God is Judge Chapter 14

God is Judge

Chapter 14

A Commentary on the book of Daniel

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Time Periods in Daniel

 

Daniel mentions the following time periods:

 

7:25 - Saints persecuted until a time and times and the dividing of time  (1,260 days=3½ years)
8:14 - 2,300 evenings and mornings before the sanctuary is cleansed (1,150 days)
9:27 - Covenant confirmed for one week but sacrifice ceases in the midst of the week (3½ years)
12:7 - Time, times and a half (power of the holy people scattered)
12:11 - 1,290 days from the removal of the daily and setting up of the abomination
12:13 - Blessing for those who reach the 1,335 days

 

The exegetical approach that one adopts determines the interpretation of the enigmatic time periods encountered in Daniel. The critical view understands the periods as applicable to the Antiochene persecution. However, this is problematic because the period lasted slightly less than the anticipated 3½ years. This has led to the hypothesis that the book of Daniel was written during the Antiochene crisis and was already in circulation before the end of the persecution – simply stated, the author got the anticipated end wrong and the differing periods represent “updates” to account for the postponement of the eschaton. 

 

Porteous[1] sums up this position as follows; “The angel gives the answer of 7.25, i.e. ‘a time, two times, and half a time’, and confirms it with a mighty oath. A slight emendation (given by Bevan, pp. 205-6) would give the translation ‘when the power of the oppressor of the holy people comes to an end’, and this would probably refer to the    Continued  ˃

 

[1] Daniel, 172

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passing of Antiochus as the sign that will be given of the coming of the end…..As an alternative to the view taken above in the comment on 7.25 it may be suggested that the periods of 1,290 days and 1,335 days, which are usually interpreted as successive corrections of the 1,150 days of 8.14, when the end did not come at the time originally expected but faith rose above disappointment (so Gunkel and others), might be regarded as marking successive stages in the events leading up to the final climax. There is, it must be confessed, in seeing how urgent corrections, such as these would be, could have been added to the book that had just been issued, even though in a limited number of copies. This would apply even to the broadsheet theory suggested above. Of course it remains possible, though in the present writer’s view improbable, that vv. 11 and 12 are not from the pen of the author of the Book of Daniel at all but are glosses of some later scribe who wished to adjust the number of days to the known facts of history. We do not have enough data to check up on this”.

 

Conservative interpreters often regard the time periods as referring to the future revelation of the “man of sin” or to the in-breaking of the eschaton. An example of an “end time” application is the kind of approach proposed by Seventh Day Adventist interpreters, who understand the 2,300 evenings and mornings as 2,300 days, which are then equated with 2,300 years. They believe that Jesus did not enter the holiest in heaven until 1844 AD some 2,300 years after Cyrus issued his decree to rebuild the temple. The validity of this approach is questionable as the time period of 2,300 evenings and mornings[2] concerns the “daily” (tāmīd).  The tāmīd was offered every evening and morning – twice daily and therefore the period is most certainly 1,150 days. This period is shorter than the 1,260 days of Dan. 7:25 but is close to the actual period of the profanation of the sanctuary recorded in I Macc.1:54, 59 and 4:52, 59 that lasted three years. Therefore the dates find a rough correspondence with the historical facts – the problem is that the both the desecration and restoration of the temple and the nation occurred in stages and it is difficult to know precisely when the days commence and terminate, although the purification at    Continued  ˃

 

[2] The Greek and Latin versions mistakenly read twenty-three hundred days.

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Hanukkah is certainly one termination and the death of Antiochus another.

 

It is proposed that the time periods have a symbolic significance beyond their initial historical fulfilment during the Antiochene crisis.   The time periods reflect the number of days in the Jewish Festal Calendar reckoned from the destruction of the temple on the 9th of Ab. The differing numbers are accounted for by the leap year cycles. The Hebrew Calendar is a lunisolar calendar. It is a complex system, where a year can have any of six different numbers of days in it (353, 354, 355, 383, 384, or 385) and referred to as ‘deficient, regular or complete’ and ‘common (350s) or embolismic (380s)’. On average a leap year (383/4/5) would need to be added every three years in order for the calendar to synchronise with the harvest seasons; in practice this meant that sometimes no leap years were added during the three years and at other times two leap years may have been added almost consecutively in order to balance a calendar based on observation rather than calculation. The table below calculates the number of days from the destruction of the temple (9th of Ab) until a prominent feast day, allowing for different combinations of deficient, regular and leap years:

feasts

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It is surely not coincidental that from the destruction of the temple to the feasts of Purim and Passover covers a period of 1,335 days – as both feasts celebrate deliverance. Moreover, Hanukkah can be calculated by two different methods delivering a period of either 1,260 or 1,290 days. That the number 1,260 is associated with the dedication of the temple is reflected by the total weight of the vessels brought in Numbers chapter 7 at the dedication of the tabernacle, which is 2,520 shekels (2 x 1,260). The number 1,260 is also associated with measuring (dedicating) the temple in Revelation (11:1-3) and the feast of Purim is also alluded to in Rev. 11:10.

 

Campbell produces the following relevant remark; “A persecutor of the Jews in Russia asked a Jew what he thought the outcome would be if the wave of persecutions continued. The Jew answered, ‘The result will be a feast! Pharaoh tried to destroy the Jews, but the result was the Passover. Haman attempted to destroy the Jews, but the result was the Feast of Purim. Antiochus Epiphanes tried to destroy the Jews, but the result was the Feast of Dedication’.” [3]

 

Conclusion

 

Although the time periods in Daniel reflect the historical reality of the Antiochene crisis they look beyond the particular and assume supra-historical significance – they are not merely temporal markers but symbolic eschatological signifiers of the restoration – permanently commemorated in the Jewish Festal Calendar. The destruction of the temple (on the 9th of Ab) and the precursor to Hanukkah (see Hag. 2:18), Passover, Atonement and possibly Purim were already known to Daniel[4] and therefore it is unnecessary to suppose that the time periods of Daniel originated centuries later during the Antiochene crisis.  This exegesis proposes that the reverse is true, namely, that the time periods of Daniel were already established and generally accepted when the Antiochene crisis erupted. The Maccabees rededicated the temple on    Continued  ˃

 

[3] Donald K.  Campbell, Daniel: Decoder of Dreams,(Wheaton: Scripture Press Publications, Victor Books, 1977),96

[4] This exegesis proposes that Daniel was composed during the reign of Darius the Great, when Daniel was an old man with final redaction in the 2nd century.  

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Hanukkah, a feast that was anticipated by the prophet Haggai, a feast that Daniel used as the terminus for his 1,260 day period.  Daniel focuses on the fast that commemorates the destruction of the temple as a fixed starting point for all his eschatological patterns – all of which terminate in prominent feasts that indicate restoration and deliverance. In some ways it became a self fulfilling prophecy for the Maccabees would naturally understand their resistance to Antiochus as following the predetermined eschatological pattern established by Daniel’s prophecies.  However, the fact that the time periods are based on festal intervals indicates that they have significance beyond any specific historical incident.  Daniel looked for a three-and-a-half-year period of tribulation at the end of time that represented the desecration and restoration of God’s sanctuary.  That sanctuary is not necessarily a literal temple, and the fact that it found a fulfilment in the Antiochene crisis does not exhaust the interpretation.