The Pulpit Commentary

Daniel 10:1-21 (Daniel 10:1-21)



The three chapters (10, 11; and 12.) form a section apart from the rest of Daniel. One marked peculiarity is the long and very old interpolation which occupies nearly the whole of Daniel 11:1-45 . Not improbably something has dropped out, and. not a few things have been modified in consequence of this interpolation.

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Daniel 10:13 (Daniel 10:13)

But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days; but, lo, Michael, one of the ohief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia. The rendering of the LXX . is, "And the general ( στρατηγὸς ) of the King of the Persians withstood me one and twenty days, and behold Michael, one of the first princes, came to help me, and I left him there with the general of the King of the Persians." The sense of Theedotion is nearly the same as the LXX ; only he has βασιλείας περσῶν instead of βασιλέως . Like the LXX ; Thee-dotion declares that Michael was left with the Prince of Persia. The Peshitta agrees more with the Massoretic, but, like the LXX . and Theedotion, it is with the "Prince" of Persia that there is some one remaining. The Peshitta here, in opposition to the Greek versions, has the statement that Gabriel remained, not Michael. The Vulgate agrees still further with the Massoretic, only instead of the plural "kings," it has "king." The most important differences are in the last clause, where the LXX . and Theodotion must have had the hiphil of יָתִר where the Massoretic has the niphal. Gratz adopts this reading, which certainly has the advantage of making sense of an otherwise unintelligible passage. Professor Bevan, in his easy way, suggests this to be probably a mere guess, the insertion of αὐτὸν , and the substitution of a transitive for an intransitive verb are quite in the manner of the LXX . translators. He forgets that Theodotion also has this variation, and also that, without any justification from the versions, he himself has suggested various readings. He does not observe that this interpretation affords a reason for Gabriel's presence with Daniel. Michael relieved him in his opposition to the Prince of Persia. The other variant, "prince" instead of "king," has the support of all the versions. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days. That is to say, during the whole of Daniel's fast. The angelology of later Judaism is a very complicated, not to say confused, subject. The angelology of one age is not that of another; and the angelology of the Jews in one country is not that of the Jews in another. The Jews themselves understood that the Babylonian captivity did a great deal to develop the doctrine of the angels; the Jewish tradition was that they brought back from Babylon the names of the angels. Not only had their residence in Babylon defined the Jewish ideas as to the names f the angels, they began to have clearer ideas of their functions. They reached the idea that every race had its guardian angel. This view is expressed in Deuteronomy 32:8 , according to the Septuagint, "He set bounds for the nations according to the number of the angels of God." To a similar purport is Ecclus. 17:17, "To each of the nations he appointed a leader, and Israel is the portion of the Lord." There seems, however, a preparation for this in Isaiah 24:21 (comp. also Psalms 29:1 ; Psalms 106:9 ). As independent of revelation there is a strong inherent probability that there are races of beings of intelligence and might vastly superior to man, there is nothing inherently improbable in these intelligences being employed by the Almighty in furthering his providential scheme. Men are instruments of God; is it not at least not improbable that, if there are angels, they, too, co-operate with God in the working out of his great purpose? That every nation should have an angelic prince over it is not more extraordinary than that every Church should have a special angel over it ( Revelation 1:20 ; Revelation 2:2 , etc.). That there should be conflicts between these angelic princes is simply to say they are finite. Hitzig's reference to Revelation 12:7 is not to the point, for there is no indication of warlike opposition here. By the indications here, we might judge that the opposition of the Prince of Persia was to the coming of Gabriel to reveal to Daniel the purpose of God. We know nothing of the means employed in the opposition, or of the reason of it. Keil and Kliefoth have the idea that Gabriel was striving to influence the King