Beginning the Journey (for new Christians).
1, 2, and 3 John
1 & 2 Thessalonians
1 & 2 Timothy
2 Peter, Jude
7 Last Words of Christ
Acts 1-12: The Early Church
Christ Powered Life (Rom 5-8)
Conquering Lamb of Revelation
David, Life of
Glorious Kingdom, The
Early Church: Acts1-12
Holy Spirit, Disciple's Guide
Jesus and the Kingdom
Lamb of God
Listening for God's Voice
Names of God
Names of Jesus
Rebuild & Renew: Post-Exilic Books
Sermon on the Mount
Songs of Ascent (Ps 120-135)
Dr. Wilson's Books
6. A Vision and a Mighty Prayer (Daniel 8:1-9:19)by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
I'm combining into a single lesson both Daniel's vision of a ram and a goat in chapter 8 with Daniel's great prayer of intercession in 9:1-19. I'm putting these together because though Daniel's vision is fascinating, it doesn't have too much application to disciples today -- while we can learn a great deal from Daniel's prayer.
It's a long lesson, though Daniel 8 will involve primarily reading on your part. Daniel 9:1-19, on the other hand, will include a number of discussion questions. If you're teaching this in a small group or a class, feel free to separate these two sections if you like.
A. Daniel's Dream of a Ram and Goat (Daniel 8
Willem Drost (Dutch painter), 'The Vision of Daniel' (1650), oil on canvas, Staatliche Museen, Berlin. Guided by an angel, Daniel sees a vision of a ram on the far side a chasm.
If Daniel 7 seems difficult to understand, Daniel 8 will be much clearer, since the main characters in the vision are identified in 8:20-21. The language is no longer Aramaic, the language of Babylon, but is now in Hebrew, which continues through the end of the Book of Daniel. This vision is dated about 550 BC, about eleven years before the end of the Babylonian Empire.
"1 In the third year of King Belshazzar's reign, I, Daniel, had a vision, after the one that had already appeared to me. 2 In my vision I saw myself in the citadel of Susa in the province of Elam; in the vision I was beside the Ulai Canal." (8:1-2)
Though Daniel is physically in the city of Babylon, in the vision he is in the ancient fortress city of Susa. It was one of the royal cities of the Medes and Persians that had been the home of both Esther and Nehemiah in their exile.
The Ram and the Goat (8:3-8)
In the vision, Daniel looks forward a couple of hundred years to the conflict between a ram and a goat, a battle that took place in 331 BC.
"3 I looked up, and there before me was a ram with two horns, standing beside the canal, and the horns were long. One of the horns was longer than the other but grew up later. 4 I watched the ram as he charged toward the west and the north and the south. No animal could stand against him, and none could rescue from his power. He did as he pleased and became great." (8:3-4)
I don't want to spoil the suspense for you, but verse 20 gives us the identity of this ram.
"The two-horned ram that you saw represents the kings of Media and Persia." (8:20)
Daniel's vision continues.
5 As I was thinking about this, suddenly
a goat with a prominent horn between his eyes came from the west, crossing the
whole earth without touching the ground.
6 He came toward the two-horned ram I had seen standing beside the canal and charged at him in great rage. 7 I saw him attack the ram furiously, striking the ram and shattering his two horns. The ram was powerless to stand against him; the goat knocked him to the ground and trampled on him, and none could rescue the ram from his power.
8 The goat became very great, but at the height of his power his large horn was broken off, and in its place four prominent horns grew up toward the four winds of heaven." (8:5-8)
Verse 21 identifies this goat for us also.
"The shaggy goat is the king of Greece, and the large horn between his eyes is the first king." (8:21)
Medo-Persian (Achaemenid) Empire (550-330 BC)
As you can see on the map that follows, the Medo-Persian Empire was vast, and lasted for nearly 220 years -- a long time on the world stage. For more information on this great world power, see Appendix 2. The Medo-Persian Empire.
The Two-Horned Ram -- the Medo-Persian Empire (8:3-4)
We've looked at the big picture. Now we can begin to interpret the vision verse by verse.
"I looked up, and there before me was a ram with two horns, standing beside the canal, and the horns were long. One of the horns was longer than the other but grew up later." (8:3)
As mentioned above, this ram represents the Medes and the Persians. Perhaps the larger horn represented the Medes who had united six Iranian tribes into the united Median state. (These tribes included the Medes, Sythians, Parthians, and Persians).
The horn that grew up later might represent Cyrus the Great. In 553 BC, Cyrus II, King of Persia, rebelled against his grandfather, Astyages, King of the Medes, and won a decisive victory over him in 550 BC. Then Cyrus went about expanding the combined Medo-Persian Empire even further, conquering Babylonia in 539 BC.
" I watched the ram as he charged toward the west and the north and the south. No animal could stand against him, and none could rescue from his power. He did as he pleased and became great." (8:4)
For nearly 220 years, the Medo-Persian Empire seemed invincible, taking whatever they wanted, ruling over a huge swath of land from Asia Minor to the Indus River.
The Goat with a Single Horn -- Alexander the Great (8:5-7)
Alexander the Great is the goat with the prominent horn.
"5 As I was thinking about this,
suddenly a goat with a prominent horn between his eyes came from the west,
crossing the whole earth without touching the ground.
6 He came toward the two-horned ram I had seen standing beside the canal and charged at him in great rage. 7 I saw him attack the ram furiously, striking the ram and shattering his two horns. The ram was powerless to stand against him; the goat knocked him to the ground and trampled on him, and none could rescue the ram from his power." (8:5-7)
'Alexander fighting king Darius III of Persia,' Alexander Mosaic (c. 100 BC), Naples National Archaeological Museum, Italy.
