Daniel: Readers’ Notes

Posted on 27 March 2008

Readers’ notes for the book.

The Book of Daniel

For all the value of background studies, the most important guide to the interpretation and meaning of a book of the Bible is invariably the introduction that the Bible writer himself offers. This is true of Daniel where the first chapter functions in such a capacity.
This paragraph provides the essential historical background. As with most of the detail in Daniel it has been disputed. Equally, as with so many of the charges made against the reliability of the Bible, these accusations melt before careful historical analysis. It is, perhaps, helpful to use this example as an illustration of the facile and superficial arguments of the critics.
Several criticisms are made:
1) Nebuchadnezzar was not ‘King’ in 605BC when the events of verse 1 took place;
2) 605BC was not the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim;
3) that no exile took place in 605.
However, each of these receives a ready answer:
1) the name ‘king’ may be used ‘proleptically’ (we can speak of Queen Elizabeth’s childhood… but she was not queen then but only became queen later) or be literally accurate if his campaign is dated as after Tishri 605 (when he did become king, see below).
2) The Bible includes a number of ways of reckoning length of reigns etc. By the Babylonian system the first regnal year was reckoned as beginning on the first of Nisan following accession (i.e., for Nebuchadnezzar, April 604) even though he had been crowned in Tishri (September) 605)). This same method of dating is here used for Jehoiakim. We know that he came to the throne in the autumn of 609. Since Nebuchadnezzar arrived in the late autumn it would have been his third year according to the Babylonian dating. However, the Jewish calendar began the civil new year with Tishri and reckoned reigns accordingly. So if Jehoiakim was appointed in the late autumn of 609 his reign would have been computed from Tishri 608. Thus, according to this reckoning, it was his fourth year (Jeremiah 25:1; 46:2). There is, thus, no discrepancy. Rather Jeremiah reflects its Palestinian origin and Daniel its (much disputed) Babylonian origin. One might almost suspect that the critics allege the discrepancy in order to avoid the conclusion of a likely C6 date for Daniel.
3) The critic means that no other evidence exists for a deportation in 605. However, in view of the fact that we know that Nebuchadnezzar did besiege Jerusalem (2 Kings 24:1-4 and 1 Chronicles 36:5-7) and that it was no uncommon practice for the leaders of a nation to be thus treated there is no reason for doubting the accuracy of the statement here.
Indeed in each of these cases there is an entirely plausible answer to the alleged discrepancy. We here have evidence both of a) the specious character of much criticism and b) the reasonableness for believing the accuracy of Daniel.
More vital to our considerations is the exegesis of the text. Several points are of note in the first two verses.
1) The emphasis is placed upon God’s sovereignty (adonai: the NIV incorrectly capitalises for it is not Yahweh that is used here but the word that emphasises sovereignty in history) delivering Jehoiakim into Nebuchadnezzar’s hands. This introduces (one of) the fundamental features of the book: that earthly rulers are under the sovereignty of a greater than themselves. We do well to note this early hint!
2) Shinar (see NIV footnote) is used in 2. This was the old name for Babylonia. Here it is a deliberate anachronism, for Shinar was the site of the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9) and had become (apparently) a synonym of opposition to God, the place where wickedness was at home (Zech. 5:11) and uprightness could expect opposition. Set alongside 1) above it prepares us for the vindication of God even in the court of the highest authorities on earth and the revelation that all human empires must eventually bow before the eternal kingdom of God.
3) Yet this together with the reference to removal of the Temple furnishings from the ‘temple of God’ (!) to a pagan shrine (a fact which would have devastated devout Jews) brings home the agonising context into which the book is addressed. The incongruity is emphasised but so is the sovereignty of God. God has not let go of His people. Indeed, the reference not to the destruction of the temple articles but their preservation may have been intended by the final editor, like verse 21, to be a word of hope. It hints at the fact that God’s actions are redemptive.
These early verses furnish lessons for the believer (and church) who are inclined to a closed theology or who lose sight of the free sovereignty of God. They emphasise that there is but one sovereign in the earth, that all others are (limited though the analogy is) His puppets.
The second part of the introduction announces the ‘dramatis personae’, especially the four captives in Babylon. Most of the details in this part of the story are self explanatory. Nebuchadnezzar for all his faults under stress was a paternalist rather than a tyrant. He was also both a brilliant soldier and, as our passage emphasises, a shrewd diplomat. This explains his actions in 3-5. By setting up his ‘Hebrew University’ from among the leadership classes in Judea he would weaken resources ‘at home’ and re-enforce vassal status and facilitate the integration of the subjected people into his cosmopolitan commonwealth. He would also benefit from the skills and expertise of the various groups among his people.
Thus, from those who had already had some diplomatic training (hinted at in 4a) a group of youths (15 or 16 in age?) were selected for training in ? Aramaic and/or the cuneiform scripts? and the study of Babylonian literature. This latter point is of considerable importance for much of these writings represented an alien thought-world to the Jew, though doubtless the arts and sciences of the day are also included. Some would have willingly co-operated at the risk of losing their national identity. Others would have been reactionary. However, Jeremiah (29:4-7) had called for a middle way: and it is this way that Daniel and his colleagues adopt.
The problem with such a path is to know what is or is not permissible. They did not object to Babylonian names (7) and are willing to take up top jobs in a pagan administration (19): unlike their C2 ‘counterparts’. Yet, they were sufficiently detached that when required they could say, ‘No’: ‘no matter what cost, loudly and clearly’.
But what is the issue over which Daniel and his friends approach first Ashpenaz (the head of the civil service) and then their immediate overseer. Most assume that it was related to the Levitical food laws. However, to suggest that the issue was of food offered to idols is to confuse a NT controversy with an OT setting. We can reject the fact that the objection related to the fact that no distinction was made between clean and unclean meats in Babylon. While this is true it does not explain why they refused wine. A preferable explanation is based upon the fact that in 11:26 a rare word, ‘pat bag’ is used in the context of a fellowship meal. In the Ancient Near East to share a meal was to commit oneself to friendship within the framework of a covenant which obligated one to loyalty and dependence. The defilement Daniel feared was not, therefore, so much ritual as moral. He and his friends resolved to be free of ties which would undermine their primary obligations to God.
NB. This had been a much deliberated matter (8, ‘resolved’ is perhaps better with a pluperfect force). This earlier resolve gave Daniel the strength and courage to carry the matter through when the challenge (and the temptation) had to be faced. Victory here also prepared the four men for later, more public and severe tests.
In the case of the four men, God (17) vindicated them. Their vegetarian diet did not weaken them (15f.) and, more significantly, their lives demonstrated that the fear of the LORD is, truly, the beginning of wisdom (18-20). This vindication is emphasised by 21. For all the political upheavals, Daniel lived to the threshold of the time when the promises made through Jeremiah were fulfilled.
