Studies on the Book of Daniel

J. N. Darby.

<05024E> 123 LECTURE 1

Daniel 1 and 2

The book of Daniel has reference to the time during which Israel, the people of God, are under subjection to the Gentiles. At its opening we discover an accomplishment of the threat made to Hezekiah; Isaiah 39:6-7. The throne of God has been taken from Jerusalem; the power and the kingdom have been transferred to the Gentiles; and Israel, as to its actual state (being no longer, by the judgment of God, His people) is kept in captivity. But God does not abandon them: only He administers His blessings according to their actual necessity. The things most needful for them to know, under their existing trials, were the history of this dominion of the Gentiles, to which they were subjected, and also the effect of these changes upon the promises which belonged to them. And as the glory of God was to be considered in this great transference of power, it was important to know how the Gentiles would use it, or what their conduct would be, whether towards God or themselves (the Jews), under this responsibility conferred on them.

124 The book, then, embraces two principal subjects: Firstly, the character and conduct of the four monarchies, which occupy the period called "the times of the Gentiles" (Luke 21:24), namely, from the time that God had retired from Jerusalem (His throne being no longer there), and had transferred imperial power over the world to the Gentiles, until the time of the re-establishment of His throne.

And, secondly, the relationship of these nations with Israel His people, during the period in which the supremacy that had been confided to them was in exercise. And all this is of practical importance. For the Christian is informed of the result of the politics of this world, and, being "warned of things not seen as yet," he separates himself, whether in heart or in action, from all that of which the result will be so sad. Besides, an acquaintance beforehand with all that is to take place keeps him tranquil and composed. There is no need that he should give his heart to the world which surrounds him, for he knows by the written revelation of God both its course and its end. But further, such prophetic intimation is precious to us, not alone because it refers to Christ, and to the people beloved of God, but also because, in every communication which God makes to us, there is a sensible joy in the very fact that He speaks to us. Are not our souls happy in communion with Him? Now this is the case in the prophecies, as in every other part of the word; we feel our nearness to Him and His goodness to us. Thus our faith in Him is strengthened, and the sanctification of our souls increased and established.

125 This book accordingly is divided into two parts, sufficiently distinct, according to the two great subjects which it contains: six chapters occupy the first, and six others the second part. The first six contain, not the communications made to Daniel, except to interpret them, but the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar, or the things which befell the heads of the empire. We have the great general principles of the Gentile monarchies given to us, or their public history in the world announced to their rulers or manifested in their conduct. The last six chapters are communications made to the prophet himself, and reveal not only the history of these empires, but what they are in the eyes of God; they also furnish details of their (the Gentiles') relationship with the Jews, and of the worship still maintained by the Jewish people. This last was important to Daniel, who, as a prophet, had the people and glory of God at heart, as well as the general history of these empires.

It is instructive to mark the character of the man who became the depositary of the intentions of God in this time of distress and captivity of His people. First, he refuses to defile his soul in partaking of the delicate food of this world. God, who prepares and orders everything for the well-being of those who walk faithfully, in whatever circumstances they are placed, disposed the heart of the chief of the eunuchs in favour of Daniel and his three companions: this eunuch, under whose charge they were, conceived a great regard for them. Moreover, God answers the prayers of Daniel, who "became fairer and fatter in flesh," than any of those who had given themselves over to the ways and nourishment of this world. In a word, Daniel is faithful in all that constitutes a complete separation from the world, according to the Jewish rites, in refusing to eat of meats from the table of a pagan monarch; and this conduct of faith, which was in appearance blamable, meets the approval of God. The personal behaviour of Daniel is the basis of and introduction to the revelation of the whole book. It is the same with us. Separation from the world - a decided refusal to have our portion in that which it furnishes - puts us into a position to receive those communications from God, which, whilst their fulness is contained in the written word, we never receive but through the direct teaching of God (that is, for it to be the teaching of faith), whatever be the instrument which God may make use of to impart such communications to us.

<05025E> 126 God soon finds an occasion in which Daniel is to serve Him as a witness, after having, through His grace, disposed him for the undertaking. He often acts by ways which leave the world completely at fault. He permits Nebuchadnezzar's memory to fail him, in order to force him into dependence upon the prophet whom God had chosen to shew forth His divine wisdom.

Notwithstanding, at the actual moment, Daniel knew no more than others how to resolve the difficulty. God made him feel his dependence; but he had faith, and faith and dependence are identified. At the instance of Daniel, he and his companions seek the God of heaven in prayer;* God answers them, making use of all the difficulties of the case to identify Himself with the poor remnant of His people.

{*It is under this character of "God of heaven" that Daniel knew Him. He will be found afterwards God of the earth in fact, as He is always in right.}

Hereupon Daniel's first act is, not to hasten to the king to inform him of the discovery of the secret, and to rejoice in the deliverance, but he turns with thanksgiving to the God who had heard him. He attributes to Him all that could give comfort to the remnant during the supremacy of these ungodly and rebellious Gentile powers (chap. 2:21).

Daniel, when introduced into the presence of the king, is not elated; he conceals himself, so to speak, behind the glory of God. It is when we understand how to humble ourselves thoroughly, that we are truly exalted. If Daniel disappears, God Himself is manifested in him. Oh that we might have wisdom and spiritual power to hide ourselves thus behind Jesus, in order that He might be put into the foreground! Every such act is a great and precious triumph.

As to the interpretation of the dream, a few words will suffice, as the light upon this is almost universal. All acknowledge the dream to speak of the four great monarchies, viz., the Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and Roman. In verses 37, 38 dominion is given to Nebuchadnezzar by the God of heaven - a universal dominion - absolute in its character over the earth, though not over the seas. There is no information given how far this dominion has been realised, but the gift was bestowed; and it is the first monarchy which, it appears, possessed this power in the most pure and absolute way. It was in the person of its chief "the head of gold." The fourth was to break everything in pieces by its power; but at the end it was to be divided, and in this condition it was to be both strong and weak; a result of the union of the empire and of the original principle of its existence with heterogeneous elements (that is, in my judgment, of barbarians with that which was, properly speaking, Roman).

