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  • Author: Willard H. Hinkley
  • Publisher: Boston: Massachusetts New-Church Union
  • Publication Date: 1894
  • Total Pages: 192

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The Book of Daniel: Its Prophetic Character and Spiritual Meaning

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THE book called Daniel is one of the inspired books of the Word. Although doubts have been cast upon its Divine origin and authenticity, owing to some difficulties in its literal statements, yet we have sufficient authority for accepting it as a part of Divine Revelation, or the Word of God, not only because it was quoted by the Lord Himself, but from the fact that it is included in the list of books that constitute the Word, as given in the writings of the New Church.

In these writings portions of it are explained according to their spiritual meaning. The book itself is both historical and prophetical. In the work entitled "Arcana Coelestia" (n. 1183, we find the "land of Shinar" mentioned, and we are there told that in that land profane worship prevailed -that is, such worship as was holy in externals but evil in internals. In this passage the second verse of the first chapter of Daniel is quoted, and the carrying away of the Jews into Babylon is referred to as an historical relation. The fact that they were carried there and held captive has, probably, never been disputed, but the date assigned to this event in connection with the name of the King of Judah, is thought by some commentators to be erroneous.

Although the different events recorded in the book are generally believed to have taken place about 600 B. C., yet the composition of a part, at least, of the book has been ascribed by some writers to a period as late as 176-164, B. C., in the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes. If we had certain evidence that the book was not written by Daniel himself, this would not destroy its spiritual value. All that is contained in the five books of Moses was not written by him, but they were written by some hand; partly by Moses and partly by some one after his death. This fact does not weaken their authority nor destroy their spiritual meaning.

The book called Daniel is not only twofold in character, historical and prophetical, but it is written in two languages, Hebrew and Aramaic. Chapter i. and chapters viii. to xii. are written in Hebrew, and from chapter ii. ver. 4 to the end of chapter vii. is written in Aramaic.

The book is usually divided according to these differences. But there seems to be no reason for such a division, so far as its spiritual meaning is concerned. It has been suggested that the whole book was originally written in Hebrew and afterwards in Aramaic, but that portions of the original Hebrew were lost, and that these were afterwards supplied from copies in Aramaic.

We do not regard these questions as unimportant, by any means, although a few only, even among Biblical scholars, can arrive at a final conclusion regarding them.

We are obliged to treat the Word as we now possess it, believing that under the Divine Providence it has been preserved and handed down to us.

We should regard the book of Daniel as a whole, knowing that it was written for the sake of its spiritual meaning, and not for the purpose of recording historical events in a connected series. Wherever its statements and allusions seem to conflict with the facts of actual history, we may be sure that these apparent difficulties can be reconciled. Two instances of this kind may be mentioned. When Belshazzar is spoken of, he is called the son of Nebuchadnezzar; but it seems to have been satisfactorily shown that he was not the son but the grandson of that king.

In the spiritual sense, this apparent inaccuracy does not impair the meaning or change it. A grandson equally with a son denotes some derivative principle, here a false principle derived from evil. Similar instances of this use of the term son, and also of the term brother, may be found in the Word.

Another instance, more difficult to be reconciled, is the statement in regard to the transfer of the Babylonish empire. In chapter v. ver. 31, we read: "And Darius, the Mede, received the kingdom, being about three score and two years old." But in the history of those times gathered from ancient documents, it is related as a positive undoubted fact, that it was Cyrus who acquired the kingdom of Babylon. The only way to reconcile the difference is to suppose that this Darius of the book of Daniel was some prince to whom the power of governing Babylonia was delegated by Cyrus.

The book of Daniel does not contain a connected history of natural events, but all the historical events mentioned have been recorded for the sake of their spiritual meaning. This may be said of all the historical parts of the Word, even of the Gospels.

In regard to the prophetic visions of Daniel, it is very plain, in the light of the explanations given in the writings of the New Church, that they can only be interpreted according to the law of correspondence and representation, and that no explanation can be satisfactory which makes reference only to a succession of empires, or to merely natural events.