The latter verses help the believer understand his or her role in a pagan world. They indicate the importance of faithfulness to God and the vital necessity of forethought and decision in preparing to face a world full of temptations. Success is achieved through a loving respect for God and a firm resolve to never let anything that will undermine our primary commitment to God to enter between us and Him. They point out the fact that obedience to God is accompanied by winsomeness before men and that it is God who will vindicate those who honour him.
Thus prepared, Daniel and his friends are prepared for the future.
Chapter 2.
Chapter 2 introduces us to a man whose condition is easily recognisable. Nebuchadnezzar was still early in his reign. He had demonstrated his power in his early military campaigns but he still had the anxieties of someone newly invested with authority and anxious about his ability to cope. Those anxieties pursued him to bed. However, he had the experience that many of us have had. In the morning the dream itself is forgotten but the unease it creates lingers on (This is better than the suggestion that Nebuchadnezzar was testing the wise-men and meant ‘the decree has gone from me’. It is not sufficient answer to argue that he would not have recognised a dream he had forgotten. I have no difficulty with the idea that when retold the dream would emerge into the conscious with a recognition that ‘That’s it’.) This would have been exaggerated by the repetition of the experience and by virtue of the fact that dreams and their interpretation were of considerable importance in the ancient world (as they are in many societies today) and a dream forgotten was a bad omen.
This no doubt explains his unreasonable reaction! He flourished money and uttered the ultimate threat but despite their enormous ‘dream manuals’ none of the pagan wise-men could interpret an unknown dream! Here was something over which Nebuchadnezzar, the world ruler, was not master! He had to learn that God is on the throne.
Typically, his personality began to change. There is evidence of paranoia (9) in the charge of conspiracy. But for all his raging the situation doesn’t change. Rage though he might against others he was acknowledging his own impotence. Only gods (or God: elohim) can know the answer he desires and who has his ear? (10,11). This confused statement of pagan belief prepares us for the sequel. The original reader would have pricked up the ears: surely the God of Israel is one who is intimately involves himself in the affairs of men (the whole of Israel’s history bore testimony to this) and is a God not of veiling but of revelation by the mouths of His servants the prophets.
The sequel shows that the God who has spoken in the past still speaks…and   is ready to disclose Himself and His will to meet the exigencies of the new situation in which God’s people find themselves.
Why Daniel and his friends were ignorant of earlier events we are not told. What we do learn is that they were young men who had learnt to wed theology and faith and to live in accordance with their beliefs. If the LORD were the God of revelation then surely He must reveal to His children His will (16). God did not fail such confidence (19)!
The psalm is a model of thanksgiving and highlights some of the vital and emerging lessons which Daniel was learning and which form the substance of the book. The sovereignty of God over the affairs of even the most powerful is re-affirmed (21): its repetition in this book is doubtless intended to overcome our forgetfulness, His equipping of His people with gifts to meet their own (sometimes most perilous and difficult) particular situations is emphasised as is the continuity of Daniel’s experience with God’s people in the past (another lesson we are slow to learn!).
The dream is well-known and needs no amplification (29-35) but before passing to the interpretation we do well to note Daniel’s humble desire to eschew any credit for the interpretation and to give the credit to the One to whom it belongs (27-28). What a refreshing change to discover one who does not view his gifts as a ground for boasting except in His God!
It is inappropriate (and not our author’s intention at this point in the book) to preoccupy us with the details of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Little is made of the details here. The significant points in the dream are the fact that Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom (which his anxiety to establish has caused, humanly speaking, the dream) will outlast him but crumble, as will others which follow. God does set up and depose kings! The only lasting kingdom is the Kingdom of the God (and of His Son, who is clearly referred to as the stone cut from the mountain) who has revealed Himself to Nebuchadnezzar! It is this fact that demands Nebuchadnezzar’s appropriate response: hence Daniel’s emphasis upon the trustworthiness of its message (45).
Daniel is proclaiming in his own day the same message as John the Baptist, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.‘ The application today might be that we shall never be at peace until we have really seen and acknowledged that this empire of ours [domestic, social, business, financial, ecclesiastical], whatever it is, must give way before the coming of the kingdom of God.
The concluding verses indicate the response which was forthcoming. Clearly the king had a deep religious experience. He began well by acknowledging the truth (46f.) and honouring (somewhat confusedly and still within a polytheistic framework) Daniel’s God through Daniel (47f.). Doubtless his impressive words are intended to emphasise a deep emotional experience. We are left on tip-toe awaiting the sequel: how did he proceed from this start? We are also invited, individually, to apply the lessons of the chapter to ourselves.
Briefly, reference is made to the exaltation of Daniel’s friends (49). This paves the way for the next part of the story.
Chapter 3.
The story of chapter 3 is easily told. It is left to us to attend to several details and to seek to interpret the editorial purpose for the inclusion of this material.
The chapter looks back to both of the preceding ones. On the one hand, those who had resolved to honour God and not waver in their primary responsibility to Him are seen, prepared by earlier resolve and victories, to have that strength of faith and character to cope with greater trials, even the threat of death, unwavering. On the other, the king who had received such a singular spiritual experience and revelation of God’s will is seen to have forgotten everything except to seek to frustrate the purpose which God had revealed.
God had warned of the ultimate instability of all earthly kingdoms. Nebuchadnezzar takes immediate steps to stabilise his own! Though he had been forced to bow before a God who showed Himself as living and greater than all human powers, a God beyond manipulation, altogether different from the self-drawn gods of paganism, Nebuchadnezzar falls back into the old ways of thinking.
Thus, rather than serve the living God, he plans a cult which will serve him and help preserve the cohesion of Babylonian society. Within the polytheistic framework with which he worked this obelisk or statue could become the top layer of the cake. We cannot be certain what the image represented: the author appears uninterested. Rather, the focus rests upon the ideology which it stood for. Here was a religion accompanied by great pomp and circumstance (the author is sending the whole show up by his cynical and deliberate description, rather as Isaiah in his description of the construction of idols, 40:18-20; 41:6-7) which was designed to serve man (in particular, one man). This is characteristically humanistic religion.
A further detail is important. God had revealed Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom as a head of iron. But the image is gold-plated all over. Such is a direct challenge to the God of heaven.
The three Israelite men understood all this perfectly (why Daniel was not apparently present we do not know. They recognised the issues, made up their minds and were well prepared should public challenge ever be made. When charged they reply courteously as men certain of where they stand.
