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over the kingdoms of the world. This is the thought expressed already in Nebuchadnezzar's dream in ch. ii., where the stone 'cut out without hands, falling upon the feet of the colossal image, and causing it to break up, and afterwards itself filling the entire earth, represents the triumph of the kingdom of God over the anti-theocratic powers of the world. It is the same ultimate triumph of the kingdom of God over the kingdoms of the world, which, with increasing distinctness of detail, and with more special reference to the climax of heathen hostility to the truth in the person of Antiochus Epiphanes, is depicted in chs. vii.xii.: upon a divinely appointed succession of world-empires follows at last the universal and eternal kingdom of the holy people of God, a kingdom which (ch. vii.) contrasts with all previous kingdoms, as man contrasts with beasts of prey. The book is thus dominated, “not only by an unshaken confidence in the ultimate triumph of truth, but also by an over-mastering sense of a universal divine purpose which overrules all the vicissitudes of human history, the rise and fall of dynasties, the conflicts of nations, and the calamities that overtake the faithfull'
According to the Book of Daniel, when the need of the saints is the greatest, through the exterminating measures of Antiochus Epiphanes (vii. 21, 25, viii. 24, 25, xi. 31–39, xii. 76), the Almighty will interpose: His throne of judgement will be set up, and the powers hostile to Israel will be overthrown (ii. 35, 44, vii. 9-12, 22a, 26, viii. 25 end, xi. 45 end); everlasting dominion will be given to the people of the saints, and all surviving nations will serve them (vii. 14, 226, 27); sin will be abolished and forgiven, and everlasting righteousness be brought in (ix. 24). The righteous dead of Israel will rise to an eternal life of glory; the apostate Jews will rise likewise, but only to be visited with contumely and shame (xii. 2, 3). The inauguration of the kingdom of God will follow immediately upon the overthrow of the 'fourth empire' in the person of Antiochus Epiphanes.
This representation of the future kingdom of God, though it differs in details, and displays traits marking the later age to
1 Ottley, Bampton Lectures, 1897, p. 332.
which it belongs, is, in all essential features the same as that which is found repeatedly in the earlier prophets. The earlier prophets, as Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, the Second Isaiah, all pictured the advent of an age, when the trials and disappointments of the present would be no more, when human infirmity and human sin would cease to mar the happiness of earth, when Israel, freed from foreign oppressors without and purified from unworthy and ungodly members within, would realize its ideal character, and live an idyllic life of righteousness and peace upon its own soil (see e.g. Hos. xiv. 4-8; Is. i. 26, iv. 2—4, xxix. 18—24, xxxii. 1–8, xxxiii. 24, &c.), and when the nations of the world would either be themselves incorporated in the kingdom of God (Is. ii. 2, xix. 18—25; Jer. iii. 17; Is. li. 4, 5, lvi. 7), or would be held in more or less willing subjection by the restored and invigorated people of Israel (Am. ix. 12; Is. xi. 14, xiv. 2, xlv. 14, 1x. 10, 14, lxi. 5), or,—which is more particularly the representation of the later prophets,-in so far as they remained irreconcilably hostile, would be destroyed (Zeph. iii. 8 [but contrast iii. 9]; Ez. xxxviii.—xxxix. ; Is. lx. 12, lxiii. 3—6, lxvi. 15, 16; Joel iii. 9–17; Zech. xiv. 12–13).
In comparing these representations with that contained in the Book of Daniel, there are two important points which ought to be borne in mind, one a point of difference, the other a point of resemblance. The point of difference is that the representation in Daniel is more distinctly eschatological than are those of the earlier prophets. The change did not take place at once; it was brought about gradually. At first the future contemplated by the prophets consisted of little more than a continuance of the existing state of society, only purged by a judgement from sin, and freed from trouble ; but gradually it was severed more and more widely from the present order of things : whereas for long the prophets had been content to look at the destinies of the nation as a unity, without distinctly facing the question of the ultimate fate of individuals, in course of time
On the prophetic pictures of the future kingdom of God, see more fully Kirkpatrick's Doctrine of the Prophets ; the present writer's Isaiah, his life and times, or the third of his Sermons on the Old Testament.
the destinies of individuals began to claim consideration'; the judgement which was to introduce God's kingdom assumed more and more the character of a final judgement, which, as soon as the idea of a resurrection began to be current, was regarded as held by God over the dead as well as over the living ; and the expectation of a glorified earthly life of righteous Israelites, which was the prevalent ideal of the Old Testament, became gradually transformed into the belief in a spiritual or heavenly life of all righteous men in general, which is the ideal revealed in the New Testament. Some of the later prophets, the Book of Daniel, and the Apocalyptic writers spring from the transition-period, in which the former of these ideals was gradually merging into the other, and in which the line of demarcation between the earthly and the heavenly ideal was not always clearly or consistently drawn, so that it is not always easy to be confident in particular passages which of the two ideals the writer means to express. The passages from the prophets in which the character of the representation is such as to suggest that it is beginning to be eschatological, are Is. xxvi. 18—19; Joel iii. 9–17; Mal. iv. 2—3. The representation in Daniel is of the same intermediate character; it is more distinctly eschatological than the passages just quoted, but less so than, for instance, parts of the Book of Enoch. The scene of judgement in vii. 9—14 belongs far more to the other world than any other representation of God's judgement to be found in the Old Testament; and in xii. 2 the doctrine of a resurrection is taught more distinctly and definitely than is the case in any other Old Testament writing (see below, p. xcii).
