Chapters 10–12 of Daniel form one literary unit in the book of Daniel. Daniel 10 is an introduction to the vision (Chaps 10–12), which was given two years after the Jews had returned to Palestine. The vision is divided into three sections: the prologue (Dan 10); the vision proper (Dan 11:2–12:4); and the conclusion (Dan 12:5–13)—this last section functions not only as of the conclusion to Chapters 10–12 but to the whole book of Daniel.
When Cyrus permitted the Jewish people to return to their country, Judea, there were about 50, 000 people who heeded the call and returned. Those who were under the age of 47 had been born in Babylon, and those over 55 would have been able to remember the glorious times of Jerusalem. Among those who returned were the poor who had nothing to lose, and those who had title to a property. There were also Zionists who returned out of religious zeal, and a few of the clergy.
Those who returned faced political disappointments, hardships, and spiritual decline; deprivation and insecurity were some of the challenges they faced. A succession of poor harvests and partial crop failures made things even more challenging (cf. Haggai 1:9–11; 2:15–17). Within the first twenty years of their return, they experienced very little progress. The country seemed not able to regain its spiritual and political independence.
However, God had not deserted His people. This evidence was shown to Daniel, and his prophecy was recorded in the last section of the book (Chaps 10–12). This prophecy focused on encouraging the people of God and strengthening the faith of those who were diligent seekers of His truth.
Notice John Calvin’s introduction to these chapters:
The tenth chapter now follows, which Daniel introduces as a preface to the eleventh and twelfth. He relates the manner in which he was affected when the last vision was presented to him. This he briefly explains as referring to events about to occur until the advent of Christ; and then he extends it to the final day of the resurrection. God had previously predicted to his prophet the future condition of the Church from its return from Babylon to the advent of Christ, but in the eleventh chapter be more distinctly and clearly points with the finger to every event, as we shall perceive in proceeding with our comments. In this chapter, Daniel assures us that the prophecies, which he is about to discuss are worthy of more than ordinary attention.
The vision took place in the third year of Cyrus (536/535 BC). The Jewish people who were willing to leave Babylon were already in Jerusalem. The altar of burnt offerings had been rebuilt (Ezra 3:1, 2), and the foundation stone of the new temple had been laid (Ezra 3:8–13). Daniel, who was an older man at that time (in his nineties), was not physically in Jerusalem, but his heart was with his people.
The vision is a follow-up to what has been shown in previous visions, only this time with greater details. It must have been an impressive sight for Daniel to see the vision; Daniel desired to understand it. Daniel committed himself for three full weeks of prayer and fasting. The Bible says: “At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over. (Dan 10:2–3).
Daniel mourned for three full weeks. His cause of mourning is not told but could be due to the opposition the Jewish people faced from the Samaritans (Ezra 4:15). The Samaritans sent reports to the court of Persia so that the rebuilding of the temple could be stopped. Daniel 10:12–13 suggests that the angel was “struggling to influence” Cyrus, which “indicates that a vital decision of the king was at stake.”
Daniel 10:3–4 is referred to as one of the Daniel fasts: the first fast is about ten days (Dan 1:12), and the second fast is about twenty-one days (Dan 10:2–3); thus, Daniel’s fasting is usually ten or twenty-one days. Biblical records usually require only three days for the act of repentance (Exod 19:10–15; Esther 4:16). Daniel multiplies his prayer time by seven—adding up to twenty-one days (3x7=21). In Hebrew, such a prayer is called bein hametzarim, that literally means: “Between the borders,” “Between the strait,” or “in distress,” which was a traditional Jewish mourning period, between the Seventeenth of Tammuz and Ninth Av, that takes place in the midsummer of each year (July–August), “Between the Fences.” This prayer title is taken from a verse in the book of Lamentations 1:3. Jeremiah says: “Under affliction and hard servitude; She dwells among the nations, She finds no rest; All her persecutors overtake her in dire straits [bein hametzarim]” (Lam 1:3). The concept of a border or restrictions relates to the additional mourning period that is traditionally taken on during this period. The three weeks of mourning culminating with the destruction of the city and the Temple on Tisha B’Av.
Daniel’s prayer and fast took place in the month of Nisan (March/April), which is during the time of the Passover and the unleavened bread. Daniel wanted to convey to the reader that his food was of the simplest kind. His fast can be categorized as complete abstinence from meat products, animal flesh food, sugar, sweets, dairy products, and eggs—a vegan or plant-based diet. Daniel’s fast excludes all leavening products, including yeast. His food was comprised of natural products. Daniel’s fast is based on Jewish fasting principles and is represented in the experience of the prophet (Dan 1:12; 10:3). The foods that should be taken during this time are vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, seeds, legumes, and herbs. Water is the only beverage allowed.