The sequel reveals a king who, takes his human pride to its logical conclusion, saying, ‘You shall have no gods before me!‘. The three men must suffer for their treason. How modern this all is! In such circumstances the three men can only cast themselves upon the defied LORD.
Their response to the king is very significant. They do not doubt the power of their God to deliver them, but they do not presume upon Him or claim knowledge of His counsel. What is important is not their happiness but obedience to the LORD. Nevertheless, in their, particular situation, they seem prepared for the outcome. At the same time, our author is at pains to indicate that ‘they had to endure the ordeal of being thrown into the fire…There is no suggestion here or elsewhere in Scripture that the believer will be cushioned against trouble and suffering except by the presence of the Lord with him in it (Is. 43:2; Jn. 12:26).‘ (Baldwin)
This is precisely what happened! The LORD Himself appeared beside them in their ‘fiery trial’.
From Nebuchadnezzar’s point of view the event was staggering. He had been seeking to establish his kingdom so as to make it impervious to the threat of God’s. Yet the very stone that he was resisting was smiting him hard; first in the person of the LORD’s subjects and then in the person of the LORD Himself. Rage against the people (19) was ultimately followed by fear (24), submission (26) and, at length, doxology (28). It is not inappropriate to speak of this as his conversion: but see, again, below.
This chapter is full of vital lessons for us first to grasp then to convey to others. Preparation for, experience of and confidence in trial is evidently a theme. Viewed from Nebuchadnezzar’s point of view there is a powerful evangelistic message! The sovereignty of God reappears, here in the realm of conversion. The certain victory of God over all His foes is, however, the major theme around which all these other matters revolve like satellites.
Chapter 4.
The storyline in the climaxing chapter of the Nebuchadnezzar ‘cycle’ is well-known and relatively free of points requiring elucidation. The chapter is auto-biography and shows evidence of skilful composition, not least in the way in which the transposition to the third person in verses 19-33 contributes to the dramatic tension of the story. This skill is also seen in the literary structure (ABBA) where the two ascriptions of praise to God (1-3,34-37) bracket the dream and its interpretation (4-18, 19-33).
It is typical of unbelieving criticism that this chapter is regarded as unbelievable on the ground that it is incredible that a pagan monarch could show fidelity to the God of Israel. Such critics have lost sight of the God of the Bible and constructed a God in their very finite and powerless image (They are latter day Nebuchadnezzar’s). However, the whole point of the Book of Daniel and one of the fundamental tenets of biblical faith is that our God is sovereign over all and quite capable of bending the wills of even the greatest to acknowledge Him. The fact that this incident is not recorded in the official annals of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign is scarcely surprising: there is little information for the last 30 years of the reign in any case. However, there are references in ancient literature to the king’s illness (Eusebius draws on Abydenus who himself draws on Megasthenes (C3 BC), Josephus quotes Berossus (C4 BC) and Megasthenes, but in greater length than Eusebius. The Prayer of Nabonidus, a later king, is sometimes thought to be a source for Daniel. The dissimilarities, however, far outweigh the similaritiesThe illness described is clearly lycanthropy.
Nebuchadnezzar had acknowledged the true God in chapter 3. Whether that experience was truly his conversion or not is not vitally important to our understanding of the present narrative. What is important is that it emphasises that a life of faithful, maturing discipleship (the fruit of genuine conversion) is one total commitment of the mind and heart to God. Or, it is a life of trust not mere assent. Only in this chapter do we see evidence of the former. This is queried by some who suggest that the language of 36,37 is self-centred, contains an impersonal reference to God and appears to fall short of true penitence and faith. This seems to mistake the admittedly still confused language of the king (just listen to many a recent or not so recent convert) for evidence of unbelief while ignoring the light cast upon his words by his actions.
The chapter clearly reflects a period late in the king’s reign. His military, diplomatic and technological skills have borne full fruit (4). He seemed truly master of his own world (as humanly speaking he was!) when he was devastated by a dream (5ff.). At the height of his considerable powers there is one who reveals Himself as greater! Within the context of the Babylonian world the dream is not altogether difficult to interpret and this probably explains why Daniel is the last to be consulted. Nebuchadnezzar was seeking to evade the truth. Daniel’s task was, therefore, more one of boldly declaring the truth and inviting the appropriate response. In such circumstances we can sympathise with his initial reaction (19) and admire his gentle but firm pressing home of the message (27). We need to note, too, that in this book which emphasises the sovereignty of God there is no evidence of ‘passive determinism’ (more characteristic of later apocalyptists). Daniel’s message is contingent (as were many of the prophets utterances) upon the human response. [This does not mean that divine sovereignty is ‘swallowed up’ by human decision and act. It does mean that sovereignty and responsibility are so woven together that every outcome is sovereignty the work of God while each individual is regarded as responsible (and credited with genuine freedom) for making decisions and acting upon them. Biblical faith does not resolve the one into the other. Neither does the book of Daniel.]
The fulfilment of Daniel’s words is intended to say a great deal about the longsuffering patience of God. It also sets before us the way in which God works to win His man. The example of godliness in the court, the preaching of Daniel and the remarkable and gracious interventions all having ‘failed’ God no longer taps on the door but blows the door of its hinges. God knocked Nebuchadnezzar down in order to exalt him.
The three chapters of the Nebuchadnezzar cycle (2-4) are full of instruction and a deep mine for the Bible teacher. They emphasise the sovereignty of God, they describe the way God saves sinners, they set forth the character of true faith, they demonstrate the part ordinary believers can play in the plan of God, they hint at some causes of suffering, they set the doctrine of sovereignty in the context of longsuffering, patience, love, tenderness. They demonstrate that we are in the LORD’s hands even in our deepest distress (compare John 16:32; Luke 22:42; 23:46; Jn. 10:27-30).

Chapter 5.
Chapter 5, without warning, suddenly jumps many years to the very night on which the Babylonian empire fell (as predicted by Daniel, chapter 2). This double vindication of Daniel’s prophetic gift (chapters 4,5) clearly is intended to prepare us for taking very seriously indeed his words in 7-12. Chapter 5 is also skilfully woven into its context so as to offer a clearly intended contrast: ‘the contrast between God’s final word to Nebuchadnezzar and his final word to Belshazzar.
The historicity of Belshazzar was previously doubted on the principle that unless there is clear attestation outside of the Bible the scriptural record may be presumed to be in error! However, it has subsequently been discovered that Belshazzar was the eldest son of the last king of Babylon, Nabonidus and that, in the prolonged absences of his father from the capital (possibly for health reasons) he acted as regent. Indeed, the two men effectively acted as joint kings with the father the ‘primus inter pares’. He was king in all but name. This explains the non-technical use of the word king to describe Belshazzar. It also explains why Belshazzar could only offer Daniel the position of third ruler (5:7,16,29). The reference to Nebuchadnezzar as ‘father’ must not be understood on the basis of English kinship terminology. In the Ancient Near East, as in many societies today, the word can be used both figuratively and, perhaps more germane here, of a more distant relationship, e.g. grandfather-grandson. It is not impossible (though so far unattested) that Nabonidus married a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar (since they were unrelated). Either way, there is no reason to doubt the reliability of the narrative.
