Neviim Tovim/TheHaftarah Circle Gillian Gould Lazarus

Posts Tagged ‘End of days: Daniel’s eschatology

angel and daniel

Chapter 10 situates Daniel in the third year of Cyrus’ reign. He has been mourning three weeks,with fasting and abstinence, but we do not know the cause of the mourning. An indication of the time of year comes in verse 4, where the day named is 24 Nisan, shortly after the end of Passover. If Daniel fasted for the three weeks immediately prior to this date, he would have fasted through Passover, resembling Esther, who fasted on 14th, 15th, and 16th Nisan.

The angel by the Tigris
On 24 Nisan, Daniel is by the Tigris when he sees a man (not in this case called a dream or a vision), איש־אחד, with a supernatural appearance. He is clothed in linen and pure gold, and his face and body have the radiance of jewels, lightning and fire. The voice, being ‘like the voice of a multitude’, is at variance with the singularity expressed in ish echad.

The men with Daniel are filled with awe, although they do not see the man. They run away, leaving Daniel alone, and he too is so awed that his strength leaves him and he falls face down on the ground.

The man calls Daniel ‘beloved’, איש־חמדות, repeating the term hamudot which Gabriel uses of Daniel in 9:23 and says ‘Now am I sent to you’. He speaks reassuringly and tells Daniel that he has come because of Daniel’s words. We are not told that this angel is Gabriel.

Verse 13
According to Dr Slotki in the Soncino translation, the prince of the kingdom of Persia is the guardian angel allocated to Persia. The dramatist Tony Kushner employs this concept of angels representing geographical territories in his play ‘Angels in America’ where the angels symbolize the inner life of the characters in the play.

The angel tells Daniel that he has been delayed by the prince of the kingdom of Persia, for a period of twenty-one days. ‘I was left over there’ is unclear. Does this mean the angel was held up in Persia, or in conflict with the guardian angel of Persia?

He was assisted by Michael, echad ha-sarim ha-rishonim. Michael, whose name means ‘Who is like God?’ is one of the foremost of the angels, according to mainly ex-biblical tradition. Daniel is the only canonical book in which Michael is mentioned by name. Rashi commented that the captain of the host who appeared to Joshua is the archangel Michael.

In Daniel 12:1, Michael is named as ‘the great prince who stands for the children of your [Daniel’s] people’, and in the book of Enoch, which develops an elaborate Jewish angelology, Michael is ‘the prince of Israel’.

According to midrashic tradition, Michael is sometimes called upon, as the advocate of Israel, to fight with the princes of the other nations.

This idea of angels representing territories and peoples is prefigured in the Septuahint version of Deuteronomy (Ha’azinu), although not so in the Masoretic Text. The English Standard Version compromises with:

When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God.

This ESV translation takes into account the LXX and Qumran documents which reads
‘…according to the number of the angels of God’.

…κατα αριθμον αγγελως Θεου

The Masoretic text varies, saying למספר בני ישראל.

The angel tells Daniel that he has come to give Daniel a vision of the ‘end of days’ – באחרית הימים, εσχατων των ημερων. Daniel becomes faint and dumbstruck, but a being like the sons of men – is it the same angel as before – touches his lips, giving him strength and speech. The being then tells Daniel hazak ve hazak. He is returning to fight the prince or angel of Persia and says that when he goes, the prince of Greece will come – a reference to the Hellenistic empire which came after the Persians. The angel will then tell Daniel what is written in the book of truth, and only Michael will support him against the others – presumably, against the other angels, who support other peoples. Michael, according to the speaker, is שרכם, ‘your prince’, that is to say, Daniel’s prince – Israel’s prince.

Chapter 11
The legacy of Alexander

Dr Slotki identifies the speaker as Gabriel, who declares that he was a supporter of Darius the Mede; however the speaker seems to be the one designated as an ‘appearance like a man’ mentioned in 10:18.

The Achaemenid dynasty of Persians kings is as follows:

559-530 Cyrus the Great
529-522 Cambyses
522 Smerdis (Bardia)
521-486 Darius I the Great
485-465 Xerxes I
464-424 Artaxerxes I
424 Xerxes II
424 Sogdianus
423-405 Darius II
404-359 Artaxerxes II
358-338 Artaxerxes III
337-336 Arses
335-330 Darius III

The events described in chapter 11 are those which took place after Alexander’s conquest of the Persian Empire.

The second verse refers to a military engagement with the Greeks while the third and fourth verses describe the rise of Alexander and the division of territory which followed his death. The king of the south in verse 5 is Ptolemy of Egypt, who made peace with the northern Seleucid empire by marrying his daughter Berenice to Antiochus II.

Berenice, (died c. 246 bc) replaced Laodice, the first wife of Antiochus II and disinherited Laodice’s children when her own were born. When Ptolemey died, Antiochus remarried his first wife but, in a twist worthy of Eastenders, she poisoned him, while her son disposed of Berenice and her son, taking the throne himself. All the young men in this story are called either Seleucus or Antiochus. War ensued between the brother of Berenice – another Ptolemey – and the son of Laodice, Seleucus II. The next verses describe the continuation of these wars between the next generation of Ptolomeys, Seleucuses and Antiochuses.

Verse 16: “The invader will do as he pleases. No one will be able to stand against him. He will establish himself in the Beautiful Land and will have the power to destroy it.” ‘The beautiful land’ always refers to Israel/Judea. Antiochus III attacked Egypt in 200 B.C. but was crushed by the king of the South, Ptolemy V Epiphanes. Antiochus conquered Sidon and by 197 B.C., had taken control of Judea.

