read a variety of writings and writing styles. As possessors of wisdom, they would have used their knowledge in beneficial ways. As for Daniel, he also had understanding “in every vision and [in] dreams.” The apparent meaning is that Daniel was able to interpret divinely sent visions and dreams that conveyed meaningful messages about future developments. According to the Septuagint, God gave Daniel “insight in every matter and vision and dreams and in all wisdom.” The version of Theodotion is shorter, indicating that Daniel had insight “in every vision and [in] dreams.” (1:17)
“At the end of the days,” the previously designated three-year training period when the Babylonian monarch requested that the recipients thereof be brought before him, the chief eunuch took Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah into his presence (literally, “before the face of Nebuchadnezzar”). When Daniel and his companions are regarded as having been taken into captivity in the seventh year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign or at the same time as the Judean king Jehoiachin was taken into exile, the three-year training would have ended in the tenth year of Nebuchadnezzar. This seems to fit an entry in a Babylonian chronicle that reads, “The king of Akkad [Babylonia] was in his own land.” (1:18; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)
Upon speaking to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, Nebuchadnezzar found them to be superior to all the others who had participated in the three-year training. Nebuchadnezzar must have raised difficult questions that they were able to answer, and their responses would have demonstrated that they had mastered the language of the Chaldeans. The reference to their then standing “before the king” (literally, “before the face of the king”) or in his presence indicates that they began their service in the royal court. (1:19)
In every “matter of wisdom [and] understanding,” the Babylonian monarch, when questioning Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, found them to be “ten times” better than (literally, “ten hands above”) “all the soothsayers and conjurers” in his entire realm. Experts in the occult arts were no match for Daniel and his three companions. The reference to “ten hands above” is to be understood as idiomatically expressing that the four young men were far superior to the soothsayers and conjurers in wisdom and understanding. “Conjurers” is a rendering of the plural word ’ashshaphím that is only found in the book of Daniel. It is thought to be a loanword from Akkadian ([w]āšipu) and, therefore, an expression one might expect to find in a narrative of events that occurred in ancient Babylon. (1:20; see the Notes section.)
Daniel continued in royal service “until the first year of Cyrus the king” (“until the first year of the reign of Cyrus, king of the Persians” [LXX]). This indicates that Daniel remained in the court of the Babylonian kings until the conquest of Babylon by the forces under the command of the Persian monarch Cyrus. Thereafter Daniel occupied a high office in the Persian empire. (1:21)
In verse 2, the Septuagint reads “Babylonia” (not Shinar), but the version of Theodotion says “land of Sennaar.” Whereas the version of Theodotion reads “house of the treasure of his god” (the temple treasury of his god), the corresponding expression in the Septuagint is a form of the Greek word eidólion, which here refers to an idol temple.
The Septuagint rendering of verse 3 is more specific in designating from which segment of the population youths were to be taken — “from the sons of the great ones of Israel and from the royal offspring and from the nobility [literally, choice ones].” The version of Theodotion refers to the “sons of the captivity of Israel” and the “seed of the kingdom” and the “Phorthommin.” The designation “Phorthommin” is a transliteration of the word appearing in the Hebrew text and is said to be a Persian loanword that may be rendered “aristocrats” or “nobles.”
The oldest extant reading of verse 11 in a Greek manuscript (P967) refers to Daniel as speaking to Solomaro.
Verse 18 of the Septuagint reads, “But after these days the king ordered them to be brought in, and they were brought in to Nebuchadnezzar by the chief eunuch.” This rendering indicates that Daniel and his companions appeared before Nebuchadnezzar at an unspecified time after the ten-day test with a change in diet had taken place.
In verse 20, the Septuagint rendering reflects the period in which the Hebrew text was translated. The words used in the Septuagint do not apply to experts in the occult arts (“soothsayers and conjurers”), but it says “sophists and philosophers” or, according to another reading (P967), “sophists and philologists.” The version of Theodotion, however, better reflects the wording of the Hebrew text (“enchanters and magi [astrologers]”). In the Septuagint, there is an additional comment that is not included in the Hebrew text nor in the version of Theodotion. According to Rahlfs’ printed text, “the king honored them and appointed them” as officials, declaring them to be wiser than all those in his service “in all his land and in his kingdom.”
In the “second year” of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar “dreamed dreams” (“dreamed a dream” [Theodotion]; “happened to fall into visions and dreams” [LXX]). Like the extant Hebrew text, the version of Theodotion refers to the “second year.” Josephus understood this “second year” to be the second year after Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest of Egypt. (Antiquities, X, x, 3) The oldest extant manuscript of the Septuagint (P967), however, says that it was the “twelfth year.” There is no way to confirm whether the interpretation of Josephus is correct or whether the text should read “twelfth year” instead of “second year.” (2:1)
What Nebuchadnezzar dreamed caused his “spirit” to be “disturbed” or, according to the version of Theodotion, to be “confounded” or driven out of its senses. The Septuagint indicates that his dream “disturbed” him or stirred him up, and “his sleep went away [literally, came to be (Hebrew, was) from him.” He appears to have been left with a very troubling sensation within himself after being startled out of his sleep, and his agitated state prevented him from going back to sleep. (2:1)
Nebuchadnezzar gave the command to summon the soothsayers (enchanters [LXX]), conjurers (magi or astrologers [LXX]), sorcerers, and Chaldeans so that they would make known to him his dreams and their significance. In this context, the designation “Chaldeans” refers to a distinct group among the Chaldeans or Babylonians generally. They were men trained in divination and astrology. All those called to appear before the king were experts in the occult arts. In response to the royal summons, they came and stood before the king. (2:2; see 1:20 regarding the word rendered “conjurers.”)
Nebuchadnezzar told the summoned ones that he had “dreamed a dream” that had “disturbed” (“shaken” [LXX]; “confounded” [Theodotion]) his “spirit”or had left him in a troubled state. Therefore, he wanted “to know the dream,” both what he had dreamed and the meaning thereof. (2:3)
In response, the Chaldeans said to the king “in Aramaic” (Syrian [LXX]), “O king, live forever. Tell the dream to your servants, and we will reveal the interpretation.” According to the oldest extant Greek manuscript (P967), the Chaldeans also addressed the king as “lord.” As the opening words when beginning to address a monarch, the words, “O king, live forever,” constituted the customary formal way to wish the monarch a long life. The words of the Chaldeans indicated that they could only provide an interpretation of the dream if Nebuchadezzar first related to them what he had seen. (2:4)
At this point in the narrative, the language changes from Hebrew to Aramaic, the international language of the time. The language of the speakers was Aramaic, and so the words that follow are written in that language. Possibly Aramaic continues to be the language used until the end of verse 28 of chapter 7 because much of the narrative includes interchanges with persons who did not speak Hebrew. The exception is chapter 7, where the only one conversing with Daniel is an angel who could have spoken to him either in Aramaic or in Hebrew. If the ancient Greek manuscript P967 reflects an older arrangement of the Aramaic text, this may explain why chapter 7 is in Aramaic, for the words of chapter 7 in this manuscript are found at the end of chapter 4. (2:4)
Nebuchadnezzar’s response to the Chaldeans, men versed in occult arts, was that his “word,” or what he had determined, remained “sure,” final, or unchangeable. If they did not make known to him the dream and its interpretation, he would have them dismembered (“made limbs” or “pieces” [“destroyed” (Theodotion)]), and their houses would be turned into a “refuse heap” (“plundered” [Theodotion]). The Septuagint rendering indicates that they would be made an example by the punishment meted out to them and that their possessions would be confiscated. (2:5)
If those whom Nebuchadnezzar had summoned disclosed to him the “dream and its interpretation,” they would receive “gifts [gifts of all kinds (LXX)] and a reward and great honor” from him. “Therefore,” he continued to say to them, “show me the dream and its interpretation.” The first-century Jewish historian Josephus understood Nebuchadnezzar’s words to mean that he had forgotten the dream. (Antiquities, X, x, 3) Possibly, in his troubled state about it, Nebuchadnezzar only had a vague recollection about the dream and, therefore, insisted that he have it related to him, believing that he would then be able to recall what he had dreamed. (2:6)
For a second time, the experts in occult arts said to Nebuchadnezzar, “Tell [your] servants the dream, and we will show its interpretation.” Their repeated response made it unmistakably clear that they would be unable to tell him what he had dreamed. Their ability to interpret depended upon knowing what he had seen in his dream. (2:7)
Nebuchadnezzar concluded that those whom he had summoned were stalling for time. He responded with the words, “I know that you are trying to gain time, because you see that the word from me [is] sure,” unchangeable, or final. According to Rahlfs’ printed text, the Greek rendering is, “In truth, I know that you are trying to gain time, just as you have seen that the matter has escaped me. Therefore, just as I have resolved, so it will be.” (2:8)
“If you do not make known to me the dream,” Nebuchadnezzar threatened those whom he had summoned, there is “one sentence for you. You have agreed to speak before me a lying and corrupt word until the time changes,” or the situation becomes more favorable for you. “Therefore, tell me the dream, and I will know that you can show me its interpretation.” The monarch recognized that their interpretation would be the right one if they could tell him what he had dreamed. Although the Greek version of Theodotion reads much like the Hebrew text, the Septuagint rendering is somewhat different. It represents Nebuchadnezzar as saying that “death” would befall those summoned if they did not truthfully tell him the dream and disclose its significance. (2:9)
The “Chaldeans,” the experts in occult arts, told the king that there was “not a man on earth” who could meet his demand and that “no great and powerful king” (or “no great king and powerful one,” ruler, or official) had ever asked any “magician and enchanter and Chaldean such a thing.” According to the Septuagint, no one on earth could tell the king what he had seen just as Nebuchadnezzar had requested. (2:10)
Those skilled in occult arts acknowledged that what the king asked was “difficult” (“and glorious” [LXX]) and that there was no one who could “show” or reveal it to the king “except gods [angels (P967); an angel (LXX)],” and their dwelling was “not with flesh” or with mortals on earth. The Septuagint then adds, “Therefore, it is not possible for it to happen just as you think.” (2:11)
On account of what was said to him, Nebuchadnezzar became “angry and very wrathful.” He then commanded that all the “wise men [sophists (P967)] of Babylon” be destroyed. The Greek text of Theodotion basically reads like the extant Hebrew text. In the Septuagint, however, Nebuchadnezzar is described as becoming “sullen” or “gloomy (stygnós [LXX]; sýnnous [P967]) and “very sad” and as giving the command to “lead away all the wise men of Babylon.” (2:12)
In his rage, Nebuchadnezzar issued a decree for all the wise men to be slain. Although Daniel and his companions had not been among those whom he had summoned, they were included among those destined to be killed, for they were considered to be “wise men.” (2:13)
It appears that Daniel, upon learning about the decree, “returned” or approached “Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard” (“chief cook” [LXX and Theodotion]), who had gone out to slay the wise men (“sophists” [LXX]) of Babylon. He made his approach to the Babylonian official with “counsel” or careful prior thought, and “understanding” or discretion. The first-century Jewish historian Josephus, in his narration of events, specifically identified Daniel as having taken the initiative to approach Arioch. “Now when Daniel heard that the king had given a command that all the wise men should be put to death, and that among them he and his three kinsmen were in danger, he went to Arioch, who was captain of the king’s guards, and desired to know from him” why the king had commanded that all the wise men, Chaldeans, and magicians be slain. (Antiquities, X, x, 3) (2:14)
Daniel asked “Arioch, the captain of the king” (a “leader” or “official of the king” [Theodotion]) why a decree of such harshness had gone out “from before the king.” Thereupon Arioch “made known” or explained the matter to Daniel. (2:15)
The account represents Daniel as going (“quickly” [LXX]) to Nebuchadnezzar, petitioning him for time to be allotted to him so that he might declare the interpretation of the dream to him. Daniel’s action revealed that he had faith in his God YHWH as the one who could reveal to him both Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and its meaning. It is possible that Daniel, though represented as going to Nebuchadnezzar, actually did so through the agency of Arioch. This is the way in which the first-century historian Josephus narrated the events. Daniel wanted Arioch “to go in to the king” and to have him request “respite for the magicians for one night, and to put off the slaughter so long, for he hoped within that time to obtain, by prayer to God, the knowledge of the dream. Accordingly, Arioch informed the king of what Daniel desired; so the king bid them delay the slaughter of the magicians till he knew what Daniel’s promise would come to.” (Antiquities, X, x, 3) (2:16)
“Daniel went to his house.” Then “he made known the matter” regarding Nebuchadnezzar’s dream to “Hananiah [Hananias (LXX])], Mishael [Misael (LXX)] and Azariah [Azarias (LXX)], his companions [friends or beloved ones (Theodotion).” According to the Septuagint rendering, he “showed” his companions “everything.” This suggests that he provided them with a detailed report of the developments pertaining to the dream Nebuchadnezzar had. (2:17)
Daniel asked his companions to “seek mercy from the God of heaven about this mystery” concerning Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. The “mercy” related to God’s revealing the dream. For Daniel it meant that he and his companions would not perish “with the rest of the wise men [sophists (LXX)] of Babylon.” According to the Septuagint, unlike the version of Theodotion that reflects the reading of the extant Hebrew text, Daniel called for a “fast and supplication” and for “help to be sought from the Lord the Most High about this mystery.” (2:18)
In a night vision, the mystery regarding the dream was revealed to Daniel. Gratefully, he “blessed” or praised the “God of heaven” (“the Lord the Most High” [LXX]). The version of Theodotion reads like the extant Hebrew text, but the Septuagint identifies the “mystery” or “secret” as being the “mystery of the king.” Additionally, the Septuagint indicates that this secret was “clearly disclosed” or “brought to light.” (2:19)
In prayer, Daniel said, “The name of God be blessed forever and ever [for limitless time to limitless time], for wisdom and might [are his (Theodotion and LXX)].” The “name of God” refers to God, the one represented by the name. In Rahlfs’ printed Greek text, the reading is, “The name of the Lord, the Great One, will be blessed forever [literally, into the age].” God is the ultimate source of wisdom and, therefore, his might will always be guided thereby. Might could also include the full capacity to act with wisdom and to perceive what is concealed from those who lack wisdom. (2:20; see the Notes section.)
All things take place either by God’s permission or his will and purpose. His changing “times and seasons” may relate to his causing or allowing circumstances to change, altering what takes place at a particular time and season. He removes kings, doing so directly or permitting them to lose their position. In the past, this happened through military conquests, plots, or revolts. God “sets up kings.” He did so by making it possible for, or permitting, other men to reign in the place of those who were removed from their position. As the source of wisdom, he gives “wisdom [the capacity to use knowledge to a successful end] to the wise, and knowledge to those having [literally, knowing] understanding.” Those with “understanding” or discernment are persons who benefit from knowledge, for they recognize its value and use it for beneficial purposes. (2:21)
God “reveals the deep things and the hidden things.” By means of his spirit, he makes known to humans matters that they would be unable to fathom on their own and things that are concealed to their understanding. God “knows what [is] in the darkness.” Though darkness hides things from human view, it does not conceal anything from him. He knows what takes place in the dark. “Light dwells with him.” Everything about him and to him is light, with not a trace of the darkness that is associated with error and ignorance. According to the Septuagint reading, God knows “the things in the darkness and the things in the light,” indicating that absolutely nothing is hidden to him. (2:22; see the Notes section.)
Daniel concluded his prayer with the words, “To you, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for wisdom and might [insight (LXX)] you have given me. And now you have made known to me what we asked of you, for the matter of the king you have made known to us.” For the wisdom and strength he possessed, Daniel gave all credit to his God, the God whom his ancestors worshiped. He and his companions had prayed to God regarding Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and its interpretation, and Daniel acknowledged that what all four of them had asked for had been granted to him. The “matter of the king” respecting the dream had been disclosed to them. What had been revealed to him, Daniel shared with his companions. (2:23; see the Notes section.)
After having the dream and its interpretation divinely revealed to him, Daniel went to Arioch, the man whom Nebuchadnezzar had put in charge of destroying the “wise men [sophists (LXX)] of Babylon.” Daniel then told Arioch not to slay the wise men (sophists [LXX]) of Babylon and to take him before the king, as he would then make known the interpretation of the dream to him. The Septuagint indicates that Daniel would disclose all the “details” or specifics to Nebuchadnezzar. (2:24; see the Notes section.)
“In haste,” Arioch then “brought Daniel in before the king,” saying to him, “I have found a [wise (LXX)] man among the exiles of Judah [literally, sons of the exile of Judah; sons of the captivity of Judea (Theodotion); the captivity of the sons of Judea (LXX)] who can make known the interpretation to the king.” It may be noted that Arioch presented himself in the best light before Nebuchadnezzar when saying that he had found a man who could interpret the dream. (2:25; see the Notes section.)
Nebuchadnezzar asked Daniel whose name had been changed to Belteshazzar (Baltasar [LXX and Theodotion]), “Are you able to make known to me the dream I have seen and its interpretation?” (2:26; see the comments on 1:7 regarding the meaning of Belteshazzar.)
“Daniel answered the king,” saying, The “mystery that the king has asked no wise men, enchanters,magicians, [or] astrologers [Gazarenes (a transliteration of the Aramaic word in LXX)] can show to the king.” With these words Daniel made it clear that no one skilled in the occult arts could make known the dream and its interpretation, leaving Nebuchadnezzar to conclude that no human could do so. (2:27; see the Notes section.)
Focusing attention away from himself, Daniel directed Nebuchadnezzar to the One who can reveal mysteries — “God [Lord (LXX)] in heaven.” “And he,” Daniel continued, “has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the later [part] of the days. Your dream and the visions of your head” while in bed are “these” (as Daniel then went on to explain). Accordingly, what Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream related to a future time, including a distant future time. (2:28; see the Notes section.)
It appears that Nebuchadnezzar, while in bed, thought about what would take place respecting rulership after his time. Then he fell asleep, and God, by means of a dream, “made known” to him “mysteries” about “what is to be.” The Greek version of Theodotion expresses the same thought. In the Septuagint, however, the wording is somewhat different. While Nebuchadnezzar was reclining on his bed, he “saw everything that must occur at the final parts of the days” or at the end of the days, “and the one revealing mysteries disclosed” to him “what must occur.” The oldest extant Greek manuscript (P967) does not include the opening phrase, “you, O king, having reclined on your bed,” but it starts with the words, “you saw what must occur.” (2:29)
Daniel acknowledged that the “mystery” — Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and its interpretation — was not revealed to him because he was wiser than anyone else alive. It was revealed to him so that he might make the interpretation known to the king and that the king “might know,” or have the answer to, the “thoughts” of his “heart.” These “thoughts” may refer to his inmost reflections about rulership after his time. (2:30; regarding the Septuagint rendering, see the Notes section.)
In his dream, Daniel said, Nebuchadnezzar saw a huge “image” of exceptional “brightness” standing before him, and its appearance gave rise to fear. Possibly the terrifying aspect of the image stemmed from its overwhelmingly large size, exceeding brightness or splendor, and its overall appearance. The Septuagint, the Greek version of Theodotion, and a Dead Sea Daniel scroll (4QDana) do not include a reference to the brightness. They mention the extraordinary “appearance” of the image. (2:31)
The “head of this image” was of “good” or “fine gold”; the “breast and arms of silver,” and the “belly and thighs of bronze” or copper. “Good” or “fine gold” probably refers to pure gold. (2:32)
The “legs” of the image were of “iron,” and the “feet” partly of “iron” and partly of “clay,” terra-cotta, or pottery clay. (2:33)
Nebuchadnezzar continued to look at the image when he saw a “stone” being “cut out” from a mountain (2:45) but not by human “hands.” This stone “struck the image on its feet of iron and clay” and broke them into pieces. Although the extant Hebrew text does not mention a “mountain” in this verse, both the Septuagint and the Greek version of Theodotion do. (2:34)
When the stone struck the image, the iron, clay, bronze or copper, silver, and gold were at once pulverized, becoming “like chaff from summer threshing floors” (“threshing floor” [LXX and a Dead Sea Daniel scroll (4QDana)]). In the early days of summer, there would be an abundance of harvested grain to be threshed, producing much chaff. The pulverized clay and all the metal particles became like “chaff” that the wind carried away, and no trace of them could be found or, according to the Septuagint, nothing was “left remaining.” “The stone that struck the image” became a massive “mountain and filled the whole earth.” The Septuagint rendering indicates that the pulverized clay and metals became finer than chaff on a threshing floor. Instead of being described as becoming a mountain that “filled the whole earth,” the stone is portrayed as having “struck the whole earth.” (2:35)
Regarding what he had made known to Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel is quoted as saying, “This [was] the dream.” Then he stated his intent to relate “its interpretation before the king.” (2:36; see the Notes section.)
Daniel addressed Nebuchadnezzar, saying to him, “You, O king, the king of kings, you to whom the God [Lord (LXX)] of heaven has given the kingdom, the power and might [honor (LXX)] and glory.” In this manner, Daniel revealed that Nebuchadnezzar exercised royal authority by God’s permission and that the power, might, and “glory,” splendor, or magnificence he possessed as king likewise had been granted to him by divine allowance. According to the Greek version of Theodotion, the “God of heaven” had given Nebuchadnezzar a “strong and mighty and honorable kingdom.” (2:37)
Daniel then described the extensive nature of Nebuchadnezzar’s divinely granted dominion. It included wherever the “sons of men” (literally, man [a collective singular]) or people “dwell” and even the “beasts of the field and the birds of the heavens” or the air. The Septuagint includes the “fishes of the sea.” God is represented as having given everything into “Nebuchadnezzar’s “hand” or power, making him “rule over them all.” Daniel then identified Nebuchadnezzar as the “head of gold” of the image he had seen in his dream. The other materials of the image are later identified as “kingdoms.” Therefore, in the person of its royal representative, the empire of Babylon, which included the monarchs who ruled thereafter, was the “kingdom” portrayed as the “head of gold.” (2:38)
After the kingdom of Babylon, represented by Nebuchadnezzar, another “kingdom” was to arise. Daniel said to Nebuchadnezzar that this “kingdom” would be “lower” or “inferior to you.” In Daniel 8:20, the “kings of Media and Persia” are represented by one animal — a bear. To be consistent with this depiction, the kingdom of the Medes and Persians or the empire of Medo-Persia would be represented as one metal — the silver that constituted the breast and arms of the image. The monarchs of Medo-Persia did not have the same absolute authority as did King Nebuchadnezzar, and the kings who occupied the throne after Cyrus experienced serious military reverses. Possibly from that standpoint and other negative developments in the realm, including revolts, the kingdom of Medo-Persia may be regarded as having been inferior. (2:39)
The first-century Jewish historian Josephus narrated the words about the “two hands and arms” of silver part of the image (verses 32 and 39) as meaning that the government of Nebuchadnezzar (the empire of Babylon) would be “dissolved by two kings.” (Antiquities, X, x, 4) He probably understood these two kings to have been Darius the Mede and Cyrus the Persian. (2:39)
The kingdom that was to come next is described as being of “bronze” or “copper” and as ruling “over all the earth,” suggesting a dominion significantly greater than that of the kingdoms of Babylon and Medo-Persia. The first-century Jewish historian Josephus understood the successor to the kings of Media and Persia to be a “king that will come from the west, armed with bronze” or copper. (Antiquities, X, x, 4) The first monarch of the Grecian empire was Alexander the Great who did come from the west and, through successful warring, expanded his empire beyond the territory over which monarchs before his time had reigned. (2:39)
The “fourth kingdom” is described as being “strong like iron,” for like iron it crushes and shatters everything. “And like iron that is pulverizing all these [metals], it [the fourth kingdom] will crush and pulverize [all these kingdoms].” The wording of the Greek version of Theodotion is basically the same, but the Septuagint text refers to “another kingdom” that is “strong like iron which overpowers [saws (according to another Greek text)] everything and cuts down every tree” and indicates that “all the earth will be shaken.” (2:40; see the Notes section.)
In his commentary on Daniel, Jerome (c. 347 to 419 or 420 CE) wrote: “Now the fourth empire, which clearly refers to the Romans, is the iron empire which breaks in pieces and overcomes all others. But its feet and toes are partly of iron and partly of earthenware, a fact most clearly demonstrated at the present time. For just as there was at the first nothing stronger or hardier than the Roman realm, so also in these last days there is nothing more feeble, since we require the assistance of barbarian tribes both in our civil wars and against foreign nations.” (Translation of Gleason Archer) That the fourth kingdom represents the Roman Empire has often been repeated in subsequent centuries. (2:40)
The first-century Jewish historian Josephus appears to have believed that only the development involving the stone had not been fulfilled. (Verses 44 and 45) He wrote, “Daniel did also declare the meaning of the stone to the king; but I do not think proper to relate it, since I have only undertaken to describe things past or things present, but not things that are future.” This comment suggests that he believed Rome to be the power like iron — stronger than gold, silver, and bronze or copper — and would have “dominion over all the earth.” (Antiquities, X, x, 4) Later in his account (Antiquities, X, xi, 7), Josephus stated, “Daniel also wrote concerning the Roman government, and that our country should be made desolate by them.” (2:40)
There is a possibility that the image, though including Rome, may (from the bronze or copper belly and thighs onward) represent the rulership that had the greatest impact on the Jewish people, particularly in their homeland and starting after the death of Alexander the Great, the king who came from the west. A considerable portion of the book of Daniel deals with developments before the Jews came to be subject to Rome, and the wording of verses 41 through 43 could be understood to reflect historical developments from that time. Especially during the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes in the second century BCE and then after Rome became the unchallenged power in the region starting in the first century BCE, the Jews experienced the crushing effect of iron-like foreign domination. (2:40)
King Nebuchadnezzar would have been able to see that the “feet and toes” of the image were “partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron.” Daniel explained this to mean that the kingdom would be “divided,” with some of the “firmness of iron in it,” just as the king “saw iron mixed with earthenware.” The Greek version of Theodotion expresses the same thought, but the Septuagint refers to the feet and the toes as “another kingdom,” one that would exist in two parts. (2:41)
After the death of Alexander the Great, his kingdom eventually became divided among four of his generals (Cassander, Lysimachus, Ptolemy, and Seleucus). The dynasties that sprang from Seleucus and Ptolemy had the greatest impact on the Jews living in their own land, and these two dynasties (the Seleucid dynasty, which included Syria in its domain, and the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt) engaged in repeated military conflicts. The military defeats and the much smaller areas over which the Seleucid and Ptolemaic kings reigned when compared to the empire under Alexander the Great may be taken as indicating that the “kingdom” came to be weakened as though iron were mixed with clay. As for the Roman empire, it might be described as a divided kingdom in relation to the administration of affairs, with the emperor being the supreme authority and kings and procurators governing by his appointment. Although their oppressive rule may have been like iron with reference to their subjects, the kings and procurators did not have absolute authority. Their power had been weakened as by clay, for serious complaints could be made about them to the emperor who could remove them from their position. (2:41)
The “toes of the feet” were “partly of iron and partly of clay.” Daniel explained this to mean that “the kingdom will be partly strong and will be partly broken.” This may indicate that, in its final stage, the kingdom or ruling power of the world would be in a weakened state. (2:42)
Nebuchadnezzar would have seen that the “iron” was mixed with potter’s clay. Daniel interpreted this to mean that “they will come to be mixed with the seed of man,” but that “they will not hold this one with that one, just as iron does not mix with clay.” The aspect of being “mixed with the seed of man” could refer to the forming of marriage alliances (as indicated in chapter 11). This intermingling through marriage alliances in order to create peace, security, and unity between monarchs or rulers would fail, just as would attempts to form a cohesive whole with a mixture of iron and clay. According to the Septuagint reading, they will not be of one mind nor favorably inclined toward one another. (2:43; see the Notes section.)
Up to this point, the focus has been on a succession of kingdoms, with the last reference being to the “toes” of the image. Even though one empire succeeded another one, governmental systems continued to exist in the regions where mighty empires formerly held sway. In verse 45, the stone is depicted as destroying the entire image consisting of gold, silver, bronze or copper, iron, and a mixture of iron and clay. Therefore, the words “in the days [times [LXX]) of those kings” apply to the time when these rulers or governments would still be exercising sovereignty over the people, but their destruction would take place at the time when what the image portrayed was in its final stage, which was represented by the “toes.” These “toes” may be equated with “those kings” that will meet their end. (2:44)
It is then that the “God of heaven” will establish a “kingdom” (“another kingdom” [LXX]), one that will never be destroyed (“that will be into the ages [will be forever] and not be corrupted” [LXX]; “unto the age” [P967]). This kingdom or sovereignty will not be left to “another people.” It will never be taken over by another ruling power as happened repeatedly in the case of kingdoms or governments that humans set up. Instead, this kingdom will crush all these humanly created kingdoms, bringing them to their end, and it alone will stand for limitless time to come or forever. (2:44)
In his dream, Nebuchadnezzar saw that a stone was cut “out of a mountain” but not with hands. This indicated that the kingdom represented by the stone was not of human origin and that it would crush the kingdoms of the world, for the stone pulverized the iron, bronze or copper, clay, silver, and gold of the image. By means of the dream, God revealed to King Nebuchadnezzar what was to occur in time to come (literally, “after this”). According to the Septuagint, the “great God had revealed to the king the things that will be at the end [final parts] of the days,” which would include developments in the distant future. Regarding the dream, Daniel declared, “The dream is certain [accurate (LXX)], and its interpretation sure” or trustworthy. (2:45)
Those who became followers of Jesus in the first century CE and in subsequent centuries recognized him to be the promised Anointed One, Messiah, or Christ, the King of kings. Eusebius quoted from Hegesippus who, in the second century CE, wrote about the grandsons of Jude in connection with an incident during Domitian’s reign, “And there still survived of the Lord’s family the grandsons of Jude, who was said to be His brother, humanly speaking. These were informed against as being of David’s line.” The grandsons were devoted disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ and reportedly told Domitian that Christ’s kingdom was “not of this world or anywhere on earth but angelic and in heaven.” They also mentioned that it would be established when Christ returned in glory to judge the living and the dead, repaying all according to their conduct. (Ecclesiastical History, III, xx, 1, 2, 6 [translated by G. A. Williamson]) The expressions Hegesippus attributed to the grandsons of Jude, the half brother of Jesus, indicate that they believed the end for the kingdoms of the world would take place when Jesus Christ returned in glory. (2:45)
After hearing Daniel relate the dream and its interpretation, Nebuchadnezzar “fell upon his face” and did homage or obeisance to Daniel or prostrated himself before him. He also commanded that “incense be offered up to him.” According to the Septuagint, Nebuchadnezzar directed that both “sacrifices and libations” were to be made to Daniel. Josephus, the first-century Jewish historian, basically repeated these words, adding a few additional comments. After referring to Nebuchadnezzar’s “falling upon his face,” Josephus wrote that the king “hailed” Daniel “in the manner” people “worship,” or prostrate themselves before, God. The monarch “also commanded that they should sacrifice” to Daniel “as to a god.” (Antiquities, X, x, 5) Whereas Josephus apparently did not consider it necessary to comment on why Daniel accepted such honor, commentators throughout the centuries have felt the need to do so or pointed to Nebuchadnezzar’s action as confirming that the account is fictional or mere legend. (2:46)
In his commentary on the book of Daniel, Jerome (c. 347 to 419 or 420 CE) included his thoughts about the recorded incident. “Porphyry falsely impugns this passage on the ground that a very proud king would never worship a mere captive, as if, forsooth, the Lycaonians had not been willing to offer blood sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas on account of the mighty miracles they had wrought. And so there is no need to impute to the Scripture the error of the Gentiles who deem everything above themselves [i.e., superhuman] to be gods, for the Scripture simply is narrating everything as it actually happened. However, we can make this further assertion, that the king himself set forth the reasons for his worship and offering of blood-sacrifices when he said to Daniel: ‘Truly your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, since you have been able to disclose this holy secret.’ And so it was not so much that he was worshiping Daniel as that he was through Daniel worshiping the God who had revealed the holy secrets. This is the same thing that we read Alexander the Great, King of the Macedonians, did in the high priesthood of Joaida [i.e., Jaddua]. Or, if this explanation seem unsatisfactory, we shall have to say that Nebuchadnezzar, overwhelmed by the amazing greatness of the miracles, did not realize what he was doing, but coming to know the true God and Lord of kings he both worshiped His servant and offered him incense.” (Based on the English translation of Gleason Archer) (2:46)
It may be noted that Daniel was the servant of an absolute monarch whose word was law. As a servant or subject, he was in no position to tell Nebuchadnezzar what honors he could or could not bestow. (2:46)
To Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged, “Your God [is] God of gods and Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.” The Septuagint rendering includes the thought that the “God of gods and Lord of kings” alone brings “hidden mysteries” to light. (2:47)
As a result of what Daniel had done in disclosing the dream and its interpretation, Nebuchadnezzar highly exalted him, making him “great,” gave him many impressive presents, constituted him “ruler over the whole district of Babylon and chief prefect [ruler and leader (LXX); ruler of satraps (Theodotion)] over all the wise men [sophists (LXX)] of Babylon.” (2:48)
As one elevated to high station, Daniel asked Nebuchadnezzar that his companions Shadrach (Sedrach [LXX and Theodotion], Meshach (Misach [LXX and Theodotion], and Abednego (Abdenago [LXX and Theodotion]) be appointed over the affairs of the district of Babylon (affairs of the kingdom of Babylon [P967]; works of the territory of Babylon [Theodotion]). As for Daniel, he remained in the “court of the king.” (2:49)
In verse 20, the oldest extant Greek manuscript (P967) reads, “the name of the Lord, the great God.” This rendering has the support of a Dead Sea Daniel scroll (4QDana), which contains the words “the name of the great God.”
According to a literal reading of the Aramaic text, verse 20 concludes with the words, “for wisdom and might — to him [they belong].” There is no verb, but the the Septuagint and the Greek version of Theodotion include the words “are his.” The Septuagint does not have a corresponding word for “might” but reads “majesty” (“wisdom and majesty are his”). While fifth-century Codex Alexandrinus reads “might” (ischýs), Rahlfs’ printed Greek text says “understanding” (sýnesis) for the version of Theodotion.
In verse 22, a Dead Sea Daniel scroll (4QDana) says, with reference to God, “and he knows.” While this is the reading of certain extant Septuagint manuscripts, the oldest extant Greek text (P967), like the Masoretic Text, does not include the conjunction “and.” The Septuagint (including P967) adds a phrase that could be rendered, “with him [is] a habitation.” This could signify that there is a habitation or dwelling of light with God.
A Dead Sea Daniel scroll (4QDana), in verse 23, starts with the words, “To you, to the God of my fathers.” The oldest extant Greek text (P967) reads “Lord God of my fathers.”
The Greek version of verse 23 in the text of Theodotion, like the Masoretic Text, includes Daniel’s companions in his receiving what all four had made the subject of their prayer. The Septuagint (including P967), however, only refers to Daniel as the one having been shown the matter for which he petitioned.
Josephus (Antiquities, X, x, 3) specifically refers to Daniel as informing his companions about what God had revealed to him. “When Daniel had obtained this knowledge from God, he arose very joyful, and told it to his brothers [Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah], and made them glad,” filling them with hope that their lives would be preserved. Before this, “they despaired of their lives, and their minds were fully preoccupied with “the thoughts of dying.”
Although Daniel would not have been in agreement with the “wise men” of Babylon because of their practicing occult arts, he considered them as fellow humans whose lives were valuable. As verse 24 indicates, he asked that their lives be preserved.
A Dead Sea Daniel scroll (4QDana), in verse 25, reads “Judeans” instead of “Judah.”
In verse 27, the oldest extant Greek manuscript (P967) does not include the words, “the mystery.”
Josephus (Antiquities, X, x, 4) presents an expanded version of thoughts included in verse 27 through verse 30. Daniel is represented as telling Nebuchadnezzar that “he did not pretend to be wiser than the other Chaldeans and magicians” who were unable to “discover his dream” and that his informing him about it “was not by his own skill, or on account of his having better cultivated his understanding than the rest.” Daniel is then quoted as telling the king, “God had pity on us, when we were in danger of death; and when I prayed for the life of myself, and of those of my own nation, [he] made manifest to me both the dream and the interpretation thereof; for I was not less concerned for your glory than for the sorrow that we were by you condemned to die, while you did so unjustly command men, both good and excellent in themselves, to be put to death, when you commanded them to do what was entirely above the reach of human wisdom, and required of them what was only the work of God.”
In verse 28, after the reference to the “last” or “final” parts of the “days,” the Septuagint adds, “O king, may you live forever” (literally, “O king, live into the ages”). This is a formal way of expressing a wish for the long life of the king (much like the words, “long live the king”). The partially preserved text in a Dead Sea Daniel scroll (4QDana) supports the inclusion of the additional words. Although only the initial letter (mem [M]) of the word for “king” is preserved, the space until the next readable word in the manuscript is sufficient for the required additional words.
The rendering of verse 30 in the Septuagint differs somewhat from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. Daniel acknowledged that the mystery was not revealed to him on the basis of the “wisdom” he had in himself “above [that] of all men,” but it was shown to him to disclose to Nebuchadnezzar so that the king might recognize what he had “pondered in [his] heart.” In a Dead Sea Daniel scroll (4QDana), the partially preserved text contains an extra word (yattír) that may be rendered “exceedingly” or “exceptionally” in relation to the phrase that is not preserved (“more than all the living”).
The oldest extant Greek manuscript (P967) does not include a reference to the “interpretation” in verse 36. It reads, “This [was] the vision we will tell before the king.”
In verse 40, the partially preserved text of a Dead Sea Daniel scroll (4QDana) concludes with the words that may be rendered, “all the earth.”
A Dead Sea Daniel scroll (4QDana) begins verse 43 with the conjunction “and.”
In the Septuagint (but not in the Greek version of Theodotion), Nebuchadnezzar is identified as governing “cities and territories and all those dwelling on the earth from India to Ethiopia.” The Aramaic text of Daniel does not include these words nor does it mention the year when Nebuchadnezzar “made,” or directed the making of, an image of gold. Although the Dead Sea Daniel scroll (4QDana) from about 60 BCE contains only a fragmentary portion of verse 1, the missing part could not have included the year. According to the oldest extant Greek text (P967), it was in his “eighteenth year.” This year is also included in later Greek manuscripts. If understood to be Nebuchadnezzar’s eighteenth regnal year, it would be the year in which Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonian military force under his command. According to the reading of verse 1 in chapter 2 of P967, this placed the event about six years after Nebuchadnezzar had the dream that was mentioned in the previous chapter. There is, however, no existing evidence that confirms the correctness of the reading in P967. (3:1; also see the comments on 2:1.)
