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the book called Daniel is one of the inspired books of the Word. Although doubts have been cast upon its Divine origin and authenticity, owing to some difficulties in its literal statements, yet we have sufficient authority for accepting it as a part of Divine Revelation, or the Word of God, not only because it was quoted by the Lord Himself, but from the fact that it is included in the list of books that constitute the Word, as given in the writings of the New Church.
In these writings portions of it are explained according to their spiritual meaning. The book itself is both historical and prophetical. In the work entitled "Arcana Coelestia" (n. 1183), we find the "land of Shinar" mentioned, and we are there told that in that land profane worship prevailed — that is, such worship as was holy in externals but evil in internals. In this passage the second verse of the first Chapter of Daniel is quoted, and the carrying away of the Jews into Babylon is referred to as an historical relation. The fact that they were carried there and held captive has, probably, never been disputed, but the date assigned to this event in connection with the name of the King of Judah, is thought by some commentators to be erroneous.
Although the different events recorded in the book are generally believed to have taken place about 600 B. C., yet the composition of a part, at least, of the book has been ascribed by some writers to a period as late as 176-164, B. C., in the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes. If we had certain evidence that the book was not written by Daniel himself, this would not destroy its spiritual value. All that is contained in the five books of Moses was not written by him, but they were written by some hand; partly by Moses and partly by some one after his death. This fact does not weaken their authority nor destroy their spiritual meaning.
The book called Daniel is not only twofold in character, historical and prophetical, but it is written in two languages, Hebrew and Aramaic. Chapter i. and chapters viii. to xii. are written in Hebrew, and from chapter ii. ver. 4 to the end of chapter vii. is written in Aramaic.,
The book is usually divided according to these differences. But there seems to be no reason for such a division, so far as its spiritual meaning is concerned. It has been suggested that the whole book was originally written in Hebrew and afterwards in Aramaic, but that portions of the original Hebrew were lost, and that these were afterwards supplied from copies in Aramaic.
We do not regard these questions as unimportant, by any means, although a few only, even among Biblical scholars, can arrive at a final conclusion regarding them.
We are obliged to treat the Word as we now possess it, believing that under the Divine Providence it has been preserved and handed down to us.
We should regard the book of Daniel as a whole, knowing that it was written for the sake of its spiritual meaning, and not for the purpose of recording historical events in a connected series. Wherever its statements and allusions seem to conflict with the facts of actual history, we may be sure that these apparent difficulties can be reconciled. Two instances of this kind may be mentioned. When Belshazzar is spoken of, he is called the son of Nebuchadnezzar ; but it seems to have been satisfactorily shown that he was not the son but the grandson of that king.
In the spiritual sense, this apparent inaccuracy does not impair the meaning or change it. A grandson equally with a son denotes some derivative principle, here a false principle derived from evil. Similar instances of this use of the term son, and also of the term brother, may be found in the Word.
Another instance, more difficult to be reconciled, is the statement in regard to the transfer of the Babylonish empire. In chapter v. ver. 31, we read: "And Darius, the Mede, received the kingdom, being about three score and two years old." But in the history of those times gathered from ancient documents, it is related as a positive undoubted fact, that it was Cyrus who acquired the kingdom of Babylon. The only way to reconcile the difference is to suppose that this Darius of the book of Daniel was some prince to whom the power of governing .Babylonia was delegated by Cyrus.
The book of Daniel does not contain a connected history of natural events, but all the historical events mentioned have been recorded for the sake of their spiritual meaning. This maybe said of all the historical parts of the Word, even of the Gospels.
In regard to the prophetic visions of Daniel, it is very plain, in the light of the explanations given in the writings of the New Church, that they can only be interpreted according to the law of correspondence and representation, and that no explanation can be satisfactory which makes reference only to a succession of empires, or to merely natural events.
