Harry Whittaker
Visions in Daniel

9. Daniel and the Glorious Angel (Daniel 10)

The prophet was fasting in the first month. There is some ambiguity about this, for; reckoning Nisan (Passover) as the first month, the civil year came in in the seventh month—Rosh Hashanah, in modern Jewish observance.

This latter is probably the correct identification, for it began with the Feast of Trumpets, it included the fast of the Day of Atonement (the 10th), and also there was the great annual holiday, the Feast of Tabernacles. Thus, it seems likely that Daniel’s fast began immediately after the Feast of Trumpets and included the entire Tabernacles celebration. Whilst his fellow-Jews in captivity were, no doubt, enjoying the holiday, Daniel afflicted his soul. Evidently a vision had already been made known to him, and the details of it written down (“the scripture of truth”), and in his eagerness to learn the meaning of it all, he bombarded heaven with his prayers and reinforced his pleas with this rigorous fasting.

It is commonly assumed that the mysterious vision elucidated for him was the long detailed complexity of chapter 11. This is an unlikely conclusion for the angelic appearance was “to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days” (v.14). Put chapter 11 is mostly about Egypt and Syria and the squabbles of the fragments of the Greek empire, and very little about the well-being of Daniel’s people. Nor is chapter 11 about “the latter days” (except, possibly its last few verses). Nor is there anything in ch. 11, 12 to indicate, “the time was long” (10:1).

The angel was almost certainly Gabriel, for as in ch. 9:23 Gabriel was sent as soon as Daniel began his prayer, so here also: “from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand...thy words were heard (this was his prayer for fuller comprehension), and I am come for thy words” (v.12). Also, in v.16-19 there is such emphatic repetition as to make the Gabriel identification virtually certain: “I retained no strength...he strengthened strong, yea, be strong...I was strengthened...thou hast strengthened me.” Does not this language tell the reader that the angel was Gabriel, the Strong One of God?

There follows an elaborate explanation as to why it took this angel of glory three weeks to achieve manifestation to this man “greatly beloved”. Paraphrased, the message intimated that behind the scenes a great tussle had been going on because of the conflicting activities of various angels charged with the responsibility of shaping the affairs of the nations involved.

The princes of Persia and Greece, that is, the angels controlling these international affairs had apparently made things difficult for Gabriel to work out the most suitable answer to Daniel’s prayer. It had needed the “reinforcement” of Michael, the “chief prince”, i.e. archangel, who had special charge of the heavenly ministry of Israelitish affairs, before ever Gabriel could achieve a proper response.

In the awe-inspiring description of these behind-the-scenes activities there is no doubt a certain “accommodation” of language to the limitations of human comprehension, but even so certain essential, if bewildering, ideas stand out in this remarkable chapter:

  1. Michael is the “watcher” over Israel. This is his special work (12:1; 10:21).
  2. The angels, although immortal sinless servants of God, are limited in their physical and intellectual powers. A great number of Scriptures state or imply these truths: Mt. 24:36; 1 Peter 1:12; Ex. 23:20ff; 31:17; Lk. 19:38; Gen. 32:24, 26; 22:12; 18:21.
When incredulity has given way to believing the truth of this Bible witness, it becomes the more impressive, and bewildering, to read the detailed description of Gabriel; “girt with fine gold, his body as a beryl, his countenance like lightning, his limbs like burnished brass, his voice as the voice of a multitude” (v.5, 6).

That last characteristic especially seems to have exercised a fatal fascination over many readers. The voice, like the voice of a multitude, has imparted to this phrase the dogmatic notion that here is a symbolic representation of a multitudinous Christ. However, in this instance, vox populi vox non dei. For otherwise there is the decidedly awkward concept of a Christ-multitude somehow dispensing wisdom to a prophet of the Lord some five centuries or more before there ever was a Christ. Ezekiel 1:24 have been accorded the same slovenly treatment. Yet the identical imagery in Rev. 1:15 describes the glorious Being who walks in the midst of the candlesticks. Does the multitudinous Christ do that? The rainbowed angel of Revelation 10:1-3 has suffered from similar uncritical treatment. He — an angel, and certainly not a multitude — “cries with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth”. The Greek word for “roareth” means literally “he mooed or lowed like a cow.” Are not all these variant phrases different ways of conveying the idea of a loud impressive voice? (so also in Rev. 19:6).

Daniel’s “deep sleep” before the angel of the Lord is rightly seen as suggesting the appropriate fate of mortal man when in the presence of Immortal Power. Put again there has to be caution against pressing the symbolism of death and resurrection too far. Death and resurrection — yes! (See the passages cited on Dan. 8:18). Put is one at liberty to infer from v.9-11 that in the great Day when the dead hear the voice of the Son of God the saints will pass by stages from death to Life? The idea needs reinforcement from plainer Scriptures than this.

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