K. A. Auberlen on Daniel 10-12
In the following, K. A. Auberlen discusses the prophecy contained in Daniel chapters 10-12. The quote is followed by a comment on Daniel 11:45 by Edward J. Young.
[Karl August Auberlen, Magnus Friedrich Roos. The prophecies of Daniel and the revelations of St John: viewed in their mutual relation, with an exposition of the principal passages. T. & T. Clark, Edinburgh. 1856. pp. 56-66.]
The tenth chapter opens to us marvellous glimpses into the invisible spiritual world, which forms the background of the world’s history. Nor is this without analogy in Holy Scripture (Job i. 7, ii. 1, etc.; Zech. iii. 1, 2; Jude 9; Rev. xii. 7, etc.); but nowhere else are the revelations so clear and comprehensive. The general truth, that the angels are ministering organs of the Divine providence and government, is frequently, and in detail, asserted and proved by Holy Scripture, but above all, in the two Apocalyptic books, in which the curtain that hides from us the invisible world is drawn aside. The Scriptures recognise the efficacy of angels in the whole life of nature, even in ordinary and regular natural phenomena (John v. 4; Heb. i. 7; Rev. vii. 1-3, xiv. 8, xvi. 5). And not only in nature, but in history also, for which our chapter is the classical passage. We see here individual angels standing at the head of individual kingdoms of the world; we see opposed to them, at the head of the Israelitish Theocracy, Michael, one of the first princes. In alliance with him, and opposed to the spirits of the world, there is another angel, whom Hofmann designates as the good spirit of the heathen world-power, whose object is to promote the realization of God’s plan of salvation in the heathen world. It is natural that this angel should be sent to reveal to Daniel the fate which the powers of the world were preparing for the people of God. He lets the prophet catch a glimpse of the invisible struggles between the princes of the angels, in which it is decided who is to exert the determining influence on the worldly monarch, whether the god-opposed spirit of this world, or the good spirit, whose aim it is to further the interests of God’s kingdom. We are wont to speak in a spiritualising way of a struggle between the good and the evil spirit in man; Holy Scripture teaches us to regard such a struggle as real and substantial (comp. 1 Sam. xvi. 13-15; 1 Kings xxii. 22). The Satanic influences of which we have more particular knowledge, through the language of Jesus and his apostles, are essentially not different from this. The liberty of human actions is not hereby taken away; for the spirits exercise no compelling influence on men’s hearts, and their chief activity consists probably in the arrangement of outward events. The question about the relation of the Divine government to human liberty, rather loses than gains in difficulty, when we take the element of angelic ministry into consideration.
That glorious angel who appears to Daniel, tells him, that for twenty-one days he struggled with the angel at the head of the Persian monarchy, and that finally, by Michael’s help, he subdued him, and obtained superiority over the Persian king. But he informed him also, that he had to enter upon a further struggle with that Persian angel, and that this would be succeeded by one with the Grecian, which, as he lets him dimly see, would not, for all the help of Michael, be equally victorious. These events in the world of angels will be better understood, when viewed in connection with the revelations concerning the future which follow in the eleventh chapter. While the Persian kingdom endures, the spirit of the world-power, hostile to God and His people, will be restrained and subdued, so that the Persian kings will follow the good spirit, and be favourable to Israel. But with the Greek kingdom there will come a change. During its dominion the people of the covenant will have to suffer much from the wars of the Ptolemies and Seleucidae; and it is out of this kingdom that the arch-enemy shall arise.
