Brief Analysis of the Book of Daniel

"Christian Witness," Vol. 2, Plymouth, 1835.

J. N. Darby.

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I send you some analyses of books of prophecy, which I may be enabled at some future period, with the divine permission and blessing, to fill up with some further details. I feel this to be a more satisfactory method than framing any system which the study of Scripture makes me feel I possess. What does appear plain and distinct to me, I trust may be occasion of study and of information to other minds.

I would begin with Daniel. The book is clearly divided into two distinct parts. The former comprises visions and dreams of unrenewed heathens, or circumstances connected with their conduct. This ends at chapter 6. The latter consists of communications to the faithful prophet of the events in their moral character connected with the people of God; many of them in point of time, antecedent to what is related in the former part, but separated into a distinct portion or book of themselves, as having a specific character. Thus the visions of chapter 7 and 8 clearly precede in point of time the circumstances in chapter 6, or we might, I think, add even chapter 5. But they are revelations to Daniel instructing him in the bearing of the subjects of previous visions on the state of the saints. The former portion shews the history of the world in its outward character, its manifested forms, and the question thereon raised between their powers and God. The latter (as might naturally be expected in revelations to a prophet standing as the representative of the people of God) reveals the position and character of the agents in relation to the saints, their full moral character, and all that internal history in which those saints were most especially concerned. The latter part is from chapter 7 to the end.

I shall give the briefest outline of this structure now. We have then Daniel's visions only from chapter 7 inclusive; the former are facts, or the king's visions. But in the former we shall find distinct portions. Chapter 1 merely gives us the character of Daniel as separated from the pollution in which he was mixed up by the judgment of God on the nation; and the privileges of him and the three other children; and Daniel's continuance to the year of deliverance to his people. We have then, in chapters 2, 3 and 4, Nebuchadnezzar's history. In chapter 5, the destruction of the remainder of his empire, for the profane usage of what belonged to God. And then, in chapter 6 another scene - the kingdom of Darius.

56 In chapter 2, the first prophetic one, properly speaking, we have the divine wisdom setting forth distinctly the man of the earth, in all his varied characters; beginning with, and represented by, the head of gold - Nebuchadnezzar; that which attracted the attention and comprised the power of the visible world beneath. The destruction of this by the agency of power in its last form; and the substitution of that power which filled, not merely awed and overlooked as it were, the whole earth. Daniel's God owned therein in the acknowledgment of Him; as it is written, "that seek thy face, O Jacob": and Daniel's exaltation over the known world - he stood there as the Jew.

We have in chapter 3 the general character attached to this period in the person of the golden head of the whole. It was connected with religion - that was not left out. It was not merely secular power: and while the man was the power in the world in the previous dream, here is that which it did openly: the exercise of its power, or Satan's power by it would not be complete. It was not infidelity, in the common sense of the word, or atheism, but a compulsory religion; in which the power and will of this man of the earth was shewn, to which the honours of the state were compelled to bow; an image all of gold set up - a most beautiful and gorgeous display, and calculated to attract by its own excellency, and illustrate the honour of him who had set it up. It was, however, an image in the province of Babel - a furnace to the faithful: not however, I remark, to Daniel, who I believe to have represented the Jew distinctively, but those whose help was found in one like to the Son of God being with them in the furnace, while they were thus in it, making them free.

Chapter 4 states the external glory of a tree, the symbol of exaltation in the earth, which God had made to flourish; and this change takes place. Instead of subduedness and intelligence (to, wit, of God), there is given to this exalted representation of power a beast's heart - ravening and ignorance of God, till they should learn that the Most High ruleth. That a man's heart signifies this quietness and subjection, is shewn chapter 7:4. The result is, that those that walk in pride He is able to abase. Compare Ezekiel 17:24.

57 In chapter 5 it seems to me (sorrow is it to think) that profaneness against God in a degraded state, will be the mark of final judgment on this apostate state of things.

We have then in chapter 6 another state of things entirely - an utter open casting off of God; bringing Daniel, the prophetic representative of the Jew, into the den of lions. That which had taken the place of the previous state of things, seized on Babylon, but was not it, in its power or its source; openly throwing off God in folly, and thereupon the Jew made a prey, but delivered, and the everlasting kingdom acknowledged, and the princes taken in the net which themselves had laid. I do not excuse the Jews from the former similar case; but this seems exclusively and definitely to belong to them. The character of the apostasy is different. Darius sets up himself as God, or at least as alone to be prayed to, not setting up in his glory an image to be worshipped. Both perhaps may characterise, in some form, the apostasy of the latter day. This seems in all its character confined to it, and to make way for the everlasting kingdom. The King of heaven, the Most High, is the acknowledgment of the former; the everlasting kingdom of the living God, of the latter.

