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Daniel 12



Prophecy of the End-Time The Final Consummation The Time of the End  
12:1-4 12:1-4 12:1-3 Resurrection and Retribution
    12:2-3 12:4
      The Sealed Prophecy
12:5-13 12:5-13 12:5-6 12:5-13

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. Chapter 12 concludes the literary unit of chapters 10-12, which has one unified message.


B. Interestingly, vv. 1-3 are written in poetic lines in the NAB translation. The Jerome Biblical Commentary, vol. 1, p. 459, says, "12:1-3, magnificent poetic conclusion of the revelation given in chapters 10-11" (as well as New English Bible and its revision, The Revised English Bible, as well as the new NET Bible). This poetic form it is not followed in other English versions. 


C. The interpretations vary as to which historical context the interpreter assumes is addressed.

1. Many see it as Antiochus IV.

2. Others see it as Titus in a.d. 70.

3. Others project it into the end time.

Possibly the text is ambiguous enough to refer to all three and possibly more. This is a good example of "multi-fulfillment prophecy" (i.e. "abomination of desolation," 9:27; 11:31; 12:11).


 1"Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. 2Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. 3Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. 4But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase."

12:1 "Now at that time" The Septuagint begins this chapter with "unto that place." It is obvious that 12:1-4 are connected with the message of chapter 11. The time of 12:1 links up with the events of 11:40-45. The real issue is the time frame. The use of "the king of the South" (11:40) and "the king of the North" (11:40) implies that it refers to the second century b.c. However, the use of "at the end-time" (11: 40) could imply a future period (cf. 12:4,9), but not necessarily because a similar phrase is used in vv. 27 and 35. The only reason that a second century context is questioned is because of the accuracy of 11:2-35 and the possible accuracy of 11:36-39 and the total inaccuracy (based on known secular history) of 11:40-45.

▣ "Michael" His name means "who is like God" (BDB 567). There are only two angels mentioned by name in the Bible: Gabriel, apparently a messenger angel, and Michael, apparently the guardian angel of the nation of Israel or the people of God. This angel is mentioned in Dan. 10:13, 21 and in the book of Jude, v. 9, where he is called the archangel. John Calvin thought that Michael was the pre-existent Christ.

▣ "the great prince" This same term (BDB 978) is used in several senses in Daniel.

1. Babylonian official in charge of the four Jewish youths, 1:7,8,9,10,11,18

2. Jewish political (royal) leaders, 9:6,8

3. God Himself, 8:11,25

4. powerful national angels

a. Persian, 10:13,20

b. Greek, 10:20

c. Jewish, 10:13,21; 12:1

Another term (BDB 617) translated "prince" is used in

1. 9:25 for the Messiah

2. 9:26 for the leader of the opposition against the Messiah

3. 11:22 possibly for the priest, Onias III, who was betrayed and killed in Antiochus IV's attempt to take over the Jewish priesthood.


"who stands guard over the sons of your people" Many believe that this refers only to the Jews because of the context of chapter 11. However, the quote in Matt. 24:21, 22 seems to imply that Jesus was referring to "the elect." From Rom. 2:28,29; 4:16; Gal. 6:16 we know that this promise refers to all who have the faith of Abraham.

NJB"will arise"
NKJV"shall stand up"
TEV"will appear"

This word's basic meaning (BDB 763, KB 840) is "stand" or "take a stand." It is used often in Daniel

1. present oneself, 1:4

2. come on the scene, 8:22,23; 11:7; 12:1

3. stand against, 8:25; 10:13; 11:14

4. stand for, 10:21; 11:1

5. stand up, 8:18; 10:11

6. rise from the dead, 12:13

BDB asserts option #3 best fits this context, but A Handbook on the Book of Daniel by Peter Contesse and John Ellington, UBS, p. 323, thinks option #4 fits best (cf. Esther 8:11; 9:16). Remember, context determines meaning, not lexicons or dictionaries.

▣ "and there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time" The OT prophets (cf. Jer. 2:27-28; 14:8; 30:7; Joel 1:5-18; Zeph. 1:14-18) reveal that because of Israel's and Judah's idolatry that the end-time would be a time of divine judgment. God tried to use the covenant blessings and cursings of Deuteronomy 27-29 to attempt to bring His people back, but they would not; then He allowed foreign nations to exile them (e.g. Isa. 10:5; Jer. 51:20), but still they did not turn to Him and keep His covenant. However, even amidst judgment there is hope in the merciful character of God (cf. Hosea 11; 13:14).