The height of the golden image (probably meaning a gold-plated image) is said to have been 60 cubits (c. 90 feet [c. 27 meters]) and the breadth 6 cubits (c. 9 feet [c. 2.7 meters]). According to P967, the image was 12 cubits (c. 18 feet [c. 5.5 meters]) wide, which would mean that the ratio of breadth to height would be one to five — a ratio more suited for an image resembling a human form. The image was set up on the “plain of Dura [Deira (Theodotion)] in the district of Babylon.” This may mean that the plain was near the city of Babylon, but it is not possible to identify this plain with any specific location. The name “Dura” has been linked to the Akkadian word dūru, which has been defined as meaning “circuit,” “walled place,” or “wall.” In the Septuagint, the reference is to “the plain of the enclosure [períbolos].” The Greek word períbolos, like the Akkadian term, can also designate an “enclosing wall” or a “walled place.” (3:1)
Through messengers, Nebuchadnezzar must have sent out word for the various officials throughout his realm to assemble for the dedication of the image of gold or the gold-plated image that he “had set up” or that he had authorized to be fashioned and positioned in the plain of Dura. In the Septuagint (including P967), Nebuchadnezzar is identified as “king of kings” and as dominating the whole inhabited world or all the lands making up his vast empire. The summoned ones were satraps (“protectors of a kingdom” or a “dominion”), prefects (officials of lower rank than satraps), governors, counselors or advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the officials of the districts or provinces. (3:2)
In the Septuagint (not including P967, which manuscript does not list “satraps” first), the officeholders are referred to as occupying the positions of satrap, commander (strategós), local governor or local official (topárches [an official in charge of a place]), high official (hýpatos), administrator or steward (dioiketés), and as all those exercising authority “according to territory” or region and all those throughout the “inhabited world.” Additionally, the Septuagint says that Nebuchadnezzar sent out word for “all the nations and tribes and tongues” to assemble. The Greek text of Theodotion does not include the additions of the Septuagint, and the listing of officials differs (“high officials” [hýpatos], “commanders” [strategós], “local governors” or “local officials” [topárches], “leaders” [hegoúmenos], “princes” [týrannos, tyrant, dominator, sovereign], all those in positions of authority, and all the rulers of the territories). (3:2)
In response to the message that had been sent out, the satraps, prefects, governors, counselors or advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the officials of the districts or provinces assembled for the “dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up, and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up.” Whereas the listing of the government officials corresponds to the listing in verse 2 in the extant Aramaic text, this is not the case in the Greek text of Theodotion (local governors or local officials, high officials, commanders, leaders, great princes or great tyrants, all those in positions of authority, and all the rulers of the territories). In the Septuagint, the official designations of those summoned are not repeated, but the abbreviated text says that those previously described “stood before the image.” (3:3)
A herald made a proclamation with a loud voice, telling the “peoples, nations, and languages” (persons speaking languages other than that of the native Babylonians) what they were being commanded to do. Although the wording of the Septuagint (“nations and territories, peoples and languages” [“nations, peoples, and languages” (P967)]) and the Greek version of Theodotion (“peoples, tribes, languages”) differ, the thought conveyed is basically the same as that which is expressed in the Masoretic Text. (3:4)
According to the herald’s proclamation, all assembled, upon hearing the sound of the horn or trumpet, pipe, zither or kithara, trigon, harp, bagpipe (a possible [though uncertain] meaning for sumponeyáh), and “all kinds of music,” were to fall down, or drop to their knees, and worship, or prostrate themselves before, the “image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up,” or the gold-plated image that the king had directed to be positioned there on the plain. The expression rendered “all kinds of music” could refer to the variety of sounds from the different instruments. (3:5)
Whoever failed to “fall down,” not dropping to his knees, and worshiping (or prostrating himself before) the image would immediately be cast into the flames of the fire burning in a furnace. (3:6)
On account of this threat, “all the peoples, nations, and languages” (persons speaking languages other than that of the native Chaldeans) fell down (dropped to their knees) and worshiped (or prostrated themselves before) the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up or had directed to be set up. They did this as soon as they heard the sound of the horn, pipe, zither or kithara, trigon, harp, and “all kinds of music.” (See verse 5.) Whereas in the previous verse the instrument designated as the sumponeyáh was mentioned, it is not included in the extant Aramaic text of this verse. The Septuagint rendering is even more abbreviated, mentioning only the “sound of the trumpet and all the resounding of music” (or the “resounding of musical instruments”). In the Greek version of Theodotion, all the musical instruments are named, including the “bagpipe” (a possible, though uncertain, meaning for sumponeyáh, the word which is transliterated in the Greek text). (3:7)
Certain Chaldeans, either those belonging to the special class of Chaldeans who were skilled in the occult arts or other Chaldeans who had been appointed to governmental positions, appear to have noticed that Daniel’s three companions did not prostrate themselves before the image. They approached Nebuchadnezzar and made their accusation against the “Jews,” or the three Jewish men. It may well be that they resented that Daniel’s companions had been elevated to high office and that they had ill will toward them because they worshiped only their own God. (3:8)
As was customary when formally addressing their monarch, the Chaldeans prefaced their accusation against Daniel’s companions with the words, “O king, live forever.” Thus they expressed their wish that King Nebuchadnezzar might enjoy a long life. (3:9)
The Chaldeans focused attention on the decree King Nebuchadnezzar had issued, setting forth the requirement for every man to “fall down” (drop to his knees) and worship (prostrate himself before) the golden image (the gold-plated image) upon hearing the sound of the horn or trumpet, pipe, zither or kithara, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and “all kinds of music.” (See verse 5 for comments.) In the Septuagint, all the instruments are not mentioned, but it reads, “the sound of the trumpet and all the resounding of music” (or the “resounding of musical instruments”). The Greek version of Theodotion, however, corresponds to the wording of the extant Aramaic text. (3:10)
The Chaldeans are quoted as referring to the penalty for refusing to worship the image. Anyone who did not worship it would be cast into the flames of the fire burning in a furnace. (3:11)
The manner in which the Chaldeans expressed the accusation they made against Daniel’s companions indicates that they wanted Nebuchadnezzar to carry out the severe penalty against them. They referred to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as Jews whom Nebuchadnezzar had appointed over the affairs of the district or province of Babylon. Regarding them, they then said to Nebuchadnezzar that these men did not give heed to the king nor serve his gods and did not worship (prostrate themselves before) the golden image (the gold-plated image) that he had set up. Whereas Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego carried out their duties with due regard for King Nebuchadnezzar, the wording of the Chaldeans implied that the three men were guilty of acts of insubordination aside from refusing to worship the image. According to the Septuagint, Daniel’s companions did not fear Nebuchadnezzar’s command, did not serve his idol, and did not prostrate themselves before his image. The Greek version of Theodotion says that they did not obey Nebuchadnezzar’s decree, did not serve his gods, and did not prostrate themselves before his image. Both renderings are more restrictive than is the wording of the extant Aramaic text, for the Greek renderings limit the command or decree to the matter involving the worship of the image. (3:12)
In his rage and fury upon hearing the accusation, Nebuchadnezzar ordered that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought before him. They were thereafter led into his presence. (3:13)
Nebuchadnezzar asked Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego for what purpose or reason they did not serve his gods nor worship (prostrate themselves before) the image he had set up. (3:14)
The Babylonian monarch gave them an opportunity to change their stand, worshiping (or prostrating themselves before) the image when hearing the sound of the horn or trumpet, pipe, zither or kithara, trigon, harp, bagpipe and “all kinds of music.” (See verse 5 for comments.) If, however, they still refused to do so, they would immediately be cast into the flames of the fire burning in a furnace. Challengingly, Nebuchadnezzar asked, “Who [is] the god that can deliver you out of my hands?” His question implied that the God whom Shadrach, Meshah, and Abednego worshiped could not rescue them from his power. (3:15)
In their response, the companions of Daniel said that they had no need to answer Nebuchadnezzar in this matter. Their words indicated that they were determined not to alter or modify their view and so would not consent to his offer to save themselves by worshiping the image he had set up. (3:16)
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego expressed their faith that the God whom they served could rescue them. Their words that God would deliver them from the flames of the fire burning in a furnace and from the hand or power of Nebuchadnezzar were based on their recognition that his will would be done. This is evident from the expression they made next. According to the reading of the Septuagint, they referred to the “God in the heavens” as their “one” or only “Lord” whom they “feared.” (3:17)
Daniel’s companions did not presume that they would be delivered from the penalty that would be imposed on them, and their refusal to worship the image was not based on their knowing that they would not perish in the flames. Therefore, they indicated that, even if they could not expect to be rescued, they wanted Nebuchadnezzar to know that they would not serve his gods and would not worship (or prostrate themselves before) the image of gold he had set up. According to the Septuagint rendering, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego believed that they would be delivered and that this would reveal to Nebuchadnezzar that they would not serve his idol nor prostrate themselves before his image of gold. (3:18)
The response enraged King Nebuchadnezzar. The “appearance” of his face was changed toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and must have reflected his fury against them. He ordered that the furnace be heated “seven times” more than was customary, or heated to the ultimate degree. (3:19; see the Notes section.)
Nebuchadnezzar ordered certain mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and then to cast them into the flames of the fire burning in the furnace. In Rahlfs’ printed Greek text, the names of Daniel’s companions are mentioned, but this is not the case in the oldest extant Greek manuscript (P967) that preserves most of the words of this verse. It appears to support the reading that those around Azariah (Azarias) were bound. (3:20; compare 3:23.)
Then, just as they were dressed with their “trousers” (sarbalín), “garments” (pattísh), “caps” (karbeláh), and their other “clothing” (levúsh), Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were cast into the superheated furnace. There is a measure of uncertainty about the items of clothing that the original-language words designate. The meaning “trousers” for sarbalín has the support of the Vulgate, for the plural Latin word bracae means “pants” or “trousers.” Based on a link to the Persian word patyuše, pattísh may be defined as “garments.” The Akkadian word for “cap” is karballatu, and this may support defining karbeláh as “cap.” A link to the Akkadian word for “clothing” lubūŝu(m) supports rendering levúsh as “clothing.” (3:21)
According to the Septuagint (including P967), the three men were tied while still “having their sandals [plural of hypodéma] on and their tiaras on their heads” and being clothed “with their apparel [himatismós].” The Greek version of Theodotion also includes the reference to “tiaras,” but the other items of clothing mentioned are the plural of sarábara (an apparent transliteration of the Aramaic word sarbalín) periknemís (“leggings”), and éndyma (“garment”). It may be that the Greek word for “tiara” could, in this context, designate a distinctive headdress worn by men occupying the position to which Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had been elevated. (3:21)
The reference to King Nebuchadnezzar’s “word” or “command” (LXX) being “harsh” or “severe” (“pressing” or “urgent” [LXX], prevailing or being strong or overpowering [Theodotion]) may denote that he wanted it to be acted on without delay even though he had not given any thought to what the superheated furnace could cause. Because of the nature of his command and the extreme heat (“sevenfold” greater than formerly [LXX]), the men who cast Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the furnace were the ones whom the flame of fire killed. At this point, the Septuagint does not mention the death of those who cast the three men into the furnace. It indicates that those selected to carry out Nebuchadnezzar’s command threw the men into the furnace after having tied them and led them to it. The Greek version of Theodotion contains no reference to the death of those who threw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the furnace. According to this Greek text, the fact that Nebuchadnezzar’s word prevailed or was overpowering resulted in heating the furnace to excess. (3:22)
As for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who had been tied, they fell into the furnace where the fire was burning and producing extreme heat. The Septuagint indicates that a flame came out of the furnace, burning and killing the men who had bound the ones with Azarias (Azariah) or the other two men, Shadrach (Hananiah) and Meshech (Mishael), but the three men whom they had cast into the furnace were preserved. In the version of Theodotion, this development is not mentioned. It indicates that the three men, Shadrach (Sedrach), Meshech (Misach), and Abednego (Abdenago), fell bound into the midst of the furnace where the fire was burning. (3:23)
Nebuchadnezzar appears to have been seated at a safe distance from the furnace but close enough to observe what was happening inside it. What he saw startled, astonished, or frightened him, and he quickly got up to speak to “his officials,” state counselors, or members of his court. They gave an affirmative answer to Nebuchadnezzar’s question. “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” (3:24; see the Notes section.)
A Dead Sea Daniel scroll (4QDand) identifies those to whom Nebuchadnezzar then spoke as “his officials.” To them, he mentioned seeing four unbound men “walking in the midst of the fire.” They were unharmed by the flames, and the “fourth one” resembled a “son of the gods” (an “angel of a god” [3:92, LXX]; a “son of a god” [3:92, Theodotion) (3:25)
Nebuchadnezzar approached the door of the heated furnace. He must have stood at a safe distance away when he addressed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as “servants of the Most High God,” telling them to come out of the fire. The three men then did so. (3:26 [3:93, LXX])
The assembled satraps, prefects, governors, and the king’s officials or state counselors, could see that the fire had not had any “power” over or effect on the bodies of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The hair on their heads had not been singed. There was no change in their “trousers,” as if they had never been in the midst of a fire. (See verse 21 regarding “trousers.”) So there was not even a smell of “fire” or smoke on them. (3:27 [3:94, LXX])
In the Septuagint, the officeholders are identified as occupying the position of high official (hýpatos), local official (topárches [an official in charge of a place]), head of a family (archipatriótes), and friend of the king (a court official who was the king’s confidant). The Greek text of Theodotion lists the officeholders as satraps, commanders (strategós), local officials (topárches), and princes or mighty ones (dynástes) of the king. (3:27 [3:94, LXX])
Based on what he saw, King Nebuchadnezzar blessed and praised the “God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego” for having sent his angel to rescue “his servants who trusted in him.” They “changed” or disregarded the king’s “word” (his command to worship the image he had set up) and “gave over their body” (“their body for burning” [LXX; “their bodies to the fire” [Theodotion]), or chose to have the severe penalty imposed on them, so as not to serve and worship (prostrate themselves before) any god other than their own God. (3:28 [3:95, LXX])
On account of what he had witnessed, Nebuchadnezzar issued a decree that applied to “every people [every nation (LXX, including P967)], nation [tribe [Theodotion]; all tribes (LXX, including P967)], and language” (“all languages” [LXX (“all” not included in P967)]), the subjects of the Babylonian monarch who spoke languages other than his). He ordered that anyone saying anything improper against (blaspheming [LXX]; speaking blasphemy against [Theodotion]) the “God of Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego” would be dismembered (literally, “made limbs” or “pieces”; “will be for destruction” [Theodotion]) and his house turned into a “refuse heap.” According to the version of Theodotion, the houses of the blasphemers would be “plundered,” and the Septuagint indicates that the house of the blasphemer would be confiscated. As to the reason for his harsh order, Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged regarding YHWH that no other god could “deliver in this way.” (3:29 [3:96, LXX])
Thereafter King Nebuchadnezzar “prospered” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the district or province. This indicates that they were given a higher position than they had formerly. According to the Septuagint, Nebuchadnezzar gave them “authority over the whole territory,” appointing them as rulers. The version of Theodotion refers to the king as prospering Shadrach (Sedrach), Meshach (Misach), and Abednego (Abdenago) in the territory of Babylon and deeming them worthy to rule over “all the Judeans who were in his kingdom.” (3:30 [3:97, LXX])
In verse 19, the Aramaic word here translated “appearance” basically means “image.” The Septuagint, including P967, reads morphé, and the Greek version of Theodotion says ópsis. Both Greek words may be rendered “appearance.” The Greek version of Theodotion and the extant Aramaic text include the reference to Nebuchadnezzar’s change of face as being directed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. In the Septuagint, including P967, the three names are not included. Regarding the sevenfold increase, the Septuagint indicates that this was more than was necessary to heat the furnace. In the Greek version of Theodotion, the literal reading is, “to the end it should burn.” The thought appears to be that the furnace was to be stoked to the fullest extent in order to produce the greatest amount of heat possible.
Starting with verse 24, the extant text of the Septuagint and the Greek version of Theodotion are much longer than the Aramaic text. The words from verse 24 are included in verse 91 of the Greek text of Theodotion, and an abbreviated version is found in the Septuagint (“Then Nabouchodonosor [Nebuchadnezzar] the king was astonished and rose quickly and said to his friends”).
The comments that follow regarding verses 24 through 90 are based on the text of the Septuagint and the version of Theodotion. Information from the version of Theodotion is included only when it departs significantly from the reading of the extant Septuagint text.
Ananias (Hananiah), Azarias (Azariah), and Misael (Mishael) “prayed and sang hymns to the “Lord” at the time Nebuchadnezzar commanded that they be cast into the furnace. In P967, Azarias (Azariah) is mentioned first. According to the version of Theodotion, the men “were walking in the midst of the flame, singing hymns to God and praising the Lord.” (3:24)
Azarias (Azariah) stood up in the furnace and prayed, acknowledging the Lord “together with his companions in the midst of the fire.” At the same time certain Chaldeans were exceedingly heating the furnace. The version of Theodotion mentions neither the companions of Azariah nor the action of the Chaldeans. (3:25)
Azarias (Azariah) is quoted as saying, “Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our fathers [forefathers], and praised and glorified [be] your name forever” (literally, “into the ages.”) For God’s name to be praised and glorified means for God himself (the one represented by the name) to be lauded and highly honored. (3:26)
“For you are righteous [or just] regarding everything that you have done to us, and all your works [are] truth, and your ways upright, and all your judgments [are] true.” In all his dealings with his people, God proved to be righteous or just. There was no defect in his works, but his activity revealed the dependability and stability of truth. His ways never deviated from what is right, and his judgments were true, always impartial and flawless. (3:27)
Whatever God permits is attributed to him. Therefore, Azariah is quoted as acknowledging that everything God had brought upon his people and upon Jerusalem, God’s “holy city” of their ancestors, expressed “true” or deserved judgments. He had acted “in truth [according to what is right] and judgment” or justice when doing “all these things” because of the “sins” of his people. “All these things” included letting his people suffer during military campaigns against Jerusalem and then letting them be taken into exile. (3:28)
Including himself among God’s wayward people, Azarias (Azariah) continued, “For we have sinned in everything and acted lawlessly [by] turning away from you, and we have erred in everything and have not obeyed the commandments of your law.” The Greek word here rendered “everything” is the plural of pas, meaning “all.” (3:29)
As a people, the Israelites had not observed the commandments nor done according to what God required of them so that it might go well for them. (3:30)
All that God brought upon his people and all that he did to them (which included everything that he permitted to befall them and his refusal to come to their aid in their time of distress) were acts done “in true judgment,” indicating that the divine judgment was right and just. The oldest extant Greek manuscript (P967) does not (with reference to God) say, “and everything you have done to us.” (3:31)
In expression of his “true” or right and just judgment, God had delivered his people “into the hand of [their] enemies,” permitting the foes to conquer them and to deal with them as a defeated and humiliated people. The adversaries are designated as “lawless and hostile rebels.” As for the king into whose “hand” or power they were handed over, he is described as “unjust” and the “most evil” in “all the earth.” (3:32)
Because of what had befallen them, God’s people were reduced to silence, unable to open their mouth to protest or to request relief. His servants and those revering him were submitted to “shame and reproach” as captives of their enemies. (3:33)
The appeal directed to YHWH was for him to act for the sake of his name, not handing his people over completely (literally, to the “end”) and not annulling his covenant with them. This petition constituted a plea for YHWH to bring an end to the suffering of his people so that their enemies would not reproach his name, referring to him as a God who could not help them. As indicated in verses 35 and 36, the covenant is the one God first concluded with Abraham and then also confirmed to Isaac and Jacob. (3:34)
In view of what the captive people were enduring, Azarias (Azariah) prayed to God not to distance his “mercy” from them, being compassionate instead “because of Abraam [Abraham]” his “beloved one,” and “because of Isaac” his “servant,” and “Israel” his “holy one.” In this context, “Israel” refers to Jacob whose name was changed to Israel after he wrestled with an angel. Despite his failings, Jacob could be called God’s “holy one,” for he remained faithful to him to the end of his life. (3:35)
To the forefathers of the Israelites — Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — God promised to multiply “their seed” or offspring “like the stars of heaven and like the sand on the seashore (literally, “lip of the sea”). This covenant promise could only be fulfilled if they could once again be in their own land and prosper there as a people. (3:36)
YHWH is the one called “Master. Azarias (Azariah) acknowledged that God’s people, instead of increasing in number, had become fewer than all the other nations and were in that day abased in all the earth “because of [their] sins.” (3:37)
At that time the Israelites had no ruler, prophet, or governor. There was no one among them as a leader to defend their cause nor a prophet to make known the word of YHWH. Also among the things that did not exist were holocaust, sacrifice, offering, incense, and a place to present fruits to God and where mercy could be found, or where God’s compassionate care could be experienced. (3:38)
Without any arrangement for carrying out the sacrificial services at the divinely approved location, the people could only make their approach to God with a “broken soul,” or with their life and very being in a crushed state, and “humbled in spirit.” Azariah’s petition was that they might be accepted in their crushed and humbled condition. His plea was that the people might be favorably received as if they had made their approach with acceptable holocausts of “rams and bulls” and with “myriads of fat lambs.” (3:39)
At this point, the prayerful expressions of Azarias (Azariah) appear to be made for his two companions and for him. According to the oldest extant Greek text (P967), he pleaded, “Thus may our sacrifice come before you today and propitiate.” This could be understood to be a request that their crushed and humbled condition be like an acceptable sacrifice to God. In Rahlfs’ printed text the word for “propitiate” is followed by ópisthen sou, meaning “after” or “behind you.” The thought could be that the sacrifice be as one that surrounded God (being “before” him and “behind” him) and thus be pleasing to him, serving as an offering for propitiation. In the Greek version of Theodotion, the phrase that appears at the end of the verse in the Septuagint appears in place of the words about propitiation (“and may it be accomplished behind [or after] you”). (3:40)
In the Septuagint, the next words are, “for [there] is no shame to those relying on you.” Trust in YHWH never results in disappointment, for he fulfills his promises. In the oldest Greek manuscript, the concluding phrase is, “and may it be accomplished after,” possibly meaning “afterward.” This could relate to receiving God’s favorable attention after the offering up of the “sacrifice.” In the phrase about accomplishment, the pronoun “you” is not included (as in the version of Theodotion and other manuscripts of the Septuagint). One way to interpret the inclusion of the “you” might be to regard the phrase as saying, “and may [the acceptance] be accomplished after you [have received the sacrifice].” (3:40)
Azarias (Azariah) and his two companions followed God “with a whole heart,” or with undivided devotion, choosing to submit to his commands. They manifested “fear” or a reverential regard for him. Their seeking his face meant looking to him for guidance and aid and desiring to have his approval. Based on the course they had pursued, Azariah prayed that God would not put them to shame, which would have been the case if he had not revealed himself to be their deliverer. (3:41)
Azarias (Azariah) pleaded that YHWH would do with him and his companions according to his “fairness” or “goodness” and according to the “abundance” of his “mercy.” (3:42)
In the past, YHWH had rescued his people in time of great peril. His acts of deliverance were his marvelous or astonishing deeds. Azarias (Azariah) pleaded that God would deliver him and his companions in keeping with the marvelous deeds of the past and thus give or add glory to his name or to himself (the one whom the name represented). By effecting the deliverance, YHWH would reveal himself as the deliverer without equal. (3:43)
The focus shifts to all those who manifest “evil” to God’s servants, desiring to do them harm. Concerning them, Azarias (Azariah) prayed that they be the ones to be put to shame, being disgraced by all lordship and having their strength broken. (3:44)
With divine judgment being expressed against them, the enemies of God’s people would come to know, or be forced to recognize, that he is the “Lord” and “glorious” over all the inhabited earth. He is the Sovereign, the possessor of unparalleled majesty. (3:45)
King Nabouchodonosor’s (Nebuchadnezzar’s) subordinates who had cast Azarias (Azariah), Hananias (Hananiah) and Misael (Mishael) into the furnace did not cease stoking it. At the time “the three were cast into the furnace once for all,” the furnace, as it had been heated sevenfold or to the utmost degree, was extremely hot. Those who had cast the men into the furnace were “above them,” and others continued stoking the furnace “below them” with naphtha (a flammable liquid), tow, pitch, and brushwood. (3:46)
A shorter version of verse 46 is found in the version of Theodotion. “And the subordinates of the king who cast them in did not cease stoking the furnace with naphtha and pitch and tow and brushwood.”
In verse 46, the oldest extant Greek manuscript (P967) does not include the initial phrase, “And the subordinates of the king who cast them in did not cease stoking the furnace.” Thereafter this manuscript basically parallels the wording of the Septuagint, and so contains a text that is longer than the version of Theodotion.
A flame “poured out” from the furnace, reaching a height of “49 cubits” (c. 73.5 feet; less than 22.5 meters). (3:47)
The flame spread out and burned those of the Chaldeans around the furnace whom it reached. (3:48)
“But an angel of the Lord descended into the furnace.” The words that follow could be understood to mean that the angel did so at the same time as Azarias (Azariah) and his two companions were cast into it. This angel forced the flame “out of the furnace.” (3:49)
The angel made the inside of the furnace as if a moist wind (literally, “wind of dew”) were “whistling” there, and the fire did not at all touch the men, and neither did it harm nor annoy them. (3:50)
“As out of one mouth,” the three men commenced to sing hymns to and glorify, bless and exalt God while “in the furnace.” The oldest extant Greek text (P967) here reads like the version of Theodotion. “Then the three, as out of one mouth, hymned and glorified and blessed and exalted God [while] in the furnace, saying, …” The version of Theodotion, however, does not include “and exalted.” (3:51)
The expressions of praise consist of repeated thoughts and identical refrains. “Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our fathers [forefathers], and [you are] praised and highly exalted forever” (literally, “into the ages”). “And blessed be the name of your glory, the holy one [your glorious, holy name; the glorious or majestic God whom the name represents] and be highly praised and highly exalted for eternity” (literally, “into all the ages” [“into the ages” (Theodotion)]). (3:52)
“Blessed are you in the sanctuary of your holy glory” (your glory or majesty in its holiness or absolute purity), and you are “highly praised” [hymned] and highly glorified forever” (literally, “into the ages”). The oldest extant Greek manuscript (P967) does not refer to the sanctuary. With reference to God, this manuscript says, “Blessed are you upon the throne of the glory of your kingdom, and [you are] highly praised [hymned] and highly glorified forever” (literally, “into the ages”). In the Septuagint, the reference to the “throne” appears in the next verse. (3:53)
Rahlfs’ printed text of the Septuagint and his version of Theodotion do not identify the “throne” as being the “throne of the glory of [God’s] kingdom.” The reference in both printed texts is to the “throne of your [God’s] kingdom,” and the concluding phrase is, “and [you are] praised [highly praised or hymned (Theodotion)] and highly exalted forever [literally, into the ages].” (3:54)
“Blessed are you, the one beholding the abysses, seated upon the cherubs, and [you are] praised and glorified forever” (literally, “into the ages”). The “abysses” would include the depths of the seas and deep pits or chasms. God’s being “seated upon the cherubs” probably alludes to the two cherubs on the ark of the covenant and above which appeared the Shechinah (representing the divine presence). Also, as the cherubs were always in his service, YHWH could be spoken of as being seated upon them. (3:55)
“Blessed are you in the firmament, and [you are] praised and glorified forever” (literally “into the ages”). The “firmament” is the celestial dome or vault, and the ancient Israelites perceived their God to be above this vault. (3:56)
Starting with verse 57 through verse 88, nearly every verse begins with the second person plural Greek imperative verb eulogeite, which may be translated “bless.” The exception is verse 74, where the verb is eulogeíto (a singular third person imperative) and may be rendered “let bless.” Each verse from 57 through 73 has the same refrain, “hymn [sing praises] and highly exalt him [the Lord] forever [literally into the ages].” Although the wording may be the same in the oldest Greek manuscript (P967), Rahlfs’ Greek text of the Septuagint, and the version of Theodotion, the order in which the verses appear varies at times.
Basically, all creation is called upon to “bless” the Lord. The imperative includes inanimate things, for every part of the creation can bless him as it fulfills its role and his purpose. His “works” are referred to as blessing him, for these works — both his saving acts and his creative works — reveal his unsurpassed greatness and thereby bless or laud him. (3:57).
The imperative to “bless” or laud the Lord is directed to angels (3:58), the heavens or the sky (3:59), all the waters above the heavens, which descend in the form of rain from above (3:60), all the powers of the Lord, or everything that reveals his might (3:61), sun and moon (3:62), stars of heaven (3:63), rain and dew (3:64), all the winds (3:65), fire and heat (3:66), frost and cold [cold and burning heat (Theodotion)] (3:67), dews and snowfall [plural in Greek] (3:68), frosts and cold (3:69), hoarfrosts and snows (3:70), nights and days (3:71), light and darkness (3:72), and lightnings and clouds. (3:73)
Verse 74 may be rendered, “Let the earth bless the Lord; let it hymn [sing praises] and highly exalt him forever [literally, into the ages].” From verses 75 through 88, each verse again starts with the imperative “bless” (eulogeite) and repeats the refrain, “hymn [sing praises and highly exalt him [the Lord] forever [literally into the ages].” The imperative to “bless” the Lord is addressed to mountains and hills (3:75), all the things sprouting on the earth or on the land (3:76), fountains or springs (3:77), seas and rivers (3:78), huge fish and all the creatures moving in the waters (3:79), all the birds of heaven or the birds flying in the air above the land (3:80), quadrupeds and beasts of the earth [domestic and wild animals] (3:81), sons of men [humans or people from every nation] (3:82), Israel (3:83), priests or, according to the version of Theodotion, priests of the Lord (3:84), slaves or, according to the version of Theodotion, slaves of the Lord (3:85), spirits and righteous souls [possibly meaning spirit persons or angels and upright humans] (3:86), those who are “holy” or “pure” and “lowly in heart,” or godly persons who are humble in their inmost selves (3:87), and Ananias (Hananiah), Azarias (Azariah), and Misael (Mishael). (3:88)
The praise from Ananias (Hananiah), Azarias (Azariah), and Misael (Mishael) served to express gratitude to God for having delivered them “from Hades” (the realm of the dead) and saved them from the “hand” or power of death and rescued them “from the midst of the burning flame” and “released” them “from the fire.” (3:88)
The poetic composition of praise ends with the admonition for all to acknowledge, or to give thanks to, the Lord, “for he is good [or kind], for his mercy [is] forever [literally, into the ages]. (3:89)
All persons who have reverential regard for him are to bless the “God of gods” and to hymn or sing praises to him and to acknowledge him or to thank him, for his mercy is “forever and ever [literally, into the age of the ages].” (3:90)
Nebuchadnezzar (the “king” [LXX]) heard the three men singing hymns or praises. In a standing position, he saw that they were alive. Then Nebuchadnezzar “was astonished.” According to the version of Theodotion, Nebuchadnezzar, upon hearing the singing of hymns or praises and, therefore, being astonished, “arose [from a seated position] in haste.” (3:91; for comments on the rest of the text of the Septuagint, see the commentary for verses 24 through 30 of the Aramaic text.)
King Nebuchadnezzar’s proclamation was addressed to “all peoples, nations [tribes (Theodotion), and languages dwelling in all the earth.” “Languages” here refers to persons in the realm of the empire of Babylon who spoke languages other than that of the Chaldeans. Those “dwelling in all the earth” are the inhabitants of the entire territory over which Nebuchadnezzar ruled. For their “peace” to be increased would signify that the subjects would continue to prosper in a state of well-being and security. (4:1 [3:31])
In the proclamation, Nebuchadnezzar is portrayed as considering it good, or being pleased, to set forth the “signs and wonders the Most High God” had done toward him. (4:2 [3:32])
The proclamation concludes with words that extol the greatness or grandeur of God’s signs and the mightiness of his wonders. “Signs” could relate to the divinely provided revelations which could not have originated with any human and would, therefore, be “great.” The “wonders” or amazing deeds gave evidence of having as their source one whose power far transcended that of any human. God is identified as the Sovereign, the One whose kingdom is everlasting and whose dominion continues “from generation to generation.” (4:3 [3:33]; see the Notes section.)
The Septuagint dates the dream of Nebuchadnezzar to the eighteenth year of his reign. If this is understood to be the regnal year, it is the same year in which Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the temple. Neither the Aramaic text nor the Greek version of Theodotion includes the reference to a year, and it cannot be confirmed from other sources and does not harmonize with a reference in Jeremiah 52:30 to the twenty-third year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign when more Jews were taken into exile. (4:4 [4:1])
In his home, Nebuchadnezzar was “at ease,” undisturbed, or “living in peace” (LXX) and “prospering” in his palace [“on his throne” [LXX]. The Greek version of Theodotion has him saying that he was “prospering and thriving” in his home. (4:4 [4:1])
His state of tranquility appears to have been disrupted by a dream that frightened him. The images that flashed before him while sleeping in his bed and his mental perception of the visions he saw (“the visions of [his] head”) alarmed him. (4:5 [4:2]; see the Notes section.)
Nebuchadnezzar issued an order for “all the wise men of Babylon to be brought in” before him so that they might make known to him the interpretation of his disturbing dream. (4:6 [4:3]; see the Notes section.)
In response to Nebuchadnezzar’s official summons, the “magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans [Chaldean experts in the occult arts], and astrologers” (Gazarenes [a transliteration of the Aramaic word in the Greek text of Theodotion]) came in before him. After he related his dream to them, they were unable to interpret it. (4:7 [4:4])
Finally, Daniel came before King Nebuchadnezzar. Regarding “Belteshazzar” (Baltasar [Theodotion]), the new name which had been given to Daniel, the monarch is quoted as referring to it as being “according to the name of my god.” “Belteshazzar” means “guard the life of the king,” and this appears to be an invocation directed to Bel, a designation that came to be applied to Marduk, the chief deity of Babylon. Ancient inscriptions indicate that Nebuchadnezzar revered Merodach or Marduk. An inscription translated by J. M. Rodwell (Copyright 1901 by Colonial Press) begins with the words, “Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon, glorious Prince, worshipper of Marduk.” Nebuchadnezzar even attributed his birth to Merodach (Marduk), saying, “When he, the lord god my maker made me, the god Merodach, he deposited my germ in my mother’s (womb): then being conceived I was made.” (4:8 [4:5])
While the extant inscriptions make no mention of Daniel or YHWH, the God to whom Daniel was devoted, they do indicate that Nebuchadnezzar was deeply religious. In the biblical account, Nebuchadnezzar is quoted as recognizing Daniel to be a man in whom a “spirit of holy gods” was, and to him he related his dream. Based on the context, Daniel’s being designated as having a “spirit of holy gods” in him may be understood to indicate that he was regarded as divinely endowed with the ability to make known the revelations of the gods. In the Greek version of Theodotion, the designation “god” is singular and, in connection with “spirit,” could be rendered, “spirit of the holy God.” The plural “gods,” however, appears preferable, for Nebuchadnezzar was a polytheist. (4:8 [4:5])
Nebuchadnezzar called Daniel (Belshazzar) “chief of the magicians” and acknowledged him as one having the “spirit of holy gods” and one for whom no mystery was difficult. In the Aramaic text, the way in which Nebuchadnezzar starts his request to Daniel is elliptical (“visions of my dream that I saw”). The Greek version of Theodotion, however, completes the thought. “Hear the vision of the dream that I saw.” This is followed by the request, both in the Aramaic text and the version of Theodotion, “and tell me its interpretation.” (4:9 [4:6]; also see the comments on 4:8 [4:5].)
As Nebuchadnezzar lay asleep on his bed, the images that he beheld in his dream (which he referred to as the “visions of my head”) related to a tree. “In the midst of the earth” or the land, he beheld a tree of very great height. According to the Septuagint, the comments about the tree are related before Daniel is called to appear before Nebuchadnezzar. It quotes the monarch as saying, “I was sleeping, and look, a lofty tree was growing on the earth” or land. “Its appearance [was] great, and [there] was not another like it.” (4:10 [4:7])
“The tree grew and became strong,” with its top reaching the “heavens,” apparently appearing as if its top were touching the celestial vault. In view of the tree’s towering far above everything, it could be seen “to the end of all the earth,” or from horizon to horizon. According to the Greek version of Theodotion, the “extent” (kýtos, also meaning “crown”) of the tree reached the “ends of all the earth.” In the Septuagint, part of this description appears after words found in verse 12(9) of the Aramaic text and the version of Theodotion. It refers to the “appearance” of the tree as being “great” and its top getting near to heaven, or the celestial dome, and its “crown [kýtos, also meaning ‘extent’] to the clouds, filling [the space] under heaven. “The sun and the moon resided in it [the tree] and illuminated all the earth.” (4:11 [4:8])
The tree had “beautiful foliage” and “abundant fruit,” with “food for all on it.” Under the tree, “beasts [a collective singular in Aramaic] of the field,” or wild animals, found shade, and “birds of the heavens” nested or roosted on its branches, and “all flesh” (every creature or, if to be understood in more restrictive sense, people) could feed on what it produced. The Septuagint refers to fruit as “abundant and good” and as providing sustenance for “all living creatures.” Additionally, the Septuagint indicates the tree to have been of colossal size, with the branches being “about thirty stadia [c. 3.5 miles; c. 5.5 kilometers] long.” (4:12 [4:9])
While lying in his bed, Nebuchadnezzar continued to see developments that affected the tree. In the Aramaic text, he is quoted as saying, “I was seeing in the visions of my head on my bed.” The Greek text of Theodotion refers to a “vision of the night upon my bed,” whereas the Septuagint indicates that Nebuchadnezzar continued “looking in [his] sleep.” He saw a “watcher” (an “angel” [LXX]; “ir” [a transliteration of the Aramaic word ‘ir in the text of Theodotion]), a “holy one,” descending “from the heavens.” According to the Septuagint, the “angel was sent in power from heaven,” suggesting that the angel was empowered or granted the authority to make the proclamation that had to be unfailingly fulfilled. (4:13 [4:10])
The “watcher” or “angel” called out “with strength” or with a loud voice, commanding that the tree be chopped down, its boughs cut off, its foliage shaken off, and its fruit scattered. As for the “beasts” (a collective singular in Aramaic) under the tree and the birds on its branches, they were to flee. The Septuagint includes the directive to cut down the tree but adds that it should be destroyed. It then gives the reason for the action as being that the Most High had decreed for the roots of the tree to be pulled out and for it to be made useless. (4:14 [4:11])
The main root of the tree (“stump of its roots” [Aramaic text and Greek version of Theodotion]; “one root” [LXX]) was to be left in the “earth” or the ground. What was left remaining in the ground was to be banded with iron and bronze or copper. This directive involving banding is not included in the Septuagint. (4:15 [4:12])
If the subject continues to be the main root (a designation in the masculine gender in Aramaic), it is being described as left amid the “grass of the field,” becoming wet with the “dew of the heavens” (the dew which the ancients perceived as descending from above), and having its “lot” with the “beasts” (a collective singular in Aramaic) “in the grass of the earth.” A number of translations convey this significance in their renderings. “But leave the stump with its roots in the ground, bound with hoops of iron and bronze, in the grass of the countryside. Let it be drenched by the dew of heaven and have its lot with the animals, eating grass.” (NJB) “Just leave the stump in the earth but bind it with iron and bronze chains so that it remains on the ground below between grass and herbs. Dew should fall on it; like the wild animals, it should lie in the grass.” (Nur den Stumpf lasst in der Erde, aber fesselt ihn mit eisernen und bronzenen Ketten, damit er unten am Boden bleibt zwischen Gras und Kräutern. Der Tau soll auf ihn fallen; wie das Wild soll er im Gras liegen. [German, Gute Nachricht Bibel]) (4:15 [4:12])
Other translations make the entire verse read so that only the first part of the verse applies to the stump with its roots. “But let the stump with its roots, bound with iron and bronze, remain in the ground, in the grass of the field. Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him live with the animals among the plants of the earth.” (NIV) “But leave its stump and roots in the ground, surrounded by grass and held by chains of iron and bronze. Make sure that this ruler lives like the animals out in the open fields, unprotected from the dew.” (CEV) The wording of the Septuagint supports these renderings, for it refers to him as feeding “like a bovine” on grass with the “beasts of the earth in the mountains.” (4:15 [4:12])
If not already in the previous verse, the focus definitely shifts here to the one upon whom the dream was to be fulfilled. His “heart,” or the mental faculty that distinguishes a human from a wild animal, was to be changed as if he were given the “heart of a beast,” and “seven times” were to pass over him. The Greek version of Theodotion reads much like the Aramaic text, but a different rendering is found in the Septuagint. It indicates that his “body” would be changed “from the dew of heaven” and that he would feed with the beasts for “seven years.” (4:16 [4:13])
According to the Septuagint, his deranged state would last “until he recognizes that the Lord of heaven has authority over all those in heaven and those on the earth, and does whatever he wishes with them.” Both the Aramaic text and the Greek version of Theodotion represent the vision about the tree as conveying a message that has an application to all humans. The cutting down of the tree and associated developments are identified as taking place by reason of an edict by the “decree of watchers” (ir [a transliteration of the Aramaic word ‘ir in the text of Theodotion]). The “matter” or sentence is also by the “word of holy ones.” As parallel expressions, “watchers” and “holy ones” apply to “angels.” The ultimate purpose for the carrying out of the decree was so that “all the living” might “know” or recognize that the Most High has dominion over the “kingdom of man [men (Theodotion)] and gives it to whom he will and sets up over it the lowliest one of men [one disdained of men (Theodotion)].” Accordingly, humans have no control over what the Most High may do or permit when it comes to rulership. (4:17 [4:14])
The Septuagint contains additional comments that are not found in the Aramaic text nor the Greek version of Theodotion. It quotes Nebuchadnezzar as saying that the tree “was cut down before [him] in one day” and that “its ruin was in one hour of the day.” Its “branches were given to every wind,” or were ripped from the tree and blown about or away. The tree itself was dragged away and thrown away. “And he” (the one to whom the dream applied) ate grass “with the beasts of the earth.” This one was delivered up to be under guards in confinement, and they bound his ankles and wrists with bronze or copper shackles, thus restraining his feet and his hands. All the things Nebuchadnezzar saw resulted in great wonderment for him, and “sleep escaped from [his] eyes.” (4:17 [4:14])
According to the Aramaic text, this was the dream that King Nebuchadnezzar saw and he wanted Daniel (Belteshazzar [Baltasar (Theodotion)] to tell him the interpretation, acknowledging that “all the wise men of [his] kingdom” could not make known the interpretation to him. He believed that Daniel could do so because the “spirit of holy gods” (the “holy God” [Theodotion]) was in him. (4:18 [4:15]; see the comments on 4:8 [4:5].)
According to the rendering of the Septuagint, Nebuchadnezzar had not as yet related the dream to anyone. When he rose from his bed in the morning, he summoned Daniel, “the ruler of the wise men” and the leader of those rendering judgments regarding (or interpreting) dreams, and he related the dream to him. Daniel then made known to Nebuchadnezzar the complete interpretation. (4:18 [4:15])
Perceiving that the dream revealed unfavorable developments for King Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel (Belteshazar [Baltasar (Theodotion)]) was “astonished” or dismayed for a time (literally, “one hour”) and his thoughts frightened or alarmed him. The Greek version of Theodotion says that he “was mute for about one hour and his thoughts troubled him.” A more detailed description of Daniel’s reaction is found in the Septuagint. Besides coming to be in a state of great astonishment or wonderment, his “conjecture rushed him and, becoming frightened, trembling seized him and his appearance changed. Having shaken his head for about an hour and having been astonished, he answered” the king with a subdued voice. (4:19 [4:16])
According to the Aramaic text and a similar rendering in the Greek version of Theodotion, King Nebuchadnezzar reassured Daniel (Belteshazar [Baltasar (Theodotion)] not to let the dream and its interpretation frighten him. The monarch did not want him to hold back from providing the interpretation of the dream in its entirety. (4:19 [4:16])
Daniel prefaced his explanation of the dream in a manner that avoided expressing the interpretation like a direct censure of the monarch. “My lord, may the dream [be] for those hating you, and its interpretation for your enemies.” Both the wording in the Septuagint and the text of Theodotion here are basically like that which is found in the Aramaic text.(4:19 [4:16])
The narration of Daniel’s words in the Septuagint immediately identifies Nebuchadnezzar as the “tree that had been planted in the earth,” or the ground, and the “appearance of which was great” or lofty. According to the Aramaic text, Daniel described the tree that Nebuchadnezzar had seen in his dream as one that had grown great or tall and had become strong or massive, with its height reaching the “heavens” (as if touching the celestial vault). In view of its tremendous size, the tree could be seen as far as land extended to the horizon (“to all the earth”) or, according to the version of Theodotion, “its extent” (kýtos, also meaning “crown”) was “into all the earth.” (4:20 [4:17])
Continuing the description of the tree, Daniel referred to its beautiful foliage and abundant fruits, its having food for all and providing a place for animals (“beasts of the field”) to dwell under its branches and for “birds of the heavens” (birds that fly in the air above the land) to roost or nest on its branches. Although referring to “all the birds of heaven” as nesting in the tree, the Septuagint differs from the Masoretic Text and the Greek version of Theodotion. It describes King Nebuchadnezzar as being served by the “strength of the earth and the nations and all the languages [people speaking languages other than that of the native Babylonians] to the ends of the earth and all the territories” or regions. The “strength of the earth” could be understood to refer to what the earth or land produces. (4:21 [4:18])
Daniel identified King Nebuchadnezzar as the one whom the massive tree represented, for he had “grown” like the tree and “become strong” as an absolute monarch with a vast empire under his dominion. His greatness or splendor as king had grown to the point that it appeared as if it reached the heavens or touched the celestial dome. His dominion extended to the “end of the earth” or came to include lands far away from the city of Babylon. (4:22 [4:19])
The Septuagint rendering has Daniel describing the tree as “exalted” and reaching heaven or the celestial vault and the top (literally, “crown” or “extent”) touching the clouds. Applying the image of the tree to Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel spoke of him as having been exalted “above all men who are upon the face of all the earth,” indicating that, as monarch, he had no equal among other men. The “heart” of the king, or he in his inmost self, had become exalted with “pride and strength toward the Holy One and his angels.” Nebuchadnezzar’s “works were seen,” for he had devastated the “house” or temple of “the living God” because of the “sins of the sanctified people.” Whereas ancient inscriptions indicate that the monarch gave credit to various deities, particularly Marduk (Merodach), for his accomplishments, he had no fear of YHWH, the Holy One, and his angels. Nebuchadnezzar directed his “strength” or military might against God’s people and so, as if he were superior to God, manifested himself as one who had become exalted with pride, not holding back from destroying God’s temple. (4:22 [4:19], LXX)
The Israelites had failed to live up to their covenant obligations as God’s holy or sanctified people, failing to conduct themselves in harmony with his commands. Therefore, he permitted Nebuchadnezzar to conquer them and to destroy his temple, the holy place that the people had defiled by their sinful pursuits. (4:22 [4:19], LXX)
Nebuchadnezzar, as Daniel went on to say, saw a “watcher” (an “angel” [LXX]; an “ir” (a transliteration of the Aramaic word ‘ir in the Greek text of Theodotion), a “holy one,” descending “from the heavens.” The Septuagint rendering indicates that the angel was “sent with power by the Lord,” suggesting that the heavenly messenger had God-given authority to command that the tree be chopped down and destroyed. (4:23 [4:20]; see 4:13-16 [4:10-13] for additional comments.)
