Chapter 3 - A Neglected Feature Of Daniel’s Prophecies
The Book of Daniel contains five separate visions
or prophecies. These, on careful examination, are found to have several
characteristics in common. For instance, in the brief explanatory passages they
are all given a “continuous historical” fulfilment. Also, they are
all Messianic—they all find their great climax in the appearance of
Messiah the Prince. Yet another feature, which they have in common, is this
— they all include a long gap or break in the continuity of the
All students of the prophecy have noticed this in
chapter 11. Early in that chapter the vision merges into a long sequence of
literal historical detail.
This impressive sequence of detail continues to
the period of the Maccabees, and then all at once the reader finds himself
transported to the Last Days — “a time of trouble such as never
was”, and the day of resurrection (ch. 12:1, 2—the continuity into
chapter 12 is undeniable).
Somewhere, then, the continuous character of the
revelation breaks off, and at a leap one is taken to the end of the age.
Students of prophecy have been unanimous in their recognition of this fact. Some
put the break at the end of verse 35, most at the end of verse 39; but all are
agreed that the gap is there.
The ram and he-goat vision of chapter 8 is almost
as explicit in making similar requirements. The explanation of the prophecy
begins at verse 19: “I will make thee know what shall be in the last end
of the indignation”. Then for three verses the exposition of the details
proceeds in a “continuous historic” fashion presenting little
Then, “in the latter time of their kingdom
(i.e. of the four Greek kingdoms), a king of fierce countenance shall stand
up”. At first, the student may be inclined to apply this to Rome, which
power certainly destroyed “the holy people” and “the Prince of
princes” himself. But this interpretation is vetoed by the words:
“but he shall be broken without hand” (i.e. by divine power; compare
chapter 2:34). This fact, combined with the clear assurance that “the
vision belongeth to the time of the end” (v. 17 RV), requires that this
“king of fierce countenance” be looked for in the Last
Days—though doubtless Antiochus Epiphancs (vv. 9-12) or the hard power of
Rome provide a vivid prototype.
It would seem then that the true exposition of
verse 25 will equate this ruthless king with the Beast of Revelation 17 who,
with his ten allies, is to make war with the Lamb and suffer destruction at his
hands (Revelation 17:14). But whether this equation be correct or not, the gap
in the prophecy is certainly there.
The same approach is now seen to provide a much
more realistic view of Nebuchadnezzar’s image.
The commonly accepted interpretation has the
following scheme (roughly):
70 years (approx.)
200 “ “
180 “ “
600 “ “
1500 “ “
With the first four items here, there can be no
quarrel. But the fifth is hardly so satisfactory, since in the vision the feet
with their ten toes are to be destroyed by the Stone, the Messiah, whereas
throughout the long period indicated they have been vigorously engaged in
destroying one another.
It is more reasonable, surely, to regard the ten
toes as representing the ten kingdoms in existence at the time of
Messiah’s coming. Once again, as in chapter 8, there is an equation
with the ten kings who give their power and strength unto the Beast (Revelation
17: 14). Read thus, Daniel 2 provides the ten kings and Daniel 8 foretells the
Beast—the two visions are complementary here.
If this alternative interpretation be
accepted—and it is to be noted that it also avoids the anomaly of having
the least important part of the metallic anatomy represent by far the longest
period—then once again the gap in the continuity of the historical
fulfilment is plainly there, between the iron representing Rome and the mixed
iron and clay representing the discrete powers of the time of the
The problem of Daniel 7 is more complex and calls
for more detailed treatment than this chapter will allow. All that can be said
at the moment is that probably the familiar “Papacy” interpretation
of the little horn is at best only a partial or preliminary fulfilment. An
impressive case can be made for the view that the little horn represents a power
which will oppress the Jews (the “saints”, the holy people; Daniel
8:24) in the Last Days immediately before the coming of their Messiah—in
other words, that the little horn and the other ten correspond to the Beast and
ten Kings of Revelation 17:12-14.
If this were so, then once again there appears a
noteworthy gap in the prophetic sequence of Daniel 7 between the fourth kingdom
(Rome) and the sensational developments of the Last Days.
To sum up so far—it may be taken as almost
certain that the prophecies of Daniel 11 and 8 require a gap in the historical
fulfilment, that of Daniel 2 probably has the same feature, whilst Daniel
7, even if it does not require a similar view, at any rate lends itself
readily to the same scheme of interpretation. To put the matter thus is probably
to understate the case.
Students of the Olivet prophecy will already have
recognized that what is being argued for here is the existence in Daniel’s
prophecies of the same gap which exists so markedly in the words of Jesus there:
“and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of
the Gentiles be fulfilled”. This is A.D. 70, and its ghastly consequences.
The next words transport the reader to the day of Christ’s return:
“And there shall be signs in the sun, moon, and stars; and upon the earth
distress of nations with perplexity . . .”. Would any first-century
student of the words of Jesus have even the smallest reason for suspecting the
existence of a 1900-year gap between those two sentences?
Now back to Daniel. An examination of the famous
“Seventy Weeks” prophecy in chapter 9 reveals the possible existence
of the same kind of gap. The precise dating of the fulfilment does not affect
the issue under consideration. The prophecy is explicit that “in the midst
of the (seventieth) seven he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to
cease” (Daniel 9:27). This can only mean that the cutting off of
“Messiah the Prince” was to correspond to a time of 37~ years from
the end of the full period of 490 years.
The question promptly thrusts itself forward:
What is the significance of the remaining 3½ years?
The usual answer that this leads on to the death
of Stephen and the conversion of Paul simply will not do. It is too obviously
make-shift — for the following reasons:
Is it possible, then, that the prophetic gap
already clearly discernible in several other revelations is asserting itself
here also, and that the outstanding 3½ years represent a deferment to the
Last Days when the words of verse 24 just quoted will receive an abundant
literal fulfilment in connection with the people of Israel and “the holy
- This prophecy is about “Messiah the Prince” and
his great work. To have the climax of the prophecy concerned with one of his
disciples is bathos, even though that disciple be Stephen or
- There is absolutely no evidence available
to demonstrate that Stephen died or that Saul was converted precisely 3½
years after the crucifixion. The guesses of the “experts” about the
dating of the events mentioned range from one to ten years after the death of
- The climax of the “seventy weeks” is
to be to “finish transgression (in ‘thy people’ and ‘thy
holy city’), to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity,
and to bring in everlasting righteousness” (Daniel 9:24). Is this language
appropriate to the death of Stephen?
Such a possibility opens up the way to
sensational re-interpretation of a number of Bible prophecies. It is proposed to
explore some of these in later studies.
 Detail so full and complete as to lead
conservative scholars such as C. H. H. Wright and Boutflower to speculate that
here the original prophecy has been replaced by a targum or