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The actual content of the vision disclosed by the heavenly messenger to Daniel occupies Daniel 11 and the first part of Daniel 12. Although the meaning of many of the details is not easy to sort out, the main lines of thought are reasonably clear.
The Persian Empire is in view in 11:2. The standpoint of the vision, according to 10:1, is the reign of Cyrus. Who are the other four kings? The Persian Empire lasted two more centuries and produced nine kings (not counting usurpers between Cambyses and Darius I). Are the four the most prominent? The ones mentioned in Scripture (Cyrus, Darius, Xerxes [=Ahasuerus], Artaxerxes)? We do not know.
The Greek conqueror (11:3–4) is Alexander the Great, and the four kingdoms into which his empire was broken up have already been mentioned (Daniel 8; see meditation for October 23). The running struggles between the king of the south (the Ptolemies) and the king of the north (the Seleucids) found Jews squeezed between the two. Eventually the north prevailed (11:5–20). The one who sent out the tax collector (11:20) is almost universally recognized to be Seleucus IV, who died in 175 B.C. The “contemptible person” (11:21–39 [or possibly 21–45]) is undoubtedly Antiochus IV Epiphanes, a Seleucid monarch we have met before (October 23).
Readers of this book who love history should read Josephus, I Maccabees and II Maccabees, and contemporary reconstructions of the dramatic events of that period. There is no space here to survey that turbulent history. Yet we must ask why Scripture devotes so much space to it. From certain perspectives, Antiochus IV Epiphanes was not very significant. So why all this attention?
There are at least two reasons. First, at one level Antiochus attempted something new and profoundly evil. The oppression the Jews had suffered up to this point was diverse, but it was not like this. The ancient Egyptians had enslaved them, but did not try to impose their own religion on them. During the period of the judges, the Israelites were constantly running after pagan deities; when the pagans prevailed they imposed taxes and cruel subjugation, but not ideology. With the exception of one brief experiment by Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 3), Assyria and Babylon did not forcibly impose polytheism. But here is Antiochus IV Epiphanes outlawing Israelite faith, killing those found with any part of Torah in their possession, militarily imposing and coercing a pagan worldview. The people suffer, and God eventually saves them. Second, canonically this brutal period of history becomes a model, a type, of ideological oppression, suffering, and martyrdom against the church. What New Testament passages reflect this?
When I was still a very young man, I became pastor of a smallish church in Canada. The people were very kind toward me, and were far more patient of my faults and errors than I deserved.
There was one woman in that church whom I sometimes found to be particularly exasperating. Almost every Sunday morning, she would thank me profusely for the sermon, and then add, “But you’re so young.” This went on for many weeks, until it was little more than a formula. Eventually my zeal exceeded my sense. After listening yet again to her formulaic outburst “You’re so young,” I smiled sweetly and remarked (citing the King James Version in those days), “Yes, but Scripture says, ‘Let no man despise thy youth’—no man.” However intemperate my outburst, it seemed to do the trick, for she never said anything like that to me again.
On reflection, however, I came to realize I had cited the first part of 1 Timothy 4:12, but not the last part. The first part reads, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young.” I suppose if that line of text stood all by itself, then one of the ways to stop others from looking down on you when you are young is to clobber them with this text. But Paul writes, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” In other words, if you are a young believer, not least a young believer in a position of leadership like Timothy, the way to stop others from looking down on you is to set such an example—“in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity”—that your transparent godliness silences them.
If you are diligent in the gifts and graces that God has given you, Paul adds, everyone will see your progress (1 Tim. 4:15). Your diligence must be comprehensive, and the places where others detect your progress will also be encompassing: “Watch your life and doctrine closely” (1 Tim. 4:16). The result will include not only your own perseverance issuing in the salvation of the consummation, but the salvation of many of those to whom you minister (1 Tim. 4:16).
Embedded in this counsel to a young man is an array of Christian moral teaching. Actions often speak louder than words. Christian leaders are to lead not only by words but by action in conformity with those words. The authority that accrues to a Christian leader is gained not so much from the office itself, as earned over time by the quality of the Christian living. Small wonder then that much of the next chapter is given over to specific instruction on how to treat brothers and sisters in Christ in varied stations of life. How to treat people is always near the center of Christian discipleship.
7:1 But Elisha said, “Hear the word of the LORD: thus says the LORD, Tomorrow about this time a seah1 of fine flour shall be sold for a shekel,2 and two seahs of barley for a shekel, at the gate of Samaria.” 2 Then the captain on whose hand the king leaned said to the man of God, “If the LORD himself should make windows in heaven, could this thing be?” But he said, “You shall see it with your own eyes, but you shall not eat of it.”