The Aramaic text says that the main root of the tree (“stump of its roots”) was to be left in the “earth” or the ground, with this remaining part to be banded with iron and bronze or copper and left in the “grass of the field.” There it was to become wet with the “dew of the heavens” and have its “lot” with the “beasts” (a collective singular in Aramaic) “until seven times” passed over it. (4:23 [4:20])
Daniel then indicated that the chopping down of the tree and the banding of the portion that remained would have its fulfillment upon Nebuchadnezzar. This was the “interpretation,” and what the Most High had decreed would befall the king, the one whom Daniel respectfully called “my lord.” (4:24 [4:21])
The Septuagint (4:23 [4:20]) quotes Daniel as saying, “The judgment of the great God will come upon you.” He also told Nebuchadnezzar that the “Most High and his angels” were pursuing him, indicating that there would be no escape for the king from what had been divinely decreed. (4:24 [4:21], LXX)
According to the Aramaic text, Nebuchadnezzar would be driven away from being among men and come to have his dwelling with the wild animals. He would be made to eat grass like bovines, become wet with dew, and have “seven times” pass over him until he came to know that “the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he wishes.” The Septuagint indicates that Nebuchadnezzar would be subjected to harsh treatment. He would be taken away to prison and sent away to a desert place or to an uninhabited location. (4:25 [4:22])
Applying the point about the main root of the tree having been preserved, Daniel assured Nebuchadnezzar that the kingdom would not be lost to him and that it was necessary for him to come to know that “the heavens are ruling” or that God is the true Sovereign. Daniel’s interpretation, according to the Septuagint, was that, because the “root of the tree” was spared from being uprooted, the place of Nebuchadnezzar’s throne would be preserved for him “for a time and an hour.” Nevertheless, preparations were being made against him. He would be flogged and subjected to judging. (4:26 [4:23])
Based on the interpretation, Daniel requested that Nebuchadnezzar might find his counsel to be acceptable. He advised the king to desist from sin and to practice righteousness and to show mercy to the poor, not making himself guilty of iniquity, which would have included not acting unjustly or oppressively. Possibly acting in this manner would contribute to the lengthening of his quietude, tranquility, or well-being. The Greek version of Theodotion expresses the thought that Nebuchadnezzar should atone for his sins through acts of mercy and for his injustices by compassion for the poor. “Perhaps,” Daniel is quoted as saying, “God will be forbearing [regarding] your transgressions.” (4:27 [4:24])
According to the Septuagint rendering, Daniel called attention to the fact that the “Lord lives in heaven, and his authority is over all the earth.” This appears to imply that Nebuchadnezzar, though an absolute monarch, was accountable to a far higher authority — God. Daniel advised Nebuchadnezzar to entreat God concerning his sins and atone for all his injustices with acts of mercy so that goodness may be given him and he might come to have many days on the “throne of [his] kingdom” and that God might not destroy him. He asked Nebuchadnezzar to “love” these “words” of counsel, for the word or message Daniel had spoken was “accurate,” and the monarch’s time was “complete.” This could be understood to mean that the time for divine judgment was at hand. (4:27 [4:24])
All that the dream about the massive tree indicated befell King Nebuchadnezzar. The Septuagint adds information not found in the Aramaic text nor in the Greek version of Theodotion. After Daniel concluded speaking, Nebuchadnezzar, having heard the “judgment of the vision” (the judgment the vision revealed), “reserved the words in his heart” (or in his inmost self). (4:28 [4:25])
About twelve months after Daniel had interpreted the dream about the huge tree, Nebuchadnezzar was walking “on the palace of the kingdom,” probably meaning the flat roof of the royal residence. In the Greek text of Theodotion, the reference is to the “sanctuary” or “temple.” This is because the Aramaic noun heykhál can designate either a temple or a palace. The Septuagint says that he walked “on the walls of the city with all his glory” (or splendidly attired) and passed through “its towers.” (4:29 [4:26])
Apparently impressed by what he saw, Nebuchadnezzar said to himself, “[Is] this not great Babylon that I have built as a house of a kingdom by the strength of my might and for the honor of my majesty [or glory]?” The oldest extant Greek manuscript (P967) reads, “This is great Babylon that I have built in the strength of my might, and it will be called a house of my kingdom.” Another reading of the Septuagint, like the Aramaic text and the Greek text of Theodotion, concludes with “for the honor of my glory.” Nebuchadnezzar is thus revealed as viewing his building projects as having been completed because of his great authority to command and as serving to glorify him as monarch. (4:30 [4:27]; see the Notes section.)
“While the word” was still “in the mouth” of King Nebuchadnezzar, or while he was still speaking to himself about the “great Babylon,” a voice resounded “from heaven,” telling him that the kingdom had departed from him. The expanded text of the Septuagint reads, “And upon the completion of his word, he heard a voice from heaven: To you it is said, King Nabouchodonosor [Nebuchadnezzar], the kingdom of Babylon has been taken away from you and is being given to another, to a disdained man in your house. Look! I am placing him over your kingdom, and he will receive your authority and your glory and your luxury so that you may know that the God of heaven has authority in the kingdom of men and to whomever he wishes he will give it. But until the rising of the sun, another king will rejoice in your house and will take possession of your glory and of your strength and of your authority.” Possibly the expression rendered “the rising of the sun” refers to the dawning of a brighter day for Nebuchadnezzar. The words about a “disdained man” parallel the thought expressed in verse 17 (14) of the Aramaic text and the Greek text of Theodotion, where the reference is to God setting over the “kingdom of men” the “lowliest one of men” or “one disdained of men” (Theodotion). (4:31 [4:28])
The divine expression of judgment against Nebuchadnezzar continued. He would be driven from among “men” (a collective singular in Aramaic) and have to reside with wild animals, being made to eat vegetation like bovines until “seven times” passed over him. This would be until he learned that the Most High rules over the “kingdom of men” (a collective singular in Aramaic) and gives it to whom he wishes. According to the Septuagint, “the angels” would pursue him for “seven years” and he would by no means be seen nor by any means speak with any man. He would be fed grass like a bovine, and greenery of the earth or land would be his pasture. Instead of “glory,” or his being granted honor, he would be bound, and someone else would have his luxurious house or palace and his kingdom. (4:32 [4:29])
In that “hour” or right then, the “word” or message directed against Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven from among men, having to eat grass like bovines and having “his body” made wet with the “dew from heaven” (from the celestial dome above the land, the place from which the ancients believed the dew to come). “His hair grew long like eagles,” probably meaning that it became long like the feathers of eagles (the “hair” or mane of lions [Theodotion]). His “nails” grew long “like birds” or like the claws of birds. According to the Septuagint, everything that had been made known to Nebuchadnezzar was to be fulfilled by the next morning. None of the things that had been mentioned would fail to occur. (4:33 [4:30]; see the Notes section regarding the expanded text of the Septuagint.)
“At the end of the days,” the seven times, or the “seven years,” Nebuchadnezzar raised his “eyes to the heavens,” or looked up to the celestial dome. His reasoning faculties returned to him. He then blessed the Most High, the One who lives forever (to time without limits; “into the age” [Theodotion]), and praised and honored him, “for his dominion is to limitless time and his kingdom from generation to generation.” According to the Septuagint, Nebuchadnezzar’s release from the time of his deranged state came at the end of the “seven years,” and his “sins” and his “acts of ignorance” (the Greek word for “ignorance” is plural) were “fulfilled” before the “God of heaven,” indicating that the judgment that befell him proved to be the complete penalty for his sins and his having acted in a divinely disapproved manner in his ignorance. Nebuchadnezzar made supplication to the great “God of gods” concerning his acts of ignorance. “And look! An angel called out [to him] from heaven, saying, Nabouchodonosor [Nebuchadnezzar] serve the God of heaven, the Holy One, and give glory to the Most High. The kingdom of your nation is being returned to you.” (4:34 [4:31])
Nebuchadnezzar is quoted as acknowledging that God accounts “all those inhabiting the earth as nothing” and that he does “according to his will in the host of the heavens and among those inhabiting the earth.” No one can check “his hand” (stop him for taking action) or “can say” (challengingly tell him), “What are you doing?” God is Sovereign above all intelligent creatures — both hosts of angels and humans. (4:35 [4:32]; see the Notes section.)
At that “time,” or at the end of the seven times or years, Nebuchadnezzar’s reasoning faculties returned to him, as also did his majesty and his magnificence for the glory or splendor of his kingdom or dominion. His counselors or advisers and nobles sought him, looking for him at the end of the seven times. Thereafter Nebuchadnezzar was once again established as monarch in his kingdom, and he became greater than he had been before the time of his derangement. (4:36 [4:33]; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)
Nebuchadnezzar is quoted as saying, “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and honor the King of the heavens, for all his works are truth [or right] and his ways are just, and those walking in pride he is able to humble.” According to the Septuagint, Nebuchadnezzar said that he acknowledged or gave thanks to the Most High and praised the One who “created the heaven and the earth and the seas and the rivers and all the things in them.” The reason for his grateful acknowledgment and praise was his recognizing that the Most High is “God of gods and Lord of lords and King of kings, for he performs signs and wonders and changes times and spans of time,” removing kings from their dominions and establishing others in their place. (4:37 [4:34]; see the Notes section.)
The first three verses (4:1-3 [3:31-33), though contained in the Greek version of Theodotion, are not included in the extant manuscripts of the Septuagint. Jerome, in his commentary on Daniel (translated by Gleason Archer), wrote, “The epistle of Nebuchadnezzar was inserted in the volume of the prophet, in order that the book might not afterwards be thought to have been manufactured by some other author, as the accuser (Porphyry) falsely asserts, but the product of Daniel himself.”
From ancient times to the present, the historicity of the account in chapter 4 has been called into question. Jerome was familiar with issues that had been raised and commented regarding the claims of others in his work on the book of Daniel. They “assert that it was absolutely impossible for a man who was reared in luxury to subsist on hay for seven years and to dwell among wild beasts for seven years without being at all mangled by them. Also they ask how the imperial authority could have been kept waiting for a mere madman, and how so mighty a kingdom could have gone without a king for so long a period. If, on the other hand, anyone had succeeded him on the throne, how foolish he would have to be thought to surrender an imperial authority which he had possessed for so long. Such a thing would be especially incredible since the historical records of the Chaldeans contain no such record, and since they recorded matters of far less import, it is impossible that they should have left things of major importance unmentioned.”
The first-century Jewish historian Josephus accepted the account at face value, and his summation of the narrative agrees with the extant Aramaic text and the version of Theodotion. Josephus wrote (Antiquities, X, x, 6), “A little while after this [the deliverance of Daniel’s companions from the furnace] the king saw in his sleep again another vision; how he should fall from his dominion, and feed among the wild beasts; and that, when he had lived in this manner in the desert for seven years, he should recover his dominion again. After he had seen this dream, he called the magicians together again, and inquired of them about it, and desired them to tell him what it signified; but when none of them could find out the meaning of the dream, nor discover it to the king, Daniel was the only person that explained it; and as he foretold, so it came to pass.”
Instead of dealing with issues that have been raised regarding the book of Daniel, this commentary will primarily focus on the message that is conveyed by the wording of the extant Aramaic text, the Greek version of Theodotion, and the ancient Greek translation. While the version of Theodotion reads much like the extant Aramaic text, the ancient Septuagint preserves a significantly different text that must have been based on an Aramaic text that is no longer extant.
In verse 5(2), the Septuagint text is shorter. “I saw a dream, and I became afraid, and fear fell upon me.”
The words of verses 6 through 9 (3 through 6) are not included in the Septuagint.
Part of an inscription of Nebuchadnezzar describes his building activity and illustrates his pride in what he had accomplished. The expressions somewhat reflect the wording of verse 30(27). “Their foundations opposite to the waters in cement and brick I founded, and of strong stone of zamat-hati, bulls and images, the building of its interior skillfully I constructed: tall cedars for their porticos I arranged, ikki wood, cedar wood, with coverings of copper, on domes and arches: work in bronze I overlaid substantially on its gates, bulls of strong bronze and molten images for their thresholds, strongly. Those large gates for the admiration of multitudes of men with wreathed work I filled: the abode of Imzu-Bel, the invincible castle of Babylon, which no previous king had effected, 4,000 cubits complete, the walls of Babylon whose banner is invincible, as a high fortress by the ford of the rising sun, I carried round Babylon.” After mentioning his building a tall tower “like a mountain,” Nebuchadnezzar is represented as saying: “The great gates whose walls I constructed with ikki and pine woods and coverings of copper I overlaid them, to keep off enemies from the front of the wall of unconquered Babylon. Great waters like the might of the sea I brought near in abundance and their passing by was like the passing by of the great billows of the western ocean: passages through them were none, but heaps of earth I heaped up, and embankments of brickwork I caused to be constructed. The fortresses I skillfully strengthened and the city of Babylon I fitted to be a treasure city.”
After what is designated as verse 33 (verse 30), the Septuagint includes words that Nebuchadnezzar spoke but which are not found in the Aramaic text nor in the Greek version of Theodotion. “I, Nabouchodonosor [Nebuchadnezzar], king of Babylon, was bound for seven years. They fed me grass like a bovine, and from the greenery of the earth I ate. And after seven years I gave my soul to supplication, and I made entreaty concerning my sins before the face of the Lord, the God of heaven, and I made supplication to the great God of gods concerning my acts of ignorance.” (The Greek word here translated “ignorance” is plural.) Next Nebuchadnezzar described what happened to him during the course of the seven years. “And my hairs became like the wings of an eagle; my nails like those of a lion [or the claws of lion]. My flesh and my heart were changed, and I walked about naked with the beasts of the earth. I saw a dream, and suspicions seized me, and after a time much sleep took hold of me and drowsiness befell me.” The reference to the change of his flesh and his heart may be understood to denote that he began to act like a wild animal, not like a human.
For the words in verse 35 (verse 32), there is no parallel in the Septuagint.
In verse 36 (verse 33), the Septuagint reads, “At that time my kingdom was restored to me, and my glory was given back to me.” Nebuchadnezzar once again functioned as king and enjoyed the glory or dignity associated with his restored position in the kingdom.
At what is the end of the Aramaic text, the Septuagint adds an extensive section of additional expressions that are attributed to Nebuchadnezzar. “From now on I will serve him; and from fear of him, trembling has seized me, and all his holy ones I praise. For the gods of the nations do not have might in themselves to bestow the kingdom of a king to another king and to kill and to make alive and to perform signs and great and fear-inspiring wonders and to change extraordinary matters, just as the God of heaven performed with me and changed my great [or important] matters. All the days of my kingdom I, for the sake of my soul [or my life], will offer sacrifices to the Most High for a pleasing aroma to the Lord, and I will do what is acceptable before him — I and my people, my nation and my territories that [are] under my authority. And as many as have spoken against the God of heaven and as many as are caught speaking [against him], these I will sentence to death.
According to the Septuagint, King Nebuchadnezzar wrote a circular letter to his subjects of all nations (each in the respective place or location) and territories, and to those speaking languages other than that of the native Babylonians, and to every generation of the people. He directed them to “praise the Lord, the God of heaven,” and to present sacrifices and offerings to him. With reference to the sacrifice and offering, the manner in which they were to be brought is described with the adverb endóxos, meaning “honorably” or “gloriously.” This may refer to presenting the sacrifice or offering in a dignified way as was befitting the Most High. The apparent reason for Nebuchadnezzar’s directive was what God had done for him — again seating him upon his throne, enabling him to possess his former authority as king and the kingdom or dominion among his people, and having his greatness restored to him.
Nebuchadnezzar’s message to “all the nations and all the territories and all those living in them” was: “May peace be increased to you at every time. And now I will show you the deeds that the great God has done with me. It, however, seemed good to me to show you and your wise men that he is God and that his wonders [are] great. His kingdom [is] a kingdom for the ages to come [literally, into the age]; his authority [is] from generation to generation.” Nebuchadnezzar “sent letters about everything that happened to him in his kingdom to all the nations that were under his dominion.”
King Belshazzar made a big feast (literally, “great bread” or a “great meal” [as in the Greek text of Theodotion]; estiatoría [“feast” (LXX)]) for a thousand (two thousand [LXX prologue]) nobles in the realm. In the presence of the invited guests, he drank wine. In view of the account that follows, this appears to have been a considerable quantity. (5:1; regarding the LXX prologue and inscriptions about Belshazzar, see the Notes section.)
With his senses seemingly dulled from having drunk wine, Belshazzar gave the command to bring in the gold and silver vessels that “Nebuchadnezzar his father” had taken from the temple in Jerusalem. It was Belshazzar’s purpose to drink from these vessels and also to have his nobles, his concubines, and his royal consorts or wives do likewise. According to the Septuagint, Belshazzar’s “heart was exalted.” The Septuagint indicates that the silver and gold vessels were from the “house of God” and had been brought by “Nebuchadnezzar his father” from Jerusalem. Belshazzar wanted wine to be poured into these vessels for his companions. In view of their being sacred vessels, their use for a profane purpose constituted an act of blasphemy. (5:2)
Nebuchadnezzar was not the actual “father” of Belshazzar, for he was the firstborn son of Nabonidus. There is a question as to whether Nabonidus was married to Nitocris (the daughter of Nebuchadnezzar), as some have concluded. The original-language word for “father” does not have to mean a father, grandfather, or an ancestor. In certain contexts, it is used to designate the founder of a profession. (Compare Genesis 4:20, 21.) If Nebuchadnezzar was not the grandfather of Belshazzar, he may here be designated as “his father” because of being a predecessor in the royal Babylonian dynasty to which the crown prince Belshazzar came to belong. It is debatable, however, whether the word “father” is being used with this meaning in chapter 5 of Daniel. (5:2)
In keeping with Belshazzar’s command, the “golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem,” were brought in to the location where he and the others were feasting. Then Belshazzar, his nobles, his royal consorts or wives, and his concubines drank from the sacred vessels. (5:3; see the Notes section.)
While they were drinking wine, they praised the gods that were represented by images made of gold and of silver, bronze or copper, iron, wood, and stone. The Septuagint is explicit in identifying the “gods” as idols. “And they blessed their handmade idols, and they did not bless the eternal God [literally, the God of the age], the one having authority over their spirit,” or the God who had in his hand or power their life principle or life breath and, therefore, their very life. (5:4)
At that “hour,” or at that very time, the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and began to write in front of the lampstand (or opposite the lampstand) on the “plaster of the wall of the king’s palace.” According to Josephus (Antiquities, X, xi, 2), the hand came “out of the wall.” From his location among the invited guests, Belshazzar could see the hand that was writing. Illuminated by the light from the lampstand, the section where the writing was done would have been clearly visible. The Greek version of Theodotion says that Belshazzar watched the “knuckles of the hand that was writing.” (5:5)
In view of what Belshazzar saw, his “color” changed, probably meaning that he turned pale from fright. The thoughts that came to his mind alarmed him. Physically, the “joints of his loins” gave way as if he had been deprived of his strength, and one knee knocked against the other one. According to the Septuagint, Belshazzar’s “appearance” changed, and his “suspicions” rushed or pressured him. Therefore, he hurriedly stood up (literally, “hurried and stood up”) and continued looking at the writing on the plaster of the wall, “and his companions around him were boasting.” This suggests that, under the influence of wine, they had become loud and boisterous and were completely unaware of what had taken place. (5:6)
With a loud voice, Belshazzar cried out for the enchanters (“magi” or astrologers [Theodotion]; “enchanters and sorcerers” [LXX]), the Chaldeans (men among the Chaldeans who were experts in the occult arts), and the astrologers (Gazarenes [LXX and Theodotion], a transliteration of the Aramaic designation translated “astrologers”) to be brought in to the area where he had been feasting with his invited ones. To the “wise men” of Babylon, he then said that whoever could read the writing and interpret it for him would be clothed with purple, would receive a gold necklace, and would rule “third in the kingdom.” The Greek version of Theodotion expresses the same thought about rulership. It says “Third in my kingdom he will rule.” In the Septuagint, the reference is not to a third position in the realm, but it says that the individual would be given “authority” over a “third part of the kingdom.” (5:7; see the Notes section.)
In response to Belshazzar’s request, all his “wise men” (“enchanters and sorcerers and Gazarenes” [LXX]) arrived. They, however, could not read the writing nor interpret it. The letters may have been written in the ancient Hebrew script with which the wise men were unfamiliar; or, without a context, they would not have known which vowel sounds were needed to read the words that consisted solely of consonants. (5:8)
It greatly frightened or alarmed Belshazzar that his wise men could neither read nor interpret the writing. His “color changed,” or his countenance became pale from fright, and his nobles were “perplexed” (“troubled” or “confounded” [syntarásso, Theodotion]). In the Septuagint, there is no corresponding mention of this development, but it provides a transition for the entrance of the queen, a transition that is missing in the Aramaic text and the Greek version of Theodotion. “Then the king called for the queen concerning the sign, and he showed her how large it was [apparently referring to the size of the letters] and [told her] that no man was able to relate to the king the interpretation of the writing.” (5:9; see the Notes section.)
The Aramaic text and the Greek version of Theodotion imply that the queen came to know about the “words of the king and his nobles” respecting the writing. Therefore, she entered the banqueting hall (“house of drinking” or feasting [Theodotion]) and initially addressed the king with the customary formal wish for his well-being, “O king, live forever” (“to limitless time” or, according to the version of Theodotion, “live into the ages”). She then reassured him that he need not let his thoughts frighten him nor let that fright change his color or make his countenance become pale. According to the Septuagint rendering, the queen reminded Belshazzar concerning Daniel who was from the body of the Judean captives. (5:10)
According to the Aramaic text, the queen told Belshazzar about a “man in [his] kingdom” who had the “spirit of the holy gods in him” (“spirit of God” or “spirit of a god” [Theodotion]). “In the days of [Belshazzar’s] father,” this man had “light” or “illumination and insight and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods [wakefulness (watchfulness or alertness) and understanding (Theodotion)],” and King Nebuchadnezzar made him “chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans” (men among the Chaldeans who were skilled in the occult arts) and “astrologers” (Gazarenes, a transliteration of the Aramaic designation for “astrologers” [Theodotion]). In the shorter text of the Septuagint, the queen is quoted as referring to Daniel as a man who was “prudent and wise and [who] excelled all the wise men of Babylon.” (5:11; see 5:2 regarding “father.”)
Continuing with the description of Daniel to whom Nebuchadnezzar gave the name Belteshazzar (see 1:7 for comments), the queen spoke of him as possessing an “extraordinary spirit and knowledge and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles” or puzzling sayings, and to solve problems. Therefore, she advised Belshazzar to have Daniel summoned so that he might make known the interpretation of the writing. The Septuagint indicates that a “holy spirit” was in Daniel and that he showed exceptionally difficult interpretations to Nebuchadnezzar the “father” of Belshazzar. (5:12; see the Notes section and 5:2 regarding “father.”)
“Daniel was brought in before the king.” Belshazzar then asked him whether he was the Daniel from among the Judean exiles whom his “father” Nebuchadnezzar had brought out of Judah. Although the Septuagint mentions that “Daniel was brought in before the king,” it does not include the question about his being from among the Judean exiles. The Septuagint just includes a phrase that serves to introduce what Belshazzar next said to Daniel (“and responding, the king said to him”). (5:13; see 5:2 regarding “father.”)
Belshazzar mentioned having heard that Daniel had within him the “spirit of gods” (“spirit of God” or “spirit of a god” [Theodotion] and “light” or illumination, “insight,” and exceptional “wisdom.” (5:14; see the Notes section.)
Belshazzar related that, although the wise men and conjurers (wise men, magi, and Gazarenes [a transliteration of an Aramaic designation found elsewhere in the account], Theodotion) had been brought before him, they were unable to read the writing and could not provide an interpretation for the “matter,” word, or message. (5:15)
After mentioning about having heard that Daniel could provide interpretations and solve difficult problems, Belshazzar offered to have him clothed with purple, to receive a gold necklace, and to rule as “third in the kingdom.” The Septuagint quotes Belshazzar as saying, “O Daniel, are you able to show me the interpretation of the writing? And I will clothe you with purple, and I will place a gold necklace on you, and you will have authority over a third part of my kingdom.” (5:16; also see 5:7 and the accompanying comments in the Notes section.)
Daniel told Belshazzar to keep the gifts and to bestow them on others. He, however, would read the writing and make known its interpretation to him. According to the Septuagint, “Daniel stood in front of the writing and read” it. He then interpreted it for the king, saying, “Numbered, reckoned, removed, and the writing hand stood” or stopped writing. “And this is their interpretation” (the interpretation of the words). (5:17)
Daniel reminded Belshazzar that the Most High God had given the “kingdom and greatness and glory and majesty” to his “father” Nebuchadnezzar. The implication of these words was that Nebuchadnezzar should have conducted himself as one who recognized that he ruled and enjoyed the accompanying greatness, dignity, and splendor by divine permission and that he was personally accountable to the Most High. (5:18; see the Notes section; and regarding “father,” see 5:2.)
By reason of the “greatness” or the tremendous authority Nebuchadnezzar had obtained by divine permission, “all peoples, nations [tribes (Theodotion)], and languages” (those speaking languages other than that of the native Chaldeans) trembled and were in fear before him. He killed whom he wanted and preserved alive whom he wanted. Nebuchadnezzar exalted or debased whomever he wished. (5:19)
When Nebuchadnezzar’s “heart,” or he in his inmost self, was “lifted up” or became arrogant and his “spirit” or disposition became hard or harsh, resulting in his dealing presumptuously or with unrestrained haughtiness, he was deposed from the “throne of his kingdom, and his glory,” dignity, or “honor” (Theodotion) “was removed from him.” (5:20)
Nebuchadnezzar was driven from among the “sons of men” (collective singular in Aramaic) and “his heart [his mind or mental faculties] was made like that of a beast [deprived of the reasoning capacity of humans], and his dwelling was with the onagers.” “He was fed grass like a bovine.” Out in the open, his body became wet with dew (the “dew of heaven,” or the dew that the ancients perceived as coming down from above). This happened to him “until he knew” or recognized that the “Most High God rules the kingdom of men” (collective singular in Aramaic). “And he sets over it whom he wishes.” (5:21)
Daniel then focused on Belshazzar, saying, “And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart.” He did not manifest a submissive spirit toward the Most High God. This was despite the fact that, as Daniel is quoted as having said, “You knew all this.” (5:22)
Instead of humbling himself before the “Lord of heaven,” Belshazzar lifted himself up against him, acting in an arrogant manner toward him by using the vessels of God’s house for a profane purpose. These were the sacred vessels that Nebuchadnezzar took from the temple in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon after the destruction of the city and the temple, and Belshazzar and his nobles and royal consorts or wives and concubines used them for drinking wine. As for the gods represented by images fashioned from silver and gold, bronze or copper, iron, wood, and stone and which do not see, hear, or know anything, he praised them, but he did not honor the God in whose “hand” or power his life principle or life breath and all his ways, actions, or dealings were. (5:23; see the Notes section for the Septuagint rendering.)
After the blasphemous act involving the sacred vessels from his temple, God, as Daniel went on to explain, sent from his presence “the palm of the hand,” and the writing that Belshazzar saw “was inscribed.” (5:24; see the Notes section.)
“And this [is] the writing that was inscribed: mene mene tekel and parsin. The literal meaning for the three designations relates to weights — mina, shekel, and either half shekels or half minas. The terms can, however, be pronounced to mean “numbered,” “weighed,” and “divided [the singular of parsin].” In the Greek version of Theodotion, the corresponding term for mene appears only once. Its occurrence twice in the Aramaic text and the plural form parsin in the Aramaic text may allude to the fact that two peoples — the Medes and the Persians — would come into possession of the realm of Babylon. (5:25)
At this point the actual interpretation of the “word,” message or matter starts. Mene — “God has numbered your kingdom” (as to the time it would last) “and brought it to an end.” The Septuagint reads, “This [is] the interpretation of the writing: The time of your kingdom has been numbered; your kingdom is ending.” (5:26)
Tekel — You have been weighed in the balances and found lacking [value].” The divine estimation of Belshazzar was such that he was not deemed worthy to be preserved. In the Septuagint, the thought expressed applies to the kingdom. “Your kingdom has been cut short and has been brought to a finish.” (5:27)
Peres — “Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” The Septuagint reads, “To the Medes and the Persians [your kingdom] is being given.” In the Aramaic text, the consonants for the designation peres and those for the proper noun “Persians” are identical. (5:28)
In keeping with his word, Belshazzar gave the command for Daniel to be clothed with purple and to have a gold necklace placed around his neck. The proclamation was made that he was to become “third ruler in the kingdom.” According to the Septuagint, Belshazzar gave Daniel “authority over a third part of his kingdom.” (5:29; also see 5:7 and the accompanying comments in the Notes section.)
That very night Babylon fell to the conquering forces of Medes and Persians, and Belshazzar was slain. Xenophon, the ancient Greek historian (c. 431 to c. 352 BCE) related that the “king” in the palace at Babylon was killed on the very night the forces of Cyrus entered the city. (Cyropaedia, VII, v, 33) According to the Nabonidus Chronicle, it was on the sixteenth day of Tishri (corresponding to mid-September to mid-October), “Gobryas (Ugbaru), the governor of Gutium and the army of Cyrus entered Babylon.” When Nabonidus returned to Babylon, he was arrested. Seventeen days after the conquering forces entered the city, Cyrus did so. The Jewish historian Josephus omitted mentioning that Belshazzar was killed. This may have been because it contradicted his representing Nabonidus (Naboandelus) as Belshazzar (Baltasar). (Antiquities, X, xi, 2) In his Against Apion (I, 20), Josephus quoted from Berosus (a Babylonian priest who wrote in the early third century BCE), stating that Cyrus treated Nabonidus kindly and gave him Carmania (a region that has been linked with the Kerman Province of Iran), where he then spent the rest of his time until his death. (5:30; see the Notes section for the accounts of Herodotus and Xenophon regarding the fall of Babylon.)
At the age of 62, Darius the Mede received the kingdom of Babylon. According to the oldest Greek manuscript (P967), Xerxes the Mede was the one who received the kingdom of Babylon. The basis for this reading may be the opening verse of chapter 9, where Darius is identified as the son of Xerxes (Ahasuerus [Masoretic Text]). (5:31 [6:1])
In the absence of extant inscriptions that mention Darius the Mede, the identification with a known individual is problematic. Josephus, in his Antiquities (X, xi, 4), wrote that Darius was the son of Astyages. Both Herodotus (I, 107, 108) and Xenophon (Cyropaedia, (I, ii, 1) identified Cyrus as the son of the Persian king Cambyses and Mandane, the daughter of Astyages. This would mean that Cyrus was the grandson of Astyages and that Darius the Mede was his uncle. Based on the sources available to him for his commentary on Daniel, Jerome noted that, although Cyrus the Persian king “was the victor” and “Darius was only king of the Medes,” the granting of the throne of Babylon to Darius “was an arrangement occasioned by factors of age, family relationship, and the territory ruled over. By this I mean that Darius was sixty-two years old, and that, according to what we read, the kingdom of the Medes was more sizable than that of the Persians, and being Cyrus’s uncle, he naturally had a prior claim, and ought to have been accounted as successor to the rule of Babylon.” (5:31 [6:1])
The Septuagint, including the oldest extant Greek manuscript (P967), contains a prologue for the narration found in chapter 5. In P967, this prologue with the rest of the material appears at the end of what would be chapter 8 in the Masoretic Text. The following is included in the prologue:
On the day for the dedication of his palace complex, Baltasar (Belshazzar) arranged for a “great reception” or “great feast.” From among his nobles, “he invited 2,000 men.” In that day, Baltasar (Belshazzar), being emboldened from wine and boasting, “praised all the gods of the nations” that were represented by molten and carved images, but “he did not give praise to the Most High God. In the same night, fingers like [those] of a man, came forth and wrote on the wall of his house” or palace, “on the plaster opposite the lampstand, mane phares thekel. Their explanation, however, is: mane — it has been numbered; phares — it has been removed; thekel — it has been established.”
In his Antiquities (X, xi, 2), the first-century Jewish historian says that the Babylonians called Baltasar (Belshazzar) Naboandelus (Nabonidus). His comments suggest that, from very early times, the name of Belshazzar appears to have been unknown outside the biblical record. This changed in the nineteenth century with the discovery of inscriptions that identified Belshazzar as the firstborn son of Nabonidus. The Nabonidus Cylinder from Ur (as translated by Paul-Alain Beaulieu) reads, “As for me, Nabonidus, king of Babylon, save me from sinning against your great godhead and grant me as a present a life long of days, and as for Belshazzar, the eldest son — my offspring — instill reverence for your great godhead in his heart and may he not commit any cultic mistake, may he be sated with a life of plenitude.” Although not mentioning Belshazzar by name, the Nabonidus Chronicle refers to him as the “crown prince.” With reference to the ninth year of Nabonidus, the chronicle says, “Nabonidus, the king stayed in Temâ; the crown prince, his officials and his army were in Akkad. The king did not come to Babylon for the ceremony of the month of Nisanu.” Since Belshazzar functioned in an official ruling capacity in Babylon, it would not be out of the ordinary for him to be spoken of as king.
In verse 1, the Septuagint rendering is briefer than the Aramaic text and the Greek version of Theodotion. It reads, “Baltasar [Belshazzar] the king made a great feast for his companions, and he was drinking wine.”
Verse 3 in the Septuagint contains fewer words than the Aramaic text and the Greek version of Theodotion. “They [the vessels] were brought, and they drank from them.”
Among those who consider the account as historical, verses 7, 16, and 29 are regarded as confirming this. By the first century CE (if not already much earlier), as evident from what Josephus wrote, any extra-biblical knowledge about Belshazzar had been lost. Belshazzar’s offering the third position in the realm appears to reflect the reality that he occupied the second position in the kingdom as the crown prince. This detail could suggest an early composition for the account, and it is, if correctly understood, a detail that did not become historically verifiable until the discovery of ancient inscriptions in the nineteenth century. The reading of the Septuagint, however, cannot be interpreted to apply to a third position in the realm, for it refers to a “third part.” In his narration, Josephus (Antiquities, X, xi, 3) agrees with the Septuagint reading, for his words may be rendered, “the third part of his own dominion.”
A common view is that the “queen” mentioned in verse 9 is the “queen mother” Nitocris (whom the Greek historian Herodotus of the fifth century BCE mentioned), the daughter of Nebuchadnezzar who had intimate knowledge about events during her father’s reign. There is, however, no extant historical confirmation for this identification of the queen.
In verse 12, two Dead Sea Daniel scrolls (4QDana and 4QDanb) say regarding Daniel, “and he will read the writing.” One of the scrolls (4Qdanb), contains only three letters of the phrase, and many of the words of this verse are not preserved in either scroll.
No words from verses 14 and 15 are included in the Septuagint.
The words of verses 18 through 22 that are found in the Aramaic text and the Greek version of Theodotion are not included in the Septuagint.
The Septuagint rendering of verse 23 is: “O king, you have made a feast for your friends and have drunk wine, and the vessels of the house of the living God were brought to you, and from them you and your nobles drank. And you praised all the handmade idols of men, and the living God you did not bless. And your spirit [is] in his hand, and he gave you your kingdom, and you did not bless him nor praise him.” In this context, “friends” probably refers to court officials. The “spirit” or life breath that was essential for life was in God’s power. Yet even though he depended on God for his life and occupied a position of rulership by his permission, Belshazzar showed no regard for the Most High.
In the Septuagint, the words found in verses 24 and 25 of the Aramaic text and the Greek version of Theodotion are not included.
As translated by G. C. Macaulay (with minor changes), the following is the account of Herodotus (fifth century BCE) concerning the fall of Babylon (I, 190, 191):
“When Cyrus had taken vengeance on the river Gyndes by dividing it into three hundred and sixty channels, and when the next spring was just beginning, then at length he continued his advance upon Babylon: and the men of Babylon had marched forth out of their city and were awaiting him. So when in his advance he came near to the city, the Babylonians joined battle with him, and having been worsted in the fight they were shut up close within their city. But knowing well even before this that Cyrus was not apt to remain still, and seeing him lay hands on every nation equally, they had brought in provisions beforehand for very many years. So while these made no account of the siege, Cyrus was in straits what to do, for much time went by and his affairs made no progress onwards.
“Therefore, whether it was some other man who suggested it to him when he was in a strait what to do, or whether he of himself perceived what he ought to do, he did as follows: The main body of his army he posted at the place where the river runs into the city, and then again behind the city he set others, where the river issues forth from the city; and he proclaimed to his army that so soon as they should see that the stream had become passable, they should enter by this way into the city. Having thus set them in their places and in this manner exhorted them he marched away himself with that part of his army which was not fit for fighting: and when he came to the lake, Cyrus also did the same things which the queen of the Babylonians had done as regards the river and the lake; that is to say, he conducted the river by a channel into the lake, which was at that time a swamp, and so made the former course of the river passable by the sinking of the stream. When this had been done in such a manner, the Persians who had been posted for this very purpose entered by the bed of the river Euphrates into Babylon, the stream having sunk so far that it reached about to the middle of a man’s thigh. Now if the Babylonians had had knowledge of it beforehand or had perceived that which was being done by Cyrus, they would have allowed the Persians to enter the city and then destroyed them miserably; for if they had closed all the gates that led to the river and mounted themselves upon the ramparts which were carried along the banks of the stream, they would have caught them …: but as it was, the Persians came upon them unexpectedly; and owing to the size of the city (so it is said by those who dwell there) after those about the extremities of the city had suffered capture, those Babylonians who resided in the middle did not know that they had been captured; but as they chanced to be holding a festival, they went on dancing and rejoicing during this time until they learned the truth.”
The following (with minor changes) is taken from the translation by Henry Graham Dakyns of Xenophon’s Cyropaedia (VII, v, 7-33):
“Cyrus called a council of his officers and said, ‘My friends and allies, we have surveyed the city on every side, and for my part I fail to see any possibility of taking by assault walls so lofty and so strong: on the other hand, the greater the population the more quickly must they yield to hunger, unless they come out to fight. If none of you have any other scheme to suggest, I propose that we reduce them by blockade.’
“Then Chrysantas spoke: ‘Does not the river flow through the middle of the city, and it is not at least a quarter of a mile in width?’ ‘To be sure it is,’ answered Gobryas, ‘and so deep that the water would cover two men, one standing on the other’s shoulders; in fact, the city is even better protected by its river than by its walls.’
“At which Cyrus said, ‘Well, Chrysantas, we must forego what is beyond our power: but let us measure off at once the work for each of us, set to, and dig a trench as wide and as deep as we can, that we may need as few guards as possible.’
“Thereupon Cyrus took his measurements all round the city, and, leaving a space on either bank of the river large enough for a lofty tower, he had a gigantic trench dug from end to end of the wall, his men heaping up the earth on their own side. Then he set to work to build his towers by the river. The foundations were of palm trees, a hundred feet long and more — the palm tree grows to a greater height than that, and under pressure it will curve upwards like the spine of an ass beneath a load. He laid these foundations in order to give the impression that he meant to besiege the town, and was taking precautions so that the river, even if it found its way into his trench, should not carry off his towers. Then he had other towers built along the mound, so as to have as many guard posts as possible. Thus his army was employed, but the men within the walls laughed at his preparations, knowing they had supplies to last them more than twenty years. When Cyrus heard that, he divided his army into twelve, each division to keep guard for one month in the year. At this the Babylonians laughed louder still, greatly pleased at the idea of being guarded by Phrygians and Lydians and Arabians and Cappadocians, all of whom, they thought, would be more friendly to themselves than to the Persians. However by this time the trenches were dug. And Cyrus heard that it was a time of high festival in Babylon when the citizens drink and make merry the whole night long. As soon as the darkness fell, he set his men to work. The mouths of the trenches were opened, and during the night the water poured in, so that the riverbed formed a highway into the heart of the town. When the great stream had taken to its new channel, Cyrus ordered his Persian officers to bring up their thousands, horse and foot alike, each detachment drawn up two deep, the allies to follow in their old order. They lined up immediately, and Cyrus made his own bodyguard descend into the dry channel first, to see if the bottom was firm enough for marching. When they said it was, he called a council of all his generals and spoke as follows:
“‘My friends, the river has stepped aside for us; it offers us a passage by its own high road into Babylon. We must take heart and enter fearlessly, remembering that those against whom we are to march this night are the very men we have conquered before, and that too when they had their allies to help them, when they were awake, alert, and sober, armed to the teeth, and in their battle order. Tonight we go against them when some are asleep and some are drunk, and all are unprepared: and when they learn that we are within the walls, sheer astonishment will make them still more helpless than before. If any of you are troubled by the thought of volleys from the roofs when the army enters the city, I bid you lay these fears aside: if our enemies do climb their roofs we have a god to help us, the god of fire. Their porches are easily set aflame, for the doors are made of palm wood and varnished with bitumen, the very food of fire. And we shall come with the pine torch to kindle it, and with pitch and tow to feed it. They will be forced to flee from their homes or be burned to death. Come, take your swords in your hand: God helping me, I will lead you on. Do you,’ he said, turning to Gadatas and Gobryas, ‘show us the streets, you know them; and once we are inside, lead us straight to the palace.’
“‘So we will,’ said Gobryas and his men, ‘and it would not surprise us to find the palace gates unbarred, for this night the whole city is given over to revelry. Still, we are sure to find a guard, for one is always stationed there.’ ‘Then,’ said Cyrus, ‘there is no time for lingering; we must be off at once and take them unprepared.’
“Thereupon they entered: and of those they met some were struck down and slain, and others fled into their houses, and some raised the hue and cry, but Gobryas and his friends covered the cry with their shouts, as though they were revelers themselves. And thus, making their way by the quickest route, they soon found themselves before the king’s palace. Here the detachment under Gobryas and Gadatas found the gates closed, but the men appointed to attack the guards rushed on them as they lay drinking round a blazing fire, and closed with them then and there. As the din grew louder and louder, those within became aware of the tumult, till, the king bidding them see what it meant, some of them opened the gates and ran out. Gadatas and his men, seeing the gates swing wide, darted in, hard on the heels of the others who fled back again, and they chased them at the sword’s point into the presence of the king.