All these things are consequent upon "Lo-ammi" being written upon the Jews, and the manifest throne of God amongst the Jews, having ceased and been cast down. Then, I take it, the beast's heart properly had its rise. Man could be given up to folly, and Babylon become the seat of exalted madness and folly of heart: he might exercise it uncontrolled, save by the watchful eye of God ruling from the heavens; for Jerusalem was cast down - the throne of God had departed from the earth - His earthly care was now hopeless. (See Ezek. 10:19, and the reasons in the previous chapters; chap. 11 and the statements following to the end of chap. 12) Daniel 4:30 shews what took its place; and then properly came in the beast's heart for the seven times.

We have now arrived at the second portion of the book, wherein their general characters and characteristics of apostasy are brought into far greater detail in connection with the saints; and the book assumes the form of regular though symbolical prophecy, being direct communications to the prophet himself. We had before the beast's heart - we have here the beasts described.

58 But in this portion also there are distinct and definite parts: chapters 7, 8, 9 and 10 to the end, are all distinct visions - four distinct visions, as may be seen by their dates. However, we shall see there is further order amongst them. Chapters 7 and 8 describe the conduct and circumstances of the four beasts, with interpretation and prophecy added. Chapter 9 is the specific consideration of the desolation of Jerusalem, with its appointed time.

Chapter 10 to the end, what shall befall Daniel's people in the latter days, preparatory to this; as God had not taken His eye off them, and yet they were "Lo-ammi." The circumstances through which they should be passed until connected with the prince that should come, as given in chapter 9 at the close, are detailed most accurately and minutely in the former part of chapter 11 - the real history, God's history, of what is given apocryphally in the uncertain books of the Maccabees.

Thus chapter 9 also, it appears to me, more particularly connects itself with chapter 7; and chapter 11 with chapter 8 - the close of it, however, connecting both in "the king," and the king of the north, and the king of the south (the last being the conclusion of the whole matter). Thus chapter 9, like the judgment on Belshazzar, comes in, dividing the general history of the beasts, and the specific detail of the last climax of deliberate open apostasy. The king shall do according to his will, not regarding any god.

Let us turn back to chapters 7 and 8; and here I must remark as to what is called interpretation in the prophecy, that it is by no means merely explanation, but a use and application of some previously declared general symbol to specific results; often involving therefore material additional revelations, or omission of circumstances, not affecting those particular results. This we shall see plainly in those two chapters. I turn to their analysis. Chapter 7 contains three distinct visions, and then interpretations. The first vision is from verse 2 to verse 6 - four beasts, but the description only of three (the last being reserved for a distinct vision). The second vision is from verse 7 to the end of verse 12. The third is contained in verses 13, 14.

The first vision sees the first beast reduced from violence to subserviency, and is so disposed of - it ceased to be a beast. The other two are merely described. The second describes the fourth beast, its little horn, and the judgment of the Ancient of days upon the life and body of the beasts because of it; but only considered as between it and the judgment. The  third is the subsequent and consequent giving of the kingdom to the Son of man brought before Him, with its character and extent. Verses 15, 16 contain the request for interpretation. Verse 17 is the interpretation of the first vision - kings arising out of the earth, with (v. 18) an additional revelation, that the saints of high places take the kingdom. Verse 19 is the request of the truth about the second vision, with some additional character in verse 20 of the little horn; and an additional vision in verses 21 and 22; for it is to be remarked that, in the visions, the outward position of the beasts in the world with the saints, or their internal history, is not at all introduced.

59 From verse 23 to the end of verse 26 is the interpretation, with many additional particulars. Verse 27 gives the result of the third vision on the earth; but, being identified and involved in its causes with what precedes, it is given continuously. The interpretation, in a word, is the bringing in of the heavenlies into the subject, though only as known in effect upon earth; but attaching that name which implied the possession of heaven and earth - the Most High. It has been already observed, I believe, in some previous paper, that this word, when connected with "saints," is, as in margin, "high places," or "things"; the same, I doubt not, with the heavenly places of Paul. I would also refer the Christian reader to Psalm 2:4: to me it opens a distinct field in Revelation 13:6. This is all connected with the fourth beast, which, as well as the first, was thus far previously passed over.

In chapter 8 there is quite a distinct vision. We have two active powers, with characters sufficient to identify them with the beasts, but given in distinct and peculiar forms - their own actings to the exclusion of the other two. We are told that they are, the kings of Media and Persia, and of Grecia. The vision continues to the end of verse 12. In verses 13 and 14 there is testimony as to the continuance of a given point of it.

