Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 25: Daniel, Part II, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
1. And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.
1. Et tempore illo stabit Michael princeps, magnus stans pro filiis populi tui, et erit tempus afflictionis, quale non fuit abesse gentem, hoc est, ex quo coeperunt esse gentes, ad tempus illud usque: et tempore illo servabitur populus tuus quicunque inventus fuerit scriptus in libro.
The angel no longer relates future occurrences specially, but proclaims God to be in general the guardian of his Church, so as to preserve it wonderfully amidst many difficulties and dreadful commotion’s, as well as in the profound darkness of disaster and death. This is the meaning of this sentence. This verse consists of two parts: the first relates to that most wretched period which should be full of various and almost numberless calamities; and the second assures us of God’s never-failing protection and preservation of his Church by his own innate power. In this second part the promise is restricted to the elect, and thus a third clause may be distinguished, but it is only an addition to the second just mentioned. At the close of the verse, the angel presents us with a definition of the Church, as many professed to be God’s people who were not really so. He says, Michael, the prince of the people, should stand up Then he states the reason, The calamities of that period should be such as were never witnessed from the beginning of the world As he addresses Daniel, he says, sons of thy people; for he was one of the sons of Abraham, and the nation from which Daniel sprang was in that sense “his.” From this it follows that the calamities of which he will by and bye treat, belong to the true Church, and not to the profane nations. The singular aid of Michael would not have been needed, unless the Church had been oppressed with the most disastrous distresses. We perceive, then, the angel’s meaning to be according to my explanation. The Church should be subject to most numerous and grievous calamities until the advent of Christ, but yet it should feel God’s propitious disposition, ensuring its own safety under his aid and protection. By Michael many agree in understanding Christ as the head of the Church. But if it seems better to understand Michael as the archangel, this sense will prove suitable, for under Christ as the head, angels are the guardians of the Church. Whichever be the true meaning, God was the preserver of his Church by the hand of his only-begotten Son, and because the angels are under the government of Christ, he might entrust this duty to Michael. That foul hypocrite, Servetus, has dared to appropriate this passage to himself; for he has inscribed it as a frontispiece on his horrible comments, because he was called Michael! We observe what diabolic fury has seized him, as he dared to claim as his own what is here said of the singular aid afforded by Christ; to his Church. He was a man of the most impure feelings, as we have already sufficiently made known. But this was a proof of his impudence and sacrilegious madness — to adorn himself with this epithet of Christ without, blushing, and. to elevate himself into Christ’s place, by boasting himself to be Michael, the guardian of the Church, and the mighty prince of the people! This fact is well known, for I have the book at hand should any one distrust my word.
Grant, Almighty God, since we are placed in similar distresses to those of which thou dost wish to warn us by thy angel, as well as thine ancient people, that thy light may shine upon us by means of thy only-begotten Son. May we feel ourselves always in safety under his invincible power. May we dwell securely under his shadow, and contend earnestly and boldly unto the end, against Satan and all his impious crew. And when all our warfare is over, may we arrive at last at that blessed rest where the fruit of our victory awaits us, in the same Christ our Lord. — Amen.
The twelfth chapter commenced, as we stated in yesterday’s Lecture, with the angel’s prediction as to the future state of the Church after the manifestation of Christ It was to be subject to many miseries, and hence this passage would soothe the sorrow of Daniel, and of all the pious, as he still promises safety to the Church through the help of God. Daniel therefore represented Michael as the guardian of the Church, and God had enjoined this duty upon Christ, as we learn from the 10th chapter of John, (John 10:28, 29.) As we stated yesterday, Michael may mean an angel; but I embrace the opinion of those who refer this to the person of Christ, because it suits the subject best to represent him as standing forward for the defense of his elect people. He is called the mighty prince, because he naturally opposed the unconquered fortitude of God to those dangers to which the angel represents the Church to be subject. We well know the very slight causes for which terror often seizes our minds, and when we begin to tremble, nothing can calm our tumult and agitation. The angel then in treating of very grievous contests, and of the imminent danger of the Church, calls Michael the mighty prince As if he had said, Michael should be the guardian and protector of the elect people, he should exercise immense power, and he alone without the slightest doubt should be sufficient for their protection. Christ confirms the same assertion, as we just; now saw, in the 10th chapter of John. He says all his elect were given him by his father, and none of them should perish, because his father was greater than all; no one, says he, shall pluck my sheep out of my hand. My father, who gave them me, is greater than all; meaning, God possesses infinite power, and displays it for the safety of those whom he has chosen before the creation of the world, and he has committed it to me, or has deposited it in my hands. We now perceive the reason of this epithet, which designates Michael as the great prince For in consequence of the magnitude of the contest, we ought to enjoy the offer of insuperable strength, to enable us to attain tranquillity in the midst of the greatest commotions. It was in no degree superfluous for the angel to predict such great calamities as impending over the Church, and in the present day the, same expressions are most useful to us. We perceive then how the Jews imagined a state of happiness under Christ, and the same error was adopted by the Apostles, who, when Christ discoursed on the destruction of the temple and the; city, thought the end of the world was at hand, and this they connected with their own glory and triumph. (Mt 24:3.) The Prophet then is here instructed by the angel how God should direct the course of his Church when he should manifest to them his only-begotten Son. Still the severity of distress awaited all the pious; as if he had said, The time of your triumph is not yet arrived; you must still continue your warfare, which will prove both laborious and harassing. The condition of the new people is here compared with that of the ancient one, who suffered many perils and afflictions at God’s hands. The angel therefore says, even although the faithful suffered very severely under the law and the prophets, yet a more oppressive season was at hand, during which God would treat his Church far more strictly than before, and submit it to far more excruciating trials. This is the meaning of the passage, a season full of afflictions should arise, such as the nations had never seen since they began to exist. This may refer to the creation of the world, and if we refer it to the people themselves, the exposition will prove correct; for although the Church had in former periods been wretched, yet after the appearance of Christ, it should suffer far more calamities than before. We remember the language of the Psalmist: The impious have often opposed me from my youth; they have drawn the plough across my back. (Ps 129:1-3.) Through all ages then God subjected his Church to really evils and disasters. But a comparison is here instituted between two different states of the Church, and the angel shews how after Christ’s appearance it should be far from either quietness or happiness. As it should be oppressed with heavier afflictions, it is not surprising that the fathers should wish us to be conformed to the image of his only-begotten Son. (Ro 8:29.) Since the period of Christ’s resurrection, even if a more harassing warfare awaits us, we ought to bear it with great equanimity, because the glory of heaven is placed before our eyes far more clearly than it was before theirs.