“They found him on his feet, with his drawn scimitar in his hand. By sheer weight of numbers they overwhelmed him: and not one of his retinue escaped, they were all cut down, some flying, others snatching up anything to serve as a shield and defending themselves as best they could. Cyrus sent squadrons of cavalry down the different roads with orders to kill all they found in the street, while those who knew Assyrian were to warn the inhabitants to stay indoors under pain of death. While they carried out these orders, Gobryas and Gadatas returned, and first they gave thanks to the gods and did obeisance because they had been suffered to take vengeance on their unrighteous king, and then they fell to kissing the hands and feet of Cyrus, shedding tears of joy and gratitude. And when it was day and those who held the heights knew that the city was taken and the king slain, they were persuaded to surrender the citadel themselves.”
The conquest of Babylon and the territories that had been under the control of the empire required the establishment of a new arrangement for governing the region. Darius saw fit to appoint 120 (127 [LXX]) satraps (governors of provinces) to be over the whole kingdom. According to the Septuagint, Darius made these appointments when he “was full of days [had lived a long time] and honored in advanced age.” (6:1; see the Notes section.)
Over the 120 satraps, Darius appointed three higher officials or governors, and Daniel was one of the three. Their role was to receive reports from the satraps so that the king would not suffer loss on account of failure on the part of any satrap to administer affairs of state properly. The Septuagint does not mention that the satraps had to render account to the three governors. (6:2)
Daniel distinguished himself as excelling the two other high officials and the satraps, “for an extraordinary spirit was in him,” and the king planned to appoint him over “all the kingdom” or the whole realm. The Septuagint portrays Daniel as having “authority over all in the kingdom.” He was dressed in purple, was great or prominent and influential and honored (éndoxos) before King Darius, “because he was honorable [éndoxos] and prudent and insightful, and a holy spirit [was] in him” (being divinely endowed to make known the revelations of God), and he prospered or succeeded in carrying out the matters of the king. According to Rahlfs’ printed Greek text, “then the king decided to appoint Daniel over all his kingdom and the two men who were appointed with him, and the 127 satraps.” (6:3; see the Notes section.)
Daniel’s outstanding abilities led to his becoming an object of envy and murderous hostility. According to the Aramaic text and the Greek version of Theodotion, the two high officials and the satraps started plotting against him. They realized that they could not find occasion for serious complaint or discover a serious fault about the way Daniel performed his duties in the realm, “for he was faithful” or trustworthy and no error or fault could be “found in him.” According to the Septuagint, the ones who plotted against Daniel were the two other men who had been appointed over the satraps. The Septuagint refers to them as “young men” who spoke to one another and agreed upon a plan against Daniel. (6:4)
The Aramaic text and the Greek version of Theodotion indicate that the high officials and satraps who plotted against Daniel recognized that they could not accuse him before the king of having failed in his duties. Therefore, they needed to find something they could use against him “in the law of his God.” The Septuagint indicates that, because of not having found any “sin or ignorance” they could use to accuse Daniel before the king, the two young men decided to formulate a decree that no one could present a petition or pray to a god for thirty days except to Darius. Otherwise, the individual would be put to death. By means of the decree, the two men thought to bring about the overthrow of Daniel, for they knew that he prayed to his God three times a day. Then, by identifying Daniel as having violated the decree, they planned to maneuver matters to have the king throw him into the lions’ pit. (6:5)
By prior agreement, the two high officials and the satraps went to the king as a group. They addressed him in the customary way to wish him a long life. “O Darius the king live forever” (to limitless time; “into the ages” [Theodotion]). The Septuagint rendering indicates that only the two men went to the king and presented their proposal. (6:6)
All the high officials of the realm, the prefects and the satraps, the state counselors, and the governors told Darius that they had consulted together and proposed that he establish a statute and make it a binding edict that whoever “makes a petition to any god or man for thirty days except to you, O king, will be cast into the lions’ pit.” In the Greek version of Theodotion the officials are designated as “commanders” (strategós), “satraps,” “high officials” (hýpatos), “local governors” or “local officials” (topárches). According to the Septuagint, only the two high officials had formulated the edict and appeared before Darius. (6:7)
The officials (the two high officials [LXX]) asked Darius to sign the proposed statute into law so as not to be changed. According to the law of the Medes and Persians, no established royal statute could be annulled. The Septuagint rendering indicates that the two officials knew that Daniel prayed three times a day and so the unchangeable statute would force Darius to have Daniel thrown into the lions’ pit. (6:8; see the Notes section.)
King Darius signed the writing or the document. It then became a statute that imposed the penalty of death in the lions’ pit for violators. (6:9)
According to the Septuagint, Daniel knew that the interdict had been established against him. He, however, did not publicly defy the statute that Darius had signed into law, but he continued to pray privately to God as he had formerly. He opened the windows of his upper chamber toward Jerusalem and then, as he knelt three times a day, prayed to and praised God just as he had done before Darius had signed the document. (6:10)
The Aramaic verb regásh describes what the men who spied on Daniel did. This verb can mean “run together” or “enter as a crowd” or as a group. The Greek version of Theodotion contains a form of the verb parateréo, meaning “watch closely.” Based on the Aramaic text, the men forced themselves into Daniel’s private quarters. The version of Theodotion indicates that they watched closely, spying on him. They then found Daniel “petitioning and imploring” his God. The Septuagint indicates that the two high officials “watched” Daniel and “caught him praying three times a day each day.” (6:11)
Those who had spied on Daniel (the two high officials [LXX]) went to Darius and asked him whether he had not signed the interdict prohibiting any man from making a petition to any god or man except the king for thirty days on pain of death in the lions’ pit. Darius answered, “The matter is established according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.” (6:12)
According to the Septuagint, the two high officials wanted to make absolutely sure that Daniel would be cast into the lions’ pit. They said to Darius, “We adjure you by the ordinances of the Medes and Persians that you do not change the matter nor that you favor the face nor that you weaken anything of the things stated and [that you] punish the man who did not abide by this decree.” Darius agreed to do according to what they said, adding that “this is firmly fixed for me.” (6:12)
Having succeeded in getting King Darius to commit himself, the two high officials made their accusation, “Look! We have found Daniel your friend praying and supplicating the face of his God three times a day.” The wording suggests that Daniel was no real friend, for he had disregarded the decree that Darius had signed into law. According to the Aramaic text and the Greek version of Theodotion, the entire body of officials joined in making the case against Daniel, referring to him as one of the “exiles from Judah” and saying that, by making his petition three times a day, he had disregarded the king and the interdict he had signed. (6:13)
When Darius heard the accusation against Daniel, it “was evil” or displeasing “to him,” and he set his mind on delivering Daniel and continued striving to rescue him until the sun set. The Septuagint indicates that this resulted in grieving for Darius and that he said for Daniel to be “cast into the lions’ pit according to the decree that he had established against him.” Nevertheless, the king “grieved exceedingly for Daniel” and, until sunset, tried to deliver him “from the hands of the satraps.” (6:14)
According to the Septuagint, Darius failed in his efforts to rescue Daniel from the satraps. “And he was not able to deliver him from them.” Neither the Aramaic text nor the Greek version of Theodotion include these words. They indicate that the accusers were determined to have Daniel cast into the lions’ pit. As a group, the enemies of Daniel went to King Darius, reminding him that, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, any interdict or ordinance that the king established could not be changed. (6:15)
Having been trapped into adhering to the law, Darius gave the command for Daniel to be brought and then cast into the lions’ pit. To Daniel, he then expressed his hope that the God whom he served continually would deliver him. The Septuagint says that Darius cried out, saying to Daniel, “Your God whom you serve continually three times a day will deliver you from the hand [the power] of the lions. Be courageous until morning.” (6:16)
A large stone was brought to the location and placed on the “mouth” or opening of the pit. Darius sealed it with his seal and with the seal of his nobles. These steps were taken so that nothing concerning Daniel might be changed. According to the Septuagint, this was done so that the nobles could not remove Daniel and so that the king could not pull him out of the pit. (6:17)
Darius went to his palace, fasted, and partook of no diversions. His troubled state did not permit him to sleep. In the Aramaic text, the diversions in which Darius did not share are called dachaván. There is considerable uncertainty about the meaning of this designation. Among the suggested conjectural possibilities are musical entertainment, concubines, or dancing girls. The Greek version of Theodotion says that no “delicacies” were brought to the king. Besides not eating before lying down for the night, Darius, according to the Septuagint, grieved concerning Daniel. Focusing on divine protection, the Septuagint continues, “Then Daniel’s God,” in caring for him, “closed the mouths of the lions, and they did not annoy Daniel.” (6:18)
“At dawn,” as it was getting light, Darius rose and hurried to the lions’ pit. According to the Septuagint, he took the satraps with him. Upon arriving, Darius stood at the “mouth” or opening of the pit. (6:19)
According to the Aramaic text and the Greek version of Theodotion, Darius, when he came near the pit where Daniel was, cried out in a “pained voice” (a strong voice [Theodotion]; a loud voice with wailing [LXX]), “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God whom you serve continually been able to deliver you from the lions [the mouth of the lions (Theodotion)]?” In the Septuagint, the question is basically the same but is expressed differently. “O Daniel, are you still alive, and has your God whom you serve continually saved you from the lions, and have they not harmed you?” (6:20)
Daniel responded with the customary formal wish, “O king, live forever” (to time without limit [into the ages [Theodotion]). The Septuagint does not include these words, but quotes Daniel as saying in answer to the “loud voice,” “O king, I am still alive.” (6:21)
Daniel explained why he was still alive, “My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouth [mouths (Theodotion)], and they have not harmed me.” As to the reason his life was preserved, Daniel continued, “I was found innocent before him, and also before you, O king, I have done no injury” (have not committed transgression [Theodotion]). The Septuagint makes no mention of an angel, but quotes Daniel as saying, “God [the Lord (P967)] saved me from the lions.” Before God, “righteousness” was found in Daniel; and before Darius, “neither ignorance nor sin was found” in him. The reference to “ignorance” could apply to transgression committed in ignorance. In the Septuagint, the verse concludes with words regarding Darius that are not found in the Aramaic text nor in the Greek version of Theodotion. “But you listened to men who deceive kings and cast me into the lions’ pit for destruction.” (6:22)
Darius was very happy that Daniel was still alive and commanded that he be pulled out of the lions’ pit. After Daniel was lifted out of the pit, those present saw that he had not been harmed in any way. This was “because he had trusted in his God.” The Septuagint refers to all the mighty men as assembling and seeing Daniel and noting that the lions had not annoyed him. (6:23)
Darius ordered that the men who had accused Daniel (the two high officials [LXX]) be cast into the lions’ pit. With their sons or children and their wives, they were then tossed in. The lions attacked them before they even reached the bottom of the pit, and the bones of all of them were crushed. The Septuagint says that “the lions killed them and crushed their bones.” (6:24)
Darius wrote to “all the peoples, nations [tribes (Theodotion); territories (LXX)], and languages” (the people speaking languages native to the regions where they resided). The reference to the people as “dwelling in all the earth” applies to the people residing throughout the whole empire. At the beginning of the letter, the wish is expressed that all the subjects would enjoy security and well-being. (“May peace be increased to you.”) The introductory words of the letter are not found in the Septuagint. (6:25)
The letter of Darius commanded that all subjects in the realm should tremble before and fear Daniel’s God. The reason for this proper fear was his being “the living God,” the one who is eternal (enduring to time without limit [into the ages (Theodotion)]), and whose kingdom will not be destroyed, and whose “dominion is to the end” (or for all time to come). According to the Septuagint, the letter directed all the “men” or people in the realm to prostrate themselves before and to serve the God of Daniel, “for he is an enduring and living God from generations to generations, unto eternity” (literally, “unto the age”). (6:26)
Darius identified the God of Daniel as one who “delivers and rescues” and who works “signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth.” The king based this on Daniel’s deliverance from the “paw” or power of the lions. “Signs and wonders” in heaven could apply to eclipses and other celestial phenomena visible to humans. The rendering of the Septuagint is significantly different. Darius expressed his determination to prostrate himself before and to serve the God of Daniel all his days, “for the handmade idols are not able to save like God redeemed Daniel.” (6:27; see the Notes section)
During the time Darius ruled and the period when Cyrus the Persian exercised sole kingly authority in the empire, Daniel prospered. Regarding the death of Darius, the oldest extant Greek manuscript (P967) uses a common Hebrew expression (“King Darius was added to his fathers”). In the Septuagint, including P967, the verse concludes with the words, “and Cyrus the Persian received his kingdom.” (6:28; see the Notes section.)
Possibly (if not original) the number 127 came into the Septuagint text in verses 1 and 3 on the basis of Esther 1:1.
The unchangeable aspect of the law of the Medes and Persians (verse 8) may have been influenced by how they viewed lying. According to Herodotus (I, 136, 138), the Persians taught their children not to lie, starting at the age of five, and they considered it to be very disgraceful to tell a lie.
For verse 27(28), the rendering of the Septuagint follows the text of the oldest Greek manuscript (P967).
Before the words “and Cyrus the Persian received his kingdom” (verse 28) in Rahlfs’ printed text, there is a phrase regarding Daniel (“and Daniel was appointed over the kingdom of Darius”). In the partially preserved text of P967, this basic phrase appears after “their bones” in verse 24(25) and may be rendered, “and Daniel was appointed over the entire kingdom of Darius.”
The narration of Josephus (Antiquities, X, xi, 4-7), though much like the biblical account, includes information that is not found in the Aramaic text, the Greek version of Theodotion, and the Septuagint, including P967. His account reads as follows:
“… When Babylon was taken by Darius, and when he, with his kinsman Cyrus, had put an end to the dominion of the Babylonians, he was sixty-two years old. He was the son of Astyages, and had another name among the Greeks. Moreover, he took Daniel the prophet, and carried him with him into Media, and honored him very greatly, and kept him with him; for he was one of the three presidents whom he set over his three hundred and sixty provinces, for into so many did Darius part them.
“However, while Daniel was in so great dignity, and in so great favor with Darius, and was alone entrusted with everything by him, a having somewhat divine in him, he was envied by the rest; for those that see others in greater honor than themselves with kings envy them; and when those that were grieved at the great favor Daniel was in with Darius sought for an occasion against him, he afforded them no occasion at all, for he was above all the temptations of money, and despised bribery, and esteemed it a very base thing to take anything by way of reward, even when it might be justly given him; he afforded those that envied him not the least handle for an accusation. So when they could find nothing for which they might calumniate him to the king, nothing that was shameful or reproachful, and thereby deprive him of the honor he was in with him, they sought for some other method whereby they might destroy him. When therefore they saw that Daniel prayed to God three times a day, they thought they had gotten an occasion by which they might ruin him; so they came to Darius and told him that the princes and governors had thought proper to allow the multitude a relaxation for thirty days, that no one might offer a petition or prayer either to himself or to the gods, but that he who shall transgress this decree shall be cast into the den of lions, and there perish.
“Whereupon the king, not being acquainted with their wicked design, nor suspecting that it was a contrivance of theirs against Daniel, said he was pleased with this decree of theirs, and he promised to confirm what they desired; he also published an edict to promulgate to the people that decree which the princes had made. Accordingly, all the rest took care not to transgress those injunctions, and rested in quiet; but Daniel had no regard to them, but, as he was wont, he stood and prayed to God in the sight of them all; but the princes having met with the occasion they so earnestly sought to find against Daniel, came presently to the king, and accused him, that Daniel was the only person that transgressed the decree, while not one of the rest durst pray to their gods. This discovery they made, not because of his impiety, but because they had watched him, and observed him out of envy; for supposing that Darius did thus out of a greater kindness to him than they expected, and that he was ready to grant him pardon for this contempt of his injunctions, and envying this very pardon to Daniel, they did not become more honorable to him, but desired he might be cast into the den of lions according to the law. So Darius, hoping that God would deliver him, and that he would undergo nothing that was terrible by the wild beasts, bid him bear this accident cheerfully. And when he was cast into the den, he put his seal to the stone that lay upon the mouth of the den, and went his way, but he passed all the night without food and without sleep, being in great distress for Daniel; but when it was day, he got up, and came to the den, and found the seal entire, which he had left the stone sealed withal; he also opened the seal, and cried out, and called to Daniel, and asked him if he were alive. And as soon as he heard the king’s voice, and said that he had suffered no harm, the king gave order that he should be drawn up out of the den. Now when his enemies saw that Daniel had suffered nothing which was terrible, they would not own that he was preserved by God, and by his providence; but they said that the lions had been filled full with food, and on that account it was, as they supposed, that the lions would not touch Daniel, nor come to him; and this they alleged to the king. But the king, out of an abhorrence of their wickedness, gave order that they should throw in a great deal of flesh to the lions; and when they had filled themselves, he gave further order that Daniel’s enemies should be cast into the den, that he might learn whether the lions, now they were full, would touch them or not. And it appeared plain to Darius, after the princes had been cast to the wild beasts, that it was God who preserved Daniel, for the lions spared none of them, but tore them all to pieces, as if they had been very hungry, and wanted food. I suppose therefore it was not their hunger, which had been a little before satisfied with abundance of flesh, but the wickedness of these men, that provoked them [to destroy the princes]; for if it so please God, that wickedness might, by even those irrational creatures, be esteemed a plain foundation for their punishment.
“When, therefore, those that had intended thus to destroy Daniel by treachery were themselves destroyed, king Darius sent [letters] over all the country, and praised that God whom Daniel worshiped, and said that he was the only true God, and had all power. He had also Daniel in very great esteem, and made him the principal of his friends.”
“In the first year of Belshazzar, king of Babylon” (“king of the Chaldeans” [Theodotion]; “reign of Belshazzar over the territory of Babylonia” [LXX]), Daniel had a prophetic dream. The expression “visions of his [Daniel’s] head” suggests that the images he saw in his dream were impressed on his mind while he was lying on his bed. In the Septuagint, including P967, the preposition pará (beside, by, or near) precedes the word for “head” and could be taken to indicate the direction from which Daniel saw the vision. In the Masoretic Text, the verse, after mentioning that he wrote down the dream, ends with a phrase that may be rendered, “he told the main point of the matters” or “he told the sum of the words.” The Septuagint preserves the thought by indicating that Daniel wrote the vision that he saw “in a summary of words.” The Greek text of Theodotion does not include this phrase. (7:1; see the Notes section for this chapter and, regarding Belshazzar, the Notes section for chapter 5.)
The Masoretic Text begins with the words, “Daniel was answering and saying, seeing I was.” This awkward wording is not preserved in the Greek version of Theodotion. It reads, “I, Daniel, was beholding in my vision of the night.” The Septuagint says, “Upon my bed, I was beholding during my slumbers of the night.” Daniel saw the “four winds of heaven stirring up the great sea.” The motion of the turbulent sea would have revealed to Daniel that winds were blowing from every compass direction. According to the verses that follow, beasts (representing ruling powers) ascend from the turbulent body of water. Empires came into existence through destructive conquests, and so the “sea” may here be representative of masses of humanity in a state of conflict. (7:2)
“Four beasts” emerged from the sea, each one of them different from the others. (7:3)
The “first beast” resembled a lion (a “lioness” [Theodotion and LXX]) with the wings of an eagle. Daniel saw the wings being ripped out and this beast being made to stand upon two feet like a man and given the “heart of a man.” In the divinely sent dream of Nebuchadnezzar, the gold head represented him and, in a fuller sense, the empire of Babylon over which he reigned. (2:38) This provides the basis for identifying the first beast as the empire of Babylon. As with wings of an eagle, the Babylonian warriors moved quickly in campaigns of successful conquest. (Compare Habakkuk 1:6-11.) Therefore, the plucking of the wings indicated that the empire of Babylon would lose its military advantage and become vulnerable. By having to stand upright and being given a human “heart,” the beast was rendered defenseless. It was deprived of good mobility and brute courage. (7:4)
The second beast looked like a bear and was “raised up on one side ” (“it was stood on the one side” [LXX] “it was stood on one part” [Theodotion]). “Three ribs” were in the bear’s mouth “between its teeth.” The command directed to it was, “Get up; devour much flesh.” Portrayed as “raised up on one side,” the beast would be in a position to make an attack. If the thought is that one side of the beast appeared higher than the other side, it could denote that, in the empire, the Persians came to have the more prominent role. The three ribs in the mouth of the bear could point to the insatiable appetite of the Medo-Persian world power for territorial expansion of the empire. Having been given the command to “devour much flesh,” the beast would be setting out on a campaign of extensive conquest. (7:5)
The third beast Daniel saw looked like a leopard with four wings of a bird on its back and with four heads. Leopards are known for their speed, and so the portrayal of the beast as having four wings make this feature even more prominent. This beast was given “dominion.” Like a leopard moving forward at a rapid pace, the beast would speedily become the master of a vast empire. In being portrayed with four heads, this beast appears to be represented as an empire that was to be one where dominion would come to be shared by four distinct heads instead of being exercised exclusively by one monarch. The figure of a four-headed leopard with wings fits the world power before which the empire of Medo-Persia fell. This was the Grecian or Hellenic empire that had its start with Alexander the Great. (7:6; see the Notes section.)
From the time that Alexander succeeded his father Philip II as king of Macedonia at the age of 20 until his death at the age of 32 (not quite 33), his life was largely occupied with campaigns of conquest. By the time of his death, he had succeeded in creating an empire that extended from Greece to India (the present Pakistan) and included Egypt. After his death, four of his generals eventually established themselves in control of different parts of the former empire. Seleucus Nicator (after the Battle of Ipsus in 301 BCE when Antigonus was killed and his army was defeated by the combined forces of Seleucus Nicator and Lysimachus) ruled over Mesopotamia and Syria; Cassander controlled Macedonia and Greece; Ptolemy the son of Lagus (Ptolemy I Soter) ruled Egypt and gained control over the land of Daniel’s people; and Lysimachus had Thrace and Asia Minor as his domain. Until Rome became the dominant power in the region the Hellenistic dynasties that came into existence after the death of Alexander the Great continued to exercise authority over a vast empire like a beast with multiple heads. (7:6)
The fourth beast that Daniel saw “in visions [a vision (LXX)] of the night” did not resemble any specific animal. It is described as fear-inspiring, dreadful, and extremely strong. The beast had large teeth of iron with which it devoured and crushed. Anything that remained, this beast trampled with its feet. It was different than all the other beasts that preceded it, and it had ten horns. As suggested by the explanation that is given in verses 24 through 26, these “ten horns” appear to represent a final phase of the ruling powers of the world before their end. (7:7; see the Notes section.)
When the four-headed leopard is understood to portray the Grecian world power that had its start with Alexander the Great and was thereafter governed by multiple heads, the next beast that appeared on the scene was the empire of Rome. The crushing effect that the Roman legions had during their campaigns of conquest would then be fittingly represented by a beast with large teeth of iron and the capacity to trample with its feet. (7:7)
While his focus was on the ten horns, Daniel saw another horn, a “little one,” come up among them, and three of the horns were plucked up before it. This “little horn” had “eyes like a man’s eyes” and a mouth that spoke “great things” or words that reflected extreme arrogance or self-exaltation. Later, in response to his inquiry, Daniel learned more about the “little horn” and the significance of what he saw. The Septuagint adds that this horn waged war against the “holy ones” or God’s people. (7:8; see the Notes section and see verses 24 and 25 for the commentary about the “little horn.”)
During the course of the vision, Daniel continued to look at the images that passed before him. He then saw thrones being placed in position, and the “Ancient of Days” seated himself. In the role of the “Ancient of Days,” God is portrayed as the supreme Sovereign in possession of the matchless wisdom associated with advanced age and which wisdom would figure prominently in the exercise of his judicial capacity. He was attired in a snow-white garment, and the “hair of his head” was like “clean wool” or pure white. With everything associated with the “Ancient of Days” being white, this suggests that his judgments will always be right and just. The throne itself appeared brilliant like flames of fire, and it had glowing wheels that looked like burning fire. In the Septuagint, however, no mention is made of wheels. Possibly because fire reveals what is pure and consumes that which is combustible and valueless, it is here associated with the throne from which judgments are rendered. (7:9)
From before the “Ancient of Days,” a “stream of fire” came forth (as if ready to consume all that is worthless). A “thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand [times] ten thousand stood before him.” All these angels were prepared to render any service that might be assigned to them. With the “Ancient of Days” as the Supreme Judge, the court was ready to begin judicial proceedings. The “books” that were opened apparently contained the record of the ruling powers of the world — a record that provided the basis for the judgment to be rendered. (7:10)
Daniel did not include the “great words” or arrogant expressions that he heard the little “horn” utter, but he indicated that what he heard caused him to continue looking, apparently to see what would happen next. He then saw that the beast was slain and its body destroyed, being “given over to be burned with fire.” (7:11)
“Dominion” was taken from the rest of the beasts, but their lives were lengthened “for a time and a season.” According to the Septuagint, the Ancient of Days removed “authority” from those around the destroyed beast. For a time and a season, however, they were given a “time of life.” Although ceasing to exercise dominion as dominant world powers, the beasts that resembled a lion, a bear, and a four-headed leopard are apparently represented as being allowed to function as governing entities. Unlike the fourth beast, they are not destroyed as by fire, being permitted to continue existing “for a time and a season.” (7:12)
“In the visions of the night,” Daniel saw someone “like a son of man” coming “with [on (LXX)] the clouds of the heavens [heaven (Theodotion and LXX)].” This one came to the “Ancient of Days” and “was presented before him.” With seeming reference to the thousands upon thousands of angels standing before the Ancient of Days, the Septuagint (not P967) says that “those standing by were present.” In the first century CE, the identity of the one “like a son of man” was revealed to be the promised Anointed One, Messiah, or Christ — Jesus. (7:13; Matthew 24:30; 26:64; Mark 14:62; Luke 21:27; see the Notes section.)
The one “like a son of man” received “dominion and honor and a kingdom” so that “all peoples, nations [tribes (Theodotion)], and languages” (people speaking languages native to the lands where they resided) “should serve him.” According to the Septuagint, “authority [royal authority (P967)] was given to him and all the nations of the earth according to kind, and all glory [or honor] is serving him.” His “dominion” will last for all time to come (“his authority” will be “an eternal authority” [LXX and Theodotion]) and “will not pass away” (“will by no means be removed” [LXX]), and his kingdom will never be destroyed. (7:14)
Daniel appears to have experienced an inner upheaval because of the things he had seen in vision. He referred to his “spirit” as being “distressed” or troubled. The “visions of his head,” or the images that were impressed on his mind, frightened or alarmed him. In the Septuagint, Daniel appears to speak of himself either in a state of exhaustion or one of anguish from the things he had seen in the “vision of the night.” (7:15)
Daniel did not understand what he had seen and so approached one of those standing by (an angel), asking him for clarification. This one then made known to Daniel the interpretation of the things he had seen. (7:16)
The four great beasts that Daniel had seen represented four “kings” (“kingdoms” [LXX, Theodotion]) or ruling powers to arise from the earth. In the Septuagint, no mention is made of these kingdoms as arising from the earth, but it says that they “will be destroyed from the earth.” The Greek version of Theodotion includes the point about the kingdoms arising from the earth but adds that they “will be removed.” (7:17)
After all earthly ruling powers come to their end, the “holy ones of the Most High” are the ones who will receive the kingdom, and they will possess it for all eternity (for limitless time and for limitless time to limitless times; “unto the age and unto the age of the ages” [LXX]). In the vision Daniel had seen, one like a “son of man” received the kingdom from the “Ancient of Days.” (7:13, 14) Therefore, the “holy ones” are those who will share with him in the kingdom. In the first century CE, those who recognized Jesus as the “son of man,” the promised Messiah or Christ, also came to know that they would share with him in his royal realm. Upon being forgiven of their sins on the basis of their faith in Jesus and his sacrificial death, they became “holy ones,” no longer tainted by the stain of sin. The Most High then acknowledged them as reconciled to him as his own, and so they are indeed his “holy ones.” (7:18; Luke 22:28-30; Romans 5:10, 11; 1 Thessalonians 2:11, 12; 2 Thessalonians 1:5; 2 Timothy 4:18)
Daniel was especially focused on being sure about developments involving the fourth beast that was different from the other three and extraordinarily fear-inspiring. In his relating what he saw during the course of his vision, he included a number of details that he did not mention earlier. Daniel previously referred to the iron teeth, and this time additionally mentioned that the beast had “claws of bronze” or “copper. Whatever remained of what the beast had devoured or crushed, it trampled with its feet. (7:19)
Daniel desired to know more about the “ten horns” and the one “horn” before which “three fell.” This horn had eyes and a mouth that spoke “great things,” reflecting arrogance. To Daniel, the horn appeared greater than its “fellows” or than the other horns. (7:20)
As he watched, Daniel saw the horn with eyes warring against the “holy ones,” God’s people, and triumphing over them. (7:21)
The successful warring of the horn ended when the “Ancient of Days” came and rendered judgment — a judgment in favor of the “holy ones.” The holy ones of the Most High then received the kingdom, for he, the one to whom the “holy ones” belonged, removed the ruling powers of the world from exercising authority. (7:22; see the comments on 7:18.)
At this point, the angel to whom Daniel had directed his inquiry, began the explanation. The “fourth beast” represented a fourth kingdom to come on the earth. It would be different from those that had preceded it. Portrayed as devouring “all the earth,” trampling and crushing, this beast is revealed to be an aggressive ruling power that engages in extensive campaigns of conquest. As mentioned in the comments on verse 7 (which see along with the accompanying footnote), this description fits the empire of Rome. (7:23)
Out of the fourth kingdom, ten kings (represented by ten horns) were to arise. Then, after them, another horn or king was to rise up. This one would be different from the others and would put down or triumph over “three kings.” The Septuagint indicates that the one represented by the horn would surpass the others in committing evils. This development involving the “horn” is represented as taking place prior to the judgment of the Most High. That judgment, which will bring about the end for all ruling powers of the world, has not taken place. (7:24)
In the first century CE, those who accepted Jesus as the Messiah or Christ, the Son of God, believed that he would return in glory. At his return, God’s judgment would be expressed. (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10) According to Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians (2:1-4), the future judgment that is linked to the return of Jesus Christ will not take place until after the coming of the “apostasy” or the great rebellion against God and the revelation of the “man of lawlessness” (or, according to the reading of other manuscripts, the “man of sin”). This “man of lawlessness” would be guilty of God-defying conduct, exalting himself over and resisting everything regarded as “god” or sacred. He would seat himself in the sanctuary of God and claim to be god. These actions of the “man of lawlessness” fit what is said in the next verse about the horn that puts down three kings, providing a basis for identifying this “horn” as the “man of lawlessness” or the “man of sin.” (7:24)
The horn that triumphs over three kings “will speak words against the Most High” and will subject his “holy ones” to continual abuse. According to the Aramaic text, they will be given into the “hand” or power of the horn for a “time and times and half a time.” This period is possibly to be regarded as being comparatively short (as if it were just half a week long). With reference to the horn, the Septuagint says that “all things [not just the holy ones] will be given into his hands.” The one represented by this horn will seek to change “times and law.” This action and also the speaking against the Most High and the persecution of the “holy ones” constitute a great rebellion. Instead of submitting to law, the “horn” lifts itself above the law, seeking to change it. These are actions that one would expect from one designated as the “man of lawlessness” or the “man of sin.” (7:25)
Divine judgment will be expressed against the one represented by the horn. His dominion will be taken away, and he will be consumed and destroyed “to the end” or completely. (7:26; compare 2 Thessalonians 2:8.)
After the divine judgment is expressed against the rebellious one represented by the horn and all ruling power of the world will have been brought to its end, the “holy ones” of the Most High receive the “kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under all the heavens.” According to the Aramaic text, “His kingdom will be an eternal kingdom, and all dominion will serve and obey him.” The antecedent for the singular third person masculine suffix appears to be the masculine noun for “people” (“people of the holy ones of the Most High”), which would also agree with the earlier reference (verse 18) that the holy ones would have possession of the kingdom for eternity. In the Septuagint and the Greek text of Theodotion, however, the word for “people” is not included. Accordingly, the Most High is the one to whom “all authorities will be subjected and obedient” (LXX) or whom “all dominions will serve and obey” (Theodotion) (7:27; see the comments on 7:18.)
“Here [is] the end of the matter.” These words appear to relate to the end of the account about what Daniel had seen in the vision and the explanation he had been given. Probably because the vision pointed forward to a time of suffering for God’s people or the “holy ones,” the thoughts Daniel had frightened or alarmed him. His “color changed” or he became pale from fright, but he kept the “matter” or what had been revealed to him in his “heart,” making it a part of his memory as if deposited in his inmost self. According to the Septuagint, he “established” or “fixed” the “word,” message, or “matter” in his “heart.” (7:28; see the Notes section.)
In the oldest extant Greek manuscript (P967), the material in chapters 7 and 8 related to the time of Belshazzar appears after the account about Nebuchadnezzar’s dream regarding the large tree and before the narration regarding Daniel in the lions’ pit. This arrangement places the three accounts associated with Belshazzar in chronological order (the first year [7:1], the third year [8:1], and the final year [5:30]). The first-century Jewish historian Josephus, in his narration regarding Daniel, followed the order of the material as found in the Masoretic Text, the extant Dead Sea Scrolls, the Greek version of Theodotion, and other manuscripts of the Septuagint.
In verse 6, the Septuagint says that the beast was given a “tongue” or a “language.” Possibly this arose through a misreading of the Aramaic text or the copy from which the translation was made contained a transcriptional error. The Aramaic word for “dominion” is shaltán, and the designation for “tongue” or “language” is lishshán.
In verse 7, the Greek version of Theodotion does not contain a reference to a “vision of the night.”
From early times there have been persons who did not identify the fourth beast (verse 7) with Rome because of not believing that the book of Daniel contained reliable prophecy. One of them was Porphyry who lived most of his life in the third century CE. Regarding his view, Jerome wrote in his commentary on Daniel (as translated by Gleason Archer), “He claimed that the leopard was Alexander himself, and that the beast which was dissimilar to the others represented the four successors of Alexander, and then he enumerated ten kings up to the time of Antiochus, surnamed Epiphanes, and who were very cruel. And he did not assign the kings themselves to separate kingdoms, for example Macedon, Syria, Asia, or Egypt, but rather he made out the various kingdoms [to be] a single realm consisting of a series.” Similarly, numerous modern commentators who regard the book of Daniel to be of late composition and not prophetic provide interpretations of the various beasts that exclude Rome. One common interpretation is to link the bear to the kingdom of the Medes, the four-headed leopard to the kingdom of the Persians, and the beast like none of the others to the Grecian empire and its development into Hellenistic kingdoms after the death of Alexander the Great. By excluding Rome, commentators can identify the “little horn” of the next verse as Antiochus Ephiphanes and support the view that the book of Daniel is a product of the second century BCE.
The Septuagint reference (verse 8) to “many counsels” or advices being in the ten horns either arose through a misreading of the Aramaic text or has another Aramaic text as the basis for the rendering. If a different text is involved, the meaning could be that the ruling powers represented by the ten horns would have different plans or objectives.
In verse 13 of Rahlfs’ printed text, the designation “son of man” is equated with “ancient of days,” for it reads, “like [hos] an ancient of days.” This reading has the support of the oldest extant Greek manuscript (P967) and the ninth-century Codex Chisianus 88.
In Rahlfs’ printed Greek text, verse 28 starts with the words, “Until the termination of the word, I Daniel was gripped by exceeding dismay.”
Daniel saw the vision he was about to relate in the third year that Belshazzar (Baltasar [LXX, Theodotion]) ruled in Babylon. He saw the previous vision in the first year of Belshazzar’s reign. (8:1; see the Notes section and also the comments on verses 1 and 2 of chapter 5 and the accompanying Notes section.)
Daniel referred to himself as seeing the vision while in Shushan (about 220 miles [c. 350 kilometers] east of Babylon), “the citadel in the province of Elam” (a region located at the southeast border of Mesopotamia). The Ulai, the stream that he mentioned, cannot be positively identified with any river or ancient canal in the vicinity. On the basis of the context, one cannot establish with certainty whether Daniel’s being in Shushan was part of the vision or whether he actually was there in person. (8:2; see the Notes section regarding the rendering in the Septuagint.)
When Daniel looked up with his eyes focused in the direction of the stream, he saw a ram standing there. The animal had two horns, with one being higher than the other one. This taller horn came up later. According to verse 20, the ram with the two horns represented the kings of Media and Persia or the Medo-Persian Empire. Historically, Persia gained the ascendancy and, therefore, appears to be designated as the higher horn. (8:3)
The ram charged to the “sea” or the west, to the “north,” and to the “south.” No wild beast could “stand before it” or resist its aggressive action, and no one could effect deliverance “from its hand” or power. The ram did what it pleased and magnified itself. This description indicates that Medo-Persia would be successful in its campaigns of conquest when invading regions situated to the west, north, and south of its original boundaries. (8:4; see the Notes section.)
As Daniel viewed the scene before him, he saw a he-goat coming from the “sunset” or the west, moving over the face of the earth or land without touching it. Between its eyes, this he-goat had a “conspicuous horn.” Verses 21 and 22 identify this he-goat as representing the “king of Greece” or the Grecian Empire, with the prominent horn being the first king. Coming from the west, the first king, Alexander the Great, moved speedily with his forces (as if not even touching the ground), conquering Medo-Persia and extending the boundaries of the Grecian Empire from Greece to India (present Pakistan) and Egypt in Africa. (8:5)
The he-goat charged toward the two-horned ram that Daniel had seen standing by the stream. It came running toward it with strong rage. This indicated that the complete power of the Grecian military force would be directed against Medo-Persia. (8:6)
Daniel saw the he-goat coming close to the ram and being embittered or aggressively fierce against it. The he-goat struck the ram and broke its two horns. There was no power in the ram to stand before the he-goat that then cast it to the ground and trampled upon it. No one was able to deliver the ram out of the “hand” or power of the he-goat. Medo-Persia is thus portrayed as being crushed by the Grecian military force and ceasing to be the empire in the region. (8:7)
The he-goat magnified itself to an exceeding degree in its role as an undefeated aggressive power. When it was “strong,” having attained its greatest strength as a mighty empire, the “great horn” of the he-goat was broken. This pointed to the death of the king, Alexander the Great, who expanded the Grecian Empire to its farthest limits. Four prominent horns then replaced him, the first king. These four “horns” are represented as coming up “toward the four winds of the heavens,” or toward the four compass points, and thus gaining control over the empire that had been created. Historically, after the death of Alexander the Great, four of his generals (Seleucus Nicator, Cassander, Ptolemy the son of Lagus (Ptolemy I Soter), and Lysimachus) eventually divided the empire among themselves. (8:8)
From one of the four horns, another horn, a “little one” (a “strong horn” [LXX]) came forth. This particular “horn” is described as becoming great toward the “south,” toward the sunrise (the east) and toward the “Beauty.” The description indicates that this “small horn,” which represented a king, would spring from one of the Grecian dynasties that came into existence after the death of Alexander the Great. In coming to be great toward the “south,” the east, and the “Beauty,” this “horn” or king would be successful in military campaigns by means of which he would gain control over regions outside his own dominion. (8:9)
The “Beauty” may be understood to designate the land of Daniel’s people, the Israelites. This land was beautiful as the “holy land” that God had given to them. (8:9)
In his comments on this section of Daniel (Antiquities, X, xi, 7), the Jewish historian Josephus identified Antiochus Ephiphanes as being the foretold “horn.” He wrote, “By the great horn which sprang out of the forehead of the he-goat was meant the first king; and that the springing up of four horns upon its falling off, and the conversion of every one of them to the four quarters of the earth, signified the successors that should arise after the death of the first king, and the partition of the kingdom among them, and that they should be neither his children nor of his kindred that should reign over the habitable earth for many years; and that from among them there should arise a certain king that should overcome our nation and their laws, and should take away our political government, and should spoil the temple, and forbid the sacrifices to be offered for three years’ time. And indeed it so came to pass, that our nation suffered these things under Antiochus Epiphanes, according to Daniel’s vision, and what he wrote many years before they came to pass.” (8:9)
In the Septuagint, the horn is portrayed as striking against the south (literally, “midday” or “noon”), the east, and the north, with no mention being made of the “Beauty.” The Greek version of Theodotion likewise does not include the “Beauty” but indicates that the horn grew great “toward the south and toward the east and toward the force” or the host. (8:9)
The horn is described as growing greater or becoming loftier, reaching up to the “host of the heavens.” From that high position, this horn is depicted as casting some of the host and some of the stars to the ground and trampling upon them. In a literal sense, no king could reach the heavenly host and cause stars to fall, but he could attack God’s people. Because of their relationship to God, they could be spoken of as being part of his host, and their honorable standing before him made them like stars in the sky. The vision Daniel saw thus indicated that his people would suffer greatly on account of the actions that the “horn” would take against them. (8:10)
The Septuagint conveys a meaning that differs from the Masoretic Text. It portrays the horn as being raised to the height of the “stars of heaven” and then being cast down to the earth from the stars and trampled by them. This rendering could suggest that God’s people who were like stars would eventually gain the victory. The Greek version of Theodotion also refers to this horn as falling “upon the earth” from the “host of heaven” and from the “stars.” Then the “horn” is mentioned as trampling “them.” This seems to mean that “stars” also fell from above and that these “stars” (God’s people) are the ones the “horn” trampled. (8:10)
The “horn” magnified itself up to the “prince of the host.” Based on the context, God is the “prince of the host,” the heavenly host that includes all the angels. By attacking God’s people and undertaking oppressive measures to prevent them from carrying out the requirements of God’s law, the king represented by the horn would be presumptuously elevating himself above and against the Most High. (8:11)
According to the Septuagint, the trampling would continue “until the chief captain delivers the body of captives.” This may be understood to mean that the Most High, as the “chief captain,” would deliver those of his people who found themselves in captivity, and the trampling of the “horn” by the “stars” (God’s people) would cease. The Greek version of Theodotion indicates that the trampling by the “horn” would end. (8:11)
When referring to another evil act of the “horn,” the Masoretic Text is obscure. Literally, the phrase could be rendered, “and from him [the prince of the host], the continuity [tamíd] was taken away [rum]). In this context, the Hebrew word tamíd may be understood to designate the regular sacrifice, and this has the support of the Greek version of Theodotion, which reads, “and sacrifice was cast down.” The Hebrew verb rum often means to “exalt” or “lift up,” but here apparently denotes to “lift away” or to “remove.” The form of the Hebrew verb rum is written with an initial he (H). Therefore, the consonants for this form of the verb are identical to those of the plural noun for “mountains.” This explains why the Septuagint rendering links the thought of “continuity” to “mountains” (“the mountains that [exist] from eternity were cast down”). (8:11; see the Notes section for additional comments about the rendering of the Greek version of Theodotion.)