The Fall of Babylon.
The fall of Babylon is well-attested. The city had not been stormed for over 1000 years and was considered impregnable. Thus, though under siege and with Nabonidus himself in flight, a festival took place. However, Ugbaru, the commander of Cyrus’ troops conceived of a way to divert the waters of the Euphrates to an older channel. This suddenly lowered the water level well below the river gates and enabled the troops to enter the city and using the element of surprise to capture it before the complex system of inner defences could be got ready to defend it.
The text.
Babylon was ripe for the picking. The decadence of the early part of the chapter compares unfavourably with the earlier reign of Nebuchadnezzar and, as so often in history, moral corruption results in mental obtuseness (compare Genesis 14). The seriousness of the danger is laughed off by gaiety. In this situation it is not surprising that Daniel is almost forgotten. He was not even respected enough to persecute him! Possibly, in the circumstances, the feast/festival was sheer bravado; the last fling of a terrified ruler unsuccessfully attempting to drown his fears. Indeed it is not inconceivable that a little of both these motives were present].
Yet this Babylon was ruled by a man who had received many spiritual privileges in his early years at the court. He knew a great deal about God (22). Thus, ‘His sin was an absurd and deliberate choice of darkness over against the full shining of the light’ (Wallace). His final act of defiance was only the last in long line of conscious steps against God. He was not an extraordinarily sinful man but just one who went on refusing God. ‘He had said “No” to the claims of God…That is the issue in this story, not the wild and riotous living [which was] only the expression of his prodigal heart, a heart that was estranged from his father before ever he left home’ (Philip). Significantly this last act is described in terms which emphasise his folly. The gods of Babylon which are praised are described not by name but, since they had no real being or power, by the products in which their images were made (4). The stage is set for God to vindicate Himself and intervene. Yet, this intervention came without trumpet blasts.
There may be some significance in the fact that, at first, only the king saw the finger-tips writing on the wall. Baldwin says, ‘by appropriating the sacred treasures he had brought upon himself a divine response, a word for him alone, which was a privilege he did not appreciate.‘ She Baldwin, ‘On the principle that wealth will buy everything, Belshazzar offers his reward in terms which would have appealed to him.  But money proved useless to save him. The contrast between the brash confidence of 1-4 and the suddenly sobered king in the immediate sequel is deliberately drawn out. He who has despised God’s loving-kindness now finds himself helpless in the hands of an angry God.
The identity of the ‘queen’ is uncertain. It is possible that she was Nebuchadnezzar’s wife. Some suggest that she was Nabonidus’ mother but she is recorded elsewhere as dying in the ninth year of his reign. More likely she was the queen-mother, Nabonidus’ wife and Belshazzar’s mother.
More important is what was written. The letters themselves were apparently recognisable. There is no reason to doubt that they were in Aramaic script. The problem lay with their significance. As such the three words (which would have lacked vowels) reflected known Aramaic roots, monetary terms, half, shekel and mina. But what was their vocalisation and meaning? This stymied those who lacked the knowledge of the true God (11f.).
When Daniel appears he ‘begins by dissociating himself from any thought of reward. This was in line with prophetic consciousness that the needed word of wisdom came from the Lord, and that it could not be bought at any price…it was fitting that Belshazzar…should acknowledge his debt to the true God and not delude himself into thinking that he could discharge that debt with rewards, or purchase his release from disaster’ (Baldwin). It is likely that this was a sign that God was waiting even for an eleventh hour repentance: a fact re-enforced by Daniel’s homily. Wilful rejection was the root of the king’s judgement (22).
The interpretation depended on the recognition of the words as passive participles (Uparsin or Parsin (25) is the word peres plus the connective particle) and in each of them finds a double sense. Thus:
mene: numbered (i.e. sovereignty appointed and about to end.
tekel: weighed (i.e. weighed and wanting);
peres: ended and re-distributed. The word also probably contains an allusion to Persia who were the dominant power in conquering Babylon, hence Daniel’s allusion to the Medes (historically superior and therefore mentioned first) and the Persians.
For reasons best known to himself Belshazzar honoured his promise to Daniel (29) but shows no evidence of repentance though he cannot deny the reality of the God who has sent his messenger.
Baldwin says that Belshazzar’s action is ‘all of a piece…with our human condition, as it is depicted in Psalm 90. Though human days are numbered (verse 10), few number them for themselves and ‘get a heart of wisdom’ (verse 12). [The king]… in this chapter presents a vivid picture of the fool, the practising atheist, who at the end can only brazen it out with the help of alcohol which blots out the stark reality’.
Darius the Mede.
Difficulties as to the precise identification of Darius have given rise to allegations that the author has confused Persian history and assumed that Darius I (522-486) preceded Cyrus (539-530).
Should this be the case it would be an extraordinary mistake to make since Cyrus is so well-known in the Biblical books. However, there is no need for scepticism even if precise identification is not easy.
Several observations need to be made. It is at least arguable that the author of Daniel mentions Darius the Mede in order to distinguish from the later Darius. Moreover, the very precise reference to Darius’ age would not fit well with Darius I (who was much younger as the length of his reign indicates). Indeed it is a surprising fact that the author seems to know more about this Darius and his background than he does Belshazzar (or even Nebuchadnezzar). It is unwise, therefore, to assume his non-existence, especially since earlier doubts concerning Belshazzar have been seen to be unfounded. In addition the mention of the fact that Darius received the kingdom has caused some to suggest that he is understood to have received it from another person, namely Cyrus. Others take the phrase to refer to receiving it from God. The former seems more likely here.
Who then was Darius? There appear to be two options. Darius is Cyrus. Others prefer the identification of Darius and Gubaru, one of Cyrus’ generals
The respective arguments are thus:
Cuneiform historical texts for the period indicate that a man called Ugbaru was the general who conquered Babylon. However, within a month he was dead of a fatal illness (occasioned in the skirmish?). Another general bore a similar name (Gubaru) and has been confused with Ugbaru since Herodotus. However, the Nabonidus chronicle clearly distinguishes them and indicates that Gubaru was installed as governor of Babylon. He remained in office for at least 14 years. In the absence of Cyrus, Gubaru or Gobryas had royal authority. It is possible that Darius is a royal name, like Caesar (in the Old Persian it could represent a word meaning ‘The Royal One’. Thus, it is argued, Gubaru (or Gobryas) received the kingdom from Cyrus and adopted the royal name of Darius. This may be additionally supported if 6:28 implies a concurrent reign of Cyrus with Darius. In fact Gubaru continued as governor of Babylon even after Cyrus’ death!
