One like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven - This most certainly points out the Lord Jesus, אנש בר bar enosh, the Son of miserable man; who took our nature upon him that he might redeem us unto himself. To prove himself to be the Messiah he applies, before the high priests, these words of the Prophet Daniel to himself Matthew 24:30.
Near before him - The Ancient of days.
I saw in the night visions - Evidently in the same night visions, or on the same occasion, for the visions are connected. See Daniel 7:1, Daniel 7:7. The meaning is, that he continued beholding, or that a new vision passed before him.
And, behold, one like the Son of man - It is remarkable that Daniel does not attempt to represent this by any symbol. The representation by symbols ceases with the fourth beast; and now the description assumes a literal form - the setting up of the kingdom of the Messiah and of the saints. Why this change of form occurs is not stated or known, but the sacred writers seem carefully to have avoided any representation of the Messiah by symbols. The phrase “The Son of Man” - אנשׁ בר bar 'ĕnâsh - does not occur elsewhere in the Old Testament in such a connection, and with such a reference as it has here, though it is often found in the New, and is, in fact, the favorite term by which the Saviour designates himself. In Daniel 3:25, we have the phrase “the Son of God” (see the note at that passage), as applicable to one who appeared with the three” children” that were cast into the burning furnace; and in Ezekiel, the phrase “son of man” often occurs as applicable to himself as a prophet, being found more than eighty times in his prophecies, but the expression here used does not elsewhere occur in the Old Testament as applicable to the personage intended. As occurring here, it is important to explain it, not only in view of the events connected with it in the prophecy, but as having done much to mould the language of the New Testament. There are three questions in regard to its meaning: What does it signify? To whom does it refer? And what would be its proper fulfillment?
(1) The phrase is more than a mere Hebrew or Chaldee expression to denote man, but is always used with some peculiar significancy, and with relation to some peculiar characteristic of the person to whom it is applied, or with some special design. To ascertain this design, regard should be had to the expression of the original. “While the words אישׁ 'ı̂ysh and אישׁה 'ı̂iyshâh are used simply as designations of sex, אנושׁ 'ĕnôsh which is etymologically akin to אישׁ 'ı̂ysh is employed with constant reference to its original meaning, to be weak, sick; it is the ethical designation of man, but אדם 'âdâm denotes man as to his, physical, natural condition - whence the use of the word in such passages as Psalm 8:4; Job 25:6, and also its connection with בן bên are satisfactorily explained, The emphatic address אדם בן bên 'âdâm - Son of man - is therefore (in Ezekiel) a continued admonition to the prophet to remember that he is a man like all the rest.” - Havernick, Com. on, Ezekiel 2:1-2, quoted in the Bibliotheca Sacra, v. 718. The expression used here is בר־אנושׁ bar -'ĕnôsh and would properly refer to man as weak and feeble, and as liable to be sick, etc. Applied to anyone as “a Son of man,” it would be used to denote that he partook of the weakness and infirmities of the race; and, as the phrase “the Son of man” is used in the New Testament when applied by the Saviour to himself, there is an undoubted reference to this fact - that he sustained a peculiar relation to our race; that he was in all respects a man; that he was one of us; that he had so taken our nature on himself that there was a peculiar propriety that a term which would at once designate this should be given to him. The phrase used here by Daniel would denote some one
(a) in the human form;
(b) some one sustaining a peculiar relation to man - as if human nature were embodied in him.
(2) The next inquiry here is, to whom, this refers? Who, in fact, was the one that was thus seen in vision by the prophet? Or who was designed to be set forth by this? This inquiry is not so much, whom did Daniel suppose or understand this to be? as, who was in fact designed to be represented; or in whom would the fulfillment be found? For, on the supposition that this was a heavenly vision, it is clear that it was intended to designate some one in whom the complete fulfillment was to be found. Now, admitting that this was a heavenly vision, and that it was intended to represent what would occur in future times, there are the clearest reasons for supposing that the Messiah was referred to; and indeed this is so plain, that it may be assumed as one of the indisputable things by which to determine the character and design of the prophecy. Among these reasons are the following:
(a) The name itself, as a name assumed by the Lord Jesus - the favorite name by which he chose to designate himself when on the earth. This name he used technically; he used it as one that would be understood to denote the Messiah; he used it as if it needed no explanation as having a reference to the Messiah. But this usage could have been derived only from this passage in Daniel, for there is no other place in the Old Testament where the name could refer with propriety to the Messiah, or would be understood to be applicable to him.