Another arrogant act of the “horn” is casting down the “place of his [God’s] sanctuary.” Both the Septuagint and the Greek version of Theodotion conclude with the words, “and the sanctuary will be desolated.” Antiochus Epiphanes did this. According to 1 Maccabees 1:44-46, he, by means of messengers, sent letters to Jerusalem and other cities of Judah prohibiting the regular sacrifices at the temple and requiring that the sanctuary be desecrated. Then, on December 6, 167 BCE, Antiochus Epiphanes (1 Maccabees 1:54; Josephus [Antiquities, XII, v, 4]) erected an altar upon the altar of burnt offering in the temple and sacrificed swine upon it. (8:11; for the additional comments about the reading of the Septuagint and the Greek version of Theodotion, see the Notes section.)
“Through transgression” or on account of transgression, a “host was given” or delivered up along with the “continuity” (tamíd). As in the previous verse, the Hebrew word tamíd apparently designates the regular sacrifice. The “host” could apply to those of God’s people who did not submit to the demands of the “horn” and became the objects of oppressive measures. It was on account of the “transgression” that the “horn” gained power over the “host” and was able to stop the regular sacrifice at the temple. (8:12)
According to 1 and 2 Maccabees, an element within Israelite society, including priests, committed the transgression. At the time Antiochus Epiphanes ruled, “there emerged from Israel a set of renegades who led many people astray. ‘Come,’ they said, ‘let us ally ourselves with the gentiles surrounding us, for since we separated ourselves from them many misfortunes have overtaken us.’ This proposal proved acceptable, and a number of the people eagerly approached the king, who authorized them to practise the gentiles’ observances. So they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem, such as the gentiles have, disguised their circumcision, and abandoned the holy covenant, submitting to gentile rule as willing slaves of impiety.” (1 Maccabees 1:11-15, NJB) “So with the introduction of foreign customs Hellenism reached a high point through the inordinate wickedness of Jason, an apostate and no true high priest. As a result, the priests no longer showed any enthusiasm for their duties at the altar; they treated the temple with disdain, they neglected the sacrifices, and whenever the opening gong called them they hurried to join in the sports at the wrestling school in defiance of the law. They placed no value on dignities prized by their forefathers, but cared above everything for Hellenic honours. This brought misfortune upon them from every side, and the very people whose way of life they admired and tried so hard to emulate turned out to be vindictive enemies.” (2 Maccabees 4:13-16, REB) These developments made it much easier for Antiochus Epiphanes later to suppress the worship of YHWH and to unleash a vicious campaign of persecution against those who desired to be faithful to their God. (8:12)
The Septuagint and the Greek version of Theodotion differ from the Masoretic Text. Both link “sin” to sacrifice (“sins came to be upon the sacrifice” [LXX]; “sin was rendered upon the sacrifice” [Theodotion]). The renderings suggest that sinful acts (idolatrous sacrifices that included the offering up of unclean animals [pigs]) replaced proper sacrifice. (8:12)
“Truth” (“justice” or “righteousness” [LXX, Theodotion]) was cast to the ground, and the one represented by the horn acted as he pleased and prospered. The account in 1 Maccabees 1:56-61 reveals how truth or justice were trampled upon, and how Antiochus Epiphanes succeeded in his efforts against those who did not engage in idolatrous practices. Any scrolls of the law were torn up and burned. Israelites who observed the law were condemned to death. Women who had their baby boys circumcised were put to death and then had the killed babies hung around their necks. Their families and those who did the circumcising were also executed. Nothing seemed to stop the vicious campaign of persecution. (8:12)
Daniel next heard a “holy one” (an angel) speaking to another “holy one” (an angel). The angel asked the one who had been speaking regarding how long it would be for the “vision of the continuity” (tamíd) and the “transgression making desolate, to give over both sanctuary and host for trampling.” As previously, the Hebrew word tamíd refers to the regular sacrifice. Accordingly, the question pertained to how long it would take between the stopping of the sacrifice in fulfillment of the vision and then once again resuming the proper sacrificial service at the temple. The transgression would likewise relate to the service at the temple, for both the “sanctuary” and the “host,” or Israelites who were determined to obey God’s law, would be trampled upon. Based on the wording, the fulfillment of the vision may be regarded as having had its start on the fifteenth day of Chislev in the year 145 (December 6, 167 BCE). It was then that Antiochus Epiphanes erected another altar upon the altar of burnt offering at the temple in Jerusalem and offered swine upon it. A campaign of intense persecution followed, with many of those who refused to adopt idolatrous practices being killed. (8:13; 1 Maccabees 1:54-63; see the Notes section regarding the renderings of the Septuagint and the Greek version of Theodotion.)
According to the Masoretic Text, the “holy one” or angel gave the answer to Daniel (“he said to me”), but the Septuagint and the Greek text of Theodotion read, “he said to him.” The answer to the question was that the sanctuary would be restored to its proper state after “evening, morning — 2,300” had passed (“until evening and morning, 2,300 days, and the sanctuary will be cleansed” [LXX, Theodotion]). One way to view the number 2,300 is to consider one half to be evenings (1,115) and the other half to be mornings (1,115) and, therefore, about three years. In his comments that are apparently based on chapter 8 of Daniel, Josephus (Antiquities, X, xi, 7) indicated that from among the successors of the first Grecian king (Alexander the Great), a certain king would arise, and he would “spoil the temple and forbid the sacrifices to be offered for three years’ time.” Josephus then said that this happened under Antiochus Epiphanes. (8:14)
That the 2,300 evenings and mornings possibly denote three years seems to fit the narrative in 1 Maccabees. During the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, a priest named Mattathias and his five sons left Jerusalem and began to reside in Modin (Modein). When officers of the king who were to enforce the institution of idolatrous practices came to Modin, Mattathias responded to the request to take the lead in heeding the royal command, “Though every nation within the king’s dominions obeys and forsakes its ancestral worship, though all have chosen to submit to his commands, yet I and my sons and my brothers will follow the covenant made with our forefathers. Heaven forbid we should ever abandon the law and its statutes! We will not obey the king’s command, nor will we deviate one step from our way of worship.” (1 Maccabees 2:1-5, 15-22, REB)
When a Jew came forward to offer a sacrifice on the idolatrous altar there at Modin, Mattathias, seized with passionate anger, killed him and the officer whom the king had sent. He then shouted, “Follow me, all who are zealous for the law and stand by the covenant!” (1 Maccabees 2:23-27, REB) Thereafter he and his sons made their escape to the hills and eventually led a fighting force against those who transgressed the law. Mattathias did not live long after departing from Modin, and his sons continued the struggle. Antiochus Epiphanes commissioned Lysias to be in charge of the fight against the Jews, but those whom Lysias directed to lead a strong military force to devastate Judea were defeated by the Jews under the leadership of Judas, one of the sons of Mattathias. (1 Maccabees 2:28, 38-50, 65-70; 3:1, 2, 10-36, 38-59; 4:1-27) In the following year, Lysias assembled a larger force to end the war with the Jews. “Battle was joined, and in the hand-to-hand fighting, Lysias lost about five thousand men. When he saw his own army routed and Judas’s army in fighting spirit, ready to live or to die nobly, he withdrew to Antioch, where he recruited a force of mercenaries, intending to return to Judaea with a much larger army.” (1 Maccabees 4:28-35, REB) Having succeeded in crushing their enemies, Judas, his brothers, and the whole army went to Jerusalem to cleanse the temple and to rededicate it. Finally, on December 14, 164 BCE, or about three years after the temple had been desecrated, an acceptable sacrifice was presented on the newly constructed altar in accordance with the requirements of God’s law. (1 Maccabees 4:36-54)
While seeing the vision, Daniel wanted to understand it. Then someone who looked like a man stood before him. This one was an angel, for he is described as having the “appearance of a man” and is not called a man. (8:15)
Daniel heard what appeared to be a man’s voice coming from the middle of the Ulai (Oubal [Theodotion]) or from between its banks. The source of that voice addressed the angel standing before Daniel with the words, “Gabriel, make that one [Daniel] understand the vision.” In the Septuagint, the verse continues, “And crying out, the man said, Concerning this ordinance [is] the vision.” Possibly these words indicate that, like an ordinance or command, the things revealed in the vision were sure. (8:16)
The angel Gabriel came closer to where Daniel stood. As the angel approached, Daniel became frightened (“troubled” or “bewildered” [LXX]; “astonished” or “alarmed” [Theodotion]), dropped to his knees, and “fell upon his face.” Gabriel said to him, “Understand, O son of man, that the vision [is] for the time of the end” (“for the hour of time” [LXX]). These words revealed to Daniel that the fulfillment of the vision would occur long after his death. (8:17)
Apparently overcome by the effect the vision had on him, Daniel fell fast asleep while the angel Gabriel was speaking to him. At the time, Daniel’s face rested on the ground, and the angel then touched him and set him on his feet. The Septuagint rendering indicates that the angel “roused” him at the “place” where he was. Daniel needed to be awake and alert to hear the explanation of the vision. (8:18; see the Notes section.)
Gabriel explained to Daniel that he would make known to him what would be at the “latter end” or “final part” of the “indignation” (“at the last of the wrath against the sons of your people” [LXX]; “at the last of the wrath” [Theodotion]). This concluding part of the “indignation” was for the “time of the end” or something to take place in the distant future. According to Rahlfs’ printed text, the Septuagint concludes with the phrase, “for yet unto the hours of the time of the termination it will remain.” For the reading of the Greek text of Theodotion, Rahlfs’ printed text ends the verse with the words, “for yet for the end of time [is] the vision.” The “indignation” or “wrath” would be directed against Daniel’s people, the Israelites, and this future development would be the culminating part that would result in great suffering for them, as they did experience during the rule of Antiochus Epiphanes. (8:19)
According to Gabriel’s explanation of the vision Daniel had seen, the ram with two horns stood for the “kings [king (LXX and Theodotion)] of Media and Persia.” Kings represent the entire realm over which they exercise dominion. Therefore, in a collective sense, the ram represented the Medo-Persian Empire as ruled by a succession of monarchs. (8:20)
Gabriel identified the he-goat as the “king of Greece [Javan]” or the “king of the Greeks” (LXX and Theodotion), and the “great horn” between the eyes of the he-goat as the “first king.” The “first king” is here revealed to be the first in a succession of kings and thus the he-goat, like the ram, represents an empire — the Grecian Empire in this case. This “first king” was Alexander the Great. (8:21)
After the prominent “horn” or the first king would be broken, which occurred when Alexander the Great died, four kingdoms would develop from his nation. This took place when four of his generals (Seleucus Nicator, Cassander, Ptolemy the son of Lagus (Ptolemy I Soter), and Lysimachus) eventually divided the empire among themselves. Individually, neither they nor any successors controlled an empire as extensive as did Alexander the Great. Therefore, not a single one of them had the kind of “power” that Alexander the Great had. (8:22)
At the latter portion of the rule of the kingdoms that came into existence after the prominent “horn” was broken (after Alexander the Great died) and their committing of transgressions reached completion, another king would arise. In the Septuagint and the Greek text of Theodotion, the reference is to “their sins” having become full, or their record of evils having come to completion. Commenting on the transgressions of the rulers of these kingdoms, Josephus (Antiquities, XII, i, 1) wrote that they battled against one another, “every one for his own principality.” “There were continual wars.” Cities suffered, losing many of “their inhabitants in these times of distress.” According to 1 Maccabees 1:9 (NRSV), “they caused many evils on the earth.” (8:23)
The king that arose in the realm that had Seleucus Nicator as its first king proved to be worse than all who preceded him. He is described as of “strong face” and as one who understood enigmas. The expression “strong face” could be understood to mean being of “bold,” “hard,” or “fierce” countenance. In the Septuagint and the Greek text of Theodotion, this king is said to be “impudent,” “shameless,” or “bold” (anaidés) of face. His understanding “enigmas” probably refers to his expertise in using enigmas to his advantage, or to his skill in using intrigue, duplicity, or deception to attain his objectives. An example of the impudence and treachery characteristic of Antiochus Ephiphanes is recounted in 1 Maccabees 1:29-32. Two years after he had stripped the temple in Jerusalem of all its treasures, he sent a collector of revenue with a large force to the cities of Judah. When this agent arrived at Jerusalem, he deceitfully spoke “peaceful words” and gained the trust of the people. Thereafter he launched a sudden attack against the city and killed many of the inhabitants. The attackers then took women and children captive and seized the livestock. (8:23)
The king would become mighty, but not by his own power. This may be understood to indicate that what had happened occurred because of God’s permission. In 2 Maccabees 6:12-16 (NRSV), the writer alluded to this aspect when commenting on the suffering that had been inflicted on the Israelites and thereby implied that Antiochus Epiphanes was an instrument God allowed to function to chastise them. “These punishments were designed not to destroy but to discipline our people. In fact, it is a sign of great kindness not to let the impious alone for long, but to punish them immediately. For in the case of the other nations the Lord waits patiently to punish them until they have reached the full measure of their sins; but he does not deal in this way with us, in order that he may not take vengeance on us afterward when our sins have reached their height.” (8:24)
In an astonishing manner, the king would bring about ruin. He would succeed in his undertakings and “destroy mighty men and the people of the holy ones.” This description is confirmed in 1 Maccabees. 1:16-23. After Antiochus Epiphanes felt secure in his position as king, he determined to enlarge his dominion by gaining control over Egypt. He invaded with a strong force, including chariots, elephants, and a large fleet. Ptolemy, the king of Egypt, fled, and Antiochus with his force defeated the Egyptians, captured fortified cities, slaughtered many people, and plundered the land. Later, he went with a strong force to Jerusalem, where he stripped the temple of its treasures. “Taking all this [treasure], he went back to his own country after he had spoken with great arrogance and shed much blood.” (1 Maccabees 1:24, NAB) In the year 167 BCE, Antiochus Epiphanes initiated a campaign of vicious persecution. (See the comments for 8:12.) Numerous Israelites or “holy ones” of God’s people who wanted to live up to the requirements of his law took refuge in the wilderness with their families and their livestock. When report about this reached the soldiers of Antiochus Epiphanes, they pursued those who had fled and prepared to make their attack on the Sabbath. The men did not fight back because it was the Sabbath, and they, their wives, their children, and their livestock were all killed. (8:24; 1 Maccabees 2:29-38)
The king’s “insight” or cunning would make him successful in attaining his objectives through deceit. According to the Septuagint, he would direct his “thought against the holy ones” (God’s people), and the “lie” would prosper or succeed “in his hand.” Antiochus Epiphanes was determined to destroy any of the Israelites who endeavored to live according to God’s law, and he gained his base objectives through deception, making it appear that his military force came in peace when its actual purpose was to attack and plunder. The Greek text of Theodotion refers to the success of the “yoke of his collar” — the success of the oppressive measures he would employ against those who resisted his demands. (8:25)
In his “heart” (his mind or his inmost self), the king would magnify himself, manifesting himself to be extremely haughty. He would try to catch others off guard or without any sense of possible danger and then slay many. As expressed in the Septuagint and the Greek text of Theodotion, he would destroy many by “deceit.” This king would rise up against the “prince of princes,” or the Most High God, doing so through his vicious attacks on the “holy ones” (faithful Israelites), the defilement of the temple, and the abolition of the divinely ordained services there. (8:25)
As indicated in 1 and 2 Maccabees, Antiochus Epiphanes did what the angel Gabriel described to Daniel. This ruthless king, however, was destined to come to his end. He would be broken but not by a “hand.” No human hand would be lifted against him to bring about his death. The account in 1 Maccabees 6:5-9, which Josephus seems to have followed (Antiquities, XII, ix, 1) does represent the death of Antiochus Epiphanes as having taken place without a human hand having been rasised against him. While he was in Persia, news reached him that the Israelites had defeated the armies he had left in the land of Judah, that they had pulled down the altar he had erected over their altar, and that they had surrounded the sanctuary with high walls as had existed formerly. This report greatly shook Antiochus Epiphanes and sickened him from grief. He took to his bed and remained in a sickly state for many days until he died. (8:25; compare what appears to be a highly embellished account in 2 Maccabees 9:1-28; see the Notes section.)
Gabriel told Daniel that what had been revealed to him about the “evening and the morning” (the 2,300) was “true” or certain of fulfillment. As the fulfillment of the vision was to take place after “many days” or a long time in the future, the angel directed Daniel to keep the vision secret. This may mean that he was not to speak about it to others. The Septuagint refers to the vision as being “shut up” (as if safely deposited). According to the Greek text of Theodotion, Daniel was to “seal up the vision.” (8:26)
The vision Daniel saw appears to have drained him mentally, emotionally, and physically, leaving him in a weak or sickly state for days thereafter. Even after he got up to perform his duties for the king (Belshazzar [8:1]), he was “appalled” (“weakened” or drained [LXX]; “astonished” [Theodotion]) by the vision, and he could not understand it. While Gabriel had given some explanations, there were aspects about the vision that Daniel could not understand. The Septuagint rendering indicates that no one could understand the vision and, therefore, no one could explain it. (8:27)
With verse 1, the text continues in the Hebrew language, ending the Aramaic section that began in 2:4 and ended in 7:28.
In verse 2, the Septuagint refers to Shushan as the “city” of Sousa or Susa, and Daniel is represented as being “by the gate of Olam [Ulai].” The Septuagint rendering is believed to be based on a different reading of the Hebrew text, one that is thought to be Aramaic derived from Akkadian. In The New Jerusalem Bible, the reading of ancient versions (LXX and Vulgate) is followed. With reference to Daniel, this translation reads, “I found myself at the Ulai Gate.” A footnote then explains that the word “gate” is a conjectural translation that has the support of versions.
Verse 4 of Rahlfs’ printed text of the Septuagint indicates that the ram charged “toward the sunrise [east] and toward the north and toward the sunset [west] and toward the south [literally, to midday or noon].”
In the Greek version of Theodotion, the phrase about sacrifice (verse 11) could be rendered, “through him [or on account of him], the sacrifice was cast down.” One would expect that the masculine pronoun “him” would refer to the “horn,” but this is not the case according to the grammar. The Greek word for “horn” is neuter gender. It may be that the one whom the horn represents — the king — is the one being identified as putting a stop to the sacrifice.
In verse 11, both the Septuagint and the Greek version of Theodotion contain words that are not found in the Masoretic Text. After mentioning the casting down of the mountains, the Septuagint says, “And their place was removed, also sacrifice, and he set it [level] to the ground upon the earth, and it prospered, and it happened.” Possibly, because God (the “chief captain”) permitted the development involving the horn, he is represented as setting it on the ground where it then prospered. After mentioning that “sacrifice was cast down,” the Greek text of Theodotion continues, “and it happened, and it prospered for him” (the one represented by the horn had success).
In verse 13, the Septuagint and the Greek text of Theodotion refer to a holy one as asking the “Phelmouni” about how long the vision would continue. The designation “Phelmouni” is a transliteration of the Hebrew word that can mean “certain one” and, in the Hebrew text, applies to the angel that had been doing the speaking. In the oldest extant Greek manuscript (P967), the phrase about the “Phelmouni” is not included.
The Greek text of Theodotion (in verse 18) does not mention sleep but says regarding Daniel, “I fell upon my face upon the earth” or the ground.
In verse 25, neither the Septuagint nor the Greek version of Theodotion say that no “hand” would break the “horn.” The Septuagint concludes with the thought that the king represented by the horn would make a “gathering” with a “hand” and “repay.” Perhaps this means that the king would assemble captives and then make vindictive repayment for past losses by the treatment he meted out to these captives. The version of Theodotion seems to indicate that the king, as with his “hand,” would “crush [others] like eggs.”
The forces under the command of Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon in October of 539 BCE. This date provides a reference point for the first year of the reign of Darius over the realm of the Chaldeans. Darius is identified as the “son of Ahasuerus” (Xerxes [LXX, including P967]) and as a Mede (literally, “seed of the Medes” [also Theodotion]). No extant inscriptions or preserved historical writings dating from before the first century CE make mention of Darius the Mede or his being the “son of Ahasuerus” or “Xerxes.” Writing in the first century CE, Josephus (Antiquities, X, xi, 4) referred to Darius as the son of Astyages. Both Herodotus (I, 107, 108) and Xenophon (Cyropaedia, (I, ii, 1) identified Cyrus as the son of the Persian king Cambyses and Mandane, the daughter of Astyages. This would mean that Cyrus was the grandson of Astyages and that Darius the Mede was his uncle. Drawing on the sources available to him in the fourth century CE, Jerome, in his commentary on Daniel, concluded that Darius the Mede was the uncle of Cyrus. (9:1)
Based on the “word of YHWH to Jeremiah the prophet,” Daniel discerned that the “desolations [reproach (LXX); desolation (Theodotion)] of Jerusalem” would end after “seventy years.” It was then the first year of the rule of Darius the Mede or after the fall of Babylon in October of 539 BCE. (9:2; see the Notes section.)
The period of “seventy years” is mentioned three times in the book of Jeremiah. During the fourth year of the reign of King Jehoiakim of Judah and the first year of the rule of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, Jeremiah foretold that Nebuchadnezzar and his forces would come against the land of Judah and against all the surrounding nations. He would then desolate the whole land of Judah, and “these nations” would “serve the king of Babylon seventy years.” At the end of the “seventy years,” YHWH would punish the “king of Babylon and his nation,” and the land of the Babylonians would be desolated, indicating that Babylon would be conquered. (Jeremiah 25:1, 8-12) Based on the context, the reference in the Masoretic Text to “these nations” is to the nations surrounding the land of Judah and included the regions of Egypt, Philistia, Edom, Ammon, Moab, and Phoenicia. (Jeremiah 25:9, 17-22) In Jeremiah 25:11, the extant text of the Septuagint, however, does not say that “these nations” would serve the king of Babylon but indicates that the people of Judah would “serve among the nations.” (9:2)
After King Jehoiachin, the son of Jehoiakim, along with many others from his realm were taken into Babylonian exile in the seventh year of King Nebuchadnezzar (according to a cuneiform tablet [British Museum 21946] but the eighth year according to Jewish reckoning [2 Kings 24:12]), Jeremiah sent a letter to the exiles in Babylon. Jeremiah told them that they would be able to return to their own land after “seventy years” were fulfilled for Babylon. As they were then in servitude to the king of Babylon, the exiles would have understood that the “seventy years” had already started. (Jeremiah 29:10) If the years of servitude to the king of Babyhlon are reckoned from the time that Babylon became the dominant power in the region, this would have been when Nebuchadnezzar, in the final year of the reign of his Father Nabopolassar, defeated the Egyptians at the battle of Carchemish. (British Museum 21946; Jeremiah 46:2) Ancient extant sources indicate that between the start of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign until the forces under the command of Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon was a period of about 67 years, which brings the number of years close to 70 for the period of servitude to Babylon. (9:2; see the Notes section for details.)
His reading the words of Jeremiah would have reminded Daniel that calamity had befallen the people of Jerusalem and the land of Judah because of their unfaithfulness to YHWH. What he read, including the divine promise about the return of the Israelites to their land, appears to have moved him to turn to YHWH in prayer, to fast, and to put on sackcloth. The expression about “giving” his “face to the Lord God” (also LXX and Theodotion) doubtless included turning his face in the direction of Jerusalem, the place where YHWH’s temple or representative place of dwelling had been. (9:3; see 6:11.)
The reference to Daniel’s “seeking” God by “prayer and supplications” could have included his fervent appealing for a divine revelation that would clarify what he had read and what had subsequently come to occupy his thoughts. This aspect is suggested by the fact that, in response to his prayer, he did receive a revelation conveyed to him through the angel Gabriel. (9:21-23) Daniel may also have been deeply concerned that fellow Israelites might not have come to the full realization of the seriousness of their transgressions and might not have prepared themselves in their inmost selves to have YHWH’s favor and mercy extended to them. (9:3)
When seeking YHWH in prayer, Daniel accompanied this with the outward manifestations of repentance. He put on sackcloth (a coarse cloth commonly made of goats’ hair) over his bare skin, probably placed ashes on his head, and fasted. The Septuagint says that, when giving his “face to the Lord God,” Daniel did so “to find prayer and mercy in [by or through] fasting and sackcloth and ashes.” This rendering suggests that Daniel wanted to be in the right condition so as to “find prayer” or to be able to express his prayerful words aright and to be extended mercy or to receive a compassionate response to his supplication. (9:3)
Although speaking of YHWH in a personal way as “my God” (“the God” [LXX, P967]) to whom he prayed, Daniel included himself among his people the Israelites when making confession of transgressions. He acknowledged YHWH as the great God and the one who inspires fear, awe, or reverential regard. The Septuagint rendering also includes “strong” or “mighty” as applying to God. For those who love him and observe his ordinances or his decisions regarding what constitutes conduct that is acceptable to him, he keeps the covenant and shows kindness or compassion (cheséd, [éleos (mercy [LXX, Theodotion]). The covenant God concluded with the nation of Israel indicated that he would aid, protect, and guide them if they proved to be faithful to him. Therefore, for him to keep the covenant would mean that those who were devoted to him would be recipients of his loving care. The Hebrew word cheséd, is descriptive of a compassionate concern that is manifest in positive action and can always be depended upon. (9:4)
Including himself among his people who had made themselves guilty of serious wrongdoing, Daniel confessed, “We have sinned and committed wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled,” turning aside from “your commandments and your ordinances.” Instead of living up to the commands included in the law that the Israelites had been given at Mount Sinai and adhering to the divine decisions respecting acceptable conduct, the people turned aside from living up to the divine requirements, sinning seriously or missing the mark of moral rectitude that God required of his people. The gravity of the sin is emphasized through the use of differed verbs that designate wrongdoing. (9:5)
To the “kings” of Daniel’s people, to their “princes,” to their “fathers” or ancestors, and to “all the people of the earth” or “land” (“every nation on the earth” [LXX]). God had sent his “servants the prophets” who spoke in his “name” or as his direct representatives. The prophets announced what God required of the people and called upon them to repent and to change their ways. Whether they were kings or others in high station or persons among the lowliest ones of the people, all had been given an opportunity to hear. But as Daniel acknowledged regarding the people to whom he belonged, “We have not listened.” They paid no attention to YHWH’s word or message conveyed through his prophets. (9:6)
Daniel attributed “righteousness” to God, for the Most High is just in all his dealings. This included his withdrawing his protection and blessing from his wayward people. When forced to experience conquest and exile, they came to have “shame of face” as persons who had been humiliated and disgraced. At that very “day” or time, this was the shame of the “men” or people “of Judah,” the “inhabitants of Jerusalem,” and “all Israel” (Israelites from the former kingdom of Israel), “those nearby and those far away in all the lands” to which God had “cast them out” or permitted them to be scattered. The reason for the calamity was their having been unfaithful to him as the God to whom they should have been devoted. (9:7)
Daniel again acknowledged in prayer, “To us [belongs] shame of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers [ancestors].” The reason for the disgrace and humiliation was their having sinned against YHWH, seriously straying from the kind of upright conduct that he required from them as his people. (9:8)
“Mercy and forgiveness” (“righteousness and mercy” [LXX]) belong to God from the standpoint that he is the one who extends mercy or compassion and forgiveness to those who repentantly turn to him. His “righteousness” or justice is revealed in his impartial dealing at all times. Since the people had “rebelled against him,” they were in need of his mercy and forgiveness. (9:9)
“We [Israelites] have not listened to” or obeyed the “voice of YHWH our God.” The evidence that they had not obeyed was their failure to follow the laws he had set before their “faces” or before them, having done so “by the hand of” or by means of his “servants the prophets.” According to the Septuagint, God gave or set the law “before Moses and us” (Israelites) through [his] servants the prophets.” This is an unusual rendering, as the prophets were not involved in the giving of the law in the time of Moses. The role of Moses was that of mediator and prophet. (9:10)
“All Israel” had become guilty of transgressing God’s law. Instead of responding obediently, the people turned aside from listening to his voice. Because they had sinned against him, YHWH “poured out” the curse on the people and made them experience the fulfillment of the sworn oath contained in “the law of Moses the servant of God.” The “sworn oath” was a solemn declaration that calamities would befall the Israelites if they failed to observe the divine commands they had been given. Their suffering during the time of siege and conquest and exile proved to be like a curse that enveloped them as if it had been poured out upon them. (9:11; see Leviticus 26:14-45 and Deuteronomy 28:15-68; 29:14-21 regarding the calamities the people would experience on account of having the divine curse directed against them.)
God “established” (qum) “his words” (“his ordinances” [LXX]) or messages that he had conveyed through his prophets, words that were directed against the people and the judges who judged them. The common meaning of the Hebrew verb qum is “arise” or “stand” and may, in this context, mean “establish” or “confirm.” God caused his words to stand as true by having them unerringly fulfilled. Those doing the judging included kings, leaders in the nation, and elders. In keeping with the consequences for disobedience that he had revealed to the Israelites in his law and through the proclamations of the prophets, God brought great evil or calamity (evils [LXX and Theodotion]) upon them, letting them be conquered and exiled. Jerusalem was the place where the temple of YHWH was located. It was his representative place of dwelling. Therefore, his allowing Jerusalem and the temple to be destroyed is referred to as a great evil or calamity the likes of which had not been done under “all the heavens,” or on the earth beneath the sky. (9:12)
The evil or calamity (evils [LXX and Theodotion]) that the law (covenant [LXX]) of Moses set forth for disobedience came upon the Israelites. They had been warned that unfaithfulness would lead to their facing enemy invasions, destruction of their cities, and exile. The words of warning were fulfilled. (Leviticus 26:25, 31-33; Deuteronomy 28:49-53, 64-68) Nevertheless, despite what the law made clear and what the people had experienced, Daniel confessed, “We have not entreated the face of YHWH our God, turning back from our iniquity and being prudent [with reference] to your truth.” The people should have repentantly turned to YHWH, appealing to him to be shown favor and mercy, but they continued in their wayward course. Being prudent or understanding with reference to God’s “truth” would have meant conducting themselves as wise persons who recognized that the commands they had been given were trustworthy and, therefore, would lead to good results when obeyed. According to the Septuagint rendering, the people did not consider or understand God’s righteousness. They failed to conduct themselves in ways that would have demonstrated that they had considered or understood what God regarded as righteous or upright. (9:13)
In view of the unwillingness of the people to repent, YHWH “watched” with reference to the “evil” (evils [LXX]) or calamity. The thought appears to be that he kept ready for bringing it upon the people when he deemed it necessary. At his designated time, YHWH did bring the calamity upon the people in expression of his justice. Daniel acknowledged, “YHWH our God is righteous in all his works that he has done, and we have not listened to his voice.” The judgment that came upon the people was right or just, for they had refused to be obedient and lived contrary to his commands. (9:14)
The disobedience of the people could not be justified. YHWH, in his great mercy, had delivered their forefathers (his people) from the land of Egypt “with a mighty hand” (“with [his] raised” or “uplifted arm” [LXX]) or with his great might. Through his act of deliverance, YHWH made a “name” for himself, revealing to surrounding nations his matchless power. For Daniel and others of his people, the memory of this remained, accounting for the expression about YHWH’s having made a name for himself “as at this day.” Yet, as Daniel acknowledged respecting the people to whom he belonged, “We have sinned; we have acted wickedly [acted lawlessly (Theodotion); been ignorant (refused to understand) (LXX)].” (9:15)
Daniel appealed to YHWH to turn his anger away from Jerusalem, his “holy mountain.” As the former location of the temple, the elevated site of the city of Jerusalem was his “holy mountain” that he permitted to be desolated in expression of his wrath that was directed against the temple because the Israelites had defiled it by their sinful ways. The basis for Daniel’s plea for God’s anger to end is linked to his righteousness or justice (plural in Hebrew and so could be rendered “righteous deeds” (“all your [God’s] mercy” [Theodotion]). On account of their sins and the iniquities (“acts of ignorance” [LXX]) of their forefathers, the Israelites and the city of Jerusalem had become objects of reproach among all the surrounding peoples. The Israelites were known as God’s people; so the way in which they and the desolated site of the temple in Jerusalem came to be viewed also brought reproach upon their God. People of the nations wrongly came to regard him as as a God who was unable to come to the aid of his people. Therefore, it was righteous or just on God’s part to clear his name from reproach by turning his anger away from Jerusalem. (9:16)
Daniel pleaded for God to hear his prayer, or the entreaties he, as God’s servant, made. He wanted God’s “face to shine upon the sanctuary,” which then lay in ruins. This meant that his earnest desire was for YHWH to turn his favorable attention to the desolated site so that the temple would be rebuilt. According to the Masoretic Text and the Greek version of Theodotion, Daniel prayed that God would do so for his own sake, clearing his name from the reproach associated with the desolated site. The rendering of the Septuagint could be understood to mean that the desolation had occurred because of God’s servants, the unfaithful Israelites. It is also possible that the words constitute a plea for God to act for the sake of his servants and give his favorable attention to the “desolated holy mountain.” (9:17)
Besides petitioning God to incline his ear to hear his plea, Daniel prayed that he would “open [his] eyes” and see, or take note of, the “desolations” of his people (or of their humiliations as exiles in foreign lands) and the city upon which his name had been called. By reason of the temple in Jerusalem, God’s name was bound up with the city as the one that uniquely belonged to him. Daniel formulated his plea as a member of the people of Israel, “For not for our righteousness [plural in Hebrew, “righteous deeds”] do we present [literally, let fall] our petitions before you.” Instead, Daniel prayed for God to act on account of his “great mercies,” for the people had no record of righteousness that would have merited divine favor. (9:18)
Daniel’s petitions reflect intensity and an ardent desire for a change to favorable circumstances for the Israelites and Jerusalem. “O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O, Lord, grant attention and act. Do not delay.” In view of the time that had already passed, Daniel appears to have been concerned that God would not delay in forgiving the Israelites for their transgressions and in making it possible for Jerusalem and the temple to be rebuilt. Again the supplication is for YHWH his God to act for his own sake because his name had been called upon Jerusalem and upon his people. Restoration of the people and the city would put an end to any reproach that wrongly became attached to him because of the desolate state of the city and the captive condition of his people in exile. In the Septuagint, the city is identified as Zion (Sion) and the people as Israel. (9:19)
The answer to Daniel’s prayer came while he was still praying, “confessing” his own sin and that of his people and “presenting [his plea for] favor [literally, letting (his plea for) favor fall] before YHWH [his] God for the holy mountain of [his] God.” The petition was for the temple in Jerusalem or the temple on the “holy mountain” to be rebuilt. (9:20)
The angel Gabriel arrived while Daniel was still praying. When Daniel first saw him in connection with the vision about the ram and the he-goat and, according to the Septuagint, while he was asleep, Gabriel looked like a man. Apparently for this reason, the angel is here called “the man Gabriel” (just “Gabriel” in LXX). He arrived at the time when the evening sacrifice was formerly offered on the altar of the temple in Jerusalem. The phrase that literally reads “being wearied with weariness” does not have an antecedent, but it is not a phrase that could apply to Gabriel. He would not have been tired when he came. Therefore, the thought may be that Daniel was in an exhausted state after his having fasted. (9:3) The Septuagint refers to Gabriel as “being carried swiftly,” and the Greek text of Theodotion indicates that he was “flying.” (9:21)
The Masoretic Text says regarding Gabriel, “he made to understand, and he said to me.” This elliptical phrase probably means that the angel arrived to provide understanding to Daniel in answer to his prayer. According to the Greek text of Theodotion, Daniel is quoted as saying, “And he instructed me and spoke with me and said.” The Septuagint opens with the words, “And he approached and spoke with me and said.” Gabriel told Daniel, “I have now come out to give you insight [and] understanding [to show you understanding (LXX); to teach you comprehension (Theodotion)].” These words indicated that Daniel would gain a fuller understanding about future developments regarding his people and the city of Jerusalem. (9:22)
At the beginning of Daniel’s supplications, a “word went out.” The Masoretic Text and the Greek version of Theodotion do not identify the source of the “word,” but the Septuagint refers to it as an “ordinance from the Lord.” Gabriel came to Daniel to make known the message. The reason Daniel had this favor extended to him was because God had found him to be a “greatly desirable one” (a “man of desires,” possibly meaning a man possessing desirable qualities [Theodotion]). According to the Septuagint, Daniel was “one shown mercy.” Gabriel told Daniel to “consider the word” and to “understand the vision.” The Septuagint does not mention understanding the vision but refers to considering or thinking about the “ordinance.” In this context, “ordinance” may designate the divine revelation. (9:23)
Gabriel told Daniel that “seventy weeks” had been “determined” concerning his people and his “holy city” (Jerusalem). In view of all the developments to occur during this period, the designated time frame does not relate to seventy weeks of seven days but to weeks of years. Toward the end of the time he and his people were in servitude in Babylon, Daniel had seen the vision about the ram, the he-goat, and the “horn” that sprang up from one of the four horns of the he-goat that appeared after the first prominent horn was broken. (8:3-9) Then, after the forces of Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon, Daniel read the words of Jeremiah that referred to the “desolations of Jerusalem” as being “seventy years.” (9:2) Therefore, one may reasonably conclude that the answer to Daniel’s prayer included more details about when Jerusalem and the temple would again be fully restored as well as subsequent developments. (9:24)
If the phrase (in verse 24) about the anointing of the “holy of holies” applies to the inauguration of the completed temple, the other phrases could be understood to relate to the time after Daniel’s people would be able to return to their own land. The termination of the “transgression” could signify that God would forgive the transgression of his repentant people and make it possible for them to return to their land to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple there. Thus their sin would be “sealed up,” with their record of lawlessness being closed and no longer held against them. The divine discipline of being conquered and scattered among the nations as exiles would have served to atone for their iniquity. Eternal “righteousness” or justice would be brought in, for YHWH would, in expression of his eternal justice, effect the liberation of his people. The sealing of “vision and prophet” may be understood to mean that the unerring fulfillment of the divine revelation provided through “vision and prophet” would be confirmed. (9:24; see the Notes section for another possible explanation and also regarding the renderings of the Septuagint and the Greek version of Theodotion.)
Gabriel wanted Daniel to “know and understand” that “from the going forth of the word to restore and to rebuild Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a leader,” would be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks. The Masoretic Text is marked with a main stop under the Hebrew word for “seven,” but the Greek version of Theodotion does not support ending the sentence with the reference to “seven weeks.” It reads, “seven weeks and sixty-two weeks, and it will return.” The conjunction “and” after the words for “sixty-two weeks” makes it unmistakably clear that “seven weeks and sixty-two weeks” apply to a total of sixty-nine weeks. At the end of the period of sixty-nine weeks of years, an “anointed one” would make his appearance. (9:25; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint reading.)
Throughout the centuries, different views have been expressed as to when the command to restore and to rebuild Jerusalem went forth. Julius Africanus, who wrote in the late second century or early third century CE, set forth an interpretation that appears to fit the preserved history in the biblical record. “Now the angel himself specified seventy weeks of years, that is to say, four hundred and ninety years from the issuing of the word that the petition be granted and that Jerusalem be rebuilt. The specified interval began in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, King of the Persians; for it was his cupbearer, Nehemiah, who, as we read in the book of Ezra [the Vulgate reckons the book of Nehemiah as 2 Esdras; Nehemiah 2:1-8 is 2 Esdras 12:1-8 (LXX)], petitioned the king and obtained his request that Jerusalem be rebuilt. And this was the word, or decree, which granted permission for the construction of the city.” (Quoted in Jerome’s commentary on Daniel; translated by Gleason Archer) Based on the sources available to him, Africanus calculated the time of the arrival of the “anointed one” to be the fifteenth year of Tiberias Caesar and thus identified Jesus as the foretold anointed one, for it was then that Jesus was baptized and began his public ministry as the Anointed One, the Messiah, or the Christ. (9:25; Luke 3:1-3, 21)
The city of Jerusalem “will return and be rebuilt,” coming to be an inhabited and restored city as it had been formerly. It would be rebuilt with a square and a defensive “trench.” The reference to “straits of the times” suggests that the workers would not be able to proceed without being confronted with serious obstacles. This is confirmed by the accounts in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. (Ezra 4:4-24; Nehemiah 2:19, 20; 4:1-16) It appears that the period of “seven weeks” or 49 years is here designated as a time that would pass for the transformation of Jerusalem from a desolated site to a thriving city. (9:25)
After the “sixty-two weeks” of years that would follow the “seven weeks” of years, an “anointed one” would be cut off. In the previous verse, an “anointed one” is referred to as coming at the end of this period. Therefore, one may reasonably conclude that this is the same “anointed one” who would be cut off or killed. Africanus and many since his time have identified the anointed one as being Jesus, the foretold Messiah or Christ. At the time of his death, Jesus had “nothing” that suggested royal splendor. (9:26; see the Notes section.)
The time would come when Jerusalem and the temple would again be reduced to ruins. This would be accomplished by the “people of a leader” who would be coming. The phrase “his end with a flood” probably refers to the destruction of the temple as by a flood, for the Hebrew word for “holy place” or sanctuary is masculine gender. Until the end for Jerusalem and the temple there would be war, and what had been decreed (probably meaning divinely decreed) was desolation. Although Josephus did not identify on which part of Daniel he based his conclusion, he did say, “Daniel also wrote concerning the Roman government, and that our country should be made desolate by them.” (Antiquities, X, xi, 7) The Roman military under the command of Titus completely destroyed Jerusalem and the temple as by a deluge. According to Josephus, Titus ordered that the entire city and temple be demolished. With the exception of a section of the wall and certain towers, nothing was left of the city that would have made those coming to the site “believe it had ever been inhabited.” (War, VII, i, 1) Those who do not believe that the book of Daniel contains reliable prophecy apply the words about the “leader” to Antiochus Epiphanes and his ruinous action against Jerusalem, including the desecration of the temple. (9:26; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)
In the previous verse, two men are mentioned — the “anointed one” and the coming “leader.” Grammatically, the nearest antecedent is “leader.” If this one is correctly identified as Titus who led the Roman force against Jerusalem, the reference to his making a “covenant” would not agree with historical developments after the siege of the city had begun. Among those who believe the book of Daniel to contain true prophecy, there are those who regard the reference to be to Jesus, but others do not. (9:27)
An application to Jesus as the “anointed one” is possible when one considers the entire period of seventy weeks of years to be consecutive and without any gap. The covenant could then be the one that contained the promises and which God concluded with Abraham. On the basis of that covenant God dealt with the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob almost exclusively at first. In his prophetic words regarding the work of his son John and the coming Messiah of the royal house of David, Zechariah specifically mentioned the “holy covenant” and referred to it as the “oath” sworn to Abraham. (Luke 1:67-73) In keeping with that covenant, Jesus gave full attention to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 15:24) From this standpoint, one could conclude that he made the covenant strong with the many who put their faith in him. His causing “sacrifice and offering” to cease at the “half of the week” could be understood to signify that, after his sacrificial death, the sacrificial service at the temple in Jerusalem had served its purpose and so had no further value. (Compare Hebrews 9:24-10:23.) The week of favor for the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, however, did not end, as the disciples of Jesus continued to testify exclusively to Jews and proselytes concerning him as the promised Messiah whom God had raised from the dead. (9:27; see Acts 3:13-26 and note particularly the reference to the covenant made with Abraham [verse 25] and who were “first” to be given the opportunity to receive the blessing [verse 26].)
