Avraham ben Yaakov
KNOW YOUR BIBLE
DANIEL CHAPTER 10
The vision in our present chapter is dated to the third year of Koresh (Cyrus) king of Persia (v 1). Cyrus was given the kingship by his father-in-law Darius the Mede in the year 3390 (-370 B.C.E.) and ruled for only three years. Initially he permitted the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, but soon afterwards the work was suspended owing to the denunciations against the Jews by their enemies, as we will read in detail in the book of Ezra, which we shall God willing be studying after Daniel.
Rashi (on verse 2) explains that Daniel's period of mourning and abstention lasted for THREE SABBATICAL CYCLES, i.e. 21 years, from the time Darius the Mede conquered Babylon (which was when Daniel tried to calculate when the restoration would take place, see ch 9 v 2) until the second year of the reign of Darius the Persian, the son of Esther, under whom the Second Temple was completed.
To abstain from fine bread, meat, wine and anointment for all this time in mourning over the desolation of Jerusalem was an extraordinary feat, and in the merit of his undertaking to do so Daniel was granted the extraordinary vision of the end of time in this and the ensuing chapters. Just as his vision in ch 8 v 2 was by the River OOLOI, so the present vision was at the River Tigris, and similarly Ezekiel's vision of the Chariot was at the River Kvar - these are spiritual rivers flowing with the light of divine revelation.
Daniel now saw "the man dressed in linen", whom he describes in truly spectacular terms (vv 5-6). Only Daniel saw this apparition, but "the men who were with me did not see the vision, but great trembling fell upon them" (v 7). According to our sages, Daniel's companions were the prophets Haggai, Zecharia and Malachi (Megillah 3a; Rashi on v 7). Prophets had their own methods of rising to the level where they were worthy to have the voice of God speak through them (see Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, "Meditation & the Bible"), but even these prophets were unable to see what Daniel, the righteous sage, now saw.
Ibn Ezra on v 5 points out that Daniel's ability to stand in the face of the revelation of an angel exceeded that of Gideon and Samson's parents, Manoah and his wife (Judges 6:22-3 and 13:22). This indicates that YERIDAS HADOROS (the spiritual decline that occurs from generation to generation) is not necessarily irreversible by Tzaddikim on the highest of levels. Similarly, in recent generations Rabbi Nachman mentioned his having received visits from the guardian angels of nations like Greece (= Russia ?) and France (see Tzaddik -- Chayey Moharan -- #489).
The "man dressed in linen" whom Daniel saw had also been seen by the prophet Ezekiel prior to the destruction of the First Temple (Ezekiel 9:2; 10:11). The sages identified him with the angel Gabriel (see Yoma 77a) as does Rashi (on ch 11 v 1). Eichah Rabbasi states that the "man dressed in linen" serves three functions: (1) Executioner of HARUGEY MALCHUS, those to be killed on the decree of the King; (2) High Priest - for he wears linen, like the High Priest on Yom Kippur; (3) Heavenly scribe.
As the "man dressed in linen" tells Daniel (v 12), it was in the merit of his having undertaken to fast on behalf of Israel and Jerusalem that his prayers were heard and Gabriel was turned into the defender of Israel.
The "man dressed in linen" opens a chink in the heavy veil that covers over the proceedings before the Heavenly Court , where the guardian angels of the various nations advance their pleas and counter-pleas. The "man dressed in linen" tells Daniel that "the guardian angel of Persia has been standing against me for 21 days [of heavenly time]" (v 13). Rashi explains (ad loc.): "He has been fighting with me in heaven asking for an extension for the empire of Persia in order to keep Israel subject". The "man dressed in linen" has been resisting this, and has now come to enable to Daniel to understand what will happen to his people "in the end of days" (v 14). This vision of the future, which begins in the next chapter, covers the entire period of the Second Temple including its destruction and thereafter up until the final redemption.
"As for me, in the first year of Darius the Mede, I stood up to confirm and strengthen HIM" (v 1). It is the "man dressed in linen", the angel Gabriel, who is speaking in this entire chapter, and as explained by Rashi (ad loc.) he stood up to strengthen the angel Michael - Israel's guardian angel - against the pleas by the guardian angel of Persia before the Heavenly Court to intensify Israel's burden of exile.
"And now I will tell you the truth" (v 2): this is the beginning of a very long, involved and detailed prophecy which according to Ibn Ezra (on v 3) covers the entire history of the world from the time of Daniel until the destruction of the Second Temple (vv 5-31) and from then on until the final redemption (vv 32-40).
Verse 2 speaks about the empire of Persia . The "fourth king" mentioned here is Darius the Persian, son of Ahashverosh and Esther, who mobilized his entire empire to fight against Greece and was defeated.
Verse 3 refers to Alexander of Macedon, and verse 4 speaks of how his empire spit into four kingdoms.
From that time on the two dominant players on the world scene were the kings of the south and the north. Metzudas David on v 5 identifies the king of the south with Egypt and the king of the north with Greece/Rome. Students of world history may see certain parallels between the back-and-forth conflicts between these two as foretold in this chapter and world conflicts in more recent times. In some respects the wars between the colonialist empires and their subject nations (the " Third World ") and between the West vs. Islam are conflicts between the kings of the north and the south!
Caught somewhere in the middle of the conflicts described in this chapter are Israel , who by the time of the Second Temple period were split into the righteous faithful and the wicked sinners. Rashi and R. Saadia Gaon both interpret v 14 as a reference to the way the "renegades of your people" - the sinners - repeatedly conspired and intrigued with Rome and Egypt, trying to play off the one against the other. The phrase BNAY PORITZAY AMECHA ("renegades of your people") is often cited as an allusion to THAT MAN (Yimach SHemo OOzichro).
Verse 20 is explained by Rashi as an allusion to the Hasmoneans (the heroes of Chanukah), who overthrew the Greek oppressors. Thereafter, however, the Hasmonean king Hyrkanus conspired with Rome to overthrow his brother Aristobulus, which led to the downfall of the Hasmonean dynasty and ever-increasing intervention by Rome until eventually they became the occupying power and destroyed the Temple. Rome is specifically alluded to in v 21 (see Rashi and Metzudas David).
Verse 31 alludes to the destruction of the Second Temple . Verse 32 speaks of the collaboration between the Jewish renegades and the Romans while the righteous Jews continued in the path of the Torah. Despite the efforts of the latter to teach the people God's ways, verse 33 speaks about their terrible suffering in the tribulations of the long exile after the destruction of the Temple .
Verses 36ff allude to the spectacular successes of Rome and the kings who inherited her mantle, whose policy was to show outward respect to the religious traditions of the people they governed in order to keep control of them (see Rashi on v 39).
The closing verses of the chapter allude to the bitter wars prior to the final redemption of Israel , may it come speedily in our times!
BACK TO KNOW YOUR BIBLE HOMEPAGE
By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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