At length he adds, At that time thy people shall be preserved. By this expression the angel points out to us the great importance of the protection of Michael: He promises certain salvation to his elect people, as if he had said, although the Church should be exposed to the greatest dangers, yet with respect to God himself, it should always be safe and victorious in all contests, because Michael should be superior to every enemy. The angel then, in thus exhorting the faithful to bear their cross, shews how free they should be from all doubt as to the event, and the absolute certainty of their victory. Although at first sight this prophecy might inspire us with fear and dismay, yet this comfort ought to be sufficient for us: “We shall be conquerors amidst fire and sword, and amidst many deaths we are sure of life.” As perfect safety is here set before us, we ought to feel secure, and to enter with alacrity into every engagement. We are in truth obliged to fight, but Christ has conquered for us, as he says himself, Trust in me, I have overcome the world. (Joh 16:33.) But the angel restricts what he had said generally by way of correction. Many professed to belong to the people of God, and every one naturally sprung from the stock of Israel boasted of being the, offspring of divine seed. As all wished promiscuously to belong to God’s people, the angel restricts his expression by a limiting phrase, all people, says he, who were found written in the book This clause does not mean all Israel after “the flesh,” (Ro 9:6-8,) but such as God esteems to be real Israelites according to gratuitous election alone. He here distinguishes between the carnal and spiritual children of Abraham, between the outward Church and that inward and true community which the Almighty approves. Upon what then does the difference depend between those who boast of being Abraham’s children, while they are rejected by God, and those who are really and truly his sons? On the mere grace and favor of God. He declares his election when he regenerates his elect by his Holy Spirit, and thus inscribes them with a certain mark, while they prove the reality of this sonship by the whole course of their lives, and confirm their own adoption. Meanwhile we are compelled to go to the fountain at once; God alone by his gratuitous election distinguishes the outward Church, which has nothing but. the title, from the true Church, which can never either perish or fall away. Thus we observe in how many passages of Scripture hypocrites are rejected in the midst of their swelling pride, as they have nothing in common with the sons of God but the external symbols of profession.
We ought to notice this restriction, which assures us of the utter uselessness of outward pomp, and of the unprofitable nature of even a high station in the outward Church, unless we are truly among God’s people. This is expressed fully in Psalm 15 and 24, while Psalm 73 confirms the same sentiments. How good is God to Israel, especially to the upright in heart! In these passages of the Psalms the cause is not stated to be the secret election of God, but the outward testimony of the conduct; and this although inferior in degree, is not contrary to the first cause which produces it. This has its proper place, but God’s election is always superior. The word book refers to that eternal counsel of God, whereby he elected us and adopted us as his sons before the foundation of the world, as we read in the first chapter of Ephesians, (Eph 1:4.) In the same sense Ezekiel inveighs against the false prophets who deceived the people of Israel, (Eze 8:9.) My hand, says God, shall be upon those prophets who deceive my people: they shall not therefore be in the secret assembly of my people, nor shall they be found in the roll of the house of Israel. The word signifying to write is used here, — they shall not be written in the enrollment of the house of Israel. The word book is here used in the same sense and yet we need not adopt the gross idea, that the Almighty has any need of a book. His book is that eternal counsel which predestinates us to himself, and elects us to the hope of eternal salvation. We now understand the full sense of this instruction, as the Church shall remain in safety amidst many deaths, and even in the last stage of despair it shall escape through the mercy and help of God. We must also remember this definition of a church, because many boast of being God’s sons, who are complete strangers to him. This leads us to consider the subject of election, as our salvation flows from that fountain. Our calling, which is his outward testimony to it, follows that gratuitous adoption which is hidden within himself; and thus God when regenerating us by his Spirit, inscribes upon us his marks and signs, whence he is able to acknowledge us as his real children. It follows, —
2. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
2. Et multi ex dormientibus in terra pulvere, evigilabunt hi in vitam seculi, hoc est, perpetuo, hi vero in opprobium et in abominationem perpetuam.
As to the translation of the first words, it is literally, many who sleep in the earth of dust, or who are in earth and dust; for the genitive is used as an epithet, though it may be read as if in opposition with the former word sleep, meaning those who are reduced to earth and dust.
