Thus he said - That is, in explanation of the fourth symbol which appeared - the fourth beast, and of the events connected with his appearing. This explanation embraces the remainder of the chapter; and as the whole subject appeared difficult and momentous to Daniel before the explanation, so it may be said to be in many respects difficult, and in all respects momentous still. It is a question on which expositors of the Scriptures are by no means agreed, to what it refers, and whether it has been already accomplished, or whether it extends still into the future; and it is of importance, therefore, to determine, if possible, what is its true meaning. The two points of inquiry which are properly before us are, first, What do the words of explanation as used by the angel fairly imply - that is, what, according to the fair interpretation of these words, would be the course of events referred to, or what should we naturally expect to find as actually occurring on the earth in the fulfillment of this? and, secondly, To what events the prophecy is actually to be applied - whether to what has already occurred, or what is yet to occur; whether we can find anything in what is now past which would be an accomplishment of this, or whether it is to be applied to events a part of which are yet future? This will lead us into a statement of the points which it is affirmed would occur in regard to this kingdom: and then into an inquiry respecting the application.
What is fairly implied in the explanation of the angel? This would embrace the following points:
(1) There was to be a fourth kingdom on the earth: “the fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth,” Daniel 7:23. This was to succeed the other three, symbolized by the lion, the bear, and the leopard. No further reference is made to them, but the characteristics of this are fully stated. Those characteristics, which have been explained in the notes at Daniel 7:7, are, as here repeated,
(a) that it would be in important respects different from the others;
(b) that it would devour, or subdue the whole earth;
(c) that it would tread it down and break it in pieces; that is, it would be a universal dynasty, of a fierce and warlike character, that would keep the whole world subdued and subject by power.
(2) out of this sovereignty or dominion, ten powers would arise Daniel 7:24: “and the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise.” Compare the notes at Daniel 7:7. That is, they would spring out of this one dominion, or it would be broken up into these minor sovereignties, yet all manifestly springing from the one kingdom, and wielding the same power. We should not naturally look for the fulfillment of this in a succession of kings, for that would have been symbolized by the beast itself representing the entire dominion or dynasty, but rather to a number of contemporaneous powers that had somehow sprung out of the one power, or that now possessed and wielded the power of that one dominion. If the kingdom here referred to should be broken up into such a number of powers, or if in any way these powers became possessed of this authority, and wielded it, such a fact would express what we are to expect to find in this kingdom.
(3) From the midst of these sovereignties or kingdoms there was to spring up another one of peculiar characteristics, Daniel 7:24-25. These characteristics are the following:
(a) That it would spring out of the others, or be, as it were, one form of the administration of the same power - as the eleventh horn sprang from the same source as the ten, and we are, therefore, to look for the exercise of this power somehow in connection with the same kingdom or dynasty.
(b) This would not spring up contemporaneously with the ten, but would arise “after them” - and we are to look for the power as in some sense succeeding them.
(c) It would be small at first - as was the horn Daniel 7:8, and we are to look for the fulfillment in some power that would be feeble at first.
(d) It would grow to be a mighty power for the little horn became so powerful as to pluck up three of the others Daniel 7:8, and it is said in the explanation Daniel 7:24, that he would subdue three of the kings.
(e) It would subdue “three kings;” that is, three of the ten, and we are to look for the fulfillment in some manifestation of that power by which, either literally three of them were overthrown, or by which about one-third of their power was taken away. The mention of the exact number of “three,” however, would rather seem to imply that we are to expect some such exact fulfillment, or some prostration of three sovereignties by the new power that would arise.
(f) It would be proud, and ambitious, and particularly arrogant against God: “and he shall speak great words against the Most High,” Daniel 7:25. The Chaldee here rendered against - לצד letsad - means, literally, at, or against the part of it, and then against. Vulgate contra; Greek πρὸς pros This would be fulfilled in one who would blaspheme God directly; or who would be rebellious against his government and authority; or who would complain of his administration and laws; or who would give utterance to harsh and reproachful words against his real claims. It would find a fulfillment obviously in an open opposer of the claims and the authority of the true God; or in one the whole spirit and bearing of whose pretensions might be fairly construed as in fact an utterance of great words against him.
(g) This would be a persecuting power: “and shall wear out the saints of the Most High,” Daniel 7:25. That is, it would be characterized by a persecution of the real saints - of those who were truly the friends of God, and who served him.