127 At the end, the God of heaven, will establish the kingdom of Christ, who will put aside all these monarchies by an act of judgment. We must bear in mind that the kingdom of Christ in this place is His kingdom established in power in the world, and not the blessed influence of the gospel of His grace. The first act of the little stone, before it grows and becomes a great mountain which fills the whole earth, is to fall upon the statue, so that it becomes as the chaff of the summer threshing floor. The stone does not become a mount in until after that. In other words, when Christ shall have executed a judgment which shall break in pieces and destroy the power of the Gentiles, then His kingdom (an earthly kingdom, and one still of judgment) shall fill the earth.

In chapter 2 the moral history of these monarchies is not touched upon nor their conduct signalised. These will have their place in the four following chapters. I shall only here point out the marks which are given to us as characterising them, as we shall return to them in another lecture.

The first is idolatry, or the civil power endeavouring to make the people submit to a law of unity in worship, the object being a statue set up by the civil power. The second is that the heads of the empire become beasts. That is, they lose the consciousness of being set in relationship with God; and, instead of being in dependence upon Him according to the light given from above, which is the only and true glory of man, they, having lost this light, descend to the rank of beasts. The third is impiety, seen in the conduct of the imperial power towards the Jews, and the God of the Jews, whose name, and all that had reference to His worship, it dishonours. The fourth is self-exaltation. The head of the empire makes himself God, and forbids prayer to be addressed to any other than himself.

In all these events the history ends by the exaltation of the true God. In the first, the Gentile acknowledges the God of those who had preferred the fiery furnace to idolatry. In the second, it is the Gentiles themselves who confess the God of heaven, who humbled them when they walked in pride - a pride of which Babylon was the centre. In the third, it is judgment executed against the "wicked king." In the fourth, it is not alone the God of heaven who is proclaimed, but His power is established with authority, and His kingdom is acknowledged as that which shall endure for ever.

<05026E> 128 LECTURE 2

Daniel 3-6

You will remember that chapter 2 gave a general history of the period taken up by the whole of Daniel. This was revealed in a dream which Daniel recalled to Nebuchadnezzar, and of which he gave the interpretation. It is the history of the times of the Gentiles. The four monarchies are brought before us, and their final dispersion, by the judgment which the little stone (the kingdom of Christ - Christ Himself) will execute against the whole power of the Gentiles.

I would press again upon your attention that, after having destroyed the image, and not until then, the little stone became a great mountain, which filled the whole earth. We stated that the four following chapters (that is, to the end of chapter 6) gave the character and conduct of these empires; and that, instead of existing in dependence upon God, they are found in rebellion against Him, persecute His people, and exalt themselves against Him. The consequence is judgment.

In chapter 3 we observe the first and principal sin, namely, idolatry, as marking Gentile power, or the power which reigns during the times of the Gentiles. In the succeeding chapter, we observe that these empires, instead of being subject to God, become beasts, that is, they lose their proper under, standing, and act as beasts - as wild beasts, who cease to be in subjection (all men, in their true place, acknowledging their subjection to God), and who lose their understanding. In chapter 5 there is open impiety; and in chapter 6 the head of the empire exalts himself as God. Then follow details and circumstances of these empires, and their special relationship with the people of God.

The principles are given us in the first six chapters, and the details in the remaining six. The first thing which the civil power sets up is idolatry, with the object of establishing a religious unity, but always in separating the people from the true God, and in putting something in His place. This circumstance serves as an occasion for trying the faithfulness of God's people and the manner of it. Nebuchadnezzar commands the people, yea, even all the nations (for there were many under his dominion) to worship a statue. This is idolatry. (Consult Dan. 3:4-7 for the words of the proclamation.) This is not an unusual way with Satan; he excites in the civil power the desire of unity; and there is no more powerful motive for the mass than the influence of religion.* Satan impels the civil powers to establish unity, in order that everything under their authority should be well ordered and regulated. It was thus with Nebuchadnezzar: he sets up this image in the province of Babylon, and demands the assent of all the governors to its reception and worship.

{*I am not speaking of the truth which allies the conscience to God Himself, and therefore gives Him His proper supremacy.}

129 I repeat, that such a religious act is a powerful means of influencing the mass, and of holding them in submission, united in one community, and bound to the civil power, which is the centre of such religion, or at all events supports it, and is identified with it. But whenever this is the case, there must be persecution - it may be more or less violent - but persecution there will be. We see it in the present case. Nebuchadnezzar's alternative is, "Whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, shall be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace."

But there is yet another important consequence as characteristic of Gentile power; I mean impiety. Impiety not only refuses to respect the conscience, but, what is worse, disallows the rights of God. Respect for the conscience is necessary enough, but the rights of God are infinitely more so. Observe the words of the king: "Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hand?" (v. 15). This is impiety - that principle of blasphemy which characterises the beast under all times and circumstances. His thought is of the power which he (the beast) possesses and holds. May we remember that it is God who has given it, and who overrules it! (Compare Hab. 1:11, 15-17.) Impiety, in forgetting the source of power, would arrogate to itself all its rights in spite of God Himself. Now, if unity be maintained, when God's own rights are set aside, it immediately becomes idolatry; for we fall into the hands of the enemy when we are at a distance from the true God. And when the civil power endeavours to establish this unity, it puts aside not only the rights of conscience, but the rights of God Himself. This applies in an especial manner to the word of God.