The alternative view depends, in part, upon the argument that some of the more subtle differences between different political offices in Babylon could not be made in Aramaic. This is false, since the book of Daniel actually makes such distinctions. However, the word malku has a wider application than simply ‘king’ in the strictest sense. Baldwin points out that there is no evidence outside the Bible for suggesting that Gubaru was a Mede, called king, named Darius, or aged about sixty. However, Cyrus is known to have been related to the Medes and to have been about sixty years of age when he conquered Babylon. In addition the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) has Cyrus instead of Darius in 11:1 and in 1 Esdras it is Darius who sends Zerubbabel back to Jerusalem (though Esdras does confuse this Darius with Darius I!). Finally, the last phrase of 6:28 could legitimately be translated as explicative, ‘that is the reign of Cyrus the Persian’. The reference to ‘receiving’ the kingdom would then be either a colloquialism or a reference to deity (perhaps not inappropriate in view of 5:28).
You ‘pays your money and you takes your choice’. Either way, Baldwin is correct, ‘It will no longer do to dismiss him [Darius] as a fiction and to build on this fiction the theory that the writer believed that there was a separate Median empire’. The ‘feel’ of an eye-witness account in this chapter, furnished by the details, needs also to be borne in mind.
Chapter 6.
The similarities between this chapter and the third have inevitably given rise to allegations of duplicate accounts. This theory fails to take into account the not inconsiderable differences but also fails to see that the very literary structure allied to the theological purpose of the author is intended to stress the same sort of lesson in both chapters!
The details of the story are self-explanatory. The suggestion made to the king would have appealed to a naive diplomat (as Gubaru but possibly not Cyrus would have been).
The particular reason for the persecution of Daniel is ‘a blindly perverse and absurd reaction that can only be called satanic…irrational….[the sole reason being that] he was good, and stood before men as a sign of the existence and grace of a good God…[It is thus] essentially directed against God [and displays] resentment against the truth of God…Its presence is as absurd as it nature is irrational. But its work is real and terrible and gigantic in its scale’ (Wallace) The point of offence as Daniel’s monotheism and his belief in final truth which is non-negotiable.
The sheer enormity of framing a good man which denies all basic human rights was recapitulated, on a grander scale, with Jesus: ‘If true Christianity causes offence it does so only to false pride and entrenced human evil’ (Wallace).
Darius, by contrast, is described as a ‘good’ unbeliever. He respected Daniel and his God and yet despite even the miracle of Daniel’s deliverance he never rises above his polytheistic background. For Daniel’s God proves Himself to be the living God (20): He delivered his servant in trial. 
The retribution faced by Daniel’s opponents was characteristic of the period and acceptable according to the standards of Persian society.
This chapter offers an interesting contrast with the preceding in the differing response of three kings to the ‘Gospel’. It also offers a cameo of two inadequate and one true response to God, tracing out, in particular detail, the character of those who hate God and His ways. Daniel’s own example of the quiet but firm life of faith is also vividly demonstrated. There is ample scope here for the bible teacher.
1) The Importance of Apocalyptic in the Study of Daniel.
Bilezikian says, especially with reference to the Book of Revelation, ‘Popular commentators who interpret the Book of Revelation without taking into account nonbiblical apocalyptic literature (and their number is legion who ignor its very existence) engage themselves in a venture as foolhardy as trying to interpret the Book of Revelation without reference to the Old Testament even though its language is saturated with that of the Old Testament’.
Much the same might be said of Daniel. Thus, we must necessarily involve ourselves in studying a genre of literature which is alien to us before we plunge into the last part of the Book of Daniel. Only an acquaintance with the genre will provide any confidence that we have correctly understood and applied the message of the Book (although, we have reason to ask whether Daniel truly is apocalyptic)
2) Apocalyptic a Literary Form.
Apocalyptic is a name we give to a form of literature (descriptive, probably, of some psychological experience, even if the experiences tend to be written up in a stereotyped way) which flourished in Judaeo-Christian circles in the centuries immediately preceding the Christian era and on into the C1/2. As a form it was adopted by people who represented a wide range of different viewpoints. This fact makes it difficult to clearly define exactly what apocalyptic is.
3) The Characteristic features of Apocalyptic.
For all the problems of definition, there are certain broad features which tend to cluster together in ‘apocalyptic’ texts and there is value (despite the debates) in isolating these so as to give some sort of idea as to the general characteristics which are found in such texts.
a) The writings were understood as revelations: speaking of things which could not be known naturally. Often the revelation was by means of visions which (though dealing with a range of matters) concentrated upon the end-time, the time when God would usher in His Kingdom.
b) The language is esoteric and often there is an emphasis upon the fact that the message is to be kept secret until the last days. This, of course turns out to be the apocalyptists own time, since another feature is the way the apocalyptist speaks in the name of some great person from the past.
c) Angelic mediation rather than a direct consciousness of being the spokesman of God (as in prophecy) is a feature though this rule is often broken.
d) However, when this is the case, the apocalyptist does not make the strong ethical demands of the prophet and they did no appear to have the same immediate awareness of the presence of God. However, this, in part, is probably the result of the fact that the apocalyptist was not castigating the nominally righteous but seeking to encourage the hard-pressed faithful remnant. Thus when they do turn to ethical comment (1 Enoch 5:4-5) it is to statement rather than denunciation.
e) The esoteric character of the writings is emphasised by the use of symbolism: much of which is derived from the OT (for example, the great sea monster, a mythic-borrowing from Canaanite religion, ,Psalm 74:13ff. etc; and compare 1 Enoch 60:7-9). Certain numbers (3,4,7,10,12,70) recur. This is especially true of divisions of time (1 Enoch 93:1-10; 91:12-17). We might also refer to 1 Enoch 86:1-4; 89:1-10 where the bewildering change of symbols is found. These often represent people, kings, angels etc. Sometimes this is obvious, though frequently the modern reader is at a loss to comprehend what is being said and it is seldom explained. Within Jewish circles it is possible that there was a generally accepted symbolic vocabulary to which we do not have access. However, certain repeated symbols do seem to have a consistent meaning. Thus, the figure of a sheep as symbolising the righteous is found (1 Enoch 89:16,18); the horn is a symbol of power (1 Enoch 90:9, a reference to Judas Maccabaeus), wild animals describe foreign nations (1 Enoch 89:10ff.), angels are symbolised by men (1 Enoch 87:2ff., 89:59; 90:21.) and fallen angels by stars (86:1ff.).