The angel seems here to mark a transition from the commencement of the preaching of the gospel, to the final day of the resurrection, without sufficient occasion for it. For why does he pass over the intermediate time during which many events might be the subject of prophecy? He unites these two subjects very fitly and properly, connecting the salvation of the Church with the final resurrection and with the second coming of Christ. Wheresoever we may look around us, we never meet with any source of salvation on earth. The angel announces the salvation of all the elect. They are most miserably oppressed on all sides, and wherever they turn their eyes, they perceive nothing but confusion. Hence the hope of the promised salvation could not be conceived by man before the elect raise their minds to the second coming of Christ. It is just as if the angel had said, God will be the constant preserver of his Church, even unto the end; but the manner in which he will preserve it must not be taken in a carnal sense, as the Church will be like a dead body until it shall rise again. We here perceive the angel teaching the same truth as Paul delivers in other words, namely, we are dead, and our life is hidden with Christ; it shall then be made manifest when he shall appear in the heavens. (Col 3:3.) We must hold this first of all, God is sufficiently powerful to defend us, and we need not hesitate in feeling ourselves safe under his hand and protection. Meanwhile it is necessary to add this second point; as long as we fix our eyes only on this present state of things, and dwell upon what the world offers us, we shall always be like the dead. And why so? Our life ought to be hid with Christ in God. Our salvation is secure, but we still hope for it, as Paul says in another passage. (Rom. 8:23, 24.) What is hoped for is not seen, says he. This shews us how completely seasonable is the transition from this doctrine respecting God’s elect to the last advent of Christ. This then is enough with respect to the context. The word many seems here clearly put for all, and this is not to be considered as at all absurd, for the angel does not use the word in contrast with all or few, but only with one. Some of the Jews strain this expression to mean the restoration of the Church in this world under themselves, which is perfectly frivolous. In this case the following language would not be correct, — -Some shall rise to life, and others to disgrace and contempt Hence if this concerned none but the Church of God, certainly none would rise to disgrace and condemnation. This shews the angel to be treating of the last resurrection, which is common to all, and allows of no exceptions. I have lately explained why he calls our attention to the advent of Christ. Since all flyings in the world will be constantly confused, our minds must necessarily be raised upwards, and gain the victory over what we observe with our eyes, and comprehend with our outward senses.
Those who sleep in the earth and the dust; meaning, wherever the earth and dust exist, nevertheless they shall rise, implying the hope of a resurrection not founded on natural causes, but depending upon the inestimable power of God, which surpasses all our senses. Hence, although the elect as well as the wicked shall be reduced to earth and dust, this shall by no means form an obstacle to God’s raising them up again. He uses earth and dust In my judgment תמדא, admeth, “of the earth,” is the genus, and רפע, gnepher, “dust,” is the species, meaning, although they are only putrid carcasses, yet they shall be reduced to dust, which is minute particles of earth. God, then, is endued with sufficient power to call forth the dead to newness of life. This passage is worthy of especial notice, because the prophets do not contain any clearer testimony than this to the last resurrection, particularly as the angel distinctly asserts the future rising again of both the righteous and the wicked. Eternity is here opposed to those temporal miseries to which we are now subjected. Here we may notice the admonition of Paul, that those momentary afflictions by which God tries us, cannot be compared with that eternal glory which never shall cease. (Ro 8:18.) This, therefore, is the reason why the angel so clearly expresses, that eternal life awaits the elect, and eternal disgrace and condemnation will be the lot of the ungodly. He afterwards subjoins, —
3. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.
3. Et prudentes fulgebunt quasi fulgor expansionis, 194 et qui justificant multos, 195 sicut stellae in seculum et seculum, id est, in perpetuum.
The word “prudent” means endued with intellect. Some take it transitively, and in this passage their opinion is probably correct, because the office of justifying will soon be assigned to these prudent ones. But the former sense suits chapter 11 better, and in verse 10 it will be put absolutely. Hence it means those who are endued with understanding. The angel here confirms what I have lately expressed concerning the final resurrection, and shews how we shall enjoy its fruits, because eternal glory is laid up for us in heaven. We ought not to complain of being treated unworthily, whenever we seem to suffer harshness at God’s hands, because we ought to be satisfied with the glory of heaven, and with the perpetual existence of that life which has been promised to us. He says then, the teachers, or those who excel in understanding, shall shine forth as the light of heaven If the word “teachers” is thought preferable, there will be a figure of speech, a part being put for the whole, and, therefore, I follow the usual explanation. He applies the phrase, “endued with understanding,” to those who do not depart from the true and pure knowledge of God, as will be afterwards explained more fully. For the angel contrasts the profane who proudly and contemptuously rage against God, and the faithful whose whole wisdom is to submit themselves to God, and to worship him with the purest affection of their minds. We shall say more on this subject to-morrow. But he now says, those who retained sincere piety should be like the light of the firmament; meaning, they shall be heirs of the kingdom of heaven, where they shall enjoy that glory which surpasses all the splendor of the world. No doubt, the angel here uses figures to explain what is incomprehensible, implying, nothing can possibly be found in the world which answers to the glory of the elect people.
