The angel now assigns a reason why he did not appear at once, and at the very first moment to the Prophet, who might complain as follows, — “What treatment is this, to suffer me to consume away through grief for so long a period?” for Daniel had remained through three weeks in succession in the severest affliction. God had heard him, indeed, from the very first day; how, then, could he still behold this wretched man thus prostrate in mourning? why did not God cause it to appear openly and really that he had not prayed in vain? The angel now meets this objection, and shews how he had been otherwise occupied in promoting the Prophet’s welfare. We ought carefully to notice this, because delay often disturbs us when God does not immediately extend his help, and for a long time hides from us the fruit of our prayers. Whenever our passions burst forth with a strong impetuosity, and we easily manifest tokens of impatience, we must notice this expression of the angel, for our prayers may be already heard while God’s favor and mercy is concealed from us. The experience of Daniel is daily fulfilled in every member of the Church, and without the slightest doubt the same discipline is exercised towards all the pious. This is our practical reflection. We must notice, secondly, God’s condescension in deigning to explain himself by the angel to his own Prophet. He offers a reason for the delay of the angel’s return, and the cause of this hindrance was, as I have already stated, his regard for the safety of his elect people. The wonderful clemency of the Almighty is here proved by his offering an excuse so graciously to his Prophet, because he did not shew himself easily entreated on the very day when prayer was offered to him. But we ought to derive another practical benefit from the passage, — God does not cease to regard us with favor even while he may not please to make us conscious of it, for he does not always place it before our eyes, but rather hides it from our view. We infer from this, God’s constant care for our safety, although not exhibited exactly in the way which our minds may conceive and comprehend. God surpasses all our comprehension in the way in which he provides for our safety, as the angel here relates his mission in quite another direction, and yet in the service of the Church. It now appears how Daniel obtained an answer to his prayers from the very first day of their offering, and yet remained unconscious of it, until God sent him some consolation in the midst of his troubles. A very different interpretation of this verse has been proposed, for some expounders think the angel sent into Persia to protect that kingdom. There is some probability in this explanation, because the Israelites were still under the Persian monarchy, and God may have furnished some assistance to the kings of Persia for the sake of his own people. But I think the angel stood in direct opposition and conflict against Cambyses, to prevent him from raging more fiercely against God’s people. He had promulgated a cruel edict, preventing the Jews from building their temple, and manifesting complete hostility to its restoration. He would not have been satisfied with this rigorous treatment, had not God restrained his cruelty by the aid and hand of the angel.
If we weigh these words judiciously, we shall readily conclude, that the angel fought rather against the king of the Persians than for him. The prince, says he, of the kingdom of the Persians, meaning Cambyses, with his father Cyrus, crossed over the sea and contended with the Scythians, as well as in Asia Minor. The prince of the kingdom of Persia was ranged against him, as if he had said, — He detained me from reaching you, but it was for the good of your race, for had not God used me in assisting you, his cruelty would have been aggravated, and your condition would have been utterly desperate. You perceive, then, how there has been no want of zeal on my part, for God was never deaf to your entreaties. The prince of the kingdom of the Persians stood against me for twenty-one days; meaning, from the period of your beginning to pour forth your prayers before God, I have never flinched from any attack or assault, by which I might defend thy people. The prince of the kingdom of the Persians stood against me; meaning, he was so hot against the Israelites, as to intend to pour forth the very dregs of his wrath, unless the help which I afforded you had been divinely interposed.
He adds next, Behold! Michael, one of the chief leaders or princes, came to strengthen me Some think the word Michael represents Christ, and I do not object to this opinion. Clearly enough, if all angels keep watch over the faithful and elect, still Christ holds the first rank among them, because he is their head, and uses their ministry and assistance to defend all his people. But as this is not generally admitted, I leave it in doubt for the present, and shall say more on the subject in the twelfth chapter. From this passage we may clearly deduce the following conclusion, — angels contend for the Church of God both generally and for single members, just as their help may be needed. This we know to be a part of the occupation of angels, who protect the faithful according to Psalms 34:0 (Psalms 34:8.) They fix their camp in a circuit round them. God, therefore, plants his angels against all the endeavors of Satan, and all the fury of the impious who desire to destroy us, and are ever plotting for our complete ruin. If God were not to protect us in this way, we should be utterly undone. We are aware of Satan’s horrible hatred to us, and of the mighty fury with which he assails us; we know how skillfully and variously he contrives his artifices; we know him as the prince of this world, dragging and hurrying the greater part of mankind along with him, while they impiously pour forth their threats against us. What prevents Satan from daily absorbing a hundred times over the whole Church both collectively and individually? It clearly becomes necessary for God to oppose his fury, and this he does by angels. While they are contending for us and for our safety, we do not perceive this hidden malice, because they conceal it from us.
We may now treat this passage a little more in detail. The angel was stationed in Persia to repress the audacity and cruelty of Cambyses, who was not content with a single edict, but would have forcibly dragged the wretched Israelites back again to a fresh exile. And he must have succeeded, had not first one angel and then another confronted him. The angel now informs us how Michael, one of the chief leaders, came up with the requisite supplies. The defense of one angel might have been sufficient, for angels have no further power than what is conferred upon them. But God is not bound to any particular means, he is not limited to either one or a thousand, as when Jehoshaphat speaks of a small army, he states, It matters not before God, whether we be few or many. (2 Chronicles 14:11; 1 Samuel 14:6.) For God can save his people by either a small force or a mighty one; and the same also is true of angels. But God is anxious to testify to the care which he bestows upon the welfare of his people, and to his singular loving-kindness towards the Israelites displayed by the mission of a second angel. He doubled his re-enforcement to bear witness to his love towards these wretched and innocent ones, who were oppressed by the calumnies of their enemies, and by the tyranny of that impious king. Finally, the angel says, he was left among the Persian kings, for the purpose of removing the numerous obstacles in the way of the chosen people; for, unless God had withstood that deluge of weapons with his own shield, the Jews would have been buried beneath it on the spot. Let us proceed —