Daniel Chapter 10 Bible Study Commentary: Lifting the veil

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Book of Daniel Bible Study Commentary Chapter 10

Daniel Chapter 10: Lifting the veil

by I Gordon

Daniel 10 commentary angelic warfareDaniel chapter 10 is an interesting unique chapter in the Bible and contains some mysteries needing to be explained! It is one of conflict and warfare but not exactly the type you are likely to see on the 6 o'clock news! When you turn on the news you see wars, battles and conflicts. People not getting on, races not getting on, nations not getting on.  [1]  But Daniel 10 speaks of a war that no man reports for it is one that no man sees. Yet it goes on day after day and has a major impact on the wars that we do see on planet Earth. Daniel 10 lifts the veil that covers the natural and spiritual realms to reveal a battle that goes on in the invisible angelic realm.

So this commentary and bible study is a reminder of the spiritual battle that goes on around us, and one in which we are in despite it not being visible to the natural eye. There are certainly lots of mysteries in this regard and not all answers are given. But this chapter still remains as a fascinating and unique glimpse behind the scenes in the spiritual realm. So let's have a look.

A message of war...

Daniel 10:1-3 In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia, a revelation was given to Daniel (who was called Belteshazzar). Its message was true and it concerned a great war. The understanding of the message came to him in a vision. At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.

The events of this chapter took place in the third year of Cyrus, king of Persia. Daniel, who is now in his mid to late 80's, is given another vision and message. It is a message of great conflict and this has been recorded for us in Daniel chapters 11 and 12. It is a message of war between nations and coming persecution for the Israelites. But, as previously mentioned, it is also a message behind the scenes showing the puppet masters pulling the strings.

Now we read above that Daniel had been in mourning for three weeks when this prophecy was given to him. We are not told why he was in mourning  [2]  but he had been doing a partial fast during that time when the vision and message came.

A vision of Jesus?.. I think so.

Daniel 10:4-6 On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river, the Tigris, I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of the finest gold around his waist. His body was like chrysolite, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude.

Well, nothing like a vision like that to shake you out of a mournful fast! As Daniel looks up he sees one very impressive looking man. Scholars debate whether this is a vision of Jesus or whether it was an angel but the weight of evidence seems to favour the former thought. Certainly there are many similarities  [3]  with the vision John was given in the book of Revelation when he saw Jesus in glory saying...

Jesus described in Revelation

And when I turned I saw... someone 'like a son of man,' dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.(Rev 1:12-16) 

It is possible that Daniel's vision was a description of an angel but I do lean toward it being Jesus that was seen on the bank of the Tigris River. Could be wrong on that one though as it does pose some difficulties later in the chapter!

And you thought you felt small!

Daniel 10:7-9 'I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; the men with me did not see it, but such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves. So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. Then I heard him speaking, and as I listened to him, I fell into a deep sleep, my face to the ground.'

Anytime in scripture that a person encounters the majesty of God there is an overwhelming sense of their own inadequacy. Whether it is Moses, Isaiah, Daniel or John the result is the same. There is a convicting sense of your own 'smallness' and inadequacy in the light of an almighty God. Fair enough too. For Daniel, as godly as he was, the vision of this man left him face to the floor which is probably not a bad thing anyway because his face had turned a grim shade of grey!  [4]  He then fell into a deep sleep. Scripture doesn't tell us how long this was for but it may have been sometime.

But do not be afraid...

Daniel 10:10-12 A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. He said, 'Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.' And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling. Then he continued, 'Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.

But a hand touched and reassured Daniel and set him on his feet. Sure, his knees were still knocking pretty loudly but at least he is up! Some believe that the hand that touched Daniel is that of an angel who had been sent with a message for Daniel and is separate from the vision of man on the river bank recorded earlier. That is how I take it. It seems Daniel was in a deep sleep after seeing the vision of Jesus earlier and this is now the hand of another who wakes and comforts him. The messenger reassures Daniel that he is highly esteemed and not to be afraid. This reminds us of the earlier words of Gabriel when he came to Daniel in chapter 9. But this is God's word of comfort for all who flee for shelter in Christ. The angel also tells Daniel that as soon as he started humbling himself and praying  [5]  the angel was sent.

So, the question has to be asked... If the angel was sent when Daniel started humbling himself, and Daniel has been in that state for three weeks, then why did it take all that time for the angel to get to him? Hmmm. Good question. Glad you asked. And if you know the next verse then you know the answer. A bit unusual but let's see why it took three weeks for the angel to arrive...

