Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Daniel 12:4

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Shut up the words, and seal the book - When a prophet received a prediction concerning what was at a considerable distance of time, he shut his book, did not communicate his revelation for some time after. This Daniel was commanded to do, Daniel 8:26. See also Isaiah 29:10, Isaiah 29:11; Revelation 22:10. Among the ancients, those were said to seal, who in the course of their reading stamped the places of which they were yet doubtful, in order to keep them in memory, that they might refer to then; again, as not yet fully understood. This custom Salmasius, in his book De modo Usurarum, p. 446, proves from Hesychius.

Many shall run to and fro - Many shall endeavour to search out the sense; and knowledge shall be increased by these means; though the meaning shall not be fully known till the events take place: Then the seal shall be broken, and the sense become plain. This seems to be the meaning of this verse, though another has been put on it, viz., "Many shall run to and fro preaching the Gospel of Christ, and therefore religious knowledge and true wisdom shall be increased." This is true in itself; but it is not the meaning of the prophet's words.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words - To wit, by sealing them up, or by closing the book, and writing no more in it. The meaning is, that all has been communicated which it was intended to communicate. The angel had no more to say, and the volume might be sealed up.

And seal the book - This would seem to have been not an unusual custom in closing a prophecy, either by affixing a seal to it that should be designed to confirm it as the prophet‘s work - as we seal a deed, a will, or a contract; or to secure the volume, as we seal a letter. Compare the notes at Daniel 8:26; Isaiah 8:16.

Even to the time of the end - That is, the period when all these things shall be accomplished. Then

(a) the truth of the prediction now carefully sealed up will be seen and acknowledged;

(b) and then, also, it may be expected that there will be clearer knowledge on all these subjects, for the facts will throw increased light on the meaning and the bearing of the predictions.

Many shall run to and fro - Shall pass up and down in the world, or shall go from place to place. The reference is clearly to those who should thus go to impart knowledge; to give information; to call the attention of men to great and important matters. The language is applicable to any methods of imparting important knowledge, and it refers to a time when this would be the characteristic of the age. There is nothing else to which it can be so well applied as to the labors of Christian missionaries, and ministers of the gospel, and others who, in the cause of Christian truth, go about to rouse the attention of men to the great subjects of religion; and the natural application of the language is to refer it to the times when the gospel would be preached to the world at large.

And knowledge shall be increased - To wit, by this method. The angel seems to mean that in this way there would be an advance in knowledge on all the subjects of religion, and particularly on the points to which he had referred. This would be one of the characteristics of these times, and this would be the means by which it would be accomplished. Our own age has furnished a good illustration of the meaning of this language, and it will be still more fully and strikingly illustrated as the time approaches when the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the whole world.

Having thus gone through with an exposition of these, the closing words of the vision Daniel 12:1-4, it seems proper that we should endeavor to ascertain the meaning of the angel in what is here said, and the bearing of this more particularly on what he had said before. With this view, therefore, several remarks may be made here.

(1) it seems clear that there was in some respects, and for some purpose, a primary reference to Antiochus, and to the fact that in his times there would be a great rousing up of the friends of God and of religion, as if from their graves.

(a) The connection demands it. If the close of the last chapter refers to Antiochus, then it cannot be denied that this does also, for it is introduced in immediate connection with that, and as referring to that time: “And at that time.”

(b) The facts referred to would require the same interpretation. Thus it is said that it would be a time of trouble, such as there had never been since the nation existed - a state of things which clearly refers to the calamities which would be brought upon them by the persecutions of Antiochus Epiphanes.

(c) This interpretation seems to be in accordance with the purpose of the angel to give the assurance that these troubles would come to an end, and that in the time of the greatest calamity, when everything seemed tending to ruin, God would interpose, and would secure the people, and would cause his own worship to be restored. Porphyry then, it appears to me, was so far right as to apply this to the times of Antiochus, and to the events that occurred under the Maccabees. “Then,” says he, “those who, as it were, sleep in the dust of the earth, and are pressed down with the weight of evils, and, as it were, hid in sepulchres of misery, shall rise from the dust of the earth to unexpected victory, and shall raise their heads from the ground the observers of the law rising to everlasting life, and the violators of it to eternal shame.” He also refers to the history, in which it is said that, in the times of the persecutions, many of the Jews fled to the desert, and hid themselves in caves and caverns, and that after the victories of the Maccabees they came forth, and that this was metaphorically ( μεταφορικῶς metaphorikōs ) called a resurrection of the dead. - Jerome, in loc. According to this interpretation, the meaning would be, that there would be a general uprising of the people; a general arousing of them from their lethargy, or summoning them from their retreats and hiding-places, as if the dead, good and bad, should arise from their dust.