Even when this book of Daniel is explained with reference to the state of the Christian church, especially of the Roman Catholic and Protestant branches, there is some danger of making the application too literal, making allusion to the outward condition of churches, rather than to principles of Divine truth and their operation, from which the internal quality of the church is made known. By a careful study of the book and of such explanations of it as are given in the writings of the New Church, we may see that principles, true or false, are always treated of, and outward changes or conditions are shown to be illustrations of the operation of these principles in the human mind and therefore in the church.
In studying the Word of the Lord in the light of true doctrine, we should rise above merely external things and endeavor to see its spiritual meaning, not only in relation to churches and dispensations, which is called the historical-spiritual sense, but in reference to individual states of life and especially to our own life.
What, then, is the spirit and purpose of this revelation, contained in the book of Daniel? What are the particulars contained in the spiritual sense of it ? To know these things we must first have some idea of the general subjects treated of. There are three general subjects treated of in the whole book. These are "the Consummation, or last time of the Church," "the Coming of the Lord," and "the New Church," signified in the Apocalypse by the New Jerusalem. "Wherever Daniel is mentioned by name in the Sacred Scriptures, he represents whatever is prophetic concerning the Coming of the Lord—and the state of the church at the last times." (AC 3652.)
The captivity of the Jews in Babylon represents a state of the church and of the human mind in which man has fallen under the influence of the infernal love of dominion, the love of ruling over others originating in the love of self. Babylon always denotes that evil love, and to be in Babylon is to be under its influence.
So many allusions to Babylon and direct statements regarding it are found in the Sacred Scriptures, especially in the prophecy of Isaiah and in the book of Revelation, that no doubt can be entertained that this is its spiritual meaning. Indeed, from the first mention of Babylon in Genesis to the declarations in the Apocalypse with regard to "Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth," its representation is uniform. This has long been recognized by writers on the meaning of Scripture symbols. But only in the writings of the New Church do we find an explanation of the particulars involved or expressed, especially with reference to the different ages or dispensations. The Jewish Church finally came under the influence of this evil love to such a degree that it was brought to an end. This is denoted by the captivity of Israel and Judah.
This love of dominion existed with the priests and kings of that church long before its end. Its final consummation was represented by the taking of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, and the carrying of a number of its inhabitants into captivity, just as an individual loses power over himself and all freedom of action when he allows himself to be governed by this evil love, or is carried away by it, even for a time.
At the end of every church or dispensation, however, there are remains of good out of which a new church can be formed. The old must be utterly vastated or consummated before anything new can spring up. Indeed there must be a judgement upon the old. The evil love of ruling over others is allowed to extend itself to the utmost limit, that is, as far as it can go, until it is consummated by its own fury; then it is overthrown and a new life springs up. In all the past history of the human race there has been this extremity of evil, the growth of the lust of dominion, which continues until it produces insanity and destroys itself. This is plainly shown in what is said of Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar. But the remains of good (the "small remnant") although they may be obscured for a time, and become apparently lifeless, are continually sustained and kept alive by the Lord.
These remains are represented by Daniel and his companions who are spoken of as certain of the children of Israel who are of the "King's seed." To be of the King's seed is to be in truths from the Lord.
The position and conduct of Daniel in Babylon is somewhat like that of Joseph in Egypt. In the highest sense, both of them represent the Lord.
The parallel between Daniel and the Lord may be seen somewhat from the life of the Lord as given in the Gospel. Regarding Daniel as representing the Lord as Divine Truth, we see that this truth has, at first, little or no power. It is apparently completely subject to the love of dominion exercised both spiritually and naturally, in Church and State. Nebuchadnezzar represents the love of dominion on the natural plane of life. There was no true church remaining in Babylonia; but the spiritual power was represented by the magicians, soothsayers, and astrologers.
The similarity of the book of Daniel to the book of Revelation called the Apocalypse, has been frequently alluded to. The visions of Daniel and John are of a similar character. The book of Daniel is apocalyptic. It is full of wonderful imagery, which clearly points to a future state of the church. Swedenborg says, in explanation of the Apocalypse, that "it does not treat of successive states of the church, still less of the successive states of kingdoms, as some have hitherto believed; but therein, from beginning to end, the last state of the church in the heavens and upon the earth, and then the Last Judgement, and after this a New Church which is the New Jerusalem." (AR 2.)
