Daniel 10 – Return from Exile
In verse 1 of this chapter we read that Daniel received this revelation from God in the third year of Cyrus, king of Persia. That was the year 536 BC and about two years after the first return of the Jewish exiles to Palestine. It was two years after Daniel’s prayer in chapter 9. In that time the Jews, or rather, part of the Jews, returned to Canaan and started building the temple.
In the beginning of the Jews’ return, things went well and there was happiness and joy. But then they were met with resistance from the local people, the Samaritans. Those locals tried to hold the Jews back from building the temple. We can read about that in Ezra and Nehemiah. The Jews became discouraged and gave up the work. They started building their own houses, but not the house of God, the temple. The situation in Israel became worse, also economically, because God did not bless them anymore.
Daniel heard this, and it made him very concerned. He even mourned for three weeks. He did not eat any choice food, meat or wine. He lived on “bread and water”, and he spent his time in prayer somewhere outside the city of Babylon, at the Tigris River. Daniel did not want to be in Babylon because the first month of the year was a time of feasting, also for the Jews, since they celebrated the Passover. But during that time, Daniel did not want to celebrate the Passover together with his fellow people.
Daniel remembered that the Passover celebrated God’s work of deliverance, bringing Israel out of Egypt. Daniel also remembered the return of the people from their Babylonian exile, and the part of the people that was living now in Canaan, in Jerusalem. But he realized that this was by far not the glory and prosperity which the Jews expected when they returned from exile.
It was a great day when Israel returned to Canaan, even for Daniel, although he stayed in Babylon. He was either too old to travel all the way back to Jerusalem, or he was not allowed to go because of his task under the king in the government of the country. But now, after a few years, while remembering the wondrous acts of God while delivering his people from Egypt and the deeds of God bringing his people back from exile, he now realized that things were not going in the right direction in Jerusalem. The whole situation was sad and without hope. Thinking about that, he was wondering what God's plans were with his people. God brought them back. Why then did he not help them anymore?
Israel is still God's people and he gave them his promises, promises which Daniel believes. He gave them a promise of the coming of the Messiah. But how is that possible, if things do not change? How can Israel worship God if they don't build the temple? How can the Messiah come if Israel is not prepared to receive him? A lot of questions went through his mind and he prayed to God, laid all his concerns before God and asked God to give him understanding. Daniel called on God to fulfil his promises.
It took Daniel three weeks of praying. That is a long time. Have you ever prayed three weeks every day again, totally concentrated on your prayer, time and again repeating the same questions, asking and reminding God of his own promises? Daniel did not give up. He prayed and he kept praying, humbling himself before God until God gave him the understanding which he asked for.
We must really focus on what is said here in verse 12. Daniel set his mind to gain understanding. He did not ask, or demand, that God fulfil his promises. No, Daniel asked to understand why God did all this and why he waited so long to act in this terrible situation. He trusted that God would certainly fulfil all his promises as he did in the past. He did not ask God to change the whole situation, but he wanted to understand it so that he can accept it, and also praise God for the way in which he works.
God sends his angel to Daniel
After three weeks, God heard his prayer. No, actually, we must say that God heard his prayer immediately, at the very moment that Daniel started praying. It took three weeks for the message to reach Daniel. God sent his messenger, an angel. This angel appears to Daniel after three weeks, at the bank of the great river, Tigris. The angel first explains to Daniel that he was sent by God, but he could not reach him before the end of the third week. He tells Daniel that the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted him twenty one days.
The prince of the Persian kingdom was powerful and able to resist this angel, who is described as very powerful. His face is like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude. His whole appearance expresses power and strength. Yet the prince of the Persian kingdom was able to resist this powerful angel for twenty-one days. It was with the help of the archangel Michael that this angel was able to defeat the prince. (The next section of this outline will give further explanation of the spiritual battle that is going on behind the scenes.)
Only after defeating the prince of Persia could the angel come to Daniel to bring him God’s answer to his prayer. Apparently, the angel first had to go to the court of Persia to fight the prince of Persia before he could tell Daniel that his prayer was answered. We know (from Ezra 4) that the enemies of the Jews in Jerusalem sent letters to the king of Persia to have the king stop the building of the temple by the Jews. Maybe the task of the angel at the Persian court had something to do with that. We don't know, but it is possible.
After three weeks, the angel came to Daniel and tells him that his prayer was heard by God. Although Daniel did not know it yet, God was already working to answer his prayer. The angel was sent to fulfil his task. This is an encouragement to Daniel, and to all those who believe and trust in God. God hears our prayers, and he is working to fulfil all his promises, even though we do not always see it. But we must trust that he does work and that he is faithful.
Of course, God is powerful and if he wants, he can do it all at once. He does not need time for that. He is so powerful that only one word is sufficient to remove and destroy his enemies. Why then does he take the time for it? Why does he allow the enemy to resist his angel for three weeks?
God has a purpose with this delay. Maybe it was so that he could punish the enemy for resisting God, just like he did with Pharaoh in Egypt. We do not know. The only thing that we must know and must always remember is that the way God does it is good. It is all to the glory of his name and if it is necessary to wait three weeks, or even longer, for us to see the answer to our prayers, then we will accept it, and praise God for it, just as Daniel did. Daniel knew that God would hear his prayer in one way or another. Daniel kept praying until he got the answer to his prayer. Daniel’s prayer, together with the way in which God worked, is all to the honour of God's Name.