3 Now there were four men who were lepers3 at the entrance to the gate. And they said to one another, “Why are we sitting here until we die? 4 If we say, ‘Let us enter the city,’ the famine is in the city, and we shall die there. And if we sit here, we die also. So now come, let us go over to the camp of the Syrians. If they spare our lives we shall live, and if they kill us we shall but die.” 5 So they arose at twilight to go to the camp of the Syrians. But when they came to the edge of the camp of the Syrians, behold, there was no one there. 6 For the Lord had made the army of the Syrians hear the sound of chariots and of horses, the sound of a great army, so that they said to one another, “Behold, the king of Israel has hired against us the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Egypt to come against us.” 7 So they fled away in the twilight and abandoned their tents, their horses, and their donkeys, leaving the camp as it was, and fled for their lives. 8 And when these lepers came to the edge of the camp, they went into a tent and ate and drank, and they carried off silver and gold and clothing and went and hid them. Then they came back and entered another tent and carried off things from it and went and hid them.
9 Then they said to one another, “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news. If we are silent and wait until the morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come; let us go and tell the king's household.” 10 So they came and called to the gatekeepers of the city and told them, “We came to the camp of the Syrians, and behold, there was no one to be seen or heard there, nothing but the horses tied and the donkeys tied and the tents as they were.” 11 Then the gatekeepers called out, and it was told within the king's household. 12 And the king rose in the night and said to his servants, “I will tell you what the Syrians have done to us. They know that we are hungry. Therefore they have gone out of the camp to hide themselves in the open country, thinking, ‘When they come out of the city, we shall take them alive and get into the city.’” 13 And one of his servants said, “Let some men take five of the remaining horses, seeing that those who are left here will fare like the whole multitude of Israel who have already perished. Let us send and see.” 14 So they took two horsemen, and the king sent them after the army of the Syrians, saying, “Go and see.” 15 So they went after them as far as the Jordan, and behold, all the way was littered with garments and equipment that the Syrians had thrown away in their haste. And the messengers returned and told the king.
16 Then the people went out and plundered the camp of the Syrians. So a seah of fine flour was sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel, according to the word of the LORD. 17 Now the king had appointed the captain on whose hand he leaned to have charge of the gate. And the people trampled him in the gate, so that he died, as the man of God had said when the king came down to him. 18 For when the man of God had said to the king, “Two seahs of barley shall be sold for a shekel, and a seah of fine flour for a shekel, about this time tomorrow in the gate of Samaria,” 19 the captain had answered the man of God, “If the LORD himself should make windows in heaven, could such a thing be?” And he had said, “You shall see it with your own eyes, but you shall not eat of it.” 20 And so it happened to him, for the people trampled him in the gate and he died.
4:1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.
6 If you put these things before the brothers,1 you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. 7 Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 9 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. 10 For to this end we toil and strive,2 because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
11 Command and teach these things. 12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them,3 so that all may see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
11:1 “And as for me, in the first year of Darius the Mede, I stood up to confirm and strengthen him.
2 “And now I will show you the truth. Behold, three more kings shall arise in Persia, and a fourth shall be far richer than all of them. And when he has become strong through his riches, he shall stir up all against the kingdom of Greece. 3 Then a mighty king shall arise, who shall rule with great dominion and do as he wills. 4 And as soon as he has arisen, his kingdom shall be broken and divided toward the four winds of heaven, but not to his posterity, nor according to the authority with which he ruled, for his kingdom shall be plucked up and go to others besides these.
5 “Then the king of the south shall be strong, but one of his princes shall be stronger than he and shall rule, and his authority shall be a great authority. 6 After some years they shall make an alliance, and the daughter of the king of the south shall come to the king of the north to make an agreement. But she shall not retain the strength of her arm, and he and his arm shall not endure, but she shall be given up, and her attendants, he who fathered her, and he who supported1 her in those times.
7 “And from a branch from her roots one shall arise in his place. He shall come against the army and enter the fortress of the king of the north, and he shall deal with them and shall prevail. 8 He shall also carry off to Egypt their gods with their metal images and their precious vessels of silver and gold, and for some years he shall refrain from attacking the king of the north. 9 Then the latter shall come into the realm of the king of the south but shall return to his own land.
10 “His sons shall wage war and assemble a multitude of great forces, which shall keep coming and overflow and pass through, and again shall carry the war as far as his fortress. 11 Then the king of the south, moved with rage, shall come out and fight against the king of the north. And he shall raise a great multitude, but it shall be given into his hand. 12 And when the multitude is taken away, his heart shall be exalted, and he shall cast down tens of thousands, but he shall not prevail. 13 For the king of the north shall again raise a multitude, greater than the first. And after some years2 he shall come on with a great army and abundant supplies.
14 “In those times many shall rise against the king of the south, and the violent among your own people shall lift themselves up in order to fulfill the vision, but they shall fail. 15 Then the king of the north shall come and throw up siegeworks and take a well-fortified city. And the forces of the south shall not stand, or even his best troops, for there shall be no strength to stand. 16 But he who comes against him shall do as he wills, and none shall stand before him. And he shall stand in the glorious land, with destruction in his hand. 17 He shall set his face to come with the strength of his whole kingdom, and he shall bring terms of an agreement and perform them. He shall give him the daughter of women to destroy the kingdom,3 but it shall not stand or be to his advantage. 18 Afterward he shall turn his face to the coastlands and shall capture many of them, but a commander shall put an end to his insolence. Indeed,4 he shall turn his insolence back upon him. 19 Then he shall turn his face back toward the fortresses of his own land, but he shall stumble and fall, and shall not be found.