(h) It would claim legislative power, the power of changing established customs and laws: “and think to change times and laws,” Daniel 7:25. The word rendered “think” (סבר sebar ) means, more properly, to hope; and the idea here is, that he hopes and trusts to be able to change times and laws. Vulgate, Putabit quod possit mutare tempora, etc. The state of mind here referred to would be that of one who would desire to produce changes in regard to the times and laws referred to, and who would hope that he would be able to effect it. If there was a strong wish to do this, and if there was a belief that in any way he could bring it about, it would meet what is implied in the use of the word here. There would be the exercise of some kind of authority in regard to existing times for festivals, or other occasions, and to existing laws, and there would be a purpose so to change them as to accomplish his own ends.
The word “times” - זמנין zı̂mnı̂yn - would seem to refer properly to some stated or designated times - as times appointed for festivals, etc. Gesenius, “time, specially an appointed time, season:” Ecclesiastes 3:1; Nehemiah 2:6; Esther 9:27, Esther 9:31. Lengerke renders the word Fest-Zeiten - “festival times,” and explains it as meaning the holy times, festival days, Leviticus 23:2, Leviticus 23:4, Leviticus 23:37, Leviticus 23:44. The allusion is, undoubtedly, to such periods set apart as festivals or fasts - seasons consecrated to the services of religion and the kind of jurisdiction which the power here referred to would hope and desire to set up would be to have control of these periods, and so to change and alter them as to accomplish his own purposes - either by abolishing those in existence, or by substituting others in their place. At all times these seasons have had a direct connection with the state and progress of religion; and he who has power over them, either to abolish existing festivals, or to substitute others in their places, or to appoint new festivals, has an important control over the whole subject of religion, and over a nation.
The word rendered “laws” here - דת dâth - while it might refer to any law, would more properly designate laws pertaining to religion. See Daniel 6:5, Daniel 6:7, Daniel 6:12 (Daniel 6:6, Daniel 6:9, Daniel 6:13); Ezra 7:12, Ezra 7:21. So Lengerke explains it as referring to the laws of religion, or to religion. The kind of jurisdiction, therefore, referred to in this place would be what would pertain to the laws and institutions of religion; it would be a purpose to obtain the control of these; it would be a claim of right to abolish such as existed, and to institute new ones; it would be a determination to exert this power in such a way as to promote its own ends.
(i) It would continue for a definite period: “and they shall be given into his hands until a time and times and the dividing of time,” Daniel 7:25. They; that is, either those laws, or the people, the powers referred to. Maurer refers this to the “saints of the Most High,” as meaning that they would be delivered into his hands. Though this is not designated expressly, yet perhaps it is the most natural construction, as meaning that he would have jurisdiction over the saints during this period; and if so, then the meaning is, that he would have absolute control over them, or set up a dominion over them, for the time specified the time, and times, etc. In regard to this expression “a time and times, etc., it is unnecessary to say that there has been great diversity of opinion among expositors, and that many of the controversies in respect to future events turn on the sense attached to this and to the similar expressions which occur in the book of Revelation. The first and main inquiry pertains, of course, to its literal and proper signification. The word used here rendered “time, times, time” - עדן עדנין ‛ı̂dânı̂yn ‛ı̂dân - is a word which in itself would no more designate any definite and fixed period than our word time does.
See Daniel 2:8-9, Daniel 2:21; Daniel 3:5, Daniel 3:15; Daniel 4:16, Daniel 4:23, Daniel 4:25, Daniel 4:32; Daniel 7:12. In some of these instances, the period actually referred to was a year Daniel 4:16, Daniel 4:23, but this is not necessarily implied in the word used, but the limitation is demanded by the circumstances of the case. So far as the word is concerned, it would denote a day, a week, a month, a year, or a larger or smaller division of time, and the period actually intended to be designated must be determined from the connection. The Latin Vulgate is indefinite - ad tempus; so the Greek - ἕως καιροῦ heōs kairou so the Syriac, and so Luther - eine Zeit; and so Lengerke - eine Zeit. The phrase “for a time” expresses accurately the meaning of the original word. The word rendered “times” is the same word in the plural, though evidently with a dual signification. - Gesenius, Lexicon; Lengerke, in loc. The obvious meaning is two such times as is designated by the former “time.”