(b) This interpretation has been given to it by the Jewish writers in general, in all ages. I refer to this, not to say that their explanation is authoritative, but to show that it is the natural and obvious meaning; and because, as we shall see, it is what has given shape and form to the language of the New Testament, and is fully sanctioned there. Thus, in the ancient book of Zohar it is said, “In the times of the Messiah, Israel shall be one people to the Lord, and he shall make them one nation in the earth, and they shall rule above and below; as it is written, “Behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven;” this is the King Messiah, of whom it is written, And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, etc.” So in the Talmud, and so the majority of the ancient Jewish rabbis. See Gill, Com. in loc. It is true that this interpretation has not been uniform among the Jewish rabbis, but still it has prevailed among them, as it has among Christian interpreters.
(c) A sanction seems to be given to this interpretation by the adoption of the title “Son of man” by the Lord Jesus, as that by which he chose to designate himself. That title was such as would constantly suggest this place in Daniel as referring to himself, and especially as he connected with it the declaration that “the Son of man would come in the clouds of heaven, etc.” It was hardly possible that he should use the title in such a connection without suggesting this place in Daniel, or without leaving the impression on the minds of his hearers that he meant to be understood as applying this to himself.
(d) It may be added, that it cannot with propriety be applied to any other. Porphyry, indeed, supposed that Judas Maccabeus was intended; Grotius that it referred to the Roman people; Aben Ezra to the people of Israel; and Cocceius to the people of the Most High (Gill); but all these are unnatural interpretations, and are contrary to what one would obtain by allowing the language of the New Testament to influence his mind. The title - so often used by the Saviour himself; the attending circumstances of the clouds of heaven; the place which the vision occupies - so immediately preceding the setting up of the kingdom of the saints; and the fact that that kingdom can be set up only under the Messiah, all point to him as the personage represented in the vision.
(3) But if it refers to the Messiah, the next inquiry is, What is to be regarded as the proper fulfillment of the vision? To what precisely does it relate? Are we to suppose that there will be a literal appearing of the Son of man - the Messiah - in the clouds of heaven, and a passing over of the kingdom in a public and solemn manner into the hands of the saints? In reply to these questions, it may be remarked
(a) that this cannot be understood as relating to the last judgment, for it is not introduced with reference to at all. The “Son of man” is not here represented as coming with a view to judge the world at the winding-up of human affairs, but for the purpose of setting up a kingdom, or procuring a kingdom for his saints. There is no assembling of the people of the world together; no act of judging the righteous and the wicked; no pronouncing of a sentence on either. It is evident that the world is to continue much longer under the dominion of the saints.
(b) It is not to be taken literally; that is, we are not, from this passage, to expect a literal appearance of the of man in the clouds of heaven, preparatory to the setting up of the kingdom of the saints. For if one portion is to be taken literally, there is no reason why all should not be. Then we are to expect, not merely the appearing of the Son of man in the clouds, but also the following things, as a part of the fulfillment of the vision, to wit: the literal placing of a throne, or seat; the literal streaming forth of flame from his throne; the literal appearing of the “Ancient of days,” with a garment of white, and hair as wool; a literal approach of the Son of man to him as seated on his throne to ask of him a kingdom, etc. But no one can believe that all this is to occur; no one does believe that it will.