130 It is not only that man has a right to the word of God, as between him and his neighbour, but there is a more sacred right which is interfered with, if we deprive him of it: it is that God has the right to address what He will to the souls of men, and, having addressed the word to them, those who would deprive men of it, derogate from the rights and despise the authority of God, who has seen good to send it to them. Suppose that I have servants, dependents, to whom I send orders, evidently, if any one hinder the servants from receiving these orders, he interferes, not only with their rights, but with mine; and this is the great question: God no doubt will make inquisition for all this. It is bad enough to violate the conscience of another man to satisfy one's own wickedness; but here Nebuchadnezzar entirely set aside the prerogative of the true God. And this is the principle of blasphemy which attaches to the Gentiles from the beginning. This was the first act of the head of gold; and such is the commencement of the power of the Gentiles as presented to us in this chapter.

On the other hand we have a touching picture in Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. They are not at all in alarm or disquietude. "We are not careful to answer thee in this matter" (v. 16) is their answer to the king. Does this confidence issue in their escape from the threatened penalty? By no means; they do not escape. God allows them to be put to the proof; He does not manifest Himself beforehand, but permits Nebuchadnezzar to fulfil his threats. They are cast into the furnace of fire, as Daniel was afterwards into the den of lions. Whilst they would not obey the will of Nebuchadnezzar in violating their conscience, they offered no resistance to the persecution, but, as to their bodies, they submit entirely to his commands; and what is the consequence? They are loosed by the fire, and nothing is burnt but the chains with which the world had bound them; moreover, they have the Son of God as their companion in the furnace. The consequence of this interference of God in behalf of His poor servants was that a confession was forced from the civil power that their God was a God who delivered His people, and who condescended to attach His name to theirs. "Blessed," said the king, "be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him." This is the position of a believer; he yields up his body to death, in order to serve none other than the true God. And more than this, dear friends, these men quit the furnace as witnesses to the power of God - their God - in the sight of all the world. It will be the same with the faithful Jews at the end; they will be in a furnace of fire, but, at the same time, God will manifest Himself as their God. Christians have a higher hope: even if we are left to suffer death, our hope is the hope of the glory of Him who has saved us, which we shall enjoy with Him in the place where He is. But as to the Jews, they will be delivered from death by the power of God, and the true God will be acknowledged as their God.

<05027E> 131 Daniel 4. The dream of the king concerning that great tree which overshadowed all the earth is related in this chapter. These are his words, "Thus were the visions of mine head in my bed: I saw, and behold, a tree in the midst of the earth, and the height thereof was great," (v. 10). A great tree is always the symbol of a man of vast power on the earth: one tree in this instance sufficed, because, in fact, Nebuchadnezzar ruled over all the civilized or prophetic earth. There was, as it were, only one tree: "The beasts of the field had shelter under it, and the fowls of the heaven dwelt in the boughs thereof."

But what becomes of this delegated power? It is used as an occasion of self-exaltation. God had confided this power to Nebuchadnezzar; He had blessed the king beyond measure in temporal things. As a consequence pride takes possession of him, and that in spite of the warning given in the interpretation of the dream, and the express prediction of what was to come; for the heart gets blinded by the things which it sees. Here then we have no longer unity in religious externals, and a deliverance by the hand of God, but another character of Gentile power. It is this - that if God, in His providence, elevate man, as a consequence man elevates himself. All is then lost. The case is this: the throne of God had been taken from the Jews, and God puts the Gentiles into the place of power in the person of Nebuchadnezzar; but man being guilty, and thus unable to observe any law, power cannot be committed to him without his lifting himself up against God who gave it. "Is not this great Babylon which I have built?" He makes himself the centre instead of God. He becomes a beast and loses his reason entirely. A beast may be powerful, large, stronger than man, shew much sagacity in his ways, but its look is downward; there is no exercise of conscience, and, as a consequence, no real relationship to God.

132 The only ennobling principle in man is submission - that is, submission to God; it supposes a capacity to understand the will of God. Man bows to this will, and does homage to God, as to One who is superior to himself. From the moment that he says "I have built," he loses his moral relationship to God. All true elevation is lost, and he becomes in this like one of the brute creation; for, I repeat it, a capacity to maintain a relationship with God is man's true superiority; but in this God must be God, and man must be in submission. Whenever this connection is lost, we descend to objects below ourselves, to which our affections attach themselves. Nebuchadnezzar became the companion of beasts - he had lost his proper understanding. The effect of all this is given at the close of the chapter; for when he finds himself out, he uses such language as is ever heard in such a case. "At the same time, my reason returned unto me," etc. (v. 36, 37). Behold the effect of God's judgments upon Gentile power. It is now no longer His interposition in behalf of a poor remnant of His people, as in the case of Shadrach, etc., but He brings down the pride of earthly power. Man exalts himself against God, but exactly where his greatest strength is put forth, the Lord is above him; Ex. 18:11. The great principle then of chapter 4 is the evil conduct of Gentile power. It exalts itself against God, becomes brutish in its understanding, and is judged.* Seven times pass over it, and at last it confesses God. In other words, the sovereign power of the Gentiles is deprived of all real understanding during the entire period of its imperial existence, after which it confesses God.

{*Compare Habakkuk, whose prophecy is a kind of commentary on these two chapters.}

<05028E> Daniel 5. In this chapter we have further detail. King Belshazzar makes a feast, and commands "to bring the golden and silver vessels, which his father had taken out of the temple at Jerusalem, that the king and his princes, his wives and his concubines, might drink therein" (v. 2). Here is a fresh aspect of Gentile failure. It is a thorough impiety, and provokes the immediate destruction of the Babylonian power. This third form of impiety is still in connection with the Jews; for God, in relation to them, is always the God of the earth who is seen exercising a government below. It is not a question of the heavenly hopes of the church. God has delivered the Jews as captives into Gentile hands; He has delivered His altar, His sanctuary (Lam. 2:7), all the exterior signs of His presence and glory, into the hands of the Gentiles.