The daughter given in marriage in verse 17 is Cleopatra I, daughter of Antiochus III. She was married to Ptolomey around 194 BCE. (The Cleopatra we know from her relations with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony is Cleopatra VII.)

By the time of Antiochus III, Rome was a significant force in the Mediterranean.. They fought the first Illyrian was with the Greeks in 221. They claimed a victory over Carthage after Hannibal’s invasion of Italy in 217. In 191, the Romans, under the leadership of Scipio Africanus, overcame the forces of Antiochus III in the battle of Magnesia, and in the ensuing peace, Antiochus paid reparations to Rome while his son, Antiochus IV (who later was to provoke the Maccabean Revolt), was held hostage in Rome.

Antiochus IV Epiphanes

Verse 20 refers to the fairly brief reign of Seleucus IV, older brother of Antiochus IV, designated in verse 21 ‘a contemptible person’, נבזה from the verb בזה, to despise. Antiochus IV engaged in wars with both Egypt and Rome. The second part of verse 30 refers to his plundering of the Temple in Jerusalem and promoting of Hellenized Jews. His profanation of the Sanctuary is described in verses 31 and 32 while verse 33 describes the persecution of the devout. Verse 34 may be an allusion to the Maccabean Revolt. Antiochus’s tyranny and grandiosity are described and further aggressive wars against Egypt, Libya and Ethiopia. Regarding the Edomites, Moabites and Ammonites, they seem to have formed an alliance with Syria, as, according to I Maccabees:

Then Judas fought against the children of Esau in Idumea at Arabattine, because they besieged Israel: and he gave them a great overthrow, and abated their courage, and took their spoils.

While the revolt continued in Judea, Antiochus led the main Seleucid army against King Mithridates of the Parthians who attacked from the east in 167. Parthia had developed from a satrap under the Achaemenid kings to become the dominating force in Persia. After the death of Antiochus in 164, the Seleucid Empire dwindled away under the pressure of civil wars, Jewish rebellion and Parthian ascendancy. Eventually, the Romans took possession of the region, in 63 BCE, when Pompey made Syria a Roman province.

The author of Daniel 11 has knowledge of events up to 164 BCE as the terminus post quem.

Chapter 12

The last times

There is a question as to whether בעת ההיא refers to an unspecified future time, a specific time, or to the eschaton. Dr Slotki regards it as referring to the time following the death of Antiochus IV.

Verse 1 ‘Written in the book’: this expression sometimes refers to the book of the law – the Torah, and is sometimes used in connection with lost books, as in ‘Is this not written in the book of Yashar/Acts of Solomon/ Chronicles of the Kings of Israel (or Judah). However, Daniel’s meaning appears much closer to that of Malachi, who said:

Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name. “They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.

Verses 2 – 3
This is the most unambiguous mention in Tanakh of the resurrection of the dead to everlasting life. Although Elijah and Elisha both revived children who died, those children were restored to live out their natural lifespan, as with Lazarus in the NT. It may be a reflection of a Phaisaic belief in the world to come, already germinating in the Maccabean period.

Verse 4
It appears to be the angel who tells Daniel to seal the book, that is, the book of Daniel, which draws to a close.

Verses 5 -7
Daniel then saw two other angels, one on each bank of the Tigris, and one of them questions the ‘man clothed in linen’, that is, the angel who has been addressing Daniel up to this point. As we saw for example in Isaiah 40, angels are sometimes portrayed as multivocal, questioning and answering eachother.

The question is ‘How long shall it be to the end of the wonders?’

עד־מתי קץ הפלאות

The linen-clad angel raises both his hands to heaven and swears ‘by Him that lives forever’ – contrasting the eternity of God with the relative and temporal nature of the happenings on earth – ‘for a time, times and a half’. Daniel 7:25 has the Aramaic equivalent of this expression. The fact that this period of time mentioned in Revelations is also referred to as 1260 days is an indication that this could be an idiom meaning ‘a year, two years and half a year’.

Verse 8 – 9
Daniel asks to know what will be the outcome of these things but the angel tells him that the words are now closed and sealed up until the time of the end.

Verse 10
A distinction is made between the wicked and the wise, the רשעים and the משכילים. Maskilim suggests ‘the enlightened’, as in Haskalah, the Jewish Enlightenment of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, in which Moses Mendelssohn was a prominent influence.

Verse 11-12
168 BCE was the beginning of the defilement of the Sanctuary by Antiochus IV, who died approximately four years later in 164. The number of days mentioned in these two verses, 1290 and 1335, like the 1260 previously mentioned, fit approximately the period of persecution by Antiochus.

Verse 13
This verse can be interpreted as speaking of resurrection, meaning that Daniel will rest after death until the time when he is raised up לקץ הימין, ‘at the end of days’. You will recognize this expression from the hymn called the Yigdal, based on Maimonides’ principles of faith, where ‘the end of days’ refers to a messianic time:

ישלח לקץ ימים משיחנו
לפדות מחכי קץ ישועתו
מתים יחיה אל ברוב חסדו
ברוך עדי עד שם תהלתו

And at the end of days
an anointed one will come
redeeming those
who wait for God to save.
Life beyond death,
God gives with greatest love
We bless for evermore
God’s glorious name.

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