So who is the Prince of Persia?

Daniel 10:13-14 But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come.'

What a remarkable insight into the angelic realm we are given in this passage! This angel was restricted from getting to Daniel for 21 days (3 weeks) because of another called the 'prince of Persia' who resisted him and blocked his way. It was only when Michael, one of the chief princes arrived that this other angel was able to get through to Daniel. I think we have no idea what is going on around us!  [6]  This 'prince of Persia' is a demonic angelic being  [7]  that had been assigned to the Medo-Persian Empire to influence it... and not in a good way! It was obviously a powerful angelic being because it could prevent this other messenger getting through to Daniel. But notice that Michael  [8]  is called 'one of the chief princes'. He is not the only one, but he is of a higher order and has the authority and power  [9]  to help this other messenger break through to Daniel. Finally, with Michael's help, the angelic messenger from God can deliver what is going to be an amazing outline of future history and conflict. The angel's message will be the focus of the next two studies.

Need a second touch... Or a third?

Daniel 10:15-19 While he was saying this to me, I bowed with my face toward the ground and was speechless. Then one who looked like a man touched my lips, and I opened my mouth and began to speak  . I said to the one standing before me, 'I am overcome with anguish because of the vision, my lord, and I am helpless. How can I, your servant, talk with you, my lord? My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe.' Again the one who looked like a man touched me and gave me strength  . 'Do not be afraid, O man highly esteemed,' he said. 'Peace! Be strong now; be strong.' When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, 'Speak, my lord, since you have given me strength.'

Clearly, Daniel was completely overcome by what he had seen. So much so that he said he could hardly breathe. That's a fair amount to take for a 80 year old! You will notice in the text that it seems that there are two different characters with Daniel. There is the angel who had come with the message for Daniel, but also 'one who looked like a man'. This is obviously the same one that Daniel had seen earlier whose description seemed very similar to that of our Lord Jesus. This one 'like a man' again touches Daniel and he receives strength. I guess for you and I, we should never underestimate the continual grace and strengthening that Jesus gives to us. Once Daniel spoke of his helplessness, grace and enabling was on hand.  [10]  The very words of this man imparted strength into Daniel and our need is no different. Read His word and hear His voice.  'For man does not live by bread alone, but by every word proceeding from the mouth of God.' 

The ultimate warfare still to come...

So he said, 'Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come; but first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth. (No one supports me against them except Michael, your prince. And in the first year of Darius the Mede, I took my stand to support and protect him.)

We see from this passage that it isn't just Persia that has demonic angelic beings assigned to them. The coming rise of the Grecian Empire under Alexander the Great (still 200 years in the future) will be overseen by the 'prince of Greece' as well. Fortunately, as we have previously seen, the nation of Israel also has angelic protection of the highest order in Michael, the archangel. So we have been given a glimpse of the influence that the angelic realm has into the affairs of men. The ultimate fulfilment of this influence however will occur just prior to the return of Jesus when we read:

'Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.' (Rev 16:13-14)

The demonic influence upon earth will reach its climax when the kings of the whole world will be drawn by these spirits to battle against God and His people.


Daniel chapter 10 does not give us all the answers  [11]  about the unseen angelic realm. We must admit that a lot remains a mystery. But it does give us a glimpse and remind us that we all are in a spiritual battle. The angels are sent by God to render service to those who are His, yet a lot of this service, like the angels themselves, is unseen to the human eye.

We should however remember the familiar (hopefully) words of the apostle Paul who wrote:

'Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.'

In the next two studies we will look at the message that the angel had to battle to bring to Daniel. If there was a struggle, it must be worth hearing!

[1] ↩  Although after an hour of misery and problems, both locally and in the world, the news will end with a story about Mittens, a 15 year old moggy who raised the alarm when fire encased the house and dragged everyone to safety. Ooooh. The news is great after all!

[2] ↩  Some believe that Daniel was concerned about the welfare of the Israelites who faced tremendous difficulty in attempting to return home from exile. Others believe that Daniel was concerned that so few Israelites actually desired to return and were quite content to remain in Babylon.