The same statement may be made with reference to the book of Daniel. It is a book of the last times, showing the cause of the decline of every church and the loss of spiritual life in the individual man. Babylon, in the Apocalypse, is the Roman Catholic religion; in the book of Daniel it is the love of dominion, not only in the Roman Catholic Church, but in all churches from the beginning of the decline of the Most Ancient Church to the end of the First Christian Church. The second part of the three-fold subject, namely, the Coming of the Lord, is vividly portrayed in Daniel's own visions of the Lord as narrated in the seventh and tenth chapters.
In these chapters the prophetic character of the book, as relating to the Lord's Coming, is more plainly seen. To these visions we find much reference in the writings of the New Church.
This book has been little understood either in the Jewish Church or in the Christian Church. It could not be understood without a revelation of its spiritual meaning. Swedenborg has not given a connected relation of this spiritual meaning as he has of the Apocalypse. We must, therefore, make use of the explanations given of some portions of it, and rely upon a knowledge of the general law of interpretation to explain the rest.
In regard to the Apocryphal additions to the book of Daniel found in the Septuagint version, which are comprised under four books called: "The Prayer of Azarias," "The Song of the Three Children," "The History of Susanna," and "The Narrative of Bel and the Dragon," but little needs to be said. They are generally acknowledged to form no part of the original, but to have been constructed from it with fabulous and fanciful additions. Jerome, who translated them with the canonical parts of the book of Daniel from the Greek of Theodotion, declared that Daniel as received by the Hebrews contained neither of the last three named, and he probably included the "Prayer of Azarias."
it is not well to dwell too much upon the personal character of the prophets. They simply represent the Lord as the great Prophet and Teacher. As representative men their private or personal character is not to be reflected upon, except so far as it serves to explain and illustrate the manifestation of the truth through them. In fact, we know but little about them — that is, nothing reliable beyond what is found in the letter of the Scriptures.
Daniel is not to be excepted from this rule of interpretation, although more is said of his personal life and experiences than of the other prophets. In the book called by his name, especially in its historical statements, the experiences of himself and other Hebrew young men who were with him in Babylon are narrated.
The additions to these statements, found in the Apocryphal books, are not worthy of credence. While, then, we must respect the principle of interpretation, above stated, we must recognize the fact that the natural life of such representative characters, their education, and, in some cases, their previous calling fitted and prepared them for their spiritual mission.
We know nothing definite of Daniel's parentage, but we have reason to believe that he sprang from a royal family, for Nebuchadnezzar, the king, commanded Ash-penaz, the master of the eunuchs, to carry with him to Babylon, of the children of Israel, some who were "of the seed royal" and of the "nobles," "youths in whom there was no blemish, but well favored and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge and understanding science, and such as had ability to stand in the king's palace, and that he should teach them the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans." (Chap. 1:3, 4.)
Josephus says that Daniel was the son of Zedekiah, the last King of Judah, whose name was changed from Mattaniah by Nebuchadnezzar, when he made him king instead of Jehoiachin. (See 2 kings 24:17.) It is supposed by some that Daniel and his three companions were made eunuchs in the palace of the king, as Isaiah prophesied to King Hezekiah. (See 2 kings 20:18; Is. 39:7.) Of this, however, some doubt may be entertained. The Hebrew word saris has been translated, in some passages, chamberlain — an office which did not at a later day necessarily require a eunuch. The words of the prophecy would, however, if interpreted literally, sustain the supposition.
Daniel must have been prepared for his future office as a prophet of the Lord, first by his education and training in Jerusalem before he was carried into Babylon.
Nebuchadnezzar seems to have desired to make use of the knowledge possessed by the Jews for the glory of his kingdom, and to add to it the science and learning of the magicians, astrologers, and soothsayers of Chaldea, one of the former seats of the Ancient Church. In this way Daniel was prepared for receiving Divine truths and for becoming a chosen instrument for revealing hidden things by means of which the state of the church could be judged and known.