A fifth century AD mosaic on the floor of a synagogue in Huqaq, Lower Galilee, Israel, discovered in 2014, seems to depict Alexander the Great visiting a Jewish high priest, following the account recorded by Josephus.
Alexander the Great (born in 356 BC) was tutored by Aristotle as a young man. He succeeded his father, Philip of Macedon in 333 BC at age 20 as king of the Greek kingdom of Macedon (Macedonia). In a series of daring battles, Alexander led the allied armies of the Hellenic League to defeat the Persian Army in the Battle of Issus (present-day Turkey) in 333 BC and the Battle of Gaugamela (present-day Iraq) in 331 BC, suddenly making him successor to the immense Persian Empire. He marched through Syria and Palestine in 333 and 332 BC, and into Egypt, founding the city of Alexandria (which later became the capital of the Ptolemies).
Josephus relates that after Alexander had taken Gaza, he went up to Jerusalem and met with Jaddua the high priest.
"And when the Book of Daniel was showed him wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians, he supposed that himself was the person intended."
Later, Alexander invaded Persia and India. Wherever he went he spread the Greek language and culture, Hellenizing much of the known world -- and paving the way for the spread of the gospel in the first century. Seemingly, nothing could stop Alexander. "The ram [Medo-Persia] was powerless to stand against him" (8:7b).
Alexander's Death and Successors (8:8, 22)
"The goat became very great, but at the height of his power his large horn was broken off, and in its place four prominent horns grew up toward the four winds of heaven." (8:8)
Alexander died in Nebuchadnezzar's palace in Babylon in 323 BC at the age of 32. Since Alexander sons were young, there was confusion about who would succeed him. Eventually, his kingdom was split into four parts ("four prominent horns"), each led by one of Alexander's generals. These four generals began four dynasties:
- Ptolemaic Dynasty (Egypt, 323-30 BC), begun by Ptolemy I Soter.
- Seleucid Dynasty (Palestine, Mesopotamia and Central Asia, 312-63 BC), begun by Seleucus I Nicator. Antiochus IV Epiphanes was king of the Seleucid Empire 175-163 BC.
- Attalid Dynasty ruled Pergamom in Asia Minor (281-133 BC). Thrace, Asia Minor, and Macedon were originally ruled by Lysimachus (306-281 BC), one of Alexander's generals.
- Antigonid Dynasty (Macedonia, 306-168 BC) was founded by Antigonus I Monophthalmus (the "one-eyed"), who also ruled over part of Asia Minor, and northern Syria for a time.
Verse 22 spells this out more clearly.
"The four horns that replaced the one that was broken off represent four kingdoms that will emerge from his nation but will not have the same power." (8:22)
Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-163 BC)
"Out of one of them came another horn, which started small but grew in power to the south and to the east and toward the Beautiful Land." (8:9)
Bust of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, Altes Museum, Berlin.
The "small horn" is a king in the Seleucid line of the empire created by the "shaggy goat," that is, Alexander the Great. This is surely Antiochus IV Epiphanes. The "Beautiful/Glorious/Pleasant Land," of course, is the Promised Land.
Antiochus Epiphanes (born 215 BC) was a younger son of Antiochus III, king over the Seleucid Empire, with its capital at Antioch. When Antiochus III lost battles to Rome, his younger son, Antiochus Epiphanes, was one of twenty members of royal and noble families who had been offered as political hostages of Rome in order to guarantee that the Seleucids wouldn't attempt again to encroach on Roman territory.
When Antiochus Epiphanes's older brother Seleucus IV became king in 187 BC, he arranged for Antiochus's release and replaced him as hostage with Seleucus's own son and heir, Demetrius I Soter. When Seleucus was assassinated in 175 BC, Antiochus ousted the assassin and took the throne for himself. Instead of giving the throne to its true heir, Demetrius, Antiochus proclaimed himself as co-regent for another of Seleucus's sons, an infant whom he murdered a few years later.
Antiochus strongly believed in Hellenization, in particular, changing the culture and religion of Judaism to Greek culture and the worship of Greek gods. To help in this, Antiochus appointed a man named Menelaus (which was the name of a Greek god) to be the high priest in the Jewish temple. Menelaus wasn't of the priestly family and had no interest in maintaining Jewish laws and customs. Antiochus Epiphanes was the first Seleucid king to use divine phrases on coins, such as "manifest god" and, after his defeat of Egypt, "bringer of victory."
In 170 BC, Antiochus launched a preemptive strike against Egypt, conquering all but Alexandria. To avoid alarming Rome, he allowed Ptolemy VI to continue as a puppet king, but this led to a civil war in Egypt. When Antiochus attacked Egypt again in 168 BC, a Roman ambassador delivered a message to him from the Roman Senate demanding the withdrawal of his armies from Egypt and Cyprus -- or face war with Rome. Antiochus withdrew.
When a rumor spread that Antiochus had been killed in Egypt, a deposed high priest, Jason, made a surprise attack on Jerusalem with 1,000 soldiers and took the city. When Antiochus heard of this revolt, he returned enraged to Jerusalem in 167 BC, took back the city, restored Menelaus as high priest, and massacred thousands of Jews. The author of 2 Maccabees writes:
"He commanded his soldiers to cut down relentlessly everyone they met and to kill those who went into their houses. Then there was massacre of young and old, destruction of boys, women, and children, and slaughter of young girls and infants. Within the total of three days eighty thousand were destroyed, forty thousand in hand-to-hand fighting, and as many were sold into slavery as were killed." (2 Maccabees 5:12-14)
Then he plundered the temple. Antiochus forcibly converted the temple into a temple to the Greek god Zeus and erected an altar to Jupiter, and defiled the temple by offering a pig on the altar. Remaining Jews were forced to eat of these sacrifices. Death was the penalty for Jews who circumcised their sons. Antiochus destroyed any copies of the Scriptures that he could find. This was a total departure from the former practice of the Seleucid kings, who had allowed people to practice their traditional religions.
