By Jeffery M. Leonard, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Biblical & Religious Studies, Samford University
PREPARE FOR BATTLE
Daniel 10:1–3, 10–13, 16–19
The pages of Scripture offer God’s revelation to us in a variety of genres. There are narratives, songs, various kinds of wisdom literature and a great many prophetic books as well.
The New Testament adds the biographies of Jesus that we call Gospels and a large collection of letters often referred to as epistles. To this roster of genres, we can also add a less common one, namely apocalyptic literature.
Apocalyptic literature is known to us mainly from the Book of Revelation, a book that actually begins in Greek with the word “apokalypsis.” In addition, apocalyptic literature can be found in the first eight chapters of the book of Zechariah and the final six chapters of the book of Daniel.
As any reader of the Book of Revelation can attest, the style of apocalyptic literature ranges from mildly confusing to downright perplexing.
It does have certain key features, though. Usually, it involves the common elements of being highly symbolic revelation transmitted from an angel to a human that discloses the supernatural world behind God’s saving work. We see all of these elements in Daniel 10.
News and events that trouble us should lead us to pray. (1–3)
Daniel 10 opens with a notice that Daniel had been given a vision concerning a great war that was to take place. The text then shifts to Daniel’s first-person narration of the vision. The vision was so powerful that Daniel says it spurred him to begin an extended time of mourning. For three weeks he fasted, avoiding choice food, meat and wine. He apparently also neglected his external appearance during this time.
When these three weeks of mourning had passed, Daniel received a second vision that expanded and clarified his earlier experience. This time, we learn that a “man” stood before Daniel. He was dressed in linen with a belt of gold, a body like topaz and arms and legs like bronze.
His face, Daniel recalls, was like lightning, with eyes like flaming torches and a voice like the sound of a multitude. It is little wonder that Daniel says his face turned deathly pale and he was rendered helpless.
Our prayers are part of a larger picture of spiritual warfare. (10–13)
The words the angel spoke to Daniel are, truthfully, among the more confusing in all of Scripture.
The angel relates that during the three weeks of Daniel’s mourning, he sought to come to Daniel, but he was delayed because he was locked in battle with “the prince of the Persian kingdom.” It was only with the help of Michael, “one of the chief princes,” that the angel was able to break free.
This is a description of events on a spiritual plane that is quite different from what we find elsewhere in Scripture.
Standing strong in spiritual battle does not depend on us but on God. (16–19)
It might be tempting to use Daniel 10 as the starting point for all manner of speculation about the nature and organization of the powers that inhabit the spiritual realm.
Here, the words of the psalmist may chart a better course for us: “Lord, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty. I do not get involved in things too great or too wondrous for me” (Ps. 131:1).
We do better to follow Daniel’s example of letting prayer, fasting and humble reliance on God be our part in spiritual warfare.