Even when this book of Daniel is explained with reference to the state of the Christian church, especially of the Roman Catholic and Protestant branches, there is some danger of making the application too literal, making allusion to the outward condition of churches rather than to principles of Divine truth and their operation, from which the internal quality of the church is made known. By a careful study of the book and of such explanations of it as are given in the writings of the New Church, we may see that principles, true or false, are always treated of, and outward chances or b conditions are shown to be illustrations of the operation of these principles in the human mind and therefore in the church.

In studying the Word of the Lord in the light of true doctrine, we should rise above merely external things and endeavor to see its spiritual meaning, not only in relation to churches and dispensations, which is called the historical-spiritual sense, but in reference to individual states of life and especially to our own life.

What, then, is the spirit and purpose of this revelation, contained in the book of Daniel? What are the particulars contained in the spiritual sense of it? To know these things we must first have some idea of the general subjects treated of. There are three general subjects treated of in the whole book. These are" the Consummation, or last time of the Church," "the Coming of the Lord," and "the New Church," signified in the Apocalypse by the New Jerusalem. "Wherever Daniel is mentioned by name in the Sacred Scriptures, he represents whatever is prophetic concerning the Cominz of the Lord -and the state of the church at the last times." (A. C. 3652.)

The captivity of the Jews in Babylon represents a state of the church and of the human mind in which man has fallen under the in fluence of the infernal love of dominion, the love of ruling over others originating in the love of self. Babylon always denotes that evil love, and to be in Babylon is to be under its influence.

So many allusions to Babylon and direct statements regarding it are found in the Sacred Scriptures, especially in the prophecy of Isaiah and in the book of Revelation, that no doubt can be entertained that this is its spiritual meaning. Indeed, from the first mention of Babylon in Genesis to the declarations in the Apocalypse with regard to "Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth," its representation is uniform. This has long been recognized by writers on the meaning of Scripture symbols. But only in the writings of the New Church do we find an explanation of the particulars involved or expressed, especially with

Table of Contents

SUBJECT NO.                                     PAGE
     I. The Origin of the Sacred Scripture ..... 3
    II. The Eternal Word ....................... 5
   III. The Word Revealed ...................... 6
    IV. Two kinds of Books in the Bible ........ 11
     V. Books of the Word, and the other 
          Sacred Writings ...................... 16
    VI. The Prophets were Seers: How their
          Communications were Received ......... 24
   VII. Antediluvian Revelation ................ 33
  VIII. Postdiluvian Revelation: An Ancient
          Word existing before that given
          through Moses ........................ 40
    IX. The Pentateuch ......................... 49
     X. Holiness of the Divine Law ............. 54
    XI. The Five Books Separately .............. 59
   XII. Divine Care for the Preservation of
          the Word ............................. 73
  XIII. The Book of Joshua ..................... 78
   XIV. The Book of Judges ..................... 82
    XV. The Book of Samnuel .................... 87
   XVI. The Books of Kings ..................... 93
  XVII. The Schools of the Prophets ............ 95
 XVIII. The Book of Psalms ..................... 98
   XIX. The Music and Choirs of the Temple ..... 106
    XX. The Book of Isaiah ..................... 110
   XXI. Jeremiah and the Book of Lamentations .. 115
  XXII. The Book of Ezekiel .................... 120
 XXIII. The Book of Daniel ..................... 123
  XXIV. The Twelve Minor Prophets .............. 127
   XXV. The Kethubim or Hagiographa; Sacred
          Writings of the Jewish Church ........ 156
  XXVI. The Apocrypha .......................... 186
 XXVII. Ancient Versions and Commentaries ...... 189
XXVIII. Manner of Preserving the Scriptures
          in Ancient Times ..................... 197
        Contemporaneous Kings of Judah
          and Israel ........................... 204
        Chronological Table .................... 205

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