Antiochus Epiphanes's outrages brought about the Maccabean rebellion, which is described in an inspiring account in 1 Maccabees 1-3, which I recommend you read. (1 and 2 Maccabees are part of the Apocrypha, which are included in Catholic and Anglican Bibles, but not Protestant Bibles. You can read them online at BibleGateway.com in the New Revised Standard Version.)
The Maccabees were successful in their rebellion. Faithful priests cleansed the temple and it was rededicated in 165 BC, commemorated by Jews to this day with the Feast of Hanukkah (from a Hebrew word meaning "dedication").
Towards the end of his life, Antiochus's kingdom was attacked by the Parthians and he led a campaign against them. He died suddenly of disease in 164 BC.
Another Horn -- Antiochus Epiphanes (8:9-13)
Now in the light of the history of Antiochus Epiphanes, let's consider Daniel's vision of the "small horn."
"10 It grew until it reached the host of the heavens, and it threw some of the starry host down to the earth and trampled on them. 11 It set itself up to be as great as the Prince of the host. (8:10-11a)
Antiochus grows in power, throwing down some of his rival kings. He also challenges God himself, "the Prince of the host/army." From 169 BC, coins minted by his kingdom bear the title "King Antiochus God Manifest." And he attacks God's people and temple, thus attacking God himself.
The vision spells out this rebellion or transgression against God:
"11b [The horn] took away the daily sacrifice from him, and the place of his sanctuary was brought low. 12 Because of rebellion, the host [of the saints] and the daily sacrifice were given over to it. It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground." (8:11b-12)
Antiochus substitutes the lie of paganism for the revealed truth of God's word entrusted to the Jewish people. "Truth was thrown to the ground" is fulfilled literally, since Antiochus insisted that the Torah scrolls be destroyed (1 Maccabees 1:56).
The Desolating Sacrifice (8:13)
A "holy one," an angel, asks how long God will allow this to continue.
"Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to him, 'How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled -- the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, and the surrender of the sanctuary and of the host that will be trampled underfoot?'" (8:13)
The phrase "causes desolation" is the verb shāmēm, "be desolate, appalled." It refers to sacrificing pigs on the altar and thus rendering the altar and temple polluted, unfit for the worship of Yahweh.
We see similar words later in the Book of Daniel:
"On a wing [of the temple] he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him." (9:27b)
"His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation." (11:31)
"From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days." (12:11)
Jesus quotes this phrase in his prophecy of the End Times.
"So when you see standing in the holy place 'the abomination that causes desolation,' spoken of through the prophet Daniel -- let the reader understand...." (Matthew 24:15)
We'll examine this "desolation" further. But for now, notice that this "desolation" in 8:13 seems to be the same desolation as referred to in 9:27b; 11:31; and 12:11. Nevertheless, Jesus refers to it as a future event, probably seeing the fulfillment by Antiochus as a foreshadowing of a later desolation that took place in 70 AD when the Romans destroyed the temple and burned Jerusalem.
When the angel asks "How long?" Daniel is given an answer:
"He said to me, 'It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated.'" (8:14)
The text seems to mean that 2,300 evening and morning sacrifices would have taken place until the temple will be rededicated. This temple dedication, of course, is what the Jews celebrate each year in Hanukah. To do the math:
2,300 sacrifices / 2 per day / 365 days per year = 3.15 years
Rounded off, this becomes the 3-1/2 years of 9:27, and the 3-1/2 years mentioned in the Book of Revelation.
Daniel's Reaction to the Vision (8:15-18)
Daniel is terrified by the vision and the voices surrounding it.
"15 While I, Daniel, was watching the vision and trying to understand it, there before me stood one who looked like a man. 16 And I heard a man's voice from the Ulai calling, 'Gabriel, tell this man the meaning of the vision.' 17 As he came near the place where I was standing, I was terrified and fell prostrate. 'Son of man,' he said to me, 'understand that the vision concerns the time of the end.' 18 While he was speaking to me, I was in a deep sleep, with my face to the ground. Then he touched me and raised me to my feet." (8:15-18)
Gabriel is an angel mentioned in 8:16 and 9:21. In Luke 1:11 he appears to Zechariah the priest, and in Luke 1:31 to the Virgin Mary. In the intertestamental books of 1 and 2 Enoch he is referred to as an archangel.
Identification of the Ram and Goat (8:19-22)
I've already given you Gabriel's identification of the ram and the shaggy goat, but here it is in sequence.
"19 He said: 'I am going to tell you what will happen later in the time of wrath, because the vision concerns the appointed time of the end. 20 The two-horned ram that you saw represents the kings of Media and Persia. 21 The shaggy goat is the king of Greece, and the large horn between his eyes is the first king. 22 The four horns that replaced the one that was broken off represent four kingdoms that will emerge from his nation but will not have the same power.'" (8:19-22)
More About Antiochus (8:23-25)
Verses 23-25 gives us something of the character of Antiochus Epiphanes:
"23 In the latter part of their reign, when rebels have become completely wicked, a stern-faced king, a master of intrigue, will arise. 24 He will become very strong, but not by his own power. He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever he does. He will destroy the mighty men and the holy people. 25 He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power." (8:23-25)
Antiochus is described as:
- Stern-faced (8:23b). Antiochus was scary to look at. He had a presence that reflected inner strength and made people afraid. Goldingay characterizes this as "ruthless boldness."
