The book of Daniel contains some of the most fascinating prophecies and visions in all of Scripture. In chapter 10, Daniel receives an extensive vision that gives insight into spiritual warfare and God’s glorious plans for the future. This chapter serves as an introduction and backdrop to the prophecies of chapters 11-12.
In this commentary, we will walk through Daniel 10 verse-by-verse to understand the meaning of this vision and its implications. We will consider how this vision reveals God’s sovereignty over human history and spirit realm. We will also see how it points to the coming Messiah who will ultimately defeat all evil powers.
- Daniel’s vision occurs in the third year of Cyrus, king of Persia around 536 BC
- The vision leaves Daniel mourning and fasting for three weeks
- A heavenly being appears and strengthens Daniel for the vision
- This being was sent on the first day Daniel prayed but opposed by a demonic prince
- The angel Michael helped this being get through to Daniel
- This being gives Daniel insight into spiritual warfare between angels and demons
- He reveals future events including persecution under Antiochus IV
- The vision ultimately points to the triumph of God’s kingdom under the Messiah
Exposition of Daniel 10
Daniel’s Vision and Mourning (10:1-3)
In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a message was revealed to Daniel, whose name was called Belteshazzar. The message was true, but the appointed time was long; and he understood the message, and had understanding of the vision. In those days I, Daniel, was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled. (Daniel 10:1-3 NKJV)
Daniel received this vision during the time when Cyrus was king of Persia, around 536 BC. Cyrus had issued the decree in 538 BC allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem from their exile in Babylon (Ezra 1:1-4). Many Jews returned under Zerubbabel, but Daniel remained in Babylon in his old age, likely in his mid-80s at this point.
The message Daniel received concerned events in the distant future, what he terms “the appointed time was long.” Daniel understood that the vision concerned the end times. The content of the vision so overwhelmed Daniel that he mourned and fasted for three weeks. He refrained from pleasant food, meat, and wine as he contemplated the meaning of this revelation from God.
The Heavenly Messenger (10:4-9)
Now on the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was by the side of the great river, that is, the Tigris, I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, a certain man clothed in linen, whose waist was girded with gold of Uphaz! His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like torches of fire, his arms and feet like burnished bronze in color, and the sound of his words like the voice of a multitude. And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision; but a great terror fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves. Therefore I was left alone when I saw this great vision, and no strength remained in me; for my vigor was turned to frailty in me, and I retained no strength. Yet I heard the sound of his words; and while I heard the sound of his words I was in a deep sleep on my face, with my face to the ground. (Daniel 10:4-9 NKJV)
After three weeks of mourning, Daniel had an encounter with a heavenly being on the banks of the Tigris River. This being had an appearance of splendor and glory: dressed in linen with a golden belt, eyes like flaming torches, arms and legs glowing like polished bronze, and a face radiant like lightning. The sound of his voice was like a multitude.
Daniel alone saw this vision. The men with him did not see the heavenly being but sensed the terror of his presence and fled. Daniel also felt terror and weakness in the presence of this supernatural visitor. The description emphasizes the glorious and overwhelming nature of encountering a heavenly being.
The Angel Strengthens Daniel (10:10-17)
Suddenly, a hand touched me, which made me tremble on my knees and on the palms of my hands. And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you.” While he was speaking this word to me, I stood trembling.
Then he said to me, “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia. Now I have come to make you understand what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision refers to many days yet to come.”
When he had spoken such words to me, I turned my face toward the ground and became speechless. And suddenly, one having the likeness of the sons of men touched my lips; then I opened my mouth and spoke, saying to him who stood before me, “My lord, because of the vision my sorrows have overwhelmed me, and I have retained no strength. For how can this servant of my lord talk with you, my lord? As for me, no strength remains in me now, nor is any breath left in me.” (Daniel 10:10-17 NKJV)
The heavenly being touches Daniel to rouse him and commands him to stand and listen to the message. He informs Daniel that God heard his prayers from the first day and dispatched this messenger in response. However, the “prince of the kingdom of Persia” resisted the messenger for 21 days. The angel Michael came to help so the messenger could reach Daniel.
Evil spirit beings associated with earthly kingdoms try to hinder God’s messengers. But God sends His angels, like Michael, to break through these barriers. This offers a glimpse into unseen spiritual warfare happening in the heavenly realms.
The messenger was sent to reveal to Daniel “what will happen to your people in the latter days.” The vision looks far into Israel’s future. Daniel becomes overwhelmed and speechless. The messenger strengthens him by touching his lips, enabling Daniel to speak again. But Daniel remains weak and dependent on the supernatural strength of the messenger throughout this encounter.
Purpose of the Vision (10:18-21)
Then again, the one having the likeness of a man touched me and strengthened me. And he said, “O man greatly beloved, fear not! Peace be to you; be strong, yes, be strong!”
So when he spoke to me I was strengthened, and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.”