And those who shall justify many shall be like stars, says he. He repeats the same thing in other words, and now speaks of stars, having formerly used the phrase, the brightness of the firmament, in the same sense; and instead of “those who are endued with understanding,” he says, those who shall have justified Without doubt, the angel here especially denotes the teachers of the truth, but in my opinion he embraces also all the pious worshippers of God. No one of God’s children ought to confine their attention privately to themselves, but as far as possible, every one ought to interest himself in the welfare of his brethren. God has deposited the teaching of his salvation with us, not for the purpose of our privately keeping it to ourselves, but of our pointing out the way of salvation to all mankind. This, therefore, is the common duty of the children of God, — to promote the salvation of their brethren. By this word “justifying,” the angel means, not that it is in the power of one man to justify another, but the property of God is here transferred to his ministers. Meanwhile, we are as clearly justified by any teaching which brings faith within our reach, as we are justified by the faith which springs from the teaching. Why is our justification ever ascribed to faith? Because our faith directs us to Christ in whom is the complete perfection of justification, and thus our justification may be ascribed equally to the faith taught and the doctrine which teaches it. And those who bring before us this teaching are the ministers of our justification. The assertion of the angel, in other words, is this, — The sons of God, who being devoted entirely to God and ruled by the spirit of prudence, point out the way of life to others, shall not only be saved themselves, but shall possess surpassing glory far beyond anything which exists in this world. This is the complete explanation. Hence, we gather the nature of true prudence to consist in submitting ourselves to God in simple teachableness, and in manifesting the additional quality of carefully promoting the salvation of our brethren. The effect of this our labor ought to increase our courage and alacrity. For how great is the honor conferred upon us by our Heavenly Father, when he wishes us to be the ministers of his righteousness? As James says, We preserve those about to perish if we bring them back into the right way. (Jas 5:19.) James calls us preservers, just as the angel calls us justifiers; neither the angel nor the apostle wish to detract from the glory of God, but by these forms of speech the Spirit represents us as ministers of justification and salvation, when we unite in the same bonds with ourselves all those who have need of our assistance and exertions. It follows next: —
4. But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.
4. Et tu Daniel, claude, vel, obsera verba, sermones, et obsigna librum ad tempus finis; discurrent multi, et augebitur scientia.
We have already explained “the time of the end” is a period previously fixed on by God, and settled by his own counsel. The following word refers to tracing out and running to and fro, but not necessarily in a bad sense, while it also signifies to investigate. Interpreters explain the angel’s meaning, as if many should be unworthy to receive this prophecy from Daniel; and hence it was to be closed up and only enigmatically delivered to a few, because scarcely one in a hundred would attend to what he had delivered. I think the Holy Spirit has a different intention here. The angel’s advice is this, There is no reason why this prophecy should cause despondency or dismay, because few should receive it. Although it should be universally despised and ridiculed, nevertheless shut it up like a precious treasure. Isaiah has a passage nearly similar, (Isa 8:16,) Close up nay law, seal the testimony among my disciples. Isaiah’s spirit would be broken when he perceived himself an object of universal derision, and God’s sacred oracles trodden under foot; thus he might lose all courage and decline the office of a teacher. But God affords him comfort: Close up, says he, nay law among my disciples, and do not notice this profane crew; although they all despise thy teaching, do not suppose thy voice deserves their ridicule; close it up, close it up among my disciples, says he; how few soever may embrace thy teaching, yet let it remain sacred and laid up in the hearts of the pious. The Prophet afterwards says, Behold nay children with me. Here he boasts in his contentment with very few, and thus triumphs over the impious and insolent multitude. Thus at the present time in the Papacy and throughout the whole world, impiety prevails so extensively that there is scarcely a single corner in which the majority agree in true obedience to God. As God foresaw how very few would embrace this prophecy with becoming reverence, the angel desired to animate the Prophet, lest he should grow weary, and esteem this prophecy as of little value, in consequence of its failing to command the applause of the whole world.
Close up the book, then but what does the phrase imply? Not to hide it from all men, but to satisfy the Prophet when he saw but few reverently embracing the teaching so plainly laid before him by the angel. This is not properly a command; the angel simply tells Daniel to hide or seal up this book and these words, offering him at the same time much consolation. If all men despise thy doctrine, and reject what thou dost set before them, — if the majority pass it by contemptuously, shut it up and seal it, not treating it as valueless, but preserving it as a treasure. I deposit it with time, do thou lay it up among my disciples. Thou, Daniel; here the Prophet’s name is mentioned. If thou thinkest thyself to be alone, yet companions shall be afterwards added to thee who shall treat this prophecy with true piety. Shut up, then, and seal it, even, till the time of the end; for God will prove by the event that he has not spoken in vain, and experience will shew me to have been sent by him, as every occurrence has been previously predicted. It now follows, —
Many shall investigate, and knowledge shall increase. Some writers take this second clause in a contrary sense, as if many erratic spirits should run about with vague speculations, and wander from the truth. But this is too forced. I do not hesitate to suppose the angel to promise the arrival of a period when God should collect many disciples to himself, although at the beginning they should be very few and insignificant. Many, then, shall investigate; meaning, though they are most careless and slothful, while boasting themselves God’s people, yet God should gather to himself a great multitude from other quarters. Small indeed and insignificant is the apparent number of the faithful who care for the truth of God, and who shew any eagerness to learn it, but let not this scantiness move thee. The sons of God shall soon become increased. Many shall investigate, and knowledge shall increase This prophecy shall not always be buried in obscurity; the Lord will at length cause many to embrace it to their own salvation. This event really came to pass. Before Christ’s coming, this doctrine was not esteemed according to its value. The extreme ignorance and grossness of the people is notorious, while their religion was nearly overthrown till God afterwards increased his Church. And at the present time any one who will carefully consider this prediction will experience its utility. This can scarcely be fully expressed in words; for, unless this prophecy had been preserved and laid up like an inestimable treasure, much of our faith would have passed away. This divine assistance affords us strength, and enables us to overcome all the attacks of the world and of the devil.
Grant, Almighty God, as we have to engage in battle through the whole course of our lives, and our strength is liable to fail in various ways, that we may be supported by thy power and thus persevere unto the end. May we never grow weary, but learn to overcome the whole world, and to look forward to that happy eternity to which thou invitest us. May we never hesitate while Christ thy Son fights for us, in whose hand and power our victory is placed, and may he ever admit us into alliance with himself in that conquest which he has procured for us, until at length he shall gather us at the last day into the enjoyment of that triumph in which he has gone before us. — Amen.