of Persia, but was hindered in his efforts by the "Prince of Persia;" this is scarcely berne out by the context. But , lo , Michael , one of the chief princes , came to help me. Michael ("Who is like God?") is, in the twenty-first verse, declared to be the "prince" of the Jewish people, therefore equivalent to "the captain of the host of the Lord" ( Joshua 5:14 ). He is referred to in Revelation 12:7 and Jud Revelation 1:9 . Where he is called one of "the chief princes," there is reference to an angelic hierarchy, whether the same as that we find developed in the Book of Enoch or not cannot be decided certainly. In the Book of Tobit 12:15 Raphael declares himself "one of the seven holy angels who present the prayers of the saints, and who go in and out before the glory of the Holy One." The Book of Tobit seems to have been written about b.c. 400; hence this is an indication of opinion before the Books of Enoch. In the Enoch books not only are the great angels mentioned, but their names arc given, and functions are assigned to them; but they are numbered as four, not seven. Enoch is posterior to Tobit, and finds a place for Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel. We have no means of testing whether the number of the chief angelic princes, of whom Michael was one, was four or seven, according to the opinion of Daniel. From the fact that Enoch is, so to speak, in the direct line of apocalyptic descent from Daniel, and Tobit is not, and, moreover, as the angelology of Tobit is in close connection with the Persian hierarchy of amhaspentas , of which there were seven,—we may regard four as the more genuinely Jewish number. The later Jewish angelology has many Persian elements, as shown by Dr. Kohut, in his 'Angelologie und Demonologie.' Whether the number of the archangels be made four or seven, both Gabriel and Michael are of the number, whereas Gabriel's words would rather indicate that, though Michael belonged to the rank of chief prince, he did not. As we cannot tell the nature of the opposition, we cannot tell the nature of the help afforded. And I remained there with the kings of Persia. It is very difficult to interpret this if we retain the Massoretic reading. In the first place, the sense given to nothartee in the Authorized and Revised is unsuitable. The angel is explaining how, after having delayed three whole weeks, he has now come. The sentence, as interpreted above,would have explained why he could not come at all to Daniel. It is attempted to get over this by explaining that Gabriel had beaten off the "Prince" of Persia, and that Michael remained with the King of Persia instead of him. This view, however, contradicts the function assigned to angels of nations, and implies a quasi-omnipresence on the part of Gabriel, and would render his explanation no explanation. The explanation of Gesenius, Havernick, and yon Lengerke, that nothartee is to be taken as meaning "I received the pre-eminence," as Wirier, "superior discessi apud reges Persarum," has no justification in usage. Gescnius would bring in the Syriac use of the hithpael of this verb, but though both Castell and Brockehuann assign meanings suitable, none of their quotations represents a sense precisely similar to that assigned to the verb here Hitzig's interpretation, "I was delayed," fails to explain his coming. Ewald's explanation, "I was superfluous," is logical, but has no grammatical justification. Professor Bevan's explanation, which would take this last clause as parenthetical, is untenable, as it supplies no redden for the presence of Gabriel with Daniel. We must follow the LXX . and Theodotion in reading, either as Meinhold and Behrmann, וְהוֹתַרְתִּין or better, as Gratz, אִתּוֹ הֹותַרְתִּי , as the vav in the former ease would naturally be read conversively. Besides, Gratz's reading explains the needlessly emphatic אֲנִי . Further, it seems needful to accept the reading of the two Greek versions and the Peshitta, and instead of מַלְכֵי read שד . None of the old versions support the Massoretic; the Vulgate is the nearest; and all of them have either read מֶלֶךְ or regarded מלכי as a form of the construct state, and so vocalized differently. Further, the later context here implies the contiuance of the conflict or controversy (verses 20, 21). We must understand, then, that Gabriel left Michael to maintain the conflict against the angelic "Prince" of Persia, while he came in obedience to Daniel's prayer. We can have but little idea of what is meant by this conflict in the heavenlies between angelic beings.