The expression “upon the wing of abominations” is followed by the Hebrew participle meaning “desolating.” In the Septuagint and the Greek version of Theodotion, the reference is to an “abomination of desolations” that will be “in the temple” even “until an end of time [until an end (LXX)].” The concluding phrase is, “an end will be given for the desolation,” and the conjunction “and” precedes the phrase in the Septuagint. Based on the Greek renderings, possibly the designation “wing” applies to a physical feature or part of the temple. The “abominations” or the “abomination of desolations” could then mean a defilement of the sacred precincts that would terminate in destruction. (Compare Matthew 24:15, 16.) This could have been when the Zealots seized control of the temple precincts prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE and made it the base of operations for violent actions. According to Josephus, the high priest Ananus, when appealing to the populace to rise up against the Zealots, said that it would have been better for him to have died than to see “the house of God full of so many abominations, or these sacred places that ought not to be trodden upon at random, filled with the feet of these blood-shedding villains.” (War, IV, iii, 10) The effort to dislodge the Zealots failed. With the aid secretly obtained from a force of about 20,000 Idumeans, the Zealots secured their position, and Ananus and his supporters were killed in the ensuing slaughter. (War, IV, iii, 11-14; iv, 1-7; v, 1, 2) The concluding part of the Hebrew text could be understood to mean that the destruction that God had decreed would come upon Jerusalem. As the city would be reduced to total ruins, it would be as if the decreed desolation had been “poured out” on the site. (9:27; regarding the Septuagint rendering and other interpretations, see the Notes section.)
In Rahlfs’ printed Greek text of verse 2, the reference is to the number of “years,” but the oldest extant Greek manuscript (P967) says “number of days.” Another difference in the reading of the printed text (which has the support of ninth-century Codex Chisianus 88) is the rendering “ordinance for the earth” instead of “word of YHWH.” P967 says, “word of the Lord,” and the Greek word for “Lord” is written in its abbreviated form (kappa [K] and an upsilon [Y], with a line above the two letters). The unusual rendering “for the earth” (te ge) may originally have arisen from an erroneous transcription of the Hebrew letters of the tetragrammaton (the divine name) appearing in the Greek manuscript that the copyist used.
In his Against Apion (I, 20), the first-century Jewish historian Josephus, on the basis of the writings of Berosus (a Babylonian priest believed to have written his account in the third century BCE), listed the length of the reigns of the Chaldean monarchs — 43 years for Nebuchadnezzar, 2 years for Evil-Merodach (Amel-Marduk, Amil-Marduk, or Awil-Marduk), 4 years for Neriglissar (Nergal-sharezer), 9 months for Labashi-Marduk. After Labashi-Marduk was killed, Nabonidus began to rule. In the seventeenth year of the reign of Nabonidus, Cyrus the Persian with his forces came against Babylon.
Second Kings 25:27 indicates that the thirty-seventh year of the exile of King Jehoiachin of Judah corresponded to the first year of Evil-merodach’s rule. According to Jewish reckoning, Jehoiachin was taken into Babylonian exile in the eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. (2 Kings 24:12) This means that the biblical record and other ancient sources are in agreement in assigning a length of 43 years to the rule of King Nebuchandezzar. Ptolemy’s Canon (originating in the second century CE) and the Uruk King List (tablet IM 65066 from a time after 225 BCE) agree with Berosus in assigning two years to the reign of Evil-merodach (Amel-Marduk). The Uruk King List is not clear regarding the rule of Neriglissar, but Ptolemy’s Canon indicates it to have been four years. Two stelae inscribed with the expressions of the mother of Nabonidus likewise support Berosus in attributing a reign of four years to Neriglissar. Ptolemy’s Canon does not include the short reign of Labashi-Marduk, and the Uruk King List indicates that it lasted three months. In the Uruk King List, the reference to the reign of Nabonidus is incomplete, but Ptolemy’s Canon indicates it to have been 17 years. Accordingly, based on extant ancient sources, the time between the start of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign and the conquest of Babylon was about 67 years.
In the event verse 24 also relates to the coming of the “anointed one,” the Messiah, or Christ, the anointing of the “holy of holies” could point to the inauguration of a new arrangement for worship. This would be the arrangement to which Jesus referred when speaking to a Samaritan woman and making it clear to her that it would be a worship in “spirit and truth,” not dependent on any specific edifice or geographical location. (John 4:21-24) According to verses 11 and 12 of Hebrews chapter 9, the new arrangement for worship is linked to a “greater and more perfect tent” than the “tent” or tabernacle that was constructed in the time of Moses and the later temple that was built in Jerusalem and which replaced the tabernacle. When Jesus, in the capacity of high priest, appeared before God “with his own blood,” or with its precious value, by means of which he obtained eternal redemption or liberation from the condemnation of sin for all who accept his sacrifice, that new arrangement was inaugurated. From this standpoint, it could be said that the true “holy of holies” in heaven was anointed.
Jesus’s sacrificial death provided the basis for humans to be forgiven of their sins. This terminated “transgression” and made an end to sin, for all who responded in faith were freed from the condemnation to which sin leads. By surrendering his life, Jesus also made atonement for iniquity and brought in “eternal righteousness.” Those who put faith in him had his righteousness imputed to them and ultimately will enjoy the sinless state for all eternity. Jesus fulfilled the prophecies about the Messiah or Christ, and this sealed or fully confirmed “vision and prophet.”
With few exceptions, the Greek version of Theodotion reads much like the Masoretic Text of verse 24. The Greek text refers to the “seventy weeks” as having been “shortened” for Daniel’s people and the “holy city.” This reading suggests that a shorter period would be involved for the future developments to be completed than might otherwise be expected. In the Septuagint, the city is identified as Zion (Sion). The text refers to the decision respecting the “seventy weeks” as serving to end sin, to make injustices uncommon, to wipe out injustices, to cause the vision to be understood (seemingly on the basis of its fulfillment), to give eternal righteousness (through God’s action in expression of his righteousness or justice), to consummate the vision (by causing it to be fulfilled) and to make the “holy of holies” rejoice (as a rebuilt temple).
In verse 25, the Septuagint, including P967, contains a very different reading. “And you will know and will understand and will rejoice and will find ordinances to answer [to understand (P967)], and you will build Jerusalem as a city for the Lord.” These words could be understood to mean that Daniel is being addressed as representing all his people. Upon their return to the land and the start of the rebuilding of Jerusalem, the people would know and understand that the word of the prophets was being fulfilled. Having been liberated from exile and freed to return to their own land, the people would rejoice. Because it was God’s will for Jerusalem and the temple to be rebuilt, those sharing in the work would find ordinances or commands to which to respond or to understand so as to continue with their labor despite enemy opposition.
The different reading of the Septuagint illustrates that it is difficult to come to a definitive conclusion about the meaning of the concluding verses of Daniel chapter 9. Persons who do not treat Daniel as a prophetic book opt for interpretations that do not resemble the interpretations of those who consider the book of Daniel as containing reliable prophecy. Those who regard Daniel as having been compiled in the second century BCE suggest that the “anointed one” of verse 25 could be the Persian monarch Cyrus or the high priest Joshua (Jeshua) who returned to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel. (Ezra 3:2), and they consider Onias III (who served as high priest in the second century BCE) as probably being the “anointed one” of verse 26. These suggested identifications require that one consider the word about the restoration of Jerusalem to be the prophetic word through the prophet Jeremiah proclaimed decades before the destruction of the city by the Babylonians. Additionally, time features mentioned in the Hebrew text of Daniel would need to be regarded as approximate.
When Jerome wrote his commentary on the book of Daniel, he quoted a number of interpretations and acknowledged that men of the “greatest learning” had presented various arguments. He continued, “Each of them has expressed his views according to the capacity of his own genius. And so, because it is unsafe to pass judgment upon the opinions of the great teachers of the Church and to set one above another, I shall simply repeat the view of each, and leave it to the reader’s judgment as to whose explanation ought to be followed.” (Translated by Gleason Archer) The first view Jerome quoted was that of Africanus. In more recent times, a number of commentators have basically followed his interpretation. There is a problem, however, associated with the date for the twentieth year of the reign of Artaxerxes. The commonly accepted date for the twentieth year is 445 BCE, and sixty-nine weeks of years thereafter would not coincide with the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar. Therefore, arguments have been presented for an earlier date for the accession year of Artaxerxes. (For a detailed presentation of these arguments, see Artaxerxes.) By using a different way to calculate the 69 weeks of years while retaining the year 445 BCE as the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, some have concluded that the termination point was when Jesus rode into Jerusalem, presenting himself as the Messiah or Christ.
In verse 26, the Septuagint rendering refers to the destruction of the city and the temple, but the time feature and other details correspond neither to the extant Hebrew text nor to the Greek version of Theodotion. The Septuagint reads, “And after seven and seventy and sixty-two, an anointing will be removed and will not be. And a king of the nations will destroy the city and the holy place along with the anointed one, and his end will come with wrath even until the end time. With war he will be warred against.”
There is a possibility that the translator of the Septuagint worded verse 26 in support of an interpretation that the removal of the “anointing” referred to the murder of Onias III, the high priest. “Seven and seventy and sixty-two,” when added together come to a total of 139 years, which is thought to be the approximate number of years between the start of the Seleucid dynasty in 312 BCE and the death of Onias III. If this was the intent of the translator, this would indicate that he understood the “king of the nations” to have been Antiochus Epiphanes and that the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple meant the ruin that this ruler caused to the city and the temple when he defiled it. Nevertheless, this “king of the nations” would come to his end, and experience wars resulting in defeat for his forces.
Hippolytus, a contemporary of Julius Africanus, considered the final week of the seventy weeks of years (verse 27) as yet future and as relating to the coming of the Antichrist. This view continues to have considerable support among many who regard the book of Daniel to be prophetic. They believe that, during this last week of seven years, Antichrist will make a covenant with the Jews and then break it.
Menasseh ben-Israel, a prominent rabbi who lived in the seventeenth century CE, wrote that among the Jews in the first century CE were those who believed that, “after the conclusion of the 70 weeks, the Messiah would appear and deliver to them the dominion of the whole world. This was the opinion of all those who fought against the Romans at that time. And though they were exposed to many great dangers and hardships, yet their expectation of the Messiah continued because they imagined that he would come in the midst of all their afflictions.” They expounded the words, “to finish the transgression” (Daniel 9:24), to mean that, “after the end of the 70 weeks, their sins should be forgiven them.” Others understood the prophecy to refer to “the destruction of the Jews; and for that reason would not fight at all. But when Titus was successful, they acknowledged him as their sovereign.” (Book III of a work titled “Of the Term of Life”)
Commentators who regard everything as applying to Antiochus Epiphanes commonly explain that he is the one who made the covenant strong with unfaithful Jews. (1 Maccabees 1:11-15) By putting an end to the proper services at the temple and replacing them with idolatrous worship, including the offering of pigs on the altar, he caused sacrifice and offering to cease in the middle of the week of seven years. (1 Maccabees 1:41-50) When choosing not to emend the expression “on the wing of abominations,” they interpret this expression to refer to a winged image or to a section of the temple where the abominations would be. The Hebrew text is understood to say that these “abominations,” or idolatrous representations and practices, would exist until the coming of the decreed end that is poured out on the one desolating or on Antiochus Epiphanes.
In the Septuagint, the first sentence of verse 27 could be understood to mean that the “covenant” would have control over many. Then the thought about rebuilding the city (previously mentioned in verse 25) is repeated in an elliptical manner (“and it will return and be rebuilt in width and length”). The time period that is mentioned next is basically repeated from verse 26 but does not correspond to anything in the Hebrew text nor in the Greek version of Theodotion. “And at the end of times and after seven and seventy times and sixty-two years until the time of the end of war, then [kaí, often meaning and] the desolation will be removed when the covenant prevails for many weeks.” Thereafter the ceasing of “the sacrifice and the libation” at the “end of the week” (ninth-century Codex Chisianus 88) or in “half of the week” (P967) is linked to the existence “in the temple” of the “abomination of desolations.”
The Septuagint rendering of verse 27 may reflect the translator’s interpretation of past developments, and a record of many of these developments has been preserved in 1 Maccabees. On the basis of 1 Maccabees 2:43-48, the “many” for whom the covenant was the controlling force could include the priest Mattathias, his sons, their associates, and a group of valiant Hasideans who later joined them. All of them adhered to the “law” (the covenant that God concluded with the ancestors of the Israelites at Mount Sinai). According to 1 Maccabees 2:7, Mattathias referred to the ruin Antiochus Epiphanes caused as the “destruction” of his people and the “destruction of the holy city” (Jerusalem). Therefore, with the end of this ruination or destruction, the city would return to its former state and be rebuilt. After the period of “seven and seventy times and sixty-two years” (or 139 years) and thereafter until the time of warfare under the leadership of the sons of Mattathias to regain control of Jerusalem ended, the desolation of Jerusalem would be removed or would terminate when the “covenant” prevailed “for many weeks” or when it came to be adhered to over a significant period of time. (1 Maccabees 4:34-58) The “abomination of desolations” could be understood to refer to the defilement of the temple, with the sacrificial services being made to cease at the “half of the week” (P967) when Antiochus Epiphanes erected an idolatrous altar over the altar of burnt offering at the temple and ended the proper arrangement for worship. (1 Maccabees 1:54) This situation, however, would not continue, as it is referred to as being “until the end,” with an “end” being made of the desolation (literally, “and an end will be given upon the desolation”).
During the “third year” (“first year” [LXX]) of the reign of King Cyrus of Persia or over two years after the conquest of Babylon, Daniel received a divine revelation. As a young man among the exiles from the land of Judah, Daniel had been given the name Belteshazzar. (1:7) The name “Belteshazzar” means “guard the life of the king” and appears to have been an invocation directed to Bel, a designation that came to be applied to Marduk, the principal deity of Babylon. According to the Hebrew text, the “word” or “matter” that was revealed to Daniel was “truth,” true, or trustworthy. The Hebrew text then continues with the words, “and a great host” or “and a great warfare” or “conflict.” Based on the context, the reference could be to the conflict between the angel who appeared to Daniel and the spirit “prince of the kingdom of Persia.” (10:13; compare with 10:20.) The Greek version of Theodotion renders the Hebrew word for “host,” “warfare,” or “conflict” as dýnamis, which word may be translated “host,” “might,” or “power.” According to the wording of the Greek version, Daniel, “in the vision” (or by what was divinely revealed to him), was given “great might [dýnamis] and understanding.” In the Septuagint, “the vision and the ordinance” are referred to as “true” or trustworthy. (10:1)
With reference to Daniel, the Hebrew text ends the verse with the words, “And he understood the word [or matter] and [had] understanding of the vision.” Apparently Daniel comprehended everything that had been divinely revealed to him. The Septuagint refers to the “strong multitude” as understanding the “ordinance” and to Daniel as understanding it “in” or by means of the vision that he had seen. (10:1)
At the time he received the vision, Daniel had already completed a period of mourning for “three weeks of days” or three whole weeks. The oldest extant Greek manuscript (P967) does not here mention the three weeks but represents Daniel as saying that, “in those days,” he was in mourning. According to verse 12, Daniel appears to have devoted himself to prayer as one who recognized his great need for God’s favor, aid, and guidance. His mourning must have been accompanied by humble expressions that acknowledged his sin and that of his people Israel. (10:2; compare 9:20.)
Daniel’s mourning included the customary outward expressions of grief. He ate no delicacies (literally, “bread of delights”; “bread of desires” [LXX, Theodotion], probably meaning delightful or highly desirable food). Neither meat nor wine entered his mouth. During the period of three weeks, he did not anoint himself with oil (or apply perfumed olive oil to the exposed areas of his skin to protect them from the rays of the sun). (10:3)
For Daniel the twenty-fourth of the first month or Nisan 24 probably marked the end of his three-week period of mourning. This was about 10 days after the Passover (Nisan 14) and about three days after the end of the festival of unleavened bread. (Leviticus 23:4-8) He was then on the “bank of the great river” — the Hiddekel or Tigris (LXX). (10:4)
As he “raised” his “eyes” or looked up, he saw what appeared to him to be a “man” clothed with a linen garment. A girdle fashioned from “gold of Uphaz” was tied around this one’s loins. “Uphaz” has not been identified with any known site, and the mere appearance of a gold item would not make the place of its origin identifiable. Possibly “gold of Uphaz” denotes gold of fine quality. The oldest extant Greek manuscript (P967) says that there was a “light from his middle.” One suggestion is that the rendering “light” (phos) came into existence through a transliteration of the Hebrew “phaz” in the designation “Uphaz.” (10:5)
In appearance, the color of the body of the impressive personage, the angel, probably resembled that of a golden gem stone. There is uncertainty about the precious or semiprecious stone the Hebrew word tarshísh designates. In the Septuagint and the Greek version of Theodotion, tarshísh is transliterated tharsis. The brilliant face of the angel appeared like lightning, and his eyes resembled flaming torches. “His arms and his legs” gleamed like burnished copper or bronze. When he spoke, his words had the loud sound of a crowd of people. (10:6)
According to the Hebrew text and the Greek version of Theodotion, only Daniel saw the “appearance” or vision (“great vision” [LXX]), and the men who were with him did not. The men, however, must have sensed something, for they were seized with “great trembling” and then ran away to hide. In the Greek version of Theodotion, the reference to hiding is not included. It says regarding the men, “and they fled in fear.” The oldest extant Greek manuscript (P967) represents the men as also seeing the vision, coming to have a strong fear, and then running away “in haste.” (10:7; see the Notes section.)
After the others fled, Daniel alone remained and saw that “great appearance” (“great vision” [LXX]). What he saw overwhelmed him, draining him of his energy and depriving him of the dignity associated with physical strength and well-being (literally, “my dignity was changed in me to ruin”). The Septuagint rendering is, a “spirit turned against me for ruin.” It may be that this phrase is not meant to be linked to what Daniel saw (“I saw a spirit”). The thought could be that, although drained of his strength, he still “saw,” but his own spirit had turned against him, making him weak and unable to regain his strength (literally, “I did not prevail”). Another possible meaning is that the appearance of the “spirit” or angel was so overwhelming that Daniel felt so completely drained of his strength that it was as though the “spirit” had brought about his ruin and he could not recover on his own. (10:8)
Daniel heard the words the angel spoke and apparently understood what was being said. It may be that Daniel again was overwhelmed and, therefore, fell asleep (“was stunned” [Theodotion]), with his face touching the ground. The oldest extant Greek manuscript (P967) does not mention sleep but indicates that Daniel fell on his face to the ground while he was hearing the sound of the angel’s talking. (10:9; see the Notes section.)
A “hand” touched Daniel, causing him to tremble “on [his] knees and the palms of [his] hands.” The Greek text of Theodotion says that the hand which touched him “roused” him to his knees. After the words, “and roused me to the knees,” the Septuagint adds, “on the soles of my feet.” According to the Greek text, the “hand” roused Daniel to the point where he was on his knees. The Hebrew text that includes a word for “tremble” has been variously translated. “Suddenly, at the touch of a hand, I was set, all trembling, on my hands and knees.” (REB) “Then a hand touched me and set me on my hands and knees. I was so afraid that I was shaking.” (NCV) “Then a hand touched me and I shook with fear on my hands and knees.” (NLB) “I felt a hand touching me, setting my knees and my hands trembling.” (NJB) (10:10)
The angel addressed Daniel as a “man of desires,” possibly meaning that he was valued by God as a man with desirable qualities. Translators have variously rendered the Hebrew words as a “man greatly beloved” (REB), “a man specially chosen” (NJB), “you who are highly esteemed” (NIV), and “your God thinks highly of you” (CEV) According to the Septuagint, Daniel was “one shown mercy.” The angel indicated to Daniel that he wanted him to understand the “words” (“ordinances” [LXX]) he was speaking to him, told him to stand up there where he was, and informed him that he had been sent to him. When the angel spoke this “word” (“ordinance” or “decree” [LXX]), which included the imperative for him to stand, Daniel did stand up and trembled. (10:11)
Reassuringly, the angel said to Daniel, “Fear not; for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before the face of your God, your words have been heard.” His giving his “heart” could mean that Daniel either focused his mind on wanting to understand or was impelled by his inner self to acquire understanding. According to Rahlfs’ printed Greek text, Daniel gave his “face” to understand, directing his full attention to this end, but the oldest extant Greek manuscript (P967) contains the partially preserved word that may be translated “thought” or “mind.” His humbling himself occurred during his time of mourning, which included fasting and praying for understanding. As on an earlier occasion, he probably also acknowledged his own sin and that of his people. (9:20) In response to Daniel’s prayerful “words” (“word” [LXX]) to which God gave his favorable hearing, the angel had come. (10:12; see the Notes section.)
The angel would have arrived at the time Daniel began his time of mourning that was accompanied by supplication, but the “prince of the kingdom of Persia” resisted him for 21 days (the three weeks that Daniel had spent in mourning). This “prince” would have been a “spirit prince.” As one who resisted a divinely commissioned angel, he would have been a demon. So that the angel could carry out his commission, Michael, one of the chief angelic princes came to his aid. (10:13)
A literal reading of the concluding phrase in verse 13 of the Hebrew text is, “And I remained there with the kings of Persia.” Contextually, however, this does not seem to fit, for the angel came to Daniel. The Septuagint (P967) says that the angel left one of the foremost princes or chiefs (“one of the holy angels”) with the “commander of the king of Persia.” More in keeping with the context, translators have variously rendered the Hebrew text. “I left him [Michael] there with the prince of the kings of Persia.” (NAB) “I have left him [Michael] confronting the kings of Persia.” (NJB) “Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia.” (NIV) “Then, seeing that I had held out there, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me against the prince of the kingdom of Persia.” (REB) (10:13)
The angel had come to make it possible for Daniel to understand what would befall his people at the “end of the days.” What the “vision” that was shown to him revealed would take place in the distant future (literally, a “vision yet for days”). (10:14)
It appears that Daniel was overwhelmed by the words the angel spoke to him. He bowed his head, turning his face to look at the ground. He was left unable to say anything (“I was silent” [LXX]; “I was stunned” [Theodotion]). (10:15)
One having the “likeness of the sons of man” (one resembling an earthling or a human) touched Daniel’s lips for the apparent purpose of enabling him to speak. According to the Septuagint, it was the “likeness of a hand of a man.” The wording of the Hebrew text and the rendering in the Greek version of Theodotion could be understood to mean that another angel had arrived on the scene, but it appears more likely that the reference is to the same angel that had been speaking to Daniel. After his lips had been touched, Daniel opened his mouth and spoke, telling the angel who stood before him, “My lord, from the appearance [vision (LXX)], pains have seized [literally, overturned] me, and I retain no strength.” The effect on Daniel was comparable to having experienced labor pains and being drained of all his energy. According to the Greek version of Theodotion, he was in a state of turmoil within himself. (10:16)
Daniel is quoted as using the respectful form of address when speaking to the angel, calling him “my lord” and referring to himself as a “servant of my lord.” Drained of all his strength, Daniel raised the question as to how he could possibly speak to his “lord.” To indicate just how weak he had become, he added, “No breath remained in me.” (10:17)
Again one having the appearance of a man touched Daniel and strengthened him. With his strength having been restored, he would have been in a position to be attentive to the divine revelation the angel was about to make known to him. (10:18)
Reassuringly, the angel told Daniel not to be afraid and addressed him as a “man of desires” or, according to the Septuagint, a “man shown mercy.” (See verse 11 for additional comments.) The angel’s wish for Daniel to have “peace,” to be tranquil and undisturbed, was most appropriate in view of the weak and troubled state in which the vision had left him. This is followed by the imperative, “Be strong and be strong.” The repetition intensifies the directive for Daniel to be strong or courageous. In the Septuagint, the imperative is, “Be manly and be strong,” which served to encourage Daniel to be courageous like a man and to have the strength associated with men. When the angel thus spoke to him, Daniel was strengthened and said to the angel, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.” (10:19)
Although asking Daniel whether he knew why he had come to him, the angel did not immediately provide an answer. He told Daniel about a change that would affect the earth. Upon leaving Daniel, the angel would become involved in a conflict with the “prince of Persia.” Apparently after that encounter, the “prince of Greece” would be coming. The battling in the invisible realm suggests that, by divine permission, demons exercise influence over the various powers of the world, but YHWH overrules their aims when these interfere with his purpose respecting his people. (10:20)
It appears that God’s purpose is clearly revealed as if recorded “in the book [or writing] of truth.” It is thus shown to be contained in a trustworthy source and is certain of being carried out. As far as the angel who had come to Daniel was concerned, the only one who strongly supported him in these things (possibly meaning the things that the vision disclosed) was Michael, the “prince” or ruler of Daniel’s people (Michael the angel [LXX]). According to the Septuagint, the only one who helped the angel concerning “these things” (the chief things, probably the ones made known by means of the vision) was Michael. The Hebrew text could also be understood to mean that Michael would be the only one supporting the angel “against these” or in the conflict with the “prince of Persia” and the “prince of Greece.” Numerous translations convey this meaning in their renderings. “There is no one with me who contends against these princes except Michael, your prince.” (NRSV) “No one supports me against all these except Michael, your prince.” (NAB) “I have no ally on my side for support and help, except Michael your prince.” (REB) (10:21)
In verse 7, Rahlfs’ printed Greek text says that the men with Daniel did not see the vision.
According to the reading of verse 9 in Rahlfs’ printed Greek, Daniel did not hear the sound of the one speaking to him.
The partially preserved Hebrew text of verse 12 in a Dead Sea Daniel scroll (4QDanc) says that the angel had come for Daniel’s sake (“for your sake,” not “because of your words”).
In the Hebrew text, including a Dead Sea Daniel scroll (4QDanc), the one speaking referred to the “first year of Darius the Mede,” but the Septuagint and the Greek text of Theodotion say that it was the “first year of Cyrus.” When reckoned in relation to the conquest of Babylon, the first year of Darius the Mede and the first year of Cyrus the Persian are concurrent. (11:1)
According to the context, the one speaking is the angel who had come to Daniel. In the Masoretic Text, the angel is represented as saying that he acted as a supporter, “standing up for confirming” and strengthening “him.” A Dead Sea Daniel scroll (4QDanc) quotes the angel as saying, “I took my stand.” The thought expressed in the Hebrew text appears to be that the angel fully supported Michael in working for the interests of Daniel’s people, unlike the spirit princes or demons who opposed them and would not have wanted them released from Babylonian exile to return to their land to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple on its original site. (11:1)
A number of translations are explicit in identifying Michael as the one whom the angel supported. “In the first year that Darius the Mede was king, I stood up to support Michael in his fight against the prince of Persia.” (NCV) “I have been standing beside Michael to support and strengthen him since the first year of the reign of Darius the Mede.” (NLT) The Hebrew text has also been interpretively rendered to identify Darius the Mede as the one whom the angel supported. “You also need to know that I protected and helped Darius the Mede in his first year as king.” (CEV) This meaning is less likely, for the phrase “in the first year of Darius the Mede” basically functions as a time reference. (11:1)
The Septuagint rendering expresses the thought more like one might expect in this context. Michael is the one who encourages the angel, telling him, “Be strong and be manly,” basically meaning for him to be courageous as he would be facing opposition when carrying out his assignments respecting Daniel and Daniel’s people. The Greek text of Theodotion does not convey this thought, but has the angel saying, “I stood for might and strength.” (11:1)
The angel then revealed to Daniel the “truth,” imparting to him knowledge about future events that were certain to take place. Three kings would arise in Persia, and the fourth one would be rich — far richer than all of them. After having become strong from his riches, he would “stir up all against the kingdom of Greece” (Javan). Historically, the Persian monarch who fits the description of the fourth king is Xerxes I. If this is the correct identification, the preceding three kings after Cyrus the Great would be Cambyses, the usurper Gaumata, and Darius I. When Cyrus the Great is regarded as one of the three kings, the short reign of Gaumata may be considered as not having been included. (11:2)
In his History (Book VII, 27-29), the Greek historian Herodotus (fifth century BCE) relates that certain Persians told Xerxes that only he had greater wealth than the Lydian Pythios the son of Atys. When asked about his riches, Pythios told Xerxes that he had 2,000 silver talents and gold in the amount of “four hundred myriads of daric staters” less seven thousand. In support of the campaign of Xerxes, Pythios was willing to present this to Xerxes, adding, “For myself I have sufficient livelihood from my slaves and from my estates of land.” Responding to the generous offer of Pythios, Xerxes is quoted as saying, “I make you my guest-friend, and I will complete for you the four hundred myriads of staters by giving from myself the seven thousand so that your four hundred myriads may not fall short by seven thousand.” Regarding the huge force that Xerxes assembled for his campaign against “Hellas” (Greece), Herodotus (Book VII, 20) wrote, “During four full years from the conquest of Egypt, he was preparing the army and the things that were of service for the army, and in the course of the fifth year he began his campaign with a host of great multitude. For all the armies of which we have knowledge, this proved to be by far the greatest.” (Translated by G. C. Macaulay) The words of Herodotus confirm that Xerxes had tremendous wealth and “stirred up all” or a huge force, equipment, and essential supplies for a campaign against Greece. According to the Septuagint, the fourth king would rise up against every king of the Greeks, and the Greek version of Theodotion says that he would do so against “all the kingdoms of the Greeks.” (11:2; see the Notes section.)
At an undisclosed time after developments involving the “fourth king” of Persia, a mighty king would “stand up” or assume dominion, ruling over an extensive area and acting as he pleased. The description that follows makes it possible to identify this king as Alexander the Great. (11:3)
After the standing up of this “king,” or after Alexander the Great began ruling and expanding his dominion through extensive military campaigns, his kingdom was “broken,” for he died at the young age of 32 (not quite 33). The empire that he created included Egypt and extended from Greece to India (the present Pakistan). After his death it was divided to the “four winds of the heavens” (the four compass points), with no single monarch governing the territory of the former empire. (11:4)
The “posterity” of Alexander the Great did not succeed him in ruling. In his Syriaca (sections 52 and 53), Appian of Alexandria (historian of the second century CE) wrote: “After the Persians, Alexander [the Great] became the sovereign of Syria as well as of all other peoples whom he found. He died leaving one son very small and another yet unborn. The Macedonians, who were loyal to the race of Philip, chose Arridaeus [Arrhidaeus], the brother [half brother] of Alexander, as king during the minority of Alexander’s sons, although he was considered to be hardly of sound mind, and they changed his name from Arridaeus to Philip. They also kept careful guard over the wife, who was pregnant. Meanwhile Alexander’s friends continued in charge of the conquered nations, divided into satrapies, which Perdiccas parceled among them by the authority of king Philip. Not long afterward, when the true kings died, these satraps became kings.” (Translated by Horace White) Alexander’s official wife who was pregnant at the time of his death was Roxane (Roxana), and she gave birth to a son (Alexander IV). Barsine, the supposed mistress of Alexander, was the mother of the young son named Heracles. Arrhidaeus, the illegitimate son of Philip (the father of Alexander the Great) was the first one to be put to death, next Roxane and her then twelve-year-old son (Alexander IV) were killed, and finally Heracles was put to death. (11:4)
After the defeat of the army of Antigonus and his death in battle, four of Alexander the Great’s generals controlled various parts of the former empire. This occurred after the development that the first-century Jewish historian Josephus (Antiquities, XII, i, 1) mentioned and which development did not take place immediately upon the death of Alexander the Great. “His government fell among many, Antigonus obtained Asia; Seleucus Babylon; and of the other nations which were there, Lysimachus governed the Hellespont, and Cassander possessed Macedonia; as did Ptolemy, the son of Lagus, seize upon Egypt; and while these princes ambitiously strove one against another, every one for his own principality, it came to pass that there were continual wars.” This account agrees with the words in the book of Daniel that those ruling after the kingdom was broken would not do so “according to the dominion” that Alexander the Great had and that his kingdom was uprooted for “others besides these,” probably meaning men other than the posterity of Alexander the Great. (11:4; see the Notes section regarding the rendering of the Septuagint and the Greek version of Theodotion.)
The “king of the south” (the ruler south of the land of Daniel’s people or, according to the Septuagint, the “king of Egypt”) in the person of Ptolemy the son of Lagus (Ptolemy I Soter) did become strong, gaining control over regions other than Egypt. Josephus (Antiquities, XII, i, 1) related how he seized Jerusalem by making “use of deceit and treachery.” He entered the city on a “Sabbath day, as if he would offer sacrifice.” The Jews did not oppose him, “for they did not suspect him to be their enemy” and “they were at rest.” After Ptolemy I gained control of Jerusalem, he ruled over the city “in a cruel manner.” He also took many captives from the “mountainous parts of Judea and from the places about Jerusalem and Samaria, and the places near Mount Gerizim” and then settled them in Egypt. (11:5)
One of the “princes” of the “king of the south” would become stronger than he and that one’s “dominion” would become greater than “his dominion.” Based on the context, the one referred to as one of “his princes” is the one who came to occupy the position of “king of the north” (of regions north of the land of Daniel’s people). Historically, this “prince” was Seleucus Nicator. He incurred the anger of his superior Antigonus when he punished one of the governors without having consulted Antigonus. When Antigonus demanded an accounting from him, Seleucus fled to Ptolemy I in Egypt and thus, as one in the domain of Ptolemy I, could be designated as one of “his princes.” (11:5)
As for Antigonus, he removed Blitor as governor of Mesopotamia for having allowed Seleucus to escape and then personally assumed rulership over Babylon, Mesopotamia, and all the other lands from Media to the Hellespont. Ptolemy, Seleucus, Lysimachus, and Cassander became envious of Antigonus and formed a league with each other and sent an embassy to him, demanding that he share with them and with the other Macedonians who had lost their satrapies his newly acquired territory and wealth. Antigonus rejected the demand, and this led to war. With his forces, Antigonus drove out all of the garrisons Ptolemy had stationed in Syria and seized all of the possessions he still had in Phoenicia and Coele-Syria. The first reversal for Antigonus came when Ptolemy defeated the army of Demetrius (the young son of Antigonus) at Gaza, forcing him to flee to his father. Then Ptolemy sent Seleucus back to Babylon with a small force so that he could resume his governmental position there. Seleucus did take Babylon and the populace received him enthusiastically. After the defeat of the army of Antigonus and his death at the Battle of Ipsus, Seleucus and all the kings who had been in league with him divided the territory among themselves. Thereafter Seleucus continued to enlarge his empire. According to Appian of Alexandria, “the boundaries of his empire were the most extensive in Asia” after those of Alexander the Great. Therefore, the language of the book of Daniel can be applied to Seleucus as a “prince” whose dominion became greater than that of Ptolemy, the “king of the south.” (11:5; see the Notes section.)
“At the end of years” (or after the passing of a number of years), they (the “king of Egypt” [LXX] and the “king of the north”) would make an alliance. To make peace or to come to an equitable agreement after having fought, the “daughter of the king of the south” (Egypt [LXX]) would come to the “king of the north.” This daughter, however, would not retain the “strength of her arm.” He (the “king of the north”) and his arm would not “stand” or endure, and she would be “given up,” as also would her attendants (those having come with her from Egypt), the “one having begotten” (her father) or (based on an emendation) the one having been begotten (her child), and the one “making her strong in [those] times.” (11:6; see the Notes section.)
The wording of verse 6 fits developments in the time of Ptolemy II Philadelphus (the son and successor of Ptolemy I Soter) and Antiochus II Theos. In his Syriaca (section 65), Appian of Alexandria (historian of the second century CE) wrote: “After the death of Seleucus, the kingdom of Syria passed in regular succession from father to son as follows: the first was the same Antiochus who fell in love with his stepmother, to whom was given the surname of Soter, “Savior,” for driving out the Gauls who had made an incursion into Asia from Europe. The second was another Antiochus, born of this marriage, who received the surname of Theos, “Divine,” from the Milesians in the first instance, because he slew their tyrant, Timarchus. This Theos was poisoned by his wife. He had two wives, Laodice and Berenice, the former a love-match, the latter a daughter pledged to him by Ptolemy [II Philadelphus]. Laodice assassinated him and afterward Berenice and her child.” (Translated by Horace White) In his commentary on Daniel (translated by Gleason Archer), Jerome included a number of other details. Wanting to end the warring with Antiochus, Ptolemy II Philadelphus “gave his daughter, named Berenice, in marriage to Antiochus, who had already had by a previous wife, named Laodice, two sons, namely Seleucus, surnamed Callinicus, and the other, Antiochus. And Philadelphus conducted her as far as Pelusium and bestowed countless thousands of gold and silver by way of a dowry. … But as for Antiochus, even though he had said he would regard Berenice as his royal consort and keep Laodice in the status of a concubine, he was finally prevailed upon by his love for Laodice to restore her to the status of queen, along with her children. But she was fearful that her husband might in his fickleness restore Berenice to favor once more, and so she had him put to death by her servants with the use of poison. And she handed over Berenice and the son whom she had born by Antiochus to Icadio and Genneus, princes of Antiochus, and then set up her elder son, Seleucus Callinicus, as king in his father’s place.” (11:6)
Based on the ancient historical sources, Berenice may be considered as having lost the “strength of her arm” when her father died and Antiochus left her to be with Laodice. As Antiochus was poisoned, neither he nor his “arm” or might endured. Berenice was “given up” when she was killed. Presumably, at the same time, those who had come with her from Egypt as her attendants were also put to death. The one who made her strong could designate either her father or her husband. (11:6)
“From her roots,” a “shoot” would “stand up” or arise “in his place.” This “shoot” is thus identified as coming from the same line of descent as the “daughter of the king of the south” (Egypt [LXX]). The reference to “his place” may be understood to mean in his position as king of the south. He would come against the army (or to his own army as its commander) and enter the “stronghold of the king of the north,” and he would “deal with them [those against whom his campaign was directed] and prevail.” The wording suggests that the “king of the south” would triumph when attacking the king of the north and capture his “stronghold” (possibly a collective Hebrew singular that designates fortified cities). (11:7; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering and that of Theodotion.)