- Master of intrigue (8:23c). Goldingay calls this "artful cleverness."
- Strong, but not by his own power (8:24a). I take this to mean that behind Antiochus, Satan is attacking God and God's people.
- Causes astounding devastation (8:24b).
- Destroys mighty men and the holy people (8:24c). Antiochus ordered the slaughter of the rebel army defending Jerusalem, as well as tens of thousands of residents of the city.
- Fosters deceitfulness in his kingdom (8:25a). Antiochus's character of deceitfulness set the standard for those under his rule.
- Considers himself superior (8:25b). Antiochus is arrogant. The KJV puts it literally: "He shall magnify himself in his heart."
- Stands against God himself, "the Prince of princes" (8:25c). When Antiochus proclaims himself the "manifest god" on his coins, and attacks Yahweh's temple and people, he attacks God himself, who is the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
- Destroyed, but not by human power. Indeed, Antiochus dies suddenly of a sickness at the age of 51.
The Vision for the Future (8:26-27)
"26 'The vision of the evenings and mornings that has been given you is true, but seal up the vision, for it concerns the distant future.' 27 I, Daniel, was exhausted and lay ill for several days. Then I got up and went about the king's business. I was appalled by the vision; it was beyond understanding." (8:26-27)
Seeing a vision of God is spiritually and emotionally draining. Daniel is overcome by what he sees and becomes sick. But the angel tells him that the fulfillment isn't for his own time but for "the distant future" (NIV) or "many days from now" (NRSV, ESV).
In this vision Daniel foresees the rise of the Medo-Persian Empire ("the ram with two horns"), which is suddenly ended by Alexander the Great ("the goat with the prominent horn"). He also sees the division of Alexander's empire among his four generals ("four prominent horns"), and the rise of Antiochus Epiphanes who exalts himself, attacks God's people, ends the temple sacrifices, and brings desolation to the temple. Daniel is shown the time that the temple is desolate until its reconsecration -- about three and a half years. Daniel is told of Antiochus's destruction by God.
The fulfillment of this prophecy seems to be in the past, so what are present-day disciples to learn from it? Some of the lessons are inherent in other of Daniel's prophecies.
- God sees the end from the beginning, and is in charge of the affairs of men, even though we may not see it at the time.
- God sometimes reveals events to his prophets to encourage his people who may go through terrible persecution, so that they might take courage that the persecution will not last forever. In this case, Daniel is given the period of three and half years.
- Visions can greatly telescope the time between events. Here, the time from the rise of the Medo-Persian empire under Cyrus the Great to its rapid end is a bit more than 200 years. From the rise of Alexander the Great to the death of Antiochus Epiphanes is just under 200 years.
- Seeing the future is not without cost. Daniel is overwhelmed and devastated by what he sees. Sometimes we idly wish to know the future, but such a vision is costly.
B. Daniel's Prayer of Intercession (9:1-19)
Henry Holiday (Pre-Raphaelite artist), 'The Angel Gabriel' (1890s), stained glass, east window, St. Mary the Virgin, Barcote Chapel, Buckland, Oxfordshire, UK.
Daniel's vision of the Goat and Ram in chapter 8 doesn't require much interaction. However, Daniel's prayer of intercession in 9:1-19 has many lessons that we disciples need to interact with and internalize in our own lives.
We want to learn prayer from someone who knows prayer -- who prays and God answers. Our mentor here is Daniel, the man who is punished for praying, persists, is thrown to the lions, and conquers. One of his prayers is resisted by the "prince of Persia," but God sends the answer nonetheless (Daniel 10:12-13).
70 Years Are Completed (9:1-2)
We begin our study with a clear historical reference point, 539 BC:
"1 In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom -- 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years." (9:1-2)
Prior to this, Daniel has been reading and pondering the Scriptures, in this case, the prophecy of Jeremiah, who had prophesied 66 years previously in 605 BC. Jeremiah wrote:
"'This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years. But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians, for their guilt,' declares the LORD, 'and will make it desolate forever.'" (Jeremiah 25:11-12)
Daniel realizes that this 70 years is just about completed, that the prophecy is just about to be fulfilled. This 70 years is a round figure, perhaps a normal lifespan, but probably should be figured from the fourth year of Jehoiakim (605 BC) to the start of the return under Cyrus's regime, 537 BC or thereabouts.
|605 BC||First exile|
|-||537 BC||Cyrus' decree|
Q1. (Daniel 9:1-2) What encourages Daniel to seek God for
the forgiveness and restoration of Israel to its homeland? What practice on
Daniel's part leads him to pray?
Confession of Israel's Sins (9:3-4a)
Because Daniel believes God's promises for a return, he begins to pray in earnest for his people, that God would forgive their sin and enable this restoration to take place. He could have been a fatalist and decide that God will take care of all the details, that God need not be concerned. Instead, he takes it upon himself to pray, to intercede, and to plead with God on the basis of God's character.
William Carey (1761-1834), who was to become one of the first Protestant missionaries, one day shared his passion to save the heathen of India with others at a minister's meeting. One arrogant hyper-Calvinist clergyman called out, "Young man, sit down: when God pleases to covert the heathen, He will do it without your aid or mine." Some predestinarians presume that God will work out his will on the earth without using human beings as his instruments or means. But that wasn't Daniel's view. Baldwin observes, "Divine decree or no, the Scriptures never support the idea that God's purpose will be accomplished irrespective of the prayers of his people."
