Chapter 10 of Daniel is an introduction to the revelation given him in chapters 11 and 12. The original texts of the Bible were not divided into chapters and verses. Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1207–1228, is reputed to have been the first to put the chapter divisions into a Vulgate edition of the Bible in 1205. Robert Estienne, a Parisian printer, was the first to number the verses within each chapter, his verse numbers entering printed editions of the New Testament in 1565. This bit of information is important background as to why some puzzling chapter divisions occur where they do in the Bible — notable among them, the division between this chapter and the next.
Daniel tells us in the first chapter of his book that he continued into the first year of the reign of Cyrus. The events of this chapter take place in the third year of Cyrus’s reign. This is not his reign as king of Persia, but rather the third year from when he was also crowned king of Babylon.
This seeming contradiction can be explained in two ways. Perhaps Daniel continued off and on in the royal service into the first year of Cyrus, and after that he retired. So the fact that this is happening two years later is not really contradictory.
Or, the more likely reason is that the first chapter was written at the time of the first year of Cyrus’s reign. The Book of Daniel is a collection of writings written over many years and not something that was written as one long narrative. And it is accepted by most scholars that the Book of Daniel wasn’t compiled into a single document until the last years of Daniel’s life. So perhaps at the time of the writing of chapter 1, the first statement was true, and then later at the writing of chapter 10, the second one was also true.
We are not told why, but Daniel was fasting and in mourning for three weeks prior to what is about to take place. However, we can make a calculated guess as to the reason. We know from history that Cyrus permitted the Jews to return to Judah in his first year as king of Babylon. However, not everyone of influence in the Persian court was so accommodating toward the Jews. Historical documents tell us that Cambyses II, Cyrus’s son and heir, wasn’t favorable to them. And in chapter six we saw that Daniel had enemies in the Persian court. As the highest-ranking Jew in the empire, it is quite likely that personal animosity toward Daniel reflected general animosity toward the Jews.
Although the decree to let the Jews go back to Judea was given in the first year of Cyrus’s reign as king of Babylon, which was 538 BC, the actual return migration didn’t occur till 536 BC. This would correspond to the third year of Cyrus’s reign, which would make it coincidental to the events in this chapter. Could there have been events afoot to prevent the return? There were certainly some who opposed the return of the Jews, as can be seen in Ezra chapter 4, where the Samaritans appealed several times to the Persians to stop the Jews rebuilding the temple.
Daniel was a man of prayer, as shown by his prayer in chapter 9, as well as his willingness to risk his life over his need to pray in chapter 6. He wasn’t in Babylon or Shushan now, as this chapter places him somewhere on the Tigris River. Unable to exert personal influence at court on the matter, he engaged in the one thing that he knew could turn the tide, and that was to fast and pray.
After 21 days of this, Daniel has another encounter with an angel. The men with him fled in terror, even though they didn’t see the angel. It was most likely the sound of the angel’s voice, which to Daniel sounded like that of a multitude, which prompted this flight. But Daniel sees what he calls a “man” clothed in linen. His waist and hips were girt with fine gold. His body was like beryl. The original Hebrew word translated as “beryl” is tarshiysh. This precious stone is believed to be named after the country of Tarshish, believed by many biblical scholars to be an area of southern Spain where the Phoenicians had a trading post and where this jewel was plentiful. The stone itself is a greenish color with a golden luster. The “man’s” face was bright like lightning and his arms and feet like brightly polished bronze. And Daniel promptly fainted at the sight.
The heavenly messenger then touches Daniel, and Daniel gets up on his hands and knees before him. The angel tells Daniel to stand up and then explains why he was there, that he had come in answer to Daniel’s prayers.
He then tells Daniel of his struggle with the prince of the kingdom of Persia that had taken him 21 days, and the help of Michael the Archangel, to win. It is believed by many Bible scholars that this prince of Persia was an evil spiritual entity who had been given spiritual dominion over Persia by his master, Satan.
There are two ways to look at this struggle. One is that the messenger was sent only to Daniel to bring him the message that is covered in the next chapter. That is plausible. And a demonic entity of the stature of the messenger’s opponent would undoubtedly have put up quite a struggle.
The book of Revelation gives us a look into the always thrilling, sometimes frightening, and often jaw-dropping realm of the spirit. While relating the story primarily of the last years of Earth as we now know it, most of the action it talks about is not happening in the physical world, but rather in the spiritual realm that coexists with it. While there are a many hideous beings from the netherworld stalking through its pages, there are far more mighty, beautiful, and amazing heavenly beings who fight and emerge victorious at its end.