The prophecy of the eleventh chapter consists of three parts. There is, first, a brief description of the Persian and Greek monarchies, ver. 2-4); then follows a sketch of the most important struggles of the Ptolemies and Seleucidae (ver. 5-20); while a detailed and circumstantial picture of Antiochus Epiphanes forms the conclusion (ver. 21-45). We see that all the visions which refer to the power of the world correspond to the outlines presented in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (chap. ii.), and are only a further development of the ground-plan there, carried out with ever increasing fulness and minuteness. The seventh chapter contains, first, a further description of the fourth monarchy, showing how the Antichrist proceeds from the ten toes or horns. While the preceding outlines are thus filled up, they prepare the way for the subsequent prophecies; for the description of Antiochus in the eighth chapter is based on the model of the Antichrist delineated in the seventh. There is yet another relation, in reference to the third monarchy, in which the seventh chapter is a development of the second, and the eighth the final consummation. The fourfold division of the Greek kingdom, which does not yet appear in the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, is symbolized in the four heads and four wings of the leopard (vii. 6), while it is still more distinctly revealed in the eighth chapter, in the four horns of the he-goat, which grow up in place of the one great horn. There is thus a progress from the seventh to the eighth chapter, parallel to that we already saw from the second to the seventh, in the description of the Roman kingdom. For while in the seventh chapter the little horn of Antichrist appears between the ten horns of the fourth beast, which are identical with the ten toes in the image of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream; in the eighth the little horn of Antiochus rises out of the four horns of the he-goat, which are identical with the four horns of the leopard. Exactly in the same way the eleventh chapter is an enlargement of the eighth. The disclosures which the latter contains about Persia and Greece, and the fourfold division of the great Greek kingdom, are only mentioned to be used as a connecting link and starting-point for the prophecy, which now unfolds the future of Egypt and Syria, the Ptolemies and Seleucidae, the kings of the South and the kings of the North. “Daniel,” says Luther, “now leaves the two kingdoms of Asia and Grecia, and takes up the two of Syria and Egypt. For the Jewish country lieth between these two, and hath Syria on the north [towards midnight], and Egypt on the south [towards mid-day], and these two had an everlasting contest with each other. The Jews, therefore, placed thus between the door and the hinge, were sorely tormented on both sides. Now they fell a prey to Egypt, and anon to Syria, as the one kingdom or the other got the better; and they had to pay dearly for their neighbourhood, as is wont to be in time of war. Specially when that impious man was king in Syria, whom histories style Antiochus the noble; he assaulted the Jews most fiercely, and raged and slaughtered like a devil among them. It was on account of this wretch and cruel villan that the vision was given, to comfort the Jews, whom he was to plague with all kinds of plagues.”
It is, moreover, worthy of remark, that we do not find Syria and the individual kingdoms mentioned by name, any more than Rome. As yet these kingdoms lay quite beyond the historical horizon of Daniel; the angel, therefore, could not designate them by their names. Rome was separated from Daniel by space; an independent Syrian kingdom, by time. Syria, already conquered by the Assyrians (2 Kings xvi. 9; Is. viii. 4; Amos i. 5), belonged afterwards as a province to the kingdoms of Babylon, Persia, and Greece, successively, and was a very unimportant country in the time of Daniel. The angel designated the Syrian kings by the general appellation of kings of the North, or Midnight, referring, probably, to the prophetical usus loquendi, by which the midnight region is spoken of as the land of darkness, of destruction, of the enemies of God and His people (Joel ii. 20; Jer. i. 13-15; iv. 6; x. 22; xlvii. 2; Zech. ii. 10). If our book had been written so late as the time of the Maccabees, it would be difficult to assign a reason why Syria is not mentioned by name as well as Greece; nay, it might be expected that Syria should be mentioned, even though Greece was not. This circumstance must be regarded as one of those minute and fine features which, because of their very insignificance and secondary position are, to the unprejudiced student, the most eloquent witnesses for the antiquity and authenticity of a book. It cannot be maintained by our opponents that the Maccabean authors omitted to name Syria for fear of Antiochus, since country and king for that time are so minutely sketched as to be unmistakable. We lay the more stress on this circumstance, as Egypt, whose princes are called in opposition to the Syrian, the kings of the South or Mid-day, is mentioned by name (ver. 8, 42). For this is not only the old monarchy well known to the Israelites, but at the time Daniel received this revelation it was still an independent and even flourishing king dom; nor was it till ten years later that it was conquered by Cambyses and annexed to Persia. The designation, kings of the North and kings of the South, is given from Palestine being the stand-point. This is not only the stand-point of all prophecy, and of the whole Bible, but the return of the Israelites to their own country in the third year of Cyrus, had already commenced at the time of this prophecy. Thus, in its prophecies concerning the enemies of Israel, our chapter not only bears the specific character of Daniel’s time, but evinces its genuine prophetic character in this, that it is mysterious notwithstanding its minuteness.