"3 So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed...." (9:3-4a)
Daniel "turned" (NIV, NRSV), "turned my face" (ESV), or literally "set my face" (KJV) to the Lord. This is a Hebrew idiom implying a deliberate determination towards something. We see this Hebrew idiom in the New Testament also, when Luke records that Jesus "set his face to go to Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51; NRSV). Daniel's prayer was no casual thing, but a firm heart's resolve to seek God for his people until an answer came.
The seriousness of the prayer is expressed by the phrase, "in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes." Fasting was a way to humble oneself before God. Sackcloth was a sign of mourning. Ashes "symbolized the penitence with which Daniel came to represent his people before the Lord." Several words describe the prayer:
Pleaded. Then he "pleaded" (NIV) "to seek" (KJV), "to seek an answer" (NRSV). This phrase uses the verb bāqash, "to seek, require, desire," which connotes a person's earnest seeking of something or someone which exists or thought to exist."
Prayer. In the phrase "prayer and petition," "prayer" is tepillâ (from the root pālal, which occurs in verse 4), the most common Hebrew word for prayer, occurring 76 times in the Old Testament.
Petition. "Petition" (NIV) or "supplication" (KJV, NRSV) is taḥănûn. The verb ḥānan depicts "a heartfelt response by someone who has something to give to one who has a need," that is, a granting of mercy. The noun taḥănûn, carries the idea of "a prayer for grace, supplication," but is less a formal entreaty than the outpourings of a troubled soul (used in parallel to "weepings" in Jeremiah 3:21; 31:9).
Abject humility. The phrase, "... in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes," depicts Daniel's manner of prayer -- deliberate and abject humility. Daniel doesn't come to God in boldness to plead a righteous cause. God owes him and his people nothing. He comes asking mercy for a clearly sinful people. Daniel comes humbly.
Now the Scripture indicates that he takes two actions: "I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed..." (9:4).
"Prayed" is pālal, "to pray," the most common verb for praying, of which we saw the noun form in the previous verse.
"Confessed" (NIV) or "made confession" (NRSV, cf. KJV) is yādā, which in various contexts can mean, "confess, praise, give thanks, thank." The primary meaning of this root is "to acknowledge or confess sin, God's character and works, or man's character." It is used in David's personal confession of sin (Psalm 32:5), the confession of all the nation's sins made on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:21), and other great confessions of Israel's sins (Ezra 10:1; Nehemiah 1:6; and Nehemiah 9:2-3).
Q2. (Daniel 9:3-4a) What is Daniel's demeanor as he
prays? How does he prepare? Why is this so important in this case? In what ways
might you and I prepare for intercession?
Acknowledgement of Sin (9:4b-6)
Now we proceed to the content of Daniel's confession. Remember how the Lord's Prayer begins, with a recognition of God's greatness and holiness? "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name..." (Matthew 6:9). Daniel begins with the same kind of acknowledgement of God's greatness and mercy.
"4 O Lord, the great and awesome God, who
keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, 5
we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we
have turned away from your commands and laws.
6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the land." (9:4-6)
First, he acknowledges Yahweh as "the great and awesome God." Next, he acknowledges Yahweh's reputation and character, "who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands" (9:4b). A covenant (berit) is "between nations: a treaty, alliance of friendship." God made a covenant with Israel at Mt. Sinai, "accompanied by signs, sacrifices, and a solemn oath that sealed the relationship with promises of blessing for keeping the covenant and curses for breaking it."
With this pair of words it is referred to as a "covenant of love" (NIV), "covenant and steadfast love" (NRSV, ESV), "covenant and mercy" (KJV). The second word is the common Hebrew noun hesed, "kindness, lovingkindness, mercy." In the mid-twentieth century many scholars saw the word as expressing loyalty within a covenant. But the word is more than that. It also carries ideas of love, faithfulness, good-heartedness, kindness. A common KJV translation of "lovingkindness" may be a pretty good translation after all.
Notice that Daniel is quite aware that the people of Israel don't qualify for relief under the covenant, since it is a covenant "with all who love him and obey his commands" (9:4b). The Israelites have not kept God's commands, but broken them and committed treason by worshipping other gods. Instead of the blessings of the covenant, they have faced the curses of the covenant. Daniel acknowledges this openly:
"5 We have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the land." (9:5-6)
Daniel uses all these synonyms for sin to make clear that he isn't trying to get mercy based on some loophole provided for under a "special definition," in the way that we sometimes excuse ourselves for sin. He flat out declares, "We have sinned!" Nor does he hide behind the "We-didn't-know-it-was-wrong" defense. He acknowledges that "We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name..." (9:6a). God isn't at fault. He sent prophets to warn them but they didn't listen. Instead they killed the messengers of God's merciful warning.
Confession of our sins must be open, complete, and brutally honest, without prevarication, claiming extenuating circumstances, or excuses. Anything less is unacceptable.
As a parent, have you ever confronted your child with a misdeed and waited for him or her to own up to it? Sometimes you'll hear a full admission, but often you hear lies and excuses. Not until the child is truly sorry will he or she fully confess with repentance and grief. But anything less is unacceptable to a parent intent on shaping the child's conscience and character. Why should we expect God to be less discerning than we?
Daniel Confesses the Sin as His Own (9:5)
One of the strongest lessons to me is the way Daniel places himself squarely in the middle of his nation's sin. He doesn't say, "They sinned," or "Seventy years ago some wicked people sinned." Instead, he says,
"We have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled" (9:5).
If we are to intercede as Daniel did -- as a member of the sinning nation -- we must in a sense take that sin upon ourselves. Daniel was a very righteous man who lived without compromise all his life. I am sure he committed personal sins, but by any account he would be classified as a righteous man. He is placed by God alongside Noah and Job (Ezekiel 14:14-20). Yet he prays, "We have sinned...."