(2) This language, however, is derived from the doctrine of the literal resurrection of the dead. It implies the belief of that doctrine. It is such language as would be used only where that doctrine was known and believed. It would convey no proper idea unless it were known and believed. The passage, then, may be adduced as full proof that the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust, was understood and believed in the time of Daniel. No one can reasonably doubt this. Such language is met used in countries where the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead is not believed, and where used, as it is in Christian lands, is full proof, even when employed for illustration, that the doctrine of the resurrection is a common article of belief. Compare the notes at Isaiah 26:19. This language is not found in the Greek and Latin classic writers; nor in pagan writings in modern times; nor is it found in the earlier Hebrew Scriptures; nor is it used by infidels even for illustration; and the proof, therefore, is clear that as employed in the time of Daniel the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead was known and believed. If so, it marks an important fact in the progress of theological opinion and knowledge in his times. How it came to be known is not intimated here, nor explained elsewhere, but of the fact no one can have any reasonable doubt. Even now, so clear and accurate is the language, that if we wish to express the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, we cannot do it better than by employing the language of the angel in addressing Daniel. (See Editor‘s Preface to volume on Job.)

(3) The full meaning of the language is not met by the events that occurred in the times of the Maccabees. As figurative, or, as Porphyry says, metaphorical, it might be used to describe those events. But what then occurred would not come up to the proper and complete meaning of the prediction. That is, if nothing more was intended, we should feel that the event fell far short of the full import of the language; of the ideas which it was fitted to convey; and of the hopes which it was adapted to inspire. If that was all, then this lofty language would not have been used. There was nothing in the facts that adequately corresponded with it. In the obvious and literal sense, there was nothing which could be called a resurrection to “everlasting life;” nothing that could be called an awaking to “everlasting shame and contempt.” There was nothing which would justify literally the language “they shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and as the stars forever and ever.” The language naturally has a higher signification than this, and even when employed for illustration, that higher signification should be recognized and would be suggested to the mind.

(4) The passage looks onward to a higher and more important event than any that occurred in the times of the Maccabees - to the general resurrection of the dead, of the just and the unjust, and to the final glory of the righteous. The order of thought in the mind of the angel would seem to have been this: he designed primarily to furnish to Daniel an assurance that deliverance would come ill the time of the severe troubles which were to overwhelm the nation, and that the nation would ultimately be safe. In doing this his mind almost unconsciously glanced forward to a final deliverance from death and the grave, and he expressed the thought which he designed to convey in the well-known and familiar language used to describe the resurrection. Commencing the description in this manner, by the laws of prophetic suggestion (compare the Introduction to Isaiah, Section 7.), the mind finally rested on the ultimate event, and what began with the deliverance in the times of the Maccabees, ended in the full contemplation of the resurrection of the dead, and the scenes beyond the last judgment.

(5) If it be asked what would be the pertinency or the propriety of this language, if this be the correct interpretation, or what would be its bearing on the design of the angel, it may be replied:

(a) that the assurance was in this way conveyed that these troubles under Antiochus would cease - an assurance as definite and distinct as though all that was said had been confined to that;

(b) that a much more important, and more cheering general truth was thus brought to view, that ultimately the people of God would emerge from all trouble, and would stand before God in glory - a truth of great value then, and at all times;

(c) that this truth was of so universal a nature that it might be applied in all times of trouble - that when the church was assailed; when the people of God were persecuted; when they were driven away from their temples of worship, and when the rites of religion were suspended; when the zeal of many should grow cold, and the pious should be disheartened, they might look on to brighter times. There was to be an end of all these troubles. There was to be a winding up of these affairs. All the dead were to be raised from their graves, the good and the bad, and thus the righteous would triumph, and would shine like the brightness of the firmament, and the wicked would be overwhelmed with shame and contempt.