And this, indeed, is the general character of the entire wonderful revelation which is here given to us. Of all the predictions contained in the Holy Scripture, this is doubtless the most special and minute, and in order not to be offended at this prophecy, it is necessary to believe in the omniscience and real revelation of God in the prophetic word. Nay, we may assert, of this eleventh chapter, that it is essentially important as a datum for the doctrine of divine prescience in a system of dogmatics. The supposition of some theologians, that God has a prescience of the development of the world in its pure abstractness only, in its final end, and in the most essential points of its evolutions, cannot be reconciled with our passage. It is true, it stands by no means isolated. Significant and important analogies are furnished by the words of that man of God at Bethel (1 Kings xiii. 2), who mentioned the name of King Josiah more than three hundred years before that king’s time, in Isaiah’s prophecy of the sixty-five years during which the kingdom of Ephraim was to continue (Is. vii. 8), in the prophecy about Babylon and even about Cyrus (Is. xiii. 1; xiv. 23; xxi. 1-10; xliv. 28; xlv. 1), in Jeremiah’s prophecy of the seventy years of exile (Jer. xxv. 11; xxix. 10); in the very circumstantial disclosures of Ezekiel concerning the destruction of Jerusalem (Ezek. xxiv. 2. 25-27); and many others. But the most important examples are given in the book of Daniel, and they assume the greater importance, since they are, at the same time, organic preparations for our present prophecy, in which they have their culminating point. We must also bear in mind that, as Hofmann reminds us, “this minute description was given to meet a want which had not been felt before,” that it was intended to be a light unto the path of the people of the election, in the darkest centuries of their abandonment by God. And thus we come, lastly, to consider the character of the prophecy itself. As we have mentioned before, its special minuteness is by no means of such a kind as to uplift, in a manner far from salutary, the veil which, in the wise counsels of the Almighty, has been drawn across the future, nor of such a kind as to unfold the future to the gaze of a profane curiosity. If we take the chapter and read it without consulting the historical elucidations afforded by the times of the Ptolemies and Seleucidae, it will seem full of dark enigmas. And naturally, this was still more the case when that history was yet future. These enigmas invited the faithful Israelite’s investigation to a careful comparison of the prophecy with the events of the day, and thus by degrees he obtained the key of interpretation and received also the precious consolation that all the violence of the world under which the elect were now sighing, was predestined by God and prophesied to His people. He will understand this, who, in the dark days of the world’s commotions, has experienced somewhat of the light and comfort of the word of prophecy. Comp. 2 Peter i. 19.
And here we are allowed to see the reason for which such a special disclosure about the spiritual world, considered as the background of history, is joined to such a special prophecy. The tenth chapter is as peculiar a phenomenon in Holy Scripture as the eleventh, and these two remarkable phenomena, unique in their kind, are connected not only outwardly but also inwardly. Their relation to each other is that of the future and the invisible. It strengthened and elevated the people of God to be permitted to view the future in a prophecy during their heavy afflictions; but it was equally strengthening and elevating for them to have their eye directed to the mighty champions and allies which they possessed in the world of spirits. As Paul excites the Ephesians to an earnest struggle against sin, by reminding them that they have to “wrestle not with flesh and blood alone, but with principalities and powers,” so Daniel was commanded to inspire his people with courage and perseverance in their struggle with the world, by showing them that not only they who are flesh and blood, but with them principalities and powers also are leagued against the world in its opposition to God. It is in the same spirit that Roos remarks (p. 13):—”The name Lord of Sabaoth is nowhere mentioned so frequently as in the prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, who doubtless sought to counteract by this name the fear which the Jews, as a poor and despised people, had of the power of the Gentiles; and to prove to them that the God in whom they believed had hosts enough to protect them, though they should be devoid of all worldly might wherewith to defend themselves against their enemies.”