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Daniel 10:1-19 (Daniel 10:1-19)

The vision of the Christ.

"I was left alone, and saw this great vision" ( Daniel 10:8 ). It is well to begin by clearing up the context. We have now only one more prophecy in Daniel. This occupies the eleventh chapter. The tenth contains a prologue to the prophecy; the twelfth, an epilogue. In Daniel 10:1 the character of the prophecy is indicated:

1 . Its subject-matter is afflictive. " The conflict is great. " It covers a time of great calamities (see the Hebrew).

2 . The prophecy was to be unusually intelligible. "And he understood the word, and understanding was there to him in the vision." Some haze of mystery there might be, but not the thick darkness which had enrobed preceding revelations.

3 . It would certainly be true. "A word was revealed to Daniel … and true the word." The prophecy of Daniel 11:1-45 . is the most minute of Scripture; and hence men have been tempted to disbelieve in it as prophecy, and to regard it as prophecy written after the event, lien might have disregarded it before fulfilment; hence Daniel gives this assurance. We now here concern ourselves with Daniel ' s vision of the Christ.

I. THE SCENE OF THE VISION On the Tigris. The first migration to Jerusalem had taken place. Daniel's advanced age made it, perhaps, impossible that he should have joined in it. He may have been on the Tigris:

1 . Either on an embassage.

2 . Or retired from all official life.


1 . Two years after the first migration back from captivity (verse 1).

2 . A time of sorrow. Mourning was usually for seven days: Daniel mourned for three times seven. Fasting, etc. Why? Realize the circumstances. The temple was indeed rising; but neighbouring peoples were exerting all their influence with the Persian king to frustrate the work. Therefore anxiety and fear. Daniel's affliction would be in proportion as success seemed certain. Good men grieve over slow progress of the Divine kingdom , and the fierceness of the opposition.

3 . Time of the Passover. On the twenty-fourth day of the first month came the vision. We infer that Daniel had consecrated the first three weeks of the new year to devotion. This included the Passover week—a time of unusual solemnity—when he would be in earnest sympathy with his nation.

III. THE VISION . That this was none other than the vision of Christ the Lord appears:

1 . From the after-developments of the scene .

2 . From a comparison with the vision of Christ in the Apocalypse . ( Revelation 1:1-20 .)

Compare the two descriptions of clothing—the girdle, the countenance, the eyes, the feet, the voice. Daniel adds, "His body also was like the beryl." John adds, "His head and his hairs were white," etc. In drawing out the description into detail, note: the clothing was of the finest, purest—the garb of priests, prophets, saints, and angels; the uncovered portions of the body shone with gemlike splendour; all the symbols suggest light-splendour; the girdle of fine gold; the arms and feet "like the eye of polished brass," the part that catches the blaze of sunlight and throws it back; the face as lightning, and the eyes as fire; the voice majestic. All this may be spiritually expanded.


1 . On the companions of the seer. (Verse 7.) Compare effect on Paul's companions on the way to Damascus, of the vision of the same Christ.

2 . On the seer. (Verses 8, 9.) He swooned; but the mighty voice came rolling into his ear, as the roar of ocean breaks into the caves upon the shore. Here we have a picture of the inability of man to stand before the unveiled revelations of God (comp. Revelation 1:17 ).


1 . S ets man erect in the presence of Divine revelations. (Verse 11.) No need of cringing. We ourselves are made. in the image of God, and have affinity with the Divine.

2 . He does so gradually. Daniel was first flat on his face; then on all fours; then half-raised and trembling; and finally stood upright on his feet. In this, see how man is gradually led up to all the light which God has to give. In heaven the unveiling may be gradual (verses 9, 10, 11).

3 . Sympathetically. "Behold, a hand touched me" (verses 10, 16-19).

4 . Assures man that his devout aspirations are recognized beyond the sky. Daniel's was the attitude of a devout truth-seeker. He "had set his heart to understand," and "to chasten himself before his God." We should have more uniformity of Scripture interpretation, were the interpreter always of this spirit.

5 . And of the sure answer to his prayers. (Verse 12.) As soon as prayer was offered, it was heard, and secret agencies were evoked for its answer; but there were many obstacles to be overcome. The later part of the chapter shows this. So may it ever be, before our prayers can be answered, long lines and combinations of secondary causes may have to he set in operation, and formidable hostilities subdued. Patience in waiting for, as well as faith in expecting, the answer, are both necessary in the matter of prayer.—R.

Daniel 10:13 , 20-ch. 11:1

War in the realm supernatural.

"And now will I return to fight with the Prince of Persia" ( Daniel 11:20 ). In these verses we have opened out the fact that there is war in the realm supernatural. To understand them, it is absolutely necessary to revise the English version. We read thus: "And the prince of the kingdom of Persia stood against me twenty and one days, and behold Michael one of the chief princes came to help me, and I gained the superiority there by the side of the kings of Persia And he said, Dost thou know why I came unto thee? And now I will return to war with the Prince of Persia, and while I [thus] go forth [to war], behold the Prince of Javan will come. But yet I will show to thee that which is written in the book of truth. And not one is there showing himself strong with me against these [the princes of Persia and Javan] except Michael your prince; I also in the first year of Darius the Mode stood in order to strengthen and for a fortress to him" ( i.e. Michael). This reading of ours is necessary to make clear the meaning of our homiletical culture. Lest any should be surprised at the fulness of the revelation in Daniel as to angels and the angel-world, we may observe that there are two epochs in Hebrew history, when angels are specially prominent.