Drawing on historical sources, Jerome, in his commentary on Daniel (translated by Gleason Archer), explained the developments described in verse 7. “After the murder of Berenice and the death of her father, Ptolemy Philadelphus, in Egypt, her brother, who was also named Ptolemy and surnamed Euergetes, succeeded to the throne as the third of his dynasty, being in fact an offshoot of the same plant and a bud of the same root as she was, inasmuch as he was her brother. He came up with a great army and advanced into the province of the king of the north, that is Seleucus Callinicus, who together with his mother Laodice was ruling in Syria.” Regarding the success of the campaign against the “king of the north,” Jerome continued, “Not only did he seize Syria but he also took Cilicia and the remoter regions beyond the Euphrates and nearly all of Asia as well.” (11:7)
After the successful campaign against the king of the north, the king of the south would carry off back to Egypt the “gods” of the vanquished, “their molten images,” and their precious gold and silver vessels. For some years thereafter, the king of the south would not launch any attacks against the king of the north. According to the Septuagint rendering, the king of the north would have a “year.” The Greek version of Theodotion says that, besides the gods, the images, and the desirable gold and silver vessels, the king of the south would carry a body of captives to Egypt and rise above the king of the north. (11:8; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)
A copy of an inscription (OGIS 54) that the monk Cosmas (Indicopleustes) made in the sixth century CE and which has survived only as a copy from his time provides a description of the successful campaign of Ptolemy III Euergetes. “He crossed the River Euphrates and, having brought under him Mesopotamia and Babylonia and Susiana and Persia and Media, and all the rest as far as Bactria, and having sought out whatever sacred things had been carried off by the Persians from Egypt, [he] brought them back with the other treasure from these countries to Egypt.” In his commentary on Daniel, Jerome provided additional historical details. When Ptolemy III Euergetes “heard that a rebellion was afoot in Egypt, he ravaged the kingdom of Seleucus and carried off as booty forty thousand talents of silver, and also precious vessels and images of the gods to the amount of two and a half thousand. Among them were the same images which Cambyses had brought to Persia at the time when he conquered Egypt. The Egyptian people were indeed devoted to idolatry, for when he had brought back their gods to them after so many years, they called him Euergetes (Benefactor).” (11:8)
Although the “king of the north” is not specifically mentioned in the text, his coming into the “kingdom of the king of the south” (the “kingdom of Egypt for days” [LXX]) is implied. The reference to his then returning to “his land” suggests that his campaign would be unsuccessful. In his History of the World (XXVII, ii), the ancient Latin historian Justin wrote about a campaign that appears to fit this description. “After the departure of Ptolemy” III Euergetes, “Seleucus” II Callinicus “got ready a fleet against the cities that had revolted,” but a sudden storm destroyed the fleet. Only he and a few companions survived the shipwreck. “The cities that in hatred to him had gone over to Ptolemy” III Euergetes, believing “that the gods had now sufficiently punished” Seleucus II Callinicus for his crimes “were moved to compassion because of his loss at sea” and again returned “their allegiance” to him. This emboldened him to initiate war against Ptolemy III Euergetes, but he was defeated. The resulting losses left him not much better off “than after his shipwreck.” (11:9)
The “sons” of the “king of the north” would “stir themselves up,” preparing for war, and would assemble a large number of forces. He, the then-reigning king of the north, would “come on,” “overflow and pass through,” and would again conduct the “war to his fortress” (a stronghold of the “king of the south”). The sons of Seleucus II Callinicus were Seleucus III Ceraunos and Antiochus III the Great. According to the Septuagint, one son of the “king of the north” would be provoked and would assemble a “great crowd.” In case the singular preserves the original text, the son who would fit the wording of the verse would be Antiochus III the Great. The other son (Seleucus III Ceraunos) did not attack Egypt, but did conduct a campaign in Asia Minor that could have been regarded as being against the interests of the “king of the south.” In his Syriaca (Section 66), Appian of Alexandria wrote that Seleucus III Ceraunos “was sickly and poor and unable to command the obedience of the army.” Therefore, “in the second year of his reign” (the third, according to Jerome), “he was poisoned by a court conspiracy.” The wording of the biblical text best fits the reign of Antiochus III the Great. (11:10)
In his commentary on Daniel (translated by Gleason Archer), Jerome wrote: “After the flight and death of Seleucus Callinicus, his two sons, the Seleucus surnamed Ceraunus and the Antiochus who was called the Great, were provoked by a hope of victory and of avenging their father, and so they assembled an army against Ptolemy Philopator and took up arms. And when the elder brother, Seleucus, was slain in Phrygia in the third year of his reign through the treachery of Nicanor and Apaturius, the army which was in Syria summoned his brother, Antiochus the Great, from Babylon to assume the throne. And so this is the reason why the present passage states that the two sons were provoked and assembled a multitude of very sizable armies. But it implies that Antiochus the Great came by himself from Babylon to Syria, which at that time was held by Ptolemy Philopator, the son of Euergetes and the fourth king to rule in Egypt. And after he had successfully fought with his generals, or rather had by the betrayal of Theodotius obtained possession of Syria (which had already been held by a succession of Egyptian kings), he became so emboldened by his contempt for Philopator’s luxurious manner of life and for the magical arts which he was said to employ, that he took the initiative in attempting an invasion of Egypt itself.” In his History of the World (XXX, i), the ancient Latin historian Justin comments as follows about these developments: “[Ptolemy IV Philopator] abandoned himself to his pleasures, as if all things had succeeded very well for him; and all the court imitated his example. Wherefore, not only his friends and deputies, but likewise the whole army, laying aside all military exercises, languished in idleness and effeminacy. Antiochus king of Syria, being informed of this, and being pushed on at the same time by the ancient animosity between these two kingdoms, …. attacked several cities belonging to this prince [Ptolemy IV Philopator] and carried his arms even into Egypt itself.” (11:10)
The “king of the south” (the “king of Egypt” [LXX]) would be angered and come out to fight the “king of the north.” Based on the next verse, the one referred to as raising a “great multitude” or a large force (for the apparent purpose of attacking the “king of the south”) would be the “king of the north,” but this large military force would be given “into the hand” of the “king of the south” or be defeated by him. According to the Latin historian Justin (History of the World, XXX, i), Ptolemy IV Philopator hired “a great army in Greece” and then took to the field against Antiochus and could have “stripped him of his kingdom” upon gaining the victory. (11:11)
The rendering of the Septuagint is more explicit in attributing the triumph to the “king of Egypt,” for it says that he “will be angered and will war with the king of the north, and the gathering will be given into his hands.” The oldest Greek manuscript (P967) does not include the words “and will war.” (11:11)
Upon taking “the multitude,” the “heart” of the king of the south would be exalted, or he in his inmost self would be filled with delight and pride over his victory. In his triumph, he would “cast down myriads.” Nevertheless, he would not prove to be strong or prevail. The Septuagint makes no reference to his casting down myriads but indicates that the king of Egypt would “trouble many and by no means be afraid.” (11:12)
The Greek historian Polybius of the second century BCE, in his Histories (Book V, 86) described the victory of Ptolemy IV Philopator. His account indicates that the “king of the south” did indeed cast down “myriads.” “Ptolemy having thus obtained a decisive victory by his phalanx, and having killed many of the enemy in the pursuit by the hands of the cavalry and mercenaries of his right wing, retired and spent the night in his former camp. Next day, after picking up and burying his own dead and despoiling those of the enemy, he broke up his camp and advanced on Raphia. Antiochus after his flight had wished to take up at once a position outside the town collecting the scattered groups of fugitives; but as most of them had taken refuge in the city, he was compelled to enter it himself also. At daybreak he left for Gaza at the head of the surviving portion of his army, and encamping there sent a message asking for leave to collect his dead whom he buried under cover of this truce. His losses in killed alone had amounted to nearly ten thousand footmen and more than three hundred horsemen, while more than four thousand had been taken prisoners.” (11:12)
Instead of proving himself to be “strong” or to prevail by following up his triumph, Ptolemy IV Philopator agreed to make peace with Antiochus. The account of Polybius (Histories, Book V, 87) continues: “Antiochus, on reaching the town which bears his name, at once dispatched his nephew Antipater and Theodotus Hemiolius to treat with Ptolemy for peace, as he was seriously afraid of an invasion by the enemy. For he had no confidence in his own soldiers owing to his recent reverse, and he feared lest Achaeus should avail himself of the opportunity to attack him. Ptolemy took none of these matters into consideration, but delighted as he was at his recent unexpected success and generally at having surpassed his expectations by regaining possession of Coele-Syria, was not averse to peace, in fact rather too much inclined to it, being drawn towards it by his indolent and depraved habit of life. When, therefore, Antipater and his fellow ambassador arrived, after a little bluster and some show of expostulation with Antiochus for his conduct, he granted a truce for a year. Sending back Sosibius with the ambassadors to ratify the treaty, he remained himself for three months in Syria and Phoenicia establishing order in the towns, and then, leaving Andromachus behind as military governor of the whole district, he returned with his sister and his friends to Alexandria, having brought the war to an end in a manner that astonished his subjects in view of his character in general.” (11:12)
The ancient Latin historian Justin, in his History of the World (XXX, i, ii), related that Ptolemy IV Philopator was eager to make a treaty and thereafter pursued a course of idleness and licentiousness. “Satisfied with recovering the cities he had lost, and making peace with Antiochus, he greedily seized this opportunity of returning to quiet; thus his former luxury recoiling upon him, he put his wife Eurydice to death, who was likewise his sister; and he became entangled by the charms of a whore, Agathoclea. And so losing all sense and remembrance of his rank and majesty, he wasted his nights in debauchery, and his days in feasts. … This licentiousness increasing daily, the impudence of the harlot could not be confined within the palace. … What contributed to render her still more audacious was that her brother Agathocles, a prostitute youth of captivating beauty, shared the king with her, and ministered to his infamous pleasures. To this was added the credit of their mother Oenanthe, who managed the king as she pleased by the charms of her son and daughter. … Not content to possess and govern the king, they now likewise pretended to govern the kingdom and appeared in public, and were saluted, and magnificently attended. Agathocles, who was inseparable from the king’s person, ruled the city; the women disposed of all governments, commands, and places of honor; nor was there any person who had less power in the kingdom than the king himself.” (11:12)
According to the biblical text, the time was to come when the “king of the north” would return and “raise a multitude” or assemble a military force greater than the one with which he formerly fought against the king of the south. “At the end of times” — the passage of some “years” (literally, “times, years”), he would come with a large army and much equipment (supplies and everything else needed for waging war). Commenting on this verse, Jerome wrote (as translated by Gleason Archer): “This indicates that Antiochus the Great … assembled a huge army from the upper regions of Babylon. And since Ptolemy Philopator was now dead, Antiochus broke his treaty and set his army in motion against Philopator’s four-year-old son [five-year-old son (according to the Latin historian Justin)], who was called Epiphanes.” (11:13; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)
In those particular “times,” the “king of the south” would have many rising up against him. Certain ruffians (literally, “sons of violent ones” or “robbers”) among Daniel’s people would also cause disturbance, causing a vision “to stand,” but they would “stumble” or, as expressed in the Greek version of Theodotion, they would be weak. (11:14; regarding the Septuagint rendering, see the Notes section.)
According to the ancient Latin historian Justin (History of the World, XXX, ii), the death of Ptolemy IV Philopator was concealed “until these women [Agathoclea the sister of Agathocles and their mother Oenanthe] had carried off his money and had formed a confederacy with some desperate villains to usurp the kingdom.” In his Histories (Book XV, 20, 1-3), the Greek historian Polybius of the second century BCE described what the young son (Ptolemy V Epiphanes) faced after the death of his father (Ptolemy IV Philopator) from the “king of the north.” Antiochus III the Great (the “king of the north”) had allied himself with Philip V, king of Macedonia, with the intent of seizing territory that had been under the control of Ptolemy IV Philopator. “They hastened to divide the child’s kingdom between themselves and be the ruin of the unhappy orphan. Nor did they, as tyrants do, take the pains to provide themselves with some paltry pretext for the shameful deed, but at once acted in a fashion so unscrupulous and brutal that they well deserved to have applied to them the saying about the food of fishes, that though they are all of the same tribe the destruction of the smaller ones is food and life to the larger.” Additionally, in Egypt itself and the provinces, the populace became increasingly more hostile toward Agathocles in the way he administered affairs for the young king. To reveal that Ptolemy IV Philopator and the queen Arsinoë were dead, Agathocles and Sosibius (the pretended guardian of Ptolemy V) summoned a meeting of the bodyguard, household troops, and officers of the infantry and cavalry. After acknowledging the death of the king and queen and enjoining the populace to go into mourning, “they crowned the boy and proclaimed him king.” Then they “read a forged will, in which it was written that the king appointed Agathocles and Sosibius guardians of his son.” Agathocles used his position to remove “all the most notable men and checked to a great extent by the advance of pay the disaffection among the troops.” Thereafter he filled the vacant places with men who were “most remarkable for their effrontery and recklessness. He himself spent the greater part of the day and night in drinking and the debauchery which commonly accompanies it, sparing neither women in the flower of their age nor brides nor virgins, and all this he did with the most odious ostentation. So that a strong dislike against him was aroused on all sides, as no attempt was made to conciliate or help those aggrieved, but on the contrary there was a constant repetition of outrage, arrogance, and neglect, the former hatred of the populace for him began to fume again.” (Polybius, Histories, XV, 25, 1-5, 20-24) Ancient historical accounts thus reveal that the “king of the south” in the person of Ptolemy V did have many rising up against him. (11:14)
In his Antiquities (XII, iii, 3), the first-century Jewish historian Josephus says that the “Jews, of their own accord, went over to him [Antiochus III the Great] and received him into the city [Jerusalem], and gave plentiful provision to all his army, and to his elephants, and readily assisted him when he besieged the garrison which was in the citadel of Jerusalem.” Repeatedly, the Hebrew prophets censured the Israelites for entering into political alliances with foreign powers. Therefore, this kind of action in deliberately choosing to side with Antiochus III the Great could make the expression “sons of robbers,” ruffians, or rebels an appropriate designation for them. By their action, they could be understood to have caused the vision in the book of Daniel “to stand” or to be confirmed as fulfilled. Their stumbling could refer to the disastrous consequences alignment with the “king of the north” had in subsequent years. (11:14)
The “king of the north” would come and “cast up [literally, pour out] a mound” (probably meaning progressively forming an earthen siege ramp by pouring out the earth from containers) and then seize a fortified city. The forces (literally, “arms” [like the arms of a body]) of the “south” would not stand, and among the “choice ones of the people” or the best ones of the warriors there would be no “strength to stand.” According to the Septuagint, the “king of the north” would “turn his spears and seize the fortified city,” and the “arm” or power of the “king of Egypt will stand with his mighty ones, and he will not have the strength to resist him.” It is thought that the Greek word for “not” was inadvertently omitted in the phrase the “king of Egypt will stand.” (11:15)
The “king of the north” apparently still is Antiochus III the Great, and this relates to his warring against the “king of the south” or Ptolemy V Epiphanes. In his Antiquities (XII, iii, 3), the Jewish historian Josephus wrote that Ptolemy V “sent out a great army under Scopas the general of his forces against the inhabitants of Celesyria [Coele-Syria].” The forces under the command of Scopas “took many of their cities, and in particular our [the Jewish] nation; which, when he fell upon them, went over to him.” Not long afterward “Antiochus [III the Great] overcame Scopas in a battle fought at the fountains of Jordan and destroyed a great part of his army.” The reference in Daniel appears to relate to the defeat of Scopas, for he and his best warriors were unable to stand before the forces under the command of Antiochus. (11:15)
Jerome, in his commentary on Daniel (as translated by Gleason Archer), provided the following details: “Purposing to retake Judaea and the many cities of Syria, Antiochus joined battle with Scopas, Ptolemy’s general, near the sources of the Jordan near where the city now called Paneas was founded, and he put him to flight and besieged him in Sidon together with ten thousand of his soldiers. In order to free him, Ptolemy dispatched the famous generals, Eropus, Menocles and Damoxenus (Vulgate: Damoxeus). Yet he was unable to lift the siege, and finally Scopas, overcome by famine, had to surrender and was sent away with his associates, despoiled of all he had.” Although the description of a fortified city would fit Sidon, Jerome concluded that the reference to casting up a mound related to what Antiochus III the Great did when besieging “the garrison of Scopas in the citadel of Jerusalem.” (11:15)
The “king of the north” would act “according to his will” when coming against the “king of the south.” None would be able to stand “before his face” or to counter with an effective defense in battle. The “king of the north” would stand in the “land of beauty” (Sabi or Sabir [Theodotion], a transliteration of the Hebrew word for “beauty”), and it would “be complete [if read as a verb with different vowel points than the noun kaláh] in his hand.” The “land of beauty” is the land of Daniel’s people. Its “beauty” stemmed from its having YHWH’s temple in Jerusalem, with the temple being his representative place of dwelling. For this land to “be complete” in the “hand” of the “king of the north” may mean that it would be completely in his power or subject to him. The Hebrew text reads kaláh, which means “destruction.” If this is the significance, a verb needs to be supplied (“and destruction [will be] in his hand.” Both the Septuagint and the Greek version of Theodotion render the Hebrew kaláh as verbs. Even though the Septuagint contains a form of the verb epiteléo and the version of Theodotion has a form of the verb synteléo, the verbs have the same basic meaning, and the phrase in which they appear may be rendered, “and everything [it (Theodotion)] will be finished by his hands [hand (Theodotion)].” (11:16; see the Notes section.)
Antiochus III the Great triumphed over the forces of Ptolemy V Epiphanes. As Ptolemy V (who, though king, was still a little boy) had no forces that could stop him, Antiochus III was able to do what he pleased. Since the Jews granted him access to Jerusalem (as Josephus wrote [Antiquities, XII, iii, 3), Antiochus III did stand in the “land of beauty,” and the entire land came to be in his “hand” or under his control. If the Hebrew word kaláh is understood to mean “destruction,” it could refer to the devastation that the warring of Antiochus III caused. (11:16)
The “king of the north” would “set his face to come with the strength of all his kingdom [give his face to come with force (against) all of his work (LXX)].” This suggests that he would come with the complete military might available in his realm for the purpose of getting control over territory of the “king of the south” or everything belonging to him. To achieve his objective, he would also resort to means other than warfare. He would “bring” terms of an agreement to present to the “king of the south” (“make agreements with him” [LXX]). The phrase “and he will do” may mean that the “king of the south” would agree to the arrangement. As part of the agreement, the “king of the north” would give the “daughter of women” (“daughter of man” [LXX]) to the “king of the south.” (11:17)
According to the Hebrew text and the Greek version of Theodotion, the objective of the “king of the north” would be “to ruin her.” Considering that his actual aim was control over the territory of the “king of the south,” it does not seem reasonable to consider that he would be making an agreement that would bring ruin to a woman. So it may be that the feminine pronoun has the feminine noun for “kingdom” as the implied antecedent, suggesting that the woman would be the instrument for bringing the realm of the “king of the south” to ruin by making it subject to the “king of the north.” The oldest Greek manuscript (P967) and a Dead Sea Daniel scroll (4QDanc) read “him,” and this would mean that the woman would be the instrument by means of whom the “king of the north” intended to achieve his objective of having control over the “king of the south.” (11:17)
The concluding words of the verse may be rendered, “And she will not stand, and she will not be for him.” According to the Greek version of Theodotion, the text reads, “And she will by no means remain, and she will not be for him.” The reading of the oldest Greek manuscript (P967) could be translated, “And she will not stand, and she will not be.” Rahlfs’ printed Greek text says, “And she will not obey, and she will not be.” This could indicate that the woman would not serve the interests of the “king of the north,” for she would not “stand” or remain firm in her position of support or would not obey. She would also not be “for him” or not be for the “king of the north.” (11:17)
That the “king of the north” would “come with the strength of all his kingdom” fits what the ancient Roman historian Livy wrote in his History of Rome (XXXIII, 19). “During the previous summer Antiochus [III the Great] had reduced all the cities in Coele-Syria which had been under Ptolemy’s sway.” Even in his winter quarters, he continued to be active. “He had called up the whole strength of his kingdom and had amassed enormous forces, both military and naval. At the commencement of spring he had sent his two sons, Ardys and Mithridates, with an army to Sardis with instructions to wait for him there while he started by sea with a fleet of a hundred decked ships and two hundred smaller vessels. …” One of his objectives then was “to attempt the reduction of the cities along the whole coastline of Cilicia, Lycia and Caria which owed allegiance to Ptolemy.” (11:17)
The “daughter of women” or the “daughter of man” proved to be Cleopatra, the daughter of Antiochus III the Great. Jerome, in his commentary on Daniel (as translated by Gleason Archer) indicated that having his young daughter (who was not even in her teens) marry Ptolemy V Epiphanes was a way Antiochus III the Great thought he could get control over Egypt. “Antiochus not only wished to take possession of Syria, Cilicia, and Lycia, and the other provinces which had belonged to Ptolemy’s party, but also to extend his empire to Egypt. He therefore used the good offices of Eucles of Rhodes to betroth his daughter, Cleopatra, to young Ptolemy in the seventh year of his reign; and in his thirteenth year she was given to him in marriage, professedly endowed with all of Coele-Syria and Judaea as her marriage-portion.” (11:17)
Josephus (Antiquities, XII, iv, 1) provided no reason for the marriage. “Antiochus made a friendship and a league with Ptolemy and gave him his daughter Cleopatra as wife, and yielded up to him Coele-Syria, Samaria, Judea, and Phoenicia by way of dowry.” The ancient historian Appian, in his Syriaca (section 5) provided a political reason for the marriage other than the one Jerome mentioned. “Now, determining no longer to conceal his intended war with the Romans, he formed alliances by marriage with the neighboring kings. To Ptolemy in Egypt he sent his daughter Cleopatra surnamed Syra, giving with her Coele-Syria as a dowry, which he had taken away from Ptolemy himself, thus flattering the young king in order to keep him quiet during the war with the Romans.” (11:17)
Antiochus III the Great did not succeed in his objective. Jerome, in his commentary on Daniel, wrote, “He was unable to take possession of Egypt, because Ptolemy Epiphanes and his generals detected the strategem and followed a cautious policy. And besides, Cleopatra inclined more to her husband’s side than to her father’s.” So she did not “stand” on the side of her father and did not prove to be “for him” in his objective. (11:17)
The “king of the north” would turn “his face to the coastlands [or islands],” and he would seize many of them. A “commander” would end his “taunt” or “reproach,” turning “his taunt” or “reproach” back upon him. In the Greek text of Theodotion, the “king of the north” is represented as causing rulers to desist from their reproach, which implies that their insults would end upon his attaining the victory. The second occurrence of the Hebrew word that may be rendered “taunt” is preceded by the adverb biltéy, which often can mean “not” or “without.” This significance, however, does not seem to fit the context. The Greek version of Theodotion may be rendered, “But his reproach will turn back upon him,” suggesting that the “reproach” or “insult” to which the “king of the north” resorted would punitively come back upon him. (11:18; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)
Historically, the language is descriptive of what happened during the reign of Antiochus III the Great. He carried out military campaigns in the coastal regions of Asia Minor and even crossed over into Europe to invade Greece. Lucius Cornelius, the ambassador sent by the Roman Senate to establish peace between Antiochus III the Great and Ptolemy V Epiphanes, “asked Antiochus to retire from the cities previously subject to Ptolemy which he had taken possession of in Asia; while as to those previously subject to Philip [V of Macedonia], he demanded with urgency that he should evacuate them. For it was a ridiculous thing, he said, that Antiochus should come in when all was over and take the prizes they [the Romans] had gained in their war with Philip [V of Macedonia]. He also advised him to keep his hands off the autonomous cities. And generally speaking, he said he wondered on what pretext the king had crossed to Europe with such large military and naval forces. For anyone who judged correctly could not suppose that the reason was any other than that he was trying to put himself in the way of the Romans.” To this, Antiochus replied in an insulting manner, saying that “he was at a loss to know by what right they [the Romans] disputed his possession of the Asiatic towns; they were the last people who had any title to do so. Next he requested them not to trouble themselves at all about Asiatic affairs; for he himself did not in the least go out of his way to concern himself with the affairs of Italy.” (According to Polybius, a historian of the second century BCE [Book XVIII, 49, 50]; translated by W. R. Paton) (11:18)
Thereafter Antiochus III continued his aggressive aims. Finally, after being totally defeated by the Romans at Magnesia (a site in modern Turkey), he sent ambassadors to make a petition for peace. When the ambassadors wanted to know the terms for peace, Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus (who had recovered his health but was not a participant in the battle in which the forces under the command of his brother Lucius Cornelius Scipio gained the victory) replied (as translated by Horace White): “The grasping nature of Antiochus has been the cause of his present and past misfortunes. While he was the possessor of a vast empire, which the Romans did not object to, he seized Coele-Syria, which belonged to [the Egyptian king] Ptolemy [IV Philopator], his own relative and our friend. Then he invaded Europe, which did not concern him, subjugated Thrace, fortified the Chersonesus, and rebuilt Lysimacheia. He passed thence into Greece and took away the liberty of the people whom the Romans had lately freed, and kept on this course till he was defeated in battle at Thermopylae, and put to flight. Even then he did not forgo his grabbing propensity, for, although frequently beaten at sea, he did not seek peace until we had crossed the Hellespont. Then he scornfully rejected the conditions offered to him, and, again collecting a vast army and uncounted supplies, he continued the war against us, determined to come to an engagement with his betters, until he plunged into this great calamity. We might properly impose a severer punishment on him for his obstinacy in fighting us so persistently, but we are not accustomed to abuse our own prosperity or to aggravate the misfortunes of others. We will offer him the same conditions as before, adding a few which will be equally for our own and his future advantage. He must abandon Europe altogether and all of Asia this side of the Taurus, the boundaries to be fixed hereafter; he shall surrender all the elephants he has, and such number of ships as we may prescribe, and for the future keep no elephants and only so many ships as we allow; must give twenty hostages, whom the consul will select, and pay for the cost of the present war, incurred on his account, 500 Euboic talents down and 2500 more when the Senate ratifies the treaty; and 12,000 more during twelve years, each yearly installment to be delivered in Rome. He shall also surrender to us all prisoners and deserters, and to Eumenes whatever remains of the possessions he acquired by his agreement with Attalus, the father of Eumenes. If Antiochus accepts these conditions without guile we will grant him peace and friendship subject to the Senate’s ratification.” (According to he second-century historian Appian of Alexandria [Syriaca, section 38) Based on the outcome for Antiochus III, one can say that his “reproach” or “insult” came back on him in a humiliating defeat through a Roman “commander.” (11:18)
The “king of the north” would “turn his face back to the fortresses of his [own] land,” and he would “stumble,” “fall,” and “not be found.” The words of ancient historians, though not completely in agreement, do indicate that Antiochus III the Great came to a disastrous end. The terms of peace with Rome forced him to retreat and left him with a heavy debt to repay. According to Diodorus Siculus, a historian of the first century BCE (Library of History, XXIX, 15), “Antiochus, pressed for funds and hearing that the temple of Bel in Elymaïs had a large store of silver and gold derived from the dedications, resolved to pillage it. He proceeded to Elymaïs and after accusing the inhabitants of initiating hostilities, pillaged the temple; but though he amassed much wealth, he speedily received meet punishment from the gods.” Earlier, the same historian (XXVIII, 3) wrote, “As for Antiochus, his project of pillaging the sanctuary of Zeus at Elymaïs brought him to appropriate disaster, and he perished with all his host.” The ancient Latin historian Justin, in his History of the World (XXXII, 2) referred to Antiochus as being “distressed to raise the tribute he was obliged by the articles of peace … to pay to the Romans.” Then, “either compelled by his want of money, or induced by his avarice, marched his army in the night to plunder the temple of Jupiter of Elymaea; flattering himself that his pressing necessity would excuse his sacrilege. But the design being soon discovered, he was cut off, with all his forces, by the people who had gathered together in arms to oppose him.” (11:19)
Another man would become the “king of the north.” This ruler would send an “exactor through the glory of the kingdom” or the splendor of the realm. “In a few days,” this one would be “broken,” but “not in anger nor in battle.” Seleucus IV Philopator who succeeded his father Antiochus III as king was burdened with the heavy debt that needed to be repaid to Rome. Seemingly, for this purpose, he caused an “exactor” to pass through his realm to raise the needed funds. According to 2 Maccabees 3:4-13, a certain Simon falsely claimed that the treasury at the temple in Jerusalem contained fabulous wealth. When Seleucus came to know about this, he sent Heliodorus to confiscate these deposited riches for the royal treasury. On the basis of this account, Heliodorus often has been identified as the “exactor.” According to Appian of Alexandria (Syriaca, section 45), “Seleucus was assassinated as the result of a conspiracy of a certain Heliodorus, one of the court officers.” (Translated by Horace White) Whether he is the same Heliodorus as the one mentioned in 2 Maccabees cannot be established with certainty. The comment of Appian does confirm that Seleucus IV Philopator did not die in battle. His not dying “in anger” could be interpreted to mean that his premature death did not occur on account of his being an object of foreign hostility. (11:20; regarding the reading of the Greek version of Theodotion and that of the Septuagint, see the Notes section.)
The one who would “stand up” or arise in the place that had been vacated by the previous “king of the north” is referred to as one being “despised.” To him, the “majesty of the kingdom” would not be given, but he would “come in quietness [suddenly or unexpectedly (LXX); in prosperity (Theodotion)] and seize the kingdom by smoothness” or “flattery.” (11:21; regarding the rendering of the Septuagint and the version of Theodotion, see the Notes section.)
Heliodorus, a court official, either assassinated, or was an active participant in a plot for carrying out the assassination of, Seleucus IV Philopator, the son of Antiochus III, and he intended to assume rulership. According to Appian of Alexandria (Syriaca, section 45), Eumenes II Soter of Pergamum and Attalus drove him out and installed Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the son of Antiochus III as king. Antiochus IV had been a hostage in Rome, for part of the peace agreement to which his father had to consent was the requirement that he turn over certain men as hostages. This was one measure by which the Romans endeavored to prevent defeated rulers from revolting. For an undisclosed reason in the extant historical accounts, Demetrius, the oldest son of Seleucus IV Philopator, had been sent to Rome in exchange for Antiochus IV, the brother of Seleucus IV. While Antiochus was back from Rome and then in the city of Athens, he heard that his brother Seleucus IV was dead. The words in the book of Daniel appear to fit Antiochus IV as the new “king of the north.” (11:21)
From the standpoint of Daniel’s people, particularly those who were determined to live up to the requirements of God’s law, Antiochus IV would have been despised. He carried out a campaign of vicious persecution and endeavored to stamp out the worship of YHWH. As far as the people in the realm over which Seleucus IV Philopator had ruled were concerned, they would have regarded his oldest son Demetrius as the rightful heir to the throne. Therefore, Antiochus IV could be viewed as coming “in quietness” or unexpectedly into the position of king that had been vacated through the premature death of his brother. As he had suddenly and unexpectedly become king, he would not readily have been granted the honor or dignity of one who would have been regarded as the heir apparent. The manner in which Antiochus IV then secured his position was by “smoothness” or flattery, according extraordinary public praise to those who supported him, persuading others to make expressions laudation, and extending special favors to his supporters. (11:21)
An excerpt (preserved by Athenaeus) from the Histories of the ancient historian Polybius may provide another reason why Antiochus IV Epiphanes was despised. “Polybius, in his twenty-sixth book, calls him Epimanes (the Madman) instead of Epiphanes owing to his conduct. For not only did he condescend to converse with common people, but even with the meanest of the foreigners who visited Antioch. And whenever he heard that any of the younger men were at an entertainment, no matter where, he would come in with a fife and other music so that most of the guests got up and ran off in astonishment. He would often, moreover, doff his royal robe and pick up a toga and so make the circuit of the marketplace.” (Translated by W. R. Paton) Some have questioned the validity of this account, believing it may have been based on gossip that was circulated by the enemies of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. (11:21)
“Before his face” or before him (before the “king of the north”), “arms of a flood” (powers or forces that are destructive like a deluge) would be “flooded” (overflowed like a flood or swept away as by a deluge). These “arms” or powers would be “broken,” as also would be the “leader of a covenant.” (11:22; see the Notes section.)
In their application to Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the crushing of the “arms” could refer to his triumphing over those in his realm who opposed him. Appian of Alexandria (Syriaca, section 45) wrote that the Syrians called him Epiphanes “because when the government was seized by usurpers he showed himself to be their true sovereign.” Indicating the manner in which Antiochus strengthened his position, Appian continued, “By cementing the friendship and alliance of Eumenes, he governed Syria and the neighboring nations with a firm hand. He appointed Timarchus as satrap of Babylon and Heraclides as treasurer, two brothers, both of whom had been his favorites.” (11:22)
Appian’s comments indicate that Antiochus IV Epiphanes did break the power of “usurpers,” but this historian included no information about one who might be identified as the “leader of a covenant.” If the reference is to the covenant that YHWH concluded with the Israelites at Mount Sinai, the “leader” could be understood to be one who was prominent in adhering to this covenant. This could have been the high priest Onias. Jason, the brother of Onias, through underhanded means, succeeded in having Antiochus IV Epiphanes agree to have him replace his brother as high priest. A number of years later, Onias was murdered. (11:22; 2 Maccabees 4:7-10, 30-34)
With reference to any agreement or alliance, the king of the north would deal with deceit, and he would become strong “with a small nation.” According to the Septuagint, the king of the north would “make a lie” with the “covenant and the people leagued with him,” suggesting that he would not live up to any of the agreements he might make. His word would be a lie. (11:23)
When he perceived that he could gain from breaking agreements, Antiochus IV Epiphanes did so. An example is the way he dealt with Jason whom he granted the office of high priest that Onias had occupied. Later, when Menelaus offered more money than Jason, Antiochus IV Epiphanes agreed to authorize him to be the high priest. How this happened is related in 2 Maccabees 4:23-27 (REB). “Jason sent Menelaus … to convey money to the king [Antiochus IV Epiphanes] and to carry out agreed decisions on some urgent business. But Menelaus, once in the king’s presence, flattered him with an air of authority, and diverted the high-priesthood to himself, outbidding Jason by three hundred talents in silver. He arrived back with the royal mandate, but with nothing else to make him worthy of the high-priesthood; he had the passions of a cruel tyrant and the temper of a savage beast. Jason, who had supplanted his own brother, was now supplanted in his turn and forced to seek refuge in Ammonite territory. Menelaus continued to hold the high-priesthood but without ever paying any of the money he had promised the king, however often it was demanded by Sostratus, the commander of the citadel.” (11:23)
Initially, Antiochus IV Epiphanes became king with the support of a small number. Therefore, he could be spoken of as having become strong with a “small nation” or a small number of people. Moreover, the realm over which he first ruled was much smaller than that of his father Antiochus III the Great. So it could also be said that with this “small nation,” Antiochus IV Epiphanes became strong through conquests. The Septuagint rendering represents matters as relating to military triumphs — “against a strong nation with a small nation.” (11:23)
The “king of the north” would come “in quietness” (“suddenly” or “unexpectedly”[LXX]; “in prosperity” [Theodotion]) into the “fat parts” or the richest parts of a “province.” According to the Septuagint, he would “suddenly” or “unexpectedly” desolate a “city.” He would do what neither “his fathers nor his fathers’ fathers” had done. Plunder, spoil, and goods that he had seized he would “scatter among them,” apparently doing so by giving presents to his friends or supporters. He would “plot plots against strongholds,” but this would be for a time, suggesting that it would come to an end. (11:24)
When the words of the biblical account are regarded as applying to Antiochus IV Epiphanes, they describe him as making his attacks during times no one was expecting them and when people generally enjoyed a measure of peace. The “fat parts” of a province could designate any rich area that could yield an abundance of booty or tax revenue. In the Septuagint, the reference could be to any city that would be desolated after being conquered. Seemingly, what his ancestors had not done was to distribute the plunder, spoil, and goods lavishly to friends and supporters and also at random to complete strangers. Upon coming to know that the silver in his treasuries was running short, one of the concerns of Antiochus IV Epiphanes was that he would not have sufficient funds for gifts. (1 Maccabees 3:27-30) An excerpt from Book XXVI of the Histories of Polybius (preserved by Athenaeus and translated by W. R. Paton) says, “Occasionally, he used to address people he had never seen before when he met them, and make them the most unexpected kind of presents.” The Roman historian Livy (History of Rome, XLI, 20; translated by George Baker)wrote, “By a preposterous kind of liberality, he made himself and others subjects of ridicule; for to some, in the most elevated stations, and who thought highly of themselves, he would give childish presents of sweetmeats, cakes, or toys; while on others, who, having no claims, expected nothing, he would bestow large sums of money.” (11:24)
The plotting against “strongholds” would have involved making plans to attack fortified cities. According to the Septuagint, he would plan “against the strong city.” The time would come when his warring would come to its end, for the plotting is represented as continuing “for a time.” In the Septuagint (Rahlfs’ Greek text), the planning would be “in vain,” suggesting that it would not lead to success. The Greek version of Theodotion limits the planning to be against Egypt “for a time.” (11:24; see the Notes section.)
The “king of the north” would “arouse his strength and his heart [his courage] against the king of the south with a great army.” In response, the “king of the south” would join in battle “with an exceedingly great and mighty army.” The “king of the south,” however, would “not stand,” indicating that he would be defeated. This disastrous outcome for the “king of the south” is attributed to “plots” (“thought,” “scheme,” or “plot” [singular LXX]) devised against him. (11:25; see the Notes section.)
As applying to Antiochus IV Epiphanes, he prepared himself for the military campaign. According to 1 Maccabees 1:16, his objective was to expand his dominion by incorporating Egypt as part of his realm. His great force included chariots, elephants, and a large fleet. (1 Maccabees 1:17) The “king of the south” was then Ptolemy VI Philometor, but he was still a minor, and the ones wielding the power were the eunuch Eulaeus and Lenaeus. They (Eulaeus in particular) appear to have been responsible for provoking Antiochus to attack when he became aware of their objective to regain Syria for Egypt. The ancient historian Polybius (Histories, XXVIII, 20), when discussing the efforts to negotiate for peace with Antiochus IV Epiphanes, related that the envoys “all ascribed the fault for what had happened to Eulaeus, and, pleading Ptolemy’s kinship with the king and his youth, attempted to appease the wrath of Antiochus.” Polybius also wrote that, after Antiochus had captured Pelusium and entered Egypt, Eulaeus advised Ptolemy VI Philometer to “abandon his kingdom to the enemy, and retire to Samothrace.” (Translated by W. R. Paton) The nature of the plotting against the “king of the south” cannot be determined with certainty. (11:25)
Those eating the “rich food” or the royal fare would be responsible for the crushing the “king of the south” would experience. His army would be overwhelmed as by a flood, and many of the warriors would be slain. (11:26; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering and that of the Greek version of Theodotion.)
In the case of Ptolemy VI Philometor, members of the royal court were his undoing. Their advice (more specifically that of the eunuch Eulaeus and Lenaeus who had the controlling voice while the king was a minor) plunged Egypt into a disastrous conflict with the forces under the command of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. According to 1 Maccabees 1:18, many of those in the army of Ptolemy VI were mortally wounded. Moreover, the advice of the eunuch Eulaeus that Ptolemy VI resort to flight led to his coming under the control of Antiochus IV Epiphanes who thereafter falsely claimed that he was protecting the interests of his sister’s son. (Cleopatra, the mother of Ptolemy VI, was the sister of Antiochus IV.) Commenting on this, the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus of the first century BCE (Library of History, XXX, 18) wrote that Antiochus, after winning the confidence of his nephew, Ptolemy VI, “deceived him and sought to bring him to utter ruin.” Polybius (Histories, XXVIII, 21), who wrote his account in the second century BCE, expressed his view regarding the advice of Eulaeus. “Who, reflecting on this, would not acknowledge that evil company does the greatest possible harm to men? For a prince, standing in no immediate danger and so far removed from his enemies, not to take any steps to fulfill his duty, especially as he commanded such great resources, and ruled over so great a country and so vast a population, but to yield up at once without a single effort such a splendid and prosperous kingdom, can only be described as the act of one whose mind is effeminate and utterly corrupted. Had Ptolemy been such a man by nature, we should have put the blame on nature and not accused anyone but himself. But since by his subsequent actions … Ptolemy [revealed himself] to have been a man who was fairly steadfast and brave when in danger, it is evident that we should attribute to the eunuch [Eulaeus] and association with him his cowardice on this occasion and his haste to retire to Samothrace.” (11:26)
The “two kings” — the “king of the north” and the “king of the south” — would have their “heart” or their mind directed toward doing bad. There would be nothing noble about their objectives and dealings. At the same table, they would speak lies. The scheming would not succeed, for the end would come at a future time (literally, “for yet an end for a time”). (11:27; see the Notes section.)
When Antiochus IV Epiphanes is considered to be the “king of the north,” this would relate to the time when he and Ptolemy VI Philometor were together after his defeating the Egyptian military forces. Although Antiochus IV and Ptolemy VI, who was then in the custody of Antiochus IV, were eating together at the same table, they would have had different objectives while feigning friendship toward one another in their relationship as uncle and nephew. In view of their concealing their real motives and aims, they would have been speaking lies. Their objectives would not succeed, with an appointed end coming before the plans could be carried out. (11:27)
With an apparent reference to the “king of the north,” it is said that he would “return to his land” with abundant goods. He would direct his “heart” or mind “against the holy covenant,” and he would act according to “his will and return to his land.” (11:28)
When the reference is regarded as applying to Antiochus IV Epiphanes, it relates to the invasion of Egypt and his thereafter passing through the land of Daniel’s people. According to the account in 1 Maccabees, Antiochus IV “plundered the land of Egypt” and, therefore, would have had goods in abundance. He then went to Jerusalem with a strong military force, arrogantly entering the sanctuary there. The items he took included the golden altar of incense, the lampstand, all the sacred vessels, the table for the showbread, all precious utensils, the golden censers, and the curtain. He took everything of value (even the “golden ornament on the façade of the temple”) and all the precious things that he could find in concealed places. “Taking all this, he went back to his own country, after he had spoken with great arrogance and shed much blood.” (1 Maccabees 1:19-24, NAB) So he did what he pleased before returning to his own land. As the temple and its furnishings related to the worship of YHWH and the covenant he had concluded with the nation of Israel, Antiochus IV Epiphanes did act against the “holy covenant.” According to the Septuagint rendering, it was the covenant of the “Holy One,” the Almighty God. (11:28)
With apparent reference to the “king of the north,” the account says that, at an appointed time or a future time, he would “return and enter into the south,” which would be the realm of the “king of the south” or, according to the Septuagint, Egypt. Unlike the time before when he had been successful in his campaign, this time he would not be. Antiochus IV Epiphanes with his forces plundered Egypt during the previous campaign. (1 Maccabees 1:19) The next time, however, he did not depart from Egypt as a triumphant king. (11:29)
The “king of the north” would not succeed, for “ships of Kittim” would come against him, and he would be “cowed [or disheartened] and return.” He would then be enraged against the “holy covenant. Acting as he wished, he would “turn back and show regard for those forsaking the holy covenant.” According to the rendering of the Septuagint, the Romans would come, expel him from Egypt, and rebuke him. He would then “turn back and be enraged against the covenant of the holy one.” (11:30)
The Septuagint reads much like a commentary on what happened to Antiochus IV Epiphanes. According to the historian Polybius of the second century BCE (Histories, XXIX, 27 [translated by W. R. Paton]), the following took place: “Caius Popilius Laenas, the Roman commander, on Antiochus greeting him from a distance and then holding out his hand, handed to the king, as he had it by him, the copy of the senatus-consultum, and told him to read it first, not thinking it proper, as it seems to me, to make the conventional sign of friendship before he knew if the intentions of him who was greeting him were friendly or hostile. But when the king, after reading it, said he would like to communicate with his friends about this intelligence, Popilius acted in a manner which was thought to be offensive and exceedingly arrogant. He was carrying a stick cut from a vine, and with this he drew a circle round Antiochus and told him he must remain inside this circle until he gave his decision about the contents of the letter. The king was astonished at this authoritative proceeding, but, after a few moments’ hesitation, said he would do all that the Romans demanded. Upon this Popilius and his suite all grasped him by the hand and greeted him warmly. The letter ordered him to put an end at once to the war with Ptolemy. So, as a fixed number of days were allowed to him, he led his army back to Syria, deeply hurt and complaining indeed, but yielding to circumstances for the present.” According to the Greek version of Theodotion, the king of the north was “humbled.” The Masoretic Text indicates that he was either “cowed” or “disheartened” on account of what had occurred. (11:30)
Although forced to leave Egypt, Antiochus IV Epiphanes still exercised authority over the land of Daniel’s people and pursued a campaign of bitter persecution against those who remained loyal to the worship of YHWH or the law that the Israelites had received at Mount Sinai in the time of Moses. Through this campaign of persecution, he raged against the “holy covenant” into which the Israelites had entered at Mount Sinai. First Maccabees 1:44-53 (NRSV) reports what happened in the land of Judah. “The king sent letters by messengers to Jerusalem and the towns of Judah; he directed them to follow customs strange to the land, to forbid burnt offerings and sacrifices and drink offerings in the sanctuary, to profane sabbaths and festivals, to defile the sanctuary and the priests, to build altars and sacred precincts and shrines for idols, to sacrifice swine and other unclean animals, and to leave their sons uncircumcised. They were to make themselves abominable by everything unclean and profane, so that they would forget the law and change all the ordinances. He added, ‘And whoever does not obey the command of the king shall die.’ In such words he wrote to his whole kingdom. He appointed inspectors over all the people and commanded the towns of Judah to offer sacrifice, town by town. Many of the people, everyone who forsook the law, joined them, and they did evil in the land; they drove Israel into hiding in every place of refuge they had.” (11:30)
Those who supported the policy of Antiochus IV Epiphanes regarding the “holy covenant” that had been given the Israelites at Mount Sinai enjoyed his favor, whereas the faithful remnant among them had to go into hiding. According to the reading of the Septuagint, it would be on account of their having forsaken to live up to the requirements of the “holy one,” the covenant their God YHWH had concluded with them, or the law that he had given to them, that they would suffer as they did. (11:30)
“Forces” (literally, arms) from the “king of the north” would “stand and profane the holy place and the fortress (the holy place of fear [LXX]; the sanctity of the lordship [Theodotion]).” They would “take away the continuity” or the regular burnt offering, and they would “set up the abomination making desolate.” (11:31; see the Notes section.)
