9-10 “I heard his voice. At the sound of it I fainted, fell flat on the ground, face in the dirt. A hand touched me and pulled me to my hands and knees. 11 “‘Daniel,’ he said, ‘man of quality, listen carefully to my message. And get up on your feet. Stand at attention. I’ve been sent to bring you news.’ “When he had said this, I stood up, but I was still shaking.
In Daniel 10: 9-12 we pick up the visionary experience while Daniel is on the shores of the Tigris River. He sees a figure dressed in a linen ephod, with a belt of solid gold. The figure’s image is otherworldly—with a body like stone and bronze, eyes like fire, and a voice that sounds like countless voices. Although Daniel singularly witnesses this figure, something about this moment is indeed dreadful, and his companions flee in fear. Like the prophet Isaiah, Daniel is arrested by sheer magnitude of this moment. Now alone, and emotionally and physically overwhelmed by this ominous moment, upon hearing the sound of this figure’s voice, Daniel immediately faints, falling flat on his face. Then, a hand reaches out and pulls Daniel up onto his hands and knees. There are a number of observations that we can glean from Daniel’s experience in these verses:
(1) Daniel is beloved by God for his special relationship with God. The first thing that the messenger (whom we assume is Gabriel) says to Daniel is “man of quality” in the Message, or ish-hamudot “greatly beloved” in the original Hebrew. This reveals God’s special care for Daniel, likely because of his Daniel’s faithfulness under the threat of persecution and death while serving in the Babylonian court. These words serve as comfort to Daniel, who is clearly frightened out of his mind because of this angelic visitation. Further, the words are a confirmation that Daniel’s spiritual posture has been noted by God. This reminds contemporary believers that God takes not of our efforts to remain faithful in the face of difficult circumstances.
(2) This experience is singularly for Daniel. Gabriel says he was sent specifically to Daniel to bring him good news—not to his friends—but to Daniel. Perhaps this is why the companions abandoned Daniel during this frightening experience. They didn’t have the spiritual fortitude to handle the “word” of the Lord. Because Daniel’s faithfulness was noticed by God, then God rewards Daniel with a special word from on high. It is doubtful that Daniel would have received this word if he had not been engaged in systematic prayer, fasting and whole life stewardship consumed by seeking God’s presence and guidance in all aspects of his life.
(3) Daniel’s fear is appropriate given the heavenly status of this messenger. Scripture recounts numerous stories of Divine envoys that are angelic hosts prepared for warfare and destruction. Daniel likely was familiar with these stories, which is why he remained fearful even after Gabriel stands him up on his feet. However, Gabriel comes not to war with Daniel, but to announce victory for Israel because they have one who will fight for them in the future—Michael the Arch-Angel.
12-14 “‘Relax, Daniel,’ he continued, ‘don’t be afraid. From the moment you decided to humble yourself to receive understanding, your prayer was heard, and I set out to come to you. But I was waylaid by the angel-prince of the kingdom of Persia and was delayed for a good three weeks. But then Michael, one of the chief angel-princes, intervened to help me. I left him there with the prince of the kingdom of Persia. And now I’m here to help you understand what will eventually happen to your people. The vision has to do with what’s ahead.’ in us!’
In these verses, although Daniel is still fearful, the Gabriel reassures him that he should not be afraid. Because of Daniel’s humble spiritual posture, and his desire to seek Divine wisdom and understanding, God hears his prayer, and immediately dispatches a heavenly messenger to calm his fears, reveal understanding for this present age, wisdom to know what to do once the vision is received. Daniel is receiving this vision so that he and the Israelite people will know what to do when worldly events begin to unfold. Divine vision is bequeathed for the purpose of preparation and action.
Further, the Gabriel’s command to “fear not” functions as a call to arms in spiritual warfare. When Gabriel says he was delayed by the angel-prince of the kingdom of Persia, this reveals the ancient apocalyptic thought that nations had spiritual counterparts that fought for them within the spiritual realm. There were heavenly counterparts that functioned as patron warriors for each earthly empire. Therefore, earthly conflicts had celestial implications and vice versa. The physical conflicts occurring on earth were also being played out in heaven as spiritual warfare. Further, Gabriel’s announcement that he was fighting the prince of Persian Kingdom underscores the cruel nature of all imperialistic kingdoms. There is no such thing as a “good” imperial Master—they’re still a master.
15-17 “While he was saying all this, I looked at the ground and said nothing. Then I was surprised by something like a human hand that touched my lips. I opened my mouth and started talking to the messenger: ‘When I saw you, master, I was terror-stricken. My knees turned to water. I couldn’t move. How can I, a lowly servant, speak to you, my master? I’m paralyzed. I can hardly breathe!’ 18-19 “Then this humanlike figure touched me again and gave me strength. He said, ‘Don’t be afraid, friend. Peace. Everything is going to be all right. Take courage. Be strong.’ “Even as he spoke, courage surged up within me. I said, ‘Go ahead, let my master speak. You’ve given me courage.’
During Gabriel’s revelation of what will happen at the “end of days” Daniel has remained silent. Then something like a human hand touches his lips and Daniel begins to talk with feverish intensity. He says that he was terror stricken because he recognized how lowly and insignificant he felt in the face of a messenger of God. Paralyzed by fear and dread, Daniel says he could hardly breathe, let alone speak. But for a third time, Gabriel tells lifts Daniel up, encourages him, and strengthened him for the task at hand—understanding what is to come. Gabriel says Shalom—the peace of God—and that everything will be alright. Regardless of what the vision describes, in spite of the looks political carnage that is sure to take place, God’s peace will make everything all right. Daniel is to have faith in God, take courage in the fact that God is in control, and be strong in the face of the turbulent times ahead.
(1) This definition is quoted in Daniel L. Smith-Christopher’s article, “Introduction, Commentary and Reflections on the Book of Daniel,” in The New Interpreter Bible Commentary Volume VI (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2015) 717. The original citation is from John J. Collins, “Genre, Ideology and Social Movements in Jewish Apocalypticism,” In Mysteries and Revelations, Apocalyptic Studies Since the Uppsala Colliqium, ed. J.J. Collins and J.H. Charlesworth (Sheffield: JSOT, 1991) 19.
(2) For a more in-depth discussion of this genre of biblical literature see Frederick J. Murphy’s, “Introduction to Apocalyptic Literature, in The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, Volume VI (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2015) 695-711.