133 The head of the Gentiles vaunts himself, and, because God has thus delivered up the Jews, he glorifies his false gods, exalts them, and dishonours God. It will be the same with the king of Babylon at the end - open blasphemy. It will not be the principle of idolatry only, neither will it be alone that pride of heart which says "I have built." These things will assuredly characterise him, for he is man; but it will be an immediate outrageous act which will dishonour the true God - that God who delivers His people into the hands of the wicked for their chastisement. It will be an act against the God of the Jews. The instant he does this, "there came forth fingers of a man's hand and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall" these words, "Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin": the king seeing the part of the hand which wrote, and his countenance being changed … then Daniel answered and said before the king … O thou king, the most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour … And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this; but hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee," etc. Judgment falls on Belshazzar, and his kingdom is destroyed. Verse 30: "In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain, and Darius the Median took the kingdom."

<05029E> 133 Daniel 6. In this chapter we find the fourth principle of evil which existed among the Gentiles, and which completes the whole. It is not only an impiety which dishonours God, but it is man who exalts himself; he puts himself in the place of God Himself. The satraps go to the king and say (v. 6, 7) "King Darius, live for ever. All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, etc., have consulted together, to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever," etc.

134 It is proposed, in short, that no one should be confessed as God, and no request made to any but to Darius himself. It will be thus with the wicked one, "who opposeth and exalteth himself against all that is called God or is worshipped; so that he, as God, sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God," 2 Thess. 2:4. Again, it is said of him, Daniel 11:36-37, "The king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished; for that that is determined shall be done. Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all."

It is then that he is destroyed. This is the utmost limit of wickedness, an exalting of himself against God, a desire to supplant Him on the earth. Notwithstanding, in every case, where the faithful have been put to the proof (whether by Nebuchadnezzar or Darius) the result has been the humiliation of the power of the Gentiles, which, having beforetime opposed, now confesses God.

It is thus with Darius, "I make a decree, that in every dominion of my kingdom, men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel; for he is the living God, and stedfast for ever; and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end" (v. 26). There is a difference of expression to be noticed here. The confession of Nebuchadnezzar is to this effect, that the God of heaven is the God of the Jews; that is, of Shadrach, etc., and that no god can deliver like Him. Here also we have the God of Daniel, and, therefore, of the Jews; but He is also "the living God, and stedfast for ever; and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end": all of which will be ushered in at the revelation of Jesus Christ, and the establishment of His kingdom, which will have no end.

Again, Darius says "he delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions." It is the deliverance of the Jews, that is, of a remnant, which is the public manifestation on the earth, and which gives occasion to the confession of the Gentiles, that God is the true God. They will say, as Jethro said to Moses, "Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods," Ex. 18:11.

135 The true God is, then, acknowledged by the judgments which He executes on those who exalt themselves against Him, and by the deliverance of His people the Jews. The first of these judgments, for it is one, is that the chief of the Gentiles loses all understanding as to the ways of God; and the second is the entire destruction of this king of Babylon, on the very night in which he dishonours God. This Gentile history is sad, though glorious in its result by the manifestation of God for His people. In chapter 3 we see idolatry - the establishment of unity in idolatry by the arm of the civil power, which is mistress to all appearance, whilst really it is the slave of Satan. Chapter 4 is the history of man's exaltation of himself. Chapter 5 is open impiety against the Eternal; and finally, chapter 6 is the head of the Gentiles putting himself in the place of God.

In all these cases we find the people of God entirely submissive to the temporal power of these kings; for their power came from God. This is the principle of a Christian; he submits. The use which these established powers make of the authority which God has given them does not alter the source of the power. Jesus acknowledged that the power of Pontius Pilate, by which that governor condemned Him, came from God: when His hour was come, He submitted Himself to that which the authority, ordained of God, commanded. It is evident, from the use which the Gentiles make of their power in turning it against God, that they are under the direction of Satan; while holding their power from the one, they make use of it for the other.

What course does the child of God pursue? He does not maintain himself by leaning upon the civil power; he acts according to his conscience, and seeks only the will of God; at the same time he submits, and in so doing yields up his body; for his conscience is submissive to no one but the Lord: he cannot serve two masters. Shadrach and his friends undergo their punishment, but they refuse to do what the king, in the exercise of his power, wishes them to do. They do not seek to turn away the king from his plans; they are threatened and punished by Nebuchadnezzar, but they are faithful to their God, and He delivers them. They leave their case with Him. "He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king; but if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods," chap. 3:17-18. There is yet another remark; it is, that even when man is unfaithful (as were the Jews), God never loses his rights. He may confer power on the Gentiles for a time, but He never loses His rights, and, as a consequence, He never abandons His people; as He said unto Pharaoh, "Let my people go." The people of Israel were a subject of controversy between Pharaoh and God. Christians have other hopes, but the principle is always true. Daniel, who had faith, spoke as faith always does; for it sees as God sees. It is true that God had said, "It is no longer my people"; but Daniel speaks always of Israel as the people of God, because faith confesses all the rights of God. If a Jew had faith in the heart, God recognised him in spite of his circumstances; and this is very precious.

136 It is impossible, in spite of all Satan can do in the church of God, that he could put us into a position where God cannot recognise faith: otherwise God would lose His rights. In the ensuing lecture it will be needful to enter into details. An acquaintance with the leading features of Gentile power, from Nebuchadnezzar to the end, is of the utmost importance for understanding the things of God. For although we, as Christians, have another hope, even a heavenly one, yet we are in the times of the Gentiles; and the nearer we approach the end, the more Israel will come into prominence, and it is easy to see, by their present condition, that events are leading rapidly to a termination; and the more Israel becomes important, the more it behoves us to understand the thoughts of God concerning that people.