The characteristic point of resemblance between the representation of the kingdom of God contained in the Book of Daniel and that found in earlier prophets is this. It was a great and ennobling ideal which the prophets, as described briefly above, projected upon the future, and it was one which was portrayed by many of them in brilliant colours. But it was an
1 Comp. A. B. Davidson, art. EscHATOLOGY in Hastings' Dict. of the Bible, p. 7386.
ideal which was not destined to be realized in the manner in which they anticipated. The prophets almost uniformly foreshortened the future : they did not stop to ask themselves how national character was to be regenerated and transformed : and consequently they did not realize the length of period which must necessarily elapse,--for God does not in such cases interpose by miracle,-before corrupt human nature could be so transformed as to produce a perfect or ideal society. Isaiah and Micah pictured the Messianic age as commencing immediately after the troubles were past, to which their nation was exposed at the hands of the Assyrians (Is. xi. 1-10, see x. 28—34; xxix. 19—26, see v. 31; xxxi. 7, xxxii. 1-8, see xxxi. 8; Mic. v. 4— 7); the prophets of the exile pictured it as beginning with the restoration of Israel to Palestine. Neither of these anticipations corresponded to the event: in each case the sombre reality contrasted strongly with the glowing delineations of the prophets. The same foreshortening of the future is characteristic of the prophecies in the Book of Daniel. A careful study of Dan. vii.--xii. makes it evident that the reign of righteousness, and the everlasting dominion of the saints, are represented as beginning immediately after the fall of Antiochus : as in the case of the other prophets, the ideal consummation of history is thus conceived by the writer as being much closer at hand than actually proved to be the case.
The facts just referred to meet an objection which might otherwise perhaps be felt against the interpretation of the visions adopted in the present commentary, on the ground that the age of righteousness (vii. 27, ix. 24), or the resurrection (xii. 2), did not actually follow immediately after the fall of Antiochus : the ideal glories promised by Isaiah and other earlier prophets were not realized, as these prophets in many cases plainly shew that they expect them to be realized, in the immediate future ; the Book of Daniel, regarded from this point of view, is consequently in exact analogy with the writings of the earlier prophets. The non-agreement (as it seems) of the particulars contained in xi. 40-45 a with the event (see the notes) is also in exact accordance with the same analogies : the earlier prophets
often foretell correctly a future event,-e.g. the failure of Sennacherib's expedition against Jerusalem, or the capture of Babylon by Cyrus,—though the details by which they imaginatively represent these events as accompanied do not form part of the fulfilment, but merely constitute the drapery in which the prophet clothes what is to him the important and central idea (see, for example, Is. X. 28-34, xxiii. 15-18, xxx. 32, 33, xlvi. I, 2)? In the same way, Antiochus did actually meet his doom shortly, as foretold in Dan. xi. 45 € (cf. viii. 25 end, ix. 27 end), though the circumstances under which the writer pictures him as advancing towards it (xi. 40-45 a) do not correspond to what we know of the historical reality.
The Resurrection. The ordinary belief of the ancient Hebrews on the subject of a future life, was that the spirit after death passed into the underworld, Sheol, the 'meeting-place,' as Job (xxx. 23) calls it, 'for all living,' good and evil alike (Gen. xxxvii. 35; Is. xiv. 8, 9, 15), where it entered upon a shadowy, half-conscious, joyless existence, not worthy of the name of ‘life,' where communion with God was at an end, and where God's mercies could be neither apprehended nor acknowledged (Is. xxxviii. 18; Ps. vi. 5, xxx. 9, lxxxviii. 10–12, cxv. 17, &c.). But the darkness which thus shrouded man's hereafter did not remain in the O.T. without gleams of light; and there are three lines along which the way is prepared for the fuller revelation brought by the Gospel. There is, firstly, the limitation of the power of death set forth by the prophets, in their visions of a glorified, but yet earthly, Zion of the future : 'For as the days of a tree shall be the days of my people, and the work of their hands shall my chosen ones wear out' (Is. lxv. 22; cf. v. 20, where it is said that death at the age of 100 years will be regarded then as premature) ; or even its abolition altogether,
1 Comp. the writer's Isaiah, pp. 61, 73, 94, 106, 111-114, 146 n.
2 The idea that prophecy is `history written beforehand' is radically false : it is a survival from an age in which the prophets were not studied in the light of history, and it is a source of many and serious misunderstandings of their meaning (comp. Kirkpatrick, Doctrine of the Prophets, pp. 15–17, 194-6, 402—6, 524 f.)