This seems to refer to the Messianic woes referred to by Jesus in Matt. 24:21, 22 (cf. Mark 13:19-20). The Septuagint has "nations written in the book." In Matt. 24:21 Jesus changes the word "nations" to "world," which is the NT universal understanding of the extension of covenant love to all humans through the gospel.

▣ "everyone who is found" There has been much discussion among commentators because of this universal element implied by "everyone" but contrasted with the word "many," found in vv. 2 and 10 (cf. 11:33,39). Verse 10 helps to interpret the "many" of verse 2. They both refer to the redeemed, the faithful, the followers of Messiah.

This will seem confusing, but (1) the Hebrew term (BDB 912 I) for "many" means "all" in Deut. 7:1; Isa. 52:14,15; (2) Isa. 53:11,12 compare with 53:6 as well as the parallelism of Rom. 5:18-19; (3) this same concept of "many" being used for "all" can be found in Matt. 20:28; and 26:28; (4) Jesus seems to allude to Dan. 12:2 and changes "many" to "all" in John 5:28-29. The Hebrew term for "all" is parallel to "many" in Isa. 2:2. This same confusion of "all" versus "many" has sometimes degenerated into denominational conflict between Calvinists and Armenians. There is enough fluidity in the Scriptures that we cannot be dogmatic in this area. Compare Rom. 5:15, 16 with 5:12.

It is sad to acknowledge that not everyone of the lineage (Hebrew idiom, "sons of your people") of Abraham had his faith. As one reads the OT it becomes obvious that most Jews were not faithful followers of YHWH; many were idolaters. It is only the faithful remnant who will be saved. Being the covenant people involves more than who your mother was; it involves personal faith and a faithful life.

▣ "written in the book" This same metaphorical book of 1ife is referred to in Dan. 7:10. There are two books mentioned in the Bible (cf. Rev. 10:12-15), one is the "Book of Remembrances" where the deeds of both the godly and ungodly are recorded, Ps. 56:8; 139:16; Isa. 65:6; Mal. 3:16. The other is the "Book of Life" where only the names of the redeemed are mentioned, Exod. 32:32; Ps. 69:28; Isa. 4:3; Dan. 12:1; Luke 10:20; Phil. 4:3; Heb. 12:23: Rev. 3:5: 13:8: 17:8: 20:15: 21:27.

NASB"will be rescued"
NKJV, NRSV"shall be delivered"
TEV"will be saved"
NJB"will be spared"

This Hebrew term (BDB 572, KB 589, Niphil IMPERFECT) is also used in 11:41. It denotes physical deliverance (cf. 11:41), but like its NT counterpart, it has the connotation in some contexts of spiritual salvation (cf. 12:1).

In Daniel, as in all of history, many faithful believers are killed, but they will be ultimately rescued and restored (cf. 12:2-3).

12:2 "those who sleep" There are several terms in Hebrew for sleep.

1. yashen (BDB 445), which is normally used of natural sleep, but in Dan. 12:2, of death

1. shenah (BDB 446), also used of natural sleep, Dan. 2:1; 6:18

3. shakab (BDB 446), which is used in the books of II Samuel, I & II Kings, and II Chronicles for death (II Sam. 11:9) and normal sleep (II Sam. 7:12)

The concept of death as sleep is also found in the NT (e.g. Matt. 27:52 [note resurrection]; John 11:11 [note resurrection in 11:25-26; 13:36; Acts 7:60; I Thess. 4:13 [note resurrection in 4:14-17]; 5:10).

▣ "in the dust of the ground" This Hebrew idiom is a play on the word "ground," adanah (BDB 9) and dust (BDB 779) from Gen. 2:7 and 3:19 (cf. Ps. 90:3; 104:29). The dust of the ground is metaphorically the holding place of the dead (i.e. Sheol, e.g. I Sam. 2:6; Job 14:13; Ps. 30:3; 49:14-15; 139:8; Isa. 38:10; Hos. 13:14; Amos 9:2).

SPECIAL TOPIC: Where Are the Dead?