[3] ↩  David Guzik gives the following table to compare the similarities:

Description in Daniel 10 Description in Revelation 1

Clothed in linen

Clothed with a garment

Waist girded with gold

Girded about the chest with a golden band

Body was like beryl

Face like . . . lightning

Head and hair were white like wool

Eyes like torches of fire

Eyes like a flame of fire

Feet like burnished bronze

Feet were like fine brass

Sound of his words like the voice of a multitude

Voice as the sound of many waters

[4] ↩  The reverential fear of God is missing in our age. Jesus is our 'buddy', our 'best friend'. When we see Him we are going to 'run up and throw our arms around him.' Hmmm... really? I have a feeling we will see ourselves for what we are and see Him for what He is and be in disbelief that He would have become like us so that we could become like Him. I believe we will be face down in worship and reverential awe. And then we will understand and experience grace in all its fullness.

[5] ↩  Don't underestimate prayer! Don't underestimate it's role in spiritual warfare! God sent this message in response to Daniel praying and humbling himself. The inference is that had Daniel not prayed the angel wouldn't have been sent! Revelation, strengthening and encouragement came because Daniel prayed.

[6] ↩  Which might be a good time to introduce the angelic quiz. Well, it's a quiz about angels. Lets see how you go... The answers will be in the last footnote. But I don't allow or support any form of cheating. Well, maybe the odd little glimpse isn't going to hurt. I guess most of us got through school like that!

1. What does the word angel mean?
2. Were angels created before or after the creation of the world?
3. Does the Old or New Testament have more references to angels?
4. Do angels have physical bodies?
5. Can angels die?
6. Do angels have emotions?
7. Are there different categories or hierarchies of angels? If so, name them!
8. How many archangels are mentioned in scripture?
9. According to Heb 1:14, angels are ministering spirits sent out to...' do what?

[7] ↩  But by the sounds of a survey a lot of 'Christians' are going to have a problem with this. The reason I say this is that in an April 2009 survey of 'Christians' by the Barna Group  'Four out of ten Christians (40%) strongly agreed that Satan 'is not a living being but is a symbol of evil.' An additional two out of ten Christians (19%) said they 'agree somewhat' with that perspective. A minority of Christians indicated that they believe Satan is real by disagreeing with the statement: one-quarter (26%) disagreed strongly and about one-tenth (9%) disagreed somewhat. The remaining 8% were not sure what they believe about the existence of Satan.' 

[8] ↩  Do you know where the first reference to the angel Michael in the Bible is? Well, semi-trick question because it is in this passage! He is mentioned 5 times in the Bible. He is mentioned 3 times in Daniel, once in Jude and once in Revelation. All of the references seem to be in connection with warfare. We know from Dan 12:1 that he is specifically assigned to protect the nation of Israel. Maybe the armies of the world are getting more than they bargained for when they attack Israel!

[9] ↩  How do angels fight each other? Hmmm... tough question! It is a bit of a mystery. In Revelation 12:7 we read about a war in heaven and Michael and his angels fight against the devil and his angels and the devil is cast down to earth. I wouldn't think it is a physical thing even though that is how we picture it in our minds. They can't die or be injured as far as I know. It could be that they use their authority and position given them by God to command and obstruct. The demons in Jesus' day recognised His authority over them and had to do as He commanded. They even begged not to be sent to the abyss.

[10] ↩  The king's throne is a throne of grace. Just come before Him humbly acknowledging your need of His grace. As the Word says:  'Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.' 

[11] ↩  Ooops. Speaking of answers, I think I said I'd give some. Ok, I know you have been anxiously waiting for them so with no further delay... Drum rolls please - The answers to the highly important angelic quiz are:

1. Angel means 'messenger'. I'm sure you are now 1 from 1.
2. Angels were created before the creation of the world. They shouted for joy at it's creation (see Job 38:4-7)
3. The Old Testament just pips the New Testament for angel references (103 to 93)
4. Mmmm, trick question. Yes and no. They are spirits (Heb 1:14) so they don't normally have a physical body but they can take on a physical human form (Gen 18:3)
5. Angels cannot die. See Luke 20:36
6. Yes, they do have emotions. Luke 15:10 - there is joy in the presence of the angels of God when a sinner repents.
7. Yes, they come in different categories or hierarchies. There are angels, chief angels, archangels, cherubim and seraphim.
8. Only one is mentioned - Michael (Jude 9). Gabriel is prominent in the Bible but is not said to be an archangel. Satan is said to be an anointed cherub in Ezek 28:14.
9. Heb 1:14 - Angels are ministering spirits sent out to 'render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation.'