We have seen now in its general traits the history of the Gentile power from Nebuchadnezzar (that is from the ruin of Jerusalem) till the time the Lord shall come and destroy the impious and apostate power; for what we have read shews us the establishment of the kingdom of God on the ruins of the folly and impiety of man. In the next lecture, dear friends, we shall have nothing more of the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar, etc., but we shall be occupied with the revelations made to Daniel himself. It is he who represented the faithful remnant of the Jews, and it is he who interprets that which others received and to whom are confided the details of those things which relate to the people of God.

137 There is yet another remark to make before concluding this preface: it is, that these communications from God should have the effect of separating us entirely from this world, by making us understand that, as to this world, God sees none else, so to speak, than Jews or these apostate Gentiles. I am not speaking of Christians (He sees them after another manner), but of external power. When it is a question of Christians, then the circumstances are beyond this world. Jesus Christ says, "Ye are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." It should be thus in the purposes of daily Christian activity into which the energy of love leads us. As to those within, we train each other, not for Jewish hopes, but for the place which Jesus occupies, and for those mansions in His Father's house which He went to prepare for us. As for our hope, the end which we propose to ourselves, until God shall execute His judgments, it is not a hope that the world can be improved; for we see from the word that, until this judgment falls, the course of the world runs on in impiety and exaltation of man, which very wickedness brings down the judgment of God.

Such is the world in which we live, according to God's description of it; but He has revealed to us also the things of heaven. He has revealed to us Him whom the world rejected, and who is gone into heaven, so that we have an object and motives which ought to govern us entirely and direct our walk; in order that, by these motives presented to the heart, and with which the new man occupies himself, we should live and walk by the Spirit in a world to ourselves - "the world to come, whereof we speak": whilst, on the other hand, by the warnings which God has given us here, by the details with which He has furnished us, He would detach us, and that with an enlightened mind, from the world in which we sojourn as pilgrims and strangers. It is sad with what ease the world attaches itself to our hearts. I do not say that our hearts attach themselves to the world now, although that may follow soon as a consequence, but that the world attaches itself to our hearts.

Dear friends, if a man is covetous, this is the world. If a man is over diligent in affairs, he is occupied with the world, he lives in it, so to speak. It is extremely difficult for us to keep clear of the general principles of the world. It varies in its forms: in one, it is avarice; in another, it is a good position in society; in another, it is an active mind, which engages itself in politics. But this world below, dear friends, is not our world; we have another, of which Christ will be the chief, the centre, and the joy - "the world to come, whereof we speak," says the apostle. And may God grant that in all the details of life, in our everyday circumstances, this separation may be realised and manifested, and that we may be able to say, "Our life is hid with Christ in God." The treasure, the life, and the joy of all those souls who have understood what happiness it is to be with Him, is there where He is.

<05030E> 138 LECTURE 3

Daniel 7

In this second part of the book we have no longer the interpretation of dreams made to Nebuchadnezzar, etc., but the communications made to Daniel himself. You remember also, that the subject of which the book of Daniel treats is the Jews. God's ancient people were in captivity, and had been replaced, as to the throne of the world (at least as to the rights of this throne), by the Gentiles. God had had until lately His throne at Jerusalem. He was now no longer there, as He had once been literally there. Before the captivity God had placed His glory in the temple. He exercised the functions of government, punishing the wicked at times by instant judgments. He was in immediate relationship with the people. It was a pure theocracy, though connected with the monarchy of the house of David at the close; but all that was entirely gone. The Jews, instead of conducting themselves as those under the government of God ought to do, had become thoroughly unfaithful; they had made their children pass through the fire to Moloch, and had worshipped idols. The consequence of such conduct was, that God could no longer identify Himself with the nation. He rejected them, took away His throne from Jerusalem, and confided the dominion and empire of the world to the Gentiles. (See chap. 2:38.) Upon this Nebuchadnezzar takes Jerusalem, and the times of the Gentiles begin.

There are two aspects to this part of the subject: on one side, the responsibility of the Gentiles, and on the other, the circumstances of the Jews in those times, and in particular of the faithful remnant - the special object of God's care. We have already seen the general characters of the Gentile kings.

139 But now we come to more intimate details of these beasts in their relationship with the Jewish people, and with the remnant who had their expectation from God. These beasts, as we have seen, had lost their knowledge of God, and had persecuted His people; and thus, in order to bring out more perfectly the circumstances of the Jews, we are given a more minute history of some of these beasts, together with some account of the remnant under their power, and also many circumstances, as we shall presently see, which will have their accomplishment in the holy people.

We must note a feature in this book, as also in the prophetic part of the Apocalypse, that there is nothing addressed to the people of God. In the other prophets, for instance Isaiah and Jeremiah, there are many particulars concerning these same things, but the prophet always addressed the people of God, because they were still acknowledged. But when this is no longer the case, God may give to a prophet, to Daniel, to a remnant, revelations having reference to the people; but the prophet no longer addresses himself to the people. Thus Daniel is full of joy at these communications, but he does not say a word of them to the Jews directly. God was with the remnant, even Daniel.* He had nothing more to do with His people in the government of the world, but He had a remnant, and He communicated to the faithful whom He had chosen His intention concerning this remnant, and the events which were to take place. It is thus in the Apocalypse in its prophetic part. Certain things are told to John: it is not John speaking to Christians.