Verse 15. The prophet seeks the meaning of the vision. The vision is to be at the time of the end (the former part being merely designative of character, for it includes the first king); and the interpreter is only occupied in shewing as his object, what shall be in the last end of the indignation. This connects itself, in my mind, with Isaiah 10:25. It appears to me, that the accomplishment of the indignation is a distinct thing; as the fulfilling or accomplishment of a storm, and the end of a storm, would be different. Having then identified the parties in verses 20-22, verses 23-25 give the account of the person who is to appear when the transgressors are come to the full; the people are to suffer under or be destroyed by him, and he is to stand up against the Prince of princes, but be broken without hand. In verse 26 the vision of verses 13 and 14, which was told, is declared to be true; wherefore it was to be shut up, for it was manifestly for many days.

60 It is remarkable, that in the vision there is no mention of the putting an end to the practices of the little horn. In the interpretation, no mention whatever in his misdoings of anything to befall the daily, or the place of the prince of the host's sanctuary, but he is to stand up against the Prince of princes. I do not mean to say that nothing has struck my mind in connection with these circumstances, but I prefer leaving them at present to the consideration of my brethren taught of the Lord. I would just add that in verse 11 "from him" appears clearly the right translation; and I confess I should read in verse 12 "a settled time of affliction was appointed to the daily." This I leave to better critics to enquire into.

On chapter 9 I have little to add, as a continuous prophecy, including petition and answer. Only I would refer to verse 7, that it involves all Israel as well as Judah and Jerusalem; so in verse 11, "Thy city and thy people," and the matter of supplication. I would only remark, how intercession in the time of intercession holds the expression, "Thy people" (as with Moses in the mount), in spite of Lo-ammi written upon them, or a broken covenant; but the reference is at once in Moses to God's covenant, not the people's: so here the confession is complete.

The answer includes, after the decree to rebuild, Messiah, the people of the prince that should come (i.e., the Romans), and I believe Antichrist* as that prince therefore, and consequent desolations - a desolator, till the consummation, and that decreed shall be poured upon the desolate. This is the portion of Jerusalem. Where defined it is connected more particularly with the fourth beast, but merely under the character "of the people," etc.

{*[The author would now probably say the beast. - Ed.]

See "Enquiry as to the Antichrist of Prophecy," in Prophetic Vol. 2.}

61 In chapter 10 we have a much fuller account of all the doings of the ram and the he-goat, founded upon the statement that the full exercise of the angelic providential power of God was continuing for the Jews, for the purposes of God, however as a nation they might be tossed to and fro in the times of the Gentiles: the power of evil in Persia was contending against, and though the prince of Grecia should come, all his doings were measured and understood in the counsels of God; the difficulty was felt, but measured. Michael their prince stood with the angelic messenger in these things, and he was now sent to let him know what would befall his people in the latter day. The history is complete, but abrupt, whilst Jerusalem stands restored; all the actings of the kings of the north and the south are detailed particularly, but the whole scene changed by the introduction of the ships of Chittim. It was not as the former, or as the latter. Sword, flame, captivity, and spoil, many days await the people, though those that understood instructed. The sanctuary of strength was polluted; so they continued to the time of the end. Then one well known in Jewish history (i.e., prophecy), "the king," is seen in his wilful career, one whose character is infidelity, disregard to what is loyal to God, and the honouring a false god - who that is we may well know. The previous powers of north and south shall push at and come against him: still he* shall pursue his career, till tidings from the north and east arrest him; he shall come to Jerusalem, set up in blasphemous array on the mountain of God's holiness, and come to his end with none to help him. Here it appears to me both the parties we have spoken of before are brought before us; the prince that should come and the king of the north, and the king of the south, of the which, save the king, nothing is told us here.

{*[The author holds this to be, not "the king," but the king of the north. - ED.]}

But there shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation, and then every one written in the book shall be delivered; it is then Michal (leaving it previously to the service of angelic messengers, merely standing with them in these things in ministrations, counteracting and controlling the power of evil) himself stands up, in connection with the people immediately, for the people; and deliverance comes. Many scattered ones are brought in, and all receive their just place. I speak entirely of Jews, to which this prophecy refers. It is sealed to the time of the end; and again we have, not a vision, but a distinct separate account of periods connected with, first, the finishing these things when the scattering of the holy people was finished; and then, after further petition and sealing these things, the period from the setting up of the abomination, and till the blessing is told; with this word added, that the faithful prophet should in the end of the days stand in his lot, making known to us (i.e., revealing) the resurrection of the expectant Jewish saints; and though he told not then the precise times revealedly, he did tell that he should be then in his lot at their conclusion.

I remain, sir, yours, etc.