He did not understand the meaning of the revelations given to him in their relation to the internal or spiritual state of the church, but he could judge of the state of the world around him, and the worship of the Babylonians which was opposite to the worship of Jehovah. He set his face towards Jerusalem and prayed to the God of Israel, and not to the gods of the nations around him. The state of things around him in Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom was typical of the state of the church when the love of dominion, springing from the love of self, prevails over love to the Lord. At the same time he was enabled to describe the things shown to him in vision, which were antetypes of natural things and thus represented and signified the state of the church on earth. His very name has reference to the Divine judgement, for Daniel means, "God is Judge."
In his prophetic character, he not only represents what all the prophets do — that is, the truth itself which reveals and foretells the future state of the church— but in a special and peculiar manner he represents the Lord as a revealer of Divine truths by which human souls are liberated from the bondage of evil. Daniel was a light in a dark place, as Joseph was in Egypt. His life and experiences resemble those of Joseph in many ways. Carried into captivity, he learned submission in order that he might command. Amid luxury and vice he abstained from them, and was thus, like John the Baptist, a Nazarite — or one set apart and consecrated, by a vow, to stand before the Lord as well as before an earthly king in a pure and holy life. There is something sublime in his self-denial and renunciation of evil, which marks him in a peculiar manner as a representative of the Divine prophet, who was wiser than the sons of men, and "purer than snow and whiter than milk."
In the explanations given in the writings of the New Church of that portion of the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew in which the prophecy of Daniel is alluded to, we read that "Daniel represents, when mentioned by name, whatever is prophetic concerning the coming of the Lord, and (in that chapter of Matthew especially) the state of the church at the last times." (AC 3652.) Again, it is there stated that the expression, "spoken of by Daniel the prophet, signifies in the internal sense, by the prophets; for where any prophet is mentioned by name in the Word, it does not mean that prophet, but the prophetic Word itself, because names in no case penetrate into heaven; nevertheless each prophet has a distinct signification." These teachings indicate that Daniel represents the Lord, especially as He manifests Himself at the end of the church, and in His coming to judgement, not only in His first coming, but in every appearing of the Son of Man when the darkness and desolation of the night are passing away, and the dawn is breaking.
"It is well to note here that Swedenborg, in the printing of the work called "True Christian Religion," placed immediately after the title page, two passages from the Word to indicate the character of that work. The first of these passages is from the book of Daniel (chap. 7:13, 14), which contains Daniel's vision of the Son of Man with the clouds of heaven; the second is from the book of the Revelation of John where the New Heaven and the New Earth and the New Jerusalem are spoken of. This not only shows that the prophecy of Daniel treats of the Lord's coming, but it also connects it directly with the descent of the New Jerusalem. Thus Swedenborg indicated plainly what modern commentators have partially seen — the resemblance between Daniel's visions and those of John the Revelator. They are similar, not only because they treat of the same subjects, but because their vision was of a similar nature. The subjects principally treated of, in both of these books, is the "Consummation of the Age, or the Last Time of the Church," the "Coming of the Lord," and the "New Heaven and the New Church." This is explained in chapter xiv. of the "True Christian Religion," in which passages from these two prophetical books of the Word are extensively quoted.
What was the character of the visions of Daniel and John is fully explained in n. 157 of the "True Christian Religion." There we read:
Since by the spirit of man is meant his mind, therefore by "being in the spirit," which is sometimes said in the Word, is meant a state of the mind separate from the body; and because in that state the prophets saw such things as exist in the spiritual world, therefore that is called the vision of God. Their state, then, was such as that of spirits themselves and angels in that world. In that state the spirit of man like his mind, as to sight, may be transported from place to place, the body remaining in its own. This is the state in which T have now been for twenty-six years, with this difference, that I have been in the spirit and at the same time in the body, and only sometimes out of the body. That Ezekiel, Zechariah, Daniel, and John when he wrote the Revelation, were in that state is evident from the following passages.
Quotations are then given from these prophets and from John.