{*Daniel is, in many ways, a type of Christ, as having the Spirit of Christ in his sympathies with the remnant, and as being their representative before God.}

Such prophecies are a kind of depot of certain truths, which is for the blessing of the church at all times, and for the Jews whenever they believe. As to the people of God not being acknowledged, I believe this ought to have its weight in studying the Apocalypse, and you will do well to consider it. We are now going to enter into the second part of the book, wherein the conduct of the beasts and of the different powers of the Gentiles is given in detail; as well as the circumstances of the saints during their (the Gentile) dominion, and the judgment of God which comes down at the end.

140 Daniel 7 is an introduction, and contains three visions. There is the first general fact that there would be these four beasts, but the fourth was of the most importance; for although the others had been wicked enough, whether in acting against God or His people, it was under the fourth that the open revolt was to take place, whether of Jews or of Christianity, against God - a revolt which should result in the entire destruction of the beast, because of its lifting itself up against the authority and glory of God.

The first vision gives the description, however, only of the three earlier beasts, whose dominion was successively taken away from them, but whose lives were prolonged; that is, they were not entirely destroyed. The second vision (v. 7) is the circumstantial history of the fourth beast previously mentioned. The third vision (v. 13) is the opposition of all this, viz., the dominion given to the Son of man. The explanation follows.

First vision. "Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of heaven strove upon the great sea" (v. 2). The great sea, in prophetic language, constantly signifies masses of people; thus Babylon (Rev. 17:1, 15; Jer. 51) is described as dwelling (v. 13) "upon many waters"; that is, people not yet at the time of the vision formed into kingdoms, empires, and as such acknowledged by God as prophetic objects. These last are rather called the earth.

"And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another" (v. 3). You will find the distinction between the sea and the earth in Revelation 13, where the first beast comes out of the sea, whereas the second comes from the earth, because the first beast was the empire which arose amidst the confusion of nations, whilst the second beast appears when the first was already upon the earth and his empire established.

"The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man's heart was given to it" (v. 4). This was the Babylonish monarchy, the first, which carried everything before it. Pharaoh desired to do so, but his fate was sealed at Carchemish near the Euphrates; Jer. 46. This lion with wings was Nebuchadnezzar; his empire had lasted only seventy years. Darius the Mede took the kingdom, and Babylon remained a great city after its dominion was taken away. There was a subsequent judgment upon it, for it was besieged and taken a second time, and then it stood upon its feet as a man, submissive, and no more ravaging the nations; it became a province, and was no longer mistress of the world.

141 Second beast. "And behold, another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it, between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh" (v. 5). This is the Persian empire. I will not discuss this, because all who have studied the prophecies are agreed about it.

Third beast. "After this, I beheld, and lo, another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it" (v. 6). This is without doubt the empire of Alexander. The beast is described, more under the features which it took after the death of that prince, when his empire was divided into four parts, than under those which it had when united under his power. This is important, because in fact two of the parts into which it was divided have had much more to do with the Jews, than the empire had in the time of Alexander himself. Two of these are afterwards called (chap. 11) the king of the north and the king of the south.

Daniel said in a general manner that there were four beasts, but the fourth is reserved for a special vision. "After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth; it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it; and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns" (v. 7). That which particularly marks this beast was that it had ten horns (ten kings). "I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots; and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things" (v. 8).

This description is not simply that of a power hurried into action under the influence of his passions, nor of a conqueror who goes about ravaging everywhere; but there was something more in the ways of this little horn, viz., exceeding arrogance, intelligence, design, counsel, reflection, etc. - he had eyes as the eyes of a man. It is said of the Lamb, in the Apocalypse, that it had seven eyes - an expression for the perfection of foresight and understanding. Here it is not perfection, but at least intelligence, reflection, and design: all these are represented by the eyes; "and a mouth speaking great things," namely, prodigious boasting; and this characterises particularly thus horn. It is on account of the words which this horn spake that the beast was destroyed. He is the one who causes the judgment of the fourth beast. The little horn is he who morally influences the beast. "I beheld till the thrones were cast down (placed),* and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool … the judgment was set and the books were opened" (v. 9).

{*There is no doubt, I believe, that "placed" or "set" is the true, the only true sense.}

142 This is an assize. The thrones are not overthrown, but placed. The Ancient of days sits in judgment; myriads of myriads are there before Him. The books are opened. But as yet the Son of man does not appear, but only the Ancient of days. In another sense Christ is Himself the Ancient of days, but here, a little farther on in the chapter, He is presented to Him (the Ancient of days) as the Son of man.

In the Apocalypse, when John sees (chap. I) the Son of man, it is with all the attributes of the Ancient of days. But here the Ancient of days is seen Himself apart in vision, because Christ, in this book, is always considered as the Messiah, or as the Son of man, in His own separate and proper character as such, as the Anointed One (and thus also as man), because it was under this character that He was known to the Jews, or as inheriting the rights of man on the part of God in this world.

Herein we have the distinction in the expressions Messiah and Son of man, and this difference may be particularly traced in the gospel by Matthew. In His quality of the Anointed One, He appeared as king down here. When He came thus as Messiah, He was rejected: the Messiah, we are told, was cut off, and had nothing; Dan. 9:26 (margin). But when God at a future period shall set up His throne (we are not speaking of His heavenly glory, for that is already accomplished), it will not be only as the Messiah. It is not the way of God to re-establish that which has been spoiled. Such a procedure would be unworthy of God: if Satan spoils God's work, He is not satisfied with simply mending it. Whenever the folly of man and the malice of Satan have perverted any passing blessing which God has given to man, God establishes something infinitely superior. We have a striking instance of this in Jesus Christ Himself. Man was placed in innocence upon the earth. This state of things was soon altered by the folly of man tempted by the devil. Does God re-establish again an innocent man on the earth? No. He sets up His own Son, a glorified man in heaven and earth. Thus God, in allowing the things which He has presented or confided to man to be corrupted, afterwards Himself establishes something infinitely superior according to His own purpose.