Then he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? And now I must return to fight with the prince of Persia; and when I have gone forth, indeed the prince of Greece will come. But I will tell you what is noted in the Scripture of Truth. (No one upholds me against these, except Michael your prince. (Daniel 10:18-21 NKJV)
Once again, the messenger touches Daniel to strengthen him since he remains weak in his presence. He commands Daniel not to fear but to be strong in the power he has imparted to him. The messenger must return to contend with the “prince of Persia” and warns that the “prince of Greece” is coming next.
This provides insight into the connection between spiritual powers in the heavenlies and earthly kingdoms. Each nation opposing God’s purposes has a corresponding spiritual ruler that the angels must fight against. Only Michael the archangel aids the messenger, showing how outnumbered God’s forces are compared to the hosts of evil spirits.
Yet the messenger will reveal to Daniel truth from the “Scripture of Truth,” meaning the decrees of God recorded in the heavenly books (cf. 7:10). God is sovereign over the nations regardless of their power or corresponding spiritual forces. And His decrees overrule any efforts of demons to thwart His plans.
Detailed Explanation of Future Events (Daniel 11-12)
Daniel 11-12 contains the detailed revelation from the heavenly messenger of future events involving Persia, Greece, Syria, Egypt, and Israel. The detail is so precise that skeptics argue Daniel must have been written after these events. But evangelicals hold that this prophecy came from God, demonstrating His complete foreknowledge and sovereignty over human affairs.
We will summarize the main points of this extensive prophecy:
- Kings of Persia after Cyrus (11:2)
- Alexander the Great conquers Persia (11:3-4)
- Kings of Egypt and Syria war against each other (11:5-20)
- Antiochus IV Epiphanes rises to power (11:21-35)
- Makes war against Egypt (11:25-28)
- Desecrates the temple in Jerusalem (11:31)
- Persecutes the Jews (11:32-35)
- The end times tyrant who exalts himself (11:36-45)
- Resurrection and final judgment (12:1-4)
- Prophecy of 1290 days and 1335 days (12:5-13)
This prophecy traces key events involving Persia, Greece, Egypt, Syria, and Israel from Daniel’s time until the first coming of Christ. Antiochus IV Epiphanes is a foreshadowing of the final antichrist who will exalt himself in the end times. Chapter 12 concludes with prophecies of the resurrection, final judgment, and insights into the timing of end time events.
While this prophecy was no doubt confusing to Daniel, it reassures God’s people that He is sovereign over every earthly power and will ultimately judge evil. God’s kingdom shall prevail, even as dark days may come first.
Applications for Today
Daniel 10-12 has much to teach us about God’s sovereignty, spiritual warfare, persevering through trials, and trusting in God’s ultimate triumph. Here are some key applications:
God hears our prayers – From the first day Daniel prayed and fasted, God dispatched a messenger with an answer. But spiritual forces tried to prevent that answer from getting through. When we pray according to God’s will, He hears us and acts, even if we can’t see the results right away.
Spiritual warfare is real – This world is a battlefield between God’s angels and demonic forces trying to oppose God’s plans. As Christians, we need to be aware of this reality and rely on God’s strength. The angel Michael is a model of courage and faithfulness.
God is sovereign over earthly powers – No government or ruler can thwart God’s decrees. He is in control over history and at work through changing empires and political forces. We can trust Him regardless of circumstances.
Suffering prepares us for glory – Daniel was overwhelmed with grief over the vision of future trials. Yet those trials served a purpose in purifying God’s people. After the night of weeping comes the joy of morning (Psalm 30:5). The pain we endure now cannot compare to the eternal glory that awaits (Romans 8:18).
Courage to stand firm – The trials under Antiochus IV severely tested the faith of God’s people. Many compromised or fell away. Daniel’s vision gave prior warning to remain strong. When we know trials are coming, we can prepare our hearts to stand firm.
Daniel 10-12 reminds us that we live in the intersection of earthly and spiritual realms. We face spiritual enemies but also have access to God’s unlimited power and angelic help. Daniel models how to persevere through times of mourning, fasting, and prayer until God’s purposes are fulfilled. As we meditate on this vision, may we catch a glimpse of the glory of the One who is sovereign over all! The day is coming when He will defeat all evil forever.
Daniel 10 provides a behind-the-scenes look at the unseen spiritual battle happening around us. But it reminds us that God reigns supreme. He dispatches His angels to aid us and nothing can prevent His sovereign will from being accomplished.
This vision was meant to encourage Daniel and all God’s people as we await the culmination of His kingdom plans. Though times of difficulty and persecution come, we can trust the God who ordains the rise and fall of kings. His kingdom shall shatter and consume all others (Daniel 2:44).
As we study this profound vision, may we gain strength to persevere in prayer, trust God in suffering, and stand firm against spiritual forces of evil. And may we catch a glimpse here of the glory of the One whose kingdom shall never end. Maranatha, come Lord Jesus!