5. Then I Daniel looked, and, behold, there stood other two, the one on this side of the bank of the river, and the other on that side of the bank of the river.
5. Et aspexi ego Daniel, et ecce duo alii stantes, unus hac ad ripam fluminis, et unus, id est, alter, illac ad ripam fluminis. 196
6. And one said to the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, How long shall it be to the end of these wonders?
6. Et dixit ad virum qui indutus erat lineis, vestibus subaudiendum est, qui erat supra aquas fluminis, 197 Quousque finis mirabilium?
7. And I heard the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand unto heaven, and swear by him that liveth for ever that it shall be for a time, times, and an half; and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished.
7. Et audivi virum indutum lineis, qui erat supra aquas fluvii, et sustulit dextram suam, et sinistram suam versus coelos, et juravit per viventem in aeternum, quod ad tempus praefixum, tempora praefixa, et dimidium: et ut consumpserint, vel, compleverint, dispersionem, vel, contritionem, manus populi sancti, complebuntur omnia haec.
Daniel here relates his vision of other angels standing on each bank of the river. He alludes to the Tigris which he had previously mentioned, as the vision was offered to him there. He says, One asked the other, How long will it be to the end? He who was asked, swore, with hands upraised to heaven, by the living God, that no single prediction was in vain, since the truth would be evident in its own period, and men must wait for the time, times, and half a time This is a summary of the passage. When he says he beheld, he commends to our notice the certainty of the vision. Unless he had been attentive, and had applied his mind seriously to these mysteries, his narrative would have failed to produce confidence. But as his mind was completely calm, and he was desirous of receiving the instruction conveyed by God through his angel, not the slightest doubt can be thrown upon what he so faithfully delivers to us. He speaks of angels as if they were men, for the reason previously assigned. He does not imply their being really men, but uses that expression in consequence of their outward appearance, for as they had a human face, they were called men. I do not assert their bodies to be merely imaginary, nor will I say Daniel saw only special forms and human shapes, for God might have clothed his angels in real bodies for the time, and yet they would not on that account become men. For Christ took upon Him our flesh and was truly man, while He was God manifest in flesh. (1Ti 3:16.) But this is not true of angels, who received only a temporary body while performing the duties of their office There is no doubt of this assertion, — the name of “men” cannot properly belong to angels, but it suits yew well the human form or likeness which they sometimes wore.
It does not surprise us to find one angel questioning another. When Paul is extolling the mystery of the calling of the Gentiles, which had been hidden from the preceding ages, he adds, — it was an object of wonder to angels, as they had never hoped for it, and so it had not been revealed to them. (Eph 3:10.) So wonderfully does God work in his Church, that he causes admiration among the angels in heaven, by leaving many things unknown to them, as Christ testifies concerning the last day. (Mt 24:36.) This is the reason why the angel uses the interrogation, How long is it to the end of these wonders? God doubtless here urged the angel to inquire into an event veiled in obscurity, for the purpose of waking up our attention. Absurd indeed would it be for us to pass by these things with inattention, when angels themselves display such anxiety by their questions, while they perceive traces of the secret power of God. Unless we are remarkably stupid, this doubt of the angel ought to stir us up to greater diligence and attention. This also is the force of the word תואלפ phlaoth, “wonderful things;” for the angel calls everything which he did not understand, wonderful. If the comparison be allowable, how great would be our ingratitude not to give our whole attention to the consideration of these mysteries which angels are compelled to confess to be beyond their grasp! The angel, as if he were astonished, calls those things “wonderful” which were hidden not only from the minds of men, but also from himself and his companions. But the other answers; whence some difference, although not a perpetual one, exists between the angels. The philosophy of Dionysius ought not to be admitted here, who speculates too cunningly, or rather too profanely, when treating the order of angels. But I only state the existence of some difference, because God assigns various duties to certain angels, and he dispenses to each a certain measure of grace and revelation, according to his pleasure. We know there is but one teacher of men and angels, — the Son of God, who is his eternal wisdom and truth. This passage may be referred to Christ, but as I cannot make any positive assertion, I am content with the simple statement already made. He states this angel’s clothing to have been linen garments, implying splendor. Linen garments were then of great value; hence an ornament and decoration is here applied to angels, as God separates them from the common herd of men. Thus Daniel would the more easily comprehend these persons not to be earth-born mortals, but angels clad by God for a short period in the human form.
He says, This angel raised up his hands to heaven Those who consider this action as a symbol of power are mistaken, for without doubt the Prophet intended to manifest the usual method of swearing. They usually raised the right hand, according to the testimony of numerous passages of Scripture. I have raised my hand towards God. (Ge 14:22.) Here the angel raises both his hands, wishing by this action to express the importance of the subject. Thus to raise both hands, as if doubling the oath, is stronger than raising the right hand after the ordinary manner. We must consider then the use of both hands as intended to confirm the oath, as the subject was one of great importance. It follows, for a time, times, and half a time I have stated my objection to the opinion of those who think one year, and two, and a half, to be here intended. I confess the passage ought to be understood of that pollution of the Temple which the Prophet has already treated. History clearly assures us that the Temple was not cleansed till the close of the third year, and seven or eight months afterwards. That explanation may suit its own passage, but with reference to the doctrine here delivered, its meaning is very simple, time means a long period, times, a longer period, and a half means the end or closing period. The sum of the whole is this’ many years must elapse before God fulfills what his Prophet had declared. Time therefore signifies a long period; times, double this period; as if he had said, While the sons of God are kept in suspense so long without obtaining an answer to their petitions, the time will be prolonged, nay, even doubled. We see then that a time does not mean precisely one year, nor do times signify two years, but an indefinite period. With respect to the half of a time, this is added for the comfort of the pious, to prevent their sinking under the delay, because God does not accomplish their desire. Thus they rest patiently until this “time” as well as “the times” pass away. Besides, the issue is set before them by the words half a time, to prevent them from despairing through excessive weariness. I admit the allusion to years, but the words are not to be understood literally but metaphorically, signifying, as I have already stated, an indefinite period.