The “forces” of the “king of the north” in the person of Antiochus IV Epiphanes that came to “stand” in the “holy place,” the sanctuary, or temple in Jerusalem must have been those whom he sent to enforce his edict. (See 1 Maccabees 2:15.) According to 1 Maccabees 1:45-47 (REB), the edict included the following: “Whole-offerings, sacrifices, and drink-offerings were forbidden in the temple [ending or taking away the continual or regular burnt offering]; sabbaths and feast days were to be profaned; the temple and its ministers defiled. Pagan altars, idols, and sacred precincts were to be established, swine and other unclean beasts to be offered in sacrifice.” The “fortress” probably designates the entire walled temple area. Antiochus IV stationed a garrison in the proximity of the temple, and the ones stationed posed a threat to the temple. “They shed innocent blood all round the temple; they defiled the holy place.” (1 Maccabees 1:33-37, REB) The first book of Maccabees links (1:54, 59) the “abomination” to the erection of a pagan altar on top of the altar of burnt offering in the courtyard of the temple in Jerusalem. This was a disgusting development that meant desolation for the temple, where the proper services then ceased to be performed. (11:31)
Those violating the covenant (literally, “acting wickedly to the covenant”) would be the unfaithful ones among Daniel’s people. The “king of the north” would seduce them with “smoothness” or “flattery,” expressing his favor toward any who chose to support his policies and objectives. Those who refused to adopt practices that violated the covenant that had been concluded with the Israelites at Mount Sinai in the time of Moses are here described as “knowing their God.” This would have been as persons who were obedient to his commands. They would “be firm and act.” (11:32; see the Notes section regarding the rendering of the Septuagint and the Greek version of Theodotion.)
In the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, many Jews wanted to be like the Gentiles, having been persuaded to believe that this would improve their lot. By conducting themselves contrary to the “covenant,” they violated it or acted wickedly toward it. The kind of “smoothness” or “flattery” by means of which prominent ones among the people were induced to adopt the ways of the Gentiles and to disregard the commands that were part of the covenant is illustrated by what was said to the priest Mattathias. “You are a leader, honored and great in this town, and supported by sons and brothers. Now be the first to come and do what the king commands, as all the Gentiles and the people of Judah and those that are left in Jerusalem have done. Then you and your sons will be numbered among the Friends of the king, and you and your sons will be honored with silver and gold and many gifts.” (1 Maccabees 2:17, 18, NRSV) Many in Israel, like priest Mattathias and his sons, resisted and continued to abide by the requirements of God’s law. Under the leadership of Mattathias and later his son Judah, they began to fight courageously against the foreign oppressors. (11:32; 1 Maccabees 1:62, 63; 2:43-3:2)
The “wise ones” among the Israelites would make many among them understand what they needed to do. During this time, however, great suffering would befall those who determined to live according to the requirements of the commands set forth in the covenant that had been concluded with their ancestors. For “days,” or for a time, there would be those among them who would “stumble by sword and by flame, by captivity and by plunder.” (11:33; see the Notes section.)
A prominent “wise one” among the people was priest Mattathias. By his words and his example, he helped others to recognize what they needed to do. According to 1 Maccabees 2:19-21 (NAB), he expressed his determination in these words: “Although all the Gentiles in the king’s realm obey him so that each forsakes the religion of his fathers and consents to the king’s orders, yet I and my sons and my kinsmen will keep to the covenant of our fathers. God forbid that we should forsake the law and the commandments. We will not obey the words of the king nor depart from our religion in the slightest degree.” During the period of persecution many Israelites were killed by the sword. Certain ones who assembled in caves to observe the Sabbath secretly were betrayed, and all of them were then burned. At other times many were taken captive and thereafter sold into slavery. Faithful ones also had their possessions plundered. (11:33; 1 Maccabees 1:56-60; 2:38, 2 Maccabees 6:11)
Among those choosing to observe God’s commands, many would “stumble,” “stagger,” or “become weak” (Theodotion), losing their lives prematurely as victims of persecution. The ones loyal to God would “receive a little help,” but many would join themselves to them “with smoothness” or flattery. (11:34; see the Notes section.)
In the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, many faithful Israelites perished because they did not defend themselves when observing the Sabbath. Mattathias and his associates realized that if they did not fight when they were attacked, all of them would perish and, therefore, determined to engage in battle whenever enemy forces came against them. With increasing numbers of Israelites joining Mattathias and his sons and associates, a significant fighting force came into being. (1 Maccabees 2:29-43) Thus those who were determined to obey God’s commands received a “little help,” for the victories over enemy forces brought relief from persecution. Mattathias and his associates, however, undertook harsh measures against Jews who had apostatized and begun to live like the Gentiles. They killed those whom they found, caused many to flee out of fear, and forcibly circumcised any uncircumcised boys. (1 Maccabees 2:44-48) This must have caused many Jews to join themselves to them “with smoothness,” flattery, or insincerity. After Judas, the son of Mattathias, fell in battle and a period of severe famine set in, many changed sides, joining the renegades who came out of hiding. (11:34; 1 Maccabees 9:23, 24)
Among the “wise,” certain ones would “stumble,” stagger, or “become weak” (Theodotion), perishing prematurely. This would result in refining, purifying, and making the wise ones white “until the time of the end.” The concluding phrase — “for yet for an appointed time” — could mean that the distressing time would end at a divinely appointed time. (11:35; see the Notes section.)
Among the Israelites who had joined Mattathias and his associates, there were those who fell in battle, including Judas the son of Mattathias. Judas, who led the fighting force after the death of his father, may be regarded as one of the “wise” ones. His premature death in battle did result in refining, purifying, and making the wise ones white. At that time, those who were not fully devoted to adhering to God’s commands changed sides. (1 Maccabees 9:23, 24) The writer of the book of 2 Maccabees (6:12, NJB) also noted that what befell the Israelites served a beneficial purpose. “Such visitations are intended not to destroy our race but to discipline it.” (11:35)
The “king” would do according to his will or act as he pleased, exalting himself and magnifying himself “above every god,” and he would speak extraordinary things “against the God of gods.” Until the time that the indignation is accomplished, he would prosper. This is because “what is determined” would be done. (11:36; see the Notes section regarding the Seputagint rendering.)
The description of the “king” does, in part, describe the actions of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Therefore, while he may have been in view, the words, when regarded as prophetic, may from this point onward also relate to developments that are yet future, with verses 40 through 45 possibly applying exclusively to future events. It appears that the ultimate fulfillment will take place when the one designated as the “man of sin” or the “man of lawlessness” will appear on the scene before the return of Jesus Christ in glory. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4) For much of the time, Antiochus IV Epiphanes did what he pleased, but this came to an end when he bowed to the will of Rome and left Egypt. The “man of lawlessness” will act as he pleases until the glorified Son of God, Jesus Christ, will bring him to his end. (2 Thessalonians 2:8) In the case of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, he did exalt himself above every god, as evident from his readiness to rob temples. This king regarded himself as a god. Coins that were minted in Antioch bear the inscription “Of King Antiochus, God Manifest.” By his decree to stamp out the worship of YHWH, which included the prohibition not even to mention the name of the true God, Antiochus IV Epiphanes spoke “extraordinary things” or outright blasphemy. Regarding the “man of lawlessness” or the “man of sin,” the apostle Paul wrote that this one would exalt himself over and resist everything regarded as “god” or sacred, seating himself in the sanctuary of God and claiming to be god. (2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4) The apostle’s words suggest that the “man of lawlessness” is a product of the “apostasy” or rebellion against God. Just what form this development may take prior to Christ’s return in glory falls in the realm of conjecture, especially since the information available today is more limited than what Paul had shared with the Thessalonians. (11:36)
Probably “indignation” or wrath refers to divine anger. The writer of 2 Maccabees seems to have understood the intense persecution that befell the Israelites to have served as discipline or correction for their having taken a wrong course. There were those in the nation who had deliberately chosen to ally themselves with the Gentiles and to adopt customs contrary to God’s law. So his wrath may be regarded as having been expressed against the people by letting them experience the bitter consequences of their disloyalty to him. As applying to Antiochus IV Epiphanes, he was only permitted to do as he pleased to the Israelites until such time as God’s wrath came to its end. What had been divinely determined was to be accomplished. According to the Greek text of Theodotion, the wrath is referred to as “coming to completion.” (11:36)
In the case of the “man of lawlessness,” divine wrath will be in evidence when God permits people to be deceived. Through the workings of Satan, the “man of lawlessness” will display might and lying signs and wonders. Those who then perish will have been taken in by the evil deception. Their being deceived will be retribution for their deliberate failure to accept the “love of the truth,” which could have led to their salvation or deliverance from divine wrath. Instead of desiring truth, the marvelous truth that centers on the Son of God, loving it and considering it as precious, they will prefer falsehood and delusion. In expression of his wrath, God will send them exactly what they want or let nothing stand in the way of their being exposed to the workings of error so that they might believe the lie. Consequently, adverse judgment will befall them because they deliberately and defiantly chose not to believe the truth but delighted in wrongdoing. (11:36; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12)
The “king” would have no regard for the “gods of his fathers” (his ancestors) nor for the one “beloved of women.” He would have no regard for any other god, magnifying himself “above all.” The Septuagint says that “strong nations will be subject to him.” In his apparent efforts to promote uniformity in his dominion, Antiochus IV Epiphanes appears to have suppressed the adoration of local deities. This is suggested by the words of Mattathias that are quoted in 1 Maccabees 2:19, 20 (NAB). “Although all the Gentiles in the king’s realm obey him, so that each forsakes the religion of his fathers and consents to the king’s orders, yet I and my sons and my kinsmen will keep to the covenant of our fathers.” The god “beloved of women” could be Tammuz or Adonis. (Compare Ezekiel 8:14.) That Antiochus IV Epiphanes had no regard for any other god was demonstrated by his readiness to rob temples and his applying the designation “god” (theós) to himself. The same kind of self-exaltation is ascribed to the future “man of sin” or “man of lawlessness.” (11:37; 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4)
Instead of the gods of his ancestors, the king would honor the “god of fortresses.” “With gold and silver and with precious stones and desirable [items],” he would honor a “god whom his fathers [ancestors] did not know.” Possibly, in the case of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the “god of fortresses” applies to the military might in which he placed his trust and which he elevated to the level of a deity. To support his military operations, he needed gold, silver, and an abundance of valuables. So it could be said that he honored this god of military might — a god that his ancestors had not known in the same way. How this aspect might apply to the “man of lawlessness” is not revealed in the biblical account. (11:38; see the Notes section.)
The “king” would deal “with the strongest of fortresses” by a “foreign god.” Those whom he acknowledged, or whom he recognized as his supporters, he would grant honor, making them rulers over many. The “king” would “divide the land for a price.” (11:39)
In the Masoretic Text, the phrase that includes the expression “foreign god” does not express a complete thought, requiring the addition of words in translations. This accounts for a variety of renderings. “He will use the people of an alien god to defend the fortresses.” (NJB) “He will garrison his strongest fortresses with aliens, a people of a foreign god.” (REB) “He shall deal with the strongest fortresses by the help of a foreign god.” (NRSV) “He will attack the mightiest fortresses with the help of a foreign god.” (NIV) “With the help of this foreign god [the god of fortresses mentioned in verse 38], he will capture the strongest fortresses.” (CEV) The Greek text of Theodotion could be translated, “And he will do to [act against] the fortresses of refuge with a foreign god.” In the Septuagint, the concluding phrase of verse 38 is completed in verse 39, and the text could be rendered to read that, “in [his] desires, he will do [to] cities and will enter a strong fortress.” This could mean that he would act according to his desires with reference to cities and, as a conqueror, enter a “strong fortress.” (11:39)
In the case of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, he did bestow honors and positions on those whom he favored, and he may have apportioned lands for a price or as “gifts” (Theodotion; “for [as] a gift” or freely [LXX]). That he did this is reflected in the offer made to Matthathias if he complied with his demands. “You and your sons shall be reckoned among the Friends of the King; you and your sons will be honoured with gold and silver and many presents.” (1 Maccabees 2:18, NJB) According to the Greek text of Theodotion, the king would increase glory (apparently for his supporters) and “subject many to them and apportion land as gifts.” The Septuagint conveys a different meaning. It indicates that the “king” is the one who would acknowledge a foreign god and would “increase glory” or honor with this deity. Either “strongly”or for a long time (epí polý), he would dominate the fortress and would apportion “land as a gift.” It appears that the translator of the Hebrew text understood the “fortress” to have been the one at Jerusalem, for Antiochus IV Epiphanes had the “city of David” fortified “with a great strong wall and strong towers” and had his garrison stationed there. (11:39; 1 Maccabees 1:33, 34, NRSV)
The reference to the “time [hour (LXX)] of the end” may be an indication that the identity of the “king of the north” has changed, and that what is related pertains to the distant future. At this future time, the “king of the south” (“king of Egypt” [LXX]) would “push” or attack “him,” and the “king of the north” would come against “him” like a tempest “with chariots and horsemen and with many ships,” and “he will come into lands [the countries situated between the location from which he sets out with his forces and the land of Egypt] and overflow [like a flood] and pass through [the lands with his forces].” According to the Greek text of Theodotion, the “king of the north” will enter the “land” (apparently that of the “king of the south”), “crush,” and “pass on” or depart after having proved to be victorious. The Septuagint concludes with the thought that the “king of the north” will enter the “country of Egypt.” (11:40)
An interpretation that regards verse 40 as indicating that the “king of the south” and the “king of the north” would be coming against the “antichrist,” the “man of lawlessness,” or the “man of sin” is based on considering the “king” mentioned in verse 36 to be the “antichrist.” Although the forces of the “king of the south” and the “king of the north” would be coming against “him,” they would not succeed, for the “antichrist” would enter lands, overwhelm them, and pass through them. This interpretation, however, does not have the support of the Septuagint nor that of the Greek version of Theodotion. Moreover, the interpretation does not fit the immediate antecedent for the third person singular (rendered “him” and “he”). (11:40)
If the words of verse 40 are taken as being prophetic regarding the “antichrist,” then this one is being represented in the role of the “king of the north” and as succeeding in gaining complete control by defeating the “king of the south.” Antiochus IV Epiphanes never attained this kind of dominion over Egypt, and his conflict with Egypt does not fit what is here described. (11:40)
The “land of beauty” (Sabi or Sabain [Theodotion]) which the “king of the north” would enter is the land of Daniel’s people. (See verse 16 for comments.) “Many” would “stagger” or “stumble.” The Hebrew adjective that is translated “many” is feminine gender and plural. Therefore, the antecedent may be the plural feminine noun that is rendered “lands” in verse 40. “Many countries will fall.” (NIV) Translations that depart from the vowel pointing of the Masoretic Text do not render the Hebrew as referring to many lands or countries but make the application to people. “Tens of thousands will fall victim.” (REB) “Tens of thousands will be killed.” (CEV) Edom, Moab, and the “main part of the Ammonites” would be delivered from his hand, not coming under his control. According to the interpretive renderings of translations, the “main part of the Ammonites” refers to their “leaders” (NIV) or the “ruler” (CEV). If the words are prophetic of developments involving the “antichrist” or the “man of lawlessness,” they seemingly indicate that those whom God recognizes as his own people would be the main target of attack, with their enemies (which Edom, Moab, and Ammon formerly were) not being the object of his warring. The oldest extant Greek manuscript (P967) does not include any of the words of this verse. With apparent reference to the land of Daniel’s people, Rahlfs’ printed Greek text reads, “And he will come into my country.” (11:41)
The aggressor would “reach out” with (literally, “send”) his hand to seize other countries (“the earth” or “the land” [Theodotion]), seeking to enlarge his domain. Among the countries would be the “land of Egypt,” which would not escape. According to the shorter text in the Septuagint, no one “will be delivered” in the land of Egypt. When applied to the “antichrist” or the “man of lawlessness,” the words seemingly point to the successes he would have through his military campaigns in gaining the kind of dominion that Antiochus IV Epiphanes never did. Antiochus IV was forced to leave Egypt on account of the intervention of the Romans. (11:42)
Total dominion over Egypt also meant control over its treasures, including the concealed gold, silver, and desirable items of great value that would not readily be found by invading armies. Instead of remaining subject to Egypt, the Libyans to the east and the Ethiopians (Cushites) to the south would be at the “steps” of the aggressor. They would follow him as his subjects or, as expressed in the Septuagint, they would be “in his crowd.” The Greek text of Theodotion indicates that he would have dominion over the “Libyans and Ethiopians in their strongholds.” When regarded as applying to future developments pertaining to the “antichrist” or the “man of lawlessness,” these words suggest that his sphere of control over peoples and resources would be far more extensive than that of Antiochus IV Epiphanes ever was. (11:43)
The self-exalted aggressor would not continue to act as he pleased and prosper. Reports (“hastening reports” [Theodotion] or urgent communications) from the east (the “sunrising”) and from the north would greatly disturb him. His then going forth, or departing from Egypt, “in great fury,” suggests that the reports conveyed news about revolts in or attacks on his realm. On the way to deal with the situation that the reports disclosed, he, in his wrath, would exterminate (with the “sword” [LXX]) and destroy or kill many. Just how this aspect may develop in connection with the “antichrist” or the “man of lawlessness” is a matter of conjecture. (11:44)
For Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the end did not come in the land of Daniel’s people. That, however, is the location where the one to whom the prophetic language points is revealed to come to his finish. He is portrayed as pitching tents (“his tent” [LXX, Theodotion] — “his palatial ones” — between the “seas” (probably the plural of excellence to denote the “Great Sea” or the Mediterranean Sea) and the “holy mountain of beauty” (literally, the “mountain of the beauty of holiness”; “the mountain of the will of the holy one” [LXX, the mountain where the will of God, the Holy One, is done]; the “holy mountain of Sabi,” “Sabein,” or “Sabain” [Theodotion]). Zion or Jerusalem would be this “holy mountain,” for this was the location of YHWH’s temple or his representative place of dwelling. In the Greek text of Theodotion, the proper noun “Sabi,” “Sabein,” or “Sabain” is a transliteration of the Hebrew word rendered “beauty.” The version of Theodotion also transliterates the Hebrew expression rendered “palatial ones” as a proper noun — Ephadano (the location where he would be pitching his tent). (11:45)
The one who would be determined to annihilate God’s people would not succeed. Like Antiochus IV Epiphanes who sought to destroy all who adhered to God’s law, the “antichrist” or “man of lawlessness” would have the same objective, for he would exalt himself above every god and arrogate to himself the position of a god. (2 Thessalonians 2:4) He would, however, come to his finish, with no one to help him or to deliver him. According to the Septuagint, the “hour of his end will come.” This fits what the apostle Paul wrote about the “man of lawlessness.” The exalted Lord Jesus Christ, upon his return in glory, will do away with him. (11:45; 2 Thessalonians 2:8)
The Persian Empire did not end with the “fourth king” (verse 2). Those who do not consider the book of Daniel as prophetic point to this as indicating that it does not contain reliable history. Addressing this issue in his day, Jerome, in his commentary on Daniel, indicated that the intent of prophecy was not to “preserve historical detail” but to summarize “only the most important matters.”
In verse 4, the Septuagint makes no mention of “posterity.” It says that the “kingdom” would be “distributed to the four winds of heaven, not according to his might nor according to his authority that he exercised.” The Greek text of Theodotion likewise makes no reference to posterity, but says “not to his last things” (possibly meaning not according to the “last” or final extent of the realm of Alexander the Great). Instead of words that may be translated “others besides these,” the Septuagint ends with the phrase, “and others he will teach these [things].” This wording does not fit the context. Possibly the Septuagint translator read the Hebrew expression milvád (a preposition that may be rendered “besides”) as the piel form of the participle for the Hebrew word lamád (“teach”).
For verse 5, the comments are based on the account of Appian of Alexandria.(Syriaca, sections 53 through 55).
The Greek version of Theodotion begins verse 6 with the words, “And after his years, they will be commingled.” This suggests that, after the years of the first king of the south come to an end, the new king of the south and the king of the north would form a union. The rendering of the opening words in the Septuagint do not fit the context. (“And at the end of the years, he will lead them.”) According to the Septuagint, the “king of Egypt” would enter the “kingdom of the north to make pacts.” He would by no means gain the upper hand, for his “arm” or might would not “establish strength.” “His arm” or might would “grow numb,” as also would the arm or might of “those having come with him.” He would remain only “for hours” or a short time. The rendering of the Septuagint appears to indicate that the pacts or agreements with the king of the north would not accomplish their purpose, and that the king of Egypt would die not long after making the agreements.
In verse 6, the Greek version of Theodotion departs from the reading of the extant Hebrew text in ways that differ from the Septuagint. The daughter of the king of the south would come to the king of the north to make pacts with him. In the version of Theodotion, no mention is made of “his arm,” but it indicates that his “seed” would not remain. There is agreement with the Hebrew text in the reference to her being “given up” and also to those “carrying” or “bringing” her as sharing her fate, but the Greek version then concludes with the words, “and the young woman and the one strengthening her in those times.”
Verse 7 in the Septuagint reads “from his root” (not “her root”), but the translator appears not to have understood the Hebrew expression that has been rendered “in his place.” The opening sentence could be translated, “And a growth from his root will arise for himself” (or “against himself”). The Greek version of Theodotion refers to the arising of one “from the blossom of her root,” but the concluding words do not correspond to “in his place.” They are, “of his preparation.” In this context, this phrase does not convey anything meaningful.
The Septuagint rendering of verse 7 focuses on the “king of the north” and not the “king of the south.” It continues, “And the king of the north will come upon his force [dýnamis] in his strength, and he will cause turmoil and prevail.” In the oldest Greek manuscript (P967), not all the words of verse 7 are preserved. It does not, however, contain the word dýnamis. The four letters that appear where dýnamis would be are gian. These letters have been conjecturally considered to be part of the word argían (the accusative form of argía), meaning “idleness.” This conjectural reconstruction, however, is by no means certain.
In verse 8, the Septuagint refers to the king of Egypt as overthrowing “their gods with their cast things” (or cast images), and they (the victors) would carry away in captivity to Egypt “their crowd with their desirable vessels, the silver and the gold.”
The Septuagint rendering of verse 13 says that the “king of the north will return and gather a gathering of a city greater than the first, at the end of a time of a year.”
In the Septuagint, verse 14 says that “thoughts” or “plans” would arise against the “king of Egypt.” The plotting of Antiochus III the Great and Philip V of Macedonia and that of Agathocles and his sister and mother do fit the Septuagint rendering. It appears that the translator rendered the remainder of the verse in a manner that favored the Ptolemaic dynasty. The king of Egypt is represented as rebuilding the “fallen things” or ruins of Daniel’s nation (“your nation”), standing up to make prophecy stand or to be fulfilled. There is no context to determine to whom the concluding words apply (“and they will take offense”).
In Rahlfs’ printed Greek text for verse 16, there is no corresponding Greek word for “beauty.” It only has the noun chóra (land, country, or territory). The oldest extant Greek manuscript (P967) is fragmentary for this verse. It appears to read “land of desire” (theléseos), but only the last four letters of the word theléseos are preserved in the manuscript.
In verse 18, the Septuagint includes no reference to a “commander” or to “rulers” (Theodotion). It reads, “And he will return wrath for their reproach, with an oath, according to [or corresponding to] his reproach.” This obscure text could be understood to mean that the “king of the north” would respond with wrath against those who reproached or taunted him (as they must have done when he was defeated), but he would vow, as with an oath, to take vengeance upon the taunters corresponding to the reproach they had heaped upon him.
Verse 20 in the Septuagint indicates that a “plant of a kingdom will rise up from his root for rising up, a man injuring the glory of the king. And in the last days, he will be crushed and not in wrath nor in war.” The successor of Antiochus III could be regarded as a “plant” from his “root.” Possibly, injuring the “glory of the king” could be understood as failing to live up to what one occupying a royal office should be. The thought about the end for the “king of the north” is basically the same as in the Masoretic Text.
In verse 20, the Greek version of Theodotion (Rahlfs’ printed text) has the same wording about a “plant” as does the Septuagint. Instead of continuing with the words “for rising up,” the version of Theodotion says “upon his preparation [perhaps meaning the place prepared for him], passing over [or usurping], winning the glory of a kingdom.” Then the text continues, “And in those days, he will be crushed and not by faces [possibly meaning not openly as when seeing someone face-to-face] nor in war.”
With the exception of the concluding phrase in verse 21, the Septuagint rendering basically conveys the same meaning as the Masoretic Text. The concluding phrase is, “and the king will overpower by his lot.” In this case, the Septuagint translator appears to have regarded the Hebrew word chalaqlaqóhth to mean “lot.” The Hebrew root for “lot” or “portion” is the same as for “smoothness.”
As in the previous verse (20), the version of Theodotion refers (in verse 21) to rising “on his preparation” (perhaps meaning the place prepared for him by reason of its having been vacated). The concluding phrase is, “and he will overpower kingdoms by slips” (by slippery or smooth ways).
In its basic sense, the Hebrew word for “arm” (zeróha‘) refers to the arm of a body or a person. Both the Septuagint and the version of Theodotion (in verse 22) contain the corresponding Greek word brachíon, which has the same basic meaning as zeróha‘. In this context, “arms” denotes powers or forces. According to the reading of the Septuagint, the king of the north “will crush the crushed arms before his face,” suggesting that he would triumph over all opposition. The reference to a “covenant” is part of the next verse in the Septuagint, and the context of that verse conveys a meaning that differs from the extant Hebrew text.
In verse 24, the oldest extant Greek manuscript (P967) does not contain the words that may be rendered “in vain,” but its reading may be translated “for sin.” This wording indicates that the deliberations of the king of the north would be sinful, designed to do harm.
In verse 25, the oldest extant Greek manuscript (P967) does not include the words “with a great crowd, and the king of Egypt.”
In the Greek version of Theodotion, verse 26 starts with the words, “And they will eat his designated portions and crush him.” When understood to relate to members of the royal court who ate the royal provisions, their bad counsel did lead to crushing the young king. Seemingly with reference to the “king of the south,” the Septuagint says, “And his anxieties will consume him and will let him turn away.” When applied to Ptolemy VI, the words could indicate that worries about the conflict with Antiochus IV, fueled by the bad advice of the eunuch Eulaeus, prompted him to “turn away” or to flee. He did then “depart and carry away” what he could or what he wanted, and many of his warriors did fall mortally wounded.
Instead of the Hebrew expression for “their heart,” the Septuagint translator (in verse 27) read it as “alone.” This accounts for the rendering, “And the two kings will dine alone.”
In verse 31, the reference in the Septuagint to the “holy place of fear” could be understood to be to the sanctuary as a place where a proper fear or reverential regard for YHWH was to be in evidence. The Greek text of Theodotion suggests that the sanctity or holiness of YHWH’s lordship or sovereignty would have been profaned by ending the proper services at the temple and replacing them with idolatrous worship. Instead of a rendering of the Hebrew word for “arms,” the version of Theodotion contains the word “seeds” or progeny. This is because the consonants for the Hebrew words are identical.
The Greek version of Theodotion (in verse 32) represents “lawless ones” as bringing in or introducing a covenant by slipperiness or smoothness. This rendering appears to reflect what is described in 1 Maccabees 1:11 (NRSV). “In those days certain renegades came out from Israel and misled many, saying, ‘Let us go and make a covenant with the Gentiles around us, for since we separated from them many disasters have come upon us.’”
Verse 33 in the Septuagint does not say “by flame” but reads, “will be made old by it [by the sword].” The Septuagint also refers to them as coming to be stained by plundering for days.
According to the rendering of verse 34 in the Seputagint, the faithful ones (among whom a significant number would be “broken” or perish) would “gather a little strength.” This could mean that they would strengthen themselves to face those who would be bent on destroying them. As in verse 21, the Septuagint translator appears to have regarded the Hebrew word chalaqlaqóhth to mean “lot.” The Hebrew root for “lot” or “portion” is the same as for “smoothness.” This, in part, explains the extant reading of the Septuagint. “Many will be gathered to them from a city and many as by lot” for a land inheritance.
The Septuagint rendering of verse 35 indicates that the ones having understanding or the wise would purpose “to cleanse themselves and to be chosen, and to be cleansed until the time of the end.” This suggests that they would be concerned about maintaining an acceptable standing before God. The Greek version of Theodotion refers to them as becoming weak in order to be refined, chosen, and revealed (apparently as approved) until the time of the end.
In verse 36, the Septuagint includes the concluding phrase of verse 35 as the opening phrase of verse 36 (“In that hour” or “at that time”). Besides acting “according to his will,” the king would be “incited to anger.” As to his success, the Septuagint says that he would prosper “until the wrath is completed, for to him the end will occur.” This rendering indicates that the king would come to his end.
The Greek version of Theodotion (in verse 38) transliterates the Hebrew word translated “fortresses” as Maozin and thus refers to the king as glorifying or honoring the “god Maozin.” Rahlfs’ printed Greek text could be rendered, “Unto his place, he will move even a god.” This could be understood to mean that, in the position formerly occupied by another deity, the king would move the god that his forefathers had not known.
At that “time” (which, according to 11:40, would be the “time [or hour (LXX)] of the end”), “Michael the great prince” would “stand up” or “arise.” The Septuagint refers to Michael as the “great angel,” and the Greek version of Theodotion contains the expression “great ruler” or “great leader.” This prominent angel is identified as “standing” over Daniel’s people (literally, the “sons of your people”), suggesting that he is their defender and helper. His “standing up” or “arising” appears to relate to his taking an active role in coming to the aid of God’s devoted people. In the Septuagint, Michael is portrayed as “passing by,” probably as one arriving as the angel who looks after the interests of the people whom God recognizes as his very own. (12:1)
The “time of the end” would be a period marked by such great distress as had never occurred since a nation came into existence up until that time. According to the Septuagint, this time would be a “day of distress” like no other days came to be until that day. Apparently on account of having Michael the mighty angel as their defender, Daniel’s people (representative of all whom God regards as belonging to him) would be delivered. That they are divinely approved persons is revealed by their “name” being found written in the book. They are thus identified as being in the registry of those who are approved and under God’s special care and guidance. Instead of referring to the divinely approved people as being saved, the Septuagint says that “all the people will be exalted.” From the standpoint of being delivered whereas others will not be saved, the people would be revealed as having been exalted. (12:1)
Many of those asleep in the “dust of the earth” would awake. Some of these would awake to “everlasting life,” and some to “reproach” or “shame” and “everlasting abhorrence.” Those asleep in the “dust of the earth” would be the dead, and their awaking would refer to their being resurrected. The language parallels that of Jesus Christ when he identified himself as the one whom his Father had granted the authority to restore the dead to life. Speaking about himself in the third person, Jesus said, “The hour is coming when all in the tombs will hear his voice and come out.” Those who revealed themselves to be doers of good during their lifetime would then experience the “resurrection of life,” from then onward enjoying life eternally as persons having an approved relationship with the Father and his Son. Those who have done vile deeds, setting themselves in opposition to God’s ways, would face a “resurrection of judgment,” a condemnatory judgment commensurate with the life they had lived. A condemnatory judgment would indeed be one resulting in shame and lasting abhorrence. (12:2; John 5:28, 29)
In Isaiah 66:24, the abhorrent state is represented as being like that of corpses that have been cast into a garbage dump where fires burn continually and maggots feed on the dead bodies that the flames do not reach. This abhorrent state of condemnation does not end. The transgressors would forever be deprived of any possibility of the eternal life enjoyed by those whom God approves. In the Septuagint rendering of the passage in Daniel, a distinction is drawn between those who arise to “reproach” and others who arise to “dispersion and eternal shame.” This rendering could be understood to indicate that the judgment resulting in “reproach” would be less severe than the one leading to “dispersion and eternal shame” (comparable to being cast out and remaining in a state of perpetual shame or contempt). The Hebrew text may also refer to two outcomes, but it is more likely that “reproach” and “everlasting abhorrence” apply to the same condemnatory judgment. (12:2)
The ones proving themselves to be wise or possessing insight would be those who conduct themselves in a divinely approved manner, adhering faithfully to God’s commands. As their reward upon being raised from the dead, they would “shine like the brightness of the firmament,” appearing in their approved state as does the celestial dome when illuminated by sunlight. As for those who turn many to righteousness, they will shine like the stars for limitless time to come (“into the age of the age” [LXX]). Their turning many to righteousness indicates that they would be diligent in teaching others the right course to take, motivating them to live uprightly. Their reward would be comparable to coming to be like stars shining brilliantly in the night sky. This suggests that, besides being raised to life, there would be additional privileges and blessings for those who aided others to abandon a wayward course and then to pursue a divinely approved way of life. (12:3; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering and that of the Greek version of Theodotion.)
It is possible that the thought about shining brilliantly somewhat parallels the words in 2 Peter 1:11, which refer to the entry into the kingdom as being “richly provided.” This could designate a glorious entry, being welcomed into the heavenly realm as persons acknowledged to have been exemplary devoted servants of God and Christ. It could also signify the high degree of blessedness they would come to enjoy for having exerted themselves in advancing Christ’s cause in attitude, word, and action. They would not be like believers whose works Christ’s judgment would expose as having been worthless but who, because of having him as their foundation, would not lose out on life despite their failings. The deliverance of those whose works would not prove to be praiseworthy would be like that of persons who would lose everything in a fire but would themselves be snatched from the flames. Their entry into the kingdom then would not be “richly provided.” (12:3; compare 1 Corinthians 3:15.)
The angel who had been sent to Daniel (10:12) is the one who had revealed everything that has been recorded up to this point. Therefore, this is the angel who must have told him to “shut up” or to conceal the “words” and to “seal” the book “until the time of the end.” Accordingly, these “words” would be the ones the angel had made known to Daniel and which related to future developments. At the “time of the end,” none of the prophetic words would remain unfulfilled. Therefore, this would also be the time for these words no longer to be concealed and for the seal or seals to be broken, making it possible to read with understanding everything that had been recorded. (12:4)
“Many will roam” or “rove about, and knowledge will increase.” If this pertains to the time of unparalleled distress (12:1), it could mean that people would roam, desperately seeking answers for guidance while faced with mounting affliction. Among God’s devoted people (as one may conclude from verse 3), there will be those who would be turning many to righteousness or to conduct themselves aright during the time of trouble. So the kind of knowledge that would be essential during the difficult time would increase. (12:4)
The rendering of the Septuagint definitely applies to the culmination of the time of distress when the “words” or “ordinances” (LXX) would no longer be concealed and the written record would no longer be sealed. It would then be a time when many would be “going mad” and “wickedness” or “injustice” would “fill the earth.” In the Greek version of Theodotion, the positive aspect is mentioned, with the book being sealed “until many are taught and knowledge is increased.” (12:4)
Daniel saw “two others” or two other angels besides the one who had been speaking to him. One of these angels stood on one bank of the stream or the river, and the other one on the other bank. According to verse 4 of chapter 10, the river was the Hiddekel or Tigris (LXX). Possibly the two other angels served as witnesses respecting the truthfulness or reliability of what had been revealed to Daniel. (12:5)
The “man clothed in linen” or the one dressed with a linen garment is the angel who had been speaking to Daniel, for he is described in the same way in verse 5 of chapter 10. His being “above the waters of the stream” could mean that he was standing upstream at the location where he had been speaking to Daniel. The question one of the other angels raised pertained to how long it would be until the “end of these extraordinary things” or “wonders” (things that would cause astonishment). In the Greek version of Theodotion, the “wonders” are identified as those concerning which the angel had spoken. (12:6; regarding the Septuagint rendering, see the Notes section.)
Daniel saw the angel, “the man clothed in linen” who was “above the waters of the stream” (or upstream) raise his right hand and his left to the heavens and heard him swear by “God” (LXX), the One who lives forever. The angel declared that “all these things” would be accomplished at the termination of a time, two times, and half a time. This also would be when the “shattering of the power [literally, hand] of the holy people” would end. During the three and a half times, God’s people would be the objects of a vicious attack that is meant to destroy them. The earlier reference to a time of unparalleled distress seemingly places the event at the time of the end when the “antichrist” or the “man of lawlessness” appears on the scene. So the three and a half times may be understood to represent a period during which God’s people would experience violent oppression, comparable to that which the Israelites who endeavored to live according to the law experienced for some three years during the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. (12:7; see the Notes section regarding the opening words of the Septuagint.)
Although Daniel heard what the angel said, he did not understand. The Masoretic Text and the Greek version of Theodotion do not identify what he did not understand, but the Septuagint adds, “concerning the time itself,” indicating that he did not comprehend just when these developments would take place and what was involved. Using a respectful manner of address, he said to the angel, “O my lord, what will be the issue of these things?” The oldest extant Greek text (P967) renders the question, “What [is] the interpretation of these words, and what [do] their parables [mean]?” In Rahlfs’ printed text, the singular “this word” appears. While the question in the extant Hebrew text and the Greek version of Theodotion focuses on the “end” or outcome of the things that the angel had mentioned, the question in the Septuagint relates to the meaning of the “words,” “word,” or message that the angel had made known to Daniel. The word rendered “parables,” may here apply to puzzling aspects of the message. (12:8)
It was then not the time for Daniel to understand what had been revealed to him. The imperative for him to “go” or “run away” (LXX) directed to Daniel may simply mean that he was to go on his way, not concerning himself about developments that would not be affecting him personally. The “words” were “shut up” or concealed and “sealed until the time of the end,” with their fulfillment being in the future. According to the Septuagint, the “ordinances” were “concealed and sealed until many are tested and sanctified.” This rendering indicates that the future time of distress would be a time of testing or refining and that those who remained faithful would be revealed as sanctified, holy, or purified by reason of the refining process. (12:9; see the Notes section.)
During the time Antiochus IV Epiphanes endeavored to stamp out the worship of YHWH, certain Israelites actively supported his objective. Many, out of fear, yielded to his official decree and engaged in idolatrous practices. Others among the Israelites were determined to follow God’s law even though it could lead to their being killed. Likewise in the time when the “antichrist” or the “man of lawlessness” exercises control, there will be ardent supporters, persons who will buckle under the pressure to conform, and those who will remain devoted to God and Christ or will choose to take the right course. When the words of Daniel are regarded as applying to the time of the “man of lawlessnes,” then persons who would be seeking to do God’s will are being described as the many who would “purify themselves and make themselves white and be refined.” According to the Greek version of Theodotion, the verse indicates that following the right course is a matter of choice, for the first word, when linked with “many,” may be rendered “let many choose.” The refining process could include affliction that is faithfully endured. (12:10)
Wicked ones, those who would be supporting or following the dictates of the “man of lawlessness,” would act wickedly. According to the Septuagint, “sinners” would “sin,” habitually following a course of lawlessness. None of them would “understand” or discern that disregarding God’s ways and submitting fully to the “man of lawlessness” would end disastrously for them. Wise persons, those who remained loyal to God, would understand how they should be conducting themselves during the distressing time and would also comprehend what the eventual outcome will be. (12:10)
The “continuity” (tamíd) can refer to the regular sacrifice that was offered at the temple in Jerusalem. In the Septuagint, the reference is to the “sacrifice.” Antiochus IV Ephiphanes did put a stop to the regular sacrifice at the temple. When an application is made to the action of the “man of lawlessness,” this could refer to a vicious attack to silence devoted servants of God and Christ from making expressions about their faith, thereby removing the kind of sacrifices with which God is pleased. (Compare Hebrews 13:15, 16.) From the time the “continuity” or the regular sacrifice is removed and the “abomination making desolate” is set up, 1,290 days would pass. (Regarding the “abomination” in the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, see 11:31.) According to 2 Thessalonians 2:4, the “man of lawlessness” would seat himself in the “temple of God” and represent himself as being a god. This would indeed be abominable or disgusting. Just how this will develop and what will be involved are not disclosed. The period of 1,290 days may be representative of a time like that which was experienced by faithful Israelites after the defilement of the temple in Jerusalem. That period will have a beginning and an end at God’s appointed time. (12:11)
During the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, Israelites who were determined to obey God’s law fought back under the leadership of the priest Mattathias and then, after his death, under that of his son Judas. In this part of the book of Daniel, however, there is no hint of any fighting. The implication is that faithful ones would wait patiently for divine help. Anyone who then “waits” or endures and comes to the end of 1,335 days is pronounced “blessed” or “happy,” suggesting that such a one would then experience the joys and blessings that would come to those who remain faithful during the period of great distress. The mention of specific days may indicate that everything will take place according to God’s appointed time. (12:12)
Daniel would not be affected by the time of great affliction but could go on his way until the end of his life. He would then rest in the realm of the dead, and thereafter “stand” or rise to receive his “lot” or inheritance at the “end of the days.” According to the Septuagint rendering, Daniel is directed to go and to take his rest, “for there are still days and hours until the fulfillment of the end.” After his resting in the realm of the dead, he would “rise” to his “glory at the end of the days.” (12:13; see John 11:24, where Martha is quoted as expressing her faith that her brother Lazarus would be raised from the dead “on the last day.”)
In verse 3, the Septuagint says of those having understanding — the intelligent or the wise — that they will “shine like the lights of the heaven” or like the luminaries in the sky. As for those who “strengthen” God’s word, which would include his commands and the message he conveyed through his prophets, they will shine eternally like the “stars of the heaven” or the stars in the night sky. The “strengthening” of the “word” could refer to making it clear to others and, by example and admonition, encouraging others to heed it. Two different meanings are possible for the Greek text in the version of Theodotion. (1) “Some of the many righteous ones” will shine “like the stars.” (2) “Some of the righteous deeds of the many” will shine “like the stars.”
The rendering of the Septuagint in verse 6 departs significantly from the reading of the extant Hebrew text and the Greek version of Theodotion. In the partially preserved text of this verse in the oldest Greek manuscript (P967), the opening words are, “And they said,” referring to the two angels as directing their question to the one clothed in linen. Rahlfs’ printed Greek text says, “And I said,” applying to Daniel as the speaker. The question is, “When then [is] the end of the wonders of which you spoke to me and the cleansing of these things?” This question appears to relate to the end of the astonishing developments and the cleansing or purification of the things that had been defiled. Additionally, in Rahlfs’ text, the one addressed is referred to as the “one above” (apparently meaning “above the water of the river” or the one upstream), but P967, reads, “O, O lord.”
In verse 7, the opening words of the Septuagint in answer to the question raised in verse 5 may be rendered, “until the time of the end” or “until the end of time.” Instead of mentioning the “shattering” of the “hand” or “power” of the “holy people,” the Septuagint says, “the end of the hands of the release of the holy people.” Possibly this is to be understood to refer to the end of the powers that prevented the release of God’s people from a captive state.
The words rendered “and sealed” are not included in the oldest extant Greek manuscript (P967). In Rahlfs’ printed Greek text, the phrase “until many are tested and sanctified” starts at the end of verse 9 and continues in verse 10.