We don’t have the right to demand that God hear and answer our prayer immediately. We can pray, because our Lord Jesus Christ makes it possible for us to pray. He is our High Priest and as High Priest he sacrificed himself, to reconcile us with God. Now as our High Priest, he continually intercedes for us before the Father. It is in him and through him that our prayers come before God and that God listens to our prayers and answers our prayers. In him we receive the fulfilment of all God’s promises and the answers to all our prayers. In him we now have the promise of the forgiveness of sins and new life. We may also look forward to the complete fulfilment of all his promises.
In the meantime God tells us to pray. We are not to pray that God will answer us sooner rather than later, but we are to pray that God will give us understanding and acceptance. We pray that we will see, also in the modern history and in everything that happens now, that God is working towards the end, towards the coming of his Kingdom. God tells us to trust in him.
Angels and demons, the spiritual battle
God sent his angel to Daniel, to convey to him the message of God. This chapter gives us a good insight into what angels do. When the Bible tells us about the angels, then we read that they are created to serve God as his messengers and that they are sent by God to serve the elect.
We read in our text for instance about Michael. He is an archangel. That means a primary, or chief, angel. He therefore is called one of the chief princes (v. 13), “Michael, your prince” (v. 21) and “Michael the great prince who has charge of your people.” (Daniel 12:1). In Revelation 12:7 we read again about Michael, who together with his angels, fought against the dragon and defeated him after the ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. The dragon, Satan, who could come in heaven to accuse God's elect, the believers, was hurled down by Michael and his angels so that he could not accuse God's people anymore. Michael is the prince of Israel, and prince of the people of God, in the Old Testament, but also in the New Testament. He is the protector sent by God to protect the elect.
On the other hand, we read in our text about the prince of the Persian Kingdom. This is not the same as the king of Persia because in the book of Daniel, the king of Persia is called by name, or “the king of Persia”. Besides that, a human being is not able to hold back an angel. The word 'prince' is used here in this text in the same way as the Lord Jesus used it for Satan, when he calls Satan the prince (or “ruler”, ESV) of this world, in John 12:31 and 16:11. In Daniel 10, the prince of Persia resisted the angel who was sent to Daniel. He is a powerful demon, a fallen angel. The prince of Persia is an angel who sides with Satan, one of the leaders of the demons.
Satan sends his demons out all over the world. He assigns his more powerful demons as princes over whole peoples, to try to seduce these peoples and set them up against the people of God. Over against him we see the archangel Michael, who is sent by God to protect and defend the people of God.
The apostle Paul tells the church in Ephesians 6:12 that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Satan uses the rulers and authorities and influences them by his arch-demons to tempt and seduce entire peoples. He makes use of all kinds of philosophies to change the way of thinking of whole peoples into a direction that is pleasing to him. His goal is to discredit the Word of God and stigmatize the believers.
But God’s people don't have to fight this war on their own! Jesus Christ is King, and as King he protects and defends his people. He obtained salvation for his people. He obtained the victory and now he leads his people in the battle. He sends his angels, who will protect and defend his people, against Satan and his demons. The archangel Michael is still now the archangel, whose task it is to protect the people of God. He and his angels can also influence the minds of the peoples and resist the power of Satan, if God tells them to do so.
The answer Daniel receives
After the angel fulfils his task at the court of the Persian king, the angel comes to Daniel. Now he may explain to Daniel what will happen to the Jews, the people of God, in the future. This explanation happens in the way of a vision, recorded in chapters 11 and 12. From those chapters it becomes clear that the spiritual battle will continue.
The angel sent to Daniel needed to do his work in the Persian court so that the Persian king would not make any decision that would hurt the people of God. With the help of Michael, the angel succeeded after three weeks. But this was not the end of the battle. The battle will continue and Satan will continue to attack the people of God. God will continue to send Michael and his angels, to protect the people of God. He will continue working to fulfil his promises.
There will continue to be battles; many battles. From time to time it will be difficult for the people of God, but at the end, as we read in Daniel 12:1, Michael, the great prince who protects God's people, will arise. Then the people of God will be delivered, along with everyone whose name is found written in the book. Many who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, other to shame and everlasting contempt.
- In our time, we are not allowed to speak about an absolute Truth anymore. Everyone has his own truth, and everyone experiences God in his own way. Everyone has his own opinions, his own feelings, and should have the freedom to believe what he thinks is the truth. In this situation, how can we witness to someone?
- The idea that everyone has his own truth and that we must be accepting of everyone also infiltrates the church. Where can you see this influence of Satan in the church and in your own life?
- It is important for us to recognize the war that is going on between the forces of evil, and the angels of God. If we don't recognize this, we will fail to act at the right moment and in the right way. How do we see in our own country, on the one hand, that Satan is working to influence this society, and on the other hand, how God is sending his angels, to hinder the work of Satan and protect his church?
- When it comes to the battle with the forces of evil, what is our responsibility (think specifically of politics)? From where, and how, will we get our strength?
- What does Daniel’s prayer teach us about our own prayer, especially with regard to the words ‘constantly and with heartfelt longing’ (Lord’s Day 45, Q&A 116)?