(6) from all this it follows that this passage may be used to prove the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, and the doctrine of eternal retribution. Not, indeed, the primary thing in the use of the language as applied by the angel, it is, nevertheless, based on the truth and the belief of these doctrines, and the mind of the angel ultimately rested on these great truths as adapted to awe the wicked, and to give consolation to the people of God in times of trouble. Thus Daniel was directed to some of the most glorious truths that would be established and inculcated by the coming of the Messiah, and long before he appeared had a glimpse of the great doctrine which he came to teach respecting the ultimate destiny of man.

Uriah Smith
Daniel and the Revelation, 305

Verse 4

The “words” and “book” here spoken of, doubtless refer to the things which had been revealed to Daniel in this prophecy. These things were to be shut up and sealed until the time of the end; that is, they were not to be specially studied, or to any great extent understood, till that time. The time of the end, as has already been shown, commenced in 1798. As the book was closed up and sealed to that time, the plain inference is that at that time, or from that point, the book would be unsealed; that is, people would be better able to understand it, and would have their attention specially called to this part of the inspired word. Of what has been done on the subject of prophecy since that time, it is unnecessary to remind the reader. The prophecies, especially Daniel's prophecy, have been under examination by all students of the word wherever civilization has spread abroad its light upon the earth. And so the remainder of the verse, being a prediction of what should take place after the time of the end commenced, says, “Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” Whether this running to and fro refers to the passing of people from place to place, and the great improvements in the facilities for transportation and travel made within the present century, or whether it means, as some understand it, a turning to and fro in the prophecies, that is, a diligent and earnest search into prophetic truth, the fulfillment is certainly and surely before our eyes. It must have its application in one of these two ways; and in both of these directions the present age is very strongly marked.DAR 305.3

So of the increase of knowledge. It must refer either to the increase of knowledge in general, the development of the arts and sciences, or an increase of knowledge in reference to those things revealed to Daniel, which were closed up and sealed to the time of the end. Here, again, apply it which way we will, the fulfillment is most marked and complete. Look at the marvelous achievements of the human mind, and the cunning works of men's hands rivaling the magician's wildest dreams, which have been accomplished within the last hundred years. It was recently stated in the Scientific American that within this time more advancement has been made in all scientific attainments, and more progress in all that tends to domestic comfort, the rapid transaction of business among men, the transmission of intelligence from one to another, and the means of rapid transit from place to place and even from continent to continent, than all that was done for three thousand years previous, put together.DAR 306.1

By a series of vignettes the artist has given us in the accompanying plates a bird's-eye view of some of the most wonderful discoveries and marvelous scientific and mechanical achievements of the present age. In the upper left hand corner of Plate I, we have —DAR 306.2

1. The self-binding reaping machine, representing a large class of inventions by which the processes of agriculture have been revolutionized within the memory of multitudes now living.DAR 306.3

2. On the circular shield is the cotton gin, which in its first rude form, by Whitney, in 1793, lifted cotton culture into one of the great industries of the world.DAR 307.1

3. The sewing-machine, of the importance of which in the industrial world since its invention by Elias Howe, Jr., in 1846, nothing need be said.DAR 307.2

4. An electric street-car, propelled by the trolley system, which represents the achievements in electrical discovery, such as electric lighting, electric power, as illustrated in the great Niagara plant, etc.DAR 307.3

5. The phonograph, by which human speech can be indefinitely preserved and transmitted.DAR 307.4

6. The invention of photography, with which, with its application to engraving, all are familiar.DAR 307.5

7. Typical of the wonderful inventions in printing machinery, some perfecting presses delivering from a roll of paper, from 30,000 to 60,000 completed papers, printed on both sides, cut, pasted, and folded ready for delivery, every hour.DAR 307.6

8. The monster siege and battle guns of the present day.DAR 307.7

9. Represents the monstrous telescopes of the last quarter of a century, by which such marvelous discoveries in the heavens have been made.DAR 307.8

10. The telephone, by which a man in Chicago can carry on vocal conversation with another man in New York.DAR 307.9

11. The discovery of petroleum, which has revolutionized domestic lighting, and is making possible horseless vehicles for common roads.DAR 307.10

12. A mining scene suggesting the pneumatic drill and other modern devices for tunneling mountains and exploring the hidden depths of the earth.DAR 307.11

13. The steam fire-engine, one of the greatest safeguards of modern times.DAR 307.12

14. The Brooklyn Bridge, showing what strides have been made in engineering skill in these days. This is probably soon to be surpassed by a similar and much larger structure, over the Hudson, connecting New York with Jersey City.DAR 307.13