This general characteristic of the eleventh chapter may suffice, as the more minute explanation of its contents is to be found (and with essential agreement) in all, either learned or popular, commentaries of Daniel. We refer especially to Hävernick and Hitzig, as well as to Schmieder’s continuation of Gerlach’s Commentary. There remain but two points for discussion, the beginning and the end of the chapter.
Commentators have found it difficult to account for the circumstance that the second verse concludes the series of the kings with Xerxes. For the three kings after Cyrus (in whose reign Daniel received the entire revelation) are Cambyses, Pseudosmerdis, and Darius Hystaspes. The fourth king is Xerxes, whose riches are proverbial, and who had an attendant always crying to him, “Lord, remember the Athenians!” In his reign, the Persian kingdom reached its highest point and displayed its greatest power against Greece. But it was subdued by Greece, and from this period dates its gradual decay. After the battle of Salamis, the centre of the world-history was no more in the second, but in the third, the Grecian kingdom. The second kingdom, therefore, disappears from view according to a law of prophecy which we shall describe more fully afterwards. The angel proceeds, in the third verse, to the Grecian kingdom, and this also he views at once in its world-historical culminating point, Alexander, in whose time it began to assume importance for the people of God. Thus prophecy, passing over the valleys, steps from height to height of human history, its light illumines the mountain tops, the heads and the horns. It is only in the fifth verse that it descends into the low ground, and that because Israel was, after a respite, drawn into the vicissitudes of the SyroEgyptian struggles.
The second point is the conclusion of the prophecy about Antiochus Epiphanes. In this passage we have, first, a description of the earliest wars of the king with Egypt (ver. 21-27), then of his religious conduct, partly as it related to Israel (ver. 2S-35), partly viewed generally (ver. 36-39), and finally of his last enterprises and his end (ver. 40-45). From this general outline the reader will perceive that from the 36th verse the typical relation of Antiochus to Antichrist receives great prominence. For this reason the majority of commentators have referred verses 36-45 immediately to Antichrist. But Hävernick has justly given up this interpretation as arbitrary; for not only are the features of Antiochus’ character drawn in verses 36-39 so accurately as scarcely to be mistaken; but we find again, in verses 40-45, the opposition between north and south which runs through the whole chapter. We must mention, however, one difficulty which this last part offers, viz., that historians do not mention anything of an expedition undertaken by Antiochus against Egypt shortly before his death. Some expositors, and Hitzig also, suppose that the prophecy here goes back to earlier events, and embraces them all in this one final conclusion. But when we examine the text in its connection, this seems nothing but a mere makeshift. It is probable that the statement of Porphyry repeated by Jerome, deserves credit, according to which Antiochus undertook an expedition against Egypt in the eleventh year of his reign, consequently 166-165 b.c., and took Palestine on his way. The rumours mentioned in verse 44, which doubtless refer to the opposition and revolt of tributary nations, then led him towards the East. Porphyry remarks that Antiochus started from Egypt, took Arad, in the tribe of Judah, and devastated the entire coast of Phoenicia; and this agrees well with the forty-fifth verse: “He shall plant the tabernacles of His palaces between the seas in the glorious holy mountain:” and that then he turned rapidly to check Artaxias, King of Armenia, who had raised up commotions. On this expedition he died in the Persian town Tabes, 164 b.c., as both Polybius and Porphyry agree.