It is no accident that half a millennium later, Jesus takes on himself the sins of the world in order to save it.
"... He poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors." (Isaiah 53:12)
"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law
by becoming a curse for us,
for it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.'" (Galatians 3:13)
"But when the time had fully come,
God sent his Son, born of a woman,
born under law, to redeem those under law,
that we might receive the full rights of sons." (Galatians 4:4-5)
"For Christ died for sins once for all,
the righteous for the unrighteous,
to bring you to God." (1 Peter 3:18a)
"... Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death --
even death on a cross!" (Philippians 2:6-8)
I don't know fully what this means. But surely it means that intercession is costly. Daniel doesn't take on sin in the sense that Jesus did, bearing others' sins in his body on the cross (1 Peter 2:24). But Daniel is part of a sinful nation in the same way that a member of the human race bears guilt because of Adam's sin (Romans 5:12-21).
This is not some legal fiction for Daniel. His intercession is costly. This 80- to 85-year-old man fasts, he wears sackcloth, he sprinkles ashes on his own head. This is not external. He feels the grief, is overwhelmed with the burden, is humbled before God. He, a righteous man, takes ownership, in a sense, for the sins of others so he can intercede for them. Daniel in his own person fulfills for Israel the condition and promise of 2 Chronicles 7:14:
"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."
How do you and I ask mercy for a sinful nation of which we are citizens? How do we pray for healing for a congregation whose spirit has been tarnished by pettiness, sin, and hatred? How do we pray for forgiveness and restoration for a church that has left true doctrine for false? How do we pray? Painfully. Personally. We learn from Jesus and from Daniel.
Q3. (Daniel 9:5) Since Daniel is such a righteous man in
his generation, why does he identify himself with the sins of his people? He
didn't commit these sins. How does this compare to how Jesus sought forgiveness
for his people?
Israel's Shame (9:7-11a)
Let's continue considering Daniel's prayer of confession:
"7 Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame -- the men of Judah and people of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. 8 O LORD, we and our kings, our princes and our fathers are covered with shame because we have sinned against you. 9 The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; 10 we have not obeyed the LORD our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you. Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you." (9:7-11a)
Daniel contrasts God's righteousness (sedāqā) with Israel's shame (bōshet). The word comes from a root that means "to fall into disgrace, normally through failure, either of self or of an object of trust." It contains nuances of "confusion, disillusionment, humiliation, and brokenness."
Daniel acknowledges that God has righteously scattered the peoples among the nations due to their "trespass" (KJV), "unfaithfulness" (NIV), "treachery" (NRSV, ESV). The word is ma'al, "trespass," used to designate "the breaking or violation of religious law as a conscious act of treachery."
Note the hint of mercy in verse 9: "The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him...." God's character of mercy doesn't change even though his children rebel against him. This reminds me of a New Testament letter from Paul to Timothy:
"Here is a trustworthy saying:
'If we died with him,
we will also live with him;
if we endure,
we will also reign with him.
If we disown him,
he will also disown us;
if we are faithless,
he will remain faithful,
for he cannot disown himself.'" (2 Timothy 2:11-13)
God's Punishment for Israel's Sins (9:11b-14)
Daniel's prayer continues, noting the justice of God's punishment:
"11b Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. 12 You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing upon us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. 13 Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us, yet we have not sought the favor of the LORD our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. 14 The LORD did not hesitate to bring the disaster upon us, for the LORD our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him." (9:11b-14)
Three times in this passage (verses 12, 13, and 14) Daniel speaks of the "disaster" (NIV), "evil" (KJV), "calamity" (NRSV, ESV) that has come upon Israel. The word is rā'ā, "evil, misery, distress," referring here to the utter destruction of the nation, of Jerusalem, and of the scattering of its people. He is referring to the curses that God promised to send upon his people if they didn't remain faithful (Deuteronomy 28:15-68). Verse 13 is interesting:
"All this disaster has come upon us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth." (9:13)
"Sought the favor of" (NIV), "entreated the favor" (NRSV, ESV), "made ... our prayer" (KJV) is ḥālā, "mollify, pacify, appease, entreat the favor of ... induce him to show favor in place of wrath and chastisement." Sinners must seek the mercy of God.
What the nation has failed to do, Daniel does for the nation. He is not a high priest or a king or an official representative of the nation. He is a layperson who has served for years as a high official in the government of Israel's conqueror. But yet he takes on this intercession. Intercessors need not be officially designated for their task. God is the one that lays the burden of prayer on them and God is the one who answers the Spirit-inspired prayers of faithful intercessors.
I expect that others besides Daniel were feeling the need for confession and repentance. Before the exile, love for Yahweh was sparse, but during the exile God brought about a renewal of faith. The synagogue and scribal movements began during the exile and were brought back to Jerusalem with the returnees. Ezra was a godly scribe who returned to help lead the Israelites who had returned to their homeland. Probably those who felt the strongest love for Yahweh returned when they were able -- the "remnant." Those who had been assimilated into the Babylonian culture and religion did not feel a need to return. Thus the exile provided a sifting and refinement of the Israelites who ultimately returned to their homeland.
A Plea for Mercy (9:15-18)
Having acknowledged Israel's sins and God's just punishment, Daniel makes his appeal. Let's analyze it so we can learn to pray prayers that God answers.
"15 Now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. 16 O Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our fathers have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us." (9:15-16)
Daniel appeals to God on the basis of:
- God's precedent. God delivering Israel from Egypt provides a precedent for delivering them from Babylon (verse 15a). Neither time were they delivered for their own righteousness (Deuteronomy 9:4-5).