20 “Then shall arise in his place one who shall send an exactor of tribute for the glory of the kingdom. But within a few days he shall be broken, neither in anger nor in battle. 21 In his place shall arise a contemptible person to whom royal majesty has not been given. He shall come in without warning and obtain the kingdom by flatteries. 22 Armies shall be utterly swept away before him and broken, even the prince of the covenant. 23 And from the time that an alliance is made with him he shall act deceitfully, and he shall become strong with a small people. 24 Without warning he shall come into the richest parts5 of the province, and he shall do what neither his fathers nor his fathers' fathers have done, scattering among them plunder, spoil, and goods. He shall devise plans against strongholds, but only for a time. 25 And he shall stir up his power and his heart against the king of the south with a great army. And the king of the south shall wage war with an exceedingly great and mighty army, but he shall not stand, for plots shall be devised against him. 26 Even those who eat his food shall break him. His army shall be swept away, and many shall fall down slain. 27 And as for the two kings, their hearts shall be bent on doing evil. They shall speak lies at the same table, but to no avail, for the end is yet to be at the time appointed. 28 And he shall return to his land with great wealth, but his heart shall be set against the holy covenant. And he shall work his will and return to his own land.
29 “At the time appointed he shall return and come into the south, but it shall not be this time as it was before. 30 For ships of Kittim shall come against him, and he shall be afraid and withdraw, and shall turn back and be enraged and take action against the holy covenant. He shall turn back and pay attention to those who forsake the holy covenant. 31 Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress, and shall take away the regular burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate. 32 He shall seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant, but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action. 33 And the wise among the people shall make many understand, though for some days they shall stumble by sword and flame, by captivity and plunder. 34 When they stumble, they shall receive a little help. And many shall join themselves to them with flattery, 35 and some of the wise shall stumble, so that they may be refined, purified, and made white, until the time of the end, for it still awaits the appointed time.
36 “And the king shall do as he wills. He shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak astonishing things against the God of gods. He shall prosper till the indignation is accomplished; for what is decreed shall be done. 37 He shall pay no attention to the gods of his fathers, or to the one beloved by women. He shall not pay attention to any other god, for he shall magnify himself above all. 38 He shall honor the god of fortresses instead of these. A god whom his fathers did not know he shall honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and costly gifts. 39 He shall deal with the strongest fortresses with the help of a foreign god. Those who acknowledge him he shall load with honor. He shall make them rulers over many and shall divide the land for a price.6
40 “At the time of the end, the king of the south shall attack7 him, but the king of the north shall rush upon him like a whirlwind, with chariots and horsemen, and with many ships. And he shall come into countries and shall overflow and pass through. 41 He shall come into the glorious land. And tens of thousands shall fall, but these shall be delivered out of his hand: Edom and Moab and the main part of the Ammonites. 42 He shall stretch out his hand against the countries, and the land of Egypt shall not escape. 43 He shall become ruler of the treasures of gold and of silver, and all the precious things of Egypt, and the Libyans and the Cushites shall follow in his train. 44 But news from the east and the north shall alarm him, and he shall go out with great fury to destroy and devote many to destruction. 45 And he shall pitch his palatial tents between the sea and the glorious holy mountain. Yet he shall come to his end, with none to help him.
25 My soul clings to the dust;
give me life according to your word!
26 When I told of my ways, you answered me;
teach me your statutes!
27 Make me understand the way of your precepts,
and I will meditate on your wondrous works.
28 My soul melts away for sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word!
29 Put false ways far from me
and graciously teach me your law!
30 I have chosen the way of faithfulness;
I set your rules before me.
31 I cling to your testimonies, O LORD;
let me not be put to shame!
32 I will run in the way of your commandments
when you enlarge my heart!1
33 Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes;
and I will keep it to the end.2
34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
and observe it with my whole heart.
35 Lead me in the path of your commandments,
for I delight in it.
36 Incline my heart to your testimonies,
and not to selfish gain!
37 Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;
and give me life in your ways.
38 Confirm to your servant your promise,
that you may be feared.
39 Turn away the reproach that I dread,
for your rules are good.
40 Behold, I long for your precepts;
in your righteousness give me life!
41 Let your steadfast love come to me, O LORD,
your salvation according to your promise;
42 then shall I have an answer for him who taunts me,
for I trust in your word.
43 And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth,
for my hope is in your rules.
44 I will keep your law continually,
forever and ever,
45 and I shall walk in a wide place,
for I have sought your precepts.
46 I will also speak of your testimonies before kings
and shall not be put to shame,
47 for I find my delight in your commandments,
which I love.
48 I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love,
and I will meditate on your statutes.