f) The apocalyptists wrote to people in trouble, without any hope of human deliverance. They lived in days when the very foundations of the world seemed to be breaking. Crisis was to be seen on every hand. Disaster looms. Evil threatens to overthrow those who believe themselves to be ‘righteous’. Against this they proclaim the final victory of God: the final judgement of God (Jubilees 5:13) and the vindication of the righteous (Jubilees 23:30-32).  The final victory of God will be enjoyed by a minority of men, the rest of mankind who persist in evil will be overthrown. Yet the present rule of God and His final certain vindication is a marked feature of the literature.
g) A human Messiah is widely expected who will set up a preliminary kingdom prior to God establishing the final order. Meanwhile things were not likely to get better. Usually, however, they believed that the deliverance was ‘just around the corner’ and sometimes they even tried to date it.
h) Lying behind all of this was a rigid determinism. World history is pre-ordained (1 Enoch 81:1,2). Yet there was value in all this for the suffering (the intended readership) for the hand of God was in all. Salvation was assured (1 Enoch 103:2).
i) Within this basic monotheistic confidence there was also a tendency to a strong dualism. The present age is one of in which evil and good fight an unending conflict. The age to come is, however, to be sharply distinguished from this. It is qualitatively different: imperishable and eternal. Thus, the apocalyptists abandoned all hope in the present and, in contrast, fixed their hopes entirely upon the age to come.
j) The apocalyptic writings tend to be pseudonymous. The writers probably believed that through their visionary experiences they had rediscovered hidden books (1 Enoch 104:12). Perhaps, it added some authority, coming, so it seemed from some great person in the past, even if mediated through some modern scribe. This may explain why past history is often ‘written up’ as prediction. 1 Enoch 85-90 is a summary of history from the time of Adam to the coming of the Messiah. It is left, however, to the readers to make the identifications.
k) Most of the predictions of the prophets arose out of their preaching. Their threats and encouragements were supported by their confident predictions of judgement and blessing. The apocalyptists tended to be more concerned with the final end of the present world. There is no final distinction between prophecy and apocalypse but, as a matter of general emphasis, this is true.
l) Similarly, the prophets tended to look for God to work out His purpose in history and to believe that God could be seen to be at work in the historical process. There is an element of this in the apocalyptic writings. However, the characteristic dualism of the latter tended to lead to the belief that only by revelation could God’s purposes in the present world be perceived.
The origin of apocalyptic.
Granted that there is some heterogeneity within the apocalyptic literature, nevertheless there is, as we have seen, sufficient common ground among the various writings to enable us to ask the question, ‘Where did apocalyptic come from?‘
Several main sources have been suggested for apocalyptic.
1) Iran/Persia. Following the conquests of Alexander the Great (336-323 BC) the admixture of Greek and Persian cultures led to the development of a hybrid culture known as Hellenism. It has often been argued that Zoroastrianism (a Hellenistic religious cult) contributed largely to the emergence of apocalyptic.
There can be little doubt that a relationship exists between Zoroastrianism and apocalyptic. Zoroastrianism divided the history of the world into epochs, they were interested in numerology (12, prominent also in Jewish apocalyptic, plays an important part in Zoroastrianism), their schemes were highly deterministic, there was interest in angelology, demonology and astrology and there was preoccupation with the final judgement. Eschatological ideas, too, show some similarity.
However, a major difficulty arises in connection with this thesis. The sources of Zoroastrianism are very late. The Avesta may well be as late as the C4 AD and the Dinkart C9! It is possible that a form of proto-zoroastrianism emerged much earlier, influenced by Babylonian ideas but the evidence has not been forthcoming. Perhaps, a parallel and largely independent development of Zoroastrianism and apocalyptic is possible. However, most likely, in view of the evidence available, is that Zoroastrianism is indebted to the Bible rather than the reverse. This might explain why Satan (prominent in Persian eschatology) finds no place in Daniel.
2) It seems more likely that we are to look in a more specifically Jewish direction for an explanation of the phenomenon of apocalyptic. This being so, where in particular is it to be found? Many, quite plausibly, root apocalyptic in the writings of the prophets: they argue that apocalyptic is the child of prophecy. Postulated sources include Isaiah 24-27, Ezekiel 38-39, Joel, Zechariah 9-14. Sometimes these chapters are, in fact, designated apocalypses. Certainly these passages have pronounced and not dissimilar eschatology to the apocalyptists. Yet in none of these passages can the full-flowering of apocalyptic imagery and ideas be found. They show thinking that was capable of developing into apocalyptic yet was not itself of the fully fledged variety that subsequently emerged. Consequently, the phrase ‘prophetic-apocalyptic’ has been postulated for their writings.
3) Some have looked elsewhere for the source of apocalyptic. Some have mooted wisdom as the source. Thus, the apocalyptists never regarded themselves as prophets (they even speak of the prophets as having ‘fallen asleep’). More significantly, the prophetic view of history is at odds with that of the apocalyptists. Thus, the prophetic message is rooted in salvation history whereas in apocalyptic history is something pre-determined from afar, it has little of a theological or confessional character. The prophets dealt with isolated events in history as they impinged upon the confessing community. The apocalyptist looks at the whole historical panorama. This suggests that apocalyptic was the response of those who sought to systematise the experiences of life and who developed the sophisticated and encyclopaedic sciences of the day (insights largely drawn upon by the apocalyptists). Apocalyptic is the result of men formulating and seeking to answer the hard questions raised for theology by a comprehensive view of history and society.
Few have been fully convinced by this view. The theory runs aground on the existence of ‘prophetic-apocalyptic’. It also tends to assume (as much OT study does) that wisdom and prophecy were two almost independent movements. However, both were undertaken from the standpoint of faith: The one starting from faith exploring the patterns of the created order, the other dealing more specifically with revelation. Simplistically, the prophet dealt with special revelation, the wise man with natural revelation but from the standpoint of faith. Seen thus, we are not dealing with mutually exclusive phenomena.
Thus, apocalyptic is better seen as rooted in both the traditions which were prominent in ancient Israel.
4) However, what was the specific catalyst which led to the emergence of apocalyptic. Perhaps, the best explanation is rooted in the fact that the C6 was the most likely period in which it first arose. That century raised for the Jew in the sharpest focus questions which demanded an answer. The catastrophe of the exile led to a religious crisis. The very institutions which had bolstered the faith of those living in the pre-exilic period were stripped away. The leaders of the people were now faced by clashes of culture, foreign imperialism etc.: the whole world of the ‘people of God’ had been turned on its head! The new situation required new answers and answers which embraced a world-view and a more comprehensive understanding of history than had hitherto been required. It is into this trauma (and the later events of the C2 during Maccabean times) that the message of apocalyptic might seem to speak.
