The Canonical Significance
As to Isaiah, his specific task was to prepare Israel for the crisis of the exile. His comforting message was that the Lord’s anointed was at hand (Is. 44:28), and that the days of bondage had its limit. Though he prophesied before the exile, he speaks of the bondage as a thing accomplished. He declared first that the king of Babylon and his golden city to which Israel was to be transported would soon become a proverb in the mouths of them whom he had oppressed (Is. 52:2), “and say ye: The Lord hath redeemed His servant Jacob” (Is. 48:20). His prophecy ends with a prediction and description of the expansion and glorification of God’s kingdom.
As to Jeremiah, he prophesied immediately before and after the destruction of Jerusalem. The nucleus of his whole message is: Humble yourselves under the hand of God and live.
As to Ezekiel, he dwelt among the exiles in Babylon. One day, when he was among the captives, the heavens were opened and he saw visions of God. He understood now the meaning of calamities that had overtaken God’s people and he spent the days of his captivity by the waters in explaining them to his brethren. Everything earthy-typical had been made to disappear. God’s (people must now set their hearts upon something better, even the eternal spiritual good. He set before them the vision of the true Zion, the ideal commonwealth, having the imperishable glory of God (Ez. 8:3, 4). In due time Jehovah would gather His scattered sheep and feed them on the mountains of Israel by the rivers (34:13). A new heart He would also give His people so that they would walk in His ways (34:26, 27). The prophet Ezekiel sees the whole commonwealth of God as a community of priests in its universality.
As to Daniel, he too dwelt among the exiles, and did not return to Palestine. He was a high official at the court of the king. His task was to comfort God’s people by showing them that they must not fear the earthly or pagan powers, for he sees in a vision that these powers repose on clay; are as weak as is man; that one after the other they would be destroyed, that ultimately the kingdom of God would appear and crush the earthy kingdoms; that, finally, this heavenly kingdom is eternal. The vision of the rise and fall of earthly kingdoms and the triumph of the kingdom of God—this is peculiar to the book of Daniel. The nucleus of the message of Daniel is “the Lord reigneth in the midst of his enemies,” and will through His destroying them, realize His gracious purposes with His people. The (people of God in the city of Babylon must not fear this anti-christian power, but must remain loyal to Jehovah, as apart from His will the adversary can do nothing. Daniel does nor promise that the Lord will exempt His people from suffering, but that in the fire of persecution they are the Lord’s and therefore cannot perish. They pass through suffering to glory.
Daniel practiced what he (preached and thus rose before the eye of God’s people as the living proof of his own message. At the courts of the pagan kings he obeys God more than man, both he and his friends. For this, they were persecuted. Daniel was cast into the den of lions; the three friends into the fiery furnace, but the Lord delivers them and elevates them to a position of honor and glory in the land of their exile. They who had plotted against their lives fall into the very pit they had dug for him.
The parts of the image seen by Nebuchadnezzar represent four kingdoms: 1. The Babylonian, under Nebuchadnezzar (the head of gold). 2. The Persian and Median, under Cyrus and his successors (the breast and arms of silver). 3. The Macedonian, under Alexander the Great (the belly and thighs of brass). 4. The Roman power, (the legs of iron and feet part iron and part clay). The stone cut out of the rock without hands is Jesus Christ and His kingdom. The rock out of which He is hewn is the Old Testament theocracy. That he was hewn without hands signifies his supernatural conception and birth.
The Vision of Chapter 7.
The prophet saw successively four beasts arising from the sea (of men): 1. A lion with eagle wings. 2. A bear. 3. A leopard. 4. A fourth beast so dreadful and terrible and strong as to defy all description. The four beasts represent the same four kingdoms represented by the four parts of the image; namely, the Babylonian, the Persian-Median, the Macedonian, the Roman. The ten horns of the fourth beast correspond to the ten toes of the image. Peculiar to this last beast was the little horn that grew in the place of three of the horns plucked out. What is presented to us is a complete double image of the Antichristian world power in its historical development from the beginning of time to the second coming of Christ, that is, to the end of time. The ten toes and the ten horns represent in both cases ten kingdoms. The number 10 is here in all likelihood a representative number, and thus signifies the aggregation of kingdoms of Europe and America that arose after the destruction of the Roman Empire. The Ancient of days of Daniel 7 is God Himself, who through Jesus Christ realizes His counsel. Rightly considered the Ancient of Days is the stone cut out without hands.