(c) The proper interpretation is to regard this, as it was seen by Daniel, as a vision - a representation of a state of things in the world as if what is here described would occur. That is, great events were to take place, of which this would be a proper symbolic representation - or as if the Son of man, the Messiah, would thus appear; would approach the “Ancient of days;” would receive a kingdom, and would make it over to the saints. Now, there is no real difficulty in understanding what is here meant to be taught, and what we are to expect; and these points of fact are the following, namely,:
1. That he who is here called the “Ancient of days” is the source of power and dominion.
2. That there would be some severe adjudication of the power here represented by the beast and the horn.
3. That the kingdom or dominion of the world is to be in fact given to him who is here called “the Son of man” - the Messiah - a fact represented here by his approaching the “Ancient of days,” who is the source of all power.
4. That there is to be some passing over of the kingdom or power into the hands of the saints; or some setting up of a kingdom on the earth, of which he is to be the head, and in which the dominion over the world shall be in fact in the hands of his people, and the laws of the Messiah everywhere prevail. What will be the essential characteristics of that kingdom we may learn by the exposition of Daniel 7:14, compared with Daniel 7:27.
Came with the clouds of heaven - That is, he seemed to come down from the sky encompassed with clouds. So the Saviour, probably intending to refer to this language, speaks of himself, when he shall come to judge the world, as coming in clouds, or encompassed by clouds, Matthew 24:30; Matthew 26:64; Mark 13:26; Mark 14:62. Compare Revelation 1:7. Clouds are an appropriate symbol of the Divinity. See Psalm 97:2; Psalm 104:3. The same symbol was employed by the pagan, representing their deities as appearing covered with a cloud:
“Tandem venias, precamur,
Nube candentes humeros amictus,
- Horace, Lyr. I. 2.
The allusion in the place before us is not to the last judgment, but to the fact that a kingdom on tho earth would be passed over into the hands of the Messiah. He is represented as coming sublimely to the world, and as receiving a kingdom that would succeed those represented by the beasts.
And came to the Ancient of days - Daniel 7:9. This shows that the passage cannot refer to the final judgment. He comes to the “Ancient of days” - to God as the source of power - as if to ask a petition for a kingdom; not to pronounce a judgment on mankind. The act here appropriately denotes that God is the source of all power; that all who reign derive their authority from him, and that even the Messiah, in setting up his kingdom in the world, receives it at the hand of the Father. This is in accordance with all the representations in the New Testament. We are not to suppose that this will occur literally. There is to be no such literal sitting of one with the appearance of age - denoted by the “Ancient of days” - on a throne; nor is there to be any such literal approaching him by one in the form of a man to receive a kingdom. Such passages show the absurdity of the attcmpts to interpret the language of the Scriptures literally. All that this symbol fairly means must be, that the kingdom that was to be set up under the Messiah on the earth was received from God.
And they brought him near before him - That is, he was brought near before him. Or, it may mean that his attendants brought him near. All that the language necessarily implies is, that he came near to his seat, and received from him a kingdom.
The scene here described is not the second advent of Christ to this earth, unless the Ancient of days is on this earth; for it is a coming to the Ancient of days. There, in the presence of the Ancient of days, a kingdom, dominion, and glory are given him. The Son of man receives his kingdom before his return to this earth. (See Luke 19:10-12 and onward.) This is a scene, therefore, which transpires in the heavenly temple, and is closely connected with that brought to view in verses 9 and 10. He receives the kingdom at the close of his priestly work in the sanctuary. The people, nations, and languages, that shall serve him, are the nations of the saved (Revelation 21:24), not the wicked nations of the earth; for these are dashed in pieces at the second advent. Some out of all the nations, tribes, and kindreds of the earth will find themselves at last in the kingdom of God, to serve him there with joy and gladness forever and ever.DAR 122.3
True religion works out the principles of God's law—love to God and love to man. Those who will be accepted of Heaven will have put their talents out to the exchangers for the glory of God and the good of humanity. They will have become laborers together with God, and will receive the approval of the Master when He comes in the clouds of heaven. Religion is something more than a profession, something deeper than an impulsive feeling. It is doing the will of God.25 TMK 113.5Read in context »