Spiritual warfare is not just the stuff of fantasy comic books. It is a very real phenomenon that is happening right now. It is not something that you can see with your physical eyes, but sometimes its effects spill over into our realm. It is a life-and-death battle not for the lives of the combatants, but for our lives — primarily our spiritual lives, but even to a degree our physical lives as well.
Revelation goes into detail a number of times with regards to the entities that war in that arena. John, Revelation’s author, wrote that he was taken into that realm after being shown a door open to Heaven (Revelation 4:1-2). He first saw the glories of God’s throne room and a large number of angels and good spirits such as the mighty Seraphim who surround God’s throne. But soon he saw some far less pleasant sights, such as the angels pouring out God’s judgments — firstly at the sound of seven sequential trumpets, and then the even more destructive seven plagues. He also saw the Devil as a vicious infanticidal dragon, but then the great archangel Michael leads the good angels in war against the dragon and his demons and completely vanquishes them from the heavenly realm.
John is brief when he describes the great spiritual war that apparently occurs a little before the period of Great Tribulation. We don’t know how long that war takes, but we do know that the Devil and his ilk are powerful enough to put up “spirited” resistance. “And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the Earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (Revelation 12:7–9).
This had been preceded by this information in verse 4 of the same chapter. “And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the Earth” (Revelation 12:3–4). This passage is where we come to an understanding that one third of the angels rebelled with Satan at the great rebellion against God and His authority in the heavenly realm. Angels have often been represented by stars both in the Bible and other writings. Since both the stars and the dragon’s “angels” are cast down to the Earth, the conclusion can be drawn that they are one and the same.
It would undoubtedly have been thrilling if John had given us a fuller description of that war in heaven so we could hear how that great infernal tyrant and his underlings were defeated. Not that we glory in war, but hearing how the evil and destructive hellish enemy of all humanity got his comeuppance is something that many would have liked to have been given more details on. Especially since the warfare then reverts to his last stronghold, Earth, and the warfare becomes largely physical as the Devil-possessed Antichrist rampages around the Middle East and other areas of the world. Knowing just how Heaven’s forces defeated and then routed him and his can give us courage here on Earth that those same forces will be working effectively to continue the work they started and will be our unfailing aid in that tumultuous time.
But back to our text in Daniel 10. Many scholars think the messenger is Gabriel, since he had appeared to Daniel twice before. If that were the case, you would think Daniel would have named him. But again we come to the stumper as to why it would take both Gabriel and Michael to beat this demon, no matter how powerful he was.
There is another way to look at this, and that is to first ask why the demon prince of Persia would be trying to stop the message getting through to Daniel. We will see that it was a very important message, especially for us now. But as we will also see, it wasn’t going to have much effect on the kingdom of Persia. If this demon was concerned about his own bailiwick first and foremost, then why was he more or less abandoning his assignment to try to stop the message when it didn’t really concern him?
Could it be rather that he was defending his territory and that the angelic messenger had been sent to first sway decisions at the Persian court? The messenger was initially sent on the mission alone, and it is quite reasonable to assume that it would certainly take a long struggle to influence the king and his counselors to make a favorable decision, especially if he was having to deal with the demon prince at the same time. Decrees of the Persian kings were irreversible, as we read in chapter 6, so a wrong decision could have had dire effects. Perhaps wrestling with the spiritual prince of Persia was the easy part.
So why would God be so interested in influencing a decision by the king of Persia that He sent the angel there? If that decision was to have an effect on the Jews being allowed to return to Judah, it would have a very great effect, because Jesus needed to be born there, in Bethlehem. To fulfill the Scriptures, the Jews needed to be allowed to return and stay in their homeland until Jesus was born. That was indeed what happened, and they weren’t driven out again until 40 years after Jesus’ Ascension. Certainly the Devil and all his demons would have wanted to defeat that plan. But the angel succeeded with help from Michael.
Then when he came to Daniel after that, it was to tell him “mission accomplished” and that he could stop worrying about the matter. Daniel had been fasting and praying for something. He was not fasting and praying in order to get the message that we will study next. The fact that he got the message didn’t seem to be his motivation at all.
The angel says something that perhaps gives weight to the above reasoning. He tells Daniel that he has now come to make Daniel understand what will happen to Daniel’s people in the Latter Days. Does that indicate that the first part of his mission had to do with his people at that time? It seems logical.
In the first verse of the next chapter, the angel tells Daniel that he had stood next to the king in the first year of his reign to confirm him. So the angel certainly was involved with the Persian court. He also says that once he is done telling Daniel the message, he has to go back to contending with the prince of Persia, and that pretty soon he will have to do the same thing with the prince of Greece.
Whatever the reason for the battle in the spirit between the angel and the demon, this chapter clearly shows us that such conflict does occur. And it also shows that fervent and determined prayer is integral to the triumph of the good guys.