After Daniel prays and fasts, he sees a certain man in verse five, which resembles that given in Joshua 5:13. Both Daniel and Joshua introduce their visions with the same words: “I looked up and there before me was a man” (Dan 10:5; cf. Josh 5:13). Like that of Daniel’s vision, Joshua’s vision took place after the Passover celebration (Josh 5:10–12) as Joshua and his people prepared to enter Canaan. The Hebrew word, sar, translated as “commander” in Joshua is the same as translated as “prince” in Daniel (Josh 5:13–14 [the Heb. sar hatsava, “the commander of the army”]; Dan 10:21). Sar refers to the high priest in Chapter 8 (Dan 8:11), and the fighting prince, Michael (Dan 10:13, 21). Therefore, the word sar echoes the account of Joshua and that of Daniel.
While in vision, there were four physical accompanying symptoms or phenomena that happened to Daniel. First, he saw the vision but those with him did not see it (Dan 10:7; cf. Acts 9:7; 22:9). Second, there was no strength in Daniel (Dan 10:8). Third, “there was no breath left in me,” said Daniel (Dan 10:17). Fourth, strength finally came to him (Dan 10:19).
The vision, beginning with verse 9, “switches from sight to sound” as
Gabriel wrestled with the powers of darkness, seeking to counteract the influences at work on the mind of Cyrus. . . . All that heaven could do on behalf of the people of God was done. The victory was finally gained; the forces of enemy were held in check all days of Cyrus, and all the days of his son Cambyses.
These verses (5–21) describe the conflict between good and evil contesting for the minds of the earth’s inhabitants. When individuals succumb to evil, they become agencies for Satan, but when resisted they constitute a powerful agency against the attacks of the devil.
At the climax of the vision, Daniel sees one of the chief princes, Michael, Hebrew Mika’el, meaning “who is like God.” Moreover, “no one is like God except the Son of God (John 10:30), who intercedes for His people (1 John 2:1, 2; Heb 7:25).” Michael is a name used in the Bible only in apocalyptic passages and for one who is in direct conflict with Satan. As a name, Michael appears in the Bible only five times: three times in the Old Testament (Dan 10:13, 21; 12:1) and twice in the New Testament (Jude 9; Rev 12:7). All references to Michael belong to the apocalyptic genre in form, in character, and in content, that tells of the end of the world. The role of Michael consists of the tripartite paradigm in the eschatological patterns: crisis—present; judgment—imminent; and vindication—future. In other words, Michael “is the hope for the vindication of salvation, the transcendence of death, that provides the believer with the strength to endure the present crisis.” Therefore, Michael plays a triple pattern of mediation role in both the temporal and spatial spheres.
On the temporal sphere, Michael bridges the gap between man’s life here on earth and God’s promise of eternity. He makes a transition from this life to the next. He also guarantees the physical and spiritual safety of God’s people. In the spatial sphere, Michael intercedes between us and God the Father and defends us before the Father in the ongoing investigative judgment. His role spans the past, the present, and the future. In New Testament times, Michael withdraws from the present—instead—He gives way to Christ “whose saving accomplishments . . .embrace past, present, and future on behalf of Christians in the New Testament.” Christ becomes the mediator between man and God (1 Tim 2:5).
With all the insights one can get from Daniel 10, we are admonished to pray like Daniel, without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17). We ought to plead with God for understanding of His Holy Writ. Furthermore, to pray that Satan’s power will be crippled and the universe will experience salvation so that all would get to know the “Saviour of all men” (1 Tim 4:10).
Watch and pray (Matt 26:41); pray and work!
Notes & References:
John Calvin, John Calvin’s Bible Commentaries on Daniel 7- 12 (North Charleston, SC: Jazzybee Verlag, 2012), 167.
“Mourning” [Dan 10:2], Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary (SDABC), rev. ed., ed. Francis D. Nichol (Washington, DC: Review & Herald, 1976–1980), 4:857.
Sheila G. Arnold and Antonio Q. Arnold, We Are Living in the Finished Work of Christ: God Draws, Jesus Saves, the Holy Spirit Seals (Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2008), 292.
Susan Gregory, The Daniel Fast Collection: The Daniel Fast / The Daniel Fast for Weight Loss (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2017), 165.
Jacques B. Doukhan, Secrets of Daniel (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 2000), 160.
Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press, 1917), 572.
Gerhard Pfandl, “Who Is Michael in Daniel 12:1?” in Interpreting Scripture: Bible Questions and Answers, ed. Gerhard Pfandl (Silver Spring, MD: Biblical Research Institute, 2010), 264.
For further information, see Bernard McGinn “Early Apocalypticism: The Ongoing Debate,” in The Apocalypse in English Renaissance Thought and Literature: Patterns, Antecedents and Repercussions, ed. C. A. Patrides and Joseph Anthony Wittreich (New York, NY: Ithaca, 1948), 2–39.
Richard Freeman Johnson, Saint Michael the Archangel in Medieval English Legend (Rochester, NY: Boydell Press, 2005), 10.
There are three identifications for Michael as Christ. First the resurrection at the second coming; second, the meaning of Michael; and third, Jesus and Michael are called the archangel. For further information, see Pfandl, “Who is Michael in Daniel 12:1?”, 263–264.
Youssry Guirguis currently serves as a full-time Lecturer at Asia-Pacific International University (AIU), Muak Lek, Thailand and also as an adjunct professor at the Adventist Institute for Islamic & Arabic Studies at Middle East University (MEU), Beirut, Lebanon.
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