The phrase “and the dividing of a time” means clearly half of such a period. Thus, if the period denoted by a “time,” here be a year, the whole period would be three years and a half. Designations of time like this, or of this same period, occur several times in the prophecies (Daniel and Revelation), and on their meaning much depends in regard to the interpretation of the prophecies pertaining to the future. This period of three years and a half equals forty-two months, or twelve hundred and sixty days - the periods mentioned in Revelation 11:2; Revelation 12:6, and on which so much depends in the interpretation of that book. The only question of importance in regard to the period of time here designated is, whether this is to be taken literally to denote three years and a half, or whether a symbolic method is to be adopted, by making each one of the days represent a year, thus making the time referred to, in fact, twelve hundred and sixty years. On this question expositors are divided, and probably will continue to be, and according as one or the other view is adopted, they refer the events here to Antiochus Epiphanes, or to the Papal power; or perhaps it should be said more accurately, according as they are disposed to refer the events here to Antiochus or to the Papacy, do they embrace one or the other method of interpretation in regard to the meaning of the days. At this point in the examination of the passage, the only object is to look at it exegetically; to examine it as language apart from the application, or unbiassed by any purpose of application; and though absolute certainty cannot perhaps be obtained, yet the following may be regarded as exegetically probable:
(1) The word time may be viewed as denoting a year: I mean a year rather than a week, a month, or any other period - because a year is a more marked and important portion of time, and because a day, a week, a month, is so short that it cannot be reasonably supposed that it is intended. As there is no larger natural period than a year - no cycle in nature that is so marked and obvious as to be properly suggested by the word time, it cannot be supposed that any such cycle is intended. And as there is so much particularity in the language used here, “a time, and times, and half a time,” it is to be presumed that some definite and marked period is intended, and that it is not time in general. It may be presumed, therefore, that in some sense of the term the period of a year is referred to.
(2) The language does not forbid the application to a literal year, and then the actual time designated would be three years and a half. No laws of exegesis, nothing in the language itself, could be regarded as violated, if such an interpretation were given to the language, and so far as this point is concerned, there would be no room for debate.
(3) The same remark may be made as to the symbolic application of the language - taking it for a much longer period than literally three years and a half; that is, regarding each day as standing for a year, and thus considering it as denoting twelve hundred and sixty years. This could not be shown to be a violation of prophetic usage, or to be forbidden by the nature of prophetic language, because nothing is more common than symbols, and because there are actual instances in which such an interpretation must be understood. Thus in Ezekiel 4:6, where the prophet was commanded to lie upon his right side forty days, it is expressly said that it was symbolic or emblematic: “I have appointed thee each day for a year.” No one can doubt that it would be strictly consistent with prophetic usage to suppose that the time here might be symbolic, and that a longer time might be referred to than the literal interpretation would require.
(4) It may be added, that there are some circumstances, even considering the passage with reference only to the interpretation of the language, and with no view to the question of its application, which would make this appear probable. Among these circumstances are the following:
(a) the fact that, in the prophecies, it is unusual to designate the time literally. Very few instances can be referred to in which this is done. It is commonly by some symbol; some mark; some peculiarity of the time or age referred to, that the designation is made, or by some symbol that may be understood when the event has occurred.
(b) This designation of time occurs in the midst of symbols - where all is symbol - the beasts, the horns, the little horn, etc.; and it would seem to be much more probable that such method would be adopted as designating the time referred to than a literal method.
(c) It is quite apparent on the mere perusal of the passage here that the events do actually extend far into the future - far beyond what would be denoted by the brief period of three and a half years. This will be considered more fully in another place in the inquiry as to the meaning of these prophecies. (See also Editor‘s Preface to volume on Revelation.)
(4) a fourth point in the explanation given by the interpreter to Daniel is, that there would be a solemn judgment in regard to this power, and that the dominion conceded to it over the saints for a time would be utterly taken away, and the power itself destroyed: “but the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume, and to destroy it unto the end,” Daniel 7:26. That is, it shall be taken away; it shall come entirely to an end. The interpreter does not say by whom this would be done, but he asserts the fact, and that the destruction of the dominion would be final. That is, it would entirely and forever cease. This would be done by an act of Divine judgment, or as if a solemn judgment should be held, and a sentence pronounced. It would be as manifestly an act of God as if he should sit as a judge, and pronounce sentence. See the notes at Daniel 7:9-11.
(5) And, a fifth point in the explanation of the interpreter is, that the dominion under the whole heaven would be given to the saints of the Most High, and that all nations should serve him; that is, that there would be a universal prevalence of righteousness on the earth, and that God would reign in the hearts and lives of men, Daniel 7:27. See the notes at Daniel 7:13-14.