He afterwards adds, And in the complement or consumption of the dispersion or contrition of the hand of God’s people, all these things shall be fulfilled: first, the time must pass away, next, the times must be added, then the half time must follow; all these things must arrive at their accomplishment, and when they are thoroughly completed, says he, then will come the contrition of the hand of the holy people The angel again proclaims how the Church of God should be oppressed by many calamities; and thus the whole of this verse contains an exhortation to endurance, to prevent the faithful from becoming utterly hopeless, and completely losing their spirits, in consequence of their suffering severe and multiplied cares, not for a few months merely, but for a lengthened duration. He uses this phrase, the wearing down of the hand of the holy people — if you please to read it so — metaphorically, meaning, the holy people should be deprived of strength, just as if their hands were completely worn down. Whatever agility men possess is usually shewn in the hands, and they were given to men by God for the special purpose of being extended to all parts of the body, and for executing the ordinary operations of mankind. This metaphor is now very suitable, as the people were so mutilated, as to be deprived of all strength and rigor. This is a slight sketch of the meaning of the clause.
If we read “dispersion” according to the common signification, it will suit very well, since the hand of the holy people should be dispersed; meaning, the Church should be a stranger in the world, and be dispersed throughout it. This was continually fulfilled from that day to the present. How sad is the dispersion of the Church in these days! God indeed defends it by His power, but this is beyond human expectation For how does the body of the Church now appear to us? how has it appeared throughout all ages? surely it has ever been torn in pieces and dispersed. Hence the angel’s prediction is not in vain, if we adopt the interpretation — the hand of the holy people should be dispersed — but yet the end should be prosperous, as he had previously announced, when treating of its resurrection and final salvation. It now follows:
8. And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things?
8. Et ego audivi, et non intellexi: et dixi, Domine mi, quod postremum horum? 198
Now Daniel begins to ask questions in accordance with the angel’s example. He had first heard one angel inquiring of the other; he next summons up courage, and becomes desirous of information, and asks what should be the end or issue? He says, he heard without understanding By the word “hearing,” he bears witness to the absence of ignorance, slothfulness, or contempt. Many depart without any perception of a subject, although it may be very well explained, because they were not attentive to it. But here the Prophet asserts that he heard; implying, it would be no fault of his diligence if he did not understand, because he was desirous of learning, and had exerted all his powers, as we formerly intimated, and yet he confesses he did not understand Daniel does not mean to profess utter stupidity, but restricts his ignorance to the subject of this interrogation. Of what then was Daniel ignorant? Of the final issue. He could not attain unto the meaning of these predictions, which were so extremely obscure, and this was needful to their full and thorough comprehension. It is quite clear that God never utters his word without expecting fruit; as it is said in Isaiah, I have not spoken unintelligibly, nor have I said to the seed of Jacob, seek ye me in vain. (Isa 45:19.) God was unwilling to leave his Prophet in this perplexity of hearing without understanding, but we are aware of distinct degrees of proficiency in the school of God. Again, sufficient revelation was notoriously conferred upon the prophets for the discharge of their office, and yet none of them ever perfectly understood the predictions they delivered. We know, too, what Peter says, They ministered more for our times than for their own. (1Pe 1:12.) They were by no means useless to their own age, but when our age is compared with theirs, certainly the instruction and discipline of the prophets is more useful to us, and produces richer and riper fruit in our age than in theirs. We are not surprised, then, at Daniel confessing he did not understand, so long as we restrict the words to this single instance. It now follows: —
9. And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.
9. Et dixit, Vade Daniel, quia clausi sunt, et obsignati sermones ad tempus finis. 199
Although Daniel was not induced by any foolish curiosity to inquire of the angel the issue of these wonderful events, yet he did not obtain his request. God wished some of his predictions to be partially understood, and the rest to remain concealed until the full period of the complete revelation should arrive. This is the reason why the angel did not reply to Daniel. The wish in truth was pious, and, as we have previously stated, it did not contain anything unlawful; but God, knowing what was good for him, did not grant his request. He is dismissed by the angel, because the words were shut up and sealed The angel uses this expression in a sense different from the former one. For he ordered Daniel to close and seal the words like precious treasures, as they would be set at naught by many disbelievers, and by almost the whole people. Here then, he says, the words were closed up and sealed, as there was no fitting occasion for revealing them. As if he had said, nothing has been predicted either vainly or rashly, but the full blaze of light has not yet been thrown upon the prediction: hence we must wait until the truth itself is proved by the event, and thus the divine utterance of the angel is made manifest. This is the summary. He then says, until the time of the end Some one might possibly object; then for what purpose was this prediction delivered? For Daniel himself, who was instructed by the angel, could not thoroughly comprehend his own message, and the rest of the faithful, although versed in these prophetic studies, felt themselves in a labyrinth here. The answer is at hand, until the time of the end; and we must also remember that neither Daniel nor the rest of the faithful were deprived of all the advantage of this prophecy, for God explained to them whatever was sufficient for the necessities of their own times. I must pass over some points slightly, with the view of finishing today. It follows —
10. Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.
10. Mundabuntur, et dealbabuntur, et fundentur multi, 200 et impie se gerent impii: et non intelligent omnes impii, et prudentes intelligent.