▣ "will awake" This VERB (BDB 884, KB 1098) is a Hiphael IMPERFECT. This is another Hebrew idiom of life from death (cf. II Kgs. 4:31; Jer. 51:39,57; Job 14:12). In Isa. 26:19 and here it denotes resurrection. This is exactly the implication of Ezekiel's vision of the dry bones (cf. Ezek. 37), but in an individual sense. Some will awake to everlasting joy (cf. Isa. 66:22-23) and others to everlasting contempt (cf. Isa. 66:24). For a good discussion see Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2 ed., pp. 1200-1210 or Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, IVP, pp. 673-688 or The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol. 5, pp. 70-75.

▣ "these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt" This refers to a general resurrection (cf. John 5:28,29; Matt. 25:46; and Acts 24:15-16). This is one of the earliest Scriptures which discusses the developing understanding of the need for an afterlife in order for God to set straight the evil which has been done in this world (cf. Job 14:7-12,13-14; 19:25-26; Ps. 16:10; 49:15; 73:24; Isa. 25:8; 26:19). Apparently the rabbinical understanding of a divided Sheol/Hades into "paradise" and "Tartarus" developed from these early texts related to resurrection.

▣ "everlasting. . .everlasting" This is the Hebrew word olam (BDB 761), which must be interpreted in light of the intent and perspective of this permanent division in Matt. 25:46 (i.e. heaven - hell). There has been a recent book on annihilationism that brings up some interesting points. See Edward Fudge, The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment, but also note Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed., pp. 1244-1247.

"contempt" This Hebrew term (BDB 201) is used only here and in Isa. 66:24. Jesus used this Isaiah text to describe Gehenna (cf. Matt. 3:12).

12:3 "and those who have insight" This is a recurrent theme. This same phrase (BDB 968) is used in 11:33,35 (the faithful during the reign of Antiochus IV). Daniel 12:10 shows that this does not refer to degrees of intelligence, but the distinction between the saved and the lost. "Those who have insight" is used in 9:13,25 to note those who understand and act on the truth revealed by God. In 11:33 the insight is meant to be passed on to others, but they will be killed for their actions.

"will shine brightly" There is a word play between "shine" (BDB 263) and "those who lead the many to righteousness" (cf. Isa. 53:11), based on the parallel of the actions of those in 11:33. The concept of illumination (i.e. light and teaching) links "shine" and "giving understanding." Those who know God share Him with others!

The verse is quoted by Jesus in Matt. 13:43, which is in the context of eschatological judgment.

It is possible that this verse denotes degrees of rewards. See Special Topic: Degrees of Rewards and Punishment at Dan. 7:10.

▣ "like the brightness of the expanse of heaven" These are parallel metaphors. The first one may refer to (1) the height of God's portable throne (cf. Ezek. 1:22) or (2) the Hebrew word (BDB 956) means "an extended surface." It is used to describe the vault of the sky in Gen. 1:6,7,8 and in v. 14 to the great lights (sun, moon, stars, comets, etc.).

▣ "righteousness" See Special Topic: Righteousness at 9:17.

▣ "forever and ever"This Hebrew phrase combines the word for "long duration" (BDB 761) with the word for "perpetuity" (BDB 723 I), which means "longevity" (cf. Isa. 30:8; 45:17). God's promises and judgments are sure and everlasting.

For a good discussion of ‘olam and other words for duration see Robert B. Girdlestone, Synonyms of the Old Testament, pp. 312-319.

12:4 "Conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time" The TEV and NJB translations make this verse a separate paragraph. This concept of "seal up the words" is found in 8:26 and 12:9. The "sealing" seems to refer to (1) protection (cf. Jer. 32:11-14); (2) spiritual understanding (cf. Isa. 29:9-12); or (3) secrecy (cf. Isa. 8:16). It helps me to know that these words were not easily understandable to Daniel, nor his contemporaries. I think that the last generation of suffering and dying believers will understand some texts that the preceding generations have never fully understood.

To what period of time was Daniel's message (1) sealed from and (2) revealed to? Was it for the sixth century b.c.; the second century b.c.; for Jesus' day, or the end-time? Is the main purpose the detailed prediction or the revelation of the sovereign God fully in control of history and redemption?

NASB"many will go back and forth"
NKJV"many shall run to and fro"
NRSV"many shall be running back and forth"
TEV"many people will waste their efforts"
NJB"many will roam about, this way and that"

This Hebrew term (BDB 1001, KB 1439) means moving about quickly. It is used of God's knowledge of the events on earth (cf. Zech. 4:10). It is also used of a person's frantic search (cf. Jer. 5:1). In Jer. 49:3 it is used for the confusion and fear caused by a siege. It is obvious that it denotes a frantic activity, but exactly how that relates to Dan. 12:4 is uncertain.