15. The Washington monument, the highest solid monument in the world (555 ft., 5½ inches).DAR 308.1

16. The bicycle, working a revolution in suburban personal travel. The manufacturers' estimate for the output in 1896, in the United States alone, is three quarters of a million machines. This, and trolley street-car propulsion, are rendering horses a drug on the market.DAR 308.2

17. A telegraphic instrument. First put in operation in 1844. There are now untold thousands of miles of telegraphic wire in use.DAR 308.3

18. The magnificent ocean iron ships of the present day. For passenger and war service nothing was ever produced to compare with the great steamers of the present decade.DAR 308.4

19. Railway transportation. The empire express on N. Y. Central; fastest train in the world, averaging nearly sixty miles an hour. Jan. 1, 1890, according to Scientific American of Aug. 30, 1890, there were in the United States alone 161,397 miles of track. There were invested in American railways $9,680,942,240. In 1889 five hundred million passengers, were carried, and the gross earnings were over one billion dollars.DAR 308.5

Many other things might be spoken of, such as submarine armor to explore the depths of the sea, balloons to explore the spaces above us, power spinning-machines, and anesthetics to prevent pain in surgery, etc., etc.DAR 308.6

What a galaxy of wonders to originate in a single age! How marvelous the scientific attainments of the present day, upon which all these discoveries and achievements concentrate their light! Truly, viewed from this standpoint, we have reached the age of the increase of knowledge.DAR 308.7

And to the honor of Christianity let it be noted in what lands, and by whom, all these discoveries have been made, and so much done to add to the facilities and comforts of life. It is in Christian lands, among Christian men, since the great Reformation. Not to the Dark Ages, which furnished only a travesty of Christianity; not to pagans, who in their ignorance know not God, nor to those who in Christian lands deny him, is the credit of this progress due. Indeed, it is the very spirit of equality and individual liberty inculcated in the gospel of Christ when preached in its purity, which unshackles human limbs, unfetters human minds, invites them to the highest use of their powers, and makes possible such an age of free thought and action, in which these wonders can be achieved.DAR 308.8

Of the marvelous character of the present age, Victor Hugo speaks as follows: —DAR 309.1

“In science it works all miracles; it makes saltpeter out of cotton, a horse out of steam, a laborer out of the voltaic pile, a courier out of the electric fluid, and a painter of the sun; it bathes itself in the subterranean waters, while it is warmed with the central fires; it opens upon the two infinities those two windows, — the telescope on the infinitely great, the microscope on the infinitely little; and it finds in the first abyss the stars of heaven, and in the second abyss the insects, which prove the existence of a God. It annihilates time, it annihilates distance, it annihilates suffering; it writes a letter from Paris to London, and has the answer back in ten minutes; it cuts off the leg of a man — the man sings and smiles.” — Le Petit Napoleon.DAR 309.2

But if we take the other standpoint, and refer the increase of knowledge to an increase of Biblical knowledge, we have only to look at the wonderful light which, within the past sixty years, has shone upon the Scriptures. The fulfillment of prophecy has been revealed in the light of history. The use of a better principle of interpretation has led to conclusions showing, beyond dispute, that the end of all things is near. Truly the seal has been taken from the book, and knowledge respecting what God has revealed in his word, is wonderfully increased. We think it is in this respect that the prophecy is more especially fulfilled, but only in an age like the present could the prophecy, even in this direction, be accomplished.DAR 309.3

That we are in the time of the end, when the book of this prophecy should no longer be sealed, but be open and understood, is shown by Revelation 10:1, 2, where a mighty angel is seen to come down from heaven with a little book in his hand open. For proof that the little book, there said to be open, is the book here closed up and sealed, and that that angel delivers his message in this generation, see on Revelation 10:2.DAR 309.4

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Michael signifies, "Who is like God," and his name, with the title of "the great Prince," points out the Divine Saviour. Christ stood for the children of our people in their stead as a sacrifice, bore the curse for them, to bear it from them. He stands for them in pleading for them at the throne of grace. And after the destruction of antichrist, the Lord Jesus shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and He shall appear for the complete redemption of all his people. When God works deliverance from persecution for them, it is as life from the dead. When his gospel is preached, many who sleep in the dust, both Jews and Gentiles, shall be awakened by it out of their heathenism of Judaism. And in the end the multitude that sleep in the dust shall awake; many shall arise to life, and many to shame. There is glory reserved for all the saints in the future state, for all that are wise, wise for their souls and eternity. Those who turn many to righteousness, who turn sinners from the errors of their ways, and help to save their souls from death, Jas 5:20, will share in the glory of those they have helped to heaven, which will add to their own glory.
Ellen G. White
Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 113-5