The seven horns that remain after the three were plucked up, is again in the last instance representative of the fullness of Antichristian power in this world, now assuming the appearance of the kingdom of God, which in the vision of John (Rev. 13) is seen as the lamb with seven horns. Counting the little horn there were eight horns on the beast, the little horn however was at once like the seven.
In the little horn were eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth speaking great things. The eyes represent depraved human genius in distinction from regenerated and sanctified human genius. The mouth is the organ through which the Antichristian world power glories not in God but in its own achievements and blasphemes God. It is not difficult to see that this last beast, this terrible beast with, the little horn is the Antichrist. This last kingdom, the kingdom represented by the last beast has its beginning in the Roman Empire and continues in the ten toes and horns till the second return of Christ, when it will be burned. Also the image of the fourth beast teaches that the Antichristian world-power is a combination of kingdoms. For the fourth beast with his ten horns (later 8) comprises an organic whole. It can easily be seen that this fourth beast is with us today.
The Vision of Chapter 8.
In this vision the prophet saw a ram with two horns and thereupon a he-goat with one great horn which was broken. In its stead appeared four notable horns, and out of one of these four horns, came a little horn that waxed great even to the host of heaven.
There is a similarity to be noticed between this vision and the foregoing one. According to Gabriel’s own interpretation of the vision, the ram is the bear of the former vision, and thus represents the kingdom of the Medes and Persians. The two horns of the ram represent the kingdoms of Media-Persia respectively. The rough he-goat is the leopard of the former vision and represents the kingdom of Greece. The he-goat came from the West with marvelous swiftness and came against the ram with his two horns and smote him until there was no power left in him. Let us briefly explain the first section of the vision. The great horn of the he-goat—the kingdom of Greece—is Alexander the Great, who destroyed the ram, that is completely vanquished Darius and his army of the kingdom of the Modes and Persians. The ram before he was overcome by the he-goat pushed in three directions, toward the West, Lybia; toward the North, Babylonia; and toward the South, Egypt. The great horn of the he-goat was broken. This refers to the death of Alexander the Great. After his death the empire, he by conquest had established, was divided into four kingdoms: Macedonia, Thrace, Syria, Egypt. The little horn is one of the kings of Syria, namely, Antiochus Epiphanes. The history of this king, made with wickedness, corresponds to the description of the wicked actions of the little horn in Daniel 8. Of the little horn it is said that he waxed great even to the host of heaven. The Sacred narrative continues, “and it cast down some of the hosts of the stars and stamped upon them. He magnified himself even to the prince of the host and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away and the place of the sanctuary was cast down.” Antiochus Epiphanes’ ravings were a fulfillment of this prophecy. Under Antiochus the Great (died 187 B.C.) Palestine became a province of Syria. Epiphanes was the youngest son of Antiochus the Great. His wickedness bordered on madness. His relation to the people of Israel was marked by a brutal and savage cruelty. Epiphanes formed the idea of dominant state religion as the best means to give unity to the empire. So he attempted to compel the adoption of the Greek Polytheism. A large section of the apostate Jewish people were not only prepared to acquiesce in his plans but to even further his purpose. Antiochus in return gave them the upper hand in Judea. The apostate Jews however, had misled Antiochus when they told him that their country was ripe for hellenization. Strenuous opposition was offered by the people of God. This made Antiochus furious. Jews. This hatred was intensified by the news that it gendered in his heart a deep-seated hatred of the Jerusalem had rejoiced upon the reception of a false report of his death in Egypt. He marched upon the city of Jerusalem, took it by storm and slaughtered 40,000 people and carried a like number away as slaves. He robbed the temple of its treasures, tread the most sacred precincts of the holiest of all. He sacrificed swine on the altar, and defiled the sanctuary by sprinkling the broth all over it. He next issued a command to exterminate the whole Jewish race. The command was only partially executed. He finally ruthlessly enforced the adoption of Greek manners and customs. All who resisted were put to death. The blood of the saints flowed freely. The people of God hid themselves in the caves and dens of the earth. The prophecy of Daniel was literally fulfilled. For the daily sacrifice ceased. Any copy of the law that could be found was burned.