1. it refers to the activity of the lost (emended MT)

2. it refers to the activity of the redeemed (cf. Amos 8:12)

3. it refers to the general state of all humanity

The term "the many" can refer to (1) faithful Jews (cf. 11:33,39); (2) the rebellious Jews who supported the Seleucid dynasty (cf. 11:14); or (3) all humans (cf. 12:2).

NASB, NKJV"and knowledge will increase"
NRSV"and evil shall increase"
TEV"trying to understand what is happening"
NJB"and wickedness will continue to increase"
NIV"to increase knowledge"

Many commentators see this as secular knowledge (the modern world), but others see it as knowledge of God's actions in history related in v. 3a ("those who have insight").

 5"Then I, Daniel, looked and behold, two others were standing, one on this bank of the river and the other on that bank of the river. 6And one said to the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, ‘How long will it be until the end of these wonders?' 7I heard the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, as he raised his right hand and his left toward heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time; and as soon as they finish shattering the power of the holy people, all these events will be completed. 8As for me, I heard but could not understand; so I said, ‘My lord, what will be the outcome of these events?' 9He said, ‘Go your way, Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed up until the end time. 10Many will be purged, purified and refined, but the wicked will act wickedly; and none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand. 11From the time that the regular sacrifice is abolished and the abomination of desolation is set up, there will be 1, 290 days. 12How blessed is he who keeps waiting and attains to the 1, 335 days! 13But as for you, go your way to the end; then you will enter into rest and rise again for your allotted portion at the end of the age.'"

12:5 "Then I, Daniel, looked and behold, two others were standing" This chapter is a continuation of the literary context which began in chapter 10. In 10:4 two angelic beings were seen standing by the Tigris River. However, the term "river" in 10:4 (BDB 625) is the Tigris and the one here in v. 5 (BDB 384) is a different Hebrew word. The one here is most often used for the Nile River. However, there is an exception to this in Isa. 33:21, where it is used of canals.

12:6 "and one said to the man" The Masoretic text has "and he said," while the Septuagint and the Vulgate have "I said." In 8:13,14,16 Daniel hears two angels discussing the vision Daniel had just seen, so too, here. Angels are often referred to as "man." See note at 8:16.

▣ "How long will it be until the end of these wonders" This is exactly the same question the angelic being asked in 8:13. The word "wonders" (BDB 810) could have a negative connotation here (cf. v. 7) and a positive one later (cf. vv. 1-3).

12:7 "as he raised his right hand and his left toward heaven" This is an OT oath gesture (cf. Deut. 32:40; Isa. 62:8; Ezek. 20:5 and in the NT, Rev. 10:5, 6). Both hands being raised must denote intensity or solemnity.

▣ "and swore by Him who 1ives forever" This is another use of the term olam (BDB 761), which must be interpreted in light of its context. Notice its usage in David.

1. everlasting righteousness, 9:24

2. everlasting life, 12:2

3. everlasting contempt, 12:2

4. those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever, 12:3

5. Him who lives forever, 12:7


▣ "a time, times, and half a time" There has been much discussion over this phrase. This exact phrase is used in Dan. 7:25 (and Rev. 12:14). It seems to be an apocalyptic idiom for a time of persecution (half of seven, cf. Milton S. Terry, Biblical Hermeneutics, p. 445). There are several other phrases in Daniel and the Book of the Revelation that use this basic time frame: (1) Dan. 8:14,26 — 2300 evenings and mornings. This has been interpreted as either (a) 1150 days or (b) 6 years, 110 days; (2) Dan. 9:27 — reference to half of seven; (3) Dan. 12:11 — 1290 days; (4) Dan. 12:12 — 1335 days; (5) Rev. 11:2-13:5 42 months or 1260 days (Rev. 11:3; 12:6). This seems to refer to about three and one-half years in the lunar calendar. These numbers are more symbolic than literal because of their similarity, yet their difference.

▣ "they finished shattering the power of the holy people" Does this refer to (1) some kind of persecution of the Jewish people (cf. 7:21,25; 8:23-26; 9:24-27; 11:36-45) or (2) of the Christian church (cf. Matt. 24; Mark 13; Luke 21; II Thess; Revelation)? There is a third option that goes back to 11:14, 34, which may refer to Daniel's opposition to the Jewish opposition to Antiochus IV because he believes God will accomplish the victory in His own time, in His own way, and for His purposes (the book of Daniel's emphasis on God' sovereignty, which is such a common element in apocalyptic literature).