Consider the circumstances of the Jewish nation when the prophecies of Daniel were given. TM 113.1

Let us give more time to the study of the Bible. We do not understand the word as we should. The book of Revelation opens with an injunction to us to understand the instruction that it contains. “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy,” God declares, “and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.” When we as a people understand what this book means to us, there will be seen among us a great revival. We do not understand fully the lessons that it teaches, notwithstanding the injunction given us to search and study it. TM 113.2

In the past teachers have declared Daniel and the Revelation to be sealed books, and the people have turned from them. The veil whose apparent mystery has kept many from lifting it, God's own hand has withdrawn from these portions of His word. The very name “Revelation” contradicts the statement that it is a sealed book. “Revelation” means that something of importance is revealed. The truths of this book are addressed to those living in these last days. We are standing with the veil removed in the holy place of sacred things. We are not to stand without. We are to enter, not with careless, irreverent thoughts, not with impetuous footsteps, but with reverence and godly fear. We are nearing the time when the prophecies of the book of Revelation are to be fulfilled.... TM 113.3

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Ellen G. White
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7 (EGW), 971

(Ch. 5:8; Psalm 141:2; John 1:29; Ephesians 5:2.) Incense Represents Blood of Atonement—[Revelation 8:3, 4 quoted.] Let the families, the individual Christians, and the churches bear in mind that they are closely allied to heaven. The Lord has a special interest in His church militant here below. The angels who offer the smoke of the fragrant incense are for the praying saints. Then let the evening prayers in every family rise steadily to heaven in the cool sunset hour, speaking before God in our behalf of the merits of the blood of a crucified and risen Saviour. 7BC 971.1

That blood alone is efficacious. It alone can make propitiation for our sins. It is the blood of the only-begotten Son of God that is of value for us that we may draw nigh unto God, His blood alone that taketh “away the sin of the world.” Morning and evening the heavenly universe behold every household that prays, and the angel with the incense, representing the blood of the atonement, finds access to God (Manuscript 15, 1897). 7BC 971.2

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Ellen G. White
Prophets and Kings, 547

Honored by men with the responsibilities of state and with the secrets of kingdoms bearing universal sway, Daniel was honored by God as His ambassador, and was given many revelations of the mysteries of ages to come. His wonderful prophecies, as recorded by him in chapters 7 to 12 of the book bearing his name, were not fully understood even by the prophet himself; but before his life labors closed, he was given the blessed assurance that “at the end of the days”—in the closing period of this world's history—he would again be permitted to stand in his lot and place. It was not given him to understand all that God had revealed of the divine purpose. “Shut up the words, and seal the book,” he was directed concerning his prophetic writings; these were to be sealed “even to the time of the end.” “Go thy way, Daniel,” the angel once more directed the faithful messenger of Jehovah; “for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.... Go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days.” Daniel 12:4, 9, 13. PK 547.1

As we near the close of this world's history, the prophecies recorded by Daniel demand our special attention, as they relate to the very time in which we are living. With them should be linked the teachings of the last book of the New Testament Scriptures. Satan has led many to believe that the prophetic portions of the writings of Daniel and of John the revelator cannot be understood. But the promise is plain that special blessing will accompany the study of these prophecies. “The wise shall understand” (verse 10), was spoken of the visions of Daniel that were to be unsealed in the latter days; and of the revelation that Christ gave to His servant John for the guidance of God's people all through the centuries, the promise is, “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein.” Revelation 1:3. PK 547.2

From the rise and fall of nations as made plain in the books of Daniel and the Revelation, we need to learn how worthless is mere outward and worldly glory. Babylon, with all its power and magnificence, the like of which our world has never since beheld,—power and magnificence which to the people of that day seemed so stable and enduring,—how completely has it passed away! As “the flower of the grass,” it has perished. James 1:10. So perished the Medo-Persian kingdom, and the kingdoms of Grecia and Rome. And so perishes all that has not God for its foundation. Only that which is bound up with His purpose, and expresses His character, can endure. His principles are the only steadfast things our world knows. PK 548.1

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