If this is your first visit, please see my introduction to these Lenten readings.
27 March 2018. Daniel chapters 9-12
Chapters 10 and 11 are titled “A time of wrath” and describe the vision Daniel is said to have had concerning a coming time of war and persecution. Unlike some of the earlier visions there are no fantastic creatures here like the multi-horned beasts of chapters 7 and 8. Instead we have all-too-human rulers, men of power and greed. They are not named, though some of them are titled “King of the North” or “King of the South”.
The Jerusalem Bible’s footnotes identify many of these kings by name and dates of their reigns: the kings of the North are Alexander and his followers in Syria, and those of the South the Ptolemies of Egypt. This does make historical sense of the story, which covers a period from 306 to 165BC, a period of 140 years or about five generations. But given that the book was written in the 2nd century BC and Daniel was supposed to have prophesied in about the 6th century about events that took place in the 3rd, one does wonder how much was written with the knowledge of what had already happened, even if Daniel did have a prophecy that was passed own orally through this time.
The purpose of the revelation to Daniel, though, like the purpose of the revelation to St John in the first or early second century AD (i.e. the Apocalypse), was to encourage God’s people at a time of persecution by showing that there were powerful angels and archangels at work striving on behalf of goodness and justice, even when it seemed that evil had swept them away.
For the ordinary believer caught up in political and military upheaval it must often seem as if God has abandoned them to the forces of evil. But the presence of the Archangel Michael, whose name is translated as “Who is like GOD?” (10:13), serves to confirm that Daniel, and anyone else who continues faithful to God through times of trouble, has the power of God on their side. Throughout the times of trouble there is the promise that there will be a restoration of justice and righteousness under a future saviour, and even resurrection of the dead (12:2). These are the promises that kept the Jewish people hopeful until the arrival of Jesus Christ, their true saviour.