1 . The time of the judges. Destitute of direct revelation or prophetic guidance.

2 . The period of the Captivity. One of special trial, incident to contact wit h heathenism.


1 . On the side of God.

2 . On the side of the world. The "princes" here named are the supernatural power standing behind the daimoniae, who stood behind the national gods, and were represented by them. They are spirits of evil, inspiring the worldly anti-Divine action of the great empires of earth.

II. THE WAR . The war was on behalf of Israel, and may be described as being prosecuted through three supernatural campaigns. We consider them separately.

1 . The first campaign. ( Daniel 11:1 .)

(a) Michael carried on the war .

(b) The Christ supported him .

This order is reversed in the next campaign.

2 . The second campaign. (Verse 15.)

(a) This campaign was carried on by the Angel-God himself.

(b) But aided by Michael. Here should be noted the doctrine that angels and men may be co-workers together with God.

(c) Was synchronous with Daniel ' s prayer. All the way through the twenty-one days the prayer was being answered through a mighty conflict carried on in a higher world.

3 . The third campaign. (Verses 20, 21.)

(a) There is , then , liberty in heaven as on earth to do or not to do—to go forth to war or to rest in peace.

(b) Michael made a noble use of liberty.

(c) By endowment he towered above others "One of the chief princes."

(d) Therefore to him were great responsibilities entrusted. He was made the guardian spirit of the Hebrew nation and Church. "To whom much is given" etc; seems to be a law of all moral worlds. "Michael your prince. " "To a subordinate spirit God will not entrust a work demanding special power and greatness."

The following deductions from the whole subject should, perhaps, have special mention and emphasis:

1 . The Church has many and powerful enemies.

2 . It abides under most powerful protection. What Michael was to Israel of old, that, and more than that, is the Lord Jesus to Israel now; and he has many helpers.

3 . Its destiny is in conflict in the worlds above , as well as here below.

4 . In the holy war here , the humblest may take a share. The Son of God stooped to avail himself of the help of Michael; so he ever stoops to accept the humblest contribution, the lowliest service.

"The Son of God goes forth to war,

A kingly crown to gain;

His blood-red banner streams afar;

Who follows in his train?"



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Daniel 10:11-21 (Daniel 10:11-21)

Variety of angelic service.

It is quite legitimate for us to reason from God's conduct towards men in the past to his probable conduct towards men now. If in his wisdom he employed his angels to be ministers of good to Daniel and to Israel two thousand years ago, we may conclude that it is an exercise of wisdom to do the like to-day. Perfect wisdom will only change its plans, so far as new circumstances and needs arise. Hence there is instruction and consolation for us in this Scripture.

I. ANGELS ARE EMPLOYED TO BRING TO MEN ASSURANCE OF THEIR ACCEPTANCE WITH GOD . This angel, who was probably Gabriel, was commissioned to assure Daniel that he was "greatly beloved." Every doubt upon that head was completely removed. The angel knew what were God's dispositions of mind towards Daniel, and he was empowered to convey the intelligence. There is nothing unreasonable in this ; no improbability that beings of refined nature exist in nearer relation to God than do men; no improbability that they perform acts of service for men. That which is naturally probable is made certain by the written revelation. It is often the case that we cannot account for our moods of feeling, our hopefulness and our despondency, by any known events. Who shall say that these states of mind are not the result of angelic visitation? That we are not conscious of the presence of angels is no proof that they do not visit us. Their ethereal natures may be impervious to human sight, except by miraculous interposition. Elisha's servant did not perceive the angelic host sent for their protection until God had specially opened his eyes. Once and again this angel assured Daniel of his interest in God's love, charged him to dismiss his fears, and brought to him heavenly peace.