143 In this manner the Messiah was offered as king of the Jews. Faith, indeed, confessed Him as the Son of God; but as the Son of David, if He had been received, He would have possessed the throne of David. Man, being a sinner, would not receive Him; but when He returns, it will not be as Messiah, or as the Son of David only. He is gone to receive a kingdom from the hands of His Father, an inheritance over all things, not only as Messiah, but as the Son of man; for God has decreed, that "all things shall be subdued unto him," 1 Cor. 15. It is for this reason that He is seen coming with the clouds of heaven as Son of man.

When Christ presented Himself to the Jews as Messiah, and even to the Gentiles under Pontius Pilate, He was rejected; after which God does not establish Him as Messiah alone, but as Heir of all things. Is this done by the will of man? By no means. Christ has been presented to the good-will of man, but He was received with hatred and disdain. They crucified Him. He will be established by the decree of God.

Now when this little horn speaks great things - when all its insolent pride is manifested - when it has come to its height, then the thrones are placed, and God begins to exercise His power. When power, as confided to man, is turned into rebellion against God, it is time for God to act, and for the thrones of judgment to be placed, for the books to be opened, and for man to give account to God.

The result of this judgment on the part of the Ancient of days is to give the kingdom to the Son of man. It is a question here of this power - these rights of the Ancient of days. It is the demonstration that He who had possessed the rights from the beginning to the end, although He had been concealed, was He who gave the power to the one and to the other.

144 God had been hidden, so to speak, during the time of the other beasts, nevertheless His providence acted. The Babylonians were replaced by the Persians, and these last by the Greeks. All this was done, as things are done even now, by the arrangement of that providence which governs the world, because the Ancient of days (whose rights, notwithstanding, cannot be annihilated) was not yet sitting to execute judgment on account of the acts which had been committed against Him. But it will not be thus at the end. As yet the open revolt had not taken place. The fourth beast had not yet said, Isaiah 47:8, "I am, and none else beside me." Compare what is said to the prince of Tyre, "Wilt thou yet say before him that slayeth thee, I am God?" (Ezek. 28:9). The judgment of this fourth beast will be as against man in a state of open rebellion against God.

Now the attention of Daniel (v. 11) is entirely taken up with the little horn. "I beheld, then, because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake; I beheld even till the beast was slain; and his body destroyed and given to the burning flame." He is amazed to hear there, in the very presence of God, this horn speaking blasphemous things. He wondered that God should permit it; but he saw the beast slain. This was the result. Then he says, "As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time"; that is, after the dominion had been taken from Babylon, it continued to subsist for some time, as did the Persian likewise; but the destruction of the fourth beast shall be entire. To the others a prolongation of life had been granted after the fall of the empire; but here the judgment and the destruction go together.

Consequent upon all this is a third vision (v. 13, 14). It is the Son of man presented to the Ancient of days. "Behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him." "And there was given him dominion, and glory … that all people … should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion," etc., etc. (v. 14). This is the kingdom which will be confided to Him, and which He will administer for the subjection of all things to God Himself.

Now we come to the explanation given to the prophet (v. 15-17). "The visions of my head," says Daniel, "troubled me. I came near unto one of them that stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me," etc. "These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth." But he adds a fact not before mentioned: "The saints of the most high shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever" (v. 18). It is not alone the history of something which takes place by the interposition of providence, or by the judgment of God; but the interpretation is occupied with the people of God - the saints of the most high. We always find, whether in prophecy or in parable, that the explanation goes beyond that which the original statement itself contains. There is always some new fact. So here, the truth is added, that the saints of the most High are to obtain and to keep the kingdom. The general thesis of the chapter is, that four great beasts would rise on the earth, and be finally judged by God. The truth added in the explanation is, that the saints of the most High would receive the kingdom, the beasts being set aside.

145 "Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast … which brake in pieces and stamped the residue with his feet" (v. 19). This violence and cruelty has always marked the conduct of the fourth beast; it is Europe, at all events, in the west. "And of the ten horns that were in his head, and of the other which came up … even of that horn that had eyes … ." (v. 20). The horn had intelligence and designs. Three of the horns (kingdoms) fell before this horn, which, little at the beginning, becomes in appearance more stout than his fellows, and, at last, rules in the midst of the horns. And you will see, as we proceed, that this horn usurps all the power of the beast, or, at least, stamps the whole with its character. The horn gets the power. As it is the conduct of this little horn, which determines that of the beast, so also is the horn the cause of the beast's destruction.

"I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them". … (v. 21) "until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom" (v. 22). Afterwards the explanation is given, verses 23-25, and the little horn is more fully mentioned. This horn is not to be an ordinary kingdom, but a special power which raises itself up in the midst of the others.

The fourth beast is to do three things: first, it speaks great things against the God who is on high, ruler of heaven and earth; secondly, it wears out the saints of the most High (those, namely, who own God in the high or heavenly places); also it makes war with the faithful Jews who have returned to their land. Thirdly, it not only destroys the saints, but it thinks to change the times (that is, solemn days - certain days which return from year to year, and which mark certain epochs among the Jews, as Pentecost, the feast of Tabernacles, etc.), and the law itself.

146 They shall be delivered into his hands, that is, these times and laws, until a certain period; it will not be for ever. The beast, then, apostatises against God, makes war against the saints who confess Him, and, lastly, completely sets aside the Jewish ordinances. This is the final character which the beast takes.