- God's glory. Just as God's glory was known through the deliverance from Egypt, so the deliverance from Babylon will bring him glory (verse 15b).
- God's righteousness. Deliverance of God's people shows God's righteousness as an act of mercy (verse 16a).
- God's personal identification with Jerusalem. God has identified himself with Jerusalem, the City of God ("your city") and the temple mount ("your holy hill"). While Israel's sins have brought scorn to Jerusalem and Israel -- and to God, by association -- deliverance will erase that scorn (verse 16b).
"17 Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, O Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy." (9:17-18)
Daniel extends his argument for God to show mercy.
- Worship in God's temple ("your desolate sanctuary") will be filled with worshippers again. Notice that Daniel points out that this is "for your sake" (verse 17).
- God's personal identification with Jerusalem (again). Daniel reminds God that the desolate city "bears your Name" (verse 18a).
- God's mercy. Daniel's appeal is not on the basis of Israel's righteousness, which has been destroyed by sin and rebellion. He appeals solely on the basis of God's known character of mercy (verse 18b).
A Plea for Forgiveness (9:19)
Daniel concludes with what might seem an impertinent call to action as if to hurry God.
"O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name." (9:19)
Daniel's prayer is urgent and impassioned. But God honors Daniel's intercession for his people.
Q4. (Daniel 9:15-19) What was Daniel's essential prayer?
What are the various grounds of Daniel's appeal? How did God answer the prayer
(see Daniel 9:20-23)?
God did hear and answer Daniel's prayer -- both by the personal messenger of the Angel Gabriel (9:20-21) and historical events that unfolded.
The Return from Exile
Daniel was an old man by now and did not return to Jerusalem, so far as we know. But others did. The book of Ezra records the amazing decree of Cyrus that freed the Israelites to return (Ezra 1:2-4). The new Persian rulers wanted the prayers of their conquered peoples, and so cooperated with the return and rebuilding process.
Lessons for Disciples about Intercession
Available in book formats: paperback, Kindle, PDF
There are many lessons in this passage. Humility, repentance, asking for mercy, appealing to God's own interests, reputation, and glory. But the one that strikes me especially from this passage is that, as an intercessor, I cannot just pray for another. When praying for my own nation, people, or church, I must identify with their sins and confess them as mine. Taking on the sins of another as a mediator -- that is the role of an intercessor, and of Christ our Lord.
Lord Jesus, too often I take for granted what you did for us. You took on our sins -- my sins. I can't do that in exactly the same way you have done it for me, but teach me to be an intercessor for my own family, church, people, and nation. Teach me to identify so that I might be a vehicle of your salvation. Teach me to intercede. In your holy name, I pray. Amen.
"So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed: 'O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws.'" (Daniel 9:3-5)
 The phrase "shaggy goat" (NIV), "male goat" (NRSV), "goat" (ESV), "rough goat" (KJV) is two words: ṣapîr, "he-goat" and śāʿîr, "hairy" and then "he-goat, buck" (Bruce K. Waltke, #TWOT 2274c).
 Josephus, Antiquities xi, 8, 4-6.
 "The Beautiful Land" (NIV, NRSV), "the glorious land" (ESV), "the pleasant land" (KJV) doesn't include the noun "land" in the Aramaic text, though it is implied. The adjective is ṣebî, "beauty.... The best in regards to splendor and honor is referred to as beautiful or glorious" (John E. Hartley, TWOT #1869a). Here it refers to the Promised Land (8:9; 11:16, 41; Ezekiel 20:6, 15).
 1 Maccabees 1:20-42; 2 Maccabees 5:1-23; Josephus Antiquities 12,5,3.
 Facts in this appendix taken from Bruce K. Waltke, "Antiochus IV Epiphanes," ISBE 1:145-146; Wikipedia article.
 "Prince" is śar, "prince, chief, captain, ruler, governor, keeper, chief captain, steward, master," here as a military commander (TWOT 2295b).
 "Host" is ṣābāʾ, "army, host" (BDB 839, 1).
 "Daily sacrifice" (NIV, KJV), "regular burnt offering" (NRSV, ESV) is tāmîd, "continuity." Often used with ʿōlâ to refer to the morning and evening burnt offering. In Daniel 8:11-13; 11:31; 12:11 tāmîd is used by itself to designate the daily burnt offering (Walter C. Kaiser, TWOT #1157a).
 "Was brought low" (NIV), "overthrew" (NRSV), "was overthrown" (ESV), "was cast down" (KJV) is the Hofal perfect of shālak, "throw, cast." Also in 8:7 (TWOT #2398).
 "Rebellion" (NIV), "wickedness" (NRSV), "transgression" (ESV, KJV) is peshaʿ, "rebellion.... In a context of international relationships, the verbal form designates a casting off of allegiance, a rebellion against rulers.... Predominantly peshaʿ is rebellion against God's law and covenant and thus the term is a collective which denotes the sum of misdeeds and a fractured relationship" (G. Herbert Livingston, TWOT #1846a).
 "Surrender" (NIV), "giving over" (NRSV, ESV), "to give" (KJV) is nātan, "give" (TWOT #1443).
 "Causes desolation" (NIV), "makes desolate" (NRSV, ESV), "desolation" (KJV) is the Polel stem of shāmēm, "be desolate, appalled.... Basic to the idea of the root is the desolation caused by some great disaster, usually as a result of divine judgment." The book of Daniel has four passages (8:13; 9:27; 11:31; 12:11) employing the Polel form of the verb.... There is a causative (or, better, factitive) force here similar to the use of the Hiphil, except that the Hiphil generally involves a physical devastation, while the Polel seems to put more stress on the fact that someone has caused the sanctuary or altar to be polluted, thus rendering it unfit for the worship and service of God (Hermann J. Austel, TWOT #2409).