5) This naturally leads us to ask what contribution Daniel had to the rise of apocalyptic. It is generally held that Daniel is a C2 composition, one among a number of similar and contemporary books. However, if the claims of the book itself are taken seriously (and there is no reason to doubt them, as we have already seen), then Daniel itself comes to assume an important part in the development of apocalyptic. Thus, Daniel was the God-given response to a generation asking the questions which the exile raised. The book adopts a world standpoint different from the earlier prophets out of necessity (and fact!), by its very nature it draws upon the predestinarian traditions of the past in a more thorough-going way, yet at its heart it is still supremely interested the people of God. It is a message for them, just as much as the earlier revelations, for it warns them that they are not exempt from the consequences of imperialism and oppression but that they are to endure in the knowledge that it is their God who is still on the throne and He will vindicate His own.
This helps explain another feature of Daniel. Scholars are perpetually stymied by the fact that Daniel does not fit well into any of the categories of apocalyptic that they care to articulate. Thus, for example, it is not (obviously) pseudonymous. Attempts to find a ‘Daniel’ who was a great hero of the distant past read like special pleadings to cover up weak arguments. The absence of the reference to ‘Satan’ and other features mentioned above are similarly explained.
At the same time Daniel stands apart (uniquely in the OT) from the ‘prophetic apocalyptic’ of the prophets. A number of features distinguish prophetic apocalyptic from Daniel. In Daniel there is no reference to the ‘that day’ of the prophets, there are no cosmic disorders (e.g. earthquakes) which act as divine warnings.
Thus, it is best to see Daniel, itself, as the most significant contribution to the rise of apocalyptic. His book was the response of God to the agonising questions facing the people of God in the C6. Building upon the prophetic and wisdom traditions but in an unparalleled situation, Daniel was raised up to address in a unique way his own generation with God’s message. The later disasters in the C2 aroused afresh similar questions. In response the apocalyptists modelled their work on the one exemplar they had for addressing a similar situation (especially since that book touched upon their own times!). At the same time they reflect (in a way that Daniel itself does not) the influences of later Hellenism.
For our purposes, then, Daniel is not to be interpreted from the apocalyptists. They are instructive as early expositors of the Daniel tradition. But he antedates them and is best interpreted from the perspective of his predecessors: the prophets and the wise men of Israel.
Chapter 7
The change in subject matter is immediately obvious! In addition, however, we need to note that the division between the two parts of the book is quite deliberate. The first six chapters have singled out in chronological order some of the major events in the life of Daniel and his friends in Babylon. The last six chapters are also chronological, comprising a succession of dreams and visions. However, and significantly, the two parts overlap chronologically with chapters 7,8 belonging between 4 and 5, 9 probably contemporaneous with 6 and 10-12 occurring after all the events recorded in 1-6 took place. We shall suggest that this means that the earlier historical narrative helps us to understand the significance of the visions for Daniel (and for us).
Two dangers need to be avoided in studying these chapters (and similar Scriptures elsewhere). 1) It is tempting, faced with the bewildering symbolism, to pass them by and look for pastures which offer a more obvious spiritual feast. Such, of course, fails to take 2 Timothy 3:15 and 16 seriously. 2) The other danger is an intellectual one. We can become so engrossed with unravelling the detail that the spiritual message contained in these chapters completely passes us by.
Several note the significance of the date given in verse 1. The humanising government of Nebuchadnezzar has passed away. Daniel finds himself sidelined while the Babylonian empire embarks on a downward spiral hell-bent on fulfilling Daniel’s words in chapter 2. Faced with such a situation Daniel was presumably faced afresh with questions which invariably raise themselves when evil seems especially to prevail. We ask, ‘When will it all end?‘ and we are troubled by the difficulties which the people of God are likely to face in such times. This is almost certainly the context which leads Daniel to experience a troubled night’s sleep: yet a sleep in which the dreams, though initially arising from Daniel’s troubled mind and the questions preoccupying himself as he fell asleep,  prove to be of divine origin!
Daniel’s vision is recorded in 2-14. The imagery is variously drawn from the OT and Ancient Near Eastern mythology; many of the elements in the vision thus become clear, even if the detailed interpretation is more difficult.
In the ancient world the sea was a symbol of the demonic powers opposed to God. This notion was borrowed by Israel, although denying the fundamental dualism which was prevalent in its pagan usage. Thus, Yahweh was greater and able to tame the sea as its Master (Psalms 93 and 107:23-29). The pagan nations were sometimes similarly described (Isaiah 17:12f.) presumably to emphasise their fundamental character and genius. Daniel’s vision picks this up. The restless world (cp. Augustine: ‘our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee’ and note the emphasis here on the world ‘as a whole’ emphasises both by the great sea and the fact that the winds blow from every quarter) breeds bestial, sub-human (contrast, 4) empires in its own image. The winds themselves could be symbolic: possibly of the judgements of God, or, more likely, emphasise that God raises up the beasts. Either thought is Scriptural and emphasises the sovereignty of God even over evil (cp. Amos 3:6) and that He works out His judgements in human history (Romans 1:18).
None doubt that the first beast symbolises the Babylonian empire and corresponds to the golden head of chapter 2. The lion was a symbol of the Babylonian empire (as attested at Nimrud and the Ishtar Gate in Babylon itself). It is also possible to identify 4b with the removal of the imperial impulse and the humanising of Nebuchadnezzar on his conversion. NB. Jeremiah also had compared Nebuchadnezzar to a lion and eagle (49:19-22).
Certaintly over the identity of the remaining kingdoms is less achievable, though conservative writers are generally of the opinion that
1) cumbersome, insatiable Media-Persia (for the author of Daniel is clear this followed) is depicted by the bear (and the three ‘ribs’ ? symbolise the Babylonian, Lydian and Egyptian conquests achieved by Cyrus and his son Cambyses);
that 2) the whirlwind conquests of Alexander the Great are symbolised by the panther (one of the fastest predatory creatures) here provided by wings to assist speed. Some argue the emphasis on ‘four’ refers to the subsequent quadripartite division of Alexander’s empire. This seems unlikely. Rather the emphasis seems to on the fact that it was on the constant lookout (all around) for prey NB. ‘it was given authority to rule’: a further reminder of Daniel’s high view of divine sovereignty.
3) The last empire is usually identified as the Roman (and each of these then identified with the four kingdoms in chapter 2).