II. ANGELS ARE EMPLOYED TO INFORM THE HUMAN UNDERSTANDING . One main object of Gabriel's visit to Daniel was to shed light upon passing events, and to enlarge Daniel's comprehension of God's government. So high was God's esteem for Daniel, that Gabriel was despatched on purpose to dislodge ignorance and doubt from his mind. He assures him that the want of visible answer to prayer is no proof that God has not heard, nor that he is unwilling to reply. On the contrary, Daniel's prayer had taken effect from the very beginning, and measures were at once set in motion in accordance therewith. The prayers and lastings of good men are links (ordained by God) in the chain of causes and effects. As soon as man interceded for Israel, Gabriel was despatched on business of high importance to the kingdom of Persia. And Gabriel was further charged to unfold to Daniel what was in the volume of God's purposes—the series of vicissitudes through which Israel would be destined to pass. God's thoughts were loftier than Daniel's; his designs had a wider scope and range than his servant's. Nothing short of the establishment of permanent righteousness will satisfy God.

III. ANGELS ARE EMPLOYED TO INCREASE OUR STRENGTH . It is noteworthy that as Daniel's needs arose one after the other, the angel was prepared to meet each one. Daniel was prostrate; the angel set him upright. Daniel was so stunned with the intelligence, that he was dumb; the angel opened his mouth, and gave him speech. Daniel fainted under a sense of awe and wonder; the angel imparted new strength with his touch. We are impressed with the considerateness, the tenderness, the thoughtful sympathy, of this angelic visitor. There was strength imparted to his physical nature by a touch; there was strength imparted to his soul by the angel's words. According to the constitution of man's nature is the agency employed by God. The angel who strengthened Christ Jesus in the garden of suffering can also strengthen us.

IV. ANGELS ARE ENGAGED TO PROTECT THE INTERESTS OF THE CHURCH IN PALACES AND IN COUNCILS OF STATE . There are times when they can best serve us, not at our side, but at a distance from us. Probably Daniel was agitated in soul, because for three weeks no sign of answer came from heaven. Yet, all the while, answer had come, though he was unconscious of it. Daniel was concerned, not for himself, but for the well-being and fortunes of Israel. But he might rest assured that God had more at heart these interests—than man, however zealous, ever can. This report of Gabriel opens to our minds a new view of angelic ministration. It is evident that they do perform their service on earth, for the most part, unseen by human eyes. Gabriel had been with the kings and statesmen of Persia. So important to Israel's well-being was his presence in that court, that for three weeks he had remained there. His power was limited; he could not be in two places at once, nor could he accomplish his mission without the assistance of Michael. For the time being, it was better that Daniel should remain in ignorance of the fact. His continued fasting and prayer were essential to complete success. In what fashion Gabriel rendered service we are not told. Most probably he had power to influence the views, the motives, the ambitious of men. A thousand subtle agencies were at his command, by which he could direct the counsels of men and bring about the purposes of God. Angelic influence, then, is a factor in state concerns which we do well not to ignore.

V. ANGELS HAVE OFTEN TO CONTEND WITH EVIL SPIRITS IN FULFILLING THE BEHESTS OF GOD . There can be little doubt that the language here employed by Gabriel, viz. "the prince of the kingdom of Persia," refers to one of the leading spirits of darkness, one of the fallen angels. There are principalities and powers in hell. Satan is termed the "prince of this world," "the prince of the power of the air." An antagonist of Gabriel would be fittingly an evil spirit. Gabriel speaks of fighting with him. There was hot warfare. So we read in the Epistle of Jude that Michael disputed with the devil about the body of Moses. That some bold and crafty spirit, in the confederate host of hell, should be told off to do some particular evil work is probable enough; and that such , having subordinates under him, should be styled leader or prince of a particular earthly empire is equally probable. This earth, then, is the scene of mighty conflicts. Angels here have their combats as well as men. Here , perhaps, is being fought out the crucial conflict between the Creator and his rebellious creatures—the conflict between righteousness and wickedness. Gabriel, though "excelling in power," is not omnipotent. Some things even an angel alone cannot do. They learn that in union is strength. Michael is sent to help him— Michael , who is set apart as the prince or protector of Israel. Gabriel cannot be long spared from the particular scene of conflict. During a temporary truce he visits Daniel This accomplished, he returns to the troublous scene in the court of Persia.—D.

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