 2300 days / 360 days per year/2 per day = 3.2 years.
 "Be reconsecrated" (NIV), "restored to its rightful state" (NRSV, ESV), "be cleansed" (KJV) is ṣādaq, "be just, righteous."
 "Stern-faced" (NIV), "of bold countenance" (NRSV), "of bold face" (ESV), "of fierce countenance" (KJV) is two words: pânîym, "face" and ʿaz, "strong, mighty, fierce" (TWOT #1596e). The face reflects the attitude and sentiments of the person (Victor P. Hamilton, pânîym, TWOT #1782a).
 Goldingay, Daniel, p. 217.
 Goldingay, Daniel, p. 217. "Master of intrigue" (NIV), "skilled in intrigue" (NRSV), "one who understands riddles" (ESV), "understanding dark sentences" (KJV) is two words, bîn, "to understand" and ḥîdâ, "riddle, difficult question, parable" (TWOT #616a). Goldingay (Daniel, p. 199) comments, "There is no need to take ḥîdâ here alone to mean sayings intended to deceive, though this motif does come in 8:25.
 "Astounding devastation" (NIV) is also rendered, "fearful destruction" (NRSV, ESV) and "destroy wonderfully" (KJV).
 "Holy people" is two words, "People" is ʿam. "Holy" is qādôsh.
 "Desolation/s" (NIV, ESV, KJV), "devastation" (NRSV), is ḥorbâ, "waste or desolate places, ruins" (TWOT #731). A related word is Mount Horeb, "desolate region," from ḥārēb, "dry up."
 Sēper, "writing, book" (R.D. Patterson, sāpar, TWOT #540a).
 See also Jeremiah 29:10; 2 Chronicles 36:20-21 and Zechariah 1:12.
 Baldwin, Daniel, p. 164. R.K. Harrison, Jeremiah and Lamentations: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries; InterVarsity Press, 1973), p. 126. John Bright (Jeremiah (Anchor Bible 21; Doubleday, 1965, second edition), p. 160, fn. 11) notes that in Zechariah 1:12 this 70 years seems to refer to the interval between the destruction of the temple in 587 and its rebuilding in 520-515. In 2 Chronicles 36:20-23 it is made to refer to the period between 587 and Cyrus' edit in 538.
 Baldwin, Daniel, p. 165.
 In verse 3, Daniel refers to Yahweh here by a pair of words 'ādōn, "lord, master, owner," and 'ĕlōhīm, the generic word for God. In verse 4 he refers to God as "the LORD my God," literally "Yahweh my God." Yahweh is the name by which God revealed himself to Abraham (Genesis 12) and later Moses (Exodus 3:15), God's specific, unique, given name. I don't find any particular significance here of using one expression or the other, only that Daniel feels free to use them interchangeably.
 Baldwin, Daniel, p. 165.
 A noun from this root, baqqāshā, "petition," which occurs seven times in the Old Testament, is a technical term "denoting a petition or request by a subject to a king that he grant a specific desire" (Leonard J. Coppes, bāqash, TWOT #276).
 Victor P. Hamilton, pālal, TWOT #1776a.
 Edwin Yamauchi, ḥānan, TWOT #694g.
 Ralph H. Alexander, yādā, TWOT #847.
 "Great" is gādōl, which means here "great in importance" (Elmer B. Smick, gādal, TWOT #315c). "Awesome" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "dreadful" (KJV) is yārē, "be afraid, revere," which can refer to the emotion of fear as well as to "reverence or awe" (Elmer B. Smick, brh, TWOT #282a).
 Elmer B. Smick, berit, TWOT #282a.
 For example, N.H. Snaith, The Distinctive Ideas of the Old Testament (Schocken, 1964), pp. 94-130.
 R. Laird Harris, hesed, TWOT #698.
 John N. Oswalt, bôsh, TWOT #222c.
 Victor P. Hamilton, mā'al, TWOT #1230a.
 G. Herbert Livingston, rā'a', TWOT #2191c.
 BDB; cf. TWOT #656.
Copyright © 2023, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastorjoyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.
In-depth Bible study books
You can purchase one of Dr. Wilson's complete Bible studies in PDF, Kindle, or paperback format.
- 28 Advent Scriptures
- 1, 2, and 3 John
- 1 Peter
- 2 Peter & Jude
- 1 & 2 Thessalonians
- 1 & 2 Timothy
- 1 Corinthians
- 2 Corinthians
- Apostle Paul
- Abraham, Faith of
- Christ Powered Life (Romans 5-8)
- Christmas Incarnation
- Colossians and Philemon
- Conquering Lamb of Revelation
- David, Life of
- Early Church: Acts 1-12
- Glorious Kingdom, The
- Grace: Favor for the Undeserving
- Great Prayers of the Bible
- Holy Spirit, Disciple's Guide
- Jacob, Life of
- Jesus and the Kingdom of God
- JesusWalk: Beginning the Journey
- John's Gospel
- Lamb of God
- Listening for God's Voice
- Lord's Supper
- Luke's Gospel
- Moses the Reluctant Leader
- Names and Titles of God
- Names and Titles of Jesus
- Rebuild & Renew: Post-Exilic Books
- Resurrection and Easter Faith
- Sermon on the Mount
- Seven Last Words of Christ
- Songs of Ascent (Ps 120-134)
My books are available in paperback and Kindle from Amazon.