There can be no doubt that Daniel before he was carried into captivity had been educated in the law of Moses and in a knowledge of Jehovah. He obeyed and worshiped the God of Israel when he was in Babylon, rather than the false gods around him. He had strength to resist the seductive influences of the royal court of Babylon, because of his previous education and training at Jerusalem. He was in the king's house, but did not eat of the king's meat. Thus must every child of God who would become gifted with a knowledge of heavenly and Divine things, be prepared by abstinence from the indulgence of selfish and worldly loves for spiritual illumination. But Daniel was not only prepared by his education in Jerusalem, but by instruction in the knowledge of ancient things, or in the learning of the Chaldeans, in the palace of the king and by his direction. Thus he was like Moses, who was "learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians." (Acts 7:22.) We may believe that he received from the Magi, or wise men of that country, a knowledge of natural science, so far as it was known at that clay, and especially of the correspondence of earthly things with heavenly. He was thus prepared for his holy office, for the opening of his spiritual sight, and for his actual intromission into the spiritual world. In the passage already quoted from the "True Christian Religion" (n. 157), the nature of his vision is plainly taught. It was not simply a mental state due to natural causes, but an actual opening of his spiritual senses so that he was present with angels and spirits in the spiritual world.
It may be thought from its being said that an angel spoke to him, and especially that Michael helped him and Gabriel spoke to him (chap. 8:16; 9:21; 10:13), that he was instructed as to the spiritual meaning of his visions by an individual angel. But we are informed in the work concerning "Heaven and its Wonders and concerning Hell," that Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael are only angelic societies which are so named from their functions. (No. 52.)
Are we not to understand therefore, that while Daniel, Ezekiel, Zechariah, and others had visions of angels, one or more appearing to them, that they were brought into actual communication with one or more heavenly societies, so that they received by influx some knowledge from these societies in regard to the Lord and His love and what He was about to do for human redemption, the individual angels serving only as representatives or messengers. The prophets were not instructed as to the spiritual meaning of these heavenly communications. Each heavenly society has its own peculiar function. The function of the society denoted in the Word by Gabriel must have reference to the Lord's coming to judgement. It was Gabriel who announced the Lord's birth to the Virgin Mary. This view may be fully confirmed by reference to the work entitled "The Apocalypse Revealed" (n. 548), where we are taught that by Michael is meant the ministry of those who prove from the Word that the Lord is the God of heaven and earth, and that God the Father and He are one, as the soul and body are one, also that man must live according to the precepts of the Decalogue, and that he then has charity and faith; and that "by Gabriel is meant the ministry of those who teach from the Word that Jehovah came into the world, and that the human which He there begat is the Son of God and Divine."
From these things adduced from the writings of Swedenborg, the Servant of the Lord, in making known His Second Coming, something may be understood of the prophetic character of Daniel.
the References at the close of each Chapter of the Book of Daniel are to different works of Swedenborg in which the Chapters and Verses cited are either simply quoted by way of illustration or explained as to their spiritual meaning. As the following commentaries are based upon the teachings of Swedenborg, the References will be found of great value.
As the initials only of the English titles of the works referred to are used, a Table is here added of the Titles, somewhat abbreviated.
Exceptions are the Latin titles "Dicta Probantia" (Dict. P.), the "Coronis," and the "Adversaria" (Adver.).
All the references have been taken from the Index of Le Boys Des Guays.
AC Arcana Coelestia. AE Apocalypse Explained. AR Apocalypse Revealed. TCR True Christian Religion. HH Heaven and Hell. L. J. Last Judgement. C. L. J. Continuation of the Last Judgement. D. L. & W. Divine Love and Wisdom. D. P. Divine Providence. D. Lord. Doctrine concerning the Lord. D. S. S. Doctrine concerning the Sacred Scripture. D. F. Doctrine of Faith. D. L. Doctrine of Life. C. L. Conjugial Love. B. E. Brief Exposition of the Doctrine of the New Church. P. P. Internal sense of the Prophets and Psalms.