Maintain Bible Study and Prayer
Explore the Bible Series
August 28, 2005
Background Passage: Daniel 9:1-12:13
Lesson Passage: Daniel 9:1-3; 11; 16-23a
Introduction: The visions of this section of Daniel rendered the prophet “weak in the knees”, and, frankly, this portion of Scripture leaves me with a similar effect. This is a very difficult section to interpret with certainty. Bible students hold strong convictions about these things, and the resulting debates often produce (as Ernie Reisinger would say) “more heat than light.” All conservative scholars would agree that Daniel’s visions predict future events, but the debate centers on how far in the future Daniel’s foreshadowings extend. Dr. Huber L. Drumwright observed that Bible prophecy often had more than one application. Like distant mountain ranges, prophetic discourses may prove difficult to determine with certainty the historical “distance” of the events. Study this material with an open mind and heart, and avoid unhelpful dogmatism on some of the more difficult particulars.
Background Passage Outline:
I. Daniel’s Prayer of Repentance (9:1-19)
A. The occasion of Daniel’s prayer (vv. 1-2): (See previous treatment of critical and historical problems related to the reign of Darius). Daniel clearly had access to the writings of Jeremiah and may have possessed some other manuscripts of extant sacred writings (note, for instance, Daniel’s reference to the writings of Moses later in Chapter Nine). He discerned that the time of the Restoration was close, and his prayer of repentance, no doubt, grew from his anticipation of the fulfillment of God’s promises. The Lord’s sovereign pledge did not produce a spiritual malaise in Daniel; rather, it inflamed his passion for the display for God’s glory and invigorated the prophet’s prayers. Properly understood, the doctrine of the sovereignty of God does not hinder the prayers of believers. It moves men to pray earnestly and boldly.
B. The content of Daniel’s prayer (vv. 3-19):
1. The worship of God: Daniel recounted the glorious attributes of God: greatness (v. 4), faithfulness (v.4), steadfast love (v.4), righteousness (vv. 7 and 14), mercy and forgiveness (v. 9), and veracity (v. 12). Even the calamitous events of the previous seven decades had displayed the glory of God, and the prophet saw the hand of God in all the events that troubled Israel. Also, he realized that the only hope of this beleaguered people was in the character of a merciful and forgiving God.
2. The confession of sin (See, in particular, vv. 5-8; 14-15): Daniel peppered his prayer with petitions for God’s mercy. Notice the personal responsibility Daniel took for the sins of God’s people. The prophet was not alive when many of the sins of Israel occurred, but he understood that he was part of a larger whole, the people of Israel. He acknowledged a corporate responsibility for the sins of God’s people. We do not sin in isolation. Our sin and its consequences affect other people.
3. Petitions for mercy: Again, Daniel interspersed petitions for forgiveness throughout the prayer; however, he intensified these requests at the end of the prayer (See vv. 16-19). He recognized that he had no meritorious right to claim God’s forgiveness; so, the prophet threw himself and his people upon the mercy of God.
II. The Appearance of the Angel Gabriel (9: 20-27)
A. Gabriel sent to Daniel (vv. 20-23): This is the second time that Gabriel appeared to Daniel, and he came, on this occasion to assure the prophet of God’s love (See v. 23) and give the servant of the Lord understanding of things to come (vv. 22-23).
B. The Seventy Weeks (vv. 24-27): Great diversity characterizes the interpretation of the Seventy Weeks. We will not solve these problems here, but the passage, in my judgment, seems best served by a Christocentric interpretation. The “weeks”, most agree, symbolize years. If we mark the beginning of the “Seventy Weeks” with the decree of Artaxerxes to allow the Jews to return to Jerusalem (See Ezra 7); then, 483 years would pass from 457 B.C. to the initiation of Christ’s public ministry in 27 A.D. This view holds that the designation the “anointed one” refers to Christ. The “cutting off” denoted the crucifixion (See v. 26), and the desolations of the prince refers to the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus Flavius, in 70 A.D. (See Matthew Henry for a more thorough development of this view).
III. Daniel’s Frightening Vision of the “Great Man” (10:1-21)
A. Daniel’s initial encounter with the “Great Man” (vv. 1-9): As Daniel prayed and fasted, an angel appeared to the prophet. Daniel’s companions did not see the angel, but great fear fell on them. The angel’s appearance seems to have rendered the prophet speechless and helpless.
B. The angel encouraged and strengthened Daniel (vv. 10-14): The angel recounted the opposition he had encountered at the hand of the “Prince of Persia.” This term “Prince” probably refers to a powerful, evil being who withstood the angel of the Lord. The angel strengthened Daniel and prepared the prophet to hear the word of the “one in the likeness of the children of man.”
C. The appearance of the “one in the likeness of the children of men” (vv. 15-21): This seems to be a theophany (a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ). The presence of this “man” seems to strengthen and comfort Daniel.
IV. The Kings of the South and the North (11:1-45)
A. Four kings of the Medo-Persian Empire (vv. 1-4): Daniel predicted that four great kings would ascend the Medo-Persian throne. The reformation Study Bible identifies these monarchs as Cambyses (529-523 B.C.), Smerdis (523-522 B.C.), Darius I (522-486), and Xerxes I (485-464 B.C.). The last of these kings is Ahasuerus, the emperor during the period of Queen Esther. In 480 B.C. Xerxes initiated a military campaign against the Greeks. Eventually, the Greeks, under the leadership of Alexander the Great, defeated the Medo-Persian troops.
B. The intrigues of the king of the South (vv. 5-45): This is a very complex section that describes the intrigues of the Egyptian (king of the South) and Syrian (king of the North) Empires. The later verses (vv. 36f) probably refer to Antiochus, but they may also give some insight into the character of the Antichrist.
V. Prophecy Concerning the Last Times (12:1-13)
A. The “time of great trouble” (vv. 1-4): Perhaps the reference to the sinful man of Chapter 11 anticipated the material contained in Chapter Thirteen. A terrible period of trouble will test the people of God, but the Lord will deliver his people. Verse Two anticipates the resurrection of the dead and the Judgment. Some will awake to eternal life and others to shame and contempt (See v. 3). Daniel was told to seal his book until the end of time. Perhaps this sealing of the book relates to the Lord’s breaking of the seals in the Revelation.
B. The appearance of two great beings (vv. 5-13): Two more angels appear to Daniel, one on each side of the river. The prophet inquired concerning the duration of this period of trouble, and the angel revealed that it would last for seven years (if I understand the language properly). The angel told Daniel other remarkable and mysterious things.
Observations and Discussion Questions Concerning the Lesson Passage:
1. Why should people, who earnestly believe in the providence of God, engage in prayer? What relation did Daniel’s pray have to the accomplishment of God’s will?
2. Discuss Daniel’s devotion to the study of the Scriptures. He clearly had mastered the writings of Jeremiah, and he possessed an impressive knowledge of the Books of Moses.
3. Discuss the nature of Daniel’s prayer in Chapter Nine. How would you outline the prayer? What theological convictions informed Daniel’s prayer? What physical effects did Daniel’s apprehension of God produce in the prophet?