Again, the angel mentions the persecutions which were at hand for the purpose of arming the faithful for the approaching conflicts. We know from other sources how tender and weak our minds naturally are, for as soon as any cause for fear arises, before it comes to blows, we fall down lifeless through terror. As, therefore, our natural imbecility is so great, we necessarily require many stimulants to patience, and to urge us to contend with earnestness, and never to yield to any temptations. This is the reason why the angel announces the necessity for such multiplied purification’s, to cleanse them, as wheat from chaff; to whiten them, as cloth by the fuller; and to melt them, as metal to be separated from dross. First of all, as I have previously explained, he admonishes Daniel and all the pious of the future state of the Church, to lead them to prepare and gird themselves for battle, and to gather up their unconquered fortitude, since the condition of life set before them is that of forcing their way through the midst of troubles. This is one point. Again, the angel shews the practical utility of this kind of life, which might otherwise seem too bitter. We naturally refuse the cross because we feel it contrary to our disposition, while God shews the pious that nothing can be more profitable to them than a variety of afflictions. This is a second point. But afflictions by themselves might possibly consume us, and hence we are cast into a furnace. Now, then, could we expect these sufferings to promote our salvation, except God changed their nature in some wonderful way, as their natural tendency is to effect our destruction? But while we are melted down, and whitened, and cleansed, we perceive how God consults for our welfare by pressing us with his cross and causing us to submit to adversity. Now, thirdly, the angel shews the insufficiency of one single act of cleansing, and our need of many more. This is the object of this numerous heaping together of words, they shall be cleansed, and whitened, and melted down, or poured forth. He might have embraced the whole idea in a single word; but, as through our whole lives God never ceases to test us in various ways, the angel heaps together these three words to shew the faithful their need of continual cleansing as long as they are clothed in flesh; just as garments which are in daily use have need of continual washing. However snowy a mantle may be, it becomes soiled immediately when used for even a single day; requiring constant ablution to restore it to its original purity. Thus we are brought in contact with the defilement’s of sin; and as long as we are pilgrims in this world, we necessarily become subject to constant pollution. And as the faithful also are infected with the contagion of numerous iniquities, they require daily purification’s hi different ways. We ought, then, diligently to notice these three distinct processes.
The angel afterwards adds, The impious will act impiously, and will never understand anything; but the prudent will be ever endued with intelligence Here he wishes to fortify the pious against a stumbling block in their way, when they see the profane despisers of God exulting in every direction, and defying God to his face. When the faithful see the world so full of the impious, they seem to be indulging so freely in lust as if there were no God in heaven’ time they are naturally subject to grievous sorrow and distress. To prevent this trial from agitating their minds, the angel announces how the impious should conduct themselves impiously; implying, — there is no reason why thou, O Daniel, or the rest of the righteous, should depend upon the example of others; Satan will cunningly set before you whatever obstacles may draw you into the contempt of God, and the abyss of impiety, unless you are remarkably cautious; but let not the conduct of the impious cause either you or the rest of the pious to stumble. Howsoever they conduct themselves, do you stand invincible. He afterwards assigns a reason for their behavior — they understand nothing, they are perfectly blinded. But what is the source of this blindness? Their being given over to a reprobate sense. If any one should see a blind man fall, and should cast himself down after this blind man, would he be excusable? Surely his blindness was the cause of his perishing so miserably, but why does the other person destroy himself willingly? Whenever we see the impious rushing furiously on to their destruction, while God is admonishing them that their blindness proceeds from Satan, and that they are given over to a reprobate mind, are we not doubly mad if we willingly follow them? The cause then of this impious behavior on the part of the wicked, is added with good reason; namely, they understand nothing. Meanwhile, the faithful are recalled to the true remedy, and the angel subjoins, But the prudent shall understand, meaning they shall not permit themselves to be implicated in the errors of those whom they see entirely devoted to their own destruction. Lastly, the angel points out to us the true remedy which will prevent Satan from drawing us off towards impiety, and the impious from infecting us with their evil examples, if we earnestly apply ourselves to the pursuit of heavenly doctrine. If, therefore, we heartily desire to be taught by God and to become his true disciples, the instruction which we derive from him will snatch us from destruction. This is the true sense of the passage. It afterwards follows, —
11. And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days.
11. Et a tempore quo ablatum fuerit juge, nempe sacrificium, et posita fuerit abominatio obstupefaciens, 201 erunt dies mille ducenti et nonaginta.
12. Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days.