There has been much discussion about this period of time, but it is obvious that it refers to a historical occurrence when the evil one seems to be gaining an advantage (cf. Dan. 8:23-26; Luke 21:24). The Septuagint totally changes the thought of this verse and must be ruled out as a realistic option. "The end of time" setting (cf. v. 4) will see things getting worse and worse for the people of God (cf. v. 1).

Apocalyptic literature is pessimistic about the possibility of historical process accomplishing anything positive or righteous. Therefore, the power of humans, even redeemed humans, must be shown to be inadequate. Only a powerful, climatic coming of God into fallen history can restore and accomplish the plans and purposes of God.

12:8 "But as for me, I heard but could not understand" Daniel had been given special gifts of wisdom and dream (vision) interpretation (cf. 1:17). In 8:16 the powerful angel orders Gabriel to give Daniel understanding (cf. 9:22; 10:21). However, this does not mean to imply that Daniel understood everything about these visions. His understanding was still limited by his sixth century b.c. context. Some of these visions were not for OT people of God. The New Covenant and the two comings of Christ alter Daniel's Mosaic orientation.

▣ "My lord, what will be the outcome of these events" Although the godly man, Daniel, asked, his curiosity would not be answered. These events are for the last generation (cf. v. 9). The term "lord" here is not a title for deity, but the general term for respect, "adomi" (cf. 10:16).

12:10 "Many" See note at v. 1 ("everyone").

▣ "will be purged, purified and refined" Some will respond to God's messengers and it will radically change their lives! Persecution is a means of purging (BDB 140, KB 162, Hithpael IMPERFECT, "to separate from dross" [i.e. evil])and sanctification (BDB 864, kb 1057, Niphal IMPERFECT, "to separate from dross" [i.e. "to God"] cf. 11:35; Mal. 3:2-3).

"but the wicked will act wickedly, and none of the wicked will understand" There will be a huge division among humans. Those who do not know God will be completely surprised by events of the end-time. Evil will be shown for what it is!

"those who have insight will understand" If this refers to the end-time, and if the New Testament is true, then these must be believing Jews and Gentiles because in Christ there are no more racial, sexual, or social distinctions in salvation (cf. Gal. 3:28; Eph. 2:11; 3:13; Col. 3:11).

12:11 "from the time that the regular sacrifice is abolished" This obviously refers to a historical event. The "regular sacrifice" (BDB 556) refers to the daily sacrifice of a lamb, every morning and evening in the temple ("the continual"). There has been a diversity of opinions based on the time frame in which the passage is viewed:

1. Antiochus IV (cf. 8:11-13)

2. the Roman general, Titus, in a.d. 70 (cf. 9:25-27; Matt. 24:15)

3. the end-time Antichrist (cf. Dan. 7; 11:36f-40; Matt. 24; Mark 13; Luke 21; II Thess. 2; and the book of Revelation).


▣ "the abomination of desolation is set up" Some see this phrase (BDB 1055, 1030) as referring to Antiochus IV setting up an altar to Zeus in the temple during the Macabbean period (cf. Dan. 8:11-13). Others see it as referring to the anti-God world ruler of the end-time (cf. 7:21,25; 8:23-26; 9:25-27; 11:36-45). The phrase is ambiguous enough to fulfill several historical situations.

▣ "1290 days" See note at v. 7.

12:12 "How blessed is he who keeps waiting and attains to the 1,335 days" This seems to be longer than most of the prophetic dates (cf. v. 7). Those who remain faithful to God even in the midst of an extended persecution will be rewarded and blessed. Perseverance is crucial.

12:13 "go your way. . .enter into rest" Daniel is told to quit wrestling with this, to leave it alone, and to live out his normal life until his death (cf. v. 9). But the great hope of v. 13 is the assumption that he (and all who believe) will rise again unto an end-time reward. Hallelujah!


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. What is the historical reference of the literary unit Daniel 10-12?

2. Why are there so many diverse interpretations of this passage of scripture?

3. Is this the only place in the OT where a resurrection is mentioned?

4. What is the central truth of Daniel 12:5-13?

5. Explain the concept of multiple fulfillment prophecy.