We shall still have to consider this beast, and, consequently, we must follow with care this part of the book, because of the important place which the little horn occupies in the revelations of God. Meanwhile let us remember that, whilst the prophetic part of this chapter, as contrasted with the explanatory part, treats of the beast being destroyed and delivered to the fire; in the latter part, the Spirit of God is almost entirely occupied with the actings of this little horn. The judgment is to sit, and the dominion to be taken away (that is, of the little horn), verse 26. We shall see that the ten horns give their power to the beast; but this little horn rules the beast, morally speaking, and so all the others, by its intelligence and influence. Thus the Spirit of God can speak of the little horn as being everything

Notwithstanding it was still the beast, for the little horn possessed all the power of the beast, and its (the little horn's) conduct characterised the beast; for as it was the horn which blasphemed, persecuted, and changed the law, so it is its dominion which is taken away.

At the same time bear in mind that, although the little horn was principally before the eyes of the prophet, the others had not ceased to exist. There yet remained seven horns after three had been swallowed up, so that we do not see, in the little horn, all the empire of the fourth beast, considered geographically. The little horn is morally, but not geographically, the beast. Seven of the horns which existed previously will still subsist. The features of the beast, then, are, that we have one particular horn which is very different from the others, small in appearance when it rose, but whose looks and words were stouter than the others', three of whom fell before it. It is this horn that persecutes and changes the times, and represents completely the beast before God as to the judgment; but at the same time, as to physical and material power, there are seven other horns in other places, but within the limits of the Roman empire; and who are thus the instruments of the moral evil of the little horn. One horn is the great worker of evil, whilst the mass of the empire, divided into seven parts, gives the power to that one.

147 Napoleon may serve to give us an idea of this state of things. Spain, Belgium, Westphalia, etc., followed him, they were his auxiliaries; but he personally stamped his character on the whole course of events. And so with these seven: their authority may exist within their own limits, but their power will be given to him, who will exalt himself against God and His saints.

Revelation 13 and 17, also bring this beast before us. In chapter 13 he is shewn as seated upon the throne, and wielding the power of Satan, by means of another beast who helped to glorify the first on the throne. In chapter 17 he is shewn more in his relationships with Babylon; whilst here in Daniel 7 he is represented to us as making war against God Himself, in his relationship also with the saints of the most High, and with the Jews. In Daniel 11:36-39, where we have again this king, or little horn, we learn more particularly his actings in the east - in the Jewish or glorious land. It is the special place where the evil works. In Zechariah 11 we have details of an idol shepherd, who shall be found in Judea and shall oppress the people, and who, I think, is the same as the second beast of Revelation 13, which I shall not now examine.

In 2 Thessalonians 2 he is seen in quite another aspect (viz., in connection with apostate Christendom); just as in Daniel 11:36 he is considered with respect to his evil conduct as king in Palestine; whilst here, he is seen rising from among the Gentiles, acting against the saints of the most High, and the faithful Jews. I do not make any allusion in this place to chapter 8 because it is my conviction that the little horn of that chapter is not the same as this one. Some who have studied the subject are not of this opinion, but for myself, it is my belief that it is another power which will be found there, in special connection with the Jews, invading those eastern countries, but which is not the little horn of chapter 7.

148 There is still another passage to be referred to in regard to this little horn. It is the latter part of Daniel 9 in connection with the desolation of Jerusalem. I mention it only that the chain of passages may be complete. In examining this book, I have no pretension to give a complete exposition, but only to notice some leading points which may assist you, and myself also, in further inquiry. One of the most remarkable facts in this chapter is the open revolt of man against God; it is that which so astonished Daniel. In the end man will arrogate to himself power, as if it were found in himself, instead of derived from God, just as it was the religion of man among the Jews which dared to reject and crucify the Messiah.

But this power of man, complete in apostasy, given up to Satan, is the instrument of the war which Satan wages against God and His Anointed. It is not iniquity alone, and the commission of sin, but the open revolt of sin as a principle. Under whatever form man is found in connection with God, this beast will give himself the trouble, so to speak, to unite in himself all these characters in opposition to God. Is it a question of God Himself? he derides Him and sets himself up against Him. Is it a question of the saints? he persecutes and destroys them. His object is to overturn everything for the setting up of himself. It is the king who does according to his own will. Satan gives him his throne after he has been driven out of heaven, three years and a half before the judgment: when, having but a short time, he acts in great wrath, establishing thus the wicked one upon his throne on earth, inspiring man, and putting him forward, as the head of everything here below, and destroying all relationship with God. Thus in 2 Thessalonians 2 we find that the rebellion against God, as known in Christianity, is based upon the apostasy; and then the man of sin rises and shews himself as God in the temple of God (all those who have not received the truth in the love of it having been deceived by the lying wonders of the power of the enemy).

Then the events of Revelation 13 will be realised; that Satan gives his throne to the beast, and at that time, I judge, the horrible character of open revolt in all its bearings will be publicly manifested. The evil works beforehand in principles, in mysteries; but when the throne of Satan is set up down here, after he has been driven from heaven (at least three years and a half before the end), and in consequence, is no longer able to deceive, after a religious sort, in making himself god on high; and the saints, as a result, having no combat to sustain in the heavenly places, then he gives his throne to the beast; and open rebellion will follow - rebellion against God; for the beast becomes the wicked one in speciality: "that wicked one shall be revealed, whom the Lord shall destroy." Then the throne will be given to the Son of man.

149 It is very important, through God's grace, to see where the course of this world will end; and be assured that it is not necessary that man should be outwardly degraded in habits in order to serve Satan, or that these events should take place; for the little horn had the eyes of a man, all the intelligence of man, his capacity, and clear-sightedness. These faculties distinguish him. Nevertheless, he will reject God; his conscience will not be in exercise; he will have no sense of his responsibility towards Him; whilst the desire of self-elevation and aggrandisement will choke every trace of love: just as Adam, who wished to be as God, and put God aside. But the judgment will come in, and Christ will be manifested in all His glory, and it is this for which we wait, as regards the improvement of things here below. But, thanks be to God, we have, as Christians, a better portion, even a heavenly, which consists in being like Christ and with Him for ever.