We shall subsequently refer to the conclusion of the angel’s speech (xii. 1-3), and then offer an explanation. Here we may remark that the twelfth chapter (ver. 4-13) bears the character of a conclusion, not merely to this individual vision, but, as an epilogue, to the whole book. For not only do we find the book expressly mentioned in the fourth verse, not only does the angel finally take leave of Daniel in the thirteenth verse, but distinct reference is made in the sixth and seventh verses to chap. vii. 25, that is, to the time of Antichrist, while the subsequent verses from the eighth to the twelfth, treat of the time of Antiochus, as is evident, more particularly from the eleventh verse, containing as it does, a plain allusion to chap. xi. 31. Thus, in the conclusion of the book, we see the two great periods of distress, for which it was more especially given, put together in a manner the most significant, and which throws light upon the whole prophecy. The extension of the view to the time of Antichrist, in a prophecy which refers chiefly to Antiochus, is caused by the mention of the resurrection (ver. 2, 3), which takes place immediately after the Antichristian period, and contemporary with the coming of the Messiah in glory—the subject of the seventh chapter. It is to this period that the question of the angel has reference, when he asks (ver. 6) “How long to the end of these wonders—קֵ֥ץהַפְּלָאֽוֹת,” in distinction from the question of Daniel (ver. 8), “what the end of these things—אֵֽלֶּה אַחֲרִ֖ית.” The angel’s question refers to the wonderful dealings of God in general; the prophet, who does not at once understand fully the disclosures about the last things (ver. 8), asks what will be the concluding issue of those things then in progress, and immediately impending. The angel, with heavenly eye, sees into the far distant end of the world’s history; the prophet, with human interest, regards the more immediate future of his nation.
The following comments by Edward J. Young on Daniel 11:45, suggest an application of the prophecy to the church, and he cited the New Testament in support. [Edward J. Young. The prophecy of Daniel. P&R, Philadelphia, 1949. p. 253.]
Vs. 45. And he will plant the tents of his pavilion between the sea and the mountain of the delight of holiness, and he will come unto his end, and there is none to help him. The tents of his pavilion is about equivalent to his royal pavilion. This he will plant (note that the future is employed. We are dealing with the language of predictive prophecy) as one plants a tree, i. e., he will establish between the sea and the holy mountain of Delight (lit., between seas to the mountain of the delight of holiness). The pl. seas is poetic (cf. Deut. 33:19) and the reference is to the Mediterranean Sea. The glorious holy mountain is Jerusalem or Zion. Hence, the king is to make his final stand between the Mediterranean Sea and Jerusalem. This statement cannot possibly apply to Antiochus, since he died at Tabae in Persia. It should be noted that in placing the destruction of the great world power which opposes the people of God near to Jerusalem, Dan. is in harmony with other similar OT references (cf. Joel 3:2, 12ff.; Zech 14:2). However, inasmuch as such names as Egypt, Moab, Edom, Ammon, etc., are employed in these vv. in a symbolical sense, so also is this present description employed. Precisely what is signified it is difficult to determine. At any rate, the great final enemy of the people of God, the Antichrist, will make his last stand and will come to his end in territory which is sacred and holy (peculiarly delighted in by the people of God–note the expression mountain of the delight of holiness–does this have reference to the church?) His end will be complete, apparently brought about by the glorious return of the Son of God from heaven.
“And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming” (2 Thess. 2:8).
“Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word or our epistle” (2 Thess. 2:15).
Daniel’s prophecy indicates the antichrist would exert his influence in “the glorious holy mountain,” which as Young tentatively suggested, refers to the Christian church. Daniel identified the holy mountain of God with Jerusalem, and he prayed that God’s anger would be turned away from Jerusalem. [Daniel 9:16] Daniel’s prayer could just as well apply to the church today, as to Jerusalem in Daniel’s time.
Isaiah also identified Jerusalem with the “mountain of the Lord,” and “the house of the God of Jacob,” and said it would be established in the tops of the mountains and exalted above the hills. [Isaiah 2:3] In the New Testament, this is fulfilled, as Paul referred to “the Jerusalem which is above,” [Galatians 4:26] and Hebrews 12:22 speaks of “the heavenly Jerusalem.” It was fulfilled when Jesus ascended to heaven, after his resurrection.