Debate is stronger over verses 7-8. Most assume that the reference is to a group of states (not necessarily literally ten and contemporaneous) which arise from the Roman Empire (states which are confederate and become independent, since the beast is still alive?).
Most would then identify the little horn with perhaps a person rather than a state who is usually identified as the Antichrist who will appear at the end of the present age (cp 2 Thessalonians 2:3,4).
Others, more tentatively, suggest that even if specific identifications are made, there is a likely representative character to the vision. ‘World-rulers, glimpsed through the thin veil of imagery, all inspire terror, the more so as history progresses, for the worst is reserved for the end. Moreover the vision takes place in the night, when darkness highlights fear and imagination is most vivid. If commentators are right in interpreting the great sea as reference to the mythological abyss of Babylonian literature, and home of all kinds of monsters [despised by the Jews as unclean], little is added to the intensity of the emotional reaction, though contention that we are in the world of primitive fears is reinforced’ (Baldwin).
However, despite its realistic assessment of political power, the focus of Daniel’s vision lies elsewhere. Suddenly, while the blasphemies of the little horn are still being uttered (11) the scene is shifted from earth to heaven and in a vision redolent of OT imagery Daniel sees a vision of God the judge about to open ‘the books’. This may suggest that the ‘books of fate’ which contained the plans of God were about to be opened for their final chapter (on Babylonian mythology analogy) or, more likely, ‘be thought of as containing the record of the past deeds of all those who stand around for a verdict- a record written so unanswerably and clearly that no witnesses are required and no pleading can be of any avail’ (Wallace). At a word the beast is destroyed (just as the earlier empires had been judged and their power removed): verses 11,12.
This is one of the great lessons of the chapter. Human powers, despite their ferocity, are raised, controlled and judged by a word from God. He is on the throne.
‘Daniel, because he knew the Scriptures, already knew something of the final answer to the old questions. He is merely being reminded vividly of what he was tending to forget [and what we need to be constantly reminded of]. But in the final phase of the vision there appears as the final answer to his problem something quite new to the whole tradition with which he had been familiar’ (Wallace).
There is considerable debate among the commentators as to the identity of the one spoken of in 13f. No passage as been more written about in the Book of Daniel. The issue is, essentially, that in 13f. an individual is spoken of in terms which draw upon Biblical traditions which emphasise both deity (look up ‘cloud’ in any concordance) and perfected humanity (exercising dominion, cp. Gen. 1:28) while in the interpretation (27) speaks of the people of God as being the ones invested with precisely that predicated of the individual in 13f. Is, then, 13f a representative man or are we faced with a situation (typical of the OT) in which there is a shift from the individual to the collective arising out of the close identity of the two? In view of the NT evidence (Heb. 2:6-9) and Jesus’ repeated claims to be ‘the Son of Man’, the latter is most likely. Union with Him will cause them to share the perfected humanity which is His and exercise that dominion which is the outworking of being the image of God. There is no reason to suppose that Daniel would not have grasped much of this (if less clearly than those of us who live the other side of the incarnation). Only this interpretation seems to do full justice to all the elements here.
Daniel’s perplexity (15) seems to be aroused by the revelation about the fourth beast. Thus, his initial question and its reply (16f.) is followed by the more extended question (19-22) which adds one more detail (20) to the summary of the vision already given. The reply is, perhaps, surprising for it adds little that would not have been fairly obvious (23-25). Emphasis lies in the reply on the fact the severe setbacks (25 includes blasphemy, long-drawn out persecution, a new table of religious festivals and a new morality: all of which will severely try God’s people) faced by God’s people (in the context of a worldwide vision, ‘saints’ cannot be limited to the Jews or a restored Israel as is sometimes done) will be brief (25) and their rewards great (26f.).
In many ways Daniel 7 is the climax of the Book for the following chapters are largely occupied with enlarging on some of the details in this all-embracing picture of world history. It sets before us a Christian philosophy of world history which is thoroughly realistic, while at the same time emphasising both the sovereignty of God, his keeping trial ‘short’ and the blessed final outcome of glory when world dominion will be in the hands of one whose kingdom is everlasting and in whose rule all believers will share. These are the lessons that any teaching of this passage should major on: for they reflect the intention of the divine author and his penman.
Chapter 8.
This chapter is relatively free from difficulties since in interprets itself: identifying the two major empires (20,21). Scholars are united in their agreement that the ‘little horn’ (9) must be Antiochus Epiphanes. So accurately does Daniel’s vision describe events from the time of the fall of the Babylonian empire to the period climaxing in Antiochus’s death that most sceptical scholars have assumed that it must have been largely written after the event.
Thus, chapter 8 has a more limited field of view than chapter 7. There the whole of (remaining) human history was set before Daniel’s view. Here events associated with the second and third kingdoms are elaborated.
However, it is of importance to note the literary structure, since this seems to indicate the author’s intention in penning this chapter. Simply the chapter divides into three:
1) the vision concerning the two Empires of Media-Persia (here clearly identified as one empire, 20) and Greece (1-8);
2) the vision concerning the ‘horn which started small but grew’ (9-14);
3) the interpretation (15ff.).
It is noticeable that the first part of the vision serves as a backcloth to the second part. This is where the author’s interest lies. The first part builds to the climax in the second, passing with great brevity over major historical events in order to concentrate upon the content of part 2. And it is the events of about 3½ years or possibly 7 years (2500 days or 2500 sacrifices: i.e. the entire period of Antiochus’ rule in Judea or just the 3½ years during which the cult was abolished) associated with one very inferior monarch than are highlighted.
Thus, though 1-8 may be said to teach that, ‘great power, resulting in self-importance, invites great reversal’ (Baldwin) it is doubtful whether the author was stressing this. His interest lay elsewhere.
What then is the intended significance of the vision concerning the ‘little horn’?
Several features are important in discovering the answer.
1) It may well be significant that the text reverts to Hebrew at 8:1. Here, we suggest, is a message designed for the people of God (Archer).
2)  The climax of the vision rests with 14 and the reconsecration of the Temple and with the emphasis upon the brevity of the period in which Antiochus will have ascendancy over God’s people (vividly described in 9ff. where the ‘host’ probably refers to ‘the people of God’).
3) In the interpretation the divine intervention leading to Antiochus’ demise is set out as the climax (25).
Thus, provisionally, we can see that the passage is intended to be one of comfort. God sometimes permits His people to suffer at the hands of those who gain power and use that power against His people. This is predicted to occur at the end of the Greek Empire (among one of its four residual and independent parts). However, though the persecution will be very severe (the description does not pull its punches!), it will be brief. God will vindicate His name (when men flex their muscles against God there can be but one outcome!): yet that is not the main point. He will vindicate His name for His people’s sake. They will worship f