12. Beatus qui expectaverit, et attigerit usque ad dies mille trecentos et triginta quinque.
In consequence of the obscurity of this passage it has been twisted in a variety of ways. At the end of the ninth chapter I have shewn the impossibility of its referring to the profanation of the Temple which occurred under the tyranny of Antiochus; on this occasion the angel bears witness to such a complete destruction of the Temple, as to leave no room for the hope of its repair and restoration. Then the circumstances of the time convinces us of this. For he then said, Christ shall confirm the covenant with many for one week, and shall cause the sacrifices and oblation to cease. Afterwards, the abomination that stupifieth shall be added, and desolation or stupor, and then death will distill, says he, upon the astonished or stupefied one. The angel, therefore, there treats of the perpetual devastation of the Temple. So in this passage, without doubt;, he treats of the period after the destruction of the Temple; there could be no hope of restoration, as the law with all its ceremonies would then arrive at its termination. With This view Christ quotes this passage in Matthew 24, while he admonishes his hearers diligently to attend to it. Let him who reads, understand, says he. We have stated this prophecy to be obscure, and hence it requires no ordinary degree of the closest attention. First of all, we must hold this point; the time now treated by the angel begins at the last destruction of the Temple. That devastation happened as soon as the gospel began to be promulgated. God then deserted his Temple, because it was only founded for a time, and was but a shadow, until the Jews so completely violated the whole covenant that no sanctity remained in either the Temple, the nation, or the land itself. Some restrict this to those standards which Tiberius erected on the very highest pinnacle of the Temple, and others to the statue of Caligula, but I have already stated my view of these opinions as too forced. I have no hesitation in referring this language of the angel to that profanation of the Temple which happened after the manifestation of Christ, when sacrifices ceased, and the shadows of the law were abolished. From the time, therefore, at which the sacrifice really ceased to be offered; this refers to the period at which Christ by his advent should abolish the shadows of the law, thus making all offering of sacrifices to God totally valueless. From that time, therefore. Next, from the time at which the stupefying abomination shall have been set up God’s wrath followed the profanation of the Temple. The Jews never anticipated the final cessation of their ceremonies, and always boasted in their peculiar external worship, and unless God had openly demonstrated it before their eyes, they would never have renounced their sacrifices and rites as mere shadowy representations. Hence Jerusalem and their Temple were exposed to the vengeance of the Gentiles. This, therefore, was the setting up of this stupefying abomination; it was a clear testimony to the wrath of God, exhorting the Jews in their confusion to boast no longer in their Temple and its holiness.
Therefore, from that period there shall be 1290 days These days make up three years and a half. I have no hesitation in supposing the angel to speak metaphorically. As he previously put one year, or two years, and half a year, for long duration of time, and a happy issue, so he now puts 1290 days. And for what reason? To shew us what must happen when anxieties and troubles oppress us. If a man should fall sick, he will not say, Here I have already been one month, but I have a year before me — he will not say, Here I have been three days, but now I languish wretchedly for thirty or sixty. The angel, then, purposely puts days for years, implying — although that time may seem immeasurably prolonged, and may frighten us by its duration, and completely prostrate the spirits of the pious, yet it must be endured. The number of days then is 1290, yet there is no reason why the sons of God should despair in consequence of this number, because they ought always to return to this principle — if those afflictions await us for a time and times, the half time will follow afterwards.
Then he adds, Happy is he who shall have waited and endured until the 1335 days. In numerical calculations I am no conjurer, and those who expound this passage with too great subtlety, only trifle in their own speculations, and detract from the authority of the prophecy. Some think the days should be understood as years, and thus make the number of years 2600. The time which elapsed from this prophecy to the advent of Christ was about 600 years. From this advent 2000 years remain, and they think this is the assigned period until the end of the world, as the law also flourished about 2000 years from the date of its promulgation to its fulfillment at Christ’s advent. Hence they fix upon this sense. But they are quite wrong in separating the 1290 days from the 1335, for they clearly refer to the same period, with a slight exception. It is as if the angel had said, although half the time should be prorogued, yet the faithful ought constantly to persist in the hope of deliverance. For he adds, about two months, or a month and a half, or thereabouts. By half a time, we said, the issue was pointed out, as Christ informs us in Mt 24:22. Unless those days had been shortened, no flesh would have been safe. Reference is clearly made here to that abbreviation of the time for the Church’s sake. But the angel now adds forty-five days, which make a month and a half, implying — God will put off the deliverance of his Church beyond six months, and yet we must be strong and of good courage, and persevere in your watchfulness. God at length will not disappoint you — he will succor you in all your woes, and gather you to his blessed rest. Hence, the next clause of the prophecy is this, —
13. But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days.
13. Et tu vade ad finem, et quiesces, et stabis in sorte tua ad finem dierum.
Here the angel repeats what he had said before, the, full time of perfect light had not yet arrived, because God wished to hold the minds of his people in suspense until the manifestation of Christ. The angel, therefore, dismisses the Prophet, and in commanding him to depart, says — Be content with thy lot, for God wishes to put off the complete manifestation of this prophecy to another time, which he himself knows to be the fitting one. He afterwards adds, And then shalt rest and shalt stand Others translate it, rest and stand; but the angel does not seem to me to command or order what he wishes to be done, but to announce future events, as if he had said, — Thou shalt rest, meaning, thou shalt die, and then thou shalt stand; meaning, thy death shall not be complete destruction. For God shall cause thee to stand in thy lot with the rest of the elect; and that, too, at the end of the days, in thy lot; that is, after God has sufficiently proved the patience of his people, and by long and numerous, nay, infinite contests, has humbled his Church, and purged it, until the end shall arrive. At that final period thou shalt stand in thine own lot, although a time of repose must necessarily intervene.
Grant, Almighty God, since thou proposest to us no other end than that of constant warfare during our whole life, and subjectest us to many cares until we arrive at the goal of this temporary race-course: Grant, I pray thee, that we may never grow fatigued. May we ever be armed and equipped for battle, and whatever the trials by which thou dost prove us, may we never be found deficient. May we always aspire towards heaven with upright souls, and strive with all our endeavors to attain that blessed rest which is laid up for us in heaven, in Jesus Christ our Lord. — Amen.
Praise be to God.
Of the heavens, meaning the firmament. — Calvin.
That is, those who justified many. — Calvin.
That is, one on one side, and the other on the opposite. — Calvin.
That is, stood above the bank. — Calvin.
That is, what shall be the end of these things? — Calvin.
That is, the prefixed time, as we have formerly explained it. — Calvin.
Or, “shall be melted by fire;” the word means originally “to pour out,” but is here taken transitively for to purify. — Calvin.
We have translated it so before; some translate, “of desolation.” The word signifies “to be desolate,” but the other sense suits better here. — Calvin.